Friday, February 25, 2011

Beshear Signs Optometrist Bill

Gov. Steve Beshear has signed into law the bill that allows optometrists to perform laser surgery. Beshear claims that this is about providing access, although as we noted the other day, nearly everyone in Kentucky lives within an hour's drive of an ophthalmologist.

Beshear rationalizes this lobbying coup by citing the bipartisan nature of the bill's passage. (Yes, it's true! The optometrists bought votes on both sides of the aisle.) Finally, we are supposed to take comfort in Beshear's promise that he personally will appoint the members of the oversight board, based on his extensive experience as a practicing opthalmologist, I mean lawyer.

Kentucky had begun to make a name for itself by the number of medical breakthroughs that occur here: the Abiocor heart, the hand transplant, the development of the cervical cancer vaccine. Now, we and Oklahoma are in a race to the bottom as the only two states in the country that allow non-medical doctors to perform laser surgery.

In the final analysis, however, consumers will get exactly what they pay for.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mitch Daniels Just Wrecked My Day

I have long thought that Mitch Daniels would make an outstanding president. (For real change, let's try competency!)

But WHAS just aired an interview with him in which he appeared to tell Melissa Swan (at 2:58) that although raising taxes is not his preference for dealing with the nation's debt, "if it has to be the second best action, I'm open to hearing about it." In short, where I looked for an unequivocal refusal to raise taxes, Mitch Daniels went limp.

He's not doing much better on the issue of supporting Indiana's right to work law, as discussed by Allahpundit via HotAir.

SB 110, A tale of Blackmail and Legislative Ambush

[The following is a guest post.]

Last week a bill (SB 110) was passed by the Kentucky House and Senate dramatically expanding the scope of practice of optometry in our state to include certain surgical procedures. Since 1997 there have been 46 attempts in 21 states by optometry organizations to legislate surgery privileges. All but one of these attempts was blocked. Optometry has been largely unsuccessful in these endeavors because it is not in the public’s interest. What’s wrong with this bill and why did it pass in Kentucky?

The United States system of medical education is the world’s best and is based on a system of training that hinges on a foundation of common conceptual and technical skills that are necessary for the practice of all specialties. It was a great optometric coup to convince legislators that these skills could be instilled without the rigors of medical school. What the lay public and legislators failed to comprehend was that exposure to family medicine, cardiology, neurology, general surgery, and other specialties in the standard medical school curriculum is necessary for learning the art and science of diagnosis and the basics of patient management. Specialty training, such as ophthalmology, is undertaken only after this foundation is developed.

It takes at least 8 years beyond undergraduate training to become an ophthalmologist: 4 years of medical school, an internship, and a 3 year residency. Ophthalmology, like other medical specialties such as cardiology, gastroenterology, internal medicine, etc., is overseen by a board through which certification is obtained. The American Board of Ophthalmology requires, in addition to the aforementioned schooling, serving as primary surgeon or first assistant to the primary surgeon on a minimum of 364 eye surgeries and performing well on the state licensing examinations, both written and oral. Some ophthalmologists complete additional training beyond residency in one or two year fellowships devoted to “subspecialties” such as cornea, glaucoma, and retina. As such, subspecialization involves 9-10 years beyond undergraduate school. All post-MD medical training programs within the United States, including ophthalmology residency programs must maintain accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Accreditation is accomplished through a peer review process and is based upon established standards and guidelines. Ophthalmology residency programs include both supervised medical and surgical experience. This must include adequate exposure to the various ophthalmic subspecialties and include experience where the resident assumes primary responsibility for patient care.

Optometry differs on several accounts. The practice of optometry commonly includes examining the eye for vision prescription and corrective lenses and examining, diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the eye and visual system but optometrists’ education does not include medical school. After undergraduate education, optometrists must complete 4 years of an accredited optometry college, after which they are awarded the Doctor of Optometry degree. Some optometrists also undertake an optional 1-year residency program to enhance their experience in a particular area. The process takes 4-5 years beyond undergraduate school. Optometry students, in contrast to ophthalmology residents, care for relatively healthy patients, have no hands-on surgical experience, and lack fundamental knowledge and exposure to the care and treatment of more serious eye conditions. Furthermore, they do not receive training and clinical experience, comparable to that of ophthalmology residents, to diagnose and manage non-ophthalmic medical conditions, some of which may be relevant to the patients’ ophthalmic care. For many optometrists, their only exposure to patients with serious eye disorders such as advanced macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal detachment is during externships at optometric-friendly ophthalmology practices. In these externships, they are primarily observers without significant patient care responsibility. Furthermore, there is no significant oversight or accreditation of these programs. This is in stark contrast to the typical ophthalmology resident’s clinical experience.

