Posts categorized “Politics”    (PAGE 3)

Thoughts on the Cain Controversy

November 7, 2011   4:23 pm

The accusations continue to swirl about Herman Cain and harassment during his tenure at the National Restaurant Association. I have a few thoughts on the continuing saga.

  1. Does anyone remember Clarence Thomas? This is eerily reminiscent of the false accusations leveled at him during the course of his confirmation hearings. In Justice Thomas’ case, these were shown to be unfounded. However, the accusations themselves were a distraction, and gave his detractors the ability to brand him as an “alleged” harasser.
  2. If you were harassed, would you wait 20 years before coming forward? Keep in mind that 20 years ago, harassment was front-and-center during the Thomas confirmation hearings (see #1 above). There was both easy justice and notoriety to be had by being one of the first successful enforcers of the no-harassment policies implemented at that time.
  3. If you want to look like you’re telling the truth, hiring Gloria Allred is the wrong move.
  4. And finally, even if Cain made a gesture and gave a compliment as alleged, is the party of Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Anthony Weiner really going to lecture us on harassment? Give me a big-time break.

The Green Thing

November 3, 2011   8:04 pm

Received via e-mail - this is the generation before mine, but makes an interesting point.

The reduce/reuse/recycle logo, three arrows pointing at one another in the shape of a rounded triangle

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He was right - our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

BUT

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

Isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?

Now, you’re not going to see me call for fewer outlets in my rooms… But, this is really something to think about. The “green thing” in its current incarnation is simply a political ploy by some who want to feel better about themselves by controlling what others do; the hypocrisy of those “leaders” is well-documented. But, don’t let your disdain for those people cause you to miss the point. There is no sense in being wasteful. Turn off the lights when you don’t need them, walk more, and before you toss it in the trash, ask yourself “Can I reuse this?”

Are we going to save the planet? Probably not; she’s pretty strong, and her demise is already documented. But, we can ensure that we use no more of it than necessary, and leave as much as possible to the generations to follow.

#OWS, Educate Thyself - Income Inequality (Part 3)

October 23, 2011   9:21 pm

Previously in this series - Part 1 - IntroductionPart 2 - Credit and Banks

Income inequality. The rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street crowd really rings hollow with this 99%-er. This is certainly not a new complaint; “eat the rich” has been a sentiment for decades (or centuries). I would posit that covetousness has existed for over 6,000 years, and led to the first recorded murder in human history. It was wrong then, just as it is wrong now. Now, this is education, not church; we’re not going to belabor this point too much. But, the cries of “fairness” are a moral appeal, and must be dealt with accordingly. The ultimate in fairness is that everyone is taxed the same, and paid the same wage for the same type of work. Some people believe this is way-unfair, and they seem to start with “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” and work backward just enough to make it palatable to someone who claims to desire freedom. Know, as we enter this education, that I’m much more on the former end than the latter. (See the “Welcome to the Real World” heading in the introduction.)

Income inequality would be incomplete without a discussion of equality of opportunity. Think back over your life; have you ever had a friend who could out-eat everyone else, but still retained their beanpole-like physique? Did you also have a friend who was always dieting, and always looked like they should be dieting? Given an equal opportunity - a pizza and birthday cake celebration, for example - these two people will have unequal results. This is exactly how it is in life. Many different people take the same high school courses; some do well, others do not. Does the fact that everyone is not the valedictorian mean that the system is not fair? On the contrary, this illustrates that given equal opportunity, different results are possible (and likely). There’;s a phrase that originate with cars, but now is used for almost anything - “Your mileage may vary” (YMMV). This is an acknowledgement by car companies that, the way they drove the car, in the environment they had, that was the mileage they got; but, you may drive it a different way, or in a different environment, so your mileage may not be the same as what’s printed on the sticker in the window.

A boy is pushing a bagging lawn mower, with the caption "I figured out at a young age the easiest way to get money from rich people. Its called a JOB."

