Arithmetic Second

I recently had about the best experience happen as a retired teacher could wish for. I was watching TV as a young, bright woman was being interviewed regarding President Obama’s Cost Containment Committee. She said something like, they are doing it backwards; they need to put social needs first and do the arithmetic second. The simplicity and the accuracy of that statement was, as my grandkids say, “awesome.”

I recently had about the best experience happen as a retired teacher could wish for.  I was watching TV as a young, bright woman was being interviewed regarding President Obama’s Cost Containment Committee.  She said something like, they are doing it backwards; they need to put social needs first and do the arithmetic second.  The simplicity and the accuracy of that statement was, as my grandkids say, “awesome.”

This elegant woman in her early thirties looked familiar.  Her name was the same as one of my former 7th grade students.  Could it be?  I Googled her name, found her email, and sent her a query, and immediately received an excited  response… yes, it was she.  Now I was twice delighted.  I had seen a bright young middleschooler become that future brilliant adult evident in that child  over 20 years ago.   Perhaps I had contributed a small part to that brilliance emerging; teachers always hope so.  Secondly, what she said has profoundly affected how I now view the constant economic chatter heard from both parties and their supporting cast of economists.

We need to cut the deficit;  we need free markets;  we need to cut taxes; we need less regulation; we should impose tariffs;  we need less military spending; we need to;  we need to,  and we need to.  And why do we need to?  We need to, so the economy will work, so the arithmetic will work, but no one seems to be asking, with the exception  of my former seventh grader, what is the purpose of the arithmetic.

Disregarding sociopaths, people want a clean world, a healthy world, a safe world;  we want a sustainable world; we don’t want to be blown up nor poisoned; we want freedom from pain, and we want our toys too.  Rational people are aware that we have limited resources, both natural and economic.

If I understand it correctly, the wealth used for trade and barter can only be derrived from human labor, so where do we put our labor?  Our business schools teach our best and brightest how to organize instituitons so those institutions can generate wealth,  but do they ask why are we generating this wealth?  These young people learn to do the arithmetic, and that arithmetic works.  Millions, billions, trillions of dollars, euros, yen are amassed and traded every day.  But why?  But why? What for?

Do we grow genetically modified corn and throw megatons of carbon into our atmosophere to make the balance sheet better, or to increase the quality of the human condition?  Do we have private insurance companies managing our healthcare because they can do a better job of lessening the pain of our population most efficiently or because we are tied to an economic concept.  A concept considered beneficial because the arithmetic says that  this system generates dollars for shareholders.  Shareholders then can spend their dollars to keep the economy going.  It is simple arithmetic.

Simply put,  it is time that we ask the why first, before we debate the how.  Let’s figure out the problem first, and then use our arithmetic as best we can to solve the problem, not have the arithmetic determine our actions.   Thank you Heather; it is a gift to learn from ones student.

Matt

Health Care Debate.. Again

Health costs are bankrupting small businesses and even conglomerates like General Motors as well as millions of families. Medicare is on track to go broke by 2017, and our long-term budget problems are primarily health-cost problems.

Cost if health care
Pay up!

Why is it bad to be sick? Is it a tough theoretical question?

