December 9, 2009

Getting Yet Another Thing Wrong

It's no secret that The Feds have done little to improve student achievement through their heavy-handed meddling, but you may be surprised to learn that's not the only thing they're screwing up at your local public school:

In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC, a USA TODAY investigation found.

No doubt that's because if Jack in the Box starts making their customers sick, they tend to start losing customers.  The public schools often can't lose their customers unless those customers sell their house and move or pay twice for education.

For chicken, the USDA has supplied schools with thousands of tons of meat from old birds that might otherwise go to compost or pet food.

That certainly inspires confidence when the only other uses for the food the Feds are serving to children are pet food and compost.

But don't you worry Congressman Miller is on the job.  Er, will be one the job.  Someday.

"If there are higher quality and safety standards, the government should set them," says Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. "Ensuring the safety of food in schools is something we'll look at closely."

I guess he was too busy grandstanding at Reading First hearings for political gain instead of worry whether poor children were being fed pet food for their free and reduced price lunches. (And whatever happened to all those Reading First indictments we were promised?)

Even McDonald's has enough sense to not feed their patrons pet food.  And, they manage to serve you a hamburger for only a dollar.  A non-pet food grade hamburger I may add that has been voluntarily tested for safety at a ten times greater rate that the Miller burgers.

McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.

I simply can't wait until the Feds are in charge of my health care decisions too.


Kathy said...

DeRosa states:

"I simply can't wait until the Feds are in charge of my health care decisions too."

Easy for you to say. Wait until you have to actually try to buy health insurance like all the retired public school teachers in PA must do. Then it is not so easy and very expensive. You will quickly find that there is no such thing as a free market place for health insurance.

I guess your insurance does not tell you what medicines you can take. I guess they don't tell you what doctors to see. I guess they don't tell you that you must go to certain places for all your health tests whether you like the place or not.

Which is worse, insurance companies trying to make a profit deciding health issues or a govt run plan not bent on making a profit? I don't see how it can be any worse and it might just be cheaper.


Robert Sperry said...

Kathy there are other ways of framing the choice. How about:

Private markets seeking profit vs.
Government managed seeking political power.

See public choice theory.

Ask yourself, what are the worst instances of private market profit seeking behavior. Now compare it to the worst instances of governments seeking power (think World War One for starters).

Stacy in NJ said...


Even those who have "private" health insurance are still subject to government controls. Each state's department of insurance effectively mandates benefits and engages in cost controls via group ratings. These controls add significantly to higher premiums.

The crony capitalist relationships between private insurers, healthcare providers (primarily large hospitals), and government drives up costs for the consumer.

Cost shifting from medicare and medicaid patient also adds to the cost of private insurance.

More government = higher costs.

Stacy (Who worked for an insurance consulting firms assisting medium and small employers manage their employee benefits - primarily their health insurance)

Tracy W said...

Kathy - if you really want to see whatever doctors you like and go wherever you like, then don't worry about insurance, just buy your healthcare directly (you might want to move to Bangkok - their top hospitals are world-class and they're a lot cheaper than the USA).

If you do want to pay someone else to pay for your healthcare then you've introduced a principal-agent problem. At that point you're going to get rules about what medicines you can take, about what doctors you can see, about where you must go for your health tests. I have lived in NZ and in the UK, with government-funded healthcare, and in both countries if you're using the government-funded system you do not get free choice about what medicines you can take, what doctors you can see, where you must go. (You do get free choice in NZ about your GP, because they're not government-funded).

Government-funded healthcare systems may be better or worse than health-insurer funded ones. But they're not everything-you-want-when-you-want-it. Both government funding and insurer funding introduce a principal-agent problem - the patient doesn't bear the marginal costs of their healthcare so they don't care about costs as much, the agent doesn't bear the marginal benefits of healthcare so they don't care about benefits as much. This disconnect is fundamental.

Kathy said...

Let's see my health insurance premiums have gone up 127% in 3 years- $424/month to $1,026/month plus a new deductible of $500 before any insurance coverage begins and this all happened without any of the new gov't changes. Tell me how I am benefiting from private insurance and no gov't help. This does not include any dental or eye insurance. That's a whole other bill. Does include co-pays on drugs that can run $100-$150/ for a 3 month prescription. At this pace I expect to be paying over $2,000/month by the time I hit 65. I love the free market health insurance place. A great deal. Let's maintain the status quo cause it is working so well. I myself would love a single payer option. I would prefer what the rest of the world gets-govt run health care. My only other options were to work till I am 65 and get the gov't option of Medicare or hope I died before 65 and didn't need to buy insurance.

Hey aren't most parents on this site choosing the public option of gov't run public education for their children instead of paying high fees for private schools, you know that wonderful free market place where you buy what you need and let the market determine price? I bet cost has a lot to do with that decision. And why is the public option of gov't run schools OK for your kids to save you money but gov't run health care is not OK for folks like me who want to save money too?

Nuff' said as this is an educational site but DeRosa made a comment that opened the door to the debate.


Kathy said...


