Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Best Of America

The election of Mr. Obama as President exemplifies the best that is America: the ability to look forward and shape our future unfettered by the chains of the past.

So let's apply the same principle to formulate and put in motion:
  • A renewable energy policy that breaks our dependency on petro-dictatorships, saves the planet's environment and creates millions of highly skilled jobs.
  • A new social contract that brings the middle class to the forefront.
  • A new economic model that stresses sustainability, saving and production.
  • A foreign policy that makes us once again the beacon of hope.
Congratulations Mr. Obama. Our hopes, aspirations and dreams are with you today.

Go for it.


  1. Wow Hell, I thougth you were one of the intellectually honest ones. But I see now you're a shill. I suspect if McCain won, you'd be bitching and not seeing a touchy, feely future. ANYtime we elect a president, we exemplify what makes this country great and move a little further away from the past. That's what makes the Obama election exciting NOT that he embraces a specific ideology. All who are elected deserve the benefit of the doubt, at least at the start.

    Of course Bush was a disaster over the last 8 yrs, but that's the way the system works and he will be thankfully slinking into the shadows of history.

    Sheesh... this sounds like a speech to my eight year old. Except my son isn't corrupted like you are and has an open mind!!

  2. To: anonymous

    WHO is elected is supremely important. Just think of this: Gore instead of Bush for the past 8 years. And ideology is ALL we have to distinguish people by, along with a bit of past history.

    I am proud to have and hold ideals. What do YOU go by, dear sir or madam? Happenstance?

  3. this is a society by and for the people so I don't think I embrace happenstance unless in your book "by and for the people" applies only when your ideology is in control.

    You need to go back and understand history. When the nation was young, election of 1800 as one example, the Republic would have fallen apart if ideaology was supreme. It's scary that you don't get that the continuum of our history as a nation has existed regardless of who has occupied 1600 PA Ave. Our system of ideals is a lot bigger than polarized ideology.

  4. Obama voted for the bailout....

  5. "The best that is America?" You mean socialism, racial revenge hatred, class warfare, blatant populism, and pandering to the masses? Uh, not that the Republican Party isn't also guilty of some of the above; as usual, I choose to waste my vote Libertarian in protest.

    But dirty politics aside, Obama is inexperienced and has run a campaign promising everything to the poor and blaming everything on the (white) rich. His voting record is even to the left of Bernie Sanders, the self-admitted socialist Senator. Just because he's "different" and a "change" doesn't mean the country needs to experiment with Eugene Debs populist socialism or another disastrous New Deal. The rest of the world has been moving center-right toward flatter income tax structures and lower corporate taxes; it's embarrassing to reverse the victory of the Cold War at home.

    Given the focus of this site on debt, I'm shocked that you would be happy at the election of Obama. Do you have any idea what will happen to the federal debt obligations with fully nationalized health care? Like I said, I'm not saying the current Administration has done a good job on the budget front, but at least McCain has a solid record of fighting deficits.

  6. I see a contradiction between points one and four; the foreign policy of the past 70 years is what kept the petro-states under dictatorship, going back to it will make the US a beacon only for those dictators you want to break free from.

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  8. If we have elected a 3rd party President and Congress I would agree with you but little has changed with the Obama election. Hopefully an improvement over Bush but that doesn't take much!

  9. People that talk about history should know a little about history. Like the income tax rates:

    The upper 1% paid 45% rate, the upper one hundredth of one percent paid over 70%.

    Were we a "socialist" country in the Sixties? Or did we have a better "social contract" with the middle class?

    The fantasy of Reaganomics is over, redistributing more wealth to the wealthy does not trickle down, except for a warm yellow fluid down your head.

  10. It's only a shame that it had to take an economic collapse for a black man to be elected.

    But as Winston Churchill said.. “In the long run, Americans will always do the right thing - after exploring all other alternatives.”

  11. Amen on two counts hellasious, your post and the response to anonymous. Couldn't agree more on both!

  12. Well said Camabron

    Marcus, I agree with you that Reaganomics is a fantasy, but I still get the sense (am I incorrect?) that your issues have more to do with consumption for the 'little guy'. You want to see more in the form of (say) 'higher standards of living' or longer vacations, or longer retirement, or more health care, etc...

    I get this sense because when you talk about shuffling money between people who pay more in taxes and people who pay A LOT MORE in taxes, you seem to be missing the issue.

    The issue is not now, has never been and never will be about who pays what in taxes- it is about HOW we spend our money. How many times has Hell basically said this?

    Spend it to successfully create a new energy system and we have a new energy system and are better off. Spend it on someone with very little money so they can work less and or have more vacation and or more retirement AND YOU ARE STILL SPENDING IT SO THAT PEOPLE CAN WORK LESS and NOT spending it on a new energy system (the money will have been used up on vacation or retirement). If you don't see this, I suggest you look closely at ALL of Latin America. Even Krugman is saying America looks more and more like a banana republic daily. We look that way because we consume and do not invest.

    What is it you want for America? More investment or more consumptions?

