Airline safety; the economy and the stimulus; medical billing
Safety in the skies
Peter Garrison asks the question, “Who’s flying the airliner?” His answer is an ominous prediction of more tragedies similar to Air France Flight 447 and Colgan Air Flight 3407. In both instances, fundamental pilot errors contributed to the accidents.
Experience counts in aviation, yet our most experienced and skilled pilots are forced by law to retire at age 65, while inexperienced pilots repeatedly fail
check rides and rely on automation to replace fundamental skills.
The public deserves to know that they are being delivered to their destinations by qualified pilots who have successfully met standards for recurrent training, no matter how old they may be.
Although it is possible that the Air France pilots reacted inappropriately, as a wide-body airliner captain, I cannot help but wonder if the bad input to their airspeed indicators manifested itself in other ways. Perhaps other cockpit gauges and flight instruments were not accurate. This might explain why not one of the pilots was able to diagnose the problem and recover.
As Garrison writes, the A330 is “controlled by a computer.” If the input to the computers was in error, then the “output” presented on the other cockpit instruments might also be suspect.
Garrison needs to imagine himself on the flight deck of Flight 447, in the middle of the night, as thunderstorms loom ahead and the horizon disappears, forcing him to rely solely on malfunctioning cockpit instruments. It is quite possible that the three qualified pilots were dealt a hand that not even he could fly out of.
I wonder if the survivors of the “miracle on the Hudson” would agree with Garrison that “modern airplanes fly themselves” and that “airplanes, like elevators, could dispense with human operators altogether.”
I think not.
Debating the economic fixes
James K. Galbraith’s attack in 2009 on the predictions of former White House economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein of early recovery if the stimulus bill were passed was not, at the time, in the best interest of the country. Though the stimulus bill eventually did not bring about an early recovery, it was a quick fix that probably averted a depression.
Galbraith’s alternative was a long-term strategy starting with an infrastructure bank. The country had no time to waist on long-term strategies; an immediate fix was needed.
Economic models do not predict with absolute certainty, and no economist, including the respectable Galbraith, could predict with absolute certainty what would have happened without the stimulus bill.
Galbraith gets it wrong. To wit:
“Our problem is not budget deficits or public debt.” Actually, those are the problems.
“Cutting Social Security and Medicare — inflicting pointless pain on the elderly — will not help.” Actually, it will — help, that is. It won’t inflict pain on Grandma and Grandpa because the cuts would be phased in.
“And let’s start to act on our actual needs and problems: jobs, foreclosures, public investments, energy security and climate change.” We’ve been “working” on those for several years. Actually, that’s what the stimulus was supposed to do.
Any other bright ideas?
Galbraith’s factual, cogent and unbiased analysis of our economic carnage was refreshing. Although I do believe Social Security and Medicare need reform, that is not the solution to our current crisis and serves only as a political scare tactic.
Systemic financial reform, not the Dodd-Frank half-measure, is where the red meat is. Unfortunately, it is also where the big donors
Members of the deficit-cutting “super committee” would be well served by reading this article and reaching consensus on how we got to this point before moving forward.
Healthcare dollars and sense
David Lazarus spotlights the inequities of our healthcare system. In the run-up to implementation in 2014 of the Affordable Care Act, there is a rush by the insurance industry to pad their bottom lines.
Our expenses are already the highest in the world, while the quality has been sinking.
With Crohn’s disease, a serious gastrointestinal inflammatory condition that acts more like cancer, Scott Kenyon — whose dealings with medical bills Lazarus profiles — will soon reach his insurance limit. Anxiety makes the disease worse.
Exorbitant prices can be controlled with a single-payer system whereby the government would be forced to limit the prices of drugs, procedures, equipment and premiums. We can have single-payer by a backdoor approach to the healthcare reform law: Each state must have a health insurance exchange as the default to affordable care.
We all deserve affordable care.
Jerome P. Helman, MD
I am a provider for UnitedHealthCare, and I have not received a raise in 12 years despite increases in my expenses. I am also a provider for the very insurance company that I receive my medical care from, and have paid an increase that amounts to hundreds of dollars more a month for my benefits.
So where is the money going? As a consumer I pay a lot more for the same services; as a provider I get paid the same as I did 12 years ago.
My husband and I are well educated, and yet we are struggling because of increases in our medical expenses. It is embarrassing to live in a nation such as ours and be in this situation. Who is making the money?
Joanna M. Saporito
Test-score kudos for LAUSD
I was delighted to see that the Los Angeles Unified School District seems to be more successful in improving the math and English performance of low-income students than the various “reform” efforts.
UC Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller said it was “eye-opening” that conventional schools showed stronger results.
That’s hardly surprising. Studies have already told us that public schools outperform charter schools. Interestingly, other studies have also revealed the statistically significant correlation between per capita income levels and test results. Put simply, Beverly Hills students outperform their low-income counterparts.
What is really lacking is the measurement of students’ ability to function at the highest levels of human thought. Tests measuring this function must be hand scored, and nobody seems willing to pay for that.
I would like to remind everyone that not only did L.A. Unified show greater growth in standardized test scores than the mayor’s and other charter schools, but this was done during major budget cuts, furlough days and the laying off of thousands of our district’s youngest and brightest teachers.
These scores speak to the dedication and professionalism of L.A. Unified’s employees. I say bravo.
Two sides on vaccination
The Times criticizes states for allowing parents to opt out of vaccinations for personal reasons because the entire community is endangered as a result. But then it praises states that permit religious exemptions for the same thing. Why is that? Because children from religious families don’t carry germs for whooping cough or measles?
There’s no rational justification for criticizing one exemption and not the other.
I invite all those who refuse to vaccinate their children to bring them over to play at our neighborhood’s vaccination-optional dog park.
Bad idea for dogs? Bad idea for children.
A cure for the common opinion
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