The Skip and Chaz Debate - Round 1 - Counterpoint - Granite Grok

The Skip and Chaz Debate – Round 1 – Counterpoint

Well, my turn!  Chaz has started the debate off with two points:

  • He’s not a socialist
  • Universal Healthcare is not socialistic

Well, I tend to be a "fisker", so let me go through his thesis and let the air gently out of his ballon.  So let’s dive in!

Formatting note:  indented and bold is the person who has presented the Point (in this case, Chaz).  The person doing the Counterpoint will have the full width, regular text (me for now). 

As you may have noticed I endorsed Hillary Clinton for President this week.

Well, that doesn’t bode well for your argument!  But hey, given your earlier posts on Universal Healthcare, it is not unexpected.

That has kept me occupied on the blogosphere. That plus building and preparing for winter is keeping me in "catch up" mode. I do think this is a great project though and one that I will commit to. So let me start with a short opening statement:

In my endorsement of Senator Clinton I called healthcare my number one domestic issue. No matter your vantage point, its a big one that isn’t going away. I think we all agree on that, correct me if I’m wrong.

Oh no – on this point we do agree (uh-oh, does this bode well?).  I agree that healthcare is one of the biggest domestic issues, but I think that illegal immigration is the number one domestic issue.

Given that, healthcare is my third issue for the Presidential race.  In fact, a twofer:

  • Healthcare and how it should be managed
  • Government and its perceived role in society.

The combination of the two, and how they are handled, have tremendous ramifications on how our society undergoes its next metamorphasis. In fact, in a way, it may have a tremendous impact on personal choice and self-responsibilities.

Health care is of course a huge economic issue.

Indeed.  The economic make up of our GDP is 16% and will only grow, and grow faster, as the Boomers age and pass into retirement.  Costs will spiral as more advanced technologies come into vogue in keeping the most narcissistic generation ever.

Healthcare has always been rationed – no matter what road America chooses, this will remain constant.  The question is by "how".  We have two diametrically opposing models:

  • Free market capitalism
  • Government control 

Far be it for us to decide which will win out – but let us argue, rant, and rave as if we did. 

Industries in the western world have a capital advantage over us because of either universal or single payer systems. All you have to do is watch what is happening in our auto industry to see how crucial the difference is.

It all depends on how the definitions play out.  As far as individual companies may be concerned, that is probably true enough as our model has the employer paying.  Why?  You touch upon this in your next paragraph, so I will address it there.

Suffice it to say, under the current model, GM has about a $1500 healthcare cost impact on each car – I have read that the Japanese is only $200 / car.  I’m not sure that this can be classified as a capital advantage in the truest definition of capital, but it certainly is a cost advantage.

However, the level of taxation in those countries is much higher in those countries than here in the US.  Thus, one might think that one would cancel out the other.  Unfortunately, our chucklehead political elites, mostly on the Left, have decreed that our corporations should pay the second highest level of taxation worldwide. Thus, not only are they hit with higher healthcare costs, they have an artificially higher level of cost of business as well (my definition here of artificial is that anything that is not related to the cost of material, direct labor, capital equipment, indirect labor, and the like (I would included outsourced services as well) is artificial. 

Taxes are artificial – they are not connected, except by the force of government, to the actual cost of creating and delivering the service or product that a business offers consumer. 

Our hodgepodge system began when I was born shortly after World War two.

You are correct, and it began the initial distortion of the insurance marketplace by government interference.  During WW II, wage freezes were in force, making it harder for the marketplace to compete and attract talented workers.  American ingenuity being what it is, the marketplace figured out a loop hole – offer insurance at a time when consumers normally had to pay their healthcare providers direct.  So, this was the start of the paperwork model and the beginning of the disconnect of the direct consumer-provider link.

Thus, realize this – the start of our current mess was government.  Chaz believes that more government will fix this.  I believe that the removal of governmental interference will be a better solution and let us again gain that direct consumer-provider link.

After all, in the abortion issue, isn’t it the pro-choice folks (again, mostly members of the Left) that scream and yell that government should not come between consumers and their doctors?

All I want is for THAT model (no government) to become universal and not that government becomes universally entrenched.

Employers at that time were able to sustain health care premiums for its steady workers.

 Of course – we were the manufacturers to the world.  Untouched by WW II’s devastation, our factories kept humming right along through the 50’s and 60’s.  The world’s economic model changed little during that time while our productivity went up in comparison to other countries.  That hightened productivity, as it has the last few years, supported the increases in costs and inflation.

We got lucky with respect to history.  That is no longer the case, as globalization and the lowered cost of shifting labor, communications, and information technology has lowered the barrier to entry in many fields.  Too, with the ever increasing rate of change, the introduction of disruptive technologies has thrown previous competitive models to the wind. 

That system became outdated thirty years ago, but we still use it. Lose your job, lose your healthcare. If you don’t work for a major corporation chances are you won’t have ANY healthcare.

Lose your job, lose your healthcare.  Once again, why is this? Two basic reasons:

  • Our healthcare insurance system is not insurance, it is a healthcare payment program.
  • The meddling of government in two fundamentally cost raising (and not cost containment) areas:
    • Constant insertion of mandatory coverages
    • Tax policy inequalities

Let’s consider my first point – a payment plan vs an insurance plan. 

The payment plan is one where we do not know what our health care costs actually cost, and let me give a personal anecdote.  I suffer from two chronic diseases – hypertension and high cholesterol.  Each requires its own medications.  Even though my pharmacy types the retail cost of the drug on the label, I could care less – I am dissociated from the cost as I concentrate, like many, on what my co-pay is.  I do not go and comparison shop, and why should I?  I derive no financial benefit in taking the time to find a lower retail cost (and studies have shown that different pharmacies CAN and DO charge different prices for the same medications in a geographically localized area).

All I care about is whether or not my cost is for a generic or a proprietary medicine.

Contrast that with car insurance – I DO care about the price of gas and I do pay attention to gas prices as I travel around my local area.  In my case, with a Suburban with a 45 gallon tank (yeah, do the math), it pays for me to comparison shop.  It IS in my self-interest to watch prices.

 

On to the second point – governmental interference.

One reason is that government continually mandates that insurance companies cover more and more things.  One simple example is here in NH – the legislature just mandated that children up to the age of 26 can now be covered by their parents’ insurance.  This change was to cover the possibility that a child in college would continue to be covered if they had to drop out due to illness.  Now, the college requirement can be waived.

Now, that can add security to older parents, but what does that do to a young childless couple.  Regardless of their status, they end up paying for coverage that does not pertain to them.  My single son has to pay for that as well.  Add in coverage cost for alcoholism for a someone like me who drinks no alcohol – is that fair?

The simple fact is that these mandates stem from our political chuckleheads pandering to  voters to seemingly offer something for nothing.  As this is the ‘Grok, let me quote from Robert Heinlein, from his book "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress":

TANSTAAFL

There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch 

Somebody has to pay, somewhere, and some amount.  And this becomes truer and truer as government supplies more and more "free" services to its citizens. 

Look, some coverages I can understand – we can all have accidents, we can all get cancer, we can all suffer from many of the same diseases.  But why can I not decide on what coverage I want
and that pertains to my situation?

I cannot, and I have to pay for that privilege of not having choices.  And I have no choices to purchase coverages from states that have lower costs.

Most self-employed people can’t afford it, or if they are paying it their operating costs become so thin that its hard to stay motivated. These are just a few of the problems, but from where most Americans sit, this is a broken antiquated system that needs fundamental change.

Tax inequality.  

Chaz rightly says that many self-employed cannot afford to purchase health insurance.  Very true, but he does not state why – I am.  In addition to the mandated coverage, the other major reason is tax inequality.  Large and mid sized corporations can take this off their taxes as a cost of doing business.  Self-employed cannot.  That huge cost difference is the major reason why health insurance is int he state it is.

So, again, we see again that government inteference in the marketplace has not helped to contain costs but have actually help to raise the cost of insurance and the way it is used and deployed.

…needs fundamental change…"   Yes, a colossal change is needed. And so far, I believe that I have shown that government has been responsible for much of the changes.  Yes, medical technology and pharmacuticals have also contributed to higher costs, certainly what I have shown has validity as to why I point the Fickle Finger of Fate award towards government as the main cost raiser.

I also believe that the American people, through the American government should be able to use the most powerful capitalistic tools available to bring down the cost of health care. In other words I don’t see "buying in bulk to drive down costs" as anything remotely socialistic. I’m happy to go into any of this in detail when the time comes. End of intro.

Look at the knee jerk reaction – let’s have government solve the problem!  This alone, however, does not make Chaz a socialist.

Let’s start with the question of whether I am a socialist. Let’s deal with me personally ( some people think I’m a liar, but I’m not) and then deal with the definition of socialism Personally, I know I’m not a socialist. I love capitalism and think its the engine that drives the western world to great achievements.

The only reason why this may be important is that one’s frame of reference colors the discourse.  While labels often can be wrong with respect to individual topics, they often are helpful in describing someone’s over all outlook in life and how they see, or hope to see, the different entities in society interact. 

I am a conservative – some say just to the left of Attila the Hun.  I believe in free market capitalism and in having the most amount of freedom possible.  There are things that are properly relegated to government; however, I often see things put on the back of government by those with "good ideas" that wish to take the easy road and not work within the capitalistic system and make it happen themselves.  We thus end up with bloated government with all of the attending inefficiencies.  So now you know where I stand. 

