Friday Firesmith – Paid

The last bridge project I managed cost over nine million dollars. It went over a railroad in Valdosta, Georgia. The railroad, being a powerful and private entity, held up construction when it pleased them to do so and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it.

So, let’s say I owned the bridge going over the tracks and decided that because the traffic count is ten thousand vehicles a day, I’ll charge every car a dollar for each trip over my bridge. In just over two and a half years I recoup my money.

But let’s say after that I charge ten bucks a car. Anyone using that bridge will pay me $3,650 a year to use my bridge, even though I’ve been paid in full for it. People too poor will have to find another way around the tracks.

Now, imagine I go out and buy a sewer system, yesssss, now you see where I’m going with this don’t you?

Let’s go deep, okay. Imagine you live in a small town in Mississippi. September the 1st, 2005, your town is all but destroyed. If all services for recovery were privately owned, what do you think would happen to your town?

Deeper still. When the British invaded America during the War of 1812, we didn’t have much of a navy and not much of a treasury. It took getting mauled by the Brits for the United States to start thinking about a stronger central government.

Now, I have your agreement that bridges, sewer systems, the military, and disaster relief should be paid by the taxpayers for the mutual benefit of all citizens.

Why is health care, college tuition, and fifteen dollar minimum wage so radically different than the items we already pay for?

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

45 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Paid”

  1. Here in Gwinnett we have a storm water fee/tax whatever you want to call it we pay because of the rain try and top that one

  2. Well, we can have all of those things included in the “basket” of sewers, bridges, police and fire, etc. but they aren’t the same, literally. All people might need a constant police presence in their town or city…same with bridges that might be used by anyone who comes along. College tuition and the others you mention relate to individuals and their individual needs.And, they, like the proposed $15 minimum wage, would have to be paid for by someone and whether we say it ought to be the government or not, it would be you and me. Taxes. Taxes instead of direct payment but those taxes would be needed at a level that would have very dire consequences. In the case of the $15 minimum wage, whether we like to believe it or not, there’s ample proof that it would lead to less hours for individuals at that level of income and less hiring by businesses so little would be accomplished. That’s shamefully displayed by Bernie Sanders who stridently and hypocritically advocates for it. No, it’s not that i’m against the idea of the treasury paying for the things you mention, it’s that it isn’t so simple as to just do it. A lot more thinking needs to be done to address these very real problems you mention.

      • The college tuition issue is a sticky problem. You don’t need a college education to get a job – you need to further your education to have a career. If a company hires you for a job, and they determine that you are a great fit for their organization – then perhaps their benefits package should include career advancement or more money (based on your grades/performance). If during early schooling you have been a straight “A” student and interested in one of the sciences – you should not be limited by whether your last name is Rockefeller or Bezos (or whether or not you are currently incarcerated – *** Let’s not go there)). Perhaps college-bound people should have a gap year before their freshman year to actually work (either in the field of their selected major — or at least some job where they’re indoctrinated into the real world of “working for a living” without Mommy & Daddy picking up the tab on their housing, phone, wardrobe, etc.). Too many students jump from grade school, to high school, then on to college — in the end still have no idea of “what they want to be when they grow up”.

        I should also point out that I’ve had teachers who made a career of teaching – and I’ve had teachers that have a job – teaching. There’s a difference – and its reflected in their students. The standardized testing is a joke – and its been shown that often teacher’s teach “the test” and don’t try to spark their students interest any deeper into a topic than what is required on said test — the schools funding depends on the outcome of the test. This doesn’t necessarily qualify our student body as “better educated”.

        The more I look at it, I $u$pect that all of today’$ i$$ue$ revolve around one thing.. . . Whew! – I’d better step down… the air is thinner up here on this soapbox.

      • Statements about free college:

        Thomas Jefferson opened the first tuition free college in the country believe he believed a better educated citizenry makes for a better country with a better government

        After WWII there was the GI Bill which helped put millions of returning soldiers go to college. For every $1 spent educating them, the government made $7 in revenue.

        Utilizing the argument that government should be run like a business (It should not, because for one, businesses cannot print their own currency) But in order for those who take that stand to understand… Should a company invest in itself to increase revenue? Yes? Then why shouldn’t a government invest in its people to increase revenue?

        The selfish individual: Why should these kids get free college when I had to pay for mine? There’s several replies to this. Depending how old they are, they probably got a huge portion of their tuition paid for from the government. It used to be an 80/20 split of government contributions with the smaller portion being paid for by the student. This is why some people could go to college and pay their portion with a part time job. Another answer was when the GI bill was in effect, nobody objected because people knew it was good for the country. Are they against it because they want a bad country? Claiming it’s unfair because you didn’t get the same opportunity means you don’t want a better country for the future. Which says a lot about you.

      • If a higher minimum wage was bad for the economy, conservatives would be able to point to a direct time to prove their point. The fact is, when people get paid more, they spend more. More of that money goes to local businesses, who incur a larger influx of business and then hire more people to fill that need. Those people have more money and they spend that money and the cycle continues.

        Not to mention a higher living wage reduces the numbers in welfare recipients.

  3. Healthcare …the government cannot run an effective and efficient program. You only need to look at Amtrack, Post Office and VA as just a few examples. Healthcare for everyone are those programs x 1000. It would be a disaster, healthcare would be rationed and quality would drop.

    I wish it wasn’t so myself, but one trip to the DMV and you have to know that government is incompetent.

    • Healthcare-The for profit system we have now is a disaster. Millions cannot afford insurance. Between me and my employer tens of thousands of dollars are paid in premiums. My insurance company tells my doctor what medicine I can take. Even with insurance one serious hospital stay and I will still go into bankruptcy. So how is this better?

      • Very true that insurance is outrageously expensive… but just try seeing what the bills are like when you go to the emergency room without insurance….

        try to get an real estimate of what a process is going to actually cost before treatment; it’s nearly impossible and even if you do I can almost guarantee that there will be plenty of ‘surprise bills’ arriving from some “out of network” joe shmoe that walked past the operating room on the same day you had your treatment and tacked ‘something’ onto the bill that no-one mentioned up front.

        The entire healthcare billing process is corrupt and putting government in charge isn’t likely to ‘fix’ that problem.

      • Mike…the DMV has been a well known issue for decades, and yet the government has been unwilling/unable to fix it. Now, if there was competition and whoever provided the best service made the most money, this wouldn’t even be an issue. This probably isn’t something for private businesses, but just making a point on the incompetence of government.

        And this is small potatoes compared to healthcare. Can you imagine how much government would have to GROW if they completely took over healthcare? How could anyone think that would be a good thing?

        • zrider. That system is already in place. It’s called Medicare. Private insurance costs more than Medicare. Administrative costs of Medicare are about 2% of operating expenditures. Admin costs of private insurance are about 17% of operating revenue not including the private plans’ marketing costs and profits.So-called “competition” in the private health care market has driven costs up. Medicare is publicly accountable, private insurance is not. Is Medicare perfect? Of course not. We know this because one of my state’s Senators, Rick Scott, oversaw the largest rip off of Medicare in history. He repaid the government 1.7 Billion dollars as retribution. (Why the state elected him as a Senator is left to another Firesmith column.)

        • Why do you think the government would have to grow? Universal Healthcare eliminates the need for entire layers of the “medical industry” — no more need to do billing for insurance, or payments for insurance premiums, or people to approve (or more likely DENY) your claim. All that’s needed is a department to negotiate drug costs for the WHOLE COUNTRY (which automatically drives the drug cost way, way down.) And possibly a department to ensure that there is a standard fee for all operations and services (unlike now, where rates can vary excessively by location.) All that’s needed are the actual medical care givers and the people needed to run the individual hospitals and offices.

    • Every visit I’ve made to the California DMV has been efficient and pleasant. Busy, sure, but it was smooth and I get what I need the first time with little hassle.

      The Post Office is also reasonably efficient. Maybe understaffed at the local office, but would you rather they pay employees to stand around doing nothing when there are no customers in line? Most packages I track arrive on time. Some are delayed, but not severely, and probably not worse than what airlines do with our luggage.

