Monday, March 22, 2010

Read and React: So what do lawyers and PA beer distributors have in common anyway?

This is the first of what I hope will be many posts where I showcase an article that struck me as profound. I would advise reading the article first before continuing on. So here's the link:

This is the system we should be copying from the UK. The implications of legal reform that allows additional competition as well as market segmentation are potentially huge. First, the obvious points. More competition by "non-lawyer" or alternative sources for basic services like wills, estates and so on will drive the cost of these legal services down. Second, a point the author makes, market segmentation/specialization will increase the quality of these services and consumer satisfaction.

So what do lawyers and PA beer distributors have in common? They're both rent-seekers of the highest order. Rent-seeking is the practice of using the government/law to limit, or even eliminate, competition. This usually takes the form of some type of licensing controlled by the government or a trade association. To get a license to practice law, you have to pass the bar. To get a beer distributorship, well in PA anyway, let's just say you have to know the right people.

When anyone proposes allowing other entities to enter the market (LegalZoom, the Sheetz convenience store chain) the bar and beer distributors (pun intended) stomp their feet like toddlers, afraid that they'll have to work a little harder, or a little more efficiently, for our business. Worse still, consumers are denied quality service and lower prices as a result. In the legal field, according to Hadfield, many people just give up. Not so for people who want beer, but I digress.

An additional implication for a more open legal market could be a reduction in the perceived need for larger government in some quarters. If consumers with access to inexpensive legal advice could solve relatively minor disputes with car repair shops, financial institutions and...let's insurers, we could certainly justify fewer regulations and less bureaucracy. This would lower taxes and costs for everyone. Plus we'll have less sob stories, real and imagined.

Maybe Laurence Tribe will push for a more open legal market.

Maybe he can use his influence to get the bar to drop their class action against LegalZoom. (I'm sure the judges will be impartial in that case.)

Maybe Tribe, an Obama appointee, will have the guts to bite the trial lawyers' hands that feed the Democrat Party.

And President Obama, Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi will hold a mass resignation ceremony tomorrow at 11:15AM.

One can dream, can't he?

Gut Reaction to Likely Passage of the HC Bill

I feel like the battle is just getting started. There are several means to overturn this horrible bill:

1. The courts - I hate leaving this big an issue up to them, however.

2. Repeal the bill - There's a range of attitudes on this option from extremely positive (Kristol) to extremely negative (Krauthammer.) I personally think this is doable, especially when you consider Prohibition.

Of course, to repeal the bill, we'll need to elect as many Republicans who are willing as possible in the next two election cycles. Time to work hard for your candidates.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Q&A - Burns-Russell Town Hall

The Q&A portion of the Town Hall was handled well by the Indiana-Armstrong County Patriots. The first questions was, of course, regarding what changes need to be made to our current health care system. As Mr. Russell gave the first opening statement, Mr. Burns gave the first answer to this question. The candidates alternated back and forth throughout. I will try to stick with the high points, avoiding the obvious questions:

?: On changes to the current health care system -

Burns: He believes small bills should be put forward that address different problems and present different solutions, including purchasing insurance across state lines and tort reform. He also spoke about establishing association health care plans so individuals that do not have the same employer can purchase insurance at a cheaper rate. Finally he spoke about extending the current tax deduction afforded to employers to individuals.

Russell: Focused more on fixing Medicare, because it doesn't pay enough to health care providers. He would do this by providing vouchers to individuals so they can choose how Medicare funds are spent. He believes this will save $200 billion and help to reintroduce shopping functions into the health care process. He also supports tort reform and believes market forces can drive costs down.

?: On abstaining from out-of-office benefits (retirement, health care following service) for members of Congress -

Russell: Wants to adjust the current system to benefit long-standing members who serve at least 20 years. Referenced Federalist 54 by James Madison.

Burns: Believes in term limits due to the money given to incumbents. Informed the audience that the Realtors association gives equal amounts of money to both parties.

? - Position regarding the 2nd Amendment -

Russell: Usually carries a .38 on his ankle.

Burns: Cast his own bullets from discarded lead as a child. Told the story of how his son won a rifle at an NRA conference.

? - Constitutionality of health insurance mandate for individual insurance

Burns: If this is required, then what's next?

Russell: He stated that we should rein in the FDA, EPA and Departments of Commerce and Education and return these duties to the states.

? - Graft and bribes committed by the Administration and Democratic leadership to pass HC

Russell: The San Joaquin Valley had water shut off for environmental reasons. If the rep from that area votes for HC, the water will be turned back on. In war, shutting off a water supply is considered a war crime.

Burns: Calls this evil.

? - Cap and Trade

Burns: Wrong on many counts. Burns does not believe in global warming and if this passes manufacturers will go overseas where energy is cheaper. Government needs to get out of the way so we can have energy independence.

Russell: It would be a sledgehammer to the coal and energy industries. Another concern are the green codes for housing and commercial buildings - these will make it very difficult to sell homes and destroy our mobility.

? - National Security - how do we enable our armed forces while ensuring benefits?

