Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Five "Freedoms" to ponder

Got a link to this article sent to me:

5 Freedoms You'd Lose in Health Care Reform

I'm not an expert. I don't have all of these laws and rules at my fingertips. I deal with things based on principles that I hold. And I'm willing to question anything. Even freedom. So,...


1. Freedom to choose what's in your plan

Correct. You will no longer be able to choose not to pay the money necessary to prepare for certain things. It's all or nothing. If the committee decides that certain things have a significant risk for people in the United States, and allocates some money to study it and find a cure for whatever it is, our money will be going towards that research, as well as the money necessary to treat the people suffering from the disease.

The Senate bill requires coverage for prescription drugs, because many people in the United States (including myself) need them to survive. It requires mental-health benefits, because people who are suffering from a mental illness need our help. Same with substance abuse. It's less expensive to treat people and get them back into mainstream society than to let them rot and move into the underground culture of crime.

So, everyone pays into the system, and those resources get allocated however they are needed to provide all of us with the coverage we need for whatever troubles us. That's what being in a "society" means.

2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs

When Social Security passed in 1936, it launched what is known as a "generational committment". The decision was made that we didn't want to see our elders on the street, or losing their home, or thanks to Medicare passing in the 1960's too sick to appreciate the life they have.

What is the reward for healthy living? How about an enjoyable life? The purpose of our government is to secure Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for our citizens. If you're homeless, or sick, you're not very happy.

And the real costs of people being sick go beyond just that individual or that family. The entire community suffers, because that person is not being effective at work, is not able to participate as a member of their family, etc. So we need to be willing to pay the costs necessary to get that person back on their feet.

3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage

A "market" is where people make trades and exchanges of goods and services, under a set of rules. That's what is so often ignored when people talk about "free markets". They don't exist. All markets operate under particular rules and laws. If you're talking about a financial market, it wouldn't exist without the money that is being used in the exchange. It wouldn't exist without the laws being enforced by the courts. It wouldn't exist without a foundation that protects people on both side of a trade. If by "free market" you mean one without any rules, you're talking about Anarchy.

Health Savings Accounts mean one thing. If you haven't saved up enough money, your insurance doesn't cover it. The tax thing? We can fix that. And do you really want to buy into a program where you must have that $12,000 available in cash in case you get hit by a car? That makes no sense.

Consumer driven care, to me, means care that is under the control of a patient and their doctor. The insurance company is there to pay the bills, not put something between what your doctor says you need and your ability to pay for it.

4. Freedom to keep your existing plan

This is based on an assumption. That assumption is that the employer based health care system is good and healthy for our country and our citizens. If you believe that it is, then this Freedom is important to you. If, on the other hand, you believe that our employers should not be saddled with the costs of health care, then this Freedom doesn't seem so important.

What part of your health care do you want to keep? Your rates? What if the new program costs you less? Your doctor? What if the new program would allow you to continue to see your doctor, go to the same pharmacy, the same hospital, etc?

The biggest "threat" when it comes to your existing employer based health care plan doesn't come from the Government. It comes from your employer. What if your employer figures out that they can save a lot of money by dumping their health care coverage and requiring people to go to the "exchange" instead out of their own pocket? From sole proprietor to super-corporation, every business needs to examine their ability to keep up with the costs associated with health care. If it is less expensive for your company to ask people to move to the public option, or another option because they choose not to offer coverage, that's what they will do.

I won't get into details in the law. Let's start with principles. Is a business in existence to make money, or to provide services to their employees? I thought it was to make money. It's OUR responsibility as a society to take care of each other. It's not the responsibility of your employer. That has twisted the for-profit business sector since World War II, when businesses started offering health insurance coverage because the rules of the economy at that point in history did not allow them to raise wages. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

5. Freedom to choose your doctors

The article goes into big picture what if statements. I have a primary doctor. He is covered under my plan. I would not choose to take coverage under any insurance plan that would require me to change my doctor. And if the government tries to take away my choice, I'll raise havok with my government, which I have the ability to do. Right now if my private insurance company decided to drop my doctor, I would not have any opportunity to influence that decision. Because my insurance company is looking at costs, not my desires and wishes.


Question the assumptions. Question what we have now. Don't assume when you are looking either direction for a solution for this mess.

Freedom is not free. That's a phrase that gets shot around all the time. And it's right. Freedom is not free. It requires a foundation. And it's the role of our government to secure our foundation so we don't fall through the cracks. That's the progressive viewpoint on Government.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interesting statistics

So I'm cleaning up my desk, and sorting all of the paperwork that I've kept in total chaos over the last 5 years. Finally finished getting everything financial related into folders in a storage box, which looks much better than a pile of random paper.

But what I'm finding interesting is the statistics involved in what that paperwork consists of. I don't have counts of the pages, that would be a bit above and beyond. But here's the thickness of the folders for the thickest ones.

Thickest at the top.

