Dan Wolf | VCA Advisory Boad
This article continues the discussion started in Part I, using the areas of education, poverty, and healthcare as examples. More detail on the first two topics can be found in Collectivism and Charity: The Great Deception.
Responding to all the items within the Democratic platform would create a very long article. Fortunately that’s not needed. Just a few principles underlie their plan and include;
- More spending fixes the problem
- Creating laws and regulations to ‘level the playing field’
- Government management increases efficiency
- Providing ‘free’ resources is necessary and responsible governance
Each principle has been used with education, poverty, and/or healthcare. More spending is the most obvious, and nothing is too big to promise—including ‘improving’ Social Security. The Obama administration racked up $10 trillion in new debt all on their lonesome, doubling the debt of all previous president’s combined. Additionally, the recent Democratic budget called for $10 trillion in new taxes, without any apparent spending reduction. Deficits don’t matter, but only with Democratic spending.
Laws and regulations are used to both level the playing field and at the same time remove barriers to competition. Underlying this principle is the notion the economy must be managed and only the government elite can do it. In other words, you are not capable of making your own decisions. We will provide you security, it will just cost you some freedom. This notion is the opposite of our purpose.
Nothing is ever free, it may merely not cost you. This is an outgrowth of the first point on spending. Whenever something has been provided for ‘free,’ someone else paid the bill. This creates a perverse incentive at odds with personal responsibility. The bottom line is that these are echoes of the same old tired lines used by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. They have never worked and will never work, because they are lies.
Simply put, education is a disaster. We’ve tried to spend our way to excellence, using money as fertilizer hoping something good will grow. We now spend in excess of $149,000 per student for a 13-year public school education. An increase of almost 200% from the $50,000 figure in 1970, before the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) was created. During this time the teaching staff ratio decreased from 60% to 50%, while test scores relative to other countries fell. Further, for much of this time graduation rates decreased and only in the last 15 years or so have they come back to their pre-DOE level. And it only took spending trillions of dollars to achieve. Excellent!
As for college, since the federal government took control of student loans college cost increases have outpaced those of healthcare, and we now have over $1 trillion in student debt. The graph below shows public education staffing growth.
Figure 1: Growth in Public Education Staffing
But it doesn’t stop there. Our education process now substitutes technology use for some education, using educational games. Some students use this technology to access pornography, and it’s a growing problem schools don’t want to talk about. It’s not the technology itself that is bad, but the way it is used. Couple the gaming and pornography access with society’s growing dependency on social media, and you provide a basis for addiction development. This addiction corrupts human relationships. It provides bread and circuses. While the technology presents an opportunity for great good, it also poses a risk for great evil if not done properly.
To be sure, school administrators take steps to prevent access to pornographic sites. But once a student is addicted, and it is an addiction, the urge is strong and they will work to find ways to satisfy it. Our young are being harmed and losing their way. It is not right. They are our children. For those interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend Brad Huddleston’s book Digital Cocaine.
Another win for big government. There is much ado about inequality, and the need for so many justices—social, economic, environmental, climate, reproductive, racial, criminal, and restorative. Justice is important and mentioned 28 times in the Democratic platform. But there is only one true justice—God’s. The justices Democrats mention are all mans. What’s wrong with that picture? We can look to poverty policy as a case in point.
Although well intentioned, poverty policy created many negative unintended consequences. When man turns away from God, God leaves man to his own devices—and their consequences. We still have God’s grace when making bad decisions, but don’t realize its benefits until we align our will with His.
The War on Poverty began in 1964. Since then we have spent over $22 trillion on programs fighting poverty, and now spend about $1 trillion each year. After all that, our poverty level remains at about 15%. There has been no change while mean assistance spending doubled from $8,000 to $16,000. Those receiving assistance have increase over the last 15 years from about 75 million to close in on 150 million—over 1/3 of our population. Today only about 66% of assistance spending goes to those below the poverty line.
The above are signs of another addiction. More bread and circuses. We no longer understand what being poor means. Material poverty is only one type, but we no longer even understand that. We’ve gotten lost with our success.
