This week's news is the turmoil in Venezuela, new sanctions being imposed by the United States government, and the potential impact it could have on the American economy.
Today it was announced that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has arrested two opposition leaders in reaction to (or at the very least, in conjunction with) U.S. sanctions being imposed on the Bolivarian-styled government after rigging recently held elections.
At the moment, the sanctions are being imposed on Maduro himself, whose overseas assets were not immediately disclosed by the U.S. Treasury Department. What was intimated -- and what should concern policy makers -- is the rumored extension of those sanctions to the Venezuelan oil industry, much of whose output directly flows into North American markets... and therefore, into the United States.
How bad could it be? Gasoline prices have dropped significantly under the Trump administration, down to $1.91/gal on average -- their lowest levels since 2003 and down significantly from their high-water mark at $3.64/gal during the Obama administration. Should the Trump administration seek to put pressure on Maduro's government to hold free and fair elections by placing sanctions on Venezuelan oil, prices could increase as much as $0.30/gal here in the United States in a matter of weeks, pinching budgets but not breaking bank accounts.
Significant international pressure has been brought to bear on the Maduro regime, including pressure from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin and the Venezuelan bishops to reject efforts to rewrite the constitution. At the moment, the currency of Azroth is worth more than the Venezuelan Bolivar. For those who struggle to find Azroth on a map, don't bother -- it is a fictional landscape for World of Warcraft. Yet the impact of Maduro's socialist policies are not fictional at all: bread lines, a lack of basic medicine, even such modern luxuries as toilet paper being hard to find.
There's an joke making the rounds in socialist-run Venezuela where one is asked: "What did you use to light your house before candles?" The answer? Electricity.
In the meantime, the protests continue unabated and the condition for working class people made worse daily by a socialist regime bent on staying in power at any cost. Should the sanctions have the net effect of forcing Venezuela into default, the domestic crisis would only grow more acute... forcing Maduro to an endgame that a peaceful transition of power would preclude.
I would be remiss if I did not offer some thoughts on the U.S. Senate's failure to pass Obamacare repeal. The good news is that last week's actions will not be the end of the debate. The President has asked the Senate to go back to work on new approaches to health care reform, and as we are just 1/8thinto President Trump's term, and there is still plenty of time for the debate.
What is now needed is a clear statement of why we conservatives believe reform is necessary. Our message that Obamacare is “failing” is getting through, but I think we need more. Obamacare is socialized medicine, plain and simple. So why do we insist this is not the best solution? Because Obamacare prevents the free market from offering solutions for customers.
We need to liberate the insurance industry to offer tailored insurance products that people want to buy, and on which companies can make a profit. This is not so radical. Even in Obamacare people pay premiums. Let’s enable the market to respond to the needs.
Now some may argue that that many of our citizens can’t afford insurance, so the “rich” have to subsidize. First of all, the “rich” are often not really rich, and are being hit hard by the high premiums and surcharges. Second, we have to get rid of the fines imposed on persons who do not want to participate. The Supreme Court justified the penalties as “taxes”, which is bad enough, but really we all know a penalty for not doing what the government wants is not a tax -- it's a penalty. Conservatives know this is an overreach by government with bad implications for the future. What’s the next fine for not buying something they want you to buy?
Health care now represents 17% of America’s Gross Domestic Product. That’s too much for any government to handle, socialist or otherwise. Let’s get the free market back in the game. If they can make a profit, they can offer insurance. We can address legitimate concerns, like making sure preexisting conditions or diseases don’t knock us out of coverage -- by statute -- without socializing the whole system.
More after the jump...