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It's the Economy, Stupid!

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Seoulair
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since 03-27-2008
Posts 776
Seoul S.Korea


25 posted 04-27-2008 01:26 PM       View Profile for Seoulair   Email Seoulair   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Seoulair

Which system do you want?
High tax--broad covering social benefit
or low tax(there is limitation because the government isn't shrinking)--we pay everything
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Income_Taxes_By_Country.svg
Bob K
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since 11-03-2007
Posts 3860


26 posted 04-27-2008 04:14 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

Dear Balladeer,

           Not currently practicing, but trained as a social worker.

     Worked also as a drug and alcohol counselor, and inpatient aide with alcoholics and with retarded men, and as a teacher and a group therapist in an alternative school.  And other things.  I've worked in large state hospitals where care was very difficult and did, as I said, a year of training at a V.A. near Boston—Brockton, if you know it.  1992-93.  I miss doing psychotherapy with people a great deal, and I keep thinking of getting my shop ticket out here in California.

     But, as Nietzsche said, When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.

     The Vietnam vets with PTSD and related problems frequently, at least when I worked in Brockton, chose to be serviced at a site off the grounds because of the way they had historically been treated not simply at Brockton but throughout the system.  I point out to you again that this was during the Clinton Presidency because I want to be clear that I'm not trying to take the democrats off the hook for this.  I'm not.  But much of the problem did start earlier.  I don't want to start a blame-fest here by trying to pinpoint for this system exactly when, and since I'm trying to stay focused, I'll not talk about other systems.

     The nurses, social workers, aides, everybody were absolutely dedicated to working for the vets.  I mentioned the training of the doctors—first-rate in psychopharmacology, and virtually nonexistent (to my eyes) in psychotherapy.  There were even then problems with the physical plant and the computers were antique, so getting information or transmitting information was difficult and slow, and not all agencies were on the same system, which made conversations about records impossible.  Imagine of the records for your operation and the treatment following it and the test results couldn't be transmitted so the next time you went in for care at a different facility your new doctor might have to run the same tests all over again.  This might be painful, it could be awkward, and it would be expensive.

     This is from memory now, but I believe it's fairly close.

     I don't know what the funding was like through the rest of the Clinton administration.  If memory serves (and I do have this in one of the articles I cited above for the R & D budget of the V.A. 1990-2007, I believe) the funding has stayed about the same.  It looks like it took a jump in 1997 because salaries were added in to the budget where they had been budgeted as a separate item before.  There was something of an uptick and then a downturn in the current administration, and it looks like the funding is at the 1997 levels.

     Subtract inflation, Balladeer, and what have you got, especially with the new demands being placed on the system by the war in Iraq?

     The new cases coming in, not to mention the psych casualties, are different than in past wars because the body armor is better.  This means that the wounds that people survive are more serious and will require more long term care, more V.A. beds, personnel, more money more physical plant.  The current government of non-Republicans is continuing the level funding—in essence, a cut in funding for V.A. services at a time when a serious increase is needed.  Somebody's got be responsible for letting the American people know it's time to pay the bill here.  It's not going to be these guys, at least not while they're in office.

     About the tax cut stuff.  Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama were foolish not to confront this piece of silly economics.  Or maybe their silence was on some political grounds I don't follow.  I'm not a terribly politically savvy fellow.  I did supply the reference materials for you to check out for yourself if you choose, including some pretty decent Republican and Conservative sources.  I'm not saying that some people don't make a case for Tax cuts helping, I'm saying that they're an outnumbered bunch and there's a good reason for that.

     And listen, both of us want the best for the country, Balladeer.  It never crosses my mind that you don't.  And a fine Sunday to you and yours as well.

Best to you from LA, Yours, BobK.

[This message has been edited by Bob K (04-27-2008 09:03 PM).]

Bob K
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27 posted 04-27-2008 10:50 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Ron,

           Perhaps I did miss your point.  It's difficult to say.  Folks realized around the turn of the last century, 19th to 20th, that left unchecked pure capitalism did some fairly nasty things.  Teddy Roosevelt noticed that they tended to form monopolies and stifle competition.  Workers were prevented from selling the labor to other employers through what occasionally became a form of debt bondage.  The song lyric:"I owe my soul to the company store" was in some cases literally true.  Attempts to organize and demand decent pay were often met with violence and murder.  I'm sure you know this stuff already.

