June 5th, 2011

A Misunderstanding

I recognize that a lot of disagreements, once fully explored, turn out to be based on a misunderstanding that, once clarified, eliminates the disagreement. For example, if I ask B., who has been treated for Lyme disease, whether the rash went away and she says she never had the rash, and I clarify, the bullseye and she says yes, the misunderstanding is a simple one. She didn't know I meant "bullseye" when I said "rash" -- and I didn't understand that she thought the bullseye was not a rash, but that there was some other Lyme rash which she had never had.

Very simple.

It occurs to me that the Republican party's willingness to back the Ryan Medicare modification might derive from a misunderstanding. Unions and management have spent decades going back and forth on a variety of issues. For the last twenty-ish years, a lot of unions have cut deals with management that were based on seniority, which turned out to be virtually identical to basing them on age. The deals were cut in the auto industry, at Disney, and at a lot of other companies in a lot of other industries, but they all basically amount to: newly hired workers will belong to the union, they will pay dues, they will be part of collective bargaining. However, their pay scale and benefits will be drastically different from the people who had a certain seniority when the new deal was adopted. The young guys, once they have that seniority, will never get those perks.

It's not just for unions, either. For example, my husband will get a 4 week sabbatical that more recent hires will never get because the benefit has been phased out.

These are deals that are relatively uneventful to negotiate compared to attempts to cut benefits/pay scale across the entire union, which can be _very_ eventful.

I think a whole bunch of people got to thinking that Medicare (and probably social security, too) worked the same way, so all you had to do was guarantee the system would stay in place for everyone with a certain seniority, and the newer entrants wouldn't really expect anything anyway and be grateful for what they did get, in much the same way that the tiny number of new recruits to a unionized auto plant, for example, are happy to get the job and in no position to take action to break the deal.

Industries that cut this kind of deal often go through a dire period of no hires and extensive layoffs. New hires are really grateful to get in and there are not very many of them. You get the deal in during a low spot and it's a done deal by the time new people come along. As long as you never get into a position where there's less labor than management needs, the deal won't ever be broken. And this is where the misunderstanding happened. There haven't _been_ layoffs from Medicare (or social security). And for all people about my age, give or take, say they aren't expecting these programs to be around when we're eligible to benefit from them, _we are lying_. We _do_ expect them to be around. Most people my age and younger have very little real plan for how they are going to retire and/or pay their future medical bills -- the plan for many is still work till we drop. But we do NOT expect to be denied health care or to be living on the streets when we drop. If we really believed that Medicare and/or Social Security might really go away (and to the extent that we really do believe that) we would be behaving differently (hint: that's why Bush's efforts to privative Social Security went over so badly, that's part of how Obama got elected, and why health care was such a priority for the Democratic Party).

This is may be a case of a drastically bad choice of analogy when engaging in public policy. On the part of the Republican Party, that is.

A Really Good Reason to Despise Anthony Weiner


Dig down a ways and find this:


"“When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing?” Mr. Weiner said to Mr. Bloomberg, as tablemates listened. “I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.”"

Up until reading that (belatedly) I really liked him. But the city finally comes up with a really effective way to make it so kids and old people and normal humans can get around the city without fear (whether walking or cycling) and apparently it's The Devil.

I don't think it's going to be that easy to get rid of the bike lanes, however.

Memories and Food

Yeah, okay, feel free to go there for a while. I'll still be here when you come back.

All right. Amazon is having this sale for ebooks by mainstream publishers (more than the Big 6). It put me over the edge on buying David Kessler's _The End of Overeating_. You shouldn't buy it, or even get it from the library, unless you can skim. It isn't worth your time. Yes, he covers a lot of research, but he misunderstands or misinterprets virtually all of it. This isn't much of a surprise to me; there's a reason I didn't buy it when it came out. I may _LOVE_ this topic, but not enough to make up for the problems this book has.

I just hit the section on the origins of Cinnamon and had a Moment. Apparently Brusseau was making and selling her gran's cinnamon rolls in a cafe in Snohomish in the early 1980s, before opening the first Cinnabon down in Federal Way. It's entirely possible I _ate_ those early cinnamon rolls. We used to go up to Snohomish about once a month or so on weekends to go antique-ing in that time period.

The next chapter is about food-as-entertainment, which Kessler claims hadn't occurred to him before. My father used to keep track of every penny in and out in ledgers and he regularly put eating-out expenses into the entertainment column. Whenever we complained that we never spent any money on entertainment, he'd point to the totals and say, yes we do. When we figured out what we were doing, he got reamed by all of us. I think the compromise was that he was not allowed to put food as fuel (in particular, stopping for a hamburger or similar between knocking on doors and going to the Kingdom Hall) in the entertainment column, but he could put nice, leisurely meals at sit down restaurants in the entertainment column. Those latter were rare, so the number in that column went down a lot.

Of course, the number in the food column went up, leading to some bitter recriminations about the rising cost of groceries. I think we just rolled our eyes at that one, and a few years later my mother quit cooking and they resorted to a lot of take-out and frozen dinners.