Monday, September 24, 2007

Hillary's (and Edward"s) unworkable mandate v. Medicare's working coverage

A syllogism:
a) Hillary's (and Edward's) plan can work only with a mandate.
b) A mandate is likely unworkable (see below) and is almost certainly unacceptable to Americans who don't like be told what to do (who like it less than Canadians and Europeans in any case). And, guess what: Hillary herself says she does not forsee any penalty to enforce the necessary mandate -- has so far, as far as I know, only come up with some "Brave New World" speculation about a future in which we may be forced to show proof of health insurance to get a job.
c) Ergo, Hillary's (and Edward's) plan cannot work.

Quoted from:
The Gaping Holes in Massachuesetts' Health Care Plan
Mass Failure

And 244,000 of Massachusetts uninsured get zero assistance--just a stiff fine if they don't buy coverage. A couple in their late 50s faces a minimum premium of $8,638 annually, for a policy with no drug coverage at all and a $2,000 deductible per person before insurance even kicks in. Such skimpy yet costly coverage is, in many cases, worse than no coverage at all. Illness will still bring crippling medical bills--but the $8,638 annual premium will empty their bank accounts even before the bills start arriving. Little wonder that barely 2 percent of those required to buy such coverage have thus far signed up.


(Let me try to sort this out.)

Our Dem heroes got licked last time out (1993) because the Republicans could get away with calling PRIVATE based health coverage "socialism".

But this time out our Dem heroes are afraid to propose PUBLIC based Medicare-for-all -- which ironically is the only plan Repubs CANNOT GET AWAY WITH calling "socialism" because everybody knows what Medicare is -- because our Dem heros are now that the "very industry" that (together with Repubs) knocked out private-based universal care the last time will oppose Medicare this time.

(Am I making any sense?)


Medicare is ready to go now -- no need for years of phasing in.

Medicare is almost too easy to sell to the American public.

Medicare may need to take over from Medicade -- the difference in fee payout can be so exaggerated (as much as 8X lower in N.Y. state) that it defeats LBJs original purpose which was to get care to the poor -- which is where we supposedly came into this movie. (Between Medicade's partial erasure and the 1968 minimum wage -- $9.50/hr adjusted CPI-U -- diving almost in half by the time average income doubled, LBJ must be spinning up a storm.)


Next to last gasp on Medicare-for-all:
Leaving universal coverage in the private hands leaves our industries competing with foreign counterparts who don't have to include -- ever more unaffordable -- employee medical coverage in their price structures.

Last gasp:
It would shore up the funding of Medicare if the great mass of patients -- who pay its regressive taxes -- were not so badly underpaid in these days of deunionized America, low low minimum wage (2009 version will be at least .50/hr short of 1956 minimum wage in equal purchasing power), etc. The rich don't have more livers and teeth to fix so support for doctor's incomes has to come from the incomes of the great majority.

Last gasp on private medical insurance:
If unnecessary paperwork constitutes 30% of private insurance costs (20% on the part of the insurer, 10% on the part of doctors trying to get paid -- and to not get treatment denied -- by dozens of varied insurance plans), that means that (rounded to the nearest 5%) private insurance ADDS 45% to health insurance prices -- 30% down equal 45% up in 8th grade math.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Magical Free-Market Thinking

The free market is only the "OS" (operating system) of the economy. Believing the free market inherently possesses the necessary checks and balances needed to bring to an end the age old drama of who's going to eat whose lunch -- as people of whatever politics on this side of the Atlantic tend accept on faith -- amounts to magical thinking.

Adam Smith's preindustrial free market consisted largely of skilled artisans and small entrepreneurs, tending much more towards fair play on the part the "hidden hand". The advent of less skilled (if 100 times more productive) workers who depended solely on management for capital changed the default program to the-race-to-the-bottom.

In the better paid world beyond our seas, a non-controversial answer has evolved to the race-to-the-bottom: sector-wide labor agreements or some equivalent (like the French/Quebecan rule that non-union firms must work under conditions contracted by union firms). According to Richard B. Freeman in his new book America Works, such bargaining setups typically reduce management's resistance to unionization in the knowledge that competitors will have to pay out whatever raises they have to pay out, neutralizing competitive disadvantage.
It could be surprisingly easy to raise Americans to race-to-the-bottom consciousness with two economic markers that all can the first time they hear them. First, get across a more realistic estimate of Americans in poverty today: 25%? -- based on the more realistic poverty standard of six times the price of an emergency food diet, instead of only three times (the reader should know what I am talking about).

The next simple stat that should amaze all -- if the media ever reported same -- is that the federal minimum wage paid $9.50/hr in 1968 ($1.60/hr, adjusted CPI-U)! Emphasize the point by asking how 1968 Americans might have explained such a catastrophe had someone somehow been able to predict such a "crazy future" to them -- that the federal minimum wage would retreat to 1939 level ($.30/hr, adjusted to $4.50/hr w/no tax) by the time average income doubled. Would 1968 folks have guessed a small nuclear war, multiple depressions, a mini-ice age, plagues?

None of the above are necessary. The race-to-the-bottom will do it accomplish the same thing just as surely.

The perfect fit to 25% of Americans in poverty is 25% of the American workforce -- until early this year -- earning less than that 1968 minimum wage. (This also ties in with 25% of Americans earning less than modern Europe's minimum wage ($9.50/hr at exchange rates -- not counting paid holidays and health. New*).

Would that the progressive media always (!) included the doubling of overall income with the news of the minimum wage dropping almost in half over two generations -- so folks would completely catch on.

Many entitlement programs are triggered at double the official poverty line these days. Everybody in the know knows. Why go on reporting poverty at half the actual rate? Isn't that like reporting half the war (on poverty) casualties? Do progressives want to go out of their way not to get their story across?
I am so afraid that Hillary will get elected (instead of Edwards or Obama) for the same reason I was afraid of Al Gore. I can just see her putting an inflation adjustment on the (by then below Ike era: $7.50/hr) minimum wage, signing the union card signing law and then trying to rock (by then half-awake) American labor back to sleep to make all quiet on her applause meter. I'd almost rather see a Republican get elected to carry on in the fine labor promoting tradition of G.W. Bush: acting as American labor's Pearl Harbor: now that we know the simple answer to labor's woes (sector-wide agreements) and how to sell it (at least I know :-]).


Sunday, September 2, 2007

If the (crackpot) federal grand jury rule were to spread throughout...

If the exclusive to federal grand juries (crackpot) rule that the Fifth Amendment no longer applies once you answer any question at all on a particular line of inquiry – “once you open the door” – were to somehow propagate throughout all the American court system, state and federal, the immediate result would surely be a national outcry for a constitutional amendment to get our precious Fifth Amendment back.

But as long as it only exists in one (mostly hidden) venue the federal grand jury system gets away with it.

The “once you open the door” silliness could even enter the police station: Miranda (not that I’m in love with Miranda) might no longer be able to protect your right to remain silent: once you answer any police question.

The founders’ Fifth Amendment intention was to prevent torture. Does “opening the door” permit torture?