Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
Here are the results for plans for my wife and me from Blue Cross-Blue Shield.
This being the case, the market force at play within Obamacare is one that should be driving all the young, healthy people onto low-premium, high deductible "Bronze" level plans, that they can tie to a Health Savings Account.
And so my question is, what happens then to the structure of this program?
If everyone who is healthy enough to forego a "maintenance" insurance plan chooses to do so (and why wouldn't they?), my early assumption has to be that the insurance industry will be unable to support the older sicker people based on the lack of premium revenue. The whole idea here was to force everyone to buy insurance, raise premiums, and use the higher premiums on healthy people to pay for sicker peoples' maintenance insurance. But if younger people in general go the route of paying the bare minimum into the insurance pool as possible, instead contributing to their own HSA accounts, and the deductibles be damned, doesn't this eventually pull just as big of a Jenga piece out from the foundational levels of the scheme as people just not signing up anyway?
I do recognize that the more immediate problems with the system, such as not being able to sign up, and having no real financial reason to sign up due to the extremely low penalty, are likely to drive this train off the rails much sooner than my scenario. However, I also think that my scenario is another one that dooms this system as well. Ironically, however, taken to the next logical step in the long view, the market response would be to increase deductibles further, meaning that people would be much, much more inclined to begin actually shopping for their healthcare, rather than just showing up and expecting to be serviced for no charge, meaning that in the long run, prices to the consumer might actually come down as the healthcare industry would finally again be required to service the consumer rather than throw a fat bill at the insurance company's wall to see what sticks. Over the long term, proponents might actually trumpet to the heavens that the program has worked!
But I wouldn't give our government the credit for such foresight or patience as to wait for all of that to come to fruition. If they had the foresight or patience for that, they'd have simply written a program that majorly incentivized people to get onto HSA's, and opened up the insurance markets across state lines, giving people more freedom and choice. But the government response to a market response of insurance prices going up will surely be one instead of further control, perhaps to put some kind of fiat cap on deductibles, and eliminate HSA eligible plans, putting us all on more expensive maintenance insurance, leading to the necessity to increase the subsidy to lower income citizens, or perhaps even broadening the criteria for acceptance onto Medicaid (which is already looming large as a major wrench in the works).
Ultimately, this would also mean the healthcare industry will continue to overcharge for services, since there will continue to be no price feedback from the actual consumer.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Enough has already been said picking it apart, so I won't really bother with that. I will however, give you twenty-nine seconds that explains exactly the road the President is headed down with this nonsense.
It's really not any more difficult than this. Either you believe people need to be reliant on the government to live their everyday lives or you don't.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
I mean literally, they're the same 'person' but with millions of years difference.
Now please, stop throwing your chairs in outrage and listen... Or read... Unless you're blind.
Lets start with the first point:
Jake is a dog, not a robot. Right? Well if you remember your Blade Runner you'll remember that 1) Harrison Ford is a super badass, and 2) That at a certain level of sophistication, there is no clear distinction between a robot/android and a biological creature. Now the Bender we know was a 2nd generation robot and pretty unsophisticated. Prof. Farnsworth invented the first gen not long before and society had not fully accepted robot kind [remember prop infinity?] by the time of Futurama.
After enough generations of machines building and designing their successors, they would end up looking and functioning like biological beings. And if the 2nd gen version had extendy arms and legs, I'm sure the nth gen would have extendy everything.
Lets also look at the designation 'dog.' No other traditional animal exists in the post-apocalyptic world of Ooo. Aside from sentient worms, evil penguins, and a snail that contains the mind of the Litch, we've yet to meet anyone or anything (aside from Finn) who was a traditional earth-based life form. Yet we have Jake the 'magic' dog. It is my assertion that as human society progressed and intertwined with robots, we changed the designation of our partners to something that meant a best friend and constant companion. And what better friend has mankind ever had than the dog?
Then regarding the proclamation that Jake has 'magic' stretching powers, we must only remember Clarke's law that “ Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic .”
So we've crossed the first plausibility gap. Now lets take a look at behavior.
In the episode 'Apple Thief' Jake repeatedly tells Finn about how he used to snatch purses and hock stolen goods before he learned it was bad. This behavior is [likely intentionally] reminiscent of Bender's general attitude and behavior. But when did he 'learn it was bad?' We know that all Bending units (except our Bender) are basically immortal. When they 'die' their minds are uploaded into a new body and they go on with their lives.
Well any new body would require a new set of operational programs – essentially like installing new drivers when you throw a new video card in your PC. It would be poor design if a robot mind were dropped into a new body and didn't know what internal commands to use in order to move and function. And with any new ability that their new chassis provided, there would need to be a set of moral/social guidelines on how and when to use those abilities. Therefore robot morality would evolve over time and develop along with their abilities and social freedoms/responsibilities.
At some point in a robot's near-immortal life they would 'learn' that stealing was wrong when their moral core was updated to include that definition.
Also, Jake's immaturity and fierce loyalty to his equally immature human companion mirror how Bender acted (perhaps with a more upgraded moral core – this \is\ a kids show after all). Plus Jake's eternal drive to party and inability to do anything else with much conviction are very Bender-ish as well. Such loyalty is perfectly normal for a race that was created to live with humans, and even explains why every woodland creature ignored baby Finn except Jake's parents.
And one last piece of the puzzle: the Rainicorn-Dog wars.
These wars are why Jake's romance with Lady Rainicorn is so scandalous. That these two can and do co-exist shows us that there is no inherent reason for the two species to clash, and no reason is ever given. Except one that may have missed you.
Rainicorns eat humans.
Here I assert that Rainicorns are the reason why humanity is all but extinct. As they are able to phase matter through their bodies, fly at speed, and who knows what else, they would be a nearly unstoppable enemy. Where they came from and why they speak Korean are not germane. If humanity were locked in a losing war with the Rainicorns, our faithful companions and social equals [the Dogs/Robots] would certainly fight on our side [and if it was part of his base programming that he may one day need to fight the Rainicorns, it would explain why Jake can understand Korean but never speaks it]. Jake is told by his father in a flashback that he would be hurting people his whole life. This is exactly the kind of thing a parent would cheerily say to their offspring if an eternal war was being fought.
In any conflict involving humans, robots, and an even more powerful foe, robots would certainly do the bulk of the fighting. They would likely even continue fighting on our behalf even after we had pulled our last-resort [scorched-earth] and blew a giant hole in the Earth. And for the untold ages after that, it would no longer be the Human-Rainicorn war, but the Rainicorn-Dog war. Only in the past few decades with the invention of soy-humans have the Rainicorns stopped their attacks.
(Note all the nukes in the first screen of the opening sequence)
Bender plays classical piano with perfect form.
Jake plays the viola with perfect form.
Bender can stretch his arms and legs.
Jake can stretch his arms and legs with much more precision, as well as the rest of his body (to the apparently cellular level)
Bender is fiercely loyal to his human friend.
Jake is fiercely loyal to his human friend.
Bender is a party animal, and often gets distracted from his primary task to do something more fun.
Jake is a party animal, and often gets distracted from his primary task to do something more fun.
Bender is childish and cowardly when facing his own perceived mortality (ie sick/dying).
Jake is childish and cowardly when facing his own perceived mortality (ie sick/dying).
At some point after Futurama, Humanity is living along side Robots as equals when a war with the Rainicorns begins. After the planet is heavily nuked (the so called 'mushroom wars' referenced in-series) the Robots (who now resemble and are called 'Dogs') continue to fight the Rainicorns until a stalemate is reached and the conflict is mostly forgotten. Some time after this, Adventure Time takes place.
Jake is a super-advanced bending robot, retaining only his general attitude towards life, voice and the basis of his physical abilities.
Monday, August 22, 2011
You have requested that economists in particular contact you in regard to the 08-19-11 Addendum to your blog post "How Rich is Too Rich?" I am not an economist, but I follow economics very closely. I'm an engineer by degree and run a construction company, so it is perhaps in my nature, as well as required of my position, to know what's happening in the world, economically. I hope you will take a few minutes to think about my take on your ideas, however, because admittedly this is long, I will not be surprised or disheartened if you do not.
First, I will assess your first idea:
Future breakthroughs in technology (e.g. robotics, nanotech) could eliminate millions of jobs very quickly, creating a serious problem of unemployment.
In a very broad sense, I think that the creation of a massive robotics industry causing large scale unemployment would perhaps be akin to the fear once upon a time that the rise of the automobile industry would have caused large-scale unemployment due to their replacing horse-drawn carriages. To shamelessly steal from DeVito's speech in Other People's Money, there was once a company that made the world's best buggy whips, whose employees surely found themselves eventually unemployed due to the rise of the automobile. But as those people lost their jobs due to the rise of an industry that made their profession nearly obsolete, so too did a new industry arise whose ability to employ massive numbers far surpassed the ability to employ of carriage-makers, horse farmers and buggy whip makers combined. In the aggregate, employment rose.
Will robotics eliminate jobs? Of course, it has already eliminated thousands upon thousands of jobs, from the automobile industry to the airplane manufacturing industry to the construction even of submarines. Many welds on the newest submarines, for instance, require accuracy that only robotics can achieve. This means that welders that worked on submarines are out of that particular work. But they are still welders. They just need to weld elsewhere. Perhaps they might even go to work for the company that is manufacturing the robots.
If we look to the future of robotics, the scenario that kills millions and millions of jobs is the perhaps Asimov's Foundation series scenario, or more recently, the scenario in the movie, Surrogates, where robots become so commonplace, there is nearly one robot, or more, for every human being.
But who makes the robots? Surely for the smaller components and the excessively detailed work, there are other robots. But there are still going to be assembly line jobs. There are going to be jobs for the people who need to supply the materials, all the way back to the original mines they came from. Robots won't do everything. All along the way there will need to be people to do the work. Perhaps this is best explained easily in Leonard Read's pamphlet, "I, Pencil." If the industry grows to such a magnitude as you suggest, then yes, surely it will create massive unemployment in other currently existing industries, but it will create massive employment in a new, growing industry. Such is the nature of capitalism and economic progression.
But many of your readers responding to you have already covered this basic idea, and you are looking for something more.
I am suggesting, however, that there is nothing that rules out the possibility of vastly more powerful technologies creating a net loss of available jobs and concentrating wealth to an unprecedented degree.
To this I would suggest that there is and always has been this possibility, however the missing piece of the equation is necessarily the rate of population growth. It did not used to be uncommon for families to have 4, 6, 8 or even 10 or 12 kids. When our economy was largely driven by agrarian life, it was economically necessary for a family to have as many workers as possible to work the farm. Given the rise of mechanical farming equipment, the farm family has gotten smaller over the years. In the early-to-mid 20th century boom in manufacturing, we saw our population skyrocket as we had an economy that we were comfortable still having several children per family, as factory workers would have assumed that their kids could eventually go to work in the factory, if nothing else. I would suggest to you that as many manufacturing jobs have moved overseas, families have trended to get smaller as a response, with families focusing on grooming their children for white collar work, whether as engineers, academics, or businessmen.
The moving of blue collar manufacturing positions overseas has also been a response to the market. Union contracts in the United States grew to the point that the manufacturing of goods locally has in large part become untenable. I would put this largely on the unsustainable nature of a pension model for retirement, moreso than the wage rates themselves, but this is another topic altogether. So if we are talking about a "serious problem of unemployment" I assume we are talking about it locally in the United States, because technically speaking, the jobs haven't disappeared, they have gone elsewhere, where the labor can be had for significantly less money.
I make this point because, if we were to see such a significant rise in robotics, it would be not only because the manufacture, sale and maintenance of the robots was that much cheaper than American labor, but also that much cheaper than rock-bottom foreign labor. Looking at it macro-economically, taking the world market as a whole, and taking employment to be a worldwide phenomenon, because it is a worldwide phenomenon, I feel the possibility of a rise in robotics to replace employment of human labor to such an extent that all levels of human employment are made economically obsolete to be something that is probably a few hundred years down the line, should it ever happen. There's an entire world's worth of cheap labor to exploit before a saturation of robotics seems likely to even begin to take place.
Now, on to your next idea:
The federal government should levy a one-time wealth tax (perhaps 10 percent for estates above $10 million, rising to 50 percent for estates above $1 billion) and use these assets to fund an infrastructure bank.
You do, strangely, caveat this by ultimately saying "Leaving aside fears of government ineptitude, please tell me why it would be a bad idea for the rich to fund such a bank voluntarily."
Let me first point out that these are two wildly different things. The federal government descending upon the rich and absconding with 10-50% of everything they own from behind the barrel of a gun is not the same thing as our country's 400-something billionaires voluntarily pooling their money together to charter a new bank that would be used to fund infrastructure projects. To insinuate anything of the kind is disingenuous.
The latter would most certainly not be a bad thing, though let's remember that the structure of such an entity would be as a bank, loaning money out to municipalities and states and the federal government to fund infrastructure projects. This money would have to be paid back with interest, and that this is really not any different than how this already happens, except for the fact that this bank would be something like another Federal Reserve style central bank dedicated solely to infrastructure, though, I would assume and hope, not allowed to print money. To that effect, I guess I don't really understand the point of it, other than that it's an accounting trick to move debt out of treasuries and into another entity. The debt still grows, only it doesn't affect the country's balance sheet. At some point it becomes another Fannie/Freddie-type of entity, with so much debt that it doesn't even know how much of it is even good anymore.
This is to say nothing of the point, also, that if the super-rich are the ones funding this bank, they are getting even richer because of it, thereby increasing the wealth gap you are hoping to close.
If you have taken the time to read through all of this, thank you.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
“It’s just you can’t whitewash it and say it doesn’t exist,” said Sturla.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Brett Baier at Fox News may be rolling his eyes and smirking away in neocon hell, but there are plenty of people who recognize Ron Paul as The One.