I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Random Political Thoughts

A few comments on political developments this week:

1. New Nuke Policy. Obama announced this week that we will not use nukes against any non-nuclear nation, even in self-defense. Right wing talkers immediately denounced this as projecting weakness. But, honestly, can you imagine any scenario where we would ever use nukes if they hadn't been used against us first? The truth is, no actual state is ever going to be able to launch a meaningful war against the US. Even at the peak of Soviet power, they could have attacked us, but they could never have invaded us. Terrorists may strike us, but nukes aren't the proper tool for retaliation. And, given the scope of our air power, even without nukes we have the ability to turn any city we want to strike into a plane of black, smoldering glass in under a week. I just don't see how this new position weakens us in any way.

2. Offshore Drilling: Meh. I'm dubious the policy change to allow offshore drilling along certain areas of our seaboard will lead to any actual oil wells, unless the amount of oil that's out there is greatly underestimated at the moment. The number of regulatory hoops that would be jumped through to tap wells that would be drained in under a decade will probably dissuade development. This seems like a strategic move to silence the "Drill, Baby, drill," crowd. It won't work. They'll still complain.

3. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare: Specifically, the lawsuits challenge the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Personally, this one area of the law does strike me as constitutionally dubious. The idea that the government can compel you to purchase a product from a private company seems to me to be a real abuse of the interstate commerce clause. The analogy to being forced to buy car insurance doesn't hold water, because you can avoid buying car insurance just by not buying a car. Here, you could only avoid the mandate via suicide. This seems harsh. But, on the other hand, if this one provision is struck down, we will be screwed, because the rest of the law will likely remain in effect, and health care premiums will sky-rocket due to the new mandates on the companies. And, because our government is no good at saying, "Oops!" and repealing bad laws, they will use the sky rocketing costs that this law generated as a reason to go ahead and take over the whole system. I'm terrible at predicting the future, but here's my feeble attempt at playing Nostradamus: The individual mandate will be struck down by the courts a few years from now. By 2016, health care premiums triple or quadruple, and the quality of care dives due to hospitals scrambling to implement new regulations this bill imposes. By 2020, people are so disgusted with the whole system that they elect a libertarian to repeal it all and let the free market reign. NO! Just kidding. By 2020, the system is so bad the people in mass support a full public takeover to create a system like that in Canada or the UK. And, it will be a better system than what it replaces, but only because the government went out of its way to cripple the old system.


Loren Eaton said...

I like your humorous 2020 prediction far more than your actual one, which sends the gooseflesh crawling up my neck.

Mr. Cavin said...

Whereas I'm starting to think about moving to Canada. Or at least moving my mother there.

James Maxey said...

Loren, I think the one good tool for political forecasting is the certain knowledge that people ain't getting no smarter. So, if the future can split in two directions, the safe money is on the dumbest choice.

Mr. C, I don't get why your mother would need to move to Canada. Isn't she of an age where she's covered here by medicaid? I know it doesn't cover every last dime, but my father's medical bills while he was covered by it didn't seem unreasonable. What am I missing?

Mr. Cavin said...

Well, I was being glib-ish. Honestly, I'm tired of the whole freaking debate and they are not having it in Canada. That's the most honest answer I can give you.

But here: our system, where this insurance protection allows medical costs to skyrocket beyond all relation to what a patient is supposedly buying, really needs a noun other than "capitalism" to describe it. And these economic factors, the ones at work forcing people to endure this scheme, need to be understood as falling rather short of "liberty."

You make the academic point above that one can only really opt-out of the new insurance scheme if he or she is suicidal--but that's always been the case, ultimately. In a world where one x-ray costs more than many people can afford without going into temporary debt, insurance has never been left up to choice for most responsible citizens. Since medical care costs more than all but the very richest in society can afford, insurance companies exist to bilk consumers rain or shine, a protection racket tantamount to what you see mobsters doing in the movies. Ultimately, I see no great difference in value between "legal" or "economic" forces if they are restricting the ability of people to receive care.

But ultimately it seems to me like the people involved with this debate are just blithely and willfully missing this point. Americans are paying a lot more for medical care than everyone else is. The taxes people must pay in countries where this system is socialized do not equal the extra money we are forced to pour into insurance companies to cover us. So we are losing money in relation to Canadians.

Are we paying paying for a better product then? More and more, the data seems to indicate that we are not. But there is no way to really trust that data. Since our populous cannot really afford its health care, we are notoriously slack when it comes to preventative measures. It is so difficult and costly to go to the doctor that people often put it off if they can. Even when they go they might avoid very expensive lab work until all other options are ruled out--whether this is the healthiest choice or not.

What I am illustrating is why I think we have a system that needs to be fixed. I do not believe that Canada's system needs to be fixed so extensively. Therefore, it is possibly a better system. Lots of systems are better. I have the opportunity to get my own medical care abroad, by the way, and I tend to.

You are worried about the evils (or folly) of burgeoning governmental control, right? It's not surprising that some people are worried about the same control in the form of pitiless and greedy middleman corporations. Many people are deeply concerned they might have to spend some money covering someone else's troubles. It's all very tiresome. Just look at all the crap we have to negotiate because we might get sick.

James Maxey said...

Mr. Cavin, thanks for your thoughts on the matter. I'm not entirely unsympathatic to the issues you raise: We do spend more, insurance companies do help raise costs (though I don't think it's the profit seeking that drives this as much as beaurocracy), and Americans don't seem to be significantly healthier than Canadians or Brits.

On the other hand, our biggest health care concerns are largely self inflicted. Greg used to complain that his health would have been better if he'd been able to afford a doctor's care when he was younger. But, a doctor would have told him to eat better, exercise regularly, and stop smoking. The fact is that good health care isn't going to be the main driver of overall American health. The secret of how to live longer and healthier is right out there in the open for all to see. But, we Americans are still holding out for some pill or surgury to solve our problems.

Anyway, I don't really have any answers for the problems of our current health care system. All I seem to possess is the unflinching certitude that any solution I hear proposed is wrong. Not exactly my proudest intellectual position....