The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

True Conservatives

If you believe in small government, individual liberty, and all the other things that conservatives traditionally believe, then equal rights for gays naturally follows. As evidence I give you the British Conservative Party's leader (and probably the next prime minister), David Cameron:

[N]o-one should be in any doubt that the Conservative party abhors homophobia, that we support equal rights, that we support civil partnerships, that we think that part of being a strong central right party in Britain today.

One of the bedrock issues is being in favour of proper equality for people whether they are straight or gay, or black or white, or men or women, or whether they live in the town or the countryside or whatever God they worship - important points.

He's the Conservative Party leader. That's what a center-right politician looks like everywhere else in the world. His positions are entirely within the foundational beliefs of conservatism (and liberalism, of course).

Incidentally, the interview quoted above was with—wait for it—Gay Times magazine. Now stop, for a moment, and consider the crashing improbability of Sarah Palin or John Boehner sitting down with the Advocate and you start to see how out of touch with conservatism the Republican leadership really is.

Best airports in the world

I didn't expect to see O'Hare on this list. (Oh, it wasn't. Don't worry.)

Gulliver has the summary:

HAVING assessed 9.8m passenger surveys for its annual awards, Skytrax, a research company, has just named Singapore’s Changi airport the best in the world.

Incheon airport, near Seoul, which was last year’s winner, came second and Hong Kong airport third. These three would appear to be well clear of the opposition, according to Skytrax’s methodology, as they have held the top three slots (in different orders) for the past three years. ...

Top ten airports 2010: 1 Singapore, 2 Seoul Incheon, 3 Hong Kong, 4 Munich, 5 Kuala Lumpur, 6 Zurich, 7 Amsterdam, 8 Beijing, 9 Auckland, 10 Bangkok

If anyone wants to donate $460 to the Daily Parker, I'll order a copy of the report and find out where O'Hare wound up. Sight unseen, I'll bet the whole amount that it did better than LaGuardia, and I'll give even odds we beat Heathrow.

Stock market declines; Republicans vindicated

Well, maybe the Republicans who predicted market Armageddon over the weekend were right. Even though the markets went up on Monday and Tuesday, this morning they have, indeed, collapsed. During the first half-hour of trading this morning the Dow has lost 24, the NASDAQ 10, and the S&P 4. Points. Meaning, 0.23%, 0.4%, and 0.3%, respectively.

Yes, the markets have spoken. They just haven't said anything about health-care reform.

Where's the kaboom?

Yesterday some of my classmates fretted about how the stock market would collapse today because of health care reform passing the House.

Yawn. With half an hour to go, the NASDAQ, DOW, and oil are up; bonds are down; gold is down. All the indicators are within 1% of Friday's closes.

What a disaster:

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It's hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they'll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections.

Yeah, that's not Josh Marshall; that's David Frum. He continues:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

What a lovely spring day we're having in the U.S.


And we now have a 20th-century health care plan for America. Just in time.

Fifty years from now, our children and grandchildren will wonder why the vote was so close, kind of like how we today wonder about the 85 who voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Or maybe the way we don't, but we should.

UpdateJames Fallows:

For now, the significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)... TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.

That is how the entire rest of the developed world operates, as noted yesterday. It is the way the United States operates in most realms other than health coverage. Of course all older people are eligible for Medicare. Of course all drivers must have auto insurance. Of course all children must have a public school they can attend. Etc. Such "of course" rules offer protection for individuals but even more important, they reduce the overall costs to society, compared with one in which extreme risks are uncontained. The simplest proof is, again, Medicare: Does anyone think American life would be better now, on an individual or a collective level, if we were in an environment in which older people might have to beg for treatment as charity cases when they ran out of cash? And in which everyone had to spend the preceding years worried about that fate?

There are countless areas in which America does it one way and everyone else does it another, and I say: I prefer the American way. Our practice on medical coverage is not one of these. Despite everything that is wrong with this bill and the thousand adjustments that will be necessary in the years to come, this is a very important step.

