Occasionally, someone of influence brings forth an idea that is so moronic that I have to deviate from the discussion of pure finance, economics or market movements and just rant. Based on his recent antics and promotion of his upcoming socialist agenda train wreck titled “Sicko”, we’d be better off living in Cuba and letting the government manage our healthcare.
Of the themes Michael Moore has espoused during his recent promotional tours, the most egregious is that “America’s health care system should be regulated like fire and police departments because it’s that important”.
At a press conference before the California Senate Health Committee, Moore said “I’m pushing for three simple things”:
1. Health care for every American and person residing in this country,
2. Remove the profit making insurance companies from the equation,
3. I want the pharmaceutical companies strictly regulated like a public utility.
Regarding point #1 – Michael Moore rightly highlights the plights of everyday people who don’t have adequate access to healthcare. This is certainly unfortunate; I can’t imagine not being able to get my children the health care they need. But nothing is free in this world, someone pays. In this free market that is America, citizens strive to work for a renowned company with solid health benefits. If their employer doesn’t offer adequate health benefits, they’re free to seek employment with a company that does. If their skills are not commensurate with this type of accoutrement, they have opportunities to improve their skill sets via the best secondary eduction system in the world. This is perhaps an oversimplification, but moves to FORCE employers to fund health care are inappropriate intrusions on free market forces, especially on small and mid-size businesses. A fair number of these uninsured at the Walmarts and other low-cost employers of the world are younger workers covered under their parents’ plans or are adults under a spouse’s plan. I’m a shareholder in a lot of companies that may not offer health benefits that their employees find to be suitable. Should I have to fund their healthcare through my investment holdings in broad market index funds? I don’t see how this is a government mandate that is appropriate, whereas worker safety and harassment policies, etc. are appropriate.
There are safety nets in this country for the disabled, infirmed and impoverished. I’m sure gaps exist that will appear in the movie and my heart goes out to those people who can’t get the same care that is available to my family, but the system is working for the vast majority of legal citizens. In fact, it services a substantial population of illigal residents; I will be interested to see how Mr. Moore proposes the “government” services the current 12-20 million illegal residents (with hundreds of thousands per year still crossing the Mexican border each year – and accelerating with talk of amnesty). As it stands now, any citizen is generally provided emergency service without having to provide insurance or personal identification. Again, there are exceptions, and I’m sure they’re highlighted in the movie, like when a man has to chose between which severed finger to keep based on the additional cost to bring in a special surgical team from another locale.
Regarding some other countries Mr. Moore praises, France may supply their constituents with guaranteed 35-hour workweeks, lifelong employment and free access to healthcare, but their unemployment rate is double what it is in America. Do you know how hard it is to start a business in France? Do you know how much sleep an employer loses over hiring an employee there? No matter how bad they are, it will be next to impossible to dismiss them. As evidenced by the recent riots throughout the countryside, France isn’t exactly paradise either – class distinctions exist there. There is no perfect solution that will satisfy everyone.
Cuba…that’s an entirely different world. Without delving into the obvious, the pristine hospitals and convenient Rxs dispensed for pennies were certainly not representative of the type of treatment available to routine citizens in Cuba. Cuban dissident groups and journalists that have been to Cuba have reported horrid conditions in hospitals and sub-par health care in general. Was the visit to the locale in the film completely random? Would it have made the cut for the movie if the conditions weren’t so immaculate? I don’t know; perhaps after the movie, more will surface on this detail like some past documentaries.
Regarding Mr. Moore’s affinity for Cuba, attached are some sentiments from the CIA Factbook:
“Current situation: Cuba is a source country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced child labor; Cuba is a major destination for sex tourism, which largely caters to European, Canadian, and Latin American tourists and involves large numbers of minors; there are reports that Cuban women have been trafficked to Mexico for sexual exploitation; forced labor victims also include children coerced into working in commercial agriculture.
Tier rating: Tier 3 – Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”
Way to go, Mr. Moore, in glorifying this wonderful Utopia!