Optometrists are licensed by their states to provide primary vision care and nonsurgical management of certain eye diseases and must pass the licensing exam of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry. In some states, optometrists have unsuccessfully attempted to expand their scope of practice to include the performance of laser and nonlaser eye surgery but, to date; Oklahoma has been the only state to authorize this. As is presently the case in Oklahoma, a worrisome provision of SB 110 is the creation of an independent optometric board; no other board or state agency would have the authority to question what constitutes the practice of optometry. The optometric board could expand optometric scope of practice as it solely determines, without any legislative or regulatory oversight.

Considering the difference in training why would anyone want to have their surgery performed by an optometrist instead of an ophthalmologist? Would our legislators, the governor, or you choose an optometrist as their surgeon, when there is no shortage of well-trained ophthalmologists?

Optometrists argue that in many rural areas of Kentucky patients have immediate access to optometrists but not to ophthalmologists. An expanded scope of optometric practice would help to fill the void. In reality, virtually everyone in Kentucky lives within an hour or so to a qualified ophthalmologist. The same arguments were used to pass legislation in Oklahoma where in reality optometrists that perform laser procedures are concentrated almost entirely in metropolitan population centers. It’s not about patient access it’s about money.

There are hundreds of optometrists in the state of Kentucky. They are well organized and politically active. As was printed last week in the Courrier Journal last week:

Kentucky optometrists and their political action committee have

Given campaign money to 137 of the 138 members of the state legislature and Gov. Steve Beshear, contributing more than $400,000 as they push for a bill to expand their practices. Members of the Kentucky Optometric Association and its PAC have given at least $327,650 to legislative candidates in the last two years alone and have hired 18 lobbyists to help them make their case. They also gave a total of at least $74,000 more to Beshear’s re-election campaign, the Republican gubernatorial campaign of Senate President David Williams and the House and Senate political caucuses. A review of records filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance shows that the PAC or its members made the contributions to the lawmakers either in their most recent election campaign or the one that will take place next year.

They spent years lining the pockets of legislators and made certain that the bill would be introduced and ramrodded through both house bypassing the Health and Welfare committees in the two chambers without time for debate or for the medical community to react. In essence it was a legislative ambush.

Optometry has also been able to enlist the help of some ophthalmologists and stifle the voices of other ophthalmologists that oppose their goal of expanded scope of practice. Government-sanctioned optometric-ophthalmic comanagement permits the splitting of the fee for performing cataract surgery. Ophthalmologists retain 80 percent of the government approved fee, and optometrists receive 20 percent. The result is that whenever the optometrist refers a patient for cataract surgery, the optometrist receives the equivalent of a kickback from the ophthalmologist for postoperative management. Government has rationalized this arrangement on the grounds that optometrists are qualified to provide postoperative care and merit 20 percent of the surgeon’s fee for doing so. However, the reality is quite different. Optometrists are paid 20 percent of the surgeon’s fee for referring a

Patient to a relatively small group of ophthalmologists willing to participate in the kickback scheme. This represents a generous government-provided stipend to optometrists for making a telephone call and prescribing a pair of glasses. Not all optometrists expect such a kickback, but many do participate very willingly in this arrangement (RP Gervais. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 11 Number 4 Winter 2006). This came about because optometrists with the help of a few business-savy ophthalmologists convinced legislators that optometrists could be trained in ophthalmology practices to provide appropriate postoperative care. What legislators did not consider is that this training was intended to attract referrals to ophthalmologists willing to fee-split. Participating ophthalmologists benefit from higher surgical volumes and perceived status as superior surgeons. Talented and ethical surgeons who don’t participate in the kickback scheme do not receive referrals. There is also a strong incentive to overlook misdiagnosis and perform surgery, even if it is premature. Ophthalmologists that contradict referring optometrists and cancel surgery, deprive them of their 20 percent kickback fee, may soon find that patients are being sent to a less ethical ophthalmologist so as to ensure the optometrist’s revenue stream. Also, patients are routinely sent great distances, bypassing local ophthalmologists, so that they can see fee-splitting ophthalmologists. So much for access of care.

