James Fallows of the health care bill

I have lots of thoughts about what happened last night, and I may keep expanding this post during the day if I have time. But this clear-headed perspective from one of our best journalists reflects, to me, the obvious – we have made an important step in the right direction.

For now, the significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)… TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.

That is how the entire rest of the developed world operates, as noted yesterday. It is the way the United States operates in most realms other than health coverage. Of course all older people are eligible for Medicare. Of course all drivers must have auto insurance. Of course all children must have a public school they can attend. Etc. Such “of course” rules offer protection for individuals but even more important, they reduce the overall costs to society, compared with one in which extreme risks are uncontained. The simplest proof is, again, Medicare: Does anyone think American life would be better now, on an individual or a collective level, if we were in an environment in which older people might have to beg for treatment as charity cases when they ran out of cash? And in which everyone had to spend the preceding years worried about that fate?

There are countless areas in which America does it one way and everyone else does it another, and I say: I prefer the American way. Our practice on medical coverage is not one of these. Despite everything that is wrong with this bill and the thousand adjustments that will be necessary in the years to come, this is a very important step.

Period. I know all the disappointment from both sides, all the complaints, all the fears. Everyone has an idea for how this could have been done better. I’ve been watching the issue carefully for a year now, and I remember just a few weeks ago when the majority opinion was that this bill was impossible to pass. I remember all the cries of panic, again from both sides. Under the circumstances, I am amazed and delighted that we passed any bill at all, and for that we have the much demonized Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama to thank. They did it. They pulled it off. Now comes the next battle, tweaking the bill, getting it signed and implemented, dealing with what’s not workable, etc. But for the first time we actually took the step forward, and for tens of millions of Americans a huge burden of doubt and fear and worry has been lifted. This was a victory for them and for all of us, even if it isn’t the bill we wanted to see. That will come in time.

Updates:

Must-read Paul Krugman piece on the use of fear by the GOP to stoke people’s basest instincts to help kill the bill.

Even more must-read: former bush speechwriter Frum lacerates Republicans whose strategy of just saying No to everything has come back to destroy them:

Invoking Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) infamous remarks last July that killing the legislation would be President Obama’s “Waterloo,” David Frum offered a dire assessment of the GOP’s fate. “[I]t’s Waterloo all right: ours,” he wrote on his blog Frum Forum.

“Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s,” said Frum, a former speechwriter and adviser to President George W. Bush. “It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster.”

“We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat,” he explained, on the day the House of Representatives cleared the historic legislation for the president to sign into law.

I’d love to see them try to repeal the bill. I’d love to see them try to take away health care from the sick and the needy. I’d love to see them try to re-enforce people getting dropped for pre-existing conditions. bring it on, as Frum’s boss used to say.

Even Jane Hamsher, with whom I had serious disagreements due to her insistence on an all-or-nothing approach (nice in theory, impossible in today’s super-charged, super-polarized political world) acknowledges this as a big step forward. I know, I wanted a public option, too, and I wanted Obama to flush out all the corporate interests and start doing what’s good for the actual citizens. I am also pragmatic and realistic, and believe these things have to be done one step at a time. We now have a foot firmly in the door.

Obama knew all along where he wanted to go. Maybe it wasn’t where I wanted it to go, but I have to credit him with pulling off a spectacular upset, for handing the right their greatest defeat in modern memory, and for proving he is a fighter. Yes, I wish he’d do more for my pet progressive causes, but in this climate, with today’s daunting threats, impossible for any one politician to conquer, I believe he’s about the best we can hope for. Watch his ratings soar, and watch the Republicans dig themselves in deeper with messages of hate and slander. Bring it on.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 53 Comments

Too bad it won’t bring costs down. First of all, it doesn’t tax insurance plans, so consumers will feel little pressure to shop around for cheaper coverage (in my case, like most unionized workers, I have no idea how much my insurance costs my employer). Second, everyone is supposed to buy insurance they don’t necessarily need to keep costs down, but that’s not going to work. Even if you have no problem with forcing people to buy insurance they don’t believe they need, the fine for those who refuse to buy costs less than insurance, but because pre-existing conditions are covered, they can sign up as soon as they get sick. This will prove to be a disastrously expensive bill.

