POLICY: The Industry Veteran on Don Johnson and the conservative interpretation of reality

Cover the uninsured week continues (mostly by chance here at THCB), as I don’t hold much hope in changing anyone’s mind in our current political impasse and imbecility. You might want to check out the huge number of comments to yesterday’s post — particularly one from Don Johnson that veers close to Lord of the Flies territory in terms of "you’re poor, sick and stupid?  Well you should have got educated and gotten rich". However, I don’t really have the stomach to tear into the conservatives on this issue any more.  They’re at once morally wrong, economically illogical, and seem to have mythical interpretations of the facts. On the other hand, The Industry Veteran does have the stomach for it:

Your colloquy with Don Johnson reminds us that for conservatives, the chimera of the market is an article of religious faith.  Never mind that what they call a
market lacks many of the necessary elements required for labeling some activity
a market. As long as their perfervid perceptual grid can label a phenomenon as
non-government and afford someone the opportunity to make a pile of dough,
conservatives will slap the sacrosanct market label on it.  Now if substantial
government activity, such as buying, selling and deciding who else can
participate proves necessary to the existence of this putative market, that
doesn’t bother these Thomist marketers.  Whatever they deign as a market is
virtue, the rest is sin.

If logical rigor has nothing to do with what
they call a market, and if they remain untroubled by the fact that US health
care possesses the shortcomings of markets and non-markets, it is only fair to
ask what is the sine qua non whose presence calls forth the blessed
appellation of "market" upon some shabby activity. I maintain that for America’s
medievally fixated conservatives, profit-making is this indispensable quality.
If the system in question is one that most observers might call communism,
organized crime or government-managed capitalism, that matters not a fig to Mr.
Johnson and his erstwhile colleagues at the Wall Street Journal‘s
editorial page.  Henrik Hertzberg recently referred to the Journal as
the church newsletter of the non-evangelical right wing and Mr. Johnson is at
least a deacon in that deranged parish. Profit-making provides their road to
eternal salvation.

Now profit-making is the caloric of this pre-modern
thought process.  It is an ethereal fluid whose presence and quantity can be
judged only by the enlightened clergy. This means if friends of Mr. Johnson and
his fellow seers judge that profits in some system flow to people who lack their
favor (e.g., commissars or made men) while remaining beyond the reach of people
in whom Johnson sees the divine light (e.g., Pfizer, Amgen or Medco), then the
activity loses its market designation.  Even if the divinely inspired Pfizer and
Amgen possess many of the same compelling powers as the netherworld government,
their presence hallows the activity into market status.

As people with a
religiously closed mind, Johnson and his compatriots are beyond the reach of
rational argument.  Evidence and logic cannot persuade them.  They transvalue
values to make good into evil, sin into virtue.  Quite frankly, I don’t think
they justify the time or effort required to rebut their nonsense.

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AbbygadflyJohn P.Donald E. L. JohnsonRon Greiner Recent comment authors
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//ordinary Americans have $250,000 HSA balances//
I’d be interested in your definition of ordinary here. I think the Canadians would be disgusted at how an upper middle class is being carved out of the exploitation and poaching of the majority (lower middle class and poor) of U.S. citizens.
//The US isn’t going to the single payer system and Canada will switch away from it because it is too expensive, sorry//
And the Fundamentalist Right wonders why that line at Hell’s door is getting longer…

Ron Greiner

Gadfly, Good luck, you are pretty much alone gadfly. No politicians in either party say such such a thing except Kucinish (SP?) and he got no votes. The US isn’t going to the single payer system and Canada will switch away from it because it is too expensive, sorry. Canadians are going to feel really bad in the future when ordinary Americans have $250,000 HSA balances and all Canadians collectively have a ZERO balance. Those Canadians snowbirds in Florida could use an HSA because try and get payment from the Canadian government, impossible. A little HSA option for all Canadians… Read more »


//Gadfly you just want group employee insurance to insure people when they are healthy enough to work 30 hours per week.//
Nope. I want universal insurance.

Ron Greiner

I think Canadians need the freedom to go tax free just like Americans. It’s being reported today that Florida state employees are getting the HSA option, so that’s nice. Thank you Gov Jeb who said, “Floridians will be wise with their Tax-Free HSA funds.”
I’m just thinking with all of our experience in getting Tax Free HSAs in the American economy we could help the Canadians with important reforms that elevate the choices for them, without much debate, much like we did here in America. Politics is a funny game. It will drive you crazy.


