Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gesundheit!

According to the United States Government’s Small Business Administration website, one provision of the Affordable Care Act (so-called “Obamacare”) is that  
Beginning in 2015, employers with 50 or more full-time/full-time equivalent employees that do not offer affordable health insurance that provides minimum value to their full-time employees (and dependents) may be required to pay an assessment if at least one of their full-time employees is certified to receive a premium tax credit in an individual health insurance Marketplace. A full-time employee is one who is employed an average of at least 30 hours per week.
The chief honcho of one large pizza chain (name withheld so as not to give them any publicity) was so incensed by this requirement that he proposed cutting the hours of his employees to under 30 a week, so as not to have to comply with this provision of the law.

So consider: Here’s a guy who so much loves his pizza dough kneaders and pie slicers (people undoubtedly only making minimum--or near-minimum--wage and without personal health coverage), that he is willing (a) to make them poorer and (b) to ensure that in times of illness they are unlikely to benefit from medical care.
*
Among the placards the New York City Transit Authority has had on display in its subway cars for a while now is a public service ad (offered in both English and Spanish) telling the riders, “If you are unwell--stay home.” The aim of the ad is to prevent the spread of disease.

Only recently, however, the Florida state legislature rejected a proposal to require paid sick leave for employees.

I, therefore, would be leery about patronizing Florida food service establishments with minimum-wage employees—those who can’t afford to stay home when ill or to see a doctor. Imagine the gleeful germ ballets that must be endemic there.
***
The September 16, 1961 issue of the New Yorker featured a “Talk of the 
Town” piece by Donald Malcolm about a conversation with an imaginary 
“plump and solemn gentleman” who has decided to run for mayor of New 
York City. He has, he claims, a fool-proof plan to end the slum housing 
problem in the city. What he proposes is “a simple ordinance requiring 
every landlord to live in the meanest apartment in the nastiest building he 
owns.” The virtue of this ordinance is that it would ensure that each 
landlord would have to improve all his properties at the same time if he 
didn’t wish to have to continually uproot himself and move to a new 
“meanest” apartment.

Perhaps that plump gentleman’s proposal should be adapted to the healthcare issue in this country. What if there were a law mandating that every legislator could only have the healthcare coverage of the worst-insured member of his constituency?

***
UPDATE (Oct. 14, 2013):

A day after I posted this blog entry Salon.com published a story (brief excerpt below) that relates directly to some points I made in my essay:
One of the country’s largest and most profitable hospital chains has been defeated in its effort to take away its nurses’ sick days, according to the union that mounted nine strikes there over the past two years.
“The nurses would’ve come to work sick, and the patients’ health would’ve declined,” said California Nurses Association Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. “Because the nurses would be exposing current patients to the past patients’ illnesses.” While nurses “take the risk of being around very sick people,” DeMoro told Salon, they “are not super-women.”
According to CNA, eliminating paid sick days was one of nearly two hundred concessions sought by California healthcare giant Sutter Health, in negotiations over union contracts covering three thousand nurses and hundreds of other employees at central California hospitals. Others included eliminating health coverage for nurses who work less than thirty hours a week, and reducing – to six hours – nurses’ minimum time off between shifts. The union says it defeated virtually all of the concessions in new contracts which were approved by members in votes which ended last week. CNA notes that Sutter financial statements show over $4 billion in profit since 2005.







Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bang, Bang

Imagine you're the toughest, most macho National Rifle Association member. You think that guns should be allowed in schools, churches, bars, and sporting venues to scare away the bad guys. Now there you are, walking down the street, a sidearm holstered at each hip, an Uzi slung over your right shoulder and an AK-47 over your left. I come up behind you (or from the front or side), pull out my pistol and blow your head away.

Your armory was no defense; indeed, even if you could have somehow juggled them, adding a grenade launcher and a flamethrower would have aided you not a whit. Your safety did not rest on your arms—but on my lack of weaponry.

Of course, there is no such thing as absolute safety, for there is always a weapon around. If not the paring knife in the kitchen, there is always, as Clue players know, the candlestick in the dining room. Or that rock at the side of the road.

But relative safety (if not absolute safety) is the issue. I can only increase my relative safety (and you increase yours) by disarming other people as much as possible (even if we can't hide all the rocks from them). Which really means mutual disarmament. I'm safer if you destroy that Uzi and AK-47 and the rest of your stockpile, and you are safer if I destroy mine.

***

Upon the whole, I never beheld, in all my travels, so disagreeable an animal, or one against which I naturally conceived so strong an antipathy,” Lemuel Gulliver asserts near the beginning of Part Four of Swift's satire. What Gulliver has seen is a creature called a “Yahoo.” After giving the creature a blow with the flat of his sword, Gulliver is confronted by “a herd of at least forty ..., howling and making odious faces.” For safety Gulliver runs
to the body of a tree, and leaning my back against it, kept them off by waving my hanger [sword]. Several of this cursed brood, getting hold of the branches behind, leaped up into the tree, whence they began to discharge their excrements on my head; however, I escaped pretty well by sticking close to the stem of the tree, but was almost stifled with the filth, which fell about me on every side.
The land in which Gulliver is stranded is not populated only by these humanity-in-the-raw creatures, the Yahoos, but also by a race of rational horses, the Houyhnhnms. When Gulliver tells the horse that befriends him (his “master”) about destructive European warfare, his master thinks Gulliver has said "the thing which is not“ [the Houyhnhnms have no word for lying]. After all, says the horse,
nature has left you utterly incapable of doing much mischief. For, your mouths lying flat with your faces, you can hardly bite each other to any purpose, unless by consent. Then as to the claws upon your feet before and behind, they are so short and tender, that one of our Yahoos would drive a dozen of yours before him.
That humans have managed to create a world such as Gulliver describes with
cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols, bullets, powder, swords, bayonets, battles, sieges, retreats, attacks, undermines, countermines, bombardments, sea fights, ships sunk with a thousand men, twenty thousand killed on each side, dying groans, limbs flying in the air, smoke, noise, confusion, trampling to death under horses’ feet, flight, pursuit, victory; fields strewed with carcases, left for food to dogs and wolves and birds of prey; plundering, stripping, ravishing, burning, and destroying
can only be due, says the master horse, to a corruption of reason that “might be worse than brutality itself.”
***
If we could negotiate a disarmament that reduced mankind's means to fight others only to the weaponry that nature itself has given, such as the act of climbing a tree and shitting on one's enemies, we would be much better off. All we would have to do after a battle would be to jump into the nearest lake and wash ourselves off. We would be soaking wet—but alive.