Sunday, February 24, 2008

Empty

Here's a little excerpt from John Edwards' Grand Exit speech:

"...This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you, once again. And we will lift you up with our dream of what's possible.

One America, one America that works for everybody.

One America where struggling towns and factories come back to life because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil.

One America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will be honored for that work.

One America where no child will go to bed hungry because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty.

One America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care.

One America with one public school system that works for all of our children."


My questions are:
1) how will the United States end its dependency on oil?
2) how exactly will we honor hard workers?
3) 37 million people in this country live in poverty? Really? Source please? Are you thinking, perhaps, about India?
4) how will we provide every single solitary person in the United States with healthcare? Will it be free? Where do I sign up?
5) A public school system that works for all of our children? Cool! Yeshiva kids too? Cool.

See, this is why I hate liberalism: one meaningless platitude after another. Honestly, in the United States, we will be dependant on oil for a very long time. We have a lot of cars, see. What we want to do is perhaps end our dependency on foreign oil. But that will mean drilling in some pretty places. And what is this bs about honoring people who get up early and have long commutes and work hard? What does that even mean?

The 37 million people living in poverty thing intrigued me. I'm going to do some research on that and get back to you.

How is the democratic party going to provide everybody with healthcare? Who is paying for it? The government (everyone open your wallet please....)? And one public school system that will work for everyone? What's he smokin'?

Crap crap and more crap.

Now, back to "37 million people living in poverty." Gotta start some Googling. More later.

12 comments:

abandoning eden said...

i can believe that number. Not if you go by the federal poverty level though (which is ridiculously low- they think that a family of 4 can live on 18k a year last I checked). But if you go by the "working poor"; that is, people who have full time jobs but earn around that poverty level, then yeah, i totally believe it. If you mean 'poor' as in 'has no job entirely and lives off of welfare' then no, that number is to high.

After all, 40 million people in this country have no health insurence. that 3 million difference probably accounts for all the people who don't have insurence because they don't want it (everyone i know without insurence can't afford it).

Nice Jewish Guy said...

For the record, I'm also a right-leaning Democrat. And I'm extremely less-than-enthused about all the candidates as much as you are. But I think you're being just a wee too hard on Edwards I'll address your questions:

1) how will the United States end its dependency on oil?

Well, it probably won't. Like you said, the key issue is to end dependence on foreign oil. Personally, I think the best we'll be able to do in the forseeable future is reduce dependence on oil, not end it. But that's still a worthy goal.

2) how exactly will we honor hard workers?

Perhaps tax or educational incentives, or other benefits for lower-middle class and blue-collar and farm workers. I know, farmers already get incentives, but so what.

3) 37 million people in this country live in poverty? Really? Source please? Are you thinking, perhaps, about India?

What's the difference if it's 7 million or 37? Either number is too much. We have a country that has set up a system which perpetuates the problem of the working poor. You know, people who make too much to qualify for assistance, but don't make enough to get an education, or afford health insurance or even basic health care. People who basically have to live hand to mouth and haven't the resources to get ahead.

4) how will we provide every single solitary person in the United States with healthcare? Will it be free? Where do I sign up?

Simple: basic healthcare provided by a single payor for anyone with a social security number. Basically, Medicare for everyone. Would it be a perfect system? No, far from it. But at least everyone would get their basic healthcare needs met. Now, I know, state Medicaid plans already address this issue. But if you know anything about Medicaid, then you know that a) it has to be specially applied for; b) it pays less than bupkes; and c) not every provider accepts it (probably because of b) above!). Medicare-type coverage would be effective as soon as you're born.

Now, I have to say that I have very great concerns for my livelihood should a Democratic universal healthcare solution be implemented. Democrats like to cut things (v'hamayvin yavin).

5) A public school system that works for all of our children? Cool! Yeshiva kids too? Cool.

Can't tell if you're being sarcastic, but yeah, yeshiva kids too. I'm of course aware that Orthodox parents have been trying to get school vouchers for years already, but if you think about it, it's a very fair idea. Yes, we send our kids to private school. But we also pay school and property taxes, which subsidize public schools. Even a partial-tuition voucher would make a HUGE difference for a lot of two-income, working Orthodox families.

WebGirl said...

