That may be so, but how easy is it to deal with the Social Security
Administration, or to my original comment, the Post Office or DMV? Ever
stood in line at the Post Office? Are the clerks anxious to keep things
moving? There's a good reason for that: customer service is *not* their
prime motivator -- if you stand in line 45 minutes, they don't have any
career status lost unlike if they were in private industry. Their prime
directive is to not screw up. If you wait 45 minutes, that has no affect
upon their job security; if they hurry things up in order to make sure the
line moves through in a timely manner and are 45 cents short in their
drawer at the end of the day -- *that's* a career detriment to them.
My point was that when you give something to the government, its
motivations and approaches are completely different than dealing with a
private company. It's already not an enjoyable experience dealing with
health care providers now when having to work with a bureaucratic insurance
system. People who think that turning that degree of power and authority
to the government will make the situation better are wildly naive.
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough
On Sat, 01 Mar 2008 23:03:21 -0700, Mark & Juanita wrote:
You obviously live in a larger town than I :-).
Seriously, the PO folks here have almost always been prompt, friendly, and
efficient. Of course, I've never seen enough people in a PO here to
create a 45 minute line :-).
I live in an area of about 400,000 people.
OTOH, our DMV, if anything, is *worse* than you describe :-). State vs
Federal? Or just different personalities? I don't have an answer.
My experience with over-the-counter services at assorted
Post offices has been almost universally excellent, both
before and after privatization--much better than my experiences
I did have trouble with slow delivery and misrouting of post
privatization mail sent through the Southern Maryland
Sorting Center, but that situation improved after the Feds
busted the drug ring operating out of that center.
Further, the US Postal Service has consistently been one
of the lest expensive and most effecatious in the world
and remains so today. Ben Franklin got it off to a good
I can't say the same for any state MVA/DMV offices, but
those are state, not Federal employees or contractors.
I have no personal experience with the SSA, but what
I have heard about persons seeking disability benefits
is not encouraging. Last I heard they had a backlog
of more than a year for ruing on applications, and a
practice of denying every one regardless of the health
of the applicant.
OTOH due to ridiculously poor regulation, (such as
a ludicrous stndard for what constitutes a 'surplus')
a number of private pension plans have been looted,
or underfunded to destruction in recent decades.
Just to clarify further, the speed and dispatch with which the clerks
moved (or move in the current case) was truly awe-inspiring. Any slower
and they would be moving backwards. As I mentioned, there is a perfectly
rational explanation for this -- it's not that these people are necessarily
lazy or inefficient, they just spent a huge amount of time checking and
double-checking themselves. There's no penalty to them if they make people
wait a few extra minutes -- there's a significant penalty to them if they
make a mistake somewhere along the way. That is my point, when the
government or quasi-government agency runs something, the motivations and
metrics by which they work is *not* going to be speed, efficiency, or
customer service; it will be something more esoteric and that makes sense
only to government officialdom. I sure don't want somebody handling *my*
health care that way.
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough
OK, Mark, but here it reads as if you're saying they have traded speed
for accuracy. Our local post offices aren't usually so crowded the
waits are much over 5 minutes, but we've got a strange semi-experiment
going with a few regional DMV offices, which are run by contract.
Yeah, private contractors. IME, there is no difference whatsoever in
speed there and in speed prior to the branches going private (our
local branch is now private, located in the same building, and using
most of the same staff). Of course, being a semi-rural area, Bedford
doesn't yet have the population to create any kind of critical
problem. Rush hour here, in town, tends to mean you have to stop at
one of the traffic lights, but are behind two other cars.
What strikes me about all of this is that a level of criticality is
not reached until population reaches a certain level in a particular
area. It strikes me that groups in excess of a particular size, in
fairly close proximity (AKA larger cities) are possibly ungovernable
when today's standards of service are applied.
On Mon, 03 Mar 2008 03:40:45 -0800, Charlie Self wrote:
Actually, that could be applied to the entire country. Can 300 million
people be governed well from a central site? And soon to be 450 million
if the predictions are right.
