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October 22, 2007

Comments

bc: The DNC should have picked a better representative family and avoided the distraction.

The Frosts were a good representative family: an excellent example of the striving middle-class family who are doing all the right things according to conservatives - but who can't afford health insurance.

And, y'know, if the DNC had picked a family with no assets - who had sold their house and car and were living out of a homeless shelter - I'm somehow sure that Malkin would have found another reason to attack them.

Russell:

On the Pres issue, Publius stated:

"It is simply inconceivable that any Democrat would have gone to war in Iraq or would start one with Iran/China/Syria. It's inconceivable. That alone justifies supporting the Democratic candidate."

I was responding to that. I know of no Dem candidate that would say that publicly. My point was that many of the GOP believe what Publius says too and would not vote for the very reason Publius would vote for a Dem candidate.

On the Frost issue, I am more open to a government program than a lot of conservatives. But I like programs that take human nature into account and give incentives to NOT turn it into a fiasco. Like HSA's (not saying this is the perfect solution, but it has it's good points), personal savings accounts for social security, etc.

However, I could accept some inefficiency if, as you say, it truly was effective and reliable. Good point.

I agree with you on Reagan. One word: Reykjavik.

cleek/jesu:

I understand that you both apparently want nationalized health care. Fine. Valid position. I don't agree.

The Frosts are not necessarily "an excellent example of the striving middle-class family who are doing all the right things according to conservatives - but who can't afford health insurance." We don't know whether they could have afforded insurance. The issue is whether a family of their economic position should be getting government assistance. Reasonable minds can differ.

I doubt that any of the shriekers would shriek if they picked a family in true poverty. Maybe you're right. But I think the Dem pitcher threw a softball right down the middle with the Frosts. Should have pitched a fastball.

Bc, you're saying that many of the GOP want a president who will start a war with Iran/China/Syria? Is that all of them at once, or is just one enough? Maybe that's true, but I don't think most of the American people agree with them.

Don't you think there's a big difference between not starting a war and "NEVER, ever, no way, no how use military force"?

KCinDC:

No, not saying that. I think I already addressed that. We HAVE to keep the ability to make a threat of force in our back pocket for future use. Can't just give it up.

And no, we should only pick on two at a time. Iran and Syria are too close together and the nuclear fallout would be duplicative. Better to bomb China and Iran because we could also have collateral damage in North Korea and avoid fallout over Israel with the prevailing jet stream going away from the Holy Land.

Yes, big difference between not starting a war and never using military force. Obviously.

bc: We don't know whether they could have afforded insurance.

Who is the "we" in that sentence? If by "we" you mean "All of the right-wingers who decided not to examine the publicly-available information about the Frosts in order to be able to say they don't know it" then that is perfectly true. But you could remove yourself from this group by reading the following paragraph:

It turns out, however, that not everything about the Frosts' life pops up on a Google search. While Graeme does attend a private school, he does so on scholarship. Halsey Frost is a self-employed woodworker; he and his wife say they earn between $45,000 and $50,000 a year to provide for their family of six. Their 1936 rowhouse was purchased in 1990 for $55,000. It was vacant and in a run-down neighborhood that has improved since then, in part because of people like themselves who took a chance. It is now assessed at $263,140, though under state law the value of that asset is not taken into account in determining their eligibility for SCHIP. And while they are still uninsured, they claim it is most certainly not by choice. Bonnie Frost says the last time she priced health coverage, she learned it would cost them $1,200 a month. (cite)
To point out some basic arithmetic: if your income is $4,166 per month before tax, on which you are supporting a family of six, you sure as hell can't afford $1,200 a month for health insurance after tax.

I understand that you both apparently want nationalized health care. Fine. Valid position. I don't agree.

I will never understand people who prefer an expensive and inefficient system (US health care is 37th in the world for quality, even though you as a nation spend twice as much per head as any other nation) to one that's cheaper and more efficient. Why put up with having the worst health care system of all the developed nations purely in order to make health insurance shareholders richer?

