April 12, 2011

GOP takes dead aim on own foot

From the LA Times:
President Obama will call for shrinking the nation's long-term deficits by raising taxes on wealthier Americans and requiring them to pay more into Social Security, drawing a barbed contrast with a Republican plan to save money by deeply slashing Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic spending. ... 
Democrats hope to repeat the experience of 2005, in which President George W. Bush's proposal to privatize parts of Social Security proved to be a staggering miscalculation that cost his party heavily in the next year's election. They think voters will not accept a Republican proposal put forward by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that would replace guaranteed Medicare benefits with a limited voucher.

You know, Republican Congressmen, you are back in the majority in the House now in large part because a whole bunch of older white people got worried in 2009-10 that, having paid taxes for Medicare for decades, Medicare would now suddenly get whittled down by this black liberal guy to pay for health insurance for a whole bunch of younger and not so white people who aren't very related to them. 

You probably consider the motivations of your own 2010 voters to be, at minimum, zero summist -- Don't these old white bigots understand the Magic of the Market? -- and probably racist. So what if this implicit white coalition that came together to defend Medicare is your party's main chance for political survival? Old white people are creepy!

Hey, some of your 2010 voters abandoned the GOP in 2006 after Bush announced in 2005 that he wanted to take Social Security, which they had paid for for decades, and hand it over to the tender ministrations of Wall Street. (How'd that work out for you, anyway?) But you probably consider those voters who didn't trust Wall Street with their Social Security to be more or less raving anti-Semites, too, so who wants their votes?
And beginning in 2022, Ryan would privatize the Medicare program by giving seniors a subsidy to help them shop for commercial insurance.

Let's throw together tax subsidies, incredibly complicated health insurance products, customers who are going senile, and corporations staffed by bright MBAs with spreadsheets. What could possibly go wrong? 

I can't think of anything I'd rather spend my declining years doing than engaging in an ongoing battle of wits with MBAs with spreadsheets on their own turf over my health insurance. (And I am an MBA with a spreadsheet. I used to be a bright one, too, but I'm already too old to try to outsmart pros who devote their careers to outsmarting civilians like me.) 

134 comments:

eh said...

...privatize the Medicare program by giving seniors a subsidy to help them shop for commercial insurance.

What a hoot.

Many people do not seem to understand the medical insurance business. These companies make money by collecting premiums from healthy people. The more the better. They are not going to want to insure old people. Were they to offer profitable policies to old people, the premiums would be unaffordable. Or you'd get 'Death Panels'.

This is the whole reason Medicare was created in the first place.

Wandrin said...

The Democrats can always rely on the Republican corporate elite to save them.

RAH said...

You know, Republican Congressmen, you are back in the majority in the House now in large part because a whole bunch of older white people got worried in 2009-10 that, having paid taxes for Medicare for decades, Medicare would now suddenly get whittled down by this black liberal guy to pay for health insurance for a whole bunch of younger and not so white people who aren't very related to them.

Oh my God...this sounds like Steve's boogyman...Who? Whom? What happened to you, Mr. Citizenist?

Anonymous said...

Cutting Medicare or Social Security is suicide for the Republican party. No way can you cut those middle class entitlement programs and not get hammered in the next election cycle.

The GOP at this point is pretty much the pro-business/pro-Israel party. That's what its core values are currently organized around. All its other constituents are expendable.

I think if Republican constituents cared to ventue beyond Tel Aviv and Wall Street, they'd see that their plan is going to cost them 2012. If I were running the Republican party, I'd look at cutting defense, Medicaid, education, and public bureaucracy.

dearieme said...

Most foreigners will, I imagine, understand the point of Medicare but will also, I suggest, wonder why on earth it is so expensive.

Anonymous said...

But Ryan says those 55 and older will see no change in Medicare. That might keep the old folks on the team.
Robert Hume

ziel said...

Ah yes the perennial Republican dilemma since the neo-con takeover: Do I reward the people who voted for me or the people who paid for me?

They have a passing physical resemblance, so they can get away with pretending they're the same people for awhile, but then disaster strikes and they get voted out. But in the meantime, the standard of living of the voters slowly erodes, while that of the payers grows and grows.

Anonymous said...

Not only that but the voucher will systematically lag behind the cost of insurance, since it's tied to GDP but medical inflation is projected to be much faster. Most seniors would either hand their life savings over to insurance companies or go without any treatment.

The real problem is that health care costs about twice as much per capita in the US than almost all other countries with longer life expectancies, and will go up to three or four times as much as the baby boomers age. For all the problems you've documented in the education system the health care system is actually much worse. Our three policy options are going bankrupt, eliminating health care for most seniors and rationing by wealth, or making the health care system more efficient. Republicans have chosen door number two. Door three would involve taking on the main recipients of all the waste like insurance companies, providers, and pharmaceutical companies, and the GOP obviously won't touch this.

Anonymous said...

Amen, brother

SteveM said...

re: eh said

Is exactly right. Ryan's talk of up to a $15K a year premium subsidy is still worthless for the senior who is already consuming $600 a month in prescription meds alone. (Behind those modest co-pays are huge costs for branded drugs.)

And a senior with osteo-arthritis? Plenty of those. What insurance company is going to sign up probable joint replacements at $25K a pop unless the premiums are astronomical?

Obamacare may be inchoate, but the Republican response to economic pathologies like $1,500 a month COBRA payments for people who are unemployed is "Tough beans".

The dirty not so secret Fail for the Republican policy is guaranteeing access to insurance that is unaffordable.

Right now the policy options are sclerotic Nanny State health care overseen by the likes of über-pedestrian empty suit Kathleen Sebelius or Social Darwinism advocated by the Let 'em cake Republicans (who have insurance BTW.)

JLA said...

Steve, this stuff about race and politics is all well and good, but seriously, why don't you just tell us when the iPhone 5 is coming out?

-- Juan LeBron Arafat

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about social security funding Steve.
You know all those hard-working little brown folk, the regular church-goers and natural Republicans from south of the border will ensure that it's all fully funded and take care of whitey in his dotage.
All they need is an open border - just like that clever man who writes for 'The Economist' keeps lecturing me about, so they can can come up north and set about being industrious, contributing little taxpayers, immigration, as they keep telling us, such a wonderful idea, what's not to like about it?

Mr. Anon said...

Modern life, with its endless array of mostly useless consumer choices, is already too enervating for a lot of middle-aged people. Old people just don't have the wherewithall to deal with all that crap.

Perhaps this is Ryan's plan. By forcing old people to spend their days comparison shopping for health insurance (on top of managing their cell-phone plans, their internet, their retirement plans, and all the other detritus of modern-day life) they'll just want to commit suicide, thereby saving medicare a lot of money.

beowulf said...

Damn good point Steve. Medicare was THE issue that swung the House to the GOP. As Politico reported, 2006 midterms, parties split senior vote evenly. In 2010, seniors trended GOP by 21 points, oh and those geezers were motivated to vote, seniors share of electorate increased 20% (from 19 to 23 points). And their big issue?

Senior voters seemed motivated by concerns about the health care law and punished incumbent Democrats accordingly. The bill cut $500 billion from Medicare programs, a wash at best for older citizens. And Democrats largely failed to campaign successfully on aspects of the law targeted to benefit seniors, like closing the “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/44802.html

Chicago said...

I wonder how much of all this are serious proposals and how much is just political posturing. Perhaps the Republicans have already concluded a back-room deal to let Obama win again, and in return he'll give them the things that they really care about. They'll just run a ticket that's flawed enough to ensure failure but good enough to make it seem as if a real contest took place. The election may just be the world's most expensive professional wrestling show.

Anonymous said...

The issue needs to be reframed. This not about protecting seniors or keeping America solvent. It's about competing visions of how the immense wealth the Baby Boomers created will be passed on to the next generations. The implicitly white GOP intends to keep it concentrated in fewer hands, specifically the hands of the descendants of those who made it. The left wants to "spread it around," break the entitlement hold they feel the white middle class enjoys. The right uses the logic of equity, the left of equality, and each side sees the other as immoral. If the right wins, it will lead to greater resentment towards whites and more punitive laws of AA and EEOC type, but if the left wins it'll likely result in the destruction of the white middle class and eventually the economy and culture. But don't be fooled by Medicare talk; this is really about dividing up the Baby Boomers' wealth as they totter off the stage.

Polichinello said...

Medicare was already heading over the cliff. The Obama Administration's answer to this was to cut the money from Medicare, but then hand it over to younger, poorer people (many of whom didn't even belong in the country). And, of course, that program would go broke as well.

Yes, the GOP is cutting funding, but it's doing it for the sake of keeping some sort of funding available. T-I-N-A: There Is No Alternative.

(And, no, raising rich people's taxes won't cover these costs.)

As far as outwitting smart people with spreadsheets, I'm dealing with a mother-in-law with dementia, and our family spends a lot of time dealing with all sorts of complicated regulation designed to limit costs. Those, of course, are going to get even worse as the Obamacare regime kicks in and tries limit costs. If you're doing it under a plan that makes patients pay some of the cost upfront, it will cut down on overusage. TINA.

