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February 25, 2009

Comments

It all makes sense when you think about it. You see, the Republicans have a new "faith-based" program for the volcano problem.

I don't remember the details, something about virgins and purity rings...

He objected to monitoring volcanoes? Really? The Yellowstone Caldera would be pretty high on my list of "potential natural disasters to watch out for". It might go in ten years, it might wait another 1000 years - but considering what it will do to the North American continent (and the world) when it does, I'd say it's worthwhile spending a very small part of the US budget on.

But, but, but, he didn't propose a mission to Mars?!?

First, I hope this will be known as the "we're not quitters" speech.

Obama walked up there and told the Republicans that he's in their base killing their d00dz.

He gutted their rhetoric and bound them with his framing of the issues in a way that twisting and resisting will make the threads cut deeper. He forced them to sit up and clap. I'm surprised he didn't imply "some people in the last eight years" were against puppies!

I think this was the start of the "I'll crush them" phase... see http://www.dailykostv.com/v/000339.html

OK, I'm in full gushing mode, but da*n!

Obama just committed us to curing cancer.

Even Bartlett wouldn't commit to curing cancer.

ugh, I'm happy with most of Obama's spending proposals and ecstatic about the closing of Guantanamo but I'm soooo disappointed with his bank crisis choices. He talked about how we got into this mess by deregulating in favor of short-term profits, that's great that he pointed that out. But then his bailout team is made up of the people who got us into this mess!!! If he would cut Larry Summers loose, just as a symbolic gesture, it would be a step in the right direction. But as long as his plans for the bank bailout consist of transferring taxpayer wealth to shareholders and executives, and as long as he has Citi bank executives, of all people, advising him, I'm afraid his pretty words don't inspire me.

I can't wait for hurricane season.

I want to see National Weather Service maps with Louisiana blanked out because of budget cuts to hurricane research and weather forecasting.

I want to see maps showing the Gulf of Mexico lapping at the Arkansas state line.

Molten lava: rising through the plumbing in the Governor's mansion while Jindal sits on the crapper contemplating the pleasing notion of cutting folks off of their unemployment benefits.

Then he said he would cut spending on bloated defense and agribusiness subsidies.

The latter is part of a progressive agenda?

Keep in mind that yesterday's "family farms" are today's "agribusiness." Farm state Democrats -- along with a fair number of farm-state Republicans -- have been critical to keep these subsidies flowing, including via ethanol subsidies. And it's not at all clear that Obama intends to end ethanol subsidies, despite the inferiority of the technology and the effects on world food supplies.

Don't get me wrong: it was a good speech and there were items in it that I found persuasive. I agree with aspects of your post. But, having long opposed farm subsidies with "progressives" on the other side, I found that line jarring.

While I'm sure Obama delivered it better than Bush, and hopefully can follow through - intends to follow through - on the domestic promises, there was nothing but crap, fantasies, and lies with regard to Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The part about the surge could have been written by Bush's speechwriters: and I'm sure I've seen the same pile of crap in Bush SOTUs about how Afghanistan is getting better and better since the US re-installed the patchwork warlord absence-of-government and started bombing villages: which policy of making a desolation and calling it peace, it appears Obama plans to continue. After all, without Bagram Airbase, what will he do with the prisoners he does not want to release when he closes Gitmo?

In fact, if I were in the US military, I would be deeply worried about Obama's plans to pour more troops and more money into fighting a land war in Afghanistan: no one has ever won a land war in Afghanistan, though in the process of trying, they have often managed to kill many of their own soldiers and even more Afghan civilians...

Then he reminded the country that he is closing Gitmo – and explained the national security rationale for doing so.

Yes, well. Pardon me for remaining unmoved: so long as Bagram Airbase continues, and prisoners from Guantanamo Bay are moved to Bagram Airbase, what does it matter that Obama plans to close down the public gulag and move the prisoners to a more private one?

Keep in mind that yesterday's "family farms" are today's "agribusiness."

Like yesterday's "general store" is today's "Wal-Mart".

Just saying.

Obama is to be commended for (at last!) a bit of "in your face" theater. The cautious optimism threat level has risen to orange, but as Jes points out, there are indeed clouds on the horizon.

The actual line was

In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them.

I thought emphasis on local farms and organic farming was progressive politics. I know that the appointment of Vilsack was a big disappointment to progressives, so some skepticism is in order, but I don't see progressives supporting these things.

Keep in mind that yesterday's "family farms" are today's "agribusiness."

. . . and if we lived in yesterday, that would be relevant. Meanwhile, today's "family farms" "can't compete."

Kind of OT -- I just heard an audio clip of Jindal's speech on NPR.

Is it just me, or does he sound just like Jimmy Carter?

http://rukablud-com.narod.ru

I thought it was a great speech. How about the simple fact that the man delivered it without notes!? When was the last time one of our major politicians did that?

The Bank bashing was delicious, and a sign of condign punishment to come. I loved it, because it was soooooooo deserved. Obama also made the case for a revolution in the banking system, and for tough government regulation in the people's interest.

The line about this being the nation that invented the automobile, and thus not one to give up on the industry, was brilliant. It evokes the best in our past as a sign for what is needed in our future.

How about the discussion of tax reform, and nailing the top 2%? There was a shot of Mitch McConnell when Obama said that, and it looked like the good senator had just soiled himself. The point that this reform would NOT increase taxes on those making <$250K was gold.

There have been some naysayers and sourpusses in this thread about what Obama hasn't done, but I have optimism for the first time in ages. It must have been like this for America when FDR took over and gave our Country hope again. We are living in truly historic times, and have the right man in office.

BTW, I was disgusted with McCain's cheap shot about the the "Marine One" helicopter program, and his sleazy attempt to pin this years-long procurement boondoggle on a new President in office barely a month. Obama's riposte was brilliant: "I think the present helicopter is perfectly adequate. I've never had a personal helicopter before. Maybe I was deprived and didn't even know it."

The difference between Obama and Bush is that Bush used the office of the presidency to achieve certain ends, and Obama is the President.

Discuss.

what does it matter that Obama plans to close down the public gulag and move the prisoners to a more private one?

One small silver lining to the change would be that Bagram at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future will revert to Iraqi control. For better or worse, the prisoners then become their problem.

in what sense is Guantanamo "public" ?

A few points.

President Obama totally avoided the idea that new labor, environmental, energy, transporatation, financial, and reporting regulatins will make it much harder for the private sector to create jobs. Why would anyone in the private sector think about investments and expansion when the federal government could regulate your business out of existence tomorrow.

Also, no one noticed the irony that Obama, Biden, and Pelosi were sitting there nodding about improving public education when none of their children have ever attended a public school. Does anyone really believe that the Obama Admnistration will be any better at improving schools than the Clinton or Bush Admnsitrations were.

