This is not a typical blog. My posts will be edited and maintained.

Please note that these posts concern all levels of government, not just federal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ideal Taxation - a Flat Tax

The ideal tax/revenue collection idea:

A set-percentage sales tax.

Certain categories of goods would be excepted, such as staple foods. Also, used or second-hand goods, such as home sales, would not be taxed. Services, similarly, would not be taxed. But all sales of taxable items would be taxed, unless such products are purchased by an approved tax-exempt organization or are to be incorporated in a product that will become itself taxable. Any taxable good sold within the jurisdiction would be taxable and the taxes would be collected by the vendor. Residents would not have any reporting/remittance requirements, but may need to be cautioned that purchases from outside the jurisdiction for those other than the resident's immediate family could be deemed as conducting business without a license and tax evasion.

Discussion would be needed concerning restaurants and other service-heavy businesses. May they choose to pay the sales taxes themselves and provide a single inclusive price to the customer? May they pass itemized taxes to the customer? Or is food prep considered a value-add to the product? Would such a business need to distinguish value-add services from customer-oriented services? Remember, service charges are not considered to be taxable.

Ideally, the percentage would be around 20%. I would have hoped 15%, but many studies have been done that show a 20% rate is ideal.

And this would be the only tax or fee of any sort. No income tax. No water tax, gas tax, energy tax, excise tax, import tax, export tax, real estate tax, property tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, building permit fees, inspection fees, car inspection fees (though inspection companies may charge), car registration fees, car tag fees, car title fees, pet tag fees, so on and so forth.

Trial of Suspected Terrorists

Just like any other case, trials for terrorists should be held under the same jurisdiction as the crime.

This means that if an individual is apprehended outside of the country, he should be held outside of the country. The trial should be held outside of the country. If he is convicted, the sentence should be carried out outside of the country. And if he is acquitted, he should be released outside of the country.

In a war, captured enemy combatants should be tried in a military court. Rights of prisoners should be based on military code. And sentences should be carried out in military facilities.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nuclear weapons, Self-defense

This may be surprising to some. I have no problem with eliminating all nuclear weapons.

But only under one condition:

We must FIRST, and covertly initially, have superior weapons and in sufficient numbers to provide defense.

If we have a few thousand proton-based weapons to deal with any major external threats, or both ground-based and air or space-based energy weapons (laser or such) to disable incoming threats, then fine -- get rid of nuclear arms. They are old tech anyway.

We've had nuclear arms for some sixty years. We should be able to come up with something better that doesn't fall under some agreement that otherwise isn't in our best interest.

And if our enemies don't want us to have them, fine -- don't tell them. They'll find out if they test us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Government should not have enforced monopolies

No government organization should have - and enforce by law - any monopoly.

Examples two ways:

Locally, Bristol Virginia Utilities offers television, telephone and Internet services. I have no problem with this. First, it's not a matter of Constitutional authority, because it's not done by the Federal government - local government can do what it wants. Second, it's not a monopoly - alternative television and phone services, including traditional cable and wired telephone, are also available in the area. I use BVU's OptiNet service for Internet, because it's faster and more reliable, as well as lower cost. But I use ooma for my phone service, because they have one up-front cost for lifetime unlimited service (international calling and premier features are extra), and I use Dish Network for television because they had lower pricing for what you get (for the first couple of years, anyway; that has since changed).

In contrast, some want a "single-payer" healthcare system, effectively giving the federal government a monopoly on health insurance. This is not a short-term thing; people have been pushing for similar ideas for decades. Proponents want a government monopoly on healthcare where others are not allowed to compete - Hillary Clinton's 1993 healthcare plan would have criminalized any care by any provider that operated outside the federal system.

Similarly, the Postal Service has a law-enforced monopoly on mail service. Other services are not allowed to deliver non-priority mail, and other services are not allowed to use the mailbox - that is your own personal property - for any non-USPS use.

I received a mailing in an advertising packet that said that, if it were not for advertising, a stamp would cost $4. No it wouldn't. If a stamp did cost $4 but UPS and FedEx (and others) were permitted to compete, they would offer faster (and tracked) service for less. Right now, I can send a package by FedEx's standard ground service into other areas of my zone for $6.40; in addition, I will have an estimated delivery date before I send the package, step-by-step detail along the route, date and time of delivery, and name of the person accepting delivery. And the package is insured for up to $100 at no additional cost.

But others are not allowed to compete. A business tried once (they offered faster delivery than USPS at lower letter rates), and they were forced by the government to quit. This is not right. If others can do better, they should be allowed to do better. If they can't do better, then they should be allowed to try and fail.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Roads should have lines

Along similar thoughts as sidewalks, all roads of moderate traffic should have divider lines.

Locally, we have roads like the Fairview Street/Massachusetts Avenue route between Mary St and King Mill Pike and the Norfolk Avenue/New Hampshire Avenue route between different parts of the same areas. These roads that are considered two-lane, but have no middle lines despite carrying moderate traffic. Without a middle line, vehicles in each lane tend to drive way into the other lane and passing at posted speeds is risky; vehicles are forced to slow to a crawl in order to avoid an accident.

This situation is heightened by cars parked along both sides of the roads. While the road should be wide enough to accommodate the four vehicles, a lack of marked lanes leaves traffic unsafe unless extreme care is taken by the drivers. Simply marking both parking and driving lanes should resolve the problem. But, if studies determine the road needs to be widened, then it needs to be widened. This road, unlike the ones I referenced in a previous post, has sidewalks. And even though such is not necessary, these sidewalks have sizable buffers between themselves and the road, buffers that could be reclaimed for use in widening the road. Residents would probably have no problem with this use, as it would create larger and safer parking lanes. But if road traffic exceeds original designs and needs to be widened at the expense of purchasing frontage from the residents, that is what must be done.

Widening some roads and increasing their safe traffic loads should reduce traffic on other roads; for instance, widening Fairview may reduce traffic on Norfolk so that simple marking will be sufficient. While Norfolk does not seem intended to carry much load, the path it follows between Mary St and King Mill Pike make it an ideal route from the heavily-traveled Virginia Avenue on the Tennessee side to get to the shopping and restaurant areas at Exit 5 and 7 on I-81.

I'm afraid many of our local elected officials may not go in these areas often. I drive a church van route, and this route covers these areas. In some cases, modest improvements may significantly increase safety.

Roads should have sidewalks

All roads with moderate traffic, that is, anything bigger than small subdivision roads, should have sidewalks on at least one side.

Sidewalks on major roads (five lanes) do little good if people can't get to them. Locally, we have a road (Old Abingdon Highway) that is a two-lane windy road that goes between a major residential area and a shopping area. As it is now, the entire road is only 1.2 miles long, so it would be easy for local residents to walk or bike to stores rather than driving. My personal drive is about 2.5 miles, since I live up into the subdivision. But the road is windy with poor visibility in areas, has areas with no shoulders, and it passes under a narrow one-lane railroad bridge (recently modified with "Yield" lines and signs on each side, where it previously just had "Narrow Bridge" signs and lost the middle line), so walking would be dangerous at best. However, depending on property ownership (since the most dangerous areas are undeveloped, but may already be owned by the city, the railroad, or a plant that is nearby), most of this area could easily have sidewalks added. Even the railroad bridge crosses a creek nearby, and the sidewalk could route through that opening rather than needing to modify the bridge.

Other areas, like Virginia Avenue on the Tennessee side of town, had sidewalks in the past, but they have not been maintained and many have long since been lawned-over. And I can't blame the residents - an extra five feet of lawn looks better than a decrepit used-to-be sidewalk lumps of concrete. These should have been maintained, as maintenance costs less than replacement, but now that they are non-functional, they need to be brought back into service.

Many politicians talk about the need to reduce our carbon footprint, but they overlook simple steps like these that would not only reduce the need for vehicle travel but would also be beneficial to the residents.

Bike lanes would be nice, but not necessary; bicyclists are permitted on sidewalks. Unfortunately, more focus is spent on bike paths in parks and scenic areas where the leisure-minded can use them rather than in areas where they would be useful to everyday people.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Legislators should be subject to their own laws

Those who enact laws or regulations, be they local, state or federal, should always be subject to the laws and regulations they enact.

For instance, state legislators should be subject to taxes they impose, and federal legislators should be included in any healthcare reforms they implement.

This would seem logical, but legislators regularly opt themselves out of regulations they impose on everyone else.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Energy Independence and Economy

We need to "drill, baby, drill" for oil, develop shale oil production, build wind turbines, deploy solar panels and sea tide power generators, build safe nuclear and clean coal power generation facilities, and research new forms of power generation.

While environmental matters should be considered, we need to pursue energy independence in any manner such can be done economically, practically, and without undue harm to the local environment. This includes sea platform and underwater-based oil and gas drilling, petroleum drilling in ANWAR, and coal and shale mining. We need to research cold fusion, practical antimatter generation, and any other methods of power generation that can be developed and made practical.

Objections that a method may not have been practical, safe, or possible in an environmentally friendly manner twenty years ago should be discarded. Such limitations then do not equal such limitations now. Similarly, while animal populations and unique habitats (wetlands and such) in the local areas should be considered, they not exclude those areas from use; one goal does not preclude the other. Facilities creation and energy generation can be handled in a safe manner and local animal populations can be accommodated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Healthcare reform, Part 2

The US military:
• Armed Forces retirees should be provided full coverage for all medical expenses from any available care provider.
• Active-duty Armed Forces members should be offered the best public coverage available with minimal copays ($10/visit), low patient percentage (90/10), low out-of-pocket maximum ($1,000/year), no lifetime maximums, and all the frills (included annual wellness exam, vision exam and correction, dental exam, dental correction shares percentage/maximum OoP with medical).
• Effects of duties should be covered in their entirety and separately from personal insurance for the life of the member. For example, a member who suffered loss of hearing in the performance of duties should be provided associated regular exams, correction, and any recommended supplies for life, without regard to length of service or discharge status.

Any reforms should be first enacted at a state level.
Any federal reforms must only be enacted after this point for the purpose of standardization ("regulation").

Public options of healthcare insurance:
• Any public insurance options should compete with private insurance with no subsidies or tax-based funding. No legislation should favor public options, restrict private options, or limit access to private options in any manner.
• Low-income households should be provided the lowest option offered in place of Medicaid.
• Unemployed individuals with a history of employment who are actively seeking employment should be provided the lowest option in addition to any unemployment insurance .
• Government employees under the jurisdiction of the coverage will be provided the lowest option. They may elect to increase their coverage level at their own expense. State representatives will be included in any state option, and federal representatives (United States Senate and Congress members) will be in cluded in any federal option..
• Coverage must be provided for all licensed service providers, whether they be public or private, and for any procedure such service provider advises as medically prudent or necessary. If such a licensed provider does not accept insurance, coverage must provide prompt reimbursement to the insured of any reasonable and customary costs when accompanied by an itemized bill.
• Precertification may be required for non-emergent situations. Procedures may not require more than one day (24 hour) precertification.

Private insurance reforms:
• Individuals and businesses may obtain insurance from providers in any state, provided such coverage meets or exceeds state minimum requirements.
• Lifestyle-oriented coverages should not be mandated. Examples include coverage for maternity, sexually-transmitted diseases, alcohol or drug rehabilitation, counseling, and elective abortion. Such coverages should be at the option of the insurer or subscriber.
• Pre-existing conditions may not prevent coverage or increase premiums.
• Any individual who leaves his/her present employment with employer-provided insurance may transfer any or all coverages to private plans at the same premium rates charged by the insurance provider. In clarification, in the event the employer paid all or part of any premiums, the individual will assume payments of the full premium amounts unless alternative arrangements are made between the parties.

Public and private options:
• If a procedure requires a second opinion, the insurer may not require specified providers be used for the second opinion. The expert opinion of the insured's medical service provider must be accepted and may not be overruled by employees, agents, or contractors of the insurer.
• New and experimental procedures must be accepted on the recommendation and second opinion of the medical service providers of the insured.
• Insurance providers must provide payment to service providers within thirty (30) days of billing.
• Rates billed or negotiated between the insurer and the service provider as part of a business relationship must be accepted as payment in full. If the insurer and the service provider are business affiliates, no portion of any bill may be passed to the insured as being in excess of reasonable and customary. Any disputes in relation to bill details or costs must be resolved between the insurer and the service provider. As an example, if an insurance provider partners with a certain healthcare organization, the details and fees of any member service provider must be accepted as reasonable.
• A service provider who operates in a relationship with a business partner of the insurer must be accepted as in-network with that business partner. As an example, services provided by an anesthesiologist in a partner hospital for a service provided by that hospital cannot be considered out-of-network. A doctor operating in a member office must be deemed in-network with the office unless such separation is clearly stated.
• In cases multiple networks may apply, the greater benefits to the insured will prevail.
• Details of precertified services may not be refused payment unless the care provider specifies such products or services were elective.

Edited 2009/08/16

Healthcare reform, Part 1

Tax deductibility.
All healthcare expenses should be tax-deductible to the taxpayer. Insurance payments, pharmaceutical purchases whether prescription or over-the-counter, vitamins and other non-medical health supplements, wellness exams, fitness equipment or club memberships should all be deductible, provided they are purchased for the benefit of the taxpayer's immediate household or as charitable gifts.

Tort reform.
Frivolous lawsuits should have all legal costs paid by plaintiff. Normal award is refund cost of procedure and correction. Awards for pain and suffering require gross negligence or harmful intent, not simple negligence, and must be directly related to the situation at hand.

Emergency care.
Provision of care:
All true emergency care should be provided at the state expense; hospitals are often not reimbursed for emergent care anyway. All services, tests and examinations performed by or on behalf of a licensed or registered emergency service provider as part of an emergency visit will be considered part of the emergency service.

Providers of care:
Emergency service providers will be licensed or registered with their respective states. They will be permitted to submit for reimbursement for emergency services at prevailing rates from the state government. All appropriate expenses will be reimbursed, and submissions will be audited at regular intervals.

User payment for non-emergency care:
Users of emergency facilities or their insurance providers will be charged for non-emergency services at prevailing rates for similar care. Patients can inquire at triage and before admission whether a particular situation is considered an emergency, and prices for services must be made available. Examples of both emergency and non-emergency situations will be posted. Several examples:

Fever of or less than than 101°Fever greater than than 101°
Small cutCut requiring stitches/other closure or tetanus inoculation
Surface bruise/abrasionBroken bone/sharp pain indicating possible fracture
Minor headache (advise visit to PCP)Serious headache, after injury, altered pupils/blood pressure
Cough (even if productiveChest pain
SneezingAbdominal pain (unless repeated ER history of gas)

Provider response time:
Except in overwhelming situations, all patients must have triage begun or offered within five (5) minutes of entry into the emergency facility. Guests must be greeted to determine if they are guests or patients. All emergency patients must be seen by a care provider within 30 minutes of triage, and all non-emergency patients must be seen by a care provider within 60 minutes of triage. Critical patients (unresponsive, extreme pain or other reaction) should be seen as soon as possible. Goal: All patients to be triaged within one minute of entry and seen by a care provider within five minutes of entry, whether or not emergent. (Care providers may be reminded that non-emergent patients are paying customers.)

Patients with possible non-emergent situations may be requested to provide contact information and insurance information (if available) prior to admission; if the situation is deemed non-emergent, payment may be due after care is complete. Critical patients will be requested to provide contact information only after the situation has stabilized, and insurance or financial information will not be requested; contact information will be used primarily for follow-up purposes.

Illegal Immigrants:
All charges accrued by residents without proof of citizenship will be charged to the resident's nation of origin, the resident will be charged with theft, and proceedings will be initiated for deportation.

All initial requests for payment must be fully itemized; initial presentation of costs may not be summarized in any way. For instance, if 20 bandages were required, a summary of "materials" is insufficient; if two analgesic pills were administered, they must be identified and not solely listed as "medications"; if a blood test is administered, the nature of the test must be specified. While code numbers may be used as well, literal descriptions are required on all items.

Records availability:
All documentation by health-care providers must be retained in an electronic format and must be made available in a readily-usable electronic format to the patient, the patient's guardian, and/or the patient's physician on request and without charge. Such records must include all diagnostic images, details of test results, and exam findings including recorded physician opinions; the only exceptions are those which state or federal law declare to be confidential to the source, such as psychiatric opinion. If printed copies of records are requested, reasonable costs may be recovered. All documentation must be kept as secure as technologically reasonable, and must be transmitted in a secure manner, including, but not limited to, encryption of file contents. Unprotected data, including file names, must not reveal any private information.

Edited: 2009/08/16

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bill clarity and openness

Bills should be limited to 30 pages in length, including all riders but not including reference data tables, unless specifically extended. Any length extension should be voted on and accepted by a simple majority, and each extension may not more than double the previous length.

All votes for or against bills should be recorded and publically published and posted online. All members' votes for or against bills, including show-of-hands votes, should be recorded.

All bills should be publically published and posted online in final form for 30 days prior to any final vote, unless the bill is voted to be urgent. Any bill to be identified as urgent should be voted as urgent and accepted by 2/3 majority, publically published and posted online in final form for 7 days, and the bill should be accepted by 2/3 majority; if either vote fails, the bill will continue as normal priority.

The only members who should be permitted to vote on a bill should have first read the bill in its entirety. All others will be counted as "Present."

Previous post title: "Only those who read a bill should vote on that bill".

Friday, June 19, 2009

Moon / Space Missions

Moon missions should cost less than $20,000 (initial concept, subject to change) in per-mission costs.

Equipment costs will not be included in this per-mission cost, but damage repair that is required due to design issues will be included. For instance, both replacement of foam insulation and damage caused by the insulation are included.

A good solution would be for all space missions to be privatized. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) could contract these missions, not on a lowest-bidder basis but on a cost/benefit basis. NASA may provide personnel to accompany on these missions to fulfil mmission priorities; the contracted trip in such cases will serve as a "shuttle" in the truest sense, with NASA engineers, scientists, etc., simply using the shuttle to get to their destination. The destination may simply be orbit, in the case of scientific experiments.

At first, all mission priorities should be used in public relations. Repairs of decrepit equipment does not serve well as PR material; as such, other objectives should also be achieved. As shuttle trips become regular, these will drop off the PR radar in favor of progress updates on station projects.