Lion of the Blogosphere

You can keep your doctor, or you can keep your iPhone

A leading Republican congressman suggested on Tuesday that lower-income Americans stop buying new iPhones and “invest in their own health care.” The comment by Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah came a day after the GOP rolled out a new Obamacare replacement bill that could increase their insurance costs.

The bill also contains a big new financial treat for health insurance companies.

The Republican plan calls for allowing insurers to write off as a business expense the entire amount of their executives’ salaries on their taxes, and not just the first $500,000, as is the case now under the Affordable Care Act.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/07/republican-iphones-obamacare-replacement-tax-break-insurance-ceos.html

Even ignoring the outrage of proposing a tax cut for people making more than $500,000/year at the expense of benefits for poor people, this quote demonstrates 19th-century economic thinking. iPhone sales are mostly a value transference business, and to the extent that production of additional iPhones creates jobs, it creates them in China. So if people stopped buying iPhones, it wouldn’t free up any resources in the United States that could then be directed towards healthcare.

* * *

Magnavox says: “the amount of waste in the US health care industry completely dwarfs the amount spent on iphones by all classes”

mikeca says: “Most of the self employed working class people that I know do not have smart phones. They have old flip phones which you can get for almost free with a wireless plan. Even if they were buying a brand new $800 iPhone every year (which they are not), you are not going to get health insurance that covers anything for $800 a year.”

I say: I personally need to have an iPhone if I ever plan on going back to work in digital product management, since how could I manage products for mobile devices if I don’t even use a smartphone?

I also say: Having a phone of some sort is a necessity to be part of our society (although it doesn’t need to be the latest and most expensive iPhone). Most employers expect you to have a phone, for example. Most people who need to save money have just have a cell phone and not a landline. Poor people are more likely to own Androids which are cheaper, so they are already not buying the most expensive phones. There are many cheap-ass Androids for under $100 (although they probably suck compared to iPhone).

A new iPhone SE is $399, and that’s still less expensive than a single month of health insurance for a single person.

* * *

There’s the point of view that the Congressman’s statement was merely a metaphor for poor people foolishly spending their money. Nevertheless, this was obviously a huge gaffe on the part of the Congressman. Way bigger than Mitt Romney’s 47% gaffe. So huge that it jeopardizes the chances that Republicans will have the political support to repeal Obamacare (not saying that I agree with repealing Obamacare).

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 7, 2017 at EST pm

56 Responses

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  1. Chaffetz is one of those Republicans prone to having dumb ideas because he thinks telling someone a “hard truth” makes him sound wise and virtuous. I listened to a clip from a town hall a few weeks ago where Chaffetz said, “I know many of you aren’t going to like this, but the President is exempt from [law X].”

    If you want to guarantee you’ll be booed in front of national media, be sure to tell everyone they won’t like what you’re about to say.

    Richard

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • They think hating and screwing over poor and middle class people is a virtue the same way democrats think hating men, white people, and christians is.

      Magnavox

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • I think this is a brilliant insight.

        Both sides of the ideological spectrum are inclined towards different sorts of hate.

        Liberals, who embrace diversity over all else, are obviously inclined towards hating the majority culture. As the party of Big Government and the welfare state, they are so inclined towards hateful jealousy for the successful, and the embrace of a mindset of lazy entitlement.

        Conservatives, who define themselves in opposition to crime, illegal immigration, and other offenses disproportionately committed by minorities, are inclined towards hickish racism — slurs, neo-Nazi/Confederate nuttiness, etc. As the party of free-market capitalism, they are also inclined towards corporatism and water-carrying for the rich, and a Randian/Darwinian contempt for the poor.

        Peter

        March 10, 2017 at EST am

  2. He’s trying to say poor people could afford to buy health insurance but they choose to buy iPhones instead. Which is either true or false, I don’t know. But it’s totally reasonable and has nothing to do with China.

    27 year old from sailers

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • You can get phone plans for less than $15 a month, including a phone. The iphone4 will cost a one time $50 extra.

      Typical stupid comment from a Republican. They’ll need their phones to keep in touch with employers. He should have dug on candy bars instead. A much easier dig and easy cost for poors to avoid.

      Pat from SI

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • In Canada it would cost at least $100 per month to get a plan and a “free” iphone with it. Couldn’t they stay in touch with work with a cheaper phone?

        Rosenmop

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  3. Sure, but if people only have a limited amount of resources, they can spend on health insurance (arguably a necessity) or a luxury good. The idea is that wouldn’t it be swell if those lacking in impulse control learned to make wiser choices and forego instant gratification. Although it’s what I did when I was a young man and what we taught our children and they did in turn, good luck teaching those values to the underclass. It’s like trying to teach a shark to fly.

