OPINIONATRIX…because my opinions dominate

{February 2, 2009}   What Ever Happened to Healthcare?

Washington has been abuzz with talk of stimulus, bipartisanship and Wall Street accountability.   Make no mistake, these are all very important issues and the economy needs to be attended to, but I can’t help but wonder why the only health-care related story we hear about these days is the tax problems of Tom Daschle (Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary nominee).   Health-care reform NEEDS to be at the forefront of the national conversation.  With so many workers facing unemployment our already precarious health-care situation has become even more dire. 

Americans have needed to reform our system for a long time.  There is a reason that every other “first-world” country has some sort of socialized medicine policy in place: it is the only system that has a chance at success.  How can a country based on equality stand behind a health-care system in which profits are the end goal and medical insurance is tied to the workplace??  This isn’t to say that Canada, the UK and the various other countries subscribing to some form of socialized medicine are perfect – they’re not – but all the citizens of said countries have equal access to care. 

There are caveats to any system, but there is no denying that our system is broken.  The average person without health-care has to undertake great risk just to live their day to day lives.  Even those who are insured often face extensive out of pocket costs and co-pays, and I know from personal experience that ‘approval’ for access to proper care is often hard to come by.

It’s great that we are so focused on rehabilitating our economy and securing more jobs for Americans.  The billions we are investing into the country will hopefully bring forth ample returns.  At this point, if we are going to sink so much money into the resurrection of the nation, why not spend the extra so that once and for all we get the ball rolling on a health-care system that works.


This week congress got up and congratulated themselves for passing a 700 billion dollar “rescue plan” that will help to stop the hemorrhaging of our economy.  Why are they congratulating themselves!? Isn’t getting together and voting on bills to help our country the very description of their job?  They should have been apologizing. The American people deserve an “I’m sorry our leadership failed. Had we done an effective job, it never would have come to this in the first place.”

While I am not one for rewarding Wall Street ‘fat cats’ for their downright greed and immoral behavior, there is no one who can effectively argue that government shouldn’t have stepped in.  For better or worse, our economy runs on credit, and without this bill it would have dried up.  Already, it is harder to get loans and mortgages than it was 6 months ago.  Employers use credit to to pay their employees, business’s use it to run day-to-day operations, and average people use it to buy essential needs like gas, food and clothing.  Credit running dry in this country would bring the economy to a screeching halt.  We cannot afford – both literally and figuratively – for that to happen.

Thankfully, congress added some things to make this bill more appealing than the original proposal from Henry Paulson.  Paulson basically wanted a blank check with no oversight at all.  Obviously that wasn’t going to fly, but the current bill is not all roses either.  There is no relief for those in foreclosure written into this bill which is why it changed from a “bailout” to a “rescue plan.”  Congress is not “bailing out” those who bought homes they couldn’t afford.  Paradoxically, it seems to me that they are very much bailing out Wall Street, so to me this still seems a lot like a “bailout.”  The bill is also stuffed with pork

Tucked into pages 262 and 263 of the bill, for example, are provisions that will aid the manufacturers of “certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.” The bill will exempt the arrows from an excise tax of 39 cents. There are also tax breaks for race-track owners, for rum imported from Puerto Rico, for worsted wool makers, Hollywood film and television production companies and on and on.

However, it does give congress oversight, and it ends the golden parachutes to CEO executives.  Thank g-d for that!  I cannot believe these CEO’s who ran their business’s to the ground, destroying tons of lives in the process and yet walked away with millions. And surprisingly, it happened time and time again. Hopefully, this bill will put a stop to that.  Still though, while intellectually I realize the necessity of the legislation, I cannot help but feel that the little guy is still drowning while Wall Street has been given a life raft.  I am not an economist, nor do I have extensive financial knowledge.  I am just a regular American citizen, worried about paying the bills and restoring some faith in our economy.

So, congress passed a bill, but this is far from over.  Whoever is elected President this November will have a lot to deal with.  Many of the promises made by both candidates will have to be shelved until this crisis has been overcome.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we are looking at a major recession coupled with declining home values.  As a nation, I am fairly confident that we can dig ourselves out of this – we did it after the Great Depression and again after the Savings and Loan Crisis.  But it wont be fast, and it wont be easy.

At first glance Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Britney Spears may not seem to have anything in common, but all three are now under conservatorship due to going downhill fast!

I am not an economist, nor am I a financial expert, but almost anyone can recognize that the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a bad sign.  It certainly isn’t news that our economy is in bad shape, but this is so “in your face” that it’s downright scary.

This past week we saw the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, followed by the announcement of the grave trouble at Lehman Brothers and then rumblings that Washington Mutual is also in a serious predicament.  This is no longer just a problem for ‘the little guy.’  The effects of the downturn in the economy up until months ago were mainly felt by those with sub-prime mortgages, people in the auto/steel/coal industry and those who were solidly middle class.  Now the tidal wave has taken everyone under.  Wall street bankers and hedge fund managers who normally don’t even bat an eye going out to a fancy restaurant and ordering the prime rib for lunch have great reason to be wary.  No one is immune and I find this nerve-wracking.

As for Fannie and Freddie, I am perplexed.  While I fully grasp the current situation, it seems fundamentally unfair.  How is it that Fannie and Freddie when doing well are run as private fortune 500 companies reaping tons of reward for their investors and yet now that they are in trouble, taxpayers are the ones who will have to bail them out.  This is a major structural problem in the configuration of the companies.  Fannie and Freddie aren’t just any fortune 500 company, they are the largest ones out there!  Many argue that while it is unfortunate that Fannie and Freddie are now the taxpayers responsibility, that the CEO’s have been fired and aren’t getting away with anything.  Unfortunately this is untrue.  Sure, the CEO’s have been let go, but they are still “set” monetarily.  They still reaped rewards for years prior to this recession and now have the fruits of Fannie and Freddie’s better days to live off of.

Not being an expert in finance, I have no good solution for this conundrum.  I am willing to say that the government had almost no choice but to bail out Fannie and Freddie, but I hope that when the companies are turned back over to be run privately that the fundamental errors in structure are addressed.

Mostly, all the economic upsets we have seen this week make me even more passionate in my beliefs that we must have a President and Vice President who are willing to take a long hard look at things in order to change our economy for the better.  Privatizing social security at this point is a pretty scary thought, as is the possibility of a Sarah Palin presidency.  As for Britney, I am sad to report that her current situation is much more optimistic than that of the US economy.


{July 4, 2008}   Time for a vacation?

Summer brings upon us a general desire to kick back, relax and take it easy. That’s why it’s called summer vacation! Technically I guess only students and teachers get a “real” summer vacation, but the rest of us can dream right? Or at least take a week or so to get away from it all and enjoy the season.

This year, with the economy being in the toilet you might think a vacation is out of the picture. I mean after all, the dollar is now so low I fear we may soon have to dig for it. Luckily there is another way to get away, see another country and really broaden your horizons. How? VOLUNTEER VACATIONS… that’s how.

There are now a number of companies that offer cheaper travel options in exchange for your volunteer service. There is truly something for everyone, from cleaning up the amazon trail to working on a kibbutz in Israel.

This is awesome! The fact that you are guaranteed an eye opening experience coupled with the opportunity to give back makes the vacation extra special. Sure beats sitting on a beach huh?

For more info on volunteer vacations click here.

et cetera