Black Wednesday and the Killing Season sound like Action Adventure Titles but it’s just August in the NHS

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2012

Week in Review

If you’re traveling in Britain in the first week of August don’t get sick.  Unless you feel lucky (see Thousands of juniors start jobs in NHS ‘killing season’ by Rebecca Smith posted 8/1/2012 on The Telegraph).

Around 7,000 graduates begin their first job as a doctor today and thousands more change to new jobs as their training continues.

The changeover has been labelled as ‘black Wednesday’ or the ‘killing season’ because of the rise in deaths.

Studies have shown that patients admitted as an emergency on the first Wednesday in August are six per cent more likely to die than on the previous Wednesday.

Black Wednesday?  Killing Season?  Egad these are two labels you don’t want to hear describing the hospital they’re rushing you to so they can save your life.  The NHS should really do something about this.  It’s not befitting a national health care system they celebrate in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  And the NHS, being the fine national health care system it is, is fixing this problem.

It was announced earlier this year that junior doctors will shadow a more senior colleague for four days in an attempt to reduce the number of mistakes made and ensure patients are kept safe…

Trials in Bristol reduced mistakes by junior doctors by 50 per cent over their first four months.

There’s a fine line between being a highly skilled doctor in the NHS capable of taking on any health care emergency.  And being a junior doctor with capable skills that may only kill 6% of his or her patients.  That line in the NHS is after day 4.  After which their kill percentage goes down to an acceptable 3%.

There is a reason this is happening.  And it’s not because the medical schools are bad.  It’s not because these senior doctors do a poor job in teaching the new doctors.  And it’s not because the junior doctors are bad.  The reason is economic.  A declining birth rate created an aging population.  That aging population is now hitting Britain’s pension system.  And the NHS.  Increasing spending at a time when there are fewer people entering the workforce to pay the taxes to fund the NHS and those pensions.  Budgets are straining.  Deficits are growing.  So what do you do when the number of patients is growing greater than the ability to pay for them?  You make doctors and nurses cover more patients.  Forcing these junior doctors to ‘grow up’ fast on the job.  To act as if they have years of experience during their first days on the job.

Surveys have shown that junior doctors are asked to carry out operations and procedures on patients which are beyond their capabilities and often have responsibility for large numbers of hospitals patients overnight when fewer senior staff are on duty.

Dr Anthea Martin, senior medical adviser at the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, which provides legal advice for doctors and dentists nationwide, said junior doctors should not be asked to carry out tasks they are not confident doing and should always seek help from senrio [sic] colleagues if tehy [sic] are unsure.

The sad thing is that it will only get worse.  Until the baby boomers die out so that they have more taxpayers entering the workforce than leaving it.

Announcing the new shadowing scheme, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, said…“Patient safety and providing a high quality service is at the heart of a modern NHS. This shadowing period could potentially save lives, and will equip new junior doctors with the local knowledge and skills needed to provide safe, high quality patient care, from their first day as a doctor…”

“It means new doctors will be ready to go on the first day, familiar with the hospital’s systems and ready to focus on patient care rather than worrying about where to find the X-ray request forms.

“It will go some way to making sure that patients get good care whatever day of the year they present and we’re pleased this is now in place nation-wide.”

Yes, let’s teach these new doctors the important things. Have these senior doctors show these junior doctors where the X-ray request forms are.  Once they get the proper bureaucratic procedures under their belt then they can treat their patients.  Knowing that when they request some test or procedure that they will use the correct form.  Reducing lost time from not making these life-threatening mistakes.  So the hospital can input patients and process them quickly.  In an assembly line procession.  One after the other. Quickly.  And efficiently.  No time to dither around with that talking nonsense.  Patient arrives at one workstation.  The worker reads the form.  Performs the work.  And sends the patient to the next workstation.  High productivity is the only answer to the problems at the NHS.  As it will be with Obamacare.  Because the Americans, too, have an aging population.