NJG,

1) First of all, I think the distinction between "ending our dependency on oil" and "ending our dependency on foreign oil" is important. We are not going to end our dependency on oil; we are going to increase our dependency on oil. We are an SUV nation, and as we expand and prosper, our need for oil is going to expand with us. Alternative fuels, going green, hybrids, cutting down on driving and consumerism might have some effect, but that is going to amount to a drop in the bucket. We need to figure out how to be more self-sufficient. That ain't what Edwards is talking about.

2) Those are nice ideas, but Edwards used the word "honor" not "reward." Reward I get. Honor is one of those fuzzy, empty platitude words. What the hell does "honor" mean?

3) Yes, it makes a HUGE difference whether it's 37 million or 7 million. And I also want to know (haven't had time to research it yet) what that figure was a decade ago and a decade before that. I want to know how much it has increased in relationship to our population growth. I want to know what "poverty" means (I know what emotional triggers the word sets off in my brain, but how is it defined?) with regards to this figure. I want to know where this number comes from.

You can't throw around numbers like that...it's not fair and that's why I wanted to research the source for the number (and it better not be freakin Wikipedia or something). I think there are around 300 million people living in the US. 37 million means (in my head...again setting off emotional triggers) that around 1 in 8 Americans can't put food on the table. I want to know if that's true. One of the lessons I learned from reading Freakonomics is that "experts" throw around numbers all the time and people allow themselves to be emotionally affected by them without challenging their source. (Remember the Mitch Snyder homeless figure scandal? Good Lord, that was UNBELIEVABLE.) And sometimes even a reliable source can come up with a number based on bad math or "emotionally biased" algorithms. I'm not saying that 37 million isn't true. I'm saying show me. I'm going to do a separate post on this when I have time to rant semi-intelligently.

4) Guess who pays for Medicare and Medicaid...you do. So do I. And both systems are a confusing, self-perpetuating mess that limit and downgrade the type of care a doctor can give a patient. The rules change annually, there is widespread corruption, and both patients and health-care providers get shafted. And yes, the Mayvin is Yavining. What people don't seem to want to face is that if the gov't pays for healthcare, that means we still pay for healthcare, while the gov't gets to hold the reins. The gov't doesn't have its own money. It has our tax money. So I'd like to ask the Liberals who are ranting and raving about this, where will this money come from, how efficient will this system be and how will this all come together?

5) Sweetheart, I am roaringly in favor of vouchers. Ab-so-freaking -lutely. But remember, vouchers are a Conservative cause. Edwards is a Liberal. When he says "A public school system that works for all of our children" that is precisely what he means. (Parenthetically, he is anti-voucher.) Do you understand now why I challenge the sanity of this statement?

WebGirl said...

AE, I want to know the source for both of those numbers...the 37 million living in poverty and the 40 million without health insurance. I am not saying either one isn't true. I'm saying I want to take some time and research them.

A said...

You can find the statistics on poverty here: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty06/pov06hi.html

According to the US Census Bureau there were 36.5 million people living in poverty in 2006. The poverty threshold in 2006 was $10,488 for a single person under the age of 65. For an average family of 4: $20,614.

I found all the statistics extremely depressing.

abandoning eden said...

here's the full poverty report from the census, which also has the stats on health insurence: http://www.census.gov/prod/2007pubs/p60-233.pdf

http://www.census.gov
/prod/2007pubs/p60-233.pdf

(i posted it twice in case it's too big to show up on one line).

according to this I was wrong, it's 47 million people who have no health insurence, not 40.

These numbers were taken from the CPS (current population survey), which I can tell you as a sociologist is one of the most well-respected surveys in the field.

abandoning eden said...

oh and the federal government's definition of poverty is something like "amount needed to afford the minimum rent and minimum # of calories that you need to survive" and is considered a huge underestimate by poverty researchers (since it is based on 1939 numbers adjusted for inflation, and the price of food has gone down since then, while the price of housing has gone waaaay up).

Of course they won't change it though - it's in their best interest to keep the official rates lower than they should be, so that they can get away with putting less money into federal programs like foodstamps and housing subsedies.

I think you need to earn less than 130% of the federal poverty level to qualify for foodstamps.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

OK, fine.

Well, looks like you have your poverty statistics; and the fact that it seems like such a highly improbable number makes it that much more astounding- 37 million people living in poverty, and millions that can't afford health insurance.