Regarding point #2 – The insurance companies are an easy target in today’s world of denied claims, Katrina stories and the like. The current health insurance system isn’t perfect, but to suggest turning it over to the government is like forcing UPS and FedEx to yield to the U.S. Postal Service. While these entrepreneurial services are able to deliver our packages quickly, inexpensively and intact, the U.S. postal service continues to raise costs annually, use tax-payer dollars to advertise their services to compete, and still come up with abysmal performance. I see the man in brown running, literally, running back and forth to his truck with packages. I like our local postal delivery guy, but come on, have you ever seen a postal worker hustle like that? The amount of corruption, theft, bureaucracy and ineptitude routinely exhibited and tolerated within the ranks of government agencies is no panacea. Ever hear the phrase “good enough for government work”? Lifelong employment and full pensions by government run institutions are no match for the public sector in terms of competitive performance. Nothing against government workers individually; I have several in my family, but as a system, the performance of government agencies is abhorrent. Talk about special interests? How about the earmarks and pork spending that our government engages in? In my company, people are shown the door for unethical behavior and conflicts of interest. What happens in government? I’ll take free market competition and industry any day.
Point #3 is especially concerning – When I hear people start talking about usurping free market principles, it’s on par with altering the Constitution to me. Free market competition, the risk of failure and allure of rewards for risk-taking innovative behaviors is what made this country great.
The age-old cliche call for selling drugs at cost is juvenile and wrongheaded, but surprisingly, it piques the interest of politicians and populous alike because it sounds like something for free. What I don’t hear is that Microsoft should have to sell versions of Vista for the dollar it costs to transfer the code to a CD or for your local cable company to offer you programming, internet and phone for the pennies it costs to transmit the data now that their infrastructure has been deployed. These are Multi-BILLION dollar investments in capital expenditures and human resources that are developed and deployed AT RISK. The only reason corporations assume this level of catastrophic level of risk is that the net present value of all their portfolio investments is positive, inclusive of research, development, and failures.
Consider Pfizer: It spent around $800 million to develop torcetrapib, only to drop it due to safety issues that arose in late stage clinical trials. This is the nature of the pharmaceutical business. This $800 million dollar loss and the hundreds of other new drug entities that are dropped along the way need to be offset by significant profit margins for the few drugs that actually do make it through the increasingly complex regulatory regiment. Does Mr. Moore actually expect that these companies should first assume these losses ad naseum and then for the few drugs that make it through, sell them at cost?
What is the assured outcome of this arrangement? The end of innovation. This is a recipe for perennial negative earnings and the eventual demise of the industry. The development of new cures and vaccines for new therapeutic categories will cease, for there is no profit motive. My lineage has particular maladies that I’d like to see my children avoid. If the innovation engine in this country (and hence, world) is ceased and new, innovative medicines are no longer sought and developed, my children will suffer same ailments as my ancestors. Mr. Moore will have us kill the next cure for Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Malaria, Hepatitis C…for HIV.
Consider what happened to the worldwide vaccine business over the past few decades. In 1988, there were 25 manufacturers. Currently, there are 4 primary ones left. Following years of litigation, misplaced injury claims and a general lack of profit motive (making one dose for life per patient vs. a lifetime of daily tablet treatments for chronic patients is a no-brainer from a profit margin standpoint, especially when considering the litigation environment), the vast majority of the existing companies exited the business to pursue higher margin new drug entities. Only now that some stability has set in, are companies returning to the business. If the same were to happen for all pharmaceuticals and biologics, innovation as we know it is over.
What concerns me about Mr. Moore taking a wrecking ball to the industry (disclosure – I work in the industry incidentally) is that this intellectual property and innovation is one of the last bastions of hope for our economy. Most low-complexity manufacturing has left our borders. Not only are these jobs being outsourced to areas that can perform the functions more efficiently, but our service industries will continue to fall prey to outsourcing as well. India has amassed X-Ray technicians to read charts throughout the night and accountants to process tax returns. Korean schools are teaching 3rd graders English at night after their full day of U.S.-beating Korean curriculum. The cultures have young, ambitious people that want what we have and they’re willing to work harder for it! In the future, will we really need U.S. based financial analysts, consultants and other service industries we take for granted here? The day we give up on innovating new products here in the U.S., we continue an alarming trend that we will not be able to reverse.
What is likely omitted from the movie is the patient assistance programs whereby most pharmaceuticals provide free or cheap drugs to U.S. citizens without the means to pay for them. I’ve seen multiple pharmaceutical companies actually advertise this in print and on television. Of course, there are the tax and public relations benefits, but certainly, it’s not improving the bottom line by giving away your product.
Tony Blair put it best when he said a good measure of a country is how many people want in compared to how many want out. The last time I checked, Floridian natives weren’t risking their lives to sail to Cuba. Countless Cubans have lost their lives attempting to reach our shores. Mr. Moore, everyone in the world wants to come to America!
I have relatives in Canada that are ashamed of their socialist leadership and lifestyle. Is it worth having free health care when you have to wait weeks to see a doctor (the doctor prescribed to you, not the one you pick)?
So, where is Mr. Moore on other worldly issues:
The genocide in Darfur? 500,000 and counting.
The MILLIONS of children that die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases? 2.5 Million per year and counting.
Our legal system that mandates three-strike sentencing for a man stealing a bike or peddling some pot to spend life in prison, while child molesters with excessively high rates of recidivism simply have to voluntarily register for a list with an unacceptably low rate of compliance?
Drunk Drivers – True Story – A few years back, a drunk driver travelling at an excessive rate of speed slammed into my wife’s car at a stop sign from behind with our son in the back. Both cars were totalled and my wife and son were ushered to the emergency room (ironically, the drunk driver is almost never injured in such accidents). We soon learned from the responding officer that this driver had another DWI accident within the same month but was still driving legally; this had been his 5th such incident! He hit them at NOON on the way to test-drive a motorcycle of all things. It gets better. Months later, in order to perform her civic duty, my wife went to a hearing to testify about the accident and help ensure he was sentenced appropriately. Following the hearing, we watched him get in a different car and drive away. Incredulous, we asked the corresponding officer how he could possibly be driving legally. She said she ran his plates and confirmed that at that time, he was in fact still driving legally. This is how slow the system was. In 2006, about 18,000 people were killed in alcohol related accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 2 to 14 years old. Enough is enough! Where is Mr. Moore on this?
On the left: The lack of diversity of thought within America’s universities where only liberal views are espoused to impressionable college students? Professors (especially non-tenured) best not vocalize a conservative thought in public, while the liberal treatises abound. Some statistics from a recent study by George Mason University: “72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative…the disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.” Where is Mr. Moore on this disparity?
On the right: The chokehold that that religious right has on the Republican party. What does religion have to do with the governing of this great country? I’m concerned about the influence a faith has on the power structure in this country. Some of Bush’s statements interweaving faith and the invasion of Iraq didn’t sit well with me as I’m sure they didn’t overseas. At least we know where Mr. Moore was on Iraq, but how about religion and politics in this country as a movie?
I have to say this about Michael Moore. I was listening to him on Howard Stern the other day. He is actually an affable guy in interviews and I think he really believes in what he’s doing. I do think he loves America and wants to see it do better. I just think he’s wrong. He did anonymously contribute $12,000 to an anti-Moore blogger whose wife couldn’t afford her insurance premiums. I’m not the first person to say this, but Americans need to take more personal responsibility for their own health, Mr. Moore included, by the looks of him (Congratulations on losing 30 pounds recently though). We live in a country where people are eating themselves to death while a large portion of the world is malnourished. Regarding his proposals, what he has prescribed for our country’s healthcare system is simply Un-American.
Michael Moore Statements from Recent Interviews Promoting “Sicko”:
France – Riots, Unemployment Rate:
Cuba CIA Factbook:
Pharma Patient Assistance Program:
Drunk Driving Statistics:
Party Affiliation of Professors at U.S. Colleges:
Darfur Death Toll:
Vaccine-Preventable Deaths in Children Worldwide: