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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for October, 2008

A New Paradigm

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

On Tuesday, November 4, we vote for a president who will be with us for at least 4 years. This may be the most critical vote in our lifetimes. That was clearly outlined by Daniel Henninger in the October 30 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Below, I quote part of his article:

“Push past the historic candidacy, however, and one sees something even larger is at stake in this vote. One sees is what Joe (The Plumber) Wurzelbacher saw. The real “change” being put to a vote for the American people in 2008 is not simply a break from the economic policies of “the past eight years” but with the American economic philosophy of the past 200 years. This election is about a long-term change in America’s idea of itself…

“In detail:
“Obama’s federalized medical insurance system starts the transition away from private medical care and toward Obama’s endlessly promised “universal health care.” This has always been the sine qua non of achieving a U.S. social-market economy.

“Obama’s refundable tax credits are direct cash transfers from the federal government. This would place some 48% of Americans, nearly half, out of the income tax system. This isn’t just a tax proposal; it’s a deep philosophical shift. In Europe it’s called being “on the dole.”

“His stated intent to renegotiate free-trade agreements such as Nafta is also a philosophical shift. It means a transition away from a tradition of a hypercompetitive America dating back to the Industrial Revolution, toward a protected, domestic work force, as in Western Europe. The Democratic proposal to eliminate private union votes — “card check” — ensures the spread of a static, Euro-style work force.

“Eliminating the payment limit on payroll taxes changes Social Security from an insurance to a welfare program. Obama’s tax credits requires performing government-identified activities, the essence of a “directed economy.”

“All this would shift the animating American idea — away from creation and toward protection.

“Many voters — progressive Democrats, wealthy older people, academics and college students — regard this as where America should go. They explicitly want America’s energies transferred away from unwieldy economic competition and toward social construction. They want the U.S. to reduce its “footprint” in the world. Monies saved by stepping down from superpower status can be reprogrammed into “investments” (a constant Obama word) in a Euro-style 19% of GDP in social protection programs.”

So, beware in this Halloween season of the terrors and horrors that may, in the future, lurk in the dark corners of Wasington.

A Gothic Tale In The Making

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading Gothic tales by Lovecraft, Poe, Hawthorne, Gilman, Faulkner, and Wharton. Well, in my opinion, this presidential election campaign contains many Gothic elements. And so I felt a need to write about the campaign in that vein, because it fits in so well with these stories. By this I mean that the results may end up as a Gothic tale, full of dark figures lurking around the periphery hoping to perpetrate evil and anxiety-filled male and female protagonists who want to live in a historic house, possibly filled with one or more ghosts.  Now, I realize that politics are emotionally charged these days ( see my post on civility). But I need to do this, whether you agree with me (you are a Republican), or you disagree (you are a Democrat). If you’re civil, and open-minded, you’ll know that what I suggest here might certainly happen, whether you are for it, or against it.

If current polls are correct, Barack Obama will be elected president on November 4th. It is likely that he will have a filibuster-proof Senate and a large majority in the House. This will produce the most profound political and ideological shift in United States history. Liberals will dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1933 or 1965. Without any restraining power all the following are likely to become law in 2009 or 2010:

1. Health Policy. Obama wants to create a public insurance program modeled after Medicare and open to everyone of any income. The plan would shift between 32 million and 52 million from private coverage to a huge new entitlement. Like Medicare or the Canadian system, it will never be repealed.

2. Business. Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently warned that she’s seeking retribution for the financial meltdown. The financial industry will likely be overhauled, and the telecom, biotech, and pharmaceutical industries  investigated by a hostile Congress and face new, onerous rules. By doing this, it might cause the present economic downturn to last longer than it otherwise would, by enacting regulatory overkill.

3. Unions. The labor unions want to trash the secret-ballot elections that have been in place since the 1930’s. The pending ” Employee Free Choice Act” would convert workplaces into union shops merely by gathering signatures in OPEN ballots from a majority of employees, with the threat of strongarming those who oppose such a petition. This would be most disastrous for small businesses that could not afford to pay the salaries and benefits mandated by unions, resulting in a significant loss of jobs.

4. Taxes. Taxes will likely rise substantially. No one knows just how high. Obama plans to raise the top income, dividend, and capital-gains rates for “the rich, ” which will substantially increase the cost of new investment in the United States. More radically, he wants to lift or eliminate the cap on income subject to payroll taxes that fund Medicare and Social Security. This would convert what was meant to be a pension insurance program into an overt redistribution program. It might also impose a probably unrepealable increase in marginal tax rates and a permanent shift upward in the federal tax share of GDP.

5. The Green Movement. Cap and trade will give Congress trillions of dollars in new spending from the auction of carbon credits which will be used to pick winners and losers in the energy business and across the economy. Huge chunks of GDP and millions of jobs will be at the mercy of Congress and a vast new global-warming bureaucracy.

6. Voting Rights and Freedom of Speech . A liberal supermajority will move quickly to impose national, election-day voter registration, a long time goal of Acorn and other community organizer groups, making it easier to stack the voter rolls. Felons might also get the right to vote nationwide. There will also be an effort to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine in order to shut down conservative talk radio.

Hopefully, even with an Obama win, he and others might also have the good judgment to avoid many of these Gothic attempts to drastically change The United States into a European style cradle-to-grave socialist entity. Although many Americans look forward to such an eventuality, I warn them –– be careful what you wish for.


The Demise of Inner City Hospitals

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

The Wall Street Journal, on October 14, 2008, reports that nonprofit hospital systems all over the country are in the process of closing their facilities in the inner cities, altho’ spending billions on suburban expansions. This has occurred despite large nonprofit chains enjoying large profits. They’re closing money-losing facilities in poor areas where many of their patients are uninsured or on Medicaid. Now, these systems are building or refurbishing hospitals in affluent areas where most people have private insurance coverage. This kind of maneuver is a frequent approach for many types of businesses. But these “nonprofit” hospital systems aren’t ordinary businesses. They’re required to provide benefits to their communities, including free care for the indigent. In exchange for these services, these systems receive billions of dollars in annual tax exemptions.

If you want to learn more about the “business “ of medicine, and how “the bottom line” determines medical care and egregious financial chicanery, you should read my recently published novel, THE MERGER.

The Long View

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Our society is now in turmoil–––financially, politically, and even spiritually. However, one needs to take a long view. My book, Nightmare Worlds, a collection of short stories, addresses waking nightmares. Our present state of affairs could certainly be called a waking nightmare. In each of the stories in my collection, men and women, faced with serious challenges, manage to struggle, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, against forces greater than they. I hope you take the time to obtain the book and witness their battles. But let us be objective. In the great scheme of things, in the long human journey, all of our woes are like a passing breeze. Let me end with this poem/prayer from the Gates of Repentance, that I’ve always thought demonstrated eloquently the evanescence of our existence:

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness —
And, often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion;
And grief to understanding;
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat –
Until, looking backward or ahead
We see that victory lies
Not at some high point along the way,
But in having made the journey stage by stage;
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
And death is a destination
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage
To life everlasting.

William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved