When the Wobblies met How Green was my Valley.

There’s a few links in this post but before you look at any of them my advice is to take care. The history of American socialism is one of the most addictive substances known to man…
It’s got everything – heroics, lynchings, show trials, executions, great songs, exiles and imprisonment….and best of all total abject glorious failure….

Let’s meet the Wobblies. Today the Industrial Workers of the World are at the vanguard of the struggle for justice for Starbucks employees. Naom Chomsky still a member by the way, and a presence in Scotland.

The One Big Union has a more glorious past than it’s present indicates. Here’s the pretty good Wiki..
Founded in Chicago in 1905 the IWW was the first American practical example of Industrial Unionism, what we would call here syndicalism. Logic encapsulated in the “One Big Union” slogan. If, during a miners strike railwaymen would refuse to transport scab labour then how could you lose? Simple really…
As usual Miners played a leading role – the Western Federation of Miners the key driver behind the set up of the IWW.
It’s worth a quick scan of some of the early members of the IWW
Eugene V Debs – the most successful socialist Presidential candidate of all time, Debs got 6% in 1912 and more votes but a lower percentage when he stood from prison in 1920. (Jailed for opposing conscription in WW1).
Daniel De Leon the Marxist theoretician was also an early member.
Joe Hill, famous victim of state murder was also an early member. Great Ballads and songs ( Here’s Joan). Here’s his last written words, awaiting execution:

My will is easy to decide – For there is nothing to divide
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan – Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.
My body? – Oh. – If I could choose I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow my dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then would come to life and bloom again
This is my Last and final Will
Good Luck to All of you – Joe Hill.

Again his Wiki is well worth a read.
As an aside I didn’t realise that Helen Keller had been a member – You learn something new…
Oh and your man Larkin – Before the Yanks threw him in the clink
Which brings us to the best of the lot :
Big Bill Haywood, pictured above. There’s his life It’s got the lot – Haywood died in Moscow in 1927. He travelled Europe in 1910, meeting Lenin and Luxembourg but also coming to Wales. Here’s a speech he gave in New York City in 1911 The General Strike – I quote:

“And in Wales it was my good fortune to be there, not to theorize but to take part in the general strike among the coal miners. Previous to my coming, or in previous strikes, the Welsh miners had been in the habit of quitting work, carrying out their tools, permitting the mine managers to run the pumps, allowing the engine winders to remain at work, carrying food down to the horses, keeping the mines in good shape, while the miners themselves were marching from place to place singing their old-time songs, gathering on the meeting grounds of the ancient Druids and listening to the speeches of the labor leaders; starving for weeks contentedly, and on all occasions acting most peaceably; going back to work when they were compelled to by starvation. But this last strike was an entirely different one. It was like the shoemakers’ strike in Brooklyn. Some new methods had been injected into the strike. I had spoken there on a number of occasions previous to the strike being inaugurated, and I told them of the methods that we adopted in the West, where every man employed in and around the mine belongs to the same organization; where, when we went on strike, the mine closed down. They thought that that was a very excellent system. So the strike was declared. They at once notified the engine winders, who had a separate contract with the mine owners, that they would not be allowed to work. The engine winders passed a resolution saying that they would not work. The haulers took the same position. No one was allowed to approach the mines to run the machinery. Well, the mine manager, like the mine managers everywhere, taking unto himself the idea that the mines belonged to him, said, “Certainly the men won’t interfere with us. We will go up and run the machinery. And they took along the office force. But the miners had a different notion and they said, “You can work in the office, but you can’t run this machinery. That isn’t your work. If you run that you will be scabbing; and we don’t permit you to scab–not in this section of the country, now.” They were compelled to go back to the office. There were 325 horses underground, which the manager, Llewellyn, complained about being in a starving condition. The officials of the union said, “We will hoist the horses out of the mine.”

“Oh, no,” he said, “we don’t want to bring them up. We will all be friends in a few days.”

“You will either bring up the horses now or you will let them stay there.”

He said, “No, we won’t bring them up now.”

The pumps were closed down on the Cambria mine. 12,000 miners were there to see that they didn’t open. Llewellyn started a hue and cry that the horses would be drowned, and the king sent the police, sent the soldiers and sent a message to Llewellyn asking “if the horses were still safe.” He didn’t say anything about his subjects, the men. Guarded by soldiers, a few scabs, assisted by the office force, were able to run the pumps. Llewellyn himself and his bookkeeping force went down and fed the horses.

Had there been an industrial organization comprising the railroaders and every other branch of industry, the mines of Wales would be closed down to-day.”

I highlighted the bit that tickled me – meeting grounds of the ancient Druids indeed……….

Some Welsh syndicalist stuff – The Miner’s Next Step – the Noah Abblett inspired pamphlet written after the strike described by Haywood above.
Syndicalism in South Wales – A succinct history.

I repeat – be careful not to get sucked in…

  • Ulick

    Not forgetting of course our own James Connolly who put forward two insightful treatises on the potential of syndicalism in ‘The Reconquest of Ireland’ and ‘Revolutionary Unionism and War’. Essentially he believed that “the signal for war (in 1914) ought also to have been the signal for rebellion” in that if labour had developed enough politically and industrially then war could have been avoided by sabotaging the war effort through a series of general strikes.

    Another fascinating wobblie was Tom Barker (http://www.iww.org/culture/biography/TomBarker1.shtml), who organised anti-conscription campaigns in Australia, before being deported to South America where he organised dock workers, eventually ending up as mayor of St Pancras — where as Andy Irvine tells us “he raised the Red Flag there” (http://www.andyirvine.com/lyrics/gladiators.html)

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Is that Brendan Gleeson in the photo?

    Gas that a greater proportion of middle America at the time of the Great Depression was Democrat and Socialist minded, totally the opposite of today – Republican and uber godfearing poverty stricken capitalists.

    …must mention the fine plethora of American Social Realism painters of the time of the Great Depression ie Ben Shahn, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Reginald Marsh..etc..who captured America’s “Hard Times” – what Studs Terkel wrote about.

    It seems that the history of Socialism in America became somewhat of an embarassment (…well maybe not as much today given the credit crunch but definitely moreso under past Republican administrations).

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Dewi,

    whats your take on the sending of troops by Churchill to Tonypandy did they shoot or bayonet anyone? – they did shoot some strikers the following year in Swansea.

    Ulick,

    an interesting take by the PUP on James Connolly -and the Irish left in the context of Republicansim – something of a mixed message.

    http://www.pup-ni.org.uk/party/article_read.aspx?a=19

  • The IWW are interesting. A few years ago a musicologist compiled all of the best songs from the numerous Little Red Song Books into a Big Red Song Book. I joined the union over the summer, it is indeed trying to organise Starbucks workers in Britain now and has actually gained recognition to represent some people getting trouble from Starbucks management in London.

  • Rory Carr

    …and lest we be accused of chauvinism, but not least because she towered above so many as organiser, mentor and inspiring speaker, let us not forget Mary Harris Jones, one of the founders of the IWW, known universally as ‘Mother Jones – The Miners’ Angel’. Born in Cork and possessing a name that clearly suggests Welsh heritage she certainly has all the credentials required for inclusion in this thread.

    http://www.kentlaw.edu/ilhs/majones.htm

    Dewi is right that there is great danger in quickly falling for the addiction of this subject especially if you have been captivated by the written works of such as Studs Terkel and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., both of whom recently left us and of course, E.L. Doctorow whose Ragtime is well worth revisiting though Milos Foreman’s attempt to translate it to cinema (with James Cagney a sad figure in his last role) is less than inspiring. It makes me nostalgic to view again Bo Widerberg’s film, The Ballad of Joe Hill,

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067276/

    which I first saw at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff in the 70’s when we really thought it was all going to happen and we could see the beginnings of a brave new future.

    Now it’s all nostalgia and watching a film like Martin Ritt’s’s The Molly Maguires http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/molly_maguires/ which I did a few weeks ago on television was such a completely different experience than when I first watched it also back in the day.

  • DerTer

    Despite its immediate attractiveness, syndicalism turned out in practice to be a very weak, even fickle, organising principle for the left. The essential problem was reconciling the interests of (generally skilled) workers who had a strong bargaining hand and those (usually manual labourers) who had none. Whatever about that, you will find that Connolly, as well as being an impressive syndicalist theoretician (who surprised so many of his fellows by allowing himself to be ‘greened’), worked in the US on behalf of the Wobblies long before Jim Larkin became involved during his (Larkin’s) post-1913 sojourn in the the US.

  • Dewi

    “My will is easy to decide – For there is nothing to divide”

    If Joe had said “I ain’t got nothing to divide” – he’d be up there with Dylan Thomas..

    Ulick = your boy Barker was put in clink by Billy Hughes – Welsh speaking Prime Minister of Australia – how many degrees of separation?

    Sammy – I grew up in a mining village and the Churchill gig was – “We won the war but then we got rid of the bastard!”

  • Brian MacAodh

    US=1930s UK

  • Dewi

    “Connolly,….. worked in the US on behalf of the Wobblies long before Jim Larkin became involved”

    Indeed – from the IWW site – quite an interesting analaysis with all the old Connolly arguments!!!

  • Greenflag

    Reading some of the above posts one gets the feeling of more than a little trepidation in the air at the prospect of a new Bluer than Blue Conservative Government post election, and somehow also the feeling that Labour for all it’s move to the centre from the outside left somehow lost it’s way in trying to ‘remake ‘ Britain .

    The political challenge facing the left is immense in that in the rush to globalisation and the concomitant rise in gap in income levels between the haves ( the traditionally wealthy plus the ‘cosseted ‘ and protected public sector and the ‘globally ‘ exposed private sector employees, the ‘administrators’ of states i.e the public service can only gain real increases in living standards and incomes at the expense of the private sector via taxation . But as the latter are now able to move their investments to tax friendly regimes or environments where manufacturing is less regulated then the public sector plus the ‘professional ‘ classes .i.e banking , insurance, academia can only ‘gain ‘ by emisseration of the bottom half of the population within states . This is another reason why resident Europhobe Dave’s focus on ‘national sovereignty’ being somehow the Holy Grail of all that’s wonderful and progressive is based on an outdated world order.

    Trying to get higher productivity out of the public sector in any democracy is like trying to turn Bernie Madoff into a Mother Teresa . Not going to happen .

    Brian Aodh

    US = UK 1930’s

    When you look at the true rate of unemployment in the USA as compared to the official ‘doctored ‘ rate , the USA is probably 5 % off the depression era 25% rate . However in terms of overseas debt and reliance on other economies to keep the dollar propped up the situation now is a great deal worse .

    I read that a new effort to help stoke the USA economy has emerged from the State of Colorado where the local State government has now reduced the minimum wage for ‘budgetary ‘ reasons . Presumably these ‘reduced ‘ people will now spend more money than before and thus help to jump start the local economy ?

    The spirit and ‘brain’ of Herbert Hoover lives 🙁

  • Greenflag,

    the local State government has now reduced the minimum wage for ‘budgetary ’ reasons

    Most state governments in the US are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget. Keynesian reflation is generally only possible at the federal level.

  • Greenflag

    Andrew Gallagher,

    True but surely ‘budgetary ‘ balancing can be achieved wby hitting ‘better off’ targets than the lowest paid . The State of Ohio’s Constitution forbids lowering the minimum wage rate . They can refuse to increase it as a budgetary measure but not decrease it.

    Anyway the point is made in relation to how effective Keynesian reflation can be when unemployment is still rising , foreclousures are increasing and consumers and small businesses can’t get credit . The major banks and financial institutions meanwhile hoard cash and see their share prices ‘recover. It appears that ‘socialism ‘ for the banks is working but the banks are not working for the economy ?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “I read that a new effort to help stoke the USA economy has emerged from the State of Colorado where the local State government has now reduced the minimum wage for ‘budgetary ’ reasons . Presumably these ‘reduced ’ people will now spend more money than before and thus help to jump start the local economy ?”

    Why not — ACORN has argued that it should be allowed to pay their employees sub-minimum wages — their arguments rely on the first amendment — I’m given to understand that this ‘anti-poverty’ group made that argument with a straight face, even. If liberal / pro-socialists can make the argument that they should be permitted to avoid having to pay minimum wages, why should anyone else have any qualms?

    Now, I’d say you’re about 5% high on your estimate — real unemployment is probably running 15%, assuming you include those who aren’t actually looking for work and have no intention of working.

  • The argument is that paying sub-minimum wage encourages the creation of more jobs – a corollary to the argument that the minimum wage deters job creation. IIRC there’s no evidence to support this (at least, not at the kinds of minimum wage that are generally applied) but it’s a commonly-held belief.

  • Greenflag

    dread chutlu

    ‘why should anyone else have any qualms?’

    The race to the bottom has it’s drawbacks nad they affect more than the lowest paid . The airline industry to give just one example, used to spend 100 dollars an hour on FAA mandated routine maintenance usually completed by a ‘unionised’ and trained workforce .

    Since about 2000 much of this work is now outsourced to countries like Costa Rica , Ethiopia and many others bringing costs down to 33 dollars an hour and even less in some cases . In theory these outsourced maintenance facilities are supposed to be approved by the FAA and meet FAA standards . You can imagine what happens in practice . Some facilities haven’t been ‘visited ‘ by FAA inspectors for 5 years and there have been reports on

    So next time you fly a US Airline be mindful that your life may be dependent on a 100% maintenance job being completed by poorly trained or untrained mechanics in ‘shady operations’ far from the prying eyes of your government. Given the lax labour laws in some of those States you may even be relying on maintenance being completed properly by employees who haven’t been paid for a month ?

    As far as I’m aware Al Quaida have not yet (under a disguised name ) won any maintenance contracts 🙁

  • Greenflag

    DC ,

    error above

    Some facilities haven’t been ‘visited ’ by FAA inspectors for 5 years and there have been reports on outsourced maintenance facilities not having the required tools or equipment to carry out repairs to FAA standards but the airlines keep using them . Guess why ?

    Capitalism generally brings about or should in theory anyway a reduction in prices through free competition , technical innovation and through the economies brought about by mass production. That’s the sunny side .

    When it comes to the cost of health care in the USA – capitalism has instead led to increasing costs far beyond rising costs associated with inflation . From 5% of USA GDP in the 1960’s to almost 20% in 2009 and left unchecked such costs are capable of gobbling up 40% of USA GDP before 2020.

    As the large insurance companies , drug companies and for profit hospital conglomerates continue to compete against each other for their share of the ‘profit’ potential available to the ‘health sector ‘ they have now reached the stage whereby the only way the private insurance companies can maintain their shareholders dividends is by increasing employer and employee premiums .

    And that’s the unsustainable dark side .

  • Greenflag

    andrew gallagher,

    ‘but it’s a commonly-held belief.’

    There are many commonly held beliefs which on closer examination turn out to be nothing more than prejudice or bias favouring a particular political doctrine or cultural /religious belief .

    We beleive for instance that criminals should be kept behind bars . Last week iirc there was a report that the Republic of Ireland now had 4,000 people in prisons the highest in it’s history . The total population of the Republic is just over 4,000,000. The USA has a population of 300 million or 75 times that of Ireland . The USA’s prison population should be approx 300,000 if it’s criminal profile was similar to that of the Irish Republic . However the USA prison population is now 3,000,000 .

    Perhaps ‘trickle down ‘ economics has something to do with ‘trickle up’ prison populations .
    And if Dread Chutlu would like to add that 3 million prison population to the ranks of the american unemployed his reasonable figure of a 15% unemployment rate would be closer to 20% .

    The ‘race to the bottom’ be it the value of the USA Dollar or the average wage in the USA or elsewhere in the west will have major economic , social and political consequences further up the rungs of society . Feeding the crocodile the last US aircraft mechanic or manufacturing worker will not satiate the crocodile’s appetite . He’ll be back (and actually has returned ) to devour 300,000 financial industry employees in the US North east and left high and dry tens of thousands of new ‘wannabee ‘ high flying graduates who had previously been destined for Wall St . Some will of course still manage to get a job at Goldman Sachs which is apparently the main winner in the USA ‘taxpayers ‘ socialist donation to the needy of Wall St .

  • Dewi

    Minimum wage – maybe stating the obvious but it’s the level that determines the employment effect:
    Reductio ad absurdum – set the level at $100 an hour and employment levels would fall as employers re-locate. Set at $1 an hour and the market rate would be higher so no effect. The key empirical determination is how high can you set without effecting employment levels…that’s what Economists are for…

  • The USA’s prison population should be approx 300,000 if it’s criminal profile was similar to that of the Irish Republic . However the USA prison population is now 3,000,000 .

    Isn’t this mostly related to drug policy?

  • Dewi

    From Wiki – Approximately one in every 18 men in the United States is behind bars or being monitored. – that’s a total of 7.3m people in prison, on parole or probation. 70% of these are non-white.

    Mandated drug related jail terms part of it. But I suggest that institutionalised, if maybe subconscious, racism also a factor.

    “About 10.4% of all black males in the United States between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison, compared to 2.4% of Hispanic males and 1.3% of white males.[18]”

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “The race to the bottom has it’s drawbacks nad they affect more than the lowest paid . The airline industry to give just one example, used to spend 100 dollars an hour on FAA mandated routine maintenance usually completed by a ‘unionised’ and trained workforce .”

    Sure — but when the forces that purport to oppose poverty are lobbying for the right to pay sub-minimum wages, we’re beyond the the point of farce. If the forces of social justice are demanding the right to stiff working people, I think we’ve reached the point at which “farce” no longer covers the situation.

    Greenflag: “When it comes to the cost of health care in the USA – capitalism has instead led to increasing costs far beyond rising costs associated with inflation . From 5% of USA GDP in the 1960’s to almost 20% in 2009 and left unchecked such costs are capable of gobbling up 40% of USA GDP before 2020.”

    Capitalism relies upon free markets and there isn’t a free market in healthcare. Ironically, state and Federal regulation have played a major role in the rise in healthcare costs in the United States. There hasn’t been a free market in US Healthcare since at least the institution of Johnson’s “Great Society,” if not before.

    Greenflag: “Perhaps ‘trickle down ’ economics has something to do with ‘trickle up’ prison populations .”

    Which makes about as much sense as suggesting that opening umbrellas makes it rain…

    Greenflag: “And if Dread Chutlu would like to add that 3 million prison population to the ranks of the american unemployed his reasonable figure of a 15% unemployment rate would be closer to 20% .”

    So, you’re invoking the Mad Hatter’s logic? The folks in prison aren’t usually unemployed, save in those states where the unions have sufficient political influence to bar the practice — they don’t like low-priced competition. Lastly, having chosen their path, they are in no real position to complain — when you make a choice in life, you choose the consequences of that choice.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dewi: ““About 10.4% of all black males in the United States between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison, compared to 2.4% of Hispanic males and 1.3% of white males.[18]” ”

    Your default assumption of racism ignores a combination of other factors — social acceptance of criminal behavior in certain ethic sub-cultures, economic differences, etc.

    The whole silly-notion that “Thug life” is “authentic” African-American culture probably has more to do with the disparity than any inherent racism of the criminal justice system.

  • dewi

    Not default. It’s just how can many rich White American people admit to drug usage and not get locked up?

  • Greenflag

    Dewi ,

    ‘The key empirical determination is how high can you set without effecting employment levels…that’s what Economists are for’

    So that’s what they’re for;)? I’ve been pondering their existential purpose this past decade and I’ve been torn between various analogies with gypsy fortune tellers , ivory tower academics and horse racing touts as apt descriptions of purpose ?

    We are beset on all sides by various indices of the economy -GDP per capita, the Dow Jones, the Footsie , DAX , Bond prices , interest rates etc etc .

    There is no ‘index’ that could point with reasonable accuracy to the growing emisseration of tens of millions of American middle and working class people over the past decade or more . An index combining the numbers incarcerated together with total unemployed plus total without health insurance plus total on minimum or close to minimum wage plus infant mortality rate etc etc .

    You won’t see such an index of course because some Americans would much rather put on a happy face and think ‘positive ‘ oops -and also pray to Jesus for solutions

  • greenflag

    Andrew Gallagher ,

    ‘Isn’t this mostly related to drug policy?

    To some extent . Dewi above gives other reasons which are well founded in the statistics . In recent years however there has been a growing trend to incarceration of the formerly respectable ‘hero’s of trickle down economics . Bernie Madoff and Alan Stanford and a host of other corporate CEO’s not to mention evangelical and rabbinical swindlers and body parts sellers , paedophile priests and corrupt congressmen . Somewhere there must be a list a mile long of these wretches .

    There is also a large number of homeless people who are regularly incarcerated many for breaking byelaws and many for the crime of being mentally ill . Some years back in order to save taxpayers monies in paying for these people to be institutionalised the Government of New York decided to ‘free ‘ these people who would be ‘looked’ after by their local community ??
    I guess some economist must have factored in the cost of institutionalised asylum costs as against the cost of probable later prison costs taking into account the likelihood of a much shorter life span for those condemned to live on the streets !

    Recently standards were dropped for Army recruitment so that some of those who have previously done ‘time ‘ can now enlist and learn how to kill people properly in foreign wars and later of course americans if they find the readjustment to civilian life troublesome .

  • Greenflag

    DC ,

    ‘Ironically, state and Federal regulation have played a major role in the rise in healthcare costs in the United States. There hasn’t been a free market in US Healthcare since at least the institution of Johnson’s “Great Society,” if not before’

    I know the history and you have a point which I’ll not deny . The Private Insurance Companies and Drug Corporations as well as the for profit Hospital conglomerates now run a cartel with their profits being the main objective and patient care and treatment being an unfortunate sideline requirement . Still those 400,000 people employed by insurance companies solely to deny people health insurance claims, have to contribute to the bottom line i.e they have to save more -substantially more than their cost in wages salaries pensions etc .

    You are right -it is a farce and needs more than just reform . If it doesn’t come now it will raise it’s head again in another decade by which time there will be another 50 million added to the uninsured total.

    ‘Which makes about as much sense as suggesting that opening umbrellas makes it rain’

    Not at all . Increasing poverty rates , rising unemployment and worsening social conditions always lead to a rise in the numbers of people in prison . Add in the three stikes and you’re out mentality and the prison population is heading only one way .

    Only in those countries which in the past could export their ‘undesirables ‘ to overseas colonies or newly acquired territories were prison numbers kept from rising .

    BTW if you can tear yourself away from Fox news coverage and Attila O’Reilly and Genghis Hannity there is an excellent review of the American Insurance industry on NPR’s Planet Money the other day . Should be required listening for every Congressman and Senator .

    How the same pill can cost 650 dollars and 10 dollars is well worth listening to . Puts the drug companies on a par with Al Capone . Perhaps there’s still a few places left in America’s crowded prisons for some of the latest batch of corporate thieves !

  • Dread Cthulhu

    dewi: “Not default. It’s just how can many rich White American people admit to drug usage and not get locked up?”

    Firstly, you’re ignoring the number of wealthy black American people who admit drug usage that don’t get locked up — outside of those “in the trade,” the key-word in that construction is “rich,” not their race. Sports figures, media figures, etc., don’t get jail time for nose candy or a joint, even when caught. It is the poor shlub, white or black, who ends up with jail time, unable to afford a “fixer” lawyer and enroll in a tony rehab program.

    Secondly, as I noted before, if you make a choice, you choose the consequences of that choice. Unless they’ve been living in a basement like the girl in Austria for their whole lives, they know that illegal drugs are, y’know, illegal. Regardless of what easements that the well to do can acquire, they still chose poorly.

    There *is* one area of semi-legitimate racial complaint, which would be the disparity between rock and powder cocaine. The “crack epidemic” and the howls of outrage from both within and without the ‘hoods stampeded politicians to treat crack more harshly than powder cocaine, without a reasoned argument, other than the masses were howling at the pols to do “something.” Now, there are arguments to be made on treating the two differently, but that’s another story.

  • Dewi

    OK Dread – interesting and I’m open to your insight…..But when incarcement rates are 20 times more prevalent for Blacks than Whites there’s more to it than relative poverty. I’ll try and find some more data.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “I know the history and you have a point which I’ll not deny . The Private Insurance Companies and Drug Corporations as well as the for profit Hospital conglomerates now run a cartel with their profits being the main objective and patient care and treatment being an unfortunate sideline requirement .”

    Feh — there are enough players in that game to keep it interesting, were it not for Federal and state intrusions into the market, including the regulating of how these facilities charge patients under Medicare regulations. Per the regs for most of the period from Johnson to present, the providers had to maintain a singular charge structure with no discounts. Thus, the charges applied to a Medicare patient, to an insured patient and to an uninsured patient had to be identical. Medicare also requires more than a token collection effort on the part of the providers. Now, while the provider community cannot offer “discounts,” Medicare, Medicaid and the insurance industries have been free to negotiate “contractual allowances,” which amount to discounts to the gov’t and the insurer, leaving the private payor out in the cold.

    The real problem come is when the government regulations and private insurance terms interact. For example, one provider I audited negotiated a per diem rate for psyche patients that the insurer would pay — the lesser of a “ceiling” amount and the facility’s routine charges. Not being economically stupid, the provider increased their rate to capture the whole of the ceiling payment, which was comfortably more than their routine charges. As a consequence of Medicare regulation, the new rate applied to all categories of payor. Once the government intruded on the market, the dominoes started to fall.

    Greenflag: “BTW if you can tear yourself away from Fox news coverage and Attila O’Reilly and Genghis Hannity there is an excellent review of the American Insurance industry on NPR’s Planet Money the other day . Should be required listening for every Congressman and Senator .”

    Not much for television, frankly. As for NP(S)R, given their no less biased than Fox or MSNBC — they simply broadcast on my dime since most of their shows wouldn’t make it in the marketplace.

    Your agreement is more likely a result of their position appealing to your sensibilities than anything concrete or useful.

    Frankly, healthcare costs have gone off the rails since the addition of health insurance as a perk — folks stopped looking at their bills and the provider community took advantage. Insurance companies have gone from paying charges to paying a percentage of charges to other payment schemes because there is no incentive for the provider community to control their charges.

    My main question is why I should believe for a minute that the same institutions that brought use the DMV, the IRS and those agencies that price things out for the military should be trusted with controlling my access to healthcare, which is where this slipperly slope ends.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Dewi: “OK Dread – interesting and I’m open to your insight…..But when incarcement rates are 20 times more prevalent for Blacks than Whites there’s more to it than relative poverty. I’ll try and find some more data. ”

    You’ll need it… drop-out rates / education rates come to mind… single parent homes… school quality… rates of being on the dole… all sorts of factors come into play.

    The short answer, Dewi, is that there isn’t a single factor that drives these things. I’d posit that some of the above are more key than race, although the whole “thug life = authentic black culture” certainly doesn’t help — I’d posit that that single development has done more damage to “the black race” than anything the racists ever dreamed of doing.

    I’d also point out that it is the American black who suffers — Africans who legally immigrate to the United States do better than “native” African Americans — lower rates of poverty, etc.

  • Greenflag

    DC ‘Your agreement is more likely a result of their (NPR) position appealing to your sensibilities than anything concrete or useful. ‘

    NPR is probably the most reliable source for ‘hard news’ about American society that there is . It’s growing audience (30 million ) at one recent census -is a hopeful sign that many americans are getting tired of ‘radio jesus’ and it’s TV twins . It’s the American BBC . And while we all understand the Beeb is not ‘perfect’ it’s seen worldwide as a reliable source of information.

    ‘Frankly, healthcare costs have gone off the rails since the addition of health insurance as a perk—folks stopped looking at their bills and the provider community took advantage.’

    I’ll assume you mean by the ‘provider community ‘the medical profession and hospitals as well as private health insurance companies ? Prior to the advent of medication and treatment that actually cured people i.e the early 1900’s hospitals were places were the poor went to die and anyone who wanted to live keot as far away from the ‘quacks’ i.e unlicensed doctors if they possibly avoid it . At the same time millions died prematurely who would have lived had they been born 30 years later when medical practice had advanced .

    ‘My main question is why I should believe for a minute that the same institutions that brought use the DMV, the IRS and those agencies that price things out for the military should be trusted with controlling my access to healthcare, which is where this slipperly slope ends.’

    Your ‘main question ‘ is credible and believe it or not I’m not a fan in the main of government being the only solution to the current American health care predicament .

    But at this stage it’s probably the only ‘institution’ that can bringing ruinous health care costs to book -assuming it has the will and can stand up to the powerf . Neither the private insurance companies nor the drug companies nor the medical profession nor the corporate health business nor the legal fraternity will easily yield on the biggest ‘ profitable captive market within the USA i.e several hundred million ‘bodies ‘ who have only one life and wish to keep living for as long as they possibly can regardless of who gets to pay for it .

    A single payer system is the way out even if it seems unattainable . Any kind of major operation is going to cost probably in the region of an average home mortgage i.e 200,000 dollars . Given the median household in the USA is about 45,000 dollars then all it would take would be one major operation to ‘bankrupt ‘ a family. It would make much more sense for everybody to contribute to one national system and spread the risk for everybody . State insurance premiums need not be standard but could be varied to encourage individuals responsibility for health e.g non smokers would pay less etc .

    For a country that put men on the moon it should not be beyond it’s policy makers to devise a system which is less ruinous to it’s economy and provides ALL of it’s people with decent health care . If the Japanese , Scandinavians , British ,Canadians French , Germans , Irish etc can do so and still remain ‘capitalist ‘ freedom loving democracies why not the USA ?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “NPR is probably the most reliable source for ‘hard news’ about American society that there is .”

    That, auld son, is a matter of opinion, which you can get a cup of coffee with, assuming you also have a few euro. NPR is a slumgullion of the good, the bad, the inane and the politically oriented. It has a palpable leftward bent — not suprising its government subsidy — and covers everything from classical music to radical left-wing political shows, with content being primarily dependent upon the public radio stations within your listening area.

    Greenflag: “I’ll assume you mean by the ‘provider community ‘the medical profession and hospitals as well as private health insurance companies ? ”

    Not exactly. The role of the physician has changed. The role of insurance has changed. However, the structures have not.

    The more treatments that are mandated, whether the patient uses them or not, raises the price, because they have to be factored into the price. An insurance premium is simply an actuarially supportable monetarization of risk. The more things that the government mandates, the more risks are included, the higher the price. The fallacy that insurance companies should be forced to cover “pre-existing conditions” is a problem, insofar as once that happens, it isn’t really insurance, since the probability of pay-out is 100%. At that point, you’re simply looking for a pocket to pick.

    Greenflag: “But at this stage it’s probably the only ‘institution’ that can bringing ruinous health care costs to book -assuming it has the will and can stand up to the powerf .”

    Too many power players, not enough will. Doctors, drug companies, hospital chains, the tort bar, etc. Too many politicians too beholden to too many monied sources, both sides of the aisle. The Dems are already getting in trouble with their institution constituents — while they have managed to hold off any effort at tort reform, their proposed taxes on high value insurance policies impact unionized workers almost as must as they do the executive suites.

    Besides, the Obama administration has already gotten themselves caught in so many misrepresentations — the whole “$50,000 for amputating a foot” slur comes to mind — that the ground-hogs are noticing their unwillingness / inability to debate the issues and seemingly indecent need for speed that they simply do not trust government to run these things — they’re acting like they have something to hide.

    Greenflag: “A single payer system is the way out even if it seems unattainable .”

    Sure — because every monopoly leads to an efficient, pleasant experience — just as the British marine who was given a pair of cancerous lungs by the NHS, who defended the practice. Like I said, the DMV, the IRS and the fellows who price out military acquisitions.

    Greenflag: “It would make much more sense for everybody to contribute to one national system and spread the risk for everybody .”

    Except that the gov’t would do the same to that pool of money that they did to the SSI “trust-fund.” And that’s just the first flaw off the top of my head. It would become another politically approved Ponzi scheme / congressional slush-fund.

    Greenflag: “State insurance premiums need not be standard but could be varied to encourage individuals responsibility for health e.g non smokers would pay less etc .”

    Sure, and your premium bills would be delivered by winged unicorns and you could pay with leprechaun gold… like I said, DMV, IRS, etc.

    If I seem a trifle cynical and unimpressed with your arguments, GF, it is because one of us audits American hospitals with regard to the current socialized medical program… and then there is you. I understand the ugly interface and impact the government has had upon healthcare prices, which you studiously ignore. I see just how little the providers get reimbursed, vis-a-vis their charges and just how much of a joke their charges are, a result of the government’s regulations of how provider’s maintain their charge-masters. I know how the law of unintended consequences of gov’t in medicine has impacted prices, et al and ad nauseum. I admire your idealism, I just know a little too much of how the real world end of the process works to know just how badly your idealistic suggestions would be perverted in their implementation.

    Now, that said, I think there will, eventually, be something akin to what you describe, only with all the problems I can forsee and several I can’t. The rosy promises will fall flat on their arses. Frankly, what Obama says he wants falls somewhere between fascism (gov’t control) and socialism (gov’t ownership) of 1/6 of the US economy… and, frankly, at this point, the gov’t has too much of the economy on their ledgersheets as it is.

