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Posts Tagged ‘socialism

A History Lesson: The Role of Social Insurance and Gov’t as Risk Manager

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Taken from an editorial in The NY Times, the following belongs in that “(slap head) DOH!” category of Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-That.

The financial markets had prided themselves on their expertise in pricing and managing financial risk prudently. But left on their own, they proved that they could not even manage properly as simple a transaction as a mom-and-pop mortgage loan, let alone fancy derivatives such as the collateralized debt obligations (C.D.O.’s) that were based on sloppily-written mortgage loans and the credit-default swaps (C.D.S.’s) meant to insure the value of these C.D.O.’s, but without adequate reserves to back up that credit insurance.

In the end, like teenagers who hate Mother’s strictures when all is well, but run to Mommy whenever they get in trouble, the swashbuckling oligarchs of the financial sector ran to government for cover, owning up once again to the time-honored mantra of this country’s legendary rugged individualists:

When the going gets tough, the tough run to the government.

Another term for “government risk management,” of course, is “social insurance.” […]

Perhaps the argument is that individuals should make their own financial arrangements in the private market for risk management to protect themselves against the financial risks of illness. But then it can be asked why states in disaster-prone areas — e.g., Florida and other states along the Gulf Coast — should not be required to tax themselves on a regular basis for the purchase of private insurance to cover the cost of their fairly predictable calamities, or to set aside adequate rainy-day funds to meet that cost.

Why is it the American way that I in New Jersey should feel obliged to give financial help to a family whose beach house in Mississippi was blown down by a hurricane, but it is socialist and un-American to help a Mississippi woman struck by breast cancer?

One of the most thoughtful recent books on the topic of government risk-management is “When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager” (2004), by David A. Moss, a Harvard Business School professor. The author clearly explains in this book why public risk management has become an essential and very popular form of government intervention in modern societies, including the United States, and even among its more staunchly conservative citizens.

Professor Moss explains that the first application of social insurance in our latitudes actually was aimed not at protecting individuals against financial risk, but at supporting the growth of modern capitalism. Its main instrument to that end was the legal sanction of the principle of limited liability of the owners of corporations.

Prior to this form of social insurance, the owners of a business were legally liable with their personal wealth for damages the business might have inflicted on others. With limited liability, the corporation’s shareholders are liable only up to their equity stake in the company. They can lose at most the value of their investment in the corporation’s stock. Beyond that, someone else in society — often the taxpayer — bears the financial risk for damages attributable to the corporation.

One wonders how many business executives and members of chambers of commerce around the country realize that the limited liability of shareholders is social insurance.

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Thoughts on the headlines

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From the headlines:

The 10th Amendment is becoming a rally point for the Tea Party Movement. That’s the one that says,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Strange that no one mentions Article 1, Section 7?

Growing populace outrage over the government spending. But no one says what they’d cut. Hmm….

Too much socialism. So, shall we eliminate social security, medicare, medicaid, unemployment benefits, federal aid to education, federal pension security, etc?

The divisions within the public are too numerous to recount. We have a severely divided public, arguing and angry. However, those with the loudest voices provide few if any solutions. We have a Congress (both houses) who appear more interested in winning elections than serving the public good.

What are the answers?

Written by Valerie Curl

January 18, 2010 at 8:28 AM

When Medicine went Mad

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Watching the latest round of Nazi epithets shouted during town hall meetings causes me to seriously doubt the quality of American education. That in one generation, Americans have forgotten the facts of Nazi Germany and dare to compare U.S. health reform to it is appalling.

Much has been written about the MSNBC article written by Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, in which he writes:

Limbaugh, Beck, Palin and other Holocaust deniers ignore the core racist evil of Nazism. They reach for preposterous analogies between counseling people about living wills and the forced, involuntary mass murder carried out in the name of racism in concentration camps.
When the right wing, in their distaste for the President’s push to reform a heath care system that even the American Medical Association and the pharmaceutical industry recognize has to be fixed, suggest that the disabled will be targeted, or that the elderly will be killed or find themselves without health care due to rationing by government bureaucrats as happened in Nazi Germany, they marginalize the gross evil that was the racial bigotry that fueled Nazi programs to euthanize, sterilize, experiment upon and torture people in places that were in no way connected to hospitals, clinics or nursing homes.
There is plenty to debate about health reform. But there is nothing to debate about the contemptible introduction of references, direct or oblique, to Nazi Germany. To do so is to engage in Holocaust denial. To do that is, as those Americans of the greatest generation who died or were injured fighting the Nazi menace well understood, inexcusable.

However, Caplan has become a renowned authority of medicine and medical ethics under the Nazi regime so perhaps his words should not be taken lightly by the uninformed. In Caplan’s article, he notes his father’s experience when, with the American Army, he arrived at Dachau.

My father’s war experience drew me to try and understand what had happened at Dachau. I have spent nearly 30 years trying to understand how the most scientifically and medically advanced nation of its day could have conducted the mass murder of so many Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and pacifists. Contrary to what Limbaugh and other Holocaust deniers would have you believe, German medicine and science were not brought into the Nazi party once Hitler took power. They fueled the fire for what became Nazism with bigotry proffered as science.
What distinguished the doctors and scientists of Germany pre-Hitler was that so many of them were firm believers in racial hygiene — the view that the Aryan race’s very existence was threatened by inferior peoples such as Jews, blacks and Slavs. They felt the only way to protect their “race,” a concept that itself made little biological sense, was to prohibit reproduction with inferior people and, ultimately, to destroy them. It was racism masquerading as science that formed the basis for Nazi science and medicine right down to the gas chambers and ovens that my dad found himself staring at in 1945.

Germany’s national health care did not begin with Hitler and the Third Reich. But the Nazi’s seriously distorted and infected it with evil. According to Marc S. Micozzi M.D., in the November 1993 of The Freeman, Volume: 43, Issue: 11, Germany’s national health began decades earlier:

The German social insurance and health care system began in the 1880s under Bismarck. Ironically, it was part of Bismarck’s “anti-socialist” legislation, adopted under the theory that a little socialism would prevent the rise of a more virulent socialism.
By the time of Weimar, German doctors had become accustomed to cooperating with the government in the provision of medical care. The reforms of the Weimar Republic following the medical crises of World War I included government policies to provide health care services to all citizens. Socially minded physicians placed great hope in a new health care system, calling for a single state agency to overcome fragmentation and the lack of influence of individual practitioners and local services.

Under the early Weimar Republic, German medical advances far outstripped the medical communities in the rest of the western world, focusing on prevention of chronic disease. For example, showing the link between cancer and tobacco use. Yet, German doctors remained largely racist and easily joined the Nazi’s.

The complex political situation in Germany during the 1920s and early 30s only made the medical ethics problems worse. (see google books online – http://bit.ly/1kyyQK) Wikipedia states the following, beginning in 1919:

The Republic was soon under attack from both left- and right-wing extremists. The radical left accused the ruling Social Democrats of having betrayed the ideals of the workers’ movement by preventing a communist revolution. Right-wing extremists opposed any democratic system, preferring an authoritarian state like the 1871 Empire. To further undermine the Republic’s credibility, right-wing extremists (especially certain members of the former officer corps) also blamed an alleged conspiracy of Socialists and Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I. […]

Further pressure from the right came in 1923 with the Beer Hall Putsch, also called the Munich Putsch, staged by Adolf Hitler in Munich. In 1920, the German Workers’ Party had become the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), nicknamed the Nazi Party, and would become a driving force in the collapse of Weimar. Hitler was named chairman of the party in July 1921. On 8 November 1923, the Kampfbund, in a pact with Erich Ludendorff, took over a meeting by Bavarian prime minister Gustav von Kahr at a beer hall in Munich. Ludendorff and Hitler declared a new government, planning to take control of Munich the following day. The 3,000 rebels were thwarted by 100 policemen. Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for high treason, a minimum sentence for the charge. Due to the trial, he served less than eight months in a comfortable cell before his release on the 20th of December 1924. While in jail, Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” which laid out his ideas and future policies. Hitler now decided to focus on legal methods of gaining power.

