Medicare Vs EveryoneCare

Medicare is currently costing the US almost $500,000,000,000 per year (and growing) which equates to 5.77% of EVERYONE’S paycheck.  Unfortunately we are currently only taxing 2.9% of everyone’s check so we have a $180B shortfall.  Which is currently being picked up by the general budget and some past overages.  Once the overages run dry, it will become difficult for the general fund to cover the entire difference.  But I digress.

Medicare currently covers around 40M people or 13% of Americans.  Now I think most people will agree that the medical coverage of medicare is mediocre at best but it allows for a reasonable comparison of the costs of baseline (borderline) coverage.  So we do the math and:

EveryoneCare would cost Everyone’s Paycheck 44%!!! – and I mean EVERYONE just like Medicare taxes the Fry Cook along with the Wall Street Banker.  So can we really afford universal health care?

Of course, these numbers assume that the burden is shared equally like Medicare.  If you imposed a “progressive” structure that omitted or reduced the burden on anyone it would result in an even higher numbers for those still footing the bill.  And remember that this is ONLY the cost of Medicare expanded to everyone.  This would be in addition to your current taxes and what not that come out of your check.  It also doesn’t include any increases related to providing care that is better than the admittedly mediocre Medicare.  It also omits any additional expenses in expanding the current systems bureaucracy tenfold.

Equifax Needs A New IT Department

So I got my credit report the other day to check my FICO score and such and discovered a (small) error on it.  No big deal, I’ve disputed stuff before – pretty painless.  Well this time it was -uh- a little less smooth process…

  1. Dispute the error.  Equifax has a web site just for this (https://www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation/jsp/ECC_Welcome_User.jsp).  Fill out some info and search around a bit to figure out how to dispute the negative info (why it doesn’t default to that section of the report I’ll never know) but not too bad.
  2. Get email saying it’s processing and it could take 45 days to complete
  3. Get email a few days later saying dispute process complete and to go to equifax.com/CreditInvestigation with dispute # to see results
  4. Follow link and find yourself at the same welcome screen from step 1… no problem look for place to login with dispute #… find none
  5. Check FAQ and find link to check dispute status
  6. Follow link and find yourself at the same welcome screen from step 1…
  7. Try contact us link… which sends to back to main equifax site and requires login (need to protect those 800#s)
  8. Login and check to see if credit report is update… nope
  9. Find dispute status link on main site
  10. Follow link and find yourself at the same welcome screen from step 1…
  11. Waste time clicking on anything on the page that could possibly take you somewhere you can login
  12. Find phone # on main site and call it
  13. Select option 1 at prompt for disputes
  14. Select option 1 at prompt that I have a dispute #
  15. Listen to long description of how one can dispute items on credit report: online… mail… telephone… which then repeated.  Apparently the fact that I’m on the phone punching buttons for dispute is not enough for this system to believe that I want to continue  my dispute on the phone unless I listen to this long spiel about how the process could work so I know what button to push  (never mind the fact that possessing a dispute # means that I have already initiated the dispute process so this info is pretty useless at this point).
  16. Get a real person.
  17. Explain situation.
  18. Be told I need to contact the dispute department!!!
  19. Explain how many dispute choices I had to select to reach said person
  20. Take new phone #
  21. Select option 1 at prompt for disputes
  22. Select option 1 at prompt that I have a dispute #
  23. Enter dispute # at prompt
  24. While waiting on hold the computer says this can all be checked online at investigate.equifax.com (a different URL) so check that while on hold: said web does not exist.
  25. Get a real person
  26. Give dispute # to real person
  27. Hear that my dispute has been resolved in my favor!

Scary that a company that holds a country’s credit lives in their hands can’t coordinate a web site or a phone system effectively.

Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite – Your Wallet

Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield wants to spend $50 MILLION of tax payer money in the fight against -gasp- Bed Bugs!

The Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act of 2009 (yes that’s really it’s name) would train health inspectors how to recognize signs of the insects, require public housing agencies to submit bedbug inspection plans to the federal government. It would add bedbugs to a rodent and cockroach program in the Department of Health and Human Services . It also would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research bedbugs’ impact on public mental health.

I guess Congress has to find SOMETHING to spend $3,690,000,000,000.00 on.

Thanks Rob

How Low Can The Dow Go?

As the Dow continues to drop day after day, I thought it might be telling to look at the market’s reaction to several historical events… (Note elections end after the market closes)

G. W. Bush Elected Nov 7, 2000

11/07/00 – 10,952
11/08/00 – 10,907

9-11-01

09/10/01 – 9,605
09/17/01 – 8,920

Democrats re-take Congress Nov 7, 2006

11/07/06 – 12,156
11/08/06 – 12,176

Government “Helps” Dow Find The Bottom with Bank Bailout:
Dow drops from 10,917 on Sept 15 to 8,852 Oct 17, 2008

Obama Elected Nov 4, 2008

11/04/08 – 9,625
11/05/08 – 9,139

Obama Inaugurated Jan 14, 2009

1/13/09 – 8,448
1/14/09 – 8,200

Obama Stimulus Signed into Law Feb 17, 2009

2/13/09 – 7,850
3/17/09 – 7,552
(Market closed for Presidents Day 2/16/09)

So how is the stimulus doing???  As of Today (Mar 9, 2009) the Dow closed at 6,547.

-13.3% since the “stimulus” was signed.

-20.1% since America’s first black President.

-31.9% since Hope was elected.

-46.2% since Democrats took control of the government (save a lame duck President).

Market Shorting Obama’s “Stimulus”

An interesting piece from two Economists: Prof. Bittlingmayer, University of Kansas & Prof. Hazlett, George Mason University.  For those that don’t understand what “shorting” means check here.

…So the Obama theory – government spending is stimulus. If so, financial markets should feel the love. The U.S. budget is awash in red ink, and $800 billion more of it should easily move the needle on our economic prospects. Indeed it has – in the wrong direction. Financial markets don’t want more government debt or a scramble for “shovel-ready” spending projects. They want the skeletons in the banking sector’s closet exposed and expunged.

The Bush Economy went up in smoke in September-October 2008. The financial meltdown hit Wall Street, devastating bank equities and laying waste to America’s 401-Ks. The Republican ticket, McCain-Palin, was a 50-50 bet on Sept. 15; by Oct. 15 it was a 5-1 long-shot. Voters saw the carnage: the Dow Jones Index lost 17% of its value from Sept. 2 through Nov. 3. In a flash, Americans lost years of toil, and Republicans the election. Decisively.

The election marked a turning point. Investors looked forward to the economic policies crafted by Democrats in Congress and the White House. More pointedly, they wanted decisive, well-crafted action on the banking crisis. Hence the Dow soared 6.5% Nov. 21 on news that Timothy Geithner, the highly-respected head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, was Obama’s pick for Treasury Secretary.

Yet, from Nov. 4, 2008 through Feb. 12, 2009, the DJI overall fell 18% — a larger drop than during the Sept-Oct plunge. In January, when the Obama plan, promising far greater deficits than the two much smaller “emergency stimulus” plans signed by Pres. George W. Bush in 2008, was unveiled, the market tanked – the worst January performance in 113 years.

More pointedly, key political victories for the Team Obama spending plan have not been viewed as buying opportunities on Wall Street. A string of negative market reactions began with the December 18 announcement of a stimulus bill of $700 billion (Dow down 2.5%), continued with the January 7 announcement that the actual plan would be “on the high side” (-2.7%) and continued with last week’s 61-36 Senate vote supporting the Administration’s fiscal plan. The White House victory and the new bank bail-out plan announced the following day by Treasury Secretary Geithner were met with a 5% wipe-out in the DJI, and a decline in Treasury bond yields, indicating a “flight to quality.”

There are many problems with Keynes’ “stagnationist thesis,” as Joseph Schumpeter called it, not the least of which is that it didn’t test so well when applied by New Dealers. U.S. unemployment was perniciously high throughout the 1930s, peaking at 25% in 1933 but still over 17% in 1939.

Many claim that World War II brought us out of the Great Depression, but the lesson to be learned is still being debated. Federal budget deficits soared (reaching 26.5 % of GDP in 1942 as calculated by Harvard economist Robert Barro), providing Keynesians an argument for spending as stimulus. But WWII also brought a profound shift in the New Deal’s regulatory policies. Attorney General Thurman Arnold’s vigorous campaign to break-up “the bottlenecks of business” in major industries like steel, chemicals and electrical equipment was shuttered, and America’s largest corporations enjoyed a respite from threats of dismemberment (Arnold was kicked upstairs to a judgeship). As Thomas K. McCraw writes in his superlative Schumpeter biography, “Under the life-and-death pressure of war mobilization… the Roosevelt Administration, which had been hostile toward alleged monopolies, now decided that big business must lead in the job that had to be done.”

The only thing guaranteed by the spending stimulus is more national debt. One stroke of the presidential pen has now increased it by $800 billion. Democrats recently screamed about W-era profligacy. On July 28, 2008, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee declared, “If they gave out Olympic medals for fiscal irresponsibility, President Bush would take the gold, silver and bronze. With his eight years in office, he will have had the five highest deficits ever recorded. And the highest of those deficits is now projected to come in 2009, as he leaves office.”

Kent Conrad was right. The projected 2009 deficit then stood at $482 billion. In January it was forecast by the Congressional Budget Office at $1.2 trillion. Pres. Obama’s new plan now ups that to $1.7 trillion. If W got the gold, the new Administration has landed the Platinum in just its qualifying heat…