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I'm a big fan of the Freakonomics blog. They recently announced the winner of their new 6 word slogan for the US contest. The winner was: Consumption's the Cure that Ails Us.

Today, I learned from two of my stagehand buddies that health care is the cure that's going to break the back of the unions. One of those buddies you probably heard of. He's the stagehand who "surfed" the collapsing scaffolding at the Academy Awards a few years ago, breaking his back in the process. He was a rigger, made good money, and is now disabled, but he stays in touch with old friends from backstage. Here's what he told me:

[...] health care has a annual low limit....weekly, a person has to make $830/week to qualify for health insurance....[a friend] worked for Port Charles props nighttime turnaround...averaged 40 hour weeks. in 2000, she made $600/week for a 40 hr week. with the raises per year to now.....nighttime turnaround at GH probably makes over $700/week...not enough to make health insurance.....there are many uninsured members in the 2 and 3 groups [this union has 5 senority "groups"].

Health care is killing unions. Every inch of negotiating room is eaten alive by the health insurance monster. My other friend from the IATSE sent me a story from today's LA Times, Conflict erupts inside theatrical stage employees union:

Leaders of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, whose members include 35,000 who work behind the scenes on film and television sets, are facing a high level of dissent from the rank and file over a contract that includes modest pay increases but also deep cuts in the union's coveted health and pension benefits.

There's more than one way to battle the health care monster. Cutting coverage for those covered is one way. Another is to put heafty qualifications on qualifying, like requiring substantial over time hours or even a second call (daily hire job) on your days off. Here we have yet another American Union, the battlers for the 40 hour week, and worker protection, essentially bowing to corporate demands that workers only deserve health care and pensions if they work more than 40 hours per week. From the LA Times again:

Under the proposed three-year contract, members would be required to work 400 hours every six months, up from the current 300 hours, to keep their benefits.

That's the movie locals requirement, and at least it's less than 40 hours per week average. My old local, 33, is in even worse shape, and has been forced to institute coverage that only covers those who make the most money. Younger members, who often work in lower paying television jobs, don't even make enough to qualify when they work full time.

Eugene Debs would be appalled.

Unions are going to be forced to cut back on pensions, 401ks, increased hourly wages, and better working conditions (meal penalties, continuous tour, golden time, etc) in order to feed the health care monster, and the Wall Street Monster that Ate the Pensions. These Unions (not all IATSE) already hamper themselves by sending stagehands in $200 suits in to negotiate with lawyers in $5000 suites. Now they have the other arm tied behind their back with capitalist, robber baron, Republican tactics to drain power away from what they see as communist union thugs robbing them of their next BMW.

As much as I hate to say it, I don't see any light on the cyc, so to speak. Things are going to get much worse, and who knows if we'll ever recover. And now our new progressive government is going to tinker around the edges while the solution, single payer universal non-profit health care, stands screaming from the sidelines, while we all talk about Rush Fucking Limbaugh.

The only slight glow coming from the dimmer racks on this one is that, in the kollapsnik world, guys with calluses and working knowledge of mechanical systems will be the new kings, wearing $200 overalls.

Originally posted to supak on Wed Mar 04, 2009 at 09:13 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Heatlh welfare bene (0+ / 0-)
    The last union I belonged to was in 1970, the Steelworkers Union.

    I may be wrong but I do believe Unions have a Health and Welfare Benefits (HWB) program.  When you bring up the term health insurance, you are not talking about the same animals.

    The Union member are in a way insuring each other.  So if each other spend too much, they will run out of money.  This doesn't point out the problem with insurance schemes but point out the problem of true cost.

    You can have the transfer of risk in an insurance policy or a Health Welfare Benefit plan but it will fail if the costs are high.  It isn't the fault of the HWB but is the fault of those creating the invoices.  The HWB just pays the bills, the insurance company just pays the bills, the Medicaid plans just pay the bills.  It is the invoice and the price of those invoices that run the cost.  

    How do you think the government can rein in the cost of hospitals, doctors, the contractors that pad their work rates, etc.?  Electronic medical records management is a tear in the ocean of costs.  They would need to get everyone from durable medical supplies to printers to lower their costs.

    Frédéric Bastiat many years ago brought up the process of unintended consequences. Push this part of the economy and it bulges at another place.  Cut out the insurance companies and real people, secretaries, mail room clerks loose jobs; local restaurants go out of business.  HVAC contractors lose profitable business and on and on it goes.  

    A major change would affect so many people of unintended consequences that Bastiat would laugh. "if we judge economic policy solely by its immediate effects, we will miss all of its unintended and longer-run effects and will undermine economic freedom, which delivers benefits that are not part of anyone's conscious design."

    It is not an easy fix and does need to be debated.

    •  Administrative costs in Medicare are 3% (0+ / 0-)

      Administrative costs in private insurance are 30%.

      Why is it that when someone in a bloated, over-priced, almost criminal enterprise are threatened, we must all continue paying bloated, over-priced, almost criminal prices?

      If we had a European type, government covers all kind of system, the pressure would sure be off the unions come negotiations time.

      •  You do the math (0+ / 0-)
        That admin that you describe goes into employees pockets.  You do the math for the admin of government employees and see what you come up with?  Ok?  If you have one of those nasty insurance companies in your locale, they pay a lot for property taxes.  You know...helps keep school taxes down.

        Take the FICA/FUTA/Workers comp/medicare, SSI, retirement, local tax, etc. and see what you come up with for admin costs of an employee.

        You missed the meaning of the entire post with your proselytizing of your position with words such as criminal prices.

        You missed the part about those admin costs are people, you know...just like you.  Those HVAC workers are people...just like you.

        I get so PO'd at people that can't do the freak'in mathematics and can only use words like "criminal enterprise."  Don't buy the darn stuff.  Why would you buy health insurance?  Then when you visit the ER, in the mail, you will find where the real cost lies.  In my life I've gone without health insurance and the world did not end.

        I just had to help a friend with placing his mothers in a nursing home.  We had to deal with Federal government Medicaid Long Term care regulations.  You would not believe the insane regulations.  I'll give you one of the CMS rule.  The monthly home maintenance deduction was $650.40.  Not a nice round number of $650 oh no no it is $650.40.  Why the heck the forty cents?

        Sometimes I think people making up the rules are drinking too much rum.

        So to you and your "criminal enterprise" adjective what you want is to allow the people running your life that come up with forty cent rules...fine.  Not me and I will fight to keep my own health insurance plan and keep the insane out of my life.

        BTW...I am 56 years old have a kid and pay $225 a month.

        It is hilarious in that other countries are moving more care to private service and we in the USA are headed the opposite way.  Go figure?

        If I had my magic wand I would make the only health insurance available would be to cover the biggies like heart attacks, cancer and such.  Everybody would pay their doctor with their own check.  Why shouldn't someone pay their own darn doctor?  That is what my parents did, their parent did and their parents before them.  But that was before we in the USA got fat and lazy.  Willing to push forward all cost to future generations.

        The admin cost of an employee is 25% to 40% of salary.

        Oh and if we go the way of Germany.  You as an individual must still pay half the premium to the insurance companies.

        Can you tell I am tired of hearing the wah wah wah of people wanting others to take care of them?  :)

        •  I don't see us moving the opposite way (0+ / 0-)

          And I don't want others to take care of me.

          I want the government, which is me, to provide me with affordable insurance paid for through my tax dollar, because private companies have proven that they are crooked thieves who are built to profit, not to provide care.

          Health care must be non-profit, because there is no profit in wellness.

          But you go ahead and keep ranting your conservative crap if you want. It sure sounds good! Maybe you could get a radio show and bitch about how people want to be taken care of. You know, people who paid taxes all their life and watched their future get wasted by GW Bush and Company.

          •  Boy you live a dream (0+ / 0-)

            if you think "you" are the government.  It is "we" the people not Supak.  You say crooked thieves?  What the heck do you think goes on in the government back rooms.  Naive thou are?

            You seem to have a problem with profit and that is fine.  I understand very well what non-profit means but non-profit doesn't mean no waste on administration, no wasted salaries, etc.  It is very clear that I am talking with someone that has never read a Form 990 for non-profits.

            I would rather be called a Conservative than a Progressive, Fabian based idalog.  You look up where the roots of the"Progressive" came from and look at the thoughts of the original Fabians.  It should scare the pants off you.

            So without knowing the roots of it, you go ahead and use the word Progressive to describe yourself.

            It is as silly as those fools in Hollywood that wear Chi Guevara symbols.  The fools have no idea that Chi was called the the butcher of La Cabaña.

            You really think the tort attorney's (which are many gov pols) will allow a system that they can't file suit against?  Currently, by statutes, it is almost impossible to file a class action against Fed or State governments.  The people that write checks to the Dems receive most of their money from the Tort Bar.  I'm watching a modern day Fultons Folly.

            BTW  Jacques C. was very cool!

            •  Read my diary today (0+ / 0-)

              and you'll see that my progressive roots are much more Teddy Roosevelt than Fabian. If you really want to test the depths of my BA in Philosophy and life-long love of history, we could discuss how Marx described damn near everything that's happening right now.

              The modern definition of progressive is a long way from the Fabians, just as modern conservatism is a long way from TR.

              If you read my diary today, you'll see that there's a lot of conservative in me.

              But I think we differ on a very important point of the conservative philosophy. I value collective independence, if that's not too much of a contradiction in terms, like Credit Unions, Coops, Public Owned Utilities (in which I would include internet, phone, fuel, electric), and Community Supported Agriculture. I like it when the public owns and distributes those things that are necessary for life as we know it.

              The low administrative costs of successful government programs like medicare and social security are proof that when the lobbyist-heavy, backroom dealing politicians start giving the store to private enterprise, it's time to collectively take control of our common future, root out the corruption, and provide the service to the people without the added layers of Executive profit margins that would make a loan shark blush.

              Your attempt to lump progressives into one pile with the Fabians and Che are funny. One thing I've learned is that in a Brave New World, old definitions are tired and useless.

              At this point, we need some serious raincoats to keep the flying shit particles from the fan off of us. Here's a little gem on social collapse I stumbled on you might like:

              So, what is there for them to do? Forget "growth," forget "jobs," forget "financial stability." What should their realistic new objectives be? Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless.

              I might not go as far as Mr. Orolov down the Mad Max trail yet, but I do think we are in very trying times, and the government should step in and control that which we all find most important. We could at least try my suggestion on universal, single payer, non-profit health care as part of the "security" or "shelter" equation. After all, we tried your way for years now and look where that got us.

              Oh, and by the way, Quintus Fabius Maximus' tactics of open-source insurgency via attrition and harrasment are the standard model for taking on a more powerful foe now. So, if you really want to go back to the roots of Fabianism, which looks like where we're headed, you should thank George W. Bush for being so damn Carthaginian.

              And finally, one of my favorite Fabians, HG Wells said:

              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

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