For Restoration…

Restoration of Values

Category Archives: Politics

Carbon Footprint and Carbon Cycle

Earth’s energy budget consists of energy received from the sun and energy emitted by earth into space. Part of the latter occurs by reflection, part by absorption and re-emission. The re-emitted light being of lower frequency than the incident light, a fraction of it is absorbed by some of the atmospheric gasses transparent to the incident radiation, like water, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, etc., in proportion to their concentrations in the atmosphere. This phenomenon is called greenhouse effect.[1] As a result of the whole process, the earth, including the atmosphere, is energetically at a steady state. The measured parameter used to characterize the state is temperature. If the concentration of any of the active (‘greenhouse”) gasses changes, a new steady state is achieved.
Because the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased since the beginning of industrial revolution, particularly since 1930, it was concluded that the earth must have warmed up as well (global warming) and that man-made CO2 must be responsible for it.[2] (There are, however, scientists questioning whether the earth has warmed up outside the normal historic fluctuations.[3]) This concentration increase being tied to the combustion of fossil fuels, it was concluded that the use of those fuels threatens the survival of civilization and even of mankind.[4] A new criterion has been introduced, by which all human activity is to be judged: carbon footprint (CFp), measured as the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted in performing that activity.[5] The index was assigned a moral value as well, whence the countries having a higher CFp are to be shamed and required to pay compensations to those with lower CFp and to international organizations. It is the contention of this paper that the analysis behind this conclusion is at least incomplete.
An examination of earth history over the last 650,000 years has shown that the surface temperature of the earth has fluctuated significantly, with ice ages alternating with inter-glacial periods.[6] Life on earth has not perished in the extreme temperature intervals. During this time, the variations in concentration of atmospheric CO2 paralleled the temperature changes, so it was concluded that the latter are induced by the former. Studying the same data, however, other researchers reached different conclusions. Indeed, the long-range CO2 and temperature versus time diagram shows that each CO2 peak lags behind the corresponding temperature peak by centuries, so if there is a cause-effect relationship it is in reverse.[6][7]
Analyzing the consequences of extreme temperatures on earth in our epoch, researchers have found that cold kills more people than heat.[8] Still other scientists have found that the increase in the CO2 concentration had no deleterious effects upon global climate or temperature, but rather has increased the growth of plants, especially trees, as expected.[9] Moreover, during the Paleocene-Eocene period, when the earth saw a sharp increase in carbon dioxide and temperature (not necessarily in that order), there was an increase in mammalian abundance and no reduction in terrestrial flora and fauna.[10]
At the same time it has been found that some government agencies have over time altered the data to fit the man-made global warming narrative.[11]
The natural factors altering the climate are many, for example tectonic activity, growth of the Himalayas, volcanic activity, and in longest range, millennial fluctuations of the earth’s orbit and the increase in solar’s output by 7% per billion years.[12] On the other hand, some researchers have argued that alteration of the climate by man, making it warmer, started more than five thousand years ago, with agriculture, particularly rice growing (methane-forming). In modern times, improvement of cultivation methods has reduced agriculture as source of “greenhouse” gases and replaced it with burning of carbon-based fuels.[13] Cosmically, the earth might have been in a period of cooling, so the man-made heating and the cosmic cooling balance each other, or in the short-term the man-made heating might prevail over the cosmic cooling and the ice age should manifest itself later, when all carbon fuels have been burned.[13]
Irrespective of the scientific controversy and sometimes trying to stifle scientific skepticism by political means, the thesis that carbon dioxide generation by advanced economies is the cause of climate change, with catastrophic consequences for life on earth, continues to be a favored cause of politicians like Al Gore[14] and Barack Obama,[15] of the UN,[16] of Vatican,[17] and of many groups and organizations, some created ad-hoc.[18] The reason can be pursuit of financial gain[19] or of power, the quest for relevance, or in the case of the Vatican the desire to reclaim on incidental and temporal matters a moral authority that on matters fundamental and eternal it has squandered. The main solution proposed is the elimination of organic fuels, particularly coal.[18] The criticism of the man-made global warming model has been attacked on grounds as preposterous as the notion that science works by majority vote, the credentials of the critical authors or the source of funds for their research,[20] a fact which exposes the scientific illiteracy of their critics.
As the system is extremely complex and the data, when stripped of ideology, less than conclusive, a scientifically rigorous treatment has to consider each possibility and seek a solution or remediation..Moreover, efforts either to alter the climate or to preserve it must be considered together with the needs and resources of humans inhabiting the earth, beginning with the use and sources of energy, especially in light of a study which concluded that to achieve a goal of stabilizing the temperature through the reduction of greenhouse gases, the emission of the latter should be cut to zero, which would certainly finish off civilization.[21]
As the first case, let’s assume that the earth temperature is rising. A graded, smart approach would be much better than just banning productive activities. For example, methane’s global warming potential is 34 or 86 times (depending upon the time frame used in evaluation) greater than that of carbon dioxide.[22] Rice growing is an important source of methane. Rather than pay money to UN kleptocrats as penance for its successful economic system, the U.S. should subsidize research to develop rice varieties that grow on dry land, like other cereals. This improvement would also address the predicted world fresh water shortage that poses a significant danger to the world.[23] We should also consider whether all swamps are important, or some of them might be replaced by cleaner bodies of water, with less fermentation to methane.[24]
Technological improvements could also allow the capture of methane from processes which generate it as a side-product,[24] thus allowing its use as a fuel. (Progress has been made in methane fuel production from municipal wastes.)[25]
The natural causes of the earth’s warming must also be addressed. Thus, red algae blooming in the arctic snow play a crucial role in decreasing the latter’s reflectivity (albedo) and thus warm the planet.[26] Research on suppressing those organisms is a task that scientists should undertake and governments support.
The possible temperature increase, whether due to human or solar activity, can be prevented by reducing the incoming solar energy through the placement of reflecting particles in the stratosphere, as originally proposed by the physicist Edward Teller, the originator of geoengineering. This approach is perfectly feasible in practice.[21] Thus, from scientific viewpoint, the problem of catastrophic global warming has been solved. The approach has been criticized on grounds such as: there will be less sun for solar power; people will then be less amenable to control CO2 emissions or even to understand the moral imperative for it; it will conflict with present treaties; it might involve private, for profit, companies (!). Typically, the critics assume that the particle screens could be made only of sulfuric acid aerosols, like from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption.[27]
It remains, therefore, only to address the other effects, on plants, animals, landscape, etc., of a slightly increased concentration of CO2 from the current 410 ppm. This need not be catastrophic for life on earth, considering that in the paleocene-eocene period (v. supra[10]) it was higher than 760 ppm.[28] Some of the carbonate rocks, however, will be probably dissolved, binding a part of the atmospheric CO2.
Various proposals of CO2 removal have been advanced, for instance trapping in underground reservoirs. This idea is dangerous, because sipping out is possible (especially during earthquakes). Release from a natural underground reservoir killed 2000 people in Cameroon in 1986.[29] Chemical capture with sodium hydroxide (neutralization) was also proposed.[27](b), but it makes no sense, because the energy needed to manufacture sodium hydroxide has an equivalent of CO2 greater than that which can be captured.
The analyses of the effects of carbon combustion on environment and life on earth are usually flawed, however, because they disregard carbon cycling in nature:

O2 + carbon materials ⇒ [oxidation] ⇒ carbon dioxide (CO2) ⇒ [capture] ⇒ carbon materials + O2,

in which carbon materials (CM) are compounds containing carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds. As a matter of fact, what is called fossil carbon was once carbon dioxide. (The alternative origin, hydrolysis of metal carbides[30] can be discounted.) It is noted that if the two steps are balanced in quantities, they are also thermally balanced, because the heat released in the first step is absorbed in the second. Paying attention only to the first step is wrong-headed. If the approach at correction is punitive, reduction of the atmospheric CO2 capture is to be penalized as well. Such penalties should hit Brazil for cutting the Amazonian forest (responsible for 20% of world’s CO2 capture) at a rate of 90 acres per hour,[31] as well as sub-Saharan Africa for overgrazing which converts green lands to deserts.[32]
Anyway, in a two-step process, one should try to improve the controlling (slower) step, in this case the second. Improving CO2 capture is also important because it would recycle the carbon currently in fossil fuels, which now are a once-through proposition. The best capture mechanism is photosynthesis in green plants. With that in mind, the earth areas covered by plants performing photosynthesis could be increased (one could even cover roofs in the cities with vegetation), but a breakthrough probably would come only from developing plants that have a better (faster) photosynthetic process. This is a task that should attract the plant biologists. Changes in plant properties have been achieved even when science was much less developed. For instance, wheat used to give less than five grains per ear in the 1600-s[33] and it now gives 20-30.[34]
If, on the other hand, the earth is naturally in a cooling period,[13] the burning of carbon materials, especially fossil fuels, might need to be accelerated. Complications will arise if this remedy is insufficient or the new ice age lasts longer than the fossil carbon. Plants capable of growing at lower temperatures would have to be developed as sources of fuel, but that might not be enough. Evaluation of the effect of covering snowfields with soot might be interesting. Much research would be necessary, perhaps achieving, at last, controlled nuclear fusion.
Dan Fărcaşiu, July 2017

References
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
[3]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming
[4] http://whatsyourimpact.org/effects-increased-greenhouse-gas-levels
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_footprint
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_glaciation
[7] http://www.hirhome.com/climate_change/global_warming02.htm
[8] Bjorn Lomborg, An Overheated Climate Alarm. WSJ, Apr. 6, 2016
http://www.wsj.com/articles/an-overheated-climate-alarm-1459984226?mod=trending_now_2
[9] W. Soon, S. L. Baliunas, A. B. Robinson, Z. W. Robinson, Global Warming. A Guide to the Science ;
http://oldfraser.lexi.net/publications/books/globalWarming/GlobalWarmingGuide.pdf
[10] (a) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene%E2%80%93Eocene_Thermal_Maximum ; (b) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
[11]
https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/global-temperature-record-is-a-smoking-gun-of-collusion-and-fr
aud/

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_age
[13] (a) R. Blaustein, William Ruddiman and the Rudddiman Hypothesis, Minding Nature, 2015, 8, 1;
http://www.humansandnature.org/william-ruddiman-and-the-ruddiman-hypothesis ; (b) A. Ganopolski, R.
Winkelmann, H. J. Shellnhuber, Nature, 2016, 529, 200
[14]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUO8bdrXghs&ebc=ANyPxKpwVO0ME-TtSzbIQKZvQ_It80TRv7ynUcpfzlHvg5
BnwvCFzodXAkceWE6fM4gXd9Z0fLsZkC6GHtmwcu5Olvdyjv90A&nohtml5=False

[15] https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change Obama Archive
[16] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/climate-change-2/
[17] Encyclical letter Laudato Si,
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
[18] Carbon Ofsets To Alleviate Poverty, http://cotap.org/reduce-carbon-footprint/
[19] Larry Bell, Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype, Forbes, Nov. 3, 2013;
http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/11/03/blood-and-gore-making-a-killing-on-anti-carbon-investment-hype
/#558834c23750

[20] John Hinderaker, The Smearing of Willie Soon, Feb. 24, 2015;
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/02/the-smearing-of-willie-soon.php?utm_campaign=naytev&utm_con
tent=54edde4fe4b016bf9c20847d&fb_ref=Default#!