    If you look at HOW America is spending its money, we have become a nation of consumers and not savers. We take our consumption in the form of bigger houses and fancier cars BUT WE ALSO TAKE IT in the form of longer golden retirements (as a % of our life spans), higher rates of obesity (with more and more medical procedures done to alleviate the complications of this obesity), higher payments for 'disability' on things like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic back pain (largely caused by our increasing obesity) despite MASSIVE drops in accidents, injury and cancer mortality in the young in the US over the last 60 years.

    You cannot get away from issues of HOW money is spent- ever.

    Go ahead, raise rates, tax 'the rich' more. It won't do a thing to change the underlying structure of society. As long as the money is well spent, it is well spent and we will all be better off. But if the money is spent so that some people can consume even more than they currently consume, you will see further decline in the US as it's middle class is replaced with a new 'global' or 'transnational' middle class who are saving their money.

    All you are doing is suggesting ways to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

    You can get upset that some private citizens have more money than other private citizens and that these 'rich' private citizens save and invest their money in things like (say) alternative energy projects AND.. you can hope that a different institution you are emotional attachment to (say government?) takes the money away from the rich private citizens.

    But once the government has the money,it is still faced with the same choice the private citizen is faced with- invest it in alternative energy or give it out for consumption (vacations, retirement, health care, etc...). And if the rich person had saved all of that money, and the government spends ANY portion of it on consumption, there will still be less investment than before in total. If the government invests the same amount it took from the private citizen (actually it will always be a little less due to collection costs) AND assuming the productivity of that investment is the same, then fundamentally nothing has changed and you are making a big deal over the whether the ice cream is vanilla or chocolate. Now if the money is invested better- then the system will be better off.

    What is your issue? Is your issue savings? Is your issue the investment productivity of that savings (are you saying the government invests wiser than the private sector)?

    Or is your issue really consumption masked in a different way? Is your issue a frustration at the underlying structure of society? Because if it is, I really might suggest your issue is not so much with Republicans (contrary to whatever you may think, I am not a Republican), your issue is with GOD (FYI I am an atheist).

  13. Congrats on your new President. Hope he matches up to the hopes people have.

    Paradigm change is tricky. Need to have a lead-in time to make the necessary psychological adjustments, and support is critical. This begs the question as to whether the 'great unwashed' in the US of A is educationally prepared for the 'trip'.

    If the electronic media continues to insist on 20 sec 'sound-bites' and multiple presenters - not a happy scenario. Need a major change in the way news and info is presented. Slow, steady and repetitive. Is this possible?

    Brian P

  14. Joe Klein (CNN/TIME) wrote:

    "I received an email from a young friend, an entrepreneur in Kabul, this morning. He said, "We are all smiling now," and he attached a Pakistani press clipping--the Taliban greeted the new President and said they were ready to commence talks."

    If you're inclined to believe it, then Obama has already started shaping a future unbound by the chains of the past--only time will tell though...

    But, one thing is certain- FOX news sure sounds a whole hell of a lot different lately. Shep Smith was very PRO-Obama during his interview with joe the plumber, and kicked the stool out from under Ralph Nader on the "Uncle Tom" thing... and if the media tacks left, that will have a definite impact on the American consciousness.

    But, be warned... Obama did NOT transcend the race issue. go to the NYTimes homepage and see "Map: Electoral Shift" (sorry, my hyperlink knowledge is lacking). It shows that 22% of the nation voted more republican than last election. That area stretches from WV to the TX panhandle... I dub it: The Race Belt. America is still a heavily prejudiced country.

    And a note for Hell. I've been a staunch supporter of Obama from the beginning. I believe in his message of Hope. But. The time for Hope is over. Now, It's time for action. The nation and the world need results!

  15. Hell, it's OK to express some good vibes.
    Obama never stayed in one place long enough to deliver tangible goods that are heads-n-shoulders better than the goods his peers delivered in Illinois, that's my experience from Illinois.
    He does look & sounds great, but he remains untested; Karl Rove even admits running a national campaign is far easier than actual governing a nation.
    But that debate is over; now we all will soon find our answer.
    Except, Camabron's point shouldn’t be glossed over.
    And, Obama got 52% of registered voters in what is actually turning out to be a lower-than-expected overall turnout based on 2004’s result.
    That 52% is a big tent sheltering a good-size slug of frightful cowering people simply looking to be "Rescue'd" by a Messiah Figure. Another slug under the tent simply likes to defy convention and ‘stir things up’; while another flabby slug of graying boomers are there looking for a ‘new high’ from a ‘Camelot’ re-experience.
    Buried under that tent is an uncomfortably small group of critical thinkers who are able to act and who are willing to provide the local & community leadership needed to make 'change' actually take hold locally. Their numbers are small. Despite the whispered prayers of the cowered, Obama is not an omnipresent 'God' able to operate beside the weak or the strong, in every community.

  16. Anonymous, whoever you are, you seem a bit of a pill. You've managed to twist what is a gracious and hopeful post about the incoming President into something cheap and partisan. I might add that in the last twenty four hours those shills Bush and McCain have pretty much expressed the same sentiments as Hell.

    And what specific ideology does Obama embrace by the way? I can't wait to hear since one of the hallmarks of the former Senator's discourse is the lack of specificity. Let me guess, perhaps you think Mr. Obama is a tax and spend Liberal, or even, gasp, a Marxist? I think if you look at his record, and past his mellifluously vacuous oratory, you will see that Mr. Obama is a statist, just like the now vanquished John McCain. And yet, there seems to be something in Obama, the operative word being seems, that gives one hope that he might actually make, despite his status quo leanings, an extraordinary leader. That, I believe, is what informed Hell's post.

  17. doji wrote:

    "His (Obama's) voting record is even to the left of Bernie Sanders"

    That's a crock.

    Yoyomo, I agree with your statement about how the petro dictatorships became so.

  18. My condolences Hell. I guess your blog appealed to the End of The World/Sound Money/Ron Paul types.

  19. Thai:

    "You want to see more in the form of (say) 'higher standards of living' or longer vacations, or longer retirement, or more health care, etc..."

    More health care? How bout health care period

    "The issue is not now, has never been and never will be about who pays what in taxes- it is about HOW we spend our money."

    Wrong, the issue is both. Refer to the trend in lower tax rates for the wealthy for the last 30+ years. And the issue is about debt (Sudden Debt)--spending borrowed money. Especially money loaned by people that do not care for our values. More tax revenue would reduce debt.

    "What is your issue?"

    Fairness. The trillions in bailout for the actions of clip artists like Paulson will be borne by wage-earners making less than 50k per year. Please don't mention the difference between income tax and ss and Medicare tax. We know all monies get thrown into the same pile and the promises of payback slip over time.

    So if Hank's $500 million trust is taxed at 70% rather than 15% that would mitigate this injustice.

  20. Marcus,
    Hank's $500M will not be taxed at 15%; it will be taxed at zero percent. There is a provision in the tax code that exempts cabinet appointees from any tax on the disposition of assests required before accepting the appointment. Hank got to withdraw his lifetime accumulation of stock grants and options free of any capital gains tax at a time G-S was sell for $240~$280/share.

  21. Edwardo said: "I think if you look at his record, and past his mellifluously vacuous oratory, you will see that Mr. Obama is a statist, just like the now vanquished John McCain."

    I look at his record and see Mr. Smith going to the white house. I saw a similar situation in Cleveland years ago when a young brash outsider came it to clean house. Dennis Kucinich got his clock cleaned by the entreched bureaucracy. He fought the good fight and looking back he was right on many of his points but history still skews his battles.

    A famous line in a horror movie, The call is coming from inside the house!! rings true here: the system can not be changed to help the enemy IS the system.

    Bureaucracy is the culprit of 09/11, Katrina and the wall street meltdown

  22. P.S. change public accounting (you know the "use it or lose it" budget paradigm) and you change bureaucracy. THIS is REAL change.

  23. Marcus- your issue is with god. You are not interested in fairness nor equality. You are interested in equality of results. Nothing is more immoral or more unfair in my mind- this is where we differ. You have no interest in the path people take to reach their destination.

    wen you say "how about health care period" - statements like this are are so far from the truth they expose you as a little far from reality... Suffice it to say the US spends more on health care in both absolute and % terms than any other nation on this planet. Even just the portion which comes from public monies is still more per person than any other nation on this earth- you simply do not know what you are talking about and you and I can agree to leave the healthcare discussion alone.

    Like you I too see Paulson's give away of $1-2 trillion in public monies to A FEW as immoral. Where we differ is I also see how we have spent 10s of trillions (several orders of magnitude more) on give aways supporting behaviors and actions of people making less than than $50,000 which should never have been supported. I would suggest to you the second number is far larger than the first and that it is BOTH big and small that must be held equally accountable for their actions if we are ever to solve this issue.

    I still think you need to cut your hair and get a job- if you can't find one there is a huge shortage of nurses right now. Your local community college probably has a program you can get into for little cost.

    Goldie- I might take it one step further. To quote Walt Kelly's Pogo "we have met the enemy and he is us".

    Hell- I am sure other have though of this. Wouldn't it work if we eliminate income taxes all together and switched to a system of graduated consumption taxes instead?

