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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
Klein makes the case that corporations should be in favor of a single payer system, financed by individual and business taxes, to diminish the risks and costs of administering their own health care policies:
It’s never made a bit of sense for health-care benefits to be routed through employers. The system emerged in the U.S. by accident. Wage controls during World War II made it impossible for companies to attract workers by offering higher salaries. Because health benefits were exempt from high wartime taxes, companies began using them to attract talent. After the war, unions joined employers in pressuring Congress to ensure employer-based health benefits were never taxed. So the U.S. emerged with an odd system in which a dollar of untaxed employer-based health benefits was worth much more to a worker than a dollar of taxed salary. Employers became the main vehicles for insurance not because anyone thought it was a good idea, but because the tax code made it a bargain.
The great mystery of U.S. health care is why the country’s CEOs didn’t demand a single-payer system a long time ago.
The result has been a disaster for employers and workers alike. In Canada, the risk pool is effectively the entire country. Two costly pregnancies have barely any effect on aggregate costs. In Medicare, the risk pool is 49 million beneficiaries. A few patients with catastrophic health problems won’t budge those numbers much. But in our employer-based health-care system, the risk pool is often a few hundred, a few thousand or a few tens of thousands of employees. A bit of bad luck can be catastrophic.
The great mystery of U.S. health care is why the country’s CEOs didn’t demand a single-payer system a long time ago. It’s an unending distraction — and cost drag — for companies to employ expensive human-resources divisions to negotiate with insurers and hospitals, manage health-care costs, and field questions and concerns from employees. Companies that are great at making cars or buildings or accounting software can’t survive if they’re not also successful at managing health insurance.
The system persists for reasons that will be familiar to anyone watching the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Change is scary. No CEO wants to deal with the outcry from employees who are terrified that their benefits are being outsourced to the government. And few CEOs trust the federal government to manage benefits with any skill — they worry they’ll just end up paying more in taxes than they do in premiums. That worry is often particularly acute for CEOs themselves, who would pay disproportionately in any system that relied on progressive taxation. Finally, their suspicions are typically reinforced by dire predictions from their HR managers, whose jobs depend on the survival of employer-based health benefits.
The result is that CEOs hate the current system but are too fearful to move to a different one. Consequently, they’ve made themselves — and their companies — vulnerable to “distressed babies.”
The last comment a reference to AOL’s Tim Armstrong, who stepped into a sinkhole by talking about ‘distressed babies’ that caused him to propose cutting back on AOL benefits, and then to rapidly apologize and back off those cuts.
Corporations’ opposition to a single payer nationalized health care system is crazy, like poor white people being opposed to food stamps.
Most of what we think we know about nutrition and diet is folklore.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF THE MINIMUM WAGE? Most people think of the minimum wage as the lowest legal hourly pay. That’s true, but it is really much more than that. As defined in the name of the law that established it — the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 — the minimum wage is a fundamental labor standard designed to protect workers, just as child labor laws and overtime pay rules do. Labor standards, like environmental standards and investor protections, are essential to a functional economy. Properly set and enforced, these standards check exploitation, pollution and speculation. In the process, they promote broad and rising prosperity, as well as public confidence.
The minimum wage is specifically intended to take aim at the inherent imbalance in power between employers and low-wage workers that can push wages down to poverty levels. An appropriate wage floor set by Congress effectively substitutes for the bargaining power that low-wage workers lack. When low-end wages rise, poverty and inequality are reduced. But that doesn’t mean the minimum wage is a government program to provide welfare, as critics sometimes imply in an attempt to link it to unpopular policies. An hourly minimum of $10.10, for example, as Democrats have proposed, would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million, according to widely accepted research, without requiring the government to tax, borrow or spend.
IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE? No. Other programs, including food stamps, Medicaid and the earned-income tax credit, also increase the meager resources of low-wage workers, but they do not provide bargaining power to claim a better wage.
We should all support the efforts to raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hour, and over a short time frame, to $15/hour. There is no substitute, and the GOP objections are not economic, but political.
Yes, we are in a changing economy, one with a shifting social contract. But those struggling at the bottom of the economic pyramid have little bargaining power: witness the efforts of workers at Wal-mart and fast food chains to get higher wages, which have been largely ineffective in changing the policies at those corporations. This is a social role that the federal government must play, which is why the law was passed in 1938, but the legislators left out automatic indexing of the minimum wage, which was a mistake.
Pope Francis, Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter - Pope’s Message for World Communications Day
This is a great man, who calls the internet a ‘gift from God’, and a means to bring the world closer together, through the power of open dialogue:
People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted. If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions.
Francis is an advocate of ‘strong beliefs, loosely held’, meaning we have to remain open to hearing others’ ideas, and to be willing to see the others’ legitimacy:
To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.
Open dialogue — which the internet supports — is perhaps the larger gift, and Francis lives in that spirit, an inspiration to us all.
(h/t David Weinberger)
In 2007, 10,000 people around the globe were asked about portable digital devices. It was part of a study conducted by the global media company Universal McCann. One of the hottest topics at the time was the first iPhone, which was announced but hadn’t yet been released. Once researchers tallied the results, they reached an interesting conclusion: Products like the iPhone are desired by consumers in countries such as Mexico or India, but not in affluent countries. The study stated: “There is no real need for a convergent product in the US, Germany and Japan,” places where, one researcher later theorized, users would not be motivated to replace their existing digital cameras, cellphones, and MP3 players with one device that did everything.
There’s a growing feeling that something is not working with market research, where billions are spent every year but results are mixed at best. Some of the problems relate to the basic challenge of using research to predict what consumers will want (especially with respect to products that are radically different). But marketers face one additional key problem: Study participants typically indicate preferences without first checking other information sources—yet this is very different from the way people shop for many products today.
In the Universal McCann study, for example, people were asked how much they agree with the statement, “I like the idea of having one portable device to fulfill all my needs.” Indeed, there was a significant difference between the percentage of people who completely agreed with this statement in Mexico (79%) and in the United States (31%). So, in theory, people in the United States were much less excited about a phone that’s also a camera and a music player.
But it was a different story when people got closer to making a decision. They heard about the iPhone in the media, where it was declared a revolutionary device, and read blogs and reviews from real users. As iPhones started rolling into the marketplace, the idea of “having one portable device to fulfill all my needs” was replaced by actual reports from users.
It’s easy to blame the market research firm for this, but this is not our point. We are trying to explain the inherent difficulties in assessing consumers’ reaction in this new era. First, more decisions today are impacted by what we call O sources of information—“Other” information sources, such as user reviews, friend and expert opinions, price comparison tools, and emerging technologies or sources—whereas market research measures P sources—“Prior” preferences, beliefs and experiences. But let’s go beyond that: As we discussed, consumers have limited insight into their real preferences. This is especially true with respect to products that are radically different. Universal McCann correctly reported what it found. What market researchers often underestimate, though, is the degree to which consumers have difficulty imagining or anticipating a new and very different reality. What makes the task of a market research firm even trickier is that just as consumers’ expectations may be wrong (as was the case with the iPhone), there are many cases where industry expectations about what consumers will buy are wrong.
This is just like the research before Sony came out with the Walkman, and found there was zero market demand for a portable cassette player, but management decided to go to market with the innovation anyway.
Breakthroughs can’t be predicted by market research.
Steve Jobs said, in 1998,
It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
Vindu Goel, Twitter’s Stock Crashes Back to Reality
Time for a dramatic rethinking of the Twitter user experience.
The third point, expanded:
Imagine in an offspring of Twitter I could tag people with topics. Like ‘tag @billburnet #startup #tech #socialCRM’. Then, I could select different streams in my total stream by using tag algebra, like ‘stream #tech OR #science’ which would show me posts from people I have tagged #tech or #science, even when their posts aren’t tagged explicitly.
Even better, expanding on 2 above, Twitter could proactively create defined and curated streams — like Tumblr has — for topics like Tech, Photography, Olympic Skating, or The New Aesthetic. I could add those to my stream without having to follow the specific people involved, or simply go to www.twitter.com/streams/tech. These would obviously be a huge advertising opportunity, since real estate there — like a prominent IBM ad on the Tech stream and occasional sponsored tweets in it — could be worth a fortune.
Get with it, Costello.