Making Markets Safe For Democracy And The Generals
September 5, 2007

     My friend Maximillian, the retired millionaire, took a break from cutting my lawn the other day to smoke a cigarette. Imported, of course, from Turkey, I think.
     “This is the importance of markets,” he announced, waving the cigarette at me. “It’s from Turkey. I have a choice.”
     “Those things will kill you, you know, Max,” I announced back at him. We announce a lot.
     “My choice, my choice. Aunt Freda smoked a pack a day and she lived to be eighty.”
     “That’s not so long.”
     “She would have lived longer if she hadn’t gotten drunk and fallen under the bus.”
     I mulled that over while he took a long drag, undoubtedly to commemorate Aunt Freda.
     “America is making the world safe for markets,” he announced, “and you Democrats and Liberals or whatever you call yourselves these days can’t do a thing about it. Even in Iraq the markets are safe.”
     “You don’t mean that thing with McCain and the body armor and the hundred soliders and five gunships?”
     He looked askance at me. “Well, nobody shot him, did they?”
     He then allowed that perhaps that was not the best example. “But what about the Dora market in Baghdad? General Petraeus has made that safe. Why, they have almost 350 shops open now.”
     “Used to be about 900,” I countered.
     “And then there were none until Petraeus and the surge,” he counter countered.
     “But we have to give each shop $2,500 so they’ll open. And keep troops there.”
     Max stubbed out his cigarette, lit another. “This one’s from England.” He sucked smoke. “Even so, the market works. Shopkeepers selling things. The great tide of commerce remaking the face of Iraq. That’s something to be proud of.”
     “Actually, Max, it was the tide of war.”
     “The same thing, my friend. One coin, two faces, but still a coin.”
     “The shops close at noon. Before, they were open until after midnight. The place was booming.”
     “But they’re making a comeback under our guidance. You have to look on the positive side. We’re making progress.”
     “The military doesn’t let cars in. They body search everybody.”
     “The price of democracy, son.”
     “One store is selling dust. Another sells sand.”
     “See? Entrepreneurs! The American way. The surge is working.”
     “Max, did you ever hear of a Potemkin village?”
     “Nope.” He stubbed out his English cigarette. “Enough of this chitchat. I have to finish your lawn and then get over to old lady Smythe’s house. Time’s a-wasting.”

Economics Professor Proposes Another Stupid Conservative Republican Health Plan
August 28, 2007

In the Globe today, a Boston University economics professor named Laurence J. Kotlikoff offers his solution to health care in America.

It reeks of conservative idiocy. Here’s the proposal, quoted at length:

My solution is called the Medical Security System. It would eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, and (by dropping the tax breaks) employer-based healthcare. The government would give everyone a voucher each year for a basic health plan. The size of the voucher would be based on one’s health status. Those in worse health would get bigger vouchers, leaving insurers no incentive to cherry-pick. Furthermore, insurers would not be permitted to refuse a voucher or otherwise deny coverage.

The government would set the total voucher budget as a fixed share of gross domestic product and determine what a basic plan must cover. We would choose our own health plans. If we cost the insurer more than the voucher, he would lose money. If we cost him less, he would make money. Insurers would compete for our business and could tailor provisions, like co-pays and incentives to stop smoking, to limit excessive use of the healthcare system and encourage healthy behavior.

Nothing would be nationalized. Virtually all of the cost would be covered by redirecting existing government healthcare expenditures as well as tax breaks. Doctors, hospitals, and insurers would continue to market their services on a competitive basis.

This is not a French, British, or Canadian solution. It’s an American, market-based solution that Republicans should love. It’s also a progressive solution that Democrats should love.

What is it with these guys and their overweening desire to protect the insurance companies?

A voucher? To the insurance company? Why? If you’re going to hand out money, give it to the doctors and the hospitals when they provide actual health care to someone.  Why hand it to a useless middleman who will take a twenty or thirty percent cut to pay outrageous salaries, and then crap all over the sick patient?

Why? Because that’s the Conservative and the Republican way.

And who’s going to determine the size of these vouchers? Who’s going to determine the health status of an individual? Some government or insurance bureaucrat?

And doctors and hospitals do not market their services on a competitive basis. Ever see an ad with a list of prices the doctors are charging? Or how about a hospital ad pushing this week’s specials in heart surgery? As for insurers, hell, they’re thieves from the get go.

You bet it’s not a French, British, or Canadian solution. Those countries have healthcare that actually works to take care of the patient instead of insurance bigwigs.

And market-based solutions? Oh spare me the failed mantra. There’s forty-seven million people out there in America with access to the ‘market’. Guess what? They can’t afford it. They’ve got a choice, alright. Go broke paying for health insurance designed to deny them health care, or go broke paying medical bills. Some frigging market, Professor.

