Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

I actually found a completely rational explanation of the corporate bonus debate in an article today:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34809700/ns/business-answer_desk//

The best thing about it? The writer goes through a whole article on that particular subject without once pointing fingers at people who had nothing to do with creating the mess. Gotta respect a guy like that. Danke, Mr. Schoen.

Read Full Post »

I was reading an article on MSNBC this evening entitled, “Insurers escalate criticism of health overhaul.” Apparently, the health insurance industry commissioned a cost analysis from PriceWaterhouseCoopers that projected higher premium costs for privately insured individuals over the next several years.

Let’s see. We’re going to require that health insurance companies accept all applicants, we’re going to take away their right to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and we’re going to increase their customer base because of that. Meanwhile, we’re going to legislate a series of give-and-take taxes, credits, and conditions to level the paying field (no, that’s not a typo). Finally, either they will raise their rates and watch their customer base decline in favor of public programs, or they will find a way to control costs and keep their customers.

No – wait. They just said that the legislation will raise their rates again, and that would be bad. The health care reform bill will raise their rates for them. It will be all someone else’s fault that we’ll be paying higher premiums, not theirs.

Do you think there will ever come a time when the insurance industry will see raising rates as a choice instead of a mandate?

Read Full Post »

This isn’t your father’s town hall meeting anymore. This is disturbing.

The coverage of the local town hall meetings across the country has been interesting, to say the least. I don’t know whether some of the townspeople are shooting themselves in the foot or having trouble extracting it from their mouth. The yelling, the rudeness, the harsh words that have nothing to do with healthcare – you’re being compared with primates, for Pete’s sake.

These town hall meetings are supposed to be a forum in which we the people can voice our concerns in person. Our elected officials are making time to listen to us, and in some cases, we’re showing appreciation by blowing up on them. We’re going backward, not forward – and by “we,” I mean the bellowing, belligerent blowhards that keep disrupting the meetings. This isn’t productive conversation. This is the Middle Ages, complete with ignorant peasants and public stonings largely due to hearsay.

If you need to yell at public officials because you’re unhappy with the current healthcare bill, you need to know that you’d get your point across better with a carefully-worded question based on mutual respect and the need to clarify what the hell is going on. You don’t have to agree with the politician at the podium, but it would be a good idea if you respect him or her as a person and realize that this person is probably not personally responsible for the bottleneck.

You’d get more done if you stay on point, too. You won’t solve anything by telling a speaker that they will go to hell for what they’re doing. The subject is Healthcare, not Religion. And by the way, your God is probably pissed at the way you’re trying to make that call for Him.

Get a grip, people, and save the yelling for your therapist. Don’t let the angry rants of others get in the way of your ability to think for yourself. Make good use of the time at those town hall meetings, because if you want your voice to be heard – if you don’t want to be dismissed as an out-of-control, crazy jerk – you might want to present your justifiably strong opinions in some sort of civilized manner.

Read Full Post »

It’s April – have you filed your taxes yet?  Are you going to?  Of course you will – you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen and you’re afraid of the IRS.

There is a case to be made about how taxation borders on socialism.  The ‘redistribution of wealth’ argument has been staring us in the face ever since the beginning of the 20th century, when the tax code began to take shape and become enforceable.  Most people agreed, however, that financing a war or two was a little too daunting for volunteer efforts, so off we went.

When the tax code began to allow for social programs and complicated business practices, it began to get messy.  Various administrations began to use it as a motivational tool for different purposes, and eventually to manipulate the economy. 

Did we go too far with that?  There’s a question – but I’m not qualified to answer that one.  I’d love to hear the answer, though.

The difference is that, while taxation is meant to be somewhat of a mandatory collaborative effort to provide common services to the people, our government and our tax code are kept in check by Congress – the representatives of the people.  If we don’t like how they do things, we can replace them.

In a socialist government, the government doesn’t just keep the economy in check, the government owns the economy.  They own the resources and don’t allow for private ownership.  They plan the economy, they manage the distribution of the GDP, and they make sure everyone gets some no matter who earned what, all without respect for private enterprise.

We are nowhere near socialism.  For instance, whether or not President Obama’s bailouts were the right thing to do is debatable, but they don’t qualify as socialism for the same reason that sane bank presidents generally insist that you prove that you are responsible with your money before they lend you enough to buy a car or a house.  In a way, they own the property, but only until you pay it off.  That’s not socialism.  That’s just good business.

Property taxes have always been around in some form, but we are still free to own the property.  Income taxes have been around for years, but we are still free to start our own businesses and charge our own prices.  Our government has been running the country for over two hundred years, but we are still free to elect our own representatives to participate in setting policy.

In America, there is no danger of us giving up our property rights, our entrepreneurial spirit, or our free market economy.  In this country, we can implement social programs without practicing socialism.

Socialism is not in the future of the United States of America – not even with a qualifier of “if we don’t…“.

The loud voices of the people do serve a purpose.  Be loud to keep things in check, though, not to scare people about something that isn’t going to happen.

Read Full Post »

A lot of people seem to be trying to psychologically explain what happened to the economy.  Was it greed?  Impulsive risk instead of calculated risk?  How about the need to crawl back into the womb?

I don’t know about that last one, but even Freud would have acknowledged that the other two are getting a lot of press.

There is a certain perception of the people who control the financial markets.  We don’t hear their stories very often, so all some of us see  are guys and gals who dress up in fancy suits, playing an adult version of Monopoly with other people’s money, and thinking “what they don’t know won’t hurt them.”   It’s easy to attribute that to greed and impulsive behaviour.

Most of those guys and gals are probably thinking that they worked hard to get where they are, they are just normal people with nicer clothes, and in their business, they have to think fast to keep up.  If they take a risk and lose, that’s the way the game is played.  That’s why they call it RISK.  True, true, and true.

Perceptions aside, there’s one phrase that keeps popping up when the psychologists speak up:  human nature.

Scientific American ran an interesting article today about this, with a word or two by the author for those who think that the free market will work everything out itself. 

He’s not so sure about that, given the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them – and if it does, that’s the breaks” mentality.  He seems to think that completely rational behaviour isn’t as common as people think it is.

What do you think?  Are you feeling it?  Is it really that simple?

Read Full Post »

Here’s another encouraging bit of news:  mental health is getting more funding in the form of grant money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The main requirement is that those funds be used for research projects that have the potential to make a difference in scientific advancement in under two years.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which bills itself as The Nation’s Medical Research Agency, really does sponsor a great deal of medical research, so feeding over $8 billion to the NIH was probably the best way to provide research funding to the most projects at once.  Autism research was one of the main target areas, along with opportunities for science educators and existing short-term research projects which were running out of funds.

Some of that money is going to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  On their web pages, I found a couple of interesting grant opportunities that I’d like to keep an eye on.

One priority area is developing new ways of evaluating the brain without actually cutting into it.  From what I understand, just about every other organ in the body can be biopsied and analyzed without significant damage to a person’s health.  I’ll bet there aren’t very many people who are willing to give up a chunk of their brain for the advancement of science, so this new technology (whatever it is) will be great.

They would also like to get a report card on the current system of “community re-entry programs” for prisoners in need of mental health services.  I have a hunch that they’ll find that it needs major help.  I know a guy who knows a guy who regularly steals something when he’s having a hard time coping just so he can go back to jail.  He thinks that the struggle to survive is easier there.  Most jails are now being seen as modern variations of the “funny farms”, so new information here could have an impact on quite a few areas.

The grant money will also target the nature of schizophrenia and other major mental disorders, the genetics of mental illness, how to improve services for racially and ethnically diverse populations, intervention strategies for youth and young adults, and how to develop low-risk drugs that might be better solutions for some of us, among other things.

The big news will have be the results of the “Grand Opportunities” grants.  The NIMH is going to give out money to anyone who comes up with research studies which will find out more about brain development (or which part of our brain went haywire at what point to impact our symptoms), which genes specifically affect the risk of mental illness, and – my personal favorite – “Neurodevelopmental Genomics:  Trajectories of Complex Phenotypes”.

In plain English, this means we could end up with a better understanding of how genetics, physical growth, environment, and behaviour all work together over time to make us who we are.  We could end up with a more accurate system of categorizing mental and emotional disorders, which in turn might make it easier to accurately diagnose and treat them.

Click here for the full story on what the National Institute of Mental Health is doing with their piece of the pie.  I’m really looking forward to the “How Are We Doing?” page on the federal government’s ARRA website to see how this all plays out.

Read Full Post »

Perhaps inspired by President Obama, the American Psychiatric Association announced yesterday that it will no longer accept free meals and “medical education seminars” from pharma-lobbyists (excuse me) prescription drug manufacturers.

This is the best news I’ve heard all week!  Psychiatric medications are one of the worst categories of drugs to prescribe for the wrong reasons.  The side effects of the wrong psych medication can be more debilitating than the original disorder itself, and it can take a patient weeks or months to think straight again.

The APA’s CEO and medical director, Dr. James Scully, issued a statement which acknowledged that people have “a perception that accepting meals provided by pharmaceutical companies may have a subtle influence on doctors’ prescribing habits”.

No kidding.

For years, the APA has been frowning on gifts from these companies and asking that seminars at medical education conferences be given by neutral third parties, not by the manufacturers hoping to sway the doctors’ opinions about the best choices for their patients.  Fortunately, some of the drug manufacturers have already volunteered to stop giving out freebies to the doctors, presumably to avoid the illusion of bribery.

Dr. Scully also said this:  “What was acceptable five years ago isn’t necessarily acceptable today.”

With all due respect, I have news for you, sir.  It wasn’t really acceptable then, either.  You just weren’t getting as much flak about it.  On behalf of everyone affected by this, thank you very much for implementing the necessary policy changes.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »