Category Archives: news and notes

The real pain isn’t at the pump, it is in your healthcare costs

The Media and Politics world really, really, really is trying hard to put this in front of you today. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and it is up to the President to save us. And he’s not doing it. So we need to debate it. Really.

Gas Prices Taking Their Toll on Obama – Politics – The Atlantic Wire.

There’s a war of words over energy policy going on right now. It comes down to the taxpayers giving money to big oil or spending more on exploring new technology for renewable energy. We could easily spend a whole post looking at how much hypocrisy is laden in the conservative proponents of the free market railing against the market setting the price for oil and gas and clamoring for the government to intervene to bring gas prices down. And how in 2008, those same conservatives said that the president has no power to control gas prices.

Instead, let’s take a look at some charts to see that gas is actually not what’s costing Americans the most. It is what they notice the most, because they pay for it at the pumps. But the majority of the money they pay in healthcare is a strange deduction that vanishes from their paycheck almost unseen and is called a benefit by the providers of the insurance and the employer.

here are some relatively recent price graphs of world crude oil, showing this is following a curve of about 30% a year:

world crude oil prices are going up at about 30% a year.

ok, now, let’s look at the slope of that curve above and compare it to the slope of the curve for health care spending in the U.S. per capita.

Now, why is the price of oil going up? Supply and demand. Yay! Free market! No government intervention! Woohoo! Capitalism!

 

We are basically at or about peak oil production right now. Any further oil exploration requires massive subsidization to be able to bring it to market at price point where the oil producers can maintain their current profit margins. Tar sands, off shore drilling, all those resources require higher risk to capitalize, so the oil companies go to the government and ask for infrastructure subsidization. The public pays for the infrastructure expense, so companies can profit. How is that free market and small government? Honestly, I don’t see it.

And, even more. When we adjust for inflation, it turns out that the price of gas – by the time the average consumer pays for it – is pretty steady.

 

 

 

There’s a big piece of information in there. The average household spends 3.4% of their expenses on gas, roughly $2,132 a year.

On the other hand, that same average household spends more than $13,700 a year on their employee share of their health care premium.  And even a single payer pays more than twice in healthcare than they do in gas.

And that healthcare portion of household expenses is now more than 16.6% of the bill.

 

 

And while we sit here and have talks about jobs and costs to the economy, let’s look at how employers are affording their share of the rising costs of health care.

 

 

That graph is a little harder to read, but it shows that employers are controlling health care costs by pushing them off to the employee. (Need a second opinion, look here) The worker’s contribution to premiums is going up, and at the same time, the copays at the doctor’s office is going up. You don’t usually feel your healthplan’s dedcution after you get used to it being taken from your paycheck — just like a private payroll tax. But you do notice your copays. And you know how frustrating the user experience of trying to get money back from your private healthcare insurance provider is.

But the cost of your private health insurance is absolutely outpacing all other parts of your expenses, and it is growing faster than inflation. It is killing jobs and wiping out small employers. Employers are able to manage their rising percentage increase of employee healthcare cost share by balancing a strategy of managing the size of their workforce and pushing the costs over to the employee. But the healthcare insurance industry is making it coming and going.

 

doctor visits account for about 33% of healthcare costs.

 

 

An estimated 40 percent of Americans went without treatment last year, because of high costs. Do you think 40 percent of Americans are going to give up their cars this year because of these high gas prices? If they did, we wouldn’t really need to worry about the whole energy issue or that climate change problem either. Let’s look at that graph one more time.

 

 

Don’t let the rhetoric and talking points fool you. Healthcare isn’t socialized, oil production is. And that’s just plain messed up. Especially when Big Oil is making record profits and sitting on huge cash reserves. While the rest of the economy suffers, and more citizens struggle with their healthcare costs and lack of healthcare, let’s make sure we give Big Oil our tax dollars. How does it feel to underwrite corporate profits?

