Political-type stuff

Texas still leads nation in rate of uninsured residents

But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National
Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman,
who helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy, said anyone with access
to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts
as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn
away a patient in need of immediate care.)

“So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime,” Mr.
Goodman said. “The next president of the United States should sign an
executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing
any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the
bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment
should they need care.

“So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved.”

I shouldn’t need to explain why this comment is so ridiculous, but I will anyway.
First, Mr. Goodman seems seriously confused about the difference between health
care and health insurance. You see, Mr. Goodman, health care
is what you might get if you go to an emergency room, or a clinic, or a regular
doctor, or something like that. Health insurance is supposed to help
you pay for it.

You know what happens if you are having a heart attack and you go to the emergency
room and they treat you? They send you a bill. Which, if you have insurance,
you can try to get your insurance to pay. Otherwise, the hospital expects you
to pay for it. Sure, you might not have the money to pay for it, but that does
not stop the hospital from trying to collect it, including nasty things like
destroying your credit or sending the bill to a collections agency that will
hound you night and day.

And, if they don’t succeed in collecting the money from you, the hospital either
eats the cost or gets money from the government — the care itself doesn’t magically
cost nothing just because it came from an emergency room. In fact, care from
an emergency room is usually far more expensive than similar care from another
source. In part that’s because of what an emergency room is for: saving your
life right this very minute. You can’t really go to the emergency room for,
say, a routine prescription.

Which is another incredibly stupid thing about this statement — where on earth
did Mr. Goodman get the idea that the only kind of health care people need is
the kind of immediate, right now, save-your-life care that emergency rooms are
required to give? Does he, or anybody he knows, ever go to the doctor? Do they
get checkups? Screenings? Flu shots? Prescriptions? Do they seek medical assistance
to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol? Does he know anyone
who’s ever been treated for cancer? Because I’m pretty sure that you can’t get
any of that in an emergency room.

Finally, this is moronic from a public relations standpoint. Not only does
it perpetuate the image of Republicans as sociopaths indifferent to human suffering,
but also it demonstrates a bizarre lack of seriousness on matters of policy.
His cavalier wording, “Voila! Problem solved” makes the whole thing
sound like a joke.

For utter cluelessness this is up there with Phil Gramm’s “nation
of whiners
” comment, although I think it has an even higher moronitude
factor. What’s up with McCain surrounding himself with idiots, anyway? Is it
to make himself look smarter in comparison?

Speaking of which, Sarah Palin — wow, what
a piece of work
. The more I see of her, the more I become convinced that
she is exactly like George W. Bush, only more so. Bush concentrate. She seems
to have his attitude toward leadership, anyway — it’s about getting other people
to do what you say. All power, no responsibility. Like how little kids imagine
being president.

This means that she is disturbingly popular among certain groups, such as the
rabid Republican base and Internet trolls and raging misogynists. Also, has anyone
else out there noticed the Republican double standard in full swing? The very
same people who fell all over themselves making tacky sexist Hillary Clinton comments seem to be the ones all huffed up over the “sexism” of anyone
who dares to criticize Palin or suggest she is in any way unfit to be president.

In other news: the FBI
predicted as early as September 2004
that the booming business in shaky
mortgages had to potential to be an “epidemic” with “as much
impact as the S&L crisis.”

But nobody listened because the agent who made this report also had an obsession
with aliens and bizarre meta-government conspiracies.

(By the way, did you know that John
McCain was one of the Keating Five

The FBI was pretty early to catch on — earlier than The
Housing Bubble Blog
, earliest post December 2004, but, not earlier than
the folks over at iTulip.com, who
called it in August of 2002

And they were all well before this guy:

Washington Post, Thursday, October 27, 2005; Page D01

U.S. house prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years,
noted Ben S. Bernanke, currently chairman of the president’s Council of Economic
Advisers, in testimony to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee. But these increases,
he said, “largely reflect strong economic fundamentals,” such as strong
growth in jobs, incomes and the number of new households.

I remember reading quotes like this in 2005 and wondering just how dumb they
thought the American people were — I mean, incomes might have been
rising, but they were not rising by 25 percent over two years.

Overpriced real estate — just like overvalued stocks — are a bit like a game
of musical chairs. Wait, better: hot potato. It is possible, if you aren’t deeply
in denial, to see the bubble forming very early. So you know the music is going
to stop at some point, but you also know that there’s going to be a lot of money
to be made by selling at the top of the bubble. The game is to sell at the last
possible moment before prices start to go down again. Time it right and you
end up rich. Time it wrong and you end up with a rapidly cooling potato that
nobody wants.

This provides incentives — maybe perverse incentives — for the very people
who are most likely to notice the bubble forming (investors) to deny the bubble’s

Also, it seems to me that there were political forces fueling this bubble,
especially in the later stages. After the stock bubble collapse, we were probably
due for a bit of a recession anyway, greatly exaggerated by the aftermath of
9/11. I believe Bush wanted a sort of Reagan-like scenario, where the economy
could go deeply into recession during 2001-2002 and then be bouncing back by
the time he was up for election in 2004. If you review Bush’s rhetoric during
the 2000 election, and early in 2001, he seemed to be actively pushing the idea
that we were in a recession. And why not? It was early enough in his presidency
that he could still blame it on Clinton.

But, by 2003-2004, the economy needed to be seen to be recovering. Other than
the already bubblicious housing market, I don’t think it was. So, even though
other indicators suggested that he tighten the federal money supply, Chairman
of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan kept interest rates at historic all-time
lows, and even (in a speech early in 2004) urged lenders to offer home purchasers
a greater variety of “mortgage product alternatives.” Hello, impending
sub-prime market collapse.But it kept things looking good — to some people
at least — for a while longer. Long enough for Bush to get in for a second
term. Then, in January 2006, Greenspan quit.

I think he knew what he was doing.

Also posted on Goth House


  1. As you know, I am a raving libertarian, so just assume that I’ve already said all the raving libertarian things in response to your post.

    Those said, pragmatically, if we’re going to have government involvement in health care, I would prefer to see preventative care given priority instead of paying for emergency room visits. I could only muster token libertarian objection to a wide-scale free/subsidized preventative care program, especially if it emphasized pre-natal and early childhood care. Immunization, salt iodization, and basic health research seem like good examples of successful government responses to market failures.

    1. Author

      I think a huge issue with Republicans is that they take this libertarian-ish approach very haphazardly, and then lie about it.

      There’s also a lot of handwaving involved about what exactly they expect to happen. I get the impression that they are more interested in avoiding the appearance of government spending, rather than avoiding actual government spending.

      Which makes it similar to their anti-abortion stance, really. They are more interested in appearing to be anti-abortion, rather than in actually preventing any abortions.

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