By Shiam Kannan
Recently, support for a plan which used to be a fringe idea espoused only by the leftward-most members of Congress has been gaining traction within the mainstream Democratic party. Its name? “Medicare for All.” At first glance, the idea certainly sounds compelling. After all, who wouldn’t like free, universal healthcare? However, this program, just like any other form of centralization, would be devastating to the economy (the healthcare industry in particular), and would certainly cause the national debt to skyrocket. America’s healthcare system is definitely flawed, but more government is not the answer.
To analyze the effects of the Medicare for All legislation, it is important to look at what the plan actually entails. Under this single-payer plan, tax revenue collected by the federal government would be used to pay for everyone’s healthcare. The plan would have very low, if any, copays and deductibles, and would ensure that Americans’ healthcare status is not dependent on employment. All current government-sponsored healthcare programs, such as Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and CHIP, would be eliminated and replaced with a single Medicare for All system. The proposed single-payer legislation would outlaw private and employee-sponsored healthcare plans which provide any of the same services the government provides. These are certainly ambitious ideas, and a lot of them are very appealing, so it is no surprise to see how quickly the Democratic Party has jumped onto the Medicare for All bandwagon. But a closer look at the effects of the plan show that it is most definitely not the right path for America to take.
Perhaps the biggest concern involving Medicare for All is its effect on federal spending. According to a study done by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the single-payer plan would cost a whopping $32.6 trillion over the first 10 years following its enactment. The same study projects that federal healthcare spending, as a result of this plan, would total over 10 percent of the American GDP by 2022. The costliness of single-payer stems from several factors. The plan makes the federal government responsible for basically all of the healthcare spending in the United States. In addition, the plan greatly expands the number of services that federal insurance covers. Of course, this massive hike in spending leaves us to wonder how we are going to pay for Medicare for All. In short, we aren’t. Because we legitimately can’t. Even if the corporate tax rate and every personal income tax bracket were doubled, the cost for this program would still not be covered. Therefore, if enacted, Medicare for All would end up as just another monstrosity of a federal entitlement program, eating up more and more of the budget every year while driving up the debt.
However, this program would not only be harmful from a governmental perspective, but also an economic one. If we are going to conjecture the effectiveness of Medicare for All, it would do us good to look at an existing example of socialized medicine in America: the Veterans Affairs system (VA). The VA scandal in 2014 revealed the inefficiency of government healthcare for our veterans, as many were placed on waiting lists for months on end (the average wait time for all veterans was an appalling 115 days for initial care), with some of them committing suicide while waiting for healthcare. If the government cannot even properly administer healthcare to our veterans, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision how terrible government healthcare for 315 million Americans would be.
Defenders of socialized medicine frequently point to single-payer systems in Canada, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, claiming that if it works there, it should work here. But is it really working in Europe? Let’s take a closer look. Earlier this year, the NHS, Britain’s government healthcare system, cancelled over 50,000 non-urgent operations due to an overload on the system, following claims from British physicians that their patients had to endure “third world” conditions. The overload was due to a spike in winter flu, and left many patients with the disease waiting for over 12 hours to receive treatment. This scenario illustrates one of the worst aspects of government healthcare: rationing. When the government controls all the healthcare, if the system is overloaded, the government gets to decide who receives treatment and who doesn’t. If the condition of a patient is bad enough, government rationing could very easily be a matter of life or death for him or her. And even worse? Rationing is inevitable if healthcare is socialized. It’s basic economics: all resources are finite. The market will always allocate these resources more efficiently than a centralized authority. If a centralized authority is in charge of allocating healthcare resources, then it has the power, essentially, to determine who lives and who dies. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly a power I would feel comfortable with the government having. If I had a serious injury, I wouldn’t want to be hauled off to a hospital, only to be denied service because the government determined that someone else’s condition was more severe.
Even if we were somehow able to magically make the laws of economics disappear and eliminate the rationing problem, socialized medicine still would have negative consequences on the people it should supposedly help. Let’s go back to the United Kingdom for a moment. It is a fact that the British spend far less than the United States on healthcare. But they also receive less. The United Kingdom has fewer doctors and nurses per capita than most other developed nations, and patients have less access to technologies such as MRIs and CT scanners than in the United States. It should come as no surprise that British doctors and nurses are also paid much less than healthcare professionals in the United States. Once again, the laws of economics prevail. Human beings are driven by the profit motive. When you turn physicians into government employees and pay them a public sector salary, less people want to become doctors. Therefore, the supply of healthcare decreases, which then feeds into the rationing problem discussed earlier.
However, the havoc that single-payer would wreak on the United States does not change the fact that our current healthcare system is flawed, and in dire need of reform. But real reform, which would help all Americans get quality, affordable healthcare, has to go the other way. Reform should be driven by decentralization and deregulation, not government ownership of an entire industry. Some policies we should implement include allowing insurers to sell healthcare plans across state lines, and allowing people to import prescription medications from foreign countries, such as Canada. Such legislation would increase competition, and drive down healthcare costs. Most importantly, we must repeal Obamacare and its onerous burdens on the healthcare industry. Such regulations as the 10 Essential Health Benefits (EHB) mandate do nothing more than make health insurance plans more expensive, by forcing people to buy coverage for services they may never need. For example, maternity/newborn care is included as one of the essential health benefits that all healthcare plans must cover. Obviously, this coverage is useless for demographics such as young, single men, who biologically cannot bear children; nonetheless, due to Obamacare’s EHB mandate, they cannot buy cheaper plans which don’t cover this service. Obamacare has also driven healthcare costs up at a faster rate than if the law were not implemented, which only goes to show that government intervention in the economy, however well-intentioned, only ends up harming the people it attempts to help.
Our healthcare system has many issues, not least of which are rising costs. But big government is not the solution. While the proponents of Medicare for All have good intentions, they are proposing an overly simplistic solution to a complex problem. The answer to America’s healthcare crisis is less government, not more, and the sooner members of Congress across the aisle come to realize this, the sooner we can fix this issue. But it is neither wise nor sensible to implement a $32 trillion behemoth of a government program which will only serve to accelerate our perpetual debt, while doing nothing to help, if not actively hurting, patients and consumers throughout the country.
The Omnibus Spending Bill
By: Shiam Kannan
On Wednesday, March 21st, 2018, Congress unveiled its “Omnibus” Spending Bill: an enormous, 2,000+ page piece of legislation, costing $1.3 trillion, that would keep the government running until September 30th, thus averting any potential shutdown for at least six months. Although the bill contained many provisions that appeased many of the concerns of legislators on both sides of the aisle, it still drew sharp criticism - especially from fiscal hawks who wanted to stop such a massive spending increase, and liberals who felt that the bill didn’t address many pressing concerns, such as the fate of the undocumented immigrants whose DACA coverage was nullified by President Donald Trump in September of 2017. However, the bill did eventually pass both houses of Congress with bipartisan support: 145 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted for the Omnibus in the House, while 90 Republicans and 77 Democrats voted against it.
On the bright side for Republicans, the Omnibus does provide funding for a number of conservative priorities: it boosts defense spending to $700 billion, the largest year-to-year increase in the defense budget within the last 15 years. And as per President Donald Trump’s push for increased border security funding, specifically for the construction of a wall, the bill allocates roughly $1.6 billion for border security. Unfortunately, this may not seem so great considering that Trump had initially requested $25 billion for the wall. Furthermore, the bill provides $4 billion in funding to address the opioid crisis, a bipartisan priority that has especially been emphasized as a pressing issue by President Trump.
However, it is not all rainbows and sunshine for Republicans, as they have had to compromise on many key tenets to get this Omnibus passed, especially in terms of fiscal responsibility and cutting domestic spending. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Tea Party firebrand and conservative stalwart, has publicly stated his opposition to the spending bill, claiming, “Shame, shame. A pox on both Houses - and parties. $1.3 trillion. Busts budget caps. 2200 pages, with just hours to try to read it.” Furthermore, conservatives have expressed concern towards the fact that the bill does not address important policy changes that they have been pushing for. For example, the bill continues to fund Planned Parenthood and does not defund Sanctuary Cities, even though they brazenly violate federal immigration law. And the bill forbids the $1.6 billion allocated to border security from being spent on the construction of a wall. Rather, the money can only be used to renovate existing barriers, such as fences.
On the other side of the aisle, apart from concerns that the bill does nothing to address DACA, Democrats have warmed up to the Omnibus due to its domestic spending increases. The Omnibus increases the funding for Amtrak by $650 million. The National Institutes of Health receives $3 billion in additional funding. The Community Development Block Grant Program, one which the president has called to be abolished, will instead see its budget double, from $2.8 billion to $5.2 billion. The TIGER program, a transportation grant program which began with Obama’s post-recession stimulus, will receive nearly three times its current budget: $1.5 billion.
President Trump consistently voiced opposition to the bill, even going as far as threatening to veto it in a tweet, on the grounds that “the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded.” However, since it provided the military funding that Trump had long called for, he ultimately decided against vetoing the bill and signed it, albeit reluctantly, saying that “I will never sign another bill like this again.” In the wake of signing the Omnibus, Trump called on Congress to give him line-item veto powers so that he would have the power to unilaterally cut wasteful spending.
However, the major economic concern regarding the Omnibus would be its catastrophic effect on the federal debt. It is estimated that the Omnibus will add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The Committee’s projections also reveal that yearly spending on debt interest would skyrocket from $263 billion, where it was in 2017, to $963 billion by 2028. The bill, along with February’s budget plan, both jeopardize American fiscal health and increase government spending dramatically. Combined with the Trump tax cuts from December that will decrease revenue substantially, this bill all but guarantees soaring deficits. The fact that a plurality of Republicans voted for the Omnibus demonstrates the extent to which the GOP has drifted away from its traditional tenets of “small government” and “fiscal responsibility.”
The Omnibus will keep the government funded for the next six months, and will also nullify any possibility of a government shutdown within that time period. It provides for both Democratic and Republican priorities. But is it worth it? The bill is chock-full of runaway spending, with no compensation anywhere. Add this to February’s budget deal and December’s $1.5 trillion tax cuts, and the result is a recipe for trillion-dollar deficits. Spending that requires borrowing is spending that shouldn’t be happening, regardless of whether it goes to defense or welfare. Politicians go to Washington every year promising to rein in this endless cycle of government spending, but the latest Omnibus merely shows how these very politicians have now become a part of it.
By Shiam Kannan
On October 1st, 2017, a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel onto a crowd gathered for a country music concert, killing 59 people and injuring hundreds of others. As such, it has become the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, having surpassed the death toll of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016. As seen with previous mass shootings, the Las Vegas massacre has sparked a push from the Democrats for tightened gun restrictions. However, the question we should really be asking ourselves is, are guns really the root of the problem? Will gun control actually help curb gun violence?
The answer is a resounding “no.” Take the city of Chicago, for example. While we can all agree that the Las Vegas shooting had a terrible death toll at 59, the highest of any mass shooting, this number is either met or exceeded by the gun murder rate in Chicago, every month. In June of 2017, there were 84 murders. In September, there were 59, the same as in the Vegas shooting. And Chicago just happens to have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, on par with those of Los Angeles and New York City. And if that isn’t enough to dispel the theory that more guns equals more crime, according to a CDC report, between 1993 and 2013, gun ownership in the United States rose by 35 percent, however gun violence decreased by 50 percent during the same time period. These facts only further help to reinforce the claim that guns in the hands of civilians do not contribute to crime and violence.
