Category Archives: Politics

The “Recovery” Metaphor

The “recovery” metaphor persistent in writings and talk about the US economy is somewhat puzzling, as it would require some explaining about the malady and the expected outcome. “Recover from” and “recover too.” “Recover” would imply that the “outcome” would match some desirable past state or condition. But I don’t think a recovery would aspire to 2006. What about 1995? Could 2006, for example, have been 2006 with clever monitoring of the difference between real productivity on national scales and funny money activity, such as betting on the housing bubble?

During lunch I watched a little of MSNBC and the talk about today’s job numbers. Of course, the talk was all about what the “administration” should do and what this means for Democrats and Republicans and what so and so should do and so and on and so forth with very little concern for much else. I found this as odd as the metaphor of “recovery.”

And, of course, I don’t have much more to add.

Assuming It’s Broken: A Little About Why I’m a Lamont Person

The Courant asks a leading question of the “governors”: “Where specifically will you find the money or savings to lead the state out of the red?”

4 out of 8 “governors” focus only on “guvment” and how they’d play with that red herring. Give some credit to Foley, Griebel, Lamont, and Malloy for admitting to insight into the darker corners of things. Griebel fails to consider that “guvment,” however, is NOT a business. If it was, we’d live in an unrecognizable world. I’m sort of ready for it.

Malloy and Lamont by nature see beyond “guvment” as a benchmark problem. I like that. But I’m a Lamont supporter because he’s into urbanization and seems to understand our city issues.

On Aftermaths

The lead-up to the health care initiative was an interesting narrative that calls for some reflection on a few phases of media coverage. Days after the Obama election, the press went on a spree about the death of the Republican Party and the demise of conservative ideas in general (analysis here). A year later it was the demise of Obama’s various initiatives and a conservative resurgence. Months before, Congress’ attempts were sinking.

These narratives are shaped by power, chance, and incident, of course, and, I would argue, the irony of the ineffectualness of conservative ideas, which aren’t traditionally conservative, as the “less government” meme is a farce and has been since the Civil War. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are Obama’s ironic doubles. If this is the face of the current Republican party, then those with seats should start another path.

Given the news of the last few days and today’s talk about revolution and reactionism (this mean to go back to the way things were), we can get our crystal balls out again. In my mind, Obama is well aware of these trends, but no matter. Senate hearings have been shut down, bricks are flying, and idiotic maneuvers continue (some of those maneuvers perhaps would have been legit if the party had played ball rather than walking off the court), all of which point to the effectiveness of Barack Obama and the seriousness with which the opposition now takes him. Okay. I’m pretty impressed by the narrative. I told S a few days back that if any health care bill passed, I’d consider Obama a genius. And so things stand.

I’ve read the bill. Some of it I could understand. Much of it is written in the legal discipline language of legislative bills, which really needs a dose of hypertext to provide clarity, and can only be understood in association to precedent and several other texts. (Maybe this could be a student project or a job for Emberlight.) In general the bill is a set of compromises and comes with very little of what I’d want. But no one wants what I want. Non-monetized health care is a crazy ideal. But non-monetized health care isn’t the same as socialized medicine (don’t bother disagreeing with this: I know what the arguments are; go read Aristotle instead). This bill is neither. In any event, perception will be shaped by what people see as a direct benefit, like eye glasses in the 19th century.

One lesson here has to do with the image of fleas: that’s a riddle.

Health Care and the Role of Government

Dave Winer makes a good point in a post on the identity of government

The cure, imho, is to create new business entities that serve the users first. Sure the shareholders make money, when you take a risk and produce a product or service that people want, that’s great and there must be rewards or people won’t risk. I’m a capitalist. But the things these companies are doing now is not capitalism. They know we don’t have time to understand all the ways they can screw each of us individually. If we did, there would be no time for living. So we should hire people to study what they’re doing and route around it. Either make it illegal, or start a co-op to offer the same service or product without the gotchas.

That’s the reasoning behind the health insurance “public option,” which is a damned good idea. We’ve tried it the way the insurance industry wants to do it, and the result is a lot of needless death, sickness, and wasted money. So, they can keep doing what they’re doing, but we’re going to pool our resources and self-insure. We could either form a new entity to do it, or we could use the one we already went to the trouble to create.

I’ve been complaining in other posts about how entities do business in the local village, what services are offered and how this is done or not done to service of a core need. What is capitalism? Is it making a living and providing service (insurance companies don’t wield scalpels) or is the business plan about money first? The role of government, in a definitional sense, also comes back to every congressperson’s role, as well.

Dollar and Values

Dean Baker makes an interesting observation in this post, The Post Says the U.S. Needs China to Hold Down the Value of its Currency:

The issue is that China is buying up U.S. dollars in the form of U.S. government debt. The Post tells readers that the country is dependent on these purchases of debt. This is the Post’s invention. If China stopped buying debt, the dollar would fall relative to the yuan (and other currencies) making imports more expensive and our exports cheaper to other countries. The result would be a boost to U.S. exports and growth.

(Via Beat the Press.)

Healthcare and Brutal Truths

Professor Richard Edwards posts this article from The Independent entitled “The Brutal Truth about America’s Health Care System.” It’s very sad:

In the week that Britain’s National Health Service was held aloft by Republicans as an “evil and Orwellian” example of everything that is wrong with free healthcare, these extraordinary scenes in Inglewood, California yesterday provided a sobering reminder of exactly why President Barack Obama is trying to reform the US system.

The LA Forum, the arena that once hosted sell-out Madonna concerts, has been transformed – for eight days only – into a vast field hospital. In America, the offer of free healthcare is so rare, that news of the magical medical kingdom spread rapidly and long lines of prospective patients snaked around the venue for the chance of getting everyday treatments that many British people take for granted.

Diane Greco on Mackey

Diane Greco has an excellent response to the Mackey piece in WSJ. She delves into the heart of the issue’s complexity:

Mackey says the HSA-plus-high-deductible structure makes people “careful” about how they spend their healthcare dollars. I would say this just is rationing, except that it is the sick person who is now burdened with the decision to seek care, knowing exactly how much that care is going to cost out-of-pocket. Gee, if I’ve got an infection but my kid needs soccer shoes and vegetables for the week, what am I going to do? I think I’m going to let that infection alone, to heal or fester as it will, and buy the kid what she needs. The whole point of healthcare reform is to minimize the situations where this sort of choice is unavoidable. Under the HSA-plus-high-deductible scheme, corporations will continue to enjoy tax relief for offering even insufficient healthcare plans to their employees (and then only to some of them), and insurance companies still enjoy the premiums paid by said corporations.

Rainey on Health Care

LAT’s James Rainey takes the media to task on critical elements on the health care debate:

Rather than try to explain to its viewers how such a commission might control Medicare costs, CNN cut away to an all-important update on . . . Alberto Contador’s ongoing war of words with fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong.

By all means, let’s recap the story of two big-name jocks man-slapping each other, rather than help Americans sort out the central domestic issue (Snore!) of the moment.

America has a healthcare crisis, yes, and so do broad segments of the media, particularly television news. They have transformed the story of how to fix an overpriced and inadequate care system into an overheated political scrum, with endless chatter about deadlines and combatants and very little about the kind of medical care people get and how it might change.

And Dean Baker provides perspective on costs:

The program’s huge price tag is equal to about 0.5 percent of projected GDP over the next decade. The Iraq war at its peak cost more than 1.0 percent of GDP. NPR and other news outlets rarely, if ever, referred to the “huge” cost of this war, which was twice the “huge” cost of President Obama’s health care program. Perhaps the decision of supposedly neutral media sources to constantly warn that the costs of the program are “huge” has something to do with its dwindling public support.

Paradox

It seems to me that the healthcare issue is ultimately a series of paradoxes:

1. The doctor wants to provide care and the layperson wants care but the costs are typically too high for most people to pay.

2. Insurance companies are for profit agents and most people and doctors want what insurance companies don’t provide (that is, care) and the costs of care are typically too high for people to pay.

Is this right? Doesn’t this mean that healthcare should not be a market venture?

More Government

If minority leader, Senator McConnell believes this

“We can make incredible improvements in American health care, but I don’t think having more government — in effect putting Washington between you and your doctor — is the way to go.”

then how can he, again, accept FEHBP as an asset and a good?