Friday, November 22, 2013

How rich are we?

We always hear the USA is the richest country in the world and the freest, which is why everybody supposedly wants to come here except for the people who hate us because we have something they don't.  Something like that.  A lot of silly arguments ensue, but one interesting point concerns Sweden and environs.

Sweden and its neighbors have free health care and education, strong public assistance, and a growing public sector, kinda the opposite of the USA.  Yet infant mortality in Sweden is about half the rate in the USA.  Life expectancy is higher in Sweden than in the USA.  Whaaaat?

I ran across this vid arguing against the "Scandinavian Myth" of socialism (YIKES!) and higher living standards.  Smart guy (probably one of the smarter proponents of the "free-market" point of view), but as one of the comments points out, he completely overlooks inequality, which is measurable.  Several of the comments echo the point with examples.  Back to that in a minute.

There's a lot of talk these days about (gasp) "SOCIALISM" because of Obama (who is not a socialist) and Obamacare (which is not socialism), but this comparison is really about two different ways of looking at capitalist economies and the people who live in them (see next paragraph).

Another commenter, a sympathizer with Mr. Molyneux, complained of a contradiction: first he says Scandinavians are more free than US citz, then he says they are worse off.  Besides, he doesn't seem to understand that Switzerland is NOT a Scandinavian country.  I'm just sayin'.  I mean, Molyneux does say he's debunking the connection between socialism and higher standards of living, but what he does is first show how un-socialist the Scandinavian countries (plus Switzerland!) are, then tries to show their standards of living are not as high as the USA's.  I think he forgot what he was talking about.

What he actually does is show that in Scandinavian countries, there is a highly active social infrastructure system, but they still have highly active market-based economies.  He tries to show that Sweden's private employment dropped as governments employment rose, but look closely at the chart: at least half the time the declines in private sector employment come first.  So which is driving what?

But the biggest thing I noticed -- back to main point about how rich we are (or aren't) in the USA -- was living standards.  If you look at vague (conservative) measures, like average income, a country like the USA comes out smelling pretty good.  That's because we have a lot of very rich people, rich enough to tip the balance away from the millions of poor people we have.  But figure in the inequality, and you get a very different picture.

So, to sum up, USA: nice people, birthplace of great music, poker, and great pie (pecan, better than apple), but not as free as we think, not as rich as we think, worse for babies, old people, sick people, workers (OK, read my other posts), and we need to change the way we do things.  Boo!  More on the Myth of the Free Market later.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Left opposition to Obamacare

It is partly true that Obamacare is a Republican plan or "Republican-inspired" plan, but that insult -- and I am guilty myself at times -- obscures some very significant differences that are worth noting before we take off advocating, "The best thing that could happen would be a quick and total collapse," -- which is reckless and inhumane, besides being juvenile.

Here's a historical fact: When Massachusetts passed "Romneycare" it was Democrats who dominated the legislature and overrode several Romney vetoes of aspects like the employer mandate to provide insurance.  Romney also advocated that nobody, no matter how poor, should get health care for no cost at all and instead promoted the idea of a small premium for the very poorest, but the Democratic legislature overrode him.  Obamacare includes both a strong employer mandate (with all its problems) and an enormous expansion of Medicaid -- which is much better than Medicare anyway, as people who have been on both (like my mother) can attest.