Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Ted Kennedy Health Care Bill?

h/t Ace

Apparently at least one prominent Democrat wants to name the Health Care legislation after the late and unlamented (at least around here) Senator Kennedy.

If you ask me, they couldn't pick a more appropriate name to drive this bill home.

(pic h/t Ghengis @ AoS).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Death Panels, Oh My!

As much as I'm not convinced that Sarah Palin is made of Presidential timber, she did drop an extraordinarily adroit turn of phrase when she predicted that government-run health care would result in the creation of "death panels" that decide and control which people with expensive-to-treat medical conditions will be treated and which ones will not. It doesn't particularly matter whether or not it's specifically in the bills that are being debated; simple supply and demand dictate that such things will inevitably occur. It's short, it's snappy, and it resonates. I'm not sure it's entirely honest, though, because "death panels" exist right now in any situation where somebody else pays the way.

There are only five possible resolutions that can occur when a potentially huge medical bill looms:

1) You have private insurance and you can get your insurance to cover it.
2) You get the government to pay for it.
3) You get a charity to pay for it.
4) You or your family have sufficient financial resources to pay for it.
5) Nobody pays for it and the treatment doesn't happen.

Of the four resolutions under which the treatment occurs, the only one that offers full control is #4 - if you pay for it yourself. Unless you shell out the cash, you have to deal with some sort of "death panel." With private insurance, you usually have some control over which "death panel" you'll have to deal with. With the government, you'll have no control. With charity, you'll have no control. If it's really important to you that you or your family don't ever have to fight for the medical dollars to save a life, then what you really need to do is make the decisions that take you to a place where you have the financial wherewithal to control your own destiny.

The Democratic intention to move the entirety of health care under the iron umbrella of government mandates will eliminate your ability to even create a situation where you have empowerment. Ben Franklin's aphorism that those who will trade liberty for safety deserve neither could not possibly apply more than it does here. True freedom and true safety are the results of being able to rely on yourself and your family. Under any other circumstances, you'll probably find yourself staring down the barrel of a "death panel." It's bad enough dealing with them now; if the government is the only choice in town it will be much worse.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Education - Where does all the money go?

I've spent part of the summer watching our idiot legislature in California fail to balance the budget for the nth time, and I always wonder - with all of the resources they have, how on Earth can they fail at such a relatively simple task? I decided to tackle the largest state expenditure: K-12 education (just under 30% of the state budget). We spend a ton of money on this, and the results are abysmal.

Now, since I'm looking to solve problems rather than perpetuate the existing state of epic failure, I'm going to use a zero-based budget. Starting from scratch. We'll start off with the basic facts:

In 2007-8 (the last years I could find data for), there were 6,275,469 students enrolled in K-12 education in California. There were 295,222.7 "Full-Time Equivalent Teachers" teaching them, for an average of about 21.5 students per teacher. Since I like nice, round numbers and small class sizes I'm going to go for 20 students per teacher, which will give us 313,773 Full-Time Equivalent Teachers (hereinafter referred to as Teachers). I only want the best teachers, so we'll compensate them at $75,000 per year each - this works out to $60,000 in salary, $9,000 in health benefits, and $6,000 in retirement / pension contributions. All very generous numbers, which will hopefully keep the teachers on my side through the rest of this. We're also going to assume each student has 7 classes per year (yes, I know there are single semester classes; I'm assuming it all evens out), which works out to $3,750 in teacher compensation per student per year (PSPY).

Of course, students need textbooks. Since I'm generous, I want the best textbooks for my students and I want new ones every year. Let's call it $100 per book per student, times seven classes per year - $700 PSPY.

Students need more than just textbooks: chalk, lab equipment, computers, art supplies, athletic gear, sets for the school play, etc. Let's call it another $100 per student per class- $700 PSPY or $14,000 per classroom per year (at this point the teachers are probably giggling, crying, or some combination of the two).

Let's see. We need a place for students to learn. I want really nice buildings, so I'm going to budget $4 a foot (you can get some of the nicest possible "Class A" office space at this rate in most cities), and 100 sq. ft. per student - plenty of classroom space, plus bathrooms, lockers, cafeteria, gym, etc. This works out to $400 PSPY. We'll throw in another $50 PSPY ($7,000 per classroom) for new desks and other furniture.

Kids need food. Lots of it. Let's say a Whole Foods Pizza each, plus a drink and some fruit. Nice, healthy, nutritious lunch for $10/ head times 180 school days - this works out to a whopping $1,800 PSPY.

Schools don't just run themselves. They need administrators (principals, superintendents, and whatnot), clerical and other skilled workers (secretaries, school nurses, etc.), and service personnel (janitors, kitchen staff, maintenance workers, etc.). We'll figure one administrator at $100,000 and one clerical / skilled worker at $50,000 for every 300 students, and one service person at $35,000 for every 100 students (kids are messy). This works out to $850 PSPY for "support staff."

I'm probably forgetting tons of other stuff, so figure another $500 PSPY (or an average of $35,000 per classroom) for the always-important "Miscellaneous" (keep in mind that if you rent office space at $4 / ft, building maintenance would be included).

This is far from what our reality is. This is pretty much a budget for "dream schools" - schools that should exist in a perfect world. But add it up. My schools cost $8,050 per student per year, for a total of $50,517,525,450 - and most of my costs don't assume any sort of quantity discounts. California's budget for 2009-2010 for K-12 education in dilapidated buildings with ancient equipment, obsolete textbooks, food that's unsuitable for pigs, and supplies purchased by teachers who are paid an average of $45,000 per year - after horrendous, heartless, painful cuts by the evil Governor - is $59,637,256,000. $9,503.23 per kid, 15.3% more than what perfect schools should cost.

So what I want to know is - where does all the freaking money go?