Most weeks, our preference is to devote this space to matters directly affecting the East County. Now and again, though, events beyond our region’s interests are so alarming, bizarre or compelling they cannot be ignored.
This is one of those occasions, particularly in light of the surreal events of last week. We’re referring, of course, to the Obama administration’s assault on religious rights and then its announcement that it is confiscating $26 billion from American banks as punishment for sloppy legal work.
Help us out: Is this America? It seems so surreal.
+ Obama ‘pro-choice’ for some
Last week, we devoted space in the Longboat and Sarasota editions to Obama’s tyranny against the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of the right to religious freedom. And we were just one small pebble of an overpowering avalanche of dissent that caused the administration to alter its Obama-imposed rules concerning the forced dispensing of free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
Obama may have assuaged the Catholic church by removing the requirement from religious organizations to be forced to provide contraceptives, et al, in their health insurance policies. But he still misses the overall confiscation of your freedoms that he is imposing, similar to way the feudal European kings of the 15th and 16th centuries enslaved their countrymen.
Let’s just use our little company, The Observer Group Inc., as an example. It used to be in our self-interest to subsidize, at a high cost to the company, health insurance for our associates. For decades, American companies used this perk to help them attract good employees.
(Many of you probably remember that company-provided health insurance became prevalent during World War II. It was a work-around to another federal government confiscation of freedom. To stem rising wages during the war (because of a shortage of labor), the Roosevelt administration capped raises that employers could give to employees. In response, employers figured a way around this was to offer to pay for employees’ health insurance — an indirect increase in an employee’s pay.)
But as government always expands, state and federal legislators, and more recently Obamacare, increasingly have mandated that insurance companies provide a wider and wider array of services in their policies. Mental health counseling, chiropractic care, physical therapy, physicals, X-rays, discounted prescription drugs and now free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs all must be included in the group health insurance policies that companies purchase for their employees.
So now let’s say our company’s owners disagree on moral and religious principles that they must pay for insurance policies that must include free contraceptives.
Obama’s back-pedaling for the Catholic church does not cover this. King Obama and the federal government have confiscated freedom yet again.
Indeed, this is the larger point so many Americans miss: We are losing our liberty. The federal government essentially is walking into your home, with a gun pointed at your head, and taking away your freedom.
Consider the ignorant urging last week that came from Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, a group that describes its mission as “dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women.” Wrote Schriock:
“We need your help right now. Right-wing extremists are up in arms, deluging the White House with messages telling President Obama to reverse his (correct!) decision to ensure that all women have access to contraception, without a co-pay, no matter where they work.
“President Obama is under tremendous pressure to revise his decision, and we cannot allow conservative activists and Catholic church leaders who oppose access to contraception to be the loudest voices in the room. We must make sure that he knows we are standing strong with him …
“Contraception is health care, and no one — certainly not our employers — should get to pick and choose the health care we have access to. We can respect the beliefs and personal choices of those who disagree with us. But respecting religious beliefs does not mean letting others decide for us what kind of health care we get.”
If you read this the way we do, Schriock believes with all her heart and soul that employers must be required by force of a gun to offer health insurance coverage to their employees that includes free contraceptive products for women.
Schriock is like Obama. They are “pro-choice.” But only for some. Apparently, neither of them, it is clear, believes in the cherished founding principles that we are endowed by our Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This is so surreal and unbelievable.
+ The foreclosure shakedown
On the heels of what The Wall Street Journal aptly dubbed the “Immaculate Contraception” fiasco came the second surreal event late last week — the Obama administration and state attorneys general’s $26 billion settlement with five major banks over sloppy legal work.
In most places, especially among the world’s Mafiosi, this “settlement” would be called a shakedown. A more precise description is theft.
In a larger context, King Obama and his court of AGs essentially have declared the rule of contractual law in America dead. Apparently, it no longer matters when two parties voluntarily enter into a contract to perform agreed-upon services in exchange for payment. If one welches, it is now OK to do that. What’s more, the federal government will come help the party that didn’t live up to the contract’s terms — at the expense of the other party in the contract.
Let’s put this in terms you can see:
Imagine you own a bank. And your bank made loans to some people whom you knew were on the edge of being able to pay for the house they wanted to buy with the loan your bank provided. Nonetheless, both sides signed contracts explaining the terms of what each party was expected to do for the life of the agreement.
You, the banker, weren’t too worried if the shaky party couldn’t pay back the loan because the terms of the loan said your collateral was the house. You would take back the house if the borrower defaulted.
All is fair. Two parties entered an agreement voluntarily. This is free and fair trade.
But several months later, the borrower stops his loan payments. You the banker decide to execute the contract that says you can foreclose on the borrower and remove him from the house. It takes two years to bring this action to court. In all of that time, the borrower has not paid a dime. He has lived in the house for free.
When you go to court to take back the house, a judge discovers you, the bank, and your lawyer didn’t submit all of the proper documentation. The judge rules the foreclosure procedure must start over.
Meantime, the borrower has moved out of the home.
Let’s say this happened to 10 of the bank’s borrowers. The next thing you know a gun-toting federal officer comes to your home and announces: “Mr. Banker, because your bank and lawyer submitted sloppy paperwork in those 10 foreclosure suits, and even though none of those 10 borrowers paid you what they agreed to pay you, we are here to take $2 million out of your bank and shareholders’ money as punishment for the sloppy paperwork.
And, we’re going to give 6% of that $2 million, or $120,000, to those 10 borrowers who defaulted on their contracts. We’re going to give the rest of your money — $1,880,000 — to other people around the country who are either behind on their loan payments or who aren’t making their loan payments.
This is America?
News Editor Pam Eubank’s report last week, “Retail Resurgence,” carried an appropriate subtitle: “Confidence booster.”
Confidence booster indeed.
The news about the 94% retail occupancy at Lakewood Ranch Main Street and the 80%-plus retail occupancy at San Marco Plaza reinforces what many East County residents have seen and felt since, say, mid-2011. That is, we’re back! Or we’re coming back, and coming back strong.
Sure, the national and Florida economies are growing out of the recession at anemic rates. But not so here.
Home sales are rising briskly. New homes continue to be built. And we’re actually seeing Realtors smiling again.
While the recession took a cruel toll on many in the East County market, we have always believed the downturn to be temporary. When you look at long-term growth prospects in this region, Greater Lakewood Ranch clearly has all the ingredients to be at the epicenter. We’re back. And there’s more good to come.