Saturday, November 5, 2011

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

OK, I am genuinely trying to understand the Wall Street protests. Really. I keep looking at pictures of them, reading the articles and trying to figure out what they want. I've been at this for weeks, and I still don't get it. Tonight, for the umptyhskiddieighth time, I Googled "wall street protestors" and took a read through the signs that appear in the images.
"Eat the rich." That was the first one, published at the National Legal and Policy Center. Well, I'm not much into cannibalism, and if the idea is to take from "the rich" whatever it is that they have that I want, I'm not much into that either. I don't think it is reasonable to assume that anyone who is rich is rich by ill-gotten gains, anymoreso than it would be reasonable to assume that anyone who is poor is a moron. Certainly there rich crooks, and certainly there are stupid poor people. And then there are rich people who worked hard, and there are poor people who are where they are due to bad luck and rotten circumstances. It's not fair to lump them all together.

And anyway, who are "the rich"? I think I remember hearing a joke that "the rich" means anyone who makes more than you do.

I couldn't make out any signs in the second picture, and the page it came from was in Arabic.

The next one was long. It said, "No more money for Wall Street and war; Demand Jobs and Income for the workers and poor." I like that one because it rhymed, but it kind of illustrates the incongruity of the messages coming out of the protests. I assume by "money" we are talking taxpayer money. No more taxpayer money for Wall Street and war, OK. Demand jobs and income for the workers and poor - - demand from whom? Are they suggesting the government provide jobs and income for the workers and poor? Well, for one, we already do that. Government spending for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and welfare programs outstrips defense spending 2.6 to 1.

Here's another thought: do military jobs not count as "jobs and income"? I guess not.

Next: "Jump! you fuckers!" posted at Having lost two very close friends, five years and half a world apart, who decided to throw themselves down from high places, I found this sign to be classless and tasteless with nothing to recommend.

Next up: "Yo Bush! My taxes are not venture capital!" at the LoudSpeaker. Nice one. He knows Bush is no longer president, right? Another thing: Solyndra. Also, the "Eat the rich" dude is in here again. And one that says "Bailout = Extortion", but we'll come back to that one.

This next one says "People Over Profit" and is a So, what will the people take from if there is no profit? How will the people actually get paid if there is no profit to pay them from? Hmmmm. Also: nice 'phantom of the opera' mask. While I'm thinking of it, Andrew Lloyd Webber made millions by putting together a show where people walk around in costumes and sing. Did he "deserve" the money he made? Which is a more enduring contribution to society, the soundtrack from a broadway musical, or the desktop computer? Why is profiting from one more or less acceptable than profiting from the other? Or isn't it?

Here's a good one and my last one for the night: "People Need Jobs!", found at Financial Review. Yes they do! Yes, they DO! This sign is carried by a group called, and another sign in the background says "Bailout the unemployed." But hold on for just a second. The other guy a few pictures up had a sign that said "Bailout = Extortion," and now this guy wants a bailout for the unemployed. So is it OK to extort when its for the unemployed, but not OK for others? Different question, same vein: President Obama's stimulus bill include a $400 tax cut for individuals and an $800 tax cut for families, greater access to the child tax credit for the working poor, a $2,500 college tuition tax credit for 2009 and 2010, extension of unemployment benefits for an additional 33 weeks (they had already been extended once), suspension of taxes on the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits, $24 billion to subsidize continuation of health care coverage for unemployed workers, and $17 billion to boost Pell grants (money for students). Which part of that doesn't count as a "bailout"?

And if it does count as a bailout, which part of it doesn't count as "extortion?"

It's easy to see why people see the messages coming from Occupy Wall Street as "mixed."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Revised 27th Amendment

Some time ago I proposed a 27th amendment to the US Constitution intended to restore the function of the Senate to protect State interests. Reading it now, there are a number of changes I would make to improve the amendment in clarity and effect. The principal purpose remains the same.


Section 1. [1] The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

[2] If the Legislature of a State shall fail to choose a Senator before the first annual meeting of the Congress, the Executive Authority of the State shall appoint an individual to fill such vacancy until such time as the Legislature may act.

