Thursday, July 2, 2015

We Have A Word For People Like Gareth Morgan ... Lunatic


Another week, another imbecilic Gareth Morgan pontification. Not content with last month's attempt to disenfranchise the elderly; this time, he's got yet another of society's most vulnerable groups in his sights: the mentally ill.

Fair warning ... I'm going to get pretty fired up about this.

Morgan starts out by criticizing opponents of National's Social Bonds for Mental Health scheme as being "stuck in the rut of political point scoring". He then proceeds to politically point-score an own goal by first up insisting that the "political leadership of the Left" is "so lame"; then strawmans "the Left" as harbouring "the assumption that the government is the best provider of, well, everything" (hint: not even *I* do that! Despite being well to the left of the modern Labour or Greens parties); and engages in a petty bit of ableism by characterizing all of the above as being "hallucinations". Perhaps not the most sensitive choice of words for a post about how we, as a society, treat our mentally ill ... but then, the next few paragraphs make it pretty much fundamentally clear that Morgan Just Doesn't Care about little things like sensitivity to facts or the feelings of others. He's right. We're wrong. And if you disagree, you must be experiencing about of hallucination-laden delusional psychosis. (I might be)

Let's start with the facts.

Morgan claims that the Social Bonds experiment will lead to "at least the same result as State provision would but more cheaply".

This is false. Bill English, when talking up the policy, outright stated that the Social Bonds scheme would quite likely cost MORE than the extant state-run services do. This is because the state, under the new model, would be paying not just for the services to our mentally ill Kiwis ... but ALSO interest payments and dividends to private firms and investors.

I'm also yet to be convinced that treating a person with a health condition as some sort of tradable revenue-returning asset is likely to lead to an improvement in health outcomes for our mentally unwell countrymen seeing as National's previous pilot scheme in this area didn't seem to be much of a goer, but then maybe I'm just "hallucinating".

Now on top of this, I would have thought that a right-wing theoretically trained economist like Morgan would be absolutely UP IN ARMS about the idea of the state *guaranteeing* profits for investors and private sector firms. Surely this is exactly the kind of distortion which ruins the utility of the market mechanism as an allocator of goods and services? Even leaving aside Morgan's curious lack of scruples about the idea of making a profit off human misery, there's still something fundamentally unsettling about the idea that he's trying to sell a publicly guaranteed income-stream with competitive free-market rhetoric.

It's almost like in his sudden rush of enthusiasm to get THE MARKET involved in something ... he's found himself wildly overlooking the reality of the situation in a bid to get in as quick as possible with a steady stream of insults about some imaginary "Left" giant-cum-windmill. A more hypocritical man than myself might cast this as "Delusional".

All in all this is yet another case, one suspects, of Morgan getting all wildly excited about an idea and jumping up and down about it ... without bothering to check what he's actually found himself championing.

Now to be fair (because unlike Morgan, I'm not in the business of strawmanning my adversaries), Morgan does pick up on two very valid points which have also been raised elsewhere.

When he talks about the perils inherent in the private sector cherry-picking (or "cream skimming") the most manageable cases in order to turn a profit - that's a legitimate concern. And when he prognosticates about the dangers of private sector operations failing to provide meaningful outcomes to their clients in exchange for cash ... that's hella legitimate, too. After all, it seems to be exactly what's happened with National's previous push in this area.

He even suggests that there might be some inevitable problems entailed in contracting out public services to the private sector, and cites the failings of Whanau Ora as a justification for his concern.

But then he goes on to undermine this curiously sane-sounding bit of reasoned analysis by insipidly suggesting that this means the problem is with this *part* of the model, rather than the entire *outsources-to-private-sector* concept itself.

A moment's consideration will reveal the obvious idiocy contained therein.

I know I've said this before, but I shall say it again. And again and again and again ad-nauseum until the people in power listen. (I'd say it again until Gareth Morgan listened ... but I suspect we might be here until Hell acquires an emissions trading scheme)

Social Bonds, by the admission of just about everyone involved, are likely to COST MORE to run than our extant (and admittedly, creaky at the best of times) public health system.

The reason that they will COST MORE than what we're doing now is NOT because there is any guarantee that the outcomes will be better, or superior. There isn't. That's why this is, by definition, an EXPERIMENT.

Instead, Social Bonds will likely cost more because the state (i.e. you and me as taxpayers and/or mental health service provider users) is set to SUBSIDIZE some FAIRLY MASSIVE potential returns and interest for involved private sector entities. (the figures cited are between five and seventeen percent)

Now call me old-fashioned, but that doesn't sound particularly like the wonderful wheels of free-market efficiency being applied to one of our most complex and intractable health problems.

Instead, it sounds simply like yet more plain old Crony Capitalism from a National government picking clean the corpse of our public services sector to feed their gluttonous private sector mates.

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with non-state actors working in the mental health sector. Many NGOs perform vital supplementary and even front-line roles right now, already, with services ranging from addiction-counselling through to specialist psychiatric assistance. Hell, by definition any private counselor or psychiatrist you choose to commission the services of in order to help get to the root of your illness, is also a non-state actor.

So it REALLY REALLY rankles me when Morgan wades into a debate he clearly knows worse than nothing about, and blindly insists upon not only fundamentally misrepresenting the solutions on offer ... but woefully mischaracterizing the beliefs and objections of those of us not on his side of the argument.

What he's advocating for, in this instance, is something which the Finance Minister himself has characterized as putting *more* money into mental health, for an as-yet unsure and unspecified outcome.

Particularly given the problems with the model which Morgan himself has identified ... wouldn't it make a helluvalot more sense - if we're going to spend more money on this anyway - to put the cash where it's proven to do some good in front-line service delivery, rather than questionable ideologically-driven social experimentation?

I think so, but then Gareth Morgan disagrees.

Tell me ... which one of us is the supposedly insane one again?

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