Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Ruminations 2008

I don't know whether the continuing economic collapse should be called the Great Despair, the Great Desperation, Great Depression 2.0 [that's Paul Krugman], the Panic of '08, or the Great Plunder. The last fits best to my mind.

It appears to me that the $700-billion bailout of financial institutions launched during the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign has become the next great bubble, indeed, the greatest bubble of all, as banks collect tens of billions of dollars without any requirement that they account for what they do with it. They appear to be hoarding it, using it to shore up their balance sheets and stock prices, to pay dividends and, I'll wager, end of year bonuses. At periodic intervals, they go back to the Treasury for more, and the Treasury happily dispenses.

Now the Treasury has certified the General Motors credit arm as a bank, thereby making it eligible for bailout handouts. That means we, including those of use who have long despised SUV, are now subsidizing the manufacture and purchase of the thing we want gone. It's a better deal than the no bid contracts the Bushies have employed in the war on terriors, which represents the first Great Plunder This second coming requires no work and no handover of securities or fines, nor does it require removal of the people who engineered the financial crisis in the first place. That signals that the bailout is simply a handout, a redistribution of future public wealth to current money managers and corporate executives. In addition to collecting all they can now, the financial wizards do nothing to improve the markets- while waiting for the Obama bailout, when they aim to receive even more. What does the public receive--a huge debt, unemployment, unplayable insurance rates, unmet retirement obligations--just what was planned, since the point all along has been to get rid of the workers--look at the automobile company bailout.

The people who are suffering are waiting for the Obama, as are the majority of us who are worried, who object to the direction we are heading but who also are powerless to change course--which is why we voted the Obama to the task. The question is whether he is up to the challenge, whether in his economic recovery program, he moves dramatically to restructure an economy skewed toward the rich, away from innovation, change, and true competition. That means lettingthe car companies go, giving workers who lose their jobs unemployment benefits, job retraining, and where appropriate loans to start new business. It means making the useless General Motors cough up plans for the Impact [EV1] or, at least, free the designing company to use or license them as it sees fit. It means creating standards or infrastructure for plug-in electric or hybrid vehicles. It means putting in place a single-payer health plan, which will free workers and businesses immediately. It means go after the people who brought us to this pass. It means placing severe limits on executive compensation to something like 20 or 30 times the lowest paid employees salary, part-time and temporary included. In short it means being bold and creative because nothing else will do.

Hell of a Christmas for lots of people and looking like a worse New Year--that's the holiday season in 2008, the final great fizzle out of late market capitalism--we hope.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Follow the Money

It's nice sometimes to be right. It turns out that the insurance industry planted those stories killing single=payer health care. Proof comes from this new L..A. Times story, saying how the insurance industry will promise to insure everyone if the Federal government will help them ring 30 percent out of the health care system00that is reduce costs that much. There are two ways to do that: First, follow the insurers lead and ration medical care by squeezing doctors and people with lesser policies, which is how they insure everyone; Second, cut the insurers out of the system. That will save far more than 30 percent, while guaranteeing treatment for all. It is a no brainer. Health care is the true tests for the Obama and the Democrats.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Universal Confusion

Sunday in the Washington Post and Monday in the L.A. Times articles appeared on the emerging "consensus" that health care reform is desperately needed. It's been needed for longer than my 58 years, but better late than never--or is it. The Post article doesn't mention single-payer plans at all and the LAT simply says a national single-payer insurance program, like those in Europe and Canada is "off the table," while later allowing that "liberals" and health care reform advocates will keep pushing for same. Since Europe and Canada are healthier societies than the US, despite spending considerably less per capita than the US on health care, not considering similar systems makes no sense at all. Indeed, the alternatives to single-payer are so complex, convoluted, intrusive, and wasteful as to defy comprehension in no small measure because they continue to rely on employer paid insurance, which is a joke getting older and more obscene by the annual renewal. The current system, as everyone knows except right wing ideologues benefits no one but insurance companies who currently suck 1/2 to 2/3 of every dollar out of the system, meaning it never goes to medicine.

I wondered where such one-sided, biased stories originated. Did the reporters and editors generate them in response to the Obama's campaign pledge? I think not. My suspicion, given that the Newt of Gingrich was quoted in both as an expert, is that the stories were inspired by a person or persons trying to dictate the agenda and block any serious consideration of real reform. It would be unfortunate if they succeed, but it wouldn't be the first time.

Under a single-payer plan administered through Medicare, so a new bureaucratic agency doesn't need to be created, everyone would benefit from lower costs and better care, except the bloated ticks on the current system--the insurance companies--especially if malpractice claims were sent to arbitration boards rather than court. Corporations and large institutions, like schools, colleges, and universities would benefit mightily from getting health care off the books. Workers would benefit from increased freedom of movement, since they would no longer be bound by the need for employer partial paid insurance. Doctors would benefit from not having to devote time and staff to multiple incomprehensible insurance programs.

Time to do it.