Dear Libertarians

March 22, 2014 at 6:51 pm (Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Dear Libertarians,

It seems it’s that time again.  That time when I have to say it’s over.  I’d say that it’s not you, that it’s me… but I think we both know that it’s actually you.

We got together because we shared something special.  We both believed that the government needed to back down, that it needed to reduce its interference in people’s lives.  That personal responsibility should take precedence over laws and regulations.  That there was obvious evidence on the record of gross negligence and disregard for civilian life by the government that wasn’t even being covered up, just ignored by society at large.  We’d spend hours debating the best way to gradually work in a wedge of sensible third party candidates to break the two-party stranglehold on our country’s government.  The nights spent going over plans to gradually reduce government interference in daily life will always be fondly remembered.

I suppose this was also when I started to realize there would be problems.  I’d quote Andrew Carnegie, and you’d quote Ayn Rand.  I’d suggest the government should redirect sources where they were a better investment, you’d insist that going cold turkey was the right approach.  You’d propose the immediate repeal of all gun laws once a Libertarian was in the White House, I’d point out that the Constitution you wanted to protect didn’t give the President that power.  I’d advocate for improving the rights of minorities, and you’d insist that doing so was actually harming them by giving the government more power.

That was the moment when we started having real problems, I understand that now.  I agreed with your general suggestion; the government shouldn’t be involved in the marriage business at all.  Marriage licenses could be replaced with civil contracts to achieve the same legal protections, there could even be a standard template, but anybody could enter into those contracts, and marriage would simply be a socio-religious affair, and excuse to have a party.  It all made sense, until you said that we shouldn’t make gay marriage legal because it would reduce the pressure to eliminate marriage as a legal construct.  It was our first fight, but it would hardly be the last.  To be honest, I’m not even sure it ever stopped so we could have a second one.

Maybe I was just blind at the time, ignoring your more extreme elements in the search for something new.  I had questions about some of your ideas early on, about the fact that the President couldn’t just say “these laws don’t exist anymore,” but you explained that as something that would be proposed, not just done unilaterally.  I had questions about some of your roommates, the ones who were more socially conservative.  They reminded me a lot of the people who’d just thrown me out of my last relationship, with Christianity.  But you explained that they were disgruntled Republicans who were squatting, and you were trying to get them to leave.

So I put up with it, and dealt with the raving and the questionable decisions and the arguments.  You got the roomies to move out, told me they’d gone back to live with their parents, and I thought things were going to get better.

But then I found out that you were cheating on me, not just with your old “roomies,” but with some people who seem to be even crazier.  I hadn’t thought that was possible at first, but this Sovereign Citizens guy you’re seeing?  Honestly, I thought he was a nuisance at first, but the more he says the more he scares me.  Not just for what he might do to me, but for what he’s doing to you.

In trying to impress your old roomies and your new partner, you’ve been straying further and further into crazy land yourself.  You’ve started calling me, me of all people, a leftist, a liberal, a fascist apologist, and for what?  For suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the ideas you’ve started promoting are a little… well, insane.

Just in case this whole thing is one great big misunderstanding, I’m going to take this one last chance to make myself perfectly clear.  I don’t have a problem with your idea that the government really needs to pull back.  I agree with you that the police in large parts of this country are dangerously over-armed and over-militarized.  I agree with you that the prisons are overcrowded with people who don’t really deserve to be there.  I agree with you that we need to stop spending useless money.  I agree with you that corporate special interests wield far too much power in this day and age, that the plutocrats are taking over and not even bothering to hide it anymore.  And I agree with you that we need to really stop and think about if we’re going to be the land of the free, or the home of the terminally paranoid.

What I don’t agree with you on is how we’re supposed to accomplish that.

This Sovereign Citizens guy has been telling you that government, as an institution, is inherently evil and tyrannical.  Not just federal government, but local government, even a city council.  He’s been telling you that any legal system whatsoever is an infringement on the freedom of the people, a false contract established by force and intimidation without the consent of the people.  And he’s been telling you that what we really need to do is get rid of it, and shift to… what?  Rule by the free market, where people’s will and ability to acquire and apply force is what enables them to protect themselves from their fellow men.

What I can’t believe is that you’re buying this line, and that you’re not seeing the problems with it.

The government we have now is flawed, yes.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not like our government.  The tirades I’ve made about the NSA, drone strikes, and our country’s… how to put this delicately… utterly fucked up sense of entitlement to the world’s resource should prove this.  But when you look around you, how can you not see the terrible, terrible flaws we have with the free market, with complete deregulation?

Earlier this year, 300,000 people in West Virginia had their waterways poisoned by private industry.  A year or two ago, a private chemical plant in Texas exploded.  Not too long before that, a major (private) oil well exploded, pumping unknown amounts of oil and God alone knows what else into the Gulf Stream.  All three of these events were due to lax oversight and lack of regulations, and not even the companies responsible have argued otherwise.  We still haven’t figured out how much damage the Fukushima Reactor meltdown has caused, because private industry hasn’t cleaned it all up yet.  New reports of preventable tragedies are coming out of one private company after another every day.  Every.  Single.  Day.  And that’s not even counting the number of people whose lives are gradually ruined by the working conditions that they’re told to put up with or quit and find a new job… where the conditions will probably be just as bad, if not worse, especially in this job market.  Productivity in this country has increased drastically, but the only people who are seeing any real economic benefits from that are the super-rich.

And this is under what you’re calling a dictatorial, regulation-happy, practically-communist regime.

I just have to ask… how is this going to change, if we don’t have anybody holding them back?  If the only way we have to punish these companies is to not buy from them, how do we, the people, hold responsible companies that produce industrial solvents that are used for coal production?  We don’t buy their products ourselves, and the only way to stop patronizing their customers in protest would be to shift to solar and wind (which you argue are unsustainable) or nuclear.  And while I’m all for a well-regulated nuclear industry with high safety standards, do you seriously, sincerely believe we’ll have the incredibly safe reactors of today without somebody to tell the people building these multi-billion dollar facilities that, no, they can’t cheap out on the reactor shielding?

After all, it costs money to build the sort of redundancies that actually prevented Three Mile Island from being a hideous disaster with fatalities.  Without that money, you get Chernobyl.  It works!  Kind of.  Until it doesn’t.  Then you end up with… well, Chernobyl.

Do you really think that the unfettered free market would have prevented the economic disasters caused by the Enron, Worldcom, and our recent megabanking collapses?  Because as an accountant, I’m here to tell you that’s a load of grade-A manure.  Fraud and economic disaster thrives in an environment without regulation, far more than it does in an environment with too much regulation.  And I’m not in auditing; I’m in the field that usually complains about more rules coming down the pike to force me to add another layer of checks to my numbers.

Do you really think that a lower tax rate and fewer regulations will keep companies from outsourcing jobs overseas?  That they’ll bring jobs back to the States if they just don’t owe as much in taxes?  That’s bullshit, and if you don’t know it, it’s because you’re willfully ignoring the facts.  Look at their tax expenses.  Then look at their labor expenses.  That’s the line item that has them shipping jobs to places like China or India.  Apple could build the iPhone stateside without any problems; there are enough people to do the jobs, there are enough resources to build the factory, there are cities that would get on their knees and BEG for a FoxConn-like plant and that sort of industry!

But in China, they can do it at pennies on the dollar for the labor, and with working conditions that drive people to kill themselves.  You can’t do that in the USA.  In the USA, you have to pay a minimum wage that still isn’t enough to keep somebody out of poverty, and you have restrictions on the hours you can make people work.  You have minimum standards that the plants have to be kept up to.

Of course, you don’t like minimum wage laws either, but I fail to see how leaving us competing on the same wage scale as the Chinese is supposed to actually make life over here any better.  And when I ask you about that sort of thing… you don’t like to answer.

Frankly, there are a lot of questions you don’t like to answer.

You throw around words like “plutocrats” and “corporatists” as much as you throw around words like “statists,” but then you say that we need to give these people and their money more influence… and you really don’t like to be asked how that’s supposed to fix anything.

I’ve asked you how corporations are supposed to be kept in check without any sort of effective regulation, and the closest you come to answering the question is to say that we haven’t seen a country where the corporations haven’t been able to buy the government, so we can’t say what would happen.  And when I point out Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and any of a dozen other nations where corporations have had unfettered freedom to do what they want, the abuse of natural resources, the rampant human rights violations, the rape and enslavement of nations… you don’t like to answer any questions about that sort of thing.

I just can’t stand by and ignore it any more.

When we met, I could suggest smarter ways for the government to use its resources, and you thought those were good ideas.  Now, you tell me that I’m trying to socialize medicine when I suggest that making birth control freely available is a smart investment.  Because, you know, daily pills or annual shots are much cheaper than either helping to make sure that a kid grows up to not be a felon, or the costs of imprisonment.

Of course, your solution is that the private market should handle all that stuff.  Because the problem they’re having at food pantries is that not enough people show up who actually need help.  Because the private prison system has been proven to be so free of fraud and abuse, and get such better results than government-funded prisons.

What you are currently advocating isn’t a democracy.  You’ve actually gone and actively said that democracy is a tyranny of the majority.  I’d ask what sort of government you want, but I know that the answer these days is ‘none’ more and more often.

By the way, we actually have tried that governmental system before.  It’s called the feudal system, or a dictatorship.  He who can afford and wield the most intimidating force makes all the rules.  The reason the government is working with the corporations in those nations is because the corporations buy the government and make it take the rules away.  It wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t a government – they’d still rule through force of arms.  They’d make the rules.  And those rules would be to their advantage, while abusing the people and land as much as they can get away with.

The unfettered free market runs on money.  Ergo, the people who have all the money… have the power of the unfettered free market.

I’m sorry, I suppose I’m starting to ramble.  I really do wish that I didn’t have to write this letter, but here I am.  Maybe there’s still a chance… one of these days, maybe you’ll realize what you’re doing wrong and straighten things out.  It wouldn’t take much… just loose the lunatic fringe jacket, actually quit seeing your scary friends, and maybe we can make this work.  But until then…

Not yours anymore,

The Wolfemann


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Checks and Balances people!

December 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm (Politics) (, , , )

Now, first off….

There.  That’s a link to a little piece on the Huffington Post explaining how Joe Lieberman’s willingness to vote against health care reform illustrates that we need to fix the rules for filibusters.  Why?  Because filibusters give “outsized power” to single individuals to hold up legislation – because Lieberman is saying he might vote against it, making the potential vote 59-41 (assuming party-line votes), he holds all the cards and gets all the attention and say-so on the bill.

Now… let’s take a more careful look at what they say there, because it’s very telling.

“To pass the most important elements of the progressive agenda, the Senate must change its filibuster rules.”

If the Republicans had 59 votes, and were saying that the filibuster rules needed to be changed for the purpose of passing the most important elements of the conservative agenda, the Dem’s would be screaming bloody murder.  They don’t want the filibuster rules changed – that’s the last thing they want… except when they’re in power.  Then change the rules all you want – get those d#$%ed dinosaurs out of the way and let us at the levers of power, because that’s the way things should be!

Because we’re right, they’re wrong, and there’s no possible way that this could ever go wrong.

Those of you who are long-term readers might remember that I had words about this in my previous diatribes about binary thought disorder.  I’m confident that I’m right in saying that the Democrats would scream bloody murder if it was a Republican bullet point that was going to be pushed through for one simple reason.

They did, just a couple years ago.  Again, this isn’t a Democrat thing – the Republicans grumble about needing to change the rules every time they want to do something that the Democrats want to filibuster too.  And then?  Then the Democrats and the lib’s in the media and the blogosphere start screaming as though the world were about to come to an end.

There y’go, folks.  Think about it – the filibuster is meaningless if the rules to break it are adjusted willy-nilly by a simple majority (which they can be).  That very fact has meant that changing the filibuster rules is often referred to as the nuclear option – using it is a court-of-last-resort move, because it lets the proverbial genie out of the bag.  It’s true – the Constitution doesn’t say a thing about filibusters being allowed.  You can change them however you want… but guess what.  It doesn’t just change for you.

Of course, there’s a simple way around that too.  Just change the rules back before you lose power.  Of course, that makes it an even more baldfaced power grab, but is that a bad thing?  After all, it’s really only a symbolic gesture, one that lets you scream at the other guy when he changes the rules back so you don’t have a say in anything.

The filibuster exists for the purpose of making sure that the minority can stop the majority from pushing things through without an overwhelming majority.  That’s the entire reason it exists.  And that’s why, for very well over a hundred years, it has remained an option in the Senate.  There is only one reason to change it – because you want to take more power.  Forget the fact that they’re talking about health care.  That’s not what they’re talking about. 

Changing the rules of the filibuster has nothing to do with health care reform.

It’s just a smokescreen.

Changing the rules of the filibuster is something that you only do for one reason.  Because you’re trying to ram something down the throats of the public, opposition be damned.  If the Democrats go and change the rules for the filibuster, they’ll allow themselves to force a simple majority vote on anything that goes through.  Don’t kid yourself about Point #3 in that little article calling for the change – do you really think that the change wouldn’t, effectively, mean that a simple majority of democrats can vote anything through?  Even the system suggested there simply makes the filibuster a formality to wait through – go ahead and go home while the other guys rant and speechify to keep you from voting.  Then come in a week later, and push for cloture with 51 votes, before you go ahead and pass whatever legislation you want with 51 votes.

Health care would be the first thing pushed through, sure.  But would it be the last?  I don’t think so.  They’d promptly push through every single liberal talking point, one week at a time. 

Gun control restrictions?  There y’go.  It’ll cut down on the bill for our health care reform, after all.

Expanded welfare?  Well, hey, we just put you all on Government health care, why not on the Government payroll too?

Gay marriage?  Well… no, probably not, since The One has come out saying he’s against it.  But, if he’d agree to sign it, why not?

On-demand abortion?  It’ll be harder, but we can probably pull it off.

A special Presidential police force, to make sure those dangerous Right Wing lunatics stay in line?  Well of course!  We’ve taken away their chance to do anything through the system, we’d better make sure they don’t do anything outside the system too.

The list can go on, getting increasingly ridiculous all the way along.  Eventually, they’ll probably lose power… at which point, blast it.  The Republicans take over, and use the same rules to go ahead and change back parts of the system (abortion and gay marriage, probably… maybe gun control.)

Congratulations.  The system has become completely controlled by whichever side scores 51 votes, unless the Constitution specifically says you need more.

Yes, that’s a slippery slope argument.  It probably wouldn’t go that far, that fast.  But it illustrates the way that it could go.  If you think that pushing through those points, 1 week at a time, by virtue of having temporarily claimed a slim majority, is a good idea?  Congratulations.  You’re not a Democrat. 

You’re a fascist.

And I mean that by the real definition of a fascist – somebody who believes that the government should control the people, that the people exist for the service of the state, not the other way around.  You just only believe it when the government agrees with you, and you’d be screaming that every one of your rights is being violated if the Republican flavor of fascist were doing it instead.

So don’t go getting hacked off about the other side wanting a little control even when they’re the minority… because one of these days, you probably will be too, believe it or not.  And when that happens, you’ll bitch all the louder about any attempts to further limit your power.

That’s just how politics seems to work these days.  And that’s why the important question isn’t Republican or Democrat, it isn’t left or right – it’s politician or civil servant.

