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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Health Care Reform

Date: February 26th, 2006
Sent to Boston Globe

So, "Hopes fade for Healthcare Reform" (Globe, February 26, 2006, page A1).
It is time to take a more sensible approach. There is no logical reason for employers to be implicated in the provision of Health Insurance. That should be government's responsibility.
We need to go to a radical solution:
1. Enroll everyone in Massachusetts in the State Employee Plan -- I believe that Bob Reich's Health Care team showed that this was feasible during the last gubernatorial campaign.
2. Pay for this through a progressive income tax system. Given that costs for the uninsured are currently hidden in the insurance premiums for those individuals and the companies that pay for insurance. This should be revenue neutral to both as long as the firms pay what they now pay for health insurance directly to the individuals insured.
3. Enjoy the benefits of health insurance for all citizens of the Commonwealth.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Two Roles of the University

February 25th. 2006
Sent to but not published in the New York Times

John Tierney (Op-Ed, The Faculty Club,February 25th, 2006, page A29), despite his family connections with academia, falls into the trap of equating the mission of the University with teaching. In reality, the University has two missions: the transmission of knowledge and the creation of knowledge.
In a pluralistic system, different universities put different emphases on the teaching and research roles. That is as it should be. Potential students can then make informed decisions about whether they want a truly memorable undergraduate experience or whether they want to attend a research powerhouse where they may get useful research experience in some of their upper level courses.
And, yes I did teach undergraduate survey courses at Toronto.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Peace Movement

Date: February 21, 2005
Sent to but not published by Boston Globe

The peace movement, despite the ongoing Iraq war, is alive and well. It lives all across this country in church basements and community centers. Perhaps because of the evident injustice of the current war the peace movement flourishes.

To the old idealism of the past has been added a very practical streak: assuming that once again there will be a peace dividend, how will it be invested? Major corporations follow the money in government contracts. Major defense organizations have the technology and the brains to make major inroads into solving the renewable energy problem. They have the brains and the technology to help educate the under-educated. They have the brains and the technology to bring to bear on the problems of the inner cities. There are a multitude of problems to be solved. Weaning the defense industry from military contracts to solve the problems of our civil society is the way to go once the present war is behind us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Two types of Cloning

Surely Michael Gazzaniga (Op-Ed, February 16th., A33) is living in a dream world if he believes that this President can make the subtle judgement required to distinguish between reproductive cloning and biomedical cloning.
After all this Administration has shown itself unable to distinguish between real nuclear threats (Iran and North Korea) and a non-existent threat (Iraq). The administration cannot tell the difference between a fundamentalist Moslem (Bin Laden) and a secular Moslem (Saddam Hussein). The administration cannot tell the difference between dangerous captives in Guantanamo and innocent bystanders rounded up in Afghanistan. It cannot tell the difference between legal and illegal interrogation techniques in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Despite its enormous array of legal talent, it cannot tell the difference between legal and illegal surveillance operations inside America.
Those are fairly gross distinctions compared to those between the two types of cloning. There is little hope that Mr. Bush will soon draw that important distinction and allow Federal funding of biomedical cloning to begin unfettered by the current restrictions.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Bush and al-Quaida

Date: February 11, 2005
Sent to but not published by Boston Globe

So Richard Clarke sent a memo to Condaleezza Rice about terrorist groups (together with a plan for dealing with them) on January 25th 2001. He also called for a Cabinet Meeting to discuss the problem. The Bush Cabinet got around to discussing the problem on September 4th, just a week before 9/11.

Why? Was the Cabinet busy dealing with other issues, was the President busy dealing with other issues? No! President Bush, early in his first term, presided over the most laid back administration in living memory. He was busy chopping sage brush at the Western White House. He had the worst ratio of working days to vacation days of any President.

And this is the man we just re-elected. Pity!

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Bush's Inconsistent Policies

Date: February 6, 2005
Sent to but not published by Boston Globe

President Bush is somewhat inconsistent with his application of rugged individualism and the ownership society. At the same time that he is proposing to replace a chunk of social security benefits with privatized accounts he is proposing to pay life insurance premiums for all servicemen and women on active duty -- a policy that I applaud.
Where is the consistency in his proposals? Why not just give service personnel the money for those premiums and let them put it to the purposes the individual chooses. The answer, of course, is the same as the reason we should continue our present course with social security: people often let short term considerations overwhelm long term considerations, so fail to buy insurance; and the transaction costs for each individual would be prohibitive so that lower benefits would be obtained for the same cost.

Who Owns MY Social Security Benefits

Date: February 6, 2005
Sent to but not published by New York Times

Could someone please explain to me what I do not own in my forthcoming Social Security benefits.
The benefits are registered in my name. No one else has access to them, except my spouse who may draw benefits on my death.
To be sure there are some limits in how these benefits are created and delivered. But those limits are exactly the same as those incurred by term life insurance and the purchase of an annuity that pays an income to me and my surviving spouse – it is also an annuity with inflation protection which is an expensive option in the private market.
The argument that private accounts will benefit one's children is false. Transaction costs will, as they did in the U.K. eat up funds in these private accounts. If, on retirement, one is forced (a policy inconsistent with the myth that these accounts are under the individual's control) to purchase an annuity then, on one's death, (despite the Administration rhetoric) nothing will be left for one's heirs.
Lets stop this barrage of misinformation and lets undertake a sensible, modest upgrading to the Social Security system.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

More Energy Policy

February 3rd. 2006
Sent to but not published by the New York Times

It seems to me that President Bush has never come across a dot that he didn't try to disconnect.
The latest example is given in Paul Krugman's column (New York Times, February 3rd., page A 27) describing the Energy Policy of the Administration. With one breath, the President, in the State of the Union Speech, talks about increasing research on biomass and renewable energy; yet at the same time, his budget measures result in a reduction of funding to the Energy Department's research group that is working on those issues.
To understand the Administration's goals we need to look at what they do, not at what they say. Just as with the pious profession of help to the poor in New Orleans that has been coupled with cuts to Medicaid, the true goals of the Energy department do not embrace  renewable resources.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

February 2nd. 2006
Sent to but not published by the Boston Globe

It is hard to understand what motivated Tom Reilly and Marie St. Fleur except expediency and ambition. Both broke their promises of implicit support to other candidates for Lieutenant Governor: Reilly to Mayor Murray of Worcester; St. Fleur to Deborah Goldberg.
Robert W. Service wrote: "Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code."
Today, St. Fleur is now that much deeper in debt and for Reilly the trail to election as Governor is a lot tougher