Now, let’s continue this train of thought. There are two people who get the same college degree; let’s even say that their GPA was the same, and it was good - they graduated Cum Laude. Fast-forward 5 years, and the likelihood of these two individuals bringing in the exact same salary is very low; one is going to be making more than the other. Is this fair? That’s tough to say, but just with these facts, it seems pretty fair to me. Going back to the introduction again, a college degree is a tool, and what one does with it has a lot to do with their decisions, and also has a lot to do with the environment in which they live. Think about it this way - the same hammer that demolishes a house can be used to hit a chisel to make a sculpture; and, depending on the scenario, both are important. However, the demolisher is probably not going to get paid the same as the sculptor.

How many people could you employ? I know my answer to that question - zero. I have a small programming business, and currently, I am at the point of breaking even. Over the course of 2+ years, I saw a project with potential to go nationwide fizzle and die; the work I put into that is gone, with no monetary return. I went from looking at a breakthrough project to being back to square 2 (not quite back to square 1) overnight. What am I doing? Continuing on, keeping the lessons learned in mind. I’m not camping out in front of the organization that didn’t choose me, and I’m not blaming the system. But, I can assure you that there is no room in my budget for any employees at all.

Businesses can only hire people as they have resources to do so. These resource quite often manifest themselves as stores of money saved and earned via profits. There is nothing wrong with businesses making a profit, just as there is nothing wrong with you exchanging an hour of your time for a profit yourself (via a wage). (For the record - who was one of the voices saying that a rise in the minimum wage would lead to fewer available jobs? Oh yeah - me. I take little pleasure in that vindication, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point it out.)

A graphical representation of the tax burden shift from Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax proposalTo illustrate, let’s look at a hospital. Profit is a motivation even in a seemly-altruistic endeavor like health care. The operators of the hospital are responsible for hiring doctors, surgeons, nurses, nursing aides, medical technicians, janitorial staff, laundry personnel, anesthesiologists, etc. (or contracting it out). They are also responsible for purchasing beds, linens, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and a full array of drugs; they also must maintain power, water, environment, and maintenance on their facilities. (I’m stopping there; I’m sure this list is incomplete.) The janitors and surgeons are both important; however, you’re not going to find a single hospital that pays janitors as well as it pays surgeons. Why? Two words - skill and education. Is that fair? Absolutely. The additional pay surgeons receive over janitors is a big reason many of them go through years and years of schooling, internships, and career-long continuing education.

Now, imagine you’re the surgeon. Would you think it fair if unemployed people demanded that you reduce your pay to that of the janitorial staff? If you say you’d be OK with that, you’re either naive or lying. But, these people get their way, and your pay is cut. You would be indignant that the fruits of your hard work were being demanded by people who have no claim on them. You would also no longer be able to pay the support staff necessary for your surgery practice, nor would you be able to spot the neighborhood kid the $50 to keep your yard up on a weekly basis. You would have to pull your children out of whatever private school they attend, which affects the teachers and workers at that school.

To put it as plain and simple as I can, these “rich” people you decry are the ones making our economy work. And, in our economy, you start where you start and try to improve your lot. That’s the promise of America. Not everyone will succeed, but the opportunity is there for those willing to work for it. For years, one party has fomented angst against one class of people, while pillorying those who are against that party as filled with hate. (Oh wait - maybe those are big words for college-educated people…) The Democrats make people mad about people who run businesses, and cast Republicans as hating poor people. Like many items of the Democrat platform, nothing could be further from the truth. These rich people are the ones employing people and supporting other businesses; they’re not sitting around their fireplaces smoking $100 bills and laughing at the peasants.

The graph running down the side of the post, as best I can tell, originated here, and was produced as an example of how bad Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan is. But, what I’d like for you to do is click on that, and look how tiny the increased tax is on the bottom 20% versus how much it saves the top 20%. (Keep in mind, #OWS-ers, that 19% of that top 20% are in your 99%.) This chart illustrates perfectly what is wrong with our tax code, and why our jobs are going to other countries. Where is the motivation to move yourself into that top 20%? (FTR, I am saddened by Cain’s recent adjustment to 9-0-9 “for poor people” - this completely destroys the beauty of 9-9-9 as an equalizer.)

