Health Care and Global Competitiveness

It’s those damn liberals, again, shouting about how access to medical care should be a right, about how no one should die because they don’t have insurance. We know the real problem in this country is JOBS! It’s just plain cheaper to move manufacturing to Asia.

Consider this: when unions in this country won health insurance from employers, it seemed like a great victory at first, but it was a disaster. It let our society off the hook. If you are worthwhile, if you are employed, then you will be taken care of. The rest of y’all are just freeloaders.

Now, imagine you are going to start a manufacturing facility somewhere. It’s well-documented that American workers are very productive. If you’re selling the end product in the United States, there are plenty of other cost savings, from transportation to tariffs, to reward making your widgets right here. No one wants to pay freight for the widget, all else being equal. (We will leave rational energy policy as a way to equalize world trade for another day.)

But to make your widgets you’re going to need workers. If you open your plant in the US, you will have to pay those workers a 1970’s-level wage, and you will also have to pay for their health insurance. If you open your plant almost anywhere else, the health insurance burden is lifted. The government of that country is covering that.

Universal health care in this country would make it a lot cheaper for companies to do work here.

“But!” you say, and I nod as you say it, “universal health care creates a tax burden and that will hurt those same companies!” And that is true. At that point, the companies have a choice: recognize that the tax burden is offset by their savings on payroll, and further understand that their taxes are going to support Americans no matter who they hire so they may as well get value out of those taxes by hiring Americans, or the companies can leave, and go somewhere else that also has universal health care.

Kids, any company that was going to leave over this issue already has. What remains are the companies that want to stay. Let’s make it easier for them. Nationalized health care means real jobs.

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Gotta Ride

Supply chain issues have sidelined my bicycling. I’ve been exercising every day, but in all my biking years I have never pined for the trails the way I am pining right now. It’s different this year.

I love my bike. It’s tough, all-weather, and it’s rigged to carry a lot of stuff. The only gripe I have about it is that currently it has only one wheel. My Local Bike Shop is working on that problem, but I’m getting impatient. So when that same shop sent out their weekly email with the section “bikes in stock” in my head I jumped straight to “bikes I could ride today.” I had to take a look.

Because of those same supply-chain issues, the only bikes in stock are the high-end ones. And honestly, were I to buy a second bicycle, it would have to be an upgrade, and fill a fundamentally different role than my mighty commuter rig. It would have to be my joy-riding bike.

I looked though the offerings, filtering by “In stock”. One bike came up that checked all my wish-list boxes, with style.

A recent episode here mentioned the Velominati Web site. Rule 12: the correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

I went out to the garage. One of the two bikes would have to be, at any given time, hoisted up and out of the way (as long as there are two cars, as least). Would that stop me from riding one of them? When commuting resumed, would I be able to hang up my sports car and get back in the practical plodder?

I’m pretty sure the answer to the latter question is yes. The right tool for the job. Plodder for commute, plodder for the rain. And I will always appreciate my Giant. It is a great bike.

But (I tell myself), the fact I’m pining so badly to get back on the trail, to be pedaling again, shows that maybe it’s time to level up. Maybe it’s time for a non-commuter bike, especially since it will still be months before I’m commuting.

But on the other hand, I’m riding for my health, and a lighter bike means less exercise. Unless I go farther, faster. Which would be SO MUCH FUN! But then other riders would see a big beer belly plodding along on a high-end-bike and roll their eyes about someone with more money than sense, and they’d be right. Until I rode that belly off. And my long gray beard flying in the wind earns me some pretty good slack.

But… it’s a lot of money. And my current bike will be ready to ride eventually.

But… it’s an awesome bike. An expensive awesome bike. It’s in stock in my size. I could walk to the bike shop with my pedals in hand and be off on a new adventure shortly afterward.

The Official Sweetie of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas naturally has some say in this decision. Mostly, I leave the budget stuff to her. I haven’t talked numbers with her, except for a cringy “yeah, north of that” to her pretty-high guess, but she is not against investing in health. And in this case, this year, mental health is just as important as physical health. Just being about to ride has lifted my mood lately.

I have a friend with a super-fancy bike from a previous era. He doesn’t ride it. I’m pretty sure now he would not be able to ride it even if he wanted to. So a fancy bike is a challenge and a commitment. Gotta ride it. Gotta ride it enough so that I will always be fit enough to ride it.

… ah, dang.

I just reloaded the bike shop’s page. Someone bought the bike I was agonizing over. Jerk.

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Keeping it at 50

If Kentucky chose to secede from this great nation, I might be all right with that.

Kentucky is a beautiful place, and friendly (to people like me). Yet while they hate Mitch McConnell, they will vote for him anyway. Because R. Swap the letters after their names and change nothing else and it would be McGrath in a landslide.

If Kentucky left, maybe we could swap in Puerto Rico. The island isn’t nearly as liberal as the press would have you believe, so it would be no surprise if a Republican senator (maybe even an actual conservative) came from there. But I have to think that whoever they send to represent them would be better than the Kentucky Kountry Klowns that we have now.

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It was Supposed to be a Day of Triumph

As I write this, I am sipping, breathing the last of my 18-year-aged scotch whiskey. I have been looking forward to this day for a long, long, time. A project I have been working on is going live. And… there’s no euphoria.

