Monday, March 18, 2019

Is it 1984 yet?

I just finished reading Stephen Hawking’s book, “A Brief History of Time.”  I confess it’s a challenging read for a non-scientist.  However, Hawking was much more than a scientist and mathematician. He reveals himself to be a moral philosopher as well. Throughout his detailed discussion of how science evolved from Copernicus to Einstein and beyond, he points to how religion has historically explained what science could not and how the advances of the last half of the 20th Century explained so much that it has diminished the role of religion in society.  Similarly, it has diminished the role of philosophy (perhaps a greater loss). What had been promoted by great moral thinkers from Aristotle to Kant has been lost now that we know how the universe works. In the last chapter, he quotes 20th Century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein as saying, “The sole remaining task of philosophy is the analysis of language.” 

The disappearance of philosophy from our public discourse may explain why, instead of having a clear understanding of what’s right and wrong or moral vs immoral, we now focus on rules of behavior and the politics of reallocating capital. 

So, where are we headed?

The Chinese government has created a “social credit system” to build trust on the basis of compliance with social norms defined by the central government.  Americans don’t need the government to impose one.  We impose it on ourselves.  Shaming is a national pastime.  American companies – who have two strikes against them just by existing – can trip the switch from adored to reviled in the blink of an eye.  We’ve seen it happen to Uber, United Airlines and Facebook among others.

It doesn’t take a large majority to create a movement.  Very vocal extremists can affect electoral outcomes and now occupy seats in Congress. Much like the pastor of a small Orlando church created an international crisis of terrorism by threatening to burn a copy of the Koran (see “Is that what Jesus would do? Really?”), a small cohort with a resonant hashtag, armed with a meme or two, can create a social movement.  Think of #blacklivesmatter, #MeToo or #icebucketchallenge.

On the one hand, this phenomenon is a sign of a strong democracy. Social media provides a platform for small voices to be heard.  A lonely voice may become a force for social good when a large enough chorus mobilizes for change.  

On the other hand, it has bred what Arthur Brooks calls a “culture of contempt.”  And, media profits by its proliferation. Social media provides a platform for outrageous claims and behavior while mainstream media – particularly cable news – profits by reporting it, analyzing it and discussing it ad nauseum. What divides us now is language and how issues are framed.  


Are high taxes a way to enable social benefits or confiscation of private property?

Is abortion just ending a pregnancy or is it killing a child?

The way one answers those questions inflames our tribal passions. 

Aristotle believed that a virtuous society was the result of the works of good people.  Good works must be defined on the basis of a set of principles embraced by nearly all citizens.  As the influence of religion and philosophy have faded, we are no longer guided by a set of generally accepted principles.  Rather, we focus on rules of behavior.  And, we disagree vehemently about what those rules should be. So, conservative speakers are hounded from college campuses, bureaucratic failings lead to boycotts of corporations; and, the voices of extremists yield public discussion of radical ideas as though they are reasonable.

George Orwell’s great book “1984” reinforced Wittgenstein’s description of philosophy in the 20th Century by creating new additions to our language:  Newspeak, Thought Police, Groupthink, etc.  We now capture those concepts under the umbrella of “political correctness.” Here’s a description of Newspeak from his book:

“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view…, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought … should be literally unthinkable...”

So, is it 1984 yet?

WHO WILL LEAD? 

What I’m reading

For a perspective on how Republicans can address climate change check this out from The American Enterprise Institute: Carbon tax most efficient in tackling climate change… And, while I’m on the subject, check out this opinion piece from the WSJ: The Nuclear Option is the Real Green New Deal… Bill and Melinda Gates run a foundation in their names tackling global challenges.  As broad as their perspective is, they still get surprised from time to time.  Check out their blog post “We Didn’t See This Coming.”

Saturday, March 9, 2019

China is eating our lunch and is ready for dinner


Even among those who think President Trump is wrong, oh so wrong, about nearly everything, there is a grudging admission that some of his observations about China are correct. “China is eating our lunch!”  They have subsidized their own industries while creating obstacles to US companies wishing to enter their markets and they steal our intellectual property.   If Trump can make progress on those issues, he will have served us well.  

But it’s China’s long game that troubles me.  They are likely to make concessions to Trump because the global trade paradigm feeds their coffers. In spite of the capital flight of recent years, China still has over $1 Trillion in US Treasuries on deposit in the Bank of China.  They are using that capital to fund a long-term strategy to build a China centric supply chain with outposts in developing nations hungering for foreign investment. In addition, they are investing in military technology to bypass the US as our military budget has declined precipitously since 2010. 

