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January 23, 2004

IMAGE PROBLEMS....Wal-Mart is running some ads in an effort to spruce up its image:

The TV commercial opens with a young couple on a sofa smiling at their toddler son. As the boy nuzzles a stuffed animal and hugs his mother, his father explains that the youngster was born with liver disease and underwent two major surgeries by the time he was 7 months old.

"It's nice to know that I work for a company that would take care of everything we went through," the man says. The ad cuts to the man at work, wearing a familiar blue vest with white logo, as he says: "I don't think people know how great the benefits are at Wal-Mart. Without Wal-Mart, he wouldn't -- I don't know that he'd have made it. I don't know that we would have made it."

....In a multi-pronged counterattack, the world's biggest company -- the most feared and powerful competitor in global retail -- is seeking to hang onto its image as America's friendly hometown merchant.

It is stepping up its slate of feel-good television ads in 2004, with more spots featuring happy employees as well as examples of Wal-Mart's community involvement. Wal-Mart has also sharply increased its political donations, becoming the second-biggest giver to candidates in the 2004 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Wall Street Journal provides a different picture:

Wal-Mart makes new hourly workers wait six months to sign up for its benefits plan and doesn't cover retirees at all. Its deductibles range as high as $1,000, triple the norm. It refuses to pay for flu shots, eye exams, child vaccinations, chiropractic services and numerous other treatments allowed by many other companies. In many cases, it won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions in the first year of coverage.

What's more, Wal-Mart charges its workers a lot for healthcare coverage — as much as 10-15% of their wages — and has increased premiums by 200% since 1993, far higher than the rate of medical inflation. Result: many workers can't afford to sign up for coverage and some of them end up getting healthcare via Medicaid. In other words, via tax dollars.

For better or worse, part of the social contract in America since World War II has been that large corporations provide decent healthcare for their workers. Refusing to do so is a core part of Wal-Mart's strategy for squeezing every last nickel out of its workforce, and they deserve all the scorn they get for their efforts to force an entire industry down to their subterranean level.

This ad campaign is revolting. Truly their shame knows no limits.

Posted by Kevin Drum at January 23, 2004 10:52 PM | TrackBack


Comments

But they deliver low, low prices for low-quality junk made in China, Kevin! Plus, since they moved into my small town, they forced all of the mom and pops out of business and destroyed our Main Street. There's pretty much no where else to go, Kevin, sort of like working for the company and being forced to buy from the company store.

Wal-Mart sucks. Go to Costco or your local mom and pop.

Posted by: Old Hat at January 23, 2004 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

The WSJ is just quoting the norm here for compassionate conservatism:

Wal-Mart makes new hourly workers wait six months to sign up for its benefits plan and doesn't cover retirees at all. Its deductibles range as high as $1,000, triple the norm. It refuses to pay for flu shots, eye exams, child vaccinations, chiropractic services and numerous other treatments allowed by many other companies. In many cases, it won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions in the first year of coverage.

Not even an occupying Iraqi company would treat American's like this.

Posted by: lazybones at January 23, 2004 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Wal Mart the company that uses illegal immigrants for their overnight crews so they can deliver those low, low prices? Don't they have a nasty habit of literally chaining the doors when their overnight crews are working so in case, hypothetically, a worker breaks his foot with a compound fracture, he can't get to the hospital? All for low, low prices?

Posted by: Old Hat at January 23, 2004 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

From the rest of the article:

Wal-Mart says part of its philosophy is that the company should pay for catastrophic health expenses -- cancer treatments, organ transplants -- that could financially ruin an employee. It typically pays 100% of medical charges above $1,750 a year in out-of-pocket expenses; in addition to the deductible and premiums, employees pay 20% of medical costs up to $1,750. And Wal-Mart has no lifetime caps on coverage -- a benefit offered by just 42% of retailers and 47% of employers overall, according to Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a Washington-based consulting firm.

More importantly, the real question is why health care is so expensive. One of the biggest reasons is the ultrahigh frequency of spurious malpractice lawsuits. Tort reform and damage caps (i.e. "loser pays" laws) would go a long way towards rationalizing health care and reducing costs.

Also, as for putting mom & pop stores out of business...those mom and pop stores have absolutely no *right* to the wallet of the consumer. Either they provide better goods at lower prices than Walmart, or they find a new line of work.

Obviously *tons* of people *love* the low prices of Walmart. I might understand the ire if Walmart only lowered its prices to drive stores out of business, and then raised them afterwards...but as has been reported, Walmart uses its monopoly power to drive prices down rather than up. That's good for the consumer and good for productivity.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 23, 2004 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Walmart uses its monopoly power to drive prices down rather than up. That's good for the consumer and good for productivity.

Ignoring the lies about tort reform and health coverage (read: preventing people from suing HMOs), this was the same argument made by Standard Oil. Monopolies are never good, they're the antithesis of the free market. You aren't a real capitalist.

Posted by: Old Hat at January 23, 2004 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Old Hat:

I'm generally against monopolies. I think the break up of AT&T was a good idea, for example. But if you read the article (which I can mirror for you if you want), Walmart is a nonstandard monopoly.

As for the tort reform stuff...that's a technical debate which we can get into if you want. But yeah, there have to be caps on damages. Our culture is too litigious right now, and the result is that dozens of unnecessary tests are ordered for every patient in order for doctors to cover their asses. The consequence is higher health care costs for everyone.

There is a lottery mentality that must be dealt with. Genuine malpractice does occur, but:

a) damage should be limited to actuarially calculated values, in no circumstance exceeding the value of a human life (a dollar figure in the millions that the EPA and other agencies use for cost-benefit analysis)

b) losers must pay in order to discourage baseless lawsuits.

I can provide quite a bit of info on this topic if you're interested in discussing it.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 23, 2004 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush has not captured Osama bin Laden so that big corporations, white men, Republicans, SUV owners, and oil companies could steal from Michael Moore.

Posted by: Ass Hat at January 23, 2004 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Walmart uses its monopoly power to drive prices down rather than up. That's good for the consumer and good for productivity.

godless, you never read the story about Wal-Mart's buying practices, did you?

Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: "We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world--yet we aren't willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions."
Randall Larrimore, a former CEO of MasterBrand Industries, the parent company of Master Lock, understands that contradiction too well. For years, he says, as manufacturing costs in the United States rose, Master Lock was able to pass them along. But at some point in the 1990s, Asian manufacturers started producing locks for much less. "When the difference is $1, retailers like Wal-Mart would prefer to have the brand-name padlock or faucet or hammer," Larrimore says. "But as the spread becomes greater, when our padlock was $9, and the import was $6, then they can offer the consumer a real discount by carrying two lines. Ultimately, they may only carry one line."
In January 1997, Master Lock announced that, after 75 years making locks in Milwaukee, it would begin importing more products from Asia. Not too long after, Master Lock opened a factory of its own in Nogales, Mexico. Today, it makes just 10% to 15% of its locks in Milwaukee--its 300 employees there mostly make parts that are sent to Nogales, where there are now 800 factory workers.

That's especially good for those consumers who are laid off because Wal-Mart's pricing policies make their jobs no longer tenable. Nice one. Obviously that's Social Darwinism at work.

Posted by: ahem at January 23, 2004 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

No, I'm not interested in discussing "tort reform" with you because I've heard all of the thin arguments out of the HMOs PR firms before. This issue is near and dear to me. Visit Canada sometime. They have a superb healthcare system that I think Americans could learn a lot from.

I also think you're dodging the issue here. Isn't what Wal Mart is doing simply immoral? Knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and chaining them inside their stores to boost profits? That's disgusting to me, just on moral terms.

Posted by: Old Hat at January 23, 2004 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

The other heinous thing WalMart does is that it encourages its managers to cut employees before they become eligible for health benefits.

American, my ass.

Posted by: praktike at January 23, 2004 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

Old Hat:

I have two physician relatives (a married couple) who have left Canada for the United States whose situations are very similar to these guys:

Residents started proffering gifts when rumors leaked out of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital a few weeks ago that the two neurosurgeons — of the four serving the city — were toying with moving their practice to the United States. "It's not about the money," said Dr. Sriharan, a 38-year-old immigrant from Sri Lanka. "We can't do our job properly with operating room time so extremely limited here."

Forced to compete for operating room time with other surgeons, he said that he and his colleague could complete only one or two operations on some days, meaning that patients whose cases were not emergencies could go months or even years before completing necessary treatment.

"Scarce resources are simply not being spent properly," Dr. Sriharan concluded, citing a shortage of nurses and anesthesiologists in the hospital where the single microscope available is old and breaking down.

The two surgeons are sharply critical of Canada's health care system, which is driven by government-financed insurance for all but increasingly rations service because of various technological and personnel shortages. Both doctors said they were fed up with a two-tier medical system in which those with connections go to the head of the line for surgery.

If you've got a scarce resource like health care, either it will be allocated by markets or by queues/favoritism. I'm not ideological on this point - I do think that some sort of catastrophic safety net coverage is ok - but I don't think socialist medicine is the answer, especially when Canada and Europe are hemorrhaging funds and privatizing left and right to regain efficiency. Socialized medicine means queues, the flight of your best physicians, and inefficient resource allocation. You don't solve the problem of high prices for health care by eliminating competition altogether.

Better to simply redistribute wealth via something like the EITC and earmark it for health care, just like people are forced to buy car insurance.

ahem:

those consumers who are laid off because Wal-Mart's pricing policies make their jobs no longer tenable.

Before we debate this: do you agree that companies should go bankrupt when they are no longer profitably providing goods that the public wants? After all, we cannot bail out every company that fails. If a company isn't profitable, it has to go under. It does suck for the workers, but if we bail out every industry, that comes out of other people's tax money. At some point the subsidization of inefficient industries has to stop.

We can smooth the dislocation to an extent with retraining programs. But in the long run, refusing to let inefficient businesses go bankrupt would keep us from replacing (say) blacksmiths with assembly lines.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 23, 2004 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Old Hat:

I also think you're dodging the issue here. Isn't what Wal Mart is doing simply immoral? Knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and chaining them inside their stores to boost profits? That's disgusting to me, just on moral terms.

I am definitely against hiring illegal immigrants. I don't know about the "chaining inside the store" business - would have to see the context. In any case, companies that knowingly hire illegals should be fined, and the illegals should be deported.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 23, 2004 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Not "Wal-Mart", Kev. The decison makers of that evil empire have names. They are people, just like us. Vicious, ugly people, devoid of any vestige of humanity. But, still, just people. What say we make a start, from here on out, by ID'ing corporations with the names of their CEO's attached? And the CEO's adresses. And the names and adresses of their closest corporate allies. I think that would be a swell idea.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at January 23, 2004 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus has a post up by Trickster on this topic. Good read.

This link is a good counter to godless's anecdotal bullshit.

Posted by: Troy at January 23, 2004 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

here's an idea...never shop at wal-mart. problem solved.

(what!...he knows, get him...)

oy ay yiow

Posted by: James W. at January 23, 2004 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with godless that holding back the hands of progress is a losing game. Japan tried to keep its mom & pop stores protected, but it's just too inefficient.

We need to demand the big-box stores like Walmart treat their employees better. Capital is raking 1/7th of gross sales (after taxes) from WMT. That's wacked -- labor deserves a larger piece of that pie, but when they try to organize they get fired.

Posted by: Troy at January 23, 2004 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

And worse yet Wall Street wants to see competing enterprises like CostCo race Wallmart to the bottom.

At some point, faith in the free market becomes an ideology. Churchill in the early 1900's had some good quotes on this issue during his Liberal days.

Posted by: Troy at January 23, 2004 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry.. the end has already begun. Ten years from now WalMart will be KMart.

Posted by: bubba at January 23, 2004 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

But Walmart is just playing the game better than others. If there wasn't a Walmart, there'd be another company doing the same...aside from the illegal (not immoral, b/c capitalism is amoral) labor practices that is - which must be anomalous or unknown, or else there would be more prosecution.

There's no law a company has to provide health coverage. Capitalism is doing what it does, consolidation , capital accumulation, economies of scale where they can be found, etc. It's inevitable, and raises productivity. True, many products and aspects of our culture are homogenized and commodified, but perhaps with the saved human labor, different value-added products can be developed. And yeah, Walmart has unusual size and bargaining power with employees and suppliers, but as long as they don't get above a certain market concentration, nor engage in predatory pricing, we're stuck with it.