At this point, I can hear the rebuttals about all the greedy people who have broken the law to increase their wealth. Those people will find no quarter here with me. One of my biggest problems with immigration reform is that the focus is always on the illegals, rather than the businesses who hire them with impunity. However, this greed and illegality must be fought where it is found, not via a whole-scale war on wealth. American has her position in the world because of her wealth! If profiling is so wrong in other areas, why is tolerated here?

Bottom line - instead of seeing these people as the enemy, you should see them as people you should emulate, whose accomplishments to which you should aspire. You should stop looking at what someone else has, and start looking at how you can improve your lot in life. Chase Bank is probably not hiring many Gender Studies graduates, and Exxon doesn’t have a great need for Gay and Lesbian Studies graduates. You may not find a job in your degree specialty - that’s OK. Work where you can find it, continue your education (but by all means, not at the same university that failed you so much already), and quit looking around so much.

Derek Sivers, in his summary of Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice, puts it this way.

More than half of people chose options that give them better relative position : better to earn $50k/yr while others around are earning $25k/yr than to be earning $100k/yr while others around are earning $200k/yr.

Can you see the lunacy in this? Because of their jealousy and covetousness, over half the people would choose half as much pay. This is exactly what you’re doing. Wake up, #OWS.

 

The Cain Train - All Aboard!

September 29, 2011   12:31 pm

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I support Herman Cain as the Republican nominee for president in 2012. With his recent victory in a Florida straw poll and passing both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in a recent Zogby poll, he’s certainly on the rise, and going to be a player in this Republican primary season. However, if you watch the news or listen to the traditional pundits, you’d think that this is a 2-man race between Romney and Perry!

Herman Cain and his wife, smiling and embracing while both looking at the camera

The Cain Administration filled the role
of First Lady 43 years ago

There have been some other “flashes” in the primary season so far, but each of them occurred after the candidate announced. Cain was one of the first declared candidates, and every time he talks, his numbers go up. One of the complaints many of us had in 2008 was that we felt that John McCain was selected by the media rather than elected by the people. “He’s electable,” they said, “unlike these other guys…” To an extent, this is the prevailing narrative surrounding Perry and Romney; the former isn’t electable, while the latter is.

The media doesn’t want to acknowledge Cain, because he causes some problems in their view of the way politics in America works. (If the name wasn’t already taken, maybe we’d call them “inconvenient truths”…) Let’s take a look at these; rather than liabilities, these are strengths that will not only force conversation on these issues, but areas in which he resonates with the average American.

1. He’s black

As a Democrat, this is a plus; as a Republican, this must mean that there’s something wrong! (Yet we’re the ones who are called racists - go figure.) Republicans have been pilloried as racists (or worse) for not supporting various Democrat candidates over the years - Jesse Jackson, Geraldine Ferraro, Barack Obama - with claims that we didn’t support them because they were black or female. Why the “impartial” media amplifies these ridiculous claim is probably a bigger topic than we have time for here, but they are willing accomplices in painting the party of Lincoln as racists. Only in the affirmative-action-addled mind is one’s race or gender a plus (if you’re a minority) or minus (if you’re a white male).

The media simply cannot abide a black man with a broad base of Republican support. I honestly believe that their minds are so steeped in their fantasy view of the world that they can’t wrap their minds around this. This is a plus for him; his story of challenge-to-success is both authentic and inspiring. There was great celebration around Obama’s election, which proved that racism was over; a week later, we started with the stories about how he was in danger because these racists wouldn’t accept a black president. There is no appeasing these race-accusers; refuting their claims via our actions is the only thing that will may silence them.

2. He’s successful

This blows up the media narrative as well. He isn’t a low-to-medium-performing “diversity” hire (hired solely for his skin color), he has used his own education and work ethic to rise to the top. Through his two turnaround-CEO roles and his leadership of the National Restaurant Association, he has shown that you can get tangible results if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work. While our current president was fomenting and organizing rage against the establishment (you do know what a “community organizer” does, right?), Herman Cain was working hard, making his businesses profitable, and stimulating both the national economy and the personal economies of his company’s employees.

