Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where conservatives get it wrong on Obamacare

I listen to many conservative pundits, as I tend to be part of the choir to whom they preach. However, sometimes they uniformly get something wrong. This time, it has to do with one aspect of Obamacare, which in general I am opposed too, but if one is going to oppose it, at least do so for the right reasons.

The drum they beat that I object to is the idea that the program is unfair because it depends on the young and healthy to pay higher premiums to take care of the aged and the sick. Unless someone convinces me otherwise, I do believe that is the way insurance mechanisms work. You cannot have a pool of only older or already sick people and expect the program to work. This might be one of the few aspects of Obamacare that gets it right. That is why I said in an earlier blog, if you are going to have universal health care, everybody must participate in the system, and everybody must pay throughout their income producing and retirement income years.

One troublesome part of Obamacare is that the designers, to get it passed, had to accommodate every special interest, even if their demands were in conflict. So, the program which requires millions of young people to participate, says that they can stay on their parents plan until they are 26 years old. It says if they are not enrolled in a plan, they have to pay a fine, which is a lot less for most of them than a monthly premium. If in the period of time they are not covered, they incur a pre-existing condition, they have to then be sold insurance anyway. If they are not covered by a plan and have an accident or a serious illness, the emergency room must still provide them services. For a young person struggling economically, where is the incentive to rush out and buy health insurance? Just the fact that they are needed to make it work probably won’t do it.

This ill conceived plan was designed by Democrats who shut Republicans out of the process and was passed by a straight party line vote under questionable circumstances so “we could know what was in it.”

We are now finding out what is in it, it appears to be in deep trouble and the Democrats are mad at the Republicans because they don’t seem to want to help them fix it.

There is an easier way to bring about universal health care when it appears the majority of the public really wants it: expand Medicare to include everybody and tax all income to pay for it. Since the needed websites are already in place and the regulations already written, it could probably be done with a two page bill instead of a 2,000 page bill and 28,000 pages of new regulations.

Christmas in the parsonage

This appeared as a column in  the Issaquah Press on 12/18/13

Alyene Porter published “Papa was a Preacher” in 1944 and it has been on my reading list for years. This will be the year it gets scratched from the list, as I just ordered it from Dad was a preacher, and I look forward to commiserating with Porter as I read about her life of growing up in a parsonage, especially at Christmas time.

Dad pastored small town churches in places like Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Eatonville. No single childhood Christmas memory stands out, but the ambience of the season does. Dad was a poor preacher. I don’t mean he couldn’t preach; I mean he didn’t have much money, so presents were no big deal: socks, underwear, a new pair of trousers for school; the norm for poor kids of the era.

Mom often made my brothers (there were five of us at that time, more later) and I a pair of pajamas for Christmas. She thought that was the item that separated civilized people from the boorish masses.

They got worn until the first washing and promptly abandoned, as we all returned to our boorish ways. This was a good thing, since we were all destined for the military in the 60s, which featured open bay barracks. No self-respecting soldier would lounge around in PJs.

But I digress: back to life at Christmas time in the parsonage.

The Christmas program dominated the season. (For the best description ever of Christmas programs and their preparation, read “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving.) Who will get stuck with the embarrassment of appearing before the congregation in a bathrobe, while pretending to be a shepherd or Joseph? At least the magi got elaborate costumes.

Participants in the nativity scene escaped the torture of spoken parts. Getting tagged for a part in the Christmas play meant you prayed for short lines and few of them. If there were more girl parts than girls, and you were the preacher’s kid and your mother was the play director, it was goodbye male ego.

Christmas programs ended with treats, and at Christmas time, the parsonage became mother’s candy factory. There was fudge, something similar to Applets and Cotlets, divinity and something Mom made by dipping cornflakes, marshmallow chunks, raisins and walnuts in melted chocolate and putting them in clusters to harden. It all had to be taste tested by the preacher’s kids.

In Roslyn, the season also included a big sledding party, followed by hot chocolate and chili. To put a crown on the season, Dad rounded up all who could, and many who couldn’t, sing to walk the town singing Christmas carols for those who couldn’t get out and take in community celebrations. To this day, real caroling requires at least two feet of fresh snow.