One More Time
I’m finding myself hugely aggravated by the Obamacare rollout. Not because of the technological incompetence (see “Sibelius”), not because I think it’s ill-intended, let alone evil (see “Cruz”), but because it doesn’t address the economic reality of healthcare, which means that it can’t and won’t solve the problem it’s supposed to solve. The unaddressed reality is that the vast majority of what we call health insurance isn’t insurance (see “my earlier posts on healthcare”). Rather, it’s the confiscation and transfer of wealth from young, healthy people to older, less healthy people (see “individual mandate”). Until we face up to that reality, we’re doomed to a healthcare system that raises blood pressure instead of lowering it.
If someone can come up with a way to make healthcare function like an actual market, and to make health insurance actual insurance, I’ll be first in line to support it. Failing that, we have an entity whose job it is to confiscate and redistribute wealth. It’s the government. Which means that like it or not, we’re going to wind up with a single-payer system for the bulk of healthcare.
To be clear, I don’t like it. But it’s inevitable. It reminds me of Ben Affleck’s great line in Argo, when his boss asks if he can’t come up with a good idea to rescue the American hostages. “No sir, this is the best bad idea we’ve got.”
That’s where we’re going, and I wish we would just get on with it.
First: I loved watching Chris Christie clean up on Tuesday. It turns out that people like candor and problem-solving. Didn’t see that one coming. I’m also amazed that he’s being challenged on his conservative credentials since his politics are basically the same as Reagan’s.
Second: a few weeks ago, I heard on the radio that a group of (presumably wealthy) Saudi women had decided to protest their country’s prohibition against women driving by giving their drivers the day off and driving themselves. My sympathies are totally with them, but this strikes me as a phenomenally bad way to make the point. Call me crazy, but turning hundreds of completely inexperienced drivers loose on the roads as a way of proving that they should be there seems like an effort that might. . .um. . .backfire.
Third: On the radio yesterday, I heard that Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler will be returning from an injury sooner than expected thanks to “a new form of groin stimulation.” (Again, I refer you to my policy of never making this stuff up.) That someone could come up with a new approach to what seems like it must have been the first thing mankind ever did is a great testament to the inventiveness of our species. It’s enough to make me regret both my career choices and my lack of athletic talent.
And finally this: Over the past week, I’ve learned a couple of new things about the mortgage industry. How I came to learn these things is a long story that I’m not going into here. Suffice it to say that however bad you’ve heard the machine is, it’s worse.
One thing I learned is that Citigroup, a company with 300,000 employees, which holds billions of dollars of mortgage assets and services billions more, doesn’t know the difference between the words “approved” and “completed,” something most of us had our heads around out by the 3rd or 4th grade. This in a standardized email they must send out by the thousands. And which they claimed they hadn’t sent at all (although they had), which must be a scam (which it wasn’t), and which shouldn’t be opened (a little late, don’t you think?). Billions of dollars. Failing 3rd grade vocabulary. Go phish.
The other thing I learned, which might go a long way toward explaining the first, is that the tax code apparently allows financial institutions to write off 100% of the losses they incur when they take ownership of underwater properties through foreclosure, but only 50% of the losses they incur when they settle without taking ownership of the property. I was told this by a lawyer who specializes in such things. I’ve looked online and haven’t been able to verify it (Google yields up only pages relating to the tax impact on the borrower, not the lender). If it’s true, however, it provides mortgage holders with a massive incentive to NOT work with homeowners to find solutions short of full foreclosure.
A non-free market at non-work, not working. Which brings us full circle. . .One More Time.