  24. Reality checks.
    CBO estimates that receipts in 2008were about $44 billion (or 1.7 percent) below receipts in 2007, falling from 18.8 percent of GDP in 2007 to about 17.7 percent of GDP in 2008. Corporate income taxes declined the most, falling by about $65 billion (18 percent), due largely to weakness in corporate earnings throughout the fiscal year and will not stabilize this year for many sectors period. Individual income tax receipts declined by about $19 billion (or 1.6 percent) relative to receipts in fiscal year 2007, reflecting $62 billion in tax rebates (from the economic stimulus legislation) that were recorded as offsets to revenues. In contrast, receipts of social insurance (payroll) taxes rose by about $31 billion (or 3.5 percent), and other receipts increased by about $9 billion (or 5.4 percent). The type of people, who saw these problems unfolding, on the other hand, had much less career risk or none at all. We all know literally dozens of these people. In fact, almost all the people who have good historical data and are thoughtful were giving us very good advice, often for years before the troubles arrived. They all have the patience of Job.
    We will never again be able to get sufficient growth of the current economy to eliminate or even reduced unemployment. NAFTA, GATT, and hope of growing the economy to solve the current unemployment and are doomed to market failure so wake up and move on to the next predicated cycle and scale to it now. The promise of competing in the global economy is a hoax perpetrated upon the working and unemployed people of this country because over time a nation needs to buy and sell overseas in roughly equivalent amounts. Increasingly desperate means will be used by those who think we can continue to have business as usual in debt based economy's. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last. What we need is neither anti-socialism nor anti-communism but an open positive endorsement of that system to which we owe all the wealth that distinguishes our age.
    "Wealth" is always a stock concept. It refers to available assets (valuable things) at a given MOMENT IN TIME (like a picture or a photograph).
    I don't see that changing in our lifetime or any civilization who wants to exist in 50 years. I suspect that in the long run as nations compete for scarce resources, they will be compelled to downsize government if they are to survive. Free market economics teaches us how to uses scarce resources by the most efficient means. It is a basic law of economics that cannot be repealed without undo consequences. I place a high value on personal freedom. I don't argue for anarchism or ever have. I argue for a form of limited government that protects our rights to life, freedom and the property of individuals and any more than that does not work long term. Finally we have consumers who are also voters. As voters, they find it in their interest to vote for the politicians who offer the most freebies, thus saving them the effort of earning what they have by living off the production of others and this will crush real number's to equitity's capital needs and true capital investment and Fiat based stability already proven in countless journels. There will be no need for additional regulation to protect peoples money because they will now know not to trust anyone with their money. Bankers and financial experts and the like will be treated, as they always should be, with a healthy degree of suspicion if not contempt and I fired my bank in 1986 anyway. I have worked and saved for over 30 years and continue to do so and hellasios observation's where very factual in direct context to many to preserve capital and be solvent for investments in time and practise. I will start looking at true p/e numbers more next year. Our sector will do fine since we make thing like basic materials for global needs. Yes we see competion in aerospace and other markets we do and segments we already sold from the bad policy's when no one would listen. Contrary to the non self-liquidating debt issues in the States "things that blow up" ,that eisenhower warned of the electorate are somewhat still myopic today to think proactively and maybe to act properly.
    Generational dogma's will always impede proper solutions and aways will to move on longer term reality's.
    Thats why age is not a factor when we train the next level of unselfish people who we think can suceed. Also no market system or nothing can protect humans from themselves if not able to listen to predicated cycles. The list could go on and on but facts will always remain since the truth goes through 3 phases. Riduculed,ignored, and then acepted. Govenment's have a way off prolonging the painfull process as you are able to see like it or not. Freedom is more of a burden and an obligation than an option or a right. To a few I owe much to there thoughts.

  25. Ideologies don't fail people, people fail ideologies.

    Ideological movements are simply a collective expression of our genetic need to exploit and dominate our environment. The "in group", so to say, attempts to attain an advantage in accessing and attaining scarce resources for their benefit. The ideology, is simply the conversation that takes place, in the language that it takes place in.

    Are all men and women inherently equal...? The practical answer to that question, is a resounding YES...! The ideological answer is, DON'T BE SILLY...

    Obama, transcends the "DONT BE SILLY".

    I am pleased by his ascendancy to the highest office in this land, not because of who he is but, because of who we are.

    My best regards,


  26. Dear Thai, Ad hominem niwit:
    WTF is this?

    "I still think you need to cut your hair and get a job- if you can't find one there is a huge shortage of nurses right now. Your local community college probably has a program you can get into for little cost."

    And then this jewel:

    "Like you I too see Paulson's give away of $1-2 trillion in public monies to A FEW as immoral. Where we differ is I also see how we have spent 10s of trillions (several orders of magnitude more) on give aways supporting behaviors and actions of people making less than than $50,000 which should never have been supported."

    So let's take the average estimate here, 1.5 trillion. "Several orders of magnitude" would mean at least a multiple of 1,000, which would equal at least $15,000 trillion. Evidence please of this amount "supporting behaviors and actions of people making less than than $50,000" Perhaps you should revisit your remedial math class for a review. You might qualify for nurse's assistant.

  27. Homer Simpson strikes again, the 1.5 x 1,000 = 1,500

    We all make mistakes but BS propaganda should be shouted down. Evidence Thai?

  28. Oh Marcus of the tree before the forest- your evidence.

    First- the US handed out 1-2 Trillion but only a small % of it will actually end up in Paulson's friend's hands. The rest goes to prop up grandma's retirement plan.
    Your estimates are as good as mine but $30 billion seems reasonable (which is close to what Wall Street paid in bonuses in 2007)... If you have better link, I am all ears (And I spent a good bit of time looking for any link where someone had done the math).

    As for my statement "we have spent 10s of trillions (several orders of magnitude more) on give aways supporting behaviors and actions of people making less than than $50,000 which should never have been supported".

    Let's add up what we spend supporting either those who refuse to work or those who develop complications from their behaviors or those (I realize there is a lot of 'double counting' in these numbers as there are many people who are in more than one category- you can 'back out' after you look at the numbers however you want):

    1. Drug and alcohol addiction: NIDA estimates cost of drug and alcohol abuse to American society at $500 billion in 2007 (I lost the 2007 link but I have included a link from the California Department of Drug and Alcohol Drug Programs for California in 2005. You can extrapolate to $380 billion with their data (different methodology) by extrapolating it the the entire US population)

    2. Obesity: estimated costs $240 billion/year.

    Of course you could just look at the PREVENTABLE economic costs of chronic diseases in America- estimated at $1.2 Trillion/year.

    3. Crime: est Over $1 trillion in 1999 and est. $1.5 Trillion 2004 dollars.

    4. Welfare: $411 billion 2006.

    5. Additional cost of liberalizing disability since changes were enacted to the definition of disability in 1984- est. $25 billion/year 2005.

    6. Costs to workforce of personality disorders: $70 billion annually . Extrapolated to US costs with exchange rate 1.3 EU/dollar and assumption of similar prevalence.

    7. Costs to the educational system for tolerating disruptive children: $ Billion

    8. Racial Discrimination: $219 Billion in 1991 (3.8% GDP), $500 bill/year extrapolated to 2007.

    Do you want me to continue...?

    You can chose the degree of overlap between each of these pools (by the way, if you think there are a few people that are in all of thee pools, you will be validating my "Homereque' view of the world).

    So maybe not 1000 times, but certainly getting close to 2 orders of magnitude or 100 times.

    But I guess you like to look at the trees in life robbing America for $30 billion and forget about the proverbial forest nearly 100 times larger they reside within? Interestingly your tree robbers scams seem to be coming to an end- the rest of the trees in the forest you don't see just keep spending and spending like the energizer bunny.

    I guess lucky for you it is too small to notice.

  29. Not so interesting today, the comments, friends...

    In my book, at least.

    I still maintain that we need to read Toqueville.

    I agree with others in these comments that much of the world has ushered in a new Messiah in the person of Barack Obama, and that given what happened to the last one, it is rather unfortunate for Mr Obama to be in this position, because, as Goldie says, it is the system which is corrupted.
    What happens to a man with integrity in a corrupted system ? I am not particularly optimist, but then maybe I am wrong.
    Anonymous, I find your positions extremely cynical, based on an unquestioned Darwinian ideology about the human condition as hyper determined.
    We have been depressed by this ideology, and its repercussions for far too long.
    On the savings/consumption issue, I don't see how saving money does anything for the economy.
    Does saving = investment ? Always ?
    Spending money (but not spending money you don't have...) helps the economy.
    I repeat, I saw no evidence this summer that the US. could BEGIN to compete in a global market in terms of actual home based production of sophisticated (or other...) goods.
    So... just what does Barack Obama have to work with to pull us out of this mess ?
    Admittedly, a much better image than his predecessor. But how long will the good will last ?
    And I will testify that the rest of the world is clueless about the complexity of the American government. I think that most people see a king in an elected leader, and expect the latter to solve problems without having to go through the complicated system of checks and balances (but then, for the past eight years now, checks and balances haven't been working very well, have they ?...)
    I am not optimistic for Mr. Obama.
    I think that he is very intelligent, has integrity, and a sincere desire for things to change.
    I also think that he does not really understand the breadth of the corruption that he is faced with, and that in this alone, he is perhaps a tad naive.
    I hope that his intelligence will balance out his naiveté.

  30. Deb, my apologies to you, Hell and everyone else.

  31. I pity people that can't allow themselves to be inspired or to be passionate in their lives. You needn't compromise your intellectual honesty to do so. Come on, be human, and live happier and possibly longer too.

    @ Thai

    I wonder what a fractal analysis of Marcus' income and productivity would reveal. I suspect the data would be located on one of the tails of a pareto distribution (Ad Hominem apologies Marcus :p)

    Anyone who has read this blog long enough can confidently surmise that Hell understands the limitations of campaign promises, the risks of deficit spending, and the harsh realities of partisan politics. But it doesn't take a brain surgeon (like me), to know that for many reasons America made the best choice. Like Thai, I can accept paying higher taxes if revenue is put to productive uses.
    But, sadly, politicians have not been good allocators of resources as Hellasious has repeatedly shown us. As I believe Debra alludes to mentioning Tocqueville, and as Thai has repeatedly discussed the virtue of cooperation, we are better off as a society when we deemphasize individualism and greed and encourage community and cooperation.

    Best wishes for a better future to all in these uncertain times, you too Marcus ;)

  32. The amusement of this barely outweighs the tedium but its fun to watch Thai try to dance out of his own statements. And it seems to draw in clowns from the gallery like (brain surgeon) anonymous (can't cipher the controls to use a pseudonym? May I suggest "Pompous Fart" when and if you figure it out?)

    Here's a knee-slapper:

    "First- the US handed out 1-2 Trillion but only a small % of it will actually end up in Paulson's friend's hands. The rest goes to prop up grandma's retirement plan.
    Your estimates are as good as mine but $30 billion seems reasonable "

    Grandma's retirement plan is down between 20 and 40% and the bailout ain't bringing it back anytime soon. We're talking about cause and effect, Paulson and his buddies wrecked the system to the tune of at least one to two hundred times your silly $30 billion figure. But I don't blame them, they're only human acting in their own self interest, I blame the watchdogs of the system that allowed it to happen.

    Then we go on to your litany of objectionable personal hygiene of those damn inferior humans. You sound like a frustrated Pol Pot or Mao unable to control citizens' personal preferences. We need a Thai revolution so everyone can be as productive and healthy as your superior race.

    People and governments are inefficient and incentives should be used to mitigate this reality but the financial mess we are dealing with now is not about inefficiencies that need tweaking but an abject failure of oversight. This extrordinary ineptitude is the glaring elephant in the room.

  33. Marcus,
    Never argue with an only child, you'll never win.

    or at least underlined by some super spell check function that goes BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP whenever it appears.
    Now I'm calming down.

    Just to put things a little in perspective...
    Just how long has salaried work been with us in the human species ? Or retirement plans ?
    Our unbelievable DESIRE to take all risk out of our all too human (and potentially tragic existences) has also managed to get rid of any pretensions (ok, for the purists) almost any pretension of real solidarity (and not fakey charity).
    The whole insurance based, no risk system is on the way out.
    It cannot last.
    So, comments about Mom's retirement (and I am a 52 year old woman with NO RETIREMENT who has always dabbled in "work" since I began in life (but, be careful this does not mean that I am lazy, nor that I need to get my hair cut and get a job, lol).
    Our society is gangrened by the implicit assumptions of that horrible catastrophe known as the Protestant work ethic (yeah, and I know something about it as I was raised to be a Protestant in a Protestant church...) which says that we must all put in a 9-5 work day and look busy at all times, just in case the GREAT EMPLOYER should stick his head around the corner.
    Talk about rats.
    Well, some people just don't fit into 9-5's.
    Some people don't fit into work at all.
    But a society which decides that because they can't manage to look busy and driven all the time, is a society that is impoverishing itself while excluding people capable of making a great contribution to making us all much more alive, and much happier.
    My two cents worth on this one.

  35. Excellent list of high level goals.

    The devil will be in the details.

    Good to see you updating your blog again.

    You were missed.

  36. Yoyomo and Anon- your points are well taken. Rereading my comments I see I am my own worst enemy. By all means, please enjoy life: the NYT did a much better job on this than I have. Anon, as a neurosurgeon, you know very well what I see all day long and it is getting worse every day.

    Marcus- if you want to get drunk, gain weight, smoke tobacco, marijuana, or crack all day long, go ahead, I really could care less (I will assume you probably don't mean to suggest the next rape victim or gunshot victim I treat is some kind of personal hygiene issue).

    I am trying to make the point that when it comes to things like helping each other out, our personal choices never operate in a vacuum.

    2 of the best postings I have read on what is happening today are:
    1. Interfluidity's Credit Crisis for Kindergardeners by Steve Randy Waldman.
    2. Hell' Sardine Can.

    The same issue Waldman and Hell are pointing out using marbles and sardines holds true for every promise we make to each other as a collective. And IF we as individuals do not recognize this interdependency, and then change our relationship to this promise because we either feel safer knowing a collective promise is behind us, or for no good reason at all other than we simply change our behavior, we risk straining our collective bonds.

    So to to use an example from my list of what you call 'personal hygiene issues':

    If I gain 50 pounds, and in so doing wear my knees down (each pound of additional weigh is transmitted by a factor of 9 thru the knees) and then ask the collective to fund knee replacement because I can't afford it and I am in pain, no problem. The collective will help out.

    But the reality is the collective can only promise so much and as long as I am a relatively rare situation, i.e. everyone else is thin and their knees also don't need replacement, etc...

    But if everyone gains 50lbs, now a lot more knee surgeries are necessary and the cost of knee replacement to society becomes a significant issue.

    Further, because I am heavy, the weight itself makes me a higher surgical risk and a higher risk for developing post operative compilations compare with those who are thin. So not only do we need to do more surgeries but the costs per surgery ALSO go up dramatically as we need to treat more compilations, more bad outcomes, etc...

    And further as more people need surgeries, less people are working (say they go on disability for their knee pain or cut work early to avoid knee troubles, etc...) so there are fewer and few workers to pay the collective knee surgery bills.

    Well the issue keeps worsening because not only are my knees worse off because I am heavier, but so is my back and so is my probability of acquiring cancer from the additional weight (and potentially the lifestyle choices that cause that weight gain), etc... and again remember all the complications from the cancer treatments increase as well as I am heavier AND AGAIN remember that everyone is getting heavier so there is more cancer and more complications associated with each of these cancers.

    The same holds true for all kinds of choices we make. The uncommon choices amongst a few individuals are not a big issue to the collective, the common one potentially are.

