aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Movement on the religious left
We desperately need an active, vocal religious left in this country. I am exhausted by the visibility of those who proclaim that both the Constitution and our bodies must become subservient to a theocratic state. That is not how I was raised, and that will never be how I understand the teachings of Christ.
He points to this from Glenn Smith at DriveDemocracy.org:
Those on the left who are waiting for progressive religious leaders to add their voices to the national political debate need wait no longer. A powerful assembly of religious leaders from a variety of traditions gathered at Riverside Church in New York on April 4. Their message was loud and clear: the militarism of Bush, the widening divide between rich and poor, the failure to provide families with health care, education, safe neighborhoods, even food, demands a revolution.
I’m glad to see it. The person I most associate with the call for a religious left is Amy Sullivan. She caused quite a ruckus this week and took a good deal of criticism, including the gratuitous swipe that “it’s bad enough she has to wave religion in our faces like we’re heathens.” (More here and here.)
I’m a post-atheist agnostic myself. Organized religion is not my cup of tea, but I have a Christian partner and I’ve seen him take flak for it. I’ve had the evils of religious intolerance, persecution and war quoted to me time and again. Those same people, mainly left-leaning friends, find it hard to acknowledge a history of protest and acts of leftist resistance rooted in principled religious commitment.
For me it’s clear that history and those principles add up to a valuable contribution to any winning liberal strategy.
The other day Michael BÃƒÂ©rubÃƒÂ© told of his experience with the American healthcare system:
You know how it goes: you call to make an appointment in September, and you get an appointment first thing February. And then, to make matters worse, it turned out that I had an MLA meeting that very day in February, and had to ask to reschedule. So I got pushed back to April 11. It’s a good thing I don’t live in one of those leftist countries where people have to wait in long lines because of all that socialized medicine! That would suck.
Michael lucked out. His procedure has been put off for five years; mine’s next month. (I started scheduling it last summer.) He did point me to James Wolcott though, who promises it won’t be as bad as it sounds, “...like jury duty for your butt.”
Hey! That’s too much information.
But what about that wait for socialized medicine that we’ve all been told is true? Today Kash at Angry Bear looks into it:
Let me leave aside the point that waiting lists exist in abundance in the US for elective procedures - it’s just that when people are waiting in the US, they are waiting for a miraculous windfall of money to be able to afford the procedure, rather than waiting a few months until their number is called. No, right now I want to focus on the myth that government-financed health care necessarily entails waiting lists for elective procedures.
The data shows that many countries with “nationalized” health care systems have little or no waits for elective medical procedures. A 2003 OECD working paper entitled “Explaining Waiting Times Variations for Elective Surgery across OECD Countries” by Luigi Siciliani and Jeremy Hurst provides some survey evidence of actual waiting times in various OECD countries....many of them have no waits for common elective procedures. Clearly government financing of health care does not, in and of itself, cause waiting lists for medical procedures.
The study also looks at out-of-pocket expenses in countries with government-financed health care (negligible) and who makes the decision about whether an individual should receive the service (doctors).
Compare this to the case of the US, which is somewhat different in both dimensions. What would an American expect to pay out-of-pocket for elective hip replacement, and how many hoops would they expect to have to jump through to get approval from their HMO?
So the next time you hear that the US health care system is better than those of other countries because Americans don’t have to wait for their health care, recognize this argument for the myth that it is.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has more on healthcare around the world.
Angry Bear’s Health Care wrap up: the real crisis, what we spend, what we spend on, what we get for what we spend, performance, & waiting.
NPR: the news medium of choice
In an article that first surveys the state of television news, concluding:
Thus, more than 50 years into the television era, television news is at a strikingly low ebb. The medium that defined the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and the first human steps on the moon has become an outlet for the elderly and the lonely. Yet broadcast news is actually as healthy as it’s ever been. It’s just that it’s gone low-tech.
The Boston Phoenix proclaims the present belongs to NPR:
EVERY WEEK, somewhere between 23 million and 29 million Americans tune in to National Public Radio. In the apples-and-oranges world of television and radio ratings, it’s hard to know precisely how to compare TV’s daily numbers with radio’s weekly audiences. But there seems to be little question that NPR is now the second-largest broadcast news source in the United States, still trailing the network newscasts, but catching up rapidly - and far ahead of the cable news shows upon which media critics regularly dump barrels of ink.
NPR’s audience has at least doubled in the past decade. The only radio program with a larger audience than NPR’s two drive-time newscasts - Morning Edition and All Things Considered - is Rush Limbaugh’s talk show. The NPR audience tends more toward middle age than youth...but that’s still a lot younger than the network news audience. And whereas the television news audience is shrinking because it defies cultural trends, the public-radio audience is growing along with those trends.
The cost of the estate tax repeal
Even many of my middle class friends have supported the repeal of the estate tax, hoping no doubt, for their own windfall. My expectations are more in line with Charles C. Mann, who predicts that in the future there will be much less to pass on as seniors spend instead on expensive life sustaining/extending treatments:
In the past, twenty- and thirty-year-olds had the chance of sudden windfalls in the form of inheritances. Some economists believe that bequests from previous generations have provided as much as a quarter of the start-up capital for each new one-money for college tuitions, new houses, new businesses. But the image of an ingÃƒÂ©nue’s getting a leg up through a sudden bequest from Aunt Tilly will soon be a relic of late-millennium romances. Instead of helping their juniors begin careers and families, tomorrow’s rich oldsters will be expending their disposable income to enhance their memories, senses, and immune systems. Refashioning their flesh to ever higher levels of performance, they will adjust their metabolisms on computers, install artificial organs that synthesize smart drugs, and swallow genetically tailored bacteria and viruses that clean out arteries, fine-tune neurons, and repair broken genes.
But here in the present, as Angry Bear explains, what the House has really done is voted to raise income taxes:
Let me simply point out that the repeal of the estate tax means that future income taxes will rise by some $40 or $50 bn per year (since the CBO estimates a cost of $30-$35bn per year starting in 2006, and the future tax hike surely won’t happen during the first few years), depending on exactly when financial markets and/or the US’s political leaders decide that endless massive deficits are not sustainable. To put that in very specific terms, today’s action will therefore cost an average-ish upper-middle income family (earning a net of about $70,000 per year) an extra $500 per year or so in taxes.