Open Chat... All Day, Every Day! Express Your Views, Debate, and Challenge the Views of Others!

In order to keep up with the nature of free, spirited debate, I wanted to place the chat feature at the top of the homepage. This ensures people can come here and share their views on anything they wish and not have it be related to any specific discussion. Here, people can share ideas, links, and views "unmoderated" and an their own pace. To me, this makes The Elephant in the Room blog truly a place for debate.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20, 2012 - Morning Headlines

- Missouri republican representative Todd Akin is under fire for claiming that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. The GOP senate candidate claims he misspoke (CNN):

- As an increasing amount of Afghan security forces turn against their allied counterparts, US Army general Martin Dempsey flew to Afghanistan to begin talks with Afghan officials about this problem (Fox News):

- More than a thousand firefighters are wrestling quickly growing flames ravaging California's central valley approximately 170 miles north of Sacramento (CBS News):

- In his now famous speech from the Ecuadorian embassy balcony in London, Julian Assange asked President Obama to release Bradley Manning, the accused US Army whistle blower who provided thousands of secret US cables to Wikileaks (NBC News):


  1. Welcome home LME!!! Hope you and your better, more liberal half had a great time away! :)

    The attached is a somewhat benign article but I wanted to post something to discuss the topic of the Paul Ryan pick for VP of the GOP ticket.

    I personally find the pick curious. I don't know what Romney gained by the pick but I can almost assure you he gave up Florida and likely Ohio too. If that is the case, I don't see how Romney can win this election. He's still failed to pander to the evangelicals (which I'm glad for) so he isn't really energizing the neo-con base. Just a quick note to start the discussion.

    Seriously, who has a conservative political blog and goes on vacation when the GOP veep pick is annonced?!?!? ;P

    1. Whatsamattausa - Thank you for the well wished.

      "Seriously, who has a conservative political blog and goes on vacation when the GOP veep pick is annonced?!?!? ;P"

      I know, huh?! I was like "oh, come on!" Talk about bad timing.

      I would say that I disagree with the article that Ryan was a "Hail Mary" pick. I think it's certainly a bold pick, but I think, more importantly, Romney picked a guy that has, for lack of a better term, nuts.

      One of my big problems with the left is that I think the left does pander, and they've taken it to an extreme. I'm sure you've seen me write about this before. I think the left's whole platform is tweaking government to cater to voting blocs to get their vote. This is why I'm huge on a flat-rate tax. This is why I don't think the government should have social programs of any kind. Taking medicare, for example, since it's the new "hot" issue right now... why should the government do what it does with medicare? Can't people run their own lives so that they can ensure they have their own health care needs covered when they reach old age? To me, I see it as a pander. Vote for us and we will ensure your health care services are covered. Or, with Social Security: vote for us and you will get retirement (basically what it is now) benefits. Or, with tax rates... vote for us and we will reduce your taxes while making someone else pay more. This is what I see as the left's platform. I see it as a perversion of democracy. The government, to me, should be blind, flat, equal, and non-discriminatory. Isn't this what a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, using freedom as its guide is about? It shouldn't be a government that feeds some, houses others, taxes a few, and gets votes off of many, in my opinion.

      But I mentioned all this for a reason. Ryan has nuts. He is taking on this GIANT in Medicare and basically saying, "look, I know you all want free stuff from the government, and I know this might not get us/me some votes, but, in all honesty, the economics behind the situation shows we must do something because the track we are on leads to insolvency. Sure, health care for the elderly sounds wonderful... so does all the other free government things out there... but it's completely unsustainable. The government has made promises, and we must keep them for those that have been promised, but we must change course to ensure we survive."

      To me, this is balsy, and though it isn't all warm and fuzzy, it's the truth. To me, I think that's why Romney picked Ryan. It's not just with the Medicare issue, but with every issue Ryan is willing to stick his neck out there and do what's best for the financial health of the country, no matter how "unfuzzy" it may be.

      But yes, glad to be back, and furthering the debate as we hit the home stretch!

