Sunday, July 16, 2017

The art of the con

Arizona, a few decades ago, had legalized "friendly" gambling in public places, including bars.  When the law past, I enjoyed the opportunity to play a few hands of black jack while drinking a beer.  I was also smart enough to leave the table when the "house" - any other bar patron who brought a deck of cards - started winning too much.

One Sunday night I brought my own cards so I could be the house.  I figured the card sharks would be home or in Church or something and I knew the odds are always in favor of the house.  I'm no card shark so I figured I and everyone playing would have fun in an honest game.

The game went fine for about a half an hour.  I was few bucks ahead and having fun.  My friend was probably breaking about even because he said he would leave once he lost ten bucks, but he was still playing.  Two other patrons I didn't know played and appeared to be having a good time.  Then a stranger saddled up to the table.

Nothing about the stranger set out warning signals until after three or four hands.  He offered me his own deck to play with because his deck "shuffled better."  One of the other players encouraged me to accept the deck because I was clumsy with my old deck of sticky cards.  He didn't accuse me of cheating, but the implication was there.  I reluctantly accepted the new deck.

It took me less than ten hands to fold and turn the deal over to the stranger.  I wasn't about to go broke.  As house, I lost hand after hand to the stranger, which, statistically, I knew should not have happened.  He encouraged me to continue, but I walked away. 

He took over the house position.  Half an hour later, he had no players.  He cleaned them all out, including my friend for ten bucks, and the stranger was left standing behind an empty table, albeit a lot richer.

After that night, I never sat at a card table again nor did I ever bring my own deck to play.  Card sharks infiltrated the "friendly gambling" game and destroyed it.  Friendly gambling became a venue to allow people who couldn't get a real honest job a means to support themselves at the expense of those who came to the bar to drink a few beers and have a good time.  Even though I left Arizona twenty-one years ago, as far as I can tell, they still have an "amusement gambling" law on the books.

The above real life example illustrates the art of the con in easy-to-understand terms.

First, you have to have a need for a proposed product or service.  When people go to a bar, not all of them want to dance, play pool, or drink to get drunk.  They do want to socialize.  Amusement gambling offers an alternative to pool playing and dancing and also affords the opportunity to socialize.

Second, you have ideologists who understand how things should be and also believe others understand the ideology in the same terms.  Amusement gambling, to most people, wouldn't mean "get rich quick."  It would mean playing an honest game for fun. 

Third, you have the opportunist who disregards the first two premises and aims to profit from the opportunity in some way regardless of the ideology.  The opportunist sees amusement gambling as a means to turn every beer drinking patron into their personal ATM machine.  Marked cards, sleight of hand, and a partner sitting as a player are tools the opportunist needs to make the ATM machine spew money.

Does the opportunist sound like a politician to you?  It should.  Politicians are opportunists no different than that stranger who saddled up to my card table and then cleaned it out.  Politicians have figured out the right buttons to push so the rest of us spew out the money whether we want to or not.

Healthcare is the latest scam opportunists in DC have invented to steal more money from us. 

First, there's the need for affordable healthcare we all recognize and agree to.  Second, we all understand affordable healthcare means we all should get to see doctors because quality healthcare shouldn't be a luxury given only to those who can afford it.  

Where healthcare reform falls apart is the third point.  Opportunists try to figure out how to pay for their Lamborghini or their one point two million dollar home at the expense of people who simply need some antibiotics, a stitch or two, or less frequently - like once in a lifetime - something more serious like stints or organ transplants. 

Real healthcare reform, as I stated before, needs to start at the top.  Control those costs and we're on our way to affordable healthcare.  Get the pharmaceutical companies out of healthcare (exactly why are they advertising their drugs directly to the consumer anyways?) and we're on the next step to drastically cutting costs.  And mandate every doctor, nurse, and nurse practitioner donate a minimum of ten percent of their work time to caring for those who can't afford their services.

Whoa, why mandate professionals to "donate" their time?  Simple.  They want me to donate my organs when I die so unless they start paying my next of kin for those organs, they need to donate their time to earn them.  Yes, I'm the opportunist taking advantage of the opportunist.  When I know my heart will cost a transplant recipient just shy of a million dollars, I want to know that everyone from my nurse practitioner through my doctor - and possibly surgeons if my health dictated the need of their services - all contributed to the cost of the transplant of the organ I offered them for free.

Politicians - you know, those folks who should be earning minimum wage since they believe that wage is good enough for most of us (but instead are earning almost $200,000 per year because we let them steal that from us) - are trying to come up with a healthcare reform plan to replace Obamacare and are failing.   The failure is being packaged as "It's the Democrats fault!"

Now here's where the interesting twist comes.  For a lot of us, we knew Obamacare was bad policy doomed for failure.  We knew we wouldn't get to keep our own doctor and we knew our premiums would rival our monthly mortgage payments.   Socialized medicine, in some form, may be inevitable, but Obamacare wasn't the right path. 

We were led to believe that Trump had a great plan, just wait and see, a vague promise he offered in the second debates and quite often in campaigns.

What did we "wait and see" for?

Apparently, nothing. 

Republicans had seven years to come up with a better plan. Trump had at least two years to come up with a better plan before he got elected. We called the con men's (and women's, what few are in the GOP) bluff, elected Trump to see the Republican's hand, waited to see the new hand, and seen nothing.

Adding salt to the wound is the recent tweet by GOP leadership. Someone using the GOP's Twitter account tweeted a question asking a couple of Democrat senators as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton where their plan to fix Obamacare was.


There's two ways to take this tweet, and neither bodes well for Republicans nor Trump.

One way to take it is we can believe it was a heartfelt question in hopes of bringing Democrats into the healthcare debate.

Wait a minute. The Democrats had a healthcare plan in place. Everyone called it Obamacare. Yes, it needed tweaking and fixing or - for those like me - needed to be repealed, end of process. No replacement.

The other way to look at the GOP's question is as a snarky tweet and feeble attempt to make Democrats look like obstructionists to creating good public policy.

Wait a minute. That explanation for the GOP's tweet sounds more reasonable. Reading it, you can almost see a spoiled, bratty, rich kid (middle aged or older) - whose sum life experience was never further than ten feet away from the protective whir of Helicopter Mom's blades - truly believing he (or she) has put the liberals in their place with that question.

It never dawned on the middle aged author of that tweet the Democrats not only had solid answers to the question, but answers readily available to anyone with Internet access for at least the last two years. One Democrat, Hillary Clinton, stepped forward and sent the GOP tweeter running back to his Helicopter Mom.


The link in the tweet directed the Twitter user to her campaign page where she outlined how she would tweak Obamacare to make it better and more affordable.

It wasn't repeal, stop, like I wanted to see, but it was a plan.

The con men (and women) of the GOP had stepped up to the table after Obamacare became law and said, "Hey, I got a better deck to deal, just wait and see."

A handful of voters in three key electoral states said, "Hey, I want to play with that deck," and gave the deal to Trump and the GOP.

Twenty-three million players left the table losing all healthcare options. Those still at the table are throwing the equivalent of a second mortgage into the pot to stay in the healthcare game. Paying more for less is the new healthcare landscape for most of us.

Next year, in the midterm elections, we can fool ourselves into believing we can turn the tables. To a degree we might, but doubtful. Until we get a politician who questions why a hospital administrator with no medical degree drives around in a Lamborghini, healthcare costs won't be leashed.

Our children need to prepare themselves for the fact that their biggest and hardest financial obligation to meet in life won't be a thirty-year mortgage. It'll be a lifetime of healthcare premiums, a financial obligation that will disqualify them from ever getting a mortgage or even a loan for a second car.

TL;DR folks:
Healthcare shouldn't be a con game.  We lost when Obama conned us into it.  We're losing as Trump and the GOP stumble along to continue the con game.

For your listening pleasure:

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

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