One generation away…


Fifty years of lying about universal health care:

Sarah Palin last year talking about Reagan:

It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we’re going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.

Reagan gave this quote while he was campaigning against medicare almost 50 years ago. Some of Reagan’s other Medicare comments from this time.

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism, or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.

h/t Paul Krugman and Ed Brayton


This is disturbing…

This video is disturbing on several levels. But I am bothered most by the response of the audience to Sen. Coburn’s comments about how we should help this lady by individually offering our neighborly services. Notice the applause he gets when he says this. This is a women who is facing either financial ruin or a life of suffering while her husband slowly dies. And she had insurance! How can you convince a nation to take this issue seriously when people are like this?

I get so tired hearing how government is not the solution. It isn’t the solution to everything, but is the only solution for some things. Medical expenses are not “fairly divided” among our citizens. Medical problems that lead to financially crushing burdens do not happen only to people of poor character or to those who deserve what they get. We have one of two choices: we can figure out how to fairly spread the cost of health care among our citizens or we can just look the other way until something happens to us. This does not mean we stop debate and pass whatever proposed legislation the Democrats happen to have on the table. But we need to have true debate. The “government is not the answer” argument is certainly an improvement over yelling and screaming, but is still mind numbingly inane. I have to wonder how any elected government official could ever say this. If government is not the only possible solution to the health care crisis, then what is?

How about capitalism? Nope, don’t think so. It is in Aetna’s and Blue Cross/Blue Shields interest to make a profit. They can only do so if they can get a pool of people to give them more money than they pay out in settlements. According to standard free market dogma, if insurance companies charge too much for premiums then they lose customers. If we let the market work, the argument goes, then premiums will fall (or rise)  to the price people are willing to pay. Sounds fair. But insurance is not like buying a TV. We are buying a service for which we do not want but for which we cannot afford to ignore. Because of the high potential (and eventually, inevitable) cost of medical care we have to buy insurance. In economics, this is referred to as inelastic demand. We desire insurance no matter what the cost is. Standard fee market theory falls apart at this point. If a company produces a product that has an inelastic demand, they can charge far more for the product than they could in a situation with elastic demand (where people will only buy the product if the price is low enough.) Therefore the big insurance companies have all the power to charge more for “potentially” sick people, but also for denying coverage for those who are already insured but are facing high medical costs.

In a situation like this, where we do not want close friends and relatives dying on the street for want of health care, the only solution is government intervention. To say “government is the solution” is not only idiotic, it is also morally wrong.

Why are some seniors “hating” on expanding health care?

Nate Silver at has a good post on some of the strange arguments that the elderly make against government healthcare.

So we need to make sure seniors have their Medicare, right? I’m fine with that, but let’s keep in mind that current retiree-recipients will receive Medicare benefits that, on average, exceed what they ever put in, even when you adjust for inflation. American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew Biggs makes a powerful point when he calculates that “a typical person who was born in 1944, began work at age 21 in 1965, and in 2009 retired at age 65 and enrolled in Medicare,” and who then draws the typical benefit until death at age 83, will have paid roughly $64,971 in Medicare payroll taxes during his/her lifetime but received around $173,886, for a net of “$108,915 more in benefits than he paid in taxes over his lifetime.” Hey, that sounds like socialist-style redistribution to me!

First week of school

All in all it was a pretty good week in school. Because we spent so much time in class doing what we call a screener test, I was not able to get into some of my strategies. I was able to work some popcorn activites, think-pair-share, groups of four, and some cornell notes.

Popcorn is a cool activity where you throw a problem at the students which has multiple answers or multiple levels of nuance. You want something that will get more than one student response. The students can only talk if they are standing. So you present the problem and when a students wants to answer it they stand and give an answer and explanation then sit down, immediately. Someone else can stand (pop up like popcorn) and give their answer, and so on. It is quick and produces surprisingly cogent answers. It is a neat way to get good participation–the kids love it and they learn very quickly not to talk unless they are up, so it allows pretty good discussion and interaction, much kinesthetic motion, and controlled behavior.

Think-pair-share is pretty straightforward. I present a problem and the students work solo for several minutes writing down their thoughts, then turn to their partners pair, discussing what each has written down, gently critiquing, and looking for some agreement. Students can then move into groups of 4 to develop one answer everyone can agree on. I had the students develop some ideas on how we could work together to make the class a success. I let half the groups suggest what I could do (or avoid doing) to make it work. The students love doing this because they have some definite ideas about what makes good teaching–they have good insight into what teachers can do to screw up a kids love of learning. It went well. Students produced ideas on butcher paper and posted them in the hallway.

Barney Frank gives ’em hell.

Quote of the day

From E.J Dionne Jr on the recent spate of gun-toters showing up a Obama rallies.

What needs to be addressed is not the legal question but the message that the gun-toters are sending.

This is not about the politics of populism. It’s about the politics of the jackboot. It’s not about an opposition that has every right to free expression. It’s about an angry minority engaging in intimidation backed by the threat of violence.

There is a philosophical issue here that gets buried under the fear that so many politicians and media-types have of seeming to be out of touch with the so-called American heartland.

The simple fact is that an armed citizenry is not the basis for our freedoms. Our freedoms rest on a moral consensus, enshrined in law, that in a democratic republic we work out our differences through reasoned, and sometimes raucous, argument. Free elections and open debate are not rooted in violence or the threat of violence. They are precisely the alternative to violence, and guns have no place in them.

h/t Daily Kos

First day reflections

I had only two class this first day (both are blocked, so I had each for one and a half hours). At some point, I will have a third class with some pull-out students. Tomorrow I will have three classes.

I went through the usual first day activities–covered procedures and such–but did do one neat thing. I gave my students an “I am fantastic at…” assignment. I asked the students to write a short essay on one thing they are really good at and of which they felt proud. The comments were interesting and sometimes moving. It is nice to see the human sides of the kids. It is easy to look at a “below basic” class (I have one like this) and assume that many are going to be behavior problems. It is so easy, in fact, that it can really affect how you look at the kids the whole year. If you “know” the kids are going to act up, you will tend to see every act by the student as a problem (1). It was refreshing to get home tonight and look at some of the responses to my assignment. These are real kids with real lives. They may not always want math at just that moment they walk in the class room, but it doesn’t make them bad people. I have kids who are fantastic at sports, dance, singing, math (yeh!), writing, and one who was just really fantastic with his family.


(1) As a note, we “Teamed” 11 students during team time. That means that we called in 11 students fourth block because of behavior problems. I had had some minor problems with one of the girls, but none of the others. I hate to start the first day like this, but maybe it will do some good.