Russell - Jet fuel, for the Air Force and airlines, should be derived from coal. Implement vouchers for the VA, similar to his proposed Medicare voucher system

Burns - In addition to Russell's answer, we need to approach national security with a different attitude. Military tribunals for KSM and others. We shouldn't try to appease and shouldn't apologize for kicking the crap out of them.

? - Borders

Russell - Build the wall on the southern border and mine it. Deport illegals who commit criminal acts and deny welfare. Implement the fair tax - this way even illegals pay into the system.

Burns - Change the law so children born to illegals in this country do not automatically become citizens.

? - Audit the Federal Reserve

Both candidates would push to audit the federal reserve.

? - How do we convince state & local governments that money from the federal govt. is not free?

Burns - individuals need to stay motivated - the recent congressional Republican moratorium on earmarks show that this is working.

Russell - there is no more federal money to give.

? - Tax System

Russell - replace the entire tax system with a national consumption sales tax or a flat tax.

Burns - 2nd highest corporate income tax in the world needs to be reduced.

? - Vote for your opponent in the primary

Russell - Would vote for Burns over John Murtha.

Burns - Did vote for Russell over John Murtha.

(This sequence generate laughter from the audience. A question about support was asked a little later. Both candidates would support the other in the general election.)

? - Unions within the government

Burns - this is a conflict of interest

Russell - no place for unions in government. They don't need a union.

? - Constitutionality of foreign aid

Burns - it is provided the aid is in our best interest. We need to cut the funding for the UN - we are funding the enemy.

Russell - it is, but it is not popular. Derides aid to Brazil for drilling oil offshore.

? - How would you marginalize the current Iranian regime and support the opposition in Iran?

Burns - they are our enemy because they tell us so. We should act accordingly.

Russell - utilize Radio Free Iran and Voice of America so we can tell our story to the Iranian people in Farsi.

Conclusions: I came away impressed with both candidates. Russell showed a great deal of knowledge on several fronts, while Burns seemed to want to draw lines in the sand opposing Democrat positions. I found this to be an interesting role reversal.

While both candidates came across as sincere, Burns at times expressed a reluctance that is very refreshing. It's almost as if he wants the nomination more due to a sense of duty then anything else. Meanwhile Russell stated he has put his family on hold for 2 1/2 years to fight for this position. He obviously has a lot invested in the primary. Both have some obvious strengths and weaknesses based in large part on their backgrounds.

I went into last night leaning toward one candidate in the primary. I still am leaning that way, but the other candidate narrowed the gap considerably. Regardless of who wins the primary, the Republican Party, Tea Party Movement and conservative-leaning independents will have a great candidate in November.

Of more pressing concern is the Special Election, I know I stated this in a prior post, but it is imperative that Tim Burns wins this election. Health care, regardless of how it turns out, will not be the final battle to be fought in this Congress. Cap and Trade and Amnesty are heading our way and we need a solid conservative voice representing what I truly believe is a solid conservative district.

Burns-Russell Town Hall

I attended the Burns-Russell Town Hall last night at the Quality Inn, just outside Indiana, PA and came away impressed with both candidates. There are very few policy differences between the two Republicans vying for the late John Murtha's seat and both appear to have the citizens' best interests at heart.

Before delving into the candidates' opening statements and Q&A from the audience, I want to thank the Indiana-Armstrong County Patriots for hosting the event. They did a great job keeping everything moving along and everyone who attended that wanted to ask a question got the chance. A few folks asked multiple questions.

The candidates were given 5 minutes each to deliver opening statements. Bill Russell discussed his military career, including his six years at the Pentagon and vast experience working with people all over the world. In the aftermath of 9/11, he worked with FEMA on plans to start the recovery in New York. While he wants to brings jobs to the area, his methods differ from Mr. Murtha's. He believes natural resources - including coal and natural gas - are key to revitalizing western Pennsylvania and that energy independence is key to national security.

Tim Burns outlined his business experience, including founding a software company that serviced the pharmacy industry in 1992. In 11 years, he grew the company to 400 employees with a nationwide reach before selling the company. Since then, he has worked with non-profits on a volunteer basis, including flood relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as well as serving on a board of a non-profit focusing on special needs children. Mr. Burns organized the first Tea Party in Washington County. His motivation to run for Congress are his children and feels a responsibility to them to serve.

Burns then briefly discussed the Special Election to be held concurrently with the Primary on May 18th. In the Special Election, Burns will face off against Mark Critz, Mr. Murtha's top aide, to complete Mr. Murtha's current term. Burns emphasized that "no matter who you support in the primary, we need to support the conservative." He questioned Critz's position on the current health care reform bill, which is currently unknown. Burns also rallied the room to continue opposing the health care bill.

I want to echo Mr. Burns comments. In a short period of time, I've developed a lot of respect for both Mr. Burns and Mr. Russell and I haven't quite decided which to support in the primary. To any Russell supporters reading this, it is IMPERATIVE that Burns wins the special election. Regardless of what happens with Obamacare this weekend, there will be other battles to fight, including cap and trade, amnesty for illegals and card check. We must have a conservative in this seat to help in opposing these wrong-headed policies. for the Q&A:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tim Burns-Bill Russell Town Hall

Going to the Tim Burns-Bill Russell Town Hall in Indiana this evening. Fearing I wouldn't make it due to a mother-in-law car problem, but everything worked out ok. Report on the Town Hall hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some housekeeping...

