Friday, February 26, 2010


There are times when you really hope that karma is an operating system -- that what goes around comes around; as you sow, so shall you reap. It's an elegant notion, that if you screw somebody over, eventually you will get yours -- if not this life, then the next ...

A while back, I came into possession of novelty traffic ticket pad from the State of Mind Karma Police. Click on it and read the infractions ...

After listening to a PBS special yesterday about the "summit" on health care, and all the bitching, moaning, and whining, I'd like to offer this one to our politicians who are dicking around with health care reform, with all the categories checked.

D's and R's -- you need to get your shit together and get this done. If the R's are going to stand in the road and block it, then the D's need to run them down. This whole notion of allowing the free market to take care of the problem hasn't worked in two hundred years, why on Earth would it suddenly start working now? Because the insurance companies are all nice guys?

This kind of thing is too important for business as usual.


Anonymous said...

Well Said!

Tony Muhlenkamp said...

Free markets means not having to depend on insurance companies being nice guys.

Steve Perry said...

So, you don't want any regulation on anything? No FDA, no oversight and rules for airlines, car makers, medications, banks, schools, you want total laissez-faire for business?

No unions, no support for farmers, no medicare, social security? Sixteen hour work days for children?

Because that's just the tip of the iceberg you get when you let the robber barons do it their way.

jnabrown said...

It's not that long ago that the USA didn't have any public healthcare, or unions, or labour laws. The documentation of the time still exists, and proves conclusively that all of these things have improved the quality of life of the average citizen.
This isn't just a fight against profit-based healthcare, it's a fight against what Paine called "a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong..."

Tony said...

Mr. Perry,

I don't think I said I didn't want regulation on anything, but maybe it was implied. I was commenting on the implication in your post that the underlying assumption of free markets is that the insurance companies are all nice guys. I think the opposite is the case, the idea of free market capitalism is that the insurance companies are NOT nice guys.

I had a nice long comment ready to post, but it exceeded my character limit. (A shame really, I was eloquent as hell :)). So I'll cut to the last paragraph.

You've probably already read books by Thomas Sowell, but if not, he does an excellent job of documenting the principles I'm talking about in his books. His "Basic Economics" is worthwile, as is "Vision of the Anointed" and "Conflict of Visions". He does a much better job of making this argument than I do, and I recommend him to you.

Steve Perry said...

Tony --

I have read Sowell -- been a while -- and was pretty much a laissez-faire advocate during my Objectivism days -- the purpose of government is to provide for the common defense, and everything else, including the roads, should be left to private enterprise.

Yeah. I was there.

But Objectivism, like Communism, is an unworkable philosophy. Both look neat on paper, if you make some huge leaps of faith, but neither has worked in the real word -- the ideas are simply not going to fly.

Neither Marx nor Ayn Rand could pull them off in their own lives, so what hope the rest of us lesser mortals, eh?

We haven't had pure anything here in this country, and never will. Markets have always been regulated to some degree, and I for one am happy to see such protections. All that sketching the dollar sign in the air John Galt stuff is fun fantasy when you are eighteen, but less useful than hogwash if you live in the real world. (At least hogwash gives you a way to clean your pig.)

So the question becomes, viz: regulations, what do we regulate and how? What serves the most people the best?

I think a civilized country gets measured different ways, and one of those is how it takes care of its sick and old and poor. As the richest nation on Earth, (with China hot on our heels,) we could do a lot better job of it. And one of the reasons we don't comes down to greed. Not enough for some folks to be rich, they feel the need to be super-rich.

I'm not against the insurance or drug companies making a nice profit. But there is a point at which, when people are dropping dead because they can't afford medical care, profits turn obscene.

Laws are designed to protect people from each other, and to keep the wolves from slaughtering the sheep, you have to regulate the wolves.

Were it up to the predators, the status quo with them on top would never change. We'd still have slavery, kids would be putting in sixteen hour days in sweat shops, and our food, water, and drugs would be just as likely to kill us as not.

The common defense, yes, but I want my government to address some of these other things.

I have read a little history. The good old days were never as good as people recall or wish.

Right now what I want my representative to do is lead, follow, or get out of the way, and make the country a better place in which to grow old and die.

Tony Muhlenkamp said...

Mr. Perry,

Makes me wish I had posted my original comment, we agree a fair bit on Communism, Objectivism, no pure anything, hogwash, and the good old days weren't always that great.

You mentioned "robber barons" in a prior post. Henry Ford may have been a greedy, anti-Semitic SOB, but he enabled my ancestors (including my father) to farm with tractors instead of horses, so we will always be grateful. Sometimes we forget that people benefited from other peoples greed. I think it's an assumption that the only (or best) way to improve conditions is through government action.

My problem with the current "health care crisis" is I don't understand it. What is the problem we are trying to solve? How is the proposed solution better than what we have? Who pays for it? How many people are "dropping dead because they can't afford medical care"? Until I have clear answers, I would prefer to do nothing.

The nice thing about charging for medical care is that it's clear what you have to do to get it. You have to pay for it. My fear is that another system will make it so that access to medical care will depend on who you know, not what you can pay. I think that would lend itself to much worse corruption. Frankly, I think it is possible for health care to be much WORSE than it is currently, and I fear that the current proposals will bring that about.

All our representatives can do is pass laws, and take money from Peter and spend it on Paul (after spending a fair bit on themselves). I don't think that will make our country a better place to grow old and die; just the opposite. It will stunt our economic growth and reduce our prosperty, which will hit our poor, aged and infirm first and hardest.

I think the best thing we can do for the sick and old and poor is encourage as much prosperity as possible, and then rely on charity and philanthropy to help people. Most of our social ills will be helped with overall prosperity.

In addition to common defense (agree again) I want our government to provide incentives for the 90% of the population that is capable of working, saving, and prospering to work and save adn prosper as much as possible; and then encourage those 90% to care for the 10% that need help. Instead, I think we are writing the rules so that the 90% are DISCOURAGED from ever producing or achieving more than the 10% are capable of producing and achieving. We are ALL being encouraged to let ourselves be cared for. That is a problem.

Quite honestly, I doubt the goverments ability to do what you want them to do. I think the less we ask of it, the better it will perform.

Steve Perry said...

So why do you put "health care crisis" in parentheses? You really don't believe there is one? You really believe that things are just fine here for everybody?

Think global warming is a leftist myth, too?

Stop me when I say something that is wrong:

That all those chronically-ill folks in the USA who have a choice between medication or groceries don't exist?

That those charter buses to Canada or Mexico full of retirees going to buy their meds there because they can't afford them here aren't real?

That thirty million people don't have health insurance and if the they hurt or sick their choice is to go the ER or do without? And that the ER will stabilize them, but not take care of anything that isn't life-threatening past that?

That the pharmaceutical companies aren't making record profits? That U.S. doctors aren't the highest paid in the world?

That the USA's health care is ranked last in the top ten around the globe, but costs by far the most?

None of this is open to dispute. You can look it up.

Health care now depends on who you are -- how much you can afford. If you have big bucks, you'll always be able to get top care, no matter what system serves the masses. If you don't, you might not be able to get minimal care.

I'm going to hazard some guesses here -- stop me if I get these wrong, too -- you are probably fairly young -- thirties? -- have a good job, make good money, and are a white Republican. Nothing wrong with any of those, but they give you a stance that is predicated on certain beliefs, and an experience that isn't the same as somebody who is poor, black, chronically ill, or out-of-work.

How mean were the streets you grew up on? How close to poverty was your family?

Easy to talk, sitting on a fat wallet, about charity and philanthropy, but depending on the kindness of others leaves a lot of folks in the cold coughing their lungs out. Look around -- trickle-down economics doesn't work -- the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the middle-class ends up paying for most of it.

The wealthy fought tooth and nail against unions, against any kind of tax, against social security, Medicare, giving women the right to vote, and Civil Rights because they didn't see any need to change any of that, they were doing just fine, and how would any of those things make things better? And, oh, dear how would we pay for them? We'd have to spend so much less wars and such.

We have a basic disagreement philosophically here and I don't see a common ground.

Swift's satirical essay, "A Modest Proposal" seems to be something that we in the US -- some of us -- are taking seriously.

Government might not be able to pull it off, but quite honestly, if we wait for the rich white guys to fix it without being prodded, it ain't ever gonna happen.

bud said...

BTW, "Anthropogenic Global Warming" is a leftist con-job. The globe may well be warming, but that fact doesn't make it imperative that gov't grabs control of 80% of the energy production.

How many, (numbers, please) have to choose between meds and food. Compare with the numbers who chose cigarettes instead of meds. I know many more of the latter than former. Maybe that's just me.

A lot of retirees go to Mexico, not because they can't afford their meds, but because they have the time, it's a nice outing, and the savings allows them another 4 or 5 rounds of golf?

Most of that 30 million are people who could afford at least some degree of health insurance, but are young and healthy, and don't see the need to spend the money. That's the reason that the bills in Congress FORCE those people to get "health insurance" - to pay for the 6 million or so who actually need it...and all the overhead generated by doing this.

Pharma's not making "record profits" by at least one of the following measures: more than last year, bigger than every other industry by return on sales, return on investment, or EBIDA. Certainly not all of those measures. U.S. just-about-any-skilled-job is the highest paid in the world.

Let me control the measuring and I can "rank" the US at the top. About the only thing the US isn't the most expensive in is food cost.

I interpret the facts differently than you.

