Friday, July 20, 2012

Newt Gingrich's To Save America 2

In my latest reading of Newt Gingrich's To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, Newt defines what he means by "secular", "socialist", and "machine".  In this post, I'd like to focus on the "socialist" part.  Newt on page 42 defines what he means by socialism:

"Broadly defined, socialist policies favor increased central planning of the economy by politicians and bureaucrats instead of allowing entrepreneurs, businesses, and customers to make decisions in the free market.  Socialists also favor government attempts to collectivize the means of production and to divvy up the national wealth.  Socialists favor these methods because they insist on equality of results, rather than the traditional American belief in equality under the law.  Therefore, they champion a strong central government to impose equality of outcomes, as Joe the Plumber found out during the 2008 campaign when he was told by then-candidate Obama that taxes needed to be raised in order to 'spread the wealth around'".

On page 45, Newt summarizes why he considers the policies of President Barack Obama, the Democrats in Congress, and others on the Left to be socialist:

"The policies of the Left are clearly socialist.  They would have government define and dominate every aspect of energy production in America.  They would have government define and dominate healthcare----one-sixth of the U.S. economy.  (The first healthcare overhaul bill to pass the House gave the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to unilaterally reduce benefits, increase premiums, and establish waiting lines for high risk patients.)  They have taken over AIG, America's largest insurer.  They took over General Motors and Chrysler.  They dominate banking.  They have a 'pay czar' in the White House to dictate salaries at ostensibly private companies.  These actions are consistent with a socialist vision of America where the government defines and dominates the private sector."

I have a variety of responses to this:

1.  I don't think that President Barack Obama is totally against "allowing entrepreneurs, businesses, and customers to make decisions in the free market."  Granted, he is for certain regulations and does not support a completely laissez-faire economy, but he is for the existence of private businesses in the United States.  Does he support the government bringing about equality of outcomes?  I seriously doubt that he wants for the government to ensure that everyone makes the exact same amount of money.  But Obama probably does believe that it's a problem when a small piece of the America population makes so much money, while so many people who are poor and middle-class struggle to make ends meet.  His desire to spread the wealth around is not just about raising taxes, but it's also about giving tax cuts and tax breaks to the middle class so that they can have a chance, while increasing taxes on the rich so that the government can prevent a deficit.

2.  I do not think that President Barack Obama intended for the government to permanently run General Motors and Chrysler.  It was an emergency measure that was designed to rescue those companies.  I'm not sure what the latest is, but I read here that the U.S. Treasury Department's share of GM stock has significantly declined over the years, meaning that the company is moving more and more into private hands.

3.  What about the White House Pay Czar?  What I gather from my Internet search is that his job was to cap the salaries of executives at companies that were receiving a bailout.  I think that's reasonable because, when companies are in trouble, their money should be used to rebuild the company, not to provide exorbitant salaries to executives, some of whom have contributed to running the company to the ground.  I wouldn't want for the government permanently to tell companies how much they can pay, but it's understandable to me as a temporary emergency measure.

4.  Like Newt, I do believe that Obamacare brings about increased government intervention into health care, especially through the regulations that are placed on insurance companies.  A couple of people (who are not right-wing) have recommended this article, which discusses what has changed (or will change) under Obamacare.

Some of those regulations strike me as reasonable, such as the requirement that insurance companies completely cover preventative care, as well as the prohibition on insurance companies dropping people who are sick.  Some of the regulations, however, I do not entirely understand.  The article says: "A limit is placed on what type of insurance accounts can be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Basically, your insurer isn't paying for the Aspirin you bought for that hangover."  The goal here may be to prevent people from increasing costs for the health care system by letting their insurance pay for their over-the-counter medication (without a prescription).  But I think that people should be able to get medication cheaply even when it is not prescribed by a doctor.  Some people prefer alternative forms of medicine, such as homeopathy, and I do not believe that insurance companies should be required to discriminate against such people's medical preferences.  But I don't know whether that specific regulation relates to that or not.

I'd be uncomfortable with not having any government regulations at all on health insurance.  Just leaving things to the free market, I do not know how profitable it would be for insurance companies to pay for those who are really sick.  There's also the danger that, in a laissez-faire way of doing health insurance, people would not buy insurance that is comprehensive enough, since they'd want to save themselves money.  The result of that would be that people would not be contributing enough to the system, and also that they'd get sick and find that their insurance does not cover treatment for their condition.

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