Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

I watched the Presidential State of the Union speech last night on CNN and therefore was privy to all 3 of the speeches made. We didn't hear a rebuttal from Independents or any other PAC group but somehow the Tea Party was allowed to speak as if they were a third house on the Hill. Whatever. Here is my opinion on what I heard.

The Good:
I love hearing President Obama speak. Political party aside, it is still refreshing to hear someone speak to the American people as adults and not as children. I thought the President did a very good job of being a mediator in this very divided country. The President also did a good job of pointing out his vision of the country, how we relate to the rest of the world, how to improve in various areas and how to deal with deficits and job creation. I felt he was very specific in his ideas and I applaud his intention to post more statistics and facts in the Internet were everyone can view them. This is the transparency he promised in his campaign. I also feel the President is correct in focusing on education and innovation to get our economy working as it should. The President reported on accomplishments that have been made so far without gloating or sounding like a sales person. He said - once again - that he welcomes suggestions on improvements to health care reform while standing firm that the reform is needed. I felt he did a very good job of addressing the Nation.

The Bad:
The Republican rebuttal was pretty much what I expected. Less taxes, less government oversight of business activity, and various other pro-business yet anti-consumer and anti-worker rhetoric. These are the exact policies that plunged our nation into one of the worst recessions of my lifetime. But I did take note of one particular part that was new. Apparently the GOP is learning (possibly from my blog and many others) that their party is known as the party with no compassion for those less fortunate. Here is what was said:

"We believe government's role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense: to secure our borders, to protect innocent life, to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights, to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves."

That last part about the safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves is new -I'd like them to explain that in a bit more detail. They are against health care reform, against unemployment insurance, against welfare, against any kind of Government funded "safety net" so what does that mean? I'd also like them to explain how they can accomplish that mission statement without money (taxes).

The Ugly:
The Tea Party response was also what I expected. Their view of the economy and America is overly (extremely) simplistic and one dimensional. They seem to have absolutely no concept of cause and effect. The graphics used to show the increased unemployment since 2009 provided no detail on what really caused those figures. It was simply all blamed on President Obama. In reality the previous administration drove the car off the cliff and the free-fall had only started when President Obama took office. To suggest that the sudden increase in unemployment was due to President Obama's policies, when in fact those policies hadn't even been implemented yet is simply not true - ask an economist.

The thing that bothers me most about the Tea Party is that they imply that Democrats and even "normal" Republicans don't want an economy that lives within it's means. For goodness sake - everyone wants that! If you look at the economy in the Tea Party one dimensional way - it's easy to say"cut this" or "end that" without knowing the consequences of such an action. The economy of the United States is a very complicated and integrated beast - and it is intertwined with the rest of the world economies. If you make a drastic change - it WILL have drastic consequences. Although Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas on how to accomplish the task - at least they try to understand the complexity of the economy. The Tea Party doesn't understand the concept at all.

The "ugly" part of the Tea Party is how they mislead America. It is very, very dangerous to use simplistic arguments and graphics that exclude facts to make your point. It is irresponsible to our country to say "This is why" when you don't know why. There are a lot of people in this country who are not college educated or economists. They will naturally believe the simplistic data presented by the Tea Party that is void of facts - as a fact. It's easy to get votes by misleading the public with half truths, but to omit facts is the same as lying. If the Tea Party is allowed to continue with this unfounded rhetoric, we will see more of them easily elected to public office and once there, they will find they are completely wrong about how our Government works.

Then what.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There is no larger group than "Everyone"

The Republicans with their lack of compassion for those less fortunate are up to their mission to deny health coverage to millions of Americans. I guess I'll have to let those on the Hill debate all that but I have a question about the health insurance business:

Why do you offer reduced rates and better coverage for larger groups while denying smaller groups coverage due to increased risk?

It seems logical - to me anyway - to group ALL of your members into one large pool - no matter where they work and offer everyone the same rates and coverage. Putting everyone into one large group spreads the risk across a very large population - isn't that what they typically want?

Using this approach is the very reason why a Public Option in our health care reform would allow less expensive policies - because of the risk being spread among a large group. Why can't private insurance companies operate the same way?

If private insurance companies grouped all their members together, then a company with just a few employees would be able to get the same rates and coverage as the large company who are insured by the provider. Actually, individuals would also be able to purchase the same policy. Why can't it work that way?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Meet BECi

I've been thinking about a new business concept designed to enhance competition and limit monopolistic practices. I'm sure it's not a new concept but I haven't read about anything like it. I've written about it several times before and recently discussed it at some length with one of my regular commentators on this article (comments evolved to this topic somewhat in the middle). Now I'd like to bring it to the front page again and give the concept a name.

The name I've chosen is BECi. It stands for Business Enhanced Competition initiative.

The strength of this concept lies in it's simplicity. It revolves around one simple rule - a business may not be allowed to purchase another business. BECi in no way limits a companies natural ability to grow within the marketplace by providing outstanding service, fair pricing and value to the consumer. What it does do is keep businesses from acquiring and eliminating their competition thereby allowing a more natural and controlled growth. Hostile takeovers followed by massive layoffs would be a thing of the past. It would also be much more difficult to control the market to the extent that you can fix higher prices while providing lower service levels.

BECi would still allow corporations to work together in synergistic relationships to provide enhanced capabilities. However, each company would exist as a separate entity with their own employees and accounting. This type of symbiotic relationship will provide more jobs and prevent companies from mass layoffs that typically happen when a business purchases another business. At the same time it will allow for an easy "divorce" if the relationship does not prove beneficial. We could use AOL/Time Warner as an example. BECi would not have prevented both AOL and Time Warner from working together to provide a larger business model. However, having discovered that such a business model was not effective, it would make it very easy for each company to venture off on their own again.

Under BECi, if a business fails for whatever reason, it would be dissolved and the employees and clients of that company would both be free to seek a new business to support. This allows for healthy competition among similar companies to offer those employees attractive employment benefits to acquire the best talent of the failed business. At the same time they would need to provide attractive prices and services to woo the customers of the failed business into being their new customers. This is how business is supposed to work in a free market system. BECi is a drastic yet simple change from the current practice of buying a failing business (hostile takeover), laying off employees at the stoke of a pen without consideration of the talent involved, forcing customers to do business with you even if they don't choose to, and eliminating the competition.

Franchise operations are a gray area for the BECi model but in most cases it would allow for such purchases - especially when the franchise is purchased by a person and not a business. But I think considerations could be made for a corporation who's business it is to operate a franchise. There will likely be a few other legal challenges to BECi, but in most cases the simplicity of the model makes for it's strength and provides few loopholes for abuse by mammoth corporations. If enacted, BECi would necessarily require that all existing businesses continue as normal but would stop any further business purchases. It would therefore take a while for the benefits to be felt through the economy but in some cases would provide enhanced competition almost immediately.

BECi is the simple solution to out of control mega business monopolistic practices. It forces business to act on better business principles of providing good competitive services and prices. The BECi business model makes even more sense when we consider the recent decisions that businesses be treated as individuals with all rights and responsibilities of individuals (except voting rights). It is illegal in this country to buy and sell individuals, so it follows that it should also be illegal to buy and sell a business. The concept is simple, effective and I think should be the law.

An article in USA Today showed how the current business model is poised to make monopolies the norm and not the exception:

I invite my reader(s) to discuss this concept pro and con. I would also be interested to hear about other articles on this topic so I can do further research.

UPDATE 1/19/11 The current deal between Comcast and NBC is a huge mistake that will not only limit competition and variety in programming, but it will also allow the a news organization to be controlled by a media company even more so than they currently are. The line between news and entertainment is further blurred. This is not healthy for our nation. We really do need a law like BECi that would stop this sort of Corporate controll.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Dead People Create Jobs

I finally get it!

Republicans keep saying repealing health care reform will create jobs. It is logical that people who are gravely ill or dead due to lack of affordable health care will not be able to show up for work. New people will need to be hired to replace the dead ones. Thus no health care would equal new jobs! Plus, funerals are a very profitable business. Bonus!