Covered California: I Died and Woke Up in Canada

Covered CaliforniaSo I finally got around to getting on the Obamacare exchange here, which is called Covered California. It was a remarkably easy thing to do. I think it took me about a half hour. And I make so much money that my monthly premiums for Kaiser Permanente are $1. It seemed like a joke. It reminds me of those idiots on Fox and Friends who were calling for everyone to have to pay at least something in income taxes so that they had “skin in the game.” (It was pretty clear that if this happened, they would only want more to the point where everyone payed the same amount — but that’s a topic for another time.)

A new feature of Covered California this year is dental insurance. I was able to sign up with Delta Dental for $13.95 per month. I picked it because when I managed a dental office, Delta of California was by far the best insurer. You may not know this but about 80% of managing a dental office is fighting with insurance companies. And Delta was very good about paying without a lot of fuss. And when I saw that the co-pay on root canals wae only $300, I was hooked. (Now if I can just find a regular dentist who is up for doing a couple of molar root canals, I’ll be set.)

Obamacare is something that conservatives think is evil. But these are the same people who think that unions are evil. And that minimum wage is evil. And that forcing employers to provide healthcare is evil.

I feel like I died and woke up in Canada. I’ve always been positive about Obamacare. But not like this. This seems to me very much like universal care. And I very much wish that I had had this back a decade ago when I almost died and ended up owing over a $100,000 in medical bills. But more than that, I’m just looking forward to going in and getting a physical and a checkup and starting the process of my dental triage.

But think about this. Obamacare is something that conservatives think is evil. But these are the same people who think that unions are evil. And that the minimum wage is evil. And that forcing employers to provide healthcare is evil. They are the big proponents of the “gig economy.” Well folks, I am the poster boy of the gig economy. I’m self-employed. I get money from a number of different sources. And if it weren’t for Obamacare, I’d be screwed. I’d be forced to join the Freelancers Union, which I have mixed feelings about politically and which is mostly just a for-profit insurance company that offers far more expensive insurance and (as far as I can tell) no dental.

It’s weird. The American conservative movement is mostly made up of a bunch of people with cushy jobs that are more like what people did in the 1950s with employer provided healthcare and retirement plans. In fact, I know people like this. My brother-in-law has a great union job, but has this attitude the young people are lazy. But it’s the young people who are out hustling to make a living. His father got him the job he has had for decades. All he has to do is show up and do his work, which is a great advantage compared to what people like me have to do in the modern economy.

So the fight against Obamacare continues on. But for the people of California it seems we are now living at least on the outskirts of civilizations. I could hardly ask for anything more. I feel very lucky indeed. It is like I died and woke up in Canada.

Eric Harwood Is Voting His Own Best Interests

Eric HarwoodMatt Bruenig wrote, The Story of Eric Harwood. It’s a very sympathetic telling of the story of a 47-year-old working class man who now finds himself disabled with difficulty getting SSI because of some understandable mistakes. It’s very sad and I do hope the whole thing works out for him. He deserves to get disability insurance and live a dignified life.

I’ve written a lot about this kind of thing in the past. Every time some politician starts going on about fraud in government programs, I know what the net result will be: loads of people who clearly deserve help won’t get it just so we can stop a handful of people who probably don’t. But this is the conservative way, is it not? It’s better to let children starve than allow an able bodied surfer to eat lobster at government expense. Or, in another area, it is better to stop millions of people from voting rather than allow one ineligible person to vote.

It turns out that Eric Harwood is an ultra-conservative. He’s hoping that the Republicans will nominate Ted Cruz and Donald Trump; he doesn’t care which one of them is on the top of the ticket. Now I am very tired of hearing liberals complain that conservatives don’t vote in their own best interests. They do vote in their own best interests — as they see them. And Harwood is an entirely typical conservative. I run into them all the time.

“Why is it that we’re bringing in illegal aliens into our country, and now bringing in more refugees spending billions and trillions of dollars on both.” —Eric Harwood

Let’s suppose that Eric Harwood gets his SSI — as he clearly should. He will then almost certainly spend a great deal of time watching Fox News and listening to hate radio. He will continue to rail against all those undeserving people sucking off the tit of the American tax payer. The fact that he is doing exactly the same thing will cause no cognitive dissonance in him. And that’s because he is one of the deserving ones. He isn’t some libertarian who thinks the government shouldn’t exist. He just thinks that it should take care of the people who deserve it.

