Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"The Confidence Man" - Herman Melville and Replacing the Affordable Care Act, Sub-Prime Auto Loans, Lies and Misspellings

The "Confidence Man"

Most of us know that Herman Melville wrote a novel, Moby Dick, about a madman who skippered a whale-hunting boat, but was really trying to get even with a God whom he thought had treated him badly.  They’ve made movies of this story several times, with the whale playing the role of God.

A lesser known novel by Melville is “The Confidence Man” which deals with a more earthly subject.  Taking place on a Mississippi riverboat, some of the passengers are out to cheat, fleece and rob anyone they encounter.  But before any of them can pull off such a stunt, they must gain the confidence of their intended victims, who initially view them warily as complete strangers, a significant obstacle to overcome. That’s where the expressions “con man” and “con game” originate.  There are so many con games going on in Melville’s book that it is practically impossible to figure out who’s doing the conning and who is the victim.  

It is not an easy read, filled with sentences which seem to go on forever, but its message is still good today, when we continually confront what amount to “confidence” games carried out in business and in politics.  Before someone can take advantage of a victim, he must get the victim to believe in him, to have confidence in what he is saying.  In the latter portion of “The Confidence Man,” Melville has a prospective victim of a scam, or perhaps the possible perpetrator of a scam (we never know which) speak the following lines:

“What are you?  What am I? Nobody knows who anybody is.  The data which life furnishes, toward forming a true estimate of any being, are as insufficient to that end as in geometry one side given would be to determine the triangle.”    (I take Melville to mean the area of the triangle.)  

Keep the message of “The Confidence Man,” that before someone can take advantage of a victim, he must get the victim to believe in him, to have confidence in what he is saying, in mind when you read the following two postings on this blog.
Jack Lippman

Health Insurance - Ya' Gits Whut Ya' Pays Fer

Anyone who has every purchased any kind of insurance knows that the more benefits the insurance provides, the more it costs.  If your homeowners’ insurance policy covers 100% of your loss, it is going to have a higher premium than one that covers only 60% of your loss.  If your life insurance covers you until the day you die, whenever that occurs, it is going to have a higher premium than a policy which runs out in twenty years or when you are 65, or perhaps has a reduced death benefit after that age. Insurance companies employ actuaries who price policies so that the premiums are at least sufficient to pay the benefits the company anticipates paying. Sooner or later, they get their money. Not doing so would be stupid on their part because they are in business to make a profit, even the companies which participate in the Affordable Care Act.

If someone says they can get you better coverage for a reduced premium, be very, very, careful.  You get what you pay for.  Anyone, including the President of the United States, who says that the Affordable Care Act can be replaced with a plan providing better benefits at a lower cost is probably lying to you because that coverage is provided by insurance companies which are not in business to give anything away.  Just as you watch out for real estate developers offering a great price on a piece of land which they forget to tell you is underwater four months of the year, you must watch out for slippery insurance sales people, even if they call themselves Congressmen and Senators.

Of course, if a lower premium is made possible by a government subsidy to either the insured or to the insurance company (as is the case with the Affordable Care Act), or is paid to a tax-supported governmental agency which is not in business to make a profit (as would be the case if we had a “Single Payor” plan akin to Medicare), the politician might actually be telling the truth.  

That is why the Republicans are having trouble replacing the Affordable Care Act. They can’t bring themselves to accept such facts.  So they, like that real estate developer with underwater estates to sell, prefer to lie about what they are offering to the American public.  To do the job properly, it cannot involve tax reduction; in fact, it must anticipate an increase in taxes somewhere along the line.  Those are the facts. The American public should be wary of having unjustified "confidence" in G.O.P. claims. 

The Constitution Says So!

In Article 2, Section 3, of the United States Constitution, one of the duties of the President is defined as follows: “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”  All presidents take an oath to do precisely that when they swear or affirm to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  And the Constitution includes the above quoted duty.  No denying that.  No way.