    Roxborough's Son

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • You’re right that it’s not gonna work because it’s incredibly naive to expect poor pole to suddenly act rationally and in accord with their long term interests. But it also ignores the fact that the amount of waste in the US health care industry completely dwarfs the amount spent on iphones by all classes. The US spends something on the order 2.5 times as much per person on healthcare as the average first world country with some of the worst outcomes. This amounts to over 2 trillion dollars a year of public and private expenditure that is wasted and is essentially a gargantuan (2 trillion is 2 followed by 12 zeroes) subsidy to the health care industry.

      Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about how the health care industry is mooching off the government? Trump is such a complete generic Republican turd on way too many issues.

      Magnavox

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • “The US spends something on the order 2.5 times as much per person on healthcare as the average first world country with some of the worst outcomes.”

        In fairness, that might be the best the country can hope for with its demographics.

        Jesse

        March 9, 2017 at EST am

  4. Without tardphones, 70% of men and 100% of women would lose all purpose in life. Put down your tardphone and observe your surroundings again for the first time since probably 2012, and you’ll note that literally everybody, whether walking, loitering, or driving, stares at their tardphone incessantly just like you.

    Smartphones are life now. I’ve noticed nobody actually watches TV anymore: TV has become background comfort noise and plausible deniability for smartphone use.

    It’s no wonder people prioritize their smartphone over anything else in their lives, including medical care insurance.

    hard9bf

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • Indeed, what’s the point of living a longer life if it’s devoid of a smartphone?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Please write more about smartphones and how everyone is addicted to them and it destroys Civic culture and acts as a security blanket for adult discomfort with being in public.

        Jjbees

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • LOL, good one. That’s the funniest thing you’ve ever written.

        hard9bf

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • It kind of makes sense since your smartphone has replaced all other electronic and some non electronic devices.

      Need car service? Uber. Need wallet? Apple Pay or RFID. Need TV? YouTube app. Need radio or music? Pandora. Need to read a book? Kindle app. Need to contact someone? Gmail app or your phone book or iMessage etc… Need to order food? Seamless app. Need to deposit a check? Banking app. Take a photo? Camera app.

      And so on and so forth.

      Paul Ryan's Sickly Old Lapdog

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  5. “to the extent that production of additional iPhones creates jobs, it creates them in China. So if people stopped buying iPhones, it wouldn’t free up any resources in the United States that could then be directed towards healthcare.”

    Money represents productivity. You get paid for your labor and use that money to buy another person’s labor. In this case, people are paying someone to produce something they don’t need instead of paying someone to produce something they do.

    Consider an addict who uses their money to buy drugs then complains they don’t have enough money to buy food. If the person bought food instead of drugs then they’d have food! But they think that because people need food to live that it should be provided to them for free as an entitlement.

    People shouldn’t spend their money on things they don’t need then demand someone else pay for the things they do. Because that’s not really buying those people food and healthcare. It’s buying them drugs and iphones. And people don’t have a right to make someone else pay for that.

    Don’t misunderstand. I don’t object to someone taking advantage of the situation. I object to someone who tries to justify and advocate it.

    destructure

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  6. Most of the self employed working class people that I know do not have smart phones. They have old flip phones which you can get for almost free with a wireless plan.

    Even if they were buying a brand new $800 iPhone every year (which they are not), you are not going to get health insurance that covers anything for $800 a year.

    mikeca

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • The overwhelming majority of people that I’ve seen with flip phones are over 70 years old, and even a fair number of them have smartphones. I also pass a homeless shelter for women in Manhattan several times a week and I’ve noticed that the majority of the residents have smartphones.

      Lewis Medlock

      March 8, 2017 at EST am

  7. Even if you buy the iphone outright like if you get your cell service through straight talk, it costs at most $600 new. That is a one time expense. Even mediocre insurance for a healthy young man who doesn’t smoke or drink will cost well more then $600 every month in many states. The statement by Chaffetz is ridiculous and shows utter contempt for those beneath middle class. If the Democrats hadn’t gone insane the Republicans wouldn’t win any elections with people like Chaffet around.

