Political Ravings of a Certifiable Card-Carrying Liberaltic

Friday, August 21, 2009

Response to Whole Foods Darwinism

LINK: Mr. Mackey's Editorial

Since all rational people believe natural selection is the mechanism by which life evolves on this planet, I suppose it's just obligatory to apply this model to our government. On the surface, it appears compassion does not promote survival of the fit. If you believe Ayn Rand, it is the self-destructive path and most of the "haves" would like to impose this ideology on the "have nots". But actually our compassion is the only thing which keeps us civilized. Unfortunately, in large groups it becomes easy to distance ourselves from compassion and treat everything with logic.

Mr Mackey of Whole Foods fame will tell you compassion equals socialism. We can't afford to be compassionate. We will run out of money and everyone will die, but I didn't see this argument from Mackey about starting an illegal war with Iraq that was arguably more expensive and killed several hundred thousand people. He says health care isn't a right any more than food or shelter. I would agree with this statement to the effect that if you want to pay for food and shelter for those who don't have it, I would gladly pay more taxes for that too. We can't afford to make sure people don't starve or freeze to death either?

It's funny that any assistance from the government is labeled as an entitlement or socialism; the boogeyman of all greedy people in the world. It's a slippery slope from letting bums sleep in a vacant gym with a PB&J sandwich to redistributing all the wealth evenly across the population. People are not entitled to health care? The left wing group the AARP did a study that shows 1.85 million people went bankrupt due to medical bills last year and over half of them had health insurance. I guess they are taking financial responsibility for their well-being so this should promote social consciousness. Maybe they'll think twice about getting fat or smoking next time. Funny.

The most difficult part to believe is there are some Christians who claim to follow the teachings of a man who walked the earth giving everything he had to help as many people as possible and this is their role model, but yet they still say we can't afford to help everyone. I understand how the CEO of a big corporation might not be able to help anyone (their ideology is based on working hard for every dollar they can consume and it doesn't make sense to give anything away), but people who devote their spirit to spreading goodwill and peace should not be capable of this callousness.

To advocate the devil I will address Mr. Mackey's alternative to real health care reform because it is just misdirection to avoid paying for anything. His "reform" ideas only help himself and the people in his inner circle. I've heard the argument that 80 percent of people are happy with their health care coverage (really? Happy with the cost? Happy that they have none? Blissfully ignorant?), but a recent study shows that 90 percent of the people covered by the NHS in England (which is all of the people) are happy with it. I can't find any data to support the statement that 830,000 are waiting to be admitted to hospital in Canada and 1.8 million in England. I guess anyone with an appointment is "waiting" in line.

Is Mr. Mackey suggesting we should punish people who are overweight, smokers, make poor nutrition choices, or prone to some other health issue? You didn't eat your green beans. That doctor's visit will be two hundred dollars.

Suggestions by Mr. Mackey:
1) Deregulate obstacles to high-deductable health savings accounts - How does this help unemployed, underemployed or children who are in most need of health care reform? High-deductable? Isn't that gambling? Savings? If you save, you can pay for it. This makes you feel responsible and increases your self-image? I could write a whole article about this suggestion.

2) Equalize tax laws so self-insured can deduct taxes for health care like employee-insured - doesn't this sound like a money shuffle? This is supposed to give self-insured customers more money to pump back into the economy, but how does it reduce health care costs or improve the care and coverage? It just gives the government less money, but luckily we're running a surplus, so they can afford to get less money. This doesn't address any problems with the system, it's just a band-aid.

3) Deregulate insurance companies on what they must cover - Wow! Making insurance companies actually cover things makes it cost more? You mean if they didn't really have to cover anything, they could just collect premiums and never pay out anything? That would probably make insurance cheaper. I think my head is going to explode. I hope that's covered.

4) Allow people to go across state lines to get insurance - If some states are cheaper than other states now, the way some group plans are cheaper than other group plans, then why would they continue to be the same cheaper rates if people could move around to different groups? It just means everyone will be paying the same high rate. The high rates won't drop from the competition. I'm all for letting people change plans with no pre-existing conditions and force the insurance companies to take all patients at the same low price (no group plans or group rates). Maybe this is what Mr. Mackey is suggesting, but somehow I doubt it.

5) Tort reform - The paper tiger. I suppose we all love pinatas, but frivolous law suits are estimated at 0.5 to 2 percent of health care costs. The argument is that doctors are required to pay higher rates for their insurance and they pass this savings on to you, or in some cases decide to become a lawyer instead of a doctor. Every real estimate of the "cost" of health care puts this item down at the bottom of the list. Last year, health insurance companies spent 400 million dollars on lobbyists and the estimate of profit for companies on average is 25 cents of every premium dollar. It sounds like we could save at least 25 percent by making this a non-profit industry even if we don't make it more efficient. I didn't see this suggestion.

6) Make costs transparent - I suggest that we make Whole Foods costs transparent so we know exactly how much they pay for every item and how much the distributors paid for that and what each employee of each product company is making so we know where those dollars are going. Maybe this would make our Whole Foods cost go down. I suppose the theory is they would be shamed into not screwing their customer. Shame and Heath Care Provider are not usually used in the same sentence. LexisNexis it if you don't believe me.

7) Medicare reform - Fix the most successful government program in the history of all world governments? That's going to save health care costs? I think he means fix it by not funding it. It's just old people and kids. They should be able to fend for themselves and we can empower them instead of enable or entitle them. Ugh!

8) A tax-deductible voluntary donation to help people without insurance - because the only thing keeping people from donating now is the tax they are paying on that money. You know, except for the voluntary part, I'm ok with this suggestion. Change it to - "A mandatory donation to the government to pay for health care for anyone that needs it." Sounds great. Why don't we just make all taxes voluntary. People are basically good anyway.

Everyone says Mr. Mackey has a right to his opinion and freedom of speech, and I'm fine with that, but he's using a position of power to mislead people especially if he's suggesting any compassion about his position. He doesn't want any health care reform unless it just makes it cheaper for him. He doesn't want any one to get more health care unless it's free and he doesn't want to fix anything with the system unless it also takes power away from the government to enforce it. Free market works great! Deregulation is awesome for rich people. He is all for individual responsibility unless it involves corporation. That's the corporation's fault and government meddling when they fail and we are all here to bail you out, unless you get sick.

You probably have COBRA though, right?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guns are Great!

It's sad when a guy pulls a gun on a woman in a Wal-Mart parking lot and the first thing you think is, "Did he just come from a health care rally?" (not: maybe this guy is a policeman.) Also making me question my sanity, I then asked the guy I was with if he thought I should call 911. He shrugged. At least six people were watching including the policeman's wife and two young children, and I was the only one that called.

After a scuffle in the parking lot when an angry (reportedly drunk) boyfriend decided to get involved, the policeman was "forced" to shoot the man in the groin. I guess the guy might have overwhelmed the officer, taken his gun and shot him. He probably didn't have time to unload the gun and toss the bullets and the gun in different directions, but he did seem like he was in better shape, so I bet he could have outrun him.

But I am digressing from my point here. After seeing the officer shoot this man, I'm thinking they're going to close the store, but no, they just need to close the south entrance so we can go ahead and do our shopping. Yay! I don't shop at Wal-Mart, but I don't judge my friends (or anyone else) if they do. If you ask me, I'll tell you why I won't go back, but I'm not going to proselytize. So, I've just seen a man shot and as far as I know he could be dead and I'm shopping in Wal-Mart. "Shouldn't we go talk to the cops?" Turns out we shouldn't because it took them almost 3 hours to wake up the detective and get him down there to take our statements.

But, I can't be critical of a policeman that was purportedly trying to stop a crime when he wasn't even on duty while facing two aggressive people who don't back down when a gun is pointed at them. I don't know what all happened, but I do know that if he left his gun in the car or called for backup before confronting these people, there might not have been a weapon discharge. There is no way I could do his job and when they asked me if I thought he had another choice, I told them he probably didn't. I'm not sure he should even be reprimanded, but it's sad that we've become so numb to these events. What would it be like with less guns? We'll probably never know.

Oh yeah, the guy went to the hospital and he's fine (well, he's not going to die from the shooting) and he and his friend were released from jail today. I hope everyone involved is ok. It was gratifying to know this is the first firearm discharge by an officer (on or off duty) in this town of almost 250,000 people in 17 years.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Politics in Decline

The whole world is topsy turvy now, so it's difficult to figure out what to write about here. While the last eight years have been Republican executive, Republican congress and Republican appointees to the Supreme Court, now on the surface it appears that common sense has caught up with the lunacy and corrected some of the problems that were mostly just being ignored. I suppose we're lucky they decided to raid the larder instead of loot and pillage and burn all the bridges. But now it seems like the current administration lets intimidation by the perceived center of political mass drive them to compromises which effect nothing but an appearance of acknowledgment of issues with a long term goal to address them in the unspecified future. It makes me want to avoid politics altogether. Even the first Latino Supreme Court nominee seems like a compromise in that some of her decisions lean away from the party platform but even though she is probably the most conservative of the left half, she can't get the vote of Senator McCain with a very large hispanic constituency who said five days earlier that he needs to make some changes to the party line to court the latino votes. Changes like opposing the first latino nominee for fear of losing the Republican party nomination for president in 2012 even though it probably makes him unelectable in the general election? I hope that works for him.

I really thought President Obama would be the people's advocate and promote transparency and a policy based completely on ethical positions, but political posturing always seems to creep back in. I like it when he addresses mistakes head-on like the Gates issue. Bringing them both to the White House for a "beer" was a perfect solution, but why don't we see a stronger stance on the "Don't ask, Don't Tell" issue. He said he was against it during the campaign and now it's like there's some force out there holding him back. He doesn't lose any political capital by saying, "What we're doing here is wrong. If there's any method of modifying or belaying this approach, I'm for it." Then he can let other people present the solutions or tell him that he doesn't have the constitutional power to tell Congress what laws to write, but the pressure is on them to do something then. He's actually said this isn't on the agenda right now because it's not politically expedient. Disturbing.

Health care is another issue where baby steps are more likely to destroy the effort than going full force and running into a few brick walls. How hard is it to push a single payer system for children under 18? How many kids under 18 have serious medical issues and even if it's five to ten percent and this might cost 30 billion dollars, isn't it at least 10 times as important as the cash for clunkers program? No? Children's health care isn't as important as private school vouchers that help rich kids or the failed charter school infrastructure that's destroying public schools, or bank and auto industry bailouts or some of the other questionably managed programs. How hard is it to start with children? They're going to vote eventually and a large percentage of people have children so surely this is an attractive proposition. Prove it works for children and then base the rest of the system on the children's health care system. Just go at it with big guns. Don't give it time to fail in the first 2 to 5 years.

Climate change is at least one issue where the longer we let it go, the more obvious it becomes. Hopefully people will figure it out before the world is unlivable, but if we break the planet and there's only a few thousand or hundred or tens of people left on the planet, maybe we'll see what Noah's flood was like more than a metaphor. Not a pleasant prospect, but it is a self-healing issue in the long term if we don't become extinct (something else will evolve even if we do). It will probably make the nuclear warhead debate a non-issue as well.

Where is the compassion on a large scale? Is it only palatable in individuals? Is government compassion seen as some kind of weakness? I wish we were strong enough to appear weak to all the unimportant ego-driven people who still believe in gunboat diplomacy.