    All of us in society made collective promises to help one another out based on assumptions as to what each other's obligations were to the collective might be. And when it suddenly goes from a few demanding more from the collective to many demanding more in ways that were never foreseen (and realistically never can be foreseen), the collective risks fracture.

    And I am not 'backtracking' in any way with a $30 billion to $3 Trillion fudge (I am trying to deescalate the rhetoric)- we are comparing different time frames. I agree with you, Paulson's friends behaved in ways that ultimately stole $3+ Trillion from the system over (say) 10-20 years (though I am still not so sure all $3 trillion was personally pocketed by his friends and it does raise complex notions of what 'stole' actually means)...

    But the funny thing about fractals is that they are scale invariant, meaning no matter how small or larger you try to make them or look at them, they still look the same (though I admit it can take a while at time to get them into focus when you change time scales).

    I might suggest that if you use your same logic, and take the collective cumulative costs over those same time periods you might be truly stunned to see how much money the collective spent... And I will remind you we still have a $55 Trillion unfunded medicare liability which almost everyone agrees may become the granddaddy of all US economic disasters if we do not cooperate and figure out a way to either reduce the need to spend the money and/or improve healthcare delivery productivity.

    If we do not, the human suffering the boomer generation and their children will witness will be truly staggering.

    I know of no serious health care expert that disagrees with this statement.

  37. The Thai clowning continues. In one breath we have:

    "Marcus- if you want to get drunk, gain weight, smoke tobacco, marijuana, or crack all day long, go ahead, I really could care less"

    Then Thai changes costume to transform from the "care less" to "care for" character, and the show slows down in a long-winded (maybe Star Trek inspired?) appeal to the "collective". A screed of fantasy-based gobbledygook that would give Timothy Leary a good chuckle.

    In this brave new fantasy world, Thai and other exceptional humans will be encouraged to frolic in the garden of earthly delights (We know you will choose your pharmaceuticals wisely gentlemen). After all, they will need sweet repose from the arduous task of deciding what is required for good health by the "collective"--those potential drug addicts and fatties out there.

    An alternative: Tap the "collective" for universal health care and as part of package include teaching and incentives on being healthy.

    Funding?: Take the 107k limit off of contributions to SS and Medicare and tax capital gains as income.

  38. Marcus said "An alternative: Tap the "collective" for universal health care and as part of package include teaching and incentives on being health"

    Hey, wouldn't you know it, in our disagreement we agree!

    And once the money is collected, there will be money for that nursing position I was suggesting you might look into.

  39. Marcus, Thai
    Please play nice, the tone of this disagreement is becoming unfortunate; neither of you has a claim on being 100% right all the time, nobody does.

  40. I hear ya Yo, sorry for the unpleasantness. I do think it a worthy exercise to expose the BS and bigotry of a gasbag like Thai.

    We get a glimpse of the pathology that may be at the root of the twisted logic from statements like this:

    "And once the money is collected, there will be money for that nursing position I was suggesting you might look into."

  41. Marcus,
    It's OK to pull someone off their high horse when they start sounding too superior but it's better if you don't get too personal or vicious. Thai works/has worked in the ER and he sees and is affected by things none of us ever have to deal with. Hopefully he won't take that as a license to talk down to the rest of us but you're better of taking it with a grain of salt rather than taking it too personally and escalating the vitriol. I enjoy reading both of your comments but only when they provide more light than heat. Best wishes to the both of you.

  42. Marcus, I might agree with you that I am Gasbag, but how am I a bigot?

    Why is it bigoted to say the equivalent of “If you don’t cut down the forest then we don’t need to spend money replanting trees?”.

    Why is it wrong to point out that people refuse to admit how their own personal choices are the primary drivers of escalating health care costs worldwide?

    You seem to have this view that it is OK to have an illusion that we can all act-behave however we want, all in the name of freedom of lifestyle choices, and then somehow think there are no consequence to the system from our personal actions.

    The data on escalating health care costs in this country (really everywhere in the world) is NOT controversial. It is VERY clear that it is the simple fact that we need more knees (I mean this figuratively not literally) that is the primary driver of escalating costs really everywhere in the world (not just the US I might add), there is NO disagreement on this.

    Where people disagree is on the political solutions necessary to solve the crisis where there is an endless ‘should we blame the chicken or should we blame the egg’ discussion within the medical/policy community. And the person you blame is entirely dependent on your political views.

    To summarize some of the different camps I am sure you are already familiar with:

    1. Some people blame and want to slow down the introduction of technology: i.e. The very development of artificial knees is the problem and if we didn't have artificial knees then we would not be tempted to put them on people in the first place.

    2. Some people blame the physician’s ‘fee for service system’: i.e. If there was not a financial incentive to put the knees in people the first place then we would not be putting them in so often.

    3. Some people blame an inability to get reasonable agreement on when ‘enough is enough’ to any one person (I am in this crowd and would apply the same rule to myself and my family).

    4. Some people blame income inequality itself and have good data showing where there is less economic inequality, there is less differences in health outcomes.