Currently the U.S. doesn’t have a Black Wednesday.  Or a Killing Season.  But you know it’s coming.  Because there is no way that Obamacare will be better than the NHS.  Not when they will be starting with an aging population that will only age more.  And they will have 5 times the patients the NHS has.  Not to mention the fact that the NHS has been doing national health care for awhile.  So on top of everything else the Americans will also have the learning curve working against them.  Which could cause a British patient being rushed to hospital on a Wednesday during the Killing Season to say with typical British fortitude, “Could be worse.  I could be in America.”

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FT100: “Benefit recipients agree that responsible governing should start AFTER they get theirs.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 13th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

Legacy Health Care (and Pension) Costs Bankrupted GM

Franklin Delano Roosevelt ruined General Motors (GM).  And created the health care crisis.  How?  With price controls.  By interfering with market pricing mechanisms.  In a misguided effort to fix the economy he instituted a maximum wage.  Meaning companies couldn’t compete for good workers by offering them a higher wage.  So to compete for good workers they started us down a path that is destroying our economy.  Instead of higher wages (which were illegal) they offered benefits.  And the United States would never be the same.

Health care.  Before FDR, we paid for our health care.  After FDR, other people paid for our health care.  And we demanded more because we weren’t paying the bill.  It worked well for awhile.  When there was an expanding population.  When there were always more younger workers than older workers.  And retirees.  But the population aged.  Thanks to birth control.  And abortion.  During FDR’s time it was common for a family to raise 10 children.  Now it’s closer to 2 or 3.  Which means a generation or two later there were no longer more younger workers than older workers and retirees.  And what does this mean?  Well, older workers and retirees consume more health care than younger workers.  So the cost of health care soared for business.

This is what bankrupted GM.  These legacy health care (and pension) costs.  Instituted during a time when they were cheap and easy to provide.  But they became unsustainable.  Because of that declining population growth rate.  Union contract after union contract discussed these legacy costs.  But the way the rank and file felt was that it was their turn.  The system may be flawed.  But it worked before them.  So let them have their benefits they say.  And fix the system after they get theirs.

Social Security and Public Sectors have the same Problems GM Had

Social Security has the same problem.  That declining population growth rate is forcing fewer and fewer workers to support a retired worker.  And they’re living a lot longer than FDR’s actuaries ever calculated thanks to better and better health care.  Which just compounds the problem.  Social Security is a pyramid scheme gone bad.  The top is far wider than the base.  There are more benefit recipients than benefit contributors.  And it will follow GM into bankruptcy.  It’s just a matter of time.

There’s been a lot of talk about privatizing Social Security to prevent its collapse.  But it always meets fierce resistance.  Especially from the elderly and retirees.  Who are stuck in the system never having provided for their own retirement because they believed in the Ponzi scheme that is Social Security.  They say the system may be flawed.  But it worked before them.  So let them have their benefits they say.  And fix the system after they get theirs.

If you combine the rising health care costs and the rising pension costs inherent with a declining birth rate we come to the public sector.  Who have always enjoyed far better benefits than those in the private sector.  But that aging population is requiring ever higher taxes to support these most generous benefits.  And the taxpayers simply can’t sustain them any longer.  Those in the public sector know these systems need to be reformed.  But they worked before them.  So let them have their benefits they say.  And reform the system after they get theirs.

This Generation will Always Kick the Can to the Next Generation

That’s the problem with bad public policy.  Everyone can agree that bad policy needs to be reformed.  But what harm could one more generation do?  So kick that can down the road.  We have time.  After all, it took generations to get where we are now.  So another generation won’t ruin the country.  Even though it very well could.  But the important thing for them is that they get their benefits.  And the responsible governing can start after they get theirs.

But that’s the problem.  This generation always wants the following generation to fix things.  They always want to kick that can down the road.  But the problem is that there will always be another generation to kick that can to.  So they always will.  And no one will fix these problems while there’s a chance to fix them.  One generation will just suffer the consequences of all this can kicking.  As will every generation that follows.

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The U.S. Taxpayer may have to bailout American Airlines’ Union Pension Plan

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 4th, 2011

Week in Review

We simply can’t afford pension plans anymore.  Defined benefit plans need to go the way of the dinosaurs and fast.  Most retirement plans have already gone to employee 401(k) plans.  Where the employer pays the employee and forgets about him.  Or her.  Only unions and the public sector cling to these golden parachutes.  Because they know in the end they can get the taxpayer to pay for them when their greed gets the better of them (see US may have to foot American Airlines’ pension bill by NEWSCORE posted 12/1/2011 on the New York Post).

US firms or taxpayers may be on the hook to pay for American Airlines’ massive pension bill, if the bankrupt carrier chooses to drop its pension plans as part of restructuring efforts, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

Joshua Gotbaum, director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), told the FT that taking on American’s pension plans would worsen the insurer’s deficit and might trigger higher premiums for the companies that finance it.

The PBGC is funded by US firms that offer defined benefit pension plans. The agency insures about 27,600 single employer plans and 1,500 multi-employer plans, guaranteeing defined pension plans for about 44 million US workers…

PBGC has already requested permission from Congress to raise the premium it charges US corporations by $16 billion over 10 years.

America can’t afford a privileged class any longer.  The declining birth rate put an end to that a long time ago.  For pyramid schemes don’t work when the top is wider than the base.

We need to transition from defined benefit to defined contribution.  No more pensions.  People must save for their own retirement with a 401(k), IRA, annuity, etc.  And that goes for Social Security, too.  Not now.  But some future generation will have to pay for their own retirement.  Because sometime in the future Social Security just won’t be there anymore.  Not with a declining birth rate.  And unless you want to establish strict Catholicism as the state religion (no birth control or abortion), that birthrate isn’t going to change.  So that leaves only one option.  No more pensions.  Or privileged classes.

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Why does Obama move toward National Health Care when Europe moves away from It?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 27th, 2011

Rationing is the Hallmark of National Health Care

Supporters of Obamacare say everyone will get quality health care services.  Opponents say it will result in lower quality and rationing.  The UK has national health care.  The National Health Service (NHS).  So how are things in the NHS?  Are they overflowing with quality health care services?  Or are they rationing.  Well, let’s take a look at one example in the vast NHS system (see Dementia checks at 75 urged by Alzheimer’s Society by Adam Brimelow, Health Correspondent, BBC News).

The NHS should offer checks for dementia when people reach 75, a leading health charity says…

Dr Laurence Buckman, from the British Medical Association, says there is value in the idea of screening for dementia, and that many GPs would be happy to carry it out. But he says many would struggle to find the time.

“It takes an hour to do an assessment, during which time five other patients could have been seen. In the current economic climate, when the NHS is being asked to make huge efficiency savings and there are many equally valid competing demands, patients and the public need to have a debate over which services should be prioritised.”

The NHS should check for dementia.  But doesn’t.  They could.  But they would have to make cuts elsewhere.  Because they have limited resources.  And more people that that they can handle on their current budget.  So they don’t check for dementia.  To save money for other patients.  That sounds like rationing.  And it is no doubt the future of Obamacare.

Europeans have Learned that Less Government is Best in their Health Care

The NHS is a behemoth.  With lots of bureaucrats and bureaucracy between doctors and patients.  And one thing about bureaucracies is that they don’t change much.  If at all.  They’re like a big ship with a tiny rudder.  Change is slow.  And hard.  It pushes bureaucrats out of their comfort zones.  So they resist change.  So while technology marches on in the private sector, the old way of doing things remain in these bloated bureaucracies. 

In the public sector bureaucracy there is a saying.  If it’s broke, don’t fix it.  Because fixing it may involve change.  And they don’t like change.  This is why people tend to get exasperated dealing with government bureaucracies.  At any level.  Standing in line to renew your driver’s license can be insufferable.  You’ll see state workers standing around doing nothing.  While you stand in line.  Why?  Because they can.  Where else are you going to go?  And so it is in the NHS.  You’ll have to deal with rationing.  Long wait times.  Impersonal bureaucrats.  Why?  You have no choice.  Where else are you going to go? 

Yes, there are problems in the NHS.  But they are not unique.  All of Europe’s health care systems are having problems (see Europe’s Failing Health by Javier Espinoza posted 3/28/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Reformers want to reduce the state’s role in health-care delivery and introduce a competitive element…many feel that without innovation, crumbling state-backed systems will collapse as they struggle to cope with aging populations, soaring overheads and, more recently, mounting budget deficits.