Or, if you prefer, FDR:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

Springtime in the U.S., indeed.

What today is about

One of my Duke classmates posted a Facebook status update that prompted a discussion. I thought responding in long form would be more appropriate than continuing a comment chain.

Here's the chain so far:

JP: If healthcare passes I guarantee the stock markets will drop tomorrow.

Me: So?

BR: David, doesn't a drop in the stock market after the passing of a monumental legislation like the healthcare bill indicate investors feel that the bill will be a detriment to the healthcare sector? Doesn't that seem significant to you?

RZ: It won't just be the healthcare stocks that will drop. It's an added cost/uncertainty for all businesses, and the considerable legal issues will start almost immediately.

AS: B/R,
The stock markets might drop, as health care is such a major factor in the GDP (I think it's 12-15%). But then, if health spending comes down, individual consumption might go up, so retailers and manufacturers would benefit. That benefit would only play out over a 12 month cycle.
Also, while this is more subjective, I think if it lowers the overall long-run, firms might ramp up hirings. One of the biggest issues in the past decade has been jobless recoveries and jobless growth.

RZ: That would be great if it lowered spending, but even the scam artists themselves admitted that the bill is not about cost containment.
My biggest question is, since the CBO scoring assumes taxes for 10 years, but 6 years of "benefits", what are we going to do in the second decade? Or, are we supposed to take a presidential term off once per decade and just be content with our health?

First, the tribulations of panicky investors don't matter much in the medium- or long-term. Some people will dump their insurance-company shares tomorrow, and others will dump their shares across the health sector, but it will be a blip. So what, let some share prices flop for the next few days, then cooler heads will start buying up the bargains.

What bargains? Well, I don't expect the future profits of health-insurance companies will be as high as in the past, but that's kind of the point. So those stocks will never have the value they had on Friday. To me, good riddance. Because instead of wasting 30% of U.S. health-care expenditures on administrative expenses, instead of dropping people who have the temerity to make claims against their policies, instead of denying coverage to people who once had a runny nose, insurers have to run leaner operations in which they actually pay health care claims. They're not going out of business; they'll just have to compete in a marketplace that requires them to spread risks. You know, like auto insurers, all of whom suffer terrible indignities like the steady profits of a guaranteed market.

No, for bargains look at health-care providers, like hospitals, technology companies, drug manufacturers. (OK, maybe not drug manufacturers.) If I had a ton of cash right now, I'd short Aetna and, a couple of days from now, go long on a portfolio of health-care service providers.

Think about it: 65 million people who don't have health insurance now will start buying it. And those people will start consuming health care services in ways they haven't before, for instance by getting preventative care and not using the E.R. as a first resort. This will mean, most likely, more health-care spending in general.

So, yes, the legislation isn't "about cost containment," as RZ complains, but it's an excellent value for the country. Two things will happen once the U.S. joins the rest of the world in providing health care to all its citizens. First, people will be healthier. Second, because they're healthier, they'll be more productive. When you spend money on something today so that you realize greater gains tomorrow, that's not "cost containment," it's "investment." And actually, according to the CBO, the effect on GDP will be a wash. In other words, we'll provide health care to everyone for about what we're spending now. Maybe it'll cost taxpayers another $20-25 per year, each.

This isn't really a debate about the costs, though. Of course we should consider the costs—and I think we have. No, ultimately, this is the end of a century-long debate about whether Americans should have a legal right to basic health care. There is no objectively correct answer to the question. There is, however, a political process to resolve it.

It may seem like an argument to the people to point out that a majority of Americans believe we should, but in this case it isn't fallacious. That's why we've spent years—decades, even—going through this process. In the U.S. we have strong protections for minority views, but sometimes, just sometimes, the majority prevails. If the bill passes tonight, the majority wins. If not, all the things about health insurance that people hate will get worse. And that will cost us more than we have to spend in the future.