Pyrrhic Victory

89 thoughts on “Pyrrhic Victory”

  1. Not to be the contrarian here, but someone needs to be. The outcome that no one expects is a massive increase in productivity that supercharges the economy and allows us to outgrow the debt. Will it happen? Who knows. But we can all think of ten or more rising technologies that get substantial media coverage off of the top of our heads, each with enough revolutionary economic impact to do the job. Now if 2 or 3 of them live up to their full potential and 2 or 3 more live up to half of their potential?

  2. As always Johnny, thanks for taking the time to make this site. Lately I have been thinking of something I read many decades ago. It covers the situation quite well.
    “The difficult and complex problems will be solved eventually. The obvious and simple ones will take a little longer.”
    The pension and 401K thing is another festering bubble. I have read about this for a long time now. I learned a whole lot more when I met my current life partner, ten years ago, who works in that field. It is much worse than almost anyone knows about.
    Since I was self employed for two decades, I started saving for retirement in the early 1980s. I never thought much about the mythical 7% annual return. If my accounts gained some great, but after living through the financial ups and downs of the last 50 years I never counted on it. I was just glad what I put in over time was still there. I remember my grandfather telling me about how he nearly lost everything in the 1930s when banks closed their doors with no FDIC to back anything.
    BTW The Far East Cafe is in one of the photos. I ate there from the late 50s through the mid-70s.

  3. I‘ve never been to San Francisco and I will never get there. So thanks for the nice pictures and for the boarded up ones, too. Here in Germany we get all your worries five years later. And the beautiful: Seattle, CHAZ

    1. You think what’s happening with CHAZ is beautiful? I hope you get to experience some of this “beauty” for yourself. It might change your perspective

  4. Minor typo, “live at some distant from them”.
    Minor comment: holy crap there are a lot more people walking the sidewalks of Palo Alto — and a lot fewer boarded-up shops. ‘Burbs in better shape?

    1. The financial district doesn’t have many residents since it’s mostly office towers. Remove tourists and there aren’t many people to support shops. In my neighborhood in the Mission district we have more functioning shops – although it’s still pretty bad.

          1. the lazy loading part is a technical term meaning the images are only loaded when the reader scrolls to the part where the image is supposed to be shown. This avoids a burst of downloading everything when you go to the page in the first place. But yes, downscaling the images in the article and linking the full image is the good way to go, and that’s what you seem to have done

            1. Good grief. Johnny takes the time to maintain a top-quality blog without advertising, and you drop by and complain about loading speeds. First-world problem. Move on.

              1. Hi Nick,

                i am sorry but i think it is a “BIG” first World problem because the Energy used to download 1MB equals auround 2kg of coal that gets burned for it! So all you should Anonymous accuse of, is that he just throws around technical terms like “lazy loading” that didnt help with the energy problem. Instead of this, anonymous should give a solution that helps!

                  1. Guys… I’d like to step in here and make an observation. Humans have a tendency to drift from the topic at hand and go down a rabbit hole. How did these comments go from a blog post about the economic repercussions of a vacant downtown to a controversy over energy use of internet images? I think this shows how hard it is to get people to focus on meaningful concepts. We seem hard wired for minutiae.

                    1. that might be true and its not polite. but writing wrong “facts” like this is a problem as well. the correct estimation is more like 2 mg. but hey.

                      (yeah i know: everything before a “but” doesnt count. sry again)

                  2. Hi Max,

                    with the energy equivalent of 2mg coal (this equals: “0.016282 Wh” (for example a 50W Lightbulb needs arround 0,8Wh per Minute!!!)) you could not even operate your own PC for the time you need to download something. Please check things out for yourself before you insinuate others to spread wrong facts.

                    Sorry Johnny for being of topic but it is important to me to make it clear, that i do not spread wrong facts.

