Friday, July 30, 2010

Obamacare causes shortage of children's health insurance

A much ballyhooed provision of Obamacare was the requirement that insurance companies immediately begin covering children with new policies regardless of pre-existing conditions. In the legislative rush after Senator Scott Brown’s election, this provision was actually left out of the bill that finally became law. Without an effective date, it looked as though the provision might not go into effect until 2014 with most of the rest of the law. In response to the Democratic legislative boo-boo, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) quickly agreed that insurance companies would honor the intent of the law and immediately begin to issue children’s health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Recent reports indicate that the problem still might not be solved. In a striking lesson on economic incentives and the Law of Unintended Consequences, it appears that Obamacare‘s pre-existing condition provision might actually make it more difficult for parents to find affordable health insurance for their children.

In the past, child-only health insurance policies were relatively inexpensive. During my time as an insurance agent, such policies often sold for less than $100 per month. However, due to the recent regulatory changes, it has become more difficult for insurers to market child-only policies that don’t lose money.

The problem is that in the past parents had to buy policies for their children before they got sick. The premiums that they paid to insurers pooled the risk of illness for large numbers of children. Premiums went to pay for health care as well as administrative costs and, if the insurance company was well run, a profit.

Under the new law, parents no longer have to buy policies before their children become sick. In fact, the government has created an incentive for parents to wait until their children get sick to buy insurance. Because there will be a dramatic rise in the number of insured sick children, actuaries at the insurance companies realize that they will soon have to pay out much more in claims than before while premiums received are likely to stay low or even fall. Paying out more in claims without receiving more in premiums means that insurance companies lose money. If insurance companies lose money, they cannot stay in business.

In order to minimize their losses, some insurance companies are reportedly choosing not to sell child-only policies. Where parents could buy inexpensive coverage for their children in the past, they now must buy policies for the entire family in order to cover the children. It is also likely that the remaining companies in the child-only insurance market will increase their prices. Those companies who are not able to adapt will lose money and eventually go out of business.

It is likely that when (or if) the remainder of the Obamacare law goes into effect in 2014, a similar pre-existing conditions clause for adults will trigger an increase in premiums for other health insurance policies. We might even see entire insurance companies leaving the health insurance market or failing on a massive scale.

In the near future the Democrats will paint the situation as a failure of the markets and blame corporate greed rather than a failure of government control of the marketplace. They will probably portray another expansion of government power and control as the solution. In a vicious cycle, the new reform will have even more unintended consequences and require even more government regulation. This may even be part of a Democratic long-term plan to phase out private insurance companies and replace them with a single-payer plan.

It would be funny if it were not so tragic. The insurance reform that purported to lower costs and expand coverage is driving up costs and creating regulatory shortages. Less than four months into the elites’ grand plan to remake the American health insurance industry is in serious trouble and sinking fast.

Reform – Replace – Repeal

July 30, 2010
Houston TX

Photo credit:
Tom Clare

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to eliminate Obamacare

Since it was passed against the overwhelming opposition of the American people last March, Obamacare has not gotten any more popular. Amid continuing revelations of higher costs, more taxes, federal payment for abortions, and more restrictions on personal choice the support for the repeal of Obamacare remains high. The number of voters who support the law’s repeal has consistently been in the 2/3 range, with a recent poll showing that 56% favor repeal versus only 38% who oppose it ( The numbers favoring repeal will likely increase as Obamacare is implemented. This is especially true if, as is likely, that it quickly follows the pattern of Romneycare in Massachusetts with exploding costs, price controls, and likely rationing.

The first step in dismantling Obamacare is to vote Republican. It is unlikely that the Democrats, who went against strong public opinion to pass the law in the first place, will have a change of heart and vote for repeal. The vote will eventually cost many of the Democrats their political careers.

Other parties such as the Libertarians also oppose Obamacare, but do have a realistic chance of getting elected. In the US, it is rare that a third party wins an election. More often, they act as spoilers and actually help the other side. This was true when Ross Perot drew conservative votes from George Bush and helped to elect Bill Clinton. It was true when Ralph Nader drew liberal votes from Al Gore and John Kerry and helped to elect George W. Bush. It was true when Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley helped to force Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss into a runoff with Democrat Jim Martin in Georgia’s 2008 Senate race.

If you are a conservative, be smart and vote Republican. If you don’t like the incumbent, vote against him in the primary but support the party in the general election. You may feel that Libertarian candidates are more conservative, but that it worth absolutely nothing - zilch! – if they don’t get elected. On the other hand, if you are a liberal, vote your conscience and go Green.

Voting Republican is also important in state races. For example, in the Georgia gubernatorial race one Democratic candidate is Thurbert Baker, the state attorney-general who refused Gov. Perdue’s order to file suit against Obamacare. If a Democrat, even Roy Barnes or Dubose Porter gets elected, how likely is it that the lawsuit will continue? Additionally, governors appoint replacements to representatives who resign or die. If Georgia has a Democratic governor, any replacement representatives would most likely be Democrats who would back Obama’s policies.

Recent polling indicates that it is likely that the Republicans will capture control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well ( The question is whether they will have enough votes to repeal Obamacare as well as some of the other damaging laws that the current administration has enacted.

It is unlikely that Obamacare will be repealed immediately because, even if the Republicans win enough votes to pass a repeal law, Barack Obama will still be president regardless of how badly the Democrats fare in the 2010 elections. President Obama will have the ability to veto any law passed by Congress. Unless the Republicans can muster enough votes to override the president’s veto, two-thirds of the house and senate, passing a repeal law would be an exercise in futility. It is unlikely that the Republicans will gain enough votes to have a 2/3 majority in both houses. It is possible that President Obama would not veto the repeal or that enough Democrats would join with Republicans to override the veto, but this is also unlikely.

Even if Obamacare cannot be totally repealed, there are things that Republicans can do to reform the reform. First, they can refuse to appropriate funding for the law’s most onerous and expensive provisions. The president cannot appropriate funds for anything himself. The president must submit a proposed budget to Congress, which must then pass it for it to become law. When President Obama submits a budget that appropriates money to fund Obamacare, Congress can simply refuse to pass the president’s budget and pass one of their own instead. The president can still veto the competing budget, but he cannot pass his own. Ultimately, the two sides would probably have to reach a compromise budget.

Second, the Republicans can pass legislation to reform Obamacare on a piecemeal basis rather than as a comprehensive bill. For example, Congress might find enough support to pass a law eliminating the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, even though there were not enough votes to repeal the whole bill. By passing a number of smaller reform laws, hopefully with veto-proof bipartisan majorities, many of the damaging aspects of Obamacare could be removed without having a veto showdown with President Obama over a repeal law.

Third, in addition to removing the worst aspects of Obamacare, Republicans should replace bad laws with good laws that restore competition and free markets to the health care industry. A reform of the employer-based health insurance market that gives individuals more choice over their insurance and medical options would be a good start. Competition means lower costs and more choices. Additionally, reform of tort laws to limit frivolous lawsuits and enormous judgments would also help to lower the cost of insurance, making it more affordable. Republicans should also favor the removal of legislative mandates from insurance policies to allow the sale of more inexpensive major medical polices.

Ultimately, at some point there will be another Republican president. Perhaps there will even be a Democratic president who is more open to free markets and competition rather than top-down government mandates. Perhaps conservative majorities will grow to the point that repeal forces can hope to override a presidential veto. When this happens, at the earliest possible moment, the Republicans should immediately move swiftly forward with a repeal bill to remove the last vestiges of Obamacare. The people expect it, the people want it, and if the Republicans don’t deliver, it will be at their peril.

The longer that Obamacare is in force, the harder it will be to remove it. Even if Obamacare is the disaster that I and many other people believe it will be, entitlements have a way of implanting themselves firmly into the political landscape. As more people become accustomed to receiving federal payments for their health insurance, even as the quality of health care deteriorates, it will become more and more difficult to convince people to leave the government gravy train and again take responsibility for their own health care. The furor over President Bush’s attempts to reform Social Security is a case in point. Even though people know that Social Security is facing a looming bankruptcy, inspired by Democratic fear mongering, they still resist change.

The lawsuit by the states against Obamacare is another avenue that is being pursued. The lawsuit is the wild card in the fight to repeal Obamacare. At last count, twenty states are suing to overturn the Obamacare law on constitutional grounds. Proponents of the lawsuit claim that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional because the Constitution does not give the federal government authority to force people to purchase a commercial product. Additionally, some also cite the constitution’s tenth amendment which states that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved by the states.

Critics of the lawsuit point out that the Supreme Court has historically been reluctant to overturn federal programs on constitutional grounds. They also cite the commerce clause which grants the federal government the right to regulate interstate commerce. Proponents of big government believe that the commerce clause gives the federal government practically unlimited power to regulate business.

As a historical comparison, the Supreme Court did strike down several of FDR’s New Deal programs as unconstitutional. However, the court became more acquiescent after FDR’s attempt at “court packing” in 1936. Bad policy is not necessarily unconstitutional, although in many cases bad decisions do leave unconstitutional laws on the books.

With respect to the commerce clause, insurance has traditionally been regulated by the states. Each state has its own laws and insurance policies are tailored to fit the market of each state. Insurance companies are admitted to do business in each state. For example, State Farm of Georgia cannot sell a Georgia health insurance policy in South Carolina. Therefore, the power to regulate interstate commerce would not seem to apply.

The flip side to this argument is that the Supreme Court has ruled in the past (erroneously in my view) that the interstate commerce clause can be used to regulate intrastate commerce. In Wickard v. Filburn (1942) (, FDR’s New Deal compliant court ruled that a farmer could not grow excess wheat for his own use inside his own state because it affected interstate commerce. It may be time for this decision to be overturned.

In the end, the lawsuit undoubtedly has merit, but we cannot be certain of the outcome given the activist nature of approximately half of the members of the Supreme Court. This is especially true since President Obama has at least two more years in office and may get to make additional appointments. Even with the current makeup of the Supreme Court, four of nine justices do not read the explicit right of the people to keep and bear arms in the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It is unlikely that they would not see a government mandate to buy health insurance as constitutional.

An indication of the Obama Administration’s realization that they are on very shaky constitutional ground is that they are defending the individual mandate on the grounds that it is a tax, rather than a mandate ( This is in spite of Obama’s promise not to raise taxes in any form on the middle class and claims during the health care debate that it was not a tax. Either they were lying then or they are lying now.

The best way to fight Obamacare is to elect candidates that will vote to reform, replace, and ultimately repeal it. That primarily means voting for Republicans such as Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, who is seeking reelection this year. It also means supporting Republican candidates in state and local races who will fight Obamacare in the states on constitutional grounds. Electing Republican governors and attorneys-general will keep the constitutional lawsuit alive. Additionally, constituents of Democrats should continue to voice their opposition to Obama’s big government policies and encourage their representatives to join with the Republicans in voting for small government reforms.

San Jose CA
July 21, 2010

Photo credit:

renjith krishnan

Monday, July 19, 2010

Does Obamacare mandate BMI screening?

One of the latest rumors to circulate on the internet about the Obamacare nightmare is that it will require all Americans to undergo BMI (Body Mass Index) screening by 2014. Presumably, the BMI results will be used to ration health care in some manner as finite numbers of doctors, nurses, and hospitals struggle to cope with unlimited demand for their services.

To find the truth, I examined the full text of HR 3590, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as its companion bill HR 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. This takes some time, even scanning with the search function on a browser, since the HR 3590 contains a whopping 906 pages and HR 4872 adds an additional 55 pages. That is quite a number of dead trees for a law that is supposed to simplify and lower the cost of health care. If you would like to examine the text of the laws for yourself, the site that I used is:

I conducted my examination by searching both documents for “bmi.” This resulted in a large number of hits, but only two referred to “Body Mass Index.” The majority were some form the word “submit,” which says a lot about Obamacare in itself.

The first reference is in section 2703 State Option to Provide Health Homes for Enrollees with Chronic Conditions on page 203. BMI is mention here as one of the medical conditions that defines the term “chronic condition” (specifically a BMI over 25). There is no mention of mandatory screening for BMI.

The second reference to BMI was in section 4004 Education Outreach Campaign Regarding Preventive Benefits on page 428. In this section, BMI mentioned as one of the factors that that people will be able to use to determine their disease risk on a website. Again, there is no mention of mandatory BMI screening.

The second bill, HR 4872, contained several references to “submit,” but no references to Body Mass Index.

At this point, I was ready to declare the mandatory BMI screening a hoax. Just before I published this article however, someone pointed me in the direction of a document called HIT (Health Information Technology) Standards 170.302. This document purports to show Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ new certification standards for electronic health records (EHRs).

Further, a CNS News report ( refers to section 3001 Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus bill, rather than the Obamacare law itself. The text of this law can be found here:

Section 3001 in Part C Duties of the National Coordinator Subpart 3 paragraph (a) (ii) states that the National Coordinator shall “update the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan” with “utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014.” This constituted the basis for Sebelius’ new EHR standard.

The Code of Federal Regulations Part 170 can be found here: On page 61 (of 228) this document does state that EHRs will calculate BMIs. An additional document ( refers to certification criteria for EHRs and specifically shows that BMI will be part of the vital signs included in EHRs.

Therefore, it appears that the rumor is true as far as the claims that Obamacare will require an EHR for all Americans and that the EHR will be required to include a calculation for BMI. The speculative claim that the BMI will be used to ration health care is so far unsubstantiated. I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether and how much to be alarmed by the BMI requirement.

I will say that it is extremely likely that Obamacare will result in health care rationing. Massachusetts enacted what President Obama called an “essentially identical” plan in 2006 and the result has been skyrocketing costs ( Rapidly increasing demand with a static level of supply led to sharply increasing costs. To deal with these increasing costs, Governor Deval Patrick enacted price controls in the form of denying insurance companies to increase rates.

Jon Kingsdale, who directed in Massachusetts’ version of Obama’s health insurance exchanges, said recently, “"If you're going to do health-care cost containment, it has to be stealth. It has to be unsuspected by any of the key players to actually have an effect." He further stated that the solution to the problem was finding a “significant systematic way of pushing back on the health-care system and saying, 'No, you have to do with less'” significant systematic way of pushing back on the health-care system and saying, 'No, you have to do with less'” ( In other words, the government will have to quietly ration care.

Reform the reform!


Bangor ME
July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Obama's war on jobs

It is much easier for the government to screw up the economy than to fix it. This is a fact that that President Obama is probably coming to appreciate as he reaches the close of his second year in office. Although Obama almost certainly means well, the effects of his policies are what count. Overall the effect is similar to what would happen if President Obama had declared war on the national economy.

The financial reform legislation passed this week is only the most recent anti-business legislation passed by the Obama Administration. The new law guarantees future bailouts by giving the government the right to seize businesses to prevent their collapse. It also establishes new layers of federal bureaucracy to create new rules for banks and financial companies (with the notable exception of auto finance companies). The new law adds costs of compliance to business and makes credit harder to obtain in the midst of credit crisis while simultaneously failing to address the problem of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-government entities widely credited as being a root cause of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

The war on jobs began shortly after Obama took office with the passage of the stimulus package. Obama claimed that the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would keep unemployment below 8% (,8599,1910208,00.html). In reality the spending package spurred unemployment to continue rising to the 10% range, where it remains today. In Georgia, the unemployment rate has been even higher than the national average at over 10% (

The number of jobs created by the stimulus is disputed, but the fact is that when stimulus funds run out, so do the stimulus jobs. Jobs created by the $787 billion stimulus reportedly cost an average of $117,933 per job to create ( while not creating a lasting boon to the economy.

The second assault on the economy was in the form of government interference in the auto industry. The Obama Administration pumped billions of dollars into General Motors and Chrysler in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the companies from restructuring in bankruptcy. During this process, Obama not only interfered with the control of private companies, he also short-circuited the bankruptcy process and contract law. Obama’s bailout deal placed unions above secured creditors of the companies (, Ultimately, the Obama Administration even forced the CEOs of both companies out and gained the right to appoint members to the boards (, When the US government arbitrarily usurps contract law, it makes businesses less likely to engage in contracts that they are not sure will be honored. This ultimately costs jobs.

The third assault against the job market was the passage of Obamacare. Like the new finance reform law, Obamacare requires many new costly reports, including the new requirement that businesses issue a 1099 to every business or individual from whom they purchase more than $600 in goods or services ( Additionally, Obamacare is already health care more expensive to businesses ( As a result, businesses are cutting benefits to workers and hiring as few new employees as possible. Some companies are also considering additional layoffs to cut the new costs.

The next attack on jobs will likely come soon. It could be an attempt to ram through the carbon cap-and-trade tax bill that will dramatically increase energy costs. Hopefully, there will not be time to pass this bill before the election.

More likely, it will come in the form of the expiration of President Bush’s tax cuts. These across-the-board tax cuts that affected all Americans are set to expire at the end of 2010 unless Congress acts. If the cuts expire and taxes increase, it might suck as much as a $1 trillion from an economy that is struggling to recover. In spite of the fact that Democrats usually refer to them as “Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” taxes were cut for all American and if they expire everyone’s taxes will increase ( There will be less money for consumers to spend and less money for businesses to hire new employees.

One possible cause of these anti-business and anti-job policies is that President Obama doesn’t have a single person in his administration that has ever run a business ( They don’t know that their ideas are hurting the job market because they have never run a business. Obama appointees come almost exclusively from government and academic circles. They don’t understand free markets and have no idea what they are doing. The uncertainty derived from sweeping anti-business reforms certainly has a chilling effect on the economy as business owners hunker down to see what will happen next.


July 17, 2010
Bedford, MA

Photo credit:
graur razvan ionut

Monday, July 12, 2010

Education Reform

Education reform is likely to take a central role in Georgia’s gubernatorial election this year. Cuts to the education budget and teacher furloughs have been controversial issues of Governor Sonny Perdue’s administration and the continuing economic crisis points to a long difficult road in restoring funding.

Education is at least partly responsible for Governor Perdue’s election. His predecessor, Roy Barnes, had passed a series of education reforms that were not popular with teachers. These changes included eliminating social promotion and tenure for new teachers. Barnes was also damaged by the fact that Georgia ranked fiftieth in SAT scores just prior to the election ( By 2008, Georgia’s ranking in SAT scores had only risen to 45th in the nation (

Education in Georgia also made news in February 2010 when rampant cheating on standardized tests was revealed ( An analysis of erasures on the CRCT test indicated that unusually high numbers of wrong answers were erased and replaced with right answers. This highlights one of the problems of standardized tests: not only is it tempting to teach the test at the expense of broader knowledge, when teachers are ethically challenged they might take matters a step further.

It is obvious that Georgia is in need of sweeping education reform. What is not obvious is what should be done. There are typically several recommendations that are made with regard to improving education. Increasing funding, decreasing class size, charter schools and vouchers are commonly cited as answers to the education crisis.

In the midst of an economic recession, it is difficult to increase spending on anything, even education. Education in Georgia is funded primarily through property taxes. With high foreclosure rates, property tax receipts have plummeted. In the four years that I have lived in my current home, property taxes have increased by about a third as the local government try to take more money from fewer homeowners. The higher property taxes are in addition to a seemingly endless stream of fundraisers and requests for material support from local schools. Less than 8% of Georgia’s education budget comes from federal funds (

It is also important to note that increasing funding does not automatically increase student. Spending per student has more than doubled since 1970, but has not yielded significant increases in performance ( Additionally, the US already spends more on each student that most other counties around the world (

Similarly, reducing class size is not the answer either. Studies show that reducing class size is an expensive proposition that is ineffective in increasing performance ( Data from schools in the US and other countries all points to the conclusion that class size has little effect on improving education, even though the increase in teachers required for additional classes makes this strategy an expensive proposition.

Charter schools have long been touted as an alternative to traditional public schools. In Georgia, charter schools may be exempted from states laws and school district rules and regulations in exchange for meeting performance based objectives ( This begs the question that if these laws and rules are not conducive to learning, why should they be left on the books for other schools and students?

There are other problems with charter schools as well. First, charter schools are not available to all children. My county does not have one (although one is slated to open in 2010). Georgia only has about 100 charter schools in all. Additionally, a recent study showed that charter schools are no more effective than traditional public schools (

A darling of conservative reformers is the idea of school vouchers. These vouchers would be given to parents who could then choose the school, public or private, for their kids. The idea behind vouchers is that school choice would promote competition and help to improve all schools. It would also allow parents to immediately move their children out of failing schools rather than wait for incremental improvements. The problem with vouchers is that their effects are difficult to gauge. There might well be positive effects from vouchers, but they are probably less than generally assumed (

It is evident that none of the traditional education reforms are a silver bullet and that we should seek new ideas and alternatives. One obvious idea is to do more with less. There is not likely to be much new funding for education in the near future. To increase funding would require either more cuts in other areas of the state budget or more deficit spending. Neither of these alternatives is likely at this time. Budget cuts in other areas will be more likely to result in trimming the state deficit than preserving the education budget.

Our leaders should seek to trim the education bureaucracy. I would much rather see funds going to classrooms and teachers than to bureaucrats in Atlanta and Washington who never see a single student. The federal Department of Education has a budget of $63.7 billion and does not operate a single school or teach a single student ( If that money were split between the states, an additional $10 billion to each state’s education budget would certainly be welcome.

Schools should also return to the basic core subjects such as math, science, reading, writing, and history. We should consider schools to be houses of learning, not social engineering. Anything that detracts from the core mission of teaching core subjects should be eliminated. Schools should not be concentrating on such diverse subjects as normalizing homosexuality, feeding children around the clock and calendar, the pseudo-science of global warming extremism, and the revisionist view of American history as imperialist and corrupt (to name a few). Schools should also realize that the ultimate key to a student’s self-esteem is to actually learn and progress, rather than making sure no one’s feelings get hurt because someone is better.

There should be school choice, at least on a minimal level. If parents are going to send thousands of dollars to public school systems, they have a right to ensure that their children are getting a quality education. If that means moving their children to a different school (at least within the same school system), then they should be able to do so. I personally believe that they should be able to put their children in schools in other districts if necessary. It is unconscionable to take property tax money from low or middle-class parents while they struggle to pay tuition to keep their children in private schools. Of course, the parents would have to provide transportation if they chose a school outside their normal area.

Schools should also realize that different students learn in different ways. I was very interested in a recent Freakanomics radio broadcast about New York’s School of One ( The pilot program combines traditional teacher-led classrooms with virtual classrooms, one-on-one tutoring, and independent study. It is too early to make full judgments about either the cost or the effectiveness of the School of One ( but initial results are encouraging.

Finally, we also need to make it easier to get bad teachers out of the system. Unions often make it difficult and expensive to weed out teachers who are incompetent, who don’t care, or who otherwise fail their students. We need to reward good teachers, while making it easier to get rid of the bad ones.

It is often said that children are our most valuable resource. Education is vitally important as a tool to develop that resource. The future economy of Georgia and the United States itself depends on training future leaders and skilled workers for tomorrow. In order to do so, we must look to programs that actually work instead of just being politically popular. In this economic climate of falling tax revenues and shrinking budgets, we cannot afford to waste money on programs that do little to benefit our kids.

I know that I have several retired and current teachers who read this blog. I would love to hear from you regarding what does and does not work in education.

IN MEMORIAM: This article dedicated to the memory of my uncle, Junius Bronson Thornton, who passed away on July 11, 2010. Uncle Bronson probably did not agree with much of what I have had to say in this column politically, but I will miss him.

Photo credit: Felixco Inc.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How to save Obama's presidency

In a couple of words: vote Republican.

President Obama’s first year-and-a-half has disappointed almost everyone. Domestically, his economic policy has led to chronically high unemployment and a sluggish economy. In spite of his best hopes, the stimulus package has flopped, a fact that even leftwing economists are now realizing as it becomes more evident that the recession is entering a second dip (

More recently, it was revealed that Obama’s program to modify mortgages has been a failure ( with more applicants dropping out of the program than successfully having their mortgages modified. Other programs, such as those to extend unemployment benefits and Cash for Clunkers, have similarly failed to revive the economy. The main effect of Obama’s many stimulus programs has been to increase the federal debt to unprecedented levels.

His signature accomplishment, the Obamacare health insurance reform bill, is reviled by a majority of the population. A recent poll indicates that most Americans support a repeal of the bill by almost a two-to-one margin ( including 49% who strongly favor repeal. The unpopularity of the law has not been helped by reports that, in contradiction to President Obama’s claims, the reform is actually increasing health care costs for most Americans (

On foreign policy, Obama has largely followed George W. Bush’s lead. He has remained somewhat committed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His Afghanistan strategy is a yo-yo troop deployment that mimics President Bush’s Iraq surge and then a pre-announced withdrawal that has angered both liberals and conservatives. Thanks to the surge, Iraq has stabilized to the point where the Iraqi forces can stand on their own and US forces can begin returning home.

With respect to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the largest foreign policy threat that the US presently faces, President Obama has done… nothing of substance. He has called for sanctions to isolate the rogue dictatorship, but in reality Iran has become less isolated with new agreements with Russia, China, Turkey and Brazil. The failure of the carrot would be bad enough, but Obama has also removed the stick. Marvin Cetron of Forecasting International recently reported in his column in Professional Pilot magazine that bunker buster bombs sent to Diego Garcia to intimidate Iran have now been returned to the US (June 2010 issue, p. 11). The only hope to prevent an Iranian nuclear device that would at best completely change the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and at worst precipitate nuclear terrorism is Israel.

In other foreign policy debacles, one of Obama’s first acts was to announce $900 million in aid to Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza and regularly fires missiles at civilian targets in Israel ( Conversely, he had the audacity to make the unprecedented demand that Israel halt all expansion of settlements – neighborhoods in reality – in areas that the Arabs consider occupied ( Obama’s State Department has also pushed Honduras to allow the return of Manuel Zelaya, a former president who was removed in accordance with the constitution as he tried to become a dictator in the mold Hugo Chavez. Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall St. Journal writes that Obama seems intent on imposing his will regardless of the facts of the situation (

A vote for Republicans in the Georgia primary on July 21 and the general election this November would not solve all of these problems, but getting more Republicans into congress would make it more difficult for Obama to stay on his current course. It would force him to seek bipartisan solutions and compromise.

The Republicans have already had limited success in stopping some new spending programs. With greater numbers, they might be able to cut spending and prevent onerous new regulations that will further impede the economic recovery. If the Democrats retain control of congress, their financial reform bill, which does nothing to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac even though they are widely believed to be a prime cause of the mortgage crisis, is likely to pass. Similarly, Democratic control will mean passage of the cap-and-trade bill which is essential a huge new tax on carbon-based energy, the lifeblood of our economy.

It is unlikely that the GOP would gain enough seats to fully repeal Obamacare. While Obama is still in office, a repeal would probably be vetoed. An override of the veto would almost certainly require some Democratic votes. Nevertheless, they could reform some of the worst aspects of the law. They could also starve the beast by not appropriating money to fund the new health care bureaucracy.

On foreign policy, there is little chance that the GOP would be able to force Obama to take military action to stop Iran, but they could pass laws limiting his support for dictatorial regimes and encouraging him to stand by our allies. The Senate must ratify any treaties signed by Obama, which would limit his ability to put the US under international rather than constitutional law (such as through the UN small arms treaty:

Equally important, the Senate also confirms Obama’s picks for many executive branch officials and judges. With more GOP senators, Obama would be more pressured to find mainstream candidates to fill these offices. Currently, with a large Democratic majority, virtually any nominee who is not filibustered (as Democrats were wont to do to President Bush’s appointments) is assured of confirmation.

This might be an example of history repeating itself. When the GOP took control of congress during Bill Clinton’s administration, Clinton was forced to abandon much of his radical agenda and become more centrist. Together with the Republicans, Clinton had notable accomplishments including passage of welfare reform and NAFTA. He also came tantalizing close to achieving a peace agreement between Israel and the PLO. On the other hand, Clinton’s foreign policy led to North Korean nuclear weapons and put us on the road to 9/11.

This year anger over Obamacare and the deficit have led to many competitive races around the country. Incumbents, particularly those of the Democratic variety, will be dropping like flies. Many prominent Democrats have already announced their intention not to seek re-election. Others are facing strong challengers.

In Georgia, there are at least two very competitive house races. In Georgia’s 12th district between Augusta and Savannah, Rep. John Barrow is likely to face strong opposition from Iraq veteran Lt. Col. Wayne Mosley. Barrow voted for the stimulus package, but against Obamacare.

Closer to Atlanta, in the 13th district, which forms a half-moon around the southwest side of Atlanta from Smyrna to Forest Park, several Republican candidates are vying for the chance to unseat Rep. David Scott, who not only voted for the stimulus package and Obamacare, but voted along Democratic party lines more than 98% of the time ( Scott was named one of the 25 most corrupt members of congress ( and gained notoriety for yelling at his constituents during an angry town meeting over health care in August 2009 (

Republican control of congress may be the only thing that can save Barack Obama from himself. If the GOP wins enough seats in November to bring President Obama back to the centrist platform of Candidate Obama, it may prevent a depression or long recession as well stave off upcoming foreign policy disasters.

Villa Rica GA
July 5, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July Genetics

What makes America different? We are blessed with a large country, rich in natural resources, but many other countries with similar physical blessings lag behind the United States in many areas.

Throughout our short history, the United States has been a light to the world. Our freedom, rule of law, and philosophy of equality have inspired countless other revolutions around the world. Our statesmen penned documents that enshrined individual rights and the freedom to make your own destiny. Our scientists and inventors sparked the Industrial Revolution. Our businessmen turned these ideas into products and companies that raised the standard of living of the world. Our fighting men have selflessly given their lives to protect innocents around the globe.

Why is it that one young upstart of a nation could so change the world? Author Michael Medved points to several studies that suggest that Americans benefit genetically from the inherited traits of the immigrants who left everything to come here. Medved points to work by Peter C. Whybrow of UCLA and John D. Gartner of Johns Hopkins University Medical School that shows that it took special people to make the journey to the New World.

