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Poverty, Economy and Health Insurance

August 31, 2005

I hate to be little Johnny Raincloud here, but I was surfing the New York Times web site the other day and a headline cought my eye: Poverty Rate Rises to 12.7%. Wow. So I read the article. Here’s what I learned.

Poverty went up. For the fourth straight year in a row. Doesn’t reflect well on GOP-controlled Washington. But, to be fair, the economy is strong so maybe the ship is about to right itself. Then I also read that “the number of people without health insurance edged up by about 800,000 to 45.8 million people.” That doesn’t sound good. But, again, to be fair, the number of insured people went up, too–by 2 million so maybe our health care system isn’t as bad as all that.

On both fronts–the economy and health care–it’s a good news/bad news situation that basically ends up as a wash, right? Wrong. If you read a little closer you find out why.

The gains in the ranks of the insured were made through government-sponsored insurance like Medicaid, while the losses were from private, employment-based insurance. Hardly the sort of thing you can use to defend the private health insurance system we have here in America.

On the economic front, those who want to assuage our concerns about rising poverty by citing the strong economy need also to explain this:

“Most of that growth in the economy over the last couple of years has gone to higher income people and has taken the form of capital income — interest, rents, dividends.” – Tim Smeeding, economics professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University

(And those who continually [and ridiculously] whine about the so-called “liberal media” can no doubt explain to me why the professor’s remark has been mysteriously excised from the NYT story. I had to do some creative googling to find it again. It finally turned up in Connecticut’s The Day. I knew I hadn’t dreamed it! Why was it removed from the NYT article?)

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  1. There was a time (I think around two hundred years ago) when some people (from Holland?) decided that Tulip bulbs were the key to wealth and a sound economy until one day someone said “Hmm these are just Tulip bulbs” and based on this observation there was an economic depression.

    I don’t believe that our current system is any more real than the one with the Tulip bulbs.

    As long as the rich people keep a smile on their faces and the press keeps reporting that all is well with our economy then the rest of us will not know that the stupid monkey George W. Bush is jumping up and down on the rickety table that the whole house of cards is built on.


  2. Ok I checked and it was about 370 years ago.


  3. Well, Sam, you hit the nail on the head. The idea of an economy is based on value, value is based on trust…there was a time when the perceived value of downtown Tokyo was greater than the entire united states, even though it has no resources and produces nothing (there are no factories in downtown Tokyo)…then the trust dissipated.

    There was a time when the currencies of the world were based on gold or silver. Do gold or silver really have any truly intrinsic value other than the obvious physical qualities? No, just their rareity alone. Rareity? Nanotechnology will make these elements non-rare!

    Most modern currencies, like the dollar, are backed by the full faith and credit of their countries. Therefore, all economic value is based on trust (or faith).

    I find it ironic the number of alleged agnostic/atheistic people in this world who take this jim jones kool-aid of money solely on faith :/


  4. Smeeding taught me economics at Syracuse. I browsed the NYT site trying to find a reference to him. I can’t believe it was consciously removed.


  5. Yeah, his comment was what made me think “oh I have to blog this later.” I bookmarked the article and then a couple of days later I finally got around to writing about it and it just wasn’t there anymore.

    This happened to me a couple of months ago, too. I saw a story on the front page of USA Today while standing in line at the bagel shop. A particular line in the article caught my attention. I even mentioned it to my wife, who was standing there with me. Later on I found the article online and that sentence wasn’t there. I even found the copy of USA Today in the stacks (I work in a library) and it still wasn’t there! Must have been a different edition than the one at the bagel shop. But totally weird.


  6. Liberal media bias, you betcha!



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