Every time I get on one of my motorcycles I marvel at the development, history and engineering that allows me to fire the things up and ride. I admire the people who were the driving forces behind all this. One of my bikes is a Norton a company with a hundred year history of winning races. Norton was originally the dream of one man. My other bike is a BMW. BMW is also a company with a storied history including the darkest days of Germany. It is an industrial giant, and I love their machines. So I’m a capitalst, but I’m a capitalist that believes that every great engine is worthless without a steering system, brakes and a suspension. So in that regard I am NOT a Lassaiz Faire capitalist.

 Without getting ahead of ourselves, I think I see the first twinges of a "managed economy" discussion coming up.  For me?  I believe that consumers, with the knowledgable direction of their precious dollars, make wonderful decisions in the aggregate.  Notice that I used in the aggregate – individual or even small groups of consumers can be "had" or make rash / uninformed decisions that are not in their best interest (oops, I bought too much of a car, too much house, overpaid for this gadget, and the like).  But there is no better mechanism for the conservation of resources or creator of wealth than our free marketplace.

From all of the history I remember (I’m 58) and have read, unfettered capitalism ends up in exploitation–the predators win out.

OK, I’m 8 years behind you.  In some ways, in the same generation and in some, a vast chasm.  I believe that Viet Nam was the defining event during the 60s – and I believe that it has colored our generation’s outlook for the worse.  I also believe that we are the most selfish generation that America has birthed – more rich and more educated than any before us, the Left of our generation threw out all traditions in the name of progress, even those that keep societies on an even keel.

I disagree about the exploitation, especially today.  Part of the problem was the lack of mobility – earlier generations did not move from the locales where they were birthed.  Now, we are the most mobile folks in the world.  Don’t like your situation?  Move.  Think the bosses are jerks?  Move.  Don’t like the products that are offered?  Move (your dollars).

And we can now do that as information is so much more available.  Information means that decisions, if that information is used and used wisely, are made for the better.  

You are only exploitable if you allow yourself to be exploited.  While this was an issue (a real and true issue) for previous generations, it does not have to apply to us now.

That said, Enron happened. Smart people who lost their moral compass did things that they should not have.  They got caught, and government caught them (good!).  And the guilty should get everything that they so richly deserve. 

From the Gilded age to the present day all you have to do is read history. ( I keep asking my libertarian friends to name a country or culture where unfettered capitalism has delivered the kind of society they think we are missing out on, but I am yet to hear of a concrete example. Not one, unless we want to examine Milton Friedman, the Chicago School and Agusto Pinochet. Certainly no one brings that up. So I’ll rely on history as these debates develop.

I will ask that you expound on this point, as I haven’t the foggiest what specific examples in your mind are driving this paragraph, nor your point (other than I have a sneaking suspicion that you are leading up to having Government leading / managing our economy). 

Now for definitions. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines socialism: Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) – Cite This Source – Share This so·cial·ism /?so??
???l?z?m/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[soh-shuh-liz-uhm] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation –noun

  1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

  2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.

  3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

Here’s the one that I used here from Wikipedia along with my discussion of it:

Just for the record, a socialist can be defined as:

social democrats have proposed selective nationalization of key industries within the framework of mixed economies.

If he [Chaz, that is -Skip] is advocating for Universal Healthcare, then according to definitions, universal healthcare is a socialistic policy.  After all, even if government may not technically own the means of "production", if it controls the decision making of how the "means of production" will be used, regulated, rationed, and funded, isn’t that the same thing?.  If that isn’t a grand example of a socialistic policy?

There are things that government should be responsible for its citizens in the aggregate.  Defending the country is one, and since the government controls all aspects of its use of the military in carrying out its primary duty, I have no problem in saying that this could be viewed as socialistic (the problem comes up when a Monarchy controls the military in a kingdom –  the King (being the government) controls that, but one would be hard pressed to define that as socialistic).
   

I don’t think you can make the case that universal healthcare, especially Hillary Clinton’s or John Edward’s plans are socialistic without broadening the definition.

Sure I can.  Effective control of an industry by government can be viewed as socialistic, especially when one’s frame of reference normally precludes that industry from the purviews of government.  I have no problem with government controlling the military. Or taxation, or the court system, or a bunch of other things.  

Healthcare is not an individual right but a responsibility.  In this area, the move to have government completely take over control for healthcare fulfills the above definitions. When John  Edwards comes out and says that one HAS to see a doctor, that is government dictating behavior – anathema to me!  Tell me that this aspect of what this Democratic Prez wannabe isn’t socialist (actually, I believe it is more dictatorial myself). If I am told to go, and I do not, there will be penalties that government will assess.