Also, notice no talk about immigration. How many of the three million new infrastrucutre jobs will be filled with illegal aliens. The Obama Adminstration could end up eliminating more than three million jobs in the healthcare, insurance, energy, and retail sector while creating jobs that will be filled by illegal aliens.

How about the simple fact that the man delivered it without notes!?

What? No TelePrompTer?

The Obama Adminstration could end up eliminating more than three million jobs in the healthcare, insurance, energy, and retail sector while creating jobs that will be filled by illegal aliens.

or maybe he'll do neither of those things.

The speech was certainly OK, but "full-bodied progressivism"? Hardly. Tax cuts, more military spending, charter schools, throw more money to the banks (sounded like), lots of Republican platitudes.

or maybe he'll do neither of those things

Or maybe he'll convert to Islam, and then require that the rest of the country follow suit. You just never know what might happen in those scary potential alternate realities that aren't this one.

cw: One small silver lining to the change would be that Bagram at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future will revert to Iraqi control.

Bagram Airbase is in Afghanistan. The issue of the US's prison camps in Iraq is yet another matter than Obama's said nothing about.

cleek: in what sense is Guantanamo "public" ?

The Red Cross has access to all areas of Guantanamo: this is not the case for Bagram Airbase.

Some of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have had limited access to lawyers: this is not the case for Bagram Airbase.

To demonstrate how humane the cages are in which the prisoners are being held, news footage has been shown of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, and reporters have been allowed very limited access (the temporary prison for the prisoners who were minors at the time they were captured, for example, was shown off - and it is known that as soon as the children turned 18, they were shifted from the comparitively comfortable prison made for them to the adult cells). This is not the case for Bagram Airbase.

We can be fairly sure that no prisoner has actually been tortured to death at Guantanamo Bay - though there have been a few successful suicides. But we know of at least three murders of prisoners by Americans at Bagram Airbase - two men beaten to death, one man left to die of cold in his cell - though we also know that the US military does not regard the murder of prisoners in Bagram Airbase as an offense which merits any severe penalty.

Also, no one noticed the irony that Obama, Biden, and Pelosi were sitting there nodding about improving public education when none of their children have ever attended a public school.

And then he talked about what he's going to do with the military, and Obama's never even been in the military! The nerve!

Obama gave a great speech, regardless of how one feels about the specifics. Unlike Bush, he speaks in complete sentences and coherent thoughts. He is, by and large, doing what he promised on the campaign trail.

Substantively, Publius nails it: Obama is laying out an aggressive but traditional left-of-center vision. As Publius says, he is throwing long--and that is precisely the point.

At considerable expense, we will find out in the next four years if the left's version of how to govern is correct and affordable. I've always believed it to be, on balance, more intrusive, more burdensome on the job creators and risk takers, with the benefits being less than the costs of these many ideas. Plus, I've never found government at any level to possess the level of competence and flexibility required to execute the macro-programs and strategies.

But my view, or what is left of it after 8 years of Bush et al, lost the election and Obama has almost all the votes he needs to carry out last night's promises.

If anyone can make big government work, it will be Obama. He is a very, very capable person. As a fan of small government, the best evidence of the wisdom of small vs big government will come on his watch--if he can't make big government work, it can't be done. If he can, then I have to rethink my position.

. . . and if we lived in yesterday, that would be relevant. Meanwhile, today's "family farms" "can't compete."

Phil, the point is that a "family farm" suddenly becomes an "agribusiness" as soon as you want to cut a subsidy. It's the same people, same company, same farm -- only the name changes.

Bagram at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future will revert to Iraqi control

Really? That'll be a surprise for the Afghans.

What? No TelePrompTer?

Yes, let's not get carried away here. Obama's good at reading his speeches, but where did that "without notes" idea come from?

As a fan of small government, the best evidence of the wisdom of small vs big government will come on his watch--if he can't make big government work, it can't be done. If he can, then I have to rethink my position.

Good to hear. But did the failure of the "small government" people when they were in charge have any effect on your position, or is that approach, like communism, something that's never really been tried, despite what the people with power called themselves?

Phil,

However, all of the top Democrats have sent their children to schools that work. However, those schools are private schools with high standards, no children of illegal aliens, and no tolerance for disruptive students.

The choice for decades has been to educated children who want to learn or try to force disruptive students to learn. The teachers unions and the Democratic party has always been on the side of making public schools friendlier for disruptive students and less friendly for students who want to learn. Of course, the Democratic party leadership takes this positions while sending their own children to private schools.

If President Obama wants to improve schools, then let him start by sending his own children to public schools and letting them be taught by unionized teachers in a place with low standards. Why should President Obama expect anyone to send their own children to a school that is not good enough for the leaders of this country?

Why should President Obama expect anyone to send their own children to a school that is not good enough for the leaders of this country?

i agree; Obama should spend as much money as is necessary to make all public schools equal in quality, safety and security to the best private schools available in the nation's capital.

I've always believed it to be, on balance, more intrusive, more burdensome on the job creators and risk takers, with the benefits being less than the costs of these many ideas.

I'm not quite sure what risks you are talking about here. Employers don't create jobs, they hire the minimum labor needed to support their business and they try to externalize every risk they can. Business is not a romantic heroes quest no matter how Ayn Rand and Sam Walton's family try to spin it.

Why not call them 'gamblers'? That seems closer to the truth.

"The speech was certainly OK, but "full-bodied progressivism"? Hardly. Tax cuts, more military spending, charter schools, throw more money to the banks (sounded like), lots of Republican platitudes."


Publius is right-an awesome speech-but it does demonstrate why Obama is more a pragmatic liberal than a progressive liberal. His purpose is to accomplish certain goals through government spending by keeping the middle-class on board. That is the genius of his tax cut promise. For years, the GOP has kept this possibility of serious successful liberal governance at bay by convincing the middle-class that Dems would increase their taxes, thus enabling the GOP to pass big tax cuts for the wealthy with crumbs for the middle-class. Obama is promising the middle-class that their taxes will not go up while he pursues the liberal agenda. And, in fact, since his method is refundable tax credits that go as well to those who pay only payroll, and not income, taxes, this is, in fact, progressive as well. As to charter schools, urban schools are failing to provide the education that urban students need. Charter schools are the liberal, and I would say, progressive, alternative to vouchers to provide urban students with the education they need. On the banks, they are the institution through which the money the economy needs must flow and Obama knows that he needs the public to understand that too much focus on punishing bankers will only punish us all, and probably worse than it would the bankers. On the military, again he wants to make it clear that liberal government, as it was with FDR,Truman,JFK, is government that will keep us safe. Reagan got the public to accept policies to the right of where the public was by virtue of obtaining the trust of that public. Obama is going to achieve policies to the left of where the public is by obtaining and maintaining the public's trust in him. The GOP understands this and so should all Dems, progressive and otherwise. Obama is not a progressive or a populist, he is a liberal pursuing a pragmatic agenda of liberal governance that will end the conservative dominance of the last 40 years. For myself, I intend to enjoy it.

