Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Can we, as a country, think?

January 1, 2009

“If you can only fight or run away, you have to find something to fight or run away from.” — Bion

That might not be the exact quote, but it is close.

When confronted with a problem, the alcoholic mind responds, “I don’t know about that.” When facing potential shame, it accuses, “If only….” We understand these excuses as from the intoxicated, and dismiss them. When spoken by someone who recovered and was reborn, we try to make sense of them.

Sober thought is not exciting. It does not inflame emotions. It does not run from problems or resort to unproven ideologies.

Our country has spent eight years destroying everything it could. Destruction provides immediate gratification. It requires, often, a refusal to learn and the bully’s fear of the difficult.

Can we tolerate the uncertainty of working toward solutions? Creation is slow and requires knowledge and skill.  Such abilities take time to acquire, and education.

Are we a Christian nation?

December 15, 2008

A Christian nation would minister to the poor, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, and the imprisoned. Its people would love one another other as themselves. It would not put the moneychangers in charge of the temple. Its leaders would seek to rescue the lost and comfort the afflicted. They would be honest and free from spite. They would seek to influence by example, not by force.

Ours is not a Christian nation; it is Caesar’s.

Can we become a Christian nation?

Why not bail out the car companies?

December 4, 2008

Let me see if I understand this “bailing out the car companies” problem.

First, full disclosure. I have never owned an American made car. I have driven them in the hopes that I would buy American. But why buy a car with drum brakes, leaf springs, skinny steering wheel, torque steer, column mounted three speed transmission, short lived seats, sagging rocker panels and lousy gas mileage. My current ride is a 2003 VW Passat wagon with 96,000 miles on it. It’s been trouble free, gets over 30 mph on the freeway and over 25 mph in the city. It has some cosmetic damage, but basically still looks new.

The “Big 3,” along with the businesses associated with them, employ one out of ten American workers. They provide their workers with health insurance and retirement plans. They are the second largest contributor to the consumer economy, after housing. For years they have built the cars and trucks Americans wanted to buy. Sure, there was the environmental fringe complaining about the CAFE standards, but it was effectively marginalized by our government.

Now the same people who protected them have turned against them. The people who wrote the laws favoring SUV’s and pickup trucks are now castigating their builders for lack of foresight. Now, with the recession putting the brakes on car sales, the “Big 3” are the bad guys who deserve to fail. How soon do we find scapegoats.

If they go broke, we add 10% to the unemployment rate. All those families lose their health insurance. Who knows what happens to their retirements? A 25 or 38 or 47 billion dollar loan would keep that part of the economy available for when money starts flowing again.

The “financial system,” however, deserves 7 trillion dollars, no strings attached. These are the folks whose contribution to American productivity was to guarantee each other’s incomes. Instead of using their money to provide health insurance to several million people, they put it behind screens and “poof,” it’s gone. If they lose their jobs, they will move to their chateaux on the French Riviera.

Hank Paulson can give $20 billion to Goldman Sachs or whoever during a weekend and nobody makes a peep. The Democratic congress has to spend hours raking auto executives over the coals before telling them to come back with a plan to – do what the environmental fringe has been talking about for years.

This makes no sense.

Who understands G. W. Bush?

November 26, 2008

Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and we know what kind of guy he was.

While being the decider, W has presided over:

  • the war on the middle class
  • the destruction of our economy
  • the destruction of the world economy
  • an attack on the environment
  • the disintegration of our infrastructure
  • the destruction of Iraq
  • undermining our constitution
  • squandering our moral authority
  • making our country an outlaw among nations
  • diminishing educational opportunities
  • undoing detente
  • demeaning science
  • mocking truthfulness
  • ignoring the Bill of Rights
  • heating up the globe
  • and scaring the hell out of everyone on earth (ok, the democrats in congress and the mainstream press were already scared).

He is still signing regulations permitting the destruction of the environment.

On January 21, 2009 he, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Paulson, Ashcroft, Gonzales, GHWB, et al will be drinking mint juleps on the dock in Kennybunkport.

What does that say about us?

Health Insurance is Not Health Care

November 9, 2008

The health care financing system for most people works this way. Employers pay insurance companies for their employees’ coverage. Providers provide health care services. Insurance companies pay the providers of services.

A few obvious features of this system are as follows. You need a job to get insurance. Employers have to pay for that insurance out of their revenue. Insurance companies have to pay their expenses. Providers have to make a profit. This system is the American way to do things. It is based on the three American ideals of competition, low taxes and minimal government bureaucracy. People believe that it is the best way to keep costs down and provide the best health care in the world.

This system has a few problems. First of all, you need a job. At one time that might not have been such a big deal. Now it means you are indentured for health care. You’d better not be without a job.

Second, your employer has to provide health insurance. Fewer employers, especially small businesses, can afford to provide it. Even large companies, such as the car companies, are less competitive in the global economy because of the cost of health insurance.

Next, your insurance company has to pay the bill. Since each bill it pays reduces its profit, it has an incentive not to pay. Insurance companies have many ways not to pay for your care. If you have a “preexisting illness,” they might deny coverage. If you are injured “on the job,” they want your “Labor and Industries” coverage to pay. Your employer, by the way, also has to pay for that insurance. If you are injured in a vehicle accident, they want the vehicle insurance to pay. It you become disabled, they want you to apply for Medicare. If you have “double coverage,” each might want the other to pay. If the two don’t “coordinate benefits,” one of them won’t pay anything.

If none of these “cost saving” techniques work, insurance companies have other methods. They can decide that your treatment wasn’t medically necessary. They can decide that you didn’t get the proper referral.

That’s free market competition. What about minimal government bureaucracy? How many laws do you suppose have been passed to make sure your employer provides your insurance? How many “bureaucrats” do you suppose are making decisions about which policies you can have and how much your insurance company will pay? Do for know how complicated and expensive it is for providers to bill for their services? Would your employer be able to compete better if it didn’t have to pay for health insurance?

We still don’t have to increase taxes to pay for health care, right? We pay insurance companies about 20% of our premiums for overhead. Medicare only skims off about 2%. When someone without insurance gets sick, “society” pays in some way. If our taxes did pay for our health care, would we still have to buy private insurance?

So, do we get the best health care for our buck? We have the most expensive health care system in the world. By most measures, however, our health is worse than in most other “first world” countries. If you lose or quit your job, you join the uninsured. If your employer closes down, gets bought out, or downsizes, you could also join the uninsured. If your provider’s practice gets bought by a big organization, you’d better like the change. If your provider gets fed up with the system and decides to go to a “cash only” practice, you’d better be rich. If your provider gets fed up and retires, or goes broke and closes down, you’d better find another. If you become disabled and go on Medicare, you’d better hope your provider accepts it. If you are injured “on the job” or in a vehicle accident, you’d better like your attorney. What if you need a specialist who isn’t on the right “panel?”

If, however, you own stock in an insurance company, you can thank your lucky stars. From Bush’s inauguration until November 7, 2008, most people’s real incomes have been stagnant or gone down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gone down 21 percent. Aetna’s stock price, however, has gone up 67 percent. UnitedHealth Group’s has gone up 204 percent. Humana’s has gone up 312 percent. In 2006 their CEO’s were paid a combined total of 44.89 million dollars. I don’t know how much their lobbyists were paid or how much our Senators and Congressmen have made for keeping us free from higher taxes and government bureaucracy?

Does this system make sense? At least it’s not “socialized medicine.”