The project is not truly finished, but it has reached its most significant milestone, and from here on out “finished” will be a gradient. Software is that way, sometimes. At the end of the day this is not a triumph of coding but a triumph of finally defeating a bureaucracy.

A big day. A day I have been looking forward to. Whiskey I bought accidentally and have no regrets about. I’m on the patio, watching a tiny crescent of a moon chase the sun toward the horizon, the air not awful, the breeze is rustling the leaves of the tree over my head.

But the triumph, anticipated for more than half a decade, seems small now, in the face of all the other stuff. I don’t want to make today’s events about me, because they are not, and deserve their own space. So I will not go into them here, except to say I am sad and angry and exhausted, and January 20, 2021 seems a long, long way away.

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Hockey Stick

How will the future treat the year 2020? Here in the middle of it we see a wannabe dictator trying to usurp the world’s largest economy, we see hundreds of thousands dying from the novel coronavirus, and we see marginalized people shouting for reforms that actually mean something.

Big things. Things I am passionate about. But honestly, I think fifty years from now the human race will look back on 2020 as the hockey stick year. I knew this year was coming, but I hoped I would be old enough that I would not have to witness the aftermath. It seems I am not so lucky.

The Hockey Stick. It’s a reference to a graph of global temperature that gets gradually worse until a threshold is crossed and things get really bad really quickly. The graph looks like a hockey stick.

This is the year “Fire Tornado” was added to my vocabulary. Vast swaths of forest are being converted to atmospheric carbon dioxide, in a feedback loop of disastrous consequence. “But forest mismanagement…” you say. Fine. But the fucking tundra is on fire. Permafrost is melting, and Putin’s pipelines are rupturing.

The only way through this is with strong leadership and a full-on investment in adaptation. Our planet is heating up, there’s no getting around that now. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Important to note here, that Putin and Trump’s other “friends” make their money from oil. Apparently they don’t give a fuck about their children. Or your children. Or anyone under the age of 60. Because those rich bastards are woking really hard to live like kings now and screw the consequences. Apres moi, la deluge. In the case of Florida, it’s far more literal this time.

Here we are. Forests burning, hurricanes wailing, rivers flooding. Glaciers sliding into the sea faster than ever before. Not unpredicted. Our coastal cities will do what they can to suffer the sea level rise, but the storm surges will destroy them. I said, after Katerina, (quietly, to myself, or maybe in this blog), that we should not bother rebuilding that city. It is lost, like Miami, like much of Manhattan. Dead cities.

It is time to stop playing what-if games and understand that humanity is facing its most grave challenge ever. It is a challenge many human civilizations have failed before, but this time the peril is global. The planet we got comfy on is gone. It is time to suck up petty nonsense and accept that our only way out of this mess is forward.

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Idiot

I spent the evening poking at the keyboard, trying to wrangle a new Tin Can story, the first in that series for years. But I couldn’t get my head in the game. First it was sports, then it was politics. Scandal broke around the president today (again), but it was a scandal he could easily have avoided were he not a narcissistic idiot. It was Bob Woodward, for crying out loud.

So I was trying to get my head to a creative place. After being distracted by the surprisingly-compelling Tour de France coverage of stage 12 (kid from Switzerland taking his first ever TDF stage and looking like a beast in the process — he was zooming down narrow, poorly-paved roads fast enough to challenge the lead car, only to mash up the next hill, while the Big Names launched futile attacks and fell farther behind), I turned off the television and set to writing.

And checking the news. It seems that our Stable Genius President sat down with Bob Woodward, a journalist instrumental in bringing down Nixon. They didn’t talk just once, oh no. Not five times. Eighteen times Donald Trump talked to this guy. And our President went on to tell this Journalist, on the record, a bunch of astonishing things.

I will not go into the astonishing things here. Mostly it’s stuff we already knew, but this time it came directly out of Trump’s mouth.

Instead, let’s discuss what a monumental idiot our fearless leader was to have the interviews in the first place. I imagine a conversation somewhat like this:

Bob: Hello, Donnie?
Donnie: Yeah, that’s me. [Donnie doesn’t ask who Bob is, because if Donnie doesn’t know who he is already, the guy is not important]
Bob: I’m writing a book about you!
Donnie: That’s great! Beautiful! All the best writers want to do a book about me. When will you be done?
Bob: Well, that’s the thing, Donnie — if we want the book to be awesome, it needs more of you in it. I need to talk to you. Get inside your head. Really feel the genius.
Donnie: Call me any time. Except when I’m golfing.

Jared or Ivanka could have stopped him; they didn’t. They just let him spend hours talking to Bob “Watergate” Woodward about whatever crossed his mind at the moment. And Bob, bless his heart, was not hostile. He actually tried to guide Donnie around the worst land mines, to give Donnie an escape hatch. Donnie would have none of that.

This episode shows a new and different kind of stupid for our president. Sure, he’s always been a sucker for flattery and a racist and a liar and honestly pretty stupid, but before he’s at least shown enough intelligence to not spill his guts to a man who has already brought down a president. This isn’t Entertainment Tonight.

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