Whether humans want this kind of progress is another matter. I don't like it. But capitalism nor Walmart are to be blamed, as I see it. It's government's job or no one's. They could pass laws mandating employer health coverage, which would probably be effective in services, but speed the exodus of the remaining manuf. jobs.

It's strange to hear talk of "fairness" in relation to capitalism.

Posted by: andrew at January 23, 2004 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Troy:

From the article you linked:

It's simplistic and true to say that Canadians have free access to basic health care. Americans have varied access based mostly on insurance. And it's accepted that, as a corollary, all Canadians have less access to high-technology health care than do most Americans, However, googling around the web you'll find indications that 18% of Canadians cannot get access to first contact care, (although only 10% have had trouble getting routine day time care). Still even 10% lacking access to care isn't nothing, especially in a universal insurance system....

In Canada for elective surgery you have to wait; two thirds of Americans can get it within a month. Most Canadians have to wait more than a month and more than 25% have waited more than 4 months. No one waits that long in the US.

...on a macro level it's true that nationally Canadians sacrifice getting access to expensive resources (such as MRIs and surgeons).

No health care is ever free, so that first line is false. What is not paid out of pocket is paid from taxes. Now, I'm not against something like the EITC for low income families to pay for health care coverage. But complete socialized medicine is not the way to go - it just hides the costs and lets otherwise intelligent people talk about Canada's "free" health care.

In any case, it's worth noting that both Canada and Europe are privatizing health care in response to inefficiency:

Yet while most Canadians are satisfied with the current system, economic pressure is building for reform. As a result, three provincial premiers are signaling a move toward privatization which could significantly alter the Canadian healthcare landscape.

"Our healthcare system is on life support and it is fading fast," said British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell recently.

The premiers of Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia say ballooning costs and long delays for some procedures can only be solved by private initiatives. Up to 40 percent of their provincial budgets goes toward healthcare.

I can look up stats on doctor migrations later, but the bottom line is that socialized medicine is not tenable in the long run. It's ok in the short run so long as you've got the USA next door attracting the best doctors and developing medicines, drugs, surgeries, and treatments. But in the long run, the fact that people think health care is "free" means that they inevitably take more health care than they need.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 23, 2004 11:49 PM | PERMALINK
I don't know anything about business, but when I read that Lenin said that the capitalists would sell us the rope with which we'd hang them, I invested in rope manufacturers.
Posted by: bad Jim at January 23, 2004 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

I can look up stats on doctor migrations later, but the bottom line is that socialized medicine is not tenable in the long run.

Of course not, godlesscapitalist! That would be why the US has a worse health care service even than Cuba: after all, Cuba's only had socialized medicine now for four decades. The UK's got a better health care service than the US, and it's had socialized medicine now for nearly six decades. France has a single-payer health care system, funded by the state, and it has the best health care system in the world, according to WHO. While the US struggles along somewhere like 30th on the list of industrialized nations... while idiots like you complain that all the other countries ought to sink down to the level of the US.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 24, 2004 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

idiots like you

Ummmm, Jesurgislac...

a) Kinda quick to get personal, huh?

b) You're the idiot if you believe that Cuba - a communist dictatorship - has good health care. Remember, people are dying trying to get out of Cuba. It's a prison state.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

"Godless" has no shame, but Kevin has questioned his religion and here, in comments, he lashes out in fury.

Walmart may not be the stingiest employer - or customer - ever, but there is scant evidence to the contrary.

Is this sorry record really worthy of emulation?

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Our healthcare system is on life support and it is fading fast," said British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell recently.

Gordon Campbell, though, is a right-wing ideologue (the BC 'Liberal' party is not 'liberal') who is more interested in opening up the province's healthcare system for his corporate donors, and whose views are not supported by anyone working in the BC healthcare system.

(And I count quite a few of those people among my friends, one of whom actually worked in a senior position for the BC provincial government before taking his new job at a Vancouver-based healthcare trust.)

the bottom line is that socialized medicine is not tenable in the long run.

What exactly do you mean by 'long run'? 50 years? 60 years?

It's ok in the short run so long as you've got the USA next door attracting the best doctors and developing medicines, drugs, surgeries, and treatments.

Yes, because all those Europeans have the US next door, and don't at all have research facilities of their own.

But in the long run, the fact that people think health care is "free" means that they inevitably take more health care than they need.

No, in the long run, people who have paid top whack for private insurance inevitably demand that MRI when they have a headache which could be treated with two Tylenol. By contrast, healthcare that's free at the point of delivery encourages preventative care, ensuring that people don't turn up at the emergency room with chronic (and expensive) conditions. Or coughs.

So: bull. shit.

Remember, people are dying trying to get out of Cuba.

As if that has any fucking relevance to the fact that Cuba's healthcare system gives its populace a lower rate of infant mortality and a higher life expectancy than the US. You moron.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry. Let me restate my last point: godless is not a moron. He is a disingenous, snake-tongued fuckwad.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Before we debate this:

No, let's not change the subject: you said that Wal-Mart is 'good for the consumer'. An emphatic absolute.

And yet Wal-Mart helps make thousands of its potential consumers unemployed.

So, unless Wal-Mart starts opening stores in China soon, to create a new consumer market out of its producer class, you're full of shit.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Jesurgislac:

Honestly, I could go line by line...but you might want a reality check on this:

France has a single-payer health care system, funded by the state, and it has the best health care system in the world, according to WHO.

Really? Then how'd this happen:

The death toll in France from August's blistering heat wave has reached nearly 15,000, according to a government-commissioned report released Thursday, surpassing a prior tally by more than 3,000.

The new estimate comes a day after the French Parliament released a harshly worded report blaming the deaths on a complex health system, widespread failure among agencies and health services to coordinate efforts, and chronically insufficient care for the elderly.

The heat wave swept across much of Europe, but the death toll was far higher in France than in any other country.

Those are third world numbers. In any case, the EU is also privatizing health care in response to inefficiency. See here, for example.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

ahem:

Whoa...can we have a civil discussion without the cursing? As for your points:

Remember, people are dying trying to get out of Cuba.

As if that has any fucking relevance to the fact that Cuba's healthcare system gives its populace a lower rate of infant mortality and a higher life expectancy than the US. You moron.

Why do you trust the infant mortality numbers of a communist dictatorship ? You do agree that the country is a prison, right? People are risking their lives to get out of the place. Castro executes the brave, unlucky ones who fail.

Or do you really think Cuba is a socialist paradise?

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

you said that Wal-Mart is 'good for the consumer'. An emphatic absolute. And yet Wal-Mart helps make thousands of its potential consumers unemployed.

Wal Mart has millions of consumers. Only a small fraction of those consumers work for companies that directly compete with Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart is providing lower prices and better quality than those competing companies, the competitors will go bankrupt.

But the vast majority of consumers will still benefit. And in the long run, productivity rises because inefficiency companies went bankrupt.

Which gets back to the original question: do you agree that companies that can't make a profit should go bankrupt? Or do you believe we should bail them all out?

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

godless,
Can we have a civil discussion without the cursing?

Stick it up your ass!

Posted by: rover at January 24, 2004 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

But, to address your point:

do you agree that companies should go bankrupt when they are no longer profitably providing goods that the public wants?

Do you believe that companies should do absolutely everything possible to ensure that they profitably provide goods to the public, regardless of what that means to their employees?

Those are third world numbers.

Dear God, you're pathetic. The French government report concentrated on governmental issues; it didn't go into detail about the fact that the French practice of going on vacation in August and leaving Granny at home in a house without air conditioning, assuming she'll be okay, was as much to blame. Because there's not much the government can do to prevent families leaving Granny at home.

As for quoting the oh-so-unbiased Heritage Foundation... well, quite. That link is a complete mis-mash of ideologically-driven hearsay. It's a masterpiece of begging the question.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

godlesscapitalist writes:

[i]More importantly, the real question is why health care is so expensive. One of the biggest reasons is the ultrahigh frequency of spurious malpractice lawsuits. Tort reform and damage caps (i.e. "loser pays" laws) would go a long way towards rationalizing health care and reducing costs.[/i]

Cite please. This is false. FALSE. There is a substantial body of research to disprove your (unsupported) assertion. Your statement is propaganda, designed entirely to convince people that they're better off without their tort rights.

Posted by: NBarnes at January 24, 2004 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Dear Godless: Please familiarize yourself a little further with the Canadian health care system. A key statistic is per-capita spending which is around C$3200, or about US$2440. That's for universal health care, year 2000-2001.

In that same year the US health care system spent around $4600. At that figure around 84% of the population was covered (16% had no insurance). Medical insurance rates here have increased tremendously since then (I know; my company has been paying them).

The assertion that a private system _must_ be more efficient is simply erroneous. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

A 2003 study of costs indicated the following (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A01E2DE1F30F932A1575BC0A9659C8B63):

"BOSTON, Aug. 20 -- A comparison of health care costs has found that 31 cents of every dollar spent on health care in the United States pays administrative costs, nearly double the rate in Canada.
Researchers who prepared the comparison said today that the United States wasted more money on health bureaucracy than it would cost to provide health care to the tens of millions of the uninsured. Americans spend $752 more per person per year than Canadians in administrative costs, investigators from Harvard and the Canadian Institute for Health Information found.
Published: 08 - 21 - 2003 , Late Edition - Final , Section A , Column 6 , Page 23"


Here's the point -- you simply cannot compare the two. They're apples and oranges. The Canadian system has very tight control on costs and yes, this leads to shortages at times. When the pain gets great enough, the population speaks and the purse strings come open.

Note that there are no significant differences between the US and Canada in any health metrics such as length of life and so forth. We're all basically equal.

Canada _could_ elect to dramatically increase its spending on health, by say 20% or 30%. This would still keep its total costs far below those of the US, per capita, but would substantially increase quality of care, and on the average could probably exceed levels of service in the US. Certainly, some might make the argument that there is a moral purpose to doing this.

Note that with health costs contained and handled by the government, Canadian businesses are free to concentrate on what they _should_ be concentrating on: Being efficient providers of services and goods. They don't have to babysit their employees and be "big brother" like US companies are _compelled_ to do.

There are no controls on medical spending in the US. The current system is utterly broken and spiralling out of control. I believe that there are private solutions that can work.

Walmart can help. Walmart can demand of its insurance providers that they agree to insure _anyone_ wherever Walmart has a store. Walmart doesn't pay the tab, of course -- the person getting the insurance does. But that individual is getting Walmart's negotiating power. And I don't mind seeing Walmart take a cut of that money.

Relatively inexpensive catastrophic coverage insurance is one possible solution...

Posted by: Ross Judson at January 24, 2004 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Living on the left coast, where it's possible to eat a different lunch every day instead of relying on a fifty-pound bag of bachelor chow, it's easy to ignore the siren call of Wal-Mart. The continuing supermarket strike has barely dinted my shopping habits.

It even helps, a little. Lately we get delicate pastries from a shop downtown instead of mass-produced gluey crap from the supermarket, and we're occasionally so far emboldened as to buy the occasional toothsome fresh whole-wheat loaf from a local baker instead of the age-old double-bagged doughy stuff.

Food as a commodity gives us the world's fattest population.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

ahem:

Ok, is the World Health Organization good enough? (link in PDF)

Many countries in the WHO European Region are looking at the role of the private sector and privatization in the context of reforms to their health care systems. Technological developments, ageing populations and increasing public expectations all create demand for increased health care expenditure, while the macroeconomic context exerts pressure to reduce public sector deficits. In response, Member States have developed reform strategies which seek to increase the cost-effective allocation of resources and promote efficiency while maintaining solidarity in funding services (1,2). The increasing interest in the role of the private sector must be understood both in this broader reform context and as part of the debate on how to contain costs and increase efficiency without compromising standards in order to achieve a financially sustainable, high quality health care system. 2. Privatization of the financing of health and social care is seen as a means of decreasing public expenditure by shifting costs from the public purse to the individual consumer. Measures such as introducing or increasing private (voluntary) insurance, out-of-pocket payments and cost-sharing, and reducing the package of publicly-provided services are intended to moderate demand and provide resources for health care that governments do not have to raise through taxation or insurance. Privatization of the provision of services is in part linked to a wider belief that public sector bureaucracies are inefficient and unresponsive and their objectives subject to capture by those who work for them. It is expected, therefore, that market mechanisms will promote efficiency and ensure cost-effective, good quality and responsive services.
Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

I should disclose the fact that I own shares in Walmart.

