Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Health Care Legislation And You

I've had a conversation going on with a self professed libertarian friend of mine on a well known social media website about the health care reform bill.

Since I mine this blog for material that goes there I figure I can reverse the process.

What goes around comes around, people.

I think that the thought was, get something done while the majority is there, and fix it later. Little did they know that a lot of the opposition for various and sundry reasons, some good, some bad, and some downright in the pay of the insurance lobby, were going to do their level best to shit can health care reform of any sort.

It's interesting to note that the American Medical Association supports the administration's health care reform efforts. They figure that it's something they can work with and improve.

Obviously if your employer provides good insurance you're sitting pretty, but remember Danny Bogart's First Law of Insurance: Insurance companies are not there to pay claims.

Had we not had insurance, the prevention would not have been in place and she'd have ended up at Broadlawns for a double mastectomy in a couple of years and no good chance that it'd fix the problem, all courtesy of the taxpayer. It's really no different than preventive maintenance on your car. Either you budget for it now or it eats your lunch later.

On a personal level, if we had not had insurance to pick up the tab we'd be back in a one bedroom apartment on the poor side of town and I'd be trying to scratch up the cash to file bankruptcy-it's that simple and obvious.

As a country we've come to the end of our road in this process.

Nobody on earth can afford more health care than two aspirins. Every graduate from a third rate medical school in Guadalajara thinks they're entitled to $300k a year to start, and they won't settle for less.

Up to this point they've been able to charge whatever they wanted. But we're up against being able to pay for it. The medical people thought they could charge whatever they wanted, the insurance companies went along with it because they knew they could always soak the employers, and they all use med mal cases as their whipping boy to divert the attention of the lumpen proles when the dollar amount that med mal yields is so small as to be ridiculous.

Do y'know that there has only been one med mal judgment in Iowa that went over a million, and it was reversed?

Thing is, now, the employers are getting tapped out-courtesy of the insurance companies- and they also know that they can dump the benefits as easily as they dumped defined benefit pension plans for "fund your own retirement. Buy stocks and you'll all be rich."

So OK. "Be a contractor and get 1099s-figure out your own salvation."

Those who are fortunate enough to have good health care benefits are a dying breed-and they're scared to death that somebody's going to take it from them. In retrospect they were easy prey for right wing scaremongers.

The rest of us are the walking dead only in the main we're too stupid to realize it.

The wheels are coming off this project and it'll bankrupt the government in a few years if left unaddressed.

That's the reality-it's far worse than I supposed until I got a little taste of it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Big Joe Has Come And Gone

Did you ever have one of those moments when you're looking for something but you don't really know what it is, and then you hear it? Guitarists do this all the time, and they call it looking for the sound inside your head.

Me and Big Joe-we're like that.

Joe Turner was born in Kansas City in 1911, which would figure large in his musical evolution. Kansas City was a juke joint, barbecue, boogie woogie piano town like no other that has ever been.

Folks from Chicago may cavil and protest, but before Chicago was, Kansas City is. Los Angeles and New York City never were, and the only city that compares is New Orleans.

The music reflects the city-and while New Orleans is all weddings, parades, and funerals, Kansas City was all business when it came to music.

Joe was never a singer of country blues as many other bluesmen were, because his roots were urban and fixed in the time of pre war big bands and boogie woogie.

His blues wasn't hip and urbane like T-Bone Walker's was, or tongue in cheek like Louis Jordan, but its grit and power is unmistakable, like the roar of the daily nonstop 747 from Los Angeles to Paris that struggles off the runway, rattling windows for miles around.

A big man at 6'2" and north of 300 pounds, his music projects like some primal, unstoppable force that drags you kicking and screaming to your feet.

By the time rock and roll came around in the fifties, Joe wasn't a teenager any more and although he had some songs that made it onto jukeboxes, other folks like Bill Haley mostly made the money.

Bill was no spring chicken either, but a galvanized cowboy singer and deejay who knew a good thing when he heard it, and ran with it.

Joe was, in the end a product of the prewar era and his time had come and gone-at least for a time, until an new generation of people like me rediscovered him in the back shelves of dusty used record shops in out of the way places.

I have this mental picture of Big Joe leaning against his brand new Hudson Terraplane looking sharp in his suit and snap brim fedora, thirties all the way.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves

Some musings on the next two years and where I think we're headed.

