I don’t (in theory) have to have my car, so the insurance mandate is optional, but I do have to have my body (a fatal flaw in Obamacare?)

March 27, 2012

Perhaps the individual mandate was the fatal flaw in Obamacare.

From what I just read on the web, the Supreme Court justices, the conservative ones, plus the swing man, Justice Kennedy, a conservative whose vote can sometimes go either way, appear to be tipping their hands, via questioning, indicating they are quite skeptical of the individual mandate to buy health insurance. That of course threatens the whole Obamacare package, that is based on the premise that health care can be provided to all if everyone chips in.

But you never know about high court justices, they can indicate one thing, even in a final opinion, and then come smack down on the other side. But it does seem that the conservative majority is preparing to dismantle or severely weaken Obamacare.

A law requiring one to deal with a private company sticks in my craw as well. I am required to do so to buy car insurance, but theoretically I don’t have to have a car. I have to have my body.

I just cannot understand why Americans are so against some kind of cooperative scheme that would benefit us all. Health care is expensive and there seems to be no way to keep it in line. But a single-payer program (which Obamacare is not) would allow that single payer bargaining power.

I have personally witnessed people (I won’t name names) who have railed against government health care and who at the same time have used it to the max.

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What follows is my previous and related blog post on the issue:

So, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs into the Obamacare controversy, this thought comes to me: 

The idea of the government mandating that you buy health insurance from a private company draws heavy resistance (doesn‘t even sound right to me).

But the costs of health insurance continue to escalate and there seems no way to control them.

Some people choose not to carry health insurance, or some cannot afford it and/or it is not available to them.

But just because one does not have insurance does not mean the costs disappear.

Out of law and moral imperative, the medical establishment does not simply refuse to treat people over lack of insurance (in general — there are cases where people are denied certain types of treatment or face obstacles).

The costs of treating the uncovered people must be borne by those who are.

The cost of medical care seems to see no limit in its escalation, despite the ups and downs of the economic cycle, partly due to the ever-expanding technology available, that as wondrous as it is, is quite costly, and raises individual expectations on what constitutes reasonable and rightful medical care.

In an effort to both get everyone covered and have everyone pay his or her fair share into the pool, what is now called Obamacare was passed.

It is heavily opposed by conservatives, to include much or most of the business community, which usually is automatically considered part of the conservative contingent.

But I note that the trucking company I work for is a member of an insurance consortium made up of several trucking companies.

In an effort to beat the cost of private insurance for liability out on the road, where not only does one have to pay for the risk, but for the profit of a private insurance company, the business competitors have banded together, pooling their resources for the common good of each member. As I understand it, if a member racks up a good enough safety score, the member eventually gets money back.

So it seems to me if conservative business people (or non-conservatives, for that matter) can see the economic benefit and the logic of shared risk, minus the costly profit motive, then why cannot people see it for individual health care coverage?

Seems to me that having the federal government administer some kind of shared risk pool for health insurance coverage would not be a bad idea (and that is not really the Obamacare approach, but that is not the point here).

Or, perhaps, there could be some type of legal mechanism to allow for the creation of non-governmental, but non-profit, risk pools.

Just a thought.

P.s.

Insurance had its beginnings in non-profit risk pools.

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Not feeling as bad as maybe I should about story of couple facing tough times…

March 20, 2012

I watched a little bit of a video presentation about an unfortunate older couple facing foreclosure on their house. The man had been a successful executive in the supermarket business and then he got ill and lost his job and then he started his own business but now the couple are going under because of the sour economy.

It’s a real tear jerker, especially when a financial counselor tells them they need to get rid of the house and the man begins to cry.

But call me hard hearted, but I could not really feel terribly sorry for them, although I take no glee in anyone facing tough times.

You see the man mentioned he had another home — they had a second house. He also related that they lived pretty high — you know, they lived the American dream, as some would call it. He, or they worked hard and enjoyed the rewards.

But I am thinking that they were likely conservative in their politics or were not political but were likely conservative in their philosophy, but maybe they did not live conservatively.

You see, if they had, they would have had an out, perhaps. Maybe the sale of that second house would have been it. Or maybe some other investment. But they would have had that emergency fund to fall back on.

But when times are good, even the conservative-minded are not so conservative and don’t worry so much about the future.

I may have these people all wrong. And again, I take no pleasure; I don’t feel that schadenfreude about the whole situation.

And I am no one to talk about personal finance. In my lifetime I would score a D – or an F, really.

But aside from the Wall Street crooks who finally brought us all down, I think a lot of otherwise conservative-minded people, and some not conservative, as well, did not live conservative and are now in trouble.

Back in the day, your rent or your house payment should have been no more than a quarter of your monthly income. Back in the day, you only needed one family automobile and in some places no automobile at all. Back in the day, you only went to the doctor when something was terribly wrong. Back in the day, mom fixed dinner from scratch. Back in the day, families ate dinner together and shared their life. Back in the day, eating out, even at a drive-in, as they used to call them, was a big occasion. Back in the day, shopping for clothes was a big occasion and some places were wise enough to require uniforms for schoolchildren so parents did not have to go out on a limb for wardrobes and kids did not have to worry about having the latest (and most expensive) fashion to fit in at school. Back in the day, when you wanted something you bought it cash and if you did not have the cash, you might have still wanted it, but you did without (yes, a generalization here).

But this is not back in the day. But we might be better off if we looked backwards and took some of the good parts from back in the day. Back in the day of course was not the ideal world. People went hungry (but many still do), people were put out on the street (still happens), and unemployment benefits if there were any were not as generous. And work safety? There was none. But we could try to bring back some of the good parts.

And I hate to write this, but it might be healthier for the populace if the government did not go too far in rescuing us all because tough times probably are forcing a lot of people to be more wise with their money and more willing to work to get more and more imaginative about their own skills and potential.

At the same time, though, if the government can bend over backwards to help out Wall Street bankers and businesses, it can also help the workers or the population as a whole, albeit in moderation.

P.s.

And if we had national health care, maybe the poor guy would not have lost his shirt when he got sick. I hope he is not one of those conservatives who hate “socialized medicine”.


Why are we still trying to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan when history shows it is futile?

March 13, 2012

With the latest incident in which an American army sergeant went on a rampage and killed 16 men and women and children in Afghanistan, apparently all innocent civilians, and the just previous Koran-burning-by-Americans episode, along with one in which American soldiers allegedly shot civilians for sport, along with other such incidents in both Afghanistan and before that Iraq, it’s getting hard to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

And that begs the question: why are we in the winning-the-hearts-and-minds business anyway?

I guess it all started in Vietnam. We (the U.S. public) were originally told that we had to hold the communists back from invading and taking over South Vietnam to stop the dreaded domino effect — Southeast Asian countries falling one by one like a row of dominoes to communism.

Conveniently, we had a treaty with South Vietnam that obliged us to come to their aid in the face of a communist-inspired and backed insurrection.

I wrote about this before, but back then few people even knew where Vietnam was. I recall as a kid we had a world globe and it simply labeled what had already been designated as North and South Vietnam as “Indochina”.

Then I recall seeing an article in National Geographic on how the brave and valiant South Vietnamese peasants were fending off the communist Viet Cong insurgents (who were backed by communist North Vietnam and the communist bloc, most notably the old USSR).

While much of the public and even the congress, I think, were dubious about going to war in Southeast Asia, most thought if we needed to do something there, certainly with our military might it would be relatively quick and easy.

The domino theory and the idea of helping helpless peasants were what were used to sell our eventual military involvement there.

But as things escalated and it turned into a real full-fledged war, suddenly the very people we were supposedly trying to help seemed a lot more like our enemies in the minds of soldiers who saw their comrades being killed by peasants in black pajamas aided and abetted by local villagers (everyone wore black pajamas). Well there is a whole complicated story and history to that, but the point is that the strategy of the war seemed to change from defeating the enemy (the communists) to “winning the hearts and minds of the people” we were supposed to be helping.