March 22, 2010 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

I think America took a great step forwards; remembering that democracy isn’t always about the money it’s doing what the majority want; and the majority were unhappy with the behaviour of health care insurance as it was.
Well done America… and if only all these people worrying about cost had voiced the same concerns when Bush was turning a surplus into a deficit…

March 22, 2010 @ 11:19 pm | Comment

I don’t know if it really address the root issues with affordable healthcare in the first place. Nor in reality will it fix problems with our deficit.

March 23, 2010 @ 1:02 am | Comment

If anyone knows the intricacies of deficit reduction I’m sure it’s you, pug. And one thing is a fact: millions of Americans who were uninsured will be protected. And no one will be dropped for pre-existing conditions. And no more ending people’s coverage just because they get sick with a chronic illness. A major step forward.

Hangmen: Second, everyone is supposed to buy insurance they don’t necessarily need to keep costs down, but that’s not going to work.

It’s worked elsewhere. No reason to say it can’t work now. I need to pay for my state’s educational system although I don’t “need” it. That’s called living in a society. It’s called the Social Contract.

March 23, 2010 @ 1:10 am | Comment

I have to say I read about this healthcar saga with a slight…incredulity. I mean, one pays nes taxes…surely one would expect those taxes to be used for the common good? Like healthcare?

Surely the main function of a society is the wellbeing of the citizens, not the wealth (in geopolitical standing) of a country. I mean, China’s rich – rich enough to send men to space and build cities no one lives in and malls and bridges….but the vast majority of people there don’t have an easy life.

March 23, 2010 @ 6:26 am | Comment

The Republicans and the tea baggers have won in that Obama followers and Democrats will fall all over each congratulating themselves for passing some form of health care legislation despite avoiding the one real change that needed to be made: a move to a single payer system. Now it’s going to take another 25, 40, 60 or 80 years to get the real change that is needed. Obama’s complete lack of leadership, his pure political corporatist behavior, his ridiculous attempt to involve the party of NO undermined his supporters. As an American I am completely disgusted that all we had for a choice in the last election were a doddering, senile coward and an egotistical bumbler. But as a I look around at my fellow countrymen, I realize that as they become more and more immersed in their religious fundamental ignorance, their corporeal laziness and their xenophobia, it’s not surprising that the “leadership” is as lame as it is.

March 23, 2010 @ 7:26 am | Comment

Insult him if you choose; I am disappointed in many aspects of his presidency as well. But he has changed America in more than just in regard to healthcare. Ask any American living overseas. And he’s only been in office a little over a year. Yes, I wish he’d gone after more of my progressive causes, but then, he surprised me by working almost entirely behind the scenes to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a political hot potato. Is he in the hands of the corporations? Yes, almost as much as Clinton and McCain and Bush and the rest of them. Did he disappoint us in not going after the torturers and the banksters? Yes, but those were purely strategic decisions made to prioritize and not turn the country into a seething tug of war – the HCR tug of war was bad enough. For background on why he didn’t gop after the banksters the way he originally wnted to, see the superb profile of Timothy Geithner in this month’s Atlantic. If you go to the link with the attitude that Obama and Geithner are guilty and there is no other side to the story it won’t be very useful. But if you go in the way I did, full of contempt for Geithner but willing to see if maybe I was in fact not fully aware of all the issues involved, maybe you’ll at least understand why he and Obama made their fateful decision, which the Atlantic (one of my trusted sources, though I don’t take what they publish as gospel) says helped hold America together at a time when we were still on the precipice. All those gripes we jhave with Obama are nothing compared to those mega-issues that threaten to uproot the country at the most fundamental levels (things like the size of healthcare spending, the nation’s solvency, avoiding mass panic that would lead to certain misery for all). So I’ll leave it at this: like the CCP, this issue isn’t black and white. And this issue isn’t over. If it gives you pleasure to vent against Obama, by all means do so. We have to live with him, and so far i think he’s doen an extraordinary job leading. Paul Krugman and James Fallows and a host of intelligent journalists whose opinions I trust give the HCR bill high marks (while also devoting plenty of space to its faults and inadequacies). I am not alone in seeing this as important, groundbreaking legislation, even inf the ground it broke could have been larger. History will decide, and I’m betting they will see this as one of our pivotal steps toward becoming a better society.