As far as Medicare goes, yes, of course it comes from our tax money. It already does. Single payor, Medicare type universal healthcare would just be an expansion of what Medicare is already doing, to cover basic healthcare for all Americans. And you don't have to tell me, of all people, that it's a bureaucracy-on-steroids system of ever-changing, Byzantine rules that, as you so wonderfully put it, "shafts both doctors and patients". Baby, I know. And I have no illusions about such a system being perfect (because it already is far from it) or even taking care of all of Americans healthcare needs. Private insurers will still be around, though I couldn't give fig if they all went under and their CEOs got horrible diseases. As far as the money goes.. I don't know. They found a way to pay for a war, didn't they? All those Humvees, weapons, food, equipment, and death benefits, etc. amounted to the billions, hasn't it? Tax the rich. I don't know. But the money is there, if they're serious. Medicare for the ninsured won't be perfect, as I said, but it *will* help people, like, say, hmmm-- let me think... a divorced father who lost his insurance from his ex, and has to pay child support, and is struggling with his own business and the higher costs associated with being Orthodox? Just throwing that out there.

As for the public school thing, let's re-read the staement Edwards made.

"One America with one public school system that works for all of our children."

He wasn't talking about private schools. Specifically, religious private schools. He was talking about reforming the public school system. Private schools are by definition, private. If they don't work for you or your child, you simply don't send your kid there.

WebGirl said...

Just one thing...what I meant by pointing out that we pay for medicare and we pay for medicaid, is that if we had a gov't run healthcare system, we would be paying for it too. We pay for the war in Iraq. We pay for social programs. We pay. Whatever the gov't pays for comes from our taxes. And if the gov't started a healthcare system, our taxes would rise and the healthcare system would suck, because it would be gov't run, just like medicare and medicaid.

So what would you rather do? Pay out of pocket for private insurance and maintain some level of choice and control over your health care decisions or pay out of pocket (through taxes) for gov't run healthcare and have Uncle Sam tell your doctor what to do?

People (not you NJG, but some people) think that if the gov't pays for something, it's free. No. It comes from tax revenues. Do you want your taxes to go up?

One of the central reasons that I am a fiscal conservative is because I passionately believe in smaller government.

If Uncle Sam told me today that he would never, ever take another penny of social security out of any future paychecks, on the condition that I give up all the social security that I have earned in the past, I would take that deal in a second. I would much, much rather control and invest my own retirement money than have the gov't control it and then dole it out to me in slices that they decide are appropriate. I don't understand anyone who wouldn't, but apparently many people would rather the gov't control their retirement money. Why?

Later on the poverty number.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Well, maybe our taxes would go up if there were a government run healthcare for all plan. But taxes would likely go up anyway, healthcare plan or not. And ( I could be imagining it) wasn't one of the candidates' promises to come up with a healthcare plan tht wouldn't raise taxes?

Yes, the system would probably suck. But it already sucks. You talk about having a choice-- you only think you have a choice, dear. choice between a crappy health insurance plan and a crappier health insurance plan isn't really a choice at all. All health plans, private or otherwise, limit what benefits a patient can receive and what a doctor can get paid. With Medicare, at least its one set of rules and one system. You learn the rules of the game, and you minimize problems. With the other twelveteen-hundred different plans, there are different rules, fees, benefits, stipulations, forms, codes, etc for every one. Oh, and of course doctors have to get separately 'credentialed' (because Lord knows they haven't enough credentials) too.

Private insurance would still be around, but probably as a secondary or supplemental thing, and they'd be forced to compete harder for the business. But your argument against government sponsored care-- that it a) would raise taxes, and b) be crappy-- fails. Yes, it woud raise taxes. But the costs of treating chronic untreated medical problems of the uninsured in the long run would outpace any increase in taxes. If it costs X to get an uninsured poor person a doctor visit, where he can get treated for his mild hypertension and early diabetes, and get monitored for age-appropriate diseases, isn't that better than the 3X it would cost when he has a heart attack from advanced heart disease, needs advanced diagnostics, a hospital stay, stents, and more expensive medications? Just an example. As for being crappy care, well, it might be, it might not. But crappy care is better than no care at all.

I don't have a perfect solution, and I'm not sure there is one. But the fact that there are so many uninsured people in (supposedly the richest country in the world), a country that spends more per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world (look that up in Freakonomics), is shameful.

WebGirl said...

NJG,

Why assume your taxes will go up anyway? They haven't in the last 8 years.

So where will the money to pay for national healthcare come from? I mean, it has to come from somewhere? Seriously.

