Sunday, October 11, 2009

Just like police and fire protection

Just like police and fire protection, K-12 education, and highways, and maybe more so, in the 21st century health care is a basic right. (Some will disagree, and would even charge per fire or per crime one is a victim of.) It is just what I believe and what the majority in the US believes. Providing all these services is not just for the individual but benefits the community as a whole. Nations without roads and schooling have lousy economies. Sick people cannot work productively and infect others.

I am a leftie Democrat but, frankly, I haven't seen a strong case for a public option,—so long as private insurers are regulated as tightly as, say, a gas utility. They need to have no incentive to refuse payment for existing conditions or treatments they did not invent—so long as they pay for health care and not just catastrophe care.

Getting to such a plan as law is up to the all the Democrats plus one or two Republicans, of a full range of ideologies. The GOP has no role. They have left the playing field and gotten up into the stands as hecklers. The President and the Democratic leadership should ignore their caterwauling. Let's get on with crafting a way to deliver health care to everyone.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Let's start spending, but not too much

It's time for Americans to buy more, but not a lot more. Many pundits say improvements in the economy depend on consumers, especially wealthy ones, starting to spend again. Excessive spending is part of what got us in trouble.

The past two decades or so, we have gone from about 60% of the non-military economy being consumer buying, to about 67%. We did this while dropping our average savings rate a tad below zero. That is, we borrowed—buying plasma TVs, SUVs and stuff like that. Now we have flipped to a savings mode.

That is a reaction to current financial troubles, but the stock market bottomed in early March, a measure of how we feel generally, and it is now back to where it was a year ago, before people began to panic. We will start to spend, but we should go back only to the 60% level, and save some money.

In turn, that money can be turned by the banks into bond loans to states and cities, so over the next twenty or more years they can repair the sewers, water lines, roadways and schools which, ignored, are literally rotting. Just like the Interstates and the school construction of the 1950s through 1970s, this construction will provide jobs, provide great infrastructure to undergird the economy, and be paid for gradually by those who in the future use the facilities. The savings will provide for retirements when needed. Just a small change in buying and saving will do the trick.

Labels: , , ,

Kim Jong Il will be replaced soon

Somebody flogging his own book suggested in the Washington Post a few weeks ago that Mr. Obama invite Kim Jong Il of North Korea to the US for a week or two. Cute, but not effective. Yes, it somewhat thawed relations when Eisenhower (on Nixon's suggestion) invited Mr. Khrushchev in 1959, but he was merely crude, not post-stroke. Besides, the warmth lasted about two weeks with Khrushchev, and then he reverted to the hooligan he was.

Mr. Kim is not thinking straight, perhaps due to lesions in his frontal cortex that manages, e.g., risk/benefit analysis.

China and Russia lead an effort that imposed even greater economic sanctions on North Korea. By themselves, Sanctions will not have much effect, being as North Korea is already an economic mess. Not the point. Two communist countries were saying to a 'comrade' that they are not happy with all the nuke rattling, being as each has a presence near North Korea, China lying just across a river.

The message was not for Kim but for the advisors around him (every dictator has a group of advisors). The message was 'chill this guy' and put someone else in charge before you blow it. Soon Kim will have a medical problem like Mr. Arafat's a few years a go (when he was lethally poisoned). He will need to get medical attention and some other people will take over, and tamp things down to a dull roar. Count on it, especially if you are Kim Jong Il or his 20-x son.

Labels: , , , , ,