Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The following post is copied from it’s origin text except the words rape and rapist have been changed to coup d’etat and offender. I hope this helps with the adjustment.

Oh, and to all those optimists who believe Obamacare repeal is possible? Ask any rape victim if that is an option! (Also, to any rape victim, I apologize for stretching the analogy.)


Every person going through a crisis (regardless of the type of crisis) progresses through stages of emotional adjustment. The following information is a simple guideline for understanding what a coup d’etat survivor may experience during the period of adjustment after a coup.

There is no set time-line. Adjustment is an individual, personal process; it varies from person to person, and situation to situation. Some may spend a great deal of time in one stage and only touch lightly on another. The survivor may also encounter a spiraling effect while passing through a number of the stages over and over again, each time experiencing them with a different intensity.

Anyone close to the victim may also experience these stages as s/he, too, adjusts to the crisis of a coup d’etat.

Offering information to the survivor during this stage is not helpful, as s/he will likely remember very little, if anything, about what occurs during this time period.

•DENIAL—“Not me, I’m fine.” “This can’t have happened!” “It’s not that bad.”
Not yet able to face the severity of the crisis, the survivor spends time gathering strength. The denial phase serves as a cushion for the more difficult stages of adjustment that follow.

•ANGER—Rage, Resentment… “What did I do?” “Why me?”
A survivor’s anger may be the result of having experienced a loss of strength or loss of control over her/his life. The anger may be directed toward the offenders, a doctor, the police, or anyone else, including her/himself.

•PLEA-BARGAINING—Rationalization… “Let’s go on as if it didn’t happen.”  “I should be finished with this by now.”
This is another form of denial wherein the survivor sets up a bargain: s/he will not talk about the coup d’etat in exchange for not having to experience further pain. The other half of the bargain is that friends and relatives will also stop talking about it and pretend that it never happened. In so doing, s/he continues to deny the emotional impact the coup d’etat had on her/his life.

•DEPRESSION—Denial no longer works… “I feel so dirty, so worthless.”
If the survivor is warned of this stage ahead of time, s/he may not be so thrown by this experience. Though painful, this stage signifies s/he has begun to face the reality of a coup d’etat. As s/he allows the negative emotions to surface, s/he should be reminded that these feelings are normal and will not last forever. S/he should, however, be aware of symptoms of severe depression during this stage, for example: drastic changes in sleeping or eating habits, compulsive rituals or generalized fears taking control of her/his life. Professional counseling may be advisable.

•ACCEPTANCE—“Life can go on.”
When enough of the anger and depression is released, the survivor enters acceptance. S/he may still spend time thinking and talking about the coup d’etat, but s/he understands and is in control of emotions; s/he can now accept what has happened.

•ASSIMILATION—The coup d’etat is put into perspective.
By the time the survivor reaches this stage, s/he has realized her/his own selfworth and strength. S/he no longer needs to spend time dealing with the coup d’etat, as the total coup d’etat experience now meshes with other life experiences.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Constitutional Music

In 2008, the Supreme Court barely upheld the second amendment by a narrow 5-4 decision in DC v. Heller. The second amendment is all of ONE SENTENCE LONG and we’ve been debating its meaning for 220 years. It couldn’t be simpler. Yet it barely squeaked by with nary a vote to spare. A similar case, McDonald v. Chicago, is in the court right now and as usual, all bets are off despite that one, single, simple, clear, sentence.

Now we have a new “right to healthcare” paid for by others. This week, a President with no private sector experience along with his similarly inexperienced party, rewired 17% of the US economy with the stroke of a pen and a new 3000 page law. Remember, the second amendment is one sentence long! How are we going to interpret our new 3000 page right to healthcare? Of course, unlike the right to bear arms, which hangs from a thread, the right to healthcare is not in the constitution.

Nor is the “right” to Social Security, Medicaid, or Medicare, but the court has never done anything about them either. These programs are like “Deem and Pass” amendments, unofficial changes to the constitution that we have selfishly agreed to allow because, hey, we like free stuff. All the while, we shamelessly stick our kids and grandkids with the bill, but we’re worth it, right?

Roe v. Wade is based on another non-existent right, the so-called “right to privacy”. This right was based on a “penumbra” or weak shadow, cast by the bill of rights. Seriously, that’s how they justified it. The imaginary right to privacy was conjured-up by lawyers looking to find exactly what they needed in the constitution.  It is made-up. Yet that hasn’t stopped this law from surviving for some 26 years.

