a Someone should care, maybe not you....: The State of the Union .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

24 January 2007

The State of the Union

Written last night, posted this morning......


Well, I have just finished listening to the State of the Union Address. Overall I was rather impressed. I was particularly impressed by his description of the consequences of U.S. failure in Iraq. The fact that what he fits quite well with what I think will happen if we throw up our hands and come home probably aids me on that. His use of the phrase “nightmare scenario” and the description of that scenario was, in my view, very accurate. Will people care? I fear not. Americans aren’t interested in anything that can’t be solved in week and summed up in a half hour special report. After all, Jack Bauer can dismantle entire terrorist organizations in 24 hours, so why is this simple little war still going on?

On a couple of other points I was intrigued by his mention of a “civil reserve force” which is something that I haven’t heard of before at all and I am not at all sure exactly what he meant by it.

I was also interested in his stuff on alternative fuels and similar issues. I am quite sure that the congressman from the Midwest liked that a lot since he was really big on ethanol and bio-diesel. I was happy to see the strong mention for nuclear power too. I think we need more of that. His call to reduce gasoline use by 20% in ten years is pretty much bunk unless you cook the books a lot. Of course as long as the Big SUV is the prime choice for many American buyers then gas use won’t go down.

On immigration reform, well that is pretty much a done deal I suspect. The hard core anti immigration folks will scream but it is clear from what the President said that this is going to happen and it will be along the lines of what the Senate went for last year.

The tax breaks to buy health insurance was an interesting idea but frankly it won’t work. The problem with it is that it is a standard deduction for pretty much everyone. The problem of course is that most of the people who need health insurance but don’t have it won’t spend the money they are saving from their taxes on health insurance. They’ll buy a big screen TV. (Or am I just too damn cynical there?)

(Oops, the Democratic response is beginning; let’s see how they liked it. Not at all of course.)
Predictably Mr. Webb is opposed to the war in Iraq. I find it interesting that he speaks against “precipitous withdrawal” but says he wants the troops out “in short order” I am curious how he and the Democrats intend to manage that little contradiction. I was also interested in his reference to how a new President came in and ended the war in Korea promptly but then failed to mention at all that when that war “ended” there was no withdrawal from Korea like he is calling for in Iraq because there, as in Iraq, a withdrawal would have lead to chaos and destruction in the region. (In truth the war didn’t end, there was a cease fire put in place that has endured.) But I will grant that the response was considerably less vitriolic than I expected. I am amused that the Democrats are claiming a great success for passing a new minimum wage bill. Of course the Republicans tried to pass one last year that the Democrats shot down so I am not particularly impressed.

LOL, NPR just went to a micro brew bar in Seattle in get the “common man’s view” of what the President said. Yeah, that is a real unbiased place to get an opinion on any Republican, let alone President Bush.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

health insurance... a standard deduction... The problem of course is that most of the people who need health insurance but don’t have it won’t spend the money they are saving from their taxes on health insurance

I think you misunderstand. Bush wasn't proposing a tax cut which you'd theoretically spend on insurance. He was proposing a specific, new itemized deduction for health insurance, like for mortgage interest or your personal deduction. If you don't buy insurance, you don't get a deduction.

This has been a pet idea of mine for a while now. The current system assumes that health insurance is provided by your employer. That might have made sense when you were a coal miner working all your life for the Company and living in the company town, just like your daddy did, and the union got the Company to provide for you. These days, the average tenure in a job is something like 2 years, and the notion that your employer should provide any kind of long-term benefit is a bit silly.

(Quick anecdote to illustrate: a coworker of mine once broke his thumb playing volleyball. Bad break; he needed a plate and screws to hold it together to heal. No problem, all paid for by insurance. He gets a nice new job at a different company. He can't have the plate removed because it's a "pre-existing condition" from when he joined the company. Either the new or old insurance would have paid the whole thing had he not changed jobs. So he was suppossed to pass on the good job opportunity just to keep his current insurance provider?)

Your employer gives you cash. You buy stuff with it. They don't give you cars, or food, or housing, just cash. This is why we invented money in the first place; to eliminate the barter system.

If you buy your own health insurance, then you're (a) not limited by the two or three choices the company negotiated with; (b) able to keep your insurance life-long if you choose, and certain avoid being forced to change when it's inconvenient or disadvantageous.

However, current tax law puts this simple idea at a big disadvantage. If the company gives you cash, it gets taxed. If the company buys health insurance for you, then it counts as an expense to the company, not "compensation" for you, and thus is paid for with pre-tax money. So, the company has to give you more pre-tax dollars for you to buy health insurance than to buy it for you, because the first case is taxed and the second one isn't. And the difference is your full marginal rate: fed and state likely to be 35-40% or more.

Having a deduction for health insurance makes both cases the same -- insurance bought with pre-tax dollars.

Note that this also levels the playing field for the self-employed. What if you don't work for Big Coal Mining Co, who gets to account for health insurance as an expense? If you're just you, then you pay taxes on your income before you get to buy health insurance, which makes it more expensive, which means you're less likely to have it.

9:55 AM  
Blogger opit said...

Dancing around a problem doesn't do much for solving it. Fact is, all private market "insurance" will have the shortcomings you describe and more. There are times when it is more, not less, efficient to have community derived services as a provider.
Ezra Klein, for instance, may be an idealistic kid, but he does work his little keyboard hard at finding and describing possible options for bettering the current kludge.
Any responsible management group looks for solutions to problems. Bush's "solution" increases health related expenses ! Democratic punsters are less credible how ?
BTW I have not seen proposals that would change doctors' practices ( and hospitals ) from current ownership models. What's unrealistic here ?

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

exMI - you might want to keep an eye out for contrarian comment that comes in spates and gets increasingly hostile and hateful. The Charlie troll has a habit of stalking me and spamming the sites of people who comment on mine. He is the sole reason why Kevin Drum put moderators on his board and why I had to enable the moderation feature. He has followed at least three of my commentators to their sites and set upon them. Just a heads up FYI.

10:35 AM  
Blogger exMI said...

Anon - that is waht I had originally understood about the plan but the way the President described it made it sound different to me. My bad. I am glad to see that I was wrong. It certainly isn't aperfect system but it is better than what we have.

Opit - See the last sentence of the above response. There is a real problem with vast overcharges at hospitals. This is clear when my parents go to the hospital and get a huge bill which they give turn over to medicade which pays, on average, about half of it and the hospital accepts this and moves on. thsoe of us with the governments bargining power are stuck with the full bill.

Blue Girl - I'll keep an eye out but considering my commnets on your blog usually disagree with you I don't expect alot of trouble. but I have been wrong before. And thinking about it, except for the HUGE issue of the War in Iraq we agree on alot fo things so maybe I do.

11:23 AM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Of course as long as the Big SUV is the prime choice for many American buyers then gas use won’t go down.

Well, this is the reason that we're currently paying twice for gas then what we used to pay. As far as I'm concerned, SUV owners have lost the right to bitch about the price of gas.

As for immigration, didn't he mention doubling the amount of border patrol officers? I think that's a start. I'm one of those anti-illegal immigration dudes and blame Reagan for causing the problem in the first place with his amnesty.

No opinion on the healthcare reform idea yet.

8:00 PM  

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