Friday, August 28, 2009

Conservative Argument for Healthcare Reform: Part 2:What is the size glove of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand?

Domestic protection is one area where the marketplace can work really well. It used to be called the mafia. (A protected neighborhood can be one of the safest places on the planet.) When the providers of these goods and services started competing, watch out. You could make a bunch of movies about it.

But we needed some checks and balances since the legal remedies provided by the mafia weren’t always appealable or appealing. So we beefed up our court system and allowed local police forces do that sort of work. Government steps in…

In many peoples’ minds capitalism and conservativism are the same thing. I won’t quibble too much here unless you want to have some fun in the comments.

The basic idea for this stuff is Adam Smith, the guy with the Invisible Hand (he was a lousy third baseman) setting market prices everywhere. How many times do we hear ‘let the market decide everything’? What is failed to be noted in general discourse is the roles of government in this system. The government needs to pick up the slack where the markets can’t cut it. In other words, the government has to do the things that are not otherwise profitable (glaring exception – mafia.). Things like the roads work, infrastructure, and national defense should fall into this category.

The government needs to create an environment where everybody can make a buck.

What about healthcare?

The insurance actuaries know that sick people or old people are not profitable. Cut ‘em loose and we compete in the marketplace. Get the invisible hand lifting our profits!

This is one spot where the government already steps in. Medicaid and Medicare are part of the safety net here. This is a proper use of the government creating an environment for the rest of society to make a buck.

The insurance actuaries also know they make money using the economy of scale. We get a large enough bunch of people, take enough money from each, stick it in a bucket, and pay for the health needs from that. As long as everybody doesn’t get sick at once, we can reinvest and make a nice profit. Everybody is happy. This only works if the group covered is of a large enough size. Kind of like a ponzi scheme.

Nice neat groups to cover people are naturally formed at the workplace. If you work for a company of a large enough size, you are golden. We don’t need government here.

What we have seen over the last couple decades is a hole in the capitalism game. It is not profitable for an insurance company to offer a small employer any products. The ponzi scheme won’t work because you can’t get a big enough wad of cash to stick in the bucket. So, no company offers it at a workable price. It isn’t worth the hassle.

The government has not stepped in here. It is an area where the marketplace cannot get the invisible hand down low enough to for the consumer to grab the product. Kind of like Shaq holding a ball over Ben Stein’s head and making him jump up and down for it.

To keep an environment for business to make money the government needs to step in and cover this hole. Small businesses have a tough enough time getting off the ground on a good day. Keeping a small businessperson’s family insured is a 4 ton weight on their ankle.

Every conservative hawks the capitalist system and cries that they are for the small business guy. The government needs to step in and get Medicaid for small business. We need the government to create the environment where small business can make a buck.

Just like Adam Smith would have wanted it.

Conservative Argument for Healthcare Reform: Part 1:Get Rid of Unsightly Unfunded Mandates

Why should business be mandated to provide social programs?

Quick answer is they shouldn’t.

But that is what we got here. It is Unsocialablized Medicine.

Business is in the business to make money – not be the architect or deliverer of social programs (unless they are using benefits to entice talent).

A business makes widget. If allowed to, they can make the best damn widgets on the planet. It is capitalism. Make a buck.

All the time we hear about how businesses are burdened with government mandates.

Guess what? A single payer system will relieve you, Mr. Widgetboy, of having to provide social programs. A good chuck of that capital can go back into plant expansion and adding employees. Widget Research can take off like never before.

You can have a portion your HR Department staff redeployed into other areas of the plant because the company won’t have to deal with the relationship your firm has with all your health, dental, optical insurers.

I just don’t get it. You get a guy in the White House who is offering business the biggest tax break of our lifetimes, and he gets snubbed by every right-winger.

How many times do we hear that Uncle Sam’s business is fighting with one hand tied behind his back? Obama is offering to free that other hand. Get behind a government single payer system. Your unfunded government mandates will go down.

If you want government out of your business’s way, help Obama help you.

It is time for Uncle Sam to flex all this muscles.

Next - Conservative Argument for Healthcare Reform: Part 2 What is the size glove of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Want You to Sell Your Body!

Yep, I am saying that (and I haven't even seen what you look like...). We grouse about Congress people prostituting themselves all the time. If we believe in health care, we may have to do it.

This is my second post for HuffPo. I am using comments garnered from the first to refine my ideas and present a clearer plan here.

My first post had a lot going on, I am afraid I will be going poof soon and back into the ether from where I came. So I have diaherra of the mouth.

Thank you for the comments, please keep them coming. I have an idea for a game plan.


It is not as sexy or salacious as it sounds.

Look, we have the Congress we have. These guys are going to make the call on health care. Obama is committed. I believe him. (This is more than hope. Hope is a feeling that gives us the environment to think better thoughts and come up with better ideas.) Obama is not going to shepherd 530 something Congress people alone. We need to back Obama on this process.

The GOP's tactic is to fill rooms with hot air and rage in the hopes things will explode. Some places they have come close to succeeding. This is a dangerous stall tactic.

If we counter their tactic properly it will backfire. The GOP will either have to come to the table with serious ideas or be shut out completely.

I believe the counter to this is to shore up the knees of the wavering, non-wavering and opposing Congress people in a quiet effective manner. Yes, that means GOP Congress people, too!


But I want you to get a fair market price for it.

Here is the deal.

You, and if you can get some buddies to go along for the ride, show up at the congress person's office. You state the following:

We want health care so much that we are willing to work for you during next year's election cycle.
We are happy to circulate petitions in February to get you on the ballot.
We are happy to stand outside the polls on primary day whether or not you have an opponent and in the general election.
We are happy to make phone calls, do Get Out The Vote (GOTV) operations, carry your water in the blogosphere, on the web, go door-to-door, stick up for you in family conversations, drive around with your bumper sticker on my car.
You will have my services until the day after next November's election.

You must see my way on health care now!

We will give you the political cover to do the right thing and we will not forget you next year. This is beyond party BS politics. We will have your back.

If the Congress person wavers, let them know you will be happy to work for their opposition next year with the same intensity as you would have received.

When I mentioned this on the first blog entry a number of people started with a screed about sending Blue Dogs to Michael Vick's place for vacation.

These guys (Congress people) need to know you will back them when it comes down to it. We need to give them the special sauce for the beer muscles they need. Ripping these guys is counter-productive if they can be made willing to get in line. They are your reps; give them the spine they need.

If the corporate world is buying them off them, what do we do to buy them back? Money is the air force in the war of politics. It can deliver effective carpet bombing and signage. So far they have put a better deal on the table to allow a congressman to sit in his seat. Match the deal and beat it.

I am appealing to, you, the infantry. We are the grunts in the trenches. No political machine can win without a superior field operation. Congresspeople cover about 750,000 people (that is a future blog about how this number is making our democracy fade away). They cannot win a congressional seat with an air war alone.

Bargain with them for superiority in the field. It is a legitimate chip to play.

Sell you body to buy a congressman. Is your health care worth it?

Comments, please...

Monday, August 24, 2009

i am trying to use my 15 seconds properly...

I am having a blast.

Huffington post wrote a story on me, and yeah, it's cool. All the comments were cool -- good and bad.

I spent Saturday night returning high fives to those giving me atta-boys in the comments section. I enjoyed defining and defending myself to those who were getting ready to rip me for who I am, or who they think I am. I love to debate. It battle-tests ideas.

I looked at people who are linking to me on the BlogSpot area or the HuffPo area and noticed that for the most part, we don't become fans of others easily. I was double-honored to see that my blog may be the only one that was being followed. I don't follow a lot either. I am a grazer in food and reading.

My family is pretty grounded and would not let too much of this helium expand my head.

I had a few themes in what I said to people in these comments that may be constructive.

First, all credit to Michael Smerconish for creating a talk show environment where somebody like me, with my views, can get a fair shake. If you have talk radio in your market and are not getting him, please call that station and ask, "Hey, what's a Smerconish. How can I get one?"

The direction of the media needs to turn to the center first. Talk Radio is an aircraft carrier that needs to be turned slowly. It is a business whose function it is to make money -- and lots of it. There is already a business model that is stating the way to make money here is to have screaming right-wingers who are entertaining. I hate to say it, but I will listen to Rush and sometimes find him funny. These places are doing very well.

I am not proposing eliminating that business model, but advocating a competing one, you know like capitalism and the free-market. Get reasonable sounding people on the air who are entertaining. I had no idea who Rachel Maddow was until she hit cable. I didn't know what Air-America Radio was -- we couldn't get it in Philadelphia.

The next step isn't that hard. When there is a Michael Smerconish or someone like him on the radio, listen to him and support the people who are sponsoring him. Many times these are local businesses that have a real stake in this.

You can say, "OK, Michael is right of center -- I don't agree with everything he says, why listen?" I don't agree with my wife on everything. I am not going to stop listening to her. My kids -- well you know the drill with teens.

If you are complaining that right wing radio is nuts, then find people who aren't nuts and support them. We need to find and promote peaceful dialog. I do not think Obama woke up last week and said, I liked the Phillies last year, let's get one of their guys on the air with me. It was no fluke that the guy closest to center with the lowest decibel volume got the gig.

Second, I want to thank people for actually reading this stuff. If I missed you, I am sorry -- there were like 30 pages, I really appreciate it.

Third, become active! You already are if you subscribed to this or are interested enough to read this far. I am not going to ask you for money, even though that is one way to get involved. I am talking about elbow equity.

I already asked you to do it with a call to a local radio station manager. It ain't that tough.

Next year we are going to get to vote on the people deciding healthcare now. You will have a vote for Congressman, and in about 1/3 of the states Senator. Those are 2 powerful chips you hold. In general, most of us don't use them to their fullest potential.

Healthcare is an issue to be won on the ground.

I want you to cut a deal for your vote. If our drug cartels and insurance moguls can do it, why not you and me.

Here's how it goes. Visit your current Congressperson's office; I don't care if they are a D, an R, or an I. State the following: "I am going to work on a campaign next year. I can go door-to-door, make phone calls, I will attempt to recruit new people for you, be a pain in the a$$ on the web, stuff envelopes, or whatever you need done. I will be happy to do it for you next year for you if you see my way now on healthcare. I will also be happy to do these things for someone else, if you wish to continue this foolishness. I am motivated and I will also motivate the people I clone. My commitment is your choice."

There is one thing in politics more valuable than money. It is called people. Guess what, if you are crossing party lines to go with someone that makes you twice as valuable. "Hey, look at Democrat Hank over there handing out stuff for Congressman Republican-for-Healthcare-Reform, is he a Republican?" or a phone call that starts: "Hi I'm Chet and I am a Republican calling you for Congressman Blue Dog."

If you want healthcare you may have to take grief from the party-insiders in the area. Tough noogies. Guess what -- the Congresspeople need political cover to get this done. Make their knees stronger.

I have already committed my vote and efforts for next years' Pa Senate race to Joe Sestak because he helped settle a contentious issue in my town where a museum, hotel and conference center was going to be placed inside Valley Forge National Park (the park sits in a number of small towns). The project was untenable and ill-planned. It was supported by Governor Rendell. It took about 2 years to settle this. Sestak had my back on this issue by sending his chief of staff to meeting after meeting in a place that was a 50 mile round trip for the guy. He came thru for me and my town. I owe Sestak because he did right by me. I doubt if I will ever help Rendell again. You get my drift.

If we start making the formal declarations to these guys, the balance of power can shift away from money based system. They all know they can get x number of dollars from contributors. Place a dollar amount on your time, and multiply that by the people you can bring into the system - you begin to change the dynamic. Currency is counted in votes, not dollars, not yard signs. Votes come from hard work and convincing people it is in their best interest to vote for healthcare now.

We have about 300,000,000 Americans. Only 130,000,000 voted. Factor out about 40,000,000 for kids and those ineligible, we are left with another 130,000,000 people who are not involved in the process. They have left because they are tired of this bickering and carrying on. These people can be invited back to the process by explaining their own self-interest.

Look, I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I have plenty of battle scars from local politics. Many times earned because I went for the best candidate and not the party affiliation painted on their backs.

Please comment on what I am proposing, from the right and the left. I don't have all the answers, but I know if we get enough people talking ideas through, they become battle tested and ready for prime-time.

Thanks, I'll keep writing if I keep getting responses.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Damn the speakerphone…

I am the Joe that spoke to the president on 8/20/09 during Michael Smerconish’s call-in show with President Obama. I start at about a minute into this clip.

The phone call was a garbled from my own fault. I was soooo incredibly nervous about saying what I felt I needed to say to the President, that I forgot to switch from speaker phone back to the regular handset. That is why my voice was bouncing all over the place.

I saw some commentary online saying that somehow things were censored. They were not. That is partially why I am writing this. The other half, is I want to remember this. It's pretty cool.

When Michael Smerconish asked for suggestions on Wednesday for his Thursday presidential interview, I was able to get through and TC, his aide-de-camp, allowed me on. I touched on the main points that I am a supporter, I am ticked off the message has been allowed to be derailed, and I want the president to get on track with this. Michael liked the phrases about knee-buckling, and the idea “we (Democrats) have the whole shooting match”. I rambled a little bit and he gave me some constructive criticism on the air. He put me on hold and John, one of the producers, took my particulars and said he would call back later, one way or the other.

I have been calling his morning show for about a year. (I was depressed when he was moved from the afternoons to the morning a couple of years back.) This way the first time the communication went the other way.

John called that night to say the Michael liked the tone and word choices enough to throw me in the water. Cloud 9 looks pretty cool. John said he would be calling at 1 o’clock tomorrow to get ready. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I verified 1:00 AM or 1:00 PM? PM was the answer.

Giving somebody 15 hours to re-formulate the question and how to say something to the president is a dangerous thing. I spent the night on pins and needles. I am just one guy with a big mouth. I felt like Ralph Cramden or Fred Flintstone. The nightmare is when the spotlight gets turned on and I’m goin’ “habada habada habada”. A bigger nightmare is insulting or embarrassing a person, either President Obama or Mr. Smerconish, both of whom I hold in very high reguard. Being misconstrued nationally was the biggest nightmare of all.

At 1 PM, the dog was neutralized (in the basement), the kids were watching TV in the family room and I was upstairs answering the phone. John was right on time. I was a wreck. John and I exchanged pleasantries, and I was placed on hold. I could hear the show thru the phone. After about a minute, the show went to break and then silence. I thought I was cut off. I placed the phone on speaker, turned on a TV in another part of the house and hoped for the best. It didn’t appear I was disconnected.

The next voice I heard was Michael introducing me to President Obama. I got the first few words out. I am glad I got both the President and Michael to crack a smile. Then I could hear the phone cutting in and out. I may have been too close to a TV or whatever, but that’s life. I realized it was the speaker phone. There was no way I was going to futz with it. I just knew I had to keep talking. In about 15 seconds (that felt like an eternity) I was off. I went downstairs with the kids and they said it was choppy but everyone got the idea.

It was a blast. Everyone involved was gracious. No one involved told me what to say except to say what they liked about my Wednesday call. Keep it short and sweet, which is common sense when so many others would like to speak to the president.

Since the call I’ve had family and friends call and congratulate me on getting thru. MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, FOX, NPR are a few of the venues that I heard where the comments hit.

Those who know me, understand that I am a passionate Moderate Democrat who believes in getting things right. We, Democrats, are in control. If we can’t handle that, the GOP will be more than happy to take the steering wheel next year.

I am not as ticked as before calling into the show. I understand where the President is coming from. He is offering the GOP to become part of the solution. I think most of us would want to see that if the GOP were willing to cooperate.

Instead, the leadership of the GOP has filled their part of the message space with garbage. In the spring of this year the GOP asked for all sorts of concessions on the TARP Bill. They got loads of them. Not one House member voted for it. GOP Governors railed against the stimulus, but are happy to get their pictures taken handing out the oversized checks.

Now that healthcare is on the agenda, we have endless GOP sanctioned drivel from birthers then death panels. They have offered no solutions to the problem, except to scare the hell out of the rest of us.

I think, and suspect many of us think, that the President has taken enough of this foolishness. He has done his part in trying to appease these folks. The rest of us are in the middle with our jaws dropped on the floor while armed protesters freely troll outside venues where the President appears. (Where is homeland security on these guys?)

Our economy is in peril. He has had the tools to fix the problem for the last 6 months. He has allowed the opposition their say and they have not been constructive. I think and hope President Obama will go it as a single political party solution. If there are Republicans who want to get on board, it is time to choose whether you are part of the probelm or part of the solution.

That is why I think I can have a beer tonight and chill out.

I enjoyed my 15 seconds of fame…

Thanks, Michael…