Healthcare Alternatives

Hundreds of thousands of people, soon to be millions, are losing their health insurance. More will see their costs go up. I was talking to a woman last week who told me her costs were going from less than $400 a month to over $700 a month, an increase of over 70%. I’ll let others describe Obamacare for the disaster it is, but this post is about true alternatives that actually exist for people in need.

Soon after my youngest daughter was born, my wife I were leaving the doctor’s office after a routine check, I noticed up on the wall a sign to the effect of “HB 3426 Requires the Costs of Care to be Disclosed.” This struck me as hilarious. What business has to have a law requiring it, good consumer, to tell you its prices? Would you shop somewhere that didn’t disclose the cost of goods and services? And how long would such a business last that refused to do so?  Continue reading

Poverty with AC & Xbox

The Heritage Foundation has put out a helpful report describing poverty in the United States. The gist is that very few of the 30 million people classified by the Census Bureau as poor really are according to common definitions referring to a lack of food and shelter. Addressing rather than perpetuating poverty anywhere requires great wisdom. When Helping Hurts is a great place to start gathering it.

reducing ethics to sentiment

“Consumerism is a spiritual discipline that, like other spiritual practices, lends itself to a certain practice of community. In identifying with the images and values associated with certain brands, we also identify ourselves with all the other  people who make such an identification. Consumerism also allows us to identify with other places and other cultures through our purchases. White kids in Illinois can listen to reggae music and feel themslves in solidarity with the struggles of poor blacks in Jamaica. As Vincet Miller points out, however, such types of “virtual” community tend to reduce community to disembodied acts of consumption. Miller cites the example of Moby’s album Play, which sold ten million copies in 1999. On that album Moby combines samples of African-American spirituals, gospel, and blues with techno-beat dance music. The song “Natural Blues” begins with a sampling from a 1959 recording of Vera Hall singing “Oh, Lordy, trouble so hard.” The sample is chopped and mixed with dance music, and though such samples allow the listener to enter into imaginative sympathy with the struggles of the African-American community in its long hard history, Moby takes the Hall samples out of context and offers them for listener consumption.

Although Vera Hall and the other artiss were not even acknowledged, let alone thanked in Moby’s  liner notes on the Play album, every song on that alubm was eventually  licensed for use in a commerical–for such companies as Calvin Klein and American Express. Concrete suffering is abstracted from its context and offered as a commodity. No matter how much the listener feels in solidarity with others, virtual solidarity offers no concrete results. As Miller notes, “This abstraction impedes the translation of ethical concerns into action, reducing ethics to sentiment. The virtual becomes a substitute for concrete political solidarity, or to put it another way, a fundamentally different act — consumption — is substituted for political action.””  William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, pp. 50-51.

Social Insecurity

From a recent offer at American Vision:

The Social Security System will be broke by the end of 2010, according to figures published by the Congressional Budget Office.  That’s right: busted.  The program will have to be subsidized by Congress.  No more net revenue surplus from FICA taxes.  Hello, deficit!

But what about the Social Security Trust Fund?  Empty. Nothing but a pile of non-marketable IOU’s from the Treasury Department.  Total: $2.5 trillion.

Medicare is already broke.  Ever since 2007, Congress has been bailing it out.  In 2010, 45% of the Medicare Hospital Insurance program’s expenses will be funded by the general fund.  Hello, deficit!

But what about the Medicare Trust Fund?  Empty.  Nothing but a pile of non-marketable IOU’s from the Treasury Department.  Total: $300 billion and falling.

Have you factored this into your retirement plans?  Congress hasn’t.  Congress is playing “kick the can.”

Tens of millions of Americans are planning to retire no later than age 65.  Millions more plan to take early retirement at 62.  A majority of these people will be destitute by age 75.  Maybe by age 70.

Gary North did a lovely dive into the deep end over Y2K, but that doesn’t mean he can’t swim out and say reasonable things. Anyone under 40 who is counting on Social Security trusts crazy people who think they can cure debt with more debt. Best to plan otherwise.

New Wheels for the Rich or Foolish

Minimum wage laws make it so that very few people whose labor is worth less than the set price will have jobs, right? Right. The poor suffer. It’s not a complicated argument.

Similarly, what happens when lots of low cost cars are purchased by the government and then destroyed? The supply is diminished, demand remains the same (or rises), and people, the poorer among us, who need cheap cars are hurt with less to choose from and (often therefore) higher prices. The government incentivized this by trading cash for clunkers. Who would turn in these clunkers? People who either have jobs and money and can afford to buy a new car or people who are irresponsible and can’t afford it but buy on credit anyway. Either way, the government subsidizes wealthy or foolish. Sound familiar? It’s just like nearly everything the government and its regulation does. The sting of unintended consequences.

We can only hope that people will see the same thing coming with nationalized health care.

Adultolescence

Kevin DeYoung cites Robert Wuthnow’s After the Baby Boomers reporting that in 1960, by the time they were 30 years old, 77% of women and 65% of men had completed all the major transitions into adulthood: leaving home, finishing school, financial independence, and having a child. Just 40 years later, just 46% of women and 31% of men had done the same by age 30. I’ve had a number of conversations with people who can’t believe someone could be ready for marriage in their early 20s. Wuthrow’s interest is the future of American religion. The consequences of the new “adultolescene” are far reaching. Not only does smaller post-boomer generation need to provide for the aging boomers and their increasing healthcare needs, it has to do it with less productivity. These transitions are largely those that mark the change from a consumer-student into  producer. The fact that half the men (or possibly less by now) don’t live with their mom, have wives, jobs, a kid and financial independence indicates a lot less is being produced in every way.

Free Money

Commenting on Numbers 25:36-27, Gordon Wenham notes “Interest-free loans are well attested in ancient financial records, and laws against taking excessive interest are also known, but Israel is alone in totally prohibiting interest payments on loans to the poor. These loans were essentially charitable: they enabled a poor farmer to buy enough seed corn for the next season.”

Well, not exactly free (which is notoriously not helpful for the poor), but loans without interest between Israelites was mandated by law.

US Goes to Cash Advance Store

Maybe it’s just me taking notice, but it seems that I’ve seen more and more cash advance stores popping up in the in recent years. You know, the kind where you get money in advance of being paid and of course pay out the nose to do so. The government gets paid, largely, on tax day April 15th, and with this year’s stimulus pakcage they too took a cash advance. But not only did they do that, they kept spending even after they got paid and so for the first time since 1983 the government is running an April deficit. Everyone knows that people who go to cash advance stores are really desperate or foolish, right? Well, this is our intentional economic policy. Just think: we, the richest nation in the world, are that fool who intentionally wanders into that brightly signed store thinking “$$$.”