This is an interview with Paul Henry with the Liberty First Network discussing Red Light Cameras and what you can do to help eliminate them in Florida
Red light camera reference page:
David Jolly Donated $30,000 to Democrats since 2006
Every year in every government on planet earth a solemn ritual is carried out known as creating the budget. Florida is no exception.
It is true budget talk makes most people’s eyes glaze over, but it is also true that the budget is the heart of government. It is the place where all that campaign rhetoric gets turned into reality, and where the average citizen gets bribed with their own tax money.
When the legislature turns to the budget this year, they should recognize three adverse trends in it right now; it is unsustainable, uncompetitive, and unjust.
Take a look at the size of it. Last fiscal year’s budget was $74 billion dollars. That is about $3900 for every man, woman and child in the state. Contrary to all the “conservative” fiscal talk from representatives in the news, the Florida budget actually grew 6% last year. If the same thing happened this year, the individual cost will be about $4100 per person per year, or $16,400 for a family of four. If it continues for 5 years it will be $4520 per person, or $18,800 for a family of four. If it weren’t for outside help the budget would be unsustainable right now.
A lot of that outside help comes from the Federal government. About one third of the 2013-14 budget ($24 Billion) came from the Feds, and most of that went to assist with paying for Medicaid. For the last five years or so the share of the total budget paid by the Feds is clearly in an uptrend, and currently hovers around 32%. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida as a whole can “boast” that it receives more overall funds from federal sources (pensions, projects, grants and the like) than any other state, a whopping $578 Billion in 2011 alone. Should Floridians ever decide to buck the welfare state, or assert state rights, it will be tough when one third of the yearly budget and apparently a lot of other personal income depends on the Federal government. What will Florida do the next time something unconstitutional happens?
The budget shows how Florida is its own worst enemy in other ways too. Government has come to believe it actually should be a “partner” with industry, and that it has the right to determine who the economic winners and losers are. At least $106 million of the last budget was dedicated to economic development partners, ostensibly to provide funding for projects that will increase employment and encourage business to come to Florida. What is unseen and unheard are all those businesses (usually small ones) that are hurt by special government favors, or how the free market gets skewed in expensive directions by government that uses one businesses tax dollars against another business that competes with it. Incredible as it sounds, local governments have the legal authority to give tax breaks, in secret, to one business over another. In the end, what happens with this goodfella kind of regime is that if you are close to the government you do OK. But if you aren’t, well, you just don’t matter.
It gets worse. Education in Florida is a state monopoly, funded by the budget. Like it or not, the legacy of monopolies always has been greater costs and less quality. State run Citizens Insurance, intended as an insurer of last resort, is now the largest insurer in the state. The medical industry also enjoys monopolistic protections such as certificate of need laws that prevent the construction of hospitals because other established hospitals think there would be too much competition. Is it any wonder Medicaid costs are the fastest growing part of the budget?
Until legislators stop the fiscal habit of favoring one citizen over another, this situation will only continue.
The Florida Legislature needs to stop playing favorites, free up the free market, and use the savings to cut taxes across the board. Individual rights would be better protected, and just watch how the economy takes off.
But that’s not part of the ritual.
Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party, and an At-Large Rep for the Libertarian Party of Florida
Many medical practitioners have apparently simply had enough. Instead of continuing their never-ending struggle with the welfare state’s red tape, they have decided to revert to a free market model without insurance. At first glance that seems to represent a barrier to obtaining medical care for poorer strata of the population. However, a second glance reveals that this might actually not be the case. No doubt to the great dismay of the sick-care cartel and the bureaucracy administering it, the refreshing breeze of the free market suddenly intruding upon the system shows what prices actually would be if the State were not involved in health care. According to a recent report on the spreading ‘cash only’ medical care phenomenon:
“Fed up with declining payments and rising red tape, a small but growing number of doctors are opting out of the insurance system completely. They’re expecting patients to pony up with cash. Some doctors who have gone that route love it, saying they can spend more time with and provide higher-quality care to their patients. Health advocates are skeptical, worrying that only the wealthy will benefit from this system.
In Wichita, Kansas, 32-year old family physician Doug Nunamaker switched to a cash-only basis in 2010 after taking insurance for five years. (“Cash-only” is a loose description. Nunamaker accepts payment by debit or credit card too.)
Under the traditional health insurance system, a large staff was required just to navigate all the paperwork, he said. That resulted in high overhead, forcing doctors like Nunamaker to take on more patients to cover costs. Plus, the amount insurance companies were willing to pay for procedures was declining, leading to a vicious cycle. “The paperwork, the hassles, it just got to be overwhelming,” Nunamaker said. “We knew that we had to find a better way to practice.”
