I arrived at the event about 30 minutes early. The parking lot was already starting to fill and police were on site to maintain order. I rushed to find my seat, but that’s where the interesting things started to happen. It was clear from the beginning that some spectators were there specifically as a resistance to the Republican Party and its policies. Representative Amash, however, is not your average Republican and this was not a Trump rally. His voting record is an outstanding account of his defense of the principles of Liberty. Since the creation of Vote Liberty, Representative Justin Amash has been the number one proponent of Liberty at the federal level. We’re lucky to find one or two votes per year that could be construed as a negative impact on his record. Circulating among the crowd were “resistance packets”, passed out by a Progressive group whose purpose is to push outright socialist policies like single payer healthcare, defeat school-choice proposals and raise taxes to create financial equality and the ever illusive “social justice”. Included in the packet are tips on how to be disruptive and combative to allowing Representative Amash to interact with his supporters and constituents. It was quite clear that this was not going to be an easy day for Amash or his supporters. Even the Chairman of the Barry County Democratic Party was on site to voice his opinion. Below are a few highlights from the event, along with some side notes and personal rebuttals.
From the very beginning, one of the major issues of the morning was veteran healthcare. People across the room cheered when Representative Amash stated that in order to fix our veteran’s care, they needed more options, specifically the same options that are currently available to the general public. In other words, if they’re in need of care, they should be able to go to any doctor or facility for treatment. However, the random shouts and interruptions from the socialists in the room permeated the day’s discussions with cries for a single payer healthcare system. The VA and its services are the only example of single payer healthcare within the United States. The socialist faction of the political left openly admits the faults of the VA, but refuses to accept the inevitable failure of a nationwide program for the exact same reasons the VA fails to perform its primary function of providing care to our veterans. Unfortunately, that connection was never made and the larger debate over healthcare in the United States will likely continue. Representative Amash did point out one of the fatal flaws of the Affordable Care Act, and quite frankly every healthcare reform bill to take place since the initial Government interference in the early 1970’s. The Affordable Care Act failed to address the overall cost of healthcare, which is the price you (or the insurance company) pay for procedures and medicine. He correctly addressed the issues that contribute to the overall cost, such as a lack of competition between healthcare providers, insurers, drug manufacturers and the mandated insurance coverages put in place by the Federal Government.
Many issues were brought up pertaining to federal protection of the LGBT community, as well as “people of color” in regards to the Department of Education. This issue has always baffled me. It’s as if the LGBT community was unable to attend public schools or receive a public education prior to 2015. On top of that, Representative Amash clearly pointed out that the Department of Justice, not the Department of Education, was in charge of dealing with allegations of discrimination. He then added that there is no Constitutional authority for the Department of Education, which then prompted questions about the Constitutional authority for the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice, even though officially created in 1870 and not specifically authorized in the U.S. Constitution, has a history of investigating the laws that are specifically mentioned in the Constitution, such as counterfeiting, piracy and treason. The Attorney General, the head of the Department of Justice has had a position in the Presidential cabinet since 1789 and plays a vital role in the Federal Judiciary System. A different debate is needed to discuss the growth of the bureaucracy and its ever-growing authority. There were also many teachers in attendance, who raised questions about the school voucher program and its effects on the public education system. The only real debate to be had here is whether or not individuals who oppose school of choice and voucher programs believe that people are capable of making their own decisions. Let us not forget, the idea of people having to prove their intellectual integrity in order to make their own decisions is a tool that has been used by the Government as a precursor for voting rights. People are perfectly capable of making their own decisions when it comes to the education of their children, and those decisions should not be limited or hindered by people who don’t believe in free association or freedom in general. Government monopolies and the people who support them are dangerous and their intentions often lead to oppressive behavior.
Overall, the experience mimicked the data we’ve collected by exit polling. People tend to act and vote based on what feels good or right, rather than what makes reasonable sense. Socialism feels like a security blanket to a lot of people. Even the Republicans attending this event wildly applauded at the suggestion of expanding Medicaid and Social Security, two of the earliest outright socialist programs run by the Federal Government. There was no attempt by the framers of these programs to disguise their foundations. There are readily available and easily referenced faults in these programs. Social Security only returns one tenth of what an individual puts in to the program over their lifetime. It is the worst investment program available as a retirement option. In a private market, no one would invest in a fund that has a -90% return on investment. You’d be far better off using your money as pillow stuffing until your retirement than letting the Government manage it. The other example is Medicaid, the plight of medical care. If it weren’t “free”, people would flee from it like the plague.