      Healthcare is already rationed, but by the private industry rather than the government. Having the government run it as a single entity can only make things more efficient. I shouldn’t have to lose or change coverage every time I change jobs (which isn’t always under my control thanks to corporate layoffs), and the transition process is anything but smooth.

      But sure, private industries are always better. No one provides good customer service like Comcast and AT&T, and if you don’t like your power company or high-speed internet provider, you can always change to the competition (if there is one, and in many cases, there is not).

      Just about every bad thing you can say about government-run services can also be said about privatization. The difference is accountability. I’d rather be able to affect change through elections and public influence than by status as a majority shareholder, because the only thing driving business decisions is money, and that benefits only other people with money. Increasingly, that’s fewer of us.

      • “Just about every bad thing you can say about government-run services can also be said about privatization. The difference is accountability. I’d rather be able to affect change through elections and public influence than by status as a majority shareholder, because the only thing driving business decisions is money, and that benefits only other people with money. Increasingly, that’s fewer of us.”

        Well stated. There is a trope that says that the market will always weed out the bad companies if we privatize. Like “trickle down economics,” it’s a mirage.

        Does anyone really believe, in this day and age, that this would happen? I imagine it would happen sometimes, when the product or service was widely available, but for products and services that wouldn’t have as many suppliers, it would be a nightmare. Add social media shaming that goes off the rails and angry business owners who want to discriminate like they could before 1964, and things would not be pretty.

        Government is often hella inefficient, but it’s also darn efficient in many ways.

    • So, of ALL the world, you’re saying that the only country that cannot manage to provide universal healthcare is the USA? Are you honestly saying that “the best country in the world” is less competent than, say the Scandinavian countries? Or Australia? Or pretty much any 1st world country?

      Yes, some things are run poorly — that’s true of private as well as public enterprise. But the post office manages to take your envelope right from your house and get it thousands of miles within a few days for a fraction of a dollar. That’s pretty damn efficient and better than you could do it yourself, or privately. As for the VA, many VA hospitals work very well — and the VA as a whole worked a lot better as a whole before a slew of military bases that used to provide care were closed down (I think Reagan got that ball rolling.) And, actually, many DMVs are pretty efficient as well. Did you ever consider that maybe it’s the PEOPLE where you live who aren’t very good workers?

      • “Are you honestly saying that “the best country in the world” is less competent than, say the Scandinavian countries? Or Australia? Or pretty much any 1st world country?”

        Absolutely. Why? Because Big Pharma, and insurance companies now own politicians.

        Let’s not forget the AMA who makes sure that there are a limited amount of people allowed to become doctors. Maintain a low supply of doctors and maintain higher incomes for them.

    • The majority of people who use the VA are quite happy. If the post office is so bad name one other business that provides a service that can send a letter from New York to some very small rural area in the Midwest for .55 cents? Amtrack’s problem is that they run on privatized tracks and privatization means they do as little as possible to maintain their infrastructure. Which means present conditions of tracks work well for slow moving freight trains but greatly impede Amtack trains that can travel 150 mph, but can only move a little more than half of that because the companies don’t wish to spend the money to improve the track to handle faster trains.

      And understand one thing about a government handling your healthcare–it’s a single payer system that allows you use whatever doctor you wish. There is no need to worry who is in your plan, because everybody is. It has lower overhead which keeps costs down, has a much larger pool which keeps costs down, would have better bargaining power for medical costs and prescriptions which keep costs down and doesn’t have a CEO making a billion dollars a year to skim off you and then deny you actual healthcare because that CEO needs a new boat.

      Then there are those who believe the lies that healthcare would be rationed. Well, there are millions of people who have private insurance who are having their medical care rationed because the insurance either won’t cover it, or the individual’s part that they must pay is unaffordable. Countries with single payer systems have much better outcomes than those in the US, so the idea that quality would suffer is false.

  4. The USPS is an amazing organization, drop an envelope in the box and done. Do you worry if it will get there or not? No, it’s a done deal. Lets see anyone else read the handwriting of all you monkeys. Plus they make millions in profits every year, most of which go into government mandated pension funds, but a profit nonetheless.