March 23, 2010 @ 7:44 am | Comment

I liked the start of this blog entry
http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/health/#more-14610
Should be interesting see what people are going to say :-)

March 23, 2010 @ 8:26 am | Comment

I’m sorta with Formerly-Not-A-Sinophile. It’s sad that an insurance industry bailout that perpetuates and even strengthens the current structure has been controversial enough that it’s considered a great progressive victory. I guess it is, up to a point, and I see the argument that the assumption one will have health care of some sort is a resetting of the frame and that eventually it may lead to a truly universal healthcare system.

I’m still appalled that this was achieved, once again, by sacrificing women’s reproductive health (and codifying women’s status as second-class), and by having the IRS serve as a collection agency for insurance companies. There’s something truly wrong about that.

March 23, 2010 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

Richard #4,

Sorry, I have to disagree with you on that. God knows that next year that my health insurance will probably increase by 10% if I am lucky. So in order to get affordable health insurance, I’m sure that someone who is mandated to have health insurance will probably take one with high deductable and low coverage. If something happens to this guy, he/she will be bankrupt anyways because of the kind of health insurance he/she got.

March 23, 2010 @ 2:28 pm | Comment

Richard,
I’ll spare you my comments about healthcare and jump directly to your new found faith in Tim Geitner. To quote the Hon. Nancy Pelosi: “Are you serious?!”

The first sentence of The Atlantic piece says it all: “Congress members accuse Timothy Geithner of coddling Wall Street. Wall Street accuses him of abetting socialism.”

The attempt to portray Geitner as some kind of public servant saving the little people from the hands of the big banks is ridiculous, and you know it. But this is not about what you know, isn’t it? Now that Geitner has been initiated as a Progressive Saint by The Atlantic, you can no longer see him for what he is (!?).

Amazing.

March 23, 2010 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

By the way, the Altlantic article also exposes the basic fallacy that stands at the root of progressivism: the idea that big government is some kind of counter-balance to big business. In reality, government and big business depend on each other, and one cannot grow without the other. No monopoly can survive over time unless it is owned by government, mandated by it, or protected from competitions by it. That’s a fact.

After spending in China, the false “conflict” between big business and big government should be clear to you. And I know that it is, when you think about it.

March 23, 2010 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

Dror, I sorta agree with you too. There’s a whole chicken/egg question here, because I tend to think that government has been bought by business rather than the other way around. But in the end, it doesn’t make much difference.

March 23, 2010 @ 4:38 pm | Comment

The important thing to understand is that big government facilitates and encourages the creation of big business. Even Marx knew that.

March 23, 2010 @ 5:26 pm | Comment

Anyone out there believe McCain/Palin get this done? *shudder*

March 23, 2010 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

@Dror

There is “big”, in fact, super”big” governments in the Nordic countries. Their taxes and size of their welfare states would have all the conservatives foaming at their mouths. But they certainly don’t have all those scandalous corporate bloodsuckers around in Wall Street. The ironic thing is all the corporate greed and scandals happened in the most “libertarian” states such as the US and the UK.

“Big” government was just another political bogeyman of the GOP which it can fall back on when they have no other cards to play.

March 23, 2010 @ 9:05 pm | Comment

@sptwo: The Nordic countries are an outlier, and the reasons for them being so are not too difficult to figure out. To give you a clue, you can start by looking at the number of people that live in them, compare it to the amount of natural resources, the homogeneity of their populations and cultures, their general history, and even their brand of christianity.

By the way, their governments are no longer considerably larger than America’s, even before taking into account Obama’s latest initiatives. In Sweden, for example, government expenditures are about 42% of GDP, while in the US, they are around 39% (state and federal) of GDP, and growing steadily.

America has many problems. Assuming that more government is the solution is taking the easy way out (or mistaking the way out for the way further in).

As for your claim that “all the corporate greed and scandals happened in the most “libertarian” states such as the US and the UK” – I suggest you do some reading; you might benefit from learning about corporate “scandals” in other, socialist (and national socialist) countries. More importantly, you might be surprised to learn about government’s role in the largest “corporate” scandals in the US. To start with, check out the causes for the latest credit and housing bubble (hint: three of them start with an F) .

Finally, I do not understand the meaning of the phrase “corporate greed”. Would appreciate if you can provide a definition.

