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Give John McCain credit for a healthcare plan that goes beyond the traditional conservative mantra of “tort reform.” It’s actually a decent plan if you agree a free market is a good prescription for our healthcare woes. I for one would love a tax credit for buying my own health insurance, which I have to do because I’m self-employed. Too bad the market fails in reality.

It’s fun to dream of consumer power over healthcare decisions. But it’s ultimately a fantasy. I know this firsthand. My second son — who’s looked perfectly healthy on the outside during his 11 months so far — has a suspicious heartbeat that requires occasional and expensive tests to make sure it’s still not a problem.

We have a health-savings account, so we pay most of this stuff out-of-pocket. We could decide to forgo these tests, considering there appears to be little wrong with our son and he’s otherwise perfectly healthy. But, the doctors tell us there’s an outside chance of something bad cropping up. Do we really have a choice in spending the money? I guess. I do often suspect the doctors are being overly cautious and the tests may not really be necessary.

I could get a second opinion — for another couple hundred dollars. Or I could decide I’d rather spend all the money on iTunes and Amazon. What if I spurned the tests simply because I didn’t have the extra couple hundred dollars to spare? What’s good for the bank account may not always be good for the heart.

I know money should play a role somewhere in the healthcare equation, and something has to happen to rein in spending. But I can’t imagine complicating already-excruciating decisions for parents by forcing them to weigh family finances against a child’s health. Maybe the advocates of free-market healthcare think that’s a good thing, and they may even have a rational argument to support it. But the argument needs to be at or near the center of debate.

That’s the unspoken straight talk about consumer-driven healthcare.

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It’s good to see that an eternity in office hasn’t dulled George W. Bush’s sharp, pointy finger. He can still redirect blame with the best of them.

I’ll just take issue with one clearly absurd statement: that somehow farm subsidies are to blame for rising food prices. Farm subsidies have been around for decades and food prices haven’t been rising (at least as sharply) for that long. So clearly the blame lies elsewhere. For a clue, Bush should read the conservative press on this one. Yes, ethanol is the culprit, and plenty of people saw it coming.

My memory may be faulty, but I remember a certain state of the union address where a certain George Bush called on Congress to expand the mandate for producing ethanol. Congress agreed.

Too bad Bush’s memory isn’t as sharp as his rhetoric.

Today is when election officials in Adams and Franklin Counties plan to have write-in results from last week’s primary. We’ll know if Bob Curley was successful in his bid as a Democratic write-in for the 33rd PA Senate district. If anyone sees the results elsewhere and cares enough to let me know, please pass them along.  An Adams County official told me yesterday they wouldn’t post the results online, which seems a touch outdated. But oh well.

Write-ins accounted for nearly 6,200 votes in the 33rd. Some were for the usual Disney slate of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, but I’m sure Bob Curley raked in some supporters of his own.

 

Here’s a summary of the trucker convoy and its impact on our nation’s capital. Not quite the million-trucker march that might have made a difference (photo credit to the Washington Post)…

The more I think about this “Democratic dogfight is good for John McCain” analysis, the more I balk. How can it be good when you’re running for president and no one pays any attention to you? Isn’t getting attention one of the chief benefits of being a presidential candidate?

Sure, this analysis freaks out Democrats concerned about a drawn-out primary. But it also has another effect: it frees the media from having to focus on McCain while simultaneously allowing reporters to stay on his good side.

It also lets McCain sneak in extra naps — see how easy it is to play the age card?

Apparently I wasn’t the only one parsing GOP primary returns from PA and their harbingers for John McCain. So was Frank Rich at the NY Times

Here they come, DC…Imagine the traffic congestion this truck convoy will cause around Washington, where the roads are normally smooth sailing on a weekday morning…Yup. This should get people’s attention.

If truckers really think government should intervene in this case, why have they fought the government when it tries require cleaner engines, cleaner fuel and cleaner air? Someone, somewhere is benefiting from high diesel prices, and I bet they can afford some pretty sharp lobbyists.

I’m sympathetic to the trucking industry’s fuel-induced pain. But if I had to place a bet, I would put my money on nothing much happening at all. A true, long-term solution is likely to induce further pain, or pain in some other area of the body politic.

The problem is our myopia. The US is used to being — has been for nearly 20 years — the sole superpower and chief consumer of natural resources. The ride’s over, but we are so enamored of our recent size and strength, we fail to see beyond our borders, that other countries are getting bigger, if not yet stronger.

Failing any other solution, we can always fall back on the free market: if something costs more, buy less of it. Oh, but we need trucks to haul things a long distance. Fair enough. Here’s another tip from the free market: if it costs a lot to haul something a long way, make it closer to home.

Maybe truckers undermined by high diesel prices can start growing rice. We may need it.

So I was in New York City last Saturday — and not to see the Pope, though he apparently had the same plans. What struck me driving in was the enormous effort it must take to send food, water and other essentials and non-essentials into the metropolis — not to mention the energy that goes into heating and cooling all those ginormous buildings.

Don’t smaller, distributed cities like York and Lancaster, Gettysburg and Chambersburg make more sense? A big city is sort of like a big coal-burning power plant, a relic of the industrial age that will have to change if we truly care about the environment.

Yet, people in big cities think of themselves as somehow more eco-conscious than us provincials. Sure, they don’t drive. But how do they think all those organic soaps get into the stores they can walk to? Yes, our small towns have problems with sprawl and traffic. But it seems like they’d be easier to address.

What also struck me was the way people sat on the grass in the small slice of Central Park (the lower west corner) where my son and I ran around for an hour. No “group” was bigger than three people, and they were all magically about 15 feet apart. The distance couldn’t have been more regular if they’d all been out there with measuring tape before they set down their blankets.

Another observation: I get the sense (rightly or wrongly) that urbanites see themselves as less conformist, more individualistic than suburban or rural people. Yet, when you think about it, what’s so against-the-grain about choosing to live in the same place as 8 million other people? That seems like a pretty big herd.

President Bush got the first part right. Our eagerly awaited rebate checks will certainly help me cope with rising gas and food prices. The economy, I’m not so sure about. It’s nice to have extra bread in my wallet, but it won’t make a difference if there’s no bread on the store shelves.

The problems right now are clearly broader than people not having enough money to spend, though that is certainly part of it. The trouble is that economic downturns don’t hit like a tsunami. They seep in, barely making a dent in our strong and understandable hope that things will always get better.

It’s too bad people didn’t have color cameras during the Great Depression. That sort of cataclysm seems impossibly remote to people surrounded by HDTVs, SUVs and 3,000 square feet of luxury housing. But what if it isn’t? I hope we don’t have to find out, But I also fear, given our optimism and complacency, that we won’t find out until it’s too late.

These photos are from the Depression (courtesy the Library of Congress). The people are generally thinner than us, but they had less to eat. Hmm. Maybe times ain’t so different after all…

Truckers are still at it. More power to them. It’s unclear to me, however, why they believe government is the solution. If I recall, many truckers were leery of the government telling them how many hours they could drive in a row. Why do they think the government should tell oil companies what they should charge for diesel fuel? Or do they want something else?

One man’s unnecessary regulation is another man’s relief from unnecessary pain and suffering.