The trademark of a socialist program is its lack of free association. There is no public option. Public education, income tax, social security and Medicaid are perfect examples of socialist programs. Coincidentally, these programs always need to be “reformed”, “fixed”, or “changed”. The services are always the subject of debate, and there is always an individual or group of individuals that are abused, neglected or rejected by these programs. Their need to constantly be modified is their fatal conceit. The only reason these programs are debated so heavily and their impacts are felt so deeply is because they are systems the Federal Government was never designed to get involved with.
There is a much more concerning trend among voters. I witnessed people with an outright contempt for their own Liberty. There’s a vast difference between being apathetic about the erosion of personal and economic Liberty and actively seeking to remove it from their lives. When people seek to limit their own choices and remove their own option to participate freely in a program, they are actively seeking to give away their freedom, voluntarily placing themselves in slavery to other people’s will. They assume they will always have control over the program so long as they can exercise their vote. However, people all over the world are expressing their disgust with their lack of connection to their Government.
Representative Justin Amash is right to stick to the Constitution. He understands the game of inches and the importance of sticking to the facts. Even when mocked openly by his detractors, quoting Thomas Jefferson speaking negatively about “people of color” while bringing up the Federalist Papers, he was quick to diffuse the situation instead of pointing out that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owning Democrat, not a Federalist. There were many opportunities to treat his detractors with equal measures of disrespect and hostility and point out the flaws in socialist programs. Instead, he remained calm, cool and collected, something supporters of Liberty could stand to learn from. Emotion is a powerful tool of change, and has been effectively used by the left and the right to erode the obstacles of Liberty to centralize control and power over the general population.
It’s the first day of the 115th Congress, and already the wave of Trump’s bullish agenda is approaching the east coast. Everything in my gut tells me small changes will be made to look like huge victories during this Presidency. Very little tends to change when power passes from one person to the next on Inauguration Day. However, the gross power the President now possesses, thanks to decades of Constitutional erosion by both Democrats and Republicans, now lies in the hands of a giant orange question mark. What will a Trump Presidency look like, and how will he use the power he’s been given by over a century of authoritarian policies?
Today marks the first day of Congressional business, and while no official votes have been recorded since the 8th of December, House and Senate Republicans are lining up bills to cut corporate taxes, repeal (and replace) Obamacare, and provide other “pro-growth” policies. Alas, here we are. The Trump Presidency is upon is in a short seventeen days and already his supporters are calling today’s announcement of the Ford Motor Company abandoning its plans for a plant in Mexico a “yuge” success. Of course, what does that mean for the consumers of Ford Motor Company? How many people in your family own Ford vehicles, or plan to own Ford Vehicles? How many would still own a Ford vehicle or would consider purchasing a new Ford vehicle if their prices increased dramatically over the next 8 years? In a free market, the consumer always benefits from products being produced in the cheapest possible atmosphere, and Ford can’t take a gamble on saving a buck over the next eight years (assuming they catch a break on taxes), if they’re planning a fifty year investment. We’ve all seen how dramatically policies can change when a new President takes office. If I were Ford Motor Company, I would do the exact same thing, cut my investment in half and invest short term to adjust for market demands, but keep my long term options open. Afterall, they still own the land in Mexico, right? How convenient. Regardless, what isn’t being talked about by proponents of conservatism is the general apathy towards the growing power of the Presidency.
The second thing Donald Trump did today was promise the American people that no more detainees would be released from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Despite its great track record of human rights and Constitutional prowess (sarcasm), Trump has decided that the need for safety outweighs the need for common sense and Constitutional limitations on things like torture, death, deplorable conditions and pesky civil liberties. The Constitution does not say the rights laid out within it are sovereign to American Citizens. The Constitution is a framework for how our Government is supposed to function, period. If the rights are endowed upon us by our creator and are inalienable, how do we then quantify restricting those rights to anyone under our sphere of influence? The answer is we aren’t supposed to.