We just watched the spectacle of the President berating the Supreme Court in his State of the Union Speech because they had the temerity to uphold the first amendment in Citizens United v. FEC.  Again, that was a narrow 5-4 decision on the really complicated first amendment. (Another behemoth at one sentence long!)

In short, rights that really are there, in clear language, must fight to within an inch of their lives, while imaginary rights, like the latest one, are cheered through with parades and marching bands.

So I ask: If the constitution can mean anything, is it not really meaningless? Picture an orchestra warming up. There is no rhythm, no melody, no key, no limits, and no beauty. Just avant-garde, progressive noise. That is the music of our modern US constitution.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Healthcare Gecko - Revisited

Here’s a question for you: Why is there no healthcare Gecko? Wouldn’t it be great if 15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on health insurance? For that matter, where is the Progressive girl with the red lipstick selling health policies? Is it possible that this is the real problem? Is it possible that the reason this is a crisis is that there is no such thing as a true individual market for healthcare? The fact is, only about 5 percent of the insured buy their own health insurance. The other roughly 95 percent get their insurance from the government or their employer. For car insurance the numbers are reversed and there is no similar crisis in that market. Now that Warren Buffet, the other guy from GEICO, has spoken out on healthcare and recommended starting from scratch, perhaps he’ll push for an individual market. Then again, he would be accused of having a conflict of interest, so on Mr. Buffet’s behalf, allow me to make the belated case for the healthcare Gecko. 

First, how is it that we ended up almost entirely removed from our healthcare purchases? The original sin dates back to FDR and WWII when wages were frozen and companies found a loophole by deducting benefits. Like many loopholes, this one grew into the monster it is today and along the way it carved in stone the expectation that healthcare is someone else’s responsibility. That expectation has led us down a path towards distorted markets, rigid employer-paid insurance, ever increasing government involvement, and skyrocketing costs. Meanwhile, the car insurance market keeps innovating and improving.

Comparisons of car insurance and health insurance are of course not always appropriate. The President is fond of comparing mandatory car insurance with a mandate for health insurance. I suspect Mr. Obama knows the difference between mandated liability coverage, and a mandate to cover one’s self. These are not comparable. I’m not aware of any state that mandates insuring your car, only the harm you may cause to others. I suppose one could argue that society is harmed when a person receives medical care and doesn’t pay, but I would suggest that those who are indigent be covered by Medicaid and those who are not, pay their medical bills or be penalized. Ask any hospital administrator what it’s like collecting money from patients today. Then ask an auto mechanic. The latter has it much easier.

Some may say healthcare is way more expensive and complicated than car insurance and hence individuals can’t be expected to understand it or afford it. Did you ever try to read your auto policy cover to cover? And while car insurance itself is much cheaper than medical coverage, did you know that individual Americans spend on average four times more on transportation than they do on healthcare? Is your car really four times more important than your health?

Some may say that owning a car is a choice but healthcare is a right. Well if that’s the case, we should amend the constitution because that right is not currently there. Incidentally, It would be the first time since slavery that one person would have the explicit right to compel another to work for his benefit! In fact, if you think about it, any government entitlement not fully funded by its recipients, amounts to a claim on the labor of others. Most of the time, we accept that burden to help the needy, but too often we are just enriching ourselves and passing those claims onto future generations through deficits. Pretty selfish don’t you think? Is that the way you want to fund your perceived right to healthcare?

Short of that, here’s a way out led by the healthcare Gecko, and the cost is neutral to all parties involved: Step one: Eliminate the tax deduction for all employer paid health insurance, and Step two: Offset the tax consequences with a reduction in payroll taxes. That’s all it would take to establish an individual market and finally begin the healing process.

Here’s how it would work: Employers losing the deductibility of health insurance would be compelled to transfer the policies to their employees and gross-up their wages accordingly. The result would be marginally higher taxes for both the employer and employee which would then be offset by a commensurate drop in payroll taxes. It may not be exact for each individual, but the aggregate would be completely neutral.

TV commercials would begin running instantly showing piles of cash with googly eyes, cavemen, talking lizards, and girls with red lipstick. Employees would be able to control their own healthcare decisions and take full advantage of their positive lifestyle choices. If you are a tri-athlete working for a donut company, which group would you rather be rated with, the tri-athletes or the donut tasters? Those currently without employer coverage would suddenly have a multitude of offers thrust at them from companies clamoring for their business. They’d also have more money available to buy insurance due to the lower payroll taxes.

