Universal Health Care for Cheap?
2006-06-15 16:50 in /politics/CA
On the radio this morning they were talking about problems with overcrowded emergency rooms and high uninsured rates in California and they mentioned proposals to create a statewide universal health care system. At one point they said that it was estimated this would cost the state $7-9 billion a year. I imagine most people think that’s a lot of money, but if it’s really true it would be a phenomenal bargain. There’s about 36 million residents of California, so we’re talking between $200 and $250 for each person. Given that Yahoo! claims that they spend about $5000/yr for health coverage for each member of my family, that’s an incredibly low number.
It’s so low that it seems like it has to be wrong. Either that or someone’s definition of “universal” is a bit different from mine.
2005 Proposition Roundup
2005-11-08 09:55 in /politics/CA
Okay, I suck and totally failed to get around to writing on this before election day. But, since I oddly find myself with a little time now, here’s my final decisions:
Prop 73 — I already wrote about this one, and I still say “no”.
Prop 74 — NO. I was leaning towards this one at first, because I’m not convinced that teacher “tenure” has any real justification. However, the political context of this prop leaves a bad taste in my mouth and, on consideration, I don’t really believe that the problem with our schools is that we can’t fire enough teachers either. Since I have no strong argument for this measure, I vote no.
Prop 75 — NO. Pretty much a no-brainer. This is a classic pro-business, anti-worker tactic. I’m not anti-business, but I strongly believe that employees have just as much right to organize as employers do. Corporations would never stand for having to poll their shareholders at this level of granularity, and unions shouldn’t have to either.
Prop 76 — NO. I didn’t have much time to look at this, and the issue is too complicated for me to feel comfortable endorsing this solution without more research.
Prop 77 — YES. I have reservations about this amendment; particularly the voter approval mechanism. However, I think this is the most critical issue on the ballot this year. California democracy is deeply broken, in large part because of the entrenched nature of our districts. It will be nearly impossible to acheive any other meaningful reform through the legislature until that problem is fixed. For that reason, I’m willing to give this proposal a chance.
Props 78 and 79 — NO and NO. Again, I’ve had not enough time to think about a highly complex issue.
Prop 80 — NO. Again, the complexity issue comes into play, but I also think this is a knee-jerk reaction to the singular events of a couple years ago. The deregulation of the California power market was done in a fundamentally flawed way. That doesn’t mean that deregulation is a necessarily bad idea, or that re-regulation is the right response. We need to revise the rules, but we also need to keep the positive aspects of markets in play. The issue of energy in California isn’t going away, and we are going to need some clever ideas to keep things working in the future. Personally, I think that market incentives are generally the right way to acheive this.
2005 Propositions - 73 NO
2005-10-18 22:50 in /politics/CA
Well, it’s that time of year again and time to heat up the blog with a little politics. Again, I’m going to make an attempt to explain my opinion on most of the California propositions before the election. This isn’t really an attempt to convince anyone else, but more because I think it’s a good exercise for myself to work through the basis and arguments for my positions. I’m planning to go roughly in order, but as the election gets closer, I might skip around.
73 is a constitutional amendment requiring a waiting period and parental notification prior to a minor obtaining an abortion. This is not a black-and-white issue and I have sympathies on both sides.
As a general rule, parents are responsible for the health and well-being of their children, and this includes medical decisions. Except in situations of imminent risk of death or severe and permanent bodily damage, we require parental consent for medical treatment of a minor. Pregnancy does not present any immediate risk and, although having a child is a big deal, only by a significant stretch can it be considered severe bodily damage. So, allowing abortions without parental consent really does entail a departure from general principle, which requires thought and real justification.
Towards that justification, one consideration is that pregnancy really is an exceptional condition which in many ways is, and ought to be, treated differently from true medical pathologies. However, this is only sufficient to open the door to a discussion. The more significant line of inquiry notes that as a society we are awful at talking about sex, thinking about sex, and taking actions regarding sex; and we’re a hundred times worse when our parents or children are involved. The point of the general principle of parental consent is not to treat children as chattels, but to improve the general welfare of children, who may not be ready to make these decisions for themselves. If, however, the effect is negative in some case, we ought to make exceptions. Potentially, this is such a case. If children will actually place themselves in greater danger rather than talk to their parents, then the requirement of parental consent ought to be waived. I tend to think that the studies support that this is the case for teenage pregnancies and abortions, but I concede that there is room for uncertainty.
Having waffled thus far, I will say, though, that I am unequivocally opposed to this proposition on technical grounds. The proposition is a constitutional amendment. I think that to begin with, this subject is inappropriate for the constitution. Furthermore, given the subtlety of the argument, and the uncertainty in the data, I think it would be a mistake to engrave such a rule so permanently.
Taxes: 63 NO, 67 YES
2004-10-28 23:57 in /politics/CA
We’ve got two props on the ballot involving taxes. 63 hits $1M+ earners with an extra 1% to pay for mental health care, and 67 adds additional fees on telephone services to pay for EMS services.
63 is designed to be popular (or populist) with it’s sock-the-ultrarich approach. The won’t-hurt-me argument almost won me over, but on further thought I come down against this. The first point is that CA income taxes are already extremely progressive and high. The rates ramp up quite quickly and those with more than $50K or so of taxable income see a 9.3% marginal rate. When I consider this and ask myself if I think that the tax structure ought to be more or less progressive than it is, I find that my answer is less. Beyond this argument, there is also the fact that many rich people already arrange to “live” in states with lower taxes. I suspect that the opponents are correct that this sort of vindictive taxation will just make that phenomenon worse.
I have some reservations about 67, primarily because of the slightly dishonest way that it piggybacks on the 911 service fee, and because I’m generally opposed to the way that the state has choosen to tightly couple specific revenue sources to specific expenses. However, I do think that it is critically important to keep emergency rooms open. While it is true that a substantial amount of this money would go to private hospitals, the fact is that they are required by law to provide emergency services to all individuals even if it is unprofitable. It’s completely reasonable in my might to provide subsidies to encourage companies to actually do this, rather than closing their emergency rooms completely.
60 YES, 62 NO
2004-10-27 18:21 in /politics/CA
I’ve been meaning to comment on the propositions on the CA ballot for a while, but haven’t had a chance to really dive into them until this week. Hopefully, this will be the first in a series of posts covering most of them.
The two election related props seem like pretty straightforward choices to me. 62 is a clear NO. Fewer choices on the general election is bad, not good. In addition, anything that allows crossover voting without other election reforms opens the door to all kinds of gaming of the system.
Prop 60 doesn’t actually change anything about the current system. However, because these two propositions are in conflict with one another, it is important to vote YES on this one in the case that a tie-breaker is needed if both pass.
(Amusing note: The “Independent Voters Guide” that I got in the mail today urges a NO vote on 62 because if it passes there could be no Democrat in the general election for some districts. Uh... aren’t we supposedly independents? And isn’t this California, where the opposite seems more likely?)