Archive for April 24th, 2007

by Jay Stevens

Many lefty pundits are getting weak-kneed over the idea of an Office of Special Counsel investigation into the politicization by the Bush administration of the nation’s civil service – which includes the Department of Justice – only I can’t help but feel that this is another political move by the President and his henchmen.

Basically the OSC is looking into violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees to use their office for political purposes, an investigation that’s appropriate, given the revelations that have come out of the prosecutor purge.

But is the OSC the right body to investigate? Steve Soto doesn’t think so:

modus operandi for this administration when a real problem surfaces is to push the issue into the lap of an in-house “investigation” that will drag on forever, allowing the White House to deflect all media and opposition inquiries and demands for open accountability by saying “we can’t comment because the matter is under investigation.” That is what happened here.

Kossak Limelite also recalls that the OSC lead, Scott Bloch, is a typical Bush appointee, carrying out the administration’s political goals in his department. Not to mention that his office itself is under investigation by the FBI for violating whistleblower laws and discriminating against employees – laws that the OSC is supposed to enforce. (Kind of like the EPA lowering environmental pollution standards, or something. Oh, wait!)

There’s more, too! Apparently Bloch’s office has hired unqualified friends to government positions (in violation of civil service rules), unqualified “Christianists” to important government posts, and has handcuffed his office’s ability to perform its duties.

In other words, Block represents the exact kind of politicization that he’s supposed to be investigating. It’s too bad the LA Times didn’t bother to do a background check on this Bush appointee.

(Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are planning on holding a vote of “no confidence” for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, a non-binding political maneuver that will force Republicans into an awkward position. It’s not a bad strategy. Impeachment would be just dessert for Gonzalez, of course, but as long as he remains in office, his official existence serves as a public reminder of how intractable and out of touch this president is, which might help leverage public opinion into getting us out of Iraq.)

Of course, that we all would be suspicious of an office that is supposed to fairly investigate government workplace violations is just another example of why politicizing the government is a bad thing. Citizens have no confidence in a politicized government’s ability to govern properly. It leads to corruption and abuse. And could lay the ground work for authoritarianism.

So…ignore the OSC investigation, and let’s keep up the pressure on Congress to start throwing these bums out.

by Jay Stevens

There’s a new, gentler libertarian stalking the virtual corridors of Montana’s blogosphere: Montana Liberty Project. It’s been a pleasure reading his blog and his perspective.

That said, I admit I don’t agree with everything he says, and I especially don’t agree with his latest post on health care. In it, he quotes Michael Cannon on the health-care market:

There’s a lesson here for those who want to cover the uninsured: focus on the incentives facing the 250 million Americans who have health insurance, not on the estimated 47 million who don’t. If the federal government stopped encouraging people with health insurance to be less careful consumers, then coverage would be more affordable, the number of people without coverage would shrink, and the quality of care would improve.

It’s this kind of abstract theorizing that can drive me nuts about libertarians.

First, health care “products” aren’t like different kinds of paper towels found on a supermarket shelf. You don’t just idly walk buy and see how much each costs, how much each brand is per roll, etc. Thanks to the insurance industry’s Byzantine pricing, it’s almost impossible to get accurate quotes on something like prescription drugs – which, in theory should be the easiest to shop for. (That is, you know the drug you need; you could just call around and see who sells it for the cheapest.) And this Byzantine pricing structure is intentional – the insurance industry created it in order to discourage claims. And that’s not to mention that the consumer probably shouldn’t be making the decisions on what drugs and medical procedures they should consume. (Actually, I wrote a little one-act play about this the last time a Montana libertarian claimed applying “free market” principles would “solve” our health-care woes.)

Second, people are already becoming “more careful” consumers of health insurance. That is, in order to avoid high deductibles and insurance paperwork, people are simply not going to the doctor. For the consumer, that’s an economically illogical action to take: avoiding the doctor now increases the likelihood of a costlier procedure later. That is, by saving a little now, the consumer pays more later. Unfortunately that’s human nature.

Third, denying people health care – especially children and the elderly – is immoral. Our society believes everybody should have the right to basic healthcare – and they do. That’s not a bad thing, even if the market disagrees. (The market, oddly, is often at odds with human beings.) The uninsured’s visits to the emergency room are not cost-efficient. They’re also not covered by insurers, but by tax dollars.

Pooling together our resources to ensure everyone has access to health care is the way to go. It’s cheaper, both for policy holders and taxpayers. It’s more efficient, meaning less paperwork for care providers. And it’s better care. The evidence for all of these claims is ample.

The only reason I can see for opposing national health care is ideological, a desire to see, say, market principles prevail, even if means ignoring or even destroying programs that work (the privatization of Walter Reed, anybody?), and thereby putting people’s lives at risk.

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