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Healthcare Reform Hypocrisy On End Of Life

Ever since former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made her “death panel” remarks on Facebook, President Obama has repeated as often as he can that the government in the proposed health care reform plan would not “pull the plug on granny”.

However, there is one agency responsible for healthcare of a certain segment of the population  whose actions directly contradict the President’s rhetoric (Hat tip: The Corner):

If President Obama wants to better understand why America’s discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, “Your Life, Your Choices.” It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated “Your Life, Your Choices.”

Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

“Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”

The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”

When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

This just goes to show in judging where the President stands on different aspects of health care reform that it might be better to pay more attention to his actions than his words.

The (In)Experience Factor

During the primaries and the general election campaign last year, the most potent argument made for not supporting Barack Obama was his lack of experience. He had never managed anything. He did not have any leadership experience. And with only two years in the U. S. Senate, he lacked sufficient knowledge of how the legislative process worked in Washington. In other words, he didn’t know how to lead or to govern. Although the debate over Obamacare is far from over, this fatal weakness has been laid open for all to see in the debacle over how health care reform has been handled so far.

President Obama’s first mistake was that he did not lay out a vision for what health care reform should look like. He relied on the same nonspecific campaign rhetoric that led to victory last November in the election when talking about health care reform. He had convinced the public something needed to be done about health care but he hadn’t made the case for specific steps that needed to be taken. Even his New York Times op-ed doesn’t contain a single tangible proposal on how he will achieve the reform goals he wants to meet. By contrast, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey laid out a very sensible proposal for reform in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. The President could have taken a cue from someone like Mr. Mackey by providing specific proposals of what to accomplish with reform legislation.

The President’s second mistake was not practicing what he preached when it came to bipartisanship. At the beginning of this debate, President Obama made it clear he wanted support for healthcare reform to be bipartisan. But instead of bringing Republicans into the process of drafting the reform legislation, he outsourced the writing of the bill to Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic caucus. As a result, he got a bill that was chock full of goodies for their liberal supporters and controversial proposals that no one in their right mind could defend. The President then squandered precious political capital having to play defense on issues such as “death panels” and single-payer programs and flip-flops on the public option.

Now the President finds himself in a bind. His approval ratings are plummeting. The public is growing skeptical about whether they can trust him on this issue. Getting Republicans to come to the table at this point seems unlikely. Despite having supermajorities in both houses of Congress, he probably won’t be able to get anything passed anytime soon as he can’t keep his own party in line.

So what does the President do? Is it time to hit the reset button as some have suggested? You can’t erase the past but you can move forward, can’t you?

The first step for the President will be the most difficult. He has to come out and publicly admit that he has made mistakes in how he has handled health care reform. He then has to tell Congress to start over from scratch. He should bring leaders from both parties together and lay out a plan of what he wants to accomplish and be willing to listen to and incorporate ideas from both parties. There are an abundance of proposals being tossed about. The President needs to be willing to cull through them and working with Congress incorporate the best of them.

President Obama has a difficult task ahead. If health care reform is to be enacted it’s going to require him to do something he hasn’t had to do nor has the experience to do: be a leader. The chances of reform being enacted are directly tied to his ability to demonstrate leadership. If the President’s plan does fail he has no one to blame but himself.

White House Issues Non-Apology Apology

The White House released a statement this evening to try to squash the controversy that erupted Thursday over unsolicted e-mails they had been sending:

The White House for the first time Sunday seemed to acknowledge that people across the country received unsolicited e-mails from the administration last week about health care reform, suggesting the problem is with third-party groups that placed the recipients’ names on the distribution list.

In a written statement released exclusively to FOX News, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the White House hopes those who received the e-mails without signing up for them were not “inconvenienced” by the messages.

“The White House e-mail list is made up of e-mail addresses obtained solely through the White House Web site. The White House doesn’t purchase, upload or merge from any other list, again, all e-mails come from the White House Web site as we have no interest in e-mailing anyone who does not want to receive an e-mail,” the statement said. “If an individual received the e-mail because someone else or a group signed them up or forwarded the e-mail, we hope they were not too inconvenienced.”

This is a classic non-apology apology and doesn’t answer the main question which is how they managed to obtain e-mail addresses of people who did not access the White House website nor they signed up for any e-mail updates.