     The fact that "that's Capitalism" never made murder legal.  The upheaval in this country by the time the Great Depression rolled around made some sort of left wing reforms a necessity to head off some serious social upheaval here.  Until recently the various people whose profits you descry were either on salary or were forced to bid for contracts for supplying the V.A, its various needs.
Mostly the V.A. got a pretty good deal.

     If you want to see the difference between greed and decent government oversight, it might be instructive to check out a list of the cost of drugs—if either of us can find such a thing—to the V.A. which has for years gotten very good prices from drug companies (They howl about how good the prices are.) and the prices the congress saddled the country with for drugs for the elderly last year.

     That law was mostly written by the drug companies, and they feel the law is a very good law indeed.  The elders feel they should go to Canada.

     With the first, the sale to the V.A., the drug companies didn't refuse to make the sales.  If they'd been losing money or even not making a decent profit, don't you think they'd have done so?

     The medical device makes have the same situation on their hands.  They make up in volume what they lose in price per unit sales.  And that, Ron, to borrow a phrase, is Capitalism too.  Ask Wal-Mart.  They've done fairly well using something like that as a business model.

You quote me, accurately as saying,
quote:


The Republicans have been systematically selling off pieces of the government, not funding them to the point of collapse, and deregulating them with fairly predictable results.




     And respond by saying,"that's more Capitalism, Bob."  

     Exactly how this is Capitalism is beyond me.  Those resources were and are under their stewardship.  They do not own them.  They are responsible for their upkeep or for an explanation of why they have not kept up these assets.  These are called Quarterly Reports and Stockholder Reports and the like in the business model.  Failure to file them and failure for them to be accurate is usually called fraud, not Capitalism.

     The government is not a sole proprietorship.  It has stockholders; and they are called citizens, and the government is responsible for its behavior to the citizens.
This government is not doing so.  It is not even good Capitalism, which has a dignity, a majesty and a logic of its own.  You see little or nothing of that here. Capitalism is not a form of government, and should not be confused with one.  You would be quick to tell me, I believe, that Capitalism is an economic system, and hopefully one that is most compatible with a democracy. An economic system none the less.

     Republicans were elected to govern the country, not to buy and sell it.  I saw nobody run on that platform.  I do not believe they would have been elected if they had.  Perhaps I am being overly naive, though.


You quote me, accurately, as saying:
quote:


The deregulation of Savings and Loans lead to one of the biggest fiscal crunches in the history of the country. The deregulation of the banking industry has lead us to the sub-prime mortgage crunch. The deregulation of the credit card companies and the bankruptcy laws is hanging over us now like a bad dream.



Now it's your turn:

quote:


Do you believe, Bob, that government should fix all prices or just some of them? What role should a free market system play?




     Actually, I've never figured that out.  Considering that nobody else has either and that we are all simply speculating, I don't feel too bad about it.  I think this is absolutely fertile ground for exploration and mistakes, and we should try some exploration and make some mistakes.  

     We've tried fuel futures speculation with Enron.  Somebody would have to work pretty hard to convince me that we ought to try that again.  That would probably be in the list of mistakes we'd want to say no to.  From my point of view.

     Deregulating the Savings and Loans as we tried in the 80's and early 90's.  I'd have to find somebody who was really really good to talk me into abandoning customer protections on that one.

     Lest I let it skip me mind, what we call "Customer Protections" will frequently work just as well as business protections as too.  Not doing heavy lending on margin not only keeps the customer from getting over-extended, but keeps your brokerage firm from going under if you have to call all those margins in in a down market.

quote:


Ironically, Bob, this is precisely the kind of attitude I was trying to highlight. Deregulation of credit isn't the problem here. Unwise credit choices are. Maybe it's time to start putting the responsibility where it belongs?




     Not that easy, Ron; and I wish it was.

     What you're saying is that People who don't have the sense to know they can't afford a mortgage, shouldn't apply for one in the first place.

     Isn't there something that strikes you as a little bit strange about the assumptions behind that statement?

     I mean, well, yes, but every lender in the business knew that when they went looking for that market in the first place, didn't they.  And pretty much none of the borrowers did.  And pretty much weren't able to get it through their skulls, right?  That's why they were being given rates that were so darn high that there were a lot of forclosures even before the market turned bad. The lenders couldn't care less at that point, could they?
So exactly who made the bad credit choices here?  The people who weren't able to figure how badly they were being treated or the people who were willing to pull every last penny out every unknowing sucker they could get their hands on?  Didn't the loaners know they were doing something incredible stupid and risky too?  They were not only doing something stupid and risky, but they thought they were getting one up on somebody else in the process, didn't they?

