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The Wisdom Of Craigslist, Health Care Edition…

February 1st, 2010 · 12 Comments
Just For Fun · Policy

Oh, Craigslist. It used to be the case that people only used you when they were looking to unload their nasty old couches (don’t ever buy anything upholstered used, in my opinion) or wanted to find a cheap room in a (likely run-down) apartment without paying a broker fee. Then people started using the personals section…and don’t even get me started on casual encounters. A few weeks ago, Conan O’Brien got on board and saw the potential that Craigslist had as an online marketplace, and he decided to list The Tonight Show in the “for sale” section. He wasn’t even deterred by the lack of offers on that property and later decided to sell himself there too as a casual encounter. Dear Craig Newmark: You know you’ve made it when… =P

While perusing Craigslist as of late (I may or may not have been checking to see if I was mentioned in a missed connection), I noticed that there is now a “rants and raves” section under the personals heading. Oh, this is going to end well for sure. My favorite so far is WHY you keep getting screwed– MR. (Tea Party Patriot), both for its tone and (most of) its message. I think I’m with him up until about point 12 (I think it’s the author’s use of the word “only” that gives me pause):

Hey you. You there in the Glenn Beck T-shirt headed off to the Tea Party Patriot rally.

Stop shouting for a moment, please, I want to explain to you why you’re so very angry.

You should be angry. You’re getting screwed.

I think you know that. But you don’t seem to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop it. You can stop it easily because the system that’s screwing you over can only keep screwing you over if you keep demanding that it do so.

So stop demanding that. Stop helping the system screw you over.

Look, you can go back to yelling at me in a minute, but just read this first.

1. Get out your pay stub.

Or, if you have direct deposit — you really should get direct deposit, it saves a lot of time and money (I point this out because, honestly, I’m trying to help you here, even though you don’t make that easy Mr. Angry Screamy Guy) — then take out that little paper receipt they give you when your pay gets directly deposited.

2. Notice that your net pay is lower than your gross pay. This is because some of your wages are withheld every pay period.

3. Notice that only some of this money that was withheld went to pay taxes. (I know, I know — yeearrrgh! me hates taxes! — but just try to stick with me for just a second here.)

4. Notice that some of the money that was withheld didn’t go to taxes, but to your health insurance company.

5. Now go get a pay stub from last year around this time, from January of 2009.

6. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld for taxes in your current paycheck is less than the amount that was withheld a year ago.

That’s because of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, which included more than $200 billion in tax cuts, including the one you’re holding right there in your hand, the tax cut that’s now staring you in the face. Republicans all voted against that tax cut. And then they told you to get angry about the stimulus plan. They didn’t explain, however, why you were supposed to get angry about getting a tax cut. Why would you be? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get angry at the people who voted against that Obama tax cut?

But taxes aren’t the really important thing here. The really important thing starts with the next point.

7. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is more than it was last year.

8. Notice that the amount of your pay withheld to pay for your health insurance is a lot more than it was last year.

I won’t ask you to dig up old paychecks from 2008 and 2007, but this has been going on for a long time. Every year, the amount of your paycheck withheld to pay for your health insurance goes up. A lot.

9. Notice the one figure there on your two pay stubs that hasn’t changed: Your wage. The raise you didn’t get this year went to pay for that big increase in the cost of your health insurance.

10. Here’s where I need you to start doing a better job of putting two and two together. If you didn’t get a raise last year because the cost of your health insurance went up by a lot, and the cost of your health insurance is going to go up by a lot again this year, what do you think that means for any chance you might have of getting a raise this year?

11. Did you figure it out? That’s right. The increasing cost of health insurance means you won’t get a raise this year. Or next year. Or the year after that. The increasing cost of health insurance means you will never get a raise again.

That’s what I meant when I said you really should be angry. That’s what I meant when I said you’re getting screwed.

OK, we’re almost done. Just a few more points, I promise.

12. The only hope you have of ever seeing another pay raise is if Congress passes health care reform. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will swallow this year’s raise. And next year’s raise. And pretty soon it won’t stop with just your raise. Without health care reform, the increasing cost of your health insurance will start making your pay go down.

13. I wish I could tell you that this was just a worst-case scenario, that this was only something that might, maybe happen, but that wouldn’t be true. Without health care reform, this is what will happen. We know this because this is what is happening now. It has been happening for the past 10 years. In 2008, employers spent on average 25 percent more per employee than they did in 2001, but wages on average did not increase during those years. The price of milk went up. The price of gas went up. But wages did not. All of the money that would have gone to higher wages went to pay the higher and higher and higher cost of health insurance. And unless Congress passes health care reform, that will not change.

Well, it will change in the sense that it will keep getting worse, but it won’t get better. Unless the problem gets fixed, the problem won’t be fixed. That’s kind of what “problem” and “fixed” mean.

14. Sadly for any chance you have of ever seeing a raise again, it looks like Congress may not pass health care reform. It looks like they won’t do that because they’re scared of angry voters who are demanding that they oppose health care reform, angry voters who demand that Congress not do anything that would keep the cost of health insurance from going up and up and up. Angry voters like you.

15. Do you see the point here? You are angrily, loudly demanding that Congress make sure that you never, ever get another pay raise as long as you live. Because of you and because of your angry demands, you and your family and your kids are going to have to get by with less this year than last year. And next year you’re going to have to get by with even less. And if you keep angrily demanding that no one must ever fix this problem, then you’re going to have to figure out how to get by on less and less every year for the rest of your life.

16. So please, for your own sake, for your family’s sake and the sake of your children, stop. Stop demanding that problems not get fixed. Stop demanding that you keep getting screwed. Stay angry — you should be angry — but start directing that anger toward the system that’s screwing you over and taking money out of your pocket. Start directing that anger toward fixing problems instead of toward making sure they never get fixed. Instead of demanding that Congress oppose health care reform so that you never, ever, get another pay raise, start demanding that they pass health care reform, as soon as possible. Because until they do, you’re just going to keep on getting screwed.

And it’s going to be that much worse knowing that you brought this on yourself — that you demanded it.

Thanks for your time.

P.S. — I didn’t mention this because I’m trying here to be as patient with you as I can, but you might also want to keep in mind that in addition to screwing over yourself and screwing over your family and screwing over your own children by demanding that Congress oppose health care reform so that you will never, ever see another pay raise, by doing that you’re also demanding that I never, ever see another pay raise, which means that you’re also screwing over me, and my family, and my children. Not to mention the millions of poor and uninsured and uninsureable people I didn’t even mention above because they don’t seem to matter at all to you. And for that, let me just say the only appropriate thing that can be said to someone so determined to do direct, tangible harm to the welfare of my family: Fuck you, you fucking moron.

Well then. I won’t even try to comment on whether having more government in our health care (!) would make the system more efficient or not, but I will point out that having a public option would most likely make the tea partiers’ out-of-pocket costs go down, you know, with progressive taxation being what it is and all. (Has anyone ever wondered why we don’t see people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett at these things? I mean, they’re the ones who are going to end up paying for a lot of whatever the government puts in place.) Now, I am, to a degree, making an assumption about the size of the tea partiers’ bank accounts…which may not, in retrospect, be warranted, given that tickets to the inaugural Tea Party convention are going for a whopping $549.

If I were to add my own message, it would go something like this. Dear Tea Partiers: While I do respect your right to be angry, I would like to ask two things of you. First, please don’t decide whether to be angry before looking into the facts of the situation. It may surprise you to learn that – gasp – what various pundits are telling you may not be the complete and objective truth. Second, please choose your battles appropriately- it’s very confusing for the rest of us when you are angry about both the problem and the proposed solutions. You’re kind of acting like a bad boyfriend/girlfriend in that way- if people think that you just can’t be pleased no matter what, they’re going to stop trying. xoxo, econgirl

Tags: Just For Fun · Policy

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Josh // Feb 1, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I believe the author of that is Fred Clark at Slacktivist:

  • 2 Rev. Pfloyd // Feb 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Now, I can’t speak for teabaggers (interestingly, my econ professor and I did go to a Tea Party, largely out of curiosity. I think he was more impressed with it than I was) but I think a lot of people on that same side of the fence are not against reducing healthcare costs, just that government intervention is an oft-pointed-to reason why healthcare costs have skyrocketed over the last 30 years and that the remedy–more government intervention–sounds counter-logical.

    I don’t think anyone (teabaggers included) are proposing that the system is fine just the way it is, just that the aspects that are not market-related are causing the distortion.

    Obviously it’s way more complicated than that simple statement and a lot of it is arguable but a lot of the “counter-pundits” would do well to take their own advice concerning facts and deeper issues. And everyone should be a lot more civil about it.

  • 3 Ryan Oneglia // Feb 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    I think the author misses the idea that the healthcare debate is just as much about freedom and choice as it is about money. Polls show that over 50% of Americans oppose the health bill before Congress. I think it’s shortsighted to say that they are all angry people that listen to Glenn Beck.

  • 4 Burge // Feb 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    First off, @ rev- don’t call us tea baggers- its annoying, not original, and pisses me off personally because a lot of very pretentious liberal critics have used that term to make the tea party seem like a few angry people. In reality, it challenges to reform the republican party, to return the party to the fiscal conservative roots vs many of the social conservatives which have dominated the party (ie-GWB).