I would also like to point out that it seems we've already got the most expensive health care system in the world. It would be *really nice* to have a dialogue between those who claim it's the best and those who contend it's the fairest, if they could be found.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

NBarnes:

Here's one:

Malpractice law suits drive the practice of unnecessary defensive medicine. Defensive medicine, based upon the fear of being sued, only increases costs and does not increase the quality of care provided. Approximately 10% of physician costs are spent on liability insurance. In New Jersey, well over one half of one billion dollars is spent on malpractice insurance by physicians and untold millions are spent on defensive medicine. The example cited earlier regarding the hundreds of thousands of questionable tests performed just for the State Health Benefits Program is probably but one example of unnecessary defensive medicine.

It is interesting to note that a recent study by OTA has concluded that around 8% of all diagnostic tests are performed primarily because of doctors' "conscious concerns" about malpractice suits. Paradoxically, the OTA study concluded that doctors' estimation of the odds of being sued for malpractice is three times greater than the reality of its occurance. Clearly, doctors are seriously concerned about malpractice. What OTA did not determine is how much defensive medicine is being practiced subconsciously to avoid malpractice suits.

There are no reliable total estimations as to how much money could be saved through tort reform in the area of malpractice insurance, but all parties involved agree that the sum is considerable. Currently, tort reform legislation is progressing through the state legislature. While the rights of all individuals seeking reasonable settlements for injuries should be guaranteed, meaningful tort reform should not be delayed.

Another cite:

By itself, the financial impact of the medical liability crisis on the nation's economy is extraordinary. Total medical professional liability insurance premiums amounted to $21 billion in 2001 or 0.25% of our GDP.2 Over the past decade, medical malpractice liability premiums have soared 8.1% per year—over three times the rate of inflation and double the rate of medical inflation.3 Unbelievably, premiums for ob/gyns have increased at nearly double that pace, reaching 15.3% last year.4 Despite a continuous infusion of revenue from premiums, insurers cannot keep up with the pace of awards and settlements. James Hurley of the American Academy of Actuaries recently testified before Congress that medical professional liability insurers paid out $1.34 in claims for every $1 in premiums in 2001.5 Hurley ascribed a significant proportion of this financial hemorrhage to escalating awards, which have jumped nearly 200% in the past decade, reaching an average of $3.5 million per award in 2001 and rising unchecked at 15% per year.6

While most people have no sympathy for insurance companies and many believe that doctors are too rich and deserve to pay more for their insurance, the public may not appreciate that they are the ones who ultimately bear the cost of rising malpractice premiums. In 2001, such premiums translated into an extra $350 in health-care insurance for the average American family or their employers. Indeed, conservative estimates indicate that defensive medicine accounts for up to $124 billion in US health-care costs, or nearly 10% of overall health-care expenditures.7,8 You may want to point that out to the next person you hear criticizing tort reform who also complains about rising co-pays.

Now, it's obviously an inherently political issue. On the one side you have doctors, and on the other the trial lawyers. While those who are victims of malpractice *should* be able to sue, I do believe that damage caps and "loser pays" laws are necessary for justice - there shouldn't be a litigation lottery. Make enough to pay for the medical bills, yes...but not to become a millionaire at the expense of other people.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, medical costs in the socialist nations we despise would be trivial were it not for the cost of state-sponsored defense of malpractice lawsuits.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Why do you trust the infant mortality numbers of a communist dictatorship?

Because the figures are gathered by UNICEF, perhaps? Or is UNICEF a communist tool as well?

Or do you really think Cuba is a socialist paradise?

Heh, with diversionary strawman arguments like that, you could put on red slippers and skip down the Yellow Brick Road.

(I never regarded the USSR as a socialist paradise. But in the decade or so since its collapse, the life expectancy in Russia and other former Soviet states has fallen dramatically.)

Obviously, Sweden, Iceland, Singapore, Finland, Japan, Norway, Andorra, the Netherlands, Macau, Austria, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Australia, Liechtenstein, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, the Czech Republic, the northern Marianas, Italy, Hong Kong, Malta, Portugal, San Marino, New Zealand and Greece are also socialist paradises that can't be trusted.

And from your own quotation:

The increasing interest in the role of the private sector must be understood both in this broader reform context and as part of the debate on how to contain costs and increase efficiency without compromising standards in order to achieve a financially sustainable, high quality health care system.

The implication being that 'private healthcare' all too often means 'compromised standards'. Something borne out by the experience of many in the NHS who've had to deal with a haemorrhaging private patient dumped in the casualty department because of a botched pay-per-op.

And the point being that, for most in Europe, private healthcare is a useful resort for low-priority, low-risk elective surgery, especially for those who prefer to pay extra to ensure that they get fresh flowers in their private room every day while getting their varicose veins done. But no-one's talking about entrusting the private sector with emergency care, nor with general practice, nor with the treatment of chronic illness, because far too many cases have shown that the private sector cannot be trusted with such responsibilities.

But, you've hijacked this thread enough, you twat.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

But, let's note the WHO's conclusion (and I highlight, in the interest of fairness, both sides of the argument, unlike yourself, mr. godless):

The privatization of funding, by introducing private voluntary insurance and/or by increasing out-of-pocket payments, including cost-sharing or under-the-table payments, has a negative impact on solidarity, decreases the access of underprivileged groups to care and worsens health outcomes. On the provider side, while the private sector has traditionally played a significant role in pharmaceuticals and dental care, there has been much innovation. This has been particularly marked in primary care, social and home care, and in the contracting out of hotel and diagnostic services with varying results. There also seems to be a melting of boundaries, with care providers incorporating both public and private characteristics. Overall, however, the evidence about the functioning and impact of these models is scarce. It is clear, though, that privatization can only succeed in meeting societal objectives when the state exercises a strong stewardship role.

In the meantime, Wal-Mart continues to pay its employees a sufficiently pathetic wage that most do not sign up for that glorious benefits plan. This is beyond debate.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 12:50 AM | PERMALINK

Ross:

You've got some reasonable points, but I would quibble with this stat:

At that figure around 84% of the population was covered (16% had no insurance).

That 16% figure includes millions of illegal aliens and the children of illegal aliens.

Note that there are no significant differences between the US and Canada in any health metrics such as length of life and so forth. We're all basically equal.

Well, you do agree that waiting times, surgery availability,and cutting edge medicine are all better in the US than in Canada, yes? (As cited in a post above).

Also, demographics/genetics matter to an extent. Across the globe, Northeast Asians are longer lived than Europeans, who are in turn longer lived than sub-Saharan Africans. The differences aren't enormous, but they do skew the US stats a bit.

But that individual is getting Walmart's negotiating power. And I don't mind seeing Walmart take a cut of that money.

This is an excellent point - Walmart has the scale to drive a hard bargain. It really gets to the heart of the issue, which is that there are three conflicting imperatives:

1) portability of insurance
2) efficiency
3) amortization of risk

I'd say that purely socialized medicine achieves 1 and 3 at the expense of 2. And private medicine linked to an employer achieves 2 and to a lesser extent 3, at the expense of 1. Gap insurance is also available, which can solve 1.

Is that the private solution you had in mind?

Also, I don't see how your picture of the Canadian health care systems squares with the portents of impending doom/privatization above by the three premiers.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

One may take it as given that GC has insurance.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see how your picture of the Canadian health care systems squares with the portents of impending doom/privatization above by the three premiers

I don't think I've ever seen a politician point with alarm before. That's one of the benefits of Korsakoff's syndrome.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 01:04 AM | PERMALINK

Does anybody know if these ads have run on the CBS network? This isn't an ad about selling products for Wal Mart. This is an ad about selling the company's image. Therefore this is advocacy ad which is strictly prohibited by CBS except apparently unless the government wishes to run one.

Posted by: javabuddha at January 24, 2004 01:05 AM | PERMALINK

bad jim, you're surely correct.

Posted by: four legs good at January 24, 2004 01:06 AM | PERMALINK

Godlesscapitalist,

The "tort reform" movement is simply groundless. Court awards and settlements for all medical suits -- "spurious" or not (and, given the sleaziness of the companies that push this line, I tend to think it's a load of BS -- but I guess you have your reasons. Unless of course you buy into their "LAWYERS ARE EEEEEEEVIL" propaganda, in which case... I'm surprised you can read.) is $4 billion. Yes, you read that right. 1/20th of the money we pay farmers to not grow food.

Aren't there bigger fish to fry? And what does this have to do with Wal-Mart's slave wages?

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 24, 2004 01:07 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, that's per year, btw.

Posted by: scarshapedstar at January 24, 2004 01:08 AM | PERMALINK

That 16% figure includes millions of illegal aliens and the children of illegal aliens.

Uh, the children of illegal aliens are citizens by virtue of birthright, if born here. Why shouldn't they be included? Anyway, are you sure the number includes illegal aliens (and not just their children who are citizens)? I've seen comparable numbers for citizens from--I believe--MEPS.

Posted by: dak at January 24, 2004 01:15 AM | PERMALINK

Since no one else has picked up on this, I will point out that the following line is true:

It's simplistic and true to say that Canadians have free access to basic health care.

What godlesscapitalist seems to be implying in claiming that this is not true is that the statement said:

It's simplistic and true to say that Canadians have access to free basic health care.

He is right, that statement is false. But it wasn’t the one made. The Canadians have free access to a system that is paid for out of their tax monies. The Canadians don’t seem to be under the impression that their healthcare is free. That’s why they complained and increased the funding when the quality appeared to be going down.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 24, 2004 01:15 AM | PERMALINK

you twat

Do you have Tourette's or something? Seriously.

Do you believe that companies should do absolutely everything possible to ensure that they profitably provide goods to the public, regardless of what that means to their employees?

I do think the primary purpose of a business is to make a profit by providing the public with stuff they want to pay for at a low price. And jobs aren't the right metric - productivity is. As long as the employees can quit, and as long as people can start their own businesses, and as long as the company is not a monopoly, companies should be free to set wages and work hours.

BUT - that said - successful businesses usually treat their employees well. Obviously if they're demanding too much of their employees, the workers will find somewhere else to work (like, say, Costco). Demonizing WalMart as this evil creature ignores the fact that the people who work for WalMart chose to work for WalMart. If Costco or Safeway or whatever was better, they'd go work there - right?

the life expectancy in Russia and other former Soviet states has fallen dramatically

Russia - yes. But not in countries like China or East Germany, which have made the transition from Communism to capitalism (or semi-capitalism in the case of China). And as the BBC notes, the lowered life expectancy was primarily among adult males and attributed to ultrahigh levels of alcohol consumption. It's not because they used to have socialized medicine and now do not.

As for Cuba, I looked up the UNICEF stats. There are some interesting anomalies there. The US life expectancy is listed as 77, while Cuba's is 76, and the infant mortality rates are both listed as 7-per-thousand. Note that Cuba has a higher under-5 mortality rate, at 9-per-thousand.

But that does beg the question: why is the US infant mortality rate on par with Cuba's? Well, I googled a bit and found this:

The primary reason Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States is that the United States is a world leader in an odd category -- the percentage of infants who die on their birthday. In any given year in the United States anywhere from 30-40 percent of infants die before they are even a day old.

Why? Because the United States also easily has the most intensive system of emergency intervention to keep low birth weight and premature infants alive in the world. The United States is, for example, one of only a handful countries that keeps detailed statistics on early fetal mortality -- the survival rate of infants who are born as early as the 20th week of gestation.

How does this skew the statistics? Because in the United States if an infant is born weighing only 400 grams and not breathing, a doctor will likely spend lot of time and money trying to revive that infant. If the infant does not survive -- and the mortality rate for such infants is in excess of 50 percent -- that sequence of events will be recorded as a live birth and then a death.

In many countries, however, (including many European countries) such severe medical intervention would not be attempted and, moreover, regardless of whether or not it was, this would be recorded as a fetal death rather than a live birth. That unfortunate infant would never show up in infant mortality statistics.

