Monthly Archives: March 2014

Health Care Reform: The Road Not Travelled

This evening the latest Obamacare deadline will pass.  Missing throughout the discussion lately has been the road not travelled—solutions to the high cost of health insurance and the coverage of the uninsured that did not involve the establishment of a vast new federal bureaucracy, the involvement of the IRS, the establishment of “death panels” and forced enrollment.

One of the key reasons health insurance is so high is the relative lack of competition.  Insurers can’t cross state lines to give potential customers a wider selection of choices.  Unfortunately, Obamacare ignored that reality. Part of the reason: the White House needed the support of insurers to gain support for the President’s plan, so their monopolies were allowed to continue.

While poorly performing hospitals and doctors should be forced to pay dearly for their malpractices, the reality is that many lawsuits are without any basis, brought under the concept that merely paying off an agreed upon sum is cheaper than going to trial.  Tort reform could lessen this burden, which greatly increases medical costs, but trial lawyers are key political contributors so this was ignored.

Nurse practitioners could perform far more routine medical services than they currently do, but this threatens the AMA’s monopoly, and like the trial lawyers, they have great lobbyists, so this approach to reducing costs never got very far.

There were other common sense ideas, but none provided the vast patronage mill and jobs-for-politicians that Obamacare did.

Vernuccio/Allison Report moves to new markets!

MORE STATIONS ADDED! The Vernuccio/Allison radio show, which began on Westchester/NYC’s WVOX, (Saturdays at 10am) can now also be heard on the air in Las Vegas, Nevada (1520am & 107.1 fm,) Lancaster, Pennsylvania (1640 am & 102.1fm), and Tampa, Florida (1630 am, 102.1fm) every Thursday at 10am. The show is also broadcast worldwide on the amfm247 network Thursday at 10am, and can be downloaded on ITUNES, WorldTV, & Roku.  Get DAILY UPDATES and WEEKLY REPORTS on the latest hot issues in world affair s at our website, usagovpolicy.com.

Political Parties, Major Media Miss the Point

Was George Washington right about political parties after all? The First President famously disliked the concept of permanent established parties, fearing that loyalty to them would supersede allegiance to the national interest.

As the U.S. continues to battle high unemployment, crushing debt, a sluggish economy, and a rapidly deteriorating international condition, federal elected officials seem helpless to effectuate any substantive remedies.

Despite Mr. Obama’s dismal track record, his fellow Democrats are reluctant to confront him, concerned that criticizing one of their own will lead to party disunity that will harm their re-election chances.

Republicans, bruised by a largely hostile major media, seem afraid to launch the intensive criticism Democrats levied against former President George W. Bush.  Concentrating on securing their own positions, leadership spends more energy than it should criticizing the independent elements within their own ranks, particularly the Tea Party, than in offering hard-nosed innovative alternatives.

As both Democrats and Republicans seem mired in a quagmire, key media players, especially the increasingly flaccid White House Press Corps, find ways to dwell on topics that are of lesser relevance.  The Malaysian jet story, tragic as it is, hardly warrants more intensive coverage than a national economy in unrelenting crisis, or the rebirth of international conflict evident in Crimea or the Pacific. Yet, the 24-hour a day, seven days a week concentration on it dwarfs any emphasis on other topics.

President Washington was certainly ahead of his time.

Obama’s Odd View on Russian Power

The President recently stated that Russia was only a “regional power.”  We recently reviewed the facts to determine whether there is any realistic basis for Mr. Obama’s unexpected contention.

Of course, the first question to arise is, which region is the Comander-in-Chief referring to. Moscow’s vast domain  stretches from Europe to the borders of Iran in the Middle East to the farthest shores of Asia and the Pacific Ocean, and of course the Arctic as well.  Geographically, it is almost impossible to proclaim Russia as a regional power when its territory, the largest on Earth, is so vast.

In terms of strategic power, it is quite difficult to understand how the Russian nuclear arsenal could be remotely considered as regional. Certainly, it’s triad of ICBMs, many with multiple warheads, nuclear bombers and nuclear capable submarines both of which currently patrol the U.S. coasts,  are the equal of America’s.  Additionally, its mobile launchers provide the Kremlin with perhaps the most survivable land-based strategic nuclear weapons system on the planet.

