Dr. Ben

Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With my friend to call my own, I’ll never be alone
And you, my friend, will see, you’ve got a friend in me

“Ben,” as sung by Michael Jackson

being black and being conservative is a sure way to get some face time on Fox or some mouth time on right-wing radio. It’s no secret that right-wingers have been looking for an Anti-Obama, some nimble-minded African-American who can represent and articulate reactionary conservatism the way they mistakenly think Obama represents and articulates radical liberalism.

As for Fox, nearly every black conservative in America has appeared on the “news” channel at some time or another, and the latest black conservative interest, after Allen West and Herman Cain, is Dr. Benjamin Carson. Network stars have been practically begging Carson to run for president, and this morning he appeared once again on the IQ-unfriendly Fox and Friends, apparently just to remind Foxers that he is still black and still conservative and, by the way, has a book for sale. It was the usual stuff.fox and carson

But Ben Carson himself is rather unusual. Not too many political junkies had heard of him before he kicked sand in President Obama’s face at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast. Carson’s 27-minute talk caused legs and other body parts to tingle throughout the conservative media complex, including at The Wall Street Journal, which was ready to put him in the White’s House. A salivating Sean Hannity asked him if he would run for president and he said he would,

if the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it.

He told ABC’s Jonathan Carl that it wasn’t his “intention” to run for office,

But I always say, ‘I’ll leave that up to God.”

Uh-oh. God, as we have seen lately, has had some trouble picking winners, so the Almighty may be somewhat reluctant to tell yet another right-winger that he (or she) is presidential material.

Carson grew up poor in Detroit with his Bible-believing mom. After some initial resistance, he eventually responded to her you-can-do-anything admonitions and began doing well in school. Troubled with a ferocious temper—reportedly he tried to hit his mom with a hammer and tried to stab a friend with a knife—he figured out how to control it. He got a scholarship to Yale and graduated with a degree in psychology, then graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. At 33 he became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the youngest doctor ever to do so.

He became world-famous for his work on separating conjoined twins, and this fascinating article reveals the complexity and teamwork involved in that amazing type of surgery. He has received lots of awards, including our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2008. He even had a TV movie made about him.

Because of his notoriety as a surgeon and his inner-city background, Carson began making a lot of speeches, sharing his story and God-fearing conservative philosophy with others, and writing books, most recently, America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great.

You can, by now, guess what made America great, according to Carson: Judeo-Christian values and unfettered capitalism. And you can guess that if we don’t listen to this neurosurgeon’s political advice, including lowering taxes on rich people, we’re all doomed.

But what you probably couldn’t guess—unless you observe right-wing behavior fairly closely—is that what Carson really wants, more than being in the White’s House, is a television gig.

According to The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe,

After a several-day onslaught from fans and the media, many wanting to know his potential political plans, Carson has eased away from suggestions he may have his eyes on the White House. The 61-year-old doctor ben carsonnow says the likelihood of a presidential run is “incredibly small.” What he really wants is a second career in television when he retires from Johns Hopkins later this year.

“Maybe if you write about it in your article, somebody will say, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” he said in an interview. […]

Before he left, Carson finished his thought. He would like to do a show that focuses on “educating the American populace about things that are essential to our freedom,” he said in his soft, steady voice. Or he would like to try a show that would bring together people who hold opposing views on critical issues that are dividing the nation. Carson would then help them seek a middle ground or resolution.

“If the proper venue was presented, I would probably accept such a thing,” he said.

Of course! Who wouldn’t rather get paid a million bucks to go on TV and tell people how to run the country, instead of actually going to the trouble of getting elected and, well, running the country?

The New York Times interviewed the new conservative star and reported:

Dr. Carson said he was a “flaming liberal” in college but became conservative through his own climb to success. “One thing I always believed strongly in was personal responsibility and hard work,” he said. “I found the Democrat Party leaving me behind on that particular issue.”

Look, I don’t have a problem with someone changing his or her political views. This is, after all, The Erstwhile Conservative blog. But what really disturbs me about this surgical savant turned political philosopher is that last comment. You know, the one about Democrats not believing in personal responsibility and hard work, which is why the good doctor abandoned them.

I don’t know one single Democrat who doesn’t believe in personal responsibility and hard work, do you? And I don’t see a plank in the Democratic Party platform that reads: “We’re for irresponsible behavior and laziness.”

The truth is that some folks achieve great success or get rich or both and then suddenly remember that they are conservatives and that it was conservatives who invented personal responsibility and hard work, and that if you didn’t grow up to be wealthy or, say, a famous brain surgeon, then you didn’t work hard enough because Democrats said you didn’t have to.

I am sick of that lying meme.

And I am sick of the lying meme that says if you work hard and play by all the rules, you too will be successful and live out your dreams. Not everyone will. Not everyone who does all the right things ends up with a pot of gold at the end. Some folks don’t even end up with much of a pot.

God love Ben Carson’s mother and what she did for her son, but there are a lot of mothers like that who raise their kids to be hard-working, responsible adults who don’t happen to see those kids turn out to be famous or wealthy or the object of Rush Limbaugh’s affections.

And, by God, there are a lot of mothers who raise their kids like Ben Carson’s mother raised him and those mothers happen to call themselves Democrats because they believe that the Democratic Party, for all its faults, is the party that, should all else fail, keep an eye on those who can’t or don’t make it.

Dr. Carson is obviously an extraordinary man with exceptional talents. He also seems to be just slightly less doctrinaire than the average conservative know-it-all, even though he said something at CPAC as ridiculous as anything that has exited the mouth of Bill O’Reilly, when he told the cheering crowd, “We have to resist this war on God.” War on God? How can a man so smart say something so dumb? I guess it’s all part of auditioning for a job on Fox.

In any case, Dr. Carson may get a television deal or run for president or some other political office. But if he really wants to serve people, as he has claimed time and again, I hope he changes his mind about retiring as a surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

We have enough right-wing pundits and politicians in this country and not enough people who can do what Ben Carson can do for his fellow human beings, in the following case an eight-year-old girl:

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37 Comments

  1. And I am sick of the lying meme that says if you work hard and play by all the rules, you too will be successful and live out your dreams.

    Yep. A year old article in Washington Post —
    “upward mobility from the bottom”was significantly lower in the United States than in most major European countries, including Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Another study, by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany in 2006, uses other metrics and concludes that “the U.S. appears to be exceptional in having less rather than more upward mobility.”

    But it takes more than facts to break the back of a meme. You will hear from your followers who keep the meme alive.

    Like

    • Helen,

      Thanks for that timely reminder about the relative lack of upward mobility in the U.S. That has been going on for more than 30 years and Obama’s administration, now that Congress has essentially been paralyzed by Tea Party Republicans, is powerless to fix it.

      Duane

      Like

  2. writer89

     /  March 25, 2013

    All of which proves that you can be REALLY good at something (like surgery or practicing law) and still be seduced by the desire to hold onto all your wealth and believe that either you deserve it or that God wants you to have it.

    Like

    • There is no question that Dr. Ben is good at what he does, that he deserves every penny he has earned, and that he is entitled to believe that God has rewarded him for his hard work and dedication and skill. But what I find off-putting is the notion that Democrats advance a philosophy that devalues hard work and responsibility. The safety net we champion is there to protect people when they fall, which presumes they are up on the high wire trying to make a living. Not everyone can dazzle us with their acrobatic abilities, like Dr. Ben can.

      Like

      • writer89

         /  March 26, 2013

        I don’t think my comment was sufficiently clear! What I mean to say is that he’s obviously a smart guy, and I’m sure he deserves his success, but the argument has been made that here’s a smart, successful person who shares a philosophy held mostly by idiots. So there must be some truth to it. My argument is that he has made a lot of money, and usually making a lot of money tends to make you espouse conservative beliefs (such as that dribble about Democrats that you have focused on) purely out of self-interest, and not because you’ve actually thought much about it. I don’t think he has. Obviously he thinks more about surgery than he does about fiscal policy or politics in general.

        By the way, on another subject brought up on this thread, there IS such a thing as “melanine” (not to be confused with malamine, which was added to Chinese baby formula). It’s a person, and here’s more about him: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/melanine

        Like

        • I don’t know how much thought Dr. Ben put into his philosophy, but obviously enough to write (or help write) a book about it. I will say that’s more than the average conservative I deal with. In any case, I will also note that he at times seems uncharacteristically aware of the abuses of his own side, such as name-calling, etc. Having said that, I share with you your inclination to assume that for a lot of wealthy or successful conservatives, the tendency is to adopt a philosophy “purely out of self-interest.” I just warn us all, myself included, that we shouldn’t be too quick to attribute that to everyone new on the scene.

          By the way, I had never heard that music before. I enjoyed it, but I have found that, for me, that kind of music has a rather limited shelf life. I don’t really know when I would listen to it for pure pleasure, other than bed time. How about you?

          Duane

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          • writer89

             /  March 27, 2013

            I didn’t even listen to the music! I was just searching for the word “melanine.” I’m always interested in new, made-up words. Anyway, song is called “Melanine,” and the artist is Tycho. I guess most of his stuff sounds like that. Here’s the Wikipedia page on him. (Anson, pay attention, because this is the only “melanine” that exists. If you search for the word on Google, it brings up all references to “melanin.” So even the Googlebot knows.)
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tycho_(musician)

            Like

  3. ansonburlingame

     /  March 26, 2013

    Amazing, at least to me. A black man from a ghetto rises to fame and fortune and provides significant contribution to humans through a remarkable medical practice. Then he gets trashed herein!!!

    My guess is the good Doctor has enough money to live very comfortably in retirement and has no need for a “million dollar TV show”. But he is not content, evidentially, to sit back and let the world or this country takes it course without his contributions in the future. And he gets trashed!!!

    I see two black men, about ten years apart in age. Both came from “less than” and rose to fame and fortune. One did it entirely as a politician and the other through the practice of medicine. Both have distinctly different views about how to move America forward in this new century.

    Is there any possible black (or Hispanic) man or woman that could possibly have conservative ideas that would NOT be trashed in this blog if he/she chooses to offer such views that counter the sainted Obama??? Nope, not a chance in this blog! There seems to be to be an automatic “Uncle Tom” accusation from the left anytime a black dares raise his head as a conservative!!!

    I will never forget the stereotypical reaction from the right, in 2008, when a black woman was shown on national TV celebrating Obama’s victory and claiming “Now I don’t have to worry about my mortgage”, or the black woman supporting Obama in 2012 claiming access to “phones” if he is elected.

    Melanine content in a body has nothing to do with such politics but cultural background sure does, it seems to me. Now what is wrong with some man offering his approach to rising above such a cultural background of dependency and moving far above the crowds within the ghettos (be they black, white or any other color of skin)?

    Anson

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    • Anson,
      I agree. Melanine (sic) content has “nothing to do with such politics…” Since the word does not exist, melanine (sic) has nothing to do with anything.

      However, a blog post you published several years ago does offer a glimpse into your disturbing take concerning melanin content and politics. Although expunged from the Globe’s former community blogger platform, cyberspace misfires never go away.

      http://ansonburlingame.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/would-barack-obama-have-been-a-mau-mau/

      Like

      • Oh, come on, John.  Anson took it easy on Obama with lines like this:

        So even back then, if Barack Obama had then his sense of democracy and basic human rights, I doubt that he would have been a “blood drinking terrorist” slaughtering women and children white “settlers” though I am also sure he would have considered them “occupiers” of his native land had he been a true Kikuyu.

        You see? Anson expressed a “doubt” that O would have  been a “blood drinking terrorist” who slaughtered white women and kids. That’s not so bad, is it?

        Duane

        PS: Rereading the comment section to that post brought back fond memories. And it makes me wonder what ever happened to wipewinger?

        Like

        • RDG,

          I guessing “wingwiper” has been taken by either a practice rapture or parole violation.

          Like

          • “Practice rapture”? You mean God needs a Mulligan before he sucks up his beloved and leaves the rest of us to crash and burn? Perhaps losing the last two presidential elections has gotten his deity dobber down a bit and he has lost some confidence. I, for one, am glad there will be a practice round of Christian-snatching. It will give sinners like me a chance to get in on the real thing because if I see God-fearing Bill O’Reilly sucked off the Factor sound stage and airlifted to that big studio in the sky–even if it is just a practice snatch–I’m falling on my knees right then and there.

            Duane

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            • RDG,

              You know the old saying, “Not even God can hit a one iron.” If Bill O is sucked into His Heavenly Kingdom, I’m maxing out what’s left of my credit at Unique Liquors.

              Like

              • Which leads me to the age-old question that even Aquinas couldn’t answer: Can God create a hole so difficult even he can’t birdie it?

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                • That’s a good question. Theologians far and wide could entertain themselves if God entered the Masters and was humbled with three double bogies trying to get past “Amen Corner.”

                  Like

    • Anson,

      Look. I realize you don’t read every word of what I write. That’s okay. Everybody skips around now and then. But most people don’t skip around and then misrepresent something they didn’t actually read. That’s what amazes me about you.

      I “trashed” Dr. Ben? Huh? Point me to one comment that amounts to trashing him. (As Michael Barrows above shows, I actually praised him several times and admire him very much—as an accomplished surgeon.)

      Oh, I get it. Anytime a black conservative is criticized (and it was rather mild criticism, if I must say), the old “Uncle Tom” card comes out from people on the right. You must have been reading Breitbart, or some similar site.

      For the record, there isn’t a damn thing wrong with him expressing his philosophy or his views, but when he “trashes” the Democratic Party, and in a manner that I find completely outrageous, I’m not going to ignore it, whether he has “melanine” in his body or not.

      Duane

      Like

  4. N.Michael Barrows

     /  March 26, 2013

    Anson,
    I think you may have misread the article. It appeared to me (in the first, second, and third readings) that Duane praised Dr. Carson for his accomplishments and contributions to his profession: “Dr. Carson is obviously an extraordinary man with exceptional talents.” Such ridicule! I could feel the anger in Duane’s fingers as he typed that ‘trash’ about Dr. Carson.

    I believe the issue at hand is Duane taking exception to a comment made by Dr. Carson about the Democratic party. Hold on, let me see if I can find it….. Ah Ha! Found it: “… what really disturbs me about this surgical savant turned political philosopher is that last comment. You know, the one about Democrats not believing in personal responsibility and hard work…”

    So you see Anson, it was not Dr. Carson that was ‘trashed’ in the article. It was his statement about the Democratic party, misrepresenting us as unreliable and lazy people, that caused him to be the focus of the article.

    Like

  5. I watched his appearance at the prayer breakfast with the President. I thought that the right way overplayed the extent to which it was ‘telling off the President.’ There was some of that, but it was not whole speech. The right wing noise machine likely played their favorite excerpts again and again. That became the speech to the right in effect, and a new hero was invented. As you say Duane there is great fondness for what I might call a ‘great black hope’ to help vanquish the scary negro in the White House.

    Like

    • I agree, Bruce, that the reports of what he did and what he actually did weren’t quite a match. But, still, he did go out of his way to sting the President in a forum he knew would bring him attention.

      Interestingly, as his comment on guns proves (he doesn’t think assault weapons have a place in large cities), he may prove to be a bit of a disappointment to those who have already canonized him.

      Like

      • Anonymous

         /  March 26, 2013

        Sounds like Anson could find him a spot on Fox News. A real distorter.

        Like

      • I suppose that if you truly think liberals simply are against any kind of personal initiative, and Dr. Ben clearly has shown a lot of that: he’s the anti-liberals anti-liberal. As you suggest, I think that’s a gross distortion of the thrust of American liberalism. I think it come down to liberals defining themselves, not letting the likes Rush Limbaugh do it. Limbaugh and his ilk mostly effectively define liberals as people who are against anything good, and for pointless unlimited government. I think I asked you early on how you define liberal, so I come back to that. Liberals need to make people aware of their role in building the country, and not just since about 1980 or so that the Limbaughs of the world will focus on.