That seems like a plausible resolution to the apparent paradox. If you don't believe it, I could look for more stats on preemie births to verify.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 01:20 AM | PERMALINK

Things which should only have been said in jest, but weren't:

Demonizing WalMart as this evil creature ignores the fact that the people who work for WalMart chose to work for WalMart. If Costco or Safeway or whatever was better, they'd go work there - right?

The fallacy is left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 01:31 AM | PERMALINK

One may take it as given that GC has insurance.

Actually, I do not. Long story.

Anyway, are you sure the number includes illegal aliens (and not just their children who are citizens)? I've seen comparable numbers for citizens from--I believe--MEPS.

The Rocky Mountain News (March 11) informed readers that there are "41 million Americans without health insurance." This ubiquitous figure has appeared in the News nine times and The Denver Post six times since October.

First of all, while the figure is regularly touted as the number of "Americans" without health insurance, that's incorrect. According to a Census Bureau report on which the 41 million figure is based ("Health Insurance Coverage: 2001"), the number includes 9 million legal and illegal immigrants. So the number of "Americans" without health insurance is actually about 32 million, not 41 million.

41 million out of the US population gives about 14-15%, which is roughly his number. Given that the number of illegals was recently estimated at between 8 and 10 million, this is probably an underestimate (but it is a starting place). And once you include the children of illegals (who should not be counted as citizens), that's a huge chunk of the uninsured.

Uh, the children of illegal aliens are citizens by virtue of birthright, if born here. Why shouldn't they be included?

Well, I disagree with that interpretation of the 14th amendment. If someone intentionally gets pregnant to have a baby in an airport or commits a felony to enter the country illegally, their child should not be deemed a US citizen. They are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the US...they are citizens of a foreign power. Only the child of a citizen/naturalized citizen in the US should be automatically given citizenship.

I mean - given that these people are *felons*, it is certainly not the spirit of the law to reward them for their felony. An anchor baby makes it much harder to deport someone who entered the country illegally. It's also totally unfair to people who have to jump through all kinds of hoops to bring their children from abroad.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 01:37 AM | PERMALINK

badJim:

The fallacy is left as an exercise for the reader.

I assume you're implying that Costco and Safeway and so on *aren't* better because they're racing to the bottom. Well, for one thing, I've heard that Costco does pay fairly high wages. Haven't checked up on it, though.

However - I see where you're going with this. You want unskilled workers to be able to make a decent wage and a decent living, even if they may not have a good education. I understand this sentiment.

But I only believe it if it's backed up with a wallet. That is, you should want to either

a) pay more for goods made by unskilled workers to make them wealthier
b) give the unskilled workers some money outright
c) start a business in which you demonstrate the viability of paying workers higher wages than the prevailing market rate

A lot of people want to do:

d) force the greedy capitalist owners to pony up more money for the workers.

The problem with advocating d) is that it's cost free for the third party, who is imposing his beliefs (but not his wallet) on a voluntary transaction between worker and employee.

That said, if all you want to do is *shame* Walmart rather than *force* them to pay their workers more, that's fine. Walmart will respond as Nike and Starbucks did to this new market incentive by using its "socially conscious" attitude as a selling point. In the end, though, this is really just option a) above...because in order for Wal-Mart to still be viable after the pay hike, people will have to demonstrate that they still want to buy from Wal-Mart.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 01:47 AM | PERMALINK

Me either. I think it's a guy thing.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 01:52 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry.

The "guy thing" was about forgoing medical insurance.

The gibe about not working at places that aren't hiring all warm bodies was not addressed.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 01:55 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever happens
we have got
the Maxim gun
and they have not.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 02:18 AM | PERMALINK

41 million out of the US population gives about 14-15%, which is roughly his number. Given that the number of illegals was recently estimated at between 8 and 10 million, this is probably an underestimate (but it is a starting place).

The Census Bureau text does not say "Americans"; it quite pointedly says "total population". The MEPS survey (of approximately 80000 households) does say "Americans" and finds about 14-15% uninsured. But, even if we assume you're right and that's an error, we end up with 11-12% uninsured. Why is this better? That's still more than one in ten citizens not insured.

And once you include the children of illegals (who should not be counted as citizens), that's a huge chunk of the uninsured.

Even if you make the wildly unrealistic assumption that every illegal immigrant has one child, that leaves 8% of the American, not-a-child-of-an-illegal population uninsured. A more realistic number would be 9-10% -- still about one in ten citizens, even by your narrow definition.

But, your opinion on the 14th Amendment notwithstanding, none of that matters. According to the US Government, these people are citizens. It's also patently ridiculous to call them "anchor babies" and to invoke imagery of well-timed dilation at airports. Most illegals live and work in the United States, and don't go sneaking across the border 9 months pregnant to pop out a kid as a newly homeless person in the United States.

Posted by: dak at January 24, 2004 02:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's all very well quoting reports that European governments are looking into privatising health care; here in the UK, after all, we have a Thatcherite as Prime Minister. However, the privatisation-by-stealth of the NHS that is know as the Private Finance Initiative is producing hospitals with fewer beds at a higher cost than the NHS did. The National Audit Office has been highly critical of the whole system.

Privatised health care could, possibly, result in better health care. It's not an inevitability, though, and I'm pretty sure that the resulting sevice couldn't give a shit about me unless I had money, unlike the current one that works marvelously for the majority of people.

Posted by: Keith at January 24, 2004 02:46 AM | PERMALINK

dak:

Just to clarify, I am the child of (legal) immigrants and support high levels of skilled, legal immigration.

Ok, that said:

It's also patently ridiculous to call them "anchor babies" and to invoke imagery of well-timed dilation at airports.

Unfortunately this is in fact the case for thousands of these kids. See here:

Meanwhile, down here in the sublunary sphere, there is a different sort of Great Attractor: the United States of America. Everybody wants to come to America — had you noticed? And even people who do not actually want to live here are making sure their children have the right to do so. A story in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday revealed that every year around 5,000 South Korean women come to the U.S. on tourist visas simply and deliberately for the purpose of giving birth to a child here. That child is then, under the current (and, as a matter of fact, highly debatable) interpretation of the 14th Amendment, a U.S. citizen.

Furthermore

FAIR estimates there are currently between 287,000 and 363,000 children born to illegal aliens each year. This figure is based on the crude birth rate of the total foreign-born population (33 births per 1000) and the size of the illegal alien population (between 8.7 and 11 million). In 1994, California paid for 74,987 deliveries to illegal alien mothers, at a total cost of $215.2 million (an average of $2,842 per delivery). Illegal alien mothers accounted for 36 percent of all Medi-Cal funded births in California that year.

So - yes, illegal immigrants do have babies on purpose. It makes them almost impossible to deport. Agreed that these people are currently citizens now (and that citizenship will not be retroactively revoked), but this practice must stop. Also, in the article I cited, here's the link and a fuller cite:

The Rocky Mountain News (March 11) informed readers that there are "41 million Americans without health insurance." This ubiquitous figure has appeared in the News nine times and The Denver Post six times since October.

First of all, while the figure is regularly touted as the number of "Americans" without health insurance, that's incorrect. According to a Census Bureau report on which the 41 million figure is based ("Health Insurance Coverage: 2001"), the number includes 9 million legal and illegal immigrants. So the number of "Americans" without health insurance is actually about 32 million, not 41 million.

Does the absence of health insurance mean that these 32 million aren't healthy? Not necessarily. Wage earners are significantly more likely to have health insurance than the self-employed.

Yet a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (Working Paper No. 8490) found that "the lack of health insurance among the self-employed does not affect their health. For virtually every subjective and objective measure of their health status, the self-employed and wage earners are statistically indistinguishable from each other."

The whole premise of "Cover the Uninsured" is that not having health insurance causes health problems. But the NBER scholars explained, "The self-employed thus appear to be able to finance access to health care from sources other than insurance. Perhaps the source is their own wealth, or perhaps they have better access to borrowing than wage earners. In any case, to the extent that the goal of public policy is to increase the utilization of health-care services among the self-employed, providing them with health-insurance subsidies may not be an efficacious measure."

There are poor Americans who can't afford basic medical care, yet don't qualify for the state-federal Medicaid program. The Census Bureau reported that the number of poor people who were uninsured was 10 million. Of these, at least a quarter would not be Americans. So there are millions of Americans who can't afford health care, but this situation is not as dire as the "41 million Americans" factoid implies, when the figure is used without background data

That's not to say that there aren't deserving American citizens who want and don't have health insurance.

a) the scale of the problem is smaller than thought
b) a big part of the problem is that millions of illegal aliens are using services intended for American citizens. For example, they're bankrupting Southern California hospitals.

Now - I don't mind some sort of redistribution scheme to cover the 5-10 million or so Americans who want but can't afford health insurance at the bottom of the income ladder. But I draw the line at paying for citizens of foreign nations.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 02:59 AM | PERMALINK

According to Adam Smith, capitalism works for the benefit of all ONLY IF capitalist firms respect moral standards. Wal-Mart is merely one example of a firm that seeks low prices by flouting moral standards. Adam Smith would say, "Shame on you, Wal-Mart."

Posted by: PanJack at January 24, 2004 03:01 AM | PERMALINK

So, unless Wal-Mart starts opening stores in China soon, to create a new consumer market out of its producer class, ...

ahem! The Wal-Mart-ization of China has already begun!

The interesting thing will now be - where will these stores get their merchandise from - Uzbekistan? And to which country will China lose jobs?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: pessimist at January 24, 2004 03:02 AM | PERMALINK

By wearing severe gray skirts and conservative ties, she sought to convey to her suzerains her unwavering fealty to our consensual casuistry.

"Socialized medicine," she soberly informed us, "will be the ruination of our nation."

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 03:14 AM | PERMALINK

"no right to the wallet"

Damn straight, godlesscapitalist!!! You tell these whiny pinkos---ain't nobody got a right to anything in this here country!

The "market" will decide who gets what, and they need to just accept their place as powerless before the market and its almighty wisdom and judgement.

It is impossible to fight the market...it rules all...its decisisons are good, right, and just.....in fact, far superior to all that "democracy" nonsense!

And after all, I'm sure all the unemployed Americans whose jobs are being "off-shored", "outsourced", and otherwise lost in the market's race to the bottom are really, really, excited and happy that we are more "productive".

Your name says it all..."godless" capitalist....only, not really.

People like you do indeed have a god.....$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

Posted by: MARTY at January 24, 2004 03:24 AM | PERMALINK

"Wal-Mart says part of its philosophy is that the company should pay for catastrophic health expenses -- cancer treatments, organ transplants -- that could financially ruin an employee."

No wonder prices are so high at WalMart.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 03:41 AM | PERMALINK

So - yes, illegal immigrants do have babies on purpose. It makes them almost impossible to deport.

I didn't claim they didn't. I said it's patently ridiculous to conjure this image, as if it's frequent enough to merit any attention--as if it's somehow central to the debate. A few hundred thousand babies is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a significant number. It's a tiny portion of all the children born to illegal aliens in the United States. Is this abuse of the system bad? Sure. Does it actually have any impact at all on the debate at hand? No. None. Not even close.

Agreed that these people are currently citizens now (and that citizenship will not be retroactively revoked), ...

Of course it won't be revoked. The interpretation of the 14th Amendment in play is the right one, as originally intended. From the Congressional Globe of the 42nd Congress, page 575. Mr. Trumbull says:

It is the common law of this country, and of all countries, and it was unnecessary to incorporate it in the Constitution, that a person is a citizen of the country to which he is born. That had been frequently decided in the United States. It has been acted upon by the executive department of the Government in protecting the rights of native-born persons of this country as citizens of the United States. [...] [I]t was thought proper to embody in the civil rights bill the declaration that all persons born in the United States were citizens.

Of course, the stated intent of the Congress, the Constitution of the United States, and the law has never stopped a right-winger from making some argument convenient for him/her. Why do I bother?

Posted by: dak at January 24, 2004 03:51 AM | PERMALINK

This land is your land
This land is my land
This land was made for you and me.

Posted by: Woody at January 24, 2004 03:58 AM | PERMALINK

Godless Capitalist:

Why shouldn't labor flow as freely across borders as capital does?

Posted by: Julian at January 24, 2004 03:59 AM | PERMALINK

"So - yes, illegal immigrants do have babies on purpose. It makes them almost impossible to deport."

