feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
I read this link on twitter the other day about class and "identitarianism," which rings true in parts but not in others, and I'm not sure I can explain it well.

I've been incoherently pondering it the last few days, but maybe some of you smart people can discuss and help me figure things out.

(Warning: sh*tt*rly in comments)
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they'd identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she'd be covered.

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that's not what she found. Instead, she'd be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out.

Otherwise, she'd be automatically rolled over to a new plan -- and, as the letter said, "If you're happy with this plan, do nothing."

If Donna had done nothing, she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more a month for insurance than she will now that she went to the marketplace, picked the best plan for her family and accessed tax credits at the heart of the health care reform law.

"The info that we were sent by LifeWise was totally bogus. Why the heck did they try to screw us?" Donna said. "People who are afraid of the ACA should be much more afraid of the insurance companies who will exploit their fear and end up overcharging them."

Donna is not alone.

Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people like Donna spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked.

The extreme lengths to which some insurance companies are going to hold on to existing customers at higher price, as the Affordable Care Act fundamentally re-orders the individual insurance market, has caught the attention of state insurance regulators.

Ain't capitalism grand?
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
from [personal profile] legionseagle:

As I indicated in yesterday's post, with reference to claims of immortality conveyed by tripe-eating, self-regulation is a frankly terrible way to run anything consumer-facing. Actually, the market's a pretty terrible way to run anything consumer-facing in general because of the inbalance in both market power and market knowledge as between producer and consumer. I mean, I bet you wouldn't have known unless I'd told you yesterday that the tripe producing process required a "vessel for removing fat from fur taken from cowheels." And I bet knowing it didn't make you any more willing to buy tripe, did it? Or, for that matter, neats-foot oil.*

Furthermore, after the event regulation, better known as "waiting until people start getting mad-cow disease and then letting them sue the producers" is absolutely hopeless as a regulatory mechanism, because the mechanism of enforcement is one-to-one, meaning that less-than-ethical suppliers become engaged in a numbers game of betting whether a) they'll be sued at all; b) whether they can out-blink anyone proceeding against them.

Also, since the abolition of trial by combat, the principle way for a tort law judgement to be expressed is in terms of financial reparation; that is, I can't step in and sue a corned beef provider who's caused a typhoid epidemic in Scotland by cooling the cans of corned beef in a Uruguayan river consisting predominantly of raw sewage** for the costs of a new cooling mechanism or even an upstream sewage treatment works, but only for the direct financial loss to me of losing my granny to typhoid. And for as long as the were-gild on dead Scottish grannies is lower than the construction costs of hygienic cooling plants for corned beef works, then the corned beef producer will stick with the old "dip it in the shit" tried and tested cooling method. And even if a court gets sufficiently pissed off with Fray Bentos the hypothetical corned beef company in question and awards punitive damages against them all this is likely to do is to allow me to buy a large non-sunken yacht, christen it The Typhoid Mary and steam off into the sunset with my granny's ashes built into the bulkhead.

Go read the rest.
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
I just finished December's National Geographic, and this article on The City Solution was really interesting. It reminded me of a discussion Dana and I had that didn't really work on twitter. (Because 140 characters isn't really enough to get into depth...)

She, and I hope she'll correct me if I misstate things, desires a "back to nature" "sustainable" lifestyle, on a farm with cows or chickens or whatever, and driving 30-50 miles to sell things at farmers markets or go to buy things she can't produce herself (or order over the internet).

To me, that's not sustainable in the sense of "if we keep doing this, we won't trash the environment any worse than we have already." The amount of fossil fuels burned to drive to market (assuming she doesn't retrofit the vehicle for biodiesel, which is something I know she's talked about doing; but then, where does the oil come from?) are in themselves unsustainable. Eating meat is pretty unsustainable in and of itself. Granted, raising your own animals is less harmful than factory-scale farming, but then you only can eat your own animals or the animals of people who also have small herds (and there we go again with the driving a lot to get the food).

Traditional subsistence farming (growing your own food and having enough to feed yourself and *maybe* trade with your neighbor who grows something else) is something we've gone technologically beyond, even if an argument has been made in favor of something like subsistence farming. However, that essayist stretches the definition almost to breaking, and he sort of conflates subsistence farming with organic farming, which are not the same thing.

In a city, people use public transportation. Not everyone, of course, but in places like New York, London, Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo, taking the bus or subway is often more convenient than driving. Many New Yorkers don't even own cars, for example. (Compare that to LA, which has notoriously shitty public transit and a massive car culture...and a smog problem.) Things are close enough that you can walk to them: walk to the bus stop or train station, walk to the grocery store, walk to the kebab shop, walk to the pub. Or ride your bike.