        Like

        • Couldn’t agree with you more about liberals allowing Limbaugh and his imitators to define us. One of the reasons I started this blog was to do my tiny little part in rehabilitating the term.

          I began work on what will be a rather long defense of liberalism, based on the writings of one of the father’s of modern conservatism (not WFB, by the way). Some day I hope to finish it, but right now it seems like a Herculean task.

          Duane

          Like

  6. ansonburlingame

     /  March 27, 2013

    OK, I start with a sentence in the opening paragraph saying, “It’s no secret that right-wingers have been looking for an Anti-Obama, some nimble-minded African-American who can represent and articulate reactionary conservatism the way they mistakenly think Obama represents and articulates radical liberalism”

    So a black surgeon is a nimble minded African-American who can….reactionary conservatism….” That set the tone of the blog, in my view and yes it was “trashy writing” or name calling, again in my view.

    Not every conservative thinks all people must pull themselves up by their own efforts without any assistance for somewhere. Not every liberal thinks anyone below the poverty line MUST be given the money to get above that level of income either.

    But in general the two sides are far apart on such social policies and when a distinguished Black man counters the Presidents views on the subject, well read above again.

    I watched the whole speech. I thought it was an excellent speech, emphasizing things I believe to be important. I did not see the speech as an affront to the President nor did I believe the setting was inappropriate for such a speech. Perhaps the emphasis on God would not have been included in a more political setting however. But who know for sure.

    Ben Carson is a good man and a good American and hopefully a model of hard work and integrity to be admired and followed by youngsters everywhere. That does not mean Democrats don’t have such men in their ranks either. It is just hard to find them in public policy speeches, in my view!!!

    Now go compare Thomas Sowell, Ben Carson and say Robert Reich!!!! Forget skin color for sure. Who do you admire the most??? Don’t bother answering the question either, it was …..???

    Anson

    Like

    • Anson,

      So, I allegedly “trashed” Carson by referring to him as “nimble-minded.” Thus, I introduce readers to Conservative Logic 101.

      And, class, if you pass this course you fail.

      Duane

      Like

      • RDG,

        One thing is self-evident: Anson never has to fear that you or anyone else will ever accuse him of being “nimble-minded.”

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  7. Duane, you said,

    The truth is that some folks achieve great success or get rich or both and then suddenly remember that they are conservatives and that it was conservatives who invented personal responsibility and hard work, and that if you didn’t grow up to be wealthy or, say, a famous brain surgeon, then you didn’t work hard enough because Democrats said you didn’t have to.

    I am sick of that lying meme.

    That’s the nub of it all right. I don’t like it either because Democrat-sponsored programs have lifted countless millions out of poverty and preserved the dignity and security of millions more, saving them from penury in old age. However, there is just enough truth in the arguments of conservatives to make me uncomfortable. Yes, Dr. Ben just happened to be tops in intelligence, dexterity and competitiveness so that he could benefit from a high-principled mom and several scholarship programs looking to both skim the cream of intellectual raw material and at the same time rack up points in federal minority programs. But what about those who were not so gifted? You said it well when you said,

    And, by God, there are a lot of mothers who raise their kids like Ben Carson’s mother raised him and those mothers happen to call themselves Democrats because they believe that the Democratic Party, for all its faults, is the party that, should all else fail, keep an eye on those who can’t or don’t make it.

    Amen to that, Duane.

    But sure, I read Carson’s remarks and there in the center of them was the notion of a “flat tax”, or in other words, reforming the tax code. Hell, if we could actually do that, all manner of improvement could be achieved. Most if not all who commented here have boosted the same idea in blogs from time to time. If speaking out as he did could make that happen, I’m all for it, but I’m not sanguine about it happening. Common sense solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems like this aren’t going to happen simply because of human nature. Take for instance the mortgage tax deduction. After WW II there was a need for it to jump-start the housing industry, but not now. Now, it unfairly benefits people who least need it, well-to-do middle class people and real estate people, but the public is hooked on what they see as a benefit and would be outraged if it were “taken away”.

