Saturday, January 26, 2019

They say 5% of population accounts for 50% of medical cost in USA.

Interesting show about the various "Medicare for All" proposals. What would they cost? How would they work?

One thing mentioned in the show that stood out in my mind is this. Only 5% of our population accounts for 50% of all medical expenses. It's inhumane, but easy to think, under our present system, that fiscal conservatives are tempted to just cut off that 5%; like euthanize 5% to benefit the 95%. For instance the situation with insurance companies and preexisting conditions.

On the other hand, Medicare for All would mean higher taxes, but for most people it could be a savings as it would also mean not having to pay health insurance premiums; a savings for low to moderate income folks.

For wealthy and upper middle class folks, it could mean a loss over the present system. They wouldn't owe insurance premiums, but their taxes would be a lot higher since taxes would likely be graduated by income.

For some medical professionals, it could mean a loss of income as single payer would be better at holding down medical costs. USA has the most costly healthcare system in the world.

In some cases, Medicare for All might still mean paying premiums as there are different versions of our current Medicare system; such as Medicare Advantage. Our current Medicare system, that is for seniors, is not necessarily all single payer. It also includes a lot of the hybrid public / private plans such as Medicare Advantage.

There are a lot of different versions of Medicare so there are various versions of Medicare for All proposals.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

UK should have another vote on Brexit now that the choices are better understood.

Since Brexit supporters can't agree on what type of Brexit they want, I think there should be another referendum. This time have the referendum be a choice between Theresa May's specific Brexit agreement, versus staying in the EU. If the British people vote for Brexit again, it would automatically be Theresa's plan. No need to consult Parliament. Less complexity. Her specific plan ready to implement. If they vote no, Britain stays in the EU.

Another idea is a 3 way vote. Hard Brexit, Theresa May's already negotiated plan, or option 3 stay in the EU. See comments for why I added the hard Brexit option.

This was an interesting show now in podcast.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The national debt ceiling. A useless alarm clock with a broken snooze button

The debt ceiling is like an alarm clock that keeps going off. "Warning, we're way in debt," like duh. It's old news. We have to keep hitting the snooze button to turn the dam thing off till it rings again.

Now it's getting even worse as there's a gremlin sitting on the snooze button making demands like, "more money for a wall." "Fork up the money before you can push snooze again."

We ought to just toss that stupid alarm clock out the window. As long as we keep increasing the military budget, lowering taxes and needing more Medicare, we're not going to heed that alarm anyway. It just adds to the bickering that leads to more anxiety and probably more medical expense.

Monday, January 07, 2019

We've had plenty of radical thinking from the right. Now it's time for some radical ideas from the left about climate change.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Proposal for a 70% tax on the wealthy to fund climate change reduction plan.

Who knows what can actually happen, but this is worthy of discussion. As she is advocating, change may need to happen faster than what we normally expect.

I'm in favor of taxing the wealthy, but allowing exemption for business expenses, such as capital expansion. If the money is invested in running and expanding the business, fine, but if it just goes to the personal wealth of the owners and executives, yes, tax it heavily.

Many solutions to address the carbon footprint do effect lower income people. Average folks can consume lots in their cars, home heating and even putting food on the table. That's why it's hard to pass things like carbon taxes. These type of taxes tend to be regressive. Lots of low income people, who drive and so forth, feel strapped.

To really get people to do something about climate change, we may need to create the impression that the wealthy are paying also. Yes, raising income taxes on the wealthy is a good compliment to some of the things that ordinary people need to do to lower the carbon footprint. Remember, it is ordinary people who drive the markets, to a large extent, but ordinary people aren't likely to change unless they feel they are being treated fairly.

These big changes don't have to be seen as sacrifices. Maybe using things like public transit and bicycles can be better than addiction to the automobile. Depends on circumstances and attitudes. I does work for me. I'll admit I am a bit unusual.

There's also new technology such as electric cars that are charged from a power grid based on solar energy.

Ending fossil fuel emissions in 10 years is a tall order, but maybe it can happen.

The wealthy corporate owners often blame average people for the way things are. The corporations say they have to follow the market which is made up of average people who are just trying to get by. Just trying to raise families. Corporations also blame regulation. It's kind of a vicious cycle that keeps us from solving climate change. Keeps us in the status quo. Average people living their consumptive lives and corporations promoting and profiting from that. Laws which hold people into it.

We are entering a time when the whole thing is starting to unravel and maybe change more radically. Hopefully for the good.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Some mistakes that unions have made in the past. Could unions make a comeback?

I think unions kind of shot themselves in the food back in the 1970s and 80s. Now they have little clout, but could make a comeback. I remember when unions mostly cared about raising the wages of their members; like the auto workers, but didn't seem to care about workers outside the union. It was almost like the union was an exclusive club. Meanwhile, more and more workers fell through the cracks and weren't in a union. They fell through the cracks not having healthcare and so forth. Back in the 1980s, it seemed like it was hard to get into a union. I heard rumors that you almost had to have relatives in the union or some special in to get an apprenticeship in some of the local trade unions for becoming a plummer or electrician. This may be easier now as there is more o a shortage of skilled tradespeople.

Maybe a height of union hypocrisy was when the Air Controllers Union endorsed Reagan for President in 1980. Soon after that, they did go on strike and Reagan fired them. That was a famous issue, back in the early 1980s. My guess is, they regretted endorsing Reagan after he fired them. He fired them as part of his push to crack down on domestic spending and what he saw as out of control government employees. The Air Controllers may have had some legitimate grievances about working conditions, and so forth. I'm sure they regretted thinking Reagan would make an exception for them. Members of other unions, during that strike, ask "where were the Air Controllers when we needed you, back when you were endorsing Reagan?"

Unions need to be more than just exclusive clubs for their members if they want political success at the ballot box.

Another problem with unions was the rigid work schedules and lack of adjustment to the needs of part time workers. Lack of flexibility. A big problem for transit systems where they need lots of bus drivers during the morning commute and less in mid day. Also a problem for individual workers who needed flexible schedules for other things outside the job like travel or schooling. Unions would worry that allowing for flexibility would make it easier for employers to cut back on people's hours, thus cutting their livelihood.

I think union thinking has improved over recent years, but their power base is diminished. What's left of unions, today, are doing more to support all workers by caring about things like universal healthcare and minimum wage. Caring more for people beyond just the members of the union, but it's a bit late. Union influence has declined, but could it make a comeback?

These things I wrote on Facebook after listening to this segment of On Point. Unemployment Down, Wages Stagnant, Retirement Difficult: An Economic Survey.

Wages still lagging behind the economic recovery, tho they may be picking up slightly. Why is the trend toward economic growth not reflected in wages? This interview on WBUR's On Point Radio presents a few ideas, but not my own idea. I'll mention some of the ideas and my own idea in comments. Each of the ideas is valid in its own way. The interview blamed a lot of the decline in wages on the loss of unions over past decades.

Here's another idea I come up with that doesn't directly relate to unions.

One of many things effecting wages is how technology and globalization has put downward pressure on prices in many sectors, such as in journalism and food production. At the same time the value and cost of homes has skyrocketed. Low prices can mean abundance of things like food and crowd sourced journalism, but companies can't pay higher wages in those sectors if they can't sell their products for more. Meanwhile things like healthcare costs, go up. Wages for certain professions like lawyers and hospital executives go up and get out of line with the rest of society.