How does being chronically ill affect your family? Your quality of life? Your job?
How does being sick affect your finances?
Are these difficult questions?
Are you taking medications? It seems it is becoming a norm to take medications after a certain age.
Why? Why is that a rule rather than an exception?
Why are we becoming a society of sick people? Why are we getting used to the fact that a half of our population is sick?!
WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?
WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR “HEALTH CARE”
Some more “questions” to my fellow Americans: would you prefer to stay healthy or to be sick?
Fat or trim
To go fishing or to go to the doctor
To pay the doctor or to go on vacation
Socialized Government care
Would you prefer:
To be insured by the private firefighter company or to have “Government firefighters” that you know will be there if your house catches fire.
Do you want USPS service to mail your letter or do you want private companies like UPS only?
Do you want a “social” government army or a Blackwater type army?
Do you need to be an economist or a politician to understand the benefits of basic health care for ALL?
Health care issues in our country are long-term problems and require long term solutions.
It starts with going back to basics.
Preventive care.
Time Magazine June 29 2009
No. 1 killer of Americans (as it has been for all but a few years since 1900), our collective waistline continues to bulge, diabetes rates march ever higher, and after steadily declining in recent decades, the smoking rate among high schoolers is leveling off. The U.S. boasts the best cutting-edge medicine in the world, yet 75% of our health-care costs are attributable to chronic, preventable diseases. In all, about 40% of premature deaths in the U.S. are caused by lifestyle choices — smoking, poor eating and inactivity
Did you notice” the best cutting-edge medicine in the world”-not the best healthcare system in the world. Do you understand the difference?
More questions:
Your car: Do you change the oil regularly or do you wait until you need to replace the engine?
Do you check the brakes from time to time or do you replace the whole mechanism after it falls apart?
In short, do you prefer to do preventative maintenance for your car?
If yes – why?
Is that because you may get killed on the road or you know that you will need to spend money on a new car if you don’t take care of it?
However you treat your car, do you treat your body the same way?
If you do not do preventative care of your body – why?
Is it because it is cheaper to replace parts of your body than parts of your car?
Or is it easier to get a new body than a new car?
Do you need to be an economist to understand the benefits of preventative care?
Ours is a system that rewards pills and procedures and nurtures a clinical culture in which the goal is primarily to fix what goes wrong. “I never saw a well patient in my life,” says a doctor of the years he spent as a heart surgeon. “They were all sick. We are in the sickness business. We need to get into the health business.”
Do you need to read statistics to know that “health” care in our country is in crisis taken hostage by drug and insurance conglomerates?
Conglomerates whose ONLY concern is profit not your health.
In order to make more money, the goal of insurance companies is NOT to treat you.
The goal of drug companies is to help your symptoms a little so you will keep buying their products-drugs. In other words – to keep you sick.
And doctors are forced to do a lot of unnecessary procedures because of the pay structure and liability concerns.
Healthcare problems
Serious problem

“ The U.S. spends more on health care than any other country does, and studies have suggested that as much as 30% of it — perhaps $700 billion a year — may be wasted on unneeded care, mostly routine CT scans and MRIs, office visits, minor procedures and brand-name prescriptions that are requested by patients and ordered by doctors every day.

