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Religion, Politics, Healthcare and Obama

September 7, 2009
In which I finally get to tick off a lot of people

A revival list that I’m on sent out two emails last week, to the effect that we shouldn’t divert our attention from preaching the Gospel to waging the present culture war that increasingly consumes the US. I came away from the emails confused.

I believe that Christ must come first, before everything. Nothing must be allowed to rival His importance in our hearts and lives. He is the God who has become wisdom and salvation to us. He is my hope of glory, and I do not intend on trading that away for anything.

But becoming involved in other things is not always wrong. Sometimes doing so is a practical demonstration of love. And sometimes not doing so is a demonstration of love’s opposite, apathy.

Jesus Himself was scolded by the Pharisees for not being religious enough. Time and again he was caught doing works on the Sabbath, you will recall. At one point he answered His critics:

“Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” – Lk 14:5

Clearly, from this and many other examples, we can firmly conclude that Jesus was more concerned with practical applications of love than with religious observance or empty theological proclamations.

Now let’s take a look at the current political scene. But before I do let me digress a bit on strife and alienation within the Body.

I fully understand that speaking out on the political scene can turn people off. That’s regrettable, but there comes a time when one needs to speak up when he sees something wrong, otherwise he is guilty:

“If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. – Eze 33:6

The plain fact is that each of us must answer to a greater authority than human popularity. And that carries the implication that a certain amount of disharmony is going to be more or less extant within the Body at any given time. We’re all at different places, with different opinions. Some are right, some are wrong; hopefully we’re all growing. We are told to place Christ first and to hold lesser opinions in love (Rom 14), but we are also taught to defend the purity of the Gospel even at the cost of harmony (see Gal 2, where Paul rebukes Peter publically). Simply put, some things are worth fighting for, even if brothers don’t agree on it.

What we are witnessing in America politically has only one other precedent in my lifetime – the first two years of the Clinton administration. At that time, Hillary attempted a takeover of the entire healthcare system – one-seventh of the economy – by a command and control government plan that was concocted in private by her guru, Ira Magaziner. Clinton had been elected almost by accident, due to H. Ross Perot’s very dubious presidential ambitions and machinations, with only 43% of the vote, so his support was already tenuous. Hillary Care was an arrogant plan indeed, and it backfired proportionately.

The result was the retaking of congress by the Republicans in 1994, leading to the so-called Republican Revolution with its Contract With America. Both of those constructs ultimately failed after a few years, but the point here is the similarities between that period and today.

Barack Obama is by far the most liberal president ever to gain office, even outdoing the formidable contenders, FDR, Johnson and Clinton. And like Hillary, Obama tried to foist a massive takeover of the healthcare system (now one-sixth of the economy) on the public with hardly a debate, and his best-laid plans also hit a snag.

Obama’s plan has stalled because it is based on statism. Rather than opening the system up to the fresh air of market forces and individual determinism, Obama opted for a top-down command and control plan that would alter the landscape and in a short time overwhelm the private payers. People immediately saw where Obama’s plan would lead us – non-competition, underperformance and rationing – and revolted against it.

And unsurprisingly, while Obama was busy lambasting doctors and insurance companies for their greed, he left his own tribe – trial lawyers – completely untouched.

A sane healthcare plan would hit on the following major points:

  • Tort reform, to protect honest doctors against outrageous malpractice verdicts. These are the kinds of verdicts, based on junk science and emotionalism, that enable honey-tongued empty suits such as John Edwards to amass millions in filthy lucre, while putting doctors out of business and driving up the cost of medical care. These same lawyers often go on to foist equally corrupt political careers upon the American people.
  • Increased competition among insurance companies. Geographical and regulatory barriers have got to go.
  • FDA reform. The FDA rules the healthcare industry, and is perhaps the most politicized, corrupt, and inept government agency there is, seriously impeding medical progress. It is run by a permanent, untouchable bureaucratic class, and its internal deliberations are hidden from public scrutiny. It is past time to open this agency up to the light of day, and to clean out the old guard (yes, I do mean you, Dr. Pazdur).
  • The one-sided employer tax deduction for employee healthcare has to go. This has become a way to remunerate employees outside the income tax system, and accordingly has grown out of proportion since employees love it. Consequently insurance covers mundane things such as, say, dental cleanings. Insurance was never meant for the routine things in life; it’s supposed to be a rarely used, terribly inefficient but necessary way to take care of catastrophes, things critical enough so that efficiencies do not matter.
    As a result of insurance-driven healthcare, doctors now work not for patients, but for insurance companies. This is a fundamental distortion of free market effectiveness and efficiency, and we are paying the price in substandard healthcare and spiraling costs. And that, ironically, punishes those who are not “in” on the game – the people not covered by their employers. These are the people who, not surprisingly, often cannot afford health insurance.
  • With the separation of insurance from employer, there will come more individual control of insurance. This could take new forms such as health saving accounts.
  • Healthcare companies must be protected in the stock market from the evil practice of short selling. Indeed, all short selling must be banned, because it is the most major root of market corruption. It is the foundation of most manipulation, including that of derivatives, creates a distortion of the money supply, it even destroys shareholder voting rights, and it simply has no moral basis at all. Companies – and lives – have been ruined because of short selling. The markets of other nations function perfectly well without short selling. It has to go.

