Assume you buy a brand new, 4-door sedan, but when you take delivery of the car, you find that one of the doors doesn’t have hinges or handles, so it is useless. What will you do?
Return it to the dealer and demand your money back?
Complain to the government?
File a class-action lawsuit when you discover that all the 4-door sedans of this brand have the same problem?
Assume you buy a dozen packages of microwavable popcorn, and when you nuke the bags you find that all of them leave about 20% of the kernels unpopped?
Or you buy a 1 ounce antiperspirant, later to realize that the last quarter ounce is unusable because it is buried in a plastic dish dispenser.
That’s what I discovered, as you can see in the photo.
That cup-like object in the lower right is a substitute for a flat plate to support the cake of deodorant, but it has another function.
It forces you to buy another package, when there is still plenty of cake left.
So technically, I guess I probably did receive a 1 ounce cake, as described, but less than one ounce was usable.
Now, it is possible that there is some way to use that last quarter ounce.
Or the folks from Thriving Brands LLC, the manufacturer of Right Guard, might have put more than enough extra deodorant bar into the package, so you can use what you paid for.
But I’m guessing not.
The point is, we as consumers repeatedly get cheated, not necessarily because manufacturers don’t provide what we pay for, but because we can’t use it all, so we are forced to buy more, or more often, than we should.
It’s a subtle form of cheating. The manufacturer can claim he suppliedwhat the contents say, even though you aren’t able to use it all.
The spray can that doesn’t quite empty, the instant glue that hardens before you can use it all, the squeeze bottle that doesn’t release all the catsup — the list is endless.
All these things require us to purchase more because we don’t get all we paid for.
If you decide to file a class-action suit, I’ll give you the name and address of my favorite charity you can include as a claimant.
We did it with the “Economic Stimulus Act 2008. The federal government simply sent people money.
Generally, low and middle-income taxpayers received up to $300 per person or $600 per couple.
The purpose was to stimulate economic growth and to cure the recession.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measure of the economy. The above graph should come as no surprise. The formula for economic growth is:
GDP = Federal Spending+ Nonfederal Spending + Net Exports
Mathematically, as federal deficit spending decreases, economic growth falls, and as federal deficit spending increases, economic growth increases.
If you want economic growth, you want federal deficit spending to increase.
I’ve written about this many times.It’s simple algebra. I’m not sure why this is a mystery to the politicians who think a debt limit is prudent finance. It’s exceedingly ignorant finance.
I mention this again because of an article I just read on MEDPAGETODAY:
Uninsured Rate Hits Record Low of 8.3% — But that number will slowly rise as pandemic health insurance protections unwind, experts say by Joyce Frieden, Washington Editor, MedPage Today May 24, 2023
WASHINGTON — The uninsured rate in the U.S. has fallen to a record-low 8.3%, but that percentage is expected to gradually increase as insurance protections from the COVID-19 pandemic wind down, according to officials from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Why will insurance protections “wind down.” For the same reason we currently have a debt=limit battle in Congress. Sheer ignorance.
The federal government has repeatedly proved that it has the infinite ability to pay for anything. Why is it “winding down” payments for healthcare insurance?
The temporary policies enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic “have contributed to a record low uninsurance rate in 2023 of 8.3% and record-high enrollment in both Medicaid and ACA [Affordable Care Act] marketplace coverage,”said Caroline Hanson, Ph.D., principal analyst at the CBO, during a briefing sponsored by Health Affairs.
“As those temporary policies expire under current law, the distribution of coverage will change and the share of people who lack insurance is expected to increase by 2033.”
CBO is projecting an uninsured rate of 10.1% by 2033, and “while that’s obviously higher than the 8.3% that we’re estimating for 2023, it is nevertheless lower than the uninsured rate in the last year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” which was about 12%, she said.
Think about it. America has about 330 million people. A ten percent uninsured rate means 33 MILLION (!) people in America will have to do without health care insurance. I hope you’re not among them.
Whether or not you have insurance, here are some data that should concern you:
“A widely cited study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009 analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey and found that uninsured individuals had a 40% higher risk of death compared to their insured counterparts. This study estimated that lack of health insurance contributed to approximately 45,000 deaths annually in the United States.
“Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of previous research. The analysis concluded that uninsured individuals faced a 25% higher risk of mortality compared to those with insurance.”
When you don’t have healthcare insurance, you die younger.
“Throughout the 2023-33 period, employment-based coverage will remain the largest source of health insurance, with average monthly enrollment between 155 million and 159 million,” Hanson and co-authors wrote in an article published in Health Affairs.
Employer-based health care insurance has two features seldom discussed.
It ties employees to their employer, making job negotiation and movement much more difficult
It is paid for by the employee because the employer figures the cost as part of the employment. Salaries could be higher without this “perk.”