So Nunamaker and his partner set up a membership-based practice called Atlas M.D. — a nod to free-market champion Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. Under the membership plan — also known as “concierge” medicine — each patient pays a flat monthly fee to have unlimited access to the doctors and any service they can provide in the office, such as EKGs or stitches.
The fee varies depending on age. For kids, it’s $10 a month. For adults up to age 44, it’s $50 a month. Senior citizens pay $100.
The office has negotiated deals for services outside the office. By cutting out the middleman, Nunamaker said he can get a cholesterol test done for $3, versus the $90 the lab company he works with once billed to insurance carriers. An MRI can be had for $400, compared to a typical billed rate of $2,000 or more.
Kevin Petersen, a Las Vegas-based general surgeon, stopped taking insurance in 2005. Petersen named the same reasons as Nunamaker: too much paperwork and overhead, declining payments from insurance companies, and a general loss of control. “The insurance industry took over my practice,” he said. “They were telling me what procedures I could do, who I could treat — I basically became their employee.”
Now Petersen does hernia operations for $5,000 a pop, which includes anesthesia, operating room time and follow-up visits. He negotiates special rates for the anesthesiologist and the operating room, and is able to provide the service for about a third of what a patient might pay otherwise.
Many of his patients are early retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare but can’t afford a full-fledged health insurance plan, he said, and business is booming. “My practice at this point is the best it’s been in my 26-year career,” he said. “By far.”
While the cash-only model may please doctors, some question whether it’s good for middle- and low-income people. Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at the consumer advocacy group Families U.S.A., didn’t want to speak directly to either Petersen’s or Nunamaker’s practice, as she didn’t know the specifics of each.
But in general, she fears that doctors who switch to a cash-only model will drive away the patients who can’t afford a monthly membership fee or thousands of dollars for an operation. “They cherry-pick among their patient population to serve only the wealthier ones,” Stoll said. “It certainly creates a barrier to care.”
Obviously, both the named and unnamed ‘health advocates’ and worriers have it completely wrong. People who don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for health insurance actually can afford ‘thousands of dollars for an operation’ that costs only one third of what it would otherwise cost. It is not only the wealthy who can afford this free market care (besides, people who don’t want it have the option to continue with the existing system).
Look at those prices! A cholesterol test for “$3 instead of $90” – that is more than 96% less! An MRI for $400 instead of “$2,000 or more” (usually will be ‘or more’)? Not to mention the fact that these doctors now have more time to actually care for their patients properly. What’s not to like?
A Win-Win By Mistake?
Imagine for a moment what might happen if the government were to get out of healthcare altogether and there would be free competition between all health care service providers. What would happen to prices in that case? It is probably fair to assume that they would come down precipitously even from the low prices free market doctors are already able to obtain for their patients nowadays.
It is actually a good bet that the onerous red tape and the likely explosion in costs due to Obamacare will accelerate the move toward a free market in health care – unless the government explicitly forbids it, that is (unfortunately we cannot rule out completely that such tyrannical steps will eventually be taken – the government generally doesn’t like it when its ‘help’ is refused).
If so, the Obamacare Act could turn out to become a win-win by mistake so to speak, as more and more people decide to opt out of the system. It seems clear that the free market solution is preferable to the cartelized health care system imposed by government and the lobbyists that have co-written the laws. The doctors portrayed in the article above are leading by example, and we expect their ranks to swell in coming years.
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I wrote the column below in response to Republican and Democratic Party opinions, written by Steve Czontska and Ellen Holt, on the recent government shutdown. I sent it for general publication, that is, any publisher who received it could publish it no questions asked. Below that is a letter written by Jim Shoffner, Editorial Editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News, that he composed from my column and published under my name.
I’ve never done this before, but I’d like to ask a favor of you.
The Northwest Florida Daily News decided to “edit” my guest column, without consultation with me, down to a letter size. In the process important details were removed, such as the libertarians were not invited by the paper to provide a guest column about the shutdown, what the Libertarian Party is about, or that both Mr. Czontska and Ms. Holt as Party officials (not public) are elected on a public ballot, something that I, as libertarian, am prohibited by law simply because I am a Libertarian. These details are important.
Even though the NWFDN published my column 2/3 shorter as a letter in their print version, it was not included as part of their public access website. Web surfers could not see my opinions even though they could read and make comment on Steve’s, and Ellen’s and even Barbara Wall’s letter on the matter, who was a former officer of the Republican Party of Okaloosa County.
The next time you see political opinions published by the NWFDN, just think what is being left out.
