Thursday, November 15, 2007

That Measurement Loving Bush Administration

How many times has the Bush administration unfurled a change with fanfare, only to flounder at the most predictable question, the size of its impact? Early in his first term, President Bush offered his support for measurement, "Annual measurement is a special concern of mine. I understand it's crucial. It's a crucial part of a solid reform package. But the good news is, I'm not alone." Actually, George may be alone as many of his staffers can't produce data, numbers or projections. Consider today's announcement intended to stratify air travel into the haves and have nots:

SECRETARY PETERS: ....And I'm sorry, how many more planes, Nancy?

MS. KALINOWSKI: We're not -- we haven't done those statistics, so we just feel like we know how much traffic we're going to have for the holiday season and we're just going to get them out of the New York area quicker, especially

Later in the conversation the concept of airline ticket pricing arose, especially the impact of pricing people out of the peak flying time periods:

Q If you get this bump in compensation, and you go to congestion pricing, won't the airlines pass these new costs on to their ticket buyers?

SECRETARY PETERS: They will pass some costs on, but the fact is, the customers are paying the price today with lack of reliability, lack of predictability, lack of knowing if they can get there on time.

You know, when I worked in the private sector before I came to this position, people in my company traveled the day before always, because we couldn't count on getting there the same day. That was an enormous price. But the other thing is, as we open up additional capacity, through congestion pricing, prices will even off, we'll see a leveling, so we don't see a long-term increase in prices.

No projections on volume increases and no projections on price changes? This is typical George W. Bush. Did you read between the lines on who will pay more on total costs? Those priced out of peak period individuals will pay more while businesses save. This segways nicley to his shifting the cost of health insurance away from the employer and to the worker.

None of his signature proposals, like health savings accounts, stopped the dramatic increase in the number of people without health insurance. The number of uninsured rose over 6 million on his shift, that's even with help from timely Census Bureau reformulations. What did his staffers have to say in the past?

Q Hi. I also have two questions, the first regarding this year's version of the health care tax credits. You say that the President has revised the policy because he's a believer in HSAs. And I'm wondering if you have any estimates as to how many people might be able to take advantage of this reconfigured tax credit? And also whether there was a fiscal component to the decision to not pursue the broader tax credit the administration has been interested in, in prior years?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: I'm sure we have those numbers available. I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, in terms of what the Treasury estimates in terms of the take-up. Will that be in the budget that -- I don't know what's actually in the budget. But, again, the President is a big believer in HSAs, and that's why he made the decision to make these tax credits apply to HSAs.

Q Okay, is the take-up rate something that you could check on today?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Roy, can we -- I don't know where we stand on that.

MR. RAMTHUN: We can check.

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Yes, we can check.

Check, check? When announcing a brand new effort intended to make a major impact, Bush staffers show up with no data? It raises more than the question of incompetence, it surfaces the ugly head of original intent. George Bush's understanding of health care became crystal clear when he referred anyone with coverage to an ER for care. I suggest anyone who follows his advice to put 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the address for the responsible party.

As someone who was a road warrior prior to 9-11, I avoid air travel at all costs. The airline industry is a direct reflection of the sorry state of customer service in America. I won't pay a premium price to fly peak hours, not if I can drive. I've made my own list and it's titled "Don't Want to Fly." Care to join?