Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Abstraction Deception

Kind of a weird title, but there is a Political game being played with your mind and here is how it works. Visualize a pencil and a pen. We can put these two items in a group called “Writing Instruments”(notice that a can of spray paint could be considered a "Writing Instrument"--it's in the group by default). Abstracting up another level, the "Writing Instruments" are also in a group called “Communication Media.” We could still be talking about pens and pencils, but the last layer of abstraction also would include TV's and Radios. As one abstracts upward, the groups encompass more items. I am talking about a pencil which I visualize as green; you might see a red one without an eraser. The Senators talks about “Writing Instruments." Congress passes a bill on “Communication Media.” The voter thinks he is choosing between the different colors of pencils. Everybody believes they are on the same page and that is the farthest thing from the truth.

Now let’s visualize some basic health items; health insurance, hospital costs, Doctors compensation, Nurses salaries, insurance company rates, drug company prescription charges, these are the pencils and pens. Let’s group them all together and call it “Health Care.” Then from here we have items not mentioned that fall into the "Health Care" level group; "Government Health care for the retired" and :"Government support for hospital emergency room services." There could be more, but we’ll take the three items and abstract it up another layer and call it; “The Great Health Care Reform.”

What is ticking people off, and they might not know why, is the fact that the people pushing these arguments seem somewhat logical but you know something isn’t quite right. Everyone is talking pens and pencils (health insurance) and the Congress is trying to pass Communication Media (The Great Health Care Reform). The terms "Health Insurance" and “The great Health Care Reform" are used interchangeably. If you buy onto the "Health Insurance" plan, you have just inadvertently signed up for the "Health Care Reform". They are not one and the same. You have been abstracted to a higher level without realizing the shell game in progress.

What Congress knows, is that the socialized retirement plans called Medicare and Medicaid are gigantic black holes. They cannot be funded at the promised rates. Congress is talking about low level items like "Health Insurance" with very little abstraction and then switches to labels like "General Health Care"--used in the high abstraction layer. This Health Care plan, is a very big item that covers a lot more than just Health Insurance. We are being sold a pig in a poke. It's kind of like falling in love with the girl of your dreams, only to find out that she needs another 40 grand to make the sex change operation complete. The question comes to mind "Is it time to cut and run?"

As a post note, if you ever want to read a book that will change the way you think, I recommend "The Tyranny of Words" by Stuart Chase. It was written during the Great Depression. It deals with abstracting to a higher layer. I guarantee once you read it, you will never lose another argument (unless it's with your wife).

As a second post note; some people reading may think that I am just being a hard ass on health care, that is not the case. My mother died of cancer at the age of 54 and had a hospital bill of over a half million dollars (hard money 25 years ago) (my dad had to sue the insurance company to get them to pay the bill). My Dad at the age of 81 (believe it or not) had a triple heart bypass which he survived only to be paralyzed from the shoulders down, by a blood clot. From there he was in the intensive care unit of the rehab wing of the hospital, in physical therapy for 4 months until he passed away. Since he was a World War II prisoner of war, he had free medical. I can’t imagine how much that must have cost the VA. Sadly, we have to admit that the government can't solve all of our problems, we have to learn to accept the reality of old age with responsibility.


Laura said...

What prompted you to write this Abstraction Deception? Because I have been keenly abstracting, theorizing on a quantum quark level and I am finding the universe respond to me daily.. your post for example. This acute sense of packing "up" the abstractions is like playing magic with our lives... and mostly likely not helping the shell game. I will read the book. Thanks!

Shift said...

The problem is with the abstractions, and with the lies, and omissions.

The situation is not as complicated as the politicians are making it seem. However, to see the simplicity, one needs to accept the reality that the beltway magicians are doing their best to hide: Health care is rationed, and the whole debate comes down to how, we as a nation, wish to ration health care so as to create some sort of cost containment.

One way we can contain costs is to remove medicare and medicaid. Health care would then be rationed by way of standard vanilla-flavored capitalism. Or, instead, we could decide for a government panel to decide how we ration health care.

Currently, we are rationing health care by a combination of capitalism, insurance "death panels", and medicaid/medicare "death panels". The "death panel" aint nothin new (it just got a spiffy new name is all).