    Health care is such a racket, so lucrative, they have the power to buy and sell congress critters. Most doctors make good money as well they should considering the years/work it takes to become one. But they don’t get the lion’s share, that goes to the Insurance companies, medical equipment manufactures, and private hospital executives. True, some of that trickles down to politicians but not for our benefit. For the same amount of money or less, everyone could have the care they need.

    Free tuition? Why? All these kids going to college just because they and their parents have been sold on the idea it’s the thing to do. Tens of thousands of dollars to spend four years in college so you can sell used cars, drive a bulldozer, input information to a computer? C’mon, it’s a scam. Sure, if you want to become a research chemist, nuclear physicist, doctor, or teacher, you need more training, but the majority of college students aren’t. They just take what’s outlined for bachelor of arts and graduate with no skills. They still need on the job training for any real job. What we need is to reopen trade high schools that trained people to do something useful.

    Minimum wage is a tough one. The stance that people will get less hours I can’t buy. If a business could get by with less person/hours they already would. As long as the employees are below the maximum hours to be part time, it makes no sense to have more employees and the book keeping that causes, to cover the same hours. There are damn few employees out there who have a job because of the largesse of the boss.

  5. Chris..with government run healthcare you will still pay thousands , only it will be in the form of taxes instead of premiums. Bureaucrats will decide which medicines you get to take.

    In order to lessen payouts, the government will place high taxes and/or ban everything they think is detrimental to societies overall health. Hello nanny state.

    The system we have is far from perfect, but profit breeds innovation and life saving/changing medicines. Many hospitals and clinics are considered non profit (Mayo Clinic for example) but they make money, only it’s put back into care and research rather than paid to shareholders. If this excess cash flows to the government, most of it will disappear down the D.C. black hole.

    Politicians are only interested in more power and control, not good healthcare.

    • Medicare for all would be cheaper. We are the only developed country with this idiotic system. Do you see any other countries wanting to switch to our system? A different system does not mean the government would take on every single aspect of healthcare just like Medicare doesn’t now. Sick people should not be held hostage by corporations. It is immoral.

      • You do realize Medicare doesn’t pay for everything, and most people have insurance to cover what Medicare doesn’t pay? Also, Medicare short changes doctors and clinics, and for that reason some won’t even accept Medicare patients.

        Nothing the government runs costs less. The only reason healthcare costs so much in this country to begin with is because of government involvement, which dates back to the 60’s and is a whole topic of itself.

        Medications are expensive, and I am on a very costly one myself. My insurance covers most of the cost, and the drug company covers the deductible. If you cannot afford the medication, you could probably get it free. If there was no profit available, this drug probably would never have been developed to begin with.

        • Medicare doesn’t pay for everything because it was designed that way in order to assure enough votes for passage. The argument being that people needed “skin in the game” in order to prevent abuse of the system. Plus it still allowed private insurers to make money off the government.

          Medicare For All would eliminate the need for private insurers (which you could still have if you want premiums like penthouse quality rooms,etc.) plus it include vision, dental and mental health. Walk into a medical office, get taken care of and walk out…and don’t worry about going bankrupt having to pay a single medical bill.

          Medications are expensive predominantly here in the states because a certain political party made a law that doesn’t allow negotiating or an ability to get drugs from outside our borders.

    • With privately-run healthcare you will still pay thousands, only it will be in the form of premiums instead of taxes. Bureaucrats will decide which medicines you get to take.

      In order to lessen payouts, the private insurance will place high premiums and/or decline services they think is detrimental to their making money. Goodbye public health.

      Private insurance is only interested in more power and control, not good healthcare.

    • Add up your premiums, co-pays, out-of-pocket costs, prescriptions, and any and all care that insurance refused to cover. Do you really think your taxes would increase a lot more than that? Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have high medical costs, the thing is, you MIGHT. You very well might find out tomorrow that you or a family member has cancer. Or they have ALS and, though it won’t kill them for a while, the annual costs will skyrocket into 6 figures before a few months are up. Say a family member has a special needs baby. You can’t even COUNT the millions that child will cost in medical care. I’d rather have steady taxes that I can count on and budget for rather than our current system of knowing I have a Damocles sword above my head that could send me into bankruptcy and put me on the street.

    • Profit doesn’t breed innovation when it comes to medications. All it does is companies reinventing an existing product. All they do is change one molecule and claim it does wonders. The majority of medicines are a result of money given by the government to pay for the research and much of that is done at universities, not by the companies.

      Other countries with similar single payer systems are constantly creating cures. As it is now, medicine isn’t so much designed for cures, but rather to treat the symptoms. Cures aren’t profitable.

      You got one thing partially right tho. More specifically and correctly: Conservative politicians are only interested in more power and control, not good healthcare.

  6. If you think a $15 minimum wage would lead to shorter hours then look no further than the top management for the cause. Google wealth inequality or wealth distribution to find out what has happened to folks making a living wage. It is all going to enrich the top 2%. It is shameful! If everyone participated in a poverty simulation as I have you would have your eyes opened to what has been done to the poor in this country. Poverty is a trap and it is rigged to keep people there. Telling those who have to work 3 jobs to get by to just go out and find a better job is showing your ignorance of the effects of poverty. The USA has become the classical “company store”.

    • the rising minimum wage isn’t the main cause of companies decreasing hours – that is largely due to government mandates that employees that work more than xx hours in a week must get certain benefits (such as healthcare coverage). – once that became the law a large number of hourly workers had their hours cut to keep them below the 35 hour threshold.

  7. Hmm…I believe that power lines, gas pipelines, and telecom are all privately owned. I also believe that they get fixed after a natural disaster.

  8. Mike
    Get real!! Who the hell can live on $15 an hour!!?? That is slave labor. $50 minimum needed to live basic life. What about housing and a car? Are these not basic life requirements, not to mention FOOD.
    And thank you for paying for my college degree in gender studies. I will need all your handouts!!

    Give me what I deserve NOW!!

    • I know you think you’re being clever (you’re not) but you’re right about one thing, realistically, $15 an hour is ridiculous and it would be higher if the rate kept up with productivity. Want contrast? Look how absurdly high and fast the pay for CEOs has skyrocketed over the past couple of decades. Don’t tell me CEOs have gotten – 940% more effective since 1978.

      As to your sour grapes delusions about college — that hints to me that you never had any sort of education past high school — if you even graduated. For the record, college is not a training school and it’s not a trade school, in many cases what it does is teaches you how to research and how to learn — and that’s a skill too many (not all) people who put the idea of learning behind them at 18 don’t have. And those Liberal Arts degrees you deride are actually very appealing to employers for that very reason.

  9. We are the only country in the so-called developed world with this type of health care system. It’s corrupt and it’s immoral. No one, I repeat, no one should be denied healthcare. I don’t care what your situation is. It is a travesty that people are literally going bankrupt trying to pay medical bills, it’s even worse they are dying because they cannot afford their medications. We have the most expensive medications in the world. Pathetic. Fat cat politicians are bought and paid for so that all of this is possible. There is no reason a government run health care system would not work. We just have to have some politicians who are NOT corrupt.

  10. Nothing will improve with healthcare until we get employers out of it entirely.

    They are not involved in my auto insurance… or homeowners… or private property insurance, or life insurance… and all of those operate wonderfully! I don’t need to change any of them when my job changes, and since I am the customer they work directly with me to get the coverage I need at a price I can afford. Usually almost instantly.

    However… when it comes to MY BODY, the single most valuable asset I have, I am no longer the customer and have almost no control over what company I am with, much less what coverage do I need.

    The free market works wonders when allowed.

    Freedom… How can I say I am free when I have so little control over my own body?

    • And all corporate insurance companies will have total control over your body–employer based or not, because profit is a thousand times more important than your health. The free market neither makes you free and most certainly is the worst way to handle health care when it comes to paying. When the CEO wants a new yacht, guess what, your necessary surgery imposes on his ability to get the money needed for that item. Insurance companies can ONLY make money by denying healthcare.

      The best way to get the most control of your own body is a single payer system where profit is not part of the equation. Period. Full stop.

      • correction: A health insurance company’s business model is predisposed to denying healthcare in order to increase profits.

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