Monday, July 20, 2009

Practical Matter, Political Process

A strange creature called health care reform takes shape in the hilltop laboratory of the mad scientist known as the United States Congress.

The problem is simple: how can we make health services effective, affordable and available to our citizens? You'd be doing well to get any two of those. With all the bickering and posturing, we won't get one. And it really only counts as a success with all three.

Costs of health care and health insurance are freaking legislators out. Many of them, and the vast majority of citizens, also have not fully separated the concepts of insurance and care. Therefore, many so-called solutions still cling to the fatal flaw of for-profit insurance on top of for-profit care.

Profit is supposed to provide a more effective motive than compassion to insure that high standards are met in all aspects of health maintenance and repair. Forget caring about the patients. Can I make a bundle off my expensive education and long hours? I suppose it's only fair. Health service providers have to deal with nothing but grody stuff. They are reminded constantly of the frailty of life. A little moolah helps keep them interested in case they lack sufficient dedication to the alleviation of human suffering.

If a new system requires every citizen to purchase private insurance, it does create the giant pool including everyone, which is supposed to spread risk and lower costs, but really all the private companies still face the problems they have with small pools and skewed risk percentages. So insurance costs remain high and insurance companies still have ample motive to deny care.

If a new system falls entirely under governmental control, funded by tax increases, profit motive is eliminated, everyone is included and the associated higher taxes replace the scandalous insurance premiums that used to be the norm.

Legislators opposed to meaningful health care reform claim to have the interests of the taxpayers in mind. Yet by saving the taxpayers from the evil of higher taxes to pay for universal coverage they throw those same taxpayers to the wolves of high private insurance costs.

How about this: Let anyone who can afford it buy health insurance or pay outright for services. Let health service providers refuse service to anyone who does not show proof of ability to pay. A lot of people would remain miserably sick. Many would die. It would cost the least amount of money in premiums or taxes. It would create jobs and stimulate the economy the way mass die-offs always do. Real estate will change hands. Goods and services will be bought and sold. The population will go down, easing strains on the environment, infrastructure and the food supply. Energy consumption will drop. Oil companies would have to learn to deal with it, but they would just jack prices with sound economic excuses.

An increasing death rate would justify attempts to raise the birth rate. Poke away, folks! Life is cheap and easily replicated! Raise your kids strong, clever and ruthless. They will need those qualities to survive and flourish.

To reduce fraud, everyone would have to carry an implanted device that gives health service outlets an instant financial status report. If you're dragged in unconscious from an accident, the hospital should not be expected to waste time on a deadbeat. First responders would have to carry the financial status scanners so the health service industry wasted the fewest resources on a patient with insufficient funds.

In borderline cases a patient might receive treatment until his or her financial status dropped below a certain threshold. At that point the poor loser would be thrown out. Clear that hospital bed for someone who deserves it!

One might think that children deserved special coverage. Debate that if you will, but admit it: aren't the children of the wealthy just that much better than the wretched spawn of the working class and the poor? Any child who manages to rise out of the clutter will appreciate and deserve the status and security earned against long odds. If they never make it, they probably wouldn't have done any better if they had been sucking tax money out of their betters.

When are the United States Congress and the American people going to admit that they feel this way and embrace a true meritocracy? We can't keep flailing around between half-assed socialism and half-assed hard-core money worship created by politicians more concerned with staying in office than with solving problems.

People who have been thrown to the wolves either outrun the bastards or end up as wolf shit. Either way, problem solved.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oh *&^% YEAH! What'd I *&^%*-in' tell you?

Research indicates that cursing lessens the sensation of pain, according to an article on Web MD.

We cursaholics know well the balm of the F-bomb in situations that deal both actual and emotional pain. Admittedly, some of us resort to these painkillers too frequently, but it's no different from abusing over-the-counter or prescription remedies.

Indeed, medical use of profanity may come in with the legitimization of medical marijuana.

"I want you to smoke one doobie every six hours and say $&^$^%#! *&%*&! @$%#&%! once every four hours. If you need to, you can increase the dosage of $&^$^%#! *&%*&! @$%#&%! without too many side effects. Just beware that while marijuana carries no risk of addiction, you may find $&^$^%#! *&%*&! @$%#&%! to be very habit forming."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sound Financal Advice

This morning on the Disney Morning News, financial expert Mellody Hobson advised viewers to keep contributing to their retirement accounts in these troubled times. Put savings before purchases. Good, frugal principles.

Thrift is the enemy of economic activity. Money placed in an investment fund for the purpose of generating future income will be invested more or less successfully in profit-pursuing endeavors. That means it won't be spent on the purchase of goods and services now. Investment managers will take their best guess at what will be making money in the future. The companies receiving infusions of capital from investors may purchase materials and hire personnel. Eventually the money invested will make its way back into active circulation in one form or another. Initially, however, it appears to go into storage, like fresh water held in a glacier.

Perhaps this is a great metaphor for how we have abused economic principles to create floods of apparent prosperity at the cost of long-term stability. "Wealth creators" have gone at the glaciers of slow-moving assets with flame throwers and atomic bombs to blast loose big chunks for themselves. With no regard for the balanced processes at work, go-getters have gone and gotten for decades, not only unchecked but praised for their financial skill. Left behind is the wreckage of both economy and ecology. New industries are spawned to try to salvage both. The flaw in this is that we make our way inexorably toward a life of scavenging the dump. Recycling is fine. Sifting refuse for any useful scraps, on the other hand, yields diminishing returns.

Diminishing returns brings us back to saving for retirement. Mellody would have us squirrel away dutifully, hoping that the timing of our withdrawal from the workforce coincides with an upturn in the market. I know people who have had the misfortune to miss that timing completely. Oh well. Nothing's perfect. Sorry, guys.

In one small shop in one small town in one small state in one scratched and dented superpower, I have observed that people are not spending money. Are they investing it or just holding onto it? I can't say. We have seen our seasonal visitors for whom money is not a problem, but even they seem a little subdued. The rainy weather hasn't helped. We will never know what a difference the sun might have made. It wouldn't have hurt things. But the financial climate will remain cloudy even if the weather brightens.

You can't save money that's not coming in. Ten percent of a crappy income is a small sum. If the retirement account goes south, that money could go where lost money goes (no one knows). The idea of saving is good. It can shape a genuinely conservative attitude toward consumption even if you can't scrape up any actual cash to save. Try to remember in the good times how you would have been happy with less when times were bad. That approach does not put floods of wealth into tsunamis of prosperity, but it doesn't leave devastation in its wake, either.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Drink a pot a day, drink a pot a day, YAY!

New study shows that heavy coffee consumption helps combat Alzheimer's Disease. Jeez, how bad would I be without it?

Check out the details of caffeinated lab mice here. Be better at the rat race! Endorsed by actual rats!