     Obviously we out to help out the con men.  Getting caught could happen to anybody.

     I must say this has been an interesting chance to respond, Ron.  My dad ran a wholesale business for a while in Ohio, and ended up teaching marketing and economics.  I have a great appreciation for the elegance of the field, though a very dated understanding of it.  I'm sorry if I wandered too far afield, but I tried to keep to the point.  A great pleasure.  Thanks. BobK.

Balladeer
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28 posted 04-27-2008 11:22 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Yes, Bob, it was the lender's fault and it was also the the borrower's fault. That's why we have a buyers beware slogan. There will always be people operating three card monte and always suckers willing to play it. Obviously the borrowers didn't pay any attention to one of the major rules of buying - if it sounds to good to be true, it is. It is both of their faults but I see nowhere that it's the government's fault, although many would love to ljay it at Bush's feet, just out of habit. I disagree completely that the government should bale the lenders out.

As far as the VA, it  is more understandable now that you are speaking of your experiences of 16 years ago. Computers were nowhere near what they are now and I can assure you there is no communication difficulty like the one you described now. I go to several VA's and my files are available to all of them instantaneously, even when I go to my place in North Carolina and use the VA there. Describing events of almost two decades ago while stating the VA is a wreck could lack in accuracy just a little bit, perhaps. Just guessing....

Bob K
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since 11-03-2007
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29 posted 04-28-2008 04:11 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Balladeer,

          You focused in on my personal experience, which was touching, truly.  

     You compare it with your personal experience, which I believe implicitly.

     You miss my point however about the funding of the system, the needs of the new people coming into the system being different than those of previous wars and requiring more long term care, and the failure of the system to supply it.

     Let's leave politics aside for a moment,  Don't even think about them.  Go talks to some of the guys at the D.A.V. and ask them how they think the system is working now and how it looks like the system is adapting to the future needs that seem to be coming.  Ask them how they think the system is currently coping with head trauma and paralysis and the long term rehabilitation that these brave guys are going to need.  Don't ask it in terms of Democrat and Republican—both of us know that these things change from year to year and from election cycle to election cycle.  Ask them in terms of vets who are looking out for other vets what they think.

     For that matter, go to the V.F.W..  Don't ask them about politics.  Both of us know what kinds of responses you'll get there.  If it's for the country, then I'm for it, and don't you forget it!  

     They've earned the right.

     Instead ask them what they think about what kind of a shake they think the wounded vets are getting now, and what do they think of the stop loss programs, and what do they think of the way the V.A. is being funded.  I wish I could be there with you to have a beer and listen and ask a few questions myself.

     I'm very glad, by the way, that the computers have been updated.  I didn't think the computers they were working with now were the same ones they were working with then.  I don't want to know what operating system they're working with, I imagine that's a security question anyway, but I have a nagging curiosity about how modern it may be.  If you know, keep it to yourself, please.

     As for the mortgage crunch, a few years back I probably would have agreed with you about it not being the government's fault.  Now I don't.  A few years ago the mortgage industry was more regulated than it is today and there were safeguards in place against exactly this sort of thing in much the same way that there had been safeguards in place against problems like the savings and loan crisis that had been trashed in the Reagan era in preparation for the S&L affair.

     If this case, the impetus was, I believe from President Clinton, who sponsored the legislation that deregulated the mortgage industry.  If anybody has better or more exact information, please let me know; this is the way that I remember it and the way some recent looking at old papers seems to push my memory.  All corrections accepted, sometimes with small growls, but generally happily.  This is actually one of those situations where I think you can actually say Clinton did it.  I think he did.

     Heaven knows why; perhaps because he's a "new democrat," whatever those are.

     There were protections in place, now there aren't.

     I agree that the buyer does need to beware and that if it seems to good to be true it probably is, but there are laws against things like fraud and some of this stuff looks pretty odd.  The government used to have this responsibility and take it seriously.  About many areas the government makes sure that practices are safe and fair either through its own efforts, such as the FDA, or through pressure on business groups severe enough that they make certain that they are extremely serious about self policing, the SEC, for example.

