The more things change, the more I worry
December 11, 2013
We’re still a few weeks shy of the New Year, but it’s already been a season of changes.
Domestically, it is Obamacare; internationally, the changing geopolitics of the Middle East. Personally, it’s my children.
Obamacare is changing not only the face of health care but the face of employment. The federal government has effectively nationalized about one-sixth of the economy. It has also preempted an area of regulation which was traditionally under the jurisdiction of state insurance commissioners.
Putting aside the technical problems associated with the Obamacare website, there is the problem caused by the politically motivated misrepresentation that if you like your doctor or health plan, you can keep them. The administration’s health-care regulations defined what a qualified medical plan is. This has caused cancellation of individual coverage for millions of people. It will affect employer-provided insurance in the coming year. As a retiree, I don’t know if my coverage will continue.
Those whose coverage has been cancelled are forced to find new mandatory coverage on the malfunctioning insurance exchanges, usually at much higher rates for those who are not subsidized.
Obamacare’s economic viability depends on generational redistribution of income. Young, healthy millennials are required to pay into the system at a rate higher than actuarially justified or pay a penalty. This overcharging provides subsidies to the elderly and other favored groups.
Much has been written about getting the millennials to sign up instead of opting for the lower-cost penalty. If few young people sign up — and recent polls indicate this will be the case — Obamacare economics fail and the program will be debt-ridden instead of the proclaimed budget neutral.
Obamacare is also changing employment. Full-time employment has been traditionally defined as a 35 to 40-hour work week. Under Obamacare, full-time employment is 30 hours, requiring employers to offer coverage to employees who work 30 hours or more per week. This has caused a number of employers to reduce an employee’s hours to less than 30 hours. Obamacare has also caused employers to either lay off or delay hiring workers. Thus, the number of full-time employees in the private sector is decreasing.
Internationally, the U.S.-Iran rapprochement is redefining alliances in the Middle East. For whatever reasons, the Obama administration seems to be determined to reach detente with Tehran. This comes on top of allowing Russia to steal the march on Syria in exchange for blurring Obama’s self-imposed red lines. Additionally, the administration seems to be on the outs with Egypt over the ouster of the favored president, Mohamed Morsi.
As bad as things were between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Geneva agreement with Iran and increased U.S. activism on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations front seems to have aggravated a bad situation. The Geneva agreement has parallels with the 1938 Munich Agreement. Iran got economic relief and tacit acknowledgement of its claimed right to enrich uranium, despite UN resolutions to the contrary. In return, the P5+1 got, at most, the postponement by a few months of an Iranian breakout event, and Obama got the ability to place a call to Tehran.
Netanyahu called the deal a “historic mistake,” a sentiment which was echoed by others. Some consider the agreement an administration attempt to make Israel the villain if it disregards an agreement to which it was not a party and uses military force to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat.
While it seems that Obama is redefining American alliances in the Mideast, other alliances of convenience might form, including an anti-Iran axis that includes Jerusalem and Riyadh. Administration accommodation of Iran has bewildered not only the Israelis but traditional allies like the Saudis, Jordanians, and the Gulf States. It has also increased the possibility that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will go nuclear in response to a nuclear Iran.
On the Palestinian front, the United States is reportedly presenting plans for the Temple Mount and West Bank security to Israel, making the U.S. the de facto stalking horse for the Palestinians, who don’t have to do a thing except raise their voices.
Kerry exhorted Israel and the Palestinians to make peace following the example of Nelson Mandela. There is a problem with this. Mandela was dealing with a single country. Perhaps Kerry is buying into binationalism.
My personal changes are bittersweet. On the sweet side, after 17 years in the South, my son Matthew has returned to New Jersey. He went to college in Virginia and, when he came back home between his sophomore and junior years, told me he would not be coming back to New Jersey. However, a job opportunity has brought him back. Welcome home.
On the bitter side, my daughter Helen is pulling up stakes and moving to Austin, Texas, for the same reason that Matthew has returned: better job opportunities. I understand her reasoning which mainly has to do with job availability and high cost of living. Matthew was hit with sticker shock when preparing to come north. Unlike Matthew, Helen has no job waiting, which makes her like our first generation that came to America with the hope of making it in a better land.
Meanwhile, I, who used to claim to thrive on change, would like a bit less change and to have both my children close to me.