AETNA and UnitedHealthcare CEO salaries

Are the salaries here actually good market outcomes?

These salaries either indicate that the market is not functioning properly or that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with preserving market function at all, i.e., in what contexts does one person get so much ($102 million in a year), and others get nothing at all (there are 40 million Americans without insurance)?

These CEOs are not innovators, they are power brokers. They don’t innovate anything; innovation in healthcare would result in and reward universal coverage, not exclusion from coverage.

AETNA CEO paid 27.9 million in 2015.

UnitedHealthcare CEO paid $66 million in 2014, down from peak of $102 million in 2010.

Let me also try to document lobbying efforts by the healthcare industry, before arguing whether a “market” exists in healthcare in the United States.

In what contexts do the interests of the powerful decide the rules of the game, and favor the interests of the strong over those of the weak?

Consider again the Manhattan Indians. If I pay a shitload for grossly inadequate insurance coverage (I have the Wampum and sailor piss plan), is there really a market in existence where such unequal exchanges are possible?

Why Don’t We Have Single Payer Health Care? Ask Medical Lobbyists

The state of nature and markets

Because markets cannot exist in the state of nature, it is inapposite to ask how a market would function, in the absence of government regulation.

The market would not function in the absence of government regulation.

So the better question to ask is how rights are decided in the state of nature (by force), and then reject any use of force in the market context, because by its nature force interferes with market function and threatens its very existence (we should try to eliminate differences in bargaining power that are predicated on actual force or on circumstances that result in outcomes like those based upon force, e.g., transactions induced by duress or necessity).

We should, therefore, use government to account for and eliminate differences in power that existed in the state of nature, and prevented the emergence of markets in the state of nature, and continue to interfere with the proper operation and function of markets in civil societies, i.e., rights based constitutional democracies.

Nadia Brazhina

The Rio Olympics are not without controversy. Here’s Russian diver, Nadia Brazhina.

Her flips are perfect.

But the Western judges penalized her for the landing, which, while admittedly not perfect, seems enough for a silver or at least a bronze medal.

AETNA insurance

A market exists where we have defined property rights, i.e., an expectation that our rights of ownership will be respected and not subject to arbitrary taking by government, or by theft or force from another.

I think this is a fair definition of a market, because trading can’t occur and future valuations of property cannot be made in a state of nature, i.e., in the absence of a government that provides due process protections to property owners (before taking your shit), and otherwise protects you from theft and other forceful takings of property from those (other than the government) who would take your shit. Why would you buy something from somebody, like land, if you didn’t know whether they had title to the property, or the recognized right to transfer title by sale of the land?

Consider the Manhattan Indians. They sold their land – all of New York City – for 15 bags of Wampum and one bottle of fermented English sailor piss.

I wouldn’t say that the market determined the price of the property – rather, it was the threat of force that set the price, which is not a “market” valuation.

So before there were markets – meaningful markets that allow for speculation and investment – there was government.

And government defined the scope of property rights. As a student of law, common law examples defining the scope of property rights were always very entertaining, although almost totally irrelevant today.

Individual rights to real property are so obvious, in civil society, that we assume that markets are natural forces that have always existed, and that transactions in real property were always possible without government defining the scope of rights to real property; but this is false. The rights of individuals to property are oftentimes vague and need courts to provide clarity. Thus, property law is a part of first year curriculum in any law school – because it is essential. It is essential to have a developed body of property law before you can have markets, and to know that your title to real property will be respected, according to the definition above.

You also need a body of law for enforcing contracts, that governs exchanges between people of property rights. Without property law and contract law, you cannot have the stability required for parties to value real property beyond, say, food and simple shit like that that rots after a few days. Perhaps there were markets for food thousands of years ago, and government would not have been necessary to provide rules of exchange in that context. But this isn’t what we mean when we talk about capital markets, that require government and a body of law to define the scope of property rights – you wouldn’t say markets existed in a state of nature, because people sold fish at a primitive market along the riverbank. We’re talking about modern, capital markets, and the essential point here is this…

Prior to markets is the social contract.

All of us must agree not to use force before there can be capital markets.

And back to the case of the Manhattan Indians, there are questions of jurisdiction when you have trade occurring between sovereign states. Who decides whether the deal for New York, in exchange for Wampum and sailor piss, is legit?

Complex questions of the scope of property rights, contract rights and remedies, and jurisdiction must be settled for capital markets to develop.

Government is first, markets follow.

I’m gonna write a series of rants on insurance contracts, and show how the law is required to develop first, before markets can develop that allow for transactions to occur based upon market valuations…

Aetna opting out of ACA healthcare plans.

Vote extortion

The Green Party has arrived intellectually and will represent those left behind by the right wing, neoliberal, corporatist, war hawk Democratic Party.

The choice to vote for Hillary – as the only alternative to Trump – is a form of vote extortion.

I won’t vote based on fear. I won’t act based on fear. I have identified my motive to vote for Hillary – as fear of Donald Trump.

She offers nothing good for the future. Nothing good for people like me, or my family.

Fear is not a reason to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Fear cannot be the foundation for electoral success in a democracy.

I will vote Green because I agree with their vision. I will not vote Clinton because the alternative that this system has given me is Trump.

It is immoral to cave to extortion.

If I could choose one river to fish, for the rest of my life, and could fish no other river, it would have to be the Delaware. Right here in New York. Now some of you are thinking I’m crazy, the Mo is better, or the Deschutes, or the rivers of Patagonia or New Zealand. There are a few reasons I choose the D.

