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January 16th, 2004
06:54 pm
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You know it's time to switch political parties when ...
The Libertarian Party, on whose e-mail list I remain even though I'm gradually moving leftward on economic issues, just sent me a missive with a plea for money.

For them? No. For their previous chairman, Ron Crickenberger, who is suddenly suffering from a painful form of cancer -- and whose health insurance, due to his having lost his job due to downsizing, is a ticking COBRA time bomb.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but the only thing I can feel is schadenfreude. My very first thought on reading that he had no health care because of his unemployment was, "Doesn't that merely illustrate that we should be making every effort toward a single-payer health care system?"

The Libertarian Party, true to its roots, feels Mr. Crickenberger's problem is best solved through voluntary contributions and private enterprise. And that's what they're asking for. Good for them. But there are tens of millions of people without health insurance in this country, and hundreds of thousands of those are in equally precarious situations with deadly or serious diseases.

Mr. Crickenberger has a large political party to issue a plea for charity on his behalf. Those others do not. Are they less deserving?

I surfed through to the LP's policy statement on health care. The primary point of their five-point plan is to establish tax-free Medical Savings Accounts. Would such a plan have helped Mr. Crickenberger? Possibly. Would such a plan have helped the millions who have no health insurance because they've been unemployed for 6 months or more; or working at subsistence wages? The ones who simply can't afford to set aside the $200 or more per month that would be required to provide any sort of basic insurance cushion for a family of four? You've got to be kidding. A single, simple inpatient surgery can cost as much as a new car. MSAs are an upper-class shell game.

Then they talk about deregulating the health care industry and privatizing Medicare and Medicaid. I'll concede that competition would bring costs down; that's the way it works. But how do for-profit health care providers make their profits? HMOs and insurers take in a certain fixed amount per worker, per paycheck; they can't make more of a profit by charging more, so the only sure way to bring costs down is to provide less care. This is where we get such quirks of the health care industry as exclusions for "pre-existing conditions." How exactly can our health care system be defined as humane -- or even sane -- when it covers well people and refuses to cover sick people?

This is part of a larger and growing dispute I have with the LP: the argument that fairness is either unimportant or a natural consequence of efficiency. Both of those are demonstrably wrong -- not in all cases, but in at least some, enough to knock out the foundations of their principled and unwavering free-market stand and bring them down into the same muck as the rest of us. And the way things are trending -- with income gaps growing, and real wages stagnant for the majority of Americans and continuing to trend down -- pushing for further free-market solutions is not going to increase parity.

The Libertarians and I still agree on civil liberties, but I can't justify the economic stance -- especially after seeing what the no-new-taxes cut-cut-cut is doing to Cailfornia.

Next time I hit the post office, I'll pick up a voter registration form. Could be time to throw my support to the Greens, or maybe just get disgusted with the system and register as unaffiliated.

I'd wish Mr. Crickenberger good luck with his health care problems, but there's a few million folks out there -- including one I know personally, and myself back in 2002 after I broke my arm -- who need the luck a lot more than he does.

Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: Heavy Bones, "Where Eagles Fly"
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From:feedle
Date:January 16th, 2004 07:43 pm (UTC)
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Part of the Libertarian argument is that if the "system" worked properly, you'd be taking home more of your pay (about 30-40% more). That would certainly allow you to make payments into some kind of medical savings account or some such to provide for your needs when you were out of work.

But the real problem with the Libertarian perspective is that you can't isolate one issue (universal health-care) from another (regulation of the health care sector). This is The Big Issue I have with being Libertarian: for the Libertarian perspective to work, EVERYTHING has to be operating without government control, intervention, or taxation. The reason why health care costs are high has nothing to do with supply-side economics. It does have everything to do with a vertically-integrated health-care supply chain that requires extensive testing of new drugs, allows for excessive patenting (which restricts supply artificially), gives corporations the same rights as natural persons (reducing corporate accountability), etc., etc., etc.

Which is why I've been increasingly dubious over the last four years or so that we'll ever see a Libertarian system at work, at least here in the United States. Individual pieces may some day come about.. but in some ways, I fear that possibility: because it will likely discredit the entire Libertarian viewpoint.

Ultimately, Libertarianism (and, most importantly, libertarianism [that distinction is often lost on some people]) is about being responsible for yourself, and not depending upon others for your basic needs. Yes, everybody has crises in their life.. but how you deal with said situations define who you are as a person. That's why you have families, friends.. and "save money for rainy days".

I agree: shame on the Libertarian Party for not realizing the weakness of the Party position on health care. It would have better served the Party to have established a Trust Fund (or insurance policy) for all Party members to pay into that could be used for catastrophic care outside the Gommit system. After all, that's putting our money where our mouth is.. not just bumming for change on the street corner because we miscalculated our risk.
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From:elynne
Date:January 16th, 2004 08:05 pm (UTC)
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I know it sucks, but register as a Dem - they need all the help they can get to get Shrub out of office. I'm terrified at the thought of four more years of BushCo; and while I'm fucking furious that no Senateperson or Congrescritter has had the balls to stand up and say "This bastard is lying out his sphincter, let's impeach him!", if it takes an election to get him out, fine. muttersomethingaboutothersolutionscivilunrestmutter

And you know two people in dire medical straits: myclaudia did something painful to her knee when she fell during our heavy snowfall week before last, and has been hobbling around on a full leg brace since. She was hoping it would "just go away," but a trip to the emergency room (for which she now has another outstanding medical bill) told her that she needs orthopedic treatment, possibly surgery. Okay, great - and the orthopedist reccommended from the hospital requires (get this) A HUNDRED DOLLAR DEPOSIT FOR AN INITIAL EXAM. Not treatment; just to have the ortho look at her, they want a hundred dollars up front.

*siiiiigh*

Okay, I don't want to talk about politics... it's making me depressed and angry again. :(
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From:lysana
Date:January 18th, 2004 07:14 pm (UTC)
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Registering as a Democrat doesn't really make that much of a difference in California. In the primaries, those of us who are registered as having no party affiliation are allowed to select one of several parties' ballots. The Democratic Party is one of them. I just got my "choose now so your absentee ballot will be correct" notice in the mail earlier this month.
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From:thrames
Date:January 16th, 2004 08:26 pm (UTC)
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This shit is why I'm a Socialista, why I bleed red, and why I proudly carry the Hammer and Sickle. :P

Supply-side Economics didn't work in the 30s, the 80s, or now and it won't ever work. Tax cuts for the rich are stupid and irresponsible. No taxation equals no government (at least, a meaningful government). And no government means private armies and, suddenly, a new government run by corporation/oligarchy/monopoly. And that'd probably be the worst thing ever.
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From:heron61
Date:January 16th, 2004 09:34 pm (UTC)
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Yes, yes, and hell yes. Why more people don't understand that libertarianism and supply side, trickle-down "economics" benefit only the wealthy at the expense of the poor continues to upset and annoy me. Of course, the answer to this question is obvious - Gramsci summed it up perfectly with his use of the term hegemony. The wealthy set the set terms of discourse and get the middle class to support their rule.
From:_starblade_
Date:February 4th, 2004 09:40 pm (UTC)

Um...

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Libertarianism is not trickle down economics. Most producers don't get out of the red for a long time. So ultimately, THOSE WHO SELL THEIR LABOR, OR PHYSICAL RESOURCES, MAKE THE MONEY FIRST. Then, after a long time of good economic planning, they FINALLY make it into the black, long after all those who sell timber, iron ore, or human labor, have made money from what they do.

What we really need is to recognize that the residential interests, those of households, need to form rational organizations for the purpose of maintaining their self interest, WITHOUT using the force of law, but instead of utilizing law. Unfortunately, the one looking out for residential interests is the government, which leads to a lot of conflict of interest, what with putting residential interests at the whim of lobbyists, and all.
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From:heron61
Date:February 5th, 2004 01:41 am (UTC)

Re: Um...

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Ultimately, it is. Modern first world capitalism splits power between the wealthy and the government. In the US, these two groups are largely identical, in the EU, less so. However, in any libertarian society, government is minimal and exists largely to enforce property rights. As a result, all power is held by the wealthy and everyone else gets whatever scraps they can wrest from them.
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From:ounceofreason
Date:January 17th, 2004 11:09 pm (UTC)
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I'll sum up the flaw with the Libertarian with one sentence, in my trademark style of dry speech and over-simplification:

"While it is possible that a free market may be the most effient social basis, it is demonstratably true that no unregulated market can be considered free."

A free market is about easy flow of goods and services - entropy, basically, which is why it works best when there are no logjams in the system. Chaotic systems (and if the economy isn't one, then nothing is) self-regulate best when they have many degrees of freedom.

A free market is not about profit, cost-cutting, or leaving people in the cold. If many people aren't recieving medical service, then there is an area of the economy that is not functioning. You've just outlined a scenario under which deregulation makes that problem grow exponentially worse!

America does not have a free market, and has not had one since at least the seventies (possibly much longer). Today, companies are competative not by making better products, but by making people want to buy crap. Given the choice between a better mousetrap and a clever commercial for an existing mousetrap, which do you think gets done?

I'm not even going to get into downsizing, outsourcing, and "Ken Lay-offs." You guys undoubtedly know those circumstances much better than I do.

The LP is acting more on ideology than pragmatism, and that's why they're all a bunch of smelly buttheads.
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From:emerald_scales
Date:January 19th, 2004 10:30 am (UTC)
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Maybe its time that dragons formed a political party so we can actually get things sorted out in a way that would actually be beneficial? I don't thinki'd want the job as figurehead myself, but I now have two nominees.
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From:baxil
Date:February 4th, 2004 02:57 am (UTC)

Re:

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I guess I could see dragons as an element of a more "social fringe" political party -- although personal politics vary, most fringe thinkers strongly trend liberal (at least on social issues, and typically care more about those than the economics).

On the other claw, I don't think the grassroots support is there for a party of the fringe intellectuals. It would have some appeal for those of us on the outskirts (at least assuming that a broadly likeable candidate could be agreed upon, such as Robert Anton Wilson, whose "Guns & Dope" platform gave me a good chuckle during the California recall) -- but most people with mainstream politics would probably raise an eyebrow and slowly shuffle away.
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From:baxil
Date:February 4th, 2004 02:58 am (UTC)

Re: off topic, but...

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I've seen a few links to it; the one that first comes to mind was eredien's. I'll follow the subject, personally, but I'd like to have a little more concrete information about it before coming to conclusions; I'll wait until the tests are made.

Nice icon, btw. :)
From:_starblade_
Date:February 4th, 2004 09:32 pm (UTC)

Uh...

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You know, the libertarian stance on social issues, as it applies to cases where leftward parties have FORCED people to engage in such misnomers as 'compassion, by force' and such, is still valid.

I suggest you not join any political party.

I still believe the libertarian case is valid. The whole problem, though, is that the libertarians provide no moral or ethical grounding for their beleifs... simply some jumbled together platform.

What we need is a system which allows us to chose our own SOCIAL system. This means that nobody is forced to provide you with medical care, but if you chose a system that gave you good medical care, maybe in exchange for garnashing your income... which is their right, if they saved your life, to get some pay in return from it, and if you agreed to it as a condition. And if one social system didn't work, the next one might.

Social systems, BTW, might mostly be a service conglomerate based on the values of human life, but that's better than a goods conglomerate based on needless consumption of material resources for the sake of, um... producing better than the other person... without even having an understanding of why those who are consuming are doing so.

If you want a social system like that, fine... just don't force me to be part of it. That's why the libertarian party was so important: One of the things it DID have as its ethical root was the fundamental right to human choice... NOT to force others to subsidize it, but to take responsibility for it.

Unfortunately, we have a system which biases its protection toward goods and away from services, because the government provides mainly services and not goods. We get to choose our goods but we must chose a single service. Don't you see the consequences of this?
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From:baxil
Date:February 26th, 2004 01:19 am (UTC)
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As a coda on the topic to anyone who might be reading this, Ron Crickenberger is dead. Apparently, in fact, he died even before I wrote my original post -- the Advocates for Self-Government newsletter of Jan. 13 (which I didn't actually get to receive and read until today) included an obituary.

Rest in peace; point stands.
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