Getting the government, and its corrupting tax incentives and overregulation, out of healthcare will usher in increased competition at every level – doctors, insurance companies and hospitals. People will be rewarded for living healthy lifestyles. Tort reform will bring down costs, while still allowing bad doctors to be punished (in that regard we actually need AMA reform as well). The new FDA will allow lifesaving and cost-cutting drugs and techniques into the market sooner. Protecting companies from short selling attacks will open the floodgates of real investing into cutting edge health technologies, and we will finally begin making progress against diseases we have been losing ground to.

Obama’s plan runs virtually 180 degrees counter to this morally sound plan. It embraces socialism, disincentives, market distortions, and rationing. It doesn’t begin to touch tort reform, regulatory reform and market reform. And no promise by any smooth politician will change that.

Do you, like me, have the feeling that our ruling elites either a) do not have a clue what they’re doing, or b) actually do know what they’re doing, and hate America, and are selfish and evil?

The standard that John McCain refused to carry – that of returning to the vision of the Founding Fathers, of a limited government with strictly enumerated powers – the standard that has been explicitly rejected by the Democrats and just as devastatingly functionally abandoned by the Republicans, has been raised by common people and proudly held high once again. It is happening in “tea parties” and town halls. It is happening on the Internet and talk radio and Fox News. It’s on Twitter and blogs and in forums. With a very few exceptions, the leadership of this movement is coming not from structural leaders, but from below, in very pure democratic fashion.

It is no mistake that Speaker Pelosi chose to smear this democratic movement as “Astroturf”, implying fake grassroots, and a “mob”, alleging lawlessness. Slandering the movement is the only way she can counter it, because the facts are clearly against her. It is her side that employs union thugs to silence plain citizens at town meetings. It is her side that ships in professional signs, while the common folk make their own on their kitchen table. It is her side, composed of a ruling elite supported by special money interests, that proposes socialism rather than real democratic solutions.

The evidence has been in for some time, for whomever would care to examine it, that Barack Obama is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the presidency. He come to power on a fraudulent campaign of fraudulent promises of post-partisanship and reform – both abandoned as soon as they were no longer needed. Obama broke his promise on accepting the restrictions of pubic campaign financing. He then turned off even basic credit card security on his Web site, so that unlimited and out-of-country donations could be accepted. He played the race card when it was convenient. He threw anyone who hindered him under the bus when it was convenient – his “pastor”, his grandmother, the Arabs, his Chicago cronies. His attorney general then exonerated ACORN thugs who intimidated voters with nightsticks.

It is simply amazing how many Americans were taken in by smooth talking. But that’s what happens when a nation abandons God – it loses the ability to discern between truth and lies and error.

Had John McCain not run from the real issues of the campaign – socialism, freedom with responsibility, incentive, meritocracy, biblical principles – he would be president. But he caved because he himself was compromised on these issues. And because he caved, a new political alignment is happening. The Republicans are truly leaderless, and with little hope of change. At the same time, demography is against them, as a new generation arises, untrained in the Bible, with justifiably little faith in the church, and at the same time eager to find macro solutions to social problems. That’s a formula for statism.

The situation is ominous. It’s impossible to see what might happen in two years, but this finally might be the time for the birth of a new Constitutional party. But in order to win, even a new party would need a leader. Wherever he might come from, a leader must arise who like Reagan stood for the principles on which this nation was founded, or we are gone as a Christian nation, period. (In which case I see the China model for us, of state v. house church.)

That leader must be strong enough to bypass the media and go directly to the people. He must be strong enough to ignore the whining of the humanistic multicultural elites and do what is right. He must be strong enough to ignore world opinion and politically and religiously “correct” thinking. And he must be lucky enough not to get himself killed.

Some think Sarah Palin is that person. She has good ideas and sound values and could grow into it, but she has some very rough areas that need polishing. I wish her and every aspiring leader well.

I have never seen this country so divided. The situation is both chronic and critical. It is coming down to raw power: whoever wins elections dictates policy, the other side be damned.

Now I will return full circle. With the political situation this dire, how can one not get involved? How would it be love, to stand by and allow policies to be implement that will affect families so deeply? Conscience tells me that I simply must be involved to the degree that I am able.

But the critical thing for the Christian is this: all involvement, in any endeavor, must be done in the power of Christ, not flesh. It must be done in truth and love. It must not be done with carnal weapons,

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. – 2Cr 10:4

So it must be done the right way, but it must be done. It’s not love to sit by and let a nation go the wrong way. On important issues, God will hold us to account for our faithfulness in the “unrighteous riches” of politics. (Lk 16.11)

This is not an either/or situation, of attending to the Gospel v. attending to society. It’s both/and. We need to take our stand, only let us keep perspective as we do so, and keep the standard of Christ above every other. The eternal perspective of that standard is what gives us comfort and strength as we face the darkness that gathers against us, and gives us the assurance that, no matter what happens in our current situation, those who are in Christ will ultimately be proven victorious in all things. Praised be His name!


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