First off, this isn't me:

Neither is this:

Just for clarification, this is me:

Unfortunately, the video only shows the warm up to everything else, I talked about.

(And yes, I'll have to learn how to post actual videos. Probably will revise this post at that time.)

Meanwhile, this is a nice story, but....I didn't mention anything regarding the fall of the Roman Empire. That was Mr. Choby and while I agree with that sentiment if everything Obama/Pelosi/Reid wants comes to pass, I'm slightly more optimistic.

My goal is to post 3-4 times per week to start. My "Muse" post is coming soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More about the other night...

In my first post, I talked a lot about what I had to say at the Conferees' Event. I thought it was also important to talk about why I decided to attend and speak.

I'm not seeking political office, nor do I plan to in the near future. For me, it is about the ideas and saying the things that others may not want to say right now due to the present political climate. I had nothing to lose and I knew that when I decided to "throw my hat in the ring." This was a good forum for presenting ideas and, based on the response by several attendees, I gave people something to think about. That was the best case scenario in my book.

The most surprising thing was how much I have to think about as a result of several conversations I had throughout the evening.

As of now, I plan to maintain this blog and get involved with the local party. Out of respect for the attendees, I will recuse myself from actively supporting either Mr. Burns or Mr. Russell in the primary, but will obviously support Mr. Burns in the special election. Either man will make an excellent candidate in the general and I enjoyed conversing with both of them, along with members of their staffs Thursday evening. Mr. Choby and Mr. Robertson were also very interesting to speak to as well.

Finally, I want to thank the staff for the event. Everyone was great to deal with and I really appreciated how all the candidates were treated equally well throughout the evening.

Quick preview of my next post: How a most-likely left-of-center British rock band is inspiring me to be more active.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So it begins...

Tonight I did something crazy. I "attempted" to win the nomination to complete the late John Murtha's term as Congressman from PA's 12 Congressional District. Having no money and no popular support, I knew I didn't stand a chance. But the reason I did this was to talk about issues that few people are discussing.

First, a quick note on the format. Each candidate was permitted to speak for 5 minutes, followed by a 10 minute Q&A.

I chose to speak about two issues that I feel are important, but due to the current political climate and the overwhelming air taken by the healthcare debate, aren't put out there by anyone:

1. The negative influence of public sector unions in the federal government. Quite simply, everything the federal government does costs more to us, the taxpayers. I outlined three pieces of legislation that need to be repealed/reversed in order to mitigate the additional costs.

a. The Davis-Bacon Act - which mandates prevailing wages/fringe benefits be paid to any contractors on federal projects in excess of $2,500. (And if there are any federal project that cost less than that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.)

b. The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act - which mandates the same for service employees employed by the federal govt.

c. President Kennedy's Executive Order 10988 - this allowed collective bargaining for federal employees. Something FDR was actually opposed to during his time in office.

The economic impact of these changes are pretty obvious. Reducing personnel costs and the cost of federal projects can play a substantial part in reducing our deficit. In addition, there is a moral impact in that federal employees can negotiate with elected officials who, in turn, receive campaign contributions and support from unions representing those same federal employees. Ending this incestuous relationship will increase efficiencies and decrease costs.

2. Ending the employer tax credit for health care benefits and transferring the credit to individuals. During WWII, FDR put this in place to prevent wage inflation from hampering the war effort. This distorted the market for healthcare by removing the enduser from the cost/benefit analysis on healthcare decisions. Health insurers are also accountable to human resource managers rather than individuals. Instead it's time to think about healthcare like we think about any other product or service. I'll start with the demand side of the economic equation.

a. Sever the connection between employment and health insurance by ending the tax-favored status for employers by transferring it to individuals via Health Savings Accounts. This will drive down prices by making health insurers accountable to individual consumers not just a relatively paltry number of HR managers.

b. End most state and federal mandates on what health insurers must provide. This will enable insurers to provide lower cost options to consumers.

Now on to the supply side...i.e. number of insurers.

c. Allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines. This will increase competition in the health insurance market, further driving down prices.

Reducing regulation and eliminating state barriers could also bring more competitors into the market, further driving down costs.

In the end, these are things that are not being discussed or seriously considered at this time. On healthcare, instead of viewing it as a right or a necessity, we need to allow consumers to make their own decisions and bring more competitors into all 50 states.

I realize that passing any of this, even with a substantial Republican majority and a Republican in the White House will be difficult. And that there are more pressing issues at hand. But, I truly believe things are going to turn around very quickly. And the right-center coalition that's starting to form in the country will have to be ready to enact reforms that will have substantive impact, both in fixing past mistakes and in enhancing our strengths as a nation.

If anyone I met this evening is reading this; thank you for the encouragement and kind words. I'll talk a little more about the evening itself sometime tomorrow.