March 23, 2010 @ 10:03 pm | Comment

I believe government has a positive role to play, as an expression of the desires of citizens and a vehicle to promote the general welfare of citizens. I believe in the concept of the public good and the commons.

I don’t believe that libertarianism works. Unless you like Somalia.

I think there are ways to balance competing interests of enterprise, justice and the general welfare, just as I believe that the system of separation of powers, the rule of law and the rights of individuals is a pretty good one, when it is not perverted to the point of paralysis.

March 24, 2010 @ 6:43 am | Comment

@DP
“Finally, I do not understand the meaning of the phrase “corporate greed”. Would appreciate if you can provide a definition.”
If I may – profits. Dividend cheques for shareholders are more improtant that…ooooh, welfare of workers, say. Cadbury/Kraft saga is a pretty good illustration.

@ Lisa
“I believe government has a positive role to play, as an expression of the desires of citizens and a vehicle to promote the general welfare of citizens. I believe in the concept of the public good and the commons.”
In a democracy, yes. After all, we elect people on the basis of what we wnat them to do for us. OK, elections are a marketing exercise and those elected have a habit of forgetting their election promises…
In an autocratic system, it’s slightly different as the government in power wants to maintain that position and the people have to be placated so they don’t topple the government.

The FM blog touches on the propaganda war that is to come re US healthcare (http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/). I don’t, personally, know what the problem is – you elect a government for your benefit. Healthcare provision is one of the more basic benefits one should expect, surely? Sure, it’s expensive, but then so’s the military – and look where all that money they’ve sucked up has got them.

March 24, 2010 @ 7:19 am | Comment

@Lisa: I also believe that government has a positive role to play. The problem lies with the second part of your sentence, regarding the “expression of the desires of citizens”. Previously, “democracy” was a means to achieve certain ends – a set of values which, in America’s case, were defined quite clearly from the outset. Today, “democracy” is the ends, and all means are used to justify it. The original values are no longer remembered, and the “expression of the desires of citizens” stands alone as a paramount good.

@Mike: Are you saying that seeking profit is a form of greed?

March 24, 2010 @ 7:34 am | Comment

@DP
Depends on the ways of gaining said profit. Even you have to admit one can go too far is search of higher profits, no?

March 24, 2010 @ 7:53 am | Comment

This kinda illuminates what I feel regarding US healthcare
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1974424,00.html

March 24, 2010 @ 8:33 am | Comment

@Mike: I do not see any fault in seeking profit, as long as it is done within the boundaries of the law. Companies depend on individuals since they need to attract the best talent and need people to conduct business with (sell to). In a market setup, it is very unlikely for a company that acts against these two long terms interests to survive.

Sure, at each given moment, some companies enjoy high, even very high, profits. These profits are, by definition, short-lived and play an important role in encouraging calculated risk, which in turn brings innovation and increases the wealth of society as a whole.

The capitalist process is unclear to most, which is why they take its fruits for granted and assume that it could be made better if only we take out the “instability” and “self interest” from it. But these two things are the essence of capitalism.

As for the Time article – That America finds consolation in applause from – misguided, bankrupt, disintegrating – Europe is a little sad, isn’t it?

March 24, 2010 @ 8:47 am | Comment

@DP
Indeed, yes. I myself engage in some small profit making ventures – buying cheap and selling a bit higher to make a bit of pocketmoney. And profits are indeed the way to stay in business.
However, one can be a bit too focused on profit making – to the extent that the boundary between ethical and immoral is crossed. You say very large (excessive?) bring innovation and increases the wealth of society as a whole. I’d question that – what is the employment status in western countries at present? What happens to the workers when profits are down?
It certainly seems to me that the corporations are more concerned about their profits and their shareholders that any country they may derive a geographical origin from. I don’t see the likes of Google working for the greater American good, for example.
Of course, we could argue all day and half the night on this issue – and like arguing with the religious, one can get nowhere. No one can convince me that there are gods around and they cannot see how atheism can even be considered human. I feel this will lead down the same road – profits are necessary regardless against profits are necessary with caveats.

“That America finds consolation in applause from – misguided, bankrupt, disintegrating – Europe is a little sad, isn’t it?”
Careful when laughing at others – you look the same naked as they do ;-)
I merely used the article to show my own views on the matter. It is strange that the US does not provide what I view as a right (being a taxpayer) of being a citizen.