We're going to change how health care is rationed. Now, it won't be by whether you can pay for it - hey, someone else will!- but by??? If you think that the "connected" won't get better care than the hoi polloi, I'd advise another reading of Animal Farm. And the "big bucks" folks you're railing at will be the "connected".

I'm not the original respondent, but... I'm well past young - actually I'm past "retirement" but still working. Yes, I have a good job, and I make good money, probably "white" - don't know enough about the complete family tree to say more than that - and have never been a Rep - used to be registered Dem, but now independent.

I grew up in a working class neighborhood. A significant number of my grade-school chums wound up doing hard time. My parents were divorced when I was 7, and we lived with my grandmother, aunts and uncle. My mother was unskilled and worked minimum wage retail jobs with nothing like "benefits". I remember doing without, darned socks, shirts with the sleeves rolled up or cut off because the elbows were wore out, no car, no television, and meat every third day or so. I remember the adults talking about what would have to wait to make sure that the electricity stayed on, and sometimes not answering the door for the first 8 or 9 days of the month because we didn't have the rent money. When my mother remarried when I was 14, I thought we were on easy street. Comparitively, yes, but I remember months of no work, minimal unemployment, and scratching for everything. I didn't go to a couple of high school events because we simply couldn't afford things like a sport jacket that fit. when we got sick, we toughed it out, or paid the doctor over time.

Don't you get tired, stroking that big brush with all that tar on it? Yeah, the wealthy sit around plotting how to start the next war. Look down, there's a shark underneath you.

I remember something call the "E.R.A." I think the premise that nothing will change without huge levels of gov't intervention has been pretty well demolished. See: Carly Fiorina.

Steve Perry said...

Well, let's see, "Bud," -- if you think global warming is a leftist con job, I'm pretty sure I'm wasting my time trying to convince you of anything else -- the weight of scientific evidence is overwhelming. Google comes up with twenty-odd million hits. I'm not going to do your research for you. If you want to stick your fingers into your ears and yell to drown it out, have at it.

Ditto the cross-border travel. Trying to track those number state-by-state is iffy, but the estimates range from to as many as 40% of travelers to Mexico who come back with meds, and we are talking about a couple million visitors from the US there a year.

Tens of thousands, according the best guesses, travel to Canada -- more buy from internet pharmacies there -- and last number I could find put the medication sales figures at over a billion dollars a year, but that was a few years back. I can't image that number has dropped.

I personally know some of these folks, and they aren't going for the funny umbrella drinks and sunshine, or the curling.

All the top dozen companies in big pharma made millions in profits when the country's economy was in the toilet -- public record -- so I can't feel real sorry for them if they didn't make more than, say, big oil, or the bonuses for banking executives. They were making obscene amounts of money when a lot of folks were out of work.

Tar in not my medium, Bud, check out your own brush.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and you can blow smoke and wave mirrors and that isn't going to make me believe that somebody sitting on his fat wallet is going to give it away to help his fellow man. The surveys say 70% of Americans want health care reform, and not a single Republican senator is willing to vote for it.

And the Republican plan? Let's scrap it all and start over: You are on your own. Join a church, maybe they'll take are of you. Depend on the kindness of strangers.


Let me restate this part:

The wealthy fought tooth and nail against unions, against any kind of tax, against social security, Medicare, giving women the right to vote, and Civil Rights because they didn't see any need to change any of that, they were doing just fine, and how would any of those things make things better? And, oh, dear how would we pay for them? We'd have to spend so much less on wars and such.

And aren't we in a couple of those now we didn't need to get into? Iraq didn't attack us. The hijackers were Saudis, weren't they? Run by Osama bin Laden. And we didn't get him, did we? He's still out there, thousand of dead American soldiers and all that money later, isn't he?

Could have bought a lot of health insurance with a trillion or two, hey?

You can interpret that any way you want. Won't change that it happened. Our idiot CiC started a war -- attacked a country and then got so bogged down he couldn't get out.

That's bullshit.

But us waving numbers at each other is a mug's game -- I offer mine, you counter with yours, and it just fogs the truth. It's more bullshit.

You know a lot of cigarette smokers, that's you.

I know a guy who needs back surgery. He is out-of-work, in pain, and doesn't have any insurance, so he isn't getting the operation. That's the guy I want to see helped, 'cause, see, he isn't the only one.

Next time you have a few hours to spare, drop by any big city ER on a Friday night and look at who is there and why.

You can spin however you want, but it's bullshit, and we can do better, but we haven't. And if somebody doesn't grow some balls and address the problem, it isn't going to get fixed.

Certainly the Republicans aren't going to fix it. They've never even taken a shot at it, now have they?

Think what you like, Bud. Don't waste your time offering up cant here, though. I ain't buying it. I know bullshit when I see it.