Americans tend to take our global hegemony for granted.  The US long game from its founding was Manifest Destiny, expanding the nation from one coast to the other and extending our buffer zones across two oceans. It took about 150 years to achieve this position and the commitment of Cold Warriors to maintain it.  We’ve been so secure for so long that we can’t imagine it might change nor can we imagine impact when it does. Now, that hegemony is in jeopardy as a defense strategy based upon aircraft carriers and foreign military bases is undermined by American withdrawal, reduced military budgets and foreign powers investing in asymmetric capabilities like cruise missiles and cyberwarfare. 

Enter Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who now proposes a China style national industrial policy for the US. He would protect American manufacturing, restrict capital flows and change the tax code to incentivize technology companies to invest in R&D.  Senator Rubio might be looking at how Japan used its industrial policy to become the world’s second largest economy over 40 years following WWII (they are third behind China now).  But it’s noteworthy that policies that worked well during their rise from the ashes have not served them well since.  The senator should also brush up on economics.  Comparative advantage still works. Competing with China in manufacturing may sound nice to American labor unions; however, our real advantage is in technology and innovation. And the best way to support innovation is for government to get out of the way.  

A better (non-Trumpian) approach would be to create economic alliances with China’s other competitors, such as India, South Korea and Japan and to invest in military technology to counter China’s cyberwarfare military expansion.  We should also expand our economic development initiatives in Africa, the continent most likely to grow economically in this century.  Initiatives of this nature won’t fit into the brevity of an American electoral cycle. For the U.S. to play a long game to counter China, a president will have to clearly define our strategy (Manifest Destiny 2100?) and work to gain bi-partisan support.  Such a plan must include strategies for economic development in the U.S. that will rebuild communities through investment in infrastructure, education and workforce development. Failing to do so will undermine political support for such an initiative in the long term.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect such long term thinking or leadership to emanate from the current resident of the White House. 

WHO WILL LEAD? 

What I’m reading…


… "A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking”:  I was inspired to read it in the wake of the author’s death.  Now, I’m not sure I’ll make it to the end.  I haven’t studied physics and math since college and wonder why I should start again… “Reimagining Mobility: A CEO’s Guide”:  a report from global consulting company, McKinsey & Co., describes how autonomy and electrification will affect automotive transportation over the next decade or two… “Is the Campus Free Speech Crisis Overblown?”: an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal featuring comments from college students on the topic. 

The Poll

Well, the poll favors the short form of essay that I’ve experimented with since the beginning of the year.  (It’s still open if you’d like to vote.) However, the vote was close, and my wife voted for the short form. Maybe we should disallow her vote since she’d just like me to shut up.  What do you think?

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Amazon and Hickey Freeman: two kinds of incompetence

By now, you have no doubt heard that New York City, co-winner of the Amazon lottery, blew it by so alienating Amazon’s corporate management that HQ2 of the world’s most valuable corporation will not be located within the five boroughs. Opponents of HQ2 decried the $3 Billion tax giveaway cobbled together by the city’s mayor and the governor.  Of course, they were giving away something that they weren’t going to get if Amazon didn’t choose New York in the first place and won’t get from someone else any time soon.  

I am empathetic to the forces that succeeded in rejecting Amazon.  Their primary motivation was to preserve their community in a city where gentrification has left few neighborhoods affordable for middle- and working-class families.  They could see events trending in the direction of San Francisco and Seattle and didn’t like what would happen.

On the other hand, Republicans and center-left Democrats understand that economic growth relies upon innovation and efficiency created by high tech enterprises.  The high-skilled, highly paid labor that HQ2 would attract would increase the city’s tax base and beget other high-tech enterprises. Bowing to the whims of a minority of citizens enabled by a handful of extremist politicians is a mark of how incompetent our political leaders are. 

Not noticed nationally but a big story here in Rochester was a $4.2 Million private investment in Hickey Freeman that was nearly matched by $4 Million from the state.  It was hailed by one and all because it retains a handful of low skilled jobs in a failing enterprise.  There’s enough bad news here to make it difficult for me not to toss my cookies.  I’ll try to control my gag reflex long enough to unpack it. 


