Belmont Club

You Know Times Are Tough Because ...

I got the following jokes in the mail.  Times are tough because …

You can get a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

CEO’s are now playing miniature golf.

Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

A stripper was killed when her audience showered her with rolls of pennies while she danced.

A Mormon polygamist has to make do with only one wife.

If the bank returns your check marked “Insufficient Funds,” you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

McDonald’s is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America .

Parents in  Beverly Hills  fired their nannies and learned their children’s names.

If you have an exorcism but can’t afford to pay for it, and they re-possessed you.

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

A picture is now only worth 200 words.

When Bill and Hillary travel together, they now have to share a room.

The Treasure Island casino in  Las Vegas  is now managed by Somali pirates.

Congress says they are looking into this Bernard Madoff scandal. Oh Great! The guy who made $50 Billion disappear is being investigated by the people who made $1.5 Trillion disappear!

And, finally…

People who are depressed about the economy, wars, jobs, y savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc. and call the Suicide Hotline get a call center in Pakistan and when you are suicidal, ask if you can drive a truck.

I guess they’re funny after a fashion.

During World War 2 a whole context grew up around rationing. For example, there were five categories which controlled the allotment of gas. A, B, C, T, X. According to some sources gasoline was rationed as a proxy method of limiting rubber tire use because rubber tires were comparatively scarcer than gasoline.  Rationing was the staple of situational jokes in Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons. Who you were was expressed in part by what you were allowed to buy.

A – 3-4 gallons/week. Don’t drive unless essential.
B – 8 gallons/week, for essential war driving
C – most counterfeited – doctors, mail carriers, railroad workers, ministers
T – Trucks, buses
X – True VIPs

More recently, ration stamps were printed, but not used during the 1973 Oil Crisis. “To help reduce consumption, in 1974 a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph (about 88 km/h) was imposed through the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act. Development of the United States Strategic Petroleum Reserve began in 1975, and in 1977, the cabinet-level Department of Energy was created, followed by the National Energy Act of 1978.” It’s hard to imagine now, but yes, rationing was part of the scene in the mid-70s.

The current focus of the rationing debate is over healthcare. Both proponents and opponents of public health care use rationing as an argument for their point of view. Essentially the proponents of public health care want rationing to be determined by the bureaucracy rather than by the price system (ability to pay). Rationing is bad, but its always the other person who’s doing it.

President Obama has argued that U.S. healthcare is rationed based on income, type of employment, and pre-existing medical conditions, with nearly 46 million uninsured. He argued that millions of Americans are denied coverage or face higher premiums as a result of pre-existing medical conditions.

In an e-mail to Obama supporters, David Axelrod wrote: “Reform will stop ‘rationing’ – not increase it…. It’s a myth that reform will mean a ‘government takeover’ of health care or lead to ‘rationing.’ To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.”

A 2008 study by researchers at the Urban Institute found that health spending for uninsured non-elderly Americans is only about 43% of health spending for similar, privately insured Americans. These data imply rationing by price and ability to pay.

Fareed Zakaria wrote that only 38% of small businesses provide health insurance for their employees during 2009, versus 61% in 1993, due to rising costs.

A July 2009 NPR article quoted various doctors describing how America rations healthcare. Dr. Arthur Kellermann said: “In America, we strictly ration health care. We’ve done it for years…But in contrast to other wealthy countries, we don’t ration medical care on the basis of need or anticipated benefit. In this country, we mainly ration on the ability to pay. And that is especially evident when you examine the plight of the uninsured in the United States.”

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Economics is all about how a society allocates resources under scarcity.  No society ever has as much as it desires. So it rations, either through the price mechanism or via some supergiant agency. Like the Rolling Stones said, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.”

No Way In is now out at Amazon.com