For example, chronically ill patients in Los Angeles visited doctors an average of 59.2 times in the last six months of their life, vs. only 14.5 times in Ogden, Utah; they still ended up just as dead.
Patients in higher-spending regions get more tests, more procedures, more referrals to specialists and more time in the hospital and ICU, but the Dartmouth research has found that if anything, their outcomes are slightly worse. “We’re flying blind,” says Dartmouth’s Dr. Elliott Fisher. “We’re getting quantity, not quality.”
My fellow Americans
Look around when you are in public places. Look around at people.
Do you see overweight and sick people around? According to Chicago Tribune average American carries an extra 23 pounds and the nation, collectively, is about 4.6 billion pounds overweight.
Reactioners insist that ours is the “Best Health Care in the world”
Really? How come we have more sick people in our country than any other industrialized nation??
The direct medical costs of obesity total about $147 billion annually — almost twice the amount since CDC first considered costs in 1998, and more than $50 billion more than is spent fighting cancer each year — according to a study funded by the CDC Foundation and released Monday.
Do you have to be a doctor or a statistician to see the picture?
Or do you just need to open your eyes and to pay attention?
Do you know that insurance companies tell doctors how much time they are allowed to spend with each patient? (15 minutes)
Here is this scary word, “SOCIALIZED” health care that reactionaries are trying to scare you with.
Can you explain what “socialized” means?
Do you like socialized Army, or do you prefer Blackwater type armed forces?
Firefighters, Post Office, Veterans affairs, and numerous other government services?
There is a role for the government in human societies. That is why governments are as old as human civilization.
It is just that the government should be kept in check, under control, just as private corporations should be.
In the near future, I believe that patients won’t have to wait until they’re ill in order to feel comfortable going to the doctor. Health care should be able to prevent that from happening.
Optimizing overall health is no longer a choice, it’s a responsibility.
You owe it to yourself and your family to be well enough to dance at your daughter’s wedding someday spend an amorous weekend with your spouse or hike with your grandchildren. The last 20 years of your life, you are either going to spend well or ill. There is no real in-between.
“People under financial stress don’t take care of themselves as well,” says Dr. Timothy Gardner, a cardiac surgeon and president of the AHA. “If they end up neglecting medication or skipping dental cleanings, they’re adding to their health risks.”
Pressure on families’ medical budgets has been building for decades. In 1970, U.S. spending on health care amounted to 7% of national output. By last year, it was 17%. In fact, 2008’s health outlays of $2.4 trillion exceeded our spending on housing or food.
A large proportion of the total reflects our frequent use of advanced specialty care, in which American medicine leads the world. But according to the World Health Organization, our country ranks behind 30 others in promoting the simple preventive care, good nutrition, and exercise that enable people to live longer. Average life expectancy in the United States is about 78 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In Japan, it is 83 years; even Costa Rica does slightly better.
Some more statistics
• One American dies every 33 seconds from Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD)
• AHA (American Heart Assoc.) estimates for the year 2005 are that 80,700,000 people in the United States have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD):
High Blood Pressure
Coronary Heart Disease
Stroke
Heart Failure
Health costs are bankrupting small businesses and even conglomerates like General Motors as well as millions of families. And it’s awful for the country. Medicare is on track to go broke by 2017, and our long-term budget problems are primarily health-cost problems. At current growth rates, health spending by the Federal Government alone would increase from 5% to 20% of the economy by 2050; Social Security, by contrast, would increase only from 5% to 6%.
One Dartmouth study found that if nationwide spending had mirrored the modest rate of that in Rochester, Minn. — where care is dominated by the renowned Mayo Clinic — Medicare would have reduced its costs for chronically ill patients by $50 billion from 2001 to 2005. As the old inflation-adjusted saying goes, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
Health Care Revolution
There is a wellness revolution under way, where people are looking to take a more proactive approach to their own health care. An emphasis on health and wellness that focuses on the prevention rather than the mere treatment of disease is the future of healthcare.
Prevention Must Be a Priority
U.S. health care needs to shift its focus away from treating illnesses and problems and move toward prevention instead, declares Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “We cannot achieve our ultimate goal—a healthier nation—unless we shift away from a sick-care system,” she said at a Senate hearing earlier this spring. “We pay for emergencies, not the care that prevents them, with little emphasis on the responsibility each of us has in keeping ourselves and our families well.”
Some smart employers, health plans, and medical providers are experimenting with ways to save people’s health dollars or use them more effectively. Their goal is to make it easier, even in a recession, for families to receive the care they need.
“I spend 40 percent of my time away from my patients doing paperwork and getting prior authorizations,” said Jim King, MD, a family physician in Selmer, Tenn. “We need to start taking the barriers that are between me and my patients away.”
The U.S. has a catastrophically fragmented system that provides incentives for sick care instead of prevention. The system is in dire need of reform – reform to save lives, to save families and to save money for both patients and the American health care system.
It’s time to put our health back where it belongs, out of greedy insurance companies’ grasp and back into you and your doctor’s hands. It’s time to stand with more than 450,000 doctors who support health care reform.
As we are trying desperately to break away from the “Wild West” medieval past in America – the reactionary forces are still powerful. The self preservation instinct takes over and the reactionaries are fighting for survival. They want the “Good Old Times”, the past to become the Present again.
Don’t kid yourselves. It is not about health care for them – it is self preservation, it is limbic brain in action.
My fellow Americans. Do not let them scare you into inaction!
Look around! You do not have to be a professional to see sick people around you. Open your eyes!
Do not allow yourself to get used to what you see.
The definition of insanity is when you keep doing the same thing and expect different results.
Fire your elected officials who do not want change.
No nation can be called civilized if millions of its citizens are denied basic health care.
My last question to my fellow Americans: do we want to become a civilized nation?
Nathan

The way we look at things

There is a movement in this country and in the rest of the world to encourage people to take personal control of their health by educating themselves about adopting a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. Will we need affordable healthcare for all?

At times, I feel that we approach life from the wrong direction.
A few examples:
Climate change
Climate is changing

1. Global warming, or perhaps global cooling, let’s just call it climate change. Is this really occurring beyond a reasonable doubt? Before we do anything to reduce pollution, should we not wait for incontrovertible proof of its existence? But, why wait? What could be bad about cleaning up our planet? Must we have hard facts indicating that current energy resources will be depleted before practicing energy conservation? Just what could be the downside in developing green energy sources?

Usually the counterargument states that these efforts “will hurt the economy.” It is my understanding that people create economies. Economies are created by people in order to make life better, in other words, in the pursuit of happiness.

Polluting the environment
Clean air

Does dirty air, water and a toxic laden environment make us happier let alone healthier? Does the chronic worry about toxins everywhere make us healthier and happier? It seems to me that the only entities which become happier and benefit from our current situations are multinational corporations.