Yesterday, Congressional Republican leadership in a party conference meeting, voted to place the Office of Congressional Ethics under the House Ethics Committee. The OCE was and is (at least for now) a non-partisan independent investigation council that handles investigations of fraud and other ethics violations by members of Congress. Placing the OCE under the Ethics Committee means Congress now controls the OCE, which will be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review. Surely, this has nothing to do with the ongoing investigations and the revelation of several high profile Congressional scandals, or are we just supposed to be naïve?
The Marketing, the Lies, and the Unabridged Truth
There has been a flurry of news surrounding the apparent price hike in Mylan NV's EpiPen. Although on its surface, the reasoning can be quite simple to explain - the greedy corporate CEO who made the decision values profits over civility. However, there are two major contributors to Mylan's price hike, and nobody seems to be talking about the obvious elephant in the room.
The first contributor is Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan and the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who recently had statements about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, saying due process is "what's killing us right now" on the issue of gun control. You would expect Bresch to be a staunch supporter of the Democratically supported Affordable Care Act, but the first thing she did when the price hike became public was blame it, at least in part, for the rate hike. Bresch claims that due to more people being added to "High Deductible Plans", a product of the ACA. High deductible plans aren't totally uncommon. Before the ACA, high deductible plans were commonly bought by young, healthy Americans. The deductible is what you pay out of pocket before the bulk of the insurance starts to kick in. A co-pay would go towards your deductible, which is why most healthy people don't ever reach their deductible. From an insurance standpoint, the deductible lowers your risk of payout, especially for multiple, low cost visits to the doctor or prescriptions. An insurance plan that covers all or nearly all of your office visits completely usually costs a fortune, not because insurance companies are greedy, but because the risk of their payout is nearly 100% and the primary costs of office visits, prescriptions and operations are catastrophically high.
Aside from whether or not the ACA is completely to blame for the recent price hike, there is another, more direct contributor to Mylan's price hike of the EpiPen, the copyright. In my opinion, a lot of the outrageous prices in drug prices directly correlate to the copyrights that protect those drugs, not the overall need or demand for those products. When pricing any product, there are two methods you can use to come up with a price. The first is by competition. You have to consider what the other companies are selling similar products for, make a decision whether or not to compete at a higher price and sell a better product, or compete at a lower price and risk less profit. Typically, smaller companies can afford to take losses due to the fluid nature of a small business. Smaller business have fewer overall expenses, which means their profit margins can be adjusted fairly easily. Larger, public companies typically have to keep revenue as high as possible. Public companies are open to the general public for investment, and most public companies see keeping their stock price high as a responsibility to their shareholders. Maximum profits mean the maximum price you can sell your product at, while still being competitive. A lot of times, maximum profit means lowering the cost of production in order to stay competitive with the price. The second method is called "what the market will bear", which is a method used if you're the only supplier, or you have a monopoly on the idea or copyright. This method is commonly used with new products, which are generally introduced at a higher price. Using this method usually means the company that introduced the product wants to recoup the cost of research and early development as quickly as possible, while still being able to be purchased. Generally, this method is used with new-to-market products of ideas that have recently come out of research, after millions (sometimes billions) of dollars have been invested into its production. The company is right to price products this way in order to recoup the costs before competition comes to market.
Mylan doesn't have to worry about competition. The EpiPen Auto Injector is currently licensed under copyright law to hold the patents to the EpiPen, one in particular, until 2025. Mylan has been in legal battles recently trying to keep competition out of the market both by use of copyright law and lobbying. Mylan has been instrumental in its efforts and one could easily draw a line between Bresch and Senator Manchin who is a member of the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, a committee whose purpose is economic growth and funding for scientific research. In other words, the committee deals directly with drug companies like Mylan.
Historically speaking, copyright law and the right to private property have always been at odds with each other. The founders of this country needed to balance the fight. The original right to patents was 7 years, plus a 7 year extension could be made by appeal for a total of 14 years. The founders knew that a 14 year patent allowed the inventor to recoup the costs of his/her invention and allowed for profit before the idea would be returned to the public domain for public use. Since its inception, patent and copyright law has been used as a tool for monopoly. Copyright and patent have been slowly increased over the centuries, the largest of which coming in 1994 when copyrights and patents were extended to 70 years after the death of the creator. Copyrights that last for this long create monopolies. In a monopoly, you can raise the price as high as you want, without fear of competition, especially if you're Mylan, with an ace in the hole.