What are we fighting for?

Editor’s Note:  I wrote this back about 3 months or so, ago.  I was going to add a paragraph or two about my Dad, which I might do as an extended piece, but I thought I would get it posted now, as it has spent far too much time on my “To Do” list.



As the debate about health care continues, with President Trump and many of his supporters leading the way to repeal the ACA despite the lack of a real plan of action to replace or repair what is left, I find myself considering what it is we hope to accomplish with our country, our government.  What do we consider important at the national level, as a nation?  To what use do we put that blunt instrument that is our federal government?  That our government has grown large and unwieldy, straining under its own massive weight is no surprise to us.  We know it is fat, and growing larger.  We know that is too large, too heavy to support.  The Fed has grown in size and weight, but accomplishes less and less despite its increase in size and resources.  Both corporations and private citizens have attached themselves to that bloated mass, feeding off its excess like a tick to a mangy dog.  And those very fat, very happy ticks, they don’t want anything to change with their host.  No, even if the overall health and state of the union should falter, do not change anything lest their meal ticket become endangered.

This piece isn’t an analysis of the government, however.  It isn’t here to discuss the wasted resources and corporate whore mongering that goes on in our nation’s capital.  This essay is here to ask a basic question of ourselves.  What is it do we want our government to do for us?  What freedom and pursuit of happiness are we defending with our military?  What justice do we purport to provide to those of our nation that are too broke to pursue our self-evident truths?  In a nation as rich as ours, in a land as large as ours, truly our government should be responsible for very few things at the Federal level.  It is rarely the best tool for the job.  Help keep the common law consistent.  Help keep our perspective on infrastructure.  Facilitate communication among the States and their people as a whole, these things a Federal Government can do.  I would suggest to you that central to all of these things is the People.  Whatsoever our government does, it should be in the most benefit to her people, to the support of the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness.  But what good is life, if we cannot enjoy it?  What good is liberty, if we cannot live it.  How can we have happiness if we are not healthy enough to pursue it?  People are the life’s blood of this country, the means be which everything is accomplished.  If our People are not healthy, how can our nation succeed?  We can educate ourselves, feed ourselves, defend ourselves- but only if we are healthy enough to do so.  In the past, collectively we have agreed that things like education, warfare, defense and trade are things we should spend our wealth on.  They are things that we considered integral to our nation, enough so to put into the Federal Government’s hands.  Why then, do we not consider our health such an asset, one worthy of our collective effort?  What else is worth fighting for if we don’t have our health?


It’s all fun and games.

I had to post this here, it just seemed too fun not to.  Monopoly has a reputation as a wrecker of friendships and families, a wasteland of destruction for relationships.  I cannot really recall having that experience, but I didn’t play it a great deal after about age 10.  In the scenario below, if you follow the link, you’ll find something where I would quite happily sit back and watch while munching on a bag of chips.  It certainly would beat the Oscars or Academy Awards for me.  You see terms like Socialism and Communism bandied about a lot right now. but honestly, they’re largely being used incorrectly with their implied associations.  Opponents to the ACA and similar programs yell, “Socialism!” while ignoring how our government and tax structure work, but what I think they’re really recalling to mind, if they are truly recalling anything, is a weird fusion of Stalin/Marx/Hitler’s Germany as well as probably a few others thrown into the mix with a slight hint of Mccarthyism to flavor the stew.  I’m not sure Marx or Engels would have recognized what passes for the idea of Socialism/Communism here in the US.  But I digress, enjoy the comic and the anarchy that follows.


A take on the healthcare plan

Economix had a fun tear down of the current plan put forth by the President and the GOP to replace the current ACA.  The author’s politics run counter to Trump’s and the far right, but he does a pretty good job of keeping it real from an economic standpoint.  He also points out that one of the big issues of repealing the ACA is how much of it was based on Republican ideas.  If you’re protesting your own ideas, your alternative options tend be even more limited and extreme.

One of the things he briefly touches on, but doesn’t really address, is that success is sometimes measured by how we failed less than previously.  Specifically I am speaking about the rise of costs and premiums, which continued to rise at rapid rates during the ACA, with many traditionally conservative states seeing the largest increases.  The success is that some of the increases were less than the increases seeing prior to the ACA.  That kind of measuring for success works in the short term, but if you’re measuring against a flood, either do something different or build a boat…
Another thing the author glosses over is the use of subsidies.  Although he points out that the Feds will subsidize the premium for the States, which he uses as an argument for why some states should have adopted the ACA, he ignores their premise for why they might have rejected it in the first place – It doesn’t matter whether the Federal government or the State government subsidizes the premium, it’s still a redistribution of wealth.  If you’re opposing the ACA, or any similar plan, because of your opposition to Taxation, any argument involving subsidies is going to fall flat.

Take the analysis for what it is, a visual breakdown of the shortcomings of the current and proposed plans, as well as a bit of insight as to why things might not be working as they could.  It’s a fun read and he lists his references, so if you disagree with a particular point, you can at least see what he based his argument on.

Trump on Healthcare

Trump released his healthcare plan today, or at least the talking points.  I’m not sure who wrote it for him, but the guy deserves a raise.  It actually reads fairly well and offers a decent rebuttal to Bernie’s single payer option.  Unfortunately it fails to try and convince the Democrats to come together and craft something better.  Instead it gives a shout out to all those hardworking Republicans who have been, “offering reforms that can be delivered individually or as part of more comprehensive reform efforts.”  I believe the correct phrase is, “completely refusing to work on the original bill and then attempting to repeal the Act while offering token “alternatives” that were actually thinly disguised attempts at repealing the Act again and again.”  Please don’t misunderstand my position, I am not a fan of the ACA, I think it’s a poorly crafted and ill thought out solution to a serious problem in our country.  Made even worse by the fact that it lacked half of our representatives input.  Quite frankly, the only thing worse than the ACA in health care at this point, is the state of our health care system itself.  It is not sustainable.

Still, Trumps talking points on healthcare would be a good starting point.

Still not voting for him, however.

A day like any other, but today was this day.

And what a day it was!  Really, it was a day that had already been informed by the goings on of this past week.  Thursday to Thursday, in fact.  These goings on, though individual in their actions and completely unrelated to one another, have none the less had a collective impact on this moderately warm day in August.  In the future, I may feel compelled to treat all Thursdays with some wariness, perhaps even outright suspicion.  Beware the Thursdays that flock together, maybe?  Were it the Ides of March, perhaps I could have had something pithy.  August the 13th does not lend itself to quite the same turn of phrase.

Last Thursday my dog would begin what can only be described as the launch of her criminal career.  She managed to sneak out of my house late in the evening and did not return.  My wife and I spent a bit of time looking for her around 11 pm, but no success.  She did not reappear the following morning, either.  As luck would have it, like most burgeoning criminals with more enthusiasm than brains, she was nabbed.  At noon we were able to contact the local pound, a county owned detention facility for animals that have chosen to move beyond the traditional societal norms of social responsibility and clean living.  Although we were able to get there and make bail before she acquired a prison tat or shanked any other inmates, it was quite clear to both of us that Suzie was attempting to live the “thug life”.  Where, O Lord, did we go wrong?  Still, she was ours and we were hers, so money exchanged hands and the corrupted canine was escorted home and placed under house arrest.

This Wednesday, I learned more about the inner workings of our justice system.  I will not go into revealing details beyond noting that it was not myself with the issue, but suffice to say that I now understand how one goes about organizing a bail bond and the expenses incurred therein.  Collectively, I was now down about $0.5K.  Perhaps I should have gone into law, as I suspect it really is a rapidly growing market.

This Thursday, today even, began like most others.  I woke up, as fine a specimen of manhood as ever did sleepily shuffle across this glorious planet, and began my work day about 6:30 or so.  By 9am I was in my office happily trying to make a dollar by being everyone’s favorite middle man.  Again, a Law career, at least on the side, is not an unfeasible option, really.  My phone rings.  It is not a customer offering me a load at 20% profit, it is my beautiful wife.  It seems my dog, the canine convict, had escaped again, this time in an attempt to play a doggy version of Frogger.  If you’re familiar with the title, then you understand that a novice frog, and surely my dog qualified as the rawest of novice frogs, rarely does well in that particular venture.  I understand the more successful frogs would go on to launch a rather lucrative career in alcohol advertising, but that is for another tale…

