Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh No, It’s Obama Care

The clock is ticking until the start of the Armageddon – six weeks or so is all we have left. No, silly, I’m not referring to a plague of Biblical proportions, a really big belt from a rampaging meteor, or an eruption of the massive volcano under Yellowstone National Park. Rather, I’m referring to the pending health care legislation hanging over all of our heads – “Obama care,” if you will.

Now, before I go off on an ill-advised rant, please let me emphasize that what I’m about to write is not re-warmed partisan politics. True, I tend to side with moderate Republicans, but I don’t have anything against the President. He seems as if he’s a nice enough fellow, despite the “mommy jeans” he wore at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game – dude, they had a crease in them for crying out loud! It is a shame he’s tainted by his association with Nancy Pelosi, the wicked witch of the West, but I digress. No, the reason I oppose national health care is that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, free market capitalist. Where I come from, we have a saying (embellished greatly for these purposes), “Water’s for washin’, Dickel’s for drinkin’, free markets are for fixin’, and governments are for wastin’.”

In 2007, nearly 46 million Americans were without health insurance – that was about 18% of the under-65 population of the United States. With unemployment having sky-rocketed since, that number has surely gotten much worse. Any way you cut it, it’s a terrible statistic, for there might not be anything more critical to our Constitutionally-protected right to the pursuit of happiness, and more expensive, than health care.

Except for a Ferrari 420 Scuderia, of course.

Again, I digress - back on point.

The idea behind a national health care plan is reasonable and logical. If you’re not covered by insurance, the price of health care is prohibitively expensive. Prescription drugs are one thing, a hospital stay, for the love of God, something entirely different. Hey, I don’t know about you, but I think my co-pay for a routine doctor’s visit is too damn expensive!

However, I’m against national health care for a handful of reasons:
· When it comes to handling big programs with a big budget, the U.S. Government doesn’t own a terribly impressive track record – we all know the stories of outrageously expensive toilet seats and hammers. Health care is a big proposition – we’re looking at upwards of $1 trillion (that’s with a “T”) over the next ten years.
· The U.S. Government hasn’t exactly excelled with other health care initiatives. Quick question for those of you with health insurance: Would you trade your existing program for Medicare, Medicaid, or Veterans’ Administration care?
· When it comes to executing upon strategy, or in the case of government parlance, “policy,” again, the U.S. government doesn’t have a very good track record.
· When it comes to providing a high level of customer/consumer experience, … well, you get the point.

C’mon, if you were a hiring manager for the “business” of health care, would you hire the U.S. government? Would it even be a candidate for a screening interview? Seriously?

Okay, so it’s easy to poke holes at a plan, you say. How about some solutions? I’m glad you asked; here’re some things to consider:
· Americans are so out of shape we’re practically endangered! In October 2008, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report projected the entire adult population of the United States will be overweight or obese by 2048 if current trends persist. Entire – that means every adult.
· Please, don’t tell me our overweight problem is caused by disease and disorder. Go to Disneyworld for a day. Count the overweight people. Then, go to Tokyo, Beijing, Copenhagen, Munich, Paris, Barcelona – hell, anywhere – and count the overweight people. Compare. It’s not disease and disorder for most. Rather it’s bacon and cheese and Krispy Kreme and Doritos, and lots and lots of other food.
· The New York Times reported, based on 2006 data, that obese Americans spend 42 percent more on health care than normal-weight Americans.
· New diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes rose from 4.8 per 1,000 people from 1995 to 1997 to 9.1 per 1,000 people from 2005 to 2007, not coincidentally mirroring the increase in obesity rates (the CDC states obesity is the leading cause of Diabetes).
· Almost 6 million Americans don’t even know they suffer from diabetes!
· We still have over 43 million adult American smokers of cigarettes or cigars – and, I don’t mean just at bachelor parties or on golf course smokers.
· According to Campaign for Tabacco-Free Kids (admittedly a less than objective source), $96.7 billion is spent on public and private health care due to tobacco use; additionally, each American household spends $630 annually in federal and states taxes due to smoking. Okay, let’s say those stats are greatly exaggerated. Take 25% of it – that’s still a lot of money for anyone not named Gates (Bill), Buffet (Warren), or Woods (Tiger).

My solution to the health care crisis:
· Everybody, and I mean everyone who does not suffer from bulimia or anorexia, losses 5 to 10% of their body weight. That makes us more healthy right away, lowering the amount of health care services needing to be provided.
· Impose the same “sin taxes” as found on alcohol and tobacco to every restaurant with a drive-thru window. If we’re going to eat unhealthy, at least let’s bring in some tax revenues to help off-set the cost of health care.
· As it relates to alcohol taxes, raise them up just a touch – off the Kennedys alone, we’ll likely float health care for the unemployed and their families.
· Outlaw cup holders in cars. It’s just a pet peeve and I thought I would throw it in to see if anyone notices. However, without a cup holder, maybe it will limit eating in cars, which would limit the need for drive-thru’s. [Note to self: this is promising – deserves more study – time for a beer run].
· Ban cigarettes, except for export, of course – might as well make a few bucks off the misguided impulses of others.
· I know, I know, a ban on cigarettes will never work – let’s just tax the living daylights out of them; $1 a cigarette sounds good. All of the tax revenue goes to subsidize health care.
· No new health care-related taxes for the people who don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t eat junk food, etc.
· Let private enterprise fill the void. Where there is a need and a value desired by the market, there’s an opportunity. What do you think explains Wal-Mart, after all?

A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that the American people are slowly coming to their senses as the post-Inaugaration honeymoon begins to wane – 42% of Americans think the proposed health care plan is a “bad idea,” up from 32% just one month ago. Unfortunately, if doesn’t matter what Americans think now. What matters is what they thought the first Tuesday of last November. It was on that day American voted all practical legislative political power to one party – the Democrats. With that, rest assured a health bill will be passed in September unless the public significantly raises the volume of its protests.

Damn that Democratic majority in the House and Senate! It makes killing national health care a tough row to hoe. Remember, years ago, when we thought Al Franken as a politician was funny? As the filibuster-proof 60th Democrat in the Senate, it’s not so funny now, huh?

Of course, that’s just this guy’s opinion.

What do you think? Further the dialogue on Twitter @RayHartjen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Graduating With Honors

May and June is a great time of year for students all over the United States. First off, it’s the start of summer break, and that means the world to kids. Students everywhere declare their hatred for school, then begin the time-honored ritual of sleeping late, hanging out with friends, and desperately trying to get Alice Cooper’s chorus, “School’s out for summer,” out of their heads. That’s for four days. Then, they moan to their parents about how bored they are.

May and June also brings around the graduation celebrations for high school seniors. It’s the last real school graduation celebration, for no one in their right mind celebrates graduation from college. After all, who wants to leave the comfort of two classes a day, a nap in the afternoon, a party every night, and scantily clad co-eds for the rigors of a 9-to-5 job for the rest of your miserable life? The only celebration is if you can talk your parents into a fifth year. If you get so lucky as to get a sixth year, you’re required to die right at the end, Logan’s Run-like, for it’s all downhill after that (plus, you’re almost thirty anyway, and that was the end of the line for everyone but Farrah in Logan’s Run).

I wrote high school graduation is the last real school graduation. Unfortunately, it’s not the first. Now, when I was going through school, we had only had one graduation celebration – that was for the completion of high school. Today, it seems every idiot in our recognition-starved society celebrates graduation or “promotion” from almost every single grade.

This spring, I had friends who actually had to take off work to celebrate their kids’ and grandchildren’s promotions out of pre-school. Are you fucking kidding me? Hey, congratulations! Over the course of the year, you learned how to stop shitting your pants and how to color within the lines. Next year in kindergarten, your teachers will instruct you on how to best pick your nose without being seen. Then, first grade – farting! Here, take your diploma, toss your little tassle to the other side of your mortar hat, and get the fuck out of the way – we have a schedule to keep and that angel food Bundt cake looks delicious.

For the love of God, getting out of pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, or middle school shouldn’t be a cause for celebration. It should be an expectation!

It’s not just school either. Anybody have a kid who participates in youth sports? Every kid on every team gets a trophy. Everybody is a winner. Not so when I played. When I played, winners got trophies – really big championship trophies. Losers might get a little tiny one, which was quickly thrown away or hidden so as to stave off embarrassment whenever a winner came over to the house.

Now, I get that everyone should be recognized and supported. I also agree that it’s absolutely wonderful that every participant in the Special Olympics gets a medal and is declared a winner. But, folks, that’s the Special Olympics. If every child garnered the same treatment, no one would be special anymore.

This entire mess started about twenty years ago with grade inflation. Teachers started giving out higher and higher grades – to everyone. Standards crumbled. It’s supported by data. Grades are steadily rising, while standardized test scores are flat, or as in the shining case of California, declining. Getting a 4.0 doesn’t mean as much anymore, not when 20% of the class boasts of the “achievement.”

Celebrating every little achievement will have, or perhaps is currently having, a long-term detrimental effect on our society and way of life. We can’t continue to celebrate every time a mouth breather fogs a mirror. Eventually that leads to an unaccountable, unmotivated, slacker workforce that sits around and feels a false sense of entitlement.

Have you taken a peek at enrollments at an engineering or medical school lately? They are packed with foreign students who have worked hard and clawed their way to the top of their classes. In India, China, Korea, Japan, and Eastern Europe, students don’t get jack shit for “graduating” fifth grade. They get a hand-me-down coat, a loaf of stale, crusty bread (or noodles, depending on the nationality), and are shoved head-long into sixth grade.

You watch – twenty years from now, Korea, China and India will be the leaders in science, medicine, and business. Americans will have two choices for careers: either working at Wal-Mart, or working at Starbucks and serving lattes to those who do work at Wal-Mart.

Of course, it’s just this guy’s opinion.

I’m interested in what you think – feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me up on Twitter @RayHartjen.