“Saturday Night Live” is known for many things, especially the commercial spoofs that for decades have lampooned merchandise and marketing trends. One of the most iconic featured Chevy Chase as a pitchman hawking a product that was both “a dessert topping and a floor wax.”
That kind of absurd duality is funny. That kind of duality in a political group is dangerous and calls into question the advocacy in which they engage.
Everyone thinks AARP, the group formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, represents the interests of millions of seniors, making it one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington. People don’t realize it’s also an insurance company and rakes in hundreds of millions selling Medigap coverage to its members.
Which interest is dominant: the commercial or the political? Given the group’s influence on important issues like healthcare, it’s a fair question. A recently released Juniper Research Group report suggests commercial concerns now may override in importance the lifestyle and economic issues on which AARP made its name.
Citing several sources, the report says that although AARP members contacting the group’s headquarters opposed the Affordable Care Act by a margin of 14 to 1, it went ahead and backed the bill anyway. Could that be because its insurance company partner – UnitedHealth – was more interested in getting a law on the books requiring every American to purchase health insurance than what its members wanted?
The report, available at www.CommitmentToSeniors.org and compiled for the group American Commitment, says the money coming from the purchase of supplemental health insurance coverage is now AARP’s main revenue source. However, rather than helping seniors select a plan tailored to their needs or financial resources, the group sells UnitedHealth insurance exclusively in return for a 4.95% cut on every plan sold.
This relationship brought more than $600 million into AARP’s coffers in 2017. Some might see that as evidence the group has evolved into a marketing vehicle for the nation’s largest health insurer. Several ongoing lawsuits contest that the money flowing to the group from its deal with UnitedHealth constitutes an “illegal kickback” because the potential customers are told the policies are cheaper than what’s available in the marketplace when identical coverage can be obtained without paying AARP’s commission.
Many of the same politicians who criticized the health insurance industry and other corporate interests as being selfish during the debate over Obamacare nonetheless hang on every word issuing from AARP headquarters. Obviously, they’ve failed to ask themselves if the group is speaking for its members or its funders.
American needs healthcare reform. Obamacare distorted the system in all kinds of ways. It made it difficult to keep the doctors we like and to utilize the insurance we bought because deductibles have risen so much. If we’re going to have an honest discussion about how to get out of the mess we’re in, the key players need to show their cards – or have them shown for them.
The elite media and so-called good government groups keep a close eye out for conflicts of interest, both real and potential, in the advocacy community on the right.
They argue against the influence of so-called “dark money” on all kinds of issues, not just healthcare. The watchdog groups who like to tie groups that question the existence and impact of climate change to oil companies and supporters of the Second Amendment to gun manufacturers seem to have missed the link between United Health and AARP.
Maybe they just don’t want to see it.
Voter skepticism of politicians remains high, according to a new survey released Friday yet President Donald J. Trump gets high marks for keeping the promises he made in his first run for the White House. According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, nearly half of all voters believe he “has delivered more than most” on the pledges he made in 2016.- Advertisement –
The survey, conducted by telephone and online, found general disappointment widespread with elected officials when it came to them doing what they said they would do when running for office. Just 16 percent of those surveyed viewed successful candidates as promise keepers while a whopping 70 percent said they were not with the remaining 14 percent undecided on the question.
Rasmussen Reports called the results “a noticeable improvement” over voters’ response to the question in previous years. In November 2009, the first year the question was posed, only 4 percent of those surveyed said winning politicians “kept their campaign promises.”
Trump fares better than most in this latest poll. Of the voters who participated, 45 percent said they believed he “has kept his campaign promise more than most presidents,” up from 38 percent in a March 2018 survey.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats were more critical of Trump than Republicans, with 66 percent saying Trump had kept his promises “less than most presidents” while 68 percent of Republicans said he’d kept them more. Nearly half of the unaffiliated voters in the survey, 47 percent, sided with the GOP.
Overall, Democrats are “a lot more likely” than either Republicans or independents to believe politicians follow through on their campaign commitments after they are elected. Just 14 percent of those in the GOP and 9 percent of unaffiliated voters believe most politicians can be counted on to govern on the platform they ran on compared to 23 percent of Democrats who agreed with the statement.
The lack of confidence the American electorate has in Washington is probably explained to a considerable degree by these numbers. Neither party finds the political class trustworthy.
The results should be a boon for Trump who, according to every recent national survey, is trailing Joe Biden by as much as double-digits in their battle for the presidency. In his speech accepting his party’s nomination Thursday night, the former vice president seems to say repeatedly he wanted voters to base their vote on how they felt about the character of the men running for the nation’s highest office.
In a contest of competence versus character, a theme likely to underscore the GOP fall campaign, Trump may have a narrow lead. Among voters who think most politicians don’t keep their campaign promises, 48 percent said “Trump is doing better than most presidents” while 38 percent disagreed.
The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted August 18-19, 2020 by Rasmussen Reports and has a +/- 3 percent sampling error at a 95 percent level of confidence.
American’s trust in our politicians’ ability to handle domestic and international problems is at its lowest point in more than two decades. A Gallup poll in January showed 35 percent of Americans do not trust the U.S. government to handle domestic problems, and only 41 trust it to handle international problems.
If Americans’ faith could be restored in our politicians’ ability to make prudent decisions, we would no doubt see an increase in trust. To be this trusted politician, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said requires practical wisdom, also called prudence. Such a man or woman must be able to choose the clever choice of action and have good intentions.
There are two components to our choices. One is our moral goal, the other is our practical goal. What moral thing do we want? Good choices not only involve good moral intentions, but they also involve practical decisions that pick through the circumstances to determine the correct action.