Anonymous said...

defend Medicare

Oh boy. This unfortunately may be the most innumerate post you've ever written.

Magic of the Market

I seriously have no idea why people think the government is going to manage your own money better than you will.

There is no sense in which a government run mandatory "investment" vehicle is a safer investment than money in your own pocket. $1000 of fixed income Social Security means nothing when the government can inflate away the currency. $1000 in your pocket can be converted to Gold or Renminbi or CHF.

"Magic of the Market" does not mean blind faith in Wall Street's AJs. No one is forcing you to invest what isn't taxed in stocks or questionable assets. The "magic" here is solely magic of *yourself*, your own ability to make economic decisions. It does not, repeat, does not need to be spent on something dumb.

Now, for HBD reasons we might well be becoming a nation of idiots. The more people there are who can't make some decisions for themselves, the more control freaks argue that no one should be independent at all.

But we're not fully there yet.

So on the off chance that we have not completely turned into a nation of idiots already...let's try to use some intelligence here.

Medicare and Medicaid and *especially* Social Security are Ponzi schemes which cannot last. Roosevelt knew this when he started these vote buying schemes. He's on record stating that he didn't care, he just wanted to get reelected.

Today we have the first Republican with balls, the first Republican who is at least willing to take a crack at sacred cows, who is proposing a valiant if still futile trillion-odd in cuts...and you criticize him for not worrying about reelection!

This man is actually doing something CONSERVATIVE like reducing the food supply of this damn leviathan.

"Defend Medicare"? it is to laugh! We are talking about multitrillion dollar entitlement payments owed by a broke nation. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security -- they are all going to crash in fiery smoke. The only question is when.

Something is going to give. Paul Ryan is attempting to land the plane. Chances are it will run out of gas well before it hits the tarmac.

But at least he's trying to seriously reduce its altitude. Let's be real here.

jay said...

OT: The lazy black vs the hard working Asian.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/12/BALC1IUIFV.DTL

How does the SF Chronicle get away with it?

Anonymous said...

Many people do not seem to understand the medical insurance business. These companies make money by collecting premiums from healthy people. The more the better. They are not going to want to insure old people. Were they to offer profitable policies to old people, the premiums would be unaffordable. Or you'd get 'Death Panels'.

I'm sorry, it is you (and unfortunately Steve) who do not understand the medical insurance business, and by extension the medical business.

There are many layers of confusion here, so let's take a look at some facts.

1) Most people lose money on insurance, because most of the time insurance doesn't pay out more than it takes in.

2) Thus, a "good" policy is a catastrophic-coverage-only, high-deductible policy, where most payments are out of pocket. This is a policy that protects you against the downside risk, but where you lose a lot less on average.

3) This is because the purpose of insurance is to protect yourself from *catastrophe*, not to make routine purchases.

4) For example, if you went to Best Buy and whipped out your home insurance card to get a new flat screen TV, everyone would look at you as a crazy man. "Don't you know that home insurance is only for fires and floods, and not for routine purchases?"

5) And so it should be with health insurance, because you'll actually -- *provably* -- pay less with a high deductible plan for all but catastrophic conditions.

6) Indeed, the most innovative and technologically advanced areas of medicine are ambulatory areas in which people feel that markets are "ok". These are paradoxically the most trivial areas: lasik, plastic surgery, dermatology, dentistry, even veterinary medicine.

7) Why are these areas so advanced? Because people pay cash money, because they choose based on quality, and because they are *able* to choose -- i.e. they aren't being wheeled up to the hospital in a gurney in a no choice scenario.

8) Moreover, with every technology ever, from cars to cell phones to air travel to computers, things that start out expensive become cheaper when enough people demand them. With medicine it seems to bite more that money means differences in care. But at the end of the day doctors, patients, nurses, drugs, ambulances...all that stuff means real resources, and a refusal to do explicit computations just results in massive waste as costs are shunted to a place where no one looks at them.

9) How insane is it, for example, that in this age of internet shopping that you can't do comparison shopping on a hip replacement or a physical on the internet? It has to do with the irrationality that surrounds the concept of paying for the most valuable service of all: for someone saving your life.

10) Now let's consider the elderly. The big problem here is that there IS going to be a catastrophe that hits them with probability 1. It's called dying from being old.

11) If you know anything about medicine, you know that futile care is a ridiculous proportion of healthcare expenditure.

12) Now, in the abstract everyone is all about taking care of the elderly. Witness eh's bleeding heart:

"Were they to offer profitable policies to old people, the premiums would be unaffordable."

The whole point is that *old people are going to die* with probability 1. So let's take those evil capitalists are out of the question, and assume for now that no innovative entrepreneur could figure out something win/win for his own grandpa.

Anonymous said...

[cont]

Now we are in the realm of social justice. Which sounds so nice in the comments section. Until eh answers the question: how much of his children's money does eh want to spend on futile care for 83 year old Emma in Ohio? For 74 year old Bill in Texas? For countless, endless, unnamed others?

Because, eh, you can spend ALL of your money on futile care. Literally every last penny.

So now eh says, "well, of course there have to be limits".

And here we come to the nub of the matter.

This is h-bd land. We are adults. We understand hard facts.

One of those hard facts is that until Aubrey de Grey really gets on the hop, people *are* going to die.

The question is whether they die when THEY and their family run out of money -- localizing the catastrophe -- or whether every single one of them is connected to a public purse that they can draw down without consequence.

Because draw it down they will.

You see, for most of us, if our own mother was on a deathbed, if we had the ability to tax and steal from Joe and John and James to keep her alive we wouldn't think twice about it. Because even if took a million dollars in stolen tax money a day to keep her alive, well, hell, then I guess they'll just have to work harder.

The problem, of course, is when everyone thinks this way.

Because what quickly happens is that once you've given the government access to that giant pool of money, they make damned sure that no one ANYWHERE is spending that money other than them...and then too only for the express purpose of the vote-buying schemes that our esteemed host has bought hook, line, and sinker.

That money is not spent for saving any more mothers.

Not for actual care.

Not for innovative treatments.

Not for anything other than the necessary minimum to keep up the facade, to buy people's votes.

But hell, what does it matter, right? At least now we're all equal. Equally poor in health. We've defeated the Magic of the Market. We can now allocate scarce resources not through merit or money, but through queues and connections and politics.

Like this:

http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/10/17/lance-armstrong-and-bill-clinton-help-fred-baron-get-tysabri/

Biogen Idec is running an early-stage trial of the drug in multiple myeloma, but Baron doesn’t meet the criteria to participate.

Baron’s a prominent donor to the Democratic party, and many of his powerful friends, including Lance Armstrong and Bill Clinton, made appeals on his behalf. And the family agreed not to sue if anything goes wrong.

Ultimately, his doctors at the Mayo Clinic worked directly with the FDA to find a “legal basis” for giving Baron Tysabri. The deal was announced on Baron’s son’s blog late yesterday. The details remain unclear.


Fantastic work, all of you. We've now taken the profit out of health care. No more profit motive to encourage ambitious young geniuses to develop miracle drugs rather than program social networks.

Instead it's just pure politics.

Has to be said...

Yes, the horrible Bush Social Security reform. He suggested that the younger workers would have an option of investing a whooping $1,000 of their annual SS tax into a few index funds. An option, mind you. If you didn't trust Wall Street MBAs you could've elected your thousand bucks to go straight to the federal budget to be paid out as interest to the Chinese.

How'd that work out? Not that bad, actually. The Dow was at about 10,800 at the end of 2005. It's 12,380 now.

Anonymous said...

So, eh, insurance for old people is unsustainable?

Well then.

Half Sigma said...

Kudos for this blog post, and understanding the problem of assymetry of information (which causes value transference from old people to big corporations) but you will probably get a lot of hate-comments from your regular readers.

Anonymous said...

This wouldn't be so bad if the rich were solidly on the side of the GOP. GOP would at least gets lots of dough from rich guys. But it's a double whammy cuz GOP will lose the support of the masses AND because majority of very rich are Democrats(who are willing to pay more taxes cuz they raked in so much in the past 30 yrs).

Majority of the rich support Democrats cuz they can afford to. Man doesn't live on bread alone, especially if he has tons of it.
There are rich folks who support the GOP but they tend to be less rich than Democrat rich. They tend to be like Patricia Buckley: shallow, vain, self-centered, etc. They wanna pay less in taxes not for the freedom or good of all but they care ONLY about themselves.

daveg said...

The GOP also is going to hang itself on "net neutrality."

People are going to be angry when they figure out that the cable companies are just going to cut off Netflix and other competing services once they are given the green light to differentiate services.

There is nothing competitive or free about the cable market, so the idea that the marketplace will take care of this is a joke.

No voter who understands this wants it to happen. It is just the GOP doing the bidding of the cable companies.

Tino said...

OK Steve but Medicare and Medicaid are projected by the CBO to grow from 5% of GDP now to 18% of GDP in 2080.

Obama's plan to raise taxes for those making more than $250.000 would according to the CBO have raised revenue by 0.5% of GDP per year.

You would need 26 times the Obama tax increase to finance the increase in Medicare/Medicaid (assuming that raising taxes has no negative impact on the economy).

Put another way, just to cover the increase in Medicare/Medicaid the United States is required to double the Federal income tax for everybody and double the corporate income tax to 70% (again, assuming raising taxes have no negative impact on the economy).

We will be dead in 2080, but your descendants will hopefully be alive. The increase in Medicare spending each year has to be slowed.

If you don't like Ryan's suggestion, you still have to offer some suggestion how to fix the problem. You can't just ignore a looming disaster because people feel entitled as they paid (far less than the current costs) into the program.

http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/102xx/doc10297/06-25-LTBO.pdf

stari_momak said...

Indeed. Even the much vaunted Chilean retirement system has come under stress, and needs substantial subsidy from general revenues to support its lower income former worker retirees. Turns out, too, that one of the complaints about Chile is the high overhead taken by fund-managers, surprise surprise.

And its hilarious going over to 'the Corner' and reading about ain't no way, no how we can possibly raise the ceiling on SSI contributions. That's a real vote getter. Just about as successful as going after the public employees unions was for Meg Whitman, I'll bet.

There is a problem with SS, and that it its negative impact on fertility -- it would be interesting to see if we could mitigate that by, perhaps, exempting couples from Soc. Sec payments for the first five years of their careers. That would put money in their pockets to start families.

Anonymous said...

There is a strong IQ interaction here. While it is true that in general the liberal versus conservative dimension is orthogonal to IQ in the mental measurement property space (Oops I lapsed into academic speak there for a moment). I mean the left and the right are equally bright and/or stupid.

However the Republican message requires a higher IQ for it to be properly appreciated. This is a fatal flaw that will keep the Democrats around forever.

In the Roman Republic those who appealed to the stupid - demagogues - were regularly assassinated by the optimates - the best people. Swaying the masses was considered very dangerous. That business on the Ides of March is only the most famous example.

In our modern enlightened times we are forced to endure routine appeals to stupidity.

With an IQ of 85 the man on the street explains government benefits as having come from
Obama's personal stash.

At an IQ of 100 Obama can vehemently oppose spending cuts and still take credit for making those same cuts.

Even at an IQ of 115 the voter is vulnerable to appeals to compassion and "feelings". This is the intellectual range in which absurd and evil character traits can be attributed to political opponents.

But if you want to understand QE-2 or comprehend the corrosive effects of entitlements you need a higher IQ yet. This is the realm of ideas - a very sparsely inhabited realm.

Republicans aim their arguments at the right tail of the distribution. Poor babies.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

If America wants to save money, why not reduce the ridiculously high level of military spending? Why keep 700-1,000 (estimates vary, depending on definition) overseas military bases? Why not bring home the troops from South Korea? They've only been there for 61 years (sarcasm). Or Europe? Or Japan? Why not end the trade embargo against Cuba? There are many options.

Agron said...

Steve, you're going all socialist on us. Don't you know that the market will reduce costs through competition? And saying that private insurance companies seek to maximize profit at the expense of senior's health is just anti-American!

Seriously though, The Ryan plan's one redeeming feature is the attention it pays to debt and the conversation it has started about it. It does NOTHING to actually address the overall cost of health care in the U.S.;it just shifts the ever increasing, unsustainable costs from the govt. to citizens.
That's courageous?

Richard A. said...

Wait till congressional Republicans move on to immigration. Expect them to push for more guest worker visas and occupation specific immigration before they push mandatory e-verify.

The GOP does not represent its voting base; it represents its money contributors.

rob said...

Has everyone forgotten what the word insurance even means or what insurance is for? It does not not mean collective bargaining (something Republicans are not so fond of in labor markets) or set prices. Insurance is not supposed to work like a Kroger card. Insurance works for things that are very expensive and have lots of uncertainty associated. House fire? That's pretty expensive, but most houses don't burn down, so reasonable people will pay more than probability of event per year times cost of event for fire insurance. Life insurance, well the lifetime risk of death is 100%, but when you're gonna die is pretty much unknown for young, healthy people (except for intended suicides, so most life insurance doesn't pay out for suicides) and the annual risk is fairly low. When people are old, or terminally ill, life insurance is expensive.

Old sick people, sick people, the chance of being sick is much higher. Selling old people new health insurance policies, as opposed to continuing insurance that they've had for decades and would not have purchased back when if the policy couldn't be continued, is exactly what insurance is not for. It's like wanting to buy car insurance to cover the wreck you just had. Chance of wreck =100%, so the insurer has to charge more than the cost of that wreck.

The most reasonable thing to do with healthcare might be to allow people in on the negotiated prices set by insurers/govt, the Kroger card aspect, but requiring that the patient pays the full 'negotiated' amount. Whose negotiated price for what procedure/drug and where, well that's much harder. Despite Devilish details, it has a snowball's chance of working out.

For univsersal health insurance with actual insurance, mandatory lifetime payments with accrued interest is a possibility: the net tax burdens wouldn't actually pay enough money in to cover how much they cost, blood from turnips and all. The US already has a partial precedent in child support: mandatory minimum payments, accrues no matter what, and the vast majority of people paying it had no choice.

There are side benefits to mandatory health insurance payments: even the poors pay something: "you have a responsibility to take care of your child" can transfer to "you have a responsibility to your health." The regressive-ish nature of child support (min. payments regardless of income) is dandy with child support, so I see no problem for requiring everyone, regardless of income paying $X/mo for his or her own health insurance. A fantastic benefit of accruing the debt would be putting people in prison for willful nonpayment, imagine how many parasite nons we could take off the streets. Anchor babies and birth tourist citizens: finally US citizenship would carry a cost in addition to benefits. Worth thinking about, as the US becomes mostly non-whites the non-whites will need to contribute even when it's a hardship.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

What is so hard about this?

--Social safety net that provides need-based subsidy, not wholesale distortion of the pricing structures of entire industries.

--Raise Warren Buffett's taxes, or lower his secretary's.

--Defend the homeland, not King Abdullah's or Hamid Karzai's homeland.

--Competition on merit, not consanguinity with government regulators.

--Less people = higher quality of life. We need a time-out on immigration for at least the next two decades. Tell the rest of the world they can move to Canada.

The GOP and Democrats both view Americans as a non-renewable resource to be sucked dry and discarded in service to their higher, gnostic goals.

ben said...

It baffles me how you can see the budget conflict as all about race. I thought the point of this blog/HBD was to consider race as a factor, not to claim that every thing is mainly about race.

Thrasymachus said...

Mickey Kaus pretty much nailed it-

http://dailycaller.com/2011/04/09/if-you-worry-about-government-cutting-too-much/

Ryan walked right into that one. Liberals keep screaming, "You have to cut entitlements! That's where all the money is!" because of course you can 1) refuse to cut entitlements and be accused of being a phoney or 2) cut entitlements and do the Democrat's dirty work for them. The $180K equal opportunity officers will still be there in either case.

Udolpho.com said...

Let's face it: the Republican Party has to go before anything approaching sensible politics can move forward.

This party is run by sub-mental partisans who prattle about a lunatic half-libertarian, half-culture war slate of policies that don't make the slightest bit of sense. This is a party that will never represent conservative interests, yet conservatives continue to empower them, some fools actually donate money to them.

Your world is being looted by the very rich and the hopelessly dysfunctional poor. A more radical approach is needed, desperately.

Severn said...

Democrats hope to repeat the experience of 2005, in which President George W. Bush's proposal to privatize parts of Social Security proved to be a staggering miscalculation that cost his party heavily in the next year's election.

I don't think that had the slightest impact on the 2006 elections. A lot of things led to the anti-Republican backlash - the Iraq war, the sense that the GOP was becoming corrupt, Bush's constant efforts to make the US a Latin American country - but Social Security reform was not even on the public's radar, because Bush dropped the idea within a month of raising it.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Barack Obama is looking after the financial interests of his supporters - at least those who are racial minorities.

Republicans can't even be relied upon to do that. They listen to the business lobby, and the Israel lobby, and that's pretty much it.

Until Republicans begin to look after the interests of the white middle class, their support will fluctuate wildly. Eventually, thanks to policies they themselves support, it will disappear. I predict a very short tenure for the current GOP majority - it will be gone no later than 2016.

Severn said...

President Obama will call for shrinking the nation's long-term deficits by raising taxes on wealthier Americans and requiring them to pay more into Social Security, drawing a barbed contrast with a Republican plan to save money by deeply slashing Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic spending.


It's going to take a combination of the higher taxes on wealthy Americans plus the cutting of money spent on entitlement programs to get the budget balanced. If it ever does get balanced, which I tend to doubt.

We've seen a lot of countries disintegrate in the past few decades. Why is it so unimaginable to so many that this could happen here?

Geoff Matthews said...

They don't use spreadsheets anymore. They use data mining packages. And those are hard enough to master.

Anonymous said...

Well... it's still better than Dick Cheney's aim(in hunting and Iraq).

Anonymous said...

American politics:
"Two cheeks of the same ass".

Anonymous said...

Thank You Steve.

Great paragraph on Paul Ryan's proposal: "Let's throw together tax subsidies, incredibly complicated health insurance products, customers who are going senile, and corporations staffed by bright MBAs with spreadsheets. What could possibly go wrong?"

This guy Paul Ryan has never had a real job in his whole life. He's always been on the government dole since he was a speechwriter at 22 for Jack Kemp and a Congressman at 28. He's just another pro-diversity, pro-H1B Neo-con puppet.

Dave said...

"Not only that but the voucher will systematically lag behind the cost of insurance, since it's tied to GDP but medical inflation is projected to be much faster."

It's been the uncapped Medicare spending increases that have driven medical inflation. Slow the rate of government health care reimbursements and medical inflation will slow down too.

Tino said...

You can make all the cynical and ideological arguments you want to make, but math is math.

According to the CBO Medicare + Medicaid + Social Security are going to grow from 10% of GDP currently to 24% of GDP in 2080.

This is to some extent due to aging, and to some extent because these programs are designed to increase year after year at rates far above inflation.

Defense spending is 0.7 trillion per year, or about 5% of GDP, even cutting it by half will not cover the hole. Obama's plan to raise taxes on the rich would have netted 0.5% of GDP, or $0.07 trillion per year.

The combined wealth of all American billionaire's combined wealth is around $1 trillion according to Forbes.

The unfounded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security in the medium term is by contrast $19 trillion, and the permanent deficit $51 trillion according to the Medicare Trustees' Report and Social Security Trustees.

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/rpt/2010-R-0197.htm

You can cover a little of the gap by taxing the rich more and by cutting defense, but it is mathematically impossible to solve it entirely this way.

Being angry at Paul Ryan because he points out the problem is not how serious people debate or think about public policy. Do you think these trillion dollars more your government has that it doesn't have vanish if you make a snide remark?

RS said...

Sailer, you get funnier and dryer by the year.

Anonymous said...

They don't call them the "Gay Old Pedophiles" for no reason.

Peter A said...

"There is no sense in which a government run mandatory "investment" vehicle is a safer investment than money in your own pocket. $1000 of fixed income Social Security means nothing when the government can inflate away the currency. $1000 in your pocket can be converted to Gold or Renminbi or CHF."

True, if you're an intelligent person who plans ahead. Big if. Libertarianism is a great philosophy for a country where everyone has an IQ over 105. Unfortunately we don't live in that country. Your proposal would basically doom millions old people to lives of dire poverty with no health care. Means testing medicare would make more sense than what we have now, but as a society we don't want to recognize that a significant number of Americans aren't really capable of fending for themselves in the post-Industrial age. Basically, our economy has now outstripped our average IQ.

Whiskey said...

I'd agree and add that a naked spoils battle over who gets paid what is a winner for Republicans. Because as you say funding K-12 and Welfare for non-Whites means gutting Social Security for an aging White population.

By all means, let us fight NOW over paying Social Security to those who paid into it (a covenant) or breaking the covenant because "we just don't like icky old White people."

Your point about Wall Street is well taken.

What this idiocy has to do with Israel is beyond me. Gutting Social Security/Medicare is akin to ... supporting Israel? Huh? At some point paleocons will have to stop blaming Israel for everything.

TangoMan said...

Tino is right - the math can't be avoided.

Steve is right - the senior bloc will vote to punish those who threaten to deprive them of their entitlement.

The gambit here can be broken down into two pieces.

1.) Is now the time to have a realistic debate on what shall be done?

2.) Will the public respond to solutions which hurt or will they respond to lies masquerading as solutions which are promised not to hurt?

As Mark Steyn notes, "the future belongs to those who show up for it" and if the Republicans are banking on the public being ready to honestly address this problem and they misread the public mood, then it will be the Democrats who inherit the political landscape of the future. The problem doesn't go away, it's just that the public today may favor clinging to a dream offered by the Democrats and shooting the Republican messenger and in the future they're going to have to count on Democrats addressing the problem.

At some point the problem will have to be addressed because the math will no longer offer any means of escape or delay.

Anonymous said...

Social Security and Medicare are immoral programs, basically power-grabbing schemes designed by leftists, funded by generational theft, to manipulate people who don't know any better?

Unfortunately, this is probably most people. But why would any conservative want to save them?

I think Bismarck was the first politician to understand that most people can be fooled into surrendering almost anything for a pittance, as long as it seems like a "sure thing" or "free" or "what I'm owed".

As a society we are suffering tremendously because we forgot that the best retirement program is to have 6 children and teach them how to be prosperous and then stay on the good side or at least a few of them.

Anonymous said...

I think we might as well face it.

The current political elite is going to try to use the unproductive in this country (retired people and leftists in general) to soak the productive ...

It's all going to explode some time, but perhaps not for a while yet. However, when it does the fireworks are going to be fun and will put Kosovo to shame.

Munch said...

I have a proposal. Allow prople to opt out of Medicare. Not just the young - anyone. After all if you are 55 you paid into the system for 35 years and haven't taken a penny out. Then you can purchase private insurance.

Allow those of us willing to deal with the "difficulty" of having choices about our prchases have choices. Allow those of us who think the scheme is not realistic and will not provide for our care in the future to opt out.

IMHO, it's not a coincidence that the three areas the federal government tried most to protect people from basic economic forces, health care, higher education and housing, experienced huge price increases due to federal largesse.

Mencius Moldbug said...

Udolpho rocks.

Anonymous said...

What a depressing thread. And here I thought HBD aware people were more rational. Some like Tino know what's up. Steve and many commenters seem to be like those old women with signs: "keep your government hands off my Medicare!"

So, so sad. No one really cares about the health of the Republic, no much how much they write about citizenism, when a redistributionary check is at stake. A warning for future peoples who will build on our rubble: once you expand the recipient class, there's no going back.

Polistra said...

Ditto Severn. I've been following politics very closely in this decade, and I hardly noticed Bush's SS proposal. It came and went in one day. Congress hardly noticed it, either. Uninformed voters didn't even hear about it.

The 2006 defeat was mainly from a sense that the R's were just sitting there doing absolutely nothing. Nothing about Iraq, nothing about terrorism, nothing about immigration, nothing about ANY of the issues they had promised to work on.

We had given them all of the branches, and they completely missed their chance.

Crawfurdmuir said...

What hasn't been discussed here is how third-party payments tend to inflate health care costs. The effect is comparable to that of governmental or quasi-governmental efforts to bring about "affordable housing," which merely served to inflate the bubble faster and to a larger size before it finally burst.

Anyone who, in the days of rag paper and quill pen, suggested that a doctor should employ a bookkeeper for every eight patients he treated, would have been thought daft. Doctors used to see patients in one-man offices or in consulting rooms in their homes. Today they have to pool their resources in huge clinical practices in order to afford the clerical support they need.

The physician I see works at such a clinic, and it has more clerks in its employ than it does doctors, nurses, and lab technicians combined. What gives rise to the need for all those clerks? The third-party payers, both public and private, whose bureaucratic procedures require them. One bureaucracy has created another in its mirror image. The cost is passed on to the consumer indirectly, through higher premiums or taxes.

Politicians have been complaining about the high cost of medical care ever since office calls were $3 and house calls were $6. See how much good they have done!

Anonymous said...

You can make all the cynical and ideological arguments you want to make, but math is math.

According to the CBO Medicare + Medicaid + Social Security are going to grow from 10% of GDP currently to 24% of GDP in 2080.

None of todays retirees are going to be around in 2080. Hell, I'm not retired and I won't be around. I'm sure the same is true for every other reader of this blog.

Political math is political math. And the political math says that the GOP should first take power (using the votes of those old white people) and then make changes to Social Security and the other entitlements which won't take effect for another dozen years or so.

Political math also says that the GOP should start raising taxes on all those rich people, who happen to be reliable Democratic voters.

Syncretism said...

This is why capital "L" Libertarianism scares the shit out of me. Its sycophants trust too much in the sanctity of the free market, even when they know how much of an unfair disaster the insurance industry in the US is.

Government-run programs may be the salt of the Earth among most who frequent this corner of the internet, but at least they have a shadow of accountability. Corporations--especially ones peddling insurance--are about as unaccountable and insidious as tyrannies come.

David Davenport said...

But Ryan says those 55 and older will see no change in Medicare. That might keep the old folks on the team.

He means those currently over 55.

Our three policy options are going bankrupt, eliminating health care for most seniors and rationing by wealth, or making the health care system more efficient.

There is also policy option #4, which is to stop the flood of poor people washing over the USA. Some of them may be young now, but they'll get old eventually.

...Worth thinking about, as the US becomes mostly non-whites the non-whites will need to contribute even when it's a hardship.

If those non-whites are allowed to vote, they'll vote for more welfare, more socialism, and more deficit spending.

Worth thinking about.

I have a proposal. Allow prople to opt out of Medicare. Not just the young - anyone. After all if you are 55 you paid into the system for 35 years and haven't taken a penny out. Then you can purchase private insurance.

Or if you need expensive medical procedures, you can plead poverty, and count on the pity of others to help you out.

Your argument is the "Why should I have to wear a motorcycle helmet? I promise to pay my own way if injured" argument.

///////////////////////

No one here seems to think that the cost of good quality health care can ever decrease or be dis-inflated.

Is it really impossible to lower the cost/quality ratio of American health care?

ricpic said...

The socialist "solution" is to kill the old; the capitalist solution is to overcharge them: not much of a contest.

Anonymous said...

So, so sad. No one really cares about the health of the Republic...

I think "the Republic" died a long time ago.

kudzu bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

The rational solution is to phase out Medicare starting, not with the old, but with the young.

Are you forty or below this year? Then you get nothing. Sorry. But, you don't have to pay in any longer.

Are you between forty and fifty this year? You'll get half of what you put in. Sorry. But, you don't have to pay in any longer.

Are you between fifty and sixty this year? 75%.

Are you over sixty this year? We love you and won't touch your check.

That gets rid of the program without much upsetting people who vote.

But you ask, where will the money to pay the oldsters come from, if the youngsters are no longer required to pay in?

Answer: the government eats the cost. It wouldn't be much. It wouldn't even have to come out of new taxes. Just have one less overseas adventure per decade, and the thing pays for itself. Call it the best peace dividend we ever had.

Instead, the GOP goes for the throat of its base. Again.

(PS. Some elements of this plan are roughly taken from a similar plan proposed by one of the libertarian economists, George Reisman.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry for sidetracking the thread, but would love to see Steve comment on this new Vanity Fair article.
LINK:
Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Anonymous said...

Projecting things 10 years ahead is necessarily a shady, i.e. not entirely honest, business. Projecting things to 2080 is comedy. We don't know what technologies are going to be available then, what the economic and political environment is going to be like. There could be organs growing on demand in test tubes (has the CBO projected their cost?) or there could be a post-nuclear-Armageddon wasteland all over the world. I think that one of the prerequisites for an intelligent conversation about this is a lack of any mentions of 2080.

David said...

>Yes, the horrible Bush Social Security reform.[...] How'd [it] work out? Not that bad, actually. The Dow was at about 10,800 at the end of 2005. It's 12,380 now.<

This post hoc howler is typical of the average GOP voter's mentality level, one reason we're in such trouble. I agree with Albertosaurus but would emphasize that the man in the street doesn't have to be an Undecided, an Independent, or a Democrat. Yes, it's as bad as that. Churchill reportedly said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." I don't know that anyone would make a good dictator, though, not even Churchill.

Olave d'Estienne said...

Yeah, everyone's pretty sure the GOP is directing the wrong amount of attention at cutting entitlements. Chris Roach thinks it's too little attention, you think it's too much.

I shouldn't complain, at least it's a break from Israel-and-abortion.

Olave d'Estienne said...

This is why capital "L" Libertarianism scares the shit out of me. Its sycophants trust too much in the sanctity of the free market, even when they know how much of an unfair disaster the insurance industry in the US is. - Syncretism

I'm not a libertarian, but I'm pretty sure insurance isn't a free market even by my standards. Medicare and Medicaid artificially drug prices for everyone. Health insurance companies don't compete.

Luke Lea said...

"If America wants to save money, why not reduce the ridiculously high level of military spending?"

Really. I saw an estimate that when you include everything related to defense and national security it tops a trillion dollars annually -- 1.2 trillion is the figure I saw. And most of it wasted. The Center for Defense Information has a book out called The Pentagon Labyrinth. C-span has covered it. (What are we going to do when Brian dies? There will be some weeping then!)

Thripshaw said...

Steve probably just dashed this post off in a few minutes without a great deal of thought, but it shows how wise he is compared to the fools in the leadership positions of the GOP.

This must be why professional Republican hemlock administrator Bill Kristol proposed a Ryan-Rubio ticket for 2012 on TV this weekend. Let’s get the GOP to commit suicide by advocating the suicide of its white voting base!

Ryan is an Ayn Rand worshipping neocon puppet with zero common sense.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, in what meaningful ways are Republicans different from Democrats these days? From what I can tell, from about 2000 (election of Bush) onward, the main difference has been on business issues (Republicans are more pro-tax cut, pro-free trade, pro-deregulation, pro-Wall Street) and war. Cut taxes, bomb Iran. If you're not a rich businessman or a member of the Likud party, you're shut out.

You've got people like Sheldon Adelson and the Bushes crafting Republican party policy, while Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanan are fringe figures.

none of the above said...

As best I can tell, Ryan's proposal, much like Obama's final no-public-option health scheme, is mainly a demonstration that insurance company lobbyists are really good at their jobs.

The critical issue is cost control. If we can't get the cost inflation of medicine under control in our country, Medicare will eventually eat the whole budget.

Thus far, Medicare has done better at cost control than private insurance companies. This kind of makes sense, because they're the biggest player in the market, and almost everyone has to deal with them. They still haven't done well enough, but they've done better than the private companies.

Given that fact, it's hard to see why moving from the existing Medicare scheme to a new scheme in which private insurance companies take over on behalf of Medicare will make things any better. Those companies can't keep costs down as well as Medicare now, why will they become more capable of doing that in another 20 years?

The only ways we really know how to do cost control well involve negotiating harder on prices (something Medicare can definitely do--we'd be negotiating on drug prices if drug company lobbyists weren't almost as effective as insurance company lobbyists), and declining to pay for some treatments because they're either not likely to help much, or they're too expensive.

On the first one, Medicare just wins hands down--the bigger player is going to do a better job, and that's borne out by what's happened so far. On the second one, this is what Sarah Palin decried as "death panels."

Broadly, deciding on cost effectiveness is going to happen either in the open, or behind closed doors. There's no way for anyone to pay for medical care and not decide what they will and won't cover. If we do it in Medicare, we probably get to have most of it happen out in the open. If we do it via private insurance companies, we probably have most of it happen behind closed doors--there's not a public document somewhere that says "Medicare will no longer pay for bypass surgery in people with terminal cancer," there's some set of secret algorithms used to decide which request to deny. (Historically, health insurance companies have had all kinds of smarmy tricks for strategically denying claims, including giving their employees a quota of claims to deny per day.)

One of the really ugly things about this whole debate is the way that the interests of different people are more or less sacred, depending on how much money they spend on campaign contributions, PR campaigns, hiring spouses of important congressmen as board members or consultants, lobbyists, etc.

none of the above said...

This graph shows Defense at 20% of last year's federal budget, about the same scale as Medicare. For 2010, our deficit is about as big as Medicare + Defense, which is kinda appropriate.

If we cut our defense budget to half its current level (only outspending China 3:1, not 6:1), we'd cut our deficit by a quarter.

Anonymous said...

How about cutting all the other social welfare programs before they get to Social Security and Medicare? How about cutting back these endlessly increasing budgets for intelligence and law enforcement? How about scaling back some defense spending. What difference will it make anyway? The dumb GOP will nominate Palin and that will ensure another four years of leftist Dems in power.

Anonymous said...


As best I can tell, Ryan's proposal, much like Obama's final no-public-option health scheme, is mainly a demonstration that insurance company lobbyists are really good at their jobs.


Regulatory capture ... each government department is the plaything of really big business. Just look at GE and the EPA.

Baloo said...

While the Democrats are pretty much the anti-business and pro-Israel party.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. You're right Steve. You need to give up on Republicans and understand who they are. They don't care about elections, they don't care about social issues, they don't care about the average American.

They care about helping big business and making sure the well-to-do stay well-to-do and pay as little tax as possible.

That's why they can't help themselves when it comes to illegal immigration or social security. They look at all that cheap labor and go crazy. They look at all that $$$ going to old people and it makes them angry. Why not just cut off the seniors and cut capital gains tax?

Prediction: Romney will be nominated and Lose. Big time.

Anonymous said...

"Thus, a "good" policy is a catastrophic-coverage-only, high-deductible policy, where most payments are out of pocket. This is a policy that protects you against the downside risk, but where you lose a lot less on average."

Why can't we just have a nonprofit company(Blue Cross) or a single payer do this instead of making the weasels at for profit health insurance company rich. They don't do anything anyway except skim money off of the premiums and give less back to the consumers. We don't need executives making 30-40 mil a year to do that.

beowulf said...

You guy sound like a bunch of global warming activists with your vapors over the deficit. The US dollar is, effectively, the world's gold standard and our government owns the only gold mine.
http://pragcap.com/resources/understanding-modern-monetary-system

Like Macauluy said, nothing matters very much and few things matter at all. So long as the economy is operating at less than than full employment (which it hasn't reached at least since the Korean War), the budget deficit is not one of them.

ben tillman said...