Your food still has to get to you, but economies of scale (ie, one truck delivering 500 lbs of cucumbers) allow the CO2 emissions to be spread over more people.

If people live closer to their jobs and the things they need, or even a short walk and a train/bus ride away, the CO2 emissions are much lower. There was a graphic in the print version that I can't find online, comparing the national CO2 per capita emission averages to individual cities' per capita emissions. New York City had between half and a third the average US emissions.

Now, not everyone can live in cities, of course: there's not much in the way of farmland in a city. Many European cities have community gardens, where you can rent a square of dirt and grow stuff, but that's not a large enough scale to feed people. If we didn't have factory-farmed meat, and if Western culture weren't so focused on MEAT! EAT MEAT! MEAT THREE TIMES A DAY!!!, that would take care of one major source of environmental destruction (hog lagoons, for example) and free up land to be used for growing food for humans. There's really no reason to feed corn to pigs and cows, except that it's subsidized out the wazoo.

(Aside: subtherapeutic antibiotic use in farm animals as a means to make them grow faster is the worst fucking idea of all time, and fucking right it should be banned. But there's no chance in hell of that happening.)

If I have a conclusion, it's this: the American way of life is unsustainable (in the "killing the planet" sense). More people moving out into the far reaches, past the suburbs, in an effort to get "back to nature" or what have you, only hastens the day when oil runs out and increases greenhouse gases. We should be concentrating in cities of the European model (ie, with public transportation).
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Income inequality is bad for growth. That rising tide doesn't actually lift all boats. Sorry, conservative economists.
As the Occupy Wall Street protests swell in size and people pay closer attention to the gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else, one question is why this divide even matters. After all, one way to look at income inequality is that it’s no big deal. If a country is growing at a healthy clip and everyone is steadily getting richer, then it’s hardly an outrage that a few titans at the very top are doing freakishly well, right?

But a recent study from the International Monetary Fund suggests that this conventional view is misguided. Excessive income inequality, the authors find, can actually inflict a lot of harm on a country’s long-term economic prospects.

Who are the 1 percenters?
Taken literally, the top 1 percent of American households had an income of $516,633 in 2010 — a figure that includes wages, government transfers and money from capital gains, dividends and other investment income. That’s down from peak of $646,195 in 2007, before the economic crisis hit, all adjusted to 2011 dollars, according to calculations by the Tax Policy Center. By contrast, the bottom 60 percent earned $59,154 in 2010, the bottom 40 percent earned $33,870, while the bottom 20 percent earned just $16,961. As Annie Lowrey points out, that gap has grown wider over time: “The top 1 percent of households took a bigger share of overall income in 2007 than they did at any time since 1928.” (And in New York City, it’s even more skewed: the top 1 percent have an average of $3.7 million in income.)

When you look at the disparity in net worth, things look even more skewed. Wealthier Americans have assets — in home equity, stocks and other investments — that generally outstrip their cash income. Average wealth of the top 1 percent was almost $14 million in 2009, according to a 2011 report from the Economic Policy Institute. That’s down from a peak of $19.2 million in 2007.

By contrast, the poorest households were experiencing declines in net worth even before the recession hit. In 2007, the bottom 20 percent of households had a net worth of -$13,800 in 2007, which fell further to -$27,200 in 2009. Altogether, “average wealth of the bottom 80 percent was just $62,900 in 2009 — a dropoff of $40,900 from 2007,” EPI writes. That means the wealthiest 1 percent earned an average of 225 times the wealth of the average median household in 2009 — a ratio that was 125 in 1962.

Cozy relationships and peer benchmarking send CEOs' pay soaring It's not that they're actually worth 200 times their lowest-paid employee. Sorry, conservative economists.
As the board of Amgen convened at the company’s headquarters in March, chief executive Kevin W. Sharer seemed an unlikely candidate for a raise.

Shareholders at the company, one of the nation’s largest biotech firms, had lost 3 percent on their investment in 2010 and 7 percent over the past five years. The company had been forced to close or shrink plants, trimming the workforce from 20,100 to 17,400. And Sharer, a 63-year-old former Navy engineer, was already earning lots of money — about $15 million in the previous year, plus such perks as two corporate jets.


The company board agreed to pay Sharer more than most chief executives in the industry — with a compensation “value closer to the 75th percentile of the peer group,” according to a 2011 regulatory filing.

This is how it’s done in corporate America. At Amgen and at the vast majority of large U.S. companies, boards aim to pay their executives at levels equal to or above the median for executives at similar companies.

The idea behind setting executive pay this way, known as “peer benchmarking,” is to keep talented bosses from leaving.

