Monthly Archive for May, 2011

Medicare And Death

Kevin Drum, blogging at Mother Jones, comes up with a great idea to help solve medicare’s cost problem:

So Medicare stays roughly the same, but every time you receive medical care you also get a bill. You don’t have to pay it, though. It’s just there for accounting purposes. When you die, the bill gets paid out of your estate. If your estate is small or nonexistent, you’ve gotten lots of free medical care. If it’s large, you’ll pay for it all. If you’re somewhere in between, you’ll end up paying for part of the care you’ve received.

Obviously this gives people incentives to spend all their money before they die. That’s fine. I suspect they wouldn’t end up spending as much as you’d think. What it does mean, though, is that Medicare has first claim on their estate, not their kids.

A great idea. It has my support!

Rand Paul On The Patriot Act

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu9U728iYpw&feature=player_embedded]

A must watch.

Phoenix Area Bloggers?

I’ll be in the Phoenix area tomorrow and Tuesday night through Thursday morning of next week…if any bloggers would like to meet up, send me a personal email.

Chinese Workers Pay Is Increasing

BusinessWeek reports:

Wages are going up even without the government’s prodding. The development of China’s west has turned interior cities such as Chongqing into production centers that compete for labor with coastal factories. The pay of the migrant laborers who fuel China’s export industry rose by 40 percent in 2010, according to Credit Suisse’s Tao. It will continue climbing 20 percent to 30 percent in each of the next three years as Chinese leaders pump up domestic demand.

Workers are getting picky. A recent pay hike of more than 10 percent in a Shenzhen bra factory wasn’t enough to keep some workers in town. Luo Chenen, a 33-year-old migrant worker who sews bras for Hong Kong-listed Top Form International, says “quite a few” of her colleagues left after the lunar new year for their hometowns. They won’t come back because “there are jobs there as well. Right now is not like in the past, when finding a job was difficult.” As proof of employers’ desperation, the district of Shenzhen where Luo works is plastered with recruitment notices, some promising “High Pay for Urgent Hire.”

It’s not just in China’s big cities where wages are rising fast. In the countryside, where small factories are popping up, per capita net income jumped 10.9 percent in 2010, to 5,919 yuan, according to a National Bureau of Statistics of China report in January. “Rural migrant workers’ wages are now rising faster than ever before, and we can probably talk about a wage explosion here,” Jonathan Anderson, chief economist for emerging markets at UBS (UBS) in Hong Kong, wrote on Feb. 3.

Full story here.

Quote Of The Day

“I find it maddening how many upper middle class parents energetically “support public education” against the depredations of vouchers and other reforms, while moving their own children into better school districts or better programs.  Especially parents in Manhattan and a few areas of Brooklyn who proudly note that their experience shows how great public education is, while failing to note that their schools work because these comparatively affluent parents with a great deal of social and political capital fight like hell to divert as many resources as possible–including the best teachers–into a handful of schools in affluent areas.” — Megan McArdle

Quote Of The Day

“Given the austerity mood in the press, the administration is emphasizing the monetary savings involved in this, but that’s actually just a small piece of the potential gains. At the end of the day, by far the biggest problem with having the federal government own a warehouse it’s not using is simply that the warehouse isn’t getting used. An old warehouse could be converted into condos or a police station or a rock club, but those aren’t the kind of things the federal government runs. A private individual might just lease the property out, but again the federal government’s not a commercial real estate manager. Selling the land and the structures is the best way to get the real resources back in circulation. And as always, real resources matter a lot more than budget line items. The government can conjure up more money any time it wants. The real resources available to the country are what’s in limited supply, and the real policy upside is in putting them to better use not obtaining more dollars.” — Matthew Yglesias, on Obama’s plan to sell off government property

The Leftist View Of The World

Readers of my blog, especially those who comment frequently, know my good friend Jon. He’s a recent convert to the left and believes in it passionately. A common theme of his world view, and those on the left in general, is the tug of war between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the non-powerful. The politically connected and the those with no political power. Basically the heart of leftist’s worldview revolves around this paradigm.

Every political fight, every economic decision and every current event is filtered through this prism.  Since I consider Jon a smart, honest and sincere person, I have been trying to understand how he could be so enthralled by such a political philosophy. I try to read, watch and listen to everything he asks me to. And a big part of that is Chomsky and his writings. So I go over to Chomsky’s site and this is the latest article of his, on the Winsconsin union political fight:

As working people won basic rights in the 1930s, business leaders warned of “the hazard facing industrialists in the rising political power of the masses,” and called for urgent measures to beat back the threat, according to scholar Alex Carey in “Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.” They understood as well as Mubarak did that unions are a leading force in advancing rights and democracy. In the U.S., unions are the primary counterforce to corporate tyranny.

