Arguing AGAIN for alternatives to a market-based health insurance system.

Market Values vs Morality (first published as a comment in the Daily Kos). There is a fascinating new book out by Harvard Professor Michael Sendel (creator of the course “Justice”) called “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” He points out that “Market Values” are devoid of any morality and that this is inherent in any market-based system. The 800-lb gorilla is the mistaken idea that the only way to distribute goods and services for maximum “social utility” is the market mechanism. All of the free-market cultists out there believe (as do most economists – who are not, after all, interested in morality, but in the mechanisms of supply and demand, profit and loss, cost/benefit ratios as motivators) that the “market mechanism is the best – indeed, the only – proper mechanism for determining how goods and services can best be distributed to those who have shown they want them the most – hence “social utility.” However, the only mechanism that the market uses to make this determination is the willingness of people to pay the most for the goods and services. If you have 100 widgets to sell, you set the price high enough so that there [More...]

Are we being ‘jobbed’ again?

When President Obama was re-elected, he stated that JOBS would be his ‘job’ one. Yet, the moment the celebration ended, he turned back to fencing with the Republicans (though with a much stronger hand, now) over debt and deficit reduction (aka ‘Austerity’). Deficit reduction will NOT create the necessary new jobs, nor will it make the economy healthier, whether with Obama’s mild (relatively speaking) approach, or with the GOP’s vicious austerity measures (rejected in the election and by even 67% of Republicans in the last poll dealing with taxing the rich and reducing or delaying benefits and entitlements from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security). Hasn’t anybody inside the Beltway realized that EVERY attempt to get out of a recession through austerity tactics (specifically attacking the deficit and overall debt) has failed miserably. It not only has driven numerous European economies deeper into joblessness, but has heightened their recessions. Before FDR (in the pre-Keynsian days), this was tried again and again, producing the various “Panics of …” every 10 years or so in the 19th century, culminating in the Stock Market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression. From 1933 through 1980, Keynsian economics, which dictates that, in a recession, you [More...]

Good Debt vs Bad Debt

Republicans are always whining about the federal debt and telling the rest of us that we should live within our means as do businesses and families.  The Republicans believe that putting a former business executive into the White House would be enough to solve the problem. Note:  Both Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush were ex-CEOs and they presided over the Great Depression and the Great Recession.  So much for business’s contribution to federal fiscal responsibility. Even Malcolm Forbes of Forbes Magazine recognized the vast divide between running a business and running a society’s government when he warned: “Few businessmen are capable of being in politics, they don’t understand the democratic process, they have neither the tolerance or [sic] the depth it takes. Democracy isn’t a business.” Almost every family and business carries a debt load.  It is impossible for all but a few to function without it.  Whether it is the young couple buying a home with a mortgage, a farmer borrowing from the bank to buy seed, fertilize, and machinery in the Spring so that he can produce a crop large enough to pay off the loan in the coming Fall, or the company that borrows to expand [More...]

Buyer’s Remorse?

Well, I wonder if the Obama voters are having buyer’s remorse.  Despite promising us this week that creating jobs would be Job One, Obama is back to haggling with Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell over just how and where to trim the deficit. Nothing has changed from the first four years.  As usual, Obama doesn’t take the discussion back far enough to it’s root, and thus eliminates the only sane alternative before even beginning the discussion – should we even be considering adopting disastrous austerity measures to shrink the deficit, or should we use the ability to borrow even more to create jobs and a healthy economy? Obama is assembling a group of Dem and GOP politicians (why bother with the GOP? They will just obstruct and try to water down any bill and Obama doesn’t need them).  He will include labor leaders and community groups, but, remarkably, says nothing about including any economists! That’s because any mainstream Keynsian economist can tell him that the discussion should be whether to cut the deficit or not – not what tweaking and twiddling the two parties will do to achieve cuts.  I thought Obama said that his FIRST concern was JOBS!  Any economist [More...]

Off the Cliff – Let’s Do It.

Many, including not a few in Congress and a considerable number of economists, have already come to the conclusion that “off the cliff” is the most (if not only) effective strategy.   It will kill the Bush tax cuts once and for all, while the Dems in Congress can then introduce a new bill on their first day back to work calling for a tax reduction back to the Bush-era levels for all income below $250,000.  They can put the Republicans in a position where they have already lost their tax cut for the ultra-rich and have no way to fight to preserve it, and then are confronted with the question of whether to vote for a tax cut for 98% of the people.  Let them declare where they really stand and who they really represent on taxes. The rest of the sequester cuts are not immediately going too cause a financial meltdown and Congress and Obama will have months to work out solutions to restore critical entitlement monies, while having a sent-from-heaven opportunity to put the defense budget on a diet and cut out the vast bloat that turns the Pentagon as merely a device for taking money out of [More...]