Friday, March 05, 2010
It's Friday morning, it is 5 a.m. at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, and I'm wide awake. I was in meetings all day yesterday, followed by a reception, followed by a dinner with customers. I did, however, accumulate some tabs in little moments of quiet boredom.
When is a snow sculpture not cool? When it is hot! (Yet another example of the sole respect in which today's culture is more prudish than that of my youth.)
Don't believe everything on your Twitter feed: A pedagogical experiment that worked brilliantly.
Possibly related: John Roberts and Jamie Dimon, separated at birth?
A point we've been making for some time: That the climate models need to be rewritten with at least the process control that we require for, say, medical devices.
Ezra Klein interviews Republican Congressman Paul Ryan on the costs of health care reform. The discussion is technical, but intellectually honest. That is so rare a trait among politicians that it should be celebrated when it happens. Beyond that, though, the interview is a revealing exchange between two people, left and right, who know a lot about health care economics. And it does not end on a hopeful note for our progeny.
I, at least, have mixed emotions about this trend.
Health care reform: The vast left-wing conspiracy.
An interesting look at the proposed "bank tax," which really has nothing to do with the TARP notwithstanding the administration's rhetoric.
Do-gooders often do not-good. Me, I think that it comes from doing good for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong way. Teach a man to fish, don't give him fish. Possibly related item:
Business for Ilia Alsene, one of Haiti's ubiquitous "marchands"—or merchants—who sell food and beverages at curbside stalls here, is a lot worse since the country's devastating earthquake. But Ms. Alsene doesn't blame the quake so much as the international relief effort that followed.
Yet another plan to wreck Haiti: Kill off the local business, then leave.
"The fierce moral urgency of same!"
Apparently we're the "dumbest people in the world." Regarding energy policy, that might actually be true.
Is employment finally turning a corner? I think so. But it will still take a long time to get back to 6% unemployment.
From the no good deed goes unpunished department:
San Francisco Chronicle
Haitian farmers say U.S. rice hurts livelihoods
Paisley Dodds, Associated Press
Saturday, February 27, 2010
(02-27) 04:00 PST Pond-Sonde, Haiti --
Haiti's rice farmers are dismayed. It's nearly harvest time in this fertile valley where the bulk of Haiti's food is grown, and they're competing once again with cheap U.S. imported rice.
Just down the road, vendors are undercutting them, selling the far less expensive grain. Subsidized U.S. rice has flooded Haiti for decades. Now, after the Jan. 12 quake, 15,000 metric tons of donated U.S. rice have arrived.
"I can't make any money off my rice with all the foreign rice there is now," said Renan Reynold, a 37-year-old farmer who makes an average of about $600 a year. "If I can't make any money, I can't feed my family."
There is a puzzling chasm between Democrats and much of the rest of the country lying at the core of this debate.
Ezra Klein, like most Democrats, thinks that power and money agglomerated to Washington and the federal bureaucracy serves citizens efficiently, economically and broadly across classes. Most of us in flyover land think just the opposite, viewing these transactions from the perspective of family finances, the context of "me and mine", instead of the broad broad social contexts or ideological terms Klein sees.
When I go to the doctor and see a $1000 invoice for five blood tests I think "Heck with this!- I'm not simply supporting the doctor, the nurse and his office overhead, and not just the overhead of LabCorp., I'm also supporting the federal and state bureaucracies that manage health care in this country as well as the costs of social engineering as represented by the mandated coverage of every state legislators favorite issue. Phooey on that!"
My ancient $2 million whole life insurance policy cost me $15,000 per year for 14 years when I bought it. It's paid for, whch is too bad since the cost of the same coverage in a term policy has declined precipitously over the last ten years, and the same dollar coverage I so expensively bought years ago is now available for a fraction of that annual cost I spent.
My health insurance, with a $2 million lifetime benefit cap, costs me $20,000 per year, every year, and is subject to annual premium increase.
While the cash flows time out differently, the ultimate cash benefit from both my health policy and my life policy is nominally the same and that comparison serves to illustrate my point: health insurance would be considerably cheaper if required coverages were free for companies to determine in the competitive marketplace. Maybe as little as my Whole Life policy. Much as competition has benefitted consumers in life insurance, perhaps health insurance costs would even approach the very low cost of term life insurance!
