The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How us nerds can be a trillion times more helpful than Senator John Thune. Or, "I think I might know what that lady's question was."

Ok, friends, let's watch this.
It's about 2 minutes long.
Maybe watch it twice?
I'll wait...

Now, I don't know about you, but I didn't really find John's explanation there very helpful.

By the way, does anybody know who that woman was who tried to interrupt John? He seemed kind of annoyed with her, didn't he? I wonder if he'd act like that in a town hall meeting.

But I digress. Sorry.

Anyway, those were some pretty nice pictures. I wonder who made them for him and how much they cost. Do the Senators all have their own art departments or do they farm that stuff out? Or did John make those charts himself on his Mac?

You know the everyday Joe the Plumber or John the Senator can do some pretty nifty stuff these days with photoshop — piles of $100 bills going up into outer space — rings of them around the earth like telecommunications satellites.

(Well, not really. That would take a lot more dollars than John shows, actually, because, you see... to achieve geosynchronous orbit, you have to... )

Dang. There I go again, another digression. Sorry., even after watching that video clip maybe five or six times now, I STILL don't get what John's talking about when he says a "trillion." Do you dear reader? Be honest.

Ok, there's a few reasons for that. It seems the US and the British don't even agree on what a trillion is. So small wonder guys like John and Joe get confused. Especially when they're also talking about other stuff that's hard to understand, like the global economy and the stimulus package, and the stock market, and the recession, etc, etc. Hey, those were confusing times, so let's maybe give John and his gang a little break, ok?

Alright, so here's where we nerds can help. First, in the context of health care in the good old USA, let's agree we are talking about a "trillion dollars" being a dollar sign 1 with 12 zeros behind it, like this: $1,000,000,000,000. Now, how far does that trillion dollars go?

Don't worry, I'm not going to start wall-papering the moon with it or anything like that. We'll leave that for Jumpshot Johnny and his art department of space cadets.

Let's start instead with the population of the United States of America. The current population of the US is around 305 million people. That's 305,000,000. (For you non-math types, a "million" is a 1 with 6 zeroes behind it, and a billion is a 1 with 9 zeroes behind it... in the US anyway... which is what were focusing on here... US Health Care.)

Now, according to Sam Hurst, Congress funds the VA at roughly $7,200 per patient, per year, Medicare somewhat little lower at $5,500 and the IHS at a mere $1,500 per patient per year. So bear with me here, because I'm going to stray off these numbers for a minute and talk about "protection."

"Protection" is another word for "insurance" isn't it?

And aren't all US Citizens entitled to "equal protection under the law?"

So, if we're going to have all Americans protected equally, Congress should fund EVERYONE's protection adequately and equally wouldn't you say? At least in principle? At least for budgeting purposes? Let's just agree on that for now, so we can get back to the math ok? (I know... oh, goody, goody, huh?)

Ok, where did we leave off? Oh yes, $7,200 per person, the highest per patient, per year funding rate. Let's work with that and see what we come up with. The math problem is pretty straight forward, at least for the first year: 305 million times $7,200 per person equals $2,196,000,000,000. Now, looking back up at our numbers definitions we see that another way to write that number would be "two trillion, one hundred and ninety six billion dollars."

There, now wasn't that easy? No piles of money into outer space, no rings of greenbacks around the green planet, just a clear cut, comprehensible number on real human terms.

So, why didn't John Thune say it that way in the first place?

I don't know. Maybe that's what that lady in the video was trying to ask him.

Anyway, I hear he might be having a town hall meeting here in SD somewhere between congressional sessions. Maybe some of us should get out our our tea bags, and our knickerbockers, and our tri-corner hats and go ask him ourselves, huh? Maybe even take some posters with pictures of JT on them looking like Einstein or Stephen Hawking or something?

Naw. I think we've got plenty to discuss right here on the Forum, don't you?

Like how in the heck are we going to come up with $2.2 trillion, for one thing.

Well, for starters, check this out:

Now, that "$2,979 B" number?

That's basically another way of writing "three trillion dollars" (minus a few bucks.)

All the other numbers are in billions. (That's American billions, not English billions.)


Neal said...

If you're going to read just one thing about the healthcare situation, make it this:

It's long, but I promise, it's worth it.

Neal said...

Also, Bill, isn't there a way to hyperlink those urls?

Bill Fleming said...

Neal, do you mean your url? If so, the answer is, "yes, but it's not automatic. you have to type in the code."

That's one of the reasons I think we might like to migrate to WordPress.

I'm also unable to add to your comment or edit it as far as I can tell and so, can't really fix your link within your post. This could be simply because I don't know how.

But I'll make your link hot here:

How's that?

Neal said...

Thanks, Bill. I know that I'm about 100 times more likely to check out a link if I can just click on it rather than copy/paste it. And unfortunately I don't know how to do the code myself.

Bill Fleming said...

Well if you want to know, Neal, click on this sentence.

Bill Fleming said...

By the way, Neal, Thanks back! The Atlantic article is really good. I'm going to elevate it to it's own topic. Stay tuned.