Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Get In the Game, Coach

Although I have been an Obama fan since 2008, there are a few things happening, or not happening, in his administration that leave me wondering if I have been backing the wrong horse. Not that I wish I had voted for John McCain or Mitt Romney, but I wonder if some other liberal might have been a better choice, although I have no idea who that would be.
Today’s headlines indicate that Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, has been chosen to fall on her sword for the problems facing the 2010 Affordable Care Act web site. Although she says she gave the President regular reports on the progress of the program, she is ultimately responsible for the problems.
This is true to some extent, but whatever happened to Harry Truman’s sign, “The Buck Stops Here?” Apparently it has been replaced by one that says, “It’s not my responsibility.”
The second thing that has me concerned is the NSA’s insistence that the President was not informed about the bugging of government communications of Germany, the U.K. and other U.S. allies. If this is true, it begs the question, “If the leader didn’t know about it, then why do it?” It seems to me that the reason for having such information is to help him lead.
If it’s not true, then the transparency we were promised in 2008 has become very cloudy indeed.
The circling sharks smell blood, although it is diluted with their own.
The President reminds me of a football coach who is busy playing with his Xbox instead of watching the game. Look up, Barack, and pay attention.
 My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.


Friday, October 25, 2013

The Affordable Care Act Website “Fiasco”

During the early 1950s I worked for a large manufacturing company – I believe there were over 4,000 employees.
The company bigwigs prided themselves on being in the forefront of technology, so the decision was made to upgrade the data processing system, as it was called in those pre-IT days, to take advantage of the new equipment and methods which had been developed during wartime.
After many months of planning by highly trained analysts, a new system for streamlining the order processing, shipping and billing procedures was ready to go. The changeover was scheduled to take place over a weekend. Haha.
Now I am speaking about a rather large system: this company was shipping fifty freight-car-loads and over 200 truckloads of product each day. One can see that any delay would cost big bucks.
For three weeks not one item of product left the plant! Those individuals responsible for installing the system were working over 100 hours per week in order to get it going!
After the system finally was up and running, and it did work well after the bugs were out, those same individuals were working somewhere else.
The point is – the system was a massive disaster at first, but eventually the problems were solved. But it took time.
You can write this as an immutable fact: People who expect a large, complicated system to work from the get-go are only fooling themselves. The analyst can only prepare for those events most likely to cause a problem, but he can never anticipate every possible thing that could go wrong.
Although the above case was relatively large, it is dwarfed by the size of the ACA website. And there is one additional complicating factor: The ACA analysts are working for the government. It is highly likely that by the time they really got into the project, they were faced with innumerable suggestions and demands from countless paragons of self-interest, otherwise known as Congresspersons.
In spite of its huge size, the ACA website does not appear to contain any problems which have not already been solved years ago by, say, the IRS, the Pentagon and numerous other entities, both public and private.
But it will take time.
 My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Who Shut Down the United States?

As I write this, the shutdown blame game continues in Washington. According to the GOP, the Democrats refuse to compromise. The argument is, “We need more time to analyze this 2,500-page train wreck.”
My question is: Given that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed three years ago, how much time do you need?
The Republican answer: Eternity. If that’s true, you must have stupid analysts.
Another GOP argument is that the individual purchase requirement in the law is unconstitutional. The law was duly passed by the Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Unconstitutional? I think not.
Next argument: The President has broken the law by postponing the health care employer mandate. October 1st was specified in the law – he is overstepping his power by deferring the requirement.
But wait – the implementation of all laws is prescribed by the agencies charged with enforcing them. Federal agencies have almost unlimited powers concerning the rules covering the execution and administration of the laws. Deferment and individual waivers are granted all the time; this time is no different.
Another argument: Because employers of more than 50 employees are required to cover contraceptives, the law is unconstitutional because it violates the religious freedom of these employers.
Well what about the equal rights of those employees who do not find contraceptives sinful? Are they to be denied rights equal to those enjoyed by employees of religiously neutral employers?
A major argument is, “We can’t afford it.”
The ACA is modeled on the Massachusetts health care insurance reform law, passed in 2006, and signed into law by none other than Governor Mitt Romney, who happened to be the GOP’s favorite son in 2012. In June 2011, a Boston Globe review concluded that the healthcare overhaul "has, after five years, worked as well as or better than expected.” There is nothing to indicate that the ACA will not perform just as well.
There is one potential benefit of the ACA which is seldom mentioned – the economic benefit of having a healthier national work force. According to a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund1, in 2003 there were 5,372M days of production lost due to worker health problems. As a result, $260B of output was also lost. The universal availability of health care provided by the ACA would go a long way toward reducing this loss.
Republicans, ask yourselves if hanging on to a losing ideology is worth reducing the once proud United States to an international laughing-stock. Ask yourselves if your selfish motives are fulfilling your constitutional mandate to “promote the general welfare.”
But don’t ask yourselves who shut down the United States. You did.

1. Health and Productivity Among U.S. Workers
Karen Davis, Sara R. Collins, Michelle M. Doty,
Alice Ho, and Alyssa L. Holmgren

My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.