[21] David Bielo, Scientific American, Apr. 6, 2010;
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/geoengineering-and-climate-change/
[22] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-bad-of-a-greenhouse-gas-is-methane/
[23] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/freshwater-crisis-looming-shortages/
[24] http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/methane-sources
[25] https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/04/11/clean-energy-waste-management-trash-fuel
[26] Stefanie Lutz, Alexandre M. Anesio, Rob Raiswell, Arwyn Edwards, Rob J. Newton, Fiona Gill & Liane G.
Benning, Nature Communications, 2016, 7, Article No. 11968. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms11968
[27] (a) Alan Robock, 20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2008, 64 (2)14; http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/20Reasons.pdf (b) Kirsten Jerch, inset in the same article
[28] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth’s_atmosphere
[29] http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gas-cloud-kills-cameroon-villagers
[30] Franco Cataldo,, Intl J Astrobiol, 2003, 2, (01), 51-63.
[31] http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm#.WTBZGdQrLGg
[32] https://arefiles.ucdavis.edu/uploads/filer_public/2014/06/19/overgrazing_jarvis.pdf
[33] Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, Vol. I, Harper & Row, N Y 1981, pp. 120-3
[34] Jeff Edwards, Estimating Wheat Grain Yield Potential. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, PSS-2149.
http://wheat.okstate.edu/wheat-management/grazing/pss2149estimatingwheatgrainyield.pdf

An Answer to The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The flood of refugee claiming to originate from Syria, but most likely coming from a number of Muslim countries is sinking the European continent. Mr. Obama and other politicians clamor for this country to take its “fair share” of them
The United States has always taken refugees from many places and this attitude toward the world should be maintained. As a former refugee from Communism, I know, however, that t here are rules which were applied then and which should, with specific modifications, be applied in the current situation and in the future. Following is a five-point plan for dealing with refugees:

1. A camp for refugees should be set up in a location close to their point of origin. The legitimacy of their claim, as well as their history and character should be researched there. (Turkey is, logistically, the best place for the camp.) Refugees will set foot on the American continent, only after they are properly vetted. During the cold war, U.S. maintained two refugee camps in Europe, one in Austria, another in Italy. My sister and her family stayed in the latter for three months, a time shorter than the average, because it could be easily checked that neither she nor her husband was a member of the Communist Party or had positions of responsibility in Romania. Also, I had been in the U.S. for several years and on the path to citizenship, so the investigation that had been conducted on me gave also information about them.

2. The request of asylum should be based on a personal claim or legitimate fear of persecution for positions consonant with the ideas of freedom and democracy on which this country is based. A general statement “There is a dictatorship over there” without a demonstration that the dictatorship negatively affected the asylum seeker was not satisfactory then and should not be now. Thus, in Syria, ISIS and Assad’s forces are fighting each other, when not busy killing Christians and democracy advocates. Where Assad has the upper hand, ISIS criminals might feel endangered and seek refuge; where ISIS prevails, Assad’s thugs might ask for asylum. Neither class should ever enter this country. Nor is the existence of a war a sufficient reason. After all, civil wars have been raging in Congo, Sri-Lanka, Sudan, and other places and no one has thought that all people in those areas should be brought to the US. As for fleeing from poverty and hunger, there are more than three billion people on four continents who are described by the World Bank as desperately poor. The solution to world poverty and hunger is not emigration to the US.[1]

3. After being checked and vetted, the able-bodied men younger than forty among the acceptable refugees should be directed to a military camp which will be set up in the same area. There, they will undergo rigorous training. Fully equipped and armed, they will be capable of fighting the dictatorship that has oppressed them. The American army will provide logistic support and full air cover (real air support, not the pretension of Barack Obama). After all, a condition of acceptance into the US is the readiness to bear arms for the defense of the country. If their claim is sincere, they should be ready to fight for their country of birth if given a chance to win.

4. Individuals adhering to and professing ideologies and allegiance to political systems incompatible with the US constitution must not be acceptable as refugees. This provision should apply to all would-be immigrants into the US, not only to refugees.[2] Such unacceptable ideologies are, but are not limited to, Nazism and Sharia. The would-be refugee will sign a sworn statement to this effect, which will be binding for his lifetime and grounds for deportation if breached.
An objection that this provision discriminates against Moslems has no merit. First, the privilege of being admitted into any country is bestowed arbitrarily. The USA has rejected before Nazis and Communists, trying to immigrate, or even visit. Noteworthy, in their manifestation these ideologies and movements manifest all the characteristics of religions. Moreover, Moslems rejecting Sharia would be accepted. The situation is similar to that of Mormons who had to renounce polygamy to obtain statehood for Utah.

5. The refugees accepted into the US will have conditional entrant status for two years, during which they will have to prove good character and behavior, after which they can apply for permanent residence. After five years of permanent residence they will be eligible to apply for citizenship. This is the same path which my generation of refugees followed.
During these seven years the refugees will not be eligible for public assistance, except under exceptional circumstances. It can be expected that the traditional American generosity will spur private charitable organizations to assist the refugees in special cases. There are people ranging from Lindsey Graham on the right to Hillary Clinton on the left, who have shown concern for the plight of the refugees, so we are sure they will put their concern into action. Mrs. Clinton already has a charitable foundation and has shown great prowess in raising funds for it.

References
[1] Roy Beck, World Poverty, Immigration & Gumballs, https://www.youtube.com/embed/LPjzfGChGlE
[2] Items 1 and 5 also apply to all immigrants, but the background check can be done in their country of origin. It should also be noted that all immigrants were subjected to a medical examination before being accepted.

The Life of The Mother

Whenever there is a debate between a pro-life individual and a pro-abortion one, the abortion champion is bound to offer as the final arguments, when all else fails, the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and the cases when the life of the mother is in danger. The first situation was analyzed before.[1] The latter will be discussed here.
It is unquestionable that this is a special case. It was reported that this justification is claimed in fewer than 1% of all abortions (about the same as for pregnancies resulting from rape.)[2] Debating this argument makes sense only if the ban on elective abortions is already agreed upon. This point needs to be made in any discussion.
Another important point is made by the very definition of the matter. We are talking here of saving the life of the mother. A woman cannot be mother to a blob of tissue, to a lump of cells. It is thus admitted that the thing inside her is a child.
It must, therefore, be stipulated that we are talking of two lives, in the limiting case in which only one of them can be saved, a situation encountered in many cases: when there are fewer vaccines than people, or the surgical teams cannot treat all the wounded on the battlefield, or when there are not enough lifeboats for all the passengers, like on the Titanic, etc. The dilemma is approached by a process named triage, which determines the priority of treatment when resources are insufficient.[3] For instance, one could exclude from vaccination the individuals which have the best chance to survive the infection on their own, or postpone the treatment of the less seriously wounded and concentrate on those with more severe injuries. At the same one would leave out those so severely wounded that the surgeons conclude have no chance to survive anyway, and work on those assessed as treatable.
The same judgment should be applied in case of the pregnant woman and her unborn child. There, abortion definitely destroys one of two lives. It can, therefore, be considered only after a careful examination of the prognosis for the mother if the pregnancy continues to term and the child is delivered. One has to consider what is the increase in the probability of the woman’s death because of the pregnancy, either during that time or later. (There is a nonzero probability of death in any circumstances.) Her prognosis has to be considered together with the state of health and the prospects of the unborn child.
In the natural relationship, there is a community of interests between the mother and the child, so the solution which maximizes the chances of both can be expected. The society can intervene in helping the woman, or rather, under normal circumstances, the family, to find this optimum. When the community of interests is lacking, the concept of the threat to the life of the mother might be stretched and abused. Then, the state can impose the optimum approach:
“(P)ublic power . . . always represents the missing person . . . the child before its birth.”[4]
When continuation of pregnancy will certainly result in the death of the mother, the prevailing opinion is that protection of actual, or self-sustaining, life has priority over protection of potential, or dependent, life.
A well-known champion of abortion has noted that “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”[5] From the time of that statement (1967), treatments have been developed for those fatal illnesses, and those treatments would usually kill or fundamentally damage the baby. Then, the principle of priority of actual life dictates that the power of decision rests with the woman.
The data show that the decision is usually determined by the emotional attitude of the woman toward the child. (Actually, the current legislation on abortion in general accepts that the right to life of an individual is determined by the attitude of another individual toward him. There are states in which killing a child in its mother’s womb is a crime if the mother wants that child, but legal if the mother doesn’t want it.)
For mothers showing a natural attitude toward their unborn children, it is not uncommon that they will take some risks for themselves to save the child. Thus, a report from Great Britain told of a woman, Victoria Webster, who postponed cancer treatment until after the birth of her daughter, at the risk that by then the illness will be too advanced for the treatment to be successful. Later, Mrs. Webster was to say: “Every time I looked at her, I’d think: What if I’d listened to the doctors? That made me feel sick.”[6] A similar case was that of Vicky Roberts, of Dunstable, UK, who refused to terminate her pregnancy upon learning that she had Hodgkin’s disease and underwent chemotherapy after giving birth to a son. The treatment succeeded and later she had another child, her fourth.[6]
Through the efforts of some scientists, like Dr. Frederic Amant of Belgium, who specialized in gynecological oncology to find treatments for cancer during pregnancy, drugs and protocols which increase the survival chance have been developed.[7] These advances helped Jo Powell, of Nottingham, UK, who discovered that she was pregnant and, a week later, that she had breast cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes. She underwent two operations to remove tumor cells from breast and lymph nodes and at 20 weeks she started chemotherapy with agents that did not harm the baby. Six weeks before term, her boy was born and aggressive therapy was started. At the time of the report, the child was two-and-a-half and the mother was still in remission.[6] Her risk-taking paid off. In thinking of her we must remember that she did not know it when she made up her mind.
There have been cases of mothers that chose the life of the child over their own even if their death was certain at the end of pregnancy and an abortion could have saved it. The best known is that of the Blessed Gianna Molla,[8] but in our days other women have made the same choice, for instance Ashley Bridges of California, who decided: “I am not going to kill a healthy baby because I am sick,” and later counted her days: “I am really pushing for Paisley’s first birthday. This is what I do. I do October, OK, I just got to make it to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving comes around — OK, let’s just go to Christmas. Then Christmas comes and Braiden’s birthday is in March, so I’m going to make it to Braiden’s birthday. I’m just going to keep setting little goals for myself and we’ll see” . . . “I want my kids to know how much I love them and how much I fought for them.”[9] The same sacrifice was made by Elizabeth Joice of New York, who refused cancer treatment in order to continue carrying her child and died six weeks after giving birth to a healthy baby,[10] and by others. In all such cases, the decision rested with the mother.

