About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Republicans on health care: vicious, or just plain stupid?

Yes, yes, the title of this column is obviously partisan. But you have to wonder at what exactly the Republicans are doing in the midst of the health care reform debate. RNC Chairman and token black Michael Steele recently characterized, again, the Obama administration effort as socialism. I bet the guy hasn’t even bothered to look up the meaning of the word on Wikipedia. If one understands socialism broadly as a society in which the government both owns the means of production and has control over the distribution of goods, then no Western country is a socialist state. But of course all Western countries, including the US, feature a partial involvement of the state in the economy (see bailouts, which started under W.) and as a guarantor of services (including those obviously un-American things like social security and the maintenance of the national highway system).

Steele complained that “this is unprecedented government intrusion into the private sector.” Well, I don’t know about unprecedented, but Republicans don’t seem to have noticed that the almighty private sector has recently managed to bankrupt the country because of its endless (but not mindless, these people ain’t stupid) pursuit of greed. Steele added, again flagrantly demonstrating either his viciousness or his stupidity, that the current plan means “more debt our children will have to pay because this reckless administration has an unrestrainable urge to splurge.” This is rich coming from the chairperson of the very same party that has acted on its unrestrainable urge to splurge on open ended war efforts that have significantly decreased national and international security, or to waste money in huge tax cuts for the richest few in the country. Tax cuts whose cost is comparable to several of the initiatives that Obama wants to pursue with the rather different objective of making our lives a little better. Compassionate conservatism my ass.

Do the Republicans at least have a credible alternative to the much despised Democratic plans? Of course not. When asked directly at a recent press conference, Steele’s flippant reaction was: “Look I don't do policy, I'm not a legislator. My point in coming here was to establish a tone.” Right, and that tone included stating that he hopes health care reform is going to be Obama’s Waterloo. Bipartisanship my ass.

Ok, now that I got that rant out of my system, let’s briefly discuss two of the most common (and ridiculous) arguments the Republicans have been putting forth against health care reform: a) the “public option” favored by Obama means unfair competition against the private sector; b) Obama and the Dems want to “put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.” Both objections are, to keep with my main theme, either outrageously disingenuous or (equally outrageously) stupid.

Let us start with the public vs. private straw man. First of all, Republicans seem to forget that health care is about the welfare of people, not about profit. So even if it were true that a public option were unfair competition for private insurers, who gives a hoot, if that results in better health care for more people? Secondly, since part of the Republican creed is that the private sector always does things infinitely better than the public one, then what are they worried about? Surely the perennially wise “market” will soon make clear for all to see who’s got what it takes to run national health care, no? Thirdly, what keeps being underestimated here is the simple and indisputable fact that we already have a public health care system, it comes in the two varieties of Medicare and Medicaid. The first one is an example of the much dreaded single-payer system, run by the federal government, and which kicks in when people are over 65. The second one aids poor people throughout the country, it is funded by both the federal and state governments and run by the latter. Guess what? These public programs are much more efficient in terms of costs and overheads than any available private option, and they deliver one of the highest quality health care systems in the world. Indeed, I do not understand why Obama and the Dems aren’t simply going for the obvious solution, expand Medicare/Medicaid to the entire nation and be done with it. Oh, and next time you hear a Republican making the stupid pronouncement that government-run programs are by definition bad, ask him why he is so darn proud of our largest government-run program: the US military.

Now for this business of putting a bureaucrat between us and our doctors. Perhaps Steele and his colleagues haven’t noticed, but we already have plenty of bureaucrats between us and our doctors. They are the administrators of HMO’s (so-called “Health Maintenance Organizations”) and other private health providers who do precisely what Republicans dread a federal middleman might do: judge whether you have “pre-existing conditions” (and can therefore be turned down from any benefit whatsoever), or if your doctor wants to apply a treatment that is judged to be too costly to the insurance company (regardless of whether it may benefit your health or save your life), and so on. The difference is that a federal employee will not have the same motivation to increase at all costs the already fat bank account of the insurance companies at the expense of your health. Incidentally, what Republicans and some Democrats want to deny you is precisely the sort of high-quality public health care that they regularly enjoy as members of Congress. Now, how disingenuous and hypocritical is that?

Look, I am not being naive here. I do not think that the government is the solution to all our problems, and I certainly do not think that the private sector is intrinsically bad. There are plenty of things that are best left to entrepreneurs (though I don’t think we should allow any private operation to become “too big to fail,” but that’s another story). I simply think that health care is one of those fundamental conditions that ought to be in place to allow us our constitutionally guaranteed pursuit of happiness (second section of the Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4th, 1776). For one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world to allow 50 million of its people to go completely uninsured, and for many millions of others to risk bankruptcy every time their families might be hit by a catastrophic illness is immoral. Serious health care reform including a public option is the decent thing to do, and Republicans are acting viciously by opposing it. It really is as simple as that.


  1. Republican politicians and corporate executives are vicious and the republican rank and file are just plain stupid.

    The best economies in the world for their citizens are mixed social economies. That is economies that have a mix of capitalism and socialism. Mixed social economies have regulated capitalism that promotes entrepreneurship but prevents too big to fail monopolies. They provide publicly financed and/or run health care, education, transportation, and energy. Countries with these types of economies have citizens with higher standards of living and happiness compared to the rest of the world.

    One of the reasons for our economic success is because of the elements of a mixed social economy that we've had in the past but have systematically been dismantled by conservative economic ideology for the past thirty years. Much to the detriment of our people.

    As Mike Malloy has said on his show and I agree, there are certain fundamental aspects of our economy/society that are absolutely essential to the lives of people that need to be socialized. These are health care, energy, education, the financial system, and mass transportation.

    The conservative ideology of privatizing everything has been an abject failure. Except for the wealthy few (the vicious ones).

  2. Another overlooked argument is that there are probably tens of thousands of potential entrepreneurs would love to go out and try start up new free market enterprises, but can't because they fear giving up their company sponsored healthcare.

    Think of the potential economic boon that might occur if all people were able to unleash their full free market potential without fear of losing health care benefits.

    Thats a pro-business argument to national health care for your Republican friends to ponder.

  3. The conservative ideology of privatizing everything has been an abject failure. Except for the wealthy few (the vicious ones).

    Class warfare might seem like a great place to start when you want to stir the pot and talk at your own choir, but the truth of the matter is that Madoff was a democratic and gave heavily to democratic causes. Know of anyone doing anything like that in the Rep camp? Honestly? You're apparently isolated to NY small talk about politics and I guess thats all you know.

    Finland and Israel are considered (I think) to be some of the most favorable models for socialization. But citizens are paying something like 50% of their paycheck back to the gov. That would be cool with you? The best socialized countries have at least some judeo christian values mixed in their philosophy of governing. Without good guiding principles, however, it can become a rather careLESS way of dealing with human needs. I mean, really. If when we die we're nothing more than fertilizer for the environment anyone over 69 might just be better off dead. Dollars and sense thing, ya know. Anyone that costs the health care plan more than the average participant in the plan might be better off dead as well.

    It's a plan that casts a poor reflection on the dignity and beauty of human life, to be sure.

  4. meant to place quotes on this first paragraph of laneman's in reference to my last comment:

    laneman: "The conservative ideology of privatizing everything has been an abject failure. Except for the wealthy few (the vicious ones)."

  5. http://www.hoover.org/publications/digest/3459466.html

    Please read.

  6. Right on! That's the most concise description of the situation I've seen. As a pharmacist I see insurance companies ripping the guts out of the public every day. Even the government won't run health care as badly as for-profit companies. Go O!
    Anyone doubt how bad health care is? Read some drugmonkey.blogspot

    Thanks Dr P!

  7. Cal,

    Your Madoff comments does not in anyway refute the fact that the conservative ideology of privatization is an abject failure that had only benefited the vicious wealthy few. That is a fact regardless of who Madoff gave contributions too! Also, the democrats he contributed too either returned or donated their contributions to charity.

    "Know of anyone doing anything like that in the Rep camp? Honestly?" Honestly are you really that clueless? Are you honestly saying that rich conservatives don't give huge amounts of contributions to republican politicians? Honestly?

    Yes I am cool with giving 50% back if I received the same benefits. I would probably have more money in my pocket from the out of pocket savings and greater opportunities available. Also spare me that judeo christian values bullshit! The most moral countries are non-religious societies not judeo christian values countries.

    No one advocates or believes people over 69 should be better off dead because they would cost more in heath care costs. The countries that have socialized medicine absolutely do not believe that or want such policies. In fact they enable a much happier and healthier old age than our privatized health care system ever could. After all caring for the elderly is not profitable. So to protect insurance company profits they would be better off dead! How is that as a reflection on the dignity and beauty of human life? Judeo christian values my ass!

  8. The Medicare thing is the most telling point for me. Republicans simply are living in their own alternate, ideologically constructed reality. Watching Fox News and listening to AM radio, one will be confronted with the "fact" that the United States is apparently the only democracy in the world which has an effective health care system.

    What's a shame is that this disinformation campaign is so well funded and gets an echo chamber in the corporate press (think the Wa.Post having planned on selling its services to lobbysts until the plan was leaked).

    The other argument against public health care that I find to be ginormously idiotic is the "we'll end up with health care rationing" tripe. What the heck do these folks think is going on now? We've got an obscene amount of Americans that either have no insurance or are underinsured and the whole business model of the health insurance industry is centered upon figuring out ways to deny people health care. And even if the system rations health care that would still leave the private sector to pick up the slack.

  9. LM "Are you honestly saying that rich conservatives don't give huge amounts of contributions to republican politicians? Honestly?"

    You have actual PROOF that these "rich" republicans are (vicious) and dishonest? I don't care what is given if it is earned honestly. If so, what is your proof that it is not? Soros and Madoff are undeniably dishonest.

    LM "Also spare me that judeo christian values bullshit! The most moral countries are non-religious societies not judeo christian values countries."

    Who are they? I really would like to know. The MOST ETHICAL COUNTRIES tend to be the Scandinavian countries which have strong Lutheran and Reformed Church histories.

    LM "The countries that have socialized medicine absolutely do not believe that or want such policies. In fact they enable a much happier and healthier old age than our privatized health care system ever could."

    I have done medical missions in other counties, I know differently. In Mexico, for instance, people (who are entitled to medical care in Mexico- and that does not include Indians, btw) are scared to go to their Docs if they have a serious issues like heart conditions. They try hard to see our Docs even tho we are supposed to be there to see the Indians. They think that the Indians are getting better care. But if you happen to be "well to do" in Mexico, you go to this terrible place called America where the Republicans have done nothing but run the health care system into the ground.

    Those people must not know what is being said in New York and other sophisticated progressive places about health care here, do they.

  10. HG "What the heck do these folks think is going on now? We've got an obscene amount of Americans that either have no insurance or are underinsured and the whole business model of the health insurance industry is centered upon figuring out ways to deny people health care."

    What is going on now is partially the result of Bill and Hillarys "everybody has a right to housing and health care initiative(s)". Its being rationed in some places because socialized health care began in its more primitive form 15 years ago.

    Its meant to assuage and soothe the fact some people feel guilty over the idea that some people have nice houses and health care anytime they want it and some people don't. But why should everyone in the world have health care if its substandard? That really pushes the class divide into HIGH GEAR. Like I just said, I see it happen in Mexico and it ain't all so wonderful. But someone has convinced you that it is going to be, so I guess that's all there is to say about it.

  11. The Mayo Clinic does not even think this a particularly good plan -- think we ought to pay attention to that?

    Mayo Clinic calls House plan bad medicine

    Obama loses support on reform

    A world-renowned clinic that President Obama held up as an example of good medicine said Monday that the American people would be "losers" under the House's health care proposal, joining the growing chorus of critics the Obama administration is trying to fend off as the debate intensifies from Capitol Hill to Main Street.

    Minnesota's not-for-profit Mayo Clinic, which Mr. Obama has repeatedly hailed as offering top quality care at affordable costs, blasted the House Democrats' version of the health care plan as lawmakers continue to grapple with several bills from each chamber and multiple committees.

    The Mayo Clinic said there are some positive elements of the bill, but overall "the proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher quality, more affordable health care for patients."

    "In fact, it will do the opposite," clinic officials said, because the proposals aren't [R]patient-focused or results-oriented. "The real losers will be the citizens of the United States." cont. The Washington Times

  12. Read what Mayo really said:


  13. Nice article, Massimo. I couldn't find much of anything to quibble over.

    Laneman: "Republican politicians and corporate executives are vicious and the republican rank and file are just plain stupid."

    A pithy summary. Nicely done. I, however, will be nowhere near as succinct, though hopefully at least as accurate.

    I tend to trifurcate the modern Republican constituency to include a third group: the willing dupes. Not vicious, and not stupid, these are people who are well aware of both (a) the nature of the party's propaganda, and (b) its actual, behaviorally verified agenda. To varying degrees (which are in close proportion to their varying capacities and propensities for engaging in deceit of self and others), they are also aware of and complicit in (c) the thick buffer of duplicity that is absolutely essential to allow (a) and (b) to coexist, rather than quickly imploding in mutually assured annihilation as they would otherwise do. Purely for reasons of self-interest, they simply find it expedient to ignore the inherent contradictions between the words and actions of party officials. (This behavior, unsurprisingly, often extends far into their personal lives as well, but that's another matter altogether.)

    The vector thus runs from ignorance to viciousness through the spectrum of selfishness, as exhibited by a general disposition of callous disregard for the interests of all who are not members of whatever "in" group one is identifying with at the moment. The degree to which party members passively or actively condone its duplicity reveals their position on that spectrum, relative to its extremes. Ignorance of political intricacies being everybody's default position, the population density along the vector is skewed markedly toward this origin, and might look like some species of Gamma distribution.

    Of course, a similar conceptual construct could just as easily be applied to the Democratic party. They could share the same origin point, and even trade stories over drinks at the clubhouse about the various forms of duplicity that run rampant throughout them. But inasmuch as the Democratic party embraces progressivism and liberalism (which both, in turn, embrace social justice in its many forms) to precisely the same degree that the Republican party rejects them - which is to say, almost entirely - the spectrum through which the Democratic party's vector extends cannot accurately said to be selfishness at all, but rather socialism. I leave it to the reader to decide for him/herself which evil is the lesser, choose up sides, and decide what sort of dupe he or she wishes to be.

    Knowing what the parties stand for, it is not terribly difficult to discern with a fairly high degree of accuracy why they behave as they do. We know that the Republican party is merely engaging in selfishly protecting its interests, which lie in deep alignment and, indeed, collusion with the deep-pocketed, moneyed interests that comprise the party's infrastructure. It is protecting these interests to the exclusion of all else, as it nearly always does. You're either on the bus, or under the bus. Quite a number of Democrats are, of course, doing precisely the same thing, but this is in counterthrust to the momentum of the party as a whole.

    It should come as no surprise that one of the results of a tectonic shifting of the health care industry's playing field, after all the hubbub, confusion and jockeying for position in the new order dies down, will be a slightly reshuffled but otherwise similar assortment of deep-pocketed, moneyed interests gaming the new system for their own long-term advantage. Depending on how it is paid for, a second result may be increased cost to taxpayers, though this may be cleverly hidden from view. However, the main immediate consequence will be a more equitable economic landscape. This may either be seen as a waste of resources or a stroke of luck, depending on whether you stand to benefit, if you are of a selfish bent, or a tremendous advance for the common good if you are not.

  14. Beyond any moral issues, decent health care for all citizens should be considered matter of infrastructure--much like roads, police, clean air, clean water, and education? A mixed system as I see it is one in which health care providers operate within a genuine free market but access to the system is provided by a Single Payer government insurance program similar to Medicare. No one should stop individuals from buying their own private insurance policy if they so wish. I also do not want to see the government owning hospitals or doctors as government employees.

    Much of our problems with health care results from exploding costs, some of which is attributable to a warping of the market by bad government policy. The US spends close to double the amount on health care as a % of GNP than do other countries with so-called socialized medicine. A few possible solutions (as suggested by Dean Baker over at cepr.net) are

    Fix the badly broken broken patents system--which grants pharmaceutical companies a monopoly over the production and sale of vital medicines that leads to ridiculously inflated prices.

    Open the U.S. health care profession to real competition from foreign doctors--without allowing the AMA to set quotas. We could see lots of savings through lower wages for doctors. If it works for landscapers...

    Allow US citizens to buy into European health care plans.

    If Obama's health care proposals don't include these or at least consider them, than it is at best half-baked in my opinion.

  15. While I agree about the Republicans.

    Unfortunately, because of the corruption of corporate interests, money from the enemy (i.e. for-profit-insurance/hospital corps) most of the DEMOCRATS have already compromised on actually implementing the best and most rational reforms. Instead, they have simply opted for hopelessly complicated legislation that would keep insurance corps. profitable, mandate that people buy insurance, and insure only most people in a half-assed manner.

    While the Repubs. are despicable, left-leaning, progressive and rational people ought to wake up their critical faculties against the Democrats and Obama.

    Here is a detailed analysis.


  16. Since its the CEO of Mayo saying this, M, the criticism from Mayo still stands.

    By Jacob Goldstein WSJ Health Blog

    Health Reform

    Denis Cortese, the doc who runs the Mayo Clinic, swung by the Health Blog’s office today to talk health reform. His bottom line, which he’s been repeating in public in the past few days: The big health-care bill unveiled last week in the House of Representatives misses a key opportunity to change the way Medicare pays for health care.

    What’s more, Cortese argued, adding a new public plan that covers more people and pays for care the same way as Medicare won’t work, because the rapid rise in health costs will continue. “A Medicare model is a catastrophe,” he said.

    The basic argument Cortese and the Mayo Health Policy Center have been making for a while now is a variation on a familiar theme: Doctors and hospitals should be paid on the based value they provide rather than simply paid a fee for every procedure they do. Those who have better outcomes with less risk and fewer costs to the system should be rewarded. Cont.

  17. The less optimistic side of me tells me that the central reason for this initiative is not in fact greater access to health care but instead completely uninhibited regulatory standards for abortion.

    These bills are clearly entrenched in anti-life legislation.

    Y'all remember, we'll all likely be 60 or 70 one day...

  18. Republicans seem to forget that health care is about the welfare of people, not about profit.
    I know at least one Republican (the chairman of Republicans Abroad in Japan) who disagrees with that; according to him, it's the very profit motive that drives the doctor to take the very best care of you. If medicine were nationalised, he'd yawn, look at his watch, scribble you a prescription for aspirin and go get in a round of golf. Doctors don't actually care about their patients, you see; it's all about the paycheque at the end of the day.
    And, do you know (he works in investment banking), for him, it probably is...
    My point being, Massimo, that I suspect many Elephants do think of health care as a commodity to be bartered to the enrichment of some, rather than as a lynchpin (another being education) of a strong society. I have found one argument that makes them chew their collective lower lip in concern, though: mention how falling vaccination rates contribute to loss of herd immunity, which puts even the richest Republicans at risk, and some of them will grudgingly concede that maybe a public vaccionation programme would be a good thing. Evidently, appealing to their self-interest will help them every time...

  19. @Cal:
    You aer joking about Judaoxian values, aren't you? The scandinavian countries are the most secular in the world! (And apparently, on the happiness index, Denmark scores the highest.)

  20. Cal,
    I liked picturing you better when you were a sheet full of hot cinnamon rolls, now I actually have a human face to despise!

    Yes Cal, any proper national health care system that is the delusional figment of the imagination of the religious right will include abortions for 9 out of 10 pregnancies, and mandatory euthanasia at age 65 for the sick, and age 70 for the healthy.

    (Hey, maybe I ought to start seeing if I can write for The Onion?)

    For the more reality minded, here is an animated cartoon on our health care system.


  21. caliana,
    How exactly are you judging which countries are the MOST ETHICAL? What criteria are you using? crime-rates? abortion rates? what evidence do you have to support this assertion?

    Seconding what kimpatsu said, the Scandinavian countries are the worlds least religious, according to Gallup polls. Sweden, Denmark and Norway are all in the top 5.

    Back to health care, what Cortese and others are saying is not that a publicly financed health care model is a bad thing, but that the way it is being done is inadequate and fails to address the core issues of runaway costs. But this is exactly what many liberals and single-payer supporters are saying as well.

    In fact Obama's plan is to some degree a sham intended to band-aid a lot of important issues in a desperate attempt to avoid upsetting the insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

    The Obama administration even pulled a Dick Cheney Energy Task Force stunt and invited a group of industry execs to secret meetings on the legislation, refusing to release the details of the meetings, citing some Bushesque executive privilege B.S.

    Ed Brayton covered this just today.

  22. My story is only anecdotal and proves nothing about the relative merits of the systems, so take it for what it's worth.

    Last year I was on vacation in Japan and developed a bad case of sinus infection that left me near deaf for days at a time, forcing to go to a public clinic.

    I found the doctor and nurses professional, friendly and knowledgeable. I did not have to wait for hours to get taken care of--I would say 30 minutes at most and on a walk-in at that. Overall I was treated at least as good as I had ever been in an doctor's office here in the U.S. The doctor even punctured a hole in my ear drum to drain the fluid and wrote me a prescription. Total cost of visit: about $35 U.S. dollars.

    Such is my personal experience with the evils of socialized medicine.

  23. Sheldon,

    YOU'RE REALLY UPSET BECAUSE I PUT A PIC OF ME UP? Funny man. Are there not real problems in the world?

    I meet people ALL THE TIME that I don't agree with (even strongly so sometimes)and I don't think much of anything good, bad or indifferent about them. I don't have, as they term, emotional baggage about this stuff I guess.
    Free to like anyone, FREE to LOVE everyone...

    That's the Ft. Worth Botanical gardens, btw.

    Nice, huh. :)

  24. K: "You aer joking about Judaoxian values, aren't you? The scandinavian countries are the most secular in the world! (And apparently, on the happiness index, Denmark scores the highest.)"

    Yes, many countries that are becoming affluent are becoming secular. But that's sort of how lies about self reliance work. Affluence offers opportunities for a great amount of independence. "I made me" "I" made all this wealth" and on and on. People in poorer countries tend to understand their need for other people, (often for) God and that life just does NOT revolve all around "me". (I wonder how great humanism does in that environment?) But that is far from where scadi countries started and their Christian histories and their values really don't go back that far. 30-50 years. And I don't think Denmark scores the highest. I think its Iceland. Or maybe it depends on who's poll you're looking at as well.

  25. Sheldon,

    I have this pic of a great big, fat apple pie that I made for Fathers day. Would that do? Lol! Never occurred to me that anyone cared what I put up for a picture.

    Would you like for me to make you some cinnamon rolls? I mean, seriously. I'm not particularly sharp at any one thing (like Massimo and my hub are at a 1000 different things) but that's one thing I do quite well. (or so I'm told)

    And of course they're absolutely free. I expect nothing. Never have to change your mind on a thing. Not even me. :)

  26. Let me be the first, it seems, to offer some substantive dissent. I don't mean to just plug my blog, but I think that I've written too much as a response to fit into a comment here.


    -- Seth.

  27. Seth,

    interesting (though, frankly, a bit insulting) post. Now, I'm sure you realize that the government's involvement in causing the financial crisis was due to the fact that the Bush administration was in the thralls of private corporate interests and dramatically reduced the pertinent regulation, right?

    Or am I still "shooting from the hip"?

  28. Massimo,

    If I bared my teeth a bit, I apologize; I just wanted to highlight some things with which I found problems.

    I love to hate on the Republicans as much as the next guy, but for the right reasons.

    I will absolutely not defend Bush. I am no Republican. You are correct, and I agree with you that the Bush administration advanced a kind of nasty corporatism in many sectors.

  29. Seth, no need for apologies. Yes, we need to disagree with Republicans for the right reasons. Of course the discussion is open about what exactly (or even approximately) the right reasons are...

  30. "Now, I'm sure you realize that the government's involvement in causing the financial crisis was due to the fact that the Bush administration was in the thralls of private corporate interests and dramatically reduced the pertinent regulation, right?"

    No. Bush was working on stronger regulation over lending standards for housing right before 911. The Bush admin realized full well that the standards were too loose. And at that point they made moves in this direction and it is well documented.

    After attacks on US soil, those things got placed more or less on a back burner.

    That only the entire world wants to see you fall flat on your face economically, that's not cause enough to call Bush's admin an actual failure.

  31. I should clarify. It was bad government policy that primarily contributed to the financial crisis, not deregulation. I suspect that the myth that Bush was a deregulator will persist anyway.


  32. Cal,
    You know, after thinking about what I wrote, I think I stepped over the line. I was rude, and should not have said that. I do not despise you, just some of the things you say. Please put up any picture you wish. I apologize.

    And Massimo, I apologize for using your blog space to lash out at Cal off topic, and then use more space to apologize! :)

  33. Sheldon,

    you guys can use all the space you want, and though I understand your lashing out earlier, I also appreciate the apology. Let's keep the discussion going, who knows, we may all learn something! :)

  34. I highly recommend tonight's episode of Bill Moyer's Journal, which covers the alleged health care reform bill. If the women Moyer's interviewed tonight are correct, and I think they are, then the bill likely to be passed is simply going to be another huge corporate welfare boondogle.


