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November 09, 2015

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Jon, you always seem to say what I didn't know I was thinking.

I really liked this post and I think there a lot of points here with appeal to both liberals and conservatives alike. I know Rand Paul has lost almost all traction but he is an example of a conservative with some similar views. I wonder if the rise in libertarian though among some Republicans/conservatives would help get any traction on some more dovish policies.

There is no question that the United States has willingly, even enthusiastically, stepped forward as the de facto defender of the first world, particularly NATO but also our continuing arrangements in Asia. Is there something we're not seeing, perhaps, in that Europe so eagerly has stepped aside to let us lead them in many important aspects of foreign policy and "nation maintenance" (not nation building as we have attempted in the Middle East). Are we really getting a worthwhile return in international influence in exchange for our incredible expenditures of money, material and men to protect our allies?

I do agree with you on the Navy, in the Asian theater in particular it is crucial. I would like to add that maintaining our significant air superiority is perhaps even more important on a worldwide scale. In terms of land wars, peacekeeping missions and various other occupations, I do wish we'd expect a little bit more out of our Allies rather than letting them step aside and reflexively jumping at the chance to do it for them.

I think, so far, perhaps this is what we are doing in the South China Sea. It seems we are insisting on free sea passage and air passage over the region, but aren't going to get too involved in fighting the region's battles over the islands natural and man-made. China's already won that conflict, anyway. The islands are there and if America isn't going to bomb them back into the ocean, I highly doubt anyone else is going to, either. They will control the Sea's resources and administration and we will maintain and insist upon rite of passage, etc. It seems to me like China and the US both seem okay with that state of affairs.

I used to argue with folks on the right about universal health care by pointing out that Europe has it so why can't we? One of their more common rejoinders was that Europe is a free rider on our defense dime. They can afford it, we can't. One problem: we don't ask them to pay. Maybe that's the duty of empires.

Before 9/11, the Bush administration was searching for an organizing principle to justify spending ever-more billions in our already out-of-control defense budget. Bush himself, at one point, looked Vladimir Putin in the eye, saw a trustworthy man, and got a sense of his soul. Stategery met Jesus and Putin won. Fortunately after 9/11, the Axis of Evil replaced the Russian bear as our new cosmic foil. The military-industrial complex rejoiced - F-35s on the house!

There will not be a debate about the disproportionate treasure we bestow on defense contractors, military installations, and invading armies. You can't put a price tag on keeping America safe. We'll cut the VA instead because moochers already get too much free stuff. Look for the pea under the shell - it's always moving and you, dear sucker, better pay up. Neither shall there be a debate next year about spending priorities and national goals. We can never spend enough our on military. That's why it's better that we die younger in order to stay safe. Repeat after me: Freedumb isn't Free!

I don't know where Soleri gets his data that the VA has been cut; this chart certainly doesn't indicate any cuts:

https://www.fas.org/sgp/.../RS22897.pd..

and here; verifiying Obama's claim that VA funding reflected "historical" investments:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2014/05/23/az-fact-check-obama-va-funding-increases/9464699/


As with all other government programs, if we want the Pentagon to spend a bazillion dollars a year, we should have taxes that support the current spending and the future liabilities. Period.

This approach would make the spending decision much more valid and much more difficult. Imagine a specific tax increase to pay for the F-35 and then it turning into what it turned into.

Want a war in Iraq? Institute a tax to pay for it. Want expanded safety net programs? Pay for them. Tweaks in the IRC to encourage certain investments? Better pay for themselves.


One other thing- there are two reasons why the EU will resist having to defend themselves- one is that we always have (and there's a lesson- it's always much more difficult to take something away from someone than to have just not given it in the first place) and the other, is, like most of the rest of the world, they're broke.

The yield on the 10 yr T Bill hit a 2015 high yesterday.

Why worry?


Sorry about the VA link; just search "historical VA budget" and it will most likely be the first thing that pops up; the site starts https: www.fas.org/sgp


INPHX, irony isn't your strong suit but then neither are things like facts. You have one consistent talking point in this forum: the VA is a debacle for which the cure is an application of free-market snake oil. Right-wing ideologues are starry-eyed about Ronald Reagan and Grover Norquist and it's not hard to understand why. They want to cut things like health care and pensions, not programs like the F-35 boondoggle, or unlimited strategic reach of our military. This means we spend more on the military, not less. At the same time, your tribe has one of its religious tenets the permanent ratcheting down of tax rates on the wealthy. There is not one national Republican who opposes this insanity. Not Rand Paul, not Donald Trump in his more lucid moments, not Ben Carson insofar as he's capable of any lucid moment.

I'm glad you're hip to this con, but inside your party this viewpoint is sui generis if not completely irrelevant. In the meantime, keep waving that Republican flag. The entire point of your party is to make the rich richer, including the military, its various contractors, think tanks, and Congressional courtesans. It's hardly an accident that Rand Paul, when he announced his presidential campaign, veered sharply in the direction of conventional Republican hooey. Even so, he's going nowhere fast. Your party has one characteristic besides insanity - fear as a metaphysical principle. Everywhere your tribe looks, dangerous brown people!!!.

Soleri, what's interesting to me about Rand is that by trying to be more "electable" and therefore mainstream, he basically lost his uniqueness and become more disposable. Whereas his father by staying committed to his cause, kept his loyal followers through thick and thin.

I think some of this probably applies to true-believers like Ted Cruz. If he were to start playing nice with the establishment and compromising, well, then why would anyone vote for him when they already have candidates like Rubio who seem more electable anyway.

Granted, I would like to believe that there's a reward for being genuine and maintaining consistent principles so maybe I'm seeing into things. But I think this is an example of where trying to fit in causes someone to lose their niche.

Soleri:

I asked you a question about providing evidence of your allegation that the VA funding has been cut.

If you have that, please post it.

If not, admit that you just made it up (on a reality based blog) and you can spare us all the inane lectures on making the rich richer and dangerous brown people.


The VA a debacle?

Don't know if that's accurate or not, but YOUR White House described "significant and systematic failures" along with a "corrosive culture"

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-va-white-house-report-20140627-story.html

Swell.


Mark, I never got the feeling that Rand has his father's talent for crotchety truth-telling. On the other hand, Ron Paul was never going to be president and he knew it. He became a cult-figure instead. His son tried to cross that unbridgeable gap between purity and power and failed. No surprise.

INPHX, yeah, yeah, yeah. Government is evil and we should make the rich richer because only they know how to make things work. Like your favorite Republican candidate from two months ago, Carly Fiorina.

Before 2001, there was a chance to essentially wrap up the VA as the Vietnam generation started the big exit, but now thanks to 14 years of war, another big generation of vets needs services now, plus the Vietnam generation's final decades.

But Inphx, you can't cut taxes and fund a giant military- and the VA is the tip of the tail of the dog in comparison.

VA is $168.8 billion, guess what the Pentagon spends? $637 billion that we admit to- um, look at the proportional difference!

Oh yeah, in 2000 the last Clinton defense budget was 16.7% of the Federal Budget, last year it was 16%- now guess what- all those wounded troops are not going to disappear, and if you give them really crappy healthcare they are going to beat the heck out of the politicians until the get better care. So give up on the fantasies of shuffling them off to some super cheap HMO. Artificial limbs don't grow on trees.

http://www.nationaljournal.com/defense/2014/05/20/who-really-broke-veterans-affairs

Gee, politics is making it worse, not better.

Now, using them as a football is gonna be a bad play, eventually, but by then you will find yet another thing to blame the O-team.

The really funny part is excessive partisanship makes effective executives quit government, just because dealing with total idiots gets so tiring and time consuming.

I know, I was there, and dealing with the political appointees is why I am now gone.

Reality has a liberal bias because of the spin thrown on everything.


Love Concern Troll.

Here are some VA data resources:

http://www.va.gov/vetdata/expenditures.asp

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RS22897.pdf

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/19356/how-1-4-billion-in-budget-cuts-will-impact-veterans/

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/07/21/va-secretary-slams-congress-at-vfw-convention-over-budget-cuts.html

"I wonder if the rise in libertarian though among some Republicans/conservatives.."

"Libertarian" is code talk for hysterical idiot now a days.

Concern:

Take a look at my earlier post; my position is simple.

If you're going to spend money on the VA or on other defense related measures, then pay for it. Now.


Great article on the mess that the VA is and a treaty on why a single payer system would never work in this country. There's a lot of highlights, but two struck me as just about mind boggling:

"In 2002, it took the VA an av­er­age of 224 days to com­plete claims, as com­pared with 166 days in 1999."

"The VA’s budget totaled $100 bil­lion in 2009. In 2014, it was up to $154 bil­lion. But that money doesn’t in­stantly trans­fer in­to an ex­pan­ded ca­pa­city to meet vet­er­ans’ needs: It takes ap­prox­im­ately two years to fully train a claims work­er; the blame for the staff crunch doesn’t rest on Obama’s shoulders alone."

224 days to process a claim and 2 years to train someone.

Those would be great timelines if we were in the middle ages....

True, America's mercenary army has become the world's rent-an-army. They're like the French Foreign Legion or Britain's Gurkhas. But our armed forces are our must successful antipoverty program, keeping 2.5 million young people (active and reserve) and millions of civilians supporting them from being unemployed, unwashed, and on America's streets. Since it is apparently unthinkable to use them to renew and build their country, we need to continually identify new opportunities abroad.

INPHX, remember you're the guy who says people don't have any right to health care. Period. For you to fulminate over the VA is more than a little cynical. We developed the world's most expensive health care system by letting greed set all the benchmarks for care. It's why an MRI averages around $1100 in the U.S. and under $100 in Japan. http://healthpopuli.com/2013/04/02/u-s-health-costs-vs-the-world-is-it-still-the-prices-and-are-we-still-stupid/ For-profit medicine is great is you're rich and can buy the best care for yourself, but it's lousy if your health insurance has huge co-pays and deductibles, which is true for the average American. The alternative to this sorry state of affairs is no coverage at all, economic ruin, and early death.

Prior to Obamacare, it was estimated up to 45,000 Americans died each year for want of health insurance. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/09/new-study-finds-45000-deaths-annually-linked-to-lack-of-health-coverage/ The Republican solution to this was to do nothing or compare their own plan - Romneycare - to something worse than slavery. How does anyone reason with people like you? You're too blind to even understand just how despicable these political tactics really are.

The VA has performed about as well as can be expected in a nation that routinely devalues the lives of its own citizens http://www.herc.research.va.gov/include/page.asp?id=va-vs-non-va Bill Clinton dramatically increased the caseload for the VA by granting coverage for PTSD in 1996. Millions of VA vets, some drug-addled and homeless and living on the streets, were finally given access to real care. Veterans have special needs, which the VA by design is tasked with delivering. Yes, this costs a lot of money but perhaps it's fitting that this care bite us in the ass. Maybe we'll be a bit more circumspect before letting chickenhawks tantalize us into another war based on lies. Call it the LBJ/Dick Cheney tax.


Soleri:

I'm the guy who has said many times that I applaud the part of Obamacare where people are driven to the exchanges and receive subsidies for private health insurance that they choose with providers that they can then generally choose.

You know, choice.

You know, the kind of private market health insurance that processes claims in less than 224 days and trains claim processors in less than 2 freakin' years.

If you want to expand your horizons (which you probably won't), read the article Concern Troll linked. The VA's a mess. There's a lot of reasons, none of which will get fixed without the invisible hand.

Again, choice.

The article you linked talks about the VA being slightly better than Medicare (Yahoo!!) but states nothing about comparing to the private sector, plus, I've never read an article with more caveats, plus, it's dated.

But at least according to you, it's cheaper, which is great news for the guys waiting a year plus for appointments.

You want to compare the VA and Medicare to the private sector? First thing you have to do is eliminate all of the income taxes that the private sector pays (because the government programs don't pay any). Similar carve outs exist with property taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, malpractice insurance, regulatory issues and dozen of other costs that the private sector is burdened with that the public sector isn't.

You know why that is?

Because in the private sector, you sure as hell can't take 224 days to process an insurance claim or take two years to train a claims specialist.

Because people have choice.


187% over budget with no end in sight and no explanation.


http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_28415366/va-deputy-secretary-making-eighth-trip-denver-hospital

Nice work.

INPHX, we've seen the movie before - private insurance canceling policies once a certain threshold is reached, excluding applicants on the basis of pre-existing conditions, subjecting enrollees to onerous co-pays and deductibles, and being unaffordable to those with limited means and catastrophic health issues. This is your alternative to the VA, which is why you're not going to convince any veterans to go along with your scam. When Paul Ryan proposes voucherizing Medicare, he's careful to assure the Republican base that he doesn't mean them. Why would he have to do that? Any clues? Are Republicans just happier with socialism than your Randian ideology? I suspect that to be the case.

Since you don't care if people live or die for want of health care, it might be a good idea to stop playing Dr Feelgood on the internet. You have no fix except the meth of ideology. And that not only sucks, it makes people feel like crap.

Ha, INPHX, pay the bills, just like our own legislature? Which bills, oh yeah only the ones they like.

Pay for schools- nope- robbing the long term trust fund to allow more tax cuts.

Your team, baby, and you will vote to do it, won't you?

You want responsible fiscal policy- taxes go up and are collected.

Period.

Uncle Miltie even told you TANSTAAFL, rube.

The R party free lunch of lower taxes yielding better government is dead.

My alternative to the VA is not private insurance, dumbass.

It's more of a credit card, allowing veterans to choose their own providers but still have the federal government make the payment.

Or, they can stay in the current system and have their claims processed in 224 days. Oh, and have employees intentionally fabricate waiting list data.

You know, choice.

Now, you're against that because deep down, you know the VA will lose. You know that a massive, entrenched, corrosive federal bureaucracy granted a monopoly can't compete even with a massively over-regulated industry like private health care services.

From the article Concern Troll linked:

"For ex­ample, the VA did not have a di­git­al way to pro­cess claims na­tion­wide un­til 2013, in­stead re­ly­ing on an in­ef­fi­cient pa­per fil­ing sys­tem. By com­par­is­on, the IRS rolled out its elec­tron­ic fil­ing sys­tem across the coun­try — al­beit with some prob­lems — in 1990."


23 years behind that pinnacle of efficiency, the IRS. Most likely 30 years (or so) behind the private sector.

Congratulations.

Pre 1980 Soviet Union efficiency for our veterans.

And you'll defend it.

Troll:

I want a balanced budget. So, if you want to spend money, you have to pay for it. Now.

According to this, at the federal level, you need about a 12% across the board increase in all federal tax revenue to balance the current budget:

http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/federal_budget


That 12% more in every single federal tax, and all that does is get us even.

And receipts are at an all time high. If the economy slips..........

So, you want to spend all that money?

Pass the tax increase. Now.

Good luck.

BTW, that gets us nowhere towards paying off the accumulated deficit of $18.2 Trillion, and that number does not include significant unfunded liabilities for Medicare and social security.

INPHX, a credit card? Really? You think private providers are going to charge less than a socialized system? In what universe are you living?

"Choice" is a buzzword in search of the gullible since the only real choice here is between basic care and no care at all. Which is what you prefer. No care. Because, as we learn over and over from you Randian zealots, no one but the rich deserve a decent society. It's why you think people should die before we do anything so heinous as taxing the rich more. You're proud to be a sociopath. No need to pretend you care about veterans. Wave the flag and kick them in the nuts.

Your war against the VA is simply a ruse to drive costs down on the backs of "takers". It's why every tax plan the GOP puts forth is a lunacy built upon a discredited premise - that reduced taxes somehow drive up revenues. And since the rich are you only constituency, they rather than veterans, the old, the infirm, the destitute, or the vulnerable are your only concern.

Veterans' groups will fight you chickenhawks and win. You seriously think you're going to dismantle the only safety net vets have? Dream on, Republican. You might love money but you really hate America.

Soleri:

You once again demonstrate that your partisanship completely clouds any judgement you're capable of (and there ain't much to begin with)

I don't care if a private provider charges more than a socialized system (even assuming that's the case).

I want the Vet to get the care he or she chooses.