    2. I don't think it's necessarily a bad pick, I just think he very well may have thrown away the election in making it.

      You and I clearly disagree on social programs. I do think, however, that we would agree that they need to be cleaned up and managed better (saying you would agree assuming get rid of them is not an option which I believe to be the case no matter who the president is). The programs are not being managed and people are stealing money. Social programs should be there as a safety net and are all too often being abused and those who shouldn't qualify are being admitted. However, I think elderly people and disabled people should be cared for by the government if they have no other means. Elderly and disabled, who likely make up the majority of those on social programs are less employable than most. We live in a society where older people are routinely fired for the younger, less expensive workers. I think it is unreasonable to think that everyone can plan for their futures. There are too many variables in life to be able to do that for certain. It's tough to say to someone who is 65, has worked in a warehouse their whole life, and has a debilitating back condition to fend for themselves isn't it? Do you think a warehouse job would set that person up with the finances that would continue to allow them to pay for private health insurance, rent/mortgage, living expenses, transportation, etc. What if that person lives for another 20 years? I don't think it is unreasonable for the government to provide assistance that might help that person live out the balance of their life with a bit more financial ability.

      I also disagree with you that the left panders to the social program crowd. I'm not saying it doesn't happen but, on the whole, I think the left, as I do, believe in the social programs to care for Americans who cannot care for themselves, whatever the reason (btw - universal healthcare would render many social programs or parts of programs moot). I think that we, as a society, owe it to those who came before us to make this country great. Unfortunately, you have people that will abuse the system. However, I don't think you can punish all for the few.

      I agree that the pick was ballsy but I think it was the end of his run(although I expect Ryan to cream Biden when they debate).

    3. Whatsamattausa - I have to make this quick... after being out for over two weeks, there's a lot of catch-up to do :-P

      I always welcome a debate about social programs and the role of government. In the example you gave, you stated, "I think it is unreasonable to think that everyone can plan for their futures." And, "t's tough to say to someone who is 65, has worked in a warehouse their whole life, and has a debilitating back condition to fend for themselves isn't it? Do you think a warehouse job would set that person up with the finances that would continue to allow them to pay for private health insurance, rent/mortgage, living expenses, transportation, etc. What if that person lives for another 20 years?"

      To me, this is saying, yes, Americans are too dumb to handle their own lives. With regards to handling their own futures, you are right... summing it up: s*** happens. But risk should be mitigated by the individual. The individual should have the freedom to regulate their life, feast or famine, success or failure. When you disincentivize failure,... when you eliminate the opportunity for someone to fail, you're also eliminating the potential for them to try to succeed. As I have said, why do we need the government, the holder of our power, to regulate people's lives and futures? Can't people do it themselves? If your answer is "no" - that's fine... at least you admit that people can't. To me, in a country that promotes freedom, people should be free to regulate their lives. If you make poor financial decisions, if you buy a new car when you can't afford it, and you eat expensive meals through your twenties, and you over extend your budget, then by all means, when you can't afford to go to the doctor when you're 65, that should be a consequence of your actions.

      I feel this way about all social programs. But, yes, it's true... they aren't going away, so my compromise, like you said is to fix those that exist now. I do agree with you there. These are supposed to be safety nets, not sustenance programs. As Ferguson pointed out, SS disability claims have jumped dramatically. It's not a coincidence. Are people all of a sudden becoming more disabled? No.

      But again, like Medicare, SS... basically, a retirement, should be left to the individual. He should be able to plan for his future. If he makes bad decisions, and doesn't save, so be it. Let him face the consequences of having nothing saved for retirement. I don't like the government, one that is supposed to promote freedom, basically having a system in place that says, "with this freedom, you can't handle what you need to handle."

    4. If I may chime in, addressing your main point in your belief: "To me, this is saying, yes, Americans are too dumb to handle their own lives. With regards to handling their own futures, you are right... summing it up: s*** happens. But risk should be mitigated by the individual. The individual should have the freedom to regulate their life, feast or famine, success or failure. When you disincentivize failure,... when you eliminate the opportunity for someone to fail, you're also eliminating the potential for them to try to succeed."

      To me, the idea is more that in a civilized, successful, and advanced society the government/community/nation as a whole should strive to minimize the levels of failure among their peers for the greater good. Misfortune can strike anyone, and no amount of preparation or success can prepare you for every possible scenario; and that certainly is no way to live, either.

      No one's ideas here, including Whatsamattausa's, involves removing failure completely. The idea is more that your failure is floored at a certain bare minimum, so you're at least protected in some ways.

      This doesn't mean that failure doesn't exist, or that the benefits have to be so great that they remove incentive. That would only be the case if the floor was too high, which I think we'd all agree in that it shouldn't be (no one should essentially live happily off other people's money, doing nothing).