Section 2. The authority of the Congress to regulate commerce among the several States shall extend only to affirmative acts of commerce among parties located in diverse States.

Section 3. [1] Every Bill creating new law or amending existing law, when introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, and every amendment thereafter made to such Bill, shall present all new matter as underscored text, and all eliminated matter must appear in its proper place enclosed in brackets.

[2] No amendment shall be allowed to any Bill which is not germane to the original object or purpose thereof.

[3] No Bill shall be passed by the House of Representatives or the Senate other than upon an affirmative vote upon the Bill, and recorded in its Journal of Proceedings.

Section 4. The purpose of an election being to choose a suitable individual to fill an office, in any election held for the office of President of the United States, or the office of Vice President, or of Representative or Senator, any ballot in such election shall indicate only the office subject to election and the name of each candidate therefor, and all other information concerning the candidates, including his or her party affiliations, if any, shall be stricken from the ballot and not appear anywhere thereon.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Employer Coverage Dumping - A Prediction Coming True

In May of 2010 I wrote this about the impact of the then-new health reform law on employer-sponsored coverage:

More employers, already at or near the break point of providing health insurance coverage as an employment benefit, will elect not to

Today, there's this from Avik Roy at Forbes:

there’s a new study that suggests that employer dumping under Obamacare could be significant, leading to an explosion of the law’s costs and thereby the federal debt. A working paper by economists Richard Burkhauser and Sean Lyons of Cornell and Kosali Simon of Indiana, published by the National Bureau for Economic Research, examined various reasonable assumptions regarding the behavior of employers under the law.

Burkhauser and colleagues found that, in a worst-case scenario, the number of people covered by Obamacare’s subsidized exchanges could be more than double the estimates of the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation. “In the most dynamic case (broad affordability and maximum change in premiums)…Exchange coverage increases from 10.23…to 22.89 percent” of the privately-insured workforce. This would lead to worst-case of $48 billion a year in additional federal spending, according to a version of the study published by the Employment Policies Institute.

Well, hey. When your budget is $1.3 trillion in the hole, what's another measly $48 billion on top? Read the rest of Avik's post at Forbes here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Problem Isn't the Other Party - - It's Any Party

If the debt limit crisis pointed out anything at all, it's this: political parties are bad for the nation.

I'm aware that it borders on heresy to say such a thing out loud, let alone write it, but it's becoming increasingly apparent to me. Watching the bickering over the debt limit, though, I began to wonder if the solution was more about getting to say who won than about what would be best for the country.

The fallout from Standard & Poor's downgrading of the US credit rating has served only to underscore the point. The Obama administration has had nothing to say about the downgrade for days now, other than some mumbling about how it's all the Tea Party's fault. No plan to solve the problem; not even an acknowledgment that the problem exists.

The tea party phenomenon illustrates two things: first, the power of the swing vote. In a narrowly divided house, the last to get on board one way or the other decide the issue. Tea party adherents were able to hold sway because they were able to hold out, and this latter point is in fact the second illustration: the power of the party-less.

The tea party is not a party. It has no formal organization. It has no nominating process. You cannot register to vote as a "Tea Partier." It is, rather, a simple philosophy to which a number of representatives and senators have adhered.

When it comes time to vote, you cannot leverage a "tea partier." You cannnot call the party whip and have him (or her) lean on the representative. In contrast, if a Democrat wants to cross "party lines" on a vote, you can always have the President (if necessary) call up and tell the representative that if he doesn't vote a certain way his future in "the party" is finished. That worked for Representative Scott Murphy to get Obamacare passed. First Murphy voted against it; then the President called, and then he voted for it. What do you think the President told him? He told him to toe the line, that's what.

Every four years people start talking about our presidential primary system and what odd results it creates. A lot of people -- including me -- think we have had a poor slate of presidential candidates for the last five or six general elections. One year I wrote in "Mickey Mouse" as my vote for president because I couldn't bring myself to vote for either the Republican or the Democrat candidate. Or Ralph Nader. I understand that Mickey Mouse gets a couple ten-thousand write-in votes each election.

Some use this sentiment to indict the primary system. Usually those folks are trying to sell their own revamping of the primary system. Others will go so far as to say that it's a problem of a "two-party system." Those folks are usually trying to sell a third party. I think it is a deeper problem than either of these. I think it's a result of the party system in general.