What a depressing thread. And here I thought HBD aware people were more rational. Some like Tino know what's up. Steve and many commenters seem to be like those old women with signs: "keep your government hands off my Medicare!"

That's not it at all. Like almost everything else the imperial government does, health care for the elderly should be decentralized. And at some point, old folks have a duty to themselves and their children to stop consuming and leave some resources behind for their descendants.

Accordingly, in a genuine community, the amount of resources devoted to health care for the elderly would be reduced significantly, and the amount paid by the central government would be reduced to zero.

The US, however, is not a community. To the extent that wasteful healthcare expenditures are eliminated, the money will not be returned to the productive; it will be transferred to others hostile to us. And given the immigration invasion, we must preserve our elderly and their votes. Moreover, exorbitant healthcare expenditures are the kind of thing that may have the salutary effect of crashing the system.

Anonymous said...

"This is why capital "L" Libertarianism scares the shit out of me. Its sycophants trust too much in the sanctity of the free market, even when they know how much of an unfair disaster the insurance industry in the US is.'

Health insurance companies are a joke.

Anonymous said...

"As a society we are suffering tremendously because we forgot that the best retirement program is to have 6 children and teach them how to be prosperous and then stay on the good side or at least a few of them"

Everbody can't have 6 kids forever. I don't know if we can take 60 billion people on the planet.

Thripshaw said...

Thank you for the laugh, Baloo. Spot on!

Weakly Standard / interNational Review slogan for 2012: “Let the Republicans balance the budget on the backs of their voting base.”

Great strategy.

coldequation said...

I saw this coming. That's why I only voted for Republicans who had received A's from Numbers USA, or who had thrown out some real red meat. That amounted to two candidates out of the 15 or so on the ballot (counting all of the statewide and local races).

If more conservatives did this, maybe the GOP would be more than a party that looks out for business interests. They take our votes for granted because they get away with it.

none of the above said...

This blog post links to a paper (I've downloaded it but haven't read it yet) describing the transition of the parties over the last couple decades, which made them both much more sensitive to the demands of big money donors, and much more centralized in terms of party discipline.

If you want to understand people, the ideas they express sometimes matter (but not so much when they have an incentive to lie about what they believe), but their incentives and decisionmaking structures are always important.

TGGP said...

As a young man, I hope they put principle before politics and stop sending my money to old people.

AmericanGoy said...

I like how Steve-o still thinks that the Republican high leadership has the interests of (white?) Americans at heart.

I can assure all and sundry, that the GOP in its present form is all about maximizing the revenue of the 1% who rule this country.

This is achieved by feeding as much money to the monster "free market" from the middle class as possible.

To that end, everything will be privatized.

Think Cochabamba's water supply, and apply this model to everything and sundry in this country.

Yes, my blog spam, sue me:
http://americangoy.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-capitalism-and-aid-money-really.html

Anonymous said...

Government-run programs may be the salt of the Earth
among most who frequent this corner of the internet, but at
least they have a shadow of accountability. Corporations--
especially ones peddling insurance--are about as unaccountable as they come.


This is exactly backwards.

Your vote means nothing. You have literally zero influence over the political process relative to the person who writes the headlines on Election Day. You have no say in how much is extracted at gunpoint from you in the form of taxes.

Government is *completely* unaccountable. Agencies never go bankrupt and almost never have layoffs. If they screw up they're still in line for budget increases year after year. Their "customers" are the media and politicians, which is why agencies like the FDA have more than a dozen full time PR agents working to convince you that their safety theater is keeping you safe (nevermind the backscatter scanners they fasttracked).

By contrast, if you don't like a company's service you vote with your wallet. In a real market like we used to have, that meant bankruptcy if enough people voted against the company and took their money elsewhere.

Re: the specific issue of insurance companies, there is no free market in insurance. It's a massively regulated field and the whole concept of third party payment and FDA regulations on top of that multiplies the cost manyfold. The solution for cost control is real simple: fee for service. Cut out the middleman and cut out the govt.

SouthernAnonyia said...

"So, so sad. No one really cares about the health of the Republic, no much how much they write about citizenism, when a redistributionary check is at stake. A warning for future peoples who will build on our rubble: once you expand the recipient class, there's no going back."

Anyone who has paid into the system deserves their check, period. And no, I do not really care about the fate of the Republic anymore considering it will be barely recognizable by the time I'm middle-aged. I care about looking after me and my own; don't fall into the same trap as Libertarians everywhere, and mistake ideology for reality.
The white middle class is being milked for all their worth, wake up.

Wandrin said...

http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105?currentPage=1

"Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role.."

There's always the unmentioned explanation based on the law of supply and demand as it relates to wages and unlimited mass immigration. Wages driven down by immigration and then topped up through the welfare system paid for by the broader middle class equals a massive transfer of wealth to the top 1%.

As would the Republican proposal to extract the accumulated wealth of elderly white Americans and put it in their own pockets.

Anonymous said...

The GOP needs to understand who its voters are, and what their financial interests are. It then needs to - drumroll please - look after those interests.

Its voters are the broad middle of whites. They aren't poor, and they aren't rich. They are people who work for a living in non-government jobs. They're far less likely to use government welfare, or to want to. They have children - inside of marriage. They try to behave responsibly, to stay out of legal trouble, to have children the right way. They generally pay taxes - maybe not much, but they're disproportionately not among those who pay nothing at all.

In contrast, the Democrats occupy the extreme ends of the bell curve - the far left and the far right. They are welfare parasites and billionaires. Cities like Baltimore and Detroit might be reliably Democratic, but so are San Francisco, Manhattan, and the richest counties in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado (see Sun Valley, Park City, Jackson Hole, Aspen, Vail, and the counties they're in).

1) Enforce immigration laws. This will raise wages and improve work opportunities for the white middle class. It will make it easier for white working class parents to find affordable homes in decent neighborhoods.

2) Support cap gains and estate tax increases as part of the bargain to cut the deficit.

3) Get more people onto the tax rolls.

4) Stop subsidizing out-of-wedlock births.

5) When entitlements have to be cut, cut across the board (i.e., 3% for everyone), not simply the maximum benefits.

6) Cut the discretionary spending (i.e., the bureaucracy). This means fewer people working for the government.

Wandrin said...

"Seriously, in what meaningful ways are Republicans different from Democrats these days?"

The Democrat elite take money from the private-sector middle class and use it to bribe Democrat voters.

The Republican elite take money from the private-sector middle class and give it to Republican campaign donors.

none of the above said...

beowulf:

There is not some promise from God that says that the US dollar will always be the world's reserve currency, or that US treasury securities will always be where investors go for safety. That which can't go on forever eventually stops, and that's as true of deficit spending as it is of unsustainable medical cost inflation.

Pretending this isn't a problem is foolish, in much the same way that pretending that limited oil supplies, impending huge demographic changes, and global warming aren't a problem is foolish.

Ash said...

Steve wants to keep the Ponzi schemes going? WTF?

Luke Lea said...

Quoting None of the Above: "This graph shows Defense at 20% of last year's federal budget, about the same scale as Medicare. For 2010, our deficit is about as big as Medicare + Defense, which is kinda appropriate."

Below is a link to the $1.2 Trillion figure I mentioned previously. That would put total Defense-related spending closer to 40% of the federal budget. How much of that is really for defense? How much is wasted? How much is spent on useless, unpopular, unwinnable, chickenhawk wars?

The American people have traditionally not been big into the military. Nor into Empire. It's time to attack this Republican sacred cow, starting with that Eisenhower quote:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Luke Lea said...

Sorry, forgot that link on total Defense spending:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/01/opinion/main20038078.shtml

Luke Lea said...

US Empire of Bases 2.0: Does the Pentagon Really Have 1,180 Foreign Bases?

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/01/opinion/main20038078.shtml

Or maybe it's only 700. It's hard to count:

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=U.S._military_bases_overseas

Seriously, the American people will not support this kind of shit. The Republican party might be wise to return to its isolationism of yore -- or if not the Republicans then some new wing of the Democrats. America Come Home fits on a bumper sticker. The platform?

Bring Our Troops Home
Immigration Moratorium
20% Tariff on Chinese Imports


I stole that last plank from this priceless rant:

http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/04/jobs-jobs-jobs-why-nobody-including-obama-will-do-a-damn-thing-about-them-plus-six-common-sense-solu.html#more

Reg Cæsar said...

I was in kneepants at the time, but I vaguely remember that Medicare was passed by the same LBJ-FDR-SSA landslide Congress that also gave us the Vietnam War, the still-regnant Immigration Act, and the Civil Rights (w/o Responsibilities) Act.

How did those work out for us?

Some wise/cynical/same-thing-anyway old Frenchman said that once the gates to the Treasury are opened, they will never be closed without gunfire.

Separation of welfare and state!

beowulf said...