                    1. still no answer, were you got your 2kg of coal /MByte. yes my 2 mg was a wield guess. so lets calculate 😀
                      as you said, 1kg of caol has usable heat energie of about 8.1 kWh.
                      lets say you have a internet connection of 10MByte/s -> your PC takes 1/10 of a second to download 1MB normal power consumption of your PC is probably less than 300W. lets say 100W for easy numbers.
                      Its hard to tell how many servers are in “the way” of you getting your image, but every server takes not significantly more than a micro second to redirect your trafic of 1 MB. due to high speeds of professional routers in the several (10? 100?) Gbit/s area. lets say 10 servers. with each 1kW of Power consumption.. (here i really dont know the exact number. i dont work in that area.. but its not the whole “server” that handles your trafic, so pls dont reply with “but a server consumes like 1 MW of power”)

                      so we have 100 W * 0.1 s + 10 * 1 kW * 10E-6 s = 10.01 Ws = 0.28 Wh

                      i admit, its not 2 mg of coal. its 34 mg. lets say i underestimated everything by a factor of 100. then its 3.4 g of coal. but im certain that its not near your stated 2 kg of caol.

                      i mean think about it: lets take youtube as an example: video with most clicks is in the bilions. lets say one billion (10E9) with typical filesize of 10 MByte. that would mean 2*10E10 kg of Coal for all those clicks (with your 2kg claim). 2016 worldwide mined coal was like 990 million tons. so 9.9 *10E11 kg. and i talked about one video on youtube like that crapy despacito song. (again just estimations)

                      i leave it at this.

                      greatz from germany

                  3. Hi Max,

                    thx a million for your exact calculation! I think i have to apologize for my wrong fact (even if my 2kg was closer to your 34g than your 2mg so we both had to admit for a wrong fact). For your interesst I got the number from my Industrial Design Professor from the time i study like 15 years ago. He aslo teaches economics and said that a normal Email consumes around 1kg of Coal at this time (around 2005), but as you have proven times had changed.

                    Again I have to say i really thank you for the correct calculation of a more realistic value!!! Because i think it still substanciates my first argument of the “big” first world Problem we have. With the energyconsumtion of the 1MB you calculated The Youtube Video(Despacito) you mentioned has comsumed around 1.8Million tons of coal and Johnnys blogpost with 60MB(if its still that much) uses 2kg for every new visitor that opens this page!

                    So thx Max, thx anonymous and thx johnny i have learned a lot!!!

      1. Hi Jonny,

        here is a good Online App for you to make your Images smaller (https://squoosh.app). Just Drag and Drop the Images and set it to “MozJPEG” and Quality 75% should be ok no need for tweaking the settings. With this u get aurround 90% smaller Images with nearly no Qualityloss. This results in much better loadingspeed for your Website (espacially on mobile devices) AND it saves Energy.

  5. It takes a lot of chutzpah to gloat over the demise of the city while receiving that city’s pension at a great distance. Or a blindness to whole systems.

    1. I have a passing acquaintance with the most astounding example of this. An old family friend of my wife’s family. My wife and their children attended the same school and church for many years.

      He was a sheriff in LA county for several decades. It was the only job he ever had, joined straight from his schooling. He was a career deputy and never held a job in the private sector. Never once pulled a private paycheck. Tax dollars paid his way through life, educated his children, and kept a roof over his head.

      He recently retired, in his mid 50’s, with full pension benefits.

      Immediately moved to Arizona.

      California California state taxes are too high.

      Make of it what you will.

  6. I doubt that COVID-19 spells the end of the city. It’s not as if London or Paris vanished from the face of the earth after the Black Death. There was an ongoing trend of rising real estate prices destroying our cities before COVID-19. It was squeezing out the innovation and the variety that makes cities valuable. Bleecker Street went from Bohemian novelty to high end retail and eventually boarded up for-rent store fronts as even the high end shops were driven out by rising rents.(*) The retail apocalypse was already underway. COVID-19 just accelerated it. If rents collapse, a lot of property owners are going to get wiped out, but the lots and buildings will still be there. The landlords who held out and got their dream tenant, a large, well financed chain store, are probably going to get hit hardest as those tenants are the first to stop paying rent.

    Some people seem to misunderstand how it works. Pensions and 401Ks and savings are just our society’s way of providing goods and services to people past their peak productive years. Cities account for a disproportion chunk of most developed nations’ GDP. If they fail, it isn’t just pensions that get wiped out, it is 401ks, brokerage accounts, real estate holdings and so on. A permanent 10-20% hit on national productive capacity is hard to work around save by sheer luck or a government bailout. Maybe your pension plan is twenty years worth of dried beans, but that’s an awful lot of dried beans to store, and you’re still banking on being able to get fuel and water.

