The Pettiness of Failure

Big Red Car here.  The Boss’s Old Man — 95 years old and a career Army guy who received a battlefield commission fighting the Germans in Italy in World War II — has seen a lot of history.  He opines that the current administration is the least accomplished in his lifetime.  There is much evidence to support that assertion.

The Obama administration has clearly set its future reputation on its complete inability to successfully manage anything remotely related to the economy or financial matters.

1.  The Stimulus was an abject failure.

2.  The country is hopelessly mired in deep unemployment since the day President Obama took office.

3.  The administration has not passed a budget since it took office and has literally failed to submit a budget for most of those years.  The Constitutionally mandated budget process is hopelessly broken.

4.  The administration has lorded over the loss of America’s AAA credit rating.

5.  The administration has been unable to convince Congress to grant it a higher credit limit — the debt ceiling — on the Nation’s credit card.

6.  The administration has swollen the ranks of the disabled and food stamps beyond belief.

7.  The Obama administration is simply not good at financial management.

Worse still, they are big spenders with your money having passed a piece of enormously unpopular legislation which will ultimately wreck the Nation’s health care system while driving millions of employees off their employers’ health insurance coverage by converting them to part time workers.

The Big Red Car could forgive the Obama administration and the President all of these transgressions after all there is no business or executive experience amongst the whole lot of them.

But they are mean and petty to boot

The indictment of competence of the preceding section is damning enough but the Obama administration is mean and petty in the bargain.

The administration cancelled the White House tours as part of the sequestration spending cuts.  This while continuing to spend Executive branch monies with reckless abandon.  The cynicism of this action is beneath the dignity of the office of our President.

The administration has declared White House chefs to be “essential” in the current crisis while the President jets away for an 11-day foreign trip.

The administration has called in “essential” workers to barricade and deny access to the World War II Memorial.  It did not declare the Park Service workers to be essential to PROVIDE  services.  It declared the Park Service workers to be essential to DENY services.  This is particularly galling as the World War II Memorial is an open air memorial and requires almost no services to continue to operate.

The administration has barricaded the site.  Look carefully and you can see this is the World War II Memorial site.

It is all just mean and petty.

The Big Red Car can stomach anything that is based on ideological differences or legitimate policy disputes but meanness and pettiness is beyond the pale.  This is the legacy of the Chicago Machine that was brought to the White House by a President who has now failed us on the most basic human level.

We deserve better than this.

Of course, I am betting on the World War II vets making their way through any set of obstacles.  After all, they beat the Germans and the Japanese in 3 1/2 years — the same time period this administration has had to get ready to implement the Affordable (?) Care Act.  The last time someone denied them access, it looked like this.

But, hey, what the Hell do I knew anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.







11 thoughts on “The Pettiness of Failure

  1. @JLM, I have heard about WWII vets basically pushing through the barricades. Look, if the German machine gun emplacements on Omaha Beach were not going to stop them, a few Park Service barricades certainly are not!

    Separately, I disagree with one point. I have been watching the health care debacle with growing interest in one area. I believe the linkage between employment and health insurance to be a key driver of problems in the American provision of health care. If ACA – intentionally or not – drives individuals out of company-provided health care, and thus severs the link, this will be a good thing.

    You will argue that they will end up in government-managed health, which will be bad. Probably right. But not everyone will. Many will leave corporate care but either buy privately or band together – imagine an association of 1,000 freelance software engineers buying insurance en masse, with the same buying power as a 1,000-person company. Actually more power, since they will not have turnover due to hiring/firing/layoffs/retirement.

    When people are able to move jobs, retire, be fired or laid off, switch, etc., while taking into account only those factors that actually *are* work-related – salary and incentive compensation and equity, location, responsibilities and authority, staff and boss, etc. – and not stress-inducing and expensive but fundamentally unrelated elements such as health care, we will be in a better place.

    The answer is definitively not government-run health insurance, but it is also not insurance-on-the-job.

    • .
      Avi, thanks for your comment. Insightful as usual.

      I am not really worried about the WWII Vets getting into the WWII Memorial. The real point is to expose the pettiness and meanness of an administration which would seek to deliver pain and suffering as part of their governing philosophy.

      As to the issues with health care, first let me say that I am absolutely committed to health care being an important element of the American culture. As an employer, I was able to provide health care insurance and a wellness program to every company I ever ran over a 33+ year time period. It can be done.

      Do I think that the delivery system of health care insurance is the best we can provide? No — no reason to be the first dollar of cost coverage, that is unrealistic. It should be like automobile insurance in which the routine maintenance (preventative and routine medical care) is provided by the insured and the insurance is for catastrophic events.

      Auto insurance requires the insured to pay directly for maintenance, tires, oil, gasoline, etc. Insurance pays for accidents and liability.

