The Root Cause of the Insurance “Problem”?

I think Coma has hit it pretty much right on the head, and many people may not be seeing the complete picture…

If I didn’t need health insurance, I sometimes wonder how my life would be different because I think I would have probably gone down a different path in the last five years.

That’s strong. So let’s think about this. What would be the result if health insurance were disconnected from employment? I mean, it’s not a far-fetched idea–they don’t pay for your auto-insurance do they? But most people need their car to get to and from work every day. And you’re not even required by law to have health insurance like you are auto insurance (at least in Tennessee).

I realize when I read posts like this that I’m not the only one who is a slave to my health insurance. I wish it were different but it’s not.

Would I be self-employed if it weren’t for this issue?

The answer is yes.

For all of the complaining large companies and corporations do about rising health care premiums and cost of insurance, taking the power (because that’s exactly what it is) of providing health insurance away would be even worse for them. Imagine a mass exodus of people away from their “real jobs” and into other sectors of the work force. We’d probably see a rise in entrepreneurial ventures–would this be a bad thing for our country as a whole? Or maybe lots of people would choose to work for smaller established companies that are doing interesting and innovative work–doing exactly what they love to do all day instead of something they hate just for the “benefits”.

Sounds crazy and paranoid, right? Maybe. But have you ever asked yourself why Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) are only available only to people with high deductible insurance? I can’t think of any reason other than the fact that making HSAs available to everyone would result in a large number of young people saving like mad during their first 10 years in the workforce so that they could afford the risk of striking out on their own in their 30s and 40s. And who would that hurt? I can’t think of anyone who would be more hurt by this than large companies. An easy solution? Lobby to make sure their employees are not eligible for HSAs because the deductible of the health insurance provided by the company is too low.

Let’s take that line of thinking to its logical end, and I’ll ask the question again in a different way. Who has the most to lose by people being able to obtain health insurance without an employer?

As an aside for all of you out there who are supporting one presidential candidate or another because they’re promising you they’ll have *shudder* the gov’ment “give” you health care, I hate to break it to you…

Not. Going. To. Happen.

There are too many people with too much money that can’t afford for this to happen. They’d lose every truly industrious and intelligent worker they have. And if you truly believe that any of the three candidates with a shot to win aren’t in the back pocket of some large business; if you truly believe that any of the three wouldn’t sell “hard working average Americans” down the river in favor of big business in a heartbeat, you probably aren’t smart enough to read this post to the end and understand it anyway. But thanks for trying.

CoWorking in Knoxville. Why Not?

Although I didn’t get any work done, this was one of the most productive afternoons I’ve had in a long time. Today I met up with some fine folks to discuss the idea of CoworkingKnoxville. Of course, as the name implies, the general idea is that we actually will get some work done eventually. But today turned into more of a discussion of ideas centered around coworking and its possibilities in this area. For more information on coworking, a great place to start is Alex’s site, but the general idea is a shared space where people with different skill sets and backgrounds can gather to collaborate (or not) on ideas using shared resources, making everyone’s work time more productive and efficient.

The group of five who met today all came from different backgrounds, but without a doubt there is a common thread running through the collective consciousness. Although it’s an idea that all of us have in some abstract form in our minds (ok, it’s pretty firm for Alex), it’s still a little hard for me to get my own mind completely wrapped around at this point. But to me, that shared idea is “why not?

Why can’t a guy who works for a large corporation while remaining a blogging powerhouse out of his home office share workspace with a freelance marketing research consultant recently transplanted from LA? And why shouldn’t they have access to another guy who works a job locally but is tied into the local web development community? And wouldn’t it benefit everyone to sit next to an altrupreneur who is in Knoxville by way of San Francisco and may be here for a month or a year? Why can’t all of these people share internet access, and a conference room, and a big whiteboard?

Why can’t this movement grow to the point that people are actually attracted to come here to be a part of it? Why can’t we make Knoxville a place people flock to looking for this exact thing? After all, Knoxville is loaded with talented people and the cost of living is negligible compared to the West Coast.

Why can’t we make this happen? I think we can.

Really Cool Undercurrent

There’s an event going on today that I think has a lot of potential for the area…CoworkingKnoxville.  Here’s the idea:

We’re a group of free-lancers, Web programmers, self-employed professionals, self-unemployed entrepreneurs, and various independent types who meet once every week in West Knoxville.

Throw me into the self-unemployed entrepreneurs and web programmer categories.  I think there is a lot of talent in the area, and getting together to share ideas and resources is just what we need.  I also like the idea that this is only semi-organized.  If you’ve ever been to Panera in West Knoxville during regular office hours you know that people are already doing this, just not introducing themselves to one another.  But the same folks are there all the time.

If you’re local and interested, stop by.

Pouring The Coals

It doesn’t seem like very long ago that The Missus and I would spend way too much time watching something boring on TV or being distracted from writing by some other excuse.  But for the last week or so it seems like we’ve been doing very little but writing.  Last night we had to actually set aside some down time–a break from writing–so that we could watch a movie and relax.  I love when projects get that kind of momentum, but it’s a little tough when you’re working on a project like that from home–you’re always at work.

Tonight I’m taking another break to catch up with some reading (and commenting).  I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot more time here once Ron Paul announces he’s going to run on the Libertarian ticket though.  😉

Great Idea #2234

OK, since my last idea was universally shot down and stolen, here’s another one…

The Meet Market
The Meet Market is a grocery store whose target demographic is young singles. Since mostly single people would be shopping there, it would be a great place to meet people, sort of like a meat market, but instead it’s The Meet Market. Get it, Meet Market? Yeah, I figured you probably got it the first time.

Everything in the store is packaged for single people. Eggs only come in half-dozen cartons, the largest container of milk is the half gallon, and bread comes in half loaves. Why don’t they sell bread in half loaves by the way? As far as condiments go, The Meet Market wouldn’t sell them in bottles, only little individual packs of mustard and ketchup like you get at Chic-Fil-A.

The only item that you can buy in bulk at The Meet Market is beer. In general, beer is the only thing that single people buy and consume at a greater rate than married people with kids. Married people go straight for the hard liquor.

Maybe large jars of spaghetti sauce could be sold as well? What do you guys think? Want to show me all the holes in this idea too?

Great Idea #7269

Cereal Flavored Milk
The best part of eating a bowl of Apple Jacks or Cookie Crisp is the delicious milk that’s left in the bowl after you’ve eaten all the cereal. Why can’t I buy “Apple Jacks Milk” that already has the sweet goodness of Apple Jacks dissolved into the milk?

Would someone please implement this idea? I don’t care that you’ll make all the money and I won’t get a penny. I just want to be able to buy cereal flavored milk.

A Great Place to Work?

As a former employee, I was interested in the article the KNS ran today about Denso Manufacturing Tennessee’s expansion. It was about what I would expect from a local paper writing about a local company expanding–lots of talk about new jobs, complimentary remarks about the people of the region, and a few standard corporate-type comments from top management–nothing really remarkable or controversial. The comments posted by readers, however, are very interesting. Some comments came from employees and former employees who actually know what it’s like to work there, while others commented only on what they’ve heard.

So what’s it really like to work there? Well…

Decision--To Denso or Not to DensoThe comments from current and former employees are not that far off. But to be fair, I suspect Denso is not much different than any other large corporations in many respects. I’d say that it’s better in some ways and worse in others, but all-in-all the good and bad average out for most of their employees. Sure, there are people there who think it’s really bad, but it always seemed to me that the real reason they don’t like their jobs is that they feel stuck there. Some probably feel stuck because they have been dead ended in their career by the powers that be and can’t move up, while others feel stuck in that they don’t have the skills (or at least don’t think they had the skills) to move out. Others may not even realize that they are stuck by their own comfort and fear of change. I’m sure some feel stuck for a combination of these reasons.

There are people who love working at Denso, and they have their reasons as well. It’s been a very stable company traditionally, and for someone who is worried about layoffs or job shortages it’s a very compelling reason for working there. In my mind, that sort of falls into the fear (real or imagined) that they don’t have the skill set to go elsewhere. But hey, if you’re happy I’m happy, right? There are others who are basically coasting, but I think that’s probably common at most big companies as well.