Employers don't create jobs, they hire the minimum labor needed to support their business and they try to externalize every risk they can.

And naturally, if a given Employer went out of business, those jobs would just sort of naturally express themselves out in the jobosphere, somewhere, somehow. Because jobs aren't created.

It should be obvious that I completely disagree. Just because employers don't open up a whole lot of positions that they don't actually need to have filled, doesn't mean that they don't create any jobs at all.

Business is not a romantic heroes quest no matter how Ayn Rand and Sam Walton's family try to spin it.

I think you just might be onto something there, nous, but my reading of Rand has her idealized vision of businessmen (which, sure, bears little resemblance to the real world) are folks that few people would want to be, because it means things like really, really hard work and very little time sipping champaign out of slippers. Rand's depiction of the businessman-as-hero was lots of things, but "romantic" wasn't one of them.

Excepting maybe that brief stint in Galt's Gulch, where everyone simultaneously respected and intended financial ruin on their neighbors. But that was just a tiny chunk out of thousands of pages of other stuff.

Phil, the point is that a "family farm" suddenly becomes an "agribusiness" as soon as you want to cut a subsidy. It's the same people, same company, same farm -- only the name changes.

Von, I think you're missing the key clause in Obama's line regarding which agribusinesses should have subsidies cut: that don't need them.

What it sounds like to me is that he's talking about means testing for businesses that receive government handouts. And that's not a bad thing in my eyes, nor would I think it'd be a bad thing to conservatives. It should be an area we can agree on.

nous,

In 1992, the Democratic Party had the argument of how can you have employees without employers. It is nice to see that the conclusion has now been reached that you can have employees without employers.

And yes, there is a form of gambling when one establishes a business. How else do you expect the private sector to produce jobs and pay taxes so that government can exist?

Obama is going to achieve policies to the left of where the public is by obtaining and maintaining the public's trust in him.

If you cross out "public" and insert "Washington and other elites" I'd agree with you. I'd guess that the public is generally further left than Obama is right now.

In any event, my comment was to the effect that, after 8 years of bread and water, Publius was mistaking a hot dog and Ripple for caviar and cognac. Even if that's the best we could get.

"Keep in mind that yesterday's "family farms" are today's "agribusiness."

Like yesterday's "general store" is today's "Wal-Mart".

Just saying.

And neither deserve subsidies.

Bagram Airbase is in Afghanistan.

I should remember never to post before breakfast.

TJ, I can understand where you are are coming from if you believe that the publc is to the left of Obama, but I just do not think that is true. I think that Obama perceives that the public is capable of being as much left of center as he is, but that they have to be led there with him never getting too far ahead of public opinion, much as FDR in the lead-in to WW2. Public opinion polling often shows people having leftish opinions in the abstract, as they often do on single-payer health care, but that never survives the inevitable attacks by the other side, pointing out (and usually exagerating)costs that most people are not prepared, or fear, to incur. Most people, of course, are not political enough to be left or right, and are skeptical of any agenda that is advertised as being left or right. Many people view themselves as conservatives because they want to conserve the gains of the New Deal, for instance. People want problems solved and they want to believe that the president is pursuing an agenda of problem-solving rather than an ideological agenda. I think Obama understands that aspect of public opinion and how to lead it, instinctively and last night's speech does exactly that very well.

Jes: no one has ever won a land war in Afghanistan, though...

Actually they have, but you have to go back a ways.

[I believe that may be true in the post-Mongol era, however.]

von: Phil, the point is that a "family farm" suddenly becomes an "agribusiness" as soon as you want to cut a subsidy. It's the same people, same company, same farm -- only the name changes.

Along with everyone else's note about "who need it", I have another question: do you have any specific reason why you believe this? My (very limited) experience is many "family farms" never get counted as "agribusiness" except in a general sense.

Rand's depiction of the businessman-as-hero was lots of things, but "romantic" wasn't one of them. Excepting maybe that brief stint in Galt's Gulch everything she wrote concerning businessmen.

Anarch: your research is much more thorough than mine. I was just thinking of the past three hundred years or so.

gregspolitics: I think that Obama perceives that the public is capable of being as much left of center as he is, but that they have to be led there with him never getting too far ahead of public opinion.

But then, is Obama actually paying attention to public opinion, or only to what Washington pundits tell him is public opinion?

Slarti- good to see you on board today.

It's cute that you think I'm arguing that people can get paid without jobs, but that's not the case. I'm just pointing out that the people mckinneytexas wants to paint as 'job creators and risk takers' aren't particularly 'at risk' of anything major nor are they in business *in order to* create jobs. That's exactly like calling line workers 'management creators', since there would be no one to manage if there were no workers. That language minimizes the importance of the employees and makes it sound as if they exist only through the largess of owners and management.

"But then, is Obama actually paying attention to public opinion, or only to what Washington pundits tell him is public opinion?"

i think it's been pretty clear over the last 18 months or so, that obama doesn't pay pundits that much attention. (or at least he doesn't heed their advice)

"But did the failure of the 'small government' people when they were in charge have any effect on your position, or is that approach, like communism, something that's never really been tried, despite what the people with power called themselves?"

Which 'small government people' have ever been in charge? None that I am aware of. As I think I made clear, the last 8 years were anything but small government. That said, yes, it is like communism in that it's never really been tried, or at least not since 1929, and certainly not in a post-WWII highly industrialized and well educated society. The differences end there, since small government is the antithesis of a centralized-planning dictatorship with a police state apparatus, gulags, etc.

Nous--I am an employer and I took and continue to take risks to stay in business. Many of my clients and friends are small business owners. They take risks everyday, not the least of which is covering payroll on borrowed money where they personally guarantee the line of credit, in the hopes that their product or services will sell and that there will be a continued market for their products/services. If they are wrong in either case and revenues sufficient to cover overhead aren't forthcoming, the bank calls the note and the personal guarantee and my formerly reasonably affluent friend--or myself--is out on his/her/my butt. That is risk taking and it creates and preserves jobs. I don't know that I'd call it romantic, but for myself and those I know who are self-employed or own their own businesses, we much prefer having our own shop to working for someone else.

. . . the point is that a "family farm" suddenly becomes an "agribusiness" as soon as you want to cut a subsidy.

If that was the point it misses the point entirely, as it is complelely backwards (unless you mean "cut" in the same sense as one would say "cut a check.")

In the real world, when talk turns to helping out the family farms, we suddly find that Gallo is a family farm. Because, you know, it's a family. And a farm. And when people want to reduce subsidies to agribusiness, Archer Daniels Midland starts talking like they're just a Mom & Pop operation.

nous--i'd be curious as to why you think employers aren't at risk and don't create jobs. I agree that people don't go into business because they want to hire other people, but job creation is the natural by-product of going opening and running a business.

I think we discount the potential upside of returning Bagram Airbase to the Iraqis at our peril.

Just think of it: the Iraqis are overwhelmingly Muslim, they already understand many of the cultural cues they'd find in Afghanistan. Plus, think of the pride the Iraqi people would feel, seeing a few tens of thousands of their boys patrolling on Afghanistan's plains!

Double plus -- nobody would see this coming! Never underestimate the power of surprise to improve our international position.

mckinneytexas: I agree that people don't go into business because they want to hire other people, but job creation is the natural by-product of going opening and running a business.

Well, if the business is successful, and the people who run it are paying fair wages and providing reasonable working conditions. That's true so far.

But I'm at a loss why you think "small government" would help you do that. The smaller the government, the more powerful the big corporations, the less likely a small player like you and your friends will be allowed to compete with the big businesses or will be provided with the kind of social network that enables and supports small-scale entrepreneurs - for example, in the UK, an entrepreneur does not have to worry about paying for health insurance or going without preventive healthcare, which is a major drag on opening a new business in the US.

Why don't we get rid of rich people all together. They seem to be the cause of all our problems and national angst. Let's just nationalize everything. Hell, let's make Obama grand pooba of all that exists and replace the monetary system with food stamps. Sheesh, then we wouldn't have to worry about political finance reform or any form of corruption. We'll unionize every industry, enduce government health care and produce one model of automotive device. Can I keep my Harley?

C.S., the point is that usage (family farm, agribusiness) depends entirely on how you want to frame the issue. Of course Gallo is a family farm .... and it's an agribusiness as well. In fact, every family farm is an agribusiness, and virtually all (profitable) agribusinesses that are "small" make speciality goods that can only be afforded by folks with some means.

In other words, subsidies to true "small" family farms are probably going to most benefit folks who produce foie gras, fancy cheese and the like .... which is fine by me in the sense that I happen to like foie gras and fancy cheese, but probably not the best use of the money.

Why don't we get rid of rich people all together.

Because that would be illegal, unethical, and fattening.

Jesurgislac,

Is that from all the pork they've been eating?

Can I keep my Harley?

No.

You must surrender your Harley. You will be issued a People's Motorcycle.

Enjoy the ride!

Jes:
But I'm at a loss why you think "small government" would help you do that. The smaller the government, the more powerful the big corporations, the less likely a small player like you and your friends will be allowed to compete with the big businesses...

While I generally agree with you regarding small gov't not being some wondrous Godsend to small businesses, I think you play too strongly the hand of big gov't. If it's co-opted by the big businesses or their owners, there's no reason to think it would do anything but make big businesses even stronger.

Yes, to some degree this is a semantic quibble over the implied "taxing, regulating, and otherwise meddling" implication often attached to the phrase "big gov't", but neither you nor mckinney are limiting the scope of government to regulation and taxation in this discussion.

J, you ask,"The smaller the government, the more powerful the big corporations, the less likely a small player like you and your friends will be allowed to compete with the big businesses or will be provided with the kind of social network that enables and supports small-scale entrepreneurs."

My answer: not over here, at least not in my experience. What you describe seems like a cliche to me. No one "let's" me or prevents me from doing anything except the federal and state government. Certainly no privately operated entity has ever limited my ability to operate pretty much as I see fit. Further, my experience is that big government and big business tend to synergize rather than oppose. Small businesses carry a lot less weight with state and federal legislators than the major players. At least, that's been my experience. But it's also my experience that big business goes to government for things like regulatory relief, tax regulation tweaks to help a particular company and tort immunities/limitations on liability, rather than overt efforts to limit market competition. There are exceptions, but they have their inception in the blending of government and private enterprise. For example, Southwest Airlines has all kinds of ridiculous limitations on what routes it can fly and whether a flight may or may not be nonstop. None of this is passenger safety related. Rather, it is a deal cooked up between American Airlines and then House Speaker Jim Wright to give American a limited monopoly out of Dallas-Ft. Worth and to discourage use of Southwest Airlines. It is the worst of government messing around in private enterprise because we have government picking who wins and who loses, rather than letting the market decide.

Quite frankly, I can't imagine what kind of law or social network would let any small business compete more effectively with larger companies, or, in my case, larger law firms, other than mandatory set asides, which have their own unpleasant downside. it is fantasy that national health care will make me more competitive. I and every other small business will pay more in taxes or premiums or whatever they call the cost of this service plus the administrative load I discuss below.

I am not a libertarian. I and most other citizens consent to most of the limitations/injunctions government places on us: we all agree to stop at stop signs, go through security screening at airports, show up for jury duty, pay our taxes, obey the law generally, etc. I have no quarrel with minimum wage laws, overtime laws, work safety requirements, etc.

The two largest limitations on otherwise unregulated enterprises is the tax burden and record keeping/reporting requirements. I pay at least a dozen different business-related Federal and State taxes in addition to personal income and real property tax. It is ridiculous. Added to that is the documentation I am required to maintain on virtually every vendor, supplier, contractor, etc. I write a check to over the course of a year. Virtually everyone has to get a 1099 with whatever further documentation gets sent to the IRS. The administrative burden is quite significant, particularly for small businesses that cannot spread the administrative cost as diffusely as a larger operation can. One of my main concerns about national health care is that my compliance/reporting/document retention/paperwork requirements will be far more onerous that those we currently have buying health insurance on the private market.

mckinneytexas, I think I have become allergic to government period. Big or small.
Not just government. Shall I say, any entity which contributes in any way whatsoever to the abysmal amounts of PAPERWORK which are implied in modern life, and which seem to be sapping the life, and the desire to live, out of us...
We are spending so much time (including here...) WRITING about living, or regulating it, or planning it, that we have simply forgetten how to live.
This may, or may not be, on topic.

Showing my lack of knowledge about the health care debate in this country, but mckinneytexas's last sentence prompts me to ask: If we get national health care, why would employers have anything to do with employees' health care any more? I am self-employed. I buy myself an individual Anthem policy and keep track of my own paperwork. I don't need an employer in order to be able to do that, and I don't see why, with national health care, an employer would have to do that for employees. I suppose there's an answer, and I suppose the answer has something to do with profits for someone (not mckinney) somewhere. And if that's the answer, I'm grinding my teeth as usual.

(I hasten to add: not that there's anything wrong with profits as such, what's wrong is when entrenched interests and power centers prevent us from designing a relatively sane system...of health care, transportation, whatever.)

[S]ubsidies to true "small" family farms are probably going to most benefit folks who produce foie gras, fancy cheese and the like.

Link, please?

Really, von, turning the hard work and toil of others into a snotty backhanded insult is just flat reprehensible. Foie gras producers? Really? How about the people who grow actual food instead of industrial corn? How about . . . no, you know what? Screw it. You can't be convinced. Why bother? Someone who can so cavalierly dismiss thousands of farmers in real need as basically the handmaidens of yuppie striving is a moral leper.

But please, give me a link, just one link, just one! It can even be to a right-wing whackjob thinktank! Just one link that even vaguely intimates what you suggest -- that "true" family farms primarily produce "foie gras, fancy cheese and the like."

Moral. Leper.

"But, having long opposed farm subsidies with
'progressives' on the other side, I found that line jarring."

I can't speak to other "progressives" you've encountered, von, but I find this jarring, because for all the years I've been reading ObWi, since a few months after start-up, I've seen just about no positive words about farm subsidies from any "progressives" here, and I've seen announcements of how they should be cut every time the subject has come up. It's always been one of those universal points of agreement, and it's come up dozens and dozens of times.

"But, having long opposed farm subsidies with
'progressives' on the other side, I found that line jarring."

I can't speak to other "progressives" you've encountered, von, but I find this jarring, because for all the years I've been reading ObWi, since a few months after start-up, I've seen just about no positive words about farm subsidies from any "progressives" here, and I've seen announcements of how they should be cut every time the subject has come up. It's always been one of those universal points of agreement, and it's come up dozens and dozens of times.

"thousands of farmers in real need..." For someone asking for a link, I'd love to see the support on this.

Though frankly I would think that there is very little policy justification for supporting 'small farmers' for decades. But that is irrelevant anyway. We have a situation that is much like income stratification. The bottom 80% of farms that receive subsidies average $731 while the top 10% average more than $30,000. cite .

And the top products subsidized don't need subsidies at all. There just isn't any reason to support corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans, rice, or dairy. We would be perfectly fine without putting any government whatsoever into subsidizing those products. And we'd have less high fructose corn syrup too.

No one "let's" me or prevents me from doing anything except the federal and state government.

So, you are entirely free to develop an operating system and have computer manufacturers bundle and sell it with PCs? Or, you are prevented from doing that by Bill Gates' Windows monopoly? Do tell.

That's an extreme example, of course. But the notion that large corporations can do nothing to prevent small companies setting up in direct competition with them, is absolutely untrue.

But it's also my experience that big business goes to government for things like regulatory relief, tax regulation tweaks to help a particular company and tort immunities/limitations on liability, rather than overt efforts to limit market competition.

Yes, in much the same way as the law equally prevents both rich and poor from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges. Government regulation and judiciary enforcement are normally the protection of fair competition: they failed to control Microsoft.

Quite frankly, I can't imagine what kind of law or social network would let any small business compete more effectively with larger companies, or, in my case, larger law firms

So you just accept that you go bust on a regular basis, since there is no means of ensuring you can compete effectively by people who are entitled to do anything they like to drive you out of business? Sad.

The two largest limitations on otherwise unregulated enterprises is the tax burden and record keeping/reporting requirements.

Somehow I doubt that: the largest limitation is evidently the one invisible to you.

One of my main concerns about national health care is that my compliance/reporting/document retention/paperwork requirements will be far more onerous that those we currently have buying health insurance on the private market.

Why would it be? In the UK, my employer has exactly two obligations towards my health care: they're required to pay their share of my National Insurance, which comes off my payslip (and obviously, to include my share of NI as part of their payroll admin). And if I'm off work/going to be off work for more than two weeks, they have to pay me Statutory Sick Pay for up to six months. (I'm required to get my GP to write me a sick line, which my employer uses if they can claim part/all of the SSP they have to pay me back from the government.) And, um, that's it. My employer doesn't have to do any admin work at all beyond adding NI to their payroll (automatic, based on how much I'm being paid, not on my state of health) unless/until I'm so ill I can't work for more than two weeks.

Obviously there are complications for an employer if an employee is going to be off work for two weeks to six months. But none of them have to do with my health care: that's between me and the NHS, and the NHS has much less bureaucracy and form-filling than the US system because the free-at-point-of-care health system is just so much simpler to administrate.

Yes, you will doubtless hear Brits moan about the formfilling/paperpushing in the NHS. But the whole realm of "compliance/reporting/document retention/paperwork requirements" that Americans just seem to assume is part of health care, just tends to go away in a system that's built around the presumption that everybody pays for it with their taxes, everybody makes use of it when they need it, and it benefits everyone to provide and make use of preventive health care.

J-who is entitled to do whatever they like and drive me out of business? I find almost all of the unsupported and highly ideological assertions in your post to be outside my experience and several hundreds of colleagues and an even larger number of clients and businesses I am fairly well acquainted with. If anything, the private sector hassle for those of us in the private sector is meeting and beating the competition. It isn't lack of competition, it's too damn much. Can't speak for the UK, but I have a pretty good handle on the Houston/Dallas business environments. Your perceived big business anti-competitive forces just don't exist in any meaningful way without government being complicit in the process.

Microsoft has competition, just not very effective competition.

Seriously, mckinneytexas, you want to know how much bureaucracy was involved about six weeks ago when I sprained my ankle stepping off a bus and had to have it x-rayed?

I rang my GP about fifteen minutes after I got to work (painfully): the practice nurse had a free appointment in an hour and I got a taxi there, and from there was directed to the hospital with the walk-in X-ray unit. I limped into the hospital, told the receptionist I'd been sent from my GP to have an x-ray - and within an hour I'd had the x-ray and knew I hadn't broken any bones and my ligaments were all still attached where they should be: all I needed was to put my foot up for 48 hours. This all happened within two hours of my spraining my ankle - and most of the delay was due to the difficulties of getting from my workplace to the GP to the hospital with an ankle that hurt like anything.

Total admin work required from me: to give my name and my date of birth twice, at the reception at the GP surgery and at the reception at the hospital.

Total admin work required from my workplace; loan of £20 from petty cash to me to pay for taxis, and writing of IOU for same.

How many forms would you have been required to fill in for something simple like that?

who is entitled to do whatever they like and drive me out of business?

No one. You live in a country where regulation and social network prevent such free market competition. The environment you claimed you "couldn't imagine"... like fish can't see water.

Your perceived big business anti-competitive forces just don't exist in any meaningful way without government being complicit in the process.

Quite: a corporation powerful enough can get political power too to suppress fair competition, just as Microsoft did: they refused to obey the court order, and waited for Bush to become President. Bush's DoJ sided with Microsoft: was anyone surprised that the conservatives would be against competition?

Jes,

Let me see--one insurance, personal information, and privacy rights form per location, which would include taking copies of my drivers' license and insurance card.

I would also want to verify before I walked in to any location that they did accept my insurance carrier, so as not to be on the hook for expenses beyond my $25 per location co-pay, and $500 deductible. I was out of pocket about $400 for an experience last summer when I accidentally drilled a finger while putting up a cabinet, with total nominal bills (per my carrier) of about $4800.00 for one urgent care visit, some stiches, bandages, x-ray, wound care, tetanus and antibiotics, and a followup visit to insure that it was fine.

I prefer your system.

virtually all (profitable) agribusinesses that are "small" make speciality goods that can only be afforded by folks with some means.

von, you're just pulling stuff out of your butt.

Agriculture in my county.

They grow fruit,vegetables, and herbs.

Some folks keep chickens for eggs. Some handle dairy, some meat.

There are some "artisanal" cheese makers, which is to say there are some folks who make cheese.

Most of these folks make a living by participating in CSAs and by selling their stuff at farmer's markets. They're too small to play in the big pond. A couple of them, maybe, get some shelf space in Whole Foods, but in general they sell directly to their customers.

The farmer's markets can be pricey, but not terribly so. The CSAs are, flat out, a good deal.

The biggest farm in the county is Appleton Farms. It's about 1,000 acres, which is damned big in my area. I mean really big.

Most of these are family owned and run, with some hired help and maybe some interns.

My county doesn't get much in the way of ag subsidies. Everybody works their asses off and they make an OK living.

The food is great.

Jes: Anarch: your research is much more thorough than mine. I was just thinking of the past three hundred years or so.

Well, I have a little happy place in my heart for the Ghaznavids, because a) I love the name, and b) they were conquered by the Ghurid Empire, whose general has perhaps my favorite name in all of history: Qutb-ud-Din, the slave-general of Ghur.

[Who, amazingly enough, decided that being a slave-general was less awesome than being sultan, and so conquered Delhi and did just that.]

J-I don't remember picking a fight about healthcare in the UK, but since you asked this question, "How many forms would you have been required to fill in for something simple like that?", the answer is "none" other than patient history which I assume the practice of medicine in the UK recognizes as relevant to patient care and treatment. I also would have skipped the gatekeeper GP and gone directly to an ortho who has x-ray, MRI and CAT Scan on premises, so no transport between doctor's office and hospital. If your point is that national health insurance is an administrative breeze, sorry, that's just not credible as applied to the US. Our government loves paper and forms above all else.

C.S., a few points.

First, I wrote (emphasis added):

In fact, every family farm is an agribusiness, and virtually all (profitable) agribusinesses that are "small" make speciality goods that can only be afforded by folks with some means.

In other words, subsidies to true "small" family farms are probably going to most benefit folks who produce foie gras, fancy cheese and the like ....

You righteously respond:

Really, von, turning the hard work and toil of others into a snotty backhanded insult is just flat reprehensible. Foie gras producers? Really? How about the people who grow actual food instead of industrial corn? How about . . . no, you know what? Screw it. You can't be convinced. Why bother? Someone who can so cavalierly dismiss thousands of farmers in real need as basically the handmaidens of yuppie striving is a moral leper.

I don't know why you think you're disputing my statement. The profitable small farms tend to produce "luxury" goods: cheeses, organic produce, speciality meats, etc. To the extent that small farms exist that are trying to produce basic (cheap) commodities, they are not surviving because those basic commodities can be produced at lower cost and greater efficiencies by large producers (agribusiness). Moreover, these small family farms are not surviving despite the current subsidy regime. Rather, as I wrote, the main beneficiaries of the current subsidy regime are (1) large producers and (2) small producers of high-cost luxury goods. Everyone else is barely surviving and will continue to barely survive and/or fail unless and until they become either #1 or #2.

I'm sorry that this disturbs your romatic notion of the farm.

p.s. Have you ever been on a modern farm? Know producers? Have friends or associates in agribusiness (small or large)? Your tone suggests no, no, no.

I also would have skipped the gatekeeper GP and gone directly to an ortho who has x-ray, MRI and CAT Scan on premises

When I popped my ACL it was a GP visit, only then a referral to a specialist for an in-office visit, then a referral from him to the MRI, then back to the specialist for a surgery-or-PT discussion, then a referral from him again to the PT. Then, exactly ten sessions of PT.

All in, probably a month from the initial GP visit until treatment began.

I have great health coverage.

Everyone else is barely surviving and will continue to barely survive and/or fail unless and until they become either #1 or #2.

In my area, farmers survive because the community wants them to.

Land is very, very expensive, so some towns buy the land to hold it in trust as open or agricultural land, and then lease it back to the farmers on inexpensive long-term leases.

As mentioned above, most of them make a living by cutting out the middleman and selling directly to customers through CSAs ("community supported agriculture", you buy a share and get a couple of bags a week of whatever's in season) or farmer's markets.

They won't be either #1 or #2 because we don't want them to be.

The food is better than grocery store food, we keep the land open, people can make a living as farmers without going on the dole or turning themselves into factories.

It's a good deal for everyone, more communities should check it out.

I've seen announcements of how they should be cut every time the subject has come up. It's always been one of those universal points of agreement, and it's come up dozens and dozens of times.

My guess, which is a near certainty, is that this is because ObWi readers skew very heavily urban. Ag subsidies are not a progressive position, but they aren't not a progressive opinion. It cuts across ideological lines and is determined mostly along geographical ones. Rural folks support ag subsidies without regard to their general views on government.

The only place I've found where people will actually argue for the subsidies is in classes at the University of Minnesota. The people who do so invariably grew up on a farm.

Then again, you probably know all this, because Gary Farber is all wise and knowing. I'm 50/50 as to whether you knew of my conversations in class.

"How many forms would you have been required to fill in for something simple like that?", the answer is "none"

Oh. So your complaints earlier about how complicated health care was were all made up?

other than patient history which I assume the practice of medicine in the UK recognizes as relevant to patient care and treatment.

Well, "patient history"? The nurse practioner checked with me if I'd had any previous sprains (yes, one, but it was so long ago I wasn't even sure which ankle) and if I was on any medication. My GP got a record of the x-ray, I assume.

I also would have skipped the gatekeeper GP

Yeah, well, I found out at the GP that I should have gone directly to the hospital: I'd thought I'd just get a pressure bandage or something, but the practice nurse was like "How do you expect me to know if you've broken a bone or not? I don't have x-ray eyes!" and was a bit testy about the receptionist not just telling me to go directly to the x-ray unit. (I expect it was my fault: I have a bad habit of underreporting pain, and I don't think I made clear when I called for an appointment how very much it hurt.)

If your point is that national health insurance is an administrative breeze, sorry, that's just not credible as applied to the US. Our government loves paper and forms above all else.

The notion that Americans are somehow different and special does not work for me, whether as an argument for superiority or (as here) for inferiority...

You don't need paperwork in a system that, well, doesn't need paperwork. Your previous complaints were that accessing health care in the US is impossibly onerous and will only get worse if you switch to a simpler, more efficient system: you now claim it's not onerous at all and it's just as simple as the NHS. Which is it?

von: Moreover, these small family farms are not surviving despite the current subsidy regime. Rather, as I wrote, the main beneficiaries of the current subsidy regime are (1) large producers and (2) small producers of high-cost luxury goods. Everyone else is barely surviving and will continue to barely survive and/or fail unless and until they become either #1 or #2.

I'm fairly sure you're wrong about that: small family farms are indeed surviving despite the current subsidies. And subsidies to small family farms, as opposed to Big Agribusiness, could well be a serious boon to the country as a whole. See, e.g., Michael Pollack's work -- I'm thinking of In Defense Of Food particularly.

The nickel version: it's not currently feasible for small family farms to produce other than luxury goods, because Big Agribusiness has cornered the market on innumerable staples, in particular corn and soy, thanks to massive subsidies encouraging their overproduction. The environmental cost of this policy is staggering, and the health cost to the American people is probably similar. By encouraging smaller farms, we can help stall (and maybe reverse) the environmental degradation in places like Iowa, as well as produce more nutritious foods for the populace at large.

[And your point about economies of scale is well-taken, but in turn largely misses the point: the economies of scale that are being exploited aren't sustainable, and are an environmental disaster otherwise. We shouldn't be encouraging that sort of thing, period.]

mckinneytexas: I also would have skipped the gatekeeper GP and gone directly to an ortho who has x-ray, MRI and CAT Scan on premises, so no transport between doctor's office and hospital.

Then you have healthcare unlike any I've heard of, and I work (peripherally) in the industry. Mind if I ask how you got that arranged?

J Michael Neal: Rural folks support ag subsidies without regard to their general views on government.

Speaking as someone who taught rural Wisconsin students for eight years: yup, that's about right.

Of course, part of the problem is that they're trying to compete/play into the Big Agribusiness model, which (for the reasons von noted) isn't really sustainable. With a different set of incentives, I'd say the smaller farm model could work just fine.

Microsoft has competition, just not very effective competition.

Until antitrust regulators took action, Microsoft required PC manufacturers who wanted to license Windows to to pay for a license for each machine shipped--regardless of whether the machine had Windows installed on it or not.

If that isn't a big business anticompetitive force, then I'd like to know what it is.

Nice point about the rural/urban divide, JMN. Here in Japan, rice gets ginormous subsidies, but it is only when the cost appears in the retail chain, or the government, in order to maintain the prices, imports low quality rice, do you get complaints. Of course, the rice subsidies plug into the imbalance between the value of the vote of an urban resident and a rural resident, so one could view rice subsidies as the price of doing business in a legislative body that is not simply apportioned by population.

J-you keep moving the goal posts. I anticipate that, if past experience is any indicator, any form of federal health care intervention will be very, very paperwork intensive. Presently, my private health insurance paperwork burden is sufficiently unpleasant, but its primarily in the annual reapplication process that the work is so onerous.

For a visit with a new doctor, i fill out a patient information form (about a page) and a patient medical history form (1-5 pages) and they photocopy my drivers license and insurance card. For repeat visits, i fill out nothing and show nothing.

Anarch--my ortho practices out of the Foundation Professional Building here in Houston. It is an orthopedic-specialized outpatient treatment center and professional building with its hospital next door for inpatient services. It has the full range of diagnostic tools on site (including a bone scan, now that I think of it). It really isn't that unusual to find well-equipped specialty centers. It's part of market competition and that nasty profit motive that apparently gets a lot of doctors up in the morning and sends them to work. Foundation is not the product of any particular insurance plan, although like most hospitals and outpatient surgery centers, it contracts with as many health insurers as it can if it can negotiate a good enough reimbursement rate.

LJ,

There is no value to Japan in maintaining some amount of food security by producing it, rather than importing it?

I would think that staple foods that can be produced at home do have a value that is not simply a vote buyoff.

But maybe I am mistaken about what would happen without the subsidy.

jrudkis,
I don't know the answer to that. I do think that there is a price point to where the subsidies are too costly, and that cost might not be in yen, but in the way that the subsidy structure calcifies the legislature (the old joke is that the only Cold War dictatorship that hasn't collapsed is Japan's). Currently, the acceptable imbalance between a rural vote and an urban vote has been mandated by the Supreme Court as somewhere around 5 urban votes to 1 rural vote for an individual district and taken as a whole, the imbalance is about 3 to 1. The bicameral nature of the US legislature works to alleviate that problem, but I see ag subsidies not as simply an isolated problem that can be safely excised, but as something tied up to the nature of the US legislative branch in modern times.

Farms: I'm with Russell in pointing out the differences between sustainable small (organic sometimes) farms versus agribusinesses. Since I favor humane treatment of animals, to the extent that I eat meat, I only buy it from farms where I can be reasonably confident that they're being treated well. I am less rigid about what kinds of plants I will eat - my guess is (and it's only a guess) that there are probably not enough people interested in small agriculture to give reliable sustenance to the larger population without a bit of large scale "agribusiness". That doesn't mean that agribusiness should be subsidized, and it doesn't mean that the country should be supporting agriculture that is environmentally damaging.

Healthcare bureaucracy: People who I know who are using the Medicare have little trouble with health care insurance bureaucracy. Medicare for everyone!

LJ,

Based solely on my reading of Collapse, I recall that Japan has done a much better job of sustaining its natural resources than many other countries (though probably at the expense of other countries since it imports those resources).

Is this long tradition part of the protection the system provides the rural areas, so that it is not consumed by urban needs? It seems like the vote disparity is effectively working like the Senate does here: providing disproportionate representation to rural areas.

"Which 'small government people' have ever been in charge? None that I am aware of."

No true Scotsman.

Similarly, there has never been a liberal government in charge of the U.S., let alone a leftist government.

But if Ronald Reagan, and two George Bushs, and a Republican Congress from 1994-2006 (aside from a few months of Jeffords swinging the Senate), weren't sufficiently "small government" for you, how on earth do you expect to ever get a more "small government" government elected?

"Rather, as I wrote, the main beneficiaries of the current subsidy regime are (1) large producers and (2) small producers of high-cost luxury goods."

Who one earth, or at least here, are you arguing with that is pro-subsidy, Von? Who are these mysterious liberals/progressives who are pro-ag subsidies?

"It cuts across ideological lines and is determined mostly along geographical ones. Rural folks support ag subsidies without regard to their general views on government."

Oops, I meant to put "agreed."

p.s. Have you ever been on a modern farm? Know producers? Have friends or associates in agribusiness (small or large)? Your tone suggests no, no, no.

That's strange, because I was thinking exactly the same thing about you. Someone who had been wouldn't be so quick to sell farmers down the river.

And look at what you're doing, von. You start off by claiming Gallo is a family farm when, by the definition that the Department of Ag has had in place since 2005, it definitely is not. And why this change in 2005? Because places like Gallo were consistently claiming they were family farms when it came to getting tax breaks aimed at small farmers. You were claiming, that the problem was the government ratcheting up everyone from family farm to agribusiness, when in fact the problem was that agribusiness consistently tried to pass itself off as a family farm.

So then you go off on highly specialized producers of luxury goods as a way of discrediting the very idea of supporting actual family farms. Because, remember, that's what the issue was -- help to actual family farms. Which you think we shouldn't do. Why? Because, you say, "subsidies to true 'small' family farms are probably going to most benefit folks who produce foie gras, fancy cheese and the like."

See how it doesn't matter that you claimed that most "profitable" small farms made luxury goods? Your claim had nothing to do with that. Instead, you specifically argued that we shouldn't subsidize small farms -- of which, again, there is a working definition in place -- because it would mainly help foie gras and fancy cheese producers. Without any authoritative support for this position, I might add. Now, I notice that you've expanded that list somewhat to include organic farmers and specialty meats, but it still doesn't change the fact that you're basically trying to torpedo desperately needed help by resorting to the same stale guilt-by-association tactic that makes arugula a dirty word every four years.

My romantic notions about American farms and American farmers went the way of the Dodo years ago, but that doesn't mean I should applaud your morally stunted attempts to deny people much needed assistance. Shame on you and your entire sick philosophy.

mckinneytexas: For a visit with a new doctor, i fill out a patient information form (about a page) and a patient medical history form (1-5 pages) and they photocopy my drivers license and insurance card.

For a visit with a new doctor, I tell them my date of birth and my name.

They don't need my driver's license, or my insurance card, but they usually have a patient medical history form to fill in.

For repeat visits, i fill out nothing and show nothing.

So, why were you complaining earlier about how onerous and difficult the US health care system is, if in your experience it never is?

It really isn't that unusual to find well-equipped specialty centers. It's part of market competition and that nasty profit motive

Really? In the UK, we just call these well-equipped speciality centers "hospitals", and the motive for providing them isn't "market competition and profit", but making people well. You know. American doctors may in your view run solely and exclusively on the profit motive, but British doctors IME run solely and exclusively on being arrogant... ;-) ...though mostly, in their annoying way, about being able to make people well.

"I also would have skipped the gatekeeper GP and gone directly to an ortho who has x-ray, MRI and CAT Scan on premises, so no transport between doctor's office and hospital."

So, the local charity clinic that I've been trying to be seen at since last year has successively canceled on me the appointment I had in mid-December, because my bus was late, and I was going to be 20 minutes late, and then canceled my appointment two weeks ago because the doctor wasn't going to be in that day after all, and has now rescheduled my first appointment for April 3rd.

This despite all the many ailments I have, the great pain I'm in from costochrondritis, my shortage of my gout medication, etc.

That's what it's like being without medical insurance. (I have to say that the situation was vastly better in Seattle, and in Boulder; in both cases one could get an appointment within at least 2 weeks, as a rule; Raleigh, NC, however, is endlessly worse.)

"Presently, my private health insurance paperwork burden is sufficiently unpleasant, but its primarily in the annual reapplication process that the work is so onerous."

My past experience with partially-publically-funded clinics-for-the-poor in Seattle and Boulder was that you had to make one financial appointment per year, which lasted about 5 minutes, and which required you to testify that you were near-broke, show a bank statement if you had one (but not if you didn't), and show a proof of residency, such as a piece of mail you'd received, and sign a form, and that's it. Oh, and make a small co-payment for each visit, which started at 10 dollars, and went up later to 20 dollars, but for which they'd just bill you if you couldn't afford it, and if you couldn't pay the bill, no matter to you.

Not very onerous; almost no paperwork. Fwiw.

mckinneytexas: Presently, my private health insurance paperwork burden is sufficiently unpleasant, but its primarily in the annual reapplication process that the work is so onerous.

So again - why do you resist so much the idea of moving to a national single-payer system where, at the very least, you'd never have to do an "annual reapplication process" ever again? I don't have a paperwork burden for my health insurance: even at the optician and the dentist (which are semi outside the NHS) I have one form to fill in per visit, and because I go to the same ones regularly, the "filling in" consists of writing my name and the day's date on the form.

If bureaucracy and formfilling is so tedious for you, why do you so much dislike the idea of moving to a system which doesn't ever require it of you?

C.S.: The posting rules require civility. This means not calling people moral lepers, or morally stunted, or anything like that. I welcome your substantive response to von's, or anyone else's, points, but say anything like 'Moral. Leper.' to anyone here again and you will be banned.

Russell, I suspect that your community's model is one that works precisely because your community has the resources to make it work. And the small farmers you support are supported because you (and enough others) have the resources to buy food.

I'm not suggesting that it's impossible for farmers to produce products at commodity prices on on small family farms, only that it occurs only where it's heavily subsidized, and the kinds of subsidies that your community has (1) are nothing like the subsidies under discussion here and (2) are not practical on a national scale.

That, by the bye, does not mean that I disapprove: Heck, in summer, I go to the local farmer's market every Saturday.

CS, although you've got me beat in the righteous outrage department, the points I'm making here are not unique. The facts have been well reported (see, e.g., WaPo, 12/21/06 "Harvesting Cash The Myth of the Small Farmer: Federal Subsidies Turn Farms Into Big Business (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/20/AR2006122001591.html).

By the way, the point regarding Gallo was a point regarding framing -- just as you're trying to reframe my points as some kind of attack on family farms. (What are you? A lobbiest for big agribusiness? If not, you have a definite future ahead of you.)

The last sentence of my first paragraph to Russell should read "And the small farmers you support are supported because you (and enough others) have the resources to buy [relatively expensive] food."

Anarch, take a look at the WaPo article I cited to CS. I'll certainly allow that there's another side to this debate -- although CS isn't presenting it well -- but I do think that I have support for my position.

Interesting question. I loved Collapse, but Diamond's example from Japan was related to the Tokugawa shogunate, which was probably one of the most controlling governments ever. And more recent attempts at government forestation haven't worked out as well.

It's Ian Buruma who points out how, even though Japanese worship 'nature', that only includes when nature is an artifice, so that you have bonsai, which is a minature plant that has been specially 'trained' to resemble something found in the wild, but only on a minature scale. So the sustaining of nature is only acheived by making nature into something like Disneyland.

This is a bit far afield from the question of ag subsidies and institutional stagnation, and I don't mean to suggest that the US and Japan are exactly comparable, but I do think that the virtually unbroken post-war LDP party rule is more of a negative than a positive, and I think that ag subsidies were an important prop in maintaining that dominance.

There is also a bit of irony there, in that if ag subsidies are what provides the basis for cultural conservatism, stripping them out completely is probably going to allow urban voters to vote for lattes and performance art. While there hasn't been the culture wars component to the rural/urban divide in Japan, we have the situation where many communities are dying off because they no longer have children, such that some localities are paying people either to have kids, or to relocate to their rural locations so the local school system won't shut down. Japanese tend to view this as the inevitable result of demographic trends, but I think those trends are exacerbated by rural flight.

At any rate, I don't have much love for the LDP, and how they have kept themselves in power for over 50 years requires (at least for me) some explanations that aren't based on Japanese inscrutability.

To be fair, Hilzoy, I could very well have Hanson's disease (undiagnosed). It can have a long latency period.

Morals, however, I never had.

(Thanks for the defense.)

Sorry, hilzoy. That was out of line, and I apologize to both you and to von.

thanks.

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