For all the thousands of people that came to America to find a new life, more stayed at home. Even during times when difficulties such as famines and persecution inspired mass migrations, most people chose to take their chances at home. By some estimates, only two percent of the population of the Old Country would have left home to take their chances abroad (

The same traits that made these future Americans leave their ancestral homes would have enabled them to succeed on the frontier and in business. A penchant for risk taking, a willingness to work hard, optimism about the future, self confidence and willingness to take responsibility for their own success or failure were key factors in spurring immigrants to cross the oceans and were equally instrumental in helping them to build farms and businesses on the frontier. Whybrow states that Americans possess a unique “dopamine receptor system – the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking” (

With the establishment in the United States of free market capitalism and representative democracy, we gained political and economic systems that complemented the genetic makeup of the newly American immigrants. A newly arrived “go-getter” could step off the boat and in very short order own a business that provided wealth and respect beyond his Old World dreams. In contrast to the monarchical and authoritarian governments of most of the rest of the world, a second generation immigrant could hope to lead the government of his new homeland.

It is important to note that the American genetic code transcends racial and ethnic divisions. Even though in the past American society was divided along racial and ethnic lines, from America’s earliest days people of all ethnic groups were able to become successes and contribute to our country’s greatness. Free blacks, Chinese laborers, native Indians, and others are all part of the story of the American Spirit and members of all groups have possessed the traits of American DNA. Over our short history, numerous groups from Irish to Catholics to Eastern Europeans have been subject to ethnic prejudices, but members of those groups have all overcome through risk-taking, hard work, and assimilation.

Further, many of today’s immigrants have the same gumption to leave home to make a better life for themselves and their families. Whether they flee a harsh dictatorship on a flimsy raft, cross a desert to escape economic distress, or come from the other side of the world on a ship or airplane for any of a million reasons, many possess the same traits of the immigrants of old.

Over time, this American Spirit has mostly stayed strong. The Westward Expansion led Americans to settle their entire portion of the continent. Americans are the only people in the world to set foot on the moon. American companies supply the world with consumer products and American farms feed the world. In 2009, even after the financial crash, half of the top ten companies on the Forbes 2000 list were American (

Even in the dark days of the Great Depression, when government grew on what was then an unprecedented scale, most Americans were not content to sit back and collect charity. Thousands moved west from the Oklahoma “Dust Bowl” to seek a new life in California. Others, who did collect from the government, were at least willing to exchange labor in groups such as the Civilian Conservation Corps for their government money.

Many worried that the American Spirit was dying in the days after Hurricane Katrina when many residents of the Gulf Coast seemed unwilling to work to better themselves and instead sat back to wait for government aid. However this year’s oil spill, affecting much of the same region, has brought a resurgence of American ingenuity and spirit as residents of coastal towns take the initiative to protect their homes, environment, and livelihood without waiting for help or approval from the federal government or BP.

Over the years, reliance on government programs has taken its toll on the American Spirit. Many forces have worked to slow and dampen the individualistic traits that built America. Today, far too many Americans, rather than working for something, are being paid by the government to do nothing. In many cases, the government even seems to prefer that its citizens do nothing. As one pundit put it, today’s federal government is “all check and no balance” ( We are trading our adaptive and creative society for the illusion of risk-free prosperity. We are resting on our laurels.

If America is to survive, not only as a nation, but as a state of mind, we will need to reclaim the American Spirit for future generations. We can teach our children the value of calculated risk taking and hard work. We can instill in them a desire to learn so that they make valuable contributions to our society, rather than attempting to get rich quick through movies, music or sports. We can teach them the truth about America: that it is a light unto the world and that much of what is good about the world is due to America’s influence. Finally, we can teach them that what makes Americans is not our ancestry, but our American Spirit!

Happy Independence Day!

Thanks for reading, commenting, and following!

July 2, 2010
Villa Rica GA

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Khazar conspiracy

There are very few things that extremists of the right and left can agree on. One rare topic on which they tend to see eye-to-eye is criticism of Israel. Although the right and left both tend to dislike the Middle Eastern democracy, they do so for different reasons. Over the last few months, I became aware of a theory being propagated on the right that holds that the Israelis are not really Jewish. If that statement has you scratching your head, then you know exactly how I felt when I first heard it.

The theory holds that modern Jews (and Jewish Israelis) are not descendents of the Biblical Jacob (Israel), but are of European stock, and therefore are not a party to God’s promises to His Chosen People.

According to the theory, the Khazars, a nomadic Eastern European people, converted en masse to Judaism over a thousand years ago. These new Jews supposedly became the basis of the reconstituted nation of Israel. If this is true, so the thinking goes, the new Khazar Jews are not of the direct bloodline of Jacob, and therefore are not heirs to God’s promise. Going further, many proponents of the Khazar theory believe that all Jews, since they have not accepted Jesus as Messiah, have forfeited God’s promise and that Christians, specifically America, have assumed the mantle of God’s Chosen People.

