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Archive for December, 2009

In an untitled e-mail sent Thursday afternoon, Joe Rogalsky announced he is resigning his staff position as Gov. Jack Markell’s communications director.

Rogalsky, who joined Markell’s gubernatorial campaign as spokesman in December 2007, did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

“The Governor is and remains a public servant with bold ideas and vision, who is happy to take the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Rogalsky is quoted as saying in the e-mail. “Recently I decided it was time to make a difference in my own life.”

Before joining Markell’s team, Rogalsky worked as a reporter at the Washington Examiner and the The State News.

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A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear..
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”
“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall..”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

PLEASE, would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many
people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our
U.S service men and women for our being able to celebrate these
festivities. Let’s try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people
stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One
Al Taqqadum, Iraq

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Eric Staib of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute has written a thorough piece on what will happen if the current health insurance reform passes. Taking snippets of the piece wouldn’t do it justice, so you can read it in its entirety below or click on the link above to read it in its entirety.

It has been shown that the so-called “public option” for low-premium health insurance is sure to significantly crowd out, and perhaps even eliminate, the private provision of health insurance. Thanks to Senator Joseph Lieberman’s courageous stand, it appears that the public option will not be a part of any bill that passes the Senate. Unfortunately, HR 3962 includes regulations that will destroy the ability of private firms to provide marketable insurance, with or without a public option.

To understand the devastation that will be wrought by this bill, one must understand how health insurance functions on a free market to transfer individuals’ financial risk to large “risk pools” with less variation across time. Consumers who are risk averse pay “premiums” to insurers each month for the removal of that risk, and in turn insurers assign their clients to different pools according to their risk of large claims.

An Already-Regulated Industry

Insurance companies have already been strictly limited in their ability to assign individuals to different risk pools and charge them varying premiums. By forcing high-risk and low-risk groups into the same pool, existing regulations increase premiums for low-risk consumers and decrease premiums for high-risk consumers. This is nothing more than a coerced subsidy to the less healthy, and it drives low-risk consumers away from purchasing health insurance. This is why the majority of the uninsured are not poor and dying, but in fact healthy young people who are at almost no risk of unanticipated healthcare costs.

To cope with their inability to partition along risk levels, profit-seeking insurance companies must cut costs by excluding the highest-risk patients from insurance. In a free market, these individuals would be offered insurance at a higher premium aligned with their high risk of major claims. In human terms, this leads to the exclusion of people with preexisting conditions and those with significant claims on past insurance plans. Once again, we see how leftist economic policy harms the very class of society that its supporters desire to help.

Obamacare is a Welfare Program

Not oblivious to the exclusion of these unfortunate citizens, on page 95 of the bill, House Democrats have proposed to completely outlaw the exclusion of any customer on any of the following grounds:

health status, medical condition, claims experience, receipt of health care, medical history, genetic information, evidence of insurability, disability, or source of injury (including conditions arising out of acts of domestic violence) or any similar factors.

Thus, it will become illegal to refuse to insure any consumer on any grounds, including evidence of insurability. In addition to being unable to exclude future enrollees, insurers will be prevented by page 29 from legally dropping any consumers from their plans on any grounds other than “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.”

The effect on the structure of insurance is obvious; this new law will turn health insurance into a legally-enforced entitlement program, and the new entitlement will be used by those who are too costly to be insured under the current restrictions on risk-pool partitioning. Again, it is important to remember that these patients would have the option to buy insurance on a free market, but that their plans would carry premiums that actually reflect their personal health risk.

While risk-pool separation is considerably limited by national and state regulations, the little separation that is allowed would still be able to mitigate the heavy costs of forcing insurers to cover literally every customer who wishes to buy insurance. While the high-risk individuals would not pay as much in premiums as they would on a free market, insurance companies would still be able to use slightly lower premiums to attract low-risk customers.

However, this inequality in premiums is offensive to politicians hell-bent on equality. Therefore, in the very next page of the bill, House Democrats propose to outlaw all variations in premiums except according to geographical area, age group, and whether the plan in question covers an individual or a family.

“The majority of the uninsured are not poor and dying, but in fact healthy young people who are at almost no risk of unanticipated healthcare costs.”

These provisions will be catastrophic to the insurance market. The bill only allows for premium variation across age by a ratio of two to one between the highest and lowest premiums. In real terms, elderly patients who cost several times as much to insure can only be charged twice as much as 20-somethings who often go entire years without claims. That this is a subsidy for the elderly hardly needs to be explicitly stated.

The bill leaves the determination of the maximum difference between individual and family plans at the discretion of the “health choices” commissioner, who is likely to find himself bombarded with visits and letters from family-centered lobbying organizations seeking subsidized health insurance paid for by singles and nonparents. This rent seeking will inevitably end up in subsidies handed out according to political objectives, whether the goal is to attract more young, single voters or more parents of children.

