Friday, January 09, 2009

Fixing the economy - Part II. Not sure how many parts there are going to be, but then again, by the time I finish this part we could already be in a depression. Seriously speaking, we need to fill in the black holes of the US economy. The first real black hole was addressed in my previous note regarding creditcards and what to do with them. The second major black hole for americans is healthcare costs. Its going to take an inordinate amount of time to put in a system that allows americans to have a universal system. Call me pessimistic, but there are too many self serving forces that will prevent a good national system of healthcare. The healthcare system may be the only one where trickle down economics really works. All of the money trickles down from the american worker and corporations down into the malpractice attorney hands. Of course that is only part of it. So where do we start when it comes to fixing such a monumental problem. Lets start with something easily digestible that Congress can understand. Give Americans a tax credit for getting a yearly checkup. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing illness before it happens will save tremendous amount of money. You have to give us an incentive to see a doctor because (speaking as a man) if it ain't broke, I don't want to know if it needs fixing. Second, Congress needs to earmark more funds for early detection of illness. Our whole medical system is predicated on fixing a problem after all the dominoes have fallen. We need to stop the first domino from falling. Better detection leads to better cures. Next we need to create incentives for americans to be and act healthier and create disincentives for non-healthy activities. We need to institute programs that promote local grown, organic and minimally processed foods. Give at register discounts to individuals that purchase designated healthy foods. These can be offset by increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol. If you raised the price of cigarettes to $10 a pack, it would stop a lot of young people from starting and would give a lot more older people a reason to stop. Give a taxbreak on smoking cessation products and programs. Give people taxbreaks to join healthclubs. We are wasting valuable dollars on preventable diseases. I'm just as guilty as most of america in this regard. I can't afford to change, but I can't afford not to. This would help. The second part of the healthcare issue is liability. There desperately needs to be a cap on malpractice awards. There should also be a non-biased ratings board and review board. Doctors are only governed by doctors and as we've seen by the way banks operated recently, its not good practice. In order to reduce costs, bad doctors need to find a new line of work. They can't just get a slap on the wrist. Its the few really bad ones that cause the most grief. Its unfortunate but a doctors job is a life or death proposition every time they make a decision. Everybody is different and sometimes things that work for 99% of the population don't work for you and that can have tragic consequences. I don't think there is a doctor (other than certfiably insane ones) who intend to kill a patient or want their patient to die. Yet with hindsight we look at everything a doctor has done and point to a potential area with which we can disagree and sue the begeezus out him. Are we right to sue? Sometimes, but every time? There needs to be a specialized court system that can really evaluate malpractice rather than rubberstamp juries who have no qualms about punishing the insurance companies. People don't realize how these awards affect them. Good doctors can not get malpractice insurance. They quit the business. Guess what that leaves? If this is the time for change, then lets see real change. Change our health, change our life.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How to Boost America's Economy - Give a Tax Cut without effecting Tax Receipts or Why we need real actions and not words? There has been a lot of talk about doing another stimulus package to help Americans and in turn rebuild the economy. While I don't mind a little scratch in my pocket, there is no way that these programs really help Americans in the long term. Why are we in the current situation that we are in? It has to do with consumption and satifying our wants more than thinking about our needs. The US government could give an immediate and long lasting tax cut (clue: its not a real tax cut) to the American people by enacting a few simple rules. The first real issue is that we have all succumbed to predatory lending practices. This is not a mortgage issue alone. Take a look at your wallet. Most of the people stuck in bad mortgages aren't ones that got suckered by 2yr, 5yr ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages). They got suckered by their creditcard company. The first act by the new government should be to force all the banks that have received TARP funds to immediately drop the interest rate on all issued creditcards down to 7 or 8%. They also should restricted from charging interest on interest accumulated. This will immediately put money back in the pockets of Americans on an ongoing monthly basis. Second, the government should give immediate tax cuts to corporations who manufacture goods in the United States. Not assemble goods, but actually manufacture them. They need to provide tax incentives to companies to switch from overseas manufacturing to the US. If you want to make America strong, you need to give companies a good reason to make a switch. The tax break should be designed to limit the negative impact of higher costs of producing here. However, I would venture a guess that the available job pool has grown so dramatically and is probably skilled enough and hungry enough to limit the cost of the transition. This is just a start. Now, with regard to all the busted mortgages out there again, concessions to greed have to be made. It would be truly unfair for the government to bailout individuals who were not smart enough to understand that their mortgages were going to have a sudden jump when their adjustment period came and not help everyone else. For individuals who are going through the foreclosure process who have jobs, but just no longer the wherewithal to pay their mortgage, there needs to be an extreme home mortgage. Rewrite the mortgage, reduce the interest rate from its high levels down to 5-6% and lengthen the time from 30 years to 45 or 60 years. Which would you rather have as a bank, a loan holder who can pay on time every month or own an over-inflated valued property that you'll sell for a significant loss? Add to the mortgage a 2% early sales fee, to make up some of the difference you had on the original interest and call it a day. These two things will add back to the economy a tremendous amount of buying power. End of Part 1.