The conventional wisdom is that presidential candidates have to go "ultra" (in whatever direction) in the primaries to get the nomination and then jog back towards the center in the general. This results in an interesting waltz. I think this is the reason why so many presidential candidates end up talking alot without saying anything. They really don't want to say anything, because whatever they say at the beginning of their campaign they'll have to disavow in just a few months. And if there's one thing you can skewer a candidate on, it's inconsistency. John Kerry: "I was for it, but that was before I was against it." Or something like that. Remember Clinton's (Bill's) "waffles"?

As an aside, I also think this is why most successful presidential candidates were governors and not senators. If you are a legislator, your philosophy is writ large in your voting record, and it's too easy to pull out votes and use them to make a candidate look inconsistent or, worse, duplicitous. Think McCain on that one.

So to get the party nomination, you have to fly the party colors in a big way, to please the party bosses. A party primary in this way amplifies the power of the fringe by eliminating countervailing votes. Imagine a room of 100 people attempting to elect a president. There are 5 insanely liberal people and 5 insanely conservative people. In a one-vote election, the whacknuts would cancel each other out. Candidates would therefore be wise to ignore the fringe, and concentrate on the middle.

But with a primary, the candidate must look only at his own half of the room. The 5 insanely liberal liberals are no longer a fringe cancelled out by the 5 insanely conservative conservatives. They are now 10% of the votes -- too big to ignore -- and their ultra-views are only partially moderated by those in the center.

This sort of phenomenon is not a function of a two-party system. It pertains whenever and wherever there is a "party" that needs to be pleased in order to get to the general.

Once in office, the elected party member has to consider the impact of his or her vote on the party. Hence, there is a means of leveraging votes to achieve party-satsifying results. There are so many examples of party votes that party influence on voting outcomes should be considered axiomatic.

And that is what scares the bejezus out of true "partiers" (of either stripe) about the tea party. There is no tea party. You can't get tea partiers to toe the line in any way other than selling them your idea. And if your idea stinks, it's not selling.

Should political parties be banned? Of course not. Not everything that is a stupid idea should be illegal. In this country, the right to freedom of association and freedom of speech is sacrosanct. But it would be nice to see the beginning of a public sentiment that political parties have caused more problems than they have solved, and that on the whole we'd be better off without them. It would be nice to see candidates for Congress abandon the party idea all together, and big dollar donations to boot, and instead campaign entirely on their ideas, using freely available social media tools to distribute them and engage constituents in dialogue.

Imagine what a class of unaffiliated representatives, who got into office purely on the strength of their ideas--not some arcane sense of party loyalty--could do for the idea of democracy. Could it possibly restore the sense that one's elected representatives are truly representing their constituents?

Maybe. Just, maybe.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

TeaParty 2.0: Where To Now?

As the dust settles from the midterm elections it's a good time to pause and take stock of what the Tea Party has accomplished, and where it should go from here. Specifically, the Tea Party movement should begin to find and promote the next generation of politicians that are unaffiliated with any organized political party.

There can be little doubt that Democrats in general and Obama in particular got their comeuppance in this election. For my own part, my votes were cast in direct repudiation of the Obama health care reform effort and more broadly against the expansion of federal jurisdiction far beyond its original intent.

That Republicans were the benefactor of my votes was largely incidental. For most of the contests, the Republican-endorsed candidates I voted for were the only credible alternative to the incumbents. That does not mean I favor the Republican party.

I remember quite vividly that Republicans, after all, are responsible for the single largest expansion of federal entitlements since the 60's. (I speak of Medicare Part D.) I also remember the famed "Contract With America" of the 104th Congress and how most of it was conveniently ignored once the Republicans were in control. They are as slimy as Democrats, just about different things.

For a long time I believed that what American democracy needed was a third party. I no longer believe that. I now believe that what American democracy needs is no parties.

I believe this because any representative that belongs to an organized political party must take into consideration the effect of his or her vote on both the party as a whole as well as his or her place within the party. In many cases, such considerations will be consonant with the representative's view of what's best for his constituents - - but not always.