We should have known what we were in for, starting with the “present” votes in the Senate. Then, on to the ridiculously-named “Office of the President-Elect” (it’s called a “transition team”), the job-killing health insurance mandate, two stimulus plans (plus an attempted third in the name of jobs) - I’m hard-pressed to think of a single program that the current administration has attempted that has actually made things better. It’s time for a leader with proven results.

3. He’s electable

I think that the media doesn’t know what that word means. Bob Dole and John McCain? Electable. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush? Unelectable. Yeah, that must be in some AP style guide somewhere, that mandates the opposite use of that word. Maybe it’s like with your kids, where they don’t seem to hear the words “not” and “don’t,” choosing instead to do whatever it is you just prohibited.

This narrative on electability is just laughable. The media cannot see through their bias to understand what the average American actually wants. They want jobs. They want to be successful. They want to see their neighbors successful. They want to be able to make decisions for their family without the interference of a heavy-handed government. This is exactly what Herman Cain brings to the table, and stands in stark contrast to the current administration.

So - if you’re expecting the “news” to inform you on Herman Cain, you’re going to be waiting a while. If you think I’m off-base, research him and see for yourself. If you agree that the above sounds good, let’s get together and work to make sure that Cain’s success is so huge that even MSNBC can’t ignore it!

UPDATE: Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article called “Taking Cain Seriously.” It summarizes Cain’s qualifications quite nicely.

2010 Year in Review - The Bad

January 12, 2011   12:00 pm

This is the middle post of my three-post “Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” The linked words in that title will take you to the other two posts. Here are the things that I considered bad in 2010.

Wikileaks

Wikileaks began as a whistleblower website, where people could release information about injustices. In 2010, they made a leap into classified government documents. Purportedly stolen by PFC Bradley Manning, these documents were not only embarrassing for some government agencies, the information contained in those documents identified informants and other non-public allies in the War or Terror. While the creator of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is currently in custody (due to some somewhat-questionable sex crime charges), there is little legal enforceability on a citizen of another country disclosing secrets of another. Several US companies have severed ties with the site, and kudos to them for that; however, I believe that the net result of this will be bad.

ObamaCare

What I’ve identified as the most ridiculous quote of 2010 (“We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it”) was spoken in reference to this bill. Going by the formal name of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (colloquially known as “Obamacare”), this bill enacted many reforms to our health care system, most notably in the area of insurance coverage. The bill mandates that all people purchase and retain health care insurance (a provision already rule unconstitutional), stipulates that insurers must cover preexisting conditions and may not drop insured people for certain conditions, and provides for the creation of a public co-op. There may be more, but at 1,300+ pages, who knows?

We are already seeing the unintended consequences of this legislation. Insurance rates are going up, with many companies raising rates 25% or more. This shouldn’t catch anyone by surprise; what is called “insurance” in the bill is more like a membership. Insurance is a bet against bad things happening, which is the entire reason preexisting conditions aren’t covered. Where’s the bet when you know the outcome? Insurance rates are not designed for this type of use. (Conspiracy theorists could speculate that those who passed the law knew this. They really wanted public control, but the people didn’t want it - instead, they passed a bill that will bankrupt the insurance companies. Then, who rides in to save the day? Liberal government!)

Insurance is but one of the problems with this bill; there are many others where the unintended consequences outweigh the intended benefits. Hopefully, the 112th Congress can undo this monstrosity before most of its provisions become effective. Until then, though, this remains on the bad list.

The FCC Implements Net Neutrality

“Net neutrality” is the concept that network service providers (ISPs, cell carriers, etc.) must treat all network traffic equally. This means that they cannot favor certain types of packets (ex. their own video streaming) while slowing down other packets (ex. competitors’ video streaming, voice over IP). While, on the surface, this sound good, it fails to take into account bandwidth considerations, and the consequences of that bandwidth being used up. A TV signal can be broadcast through the air, and whether one TV or a million TVs receive the signal, the signal is the same; however, the same signal received over the Internet must be duplicated once for each end point receiving it - it is a request-response network. It’s not as cut-and-dried of an issue as some of its more ardent supporters would like to paint it.