I just did some swift arithmetic: assuming the Frosts are paying 25% tax - a rule of thumb that would work in the UK at their income level, give or take, obviously I could be completely wrong in the US: deduct the $1,200 a month for health insurance, and bc thinks they should be able to live on $443 a week, for 2 adults and 4 children, to pay for everything else. In UK money that would be £216 (or, if I go by the 1990s exchange rate, £316.42) - but in the UK, the minimum amount the state would allow for a family of 2 adults and 4 children to live on for a week would be £337, and that would be assuming neither adult had a job: nor would it include any disability living allowance, which it seems likely Graeme and his sister would get. And, having known families who were trying to live on that kind of minimum - which looks like more than what the Frosts would be able to live on in your scenario - they were always just scraping by.

So, no. I think that it's fairly definite, from publicly available information: the Frosts could not afford health insurance.

Jesurgislac:

I read that. Doesn't prove a thing. The insurance quote was AFTER the accident, not before. They might very well have afforded it before. Self-employed woodworker and apparently fairly smart?-I'm sure he could find a job with insurance not to mention her. But why would he when the government provides it for free or reduced cost? He gets to follow his heart at my expense. Goes to my incentive comment above. Maybe I should go back to my music playing days and qualify for CHIP.

ARRRGGH! I'm just saying they are not the perfect poster family for SCHIP. I'm not trying to denigrate them personally.

And I would be very interested to see where you get that ranking of 37th. I'm not defending our system per se, but we do have the best docs in the world.

And your tax numbers are in fact skewed. they would have to make $31,850 in taxable income to be in that bracket. They would have at least $10,300 in standard deductions, $19,800 in personal exemptions and $4,000 in child tax credits. Not to mention earned income credit and any other deductions they could take (IRA, student loan interest, etc.). I doubt they pay any federal tax and would likely get a refund depending on how the self employment tax shakes out. At most they would owe $3,300( very unlikely)and at best would get a refund. Don't know about state, but I would expect it to be very low.

Now, I could be wrong (any tax preparers out there?). I am using just the standard deduction and exemptions and assuming that most of the income came from Mrs. Frost since his neighbors have (anecdotally)said he is barely breaking even. The $3,281 assumes he makes $40,000 at the business and she only makes $10,000 in wages.

So, if health care pre accident only cost $500/mo for a reasonable plan, and they were only paying $200 in fed taxes, what then? And don't forget most self-employed are masters of writing off personal expenses as business expenses (like his truck, probably one of the other cars, etc.).

Anyway, my point is we really don't know. And Time is not an authoritative source.

"I doubt that any of the shriekers would shriek if they picked a family in true poverty. "

That's because the shriekers don't think there is such a thing as "true poverty" in the US (" . . . but they all have cable TV and Xboxes and free libraries and Twinkies and . . ."): and if there is, it's because the poor people are morally deficient/intellectually inferior/lazy and therefore don't deserve our help.

Phil:

Maybe true. I'm not a shrieker (at least I don't think I am) but I recognize people in true poverty. And although there are those truly deserving, there are a lot of lazy ones out there. Trust me. They live around me. "Disabled" with a bad back while riding a 4-wheeler or chopping wood. And you and I pay for them.

bc: Keep fighting the good fight. You’re wearing them down. ;)

Obama campaign not extricating itself from a difficult situation. Good idea, bad execution.

Gosh, Mr. bc, thanks for explaning to naive ol' me that there are people out there who manage to take advantage of the system. I had no idea.

Now, perhaps you can read up on Type I errors vs. Type II errors, and see why one is preferable to the other. I prefer a system that actually helps people even if some cheaters take advantage of it You clearly prefer a system that might exclude some truly needy people just to exclude any risk of the system being gamed. You want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, that's on you.