Dr. Larry P. Arnn said in his free online lecture at Hillsdale College that prudence “is the facility to calculate circumstances and find and issue true command.” It is practical wisdom about things that are always changing.
“Statesmanship is the scene where practical judgment is demanded intensely all the time,” Arnn said. Things are constantly changing, demanding good judgement of situations.
Practical wisdom is different than knowledge, however. Aristotle defines knowledge as “knowing a thing that is fixed and can be relied on,” Arnn said. Practical wisdom and judgement, on the other hand, are adaptable, as they are about changeable things.
Practical judgement is “a truth-disclosing active condition involving reason that governs action, concerned with what is good and bad for a human being,” Aristotle wrote in “Nicomachean Ethics.” It finds the truth about what to do and then does it. It is key that the judgement fit the circumstance.
We learned in Book One of “Ethics” that something is good only if it fulfills its purpose. A cup is only good if it has a bottom; otherwise it is not a cup. Likewise, a judgement is only good if it fits the circumstance that it is in. It requires wisdom because accurately placing judgement on ever-changing circumstances is difficult.
This is how we can determine a good politician in these always changing circumstances. Those who can calculate means and ends, and can understand evolving circumstances, tend to serve their nations well.
There are three distinctions to practical judgement. Astuteness is understanding the moving parts of a situation but does not issue action. Cleverness does issue action, as it knows how to insert oneself to get what one wants. Prudence, or good judgement, pursues action with good intent.
Arnn pointed to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill as examples of cleverness and prudence. Both were lethal individuals who knew how to get their way, yet used their discernment and action for opposite ends. Hitler used his charisma and cleverness for evil ends, while Churchill used his for good.
Alas, astuteness does not guarantee possession of all virtues. Hitler can be considered brave, but not just. To be clever but not prudent is incredibly dangerous. While not many are as dangerous as someone like Hitler, politicians without prudence may only pursue their own gain.
Perhaps our politicians can learn something from Aristotle, and learn to pursue a good beyond themselves and for the country.
Just days after President Trump called out House Republicans for supporting legislation promoted by presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Democrat leaders are scrambling to determine whether they can ram the bill or one of similar profile through the House this week.
Warren has been promoting legislation that would grant a Massachusetts-based Indian-tribe, called the Mashpee Wampanoags, recognition of land over 40 miles away from its tribal headquarters to build a $1 billion casino.
The political show heated up on May 8, when the president tweeted, “Republicans shouldn’t vote for H.R. 312, a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!” This denouncement caused Democrats, who recognized that the bill would now never receive two-thirds majority approval as required, to scramble and pull the scheduled vote from the House floor.
Nevertheless, bad ideas never seem to die in Washington, and the special interests seldom give up. This case is no exception, and with the news of Trump’s twitter opposition fading, members of the Massachusetts delegation are now back at work pushing H.R. 312, as well as H.R. 375 – a bill that makes H.R. 312 look like the epitome of ethical D.C. governance by comparison. As such, allow me to take a step back and walk you through the current state-of-play.
Aside from the fact that the Massachusetts senator pushing this bill is the same one that once said, “gambling can be a real problem economically for a lot of people,” there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the intentions of those pushing the legislation.
The first among them is that both the Supreme Court and Department of Interior agree “the Tribe does not satisfy the ‘under Federal jurisdiction’ requirement of the…definition of ‘Indian’,” which it would need to receive any handouts of land from the federal government.
In accordance with the Indian Reservation Act, that would require the tribe to have received recognition from the federal government before 1935. Michael Graham at The Boston Herald noted that not only did they miss this deadline but, “The Mashpees weren’t federally recognized until 2007. And that only happened because of the money they poured on notoriously corrupt D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.”
In addition to H.R. 312, which would specifically grant the well-heeled Massachusetts tribe a casino away from their reservation, another bill being pushed in the House, H.R. 375 would not only grease through the casino long sought after by Warren and the Mashpees; it would also allow for the same to occur for every tribe in the country – creating an endless cycle of lobbying victories in place of Supreme Court precedent, the rule of law, and states’ rights.
Should H.R. 375 pass, all that the roughly 600 recognized tribes in the country would have to do to strong-arm the federal government into recognizing their land is demonstrate that their tribe has received acknowledgement from the Department of Interior. And as we’ve seen from the Mashpee’s lobbying efforts, often all that will require is having enough lobbying connections and sums of cash to influence the right bureaucrats and representatives with key committee assignments.
The Native Americans that have sharply called out the Mashpee’s land claims would ostensibly agree that by advancing the interests of crony capitalists, this bill is a raw deal for the Native American people. Should the legislation go into effect, the rich and powerful will succeed at the expense of everyone else, and that’s simply not fair.
Republicans should not be fooled. Elizabeth Warren is just trying to provide crony favors for groups with strategic political value to her and Republicans should reject both bills outright.
(George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom — a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.)
The Iran nuclear deal has the same political weaknesses as the Affordable Care Act.
By Daniel Henninger • Wall Street Journal
Next Tuesday is the deadline for completing the “political” terms of an agreement with Iran. “Technical” details arrive in June. From news reporting on the negotiations, it appears the agreement is turning into a virtual Rube Goldberg machine, a patchwork of fixes that its creators will claim somehow limits Iran’s nuclear breakout period to “a year.” Which is to say, it’s going to be another ObamaCare, a poorly designed mega-project others will have to clean up later.
Just as ObamaCare was a massive entitlement program enacted with no Republican support (unlike Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), the administration’s major arms-control agreement is bypassing a traditional vote in the Senate. Instead, it will get rubber-stamp approval by, of all things, the U.N. Security Council. Continue reading