About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Medicare Problems Call For Premium Support Solution

Full disclosure - I have participated in a premium support Medicare supplemental healthcare plan for over twelve years & back such an arrangement on a national level to replace Medicare in its entirety.  I have seen firsthand the benefits I mention below that are far superior to any provided by our government run healthcare system for seniors & the disabled.  This post also forms my answer to what I had hoped would have been the fourth question, out of fourteen I presented, asked to Biden & Trump during the 2020 presidential debates - namely: Do you support a premium support system unindexed to inflation to replace traditional Medicare?  As you read on, just try to imagine either of these men really addressing this matter in a serious coherent manner.

This matter is important to people.  The September 2020 post that asked the original fourteen questions was the most read post on RTE last week - a year & a half later.  Accordingly, I moved this Premium Support-Medicare post up to provide my answer to one of the fourteen questions.

In brief - the problem is that if healthcare expenses keep growing @ their current rate our standard of living will be significantly reduced.  Specifically, Medicare spending is currently growing 2 percentage points faster than the GDP rate (i.e., the GDP rate + an additional 2%) so that Medicare constantly absorbs more & more of the economy's resources thereby leaving private enterprise or individuals less money for other consumption, production, savings, & investment, meaning a reduced standard of living.  See graph below that shows the change in consumer price index for medical care versus all items starting in 1960 - Medicare started in the mid 1960s.

The problem starts because people erroneously feel that they are entitled to Social Security & Medicare benefits just because they had money withheld from their paychecks when they were working ( e.g., - "I've been paying for it all my working life") or because they are now paying premiums, deductibles, & coinsurance in the case of Medicare.  Exacerbating the situation are internet pieces taking offense @ the word "entitlement" to describe Social Security or Medicare & the belief that employers pay an equal share with their employees of the payroll taxes for both of these programs.

The reality is that 43% of the proceeds for Medicare Parts A, B, & D come from general revenue from the Treasury Department.  Over 70% of the proceeds for Parts B & D come from general revenue. Ninety-five percent of the proceeds for Part A come from payroll taxes & taxes on Social Security benefits - & Part A is failing.  See graphic below.

The reality is that the majority of the costs of Medicare are camouflaged so that seniors do not know the real cost of the entire program or their level of direct financial participation.  Seniors only see that they pay $170 per month for Medicare Part B, & knowing this is a bargain too good to be true love the entire Medicare program.  But this is the mindset a presidential candidate worth voting for needs to change.

Just like Social Security, Medicare has financial problems too.  For instance the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is scheduled to be depleted by 2024, two years earlier - because of the pandemic - than had been expected on the graph below, resulting in a benefit reduction of 12% to 16%.  See graph below from the 2020 Annual Report Of The Boards Of Trustees Of The Federal Hospital Insurance & Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds.

Medicare Part A, that covers hospital care services, is primarily paid for by the payroll tax equally imposed (1.45% each) on working Americans & their employers, meaning that employees pay half the payroll tax directly through withholding & the other half through their productivity that allows the employer to send their share to the federal government.  Employers actually pay nothing.

Medicare Part B covers physician & non physician medical services & is financially supported by a monthly premium, paid by beneficiaries of the program, that covers about 27% of the program's costs.  But nearly three quarters of the Part B program is subsidized by general tax revenues from the Treasury - this is why Medicare seems so reasonable even when counting the annual deductible & the 20% copays meaning Medicare Part B only covers 80% of doctors' charges.  Supplemental insurance from private insurers is needed to cover the other 20% - only the government could provide a healthcare insurance program that needs a private insurer to cover what it does not.

Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage (MA), is available to virtually any one who pays the monthly Part B premium.  MA is administered by private insurance companies that have been approved by Medicare.  Such plans may include dental, vision, & hearing & also cover prescription drugs.  Many plans are Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) which can limit the selection of doctors so be careful if you go for this option.  MA also gets funding from the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund & the Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund so as these funds wind down Medicare Part C comes into more jeopardy - just like the entire Medicare program.

Medicare Part D is financed through monthly premiums - 16% of which are paid by the recipient & nearly three quarters of which is paid by revenue from the Treasury to a sub account of the Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund meaning that nearly three quarters of the Medicare prescription drug costs are a public subsidy of the program.

Medical costs have increased faster than the general cost of living for decades & the following graphic from the aforementioned trustee annual report shows the increasing cost of the Medicare program.  The subsidies from the increased taxes euphemistically shown as general revenue transfers on the graphic below are bad enough.  But add in the increased payroll taxes, the increased taxes on Social Security (shown as OASDI on the graphic), the increased premiums, the increased state transfers & drug fees, & interest on the deficit of the program & you can see how this projection of expenditures shown on the below graphic will weaken the economy by causing slower growth as money that could be used for productivity increases that raise living standards is used for the Medicare government healthcare program.

The above is background describing the problems with Medicare that I had hoped would have been presented during the 2020 presidential campaign debates for the American people to think about, specifically when the question was asked to Biden & Trump - "It has been shown that a premium support system, unindexed to inflation designed for people younger than 55 years old, will bend the Medicare cost curve down, softening the 12% reductions in hospital benefits projected for 2024 (two years earlier than projections done before the pandemic).  In addition the cost of Parts B & D are over 70% funded by general revenue & growing too fast to be sustained.  Do you support a premium support system unindexed to inflation to replace traditional Medicare?"

It is hard to imagine either Biden or Trump answering this question seriously, but like all of the 14 questions on the list I presented Americans cannot return to  individual liberty & prosperity until they are all answered & addressed - because the slide away from living the free market libertarian answers to these 14 questions is what has undermined the American way of life that has deepened our submersion into socialism under the spell of Karl Marx.

The premium support solution to the Medicare problem: the Medicare program would be kept as is for people 55 & over or those on disability.  But starting with people younger than 55 they would be weaned off Medicare by the government offering a premium support that would pay the cost of a private healthcare policy to cover their medical needs.  This premium support would not be indexed to inflation so that people like my eight year old nephew or his younger sister would not be counting on Medicare @ all long before they turn 65 - as each year goes by the nominal dollar demogrant will buy less & less insurance or medical treatment so younger people will start to rely on it less & less. In this way Medicare, & its costs & taxes, would eventually fade away & people would once again provide for their own needs - healthcare in this case. 

The above graph shows four scenarios with only one curve bending down (i.e., reducing the burden on the American people) - the bottom curve labeled "Ryan Plan - Price Indexing."  The plan I am advocating not only bends down sooner than this bottom curve but actually solves the problem in our lifetimes.  For years many forward thinking private companies (e.g., IBM, ConocoPhillips, Delta Airlines, & Coca Cola) have provided their retirees with annual lump sums, unadjusted for inflation, to be used to cover healthcare needs - including purchasing adequate medical insurance (Medicare currently + supplementary insurance).  This incentivizes retirees to make decisions, using a fixed amount of money each year, about their own healthcare that will be in their own best interest while not burdening their fellow man.  I have personally seen this work.

In summary, the annual fixed amount of premium support decreases in purchasing power each year as inflation increases the cost of healthcare so that recipients can see what is happening & wean themselves off of government provided healthcare before such a system fails leaving many elderly & disabled people in desperate straits - both physically & financially. 

An added bonus:  As the mindset changes away from government provided healthcare for the elderly & disabled, younger Americans will start to realize that what they think of as healthcare insurance is really not insurance but rather prepaid healthcare arrangements where policyholders seek approval for medical services they have already paid for in advance with their premiums & then encounter deductibles, copays & the like.  They will come to realize they have been brainwashed for decades to accept a far off & impersonal insurance company calling the shots for their healthcare & that a better idea is for them to pay for much of their routine care, like teeth cleaning, themselves.  Buying a real insurance policy with a deductible & premiums they agree with & can afford, in conjunction with paying for routine care themselves, provides better control of younger Americans' own healthcare to boot.

Premium support, replacing the federal government's Medicare healthcare system, is a real plus for individual liberty & the return to excellence that America so desperately needs. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Computer Drawn Compact Congressional Redistricting Is Superior To Manipulative Gerrymandering

"As we all know elections matter.  And when folks vote, they order what they want, & in this case they got what they asked for."  - VP Kamala Harris, speaking while grinning @ the White House the week of February 28, 2022 - still giddy, but patiently waiting, fully realizing she is one heartbeat away from the presidency after dropping out of the Democrat presidential primaries without ever receiving one vote for president. 


With few exceptions in our country's history, the political party whose candidate won the presidency loses congressional seats in the midterms two years later - & quite often quite big.  Democrats seem particularly aware of this historical fact & there are many additional reasons other than political history for them to be afraid. 

First & foremost the American people have come to realize that Biden is not up to the job & that a congressional check on him is in order.  Any fair minded person of any party affiliation who wants the country to come together should be able to agree on this - they should be willing to admit that Biden's incessant gaffes & mental lapses are no accident & that the real Biden, unlike the one seen during well rested & rehearsed appearances during campaign debates or SOTU presentations, needs to be checked so that the country, the world, does not take a chance on, or @ least minimizes, some disaster happening worse than the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  A person of the left, while supporting a Republican 2022 midterm congressional sweep, does not have to give up their political persuasion but could try again in 2024 supporting a less compromised presidential candidate - of which they would have a much better chance of winning.  

Next, Biden has a low overall approval rating that falls to dismal levels in some categories: 1) on his handling of inflation it is 28% approval; 2) handling crime is 36% approval; & 3) only 28% say the country is moving in the right direction.

And that congressional check on Biden is very important if he is persuaded by progressives like AOC, Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, & Cori Bush to pack the Supreme Court with six more Sotomayor-like justices, add DC & other locales as states that will increase Democrat House margins & pack the Senate so that every piece of legislation that is objectionable to mainstream America is passed & signed into law in a blink of an eye, & effectively abolish the Electoral College without a constitutional amendment meaning the more illegal aliens entering the country the better as Democrats see nothing but additional Democrat voters crossing the border. 

But even more important than countering the peaceful fundamental transformation of America as described above we have the danger of the inability of the so far inept Biden/Harris administration to make the right decisions in an ever increasingly belligerent world.  In fact their record is so bad we have to question if they even want to make the right decisions.

As of March 1, seeing the writing on the wall, twenty-three House Democrats are retiring compared to seven retiring Republicans.  In a reversal, in the Senate five Republicans (Blunt, Burr, Portman, Toomey, & Shelby) are retiring compared to only one retiring Democrat (Leahy).  Both chambers are important but it is the Senate that confirms judicial nominees, as we are about to be reminded with the upcoming Senate hearings of Biden's first Supreme Court pick.

Democrats are defending fourteen Class 3 Senate seats & Republicans twenty - with six regarded as very close contests: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, & Wisconsin, some of which states have been Republican traps of high hopes in the past only to lose.

So even with history in their favor & an anti-American anemic Biden administration pouring sand in every gear they can find, Republicans have their work cut out for them in the midterms.

In November 2022 there are also 36 governors seats up for reelection (20 GOP & 16 Democrat) as well as the seats in 88 state legislative chambers in 46 states - 56% of all state senate seats are up for election & 92% of assembly seats.

In this regard & focusing on the state of Georgia, & in particular the governor's race - Trump has convinced David Perdue, one of the two Georgia Senate candidates who lost in the special election of January 5, 2021, to run for governor against Brian Kemp, a man that Trump feels slighted him.  This of course will split the Republican ticket & Stacey Abrams will become the next Georgia governor. 

But even with their strategic advantages listed above, Democrats are fighting with the best advantage they have - the ability to manipulate congressional boundaries to favor several of their candidates in New York & California & to a lesser degree in other states.  

For years conservative pundits have appeared unconcerned that Republicans won the popular vote in only one of the last eight presidential elections (GW Bush in 2004).  The thinking was that liberals in California & New York so overwhelm the electorate in those two states that it was only the rest of the country that mattered.  Spotting Democrats 84 electoral votes (nearly one third necessary to win the presidency) meant little to them.  

And there is some credibility to this.  In 2016 Trump won the popular vote in the other 48 states (i.e., excluding California & New York from the 50 states) by over 3 million votes.  But there is also reason for Trump supporters to beware of this statistic - in 2020 Biden received 81,284,778 votes nationally compared to Trump's 74,224,501 votes.  If you subtract the popular vote totals in California & New York Biden was still ahead in the total from the other 48 states by 36,327 votes so there was definitely a stronger anti-Trump movement in November 2020 in the other 48 states than in the 2016 presidential election.  Trump supporters discount this fact @ their own peril.