By now, U.S. private-sector unions have been severely weakened. Public-sector unions have recently come under sharp attack from right-wing opponents who cynically exploit the economic crisis caused primarily by the finance industry and its associates in government.

Popular anger must be diverted from the agents of the financial crisis, who are profiting from it; for example, Goldman Sachs, “on track to pay out $17.5 billion in compensation for last year,” the business press reports, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples to $2 million.

Instead, propaganda must blame teachers and other public-sector workers with their fat salaries and exorbitant pensions — all a fabrication, on a model that is all too familiar. To Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, to other Republicans and many Democrats, the slogan is that austerity must be shared — with some notable exceptions.

The propaganda has been fairly effective. Walker can count on at least a large minority to support his brazen effort to destroy the unions. Invoking the deficit as an excuse is pure farce.

In different ways, the fate of democracy is at stake in Madison, Wis., no less than it is in Tahrir Square.

Lost on Chomsky, and which bears no mention in this article or other writings, is an investigation into whether or not the claims of opponents of teachers unions are actually true. This is typical Chomsky. He doesn’t care about declared motives. There has to be other reasons, and those reasons have to fit into a powerful vs nonpower paradigm. Anything else is not even worth investigating.

Ignored by Chomsky then is the long trail of writings and arguments that opponents of teachers unions have been making. Opponents of teachers unions make the claim (among others) that the teachers union stifles reform and entrenches a low quality public education system. One that ultimately harms the poor most, especially minorities.

The proof of this is so one sided that even traditional supporters of unions have a hard time making a compelling case in their defense and instead resort to distortions and misleading claims (see here for an example). But where is Chomsky on this issue? Nowhere. He is so blinded by his worldview, that anything contrary to union power is ipso facto a power grab against the ‘poor and powerless’ in favor of the ‘rich and powerful’.

I bet you can read all of Chomsky’s material, all of his writings, videos and historical accounts and you will not find anything on say, the unions role in entrenching racism (pdf), or vast corruption throughout history, or more currently, the teachers unions negative affect on public education – his is a simple storyline, unions and ‘workers’ are good, rich people are evil.

This is typical of Chomsky and leftist in general. Their simplistic paradigm is so ingrained in them that they often cannot see the forest for the trees, and miss the fact that it is the students and poor minorities in particular, who are the powerless in need of defending, and it is the teachers unions and their political allies that are the powerful.

Quote Of The Day

“8. Bin Laden was assassinated. He was not. First of all, he was the leader of a para-statal organization that had declared war on the United States. If the US could have stormed Hitler’s bunker and taken him out, it would not have been an assassination, any more than being able to take out an enemy general on the battlefield would be. Second, the SEALs fired only when he made a threatening move, which is a form of self-defense. There is every reason to believe that the US would have preferred to take Bin Laden alive, since they could have then interrogated him about ongoing terrorism plans.” — Juan Cole, on whether Osama Bin Laden was “assassinated”

A Changing Cuba

In case you missed it:

Raul Castro was named first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party on Tuesday, with his aging brother Fidel not included in the leadership for the first time since the party’s creation 46 years ago….

The Congress also approved 300 economic proposals, though details have still not emerged. Apparently included in the measures was a recommendation to legalize the buying and selling of private property, which has been heavily restricted since the revolution.

Also on the table was a proposal to eventually eliminate the monthly ration book, which provides Cubans with a basic basket of heavily subsidized food and other goods. Other measures envision providing seed capital for would-be entrepreneurs and eliminating the island’s unique dual-currency system.

The Party Congress does not have the power to enact the changes into law, but the suggestions are expected to be acted upon quickly by the National Assembly over the coming days and weeks.

This is on top of the proposed reduction in government workers. Encouraging news.

Quote Of The Day

” Whatever their customs and traditions, even the most modern polities often find themselves yearning, like the Israelites of old, for a kinglike authority. And the existence of a largely-powerless royal family can be a useful hedge against the perpetual temptation to invest ordinary politicians with quasi-royal powers, and then (almost inevitably) watch them run amok. (The experience of post-Franco Spain suggests that the restoration of a hereditary monarchy after a long period of dictatorship can play a similar stabilizing role.) Having a monarch as the symbolic head of state keeps elected officials in their place, provides an apolitical outlet for popular hero worship and the cults of celebrity, and satisfies the human hunger for ceremonial authority. If it’s an affront to democratic sensibilities, it’s also a safeguard for democratic institutions. Better a real king, crowned and powerless, than the many pseudo-kings who have strutted (and still strut) so destructively across the modern stage.” — Ross Douthat