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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Good Friday (Critical) Mass

I so blew the opportunity to offend mightily. Critical Mass this month worked out to be on Good Friday. So much potential humor to be mined from the lighthearted affair of torturing a man to death because he ran counter to the establishment.

Probably a warning sign that part of me regretted not working in something like Christ on the cross with 'I did it for the chicks.' After spending most of my life a dyed in the wool atheist, I have waxed and waned on the whole faith thing the past decade or so. And whichever one of those is the weaker, waning, I think, that was where I was at Friday, or lately in general. But this post is not about religious beliefs.

It's about the kickass party and bike ride that is Critical Mass in Kansas City. And like I say, I made a spoke card, but it was more, uh, political than religious. I'm a heretic in the realm of politics, too.

I'm an infidel. What can I say?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the whole single payer medical thing. Because hand in hand with my lifelong atheism is my lifelong libertarianism. I'm totally comfortable with the label 'anarchist' in fact. But while I can envision a society where roads are provided by the private sector, strictly by voluntary means, paid for by user fees, etc., I don't think I can sell you on this as a model. And it's a tedious model, putting up a go-fund-me every time there's potholes to fix or a bridge to rebuild, installing toll booths at the entrance to neighborhoods, etc. If you think the arguments about complete streets in a city council meeting are tireseome and endless, try them out in a neighborhood association meeting, because that's where you'd be moving it.

So we pay taxes and the public sector hires professionals to figure this street shit out. And they get it wrong sometimes because they're human, but someone who studies streets thoroughly and is trying to provide the best compromise to all the interested parties is going to do a better job than a homeowners association committee, I'll guarantee you that. Sure, taxation is theft, but get over it, you get streets to drive on. It a social contract, it's not quite the same as the mob coming around for protection money. Sometimes feels like it, I'll grant you that, but no.

A Libertarian who will go for public roads, that's not all that heretical, Ron Paul will give you that one. His kid, too. But single payer healthcare?

This is a bit of a litmus test for anarchocapitalist types. And hey, markets kick ass at setting prices and distributing scarce resources, they do. If there was something like a free market in human medical care it would probably resemble veterinary care. You don't hear about vet bills skyrocketing out of control because the government never stepped in and said they'd pay for your cat to have a liver transplant as long as you were over 65 or poor.

But then, if your kitten doesn't get a liver transplant, so what? Not to be cold hearted, but the Human Society will fix you up with a cat for $80 and they have a surplus so you'd be doing society a favor. That's where the libertarian arguments about healthcare start to break down. Me, for example, my max out of pocket—which a rare blood disorder guarantees I hit—with pretty good insurance (my employer pays the premiums for me and my dependents, that's not universal anymore), is about 15% of my income. So the threat that, like in France, the government could take 20% of my income and pay for this shit isn't that grave a threat: on top of that 15% there's more than 5% I pay in prescription copays, so in France I'm ahead of break even. Especially if you figure that some of the burden simply shifts from insurance premiums to taxes, the economics of single payer doesn't look that bad from where I'm standing. And I'm an example of someone who's winning.

I know what libertarians say at this point because I am one. They say things like, 'You want your healthcare to be like a trip to the VA?'

Of course not, but why does the VA suck so hard? Veterans are a minority of society, and a substantial percentage of them have other options, so the VA serves people who don't have a choice. Not a recipe for responsiveness and great service. If middle and upper class people also used the VA, I bet it would change because those folks aren't having it.

Which is when the libertarian/conservative type tells you that socialized medicine equals death panels and hideous rationing. People die on waiting lists for basic treatment. Okay, I thought, there's lots of single payer countries, also lots of data collected on life expectancy, let's Google this and see what....

The World Health Organization’s 2013 list of overall life expectancy ranked the United States 34th. France, with their ‘broken’ socialized medicine? Number nine on the same list. Don’t trust WHO? How about the United Nations, their 2014 list has France seventh, United Kingdom 23rd, and the United States 40th. Or, your stolen tax dollars at work, the CIA’s 2012 rankings put us at 51st.

There's more to it than years, and the swing from 34th to 51st tells you there's a lot of wiggle room in how liars figure, but if you scan any of these lists for the countries that beat us on longevity, almost every man jack of them has single payer universal healthcare, and have had since before I was born. That system might be expensive but if it was actually killing people, how did they jump us in the life expectancy cue?

Oh, and I did pimp the Post Modern Pentathlon on the back side of my spoke card. Because it's going to be epic. I gave out, I think, 114 spoke cards, so a well attended Mass to be sure. Because this post was supposed to be about last Friday's Critical Mass. And the Critical Mass crowd is a prime recruiting ground for an event like the Post Modern Pentathlon, which is at least partially an alleycat race. I got B-Cycle to sponsor the event with the loan of bikes. Because in the Olympic Modern Pentathlon, you have to ride a horse that's not known to you. I haven't figured out the details, but I'm thinking either a sprint or obstacle course ridden on B-Cycles with bonus points to the rider who can track stand on one the longest.

It'll be like the Modern Pentathlon except not expensive (I'm hoping a zero entry fee, if I end up having to pay for some stuff I might ask for a couple dollars as an entry fee to defray the cost, but I really don't want any money to change hands), fun, and open to anyone. So kind of like a perfect opposite of the sport the Olympics as ridiculously included since 1912, when the war narrative that inspired the event was already out of date. I guess 'modern' sounded better than 'outmoded nineteenth century cavalry pentathlon.'

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