Monday, June 18, 2018

More Problems at the VA

This morning it was announced that a Fayetteville VA Medical Center pathologist had misdiagnosed multiple patients resulting in at least one death. This is just one more instance in a growing list of substandard and negligent care in the VA health care system nationwide. In this instance the doctor had previously been briefly suspended for being "impaired" but was allowed to return to work. This follows a pattern at the VA where those found to be giving substandard care have been allowed to remain at work. Congress has known about these problems for years but has so far refused to do anything to fix it. Instead they have thrown more and more money at the problem, accomplishing little other than often rewarding those that are causing or covering up the problems. It is past time to hold our Congressmen accountable and pressure them to make meaningful changes that improves the quality of care for our veterans.
As a veteran that has received healthcare from the VA in Fayetteville, all I can do is hope I am not on the list of those misdiagnosed. To those that have already received notification that you were affected, I offer my hopes and prayers for the best possible outcome. To those grieving families that have suffered the worst fate, I offer my sincerest condolences.
Congressman Womack has been in office for more than 7 years now. He and his colleagues have known about these problems at the VA and have done little to fix them. Perhaps if they were to decline their "Cadillac" insurance plans provided at our expense and instead use the same VA care that they have inflicted on other vets, they might be more motivated to propose some meaningful changes. In November the voters will have a chance to replace Womack with someone that will, and is motivated to make things right. This November elect Libertarian Michael J Kalagias to represent and serve you in Congress.


PS      For those of you that think this doesn't effect or apply to you, I give you this warning: This is what single payer health care looks like. Be careful what you wish for.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day

Two and a half centuries ago five thousand men died fighting against the world’s most powerful military so that the United States of America could be born. It became a beacon of liberty to nations everywhere and created the modern western civilization billions have enjoyed. We all owe a debt to those that sacrificed so much to make that happen. Especially those five thousand that gave all. In the years since, millions have served this country in the military to pay back the debt to those original few. Some of our wars have been just; some not so much. Many of those liberties won at such a high cost have been eroded away, but the call to duty has never gone unanswered. One million American servicemen have died serving during our various wars. They should be remembered. They gave all so others wouldn’t have to. As the Memorial Day weekend ushers in the beginning of summer celebrations and revelry, let us not forget the meaning of the holiday. Let us pause to remember and give thanks to the million souls that gave their lives for us. Let us take just a moment to remember and value the sacrifices they made, so that we can fully understand the tremendous price that was and is still being paid.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Social Security

Social security was designed to provide some income for the elderly during the dreary years of the great depression. In the decades since it has become much more. It is now a relied upon retirement system, something it wasn't designed to support. In the 1960's LBJ also turned it into an income system for the disabled. Not just way more than the program was designed to do, but far more than it could possibly support. The result has become a ponzi-scheme funded program that will become insolvent in the next 20 years. It depends on increasing numbers of people paying in to take care of those receiving the benefits. There won't be enough to pay in the near future. This isn't news. The public and the politicians have known this for decades. And they have done nothing. Republicans and Democrats have been content to do nothing and let it collapse. It gives them something to blame each other for and drive out the base voters in election years. So every year we just watch the countdown to disaster continue.
Many feel like they have a social security account; they are entitled to their benefits they paid for. The program was sold to the public as this type of program. It is not. There is no account. The government seizes the revenue from you through payroll taxes and immediately spends it. And spends even more. The "surplus" in collected funds doesn't go to support the program, it is used to make the budget deficit appear smaller. I am 50 years old and have no thoughts of ever collecting anything from social security. It isn't going to be there. It won't be there for anyone younger either. It won't even last for those that are older than I am. The money you paid into the program isn't there. It's already spent. You won't get it back. This is wrong.
Libertarians are philosophically opposed to Socialist Security. We don't need the nanny state to tell us how to take care of ourselves. This isn't a legitimate function of government. People should be entitled to the wages of their labor, and responsible for their own lives. Philosophically libertarians are right. Practice, however, is different. The program already exists. It doesn't matter if it would have been better if it had never existed. That ship sailed long ago, we can't go back in time to fix it. People have been promised benefits. They have paid for benefits. They ARE entitled to those benefits.  The Libertarian Party isn't just a philosophy club. It is the party of solutions. I have a solution.
First you have to make it solvent. SSDI disability is the most abused and fraud filled program in the federal government. End it. No new recipients starting now. There are plenty of disability insurance options available on the market. Use one, or not, at your own leisure and/or peril. Those already dependent on SSDI disability would be grandfathered in. It wouldn't be right to change the rules after the fact at a point where no other options exist. This will drive down costs, and increase the available funds for the original purpose of retirement income.  Next, stop spending the surplus. Create the dedicated trust fund account most believe Social Security to be. These two changes alone will extend the solvency by decades.
There's more we can do. Eliminate the cap on SS taxes, while simultaneously lowering the tax rate on employers and employees to 5%. This would make things easier on employers that would have lower expenses. It would increase the take home pay of workers, leading to increased economic growth and spending without the immediate inflationary pressure of increased wages. Most importantly, it would make Social Security solvent for everyone. Once we have that, then we can discuss "privitizing" part or even all of the program. Until we fix it and make it solvent, there's nothing else we can do but watch it collapse. Democrats and Republicans are content to do just that, and do not care at all about all those that will be impacted by the collapse. I say we give this Libertarian a chance do right by the folks that are paying for it and fix it instead.
   