     In this case the foxes are running the hen house and their hunger has made them so greedy for blood that the whole hen business is threatening to die off.  Buyer beware is very good advice for individuals, I think, but when it's used as a policy statement it's foolish.  If a whole class of individuals has been seriously damaged by another, it's not I as an individual buyer should beware of you, and individual seller; instead it is we, our particular kind of people, have been victimized by you, another class of people with the tacit approval of the government as a whole.

     That isn't caveat emptor, that's a violation of the equal protections clause of the constitution and it is very much the business of the government to prevent that because that, Balladeer, breaks the social contract.  It is a declaration of war by one class on another.  If the class that's doing the profiting doesn't know that, I can make an excellent guess that the people whose money is being taken away from them has at least some idea.

     The government has some responsibilities.  The constitution talks about many of them.  My feeling about the constitution is that it was designed to be a deeply upsetting document.  If you read it and take it seriously there are bound to be places, perhaps many of them, that any given person will start to turn red and say, "You can't be SERious.  You must be out of your minds!"

     They probably were.  Overall it's probably best that way, because if it was deeply gratifying to me in all its parts I doubt that it would leave room for everybody else, and the same for any other particular person. The principles that seem firmest are pretty basic, and this one may be part of it.

     I think of it as an extention of traffic laws.  They may not be universally loved, but they're generally a good idea.
One of those would probably be, You don't have the right to blame somebody who can't make a good judgement about accepting an inappropriate loan for not having the sense to turn down the loan.  It's sort of a tautology from the beginning.  From the start you know and he doesn't.  The odds are you will always know and he never will until the roof falls in on him, and he will still be puzzled then.  You know he will still be puzzled then; in fact you knew it when you made him the loan.  That's why you charged him twice or three times what everybody else had to pay, right?  So if you know he doesn't have the sense to be wary of you in the first place, why do you suddenly think you have the right to it now.

     Well, before if you knew it, you could make a profit out of the man by cheating him; and now, after cheating him, you can feel great about yourself by pretending you had nothing to do with wrecking the man's dreams.

     Overall, I'd say, you come out of the justification sweepstakes about as well as you do out of the fiscal sweepstakes.  The "You" in this case, Balladeer, is not the balladeer I am so fond of, it's a hypothetical construct.

     Thanks, by the way, for your kind response to the previous posting.  Once again I am always impressed by how deeply you care for the people involved in this stuff.
I'm convinced the fight is really not so much about Democrat and Republican as it is about how do we care for those people and institutions in our country and the world that need to be preserved, nurtured and conserved.
And be helped into the future in a healthy way.

     Best from L.A., BobK.
nakdthoughts
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Between the Lines


30 posted 04-28-2008 06:31 AM       View Profile for nakdthoughts   Email nakdthoughts   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for nakdthoughts

"You miss my point however about the funding of the system, the needs of the new people coming into the system being different than those of previous wars and requiring more long term care, and the failure of the system to supply it."

Just adding my one and a half cents having to take my husband, a Viet Nam war vet to a VA hopital and  clinics over the past 4 months even though it wasn't for a war wound (due to a car accident)...  not  having health insurance from where he worked for the last 8 years and not being able to afford any.

This one is in Lebanon, Pa. And even though I have to drive  over 60 miles to take him there it is the most organized, well taken care of (cleaner than the emergency room in a public hospital he was taken to after the accident) where every  care is given to make sure the vets are comfortable, no matter the reason they are there. It is a huge complex looking like a university (over 18 buildings). Every worker whether paid or volunteered greets you as you pass them by and I was amazed by it all.
And as Mike said, the computer systems today keep everything up to date. You get phone calls for appointments and mailed explanations. He got a phone call the day after a colonoscopy by the surgeon to ask how he was.
I talked to many patients young and old in the waiting rooms with never a negative response to having been in the recent wars or in past service.

I just felt I had to defend at least the VA in PA which seems to  have  enough funding to make me want to drive an hour and a half each way for the care and attention given by them.

Maureen
Bob K
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31 posted 04-28-2008 09:00 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


Dear Maureen,

           And so you should.  It sounds like a wonderful place and like we're very lucky to have it.  I hope they are all like that!  I appreciate you writing to say so.  The people had wonderful spirit where I was as well, and the service was dedicated.  Money wasn't going into upkeep or the physical plant in the way it ought to have.