- Bank statements from Washington Mutual.
- Records of Medical Bills and Insurance Statements.
- Records from my 401K and other investments.
- Records from my credit cards

Just found that interesting in terms of paper wasted by what industries, and how important these are in my life.

Oh, and I found my library cards. For Seattle, King County, Sno-Isle and Tacoma. The Washington State Libraries need to take a look at the ORCA card.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A ramble on trust and truth

It used to be all I'd want to learn
was wisdom, trust, and truth

- Collective Soul:Forgiveness, Discipled Breakdown (1997)

Sometimes I find the differences between the conservative perspective on government and the progressive perspective on government worth commenting about.

I'm a progressive. I see the government as the organization that is focused on securing our foundation. When everything falls apart, I rely on the government to help ensure my safety and provide the security so that I can get back on my feet. When trust falls apart, they have the ability to find the truth. The truth will set you free, right..?

To conservatives, or people who seem to hold conservative values even if they don't consider themselves to be following any of these politically based terms, the government is a force that takes things from them. They take taxes to provide help to someone else, deserved or not. They are a last resort because they have that kind of power, and if you have to go to the government it means that you have failed. And failure is a bad thing.

Well, failure is an option sometimes. We can't do everything, and we certainly can't do everything right every time. Having the government as a foundation allows us to make mistakes, because if our government is operating properly we have the sense of security necessary for us to take those risks.

The government is not something to be afraid of. Our government is there to help us, or at least it is supposed to. What we have to do is be honest with ourselves and those that we do business with, personal or otherwise. If that trust is broken, we need help from someone who has the ability to determine the truth. If you are scared of the government, then something is wrong. The way to secure your position is to use the government as a shield.

I think that's another way of articulating that difference in perspective. Conservatives see government as a sword, while progressives see government as a shield. If you are going to the government for help, you're not asking them to strike out against someone else, you're asking them to be a shield against the unknown or untrustworthy. If you have the truth on your side, the government will defend you.

This is sort of a ramble, I know. But rambles have their place. Maybe they can start a conversation, and contribute to people's understanding. Sometimes rambles can communicate better than direct attempts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dear Reagan Dunn: Shut up


To quote the boy wonder who wants his mother's old seat, "The first rule in economics, you don't tax economic activity in a down cycle of the recession."

Funny, when I did a Google search for "The first rule in economics", I got a different result: First Rule of Economics: Wealth Is a Result of Exploitation.

Maybe I should complete his sentence, say what he really meant to say. The first rule in economic politics is that you don't dare tax wealth if you want a prayer of being reelected or elected to a higher office.

In case you can't tell, I'm rather angry about this.

No funding for parks, to heck with health services, end all help to people who need it. Perhaps the only way to drive this home would be to not only stop funding clean up efforts in the parks, but actually blockade the entrances so that nobody can use them. We should post signs in the windows of the health service centers that shut down saying "This center closed due to rich greed."

Economics is a science. It is the study of financial transactions and how those transactions affect the lives of people. In a true sense, economic value is like matter and energy. Can neither be created or destroyed. We take resources from the Earth and the Sun, and convert them into goods and services that meet a human need. Food is soil combined with water combined with sunlight. Shelter comes from taking materials from a forest or the ground, and turning them into homes and buildings. We generate wealth through the production of those goods and services, but these things only have value if they actually serve a human need. Just generating numbers in an accounting book does nothing to help anyone, and it should be discouraged.

Taxing wealth, the way that President Herbert Hoover did in 1932 on our way down into the depths of the Great Depression, was a way of preventing the rich from getting away with their wealth. Taxes on the highest incomes went from 25% to 63% on a graduated scale. That wasn't to tax economic activity, it was to discourage idle wealth from sucking up the recovery dollars that were going to be put into trying to dig us out of the hole.

Power corrupts. Wealth in our society means power. That means wealth corrupts. Our problem here in Washington is that we have a Constitution that says "All taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax and shall be levied and collected for public purposes only. The word 'property' as used herein shall mean and include everything, whether tangible or intangible, subject to ownership." - Article VII, Section 1. This has been interpreted by the court as preventing a progressive state income tax, as well as any measures that would tax any property at a higher rate than any other property. Which gives our state the most regressive tax system in the nation, hurting the people who need the most support from the foundations of our society. The foundations that we rely on our government to secure.

We need leadership in this state who will put their reelection needs lower on the priority list than getting the real work done. We need people in office who will do what is right.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One lousy afternoon

Your knowledge of a situation changes the situation instantly. By becoming aware, you alter the outcome of the situation - "Dr. Quantum's Little Book of Big Ideas" by Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D.

So, Debi went out to volunteer to help clean up an area of Magnuson Park with EarthCorps, and I stayed home to relax and get some things done online. We had planned to head down to ride the train to Tukwila after she got back and I looked online for some interesting restaurants before I headed out on my bike for a ride.

