Rick Perry’s Sudden Change of Heart is Business as Usual

Rick Perry presidential candidate on campaign ...
Rick Perry presidential candidate on campaign trail interacting with voters in Iowa. This is at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Rick Perry sought the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination, eliminating the US Department of Energy was part of his campaign platform. Granted, he had trouble remembering its name, but he wanted the department gone. Completely.

On January 19, Perry appeared before the US Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a first step toward his confirmation as Secretary of Energy in the coming Trump administration. How does he feel about the department these days? Well, somewhat differently:

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking …. after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

As a cabinet official, Perry’s bailiwick will sprawl across all 50 states and the several US territories. He’ll dispose of a budget a fraction of the size that he controlled as governor of Texas (less than $30 billion versus more than $100 billion), but within his sphere of influence, he’ll actually wield more, and less contestable, power.

Is anyone surprised that Perry doesn’t want to eliminate a particular job now that it’s going to be HIS job? If so, you shouldn’t be. David Stockman told you all about that phenomenon 30 years ago.

US president Ronald Reagan appointed Stockman, a former Republican congressman from Michigan, to the post of Director of the Office of Management and Budget in 1981. He served in that post until 1985 before his candor and honesty got him in trouble and brought him to the point of resignation. Then he authored what, to my mind, remains the classic account of how power corrupts, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed.

Most summaries of The Triumph of Politics emphasize Congress’s profligacy in running up huge deficits by increasing spending while cutting tax rates. But Stockman also takes a hard look at the executive branch, and not only from the angle of the president’s willingness to cooperate with Congress.

Each newly appointed Reagan cabinet secretary, swept into power on the promise to hack away at government root and branch, was happy to do so in every department. Except his own. “Yes, cut spending — everywhere but here. THIS department is indispensable and, by the way, under-funded.”

As the Perry saga demonstrates, thus shall it ever be. There may be a way to cut government down to size, but if so “electing the right people” probably isn’t it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


A Reminder: What Insurance Is

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...
Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Elections have consequences,” outgoing US president Barack Obama once told Republican congressional leaders, and “I won.” He was right. One consequence of the 2016 election, in which the Republican Party maintained its House and Senate majorities and got a president of their own party, is the near-certain, near-future repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”

What will replace ObamaCare? That’s far less clear, but president-elect Donald Trump, in a January 14 interview with the New York Times, promises “insurance for everybody … in a much simplified form — much less expensive and much better.”

I doubt it. The Republican replacement for ObamaCare will likely have little to do with insurance. On the healthcare front, very few Americans have had “insurance” for decades. What they’ve had, especially since the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, is “pre-paid health care.” Here’s the difference:

Insurance is what’s called a “hedged bet” — a bet you’ll likely “lose,” and would prefer to, but that protects you against major costs if you “win.”

With car insurance, you bet a little each month (your premium) so that if you get in a wreck (that is, if you “win”), your liabilities (and with full coverage your own losses) are covered. You don’t want to get into a wreck. You probably won’t get in a wreck. But if you do, it’s going to be expensive. Better to pay a little out of pocket each month on that hedged bet, just in case.

Real health insurance works the same way. You pay a little each month to protect yourself from the costs of catastrophic illness or injury. You don’t expect the insurance company to provide for your every need, pay part or all of the cost of every office call for the flu, etc. Insurance only comes into play if you have a heart attack, get hit by a truck, or come down with cancer.

Modern (especially post-1973) “health coverage” isn’t insurance. It’s a program through which you pre-pay (or your employer or the government pre-pays) on a monthly basis to have all your health needs at least partially covered.

Obviously this is going to be more expensive than real insurance, especially when the law requires companies to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, pay for optional/preventative pharmaceuticals that customers might not even want, etc. And since consumers are paying for an all you can eat buffet, demand for  care is going to constantly increase, pushing prices up and up and up.

If the Republican replacement for ObamaCare is just another pre-paid healthcare scheme, and especially if it includes the “individual mandate” requiring everyone to buy in,  they might as well not bother. Healthcare won’t be affordable again until government gets out of the way.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


The Jackson Family versus Martin Luther King and the Cast of Hamilton

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actors, in a word, act. They don’t play themselves. They portray other people.

Bryan Cranston is not really a dentist (Seinfeld) or a chemist who makes methamphetamine (Breaking Bad). Christina Hendricks is not  really a con artist in space (Firefly) or the office manager of an advertising firm in the 1960s (Mad Men). They’re actors. They act.

Joseph Fiennes acts, too. He’s not really Michael Jackson. He’s just an actor who plays Michael Jackson in an episode of  the British comedy show Urban Myths. That episode was pulled from play by Sky TV after much-publicized outrage (from, among others, the late pop star’s family) over a white actor playing a black character.

The cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton aren’t really heroes of the American Revolution and founders of the United States. They’re just a bunch of black actors playing a bunch of white characters. They’ve enjoyed popular success and critical acclaim for doing so.

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things is not like the dream of the man whose namesake holiday Americans celebrate on the third Monday of each January.

That dream:  “[T]hat my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

No one doubts that Fiennes is a master of his craft. He’s performed as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He’s won the  Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. IMdb credits him with 37 film and television roles and single turns as director and producer. He’s appeared on screens big and small as a Soviet commissar, a Catholic clergyman, Merlin, and of course as Shakespeare himself.

But for some reason casting him as an African-American musician is beyond the pale.

Michael Jackson’s daughter tweets that she’s “incredibly offended” and that it makes her “want to vomit.”

Jackson’s nephew refers to the casting decision as “blatant disrespect.”

Fiennes isn’t being judged on his acting skills, on whether or not he captures the essence of Michael Jackson’s personality and successfully conveys that essence to viewers. He’s  being judged on the color of his skin, and the show’s creators are being judged on their decision to ignore his skin color.

Racism, by any other name (to butcher Juliet’s line), is just as repugnant.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.