2. Now about health care. First, people need to be educated on how to stay healthy. We all know that our country’s people are not getting healthier; cancer will soon surpass heart diseases as the main cause of death, and rates of CVD (cardio vascular disease) are skyrocketing. Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, especially in children. I see this as the unintended result of our Western economic model spiraling out of control. The economy appears to be feeding on itself for the sake of the economy. There is a movement in this country and in the rest of the world to encourage people to take personal control of their health by educating themselves about adopting a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. Will we need affordable healthcare for all?

Absolutely! It is the only ethical choice.

Again, I think we are approaching the issue from the wrong side. The state of our current economy is itself very stressful, and what creates most of the stress? Money! In our country, a disproportionate amount of our people’s income is spent on medical bills.

stress factor
Stressed out

So, people get sicker due to technology, the industrialization of their food supply and chemicals in our environment. Making it even worse, people are further stressed because of the money needed for “health care.” And this just makes them sicker. It seems obvious that it would be sensible, moral and prudent to remove these stress factors. As our economy grows, trying to solve problems, it appears to be creating new ones. In short, the current economic model is not sustainable.

So, what would be the right approach? Again, what is wrong with staying healthy? We need to educate ourselves, and use technology wisely, for our sake, not for the sake of the “economy”. Do the right thing and the economy should follow. After all, the economy is supposed to function for our benefit, not the other way around. There was a saying in the USSR “we create problems and successfully overcome them.” Are we are following in their footsteps?

3. It seems to me that a significant portion of our planet’s resources is being wasted. Our economy is a consumption-based economy. We consume stuff; our economy produces more stuff to consume so we can generate income to enable us to purchase and consume more stuff. While admittedly not an economist, I can state that in the long run this continual spiral of production and consumption is unsustainable. It is just a giant Ponzi scheme. Our planet’s resources are limited. The planet’s population is growing exponentially. If we continue on a current path, we are heading toward a cliff.

Our planet’s capacity to feed its growing population is diminishing. In order to keep up with the demand, farms become technological factories overusing chemicals, utilizing genetic engineering and adopting mono-culture-based farming (corn, soy beans) . These practices create tremendous health problems for our population. Pharmaceutical companies come up with more and more drugs to deal with health issues. The use of these drugs then cause side effects creating the need for more drugs. The spiral continues.

All of the above issues are interconnected. We must understand how all these problems affect each other and how these interconnections exacerbate our problems. To keep up with growing demand, the industrial nations need more and more energy. More energy allows us to make stuff for us to consume; so we get sick; so pharmaceuticals make more drugs for us to deal with that sickness, and we just get sicker. In order to afford “healthcare” we need to consume more stuff to support the economy, and this way we just continue to poison our environment and create energy crises and an unhealthy planet

And all this is supposed to make our lives better? Because, remember, we created this economy for our benefit. So, maybe we should do things that will benefit us and “the economy” will follow. For example, our approach to healthcare and medical education should be changed from “cure” to prevention.

The Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov stated, “At the end, the moral choice, is the most pragmatic choice.”

We must do the moral thing and the economy will adopt, follow and support ethical practices.

In my opinion, if we do not change our approach to the “economy” there will be no economy.

Disillusioned..Or the end of the empire

Are we protecting freedom? Whose freedom? Do we have more freedom since we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan? Financial freedom? Freedom to be happy? According to statistics, we are not much happier then people of Sudan.

Some thoughts about current affairs:

  • We as a country are falling behind in every way.

    Falling behind in aducation
    Our future
  • Education
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare- are we healthy as a nation?
  • Wealth – we live on borrowed money
  • Military – cannot have strong military without money, health and education.
  • A little bit more about military: there is no use for conventional military with tanks, fighter jets and bombers against new enemy. That is unless you want to occupy every country that hides terrorists.

How did it happen that from liberators we became occupiers and world’s policeman? Because that is how we are perceived in occupied countries and in the rest of the world.

So, what are we doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are we protecting our interests? What interests? Oil? We all know that oil is the past, not the future.

Are we protecting freedom? Whose freedom? Do we have more freedom since we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan? Financial freedom? Freedom to be happy? According to statistics, we are not much happier then people of Sudan.

Also, if history teaches us something, occupiers never win.

A little bit about militant Islam.

Just like western doctors, we fight with symptoms, not the cause of militant Islam. We are supporting the oppressive regimes around the globe, which are “friendly” to us. Why we are supporting these regimes? That support creates the impression that America is the oppressor, so the local population becomes radicalized and hates their own rulers and their supporter – the US.

