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03/09/2004

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Barnabas Sackett

Mort Kondracke from yesterday.

http://realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-3_15_04_MK.html

Ken

This anonymous source is becoming famous, as others have noted. Taking as established that he is a knowledgeable source, serious, and engaging in only mild hyperbole, this is still what is called an anecdote. Decembrist's supporting anecdotes are even vaguer. In my experience, when capable people look at real statistics, statements like this tend to vaporize a high percentage of the time. I agree that the current U.S. health care system is broken and in need of major change. I would hate to see that cause damaged by latching on to an alleged trend that might not exist.

hesprynne

Barnabas--perhaps I did misunderstand what you wrote. I still have to maintain that I have doubts that the market is going to provide what I need for a number of reasons. My options for finding another job, as you suggest, are quite limited--I am pregnant right now, about 5 1/2 months along and showing it, and therefore highly unlikely to be seen as a good job prospect elsewhere for some time to come. Since my husband is still trying to get full-time hours where he is, alternatives to my current plan are few on the ground. (Yes, he could change jobs but darn it, this is Michigan and he just got the one he has...) Sure, we could buy a bare-bones policy but how much would that cost? Can we afford just catastrophic with a baby on the way? Even if by some miracle someone else with better benefits wanted to hire me now, how long would it take for me to qualify for insurance?? Or should I just throw up my hands and quit my job so our child will qualify for state insurance, even if we don't?

So I ask again, where are my choices? The fact is that the US market has not provided me in my current situation with any tenable ones. My sister-in-law's situation in Canada looks enviable to me right now *because* of that.

I will give you all the credit in the world for not saying anything about my choice to have a child, though. You answered my question seriously and I appreciate that.

BadTux

Regarding hiring: Any businessman who would hire because of low taxes is an incompetent. The only time you should hire is when demand forces you to hire. Otherwise you're wasting money and not properly serving your shareholders' interests. Businesses are not charities. They do not have people on payroll just to have people on payroll.

If taxes rise, you can't fire anybody unless demand decreases. Remember, if this is a well run business, you already have the minimum headcount needed to meet demand. So what you do is raise prices to pass on the taxes. Now, THIS might cause demand to decrease, but it depends upon the elasticity of demand for the commodity you sell. For example, if the price of a hamburger rises from $2 to $2.05 at every hamburger shop in town because taxes went up, I'm not going to eat fewer hamburgers. I'm going to shrug and pay the $2.05. In this case, the elasticity coefficient is very low -- a 2.5% rise in prices has a caused a negligible drop in demand.

If there was a large rise in taxes there'd be a problem, but nobody's proposing that. The United States had the lowest taxes amongst OECD states under Clinton (except for South Korea and Mexico), and still does. Raising taxes back to where they were under Clinton would still give us the lowest taxes in the Western world. If we can't compete despite having the lowest taxes, we don't DESERVE to compete.

Now, let's get back to reality: John Kerry has not suggested hiking taxes on low-wage workers or hamburger restaurants. He has suggested hiking taxes on high-wage workers, those with incomes above $100,000/year. Now, most folks in that tax bracket spend around 2/3rds of their income, and invest or save the remainder. If taxes are raised on them, they are unlikely to reduce their spending -- they have a lifestyle to maintain, after all, and much of that spending is tied up in things like their mortgage and their pair of matched Jaguars. Instead, they will reduce their investment activity. Now, if we had a shortage of production capacity in the world, that'd be a disaster. But we don't. We have surpluses of virtually everything except health care and energy. The plain fact is that raising taxes on those with an income above $100K/year (let's say $150K/year for a family of four) will not decrease demand, and thus will not cause a loss of jobs at Burger Delish. All it will cause is a temporary reduction of investment income, offset by the fact that the government is no longer sucking up money for government bonds.

All in all, it's a wash. Government spending is government spending, whether it's sucking up money via selling bonds or sucking up money via taxes is irrelevant, the money is still gone. The only way to really change the equation is to reduce government spending, in which case less money gets sucked up by bonds or taxes. (And "sucked up" is a bad term to use here, since that money gets spent and pays the salary of government workers and contractors who return the money to the economy as demand for goods and services, but you get the gist, I hope).

Finally, regarding a well-run government bureaucracy: I suggest looking at Medicare. Suggest to any old person in America that they give up their government-sponsored single payer insurance program in favor of free market solutions. I dare you. Once they're finished beating you to a pulp with their cane or walker, they'll explain to you that the free market doesn't serve old people when it comes to health care (and arguably doesn't serve anybody over age 39, for that matter). They'll also explain to you that the Medicare bureaucracy takes out less than 1.5% of total payments for administrative overhead, vs. 20% for private insurance companies. In other words, government bureaucracy in this case is 1333.3% more efficient than private enterprise. (That's one THOUSAND percent more efficient!). And the arrogance of these insurance companies is astounding. You don't get to vote for them (unlike the politicians who make the rules about government insurance programs). You have no recourse if they refuse to pay for necessary medications or care, other than to die, for the most part -- you cannot appeal to your local Representative, he has no ability to influence a private company, and by the time a lawsuit wound its way through the courts you'd be dead. Compare/contrast with the Medicare situation. When the government makes a move that would hurt Medicare beneficiaries, the attack dogs come out, and after Congressmen's phones ring off the hook and mailrooms groan with letters from constituents, that move is history.

Yet despite that, Medicare is still more efficient than private insurance. Imagine that.

We have plentiful experience with a single-payer government sponsored insurance company here in America. . Medicare works. It works well, for the most part (the biggest "but" being prescription drug coverage, but that's coming). People who say that a single-payer government sponsored insurance company would be a disaster need to be caged with a dozen rabid AARP activists armed with walkers and canes, and beaten to a pulp -- which is what would happen if said person dared suggest to these old people that Medicare should be eliminated because "a single payer government sponsored insurance company would be a disaster".

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