If the federal government funded a comprehensive Medicare for All plan, employees would earn more without costing employers more.
However, they added, “in addition to policy changes over the course of the next decade, demographic and macroeconomic changes affect trends in coverage in the CBO’s projections.”
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 gave states a 6.2-percentage-point boost in their Medicaid matching rates as long as the states didn’t disenroll anyone in Medicaid or CHIP for the duration of the COVID public health emergency.
Hanson noted that this law “allowed people to remain enrolled regardless of their changes in eligibility. So, for example, even if they had an income increase that would have made them ineligible but for the policy,” they were still able to stay on Medicaid.
The COVID public health emergency has been canceled now. Disenrollments can begin.
As a result of the law, Medicaid enrollment has grown substantially since 2019 — by 16.1 million enrollees, she said. But that has been superseded by another act of Congress, which allowed states to begin “unwinding” the continuous eligibility rules and start disenrolling people from Medicaid and CHIP beginning on April 1.
In total, “15.5 million people will be transitioning out of Medicaid after eligibility redetermination,” said Hanson. “Among that 15.5 million people, CBO is estimating that 6.2 million of them will go uninsured and the remainder will be enrolled in another source of coverage,” such as individual coverage or employment-based coverage.
Of those who are leaving Medicaid, how many are leaving voluntarily and how many are “falling through the cracks” because they didn’t receive their disenrollment notification or failed to fill out the required paperwork to reapply?
“We recognize that before these continuous eligibility requirements were put into place, people were losing Medicaid coverage, both because they were becoming no longer eligible for Medicaid, and … because they did not complete the application process despite remaining eligible,” said CBO analyst Claire Hou, PhD. However, she added, “we’re currently not aware of any data that would allow us to quantify the size of those two different groups.”
All of the above would be unnecessary if our Monetarily Sovereign federal government (which has unlimited funds) simply would fund a comprehensive, no-deductibles Medicare for All program.
Hanson delivered some bad news for those footing the bill for private health insurance. “We are projecting relatively high short-term premium growth rates in private health insurance, and this is for a few reasons,” she said.
“One is the economy-wide inflation that we’re experiencing in 2023 and that we have been experiencing, and that has not fully reflected itself in premiums yet.
And another contributor is the continued bouncing back of medical spending after the suppressed utilization that we saw earlier in the pandemic.”
The study authors project average premium increases of 6.5% in 2023, 5.9% during 2024-2025, and 5.7% in 2026-2027.
The current and projected-to-increase hardship on the American people is totally unnecessary. The federal government efficiently could ameliorate this hardship by:
Funding comprehensive, no-deductible Medicare for every man, woman, and child in America
Funding Social Security benefits for every man, woman, and child in America.
Both would add dollars to Gross Domestic Product, thus growing the economy.
Instead, Congress battles over the unbelievably stupid debt ceiling. How do those people manage to dress themselves in the morning, much less be elected to America’s Congress? It boggles the mind.
CHICAGO — More than 450 Mexican immigrants in Illinois sexually abused nearly 2,000 children since 1950, the state’s attorney general found in an investigation released Tuesday, revealing that the problem was far worse than the government had let on.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul said at a news conference that investigators found that 451 Mexican immigants abused 1,997 children in Illinois between 1950 and 2019, though he acknowledged that the statute of limitations has expired in many cases and that those abusers “will never see justice in a legal sense.”
The review began in 2018 under Raoul’s predunts of sexual abuse and lists of immigrants accused of child sexual abuse.
Some of those named have become infamous due to criminal proceedings or lawsuits, including one Mexican immigrant, who was the subject of more than 100 abuse claims in the decades before his 2006 arrest for abusing five boys in Chicago.
Lisa Madigan, who released a blistering report as she prepared to leave office. Raoul continued the investigation, and he said Tuesday that 25 staff members reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents and engaged in more than 600 confidential interactions with contacts.
After reading this article, how do you feel about Mexicans?
How do you feel about immigrants? Think about it and be honest with yourself.
OK, this was my hoax.
The headline actually was, “Rabbis in Illinois sexually abused almost 2,000 children, state finds.”
Substitute “rabbis” and “Jews” for “Mexican immigrants” and you have the real story.
Now think about it. How do you feel about Jews and rabbis? Again, be honest with yourself.
Sorry again. That was another hoax I invented.
The real story was, “Catholic clergy in Illinois sexually abused almost 2,000 children, state finds.” No hoax this time.
How do you now feel about Catholics and their clergy?
At any time in the last few moments, did you feel a bit of hatred welling up? Did you think to yourself, “Just like those immigrants?” or “That’s typical of Mexicans”? Or maybe it was, “I’m not surprised at those Jews”?
Or, that’s what I always knew about Catholics”?
We aren’t born bigots. We learn it.
Watch little children playing together with no concern about color or religion. But somewhere along the line they learn hatred.
