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What is wrong with a kid having a flag on his bike?

16 Nov

I just have one question: why wasn’t he allowed to have the flag on his bike in the first place? There is a giant American flag in front of the school, so it is not like everybody didn’t know that they were this country.

Also, in case anybody wants to make this political…he was riding his bike! Green energy bitches, come on.


Health Care Costs: It’s Not About Expanding Coverage, It’s About Reining in Costs

9 Nov

I may have given too much away in the title of this post, but after my initial point about the precedent of Congresses’ ability to mandate health insurance coverage I thought it was important to address the real question facing health care reform – cost.

Some liberal proponents of health care reform have argued that access to health insurance is a human right. This concept is wholly unsupportable based on the reality that this country is a free market economy. No one has the right to any good or service offered by the free market, they (the public) merely has the right to be among the people who create demand. It is the public’s right to be able to demand a product from the free market, but no one is required to offer it. That’s a fairly clear cut issue.

It’s important to establish that health insurance is not a right, because it shifts the focus from expanding access to controlling cost. While controlling cost will expand access it’s important to understand the real problems in the health care system. While insurance companies have certainly limited access (i.e. denying individuals coverage for pre-existing conditions), it’s because such limitations are in the best interests of their bottom line, that doesn’t make them morally culpable just assholes.

But the means of appropriately regulating a free market industry is through a combination of limited legal regulations and more importantly tax breaks or incentives to foster good actions, thereby making the right thing also the profitable thing. “But that’s a general philosophy, what about the current legislation?”

The thing is that the US government already pays for 29% of health care coverage in this country. 29%!  This bill is meant to address the 15% uninsured, in terms of access. But even if this legislation could extend coverage to the remaining uninsured, the government would still be insuring less than half of the country. So where is the socialism?

This legislation is meant to address extending the coverage by roughly 10%, over the next several years.  Most of this 10% will be eaten up by the private industry which has not expanded mandates to offer people coverage.  Again, where is the socialism?

The answer is that there is no socialism, what there is though is an expansion of coverage without a clear and well understood economic plan for the future of the system. The federal government is already spending roughly 20% of its budget on Medicaid and Medicare.  This new legislation will actually only increase the current federal health care expenditure slightly, perhaps less than 3% by some estimates. 

The problem isn’t the health care reform bill; the problem is the health care system and it’s lack of cost containment. This was why we needed tort reform, to help lower insurance premiums for doctors. Those high insurance premiums get passed on to patients, and inflate the cost of health care policies. It’s a trickle down effect, that hurts everyone but the lawyers.

But tort reform is just one issue that could have a positive impact on reducing health care costs. Reducing costs will have a systemic impact on the affordability of writing health care policies in the free market. If it’s a less expensive product to create, then it’s a less expensive product to sell. A more affordable product will expand access.

But you can’t just expand access without addressing the broad economical picture, which has been less effected by the health care reform bill than by the current state of the health care system in the country. Hence my initial argument that everyone needs to calm down, we’ve been living with this problem for a while now and the ghost of Stalin hasn’t re-written the Constitution yet.

Public Option: Crazy? Maybe Not

8 Nov

I wrote a post a month or so ago in which I tried to discuss the virtues of the public option, primarily the potential use of a public plan as a safety net to help cover high risk populations which cost more to the tax payer anyway. Which I still believe is the case, just look at how many states handle home owners insurance and you’ll figure out the cost benefit of having a public plan. But I was reading an New York Times Op-Ed today entitled Health Care That Works by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF.

I don’t generally read Kristof, but he brought up a few good points on the health care debate worth highlighting. The most significant valid point that he brings up is the fact that Veteran’s Hospitals are a form of socialized health care that provide an good product compared to many private sector options. Course the VA hospitals don’t serve a huge population, and the quality of care is commensurate with the service that these men and women have provided to the county, and therefor not cheap necessarily. But the point is that government does have some administrative success stories in the world of health care to suggest they might be able to handle a larger job.

Kristof also brings up the number of socialized programs that already exist in this country, and that produce a high level product. The most obvious are the Police and Fire departments around the country, which Americans would stand behind and consider these public servants as local hero’s. Rightfully so in my opinion.

But the difference is that the police force and fire fightes provide a necessary public service and combat communical problems. Health and health care are fundamentally private. This is why their is such a fierce debate about the public opinion from a policy standpoint.

Behind the conservative calls of socialism and Obama’s social agenda, their is a basic concern that government would impact the relationship someone has with their doctor. While many Democrats and public option proponents call this fear baseless and the result of Republican political misinformation, their is a sense that while insurance companies suck, at least we already know when, where and how they suck. Better the devil you know…

I’m not saying I agree with this thought process, but before a public option can win public support Congress and the President will have to really explain and flesh out their ideas to prove that there policies will not impact the doctor patient relationship. Just saying…

Muammar Gaddafi, Omaba Praising Students and other Crazy People I’m afraid Of: Thunder Awards

8 Nov

The Thunder Awards

Winner of the Week: Bill Clinton, hands down. He has dominated the news cycle over the past week, he’s on every show commenting on everything, and doing it in the smooth way President Clinton.

Loser of the Week: Mummar Gaddafi, and not because he made a 90 minutes speech, he was alloted 15, and not because he talked about swine flue, the Kennedy Assassination and Nazi’s all in the same speech…but because he is crazy. I also enjoyed when he threw his program at the Secretary General’s podium…sometimes I feel like he’s the real life borat.

In case you missed it –


Obama’s War

7 Nov

Conservative columnist George Will called for a reversal of the Obama policy in Afghanistan today, quoting Charles De Guall- “Genisus… sometimes consists of knowing when to stop.” Will ‘s article, Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building, is an pragmatic argument best summed up by saying the mission is over. Al-Qaeda no longer has basis’s in the nation, so why stay and try to build a nation where the economy and infrastructure wouldn’t even meet Fred Flinstones level of of sophistication. Course Fred had dinosaurs to help him out so that’s not really a fair comparison.

Of course President Obama doesn’t really argee with George Will’s assessment, believing that Afghanistan is essentially the proving ground for his administrations version of a war on terror. The problem for both men’s position is Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of US forces in Afghanistan. General McChrystal has argued that the war and goals are within research, but all he needs is more resources.

But this is the crux of Will’s argument; if the goal, as the President has recently stated,  is to elimate the threat of Al-Qeada in the region then that job is done. Resources in this economy are limited, and an increase in to Afghanistan may not be the best target to battle the broader regional issues.

As Will alludes to in th conclusion of his article, Pakistan is the real regional hope. Pakistan is almost a country. Sure it has a few intergovernmental issues and the swat valley is basically the wild west, but hey at least they have a government and some level of infrastructure. Afghanistan’s economy is primarily built on the trafficking of illegal drugs, which mostly funds terrorist organizations and possibly the vice President of the country.

Either way, it’s not exactly an ideal nation in which to foster a stable democracy, or any form of government for that matter.  As Will sites, Afghanistan is second to worst on the Brookings Institute list of places to nation build, beating out Somalia. Resources should be placed where they can have the greatest impact, and taking Afghanistan over Pakistan in the war of central asian terrorism is trying to turn around the Oakland Raiders when the 49ers are right next door. *

* For those of you who don’t follow the NFL as some of us fantasy football obsessed people do, here’s another analogy – It’s like investing in 8 track a year after CD’s came out.

Rachel Maddow – You (Scott Brown) Lie!

7 Nov

Anger! Rage! Rachel Maddow.

She’s pissed at Scott Brown for using her name as potential opposition candidate to scare up some out-of-state cash. But unfortunately for Scotty she didn’t know that she was running, or even being asked to run. Of course that doesn’t matter, Republican’s will see Rachel Maddow think crazy liberal lesbian on MSNBC and whip out their check books.

So Ms. Maddow has some right to be upset that she’s being used to stir up cash for the newly elected Senator from Massachusetts. But so her natural reaction is to take a full page aid out in the Boston Globe to set the record straight. The fact that she has a nationally syndicated cable TV show apparently wasn’t a large enough megaphone to present her case.

I’m all for setting the record straight, and calling people out when your name has been incorrectly used, but she’s a journalist whose suppose to be objective.   I don’t necessarily see the journalistic objectivity in her following comments –  “Do you remember when Mitt Romney ran for President after being our Governor and he went around the country insulting Massachusetts, talking about what an awful state we are?” While Governor Romney definitely made jokes about the liberalism of Massachusetts, I don’t remember him bashing the state he was Governor of, but that’s besides the point.