References
[1] Rape and Abortion, http://www.ForRestoration.com, 5 Sept. 2012
[2] http://www.abortionfacts.com/facts/8
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triage
[4] Louis de Bonald, On divorce (transl. by Nicholas Davidson) (first published in 1801), Transaction Publishers, 1992, p. 65.
[5] Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now, Diablo Press, Berkeley, CA, 1967, quoted in Ref. [2]
[6] Helen Carroll, The Daily Mail, 31 July 2013;
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2382060/Cruel-dilemma-having-cancer-pregnant-need-life-saving-chemo-damage-child.html
[7](a) Steve Weatherby, New cancer treatment during pregnancy can save both mother and baby; https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/new-cancer-treatment-during-pregnancy-can-save-both-mother-and-baby ;
(b) Bryan Tutt, Treating Cancer in Pregnant patients; http://www2.mdanderson.org/depts/oncolog/articles/11/10-oct/10-11-1.html
[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gianna_Beretta_Molla
[9] Stephanie Elam, Traci Tamura, CNN, 17 Jan. 2015.
http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/16/us/mom-with-cancer/
[10] Susan Berry, May 2014;
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2014/03/31/nyc-woman-dies-after-refusing-cancer-treatment-to-save-unborn-baby/

Ideas and Proposals of Presidential Candidates

The future of Social Security, particularly how to tackle its impending insolvency, is a prominent subject in statements and interviews of candidates for the presidency in 2016.

The proposals of the Republican candidates can be summarized as follows:[1]
(1) Raise the age of eligibility to 69 (Christie), 68 or 70 (Bush), or to an unstated age (Cruz, Graham, Paul, Rubio, Santorum).
The problem with this proposal comes from the unintended consequences of the law that abolished mandatory retirement in 1986, credited to the late Claude Pepper, congressman from Florida. To avoid noncompliance, companies are often terminating employees some years before the now non-mandatory retirement age.[2] For this reason, many people begin drawing a reduced Social Security pension at 62. It is a paradoxical situation, because the companies have generally adopted a system by which salaries grow automatically with the length of employment and the paid vacations also get longer. There are not many cases in which the output of a highly paid experienced worker, also enjoying five weeks of paid vacations, cannot be matched by a younger employee who costs the company less. Theoretically, accepting a salary reduction in the last years of a career might be a solution to this quandary, but it might not be socially acceptable. Until a solution for workers not finding jobs in the years prior to the onset of benefits is found, increasing the Social Security eligibility age is unfair. As an aside, the class fully benefitting from the Pepper amendment are the tenured university professors who can continue in their departments until they cannot walk or until they get bored of sitting in an office.
(2) Reduce the benefits, for people with higher incomes. Mr. Christie proposes a gradual reduction for seniors with incomes above $80,000, and elimination at $200,000. Others (Graham, Rubio, Santorum), give no specifics; the typical justification is that “not everybody needs Social Security” (Santorum). This proposal exacerbates the structural unfairness of Social Security. A fact overlooked in most discussions, this program is, by design, first an instrument of wealth redistribution and only secondly a pension scheme. In the latter capacity, it is inferior to other existing alternatives.[3]
To understand the redistribution feature, let’s consider two individuals, A and B, with average monthly wages throughout their careers (indexed to 2015 dollars) of $1000 and $9000, respectively. Both had contributed the same percentage of their salaries to FICA. The former’s pension represents 80% of his salary; the latter’s, 30%.[4] In an equitable distribution of funds available for their pensions, each would receive 34.7% of his average salary. The way things are now, $452 is taken each month from B and given to A. This confiscation is in addition to all taxes that B pays, but it is not even recognized as such. Now, the candidates want to take even more from the pension of B, again without admitting it as a confiscation, to pay for the hole in the Social Security finances, which anyone honest and educated in mathematics could have predicted as inevitable from the get-go.
There is a tendency today to consider the forcible transfer of wealth from B to A as justified in the name of fairness. “Income inequality” is considered a social plague. Someone’s high income is postulated to come at the expense of those “less fortunate.” It is remarkable that the champions of income equalization are usually materialists, philosophically, but tend to explain success by luck. This is nonsense. For beginning workers, salary differentials are due first to differences in qualification, coming mostly from education. If nothing else, the worker has the moral right to a compensation for the time and expenditure that his education has required. The qualification is a predictor of ability, another factor that determines worker’s worth, that is, his salary. As the worker acquires experience, the ability, and hence pay, is determined by output. Of course, there are always cases of nepotism and even eccentric behavior. I knew a Parisian philosopher and writer, who also ran a printing business. As an experiment, for two years he hired new employees based on the horoscope! Retention was then determined by performance over the first year. At a societal level, however, such outliers are irrelevant. The success and pay over a career remain a function of qualification, ability, and performance. These qualities, however, may not be generally assessable by the uneducated. When these qualities are easy to understand, the pay distribution is not challenged. For instance, the ratio of salaries of the top NBA stars[5] and of the players at the lowest rung of the developmental league[6] is around 2,000, but there is little indignation on that account. Yet the ratio is the same as that of a $30 million per year CEO to a $7.50 per hour minimum wage worker. (The NBA stars also make millions in endorsements, in addition to their salaries.)
The income disparity between workers A and B is fair, because it is based on the level of their jobs and the value of their contribution there. Therefore, a fair computation of Social Security benefits should pay them the same percentage of their indexed average salaries. If society considers that A deserves help, it should give him the difference between the fair amount and the current percentage of 80% in the form of undisguised public assistance. The result would be the same, but it would be based on honest accounting.
The propaganda claim that low achievement stems from either bad luck or some kind of societal persecution is most damaging, because it fosters a feeling of helplessness instead of stimulating effort in those that need to exert themselves to advance in all areas, including income.
(3) Change the formula which correlates benefits increases with CPI (Cruz, Graham). Currently, the benefits grow faster than inflation. This would be a more equitable distribution of the reduction in benefits. The proposal to reduce initial benefits (Santorum) would have the same effects.
(4) Collect the payroll tax entirely from the employer, rather than 50:50 as it is now (Paul). This proposal makes little sense. The practical result will be that employers will offer salaries lower by the additional sum they are asked to pay.
None of these approaches, however, would save Social Security, but only postpone its demise by a few years. A structural reform is the only solution. Some timid proposals of introducing personal accounts for social Security have been proposed (Bush, Cruz, Paul, Rubio), but they are insufficient. A partial change was already proposed in 1998 by the senators Daniel P. Moynihan and Bob Kerrey, but a more drastic change is needed. A broader discussion of their proposal and of retirement funding in the US in general has recently been published.[3]

As a block, the Democratic Party Candidates do not think there is any problem with the basic setup of Social Security.[7] Some advisors of Mrs. Clinton have stated that income inequality is the cause of Social Security problems(!). She seems to lean toward endorsing the proposal of other declared or potential candidates (Sanders, O’Malley, Warren) to increase Social Security benefits, offered previously by the leftmost fringe of their party, on the argument that half of the people have less than $10,000 in savings (Sanders). Mr. Sanders does not realize that people don’t save if they expect to be taken care by somebody else. He proposes a personal tax on incomes higher than $250,000, to cover the cost and make the system solvent until 2065, that is, people now in high school should not expect benefits. Also, very rich people will be induced to vote with their feet. The number of Americans renouncing citizenship has increased steeply during the Obama presidency, from 118 per quarter in 2007 to 1335 per quarter in 2015.[8] As the current immigration system favors people that take more from the government than they contribute in taxes, the bankruptcy can be expected to come sooner.

References
[1] As the candidates’ positions are a matter of public record, no references are necessary.
[2] Emily Yoffe, Please Take the Gold Watch. Please! The abolition of mandatory retirement, and how it changed America in unexpected ways, April 14, 2011 http://www.slate.com/articles/life/silver_lining/2011/04/please_take_the_gold_watch_please.2.html
[3] A Comparison of Retirement Schemes Existing in the U.S., Feb. 24, 2015 ; http://www.ForRestoration.com
[4] http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/piaformula.html
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highest-paid_NBA_players_by_season#2014.E2.80.932015
[6] Keith Schlosser, Has the Maximum NBA D-League Player Salary Increased? Jan 9 2014 ;
http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2014/1/9/5291852/has-the-maximum-nba-d-league-player-salary-increased
[7] (a) Dylan Scott, Hillary Clinton’s Baby Steps on Social Security, National Journal, Aug 13, 2015; http://www.nationaljournal.com/2016-elections/hillary-clinton-s-baby-steps-on-social-security-20150813 ;
(b) Laura Meckler, Democrats Rethink Social Security Strategy, WSJ, 5 Apr 2015; http://www.wsj.com/articles/democrats-rethink-social-security-strategy-1428270057
[8] Robert W. Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship, Forbes, May 8, 2015; http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2015/05/08/new-un-american-record-renouncing-u-s-citizenship/

On The Redistribution of Wealth (revised; first published on 8/15/2012)

I received once an appeal to sign a petition for a state grant for speed radar signs in our village. I declined, saying that a grant would be too costly for us, and offered the following explanation.
Transfer of wealth (goods or money) by the government to a person or political entity is an act of redistribution. Rigorously speaking, what’s redistributed is not wealth, but income. A person’s income is a fraction of what the person produces for others, ultimately for the society. Even those who live on interest or dividends contribute their capital which produces wealth for the society. Therefore, the increase in income parallels the increase in resources (wealth) of the society.
After summation of all acts of redistribution, the result is a transfer from a part of the people to the other part. If we plot the resources (income) of the members of the community (e.g., country), as a function of the effort spent to generate them, we obtain a distribution, illustrated here by line A in the figure. Redistribution results in a flatter curve, B, by transferring resources from entities on the right of point X, to those on the left. The total resources (wealth) stay constant: the areas between curves A and B on the right side and left side of X are equal.