You want proper healthcare? Then go to single payer.

Free the doctors to deliver healthcare instead of filling out a wasteful myriad of insurance forms.

Free the people from the dread of illness that can take away their life savings, their home, their dignity, their freedom.

Free the business community from an increasingly unbearable burden of insurance costs that damages their ability to compete in the ‘market’ you conservative clowns value so highly.

You get sick, you go to the doctor. The doctor takes care of you and bills the government. The government pays him. Charge an affordable co-pay if necessary. Raise some taxes to pay for it. Quit wasting billions on a bloated, useless, ineffective military and on senseless wars. Tax the rich instead of giving them a free ride on the backs of the working people.

We don’t need insurance companies with their fancy buildings and overpaid CEOs and executives, and their office drones making healthcare decisions that doctors should be making.

Go back to your little ivory tower, Kotlikoff. And if you ever manage to pull your head out of your butt and get out and see how real people live and struggle and how their lives are screwed over by harebrained ideologies like yours, maybe then you can come up with something that works in the real world for real people.

Consumer Confidence? Does Anybody Know What’s Going On?
June 27, 2007

I was just reading a story on consumer confidence in the Globe’s business section. It says confidence in the economy is down, and tosses some statistics around.

Tomorrow we’ll find a story that says the economy is in good shape, and that story will toss around some statistics, too. And another story somewhere will say something else.

Read enough of these and you can get the distinct impression that no one actually knows what the economy is doing. Which means any predictions are based on large piles of pig crap and smell just as bad.

What we can be sure of is that as long as Bush and the Republicans are in charge, the only people who will benefit will be the rich people and the people with connections into the heart of the Bush criminal enterprise… oh, sorry… the Bush presidency. Everybody else gets screwed, and so do everyone else’s children and grandchildren.

Keep your money close, people. If it’s in the ‘market’ it’s in the wind.

Lindsay Lohan Enchants the News Clowns
June 2, 2007

The media has found a new toy to distract the citizenry from the charnel house in the Middle East, the Republican government shredding the Constitution in the United States, massive climate change, and various other things that matter.

All proud and primping, the media present us with Lindsay Lohan, a young actress who can’t stay sober. And the press thinks we’re supposed to be concerned, or even interested, in this dumbass kid for what reason exactly?

Get it? They think you’re stupid. They think you don’t have the brains to follow the profound issues of the day, so they can’t waste time giving you unbiased, factual information. Instead they give you a drunken broad.

Apparently they’re right. Little Lindsay’s boobs, butt, and drunken forays deliver a bigger audience to advertisers. And that’s what the media is all about, folks.

The ‘Market’ Is Gonna Save Us!! Yaaay!!
May 23, 2007

John Heywood, director of the Sloan Automotive Lab at MIT, writes in today’s Globe about the ‘market’ solving gasoline energy problems.

He points out that in the last twenty years the fuel consumption in new vehicles has not changed. Then he goes on to write, “Tighter (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards would require manufacturers to increase spending to reduce vehicle fuel consumption. The question is whether consumers are willing to pay more for that. Even at today’s gasoline prices, there is little indication that consumers are demonstrating a sustained preference for fuel economy over vehicle performance.”

Yeah, sure, Johnny, that’s why real people are lining up to buy hybrids and high-mileage small vehicles from Toyota and other foreign car makers, who are way ahead of the dumbos who run American firms. Didja notice all the SUVs sitting on dealer’s lots forever, despite huge rebate offers?

As for demonstrating a ‘sustained preference’ for crappy fuel economy, maybe that’s because all those people with SUVs still have to drive to work and soccer practice and the grocery store and are stuck with the damn things. Who in his right mind, unless he’s rich and doesn’t really give a damn, will buy the things, especially a used one?

He goes on to talk about raising the gas tax by ten cents a gallon per year, and spending the money on the Highway Trust Fund and income tax adjustments. But not the slightest, tiniest mention of beefing up mass transit, which would go a long way to solving the problems brought on by mass automobile use.

Later he tells us that there is “no magical fix that the industry can implement to solve the burgeoning fuel problem.” Gee, I wonder, does he mean that the foreign companies that have been making those high-mileage cars for decades just don’t really exist?

I have to wonder how much money the Sloan lab gets from the automakers whom Heywood seems eager not to offend by proposing some serious, immediate regulation of their industry. Whenever someone starts telling you that the ‘market’ will solve a complex problem, you have to ask what his interest is and where the money is coming from. After all, the ‘market’ gave us SUVs and global climate change. The ‘market’ is what rich people talk about when they want to screw the rest of us, and make themselves richer. Heywood may be an honorable guy, but you have to ask the question anytime someone starts telling you that the ‘market’ will solve our problems. Especially when the ‘market’ caused the problem in the first place.