Thursday, May 09, 2013


Friday Fragments

I did not see this coming.

I called a meeting of a few work areas that report to me.  They’re loosely affiliated with each other, and it’s pretty clear to all involved that it’s time to rethink how they work together.  It’s hard to have that sort of conversation piecemeal, so I brought everyone to the table to talk about it.

After a few minutes of “here’s where we are now” -- with which nobody had an issue -- I suggested that we start discussing alternatives.  After a brief, awkward moment, a thoughtful member of one group suggested that the various groups could have a candid and productive discussion if the authority figure absented himself.

I got kicked out of my own meeting.

They weren’t mean about it, and afterwards, two of the folks who were there made points of tracking me down and letting me know that the discussion went well, they’ve devised a plan for followup discussion and plan formation, and they will invite me back when they have an option or two to discuss.  They just wanted some space to think out loud without feeling like they were on display.

I’m choosing to read this as a sign that they feel empowered, respected, and trusted.  They seemed genuinely happy to have the time to talk to each other, and sincerely pleased to bring me up to speed afterwards.  The action plan they developed makes sense, and I’m glad that they’ll have ownership of their eventual proposal.   But I have to admit, for all the meetings I’ve attended over the years, this was new.


The sports-and-music-and-meetings-and-celebrations cycle has hit the point where TW and I were actually grateful for a rainout.  At a certain point, you don’t even feel guilty about it...


As a kid, I remember being sort of amazed that baseball teams could actually trade players.  Now it seems that some colleges in Ohio are doing much the same with adjuncts, in order to avoid hitting a threshold under the Affordable Care Act at which they’d have to pay for health insurance.  I’ll trade you a philosopher for an accountant and a first round draft choice.

It’s a simple point, but it bears repeating: employer-based health insurance is a historical accident and an economic disaster.  The answer is single-payer.  Otherwise, the incentive to play “hot potato” with costs will be endemic.  As long as the incentives are all wrong, perverse outcomes are inevitable.


“I’m supposed to follow my passion, but what if I don’t have a passion?”



Another meeting earlier this week: as the group was settling in and the pre-meeting chatter started to subside, a single sentence floated clearly above the room:

“There’s no room for the giant muffin.”

Sometimes there isn’t.

Great working group. They must really respect each other and you. They will get things done amicably and professionally. Kudos to all of you.

I second Dean Dad’s call for a single-payer national medical insurance system. The present employer-based medical insurance system is a historical accident, having originated as a response to World War II wage and price controls. During the war, employers could not raise salaries in order to keep their employees, so they opted to provide then with medical insurance instead. This system worked fairly well so long as medical costs remained low, but in recent years the cost of medical care has increased at a much higher rate than inflation in general, and medical insurance has become increasingly more expensive.

The cost of medical insurance is now so high that a lot of companies have completely dropped medical insurance coverage for their employees. Those that still provide insurance coverage are asking their employees to shoulder more and more of the cost by increasing the amount of premiums that their employees must pay for their coverage. Even those employees who still have insurance through work are finding that they are having to pay an increasing percentage of their medical costs out of their own pockets--copays and coinsurance amounts are going through the roof. Any sort of medical emergency can completely devastate a family’s finances, and medical costs are now a leading cause of personal bankruptcies. The present system threatens to bankrupt us all.

The need to provide medical insurance is one big reason why employers are reluctant to hire new employees, re the problem that Dean Dad mentions about some colleges cutting adjunct hours in order to avoid hitting a threshold under the Affordable Care Act at which they would have to provide health insurance.

Perhaps if businesses and corporations would lobby Congress for the establishment of a single-payer national health insurance system, we might actually get one. Wouldn’t corporate interests really like to get this monkey off their backs? I think that the introduction of a single-payer medical insurance would result in a sudden burst of hiring in the economy.

In the world of community organizing, (my background), what you just saw was evidence of buy-in: your folks were interested in leading, not just following. And they took the step they felt they needed to get into the leadership spot. Not that everything necessarily goes well when the top dog is not in the room! But it's a new level of functioning, for sure.
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Right? It seems like businesses would benefit so tremendously from a single payer system that those who own and represent and lobby for businesses should be lining up and tripping over themselves to advocate for this. Instead it's nothing but crickets, unless they're complaining about ObamaCare. Which they wouldn't be stuck with if they'd support single payer.

The only thing I can think of is that businesses are run by wealthy people who fear their personal taxes would go up if we had a single payer system - and they recoil in terror so thoroughly from this prospect that they make poor business decisions. Which doesn't inspire a ton of confidence about their other business decisions, frankly.
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