Empathy is Prejudice?

You’re most likely to empathize with people who are like you and those who have been kind to you. Empathy is vulnerable to bias; you must choose who you believe; choose who is important. Paul Bloom describes this as a “Spotlight effect” in his book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion – we focus on certain tragedies while unable to empathize with those who are affected by them every day. We shouldn’t be trying to be empathizing while making decisions, because we’ll always play favorites and we won’t know where to put the bright-line. Ask yourself if altruism is really the best tool to solve these problems. While It’s okay to feel outrage for someone; it’s okay to feel grief for someone but, those who devote themselves to compassion are not using their empathy. Doctors do not focus not on feeling bad for others. It’s useless to live suffering vicariously through others, that will only leave you sad, drained and ashamed. Instead focus on the problems that causes that suffering, even when we use empathic ideals and galvanize people in order to get things done.

With this “We have to do something” mentality we laser-focus on certain issues we empathize with, and as a society the issues that we chose to address are not to those who actually may need our help. Our existing biases aided and reinforced mostly by an empathetic largely white mainstream media, while never trying to solve the root causes. People still do nothing; being empathetic is not only useless but a unsustainable mindset to use a framework. Often, our gut feelings are not good policy. Sometimes military intervention is necessary but there is too much suffering in the world. We cannot alleviate all of the harm done, and most of the time we do more harm than good. The reason for military action shouldn’t be based on empathy, it should be based on effectiveness.

The Super Power of the President

As Barack Obama stepped down and continued the tradition of peaceful transfer of power, another man with radically different political goals took his place. Donald J. Trump was elected November 8th 2016 and since then his administration has begun sweeping changes via the dismantling of regulatory executive agencies such as the EPA, and other executive orders, such as the ban on travel between us and seven Middle Eastern and African countries. But what does the leader of the free world really do? 

A very important power of the president is called an executive order. In the first two weeks of his presidency Donald Trump has used his single-most powerful tool liberally. Presidents have been getting stronger since the beginning of our government. Executive Orders, according to NBC, “stem from a president’s desire to bypass Congress. The legislative body is not required to approve any executive order, nor can it overturn an order. The best it can do if it doesn’t like an executive order is to pass a law to cut funding for the order’s implementation. But even then, the president can veto such a defunding law.”

The President is the Chief Executive Power; Commander in chief of the army, his decisions affect every aspect of our government. The president’s role isn’t covered in the constitution extensively, so its hard to say where the limit was intended to be. Throughout our history the presidency was shaped by the wearing down of time. 

Franklin Roosevelt expanded the power of the presidency in the New Deal by issuing over 3,000 executive orders over the course of his presidency. With the start of World War II, FDR issued the executive order to force any US citizen of Japanese descent into internment camps, which has been regarded as one of the more deplorable acts in US history. FDR was also the only president that had served for more than two terms. Another time decades later, during the 70s, Nixon reluctantly begun the Environmental protection agency and passed the Clean Air Act due to public pressure. 

According to the Constitution, Congress should be the center of lawmaking as well as deciding whether or not we go to war. However, during the cold war, the president was given unilateral authority over the CIA, which during this time was doing a lot of shady things abroad to say the least. (Klein) A president has tried to wage full out war without congress’s approval, which ended up as the 1973-war powers act which checks the President’s power to commit to conflict.

Which brings us to the fact that our separation of powers; checks and balances itself but it doesn’t operate the way people think it does. The president is the leader of party, country, and entire executive branch. But he’s not all powerful. He’s not superman. He needs cooperation from party and the nation. Guantanamo bay is a good example of party blocking, for example; Bush was blocked and Obama was blocked by both his own party and the GOP. He had to sidestep congress and execute his executive order just like so many presidents before Obama.

In 2014, Obama tried to revamp immigration processes and help undocumented migrants in his executive order but was blocked by the state of Texas along with 26 other states; In United States v. Texas, No. 15-674. Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, stated “Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: One person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law, This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”

While a President’s executive orders were ultimately meant to further the quality of life for the common American and therefore fulfill their duty, a check of powers is necessary in order for a government to work sustainability and service its people properly. A solid democratic and representative Government is not based on the whims of a single administration, or a single group of people. It is based on the strength that our diversity and our reason brings us.

 

 http://www.cnbc.com/2014/01/28/executive-orders-what-they-are-and-how-they-work.html

https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/japanese-relocation

https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/obama.html

Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan /Henry Holt, 2007. Print.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/24/us/supreme-court-immigration-obama-dapa.html

Here’s to Hoping: An Analysis of Republican Alternatives to Obamacare

By Sam Langheim

As we tally the days of a Trump Presidency with a Republican controlled House and Senate the issue of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become increasingly murky. Democrats are trying to make do with what little power they have to halt all efforts to “repeal and replace” the ACA while Republicans cannot seem to agree on a replacement. The more I hear of Republicans plans for “repeal and replace” the more confused I get. One of the most troubling questions that continued to come to mind was whether or not Republican’s have a potential replacement plan of the ACA and what does this replacement entail?

On January 12th Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, gave his thoughts on the issue of the ACA during a town hall meeting with CNN. A clip, that quickly went viral, shows Ryan responding to a question of why he would repeal the ACA without a replacement. He proposed the U.S. use state high-risk pools for the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions, citing that in his own state of Wisconsin this was a very successful system.

Come March we will see just how much power Republicans now currently hold; unfortunately it seems the ACA’s days are numbered. Coming to terms with the reality of a republican dominated congress and executive, I figure it is only fair I hear Paul Ryan out. The question I had on my mind: “Do state high-risk pools actually work for the ‘uninsurable’?”

Before trying to understand whether high-risk pools truly worked as an alternative for those with preexisting conditions lets lay down some basics about these pools first.

State high-risk pools are self-funded insurances plans organized by state governments, which serve to insure those denied by insurance plans within the private market.  According to the Journal of Insurance Regulation, these high-risk pools are funded by “assessments on health insurers that are proportional to their market shares.” Any pool financial losses that may occur are paid either by general revenue funds or taxes made with a focus on funding high-risk pools.

Enrollment in state-pools are completely subject to the demand for such programs in each state and have often yielded better results in states with smaller populations. These programs often lie square on the shoulders of the states that have them. Although there are many aspects of high-risk pools that remain constant from state to state, these plans often vary from each other slightly depending on each state’s individual needs.

Before the ACA high-risk state pools were seen in 27 states across America. These programs were seen in both “red” and “blue” states as a response to those who were “uninsurable”. A majority of enrollees are middle class and acceptance into these pools usually requires proof of rejection from other insurance companies and proof of residence in each state. It is important to keep in mind that, as stated earlier, although there are constants in how state high-risk pools work these plans come in many slightly different varieties depending on each state’s requirements.

Now the question remains, do these state high-risk pools actually work? In 2008 a study was conducted by the University of Kansas took 416 enrollees in the Kansas high-risk pool with that same central question in mind. These enrollees suffered from conditions ranging from diabetes, cancer, back pain, spinal disorders, mental illness, cardiovascular conditions, and morbid obesity. The criteria for participants in the study were, as follows: a) at least six months of member ship in the state’s high-risk pool, b) age 18-60, c) working at least 40 hours per month, and d) experiencing a potentially disabling health condition as listed in Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines. The participants of this study began receiving benefits from high-risk pools on April 1, 2006 and the results of the study were concluded on September 30, 2009.  

So what did the study find? Due to the high out-of-pocket costs for medical services 26% of the study participants faced financial hardship and debt. Many who cited having debt reported that this was due to high deductibles, high coinsurances, and services not covered by their plans. In addition, 20% reported having medical needs that had little to no coverage under these plans. Participants also reported that high out-of-pocket costs would deter them from seeking wellness and preventative services such as Pap smears, mammograms, colonoscopies, and a variety of blood tests. More than half of the participants reported dissatisfaction with the high-risk pool coverage, because of the heavy financial burden that came from high out-of-pocket costs, high premiums, and limited coverage.

The authors of this study, Hall and Moore, concluded that state high-risk pools “in their current role as ‘the coverage of last resort’ and without broad federal financial support or regulation, these high-risk pools are limited in their ability to provide the coverage needed by many of their enrollees to access services that might prevent their chronic illnesses from becoming disabling.”

Well, so much for hoping. As I conducted my research I tried to be as open minded and unbiased as possible. After all it’s no secret that the ACA has its issues, even Democrats can admit that. Because of my limited amount of knowledge regarding health insurance I thought I may have walked out of this endeavor surprised and willing to embrace a “repeal and replace” so long as the replacement was better. Out of the jumbled mess of proposals that Republicans have for replacement, high-risk state pools seem to be a favorite for them, but evidence indicates not only do these plans not guarantee coverage for the uninsured, they also lead to many of those who are on these plans to fall into debt and eventually default to disability programs funded by the federal government.

It is difficult for an average citizen like myself to understand why Republicans are going through so much trouble to repeal a system that has its flaws but by in large works. Whether it’s the fact that Obama’s name is engrained in the ACA or the fact that repealing it would involve huge tax cuts for the super-rich, Republicans have to understand that their plans for health care moving forward will be traced with intense scrutiny.  They are now more powerful than ever and would do well to tread lightly, if the ACA is repealed with a less effective plan or simply repealed with no replacement at all the fallout for their party would be devastating.

Citations

Hall, J. P., & Moore, J. M. (2008). Does high-risk pool coverage meet the needs of people at risk for disability? Inquiry, 45(3), 340-352. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/58789734?accountid=100

Browne, M. (1997). Health insurance for the “uninsurable”: State high risk pools. Journal of Insurance Regulation, 15, 524-539. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/59769715?accountid=100

Yglesias, Matthew. “The Hidden Reason Republicans Are so Eager to Repeal Obamacare.”Vox. N.p., 17 Jan. 2017. Web. 19 Jan. 2017.

“CONSUMER GUIDE TO HIGH-RISK HEALTH INSURANCE POOLS.” National Association of Health Underwriters. N.p., n.d. Web.

The Broken Pack

Fractured into little pieces

The broken totems will rise again  

The will of the alphas, has beaten the people into the ground

No longer are we a single unit

To them we are deadweight, we have been

Buried in the dirt, and freedom seems out of reach

 

The pack mentality has been broken  

And formation of tyranny is upon us

We put into power old men

Who send their young to fight their wars

Fear mongering over our supposed enemies

Segregating our own legion  

Hope has been replaced by contentment

For where we are

No prosperous future  

Will be built

For our young which we so dearly

Fight to protect

Only rotten carcasses

Will be left from our time

  

Arise! Unite the outcasts!

This is what they want

The great dumbing down

Of empathy and compassion

Slowly turning us rabid

 

Our voices will be our weapon

With it we will expose them

And their false claims

Claim they are helping the hungry

When they feed them picked clean bones

But they feed the gluttons

Endless subsidies   

We will expose them all

 

Our relentless howls will break the foundation

Of this this discriminatory food chain

The lies from our bicameral ultimatums

To solutions of our conflicts

Splits the pack in two  

The color of flesh divides, yet we all bleed the same

We have become rotten on the inside

 

There is no armor to defend them

The deceit they have brought on us

Will bring forth a wave of wolves

That have been bred

Through selfishness  

No one is immune

To the vengeance that will come their way

 

By Chris Kresser

The Elect’s first one hundred days

This past November 8th, Donald J. Trump was elected by the Electoral College to be the new President of the United States. This newly elected POTUS has, among other things in his first 100 days, promised to Repeal Obamacare, he has promised to deport over two million people out of our country, wanting to require a Muslim registry. He has also promised to secure funds to build the wall between US and Mexico, promised to eliminate federal regulations and international trade deals, embracing dirty energy instead of investing in sustainability; doing this by bringing back coal, the keystone pipeline, scrapping the Clean Power Plan, and the Paris Agreements. Along with filling his administration with White Supremacists and other alt-right conservatives.

But contrary to what happened, I believe that Trump is not truly representative of America and is supremely unqualified to be our leader. Trump’s goals are counter to our goals and our best-interests as citizens of a democracy. And as free individuals we have a duty to take our government and community into our own hands and start the nonviolent participation in our government. In order to make our government work for us, we need to focus on an issue and tackle it. I believe that letter writing, phone calls, petitions, online publication, and real world participation in our government, such as putting pressure on our own legislators and community leaders. Trump doesn’t make up America, we do. I would eventually like to organize rallies and foster discussion on important issues such as healthcare, race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identification among countless other things.

It is good to be vocal and compassionate in order to start discussions and educate ourselves. All of us are here because we want to see real quantitative change and I hope that by volunteering our time and efforts we can see that happen. In order to be an activist we must educate ourselves and inform others, only by speaking and expressing ourselves we can make ourselves known.