The control of optometry even extends to ophthalmology political action committee contributions (PAC). Their refusal to refer patients to ophthalmologists that contribute further strengthens their position. Ironically, money from comanagement probably supports the optometric PAC. No wonder the ophthalmological community has been relatively quiet during this legislative battle.

Hopefully, Governor Beshear, will have the fortitude to veto this bill and protect the public. We have the world’s greatest medical system. Those who desire to practice medicine should be trained in this system that has stood the test of time. The training and experience to practice medicine cannot be legislated, bought, or obtained in a brief weekend course.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Assault Upon The Working Class

Thousands have been marching in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin this week to protest the Governor's proposed legislation to reduce healthcare and pension benefits and limit certain collective bargaining provisions for state workers.

The Left has labeled the legislation as an assault upon the working class. The term "working class" properly includes anyone that works, people such as doctors and lawyers and hedge fund managers, but for the sake of argument we will go with the Left's twisted definition of the term which means only folks who work for someone else for moderate to low wages.

Most of the working class in this country does not work for the government, although they do pay the taxes that pay the salaries of government workers. The non-government working class should consider the protests against the proposed Wisconsin legislation as an assault upon THEM. Unusually favorable benefits for union government workers is an assault upon working class taxpayers.

Part of the proposed legislation in Wisconsin is to require that state workers increase their contributions for health insurance premiums to 12.6%, which is still far below the amount most non-governmental working class people pay. 12.6%! Wow. let us play our fiddles for these poor, beleaguered people. The non-governmental working class should be angry!

There is an assault upon the working class going on in Wisconsin. The non-governmental working class should be thankful there is.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Come Meet Comer and P'Pool

Here's a free chance to meet Republican candidate for Attorney General Todd P'Pool and Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, James R. Comer.

This meet and greet will take place Monday, February 21st from 6:00 to 7:30 at the home of Congresswoman Anne and Woody Northup 3340 Lexington Avenue, Louisville.

I have not had the pleasure of meeting James Comer, but I have talked with Todd P'Pool and was very impressed. This is a guy who can beat Jack Conway and give Kentucky a real Attorney General, who will join the 24 state fight against to challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stop the Optometrist Bill

The speed at which the bill to allow optometrists to perform surgery is hurling through the Kentucky legislature is breathtaking, and ludicrous.

To me, it makes about as much sense as allowing social workers to perform brain surgery. And I say that with no disrespect to optometrists, who do a great job providing low-cost eye glasses. But they are not medical doctors, and no amount of lobbying and campaign donations can alter that truth.

The pace of the optometrists bill is particularly galling given the many other pressing needs in the Commonwealth that go unaddressed. There has been no bill, to the best of my knowledge, to save the horse industry -- an issue the Kentucky legislature has been dithering with for many years, while breeders move out of state. There has been no progress on reforming our tax code, a code that is so anti-business it relegates huge segments of our population to permanent under-employment or unemployment. This issue, too, is one that has languished for years.

This session has debated bills designed to prevent law-abiding citizens from buying cold medicine. And bills that target an illegal immigrant population that is laughably small.

In short, the whole session has been an embarrassing waste of taxpayer's money.

And yet when it comes to a bill of true stupidity, our legislators decide they've got to Move it, Move it. Apparently, the thought was to pass the thing before anyone noticed. People have noticed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

KY GOP Engages in More Silliness

A press release from the Kentucky House Republican Caucus announces

"Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown (26th District) today announced the filing of House Bill 485, which if passed would direct any state, county or local government agency who determines that an illegal alien has been receiving any care, education, housing, incarceration, or treatment paid for by Kentucky tax dollars to persuade the Attorney General to seek reimbursement from the Federal government for those funds."

A couple of problems. First, until we elect Todd P'Pool as Attorney General, this is a non-starter. Jack Conway will not be "persuaded" or "encouraged" by this bill.

Secondly, the federal government is broke. Even if Kentucky's Attorney General seeks "reimbursement" from the federal government for funds used on illegal aliens in Kentucky, the federal government has no money with which to reimburse Kentucky.

This is not a serious bill. It's not even a very good political stunt. Might as well just seek funding from China.

Editorial Reaction to Obama's Budget

Editorials across the country are ripping the Obama administration's proposed budget. (The Courier-Journal, in contrast, could not be bothered to write an editorial about the budget.)