To be sure, there are other issues in addition to cost that an individual market alone cannot address, but those are subjects for another day. Suffice it to say that once voters are made the masters of their own healthcare destiny, the other issues like subsidized insurance for long-term pre-existing conditions, portability, and tort reform will all get addressed or politicians will pay at the polls. Currently, politicians are insulated from these issues because most people just blame their boss or the insurance company they are stuck with.

Of course, we would still have a subsidized public option called Medicaid for those unable or unwilling to participate in the individual market. But, as competition lowers costs and increases choice, we would likely end up with a much smaller and sustainable Medicaid. Wasn’t that one of the original reasons we were told this was a crisis?

Recall how we got here: It was a mistake; a loophole; an unintended consequence of a WWII wage freeze. Knowing that, wouldn’t undoing that mistake be a great place to start? The polls show that the people instinctively know this. Unfortunately, politicians have a long history of being able to convince enough people to stick the next generation with their bills, and because of that, Obamacare is a fait accompli.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Healthcare Palestinians

There is a piece in the NYT today about how Jordan is stripping citizenship from long time Jordanians who trace back to pre-Israel Palestine. The Arab countries have long believed that the best way to destroy Israel was to maintain an army of angry Palestinian refugees. Keep them poor, keep them in refugee camps, keep them oppressed, and don’t ever let them assimilate into the vast Arab lands surrounding Israel. To a frightening extent, this diabolical and inhumane scheme has worked wonders and the lesson was not lost on those in the US who seek to destroy any semblance of a free market in healthcare.

For decades, proponents of socialized medicine and enemies of free markets have known that tax policy was twisting the healthcare market into a nefarious monster which forced Americans into employer-paid coverage. They knew we’d be uncomfortably tied to our employer, forever in fear of losing our jobs, angry at insurance companies we did not choose, and unable to insure ourselves. The simple fix of ending employer tax deductions was never to be allowed lest the dream slip away. In short, we were forced into healthcare refugee camps for crass political purposes.

To a frightening extent, this vile scheme has borne fruit and we are about to witness its bitter harvest…

Friday, March 12, 2010

Healthcare Diagnosis

This one is for any fence sitters on Obamacare. I sympathize with anyone who is busy raising a family, earning a living, trying to catch an occasional movie, and somehow hoping to keep up with current events too. Who has the time to fully research a complex issue like healthcare and understand a 2000 page government make-over?

When doctors approach a health problem, they are careful not to confuse symptoms with underlying diseases. That holds for any complex system like economics, computers, rockets, or automobile accelerators. When things go wrong, separating the underlying causes from the resulting effects can be mighty difficult.

This past Tuesday, there was an angry rally outside a meeting of insurance executives in Washington, DC. Protesters called for the “citizen’s arrest” of insurance executives for alleged crimes against humanity. I saw one sign that read “The Market is the Problem!” I’ve heard this before from supporters of Obamacare. According to them, the “market” is the sickness; it has infected the healthcare system, and government control is the cure.

This particular protest, like many in favor of Obamacare, was sponsored by labor unions who desperately want direct access to the US Treasury’s printing presses and insurers currently stand in the way. I’m not suggesting every supporter of Obamacare is a union member, but unions are really motivated here and they are helping shape the debate. They need a scapegoat and insurers and “the market” are rich ones, especially in the wake of a financial market meltdown.

But is there really a functioning “market” in healthcare? Could a lack thereof be just a symptom of some other underlying disease?

Think of markets you interact with everyday. Take food for instance. You use your money, even if you spend food stamps which are issued to you. You choose your items after inspecting them and reading labels. You choose your sources. You price compare. And finally you decide how to consume the items you bought. At every stage of the retail food market, there is direct linkage between the buyer and the seller and a direct exchange of value. Every market that functions properly has these same attributes and linkages.

In healthcare, the linkage has been broken since WWII, to the point that now, there is no direct exchange of value and no direct linkage between buyers and sellers . It started with an unintended consequence of a WWII wage freeze when companies were allowed to deduct health insurance while individuals were not. This seemingly innocent tax tweak, has rendered any discussion of a functioning “market” in healthcare ludicrous. There is no such thing. Thus, “the market” can’t be the disease if in fact, it was the first victim!

When was the last time there was any connection between a health service you received and the payment you made? That $25 copay? It doesn’t qualify. The $400 you paid for your kid being born? I don’t think so. The $5 prescription at the pharmacy? No. Even if you buy your own insurance, the linkage has been ripped away due to “first-dollar” coverage.

Once corporations were given an advantage over individuals, the race was on to maximize the value of the deduction. That led to “first-dollar” coverage instead of actual insurance. When that happened, the perception that healthcare was no longer the responsibility of the individual set-in. Medicare was just a logical extension of that mind-set. If your employer pays for your healthcare until you retire, how can you be asked to suddenly take-over at age 65?

After Medicare took over for those over 65, the market was officially dead. Between Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP, roughly half the medical services provided in the US are already socialized. Prices are distorted beyond recognition as providers must make all their profit from half their business. All but a fraction of the remaining “market” is paid for by your employer. The necessary linkages and exchanges for a functioning market are simply non-existent.

Those insurance company executives who were being threatened by the angry protesters, do not answer to individuals. They have not done so for over 50 years. They work for your boss, not you. That makes them a convenient scapegoat, especially for the union workers who see them standing in the way of the government trough.

Democrats, once they understand that there is no such thing as a functioning market in healthcare, need to ask themselves why it has not been fixed after all these years. For that, they need look no farther than the nearest mirror. Their mantra, at the expense of the American people has been; never let a good scapegoat off the hook!

The fix has been around for years. End the employer deduction, and offset the tax implications with lower payroll taxes. Companies would transfer the health policies to their employees, gross-up their wages, and pay lower payroll taxes in exchange. Employees would make more money, buy their own policies, and pay lower payroll taxes to offset any tax implications. This simple fix would restore a functioning market, at least for the remaining un-socialized half.

The poor would end up with an improved Medicaid, and the rest would have unprecedented access to health services through competition. Costs would be driven down and innovation up just like in any other market. Is your cell phone better and cheaper today than it was yesterday? How about your music player?

Would that be it? No. We’d still have to end Medicare, which would be much easier once everyone saw that they can easily and cheaply buy their own insurance. We’d still have to subsidize long-term pre-existing conditions, we’d still have to allow inter-state competition, and we’d still have to cap malpractice claims.

But the cost crisis would be over, and that would be a political waste for some. This is the underlying disease.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Anyone Else Think This Toyota Thing is Creepy? - Part II

Early on in this Toyota saga I determined this was a takedown of Government Motor's biggest NON-UNION competitor.  But that was my gut as an observer, backed up only by the nuggets laying right on the surface.  Well, thanks to others who dig deeper there's more.  I defy you to read this piece on the Toyota Takedown by LibertyChick and not feel really nervous about what happens when governments and unions own big companies, and then join with their other branches, the lawyers and pop-media, to destroy a foreign non-union competitor.  When the history of this is written, we will wonder why we failed to connect the dots sooner.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Anatomy of a Myth IV – Obama is in More Danger than Other Presidents!

Have you seen the many references to the mortal danger President Obama is in from potential assassins? The latest piece appeared today in the UK Guardian . I’m not surprised we are seeing these stories because racist whackos could be an additional threat for Obama, but make no mistake about it, Presidents face danger as all modern ones have found out.  That said, Barack Obama is statistically much safer than even George W Bush was!

The tragic fact is that virtually every modern president has been the subject of some kind of assassination attempt. Every one. That’s not to excuse it, but to highlight that danger is part of the office. The job is not for the faint-of-heart. Some nut is going to try and fly a plane into your house (Nixon, Clinton, Bush 43), or blow you up (Kennedy, Bush 41, Bush 43), or just try to shoot you (Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 43). And that is all of them post-WWII!

But, going back all the way, your chances of actually taking a bullet are almost twice as bad if you are a Republican. Five have been Republicans, (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Ford, Reagan) and three have been Democrats (Jackson, Truman, Kennedy).

As far as actual assassinations, three were Republicans (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley) and only one was a Democrat (Kennedy). In short, your chances of being killed are three times worse if you are a Republican! Moreover, Kennedy, the only Democrat was a tax-cutting supply-sider. If you look at it that way, Barack Obama will die in his bed as an old man. Now, if he could only quit smoking…