More risk?

According to Mr. Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general at the Treasury Department, there are dark clouds on the financial horizon. That’s right, the brilliant people from the past administration and the current one have only kicked the can down the road. They’ve given the taxpayer a few chips to play the roulette wheel of life. Only the odds are against the taxpayer and the stakes are higher than the kids’ tuition money.

Mr. Barofsky’s report warned that the government “has done more than simply support the mortgage market, in many ways it has become the mortgage market, with the taxpayer shouldering the risk that had once been borne by the private investor.”

You guessed it, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. You bailed out the banks and the mortgage companies all at the siren call of “we have to do something.” Really? It would have been better to take the hit and learn the lesson. If you buy junk you’re stuck with it. Now the lesson is, buy all the junk you want, the government will give you gold for it. Absolute balderdash. Sure, there might have been a depression or some severely tough times. Still, economic laws are much like the laws of physics. You deny them at your peril.

And these fools, the government that is, want to run healthcare? And decide how much college should cost? And regulate emissions? And decide what kind of jobs are good? And on and on and on. If there’s an adult in Washington, please stand up. We can’t see or hear you. It’s time to close romper room and install people who understand reality.

Published in: on January 31, 2010 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Almost a grand a week…

…will buy you some top shelf food and booze. Just ask Nancy Pelosi. That was her bill for food and booze and such on her flights of fancy over the last couple of years.

I enjoy a beverage as much as this next fellow, including my beloved Coca-Cola, Jack Daniel’s, Maker’s Mark, to name a few. Similarly and judging by the size of my belly, I don’t miss any meals. At the same time, that’s a lot of chow and drink, especially considering it was during her travel time. Perhaps she was hosting a gaggle of Sumo wrestlers. You never know.

Nonetheless, I am not surprised. Royalty behaves this way. They let the little people pay for their gluttony.

Cheers! And please pass the bon bons.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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Unhappy Healthcare

Aruba enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean, summed up by the motto, “One Happy Island.” Tourists and natives alike enjoy the virtually unlimited sunshine and wide beaches, not to mention the fine restaurants, fantastic Carnival celebrations, and action packed water sports.

However, many Arubans are less than pleased with their single-payer health care system known by the initials AZV. A payroll tax funds AZV, which disburses payments to care providers. While every citizen is eligible for coverage, many do not utilize the benefits. In effect, they pay twice: once in the taxes assessed on their wages, and again through cash payments to providers or in premiums for supplemental insurance policies.

But why would someone pay extra when they are supposed to have coverage under AZV?

Long waits are one of the biggest factors. One fellow, Paul, answered, “My son had a respiratory problem. How long was I supposed to wait?” His son was not able to see a specialist without first consulting a primary care physician. This delay, which could have been a week or longer, was unacceptable. Paul took his son to nearby Venezuela where he was seen by a doctor within a few hours of stepping off the plane. Thanks to a private medical insurance policy Paul maintains in Venezuela for just such emergencies, the cost was minimal. As for the care, he couldn’t be happier. The doctor personally called several times to see how the boy was doing as well as to inquire about the effectiveness of prescribed medications.

Similarly, Donato was unhappy with substandard treatment of various skin lesions. For several years, his doctor in Aruba told him he had nothing to worry about. Finally, at his brother’s behest, he visited a specialist in Colombia who informed him that a dozen growths needed to be removed immediately. Although confident in the Colombian doctor’s diagnosis, Donato sought an independent second opinion in that country to be sure. He had one the next day and it concurred with the first. His surgery took place before the week was over. Now he flies to Colombia every year for checkups. The most expensive part is the airfare, but Donato doesn’t mind. He makes a vacation of the trip, taking his wife and children who also see doctors for regular checkups while he visits his dermatologist. “If you let it go,” Donato says, “this is the kind of thing can be very bad.”

There are doctors in Aruba who operate strictly private practices. They do not accept AZV payments, which are considerably lower than fees charged to patients outside the system. One doctor said, “My practice does not operate on sunshine. There are bills to pay, supplies to purchase, and my time is worth something more than the [AZV] board budgets.” These practitioners take some of the pressure off the public clinics, but they are also operating at full capacity. “I want to give them my best,” the same doctor reflected. “That means I can see only so many people each day.”

Hence, Roberto also goes to Colombia for treatment of a chronic nerve condition. He would prefer to avoid the extra expense and get the full value of his tax payments to AZV. Nonetheless, he simply can’t get the care he needs nor the medicine required to control his pain. “AZV takes too long and sometimes my private doctor can’t see me,” he says. “So when I have a flare up, I get on the plane.”

Direct cash payment may have something to do with the quick response times of these physicians in other countries. Paul (mentioned above) commented, “I know the doctor in Venezuela charged me more to look at my son than he earned seeing his regular patients all day. Still, it is affordable to me.”

The Arubans who travel off-island for healthcare generally describe their experiences in glowing terms. They speak of the doctors as caring, honest, and sincere. They frequently mention that the cost of treatment is affordable, although last minute airfares sometimes break the budget as in Roberto’s case.

When asked their opinion on healthcare reform in the United States, they shake their heads and shrug. “Maybe see what we have here and think about what you’re doing,” Roberto comments, adding, “Learn Spanish in case it doesn’t go so good.”

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Post Delirium

Bubbles have burst in the last couple of years. A few were economic. Some were egos. Others were delusions. Whatever the context, anyone not living deep in the caves of Tora Bora recognizes a certain awakening out there among the populace. No one put this better than Mark Helprin, in the 22 January 2010 edition of The Wall Street Journal. His essay, titled A Non-Delirious New York, illustrates beautifully the situation that particular city (and I would say much of the world) must face. Here’s a quote:

When pay-out exceeds pay-in, balance is maintained only by the weight of illusion—as in real-estate bubbles, or welfare states in which benefits vastly exceed contributions.

That’s the kind of blunt, clear-headed writing, that makes me a keen follower of Mr. Helprin’s writing. Continuing on, he notes:

Or when Mayor Michael Bloomberg spends a hundred million of his own money, $175 per vote, to crown himself like Napoleon, perhaps forgoing the purchase of the presidency because at that rate he would have to fork over $22 billion.

You see, Mr. Helprin has it right. He’s shining the bright light of good taste and perspective on a slice of the world so many thought was going to be endless. As always, the bill has to be paid. I anxiously await a broader opening of the political realm. The royalty currently ensconced in all its offices have not yet grasped the reality that their empire stands in quicksand, that soon they may not be eating the cake of other people’s labor, but rather find themselves replaced by more capable and decent souls who can actually do the job.

For the full text of Mr. Helprin’s piece referenced above, see this link:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703699204575017040112575022.html

Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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