Congress has failed to implement net neutrality legislation, and courts have ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has no jurisdiction to implement it on its own. That didn’t stop the intrepid FCC, which issued net neutrality guidelines near the end of the year. Hopefully 2011 will find these regulations to be unenforceable; as it stands now, though, these regulations are bad, and have the potential to slow innovation around the network.

2010 Year in Review - The Ridiculous

January 11, 2011   12:00 pm

2010 was quite a year. To wrap it up, I’m bringing back a mostly annual tradition here of the three-post “Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” Per tradition, the posts are published in reverse, so when they’re all posted, the good is on top. With no further ado, the ridiculous…

The BP Oil Spill

While this, on its own merits, would have landed on the bad list, the incompetence surrounding the spill launched it to the top of the list. On the front side, BP’s pencil-whipped audits and ignoring of safety warnings is deplorable; those controls are there because they are necessary, and I’m sure that shutting off that particular well until it was fixed would have been much cheaper than clean-up from the spill was. On the back end, the US government’s response was horrible. The failure to quickly approve waivers for foreign ships and exhaust regulations, and the failure to accept help from other countries in containing the spill while it was small, was eerily similar to the failures surrounding Hurricane Katrina. These failures led to the effects of the spill being far greater than they need to be.

While the Gulf does seem to be recovering more quickly than expected, there will be pockets of oil and a poorer overall quality of water in the Gulf of Mexico for years. The knee-jerk reaction of stopping all off-shore drilling compounds the problem. A safety down-time to recheck all the rigs is in order, but once the rigs are found to be safe, there is no reason that they should sit idle. This also illustrates the ridiculousness of prohibiting drilling on land; how much easier would this well have been to seal up if it was in land? But, to placate tree-huggers and NIMBYs, we’re drilling through a mile of water to get oil.

What solidifies this ridiculousness is that we seemingly have learned nothing from these lessons. Time will tell, and I won’t feel any joy and bringing this back up, but I have a feeling we’ll be revisiting stories similar to this one if things don’t change.

United States v. Arizona

One of the basic rights recognized by our legal system is the right to self defense. Many things that would be otherwise illegal are justified when they are done in self defense. The state of Arizona is experiencing an influx of illegal aliens streaming across its southern border, and people who live in southern Arizona are encountering increasing violence from these illegals. While the Federal government has laws on the books, the current administration (and the one before it) seemed to be more interested in turning this group of illegal aliens into voters than enforcing the law. So, Arizona passes laws similar to the ones the Federal government has. Simple self-defense, borne of necessity due to inaction by the Federal government in the face of mounting threats.

How does the US government respond? With loud denunciation, even threats of lawsuits against Arizona if they enforce these new laws. They are joined by the media, who painted heart-wrenching pictures of illegals who were deciding to move because of the new laws. (To which I say, “Good!” I read one where the illegal was going to Colorado, and I thought, “Well, that’s the wrong direction.”) The law makes the state less hospitable to those who shouldn’t be there in the first place; just as the laws passed in Oklahoma a few years back, this is a good thing.

How much better shape would Mexico be in if they had another 30 million workers there, stimulating its economy? How much better would employment opportunities be here if there were 30 million fewer potential employees, many of whom skirt labor laws? This is win-win! Each nationality lives and works in their own country, and we visit each others’ countries on vacation. It works well for Canada - why wouldn’t it work with Mexico?

The Spiraling Inanity of Reality TV

The Real World started it, Survivor perfected it, and many, many other have followed it. I don’t know that 2010 was the year when this “jumped the shark,” but it certainly continued down the trail. It appears that script writing is becoming a lost art, except on cable channels, where the shows aren’t subject to the restrictions of over-the-air TV; basic cable can now be categorized as either sports, news, reruns, niche networks, and train wrecks. A&E has gone from Biography to Billy the Exterminator; History has gone from actual history to current-day shows that may be tangentially-related to history. This probably explains why I’ve been watching less and less TV that isn’t sports or news.

(One notable exception to this are the sitcoms on ABC; this is likely why they are so successful.)