  35. Cal, where is your evidence that affluence is what leads peopel away from superstition? Surely it's education. Once you know that lightning is caused by ionized air and not Zeus having a hissy fit, you tend to lose crendence in claims for the existence of Zeus. Or Quetzlcotl. Or Odin. Or that bloke who supposedly walked on water and floated up to his spaceship in the clouds. You know, the one with the Mexican name... Jesus.

  36. Thank you, Sheldon. I don't despise you either. Never have never will.

    Do you want those rolls overnighted? ;)

  37. I, like many people, am horrified and disgusted that the U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other country, and yet manages to leave many people uninsured, *and* achieves *worse* health outcomes than any other similarly well-off western nation.

    But, and this is a small but, as I tell my students in medical ethics class, it is probably true that *if* you have the misfortune to have an aggressive cancer, or a major trauma, you really want to be at one of the best hospitals in the U.S., with excellent insurance and/or nearly unlimited cash. (& Note that unless you are lucky enough to live in the right area, even good insurance isn't going to get you great care!)

    On the other hand, if you want to maximize your chances of living a long and healthy life, choose any other (well-off, western) country to be born into.

    The paradox emerges in large part because, for all of its importance to our lives as individuals, individual medicine makes very little difference in the overall morbidity / mortality statistics of a nation. In terms of available high-tech tricks, cool new drugs, etc., Cuba *sucks* -- but the average life-expectancy is about equal to the U.S.!

    What good does universal health care do, then? Well, for one thing, it probably helps population health by demonstrating that society has a commitment to everyone, not just the well-off. Income inequality is one of the major correlates with health outcomes (more inequality = worse health), and it seems that universal health care is wrapped up in that effect (probably through complex mechanisms involving stress etc).

    But more to the point, we ought to care about individual outcomes, and we ought to care about the relative fairness of those outcomes and how they are achieved. It seems to me that there is no good reason we should favor a system in which a very few get superb care -- care that really does extend their lives a few years over merely very good care -- but others get poor care, and in getting even that poor care, are bankrupted.

    Would the U.S. lose cutting-edge cancer treatments & trauma care with a strong "public" health care option? I doubt it -- if we continue to fund research and teaching hospitals (as we should), and if the very-well off continue to buy more expensive insurance options that will cover more exotic treatments, etc., then technology will keep moving forward and, as it develops, become lower cost. Is such a system "fair" in any absolute sense? Perhaps not, but it is whole lot better than what we have now!

  38. I don't like equating socialism with marxism. I think the opposite of socialism is "individualism", and the opposite of marxism is capitalism. Hitler was a socialist, because he organised the German population into state-run associations, membership of which which was virtually compulsory. Most Western countries are more or less individualistic; one can belong to organisation or not entirely at one's volition.

  39. As usual, I'm late for the feast... But I wanted to leave this link anyway, from the Daily Show last week or so.

    Jon Stewart managed to get Bill Kristol to admit the government can run the best health care system in the world. Very funny.

  40. cal:
    "The MOST ETHICAL COUNTRIES tend to be the Scandinavian countries which have strong Lutheran and Reformed Church histories."

    So, what explains THIS "christian nation's" ethical and moral shortcomings? Why wlould the christian evangelical fundy Bush invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11? Is that moral?

    Let me guess - it was 'outlawing parayer in schools', right?

    As for the Scandanavian countries, they are among the LEAST religious in the world. Sweden, Finland, and Norway are in the top 10 least religious countries, with Sweden apparently hosting a 85% non-religious population.

  41. cal:
    "Its being rationed in some places because socialized health care began in its more primitive form 15 years ago."

    Are you really this deluded?

    Back when the worst president in history, Reagan, was chewing through your grandkids money to cut taxes for millionaires, my dad was told that if he had his high blood pressure treated, he would be cut off from his health care benefits.

    He died at the age of 60 from congestive heart failure because his private insurance would not cover his pre-existing condition.

    This was well before Bill Clinton - remember him, the president under whom the economy was strong? - was elected.

    I'll bet you think Reagan really didn't make deals with terrorists...


  42. "These bills are clearly entrenched in anti-life legislation."

    These people are deserving of the ridicule they receive.

    It scares me that they can drive and vote.

  43. cal:
    "After attacks on US soil, those things got placed more or less on a back burner. "

    Attacks during Bush's watch...

    So, he starts this war, then cuts taxes.

    How did he propose to pay for it all?

    Did he think his god would just poof some money into the till?


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