Friday, April 18, 2014

How Sharpton got his Gig

Many people are wondering how a person like Al Sharpton was given the lead off to MSNBC's nightly programming, but it makes perfect sense when you hear the whole story.  Here is how it was told to me by someone in the know:

Several Years ago Al Sharpton's limousine was on teh way back from a Union rally in Western Maryland when the engine started having trouble. The limousine was forced to pull off on to the back streets to find a garage.

Not long after getting off the main road the drive was hopelessly lost and, eventually, the limousine was forced to stop as smoke began to billow from the engine.

The driver instructed Sharpton to stay put as he went to look for help. Sharpton sat in his car playing Candy Crush his way. He would just sit staring at the array of brightly colored candies on his screen trying to see if he could come up with racist patterns. "Why are their so many blues and so few yellows? Why is chocolate an obstacle!" he would bellow and the begin meticulously destroying whichever candy was in the majority. He could do this for hours.

But not long after he had begun to uncover a conspiracy in the green candies he heard something from the nearby woods. He peered into the growing fog but could see nothing, writing it off to probably Some poor homeless man, not really worth his time.

But soon he heard the sound again, this time it was maybe two or three somethings in the fog... maybe its some ecologists fighting the global warming. Good for them, but not really worth his time.

A third time he heard the noise, now it sounded like crowds of people. Maybe, he thought, there was a rally going on. With this thought he exited the limousine excitedly and carefully, alertly began to walk into the woods in search of his audience.

The deeper in the woods he traveled the more people he began to hear and the more excited he got, but it was not long before Sharpton had decided that he wasn't hearing a friendly crowd... he thought now that he might have been approaching a tea bagger rally. Unfortunately he was now too deep in the woods to be able to see the car through the fog, no matter where he turned all he could see was fog. With this realization Sharpton panicked and began running in a direction, any direction, in order to escape his imagined foe.

He quickly ran out of energy and had to stop, gasping for breath, no clearer on where he was then he had been befo.. he stopped. Gazing straight ahead of him he could make out the faintest light in the inky blackness. With that his adrenaline kicked in and he began running again. As he ran the light in the distance came in to focus. It appeared to be a small shack. With his last energy Sharpton stumbled to the shack and collapsed at the threshold and passed out.

When he came to he found himself sitting in a chair in the shack, across from him was what appeared to be an old woman . Sharpton found himself at a loss for what to say because the old woman's face and exposed skin were of indeterminate race.. could be white, oriental... jew or light skin black. He couldn't be sure.

"Welcome Al Sharpton" the lady rasped "I'm so glad you found me"

"Who are you? Black?" was all he could think to say

"My race is unimportant. What I have to offer you, is very important."

He had to ponder this. Race unimportant? Obviously this is a crazy lad. Probably conservative. He proceeded with caution.

"You are a white, tea bagger, Israel-loving papist... why should I trust you?" he said, measuring his words diplomatically.

"Al, let me be honest, I'm a witch. I have been trapped in this hovel for centuries. The fog outside this door was put there by powers greater than mine to keep me here. Your stumbling run into my home has been a great boon to me. I simply wish to reward you."

"You're not Tea bagger?" he asked, intrigued

"A what?"

"... What do you think of Israel?"

"I think Roman rule has been good for them."

"The Pope?"

"Not a fan"

"What color are you?"

"I can't even remember, my mind and body have long since been consumed in black magic"

"Oh, Black Magic? I like the sound of that!" he said excitedly

"Oh good, glad to hear it" the witch hissed through a gravely smile "So.. your reward. For giving me a human trail that I can now track out of this accursed wood I will grant you one wish. But only one."

Sharpton pondered his choice. His lifelong goal was to be in front of people, to get in their face, to root out racism everywhere it was and wasn't. He was tired of the whistle stop tours, though. He wanted to mass communicate!

"I want a TV show" he said

The Witch paused, smiling. "I will give you this.."

"But wait, I'm not done with my wish! I want this show to be on a news Network, I want creative control. Because But resist, we much… we must… and we will much… about… that… be committed..."

"Huh?" the Witch asked, puzzled.

"GIVE ME MY GODDAM SHOW WITCH!" Sharpton clarified

"Ah yes. Al Sharpton, you shall have your show...."


"You will have a prime time slot..."

"Awe give it!"


"... well... I guess that is OK"

"Then with that, Al Sharpton, I must bid you adieu." the witch said as Sharpton's eyes began to blur "When you wake up you will be back in your limo, just as your driver arrives with a tow truck. Good luck to you.... anchor man! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!"

Days later Al was contacted by MSNBC and the rest is history.

Oh, and the witch also cursed Al so he is slowly turning into a bobble head.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Big Idea: Healthcare Reform

As the PPACA groans and lurches forward towards collapse, many of it's supporters defend the bill with a simple, valid (albeit ignorant) question:  Well, what would you offer in return?

Well, ignoring the long list of counter proposals offered before and after the passage of PPACA that already exist, I decided to think about this a bit myself and try and pull together some of the best of the existing counter proposals as well as a few big ideas of my own (which very well might also have been proposed before... there are a lot of counter proposals out there!)

My goal was to tackle the two big problems that PPACA was -- in theory -- designed to fix, but that in practice have proven unworkable or made things worse.  Those two problems are:  Affordability and coverage for those with per-existing conditions.  

In general the balance has to be struck in creating such a plan that meets those two goals while not increasing cost to insurers and not opening the system to fraud. I think my 6 point proposal pretty well covers all of those bases.  The critical piece of my plan that I separates in from the critically flawed PPACA is that it functions on incentives rather than mandates and tax penalties.

Here are the bare bones of my proposal:

1) End the employer based insurance model. Make insurance a commodity that people shop for on their own. Employers can choose to give employees a flat pre-tax bonus for paying for insurance (this is mainly to accommodate those who live pay check to paycheck and can't really wait for an annual recoup of costs on their taxes)

2) Open up interstate commerce for health insurance. This will have limited effect, admittedly, since each state will still regulate coverage levels in their own state, but if states enter into coalitions to set minimum insurance levels in common it will allow insurers to market insurance plans to larger pools of customers.

3) The Big Idea #1: Allow insurers to prorate payouts based on the percentage of the previous year that a customer was insured. Allow the insurer to enforce this for 3 months. The full cost of expenses incurred in these three months would apply to the plan's OOPM, however.

4) The Big Idea #2: If a customer cancels their plan in the first two years they will be required to pay back all of the money paid out by the insurer on their behalf minus 85% of the premium paid. So if a person incurs $10,000 in medical expenses and pays $10,000 in premiums then the cancellation fee would be $1,500.

5) The Big Idea #3: Applicants who spent two or more years without insurance prior to application must spend at least 1 year on a healthcare plan purchased from the state high risk pool. This plan can be a catastrophic coverage plan.

6) The Big Idea #4: Allow an unlimited roll-over of Healthcare Savings plans (HSP) in perpetuity, with balances of such plans being transferable upon death to another person at a 20% tax rate if transferred to that person's HSP, or at a 50% tax rate if withdrawn as cash. The tax penalty can be reduced at a rate of 5% annually for every year the deceased paid into a high risk insurance plan.

The practical upshot of these 6 reforms is to make insurance mobile, more competitive, and to incentivize healthy middle and upper-middle class customers to invest in their state's high risk pools for tax reasons all while giving the uninsured a pathway to full coverage and providing systemic protections to insurers against people who look to game the system.

I could just as easily add a seventh point that would include tort reform, but I think any such reform should stand on its own merits rather than be lumped in with a more universal reform.