See, that's what I mean...how can a candidate promise a healthcare plan that won't come from our tax revenues? So who's paying for it?

Actually, my private insurance is pretty good. And the uninsured in this country do get treated for their chronic illnesses, through free clinics and medicaid. It's sucky treatment, but they do get it. Not sure how vastly the quality will improve with national healthcare.

If private insurance will still be around along with National Healthcare, you know what will happen. The wealthy will keep their private insurance and get preferred treatment from doctors, and everyone else with national healthcare will get mediocre treatment at best. The plum companies with the best jobs will offer private insurance as part of their benefit plans and McD's will be withdrawing any private insurance benefits they might have had, since their employees can go on national healthcare.

I don't have a solution either. But I can't reach for the empty platitudes and promises of candidates who shout "Free Healthcare for Everyone!" without understanding what that will really mean. It sounds awfully nice, but how will it work? If someone can offer me a scenario in which it would work well, not significantly raise my taxes, not lower the quality of healthcare, not screw doctors and patients over, I'm all for it. I paid $6,000 out of pocket for my health insurance this year.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

I still disagree. You state: "And the uninsured in this country do get treated for their chronic illnesses, through free clinics and medicaid. It's sucky treatment, but they do get it. Not sure how vastly the quality will improve with national healthcare.".

Not true. The uninsured don't always get their illnesses treated. That's the point. And when they do, it's often, as you care, sucky care, which is not better than no care at all. Great that your insurance plan is pretty good. Do you get annual physicals included in your plan? If you have a suspicious mole, can you get it looked at? If you have a nagging cough, you can go see the doc, right? Well, many uninsured working poor can't afford the six hours to go sit and wait in a noisy, crowded free clinic (which is full of other sick people carrying God knows what), with overworked and underpaid staff. So they ignore the nagging cough or the "indigestion" or the headache. My example above is a good one. Hypertension has no symptoms. Neither does early diabetes. No routine physicals, plus a disincentive to see a physician or worse, 'physician extender', for seemingly minor complaints can lead to burgeoning heart disease, with the sequela I outlined above. Also, no routine female care or family planning for poor women. Gee what do you think that leads to? Multiple pregnancies, leading to further poverty due to inability to work.

Free clinics and Medicaid? What do you think pays for the free clinics, dear, or the care that the uninsured get by using the ER (which is supposed to be for emergencies, by the way) as their walk-in free clinic? That's right, taxes again. When a poor family shows up to the ER for a kid's fever and sore throat, instead of being able to go to almost any doctor they want, that places a greater administrative and economic burden on both the hospital, which has to either absorb the cost (read: pass it on to the insured-- meaning YOU), or get subsidized by the state (read: your tax dollars). Have you ever worked or regularly spent time in a walk-in clinic, or an urban ER, or a clinic that took Medicaid? I have. You're attempting to neatly compartmentalize the healthcare issues affecting our country, and the truth on the ground, in the clinic waiting rooms and hallways, is vastly different. You may know money, but I know healthcare.

You also state::If private insurance will still be around along with National Healthcare, you know what will happen. The wealthy will keep their private insurance and get preferred treatment from doctors, and everyone else with national healthcare will get mediocre treatment at best."

I think you're overstating it. That's also not the way it works. Most doctors don't treat the patient with "great" insurance any better than the Medicare patient. BTW, Medicare reimbursement isn't horrible- there are some non-Medicare plans that pay worse than Medicare. And since Medicare's fees are the yardstick by which other insurers structure theirs, your argument that Medicare or National Healthcare patients would somehow get inferior care because of their insurance doesn't hold up.


" The plum companies with the best jobs will offer private insurance as part of their benefit plans and McD's will be withdrawing any private insurance benefits they might have had, since their employees can go on national healthcare."

Doubt it. NH is (would be) for those who don't have the option of insurance through an employer or can't afford it on their own. An employer wouldn't be allowed to withdraw it's insurance just because NH exists.

Hate to keep using Canada as an example, because Canada's system, as NH-poopers keep loving to point out, isn't perfect either. But Canada has a two-tiered system. Yes, those who can afford it have provate plans. Yes, there are long wait times for certain procedures. But at least no citizen has to look down the barrel of having no care at all. See, that's what we're talking about here: making sure that no American ever has to choose between mortgaging or selling his house to pay for medical care, or choosing between putting food on the table and filling a script.