None of the above,
Until the rest of the world stops providing us real goods as imports in exchange for IOUs printed by our government, we should let it ride (the $500 billion or so annual trade deficit, I mean). Our trading partners know that we can eliminate our trade deficit overnight simply by imposing tariffs (and then using the new tariff revenue to fund a payroll tax cut of like amount) so its not exactly a sword of Damocles hanging over us.

I have nothing against a balanced budget, but that can only happen when we're nearing full employment (last time it was balanced, in 2000, U3 rate went to 3.8%, the time before, 1968, 3.5%). Get people back to work and the budget deficit takes care of itself.

James Kabala said...

Isn't the Ryan plan already close to David's proposal? No one born before 1957 will be affected by the Ryan plan.

beowulf said...

Wow there are some amazingly D-U-M comments on this thread, just to point out what I thought was obvious, there is no free market in healthcare. The whole sector is one damn market failure piled on another. In particular, the idea of private health insurance is nuts, that it still exists is a testament to the wonders of public corruption. It could not last onewithout the tax subsidies and other special favors (cough-- antitrust exemption). Among industrialized countries, The US has lower than average life expectancy, lower than average number of annual doctor visits, with the highest percentage of uninsured citizens all while spending more than any other country. This chart is almost as vivid (and tragic) as the one showing Napoleon's army in Russia.
http://baselinescenario.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/health_spending_graph.gif

Since ultimately the healthy subsidize the sick and nobody wants to pay for coverage until they need it, its a classic collective action/ free riding problem. The solution is obvious and is the one we've used for decades, if not centuries, for for police, fire and primary education, universal services funded by universaltaxes (whether single payer coverage of private providers with like with Medicare or a single govt provider coverage like with VA hospitals). Any "solution" won't short of that won't do a damn thing to change that ugly graph at the link.

Dave said...

"Until the rest of the world stops providing us real goods as imports in exchange for IOUs printed by our government, we should let it ride (the $500 billion or so annual trade deficit, I mean). Our trading partners know that we can eliminate our trade deficit overnight simply by imposing tariffs (and then using the new tariff revenue to fund a payroll tax cut of like amount) so its not exactly a sword of Damocles hanging over us."

The problem is that by the time they're no longer willing to take our scrip, we may no longer have the industrial capacity to make the stuff we want domestically.

Anonymous said...

"whether single payer coverage of private providers with like with Medicare"

Genius, Medicare is going bankrupt due to cost explosion.

Anonymous said...

As long as the discourse pertains to a bunch of "Kwanservatives" debating "the numbers" we are doomed. "Blood and Soil" is the only way out.



Screw the numbers.

--Duncan Idaho

beowulf said...

"Genius, Medicare is going bankrupt due to cost explosion."

Flattery will get you nowhere darling, but thank you.
Medicare has had a lower medical cost inflation rate over the last 30 years than private insurance.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/medicarephigrowth.jpg

The Commonwealth Fund studied 10 healthcare reform bills in 2009, the only one that reduced National Health Expenditures the very first year was the Medicare-based Americare bill, it wasn't even close.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2452/3620513241_9ccd0ef24d.jpg

Oh and only one plan studied covered 100% of the US population, I'll let you guess which.
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3051/3621332352_e59039da4f.jpg

Anonymous said...

"The solution for cost control is real simple: fee for service. Cut out the middleman and cut out the govt."

So when the 300,000 dollar bill comes for your cancer treatment over many years you are just going to pay it or take out a loan? There should be a health tax on wages and maybe goods that will be put into a pool of money and only used for that. We would know how much we are paying and how much we are spending by looking at the tax rate and the money in the pool each year. If we need to spend a little more money one year, there will just be a deficit. The law will not allow the deficit to grow too much without a raise in taxes.Anybody can go to any doctor they want. You could rate doctors by cost and if people went to them they could get a bonus check.That's the best way to do it, especially if you want everyone covered. I am all for kicking out immigrants, which we are paying for now anyway. Other countries spend less than us now, so we are not saving money in a for profit system.

David Davenport said...

The American people have traditionally not been big into the military. Nor into Empire.

So, the palefaces' aquisition of North America, including erstwhile parts of Mexico, didn't require any miliary stuff or violence or empire building?

The solution is obvious and is the one we've used for decades, if not centuries, for for police, fire and primary education, universal services funded by universaltaxes (whether single payer coverage of private providers with like with Medicare or a single govt provider coverage like with VA hospitals).

What about all the American peepul, including undocumented workers, who are too poor to pay their fair share of your universal taxes? How are you going to extract money from the poor?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

I fully accept the fact that reining in Medicare may be essential to balancing the budget. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is telling my parents and my grandmother that their healthcare services will have to be cut while we are still sending annually $2 billion to Egypt, $3 billion to Israel, and $7 billion to Africa (via PEPFAR).

You learn about the GOP's true loyalties by watching which constituents they will and won't shaft; by paying attention to the issues they push and those they ignore. The deficit reduction package gives us no new taxes on the rich, and no cuts in aid to Israel, but cuts funding for the border fence by $226 million. Immigration enforcement was the first issue they were willing to yield on.

Udolpho.com said...

So, the palefaces' aquisition of North America, including erstwhile parts of Mexico, didn't require any miliary stuff or violence or empire building?

Beyond the awkward deployment of "erstwhile", it's stupid to say that claiming arguably unsettled wilderness is the same as conquered fully developed nations. Really a mediocre troll.

none of the above said...

Duncan:

Actually governing anything bigger than a popsicle stand requires that the people running things concern themselves with the numbers. To the extent voters want to be part of deciding what sort of government we want, we'd better know how our representatives are going to handle the numbers. Otherwise, political discussions have the feel of discussions about technology on Star Trek. ("We've modulated the warp field to clenistrate the neutrino flux, Captain!")

Anonymous said...

None of the above...

It sounds like you envision a clean and painless "technocratic" shift to the next stage of Western History is possible. Your comment about the popsicle stand also indicates that you are really worried that we will not be able to maintain the "scale" of the current paradigm. My point and I believe Udolpho believes this as well is that the scale is not sustainable.

Yes, numbers matter, but when your effort to keep the system running are bound to be futile, the specific numbers don't matter. Who's to say there will even be 300 million people left in North America in 50 years?

Static quantitative analysis of a dying system is truly a waste of time.

--Duncan Idaho

Anonymous said...

I don't know Steve, you are still pretty @#$# smart, ya know, even with grey hair. I'll hedge my bets and keep reading you over the WSJ.

beowulf said...

What about all the American peepul, including undocumented workers, who are too poor to pay their fair share of your universal taxes
Everybody pays Medicare FICA from dollar one of wage income (and starting in 2013, capital income above $250k), I wrote "universal taxes" because for all I care, we could switch to a national sales tax. The point of "universal services" is the FBI doesn't demand proof of kidnapping insurance before they start looking for an abducted child.

I do take your point about illegals. If you want to tie liberals up in knots, make them choose between open borders and universal healthcare. Mandatory E-Verify for police,employers and landlords while eliminating Medicare's 65+ age restriction... contingent on completion of double fencing from Brownsville to San Diego. The Wall Street Journal would have two reasons to hate the law. :o)

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is still the same.

The stupid/violent need to have fewer kids and the smart/peaceful more. Then you don't have these problems.

We need to cut defense, Medicaid, immigration and bureaucracy, and education, because these decrease the amount of money productive people have to care for their healthy attractive smart kids and they funnel money to the less productive to produce more ugly fat stupid violent kids.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the main problem with the NHS(or the "single-payer" "private" contractor version) solution for the US is that the "middle class" is highly averse to the idea of spending many hours in waiting rooms in close proximity to illegal aliens, welfare recipients, junkies and gangbangers.

Also one big system for 320 million or so people is probably unworkable due to the "scale" problems that Udolpho likes to talk about. The US needs to broken up into smaller, more manageable units.

Anonymous said...

"Since ultimately the healthy subsidize the sick and nobody wants to pay for coverage until they need it, its a classic collective action/ free riding problem."


Even so, it works better when the folks are on average, healthier, more conscientious, less violent and thinner.

Sword said...

Anonymous #whatever wrote:
------
The bottom line is still the same.

The stupid/violent need to have fewer kids and the smart/peaceful more. Then you don't have these problems.
-------

An idea that I have been wondering about for some time:


Would it be possible to pay select young women to have hysterectomies, before they have kids?

Under such a program, poor latinas and AA girls would get some serious cash, a million bucks or per person if nulliparous, less if mother-of-one. Think about it - core democrat voters get a big pile of goodies, and their percentage of the population in one generation on goes down. Meanwhile, average IQ goes up

What is not to like?

Now, for the problem of getting it through congress.

travis said...

Sigh. You're right Steve. You need to give up on Republicans and understand who they are. They don't care about elections, they don't care about social issues, they don't care about the average American.

