1 July 2012

Plasma for Everyone

Filed under: Culture, Reflections — ktismatics @ 6:50 am

With the Supreme Court’s ruling in hand, maybe the next session of Congress can mandate that every American buy a new big-screen HD television, imposing fines on anyone who refuses. Per Roberts’ ruling, the fine would constitute a tax, so it’s constitutional. Of course the government wouldn’t negotiate any sort of volume discount, because that would constitute socialist-style interference with the free market.



  1. You’ve got it in a nutshell. It’s sad that there’s so many ‘socialists’ who think this is a great victory – I guess they’re either in Europe or too well off to have to worry, so they haven’t really looked at it.

    This whole Obamacare business reinforce the case that a problem with socialism may be that the majority of people actually deserve to be slaves. Look at the Uk; they’re dismantiling our National Health Service, though there is a clear and large majority for preserving it, though every political party pledged to preserve it – and while they throw billions at the bankers and royals, they’ve got the punters more concerned that cripples and old folks might be getting a free ride.


    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 1 July 2012 @ 7:57 am

  2. A strong majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, approve of Medicare, which is a universal health insurance program for senior citizens. When asked if they would prefer Medicare to be privatized via some sort of voucher system, a 2-to-1 majority said no, they prefer Medicare as it is. So why don’t the majority favor a single-payer system throughout the age range? It turns out that they do, by a strong margin. Gee, I wonder then who doesn’t want single payer? Neither Obama nor Hillary campaigned in support of single payer, both opting for a variant of Romney’s Massachusetts plan. That Romney now disavows his support of the individual mandate illustrates the continued rhetorical move toward the right of American politicians since Obama was elected. But clearly the mandate is supported by the private healthcare industry, since in effect the mandate artificially creates the kind of inelastic demand curve that sets the stage for big price increases.

    I don’t see privatization as the main problem. Doctors and hospitals under Medicare aren’t public employees; they’re private-sector government contractors. This is how the French system works as well. The difference is that the French government acts as a tough collective bargaining agent on behalf of the citizenry, keeping prices down — about half that of US healthcare. I suspect that even with single-payer universal coverage the US government would never squeeze prices in the private sector.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 July 2012 @ 9:01 am

  3. Both the British and the French systems are paid for out of the general tax revenues, whereas US Medicare is funded by payroll tax. Traditionally US workers have had their health insurance paid by their employers. So, throughout the lifespan, healthcare in America is integrally tied to employer-employee relations. As the cost of health insurance skyrockets, workers become increasingly fearful of losing their jobs and thus their health benefits. This is I think why employers, while they continually bitch about the escalating cost of healthcare, still prefer to keep it as a lever in labor negotiations. At the same time the ridiculously high cost of healthcare in the US becomes yet another reason for employers to keep wages low and/or to outsource jobs to places where healthcare is cheaper and paid for by the government. In addition, the employer-sponsored plans get less and less comprehensive, with higher deductibles and copays and restrictions on coverage, so that employees pay more and more out of their own paychecks to fill the gaps.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 July 2012 @ 9:42 am

  4. Was the title of this post by any chance inspired by this, from Counterpunch: The Economy of Blood
    What the Market Does to Our Souls
    by ALAN NASSER http://tinyurl.com/dx5qxsm

    If not, I guess you’re referring to the book the article itself refers to most, Richard Titmuss’s ‘ The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood To Social Policy’?


    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 1 July 2012 @ 10:30 am

  5. Oh no, of course you meant ‘plasma tvs’ for everyone – and why not? I really recommend that Counterpunch article anyway – it’s highly on topic.


    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 1 July 2012 @ 10:33 am

  6. I nearly made it to the end of that Nasser article before my eyes started losing focus as I scrolled down toward the ever-receding bottom of the page, but I take his point. Other empirical studies support the same contention that rewards tend to inhibit spontaneously helpful behaviors, even in little kids who haven’t learned to talk yet. So if healthcare is regarded as a common good, as a basis not just for individual altruism but for solidarity, should all aspects of healthcare be regarded as priceless gifts, offered and received outside of the market economy? If so, could what amounts to a communistic healthcare scheme exist inside of an otherwise capitalistic or even socialistic system? I’d say there’s no way that could happen. All or nothing.

    ““Blood is like love,” wrote Samuelson, “the kind you get for free is better than the kind you pay for.”

    I sold blood a few times as a university student. It gave me a sense of solidarity with the addicts and down-and-outers, made me feel tougher than I was — sort of like hitchhiking. As you can imagine, only poor people and college students and renegades sold blood; giving it away for free was a bourgeois liberal gesture. I suspect that if I’d had to buy a unit of blood it would have cost me ten times what they paid me for it.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 July 2012 @ 11:33 am

  7. ” So if healthcare is regarded as a common good, as a basis not just for individual altruism but for solidarity, should all aspects of healthcare be regarded as priceless gifts, offered and received outside of the market economy? If so, could what amounts to a communistic healthcare scheme exist inside of an otherwise capitalistic or even socialistic system? I’d say there’s no way that could happen. All or nothing.”

    Arguably, it does/has – the UK’s NHS, or any of the European insurance-based systems, where everyone somehow gets whatever healthcare they need, no rationing.. Of course the staff are paid, as in the blood donor examples.

    We could split hairs over what’s communism, or what’s freely given, but I think the main point is that ‘ all or nothing’ doesn’t exist anywhere and never has. As Chomsky and other regularly point out, we don’t actually live in a capitalist (much less free market) system – look at the massive tax-payer subsidised defense industry, womb and kindergarten of so many later-privatised lucrative technologies.

    And academic Marxists surely would split hairs to arcane infinity over ” a communistic healthcare scheme exist inside of an otherwise capitalistic or even socialistic system”. Sure, in the long run, getting your classifications right is best practice, but to be honest that’s someone else’s job (yes, people get paid to do that stuff); enough to note that the ‘ the gift relationship’ seems to inform the non-US ‘single-payer systems’ generally and that it’s a good and humane thing, and that’s why the US seems determined to stamp them out. The USA may get the worst results for money spent, but it makes more rich people richer that this other caring/sharing stuff.


    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 2 July 2012 @ 10:56 am

  8. Socialized healthcare offers an intriguing asymmetry: from each according to his pay, to each according to his needs. The argument on the blood donor article addresses the “from each” part of the formula, with donors contributing to others’ needs without compensation — not really analogous to the workers’ position in the NHS. I’m with you though about the “good and humane thing” argument, materially supporting everyone’s access to good healthcare regardless of our individual needs for those services and our individual ability to pay. My concern in the US is that universal healthcare would be run like the military, with private-sector contractors getting wealthy at the citizens’ expense. Medicare used to strike tough bargains with doctors, hospitals, etc., and since the 65+ crowd accounts for such a large proportion of overall medical utilization Medicare was able to restrain cost escalation overall. But those days are in the past now, with Dems and Reps alike insisting that Medicare match private-sector compensation, the tail wagging the dog.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2012 @ 2:11 pm

  9. Here’s something good about Obamacare — it limits health insurance plans’ overhead and profit to 20% of premiums. Most of the large employers’ group plans already meet this requirement, but only half of the individual plans do. That’s because individuals don’t benefit from group purchasing by their employers, so the insurers jack up the rates to obscene levels. I approve of this intervention.


    Comment by ktismatics — 2 July 2012 @ 7:16 pm

  10. This WashPost article contends that health insurance premiums are poised to go way up once Obamacare is enacted. The insurance industry is seeking even more concessions, contending that the law is putting them at a financial disadvantage. The article is clear that this argument is bullshit. The main group of uninsured are the young and healthy, who have decided that health insurance isn’t worth the money. In the new law they must buy insurance or face stiff penalties. But, there’s also a requirement that the old and sick cannot pay more than 3 times what the young and healthy pay. Based on actuarial results the offset — less money from the old, more from the young — was a break-even or better for the insurers. But of course what the insurers are going to do is keep the rates high for the old and sick, while jacking up the rates for the young and healthy even higher than before to meet the 3-to-1 price requirement. Now the insurers are worried that, with the jacked-up rates, the young and healthy will choose to pay the penalty instead. So the insurers are demanding that the penalties for going uninsured be raised even higher. Those bastards. The whole point is that, by mandating private purchase of a product, there is no elasticity of demand, and so the suppliers can raise the prices without limit.


    Comment by ktismatics — 19 February 2013 @ 6:52 am

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