The measures that liberal politicians have been calling for in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting include seemingly-sensible measures, such a ban on bump-fire stocks, devices used by the Vegas shooter to fire his semi-automatic rifle in the manner of a fully automatic one, dispersing multiple rounds per second. However, such regulations would be useless, as bump-firing is a technique that can even be performed using your pant’s belt loop. To make bump-firing illegal, democrats would need to ban pants and shorts with belt loops, which is just as preposterous as it sounds. Other measures that would either be useless or impossible to enact include the ubiquitous and infamous “assault weapons” ban, which would make semi-automatic rifles, self-loading weapons that only fire one bullet per trigger pull, illegal, nevermind the fact that there are over 3 million such weapons in circulation as of now, making them virtually impossible to confiscate.
Not only are gun restrictions ineffective, however, but they are also unconstitutional. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution quite clearly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Although there has been much bickering over whether the Second Amendment protects an individual or a collective right, due to its use of the word “militia,” the Supreme Court has effectively nullified that argument by ruling in the landmark 2008 case, DC v. Heller, that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right of the people to keep and bear arms, unconnected to service in a militia.
Our Founding Fathers included this sacred right in the Constitution because they understood that the only bulwark against a tyrannical government was an armed citizenry. And to those voices that claim that tyranny can never arise in a republic, it is important to keep in mind that it has, at least twice, over the course of history: once in Rome, when Julius Caesar took power, and once more in Germany, where Adolf Hitler had the Nazi party elected to Parliament in a landslide in 1933, and then proceeded to slaughter 6 million Jews in one of the worst genocides in recorded history. It is also important to note that Hitler outlawed Jews from owning guns before he implemented the Holocaust. And God forbid a tyrant gets elected here, in the United States, even the liberals will be thankful for those 80 million American gun owners with over 300 million guns in their hands.
One major benefit of gun ownership that liberals seem to ignore is the ability to defend oneself. Indeed, in 2013, between 500,000 and 3 million gun uses were in self-defense, according to a CDC study. The same study also showed that in 2013, there were 11,208 firearm-related homicides and approximately 414,000 illegal gun uses. Even if using the lower estimation for defensive gun use, it is clear that guns are used much more commonly in defense than in offense. So when guns are used so much more commonly by innocent people to protect themselves, it is unfair and wrong to make it harder for law-abiding citizens to acquire firearms, due to the actions of a few.
All this leaves us with the question: if gun control won’t stop gun violence, what will? While we can never really eliminate gun violence (or any violence, for that matter), we can take steps to reduce gun violence casualties greatly, all while respecting our absolute right as individuals to keep and bear arms. Perhaps the most crucial step is to promote law-abiding individuals in public places to carry a weapon. This will deter potential shooters, and will also give citizens the ability to neutralize a shooter in the event of a mass shooting, thus preventing him from killing as many people as we have seen in recent examples. We should also push for the removal of all “gun-free zones” across the country. These places prevent law-abiding citizens from arming themselves, making them prime targets for shooters who seek an area where they are guaranteed to be met with no resistance. To prevent school shootings, we should allow for teachers to be armed on school grounds, so as to enable them to defend our children using deadly force if necessary. These common-sense solutions will keep criminals at bay, while allowing us to exercise our Second Amendment freedoms.
After every mass shooting, we hear those familiar voices from the left: we need to ban all guns! Confiscate on semi-autos! Abolish concealed carry! It is imperative that we don’t follow these knee-jerk reactions to such tragic events. We need to be smart about what we do as a nation to curb gun violence, rather than following those who lead using emotion rather than reason. Disarming law-abiding citizens is not the answer. Disallowing us from carrying in public for self-defense is not the answer. Instead, we should promote open and concealed carry in public, so that citizens can respond with deadly force if a mass shooting does arise. We should arm teachers to curb school shootings. But emotionally-charged reactions that have little to no basis in fact are not the way to go.
By Shiam Kannan
Recently, Confederate monuments in the South have been generating considerable controversy, with protesters and counter-protesters clashing at the sites of monuments that have been scheduled for removal. Most notably, there was a violent showdown between white nationalists and counter-protesters surrounding the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11, 2017. Many have declared these monuments to be nothing more than glorifications of a dark past, odes to a bygone era of slavery and racism. However, there is much more behind the history of the Confederacy than just slavery, and its legacy still remains a source of regional pride for many Southerners.
