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Duration:03:35
Uploaded:2012-04-03
Last sync:2018-04-29 03:20
In which John discusses Canada's heroic elimination of the penny and how divisive political discourse--on both sides of the aisle--hurts both the American people and the American economy. Examples of poor policy making include congress's failure to secure long-term funding for the FAA (which should be easy, since it's paid for entirely by a tax that most travelers are more than content to pay), Congressional Republicans' refusal to pass a long-term highways bill (which makes road work more expensive than it needs to be), and by congressional Democrats refusal to consider sensible medicare reform that might bring better health care outcomes to more older Americans while bringing cost savings to Medicare.

(To be fair: Some congressional democrats want to reform medicare; a few congressional republicans thought the whole FAA debacle was an embarrassment; and one noted Democrat, President Barack Obama, has consistently expressed support for smart reform of Medicare, despite huge blowback from his party.)

All this while biking a 30-mile loop around the great city of Indianapolis.

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A Bunny
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John: Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday, don't vlog while biking! We got canals, too. So, Hank, the great nation of Canada recently decided to discontinue its penny, because it doesn't facilitate commerce and also it costs 1.5 Canadian cents to make a penny, but Hank, here in America, we're keeping our pennies, and that makes sense because our pennies also don't facilitate commerce and they cost 2.1 cents to make, GOD I HATE PENNIES. Now, Hank, I'll admit that the penny is a relatively minor inefficiency, but today I want to talk about three much more dramatic and important examples of how our terrible political discourse is leading to awful policy making. But first, I'm going to go ride over to the park. Okay, so first, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is responsible for air traffic control, and safety inspections, and that kind of thing. The FAA is mostly funded by a tax on airplane tickets, which like most frequent fliers, I am happy to pay, because my favorite kind of air traffic is controlled air traffic and my favorite kind of landing is not crash. But the last five years have seen 23 short-term extensions of this tax, mostly because Congress has been fighting about unions. Because fighting over unions helps them raise money. Each of these short-term extensions hurts the economy, because if you're building say, a new air traffic control tower, it's much cheaper to do it with a long-term contract than with a gajillion short-term contracts. Same reason your phone is cheaper if you sign the two-year contract versus a one-year contract. Right, so that's a terribly inefficient way of doing business, but it's not the crazy thing, the crazy thing is that over the summer, Congress completely let the FAA's funding lapse. So they couldn't collect that tax on every ticket. Now you're probably thinking, this wasn't so bad, after all, the money just went into the hands of the people who were buying the tickets, no, it didn't, it went into the hands of the airlines because they raised their prices the exact amount of the tax I AM A GIANT SQUID OF ANGER! Oh, look, it's a plane. The only reason you're safe is because of the FAA! It needs our funding! Anyway, Congress finally passed a long-term budget in February, but by then, this whole brouhaha probably cost us a billion dollars. Example two, the Highway Bill. So we've been doing the same thing of these hugely inefficient short-term extensions when it comes to our highway funding. But, interestingly, in this case, no one's fighting about unions. So even though everyone agrees that long-term funding deals are cheaper and more efficient, we can't pass any long-term funding deals because they involve big numbers. Many Republicans backed by the Tea Party don't want to pass any long-term bill because it would involve a big number and they're opposed to big government spending. And so there's a huge political liability in voting for, say, a 250 billion dollar highway bill, so instead, we're going to vote for 10 30 billion dollar highway bills. Right, so at this point, a lot of conservative Nerdfighters probably think that I'm this big, Pinko communist, I'm not. Issue three, Medicare, a fantastic and very popular government program in which we give medics air. No, wait, we give healthcare to old people. So everyone agrees that Medicare is totally unsustainable, by 2020, Medicare could account for 5% of our gross domestic product, which is just insane. And Republicans have proposed some interesting reform ideas for Medicare, but Democrats refuse to entertain them, because that of course would mean hurting our seniors by cutting Medicare, and those very same seniors tend to vote for Democrats. And it makes sense, because we all know that spending more money to take care of our seniors leads to healthier, happier, seniors. And we all want that, because when they're not happy, they're very cranky. So it makes sense not to reform Medicare, except it doesn't, because insanely, the states that spend the least per Medicare patient get the best healthcare outcomes. This is largely for boring reasons like preventative medicine and washing your hands and not leaving scalpels inside of people, but it works, so we could totally use this data to reform Medicare and control costs, but instead, we won't. We'll just keep disagreeing with each other for the sake of disagreeing, because yelling at each other is worth more political points than sensible compromise. And our government will continue to inhibit economic growth, while also minting pennies, God, I hate pennies. Alright, Hank, I try to end videos on a happy note, so here's a turtle. I'll see you on Friday.