Finally, a ridiculous quote to finish it off, from now-former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

What We Know, and Why We Know It

December 28, 2010   5:28 pm

Over at House of Eratosthenes, Morgan K. Freeberg puts forth a well-reasoned post called “So Does This Make Me a “Birther”?” In it, he examines the larger issue of the precedent set by this particular issue not being resolved for over two (nay, four) years. After the original post, he updated it with noticing how everything we know about the current President, we know because there is a group of people ready to ridicule us if we say we don’t know it. For example:

He is a Christian and not a Muslim. Now, I really don’t care about this one way or the other. But how do I know He’s a Christian? Because He went to Jeremiah Wright’s church, of course! But of course that would mean He’s also an anti-white bigot. But no. He went to Jeremiah Wright’s church for twenty years to listen to all the Christian-ish sermons…but was snoozing through all the America-bashing sermons. Yes to Christianity, no to America-hating, because Obama was coincidentally tuning out at all the right times. Again, how do I “know” this? Because someone’s ready to ridicule me if I believe anything different. I don’t have any other reason to “know” such a thing. None.

Read the whole thing. Whether you’re a birther, you think the birthers are loony, or you’ve just resigned yourself to the fact that it’s not going to be resolved (myself in that latter category), the points made in his post are important. Shouldn’t the CINC have to show the same proof of eligibility as those he commands?

My Prescription for Health Care Reform

August 17, 2009   5:10 pm

I’ve been asked by some, regarding my last post, what my solution is for the problems that plague our current health care system. I was also accused of being too verbose - so, here is my solution, minus the qualifications that tend to make my explanations longer. So, no griping about sweeping generalizations - just ask for clarification. :) Without further ado, I present Dr. Daniel’s Prescription for Health Care Reform.

Illegals Gone

With the number of people who are in this country legally, we cannot support those who are not. This extends to emergency care as well, because if we leave that open, we’ll just have illegals using the ER for their everyday health care. Raises the stakes a little, but we can’t afford to fix everyone “for free.” Additionally, insurers must verify citizenship for their standard policyholders. They are still free to obtain health care at their own expense.

End HMO/PPO Discounts

This is the #1 thing that drives the cost of health care for the uninsured. To get what they need, providers have artificially inflated their charges; so, when they apply the HMO/PPO discounts, they get what they wanted to begin with. Make these post-markup, post-discount prices the standard prices, and health care becomes much more affordable, even for the self-insured (AKA uninsured).

Choose Your Own Coverage

There is no reason that a single male should buy a policy that, by law, must cover OB/GYN services. People should have the ability to select only the coverage they need, and companies should have the right to sell it to them. Don’t want prescriptions covered? Don’t buy the coverage - buy the $10 90-day supply from Wal-Mart instead. This will let premiums be lower for people who only desire catastrophic coverage, and would bring health insurance more in line with homeowner and auto insurance.

Just the Total, Please

There is absolutely no reason that someone should receive 4 bills for one visit. However, go to the ER, and you’ll likely end up with a hospital bill, a doctor’s group bill, a radiology bill, and maybe even a laboratory bill. Funnel all billing through one of these; the hospital or doctor’s office is the one I would pick. This will make it easy to get estimates and totals for the consumer, and I’m sure that, given this requirement, these organizations could come up with an efficient way to make it happen pretty quickly. I see this as a parallel to the standard “Nutrition Facts” labels on food - one bill from one place, with no hidden charges.


There you have it. Take four of these and call me in the morning if pain persists.

Health Care - From the Folks Who Brought You "Cash for Clunkers"

August 4, 2009   9:12 pm

I made a Facebook status update earlier today where I said I hoped that the mismanaged “Cash for Clunkers” program (C4C hereafter) had caused some people to think about whether they wanted the same people in charge of their health care. Of course, with the limited space for status updates, and my double-dose of verbosity (which is genetic, I thnk), I really didn’t have room to flesh out my thoughts on the matter.