Because the Affordable Care Act, until repealed, is the law of the land, the President is duty bound to see that it is faithfully executed, and not, as he has said, “be allowed to die.” That would be in violation of his oath of office.  Admittedly, prior presidents have sometimes not enforced existing laws, usually by loosely reinterpreting them, but never before has one boasted out loud about how he would violate his oath of office.  

The Republican Senate is anxious to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the deliberations in regard to health care which they have voted to continue, will still give them the opportunity to do so, with or without a replacement plan.  (No G.O.P. Senator voted against continuing deliberations because to do so would be construed by their voter base as having voted to continue the Affordable Care Act, something the G.O.P. has been opposing for seven years.) 

Conceivably, "Obamacare" might be repealed but with an expiration date several years in the future.  Until then, the G.O.P. will continue to attack it by refusing to correct its shortcomings and attacking its funding.  Meanwhile, no replacement plan with a chance of passage is on the horizon.  But the President might be happy because “repeal” to take place at some future date, even without “replacement,” would technically still remove an onerous Constitutional burden from from his presidency.  That's why he is willing to accept it either way, "repeal" alone or "repeal with an accompanying replacement."   But whatever they come up with, the American public should be wary of having unjustified "confidence" in G.O.P. claims. 

See footnote below.

Footnote:  If the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party had prevailed in 2010, Obamacare would have included a "single payer" option ... amounting to Medicare for everyone.  But that didn't happen.  The Democrats chose to pass the Affordable Care Act, using the private sector to provide health insurance.  This was the traditional Republican way. If the Democrats had gone with "single payer," the Republicans would have no problem today!  They would just vote to repeal it and replace it with the Affordable Care Act.  As it stands now, just voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act will result in lengthy debate as to what to replace it with!  They have no agreement on a replacement plan.  And it is unlikely they ever will.

Victimizing the Poor

And continuing with things which fall into the category which require someone to have "confidence" in someone who is really out to screw them, look at the sub-prime auto financing racket.  Melville would have loved these guys.

Low income people who need a car, any car, to get them to work or to a doctor, end up purchasing used vehicles.  Often they are unable to keep up with the car payments which are obscenely high because these kinds of buyers usually have horrible credit scores. The cars are then repossessed and sold to someone else with the same kind of problem.  Sometimes, the cars break down or end up needing major repairs which the owner cannot afford.  But the low-income buyers, all poor credit risks, must continue to pay obscenely high payments even after they no longer even have the cars.  Their wages can even be garnished to meet the payments! The dealers really don’t sell cars;  they sell financing.  They run a con-game right out of Melville’s book. 

One of the ugly side stories stemming from this is the practice of major banks, (Santander Bank is a prime example, but there are many others) of packaging these sub-prime auto loans and moving them as bonds into the securities market, just as sub-prime mortgages were bundled and marketed a dozen years ago. And you know where that got us.

Check out a typical story of someone who succumbed to this "con game" by clicking right here.  It could have all started on a Mississippi riverboat.

Icing on the Cake of Lies

The Toronto Star’s Washington Bureau has done a fine job of documenting the lies the “confidence man” in the White House has told over his first six months in office! It’s all there for you to read by just  CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

But there’s icing on this multi-layered cake of lies.  It’s the massive misspelling which permeates the tRump administration.  Hiring a Special Proofreader might be a good move for them.  He or she might share an office with the Special Prosecutor their actions have already brought into play.  

The fact that they make so many spelling errors is a hint as to the profundity of their ignorance.  Even moderately educated people don’t make these kinds of errors.  It’s a clue as to the emptiness of their heads.  They are so intent on "deconstructing" our established, constitutionally-based government that they don't even bother to make their lies look good.  Check out all of the administration’s spelling errors by CLICKING RIGHT HERE!

Remember that a “confidence man” must lie to seduce his victims.  But this one, and his lackeys, can’t even properly spell their lies.


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