REDISTRB2

Currently, wealth redistribution is the main activity of the government. Each program, law, regulation, or initiative has been designed with wealth transfer as an important goal. This is true for Social Security, Medicare, minimum wage, charges for utilities, and above all, the income tax, with all its features and ornaments (alternative minimum tax on the confiscation side, earned income credit on the receiving side, etc.)
There are many ways in which the government confiscates money. For instance, a myriad of overlapping, often mutually contradictory, laws and regulations make certain that an individual or business will transgress something in any action undertaken The government can then collect fines or compensations, usually unpredictably and arbitrarily, as proven by the treatment of banks by the current administration. Taxes, however, remain the main source of money for the government.
In the government-driven redistribution, the beneficiaries receive only a part of the wealth taken from the givers, because the transfer itself has a cost. This is shown in the figure by curve C. What the receivers get is represented by the area between curves C and A. The area between curves B and C (hatched) is the wealth used by the transfer itself. Among other things, it assures the livelihood of those that govern the transfer (politicians) and those who implement it (government employees).
The hatched area increases with the total value transferred (area between A and B). Also, the natural and healthy tendency of men to better themselves makes the politicians and the government employees strive to increase the hatched area. For that, the latter return part of their take to the former as kickbacks. (They form unions and finance election campaigns.) When a politician acts against the trend and works toward decreasing the hatched area, he can be called a statesman. As it always happens when someone else’s money is handled, the hatched area is increased by waste, inefficiency, and theft.
A straight line for the right side of line B (as shown) applies for a flat tax. Progressive taxation produces a curve with downward concavity. Thus, both the bottom of curve C and the top of curve B have very low slopes. For someone whose income is close to either end, an increase in effort results in little or no increase in the return, which creates a disincentive to work more. This point is generally understood. Less discussed is the fact that people in the middle are also affected: Those who are just to the right side of X find it advantageous to reduce their resources (work less) and convert from givers to receivers. The loss of income is fully compensated by the reduction in effort. All these features reduce the area under line A (total wealth acquired by the individuals).
Disincentives to produce also result from the fact that line B is not smooth but has sudden changes at some points, for instance where the alternative minimum tax (AMT) takes effect. People in that income range make decisions aimed at minimizing taxes, rather than maximizing output and income. Because the income people obtain for themselves is a part of the wealth they produce for the society, wealth redistribution from a part of a society to the other part, results in a decrease of the total wealth produced by the society.
Of course, not all the money collected by the government is redistributed. There are some expenditures made for the collective benefit of all, and cannot be apportioned to individuals. Such are the expenditures for national defense and law enforcement. Some people try to lump in there the payments for education and health care, but that is theoretically incorrect, because the beneficiaries of those services are distinct individuals, represented on the diagram. For maximum efficiency (reduction of the hatched area), those services should be paid directly by the beneficiaries, to the maximum extent practically possible.
Naturally, some communities are inhabited predominantly by individuals on the right of point X in the plot; others are inhabited mostly by individuals on the left. Thus, in the redistribution game some communities are losers, whereas others are gainers. Through the merits of others than myself, our community is among the former. That our petition will result in the creation of a spike on curve B just at our position is quite improbable. Because all the allocations are the result of negotiations and compromises involving those who control the process, a grant to such a community is obtained only after all the communities represented by points at its left (and some at its right) are rewarded as well. Considering the increase in the hatched area by that action, we should expect an added assessment, by an amount greater than the grant received. Rather than request a widget from the government, we should pay for it directly or, if we determine that we cannot, live without it. As a positive contribution to the country, of which we are a part, we should then try to convince other communities and the politicians (trying to reach especially those that are statesmen) to live likewise without the widgets.
To reduce waste (hatched area on the plot), all the allocations to individuals represented at the right hand of X should be rescinded and their taxes reduced by the appropriate amount of money (allocation plus redistribution costs). The same hold\s for the communities which are net losers in the redistribution process.

Is gasoline tax too low or too high? Is it needed?

It has been found repeatedly that most of the government’s undertakings become (if they don’t start that way) politicized, wasteful, or devious, or all of the above, and that the logical solution is to take as much of the functions of the society as possible out of the sphere of government operations. The tax on transportation fuels is a good case to test this thesis.
Introduced first at state level (Oregon, 1919), then at federal level (1932)[1], the taxes on gasoline were readily accepted by the public, because their purpose was well understood and acceptable, and also because they were hidden in the price paid at the pump.[2]
In time, however, money from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) began to be spent on other purposes than roads and bridges. In 1982, Congress legislated that a part of the gas tax should pay for mass transit,[3] proving again that wealth transfer, in this case from drivers on highways to train riders, is the main preoccupation of politicians. Logically, the cost of mass transportation should be covered by the price of tickets.
A study in 2011 has identified dozens of such outlets of misappropriation, such as magnetic levitation trains, preventing drunk driving, and anti-racial profiling programs. [4] The states also spend part of the fuel tax collected for transportation projects on things like Medicaid (Kansas), education (Texas), etc.[5] The fraction of the HTF diverted to other uses was given as 25%.[4]
At the same time, the government has repeatedly found that the highway fund is too low and must be replenished from other sources. It was reported that only 70% of the construction and maintenance costs of the Interstate Highways in the US have been paid through user fees, the balance coming from general fund receipts and other taxes.[6] Other sources report a fraction even lower than 70%.[3][4][7]
This shuffling of funds makes no sense economically, but serves two purposes for politicians: First, there is more money to be consumed as overhead, leading to more jobs available for bureaucrats. For the second, movement of the money from one application is not much discussed, whereas reallocation toward another is always presented to those benefitting from the respective application as a gift from the politicians. This technique is particularly effective when the transfer is achieved in the form of an earmark. Financing highway projects is thus a political exercise, rather than straightforward budgeting based on real costs. This feature was apparent in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, or Stimulus), which allocated $27.5 billion for such projects, all to be determined.[8] Notably, the success of the expenditures was not counted in miles of road, but in the number of jobs created. The latter is a rather fuzzy parameter, so there is no surprise that the results diverge, depending upon whether a politician or an independent checker does the counting, by factors in the case of ARRA from 2.5 to 6.[9] Furthermore, a subsequent examination showed that the stimulus created government jobs and destroyed or forestalled a comparable number of private sector jobs.[8] In reality, for the need of citizens to travel on roads and bridges, the number of jobs created is irrelevant.
The level of taxation of motor fuels and the more general matter of transportation infrastructure have occasionally been subjects of controversy. Recently, there have been strong calls to increase it (for instance, by 35 cents per gallon), on the account of the sharp decrease in oil prices, the depletion of the trust fund, and the poor state of the public transport infrastructure.[10] Alternatively, it was argued that there is no need to increase fuel taxes, because the problem is not lack of revenue but the federal diversion of gas tax revenues, because gas taxes are one of the most regressive taxes, and also because “our highway infrastructure isn’t crumbling.”[11] The latter claim does not fit my experience, driving on roads of Pennsylvania and New York. (It is noteworthy that these two states with roads in deplorable conditions have the highest fuel taxes in the country.[1]) The arguments of both sides deserve, however, scrutiny.
Increasing the tax to take advantage of low oil prices is a bad idea, because prices fluctuate. Many predict that high prices will return within 1-2 years. Also, the number stated, 35c/gal, or any other for that matter, has no basis because the whole approach in financing is flawed. It never starts from the determination of how much is needed and on what specific projects. For instance, when ARRA was passed, all that the public was told by the president was that the money was to be spent on (unspecified) shovel-ready projects,[12[(a) only to hear from the same president, one year later, that there is no such thing as shovel ready projects.[12[(b) Shovel or no shovel, by now there should be an account of the individual tasks funded by ARRA executed and how much each of them cost. Any talk about funds needed should start from an examination of that account.
Undeterred by such uncertainties, senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the budget, calling for a $478 billion for infrastructure projects. Whereas the ARRA was paid by money fabricated by the Fed, to be taken from taxpayers later, Mr. Sanders proposed an array of new taxes on corporations. He is an admitted socialist, so is more straightforward that his colleagues who also voted for the ARRA and for many other bills reflecting the same philosophy.
It is a basic feature of socialism that you don’t pay when you use something, but you pay when you don’t. As a rule, the government controls both the payment and distribution steps, thus strengthening its control over the population. Thus, the set-up differs from transactions between individuals or private entities, such as installment and deferred payment sales, in which none of the parties has power over the other and both parties have freedom of choice. Besides roads, “things” used that cost money are education, medical care, and others. The socialist arrangement is costly, wasteful, corrupt, unjust, and oppressive.
At the same time, the argument that fuel taxes are regressive is flawed. It was also surprising to find this argument in a libertarian publication.[11] The complaint should be that a user fee[3] is being treated as a tax. Because the limousines of the rich and the jalopies of the poor use and wear the roads in equal measure, the level of payments for the infrastructure should be determined only by the extent of its use by the payer. In this respect, incorporating the fee into the gasoline price is not the proper approach, because of the different fuel economy of engines and existence of electric cars.[11] Among the alternatives, toll roads were recommended, because they can be easier adjusted to the changing cost of road construction and maintenance.[14] Toll gates, however, produce congestion and add to the investment for the construction of a road. Therefore, imposing a per-mile road fee seems better. A pilot program is set to be started in Oregon.[15]
The question remains how to handle the case of the indigent, who cannot pay the fees for using the road. An answer was found some generations back. In a beautiful literary rendition of the history of this country in the time straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Rose Lane noted that in those days construction of the roads was citizens’ business, not government’s. People spent a few days every year working on roads. Those for whom time was more precious than money, were allowed to pay instead.[16] Today, most people can pay, so it is the few who cannot who should be asked to contribute labor. For instance, single mothers on public assistance could take charge of landscaping the right-of-way, while a few of them would mind their children. This activity with visible results would foster the dignity and freedom of those women.
No matter what the manner of collection is, administration of the program by the government assures that politicians will always use it to bring home the”pork.”[14] Other unrelated considerations, such as creating jobs even at a cost greater than the value of the work produced, or influencing consumer behavior,[17] (a rather sinister government activity) will also enter any decision of funding and implementation.
Taking the management and financing of the transportation infrastructure from government administration will assure efficient operation and minimize waste. A national franchise or authority should be established, and the same pattern can be replicated at state level. A board made up of members nominated in equal numbers by each political party, could act as executive and hire the CEO or general manager. Budgeting should start from an infrastructure inventory and determination of costs for maintenance, repairs and renovation. Separately, projects for new objectives should be budgeted, also without interference from the Legislative or Executive branches. Based on the projected expenditures, number of registered cars, and distances driven in a year, the fee per mile traveled can be determined. The miles traveled are easily measured. The odometer readout has to be reported in the application for license renewal in some states. Tampering with an odometer should be made a criminal offense and odometer verification should be a part of the state annual car inspection. Any form of political intervention or non-economic preconditions (including preference to closed or union shops) in awarding contracts should be outlawed. All the workings of the board, administrators, and managers, and all contracts should be open to the public.
Basing the charges on the extent of road use is the most equitable approach. For total fairness, the buggies of the Amish and even the bicycles of cyclo-tourism afficionados should be charged for road use, perhaps by requiring users to buy an annual stamp.

References
[1] Fuel taxes in the United States; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_taxes_in_the_United_States
[2] Joseph Thorndike, The Gas Tax Doesn’t Work Because Politicians Broke It, 10/24/2013; http://www.forbes.com/sites/taxanalysts/2013/10/24/the-gas-tax-doesnt-work-because-politicians-broke-it/
[3] C Robert Puentes and Ryan Prince, Fueling Transportation Finance: A Primer on the Gas Tax, March 2003; http://www.brookings.edu/es/urban/publications/gastax.pdf
[4] Veronique de Rugy, The Facts about Transportation Spending. Separating economic myths from economic truths, June 17, 2011; http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/17/the-facts-about-transportation
[5] Damian Paleta, States Siphon Gas Tax for Other Uses. Makes Them More Reliant on Federal Assistance for New Infrastructure. Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2014; http://www.wsj.com/articles/states-siphon-gas-tax-for-other-uses-1405558382
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_System
[7] Gabriel Roth, Federal Highway Funding, June 2010; http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/federal-highway-funding
[8] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009
[9] Janie Har, Politifact, March. 23, 2012
http://www.politifact.com/oregon/statements/2012/mar/23/peter-defazio/did-transportation-projects-create-more-one-third-/
[10] Jeffrey D. Sachs, Why It’s Time to Raise the Federal Tax on Gasoline, Jan. 19, 2015; http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/why-its-time-to-raise-the-federal-tax-on-gasoline-114380.html#.VRawb_zF-3Q
[11] Randal O’Toole, Five Reasons Not to Raise the Gas Tax, July 3, 2014; http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/five-reasons-not-raise-gas-tax
[12](a) Brian Naylor, Feb. 09, 2009 Stimulus Bill Gives ‘Shovel-Ready’ Projects Priority; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100295436 (b) Stephanie Condon, Obama: “No Such Thing as Shovel-Ready Projects”, Oct. 13, 2010; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-no-such-thing-as-shovel-ready-projects/
[13] Eric Pianin, $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP; The Fiscal Times, 25 March 2015, http://finance.yahoo.com/news/478b-infrastructure-bill-blocked-senate-123000148.html
[14] Peter Samuel, The Role of Tolls in Financing 21st Century Highways; http://reason.org/files/7227d934ecfa04d5db576c126f0385a6.pdf
[15] Jim Hoft, Oregon Becomes First State to Impose Per-Mile Road Tax, March 9, 2015; http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2015/03/oregon-becomes-first-state-to-impose-per-mile-road-tax/#!
[16] Rose Wilder Lane, Old Home Town, (first printed in 1935), Bison Books, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1985,
[17] Shanjun Li, Joshua Linn, Erich Muehlegger, Gasoline Taxes and Consumer Behavior, March 2011; http://economics.stanford.edu/files/muehlegger3_15.pdf

Comparison of Retirement Schemes Existing in the U.S.

In the tussle over the continuing budget resolution of October 2013, the Secretary of Treasury testified to Congress that the government shutdown and the failure to increase the national debt limit would jeopardize the payment of Social Security and Medicare benefits to the elderly. To clarify his warning, it was stated that these programs are partially self-funded but may be subject to administrative shutdowns and failures if the government fails to meet its financial obligations.[1] An examination of the current status and evolution of US national debt led, however, to the conclusion that, shutdown or no shutdown, the failure of the government to meet its obligations is unavoidable, because “the debt increase is caused by secular growth in government services, not temporary military expenditures or cyclical economic fluctuations.”[2] The debt as a share of GDP has risen steeply since 2008:[3] Moreover, various people have calculated that the debt cannot be paid and the fraction of GDP consumed for interest on national debt will reach not many years from now an unsustainable value.[4] At that point those dependent on Social Security will be left high and dry. This conclusion will surprise many, because the program was supposed to be a contributory pension scheme. In reality, as attested by the Supreme Court, the payments are entirely discretionary: the government can change (or terminate) them at any moment.[5]
Rigorously speaking, only public assistance old age benefits, like SSI, are non-contributed pensions. All pensions of people that work are contributed pensions. In the private sector, companies deposit a part of an employee’s salary into a fund from which his pension will be paid. Another part of the salary is paid to the Social Security Fund. (For some historic reason, the latter sum is divided in two: half appears on IRS Form W-2, the other half does not.)
In the Social Security and the traditional corporate pension schemes, the beneficiaries have no control over the money. The alternative is presented by IRA-s and the more recently offered corporate pensions in which the employees exert control upon the funds allocated for their retirement. Erroneously, only the latter are usually referred to as contributed pension plans.
Social Security has been touted as superior to the private options for two reasons. First, it is guaranteed by the government. Thus, the former Congressman Charles Rangel stated that one should not leave the nation’s retirement system at the mercy of the stock market. That view is rather ignorant, because the stock market is a reflection of the state of the economy and creation of value by the society, which is coincidentally what drive the government’s tax receipts. Therefore, government’s ability to pay is correlated with the stock market. Anyway, as mentioned above, the implication that the government’s retirement scheme is superior in safety is not valid. Indeed, the assurance offered by the strongest defenders of Social Security was that it is secure until 2036,[6]. which means that a worker born in 1968 should not expect to receive his pension in full.
The second argument is that Social Security is the best financial arrangement in terms of return on investment. It was even said that it is not really a contributed pension because the total received by an individual in retirement is significantly higher than the amount contributed during working years. Mr. Steve Liesman of CNBC put the benefits to contribution ratio at 3. To prove superiority, however, this ratio must be compared with the results of alternatives in which the contributions were privately invested. I made such a comparison in 2013. Having had a variegated career, I was able to base it on my own experience.
I worked for low pay for six years, for better salaries for 15, and again for less over the last 11. During all these years I paid into Social Security, but only during the middle period I deposited about the same percentage into an IRA and also participated in two company pension schemes.. (The number of years worked reflects the fact that I was more than thirty years old when I came to the U.S. as a political refugee. Because I came with $13 as all my wealth, my retirement income comes from my subsequent earnings.)
I started withdrawing from my IRA before the required age of 70. In seven years I took out in total more than 75% of my original deposit. The balance left in June 2013 was 4.6 times the deposits.
During the last three years of the middle period (higher salary), I deposited into a retirement scheme called TIAA-CREF. The university matched my contributions. At 65, I began drawing a pension from there. Compared to the alternatives (IRA and, especially, Social Security) this had the shortest time to grow. When I began receiving benefits, I selected an option in which the payments were initially smaller, but have increased 3.5-4% annually. Up to the middle of 2013, the monthly payments added up to three times the deposit. Based on the monthly payments at that time and the life expectancy for men that have reached the age of 65 (17.7 years), and also assuming there was no further increase, I would receive during the rest of my lifetime a sum 2.2 times my deposit, for a total factor of 5.2. (As it turned out, in 2014 the payments increased by 10%.)
From the first (and longer) part of my middle period, I receive benefits from the highly rated pension plan of a major corporation. The total amount received so far has been by 40% higher than the amount received from TIAA-CREF, but the two pensions converge (from a ratio of 1.8 in the first year to one of 1.2 in the twelfth year). The ratio of total salaries received from the company and from the university was greater than 2, whence the defined benefit[7] company plan is the less satisfactory.
The comparison shows that Social Security is worse for the level of payment than the IRA or TIAA-CREF (a defined contribution plan[7] with high quality management), but better than the defined benefit plan. Given a choice, I would not have put the money into Social Security.
I expressed my concerns in a statement made during a town meeting with our Congressman, Mr. Steve Israel, in the spring of 2013, and in a letter that I subsequently sent him. I proposed that Social Security be reformed. To avoid money being spent on something else, the deposits should not be taken by the government, nor should the deposits and disbursements be part of the national budget. Financial or insurance companies, or consortia thereof, should compete for this business. Some government-approved board can determine which companies are to be trusted with investing the money deposited by people. All those who enter the system from the time of adoption of the new arrangement should have their deposits placed in those funds. The current trust fund being projected to be depleted in 25 years, it ought to be able to cover most of the payments received by retirees during the transition period. Because the trust fund is actually a fiction, however, I wondered in the town meeting whether a special 1% tax with a firm termination deadline of 25 years might help cover the missing funds. People told me, however, that the Congress of 25 years later will find a way to keep this levy and use it for something else. Perhaps someone has a solution to that.
In his written reply, Mr. Israel stated that Social Security has not added to the national debt, it has provided a critical source of income for many, the funds are invested in instruments backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S.A., and, if invested privately, the funds “would have been devastated during the collapse of 2007 “ (the Rangel argument). The last point is less damning than it seems: both my IRA and the TIAA-CREF were affected by the 2007 “collapse” and by an earlier one in 2001-2, but have recovered afterwards each time. His other claim is also invalid: any scheme in which people contributed would provide them retirement income. As for the funds being invested, Mr. Israel’s assertion was false; the money not paid to existing retirees has been spent as it came in, producing only IOU’s. The two Social Security trust funds are the single biggest creditor of the government, holding 16.5% of the national debt.[3] He did not address, however, the point most vexing to me: why Social Security pays me less than two other alternatives?
It seems strange that most members of Congress so doggedly defend an inferior model like Social Security. There has been one proposal to adjust it slightly, made by senators D. P. Moynihan (D, NY) and J. B. Kerrey (D, NE). Their plan allowed one percentage point of the worker’s income, matched by the employer, to go into an IRA-like private investment fund (partial privatization). Mr. Moynihan calculated a substantial accumulation of capital up to retirement age, from which a pension could be drawn afterwards.[8] Even that minor change was too much for their colleagues to accept.
Two reasons may be discerned for this attitude. First, Social Security is by design an instrument of wealth redistribution and most of the corrections offered (some already implemented) to “save” it, exacerbate this feature. Privatization would remove this possibility.
The main reason, however, is the desire of the government to have control over the citizenry. The goal is to have people totally dependent of government for their livelihoods and ultimately their lives. The Social Security setup makes even people on the losing side of the redistribution curve dependent on government for their pension. Both major political parties are guilty of that. The Democrats openly press for redistribution and control, whereas the Republicans go along while protesting to the contrary. For example, the money withdrawn from paychecks for Social Security is called by politicians of both parties a payroll tax, rather than a payroll contribution, which suggests that it naturally goes into the general pocket of the government. The pension can then be presented as a benefit or entitlement, rather than a return on money invested by the worker. The Republicans have strengthened this perception, when they advocated cutting the payroll tax in order to combat a recession. They should realize that Social Security contribution should not be treated like a tax that can be cut. There are plenty of taxes to choose for cutting.
A reform giving workers control and responsibility over their Social Security pension will solve the financial problem and will have important social and moral benefits. Thus, it will help restore in the citizens the spirit and mentality of the free man, rather than that of the ward of the state as it is now. It will also eliminate a misconception which makes many younger people who work and contribute now to begrudge the old for not dying sooner, instead of living on the charity of the government. There is not much time left. The insolvency of the current arrangement is inevitable.
As another improvement, when the individual will control his federal pension fund, the transfer of money from those that paid larger sums during their active years to those who contributed less will also cease. This will result in a more honest reckoning of the national costs of public assistance. Those who need help can receive it undisguised.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_government_shutdown_of_2013
[2] Bryan Taylor, GFD, Paying off government debt. Two Centuries of Global Experience</strong, https://www.globalfinancialdata.com/news/articles/government_debt.pdf
[3] Drew DeSilver, Pew Res. Ctr., 5 facts about the national debt: What you should know, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/09/5-facts-about-the-national-debt-what-you-should-know/
[4] Ronald Cooke, Will America Ever Pay Off Its Debt?, http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/ronald-cooke/will-america-ever-pay-of-its-debt
[5] Flemming vs Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960), http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=CASE&court=US&vol=363&page=603
[6] http://rangel.house.gov/press-release/rangel-social-security-not-broken
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employee_Retirement_Income_Security_Act
[8] (a) Craig Copenland, Jack VanDerhei, Dallas L. Salisbury, Social Security Reform, Evaluating Current Proposals (June 1999), http://www.ebri.org/pdf/briefspdf/0699ib.pdf ; (b) Daniel Patrick Moynihan , “Building Wealth for Everyone,” New York Times, May 30, 2000

IF WE WERE CHRISTIANS

I heard on a Sunday a sermon by a bishop, on the defining features of a Christian. (He was talking to Catholics, but his words apply to all Christians.) He formulated them as commands: “We must live our faith, profess our faith, and – if necessary – defend our faith.” (The bishop did not start with: “We must know our faith.” He trusted the congregation to have satisfied that prerequisite.)
The first of these commands orders our existence both inside and outside our intimate circle. The last two govern our life outside it. At present, however, our public life as Christians affected by the misconception that manifestations of faith must be private, hidden from the public. Restrictions on practicing the Christian faith are based strictly on the preferences of Supreme Court Justices. The other two branches of government have not imposed such restrictions and occasionally have resisted them.
The constraint is attributed to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or rather the interpretation by the Supreme Court of the reply of President Jefferson to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association. The Baptists noted that previously laws and custom considered the practice of religion as a privilege, or favor granted, and expressed the hope that in the new form of government it would be an inalienable right.[1] Jefferson allayed their apprehension stating that the establishment clause builds “a wall between Church and State.”[2] He did not actually mean to make a fundamental statement, but a political one. He explained to his Attorney General that the letter was intended to please people in places like Virginia, “being seasoned to the Southern taste only.”[2]
The nature of relations between church and state in the mind of the framers of the Constitution can be better ascertained from the actions of George Washington, the President of the Constitutional Convention. As commander-in-chief, he issued an order to his troops: “All chaplains are to perform divine service tomorrow, and on every succeeding Sunday. . . . The commander in chief expects an exact compliance with this order, and that it be observed in future as an invariable rule of practice – and every neglect will be consider[ed] not only a breach of orders, but a disregard to decency, virtue and religion.”[3] Thus, Washington did not presume that the government should choose chaplains for the army, but on the other hand assumed with no hesitation that the soldiers should pray on army time, in army facilities, and have the government pay for the chaplains they chose.
Another proof that the excision of religion from public life was not in the minds of the framers of the constitution comes from John Adams: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[4] The opposite interpretation arose only in the twentieth century, and its restrictions have been broad, as well as capricious. For example:
– Opening of town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy is allowed.[5] So is opening a state legislature’s session with a prayer by a state-paid chaplain. The rationale is “the unique history of US,” as shown by examples.[6] Inviting, however, a member of the clergy to deliver a prayer at a high school graduation (at no cost),[7] or teachers setting aside one minute each day for meditation or voluntary prayer,[8] is unacceptable.
– A nativity scene in front of a public building is forbidden, whereas a large menorah placed together with a Christmas tree is not, because the menorah “has become a secular symbol,”[9] while a nativity scene displayed together with a Christmas tree, a Santa Claus house and a “Season’s Greetings” sign was ruled as having “legitimate secular purposes,” and thus acceptable.[10]
– The placement in County Court houses in Kentucky of a “Foundations of American Law & Government Display,” containing nine framed documents of equal size (Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, etc.), one of them being the Ten Commandments, was struck down,[11] but a monument with the Ten Commandments at the Texas Capitol, together with other monuments “designed to illustrate the ideals of those who settled in Texas,” was approved. One of the reasons given was that “(t)he physical setting of the monument suggests little or nothing of the sacred.”[12] The two rulings were issued on the same day.
It is noticeable that the Court has been stricter in denying the right of religious practice to students than to other classes of citizens, and also that its pronouncements have been supremely arrogant. Thus, the majority opinion (by Justice Anthony Kennedy) denying the students the right to hear an invocation at their graduation, reads: “The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations. . . ”[6] As the Danbury Baptists feared in 1801, the practice of religion has become a favor which the sovereign (here the Supreme Court) may extend, rather than an inalienable right.
The thesis that religion has to be excluded from the public sphere can be counteracted with the Supreme Court’s own arguments: the protection of the First Amendment is meant specifically for the public sphere, because private practice of religion is protected by the right to privacy, established earlier by the Court.
There is also a fundamental objection to the position that the first Amendment requires imposition of secularism on the public life of citizens. As Marxists correctly understood, there are only two philosophical systems: materialism and spiritualism (called by them idealism). The two are opposed and mutually exclusive. Anything else reduces to one of them.[13] Here, philosophy means the fundamental representation of the world and of life (world view, best expressed by the German Weltanschauung). Secularism is a form of materialism. The government, being constitutionally prohibited from taking sides, cannot promote secularism at the expense of religion. The Court’s view that pupils are “compelled by law to go to school for secular education”[14] is an abuse.
That being said, scraping acceptance for religious displays via conjunction with unrelated messages is demeaning. We should publicly celebrate Christmas as a holy day, rather than on account of any “secular purposes,” and display the Ten Commandments for what they are, not in a setting suggesting “nothing of the sacred.” Christians should not degrade their faith. Likewise, when a judge forbade a graduation prayer devised and offered by the students, the reaction was to decry the loss of an eighty-year-old tradition.[15] A tradition, no matter how long, was not itself worth the fuss; Christian students should reject the ruling by the judge for more fundamental reasons. Moreover, if there really was a conflict between the Constitution and the Ten Commandments, Christians would stand on the side of the Ten Commandments.
In reality, the problem is not with the Constitution, but (in Justice Rehnquist’s words) with the Court’s majority’s “hostility to all things religious in public life.”[16] There are two possible responses, one confrontational, the other not. For the former, a threatened religious display can be defended in the manner in which citizens have defended a Nevada rancher when the government tried to confiscate his cattle.[17] For the latter, Christians should determine which is their hierarchy of values. In other words, if prayer before football games is forbidden, should Christians give up prayer, or football? The answer to such a question was given by a Utah team qualified for the Little League Regional tournament, which chose to forfeit a game, rather than play on Sunday.[18] The same uncompromising attitude was shown by the basketball team of an Orthodox Jewish school in Texas, which gave up its participation in the state semifinal game, because it was scheduled on a Friday night.[19]
There is no need, however, that Christian students give up competitive sports; they should only refuse to play on the school team and start a private league open to students. If there are Christians in town, they will prefer to watch the independent league games.
In the same manner, Christian students can refrain from participating in official graduation exercises, request their diplomas from the school office, and organize a private graduation ceremony, in a club or barn, inviting all teachers and school officials who would care to attend. In a few years this could become the main event and the citizens might vote to remove the money for the secular graduation ceremony from the school budget.
Town council members could arrange to meet on the street in front of the building before the official meeting is scheduled to start, and pray for the success of their official work due to begin in a short while.
If the Ten Commandments on the lawn, or even the corridor of an official building, are objected to, the space can be sold to a private nonprofit organization that would then allow the government entity to use it.
We could find ways to neutralize the antireligious dictates of courts, perhaps with some effort and inconvenience, at least at the beginning. We would not mind the inconvenience . . . if we were Christians.

[1] http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=65
[2] http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danbury.html
[3] http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.5482757/k.3115/George_Washington_and_Religion.htm
[4] John Adams, Reply to Massachusetts Militia, Oct. 11, 1789; Adams Microfilm, Reel 119, i.e., The Adams Family Papers, housed in the MA Historical Society
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_of_Greece_v._Galloway
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_v._Chambers
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_v._Weisman
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallace_v._Jaffree
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_of_Allegheny_v._American_Civil_Liberties_Union
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynch_v._Donnelly
[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCreary_County_v._American_Civil_Liberties_Union
[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Orden_v._Perry
[13] V.I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiriocriticism, Ten questions to a lecturer; http://www.wsws.org/IML/materialism/
[14] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCollum_v._Board_of_Education
[15] http://www.foxnews.com/story/2001/05/17/judge-forbids-prayer-at-illinois-high-school-graduation/
[16]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe_Independent_School_Dist._v._Doe
[17] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/17/us-usa-ranchers-nevada-militia-insight-idUSBREA3G26620140417
[18] http://articles.latimes.com/2006/aug/08/sports/sp-littleleague8
[19]
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/sports/jewish-schools-team-refusing-to-play-during-sabbath-loses-trip-to-state-semifinals.html?_r