A review would be in order here. C4C is a government program that gives incentives for people to trade in cars deemed older and less fuel-efficient on a new car that is more fuel-efficient. A consumer group has a FAQ. A controversial provision of this bill is that these trade-ins must be completely destroyed - no parts can be salvaged at all, no tires, no body parts, nothing. One of my Facebook friends described the process they used - drain the oil, replace it with water, and run the engine until it seizes up. Anyway, this program was funded at $1 billion to go from July 24th to November 1st of this year. Yet, a short week later, the news begins to break that the program is almost out of money. There is talk of adding another $2 billion - that’s $3 billion of our tax dollars to buy and destroy perfectly functional cars, because they don’t fit someone’s idea of a “good car.”

Regarding the way these cars are being destroyed - this is the classic broken window fallacy, the economic theory that says that vandalism is good for the economy. A boy breaks a window; the shopkeeper must get it replaced. This benefits the window maker, which can benefit others in turn. However, the fallacy is that it does not look at what the money that the shopkeeper had to use to fix the window might have otherwise been used to do. For example, while the window maker advances, the shoe maker and baker, who might have received the money the shopkeeper would have spent, are hurt. (As an aside - wouldn’t it be better to keep the window maker in business by providing windows for new business? Oops - that was the greedy capitalist in me.)

Now, let’s look at the health care issue. Nearly every proposal I’ve heard coming from Washington decries the number of uninsured people in this country, how much we pay for health care, and how bad the insurance companies are. There are many ways to go about this; I’ll look at each of these in turn. As we do, keep in mind what happened to the “bad” cars in C4C.

We hear bad, bad things about the number of uninsured Americans - the latest numbers have it about 47 million. That’s a lot, right? Maybe, but maybe not. One thing that these stats do not take into account is the number of people who choose to be uninsured. Many college students are uninsured by choice (or by lack of giving it a thought - that would have been me right after high school!). The census bureau said that the number of college students was 15.9 million in 2004. How about single people? I certainly didn’t worry about health insurance when I was single. The census bureau said in 2007 that of the 92 million single people, 60% had never been married at all, and 15 million were over 65. Certainly not all of these are without insurance, but a good many may very well choose not to have it. That leaves the ones that can’t afford it - we’ll look at ways to make it more affordable in our third point.

Next up is how much we pay for health care. Yes, just like our military prowess, America is #1 in the world at spending per-capita on health care. We are also #1 in the world at medical advances and technology. These things do not come for free - what is the incentive for a company to develop the newest bang-up drug if they aren’t going to be able to make enough money on it to fund the research it took to develop it? Altruism may be nice, but it doesn’t put food on the table. While the exchange of money for services seems to be distasteful to some people, you’ll look long and hard to find a better motivator. Why do doctors put themselves through years and years of education after most people are already out working? For a few, they may just love their fellow man that much, but for the most part, it’s that American dream of making it, and having the things they want. How does one acquire things? Money.

All this talk about money brings us to those evil, horrible insurance companies. I’ve dealt with them just as many of you have, and it’s frustrating to have things denied because a t wasn’t crossed or an i dotted. However, let’s look at what we expect from insurance. Does homeowner’s insurance cover carpet cleaning, painting inside and out, and re-weatherstripping the windows? Does auto insurance cover oil changes, new tires, detailing, and radio upgrades? Then why must any health insurance cover check-ups? The litany of required services on some insurance providers is astounding - and, the consumer has no choice. I don’t think I could go to a state in the Union and get an insurance plan that didn’t cover maternity; as a male, I really don’t think that’s coverage I need. People view health insurance completely different from any other insurance. Why is it that, if something exists, people think that their health insurance should cover it? Some of these treatments or experimental procedures weren’t even in existence when the policy was written, but people think that they’re entitled to them.

This is where affordability comes in. Let insurance companies customize plans, so that people can buy just what they want (catastrophic coverage, for example) and exclude what they don’t (TMJ). End the ridiculous “discounted rate” on the billing - doctors have artificially raised their rates because they know that, for the most part, their patients’ insurance will only pay a portion of it. The price should be the same for someone paying out-of-pocket as it is for the insurance companies. (Back to auto insurance, does Ford offer Allstate a discount? Yeah right.)