March 24, 2010 @ 9:03 am | Comment

@Mike: You were honest enough to confess that your views on this issue are more “theological” than they are logical. Words like “immoral” are value judgments and have no meaning in a discussion of this kind, unless you can define them clearly. I said that I do not see any fault with seeking profits as long as it is done within the limits of the law. This gives us an objective (albeit dynamic) benchmark to evaluate corporate actions. I welcome your suggestion of an alternative judgment by which we can evaluate the “morality” of such actions.

More importantly, you should recognize that generally speaking, unless there is external interference in the market process, when companies are “concerned about their profits” they are, necessarily, “working for the greater good”. Of course, what is considered “good” depends on social norms and attitudes. Setting these norms and attitudes, however, is the responsibility of parents and social institutions.

Which brings us to the tragic irony of contemporary western liberalism: We tore apart all absolute truths, turned to relative morality, and fostered destructive attitudes and behaviors in our young and newcomers… and when we face the consequences of our deliberate and “conscientious” actions, we still have the nerve to blame anyone other than ourselves. Alas, unlike in in the movies, meaning well is not the same as doing well.

March 24, 2010 @ 10:05 am | Comment

@DP
“Words like “immoral” are value judgments and have no meaning in a discussion of this kind, unless you can define them clearly.”
In a way, yes, but also you know what I mean by these words…and their meaning in today’s terms. For instance, I am sure you’d not be too supportive of using slavery in inreasing profits (I think it is tolerated in many countries, even if lip-service to international norms makes the practise “illegal”). One can, I feel, use these words without having to define them in detail as we know what they mean in the context used – we live with the same zeitgeist (love that word! Hope I used it correctly!). To say it’s OK to maximise profits within the law is, I am sure you’d agree, a bit lame, especially if the companies move to countries where the laws are…lax in comparison to their country of origin.

“fostered destructive attitudes and behaviors in our young”
This I don’t understand. Especially as it follows
“Of course, what is considered “good” depends on social norms and attitudes. Setting these norms and attitudes, however, is the responsibility of parents and social institutions.”
The corprations that make money “for the greater good” are not only concerned with profits but with maintaining those profits. I know that many are not averse to manipulating public perception of things. That’s why we drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, for example.

March 24, 2010 @ 10:32 am | Comment

@Mike: No, I do not know what you mean by “immoral” unless you define it clearly. Before there is a discussion, value judgments must be put aside.

As for the difference between parents/social responsibility and corporate responsibility, let me begin with a question: The apple tree survives and multiplies by attracting humans to pick/eat its fruits and thus carry its seeds to new regions. While doing its best to go forth and multiply, the apple tree provides a valuable source of nutrition to human society. If a kid eats too many apples and becomes diabetic, who is to blame?

March 24, 2010 @ 11:01 am | Comment

@DG
Immoral – opposite of moral. I guess in the western sense, with a slathering of Christian cultural baggage.

As for the apple tree – if it’s giving freely, it’s the kid’s fault. But when the apple seller picks up all the fruit and distributes it, advertising the fact that the fruit is good for you and you have to eat plenty of it, who then is to blame? We already know the kid’s too stupid/greedy to know when to stop – and the apple seller doesn’t care about the kid’s health, only the money in his wallet…

March 24, 2010 @ 11:09 am | Comment

@Mike: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: assuming that there is no mediation between the apple and the kid. Who is to blame for the kid’s diabetes?

March 24, 2010 @ 11:15 am | Comment

Later, that the apple seller made sure he owned as many trees as possible and uprooted the other trees, then made sure that he made deals with other places that gave him the exclusive rights to apple selling.
The apple seller then made sure that his trees were bred so that the seeds did not grow when planted, with later research ensuring a tree that bore fruit with no seeds. These fruit were touted as the latest in apple eating experiences as there were no pips to disrupt the apple eating experience….

March 24, 2010 @ 11:16 am | Comment

@DG
I have to see if there have been cases of children getting diabetes from apple eating first. I don’t like assumptions – I had assumed you knew the meaning of “immoral”….that bit me, didn’t it? ;-)

March 24, 2010 @ 11:18 am | Comment

http://www.diabetesmellitus-information.com/diabetic_food.htm
and
http://www.medindia.net/news/Heart-Disease-Diabetes-Risk-Reduced-by-Eating-Apples-35257-1.htm

Seems to indicate the kid already had diabetes before eating the apples.

