Thursday, July 10, 2008

So we have two Dr. Phil's -- tell the airlines to stop whining? Do state laws hurt health insurance?

I remember Senator Phil Gram pretty well from my days in Texas. So I have to chuckle at the flap today over Gram’s calling the country “a nation of whiners” and said we were in a “mental recession.” Where did this appear? The Washington Times, of course. The link is here (story by Ralph Z. Hallow and Donald Lambro) Oh, I recall a sixth grade teacher who once chided me, "Bill, is that you whining?" "Those were the days, my friend. I thought they'd never end."

So McCain politely distances himself from Gram, and suggests Gram’s exile to Belarus, where Gram might not be welcome. And Barack Obama (recalling Lloyd Bentsen) hits it out of the park. “We already have one Dr. Phil. We don’t need two.” Obama also said something like, "It isn't whining to expect the federal government to extend struggling families some relief." Yes, families, particularly.

The airlines may be “whining,” asking the public to lobby Congress to reign in on oil speculators. A consortium of twelve airlines claims that speculators are responsible for $60 of the $140 futures contract price of a barrel of oil. It strikes me that this is definitely “gimme lobbying,” trying to get passengers to write letters on their one specific issue. My own take is that essentially the oil price spike is a result of how markets behave with “supply v demand” tipping points are reached, although if Congress authorized more offshore and Alaska drilling, the price would come down. (Is it oil company “blackmail”? Maybe.) The Airlines Transport Association publishes its paper here. Yes, maybe you could regulate hedge fund investments in commodities futures on margins. Then what? You can also visit the ATA’s “stop oil speculation” website here.

Along the lines of resisting the urge to whine about health care, Reed Abelson has a story in The New York Times today, “Small Business Is Latest Focus In Health Fight,” link here. There is a well-made point that in some states, laws prevent small employers from banding with out-of-state employers to form larger purchasing pools. So maybe Gram would concur.

Update: July 16, 2008

The Center for Economic and Policy Research, on July 9, presented a paper saying "Housing Market Meltdown Will Cause Massive Losses in Household Wealth", link here. The group published a study called "The Impact of the Housing Crash on Family Wealth" (pdf) here. The article maintains that "due to the collapse of the housing bubble, the vast majority of Americans have accumulated little or no wealth." Americans will become even more dependent on Social Security and Medicare.

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