The statistics paint a bleak picture. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European Union will see an increase in health expenditure of 350% by 2050, whereas at the same time the economy is only set to expand by 180%.

Some work has already been done to estimate the real impact on future expenditures. Friedrich Breyer, a professor of economics at the University of Konstanz in Germany, calculates that in Germany alone between 2020 and 2030 there will be a huge spike in the number of elderly people alongside an enormous drop in young and working-age people. “This will mean a dramatic increase in individuals’ payroll tax contribution rates to health care to 20.7% in 2030 and over 23% in 2040,” he says. This compares to just 11.4% in 1980.

Like that old saying says, competition makes everything better.  Without it there’s no incentive to improve.  Or a reason to worry about costs.  You just go to the government for more money.  Unfortunately, doing that for all these years just made these costs grow out of control.  And an aging population just compounds that problem.  You can thank birth control and abortion for that.  The baby boom was the population growth rate’s last hurrah.  And now we’re stuck with declining birth rate.  Fewer young who pay taxes.  And more old who consume benefits.  In an archaic system.  That’s cost inefficient.  In other words, health care systems around the world are broken.  And someone needs to fix them.

Unlike the U.K. health-care system, where the state manages and delivers the services, systems in the rest of Europe, particularly Switzerland, the Netherlands and to some extent Germany, rely more on a system of private insurance. Switzerland has been hailed as the least over-protective system. In that country health insurers are the ones who determine their fees and the services they provide—as long as they adhere to the basic services agreed in the country’s Health Insurance Law…

As a result of less government control, the Swiss health-care system has been able to reduce waiting time for treatment and pioneers new technology and pharmaceuticals, according to the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, a London think tank known as Civitas.

While President Obama is moving the U.S. towards a more centralized, state-controlled behemoth, Europe is moving the other way.  It looks like the social democracies of Europe have learned that less government is best in health care.  Privatization lowers cost through competition.  And it’s reduced waiting times and increased quality.  And yet Obama wants to take the U.S. in the other way.  The wrong way.  Why?

…it is in the U.K. that arguably the biggest changes need to be made. The government of Prime Minister David Cameron is determined to reform the 63-year-old National Health System. It is undergoing a massive overhaul in an effort to save £1.7 billion ($2.7 billion) a year. Under the proposed plans, general practitioners are set to take control of commissioning services for patients. The government is proposing to scrap strategic health authorities and primary care trusts, which currently commission services. The government argues it does not have a choice. The country’s budget deficit is soaring and the NHS is one of the biggest drains on its resources…

Not everyone, however, is an advocate of health-care reform. In the U.K., trade unions have been vociferous in their discontent over the proposed overhaul of the NHS…

The big fear is that these reforms promote a system where you can top up. And this diminishes the quality of health and creates a two-tier system.”

The U.K. already has a two-tier system.  The rank and file British goes to the NHS.  The affluent travel to where they can buy the best health care that money can buy.

Once upon the time unions wanted to control their health care plans.  And they offered some nice plans.  Because that’s why people joined unions.  For the benefits.  Union benefits were always better than non-union benefits.  But unions everywhere want to shed their health care costs.  Because they’re just too damn expensive.  And they can’t pass these costs onto their employers anymore.  Trade union members in the U.S. have long been contributing to their health care costs.  And the size of that contribution just seems to keep on growing.  The unions want out.  They want national health care.  But not the people who currently have private health insurance.  Because they know things will get worse.  There’ll be longer waits.  And lower quality.  How do they know that?  By simply looking at what’s going on in Europe.

Obamacare:  Transferring Money from the Private to the Public Sector

There is empirical evidence everywhere that shows Obamacare is wrong.  The U.K.  Europe.  Canada.  Cuba.  It tries to replicate here what’s already been proven wrong.  Everywhere people have tried it.  So why the persistence here in the USA to nationalize our health care?