For me, the good outweighed the bad for most of the time I was there. Were there things I didn’t like? Most definitely. For instance, you can forget about anything like this ever happening there. They (whoever “they” are) would never allow it. The performance evaluation system is a mirage for the most part, and I doubt that will ever change. But I really enjoyed the work I was doing, and I hated leaving my co-workers. Loving what you do and liking the people you spend your days with is not something you can find just anywhere, and it kept me around for a long time. However, I was ultimately placed in a situation that was going to make my relationship with the company much more lopsided than I was comfortable with. I’m not one to stay around and complain, especially knowing that change, if it does come, is slow for Denso. I’m no victim either, and besides, I have confidence in my skills. The only immediate way to resolve the problem was with compensation. How did that discussion go? Well, I’m a former employee. 🙂

I always found it a little ironic that Denso spends a great amount of resources trying to figure out how to recruit engineers out of college but doesn’t seem to find much value in retention of engineers and technical staff. HR held regular meetings with engineers on how to recruit from colleges, and they usually ended in engineers expressing that exact sentiment. It may be that Denso has a reputation on campuses as the type of company that isn’t attractive to today’s college students. Is that reputation based on what they hear from Denso employees and on the web? Does it come from fellow students who do co-ops at Denso? I can’t say for sure.

I don’t know the numbers or stats, but it seems like replacing good people would be much more expensive than retaining them. However, they make billions, and I make not-billions, so who am I to second guess them? Maybe they’ve calculated all the factors and decided that paying competitive salaries for years of experience would put them in a situation where no one would ever leave. Would zero turnover be as bad as high turnover? Dunno.

So the point of this post–is Denso a great place to work? I guess it depends on what you want from a job. It was great for me for a long time. As I said before, I enjoyed the work I did at Denso and the people I worked with, although I must say there were very few jobs or departments there I would have enjoyed as much as I enjoyed mine. Jobs that provide opportunities to develop skills that are universally marketable are somewhat limited there. If stability is a major factor for you, then by all means it is a great place to work. As with almost everything else, you’ll probably have to compromise a few things that you’d like to have in exchange for this stability, but it’s worth it for a lot of people.

AARP Cares About Everyone? Really?

A while back, I wrote a post on “Divided We Fail”, the AARP’s shameful ad campaign that uses children to try to disguise the organization’s true intentions. Reader “poz” writes (I’m assuming in response to that post):

you are scary, it is sad to see that you feel there is a hidden agenda w/aarp.
Why can\’t you beleive that there are americans who do beleive in improving
our quality of life for our future generations?

Ok, maybe if I do a proof by contradiction it will make sense…

Let’s assume poz is right and I am wrong. Let’s assume the AARP’s goal is to improve the quality of life of future generations. If this is true, aren’t they a shameful organization for tricking our country’s senior citizens into believing that they are in Washington lobbying on behalf of their interests (if you weren’t aware, AARP is just another special interest group). And don’t they owe our country’s seniors an apology for the conflict of interest created by licensing the name of their organization to health and life insurance companies that target seniors and benefit from the very policies they are trying to have enacted?

And if this is true, shouldn’t they drop the “RP” from their name? Shouldn’t they stop being the American Association of Retired Persons and start being the AAFG–American Association of Future Generations?

Man, I really hope what poz says isn’t true. If he/she is right, the AARP is much more reprehensible than little old me painted them as being in my original post. I only accused them of tricky and misleading advertising. Hell, Pepsi does that.

And for the record, I believe there are a great number of Americans who care very deeply about future generations. However, I don’t believe these people can be found in special interest groups that are pimping those generations out and deceiving their own members on behalf the corporations they are in bed with.

WordPress 2.5 Release Candidate

I am very crunched for time today, but tonight I’ll be installing the WordPress 2.5 release candidate on one of my development blogs and give a full report here–probably posted sometime very early Wednesday morning.

WordPress new interface

From the looks of it, the “Write” section of the dashboard is going to be much improved, which is an area I think WP needed to catch up.  Another great new feature will be a customizable dashboard.  Both of these features should work out great for me, as one of my projects in the works is going to have scores of contributers.  I want to be able to limit the functionality for experienced users and also make it as easy as possible for newer users to contribute using WordPress.