You want to save a couple of bucks with months (years??) of wait times and backlogs.

I'll spend the extra money and get a vet in for care pronto, or at least let them shop for the choice they prefer.

So- what's better for the vets?

Choice or none?


Here:

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/veterans/2015/08/24/veterans-affairs-va-backlog-100k/32269671/

From that article:

"About 98,500 of the almost 363,000 pending claims in the Veterans Benefits Administration now are backlogged, defined as pending for more than 125 days. VA officials six years ago set a self-imposed deadline of getting that total down to zero by the end of 2015."

The goal was zero and they got it all the way down to 98.500.

You're either nuts or blinded by partisanship to defend that.

Pick one.


Well, at least the VA is getting better and holding people accountable.

Oh, wait.....


http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/11/11/veterans-affairs-pays-142-million-bonuses-amid-scandals/75537586/

INPHX, yeah, I'm sure you really want the vets to get the care they deserve [cue crocodile tears]. So, tell me zealot, how do you balance the budget by cutting taxes on the rich and giving the vets more expensive care? Because private care is ALWAYS more expensive than what the government offers. Indeed, this entire charade you're performing for us is right-wing ideology applying itself to one more group of "takers" who distrust you ideologues like they would any carnie on the midway. It's why you can't even get GOP seniors to agree to voucherizing their Medicare or reducing their SS benefits. They vote Republican for one reason - sticking it to the darkies, not themselves. And veterans are not fooled. If you really think so, you're not simply naive, you're a fool on the level of Ben Carson. http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/benefits/veterans/2015/11/10/vetvoice-poll-privatization-va-services/75506102/

Do I think the VA needs improvement? Of course. Every organization constantly needs reform. Just like those private concerns that routinely prey on the weak, elderly, desperate, and trusting. But you don't care at all about them. I would imagine you want private enterprise to go entirely unregulated because that's God's, er, Ayn Rand's plan. So, when homeowners get suckered into loans they can't repay and get their houses repossessed, it's their fault. Or when people pay for expensive health insurance and find it useless when they really need it, well tough titties, suckers! And that's what you want veterans to experience. Because they deserve it.

I'm very aware that we're taxing the patience of this blog's readership with this never-ending back and forth. Unless you have an interesting argument to make, and not simply idiotic and demagogic finger-pointing, this discussion is over.

As I vet I would not want to have to deal with private insurances if I needed care for injuries sustained in the line of duty. I could just imagine the runaround. For friends of mine injured and receiving care from the VA, the service they receive is great. Too many struggled far too much to get that coverage. I blame underfunded programs and not the VA itself.

It was just like Arizona's child protective services: give caseworkers 200+ files and ask them to do a good job. Got to love cheap Republicans.

Welcome back, phxSUNSfan!

You know who I like? I like Carly Fiorina: she's going to rebuild the Sixth fleet, send more troops to Germany, finish turning Poland into Russia's Cuban missile crisis, and get right the hell in Putin's face, 'cause that's what we Americans really need right now. Also, she'll do it while paying down the national debt, which is no abstract construct, believe you me! Every dime is real! Yes, Carly is our man! Everyone should agree with me because of the razor-sharp judgement I honed while serving as a piece of office furniture for thirty years!

I've been reading without interruption. Wouldn't miss a post. Travels and jetlag kept me from posting coherrently.

Kudos to the Front Page Editor on the dynamite article about a possible explanation of the increase in white middle age deaths- it would appear that it's more women than men.

http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2015/11/10/to-understand-climbing-death-rates-among-whites-look-to-women-of-childbearing-age/

Thanks, INPHX, for the heads up. Here's the concluding paragraph:

Men and women have different experiences in the labor market, different responsibilities for caring for children and aging parents, and different economic realities. Improving the conditions of life that shape the health of women and their families and social networks and that are contributing to the “epidemic of pain” is critical. Many systemic and environmental factors are likely at work behind these mortality trends, including unstable and low-paying jobs, a fraying social safety net, and other stressors. When life conditions undermine health or one’s ability to make healthy choices, we all suffer.

As EM Forster once reminded us: Connect. Only connect.

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