Evangelicals vs. ‘Country Club’ Republicans

The Republican party and “conservatives” in general are far from monolithic.  There are different kinds of Republicans and different kinds of conservatives (social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, evangelicals, libertarians, neo-cons, paleo-cons, crunchy-cons, etc., etc.).  The main division in the Grand Old Party is between Republicans motivated by their faith and concerned with issues such as abortion–a group that is more populist and varied in income–and the so-called “Country Club Republicans” motivated by business interests, as in the Democrats’ stereotype of Republicans as being the party of the wealthy.  The Country Clubbers are blaming “evangelicals” for giving the party a bad image, but the “evangelicals” are blaming the Country Clubbers.  From Paul Stanley:

Leading evangelicals are pushing back hard against charges that social issues are weakening the GOP brand, asserting that the nation is rejecting the rich GOP “country club” image more than retreating on moral issues.

Over the past several decades, the Republican Party has primarily been formed along two major philosophical lines. The first are conservatives who not only want government to live within its means, but care deeply about social issues such as abortion and traditional marriage. The second group is more moderate in its views. Often referred to as “country-club” Republicans, they are mainly business types who care more about fiscal issues and try to avoid social issues at all costs.

Of course there are many that fall in between the two groups, and the distance between the two seems to grow farther by the day.

Bob Vander Plaats heads up The Family Leader, a pro-family group in Iowa that plays a key role in screening presidential wannabes when they come calling on the Hawkeye State.

“The moderates have had their candidate in 2008 and they had their candidate in 2012. And they got crushed in both elections,” Vander Plaats told The Washington Post. “Now they tell us we have to keep moderating. If we do that, we will win?”

Yet somehow the moderates look to their socially conscious brethren and blame them for the abortion gaffes of Senate candidates Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock. . . .

And lest we forget, the Tea Party members fall into both camps but may tend to take an even harder stance on fiscal issues.Pam Wohlschlegel is the Florida State Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots and describes herself as a fiscally conservative socially moderate. She is a Christian and Hispanic.

“Most tea partiers do not want to touch social issues,” Wohlschlegel told The Christian Post. “It’s not a topic we embrace because that is not what brought us together. When we get on social issues we allow liberals to define us. They turn a religious freedom issue into an issue by saying Republicans don’t like contraceptives. We should have been more forthright by saying that contraceptives weren’t the issue. Instead, it was about chemical abortions.”

via Evangelicals to ‘Country Club’ GOPers: Social Issues Aren’t Problem, You Are.

Did Mitt Romney fail to attract a majority of voters because he was was too militant in opposing abortion and gay marriage or because he represented “big money”?  Didn’t he downplay those social issues?  Before the Republicans lost with Romney, they lost with John McCain.   The point about tea partiers playing down social issues is also important, despite the way Democrats caricature this movement.

So should the Republicans emphasize social issues next time, or would that just be yet another way to lose?

The rooster crisis

What with the locavore movement, the organic food craze, survivalism, and the need to pinch pennies, lots of people have started raising chickens.  Even in big cities and suburbia.  Here in the D.C. area, counties and municipalities have revised local ordinances to allow chicken coops in back yards.  I salute those ventures.  But if you breed chickens, you are going to wind up with some males of the species.  Roosters don’t lay eggs; they aren’t cute enough to serve as pets; they tend to be mean; they fight if there are more than one of them; and–worst of all for city dwellers–they crow really loud early in the morning.  So now animal rescue agencies, animal control centers, and the Humane Society are getting overwhelmed by people bringing in roosters.

See Backyard chicken boom produces fowl result: Unwanted roosters – The Washington Post.

I think it’s great that people want to be farmers.  But if you are going to be a farmer, if only on a microscopic scale, you’ve got to think and act like a farmer.  What has been done with unneeded roosters, from time immemorial, is to eat them!

In the immortal words of Stephen Foster, referring to Susanna,”We will kill the old red rooster when she comes, when she comes.”  And then the next verse, “We will have chicken ‘n’ dumplings when she comes.”  [Sorry!  It isn’t Susanna or Stephen Foster.  As Todd points out in the comments, “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” is a completely different song.]  That last point acknowledges that roosters can be tough and so need to be stewed, but they can still be very delicious, and wound count as local, organic, homegrown food too.

I do understand the problem of squeamishness in wringing necks and chopping off heads–something that seems not to have been a problem with our forebears, however gentle and mild-mannered in other parts of their lives (I remember accounts of my sainted grandmother twisting the heads off of chickens)–but this could be an opportunity for a revival of another classic profession that would be local and a humane alternative to the factory-scale meat industry:  namely, the local butcher.

 

More Obamacare rules

Now that Obamacare has passed the hurdles of the Supreme Court and Obama’s re-election, there is a mad scramble to make the necessary preparations before the health care program goes into effect in 2014.  The government is adding more requirements of what health insurance companies will have to cover while also allowing them to charge higher deductibles.

The Obama administration proposed new rules Tuesday that would loosen some of the 2010 health-care law’s mandates on insurers while tightening others.

Certain health plans, for instance, would be able to charge customers higher deductibles than originally allowed under the legislation. But all plans would be required to cover a larger selection of drugs than under an earlier approach outlined by the administration.

Similarly, the law permits insurers to set their premiums for tobacco users 1.5 times higher than those for non-smokers. But insurers wouldn’t be allowed to impose the surcharge on smokers enrolled in smoking-cessation programs.

The changes were included in the fine print of three regulations the Department of Health and Human Services proposed to flesh out key parts of the statute. For the most part, the regulations — which will be open for comment until Dec. 26 — would simply codify mandates in the law or in earlier administration guidance.

Those policies include a prohibition on insurers denying coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions. They also limit how much plans can vary rates based on, for example, a person’s age. Most provisions will take effect in 2014.

But Tuesday’s proposals also included a few significant tweaks.

The suggestion to grant insurers greater flexibility in setting deductibles, for example, reflected concerns that health plans would have a hard time meeting the law’s original requirements.

Specifically, the legislation prohibits plans sold to small businesses from setting deductibles higher than $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families. But the law also limits how big a share of total health-care expenses must be paid out of pocket by individuals or families, including through co-pays and co-insurance.

Insurers have complained that it could prove impossible to design a package of benefits that meets that requirements while keeping the deductible below $2,000.

Administration officials agreed. So the proposed new rule would exempt insurers from the deductible limit if that’s necessary to achieve the plan’s overall cost-sharing target.

Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, said in a statement Tuesday that the “additional flexibility” is a “positive step.” But she added that “we remain concerned that many families and small businesses will be required to purchase coverage that is more costly than they have today.”

via Obama officials tweak rules for health insurers – The Washington Post.

You think?  With all of these requirements, how could insurance NOT cost more?  But if deductibles are going to have to go up considerably, won’t that mean lots of families that won’t be able to afford health-care after all?

If materialism is wrong, what can replace it?

Alvin Plantinga is surely one of the best living philosophers.  He is also an evangelical Christian.  The New Republic, no less, has printed his review of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.  Nagel, an eminent philosopher, is an atheist, but he recognizes the force of the intelligent design arguments and in this book (published by Oxford University Press), he dismantles the materialists’ assumptions.  What is especially interesting, though, is how Plantinga interacts with Nagel and challenges his atheism:

Nagel rejects nearly every contention of materialist naturalism. Mind and Cosmos rejects, first, the claim that life has come to be just by the workings of the laws of physics and chemistry. As Nagel points out, this is extremely improbable, at least given current evidence: no one has suggested any reasonably plausible process whereby this could have happened. As Nagel remarks, “It is an assumption governing the scientific project rather than a well-confirmed scientific hypothesis.”

The second plank of materialist naturalism that Nagel rejects is the idea that, once life was established on our planet, all the enormous variety of contemporary life came to be by way of the processes evolutionary science tells us about: natural selection operating on genetic mutation, but also genetic drift, and perhaps other processes as well. These processes, moreover, are unguided: neither God nor any other being has directed or orchestrated them. Nagel seems a bit less doubtful of this plank than of the first; but still he thinks it incredible that the fantastic diversity of life, including we human beings, should have come to be in this way: “the more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes.” Nagel supports the commonsense view that the probability of this happening in the time available is extremely low, and he believes that nothing like sufficient evidence to overturn this verdict has been produced. . . .

he thinks it is especially improbable that consciousness and reason should come to be if materialist naturalism is true. “Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science.” Why so? Nagel’s point seems to be that the physical sciences—physics, chemistry, biology, neurology—cannot explain or account for the fact that we human beings and presumably some other animals are conscious. Physical science can explain the tides, and why birds have hollow bones, and why the sky is blue; but it cannot explain consciousness. Physical science can perhaps demonstrate correlations between physical conditions of one sort or another and conscious states of one sort or another; but of course this is not to explain consciousness. Correlation is not explanation. As Nagel puts it, “The appearance of animal consciousness is evidently the result of biological evolution, but this well-supported empirical fact is not yet an explanation—it does not provide understanding, or enable us to see why the result was to be expected or how it came about.”

Nagel next turns his attention to belief and cognition: “the problem that I want to take up now concerns mental functions such as thought, reasoning, and evaluation that are limited to humans, though their beginnings may be found in a few other species.” We human beings and perhaps some other animals are not merely conscious, we also hold beliefs, many of which are in fact true. It is one thing to feel pain; it is quite another to believe, say, that pain can be a useful signal of dysfunction. According to Nagel, materialist naturalism has great difficulty with consciousness, but it has even greater difficulty with cognition. He thinks it monumentally unlikely that unguided natural selection should have “generated creatures with the capacity to discover by reason the truth about a reality that extends vastly beyond the initial appearances.” He is thinking in particular of science itself.

Theism would account for all of this and Nagel mostly agrees, though he raises some objections that Plantinga easily disposes of.  But here is where the issues get especially interesting.  What is Nagel’s reason for atheism, even though he cannot accept materialistic naturalism?  In an earlier book, quoted by Plantinga, Nagel is very honest in articulating what, I suspect, lies behind much atheism:

I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers…. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

[Read more…]

Will Obamacare decrease health benefits?

The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein tries to assure businesses that Obamacare won’t be so bad.  But in doing so, he makes me wonder whether a program built largely around employer-provided health insurance might have the effect of eliminating many people’s employer-provided health insurance:

The health-care law’s treatment of larger employers is almost laughably complicated. If you’ve got fewer than 50 employees, nothing is asked of you, and if you’re willing to provide insurance for your employees, you get a giant tax credit, at least for awhile.

But if you’re a business with more than 50 full-time employees, matters become considerably more complex.

If you’ve got more than 50 full-time employees and you already offer them health insurance, you can stop reading now. You’re in the clear.

If you’ve got more than 50 full-time employees and you don’t offer them coverage and you don’t pay them enough to buy coverage on their own without using subsidies, then you have to pay $2,000 for each employee, except for your first 30 employees.

If you’ve got more than 50 full-time employees and you offer some of them coverage but others have to apply for federal subsidies and buy coverage themselves, then you pay the lesser of $3,000 for each employee receiving insurance subsidies or $2,000 for each full-time employee, once again excluding the first 30 employees.

Weird, right? But the complexities of this policy obscure a huge win for employers. In 1974, President Richard Nixon’s health-care plan proposed forcing employers to pay 75 percent of the cost of basic health insurance for their employees, though there would be some assistance for smaller businesses. In 1994, President Bill Clinton proposed forcing employers to pay 80 percent of the cost of basic heath insurance for their employees, though a somewhat confusing series of caps meant that smaller businesses would end up paying much less.

In other words, both Democratic and Republican presidents used to think the proper role for business in the American health-care system was to pay most of the cost of their employee’s health-care insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the principle is different, and much less onerous: Employers don’t need to offer health care, and they don’t need to pay for most of the cost of their employee’s health care, but if their employees are taking advantage of public subsidies, then the employer should have to pay a penalty equal to about 1/8th the cost of the average employer-provided health-insurance plan.

via Cheer up, Papa John’s. Obamacare gave you a good deal..

So if a company has a choice between paying $16,000 (or more, or a large percentage of this amount) for an employee’s health insurance or paying a $2,000 fine, since de-stigmatized as a “tax,” won’t companies have an overwhelming economic incentive to drop health benefits altogether?  It would be far cheaper to pay the tax than to pay for health benefits.

Employees would then have to turn to the “insurance exchanges” to buy their own insurance, possibly with a government subsidy (shooting up the cost to taxpayers), though still with a large expenditure out of their own pockets.  Or they might just join the ranks of the uninsured, paying their own necessary fines or taxes.

Am I missing something, or might Obamacare have exactly the opposite effect that it intended?

 

Hispanics as a conservative constituency

One reason for President Obama’s big re-election victory is that Hispanics turned out for him in record numbers.  71% voted for him, with Mitt Romney  getting only 27% of the Hispanic vote.  George W. Bush got 44%, so it’s not impossible for Republicans to get Hispanic votes.  Unlike Bush, Romney came across as anti-Hispanic, due to his tough stance and characteristically tone-deaf comments about immigration.  But, in fact, Hispanic voters May have the potential of becoming part of the conservative base.  From Jonathan Capehart:

Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18.

Just to be clear, that’s 50,000 U.S.-born people every month for the next 20 years who become eligible to vote. [Whit] Ayres cited this stunning statistic that was highlighted in a study of the Hispanic electorate by Resurgent Republic, a conservative nonprofit research group on whose board he sits. That report also highlights the promise and the peril for the Republican Party in reaching Latino voters.

Of the 10.9 million Latinos registered to vote, 51 percent of them are Democrats and 18 percent are Republicans. But when you view them through an ideological prism, 54 percent of Hispanics identify as “conservative” while 39 percent say they are “liberal.”

via 50,000 shades of dismay for the GOP – PostPartisan – The Washington Post.

After all, most Hispanics are conservative Catholics, are extremely family-oriented, and are hard workers.  They would be a natural conservative constituency, if the whole immigration issue could be solved.