But the practice has long been controversial because, as critics have pointed out, if every company tries to keep up with or exceed the median pay for executives, executive compensation will spiral upward, regardless of performance. Few if any corporate boards consider their executive teams to be below average, so the result has become known as the “Lake Wobegon” effect.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Ezra Klein

I spent time digging through the federal budget this week, and I concluded that Republicans are right: There is plenty of spending to cut. For instance, we’ve got one government program that hands people money to buy houses that, in most cases, they would buy anyway. They get even more money if they buy a more expensive house. Over the next five years, that program alone will cost almost $500 billion. That can’t be the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Another federal agency will spend more than $400 billion to reward people for making money by investing and earning capital gains and dividends rather than by going to work and taking their income in wages. I like investors and I participate in the market, but is this really the sort of activity that requires a $400 billion subsidy?

Go read the rest.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
1. One way capitalism can make health care worse and more expensive from those wacky Marxists at The Economist in response to disingenuous shit David Brooks' column about how there's no way government-run efficacy reviews could constrain costs (widely ridiculed already).

But beyond the added expense [of marketing campaigns], why would anyone think that a system in which marketing plays such a large role is likely to be more effective, to lead to better treatment, than the kind of process of expert review that governs grant awards at NIH or publishing decisions at peer-reviewed journals? Why do we think that a system in which ads for Claritin are all over the subways will generate better overall health results than one where a national review board determines whether Claritin delivers treatment outcomes for some populations sufficiently superior to justify its added expense over similar generics? What do we expect from a system in which, as ProPublica reports today, body imaging companies hire telemarketers to sell random people CT scans over the phone?

2. The illusion of high taxes

As I've said before, and evidence (NYTimes) suggests, if the US government funded a single-payer national health plan via increased taxes, the amount of money out of the (already insured) average American's pocket would not change much, because the money they pay (both directly as a premium and indirectly as lower wages) for insurance is about equal to the amount taxes would have to go up.

It's a common scare tactic of the American right (and one I saw with my own eyes in an anti-single-payer leaflet produced by a drug company 6 years ago) to say, "Your taxes will go up to oppressive levels and you'll have no money left to pay your bills!" That's patently untrue.

(Additionally, US total tax rates are at a 60-year low. Yeah, I think the 250k+/year earners could afford higher taxes.)
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
While pro-market conservatives like to say that high deductibles keep costs down because people will "think harder" about asking for expensive, potentially-unnecessary tests, the main effect is to keep people who need treatment but can't afford the up-front out-of-pocket payments from going to the doctor to get that little thing taken care of before it becomes a huge thing, or for routine preventive care.

Via the Mad Biologist comes a story from the New York Times about people foregoing necessary care because they can't afford to meet their deductibles.

For someone like Shannon Hardin of California, whose hours at a grocery store have been erratic, there is simply no spare cash to see the doctor when she isn't feeling well or to get the $350 dental crowns she has been putting off since last year. Even with insurance, she said, "I can't afford to use it." Delaying care could keep utilization rates for insurers low through the rest of the year, according to Charles Boorady, an analyst for Credit Suisse. "The big question is whether it is going to stay weak or bounce back," he said. "Nobody knows."

High deductibles also can be daunting. David Welch, a nurse in California whose policy has a $4,000 deductible, said he was surprised to realize he had delayed going to the dermatologist, even though he had a history of skin cancer. (emphasis mine)

Mike: I understand the need to cut down on unnecessary spending--and many plans' 'unnecessary' ER deductibles are low, especially in the People's Republic of Massachusetts--low for me, anyway*. But for some people, they can't even afford a $100-$200 deductible. That is what poverty means. This 'efficiency' is going to get people killed. (emphasis mine)

So all you folks blithely saying that high deductible plans are great and that health insurance ought to be only for unforeseen catastrophes, not routine care or prescriptions (or even things like physical therapy and psychotherapy, because those aren't, like, CANCER or a broken leg), what you're actually saying is that the poor deserve to die from completely treatable medical conditions.

If you want more transparency of costs, I'm with you, but when someone has food poisoning or a heart attack or is involved in a car accident, they're not going to be shopping around for which hospital has the best rates. They're going to go wherever's closest, or wherever the ambulance takes them.

(This is why medical care cannot be likened to buying a washing machine. Aside from the disparity of information (doctors vs patients), someone in an emergency situation is NOT going to do a little comparison shopping before getting in the car/ambulance. For elective care, like knee replacements, sure, but price isn't the only factor.)
feuervogel: (trains)
Last week, in a fit of frustration at the utter lack of transportation alternatives in the US than the automobile, I wrote this post.

Turns out, in a bit of synchronicity, The Economist took a look at America's transport infrastructure and found it appallingly lacking. When I read the two opening paragraphs, I knew I had to link the fuck out of this article.