What happens with this is the regular free-market benefits. First, the availability of health care goes up, because the people who opted out of “hypochondriac” coverage will not take up a doctor’s time for every sneeze and sniffle. Second, there is an incentive for providers to get into the business, as the playing field is more level and less laden with red tape. Third, people will be so happy that we’ll never have to hear about this ridiculous socialized health care mess ever again! (Well, okay, maybe that last one is a stretch.)

Now, let’s look at C4C health care. You’ll have politicians and government paper-pushers determining what’s covered and what isn’t, with their decisions holding the force of law. The thresholds will be hard - the qualifying line is drawn in the cement as it hardens. It will cost 10 times what “they” estimate - at least. Wait times will be through the roof, as anyone who qualifies for something will get in line for it, whether they need it or not. Over five or ten years, there will be a shortage of providers, because doctors will decide that law is a much more lucrative field. And, one of the founding principles of our nation will have been sacrificed on the altar of good intentions.

I know which one I’d prefer.

30 Ignorant Opinions

July 9, 2009   6:40 pm

I found this over at House of Eratosthenes, with the full title “Thirty Ignorant Opinions That Are Nevertheless Somewhat Popular.” As Morgan is moving soon, making the preceding link dead (Edit: link fixed), I’ve reproduced the list here. The remainder of this post is the excerpt - I agree with 28 or 29 of them.

[These opinions] are the opinion equivalent of driving several miles down the highway with your blinker on.

30. Together, we can take on global warming and we can win. Save the planet. Together we can do this.
29. We’ve got to get some more money into the education system, because our children are worth it.
28. Seventy languages in use in a school district is a sign that it is a rich tapestry of diversity, and that is good for everybody.
27. Any statement that qualifies “tax cuts” as an expenditure, such as comparing the “Bush tax cuts” with real spending plans.
26. We’re going to need a bigger stimulus.
25. The trouble with our justice system is that the people who decide the cases don’t have enough empathy.
24. We’ve got to do something to help the unemployed, like taxing the snot out of the businesses that just might hire them.
23. It’s going to take Barack Obama a long, long time to fix all this stuff, and He is trying His best.
22. If women were in charge of the world there wouldn’t be any wars.
21. FOX News tells lots of lies, but I can’t come up with any examples.
20. You know what we really need to change? If a guy has lots of sex he’s a stud, if a woman does the same thing she’s a slut. SO unfair!
19. Everything that needs inventing has been invented. Men, drop out of school, learn to rap and do your crunches.
18. We’ve got to change our policies because our (unnamed) allies in Europe don’t like us.
17. I can’t approve of Barack Obama’s policies. But I still like Him personally, and that’s what really matters.
16. We must all be forced to call gay people “married.” It’s a civil rights issue. For them. Not for anyone else. Just for them.
15. We have to raise the tax rate on the rich, because that makes us all a better people.
14. The Earth is sure to be doomed if I use traditional sandwich baggies. But it’s got a fighting chance if I use these ones that are 25% lighter.
13. Sarah Palin isn’t a real woman; she’s a Republican.
12. I know exactly what my thousand dollar car needs: Three thousand dollar rims.
11. If we drill, we won’t see a single drop of oil for x years. Besides, adorable polar bears, penguins, pristine environment blah blah blah.
10. We should not have attacked Iraq because Iraq didn’t attack us.
9. I wanna watch American Idol!
8. Hooters? Isn’t that a strip bar or something?
7. The second amendment is out of date because all them founders couldn’t have envisioned nukular weapons and what-not
6. Those illegal aliens are just trying to make a better life for their kids so we should coddle them all and make them citizens.
5. Vote for Obama! Hope! Change!
4. If your kid doesn’t feel like paying attention it’s a learning disability. Medicate him.
3. No one’s going to be safe until we get rid of all these guns we have lying around.
2. Culottes and clamdiggers. That’s what hip fashionable hot looking women should wear this summer. Who wants to see a gorgeous woman’s bare thigh anyway.
1. Palin quit because of a scandal. Yup. After all that digging, months and months, the entire Fourth Estate…they left one hidden. Boy, do they feel foolish.