ROGER GOODELL IS A FAILURE

Pro football is in trouble.  A significant decline in viewership of NFL pro football could trigger a death spiral for the entire sport.

Pro football has a concussions issue, an overall safety issue (e.g., spinal injuries), a saturation issue (football on Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night), an empirical ambitions issue (games in the U.K., Mexico, etc.), a feminist/metrosexual issue (football is too mean, violent, aggressive, and manly), a players-as-felons issue (Ezekiel Elliott, Ray Rice, etc.), and a race-&-politics issue (Colin Kaepernick, a decent QB who is shunned because he chose an outrageous platform from which to stage his socio-political protests).  The cumulative magnitude of these issues is being revealed by a substantial decline in recent TV ratings.

Thus we have a Bob Costas piling on, with his observation that we may be headed toward a day when the only remaining players will be athletes for whom football is the only way out of poverty –  “At some point  . . .  parents say, ‘I don’t want my kids to play.’ And then it becomes only the province of the poor, who want it for economic reasons to get up and out.”  Is it a coincidence that the NFL is presently 70% black?

Some fans, especially former players and coaches, have already indicated that they find the pro game boring and they think college football is way more interesting because it involves more action, more innovation, more complexity.  These fans say they have already switched to college ball and they do not miss pro ball at all.

Well, here’s the problem.  If pro football became a niche sport, why would an elite athlete want to play college ball?  Young athletes do not matriculate in order to study Sophocles or Thomas Acquinas, they do it to prepare themselves to play football for big money.  Take away pro ball, you take away college ball in pretty short order.  And maybe high school ball and Pop Warner, which are already in trouble.  Even with all the slimy agents and alumni, college players do not make seven figures a year.  Blacks would drop football if it no longer offered them a future, and whites would drop football if their mothers would no longer let them risk concussion and paralysis.  Game over.

Commissioner Goodell thinks he should be retained as NFL Commissioner because the NFL has made a ton of money during his regime.  That might be persuasive if the NFL were a publicly-owned corporation offering positive projections, but it is not.  The future does not look so great, largely because Goodell has failed to resolve any of the critical issues and has no apparent plans for doing so, meaning he stinks at his job regardless of the NFL’s 2016 financials.  If Goodell had the necessary talents for the job, we would never have had a Tom Brady fiasco, an Ezekiel Elliott fiasco, or a Colin Kaepernick fiasco.  But we did, and millions of fans were alienated and the NFL was left with a legal/social/political crisis.  Help!

WOULD THE PLAYERS TAKE A KNEE FOR THE INTERNATIONALE?

Here is the critical passage from the  “Memo 4 players sent NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell,” as reported by Yahoo Sports on September 20  ( see  https://sports.yahoo.com/memo-4-players-sent-nfl-commissioner-roger-goodell-030818178.html ):  “As players whom (sic) have been advocating for social justice for the past year, we appreciate the opportunity to engage with you, the league, owners, coaches and GMs to make our communities stronger. As we shared with you, the silence following our individual and collective demonstrations around the national anthem to raise awareness to racial inequality . . . .”  (italics added, for emphasis).  One of those players, Michael Bennett of the Seahawks, has continued to speak out and to repeat his call for social justice and an end to racial inequality.

Mr. Bennett seems sincere and thoughtful, one who has been deeply affected by negative experiences with employers and the police.  The guess here is that he picked-up on “social justice” and “inequality” from listening to President Obama and that he has no idea of the etymology of those terms, which represent the essence of the goals and ideals of socialism and communism, going back not just to Barack Obama but to the original “community organizer,” Saul Alinsky, and indeed to the big guy, Karl Marx.  Translated from lefty Newspeak, “social justice” means the government controls everything and makes sure you are treated the same as everyone else – i.e., your life is just as crappy as your neighbor’s – and “inequality” means there are no rich people (other than officials of the ruling political party), and everyone is equally poor.  However glorious and idealistic these terms may sound to a college sophomore, you should not have graduated before figuring out they are fraudulent.  Mr. Bennett and his colleagues are innocent pawns in a larger game.  The knee-taking, raised arms, and sit-downs might not be intended as insults to the anthem or the flag, but there can be no doubt that they constitute political advocacy.  Denying that the protests are political is a con.

For Mr. Bennett and others, “social justice” is targeted mainly at racial-profiling by the police and anti-black bias by the judicial system.  Their frustration is understandable:  blacks in America know there are a lot of bad apples wearing a police uniform or sitting on juries, some are racists, some are people of low character and an instinct to bully.  Maybe the country needs its Colin Kaepernicks to remind us of the problem of the rogue cop and the bigoted juror.  But the problem cannot be solved by setting quotas on convictions of black defendants or banning profiling; none of that would make life safer or better for a resident of a gang-dominated black neighborhood in a major American city.  As for profiling, it is a necessity of life, of survival; there is not an adult in America who does not use profiling every day and in every aspect of his life, applying his knowledge and experience and judgment to make good decisions when there is neither the time nor the resources to find perfect ones. If police are not permitted to “profile,” they are given a strong incentive to stay away from trouble, to avoid doing their job of protecting you and me. Social justice is a con.

For Mr. Bennett and others, “equality” does not mean equal opportunity, which is already required by law, or equal pay for equal work, which is likewise the law.  It appears to mean equal outcomes, with blacks’ incomes being the same as whites’ regardless of the nature of the job and the skill and diligence with which it is performed.   In other words, Marxism.  If you really think Marxism would give us a better economy, or even better football, raise your hand and you are excused.  Equality is a con.

It is also a con to argue that the anthem protests are free speech, protected speech, for which the speakers cannot be punished.  The protesters are sadly mistaken, as the First Amendment provides freedom from government interference but does not prevent your employer from firing you if you say things that violate company rules. Doesn’t matter whether you are a factory worker, the company president, or a starter for the Dallas Cowboys.

When the players say (as so many of them have said) that all they want is to have a conversation about race, what they mean is, they want to vent about their perception of social injustice and inequality, and the only conversation they want is for them to talk and you to listen and agree.  Well, that is a conversation that has been going on for at least 50 years in this country, especially through political campaigns, and that has yielded little in the way of improving the lot of blacks in this country; few problems have been addressed, and tensions between black and white have gotten worse, not better.  The conversation I would like to have, is that I think the sorry state of much of America’s black population today is the result of 50 years of horrible social and economic policies foisted upon the country by the Democratic Party over the objections of Republicans.  I am tired of having black America dragged down by the Democrats’ educational and social policies, which encourage and perpetuate the breakdown of the public school system and the family unit.  But I don’t think any black American (other than Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Jason Riley, or Clarence Thomas) is interested in hearing that.

I concede that the White House is not interested in having a conversation.  If the president is enjoying the confrontation, it is because he is winning this argument, because the teams are realizing that the public is not on the players’ side and the NFL is losing money by accommodating the players.  As for the president having the loudest voice in the room, that is not at all the case;  the “room” is the entire mass media (whose voices are collectively way louder than the White House’s and who, with the intermittent exception of the WSJ’s editorial department and Fox News, are uniformly and violently opposed to the president).   Good thing the left does not yet control the social media; were it not for Twitter, the president would have no voice at all.

P.S.   There is a simple solution, though purists on both sides would object: First the players do all their warm-ups and preparations, then they go back to their locker rooms, then the anthem is performed and the eagle flies and the rest of the patriotic hoopla occurs, and then, when the smoke has cleared, the teams run back onto the field and play some football.  No one is allowed to brag or pout about having won or lost in the compromise solution.  Play ball.

SMALL GOVERNMENT VS STINGY GOVERNMENT

Please consider this excerpt from The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich Hayek, the legendary free-market economist, appearing at page 87 of the Bruce Caldwell “Definitive Version” of the work:

“There are, finally, undoubted fields where no legal arrangements can create the main condition on which the usefulness of the system of competition and private property depends: namely, that the owner benefits from all the useful services rendered by his property and suffers for all the damages caused to others by its use. Where, for example, it is impracticable to make the enjoyment of certain services dependent on the payment of a price, competition will not produce the services; and the price system becomes similarly ineffective when the damage caused to others by certain uses of property cannot be effectively charged to the owner of that property . . .  Thus neither the provision of signposts on the roads nor, in most circumstances, that of the roads themselves can be paid for by every individual user . . .   In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism.  . . . “

English translation:  Free-market competition yields better outcomes than governmental action (“central planning,” in Hayek’s lexicon), with only one exception:  where too many of the people who would benefit from a project or enterprise would be unwilling or unable to pay for it.  Everyone uses the roads, but not enough people could afford to pay their usage-based share of the price for the building and maintaining of them, so the roads would not get built without governmental action.