Limiting Factors of the Pro Life Movement

Forty-one years have passed since the Roe v Wade ruling and likewise forty-one years of anti abortion efforts. These efforts can be expended in two directions, in some measure intertwined: (1) changing the law that permits abortion (overturning Roe v. Wade) and (2) the actual elimination of abortion from the society. To assess the accomplishments to date of the anti abortion movement, both aspects have to be examined.
In the mid-nineteen-nineties, I was serving as faculty advisor to a Students for Life organization, a group of about twenty students in a university of thirty thousand. In that capacity, I was invited to an annual meeting of Respect Life coordinators of the local diocese. The highlight of the event was a presentation by Helen Alvare, of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, regarding her legislative work, mainly lobbying, in Washington. The speaker was quite impressive, but I was left with an uneasy feeling. Thus, she stated that President Clinton was far from helpful to our cause. I remembered then that Mr. Clinton had received about 52% of the Catholic vote. During the period of discussion that followed, I offered the following comments:
“Whenever I hear of the struggles of the U.S. Catholic Church in the defense of life, I am visited by the image of a great ocean liner on high seas, in a big storm. The night before, the crew has given a firework display and, being careless, discharged one round through the hull, and now they exhort the passengers to help patch the hole with cardboard. The fact is that Mr. Clinton was elected by the Catholic vote. More generally, there hasn’t been an abortion advocate running for anything from President to dog catcher, in whom some part of the Catholic establishment wouldn’t find compelling redeeming qualities. The Church forbids abortion. If Catholics follow the teachings of the Church, we should expect that while others might abort their offspring to extinction, the world would increasingly be populated with Catholics and others sharing their pro life stand and so the matter would be taken care of. In reality, there is no statistically significant difference in the rate of abortions between Catholics and the rest of the US population.”
In her reply, Ms. Alvare attributed the failings to which I had alluded to deficiencies in catechesis. It might be helpful to survey in more detail the two aspects of the pro life activity and to identify the causes of progress or lack of it.
On the political-legislative side, one notes that since 1973 there have been 10 presidential elections (seven presidents have occupied the White House) and 20 elections for the House, while the Senate has been turned over six times. Throughout, the position espoused by our elected leaders has varied from one electoral cycle to the next, but there has been no sustained evolution toward opposing abortion. Most telling, in 2008 a higher percentage of Catholics voted for Obama, a candidate with an extreme pro abortion philosophy and record, than had voted for Clinton in 1992, and almost as many voted for him in 2012, after he had met or exceeded the worst expectations.
This unquestionable failure of the pro life efforts is easier to understand upon considering the limitations under which they have been conducted. The first limitation was brought about by the linkage principle. Thus, until 1991 the abortion issue was linked with the quest for nuclear disarmament. This intellectually deficient notion was the fruit of thought of the late Cardinal Bernadin, of whom I won’t write more here. Ironically, the nuclear danger of that time was removed by the demise of the Soviet empire, in which the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe under the Reagan administration played a decisive role.
When opposition to nuclear arms, or more accurately opposition to the U.S. possessing nuclear arms, lost its luster, capital punishment was adopted for linkage with abortion. Rejection of capital punishment was the position of the philosopher Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II, as well as of some American theologians and bishops. It is not, however, part of Catholic doctrine, nor does it follow from it. Rather, it was first propounded by people opposed to the Church and religion in general, and logically followed from their denial of the existence of an immortal soul. This topic, however, requires separate treatment.
The linkage approach had two destructive consequences. First, it pressed a wedge between Catholics and potential allies, who did not amalgamate their pro life position with extraneous theories. Second, and worse, it provided an excuse for many to accept and vote for abortion advocates that embraced the political positions artificially linked with the defense of innocent life argument. At one time, working on a pro life legislative initiative, I had a talk with a parish Respect Life coordinator. On my mentioning a notorious abortion pusher in Congress, the coordinator (a nun, by the way) replied: “No, she is pro life; she opposes capital punishment!” One might be even tempted to think that the linkage policy was cleverly put in place by someone secretly wishing to doom the anti abortion movement to failure.
Common sense dictates that even if the other topics, or concerns had great merits, they should have been pursued separately. Their linkage with the opposition to abortion suggested that the latter was not important enough to be pursued for itself. Even the adoption of the bland name Respect Life instead of something suggesting an active posture, for instance Defense of Life for parish offices or groups engaged in this line of endeavor suggests uneasiness with it.
Another limitation on the pro life activity comes from the official adoption by the Catholic Church, including by Rome itself, of Bismarckian Socialism, a truly secularist idea which, as an added irony, was first advanced by a virulently anti-Catholic statesman. As a consequence, the defense of life issue has been now linked with a motley collection of social, or rather socialist, concerns.
A newsman from Dallas reported on a revealing explanation of the 2008 presidential elections given by a Rev. Thomas Reese, Catholic priest:
“Catholic voters ignored the instructions of a group of vocal bishops and delivered 54% of their vote for Barack Obama as president of the United States. These bishops, led by Archbishops Charles Chaput and Raymond Burke, argued that abortion was the most important issue in the election and that no other issues outweighed it. As a result, they argued, Catholics could not vote for a pro-choice candidate. . . Although these bishops were a minority of the U.S. bishops, they received much attention in the media because other bishops kept silent or simply referred people to their 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The silence of the majority gave the impression that the vocal bishops were speaking for all the bishops. . . . Most Catholics ignored the bishops who told them not to vote for a pro-choice candidate.” [1]
It appears thus that most of the bishops did not care much about the pro life argument (at least, that’s the impression they conveyed) and that the political participation of the faithful is morally regulated by the paper cited [2].
That particular statement of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (2007), is a verbose document, running on thirty pages (with pictures!). Reading it through, one may feel that its main concern was to deflect potential criticism from the usual enemies of the Church in the press and among politicians and so every statement is carefully hedged. Matters of heaven or hell are concatenated with prudential judgment statements and with contemporary fad issues, in a monumental heap of mush. Here is a sampling from the text:
“A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity . . .
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons . . .
It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation (emphasis mine).”
One is at a loss to comment on the last remark.
With such a level of confusion, it’s no surprise that some individuals claiming to be pro life leaders not only voted for Obama but boasted about it [1,3], and that members of the pro abortion group Catholics for Choice are tolerated in all American dioceses but one [4].
Whereas the legal framework of our society is important and we have to make every effort to improve it, one should keep in mind that abortion is a form of service, regulated by supply (which legislation can favor or hinder) and demand. I use the term service in its general meaning of an activity requested by some and provided by others. Contract killing and drug trafficking are other examples. It is unquestionable that, were the demand for abortion to vanish, there would be little need for political efforts to ban the supply.
To counteract the demand side of the transaction, the first action actually being taken is praying near the entrances of abortion centers. Prayer is the most important action of a Christian. It always and everywhere helps both the one who prays and the one he prays for, so I certainly wish that this practice will continue and expand. Other activities consist mostly of seeking pregnant single women, convincing them to forgo abortion, helping them through pregnancy and childbirth, and providing material and other assistance during the time immediately after birth. It is not a uniquely American initiative. I visited a shelter, run by nuns, for such women in Spain.
As applied now, the help to unwed mothers is deficient, because it is not accompanied by the appropriate rebuke for the actions that brought them in that situation. This approach is most awkward for anyone who is part of a Christian church. After all, one may go to hell as readily on the grounds of the sixth commandment as of the fifth. Besides, the personal and social destructive consequences of families led by single mothers (other than widows) are well established. The reason for this deficiency is a justified fear that the women might respond to criticism by going away and having the abortion. Yet, the corporal work of mercy (giving food, clothing and shelter to the mother and child) should go together with the spiritual work of mercy (admonishing the sinner). I have not heard, however, of a bishop noting in public the inconsistency of the current approach, let alone proposing to do something about it. Moreover, it does not seem right to ask the government to eliminate the availability of abortion if people recorded as Catholics provide ample demand for it.
We are thus back to Ms. Alvare, who diagnosed so well the root of the problem. Moral catechesis is worse than deficient. It is almost nonexistent. Here are some illustrations: A while back, I spoke to a pastor on Long Island about an important respect life project. He replied that there is no point in doing it in his parish, because theirs is a heavily Jewish community and the parishioners have adopted the views and mores of the community. At about the same time, newspapers reported that two Catholic high schools in the same area canceled their proms when it was learned that the graduating seniors of the two sexes had reserved a sizable number of rooms in the area hotels, to spice up the occasion. And because small problems often grow into big problems, I should mention that the uniforms of students from some Catholic high schools that I saw, one in Manhattan’s East side (near 70th Street) the other in Northern Nassau County, sport hip-length skirts, which don’t reflect the best guidance from the relevant educators.
Unless such deficiencies are remedied, requests for legislative redress will not solve the problem. After all, the apostles did not petition Roman emperors from Claudius to Nerva. Instead, during that time they provided unambiguous commandments, clearly and succinctly formulated in Didache, as injunctions against common practices of those times (as of ours):
“Thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide. . . .” [5]
The people who received those instructions went on to change the world.

[1] Jeffrey Weiss: The Rev.Thomas Reese analyzes the Catholic vote — most didn’t follow the anti-abortion line; dallasnews.com (The Dallas Morning News), 9:54 P.M. Tue, Nov. 04, 2008
[2] USCCB: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (long statement), Nov. 14, 2007; http://www.faithfulcitizenship.org
[3] Douglas W.Kmiec: Barack Obama is a natural for the Catholic vote, Feb. 13, 2008; http://www.slate.com/id/2184378
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholics_for_Choice
[5] Didache, II, 2, quoted in: Rev. Fernand Mouret, S. S.: A History of the Catholic Church, translated by Rev. Newton Thompson; Herder Books, St. Louis, MO, 1931, vol. I, p. 91

