By Montecito Journal   |   November 21, 2019

No Risk, No Return, No Electricity

In my nearly 30 years of serving as a local government watchdog, I would be hard pressed to recall a more foolish proposition than that which is known as community choice energy (CCE).

CCE is a scheme by which local government entities assume responsibility to purchase electrical energy supplies for the residents they represent. CCE requires our regular utility providers, namely PG&E and Edison, to use their power distribution network to deliver the power from energy producers purchased via the dictates of the CCE.

The goal of the CCE is not to obtain cheaper or even more reliable energy supplies for customers, but rather to pocket what would otherwise be the profit that accrues to our current utility providers. That is because green energy is neither cheaper nor more reliable. Nonetheless, these fiscally challenged politicians ignore the fact that all business models must risk loss in pursuit of profit.

Here are some of the more remarkable aspects of this scheme. First, local electeds such as County Supervisors Das Williams, Greg Hart, and Joan Hartman would have us believe that initiating a CCE program is the only way that local consumers can opt to purchase 100% green energy. That is not true. Both PG&E and Edison offer their customers that same option right now! Insult to injury? The County of Santa Barbara could choose this option right now for their own energy consumption but they declined to do so because it costs too much.

Go figure.

The second thing you need to know about this boondoggle in the making has to do with the timing of the same. The county, along with cities such as Santa Barbara and Goleta, are pursuing this new energy paradigm at the worst possible time. That is, both PG&E and Edison are facing bankruptcy by way of lawsuits against them as a result of their operations having a role in any number of wildfires that have plagued the state.

In the meantime, the state of California is threatening to take over these utility franchises and/or break them up, in part because they are now shutting off power to avoid future liability as it relates to fires. What all this means is that there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what the costs are going to be in the future with regard to power delivery. Nonetheless, our local CCE partners are in essence signing a blank check to purchase power that will have to be delivered by way of these same distribution lines that are the subject of the liability lawsuits.

Simply put, CCE is an energy startup in the midst of energy chaos. As I mentioned before, this is the equivalent of the Titanic booking more passengers after it hit the icebergs. If the utilities go bankrupt, that means the stockholders will no longer be partners in the cost of energy distribution, leaving it all to taxpayers and ratepayers, who are one and the same. Our local elected officials are seeing dollar signs in their eyes, by way of becoming energy brokers, in disregard of exposure to catastrophic liabilities.

Andy Caldwell

(Editor’s note: This is the same kind of “bait and switch” that was used by the prior administration when it took over the National Student Loan Program. By promising “more efficient” and “less expensive” delivery of money from the U.S. Treasury (that’s you and me, oh, and China) to students, why, everyone would win. The government would make money on those loans and students would have an easier time qualifying for them. And, in less than a decade, the Student Loan Program has ballooned into one of the biggest losing propositions of all time. College professors and administrators now make way more money, college tuition has skyrocketed, student loans became ever larger and more burdensome now that the banks are out of the way of the money train, loan payment defaults have risen substantially, and, oh, your loans will be forgiven if you work for… the government. Yes, the same “government” that got you into this mess in the first place. And, quick, guess who’s now on the hook for what will eventually be one of the biggest bailouts of all time? (The answer is not China, as they’re running away from this as fast as they can.) Just saying… – J.B.)

Freedom, Security, and Sustainability for All

I appreciated Gillian Christie’s observations in “The Cause of Conflict and the Solution” (MJ # 25/45). We could all try to implement it and look for the third entities benefiting from the conflict rather than the solution.

On a similar note, solutions are difficult when people such as the “Flawed Ideas” author in the same issue, use inaccurate terms such as calling Elizabeth Warren’s improved Medicare for All a “socialist plan.”

It is not.

The Veteran’s Administration is a “socialist plan.” The Federal government finances the plan, owns the hospitals and employs the doctors needed for military patients. That is what socialism is: government owned and operated. Our public education system, our fire and police departments are all “socialist.”

An improved Medicare for All plan, as proposed by Pramila Jayapal in the House of Representatives, HR.1384, and by Bernie Sanders in the Senate, S.1129, supported by Warren, is a public/private partnership – publicly financed and administered but privately delivered.

Improved Medicare for All provides a single comprehensive, pre-paid health plan including dental and prescription drugs, for all residents for life with free choice of any participating private doctor at less total cost than is currently spent. Health care professionals remain in the private practice of their choice. They are paid promptly for all services for all patients at agreed upon negotiated fees. There is one billing/paying agency. There is huge administrative savings in time and money. Private health insurance premiums and current out-of-pocket expenses are replaced by fair health care taxes affordable to all.

Many equitable and sustainable ways of financing Medicare for All through health care taxes have been studied. Federal, state, and local governments (our taxes) already pay 60% of health care costs, not including premiums (our taxes) for government employees and elected officials. The infrastructure for implementing improved Medicare for All already exists via the Federal government’s current efficient Social Security and Medicare system.

The “Flawed Ideas” author seems to believe a health system’s financing method and covering everyone will cause long wait times. This is not true. Wait times are caused when the supply is inadequate or a patient’s needs are not an emergency. We have huge wait times in the USA, not because supply is inadequate but because of mal-distribution and certain procedures being preferred over others. Patients can wait six months or more for a routine physical when we have more than enough doctors and equipment. It’s just not prioritized.

Elizabeth Warren does propose a “socialized” generic prescription drug manufacturing process if the private sector is not manufacturing a needed drug; has insufficient competition to lower prices; has a shortage; is not supplying the list of essential medicines for the World Health Organization at affordable prices.

To understand how an Improved Medicare for All system would work in the USA, study the information that Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) provide at their website, https://pnhp.org/what-is-single-payer/senate-bill/.

 PNHP is a 501c3 non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization.

Think about Ms. Christie’s observation. What third parties are blocking a sustainable, affordable, equitable, non-discriminatory health care solution? Remember, all doctors take the Hippocratic Oath: Do No Harm, Be of Service to Community, and Treat Everyone Who Needs It.

Paulina Conn
Santa Barbara

It’s a Gray World

What is real and what is fake? It is sometimes impossible to tell the difference. For instance there was no crisis at the border. Then we were told by many there was a crisis at the border. Then again no crisis at the border. Then back to a crisis.

In these crazy times of breaking news, or as I like to refer to it as broken news, how do we really tell the difference between fake or real? The one thing for sure is that Presidents Trump hair color’s is fake. It is a Just for Men product or something similar.The most important person on the other side of the aisle, Ms Pelosi uses some sort of brown color.

I mention this because some things are obvious to which is real or fake. The world as we know is not black or white or even orange or brown. It is some form of gray. Which just happened to be the most popular hair color trend for 2018.

Go figure.

Steven Marko
Santa Barbara

Again, They Call Us Names

Will it work this time? Will their outright hate of farmers and hardworking people convince anyone? To say they are bad? To say we are bad? They might leave off the deplorables comments, but we know what it’s about.

Put us down; hate us again.

Such outright hate is amazing, as they do this to convince someone to Vote For Them. It lost Hillary the election, along with her lack of energy and just ignoring some key states.

So why?

They have no other idea of what to do; how to stop us. So just hate us. It’s really unbelievable that this is their tactic. To boo us only makes us mad and stronger.

Yes, stronger! More resolved! More organized!

And we will do it again!

Chris Frisina

(Editor’s note: Judging by the recent governor’s run-off election in Louisiana, the national 2020 race will be hotly contested. We’re not making excuses, but to remove a sitting governor, who is ex-military, supports gun rights and protection of the unborn, with a no-name never-ran-before candidate in a Red State was always going to be a long shot. That the challenger came that close is a near miracle. But, the haters really are motivated to get out the vote and that side is usually way better at doing just that. On the other hand, the deplorables are pretty motivated too. It is likely that conventional wisdom has it right this time and it’ll all come down to Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and probably Minnesota. In any case, it will no doubt be a very interesting contest, though the professional gamblers’ money at this point is on the president. – J.B.)

Video Games, Assault Vehicles, and Twinkies

The recent high school shooting in Saugus, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against a 115-year-old firearms company will change history, one way or another.

Before anyone places their bets in the Remington Arms v. Soto case, it might be worth considering some possible unintended consequences.

If Remington Arms is held liable for manufacturing, advertising and sale of the AR-15 (used in the Sandy Hook murders) or companies producing .45 caliber “assault pistols” (used by the Saugus killer), it’s highly likely that makers of ammunition, rifle scopes, hearing and eye protectors, targets and other firearm accessories will be vulnerable to future lawsuits. Since most murderers need to perfect their skills, local indoor ranges, sporting goods stores, hunting and fishing clubs, will need to start screening all their members and employees on a regular basis. Clothing stores should probably stop selling ski masks and hoodies as well.

The 2012 Sandy Hook murderer, was apparently a big fan of violent video games, so heads-up to all you deranged young Silicon Valley programmers. You might consider including a good attorney on your list of beta testers.

YouTubers, be cautious before posting your tips on hunting, field dressing, tracking, camo gear, fair-chase, kill shots or venison recipes. Other categories in “legal jeopardy” are the thousands of individuals providing instruction on social media pertaining to firearm safety, clearing malfunctions, ammo, cleaning, carrying, safe storage and ways to improve a shooter’s speed or accuracy… the internet lives forever.

If you enjoy adult beverages, own a vehicle or thrive on violent sporting events (MMA, football, soccer, Olympic curling, etcetera) the Remington lawsuit could eventually touch you too. Globally, motor vehicles kill 3,287 people each day and 20-50 million are injured or disabled each year. A majority of these crashes are not caused by the vehicle, but incredibly, by the driver. Should Ford, Honda or Toyota designers, assembly line workers and dealerships be sued when one of their jalopies is used during a robbery or murder getaway or when a teenager dies because he/she/it imitated “Street Outlaws” or the Indy 500?

Should Seagram’s, Heineken or Gallo vintners, distributors and liquor store owners, be sued when a drunk driver plows head-on into a crowd of people? Should bakers, wholesalers and local vendors be responsible for heart disease, diabetes and obesity for selling four dozen Twinkies and a gallon of ice cream to a customer who doesn’t look physically fit? Are cattle ranchers, meat processors, corporate marketing teams, fast food owners and especially those valedictorian Asian kids flipping burgers, responsible for the junk-food epidemic? Should laws be passed to prevent Mr. Chubs from ordering quadruple-bacon burgers for his wife and children?

The Remington Arms v. Soto case is more than a slippery slope, it’s a Teflon precipice chock-full of good intentions… and unintended consequences.

“Solutions” being proposed to prevent another Saugus-type event will be highly politicized by both sides, but as long as these “remedies” are under the strict control of zealots and bureaucrats, what could possibly go wrong?

 “The sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in killer’s hand”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4BC-65AD)

Cautiously stockpiling Twinkies,

Dale Lowdermilk
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Just to clarify for our readers, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the plaintiff has the standing to bring suit against the gun manufacturer and therefore the suit could go forward. The Court did not weigh in on any of the merits of the case. – J.B.)

Three Short Takes

I would like to make brief comments on three of the letters in a recent issue (MJ # 25/44):

1) Regarding Steve King‘s letter on the cons of the voucher system, I agree with him in toto. I certainly do not see vouchers as a panacea to what ails the educational brainwashing system that exists in this country, but more of step-albeit-tiny-step to give the parents a smidgen of control in their children’s education.

2) “Tear The Wall Down” by Larry Lambert: I have written about the solution to the invasion of illegal aliens more times than I can count. I mean it’s not rocket science; you quit putting food in a bird feeder and the birds quit coming. If they can’t get a job, where’s the incentive to come here. How do I know this would work? I’m glad you asked; because in 1958-9 My brother and I came down from Canada and got work locally on a ranch. When we were told we had to have a Social Security number, we lied and said we had applied for one. After the fifth time of lying we were told that we had to be let go otherwise the owner would get in big trouble. We had no choice; we went back to Canada and subsequently immigrated legally.

3) I would like to thank David Green on his very informative missive on generators. At present we own a Generac 4000 that we picked up a number of years ago at Home Depot. I bought it initially to run the electric chain saws and various other tools that required electricity on remote parts of the property so that I didn’t have to string out a mile of extension cords. It has proved perfectly adequate for our minimal needs recently with the power outages. I have to manually start it and switch over which is no biggie for us. It is extremely helpful when Edison alerts us to the time when the power is going to be off.

Larry Bond
Santa Barbara

The Big Con

After years of controversial Supreme Court decisions expanding the power of the federal government, we find ourselves in the year 2019 with absolutely no limitation whatsoever on what Uncle Sam can or cannot legislate in the areas of insurance and health care, two subjects that were historically left to the States. So here come the Democrat candidates for president offering their nationwide one-size-fits-all health programs that they know will make your life better. Many of them have adopted the phrase “Medicare for All” to describe their proposals. This is classic political mislabeling designed to deceive the voter. A better title would be “Unlimited Free Health Care for Everybody”

What Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are proposing, and what is the ultimate goal of all of the other candidates, is a sweeping takeover of all health care in the United States by the federal government. This is not Medicare as we know it. Established in 1965, Medicare is a government insurance program for seniors with participation by the private insurance sector and taxpayers. It functions much like an insurance company: It takes in funding from its insureds during their working years in an amount equal to 2.9% of their salary (up to 3.8% for higher income earners); and receives mandatory cash premiums from seniors when they enroll at the age of 65.