    I’m not a natural optimist, but COVID-19 is just another plague. Sure, it’s going to accelerate certain trends. Retail was contracting and restructuring. It will restructure more quickly. High real estate prices were strangling cities. Prices will rise more slowly or even drop. Telecommunications was making more work location independent. More people will be able to work from home or the beach and offices will be repurposed. Things were pretty grim in London and Paris in the mid-14th century, but until we have low cost, highly reliable Star Trek like teleportation units in every home, we’re still going to need cities, if only as centers of economic activity.

    (*) In some ways its like the BLM anti-thug riots destroying retail outlets. They were already being destroyed by private equity takeovers and the financial system. The riots just knocked out a few more. Most Americans were inured to retail looting by the time the first window was smashed.

    1. Those of us with some training in economics thought the same thing in 2008-10: general inflation, really bad general inflation, cannot be far off.

      Somehow it just turned into an asset bubble. This one seems to be doing the same, as nearly-free mortgages inflate the cost of housing in formerly low-cost Midwest housing markets.

      I’ve mentioned here before working on a whole-house rehab, a solid but worn-out 1959 ranch. New everything (plumbing, water heater, windows, kitchen, bath, laundry room, HVAC).

      I finished it a couple of weeks ago; it was on the market for maybe six hours with 5 lookers between 5 and 8pm. The offer came at 9, over list, which was optimistic based on comps.

      Note that the Fed has also simultaneously pumped up both stock and bond prices with their zero rate policy. No matter what your stock/bond investment ratio is, you’re almost back to February values. No retiree horror stories like 12 years ago! It’s magic!

      And the whisper in the back of my head is getting louder: surely hyperinflation cannot be far off.

    2. Crud. Digressed and left out the important point of my rehab story: even once-affordable Midwest housing markets are bubbling up.

      1. @ChrisB

        I was dead wrong about what happened in 2008-10. I thought we were going to have a period of high inflation (maybe not hyperinflation). As you mentioned, though, that money just boosted asset prices (stocks, houses, even high-end art).

        I’m still not sure why high inflation didn’t happen.

        At some point, though, printing money has to have consequences that damage the currency itself. At least I would think so.

  7. I hit the “like” button but that word doesn’t exactly capture my feelings. A join in your dislike.

    Perhaps the only reckoning that is possible is psychological. The future was cashed in, and isn’t coming back. I still want it to happen.

  8. As a resident of a so-so neighborhood in Los Angeles who does NOT wish to escape to Idaho, as one who would prefer to stick around and fight for my city…I would like to put on record the political unity that is required for the US to become anti-fragile: to address the pensions and the hole in the health care net; is getting further away every day the BLM rioting/looting/assaults on police/toppling of monuments continue to be embraced by the media and the Democratic Party. Law and order should not be a luxury good. It shouldn’t be partisan, either.

    1. As a non-US observer, I’d say your comment is a typical example of exactly why your country has such problems. You urge political unity and decry partisanship, but do so while advancing a position that is nakedly partisan.

      Political unity requires empathy. It requires the ability to understand the perspective and attitudes and actions of people with very different life experiences and values from yourself, and it requires the ability to do this even if you think those attitudes and actions are misguided, even wrong.

      Instead, US political discourse is riven with the kind of anti-empathy that is a typical precursor to religious or ideological fundamentalism. A mindset that continually seeks to divide between a righteous in-group and an immoral out-group. That seeks to deny all fault with itself while refusing to accept the out-group’s position has any validity. And if right now you’re thinking this description perfectly matches the “other side” but not yourself, that’s part of the sickness.

      1. What need is there of a democracy if there is unity? The whole point is to have a reasonably peaceful means of fighting it out among disagreeing factions.

        1. Unity does not necessitate agreement on all points.

          Unity only requires agreement on core values, and empathy on conflicting viewpoints.

          I do not need to agree to everything you say, but I can try to be empathetic as to why you came to a different conclusion on a topic than I did.

        2. We don’t have (and never have had) a democracy, with the exception of Town Meetings in some New England towns and, I suppose, initiative and referendum in California. What we have is a representative republic, and neither “unity” nor “democracy” is where we need to be, and “fighting it out” is anything but “reasonably peaceful” today.

          Where we need to be is “respectful of those who differ” in discourse, and “seeking common ground/hashing things out with political opponents for the good of the country” when action is necessary. I agree with those who would say these features of political life are lacking today. And I especially agree with mesquite about fundamentalism/ideological purity.