    jew613

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • The iPhone SE currently sells new for only $399, if you are willing to put up with the smaller screen, it’s just as good as the more expensive iPhone 7s. And yes, that’s less than just one month of health insurance for a cheap Atlantis plan.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • Again, he’s not making a Literal economic argument that the literal cost of an iPhone is comparable to annual health insurance premium. He’s using a metaphor that is true but naive that if people who lack impulse control made decisions based on the future and not instant gratification than society as a whole would function much smoother. I agree with the sentiment, but human nature being as it is those same folks wouldn’t be in that situation in the first place if they had high future time orientation. When I graduated from Navy boot camp way back when I had roughly $600 in the bank to show for the 3 months that we had spent getting yelled at and missing home. On the last weekend before you move on to your first duty station you are given a day pass to go out in town which was Chicago in my case. We went to Hooters in the nearest mall. I vividly remember that the group of Nams in my boot camp division took the day to go into Chicago and buy $600 watches or jewelry with the money they had just sacrificed 3 hard months for. I as a Pennsylvania German didn’t understand that mentality at the time and still don’t but some folks are just like that and yes it is correlated with race and class. All you can do is raise your own kids to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

      Roxborough's Son

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • I don’t understand that mentality either. Not only does it go against my values I actually find it immoral. It doesn’t matter how much one makes or has, poor self control and money management is wrong. It also causes stress and unhappiness. Stuffitis is a mental illness.

        destructure

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Just FYI, at Sailer’s the last few days there was a thread about the explosion of pregnancies in the military, and within that there were several interesting comments about NAM performance and how there’s no non-racial esprit de corps. I found it eye opening.

        marty

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • $600/month? Where are you guys coming up with these figures? 5 minutes of searching, and I found a plan for $150. Not a great plan, not even a good plan, but a good-enough plan. (California, 30-something, male, drinks, doesn’t smoke.)

      Seth Largo (@SethLargo)

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Post a link to that plan. Tnx.

        Yakov

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  8. Free market fundamentalism, if not purged, will destroy the Trump revolution and lead to the death of the Republican party. The eternal libertarian must be destroyed!

    Maj

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  9. Healthcare spending as a % of GDP is absurd in this country. I don’t think lecturing poor people about iphones is going to work.

    Maybe about diets..

    Kaz

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • Correct, I don’t want to hear a story about person not being able to afford healthcare to pay for cholesterol drugs, after years of collecting cheeseburgers.

      JS

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Heart disease will strike just about any genetically predisposed person (ie, like 90 percent of us) whose diet isn’t cholesterol free and virtually fat free.

        Stealth

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease. Inflammation due to excessive carbohydrate consumption does.

        We could cut 25% of our healthcare spending by changing the food pyramid (it would end type 2 diabetes – a disease we created with bad nutritional policies and corn subsidies).

        The other 75% could be cut by enforcing anti-monopoly laws, but people still aren’t interested in hearing the truth or actually solving the problem. I wonder why people don’t want to solve the problem?

        Paul Ryan's Sickly Old Lap Dog

        March 8, 2017 at EST am

    • Oh goodie, here comes the pontificating about diet.

      Gurl please. The underclass’s dietary habits are correlated with their poor outcomes; they don’t cause them.

      Jesse

      March 9, 2017 at EST am

  10. Having a phone of some sort is a necessity to be part of our society (although it doesn’t need to be the latest and most expensive iPhone).

    Elton John doesn’t have one; Prince didn’t have one.

    I don’t own one either.

    Therefore, I am a celebrity.

    Walter E. Kurtz

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • If you’re that rich, you can pay a personal servant to take phone calls for you.

      Poor people have to own their own phones.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Americans are generally not a rational people, perhaps the least logical of all Westerners. I hear stories of people binging on credit cards/debt to fund their useless hobbies.

        JS

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Americans have the easiest access to credit. Europeans have shit access to credit mostly because their politicians hate them and want capitalism dead in all its forms.

        Paul Ryan's Sickly Old Lap Dog

        March 8, 2017 at EST am

  11. I’m guessing he’s using “iPhones” as a generic term for smartphones. Most poor people don’t seem to have actual Apple iPhones. They seem to have the cheap Android smartphones. Most people with Apple iPhones are people who can afford to spend almost a thousand dollars buying the iPhones outright, or have contracts and plans with a major carrier, which are quite expensive and involve credit checks for subsidizing premium phones like the iPhone. Poor people tend to have prepaid plans and plans with discount carriers like Cricket Wireless or Boost Mobile, which tend to provide lower end and cheaper smartphones.

    Most of the cheap prepaid phones you can buy at places like Walmart are smartphones now. They still sell some regular cell phones, but they’re not significantly cheaper than the cheap smartphones, and they’ll probably stop being sold in the near future.

    You do generally need easy email and phone contact for formal employment these days. And most of the cell phones you can buy today are smartphones anyway.

    Part of the antipathy towards poor people having smartphones seems to be out of spite and out of a desire to raise one’s relative status by depriving a class of a shared commodity.

    Tom

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  12. This is some funny sh.t, that congressman is either too dumb or too shameless about his desire to screw the 99%-ers. I am seeing that some Republicans actually have some balls to stand up to this repeal of the only good thing Obama did while he was in office. In a way, Trump might be a good thing for Obamacare: all Dems are now stolid supporters of Obamacare. Had Hillary been elected, she probably would have killed it; she did not sound like a fan of poor and middle-class people herself.

    What is needed is not a repeal, but an overhaul of the excessive spending by insurance monopolies. But the Republicans are whores of 1%-ers, even though most superrich do hate them with a passion. So color me skeptical, the Republicans will manage to repeal Obamacare and further enrich the 1%.

    Nice blog, dude

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  13. mikeca says: “Most of the self employed working class people that I know do not have smart phones. They have old flip phones which you can get for almost free with a wireless plan.

    Poor people have to own their own phones.

    The low-income people I’m familiar with all have smartphones and free obamaphones. They need the smartphone for their Facebook, Instagram, and Internet. They use the obamaphone for the not-infrequent times when their smartphone service is cutoff for non-payment.

    I don’t qualify for an obamaphone, so I use a $19 flip-phone on a $25/ month unlimited talk & text plan w/ MetroPCS. It’s been working fine for four years.

    E. Rekshun

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  14. $399/month health insurance? 5 minutes of Googling will show that to be a high figure. In California, I can get a cheap individual health insurance plan for $150-200/month. I imagine the same is true in most states. They’re not great plans but they’re good enough for your average 30-40something.

    I’m on Lion’s side when it comes to health insurance—the muh-free-market Republicans want a plan that will only benefit Dem-voting rich people. That’s stupid. And I think Chaffetz in general is stupid. He has a punchable face.

    That said, let’s not pretend his point isn’t more or less true. Cutting out a smartphone data plan and a dozen trips to Starbucks will easily free up enough cash per month for your average working class citizen to afford a cheap health insurance plan. This is not a debatable point, it’s just math.

    Seth Largo (@SethLargo)

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • In New York, there’s no health insurance for less than $400. The California health insurance probably has a really high deductible such that for most people except those hospitalized with something really really bad, it’s like not having any insurance.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Insurance SHOULD have a really high deductible. If you regularly reach your deductible then you need to raise your deductible. You don’t need health insurance for small things but big things. Just like you don’t use home insurance for new roof and hvac. It’s for big things that would be financially catastrophic if you had to pay yourself.

        destructure

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • “Insurance SHOULD have a really high deductible. If you regularly reach your deductible then you need to raise your deductible. You don’t need health insurance for small things but big things.”

        For most people $2,000 is a really high deductible and $8,000 is stratospheric, and they live hand to mouth with a checking account balance averaging about five dollars, sometimes averaging negative five dollars.

        hard9bf

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Well then the problem isn’t insurance now, is it?

        Paul Ryan's Sickly Old Lap Dog

        March 8, 2017 at EST am

      • “Insurance SHOULD have a really high deductible. If you regularly reach your deductible then you need to raise your deductible.”

        That used to be an option in the Pre Obamacare era. You could get a high deductible plan on the individual market for a lot less than $400.00 a month. But now, with the death spiral of Obamacare plans, they are all becoming de facto High deductible plans. Only with Cadillac prices.

        Mike Street Station

        March 8, 2017 at EST pm

    • $399/month health insurance? 5 minutes of Googling will show that to be a high figure. In California, I can get a cheap individual health insurance plan for $150-200/month…

      In New York, there’s no health insurance for less than $400. The California health insurance probably has a really high deductible such that for most people except those hospitalized with something really really bad, it’s like not having any insurance…

      I’ve gone on Healthcare.gov each open season over the past three years and, a plan for me runs $400, $500, $600 per month for Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and they all have $6000 to $7000 deductible; and the rates jump dramatically every year. I called a broker and she found a decent plan w/ Blue Cross on the private individual market for $350/mo w/ a $5000 deductible. I’m tempted to go for it and retire, but I know next year it’ll be up $100 or more and it’s hard to give up my gold-plated $0 deductible/$0 premium employer-provided coverage.

      On the other hand, all the plans on healthcare.gov or otherwise, provide a maximum annual out-of-pocket of about $7000, so that’ll at least protect you from going bankrupt. Which is why I cannot understand how someone with health insurance goes bankrupt due to medical expenses – I guess thay can’t handle the $7000 annual max out-of-pocket.