     Many of the wounds suffered today would have been fatal, even in Vietnam though.  The sort of services you're talking about here are acute care services, which may be expensive, but which are generally fewer.  It's to the hospital's advantage—any hospital, not only a V.A. Hospital—to get these patients in, do the work it needs to do on them and get them our quickly.  Cost is one of the major reasons for this.  Long term hospital care is an incredible drain on any system, and these days, even more of a drain than usual because the sort of long term care called for is highly specialized.

     This means the personnel to administer the care is more expensive and the patient bed is more expensive on a daily basis and the money is pretty much being held at a level funding state.
Level funding means we're spending about the same bucks now as in 1997, after a brief upturn.  If you factor in inflation. . . well, is your money worth the same as it was ten years ago?

     The other reason why hospitals in general want shorter hospital stays is that hospitals are really not very healthy places to be, especially if you're sick to start off with.  Patients are very vulnerable to infections that they catch in hospitals.

     So let me summarize, V.A. hospitals are doing a very good job with what they have available to them.  They don't have enough available to them to meet the incoming soldiers from Iraq, many of whom are going to need long term rehab or plain long term care not only for the types of wounds suffered in Vietnam but for wounds more serious on the whole than those suffered in Vietnam, including traumatic brain injuries which would have killed somebody in Vietnam.  

     It's totally unfair for me to expect you or Balladeer to contact The D.A.V. or other organizations about this, so maybe I can do some of that research on the web.  The idea is to preserve and solidify the services and capabilities of the V.A. and help they do the job better.  You don't need to defend these folks to me, although those who fund it the way they do could probably use your help.  Maybe I'll write a scathing poem at them or something.  Best to you, Maureen, and the guy who's lucky enough to be married to you.  

BobK

[This message has been edited by Bob K (04-28-2008 10:03 AM).]

Ron
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32 posted 04-28-2008 10:50 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
I'm sure you know this stuff already.

I do, Bob. And as other threads in this forum will attest, I'm not an advocate of Laissez-Faire Capitalism. That's a far cry, however, from saying no one should ever make a profit.

quote:
And respond by saying, "that's more Capitalism, Bob." Exactly how this is Capitalism is beyond me. ... The government is not a sole proprietorship.  It has stockholders; and they are called citizens, and the government is responsible for its behavior to the citizens.

Good analogy, Bob. You saved me the trouble and likely did so much more succinctly.  

And that's exactly why selling off pieces of government, not funding them to the point of collapse, and deregulation are perfectly acceptable government practices. If we don't need it any more, let's get rid of it. Let's actually respond to a changing marketplace, just as well run businesses have to do.

For the sake of example, let's talk specifics for a second. You mentioned, in an earlier post, something about closing government bases. We've had quite a few such closures in Michigan, and a lot of controversy due to the very real economic pain it has brought to host cities. I understand, really I do. But let's be realistic, too. You and I grew up with bomb shelters, the Bay of Pigs, and crawling under our desks at school to hide from theoretical nuclear explosions. Our military structure reflected that era, too, but that era is no more. The Cold War is over. We won, by the way. And to a very large extent we won because Reagan spent more money on defense than they could. He ran the Soviet Union into bankruptcy.

At what point do we stop spending like we still expect the Soviet army to come crawling over the horizon? Personally, I think we should avoid following our former enemy into bankruptcy.

quote:
As for the mortgage crunch, a few years back I probably would have agreed with you about it not being the government's fault. Now I don't. A few years ago the mortgage industry was more regulated than it is today and there were safeguards in place against exactly this sort of thing in much the same way that there had been safeguards in place against problems like the savings and loan crisis that had been trashed in the Reagan era in preparation for the S&L affair.

I bought a new car two years ago, Bob, and since my last new car was in 1990, I faced a very serious case of sticker shock. Wow. A lot of the increase, of course, was simple inflation, but a surprisingly lot of it was paying for those safeguards you mentioned above. Emission controls, air bags, crash-proof (sic) bumpers, the list just went on and on. A lot of those safeguards, I'm sure, were very good things. Every single one of them, good or not, cost me money.

I agree the government needs to regulate free enterprise. We shouldn't, however, ever forget that regulation never ever comes without cost, a cost that inevitably is passed on to the consumer. We need government regulation, but we should never tolerate one iota more regulation that we absolutely need. Therein, of course, lies a whole lot of room for debate.

In my opinion, the role of government is to protect me from others. I will never agree to a government that wants to protect me from me. God gave me my free will, including the right to make mistakes, and I don't intend to ever relinquish that to Man. I don't think you should either.