Search came up with zilch. And it was a bit depressing to find out that the Lewis & Clark movie theater that I had grown up going to was closed, at least from what I could find online. Hopefully, someone will come up with some interesting non-fast-junk-food places around that station. And hopefully soon.

So I went out on my bike. I headed down 125th Ave, with a plan to bike down to Magnuson and around to the U-District and then back home. That didn't work. I don't go down 125th very often, and the road was in bad enough shape that my rear tire popped thanks to the cracks in the road. This was down the hill, and I realized that I had forgotten my bus pass. So I walked my bike back up the hill to home, got my pass and my debit card, and then walked it up Roosevelt to Revolution Cycles to get my tire replaced. I'll try that run again tomorrow morning.

Debi got home around 2:45, and when she was rested and ready, we set off to the rail station. This meant that we needed to catch the 41 at 115th and 5th, and the schedule said that it was supposed to be there at 3:58 and the next one at 4:11. We didn't make it to the 3:58, but we did see a bus go by at about 4:03 as we were walking towards the stop. So we waited for the next one. And waited.

At 4:35, a 41 bus finally got to our stop. We got to the Transit Center, and the line was very long to get on, and there was a wheelchair. It wouldn't have been a problem if a little'un and a little bigger'un weren't crying and screaming in the seats next to us. Survivable, but I was getting hungry.

We finally got downtown around 5, after going through hella-traffic thanks to a car stuck in the middle of the southbound lanes. Getting hungrier.

We figured it would be easy enough to get on the train at Westlake, make the run to Tukwila and back again, and stop at our favorite place in Pioneer Square on the way home. So we headed into Westlake Mall to get to the tunnel. Wrong move. They had blockaded the entrance so people couldn't just come into their celebration from anywhere willy-nilly. We, along with a LOT of other people, were told to go back up to 4th Avenue to the entrance by Abercrombie & Fitch. So we went up, and found that it was actually the Main entrance in the Macy's building that was the real entrance to the circus. And I do mean circus.

A clown playing a saw with a violin bow? A Starbucks delivery for order #63 on a tall unicycle? Amateur attempts at crowd control? The guys doing tricks weren't bad, but if you're going to have people line up to get on a ride, do like Disney and SeaTac does, and create a snake so that we always think the line is moving.

We finally got to the train at 5:45, rather ravenous for some food. So we asked, and were delighted to find out that we could get off the train in Pioneer Square so we could go eat. But, how long would the trains be running tonight? Don't know, not sure, ask him/her, check upstairs. On our way out we got an "I don't know, maybe 7:30 or 8" a few more times from the people with yellow shirts who were the "Event Staff". Whatever, by that point we were too hungry to care much.

Dinner was great, btw. As usual at the New Orleans.

After dinner, we found a station entrance blocked, and was pointed up the James hill to another one. This was about 6:45, and we were told that just before we got there they had all been told that the system would stop running at 8pm, with no guarantee that we would be able to get back on the train but that there were shuttle buses running between the stops just in case.

We quit. Headed to the closest 41 stop. For another bus ride, another wheelchair (blessings be upon them), and finally got home around 7:45.

Four hours for dinner downtown, and a thrilling evening around the people of Seattle on a Saturday night.

I think we'll go shopping in the morning and stay home. I think it might be a bit less chaotic starting Monday when the circus leaves down.

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Twitter "Tag"

I'm having a lot of fun on Twitter. A few times today I noticed a post that I just had to respond to, and my own post in return had a new 'tag' on it. "Bring it!"

Hat tip to Mr. Former President whom I hope gets thrown in prison. Bring it on indeed.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What if

It's 5:45 am. Do you know where your immigration legislation is? My mom does. Not that I wanted to hear it at that hour. The King County Council is considering legislation:

Under a proposal before the Metropolitan King County Council, health facilities run by the county could not deny care based on immigration status, and sheriff's deputies could not ask people for immigration papers, or investigate, detain or arrest people for immigration violations. - Seattle Times

So my mind started thinking about "What If".

What if there is a traffic accident, with one witness to the accident who might not speak English very well. A huge insurance war erupts, with each side blaming the other. Where is the witness? Well, the King County Sheriff had asked about immigration status, and the witness was returned to her home country before identified as a witness.

What if there is a fire, and a silent hero rescues 3 children. The family and neighbors plan a great big celebration as a thank you, only to find out that the hero, who was silent because of a language barrier, cannot attend from the INS detention center.

Immigration is an issue. It's an issue of how strong we are willing to build our communities. I don't believe that anyone should be breaking laws to come to the United States. But we have people who are without employment not because the employers don't have positions available, but because those employers are more than willing to skip the immigration question in the hiring process. That's where our enforcement dollars need to go. It's those employers who need to go to jail, not members of our community who are trying to build a future for their children in the land of opportunity.

Oh, it's about taxes? Francamente, no doy un maldito.