Uninsured in Montana

Uninsured in

Another View


Tom Burnett

169 Meadow Brook Lane

Belgrade, MT 59714

The study of the uninsured
is now complete. It is thorough and professional. My response to
items in the Executive Summary is below. Quotes from the Summary are
in italics. My observations are in regular type-face.


Young adults,
particularly between the ages of 19 and 25, were more than twice as
likely to be uninsured than the general population.
(Page 4).

Young adults take an
informed risk. Their chance of catastrophic expenses is low compared
with the middle-aged and golden-agers. This should trigger no alarm.

Montana’s American
Indian populations experience uninsurance at much higher rates that
were two times higher than the statewide average and represented
about 24,000 American Indians within the 173,000 Montanans without
health insurance.
(Page 4).

Most American Indians who
choose uninsurance, do so because they have copious benefits through
IHS. They are not exactly uninsured.

A profile of Montana’s
uninsured shows that they:

Are employed (77%).
(Page 4).

Therefore, 23% are
unemployed. Unemployment is a gateway to uninsurance. Lack of work
causes neediness in health care and other areas of personal wealth.

Being uninsured is not
voluntary with 90 percent of the uninsured reporting being unable to
buy health insurance after paying for food, clothing, and shelter.

(Page 5). Are Montana’s Uninsured forced because of cost,
or do they choose to be uninsured?
(Page 24)

Being uninsured is
largely voluntary, a matter of personal budget priorities. Of course
people will say they “can’t afford insurance”, if asked. They
will say the same about saving, investing, or affording college
tuition. By shifting their priorities, and working more, even low
earners can afford health insurance. Many of the uninsured maintain
four wheelers, new pickups, snowmobiles, horses, high speed internet
connections, or premium cable services. Some spend enough on dog
grooming and pet food to pay half of a premium. I know the uninsured
who do.

Montana’s uninsured
did have coverage in the past with only 20 percent reporting no
previous health insurance.
(Page 5)

People go in and out of
insurance, a simple fact, calling for little lamentation. There are
only 20% of 173,000 chronically uninsured, or 34,000. This could be
mostly the American Indian population, who have medical care.


Please be careful when
studying these findings. The policy changes they suggest are far from
clear. Personally, I do not find in them a reason to raise taxes,
form new programs, or increase subsidies in existing programs.


Wasting Embryos


The Caller to

May 26, 2005

Stem Cell

KEMC’s Marvin Granger
hosts a call-in program called, “Your Opinion, Please”. Tonight’s
first caller addressed the stem cell research bill pending in
Congress. He called the vote, “the most important…ever”.
(Historians would shudder.) He supports stem cell research. The vote
could hardly be called the most important ever because it is sure to
be vetoed by President Bush. That makes the vote practically
meaningless, and meaningless things are, by definition, unimportant.
Granger tried to point this out to the caller, unsuccessfully. Maybe
the caller means that stem cell research is the most important thing
ever undertaken by human beings. He suggested that the treatment of
disease was paramount. Maybe that is what he means by “most
important”. Also, this bill only affects federal funding, a small
part of the scene in biomedical research. Private labs and foreign
labs will go forward with or without US taxpayer dollars.

The caller first pointed
out the contradictory beliefs of those opposing stem research who
are, to him, the same citizens who like war in Iraq. (Basically he
meant that these citizens are happy to kill Iraqis and send soldiers
to be killed in Iraq, but unwilling to kill embryos.) Certainly
President Bush matches both criteria. He carelessly named the
religious Right as the larger group. Maybe he calls the group of
which he is a part the Darwinian, un-religious Left.

The caller said all these
embryos would just go to waste, and that using them would be a
non-crime in comparison to warring against Iraq.

One thing each person
should remember when talking about human embryos is that they started
out as an embryo. Human embryos have a higher value and status than
animal embryos, animals or insects. This status requires some

But let’s look at the
caller’s objection to waste. We allow much waste. We think it
improper to experiment on aborted, living fetuses. We waste them. In
China, the bodies of executed prisoners are sometimes harvested for
their organs. We prefer to let the bodies of executed prisoners “go
to waste”. In many European countries, the bodies of the dead
become the property of the state, to alleviate the waste of a
valuable resource. In America we do not allow hospitals to keep
basements full of newly dead, brain dead, ventilated and intubated
bodies so they can harvest skin and bone marrow for ten years. This
constitutes a great waste from a healing and economic point of view.

To say, “They’re just
going to waste”, steers our thinking into considering the 400,000
embryos as “waste” to start with. That is the first mistake we
should guard against. The second is forgetting that human dignity
already prompts us to “waste”, wisely, many human bodies and
organs that could be put to profitable use in healing and research.

