Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Want Medicare When Old: Why Afraid Now?

How to sell Medicare-for-all to worriers:
"You plan to using Medicare in the future when you expect to need health care the most -- in your old age, when you will be most vulnerable -- why be afraid of it now?

If people wish to continue their current coverage, we can tell them we have no problem with their paying more for health care. Maybe individuals or consumers could be relieved of the tax that supports Medicare if they pay for private care. I expect the cost difference would convert them soon.

Medicare-for-all would end today's coverage DISCRIMINATION between Medicaid which covers the poor -- LBJ's ORIGINAL IDEA -- poorly, with often starkly lower fees and Medicare which covers the old (who vote in large numbers) quite adequately. If we suffered Medicaid-for-all today, doctors would all be leaving for Canada.

I cannot think of anything that might -- I may be wrong; I am not sure -- put fence-sitting voters off even more than even Hil's 1994 proposal to take away their current health schemes and replace same with an unknown, than proposing to force mandates on them. If anything, mandate based coverage would spark more focused opposition because it would be a more defined threat (a.k.a., target).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Does A Low Minimum Wage CUT Demand At Min/Wg Businesses?!

Late thought on the minimum wage which shows how easy it could be to pay poor Americans much more:
if hiking the minimum wage redirects demand toward businesses that pay the minimum wage because they tend to serve a lower income clientele: does that mean that NOT hiking the minimum wage to keep up with inflation -- or growing average income -- would actually tend to CUT demand (over time) at minimum wage businesses?

Even without the "redirecting demand to their own businesses" phenom', what would actually take place on that old eco 101 price/demand chart
when the min/wg is raised is: the same thing that would have happened without the wage hike: the demand curve would keep inching up (nominally) in step with inflation raises to employees across the economy -- while the price curve crept up respectfully behind, afraid to alienate consumers.

American workers have got to shake loose from the Newt Gingriches and their homeopathic (as in unscientific and always proved wrong by experience) unfettered-market theories.

When Black People Finally Got On The Up Escalator...

As one of my brothers famously put it: "When black people finally [in late 60s, early 70s] got on the up [economic] escalator, it started going down for everybody."

Imagine if King knew that 40 years after his last sermon, the minimum wage would be almost $4/hr lower than the 1968 minimum wage ($9.50/hr*) in real buying power -- that 25% of Americans would be living below a reality based poverty line based on a market basket of goods and services (not three times the price of the cheapest possible food basket which is the federal line), up from 15% in poverty back then...

...and that virtually every progressive news and comment outlet would perpetually parrot the decades obsolete official poverty line -- and never alert the people to the crazy increase in poverty as average income doubled...

...and that most every liberal and conservative (white? -- I have nothing against white people, having 5 Irish grandparents counting my mother's stepmother) commentator and pol would be much more obsessed with a war they are forced to watch on television that cost 1000 American maimed and 1000 killed a year than 75 million Americans are unable climb out of their economic sinkholes (wonder how many American lives that costs every year) -- that most (white?) progressives can even think that the so-called war even can even be spoken of in the same breath as the "Great Wage Depression"?

Don't ask me; ask King.

Such unimaginable economic regression (repression?) could lead to violence plagued housing projects because economically desperate drug dealing gangs had formed -- while minimum wage jobs were filled by even more desperate immigrants willing to work for 1939ish minimum wages ($4.50/hr w/no tax). Wouldn't that be positively unimaginable -- to King?

[ * $1.60/hr/1968 adjusts to $9.49/hr/2007 --

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The "Nixon Stimulus": Avoid Recession?

Introducing the "Nixon stimulus":

My stimulus of preference would be shifting income to people who will spend more (save less) via a sizable jump in the minimum wage. There should be plenty of headroom for a minimum wage jump since today's federal minimum wage is several dollars below LBJ's, 1968, minimum wage of $9.50/hr ($380/wk, adjusted -- at 50% of today's average income, yet).

Dick Nixon (far left winger by many contemporary Democrat's standards?) one-jumped the minimum from $7.50/hr (it had fallen $2!) to $8.50/hr in 1974 (at 60% of today's average income, yet). Of course this was the same Nixon who instituted federal block grants to the states (another current stimulus proposal), so he may be too much of a radical for contemporary Democrats to emulate.

Serial-jumping the minimum wage from $5.15/hr to $12.50/hr ($500/wk!), over as many years as you wish, would add all of 3.5% to the cost of GDP output (and presumably no more direct inflation, not counting other wages pushed up) -- about how much we grow every couple of years -- and could wipe out poverty (and most crime?).

Last time I looked, John Edwards proposed hiking the minimum in serial steps to $9.50/hr by 2012 -- nominally the same as LBJs minimum of 1968. But inflation may cut Edward's minimum by as much as 20%, landing us back between Eisenhower's minimum ($7.50/hr) and Nixon's minimum ($8.50/hr -- at more than double 1968's average income, yet) -- typical contemporary progressive proposal.

Why not give the lowest paid, longest suffering American workers a double break from inflation: why not index Edwards' projected minimum wage target ($9.50/hr), and all the serial steps in between, for inflation, so that by 2012, their wages might actually catch up with 1968?

If LBJ had only indexed his minimum wage for inflation we might have no poverty in this country today (certainly on ghetto projects infested with drug dealing, mostly out of desperation, gangs): a ratchet effect might have boosted the constant-dollar minimum wage by at least occasional jumps to keep pace with average income growth. If any two people could earn $1000/wk doing anything, how much poverty could there be (after doubling the average income of LBJ's time)?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

John Edwards' -- Actually -- Minimal Minimum Wage Proposal

LBJ's, 1968, minimum wage was $9.50/hr, adjusted for inflation -- at 50% (!) of today's per capita income no less (productivity doubles every 40 years).

Edwards', (promised) 2012, minimum wage of $9.50/hr, adjusted for likely inflation should be worth 15+% less: or about $8/hr -- a big fifty cents more than Eisenhower's, 1956, minimum wage which was $7.50/hr, adjusted for inflation -- at 40% (!) of today's per capita income no less.

Just to give the latter per capita income some perspective: at 40% of today's average income our house used to eat many varieties of macaroni for dinner, along with hamburger helper -- not because we were so poor, but because that was the level people lived at then.

It cause all of 3.5% to the cost of GDP output -- and add the same 3.5% to direct inflation -- to jump the minimum wage all the way from $5.15/hr to $12.50/hr -- spread over a couple or three years as you please.

Dick Nixon, jumped the minimum wage from $6.50/hr (it fallen far back, as it so often does) to $8.50/hr, in today's money, in one shot.

The scheduled Democrat minimum wage raise projected to reach all of $7.25/hr, by 2009, may actually lowball Eisenhower's minimum wage by .50/hr, by the time inflation takes its toll.

What more can I say?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Both Sides (Israelis & Palestinians) Have Their Grievances?!

Both sides have their grievances? That's like saying that both sides had their grievances when Germany invaded France -- only Israel's version of "Germany" was territory already absconded for their victims version of "France", 60 years earlier.

The greatest terrorist threat to the United States is Israelo-facism -- the terrorism launched against us in revenge for what is seen as the actions of America's virtual 51st state.

If it looks like a duck: Israelis look like most of us, talk the same English, walk the same Western life style and the other half of their ethnic group actually ARE ducks (not to mention ex-ducks living Israel-side). If the other half of their ethnic group were New Zealanders, does anybody think they would possess all those shiny F-16s, etc.

As long as we are going to take the credit for Israelo-facism whether or not we are to blame, we have a compelling motive to come down hard on our "little brother" to end the occupation of Islamic land -- totally. 10% of Israel's rich population has no compelling need move in on the poor land next door -- and the "first" 50 states don't need to trade anymore skyscrapers for settlements.

Friday, January 11, 2008

S.S. Trust Fund Never Be Totally Depleted: Why -- Reverse Ponzi Scheme S.S.

There is no reason for people in 2041 to take a 25% hit: the income tax that has been "cashing" government owned bonds will simply be reduced by the same proportion that the payroll tax (FICA) will be raised and the party will go on. The clunkiness will simply go out of clunky retirement collections.

The only sensible reason to have a Trust Fund for S.S. is to bridge a temporary shortfall in the payroll tax stream, until Congress raises it a mite (happened twice so far) -- meaning a (say 5 year) bridge should be maintained permanently anyway -- meaning FICA should take over even before the Trust Fund is completely depleted.
S.S. is basically a reverse Ponzi scheme in which each generation gets more than it paid in because of economic growth: if you start your work career at $50,000/yr, you should end doing $100,000 doing equivalent work, 40 years later.

I am sure the wages of my old Teamster buddies back in 804 kept up with per capita growth since I left them in 1970 (back problems). They had just gotten an increase of $18/wk over 3 years from a base of $120/wk ($95 increase on $640/wk in 2007 dollars). They recently raised their defined retirement benefit from $3300/mo to 3600/mo: to more then they were making in wages 38 years ago!

Meantime Chicago cabdrivers now earn half what they earned when I started there 28 years ago (wouldn't catch me cabbing in Chicago now): one 30 cent mileage raise between 1981 and 1997 -- at which 1990 midpoint Chicago began adding 40% more cabs (still adding) while cutting the business seemingly in half with trains to both airports and open limo licenses (the cream) and finally (the coup de grace) free trolleys between all the hot spots downtown (the bread and butter).

The difference between the two segments of labor is bargaining muscle, nothing else -- in the Teamsters supplied by excess testosterone. I remember our local president, Ron Carey, calling a "strike" shouting "I'm not saying there's a dollar there". There was, the very next day: $18/wk instead of only $17. I had the feeling as he called the strike it was just to get strike out of these very militant guys' systems -- with a wink and an nod from management.

Sector-wide labor agreements (as practiced around the OECD world) dispel with the need for testosterone overload and make things easier for employers (around the OECD world) too -- like the minimum wage really does by raising everybody's costs the same amount at the same time. Sector-wide is really the soft solution to the race to the bottom state side.

Get wages back to LBJ era distribution at today's doubled average income and all our poverty and S.S. problems would go away.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why I -- Now -- Believe

I was always skeptical about global warming until I viewed a recent Discovery Channel program on global dimming (indisputable and apparently slows global warming) -- which suddenly made perfect sense of it all.

I never worried much about the dangers of global warming until I watched a recent History Channel show on how easily global warming could switch over to global freezing by melting fresh water icebergs which in turn could block the north Atlantic warm water current -- a potential civilization breaking catastrophe.

I never realized until I read a 9/16, NY Times article by the authors of the book Freakanomics that Jane Fonda would be the chief culprit in bringing on global freezing, because of her 1979 movie "The China Syndrome" which frightened America away from switching from fossil fuel to nuclear power. :-)