My point is this- she’s an activist. Can’t we just admit that she’s balancing out Fox News. She’s entertainment and so are they. I don’t go to MSNBC or FOX for news coverage, I go there for political slant and bias commentary.

I’m not saying she can’t be upset, but if you’re doesn’t this kind of thing weaken her arguments against Fox New’s activism. I mean she’s involved in the same kinda of activist journalism that Glenn Beck is, she just doesn’t support a group as much as an ideology.

I’m just say’n.

Health Care Topples the Jenga Tower of Personal Freedoms

6 Nov

I don’t think that Democrats, or more specifically the liberal wing of the Democratic party, appropriately sympathizes with the connection between money and freedom.  Not to sound all tea party-ish, but when the government takes my money I have slightly less freedom. It’s a fairly reasonable position to hold, and I don’t mind paying taxes for: public safety, education, some social programs, etc…but at a certain point government reaches a critical mass.

The health care legislation may be that last block in the grand jenga game of personal freedoms that breaks the camels back. Again, not to sound like a raving birther, tea party guy. I prefer this kind of tea partay…

Humorous YouTube video’s aside, let’s get down to some socio-political jenga theory deconstruction.  So as a basic assumption the jenga tower itself constitutes our collective freedoms as a society. So every time the legislature passes a new tax, in this overly simplistic analogy, take a block from the jenga tower of personal freedoms. This block is then placed on the top of our society, making the tower higher but also structurally weaker.

The idea of government is push the Jenga tower of society to the point where it has both structural integrity and impressive height. For instance the Social Security Act of 1935 was a necessary step in creating a modern 20th century society, regardless of how screwed up it is now. But that is a story for a different day and an alternative board game analogy.

So the SSA was about 3 well-chosen blocks from the middle of the stack. The tower is improved by establishing a social insurance policy of sorts which I think we can all agree is the hallmark of a modern society (circa the 1900’s), which we pay for with a dedicated payroll tax.  So the tower is taller, but still stable. So for this turn we’ve survived.

The problem is that there have been 233 years of turns. That’s 233 years of removing blocks, and sometimes putting them back. I mean the Bush tax cuts were kind of a way of putting a block back into the tower. But not back in the center of the tower…kinda like on the side where it’s not completely weight-bearing. The result though was an increase, however small, in personal freedoms.

The result is a fairly tall jenga tower of society, where some personal freedoms have been lost, but for an necessary and beneficial addition to our nation. We need to sacrifice some personal freedoms for necessary governmental services and perks like national defense, social security and M&M’s with the President’s seal on them.  All things that make the tower higher and better.

It’s an oversimplified social calculous but it’s the best I’ve got so bare with me. The problem is that the tower is pretty tall at the moment.

Then along comes health care. It’s not that health care reform. In the world of jenga the health care reform bill was like trying to take away one block, but trying to add three on top. But that one block being taken away was pretty important for people. While the tower isn’t going to fall, that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to be afraid that some day it might.

For some people the tea party folk, among other groups, see the health care reform bill as taking a crucial weight bearing piece of the jenga tower. When you’re a middle class family guy (or gal), who values a solid days work for a reasonable wage, it’s going to bother you when someone is trying to live off welfare. And rightfully so. It’s one thing to help out your neighbor, it’s another thing to pay for him to sit on his (or her) ass watching the Price is Right while you pull a 9 to 5 shift at the Toyota plant, installing a faulty break system.

Not to say that everyone on welfare is trying to game the system, just that it happens to the degradation of our societies well being and kind of makes it seem like their are more blocks out of the jenga tower than may actually be. The minority of welfare cases have created a negative perception of social welfare programs in the conservative community. The anger that stems from a perceived injustice sometimes comes out sideways and becomes the tea party movement.

The tea party has tapped into this perception and driven it towards what they believe is the next level of social welfare – health care. It’s not rocket science, it’s just a natural reaction to understandable, if perhaps misconceived, anger. Conservatives are angry that the government takes their money and gives it to someone else, who might be a drain upon the system. In the same way though, liberals become angry when they see a child be denied medical care because a millionaire insurance executive wants to maintain his 3% profit margin.

Angers leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering. And suffering leads to prescription medications, which you can only get if you have health insurance.

Next week, how TARP is like a game of mouse trap.