Once we get comfortable
prodding, severing, cutting, tweaking and otherwise performing
research on these 400,000embryos, which come from in vitro
fertilization labs, we will likely find it important to continued
success in research to create embryos just for this purpose.
The caller would seem to approve of this, because so much medical
progress could be made toward the treatment of disease. Prudence may
necessitate stopping here in order not to be tempted to go there.

I went to the
Congressional website and read the text of the bill. It requires the
“parents” of the embryo to sign over the use of it. If scientific
progress is so imperative, why do we let the rights and interests of
the parents, or the father and mother, or the donating parties, if
you want to be so crass, get in the way? The use of the term
“parents” puts this matter in quite a different light, too, at
least for me.

Tobacco Use Control

A better
tobacco control method

Presently tobacco
cessation and control funds mostly benefit bureaucrats and
advertising agencies. They claim to show success in lowering the
number of kids starting to smoke. But the graph was headed downward
before the settlement money arrived. It is doubtful if any of the
decrease in kids starting to smoke is due to advertising and lectures
from public health nurses at schools.

Let’s create some real
incentives. Take $2 million of the roughly $4 million presently being
spent. Buy a dozen loaded Jeep Wranglers for $350,000. Spend $1.65
million on blood testing. Any kid of driving age who could prove to
be tobacco-free in a blood test would be entered in a lottery and
could win one of the Wranglers. This would be exciting! Imagine the
buzz! This is something kids can understand.

Stop feeding state and
county employees and billboard, and TV station owners. Give the
benefits to the kids. Watch tobacco use drop.

Tom Burnett

169 Meadow Brook Lane

Belgrade, MT 59714

April 6, 2003

The Declaration of Independence (Improved by the ACLU)

The ACLU’s
Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events,
not that we hold human events in any way superior to the events of
other primates, mammals or lower life forms, and by “lower” we
mean no disrespect, it becomes necessary for one people,
(group of persons), to dissolve the political bands which have
connected them with another, and to assume among the
powers of
, not that we would ever expect to utilize our power, the
separate and
equal station to which the hallowed,
(whatever that word means), Laws of Nature and of Nature’s
, (in whom we may not say we trust), a decent respect to
the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes
which impel them to the separation

We hold these truths to be
, in a relativistic sort of way, that all persons
created equal, that they are endowed by their
, if indeed they can imagine such a being, and if not,
please read this sentence as continuing after the word “endowed”,
with certain unalienable rights, (graduates of inner
city schools may not be required to pronounce, spell, or know the
meaning of “unalienable”: that’s their right!), that among
these are Life, Liberty, and a free college education. That
to secure these rights
Governments are instituted among
persons deriving their powers from the
town meetings of the
governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes
destructive of these ends it is the Right of the Persons to alter or
abolish it,
(provided that it is a Form of Government of which
conservative radio talk show hosts approve; the other form must
stand), and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on
such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them
shall seem to effect their Safety, Happiness
, and limitless
prescription drugs.

We, therefore, the Representatives
of the united States of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of
the world
, (here we again pause to request forgiveness for
referring to belief in God which a majority of our people possesses),
and the United Nations, do solemnly publish and declare that these
United Colonies are free and independent states,
however to any and all whims of Congress. And for the support of
this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine
and again we bear no malice toward those who profess
no religion, or who are openly hostile to references to God in public
discourse, we mutually pledge to each other our Time, the
Fortunes of the taxpayer, and our sacred, (whatever that word
means), Honor.

Tom Burnett

July 5, 2005

The Lowly Dandelion

Lowly Dandelion

Though we militate
against them, yet we acknowledge the superiority of dandelions. I
exalt when a full fledged dandelion appears in the path of my Stihl
weed trimmer. I don’t merely reduce it to a height of two inches,
the height of grass. No, I decimate it. I angle the implement so the
line tears limb, branch and blossom entirely to ground level.
Succulent parts fly everywhere. It is a permissible sadism in my
personal military campaign.

I buy both granules and
liquid forms of 2-4D. It would be cheaper to hire a chemical service,
and more effective. I persist in the delusion that $30.00 worth of
Weed-Be-Gone will eliminate an acre of dandelions. I do it
repeatedly. My effort falls heroically short.

As I drive past
neighboring properties, I thrill to observe homeowners and farmers
whose dandelion problem exceeds mine by multiples. I wonder about my
motives. How weed-free do I really want my yard to be. Compared to
them, I am doing fine, I vainly reflect.

I gleefully reduce the pests to silage. On the next pass, I see stems
of just mown adults elevating themselves. I want to swing aside and
clip them again, but that would double the time it takes to mow. The
only way to assure than now tubular stems pop up after mowing is to
mow once, then a second time on the diagonal. That would be
overboard. Or, I could mow every day. Or hire a professional, one
with a money-back guarantee. I would write a contract that I would
permit no stems above the turfgrass. What might that cost?

All the effort I and
others put into eradicating the dandelion is a tribute to its
undaunted tenacity. It “blooms where it is planted”. All blocks
of a city are suitable, even at joints where asphalt meets concrete.
Lawns, gardens, raspberry patches, roadsides: dandelions attack them
all. Farmer’s fields “welcome” them. Even leafy, competitive
alfalfa hosts the mighty, the common, dandelion.

Dry sites and boggy sites
both harbor the intruder. On a hike to Sacajewea Peak, elevation
8,500 feet, we noticed dandelions at the trailside at nearly every
elevation. The dandelion is a missionary, making itself at home and
delivering its message in all lands and plant communities. It is no
couch potato.

What would you name the
color of the dandelion blossom? It is stronger than lemon. It is not
precisely citrine. It is more playful than chrome yellow. School
buses are passe by comparison. The color of dandelions is unique,

You mow a plantation of
the cursed, smiley-faced things. The re-appear in two days, standing
tall and cheerful. You dig a burly grandpa and if you do not dig to a
depth of twelve inches, a shard of the remaining root sprouts,
emerging from the trench like a new recruits in WWI, “over the
top”. The shoot keeps a low profile for a time, hoping to evade
lawnmowers, sunbathing. This way it lays up provisions. Then it
brandishes the golden torch of its forefather proudly before the

This indomitable spirit
deserves emulation. Can I spring back from a put-down, an assault?
Can I find my root reserves, and start from fundamentals?

One other trait of
dandelions gives me confidence. They are the definition of
common-ness. But that does not diminish their cheer and
determination. Ordinary mortals like me can persist, thrive and
radiate beauty. A wave of sunshine consists of millions of yellow
elements, (but don’t give that as an answer on a physics test). A
battalion of ordinary dandelions pushes back the borders of darkness.
Ordinary people, properly organized, and with dogged tenacity, do the

I admire my enemy. I plot
his demise while learning his survival instincts and tactics. His
strength and charm nearly win me over.

I hear
Wal-Mart has a special on Weed-Be-Gone. I am going to get some.

Supreme Court and Eminent Domain

Court and Eminent Domain


The Supreme Court approved New London
Connecticut’s seizure of land from private owners, “to make room
for private development projects to try to boost the local economy.”
(It just so happens that New London was one of the most aggressive
cities in my analysis of city sign codes, a regulation,
planning-happy city.)

So cities, in alliance with certain
interests, developers, can effectively force landowners to sell to a
buyer. The city seizes and pays some compensation for the land, then
sells it to the developer, if I have it right. All the buyer has to
do is convince the city that his use of the property will result in
higher taxes collected. It’s a relatively simple calculation. The
Court provided no guidance as to when the tax collection differential
is large enough to allow cities to go ahead. “Promoting economic
development is a long-accepted function of government’” says the
court. But it should not be. That’s an invitation to mischief.

Justice Kennedy is worried that some
seizures may reflect favortism toward developers. (It is certain that
this ruling cannot be used to reflect favortism to small property
owners.) Well might he worry. He voted for it anyway and warned
cities to avoid letting their takings look like favortism. Keep
appearances good.

I can think of many properties that
would be worth more, and thus generate more taxes and jobs, if they
were sold to put up businesses. The corner of Kagy and South 3rd
in Bozeman, where Town and Country wants to build a grocery store
could be infinitely more valuable than a church. Church property
doesn’t generate taxes. The City of Bozeman could now be held
culpable if it didn’t force the transaction to take place. They
would be remiss.

So every property in town along major
routes might be visited by an appraiser, who would identify
under-utilized lots and list them, soliciting developers to make bids
on them. Any bid that exceeded the cost of procurement under a
watered-down condemnation proceeding would have to be honored.
Otherwise the city would suffer less-than-optimal tax collections,
and a city would be shirking its duty.

Another phrasing of the Court’s
warning: Watch out for localities that favor private developers at
the public’s expense. What could that mean? Localities can favor
developers as long as the public, meaning tax collection, benefits.
Higher tax collections and job creation, things never realized in
perfect consonance with projections, thus trump every other good,
especially the desires of clueless owners.