Without getting too deeply into the Biblical argument (which I addressed in an earlier blog:, is there any historical basis for the claims about Khazaria? As with many conspiracies, there is a grain of truth at the center of the conspiracists’ claims.

My first instinct was to assume that Khazaria was pure fantasy, but it did exist. Although the origin of the Khazars is unknown, there is ample archaeological evidence from a variety of sources that Khazaria did exist as a nation of nomadic Turks in central Asia, covering parts of the modern nations of Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The history of Khazaria runs from about AD 550 until the 11th century ( A lasting legacy of the Khazars is the battles they fought against Muslim invaders that ultimately prevented Eastern Europe from becoming part of an Islamic caliphate.

It is also true that the Khazars did allow Jews to settle within their borders ( In fact, Khazaria was a center for religious tolerance at a time when religious persecution was the rule. For example, the Khazar supreme court was composed of representatives of the major religious groups of the day: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and pagan. Given the historical persecution of the Jewish people, it is no wonder that many of them chose to immigrate to Khazaria.

There is also evidence that the royal family of Khazaria did convert to Judaism at some point after AD 740 ( The extent of the Jewish conversions is disputed. Some believe that the Jewish community consisted primarily of the Jewish immigrants and the royal family. Others believe that the conversions were more widespread. Whatever the extent of the conversions, it is apparent that large communities of adherents to other religions remained.

The conspiracists believe that the Khazars became what are now referred to as Ashkenazi Jews. Ashkenazi Jews are simply Jews descended from the Jews of central and eastern Europe. Ashkenazi Jews make up the majority of Jews in world today, and many of the Jewish customs that we are familiar with are specifically Ashkenazi customs. “Ashkenazi” is a Hebrew term for “Germany.”

The charge that the Khazars became the Ashkenazi is more difficult to substantiate. In fact, genetic testing of Jews and other Europeans seems to indicate the opposite. Genetic testing of y-chromosomes has indicated that Jews from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East all share common genetic markers. This indicates that they are descended from common Middle Eastern ancestors (

In a different genetic study, more groups were tested. Ashkenazi, Sephardic (literally “Spanish”), and Kurdish Jews were tested against various Arab and European samples. The genetic samples of the Arabs and Europeans clustered in separate groups. On the other hand, “neither Ashkenazi Jews nor the two Sephardic samples clustered with their former host populations (non-Jewish Eastern European, Iberian, and North African populations) (

In other words, two separate studies show that the Jewish populations that lived in Europe remained genetically distinct from the local Europeans. This would indicate that the local Jewish populations in Europe did not generally intermarry with the indigenous Europeans. It would also mean that the Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Jews of Israel, not the Khazars of the Caucasus.

Additionally, from ancient times Judaism has accepted converts and assimilated them into Jewish society. Ironically, or perhaps through God’s Providence, while I was writing this article, I was delayed at airport with a Jewish woman who was also an anthropology major. While we waited, she confirmed the legend from Jewish antiquity of the Khazar king who converted to Judaism. She also confirmed that converts had historically been welcomed into the Jewish community. However, she had never heard the theory that the Khazars supplanted ethnic Jews.

On the other hand, the intermarriage between the Jewish and gentile communities has historically been limited. It has only been in the last two hundred years that Jews have begun to assimilate more into gentile culture. Limited intermarriage and conversion of a relatively small number of native Europeans to Judaism would explain the minor variances between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews.

Furthermore, even if the conspiracy mongers had been correct and the Khazars had converted en masse to Judaism and immigrated to the Middle East, ultimately ancient bloodlines have no bearing on modern geopolitics. The truth is that the Jews never totally left the area that the Romans designated Palestine. When the British won the area from the Ottoman Empire in WWI, Jews were already there. Likewise, when the British turned Palestine over to the United Nations to implement a two-state solution, many of the people in the new nation of Israel had lived in Palestine all their lives and their families for generations (

Modern Israel was not founded on an ancient claim to the land from a displaced people. Exiled and conquered Israelites had no more of claim to the land than the American Indian has to the island of Manhattan or Mexico to the American southwest. Israel was founded on claims by Jews who lived in Palestine. The Jews who live there today have the same claim to their property that Americans have to their own homes.

The theory of Ashkenazi Jews originating from the Khazars seems to have originated with Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian Jew and author. His book, The Thirteenth Tribe, advanced the theory that the Ashkenazi were of Turkic origin in an attempt to defuse anti-Semitism. Koestler reasoned that if the Ashkenazi were not ethnically Jewish, it would remove many of the reasons that people hated them. For instance, if they were not descended from Middle Eastern Jews, the charge that the Ashkenazi were “Christ killers” would be baseless. Koestler did not foresee that his theory, now thoroughly disproven, would be used by anti-Semites to foment further hatred of Israel and the Jews.

The story of Khazaria was co-opted by anti-Semites and white supremacists as a justification for their hatred of Israel. Exercise caution and prudence if you see or hear someone espousing the Khazar conspiracy. As with all conspiracies, know your source and consider whether other things that they say are truthful. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” The facts of the genetic tests are incontrovertible evidence that the Khazar conspiracy is a lie.


Newark NJ
June 24, 2010

Photo Credit
Luigi Diamanti