Since my e-mail address suddenly ended up on the White House distribution list and I hadn’t signed up for anything I would still like to know how they got my e-mail address. Could they reveal which groups had submitted lists from which they got the addresses?

For an administration that promised to be transparent, it seems to be acting a lot like Big Brother to me.

White House Sending Unsolicited E-Mails – Is That A Problem?

Things got a little testy at today’s White House press briefing when Fox News’ correspondent Major Garrett asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about unsolicited e-mails being sent to people who about healthcare reform:

The e-mail itself is not problematic. The White House is using this means of communication to get its message out to concerned voters. But the problem is somehow the White House is getting a hold of people’s e-mail addresses. I don’t have any idea how David Axelrod got my e-mail address. I don’t publish the address anywhere on purpose. I don’t want just anybody to have access to my e-mail address. I’ve never e-mailed the White House or sent anything to their address because I don’t want to give that information to them. But it appears they managed to get it somehow anyway.

The irony here is that if David Axelrod paid any attention to anything I’ve read so far about healthcare reform he would quickly figure out that I am opposed to the President’s proposals.

So the question remains: how is the White House getting folks e-mail addresses and is the privacy of individuals being violated? Just how much information does the White House have and, more importantly, what are they going to do with it?

Where We’re Heading in the Healthcare Debate

I agree with Glenn Beck that we haven’t reached the point where eugenics is being implemented as a matter of policy. However, when you look back at history, you understand the dangers that lie ahead in the health care debate. Click on the video below to see the whole story:

Obamacare and The End of Life

Buried deep within the 1000+ page healthcare bill is a confusing and vague provision that mandates “advanced care planning consultations” for Medicare recipients. What exactly is intended by these consultations is open to interpretation.

The provision originated from an earlier bill
that was designed to encourage patients to consider hospice and pallative care as they near the end of their lives. But make no mistake, this is also about money. According to one estimate, Medicare spends $100 billion a year for care of patients in their last year of life.

Many critics are rightly concerned that the government will be dictating to patients what care they can and can’t receive. The Bioethics Defense Fund is going so far to suggest that this provision is government endorsement of euthanasia.

As a matter of fact, such arguments about the cost of caring for the eldery and infirm as an endorsement for euthanasia has been tried before:

This poster appeared in Nazi Germany during the 1930’s. The message reads: “60,000 Reich Marks. This is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime. Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too.”

The arguments being made for mandatory “advanced care planning consultations” seemed to be eerily similar to the poster above. Critics of the President’s health care plan have very legitimate reasons to be worried about what this provision means. Voters should be concerned also.

Healthcare Reform Is Coming! No, Wait, It Isn’t!

Two different headlines from the same day illustrate the fundamental issues of the healthcare reform debate:

Blue Dog Democrats Announce Deal on Healthcare Reform

Key Senate Aide: Healthcare Reform Deal Not Imminent

The real reason that there is no quick solution coming is threefold: no one can agree on what exactly needs to be reformed, no one can agree on a solution, and the government is trying to provide the solution.

First, what needs to be reformed? It all depends on who you ask. Talk to a liberal Democrat and they will tell you that we need to have universal health insurance. Or that we need to do something about the uninsured. Or that we need to reduce the influence that insurance companies have over medical decisions.

Talk to a conservative Republican and they’ll tell you we need to get the government out of the business of providing health insurance (or at least streamline the current programs). They’ll tell you that we need to eliminate waste in Medicare. They’ll also talk about reducing overall costs.

Who’s right? There’s an element of truth in both sides of the argument. But there is no consensus on exactly what issue(s) need to be reformed thus the wide disagreement on how to solve the problems.

This brings us to the second point which is that without agreement on the problems you can’t find consensus on solutions.

To make matters worse, President Obama is running around pitching a plan without specifics. No one really knows what his proposed solution might be or what he thinks the extent of the problem really is because he doesn’t come right out and tell anyone. He’s been acting as if people will just do what he wishes because he asks them to. Perhaps he would be better served to slow down, listen to all sides in this debate, and figure out what the right steps are to take rather than trying to cram his agenda down the throats of voters. If polls are any indication, voters do not like what they are hearing from the President.

