Koli_Mitra's blog

It Is a LITTLE About Individuals

Eliot Spitzer says politics is "not about individuals" -- well, maybe. But an individual's fitness to serve the public isn't irrelevant either.

I wish I could be more detached about this, and I know we usally talk about policy on this site, but occasionally, one really needs to consider whether a politician is personally worthy of the honor of public office.

Eliot Spitzer promised us he'd work hard to "clean up" the corrupt mess we have in government just as he had done with the mess in the financial industry and elsewhere (including busting up prostitution rings). There is not -- nor should there be -- any way to salvage his credibility after this violation of the public trust.

Hammers Are for Nails; We TALK to Our Friends!

Suddenly, NAFTA has again reared its notorious head as a catchall target for all our economic frustrations. [remember the “giant sucking sound”? god I’m old!] 

I am no great fan of NAFTA or trade agreements generally, but it’s important to distinguish what NAFTA does from what it doesn’t do. 

NAFTA is being speciously blamed for many of the general symptoms of globalization. NAFTA didn’t cause globalization (nor is globalization a bad thing on balance, but that’s a separate discussion). The evolution of the world's economies, transition to a market system by previously communist countries, and the opening up of markets in previously isolationist economies helped spur globalization. Innovation in technology that transformed how people work and exchange information and reach markets, labor pools, and job opportunities – all of these things helped spur globalization. The biggest emerging players in the new global economy are in Asia – they’re not part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Outsourcing of jobs to India and a trade deficit with China, for example have nothing to do with NAFTA.

the other balancing act

Most of us try to balance civil liberties and national security interests when figuring out where we stand on intelligence surveillance. But a different balancing act is required on the issue of immunity for telecom companies that cooperated with surveillance efforts.

I’m not sure where I stand. On the one hand, when we share our personal information within a contractual relationship that defines how that information is used, we should be able to expect to stay within those limits, short of a subpoena. There are federal privacy laws that protect that expectation.

On the other hand, when the government, with its authority (and its monopoly on the legal use of force) asks you (a private company) for certain information, ostensibly acting under specific legislative authority, do you really think you are free to refuse? What if the government certified to you in writing that it was acting within its legal powers?

How Much Better Does YOUR Insurance Make You Feel?

A friend of mine had physical therapy for a joint injury. During the session, even as his joint felt better, nagging stress started to tighten up the rest of him. This – his sixth session – was not covered by insurance, even though his doctor recommends three more. Yet he has what’s considered a very generous insurance policy through his employer.

His story made me think of the presidential election (because most things do)… but seriously, do you notice how often “health care” gets conflated with “health insurance” in the national debate?

The remaining viable presidential candidates seem to focus on getting insurance (well, except McCain; his “plan” is a $2500 to $5000 tax credit if you’ve spent that much on healthcare. If you don't earn enough for that to help you, then he has a great lecture for you on “personal responsibility").