September 2009

Hola amigos! Angry New Mexican here. Once again our beloved AOC is too busy writing to the other Angry Men to post his own darned messages. Anyway, I had sent out this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the death of rural America via Brain Drain to urban/suburban America. Without further ado, here’s AOC:

Angry Overeducated Catholic

The whiny tone of the article, especially early on, tempted me to write a mean 2 sentence summary. But the good practical ideas later earned the whiny academics a reprieve.

Example good ideas:

  • Having small town high schools provide a focus on vocational and professional education as well as college prep, so that they can prepare those who are most likely to stay in the town after HS.
  • Extending job retraining to HS students as well as displaced workers, so that they can tune their education to the burgeoning job markets in their regions.
  • Attracting immigrants (as in “to the US” and not just “to the town”) to replace emigrants with hardworking lower income types and foreign professionals who may well be more than happy to build the local economy.

Now, if only the article weren’t laced with the standard “woe is me, the area I study is changing, and the stress of change is ruining lives, how can we preserve these areas for their people (and my continued study)” of sociologists the world over. Sadly, of course, progress does indeed march on—bringing generally greater prosperity and disruptive change to isolated enclaves—no matter how much academic luddites would like to freeze it to preserve their areas of interest.

One also wonders if they realize just how much their “destroy agribusiness and replace evil factory farms with organic free-range farms” vision would hurt those other poor folks they mention in passing, the ones in inner cities…

Of course there is a good way to reduce factory farming while keeping food prices low: repeal the stupid farm subsidies and our outrageous tariffs on foreign food. But I don’t think we’ll hear those ideas any time soon from these academics.

Hola muchachos! It’s your hombre-in-chief Angry New Mexican again, serving as your editor du jour since my angry hermanos are still hangin’ out in the backyard… smoking the peyote or something. Anyway, I saw a really interesting article by David Goldhill on health care reform. After a few emails where we trolled each other repeatedly, Angry Overeducated Catholic had the most cogent response. Without further ado, here it is…

Angry Overeducated Catholic

I realize it’s been a few days, but having gone back and read the Atlantic article Angry New Mexican started this with again, in depth, I just wanted to commend it to everyone. It’s a really great article, and it puts to rest some red herrings in this debate:

  1. Uncontrolled costs are not due to rapacious insurance companies, evil drug companies, corrupt doctors, greedy lawyers, wasteful patients, or any other bad actor…or rather they are due to all of them because it’s the perverse incentives in the system itself that are to blame.
  2. No government plan—not single-payer, not a public option, not an NHS—that continues to make comprehensive health insurance the primary payment method will succeed. Indeed things like a single-payer plan or NHS will likely make things worse because they’ll push costs even further from the consumer.

As ANM said, the author believes that only the scrapping of comprehensive health insurance for most folks will address our core problem…and raise other problems that other things must address. I basically agree.

I also agree with Angry Military Man that requiring Americans to purchase comprehensive insurance is unconstitutional. But I agree with ANM that everyone having comprehensive insurance is a good thing. In fact, given our compassionate decision to make treatment mandatory for crises, I consider it a basic infrastructure of our society.

So here’s my pitch:

  1. Every American, every man, woman, and child, gets a basic comprehensive insurance package from Uncle Sam: $1 million lifetime coverage, with a $100,000 lifetime deductible, and a yearly deductible set to 10% of your income from the last year.

    No premiums. No yearly paperwork (on your part). No IRS employees going over your precious medical records, instead the IRS simply sends HHS your income summary each year. You will have to document that you’ve spent the deductible, but that shouldn’t be hard for catastrophic cases.

    That’s $300+ trillion dollars potentially, but spread out over a whole population, and it’s not like private catastrophic insurance doesn’t also have to find the money to pay out… Now, 2,500,000 folks kick off each year, so as an upper bound, we’re looking at around $2.5 trillion a year, and I’m guessing it’s quite a bit less, thanks to violence, drugs, car accidents, etc. (Incidentally, the actual average for end-of-life care for the more expensive older patients (over 65) appeared to be about $51,500 (current dollars) in 1996…let’s assume that’s actually risen 10% year over year, so it’s basically doubled twice by now to around $200,000…assuming that all lifetime deductibles are met before the end of life period, and that the period lasts 2 years on average, that’s $400,000 per person, meaning our payout is much less than estimated above.)

    Now, where does private insurance come in? Well, make it taxable, and let the market sort itself out. Want a lifetime deductible under $100,000? Need more than $1 million in lifetime coverage? Want smaller yearly deductibles? Want an HMO? Want comprehensive care? Whatever you want, fine, but no mandates, no subsidies, and no government interference (other than standard anti-fraud, etc.).

    Want to bar existing conditions? Fine! Want to pay for 8 abortions/year per teenage girl? OK! Whatever, we don’t care because it’s no longer our business…

  2. Abolish Medicare. Halve Medicare deductions on pay and put the half remaining towards administering the catastrophic payouts. That’ll give us $100 billion or so per year, enough for full payouts for 100,000 citizens.
  3. Make HSAs, unlike insurance, fully tax deductible…so, really insurance is deductible, because—surprise—you’ll pay for it out of the HSA! But it’s no more deductible than any other medical expense. Hooray!
  4. The article’s remaining ideas are pretty good:

    “For lower-income Americans who can’t fund all of their catastrophic premiums or minimum HSA contributions, the government should fill the gap—in some cases, providing all the funding. You don’t think we spend an absurd amount of money on health care? If we abolished Medicaid, we could spend the same money to make a roughly $3,000 HSA contribution and a $2,000 catastrophic-premium payment for 60 million Americans every year. That’s a $12,000 annual HSA plus catastrophic coverage for a low-income family of four. Do we really believe most of them wouldn’t be better off?
    Some experts worry that requiring people to pay directly for routine care would cause some to put off regular checkups. So here’s a solution: the government could provide vouchers to all Americans for a free checkup every two years. If everyone participated, the annual cost would be about $30 billion—a small fraction of the government’s current spending on care.”

    These are the fringe cases that account for so much of the emotional impact of the bogus “47 million uninsured” number. So, yes, just pony up and pay.

    I’d be tempted to make that “one check-up every two years” instead “one check-up per year for kids up to 18 and adults over 35”, since most young adults are least vulnerable to the ill effects of missing doctor’s visits.

    Illegal immigrants? They get treated as they do now, in the shadows…but only for crisis care. However, certainly low cost plans and insurance will arise to meet that market, or out of pocket costs will cover all but the worst illnesses. And, those who become legal and start filing taxes get roped in.

    So the only question left: how far from revenue neutral is this approach?

As usual, My Angry Hombres are two darned lazy to post, leaving your hombre-in-chief, Angry New Mexican, to post all the stuff they send to our super secret email list. Now without further ado, I give you Angry Overeducated Catholic -ANM

The great thing about Biden is that, while maybe 2/3 of the Bidenisms are just careless speaking (bad “facts”, poor wording, half-baked ideas not yet ready for prime time), proving that Biden’s mouth lacks a filter connected to his brain, the other 1/3 are uncomfortable truths blurted out to the wrong audience or at the wrong time, proving that Biden also has “the Bard’s Tongue”.

And also demonstrating why, despite this:

“Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me.”

it’s a better call to have Biden as VP and Clinton as Secretary of State. Because you can tolerate a VP with the Bard’s Tongue. You can’t have a Secretary of State with it. If Biden were Secretary of State, eventually he’d say something like:

“Oh, heck, just build the damn bomb…we’re not going to nuke you over it. In fact, we’re not even going to get all that mad about it, once it’s done…just make sure you cut a deal with the Israelis so they don’t nuke you…maybe recognize them, they like that…or give them some of those turbanheads you support over in Beruit, or something.”

to Iran in high-level talks, and that sort of thing just looks bad…

I mean, that’s what you have lower-level staffers for, so you can say those things and then deny them publicly later…

ANM: As much as I like Joe Biden, I thought AOC was right on the money with the VP’s bad case of foot-in-mouth disease. But the only thing I could think of was The Bard’s Tale. And I could only wonder, does Joe Biden sing It’s bad luck to be you? AOC responded as follows:

Heh. Well, no, not that I’ve heard. But on the other hand, I don’t think either of us can know whether, perhaps, he isn’t serenaded by obnoxious faeries singing this to him in desolate places…so you never know…and he certainly has the right heritage for all this.

Hmm, I never really thought about that…maybe he does have the Bard’s tongue.

Maybe that’s why he’s VP…maybe Obama figures that if anyone can deliver the unicorn farts and rainbows…it’d be a guy with an in with the wee folk!

Chicago’s Metra “On The Bi-Level” newsletter had an inadvertent doozy this month. Normally I’m not one to read too much into word selection, but in this case it is warranted. First, we have a complaint about a sidewalk:

I was told by a Berwyn alderman that it is Metra’s decision to close the crosswalk on the BNSD that’s two blocks east of Harlem for “safety reasons.” … I have already seen four instances of people running and crossing at Harlem with gates down and in front of express trains! Yes, you are actually endangering people.

Here is the newsletter’s response:

It is for safety reasons. And we can hardly be blamed for endangering people who willfully go around crossing gates.

When you’re designing a safety feature, be it for an air traffic control system, a financial web site, or the layout of a train station, it is best to design for people as they actually are, not the way you wish they were. Design is a series of trade offs, and the proper way to evaluate closing a crosswalk is “how many people die with the cross walk” vs. “how many people die without the cross walk”.

Of course, that’s if you are interested in keeping people safe, not avoiding blame.