Well, first of all, you have to look at who supports national health care.  They’re all Big Government people.  Unions.  Liberals.  Government statists.  And how do these people get power?  By pandering.  And you need money to pander.  Taxes were always a good for that until they became so high people resisted further increases.  Unions were also a good source of money (union dues supported liberal/statist candidates) but market pressures squeezed their pay (and, subsequently, what they could pay in dues).  Public sector unions were their best vehicle to transfer money from the private sector to their pockets.  Because there are no market forces involved.  Salary and wage packages are set by unions and government.  The taxpayers, who pay for these packages, have no say.  But their greed has bankrupted states and cities and angry taxpayers have voted statists out of office.  And that leaves nationalized health care as their last best hope.

You see, it’s not about providing quality health care to all Americans.  It’s about transferring money from the private sector to the public sector.  That’s why they ignore the empirical evidence.  Because they don’t care.  They just want to control that money.  And at about 17% of GDP, that’s a lot of money to pass through their greedy little fingers.  So while Europe tries to improve their health care systems, Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al, are trying to enrich their political class at the expense of our health care system.  Further impoverishing working Americans.  And giving them a poorer health care system in the process.

Boy.  With friends like this in government, I guess we don’t need any enemies.

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LESSONS LEARNED #28: “Politicians love failure because no one ever asked government to fix something that was working.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 26th, 2010

THE TELEVISION SHOW Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. aired from 1964-1969.  It was a spinoff from the Andy Griffith Show.  Gomer, a naive country bumpkin who worked at Wally’s filling station, joined the Marines Corps.  And there was much mirth and merriment.  To the chagrin of Sergeant Carter, Pyle’s drill instructor (DI).  Think of Gunny Sergeant R. Lee Ermey’s Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket only with no profanity or mature subject matter.  Sergeant Carter was a tough DI like Sergeant Hartman.  But more suitable for the family hour on prime time television.

Gunny sergeants are tough as nails.  And good leaders.  They take pride in this.  But sometimes a gunny starts to feel that he’s not himself anymore.  This was the subject of an episode.  And Gomer, seeing that Sergeant Carter was feeling down, wanted to help.  So he stuffed Sergeant Carter’s backpack with hay before a long march.  While the platoon was worn and tired, Sergeant Carter was not.  He was feeling good.  Like his old self.  Until he found out he was not carrying the same load his men were.  He asked Pyle, “why hay?”  He could understand rocks, but hay?  Because if he outlasted his men while carrying a heavier load, he would feel strong.  But knowing he had carried a lighter load only made him feel weak.

This is human nature.  People take pride in their achievements.  They don’t take pride in any achievement attained by an unfair advantage.  Self-esteem matters.  And you can’t feel good about yourself if you need help to do what others can do without help. 

AN OLD CHINESE proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Let’s say I am a fisherman in a small village.  I catch fish to feed my family and sell/trade for other family needs.  There’s a man in my village who asks me for a fish each day so he can eat.  I’m a caring person.  So I give him a fish each day.  So a pattern develops.  Each day he shows up when I come in from my fishing.  He takes the fish and goes away.  It works out well for him.  He doesn’t have to work.  He can live off of my kind charity.  Then I move.  Without me being there to give him a fish each day, he no longer can eat.  And dies.  If I only had taught that man to fish. 

Kindness can lead to dependency.  And once dependent, you become lazy.  Why develop marketable skills to provide for yourself when someone else will provide for you?  The problem is, of course, what happens when that charity ends?  If you’re unable to provide for yourself and there is no longer someone providing for you, what do you do?  Steal?

Dependency and a lack of self-esteem are a dangerous combination.  And they feed off of each other.  This combination can lead to depression.  Behavioral problems.  Resentment.  Bitterness.  Envy.  Or a defeatist attitude.

These are often unintended consequences of government programs.  A failed program, then, has far reaching consequences beyond the initial economic costs of a program.

LIQUIDITY CRISES CAUSE a lot of economic damage.  If capital is not available for businesses to borrow, businesses can’t grow.  Or create jobs.  And we need jobs.  People have to work.  To support themselves.  And to pay taxes to fund the government.  So everyone is in favor of businesses growing to create jobs.  We all would like to see money being easy and cheap to borrow if it creates jobs.

But there is a downside to easy money.  Inflation.  Too much borrowing can create inflation.  By increasing the money supply (via fractional reserve banking).  More money means higher prices.  Because each additional dollar is worth a little less. This can lead to overvalued assets as prices are ‘bid’ up with less valuable dollars.  And higher prices can inflate business profits.  Looks good on paper.  But too much of this creates a bubble.  Because those high asset values and business profits are not real.  They’re inflated.  Like a bubble.  And just as fragile.  When bubbles burst, asset values and business profits drop.  To real values.  People are no longer ‘bidding’ up prices.  They stop buying until they think prices have sunk to their lowest.  We call this deflation.  A little bit of inflation or deflation is normal.  Too much can be painful economically.  Like in the Panic of 1907.

Without going into details, there was a speculative bubble that burst in 1907.  This led to a liquidity crisis as banks failed.  Defaults on loans left banks owing more money than they had (i.e., they became illiquid).  They tried to borrow money and recall loans to restore their liquidity.  Borrowers grew concerned that their bank may fail.  So they withdrew their money.  This compounded the banks problems.  This caused deflation.  Money was unavailable.  Causing bank runs.  And bank failures.  Business failures.  And unemployment grew. So government passed the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again.  The government gave the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) great powers to tweak the monetary system.  The smartest people at the time had figured out what had gone wrong in 1907.  And they created a system that made it impossible for it to happen again.

The worst liquidity crisis of all time happened from 1929-1933.  It’s part of what we call the Great Depression.  The 1920s had a booming economy.  Real income was rising.  Until the Fed took action.  Concerned that people were borrowing money for speculative purposes (in paper investments instead of labor, plant and material), they put on the brakes.  Made it harder and more expensive to borrow money.  Then a whole series of things happened along the way that turned a recession into a depression.  When people needed money, they made it harder to get it, causing a deflationary spiral.  The Great Depression was the result of bad decisions made by too few men with too much power.  It made a crisis far worse than the one in 1907.  And the Roosevelt administration made good use of this new crisis.  FDR exploded the size of government to respond to the unprecedented crisis they found themselves in.  The New Deal changed America from a nation of limited government to a country where Big Government reigns supreme.

ONE PROGRAM OF the New Deal was Social Security.  Unemployment in the 1930s ran at or above 14%.  This is for one whole decade.  Never before nor since has this happened.  Older workers generally earn more than younger ones.  Their experience commands a higher pay rate.  Which allows them to buy more things.  Resulting in more bills.  Therefore, the Great Depression hit older workers especially hard.  A decade of unemployment would have eaten through any life savings of even the most prudent savers.  And what does this get you?  A great crisis.

The government took a very atypical moment of history and changed the life of every American.  The government forced people to save for retirement.  In a very poor savings plan.  That paid poorly by comparison to private pensions or annuities.  And gave the government control over vast amounts of money.  It was a pervasive program.  They say FDR quipped, “Let them try to undo this.” 

With government taking care of you in retirement, more people stopped providing for themselves.  When they retired, they scrimped by on their ‘fixed’ incomes.  And because Social Security became law before widespread use of birth control and abortion, the actuaries of the day were very optimistic.  They used the birth rate then throughout their projections.  But with birth control and abortion came a huge baby bust.  The bottom fell out of the birth rate.  A baby bust generation followed a baby boom generation.  Actually, all succeeding generations were of the bust kind.  The trend is growing where fewer and fewer people pay for more and more people collecting benefits.  And these people were living longer.  To stay solvent, the system has to raise taxes on those working and reduce benefits on those who are not.  Or raise the retirement age.  All these factors have made it more difficult on our aged population.  Making them working longer than they planned.  Or by making that fixed income grow smaller.

FDR used a crisis to create Social Security.  Now our elderly people are dependent on that system.  It may suck when they compare it to private pensions or annuities, but it may be all they have.  If so, they’ll quake in their shoes anytime anyone mentions reforming Social Security.  Because of this it has become the 3rd rail of politics.  A politician does not touch it lest he or she wishes to die politically.  But it’s not all bad.  For the politician.  Because government forced the elderly to rely on them for their retirement, it has made the Social Security recipient dependent on government.  In particular, the party of government who favors Big Government.  The Democrats.  And with a declining birth rate and growing aged population, this has turned into a large and loyal voting bloc indeed.  Out of fear.

A PROGRAM THAT straddled the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society was Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  Its original New Deal purpose was to help widows take care of their children.  When program outlays peaked in the 1970s, the majority of recipients were unmarried women and divorced women.  Because this was a program based on need, the more need you had the more you got.  Hence more children meant more money.  It also reduced the importance of marriage as the government could replace the support typically provided by a husband/father.  Noted economist Dr. Thomas Sowell blames AFDC as greatly contributing to the breakdown of the black family (which has the highest incidence of single-parent households).

With the women’s liberation movement, women have come to depend less on men.  Some affluent women conceive and raise children without a husband.  Or they adopt.  And the affluent no doubt can provide all the material needs their children will ever need.  Without a husband.  Or a father for their children.  But is that enough?

The existence of ‘big brother’ programs would appear to prove otherwise.  Troubled children are often the products of broken families.  Mothers search for big brothers to mentor these fatherless sons.  To be role models.  To show an interest in these children’s lives.  To care.  When no such role models are available, some of these troubled children turn to other sources of acceptance and guidance.  Like gangs.

AFDC has compounded this problem by providing the environment that fosters fatherless children.  And another government program compounds that problem.  Public housing.

POOR HOUSING CONDITIONS hurt families.  They especially hurt broken families.  Without a working husband, these families are destined to live in the cheapest housing available.  These are often in the worst of neighborhoods.  This is an unfair advantage to the children raised in those families.  For it wasn’t their fault they were born into those conditions.  So, to solve that problem, government would build good public housing for these poorest of the poor to move into.  Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  Public housing concentrates these broken families together.  Usually in large apartment buildings.  This, then, concentrates large numbers of troubled children together.  So, instead of having these children dispersed in a community, public housing gathers them together.  Where bad behavior reinforces bad behavior.  It becomes the rule, not the exception.  Making a mother’s job that much more difficult.  And because these children live together, they also go to school together.  And this extends the bad behavior problem to the school.  Is it any wonder that public housing (i.e., the projects) have the worst living conditions?  And some of the highest gang activity? 

Government didn’t plan it this way.  It’s just the unintended consequences of their actions.  And those consequences are devastating.  To the poor in general.  To the black family in particular.  AFDC and public housing enabled irresponsible/bad behavior.  That behavior destroyed families.  As well as a generation or two.  But it wasn’t all bad.  For the politicians.  It made a very large constituency dependent on government.

THERE ARE SO many more examples.  But the story is almost always the same.  Dependency and a lack of self-esteem will beat down a person’s will.  Like an addict, it will make the dependent accept poorer and poorer living standards in exchange for their fix of dependency.  Eventually, the dependency will reach the point where they will not know how to provide for themselves.  The dependency will become permanent.  As will the lack of self-esteem.  Conscious or not of their actions, Big Government benefits from the wretched state they give these constituencies.  With no choice but continued dependence, they vote for the party that promises to give the most.  Which is typically the Democrat Party.

But how can you fault these politicians?  They acted with the best of intentions.  And they can fix these new problems.  They’ll gather the brightest minds.  They’ll study these problems.  And they will produce the best programs to solve these problems.  All it will take is more government spending.  And how can you refuse?  When people are hungry.  Or homeless.  Or have children that they can’t care for.  How can anyone not want to help the children?  How can anyone not have compassion?

Well, compassion is one thing.  When the innocent suffer.  But when government manufactures that suffering, it’s a different story.  Planned or not the result is the same whenever government tries to fix things.  The cost is high.  The solution is typically worse than the original problem.  And the poorest of the poor are pawns.  To be used by Big Government in the name of compassion. 

Of course, if Big Government were successful in fixing these problems, they would fix themselves right out of existence.  So as long as they want to run Big Government programs, they’ll need a stock of wretched, suffering masses that need their help.  And, of course, lots of crises.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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