 

Want more information? Check out this report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (pdf) on employer costs for health care. Or you can look at the Kaiser Foundation’s reports on health insurance costs for people. Or here’s a pdf from UC Berkeley about California health care costs. Or you could just look at this graph that shows how much of your paycheck is going to your health insurance company instead of you:

That’s right, one quarter of your pay goes to the health insurance company. ONE QUARTER. But, honestly, it makes me kind of sick to think about that.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Cut-Cap-Bait-Switch: Stealing from the elderly to pay for rich tax cuts

 

This graph from Sunday’s New York Times is making the rounds, even showing up at the competition like the Washington Post. This is good. Because it shows very clearly what’s going on. Because of the charged atmosphere of what constitutes opinion and what is observation in today’s journalism culture, it is hard to get a straight story on this. So let’s break it down, this isn’t a story about who’s fault it is – Bush or Obama. In the context of this debt debate, this graph shows a crime being attempted, a bait and switch.

 

In order to balance the budget and bring government spending into scope, Republicans (who have vowed not to raise any taxes at all anywhere, ever) are proposing cutting “entitlements.” This has been made a very loaded word, conjuring images of a welfare state and government handouts to lazy undeserving people with no capitalistic ambition. Many say, I worked hard and I should keep it and not give it away.

But really, these “entitlements” – social security and medicare – are money that all American citizens pay into the government over the course of a working lifetime in the expectation that they will also take part in the system when they stop working. They’re not entitled to this,  it isn’t a handout. It is a payback, with interest, like money put in a bank that the bank uses and pays your for it. They earned it and kept up their end of the bargain with their fellow citizens and their government.

The only real increases in taxes we have ever really talked about in the past two years is restoring balance to the percentage of taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans, which was thrown out of complete balance by the Bush tax cuts. In order to keep these tax cuts, and bring the budget into balance, all forms of the Republican plans put forth in the debt crisis negotiation have slashed “entitlement” programs.

This is not an opinion, this is what is happening: The plan is to take the money for retirement and elder health care from the working class so that the wealthy can keep their tax cuts.

Kleptocracy is generally applied to corrupt governments where dictators take money from the people and keep it personally. We are seeing a kleptocratic behavior where the American democracy – which has become increasingly oligarchic and plutocratic as corporations and wealthy people have more control and buy greater influence – is being robbed  in a white collar crime right out in the open. This is Enron accounting, back dating the tax cuts and not calling them what they are – a rip off of the working class.

Mainstream journalism continues to cover this story with the politics as sport narrative device. So-and-so rejected this plan and so-and-so said that they were playing politics. There is no substance, just back and forth, and no real analysis of these issues in major wires, truncated newspapers, and blur of pseudo experts on cable news who are mostly paid analysts of lobbying firms and thinktanks. Afraid to boil it down and be called “liberal media” – the story is only alluded to, so here it is:  In order to pay for tax cuts to corporations and the superwealthy, congress is going to default on giving back the money the baby boomers paid into their own eldercare.

I’m not afraid to call it class warfare, because it is. The numbers don’t lie.

 

Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph – Ezra Klein – The Washington Post.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

twitter is a bearcat on steroids, @acarvin needs help, and twitter is the new radio

Tens of thousands of people have been following Andy Carvin on Twitter in the past few weeks as he’s taken on the herculean effort of following and sharing news and information from the middle east revolutions. He’s been doing great work, moving the news conversation forward and showing a new type of editorial correspondence in the social media space.

This morning, a massive earthquake has rocked northern Japan and we’re following the subsequent tsunami as it moves across the Pacific. And Andy Carvin is on it. He’s doing great work again, and now it is time to appreciate it and move on and up. He doesn’t need to move out of the way, he needs help. And NPR and other news organizations need to realize it.

I get it, because I’ve been there. When I started working in online news in the 90s, I was a one-man army just like Andy. I was glued to my desk doing live news updates for TCPalm.com 12 or more hours a day during times like these. Back then, we had the wires, scanners following emergency bands and citizen band radio, and other traditional news sources. We were busy breaking the once-a-day publishing cycles in print to merge broadcast and define what online news can do as a constant stream. We only had a web site and email.