Here are some excerpts from papers that usually line up behind The One:

Washington Post: "The president punted. Having been given the chance, the cover and the push by the fiscal commission he created to take bold steps to raise revenue and curb entitlement spending, President Obama, in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, chose instead to duck. To duck, and to mask some of the ducking with the sort of budgetary gimmicks he once derided."

USA Today: "He whiffed." “President Obama likes to talk about those ‘Sputnik moments’ when the nation rises to difficult challenges like the one posed by the Soviet space program in the 1950s. On Monday, he had a chance to turn his federal budget proposal into his own such moment. He whiffed. …"

Los Angeles Times: "The proposal was a remarkably tame response to Washington's fiscal problems, not the bold statement about belt-tightening that the White House had suggested was coming. Yet the biggest shortcoming is that it all but ignored the most important long-term financial challenge, which is the growing cost of entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid.”

The Detroit News channeled those whose New Year's willpower is fading: "What we're getting from the Obama Administration is one of those weight loss programs that pretend it can shrink your waistline while allowing you to eat whatever you like. In this case, the president assures us we can gorge on Keynesian treats and still someday get back into our Clinton-era jeans.”

And for a take from the Wall Street Journal -- admittedly no friend of Obama's -- but a great turn of phrase: "This was supposed to be the moment we were all waiting for. After three years of historic deficits that have added almost $4.5 trillion to the national debt, President Obama was finally going to get serious about fiscal discipline. Instead, what landed on Congress's doorstep on Monday was a White House budget that increases deficits above the spending baseline for the next two years. Hosni Mubarak was more in touch with reality last Thursday night.” (Emphasis added.) ("Hosni Mubarak"; that's gotta hurt.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

McConnell Calls Obama's Budget "Unserious" and "Irresponsible"

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the Obama administration's proposed budget as "unserious" about cutting spending and therefore "irresponsible" for adding to the nation's debt, according to ABC News.

McConnell said,

“The President's budget is the clearest sign yet he simply does not take our fiscal problems seriously,” McConnell said. “It is a patronizing plan that says to the American people that their concerns are not his concerns. It’s a plan that says fulfilling the President’s vision of a future of trains and windmills is more important than a balanced checkbook.”

“The President’s budget comes in at close to a thousand pages. The people who voted for a new direction in November have a five-word response: We don’t have the money. We don’t have the money.”

. . .

“The White House wants us to engage in a debate this week about percentage cuts at this or that agency, about multi-year projections and CBO scores. It all misses the point. The real point is this: We're broke. We don't have the money.”

“This budget was an opportunity for the President to lead. He punted,” McConnell said. “It only pretends to do the things people want. And the reaction we’ve seen from across the political spectrum so far today suggests that nobody’s buying it.”

“This is a status quo budget at a time when serious action is needed. This is business as usual at a time when bold, creative solutions are needed. This is not an I-got-the-message budget. It’s unserious, and it’s irresponsible. We need to look for ways to preserve what’s good that does not put us on path to bankruptcy. That was the challenge of this budget. The administration failed the test.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rand Paul at CPAC

Sen. Rand Paul spoke to CPAC and argued that cutting government spending requires more boldness than the "incrementalism" of simply freezing spending to 2008 levels. He also reiterated the need for Republicans to cut military spending. He's right about that; the debt has become the greatest threat to our national security, and there is doubtless plenty of fat in the military budget that needs to go.

Here's the video link, if you want to watch. And here are a few excerpts:

So what I’m going to tell you next you may not want to hear, but it’s true. The House Republican proposal will freeze this much of the budget at 2008 levels and will add $3 trillion to the debt over five years. It’s too little. It’s not enough. It’s too timid, and we must be more bold.

They’re talking about cutting $35 billion. We spend $35 billion in five days. We add $35 billion to the debt in nine days. It’s not enough, and we will not ruin in our country unless we think more boldly. We must cut more spending. We must cut out the unconstitutional programs we never intended to have here. We used to say as Republicans that we thought education was for the states and the localities and now we have a Department of Education that is consuming $100 billion and it’s time we go back to the Republican roots that says, we believe in abolishing the Department of Education.

There is, though, one compromise we will have to make as conservatives. Those of you who know me know I don’t like to compromise, but there is one compromise you have to make. And this is the compromise, and you have to think this through.