Science surmises that we evolved to live in small groups of 20-50.
Which is some of the reason it is so difficult to defeat tribalism in
the Middle East and Africa, amongst other places.
The world is nibbling on its own ass right now. WIthin half a century,
that nibble will be a gobble and may well reach the vitals. Over-
population is the problem. Period. It is only a U.S. problem insomuch
as every emerging--lovely bullshit word, that--nation like China is
going to want the same level of lving that we have now. And that
cannot happen. The resources aren't there. The faster countries like
China grow and reach, the faster the entire world goes into decline...
Anyone got an answer? I sure as hell don't, beyond finding some way to
reduce population growth below zero for a century or two. Wanna bet?
I once took all the square miles of land in the Province of Ontario,
Canada, deducted a certain percentage for lakes/water etc. and
multiplied to get square feet.
I then divided by 6.5 billion (Population estimate).
Each man, woman, child would have a parcel of land approx. 60' x 150'.
Each family of 5 would have an acre. (Please do NOT nit-pick over
I know I didn't include farm land, roads... it only serves as a
Now take a look at how small Ontario is on a globe.
Overpopulation is only an issue when everybody wants to live on the
WHICH is why the busses in Belgium are 20 feet wide and only 4 feet
long. Because everybody wants to sit up front.
Overpopulation is an issue when everyone wants to live the way we
do...sit up front, in your words, but using Ontario as a base and
doing little else doesn't work, because someone has to grow food of
whatever type to feed those people, someone has to manufacture
clothing (and that's after growing the base material for the fabric--
polyester is doomed, as is gasoline as a fuel), and so on. Useful
land, arable land, all come into play. Not many sane people want to
set up shop and live in Arabia's Empty Quarter, and there simply isn't
room for more than a few gurus on the top of tall mountains.
My daughter last year was paying $750 per month for her single person
medical coverage here in Buffalo. That was the least expensive plan
available to her.
IIRC aren't railroad employees exempt from paying into the government's
social security program as the have their own "Railroad Retirement System"?
I can't speak for universities but I did pay into the Railroad
Retirement System for 27 years. IIRC the combined contributions from
employee (me) and employer railroad) were at a higher rate than what
non-railroad employees/employers paid into the social security system. The
payoff is that my railroad retirement pension is supposed to be better than
what I could get from social security. I hope so; I'm counting on it.
Dave in Houston
Huh? I contributed to SS when an employee of Harvard and when at Cornell.
Now maybe there are better universities where they don't pay ...
Some Federal institutions have or had their own system, as do some state
colleges, I believe, but in the US private univerisities deduct and
contribute to Social Security up to the maximum wage the law or IRS
I paid into the Railroad Retirement System for 27 years including
the 14 years that I was a company supervisor/officer. IIRC railroad
employees along with the railroad paid a higher amount into the system than
those who pay into SS and also draw a higher retirement income than SS.
Since 1995 I've been self-employed and have paid FICA every year since.
None of that has anything to do with health care.
As with most companies back in the 70s and 80s health insurance (and
life insurance) was a paid benefit, part of your compensation just like paid
vacation time was a company-provided benefit. But the company reached a
point around 1990 where they capped how much they were going to expend for
health insurance; said we are not going to pay anymore into your health care
benefits than we are currently paying (nor any less as far as I know) so all
future increases will be borne
by the (non-union) employee. Because of the severance package I took when I
left the RR I kept my paid-up health insurance for the 24 months over which
I spread that package. But since 1997 I have struggled to find and keep
health insurance and because I had major surgery in 2004 no one else will
underwrite me for five years so I am hostage to my current provider which is
what the country has (certainly I have) come to expect from the private
Dave in Houston
Whether it's a good idea or not, national health care is
The second item makes her look about as socialist as Richard
Nixon. At least it does to those of us who remember wage and
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