Reviewing the Triumph of Injustice

Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman are two economists at the University of California, Berkeley. Their book The Triumph of Injustice demonstrates how America’s system of taxation benefits the wealthy more than it has since the 1920s; in fact, the 400 richest Americans now pay less than any other group of Americans.
You may have seen this point being disputed on social media. Corporate-sponsored centrists say Saez and Zucman are wrong because their work doesn’t consider the Earned Income Tax credit that benefits low and middle income families. To that foolishness I say the following:

The idea that we are even debating whether billionaires pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than do people who have children and are struggling to make enough to feed them is embarrassing to the United States of America. In anything approaching a fair society, people would intrinsically know that billionaires pay more than people struggling to put food on the table. The idea that centrist Democrats are engaging in this debate demonstrates why the Democratic Party is out of touch with what is happening in America.

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Andrew Yang’s Idea’s are stupid

I have been resisting writing this post for months. I kept telling myself Andrew Yang isn’t worth the trouble. But he keeps fooling too many. He distracts from important debate topics by smugly asserting nonsense. So, I can’t resist any longer.

Most people know the ever-increasing wealth gap between the rich and the poor in America is a huge, embarrassing problem. Demonstrating the stupidity of Yang’s ideas only requires us to agree on two things: anything that gives the wealthy more is stupid; anything that makes the rest of us pay more is stupid. With those agreements established, let’s look at Yang’s ideas.

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The Dog Whistles of Reasonability and Sensibility

For those who don’t know, political dog whistles are things said that seemingly mean one thing but which are meant to communicate a hidden meaning to those who understand the language. In the Democratic primary, we are inundated with the political dog whistles of reasonability and sensibility. As you will see, the corporate-run media and their beloved bought and paid for centrist candidates use the dog whistles of reasonability and sensibility to ensure old white people they have their backs.

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Thoughts on the October Democratic Debate

The October Democratic debate was interesting. It was different than the previous debates in several aspects. I don’t believe it will change the race much though. Warren will still be seen as on the rise. Biden will still be seen as falling. Sanders will be seen as having stabilized his campaign and still firmly in the top three. For the rest, it’s almost midnight.

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There Should be no Billionaires

I will say it again: there should be no billionaires. Let me prove the point with some simple math. If a person was given five thousand dollars a day for 500 years and never spent a dollar, they would have $912,500. This means if someone got and saved five thousand dollars a day for 500 years, obviously something no person could do, they would not be a billionaire.

Now, let’s look at how that compares to the wages of Americans today.

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Abolish my Health Insurance and Raise my Taxes

Through my job with the city of Portland, I have better health insurance than many Americans. Still, I would gladly trade my adequate insurance and pay more taxes to support all Americans having access to health care.

I will use the rest of this post to demonstrate why my recent eye problems have reminded me there is no such thing as good, fair for-profit health insurance.

Billing for Nothing

When my eye started acting up, I had to go to the emergency room. I went to the emergency room at a Providence hospital. During the intake process, I was honest about my prosthetic eye, the problems I Was having with my eye, the history of issues with my eye, and what I thought was happening.

Yesterday, I mailed Providence a bill for $738. My health insurer and I paid providence roughly $3,000. Let’s see what we got for our money.

  1. Providence ran several tests, including a Cat Scan.
  2. Two unduly people checked my eye.
  3. The person who read the Cat Scan believed I had an abscess in my head that most likely required prompt surgery.
  4. I was then told Providence didn’t have anyone who could help me. I needed to see a specialist at Oregon Health Sciences University.

To recap: Providence was paid roughly $3,000 to misread a Cat Scan, misdiagnose my problem, and tell me they didn’t have anyone who could help me.

This highlights one of the big problems with America’s for-profit health care industry: they are paid for services provided. It doesn’t matter if the services are competent. It doesn’t matter if the services are needed. What matters is that services are provided and bills for those services are sent.

When I arrived at the emergency room, Providence knew they didn’t have anyone there familiar with prosthetic eyes, or even anyone who specialized in optometry. Yet, they made sure they ran their tests and had people see me so they could send their bills.

Checking the Network

When it was determined I needed a new prosthetic eye, my surgeon referred me to an ocularist (someone who makes prosthetic eyes). When I called the ocularist, I was told they needed to check with my insurer before scheduling me for a new eye. They wouldn’t schedule me until my insurer said I was in the network, determined how much they would be paid, and that I could cover the $603 that wound up being my coinsurance.

My doctor recommended a service I absolutely needed. Yet, my insurer–not my surgeon–decided whether or not I could see the recommended specialist. And don’t forget I wouldn’t have seen the specialist if I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to afford the $603 my insurer refused to pay.

Payments and Timing

The arrangement between my employer and insurer says our plans work off of a fiscal year that starts on July first. The July first date is most likely based on July first being the start of Portland’s fiscal year. But Mota, my insurer, likes the arrangement because premiums, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits reset and/or increase every July first.

To make this simple: I’m going to wind up paying double for the procedures on my eye than I would have paid had I first gone to the emergency room in December. This is because had the months-long process ended before the end of June, my out-of-pocket costs would have been capped at $1,800. Since everything resets on July first, I paid $1,800 for the bills incurred before the end of June. By the time I pay for the surgery I’m having in October, I will pay another $1,800.

I have no control over billing schedules. Obviously, I can’t control when my eye will need treatment. But my out-of-pocket costs aren’t related to the services I need, or how much those services cost; instead, they are based entirely on a payment schedule agreed to between my employer and my insurer.

Conclusion

The next time you believe your medical decisions and/or the costs for your medical services are determined by you and your doctor, I hope you will remember this post. In reality, our employers and the insurers they contract with control what treatments we get and how much we pay for those treatments. When you throw in a system that rewards services provided instead of caring about generated outcomes, you have a system that makes huge profits for health insurance corporations at our expense.

Capital Gains Taxes Explained

It has been a long time since I’ve written a nerdy post. So, I needed to exercise that need.

Capital Gains taxes aren’t a sexy topic by any means; however, understanding a little about capital gains taxes will help you understand how rigged the system is in favor of wealthy. It’s things, like capitals gains taxes, that have caused me to be as progressive as I have become.

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