Archive | October 27, 2012

Retirement Plans as Blood Money

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

I’m getting older so naturally I’m thinking about how to get by when I’m no longer able to work. Personally, I like what I do and can’t see retiring (assuming someone ever pays me for what I do) but I have to consider that I will one day be senile, incontinent and unable to work for money.

One of my employers recently passed on information on retirement accounts. Similar to a 401(k) plan, I put money into a pool and an intermediary invests that money into a certain set of well performing and diverse stocks. I get a reasonable return on my money and an agreement with the US Government allows a certain percentage of it to be drawn tax free upon retirement.

Looking through the lists of stocks, though, is a nauseating experience. The top performing funds contain equities in fine companies such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Philip Morris and a host of defense stocks. Obviously, though, there’s no way to guarantee that one’s investments are not linked to oil, big pharma and guns.

I take having my tax money go to further needless wars as something I can do little about. To actively and willingly profit off human suffering is quite something else entirely.

Americans, of course, are little interested in where their money goes, so long as they are guaranteed a solid rate of return. I implore all those with a conscience to dig through their portfolio and truly consider where the money comes from. You might be very unpleasantly surprised.

“Health Care Plans of the Candidates”: Burying Our Heads in the Sand

A short op-ed in the NYT yesterday had this to say:

“Mitt Romney’s health care plan offers 15 guiding principles, but appropriately leaves to Congress the resolution of most details. Obamacare’s 2,400 pages were never understood even before passage, push all risk to taxpayers and promise economic disaster.”

This is, of course, either, at best, a demonstration of complete ignorance of the facts, or at worst, another example of conservative revisionism. When the Obama admin came into office, they also presented only some general guidelines. The crafting of the Affordable Care Act was left almost entirely to the Congress. In fact, the Obama admin was repeatedly criticized for not taking a more forceful role in the bill’s creation. This isn’t ancient history. It was in 2009.

On the surface, Romney’s claims of repealing the Affordable Care Act are patently fantastical. It took decades to get comprehensive health care reform in the country. When the political will finally surfaced, it was a fight to the death. Romney must recognize this, carefully choosing his words stating “I will act to repeal Obamacare on my first day.” “Acting to” is very different from “doing.” This nuance, I am afraid, is lost on the electorate. What he plans to do, is another mystery. The discussion is bordering on infantile.

More frustrating for me, is the constant call for “market solutions” to our problems of health care delivery. We have given the market a chance. The market has had free reign to do as it likes for decades. We have seen this market approach to health fail miserably. Why? Simply because health markets don’t work like hardware stores.

People who have insurance really have no clue what the lives of people without insurance are like. Similarly, the wealthy have little concept of the lives of the poor. Clearly, Romney is both.

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