It is not politically viable to dismantle medicare and medicaid. Heck, it is starting to look like Obama-care will not be politically viable. Until we can face the actual threat that escalating medical costs are causing, and HONESTLY talk about rationing care, we have no business playing games with the health care industry.

There is no reason for us to be using the level of abstraction that is being deployed. In this case: Abstraction = Deception.

I do not think that America is ready to focus on health care. I do know, however, that there will be a day when America will be ready to deal with this problem. I believe that this day will come when we have no choice but to face the reality of medicaid and medicare depleting more tax revenue than is sustainable, while at the same time, realizing that we do not have the stomach for limiting health care to the rich and powerful.

The only thing we are getting right now is political theater. Righteous indignation! Hyperbole! Rhetoric!

Wake me when it is over.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,

I think I have your agreement that our economy is AFU. Unemployment is estimated to be somewhere above 16% (but reported as "only" 9.5% on TV)!

But with the economy falling on it's face, everyone seems to be putting all their eggs in the "health-care-debate" basket. Why is this? My belief is the Health Care Reform debacle is just a manifested distraction by the Administration to keep everyone's attention away from the failing economy and "other" issues.

There was NEVER a health care crisis in our country, but there sure is one now! We're in the crapper Jim when our Propaganda-In-Chief has just exploited a young girl (found to be a plant) in his last town hall meeting on Health Care Reform. Does he really think American's are that stupid? When is this guy going to stop kissing babies and get to work on something REAL?

But wait… There is GOOD news! According to the MSM, we are now seeing "glimmers of hope," and POTUS claims victory that 700b stimulus saved our lives! Stock market is up 40% since January 20th, and recession “appears” to be over, trumpets Bloomberg!

I'm all about abstract reasoning, especially when used in terms such as Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Unfortunately this type of reasoning distorts the real world we live in.

Have I seen this episode on the Twilight Zone before?

What’s Obama motive here? I understand when Bush was "selling his sole and popularity" all in the name of our national security to push his agenda as most Americans DO care about their safety. But is the POTUS really prepared to divide the country, loose his control in Congress and ultimately his seat, ALL in the name of "Health Care Reform."?

I'm not so sure Jim... He even has you distracted and I can't help but think something BIGGER is going on here!


frakrak said...

Reflecting on your story about the loss of your mum and dad, brought back poignant memories of my dad's death. The current debate only scratches the surface when it comes down to "bean counting"! There is much more that comes along with the package, as your last paragraph aptly notes.

The most favoured "country philosopher" Bonnie Raitt said it well with "let's give em something to talk about," the POTUS must have this one in his top 40! I think your President has got the nation distracted!

Strange abstraction Jim if you compare your health care debate with the world economy receiving its first round of chemo just a few short months ago, and possibly getting ready for the second round? Depression 2006 and health care in my mind are laterally abstracted!

By the way thanks for the book title,

Shift said...

Jim, you have started something here that you might not have intended. People are now claiming that Obama is using health care as a distraction for God knows what.

Listen up people: Socializing US medical care is NOT a distraction from the real agenda. Socialized medicine IS the agenda.

Jeez! How big does the conspiracy need to be for socialized health care to be the head fake. Or is Obama scaring people with something huge (like health care) to pass something small?

If you think that Obama is using health care as a distraction from something else, you is bat poo crazy (looking right at you ATP).

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Shift

I see it a little different. We already have free health care. Most people won't even spend $4,000 on medical in total up to the age of 62. From there on it is covered. Why pay more?

Obama needs to raise taxes. Income tax only goes after the rich. The Social Security tax nails every worker (the employer pays half if you ride the short bus). He needs $5,000 out of every wage earner a year for "health benefits" to raise 1.5 trillion dollars in taxes (the employer pays half--short bus just eats up that line).

This health care is a tax increase. It will be used just as Social Security is. Collect it and spend it--worry about paying it back later. Social Security today is not being paid out of money collected in the past, it is being paid out of taxes being collected now.

Granted it does seem like a distraction from the economy, but once you see the grand plan, it fits into place.

Social Security seemed like a gift when it was enacted. The mortality rates of that time dictated that only 15% would live to collect it. I consider this health care plan as the second carrot.

Anonymous said...

All of the crisis surrounding this contrived crises seems to be the so called "uninsured" and we must rob from the rich and take from the elderly in order to pay for it.