School Security

     In February the country was rocked by a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. This was unfortunately not the first time this has happened. Nor will it likely be the last. Mass shootings are regrettably becoming annual news events. First and foremost I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the parents that have lost loved ones. Losing a child is a devastating grief no parent should ever have to endure. There are no words I can express that could ever ease the pain.
     The question for the rest of us is "How do we prevent this from ever happening again?" Gun control advocates immediately take advantage of such events to push their agenda. Some even naively believe that gun control would make a difference. Australia enacted strict gun control and confiscation measures after a mass shooting in 1996. In the decades since, the murder rate in Australia has been cut in half. A dramatic result? In that same time in the USA, over a million AR-15 style rifles have been sold here in the United States. The murder rate in the USA has also been cut in half. Two opposite actions, the exact same result. Guns are not the problem.
     When I was in high school, students often kept deer rifles and shotguns on display in gun racks in their pickup trucks. They never shot anyone. I once brought a shotgun to school so the band could use it to simulate the canon shots in a performance of the 1812 overture. There were a couple of interested glances in the hallway, but again no one got hurt. They were non-events. Guns were not the problem.
      The guns haven't changed; schools have. Public schools in particular have shifted to a compulsory attendance model. Families that do not send their children to school can be fined, jailed, or lose custody of their children. Districts receive funding based mostly on attendance and graduation rates, not on quality of education. The result is students that do not want to be at school but are forced to attend; students that regularly disrupt classes and get in trouble. The result is a toxic adversarial relationship between the school and those children that results in anger, animosity, and the occasional violent outburst. By the time a student displays enough bad behavior to be considered a threat and is expelled from school, the damage is done. That student already sees the school as an oppressor to be dealt with.
     At the same time, schools are now overwhelmingly designated as "gun free zones" in order to receive even more federal funding. Advertising to all that the children inside are at best poorly protected. A free-fire zone with little fear of immediate consequences for those that enter to do harm. Combined this is a recipe for disaster.
         So what can be done? Some districts are dropping the gun free zone, and are permitting some staff members to carry weapons to protect their students. Others are hiring armed security or school resource officers. This will help some, but is far from a comprehensive solution. Schools need to change. Our philosophy needs to change. Not all children belong in school. Many are better served through apprenticeships learning trades. More school choices need to be available to suit a wide variety of students, and homeschooling needs to be a recognized viable option. Efforts need to be made to remove disruptive students before they view schools as their oppressor and take violent action.
       We also need to rethink how and what we are teaching our kids. In an attempt to artificially inflate self-esteem, we are raising generations that are unable to appropriately deal with adversity. By teaching them that all their feelings are valid, important, and to be respected; they respond quite poorly when they discover that not all of their feelings and desires are acceptable.We need to stop creating the mental illness that leads to these events.
     I spent a year as an ISS supervisor, dealing with students that had frequent discipline issues. I spent 8 years teaching regular classes in public schools as a certified public school teacher. I also spent 7 years as a security officer in a public high school. I am not expressing an abstract opinion, these are first hand observations made over decades. We are failing our kids. The problem is not guns, the problem is us.
 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Daylight Savings Time

Today most of America suffered the ill effects of changing the clocks because of daylight savings time. A change that has been shown to cause decreased productivity, increased accidents, poor decision making, and a 10% increase in heart attacks and strokes. There is overwhelming evidence that changing the clocks is bad for your health, yet we continue to do it. Because government. In 2015 the Arkansas legislature considered eliminating daylight savings time. The legislature voted overwhelmingly to keep it. Not because they actually believe that cutting off one end of the blanket and sewing it to the other end makes the blanket longer, but because they need to maintain the image that the government is so all powerful that it controls time itself. It's time to let your elected state officials know that this cannot continue. It is bad enough you steal the fruits of my labor and the value of my property, that you repeatedly infringe on my constitutional rights, that you regulate nearly every aspect of my existence from birth until death. You can at least let me sleep in peace for that hour so I can productively continue to serve you thereafter. It's long past time, give or take an hour, to show some mercy and reign in some tyranny. End daylight savings time forever.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Debt and the Budget Deal

The national debt is over $20 Trillion and rapidly rising. This works out to be more than $60,000 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. and nearly $170,000 for every taxpayer in the country. Just the interest on the debt costs taxpayers over $250 Billion every year. The fact that the national debt continues to grow shouldn't come as a shock. The national debt has grown every single year since 1957, even in the so called “surplus” years at the end of the Clinton presidency. Since 1962, Congress has approved lifting the debt ceiling 74 times. It hasn't mattered if the Democrats or Republicans were in charge, the result has been the same.
Last week Congress did it again. Not only did they pass yet another short term spending bill, they added almost $400 Billion more to the debt and eliminated the debt ceiling. The government can now borrow an unlimited amount of money. Right now that is expected to add well over $1 Trillion dollars to the national debt just this year.
This is not sustainable. Congress hasn't passed a full budget and appropriations bill as required since 1997. Temporary spending measures are expolding the national debt. We are already at the point where future generations will be hard pressed to pay the bills we have run up. Children born today will not be able to afford the enormous tax burden we have placed on them. In 20-30 years the interest alone will eat up more than our entire current discretionary budget. There will be no money left for schools, roads, defense, healthcare, etc...
Representative Womack, along with all but one of his Republican colleagues from Arkansas, voted last week for this huge increase in debt. In fact, Mr. Womack has voted for every short term spending bill, spending increase, debt increase and effort to raise the debt limit since he was elected to the House seven years ago. In those 7 years, Womack has increased the debt by $5 Trillion. That's almost a trillion dollars a year. His reward for his fiscal irresponsibility was to be named chairman of the budget committee.
Our government is broken. We need to drain the swamp. We need some hope and change we can believe in. To do so we need to do something different. #VoteDifferent Don't waste your vote on another Republican or Democrat. You have a much better option. It's long past time to vote Libertarian.
Vote Michael Kalagias for Congress.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

DACA and Dreamers

Immigration has been getting quite a lot of attention lately. In particular the DACA program protecting "dreamers" (children brought to this country illegally by their parents) from deportation.  This was a program begun by Obama and allowed to expire by Trump. It is/was not a good program. It is the result of bad immigration policy and law that has needed attention for decades. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have any desire to fix it though. Arguing over the status quo helps energize the base of both parties and gets out the votes. To the detriment of everyone.
America is a country of immigrants. Founded by immigrants. Built by immigrants. Defended by immigrants. Made great by immigrants. The Great Melting Pot is as integral to our history and culture as the Declaration of Independence is.  The Statue of Liberty is a symbol to the world of the freedom offered by the US and a beacon to " your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." The very same folks Congressman Womack called "depraved" from countries Trump apparently considers "shitholes." To deny this, to disparage immigrants, is to disrespect and deny the values and essence of the United States of America. In fact, the Constitution and our founding fathers deliberately gave no authority to the government to regulate immigration at all. 
Critics of immigration point out that there are hazards that can't be ignored, and there is some merit. The Constitution DOES give the authority to the government to defend it's borders. We SHOULD be ensuring that prospective immigrants that wish to do us harm do not make it here. A wall will not do this. Deporting children of illegal immigrants will not do this. A broken immigration system will not do this.
Much is made of the cost of providing services and welfare to illegal immigrants. Much of what we call welfare is not available to illegal immigrants, but there are services provided that taxpayers pay for. The problem doesn't lie with the immigration though. "Fix" illegal immigration and we still have huge problems with the welfare state that need to be solved. Fix the problems of the welfare state and there is no longer an issue with illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is a symptom of what's wrong. We need to fix the problem, not the symptom.