Friday, September 21, 2007

Ehhhhhhh ... No

The New York Times today has this just utterly brilliant editorial in support of Microsoft's defeat in an anti-trust case in European court. (If you couldn't tell, I'm being sarcastic.)

The court agreed with European regulators that Microsoft had abused its operating system monopoly by incorporating its Media Player, which plays music and films, into Windows. That shut out rivals, like RealPlayer. The decision sets a sound precedent that companies may not leverage their dominance in one market (the operating system) to extend it into new ones (the player).

The court also agreed that Microsoft should provide rival software companies the information they need to make their products work with Microsoft’s server software. That establishes the welcome principle of interoperability, which should spur innovation in the future.

American regulators — who have reacted to the European court decision as if it were a mortal blow against capitalism itself — should embrace it as a healthy step in the growth of the information economy.

So, if you design a product, say for example a computer operating system, you can't include other products that work with that operating system - say for example, a media player or some other sort of software. And to top it all off, you have to provide information about your product to rival companies.

Now maybe I'm just crazy, but what's the problem here, and why does the New York Times think this was a good decision? Why can't Microsoft sell whatever damn product they want? There are other operating systems out there - I had thought Microsoft was dominant because Windows is the operating system people most often chose to buy and use. Let me be very clear- monopolies are a bad thing because they deprive consumers of choices and tend to stagnate growth and development within the monopolized industry. Oh, and by the way, monopolies generally develop because of the interference of government. Rather than being a true monopoly, Microsoft simply commands a large share of the market because it makes a good product. For those of you who think decisions like this are about fairness, think again. This is about Microsoft's competitors- other big companies- using government to gain an advantage. A healthy step? Does anyone see any problems in the information economy? I didn't think so. The New York Times is just plain stupid.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Health Care Fun With Dr. Sowell (No, He's Not That Kind Of Doctor)

I just so happened to catch this several weeks old column on health care from Thomas Sowell. It's a nice, quick little read - Even more fun are the comments and the complete and utter lack of understanding about health care costs. Some of the commenters act as though Dr. Sowell is a senile old man, waxing romantic about an out-of-pocket medical care past that would be unrealistic today:

From Lilly:

That Was Then, This is Now
In the 1950's my pediatrician used to make a house call for $7. We paid it out-of-pocket. I also recall that in the early 1960's we were paying that same amount, $7, for an office visit to a board-certified internist.

Fast-forward to 2007. I am now sitting at a desk with statements from my insurance company that they have recently paid $746 for lab work---nothing exotic, just routine tests. Luckily, I did not have to pay it out-of-pocket because I have that evil Communist thing called: medical insurance. BTW the blood for the lab work was drawn during a routine office visit that no longer costs $7---that part was $218.

Sowell is a smart man. He probably knows that a day on Intensive Care nowadays runs around $2000, and EVERYTHING, every pill and shot and machine and plastic tube, is billed extra. One thing that is billed extra is surgery (and extra-extra for anything they implant inside you) and, for example, the cost of a defibrillator-pacemaker, like Vice-President Cheney has, runs around $75,000. As a federal employee, Cheney has medical insurance and probably did not pay his costs out-of-pocket even though, with a reported $8 million a year still going to him from Halliburton, he could well afford to.

Few people today could possibly stand to pay their medical bills out-of-pocket. This is a ridiculous idea.

And from Jill:

I know a woman who, when she was in her early twenties, was involved in a very serious accident. She survived, but was left with a brain injury. By the time her care was complete (it involved multiple operations, a lengthy hospital stay, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.), $4-5 million dollars in costs had been incurred. (I'm told this is par for the course for people who have brain injuries.) Not surprisingly, she was extremely thankful for her health insurance. It is one thing to have to pay out-of-pocket for routine medical expenses, but doing away with insurance to the point that not even catastrophic incidents would be covered is very unwise. It would be difficult to impossible for all but the wealthiest among us to cover such costs without insurance -- even on the "installment plan."