Please either send a “Spout Off” to the NWFDN (nwfdailynews.com, opinion link, choose Spout Off), or an email to Jim Shoffner (firstname.lastname@example.org), or call him at 863-1111 x1407, mention my name, and d tell him when opposing political opinions are truncated and obscured in favor of one political party or another, we all lose.
The Lowdown on the Shutdown
On October 17th the Northwest Florida Daily News published opinions about the government shutdown from Committeemen Steve Czonstka and Ellen Holt representing, respectively, the Republican and Democrat parties. Although not invited, I offer my Libertarian observations on the matter.
The shutdown was nothing of the sort. It was always more threat than action. It threatened a more fiscally responsible course that the Democrats took advantage of to seed the public with fear over how indispensable the government is. The Republicans used it to show they really meant business when even they knew they didn’t. In the end, it proved to be merely a delay on the road to more government intervention. Government again functions spending more than it takes it, abusing the rights of individuals, and finding every excuse possible to avoid limits to Federal power as per the Constitution.
Who created the bru-ha-ha really is immaterial. The shutdown supposedly put a halt to the non-essential 17% of the government, but who asks how did that 17% get there in the first place, or was there any doubt that the non-essentials would start work again after the shutdown? In the cynical calculus of Washington D.C., the major parties know they live or die by using the power of government to hand out benefits to their friends while progressively confiscating the wealth and rights of all. That is how those non-essentials were created in the first place. That is how both major parties stay in power.
The shutdown shows the major parties have far more in common than they care to admit. Both advocate compelling you with the force of law to do things with your life and property that you otherwise would not do. Both major parties have grown the State and Federal governments to the point they are fiscally unsustainable. The Affordable Care Act is a great case in point. The Democratic Party bankrupts individuals with mandatory, monopolistic insurance and fines, while Republicans conveniently forget their own enthusiasm for the massive Medicare Part D, or that their candidate for President, Mitt Romney, oversaw his own massive State run healthcare system in Massachusetts. The Republican motto is “repeal and replace” not just repeal. Neither of these parties truly wants to reduce government.
I am not the only one saying this. Every day one can read how Americans see what is going on. On the surface, the major parties profess commendable values such as caring for the welfare of their fellow human beings, fighting for civil liberties, fiscal accountability and standing by their principles. In reality, their policies have made their fellow citizens more dependent on government, limited civil liberties, amassed debt, and generally paid attention to their principles only in press releases. There isn’t a single aspect of American life that is free from government intervention thanks to Republican and Democrat policy.
Even in the field of political competition Americans must struggle with a thumb on the scales. Both Steve Czontska and Ellen Holt have the privilege to be elected on a publicly funded election ballot, yet I am prohibited by law from doing the very same thing specifically because I am a Libertarian (FS103.091(4)). Not only do those of us outside the major parties have to fight for people’s minds, we must also fight those who would rather outlaw us than deal with us.
Libertarians know our nation is on an unsustainable course. We cannot continue accumulating debt. We cannot allow lawmakers to reduce people’s rights to the level of serfs. Government intervention must be stopped. If not, the laws of fiscal mathematics and public outrage will eventually take over. Stopping these trends has been the Libertarian message for decades.
In her column Ellen Holt expressed fear that a government shutdown could collapse the economy. If so, it is an abject lesson for us all to not allow government to rule our lives.
Steve Czontska quoted Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction…”
I prefer Reagan’s quote, “…I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”
Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party, and an At-Large Rep for the Libertarian Party of Florida
NWFDN Letter version
The Libertarian View
On October 17th the Northwest Florida Daily News published opinions about the government shutdown from Steve Czonstka and Ellen Holt representing the Republican and Democratic parties. I offer my Libertarian observations.
The shutdown was nothing of the sort. It was always more threat than action. It threatened a more fiscally responsible course that the Democrats took advantage of to seed the public with fear over how indispensable the government is. The Republicans used it to show they really meant business when even they knew they didn’t. In the end, it proved to be merely a delay on the road to more government intervention.
Who created the bru-ha-ha really is immaterial. The shutdown supposedly put a halt to the non-essential 17% of the government, but how did that 17% get there in the first place?
In the cynical calculus of Washington D.C., the major parties know they live or die by using the power of government to hand out benefits to their friends while confiscating the wealth and rights of all. That is how those non-essentials were created in the first place. That is how both major parties stay in power.
The shutdown shows the major parties have far more in common than they care to admit. Both major parties have grown the State and Federal governments to the point they are fiscally unsustainable. The Affordable Care Act is a case in point. The Democratic Party bankrupts individuals with mandatory, monopolistic insurance and fines, while Republicans conveniently forget their own enthusiasm for the massive Medicare Part D.
Neither of these parties truly wants to reduce government.
Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party, and an At-Large Rep for the Libertarian Party of Florida.