ON FRIDAY afternoons, residents of Washington, DC, often find a clear route out of the city as elusive as a deal to cut the deficit. Ribbons of red rear-lights stretch off into the distance along the highways that radiate from the city’s centre. Occasionally, adventurous southbound travellers experiment with Amtrak, America’s national rail company. The distance from Washington to Raleigh, North Carolina (a metropolitan area about the size of Brussels) is roughly the same as from London’s St Pancras Station to the Gare du Nord in Paris. But this is no Eurostar journey.

Trains creep out of Washington’s Union Station and pause at intervals, inexplicably, as they travel through the northern Virginia suburbs. In the summer, high temperatures threaten to kink the steel tracks, forcing trains to slow down even more. Riders may find themselves inching along behind a lumbering freight train for miles at a time, until the route reaches a side track on which the Amtrak train can pass. The trip takes six hours, well over twice as long as the London-Paris journey, if there are no delays. And there often are.

APPALLING. Now, whether you think there's not enough density between Austin and Chicago to merit train service or not, the Eastern Seaboard, especially if you look at the metropolis between DC and Boston and factor in its southward expansion to Richmond, toward Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta, is certainly dense enough to merit better train service than we have, and to merit high-speed rail. (As is California from SFO to San Diego, btw.)

Regarding density, which conservatives like to say is why Americans can't have trains, here's an interesting point. It's not actual DENSITY per se, because rural Switzerland sure ain't dense and it HAS working transit, but the way things are laid out.

Also appalling is the number of traffic deaths we've deemed acceptable.
More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the OECD average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010.

Even if you "need" your car for some things--and it's true, hauling furniture or cubic yards of top soil isn't going to work on a bus or train--the vast majority of single-passenger car trips (and even a goodly portion of multi-passenger ones, tbh) could be replaced by public transportation if we had any. Most people drive from home to work (100 hours a year!), with other excursions to places like the grocery store or a friend's house and occasional longer road trips. If we could replace most commuting with bus or rail options, and even half of the long road trips with trains, we'd save a lot of CO2 going in the air.

If you want to talk about sustainability, you HAVE TO talk about decreasing your CO2 emissions. Is it more sustainable to live on a farm 30 miles from the nearest town, and you have to drive in there once a week to shop, and to other places to sell your goods at the farmers market or to shop at the farmers market, even if you're super-mega-off-the-grid/composting toilets/grow your own food, (and if you do online shopping, the delivery guy still has to DRIVE to your house or you have to drive to the post office to pick it up) or to live in a denser urban area, not even own a car, bike, walk, or take public transit everywhere, keep your thermostat low in winter/high in summer, maybe have a small urban garden, buy as much regionally-grown produce as possible, etc?

That depends on how you define sustainability. If you're talking survivalism and self-reliance, obviously growing your own organic vegetables and keeping chickens is more sustainable. If you're talking about all the effects your lifestyle has on the planet, from fertilizer runoff to less non-degradable waste (eg plastic), you can't ignore the very unsustainable pollution spewed by internal combustion engines, which is contributing to global climate change.

Is it a tradeoff? Does not using fertilizer or supporting factory farms offset the pounds of CO2 your car emits when you drive to go shopping? Is growing your own food greater than contributing to climate change?
feuervogel: (trains)
I'm aware of various reasons, like automakers in the early 20th century actively eliminating railways in the name of profit (thank you, capitalism), and preferential funding for highways over trains, as well as anti-state arguments that trains are too heavily subsidized by the government and Amtrak should be forced to compete on the open market (while conveniently ignoring the fact that gas taxes aren't the entire source of highway funds, or the massive subsidies on gas and cars (by tax breaks to carmakers)).

Notable conservative pundit George Will is against trains because they take away our individualism and are the first step to socialism. (I wish I were making that up.) Factor in a bit of projection (ie, liberals say they want trains because X, but really COMMUNISM) and a bit of hypocrisy, and you have the face of modern movement conservatism. (Note: if you don't know the difference between being conservative and movement conservatism, spend a few minutes with google before yelling at me.)

A nice piece on CNN fact checks a lot of these myths, and an operations engineer asks why so riled about rail?

Seriously, why do Americans flip their collective shit at the thought of TRAINS? Trains are awesome. Amtrak kind of sucks, but that's not completely Amtrak's fault. It's in large part due to the inevitable shit-flipping from Americans at the thought of building train tracks and having the government fund something that will let people get from point A to point B without putting 500,000 one-person-SUVs on I-95.

