There Are Many Ways To Fail But What Does It Say About Society When Insurance Premiums Are One Of Them?

It’s not just the whiny underemployed — the high cost of health care may be stifling America’s entrepreneurial spirit:

Entrepreneurs have plenty of things to keep them awake at night worrying: payroll, inventory, pricing, competition. For Jere Smith and her husband, Don Lueders, the main thing is health insurance.

Many small-business owners struggle with the high cost of health insurance, but it is even more critical for entrepreneurs with ventures less than five years old, the time when a business tries to build its clientele and profits. And because many start-ups typically include few employees, if any, they cannot always take advantage of discounted insurance rates that groups enjoy.

The cost of buying health insurance, experts say, is increasingly rattling start-ups that never anticipated the escalating price tag, and in some cases the expense keeps would-be entrepreneurs on the sidelines, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions.

“If Bill Gates had to worry about health insurance would he have started Microsoft? Who knows,” said Katherine Swartz, an economist at the Harvard School of Public Health and the author of “Reinsuring Health: Why More Middle-Class People Are Uninsured and What Government Can Do.”

“I worry about whether these small businesses will be able to survive, and I worry about what the U.S. economy is going to produce, the types of products and services small businesses will be able to produce in the next decade or so,” Ms. Swartz said.

Once upon a time, Ms. Smith and Mr. Lueders had generous benefits from their employers and gave little thought to how medical care would be paid. But today, as owners of a consulting firm in Liberty, Mo., and a transmission franchise in North Kansas City, it is a constant struggle.

“When we worked for someone else, life was good,” she said. “We had plenty of money and health care. Now we live with the constant fear of something. You never know, you just hold your breath. We will probably have one of us go back and get a full-time job at some point.”

Then there are the skeptics:

Not everyone thinks the trend is keeping people from taking the entrepreneurial plunge. “I’m not buying that it is a true barrier. It’s a hurdle not a wall,” says Bill Coleman, senior vice president for compensation at Salary.com, the compensation and benefits data site. If the higher price of health insurance keeps you out of the self-employed game, he said, then you might not be cut out to be an entrepreneur.

Go Cheney yourself, you glib piece of turd. Not being able to afford health care is a totally retarded reason not to bring wonderful new ideas or services to the marketplace. Very lame.

Like I was getting at yesterday (and I think even David Brooks would agree, based on today’s column), if you give Americans the tools to succeed, they’ll do quite nicely. Policy above principle!

News Flash: Adam Smith Favors Free Trade

It’s true. Insert “invisible hand” joke here.

Anyway, I believe that’s the first half-assed pun we’ve made on the name of the representative from Washington’s 9th District. It probably won’t be the last. In all seriousness though, the Postman post linked above links to an article about a private mano-a-mano between former Clinton Treasury Secretary and free-trader Robert Rubin and labor chief John Sweeney.

Now that the Dems are in power again, there’s going to be a big fight over the Clinton free-trade legacy. You know where I stand on this, so there’s no sense in becoming a broken record. But it’s at least somewhat encouraging that Rubin and Sweeney are at least meeting once before they begin to grandstand with dueling press conferences and tear the Democratic party apart.

Nothing’s Happening Here

I really thought that some crazy-ass multi-nation diplomatic grand bargain was underway this week. Newsweek says, not so much.

Who knows… these things are all done sub rosa, and we the public aren’t usually privy to the subtle machinations of international diplomacy (or otherwise unable to separate causes and effects of various geopolitical maneuvers).

Newsweek does say that the Bush team still thinks talking to Syria and Iran is a nonstarter:

At an earlier press conference, the president also brushed aside the only concrete proposal to have emerged from the deliberations of the Baker group: the idea of negotiating directly with Syria and Iran to stabilize Iraq. Bush and his aides believe that would undermine the sovereign position of Iraq’s government, as well as their own get-tough negotiating position with Damascus and Tehran. If the Iraqis want to talk to the Iranians, as they have in recent days, they are free to do so—and probably more effective at it, in the eyes of the White House.

The idea that Iraq can negotiate with them more successfully, though, seems like a stretch. Sure, it’s true, in that Moebius-strip way, that Bush has alienated the arab world so badly by not talking to them that he can’t talk to them. But the flip side is that this has to be about carrots and sticks, and the U.S. has far more carrots and sticks to offer Syria and Iran than the weak Iraqi state.

And With Any Luck “I’m Just Happy He Has Health Insurance” Will Disappear From A Parent’s Vocabulary

Offer it, and they will accept it:

Thirty thousand Ford Motor Company workers — nearly half of the automaker’s unionized work force — have agreed to leave their jobs in exchange for a buyout or a package of early retirement benefits, the company said this morning.

All of the 75,000 Ford employees represented by the United Automobile Workers union were offered eight different deals worth as much as $140,000 in September, and had to decide by Monday whether to accept.

In all, 38,000 U.A.W. workers at Ford have now agreed to take buyouts this year, including 8,000 who accepted packages offered at specific plants earlier in the year, before the company made the deals available to its entire hourly work force.

The departures will leave Ford with its smallest workforce in decades.

Combined with almost 34,000 employees who took buyouts over the summer — reducing G.M.’s hourly payroll by about one-third — the Ford announcement brings to 72,000 the number of workers at Detroit’s automakers who have voluntarily agreed to leave an industry that can no longer can guarantee them the high wages and job security enjoyed by their parents and grandparents.

The “take rate” at Ford surpassed the expectations both of management and of Wall Street analysts, and will allow Ford to reduce its costs faster than called for in the company’s much-discussed overhaul plan, called the Way Forward. Ford said earlier in the year that it needed to eliminate 25,000 to 30,000 jobs as it closes plants and sheds production capacity left idle as the company’s market share in the United States declines.

Union leaders were apparently surprised by the high take rate as well: before the Monday deadline, news reports said they expected only about 15,000 workers to accept a buyout.

What, does everyone think we’re stupid or something? Who wouldn’t accept money to quit their job?

On a somewhat related note, something that’s been bothering me for a while is the idea just how much more competitive businesses could be if workers weren’t shackled to jobs because of health insurance. I probably would have had six jobs in the time I’ve now spent languishing in one — and I imagine both my employer and potential employers would have been much happier with a hungrier employee who actually wanted to be there.

I would be much more interested in holding two or more interesting jobs versus the one boring job that basically just exists to provide me with insurance. Take out the insurance part and employers looking for part-time help would have a better applicant pool to pick from. It would make everyone and everything more efficient. Why policymakers don’t take this into account is strange to me.

Liberal Europe

The cheese eating surrender monkeys are at it again, this time after a police officer of African descent killed a member of a mob while defending a Jewish fan the mob had chased into an alley and was threatening to kill.

The trouble began outside the stadium, as is often the case, after the Paris team was defeated, 4-2. Dozens of Paris supporters pursued and cornered Yanniv Hazout, 25, a French fan who is Jewish.

A 32-year-old plainclothes transport police officer, Antoine Granomort, who was guarding a nearby parking lot, rushed to shield him from the crowd.

“The crowd hurled insults — ‘dirty Jew,’ ‘dirty Negro’ and monkey cries — and raised Nazi salutes,” a Paris prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, said afterward. He added that they also shouted, “Le Pen, president!” a reference to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader who plans to run for president in the election in April. According to Mr. Sarkozy, some fans shouted, “Death to the Jew!” before attacking Mr. Hazout.

When the crowd began kicking and beating Officer Granomort and apparently threatened to kill the fan he was protecting, he fired his service revolver, killing Julien Quemener, 25, a home appliance technician, and wounding Mounir Boujaer, 26, a truck driver, according to several witness accounts. A fan who called himself Maxmax wrote Friday on an ultra Internet message board that someone shouted, “Jews to the ovens!” after the shooting.

I tend to view Europe through tinted glasses, but the ugly truth is that, at it’s best, Europe is struggling mightily with multi-culturalism. At worst, Europeans can be horrible, racist turds on par with any agro Ami. Maybe even worse — when was the last time you heard of a lynch mob chasing a Jewish person in the U.S.?

Damn Liberal Judges

Can a judge force the US Treasury to redesign its currency? Maybe so.

The government discriminates against by printing money that all looks and feels the same, a federal judge said Tuesday in a ruling that could change the face of American currency.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. He said he wouldn’t tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it.

Note that the Hon. Judge Robertson is a Clinton appointee with a long track record working for civil rights.

Next those damn liberal judges are going to come up with some REALLY wacky liberal sh*t like integrated schooling. Oh. Wait.

I’ve always felt that the passion people feel for the current incarnation of the greenback is a little bizarre.  Example: I’ve heard people accuse the government of being communist for trying to reintroduce silver dollars — despite the vast advantages of using coins for low denominations. So I imagine right wing demagogues are going to keep this one next to their jerk rags for a few days, at least.

Luca Brasi Sleeps with the Fishes

As Bruno noted, my own pet theory on the Litvinenko killling is that whoever did it wanted to be discovered, in order to send a message to some other rival.

Looks like that may actually be the case:

Boris Berezovsky, an exiled Russian billionaire and fierce opponent of the Kremlin, confirmed today that police found radioactive traces in his offices following the death last week of his close associate, Alexander Litvinenko, allegedly poisoned by radiation.

While the association between the two men has become widely known, the discovery of radioactive traces at Mr. Berezovsky’s Mayfair offices highlighted their close ties and offered one more clue about Mr. Litvinenko’s movements on the day he first reported feeling unwell on Nov. 1.

Mr. Beresovsky, one of the most prominent and wealthy Russian exiles in London, visited Mr. Litvinenko in his hospital bed before he died. Apart from the traces at his offices, where Mr. Litvinenko was a frequent visitor, he has not been implicated in the police inquiry.

Mr. Litvinenko, a former Russian secret service agent, accused the Russian authorities of poisoning him with what the police said was an ingestion of a radioactive isotope, polonium 210. But Mr. Berezovsky pointedly refrained today from making a similarly direct accusation.

The emphasis is mine … looks like the message got through, eh?

And another thing about this. Polonium 210 is a pretty specific calling card. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an action not just of Putin’s cronies, but of a very specific group of his cronies who really, really wanted to get themselves noticed.

The President Has Left the Building

I really, really wanted to give Bush a chance to be a moderate, and help the Dems pass minimum wage hikes and amnesty for unauthorized US residents.

But looks like he’s still campaigning:

“When you see a young democracy beginning to emerge in the Middle East, the extremists try to defeat its emergence,” Bush said. “Extremists attack because they can’t stand the thought of a democracy. And the same thing is happening in Iraq.”

Er, Mr. Bush? Can you please keep your simplistic, partisan rhetoric to yourself and let the grownups do their job now? Thanks.

Poisoned

If it’s true that Vladimir Putin ordered the hit on Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-Russian spy, that’s some seriously messed up shit!

Also, I heard on NPR today that Litvinenko had just become a British citizen. Meaning that if the Russian government successfully assassinated a British citizen, well… that’s some seriously messed up shit! There have to be some repercussions here. But when you assassinate someone using a radioactive element that only a large government could readily acquire, you have to be intentionally tipping your hand, as the Prof suggests on this week’s show.