The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Obama

Barack Obama: These are the Iowa numbers for Obama
57% ages 17-29
42% of voters 30-44
27% of voters 45-64
18% of voters 65 and older.

Remember when I said that when 80% of white males born before 1950 are dead, the race issue would take care of itself? There you go. Perfect example of what I meant.
##
I was asked what I meant by saying I thought the country has moved too far to the Right. I guess I could leave it with saying that the White House, both Houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court all seemed to be on the same side of matters. I don’t think that’s healthy at all—but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Dems have the same advantage for, say, four years. I don’t know (personally) anyone Left or Right, who doesn’t believe in a strong America. In fact, everyone I know agrees with Afghanistan. Lotsa disagreement about Iraq—and most of the anti-Iraq was on the Left. I think that trickle-down economics make sense if you have a strongly hierarchical view of humanity: something I think can be found more on the Right. I personally think that the idea of tax breaks for the wealthiest in a time of war is utter insanity. But that’s just me. Universal Health Care? It’s almost certainly coming, unless someone can point out broad statistical reasons it doesn’t work. You know: infant mortality rate, life expectancy, patient satisfaction, wait time, iatrogenic disease rates, percentage of GNP invested in research and medical infrastructure. Stuff like that. The question I have is: how do you set up a two-tier system like you have with education, police and so forth: a public commons, and a private network for those who can afford it.

The evangelicals? Well...yeah, it disturbs me when people who don't believe in Evolution have a say over public policy. And it disturbs me that the Right doesn't call 'em on it, presumably because the votes are needed.

The immigration problem? I haven’t heard that much difference on Right and Left, although by my own definitions, the Left should be weaker on this issue. (You guys know my answer: fine employers. Give green cards to illegals who turn their employers in. Illegals are not deported: they are given an ankle bracelet with a capacitor and a cellular pickup which, over 90 days, will get increasingly uncomfortable if it picks up a U.S. area code. Let them pay their own way to the border.)

I also REALLY hated the arrogance I saw in the Bush white house the first five years. It felt to me that the “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude is completely natural for those under stress, but not what is needed with the current threat—that of Islamic Jihadism. What is necessary to deal with this is more of a “female” approach: building broad coalitions, and not thinking that having the biggest hammer in the world is going to help us when the television goes on the fritz. Do we really need a defense budget larger than all other countries in the world COMBINED? Really? I don’t. And I think that that kind of thinking is exactly what Eisenhower was warning us about.

So…maybe I’m lumping together the Right, the Republicans, and Bush. Maybe those things should be separated out some. I confess ignorance about many of these things. But I will say that what I really want is the middle ground. I’d be perfectly happy to see things swing (a bit) from Right to Left, alternating every eight years. That would work.
##
And I guess my sense of Hillary: if she wins, and wins reelection, we would have had a Bush or Clinton in the White House for THIRTY SIX YEARS. Eight years of George Bush as VP. Eight years of Bill Clinton. Eight Years of Bush Jr. Another eight years of Clinton? If you like the direction the country’s going right now, please do. If you don’t, you know what to do.

29 comments:

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Iowa isn't the same thing as getting the candidacy, let alone becoming president, but it wouldn't surprise me if sex in movies follows a black man in the US getting substantial power rather than preceding it.

Dan Moran said...

I liked the direction the counry was going in the 90s, Steve.

I like Obama a lot and if he's the nominee, I'll donate to the limit, organize, phone bank, etc.

I despised Bill Clinton, so this isn't Clintonian nostalgia at work. But the Clinton Administration balanced the budget and stopped the downright evil practice of taxing the unborn through deficit spending, kept the economy humming along nicely, and had the United States powerful and respected.

Congrats to Obama. Hillary's got my vote, but I'd vote for Obama before I'd vote for any other candidate in the Democratic field (and if Hillary does win, hope Obama gets tapped for VP; after 8 years he'd be a mature 54 and the logical choice to take office after her.)

If Obama gets the nomination -- it'd be funny, and I doubt he'd do it -- but I think John Edwards would make a great VP for the same reason. After 8 years of an Obama Presidency, Edwards would only be about 62 -- prime President age.)

That said, for purposes of actually getting elected, Obama and Wesley Clark would make a great duo.

Frank said...

You forgot to mention that Iowa's population is 95% white. Almost as white as Vermont.

I think that trickle-down economics make sense if you have a strongly hierarchical view of humanity:

Know, it makes sense if you have an unbiased view of proven results. If you, like, respect mathematics.

It is quite clear now that cutting taxes increases the tax base such that more people pay taxes which increases revenue. At the same time, "the rich" make more money and pay more taxes as well, also increasing revenue.

The data is as clear for this as it is for evolution. People who support evolution and deny this clearly support evolution for political reasons not scientific reasons. But then again, these are the same people who predict apocalyptic results from "anthropogenic" Climate change. And for the same reason: they haven't a clue as to how to evaluate data, and are simply taking a political position whether they realize it or not.

Huckabee has almost no positions I agree with. But the same is true of Obama. If it came down to a contest between these two, I just don't know what I would do.

Thankfully, I don't believe this will happen. While Obama may very well get the nomination, I doubt very much that Huckabee will.

Here's me keeping my fingers crossed.

Lynn said...

-- "a Bush or Clinton in the White House for THIRTY SIX YEARS. --

Good grief! I had never thought of it like that.

Mike said...

I don't agree on Afghanistan. Our argument for invasion was that they harbored terrorists - but I don't think we had any strong evidence that such harboring was voluntary. Arguably, the United States harbored terrorists - the 9/11 hijackers lived here for some time, after all. And what about that guy who downed the Cuban airliner - he's still kicking around in Florida, isn't he? There were better ways to a) change the policies of the Taliban and b) shut down Osama; both laudable goals, but neither actually accomplished by our current involvement in Afghanistan.

Having gone in, we bungled the cultural situation, and classically (as in, just like every other Western nation to invade Afghanistan starting with Alexander the Great) mis-interpreted the political landscape. Then, at exactly the point when our involvement could do the most good, we pulled most of our troops out to hare off on some other military adventure.

The situation at present in Afghanistan is far closer to that of Vietnam in the 60s and 70s than Iraq - soldiers in fire bases with painfully conflicting orders (shoot those guys today, but not tomorrow, and the like), a hidden enemy who swims through the populace like fish in water (thank you, Mao) and unforgiving terrain that prevents useful operations by our ground forces.

There's nothing in that that I agree with.

Marty S said...

If you want evidence of the problems with universal health care just look North of the border. My son lives in Canada where they have universal health care and he is always complaining about the wait to get medical care. I believe it is reasonably well documented that wealthy Canadians with serious health problems head south of the border for treatment.

Frank said...

Mike said

I don't agree on Afghanistan.

You made all of that up.

Or you are stunningly misinformed with regards to Afghanistan.

I could not find one correct historical fact in you whole piece which could be why you opinion is so off.

Marty said:

If you want evidence of the problems with universal health care just look North of the border

Or look at England. This is what "government run" health care looks like:

Despite the NHS commitment to provide free universal care, it is already common for doctors to set conditions on patients seeking treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence already considers so-called self-induced illnesses in setting the criteria that determine which patients should qualify for new or expensive health treatments.

And this year Leicester City Primary Care Trust was given Government approval to ask smokers to quit before they are given places on waiting lists for operations such as hip replacements and heart surgery.

Obese people also face more conditions from doctors who say being very overweight unnecessarily complicates many procedures....

"Is this being done for the patient, or is it just another way of saving money?"


Gee? Why would you need to save money?

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Thanks for clarifying. I’m an Obama guy if he continues to impress me this election will be the first time that I’ve place an X next to a D. I’m impressed with him not necessarily because I agree with all of his ideas; I think the country drastically needs a new face with an open mind. I have gotten the sense from Obama that he’s not overly set into dogmatic party politics and willing to see both sides of an issue as valid and important to the national discussion. This seems to be a rare quality, especially in politics, but an important one never the less.

I also agree with you that a government with a wider range of political beliefs is healthy, but maybe for a different reason. I am a big believer in gridlock, I find that the less government does the better it functions. In my perfect world you would have a fairly constructionist judiciary, a split House and Senate and an Executive branch that moves pendulum like between the parties every four to eight years.

While I agree that we need to take a look at health insurance and how it is distributed, I’ve had personal experience with Universal Healthcare and find it works great if you don’t get sick. In other words, if you’re tickled pink by your HMO and think it’s overly efficient you’ll just love Universal Healthcare. My opinion is purely anecdotal based on the Canadian system that I spent some time under, so I could be convinced otherwise. Alternately, I know an American couple that found the best healthcare they had ever had while stationed in Germany and I believe that system is Socialized Medicine.

Evangelicals? Not too much of a problem for me. While I believe that Evolution is obviously true, I know a lot of people that are a hell of a lot smarter than me that are Creationists. I just see it as a blind spot (we all have ‘em) based on the fear of death (most of us have that fear too); I don’t see a reason that just because you hold that belief means that you can’t serve in politics, at least as long as you’re okay with others disagreeing with you. If you think everyone should believe as you do and you support laws that enforce that belief on others (and that includes laws that require that you believe Evolution), then I do think that your beliefs make you unqualified to serve.

Whatever happens over this election cycle should be an interesting one. I’m looking forward to watching it.

Peace,
Scott.

Frank said...

Scott says:

Alternately, I know an American couple that found the best healthcare they had ever had while stationed in Germany and I believe that system is Socialized Medicine.

If they were "stationed" in Germany, wouldn't they have been served by the Military healthcare system?

Steven Barnes said...

I often hear of "wealthy Canadians" heading south for our medical system. Fine.
1) What does that have to do with a two-tiered system? Wealthy people also often have their own security guards. Doesn't mean a police department doesn't work.
2) Any numbers? What PERCENTAGE of Canadians seek American-style health care? Or absolute numbers? Or what percentage of Canadians are contented/discontented with their system as opposed to Americans? Someone must have that data. Otherwise its all anecdotal, and pretty useless.
##
Frank, sorry, but in a closed system, I might agree that letting the top 1% keep "more of" their money eventually benefits everyone. But if money is sent out of the country, that won't help us, here, for generations. I can understand your saying that you agree with trickle-down, but if you think the matter is "settled", with no intelligent educated disagreement, I think you're kidding yourself.

Mike said...

Yes, Frank, if it makes you feel better, I totally made all that up. Everything in Afghanistan is fine; the people love us, and our soldiers are worshiped as gods.

Frank said...

Mike says

Everything in Afghanistan is fine; the people love us, and our soldiers are worshiped as gods.

I didn't say everything in Afghanistan is fine, I disputed the facts you recounted.

For instance:

Our argument for invasion was that they harbored terrorists - but I don't think we had any strong evidence that such harboring was voluntary.

Are you kidding? Voluntary by whom? I'm sure you could find lots of people in Afghanistan who hated al Qaida, but that's not the point, is it? They were, in fact, voluntarily harbored by the Taliban. In fact the Taliban and al Qaida are still aligned today

Then, at exactly the point when our involvement could do the most good, we pulled most of our troops out to hare off on some other military adventure.

We did not pull any troops out of Afghanistan and reallocate them to Iraq. The initial dismantling of the Taliban and al Qaida was accomplished by something along the order of 200 Special Forces and CIA case workers: The bulk of the fighting was done by Afghan tribal forces supported by US airpower. It would do you to read CIA Pakistan station chief Gary C. Schroen's book First In and follow that up with CIA operative Gary Berntsen's book Jawbreaker.

Since then, the military footprint of the military force in Afghanistan has done nothing but increase especially since it has been supplemented by NATO forces.

The situation at present in Afghanistan is far closer to that of Vietnam in the 60s and 70s than Iraq - soldiers in fire bases with painfully conflicting orders (shoot those guys today, but not tomorrow, and the like), a hidden enemy who swims through the populace like fish in water (thank you, Mao) and unforgiving terrain that prevents useful operations by our ground forces.

Completely off the mark. First, the Afghan people do like us and have since the beginning. Second, the terrain is as difficult for the enemy as it is for us, and third, we operate mostly within villages and towns not in fire bases, and fourth, there are no conflicting orders about who to kill and when.

The recent major battle fought in Musa Qala is indicative.

Anonymous said...

"If they were "stationed" in Germany, wouldn't they have been served by the Military healthcare system?"

Yes Frank, my sister-in-law (husband is a Marine) was covered under the military's system. She was pregnant and so unhappy with the doctors that she went outside the system. In her view the way that they treated her was superior to anything that she'd experienced here in the States...again that is purely anecdotal such as my experience was with the Canadian system.

Steve -
Again, my experience with Canadian healthcare is in fact anecdotal; but the experience as also shared by almost every family member that I have there. This is still statistically insignificant but worth considering.

Scott.

Anonymous said...

In addition. I don't have a problem with a two tiered system and suspect that we will get that no matter what. However, it seems likely that this is potentially ripe for problems the moment that people start to compare the quality of care. Of course, throughout the history of mankind the wealthiest (in virtually any way that you measure material wealth) have always had the survival advantage. But a two tiered system seems sort of "in your face" don't you think?

Scott.

Marty S said...

For a large number of Americans, such as myself all or a significant part of my health care insurance is paid for by my company benefits. The instant that universal heath care is put in place I expect all companies will drop their health care plans at a great benefit to corporations,while people such as myself will end up in the universal health care system, even with a two tier system, because we won't be able to afford the private tier.

Pagan Topologist said...

I have a retired friend who has gotten permanent residence in England largely because of the healthcare system. He has had some serious health problems, including cancer, and he has nothing but praise for the system there.

Steven Barnes said...

So rich people get better health care. Or lodgings, or food, or legal advice, or whatever. I have no problem with that. "In your face"? Like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" isn't?

Anonymous said...

Yeah...there's alot of "in your face" stuff. And I don't personally have a problem with people earning more money and therefore getting better stuff. But I do see it as a HUGE area of contention.

Scott.

Frank said...

Steve asked:

Or what percentage of Canadians are contented/discontented with their system as opposed to Americans? Someone must have that data.

Someone does

* Overall, Canadians and Americans differed in their assessment of the quality of health care services in general but were similar when asked specifically about doctor services.
* Americans were more likely to be “very satisfied” with their health care services, including physician services, while Canadians were more likely to be “somewhat satisfied” with their health care services....

When asked about their satisfaction with health care services in general, more Americans than Canadians reported that they were “very satisfied” (53% versus 44%). Canadians were more likely to indicate that they were “somewhat satisfied” (43% versus 37%). These differences remained when Canadians were compared with insured Americans.

Canadians were in fact more similar to uninsured Americans regarding satisfaction with care. The only significant difference between Canadians and uninsured Americans was the proportion reporting that they were “very dissatisfied” with their health care services: 9% of uninsured Americans and 3% of Canadians said they were “very dissatisfied”.


According to their data, if you compare insured Americans with Canadians, that number becomes 1% of Americans are very dissatisfied to 3% of Canadians.

And if you just consider the Somewhat and very dissatisfied: you get 8% Canadian compared to 5% American

When asked specifically about satisfaction with physician services, insured Americans were more likely than Canadians to report that they were “very satisfied” (68% versus 64%).

Unfortunately, they didn't ask if their physician services were in America or Canada.

More insight can be gained when people are polled for elections

According to an Ipsos Reid survey among the general public, a majority of Canadian adults rank a patient wait times guarantee as more important than any other of the Government’s priorities. Of the five policy promises made by the Government of Canada during the last federal election, 42% of Canadians said that “a patient wait time guarantee that would reduce wait times for key health services” was the most important to them personally. This compares to lowering taxes (19%), restoring accountability to Ottawa (14%), tackling crime (14%), and implementing a choice in childcare program (9%).

Furthermore, Canadians say they want the CMA to take the lead in several important issues, chief among these being “issues such as lengthy wait times for medical care” – almost nine in ten (86%) strongly or somewhat agree that the CMA should take the lead in this area. Almost as many adults surveyed also support the CMA in taking the lead on improving access to physicians and other health professionals (86% strongly or somewhat agree)


And another indicator is the "underground" medical economy

The Cambie Surgery Center, Canada's most prominent private hospital, may be considered a rogue enterprise.

Accepting money from patients for operations they would otherwise receive free of charge in a public hospital is technically prohibited in this country, even in cases where patients would wait months or even years before receiving treatment.

But no one is about to arrest Dr. Brian Day, who is president and medical director of the center, or any of the 120 doctors who work there. Public hospitals are sending him growing numbers of patients they are too busy to treat, and his center is advertising that patients do not have to wait to replace their aching knees.

The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine.

Josh Jasper said...


The evangelicals? Well...yeah, it disturbs me when people who don't believe in Evolution have a say over public policy. And it disturbs me that the Right doesn't call 'em on it, presumably because the votes are needed.


Most of the presidential candidates on the right don't believe in evolution. There's no one *to* call them on this. None of the other candidates make big deal of it, because, to them, it's not a big deal. Even Ron Paul is a creationist. It's sad.

Steven Barnes said...

Thanks for the data, Frank! The satisfaction indexes are just what I was looking for. I'd love to find all the data in one place, but if I put it together piecemeal, that's great. And if Canada is heading toward a two-tiered system, well, I won't cry.

Geoff said...

Well, as a Canadian who has experience on both sides of the border, I'd say that the Canadian system has its problems, but on the whole is pretty good. I'd say I worry way less about my relatives and friends in Canada than about those in the US.

I have to wonder about the "satisfaction" results--it's possible that we Canadians have higher/less realistic expectations than our southern neighbours, and are therefore more apt to be disapppointed. I think the two-tier system is coming. I think that Canada is a much better place for a poor person to get sick or hurt in.

Regarding the report, here are some other tidbits from it:

"Overall, most Canadians (88%) and Americans (85%) reported being in good, very good or excellent health. However, the range of health status was more polarized in the United States. More Americans reported being at either end of the health status spectrum – in excellent health (26%) and in fair and poor health (15%) – compared with Canadians (24% and 12% respectively)."

"While in both countries, those in the poorest income quintile reported poorer health, more low income Americans did so compared with low income Canadians (31% versus 23%). The same pattern prevailed regarding the distribution of severe mobility limitation, obesity and unmet health care needs. There were no systemic differences in the reporting of fair or poor health or mobility impairment among the most affluent households on either side of the border."

"Overall, more Canadians reported having a regular medical doctor compared with Americans (85% versus 80%) - Canadians were similar to insured Americans in terms of having a regular medical doctor."

"Overall, more Americans reported that they had experienced an unmet health care need in the previous year compared with Canadians (13% versus 11%). There was no difference in the proportion who reported unmet health care needs between Canadians and insured Americans."

These would seem to support my position--Canadians report fewer unmet needs, and yet are less satisfied.

But this quote is the heart of it:

"The top reasons for unmet health care needs differed between the two countries: waiting time was most often reported in Canada and cost was most often reported in the United States."

There you have the two biggest problems with socialized vs private medicine: long wait times vs high cost. My medical plan has cost me about $50 a month for the last twenty-five years--and for that, I get some pretty state-of-the-art services. But the wait time for a knee surgery or a back surgery might be months or years. (Critical surgeries--heart stuff, that kind of thing--tend to be done much more quickly.) Middle-class Canadians might well have to wait longer for major surgery than insured middle-class Americans--but poor Canadians are way more apt to be able to afford and get that surgery.

I think the way to go is to let go of political stances and look at all systems, and ask: what works? What doesn't? And then try to implement what works and discard what doesn't. The two-tier system seems like a good approach to me.

Though it is funny: advocating the two-tier system makes one a moderate right-winger in Canada, and a moderate left-winger in the US.

Kukulkan said...

Frank:

"It is quite clear now that cutting taxes increases the tax base such that more people pay taxes which increases revenue."

This statement is precisely as true as the statement that "Raising taxes increases tax revenue." If you lower the tax rate from 15% to 0%, tax revenues will shrink to zero. If you raise it from 0% to 15%, tax revenues will rise. The real question is the tax rate that will maximize tax revenues (that is, if we want to maximize tax revenues).

Geoff:

"I think the way to go is to let go of political stances and look at all systems, and ask: what works? What doesn't? And then try to implement what works and discard what doesn't. "

This is precisely encapsulates one of the reasons why I am against nationalized healthcare. We have 50 different states in the country. Massachusetts has created a universal healthcare system and California is developing one. Let the states develop different systems and see what works. Other states will adopt the systems that work.

Another reason I am against universal healthcare is that it's a naked transfer of wealth. Why is a rich person paying for the health care of a poor person? I'm sure the rich person has other things that he'd like to do with the money than pay for strangers' health care.

I think that the reason there has been a growing desire for universal health care is that the cost of health care has outpaced the growth in incomes - it has become more expensive. This isn't surprising to me since state of the art of medicine has gone to science fiction levels. And, any provider which does not provide state of the art care will get sued for malpractice. There's got to be a way to allow people to receive 1970's era medical care without the provider being sued for malpractice. This would greatly reduce the cost of health care.

Mike said...

Frank,

I won't accuse you of smoking illicit substances, or of drinking proverbial kool-aid. However, I humbly suggest that the sources I am reading and the sources you are reading agree on many levels, but diverge significantly on others. In that divergence lies our disagreement. From your comments, it seems clear that we're not going to come to an agreement on this subject (or, I suspect, many others) so let's let it rest.

Geoff said...

"This is precisely encapsulates one of the reasons why I am against nationalized healthcare. We have 50 different states in the country. Massachusetts has created a universal healthcare system and California is developing one. Let the states develop different systems and see what works."

Sounds about right to me! I think the American insistence on states' rights and on the individual is one of the main reasons why the US has been such a phenomenally creative and productive country. That and the fact that you're a bunch of imperialist bloodsuckers.

"Another reason I am against universal healthcare is that it's a naked transfer of wealth. Why is a rich person paying for the health care of a poor person? I'm sure the rich person has other things that he'd like to do with the money than pay for strangers' health care."

Y'know, I tend to score pretty Libertarian right up until the question of sick kids comes up. Then I tend to turn into a raging commie. Just can't quite dispel my gut feeling that one of the measures of a moral society is how we take care of people who can't take care of themselves. I've suggested in my own country the possibility of something like: 0-18, socialized medicine; 19-74, private medicine; 75 and up, socialized medicine. (Not saying the people over 75 can't take care of themselves, but it gets dicier, and--and again, this is emotion trumping logic--you make it to 75, you've paid your dues, dammit!)

Normally I say, Let the rich get richer. But when little kids aren't getting medical care, I say, Hey, let's rob those rich guys at gunpoint! I know it's inconsistent and soft--hey, that's what she said!--and it might well be immoral and unwise, but I just. can't. help it.

BTW, amazing how civil these threads tend to be, given the themes. Thanks to everyone!

Frank said...

Kukulkan said

This statement is precisely as true as the statement that "Raising taxes increases tax revenue." If you lower the tax rate from 15% to 0%, tax revenues will shrink to zero. If you raise it from 0% to 15%, tax revenues will rise. The real question is the tax rate that will maximize tax revenues (that is, if we want to maximize tax revenues).

Tru dat. Clearly a 0% tax rate will yield precisely 0 dollars of income. But it is also pretty clear that the pre-"Bush tax cut" situation was not optimal and it who knows how much further down we can go.

Raising taxes at this point would seem to be contraindicated

Geoff said

I think that Canada is a much better place for a poor person to get sick or hurt in.

Well, I will say that it is true that we can do much better here in the US. While I would not want to see government run the health care system, helping people obtain health insurance is an idea I will go for.

Having said that, I refer back to something you pointed out

"While in both countries, those in the poorest income quintile reported poorer health, more low income Americans did so compared with low income Canadians (31% versus 23%)."

One would expect that with universal government-run health care, one would expect that 23% percent of low income people with poor health is much too high, while 31% in the American system is surprisingly low in comparison.

Mike said

From your comments, it seems clear that we're not going to come to an agreement on this subject (or, I suspect, many others) so let's let it rest.

*shrugs*

Fine with me.

Lynn said...

I have mixed feelings about "states rights". People living in different parts of the country have different values, different lifestyles and different needs. It makes sense to decide some things locally. On the other hand, I've moved from one state to another several times and it is a huge hassle to figure out how things work in your new home state and to deal with all the paperwork. It's bad enough having to get a new driver's license and get your car re-registered. Switching to and figuring out a new health care system has to be 100 times more of a pain. Also, you would have the situation, for some people, of moving from a state with good health care to one with lousy health care and you can't always choose where you live. Many people have to go where their employer's send them.

Henry Wilcoxon said...

Universal healthcare is a funding mechanism and a perfect insurance plan because all the costs are supported by taxes on all the people in the country.

When I was in China, I visited a Chinese dentist and received the better and less expensive dental care than I ever received in either the USA or Canada. Why ws the healthcare so much better? The Chinese were trained in the United States. Nevertheless, Chinese are much better dentists than most US and Canadian dentists.

However it seems logical that if the government did pay for health care, less money would be spent on military establishment.

I don't like the direction that the USA has been moving. We are much more unequal than any other advanced industrial country.

Perhaps our closest rival in terms of inequality is Great Britain. But where the top percent in this country own 38 percent of all wealth, in Great Britain it is more like 22 or 23 percent.

What is remarkable is that this was not always the case. Up until the early 1970s, the U.S. actually had lower wealth inequality than Great Britain, and even than a country like Sweden. But things have really turned around over the last 25 or 30 years. In fact, a lot of countries have experienced lessening wealth inequality over time.

The U.S. is atypical in that inequality has risen so sharply over the last 25 or 30 years.


Apart from the absolute level of wealth of people at the bottom of the spectrum, why should inequality itself be a matter of concern?

I think there are two rationales. The first is basically a moral or ethical position. A lot of people think it is morally bad for there to be wide gaps, wide disparities in well being in a society.

If that is not convincing to a person, the second reason is that inequality is actually harmful to the well-being of a society. There is now a lot of evidence, based on cross-national comparisons of inequality and economic growth, that more unequal societies actually have lower rates of economic growth. The divisiveness that comes out of large disparities in income and wealth, is actually reflected in poorer economic performance of a country.

Typically when countries are more equal, educational achievement and benefits are more equally distributed in the country. In a country like the United States, there are still huge disparities in resources going to education, so quality of schooling and schooling performance are unequal.

If you have a society with large concentrations of poor families, average school achievement is usually a lot lower than where you have a much more homogenous middle class population, as you find in most Western European countries. So schooling suffers in this country, and, as a result, you get a labor force that is less well educated on average than in a country like the Netherlands, Germany or even France. So the high level of inequality results in less human capital being developed in this country, which ultimately affects economic performance.

To what extent is inequality addressed through tax policy?


One reason we have such high levels of inequality, compared to other advanced industrial countries, is because of our tax and, I would add, our social expenditure system. We have much lower taxes than almost every Western European country. And we have a less progressive tax system than almost every Western European country. As a result, the rich in this country manage to retain a much higher share of their income than they do in other countries, and this enables them to accumulate a much higher amount of wealth than the rich in other countries.

Certainly our tax system has helped to stimulate the rise of inequality in this country.

We have a much lower level of income support for poor families than do Western European countries.

What portion of the wealth is owned by the upper groups?

The top 5 percent own more than half of all wealth.

In 1998, during the Clinton Administration ,they owned 59 percent of all wealth. Or to put it another way, the top 5 percent had more wealth than the remaining 95 percent of the population, collectively.

The top 20 percent owns over 80 percent of all wealth. In 1998, it owned 83 percent of all wealth.

This is a very concentrated distribution.

Where does that leave the bottom tiers?

The bottom 20 percent basically have zero wealth. They either have no assets, or their debt equals or exceeds their assets. The bottom 20 percent has typically accumulated no savings.

A household in the middle — the median household — has wealth of about $62,000. $62,000 is not insignificant, but if you consider that the top 1 percent of households’ average wealth is $12.5 million, you can see what a difference there is in the distribution.

So unequal wealth distribution is a major reason for the necessity of a social safety net with universal single payer health care as well as social security which includes disability income and pensions.

Frank said...

Henry Wilcoxon said

There is now a lot of evidence, based on cross-national comparisons of inequality and economic growth, that more unequal societies actually have lower rates of economic growth.

This is patently false.

For instance, here's some data from 2005

Economic growth in the US was 3.5% on a GDP of $12.3 trillion

The Netherlands had a growth rate of 1.1% on a GDP of $0.5 trillion

France: 1.4% on a GDP of $2 trillion

Germany 0.5% on a GDP of $2.5 trillion

UK: 1.8% on a GDP of $2 trillion

Sweden: 2.7% on a GDP of $0.27 trillion

Switzerland: 1.8% on a GDP of $0.24 trillion

Italy: 0.1% on a GDP of $1.69 trillion

Typically when countries are more equal, educational achievement and benefits are more equally distributed in the country. In a country like the United States, there are still huge disparities in resources going to education, so quality of schooling and schooling performance are unequal.

Afghanistan has a growth rate of 8% on a GDP of 0.021 trillion

How do you think the quality of their schooling is?

So unequal wealth distribution is a major reason for the necessity of a social safety net with universal single payer health care as well as social security which includes disability income and pensions.

And the Social Safety Net is the reason for slow growth in countries like France and Germany.

But hey, wealth redistribution makes it so the 12.6% of Germans who are unemployed live as well as the ones who are employed.

Same with the 8.7% unemployed in France.

And then, of course, there's the problem of people taking advantage of all that "equality"

Since its inception in 1955, the Swedish system of handouts — to parents, retirees, the ill and the poor — has been based on trust: If you filed a claim, you were simply believed. But those days are over.

With fraud costing the state about 1 billion kronor, or $141 million, a year, the Social Insurance Administration began last year to set up the squad of investigators, which has since fanned out across the country to uncover welfare cheats...

The social insurance agency currently hands out about 400 billion kronor a year, or 15 percent of Sweden's gross domestic product, making it one of the most generous in the world.


I guess we know where all that growth goes....