I already don't get everything I want. I am told by my insurance company what drugs to take, what doctors to see, what tests I can get and where to get them and other etc. I tried buying health insurance on the open market outside of any group. Pre-existing conditions, that includes anything you ever took a pill for or visited a doctor for, make it impossible. You can buy it( most had $10,000 to $15,000 deductible for folks over 60)but at my age it was more than I am paying now and does not cover anything I took a pill for the first year. So essentially I pay more and for the first year have no coverage at all. And getting a prescription card is just about impossible.

Unknown said...


There's a classic fallacy that works in education, health care, and probable any area where you have significant government mandates.

If things are bad, any solution is desirable. No, things can actually get worse and will if the offered plan exacerbates what is already wrong.

I say that as someone who pays for their own health insurance with after tax dollars and then must pay again to actually use it since it's high deductible.

There are solutions that will help but everything coming out of the House and Senate right now will leave both of us worse off in terms of out of pocket expenses, choices on care, access to care in a timely manner, etc.

Remember all these plans have 10 years of taxes to you but only 6 years of benefits being paid out. Once there is a full 10 years of payouts we will all be working primarily to pay the ever increasing costs of government.

Government financed health care and public ed have a lot in common:

-Few, if any, penalties for poor care or instruction;
-Few or perverse incentives to hold costs in check;
-an emphasis on delivery of some service available to the masses, instead of what is needed by the individual.

KDeRosa said...

There are many things wrong with our current health care system and it's not even close to a properly regulated free market. Many if not most of the problems are the result of poor government regulation that has distorted the market. None of the current plans before congress remedy the deficiencies of the current system and add a few more problems which will serve to make the system even worse.

If the insurance companies are at fault, why don't we see the same problems in life insurance, auto insurance, etc. where the markets are more properly regulated?

The present high cost of insurance is the reult of many factors: lack of competition due to poor regulation (such as interstate sales being prohibited), regulation whihc often prevents anything but full benefit gold-plated plans from being offered, lack of tort reformfor medical malpractice (a smaller problem than most think, but still a problem), tax laws that faavor employer-provided pre-paid medical services plans rather than pure insurance vehicles, and the like.

G.Carter said...

Here in the U.K. it's possible now to choose your doctor, look at hospital stats and choose your hospital. It's possible to stay fear-free unless you are unfortunate enough to require very costly drugs that could extend your life ie by 6 months (a ruling against providing a cancer drug recently).
My daughter as a child had nine operations, endless visits and stays in hospital with, in the latter stages of her treatment, one of the best surgeons in that speciality in the country. From a financial point of view it was cost-free and fear-free.My husband, during his life-time, received treatment for cancer in the best hospital in the country - and so on for other people in this country.
Of course there are things that are wrong and there is excess - so too is there excess, cover-up, greed in the private sector.
Apparently we live longer than you do!
However many challenges there are to face - free health care is a mark of civilisation, imo.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

But the United States apparently leads the world in cancer survival rates.

Brian Rude said...

For my two cents on the health care mess may I just put in a plug for what I wrote years ago? "The Trouble With Insurance" is on my website at , and "The Trouble With Doctors" is at .

And while we're on the topic of government, what it can do well and what it can't do well, should we also talk about our current economic recession, or whatever it is? I have heard a lot of informed educated people say it is caused by a lack of regulation of the banking industry. The solution, they believe, therefore lies in more regulation of banking. I don't believe it for a minute. I don't think the cause of our economic problems is a lack of regulation. I think it is bad regulation, toxic regulation, perverse regulation.

I remember about a decade ago ads on TV, by a company called Ditech I believe, and probably a lot of other companies, wanting to make loans to people for 125% of the value of their house. How can that be, I wondered. I didn't know at the time. How can a company make bad loans and make money? When a bank makes a loan they are buying a promise. If a borrower has bad credit and little collateral it's probably a bad loan. The bank is buying trash, a bad promise. If I buy trash I'll lose in the long run, and I know it. How can it be any different for banks?

My conclusion, and I can't prove this admittedly, is that there is an after market for bad loans. Banks can buy trash and do okay if they then turn around and sell that trash to a willing buyer. Who's the willing buyer? I presume it's the government. I presume its Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

I don't know much about the Community Reinvestment Act, but I think it was originally passed in the 70's, and modified many times in many ways since then. It gives banks mandates and incentives to make loans where they would not otherwise want to make loans. I presume those incentives include buying up those loans.

Can others enlighten me more?

Tracy W said...

I already don't get everything I want.

Yep, that was my point. Whether an insurer pays or the government pays, you're not going to get everything you want.

As for healthcare spending - the USA is about the middle of the pack - see
Admittedly, Korea, Ireland, and Poland as fast growing countries in GDP terms should be seeing faster healthcare spending anyway, but the USA is seeing lower growth rate of healthcare costs than rich countries like Norway, the UK, Australia, Netherlands and Belgium.

G.Carter - my father-in-law is on a complex set of drugs, all paid for by the government (about half the drugs are to control the side-effects of the other half). Every time he gets a stable regime sorted out the NZ government changes which drugs he subsidises and him and his doctor start the dance all over again. That you got the best doctors and hospitals in the country is nice, but I doubt that everyone does (under any system). Under the NHS system you are entitled to ask for a reference to a specialist, but your GP decides if it's necessary or not. I was wrong about hospitals, you are able to chose which hospital you go to, my mistake.