First, my favorite species to target is the brown trout. I prefer the rising brown trout to the steelhead or Atlantic salmon. Occasionally you can draw a strike from a bomber or by skating a dry for salmon and steelhead, but the preferred method is dunking split shot and dead drifting weighted flies or egg patterns. This isn’t fly fishing that I enjoy. I prefer the artful cast, the finesse game of the perfectly presented dry fly, which I am admittedly good at. Without being arrogant, I would say I definitely cast better than most people, certainly better than anyone reading my blog – you are a sad sack if you is looking for fishing advice here.

But seriously, I like to see and target fish, so for me that rules out any of the famed salmon rivers of New Brunswick, the Restigouche or the Miramichi, or any of the beautiful steelhead rivers of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Migrating and/or spawning fish aren’t targets, in the same way a rising brown trout is a target for a skilled angler, with a bamboo rod, and a classic fly like a Hendrickson or a Gordon.

The Delaware River and its tributaries have history, and also an adundance of my favorite target species of game fish. But why the Delaware, instead of, say, the Mo? Or Patagonia? Or New Zealand?

I am not gonna say that the rivers outside of New York aren’t great rivers. Or that the Delaware is better than anybody else’s local river. A lot comes down to travel time. (This ain’t no crazy hypothetical question, where I imagine I could actually fish waters regularly that are 5000 miles away…)

So I rule out New Zealand, because of travel time and costs – I’d only fish once every 10 years if I limited myself to such exotic waters. That’s why any sane angler would choose his local waters, and invest that travel money in protecting his local waters. Take a day out to fish the D. Call in sick from work. I save my sick days for April and May, and the Delaware. For good dry fly, surface feeding brown trout, it is the best we have.

Walmart

Below are a few articles that document the cost of employers, such as Walmart, McDonalds and Disney, paying employees starvation wages.

These employees receive government subsidies that make up for the shortfall of their starvation wages.

The effect of these subsidies is a massive transfer of wealth, i.e., from those bearing the brunt of the tax burden, to Walmart executives and the investor class who own shares of stock in the company.

Because we, the taxpayers, are paying bills that are rightfully theirs, the investor class and executives who own the company.

The market, by definition, would not pay starvation wages; nobody could agree to a wage less than a living wage, in the absence of government subsidies.

Without these subsidies, Walmart itself would have to absorb the cost of paying its employees a living wage. Therefore, the government is justified in requiring employers to raise wages and requiring companies to provide benefits to its employees that otherwise end up being passed on to the taxpayer.

In summary, then, we can at least suggest that raising the minimum wage, amongst other policy measures that properly impose costs upon employers (e.g., living wages and medical benefits), would result in savings to the average taxpayer.

Here are a few articles addressing the issue from different perspectives:

Walmart costs taxpayers 6.2 billion in public assistance

Walmart wages result in employees need of public assistance

Low wage employers cost taxpayers $153 billion per year

No, government isn’t subsidizing Wal-Mart

How’d we get here?

So I’ve recently documented CEO pay at some major media corporations.

Bob Iger, CEO Disney/ABC, 44.9 million
Les Moonves, CEO CBS, 57 million
Philippe Dauman, CEO Viacom, 55 million

And I’ve linked to some articles where Les Moonves said Trump was “damn good for CBS,” and documented nearly 2 billion dollars of free mainstream media advertising that’s been given to the Trump campaign.

The sickness of Trump is his recognition of the greed of the mainstream media network CEOs. He has threatened not to appear on networks that don’t report favorably on him, including FoxNews. He actually walked out on a debate, to teach the media that he wouldn’t accept anything but softball questions.

And they listened.

He knows these CEOs just want more money, and don’t give a shit about anything else.

Just look at the numbers – men who are paid 50 million per year didn’t get there by abiding by some sort of limiting, ethical principle, to their pursuit of money. Consider Bob Iger, who fumes at the idea that Disney ought to pay its employees a living wage, while he takes home 45 million bucks.

As a matter of economics, nobody can work a job that pays less than a living wage: by definition, if you took that job, you’d starve to death. The shortfall is made up by public assistance. So Disney’s unethical treatment of its employees ends up costing taxpayers, and lining the pockets of corporate executives.

Who are the taxpayers subsidizing, by providing public assistance to hard working people? I’d argue we’re subsidizing the CEOs, and the pay figures above basically reflect that (although we are led to believe that the problem is with those who need the assistance, right?)

There is no limiting principle at CBS, only that “Trump is good for ratings,” so he gets coverage.

That greed has fueled the media’s obsessive coverage of Trump, and fueled his campaign toward the presidency.

That greed has also fueled hit pieces on Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and smeared his policy ideas, including universal healthcare, paid family leave, and free public college as unaffordable, debt creating, unrealistic and impractical nonsense.

Here’s a good article that documents a pattern of deliberate smearing of the Sanders campaign from the mainstream media.

I’ll try to document and provide links to other stories, from the mainstream media, that discredit Sanders’ policy ideas.

Fishing

So lately I’ve been posting about politics and I probably won’t stop until after the election.

The thought of a Trump presidency has me spooked, and I see the whole process as a train wreck that seems like it was staged to happen – a natural consequence of our disfunctional system – rather than a one time, unfortunate accident of history that wont repeat itself after this election. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy, but instead a natural alignment of moneyed interests that has reshaped the political spectrum, and in the process left a vacuum – of disenfranchised working class voters – that Trump has captured with political venom and anger that I haven’t ever seen before in America.

But thankfully Charlie has scored a drift boat, so I’ll be on the water more frequently, at least until the end of this season.

I have mildly tried to stir up interest in my political rants, amongst friends, but the ideas aren’t really developed meaningfully, more than they are just therapeutic, streams of consciousness, throwing words onto the page as a record of thoughts that I can come back to and put into perspective later on…