BTW, I'm far past the point of "you and I pay for them" to be an effective argument against much of anything. "You and I" pay for a lot of things, and very few of them really benefit the truly needy. Most of them benefit rich people. Really.

Phil:

I wasn't meaning to be condescending and I'm sorry if you took it that way. Just saying that I see it daily and it bugs me that more resources aren't there for the truly needy. I am not opposed to every government program. But when worker's comp fraud exceeds 70% of claims filed by some estimates in my state, I get a little frustrated.

Type I and Type II errors: My head is starting to hurt. I think this is from statistics (my brother-in-law works for the census bureau and tried to teach me this once). Aren't type I's worse than II's?

I think you are saying that a Type I error is letting someone truly needy go without and a Type II error is giving a cheater funds. I obviously prefer Type II errors, but I think each system has to be evaluated on its merits. You speak in such generalities that it is impossible to counter your argument. I also prefer the systems you prefer, depending on the error rate. I am not arguing for a perfect system, just a sane one.

For example, if a system had a less than 5% Type II error rate, I wouldn't have much of a problem. As for Type I errors, the number should be lower.

But I also think that when the Type II error rate gets too high you are harming society more than the Type I errors that are created with an alternate system.

Plus, you assume that there is nobody else out there to help. If we stopped funding all the welfare and disability fraud-ooops, I mean Type II errors-out there we could all afford to help those in need that much more. And I think we have a better sense of who needs help that the government.

I don't disagree that there is a lot of funds going the other way as well.

Just some thoughts.

OCSteve: Help me out. I'm sarcasm impaired today after too many posts. Was that sarcastic? thanks-

Phil:

Does my conservatism make me a Type I error in your world? I'm hoping I'm only a Type II.

"Just saying that I see it daily and it bugs me that more resources aren't there for the truly needy."

More resources aren't devoted to the "truly needy" -- setting aside arguments over the concept of judging who is "truly" anything" and why that's important -- because not enough people demand that their representatives enact programs and money to do so.

And, of course, most Republicans in Congress generally vote against such bills as do increase such spending.

When Congress and the President want to
spend the money, it turns out that $2.4 trillion is not a problem.

Agree or disagree about priorities, it's perfectly obvious that that amount of money can be -- or, at least, could have been -- spent on "the truly needy" -- and keeping anyone from entering that category -- if Congress simply wanted to bother to.

Gary:

Wait a minute. We have spent over $9 Trillion on the war on poverty since Johnson and we STILL have a 12-15% percent below the poverty line.

In 2005 we spent $477 billion on poverty programs (that’s more than the total cost of the Iraq war to date!) If you count Social Security and Medicaid that number is FAR higher. (it was over $600 billion in 1995). And that’s only the fed money. There is only so much we can do with money.

Welfare reform dropped over 2 ½ million off of welfare rolls since 1996 and reduced poverty among many groups, including African Americans. I think that was simply because it encouraged work. Why should someone work when the welfare benefits exceed minimum wage in some states (as they did pre-welfare reform)? The surest way to avoid poverty is to get a high school degree, not get pregnant outside of marriage and be employed. So the goals of the war on poverty should be . . .

Someone joked about conservatives pointing out out the X-Boxes, etc. among the poor. I'm not sure why that is laughed at. When 43% own homes, virtually all own t.v.'s, most have money to make ends meet, virtually all have enough to eat, I just don't get it. The few that fall through the cracks (the Type I errors) are the ones we should worry about. And it's not clear at all that they fall through the cracks due to lack of government money.

If you think I'm wrong, point me to something I can read with cites. Thanks.


"Welfare reform [...] reduced poverty among many groups, including African Americans."

Could you offer a cite (or more, if you like) on this, please?

"The surest way to avoid poverty is to get a high school degree, not get pregnant outside of marriage and be employed."