They learn it from their parents and friends. They learn it from celebrities and other leaders.
Republicans learn it from Fox and Trump. The learn it from QAnon and Tucker Carlson.
They learn it from Breitbart and Giuliani.
If you’re Catholic, you make excuses for the clergy’s sexual abuse. If you’re not Catholic, you claim it’s not an aberration, and you question the Catholic-heavy SCOTUS.
If you’re a Republican:
You’ve spent more than seven years making excuses for Trump’s immoral behavior, while voicing hatred for those who criticize him.
You are attracted by his hatred of minorities because he voices your hatred. The power of your hatred cannot be overstated.
Hatred blended with its cousins, anger and fear, combine into your most powerful emotion. It forces you to ignore facts and to act against your own best interests.
Hatred, anger, and fear of “them” (the poor, or black, or brown or gays, or Muslims, or Jews, or whomever) are why your half of the nation wants to expand work requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
You hate those supposed freeloaders (though you don’t have the same hatred for Donald Trump, the billionaire who paid less than zero taxes for six years — he claimed $5.8 million back from the government in 2020).
Did you or any immigrant do as well?
You hate those immigrant criminals and you want longer jail sentences for many of their crimes, but you don’t hate the man who ran a fake university that cheated thousands of students out of millions of dollars and a fake foundation that cheated the government.
Because he hates the same people you hate. It’s why you want easy access to guns, even open carry of semi-automatic, high-powered rifles — useless for hunting or target shooting, even useless for home or street defense.
Hatred, anger, and fear of “them.”
It’s why you want to build ever higher and longer walls on our borders, despite substantial evidence that undocumented immigrants are not the ones bringing drugs into America, nor are they lazy, criminal, takers, and all the miles of walls haven’t stopped undocumented immigration.
And by the way, Mexico didn’t pay for the walls, despite the guarantees of you-know-who.
On the contrary, undocumented immigrants comprise much of the hardest working, lowest paid, most productive, least criminal group in America.
They don’t even drive fast for fear of being arrested and deported.
Facts don’t matter when faced with hatred, anger, and fear.
It’s what makes you shrug off the first attempt to destroy America since the Civil War, i.e. the violent attempt to nullify the results of the last Presidential election (though curiously, you like the results of the other lower elections that favored Republicans).
And while you’re shrugging, and even denying that it happened, you also shrug off Trump’s encouragement of the coup and his allowing it to continue for hours while he watched on TV, hoping it would succeed and calling VP Pence a traitor for not participating.
It’s what makes you continue believing the notorious Fox network, despite their being forced to pay nearly $800 million for lying.
The only reason some of you have left Fox is their firing of their single worst lying, hatemonger, fear-monger, Tucker Carlson. You love his hatred.
It’s what makes you continue to support the man and the party that told you COVID would “just go away,” resulting in your refusal to mask, vaccinate, or to avoid close contacts.
That refusal cost you more than a million American lives — your relatives, friends, and fellow sympathizers. You bear no ill will toward that man and party for their lies, because they hate the same people you hate.
Instead, you have been convinced to join in endless criticisms of, even threats against, those who sought to protect you.
You don’t criticize police brutality against minorities, but you are outraged at the FBI for investigating the man who by any reasonable measure, is a traitor to America.
Killing unarmed blacks is OK, but searching for stolen documents hidden in the home of a proven thief and liar is beyond the pale, even when the search turns up the stolen documents he tried to hide.
You hate non-existent “socialism,” of the kind that gave you Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ACA, poverty aids, and aids to education, but you love the fascism and white supremacy countenanced by the political party that supports your hatred of gays, Muslims, people of color, and women who don’t follow the Catholic Church’s beliefs.
You believe any denunciation of the Jew, George Soros, no matter how wrongheaded, unsupported, and well. . . stupid. . . , that claim might be.
And speaking wrongheaded, unsupported, and stupid, brings us to QAnon, whose claims began as a joke about a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic child molesters running an international child sex trafficking gang from a pizza parlor.
As the claims have become even more wildly ridiculous, you believe them more deeply.
You believe right wing, Trump supporter and hate monger, Alex Jones, despite his being ordered to pay $1.5 billion for his lies.
It’s not a new phenomenon. Hatred of native Americans has a long history. Hatred of Jews has an even longer one. White hatred of blacks ironically stems from white mistreatment of blacks, perhaps as a justification for that mistreatment.
People own guns for several reasons. Some people are collectors. Some are hunters. Some are target shooters.
But one big reason is personal safety. Many people are convinced that their easy access to, and liberal carry of, guns makes them safer.
They feel that if they have a gun in their home or can carry it in the street, they will be able to protect themselves.
In this, they are correct. A gun is a potent, self-protection device.
However, they don’t seem to understand, or they do understand but deny two things:
1. If they have easy access to guns, then everyone else has easy access to guns, and having everyone else own and carry guns is a danger their own gun ownership doesn’t solve.
In a way, it’s like driving. We post speed limits, and we arrest people for exceeding those limits.
There are many roads posted for 60 mph that I would love to drive at 85 mph. I feel I’m a good enough driver to do it safely.
But I don’t because I don’t want to get stopped by a cop. And I don’t object to the posting because I don’t want every damn fool driver to zoom past me going 85 mph on that road.
Yes, there are plenty of damn fool drivers who break the law. Sometimes I do it myself. Still don’t object to the speed limit because I am convinced that, despite all the law-breakers, speed limits save lives.
2. And this is the second thing gun owners deny, the “It can’t happen to me” part:
— Clinicians need to start conversations about gun access, researcher urges by Kristen Monaco, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today, May 22, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO — Many teens who died by firearm suicide grew up in gun-owning families, according to a small psychological autopsy study.
Interviews with family members of nine teens who died by firearm suicide showed that 89% of decedents had prior family engagement with firearms or the family considered itself to be engaged in firearm culture, said Paul Nestadt, MD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Clinic in Baltimore.
Keep in mind this was an exceedingly small study, so statistics related to this study have little meaning.
“Interventions must acknowledge culturally embedded routes of identity formation while re-scripting firearms from expressions of family cohesion to instruments that may undermine that cohesion — and might cost the life of their child,” Nestadt said during a press conference at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting.
Suicide death rates have been steadily climbing since 2000, Nestadt explained, and now account for the second most common cause of death among youth.
“It’s a big problem,” Nestadt said. “And when we’re talking about suicide, it’s hard not to talk about firearm suicide.”
“One of the reasons so many suicides are by firearm … is that firearm attempts are much more lethal,” he added.
According to CDC data, firearms are the most common method used in suicide; they were used in 55% of suicides in 2021.
Of suicide attempts that involved a firearm, 90% resulted in a fatality.
For reference, Nestadt said only about 8% of all suicide attempts result in death. “That’s why having a firearm is such an important risk factor for completed suicide,” he said. In addition, most firearm deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
Three distinct themes emerged from the qualitative interviews. The first was firearm culture’s prevalence among families of youth who died by firearm suicide.
“[He] used to love shooting with his dad. That was something that they did together. It was a big connection point for them,” one person said during the interview.
Firearm culture tended to play an integral role in how these families identified themselves and were part of family traditions, Nestadt explained.
The second theme that emerged — and the most clinically relevant, according to Nestadt — was the perspective on firearm risk. Many family members tended to be unaware of the potential danger that access to firearms posed for youth at risk for suicide, and few locked up household guns.
Most families said they would have removed guns from the house if it had been suggested.
“If [the hospital] had recommended it, we would’ve agreed and removed the gun from the house. But I wasn’t worried, though — it wasn’t even a thought,” said one family member.
“I know these are politically valent topics of the time, but as healthcare providers, we ask about their sex life, rashes, all kinds of sensitive things, religion,” he said. “It’s important that we’re able to really do that.”
“I will point out for any healthcare provider that it’s never illegal to ask about gun access. It’s medically relevant to saving your patient’s life,” Nestadt added.
“Pediatricians: remember, this is the second leading cause of death,” he said. “It’s important to screen for all these things that can hurt your kid, but the most likely thing that will result in your child patient dying will be suicide. The number one is accidental death.”
This theme was closely entangled with the third theme that emerged from interviews, which involved risk mitigation strategies.
Calling this “truly a courageous study,” session moderator Howard Liu, MD, MBA, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, praised the research for bringing up such an “important, timely public health discussion.”
“Of course, we’re all facing this challenge of how do we reduce suicide in all ages … and I think this is a really vital discussion and such an important clue about access, and just trying to reduce accessin the moment of impulsivity and a moment of grief.“
Those last few words are important. Young people tend to be impulsive. Children look for a way to end their pain when things go badly or even seem to go badly.
Fear, embarrassment, rejection, and failure, all are magnified in the young mind, and if there is a gun in the house, death might seem like a preference or a solution rather than a danger.
If you gun owners learn that your child has been driving too fast and has received tickets, you might take his car keys away. But kids generally don’t try to commit suicide by driving, and if they do make an attempt, they likely will survive it.
Bullets are much less survivable.
The bottom line is, easy access to guns might make you feel safer, but that safety is an illusion. And yes, laws cannot 100% prevent criminals from accessing guns, just as laws cannot 100% prevent speeding, dealing drugs, or committing burglaries.
But we have laws for a reason. Laws help prevent bad acts and bad outcomes.
When we had laws restricting gun ownership, we had fewer gun deaths. Laws work. We should try them again.
Of course, a gun accident or suicide can’t happen in your house, can it?