Well, citizenship doesn't matter with free flow of citizens, the human right of cah labor, and a guest worker problem.

The worse problem is that the screwed up payroll tax system may be encouraging Mexicans to raise their bitrth rate and encouraging Americans to lower theirs. Remember that a Mexican citizen working in the U.S. gets a 15% wage differential.

So government payroll taxes make it more difficult for American citizen's to raise their families at the expense of Mexican citizens.

By the way, the number of babies born to Mexican citizens in the U.S. is in the millions, not thousands. Not that it matters, since low income workers are much better off retaining their Mexican citizenship and avoiding the payroll taxes.


Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 04:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Why shouldn't labor flow as freely across borders as capital does?"

There is something that Nancy Pelosi and George Bush agree on, namely, the world's 4 billion workers should be transplanted immediately to lovely San Fernando Valley.


Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 04:09 AM | PERMALINK

It's fun to watch godless search for answers to inconvenient facts. Even when we accept his numbers, more than one in ten Americans is uninsured. 41 million, he says, is an exaggeration, and makes the situation look more dire than it is. But 32 million isn't much better. So... what if we also disregard citizens that faux nativists don't like? Still not low enough? Okay. Well, surely some people don't want health insurance! And, oh yeah, what about people that can afford partial insurance? And... *yawn*

Just like with infant mortality rates. What? Cuba's rate is better? Well... yeah, because the US tries harder to keep babies alive! Nevermind that Cuba and the US use the same standards for classifying infant mortality and fetal death. Nevermind that a baby that shows any signs of life (at all) is never classified as a fetal death, even if doctors don't take exceptional measures to save it. And nevermind that, even if these completely unsubstantiated cases actually exist, they'd make up a tiny minority of all cases...

In another hour, godless will be arguing that 110% of all Americans have full insurance, and Cubans are using voodoo to ressurect dead babies.

Posted by: dak at January 24, 2004 04:11 AM | PERMALINK

IIRC, godless normally has an earlier bedtime

Posted by: bad Jim at January 24, 2004 04:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Even when we accept his numbers, more than one in ten Americans is uninsured."

I saw this report from Brad DeLong:

http://markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2004/01/why_is_the_pres.html

His point is that health savings accounts will take young healthy people from private insurance rolls and there will be less money from them to pay for health care for old sickly people. Which sort of drives the entire health care debate doesn't it?

Isn't the whole idea of national health care to take resources from the young and healthy and transfer it to the old and sickly? It is the old, and newborns, who use most of the health dollars. Under the national plan, those health dollars are easily obtained, just raise the flat medicare tax on young workers from 2% to, say, 10%? bring their total payroll taxes up to 25% or so?

No problem, especially since very few young folks graduating from college can add or subtract. In fact, since young workers seem to support this plan, why not just have each young worker be placed into slave camp fo the first 10 years of their working life, just extract all the wages, and pay for it.

Whoops! What about guest workers? They get to keep their payroll taxes.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 04:54 AM | PERMALINK

I can't support a company that does not support its employees. So, I stopped shopping at WalMart. I haven't noticed the difference in my wallet yet because I pay closer attention to sales of the 'regular' stores.

And, a lot of other stores have price matching practices. If I want something bad enough, I go to WalMart for their price and ask a price matching store to match it. Most of the time, they will.

Posted by: EricBrian at January 24, 2004 05:14 AM | PERMALINK

For better or worse, part of the social contract in America since World War II has been that large corporations provide decent healthcare for their workers.

You're right. And it's probably the biggest factor among many, for why health insurance is so frigging expensive.

Of course, a few of the Democratic candidates want to introduce universal healthcare, which will only lead to higher healthcare costs, at which time many of us will have to get a second job (probably at a Wal-Mart) just to pay for it.

Don't you just love socialism?

Posted by: Jay at January 24, 2004 05:16 AM | PERMALINK

Plus, since they moved into my small town, they forced all of the mom and pops out of business and destroyed our Main Street.

Heh. A standard anti-Walmart talking point. Of course, Kevin et al. want to see the minimum wage levels raised to figures that these wonderful Mom & Pop's couldn't afford, and which WalMart (who already pays $2 an hour over min wage to be a stock clerk) could easily absorb.

Pick your poison Old Hat.

Posted by: Jay at January 24, 2004 05:18 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by godlesscapitalist: "But I draw the line at paying for citizens of foreign nations."

Oh, you draw the line, do you? Somehow, though, I doubt whether you draw the line at their paying for your lifestyle in the form of their pennies per hour labor so that you can enjoy low prices. Do you draw the line also at aliens in this country paying for you in the form of their cheap service labor? And do you draw the line at your fellow citizens paying for you with their poverty and despair as their jobs are outsourced so that you can pay even lower prices for products? And if, responsible for improving production, you're a manager who turns machine speeds up and cuts personnel so that the remaining workers have to work even harder with no added pay, do you draw the line at lost jobs and fatigued and stressed bodies paying you your bonus? And if you happen to be very wealthy and have enjoyed a large tax cut, do you draw the line at having lower paid persons pay it to you in the form of their increased expenses resulting from cut services? Oh, that's right; it's YOUR money, isn't it? But who has paid it to you? Mostly, I think, it has been people who had no ability to draw any lines about the price they must pay simply to survive.

You can draw lines all around your body until you have completely separated yourself from humanity. Become powerful enough and you can draw lines at will. No longer human, you are a mover and shaker and line drawer--much like a god, therefore, deserving of fear and respect. But remembering your humble roots in humanity, you'll strive to be a benevolent deity, not evil like the false gods, Saddam or Clinton. Those who pay you homage will know your generosity. Those who do not are but rabble anyway: Let them work their way up as YOU did! Lazy communists!

Yes, capitalism is amoral. But amoral equals immoral without the deliberate and constant guidance of morality. That can only be accomplished by humanity, not by the self-made gods who rule this country and the world, spreading their religion of born-again capitalism. Government is not a business, as they are antithetical to each other. It's understood that capitalism is not about fairness, but it's somehow misunderstood or forgotten that fairness is the sole purpose of government in a civilized society. Anything else is but a barbarous army to protect the lords from the peasants.

Of course, if one is a lord, who cares, eh? Just draw a line whenever necessary.

Posted by: jayarbee at January 24, 2004 05:20 AM | PERMALINK

"Government is not a business"

This error in judgement has wounded nations.

Government is big business, all the laws of supply and demand are executed in Congress during the funding cycle.
Lobbies trade programs for tax cuts.
Each election cycle supply and demnd is excercised, trading tax policy for funding policy.

Government programs have entitlements, earmarks, and other forms of ownerships; which are traded everyday in the Congressional market.

The system is characterized by cartels that try to control prices and taxes and subsidies.

Congress even has forms of ownership according to race, religion and color; that would be illegal in the private sector.

Congress uses dollars, has buyers and sellers.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 05:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Government is big business"

Uh.. no it's not. You can say government is like a big business but many things are like a big business without being one(an ant colony is like a big business). Also chimps are like humans without the humanity.
I would say under current leadership elected officials think they exist to serve big business. However, they are mistaken. Government exists to serve the people. Its the reason they call it public service.

Posted by: Warcraft at January 24, 2004 05:55 AM | PERMALINK

Just think of the liberties labor would have here if two major needs were detached from employment; health care and retirement. Shit, we (laborers) would be like capitalists, we could move our assets (labor) wherever we felt was best for us. Imagine.

Posted by: ed at January 24, 2004 05:55 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by Matt Young: "Government is big business"

I'll concede your point by saying that government is not a profit driven business. (Well, unless Clinton happens to be the CEO.) :)

Government's principal duty is to enforce fairness as a means to realize it's premise of equality for all. It should not be subject to capitalism, rather the reverse is the necessary order if its mission is to be fulfilled. Unlimited wealth, therefore, should be denied in favor of protecting citizens from the inherit unfairness of the capitalistic system. According to the Save the Children Foundation, 1/6 of just the first tax cut that went to just the wealthiest 1% of the population would be sufficient to prevent the 8,000 starvation deaths of children per day in the world. How is it possible that the world is made better with such policies as Bush puts forth? Greed enriches only the greedy, as it blithely starves humanity.

Equality under the law does not mean equal income for all? No, but with the disparity of income allowed by unbridled capitalism, there is no possibility of equality under the law. The starving children of the world are not U.S. citizens? No, but their humanity connects them to us unless we allow finite lines to be drawn between fortunes and the masses of people required to amass them. The line we must draw is at the upper levels of wealth which serves only to pamper the selfish and corrupt those who wish to be pampered. That must be the business of government. Other than that, I say, capitalists, compete away to your hearts' content!

Posted by: jayarbee at January 24, 2004 06:12 AM | PERMALINK

Imagine how we would all smile if everyone could see a dentist. Anytime you propose a plan to help real people the conservatives cry socialism, and say it's too expensive. Trillions for tax cuts, stars wars, moon bases, invasion of Iraq, war on terror, war on drugs, etc... fine, there's plenty of money just as long as some corporation is getting it.

Posted by: Warcraft at January 24, 2004 06:14 AM | PERMALINK

Anytime you propose a plan to help real people the conservatives cry socialism, and say it's too expensive.

Right. Conservatives are not 'real' people.

And liberals are all panty-waist, welfare collecting commies.

Posted by: Jay at January 24, 2004 06:22 AM | PERMALINK

The myriad lawsuits against Walmart for its failure to properly pay overtime, its discrimination against minorities and women, its violation of child labor laws, its firing of employees engaged in lawful union-organizing activities and its violation of local safety laws (ie, chaining emergency exit doors)tell us as much about Walmart's "morality" as its failure to pay a living wage or to provide affordable healthcare benefits. But the story does not end there. Wallmart's destruction of a community begins on the very day it "targets" a location for another store. First come the demands for lower than market value prices on land and/or property tax rebates and reductions. For cash-strapped and job-starved towns and cities, these "requests" are impossible to resist. Next come the demands for waivers to zoning laws, landscaping and environmental requirements and building codes. After these extortions are met, Walmart builds its "boxes" using non-union labor contractors, which, as often as not, are imported from outside of the community. The result is an ugly monstrosity, surrounded by asphalt as far as the eye can see, with little more than twigs serving as "landscaping." To this disaster come the hundreds of unemployed or underemployed workers of whom a few dozen will be hired at such substandard wages and benefits that they qualify for various forms of local, state and federal relief programs (if any are available). Finally, consumers soon find that they not only have fewer choices of where to shop, but they also have fewer choices of products (some products are arbitrarily pulled because they offend the "sensibilities" of the folks in Arkansas).

So the next time you think about shopping at a Walmart, first ask yourself if you really need all of that junk on display (largely made in the sweatshops of Asia). Then try to calculate the true price of what you're buying by recognizing that your tax dollars subsidize those "low, low prices." Finally, ask yourself if you really can afford to add to the wealth of the "Walton five" whose average worth is $20.5 billion!

Posted by: Varvara at January 24, 2004 06:24 AM | PERMALINK

The new welfare queens are HMO's.

"Conservatives are not 'real' people."

Did I say that? Why no I don't believe I did. Making things up, just another conservative vice.

Posted by: Warcraft at January 24, 2004 06:43 AM | PERMALINK

When health care is discussed the cries of TORT REFORM! TORT REFORM! are quick to ooze from the wingnuts. Alas, although it is commonly believed, the "malpractive crisis" is just one in a long line of urban legends in the same league as the chocking doberman and the microwaved baby.

Get actual numbers and facts here:
http://www.citizen.org/congress/civjus/tort/articles.cfm?ID=5671

Pay special attention to the Department of Justice report linked at the bottom of the page.

Here is a whole bunch more:
http://www.centerjd.org/issues/factsheets.htm

Kafka

Posted by: Kafka at January 24, 2004 06:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Imagine how we would all smile if everyone could see a dentist"

Why not just pass a law declaring eternal life for everyone.

"disparity of income allowed by unbridled capitalism"

A value judgement stated without facts. The author must have graduated from an American college.

Look folks, government in the U.S. today now encompasses about 50% of our economy, so half of what we complain about is the result of programs we put in place, on the average. I would expect that Pelosi would cause as much poverty as she prevents in her government policies. Willie Brown admitted as much when he discovered that San Francisco's homeless programs created more homlessness than it prevented. The key words being created, not shifted from one place to another.