March 24, 2010 @ 11:21 am | Comment

@Mike: Don’t be afraid. Let me know when you are ready to proceed.

March 24, 2010 @ 11:26 am | Comment

@DP
:-D Sorry, slow day.
Did the child know of the consequences of his actions? We’ll assume another tree, in light of recent knowledge…
I only ask because obviously the tree cannot be to blame – it’s a tree. But a child cannot be to blame either as a child doesn’t know better (trust me, I have 2, I know whereof I speak). One could blame the parents but they probably don’t know either – after all, eating fruit is good for you, right? That’s what everyone says, after all…even on TV. And if the parents did know, can they watch over teh child 24/7? There’s been discussions about that, how it is affecting the lives of children in modern times and they don’t want their child to be adversely affected, after all. If the child doesn’t tell them he’s scrumping fruit and eating himself stupid, can one blame the parents?

You need to provide more details. At this point in time, with the information available, no one is to blame. To apportion blame is to make unfounded assumptions.

March 24, 2010 @ 11:36 am | Comment

I see that you are trying hard to learn as little as possible from this, but even so, you might still learn something. If no one is to blame until you have all the necessary information about a simple story with a child and a tree, why do you presume to be able to assign blame in much more complex cases, which you admittedly know even less about?

March 24, 2010 @ 11:54 am | Comment

DP
You said yourself “…have no meaning in a discussion of this kind, unless you can define them clearly”

I can assume to assign blame because, unlike the child and the tree, these cases are reorted in the press. Being educated, I can read these reports ad make my mind up regarding the truth of the matter – even if it involves a bit more research (such as one could have done regarding the ability of apples to induce diabetes).

Your turn.

March 24, 2010 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

@Mike: You are learning, but you need to be more careful: Your research about apples is not an appropriate counter to my previous statement about value judgements. The question whether or not eating a fruit causes a certain disease is one that can be factually ascertained. Whether or not a human action is “moral” or “greedy”, on the other hand, is in the eye of the beholder and the answer to it depends on his value system.

March 24, 2010 @ 7:56 pm | Comment

@DP
Sorry about he DG earlier – was a religious contributer to the Richard Dawkins site I used to frequent (work computer nowadays is too slow entering the site for me to enjoy it as I once did)

Greedy is greedy – whether good or bad. You know what greedy means, I know what greedy means. Even children know what greedy is – they admit is (yes, even a 4 year old knows when she’s being greedy…and the consequences are all too clear to her at 4 am in the morning when she’s sick).
Now, you can say making profits is a valueless exercise in terms of morality and, if one is detached, it is. But we know most humans have an innate sense of right and wrong (that research thing again – well, it is part of my job) and if the profits are a result of “immoral” activities, we, as humans, know about it – we can make the distinction.

We do have a capacity to ignore it, mind. Cheap jeans are cheap jeans and the manufacture, from the child labour in picking and sorting cotton to the depressed wages of the seamstress do not, on the whole, exercise the mind of the consumer, I’ll admit. Until the consumer is shown the process, that is. But that’s education – a whole different thing and leads me back to one of the points I made earlier and is the point you, I think, are trying to make to me.

However, I am assuming you are educated….in which case you do know the morality issue. We presumably, along with most of the contributers here, share the same value system. Asking for definitions is just a stalling tactic….and a red herring into which, as usual, I have been sucked into…

March 25, 2010 @ 5:09 am | Comment

So… lovely weather we’re having…

March 25, 2010 @ 8:52 am | Comment

@DP

The Nordic countries are an outlier, and the reasons for them being so are not too difficult to figure out. To give you a clue, you can start by looking at the number of people that live in them, compare it to the amount of natural resources, the homogeneity of their populations and cultures, their general history, and even their brand of christianity.

Not very convincing given that your previous statements about government smacks sweeping generalization. Those factors above is not as relevant as in their firm belief in social democracy, a “heresy” that would lead your crucifixion by the conservatives if you believe in it in America.

By the way, their governments are no longer considerably larger than America’s, even before taking into account Obama’s latest initiatives. In Sweden, for example, government expenditures are about 42% of GDP, while in the US, they are around 39% (state and federal) of GDP, and growing steadily.

