Posts Tagged ‘health care’


An Economics State Of Mind

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

The debate over whether our country’s economy is improving or not always seems to get more lively around this time of year. That’s probably because tomorrow is Tax Day, the day everyone’s personal income tax returns should be at least in the mail heading to the IRS. [As I mentioned in an earlier post (Death and Taxes…Mostly Taxes), my wife and I filed our tax return a couple of weeks ago;  now, we get to sit back and watch as those late filers make their mad dash to the post office as the midnight deadline looms ever closer.]

I was reading a posting elsewhere today by someone who appears to be a strong supporter of the current Administration; he made a comment which (paraphrased) said, “Through his stimulus programs, the President has cut the deficit and lessened the tax burden on Americans more than any other president in our lifetimes.”

That’s a pretty substantial claim. Do you suppose it’s true? Or not?

I’m not going to argue either way about that statement; as I’ve also said in an earlier posting, I am not good at debates, so I won’t even try. I’ll leave that to you, my readers, to discuss/debate/argue any and all points of that claim. Please leave me out of it!

Instead, I would like to offer some personal observations:

When I studied economics in college 30-odd years ago, the rule was that if you are already in debt, and you spend more money (or you borrow money from someone else and then spend it), the result is that you go deeper into debt. How does one cut a deficit (or reduce a debt) by spending more money? Has our President somehow changed the laws of economics? Why hasn’t anyone else figured out how to do this before? Is there a secret handshake that goes along with knowing how to do that?

As far as tax burdens go, I can’t say that my situation has improved any in the past year or so. Last spring I had to take a pay cut to keep my job, and the entire company shut down for half of December; this year, we were told the pay cuts and annual shutdown will stay in place and that we shouldn’t expect to see any changes in the foreseeable future. I’m also paying more for my health coverage this year than ever before, and not hearing even a rumor about those costs coming down anytime soon. Wasn’t the new health care bill recently signed into law supposed to reduce my medical costs? When and how does that happen? I haven’t got a clue; no one (for good or bad) has been able to explain it to me in terms that make any sense, or that show me in real dollars where I’m going to save any money.

I don’t live an extravagant life by any measure I can think of. My newest vehicle is 14 years old, my house is in need of significant repairs, and I haven’t taken my family anywhere on vacation in close to 10 years. If something major breaks, it may take a while before we can afford to fix or replace it. Given that the costs for basic needs (food, fuel, prescription drugs, utilities, clothes for the kids, car insurance, etc.) continue to go up each year but my income does not, it is highly unlikely that I will have any disposable income to afford things like new vehicles or vacations in the foreseeable future. Even my future feels somewhat uncertain; when I took the pay cut, I stopped contributing to my 401k retirement plan to make up some of the loss…with the result that I’m not saving anything to live off of when I reach my golden years. I can’t afford it right now.

All in all, I suppose things may be better for some people, but from what I can tell I am not one of them.

I guess I don’t know the secret handshake.


The Great Debate… er, Discussion

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

The real hot-button topic today has been the passage of the health care bill last night by the U.S. House of Representatives. Each side in the debate had their reasons for supporting their views, and each delivered a spirited defense. In the end, those in favor of passing it prevailed. Now it is set to become the law of the land, and we all get to find out what it really means for this country’s health care system.

I do not get overly-involved in political issues, mainly because I’m not good at debating the pros and cons of anything. If I were, I probably would’ve been on the debate team in school. As far as my personal political views, I would generally call myself a conservative, but there are some issues where I’m more liberal in my thinking. And, there are still others where I’m squarely on the fence, unsure of which way to go.

With health care, I’m on the fence. There are some provisions in the bill that I like, and some that I don’t like. I’m not going to list them here because my intent is not to start a debate. I don’t do debates very well, remember?

Either way, pro or con, I still have some questions. Maybe you have some as well. Here are my questions:

  • How will the country pay for the new programs, which have been estimated will cost approximately $1T (trillion) dollars over the next decade?
  • Will it really improve the accessibility and affordability of health care to more Americans, as its supporters expect it to do? Or will it be a “black hole” that takes more money away from taxpayers and provides little or nothing in return, as its detractors claim?
  • How does this plan really compare to programs in other countries such as Canada or Great Britain, which parts of it supposedly were modeled after?

No one seems to have a clear answer to any of these questions; both sides in Washington have been saying “trust us – we know what we’re talking about”. Given the general lack of trust in our elected officials (Congress’ approval ratings have been in the cellar for the last few years), I am sure there aren’t many people who are willing to accept “trust us” for very long without seeing some sort of results in return.

What is clear to me is this: the debate over health care is still far from over. And, I still don’t do debates very well.