During the past five months or so, I have read and blogged through books by Presidential candidates for the year 2012. I blogged through Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father, and also books by Republican candidates Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Tim Pawlenty. I also read a biography about Mitt Romney which struck me as rather sympathetic even as it acknowledged some negatives in his record.
From this point
up to the election, and maybe beyond then, I'll be blogging through
other books on politics. My focus will be on the economy, but I will
probably get into other issues as well. The books that I will blog
through are largely from a leftist perspective----think Howard Dean,
Robert Reich, Arianna Huffington, George McGovern, and Paul Krugman. But I will also
blog through a book by Bruce Bartlett, an economist who served in the
Reagan Administration who has written about the failure of Reaganomics.
I will get into the free trade debate, as I blog through a liberal book
that promotes free trade, and a book by arch-conservative Pat Buchanan
that is critical of it. And, if time permits, I will blog through other
books: a book by Lou Dobbs on the war against the middle-class, a book
by Democrats James Carville and Paul Begala in 2006 about how the
Democratic Party can improve its image, and a book by Sheila Suess
Kennedy about how serving in the ACLU coincides with her Republican
Some of you may have gotten tired of me plowing
through books that extol tax cuts, less government spending on social
programs, and free trade, even as they criticize public-sector unions.
Well, from this point, I'll be blogging through books that have a
different perspective (though there will be cases in which a book may
overlap with conservative ideas). And, while I will probably
be more sympathetic to these books that I am about to read than I was
towards the Republican books, since I tend to lean left these days, I
will still try to be rigorous in identifying what I consider to be the
strengths and weaknesses in their arguments and policy proposals, as
well as ask questions.
The book that I just started was Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Health Care Reform,
by Howard Dean, Igor Volsky, and Faiz Shakir. (But I will say "Dean
says" or "According to Dean" rather than "Dean, Volsky, and Shakir
say".) There were a variety of noteworthy items in my latest reading,
such as Howard Dean's discussion of his medical and political career,
and what Dean says about the shenanigans of private health insurance
companies. What I want to highlight in this post, though, are four
First of all, Dean believes that health care reform is
actually pro-business. The reason is that health insurance costs
businesses a lot, especially as health care costs continue to rise. Dean
says that this is why there are companies or plants that choose to
locate in Canada rather than the U.S.: in Canada, the government pays
for health insurance, and so the companies don't have to do so and can
thus use their money for production. I have some questions.
Do the high taxes in Canada discourage businesses as well? Well,
perhaps not, for the corporate tax rate in Canada was only 16.5 per cent
in 2010 (see here). At the same time, there is in Canada a 50% tax rate on realized capital gains (see here),
and I wonder if that puts a clamp on the income that corporate people
in Canada can make. I also was curious as to whether Howard Dean's plan
to pay for health care reform----which he defines as
competition between private insurance companies and a Medicare-like
program that would include all who want to join it----would
encourage companies to leave the U.S. Dean later in the book (I peeked
ahead) endorses a carbon and gasoline tax as a way to pay for health
care reform. But remember the conservative argument that such a policy
can encourage businesses that have a lot of carbon emissions to flee to
countries where there are not as many restrictions. Dean does
not think that the taxes would be a problem, however, for businesses
would love saving money on not having to provide health care to their
employees, and people wouldn't mind paying a little more at the gas pump
if health care costs were no longer as much of a problem for them.
Second, I appreciated Dean's discussion of employer-based health insurance.
According to Dean, employer-based health insurance is pretty good
because, in big companies, a large number of people are contributing to
the insurance plan. Consequently, the insurance is reliable in
the sense that it's there when the worker gets sick, and people aren't
dropped for pre-existing conditions. The problem is that, when people change or lose their jobs, they no longer are covered by the insurance.
Then, if they find themselves in a situation in which they are too
young for Medicare and have too much money to qualify for Medicaid, they
look for individual coverage----and that tends to be more stingy in
terms of paying for treatment and even covering new applicants (who can
be rejected for having pre-existing conditions, or poor credit, or
Third, Dean appears to think that there is a problem in
some of the services that we pay for. He states that other countries
"hold down health care costs...by not performing as many procedures",
and he says that "In Canada, for example, a coronary artery bypass graft
(open heart surgery) is done one-third as often on a per-capita basis
as it is in the United States" (pages 17-18). According to Dean, this
operation costs $60,000, and a Canadian study indicates that it doesn't
even prolong life, even though it improves the quality of life.
Whereas, in Canada, a person with chest pains due to heart problems
would "be treated medically for four to five years before undergoing
surgery", in America people cut to the chase and get the surgery done
immediately. Dean states that this "is but one reason why our
healthcare costs are more than 60 percent higher than Canada's" (page
18). Dean makes important points here. And yet, some may fear
that rationing of health care could result from that sort of mindset, as
bureaucrats decide which treatment is acceptable and which is not.
Private health insurance companies do so while keeping an eye on their
profits, as Dean notes, but couldn't the government end up doing so
while keeping an eye on restraining or cutting government spending in
order to get rid of a deficit? I should note, however, that
Dean----like many others on the right and the left----is a proponent of
health care reform that encourages preventative care, which could
prevent people from having to get expensive surgery at the outset.
Fourth, Dean talks about what to do about people in their 20's who feel invincible and thus want to spend their money on something other than health insurance premiums. Dean
proposes that they be given health insurance for free, and he notes
that they're inexpensive to insure, presumably because they don't have
as many health needs. Dean may believe that the government
should provide that insurance, for he goes on to talk about how Vermont
(where he was governor) offered health insurance to everyone under 18 in
exchange for a "modest premium". I wonder if Dean's plan would work. I
thought that one of the ideas behind the health insurance mandate was to have
the healthy people in their 20s pay into the system, and that would take
care of the sick people with pre-existing conditions. But if the
healthy people are not paying into the system, what happens then?
Was Jesus a pacifist?
2 hours ago