In terms of land power, Russia vastly outstrips the US in the numbers of tanks, mobile artillery, and rocket projectors

Nor can it be said that the Kremlin’s weapons systems are second rate.  Its nuclear arsenal is more up to date than Americas, and much of its conventional arsenal is first rate. Mr. Putin has pledged to spend over $770 billion in further upgrades, including a sizeable sum for its navy.

In terms of reach, Russia has returned to its cold war interaction with Latin America, and even expanded on it with greater interaction with that part of the world, particularly in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Putin also is militarizing the Arctic as well.

In a new wrinkle, Russia’s growing alliance with China gives the Kremlin a global reach in excess of that it enjoying during the Cold War.

All this is being done as the U.S. slashes its military fuding and Europe continues  starve their armed forces of necessary financial support.

We find no basis for President Obama’s contention.

U.S. Faces Military Threat from Russia, China & Iran in Latin America

As Moscow’s army and Navy invaded the Ukraine last week, Russian warships again docked in Cuba, part of President Putin’s goal of reconstituting the influence of the former Soviet Union in some Latin American nations.

Moscow is not the only anti-American nation to make military advances on our southern border.

China has spent vast sums on developing both military and civilian infrastructure facilities in the region. Much of Beijing’s investment has been in strategic infrastructure, including port facilities on both the East and West sides of the Panama Canal, and, as expert Dr. Evan Ellis has noted, airport facility in Freeport, The Bahamas, just 65 miles from the USA, and a deep sea port in Suriname.

Familiarizing its military with the region, China has deployed peacekeeping forces to Haiti, and a naval hospital ship to Cuba. Ellis notes that “The PRC also conducts significant interactions with the militaries of virtually all of the Caribbean nations with which it has diplomatic relations.  A series of senior level Caribbean military leaders have visited China in the past two years…At a lower level, people-to-people military interactions have included inviting uniformed Caribbean military personnel and defense civilians for professional education trips to the PRC…The PLA donated $3.5 million in non-lethal military equipment to the Jamaica defense Force in 2010….The PLA is also reported to have personnel at Soviet-era intelligence collection facilities in Bejucal, Lourdes, and Santiago de Cuba…”

The U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission reports that Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia and Cuba now maintain strong ties to the Chinese military “through a high number of official visits, military officer exchanges, port calls, and limited arms sales.”  Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador have begun to buy Chinese arms and military equipment, including radar and aircraft.  Bolivia has signed a military cooperation agreement with China.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has also been active in supporting forces hostile to U.S. interests.

Despite all of those facts, and the ongoing repression of freedom in Cuba and Venezuela, the White House has chosen to remain oblivious. When President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, delivered the 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment to Congress, he made no mention of Russian, Chinese and Iranian military moves.

The willful blindness of U.S. officials, symbolized by President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro, extends to a number of elected officials.  Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) has long been friendly with both the Castro regime in Havana and the successors to Venezuela’s socialist strongman Hugo Chavez.  NYC’s Mayor, Bill DiBlasio, was an ardent supporter of Nicaragua’s Sandinista movement, which had, during the 1980’s, invited the Soviet military onto its shores.

As all of this has occurred, indeed, has accelerated, as the White House continues to defund the U.S. military.

Deceptive Legislation

In response to embarrassment from revelations that reporters’ phones were tapped by the Obama Administration’s Justice Department, the President has endorsed a legislative proposal currently before the U.S. Senate that at first glance appears to move in the direction of enhancing press freedom.

Far more than his predecessors, Mr. Obama has been sharply critical of news organizations that have not given substantial support to his policies, despite the fact that in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns he enjoyed overwhelming media support.  Despite the plethora  of scandals and missteps his Administration has faced, he continues to receive little in the way of rough questioning at White House Press conferences.  The main reason may be that news organizations considered unsupportive have had difficulty gaining access to key officials for interviews or background briefings.

On the face of it, S. 987, the “Free Flow of Information Act”  introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) appears to be a measure designed to protect press freedom by protecting reporters from disclosing sources. However, the text of the bill reveals a major and dangerous flaw.  It only applies to “covered journalists,” who are described as individuals and their supervisors who have the “primary intent” to report news.

That distinction is vitally important.

Adding the phrase “covered” gives the government the ability to claim that an individual is not included in S. 987.  It opens the door to claims that a critical journalist is actually a partisan of the opposition party rather than a “covered” reporter.  It also raises substantive concerns that “new media” journalists –those working primarily in the internet or talk radio—could be denied the legislation’s protections.

The entire concept of the federal government defining who is a journalist and who is not presents a significant chilling of freedom of the press guarantees.

Universities Charge More, Accomplish less

Several fascinating reports indicate how poorly served our youth are by the educational establishment.

Backed by easy credit from the federal government, tuition has increased dramatically. Bloomberg news reports college tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since records began in 1978. Because of that the amount of debt held in student loans quadrupled from 2003 to 2012, and now stands at more than one trillion dollars, according to statistics reported by the Harvard Crimson. The debts aren’t even dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that all those extra dollars have gone into make the educational process better or more comfortable for students.  Universities have begun to resemble government agencies, with increasing amounts of irrelevant patronage-like jobs in areas such as diversity assurance and monitoring political correctness.  Employees in the latter field insure that the institutions’ views on political correctness are enforced, in direct contradiction of the historic role of colleges as centers of independent thought.

If you’ve ever wondered why the fees you pay to doctors and lawyers are so high, consider their cumbersome debt load.  According to the Wall Street Journal, physicians starting off their careers in 2012 did so with an average educational debt of $161,772, up $123,203 in 2004.  Lawyers were in the hole for an average of $140,616, up from $88,634.

All that cash that students and parents fork over to colleges, particularly for undergraduate education hasn’t done much to reduce unemployment. According to a report cited in the Daily Caller, about 50 million native-born Americans are not employed, an increase from 40 million at the start of this century. At the same time, the number of immigrants with jobs has increased.

One reason might be that too many of our school fail to provide options in non-academic but well-paying and essential professions such as plumbing and carpentry.

Ukraine Gave Peace a Chance. It Didn’t Work

When it finally broke free from its years of domination by the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine was the third largest nuclear power on the planet. Rather than continue in that role, the nation voluntarily gave up its ultimate military trump card in return for guarantees provided in the 1995 Budapest Memorandum.

Those promises, signed by US President Bill Clinton, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and UK Prime Minister John Major, guaranteed the “independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and a guarantee to “refrain from the threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”

Russia has clearly violated that accord, and the promises made by the United States and the United Kingdom have been proven worthless.

The United States has signed a number of military accords with Moscow, including, most recently, the New START treaty,  a key portion of the Obama/Clinton “Reset” policy with Russia, which ignored the Kremlin’s 10-1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. There is substantial agreement that despite the advantageous position gained by Russia, that nation is cheating both the letter and the spirit of those accords.

The fervent hopes of those current intellectual heirs of the “Give Peace a Chance” and “Nuclear Freeze” movements, including the current Obama Administration, have been clearly dashed.

Russia Resurgent, America Diminished

Last June, The NEW YORK ANALYSIS reviewed the resurgence of the Russian military.  The funds that have been committed, the statements by Kremlin officials, and the deployment of new arms systems indicate that Moscow is in the midst of an exceptionally significant arms buildup. 

One salient question remained, however.  Would the foreign policy of the Russian Federation prove as aggressive as its military buildup?

That question has been effectively addressed by the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

 Neither foreign nor military policies exist in a vacuum.  Vladimir Putin’s actions should be examined in the context of the threats and opportunities he believes face his nation.  His statement that “The greatest tragedy of the 20th Century was the collapse of the Soviet Union” provides significant insight into the international perspective currently guiding Moscow’s worldview. 

During most of the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States, aroused by the Islamist assault of 9/11, held a muscular foreign policy and a well-funded military.  (It should be noted, however, that it was a military that was not focused on potential conflicts with great powers such as Russia or China.)  While Moscow was not entirely quiescent–it employed its vast oil reserves as a wedge to influence European politics–it did not act openly belligerent, and even expressed commonality with the West in areas such as anti-terrorism. However, Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, during a period in which the United States was already heavily involved in military action in Afghanistan and still entrenched in Iraq, signaled an end to that period of relative restraint.

Any vestige of a restrained perspective was substantially altered following the American elections of 2008. The Obama/Clinton “Reset” with Moscow was established by that new President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton without regard to reciprocity on the Kremlin’s part.  The policy has subsequently proven to be an embarrassment, and Secretary of State Kerry responded to a recent inquiry concerning it by claiming he didn’t know what the reporter was referring to .

As noted by commentator Rich Lowry in Politico, “It didn’t take a student of Russian history, or of international relations…to know this would end in ashes…at one level, the Obama Administration was guilty of the human impulse of wanting to see the world as you would like rather than as it is. At another, the President is not particularly interested in foreign relations.  It was appropriate that one of his statements on the [Crimean] crisis came at an elementary school while he was announcing his latest budget, which reduces the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels.  Because we all know that we will never face an unexpected, unpredictable crisis again.”

New START’s Effect

Ignoring the uncomfortable reality of Moscow’s Georgian invasion, the Obama Administration moved quickly to adopt the New START nuclear arms treaty.

One of the key problems with the treaty had nothing to do with either Russia or the United States.  Those two nations are no longer the only two powers with multi-faceted and devastatingly powerful nuclear arms.  Leaving China out of any agreement is essentially to ignore a massive change in the international environment. With the growing rapprochement between Russia and China, including joint war games and mutually supportive foreign policies, as well as Beijing’s increased aggressiveness towards America and its regional allies Japan and the Philippines, this omission leaves the United States at a distinct disadvantage.

Critics have maintained that even within the confines of the New START treaty itself, the United States has been placed at a disadvantage. Specific problem areas cited include tie-ins to missile defense capabilities, inadequate verification procedures, and Russia’s huge ten-to- one advantage in tactical nuclear weapons.

What Putin Learned

 The lesson Putin discerned from his success in gaining the upper hand in New START was that the Obama presidency was less than diligently concerned about defense-related matters. Another incident during the New START talks, in which Washington provided Moscow with British nuclear secrets, also convinced Putin that Obama would not be as protective of American allies as his predecessors.

These lessons guided Putin’s subsequent actions. Both the Russian president and his foreign minister, Segey Lavrov, came to the conclusion that the United States under Barack Obama was not a force to be concerned with under most circumstances.

“Indeed, President Obama, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the opening of his first term, said he was elected to ‘end wars, not to start them’…it is inconceivable Russia would have played its Ukraine hand in the same risky and confrontational way had its assessment of President Obama been different.”

“Give Peace a Chance”

Mr. Obama’s “Give Peace a Chance” policy was far more than mere words.

He withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq, and announced a withdrawal time table for Afghanistan. He did not respond with either military or even significant diplomatic options to China’s confiscation of Philippine offshore resources. He has won his attempts to slash defense spending, and he continues to advocate for unilateral nuclear reductions.

Significantly, as Moscow and Beijing engaged in massive upgrades in the size, quality, and technological sophistication of their armed forces, Washington’s response during the current administration has been to slash the U.S. military budget, dramatically altering the international balance of power.

The cuts could not have come at a more inappropriate moment. In response to the fall of the Soviet Union, American forces had been allowed to dwindle into a shadow of their former strength, with a Navy diminished from 600 ships to 284, an Army reduced from 17 divisions to 10, and an Air Force cut from 37 combat commands to 20. Much of the equipment remaining, particularly that of the Army, has been worn out from extensive use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same can be said for personnel. Of particular note has been the overuse of National Guard forces.

The U.S. industrial infrastructure, which allowed the nation to serve as “The Arsenal of Democracy” since before the Second World War began, has also been diminished.  A prime example is the fact that America has only one plant left capable of building tanks, and the Obama Administration has repeatedly attempted to shut it down.

American military strength, despite having been mobilized and funded to fight the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, remained, in terms of major geopolitical threats, in the warm afterglow of a peace dividend bought about by the USSR’s demise, even after Moscow began returning to cold war status and Beijing became a superpower.

The result has been a growing and now dangerous imbalance in military strength between the developing affiliation of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea-a massive and contiguous axis covering a vast portion of both the landmass and population of the planet-and the increasingly underfunded militaries of both the United States and its allies.

