Friday, May 20, 2005


file under corporate irony or maybe just greed

So I was laid off at the end of February. Unlike most (nationally speaking), I was very lucky to recieve a generous severance package. That package ran out last week. Thankfully, my fiance is kind enough to carry me on her health insurance, so I'm in fairly good shape.

Why am I writing this?

The rationale for the never-ending rounds of layoffs (there have been two since December 2004, and another is planned in 2 months or so), not to mention that bonuses were not paid was that the company has having significant challenges meeting its commitments to the street ("the numbers"). The organization has laid off roughly 500 people world-wide. To provide a bit more background, the organization has, as most do, a dual bonus system: one for regular employees, and one for management employees. What's critical to remember about this is that regular employees have their bonuses determined on a per project basis. Management employees receive their bonus as a percentage of their salary, with a corporate performance match.

Regular employees received no bonus this year. Many recieved no raise as well. For employees like a friend of mine who worked for me, this is significant. He accepted a lower salary than he wanted because of the promise of a bonus that "was always paid."

Because of my role in the company, I was part of the management bonus program. As a result, I received the personal portion of my bonus in its entirety, despite being laid off. Senior management recieved substantial stock grants in lew of cash bonuses.

Here's the kicker: After laying off all these people, providing no raises for many of the remaining employees, providing no bonuses to all but the most senior memebers of the organization, raising the co-pay on the insurance policy while reducing the quality of care, the organization reported its best quarter in its history.

What's wrong with this picture?

Thursday, May 12, 2005


First 7-8 minutes, now it's 20-30 minutes: The President's response time keeps getting slower

So explain to me how the Commander & Chief isn't notified that the
Capitol and White House are evacuated due to a terrorist threat?

I'm beginning to think that his response during 9/11 was his speedy
response, not the slow one. And National Security is his strong suit?!


Fixing the healthcare system

The United States has the best healthcare system on the planet... if
you can afford it. The only way that statement reads even close to
accurate is with that ellipsis.

We spend as a percentage of our economy the largest proportion of our
GDP of any industrialized country on earth. We spend ~17% of our
economy on healthcare each year. Our economy is 11.75 Trillion
dollars. This means we spend 1.997 Trillion dollars each year on
healthcare. The average expenditure of other industrialized nations
is between 11-12%. These other all have socialized medicine. What
could the US economy do with another Trillion dollars?

Our healthcare system causes, among other things, the following
- The 8 trillion dollar liability in Medicaid
- The $1,600/vehicle charge that US automakers incur as a result of
providing healthcare to its employees / former employees
- Is the number 1 cause of bankruptcy in this country.
- Forces 45 million Americans to live without health insurance

Now market fundamentalists (because really, it is its own kind of
religion) claim that we have the most efficient system because we use
the market to allocate resources. It's true that the market is the
best known method to allocate resources. What's not generally
known, however, is that markets only optimize based on what's
incentivized. If corporations provide healthcare, then profits, not
quality healthcare is what matters

So how do we fix it?

Insurance works because as you increase the number of people covered
by a plan, the overall percentage of people that are sick at any
given time falls:

1/N = population risk

Premiums are paid to cover the costs of care for the sick
population. The natural conclusion of this is that the more people
that you have in you system, the lower your risk is. What could be a
larger pool that then entire country?

One of the classic criticisms of socialized medicine is the cost:
Why contain costs if the government is playing for it? How do we use
market forces to contain costs and increase innovation? I propose
the following:

The government should pick up 90% of the national average cost of any
given procedure. The remaining 10% individual obligation should be
means-tested against the individual. I also think that we should
derive some method for incenting personal responsibility for
healthcare. Factors include how regularly the individual goes to the
doctor for preventative care, the trend lines for that individual's
overall health / fitness.

Why does this work?

The doctors are incented to keep their prices low because consumers
will move to the lowest cost provider, assuming there's enough of a
differential. Additionally, if doctors are able to keep their costs
below the national average, they are more profitable.

Individuals are incented to stay healthy, to use preventative
medicine, for both personal quality of life, as well as financial

Next up, tackling drug costs...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Why is no one talking about this?

I've been listening to a lot of air america these days. What amazes
me is that ever there, I've only heard one mention of the now-leaked
British memo that states the Bush Administration in 2002 had, among
other things:

"Bush has made up his mind to take military action.”

The head of MI:6 states: “the intelligence and facts were being fixed
around the policy.”

And Jack Straw, the Foreign Minister “the case was thin. Saddam was
not threatening his neighbors and his WMD capability was less than
that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

Meanwhile, the Administration was stating in August of 2002:
The State Department deputy spokesman said shot down ideas that the
administration was pushing for war saying, “There are no plans to
attack Iraq on the President’s desk. He has said that."

So now where are we 2 years from now?

We have spent ~$300 Billion dollars on the war to date

We have lost 1602 US Soldiers with ~12,000 wounded

100,000+ Iraqis have been killed. That's 1:250 people in Iraq

Why aren't you outraged?

Monday, May 09, 2005


Shoddy News

My usual news source is The NewsHour on PBS.  Occasionally, however, I catch the NBC Nightly News.  Tonight was one of those occasions.  I was truly horrified by the quality of reporting in following stories:

Iraq.  There was no mention whatsoever about the recently leaked British memo that states "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," weapons of mass destruction.

The memo said "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."  How can you not cover this when 1602 American soldiers have died and 300 billion dollars have been spent?  How can you not talk about this memo when it has been acknowledged by Tony Blair as true?

I have attached a link to the Knight Ridder news article:

Secondly, in you "in depth" five minutes on the fight over evolution in Kansas.  You present both evolution and intelligent design with equal weight.  This is completely misleading: there is no scientific debate over the veracity of evolution.  None.  To not include this in you "in depth" segment is spectacularly negligent.  Why did you neglect this basic fact about the topic that you're reporting on?  Pandering to the religious right?

The spectrum you use is an asset of the American people.  You have a public responsibility educate the population.  Perhaps you should start with your news broacasts.

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