How many of us really believe that Deaniac college kids can reform a government that has done nothing but grow every time its reform is attempted? Forty years after this rush to Washington has begun, we are at the point where the rich have simply abandoned the process, moving their capital overseas, leaving us to sort out the scraps between the government economy and the low wage private economy.

Now this new generation thinks they can tax the rich and will be free to do what they want with the proceeds. It won't work that way. When you tax the rich, the rich stick around and penny pinch every last tax dollar, and that generally means less spending on your favorite programs, not more (and probably less poverty, not more)

Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 06:59 AM | PERMALINK

godlesscapitalist, a question if I may: is "efficiency" the only metric by which a company should be measured?

Posted by: Anarch at January 24, 2004 07:02 AM | PERMALINK

>TORT REFORM

Its the corp. bargaining chip, because they know (and maybe secretly support single payer health care, albeit for their own reasons) its coming.

Of course, IMHO.

Posted by: ed at January 24, 2004 07:04 AM | PERMALINK

I like to also point out that the quality of insults from our conservative opponents is really quite atrocious. Spend some time here if you really want to insult someone.

Eternal life? Yes, I can see how a poor child being able to see a dentist is just like everyone being granted eternal life. Not! Where are these rich people going to move. Europe. Sorry universal healthcare there. Do you want to sale your stuff to Americans, then pay American taxes. Simple.

Posted by: Warcraft at January 24, 2004 07:14 AM | PERMALINK

jayarbee: man, what we need is a "best of blogs" awards.

Best Return Zinger to a Libertarian.

Posted by: Troy at January 24, 2004 07:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Godless" Capitalist---

I've seen your posts around for a while,
and it seems that your name is not quite right.
You certainly have a god, and he is known as Mammon.

I look forward to challenging posts correctly attributed to Mammon's Capitalist.

Posted by: Nate at January 24, 2004 07:25 AM | PERMALINK

"Do you want to sale your stuff to Americans"

The answer is increasingly no, if you look at the nearly 30% drop in the value of the dollar recently. I suspect that fewer and fewer foreign producers and investors would be interested in America if the tax issue was decided with:
"You pay American taxes. Simple"

So, no, don't expect many of the rich to keep their capital in the U.S. where radicals can get access to it.
And as this capital keeps escaping from leftist slogans, then you can get what few manufactured goods you need from China, via Walmart.

Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 07:27 AM | PERMALINK

Warcraft, don't be such a liar. Your statement again:

Anytime you propose a plan to help real people the conservatives cry socialism, and say it's too expensive.

What are conservatives then if not the 'real' people, especially since your blanket statement implies conservatives don't want to help said 'real' people?

Dolt.

Posted by: Jay at January 24, 2004 07:39 AM | PERMALINK

successful businesses usually treat their employees well.

hahahahahaha.

Look, you've now admitted you're objectively pro-sweatshops (in spite of your claims otherwise) so I can dismiss you as mentally disturbed and leave you to stew in troll-juice.

Posted by: ahem at January 24, 2004 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

I work for a doctor and the reason that people wait for operation in Canada is that, in America, if you don't have insurance, you can't get an operation. I have called around for patients needing to see a specialist and get an operation who don't have insurance and no doctor will make an appointment to see them. I think that this is digusting. If we don't have compassion for others and let the bottom line direct everything what kind of country does that make us? I don't want to live in the 19th century version of capitalism. I'm afraid that this is where the race to the bottom is taking us.

Posted by: Lynne at January 24, 2004 08:22 AM | PERMALINK

Holy shit. Can somebody call Wampum and tell them to put the Koufaxes on hold?
Jayarbee for his 5:20 am (!) post above. STAT.

And I noticed Godless capitalist ran away when Julian asked why labour can't flow as freely over borders as capital. No doubt he's off searching obscure think tank websites for speeches he can quote lengthily in response.

Posted by: daithi mac mhaolmhuaidh at January 24, 2004 08:28 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by Jay: "What are conservatives then if not the 'real' people, especially since your [Warcraft's] blanket statement implies conservatives don't want to help said 'real' people?"

Conservatives may be real people, but they aren't real conservatives. At least, they are not the ones who matter: the neo-conservatives. They're not real conservatives either, but they are the holders of power who spread the lies which are believed by the real people who call themselves conservatives. And, no, neocons are not "real" people. They have long since shed any allegiance to humanity in favor of their pursuit of ever more wealth and power. Any "help" they offer "real" people is equivalent to crumbs tossed to the lesser beings than they see themselves having evolved to; but it is always for the purpose of increasing their power and to distract from their own grossly larger shares which they have stolen from the real people, no matter their political affiliation. So when you hear liberals rant against the dishonest and heartless holders of power, don't suppose they believe that the half of the public who voted for Bush is made of his corrupt stuff. They don't -- unless those real people liberals are as deluded as the real people conservatives. Okay, I'll level with you: most of them are.

Posted by: jayarbee at January 24, 2004 08:42 AM | PERMALINK

I am impressed by the ability of everyone to argue their point as if there is an absolute correct answer to these questions. The reality is that it is a value judgement.

Just taking the US vs. Canada health care systems as an example. I think it would be hard to argue that if you have insurance and needed brain surgery that Canada is a better place to be. It would also be hard to argue that if you were in a low-paying job and were pregnant that the US is a better place to be. It is mostly a question of which needs you think are more important to meet.

A pure belief in capitalism does not mean putting the interests of capital above that of labor, it is about reducing all restrictions on people's ability to trade their assets (including labor). And I think that when you look at what the world would look like in that situation there is little doubt that some restrictions are needed on trade.

So if you assume that some restrictions are needed on trade, then the question becomes what is the limit of those restrictions. And here you enter the world of grey again, where you are making value judgements.

Is it worth sacraficing the best top end health care in the world that saves tens of thousands of lives to allow an extra 10% of people access to basic health care?

Is it worth pricing some goods at Wal-Mart out of the reach of some people to make sure that every person working at Wal-Mart has health care?

I certainly don't pretend to have THE answer to these questions.

Posted by: Rich at January 24, 2004 09:17 AM | PERMALINK

Is it worth sacraficing the best top end health care in the world that saves tens of thousands of lives to allow an extra 10% of people access to basic health care?

No, but that is not the alternatives we currently face. Canadians have universal free access, and it is provably more efficient than our patchwork bs.

Posted by: Troy at January 24, 2004 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

Wal-Mart is scum. Responsible people should boycott it.

Posted by: Frederick at January 24, 2004 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

GodlessCapitalist: The death toll in France from August's blistering heat wave has reached nearly 15,000, according to a government-commissioned report released Thursday, surpassing a prior tally by more than 3,000.

Okay. So in France, a country with a population of 60M, 15 000 people died in a heatwave that lasted a month. (That is, roughly 0.0000249% of the population: stats from the World Factbook.) You offer this as evidence that France has a worse healthcare system than the US.

In Chicago, during a heatwave that lasted a week, at least 465 Chicagoans died as a result of the heat. (cite: 465 is the conservative figure - number of excess deaths during the heatwave week was 739) Chicago in 1995 had a population of 2.7M (cite). That is, roughly 0.00017% of the population.

In case you have trouble doing basic arithmetic, godlesscapitalist, I'll spell it out for you: the heat-related deaths in one week in Chicago were an order of magnitude greater, proportional to the population, than the heat-related deaths in one month in France. In simple terms: nearly seven times as many people died as a result of a heatwave that only lasted a quarter the time.

Incidentally, from a quick scan through the weather reports for France in 2003, the heatwave in France hit 104 degrees - just as it did on the hottest day in Chicago in 1995. But France had only 15% of the casualties suffered by Chicago.

So if you're offering heatwave deaths as proof of the relative merits of US and French health care systems, the facts are against you: rather far against you, as it happens. If the French casualty rate during the heatwave shows "third world numbers", how are we to rate the US for the numbers who died in Chicago? Fourth world? Fifth world? Sixth world?

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 24, 2004 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Rich, don't you understand that this thread (and, unfortunately, many of the threads in Kevin's forum these days) is for people have received the gift of Wisdom, which allows them to unerringly Know The Truth, which means that any that are of a differing opinion are to shouted down is a torrent of ad hominem rhetoric, lies, and insults?

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Will, I cannot say how happy I am that you have come to self-knowledge. May I hope that in future you will not permit your belief that you have received "the gift of Wisdom", which allows you "to unerringly Know The Truth" to lead you into shouting down all those that are of a differing opinion with torrent of ad hominem rhetoric, lies, and insults, as you have done on past threads?

The first step is always the hardest: admitting it. Congratulations.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 24, 2004 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

So, medical malpractice payouts (judgements and out of court settlements combined) are about 3% of health care spending in the US (from Wampum). Insurance premiums are about another 3% on top of that (from GC's article above). Defense costs, etc, ("the rest" that tort reform aims to fix) is 1.5%, from Wampum again.

Total administrative overhead, by contrast, is at least 25% of private health care costs (gov't studies). Medicare compares at 3% of total cost spent on administrative overhead (gov't studies). Even adding in this "conservative estimate" of "defensive medicine", you won't match private administrative overhead in costs.

And yet somehow tort reform is where to focus when considering how to improve and streamline US health care.

Posted by: ArC at January 24, 2004 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Jesurgislac, feel free to review any interaction I've had on Kevin's threads in which it has been I who has instigated such behavior. Now, when someone indicates that this is the type of exchange they would prefer, I'll accomodate them, and when someone misrepresents their opponent's positions, as you habitually do, it becomes necessary to point that out, but it would be better if more people did not prefer that sort of exchange.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Wal-Mart charges its workers a lot for healthcare coverage — as much as 10-15% of their wages"

The average premium for the German health care system is 13% of wages. That 13%, though, is split between employer and employee.

Posted by: Scott at January 24, 2004 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Jesurgislac, feel free to review any interaction I've had on Kevin's threads in which it has been I who has instigated such behavior.

Glad to, Will: I was thinking specifically of the recent thread where you called me (and others) "illiterate" because you preferred that people interpret what you had actually said as what you (later) wished you had said. (cite) The worst I had called you in the comment to which you were replying was "Republican" - which is technically not an insult: there are many good honest Republicans out there. You seem to have a habit of starting ad hominem attacks because you don't like what you said earlier but you don't want people to comment on it. (I note in passing that this was the technique used by the White House to deal with Joseph Wilson's comments on the 2003 SOTU.)

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 24, 2004 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Godlesscapitalist

On Jan 24 @ 1:24 AM you wrote

But that does beg the question: why is the US infant mortality rate on par with Cuba's? Well, I googled a bit and found this:

The primary reason Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States is that the United States is a world leader in an odd category -- the percentage of infants who die on their birthday. In any given year in the United States anywhere from 30- 40 percent of infants die before they are even a day old.

"30 to 40%" NO society has ever had an one day infant mortality rate like this. When your source quotes obvious nonsence you should be cautious about anything they say.

Posted by: ____league at January 24, 2004 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

why labour can't flow as freely over borders as capital

People aren't playstations. Outsourcing and free trade has a surgical effect on the affected industry, but importing guest workers (whether as citizens or not) has all kinds of externalities.

In particular, if said guest workers are unskilled (as most of them are in the US), the taxpayer is saddled with a net burden: health care, bilingual education and signs, education, crime, social services, and so on.

In other words, what is gained at the shelf is more than lost during tax time (*if* the imported labor is unskilled). That doesn't begin to get into national security and cultural considerations. 20 million Chinese or Russians or Mexicans coming over here in one day means all kinds of infrastructure and assimilation strain - but the products of 20 million Chinese/Russians/Mexicans can be traded across borders without those problems.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad you provided the cite Jesurgislac, so people can go back and see how you instigated the exchange, by falsely claiming that I stated that it was morally allowable to steal. At that point in the conversation, it was not clear to me whether you were simply lying, or were illiterate, so I chose the option which entailed less moral condemnation; being stupid carries no moral content, whereas being dishonest does. Now, having had more extended contact with you, in which you perpetrated the same falsehood in the very last post you made to that thread, it has been amply demonstrated that you are a liar. If one doesn't wish to be identified as a liar, one is well advised to stop lying, especially regarding matters as serious as whether another person has stated that theft was morally allowable. Now, if you wish to carry this personal dispute further, we should probably do so in a venue that doesn't rudely utilize bandwidth that someone elese is paying for.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"In particular, if said guest workers are unskilled (as most of them are in the US), the taxpayer is saddled with a net burden: health care, bilingual education and signs, education, crime, social services, and so on. "

Only if our government chooses to provide those things. Immigrants don't force us to provide those things. Letting them in and not providing welfare benefits, bilingual signs, and so on is perfectly reasonable, and would greatly improve things.