In Memphis, Tennessee, there have been proposals to remove statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general, and protesters have even attempted to exhume his grave. In Richmond, Virginia, there have been numerous cases of vandalism of Confederate statues. Throughout the country, there is a push to purge Confederate history from the public sphere, by bringing down Confederate statues, and renaming schools dubbed after famous Confederates. In light of this recent push, one has to wonder: what will this really accomplish? Will the suffering of Black slaves 150 years ago suddenly disappear? No. Will the removal of Confederate symbols change history? No. The only goal that the expulsion of Confederate symbols will accomplish is that it will humiliate many Southerners, to whom the Confederacy is a symbol of pride. It will be a stab in the eye to many Southerners whose ancestors fought in the Civil War, tantamount to the defacing of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. It will antagonize millions of southerners, many of them Black, by forcing them to accept that their heritage is nothing but shameful.
Many opponents of Confederate public expression will resort to a common, widespread claim: that the Confederacy seceded to protect slavery, and therefore all Confederate symbols are inherently racist. History, on the other hand, paints an entirely different picture — the Confederacy was more concerned with their independence than they were with the fate of slavery. Perhaps the most blatant example of this would be the Confederacy’s response to a proposed Constitutional amendment known as the Corwin Amendment. This amendment, if enacted, would have permanently protected the institution of slavery throughout the United States, and was passed by both houses of Congress in an attempt to prevent the Southern states from seceding. The Confederacy seceded nevertheless, rather choosing to fight for independence and sovereignty from what they saw as a tyrannical northern government. The South’s fight was one for self-determination and self-government, not one for slavery. To portray the Confederacy as a group of racist bigots is not only an injustice to history, but an injustice to the millions of Southerners who celebrate their heritage and their ancestors with pride and admiration.
Many who oppose the display of Confederate statues will be quick to point out the moral shortcomings of many Confederate leaders, that they owned slaves, that they espoused racist beliefs, or spout other similar accusations. However, these statues can just as well stand for the virtues of these men. For example, Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is vilified for creating the Ku Klux Klan (which, surprisingly, was not a racist organization at first, but rather a volunteer police force), was a strong advocate of equality for African Americans after the Civil War, working tirelessly to promote Black employment in the South during Reconstruction. Furthermore, he spent his final years advocating for the advancement of African Americans. Why must we only see one side of the story? Why can’t the statues of Forrest not only represent that he owned slaves and founded the Ku Klux Klan, but also represent that he dedicated the last years of his life to helping African Americans improve their condition in the South? That he sought to promote harmony between Whites and Blacks in his home state of Tennessee? Why can’t his statues embody his words to a Black audience in 1875: “I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going?” We should allow these statues to tell the entire truth on these historical figures, not just what revisionists want us to hear.
We have much to learn from both the positive and negative aspects of our history. By attempting to censor our history in the name of “political correctness,” we are setting a dangerous precedent that it is acceptable to remove symbols and speech we do not necessarily agree with. Furthermore, when we remove the reminders and symbols of history from our society, we also remove the lessons that these symbols embody. And as the adage goes, “If we do not learn from the mistakes of history, we are doomed to repeat them.”
To this day, Confederate symbols are interpreted differently by different people. In the eyes of Southerners, they are emblems of regional pride, uniting the people of the South under a common history, heritage, and culture. Confederate monuments honor those that fought and gave their lives for their homeland, defending it from Northern aggression. The controversy surrounding Confederate symbolism should not warrant censorship, but rather discussion. Let us not violently clamor to tear down these reminders of our history. Rather, let us sit down with those that we disagree with, and converse with them why we see these symbols differently. Most importantly, we must learn from history, and not divide ourselves due to a lack of understanding and compromise, lest we be headed for another Civil War.