Finally, there is the issue of government involvement in the delivery of health care. Despite the fact that it has been proven repeatedly that government cannot fix every problem, Democrats still want to have government take over health care. Voters do not like that idea and understand what a disaster such a system would be. Most of the proposals so far make the government bureau overseeing health care look like the Office of Circumlocution from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit:

The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.

This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involving the difficult art of governing a country, was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving–HOW NOT TO DO IT.

While the news channels may drone on about how healthcare reform is about to be passed it doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. The longer the debate drags on the better as it is far better to stick with the current system we have no matter how flawed it may be rather than to rush through a package that will only make the situation far, far worse.

President Obama Overexposed?

Gee, you think so?

The possibility that the President’s overexposure is hurting his message is not the big news story. The big story is that it took the media so long to catch on.

Hat tip: Hot Air

Where’s That Stimulus Money Going?

I was driving through West Virginia and Kentucky last weekend and saw a number of signs advertising that some particular road improvement project was being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act otherwise known as the “stimulus plan” or by its more derisive name Porkulus.

About half the projects I saw on the road appeared to have already been completed. The other half were in various states of progress.

But I couldn’t help wonder about the money spent on the signs. Turns out I’m not the only one. Frankly, I can’t see why the money was spent on the signs. But then again, this is the federal government and, as usual, nothing they do makes sense.

Perhaps the better thing to have done was to forgo buying the signs and spend more money fixing the roads.

I’m just saying…..

Will Obamacare End Roe v. Wade?

At least according to this article in The American Spectator, the answer is yes:

Stated or unstated, a driving force behind modern liberalism takes root in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, in which abortion was legalized. The Court found a “right to privacy” guaranteed by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, saying that a woman had a constitutional right to abort her child up until the “point at which the fetus becomes viable.” The Court quite specifically defined viability as the point at which a fetus is “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”

Quite aside from the political acrimony the Roe decision has generated from the day it was issued, the hot debate over President Obama’s health care proposal alters the abortion debate in a fashion quite unintended. If passed, ObamaCare could instantly set up a legal confrontation between the principle behind President’s health care system — and the principle undergirding Roe v. Wade. Which in turn would launch a political battle royal between proponents of government health care and abortion rights.


A reading of the Roe decision leaves no doubt whatsoever of what abortion advocates have claimed ever since the opinion was handed down. To quote the Supreme Court decision directly:

We repeat, however, that the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman, whether she be a resident of the State or a nonresident who seeks medical consultation and treatment there, and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life.

If, as Roe clearly states, “the State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health [emphasis mine] of the pregnant woman” — why doesn’t it have “an important and legitimate interest” in protecting the health of the rest us?

The article goes on to point out that the fundamental premise behind universal health care is that the government could be deciding who gets what medical care thus taking the decision-making process out of the hands of the patient and putting into the hands of bureaucrats. If that’s so, you can be sure that abortion advocates will be at odds with those who want a single-payor health system.

Book Review: Dred Scott’s Revenge by Judge Andrew Napolitano

America has had a difficult history when it comes to racial issues and often the government has done more harm than good according to an excellent new book by Judge Andrew Napolitano entitled Dred Scott’s Revenge. Click here to read my review of the book.

552655: Dred Scott"s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America
By Andrew Napolitano / Thomas Nelson

The Rise of Homeschooling

A new report from the U. S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics shows a dramatic rise in the number of students that are being educated at home. Dr. Albert Mohler provides some details from the report:

Homeschooling was the choice of families for 2.9 percent of all school-age children in the United States in 2007, involving 1.5 million students. By comparison, in 1999 only 850,000 children were homeschooled. By 2003, that number was up to 1.1 million. This report indicates significant jumps in homeschooling as compared to other educational options. In fact, the report reveals that the actual number of American children whose parents choose homeschooling for at least part of their education exceeds 3 million. According to the report, 1.5 million children are exclusively homeschooled while another 1.5 million are homeschooled for at least part of the school week.

At this point, the picture grows even more interesting. When parents were asked why they chose to homeschool their children, 36 percent cited a desire to provide children specifically religious or moral instruction. After that, 21 percent of parents pointed to concerns about the environment of schools, 17 percent cited dissatisfaction with educational quality in the schools, and 14 percent cited “other reasons.” Among those “other reasons” was a concern for more family time together.