I'm going to Boston this July, and because I object to security theater, the war on liquids, and the option of submitting myself to probably-unsafe radiation levels/naked scanner or a pat-down that borders on sexual assault, I'm taking the train. It's a good 800 miles by train between here and there, and I can go direct, leaving here at 10 am and arriving in Boston at 8 am, or I can take the train to DC and stay with my sister overnight, then catch one of the regular morning trains to Boston, and repeat the process in reverse. Not a big deal, sort of inconvenient, but I'm the person who took an overnight train from Berlin to Vienna because that only cost 49 Euro and about 12 hours. (There were fancier trains with actual sleeping compartments (EuroCityNight), but they were a lot more expensive.)

Ben's going to Atlanta in a couple weeks for a concert, and he wondered if it would be possible to take the train down. Short answer: no. The train to Atlanta leaves from Greensboro at 12:30 am (midnight) and gets to ATL at 8:30 am. Annoying, sure, and I don't know many people who'd want to be in GSO at midnight because it's kind of dangerous. If he went to GSO by train, he'd have to leave Durham around 5:30 and wait in GSO for 6 hours. WONDERFUL, yes. Coming back, he'd leave ATL at 8:30 pm and get to GSO at 4 am. Which is also extremely convenient.

Now, if you were going from NYC to New Orleans, you'd have great departure and arrival times, and that 1400 miles only takes about 30 hours, assuming you don't have to wait for CTX trains to pass, since CTX owns the tracks and Amtrak only leases them, so CTX has the right of way.

Here are two people who would rather take the train, rather than be yet another one-occupant vehicle on the road, but American individual-über-alles culture and its worship of cars with the policy decisions that go along with this car-idolatry has made it inconvenient to impossible.

It's not possible to take the train from Raleigh, NC, to Memphis, TN. It's marginally possible to take the train from Raleigh to Detroit (which I looked into because there's a Gold Cup match between the US men and...Canada maybe? this summer).
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
A. There's a paper that says so, even, using New Jersey as a case study.
This paper examines the migration response to a millionaire tax in New Jersey, which raised the tax rate on top earners by 2.6 percentage points, becoming one of the highest rates in the country. Drawing on complete NJ state tax micro-data, we estimate the migration response of millionaires using a difference-in-difference strategy. The results indicate little responsiveness, with semi-elasticities mostly below 0.1. Tax-induced migration is higher among people of retirement age, people living off investments rather than wages, and potentially those who work (and pay tax) entirely in-state. The tax is estimated to raise $1 billion per year and modestly reduce income inequality.

Unsurprisingly, they don't move for the same exact reason that libertarian ideology breaks down when it comes to "if you don't like the laws where you live, move somewhere else." People are tied to their home area, because of friends, family, jobs, schools, everything, and it's not so simple to uproot your life to go somewhere more amenable to your inclination.

B. When will the Democrats understand that Republicans aren't playing by the same rules and that their main goal is to take America back to 1880?
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Pop quiz: Who said the following?
Behind this plush curtain of tax and spend, three sinister spooks or ghosts are mixing poison for the American people. They are the shades of Mussolini, with his bureaucratic fascism; of Karl Marx, and his socialism; and of Lord Keynes, with his perpetual government spending, deficits, and inflation. And we added a new ideology of our own. That is government give-away programs….

Click the link to find out.

Do Republicans really oppose making health insurance cheaper?

Short answer: apparently. They argue that if we have either Medicare for all or some sort of pool/exchange, people will quit their jobs and decrease the labor supply, which disingenuous tits like Paul Ryan equate to killing jobs. Um, if people who want to remove themselves from the labor pool, through early retirement or otherwise, do so (because the only thing preventing such is concern about purchasing health insurance on the "free" market (which is in truth a monopoly)), their job will not disappear (most of the time). Job seekers (aka the unemployed) will be able to take the newly-opened position, and -- stay with me; I know this is mind-blowing -- unemployment will decrease.

The only way you could consider people voluntarily leaving the labor pool (to homeschool a child, to retire early, whatever) to be increasing the unemployed is if you're a) a disingenuous liar like Paul Ryan or b) if you consider all people who don't work, whether or not they're actively seeking employment, unemployed, which isn't the standard definition of unemployment.

Also, from the irony department, Medicare recipients are still against government handouts.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
In fact, it's a hundred, a thousand, times better than the system that killed Melissa Mia Hall, who had no insurance, as a freelance writer, and began suffering chest pains due to a heart attack and died in her home because she couldn't afford to go to the doctor, let alone the hospital.

To those of you who believe the free market can and should sort everything out, this is what you're advocating. If taxation is theft, free market health cover is murder.

Do you wonder why I, as a tenuously employed person with no health benefits of my own who aspires to be a freelance writer (as all novelists are) -- a job that almost never has health benefits -- would rather move 4400 miles, a 9-hour flight, and a 6 time-zone difference to a country that mandates health coverage and provides it for those who can't afford it themselves through taxation?

Germans aren't afraid of the social contract or of helping out those in need through vile governmental muggings in dark alleys taxation. Fucking American selfishness needs to die in a fire.
feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)
I've been saying that for years, and finally there's some evidence.

Atul Gawande, via Ezra Klein:
The firm had already raised the employees’ insurance co-payments considerably, hoping to give employees a reason to think twice about unnecessary medical visits, tests, and procedures -- make them have some “skin in the game,” as they say. Indeed, almost every category of costly medical care went down: doctor visits, emergency-room and hospital visits, drug prescriptions. Yet employee health costs continued to rise -- climbing almost ten per cent each year. The company was baffled.

Gunn’s team took a look at the hot spots. The outliers, it turned out, were predominantly early retirees. Most had multiple chronic conditions -- in particular, coronary-artery disease, asthma, and complex mental illness. One had badly worsening heart disease and diabetes, and medical bills over two years in excess of eighty thousand dollars. The man, dealing with higher co-payments on a fixed income, had cut back to filling only half his medication prescriptions for his high cholesterol and diabetes. He made few doctor visits. He avoided the E.R.—until a heart attack necessitated emergency surgery and left him disabled with chronic heart failure.

The higher co-payments had backfired, Gunn said. While medical costs for most employees flattened out, those for early retirees jumped seventeen per cent. The sickest patients became much more expensive because they put off care and prevention until it was too late.

If you're young and generally healthy, or if you have a high enough income to support putting away $5000 or more a year, a HDHP + health savings account may work for you. If you're the other 80% of the population, chances are it won't.
feuervogel: (bitch please)
Do your right-wing politicians/newsmedia commentators compare housing co-ops to socialism?

Do you wonder why I want to get away from these yahoos?


30 Nov 2010 10:58 am
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
I've been sharing links on facebook and through GReader, because it's easy and I only have to come up with a pithy sentence to intro the link (or none at all, even). So you've been missing out on my politics and anti-Libertarian links. I thought I'd fix that. (And this is only about 3-weeks' worth of links...)

Libertarians + Tea Party = true love always
Tea Party Leader: Denying vote to those without property makes sense.

Tea Partiers sure seem to want to tear up the Constitution they loudly proclaim to love.

In North Carolina, groups like Americans for Prosperity, funded by NC millionaire Art Pope (who bought almost all of the elections in NC where Republicans won, thanks, SCOTUS, for Citizens United), have coordinated Tea Party events with the above-mentioned Tea Party leader.

The Tea Party targets sustainable development as a nanny state, socialist plot.

On how bad a nanny state really is
There are no libertarians in airplanes. There's too much good stuff here, so you get a blockquote.
Amid the pie-in-sky libertarianism, free-market circle jerks, and talk of regulation as a criminal enterprise, I suddenly want to be surrounded with libertarians on this plane. I want them as brave volunteers for my experiment in the majesty of the unfettered free market at 35,000 feet. Like there are allegedly no atheists in foxholes, I intend to prove that there are no libertarians in airplanes. [...]
The good libertarian relies on the free market to solve problems on its own. Take a couple of hamburger chains, for instance. The one that makes bad food will go out of business. Customers won't eat there! Thus the market, left alone, will punish those who fail to provide what people want. How cute. Let's leave the airline industry alone -- bust the unions, abandon all regulation, let the market set whatever wage it will, let the pilots be on for 36 hours at a crack -- and let the same process go to work. Markets will force airlines to keep their planes safe, otherwise no one will pay to fly with them!

"How cute," indeed.

Hypocrisy from the Tea Party? Surely you jest.
GOP legislator who campaigned on repealing health care reform flips out when he learns his insurance on the Hill doesn't kick in for 4 weeks. He obviously doesn't care about the 30 million people he wants to deny insurance to completely.

Tea Party bloodlust
There will be blood: So here’s what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: “I can’t wait for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ’em a piece of meat, real meat,’ ” meaning spending cuts. “And boy, the blood bath will be extraordinary,” he continued.

Let's hear it for the Free Market!
Comcast charges fees that threaten online video delivery and competition. Never mind that ISPs have local monopolies and that people don't exactly have a choice about which ISP serves their neighborhood. FREE MARKET! YES!!

Sign a petition to tell the FCC to support Net Neutrality.

Think government is bureaucratic and rationing-happy? Try dealing with insurers.

Don't let some pesky facts get in the way of your orthodoxy
Learned Helplessness: It’s true that if you bought completely into rational-expectations macroeconomics, the crisis in the economy should be causing a crisis in your faith — although as far as I can tell, the freshwater types remain smugly convinced of their rightness. But those of us who hadn’t forgotten Keynes, who paid attention to things like Japan’s lost decade and developing-country financial crises, aren’t feeling all that at sea.