And those of us on the civil servant side have a smaller number of representatives than any other party you could name.

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Pandemics and Cures

September 14, 2009 at 2:58 pm (Politics, Religion) (, , , , , )

It’s official.  The world is suffering from a pandemic.

No, not H1N1.  That’s on its way there, but that’s a disease you can medicate, and they’re finding better medications already.  The real pandemic that’s destroying society has been around for millenia, if not since the beginning of time… but that doesn’t make it any less destructive.

This disease is known as BTD – binary thought disorder.  It’s that disease that everybody who reflexively disagrees with you suffers from… and that you probably do too.  The symptoms include a steadfast belief that you are right, and everybody who disagrees with you is wrong, which can result in feelings of pity, irritation, or even hostility towards them.

Of course, BTD isn’t an actual disease.  Instead, it’s a way of being for much of the world.  A closed-minded inability to accept that people have the same information as you do but disagree with it – all without being misguided, stupid, or outright evil – is something that manifests among people of all political, religious, and racial stripes.  The right falls into it – witness the last 8 years or so.  The left falls into it – witness the last 8 years or so.  Religious people fall into it – look at the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the very concept of jihad, among other things.  Atheists fall into it too – just look at the vitriol that’s sometimes been vented at people like Dave Ramsey, who simply express that they have religious views, or the legal battles over so much as mentioning the concept of God at a school.

Why is BTD a problem?  Well, I hope that’s obvious.  It’s pretty well responsible for a good number of the wars and atrocities throughout history.  It’s responsible for any of several thousand other crimes, fights, injuries, and ruined relationships.  But it falls apart under logic. 

BTD involves a thought process that demonizes the ‘other.’  It assumes that all criteria are equal – for example, the valuation of the afterlife.  Let’s take a look at religion, shall we?  Here’s the standard argument.

There is no scientific proof that God exists, let alone that the afterlife does.

Following religious doctrine involves making choices in life that restrict our enjoyment of life, in exchange for the promise of a utopic afterlife.

That’s immensely simplifying things, but it’s the basics.  Now, if you believe, in defiance of the lack of empirical proof, that the afterlife exists and that your God is real, then you’ll be a religious person.  Why wouldn’t you?  You’ve got an eternity of paradise promised to you, in exchange for a short-term restriction on your activities.  Further, when you work in the concept of Hell, you have a duty to try and convert others – failure to do so is to condemn the souls of non-believers.

Anybody who has the knowledge that following God’s rules and accepting His faith will bring you to paradise, while failure will condemn you to Hell, but who fails to convert, must be either foolish or actively evil, serving the great evil of their faith of choice.

However, if you don’t believe?  There is no proof of an afterlife – all we know really exists is the here and now.  Therefore, following religious strictures is inherently foolish.  You’re exchanging your freedom in life for absolutely nothing.  Without scientific proof that God or the afterlife exists, you’re trading in the only life you’re going to have for squat… and even if the afterlife does exist, you’re gambling on whether or not any given book is actually correct about how to get the good seats when you get there.  If you’re wrong – and you’ve got no way to know you’re not – then you’ll end up in Hell anyways.

Anybody who tries to promulgate religious belief, given these facts, must be foolish at best, or evil at worst, trying to manipulate the beliefs of people to control them.

But ultimately, it’s a matter of varying values.  The person who believes in God and religion and accepts these teachings whole-heartedly places greater value on their potential afterlife – which they do believe exists – than the atheist does – who doesn’t believe it exists.

There’s no actual proof that either person is right or wrong… simply an absence of such proof.  Atheists have as much blind faith in their beliefs as the religious fanatic does.  And yet, both sides will cite endless amounts of ‘proof’ that they are right, the other is wrong, until such a point in time as they decide that the stubborn refusal of the other to so much as accept that they might be wrong drives them to give up… or to blows.

BTD has also created the vast quantities of hypocrisy we tend to see.  Remember a few years ago, when protesting what the government was trying to do was considered the highest form or patriotism?  Great, when you were protesting W and the Iraq war.  Now, when the other side is protesting Obamacare, it’s unamerican or a sign that you’ve been duped by The Great Evil… exactly the same things that the Right said about the Left during those protests.  What’s the difference?  Well… now it’s the Right protesting, and the Left being told they’re wrong.

BTD is the greatest threat to modern civilization.  And if we can’t get past it, our society is doomed to tear itself apart, just as every civilization that has come before has eventually fallen to pieces.  How do we do that?  I’m not sure… but I’ve got some ideas.  I’ll be getting into those over the next few weeks.

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Healthcare reform, not overhaul

August 16, 2009 at 9:07 am (Politics) (, , )

First of all, let me say that we do need to look at our health care system and start fixing things.

However, the options that are being called for right now aren’t the way to do it.

How do I know this?  Because we’ve been trying it in some places, and it has this nasty habit of having unintended consequences.

Consider Barbara Wagner, who’s covered under Oregon’s public health options.  And who was denied life-prolonging medication in favor of vastly cheaper comfort care, including ‘physician aid in dying.’ I understand that they only have so many dollars.  And I understand that this means they have to make some difficult choices.  But gradually shifting everybody onto that system will stretch those dollars further and further.

But, the proponents point out, it won’t force everybody onto that system.  Why am I spreading fishy messages?  Do I need to be reported to Big Brother the government?

Allow me to explain.  Establishing a truly competitive public option – i.e., a public option that actually covers everything the private ones do, like I keep hearing battle cries for – will result in shifting to a single payer system.  Why?  Because the government isn’t trying to make a profit.  Hell, the government can operate at a loss and nobody bats an eye.  Therefore, they can charge less.  That’s where economics kick in, especially considering that they’re not just charging their customers.  They’re charging everybody.

Let’s say that they push their current system of reform through.  They’re going to have to pay for it somehow – the only way to do it is going to be through taxes, since they want an option that allows people who don’t have money to get health care.  So they’ll probably tax on employer-based health care.  If not, then on employers themselves and on the wealthy (sorry for the redundancy there – remember folks, rich people tend to have employees).

Let’s say that I’m paying more for my employer based healthcare, courtesy of the new taxes.  It’s a simple economic decision – I’m reasonably healthy (believe it or not).  I have a handful of prescriptions, most of which are available as generics.  I could use dental coverage (no word that I’m aware of on whether or not that would be covered, but it’s not covered in my current plan).  My main concern, in terms of insurance, would be that my company might drop my coverage if they decide I’m too expensive.  So, what should I do?  Continue paying for coverage that I don’t need to use, and that might not be there when I need it?  Or stop paying for it, and go to the federal system? Even if you’re only taxing the rich, why should I be paying for health care when I could be getting it for free?

It’s simple economics – for me, and the vast majority of profitable insurance customers, the federal system would be the way to go.  From there, the insurance companies can’t stay in business.  They’re forced to drop more customers, or to go out of business entirely, and their customers end up on the federal system.  The burden on the federal system increases, along with either the price that people have to pay to prop it up, or the pressure to pull costs down.

Now, reducing costs is a great idea.  Our payment and information systems, as they stand, are horribly inefficient and need an overhaul.  Go ahead and do that, it’s only sensible.  Try not to think about the fact that when you say “inefficient and burdened with excessive bureaucracy,” most people think about the federal government, not their health insurance.

But after you do that, you’re running out of ways to reduce costs.  So, let’s say that we eliminate the inefficiencies, and leave ourselves with simple cost of services provided.  You’re still going to need to pull that down further, which leaves you with only two options.

When you have to pay less, you have two choices.  You pay less for the same amount of service, or you pay for fewer services.

If you pay for fewer services, there’s no way around it other than rationing health care.  Your dental insurer already does this, by applying lifetime maximums on your benefits.  Your health insurer might well be doing it too, officially or otherwise.  But we’ve got people swearing up, down, and sideways that they’re not going to do that in the government.  So what’s the other option?  Cut the reimbursement rates.  Which means that people are going to have to either pay out-of-pocket to make up the difference, or that you’re going to have to mandate reductions in price.  Establish a government price tag for services – you can’t charge more, or you’ll be punished in one way or another.

By establishing price limits, you’re going to reduce the number of providers willing to stick with it.  What’s worse, you’re going to eliminate the good providers, not the poor ones.  A good doctor, whose skills go for higher prices on the market, is going to question why he should stay in the public system when he’s not getting paid any better than the sixth-rate schmoozer who barely made his way through med school and drinks on his lunch break even when he’s on call and might have to operate any minute.  Those providers will be encouraged to go elsewhere – either outside of the country entirely, to the places where there is a market-based medical economy, or to drop the public patients and begin providing their services purely to those who can afford them personally.  And then we’re back in the position of the rich getting the best care, and the poor getting substandard care… or, at least, getting a level of standard care that’s lower than what it should be.

No, not every good provider is going to quit working in the system, but more and more of them will.

Now, I said at the beginning of this that I think reform is necessary, but here I am coming out pretty firmly against the public system.  So, what would I recommend?

First off, improve those systems I mentioned.  Get us up to snuff on records and improve the bureaucracy.  That’ll reduce health care costs across the board.

Then?  Fix the tort system, as it currently stands.  Right now, some doctors are estimating 20-25% of health care services they recommend are ‘defensive medicine’ – they know what the problem is, but they need more tests and specialists in order to minimize the risk of losing a lawsuit.  The estimates I’ve seen indicate anywhere between $41 billion and $178 billion in savings from simply reforming the tort system, and that’s just in the medical savings.  When you add the overhead costs associated with all of it, and the price of defending against lawsuits, and the numbers go up even higher.

How do I recommend fixing the tort system?  I’ll admit, I’m not an expert here, so I’m not sure.  But one system that does occur to me is putting the malpractice system in the hands of medical experts, rather than a dozen randomly chosen laypeople who’ve been trained by the media to view pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and doctors as the bad guys (think about it – when was the last time you saw an episode of… oh, anything… where the bad guy was a blue-collar worker milking money out of his insurance company by faking an injury?  Now, when was the last time the bad guy was an insurance company that didn’t cover the medicine the gunman, or his wife, needed to survive?)

Another way to do it would actually be to nationalize the licensing.  As it stands, I could have a license to practice medicine in Wisconsin that gets revoked for gross negligence, go to Oregon, and get a new license, then start practicing as though nothing had happened.  Indeed, thanks to privacy laws, it might even be virtually impossible for folks to know that I killed a patient by sending them home with a roll of Tums when any intern would have known they were having an actual heart attack.  If you put the malpractice system in the hands of medical experts, and then put in threshholds where a certain level of incompetence means they take your scalpel away and won’t give it back, you’ll maintain punishments for malpractice, but reduce the lottery system of malpractice payments, where some people end up paying for the privilege of calling themselves part of a class action lawsuit and others retire because the jury felt that the company should have tested to see if their medicine would have a disastrous effect on people with a rare genetic quirk.

Further, the government could offer to pay for people who honestly can’t pay.  Allow an emergency backup for when you’ve got needed medical treatment that you can’t cover, and insurance pools for people who are ‘uninsurable’ by the private system’s standards.  But don’t offer this system to absolutely everybody, only to the people who need it.

Oh, Barbara Wagner?  In case you didn’t read that link up above, she got her medicine.  Not from the state system, but from the ‘evil’ pharmaceutical company, who gave her the fabulously expensive medication for free when they were asked to.  Just like most pharmaceutical companies will cut deals with people who can’t afford their medicine – these companies give away a lot of meds at reduced or eliminated price (I should know – I’ve got friends who benefit greatly from those plans).

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