Friday, July 3, 2015

Where is OUR Teddy Roosevelt?

I'm a big fan of our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.  He was a visionary, was tough, and looked after the interests of the American people.  And he had a cool mustache.

TR was also a trust buster.  In his day corporate monopolies were not uncommon.  Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890, but it was just a dust collector until TR came to office and used it to break up industries that didn't have the interests of the public at heart, all while NOT declaring war on the wealthy.

He broke up JP Morgan's Northern Securities which had a stranglehold on much of the northern states railroads, and most famously, he broke up John D Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company.  They were set up solely to enrich the principals, with little regard to any public responsibility.

Where am I going with this?  Today's news:

(Health insurance giant) Aetna to buy (health insurance giant) Humana in $35 BILLION deal.

And just last month (health insurance giant) Blue Cross / Anthem announced they wanted to buy (health insurance giant) Cigna, offering them $47 BILLION.  Cigna said that wasn't enough, and negotiations are still quietly moving forward.

I have many doctor friends, clients I've built homes for.  They all tell me, every single one of them, that it is the health insurance companies who are the BIG winners in the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Profit is a good word.  I'm all for profits, but at what cost?  Are profits truly a zero-sum game?  Does one group have to be a big loser in order for the other to be a big winner?

For years both the Democrats and Republicans, with a slight edge to the Republicans, have preached "FREE MARKET!....DE-REGULATE!....MORE COMPETITION!"  Did you feel their hot air being blown up your skirt?  They certainly talked-the-talk, but they turned their back on us when it came time to walk-the-walk.

Over the past few years Delta and Northwest Airlines have merged (now known as just Delta), Southwest and AirTran have merged (now known as just Southwest), and America West absorbed US Airways, and then merged again with American Airlines (now known as just American).  They control 80% of the US airline marketplace.  Over the past year or so the price of jet fuel, one of their biggest costs, has come DOWN by approx 40%, yet fares are UP by 13%.  The Feds are now looking into this, questioning whether these giants are somehow in collusion.  Betcha nothing, or next to it, will come of this investigation.  It's the Washington way.

Do you think if there were 8 mega-airlines instead of just this handful this would be the case?  I'm not even going to mention the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS they're making off checked baggage fees, stale sandwich sales, and pay toilets. (OK, maybe I'll mention it just a little  :)

Now the health insurers want to merge, too, citing "economies of scale", and how it would be "in the public interest".  MY ASS!  Once they get what they want, get ready for a wild ride, folks.  Recent history tells us this will turn out to be another nail in our....the people's....coffin.

What happened to de-regulation?  Yes!  The well managed will survive and thrive, while the laggards will fail, as they should.

What happened to competition?  Yes!  The most innovative, the most customer oriented, the smartest will thrive, while the others will languish, as they should.

It is anti-monopoly laws that keep things on the up-and-up.  IMO they are NOT being enforced vigorously enough, if at all.  We're getting steamrolled!

What happened to the "free market"?  Wake up people!  WE ARE THE MARKET!

One last bit of wisdom from Teddy Roosevelt:

I want my Teddy!  *sniff*


  1. We, at least some of us, fell for Ronny's 'trickle down' economics fable, and have kept at it despite it showing absolutely no indication of even a drop or two.

    The ACA does benefit insurers, yes. It also benefits millions who would be otherwise unable to get health care. I'll give you one example, my daughter and son in law. Their girl was born with an omphalocele, which has a less than 50% survival rate. The only reason they were able to get insurance is because of the ACA. Oh, they might have found some company that would do a 50K year deductible, with a 5K monthly fee. Now, with affordable insurance, the girl is 5 years old and in excellent health, thanks to one of the finest medical centers in the world: Seattle Children's Hospital.

    It ain't perfect, but it's flat amazing it's even here. The GOP have, along with opposing anything the President suggests, tried their best to repeal it, even when that meant not doing the work of congress and shutting down the nation more than once.

    You want something better? Let's go with a one-provider system like Canada, the UK, etc have.

    I actually do know somewhat of what I speak, at least on this subject.

    Retired Doc

    1. Excellent comment! I didn't mean to imply that the ONLY beneficiaries of ObamaCare were the insurance companies. A lot of people have been helped for sure, and to those who say the ACA is imperfect, I say, maybe so, but the status quo was failing many of us, too. But the HUGE financial windfall for the insurance companies is undeniable.

  2. Mergers are almost always bad for the people. Not only because they reduce competition and allow higher prices, but also because inevitably it leads to layoffs. Once the companies merge, you have "redundant" positions that will be eliminated because instead of 2 accounting departments for instance you only have one. And the sad thing is most of these jobs that will inevitably be cut will be higher-wage "white collar" jobs. Those tens of thousands of people will probably end up like me, existing on the public dole until that runs out and then having to look for some crummy, low-paying retail job to pay the bills. Ironically it's unlikely those jobs will have health benefits so these people will have to buy insurance themselves from one of the big insurance companies.

    1. Any time I hear an acquiring company say "there will be no changes", I think, that's their first lie. Of course there will be changes. It's those changes that are the "economies of scale" they paid a premium for. But if customers/taxpayers save a few bucks after merger redundancies (assuming they are passed along to consumers), the additional social costs (higher welfare costs) nullify much/all of it. The big winner is ALWAYS.....the acquiring company and their shareholders. Why can't they make higher profits the old fashioned WORKING for it instead of using smoke and mirrors.

  3. TR is sorely missed. He makes today's statesmen seem like midgets.

  4. I think the ACA is probably good on the whole but could probably use some tweaking. There is probably an argument to be made for economies of scale, but a monopoly will trump those arguments when it comes to benefiting the most people.

  5. I'm thinking you just gave us a couple of reasons why Bernie Sanders should become President!

  6. TR had some good qualities but just as many bad ones. I wouldn't want him back. I learned a lot from watching "The Roosevelts", Ken Burns multiple-hour documentary about TR, FDR and Eleanor.