Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Myths of World Health Care

My friend Art says I should stop obsessing about our nonsensicle health care system, and the likely botched or non-existent reform of the mess, because, quoting Rodney Dangerfield, if we all take really good care of ourselves, we will get old and die. He is right, of course, and his choice of philosophers is excellent.

Despite Art's sound advice, I can't stop myself from being driven crazy by our rotten system, and the lies and stupidity being bandied about regarding health care abroad. The Washington Post has an article today written by T.R. Reid called "Five Myths about Health Care Around the World", that debunks much of the nonsense that the morons and thieves who want to prevent our system from changing keep spreading. Here is the one paragraph that makes me craziest:

U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world; they spend roughly 20 cents of every dollar for nonmedical costs, such as paperwork, reviewing claims and marketing. France's health insurance industry, in contrast, covers everybody and spends about 4 percent on administration. Canada's universal insurance system, run by government bureaucrats, spends 6 percent on administration. In Taiwan, a leaner version of the Canadian model has administrative costs of 1.5 percent; one year, this figure ballooned to 2 percent, and the opposition parties savaged the government for wasting money.

By the way, that is 20% of insurance money, which means it is probably not counting the fact that the bill to the insurance company also includes the administrative costs incurred by the provider to get paid.

It's not a long article, but makes some outstanding points. Take the time to read it by going HERE.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A few questions on my mind

Did Sports Illustrated know it was entering the health care debate when it published a story last week about Marc Buoniconti? If you have not heard of him, he is the son of Dophin's linebacking great Nick, who was paralyzed while playing football for the Citadel, and has gone on to use his fame and family connections to help a lot of people in a similar situation. Included in the story is this quote from Marc:
Much of Buoniconti's $500,000 annual nursing bill, as well as the cost of his $60,000 customized van and $24,000 electronic wheelchair, is covered by the health-care package that his father, Dolphins Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, received during his post-NFL days as president of U.S. Tobacco.

"My dad did well for himself, but if we didn't have the insurance I have, we'd be broke trying to take care of me," Marc says. "No—I'd probably be dead."

So, the question is, what has happened to all the people with similar injuries who weren't fortunate enough to have wealthy parents? Have they died? Was health care rationed to them, because they didn't have the resources Buoniconti does?

How Dumb are Texans? Well, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spent over $1billion on a new stadium, including the worlds biggest high def TV screen. But, that screen hangs low enough over the field that the punters were hitting it over the weekend. You'd think Jerry could have thrown in a few bucks to measure that, but he was probably too busy listening to himself tell himself how great he is.

Why are Harleys so damn loud? I mean really, there is no reason for it, other than the fact that Harley owners think this negative externality is cool. Other vehicles try to be as quiet as possible, but Harley owners have their pipes hollowed out to make even more noise. Is that because they are mostly middle aged guys, putting this loud thing between their legs to compensate for the lost power of something else that is there?

Just asking!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don't spread the flu

As anyone who has been to my house will tell you, I am a long way from a germophobe. But they seem very concerned about the spread of swine flu at school, as they should be. In order to raise our awareness, they showed this hilarious video at the faculty meeting. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One place business is booming!

What do you do when you just got laid off from that job you didn't really love in the first place? Apparently, go back to school. With the economy in the toilet and unemployment at 9.4%, community college enrollments are up around the country.

We just had our beginning of the semester meeting at Front Range Community College and enrollment is up 21%. This presents an interesting problem, as the state of Colorado, like most states, is suffering a budget crunch and would like to cut the budget for higher education. Fortunately, Obama is a big fan of the CC's, and has made some stimulus money dependent on not cutting higher ed.

I have four classes this Fall, one of them on Saturday morning, and they are all full. This is the first time a Sat. class has even been close to full. Unfortunately, all these new customers don't add up to more money for those of us who provide the valuable service. But then, no one ever went into teaching for the big bucks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Congressman on Colbert

Steven Colbert does a thing he calls "Better Know a District", a 435 part series where he plans to feature every congressional district in the country. Most Congressmen don't feel comfortable talking with a comedian who is coming out of left field, but mine does. In fact, Jared Polis, our new congressman in the 2nd district of CO is the second of my congressmen to be on the show, as Mark Udall, now a Senator, was on a few years ago.

It's a pretty hilarious interview, and you can enjoy it at the link below (sorry, couldn't get it to embed)
One interesting thing about Polis, and maybe our district. Polis is gay, but that was never, ever mentioned during his campaign for Congress. Not by him, his GOP opponent in the election, or his 2 Dem rivals in the primary. I guess gay bashing just won't fly in a highly educated district like ours.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How stupid are people?

If you are ever in doubt of the fact that people are basically stupid (which, according to The Standup Economist is one of the 10 principles of Economics), there is plenty of evidence afoot. There was the guy who yelled to his congressman "Keep the government away from my Medicare". There are the legions of people who believe that the new health care program will include euthanasia and various other lies propagated by lying scumbags like Rush, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin. Oh, and the ones who believe Obama in not a US citizen. And then, of course, there are about 40% of Americans who do not believe in evolution. It is the sad truth that in order to keep the freedoms we have in this country, we must also allow complete idiots to believe anything they want, no matter what the evidence is to the contrary.

If you need more evidence, enjoy this story from today's NY Times about preachers of the "prosperity gospel". How stupid can someone be to get scammed by these charlatans! Hell, I am not a christian, but even I know that the teachings of Jesus had nothing to do with accumulating cash.

Praise the Lord and pass the collection plate!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stewart and an Economist

At a time when TV is full of raving loons, John Stewart asks straight questions and gets straight answers from Obama admin Economist Austan Gooldsby. By the way, there was a story circulating recently that right wing guys like to go on The Daily Show because, even though Stewart grills them, he does it with respect and an honest interest in learning what they have to say. Heard anyone say that about Beck, Hannity, or O'Reilly? Enjoy

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Austan Goolsbee
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A few more words about health care.

Let me start by recommending this story from a blog called The Baseline Scenario called "You Do Not Have Health Insurance". It makes the case that, since most Americans get their insurance through their employer, and are therefore very likely screwed if they lose or leave their jobs, that their health is only insured as much as their job is ensured. Ask your unemployed neighbor about those odds.

Second, the opponents of reforming out horrid system are now shamelessly spreading any type of lie they can think of. My friend Jerry Zremski writes in today's Buffalo News about a the congressman from my home town of Clarence, NY (Motto: "Beware of Falling Planes) who sending an email that says 120 million people will lose their health care if Obama's plan passes. This is quite simply a lie, taking a number that is wrong to begin with, an misusing what it says to make the lie even worse.

Meanwhile, quite a few GOP'ers have been spreading the false idea that seniors will be forced into suicide under "Obamacare" (these same crazy righties would prefer many of us get "No Care"!). This would be hilarious if it weren't tragically helping their lying cause. First, it is not at all true. The provision they state states only that seniors would receive counseling on getting affairs in order. Second, the very people who are making that claim are also the "get govt out of everything" righties who believe that Medicare, which is responsible for keeping many of our seniors alive now, is a communist government program. If they don't, then why don't they want all of us to be taken care of as well as seniors are. And, by the way, Medicare recipients are far happier with their health care than the rest of us. Clearly the government can't do anything right!

Which gets to the guy, often quoted, who yelled at his Congressman to "keep government hands off my Medicare". This is the level of ignorance that symbolized the nutty right, lead by idiots like Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and, well, just about anyone on Fox News. They appeal to the folks who are proudly stupid and ignorant. Fortunately for them, there are a lot of those people in this country.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taxing Calories

For many years I had students in my classes write a paper using what they've learned in class to solve some of society's problems. One of the options was to solve the problem of Americans being so fat. Many of them chose to put some kind of tax on food that is bad for us, and the better papers would then use the money to subsidize food that is good for us (which is, by the way, the opposite of what our government food policy does!).

The "Economics Focus" column in last weeks Economist speaks to this issue. It is a rather interesting examination of the idea, but if falls short in a couple of ways. First, it fails to recognize that not only do we not now tax food that is harmful to our health, as would make sense if we are trying to make Americans healthier, but in this country we actually subsidize its productions. For an entertaining look at this, get the video "King Corn". Corn is not good for us, at least not the way we eat it in this country. But our government encourages it's production, instead of encouraging production of, say, broccoli, which is good for us.

Also, the column talks about a food tax as being as ineffective as the taxes on tobacco have on decreasing tobacco use. Again, they ignore a couple of important facts: 1) Tobacco addicts in this country have dropped from almost 50% of the population in the 1960's to under 25% today (far more successful than the War on Drugs!), and 2) That cheeseburgers, while delicious and often craved, are no where hear as addicting as cigarettes.

Still, a story worth reading, and an idea worth talking about. I am strongly in favor of Pigouvian taxes, as in Gregory Mankiw (see link at right). Seems to make sense to tax bad stuff and subsidize the good. Too bad our politicians are too gutlesss to make the right call. And, by the way, if you haven't noticed the dollar menu at McDonalds doesn't have any salads on it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No Futbol in Argentina

The NY Times reports today that the Argentina Football Assoc. has announced that the league schedule will not begin on time because of huge debts at many of the best clubs in the country. It is just shocking that a country where futbol is bigger than God should not have it's main professional league operate. Here in the US the biggest sports victims of the economy so far have been the Arena Football League and the Phoenix Coyotes. How long until a story like this hits our shores?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Here's a crazy movie idea....

One of my students told me today that he missed class last week because he had his identity stolen. I kidded him that whoever stole his identity didn't show up in class either, so maybe he didn't take the whole thing.

Now, while this poor kid is worrying about passing the class and his grade, I am thinking thru the hilarious possibilities of identity theft gone too far. The person who steals your identity not only spends your money, but shows up for your court date, your dental appointment, your colonoscopy and your economics exam. When you get it straightened out, you discover you know have been cited for contempt for calling a judge an asshole, you have had your wisdome teeth out, you have colon cancer and have failed Economics. Oh, the horror!!

There, Judd Apetow, make a movie out of that!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Save on Textbooks

I know that some of the people who read my blog are former students who are still making their way to a degree. And a few others are friends who have kids who are going to college. So, in an effort to help you save a few bucks off the outrageous cost of textbooks, enjoy this AP story from today's Denver post. Hope it helps.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hilarious Hangover

I remember back in 1980 seeing ads and coming attractions for a film called "Airplane". Nobody really famous in it, but the ads made it appear that it would probably be a mildly amusing film, and a decent way to get some A/C on a hot afternoon. I was shocked then when I saw the film and laughed my ass off through the whole thing.

Similarly, I had no reason to think, based on the ads I'd seen, and the mediocre nature of most recent comedy films, to expect much from "The Hangover". I was surprised that Kip, the woman I have been dating, said I HAD to see it, and would see it for the third time with me. She said it was hilarious, and she was not lying.

If you haven't seen it yet, go see it NOW!! It is not a movie you chuckle thru, it is a movie you laugh really hard at for the whole time. Several times I tried to take a sip of coke at after a long hard laugh, only to nearly do a spit take when the next big laugh came unexpectedly. The beauty is you never see anything coming.

"The Hangover" is going to be a cult classic, a film that people will be watching and laughing at 30 years from now. Don't wait 30 years to see it. Go today!