Where man and machine collide, the machine has the advantage.  Still more so when it is pooch vs. Pontiac.  So my furry companion, the doggy version of Steve McQueen, apparently, was hit by a vehicle very early this morning and taken to the veterinary clinic on Moore Lane.  I will be discussing them again later, but for now we shall move to the more important subject.  $600 later, I am told that Susie has a fractured leg, right where the radius and ulna fuse together and meet the elbow.  This fracture, this mere crack of bone, cannot be mended by judicious use of duct tape and an air cast, oh no.  Surgery is required to repair the damage.  Or amputation.  Comes to a bit of an abrupt end in a sentence, amputation.  For those of you familiar with my wife, you can imagine that she does not consider one those choices as can option.  But hey, animal surgery is far less expensive than human, right?  Unless, apparently, you need this surgery done.  If you were to ball park this expense, just to throw out a number and then proceed to zero in on true pain, true monetary punishment, I suggest you begin right around $3000.  And before you ask, no the ACA does not cover the furry family members.  I am most positive werewolves will be filing a discrimination suit in the near future.

We are currently looking at options.  As much as I love my dog, I do not have that kind of walking around money.  I have slowly been building an emergency fund, and another emergency fund behind that one, as I have been around long enough to know that sometimes when it rains it is more of a volcanic flash flood with mutant radioactive monsters.  Never let it be said that I am not optimistic, merely practical.  That being the case, we are currently waiting on a call in the morning from a Vet in Lewistown that used to see our dog.  They are willing to take payments, without trying to force a medical credit card down our throats, but I have no idea what those payments will be, or even the final cost, for my dimwitted and lovable canine companion to keep all four paws firmly attached.  In the meantime, Suzie is currently at the Lockwood Vet, nursing a new found morphine habit and resting as comfortably as she possible can.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring us all some good news.  For now, I hope.

But, this is not the end of my Thursday.  One does not simply stop a Thursday because of a significant loss of operating capital and bodily harm.  No, sometimes it’s the little things.  In this case, I got to be a proud father and look on as my boys received their first gi.  They have been attending a Kempo school for about the past six weeks and have earned the right to wear a gi.  I am hoping that soon they will earn white belts so that they can hold up their pants!  My oldest has been looking forward to wearing a uniform for weeks now.  The past two days, in which he learned he would be receiving his gi today, were of a particular torture for him.  He spent an ample amount of time wondering if he would get the gi before class, during class, after class.  When would he get the gi?  I laughed, but only on the inside.

On a related note, tonight was my first time in a martial arts class in a decade.  My sons have been asking me to join, and I don’t want to turn away an opportunity to share a moment with them.  Also, I have truly missed the practice and study.  I have a background in several different martial styles, hard and soft, so I could at least remember fondly what it was like actually perform the actions being taught in class.  These days, though, my martial style could be best described as “Sleeping Panda” or “Fat Cobra”.  Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days played softly in the background of my mind as I abandoned all dignity and ego in order to wrangle my body into submission and do sit ups, crunches, punches, kicks and the very important “lifting of the water bottle”.  That last one, especially, becomes progressively harder as the class grinds on.  Still, it was a good night and I look forward to the next class…and a bottle of ibuprofen.


Montana health insurers ask for double-digit rate hikes

HELENA — Insurance companies in Montana are requesting double-digit rate increases next year for the health plans of more than 77,000 people covered through the online exchange created by President

Source: Montana health insurers ask for double-digit rate hikes


“Double-digit rate increases were the norm in the years leading up to the Affordable Care Act.”

Yes, they were. It would appear they still are, in fact. The ACA can be considered a failure for no other reason than this point alone. It’s a shame that the Gazette did not bother to pursue this point further, rather than reducing it to a quick line buried in a sea of justification.

“After the law passed, the companies had to set rates for a new marketplace without any history to base them on, she said.”

Interesting that she should say that. Prior to the passage of the ACA I had insurance through BCBS. I had an extremely high deductible, middling coverage for anything other than catastrophic circumstances and a premium of several hundred dollars a month. After the passage I had the same thing, except they wanted to increase my deductible another $500-$1000 a year…  The insurance industry lives and dies by statistical analysis.  Few industries are more qualified to extrapolate data into projected outcomes than they are.  No history indeed.

“Dworak said 72 percent of his cooperative’s customers receive subsidies.”

I think we have found the root cause for the increase. If an insurance company gets free money from Uncle Sam, then surely they shall want to see just how much more they can get…