Kathy said...


The argument in the USA from the right is that if we have gov't involved in health care that some bureaucrat will come between the patient and the doctor. What they fail to point out and this was my point which I guess I failed to make, is that many of us (me included) on private health insurance (HMO's) already have employees from the insurance companies coming between patient and the doctor.

The right makes it sound as if private health care is perfect and the gov't will ruin it.

I say it is already on the road to being ruined without any help from some gov't public option.

Former NYC Math Teacher said...

G. Carter,

You said, "Apparently we live longer than you do!" when comparing your (the UK's) health care system to our (The USA's) system. This is a fallacy.

The proper question to ask is, "Is the greater life expectancy in country A vis-a-vis country B due to better health care, or are there other reasons?" For example, the USA has higher rates of homicide and drug abuse than many other countries. While this doesn't speak well of us, and while both contribute to a lower life expectancy on average, they are not the result of a lesser health care system.

(Another example can be found in infant mortality rates. Comparisons suffer from differences in reporting criteria across nations. Some nations do not count births before a certain number of weeks as live births...unlike the USA. Some nations don't count deaths within 24 hours of birth.)

Unknown said...


I agree that the idea that government should stay out of health care is laughable at this point since it is already the biggest single payor.

We sympathize with your frustrations but wanted to alert you that both the House and Senate proposals can and will make the situation worse for most of us.

The answer to the problem of preexisting conditions is not to let patients wait until they are sick and want someone else to pay before they get insurance and begin paying premiums. "Hello. I'd like fire coverage. There is smoke and flames coming out of my second story window".

That alone will drive up everyone's insurance premiums for the same coverage you have now. Also the required plans push first dollar, low deductible coverage so that will also raise your premiums.

That doesn't even get to all the new taxes to bring the currently uninsured onto plans and subsidize certain low income families' coverage,

As frustrating as your experiences are now, you do have some rights of appeal and recourse.

Do you know what happens in the VA system when a doctor operates on the wrong limb or fails to notice the tumor on the x-ray? Those doctors keep right on "practicing".

A flawed private market with some competition is better that the lack of proper incentives in every government health care system.

Let's focus on fixing the flaws instead of further empowering politicians and unelected bureaucrats. Most of us visit this site to protest what such empowerment has done to US education already.

Dick Schutz said...

Hey, I thought this blog was about Education, not about venting political ideology re health care.

The privatizisters are highly consistent though, irrespective of the substantive area.

Could we look at some data? The people in countries with health coverage have some voice in changing the policy and they also have the option of paying for private services. The US has a large part of the population with no health coverage and no means of paying for private services.

Shouldn't the US be world-class? Where are "standards" when we need them?

RMD said...

If you don't want someone else getting between you and your doctor, simply pay for your own healthcare.

Tracy W said...

Kathy - ah, my mistake in misreading what you were trying to say. My apologies.

AK Walk The Sky said...

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Unknown said...


To update our previous discussion, a health care law aggregator says that tort reform would be worth $54 billion in savings between 2010-2019 according to the CBO.

They revised their earlier estimate of $ 4 billion in a Dec 10, 2009 letter to Jay Rockefeller because the earlier estimate failed to take into account a lower utilization of services as a result of the change.

Interesting if not directly related to education.

Diablolita said...

I know we can't leave it up to the Feds to protect the health of our children in school and that's why I've been petitioning my school to get them to switch the cleaners and disinfectants they use. I read a report by the Environmental Working Group on school cleaners (EWG Report) that suggests points out that some of the cleaners they use can cause serious health problems. There are some questions to ask your school here: Green H1N1 Disinfection.

Anonymous said...


This question doesn't relate to this thread, but I don't see any other place for direct questions to you, nor can I find a professional biography. My question is: have you ever done any teaching? I don't ask that in order to then shoot down your work. I am simply genuinely curious about the number of commentators on education who have no actual teaching experience and why they don't. And I must say that there are many zero-experience commentators out there who make a great deal of sense, but whose work would be vastly improved if it were leavened by actual experience.

Robert F

David said...

To actually tackle development and improvements in retention we must embrace technology. Adding further dimensions, i.e. auditory and visual, allows students to have a more dynamic interface and valuable learning experience.

A new learning method which deepens the learning experience is soon to be adopted in schools nationwide. Such a value is seen in the Vocabsushi method, developed by Jeff Novich.

Digital media allows for a very multi-sensory learning experience., a no cost learning tool, utilizes both and can replace expensive and heavy books.

EDDetective said...

Some local Boards of Education have serious problems too. The national government can't run anything to include health care. However, local governments are often times corrupt. Maybe a little bit of balance is the remedy?

Read here to see some examples:

Unknown said...

Heck, I can't say I'm suprised. What I think is really sad is that so many children depend on the school programs for breakfast, lunch and snacks and are getting low grade and low nutrition food.

Sorry to do this from the comments rather than an email, but I was wondering if you could possibly contact me via email at regarding a linking opportunity.