A Deficit of Sanity

Obama is trying to push his healthcare reform agenda up an increasingly steep hill. It seems ever more likely that the fear of doing something wrong will push us into not doing anything… again. I don’t know if what Obama is proposing is the best plan. This is a grotesquely complex issue and I don’t have the data, the time, or frankly the interest to sort through all the details. But like most Americans, I believe the current system is broken.

What I really want is for the people we elected to office to get off their collective duffs and start cooperating on a solution that works. Quit opting for the sound bites. Quit pining for “Obama’s Waterloo“. Get to work. No solution will be universally popular. No solution will preserve the interests of the groups lobbying for the status quo. But that doesn’t mean there is no solution which works in the interest of the American people.

But what about the costs? How can America afford to reform healthcare? Everyone is screaming about the massive deficits that will result if the healthcare bill is passed. Maybe I’m being overly simplistic about this, but I don’t see why we can’t reform health care at a net profit. Look at the chart below.

The U.S. is spending about double what the rest of the world is on healthcare, and frankly getting worse results. Any reasonable reform has to bring our costs in line with the rest of the world. Which means that all that money, about $2000/person, should now be available to do something else with. The problem is that all that money is currently in the private sector. The reform plans are attempting to simply offset the private sector costs at government expense. Hence the looming deficit impact.

While I don’t have a solution, I do have a strategy to get to a solution. For any reasonable reform to work, it has to start by somehow gaining control of all (or at least most) the money we are currently spending on healthcare. That control can be direct or indirect, but unless it is controlled by some organization operating in the interests of the people/patients it will never be contained. Once controlled the funds may be reallocated toward providing universal coverage, better coverage, reduced costs, or funding other programs. None of which should incur any deficits. The reality is that we are already spending all the money we need to enact universal healthcare and more. It’s just that right now that money is lining somebody’s pockets. Somebody who you can bet will be lobbying mightily against any reform.

Healthcare reform may be the goal, but we cannot afford to enact reform and then hope the money stream straightens itself out. We need to go after the money first, then use that to reform healthcare.

Shave and a Haircut, Two Beers

My barber, Michael Brothers, changed locations and I recently dropped in to his new shop for my first haircut there. I like this guy because he actually has a barber shop, not a hair salon. There’s no place to wash your head, there’s no equipment to tint your hair color. However there is a hot shaving cream dispenser, a straight razor, and a small fee for shaving your back. This is a man’s place.

As I walked into his new shop, it quickly became clear he’s taken “man’s place” one step further. This is now a manly man’s place. There are big screen TVs on the wall, a Foosball table, and lo and behold, a beer keg refrigerator sitting in the corner with a stack of plastic cups on top. I was suddenly overcome with regret that I had stopped first thing in the morning. This was not a barber shop, it was a man cave with elevator chairs. How cool.

I asked what was up with the beer and all and he informed me that lots of salons catering to women provide a glass of wine or champagne while you wait for the stylist (who knew?). He didn’t think it was fair that ladies should get all the perks, but decided that for his clientele, beer was a better choice. Score one for Michael.

So I guess the bottom line is that I’ll be getting all my haircuts in the afternoon from here on out. And maybe with greater frequency. “Honey, I’m just gonna pop over for a haircut.”

If you’re in the Spencerport area and want to check it out I highly recommend it. The place is in the large brick building on the SW corner of Union St. and Brockport Rd. across from Hollink Motorsports.

Where’s My Brown Grass?

We are rapidly closing in on the end of July. I am still mowing my lawn every 5 days. That’s just wrong. By this time in the season I should be at double that, such that by August my lawn has achieved that delightful crispy brown palette which signifies I can go a full two weeks between thinning the weeds. By now there should be a stark contrast between my neglected yard and my neighbor’s well watered, treated, and manicured lawn. But you can barely tell where the line between our properties is.

Some lament that this cool wet summer is messing with their tan line aspirations, or perhaps they feel they lack ample ambient temperature to achieve their desired perspirations. I’m fine with all that. I just want to stop mowing already. I want to feel the crunch of grass corpses beneath my feet. It is time. It is past time. Bring on the Global Warming.

A Perspective on Apollo

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware that yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moonwalk. Because of that, a lot of really cool stories have emerged.

One very cool tale is that of a 10-year old boy stationed with his dad in Guam who played a key role in getting Apollo 11 safely back to Earth. Guam was a key communications station with the returning capsule and the only way of communicating with the crew in the critical final moments of descent into the atmosphere. It seems a bearing in the satellite dish failed and the ground crew didn’t have time to replace it. They figured maybe they could get it moving long enough to get the spacecraft down if only they could pack enough grease into it. However, the access hole was too small for any of them to stuff their hands into. The station director sent a team to his house to get his 10-year old son out of bed and bring him to the site. The small boy was able to thread his arm in the hole and get the dish working again. I can only imagine how he beamed telling that story to his friends.

On a different bent, a hobbyist reconstructed the Apollo guidance computer from the original specs and code. While that’s an awesome basement project in its own right, what’s more fascinating are the specs on the system. Keep in mind, this system got guys to the moon and back. It boasted a 1MHz processor, about 1/500th the capability of an average cell phone today. It ran on a total of 12K of code. That means that 100 copies of the software would have fit on one of those old floppy disks you don’t use anymore because it won’t hold the Christmas letter you sent out last year. It’s humbling to think of the ingenuity and creativity that went in to the space program in the ’60s. Think about what they accomplished with a level of technology that seems primitive at just 40 years distance. For an even scarier thought, imagine what technology will be capable of 40 years from now.