    And, there is a growing and unintended problem with the government’s safety net for the less well-off, and that is the disability provisions in the amended Social Security laws. There are currently 14 million people on disability and people are being added to the disability rolls at a rate that will double their numbers every 15 years. The reason this is happening is because states, who must pay welfare, do not have to pay it to the disabled who are paid by the federal government, so they are hiring private contractors at over $2,000 per person to do the paperwork and get anyone with a complaint, back pain, headaches or whatever, to transition to disability. This is exacerbated by our dysfunctional healthcare system which charges way, way too much. It turns out that if you’re on disability you get about $1,000 a month and are signed up for nearly free healthcare. Compare that to the alternative of working at a stand-up job and trying to pay your doctor’s bills. I fear it’s already creating a permanent sub-class of dependent citizens. Evidence: the growing number of handicapped parking spaces and people in electric carts. Coupled with the broken healthcare system, it’s going to bankrupt the country.

    For more detail on this shocking story I was blissfully unaware of, follow this link.

    Like

  8. ansonburlingame

     /  March 28, 2013

    Thanks Jim,

    Whether intended or not, you provide examples of thinks that need changing. Your list is accurate, in my view, as far as it goes, but the final list is much longer than above as well.

    I have been struck by a recent ad by Prudential. It speaks of life expectancy at age 61 and SS retirement age at 65 when SS first came along. That age has not changed at all and yet we all know people live much longer than earlier. See the dots on the wall chart used in the ad. But try to increase the retirement age under SS today and then read the comments herein?????

    In 1913 when we passed the ?? amendment to put an income tax into place we wound up with 7% for everyone, initially. Then look what happened over time. Now some expect or hope for federal income taxes to redistribute income across America, not just fund the constitutional needs of the federal government. Is that progress, or……..?

    Finally Duane,

    Had you said a ‘nimble minded man” not a “nimble minded Black man” I would not have gotten immediately suspicious. But when you added “reactionary conservatism” to the man’s characteristics, well my suspicions would have rebounded. Obviously you must feel that Ben Carson is a “reactionary conservative”. That puts him in the same camp as the likes of Limbaugh, Akins, and a host of others, or so it would seem.

    I accept that you feel that Carson is a “good man” in terms of how he has lived his life, so far. But when he tries to suggest such methods for others across a broad spectrum, you and others leap all over him. For sure you cannot claim that your blog was complementary of Ben Carson and supportive of his ideas.

    The briefing I observed on Tues at a BOE meeting and the comments on this blog caused me to think, again, harder about some of the basic values in these discussions. I then posted a blog “Income and Culture” on that topic. We won’t agree on that fundamental dilemma, either of which causes what, income causes culture or the other way around???

    There is a simple test to check your sentiments on the subject however. Give every family of four in America at least $50K per year to live on. Forget debt, deficits, etc., just give them the money outright and keep it coming at that level for year after year after. And let them spend the money given however they choose to spend it.

    Will that produce a “good America”?

    Anson

    Like

    • @ Anson,

      No, you are misreading my point about the disability provisions in the SSI system. Despite your straw man argument that Social Security and Medicare are give-aways to the slothful I submit that they do not belong on a list with the disability program because those benefit society enormously. And the nation can very well afford those programs, especially if, as we have previously discussed, we were to reform healthcare and stop trying to fund a Cold War military. The SSI disability program in contrast actually incentivizes people to drop out of the work force and become the antithesis of what Ben Carson is, unsuccessful, unproductive and discouraged. Can you see the difference?

      Of course, the question then is, what do we do about it? The provisions enabling it were passed in the 1980’s by unanimous vote in the House. Unanimous, both parties. (There was one lone Democrat who thought it was a bad idea, but he voted for it rather than be the sole holdout.) I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this mess but I’m certainly not advocating removing the whole social safety net in the process.

      Like

    • Anson,

      1) Certain working people aren’t living that much longer now than they were in 1935, when Social Security first became a reality. And even if they were, so what? That would be a good thing, not a bad thing. What is it you don’t like about people being able to enjoy a few more years in retirement?

      2) Your income-tax example is ridiculous. The world is much more complex, much more crowded, and much more civilized than it was in 1913, for God’s sake. Thus, more money is required to do the things that need to be done to keep us relatively civil. If it were up to people like you, we’d still be driving around in horse-drawn carriages because it just cost so damn much to buy a modern car and keep gas in it.

      3) You finally admit that your own internal “suspicions” led you to an erroneous reading of what I wrote about Dr. Ben. Whether he is a Limbaugh conservative, I don’t know. What I was expressing is that the Limbaugh’s of the world think he is and that’s what they are looking for: a black conservative, reactionary to the core, who can bridge the gap between conservatism and color.

      4) My piece was highly complementary of Dr. Ben, but definitely not “supportive of his ideas.” So?

      5) I don’t know what your hypothetical about “giving” a family of four $50,000 to live on every year is supposed to prove, but its premise seems to be (you make the same mistake Dr. Ben makes) that I think giving folks stuff is the way to happiness. I don’t think that, so I won’t play along. I support the government, we the people collectively, helping folks who need help because it makes this a better country to live in, for all of us, even those of us who, erroneously, think we don’t need any help.

      Duane

      Like

    • Thanks for the Dr. Ben link, John. This kind of thing always reminds me of Nobelist Linus Pauling whose award convinced him and lots of other people that his expertise must necessarily suffuse outwardly from his specialty. Such thinking is ubiquitous of course; one has only to observe tabloid headlines at the grocery store to see the evidence. Celebrities must be wise. After all, they are successful.

      Like

    • I missed that one, John, but I’m not surprised. I don’t think Dr. Ben wants to run for president anyway. I think he just wants a platform from which to enlighten the rest of us, sort of like Mike Huckabee. I don’t think he ever wanted to be president as much as he wanted his own show on Fox.

      In any case, the bestiality thing is really amazing. Sotomayor, of course, didn’t breathe a word about bestiality during the oral arguments this week, only the suggestion that if marriage is considered a “fundamental right,” then “what state restrictions cold ever exist?” She was, of course, referencing polygamy and incest. Bestiality, since it involves sexual relations between animals that couldn’t possibly enter into a marriage contract, is a completely ridiculous and bigoted and embarrassing objection to allowing gays to get married, but it does reveal something important, and something dangerous, about the political mind—tainted as it is by religious fundamentalism—of our gifted neurosurgeon.

      Thanks for passing that along, John.

      Duane

      Like

  9. ansonburlingame

     /  March 29, 2013

    Jim,

    You should know better than to accuse me of considering “that Social Security and Medicare are give-aways to the slothful”. That is the kind of rebutal I usually see from McKnight or Janes Reaction.

    Of course we need SS and Medicare. But as well we need to pay for them, sustainably. Retirement age has a lot to do with that cost and you know it. Raise the retirement age high enough and cost even goes away. If the “average” receipents now live to 80 or 85, then SS COULD be revised to where it was initially, with the benefit age higher than the average life span. But of course we can’t do that politically, or perhaps even morally, today!!! But every year we raise that age there is a lot of money saved, not spent, in doing so. But over half of the country will not stand for such changes, now.

    You may however be on a new and better track so to speak. How did an old age retirement program become as well a program for younger disabled people? 14 million you say are in that disability program but not yet at retirement age, if I read you comment correctly. That is a lot of money for sure but we never increased taxes to pay for it either, as I recall. It just sort of came about, incrementally for a while, until……!!!

    Congress alone COULD pull disability out of the SS program and set it up with general revenue funding to accomodate such a new approach. Do that and we might even see the SS concerns over funding today go away, MAYBE even REDUCE SS taxes on wages.. But of course the problem of paying for disability, rather than old age retirement will still be right in our faces.

    Finally, you and others on the left think we can pay for SS and Medicare without a wholesale increase in taxes for everyone. We can do it with new programs such as the public option for HC, right. Are you reading today the cries of anguish from a host of “pundits” and others over the now getting closer and real impact of ACA? Ready to admit something must change to accomodate those impacts now?

    So once again, forget SS for the moment and just consider Medicare “as we know it” with its $250 Billion plus deficit each year. Show me a way to fix that financial monster eating us alive and I will listen and consider how it might work. In fact we already know how it COULD work. Simply raise Medicare taxes to the tune of $250 Billion per year on EVERYONE earning a wage. Nope, can’t do that now can we. Any other good ideas, fixing Medicare as we know it to become self sustaining, without trying to invent a whole new HC program all over America today?

    Anson

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    • @ Anson,

      You’re right, I yielded to emotion and accused you unjustly of wanting to do away with the Social Security and Medicare safety nets. You didn’t say that or mean it.

      However, I can’t and don’t apologize for advocating that the nation can and should afford to fund those programs as they are. The argument you support for “reforming” them is a sop to lighten the financial load on the rich. Yes, it’s true that Social Security and Medicare will run out of funds under their present structure but that alone doesn’t mean that their benefits should be pared rather than increasing their revenue, an option the right refuses to admit even exists. It goes to the quality of the society we want, as Duane often points out.

      “Entitlement reform” aims to solve a budget problem on the backs of those who can least afford it, but with the gulf still widening between the haves and have-nots, that’s not the right solution. Obama is right, the nation first needs to repair the economy and despite the GOP call for austerity, the stock market is soaring and the housing market is coming back. Next is to reduce unemployment, and there are signs of improvement there too. Would that be happening if Obama had caved to the austerity demands last year? I don’t think so.

      Personally I think the disability problem is a much bigger problem than entitlement reform and should be tackled first. (Yes, the 14 million are below retirement age. Did you know they are also not reflected in the unemployment figures?) But, I don’t know how to do it. It is similar to the EMTALA problem, a political step made with unintended consequences. The public doesn’t understand either problem and doesn’t want to.

      By the way, the ACA is not the same thing as “a public option” and I never maintained it would solve the healthcare funding problem, just help it a little and bring 30 million or more into paying into it. Frankly I’m puzzled why Conservatives balk at that – they should want to see people paying at least something for what they get. The problem is actually not finding how to pay for it but how to reduce its cost to less than $7.00 per band-aid.

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  10. ansonburlingame

     /  April 1, 2013

    See Jim,

    We can agree on the problem but still disagree over solutions. HC costs far more than we can, politically, pay for it is THE problem. Janet just received a “free” emergency appendectomy, a $40,000 expense that I could no more pay for than fly to the moon today.

    NO ONE that I know of would show up in any ER in America today and be denied such HC for sure. But few if any can pay for such HC, either. Thus our dilemma, today.

    I have long advocated finding a way to make Medicare self sustaining in terms of cost. The biggest step in that direction, in my view, is to “simply” remove the cap on wages for Medicare payments into the system, paycheck to paycheck. I also don’t know why “bonuses” are not considered “wages” for such payments as well. If you make a “million dollars” in your job then pay 1.9% or whatever it may be to support Medicare as we know it. End of problem or at least some 50% or so of the problem, today, it would seem.

    But ACA, the biggest “reform” of HC since Medicare, probably, did not even TRY to address such problems. Instead it opened up the HC system for MORE people with some attempts, yet to be really understood, to get them to buy more insurance to pay for such HC. My guess is the end result will be another X00,000 people receiving MORE HC and the money not being there to pay for it. X in that case being at least 10 or even more, making “it” a multimillion people problem and Lord knows how many $Billions in money.

    Medicaid expansion in MO is the same thing. IF some brave Democrat proposed a MO State Income Tax INCREASE along with putting 300,000 more people on government supported HC, then I would consider and maybe support such an option. But no, liberals call for expanding Medicaid coverage NOW with no idea how to pay for it in the long run, by both state and federal authorities.

    Sure, our mutual goal should as well be to get rid of EMTALA, ultimately. It is a lousy system that breds over reliance on others to pay for HC by some. And it drives HC costs out of sight. But you and I are confounded to find ways to do so as well. That does not make us dumb or intolerant either to at least discuss ways to do so without slips of the written word accusing either of lack of …….?

    Anson

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