A Mechanical Manifesto: First, it’s conservative economists who insist that people are always rational and utility-maximizing; liberal economists are the ones willing to invoke bounded rationality, animal spirits, etc.. The whole salt-water fresh-water split was about which you were going to believe: the assumption of perfect maximization, or your own lying eyes. And the Keynesians were the ones who preferred to believe their eyes.

A little honesty, and a bit of realizing you're utterly wrong, would help you Free Market Fundamentalists make sense of reality.

A different version of the truth. A Libertarian blogger wanked on about how huge the government has become, and how greatly the regulatory burden bears down on Our Corporate Lords and Masters, and he cited as evidence employment rates in regulatory agencies.

One problem with that: Well over 90% of the increase in regulatory employment is due to one specific agency. Drum roll please: Homeland Security.

Real-world libertarianism isn't much like the CATO version: Places like Reason and the Cato Institute exist strictly to whitewash the realities of libertarianism as actually practiced in the real world. By putting forward a handful of libertarians who aren’t overly priggish and know how to order a cocktail, the funders of these places can create the illusion that libertarianism isn’t so bad. And that gets paid forward in articles like Lind’s, where he suggests that socially liberal/economically conservative is a politically viable stance in the United States.

Analysis shows rich people save, not spend, so clearly, the solution to our problem is to cut taxes to stimulate ... rich people saving, not spending.

Tax cuts won't help you, but a wage increase will. Why, indeed, should profits go to line the CEO's pockets, rather than being shared with the workers?

If we can eliminate the rail alternatives, we will create a new market for our cars. Discusses how disingenuous it is for Free-Market Fundies and their ilk to hate on Amtrak for its "extensive" public funding (note: those are sarcasm quotes) while worshiping the highly-subsidized automobile and highway systems. (This can also be filed under "I hope you enjoy your classism with a nice slice of cake" because public transportation is for those people, not us good, hardworking middle class people.)

A "culture of dependence"? I hope you enjoy your classism with a nice slice of cake.
A nation of deluded dependents: How can 43% of those who received a Pell Grant--college aid--not know that it came from the government? Not only is it all over the grant application forms, but, presumably, at least some of the recipients were smart enough to get into a college and, maybe, even graduate.

A survey asked people if they'd been recipients of government aid. 60% of respondents who had used the lifelong learning credit, 53% who had used Stafford loans (student loans), and 43% who had received unemployment checks said they had NOT received government aid, while only 25% of people on food stamps said that. Government aid is for those people, not us good, hard-working, responsible middle class people.
feuervogel: (shiiiiiiiiiit!)
She doesn't want to state that she believes in creationism. She dances around the topic, doing the whole "schools should be able to teach what they think is right at the local level" two-step. Video included. (She also has no idea what Marxism actually is; she just parrots the republibertarian "it's about raising taxes and keeping the death tax" talking point.)

As is noted in the link above, creationism is RELIGIOUS in origin. The First Amendment, which we've already shown she doesn't understand, forbids the government from doing anything that gives preference to one religion over another (or over any religion at all).

ETA: Video of the exchange in which O'Donnell asks, "That's in the First Amendment?" Have your context. Also, note that she does That Thing Libertarians Do, which is talk down and act all "I'm the reasonable one here, you're the wackaloon" while saying the most utterly outrageous shit.

This dovetails neatly with a post I read earlier by Mike the Mad Biologist, about Movement Conservatives. He quotes extensively from Terrence at Republic of T and Thomas at Yes Means Yes, but these are his own words. His concluding paragraph.
Everything I learned about movement conservatives I learned from creationists (and the union between the two sets is rather large...): they can't admit what they really believe, so they dissemble around it. Teaching the controversy and so forth.

What O'Donnell does in the video linked above, and in every interview she's given since winning the primary, is dissemble. It's the only thing she can do, because if she gave a straight answer, people would see her for the Christianist she is. And I fervently hope that a majority of my fellow citizens wouldn't vote for a Christianist who wants to take us back to 1810.

The opposite is too frightening to contemplate. It makes me want to take my chances with a "failed" multikulti country.

PS: Hey Angie, Thilo called. He wants his Islamophobia back.
feuervogel: (shiiiiiiiiiit!)
I embrace the power of and. Article reproduced in full below.
Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell of Delaware is questioning whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from establishing religion.

In a debate at Widener University Law School, O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.

O'Donnell asked where the Constitution calls for the separation of church and state. When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"

The exchange Tuesday aired on radio station WDEL generated a buzz among law professors and students in the audience.

These goddamned ignorant motherfucking shitheads claim to be the only true protectors of our precious American Constitution, yet their fucking poster child can't even be arsed to know what the fuck the fucking thing says.

