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      I woke up last night feeling like I was suffocating, because in my dream I was. It began in a church, or an old university lecture hall. Antique. And everyone in attendance was being asked to say little prayers honoring Jesus. Everyone was reciting little prayers that are common among the devout. But when it was my turn, I stood and exclaimed: Jesus was a ph […]
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Madoff's Palm Beach home

Madoff's Palm Beach home

Bernie Madoff was tucked into his jail cell bed the other night for what could be his home for the next 150 years. For a guy who once “had it all” this comedown must be pretty harsh to say the least. Bet that was no Posturepedic mattress that waited to embrace his cheating bones or someone willing to turn down those 800 thread sheets he was so accustomed to.  Oh well!

Bernie had it all. But “all” just wasn’t enough. I often wonder what a 7 million dollar penthouse gets you other than a panoramic view of NYC and beyond. I mean, how important does this make you feel just knowing that from that height you are able to look down on all those peons scurrying hither and yon trying to be just like you?

I read an article in Vanity Fair about Bernie. He owns 4 or 5 different mansions scattered around the globe. But just how much time does one expect to stay in one of those palaces of luxury when there are so many to choose from? Most of us would love having a second home as a getaway now and then but Bernie couldn’t seem to satisfy that wish. No, he had to have a handful of  mansions to reinforce the image of a very important personage, an honor bestowed on like minded Greedy Guts who try to outdo one another in their quest for “things”. Bernie just happened to lead the pack. Continue reading

Sunday: What color is the sky in their world?

So, President Obama, the guy we just had to have thrust upon us by the starry eyed idiots of the Obot Whole Foods Nation is now open to taxing employee health benefits, just like he scorned McCain for considering back in the bad old days of the election.  This is the same man who beat out the woman who was in favor of universal health insurance that would have mandated everyone buy in.  This is the guy whose campaign made a big fricking deal about the fact that everyone would have to chip in part of their salary, adjusted for income, to pay for their coverage.  Back then, it was a terrible idea.  Catastrophe would follow, earthquakes and floods, dogs and cats living together.  Well, why would we want to destroy ourselves with a government mandate to buy insurance so that everyone is covered?  I mean, in the state of NJ alone, the people with jobs and paychecks *already* pay a hidden tax of $700 million to cover the hospital costs of those uninsured who have the misfortune of being sick.  But if everyone were covered, then the cost of health insurance would go down over time because people wouldn’t wait until they were urgently in need of attention before they went to see a doctor.

But no, we had to have Mr. Hopey-Changey.  He was going to be all fuzzy goo-goo and propose new policies that fit the crunchy granola “I’ve got a Prius so I’m more moral than you” lifestyle.  And apparently, those of us with employer based health insurance are benefitting from “gold plated” insurance.  “Oh, we never said *all* of you had gold plated bennies.  Just some of you making nice salaries.”, they’ll say.  Ok, I’ll bite.  I have a good salary.  I have mediocre health insurance.  I have a PPO but it might as well be an HMO.  I have to stay in network if I want to keep it cheap.  If I go out of network to see the doctor I really want, I pay out of pocket and I have to meet a deductible before I see a penny of my money back.  A really high deductible.  I pay for Brook’s coverage as well but with coordination of benefits, MY insurance almost always refuses to pick up the tab for her.  And the local hospital?  Well, our insurance company didn’t come to an amicable arrangement for payment for awhile last year so if anyone from my company went there for treatment, we got stuck with a big fat bill until the parties worked it out to get the hospital onboard.  Yep, if you wanted a mammogram at the local hospital owned radiology unit that was in network, you were just SOL until the bean counters finished negotiating the contract.

That’s why I find this section of the article so incredible:

They, like other proponents, cite evidence that tax-free benefits encourage what Mr. McCain called “gold-plated” policies, resulting in inefficient and costly demands for health care and pressure on employers to hold down workers’ pay as insurance expenses rise. And, they say, the policy discriminates against those — many of whom are low-income workers — who do not have employer-provided coverage.

Those who want to tax benefits in whole or in part make two main arguments. They say the tax exclusion is a generous subsidy that insulates employees from the true costs of health care, leading them to demand more of it and driving up overall costs. Critics also say the policy is unfair because it favors higher-income people. “It’s too regressive,” Mr. Baucus said. “It just skews the system.”

Excuse me?  Inefficient and costly demands for health care?  Oh, I’m sure that there are people who are attention seekers and go to the doctor for every little thing.  But those people are exceptions.  Most people I know don’t go to the doctor unless they can afford to pay for the inevitably rejected claim. And don’t even get me started about regressive taxation.  I live in NJ where homeowners foot the bill for the entire state.  You could be tecnically well off in Alabama on our salaries and barely afford a modest townhouse here.  And what’s this nonsense about employers holding down workers’ pay?  Please.  Employers will always find an excuse to hold down workers’ pay.  Remember how they always told us how rich stockholders had to have massive taxbreaks or they couldn’t create jobs?  And then they took the money they saved from the IRS and bought credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations?  Did any of us see an increase in jobs?  I’ll answer that for you.  No.  We did not.  What we saw were a lot of jobs being outsourced because American workers were so expensive, yada-yada-yada.

Helping out your fellow citizen is admirable and if we were talking about universal health insurance or single payer health insurance, I’d be all over that.  Getting more people in the system, especially the young and healthy who are convinced they are going to live forever, would help to bring cost down by spreading the risk and cost among all demographic groups.  But adding a new tax on top of the hidden tax we all pay without coming up with a plan that will cover all of us?  I’m sorry, I can’t get aboard that train.  The middle class is already subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich middle men who are the insurance industry.  And I’m not talking about the hapless claim reviewers who work in cube farms.  I’m talking about the stingy fat cat capitalists who run UnitedHealthCare and Aetna and the rest.  These people need to be reined in.  The gravy train has to stop for those people who always seem to get a piece of the action and produce nothing of value before I sign on to a new tax.

I wouldn’t hold my breath on that though.  It turns out that hundreds of millions of that money we just gave to AIG went into the pockets of management who were due “retention bonuses”.  {{snort!}}  AIG had a legal obligation to pay them but the taxpayer didn’t.  Chalk it up to Geithner for not figuring out a way to keep taxpayer money out of the bonus pool.  And all you congresscritters mulling over this latest health insurance tax, take this down: Fix the system before you ask for another dime.  We are watching and 2010 comes sooner than you think.

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