The Hickey Freeman news is just the latest example of Blue State Folly. The state has taken money out of the economy and reinvested it in businesses that can’t attract sufficient capital on their own. In this case, they’ve invested in a company that makes clothing for the WWII generation rather than allowing the free market for capital to do its work.  

The state’s investment was made through the Finger Lakes Upstate Revitalization Initiative established by one of our governor’s famous contests.  (I wrote about the perversity of taking money out of the economy just so we can compete to get it back in the Rochester Business Journal when the winners of a similar competition were announced.)

Like New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, Rochester has a highly capable workforce and business leadership with the technical skills to support any innovative enterprise owing to the legacy of the vanishing Kodak and Xerox.  We are supported by a local network of more than a dozen colleges and universities and have a low cost of living.  What holds us back is high taxes and a state bureaucracy that makes it difficult to operate a business.

Our greatest challenge is to continue our legacy into the next generation.  Unlike New York City, we are not threatened by gentrification but rather by its opposite.  We may be unable to thrive unless we, as a community, can do something about a failing school system and inner-city poverty.  Perhaps the governor should focus on that for a while.

WHO WILL LEAD? 


Something happened while I wasn’t paying attention.  It was a slow, subtle shift that took place over many years.  Consider this:   the death of Elvis was barely a footnote on the evening news when it happened in 1977.  When Michael Jackson died, some three decades later, it was the lead story for days.  What happened? How is the death of a pop star the most important news of the day?  Any day? What has this manifested?

Well, here’s an example: an actor I’ve never heard of who stars on a show I’ve never watched is accused of making a false police report alleging he was attacked by the evil forces of #MAGA.  Aside from feeding the #fakenews narrative of our prevaricating president, the event has made me wonder what’s happened to our society.  Perhaps if we weren’t so focused on Pop Culture, the foolish acts of a C-List actor wouldn’t be national news. 

What I’m reading

Tom Freidman speculates we may become a “Four-Party State” in his weekly column in the New York Times. I hope we are….  David Houle writes in his blog about the social and economic effects of Millennials and Digital Natives (those born since 1981) now outnumbering Baby Boomers…   Economist Greg Ip writes in the Wall Street Journal about the “Unrealistic Economics of the Green New Deal.” 

Monday, February 18, 2019

A different view of the healthcare debate… The poll… What I’m reading



In his great book “Civilization: The West and the Rest,” historian Niall Ferguson identifies what he calls 6 killer apps that made western civilization the preeminent system of government and economics.  Number four on the list is Medicine.  The seeds of modern medical science, sown in 19thCentury Europe, led to a “major improvement in health and life expectancy.”  Now as then, we need a healthy population to ensure a stable society and a productive economy.  Given our federal fiscal disaster, the future of the US depends in large part on how much healthcare we want and how we pay for it.  

Despite my libertarian leanings, I love Medicare.  And I worry that it will go broke before I draw my last breath.  We are already in the midst of a fiscal crisis about which neither political party seems to care.  Many economists predict another Great Depression unless we tend to it. So, there are a few principles that should guide us in developing a system that extends high quality healthcare to all and does so cost effectively.

First, the government should provide a social safety net.  Many Republicans forget it was conservative economist Friedrich Hayek who coined the term “safety net.”  In his master work “The Road to Serfdom,” he wrote: “There is no reason why in a society which has reached the general level of wealth which ours has attained the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all… Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist… in providing for… common hazards of life against which… few individuals can make adequate provision… The case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”  That’s why the expansion of Medicaid was the most important element of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Making it available to middle-class families enabled them to make an informed choice about purchasing private insurance or sticking with a government program.  

Second, any new system must address the underlying cost structure.  The highly regulated, high cost Fee-for-Service system we have today must be overhauled.  The ACA proposed Accountable Care Organizations that would be compensated on the basis of medical outcomes.  Absent a mandate, the experiment unfortunately fizzled out.  

Those who favor Medicare for All (M4A) don’t seem to care about cost.  Their proposal would pay for additional coverage with a tax on the wealthy. The US has the most progressive tax code in the industrialized world.  The top 20% pay over 88% of income taxes. In Europe, a large part of government’s budget is covered by a Value Added Tax (VAT), usually adding about 20% or more to the price of goods purchased.  Would our so-called progressive politicians propose a regressive tax like the VAT to pay for M4A?  I’d like to see them try. 