As a New Yorker by birth, I find it impossible to look at today through any lens except that of New York’s Bravest (for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I mean the FDNY). Three hundred and forty three heroes met their ends that day trying to save people in the WTC. If anyone were to dare to badmouth the FDNY for their performance that day, any self-respecting New Yorker would punch the jerk right in the face.

Sadly, however, Manhattan on 9/11 has become a mecca for another type of people who need a good punch in the face: Truthers (a name so filled with distortions and lies that it alone makes me want to punch them in the face). The people who are firmly convinced by alien radio signals that 9/11 was a evil plot by the Bush Junta. Now admittedly, Dick Cheney is obviously evil (something even his admirers admit), but even he isn’t that evil. The raw hatred and perversely twisted logic of the 9/11 “Truth” Movement makes me physically ill. Which is why though I seldom agree with Angry Military Man on issues of politics and such, I’m 100% behind the below proposal:

Angry Military Man

Today is 9/11, which means the tinfoil hat wearing truthers are gonna be out in force, especially in Manhattan. Everyone wish Manhattanites our best, they’re gonna need it. I propose skipping the memorial day recommendation for 9/11 and instead make it a national holiday. “9/11 National-Punch-a-Truther-in-the-Face-Day!!!”

Hola muchachos! It’s your hombre-in-chief Angry New Mexican again. My fellow Angry Men have been really angry with each other as of late, so we’ve been pretty bad about sharing our uncontrollable rage in blog form. Sadness.

Anyway, by now, most of you have probably seen the kerfuffle about Obama’s address to students and how the right-wing nutjobs thinks this is an evil conspiracy by Obama and his socialist minions. Witness Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, who said, “As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.” As a non-Republican, I feel no particular pain watching the party self-destruct. It’s kind of like watching a train wreck in my own living room, where I can bring my own popcorn… pretty exciting, actually. But this has pained dear AOC tremendously. Here are his thoughts on what the GOP should have done…

Angry Overeducated Catholic
What saddens me the most about the whole stupid business is that those stupid Republican morons in the party’s leadership did not use this opportunity to loudly attack the right-wing morons quaking over the “indoctrination”. Or even just support the President. What a missed opportunity to score huge plus points with the population!

“Hi, I’m GOP House Minority Leader Boehner! And I’m Senator John McCain! We’ve had lots of disagreements with the President over health care, cap and trade, …Heck, I can’t think of too many times we’ve all been on the same page. But there’s one message we do agree 100% with President Obama on: study hard, stay in school, and you can achieve anything! So we support 100% the President’s plan to speak directly to kids. As the father of small children himself, we’re sure he’ll make great points and we hope he’ll inspire some young child listening to follow in his footsteps.

This is America, kids! As President Obama shows, dreaming big, staying in school, and working hard can get you anywhere!

And for those who have attacked President Obama over this: why the rage! If a sports star, a CEO, or a military hero can inspire our kids, why nor our President? Especially one who is watching his own children make their way through the joy of learning? We may not be the President’s biggest fans, but we’ve got to stand with him on this one!

Thank you for listening, America, and God bless!”

But, of course, noooo…

Real men only talk when they really need to. I have a true story that demonstrates this.

Several years ago while on vacation my family stopped at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. My small children were easily distracted by a couple of other male vactioners who were flying a kite around the rest area. They were doing some impressive stunts, and got awfully close to a large pine tree. Eventually they got too close and the kite was stuck in the tree.

Over the next ten minutes they were unable to extract the kite from the tree.

Then some men (yes, all) in a truck with a cherry picker pulled up at the rest stop. They got out of the car, looked at the kite, looked at the tree, and drove right up to the tree. Out came the stabilizers from the truck. Up went the cherry picker. Down came the kite.

And they never said a word.

Real men only talk when they need to.

So, those of you who follow free range parenting have heard about Bridge Kevane’s arrest for leaving her under-teen children alone at a Bozeman Montana mall. What’s interesting is the following comment from the Bozeman police:

“We’re not going to take a chance with a child’s life safety,” said [Bozeman Police Department Deputy Chief Marty] Kent. “We’ve got some weird people here. We have murderers, and we have a huge meth problem. This is a real city, this isn’t Mayberry.”

So, I was left wondering, what do the actual statistics say about murder in Bozeman? I have no doubt that Kent’s impression is valid from his point of view; but talking to a police officer about crime is like talking to a lawyer about law suites; they think everybody does it.

But the FBI does gather statistics on these things. We can look them up on the FBI web site, although it would be really sweet if they were in Wolfram Alpha as a time series. Oh well.

For 2002, the number of reported murders in Bozeman: 0
For 2003, the number of reported murders in Bozeman: 0.
For 2004, the number of reported murders in Bozeman: 0.
For 2005, the number of reported murders in Bozeman: 0
For 2006, the number of reported murders in Bozeman: 0.
For 2007, the number of reported murders in Bozeman: 0.

Now, Bozeman is a small town at 30,000 people, but the murder rate does sound like Mayberry.

And what does a huge Meth problem have to do with leaving your children at the mall?