Sure. But for a wide variety of reasons, this isn't always possible for many people, and thus the three questions are:

1) what can and can't we reasonably do to help this happen, and help prevent it from not happening, if possible;

2) what can we do to help people for whom it's problematic for one reason or another, and;

3) what can we do to help people who wound up one or more of the three above, or with a great difficulty in finding work, or with some condition preventing them from finding work?

As it happens, America is a terribly rich country, so we could afford to do quite a bit more, as I pointed out, if we wanted to.

Certainly the questions of exactly how much to spend, where diminishing returns genuinely becomes a problem, what seems in a given year to be the best kind of response, are all valid, if put forth sincerely, rather than merely as weapons to attack the notion that it makes any sense to actually help people out.

And, of course, all programs always need to be re-evaluated for effectiveness, and reconsidered if they're insufficient or counter-productive, again if done sincerely.

But, as it happens, there's also an industry on the right devoted to making up statistics and claims that attempt to prove that anti-poverty programs uniformly don't work, etc., so, y'know, not all studies are equally credible.

Naturally, I imagine you may feel that there's a liberal industry devoted to making up pro-poverty program stats, in which case I'd focus on government stats, but I don't know if that would cut any ice with you.

My proposition would be that, in fact, government anti-poverty programs, starting with Social Security, and moving on to many Great Society programs, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, while obviously of various effectiveness, have often indeed been very helpful and significant in lifting a great many people out of poverty.

Would you disagree?

"most have money to make ends meet, virtually all have enough to eat,"

That's just ignorant. It's difficult to believe you've known many actual poor people.

Honest to god, when you're really poor, you definitionally don't "have money to make ends meet." I can personally attest to this.

Gary:

Couldn't find the original cite I read that in, but here is another:

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/1b/33/2b.pdf


Yes, Roosevelt's reforms did a lot, but I'm not sure about the effectiveness of the Great Society on poverty. We have been at a steady 12-15% poverty level ever since. Maybe the problem is simply the definition of poverty.

When I said "making ends meet" I probably should have said "having a roof over your head and food to eat." Yes, a third of the poor are behind in rent and utilities and a lot are probably under credit card debt, but compared to the world's poor, they are generally well off. I realize there are abject poor for whatever reason, and they are certainly truly deserving of our help.

Here's some reading about our poor:

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Welfare/bg2064.cfm#_ftn8

A lot of the statistics cited are from government sources. Some are not. I have read alternate writings in the past that paint a different picture. I am not sure where the truth lies. Like I said, I'm open minded to the subject. Maybe I'm off on what poverty really is like but I don't think throwing a bunch more money at it will help. We already throw a ton of money at it.

"Welfare reform dropped over 2 ½ million off of welfare rolls since 1996 and reduced poverty among many groups, including African Americans. I think that was simply because it encouraged work."

I think you perhaps need to research some facts about what's happened to all those people who dropped off the welfare rolls since 1996. I can promise you that twelve years later they're not all stable, job-holding middle-class Americans. Probably very few of them are. Read "Nickled & Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich for some clues as to why.

"Yes, a third of the poor are behind in rent and utilities and a lot are probably under credit card debt, but compared to the world's poor, they are generally well off."

This is tiresome. Why is this relevant? I really don't understand this. On top of that, it's not always true--as I recall, life expectancies for poor people in some countries are higher than they are here. But no, I don't have any cites handy.

bc: I'm sarcasm impaired today after too many posts. Was that sarcastic?

Not at all – sincerely meant. It’s very tough to argue against the flow here and you’ve done a great job of handling the pile on while remaining firm but calm.

Thanks OCSteve. And I agree, Donald. I really don't want to get sucked into a discussion I don't know enough about(a little knowledge is a dangerous thing) when all I was saying was I don't think the government is always the best vehicle for solving our problems. Sorry to tire you. I tired myself! And you're right, Phil, I do need to read more on the issue. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll take a look.

Couple of thoughts on the Frosts/SCHIP/public funding of health insurance/poor people in the US stuff.