If you look at Harwood’s life story, you can see how the government has helped him along the way. He went to trade school to become a locksmith. That’s great, but it almost certainly involved government programs that made it more affordable if not paying for it straight out. He apparently lost $30,000 in wealth when his condo was foreclosed on. Let’s consider that. I assume a condo in Nevada would cost about $150,000. So let’s say his mortgage was $120,000. In 2005, mortgage rates were around 6%. That comes out to roughly $7,000 per year that he got to write off. He only had the place for three years, so we can figure that roughly $7,000 of that $30,000 that he lost was a direct payment from the government. (Also, it is almost certain that the $30,000 is just what he paid over the three year, so it wasn’t wasted money; he would have had to pay that amount in rent if he hadn’t purchased the condo.)

I know that people don’t think about things like this. But when you slice and dice the world up into the worthy and the unworthy, you are going to find that other people place you in the unworthy category. So now he’s going to vote for Trump or Cruz, thinking that they will fix the nation in such a way that he gets everything he thinks he deserves and other people don’t get anything because he doesn’t think they are deserving. That’s what he’s voting for. He is very much voting in his own interest. It’s just that he’s foolish in thinking that the Republican Party’s platform puts him in the deserving camp.

But I hope liberal policy wins the day and Eric Harwood gets the help that he needs and deserves.

Morning Music: The Mermaid

I'm So Good That I Don't Have to BragWe end our week of Shel Silverstein with his song, “The Mermaid,” off his album, I’m So Good That I Don’t Have to Brag. There is something about the man that allowed him to see the absurdity of everything. I’d never really given a lot of thought to mermaids, but it is indeed true that they are half fish and it really doesn’t matter how lovely one half of her is, the other half really is a fish. Of course, as I discussed in Fake Science and Fake Reality on Television, more recent fabulist would have us believe that mermaids were half human and half dolphin. But that doesn’t help a whole lot.

The lyrics were published in Playboy, and I suppose it is intended to be salacious. I have a hard time seeing any of Silverstein’s work as being salacious because he always seems like nothing so much as a naughty five year boy. Maybe I give him a pass on that because I feel kind of the same way. But I think it is a major mistake to read much into his work. I was thinking of “The Father of a Boy Named Sue,” and I don’t think there’s much there. You can even see it as a comment on a man so screwed up that he set the record straight about naming his son Sue only to relate that it’s all worked out great for him because he gets to rape his son.

There is a distinctly dark core to everything that Shel Silverstein wrote. But the same thing could be said of the Brothers Grimm. Not that I’m saying we should share the work he created for Playboy with our toddlers. So here is “The Mermaid,” which you can make up your own mind about.

Aniversary Post: Governor Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan Selling Cigarettes, Like He Sold Other Deadly Things to AmericaOn this day in 1967, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as governor of California. Mostly I think he was elected because he was going to go after those dirty hippies. But on the plus side, at least he thought it was a good idea to become a governor. Now it seems that Republicans think that anyone could be the president. According to these fools, unlike being a boiler tech, being a president doesn’t require any training or experience.

There were things to like about him as governor. As Alex Seitz-Wald has noted, he made abortion far more available in the state. Of course, then he ran for president stating that abortion should only be allowed when the life of the mother was at risk. And then as president, he didn’t do much of anything. The truth is that he didn’t care. But as we know, Reagan would do anything to get power.

Ronald Reagan also limited gun rights because he was terrified of the Black Panthers. It would be wrong to imply that Reagan was a racist; it should be stated clearly: Reagan was a racist. But lucky for him that he lived in a racist country.

Reagan also existed in that great period when Republicans were still honest about their tax policies. He raised state taxes in a big way while governor. And, of course, the taxes weighed most heavily on the poor. For example, he raised the top income tax rate by 43% and the corporate tax by 27%, but the sale tax by 67%. It was the same thing when he was president, Reagan’s Legacy: Tax Cuts for Rich, Tax Hikes for the Rest.

Overall, Ronald Reagan was terrible in every way imaginable. But it isn’t just what he did directly. I don’t think that Clinton would have ended welfare as we know it if it hadn’t been for Reagan. And despite his terms as governor of California, Reagan was unqualified to be president. And the sad thing is: he’s infinitely better than the bozos who the Republicans are looking to nominate.