If you truly want to protect me from my own mistakes, Bob, then by all means, help educate me to make better choices. But don't take those choices away from me. You don't have that right.

Government regulation should always be looked at very, very carefully. Is it absolutely necessary and worth the inevitable cost? Does it protect me from others, instead of me from me? And, yea, we need to look at deregulation just as closely, I think. Typically, you can't jump back into a free market process without repercussions. There's a bit of spring-back, I think, largely because of earlier interference with the system. It, too, has to be controlled. That doesn't, however, mean that deregulation should be avoided. We need to be willing to correct our earlier mistakes (and a lot of government regulation was a mistake), and we also need to be able to respond to changes in our ever changing world.

I don't believe in Laissez Faire Capitalism, Bob. But when I have to flip a coin, I'm probably going to side with the wisdom of a free market rather than some guy in a suit trying to justify the pay check he's going to draw next Friday.


Bob K
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33 posted 04-28-2008 12:53 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


Dear Maureen and Balladeer,

              Here are some of the references I suggested from the GAO and the DAV and even one from a dastardly left wing publication, so labled, so you might think about looking at it beforehand.  It has plusses and minuses, but it’s pretty good within the limits I describe.

http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-08-61R


The VA IG Office of Audit told GAO that the issues that led to the same or similar recommendations being made at many facilities may be evidence of recurring and systemic issues throughout VA, and is therefore changing the way it conducts reviews to take a more agencywide approach to these issues.G.A.O. believes possible agency wide problems

http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07589thigh.pdf

Problems sharing data between DoD and The VA

http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d06494high.pdf

The above is military debt collection for war wounded soldiers unable to pay

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06430r.pdf

The above 2006 GAO budget report on the VA is a masterpiece of understatement and misstatement.  If you read it carefully, it turns out that the government has steadily undercalculated the number of long term beds it will need—VA nursing home beds—and has tried to recover from this by demanding that the number of such beds be cut from roughly 12,000 to roughly 8,000.  Exactly where these impoverished vets were supposed to go, I don’t know.  You have to read closely, but there’s more like that here.

http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d05429high.pdf

Above we see that the VA has been mandated since 1999 to do a study to see how it should arrange its medical coverage for the veterans it serves.  As of 2005 it had not done so but was instead thinking about selling off the medical rights to for-profit medical groups such as, I would guess, H.M.O.s, whose costs go up regularly and whose administrators seem to bloat like ticks.  This generally means increased rationing of services and so on.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_larry_sc_060102_veterans_with_ptsd_f.htm

The above article is about the politics of PTSD, and the campaign to get it thrown out as a diagnoses for soldiers.  There was a high rate of PTSD in Vietnam among combat troops, and the tour of duty there were commonly for a year.  In Iraq tours of duty are extended and some troops have had their tour extended involuntarily more than once.  This is going to be a PTSD bonanza; and it is very expensive to treat.  No wonder the administration is pretending it isn’t there.

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat?bid=1&pid=35900

The above article is from a frankly left wing publication.  I think the article itself is very decent but some of the blurbsbelow I find offensive.  I do not enjoy neo-conservative politics, but I think the kind of diminishment that was permitted here demeans everybody and provokes everybody’s rage.  You may wish to avoid it; it is  as difficult as many of the right wing snarls and jiibes that I  upset me as well., and I would not have posted the link were it not for the article itself.

     I have probably taken up too much of your time already with this stuff.  

     Thank you for bearing with me.  I’ve tried to give some references from the G.A.O. here and the DAV.  I didn’t think either Maureen or Balladeer should need to dig them out, simply because I suggested they had things to say that might contribute.  So I did it.

     My best to everybody, BobK.
Bob K
Member Elite
since 11-03-2007
Posts 3860


34 posted 04-29-2008 04:52 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Ron,

          I can see you know the material well, and probably better than I do.  I say that I'm sure that you know it, and I review bits of it to make sure we're taking from roughly the same vantage point about the same materials.  A lot of time can be wasted by not getting that clear in advance. I wanted to avoid that since I've made that mistake all too often in my time.  


quote:

     I'm not an advocate of Laissez-Faire Capitalism. That's a far cry, however, from saying no one should ever make a profit.

[/quote]

     I follow you so far.

quote:

Bob here addresses Ron:

And respond by saying, "that's more Capitalism, Bob." Exactly how this is Capitalism is beyond me. ... The government is not a sole proprietorship.  It has stockholders; and they are called citizens, and the government is responsible for its behavior to the citizens.


