Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Asshat of the Day - December 10, 2006

Today's special guest will be Guitarman, courtesy of the CBC readers' comments section.

So far (today!) he has violated Godwin's Law, used the term "liberal elitist", used the term "socialist" as an epithet, and claimed that 75% of liberals voted Conservative in the last election.

Sadly, the violation of the Law has been removed by CBC forum moderators, since such behaviour is against their rules, so it cannot be held up as a striking example of why you do not want to be Guitarman.

However, among his other statements:

Back then my friend women didnt work a lot...most of them would stay home and take care of the kiddies..

(In reference to the "good old days".) I suppose that this individual likes the Conservative ideology isn't a huge surprise, really.

Harper has an overwhelming support of Canadians right fact if an election were held today I'm almost 100 per cent confident he would get his majority, because the vast majority of Canadians are so disgusted with the three stooges performances over the last month, that it definitely would be a cakewalk for Harper, regardless if iganatiff is leader of the Liberals/coalition. You're obviously way out of touch with reality lately.

Once again, we see this "la-la-la-la-la-I CAN'T HEAR YOU!-la-la-la" attitude. Given some of his other comments, Guitarman here is from Alberta, which might explain some things.

Regardless, this is how he earned today's title.

I think I'll stop choosing from the CBC commenters. It's too easy.

Medicare and the United States

Alright, US, time to bite the bullet.

Current estimates place the Medicare debt as of 2050 at ninety trillion dollars. That's a quarter billion dollars for every day between now and 2050. It makes the scale of the financial crisis look trivial. This is not something you can let sit.

Now, part of this problem stems from the fact that you've gone and divided your public health care system into two parts: Medicare for the old, and Medicaid for the poor. I'm the first to admit that our (Canada's) healthcare system has its flaws, but at least we're not that stupid. More organizations means more bureaucracy, which means more money gets eaten up in things that provide no benefit to those covered by the plan. It also means more confusion, and, likely, legal fees.

Now, your first problem is glaringly obvious, even to me. Medicare in the United States is supported by a 2.9% income tax, across the board. Now, this one's probably going to hurt, but there's one important step that can be taken immediately - crank up income taxes. On average, 30% of the nation's income is taken in by government of one level or another. I'm willing to bet that, as a nation, you can bring that up to 50% without ever raising taxes on the low-income bracket. An adjustment to your taxes to make them more progressive would do the trick; here in Canada, the highest earners pay around 55% on their income. This is fair because they're still far better off with their 45% than the next bracket is with 50%, and so on down. Under Canadian tax law, you will never earn less by jumping a tax bracket.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, but given the announced one trillion dollar deficit your government is running, I don't think sweetness is in your future. (I'm trying to keep this condescending, but I'm going to have to segue to astonished for a moment - the bailout notwithstanding, how in the name of everything that is good in the universe did you manage a deficit that tacks another 10% onto the largest national debt in the world? That's 2.5% of the stock market valuation - for the entire world. Your deficit.)

I mean, 19% of your federal budget already goes to paying interest on the debt, and I can't imagine that anyone still willing to lend is going to do so at anything but punitive interest rates. So we're rapidly approaching the point where out of every dollar spent by the government, a shiny new quarter goes to paying for the costs of the debt. Not reducing it - just paying for its very existence.

But I digress. Back to Medicare. My proposal was to hike taxes. That's stage one. Then (and I know this word will hurt) socialize healthcare altogether. Medicaid was never a good implementation - too little, too poorly managed. Lay down firm federal guidelines for how the states are to run their healthcare systems, and then take medicine out of the hands of private business. The free market is not the place to go - the free market is what brought you the Financial Crisis, the Housing Crisis, and a host of other Crises that haven't yet burst on the scene. More to the point, you don't want your healthcare providers playing "survival of the fittest". You want them to provide healthcare. Additionally, by socializing healthcare, you take health insurance costs off your populace's shoulders - and thereby add to their take-home income, which you can then tax more heavily with fewer complaints. Pay doctors something that will allow them to get out of med-school debt, but not the ludicrous amounts doctors can charge in your economy. If they want to make that kind of money, they can go to a country that's willing to work itself into the mess you're in now.

If you want, you can make it two-tier, with a free-market healthcare system running wounded. That might take some of the stress off the socialized portion - but in my experience, the socialized system runs pretty well.

Whatever you decide to do, though, oh neighbour to the south, you'd best do it soon - because ninety trillion dollars is a hell of a lot of money. You've got forty years. Better make the most of 'em.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Conservatives and the Big Lie

I'm going to tell you a story, boys and girls...

Once upon a time, there was a country. It was a big country, but more in terms of landmass than anything else. It was a proud country, though, and kept its cities and its populace bright and shiny.

In this country, there were all sorts of political parties, but for the longest time, there were only two that mattered - the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. One or the other of them always formed the government, but was kept from going completely nuts because of the structure of the country's system of governance.

You see, boys and girls, unlike their neighbours to the south, the citizens of this country don't elect leaders. They elect Members of Parliament. Those MPs, collectively, decide who will run parliament. Who will be the lead, or prime, minister. Now, this means that most of the time, the political party that has the most MPs in the House can choose one of their own as the Prime Minister. But - and here is the first part of the story you should remember, boys and girls - there is no law saying they have to. If they felt that a Member from another party would be a better Prime Minister and hold the confidence of the House, they could decide he or she should be the Prime Minister.

Now, that leads us to point number two. Since the country's inception, a few other parties rose to political prominence, to the degree that they now claim a number of seats in the House to themselves. This makes it possible for a party to "win" an election with less than fifty percent of the seats, since they need only have a larger fraction than any other single party. However, their Prime Minister must then not only secure the confidence of his own party, but that of enough other MPs to make up that crucial fifty percent.

Under this country's system of governance, should the sitting Prime Minister lose the confidence of the House, it is entirely within the prerogative of the other parties in residence in the House to propose a new candidate. If, through some happenstance, the "other" parties happen to make up a larger fraction of the house than the party which formed the government, they are in fact capable of doing this without the aid of any of the MPs from the sitting PM's party.

Finally, in this country, there was an entity known as the Governor General, a representative of the monarchy that once held sway over the country. This post is still important, and holds some power. In the event of a pending loss of confidence, he or she has many options, but three principal ones, delineated here:

  • to prorogue Parliament for a short time, on the premise that the disruption is temporary and time will alleviate any problems

  • to let the confidence matter go through, fail, and call another election

  • to let the confidence matter go through, fail, and hand the government to the opposition to give it a try

These are all options as outlined in the constitution of the country.

However, the leader of the dominant party at the time of this story, boys and girls - he wanted to trick the good citizens of the country! When the other parties - who had more MPs in the house than his party did - decided to team up to remove him from office, he squawked that it was undemocratic, and unconstitutional! He played up the fact that the citizens had voted for him, not them! But as evidenced above, the citizens had voted for both, since they voted MPs into the house, not Prime Ministers!

He cried that what the country needed now was stability, not another election - discounting the fact that it was fully within the powers of the Governor General to simply turn the government over to the other team, and avoid the hassle of an election altogether!

Yes, the cowardly leader even pressured the Governor General to use the prorogue option, thus forestalling any chance of a no-confidence vote.

Will this story have a happy ending, boys and girls? I don't know, yet. But I can hope.