Higher numbers of parents with college educations and greater family incomes are now homeschooling. This trend points to the fact that homeschooling is increasingly the option of first choice for many parents. This pattern is also revealed in increasing numbers of college students, primarily young women, who indicate that they desire a college education so that they will be better equipped in years ahead to be homeschooling parents.

It’s no great surprise to me that there has been such a tremendous rise in the number of families choosing to homeschool. In the nine years we’ve been homeschooling we’ve seen exponential growth among our homeschool community.

But the most crucial points in Dr. Mohler’s essay come at the end of the post:

Homeschooling is now a major force in American education, and Christian parents have been in the vanguard of this movement.  For many Christian parents, homeschooling represents the fulfillment of the biblical mandate for parents to teach their children.  These parents deserve our respect, our support, our advocacy, and our prayers.  This movement is a sign of hope on our educational horizon, and a phenomenon that can no longer be dismissed as a fringe movement.

As president of a seminary and college, I can attest to the fact that questions about the educational aptitude of homeschooled students are now settled.  These students can hold their own as compared to students from all other educational backgrounds.  One other fact speaks loudly to me concerning their education.  Most of the homeschooled students I meet at the college and graduate levels indicate an eager determination to homeschool their own children when that time comes.

Education cannot be reduced to statistics, but the trends revealed in this new report from the Department of Education deserve close attention.  In our day, education represents a clash of worldviews.  Increasingly toxic approaches to education (or what is called education) drive many schools and many school systems.  In that light, the fact that so many Christian parents are taking education into their own hands is a sign of hope.  As this new report makes clear, we should expect homeschooling to be a growth industry in years ahead.

It’s encouraging as a homeschool parent and as a Christian to see a prominent pastor and seminary president embrace the choice that thousands of families make. Homeschooling is not easy and families who make this choice often face derision and ridicule from both friends and families. Those who make the choice to educate their children at home (either full-time or part-time) should be applauded and respected for making this choice. While not everyone will agree that it is the best choice for their own family it’s important that those who don’t homeschool respect those who do and vice versa.

How Long Before He Breaks This Promise?

Lost in the midst of the weekend news coverage of President Barack Obama hamming it up with his new best friend Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is this little promise tucked into this weekend’s Presidential Radio/Internet Address:

“In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective,” he said. “In this effort, there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.”

For those of you keeping score at home, this is the same President Obama who pushed through a $787 billion pork-filled spending bill and a proposed $3.6 trillion budget. He also promised during the campaign to go through the budget line-by-line and eliminate waste. Yet such scrutiny seems to have been absent during these initial spending initiatives.

Anyone really think he’s going to follow through on this one?

I wouldn’t count on it.

Looking at the New Deal with Amity Shlaes

One of the most fascinating books I have read over the last few months is The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Actually, in reading the book I was amazed at how much President Barack Obama’s economic policies are like that of FDR. Needless to say, that was not comforting.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Amity Shlaes, author of the book. Click here to read more about our conversation and what she had to say about the current economic crisis.

Obama’s Mortgage Plan: More Harm Than Good?

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at President Obama’s proposed mortgage rescue plan and finds that it could create far more problems than it solves:

President Obama yesterday announced his plan to prevent home foreclosures, saying he wanted to be “very clear about what this plan will not do: It will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans . . . And it will not reward folks who bought homes they knew from the beginning they would never be able to afford.”

We really do wish he were right. In fact, the details released yesterday suggest the President’s plan will do all of the above. The plan will help some struggling homeowners. But by investing in failure, the Administration will also prolong the housing downturn and make financing a home purchase more difficult for future borrowers. Meanwhile, the plan isn’t likely to slow the continuing decline in housing prices.

The President’s plan is predicated on the false belief that everyone deserves to own a home. The fact is that not everyone can afford to own a home. The efforts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make it easier for people to buy homes they could not afford are at the heart of the current financial crisis. Unfortunately, the President’s plan does nothing to address this fundamental issue and instead just prolongs the crisis and leaving taxpayers on the hook.

As CNBC’s Rick Santelli correctly points out in this clip, this is an example of government rewarding bad behavior. Unfortunately it’s the 92% of honest, hardworking Americans he refers to that will pay the price.

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