  • Greenflag

    Greenflag ,

    good post DC

    I’m sure your personal auditorial position gives you a good insight into the ‘workings ‘ of the system or rather the non workings . At least you seem to concede that the present mess is unsustainable which is a recognition that another way must be found .

    There was different kind of insight from a Mr Pullen who was released yesterday following four days in jail because he took part in a peaceful demonstration outside a health insurance company’s office building somehwere in the USA. He was apparently following his mother’s example of some years ago when her insurance company refused to cover her for a bone marrow transplant and effectively sentenced her to a premature death . The woman took the fight to the insurance company and eventually the company agreed to pay up for her marrow transplant and she lived several years more than she would have .

    ‘Except that the gov’t would do the same to that pool of money that they did to the SSI “trust-fund.” And that’s just the first flaw off the top of my head. It would become another politically approved Ponzi scheme / congressional slush-fund.’

    I can understand that objection but Americans have a written constitution and why could it not be written into that constitution that health care funding would not be spent for anything else other than health care . They could also enact tougher measures against health care administrators , drug companies , medical practitioners and individuals who are found guilty of fraud or ‘stealing ‘ or ‘overcharging ‘ .

    For the small minority of Americans earning 200,000 dollars a year plus there should be an option to subscribe to a gold plated private health insurance plan which would keep them from having to share the same facilities as the great unwashed .

    ‘your premium bills would be delivered by winged unicorns ‘

    No need for unicorns – Insurance premiums would be deducted from everybody including all of those those working with an employers share standardised by business type and sales turnover and retirees also should pay into the system based on their income . A variable overall federal sales ‘health ‘ tax would be applied to those products which are known to impact negatively on people’s health -tobacco , sodas , fast foods , alcohol etc to cover any shortfall . The system should be kept current and self financing .

    As for forseeing future problems ? I think the USA has enough on it’s plate trying to come to grips with a problem that has taken 30 years ? or more to devour one sixth of the US economy .

    Health care should serve the economy not hinder it . And health care should be seen as a right not a privilige and that’s not the same thing as saying it should be ‘free’ . Finding a system which activates individual responsibilty for health care needs has to be part of an overall solution .

    As for my idealism . Where you got that idea I don’t know . If you have a headache my solution has always been to take an aspirin . No need to head for the emergency ward !

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “I can understand that objection but Americans have a written constitution and why could it not be written into that constitution that health care funding would not be spent for anything else other than health care .”

    Because A) It is a ponderously slow process to modify the constitution which B) is incompatible with Obama’s effort to push this pig in a poke past the public as quickly as possible. For ha-ha’s, I’ll throw in the Dems mantra of a “living constitution” that “evolves” (i.e. means what we say it means, assuming we can convince 5 SCOTUS justices to agree), with all the penumbral rights and mistrepresentations that implies.

    Greenflag: “They could also enact tougher measures against health care administrators , drug companies , medical practitioners and individuals who are found guilty of fraud or ‘stealing ’ or ‘overcharging ’ .”

    That “overcharging” by drug companies in the US is what is paying the freight for cheaper sales to the developing world… do you really want to kill the goose that allows cheap(er) drugs in the rest of the world?

    Greenflag: “For the small minority of Americans earning 200,000 dollars a year plus there should be an option to subscribe to a gold plated private health insurance plan which would keep them from having to share the same facilities as the great unwashed .”

    Bollocks. Firstly, if the government and their handlers, lobbyists and assorted left-wing curs of the upper-class want to control health-care, they can damned well “enjoy” the fruits of their labor. Secondly, such an arrangement would only serve to foment paranoia in the left-of-center-left and the extreme right, not to mention the lunatic fringe that goes all the way around the political set. Thirdly, 200K isn’t nearly what you think it is, nowadays, even before recent sagging of the dollar… that’s a middlin’ senior cop with overtime with a teacher spouse with a successful side business.

    Greenflag: “Insurance premiums would be deducted from everybody including all of those those working with an employers share standardised by business type and sales turnover and retirees also should pay into the system based on their income .”

    Which is well-nigh criminal. They’ve already conditioned folks to look at their pay-packets on a net basis, rather than look at what the government takes from their gross. This is just another step on the road to serf-dom. A few more of these programs and folks will simply be working for the government dole.

    Greenflag: “Health care should serve the economy not hinder it .”

    Sure… and SSI is a great investment… Turning things over to the government is a bad idea in the best of times. Any shmuck could do better than SSI by simply putting the equivalent amount in a triple-tax-free bond. The “special” bonds that the Treasury “invests” SSI into a special in the “half-a-loaf bus” sort of way — paying sub-standard interest in a sleight of hand transaction. I have to expectation that the government would do any better or be any more honest with healthcare.

    Greenflag: “And health care should be seen as a right not a privilige and that’s not the same thing as saying it should be ‘free’ .”

    ‘scuse me while I stop laughing. Folks already think its free… leastwise free to them. Those on the dole (Medicaid), illegals who do the health-care equivalent of the “chew and screw” at the Emergency room, etc.

    Government / single payor will do something more corrosive than making it free — which folks already hear anyway. What it will do is force those who actually do things in the economy to pay for those who do nothing and contribute nothing. It will simply be another transfer from the productive to the non-productive. And don’t imagine that folks will accept the notion of not getting “their” care. Then there is the question of rationing — and, yes, there is already rationing in US healthcare — organ transplants.

    Off the top of my head, there is Mickey Mantle, sports figure and notorious drinker, is on the list a single day and gets a transplant like that? Do you think that putting a government directly in charge would make things better or worse? Do you suppose anyone in the NHS would have had the nerve to transplant those cancerous lungs into, say, a member of Parliament, rather than some poor squaddie?

    Greenflag: “Where you got that idea I don’t know . If you have a headache my solution has always been to take an aspirin . No need to head for the emergency ward ! ”

    You have this gloriously naive faith that the gov’t, despite all previous evidence and experience to the contrary, won’t screw this up as badly as every other intrusion into the market-place, industry, retirement. I credit that to idealism — sorry, GF, but most of the other options are not nearly as pleasant / complimentary and you’ve disqualified yourself for most of them, anyway.

  • Dewi

    Anyway – You two know anything about the Wobblies….Lol.

  • Greenflag

    Dewi ,

    I think DC has outed himself as an anarchist from what I can see from the above comments . What I’m dealing with above is a failure to communicate .

    Well now you know Dewi that having the NHS makes you a serf and that the average American family earns 200,000 dollars a year according to DC -never mind what the official statistics say .
    But it’s interesting to see from DC’s comments the ‘cracks’ in the current edifice . Note the reference to

    ‘ a middlin’ senior cop with overtime with a teacher spouse with a successful side business’

    There you have it the american dream a teacher having to moonlight to pay for health insurance ?

    Note also the reference to left wing upper class curs . I guess he’s not including Rush Limbaugh and the bat shit crazy neo conservatives in the ‘upper class ‘ .

    I read that DC is one ‘angry ‘ white American who should probably consider moving to Idaho or somewhere else remote from Government .

    I think he takes the concept of small government to heart but would prefer rule by large corporations who as we know are motivated only by concern for their employees and their state of health and the bottom line . But I was touched by DC’s concern for the third world recipients of cheap american drugs which americans support by paying higher prices . A spin worthy of Comrade Mandelson .

  • Greenflag

    DC ,

    So I gather you’d rather keep things as they are and see healthcare consume 40% of the US economy within a decade ?

    ‘Then there is the question of rationing—and, yes, there is already rationing in US healthcare—organ transplants.

    You’ve obviously not been keeping up with the innovative profitable ‘sideline ‘ business in organ supply recently uncovered by the New Jersey Police and FBI . Some local rabbis were heavily involved . I did’nt realise rabbis were so poorly paid that they would have to resort to trading in human kidneys ( don’t ask me where the kidney’s originated but most probably from a war torn country where the supply of donors is from it’s te recent ‘enemy ‘ deceased according to Swedish Diplomatic sources anyway .

    Good luck in your search for very small government and a truly happy land which is governed only by profit seeking corporations and which will be so efficient and cost effective that it’s people will believe they are truly living the American dream .

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “So I gather you’d rather keep things as they are and see healthcare consume 40% of the US economy within a decade ?”

    Frankly, GF, I’d like to seem the whole thing unspun, starting with the government mandates. I’d like to see the health insurance put in its proper context, rather than being the sugar-daddy that pays for every flu-jab and miscellaneous medical transaction that some think it ought to be. I’d like to see the patient have a personal interest in the process. There are ways to manage the cost of healthcare, but what Obama is doing isn’t the way to do it. His numbers are bupkis, including illegal immigrants and the voluntarily uninsured in the number of people he would insure. His break-neck haste, coupled with the start of benefits in 2013, suggests that he knows that this will poison the electorate, so he wants a shot at re-election before the feces hits the rotating oscillator — oddly enough, though, the taxes start immediately.

    I’ll take the current program over Obamacare eight days a week.

    GF: “There you have it the american dream a teacher having to moonlight to pay for health insurance ?”

    What do you know of the payscales in the states. We have middlin’ senior cops in Boston who make over 100K a year, once you figure in overtime and the like. Hell, we had electricians making 200k+ a year on the “Big Dig.” The teachers don’t “moonlight” for health insurance — they moonlight to fill the summer hours. My teachers did everything from run driving schools to paint houses, long before your suggestion of “gold-plated” private insurance, which would only serve to disenchant and alienate the masses.

    Don’t mock what you don’t know about. It only serves to make you seem foolish.

    GF: “I guess he’s not including Rush Limbaugh and the bat shit crazy neo conservatives in the ‘upper class ’ .”

    They’re not the ones advocating for this government program, now are they? I want the left-wing wealthy — the Kennedys, the Soros, etc., to have to wait in queue with the masses. Hell, if this thing passes, what with the criminalization of not having insurance, I’d not mind criminalizing going outside the country for medical care. To permit them to advocate something for the masses that they could, in turn, opt out of, is hardly egalitarian, although it is classless. If they want nationalized healthcare, they should have no other option than that which they advocate. “Good for me, but not for thee” won’t wash on this one.

    GF: ” I think he takes the concept of small government to heart but would prefer rule by large corporations who as we know are motivated only by concern for their employees and their state of health and the bottom line .”

    Hardly. Libertarian — small government is good, no Republicans in my bedroom, no Dems in my kitchen, no socialists in my bank-account. Society should have a safety net, not a hammock… and the US should not slouch after Europe into a dole-ist socialized state.

    GF: “You’ve obviously not been keeping up with the innovative profitable ‘sideline ’ business in organ supply recently uncovered by the New Jersey Police and FBI .”

    Brought to you by Democratic legislators and a handful of rabbis, which I found horribly creepy months ago when it was originally broadcast. They were, however, dealing in kidneys, which are different from livers — you can donate one kidney for profit and live. You only get one liver and you can’t live without it.

    The point you conveniently miss is that Mantle allegedly went through the “clean” OPO waiting list — he was on it for all of a day, leap-frogging others on the waiting list, despite his history of drinking. How do you think moving politicians from an oversight role to direct control is going to improve things? IRS, DMV, US MAIL, etc.

    GF: