Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Saving money



Republican state governors as well as members of Congress are trying to save money by reducing the number of people having access to Medicaid – the health insurance system for the very poor. Rep. Paul Ryan proposes to save $300 billion by slashing Medicaid expenditures radically.
It is no doubt true that the federal government is spending more than it should. It is equally true that we will have to learn to live more closely to our income. But the big debate is how to save a significant amount of money every year.
I started thinking about this when I read an article in the newspaper about the federal flood insurance program, begun in 1968, that insures houses built right on the ocean. That's a perilous location and every year a significant number of beachfront houses are destroyed by storms. But people don't learn and more houses than ever are being built on the dunes. The federal government insures these houses because no private company would be willing to do so. The federal flood insurance program is $30 billion in the red.
Suppose we told people not to build right on the oceanfront, or if they do, to do it at their own risk. That would save a nice chunk of money.
The next day there was a story in the paper that the government gave a grant to find out how to build computers that are more sensitive to human beings. Should we finance that and take away health care for the very poor? Somehow that does not sound right.
Maybe Medicare could remain intact if we made global corporations like Exxon and General Motors pay fair taxes. Maybe we could end military procurement programs for weapons the military does not want, which are kept going by local congresspeople afraid that jobs will be lost if the program is canceled. For years we have heard of contractors overcharging the military for hammers, toilet seats, and other mundane supplies. Maybe we could finally control those costs.
Medications that cost more than a $100.00 in the US, sell for a tenth of that in Europe. Our government has refused to bargain with drug companies and the government bears the brunt of drug companies overcharging patients. There is a lot of money to be saved here. The same is obviously true of private health insurance and the manufacture of medical technology.
The government gives out lots money to businesses, nonprofits, and others. Here is one interesting example: Every time an oil company brings up a gallon of crude from below, the government gives them money because they can sell that gallon of oil only once. Every day we work we get older and lose a bit of strength and endurance. The government does not pay us any depletion allowance. Why should they pay that to the oil companies? I suspect a goodly sum of money could be saved there.
Cutting Medicare is not a financial necessity. It is a spiteful, hateful measure instigated by people who have long ago lost the human qualities the government now pays to built into computers. If they succeed they definitely should send computers to Congress. They would be kinder to ordinary citizens than the present incumbents.
Perhaps we need a grant to humanize our representatives in Congress.