Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Health Insurance: Do It or Die?

Call me anti-authoritarian if you want, but I have never liked being told what to do or what I can and cannot do. Frankly, it bothers me when individuals – and especially groups of them on either end of the spectrum – try to do exactly that. Yes, I have my opinions and ideas on how I want to live, and how society could as a whole; however, that does not give me the right to demand that all have and adhere to the same. That is the compromise between majority rule and individual liberty – live and let live, even if you disagree with how each person does it. Defending to the fullest the right to do it.

Perhaps I have read too much Twain, Cooper or Alger, holding on to the archaic, frontier mythos that individuals, given the proper avenue, can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. Individuals creating their own destiny, rather than having it decided for them. When society restricts those circumstances, to the supposed betterment of the collective, individual liberty is no longer. Government, especially one of a republican nature, does not exist to dictate our lives, but rather to ensure that we can live our lives. Live our lives as we, the people, see fit. Not vice versa.

With the push for universal health care, the government wants to ensure that we can live those lives. After all, a healthy citizenry means a healthy society. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) show that there are just over 2.43 million annual deaths in the United States; heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, account for half of these. Moreover, according to MSM reportage, 45,000 annual deaths are due to the lack of health insurance – touted as a leading reason behind the need for universal health care. But what about the 2.4 million who apparently, by mere deduction, had health insurance yet still ended up dying? How is forcing thousands of uninsured individuals to get health insurance stopping the death of millions?

It isn’t, plain and simple. All it does is allow the government to strip away another layer of our individual liberty in deciding our own fate, while not addressing the genuine cause for those deaths. Instead of billions of dollars spent on overhauling health care, why not fund research to find real cures to ailments like heart disease and cancer? One reason:  cures, as opposed to regular treatment and preventive management, are a detriment to the multi-billion dollar industries that treat, not cure, diseases. Can you imagine what would happen if a cure for cancer was discovered? For starters, a lot of medical specialists and vendors would be out of business – half a million people still alive being the only annual side effect.

Fact Check:  45,000 Die Because They Lack Insurance? Not So Much

No, the lack of health insurance is not what kills people. The thinking goes against the Hippocratic Oath that binds medical professionals to attend to the afflicted unconditionally. On the other hand, a federal mandate that forces Americans to have health insurance is yet another fatal blow to individual liberty, and a stepping-stone to the eventual death of the Constitution. But maybe I just do not like being told what to do, or how to go about living my life.

Copyright © 2010 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Checks & Balances

With clear-cut committee provisioning still to hammer out, Congress’ passage of “Obamacare” nonetheless initiates sweeping changes to, and the nationalization of, health care in the United States. Nevertheless, in spite of President Obama’s signature signing the health care reform bill into law, it is not the law of the land just yet. For starters, a majority of the measures do not take effect until 2014. Before that fateful date, there are still avenues available to counteract its institution:  the initiative process, which is highly unlikely given the historical improbability of success; Congress itself reversing and repealing the law, which can only happen with sweeping changes to that bodies majority makeup in the November elections; and the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law, which is the most likely if that body so chooses. Currently, the Supreme Court theoretically holds a 5-4 conservative majority, and it is inconceivable that Antonin Scalia, a strict interpreter of the Constitution, is not chomping at the bit for such a showdown of fundamentals.

14 States Sue To Block Health Care Law

14 State Attorneys General File Suit Against Health Care Reform Law

There is precedent. As President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to guide the country out of The Great Depression, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional six of the eight statutes of the "New Deal" passed by Congress. Just two months ago, decades-old campaign finance laws were overruled, dismantling the McCain-Feingold Act enacted by Congress in 2002. In all, the Court has found just over 150 acts of Congress unconstitutional since 1789.

Though the government will commence immediate collection of taxes as outlined in the new law, four years is a long time for the enactment of intended changes. By then, it is conceivable that those opposed to the reforms will have overturned them. At least, conservative America – and the small businesses that will bear the harshest burden – can hope. Just don’t expect any previously collected taxes to be returned. Undoubtedly, those will have been spent already on bonuses for Wall Street executives, or at least for the government commissars overseeing them.

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How Bills Used To Become Law

Like many kids growing up in the 1970s, I learned early about how laws are made in the United States from watching Saturday morning cartoons. Specifically, School House Rock's "How A Bill Becomes A Law." That is why like a lot of Americans, I am confused by the "reconciliation process" that could possibly allow the healthcare reform bill to be passed without going through proper channels or garnering the necessary votes for passage. Instead, Congress would "deem" the bill to have passed, and thus undermine the Constitution and everything for which it stands. I know Democrats like to tout that these (self-mandated) reforms are "for the people," but does this sound like government "of the people, by the people"? It certainly doesn't to me.