The POTUS claims the "uninsured" are estimated at 43 million. Notice these 43 million have never been defined by him, his Administration, or by Congress.

Who are these people? No need to reply, I have answered this question in another thread on this site.

More importantly, to my knowledge he has never referred to the "uninsured" as Americans, merely just as a number.

Ok... lets assume they ARE Americans, between 18-65 years old and working at say McDonalds, etc. Is it FAIR to say that these folks could each afford $1/day, $5/wk, $21.60/mo or $260/yr to be placed in a private health fund for them?

I think its reasonable to assume they can (and possibly a little more). If you collect just $1/day from each of them, the total revenue from the "uninsured" Americans would be a staggering $11,180,000,000/yr.

Is $11b/yr not enough to pay for an occasional trip to the emergency room from the so called "uninsured"?

Where is the CRISIS? Where are the thousands of wheel barrows being pushed around our cities by POTUS officials crying out "bring out yer dead, bring out yer dead"!

Jim... I have completely lost my mind and certifiably nuts! PLEASE for the sake of the SANE Americans in our country, talk me down out of the tree.


Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi AngryTaxPayer

That 43 million that are uninsured, is rather a vague group. I think I was in that group for 30 years, my medical expenses were not even worth mentioning, my dental was about $800 total. I even had to have a doctors excuse if I phoned in sick to work.

I would expect this health tax to be about $1 per hour on wages. That would be $40 you pay and $40 the employer pays. that $80 per week times 52 weeks equals $4160 times 250 million workers equals 1.04 trillion dollars raised per year. These are just rough figures--I'm not even including 90 million people.

The thing that burns my butt is the fact, our government desperately needs increased tax revenues of about one and one half trillion dollars. This is their best shot at getting it quickly. This government health care plan could become law, not for health reasons, but for revenue generating reasons.

The Indians have a saying, "If you think you are crazy, that is proof that you aren't." Just to be on the safe side, reserve a limb for me on that tree your in.

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Frakrak

Your comment "Depression 2006 and health care . . . are laterally abstracted!" Has some truth to it. Not much of a connection unless this health tax is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

The Social Security tax during the great depression, had a chance, nobody was paying taxes to begin with and the national budget wasn't saddled with Medicare, Medicaid and monstrous Social Security payments. Plus the national government was very small by comparison of today.

Forgive the dual lateral abstraction, I must be getting bipolar.

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Shift

Your earlier comment about Medicare and Medicaid cost being a real problem ring true. I know of Doctors in LA that would have a cab pick you up and drop you off. Plus you got a free set of towels or slippers and a bathrobe. The two government programs have taken competition out of the medical field for Senior citizens.

Cost has to be a fair way to limit consumption of health resources. If the money comes out of your own pocket, you will shop around and that is just not happening.

We know what is wrong, but are powerless to fix it, kind of sucks doesn't it??

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Laura

That's heavy stuff. I don't quark around much especially on the quantum level. My universe seems to be chasing me with a fly swatter.

Thank you for your comments and take care.

Anonymous said...

Jim says… "This government health care plan could become law, not for health reasons, but for revenue generating reasons."

Sorry for the long post Jim, but much to cover...

Some revenue generated will be a boondoggle for special interest programs, but health care has to be high on the list.

Everyone talks about why social security is broke, but 99.99999% of the population does not understand the reason why. Washington is not about to educate the populous on the subject either.

Our elected officials in the government (435+100+1 = 536, less since SS's inception) broke into that piggy bank almost immediately after collecting the tax in 1935. All has been in the name of "social justice" including programs like "bioethics."

One of the biggest heists was Medicaid (those under 65 not yet eligible for Medicare) in 1956 under Title XIX of the Social Security Act. In 2008, outlays for Medicaid were $208b for the program. Our 536 elected officials in Washington will not tell you this.

Bleeding hearts will tell you 60% of the "uninsured" qualify for Medicaid but are NOT yet signed up for this government boondoggle. If it costs $206b/yr (federal dollars, not including state matching funds) to pay for the 40% covered under Medicaid.

To cover 100% under Medicaid, it would cost a staggering $515b/yr (in federal dollars only, not including state matching funds).