    5. Some people blame certain regions as being ‘super spending’ regions where a significantly larger share of all dollars are spent than anywhere else in the country-- and there are arguments again as to whether these regions exist because of regional differences in physician compensation structure or regional cultural differences or other explanations.

    6. Some people blame the fear of medical malpractice and say “if doctors were not afraid of to say “no” to patients they would not put so many knees in”.

    7. Some people blame a kind of consumerist- entitlement attitude on the part of patients (if the patient’s were not all demanding knees then we would not need them).

    8. Some people blame the problem on a shortage of health care providers (if we had more physicians and nurses to put the knees in then we would not worry about the issue).

    9. Some people blame a lack of public health in this country (if we educated people more to the risks of weight loss then they would not gain the weight in the first place).

    10. Some people blame the inability of figuring out how to put knees in people cheaper (i.e. Poor health care delivery productivity gains).

    11. Some blame the elderly (if we didn't have all these elderly then we wouldn't need all these knees).

    There are a few more positions I will not gasbag you with.

    ... And of course the last thing politicians are allowed to do is blame the voters themselves (seeing your reaction I can certainly see why).

    Statisticians have spent forever teasing out the relative contributions of each of these to the overall problem and the answer is quite clear- they all contribute to the problem but the single biggest contributor to the problem is the fact that we simply ‘need more knees’, i.e. the lifestyle choices patients are making is the single largest driver of escalating costs. The other issues are playing a role, but they are small compared to this much bigger fundamental fact.

    And FYI- this is no different than most discussions I have read in the environmental movement regarding the environment. Why is this so controversial?

    If we want to take your approach, and just put as many knees on people as we want, fine, but just like the the banks which hid their liability structure in the SIV's from their books, or the US government which hid it's Freddie-Fanny liability from the public, or the CDO issuers, who hid their risk from investors, so too do I suggest we start accounting for the actual costs of our own actions.

    And when we do start appropriately accounting for them, and see how much they really cost, if we decide we want to keep them, we will have to decide what other things we want to stop spending our money on: education, etc... you can pick your issues, I will pick mine.

    We can even try confiscating the wealth of 'the rich' and spend that propping things up for a little while longer- it might buy us a few years-- but once we spend all of their wealth, we are still stuck with the fundamental fact that we either better stop spending the money or we will have to make even more tough choices on what we are willing to do without.

    Or, we can simply not spend the money in the first place.

    So next time you complain you can't get affordable health care, you should understand the reason why. Socializing health care will not solve this issue in any way whatsoever, just as moving the debt of the whole world onto someone else's books (The Fed) does not solve the underlying debt problem in society- society's debt is there whether we like it or not.

    Society's health costs are there whether they are paid for by the private sector or the public sector and whether you like them or not.

    It is a choice we must make as a collective, plane and simple.

    “If you don’t cut down the forest then you don’t need to spend money replanting trees”

    It is what it is

    You really are stunningly rude.

  43. Thai,
    Lighten up for goodness' sake. You complain that Marcus was rude to you but has it ever occurred to you that you can be condecending at times. You have valid points (so does Marcus) but your presentation could use a little polishing; you're not talking to classroom full of kindergarteners. A further friendly suggestion; K.I.S.S.

  44. Thai, You ignored the only example I posed. If you are not a bigot defend yourself.

    Explain the meaning of this statement besides defining yourself as a small-minded prick:

    "And once the money is collected, there will be money for that nursing position I was suggesting you might look into."

  45. unfortunately isn't Obama's main supporters, the Black Caucus, part of the reason for the subprime meltdown. They were the ones advocating lowering the standards for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - and they were the staunch supporters of Franklin Raines - under whose watch dubious accounting procedures were conducted. I want to believe that Obama will be able to fix the problem - but given his past voting record - he has never fought against his own party. Moreover he also took part in legal actions to force banks to issue loans to high risk borrowers.

  46. Marcus,
    I thought you were going to choose less volatile language to express yourself. I can't fathom the necessity for the animosity; belligerence is not a prerequisite of vigorous disagreement. Both Thai's sarcasm and your derogatory reference add nothing to the strength of your respective arguments and remember that Thai is a psychologist and he can probably play this game better than you so don't fall into that trap.

  47. Explain?

    Easy- If things don't change, there is going to be an awful lot of work necessary to fix all the people who seem hell bent on injuring themselves in subtle but very real and VERY expensive ways (I have said it before and I will say it again, health care spending follows fractal like patterns)...

    In fact there already is too much work for everyone to do right now: most days I go to work, nursing staffing is down 20-30% based on what are viewed as 'safe' RVU/pt ratios, etc... So the first place you can help quickly is by becoming a nurse.

    With your attitude of 'it's fine to cut trees down', my job is going no where anytime soon AND I will likely see you and millions of others like you in the near future working right beside me.

    And of course, the money to pay for all those people (including your new job) is going to have to come from somewhere... it will need to compete with all the other ways we currently want to spend money.

  48. My apologies Thai, I just thought your were some fatuous, narcissistic blowhard. I can see by your explanation I was wrong about you being a "small-minded prick" and will be looking for further evidence of my misjudgments in the future.