For example, when my Democrat Congressman was considering the health care reform bill in its final form, he was singled out as one of maybe a dozen representatives that were critical to the bill's passage. He received visits from Democratic party leadership. He received a personal call from President Obama. The message, whether ever spoken directly, but no doubt understood, was this: if you don't vote for this bill, your future in the Democratic party is O-V-E-R.

That he should ever have faced such a dilemma is the tragedy of our current party-dominated system. The structure of an organized party is, in fact, leverage over the vote. Leverage over the vote that is supposed to be cast for me and the folks that live around me.

I reject that leverage as a perversion of democracy. I believe that my representative should represent the interests of my community and those that live in it and nothing else.

I suspect that the rise of Tea Party sentiment shows that many others feel this way as well. For a long time it was assumed that people who were sick of party politics were really just sick of the *other* party. Not true: I am sick of both - - and all - - parties.

So now that its voice is being heard and listened to, the best thing Tea Partiers could do is to begin to demand - - collectively, immediately - - that future aspirants to public office (including those just elected that wish to retain their seats) run unaffiliated. Tea Partiers wishing to genuinely improve the health of our democracy should direct their efforts towards promoting and supporting such unaffiliated candidates.

The election of unaffiliated representatives is the best assurance that issues will be decided on the substance of the issues themselves, and not on the competing and in some cases subverting interests of the party to which the representative belongs.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tea Party . . . Not Dominated By Racist Extremists After All

Or, at least, a quantitative analysis of signs displayed at Tea Party gatherings does not support such a conclusion.

Ekins's analysis showed that only about a quarter of all signs reflected direct anger with Obama. Only 5 percent of the total mentioned the president's race or religion, and slightly more than 1 percent questioned his American citizenship.

Ekins's conclusion is not that the racially charged messages are unimportant but that media coverage of tea party rallies over the past year have focused so heavily on the more controversial signs that it has contributed to the perception that such content dominates the tea party movement more than it actually does.
(Emphasis mine.)

The article covering Ekins' study, by the way, appears in the Washington Post, which given its liberal leanings would have every reason to discredit the findings.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who Owns Your Money? Paul Krugman Does

In Sunday's New York Times editorial section Paul Krugman ponders the "white-hot rage" sweeping America. Not that of Tea Partiers, he notes, that of "the rich."

If you want to find real political rage - - the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler . . . [y]ou'll find it among the very privileged, people who don't have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the though of paying modestly higher taxes.

I have a steady job, and I work hard at it. I don't worry too much about losing my job, my home, or my health insurance, though I suppose any or all of those are possibilities. And I'm not anyone who will benefit from the extension of the Bush tax breaks.

But I can tell you that I am indeed outraged. Outraged that progressives like Krugman feel as if they have the ability to judge how much income is "too much" for any one person.

Krugman cites Oliver Wendell Holmes for the prospect that "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society." Holmes did indeed say that, in a case called Compania General De Tabacos De Filipinas v. Collector of the Internal Revenue (275 US 87 (1927)). "But that was a long time ago," says Krugman, as if to suggest that those disgusted by contemporary taxation are merely boorish descendants from an earlier, more genteel and clearly more elightened era.

Indeed 1927 was a long time ago. In Holmes' lifetime, for example, income tax was held by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. (Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429 (1895)). An amendment was required to clarify Congress' power.

In 1913, the tax rate paid by the top income earners was a whopping 7%. To merit paying that much in taxes it was necessary to earn more than $500,000 in 1913 dollars - - more than $10 million today.

Holmes' statement also pre-dated Social Security, which came along in the '30s and results in an additional subtraction from your income before you even touch it. And it predated Medicare and Medicaid, which came along in the '60s, with similar result.

Of the "undeniably rich," Krugman observes that "a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it's their money, and they have the right to keep it." In Krugman's eyes, the belief that one's income is one's own is audacious and unjustifiable. There comes a point of being "too rich," he thinks, therefore any income above a certain level belongs not to the individual but to the people to spend, through Congress, as they see fit.