Medicare provides benefits to its insureds in amounts which are paid to medical facilities and health care providers who agree to accept such payments as total compensation for their services. Like insurance, Medicare has co-pays and deductibles for most claims for which amounts seniors can purchase supplemental or gap insurance coverage from private carriers to cover. And also like insurance, it has coverage exclusions (e.g. dental, vision, hearing, long term care, and myriad testing and medical procedures).

Contrary to what the average person under 65 might think, Medicare is not free to seniors. In addition to payroll withholding payments of 2.9% of their lifetime income, eligible seniors must pay a monthly premium to have Medicare Part B cover doctor bills and outpatient services. That premium starts at $135 per month per person and, depending upon income, can rise to $460 per month per person. For seniors who did not contribute to Medicare during working years for at least 40 quarters, they must opt into Medicare Part A (hospital care) for $437 per month. If a senior wants drug coverage, they must pay an average premium of $52 per month per person which, depending upon income, can go up to $132 per month per person. In addition, in order to avoid paying large deductibles, a great number of seniors purchase a private insurance policy to cover amounts Medicare will not pay. For a senior aged 72, the monthly premium for a quality supplemental plan is in the area of $230 per month per person.

Adding to the senior’s medical expenses, there are a growing number of doctors, principally general practitioners in larger cities, who have “opted out” of Medicare. These doctors don’t accept Medicare patients and charge non-Medicare rates for office visits. Many seniors choose to patronize such doctors either because they have been patients for a long time or they perceive and desire a difference in the quality of medical care. So contrary to having free health care, a senior on Medicare can pay anywhere from $417 per month to $1250 per month ($5000 to $15,000 per year) for health coverage, depending upon their retirement income. The amount could be even more if the senior elects to see a general practitioner who doesn’t accept Medicare patients.

With its costs, deductibles, and exclusions, whether fully understood by voters or not, Medicare has been around a long time and is generally viewed favorably by the public. Even though incoming revenue for Medicare is insufficient to cover the anticipated covered expenses, resulting in its certain bankruptcy in less than ten years, the program is still popular. Hence the Democrat candidates have incorporated the word “Medicare” in naming their plans to seize upon that goodwill and falsely describe their proposals for a total government takeover of all health care as “Medicare for All”.

Medicare is a funded (for the most part) national insurance plan, with active involvement of the government, the insurance industry, the medical service industry and the public; “Medicare for All” is a totally unfunded entitlement. Sanders and Warren are intentionally trying to deceive the electorate when they describe their plans as Medicare for All. What they want is to force everyone into a socialized national medical program in which the Federal Government would make every decision on every health issue.

Under their plan, it would be illegal for the private sector to have any involvement. It would be illegal for any type of private insurance, including any employee-sponsored insurance or reimbursement plan, to cover any medical expense. It would be illegal for a doctor or hospital to provide health services for any individual outside the federal program unless they forfeited any right to make any claim for any patient for one year.

Economically, the Medicare for All proposal is as far away from Medicare as one could get. Except for residents covered under Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Services, which are unexplainably excepted, every resident in the United States will automatically be covered, even those in the country illegally. No recipient will be required to pay anything in exchange for full benefits.

Workers would still pay Medicare withholdings at today’s rates but those amounts aren’t even enough to cover seniors under the current Medicare program. There would be no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays, no contributions by patients whatsoever. The Medicare for All proposals provide for no additional incoming dollars, so the total additional burden will need to be financed by increased taxes. Counterpoised with this total absence of additional funding are the unlimited medical expenses that will be covered in full, including vision, hearing, dental, rehabilitation, travel, long-term care, and reproductive care (including abortion on demand).

This is different than the National Health Care systems in other countries. What Medicare for All will be for health care is what the U.S. Post Office is for mail delivery, but with the additional provisos that there will be no charge for postage and no private company (FedEx, DCL, UPS) will be allowed to compete. It will be like AMTRAK with no charge for tickets, no classes of service, and laws against buses competing.

Voters need to be informed of the choice they are making when they vote for a candidate espousing Medicare for All. The American public needs to understand that under Medicare for All, the Federal Government will have virtually unlimited power over all health care decisions and the people will be giving up virtually all freedom of choice.

There is no conceivable way to pay for Medicare for All without massive tax increases for everyone. There is no “fair share” of the wealthy’s income that can come anywhere close to generating this much revenue. The Heritage Foundation has recently calculated that if you imposed a confiscatory flat tax of 100% on all incomes over $1 million, you would only raise an additional $986 billion in annual revenues. It will require large tax increases across all income levels to feed this beast.

Lawrence Dam


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