I mean, it's right fucking here on the internet! And I'll even reproduce the entirety of the First Amendment right here on my internet journal!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Americans: if you vote Tea Party, you're voting for ignorant bullshit. Oh, sure, they mouth the Libertarian paradise words "lower taxes" and "smaller government," but really they're the fucking Gingrich-Pat Robertson-Ralph Reed axis back in the spotlight.

And fuck them, and fuck YOU if you vote for them.
feuervogel: (black haru)
I got free lunch starting in 4th grade.

We wore off-brand, knock-off clothes, or clothes from second-hand shops.

We got food at the store where they send the dented cans.

When my mom's 78 Olds started to die (in 1991), she wasn't sure she'd be able to get a replacement vehicle.

When I got The Letter from CTY, mom wouldn't let me go because we couldn't afford it, even with the scholarships available.

When my high school German club did an exchange program, I begged and pleaded to go, because I thought it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. (My grandparents paid for most of it. I was lucky to have extended family with money.)

It was the first time I was on a plane.

I was 16.

I didn't get new eyeglasses as often as necessary.

We didn't have health insurance.

I know it could have been worse, and I know I'm lucky -- privileged -- to have had a PhD grandfather who worked as a grant reviewer at NIH, who could cover things like clothes or food or help with the house payment when mom was laid off again.

I also know that there are a lot of people in the 15% of the population we were better off than who don't have access to middle-class grandparents or other forms of help than welfare.

Those of you who grew up in your comfortable middle-class families, whose parents didn't have to worry about being able to repair the roof when you found a puddle in the living room, and don't realize just how goddamn lucky you fucking were and think your experience is what everyone has, who think that everyone can do what you did through Hard Work, are really goddamn naïve.

That naïvete is your privilege. The way you think the world works only holds true for the top 50%.

Examine your fucking privilege. You might gain some compassion in the process.
feuervogel: (godless liberal etc)
Horsecrap. And there's a study that shows the far greater prevalence of the belief that people get what they deserve, that the poor are poor because they're lazy, that the rich are rich because they're so virtuous and hard-working, that luck doesn't play into it at all, in America than in the rest of the world.
Data from the World Values Survey [Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote 2001; Keely 2002] show that ... Americans are about twice as likely as Europeans to think that the poor “are lazy or lack willpower” (60 percent versus 26 percent) and that “in the long run, hard work usually brings a better life” (59 percent versus 34–43 percent [Ladd and Bowman 1998]).

Dear neo-liberals, neo-cons, libertarians, and anyone else who believes the world we live in is really actually a meritocracy: IT ISN'T. You're deluding yourselves if you think it is.
feuervogel: (writing)
Today's word count: 1633
Total word count: 36795

Atesh's bad day just got infinitely worse. He didn't really *need* that arm.

To work on over vacation: governmental structure, what the other groups of people are up to.

In unrelated news, Canadian SF writer Peter Watts was detained and beaten by US border cops as he returned to Canada and has been charged with assaulting a federal officer. Several links here, and an impassioned call not to be sheep here.
feuervogel: (wtf?)
Insurance company: You can get a temporary policy, but if you want to continue it, you have to reapply. And if you use the temporary insurance, you've got a pre-existing condition, for which we'll deny you. That sounds fair. Sure.
The coverage my friends were able to purchase for their daughter was a 180 day policy. The terms of the policy required that, if they wanted to "renew" it, in effect, they had to reapply for it all over again. At which time, the insurance company was free to take into account any "pre-existing conditions" as a cause for denying coverage. "Pre-existing conditions", in this case, included any conditions for which the policy holder sought treatment for during the 180 days of coverage for which they had paid for.

Read also this post, about one of the victims of the health club shooting: a recent college grad without health insurance who can't afford the bill for the surgery (necessitated by some sick fuck who wanted to take revenge on all women for merely existing and not fucking him, apparently) so her friends & neighbors held a CAR WASH. A fucking car wash.

These are two examples of why this country needs universal coverage, like every other civilized nation on the planet.
feuervogel: (wtf?)
A white supremacist goes on a shooting rampage at the Holocaust Museum and fatally wounds a security guard, and the right-wing media decides he's a LEFTIST. (via.)
Yesterday, a guest from the "Ayn Rand Institute" argued to Fox News's Glenn Beck that because Von Brunn is a racist, he must of course be "a phenomenon of the left." In response, Beck accepted that logic, and wondered: "How did it happen that you look at people that are Nazis and you say that those are right wing? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever!"

I'm with the People for the American Way: Release the report on right-wing extremism NOW.

Europeans call right-extremists what they are: terrorists. It's time the US stepped up as well.


feuervogel: photo of the statue of Victory and her chariot on the Brandenburg Gate (Default)

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