Nov 252010

According to the New York Times, Steny Hoyer (Democratic majority leader from Maryland) was quoted as having said:

Today, Republicans blocked an extension of unemployment insurance for thousands of families who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.

The measure required a two-thirds majority to pass in the U. S. House of Representatives (290 of 435). The vote was 154 in favor, 258 against (23 absent or not voting). Assuming that all 180 Republicans were present and voted against the extension:

  • At least 78 Democrats (30% of the majority party) also voted against it.
  • At least 30% of the Representatives who voted against the bill were Democrats.

They were 136 votes short. Even if 70% of the Republicans had voted for the measure, it still would have lost by 10 votes.

If Hoyer did indeed make this statement, then I think he either can't add or he thinks the rest of us are really stupid.


Nov 092010

We're addicted to foreign oil. We're addicted to oil from any source. We're addicted to fossil fuels. When we break our addiction, we not only solve the energy problem, but we solve part of the deficit problem and part of the terrorism problem and part of the economy problem.

It's your inalienable right to drive a gas-guzzling SUV. It is not your inalienable right to pay $1.22 a gallon for gas. It's your inalienable right to use incandescent bulbs. It's not your inalienable right to pay $0.02 per kilowatt hour for electricity.

The first step in solving any problem is to admit we have a problem. We need to cop to our fossil fuel addiction in order to break it. It's hard to hear that, and hard to do that. But it's our responsibility as Citizens of this Great Country.

Now I know some people are genuine in their belief that we need to “drill, baby drill!” But I ask you to consider this:

In 1966 a Mustang with a 200 V6 got 120 HP and 15 MPG. In 2010 a Mustang with a 227 V6 gets 305 HP and 31 MPG. One of the big reasons is “direct injection,” a certain type of fuel injection. This technology was invented in... 1925. And it was available on aircraft in 1940 and high-end production vehicles in 1955. But it's been trickling down into general production only in the past 5 years. That's 50 years of stagnation. Now what could possibly be the excuse for that?

Competition drives efficiency and innovation. When you don't have competition, you don't get efficiency or innovation. When you have industry leaders that “game the system,” instead of donating some Old-Fashioned, All-America Elbow Grease, what you get is junk.

Again government can do some, in the way of tax exceptions that motivate the right behavior. But let's face it, this is again a place where we need our industry leaders to re-pledge their national allegiances. And if they won't, again, let's yank them off their toilets. We have to take back our economic freedom.

The next time some politician tells you we don't need better national MPG standards, tell him that you totally and thoroughly agree. Tell him, what we need is for Corporatists like him to go back under the rock where they came from.

Nov 092010

There is nothing wrong with our education system. We remain the most innovative country in the world, and the most vibrant economy in the world. Others are gaining on us, it's true. But this is mostly the happy result that the American Dream has escaped our borders and is now actively pursued by folks all over the planet. We remain a country of vibrant political discourse, current partisan rancor and climate of misinformation notwithstanding. We remain a country of literature and arts, regardless of your personal opinion of Hollywood or Rap Music. We're probably not being fair to our impoverished communities, and probably not getting what we'd like to out of the smart folks who live there as a result. But it doesn't take much money to fix that.

What is true is that we are lagging the structural shifts in “education” necessary to keep up with the New World Economy. Specifically, we have fallen behind on pure research investment, and shirked our responsibility of (re)training labor, as regards 21st century industries like energy, medicine, and information technology.

Let's consider for a moment whether a Socialist approach to education might be the right choice. The Spartans did it. They were the vanguard of freedom back when freedom was a little known concept. They sponsored the same path of “education” for every man fit enough, and rewarded the very best talent regardless of background. Why did they do it? I will call it “Social Greed.” They did not value the Individual's Privilege to be educated. Rather they coveted every Talented Individual for his contributions, and they took them as their own. Of course they were a rigid, inflexible society that in the end could not adapt.

We could do that. We could implement Socialist Education with the goal of owning and optimizing every little Einstein we have out there.

But if we want to privatize education...

First of all, privatizing it means that the more wealthy you are, the more access you have to better education. But it's hardly true that the more wealthy you are, the more competent or useful you are. We all know the cycle of wealth. The first generation creates it, shooting stars in our economy and history. The second generation rationalizes it, making it sustainable and repairing the excesses and sins of the first generation. The third generation... squanders it, tearing down the great oak as scavengers will do. Do we really want an education system that reserves its very best fruits for maggots and mushrooms? Or do we want one that fosters that first, unprivileged generation, the ones who are the real shooting stars?

But mostly, our higher education system is bereft of pure research dollars and our corporations and vocational schools are devoid of useful training programs. We've got the Incompetent Corporatists who are our So-Called Captains of Industry and the Incompetent Corporatists who have “privatized” much of our higher education system pointing the fingers at each other about whose responsibility this is. The result is that the burden has been cast upon Us as Taxpayers and Workers, in a climate where a kind of “speculative certification bubble” has pushed the cost of it beyond Our Reach.

Government can do some, in the way of tax exceptions that motivate the right behavior. But let's face it, this is one place where we need our industry leaders to re-pledge their national allegiances. And if they won't, I suggest we drag them from their beds. We have to take back our economic freedom, by any and all means appropriate.

The next time some politician tries to blame you for not re-training yourself, write his name down in your little black book of Corporatists. And I know it's hard right now, but do the best you can to make it so that the next time your boss blames you, you can tell him where to shove it.

Nov 092010

We need livable wages, even wage incentives, for American factory, agricultural, and service workers. In order to make that possible in a global economy, we need to use taxes, tariffs, and currency policies as weapons against protectionist nations. We also need to recognize the economies of scale inherent in modern farming practices, and consider that some regulation will be needed to control the natural trend toward oligopoly.

If we are simply unwilling to do that, then we must recognize that we need those 10 million immigrants. We need a way for them to come here legally.

And we need border enforcement. That should be part and parcel of our security policy, not our immigration policy. South American Drug Gangs are terrorists just as much as the Taliban.

John McCain reached across the aisle to create a reform bill with exactly these 2 pillars in it. Look what the Corporatists in the “So-Called Right” did to him. They ran a kook against him in a state full of scared old people, so he would Swing to the Extreme.

Nov 092010

We need to separate health care from health insurance. And we probably need to separate “preventative and general” health care from “catastrophic” health care. We have to do that with regulation, since it is the insurance companies who perpetrated the crime of packaging on us in the first place. And we need to reflect the cost of these three items directly to the consumer, instead of hiding it in tax benefits for mega-employers who buy cadillac plans from defrauding “actuaries.”

We probably need to regulate this industry as if it were a monopoly. Once upon a time, we were spread out all across this country, and that allowed for local communities to directly regulate the cost of care and administration, simply through their neighborly influence. But now most of us are concentrated in urban centers, and those that are not are spread far and wide in the smallest of groups. We need large, centralized entities to do that administration. It's probably true that this administrative component has perfect economies of scale, meaning that having a single entity is the most efficient way. It's also definitely true that medical technology has changed drastically, wonder drugs, micro- and nano-surgery, and imaging advances being the most well known. These technologies are highly capital intensive. Perfect economies of scale and capital intensive industries lead naturally to monopolies, which require regulation.

I haven't read the health care bill. It's 2000 pages, so I am sure it is full of concessions and full of pork. But it contains 2 critical tenets, requirements it makes of the insurance companies. They are universal access regardless of context, and limiting profits and administrative and marketing costs to 15% of revenues. That is exactly what a regulated monopoly would look like. It's what utilities look like now.

Take a close look at what the insurance companies are fighting in that bill, and you'll see that it's these 2 tenets. And take a close look at the politicians who want to repeal these aspects of the bill. These Corporatists want to replace them with “so-called free market” ideas that actually take away what little leverage consumers still have, while giving insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital oligopolies total control of the market.