And finally, there's No BS Artist, who spends the entire comment thread trying to explain why the free market doesn't work when it comes to health care, without ever actually discussing what a free market system of health care would actually look like:

Join me on a reality break sheeple......
about healthcare,ok? I have been working in a hospital billing office for 26 years and I've seen some horrible changes in that time. In the late 70's and the early 80's the DRG system (DRG means Diagnostic Related Group) came to be. See a bunch of bean counters got together in a board room and gave every single condition, illness and disease from athlete's foot to a stroke a numerical code and an allotted amount that you, the customer-er-patient- needs to recover, provided you have no other pre existing medical conditions or unforseen complications. For example, if you are a 35 year old male with no other problems and are admitted for pneumonia you should be out of the hospital in 5 days tops. Maternity is the most dicey of all conditions. When I first started the average normal delivery stay was 3 days, 7 days for a C section. Now both mother and child are kicked out in a day for a normal delivery 2 days at most for a C section. In fact my hospital closed down its maternity ward--it was just way too expensive to maintain. Isn't that sad? Even hospitals have to toe the bottom line and economize to trim the fat as much as possible.

Did I forget to mention other little unpleasant facts of modern medical costs like deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance. Most doctors aren't even going to ask you to stick out your tongue and say "Ahhhhh" unless you can stick out your health care insurance card first. Gee, in all his misty eyed nostalgia, Sowell doesn't understand squat about the facts of modern health care. Sorry sheeple, runaway lassiez faire capitalism doesn't work with health care. Can any of you just whip out $100,000 in cash for a hospital stay? I didn't think so!

I'll make my replies brief, as I'm sure I'm beginning to sound like a broken record to regular readers. First, the outrageous costs of our medical system are not the result of the free market- they are the result of government intervention- medicaid, medicare, and other free riders, along with regulation, regulation, and more regulation. Oh, and there's also the bloated insurance system, buoyed by our tax laws which make employer provided health insurance the easiest and cheapest way for most Americans to obtain medical care.

Second, to respond to Jill, no one thinks we should do away with insurance all together - or even do away with any sort of health care insurance. The point is that insurance drives up costs, period- and the more people using insurance, the more costs go up. Tragic accidents pose a problem in many regards, not just in terms of health and medical care. If my uninsured business burns down and all my assets are tied up in my business, well, I'm pretty damn screwed too. It was probably stupid of me not to have fire insurance - just as it's stupid of people not to have insurance for severe or unexpected injuries and medical conditions.

And finally, No BS Artist inadvertently points out a problem not of free markets but of third payer systems. (Third payer systems would include both standard insurance and any sort of government health coverage.) And that problem is that hospital stays have to be limited in order to ration care fairly and effectively. You either have corporate bean counters or government bean counters doing the job, but someone (or some group of people) has to make these decisions in order to keep down costs and ensure that citizens (in a government system) or customers (in an insurance system) are basically getting the same bang for their buck. When you pay out of pocket, you have no such problem. You can make your own decision, with the help of your doctor, as to what sort of stay you need, and what sort of stay you can afford. And yes, yes, yes, medical treatments can cost thousands of dollars - but, if your in your twenties like I am, have you ever taken the time to see how much money you've actually paid out to your insurance company (and how much has been paid by your employer)?

From The Legislation We Don't Need Department

As if Congress didn't have enough important business to attend to already, some commentators think that Congress needs to stop school bullying.

Before I make my point, let me say first that school bullying is bad - but government bullying is bad too, and unless it was purely symbolic, I can't imagine what anti-bullying legislation would do other than bully local school districts into complying with mindless regulations.

Again, let me be clear. I'm not bringing this up to discuss bullying, only to ask the question of why bullying is the sort of problem that requires a national solution. Is there any rationale as to why the federal government would be better at rooting out bullying than state government, or better yet local government and local schools? These silly discussions provide a good springboard to address the question of grassroots, local control versus centralized, national control. There's no one correct answer for every question - the point is to actually use your brain and not just to react.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An offense of Nixonian proportions?