As Russian forces invaded the Crimea, a Stratfor Global Intelligence report noted: “Fractured and burdened by its ongoing financial crisis and lacking unity on military issues, the European Union could find it difficult to counter Russian moves – whether they appear as financial incentives to the struggling states of central and eastern Europe or threats of armed conflict along the periphery. Looking into the future, the Ukraine crisis ultimately could test many of the core assumptions binding the EU – and the NATO alliance – together.”

The Report Continues Next Week

Will America Share the Fate of Distressed U.S. Cities?

The condition of several America’s cities may hold a lesson for the path the nation as a whole has been trending towards since the election of 2008.

A number of U.S. municipalities, most prominently Detroit, are in danger of bankruptcy or are already enduring insolvency in one form or another.  A major contributing cause comes from governing leaders choosing “progressive” ideology over practicality.

In 2014, The nation’s largest city, New York, has so far managed to escape the fate of these. But that success may not continue, due to the mayoral election of an individual who may fairly be described as more focused on ideology than practicality. There is an analogy to the fate of the entire nation in this example.

The Big Apple certainly has had its share of challenges, both recently and stretching back decades.  Excessive spending on social welfare at the same time that key local industries, including the maritime trade and light manufacturing were rapidly deteriorating and the stock market, a major player in the local economy, was on a downswing  placed the city in a deep financial crisis in the 1970s.   It managed to emerge from that cloud with the help of massive and loans and, more importantly,  when more fiscally sound policies were enacted.  However, Under the controversial leadership of Mayor David Dinkins  from 1990—1993, the city faced repeated crises of competence in municipal service delivery  and rising crime, leading many to believe that it had become “ungovernable.”

The able stewardship of Rudolph Giuliani  returned NYC so substantially that many called the revived metropolis “The Capital of the World” with ample justification. While the assault of 9/11 rocked the municipality, the solid foundation that had been laid under Giuliani’s two terms allowed it to recover.

His successor, Michael Bloomberg, chose a different path than Giuliani, raising taxes to address fiscal concerns as opposed to cutting them. However, Bloomberg’s emphasis on business development and restrained spending managed to allow the city’s prosperity to continue, despite his rather odd preoccupation with intrusive matters such as the dietary and exercise habits of his constituents.  During his tenure, his attempts to cut police and fire services were essentially thwarted by the City Council, allowing him to succeed almost in spite of himself.

New Mayor Bill De Blasio  promises to mark a far different course than his predecessors. His background is certainly controversial.  He was a supporter of the Nicaraguan Sandinista movement, which had invited Soviet military elements into that Latin American nation in the past and is doing the same for Russia today.

His ideology is essentially indistinguishable from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, with its emphasis on hard-left ideology including increasing the tax burden as a matter of principle, eliminating the tough anti-crime stance that began under Mayor Giuliani, and attacking non-traditional public schools despite their success.  He has also been tainted by a scandal involving his bizarre attack on the city’s popular horse and carriage tourist attraction, which apparently had been prompted by the desire of one of his significant campaign contributors to obtain the valuable property used by that industry. Unlike what occurred for his predecessor Bloomberg, the City Council will not thwart de Blasio’s unusual tendencies since that institutions’ newly elected leadership shares them.

If Mr. de Blasio succeeds in radicalizing governing policies, key financial industries and major taxpayers could reduce their presence in the city, causing a major revenue gap.  Additionally, the expected increase in crime and the distress of parents about turning over control of the schools to a radicalized union could result in the same type of middle-class exodus that proved to be Detroit’s downfall.

NATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

Similarly, the policies of the national government since 2008 have taken a far more radical path from those in the past. National spending for social welfare programs, similar to what has caused distress to municipalities, has soared, with little effect in reducing poverty.

A lack of fiscal support for police which in the past led to increases in crime is mirrored in the cuts to the American defense infrastructure, which is leading to increased aggressiveness on the part of those nations intent on breaking international law.

The burdens placed on key national industries as a result of overbroad EPA regulations, an aggressive federal Labor Department, and the added expenses faced under the Affordable Care Act mirror the challenges that resulted in many vital industries leaving urban centers for less regulated venues.

The practices that have shaken confidence in local governments in Detroit, Chicago, and other cities find a counterpart in questions about the distribution of stimulus dollars by the White House as well as in the growing lack of trust due to the IRS, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and other scandals.

Whether the Executive Branch will take note of the fate of troubled cities and changes its course remains to be seen.