I notice that Doug printed his own definition, but that is so broad that everyone who votes Democrat becomes a pinko. (sorry Doug; had to take a shot a it. we can look at that too later.)

Hah!  Taking on both of us at the same time may be a full time job! 

So sticking with the definition above and Wikipedia neither of the plans being discusses are socialist because neither invest the control of the "means of production".

The above statement is wrong – even if it does not own the actual means of production, Universal Healthcare invests ALL control into the hands of the State. And if you control something absolutely and can tell those that own the things that you are controlling what can be done with those things, you effectively own it. 

Now, while that control is not complete at the beginning, government control is always that bad penny of project management – scope creep.  In this area, I can easily see that the current level of control, along the present and future time line, will never be enough for those "managing" my healthcare.

And looking at Canada and Britain, for two examples, we can easily see where a totally government run system fails. After all, look at that case in Britain where the guy with broken bones in his ankle has been told that he has to stop smoking before they agree to surgery.

Remember, healthcare will always be rationed as there is a cost to providing it.  With our system, the marketplace will end up with a reasonable cost based on competition and knowledge of pricing. 

One great example, even in the healthcare industry is Lasik eye surgery.   Outside of government distortion and outside of  most insurance  programs, the cost has plummeted, competition is rampant, and the quality and ability to handle  "harder" cases has gone up.

Both plans will also leave private insurers intact.

Not so fast, Kimosabe!   Hillary’s plan will compete against private insurers, and will effectively drive them out of business.  Sure, her plan will leave them alone – and will cause the private marketplace to wither and die, and the government plans will under sell them.  Just for Hillary’s plan forces private insurers to a bad competitive spot right off the bat.:

This plan will eventually put private health care insurance companies out of business:

  • They cannot discriminate against anyone for any condition.  Why bother paying for insurance until you get sick?
  • Forcing private companies to compete against the Government that will undercut their prices.
  • Giving the impression that private endeavors are ripoff artists ("excessive pemiums" and "fair" drug prices are not fair).
  • Will be highly regulating insurance and drug company revenues, profits, and free speech – "not excessive profits and marketing".

Intact?  Changing the entire business model is not leaving things "intact". 

I wish more people would read these plans so I didn’t have to continue repeating that fact. In both plans you keep your doctor and go to the same hospital. essentially the government plan would compete with private plans. This competition is why I argue that the people, through government, should be able to chose. So.by definition I am not a socialist.

That’s your problem – I DID read it – right from her website.  And given my advancing years, extrapolated a tad given what I have seen happen with "government creep".  When the competition is rigged such that logical people will vote their pocketbooks based on a playing field where private insurers are not able to compete one on one with government plans, they will abandon their private insurance.

The outcome will then be that o
nly government plans will exist, thus ensuring that only government will prevail.  A socialist system. 

And as for the second step towards communism. You’ll just have to trust me when I say once more that I am a capitalist who believes controls are necessary, as opposed to a capitalist who sees creeping socialism as a stepping stone to communism.

Elaborate please – who gets to create and manage the controls?  Define what are needed and unwanted levels of controls and regulation?

See, that IS the underlying question – how much is too much and how much is too little? 

In my view communism was one of the biggest disasters of the twentieth century. I agree, actually that many European Countries are too far along that path. Actually, let me adjust that.

Agree with the first statement.  Second – if you believe that they are too far along, then you will agree with me that their decision to let government take over and manage / control more and more what should have stayed in the private marketplace was the first step along that path!

Otherwise, how did they get into the messes they are in? 

Some things that work in Europe would never work here.

Like what, and why? 

But what is undeniable is that we lag behind most industrialized country in providing high quality health care to all our citizens.

Prove it.  Prove that overall care is higher elsewhere than here.  And please do not cite studies whose mechanism relies on "universal healthcare / access" as one of the criteria.  Let’s stick to actual healthcare outcomes.

And let me add, let’s subtract out those studies / numbers (or, at least account for them) of illegal immigrants that distort outcomes. 

So I think that’s enough from me right now.

Naw, more speech is better than less speech. 

Let me sum up:

  1. Personally I don’t think of myself as a socialist.

    1. By definition, I am not a socialist and universal healthcare is not a socialist system

    2. What’s in a word anyway? Well in this case I think that the word socialist is simply a scare tactic.

Overall, maybe not.  Advocating for UH in this specific field, I still say yes….we will continue to debate.  I still believe that UH is a socialist system – even in Britain and Canada where they have this they call it socialist, even in those democratic states.  You have failed to convince me that it is otherwise, as it will be government that will control it.

No, not a scare tactic, and words DO have meanings.  It is the failure to establish strict definitions of those words that cause problems.  Tossing it off as "what’s in a word" is sloppy and intellectually dishonet (i.e., I cannot defend it, so let’s get it off the table – quickly!).