Contrary to the rantings of the far right, the Nazi’s were not socialists or “lefties”. On the contrary, they were on the far right, preferring a highly authoritarian government such had existed prior to WWI. The Nazi’s hated socialism, took great pains to exterminate socialists and communists, and to eliminate any socialist policies put in place during the brief Weimar Republic. To that end, Hitler wanted to abolish national health coverage, but his advisors convinced him to keep it because it was too well liked by the German populace. However, it wasn’t until Goebbels took over the system that the atrocities began.

That Americans willingly accept the twisted, hate-filled, conspiracy-theorist views of people like Limbaugh, Beck, and LaRouche without doing any due-diligence to determine the accuracy of their statements underscores how badly our educational standards need to be upgraded. And how poorly Americans are educated.

As long as I get mine, the heck with you….

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That seems to be the mantra of many seniors attending town hall meetings this summer. How many times have we seen images on TV of seniors carrying signs saying, “ No Socialized health care;” “No socialism;” “No government run health insurance;” and numerous other similar signs?

At the same time seniors are saying no to health care reform for everyone else in the country, they’re saying, “Don’t touch my Medicare.”

Whether you’re for or against health care reform, the image of senior citizens, all of whom are drawing Social Security and Medicare benefits, crying out against socialism when they are the biggest beneficiaries of socialized medicine and retirement benefits is beyond the pale.

Where do these people think the money, which pays their health care and retirement, comes from? That it just magically appears? It comes from the Federal Government, Seniors! Both Medicare and Social Security are two huge socialistic programs. And every taxpayer is paying for those benefits.

Is this attitude the height of hypocrisy or are these people just plain stupid? They seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable that they receive “socialized” assistance, but they want to deny reasonably priced medical care to everyone else.

If they’re so adamantly against socialism, then they should all resign from Medicare and Social Security.

Written by Valerie Curl

August 29, 2009 at 9:12 PM

Socialism?

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Do you think “socialism” is a terrifying thing, about to invade the policies of America?

If so, you really must hate Social Security and Medicare. When those programs were first introduced, they were called socialist. Republicans ran the “red scare, socialist” mantra across America to attempt the defeat of these programs.

If you think Obama’s health care plan is socialist, then I suggest you check out Switzerland. The Swiss are very conservative. They own more guns per capita than the U.S. They are adamant about privacy, just look at their banking regulations regarding privacy.

Yet, they voted a few years ago for National Health Insurance, even though the Conservatives worked hard to defeat it, saying it was socialist and too expensive. Nevertheless, the leader of the Conservative wing now says the Swiss would never give up their National Health care system. They like it too much. It’s been a boon to their GDP, their pharma companies (among the largest in the world) have no problem with it, the people love it, and health insurance companies are very happy with it.

So, what is the problem with solutions that work for business and helps citizens? This is not 1955 any more.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 5, 2008 at 2:05 AM

McCain is a “Redistributor” too

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McCain has been tossing out the term “redistributor” to describe Sen. Obama, as if Obama is a socialist. At least, that’s the implicit connection he’s trying to make. But it’s far from true.

Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, in his column, writes:

Conservatives are eagerly pushing the charge–online, at rallies and in my inbox–that “Barack the Redistributor” is a secret communist, Marxist or socialist. (Today, the right is misreading as evidence of his pinko ways a 2001 interview in which Obama complains that progressive activists once wrongly wanted the Supreme Court to “ente[r] into the issues of redistribution of wealth.”) Now, I understand the appeal of this line of attack, which provides voters with a familiar, 20th-century bogeyman to fear. But characterizing Obama’s plan to tax the nation’s top earners at 39 percent instead of 36 percent as socialist is absurd. Dwight Eisenhower taxed top earners at 91 percent. Richard Nixon taxed them at more than 50 percent. Even Ronald Reagan didn’t lower the top marginal rate to less than 50 percent until the last two years of his second term. Were these Republicans secret socialists, too?

Romano’s column concludes:

Deep down, I suspect McCain knows that Obama isn’t really a socialist. Why? Because he once sounded a lot like his rival on taxes. During the 2000 campaign, for example, a young woman asked McCain why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” “Look, here’s what I really believe,” he added. “That when you are–when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.” He soon backed up his words with action. After Bush was elected, McCain told Congress that he was disappointed by the president’s plan to “cut the top tax rate of 39.6 percent to 36 percent.” When it came time for a vote, the Arizonan stood on the Senate floor and announced that “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.” Unless McCain was a socialist in 2000 and 2001, Obama isn’t a socialist now.

John McCain understands and even promotes a progressive tax policy that taxes higher wager earners more than lower wage earners. The same thing Obama believes. The bogeyman title is nothing more than an attempt to scare the voting populace.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 3, 2008 at 4:34 PM

With the election so close, the Republicans are pulling out all their tired old scare tactics

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But what choice do they really have. Their policies are old. They have nothing new to offer to offer the American people but scare tactics. And even those are old and tired.

First is the tired old socialism mantra: redistribution of wealth. This socialist mantra says the government will take from everybody to even out incomes amongst all. While I’m sure Jesus would have applauded that idea in the name of caring for the least among us, capitalism has won the battle of “isms”. It is here to stay and no one, in this day and age, plans on going back to a failed economic policy. Obama is a great deal smarter than that.

What he does propose, though, is giving tax breaks to the Middle Class. In order to afford those tax breaks without breaking the national budget, the most wealthy in the country, like Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman’s who earned $500,000,000 (that’s right, half a billion dollars) even as Lehman’s sank into bankruptcy, will have to kick in a bit more. Surely, people who own a couple of multi-million dollar luxury mansions , a multi-million dollar New York apartment overlooking Central Park, an airplane, a yacht, and spend lavishly on art can afford to see their incomes taxes raised by a few percentage points. Raising their taxes a few points is not going to bankrupt them…or even affect their lavish lifestyles. But those additional taxes can offset the budgetary affects of tax relief for the Middle Class.

Second is another tired old mantra: class warfare. Well, guess what? Class warfare does exist, and the Middle Class has been the victim of it for a very long time. Unfortunately, the wealthy have conned the Middle Class into thinking that they’re being anti-social or un-American or anti-capitalist if they acknowledge that the rich have had it pretty darned easy, tax-wise. I guess we in the Middle Class are supposed to be good little sheep and never think about the fact that while we’re struggling to survive, the rich are living it up and enjoying all the fruits of wealth. Well, I work just as hard for my income as any fat cat, and while I earn a great deal less than those guys, they pay the same tax rate as I do…and they can get special tax breaks (known as tax credits and tax deductions) that I cannot afford to get. When all is said and done, the wealthy probably pay a lower percentage of earnings in taxes than most of the Middle Class do!

Third is the very old line: an all one party government. I didn’t hear the Republicans screaming about this when they owned both houses of Congress and the Presidency. What they did say was: Hurray, now we own the government so we can do what we want, set our own policies into action. Now, that it looks like their losing, they’re warning America of how horrible it would be to have the Democrats in power. Well, it seems to have worked okay when FDR, Truman and Kennedy were Presidents and Congress was Democratic. What’s to say that Obama won’t do as well with a Democratic Congress? Who is to say he won’t measure up, as much as possible given the current economic problems, to Kennedy who reduced the deficit, the national debt and lowered the Eisenhower Administration’s tax rate?

The fourth is a new scare: that only 40% of the people pay taxes. I don’t know about anyone else, but no one I know pays no taxes whatsoever. What that scare tactic implies is that 40% of the people either do not earn enough (are underemployed) to pay any taxes. That is, they earn under $12,000 a year. Or that they get back every single dime they paid in taxes throughout the year when they file their returns. I don’t know anyone who gets back everything in income taxes. I do know there are many millionaires who pay zero taxes, but no one in the Middle Class gets away without paying some amount in income taxes.

What Pat Buchanan, John McCain, and a host of other Republicans are doing with their tired old arguments is attempting to scare the American people. They can’t stand losing; they don’t have anything new and better from the last eight years to offer. So they use fear and scare tactics. They trade on old ideas that are no longer relevant or make any sense in the 21st Century.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 19, 2008 at 2:35 AM

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