If we would know the natural laws that govern development of the society, we would be able to use these laws to our advantage, instead of installing “democracies” western style in tribal societies.

Some thoughts about our President.

President Obama is too pragmatic and too practical to be a great president, he did not have the courage to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because he added troops in Afghanistan, it is his war now.

Manufacturing exports
Exports from America and China

The fall of the Empire.

If you studied the history of the Roman Empire, you would see the similarities between the last years of the Roman Empire and the current situation in US.

Is the end inevitable? I do not know.

There is a crisis growing in our country. The conflict between the progressive forces trying to advance the country and the reactionaries trying to hold us back, to keep us in old and comfortable for them society.

Many people are not comfortable, unhappy, in this fast changing dynamic society. They long for “good old” simpler, happier times.

New skills are needed to succeed in today’s advanced technological civilization. And the majority does not have those skills. The reactionaries are using these anxieties to advance their own agenda.

Their public agenda – back to good old simpler times. The real agenda – they are just puppets of multinational corporations. And also, I suspect that many of their followers are just confused and scared to death of this new world.

Another note – during the crises extreme elements are more visible, more vocal. It is like you steer standing water, all the crap comes up to the surface. So, if not Limbaugh, Cheney, Hennity some other crap would flow there.

In light of what is going on right now.

How to address the growing crisis in America?
Crisis

We are at a very dangerous crossroads. The rise of mediocrity and cheap populism in these troubling times is similar to the times of the rise of the Third Reich.

This situation brings the opportunists that use uninformed and confused populous to their advantage.

I would argue that whether we like the President and the Democrats is not as important right now. We have to realize that the alternative is much worse:

  • the rise of storm troupers
  • the rise of mediocrity
  • the suspicion towards intellectuals
  • the threat of violence

We know it happened before. Please do not let it happen again.

Please don’t be the “silent majority” While you are still a majority.

Speck up. The tea baggers are the loud minority.

History tends to repeat itself if people don’t know history.

Do not let mediocrity win in this great country.

To American citizens who are better off than 98% of us

My dear rich citizens, We bailed out many of you, saved your well-being from disaster that, between us, many of you helped to create. But we need your help now.

Inequality My dear Americans, I assume that you love this country that gave you the opportunity to have so much. I assume that you are patriots and you want US to succeed. It is nice to know that at least some American citizens are doing better in these trying times. Good for you. But the vast majority is not doing that great. Of course you realize that as a country we are in trouble: mounting debt, unemployment, deterioration of the middle class.
Our education needs major improvements; the country’s infrastructure is in disrepair.
As patriots we all have to pool together to help.
My dear rich citizens, We bailed out many of you, saved your well-being from disaster that, between us, many of you helped to create. But we need your help now.
Not a lot…a little, like 3%. We understand that you need to make a living too. We are not asking you to mortgage one of your mansions. We are not asking you to sell your Rolls Royce or a fur coat or to lay off some of your servants.
We assume that you want to help your country. We asking for a little help, like 3% of your taxable income. For most of you it will be less than you spend on one of your vacations. It is an inconvenience, we know. Yet, for the rest of us it will be a tremendous help. That would help many people to keep their family homes – the only home they’ve got. That would help many kids get a good education, so that they will be able to get a good job and contribute to our country, and to help you to get even wealthier.
That meager 3% would help our middle class, middle class that is loosing ground as you get richer.
My fellow rich Americans,
This country is very generous to you. Your share of this country’s wealth has increased 10 fold in just several decades. We are asking you as patriots of this country to share just a little bit more with your countrymen in this time of need.
We helped you, remember.
We are being very careful not to ask too much so, God forbid, you will suffer the inconvenience.
Don’t get us wrong. It is an American dream after all – to get rich. And as an American, don’t you want to keep this dream alive for all of us?
We just do not want this country to become a Third World country, because that’s what happens when the middle class is gone; because then you will have to hide behind walls with barbed wire.
So please try to overcome your selfishness and your greed and be an America citizen. Please show America that you care. Please tell your servants – the Republicans – that you want to help, that you are ready for a sacrifice. Also would you tell your servants to release the hostage – our and your country – America. Please tell them it is OK to support the arms treaty with Russia, because Republicans do not do anything without your approval.
My fellow rich Americans. It is not bad to be rich; it is bad to loose basic human attributes such as conscience, compassion and the great feeling that you are an American.
I just want to add that I have a great respects for people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, George Soros and many others. Sadly they are a small minority.