Krugman's position makes a fallacy of the word "earn." My high school dictionary suggests that to "earn" means "to gain or deserve for one's service, labor, or performance." Krugman eviscerates this sense of the word, and would rather have us think of earned income - - at least above certain amounts - - as merely "temporarily borrowed," certainly not "deserved." How anyone, who has had the assiduity, intelligence, or just enough blind dumb luck to make more than what Krugman thinks is "appropriate", dare to the belligerent prospect that he has "earned" his income and is "entitled" to keep it.

Well, I do. I dare, even though my hope of ever earning enough to be truly "outraged" by top margin taxes is a dim one. I dare, because if you let Congress believe that all of a rich man's income is a public good, there is nothing to prevent it from believing that all of an ordinary man's income is public good as well. And all of a poor man's income - - such as it is - - for that matter as well. The idea that all income belongs to the people is a communist notion. It is a foreign notion - - foreign to the capitalist principles that - - for better or worse - - this country is founded upon.

There is another striking difference between the world that Holmes lived in when he wrote "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society," and it is this: Holmes figured that if the state can demand, through draft and war, the life of its citizens, then it could also demand sacrifices far less than that, such as state-ordered involuntary sterilization:

We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. ... three generations of imbeciles are enough. (Buck v. Bell, 274 US 200 (1927).)

Read that carefully. I underlined the best part. I should think a Nobel laureate economist such as Krugman should think twice before alluding to the "happier times" of the Holmes-ian era. One might suspect he is in favor of cutting the marginal tax rate to 7% and involuntarily sterilizing the poor.

Of course Krugman is probably not in favor of sterilizing the poor (although who knows, economists think some nutty things sometimes), but here is what distinguishes thinking of "then" versus thinking of "now": Holmes recognized the obligation of the "haves" to pay for a civilized society, and he also recognized an obligation of society to prune itself of the "have-nots." Since Holmes' time, the latter obligation is no longer recognized, while the former has continuously expanded - - by several orders of magnitude.

Krugman believes that the wards of the state have an entitlement to the income of the rich, while the rich themselves have no entitlement to their own income. Needless to say, that makes them angry.

I'd be too.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why Wait For a Convention, New York?

Every year when the budget deadline passes without a budget, or whenever there is a stalemate between the Governor and the only two legislators that actually wield legislative power (I speak of the Assembly Speaker and Senate President), someone asks, "Why don't we amend the state Constitution to fix this?"

And then the news stations dig up a softspoken constitutional scholar from a SUNY basement somewhere and he explains, with great solemnity, why amending the Constitution now is just not possible. According to the state Constitution itself (Art. XIX Sec. 1), he says, amending the document first requires legislative approval in two consecutive legislative sessions, then approbation by popular ballot, and then a delayed effective date. Figure three years minimum, likely more. The most we can do right now, he says in so many words, is wring our hands and hope for the best.

And then someone says, "well then let's have a convention and write a new constitution," and the constitutional scholar goes even grayer as he explains that under the Constitution (Art. XIX Sec. 2) this is something the legislature must first consent to be put on the ballot, or else we must wait up to 20 years for the question of a convention to be put on the ballot automatically, and we should then hope everyone's paying attention and still angry enough about the legislature's antics from 10 or 12 or 18 years ago to vote for a convention.

And through all of this the newscaster will nod in understanding until it's time to go back to the anchor desk for the weather or a reel of the latest fire, and that is that.

Now in my mind, that approach puts the relationship entirely backwards.

That approach has so-called "experts" looking no further than the state Constitution for the origin and definition of their powers of self-governance.

In my mind, it is the citizens' powers of self-governance that give rise to the Constitution, not the other way around.  It is the citizens' ability to say for themselves how they wish to be governed that gives birth to a constitution of government.  It is not for the constitution of government to define that ability, or to so limit it as to the point of virtual extinguishment.

If the document by which we govern ourselves can provide no genuine redress for the ineffectiveness of our elected officials, is it truly a democratic document?  No.  Is a document that so severely limits our ability to exercise the powers of self-governance that we cannot act even in the face of impasses that threaten to close down our government truly a democratic document?  No.

If the legislature has the power to cancel, for the span of 20 years, any initiative that would alter its composition or powers, then where is its incentive to act appropriately? If the ridiculous antics of the legislature of late are any indication, there is no such incentive.