Turning any transaction into a subsidy both induces the subsidized class to enter the transaction and induces the subsidizing class to attempt to avoid it. In this case, it means that an even greater number of young and healthy individuals (and, most likely, nonparents) will drop their increasingly expensive insurance plans and attempt to prepare for healthcare risks on their own. This terrible result of coercive price-fixing decreases the benefit of the subsidy to high-risk consumers and decreases the ability of the insurance companies to control and reduce average payouts.

Democrats are aware of this effect of their policy, and have legislated accordingly. Pages 296–300 amend federal tax law to create a new tax on all citizens who fail to purchase health insurance. Depriving these individuals of the ability to opt out of the new, undifferentiated insurance pool is an atrocious affront to individual choice, and requires the threat of imprisonment. This new tax will help achieve the statistical goal of universal coverage, but it will do so at an incredible cost to the income and liberty of the relatively young and healthy, most of whom, ironically, voted for Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.

Soaring Costs

Not only will high-risk individuals who are now forced out of the market by regulation be legally entitled to purchase the bill’s minimum standard of coverage, but both these excluded consumers and those who are now in high-risk pools will have financial incentives to buy higher levels of insurance. Facing new, subsidized prices, high-risk individuals will purchase plans with lower deductibles. Paying for a higher percentage of the price of more claims will massively increase the cost of insuring the new general pool of clients.

One of the only remaining ways for insurers to cut their costs, then, is to limit the amount that individuals are able to receive in claims. Indeed, insurance companies already use lifetime claims limits to cope with risk-partition laws and deliver lower-price packages to low-risk consumers. Predictably, page 50 of the House bill prohibits insurance companies from imposing any such limits on lifetime benefits.

Outlawing lifetime limits guarantees that all consumers will have the incentive to undergo drastically more treatments in their lifetimes, because the bill ensures that they will not be moved into a higher premium group until they enter a different age group or move to a different area. For the already-subsidized elderly, this creates incentives to undergo many more life-extending treatments in the final year of their lives. Such treatments are several times more expensive than general care for other elderly patients.

Astute readers will correctly object that while the Democrats’ healthcare proposal will drastically increase the costs facing every insurance provider, the bill also requires all individuals to buy the minimum package of insurance, or to enroll in the public option. Especially because in the current discussion we are ignoring the effects of the public option, it is possible to argue that if there were no public option this bill would actually be a boon to private insurers, who are virtually guaranteed that every American will buy their plans. To survive this bill, then, insurance companies will simply increase the premiums of the packages that are forced onto every citizen.

This would indeed be true, were it not for further regulations effectively barring premium increases. Page 31 of the bill would require insurance companies to “submit a justification” for any projected future increase in premiums for any group to the secretary of Health and Human Services as well as state-level authorities.

The secretary of HHS and the state “health czars” would then annually review and approve or deny any increase in premiums. In various sections of the bill, the health choices commissioner is given power to determine the cost-accounting and other ratings methods that will determine whether a price increase is “justified” in the eyes of the DHHS Secretary.

$15 $12

Has Rose Wilder Lane received the recognition she deserves? Not even close. But this shirt makes a contribution.

Public officials operating under a Congressional mandate to achieve universal coverage are hardly likely to approve price increases, even though that means slowly bankrupting private insurers. Even if they are not made to “compete with” and be strangled by a public option that consumers have already funded with their tax dollars, private insurers will be absolutely ruined by restrictions on their ability to control and separate costs and to increase prices to account for their ever-rising costs.

Conclusion

While a public option would certainly hasten the death of the private-insurance market in America, it is not a necessary means to that end. By destroying the economic structure of insurance, House Resolution 3962 would convert an already-overregulated industry into a pseudo-private welfare program. Even without a public option, insurance companies would be kept from controlling costs or adjusting their prices. The inevitable result will be the complete dissolution of the private health-insurance market.

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Dave Burris has published an interesting article in the current issue of Coastal Sussex Weekly Magazine, which was written by Michael Short.

The piece examines the profession of river pilot, and includes the pilots’ take on dredging.

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We Can Do This!
Historically, every great leap in society has been accomplished through a breakthrough in communication tools – from papyrus and ink, to the printing press, to the telegraph, radio, television, and the Internet.

Today, we have Social Media – and the next great leap is about to happen (that’s right, I said it’s about to happen – everything you’ve been seeing and hearing about social media so far has just been the “opening act”)!

You are invited to be a leader in this movement!

The Delaware Social Media Initiative
social media

If you use Facebook, you are in a position to be a leader. If you are on LinkedIn, you can be a leader in this movement. If you use Twitter, you are ready to lead. If you blog and/or use e-mail, you are ready to lead.

If you do NONE of these things, you can be in a position to lead by this time tomorrow.

Click Here to find out more about the Delaware Social Media Initiative.

Just Do It!

There’s no social mediapledge to sign, no oath to take – all you have to do is engage using whatever tools you are comfortable with
(Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs, e-mail, etc.) – but do so with the intention of letting others know about Delaware businesses, non-profits, events, organizations, etc.

One easy way to be a leader is to forward this e-mail to others and encourage them to join the movement!

Watch this video

social media
There is a great video that only runs about 2 1/2 minutes that will show you why your business, non-profit organization, community group, school, church, sports team, club, and association should be engaged in Social Media.
Click Here to watch this video

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While we usually stick to policy and government-oriented posts on the CRI Blog, I am straying a bit with this post.

Yesterday, I read an article called  “Shadow Boxing” by Wright Thompson at Espn.com. The piece tells the story of a journalist’s search for one of the 50 boxers who fought Muhammad Ali. Its a long article, but it is certainly worth a read.

Check it out.

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It is easy for Americans to lose faith in their elected officials. The constant stream of stories of abuse of power, breaking of the public trust and seemingly backwards priorities fuels the nation’s perception of lawmakers.

Certainly, there are many cases in which we should all be skeptical of those we elect to office – or at least, those elected by others. We all know that those we vote into office are not the problem. Right?

This shouldn’t be the case. Elected officials, whether in a legislature or the executive branch, should be the type of people that society thinks highly of.

In times when distrust of public officials seems rampant, it is incumbent upon, well, the incumbents to do everything they can to change this perception.

In Delaware, our legislators have been presented with a clear opportunity to help alter the perception of elected officials in Senate Bill 96, a bill sponsored by State Senator George Bunting, a democrat from Bethany Beach.

If passed, Senate Bill 96 “would prohibit any member of the General Assembly from being employed by the State of Delaware while in office, unless the member was already a state employee at the time the member was elected to the General Assembly.”

It has been reported by The News Journal that the bill “would outlaw state employees as legislators.”

This is both misleading and not true.

The bill allows state employees to run for office and, if elected, serve as an elected official while maintaining separate state employment. What the bill seeks to accomplish is to remove the ability of elected officials to use their elected position to obtain a government job.

While the bill was introduced in May, it has not yet received a hearing.

The lack of a hearing has not stopped public conversation concerning the bill. Citing an opinion by Deputy State Solicitor Jennifer D. Oliva, The News Journal reported, “The Delaware Constitution sets forth the qualifications and disqualifications for state legislators. Ordinary public employment is not a disqualification, nor can it be without amending the Constitution.”

To reiterate, the bill is not saying that state employees should not or cannot hold elected office – it simply puts forth the idea that elected officials should be honest brokers of the public good and not use their office to obtain a state job.

If the bill as proposed isn’t enough to change the law, then a constitutional amendment should be pursued. It is that simple. The bill can easily be rewritten as a constitutional amendment, voted on when the legislature returns to session and again the following January at the beginning of the 146th General Assembly. This process is necessary because constitutional amendments must be passed by two consecutive General Assemblies.

Bunting’s effort is not without precedent.

Delaware is one of seven states that permit state legislators to be employed by the state while serving in elected office as long as the legislator is not paid twice for the same work hours.

Two states, Arkansas and Rhode Island, have enacted policies that achieve what Bunting’s legislation seeks to accomplish. Those states allow legislators to be employed at the state or local level as long as said legislator was hired before being elected.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), four states, Arizona, Louisiana, Ohio and Oregon, “ban all public employment for state legislators except for public school employment.”

California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas have prohibited members of the legislature from “holding any employment at the state or local level.” In addition, “Alaska and Nebraska ban employment at the state level.”

Twenty states, including Delaware’s neighbor to the north, New Jersey, “place no restrictions on state legislators holding other employment at the state or local level.”

Of Delaware’s 62 state legislators, eight are employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state including Delaware State University and Delaware Technical and Community College.

Critics of a ban on legislators obtaining state jobs claim that the state shouldn’t bar individuals who may be very well qualified for a position from obtaining such a job. This point is moot. Elected officials should be held to the highest of standards. Further, by choosing to run for office, candidates and those who become elected are inherently choosing to make sacrifices – putting the public good before their own self interest.

Protecting the public trust and improving public perception is a small price to pay for those who pursue elected office.

In a time when public confidence in government is low, enacting Senate Bill 96, or a version thereof, is a small, somewhat symbolic step that can and should be taken to show the public that Delaware’s General Assembly wants to restore the public trust in government.

A roadblock such as the requirement of a constitutional amendment should not stop elected officials from doing what is right – especially when there is a clear alternative to accomplishing the goal.

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