Center for Ethics and Leadership

Monday, October 26, 2009

Health Insurance Again

I was all set to write about the exemption of health insurance companies from anti-trust legislation when the Associated Press published a story stating that health insurance generates a very low profit margin, rarely 5 percent. Someone had told me that about 20 years ago, and it was one reason I was befuddled by the insurance companies' attempt to defeat President Obama's health care reform bill (and Bill Clinton's before that). Over the weekend, I saw a statement that said we do not have a healthcare problem, we have a healthcare insurance problem. What we need are more facts and debate.

Go Phillies! A Lesson in Positive Leadership

For several weeks now I have been thinking of Phillies manager Charlie Manuel as a model of excellent top management that can truly be called leadership, positive leadership.

Oh, Charlie can make the tough decisions when necessary. This year's Brad Lidge story should find its way into every management and leadership text. For those of you who don't follow sports, Lidge had one of the best year's in baseball history for a man at his position last year, and this year he had one of the worst. Manuel removed him from the most critical moments, but never lost confidence in him and now Lidge is nearly his old self. There are many more examples.

So I was surprised and pleased to see a front-page article on Charlie's leadership style in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer in which a Wharton professor and an important Philadelphia-area CEO talked about what exceptional leadership and management skills Manuel has. Leaders who stay positive can accomplish much. Charlie's team is the current world champion that now is the first National League team in more than 30 years to return to the World Series the following year to defend the title.

That Anglican Thing

By now you have gotten a basic understanding of Pope Benedict's most recent apostolic constitution inviting traditional Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church through an expedited process. Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women and to same-sex Christian marriage will have their own jurisdiction within the Roman Catholic church. Married Anglican priests will be able to continue priestly duties within the new jurisdiction.

There have been many different reactions to the decision. An op-ed in today's New York Times suggested that Benedict may be looking to strengthen European Christianity against Islam. Some Catholics have called for the ability of all Catholic priests to marry. Some have wondered if Benedict is trying to shore up a conservative constituency by adding these Anglicans and also reconciling with the Society of St. Pius X. It seems leaders of the Church of England were caught somewhat unaware.

The story has gotten press for a few weeks now, and that is unusual for news in religion. I look at this cautiously as a good thing, but it does raise questions.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bishops Revise Statement on Jewish-Christian Dialogue

Last June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a correction to the existing statement on Catholic-Jewish dialogue that angered Jews in the dialogue. (See my September 16 blog entry.) Last week, they issued a new statement. The bishops said explicitly that Jewish-Catholic dialogue was neither intended to convert Jews, nor to invite them to baptism. The clarification is welcome, since the bishops themselves realized that the previous document had resulted both in misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

Franciscan Cardinal Backs Women Religious

Sean Cardinal O'Malley, Cardinal Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, used the opening of an exhibit sponsored by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) to praise them and all sisters for the work they do and have done over the years. LCWR currently represents about 95 percent of religious sisters on the United States.

The cardinal's remarks are significant since LCWR is currently under investigation by the Vatican for questioning controversial church issues such as the ordination of women. LCWR is a more liberal coalition of sisters that has drawn criticism from conservative Catholics over the years. The group's leaders met with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith in 2001. LCWR also has seen itself as progressive in interpreting Vatican II and its members are dedicated to working in the world to effect justice. Current leadership of LCWR, both president and president-elect, are Franciscan sisters.

Congratulations, Mr. President

Congratulations to Barack Obama on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That's what you say when your president wins something like that. Unfortunately, the right-wing has decided to insult the Nobel committee, even as it celebrated the loss of Chicago's Olympic bid. The Grand Old Party, with no spokespersons other than these, has now become the party of bitterness and spite. And of course some have insisted on bringing race into it negatively.

I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news . . . The Peace Prize reaffirms it s a joke. But now a sad joke.

That's from Erick Erikson of frequently searched conservative blog redstate.com.

Sigh.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Thoughts on Health Care Reform

Two of the more fiercely debated issues in health care reform concern the public option and federal coverage of abortion. I have been trying to figure out the pros and cons of a public option for a while now, and I am sorry that the Senate rejected it, but glad that the House holds on to it. It seems that a public option if properly structured would go a long way toward reaching a goal of universal coverage. Those opposed to it say it would put the insurance companies out of business and lead to government-run health care.

I wondered about this. After all, Medicare already represents a large portion of the health care economy and also has been modified to allow for private insurers to sell supplemental products. I have worried about American corporations dropping their health insurance benefit and most of the population moving to a public option, but not for fear of "socialized medicine." That exodus, if it occurred, would require an enormous increase in taxes and also relieve American corporations of a tremendous operating cost that grows more severe each year. Now, that tax increase, the cynic in me argues, would not be borne by the corporations but by ordinary taxpayers. In other words, there would be a windfall to the corporations and their shareholders. Would there be a transfer of wealth upward?

I went Googling and found an editorial from last June from the Salt Lake City Tribune that helps. The following is a close paraphrase of what was written.

A good deal depends on how the public option is designed. If eligilibility is limited to such persons as the self-employed or small employers and premiums follow the current Medicare schedule, about 32 million would drop private insurers, not a serious shift. If private insurers's rates were used, only 10 million people would switch from private plans. A public option open to all at current Medicare rates would lead to 131 million people leaving private insurers. The editorial claimed that this transfer would decimate private insurers, but did not address the ways in which the last design would affect the provision of health care in the U.S. Would that be the cost restriction the health care sector so sorely needs?

As for coverage of abortion, The New York Times strongly editorialized in favor of abortion coverage on October 1. Said the Times, "In a rational system of medical care, there would be virtually no restrictions on financing abortions." Not so. In a rational system of medical care we might have a more genuine debate about the difference between rights that prohibit government interference in personal freedoms, and rights that obligate government support. The first are called negative rights (the government may not) and the second positive rights (the government should). One's freedom of speech does not require a government-bought megaphone.

The negative right of freedom of reproductive choice is well established in American jurisprudence. Even the very conservative justice and Catholic, Chief Justice John Roberts, said during his confirmation hearings that he considered Roe v. Wade to be stare decisis (settled law). At issue is whether the positive right to federally funded abortion exists. Contra the Times, the plans put forward do not "constitute an improper government intrusion in Americans' private lives."

Facebook, Immaturity, and Presidential Threats

My hope is that by now most of you know of the poll put on Facebook that asked if the president should be assassinated. There are also groups on Facebook with such titles as "Let's Kill Bush with Shoes" with more than 400 members.

I have written about civility before; that is, I do not think these items have been posted by those who pose a serious danger to presidents present and past.

But can anyone get that some stuff just isn't funny?