We should not be so quick as to assume that our form of government has not become a perverted form of democracy. What we have in New York is at least this:

  • inequitable ballot access laws that protect entrenched political parties
  • a campaign finance process that obscures the public's view
  • a budget process that all but guarantees a late and irresponsible budget
  • a partisan legislative districting process that protects incumbents
  • most egregiously, a manner of amending the Constitution to more accurately reflect the will of the people that, in operation, sets itself against the will of the people.
And this is only a small list.  Are we truly only left to line up behind our constitutional scholars and wring our hands mightily for the next dozen years, as they suggest? Or can we not conceive of a different path?

Do we not have the right, arising from our own powers of self-governance, to collectively rip up the current Constitution and begin anew?

Of course we do. Of course we can.

It is a bold idea, yes, to abolish a government by replacing it with a new one. But it is certainly not a new idea. Each year on the Fourth of July we celebrate and pay homage to the men and women who were brave enough to carry out that idea even in the face of armed resistance from the old government. Are we less brave?

Adherents to the current government will poo-hoo the idea, claim that it is too radical, too disruptive, would never work, isn't possible, etc. Look carefully and you will see in all instances that they speak either out of a vested interest in the current government or else out of pure fear.

And before you poo-hoo the idea yourself, ask whether the current government is working for you, or for some other interest?

A convention of the people to form a government is indeed a radical concept, but it is the very mechanism on which our state and our federal governments were born.  Could anyone legitimately challenge such a mechanism?  We have so many examples in our national history that we need not question the validity of the process.  And we can look to the process by which those conventions were held for guidance on how to compose the convention and ratify its product, if the product is indeed worth ratifying.

We have only to find the bravery to do it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

How To Cut Health Care Costs By 64%: Let The Patient Ask

For some months now I have been suggesting on this blog (and everywhere else I can) that the best mechanism for exerting downward pressure on health care costs (meaning, the price of care) is to have the ultimate consumer (meaning, the patient) pay for the services.

Republicans and Democrats alike seem to be bent on ignoring such a tactic in favor of other approaches that cater to their pet constituencies.

In today's Kaiser Health News columnist Lisa Zamosky relates a real-life example of what happens when you force health care providers to justify their prices in the harsh light of day. The story involves a patient who has a high-deductible health plan, requiring her to pay on her own for the first $5,000 of care she gets in any year. When the patient went for an annual checkup and was handed a $350 bill (which she described as "ridiculous"), she asked for a discount. Removing a few routine tests from the bill brought it down to $125, which the patient then paid.

That's a discount of 64%.

Detractors from the market approach would likely suggest that a 64% discount is not a result that could be achieved on a large scale. The primary care industry would evaporate if it were forced to take a pay cut of approximately 2/3 of their income.

Which is true to this extent: the primary care industry as we currently know it would evaporate. In its place, I have no doubt at all, some enterprising individuals would figure out how to package primary care services in a way that deliver value to the patient and still allow physicians and nurses to eat. I don't think for a moment that the system will look anything like what we currently have. But why should it? The current system is both overpriced and inefficient; why should we continue to prop it up?

Health care reform proponents squawk about "access" and how free market solutions will fail to provide universal access to care. I wonder at that. It did not require massive government spending programs to make cellphone ubiquitous; it did not require impinging on personal liberties to put televisions in every home; it did not require nationalizing an industry to make personal computers affordable.

Imagine a sprawling government system whose purpose was to extend the life of the recording industry at a given point in time, say, the year 2000. We would be stuck with regulations forcing us to buy overpriced CDs and CD players, perhaps even cassette tapes, in order to keep the music stores open, while foreclosing the development of the iPod and other forms of music content delivery yet to be thought of. Why would we agree to such a thing? Why did we agree to such a thing?--because that's exactly what we have now.

Reform advocates posed this question may cough nervously and suggest that health care is different. But they can't quite say how.

I saw pshaw.

By the millions, Americans have concluded that the current third party payor system does not deliver the care they need at the price they can pay. The reformer's response: buy it anyway.

That's the definition of a command market.

Why would we agree to such a thing. Why did we?