A 2007 study of America’s poor indicated;
- 43% owned their own home, only 6% of poor households were overcrowded
- About 75% owned at least one car
- 80% had air conditioning
- 97% had a color television
It is certainly not an extravagant lifestyle, nor is it intended to be. But the poor in America generally live better than the middle class in many other countries—including Europe.
Finally, look at average income changes. Since the war on poverty began the average income for those in the middle (third quintile) have grown about 40%, while growth for the poorest group (first quintile) has only grown about 7%. One result of poverty policy is the gap between the poor and everyone else has increased. Take away a person’s incentive to provide for himself and his family, and you make him a slave. One final point about government effectiveness, private charities on average provide $ .75 in services for each dollar they receive (versus government’s $ .30). If the $22 trillion in government expenditures had instead been given to private charities, just the difference in spending efficiency alone would have been enough to eliminate much of the income gap just noted.
The following graph illustrates these effects. The solid lines represent annual income by quintile (20%). The dotted lines government assistance spending’s impact on the indicated quintile, and the dashed lines the effects of that assistance spending if done by the average private charity.
Figure 2:Mean Family Income, with Adjustments for Assistance Spending by Quintile, 1966-2013
A trifecta in governing effectiveness. What are the odds? Unfortunately, this is about as close to a sure thing as one can get. We can start with the legislation being advanced by lies; lies that those who spoke them knew were lies. We can move on to the billions spent for a web site that didn’t work and was unsecure. From there we can go to the health insurance premium increases, in some cases over 100% per year accompanied by deductible increases. While insurance costs increased, choices often decreased and in some states the government run marketplaces went bankrupt.
Obamacare was never about healthcare. It was about insurance. Putting a party between you and your healthcare provider. What are some effects for hospitals and other providers? Virginia has over 100 hospitals. Most privately run hospitals have a religious basis; a mission including looking after those who need healthcare but cannot afford it.
One change here is the move away from payment for services to value based patient satisfaction. At the same time patients are led to believe there will be no pain after a procedure. These changes contribute to increased unreimbursed healthcare costs—revenue decreases.
New Obamacare requirements are estimated to cost Virginia hospitals about $1.5 billion annually. Increases that must be absorbed by the service provider. When revenues decline and costs increase, margins are reduced. In 2015 about one fourth of Virginia’s acute care hospitals had negative operating margins, and in rural areas over forty percent ran in the red.
These conditions cannot continue indefinitely. Eventually healthcare providers will need to refuse to perform certain services, focus only on areas where a positive operating margin can be achieved, close their doors, or obtain government funding to ‘make up’ the deficit. Big government at its finest, first create a problem with new legislation and then come to the rescue with more government to manage the consequences.
The strife and division growing within our society is evidence we are on the wrong track. We often select weak leaders, ones generally making big promises but whose actions serve themselves. But these leaders only reflect the people’s values electing them. Are we still willing to serve or want to be served?
One of the things I admire about President Trump is, despite whatever flaws he may have, he appears to truly be trying to change things for the better. He cares, and is attempting to again give us the opportunity to help ourselves. That is the only way we are ever truly free, but it requires faith and self-sacrifice. One way we see we are on the wrong path is our government’s attempts to undermine President Trump’s agenda, thereby retaining their power and cronyism.
While writing this article, Donna Brazile’s new book was released. The DNC’s and Clintons actions in the last election are appalling, but should surprise no one. After all, Hillary Clinton lauded a man in her thesis who in turn lauded Satan. How appropriate, and how sad. Somewhat unexpected is that Ms. Brazile even spoke at all, but why did it take a year after the election to happen?
 Wolf, Dan, Collectivism and Charity, living rightly publications, 2016.
 Burke, Lindsey, How Escalating Education Spending is Killing Crucial Reforms, The Heritage Foundation, October, 2010, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/how-escalating-education-spending-is-killing-crucial-reform
 Huddleston, Brad, Digital Cocaine, Christian Art Publishers, 2015.
 Rector, Robert, How Poor are America’s Poor? Examining the “Plague” of Poverty in America, Heritage Foundation, 8/27/2007. http://www.heritage.org/poverty-and-inequality/report/how-poor-are-americas-poor-examining-the-plague-poverty-america. Accessed November, 2017.
 Wolf, Dan, Collectivism and Charity, p. 183, living rightly publications, 2016.