    Here’s my say- most everyone, including the tea party people, are for health care reform. We were all in favor of the bipartisian reform which would be televised on CSPAN. Clearly that’s not happening, but the most obvious cost cutting measure- open health coverage across state lines (thus increasing supply), is off the bill. Another major reform, allowing any group of people (like how a group of people can get a family plan on a cell phone) to go into a high-risk pool for costly insurance, is not in the bill.

    In addition other cost effective measures- like tort reform, are not in the bill. The pork and political favors added into the bill outrageous. The selling of the vote in exchange for federal funding is unethical and despicable.

    Most agree reform is needed. Most don’t agree that the current bill is the right way. There are other bills out there and public feels they are not being heard. After looking at the deficit created by stimulus, and seeing most of the money didn’t go to “shovel ready jobs” but to fill gaps in state budgets (i’m from illinois, it would be in the best interest of the state to cut them off spending much like you stop a teenager from spending out of control by taking away mommy’s credit card). The bill, which costs 787 billion, was shoved through behind closed doors.

    The most unsettling item is now we have 8% of our yearly budget going to pay off interest. That 8% is at a historically very low finance rate. I could go into how we could face massive inflation in the future, or how people my age will be paying for it (generation theft) but alas, i’m getting off topic here. All i’m saying is the Tea Partiers represent a group of mostly fiscal conservatives who are not happy with the way things are going, and want to change it.

    And EconGirl- you of all people should agree that just because two people agree on a problem doesn’t mean that they’ll agree on a solution. The tea party message is simple- stop government spending, stop pork legistlation, basically just supply side economics all around. Of course the tea partyers have the right to criticize the current senate and house bills- after all, this is america!

  • 5 Tim Cullen // Feb 2, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    You’re with the author until point 12 Econ Girl? Politics aside, the author is clearly incorrect when he claims that the worker isn’t getting a raise because a larger portion of his pay check is withheld to pay for his health care. His compensation has most certainly been increased if health costs have risen and he has the same take home pay and health care after the cost increase.

    I also think that this line of argument is very simplistic and condescending, arguing that if only the tea party people were smart enough they would vote their economic interest as this fellow above defines it; making the same mistake that many on the right make by narrowly defining self interest as money. Could it be as one of the above posters suggests that such folks possibly value individual freedom and self reliance more than a pay increase? Could it be that funding such programs on the backs of the rich and future generations might be morally unacceptable to them? It’s easy to say that something like progressive taxation and government control is in the tea party people’s best interest if one assumes away the potential impact of higher taxes and price controls on innovation, at the very least there is an efficiency trade off if we are going to engage in some kind of Rawlsian maximize the minimum standard of living line of thought. The author doesn’t address that, because it would weaken his ability to lecture the plebes about their real self interest. Was the Obama tax cut paid for anymore than the Bush ones were? If not the criticism of heaping obligations on one’s children still applies.

    I agree that many tea party people are less than well educated and informed, and they often contradict themselves with things like their overwhelming support for Medicare; but if they do as you wisely suggest Econ Girl to get more informed then they might just realize that Medicare as structured isn’t a good idea as it effectively sets prices and practices, is government run, and is funded in large part on the backs of current workers due to the way the programs is structured where each generation funds the old age of the one before it.

    Finally, I think the idea that the tea party or the right in general are angry at all solutions is a media artifice based upon defining left of center solutions as the only solutions. I wish the tea party folks read a little more Hayek and Milton Friedman and watched a little less Glen Beck; but I don’t find them any less informed than many average left wingers, while I also feel the need to point out that just because a left winger has college degree in something doesn’t’ make them an expert on everything entitling some humanities major to talk down a tea party person as being uninformed even though neither of them have studied economics and their argument basically amounts to the better educated lefty pointing out a program’s first order effect to the tea partier who relies upon gut feelings, “common sense”, and Glen Beck’s misinterpretations of intelligent conservatism and classical liberalism’s analysis that points out a program’s unintended consequences.

  • 6 Adam // Feb 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    The fact that our taxes decreased is a result of Bush administration policies. Obama tax policies will not go into effect until 2010 (now), but we wont see the results on our W-2s until Jan of 2011.

  • 7 - user-generated content about the economy » Blog Archive » Found on Craigslist: Pro-health care-bill rant // Feb 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    […] this here Craigslist post, reproduced on Economists Do It With Models, is a pretty good rant, at least in terms of rhetoric, and worth a […]

  • 8 holmegm // Feb 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Yeah, that’s it. Snarky condescension will turn this around for you. If only we understood how *smart* you are, and how dumb we are …

    After all, your opponents must be mired in ignorance, and just need education. That must be why the strategy has always been to ram it through as fast as possible, before anybody can learn details. Because you just want to educate us.

    And yet somehow, the more we learn, the more support falls. Hmm.

    Maybe there’s something to snarky condescension after all 😉 It’s fun, anyway …

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