It is addictive and overwhelming. You set you set yourself up to provide these breaking streams. Audience begins to depend on you and you feel that responsibility. But breaking news needs a break and one-man-armies can’t break it all alone. Today, the audience is bigger and the sources of information are infinite. Andy can’t be the whole social media news man by himself, because he can’t follow the middle east, the giffords shooting and the middle east all at the same time.

My superiors locally and at our corporate offices recognized what we were doing back in my day and got me some resources to share the load. I trained staff to do what I did and took their ideas to load them in as we evolved systems and workflows to help. We became more able to cover big stories, several at a time, and marshall the resources from the core properties and traditional media better. We won one of the first NAA awards for being the best news site in the country.

This past summer, Jim Brady and I were on a panel at the DCWEEK 140 Characters conference about twitter and news. We both told the audience that Twitter was a “bearcat on steroids,” the next step in the ever evolving stream of information. Culling it, curating it, conversing on it — these were the ways to harness the platform for our purposes. These ideas and realizations were seen in many ways in what TBD was trying to do for a local community.

And this is the next step for NPR. Twitter is radio like HAM radio was. That’s where Jeff Pulver, founder of 140 Conf, came from. I came from radio. Andy needs help from the organizational level. Whoever lands the next top jobs for CEO and VP of News at NPR need to think about what the public means to public radio and how twitter and social media are like HAM and CB in the radio mix. New tools need to evolve and Andy needs to move towards an executive producer role and teach other editor/producers to do what he’s doing.

Cable and broadcast news may be well-intentioned but fails in investing their reporters and anchors as brands, creating celebrities who fly where the biggest news is. Carvin shouldn’t become NPR’s twitter version of Anderson Cooper. His personal brand will limit the voice of what he can cover, instead he should be the exemplar of what NPR needs to be in embracing the conversation and harnessing the public into a nation. That way, NPR can be the exemplar for the rest of the news.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Going up in smoke: the future of the media

Glenn Luther wrote up a really nice post on yesterday’s Future of Media panel at DC week. I posted a comment there and am reposting it here to track back.

the elephant in the room was and is, if there is still a value proposition in associating advertising content against editorial content online. then, do media companies realize they are in the advertising business as much or more than they are in the content business? then, what are they doing to innovate the advertising problem online to raise the value for publisher, advertiser and consumer?

Bankoff mentioned that SBNation was able to build a business through scale… “off the backs of bloggers,” was the language I remember. This reminded me of google's adwords business model. while google makes the lion's share of revenue from keyword search advertising, adwords makes it on sheer scale. but if this, and other ad networks for ROS products, are the best the industry can produce, it is no wonder that the only ads that seem to work are short pre-roll video.

and that's not very innovative. the audience expected more. if these speakers had more to offer, it wasn't evidently apparent. and it was very discouraging for the future of media. when i tweeted that i felt sorry for the panelists, andy carvin tweeted back that he hoped they saw the tweckling as constructive criticism. i hope they do, and realize that a lot more than just their own jobs are riding on their ability to not just broker and leverage existing ad networks – but actually innovate the advertising space to more effectively monetize quality content. otherwise, brands will see less value in being associated with content… and continue to see more value being associated with social and participatory media and products webmail where users spend vast majority of their time already.

good luck, panel. i sincerely hope you get another shot. this town loves a comeback.

via Going up in smoke: the future of the media.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

going green works and doesn’t hurt at all. 2009 carbon emissions drop 7 percent

While folks were grousing around arguing about policies, treaties, accords and laws to deal with climate change, popping off pithy catch phrases like cap-and-trade and talking like going green meant going broke, something interesting happened: the free market has organically cut carbon emissions by 7%. the largest drop since the EIA started measuring data in 1949.

Our Carbon Emissions Were Down in 2009 – GOOD Blog – GOOD – StumbleUpon.

The common counter point to the climate change response with green technology is that it will kill economic growth. While it appears that the recent recession had something to do with this cut in carbon emissions whereby high fossil fuel prices caused people to cut back on consumption, the energy conservation hasn’t stopped economic growth. It has made businesses and individuals act more efficiently. We cut carbon as we rebuilt and strengthened the economy.

Another major factor in cutting the carbon was the major growth in renewable energy, particularly wind power, over the past several years. It appears that the only part of the economy that will not grow in the green future is the fossil fuel sector. Can you imagine what we could do if we strategically retooled for sustainable growth?

So keep changing those light bulbs, keep recycling, and keep walking and biking to work. Because it is working. And that’s great news, no matter if you work in facts or beliefs.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

AOL Moves to Build Tech ‘Newsroom of the Future’ – BusinessWeek

Good press that may move the stock needle for the old guard investors, but AOL seems to be making another, deeper step into being a TimeWarner style content company here. Once, AOL’s greatest features were community driven – instant messenger, e-mail, buddy lists — all of the old bbs community features that kept people in touch with each other.

Features that Facebook natively does and does better.

First, AOL thought of itself as an ISP, then it tried to be a major media company. Now it is trying to find a mix to create new newsroom that is really a hybrid of an algorithm like google news, a social media tracker like twitteruly, and make editors SEO marketers.

I don’t think it bodes well.

AOL Moves to Build Tech ‘Newsroom of the Future’ – BusinessWeek.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

From the LR archives: Where’s the public in public broadcasting online? #nprthink

#nprthink is going on right now over at npr, i’m watching the hash on twitter as friends and generally smart people talk it over. i posted the item below on lostremote.com back on November 14, 2006. it caused quite a ripple and got a response from current magazine. since cory moved lostremote over to the tumblr microblogging platfrom, we lost the archives, but this one got copied over and reposted enough that i found a copy to repost here so i could tweet it back to the crowd.

Where’s the public in public broadcasting online?

(via Lost Remote)

Ok, so I’m blogging this a day late, but the one who keeps coming up a dollar short online is public broadcasting because neither NPR or PBS are enfranchising their audiences to build communities. How did MySpace get positioned to become the biggest clearinghouse of unsigned musical acts online? How did YouTube become a billion-dollar video powerhouse in less than a year? Because they gave the PUBLIC a platform and the people not only got in the game, they changed the rules. The Internet is the platform that can truly deliver the promise of what public broacasting SHOULD be. So why am I still tuning out annoying pledge breaks as I hit the paypal donate button on the grassroots podcaster sites?

NPR has a legit claim to be the podcasting giant, but they got there by shovelling all things broadasted to mp3. Ask newspapers how well the shovelware is working. With their legacy, brand and affiliate structure, public radio should own all things audio online by providing a web 2.0 service-oriented podcasting and community site to allow “members like you” to sound off, rock out, jam on, and get your groove on. Thank you. You know your niche, it’s sound, now own it.

But at least NPR has a strategy and has carved a very nice niche for itself in the newsscape. I miss audio theater, variety and music, but I stand on my seat and applaud them for bringing another alternative to the increasing homogenous information diet. I have no idea what PBS is doing online except for producing the most confusing jumble of microsites and out-of-date program guide I have ever seen. Some of the problems are due to the decentralized structure: Most nationally televised content is produced by a handful of PBS stations who naturally are responsible for digital presence. Still, content sharing, nodal structures and collaboration are the earmarks of the Web, and if PBS stations can’t play together, that’s just not right. The very concept of public broadcasting should be a natural fit with the open source philosophy.

So where is the content collective? Why is former MTV VJ Adam Curry better at building community than radio and television stations that depend on the community for their very existence? Public broadcasting online should be the ultimate long tail of user-contributed content, with a natural geographical cross matrix linking the affinity groups. Web startups kill themselves to create communities and carve space in niches, and here are organizations that have them built-in and are squandering the potential and promise by not giving the public any space to share.

It is almost as annoying as being begged to call now for fifteen minutes straight. Maybe public broadcasting is only interested in our pledges, and not our contributions.

via unmediated: Where’s the public in public broadcasting online?.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)