Browsing the blog archives for September, 2017.



The Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare, at least some of it. I’m always suspicious of anything with Lindsey Graham’s name on it. This proposal has some merit, but not much. I’m undecided at the moment.

On the positive side, Graham-Cassidy removes the mandates and allows states to construct their own mechanisms for administering Obamacare’s expansion. Governments don’t do well at managing much of anything, but state and local governments do better than Washington. States would compete to design the best plans and we would learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t from the process.

On the negative side, Graham-Cassidy retains most of the Obamacare taxes and accepts its entitlement mentality, while merely shifting administration from Washington to the states. Its proponents call this shift federalism, but that’s a stretch. Real federalism means that each state can raise revenue from its own citizens and design unique programs to meet state needs. Graham-Cassidy confiscates revenues from all citizens and block grants the money to states with federal strings attached. This is marginally better than having Washington run the program, but it’s not federalism.

If Graham-Cassidy passes, its amalgamation with the House repeal would be a dogfight.  It’s unclear what the final legislation would actually say, so this might be a case of Pelosi’s “voting for a bill to find out what’s in it.” It could get better or worse, most likely the latter.

In the end, Graham-Cassidy will pass or fail for political reasons. Republican senators who fear voters will hold them accountable in 2018 for not passing anything and/or have concluded that a complete repeal is not possible will probably vote for it. Those like Collins and Murkowski who seem to like Obamacare anyway will probably vote against it. Senator Paul will probably vote against it as well, but because he thinks we can do better.

Getting to 50 will be difficult. This will be an interesting week.


Business Response to Natural Disasters


There’s a long list of American companies that have stepped up to help victims of Harvey. Inc. published a list of 25 ( for starters. From cash to relief supplies, business is responding to the challenge. The mainstream business press is touting this as a great example of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Most of my colleagues know that I’m suspicious of the entire notion of CSR—the idea that business has a responsibility to “give back” to society. Some has asked if my position has changed, or if I think these companies should not have responded to the need. They are missing the point.

CSR is about an obligation to spend company resources on initiatives that do not promote a firm’s financial interests. The choice to do so is a different matter, as long as the shareholders agree. But company contributions to relief efforts in response to a natural disaster are generally in their best interest. Bass Pro Shops is in a great position to offer boats, Home Depot can deliver emergency equipment, and Walgreens can provide medical supplies. These companies are showing off their talents, and others that simply contribute cash also look like good corporate citizens. You might not be a fan of Walmart, but it’s difficult to argue that the company is evil when management writes a $10 million check for Harvey victims.

Does this mean that company executives are not responding to the devastation out of genuine compassion? I’m sure many are, although one cannot tell for certain in any given situation. But my original point remains the same: these companies are not obligated to do anything. They might take action as a goodwill measure, as a sincere attempt to help those in need, or as some combination of the two. Their efforts should be applauded and will continue to be important with Irma, but they should not be confused with CSR.