Expecting the GOP to solve the problems of White America is like expecting an arsonist to put out a fire. Thomas Dixon published his novel on the Radical Reconstruction, The Leopard Spots, later made into the movie Birth of a Nation, in 1902. He placed the following words about the Republican Party in the mouth of a South Carolina preacher/prophet:

"Why (do I hate the Republican Party)? Simply because the Negro is with a ballot in his hands he is a menace to civilization. The Republican party placed him here. The name Republican will stink in the South for a century, not because they beat us in war, but because two years after the war, in profound peace, they inaugurated a second war on the unarmed people of the South, butchering the starving, the wounded, the women and the children. God in heaven, will I ever forget the day they murdered my mother! Their attempt to establish with the bayonet an African barbarism on the ruins of Southern society was a conspiracy against human progress. It was the blackest crime of the nineteenth century."

Truth said...

"Beyond the awkward deployment of "erstwhile", it's stupid to say that claiming arguably unsettled wilderness is the same as conquered fully developed nations.'

It was settled, that's why we have reservations.

none of the above said...

Anonymous 4/14/11 7:00 AM:

Perhaps you haven't been to an emergency room in the last decade? Most of us middle-class white guys who have been have noticed that the ER is, in fact, pretty full of poor-looking people of all colors waiting to see a doctor.

Some are seriously ill. Some are panicky over nothing, for good or bad reasons. Some are using the ER as a free clinic that can't charge them (they're judgment proof) or turn them away.

Around here, most of the people waiting in the ER who aren't deathly ill or obviously sporting broken bones or something are pretty poor, because there are lots of late-night for-pay clinics, and anyone sensible would rather take their flu-ridden kid to the late-night clinic (where they charge your insurance and see you now) than the ER (where they may see you in a couple hours, unless it's a busy night--but since they've got genuine emergencies coming in, you're always subject to being bumped by the guy having a heart attack or the nasty car wreck).

David Davenport said...

"Beyond the awkward deployment of "erstwhile", it's stupid to say that claiming arguably unsettled wilderness is the same as conquered fully developed nations.'

Do you agree with me that large tracts of beach front and/or ocean view land in Baja California south of the city of TJ are arguably unsettled wilderness, ripe for Americans to homestead?

Anonymous said...

"Around here, most of the people waiting in the ER who aren't deathly ill or obviously sporting broken bones or something are pretty poor, because there are lots of late-night for-pay clinics, and anyone sensible would rather take their flu-ridden kid to the late-night clinic (where they charge your insurance and see you now) than the ER"


Twice, I, middle aged prosperous looking white woman went into a crowded ER of indigents and was promptly seen and treated. Once, I had meningitis, and they got me into a room before my butt had a chance to warm a chair in the waiting room. I got a spinal tap and CT scan within an hour of arrival. I was there four days on IV antibiotics. Another time I came in with a toddler I only suspected had ingested antihistamines. Didn't wait more than 15 minutes. Into a room and onto an ekg monitor.

The ER folks can spot $ and medical emergencies vs. poor folks with nowhere to go and no real issues. I think they let them wait because they figure x% will feel better and leave.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"It was settled, that's why we have reservations."

Truth, are you settled in your chair and ready to read this? Mind you, by "settled" I don't mean wandering around your house, looking for your eyeglasses.

America was not intensely cultivated, like most of Eurasia had been for millenia. That's why the American Indians were overrun: almost everywhere in the world, when farmers came into contact with nomads, the nomads either adapted or lost. It's just that in North America the contact came much later than in Eurasia, and so it's well documented.

Truth, neither you nor I have any real appreciation of what life was like in the 17th-19th centuries. Most people farmed for a living. It's how they fed their families. If you didn't farm, you didn't eat. Today if you're hungry you go to the refigerator, or the pantry, where shit can sit there and remain edible for months, or years. If there's no food in there, you go to the grocery store. If you have no cash you use a credit card. If not even that, you use food stamps. If you have neither of those you go to the food bank or a soup kitchen. Good luck getting by that way in 1750.

All that free time allows us to sit on our asses and, between porn flicks, judge our evil predeccesors from the 18th Century. They conquered this land, but not so much militarily as by pushing aside people who hadn't really settled it to begin with.

Settlement doesn't mean "people living in the area, moving around a lot." It means farms, roads, buildings, and other fixed structures. The Indians had very few of those, therefore it wasn't settled. Lightly populated, yes; settled, no.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"The ER folks can spot $ and medical emergencies vs. poor folks with nowhere to go and no real issues. I think they let them wait because they figure x% will feel better and leave."

Not my experience in ERs. The last 2 times I had to go I waited ca. 1-2 hours each. They took patients in order of arrival, unless it was an extreme emergency. Your mileage may vary.

In my state they have community clinics sponsored by the local hospital near-monopoly, which is a non-profit. These seem to filter out a lot of the would-be ER patients. Drive past one and you'll notice that the vast, overwhelming majority of people entering are Hispanic.

eh said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your screed where I was mentioned, and which I found absolutely idiotic. First rule of commenting: keep the comment shorter than the original post.

The mentioned 'old people' are part of a group where everyone is covered by the insurer -- in this case, the government. Such an arrangement is extremely common, e.g. virtually every private employer that offers health insurance to employees covers its employees under a group plan, where everyone in the group must be covered -- no one can be excluded, e.g. due to age or pre-existing conditions. The premiums for the group are agreed on this basis.

Considering this, yes IMO it is idiotic to suggest that all you have to do is give 'old people' a subsidy and they will be able to find private coverage. For this to work, both for the insurer (profits) and insurees (premiums), they must be part of a group that includes enough healthy people.

Simple as that.

And yes I do think 'old people' should receive health care. I guess according to you that makes me a 'bleeding heart'. BFD.

Kylie said...

"Settlement doesn't mean 'people living in the area, moving around a lot.' It means farms, roads, buildings, and other fixed structures. The Indians had very few of those, therefore it wasn't settled. Lightly populated, yes; settled, no."

Exactly. I marvel that so many putatively intelligent people fail to make this distinction between investing in land and merely passing through it. Would they consider a Lothario to have the same rights and expectations regarding a woman as her faithful husband? Roaming around, unwilling or unable to invest much in any one thing (whether it be land or a relationship) does not give a person or group much of a claim to proprietary rights or privileges.

And by the same token, moving into an area settled, built and maintained by others does not give people the right to claim that because they now occupy it, they also settled or built it.

JoAnn Watson--Detroit deserves bailout

From the article: "We are worth it. We are worth at least as much as General Motors or Chrysler or the Wall Street bankers," Watson said. "It was this city that built military vehicles for World War II. It was this city that (invented) the middle class and the five-day work week.

"We should not be in a position to be victims. We are victors. And we should demand respect."


Of course, in both instances, giving credit where credit is due means crediting white people for constructive, positive change. And we all know that's a non-starter these days.

ATBOTL said...

"The GOP at this point is pretty much the pro-business/pro-Israel party."

And the Democrats aren't?

Truth said...

"Settlement doesn't mean "people living in the area, moving around a lot." It means farms, roads, buildings, and other fixed structures."

According to whom?

TokkinTrashWifTrolls said...

There is no way on God's green earth that Troof could possibly understand the nuances in the definition of "settled" or "settlement". It's just not in the cards.

However he replies, he will think it is clever, it will not be clever, and it will contain the word "sport", capitalized.

none of the above said...

Kylie:

I think that's the kind of moral argument you are willing to accept only because you've already decided which side you like.

Suppose foreigners decide to slip into the country and start building houses and farms and cities in the middle of national park lands. This is developing land that wasn't being developed by the natives, right?

Alternatively, imagine technologically advanced foreigners deciding that proper development wasn't cities and roads and power lines, but rather perfectly preserved nature with domed, climate-controlled cities powered by fusion generators. Is it okay if they push us aside, since we don't have the right kind of development? (Probably, the answer is the same as with the Indians--the side with massively better technology pushes the weaker side off the desirable land, and makes up some kind of justification for it later.)

Kylie said...

" Kylie:

I think that's the kind of moral argument you are willing to accept only because you've already decided which side you like."


Not in my case. If the land now comprising the United States belongs to the Indians because they were there first, then no man who took a woman as his wife could have more rights regarding their relationship than her prior lover who breezed in for sex but never married her or settled down with her. And yes, I think that analogy is valid.

"Suppose foreigners decide to slip into the country and start building houses and farms and cities in the middle of national park lands. This is developing land that wasn't being developed by the natives, right?"

Now you're indulging in what my debate coach called "semantic antics". An argument can be made that in the development of a country, preservation of some land to be enjoyed in its pristine state by that country's citizens or set aside for some other future use is an aspect of "development".

"Alternatively, imagine technologically advanced foreigners deciding that proper development wasn't cities and roads and power lines, but rather perfectly preserved nature with domed, climate-controlled cities powered by fusion generators. Is it okay if they push us aside, since we don't have the right kind of development?"

Now you're conflating no development with improper or insufficient development.

I'm crushed. I thought you thought I was smarter than that, if, indeed, you ever bothered to think of me at all.

Thanks anyway for your reply.

ben tillman said...

Kylie:

I think that's the kind of moral argument you are willing to accept only because you've already decided which side you like.


It wasn't a moral argument. It was an argument about the meaning of a word.