Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

I love Obama, but …

There is something not quite right in how things are being forced to happen. Living outside of the country and therefore free of Fox news and the usual political rhetoric that one enjoys with a home town newspaper, I have been slow at understanding how due process is being side-stepped.

A few weeks ago my level-headed brother and I were talking about his move to recent Texas. He lamented very lightly the fact that his boss was a staunch Republican. I immediately on the bandwagon with a bit of gusto on the insanity of their whole movement … until my brother pointed out that actually there are times when they have a point. For example, how Obama went about rescuing of the automobile sector was very worrisome and he hoped it was a not a trend to come.

Specifically, there are times when the markets are right, legal due process is fair and the externalities of decisions must be taken into account. The state of the US automotive industry is due to bad management, competitive markets (sorry – but people have a right to buy better vehicles at lower prices) and a strong legal union rightly afraid what bankruptcy would spell for its members.

I look at the Chrysler bailout and Obama’s text regarding his outlined deal

“While many stakeholders made sacrifices and worked constructively, I have to tell you some did not. In particular, a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout. They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting. I don’t stand with them. I stand with Chrysler’s employees and their families and communities. I stand with Chrysler’s management, its dealers, and its suppliers. I stand with the millions of Americans who own and want to buy Chrysler cars. I don’t stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices. And that’s why I’m supporting Chrysler’s plans to use our bankruptcy laws to clear away its remaining obligations so the company can get back on its feet and onto a path of success.”

I struggle to see how an investment company’s legal obligation to look out for their own shareholders (such as the small person with a pension invested in one of the above funds that happen to be invested in Chrysler) can be so misconstrued as evil is worded in the above text. I hands down lean towards socialism as my own political ideology, but there is a limit where something is a pure drain on the economy. So I find it ironic accordingly that Obama names using fair use of bankruptcy laws, when he just overruled the investors due legal right in bankruptcy court? This kind of behaviour reminds me of a Bushism.

Now to health care. Having been fortunate to live in a few countries with state healthcare – I think I have an idea of the cost benefit analysis as well as some core sustainability qualities. When I moved for example to Germany back in the 80s, the country practically offered noholdbar free and quality healthcare. I had to have tumour in my abdomen I even had a plastic surgeon stitch me up and I thankfully have no scares!

Germany realized that it could not afford to keep this system going and while I am not too sure how the ins and outs of how the new system works – I do know when I worked there for a year in 2000 that both my company and I had to top up my state insurance and I was given a whole array of bells and whistles, excesses to choose from. Legally what I paid was still part of the state system, its just that I had to cover it myself – but the costs were still very manageable as I would imagine they adequately subsidized. Plus, there were healthy economic practices inbedded – such as a bonus for non-usage to decrease the problematic free-rider principle (e.g. someone runs to the doctor for every ache and pain) that plagues state systems.

As I now live in the UK, I can hands-down say that I LOVE my NHS (give me a button and a whistle please). It is though not perfect and its hugely costly. The quality of care is lower than Germany was for example, and the moral of the story is that while both are state funded … the devil is the detail … and Obama seems to be missing this. Undoubtedly its insane how much money US Healthcare providers make funding other people’s misery, which in my books just wrong. However good change management theory is about communication, debate and analysis. I find that this whole healthcare plan is being PUSHED and anyone who points that or disagrees with components seems to be deemed un-American . Somehow that sounds a lot like what happened post-911 and when people like me protested to the war in Iraq. Maybe someone actually needs to start talking to those heckling the townhall meetings to see if the have anything of value to say instead of levying pure criticism in their direction. I had to admit that I desperately want the US to have state healthcare, but I also want it to be sustainable. In its current form – through my experience in Germany for example – it won’t be. And to me failure in the medium-term is a bigger risk than doing better research and analysis and having a truly fair stakeholder consultation to find a structure that works decently.

All I am asking for democracy to work, for us to have a good and fair debate (even if we don’t quite like we hear). Else Obama’s government is starting to show qualities of Bush’s regime … and they are not good ones.


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