      Insurance SHOULD have a really high deductible. If you regularly reach your deductible then you need to raise your deductible. You don’t need health insurance for small things but big things. Just like you don’t use home insurance for new roof and hvac. It’s for big things that would be financially catastrophic if you had to pay yourself.

      Yes, but obamacare effectively outlawed the high-deductible/low premium catastrophic plans. Now they’re all high-deductible/high-premium to cover all the preventive care/maternity/pre-existing conditions. Oh, and next week I’m putting a new $14K metal roof on my house.

      E. Rekshun

      March 8, 2017 at EST am

  15. I know a lady who was a teacher at the roughest school in my state in the most ghetto area possible. She said all the kids had the latest iphones and she was not even allowed to tell them to turn them off, the rule is they have to be on so parents can contact them in an emergency. The kids were just goofing around in their phones all day and not paying attention to her.

    DataExplorer

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • My daughter teaches in an elite private school. If a student doesn’t deposit the cell phone with her at the beginning of the class, he is marked absent. She doesn’t even have to call out the names, just check the phones in the bin. There are schools that don’t allow them. In the Bronx I saw NAMs depositing them in special bins in the groceries next to their school. It cost $1 per day to do so.

      Why can’t the parents contact the school in an emergency? Weird reasoning.

      Yakov

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

  16. Health insurance reform is a hopeless project right now. Try to get Medicate or company provided plan,anything else is brutal, pure Darwin out there. They want to make life unaffordable for us. Fight back for your biological survival. Off course the best thing is to make tons of money and to buy the best insurance.

    Yakov

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • Make tons of — Yakov? Tell me if you want to be a serf in exchange for health insurance!

      Again, most young people don’t need any fancy health insurance. You get into reckless and unhealthy scenarios, then its’s your fault, not because you don’t have any insurance. I only get common colds and an annual doctor’s checkup in my late 30s.

      JS

      March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • Well, if there were no Medicate, you had better believe it that I would buy an insurance policy. Why a serf? Just a well to do person who buys his own insurance. When I was IT consulting I never cared what it cost, I just wanted the best.

        Yakov

        March 7, 2017 at EST pm

      • I don’t pay for anything that is unnecessary.

        Who pays $400 a month in health insurance and all they get are colds? A one-time doctor’s visit with a codeine prescription costs me $100.

        JS

        March 8, 2017 at EST pm

  17. ‘The Republican plan calls for allowing insurers to write off as a business expense the entire amount of their executives’ salaries on their taxes, and not just the first $500,000, as is the case now under the Affordable Care Act.’

    Rofl! And I’m being excoriated for avoiding taxes. You gotta be CRAZY to pay taxes if you can help it. Affordable Care Act! ROFL! Like I’d told you, mates, and never do you forget it: a small fish thinks it’s an unjust world, a medium size fish thinks that there is some justice in the world, a big fish thinks that the world is just, and giant fish thinks that it’s the most just of all the worlds. Darwin, Darwin, Darwin!

    Yakov

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • Insurance executives belong in jail or in the gallows.

      Paul Ryan's Sickly Old Lap Dog

      March 8, 2017 at EST am

  18. Ann Coulter has had some excellent columns lately on health care. Here’s the most recent:

    http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2017-03-01.html

    Andrew E.

    March 7, 2017 at EST pm

    • She is dreaming when she thinks that we would have insurance costs of $50 a month. This is the best quote and very true:

      Policing fraud is difficult because: (1) the bureaucrats dispensing government benefits believe there is no fraud and, if there is, it’s a good thing because it redistributes income; and (2) we keep bringing in immigrants for whom fraud is a way of life. (See “Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole).

      Exactly. Trump should focus on immigration. Healthcare is a separate revolution.

      Yakov

      March 8, 2017 at EST am

      • Trump thinks immigration is “done.”

        Peter

        March 11, 2017 at EST am

  19. I still use a Blackberry Bold I bought on Amazon for $35 last year. Before that I had a Blackberry 8800 for 6 or 7 years (beautiful, beautiful design. I loved that thing). And before that, one of the old-school sidewheel Blackberries (bring back the sidewheel!)

    I can’t stand operating touch screens – whether tablets, smartphones, laptops, whatever. Extremely slow and inaccurate to type on, and there’s no tactile feedback.

    If anyone knows of a modern keyboard-based smartphone out there worth checking out, let me know. Otherwise I’m probably going to buy another Bold and keep it in the box until the one I have dies.

    Keyboard Warrior

    March 9, 2017 at EST pm


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