Third, there must be room for competitive enterprises in the system.  Capitalist enterprises have innovated new treatment protocols, extraordinary medical devices and amazing pharmaceuticals.  Were it not for competition, we wouldn’t have laparoscopy, implanted defibrillators or ACE inhibitors.  Scandinavian countries providing free healthcare have no significant pharmaceutical or medical device industries.  They keep costs low by negotiating lower drug prices, for example, but rely on innovations from other countries. 

And, lastly, everyone should have some skin in the game.  I recently pointed to Singapore’s system as an example where consumers spend their own money first in buying healthcare services. Providers respond to competitive pressure from consumers to keep prices low. 


How would an alternative system look?  We can’t be sure.  There are too many entrenched interests making too much money for politicians to mount the courage to overthrow the current paradigm.  I would point to one example to give you an idea how a creative approach could improve outcomes. In France, the hospital comes to you.  Mobil advanced life support units, staffed by doctors and nurses, back up first responders. The result is better medical outcomes because people promptly get advanced treatment at home and lower cost because fewer patients go to the hospital.  Could you see that happening here?

I’m sure you’re waiting for me to tell you how we should design this new system.  But, I can’t!  I am not sure anyone can.  However, I believe that starting with a set of sound principles will lead to a better system than either M4A or the ACA.

WHO WILL LEAD?

The Poll

Recently I created a poll asking if you preferred longer essays like this one or the short takes I’ve been publishing since the beginning of the year.  Thank you to those of you who responded.  Unfortunately, you are deadlocked 50/50.  The poll is still open; so, if you haven’t voted, please do so by clicking HERE.  Thanks.

What I’m Reading


Sarah Lawrence College professor Samuel J. Abrams tells us the American Dream is alive and well in the 21stCentury in his essay in the New York Times…  The Green New Deal proposed by Democrats will hurt working-class Americans most according to Brandon Weichert… Just finished a great book by Chris Voss, who developed the FBI’s hostage negotiating techniques.  It’s called “Never Split the Difference.”  Don’t think it’s only for business people negotiating deals. It’s a prescription for dealing with important people in your life too. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

I hate memes… I hate government regs… I hate taxes

 
I hate memes

A well-designed meme, like this one spotted on Facebook, resonates so well with so many people that it either forms the basis of new beliefs or confirms a bias.  Bankers are evil, the story goes.  They caused the financial crisis and screwed all of us. So, this meme will get shared by many. 

I see it in a larger context of people depending on others to protect them from their mistakes.  Sorry if you suffered during the financial crisis. So, did I.  So did many others.  But, when you sign up for a bank account, you sign an agreement to keep your account balance positive or pay an overdraft fee.  Giving you and anyone in your circumstances a break increases costs for the bank.  So, it’s reasonable to ask who should bear those costs.  Should it be the shareholders of the bank?  Before your amygdala prompts an immediate “yes,” consider that, if you own shares in a mutual fund, you and your mutual shareholders probably own stock in banks.

But if not the shareholders, then who?  Well, those costs will be passed on to other customers in some way – perhaps in higher ATM fees or higher interest rates.  No one will know exactly except the bank’s senior officers.  But, trust me, someone will pay.

And, so, here we are. 

People get themselves into bad situations and sometimes make mistakes.  That’s life. But who should take responsibility for those mistakes other than those who made them?

I hate government regs

It’s fair to point out that banks have raised fees in the years since the financial crisis.  Under pressure to reduce risky lending and strengthen their balance sheets, they sought new ways to generate revenue.  Our government has played a huge role in creating this unintended consequence and the crisis itself.  The Clinton administration liberalized the way in which the main providers of mortgage financing – FNMA and GNMA –could raise capital. In turn, those quasi-government institutions expanding their portfolios of mortgage bonds.  The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates during the Bush administration and GWB ran for reelection in 2004 promoting the highest rate of home ownership in our history.  We all know what happened next.  



In the wake of the financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank act which directed government regulators to create rules that discourage risky lending and required banks to increase the amount of capital they hold to protect against losses. Seems reasonable, right?  But it wasn’t the big banks at the heart of the crisis of that suffered under this new regime.  It was community banks, those more connected to their customers and community, who were seriously challenged to comply.  The result is that many sold out to larger competitors, creating more big banks.  

The recently announced acquisition of SunTrust Bank by BB&T is the most visible of these events. When concluded, the merged entity will be America’s sixth largest bank.  The merger is driven by the need to drive down costs in order to retain more capital, invest in new technology and comply with Dodd-Frank’s regulations. Ironically, one of Dodd-Frank’s architects, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), has criticized the merger because it will create another “too big to fail” bank.  But it’s the conditions imposed by the law that are driving the consolidation of the banking industry.  

No one should be surprised by this. Sen. Warren seems to live in a parallel universe where what’s right is wrong and vice versa. 

I hate taxes

In the latest episode of The Blue State Follies, there’s a kerfuffle in Albany over a shortfall in tax revenues.  That’s bad news for New Yorkers as the legislature begins to develop the state budget. Last November’s election turned complete control of the state legislature over to Democrats.  So, what do you suppose their reaction to this bad news might have been?  Wait for it… Yes, that’s right!  Let’s raise taxes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The US Census Bureau has reported that New York’s population loss has exceeded that of any other state. During the campaign season – while running for a reelection that matched his father’s three terms as governor – Andrew Cuomo informed us that New York was losing population not because of high taxes and inhospitable business conditions but rather because of lousy weather.  As I sit here in upstate New York in February, it’s easy to agree with that assessment.  

To his credit, when his party cried out for higher taxes to close the gap in our state’s budget, he responded that he was concerned that people would move out of New York to avoid paying higher taxes. 

Wait!  What?

WHO WILL LEAD?

Monday, February 4, 2019

Crowdsourcing the news… Trump vs. Republicans… How you like it

Crowdsourcing the news

About the time we were to take off, Southwest Airlines made the announcement that the TSA had ordered the evacuation of our terminal at Orlando International Airport.  What happened next was surprisingly orderly. There was no panic or press of the crowd.  Everyone simply grabbed their stuff and headed to the tram that returned us to the main terminal.  We made new friends, exchanged cynical wisecracks and did as we were told without much fuss.  It took about an hour before we – thousands of us – were back in line to go through security again.  

Naturally, the bureaucracy did what it always does: give orders without telling us what happened or what to expect next.  Also, naturally, the crowd turned to their smartphones.  Rumors abounded.  There were gunshots.  There was a fire.  As it turned out, neither of those were true.  How do I know?  Well, first the Miami Herald posted a story with lots of gaps describing the possible suicide of a TSA employee who jumped from the balcony of the airport hotel. He hit the floor so hard that it sounded like a gun shot and everyone started running, including the TSA employees who were scanning passengers and luggage.

A more complete report was posted on the website Heavy.com.  Being careful to cite the source of each quote, they simply compiled a story from social media posts.  The first of them was used by both the Herald and Heavy.  It included a Tweet from Kindy Segovia who posted a picture of the mob including yours truly (that’s me in the black sweater below the N in Hudson News).  Everything worked out okay and we were on our way after a rescreening and a three- and-half-hour delay.  

I was struck by how a complete picture emerged whereby every social media post constituted pieces of a puzzle.  The Herald’s caution in quoting unknown sources yielded a less complete picture than Heavy.com who was careful to use quotation marks around what people had posted, misspellings included.  I was reminded of a scene from the movie “Absence of Malice,” in which Paul Newman’s character tells off a reporter played by Sally Field.  “You don’t print the truth,” he says.  “You print what people say.  There’s a difference.  The truth’s not that easy to come by.”

Trump vs. Republicans

I recall a wise quote from Cokie Roberts, daughter of two members of Congress and veteran pundit. “The only way to do business in Washington is ‘as usual’,” she averred.  In other words, disrupters beware.  You won’t know what happened to you until it’s already happened.


Was Donald Trump done before he started?  The common wisdom is that veteran Republicans rolled over and played along with the current resident of the White House.  They voted with him over 90% of the time.  Matthew Glassman, a Senior Fellow at the Government Affairs Institute, takes a different view.  “In reality,” he says.  “Republican legislators have hidden their influence, purposefully disguising a weak president with little clout on Capitol Hill while also preserving party unity.”

His essay in the New York Times outlines the strategy: they have simply declined to take up his agenda. During the last Congress, there were no votes on the border wall, immigration policy or protectionist trade policies.  Wary of publicly stating their opposition and incurring the wrath of both him and his stooges at FOX News, they simply work against him by not acting.

On those matters requiring action, they have quietly dismissed his ideas.  Hence, he proposes cuts to non-defense spending and Congress delivers a budget that does the opposite.  It will be interesting to see how the dynamics change with Democrats in control of the House. 