Why do you feel so strongly about forcing HSAs on the Canadians? Most Canadians are reasonably happy with their system. Why do you feel the need to tell them how to live?

Ron Greiner

No gadfly, John Kerry’s plan was not universal. Surplus dead bodies huh? Gadfly you just want group employee insurance to insure people when they are healthy enough to work 30 hours per week. When they get sick or hurt and can’t work, you think they should be switched to individual insurance to pay all their medical expenses after a short COBRA. I say group health employee plans should be required to keep their sick and hurt clients and quit dropping them onto the backs of the tax payers. We should all just agree that we should hold all insurance companies… Read more »


//The rich can afford $9,000 but many times the poor can’t.// Okay, I admit to confusion here. Was the Kerry plan a universal plan? That would mean that the $9000 for the poor would come out of general taxes. Of course, that means it’s coming out of someone else’s pocket – but if $9000 is the cost, that’s the cost. Cutting people off to make the price go down to $150 for health care for *some* people just makes the price go up in other areas like welfare services and garbage collection for those surplus dead bodies. //our insurance company… Read more »

Ron Greiner

Gadfly, John Kerry said, “I have an idea to drop health insurance 10% or $1,000 a year per family.” The rich can afford $9,000 but many times the poor can’t. $9,000 a year is $750 a month. Some families can’t afford John Kerry’s expensive health insurance but can afford President Bush’s low cost HSA health insurance which only cost’s $150 a month for a young family in Lansing, Kalamazoo or Des Moines. That’s why our insurance company reported that 43% of HSA enrollees were previously uninsured. It has been reported in the media, this last week, that the first million… Read more »


//John Kerry wanted health coverage to cost $9,000 a year per family.// //President Bush supports low cost HSA insurance that only costs $150 a month for a family (MI example).// Does the Kerry plan cost $9000.00 because the people who can afford the $9000 are covering those who can’t? I do have a heart, and it’s all about making sure people are able to get the basic necessities of life, including health care. I’m not interested in saving wealthier people $8500 in order to deprive the poor. Whether the $9000 amount is necessary remains to be seen. It’s not the… Read more »

Ron Greiner

gadfly, John Kerry wanted health coverage to cost $9,000 a year per family. In contrast President Bush supports low cost HSA insurance that only costs $150 a month for a family (MI example). Why do liberals want health insurance to cost so much gadfly? Currently, it is illegal for an employer to purchase the low cost individual health insurance on a Ramen noodle eating employee so they go uninsured. Liberals just make low cost insurance illegal to help Blue Cross. I assume you support this liberal cause because you bash President Bush trying to get low cost HSA insurance available… Read more »


//suggest that American citizens should not save for retirement// To me, the issue is more whether most people are able to save for retirement. If they don’t have the means, then bemoaning the fate of “personal responsibility” all day isn’t going to help. Let’s say a person earns $6-$9 an hour in a service job. Most of their money will be going toward basic cost of living. They may also have extra debt payments (besides rent, car, school loans, etc.) from months where they couldn’t cover the costs. This person might internalize the personal responsibility rhetoric enough to save for… Read more »

Ron Greiner

You are correct John P.,
HSAs are a tool to help fix our health care system.
We need HSAs in Medicare as an option too.
HSAs are the Ultimate Panacea, welcome aboard.
Hopefully we will be able to bring down Medicare in Canada and start marketing HSAs up North too.

John P.
John P.

I’m on the other side of the fence from you on most of this debate, but I still want to stop to let you know that I think the Industry Veteran went a little overboard this time.
To be fair, you have been saying all along that you think some form of limited regulation is necessary.
I’m also not sure that this talk about evangelicals and capitalists does anybody any good.
But then we Democrats have been obsessed with the religious right for a long, long time.

John P.
John P.

I get the feeling that for you HSAs are an intensely political and personal topic, a little bit like the Civil Rights Movement or Gun Control for some people!
Elevating something like a personal account to that level may in the end prove to be a mistake, I suspect.
The healthcare system has an awful lot of problems.
Any way you look at it, HSAs are a tool to fix them. Not a solution.

Donald E. L. Johnson

Click on my name below to see my initial response.