Yes, "deem and pass" has been used in the past to push through legislation, and so I agree with the cries of hypocrisy over the current furor. The real problem, for me and for many, stems from its use at all in any issue. Frankly, I don't see how it can even be considered Constitutional, with its circumvention of the legislative process and representative government; perhaps it needs to be judicially challenged. (Supreme Court? Hello?) With something as important as health care, the issue should not be forced by such a process but resolved through a vote of the entire Congress.

As a Wall Street Journal editorial points out, "Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution says that in order for a 'Bill' to 'become a Law,' it 'shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate.' This is why the House and Senate typically have a conference committee to work out differences in what each body passes...If Congress can now decide that the House can vote for one bill and the Senate can vote for another, and the final result can be some arbitrary hybrid, then we have abandoned one of [James] Madison's core checks and balances."

Perhaps today's politicians need to re-watch some old-time Saturday morning programming.

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Census Cometh (In Case You Haven’t Heard)

Exactly how much taxpayer money has been spent on getting the word out about the census? Super Bowl ads (knowing the NFL, I doubt they were free), radio spots and letters letting us know the census will be arriving soon. Taxpayer money...wasted again. At the very least, the money could have been spent on job creation - the buzz term of the Obama Administration, mind you - in hiring census workers to do promotional work. I highly doubt Ed Begley, Jr., is hurting for money. That is my criticism:  the spending of money on PROMOTING the census. This is not about doing the census, as mandated in the Constitution, because yes, as many point out, you do have to spend money to make money. This is the true point of the census. Nevertheless, $340 million simply to promote something we all know is coming? So many other things that could have gone toward.

The 2010 Census And Its $340 Million Campaign

©2010 Steve Sagarra

The Following History Has Been Modified To Fit This Curriculum

This is the reason I stopped pursuing a high school teaching degree in history. Though I lean toward the conservative viewpoint of the importance in teaching about those important figures and events that shaped our history, I also agree with the counterargument of teaching an all-encompassing history that does not gloss over key but neglected aspects. While in education school, one professor told me, knowing I had an interest in World War Two, that I might encounter a school district where I would not be allowed to teach about the Holocaust. I was flabbergasted by the revelation, unable to believe that such a key component to the subject could be left out of the curriculum. Yet, I eventually came to understand:  when the teaching, and subsequent re-writing, of history becomes arbitrary – chosen by "experts" with only certain, sanitized points taught – it is nothing more than an agenda. Plain and simple. It happened before in the fight over social studies curriculum, it is happening now and it will happen again. 

©2010 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, March 7, 2010

An Open Letter To Citibank

Box 6000
The Lakes, NV  89163-6000

RE:  Violation of Account Terms

To Whom It May Concern:

As written in a letter dated November 12, 2009, to me concerning changes in terms, of which I have enclosed a copy for your edification, I phoned not once but TWICE in November 2009 to opt out of the changes and have my account closed under the current terms. Those terms were for an annual percentage rate in effect since December 3, 2008 up until the billing cycle ending January 22, 2010.

Nonetheless, my latest billing cycle ending February 19, 2010, reflects the increased percentage rate – at the default rate, no less – as if I were to opt in for the change. Again, I opted out of the change in terms, because quite frankly the increased annual percentage rate is absurdly ridiculous. Further, there is absolutely no justification for the increase in percentage rate, as I have never defaulted nor been late with a payment. You expected me as a cardholder to adhere to these terms, and yet you failed to do it yourself. As far as I am concerned, as is my lawyer, you have violated not only federal legislation aimed at reigning in such devious practices – not least of which is the failure to notify me of the increase in a reasonable timeframe, as mandated by legislation – but also the terms of the account agreement, and have therefore made it null and void.

As a journalist, I have covered many atrocious news items, but never have I been a personal witness to a thing as your practices that are nothing short of modern-day indentured servitude. You take taxpayer money to bail your asses out of financial troubles that were yours alone, and then expect the very same card member taxpayers to continue funding your enterprise through absurd means as astronomical percentage rates. Your company and everything associated with it makes me sick.

A cardholder since 1999, I am appalled at the treatment I have received over these past ten years. As such, you can go to hell before you get another dime from me, and I vehemently refuse to pay any further on this or any future balance due to your violations of the card member agreement. Be advised that my lawyer is currently drawing up papers to put forth a class action suit due to these violations.


Citibank Sticks It To Customers - And Congress

©2010 Steve Sagarra