      Health insurance should require the insured to pay routine physicals and the most mundane ailments — flu, colds, rashes, etc. Insurance should pay for procedures, hospital, medicines.

      Having said that the near term concern is the timing of this initiative. Employers have a downward bias toward hiring and are converting logical full time positions to part time positions simply because of the cost implications. Remember that the ACA was sold as a “cost reduction” program — costs were to go down.

      This has now become an impediment to hiring.

      As to the methodology of how folks attain insurance, I agree more with you than you do with yourself as to the creation of buying syndicates — an exercise in free market capitalism if ever there was one.

      The problem? Not allowed under the current scheme and as long as health insurance is regulated on a state by state basis will not work.

      If the ACA could have done anything positive it would have been to make health care insurance covenants national and not state by state. This would have spawned real competition.

      Perhaps the most important point — the administration cannot get it to work. Witness the abysmal opening day fiasco. They had 3 1/2 years to get it right — same time it took to win WWII — and they have not.

      Government, in general, is not good at this type of thing and this administration, in particular, is a disaster.


      • Oh, I wasn’t too worried either. I was rather inspired by the practicality of a bunch of aged yet still tough vets refusing to take petty “no” for an answer.

        I believe that you provided excellent health benefits to your employees for 33+ years. I also believe it was a waste of your time and energy, and would have been better – and cost less – if they had been paid an equivalent amount more and bought on their own. How many options did you provide? 2? 3? 4? I doubt the choices really fit every employee, yet on an open market, they could have found precisely (or close enough to) just what they needed.

        I am mixed on the national vs state. In general, I prefer States’ rights, as it leads to greater competition. Without it, would Texas be doing anywhere near as well if it had been forced to harmonize its regulations or taxes with, say, New York or California? At the same time, state balkanization prevents some of the buying groups, and makes it illegal for a purchaser in New York to buy cheaper but more appropriate coverage from a Texan insurer.

        The interesting question to me is, has it worked? Are there states where the insurance regulation hand is light enough that you can buy (at least before ACA) reasonable insurance for a reasonable price? And if so, how has that affected migration?

        • Just to clarify, I have no issue with companies providing health insurance as a benefit under the current scheme; I just think it is highly wasteful and has an enormous amount of negative side effects. If you prefer, “collateral damage”, I am good with that.

          I also have no issue with the company saying, “hey, my people buy health insurance, let’s see if I can negotiate employee discounts like I get for laptops and cellphone service,” and so, if you go to Insurer PayMe Texas, and you enter your company ID, you get an extra discount. I do think that it should be an additional discount, not a core you get through the company.

          • .
            When I did it, I formed an employee committee and required them to competitively bid the coverage every year.

            I then agreed to provide a finite amount of money — typically 85% of total cost.

            In this manner, they bought what they wanted and had skin in the game.

            You would be surprised to learn how expert they became at buying health, dental, vision, life insurance.

            One important consideration about a company buying health insurance is that these are “before tax” dollars as far as the employee is concerned and they are not taxed on this benefit.

            To the company they are “benefits” upon which payroll taxes do not have to be paid.

            I am not really aware of any state specific considerations that create a meaningful advantage. It only stifles competition. When I had multi-state operations, I sometimes had different providers in certain states. It was an unnecessary complication.

            The pricing is a function of the risk profile of the group which changes with age and child bearing strata. I never thought it was cheap but I did think it was fair up until the last few years when I think it became gamed in anticipation of ACA.


          • I am acutely aware of the 2 issues driving people into corporate-managed insurance for the last 50 years: tax and risk pools. tax could easily be resolved by eliminating any corporate deduction for health insurance, and giving equal credit to individuals. Or maybe not. I would sooner just reduce marginal rates. But either way, that part is easily solvable.

            The risk pooling is a major issue. But as you said, allow people to pool together in large enough groups, and the problem goes away. The ability to cross state lines would also help with the pooling, and avoid issues in cross-state moves.

          • .
            When the provision of health insurance is an element of compensation, there is no real justification for eliminating its deductibility.

            The quality of a company’s health care program is an inducement for folks to seek and retain employment. It is part of a smart hiring and retention program.

            That is exactly the way it worked out for me for a long, long time as many competitors did not provide benefits of any kind.

            As a citizen, I agree completely with what I have written but as an employer I was also quite content to fashion a benefit out of a challenge. It worked.


          • Yes, it should… just like cash comp, no more no less. Special treatment (employer portion) for health benefits are unjustifiable. Or, you could just kill the employer portion, apply it to the employee, and make it all clean.

          • .
            The body of law around benefits — ERISA — is very, very complicated and health insurance deductibility fits into this space.

            Changing a single benefit in that continuum of law and practice would be very, very difficult.


  2. Great post. Was fortunate to get to Yellowstone last weekend before the big shutdown. Heard they even tried to cap old faithful:)

Comments are closed.