Friday, June 29, 2012

Mr. Roberts And the Nullification Party

Since yesterday everyone except fifty guys in a nuclear submarine parked off of Russia knows a couple of things. They know, for instance, that in the main the Affordable Health Care Act was upheld more or less intact by a divided Supreme Court, and not for the reasons everyone was looking at.

They also know that Chief Justice Roberts was the deciding vote, which surprised everyone except me. I'd listened to the confirmation hearings in their entirety, and I thought that the Chief Justice brought a certain modesty and midwestern sensibility to the Court that somewhere, somehow, would see the right thing to do and then go ahead with the project. I'm glad to see that for once my gut instincts about a person who I do not know were right. The man, the hour, and the occasion all cemented his place in the most important Supreme Court decision in the last fifty years or so.

Every now and again I have this habit of finding a reason for a road trip. It's a good idea for me to get in the truck, turn off the phone, turn off the radio and drive. The midwest is good for such things with its wide open vistas. On my way to Centerville, Iowa this morning to pick up a load of motorcycle parts, that's what I was doing-thinking about health care.

It seems to me there are two angles to health care: access, and cost containment/reduction.

The Dragon Lady had a run in last year with the stuff that gets everyone wearing pink everything. It required a lumpectomy, radiation, and medication and we're not really at the end of it yet because of the meds that she had to take and the side effects. After a month I got the first thing where the insurance company tells you how much they've paid so far, and it was west of 30 large. It immediately occurred to me that had we not had insurance, it would have meant bankruptcy and a shitty two bedroom apartment on the bad side of town. If she was like a lot of people without insurance she would have ended up at Broadlawns two years from now, double mastectomy time, and they probably wouldn't be able to fix it anyway.

What that brought home to me is that broad based, accessible preventive medicine can save us all a buttload of money if we get it out to people, even if they can't pay, because it's a cost fighter

As it is, we DO have a universal health care system in the US that I would characterize as The Revolver In Your Face Health Care Plan. That is, if a person presents at an emergency room and they do not have insurance, they're going to get treated anyway because it is the law, and the rest of us are going to pick up the tab. On the other hand, if they are able to access a reasonable level of early stage care we all stand to save money-a lot of it.

It's better to spend ten cents today if you can save ten bucks tomorrow-and it is a sound investment strategy. Any businessman knows that cost containment is just as important as profit making. So there's a good economic argument to be made there.

As it happens, what passes for health care in this country is unsustainable, either because of the Revolver In Your Face plan, or the Let 'Em Eat Cake plan-really not a plan but a default position dictated by ideology that the tea party types seem so enamored of.

I'd feel a lot better about the GOP legislators if they really had a plan to intelligently rationalize the health care tower of Babel we have, they say they do, but like other famous gamblers who were convinced they just could not be wrong, they bet their entire roll on nullification and that came a cropper yesterday.

It's like that when you're peddling absolute, stand your ground positions. When you have burned your bridges, you've got nothing to retreat to. Who remembers George Wallace's "Segregation now, segregation tomorruh, segregation forever" speech on the steps of the University?  Or John C. Calhoun's pronunciations on nullification, which seems to be what the tea party is advocating?

Both confined to the dustbin of history. And rightly so.

It's been pretty quiet out there as the tea party types are busy retooling their arguments to confront the new reality. They were beaten in a fair fight by a black man when he was elected, and they just got their clocks cleaned again, this time by the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Return Of the Soup Nazis.

You recall we had a little discussion here a while ago about Dillards'-you know, the people with the department stores-firing a person over two hot dogs they didn't even want, and we mused over the kind of company that could be that petty?

At the time I was feeling a little bit holier than thou, figuring it'd never happen in Iowa.

Well folks, I'm here with a plateful of crow, and as Joe Hammond of Eagles' Nest, New Mexico used to say "Hell, that crow don't taste too bad if you put salt and pepper on it. Hah!"

In Tompkins-Kutcher v. Employment Appeal Board, 11-0149 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 24, 2011), a woman who worked for Casey's was fired and was denied unemployment.

It seems that she took outdated soup from the store as she was directed to, placed it in the dumpster outside the store and then removed it, took it home and used it to feed her dog.

Tompkins-Kutcher was initially awarded unemployment benefits but Casey's resisted because she had violated company policy, to wit: employees are required to pay for any item they intend to use, whether outdated or otherwise, trash or whatever. The administrative law judge concluded Tompkins-Kutcher was discharged for misconduct because she'd signed for a copy of the employee handbook wherein this policy was set out.

The district court affirmed, finding that she intentionally disregarded the standards of behavior employers have a right to expect from their employees.

Atta way, Casey's. You sure showed 'em.

Of course there's the small matter of the secret video camera that was set up in a Casey's office to observe a woman employee who was, as she thought, expressing breast milk in a private place. It's been removed to Federal Court, but stay tuned.