      2. The policy questions Johnny raises in this post are solvable by democratic means. My point is the chaos unleashed at present and strangely embraced at the institutional and Democratic party level is of a different nature. It dispenses with democracy altogether. It’s vigilanteism with corporate sponsorship. Three SF tech companies own the public square and decide who gets to speak and what is allowed to be said. To put it in layman’s terms, would you buy a house in a city where the police are not allowed to handcuff anyone and no one is allowed to object?

  9. Wise people are leaving urban areas and finding that Southern states do have advantages . The South was unforunately overlooked by The Federal Government after Reconstruction to continue the false narrative created to change opinions . The ideas touted during the 1950s forward was abandon the rural farm life and have a happy , safe and easy life in the city. It has not worked out so well. The City is no longer necessary or financially feasible. Manage your own retirement plan by owning tangible assets .Understand that violent situations can be some what tempered by distance between people . If an individual is unable to at least partially feed and sustain themselves through their hands on abilities without help from government , they become a liability.

  10. I remember my first office job downtown. I was so proud, walking around at lunch with my shirt tucked in, among the throngs on Market Street, many of them also fresh escapees from dull suburbs across the West. We’re in the City now baby! SF Financial District used to be funny like that, a sort of cosplay Manhattan on the casual West Coast.

    Tech killed what was left of the dress code. Not that I complained, honestly. But when I saw my favorite bookstore converted to a Chase Bank, I felt a pang of sad nostalgia. New skyscrapers everywhere, but more homeless too. The last few years I worked outside the City and rarely ventured in. Why bother?

    Then came Covid-19, protests, looting… If there was any allure left, it died for me. My boss retreated to his Wine Country abode: (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-08/wealthy-havens-lure-homebuyers-in-mad-rush-from-san-francisco?srnd=prognosis&sref=nOLch4DDh4DD). That’s the immediate future. Select suburbs will thrive in the Zoom Decade, those with a degree of sophistication, but also perceived safety and natural beauty.

    In the slightly longer term, oh man, you’re right. Pensions, police & fire… they were unsustainable before the crisis. And now? San Francisco itself has a budget the size of small nations (https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/SF-s-budget-to-soar-by-10-percent-to-12-3-13911737.php) with not much to show for it. That’s over. There will be blood.

    What I’m not sure of is what’s after the carnage. Historically, before the Industrial Revolution, the largest cities hovered around the 1 million mark (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_cities_throughout_history), due to physical limits. That’s the end game. But what are the plays in-between?

  11. Pensions should be shut down, they’re not a realistic way of operating, as we can see now. I don’t really have any sympathy for people receiving pensions who never saved any money of their own. As far as I can tell, every job that HAS a pension, has it in addition to (at the least) a decent salary.

    I get that when the pensions fail we’re going to be in a tough situation, but it seems like it has to happen so that we can move on to a more practical situation. The desolate winter before the spring re-birth and that.

    1. The pensions are backed not by money but by powerful government sector unions who form the main constituency of most politicians. They’re going to run the money printer and bail them out eventually while the private sector dies or goes underground. Meanwhile, all government services will be swallowed up by pension obligations. You will be on your own or with whatever network you’ve created for yourself. It’s already happening in California

  12. Your photographs remind me of a Youtube video I watched last week of a man walking down boarded up Fifth Avenue in New York, past all the fabled, glorious, luxurious, legendary locations: The Pierre, Sherry-Netherland, Plaza, the Apple Store, Tiffany’s, Cartier, Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue. Everything was boarded up and closed and the streets were deserted from the twin plagues of the virus and the recent unrest and looting.

    You hit the exact nail on the head regarding the recent social and economic story of this nation that parallels our own lives. The 1980s and 90s were indeed a time of slicing the social safety net to provide tax cuts for “deserving” people and to punish the “undeserving.” We know now, or admit now, what we always knew: the hysteria over government spending and the fervor for cops, prisons, wars and guns were our modern Jim Crow.

    I just never thought everything would collapse so fast.

    I read today that other nations where people wear masks, and the government has tested and controlled the spread of the virus, are reopening. And meanwhile, our nation joyfully packs bars and restaurants and casinos as more people get sick and die.