Dan Fărcaşiu, July 2, 2014

The HHS Mandate on Contraceptives. A Critical History

Suits demanding exemptions from the HHS mandate on contraception and abortion covering in health insurance policies are to be decided by the Supreme Court. Most plaintiffs are Catholic organizations. Irrespective of the final outcome, it is appropriate to examine at this time how and why we have arrived in the situation of hanging on a Supreme Court decision.
On January 20, 2012, the HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, issued regulations on the implementation of the medical care and insurance law, colloquially named ObamaCare. The regulations cover “reproductive services,” meaning in fact anti-reproduction services. They require that all medical insurance plans offer contraceptive services, including abortion-inducing drugs. Exceptions were provided for church employees. Other religious institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, were not exempted.
It was noted that ObamaCare leaves the Administration to decide what constitutes a religious organization and what conscience protection it deserves. The government also decides what is “health care,” what conditions are to be treated, who is entitled to medical care and to what extent, and how care is to be provided and paid for, with no considerations for “individual choices or ethical convictions.” The force of the government will impose the outcome from considerations of costs or ideology that will override religious conscience.[1]
The argument for the mandate was that everybody uses birth control agents. Insuring a general occurrence, however, makes no economic sense. It is cheaper for everybody to pay directly for the service than through the insurance; payment through government is the most expensive. The goal was then political
The mandate was bound to be controversial, so its timing was at first surprising. The promotion of abortion, contraception, and homosexual agenda were in his stated plan for government, but Mr. Obama is reputedly too astute a politician to start a controversy when the campaign for the next presidential election was heating up. After all, other evil aspects of the health care bill were hidden or scheduled to become effective in 2013 or later.
Information about the inside deliberations in preparation for the move, suggests that he expected a positive reaction. ABC News reported that a major role in reaching the decision was played by the Catholic members of the administration, Leon Panetta, Joe Biden and Bill Daley on one side, Kathleen Sebelius and David Plouffe on the other.[2] (Israeli blogs claim Plouffe is Jewish, but his biography notes he graduated from a diocesan Catholic high school.[3]) None of them argued the matter from religious or moral principles, but only for its potential to gain or lose votes. Panetta, Biden, and Daley thought that it might lose votes, but Plouffe and especially Sebelius argued that Catholics are very much in favor of birth control and free access to it.[4] This fitted Mr. Obama’s agenda and was also urged by his allies in Congress like Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and outside the government, like the Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.[2] (Another ally, Catholic Health Association president Sister Carol Keehan, welcomed the ObamaCare version without protection from abortion financing.[5])
The US Catholic bishops spoke forcefully against this measure. Acquiescing to such a diktat meant (perhaps this was its goal) denying the Catholics their identity, but the regulations attack all the citizens, by destroying the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion
The Administration replied along two lines: First, it stressed that individuals will not be obligated to use contraceptive services. Second, it claimed readiness to work with religious organizations, “to see if implementation of the policy can be done in a way that allays some of those concerns” (White House spokesman Jay Carney) [emphases added]
The first point confused the matter. It was not that individuals could choose to use or not use contraceptives and abortifacients but that Catholic institutions would have no choice but to pay for contraception and abortion. A religious institution has to operate faithfully according to its creed and persons that cannot abide by its rules should find work elsewhere. On the second point, the arrogance of White House’s response was striking. Essentially, they told the Catholic Bishops and all other critics: “We can talk with you if you insist, but rest assured it won’t make any difference.”
After negotiations involving Mr. Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Daley, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan (Head of US Conference of Catholic Bishops), the White House presented on Feb. 9 a modified plan: religious organizations still had to offer contraceptive coverage, but did not have to pay directly for it. The amended plan obviously disregarded the concerns expressed by the Archbishop.
The weakness of the bishops’ argument[6] was to claim exemption only for organizations. Not all Catholics work for religious organizations. Also, an agnostic opposing abortion and contraception should be protected, too. Christian charity compels us to demand that the conscience of all citizens be protected. We note that when a draft law was in effect, American citizens could claim “conscientious objector” status to avoid serving in combat.
Another weakness was that similar mandates have existed at state level, such as in New Hampshire and New York. Complying without protest were, for example, Catholic Charities and St. Anselm College (Benedictine) in NH, and Fordham University (Jesuit) in NY, although New York law allows waivers for faith-based entities. In New Hampshire, Diocese of Manchester and the Catholic Medical Center are self-insured and, therefore, exempt. The state mandates, however, were probably illegal under existing law, contravening the Religion Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.[7] On that basis, Catholic institutions that acquiesced to state mandates could have been brought out of them or ordered out by their bishops.
Even without the HHS regulations, ObamaCare was structured to circumvent conscience protections. Thus, the law does not prevent use of public money for abortions, because Rep. Bart Stupak (a Catholic, and the key vote for passing it[8]) accepted the President’s pledge to reaffirm by executive order the 1976 Hyde Amendment banning federal funding of abortions.[9] The Hyde Amendment, however, applies only to funds provided through annual appropriations bills. The Congressional Research Service found that no funds to be expended for ObamaCare plans will flow through HHS appropriations bills. Therefore, the Hyde amendment will not cover government expenditures for ObamaCare.[10] Mr.Stupak should have known that, but did not want to. Likewise the favorable reaction of the Catholic episcopate to the concept of nationalized health insurance underlying the law was ill-inspired. The danger of that approach to religious liberty is obvious. To protect the rights of all, the solution was not protection of organizations, but personalization of health insurance, so that each citizen can decide for himself whether to buy a specific coverage.
The contraception mandate and the lack of protection against abortion funding in ObamaCare have not been the only difficulties facing Catholics in the U.S. There has been a long push to transform the USA into a territory inhospitable for Christian faith. In matters of sexual morality, one should add the promotion of unnatural relationships, culminating with introduction of same-sex marriages. After a morally objectionable practice is accepted, it soon becomes politically incorrect to criticize it. In the end, one arrives at the situation in France, where a renowned physician was sent to jail for trying to pray in front of the Notre Dame church for abortion victims, or in Sweden, where a pastor can be jailed for stating from the pulpit that homosexual acts are sinful. Interestingly, some justices of the U.S. Supreme Court recommend that we trade our constitution for theirs!
In this context, the muted reaction from Catholics, particularly from the bishops, to the push for legalization of same-sex marriages has been disconcerting. Legalization occurred in Washington State[11] and in Maryland,[12] while we were all concerned with the contraception mandate. Yet, the two are facets of the same problem.
In any event, the bishops followed up on their denunciation of the mandate. Their messages were read in all churches and the faithful were urged to use the available political means to accomplish their rescindment. It became clear, however, after the failed negotiations involving Archbishop Dolan, that the only path to rescindment went through the elections of November 2012.
To analyze the result of the presidential elections, a comparison of votes cast by three groups of voters in 2008 and 2012 is most instructive (O = Obama, McC = McCain, R = Romney):[13]

Catholics: 2008, O 54%, McC 45%; 2012, O 50%, R 48%; O loss: 4
Jews: 2008, O 78%, McC 21%; 2012, O 69%, R 30%; O loss: 9
NR: 2008, O 75%, McC 23%; 2012, O 70%, R 26%; O loss: 5

The switch of Catholics from Obama in 2012 was half of that of Jewish voters and the same as that of those with no religious affiliation (NR). Whereas it might have been said (generously) that Catholics voted for Obama in 2008 because they didn’t know, the 2012 vote showed that they didn’t care. The comparison with the other groups suggests that even those who switched did not do so for moral reasons. The effect of bishops’ exhortation was nil. Likewise, the law adopted in December 2010,[14] repealing the so called “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy in the armed forces, did not seem to influence the Catholic vote in the congressional elections of 2012.
In an article of February 2012, a self-declared Catholic, Tim Padgett, wrote that according to polls the bishops no longer speak for most U.S. Catholics on issues like abortion, divorce, homosexuality, women priests and priests getting married, masturbation, premarital sex, and contraception. He stated that 98% of Catholic women ignore the ban on birth control, “in keeping with their faith’s precept of exercising personal conscience.”[15]. The implications of his statement are grim, but the 2012 elections seemed to bear him out.
As could have been expected, once reelected Mr. Obama wasted no time before starting the push to eliminate Christian morals from public life. Thus, his refusal to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act was followed by an offensive through judicial channels using carefully selected judges, to force the same-sex “marriages” in state after state, against the will of state legislatures and of the citizens.
An enormous problem for maintaining Catholic principles and morals in the public place has been presented by the actions of members of the Catholic church with prominent positions in the society. A list (incomplete) of such persons is shown below. Notably, many of them are also products of Catholic education:
• Kathleen Sebelius: Summit Country Day School, Trinity Washington University (both Catholic); strongly pro abortion.
• Nancy Pelosi, US House Minority Leader, former Speaker: Institute of Notre Dame HS, Trinity College (both Catholic); strong supporter of every position incompatible with Catholic morals. After the first version of the HHS mandates was issued, she stated: “I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics in supporting the Administration on this.”
• Andrew Cuomo, NY Governor: St. Gerard’s School, Archbishop Molloy HS, Fordham University; attacked the other candidate for governor for being pro life. Promoted and signed the same-sex marriage bill. Recently, stated that people that strongly advocate pro life positions and the Catholic position on marriage are not welcome in his state.
• Martin O’Malley, MD Governor: Our Lady of Lourdes School, Gonzaga College HS, The Catholic University of America; supports federal funding on abortion, lobbied for a bill to legalize same-sex marriages, introduced it himself into the Legislature, and signed it when passed.
• Christine Gregoire, WA Governor: public school, Gonzaga U Law School (Jesuit); supports abortion and requiring pharmacies to sell morning-after pills, signed same-sex marriage law.
• John Lynch. NH Governor: public schools, Georgetown University Law Center; pro abortion, in favor of dispensing morning-after pills without prescription, signed same-sex marriage law.
• John Baldacci, ME Governor: public education; voted no on the partial birth abortion ban (while in Congress), signed same-sex marriage law (overturned by referendum).
• Barbara Mikulski, long term US Representative and Senator from MD: Institute of Notre Dame HS, Mount St. Agnes College; rated 100% by the pro abortion organization NARAL; has strongly promoted the homosexual agenda.
• Patty Murray, Senator from WA: public education, voted against partial birth abortion ban and parental notification, supports federal funding of abortion, was one of the three female Senators to support publicly the mandates when issued.
• Thomas Menino, five-term Mayor of Boston: Thomas Aqinal HS, attended Boston College (jesuit), but did not graduate; has supported abortion and taxpayer financing of it throughout his career. Going one step beyond his colleagues mentioned above, he abused verbally, threatening with retaliation against his business, an owner of a fast food chain “guilty” of expressing in an interview opinions on sexual purity and marriage identical to that taught and commanded by the Catholic Church
• The likely point of origin: Father Robert Drinan, S.J., MA congressman, advocated abortion before Roe v. Wade. After retiring from Congress, taught at Georgetown (1981- to his death in 2007).
Undoubtedly, as long as these politicians are not excised from the Church, the faithful in the pews will treat with indifference the exhortations of the bishops about morality of legislation.
It seems difficult to rationalize the bishops’ acceptance of “Catholics” like those listed. The explanation might be found in the adoption by the bishops (in America and elsewhere) of socialism as the method for helping the poor and achieving equality. According to this social model:
– The poor are not required to work for their living; they are not expected to strive to escape their condition. Poverty becomes permanent, hereditary. The poor are expected to demand to be provided with a living from the resources of the rich.
– The role of assigning people to the “poor” and “rich” categories belongs to the government. The latter provides for the upkeep of the poor, by confiscating a part of the resources of the rich. Expropriation is deemed theologically acceptable.[16](a)
– In practice, the government extends expropriation to the whole productive segment of the society. Additionally, the government refuses to be bound by moral restraints, invoking the separation of church and state.
– The right of the poor to sustenance is not limited to subsistence, but includes gratification, in which the government has included sexual satisfaction.
The virtue of providing for the poor through redistribution by the government seems to redeem every mortal sin and scandal. Being oneself wealthy and not giving to the poor more than the general expropriation does not detract from that virtue.
The Catholic institutions created to address social concerns also have fully embraced the philosophy and methods of the secular state.
The model contradicts the apostles,[17] and also Pope Pius XI,[16](b) therefore it must be more recent.
It was noted that the current situation shows a failure of catechesis in all three forms (from the pulpit, in the classroom and through example). The change in method cannot succeed, however, as long as the subject of catechesis contains basic contradictions. Moreover, these contradictions will continue to reduce the role of Catholic social institutions, until the care for the poor and education of children will be fully taken over by the government. Suits like those currently at the Supreme Court will then become moot.

[1] Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 7, 2012
[2] Jake Tapper, Feb. 9, 2012, Policy and Politics of Contraception Rule Fiercely Debated Within White House, ABC News, Feb. 9, 2012,
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/02/policy-and-politics-of-contraception-rule-fiercely-debated-within-white-house/
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Plouffe
[4] http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/02/wont_you_come_home_bill_daley.html
[5] http://healthcareforamericanow.org/2013/07/11/cha-accept-contraception-regulations/
[6]
http://with-friends-like-these-who-needs-enemies.org/documents/American_Catholicism%60s_Pact_With_The_Devil.pdf
[7] David B. Rifkin, Jr.& Edward Whelan, Birth-Control Mandate: Unconstitutional and Illegal, WSJ, Feb. 15, 2012
[8] http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/08/liberal-catholics-who-supported-obamacare-now-upset-over-contraceptives/
[9] http://www.factcheck.org/2010/04/the-abortion-issue/
[10] http://www.mccl.org/page.aspx?pid=605
[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_Washington_state
[12] timeeshttp://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/feb/24/omalley-sign-md-same-sex-marriage-bill-Thursday/
[13] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/obama-religion-voters-2012_n_2090258.html
[14] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/don’t-ask-don’t-tell-timeline/
[15]
http://swampland.time.com/2012/02/13/birth-control-debate-why-catholic-bishops-have-lost-their-grip-on-u-s-politics-and-their-flock/
[16] John A. Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, Doubleday, New York, 1975, (a) pp. 386-388; (b) p. 387.
[17] (a) 2 Thessalonians, 3, 6-10; (b) 1 Corinthians, 9, 5;