Surely, Sweden and Norway etc do not have to finance military operations worldwide. They also do not have billion dollar bills in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, if your figures are true, they still have a “bigger” government without America’s military burdens.

To start with, check out the causes for the latest credit and housing bubble (hint: three of them start with an F) .

Haha. Fannie and Freddie are not even true attempts at public housing. The problem is not with government role, but the lack of a complete government role. Fannie and Freddie are compromised measures to ensure affordability in housing by providing affordable loans without actually getting involved in building social housing projects at a national scale. If they had done the latter, it would be “socialist”! It is this kind of half-baked government measures that spelled disaster and they are half-baked because of the political need to appease the right wing.

And for the Federal Reserve: Geeze, wasn’t Alan a fanatic fan of market fundamentalism? When you have blind free-marketeers in charge of public bodies, it is a recipe to catastrophe.

America has many problems. Assuming that more government is the solution is taking the easy way out (or mistaking the way out for the way further in).

As if having less government is the way out. You think a Hooverite solution of rugged individualism will do the trick? Even things like privatization was a scam, it just turn public monopolies into private monopolies. What’s the great deal about it?

I suggest you do some reading; you might benefit from learning about corporate “scandals” in other, socialist (and national socialist) countries

I do need further reading. But before anything more fascinating comes up, Enron and Worldcom remain my favourites. Amuse me with another Enron and Worldcom if you can find any of the equivalents in Scandinavia.

March 25, 2010 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

Serve, sorry for the lack of fresh content or comments from me. I am on the road yet again and won’t be home until next Tuesday. Sometimes i think I should just shut the blog down.

March 25, 2010 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

@DP

Finally, I do not understand the meaning of the phrase “corporate greed”. Would appreciate if you can provide a definition.

Making profits by making someone else worse off. Go back to your high school textbook and check the index on “pareto optimality”.

I do not see any fault in seeking profit, as long as it is done within the boundaries of the law.

That explains why MNCs have been implicated in sweatshops and child labour around the world. It’s legal in those countries, what’s wrong? Morals? What morals? Morals won’t contribute to share prices and fat cat bonuses.

Companies depend on individuals since they need to attract the best talent and need people to conduct business with (sell to). In a market setup, it is very unlikely for a company that acts against these two long terms interests to survive.

Another right-wing myth constantly fed to the population. Check this out:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_16/b3829002.htm

The CEO who delivered least for shareholders, for the second consecutive year, was Oracle’s Ellison, whose massive 2001 haul, combined with a plunging stock price, virtually assured a poor pay-for-performance comparison. An Oracle spokesman said Ellison declined to comment.

Joining Ellison on the list were other execs who managed to reel in big bucks despite poor performance. Among them: Sun Microsystem’s (SUNW ) Scott McNealy. In three years, he hauled in $53.1 million, mostly through option exercises, while investors saw the value of their Sun shares decline by 92%.

March 25, 2010 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

As if having less government is the way out. You think a Hooverite solution of rugged individualism will do the trick?

Rugged individualism is good.

If Obama goes down in history as the one made good healthcare available to everybody, you’ll be OK.

If Obama goes down in history as the one who made mediocre, slow and expensive healthcare available to everybody, you’ll be OK because you won’t need to depend on that health system.

If everything turns to sh** and Obama goes down in history as the one who hastened America’s decline, then you’d better have some of that rugged individualism or you won’t be OK!

March 25, 2010 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

If everything turns to sh** and Obama goes down in history as the one who hastened America’s decline

That’s hilarious. America is already in decline in case you are not aware. And we already know who started its decline when Cheney said, “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.”

March 25, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Comment

That’s hilarious. America is already in decline in case you are not aware. And we already know who started its decline when Cheney said, “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.”

That’s why I said “hasten” and not “cause”. Personally I think America needs a president who understands that the US is not too big to fail and if there were such a president he would not be trying to cement a legacy through healthcare right now.

March 26, 2010 @ 6:23 am | Comment

such a president he would not be trying to cement a legacy through healthcare right now.

But weren’t you agree that Obama at the very least, has some political courage to take on this issue that could potentially derail his entire presidency? He wasn’t my favourite to begin with, but i thought this time round, he got more guts than anyone else, taking on something that even Clinton didn’t have the nerve to touch.

March 26, 2010 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

@sptwo: If you are truly interested to understand the issues, I am happy to spend the time to go through each and every one of them in detail. Note that I have no interests in a shouting contest of mainstream political talking points, since I have nothing to gain from such a discussion – as I am not affiliated with any political party and am interested in understanding the issues, not in partisan cheerleading. If you are willing to question your existing beliefs – we can proceed. I am always happy to question mine.

March 27, 2010 @ 1:44 am | Comment

Excellent, lucid, compelling blog you have, Dror.

March 27, 2010 @ 4:03 am | Comment

@DP

First of all, i second what slim says about your blog. It is insightful and to me very well documented, sensible and credible. I have learn quite a lot just by reading your blog for half an hour yesterday.

I think i am not being partisan here. I am not affiliated to any political parties too. However, i think on the issue of “big” government, let’s agree to disagree. While i am aware of governmental failures, my basic philosophy and beliefs are still very much Keynesian. The unfettered free market to me was just another “invincible” myth that was pushed by the GOP and its rich backers. I think anyone who is sane should know that the market is a deeply flawed creature. Market fundamentalists, to me, are basically pushing a faith which will bring us back to the Hobbesian jungle. The Leviathan state is a necessary evil.

And the free marketeers are the most hypocritical of all. When things are going well, they want deregulation, small government, cutting taxes for the rich and reduced government spending. However, when they got into trouble, they were the first to come hat in hand to ask for government money to save them. The whole “free market” and individualistic ideology is nothing but a self-serving political myth.

March 27, 2010 @ 10:53 am | Comment

@Peter
That’s why I said “hasten” and not “cause”.

While Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet empire, do i blame his perestroika, glasnost and “New Thinking” for the demise of the USSR? I think i would blame his predecessors more, especially Stalin and Brezhnev. I blame the f***kers who left behind the s***, i don’t blame the one who have to clean it up. How about you? You seem to be doing the latter.

March 27, 2010 @ 10:59 am | Comment

It would be premature to blame Obama for anything, nothing significant has happened yet.

As for the USSR. I don’t know enough to assign any “blame” for its collapse. However while Gorbachev may have inherited a mess he was at the helm when things went pear-shaped. Making sweeping changes of the kind he initiated is inherently risky so if I were Russian I might have preferred he choose a different route. Yes I do believe in democracy (as a means to an end) but those Chinese nationalists who point to Russia as a negative example have a point.

March 29, 2010 @ 6:09 am | Comment

@slim: Thanks.

@sptwo: Thanks, again. I am not sure what you mean by “market fundamentalism”, but it is clear that you are referring to opinions that I do not hold. Government has an important role to play, but it should be limited and – mist importantly – based on specific principle, and not on popular whims. The problem here is not with the ends, but with the means. It is nice to say that we want everyone to be rich and healthy and have access to all the wonders of modern life. The question is what is the most viable way to achieve these goals. The road to hell is, indeed, paved with good intentions, and the road to paradise in likewise paved with difficult decisions, risk, and growing pains.

An “unfettered free market” has not been seen anywhere in the Western World for about 100 years, so the evils you refer to in recent history could not have been a result of it. I know that it is popular to talk about the world becoming deregulated and government becoming smaller over the last two decades, but if you look at the facts you will see that government has been growing steadily and its involvement in financial and housing markets has been more and more aggressive over the last 10 years.

To say that Greenspan, for example, was a “Free Market” central banker is practically an oxymoron: the main purpose of America’s Federal Reserve is to manipulate the market in good times, and prevent the natural death of bad companies in bad times. Greenspan did exactly this – he kept interest rates low and bailed out LTCM. Not exactly the behavior of a free market “fundamentalist”.

Complaining about GOP/Democratic connections to wealthy bankers and other corporate interests are valid, but you should follow this investigation to its logical end. Politicians from both sides benefit financially from having control over sectors of the economy. They then sell their “services” to the highest bidder. Blaming only the bidder is missing the point.

March 29, 2010 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

Speaking of Gorbachev: I hope Obama doesn’t end up like him – popular around the world, but not in his own country. I’m not the first to wonder if Obama is America’s Gorbachev.

March 29, 2010 @ 4:28 pm | Comment

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