We have always been, as conservatives against the domestic welfare, the abuses of domestic spending, for making domestic spending smaller, but you have to understand that that’s this much of the budget. If you cut out all discretionary non-military spending you don’t balance the budget. You can’t get there unless you look at the whole budget. That means we will have to have entitlement reform. But here’s the compromise that also conservatives will have to make. We will have to look long and hard at the military budget – I knew there was going to be – I knew there had to be some dissension somewhere.

The thing is, is that the most important thing that our government does, the one primary and most important constitutional thing our government does is our national defense. Absolutely. But you cannot – you cannot say that the doubling of the military budget in the last 10 years has been done wisely and there’s not any waste in it. If you do – if you refuse to acknowledge that there’s any waste can be culled from the military budget, you are a big-government conservative and can you not lay claim to balancing the budget.

With regard to entitlement reform, it has to happen. There isn’t any question that it will happen. It’s whether we do it gradually in a rational manner, or whether we wait until there’s a collapse of the country and we have to do it dramatically. Everybody knows the answer. I said it in my campaign. The Republicans attacked me for it and so did the Democrats. The age of Social Security will have to gradually rise.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Orrin Hatch Delivers GOP Address

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) delivers this week's Republican address. His main point is that the Obama administration's plan to selectively freeze spending is not sufficient to address our staggering debt. Here's the video link.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Biden and McConnell at U of L

V.P. Biden Speaks at McConnell Center

Vice President Joe Biden just finished speaking at the McConnell Center at University of Louisville, at the invitation of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

It was an outstanding speech in all respects: beautifully written, substantive and eloquently delivered. It was so shockingly good that many of us had no idea that Biden could give such a speech.

Not even Mubarek's departure from Egypt (which caused a quick revision to Biden's speech) could alter the grace of its delivery.

The thought that Biden obviously put into the speech was a real testament to his friendship with McConnell and desire to work together. McConnell has always maintained that divided government offers the best opportunity to address the most difficult issues with bipartisan compromises. Plainly, Biden shares this view.

McConnell's introduction of Biden was quite poignant, particularly in discussing Biden's efforts to overcome a bad stutter as a child and adolescent. At first, it reminded me of the Oscar-nominated movie, The King's Speech.

Upon further reflection, however, Biden's challenges overcome his speech impediment -- which took years of disciplined practice -- reminded me of McConnell's childhood battle with polio. The politics of these men could not be more different and yet so much of their character was similarly forged by the adversity they faced as children.

I will add photos and links later. Suffice to say that in all the talk of civility and bipartisanship, the genuineness of Biden's and McConnell's friendship was gratifying to see. The Vice President honored McConnell and the University of Louisville today, and I, for one, have a much different, much more favorable opinion of our Vice President as a result.

Lefty Meanies.....

I have a masochistic streak, so on a recent road trip I forewent my standard Grateful Dead and Reggae stations to listen to AmericaLeft (channel 167 on XM radio). I listened to the station for about six hours.

The most significant difference from conservative talk radio hosts that I noticed, beyond the obvious difference in political perspectives, was their mean-spiritedness. The lefty hosts were unrelenting in their negative and derogatory comments about their political foes. Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann were particular targets while I was listening.

Now conservative talk show hosts are not innocent when it comes to negative and derogatory comments, but their comments are usually quick and short. When Rush or Sean Hannity say something mean-spirited about Obama or Pelosi or Reid, they usually quickly move on to a substantive discourse on the issue at hand. The lefty hosts I heard just went on and on and on with personal putdowns. It was ad hominem ad nauseam!

Are these lefty commentators just naturally nasty and mean? Or is it that they lack the ability to rationally and clearly articulate their opposition to another person's particular policy or decision? Or is it that their positions are so weak that ad hominem attacks are their only refuge?

I do not have the answers, just the questions. Think I'll stick with Reggae next road trip!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

McConnell at CPAC

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke at CPAC today and shared near-term tactics as well as long-term strategies for conservatives to bear in mind:

CBS News reported that McConnell told conservatives that Republicans are "just getting started" in the battle to repeal Obamacare. "We're not going to retreat," he said.

A couple of other good lines:

"When we started this debate, the president's vision of reform had the support of about 70 percent of the American people," McConnell said. "But here's the problem: We didn't swear an oath to uphold whatever's popular. We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution."

"And according to the Constitution, nobody in Washington has a right to force anybody to buy something against their will," he added, referencing the line of attack conservatives have used in their court challenges against the legislation.

McConnell urged the conservative activists at the conference to "never confuse what's popular with what's right."If we do our jobs, popularity will take care of itself."


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rand Paul Takes to Senate Floor

Sen. Rand Paul just gave his "maiden speech" on the Senate Floor (his staff's wording, not mine). Like Paul, the speech is fascinating and startling.

Paul begins by noting that he will sit at the desk that once belonged to Henry Clay. Years ago, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced legislation to guarantee that desk always went to a Kentucky Senator.

Paul then attacks Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, for compromising too much on slavery. I see his point and yet didn't see that attack coming on this occasion. History buffs will enjoy the details that Paul gives about Clay's cousin Cassius Clay.

For purposes of current policy debates, the pivotal sound-bite is:

The compromise must be conservatives acknowledging that we can cut military spending and liberals acknowledging that we can cut domestic spending. Freezing domestic spending at 2010 levels does not significantly delay the coming debt crisis and is at best a diversion from the real budgetary cuts that are necessary.

Here's the speech in its entirety, because unlike the mainstream media, we have the virtual room to print it all;

I am honored by the privilege of serving in the United States Senate. I am honored and humbled by the responsibility of defending our Constitution and our individual freedoms.

I will sit at Henry Clay’s desk. There is likely no legislator from Kentucky more famous than Henry Clay. He served as both the Speaker of the House and Leader of the Senate. He ran for President four times and nearly bested James Polk.

Henry Clay was called the Great Compromiser. During orientation, one of my new colleagues asked me with a touch of irony and a twinkle in his eye, “Will you be a great compromiser?”

I’ve thought long and hard about that question. Is compromise the noble position? Will compromise allow us to avoid the looming debt crisis?

Henry Clay’s life story is, at best, a mixed message. Henry Clay’s great compromise was over slavery. One could argue that he rose above sectional strife to carve out compromise after compromise trying to ward off civil war.

Or one could argue that his compromises were morally wrong and may have even encouraged war, that his compromises meant the acceptance during his 50 years of public life of not only slavery, but the slave trade itself.

In the name of compromise, Clay was by most accounts not a cruel master, but a master nonetheless of 48 slaves. He supported the fugitive slave law until his death. He compromised on the extension of slavery into new states. He was the deciding vote in the House to extend slavery into Arkansas.

Before we eulogize Henry Clay we should acknowledge and appreciate the contrast with contemporaries who refused to compromise.

William Lloyd Garrison toiled at a small abolitionist press for thirty years refusing to compromise with Clay’s desire to ship the slaves back to Africa. Garrison was beaten and imprisoned for his principled stand.

Frederick Douglass traveled the country as a free black man at great personal risk – he was beaten, he was thrown from trains – but was ultimately the living, breathing example of the intellect and leadership that a former slave could provide.

Cassius Clay was a cousin of Henry Clay and an abolitionist.

In the Heidler’s biography of Henry Clay they describe Cassius as follows: “a venomous pen was his first weapon of choice, a bowie knife his second, and because he was so effective with the one, he found it wise to have the other handy.”

Cassius parted ways with Henry Clay when Cassius released a private letter that Henry had written to him that seemed supportive of abolition. Henry disavowed the antislavery letter he had written to Cassius and they never spoke again.

Cassius Clay was an unapologetic abolitionists who called out the slave traders. One night in Foxtown, he was ambushed by the proslavery family of Squire Turner. They came at him with cudgels and knives, stabbing him from behind. Tom Turner put a pistol to Cassius Clay’s head and pulled the trigger three times and it misfired three times. Cassius pulled his Bowie knife and rammed it into the belly of the Turner boy, killing him.

Cassius Clay was a hero but he was permanently estranged from Henry Clay. Henry Clay made no room for the true believers, for the abolitionists.

Who are our heroes? Are we fascinated and enthralled by the Great Compromiser or his cousin Cassius Clay?

Henry Clay came within 38,000 votes out of over 2 million votes of being President. He lost the New York delegation barely because an abolitionist third party, the Liberty Party, refused to support him because of his muddled support of slavery. One could argue that Clay’s compromises on slavery cost him the presidency.

Those activist who didn’t compromise – Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, and Cassius Clay – are heroes because they said slavery was wrong and they would not compromise.

Today we have no issues that approach moral equivalency with the issue of slavery. Yet we do face a fiscal nightmare and potentially a debt crisis.

Is the answer to compromise?

Should we compromise by raising taxes and cutting spending as the Debt Commission proposes?

Is that the compromise that will save us from financial ruin?>Several facts argue against such a compromise. Government now spends more money than ever before. Raising taxes seems to only encourage more spending.

Government now spends one in four GDP dollars. Twenty-five percent of our nation’s economy is government spending. Any compromise must shrink the government sector and grow the private sector.

Any compromise should be about where we cut federal spending, not where we raise taxes.>The problem we face is not a revenue problem. It is a spending problem. It is spending that is now swollen to nearly a fourth of our economy.

The deficit is nearly $2 trillion annually.

Entitlements and interest will consume the entire budget within a decade, leaving no room for any other spending: nothing for Defense, nothing for infrastructure. No other spending will be possible without adding massively to the debt.

Will the Tea Party compromise? Can the Tea Party work with others to find a solution>The answer is of course there must be dialogue and compromise but compromise must occur on where we cut spending and by how much.

Even across the aisle, we now have much agreement. Both sides seem to agree that raising taxes in a recession is a disaster.

The compromise must be conservatives acknowledging that we can cut military spending and liberals acknowledging that we can cut domestic spending. Freezing domestic spending at 2010 levels does not significantly delay the coming debt crisis and is at best a diversion from the real budgetary cuts that are necessary.

There is a certain inevitability to this debate as the debt bomb looms and grows perilously large.

As long as I sit at Henry Clay’s desk, I will remember his lifelong desire to forge agreement, but I will also keep close to my heart the principled stand of his cousin, Cassius Clay, who refused to forsake the life of any human simply to find agreement.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Regarding the Florida court's striking down of Obamacare: Duh!. You do not have to be a constitutional scholar to know that the scheme is unconstitutional. A requirement by the federal government for its citizens to purchase a product is way beyond the bounds of the powers granted to them. If they can require us to buy health insurance, they can require us to buy anything. Maybe their ultimate stimulus plan is to just have government mandated consumption! Hopefully when this case gets to the Supreme Court, common sense will prevail and they will drive a stake into the heart of this disastrous monstrosity.

KY House Republicans on Obamacare Ruling, U.S. Constitution

The Kentucky House Republican caucus continues to impress, at least with its energy. Take today's press release regarding two resolutions (one good, one bad) from Kentucky Rep. Jim DeCesare from Bowling Green.

The first,which I support, is House Concurrent Resolution 45. It

urges Congress to repeal the individual health insurance mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as the Federal health care reform bill. It also asks Congress to cease and desist enacting mandates that are beyond the scope of its powers as spelled out by the U.S. Constitution.

“Yesterday’s ruling by a Federal judge in Florida that the entire health care reform bill is unconstitutional only serves to reinforce our rights as individuals to make our own choices,” said Rep. DeCesare. “It is time we put an end to the overreaching tentacles of the Federal government into the lives of all Kentuckians.”

The second resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 46, is undoubtedly well-intentioned yet nonetheless ill-advised. That resolution

urges the calling of a convention to proposing an amendment to the Constitution that seeks to limit the Federal government from spending more money that the revenue it generates, impose limits on Federal debt, expenditures, revenue and taxes; require a waiting period on all bills to give time for all members of Congress and the public to review; and to limit the power of Congress to employ its spending power outside its authorities and prohibit mandates on Kentucky and other states.

"A major part of our current economy crisis is that Congress continues to place unfunded mandates on states, while adopting borrow, spend and tax plans to carry out needless programs at the Federal level,” Rep. DeCesare added. “It’s time we cut up the Federal government’s credit cards and stop Washington for placing the burden of the cost on taxpayers.”

I do not object to any of the specific issues mentioned with respect to a proposed constitutional convention, but I would prefer to see each addressed separately as its own constitutional amendment, if necessary, or as legislation if possible. The thought of a new constitutional convention terrifies me; there is too great a risk that in attempting a wholesale revision of the constitution, we will lose a structure of limited government that has served us well for more than two centuries. Even though the individual initiatives seem conservative, the method proposed -- a constitutional convention -- is not conservative. To the contrary, it is radical and needlessly risky. House members therefore should oppose Resolution 46.