    Is there any silver lining to all this? Maybe the collapse and extinction of the GOP. Maybe the idea that only some deserve health care. Maybe the resumption of affordable housing.

    But there are other powerful forces at work who want the automobile to dictate our planning, who think we will get back to normal when we drill for oil, pack the animal slaughterhouses, ignore science and embrace God.

    There is a better world beyond America but we may not live to enjoy it.

  13. About ten years ago, a Utah state legislator looked at their public pensions and decided, we will have problems in a few years if we don’t fix things now.

    And in about a year, Utah redid their pension system so it will be solvent for the foreseeable future.

      1. That particular issue isn’t a Red State Blue State thing. In Texas, the best paid public employees moved to the suburbs, and ordered their suburban state legislators to retroactively enrich their city pensions. Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth are all broker than San Francisco. The Texas suburbs are not, but that’s all about a point in their lifecycle. Expect the same thing to repeat.

        In New York, meanwhile, the New York City pension funds are among the worst funded in the country, even though NYC taxpayers have put in more than anyone else over the decades — as a percent of their own incomes, and the wage of city public employees. The New York State pension funds, which also cover local government employees outside NYC, are among the best funded in the country. The same NY State legislature has set the rules for both for 45 years.

        Data for 50 states plus DC since 1972 is analyzed here. Check out the data while you can. Enough people have noticed my compilations that what is being submitted to the Census Bureau (and Bureau of Economic Analysis) is getting a little strange.

        https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/sold-out-futures-by-state-public-employee-pensions-in-fy-2016/

  14. Preach it, Johnny! I have found the human race to be very consistent in many ways. In this case, it is that no one’s ready to listen & change until they feel the pain of their unrealistic behavior. Thanks for doing your part spreading the word.

  15. I wouldn’t expect “any administration” to bail out some states’ fiscal mess. Illinois is in the worst fiscal shape and has almost 20,000 pensioners receiving >$100K/year state pensions. Federal taxpayers won’t take kindly to bailing out Illinois’ underwater pension plan.

    The Mercatus Center at George Mason University analyzes states fiscal solvency annually. The map they have is eye-opening but not surprising. It’s almost exclusively the big, blue states that are in the worst shape.

    That’s the problem with giving politicians the power to hand out money to their constituents: the most politically powerful constituents get the most money.

    1. Again… I’m not saying Blue states should be bailed out. Let them take their medicine. Fine by me. It’s long past the time for fiscal discipline. What I’m saying instead is a lot of people who migrated away with the expectation of a pension aren’t going to get what they were promised. The LAPD guys playing golf in Idaho are in for a surprise. And they aren’t likely to take their haircuts peacefully.

      And Red States have their own financial problems. Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky has a pension crisis on its hands too. They didn’t over promise lavish benefits. Instead they just didn’t collect enough revenue to fund what little they did offer.

      1. 100%.

        Checking back in at https://www.data-z.org/ (tracks state’s financial situations), it looks like KY fell out of the top 5 according to their metrics. The top states look like they’re ones that have low levels of government service/perks, and/or the services are accomplished by Mormons.

  16. The problem with every city budget I am familiar with is massive pension benefits promised to public employees and feckless (nearly 100% Democratic) politicians who use money that should have gone to the benefits for other purposes. I share your disdain for those people who move out, but you should have a little sympathy for private sector people who have not accrued that kind of retirement package if they are seeking a less expensive place to try to make their 401K last longer.

    1. I have no disdain for people who migrate away from expensive cities and states for less expensive destinations. My point is different.

      If the feds don’t backstop these failed pensions the pain will not be limited to the venues where the pensions are issued. Allowing Illinois to go tits up will create a serious problem for folks elsewhere. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact.

      And I don’t see this as a Democrat vs. Republican thing. I see it as a generational shift. Governor Jim Florio (1990 – 1994) saw the state budget was headed for trouble. He attempted to pay for things the honest way. Cut a little here and increase revenue a little there. 1% on each side of the ledger over time would have fixed things. Neither option was acceptable to the public. He was called a Communist and voted out of office. The compromise – based on the demands of The People – was to pretend that incoming pension funds could be invested more aggressively from a 7% annual return to a 9% annual return. Compounded over thirty years that extra 2% would plug the gap. Except 9% was always understood to be a fiction because it’s not attainable in an economy that grows by 2% or 3% each year.

      The voters wanted to be lied to. They demanded it. The leadership fudged the numbers because they were given no choice if they wanted to stay in office.

  17. It’s so strange seeing an area that’s really following the guidelines. No wonder the infection rate is so much lower in Nocal than Socal. Here in OC we’re getting an all-time high in some metric almost every day. Today: highest ICU usage ever. whee. Time to order some more books online.

    1. I wonder how the 60,000 hotel maids, cooks, dish washers, gardeners, and other folks in the OC associated with the Mouse are doing these days. Will all those unemployed low wage workers be getting new jobs as defense contractors in Costa Mesa?

  18. It’s so strange seeing an area that’s really following the guidelines. No wonder the infection rate is so much lower in Nocal than Socal. Here in OC we’re getting an all-time high in some metric almost every day. Today: highest ICU usage ever. whee. Time to order some more books online.

  19. Most of what you have said is undeniably true. My calendar says mid-June, but it feels like Winter. A very long Winter.

    “…..Hard Line Republican Administration…..”? LOL Trump is many things, including Chief Carnival Barker. One thing he is most assuredly not is an ideologue. You want hard-line? Just wait until we get our American Pinochet.

    Photos: I’ve always found the most appealing parts of San Francisco……or pretty much any city – are the 100-year old parts. I appreciate the human scale. Never been, but Dubai looks like hell on earth. Embarcadero I-IV takes second place……the Brutalist architecture is ghastly.

    Photos, 2: 75% of your pix show boarded up storefronts. Did the Wuhan Flu cause that?

    1. Covid-19 really did board up the storefronts in the Financial District. The executives who call the shots retreated to their country homes immediately. The well paid rank and file did a slightly less extravagant version of the same by sheltering in place. The Zoom meetings and work-from-home dynamic kicked in quickly once companies were properly incentivized. Lawyers sprung into cover-your-ass mode. Once the towers were emptied out there were no customers for the lunch shops, wine bars, and casual weekday shopping. Very few people actually live in these buildings so there wasn’t anyone to support these smaller businesses – as is the case in my largely residential neighborhood. And of course the tourists are gone, gone, gone. San Francisco has a specific culture and the official closures merely reflect popular demand. In other places government responses were to let individuals do their own thing. Fine by me. I don’t need rural Montana or suburban Atlanta to shut down. Pick your poison….

  20. We’ll see whether the pensions get bailed out. At this point the federal government is not very good at solving problems, regardless of whether democrats or republicans are in office.

    I am self employed. People like me couldn’t get health care coverage a few years ago, so now I have something called Obamacare. I pay $11,000 per year for a government approved policy, and it has covered literally nothing for the last three years, not even my annual checkup. Even when I had surgery I paid for it out of pocket.

    Maybe the pensioners from the bankrupt states, counties and cities can all be given a new government benefit where they pay in $11,000 per year and they get nothing in return. I would volunteer to run that program if anybody is interested.

    1. Re: Obamacare…

      Other wealthy countries have had some kind of national health service since WWII. They range from great to mediocre. But everyone is covered and no one is denied care for lack of funds.

      Other countries in the so-called Third World have no national health plans at all so it’s pay or drop dead.

      Americans like to split the difference. Obamacare is similar to all the other attempts at reform. Remember the Health Maintenance Organizations from the 1980s? HMOs were supposed to be the market based solution to reining in costs and delivering more efficient care to everyone. They failed.

      Americans insist that not everyone deserves care so we make it tied to employment. You have to earn health insurance through productive work. Then we have millions of employers who don’t provide insurance because it’s an enormous burden. So people show up at the emergency room and get a $50,000 bill for a boo boo. Obamacare is the latest – but not the last – health plan that will continue to feed the beast at the expense of far too many people. Cause that’s just how we roll in the USA.

      1. “….Americans insist that not everyone deserves care….”

        Ohh just stop it. That’s just silly. There are many perspectives, but these “Americans” you speak of are against the status quo. Everyone knows it’s a giant screw job. Paying twice the going First World rate for the same service should enrage everyone.

        BTW……….You speak of “Americans” as if you are an anthropologist viewing them from afar………..??? I have suspicions.

        1. This anthropologist from afar grew up without health insurance as poor white trash.

          I’m stating plain facts here. We “could” have created a French or Australian or Japanese or Canadian or German style national health system after the war. But we didn’t. Why?

          “Negros.” In 1945 Americans couldn’t tolerate the idea of whites and blacks sharing medical facilities on equal footing. It really is that simple. So poor whites screwed themselves with 75 years of pay-per-view health care just so they could exclude the people below them. It’s not complicated. And we aren’t going to address the situation. It’s endemic and irreparable. Shrug.

          I’m profoundly ambivalent about all the identity politics blah, blah, blah. I’m equally repulsed by Trump holding a bible and Pelosi in kente cloth taking the knee. A pox on all their houses – which is what we currently have…

          1. I have quite a bit of family in Canada. I’ve never used the Canadian system but have certainly heard it discussed plenty of times by my relatives. A casual observation is that my young relatives, such as my cousins’ adult children, think it is great but they seldom use it. My older relatives, including a nonagerian aunt and cousins of retirement age, are frustrated with it and consider Seattle or even Great Falls to be a safety valve.

            I’ve always had good insurance and access to excellent medical care: probably, superior to what my relatives have, and by superior I mean more readily available. I don’t doubt that Canadian doctors are the equal of American ones (there are, after all, plenty of Canadian doctors in the US), and if you’re in critical need of care I’m sure that the Canadians provide it, but a lot of care is not critical and the waiting times are notoriously long.

            Probably 80% or more of Americans have good employer provided insurance and access to the same care as I do. The argument for a government system has always been that it is more fair for health care to be managed as a utility guaranteeing that everyone has access to some level of care. This might, in fact, be the fair thing to do, but I suspect many Americans would become very frustrated with Canadian level care pretty quick. Perhaps the more affluent might be able to purchase supplemental insurance to speed things along or get access to the doctors and clinics they want to see as happens in many countries.

            1. Americans are comfortable with 20% of the population not having insurance, or having an even larger segment of the country receive expensive low quality coverage.

              Canadians start with a base that covers everyone at a tolerable level and allows 20% to purchase extra care if they think they need it.

              I’m confident that even if Americans adopted some form of national coverage we would quickly self segregate by income in a similar way we ration “good” public schools by home purchase price.

              1. One of the major problems is that Americans prefer Ideas over Reality. Everyone has insurance? GREAT! That they have to pay out-of-pocket for most everything due to $3k-$6 deductibles is beside the point, especially for the idealistic young, who rarely think of anything beyond the slogan (in this case, “Insurance for All!”). There are thousands upon thousands of examples of this at every level of our society. And our society, in a suicidal manner, reinforces them in every way it can. Even the laws of the land, which should be based only on facts, are being co-opted by illusion and desire.

                Still, Reality has a way of coming back around, often in a very painful manner. As one Priest I know says it: “Gravity always wins.” We can only float for so long.

                1. You’re mostly right, Bryon. I agree that the idea of ‘insurance for all’ is a great slogan, but often fails in execution. That’s because we need to, but seldom, get to the root cause, which is the insanely disproportionate cost of medical care and supplies. If we are going to go Medicare for all, we also have to force massive reductions in cost of care.

                  This requires price/cost caps on all parts of the system (starting with the cost of medical degrees and medicine/devices). This is the disconnect when people oppose Medicare for All. They say it’ll cost Eleventy Trillion dollars, but they’re basing that on the current costs of medical care in the U.S., which all rational unbiased humans know is a widely overpriced and captive ‘market’.

                  1. Sadly, and this gets much closer to root of that particular issue, one would have to separate the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries from any input into medical costs. And that won’t happen. Layers upon layers.

                    The larger point that I was making is that the country prefers Ideas to Reality and one can only go so far with that before the wheels fall off. We seem to want to race to that point.

                2. Over 60, last year had a major medical problem that cost Kaiser $240,000 and me $10,000. This on an O-Care Bronze plan with a $5750 deductible. The way I figure it, I received world class, life saving health care for $10 grand. A bargain.

                  1. I suppose the big question here is… what would the same procedure cost (regardless of who pays) in Japan, Germany, Australia, or Canada? Is the cost uniform or is there a wide discrepancy between various systems? If the standard price is $250,000 everywhere that’s one thing. If not you have to ask why.

                    1. Well, generally speaking, the insurance we have works for major, life-threatening emergencies. But if you need, for example, a chest x-ray then you’re out for the cost (in my case, roughly $250). That’s not a small thing for people living paycheck-to-paycheck and/or already in fairly significant debt. Worse, if they know the cost ahead of time, it is likely that they won’t even get the x-ray, which may mean they won’t uncover something that needs to be addressed.

                      The current system will keep you alive in a major emergency and nickel-and-dime you (in the hundreds and thousands of dollars) to death in all other situations. As everyone has noticed, it doesn’t work.

                    2. Johnny – I don’t have anything to base this on, but I highly suspect the cost is dramatically less in other countries.

                    3. I obviously can only speculate about cost differences but let me tell you that here in Germany anything health care related carries a hefty price tag. A piece of plastic you otherwise would get for 10-20€? 200! An MRI? 2000! Its just that I don’t have to pay for that, which is nice but I very much think having an insurance paying for it instead doesnt improve pricing. Not sure what to do about that tbh. We have a big pharma lobby and im sure there is a lot of corruption and hidden subsidies happening over that system but its nonetheless a system that seems viable enough.

                    4. From my outside perspective, the biggest cost factor in the US is the risk of getting sued. They need to price that in for any medical treatment. Other countries don’t have this kind of cost.

                  2. That “major medical problem” would probably have cost a German insurance company $80,000 and you would have paid probably $180 out of your pocket. The latter would have been an ambulance ride to the hospital ($11), 14 days of staying in for treatment, and the ride home via PTA ($11), if you were physically unable to take a taxi and make it to your home on your own. And if your major medical problem had having you stay in the hospital for longer than 28 days, the out-of-pocket contribution would have been capped at about $300 (plus the rides). For that year, that is. Another stay at the hospital during that same year – no extra out-of-pocket expenses. That’s not something the hospital negotiates with your insurance – it’s federal law. The whole annual out-of-pocket contribution is capped at 2% of your annual gross income, and that includes payments for prescriptions. You earn $30,000 annually, you pay $600 maximum.

                    And what does it cost? 14.6 percent of your monthly gross income, divided into your own 7.3 percent and another 7.3 percent that your employer has to pay on top of your salary (this also goes for contribution to other government-provided social security services like pension insurance, nursing insurance, and unemployment insurance – your employer automatically deducts all those dues and your income tax and transfers them to the tax office and the social security agency while transferring only your net income to you). The insurance companies can charge an additional percentage of your income, and the average right now is 1.1 percent, which is also divided into an employer part and an employee part.
                    The worst case scenario for a $30,000 gross annual income (with average additional charge) is $2,750 in total payments off your paycheck for healthcare. And here’s a fun fact: that contribution is capped at $61,200 dollars, which means if you make more than that you always pay like you only earned $61,200 annually.

                    You can opt-out of this kind of insurance, if you can make a better deal (coverage- or payment-wise) with a private insurance company when you earn more than those $61,200 per year. There’s just one catch: Unless you’ve lost your insurance for five years or go back to earning less than those $61,200, you can’t return to the government-provided healthcare system and are stuck with private insurance, even if you pay much, much more. That should keep you from laying in beds that other people made. And if you’re self-employed, you always pay the highest premium rate for government-provided healthcare.

                    This is not the Soviet Union. It’s Germany. And it’s the _worst_ state the German healthcare system was in since Adolf gave Eva her pill and shot himself in the head…

              2. Hadn’t heard of the Negro inclusion on health care perspective. Perhaps. I suspect the better culprit may be Henry Kaiser, for the progressive and novel idea of offering basic hospital care to his wartime shipyard employees. The road to Hell, and all……

                True enough about Trump’s bible and Nancy’s kinte cloth. Items as foreign to both of those knuckleheads as Moon rocks.

                Finally, some levity—–There’s a few images of Kneeling Nancy taken with a wider scope showing Jerry Nadler standing…..yes, standing……off to the right. Even after the stomach staple that talking manatee realized there’s no way he’s getting back up once he takes a knee…=)

                  1. Funny, but this old trope:

                    “Most of the Democrats refused to go to the right, only going as far left as possible”

                    There is no left left (as in remaining) among the establishment, kente-donning democrats. Sounds fairly partisan to me. Just one party here in USA, desperately trying to look like two, thus the kente cloth, etc.

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