How to Neuter a Crossing Guard

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is for my conservative friends who are celebrating the healthcare bill’s demise. You’ll want to read it all.

Let’s begin with a little story about a crossing guard.

Imagine you are standing at a dangerous intersection now. Cars whizzing by nonstop in all 4 directions. You feel powerless and frustrated. There are no structural safeguards, no physical barriers, to keep us from getting hit. There is a crossing guard, though.

This crossing guard can get us safely through the intersection if the drivers respect his authority and power. Only if they stop when he raises his hand. That’s all he’s got.

Those drivers take cues from each other. When they see other drivers stop, they stop, too. But when they see one driver run through the crossing guard’s stop sign, they all feel more emboldened to do the same.

Pretty soon, the crossing guard is just another poor slob standing on the side of the road with the rest of us. And none of us can get where we want to go.

In a moment, I’ll talk about the healthcare bill. But, first, I want to talk about breathing.

You Think Like You Breathe

Notice your breath for a moment. Are you breathing fast and shallow or slow and deep? Breathing is so important. Breathing affects our hormones and hormones affect our thinking. We can change our thinking by changing our breathing, and we can change breathing by changing our thinking.

Slow deep breaths cause the body to produce less cortisol. Fast, shallow breathing produces more cortisol. Cortisol causes weight gain, hardening of the arteries, and defensive thinking. The part of the brain where memories and strategy rest, the hippocampus, shuts down when cortisol levels rise. We react to the immediate stimuli without using our most valuable and effective knowledge. We become like animals snared in a trap.

That cortisol hormone does a good job of keeping us alive when we’re in extreme danger. But it does a huge disservice when we’re not under physical attack. In real danger, we don’t want to think deep thoughts. We want to hide, overpower our attacker, or run away.

Now that you’re aware of your breathing, you realize you’re not in physical danger. A tweet can’t really endanger you personally, can it?

The big enemy we all oppose here is big government. And we all know the bill Ryan crafted in the dark did little in that regard. So there was good reason to oppose that bill.

But there is also something larger at play here, and if you breathe slow and deep, you might feel better about a lot of things today.

Actions Have Consequences We Sometimes Don’t Consider

Remember how you felt on November 9? And remember how you felt on January 20. Remember seeing all those violent protesters in Washington and other places? Which team were you on then? Maybe you didn’t say anything, but you were probably on Trump’s team. You were probably a little proud and amazed that he did it. Despite all the doubts and all the MSM 98% certainty that Hillary Clinton would choose Antonin Scalia’s replacement, you were happy to be on the winning team.

You might find yourself breathing even deeper now just thinking about that winning day. We tend to take a deep breath when we win.

That inauguration day was less than 70 days ago, so the memory is still fresh in your mind. Then, you probably expected all kinds of great things. With a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican President, we could do a lot to realize our dreams of smaller government and a growing economy. Who doesn’t want to make America great again?

And then some Congress people reverted to their old ways. Bills written by lobbyists. But that’s not the worst thing that could happen.

Now imagine this: imagine if Neil Gorsuch gets rejected by the Senate. Imagine one or two squishy Republican Senators like Susan Collins deciding Trump doesn’t have the political power anymore to hold her vote. Imagine if Mitch McConnell decides, after that healthcare vote, that it’s too risky to use the nuclear option on Gorsuch. There’s no going back from that option, really. The next Democrat president will have it, too, just as Trump’s cabinet benefits from the Democrats’ nuclear option.

Many people are saying the health care bill’s failure has greatly reduced Trump’s power. He might already be a lame duck, along with this Congress.

If you’re breathing faster and shallower now, just pay attention to your breathing. You will start to breathe slower and deeper in a moment. And that’s important because you don’t want a lot of cortisol clogging your arteries and shutting down your hippocampus.

Consequences We Might Own

Blocking the healthcare bill was a high stakes gamble. It took a lot of courage to fight against a president in his first 100 days. I can’t remember a newly inaugurated president getting hit so hard so early in his administration. Reagan suffered a few setbacks, but nothing like this.

It’s very likely now that Obamacare will live forever. At least as long as you and I are alive. It’s also possible that there will be no tax reform. Do you think 8 Democrats are so afraid of the White House that they’ll break with their party to vote for cloture on a tax reform package now?  How do you see that happening?

It’s also possible that Gorsuch will be rejected, either because some squishy Republicans bail or because McConnell loses the nerve to change the filibuster rule. That means those Obama and Clinton judges in the appellate courts will decide the law until Trump finds a Supreme Court candidate so “moderate” that 8 Democrats will support them.  How do you think such a justice would rule on abortion, on gun control, and on immigration?

And if this Congress and this Republican president do nothing major between now and 2018, how do you expect voters to keep this Congress in power? Trump won because he recognized that many people think America is in bad shape and going in the wrong direction. They expected Trump and Congress to change the direction of the country. If nothing gets done, won’t they try something new? Remember, most voters are not like you and me. Most voters don’t care about our principles. And in-fighting among Republicans only makes them care less about those principles. To the average American voter, we all sound strange and abstract. To the average voter, we care more about academic theories than we do about their lives. You can probably remember hearing this from people yourself if you think about it.

How’s your breath going? Just take a deep breath and feel your stomach swell out. You’ll want access to your memories soon.

Our Crossing Guard and Our Accountability

Now, remember that crossing guard? The Freedom Caucus and some conservative think tanks drove the first car through the stop sign. If the other drivers—McConnell, Collins, Schumer—see there’s no consequence to ignoring the crossing guard, we’ll all fail to get where we’re going.

Maybe we don’t like the way the crossing guard distributes the stopping and going. Maybe we don’t like the hand signals he uses. But, until Friday, he was at least trying to get a few of us to the other side. He was trying to get some of us a little closer to our destinations safely.

Maybe that crossing guard will get some of his power back. Because principles without power are just platitudes. I hope so. I know of all the great things the Heritage Foundation and the Freedom Caucus have done. But neither Heritage nor the Freedom Caucus can stop that traffic without a strong, respected crossing guard.

You, like me, believe in accountability. And you, like me, recognize that accountability begins with ourselves. When we choose a direction, we must accept the consequences of our choice. Conservatives may have laid the foundation for Democrats retaking Congress in 2018. If that happens, the Freedom Caucus, Heritage, and Club for Growth own at least 40 percent of the blame.

I now return you to your natural breathing.

Neediness

Reading Time: 2 minutes

President Trump is teaching the world a huge lesson. That valuable lesson goes something like this:

Don’t be needy.

Jim Camp is a world-famous negotiation coach. Jim has led some enormous negotiations: labor disputes, huge multi-national buys, and mergers. This is is what Jim says about neediness in his book Start With No:

It is absolutely imperative that you as a negotiator understand the importance of this point. You do NOT need this deal, because to be needy is to lose control and make bad decisions.

Yesterday, I pointed out that most politicians, especially Republican politicians, need every deal. And they use time to get “some deal done.” They delay. They move deadlines (which were never really deadlines.) They change positions.

To politicians,  any deal is better than no deal. 

Republicans need to get any deal done leads to disasters. Big-league negotiators know this.

I’ve written many times about Chris Voss. Chris was the FBI’s lead hostage negotiator for years. Chris is also a big fan of Jim Camp’s methods. Here’s what Chris says about neediness in his great book Never Split the Difference:

NO NEEDINESS: HAVING THE READY-TO-WALK MINDSET

We’ve said previously that no deal is better than a bad deal. If you feel you can’t say “No” then you’ve taken yourself hostage. Once you’re clear on what your bottom line is, you have to be willing to walk away. Never be needy for a deal.

To Donald Trump, no deal beats a bad deal. 

Trump told Congress to vote on Friday. Pass or fail, he’s moving on.

That is leadership. And it teaches a lesson. It teaches people that the days of American neediness are over. Like when Ronald Reagan fired the PATCO workers.

If the bill passes, we have something to celebrate. Celebrate the fact that our President isn’t needy. Because the world now knows that Trump will walk away from a bad deal.

That’s an achievement worth celebrating.

What Can Missouri Legislators Learn From 19th Century St. Louis Politicians?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’ll let one of my favorite thinkers, St. Louis native Don Peppers, tell about St. Louis in 1850:

My hometown of St. Louis, Missouri was the largest city west of the Mississippi River in 1850, and the second largest port city in the entire country. Only New York handled more tonnage than the riverboats that docked, often more than a hundred at a time, at the St. Louis levee. Among other things, the riverboats supplied equipment, people, horses, and other materials to a burgeoning population of pioneers who rode wagon trains out from St. Louis, pushing westward.

With America expanding west and the Industrial Age springing to life, you’d think St. Louis would become a world-class city and the center of everything in the Midwest.

But that didn’t happen. Somehow, St. Louis became a second-tier city and Chicgo—a much younger town—dominates the middle of America.

Why, Don. Why?

About this time, a variety of railroads began trying to build their own networks to the West, but the St. Louis city government refused to grant the permits required for constructing railroad bridges across the river at their location, even though St. Louis was the logical choice and would have been a perfect place for a rail hub. Apparently, the politicians in St. Louis felt their duty was to protect the riverboat industry, at that time their life and blood, from any and all competition.

Politicians picking winners and loser.

Only politician suck at picking winners and losers. Look at how many Republican politicians pulled their groins in the race to endorse Mitt Romney.

So the railroads turned to Chicago, building immense rail facilities and attracting the businesses that drove Chicago to become one of the fastest growing cities in the entire world throughout the rest of the 1800’s. Today Chicago is the third largest city in the US, almost ten times as big as St. Louis, which still calls itself (ironically) “the Gateway to the West.” St. Louis was indeed a gateway once, but of course in its effort to prolong and protect the status quo, it turned itself into the “Roadblock to the West,” instead.

Missouri’s politicians still like to pick favorites. Some, under pressure from the Missouri Hospital Association and other industry lobbying rackets, want to pave the way for Obamacare by passing Medicaid expansion in Missouri. Missouri–the state the interrupted Obamacare with Prop C in 2010.

Politicians love picking winners and losers.

A couple of years ago, a state rep from St. Louis County called me a “yay-hoo” for opposing the first attempt at healthcare exchanges in Missouri. It happened at the national convention of Pachyderms in St. Charles.

“We worked so hard,” she told someone about five feet from me. “It was probably the best bill I’ve ever worked on. But these yay-hoos don’t understand the complexities of insurance.”

That’s right. A Republican legislator telling people the people are too stupid to understand insurance. I’m sure she endorsed Romney, too.

That’s I filled out a testimony form from Ron Calzone’s awesome legislative testimony machine. Generic Witness Form:Witness form link for Medicaid

You should, too. Now. Unless you think politicians are the best people to pick winners and losers. After all, they picked steamboats over railroads and China Hub over existing businesses. They routinely give your tax dollars to Walmart to build supercenters in otherwise pleasant suburban cities.

Fill out the form. You shouldn’t have to, but your country needs you.

And tell me about your experience at The After Party Thursday at Hacienda.

This Is Why You Are Underemployed

Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you can’t find full-time work, blame Obamacare.

obamacare

One reason the Middle Class has shriveled and wages shrunk over the the past four years is underemployment. People want full time work, but settle for anything. And anything is usually part time.

Most of the fantastic new jobs created since the 2009 have been part-time jobs.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14.6% of Americans want a full-time job but settle for part-time. The problem is far worse in states like Illinois, at 16.3%. Meanwhile, Gallup shows underemployment at 16% nationally.

Obamacare Discourages Full-Time Jobs

The Wall Street Journal knows why people can’t find full-time work, and it’s Obamacare:

Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul’s requirements that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee.

This is typical of government intervention. Government central planning usually hurts the people it tries to help.

(Stick “Central Planning” into your vocabulary. It’s the reason the economy sucks.)

When a government program fails, the government has only one recourse: demand even more power and more control.

Here’s How To Fix Healthcare

If you want to promote health and discourage sickness, turn “the insured” into the “the market.”  Turn patients into healthcare consumers.  Let people make market decisions about their healthcare.

By exposing consumers to the real costs of healthcare, two things will happen:

  1. Healthcare decisions, including lifestyle, will improve.
  2. Healthcare costs will fall under market pressure.
  3. Quality of outcomes will increase, because poor performers and low-percentage treatments will exit the market.

Here’s What’s Great About the Supreme Court’s Obamacare Decision

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the Ronald Reagan movie Kings Row, Reagan plays Drake McHugh, whose legs are sawn off by a sadistic, class-conscious doctor.

kings

Everyone remembers the line “Where’s the rest of me?” No remembers what happens after that. I’ll fill you in.

McHugh’s best friend, a psychiatrist, decides to tell McHugh (Reagan) the truth: his legs were perfectly healthy, but the doctor cut them off to keep the lower class McHugh from pursuing the doctor’s debutante daughter.

Instead of sinking into self-pity, McHugh laughs and rallies.

The movie made Reagan a star. Kings Row also gives us the perfect narrative for our response to the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision:  laugh and rally.

The conservative grassroots in the USA was already complacent before the decision.  C’mon, admit it.  You expected the Supremes to strike down the individual mandate, at least. Then you expected everyone to pile on Obama for wasting three years.  Then you expected Romney to waltz into the White House.  And we’d all live happily ever after.

But happily ever after is relative. Yes, you can live happily ever after without your legs, but you can’t imagine it until they’re gone.

In this TED talk, Harvard’s Dan Gilbert explains an amazing phenomenon that Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes brilliantly:  Nothing is as bad as we think it is while we’re thinking about it.

So what’s so great about the decision?

The Supreme Court just reminded us that our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness depend solely on us.  A republican form of government—a government of democratically elected representatives—requires constant vigilance from its citizens.  On autopilot, the representatives of the people become oligarchs, until one oligarch emerges as the despot.  That’s the natural order of things: domination by the connected through force.

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress can use the tax code to force us to do anything it wishes—buy a car, sell a car, paint our houses purple.  If you don’t like that, then vote for people who don’t want to decide what color your house should be or how often you should go to the doctor.

You want to live free? Vote for people who want you to live free.

And convince 50% + 1 of the people around you to do likewise.

I’ll leave you with JD Wilson’s photos from our post-Obamacare flash rally in Forest Park on Thrusday.

Here’s One Way the Government’s Making Medicine Worse in America

Reading Time: 1

I had to go to the doctor today. The reason’s not important.  Here’s what is:

It took my doctor 10 minutes to describe my symptoms into a government-mandated voice recognition system.  

In the old days, the doctor took notes.  Now, he has to recite his observations into a Mad Men-era dictaphone. “Male, age 48, blood pressure one-twenty-one over seventy-three . . . ”

The damn machine (government medical technology) couldn’t understand half the doctor’s words.  And they were household words, like “absent,” “weight-lifter,” and “bleeding.”

This is the DMV in your doctor’s office.  This is bureau-care.  This is Obamacare–a ten minute exam stretched to twenty with aggravation driven through the roof.

Let’s pray like mad the Supreme Court’s ruling will rule Obamacare unconstitutional.  And I wouldn’t mind it if the majority opinion included a second opinion: “And it’s stupid.”

BTW, The After Party is at Helen Fitzgerald’s at 7 tonight (Thursday, June 21). And the LATimes believes the Supreme Court could hand down its Obamacare ruling today (Thursday).  That makes The After Party your chance to celebrate victory or plot our next move.

See you Helen’s at 7.