Focussing on whether the Frosts could, or could not, have afforded a minimal health insurance plan before the accident (a) is kind of fruitless, and (b) misses the point.

It's fruitless because none of us know, or can know, the answer. Could Mr. Frost have found a job that came with insurance? Was a less expensive plan available to them? Could they have afforded it if so?

There isn't one person on this list for whom the answers to those questions aren't "I don't know", "I don't know", and "I don't know".

It misses the point because, for any imaginable plan the Frosts might have been able to afford, their coverage would have been exhausted long before their need ended. The cost of two kids in the hospital for months worth of acute care, followed by years of therapy, would have beggared them and any combination of helpful friends and neighbors you care to imagine.

Which is why programs like SCHIP exist. They exist to help people who are too rich for Medicare, but too poor to deal with the whole enchilada from their own resources. There are *a lot* of people like that.

Regarding poverty in the US, it's absolutely true that poor people in the US are better off than poor people in most of the rest of the world. That's because (a) most of the rest of the world has nothing approaching the level of resources that we do to bring to bear, and (b) because for the last 70 years this country has decided to spend a lot of its great wealth on building a safety net sufficient to make basic services available to poor folks.

And, as Gary notes, in spite of all of that there are still *a lot* of people who don't actually have the necessities.

Finally, it's a plain and natural fact that the US pays more per capita than any other nation on earth, and has very poor public health results in return. I don't know where the specific number "37th" comes from either, but I find it entirely credible.

If you want a cite, go here and run some numbers for yourself. It's free and the information is pretty good.

And, last but not least, can we leave the damned Frosts alone now?

Thanks -

Among the reasons I support a much stronger safety net is the simple fact that I haven't yet seen a good refutation of Bismarck's concerns. People who feel themselves stuck in bad situations without prospect of relief and who feel alienated from the ways of the successful classes are the natural fodder for revolutionaries and demagogues. People who feel confident of their ability to cope with unexpected trouble and secure when it comes to the necessities of a safe and productive life with real prospects for improvement are much harder to exploit.

This is obviously true in the American experience. We have a lot of people who can be manipulated into supporting a lot of evil nonsense in part because they lack a better foundation for their sense of security. This is not me pointing and saying "ha ha morons", either, because, well, I've fallen prey to the same sort of thing myself in past that's more recent than I'd like. This is self-criticism alongside concern about anyone else.

I think that an America in which a lot more people had good reason to be a lot more secure when it comes to the routine needs of life and its random catastrophes would be happier, more productive, more interesting, and much less dangerous and more beneficial to the whole world.

Still on practical vs ideal, different views of the ENDA vote.

Russell:

As in defrosting this thread? Or Frost-free posting? No more frosting on the cake. . .o.k., those were bad, I admit.

Russell:

As in defrosting this thread? Or Frost-free posting? No more frosting on the cake. . .o.k., those were bad, I admit.

bc,

Be careful, or Jack Frost will start nipping at your nose.

at least the noseys have stopped nipping at the Frost's.

You all secretly hate me.

O stupid stray apostrophe, insert thyself not randomly into my text!

And I would be very interested to see where you get that ranking of 37th. I'm not defending our system per se, but we do have the best docs in the world.

Unfortunately the US has to import most doctors and still have less doctor per capita than most first world countries. If you'd change to "socialized health care" I think that would be a major bottleneck and getting more doctors should be one of the priorities. Why are there not many US trained doctors?

If you look at averages (life span, mortality in kids, care for people with chronic illnesses) the US scores below average. Some other area's the US scores really high - but most of those effect the 'priviledged'. So how good you judge the healthcare to be depends on which group you belong too, and on averages like the one I mentioned the US scores 37th.

"I'm not defending our system per se, but we do have the best docs in the world."

What metric are you citing? Link, please?

Oh, and to bring the discussion back to Democrats and wether they'd do better than Republicans; Tom Lantos has not made the democrats more popular in the Netherlands.

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