The Fifth Amendment allowance for
seizure of property used to have strict limits. Roads and bridges
were thought to benefit all more or less equally, and one obstinate
farmer could hold up the whole thing by refusing to sell. So
government could seize his land in the process called eminent domain,
pay full market value and own it for the city, state or federal
highway. It had to be a public use and full compensation had to be
paid. The “public use” and “full compensation” limitations
held governments partially in check.

Lately professional sports teams have
pled for cities to condemn properties so they could build new
stadiums. They say the economic gain to the community is a public
purpose. But not all share equally in the profits of having a new
stadium. Team owners, players, businesses close by, TV networks all
fare better than the average citizen of the town.

Neither is having a Pfizer mega-campus
a public use. Let Pfizer, or the Seahawks buy a property or
properties where they can find willing sellers. That often means
going to a single seller who has sufficient land for the stadium or
campus- on the outskirts of town. But that displeases planners who
want bustling, vibrant city cores. It also displeases the team owner
or corporation who wants to locate near highways, or in the heart of
things, for better access for their patrons and employees.

Now they have their way. The small
property owner who wants to stay, perhaps because he was born in that
house, or for other sentimental reasons, or to watch the market for a
few years so he can hopefully command more money, to remodel and
start his own business on the spot, to defer tax consequences of
selling, or to leave the lot empty for kids to play in or people to
cooperatively garden, this small owner will be forced to sell at an
inopportune time. (Easier condemnation will also distort values

The justices stressed that the project,
hotels and office to complement a new Pfizer research plant, “was
not intended to benefit the developer or Pfizer.” But surely it
benefits them disproportionately.

Kennedy’s warning was, “A court
confronted with a plausible accusation of impermissible favortism to
private parties should treat the objection as a serious one and
review the record to see if it has merit.” That is unclear

Thomas Merrill, an advocate, says
Kennedy’s warning will force governments to use caution. It cannot
be see how. The city attorney in Hollywood, FL agrees with me. His
city, “will almost certainly now be successful in our eminent
domain actions.” Their desire is to condemn, (seize and pay for), a
two-story commercial building standing in the way of a development
project. Merrill’s caution is like promising that preemptory forest
fires must not be allowed to get out of control.

After this decision, the best use of
property will not be decided by owners, buyers, markets, and users
and prospective users, whose desires sometimes reflect non-monetary
value. On the contrary, the best use will be decided by agents from
the tax assessor’s office and planning office. The economic
analysis can even be fakey. Imagine a city commission who believes
that a wonderful trail system might be the economic tool it needs to
attract up-scale residents willing to pay for “natural amenities”.
The city could seize a house, pay some compensation, raze it, and
clear a trail. Who could challenge their analysis?

Maybe as Randy Barnett suggests, it is
time to amend the Constitution and drop the eminent domain clause.

The Theme is Freedom

Book Report

The Theme is

by M. Stanton

Finished June
5th, 2003

This is a masterful book.
The author spells out how religions, those of Christianity and
Judaism, are the fundamental axioms for freedom and limited
government, not the Enlightenment, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and
liberals. Their notions of freedom are untethered to bedrock. They
are always subject to the whim of majorities and legislatures and
tend toward expanding control and authoritarianism.

His praise for the slow
development of principles of freedom, as opposed to kingcraft, during
the Middle Ages, gave me a new appreciation of the work that went on

He speaks of the common
law and its value as a careful demonstration of what millions of
people have found to be to their benefit over aeons. It should not
lightly be tampered with.

Checks and restraints on

The Founders were
conservatives, not revolutionaries, as in France where their lack of
foundation principles, and former compacts, and constitutions, led
them to bedlam.

The Constitution has been
neutered. Our present law is subject to the whims of 5 people, a
majority on the Supreme Court at any given moment. This ought not to

From religion we learn
that individuals have inestimable worth, as being created by God.
They should never be enslaved, or killed, or subjugated. We learn
that government ought not dominate the church. We learn that kings
are subject to a higher law than themselves. We learn that men are
“fallen” and cannot be trusted to govern like angels.

Separation of church and
state is not found in the constitution. The constitution forbids the
federal government from establishing a church, not state
governments. Many state governments did sponsor religions well after
the 1st amendment passed. Religion ought not be expunged
from all public business. After passage of the Constitution, many
religious practices continued on. This shows that the 1990’s
reading of the 1st Amendment is incorrect in its abhorence
of mingling of religion in public life.

The Founders were
religious, not Deists.

He says that reliance on
Aristotle and Plato and the Greeks as the source of our notions of
freedom is mistaken. They were pagans. Paganism is the religion of
the current liberal reading of history. Christianity, the Bible and
Judaism made possible the development of freedom in England and

His prose is carefully
crafted. It is sometimes even lively. I enjoyed reading every page. I
bought a used copy to keep.