      In a perfect world, all this means is that when you fail, you have something at the bare minimum that will still supply you with at least a livable amount of the bare necessities... typically food being the main/big one. As opposed to failing, and then being left to starve/die. "Sorry, so sad, too bad, you didn't plan well enough, RIP." I know that sounds overly dramatic, but you can't eliminate all forms of social assistance/welfare and ignore the fact that the above will be the reality.

      In my opinion, this shouldn't even be of major question, really. It's perfectly fair to me to debate about whether or not we're providing too much, because as I said I think we all agree that we don't want to remove incentive and have people live off the system. But I can't realistically ever agree that America should adopt some darwinistic 'survival of the fittest' system where anyone who fails is left to starve/die. Even ignoring that, can you imagine how fast crime rates would sky-rocket in an economic contraction/recession? Left to choose between starving and homeless and crime, many people would choose the ladder.

  2. So to answer the blogger's question, rken, you are saying yes people are too dumb to handle, through whatever means then can handle ( insurance, savings, not wasting money, taking care of their health, pushing for education, and all) a life where they can manage their own riskno matter how bad or negative the "misfortune" might be? Why should the government do it for them. I agree they should have some bare floor but they can provide for it for themselves. You say they can't. So again, your answer is yes, people can't handle their own lives.

    1. Anonymous -

      As an example... I assume you've read about the young girl who was stricken with a flesh eating virus. She lost one leg, her other foot, and both hands... she is in her young/mid 20's and will have time to learn how to live all over again. However, as I said, she's in her young/mid 20's and will be going through years of rehabilitation. Are you, and LME as well, saying "shame on you, you should've planned better"? Let's say this same thing happened to a 60 yaer old who may never be able to work again. F*&% them? Do you believe in abortion? How about the right to die (via doctor perscribed suicide)? I hope you didn't answer 'no' to either of those last questions... quite hypocritical if you did!

      RKen - you have a very good way with expressing thought.

    2. Whatsamattausa - I'm stuck at the office for an extra minute, and I'd like to share my opinion on this:

      With regards to the poor victim of the flesh eating virus, that's a tragedy, yes. Regardless of age, it would hurt anyone, and it obviously changes any life it encounters. My take is, why should the government be the mitigator of her loss? I completely understand her needs have changed, and I completely understand that if this hit a 60 year old, it would change their needs/life, too. I totally get that. What I don't like is the government, especially the federal government (I don't know where this would even fall in the Constitution), helping individuals. All hyperbolic rattling aside, and yes... in my opinion, claiming anyone would say "F*** them" is hyperbolic, I strive for fairness, and I strive for equality. Most importantly, I desire a small, limited government. Yes, I understand there are feelings involved for this poor girl and for the poor, but to have the government, the large, overseeing body that controls the will of the nation giving people sustenance, mitigating risk, selectively helping individuals at its will, to me, is dangerous and most definitely not the original intentions of the Founding Fathers. As a constitutionalist (I assume you are), I would expect you to understand my point of view. I am all for, 100%, this girl getting the help she needs... I am not, and I will never be for the government being the giver of that help. Call me heartless, but I'd rather be "heartless" and non-discriminatory, than tweaking our government that it could be so powerful it picks and chooses who it helps and who it doesn't.

      That's my soap box for this issue :-) I know we disagree.

    3. LME -

      We do certainly disagree. I do understand and don't disagree that the Constitution doesn't call for this but it also doesn't prohibit it either. To me, the governmental care of its citizens falls under 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'. Now, I am not talking about all social programs but rather health specifically - which is why I believe there should be universal healthcare.

      By denying care, the government is supporting after birth abortions for the most part. Your point, outside of the Constitutional aspect, is, in my opinion heartless and you are essentially saying "F&%$ you" to that girl and others in similar situations. It is unreasonable to think that at 24 (I think), this girl is able to have made preparations for this happening. Your position is that she should be left to die or that her and/or her family should be forced into a life of servitude because of this. I don't believe that the most powerful nation in the world should take that position. I'd rather provide assistance to 100 fraudulent claims than to deny 1 valid one - the same way I feel about the penal system, I'd rather let 100 guilty people go than to convict 1 innocent person.

      btw - what about my 'trap' questions of hypocrisy? I assume you are against abortion and assisted suicide. Do you see the hypocrisy in the conflicting positions?

      It's good to have you back and to have this dialog going again. Though we may never agree (sometimes we do), it is the respectful debate which will hopefully allow us to at least gain insight or understanding into the thought process of other opinions.

