Archive for March, 2017

Senator Graham had a room full of people who didn’t vote for him on Saturday, March 25th, in Columbia. He asked early-on how many people were Democrats. He made a prepared statement and then he listened to questions read off cards people had submitted while waiting in line to enter.

Lots of concern around Russia: Would he propose a special prosecutor to look in to Trump campaign ties to Russia? What does he plan to do about the FBI investigating the Trump administration for ties to Russia? He said he’d let the FBI do its job and the investigation run its course.

Lots of concern about education. He said he supports charter schools as an alternative to the current under-performing public school system. He slipped the word “vouchers” in there which had people booing.

Here’s the thing: he’s not wrong.

The current system has been in place for a century and it’s antiquated and it’s failing our citizens. I’m not convinced charter schools and vouchers are the way to fix it, but we need to try something. Schools are funded on a per-student basis, so their resources will not be totally lost. Schools with failing performances will lose students and close their doors.

The transportation issue is what concerns me. How do lower-income kids get across town to better schools? Like I said, though, we have to try something.

Lots of concern about healthcare and this is where it got ridiculous. Senator Graham asked who in the room would like to see Medicare made available for everyone. Tons of hands went up. Then he said, Well, Medicare doesn’t provide pre-natal care, so it’s not exactly designed for everyone. (not a direct quote, just the gist)

The healthcare debate is not a healthcare debate. It’s an insurance debate. The two camps are those who believe they should have free healthcare and those who know someone has to pay for it. Healthcare is available to anyone who can get to an emergency room. They cannot turn you away. In that sense, it is secured as a “right.” But healthcare is expensive.

Click here for more of my rant  on healthcare.

When Senator Graham asked the room how to pay for things like Medicare expansion, someone shouted, “Tax the rich!”

Since that’s exactly the opposite of what’s going to happen when Trump tax reform goes through, let’s talk about that. For a long time now the Democratic party has run platforms on Robin Hood economics. Take from those that have too much to give to those who have too little.

Robin Hood economics is responsible for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was put in place in the 70s to catch the top 1% of Americans who were making over $100,000. Every year, the AMT catches more Americans. Middle class people, because we can all admit now that $100,000 really isn’t that much anymore. Congress won’t repeal the AMT because it’s a cash cow.

Robin Hood economics imagines that the rich are sitting on their money like Scrooge McDuck, diving through gold coins as if they were water in a swimming pool. Except they’re not. The rich are investing their money so that it earns money for them. There are three ways to get money: steal it, earn it, and let it earn money for you. The rich are doing the third. Yet, every time we cry, “Tax the rich!” what we mean is find out how they’re getting rich and try to make it harder.

When we make it harder for rich people to invest, they stop investing in us. They put their money elsewhere, in overseas markets for example, where they can make higher returns. What we need is a system that encourages investment because it’s the right thing to do. We should identify the influence investment has on our daily lives and celebrate the buildings and innovations investors are part of.

We need Wall Street reform. Demystify the money-moving and show us how the rich are helping us all out. Then we’re less likely to think of them as Scrooge McDuck and more likely to think of them as partners in progress.

Not all wealthy citizens are benevolent. But forcing them to be never works.

We don’t want to end up like Greece and we’re already well on our way. We spend more than we earn and we borrow more than we lend. Our government is top-heavy and unsustainable. Austerity measures hurt, but we have a wealthy citizenry that can be implored to help if properly motivated. Stealing from them to give to the poor won’t solve the problem long-term. It will only hasten their exit from the system all together.

Democracy requires participation. What’s encouraging about the galvanization of the public that we’ve seen since Trump’s election is that more sides are being heard. What’s concerning is that a lot of the voices are interested in two things: 1) a government solution to everything, and 2) an immediate resolution to these problems.

Senator Graham made a great point when talking about education. He said the reform of our country’s education system is not about us or our children. It’s about the generation after them and the jobs we’re preparing them for. Identifying the skills they’ll need and then equipping them with those skills should be our primary concern.

It’s hard, Senator Graham, to think that far into the future, when today’s uncertainty could mean being out of work, out of insurance, or out of the conversation all together.

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Healthcare is NOT a right. It’s too expensive to be guaranteed.

Medical professionals have extensive schooling and loans to pay back. They have malpractice insurance to pay for. And they self-select what specialties they’ll pursue and some specialties are more abundant than others.

Litigators drive up insurance rates with malpractice lawsuits that hold medical professionals responsible for mistakes and negligence as if they were the same thing.

Insurance companies have negotiated rates with care providers and facilities. They set the budgets for care with algorithms and balance sheets, not compassion and logic. Health insurance companies are legalized gambling. They’re betting you won’t get sick and you’re betting you will. You both put money on the board and wait for the dealer to distribute the cards. The companies have done everything they can to hedge their bets: pre-existing conditions, a network of providers, lifetime caps. Not only did they rig the game in their favor, they have lobbied congress and state lawmakers to enable them to do so.

How can regular citizens get affordable care when insurance companies are unwilling to sell affordable insurance?

As long as the insurance companies are hedging their bets and rigging the game, there will be no insurance reform. As long as they can pay lobbyists to influence congress and policy wonks to write bills that protect their interests, there will be no insurance reform.

To frame the insurance reform debate around healthcare was a gross miscalculation by the Democrats as long ago as Bill Clinton’s first term. Healthcare means people are sick and can’t afford treatment. It means they need rescuing and the government is the only entity big enough to do it.

But healthcare is not a right. It’s a business and the care providers deserve to get paid for the professionalism, experience, and compassion they bring to the equation. Insurance companies do not provide care. They provide financing. Like bankers, their role is to take on the risk. Why should they be allowed to minimize their risk at the cost to the common good?

When Paul Ryan said healthcare is complicated, what he meant was that everyone in the debate has a valid position and it’s difficult to broker compromise. What he should have said was the citizens have leverage over the politicians, the insurance companies have leverage over the politicians, and what they want is diametrically opposed.

How can we convince insurance companies that offering coverage to the most expensive, at-risk population is in their best interest?

Saying “it’s the right thing to do,” doesn’t work.

Forcing them to compete in a government-sponsored exchange doesn’t work; many just opted out.

We could tell them that if they don’t participate in the exchange, they will not be allowed to sell insurance in our state at all. We could tell them that if they don’t offer coverage for the least among us, then they can’t offer coverage to anyone else.

But we also have to tell our citizens they should expect to pay for coverage. They should expect to spend some of their money betting they’ll get sick and need coverage. Because taxing people on what they make to fund a healthcare system for people who pay nothing is the worst kind of unsustainable Robin Hood economics.