It does not take much research to discover that those "eligible" for Medicaid is codeword for Welfare. I have no doubt that Obama's goal is to reach out to the 60% "eligible, uninsured" group.

One would think that only American citizens would qualify for this magical bean program. Oh no, the eligible also include the lawfully admitted individuals as well.

The day the bill is signed into law, Obama will send out his Army of Foot Soldiers, find those eligible for Medicaid and get them signed up immediately. Were only 15 months out from the next election and there are 43m (more or less) votes at stake here.


PS. Sorry Jim, no more limbs on this tree. It filled up pretty fast after January 20th. But if you help me kill this bill, I promise to knock all the "birthers" out to make a little room for you.

Rob in NS said...


Here's an article in local paper for everyones reading. Kind of ironic that doctor's here want to privatize things somewhat as a stop gap measure while Obama's solution is opposite. I think the reality of an aging population has much to do with current structural problems in both pensions and health care. As the boomer cohort ages they will expect both good pensions and health care. They paid for their parents generation and now it is their turn. The only problem with this plan being that the Gen X'ers are a much smaller cohort holding the bag. Abstraction deception is exactly what politicians are doing right now. It is a game of bait and switch to avoid inter-generational warfare. Obama may not be boomers last chance to make things nice but he is getting close. I have 3 sons age 16 to 20. I wonder what they will think ten years from now when they cannot afford house because they are paying taxes thru nose to keep all us old folks in nice houses and winter homes in florida while doing nothing to earn money.. I'll include myself although I'm 44 and resigned to fact that I will work for most of my natural life. That is the grand deception and I have my doubts it will work. Just my thoughts. I am going to read book too! Thanks Jim!

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Rob

Nice article. The reader comments at the end scare me. Everyone held someone responsible for their problems, the doctors, the pill makers, the insurance companies and the politicians.

The concept that it is wrong to make a profit when it comes to health care seems absurd. Why invest billions in research for a new pill if there is no real return? Shouldn't a surgeon be able to charge more for his experience and skill? If insurance companies are making so much money, why aren't more of them popping up?

I had a good laugh a while back when I read that British doctors were given a pay raise because they were so overworked. The unintended consequence was that a lot of doctors decided to take some time off. That increased the work load for those not on holiday.

I've compared government medicine to the Disneyland effect. You pay an admission fee and get to ride all the rides for free. The roller coaster is a two hour wait.

It will be interesting to see how this discussion turns out in Canada, keep us posted.

frakrak said...

Jim your president is leading the American people (perhaps inadvertently) towards a discussion on "the meaning and the value of human life."

For intstance the biotech (?)industry is producing expensive solutions for a market that can only afford the "General Motors" product, but are being supplied with a Ferrari!

Rob has also touched on the inter-generational debate, and I guess the ethics of how to govern the expensive medical technology and health care, with the dollar value on human life and a public purse that is already strained to breaking point!

I would predict some fairly rational economic decisions being made by generation X for the boomers!

Australia has had a government run private health insurance company competing in this market for some 20 years, it didn't help (I think the previous government sold it off).

The states are now pleading to give back the running of hospitals to the federal government, the federal government doesn't want to touch it! The health care budget just keeps on climbing and the public keep on paying more for less delivery...
good luck

Lisa said...

aren't semantics the public game of politics? I don't even wanna know what goes on behind the scenes.

Very insightful ending line there. Problem is, it's up to the baby boomers, really, to make that responsible decision. All in all, they are the ones who will be affecting this decision the most, no matter who pays for it.

Hi ho apartment living, who needs a house?

Wonderful blogs, as always. Thanks

Jim in San Marcos said...

Hi Frakrak

I think that the word "Insurance" is being abused royally. Insurance is used to transfer risk to a third party for a fee. The insurer is not going to assume all of your risk without a fee to match the risk.

Somewhere the assumption is made that health insurance picks up the whole tab (ie here is no financial liability for the insured). It sounds great, but the thinking is flawed. This is turning into a bottomless pit as you suggest.

If we were to limit health care to surgical procedures and medications that have been in use for a minimum of 60 years, we might be able to offer health care at a reasonable rate.

When you evaluate the situation realistically, the average person thinks that health insurance implies that all treatments and medications are free.

Looks like we will continue to dig this hole deeper.