    4. Whatsamattausa - I am glad to be engaged in civil debate, and I always will be. This nothing but good and healthy for you and I and for the country and other readers in general.

      In my opinion, I don't think my take is heartless. I have stated that I know, desire, and want the girl and anyone like her to get the help she needs... I just don't want the federal government doing it. There is a fundamental problem when our government, the body that regulates simple rules by which we have all agreed to live should also be giving basic living elements, too. I never said the girl in this example should be left to die (in fact, I read that volunteers, churches, and charities have come to her aid)... I believe that she can get the helps she deserves and needs from a non-powerplaying institution like the government. It's a micro-issue, but multiplied many times, it's truly dangerous to have a government that gives people food, health care, housing, money, retirement, etc. This is not the purpose of a government. I don't know how my point comes off as heartless. I just don't want the government doing it. And yes, she has received what she needs from non-governmental help. Those with power, our government, should not use that power to help only select people, or groups of people.

      As far as the trap question, I'm against abortion (not on religious purposes, but because I do think life should be given the chance... ironically, to quote LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness here), but I am also in agreement with assisted suicide. For those that don't think like me, I don't see hypocrisy.

      I have to leave work (wayyyyyyy to late here), and hopefully I can continue the convo tomorrow (busy night for me tonight). But yes, no matter how much we disagree, civil debate is what matters ( I say this because as I was typing to you my phone buzzed with a long comment that I don't think falls in those lines... while I don't censor how people talk on this blog, and want people to express themselves freely, I disagree with his/her approach as I don't think it falls in with civil yet disagreeing opinions... just my take :) )

    5. Anon: Why the reductio ad absurdum? :(

      Neither myself nor What have said that people are 'too dumb' to plan for themselves, and to imply that anyone who can't is 'too dumb' is ridiculous.

      One of my parent's close friends had their first kid around five years ago, a nice/successful middle-aged and long-time married couple. They both had great jobs, a paid-off house, paid-off cars, and around $300k in retirement accounts & growing. Seems reasonably prepared, right? They now have nothing in their retirement accounts, had to sell their home, and are renting and bordering bankruptcy in fighting to keep their only child alive, who unfortunately was born with a rare and costly genetic disorder (which their health insurance plan wouldn't cover past a limit they broke in the first two years).

      So by them not being prepared for that, are they too dumb by your own hypothesis? Is anyone that has a kid without millions saved in the bank for the off-chance of the above scenario 'too dumb?'

      I don't mean to air dirty laundry here, but the point is that it is 100% IMPOSSIBLE to plan for every potential scenario/circumstances. And acting like anyone who doesn't is 'inferior' or 'dumb' has to be one of the most ignorant, detached ideas I've ever heard. And it's a distraction from the point here.

      LME: I understand your view, and you did well in expressing your point. And I can even see how I could agree with you on that feeling, as it's a perfectly fair point to make.

      But, when I entertain the reality I can't truly find myself accepting it. If the government didn't step in for cases like the above, or the girl, or others... these people have no guarantee of help. In a perfect world, yes, churches/volunteers/not-for-profits and the like would swoop in to help, but I don't see that being the reality.

      It's easy to detach ourselves from these situations, and say that 'someone else should be helping them', but what if no one did? I can't truly feel good about accepting that chance in an argument for a smaller government.

      And not just a couple people either, but it would be thousands+ a year (if not more, though I admittedly am not searching for a statistic). Which particularly when it happens to someone close/personal to you, is not so easy to brush off.

    6. RKen - good morning!

      Nothing wrong with disagreeing, and I'm glad you can at least see where I'm coming from. In fact, I do see your point... I just don't think the government should be doing it. I also respectfully disagree with that fact that though, yes, you cannot plan for everything, the government, via a social program, should be the mitigator of this risk.

      But, perhaps you can I can strike a compromise. Okay.., it's going to get corny... bear with me. Picture a country we are starting... RKenia or Lmania. We are staring on Day 1, and we're forming a government with a bicameral legislature. You're the senate; I'm the house... or vice versa. We are supposed to come up with our own ideas and then compromise on a middle ground that blends the two. This is supposed to be how the US legislature works, but unfortunately, it doesn't happen as both chambers, with their respective majorities, refuse to even listen, without compromise, to the opposite chamber's/majorities ideas. I digress...

      For the sake of simplicity, you present your case that we should have social programs, as you’ve done… I make my case that we shouldn’t. My compromise: if we do have them… everyone should be taxed at the same RATE for them… the rate should not be on a % of dollars earned, but a % of time worked (as I’ve said before). There would be no sales tax (technically, many view that as regressive); just a simple %rate that everyone pays so that these social programs can be funded.

      Allow me to explain. My background is economics. I have an interest and have studied all things from taxes, to corporate profits, to business law. My favorite subject by far, however, is the social science behind economic decisions: human decision making and risk management.

      With that, what you’re describing is insurance. It really is at its core. As with homeowner’s insurance, car insurance, pre-paid legal… the systems you describe indemnify a person in the event of a loss. And that’s fine. My side of it… the revenue side, is an absolute necessity. I will explain why. First, let me explain that law stipulates that insurance can never be free. You cannot win free auto insurance through some raffle, for example. There is a specific reason for this. Insurance, essentially risk pooling and sharing, MUST have a (I hate to use this term), “skin in the game component” to it. For example, if you simply give people free car insurance, they will absolutely drive more risky. I’m not saying they’re going to drive like bats out of hell, putting themselves and others in danger, but they would drive wayyyyy more risky than if they had to pay for insurance. Additionally, when you get in an accident, your premiums rise. That’s the counter incentive in the “skin in the game” component. To sum up this part, everyone receiving a social insurance benefit must pay for it somehow. A bill must be over their head. It’s only fair.


    7. continued: Why do I favor a flat rate tax? Because it’s truly fair. If you charge someone 6 minutes out of every hour they work… they have skin in the game. They are accounting for the psychological decision component of insurance. While some people might say “well, all they have to do is work for an hour, and they are covered…” I say, “yes… but their personally wealth suffers. Naturally, they will work more and benefit themselves and the system.”

      Why does this all matter? Well, as I firmly believe, it’s unfair to make one person devote more time to the government than another. You want social insurance programs, and that’s fine… but it should be paid for at an equal rate. Under situations you described, it’s absolutely unfair if someone is struck by tragedy and receives a benefit from the government in which they paid little or no share of. People making $10k per year will have the same burden to their government as people making $10m, and of course, under a flat rate system, people making $10m will still pay more. Many will say, “well, taking 10% from someone making $10k hurts more…” but to me, again, with the whole government power issue, I don’t want the government having the power to determine what people need, now much it hurts individuals, etc.

      So, in short, after my long babbling, I would be okay, via compromise, with social safety net/insurance programs, if they are paid for by all at the same rate. It ensures people don’t merely live off the system, it ensures there is the incentive to succeed and fail, and it ensures that people are treated fairly and equally by our government, and that no one is working more for that government than anyone else. To me, most importantly, it ensures that social programs + the tax rates needed to pay for them can never be used as a pander-for-votes tool.

      What do you think? :-)

    8. LME - That's a more than fair compromise to me, and honestly I don't completely disagree with your points either. I agree that everyone should have some sort of liability or 'skin in the game'; and that no one should be exempt from paying into the system while they can benefit from it. I'm not a fan of the flat tax idea, but I understand your reasoning in it and again would be willing to compromise on that. And I actually like the aspect of tieing it to number of years worked.

      Ah, sigh... if only Congress could work out compromises like this (as they're supposed to).

    9. Tada! And there we go! It's all worth while, RKen...

      You're right... this is how Congress should work. You want social programs but don't really like a flat-rate tax. I like a flat-rate tax, but don't really want social programs.

      How do we handle it... You get your social programs, and I get my flat-rate tax. You have to live with a flat-rate tax you don't like; I have to live with social programs I don't like. No one gets all, no one gives all.

      I like it. RKen/LME 2012!

      Okay, all fun aside... it's an honor to discuss this with you in such a civilized way. It makes it all worth while to understand more about people (as long as they're willing to share in a clear, concise, and respectful way, as you do) and to learn how to discuss issues together. And though I made a quick joke about an RKen/LME ticket, in all honesty, I've actually internally debated about president/VP picks being that way: that the president should have the opposite-partied running mate as a VP - a true balance and middle ground. Of course, free speech arguments are all over that, but hey... just a thought :-)

    10. And likewise an honor. It's a pleasure to discuss these issues in a civil manner, and actually work together on solving potential problems from different perspectives.

      It's unfortunate that the political atmosphere as of late doesn't encourage discussions like these, and instead revolves around quick one-liners and half-truths/insults (or outright hyperbole/lies). Which doesn't benefit anyone.

      That would be an interesting idea, and certainly help unify the parties a bit more towards a common cause. Certainly something we could use more of!