Printed letters, September 18, 2012

The dispute between the Chicago teachers and the mayor is all over the news. Theoretically, both protagonists want to improve education. This is a response to the United States’ global downward slide in the quality and efficiency of education, generally.

We have some of the very best institutions of higher learning in the world: Harvard, other Ivy League schools, MIT, Cal Tech, etc. Overall, however, we have slipped badly. Those bastions of learning need well-prepared students.

The same can be said for our out-of-control health system. We have some of the very best medical institutions and practices but, generally, what is available to everybody costs way too much and is oriented toward “fixing” problems rather than preventing those problems in the first place. 

These two cases are among the most important things facing families and our country in the future. If success stories in those countries exceeding our results are there for all to see, why do we not have a concerted effort to learn from them and apply lessons learned to improve our systems and results?

One of the big problems is that education and health are not distinct subjects that can be studied in a vacuum, apart from the total culture of those countries to be studied. Both education and health are interwoven into our culture and can’t be isolated when looking at other cultures hoping to detect systems that can be grafted onto our culture.

We are hindered by attitudes of exceptionalism, xenophobia, short-term thinking and feeling that there is nothing we can learn from other “lesser” cultures and countries. The constant talk in conservative circles about wanting nothing to do with European cultures and socialist ideas is a perfect example. We need to grow up!


Grand Junction

Seniors need to understand 
ramifications of health plans

In reference to Dr. Michael Pramenko’s criticism of the Romney-Ryan plan to reform Medicare, let me start by noting that his early and continuing support of Obamacare, which we all know is very unpopular. However, Medicare is popular as a senior health safety net, but will be bankrupt in 10 years, meaning we have 10 years to fix it.

Obama already started his Medicare reform by taking $716 billion from Medicare and transferring to Obamacare to help make it “budget neutral.” Meanwhile, it is expected that some 30 million more people will be added to Obamacare, while neither it nor Medicare has any provision to add to the already shrinking supply of doctors. Are seniors nervous?

To ease seniors’ fears about the obvious problems ahead, including Pramenko’s scare, Romney-Ryan will keep Medicare unchanged if you are nearing retirement age (55 or older) or are already on Medicare. Then changes will have to be made to make Medicare sustainable for the future.

Future seniors who are under 55 now will have when they retire a heath care choice: the new, sustainable Medicare completely paid for by the government or a check (voucher) to purchase an equivalent safety net from a private company (the second lowest bidder or a choice of the lowest to keep the difference) in the hope that government-private sector competition will reduce costs. Note that the Medicare prescription drug program is run entirely by private companies, and 10 years later, it has run 30 percent under original budget projections.

Recently on the Commentary page, David Brooks of The New York Times addressed Medicare reform in his column, “Romney-Ryan is the only one that will truly reform Medicare.” He wrote, “If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.”

For now, my advice: If you have a physician, keep him or her close. If you don’t, get one while you can. And vote as if your future, and that of your kids and grandkids, depends on it!


Grand Junction


Voters should consider 
Gary Johnson for president

It seems that middle-class America is not in love with either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, and many seem to not realize that they have other options.

There is a third-party candidate whom many reliable sources are urging us to remember: Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico.

During his two terms as governor, Johnson cut taxes 14 times, created 20,000 new jobs, balanced the budget and left New Mexico with a budget surplus. His track record speaks for itself.

I know there are those out there who will say, “No one outside of the two-party system can ever win.” But if everyone voted based on the issues and not based on Republican or Democrat, that could change.

Let’s vote for what matters to us. Inform yourselves of all of your options. Don’t limit yourself to a lesser of two evils.


Grand Junction


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While we can all agree with the caption of Monday’s letter from Dr. Stephen Samuelson that “Seniors need to understand ramifications of health plans”, the contents of that letter indicate that Dr. Samuelson himself does not adequately grasp those same ramifications.

Fortunately, Monday’s Sentinel clearly explained them in “Why it matters:  stance on health” (AP) – which entirely confirmed Dr. Michael Pramenko’s informed analysis: “Voters face major election choice when it comes to fixing Medicare” (Sep. 2, 2012).

Thus, first, there is no real “Romney-Ryan plan to reform Medicare”.  “Reform” means improving the existing program; Ryan would begin replacing Medicare with an entirely different “voucher” program in ten years; Romney would offer potentially confused seniors a “choice” between Medicare (“as we know it”) and Ryan’s “VoucherCare”.

Second, while President Obama has already begun “reforming” Medicare and extending its viability, Romney-Ryan defer their “reforms” for ten years.  Thus, pressing as the Medicare funding problem may be, President Obama is already doing what Romney-Ryan only talk about doing in the future – when the problem will be much worse.

Third, as the AP explanation concludes, only ten years from now would the Romney-Ryan “approach” begin to “rein in the growth of federal health care costs” by leaving more people uninsured, eroding Medicaid, and shifting Medicare costs onto seniors – because “vouchers” will not pay the full cost of equivalent guaranteed coverage.

Dr. Samuelson’s reliance on conservative columnist David Brook’s disingenuously titled column:  “Guide for the Perplexed” (August 20, 2012) is also quite revealing.  Since its publication, Brooks has been both widely criticized for misrepresenting what is actually known about the Romney-Ryan “plan” and lampooned for praising their “secret plan”.

Thus, my advice to Dr. Samuelson (and his patients) is to heed Dr. Pramenko’s diagnosis – because he knows what he is talking about (while Samuelson doesn’t).

                Bill Hugenberg

RE: the letters of Messrs Pramenko, Samuelson, and Hugenberg.
Dr. Samuelson is too kind. Combating sophistry requires blunt tit-for-tat rhetorical brinksmanship.
For starters, Justice Roberts’ disgraceful sophistry notwithstanding, it is universally self-evident that forcing people to buy a product is NOT the same as forcing them to pay a tax, either logically or constitutionally.
As Ron Paul and many others have correctly pointed out, legal tender laws are unsustainable, especially when the substance of the money is political-manipulation-based instead of market-commodity-based. That’s obviously relevant because one pays medical bills with money.
Lib collectivists don’t want to understand that whatever you tax you get less of, and whatever you subsidize you get more of.
When in doubt, follow the money. The medical industry, complete with doctors’ “unauthorized practice of medicine” monopoly on effective pain control, has led inflation for forty years.
To dispell the cultural religious awe many people have for the legal and medical professions, one need only remember that if humans knew how to stay well and at peace, doctors and lawyers would have to find some other way to spend their time. Again, follow the money.
Instead of stumbling along in an illusory world of funny money, political manipulation and government coercion, it would behoove us to consider studying the REAL material cause-and-effect universe around us.
Some libertarian physicians have estimated that medical costs could be reduced by 80% simply by abolishing the FDA and letting small drug companies compete with the politically-connected giants. If we would combine that with a “Freedom Of Self-Medication” amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving the individual legal right of access to the same tools and meds as docs use, that would allow the individual to do (ONLY) for himself (NOT for 3rd parties) 95% of what docs do in their offices.
The market would solve the health care “crisis” by allowing people their constitutional freedom to not buy things they can’t afford.

Libs may find my previous post offensive. Too bad. To them I say, “Fire when ready!”
I would expect to be accused by libs of “not caring” about the elderly, children, minorities, etc. Novel as the concept might appear to some, it would be nice if collectivists could recognize when people are discussing reality-based IDEAS, not fencing with demonization-based talking points, jingles and slogans. In other words, regarding the so-called health-care “crisis”, it is necessary to discuss the arithmetic of fiscal policies, such as whether 1 + 1 = 2 or 3. It is also necessary to agree with such things as that the atomic number (Z) of Oxygen is 8, etc.
During such a discussion process as the health-care debate, unfortunately, one can always count on those who desire to live off the labor of others to defend their loot with deception, demonization and political manipulation.
I have always sympathized with the Makers more than the Takers. At some point, common sense must prevail. At some point, it is necessary to recognize the unsustainability of a paradigm in which the recipient of charity has an “equal” vote as to how much charity the donor is required by government coercion to pay. (Mandatory charity is an oxymoron.) At some point, it must be admitted that if you subsidize joblessness, disease and destructive behavior choices, you are going to get nothing but more of those same “commodities”.
I am 68, and on SS and Medicare. My excuse is that, just as my parents before me did, I paid in. Nevertheless, my dear old deceased granny was correct back in the 1950s when she said that nobody who is receiving any government money should have a vote, period. It’s a conflict of interests, just as the elderly living off the enslavement of their grandchildren.
Frédéric Bastiat, who said, “government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else,” defines two forms of plunder, “stupid greed and false philanthropy”. He also said: “Socialists seek to obliterate the distinction between government and society. Consequentially, every time we object to a given government activity, the socialists allege that we object to its being done at all, and we are therefore selfish and unpatriotic citizens. To the contrary: we ... reject the charity, education, and organization that we are forced to pay for. We do not reject natural charity, education, and organization.”
It is my hope and intent to ridicule obfuscating sophistry as harshly as I can whenever I see it. And I see a lot of it in the ongoing health care debate.

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