And Ron replies,

Good analogy, Bob. You saved me the trouble and likely did so much more succinctly.

[/quote]

     Thank you very much, a kind thing to say and I appreciate it.  

quote:


Ron, then continues:

And that's exactly why selling off pieces of government, not funding them to the point of collapse, and deregulation are perfectly acceptable government practices. If we don't need it any more, let's get rid of it. Let's actually respond to a changing marketplace, just as well run businesses have to do.




     Here we may be talking at cross purposes.  A business has a responsibility of making a profit for the stockholders at on a regular basis.  It may have a statement of business ethics to which it subscribes, but its loyalty is to making money.

     Making money is a wonderful thing, by the way; it is a goal for an economic system and for many of the participants within that system.  All of them need enough money to survive, certainly.  That is part of the economic system  to which the members of the country on the whole subscribe to.  It will certainly affect much the government does, but the economic system is not the government itself.  The two are distinct.

     The government of the United States is not here to make a profit.  There are areas within the government that will likely never make a profit that the government must help with, even though money is lost regularly in doing so.  Maintaining highways has always been and probably will always be, at least on the face of it, a money losing proposition.  The initial superhighway bills had to be pushed through as defense projects, in case we had to move troops in the event of a Soviet invasion.  Otherwise there wouldn't have been the votes for it.  

     Most of the other western countries have realized that if you want to have decent and affordable commerce over long distances within the country and, as an extra, have a reasonably priced long distance passenger service, you must put government money into railroads.  It helps the economy in the long run.  In the U.S. we've been kicking ourself for 50 years about the failure of the railroads to make a profit.  The railroads were originally massively subsidized by the government with enormous land grants.  People have convenient memories about such things.

     The government isn't in business to make money, it's in the business to protect the rights of its citizens and to protect its borders.  There are enemies both foreign and domestic.

     The interests and the safety of the citizens are of interest to the government.  If single large sections of the population can get together and exploit the interests of other large segments of the population, that threatens the stability of the country. If the same mistakes are permitted to happen over and over, it undermines the legitimacy of of the government itself.  It is bad for the country and it is bad for the economy.

     Selling off, say, military bases, which may be replaced if need arrises is one thing.  The difficulty in doing so should not be underestimated, by the way; but it seems a defensible thing to do.  Selling off natural resources that cannot be replaced and which have specifically been put into the fiduciary trust of the government to prevent their exploitation is, I believe something else indeed.  A government that does that does not seem to be living up to the trust that was placed in it, and is substituting the interests of the Economic system—Capitalism—over the interests of the political system—Democracy.

     That is an ugly thing to my mind.  Understandable, but no more beautiful for that.


quote:

Ron says, in reference to the former USSR:

Personally, I think we should avoid following our former enemy into bankruptcy.




     I agree with you.  I'm not sure, personally, to what extent the former Soviet Union was outspent by Reagan and to what extent it had been bled by 50 years of massive spending in a country with a remarkably fragile agricultural base.  Their agricultural crop areas are set up so that a bad storm can wipe out a whole crop of a particular staple, for example:  weather and agricultural areas are parallel.  Ours are at right angles, so our agricultural base is sturdier.  World War Two may have killed up to 25 million Soviets, and ruined the farms and factories in the invaded areas.  We had a terrible war, but were not that badly hurt in comparison.  And so on.

     Mostly, the Soviets wrecked their armed forces in a stupid war in the middle east.  Apparently we felt they set a great example, and we're rushing to do the same thing when more diplomatic means might at this stage be as effective or more effective.

quote:

Ron quotes me here:

As for the mortgage crunch, a few years back I probably would have agreed with you about it not being the government's fault. Now I don't. A few years ago the mortgage industry was more regulated than it is today and there were safeguards in place against exactly this sort of thing in much the same way that there had been safeguards in place against problems like the savings and loan crisis that had been trashed in the Reagan era in preparation for the S&L affair.

[/quote]

Ron's response seems to me to be to the point here:

quote:


I agree the government needs to regulate free enterprise. We shouldn't, however, ever forget that regulation never ever comes without cost, a cost that inevitably is passed on to the consumer. We need government regulation, but we should never tolerate one iota more regulation that we absolutely need. Therein, of course, lies a whole lot of room for debate.