How you like it

Regular readers will have noticed that I switched formats around the first of the year. Previously, I wrote long essays exploring ideas that interest me.  Lately, I’ve been writing shorter pieces that summarize my thoughts with less in-depth research. So, I’d like to know which format you prefer.  Please take a moment to answer this one-question survey: Click HERE.

WHO WILL LEAD?  

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

When he’s right, he’s wrong… No free lunch… Speaking of healthcare

 
When he’s right, he’s wrong

It’s easy to watch way President Trump behaves and conclude he’s wrong.  And, once you come to that conclusion often enough, it’s easy to conclude he’s wrong about everything.  Easy but also lazy. 

The president promised the abandoned blue-collar population constituting his base that he would reverse trade deficits.  That will never happen so long as the U.S. remains the world’s largest economy and so long as consumption rather than savings and investment drive our economy. 

But it’s fair to observe that Trump’s focus on China and its misbehavior has resonated beyond his base. China is stealing intellectual property from American companies.  China is using its comparative advantage in manufacturing to build cash reserves that serve its One Belt One Road initiative. They are building a regional navy to challenge U.S. sea power along critical trade routes through the S. China Sea and the Straits of Malacca.  They are challenging the sovereignty of our allies by claiming islands from them and building military facilities.  So, Trump is right to challenge China.

However, even when he’s right, he’s wrong.  The way to challenge China’s global position is to form a coalition to counter their moves. You don’t build a coalition by insulting the leaders of our traditional allies and threatening to undermine the global order.  What Trump has done, both in Europe and Asia, is position the U.S. as an unreliable partner. For example, he followed through on his campaign promise to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  He wasn’t alone in his analysis of TPP, of course. Members of Congress and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (that font of economic wisdom) also criticized it. Ultimately, the popular pressure even got Hillary Clinton to join the chorus.  (Hillary might be the last globalist we’ll see on presidential ticket for a while.)

Here’s what the TPP would have done for the U.S.: (1) joined us in a trade pact with all the economic powers of Asia (constituting 40% of global GDP) save one – China, (2) improved our access to the markets of those nations by lowering tariffs and other trade barriers and (3) created closer bonds with our trade partners to isolate China.

Now, the remaining countries of the original TPP have formed their own pact without the U.S.  So, instead of buying American beef and soybeans, for example, they’ll buy from Canada and Australia.  American farmers and ranchers could have used the income during our Trumped up trade war with China.  

No free lunch

Ever notice that the only items in your household budget where inflation is out of control are those where there is a pile of government money available?  If you’re caught in the middle class squeeze, you know I’m talking about health insurance and college tuition.  So-called progressives have a solution: make it free.  Of course, nothing is truly free.  They’re really talking about socializing the cost of those items.

There’s a good argument to be made for government support of a healthy, well-educated middle class.  Unfortunately, government programs designed to help the middle class afford health insurance and college tuition seem to work like the carrot that the donkey can never reach.  It moves away as fast as one tries to reach it.  

I am generally supportive of government programs that are both means tested and based on merit.  However, the free lunch promised by politicians (now table stakes for Democrats running for president) doesn’t work for me.  Tell me how you’ll address the structure that is driving up costs, tell me the criteria to qualify for it and I’ll listen to your ideas.

Otherwise, you’re just making an ass of yourself.  

Speaking of healthcare

A common trope among Republican politicians addressing healthcare is to allow the free market to do its work.  I’ve wondered how that might look and have scanned the globe (Okay.  So, I just searched on Google) for a good example.  I haven’t been able to find one – no example of healthcare being provided in a free market in an industrialized country.  If you can find one, please let me know.  


I was, however, able to find a system that seems to work better than the rest:  Singapore!  Mandatory health savings accounts (Medisave) are the backbone of the system.  Everyone pays a percentage of their income into an account in their own name.  It’s supplemented by Medifund, an endowment set up by the government to pay the expenses of the poorest 10%.  And Eldershield provides supplemental care to the elderly and those with chronic conditions or disabilities.  Everyone has some skin in the game.  Families spend their own money for care from their Medisave accounts; so, they are careful how they spend.  Providers are, therefore, incentivized to provide good outcomes at affordable prices. 

It’s not perfect and it may not work on a large diverse population like that of the U.S. However, there’s a lot we can learn from it.

WHO WILL LEAD?