"Ignoring the lies about tort reform and health coverage (read: preventing people from suing HMOs), this [Walmart uses its monopoly power to drive prices down rather than up. That's good for the consumer and good for productivity.
] was the same argument made by Standard Oil. Monopolies are never good, they're the antithesis of the free market. You aren't a real capitalist. "

And it was a good argument even back then. Standard Oil never did get around to jacking up its prices the way that "progressive" trust-busters said they would. The anti-trust reformers were full of it then, and they're full of it now.

"According to Adam Smith, capitalism works for the benefit of all ONLY IF capitalist firms respect moral standards. Wal-Mart is merely one example of a firm that seeks low prices by flouting moral standards. Adam Smith would say, "Shame on you, Wal-Mart." "

Really? Adam Smith thought that offering a company health plan in lieu of cash was a reasonable "moral standard"? He favored a minimum wage?

Posted by: Ken at January 24, 2004 01:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm glad you provided the cite Jesurgislac, so people can go back and see how you instigated the exchange, by falsely claiming that I stated that it was morally allowable to steal.

As you did. Several times, as I recall. cite, cite, cite. I was struck, re-reading back through the thread, how determined you were both to defend Republican data theft and to invent a false analogy between Republican staffers persistently stealing data from Democrat files over an entire year, and a single instance of private individuals illegally taping a call in which a Republican admits to unethical acts.

And then when you failed to convince anyone, you started calling us names. It was an unimpressive performance.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 24, 2004 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Jesurgislac, please explain how an item, when placed in area where it has been agreed that access is open, where it has been agreed that items placed there are for mutual use, and an item is subsequently taken, that this constitutes theft. Please explain how information painted on a garge door,and subsequently read, constitutes theft. Please explain why any of these descriptions amounts to advocacy of theft. Please explain why you contiunue to lie, even now, about someone advocating theft. Please explain why you think it notable that lying about others' advocacy of theft results in a hostile response, and, indeed, your undeniably accurate identification as a liar. Do you normally lie about other's advocacy of theft, and expect other than a hostile response? Why?

Finally, explain why you have imported a thread 300+ posts long into this thread, all to pursue what has devolved into a personal dispute, that, if it must be continued, could easily have been pursued back where it originated. Are you normally so abusive of things that other people are paying for? I'm not suprised.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Warcraft, don't be such a liar. Your statement again:

Anytime you propose a plan to help real people the conservatives cry socialism, and say it's too expensive.

What are conservatives then if not the 'real' people, especially since your blanket statement implies conservatives don't want to help said 'real' people?

Dolt."

I was not aware that only conservatives were real people! Which is what you claim, else the article "the" would not figure in your sentence. Because it is one thing that "conservatives are real people", they are not "the real people". Now what do you conservatives, tend to claim usually? you construct a kind of people that enbodies everything you loathe, and then claim that anything that would be good for them, no matter that they are good to every one in fact, is bad. It does not matter that such loathsome characters are very rare, and in fact typically conservative in most of their ways.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume at January 24, 2004 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

While the logic of capitalism is pretty much amoral and quite sound, I have a few questions for our conservative friends here:

1. Would you personally want to work for Wal-Mart? I mean as a cashier, not a manager. Assuming they didn't fire you before you were eligible for benefits or trying to unionize, could you work at Wal-Mart for years of your life? Could you raise a family that wasn't in chronic financial peril?

2. If markets are defined by supply and demand--What happens when consumers/workers lose their wages, their health care, exhaust their credit and eventually go bankrupt? How will they buy cars, software, services, anything if their wages are inexorably descending into competition with Chinese semi-slaves, skilled Indians, or automation? Can an economy of penny-slaves, skilled Indians making $7/day, and robots drive the consumption necessary for a functional world economy?

3. Do you personally live in a "gated community" (a brilliant oxymoron) and sit on a million-plus in cash and investments? Will your children? Your grandchildren? How long can an island of prosperity be preserved in an ocean of growing poverty?

Interested in thoughtful replies.


Posted by: Tim B. at January 24, 2004 01:54 PM | PERMALINK

Will, we all got tired of your trying to claim that the Republican data thefts weren't "really" thefts because the data wasn't locked down tight enough in the other thread. So I'll deal with your other points.

Finally, explain why you have imported a thread 300+ posts long into this thread, all to pursue what has devolved into a personal dispute, that, if it must be continued, could easily have been pursued back where it originated.

1. I didn't "import" the other thread into this thread: I linked to it. I did so at your rather curt invitation. cite

2. Don't protest when other people follow your lead. Your comment at 11:05 started this sub-thread: what, did you expect everyone to just let you promulgate your lying slanders about what has been going on in other threads?

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 24, 2004 02:02 PM | PERMALINK

Well, now, Jesurgislac is telling half-truths, which is an improvement, since he normally simply lies outright. Yes, I did invite you to give examples, along with saying this...

"Now, if you wish to carry this personal dispute further, we should probably do so in a venue that doesn't rudely utilize bandwidth that someone else is paying for."

...clearly indicating a desire to take this somewhere other than this thread. Could you possibly, just once, post something that doesn't contain a falsehood?

Also, is it your position that other threads are not filled with insults and lies? Do you really need examples? Why are you lying again, in this thread? Is it all that you are capable of?


Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

"1. Would you personally want to work for Wal-Mart? I mean as a cashier, not a manager. "

No, I can do better jobs than that. Some people can't. That's not Wal-Mart's fault.

"Assuming they didn't fire you before you were eligible for benefits or trying to unionize, could you work at Wal-Mart for years of your life?"

I could, but I don't see any reason to. As for those that do, they'd be better off if Wal-Mart simply paid cash without benefits indefinitely rather than being fired as an alternative to benefits. Laws and tax regulations that induce Wal-Mart to pay benefits to anyone should be altered or abolished.

"Could you raise a family that wasn't in chronic financial peril?"

Of course not. Cheap housing is actively resisted by force of law; any that remains is left unprotected from violent predators. So I'd be stuck choosing between chronic financial peril and chronic physical peril.

Again, none of that is caused by Wal-Mart.

"2. If markets are defined by supply and demand--What happens when consumers/workers lose their wages, their health care, exhaust their credit and eventually go bankrupt?"

They have lots of trouble buying things.

"How will they buy cars, software, services, anything if their wages are inexorably descending into competition with Chinese semi-slaves, skilled Indians, or automation? Can an economy of penny-slaves, skilled Indians making $7/day, and robots drive the consumption necessary for a functional world economy?"

Skilled Indians will not be making $7 per day. Anyway, an economy of "penny-slaves, skilled Indians making $7/day, and robots", will enable the production of large amounts of new products that currently don't exist, and consumption of same. Americans won't just sit idle indefinitely; they'll make whatever new products that the law allows and the Indians and robots aren't already making. If that set is empty, then it's time to change the law to allow more new products to be made without asking permission first.

We certainly aren't making all there is to make, not by a long shot. It would take us thousands of years at least to run out of potential new products and services.

"3. Do you personally live in a "gated community" (a brilliant oxymoron) and sit on a million-plus in cash and investments?"

No.

"Will your children? Your grandchildren?"

Beats me.

"How long can an island of prosperity be preserved in an ocean of growing poverty?"

As long as it remains resolute and heavily armed enough to defend itself. But that question is meaningless, anyway. There is no ocean of growing poverty; there's an ocean of growing wealth.

Posted by: Ken at January 24, 2004 02:30 PM | PERMALINK

Tim:

1) No, I wouldn't want to work at Walmart throughout my lifetime. That's why I put myself through college. The opportunity exists in America if you go for it.

2) Your premises are faulty.

-First, jobs can be created. Wealth-creation is not a zero sum game.

-Second, Automation started hundreds of years ago, but we have millions more jobs today (for a population of 300 million) than we did back when the US was 20 million people.

-Third, even if we grant that robots are producing "everything" (a fate that has not come about despite hundreds of years of increasing automation), the cost of things will be much lower . Think about how much cheaper it is to buy a candy bar today than it would have been a few hundred years ago to pay for the assembly of chocolate, nuts, graham crackers, etc.

3) You seem to have this idea that the only people who defend capitalism are plutocrats. But there are PLENTY of people in the middle class in America who have heard the calls for class war and socialist revolution before, and reject them out of hand because of the millions of skulls piled up in the USSR/China/North Korea/etc.

4) Lastly, absolute poverty is almost unknown in the US. Relative poverty exists, but absolute poverty - India level poverty - is essentially absent.

The difference between a capitalist and a socialist is that the capitalist wants to increase the median GDP-per-capita as fast as possible, while the socialist wants to reduce the disparity between the maximum and minimum incomes.

The problem is that there is an easy - but bad - solution for the socialists: make everyone equally poor . Capitalism *does* mean inequality, because people have unequal talents and motivations and training. But it doesn't mean absolute poverty.

To get worked up about the poor in America (i.e. those below the poverty line), you have to get worked up about people with TVs, cars, cell phones, reliable supply food, etc. By both a world-historical and absolute standard, these people are VERY well off...and any anger about their plight is based primarily on envy rather than true deprivation.

True deprivation is India or China or North Korea, places where either soft-socialism or outright communism was tried - and failed.

Posted by: godlesscapitalist at January 24, 2004 02:31 PM | PERMALINK

Just to be clear, the notion that this information was comparable to e-mail painted on a garage door is laughable. To infer, from this comparison with a year long campaign of disseminating known private information with the intent of harming another party, that the author has tacitly condoned the unethical behavior is not only not a stretch, but is the only rational reading of said comparison.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 24, 2004 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Not if said author has also clearly stated that he is not claiming to know the facts of the matter. I see Lori needed to trot her nonsense over into this thread as well. If you feel compelled to do so, fine, but the other thread is still operative, and this seems rather rude, but coming from you, Lori, it is not suprising.

Anyways, as a matter of pure logic, information placed into a common area, where it has been mutually agreed that any data placed there will be shared, is, by definition, no longer "private" information. Now as I also have previously stated, I think it would be ethical for a party, coming across sensitive information, to notify the other party, to see if there was intent to place the data in a common area.

Of course, if the area is common, and it has previously been agreed that data placed there is open to all, taking data from that area, while perhaps unethical, cannot be honestly labeled theft, but of course, if one wishes to lie, one could label it anything one wants.

Finally, why Lori and Jesurgislac decided to restart this particular argument in this thread is hard to understand, but then again, there are many things about them that are hard to understand.

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 02:58 PM | PERMALINK

godlesscapitalist, you seem to have trouble with the differences between repressive dictatorships (the “socialist” nations you cite) and actual socialism. The former are indefensible (as are such “capitalist” paradises as Chile under the brutal Pinochet, Iran under the loving touch of the Shah, or Italy under Mussolini – odd that you don’t choose these examples to demonstrate the superiority of capitalism), the later includes such monstrous hell-holes as Sweden, France to a certain extent (did you notice the takedown of your silly heat wave deaths argument?), and Canada – all of which have relatively happy and productive populations.

Lastly, absolute poverty is almost unknown in the US. Relative poverty exists, but absolute poverty - India level poverty - is essentially absent.

Not true, but thanks for asserting claims without basis. What is absent is the widespread absolute poverty and the ability to see it from the ivory towers of your capitalist dream house. In the real America the very poor are not, in fact, using cell phones. In the real America they are begging in the streets – just like in Calcutta. In the real America they are sleeping on the streets too – just like in Bombay. Are there fewer of them? Sure, but then we don’t have nearly the birthrate of India either. Look into it; it makes a difference.

This notion that opportunity exists if you just go for it in America is quite simply a fantasy of those whose easy life misleads them into thinking that everyone comes from an upper middle class background. If your health is poor because you were unlucky enough to be born to poor parents, your opportunities are limited. If you were malnourished as a child because you were unlucky enough to be born to poor parents, your intelligence is statistically likely to be lower. If your parents were poor you are statistically less likely to have been read to at an early age. Poverty is self-reinforcing across generational lines.