Unless they come through on the economy the republicans will lose the tea baggers and the independents.

Lack of jobs is more or less is what they got elected to fix.

Given that the problems with the economy are structural and also the product of 40 years of what is inartfully called 'free trade', there's not much they can do to change the course of this mighty river-this recession's been coming for a long time-and the republicans are ideologically incapable of doing anything that looks like a solution that has a chance in hell of working.

In fact all they've got to sell is tax cuts, and how they can cut taxes when the government's bankrupt is anyone's guess-it really is straight from Cloud-cuckoo land. If you don't have an income, how in the hell can tax cuts do you any good?

Real estate will not come back any time soon. It's on life support, and there's nothing that anyone can do about that until phantom equity and excess inventory is purged out of the system and people start being able to afford a mortgage again. Manufacturing will not come back until we revisit our trade policies that unfairly and persistently favor the Walmartization of America.

The other big debt overhang, which nobody dares speak about, is the revolving credit nightmare. The average default rate on credit card accounts runs around 5 per cent, according to Forbes, and the amount of unsecured debt out there is massive.

All of which give me cause for optimism, so here's my prediction. The republicans will fail, miserably.

It's the economy, stupid. The republican vendetta against the Democratic party will not put one more cheeseburger on a paper plate anywhere, and people will figure that out sooner or later no matter how obtuse they are.

Likewise, people will realize sooner or later that the entire social policy agenda of the republicans will also not put one cheeseburger on a paper plate for anyone. What two gay women do in San Francisco and whether they have a piece of paper that allegedly unites them legally will not give anyone in Pittsburgh or Detroit a job or put one can of soup on the shelf at the local food pantry, for that matter.

In short, the things that they ran on are not going to fix the problems we've got, and sooner or later the stupidest of us will realize this.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Hey Barak: Grow Some Stones, or, Why We Need National Health Insurance

Something's happened lately that has brought the entire health care reform issue into clear focus, and it wasn't the election or John Boehner's threats to set progress back 75 years once he and his gang of thugs complete their putsch.

A couple of weeks ago the Dragon Lady had her annual mammogram and after two different people told her what they saw was nothing to worry about the phone rang.

That was on a Friday afternoon, and by the following Thursday the offending lump was on its way to the incinerator or whatever they use in hospitals to get rid of nasty stuff, along with a couple of lymph nodes. They stick a needle in and inject a bunch of radioactive dye that says "Listen. If anything escaped these are the places it would go. Walk this way."

We showed up at 8:00 am and by 4:00 pm we were back home.

We expect that things will go well. There will be a daily administration of Doctor Roentgen's favorite radiation products that starts in the end of this month and it will go on for about six weeks.

"Fine" you say. "What's this got to do with me and Obama's n****r care plot to drain off our vital national bodily fluids? Think about that while you're bowing to the effigy of St. Herbert Hoover and thinking how good it is to be a rugged individualist, you liberal sap!"

Here's what it's got to do with you.

We got the first statements from the hospital today. They're going to the insurance company, and they're north of $30,000 for one day's work.

That's right, 30 large and we're not done.

If we did not have good health insurance we would be screwed, blued, and tattooed as the saying goes.

And I can guarantee if we did not get health care reform this past year, the chances of her getting affordable insurance in the future would be flat ass zero.

Do you think that there is a chance in hell you could pay for that without insurance?

Not on your life.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lowered Expectations In Washington

The problem with elections is that they're like tying one on with Sterno-the comedown is among the most wretched experiences commonly available, and that's if you survive the initial buzz, which is by no means a given.

The saving grace, however, is that in most cases the electorate has to live with the mess it improvidently made, all of which means that the losers are entitled to a double sized helping of schadenfreude. Retiring to the bleachers and thumbing my nose at the latest crop of Sterno drinkers promises to be very enjoyable work.

For every tea bag wearing self styled real american patriot, there'll be that realization that this victory was akin to crapping your pants. The blessed release and warm feeling will last a short time before the discomfort sets in, and nobody will remember much except the god awful smell.

Electing people whose stock in trade is that they don't know anything and they've never cared to learn how to work with people of differing views is a sure guarantee that they'll be ineffective in the job they were chosen to do. The business of government will go right around them as if they were rocks in a stream.

Marginal people do marginal work, if you're lucky. Most times they're pretty dismal failures.

There is no post coital afterglow to this story-just a damned nasty hangover.