My view is that this obvious and tremendous inefficiency is the direct result of English majors, like Ezra Klein, trying to dictate an economic decision to me, when I am confident I can do better myself. And by a lot. That's the chasm Klein doesn't see, and if he does, he views entirely in ideological terms. I, on the other hand, with three tuitions to pay and a hungry government to feed, see it in terms of pure fiscal profligacy.
For two generations we've engaged in a social experiment in health insurance, allowing state legislatures to determine much of the coverages, and the federal government to determine the rest. We've allowed the Feds to decide how much doctors get paid, and how that happens. Perhaps that's why were in the fix we are in, and loosening the controls might give us the lower costs we so desire.
Enslaving the medical profession, and establishing price controls won't make it better, that's for sure.
The Big Lie about Healthcare
Joe Wilson spontaneously shouted "You lie." Sam Alito mouthed "Not true." These both became MSM-reported stories -- not over what was at issue but over the question of whether Wilson and Alito were out of line.
But at the recent Blair House Summit, Paul Ryan -- with malice aforethought -- literally said that Obama's Healthcare accounting would make Bernie Madoff proud. Ryan served up a read meat soundbite lede for MSM and they ignored it. The dog didn't bark.
If you haven't seen Ryan's five minutes at the Summit, it's worth watching:
Paul Ryan: Hiding Spending Doesn't Reduce Spending The look that Obama gave Ryan at the end of this is priceless. It's a real tell. Ryan will need to have his wife start his car for him in the morning. Obama didn't address Ryan's points at all. He mumbled something about the "donut hole" and moved on.
Obama has a two trillion dollar manifest error in his Healthcare math, but insists his plan will save money because it passed CBO review. Ryan called Obama on it. Yes, we'd all love to live in a world where we get ten years of income for every six years of expense -- unfortunately it's not the one we're living in. Ab initio -- Obama's Healthcare was framed and written to game the CBO's process. Reread that last sentence slowly.
Ryan was just on with Chris Matthews, but Matthews didn't go near Healthcare, let alone Ryan's comparing Obama to Bernie Madoff. Matthews just riffed on "third rail" and how stupid-selfish voters are.
WaPo Ezra Klein obfuscates with wonky detail. Klein takes the position that Ryan "doesn't damage [Healthcare's] claim to reduce deficits and doesn't even engage whether the bill controls costs." Klein reaches this conclusion by saying that: "The bill might cost $2.3 trillion, but it either raises or saves $2.95 trillion." There's two aspects to Klein's reasoning: "raises or saves" Re "saves: Klein relies on two decades of Obama cost save assumptions. Now here's the ellipsis ... "raises": Healthcare only passes CBO review because it assumes brand new dedicated taxes. So we'd add new taxes to fund something new, when we already have a permanent annual trillion dollar structural deficit. But Klein buys into this. Klein can't be that dumb, can he?
How can Obama get away with saying that Healthcare will cut the deficit. It's an outrageous untruth. MSM is complicit. Am I wrong? Are the chattering talking heads that dumb?
I've been fascinated with the failures of MSM over the last decade:
The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters
In regards to unemployment the temporary hiring of more than one million Census workers will help the unemployment rate but I don't see any evidence that private employment growth is restarting. Once the inventory restocking whip has run it's course we need real economic growth to happen or the private unemployment rate will just start growing again, and the end of the census will mean a reduction in public employment. I'm not as optimistic as you are about the "turnaround". We need tax cuts.
We elect a new Congress shortly and I for one hope the two parties run on the health care issue. Medicare is destroying our fiscal stability and there are two competing visions now well articulated, and we ought to choose between them. A "parliamentary" type election, where we choose based on national party preference instead of local issues and needs, isn't the norm in our country. But in this instance it may be the only way to get through to the powers that be, and until that election has occured the present Congress should not pass the Senate bill.
"I'm not as optimistic as you are about the "turnaround". We need tax cuts."
We need a return to a semblance of sanity. Currently, the economy is being lopsidely goosed by the government spending $2 for every $1 it takes in. This is unsustainable. Ordinarily tax cuts are a help, but I don't know that we can just tax cut our way out of our current predicament.
Healthcare for example is bad enough as a standalone proposition, but in our current predicament Obama & Co's maniacal support for it appears insane. ... and it's not just Obama -- most of the Democratic party has drunk the Kool-Aid.
In effect if not in intention, Obama & Co would bleed the true private sector dry. But without it, there's no revenue to support his beloved government. Has he thought this through?
Does anyone know when California goes broke? The sooner the better. It'd be a real wake up call to DC -- and badly split the Democrats over the terms of its bailout.