In my opinion, the role of government is to protect me from others. I will never agree to a government that wants to protect me from me. God gave me my free will, including the right to make mistakes, and I don't intend to ever relinquish that to Man. I don't think you should either.

If you truly want to protect me from my own mistakes, Bob, then by all means, help educate me to make better choices. But don't take those choices away from me. You don't have that right.




     Of course.  Except that there are places where there may be legitimate government interest.  If you don't choose to wear seat belts, for example, in an accident you may lose additional control over your car.  Nobody's stronger than centripetal force in an accident, no matter how wonderful you are.  Aside from yourself, your chances of hurting somebody else go up.  The odds of your being able to pay for that go down and the bill goes to...whom?  They have a stake.  Forcing drivers to carry insurance before they can have a license, same thing.  Sin taxes?  Who pays most of the bills for end of life care for drinkers and smokers?  If that's your career choice, I'm sorry but all the paying jobs at the top making the things were already taken.

     I'm not certain that these are the sorts of things you mean, but people often use them as examples for the position, it only hurts me sort of discussion.  They don't stop to think that "only me" is a part of a demographic that has an impact on the society as well.  Perhaps you're thinking about other stuff.

     I think about intrusions into our civil rights, which seriously get me steamed, and where government may get too aggressive.  It's not that you're talking a foreign language to me here.

quote:


Government regulation should always be looked at very, very carefully. Is it absolutely necessary and worth the inevitable cost? Does it protect me from others, instead of me from me?




     I would add, were I writing the above few sentences about myself, Does it protect others from me?

     I believe I'm harmless, but I also know how easily I can overlook the fallout of things I say and do, and I have some idea about how easily other people can get hurt by things I have no intention of being painful.  Yet, there they are. ( If you're interested in a more technical write up on this from within the therapy relationship, see, Robert Langs, The Bi-Personal Field.  It really doesn't matter if you're carving bible verses onto grains of rice, you know; we all do this without meaning to.)
And, yea, we need to look at deregulation just as closely, I think. Typically, you can't jump back into a free market process without repercussions. There's a bit of spring-back, I think, largely because of earlier interference with the system. It, too, has to be controlled. That doesn't, however, mean that deregulation should be avoided. We need to be willing to correct our earlier mistakes (and a lot of government regulation was a mistake), and we also need to be able to respond to changes in our ever changing world.

I don't believe in Laissez Faire Capitalism, Bob. But when I have to flip a coin, I'm probably going to side with the wisdom of a free market rather than some guy in a suit trying to justify the pay check he's going to draw next Friday.


quote:


And, yea, we need to look at deregulation just as closely, I think. Typically, you can't jump back into a free market process without repercussions. There's a bit of spring-back, I think, largely because of earlier interference with the system. It, too, has to be controlled. That doesn't, however, mean that deregulation should be avoided. We need to be willing to correct our earlier mistakes (and a lot of government regulation was a mistake), and we also need to be able to respond to changes in our ever changing world.




     Certainly a lot of government regulation was a mistake.
The issue is how to distinguish between those that are mistakes and those that aren't.  You'll find Democrats and Republicans who want to trim regulation at this point; as I recall, Al Gore did a lot of that during the 90's and there are Republicans who feel the same way.  However there is some deregulation that is not so good and might be predictably not so good.  The Savings and Loan deregulation was one of them.  The current mortgage crisis is another.  The deregulation of of the credit card companies, the allowance of usurious loans and the serious limitation of bankruptcy laws is another piece of deregulation that will have predictably bad results and which will probably require another government bail out.  No bail out, the country will be held hostage under the treat or another great depression and monetary collapse.
They make the money, the government and the people take the risks.

     And that is why deregulation is so frequently a bad idea; because the down-side is one that the country as a whole cannot afford to have happen, and because the upside is one from which only a very limited number of people reap the benefit.  There's no free market here, it's as rigged as a game of three card monte, to use a metaphor Balladeer used with me a few days ago.  It fits here.

     The bureaucrat is always a figure of some fun, and there so often reality to it that it's difficult to address.  But mostly bureaucracies, drat their oily little hides, are there because they are the most stable way of making sure things get done.  Because most folks really do need to get told things in triplicate, with stamps from four different directorates and a cherry on top before they feel it's safe to go ahead and do the light bulb change.  I suspect they also help slow down the thieves, at least a little.  Alas, the murderers have always found ways to take over, from Caligula on.  
 
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