But considering the results from just California & New York: Hillary walloped Trump in California by 4,269,978 votes (8,753,788 - 4,483,810) & defeated him in NY by 1,732,973 (4,547,562 - 2,814,589).  It is these two large state totals following the constitutionally specified decennial census of 2020 that enlightened the latest Democrat mischief.

The Democrat Party advantage in the House is 222 to 211 with two vacancies (both Republicans - Devin Nunez retired on January 3 to work for Trump & Jim Hagedorn died on February 17) - meaning Republicans start the 2022 midterms needing to win seven seats to obtain the majority to control the chamber.

The California congressional delegation is 42 Democrats & 11 Republicans.  The New York congressional delegation is 19 Democrats & 8 Republicans.  And herein lies the trouble because Democrats have figured out how to take advantage of their large presidential popular vote totals by redrawing congressional district boundaries to overwhelm their opponents in the next election.  In essence it is truer that politicians pick their voters than voters pick their political representatives.

Now this process of manipulating congressional boundaries has a name - gerrymandering, named after Founding Father Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry who was instrumental in the redrawing of a state senate district that resembled a salamander.  See cartoon below that appeared in the Boston Gazette newspaper on March 26, 1812 that satirized the odd shaped district that had been drawn to obtain every possible vote needed to ensure victory for the candidate preferred by the party in power. 

Note that Mr. Gerry pronounced his last name "gary" so the term is correctly pronounced "garymander."  I only know two politicians who pronounce it correctly & no members of the press who do.

Check out the table below that shows how 50 people in a congressional district can be gerrymandered to give three different results.

So Republicans start the 2022 midterms seven seats behind but Democrat New York state lawmakers redrew district boundaries to ensure New York Democrat candidates have a better than even chance of winning four or five seats held by Republicans including targeting the seats currently held by Claudia Tenney & Nicole Malliotakis.  See example of a modern day salamander of NY Congressman Jerry Nadler's district below.  Shouldn't a congressman be ashamed to represent a district that looks like this?

California, New Jersey, Illinois, & Maryland have similar plans to each pick off a seat or two from the GOP ranks while legislators in Republican states feel forced to focus on playing defense, shoring up their suburban districts for their candidates in another sign that we're outnumbered.

In addition, the case of Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R, NC) deserves special attention.  Madison is a staunch Trump supporter & Madison appeared on the Ellipse in his wheelchair on January 6, 2021 delivering some fighting words of his own, regarding the 2020 presidential election, to the protesters before they broke into the Capitol.  Madison's opponents are now arguing that his name is ineligible to appear on the ballot in accordance with Section 3 of the 14th Amendment which specifies, according to them, that he violated the congressional oath to support the Constitution when he "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the country on January 6, 2021.  Hanging on to the unproven Trump claim that an election held over 16 months ago was illegitimate is an unforced error that could result in another lost seat when the country needs to look to the future.  The Republican infighting over what amounts to Trump's ego could continue to be a loser for all of us going forward.

But getting back to Gerrymandering - I am a fan of replacing the current politically manipulated redistricting system with a computer programmed to divide each state into congressional districts with the smallest perimeter possible while keeping communities & counties whole to the greatest degree mathematically possible - districts should resemble squares, rectangles, & circles not salamanders.  

The computer will produce compact districts without identifying the residents' party, gender, or race.  Its goal will be to find the most nondiscriminatory geographically compact districts possible.  In short such a change gives us a chance for unbiased elections & in essence term limits.

What people are interested in has changed over time as has the makeup of the country.  The best way I know to express the changing demographics in America is to understand that Bush (41) got 59% of the white vote in 1988 & won 426 electoral votes while Romney also got 59% of the white vote in 2012 & received only 206 electoral votes.

Throwing the midterms into a computer drawn configuration of districts that are redrawn in each state after every decennial census so that the boundaries of each district would change more as a function of people moving than politicians purposely rigging elections by drawing districts resembling salamanders is an obvious benefit to everyone except the political class.