Health care costs are increasing much more rapidly than inflation.  Therefore any organization that employs, and pays health insurance, for large numbers of people will also have their costs rise significantly faster than inflation.

So, now let’s use that basic fact to answer a few questions:

  • Why has federal entitlement spending ballooned?  In part, because the federal government pays the health care costs of tens of millions of veterans, the poor, and the elderly–not to mention hundreds of thousands of of federal employees (not to mention troops).
  • Why have the costs of higher education skyrocketed? In part, because universities pay the health care costs of thousands of students, staff, and faculty.
  • Why has military spending increased annually, even if you ignore what’s been spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?   In part, because the military employs, and provides health care, for about 1.5 million people.
  • Why have salaries stagnated for most Americans?  In part, because any salary increases they might have had are instead being funneled into rising health care costs.

We cannot solve any of those problems without first solving the problem of health care costs.  Raising taxes and cutting discretionary spending won’t solve the long-term budget problems, unless we deal with health care costs.  Reforming education won’t lower the cost of attending college, unless we also solve the problem of health care costs.  Reforming the military won’t make a huge long-term impact on either efficiency or effectiveness unless we also keep health care costs under control.  Redistributing income with the tax code won’t provide substantial relief for Middle America unless we also take steps to limit the growth of health care costs.

Any anyone who tells you differently is probably selling something.

There are liberal solutions to control health care costs and conservative solutions.  Some are surely better than others, but we are well past that particular debate.  Any solution is better than doing nothing–let’s get health care costs under control first, and then we can deal with any smaller problems created by the fixes that we implemented.

 

Last night’s Rachel Maddow Show was excellent for three reasons, and at least the first two segments are well worth watching. (I realize that she is often quite liberal and quite partisan, but these two segments are not about the election and are well worth your time, whatever your political alignment.)

1) In the first segment, she points to a lot of different news coming out of Libya from a variety of sources which give strong indication that the attacks on the Libyan consulate–the attacks that killed the American ambassador–might have had absolutely nothing to do with the protests about the anti-Muslim video.  Instead, it is increasingly likely that the attacks were coordinated by an al Qaeda affiliate.

2) But it is the second segment that is most interesting.  In the second segment, she interviews Richard Engle, an NBC news corespondent in Egypt.  Among other things, Engle mentions that the protests and protesters really only make up a very small segment of Egyptian society.  For most of the interview, he has been standing with the protests as a dramatic back-drop to the interview.  But at Ms. Maddow’s request, he pans back and shows the entire square where the protests are taking place.  It turns out that the protests are only in a very small corner of this large square, and in most of the square traffic and city life is proceeding quite normally.  So when you read headlines like “Anti-American Fury Sweeps Middle East Over Film,” keep that in mind. Continue reading »

 

I was recently having a discussion with a cousin about school vouchers which forced me to articulate my opposition to school vouchers. Many people are surprised that I’m opposed to vouchers, since I have libertarian inclinations and generally favor individual choice over government mandate. And indeed, my concerns with voucher programs are not the typical liberal concern that it undermines public education (for an example of such an argument, see Mike’s comments on charter schools . My concern is that vouchers wouldn’t actually solve the problem. For vouchers to work, there are a number of assumptions that have to be made:

1) There exist enough good private schools with open slots in their classrooms that kids could actually have a choice to move to better schools.
2) The parents know enough, and care enough about which schools to send their kids to that they can effectively make the choice on behalf of their kids
3) The voucher would allow the parent to cover the cost of private education
4) The issues are primarily institutional (school based) rather than individual (student or family based).

Continue reading »

 

This post is going to be kind of long, and for that I apologize.  But I’ve been following the Jerry Sandusky case for a long time, and I feel the need to comment about the findings of the Freeh Report issued today–an independent investigation conducted by a consulting firm headed by a former head of the FBI hired by the Penn St. Board of Trustees to figure out the extent to which Penn St’s culture might have contributed to the scandal.  In particular, reading the report and watching the press conference, I can’t help but feel how horribly, terribly, and tragically reasonable so many people’s actions seemed to be here–with a couple key, jaw-dropping exceptions.  But it reminds me just how easy it is to lose sight of what the important things really are. Continue reading »

 

One of the things I’m most proud of about the book is that it is non-partisan. After all, the issues we discuss (including voter irrationality, voter ignorance, procedural justice, etc.) are not limited to Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives. As we note in the book “voters often are ignorant pawns of a system they don’t understand”, and that applies to all voters. And so, when discussing the book, I try both Danny and I try our best not to wade into partisan political debates. Sometimes in a particular Q&A, I will be forced to tip my hand somewhat about what I believe, but I do always try to be respectful of other political beliefs and to keep my own opinions about which particular politicians or policies are insane to myself.

That being said, Florida has now, officially, broken me. And I’m not even talking about the Stand Your Ground Law, which has gotten so much attention lately. No, the law that has raised my hackles, as far as the material in the book is concerned, is the recent restrictions on third-party voter registration.
Continue reading »

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