A suggested corollary to the Hayek proposition:  Just as government should do what only it can do, government should not do what the private sector can do better or at lower cost. Government should outsource everything but its core competencies, which are few.

Hayek would have been fine with President Eisenhower’s decision to fund and manage improvements to the nation’s infrastructure, such our interstate highway system, built during the 1950s.  (See William J. Bennett for corroboration of  this inference:

https://books.google.com/books?id=X4c5YV7XNdAC&pg=PT708&lpg=PT708&dq=william+bennett+on+hayek+on+interstate+highway+system&source=bl&ots=huaoCuzapi&sig=LBuTsiDa4NkEja0gZjjvfK1alPk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj59LqqnazWAhXGYiYKHbrkAOkQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=william%20bennett%20on%20hayek%20on%20interstate%20highway%20system&f=false

We already had toll roads by the ‘50s, and many more have been built since them, and some can be maintained primarily through toll revenues, but it has always been unrealistic to assume that tolls would pay for the original construction of a toll road.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

President Trump is a Hayekian (even if not a conventional “conservative”), in that he would build infrastructure but avoid regulating it.   He believes improved infrastructure would contribute mightily to the nation’s economic growth, but excessive regulation would impede growth.

Republican opposition to Mr. Trump’s economic policies is curious.  The ideological Right, while continuing to belittle him for tastes and manners that might be OK at Wharton but not at Yale, senses the president is not one of their own; they are scandalized not only by his manner but by his apostasies involving increased federal-spending and modified  trade-relationships.  The moderate Right is even-less reasonable: they claim to seek healthcare reform and tax reform but find excuses to oppose initiatives to achieve them; they are stunned when the president takes seriously his pledge to restore free-market pricing to healthcare and economic sense to our tax structure.  Neither the ideologues nor the moderates seem won-over by the president’s nomination of an original-meaning jurist to the Supreme Court, his revocation of Obama’s DACA executive “memorandum,” or his massive reductions in federal regulations.  They seem frightened by his switch to a “big stick” posture on national security.

The suggestion here is that the president is essentially a conservative, and that he is misunderstood because few people are willing and able to distinguish between reducing government regulations (the “size of government”) and reducing government expenditures.  The president wants to reduce regulations; red tape drives him wild.  He hates it when meritorious business ventures, like the Keystone Pipeline, are held back by regulators with political agendas.  But he supports federal assistance for recovery from major disasters (viz, Hurricane Harvey) and resists cutting Social Security and Medicare. (He does not seem to share Hayek’s ambivalence about whether entitlements are re-distributive steps down the road to serfdom.) The president’s main priority is economic growth, which is needed if we are to pay for entitlements.

The president is more of a conservative than many of his detractors, even though his conservatism is based upon his business experiences and instincts.  He is anti-regulation but not anti-government.  He is pro-markets but willing to provide governmental assistance.  Do his critics miss the point because they, too, are distracted by matters of taste and manners?

Leadership For Healthcare Reform

To everyone who mocks the Republican Party leadership for breaking their promise that they would repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as the Republicans achieved a majority in the House, or as soon as the Republicans also achieved a majority in the Senate, or as soon as the Republicans also captured the White House:

The Senate is not controlled by Republicans.  John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski are not Republicans in any meaningful sense of the term, certainly not when it comes to important legislation. The three, like too many of the other 49 nominal Republicans, are fine for the occasional show-vote, where they get to propound Republican values (pro-life, make America great again, etc.), but when it comes to the hardcore stuff of Republican principles, like free markets and limited government, they are not Republican or conservative at all.

One could blame the healthcare debacle on insincerity and ignorance, but that is only part of the story.  The missing Republicans are not the root cause of our failure on healthcare-reform, just as they will not be the cause when tax-reform suffers a similar fate.  The root cause is a failure of leadership.  We already knew that Majority Leader McConnell is a parliamentarian but neither a conservative nor a leader, and we already knew that Speaker Ryan, who could not explain the meaning of “good morning” in fewer than 100 pages, is certainly not a leader.  What we did not know was whether our president, despite his crudeness, vulgarity, and other shortcomings, could translate his unquestioned skills as a communicator into a functional form of leadership.  Short answer:  so far, not so good.

Possible cause: the president has neither the patience nor the skill-set to study-up on the healthcare problem and master it sufficiently to “sell” a conservative/Republican solution to the American public and the Congress.  It is not as though the solution were a mystery:  free-market pricing of healthcare and insurance (to satisfy the Republicans), coupled with financial assistance to the needy and the people with pre-existing conditions (to satisfy the Democrats).  Democratic generosity, Republican competitiveness, combined in one easy package.  That is the bi-partisan solution, the one that would satisfy both parties if they were in fact really looking for a solution.  But are they?

 

EPITAPH FOR HEALTHCARE REFORM

Where did it all go wrong for repeal-and-replacement of the Affordable Care Act?

Short answer:  pre-existing conditions (PECs).  The PEC solution in the ACA is the one part of the law that most people want to rescue, the one that represents financial protection of people who are unable to obtain healthcare insurance because their health issues make insurance unavailable or prohibitively expensive.  But the Republican Congress was unable to agree on a PEC fix.

Longer answer:  the conservative mantra, a big factor in the Republican wins last November, was that healthcare insurance (and healthcare itself) should be offered and purchased in a free market, where the competitive forces of supply and demand would drive down the prices of insurance and care.  But after the dog chased the car for 7 years and finally caught up with it, the dog had no idea what to do with it.  Republicans seemed stunned to learn that the public cared more about taking care of people with PECs than it did about free-market competition for the pricing of healthcare and insurance..

The problem:  after 85 years of living with ever-increasing governmental regulation and price controls, America no longer remembers how markets work.  The ACA solution fixed prices and had people with PECs paying the same prices for insurance as everyone else, which amounted to a cross-subsidy – people without PECs would pay more than they should, in order to allow people with PECs to pay less.

Conservative Republicans in Congress were put-off by the price-fixing/cross-subsidy apostasies.  Recalling the 1970s oil-price debacle, they knew that price-fixing never yields sustainably-lower prices.  Recalling Economics 101, they regarded cross-subsidies as “re-distribution of income,” a sad relic of communism.  But only Sen. Ted Cruz seemed to consider that there might be a way to avoid price-fixing and automatic re-distributions while still taking care of people with PECs.  The Cruz amendment would have been the gateway to a format that Nobel economist Milton Friedman had discussed decades earlier,  vouchers:  first you free up the markets for healthcare and insurance, which drives down prices, and then you give money (or vouchers) directly to people who cannot afford to pay market prices – whether because they are broke or because their PECs put the cost of insurance beyond their means.

It is clear that Americans want to help those in need.  The stumbling block is not a flaw in our moral character, it is a flaw in our governmental approach.  The Cruz approach was to separate the pricing of healthcare and insurance from the granting of assistance to people with PECs.  To those who might ask whether this would induce everyone to put off buying insurance until he or she developed a condition that required healthcare services, the answer is simple:  put the feds in charge of deciding who is entitled to assistance, when, how much, and for how long, and make sure no one gets any money without first having substantially exhausted his or her financial resources. Gaming the system, as people have been gaming the ACA, would be minimized.

A pair of concise summations of this approach:  “If we’re going to subsidize Americans who can’t afford health insurance, do it directly. Don’t do it through the premiums of others,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.).  “The obvious compromise, the only good solution, is to do both: free-market pricing of healthcare and insurance in order to drive down prices, coupled with government subsidies for the needy to enable them to buy care and insurance at market prices,” said your humble scribe in an earlier blog post.

So, why was the Cruz model rejected?  Were the Republican resisters just under-informed, or should we be more cynical about their motives?  Did the insurance industry or anyone in the “swamp” really want a free-market solution? Why didn’t the Trump administration endorse and sell the Cruz draft proposal?  Does anyone believe that repealing ACA or letting it die on its own would be anything but a meaningless stunt, possibly an invitation to financial or civic chaos, with no way to sustain American healthcare without massive infusions of new money our government does not have?