Monday, July 16, 2012

George Romney and birthers

Mitt Romney's presidential bid must be quite a problem for those who claim President Obama's presidency isn't legitimate because of their false belief that Obama was born in Kenya. Why? Because of Mitt Romney's father, George Romney.

You see George Romney ran for the office of president of the United States in 1968 and George Romney was not born in the United States. There is no debate about George Romney's birthplace, it is well known and documented that George Romney was born in Mexico. George Romney's father had fled the US in 1986 with his three wives to escape US anti-polygamy laws. George Romney was born in 1907 in Mexico, which according to the birthers should have disqualified him from running for president. There is one problem though, Romney's parents had never renounced their US citizenship which meant that George Romney, even though he wasn't born in the US was a US citizen from birth. The US Constitution specifies that a president must be a "natural born citizen" but doesn't define exactly what that phrase means. Does it mean that you have to be born in the United States? Until the passage of the 14th amendment in 1868 being born in the US did not automatically grant someone citizenship and we shouldn't forget that George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William Henry Harrison weren't born in the US as the United States didn't exist at the time of their births. Or maybe "natural born citizen" means that someone has to be a citizen at the time of their birth? George Romney, even though he was born in Mexico, was a US citizen at the time of his birth because of the citizenship of his parents and so at the time of his presidential run most constitutional law experts and the Congressional Research Service agreed that Romney was eligible to be president. John McCain's presidential eligibility was also not much of an issue even though he was born in Panama and born at a time when none of Panama was considered US territory. So it sounds like most constitutional experts, and most of the Republican party feel that being a "natural born citizen" means you were born a US citizen, not that you were born in the US.

So how does this relate to the birther's argument that President Obama isn't a legitimate president because they claim, falsely, he was born in Kenya? There is no dispute about who Barack Obama's parents are, there is also no dispute that Obama's mother was a US citizen. Guess what, if one of your parents is a US citizen then you are granted US citizenship, no matter where you are born. So Barack Obama was born a US citizen no matter where he was born, and if that is enough for George Romney, and John McCain then it is enough for President Obama.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, there is no real evidence pointing to any other birthplace for the President. But even if he had been born in Kenya, or on the moon, it wouldn't matter. He was a US citizen from birth and therefor a natural born citizen. Congratulations birthers, you now have time to worry about some of the real issues effecting our country.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mitt Romney and his limited knowledge of how businesses run.

Voters who say they will vote for Mitt Romney seem to fall into one of two groups when asked why they support Romney. The first group say they will vote for Romney because of his business experience, the other group plans to vote for Romney simply because he isn't Obama. The second group can't be accused of fooling themselves, Mitt Romney is not Barack Obama, the first group, however, is basing their support on some pretty shaky ground.

Last week the US Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and in no time at all Mitt Romney issued a response. In this response he made a very interesting statement.

Obamacare also means that for up to 20 million Americans, they will lose the insurance they currently have, the insurance that they like and they want to keep.

From my knowledge of the Affordable Care Act I couldn't quite understand how Romney arrived at this claim, so I started looking into it. First I started off with looking into the history of health insurance in the United States.

During World War II there was a severe shortage of labor in the United States. The work force at the time was primarily male, by a large margin, and with so many of our men overseas fighting the competition for employees was pretty hot. Businesses started looking for new ways to attract and retain good employees and one of the methods they started to use on a large scale was to provide health insurance to their employees. They weren't forced by law to provide insurance, instead it was something that they did voluntarily as they saw the competitive benefits outweighing the monetary costs.

As time went on the war ended and the labor crunch eased but companies continued to provide health insurance as they still saw the cost of providing insurance as being more than returned by the gains they received from making sure their employees could see a doctor when they needed to. Sure, a few companies were contractually obligated to provide health benefits because of agreements made with unions, but as unions waned in America employer provided health care remained reasonably steady.

When the Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare, was being debated and after it passed we were warned that it would cause people to lose the health care insurance they have enjoyed for years. Why? Because employers would be penalized for not providing health insurance but the penalty would be less costly than the insurance plans and therefor businesses would simply drop their health care plans and pay the fines so they could save money. This would be pretty scary stuff except that it simply isn't true.

If you look back a couple of paragraphs you will be able to read, once again, why employers are the most common path to health insurance in the United States. If you read carefully you will see that businesses aren't required to provide insurance, instead they do so because they believe the benefits outweigh the costs of providing insurance. A legal requirement for businesses to provide insurance won't change that cost / benefit assessment, in fact it reinforces it.

After businesses are required to provide health care or pay a fine a business could decide to drop its health care plan and pay the fine which could possibly save them money. Of course up to this point businesses have not been dropping their health care plans left and right even though if they did now they could save 100% of the money they were putting into health care. After the fines are in place they will only be able to save a percentage of the money they were putting into health care since the rest of the money would have to pay for the fines. Sure, after the fines are implemented a business might save some money, but they could save more now. So if saving a bit of cash is why a company would stop providing its employees with health insurance why aren't they dropping their plans now?

The answer to that question is very simple. Companies continue to provide health benefits because it helps them to compete for and retain better employees. After the requirement to provide health insurance goes into effect the greatest likelihood is that more companies will offer health insurance, not less, as most businesses do follow the laws that apply to them. This of course means that eliminating employee health plans would create greater competitive costs after the employer mandate goes into effect than it did before as an employer without a health plan would look like an even worse choice to a job seeker than it had before. This is why employers haven't been dropping health care plans in large numbers and why they won't in the future. It would make bad business sense to do so, especially after the savings to the business are reduced while the costs increase. No sensible business person would ever do this, but apparently Mitt Romney thinks they would.

Mitt Romney is out of touch, not just with Americans but with American businesses as well. So obviously Mitt really isn't like President Obama, because it looks like President Obama actually understands how business works. Maybe Mitt has just forgot about the way things function in the business world. After all he implemented a health plan in Massachusetts just like Obamacare. So to be kind maybe Romney's problem isn't ignorance, maybe it is just crippling forgetfulness.