And that brings us to our present predicament in Afghanistan where we originally went in there a decade ago to catch the now late Osama Bin Laden (a whole army to catch one man?) and I guess to deal with Al Qaeda, who under Bin Laden’s direction had perpetrated and/or supported the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

A lot of history here about diverting attention to Iraq, but bottom line, we eventually wound up in a quagmire, where we are today still, and it gets deeper and deeper, with the idea that to defeat Al Qaeda we have to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans, who are broken up into tribes, and whose loyalty is more to the tribe, than to any kind of united nation.

Why are we trying to win hearts and minds? And does that work? Our history tells us it does not.

And over the ages, may powers tried to conquer Afghanistan, the old USSR in modern history, to name one. The tribes might fight each other, but they are united against foreign invaders, even when they are disguised as nation builders.

All that could be done and more has been done in Afghanistan. It is past time to say goodbye.

Should the need arise, we could always go back. But then we should go back with overwhelming force and the determination to do what we have to do to stop anyone from using the area as a base of operations to attack us. If that is not feasible, then we should just skip it and strengthen our defenses in our own country.

There may be Afghans who want to be our friends and who want our help. Unfortunately, if they cannot convince their brothers of the cause it is hopeless.

I am surprised that Barack Obama has let himself get trapped like a tar baby (no racial insult or slur intended) to Afghanistan as Lyndon Johnson did in the case of Vietnam (Johnson had used the tar baby allusion).

As the song says: “When will they ever learn…?”

P.s.

I know I used that song verse before, but it is so true.

P.s. P.s.

And I forgot to mention the recent incidents in which Afghan soldiers we are supposed to be training have turned on their mentors (Americans) and have shot them. There is definitely something wrong with this relationship, and/or it is some kind of a cross between the Viet Cong sending “sappers” behind our lines to kill us and American soldiers killing their own officers (and NCOs) in “fragging” incidents during the Vietnam blunder. Afghanistan has essentially become the 21st Century version of Vietnam for the U.S.


Right-wing radio host observes that Republican Party is fracturing; Nixon Strategy backfires finally; bottom line: Obama gets four more years…

March 8, 2012

UPDATE: (3-9-12)

Defenders of Rush Limbaugh cry out that if you condemn the so-called conservative Limbaugh for his vile language then you also have to condemn the liberal Bill Maher. Well, while I would rather listen or watch and listen to Bill Maher any day, unfortunately I have probably heard more from Limbaugh because he is hard to escape on the radio. But as someone else observed in a column I just read, Maher is an out-and-out comedian, a political satirist. Limbaugh is the defacto leader of the ultra conservative movement and practically all GOP politicians dare not speak ill of him. And I have not heard enough of Maher’s supposed vile speech (although I know he’ll say about anything).

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I’m beginning to think I am observing the self-destruction of the Republican Party.

I caught just a little bit of a right-wing talk show yesterday (not Limbaugh), and it seemed the host was saying that indeed the party was in disarray and fracturing.

Right now there seems little doubt that Mitt Romney has a lock on the nomination by the fact he is far ahead in convention delegate numbers — this even though many of his own supporters or his voters can’t seem to get enthusiastic about him.

In his heart, and I think he has one, by the way, he is a pragmatic moderate in politics, but he is a Republican through and through.

But a few decades ago the Republican Party, in an effort to boost its rolls, pandered to the ignorant and bigotry and so on, along with its appeal to well-meaning conservatives.

As I mentioned, I think in my last post, this was the Nixon strategy.

Now after all this time it has come back to haunt the Republican establishment, who has cowered all these years before the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who will say anything over the radio airwaves, controlled for the most part by something called Clear Channel, and have sold their souls to Fox News, the answer from the far-out right wing to the perceived (and to some extent correctly) liberal bias of the established media (the traditional big three networks, along with PBS).

I want to add here that while the traditional media may have or have had a liberal bias, that bias was only there because educated people or intellectuals often tend to be liberal because their eyes are opened to varying points of view and the world at large (although there are educated people who are nonetheless conservative, but those people are closer to the liberals than their less-educated but so-called conservative brethren).

But anyway, the ultimate effect has been that moderation and compromise have been thrown by the wayside, and getting anything done in governance is nearly impossible without moderation and compromise, that is in a democratic (small d) society.

Bottom line here:

Barack Obama gets four more years.

I would not have believed this a year ago or less.

I think I wrote this before, but Obama is as much a comeback kid as Bill Clinton.

P.s.

Disparate groups (to some extent disparate), the ignorant, the bigoted, the believers in traditional values, religious fundamentalists, just plain conservatives, the selfish, and so on, have found themselves lumped together in the Republican Party, but the only thing they may agree upon is that they are against anything that is perceived as liberal or progressive (two terms that seem to be synonymous, but are not necessarily). But trapped in this cage, they are beginning to fight one another. How could the Democratic Party be so lucky? One thing, the Democrats have for most of their history been a collection of disparate groups, whose only commonality was that they were not Republicans — so the Democrats just have more experience with this phenomenon.

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ADD 1:

Political pundits on Chris Matthew’s Hardball today were saying that Romney may go into the convention next summer with a plurality of committed delegates, but not the total needed, and they raised the spectre of a brokered convention (and this has come up elsewhere recently), something not seen since the days of Eisenhower and Taft and the smoke-filled rooms — back in the days when conventions really meant something. I think that would be fun to watch.

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P.s. P.s.

There probably needs to be a third party, at least, to accommodate those who like neither Republican nor Democratic politics (some would say that are really the same), but our own unique federal system does not seem to be conducive to that. It seems that only parliamentary systems allow something beyond two parties.


Advertisers drop Limbaugh, so should the Republican Party…

March 7, 2012

Far be it for me to tell the Republican Party what to do, but if I were them, I’d disavow Rush Limburger Cheese, alias Rush Limbaugh, to clear out the stink.

It seems that a dozen or so advertisers (UPDATE: as of 3-8-12: make that 40 advertisers) for his syndicated radio show have found it to be good public relations to announce they no longer are helping him pay his bills and make a profit –they’re dropping their advertising on his program.

Who knows? Maybe other advertisers will see fit to announce that although they never sponsored him they just want to let everyone know they never will?

The Republican Party would do well to essentially drop him too, instead of kowtowing to him.

Up till now (and maybe still — I don’t know), the responsible wing of the party (I think it has one) has been afraid to touch him. I think after his last outburst that may change — one would hope so.

(Shades of McCarthy, have you no common decency?)

I mean I believe in free speech as much and probably even more than many, but there are bounds for responsible people and ones who put themselves up as observers and leaders in public discourse (actually Limbaugh is just a crass showman, but a lot of people don’t seem to realize that).

A law student called for access to birth control services, I guess through her college insurance, and for that Limbaugh ridiculed her and called her on air a “slut”.

After pressure, most notably from his sponsors, he apologized, but I heard it and it seemed thin, and just saying you are sorry, and did he? does not take away what you have done — my mom used to tell me that one.

Why the Republican Party, who would like to recapture the White House, seems so hell-bent on insulting women, not to mention poor immigrants to this country (yes illegals, but people desperately searching for work while many of our own demand handouts) is beyond me. Maybe that is why I am not a Republican. But it sure does not seem like the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, or for that matter the so-called father of modern conservatism (I thought) Barry Goldwater.

I don’t have the text of one of the ex-sponsors before me, but as I recall, it said something about not wanting to be a part of bringing the public discourse down to such a low level.

The Nixon strategy of wooing Southern segregationists and then any old member of the ruder part of society just to get votes to fight the Democrats may be coming back to bite the party in the posterior.

The birth control thing:

There was a legitimate point about not forcing a religious institution to directly fund it if it was against its principles — but that can be worked out. In addition, some people believe that government has no place whatsoever in matters of birth control, such as demanding insurances cover it. On the other hand, a person has a right to voice his or her own opinion on the matter without being called vile names by a blowhard who unfortunately has had such access to the airwaves and just as unfortunately has found so many followers.

Please responsible people in the public eye, be you Republican or Democrat or neither, do not be too timid to speak out against those who would foul our important pubic discourse.

P.s.

It’s kind of funny that Limbaugh so touts private enterprise or capitalism as the cure-all for everything. I mean maybe he is right. The sponsors might, or could, shut his yap.