And why, pray tell, should I support a system that grants Paris Hilton a life of luxury based, not on any efforts of her own, but on a history that gives her a cut of the efforts of countless others – regardless of her merit?

The problem with mindless capitalism isn’t just that it is amoral. The problem is that mindless capitalism explicitly hands out rewards and punishments at birth and consequently handicaps talented individuals, robbing society of their potential contributions.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 24, 2004 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

Lori, to attribute the differences in amounts of people living in absolute poverty in the U.S., vs the amount that do so in India, to differences in the birth rate, is simply ridiculous. Do you really think that the percentage of people living in absolute poverty in the U.S. is anywhere close to the percentage of people living in absolute poverty in India?

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I do have a hard time understanding why, if you are so set on not continuing your pointless argument in this thread that you brought it up, and insist on responding to every post with not only your inept defenses but the added bonus of whining about "rudeness" because people are tired of your misrepresentations; apparently you feel the need to discuss it here. After pointing out yet again that the only basis for your defense was an agreement you created out of whole cloth, I’m done with you here just as I am done with you in that thread. Your rudeness, unwillingness or inability to reason, and desire to misrepresent both your posts and those of others (see your circular little dissertation on population and poverty as a classic example of the latter) mark you as a poster to whom I will make an effort to ignore just as I would any irrational street ranter.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 24, 2004 05:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Could you raise a family that wasn't in chronic financial peril?"

Absolutely.

We did it in the great depression, often living out of trucks and cars. Then living in work camps. It is entirely possible.

Regarding U.S. poverty:

One reason poverty expands is because both parties just invited 30 million low wage Mexicans to come live with us. We are going to house them all in urban sprawl, necxt door to Kevin Drum.

This is not poverty shifted, this is actually poverty we created, or better stated, actual poverty created by Mexican families to take advantage of ill conceived government policies in the U.S.


"2. If markets are defined by supply and demand--What happens when consumers/workers lose their wages, their health care, exhaust their credit and eventually go bankrupt?"

OK, I'll take this one.

Demand drops. How's that for smart?

The real question the author poses is:

What if my particular world view is not accepted and my theory holds to be true and we all collapse in a major depression. Rather than ask the real question, the author states an exaggeration that is meandinless and a waste of our time, except I happened to have a moment.


Posted by: Matt Young at January 24, 2004 06:03 PM | PERMALINK

Gee Lori, are you so dense as to not realize that when you refer to someone as "sleazy", the other person make take that as an indication that you wish to have a rude exchange? Once again, I must inquire, are the norms of human relations really so foreign to you? Also, are you so illiterate as to be unable to discern that it was not I who first injected specific details from a previous thread into this one?

By the way, the "rudeness" I refer to is the habit of bringing what is clearly a personal dispute into this thread, on bandwidth paid for by someone else. If you aren't too obtuse, you will note that my first comment in this thread was a remark in support of another's observation , and compltely devoid of any specific reference to you, the other nitwit, or any particular thread. Of course, neither of you, being who you are, could resist being your typical obnoxious selves. Once again, I must implore you; if you feel compelled to pursue what is obviously a narrow personal dispute, don't be so obnoxious to do so on a forum someone else is providing. Are you able to grasp that concept?

Posted by: Will Allen at January 24, 2004 08:08 PM | PERMALINK

Godless,

1) No, I wouldn't want to work at Walmart throughout my lifetime. That's why I put myself through college. The opportunity exists in America if you go for it.

Opportunity exists here, sure. But not every one is an A or B student or destined for a white collar profession. What about them? Presently, their jobs are being exported and their wages are eroding to levels that are virtually non-livable. I understand the how and the why behind it, I just don't see the "better jobs" that free-trade proponents promise will be our reward for decimating the prior order. Wealth is generated for the owner class, and there is a benefit of lower prices--but cheaper candy bars are a terrible exchange for the destruction of earning power for the majority that really only have their labor to sell.

Even the lowest prices mean nothing if you have no job, or your job pays shit. Wal-mart even employs illegal aliens because it thinks legal wages are too high (can we at least blame Wal-Mart for that?). There is a race to the bottom for many Americans--do you not agree? College for some individuals isn't much of a solution to the structural changes happening in the world economy. Opportunity for the few doesn't redeem poverty for the many.

This doesn't even address the all-too-real issue that while candy bars are cheap, housing and real estate are more expensive than they have ever been--at least in CA. There does seem to be a debt/financial crisis looming in my analysis--although I don't presume a certainty about it. However, the erosion of the dollar, record personal bankruptcies, and the recent IMF report regarding the U.S. deficit only support this view.

The bigger question I have for you is if you want the market to determine every aspect of the society you live in...I do not.

"2) Your premises are faulty...Wealth-creation is not a zero sum game."
Trade expansion should raise all boats theoretically, true. But it doesn't. Look at the third world. That is the direction America is heading: A super-rich minority at the top, a shrinking middle-class, and an expansion of poverty. All buying products manufactured beyond our borders. You need to get real about what is up: transnational capital is pushing the boats of Americans down--meanwhile selling as much us as possible before we descend into the buying power of Mexico. It's a process of extraction.

3) You seem to have this idea that the only people who defend capitalism are plutocrats.
No, this is not accurate. I actually defend capitalism as superior to other forms of economic organization in terms of innovation, mass production, price reduction and the many benefits of competition. But it has a dark side. The plutocrats tend to deny that reality. And it needs to be addressed. If there was another countervailing power besides government, regulation and law--I'd be all for it. Tell me what it is.

"4) Lastly, absolute poverty is almost unknown in the US. "
There are literally Americans begging and dying on the streets of our cities. In fact, I literally see street beggars every day. You must not live in So-Cal.

In any event, I appreciate your response even though I think you are a bit possessed by the "faith" of market-capitalism. I think much of what you are saying is true about the blessings of capitalism, it's just not the whole story.

...

"...a waste of our time, except I happened to have a moment."
Matt, let me thoroughly encourage you, personally, not to waste your spare moments in responding to my posts. Thanks, buddy.

Posted by: Tim B. at January 24, 2004 08:58 PM | PERMALINK

Lori: agreed. If Will Allen can't learn how to behave on a blog, the best solution is to ignore him.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at January 25, 2004 01:18 AM | PERMALINK

"This doesn't even address the all-too-real issue that while candy bars are cheap, housing and real estate are more expensive than they have ever been--at least in CA."

And the reason for that isn't capitalism. It's the layer upon layer of limitation we've placed on the working of capitalism in the housing market. It's policies that prevent the introduction of cheaper housing and the boosting of supply to meet demand that happens in every market where relatively unfettered capitalism holds sway.

You want to ameliorate the downside of creative destruction? Stop jacking up housing prices!

Posted by: Ken at January 25, 2004 09:13 AM | PERMALINK

Ken... what the hell are you talking about?

"It's policies that prevent the introduction of cheaper housing..."

I'm liscenced as a real estate agent in Texas. I know builders.

The "policy" that dictates that new housing be so expensive has to do with a little thing called "overhead."

Say you've got a development with a standard lot.

You've paid $15,000 for the land. You can get $150,000 if you put a 1500 sq ft house with some lawn on it. Or, you can get $300,00 if you put a 3000 sq. ft. McMansion on the plot.

And, the more building supplies you get, the cheaper they can be obtained--buy bulk. So, the cost difference in building at 1500 sq ft, vs 3000 sq ft, is reduced quite a bit.

So, for a little more money, you can put a big house up, and get more than twice the money.

As a builder, what would you do?

That's right--you'd follow the "policy" of the basic rules of math.

It's the market that sets new housing cots.

Posted by: aldahlia at January 25, 2004 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

"You've paid $15,000 for the land. You can get $150,000 if you put a 1500 sq ft house with some lawn on it. Or, you can get $300,00 if you put a 3000 sq. ft. McMansion on the plot."

Or you can get $300,000 if you divide the land in two and put two 1500 sq ft houses.

Oh wait. They can't do that because they're not allowed to have lots that are "too small".

"And, the more building supplies you get, the cheaper they can be obtained--buy bulk. So, the cost difference in building at 1500 sq ft, vs 3000 sq ft, is reduced quite a bit."

On the other hand, if you're building cheaper, smaller houses, you can build more of them and still use supplies in bulk. At least until you run into restrictions on land use, open spaces, etc.

Posted by: Ken at January 25, 2004 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

I hate Wal-Mart, but stores of its kind do some things that those much-beloved mom and pop stores didn't, won't and can't: sell loads of affordable stuff to areas that don't have many options. Mom and pops are good at small things: I love them for hardware, dining, and toys. But they are often slow to change, unable to branch out, and unable to sell many things at good prices.

Mom and pops often cannot cover health insurance, either. I worked at a print shop where one-fourth of my weekly paycheck went to health insurance. My old employer paid half, and had to cut hours and overtime so our fellow employees could keep their coverage. The increases each year made recent increases in car insurance, college tuition, and gasoline seem small by comparison. Luckily, I now work for the state, which can bargain from a position of strength.

Health insurance costs are a sleeping giant of a compaign issue. If either party could come up with a plan to cover just the basics (emergency rooms/urgent care, vaccinations, yearly physicals, and extremely limited presciption help), that plan, though socialist, would be overwhelmingly popular. Small businesses sure could use the help. And that's where most of the nation's employees are.

Getting back to Wal-Mart, the practice of hiring illegal workers seems to be another big business scumbag tactic: to have ANOTHER COMPANY, created by Wal-Mart, contracted out to do the cleaning at the lowest possible price. This is the same garbage technique that makes Major League Baseball teams unprofitable on paper, Enron a good stock to hold, and it ensures that no one can ever know why corporations pay the amount of tax they do.

In other words, big corporations aren't your friend. Luckily, those who hate Wal-Mart can go to their neighborhood Target store, right? Right?

Posted by: jon at January 25, 2004 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

There is something odd about your post Ken, and now I know what it is. (I’m going to make an assumption based on your posts: you are a libertarian – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) What I see is a libertarian going on a moderately liberal board to complain about the results of conservatives passing laws. Who do you think is protecting lot sizes? Those pushing laws requiring the building of affordable housing, or the owners of McMansions trying to protect their property values?

Government involvement almost always serves the interests of some powerful (usually wealthy) interest group. I suggest you will get more mileage out of complaining to those at fault, not their victims.

Posted by: Lori Thantos at January 25, 2004 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

Just to help with the beating of a dead horse (but I'll only beat it this one time), there's this from Will Allen:
As a matter of pure logic, information placed into a common area, where it has been mutually agreed that any data placed there will be shared, is, by definition, no longer "private" information.

Not really, and certainly not in the situation you were discussing. For example, information accidentally placed in a common area is not "by definition, no longer 'private' information." This is especially true when the information in question is clearly intended to be private, when it is marked as such (i.e. marked as belonging to a particular individual). As both a matter of logic, and of common courtesy, the privileges of privacy should still obtain for that information, no matter where it might be found. Heck, forget courtesy, let's call it what it is: decency.

As for advocacy of theft, anyone who is interested in this debate should read Will Allen's posts on the hypothetical wallet left in a common area, on the thread cited by Jesurgislac, and then make up their own mind.

As to the other question, posters assuming that they have access to absolute Truth and shouting down those who disagree with them in "a torrent of ad hominem rhetoric, lies, and insults," I imagine that a good number of people who post here at CalPundit do on occasion feel that they Know The Truth -- and that number includes both me and Will Allen. A smaller, but still substantial number of posters will engage in insults and ad hominem rhetoric, but I think the number who resort to lies is quite small.

For better or for worse, Will Allen is among those who have used ad hominem rhetoric and insults, and whether the disputes were initiated by him or by someone else, they nonetheless remain ad hominem rhetoric and insults. "But he did it first" really isn't much of an excuse, even if it's true.

Feel free to respond in whatever manner you wish, Will. The last word is yours.

Posted by: Keith at January 26, 2004 08:38 PM | PERMALINK

Follow-up on the US's Third World healthcare system: a report from the federal Institute of Medicine estimated that "roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths happen annually because of the lack of health insurance". The number of uninsured people under age 65 grew to 43.3 million in 2002, accounting for 17.2 percent of the general population, according to the report.

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