I didn't feel the need to defend Bill Belichick and my New England Patriots as "Spygate" broke last week, but Greg Easterbrook's latest Tuesday Morning Quarterback column just begs a response - not just for my beloved football team but for the integrity of the NFL. Here's a taste:

It seems more than just an eerie coincidence that Belichick's unethical behavior involves illicit taping, the same offense that made Nixon's actions so sordid. The parallels to Nixon don't stop there. Caught, Belichick – like Nixon – tried to hide the true extent of the prohibited acts; Belichick – like Nixon – tried to claim his prohibited action hadn't been prohibited; Belichick – like Nixon – immediately stonewalled. It would be tempting to break the unhappy tone of this column with a Nixon joke – when the league plays Belichick's tape of the Jets' sideline, will there be an 18-and-a-half minute gap? But for all lovers of the NFL, there's just nothing to laugh about now.

What else is there about New England cheating that the team or league isn't telling us? Are the Patriots one bad apple, or is cheating common in the league? Worst, did the Patriots cheat in their Super Bowl wins? If New England was cheating in the Super Bowl, this will become the darkest sports scandal since Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox. If you don't think Goodell and all owners, including Robert Kraft of New England, are in abject terror of any possible disclosure that the Patriots were cheating in the Super Bowl, perhaps you just don't understand the situation.

The weasel wording of Belichick's Nixonian statement shows the New England coach full of contempt for the NFL fans, and the NFL enterprise, that made him a wealthy celebrity. Belichick declared that his super-elaborate cheating system was only a "mistake" caused by his "interpretation" of the league's rule. Wait, "interpretation"? The NFL rule bans teams from filming each other's sidelines. There's no room for interpretation, it's a ban! Here's the NFL policy, from a memo sent to all head coaches and general managers Sept. 6, 2006: "Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game." Prohibited. There's nothing there to "interpret." Videotaping opponent's signals even after getting this warning isn't a "mistake," it's cheating. Belichick's cheating was not some casual spur-of-the-moment blunder but rather an elaborate staffed system that took a lot of work to put into place and that Belichick worked hard to hide. And you don't hide something unless you are ashamed of it.

I usually love Greg Easterbrook, but he seems to have gone all apocalyptic on us in the wake of this scandal. Yes, the Patriots broke the rules. Yes they should be punished. And yes, I think a first round draft choice is a reasonable punishment. But I don't think the NFL is on the brink of collapsing on itself.

Let's just be clear about what Belichick did here. Do you think it has more in common with, (1) holding and other illegal blocking techniques such as cut blocking (which, by the way, the Broncos were accused of doing during their back-to-back Super Bowl runs) or (2) paying off the officials so they can make key calls during a game in your favor.

If you say 2, then maybe you need take your medication as directed by your doctor. And if you say 1, well, isn't this just a part of the competitive nature of sports and just one indication of the many ways teams look for any advantage they can get? In baseball do you really think corked bats, spit balls, and Bobby Valentine in a fake moustache and glasses really affects the integrity of the game? And if a team really, truly, and purposefully cheated, don't you think we'd take away the victories gained from cheating?

As I said, the Patriots broke the rules, but stealing signs isn't exactly earth shattering behavior. Teams have been doing that in every sport, since signs first started being used. The electronic nature of the offense makes it seem all the more devious, but if you watched the Patriots game on Sunday night, you saw a glimpse into the extremely vast media and technical aspects of coaching in the modern day NFL. There are cameras everywhere. Teams can legally stand on the sidelines and attempt to steal opponents signs with binoculars. Belichick broke the rules, but if you really think about everything else that goes on in the NFL, his rule-breaking really does seem to fall more along the lines of getting away with what you can get away with in a competitive sense, rather than actually trying to disrupt the competitive balance of the game- which, by the way, is what real cheating really involves.

Last year, after the Patriots lost 21-0 in Miami, reports came out of South Florida indicating that the Dolphins had purchased illegal tapes of the Patriots in order to learn Tom Brady's cadences. The Dolphins denied any rule-breaking, but they may have used tapes acquired under the rules in order to gain an advantage. The Patriots, to their credit, took the blame for the loss themselves, refusing to say that the Dolphins may have gleamed any sort of advantage from any audio tapes. If you don't see the similarities here your just not paying attention. If the Dolphins had broken the rules last year (which, by the way, would have been broken by Belichick buddy Nick Saban), would the outcome had been any different whether they had figured out Brady's cadences using legal or illegal tapes?

Belichick's real sin was defying the rules in the face of a specific warning from the league. I think that made the penalty worse than it might have been otherwise. And like a ten-yard penalty for holding, the team was fined for it's actions.

Wade Wilson, Cowboys quarterback coach, complained last week about the severity of his five game suspension for illegally obtaining human growth hormone when seen in comparison to Belichick's punishment. But Wilson really misses the point. He did something illegal and the NFL has a no tolerance policy toward illegal behavior. The NFL also suspends players for smoking marijuana (see Williams, Ricky), but it's not like that has any impact as to what goes on the field. In other words, the Wade Wilsons and Michael Vicks of the world are a completely different ball of wax. The fact that Belichick is not facing any sort of suspension is further indication of the severity of his discretions. For the millionth time, yes, bad because he violated the rules, but not as bad as violating the drug policy.

Finally, I- honest-to-God- wonder if Belichick pushed this issue to 1- force the league to do something, to 2- force Eric Mangini to do something, and 3- to have everyone in the world- the media, the fans, and the rest of the league focused on something other than just how stacked the Patriots are? You would think Belichick would know that this story just isn't going to die. And what better way to keep his team focused and motivated than to have all the media attention focused on himself and to have this undercurrent of thought that Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi and the rest didn't really deserve all those other Super Bowl titles. Just a thought ... but he is an evil genius.

Kerry Kid Taser Thingy

My good buddy and favorite reader John e-mailed me asking me to blog about the kid who was tasered at the John Kerry event at the University of Florida. For those who haven't heard about the story, you can watch what happened below.

Here's the reaction from conservative stalwart Rush Limbaugh.

As for me, myself, and I ... I ... I dunno. Here are John's comments.

It's a kid getting tasered at a John Kerry Q and A session. He did nothing wrong except ask a bunch of questions pretty excitedly. It's interesting to note that many people acted this way at Ann Coulter's speech yet nothing was ever done to them. I've seen this on the news all day and I find it fascinating that this was at a "liberal" speech where no physical assault was made. However, there have been several conservative speeches around the nation where the presenter has been attacked, harassed, etc.

And you're right, it is interesting, although this specific instance might have more to do with the security required of a John Kerry as opposed to a talking head. Perhaps more fun was Greg Gutfeld's take last night on Red Eye:

Ah yes, you've seen the John Kerry video? The one where that annoying punk gets Tasered while trying to ask that piece of wood some crappy questions.

Why do I love it? Am I sick? Of course, but the guy deserved it — especially when he said, "Don't Taser me, bro."

I hate the word "bro."

"Hey bro, got a smoke?"

"Hey bro, can you spare a buck?"

"Hey bro, you're choking me."

Shut up. You are not my "bro" or "broheim" and if you insist on using that word you deserve death, bro!

Let me just be honest - I'm really just torn here between being upset over excessive use of force and being happy that obnoxious kid got what was coming to him.

Smoking Ban Stuff

One subject I've tended to avoid on my blog is the proliferation of anti-smoking bans in bars, restaurants, and the like. It's probably because I've found no support for my opposition to such bans, even among self described libertarians. Rather than rehash the same old arguments, I just wanted to link to Jacob Sullum posting on the Reason blog about research into the effects of smoking bans on businesses bottom lines. Some policymakers have made the argument that smoking bans are actually good for business - but, as you can read, that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fat Fatty Fat Fat

Having to listen to Kelly Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, discuss the obesity crisis is a bit like having to listen to a model discuss the problems of eating disorders. (He's sort of a big fatty, and yeah, I'll call him a big fatty. He's the one who wants being a big fatty to be a matter of public concern.) And yet here's Brownell in the news again, in a local paper story that blames obesity on bad public policy.

Brownell correctly points out the problem of agricultural subsidies. These subsidies do have the effect of making certain foods more inexpensive than others, but the real issue is that our system of food production and distribution is so efficient that we don't need to put taxpayer money into the pockets of successful agribusinesses.

I suppose one can have a reasonable debate about food policy, but rather than getting too deep into that debate here, I just wanted to point out the title and thrust of the Hartford Courant article I've linked to- and that is that is, bad public policy is responsible for the growing obesity epidemic.

Now think about that for a minute- do you really think the American appetite for larger portions and all-you-can eat has really been fueled by government policy? And perhaps more importantly, do you really think that are increasingly sedentary lifestyles has been fueled by government rather than wealth, technological innovations, and social factors?

Personally, I think the obesity epidemic is overblown, but regardless of your views on the need for government to address obesity, isn't it just a little more than off the wall to say the government is responsible for us being fatty fats in the first place?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Two Tales Of Healthcare

Just the other day I had to take a friend of mine to the doctor. We hopped in the car and headed off into the country, where my friend's doctor has a quaint local practice in a converted house on a small farm. Quite charming, actually. Arriving at the doctor's, my friend was greeted with a friendly hello from the doctor's staff before being promptly weighed and checked in. We were then escorted to a private waiting room where we waited no more than five minutes for my friend's doctor.

My friend's doctor was personable and professional, asking about my friend's new living arrangements while examining the sores he had recently developed. The doctor's diagnosis was that the sores were a simple bacterial infection, easily treated with antibiotics. The doctor told us that she could have the antibiotics ready in a few minutes, so my friend and I took a brief stroll outside around the office. When we returned, the antibiotics were ready and so was the bill. I cringed, knowing full well how expensive such an efficient, personal, and thorough health care experience could be. I looked at the bill and saw ... $55.00 ... Wait, $55.00? That couldn't be right. The appointment, plus the medicine, with no insurance coverage whatsoever ... only $55.00?

At this point I should probably tell you that my friend is my dog Callahan and his doctor is a vet. Before I say anymore lets get to my other story, which is about a little accident I had a couple of weeks ago. I was slicing a bagel for a late night snack when I accidentally sliced more than just the bagel. Some cursing and bleeding ensued, but while the cursing soon subsided, the bleeding was not so easily dealt with. Even after several hours of bandaging and compressing the cut on my finger still seemed to be oozing blood at a troubling level.

I could have gone to the emergency room or an all night clinic, but I really didn't want to. It was my first day at a new job in the morning and I just didn't want to deal with any hassles or any sleep deprivation. Eventually, after waking up several times during the night to change my bandage, the bleeding subsided. I had taken care of my medical emergency myself, without the help of any professionals. Was I stupid to do so? I don't think so- I was pretty sure that this was a borderline sort of case- not really serious enough to warrant professional attention, but maybe annoying enough to warrant something other than my own incompetence. If it was a child who was cut, I would have gone to a professional ... but for myself, I played the waiting game and I won.

Now what's the point of both of these stories?

In part I just wanted to illustrate how personal health care is to us, whether we're talking about ourselves or those we are responsible for. Our current system of individual health care, quite frankly, just plain sucks. Most Americans are at the mercy of their employers and their health insurance companies because of a terrible tax system and complex array of laws, mandates and directives. When I hear talk of universal or mandated coverage, all I can think about is more bureaucracy and less choice.

I brought up the vet trip because I was struck by how similar, yet how different the vet trip was from my own trips to the doctor's office. The place looked like a people doctor- and the waiting and the doctor exam wasn't all that different. But unlike the people doctor, the vet was inexpensive and they had the antibiotics my dog needed right on hand. And remember now, I say inexpensive because there was no doggie health insurance policy in effect here. Depending on your insurance coverage, if you were to go to the people doctor for a checkup and were given a prescription for antibiotics, your co-pays could add up to $30, $40, even $50, not to mention the extra trip to the pharmacy.

On the drive back from the vets, it occurred to me how pet medicine and pet health care operates completely independently of our people system. The pet health care system isn't dominated by the insurance industry, nor is it burdened with the laws and regulations that people have to deal with. And yet it works, cheaply and efficiently. People get the health care they want for their pets, spending as little or as much as they want to spend. Or in other words, you actually have a functional market.

For whatever reason the health care universalists always tend to leave true choice out of the equation- but just look how important choice is. When I chose not to go to the emergency room for my cut finger, that was a choice I made completely unrelated to specific dollars and cents. In my mind, the cost of being up all night was the deciding factor in my decision to deal with the problem myself. In any sort of a shared pool system, the do-it-your-selfers like me will be subsidizing the hypersensitive who would have rushed to a professional at the first sight of blood. Is this really fair or efficient?

More importantly, in a universal system, my neglecting the dollars and cents aspect of the equation would become the norm for all health care decisions- not just semi-emergencies, but any health related decision. And the problem with that is you will have effectively eliminated any meaningful, functional price structure. And without a functioning price system, how can resources really be allocated efficiently?

I realize this is sort of a roundabout way of making my point, but just keep in mind that a health care system (as opposed to a health care market) demands answers and specifics. A market doesn't care whether or not you chose to see a professional at 11:00 at night for your cut- the market will just determine the cost of your choices based upon the choices of other health consumers and the choices of health care providers. But a health care system needs to know whether such a trip to a professional is necessary- whatever that means. A health care market allows Mr. Paranoid to have as many cancer screenings as he wants so long as he can pay for them - but a health care system (whether it be a single payer system or coverage by private insurance companies) makes determinations in order to determine what is necessary or reasonable.

Markets mean choices and while I'm amazed by the lack of choice in our current health care system, I'm even more amazed that most proposed health care solutions would lead to even fewer choices.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't Just Look At The Story, Look At The Big Picture

Radley Balco brings us this story of the good samaritan sex offender. Basically, a Chicago man waiting in a car with his wife was approached by an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute. The man was then arrested for solicitation. The charges were eventually dropped, but the city of Chicago refuses to return the family's car until towing and storage fees were paid.

Balco has been a blogging superman as to stories like these of apparent police abuses. But I think the point must be made that libertarian focus on stories like these is not to point out that all police are pigs or even that corruption and dishonesty are rampant among our nation's police. Rather, the point is that our laws and our system of policing make these sorts of abuses more likely and more common. Like Balco's work on paramilitary police raids, these stories point out how things can go wrong- how innocent people can get entangled with the police. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether all this collateral damage is worth the price of aggressively pursuing victimless crimes? Do we need prostitution stings? Do we need drug stings? Or does this sort of policing do us more harm than good? Based on all the work Balco's done, I'd like to say no.

The problem is, when we blame these incidents on "bad eggs," we tend to ignore the fact that our policy has encouraged this sort of behavior, if not openly, than tacitly. And even if you're someone wholly convinced of the evils of drugs, or prostitution, or whatever, you have to agree that it would seemingly be more efficient to have police focus on more serious violent crimes. I know I'd feel safer if more police just patrolled the streets rather than engaging in drug and prostitution stings.

Friday, September 07, 2007

My Anti-Liberal Rant

I had started this post a while back, and I just wanted to get it up, you know, just for the hell of it. I wanted to jot down a brief list of a few of the things that just really piss me off about American liberals. The thing is, I really don't have the same thing to say about conservatives. There have been far too many conservative critiques of, say for example, the War on Terror, the War in Iraq, and the Bush administration in general for me to really say that almost anything the government has done over the last seven years has been definitively "conservative." If a big name or influential liberal would come out against everything on this list here, then maybe I won't need to be pissed off. But for now ...

1- Unquestioning support of the public school system.

For whatever reason liberals are almost always opposed to voucher proposals that would allow poor children to leave failing public schools for unquestionably better private ones. I understand that their rationale is to support the public schools, and to support policies to fix the existing system, but why should a commitment to fix the problems of the public schools be made at the expense of those poor kids who are all ready stuck there? Liberals are supposed to be all about compassion and helping the little guy, and that just doesn't seem to jive here.

2- Support of Eminent Domain to take private property for what's really a private use (i.e. the Kelo case in New London).

This is definitely more of a divisive subject amongst liberals, but just like number one, what boggles me is that economic development plans that take the homes of poor people hurt the poor at the expense of the supposed larger good. The thing is when it comes to eminent domain- wealthy politicians- and the rich in general- don't have to worry about having their homes seized for some government giveaway to corporate America. The poor lose their homes so some big company can get a nice big government subsidy. Hardly sounds compassionate towards the little guy to me.

3- General Support of Unions.

Actually, I have no real problems for the support of unions as a general matter, I just have a problem with how they tend to conduct business. First, why should any worker be forced to join a union and be forced to pay union dues. That hardly seems fair to me, although such policies are generally supported by law. And secondly, why all the opposition to scab and replacement workers in the event of a strike? Aren't those the guys who are too poor to have regular jobs or be in the union in the first place?

4- Supporting privacy rights when it comes to sex and abortions, but not when it comes to other personal choices.

Liberals are big on the right to privacy covering sex and abortions, but the same liberals tend to love nanny laws about smoking, trans fats, and helmets. I just don't see how you can say that the government has no business in the bedroom but it belongs in the kitchen.

5- Finally, just the whole anti-corporate spiel.

Be it Wal-Mart or McDonalds some big company is always doing wrong. The thing is, no one would ever dream of imposing the laws on Mom and Pop shops that they'd like to impose on the big boys, yet the laws against the big boys are needed nonetheless to protect the public. Some of the arguments can be down right condescending - the poor are too stupid to know what they're buying, what they're eating, or what they're doing - As can be said about a great number of things, I guess the liberal compassion to the poor doesn't extend to the poor having the right to make their own "wrong" decisions.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Perhaps a product of the American educational system?

The New York Times today published a number of letters in response to this editorial from last week. I was impressed with this brilliant piece of work.

To the Editor:

Yesterday I was offered a tech-support job for a publicly traded company. It pays a paltry $9 to $10 an hour. When I squawked that this is not a livable wage, I was hesitantly offered $11.75.

There are no benefits, other than the fact that this is a “great company” and would look “good on my résumé.” Oh, did I forget to mention a company picnic each summer?

I added up the cost of the two-hour-a-day commute, a mortgage on an average home, health insurance that kicks in only if I am at death’s door, home and auto insurance and utilities. The break-even point was $10.35 an hour. Take into account laundry, groceries, clothing and other basic expenses and I am working at a deficit. No more movies, concerts, sporting events, family or friends because I simply cannot afford them.

Why are some in this prosperous nation of ours so challenged when it comes to comprehending something as simple as paying workers a livable wage? Pay workers sufficiently and they will be loyal and dependable. Stiff them with low wages and they immediately begin to look for something better. Workers are this nation’s greatest asset.

Or is this all a ploy to hold workers hostage between their low-pay jobs and debt so they don’t interfere with the lifestyles of those who have more?

Charles McEniry
Stoughton, Wis., Aug. 29, 2007

Mr. genius here is baffled as to why, you know, he can't afford all the nice stuff he wants with his entry level job. Maybe he can do math and add up the numbers, but he seems to be a little bit lacking when it comes to common sense. If a single individual working an entry level job could ever manage to afford a mortgage and a two hour commute, then I'd say we're doing pretty damn well economically. The fact that anyone could even think about it is a good sign in my mind. Maybe he should take his own advice and find a better job - and if he can't find one, maybe he ought to spend some time acquiring some desirable skills before complaining that no one wants to pay him "enough" money.

One other thing too- the interesting thing about all these studies on wage levels is that they don't take into account buying power- that is, what are the costs of consumer goods, housing, and gasoline, all adjusted for inflation. Without taking that information into account, isn't wage data essentially meaningless?