Spieckerman Speaks

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why My Son Probably Regrets That I'm a Facebook Friend

To my son Stephen’s recent pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook posts (he’s not a socialist but loathes Hillary and thinks Republicans are tone deaf and clueless), I decided to reinforce some of the things I’ve said in our frequent conversations with a brief, pithy comment:

Bernie's consistency is admirable. Note that many of his most vociferous criticisms of government policy were during the Clinton era. Bernie’s onto something - here's a link to a great article that puts the Clinton Presidency in proper perspective: http://www.thenation.com/.../note-to-hillary.../

Scandinavian countries are geographically compact; culturally and ethnically homogeneous and protected by the U.S. defense shield. Norway has benefitted mightily from North Sea oil. Sweden, after years of economic lethargy, reversed many of its socialist policies, as did Denmark:

The socialized healthcare systems in other developed nations are only feasible because of the U.S. healthcare industry cash cow. Our biotech and health technology companies, our NIH, our FDA, our Taj Mahal teaching hospitals, are responsible for most of the world's healthcare advances. The majority of that funding is derived from U.S. health care industry profits, the disproportionate share of which are realized in our relatively unregulated market (even pharma companies based overseas rely on profits from drug sales in the un-price controlled U.S. market to fund their investments in new pharmaceuticals). Take that away, and those vaunted health care systems in other countries - already known for rationing and wait times that would be untenable to most people in America - would collapse.

Bernie's "MedicareForAll" is mendacious. Medicare has 6x the fraud/abuse of private insurance (the difference amounts to over $45 billion/year, enough to pay for health insurance for 6 million people); Medicare's artificially low reimbursement rates to health care providers are only viable because private insurers pay enough more to offset it. So Bernie's plan would turn our already flawed health insurance ecosystem into a catastrophe.

Bernie's free college plan would be a stimulus program for lazy tenured professors and bloated university administrations. Hillary is actually right that the surfeit of additional taxpayer cash would just cause colleges to raise tuition - which has already rocketed much faster than inflation over the past 20 years - even more.

The "Campaign finance reform" Bernie champions is a patina for government control of political speech and vitiating the 1st Amendment. The idea that the government should restrict how much citizens can spend to disseminate opinions, ideas and candidate endorsements would be anathema to our Founding Fathers. By that logic, the government could also limit how much CNN, Fox News and The New York Times could spend to create and distribute their content, which includes points of view favorable to and harshly critical of politicians. As you know I'm very active in the political realm and have yet to find a campaign that a billionaire has "bought." Based on recent elections, you could argue that big money is the kiss of death for candidates. Most of what's wrong with the current system is a byproduct of campaign finance laws. Far better to allow candidates to directly raise and spend as much as they want, without relying on SuperPACs, so long as the donors and donations are fully and contemporaneously disclosed to the public. The media and social media will be able to call out candidates receiving lots of donations from "millionaires and billionaires."

I actually believe that Bernie is right in many of his attacks on our priorities and policies, including trade and Wall St. Unfortunately, he believes more federal government power and spending is the solution, when that's what created so many of our problems. The more power is vested in government, the more incentive special interests have to influence it. And when Bernie is called-out for wanting to add to our federal government's gargantuan and exploding debt and the burden on taxpayers, he claims his healthcare plan will offset the tax increases by saving the average family $5,000/year. Wow, that's twice the $2,500 PBO said Obamacare would save the average family but never materialized (in fact, costs have gone up for the previously insured). When it's pointed out to Bernie how failed so many existing government programs and bureaucracies are, Bernie diverts or dismisses it or blames it on politicians behaving badly due to campaign donations from wealthy people and corporations. That's disingenuous and circular logic that will get us nowhere

We definitely need to make truly radical changes in government policy. But not by making bigger an institution that's already proven so incompetent and corrupt, and not under a man who, though well-meaning, has spent virtually his entire career on government payrolls. Apple, Facebook, Uber, Starbucks, Cisco and Ford - and thousands of other leading edge companies and startups - have had a much more positively transformative effect on our country than the federal government over the past decade. Let's unleash and empower those forces to address our biggest challenges and elect a leader who understands and believes in them - and isn't beholden to other wealthy people and special interests.


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