Deinonychus antirrhopus: terrible claw

 

"In a nutshell, [Steve] is 100% unadulterated evil. I do not believe in a 'Satan', but this man is as close to 'the real McCoy' as they come." --Jamey Lee West

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© 2002 Steve Verdon

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Saturday, November 30, 2002

 
Krugman Watch Krugman decides it is time to go after the media this time. He frets about the "Objectivity" of the media. My beef with this is that objectivity doesn't really exist, IMO. We all have our own biases and filters that creep into how we see things and later report/recall them. As such, objectivity is a myth, IMo. I'd much rather see disclaimers on newspaper articles that contain the reporters political views or something, at least then I would have this information made a bit more obvious than have to glean it from the column itself. Further, one should always keep in mind that the media is a for profit business and as such the stories that are selected for air time/print are the ones that are believed to maximize profits. So right off the bat we are going to get a skewed viewpoint right there. It is shameful that an economist of Krugman's stature cannot see this. Now this doesn't mean that each media/news firm will select the same stories or give them the same "slant" or "bias". Each firm will have different consumers and as such will try to meet the demands/tastes of these consumers.

For most of the last 50 years, public policy took it for granted that media bias was a potential problem. There were, after all, only three national networks, a limited number of radio licenses and only one or two newspapers in many cities. How could those who controlled major news outlets be deterred from misusing their position?


I think for most of those 50 years the news media was pretty much liberal. If you look at most reporters they are registered Democrats. Most of them tend to vote for the Democratic candidates. So, what I think really is getting Krugman's goat is that Fox News and talk radio are starting to challenge this Liberal hold on the media. There are no longer just 3 networks. The internet makes it easy to get news from a variety of newspapers across the country. It is becoming extremely easy to fact-check these various sources of information. All of this means that the news media no longer has the strangle hold on information that it used too.

The answer was a combination of regulation and informal guidelines. The "fairness doctrine" forced broadcast media to give comparable representation to opposing points of view. Restrictions on ownership maintained a diversity of voices.


Really? Let me see...Rather? Nope a liberal. Jennings? Nope a liberal. Brokaw? Nope a liberal. 60 Minutes? Definitely liberal. Who were the "conservative" voices on television? Can anybody provide any names, I can't think of any.

 
The Democrats Rocky Road This column by Robert Novak argues that the Democratic Party faces a rocky road ahead since the Democrats in Congress in "safe" districts want to energize the Democratic Party's base, and move leftward as its new strategy. While this will make many, such as the regulars at Democratic Underground happy, it isn't likely to work, so say Al From, founder and CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and Bruce Reed, Clinton White House policy chief and current DLC president. Apparently they have written a memo that argues the Democratic Party's base is too small so the leftward movement will only serve to weaken the party. Here is a really jaw dropper:

"Close the cultural gap that, left unchecked, will give Republicans back a virtual lock on the Electoral College and doom any chance of Democrats taking back the Congress," they urge. How? "Half that battle is simply respecting the values of mainstream America in the first place. We will never be the party that loves guns most, but we can respect law-abiding citizens' rights to own them. We will never be the pro-life party, but we can show that we want abortion to be rare as well as legal."


If this view became an official part of the Democratic Party's platform the ultra-left would be enraged.

Thanks to Wilde for the link.

 
Democratic Underground Idiots This is a thread where the ultra-left of DU want to "fight it out" with the more moderate members. There is only one problem, there are no moderates at DU, at least not willing to participate in that thread. The boneheads at DU don't seem to realize that they are in a huge echo-chamber where if one opposes the ultra-left view then they are sent to Coventry. Just another example of how the crowd at DU has their heads ensconced in their buttcheeks.

 
Gore Comes Out of the Socialist Closet Gore, following Clinton's lead, endorses socialized medicine. In fact, Gore indicates that he likes the Canadian socialized health care system. I don't know what Gore is thinking...or even if he is thinking. After all the socialized health care plan in Oregon was killed by the voters 80 to 20, and Oregon is a rather liberal state. Considering the recent defeat at the polls it looks like Gore is doing what many have predicted, run further to the left.

Also, it seems Gore has forgotten is early days as Vice President when HillaryCare was floated as an idea and shot down so badly that the Republicans captured both houses of Congress for the first time in decades. HillaryCare was structured along the lines of Canada's system and during the midterm the voters response was to tell Clinton, "You try to do this and we'll vote your butt out in another 2 years." And I thought most of the Democrats got the message...or at least I thought they did. Gephardt went on national television telling the American voters, "We heard you," as in okay we wont to this socialist crap anymore. Apparently Gore didn't get the memo.

Now if you think I am being flippant with the socialist moniker consider this. The Canadian system penalizes, criminally, any attempt to engage in a private transaction regarding health care. That is you as a citizen cannot go to your doctor and pay him cash to take care of your problem. Even if you are in a life or death situation and you need quick medical attention, doesn't matter. You are by law required to go through the Canadian system, no matter how long it takes. Now, I imagine that if you are literally dying you'll get prompt care, but still waiting for even simple procedures is not reducing costs, it is simply hiding them. This is one thing that annoys me about the Canadians and Europeans who can get rather sanctimonious about health care. This study notes that a Statistics Canada survey found that 13% of the population had a medical need that was unmet. Of the about 50% (or 6.5% of the population) claimed it was due to excessive wait times. Overall that study is comprised of useless statistics (so what if 61% of Canadians think their health is very good, and the information on wait times is not well put together which makes me go, "Hmmmm..."). However, here is an interesting one, breast cancer diagnostic to breast cancer surgey wait time from 1992 to 1998 went from 29 days to 42 days (almost a 45% increase). Here is a study that looks at wait times and coronary artery bypass grafting and the impact of wait times on the quality of life. The study found that those who wait for more than 3 months have significant decreases in the quality of life. (Note, this is an abstract only and there is no mention of how common a greater than 3 months wait time is.) Here is another article on the impact of wait times. The basic gist seems to be that if you have to wait your chances of dying go up (no brainer there, IMO). So the costs are not avoided they are simply hidden in terms of lower quality of life and in some cases death.

The article at the begining of this post looks at other issues as well. Such as why is the egalitarian argument limited? Why not apply it to cars, food and clothing? The answer is because then we'd be living in the People's Republic of China and wearing drab clothing, being grateful we actually have food, and riding bicycles. Also lets note that the PRC is moving more towards market oriented reforms. This begs the question...if this notion of egalitarianism doesn't work for cars, food, and clothing why should it work for medical care? Why shouldn't we expect drab (i.e. lower quality) health care from an egalitarian system? For example, the U.S. has a much, much larger population than Canada's and it is possible that such a system would be vastly more expensive than what we have now. Also Americans might have life-style differences between Canadians and Europeans that would result in higher health care expenditures.

There is this part about health care as well:

Likewise, health care is a scarce good, whether or not we wish it to be. From the individuals who perform acts of medical care to the medicines and various medical devices used to deal with health and wellness-related issues, all of these things are scarce and no amount of rhetoric from intellectuals and the political classes can change that fact.


Which also goes to the argument I have been having at DU about labor both labor and health care are scarce (can we agree on that?) and as such they need a price for rationing. When the government tries to get into this business of rationing there is tremendous political pressure to set the price lower to make voters happy. The problem is that when this occurs the costs are shifted off the accounting books and onto the people in terms of longer waits, and in some cases more deaths.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

 
Wilde I have added a link to Wilde over under the Opposing Viewpoints links. Wilde claims to be a Democrat, but Independent is more accurate and I don't really disagree with much that he says, but hey...the Opposing Viewpoints roll needs some more links under it.

Also, if you haven't linked to Wilde, do it. Wilde was delinked in a manner similar to Little Green Footballs (oops, there go my chances of getting a permanent link from Rittenhouse Review, like I care that is one boring blog, IMO) simply for saying he is a Democrat! So link up and lets show these people that think this kind of squelching of free exchange of ideas is good that they are wrong. I agree with what Jane Galt said:

This is not the best way to ensure the triumph of the truth. Certainly, Rittenhouse Review has no obligation to send its readers anywhere it believes that the writing is offensive or the ideas are wrong. For example, I do not have a permalink to Rittenhosue Review. Trying to ban those ideas, however, by keeping everyone from linking to the site, does not advance the search for truth. Ideas which are shoved off into a ghetto populated only by the like-minded do not die; they fester. If Rittenhouse Review believes that LGF's ideas are wrong, a better strategy would be to bring the ideas into the light and expose their untruth, rather than trying to keep the Faithful from ever encountering them.


 
The Campaign For Americas Future I have blogged about these guys before, but I think it is time I kick the crap out of them again for the lying, scare mongering, know-nothings that they are. The website has a list of politicians (looks like all Republicans) who are in favor of privatizing Social Security. For example, they list Tom Latham of Iowa as being in favor of Social Security privatization. They start off with this

Latham privatization plan would require everyone to lose Social Security benefits while taking more risk.


Well if you extremely risk averse then you could invest in U.S. Government bonds and be 100% secure in your investment. Accordingly you would recieve a very low rate of return. The idea behind privatization as advocated by Latham is that it would let the individual select their level of risk/rate of return levels. A young person who has a 30 or 40 year planning horizon might be perfectly happy with the highest risk/return ratio. Given that they have such a long planning horizon a loss early on is not that significant. However, a person who is 45 or 50 and with a 15 to 20 year planning horizon might want much lower risk/returns.

Given that people would now, on average, have more money for retirement this would allow the government to scale back future Social Security benefits without affecting the standard of living of those future retirees. This is the key part that these guys leave out of their screed. The cuts will be put on future retirees not current retirees. They are in effect lying when they simply claim that Social Security benefits will be cut (implying cut today).

Hans Riemer, the author, then goes on to make this false statement:

Yet Tom Latham would take this bad idea one step further. He supports requiring workers to invest their own Social Security money, even if they don't want to take the risk.


This is false. I would imagine that one of the options would be to put all the money into U.S. Government Bonds which are 100% secure. Further, this is where the Social Security surplus goes right now. So I can't see that this is a huge problem. Moreover, if U.S. Government Bonds are no longer good, you'll probably have other problems besides worrying about Social Security!

Congressman Latham does not want to admit that his plan would cause benefit cuts. In fact, he now claims that he opposes privatization, even though for years both Republicans and Democrats have used the word to describe private account schemes such as the one proposed by Latham.


Of course he does. It is really hard to fight simply lies with complex truth. Trying to explain to people the workings of the plan would require them to sit and listen to something that they'd probably find rather boring. Trying to respond to the hysteria causing cry of "They want to CUT SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS!!" with even a moderately detailed explanation is extremely difficult and likely to fail. The lie is so much easier to grasp and doesn't require thinking.

Next Mr. Riemer makes this statement:

By supporting mandatory private accounts, Latham takes the idea of privatization to its very extreme. He believes that all workers should be forced to take risk with their Social Security money, even if they do not know how to invest or if they think that they are already taking too much risk in their retirement plans.


First off, the imputed rate of return on Social Security sucks. Second as noted there are very safe investment options out there. As for this notion that people are too ill informed to make the correct decision, well that can be a job for the government. The government can give simple explanations as to what each option entails. Putting the explanations in "laymen" terms so that people can become well informed as to where to put their money. In fact, this is one role I see as legitimate for the government, providing information to people. Information is basically a public good, that is my consumption of the information does not prohibit you from consuming the information as well. So once again we see Mr. Riemer being less than honest with us. Which reflects his liberal ideology...you (the public) are too stupid to know what to do with your own money so the government must take care of it for you. Doesn't that make you feel all nice an warm inside?

It is important to understand why private accounts would take money out of Social Security, and why that would force a cut in benefits. For the purposes of illustration, imagine if every worker paid $1000 into the Social Security system every year. Under a private accounts system, that worker would divert an amount, say one-sixth or $160, into a private account. Social Security, in turn, would have only $840 to pay benefits, where before it had $1000. So promised benefits would have to be reduced to the level that could be paid from $840.


This is a blatant lie, Mr. Riemer is counting on your to not know all the facts to detect his lie. Social Security is currently over collecting. That is the money coming in is greater than the money going out. The excess is being invested in U.S. Government bonds and will be used later when the money coming in is not sufficient to cover all the benefits that have to be paid (i.e. in other words the system is heading for collapse...and Mr. Riemer knows it see below), So long as the reduction in reciepts is less than or equal to the over collection there wont have to be a reduction in current benefits.

This new gap in funding would of course compound the currently projected gap in funding. To continue the illustrative example, if Social Security in the future would actually need $1200 to pay full benefits - but would have only $840 because of privatization, benefits would have to be reduced even further, from $1200 as promised to $840 as could be funded.--emphasis added


The italicized part is important, it says that Mr. Riemer knows that Social Security, as currently structured is heading for collapse. Further, he is lying once again...or at least not being completely honest. Mr. Riemer is ignoring the fact that since people will have their own accounts that are earning a positive rate of return their future benefits can be reduced. Lets use our own hypothetical. Lets say, each year the average person pays in $1000 and in the current year the benefits are $600 (so Social Security is collecing $400 over what it needs from each person on average). Now, $200 of that money goes into an account for this average person the other $200 goes into U.S. Gov't bonds). Further, lets assume that benefits increase at 3% per year and the rate of return on that psuedo-private account is 11% (the market average). So what do we see say, 30 years down the road? The benefits would be $1,400 per year, the amount in the psuedo-private account is $39,000 dollars. Even if there are no benefits paid out from Social Security and the person has to draw on only their psuedo-private accout then they have enough money for 20 more years (assuming the $39,000 earns no more interest to offset the increases in the cost of living)! Any money still paid out by Social Security would extend the number of years.

The problem is that some people might not earn the 11% rate of return (this is the historical average rate of return from the stock market). However, one could plan for lower rates of return. Taking a pessimistic view on the rate of return would, IMO, be wise. Further the system could be setup to try an ensure that there is no reduction in the overall amount of benefits future retirees recieve when taking into account the psuedo-private accounts and the benefits paid out by Social Security.

Consider the most widely discussed approach to partial-privatization, which is to divert two percentage points of Social Security taxes into private accounts. [1] A "2% plan" would reduce Social Security contributions from 12.4% to 10.4%, and direct that money to private accounts. Two percentage points of FICA is about one-sixth of total Social Security revenues (2/12.4).

According to the intermediate projections of the 2002 Social Security Trustees report, Social Security benefits are fully funded (meaning that 100% of benefits can be paid) until the year 2041. After 2041, when the Trust Fund has been entirely redeemed, Social Security will be able to fund about 73% of benefits throughout the remainder of the century. Social Security is facing a real - but manageable - financial shortfall.

In contrast, if the "2% plan" were put into effect today, nearly $1 trillion would be diverted away from Social Security over the first ten years of implementation. Social Security would first become insolvent in 2026 - fully 15 years earlier than current law. Similarly, the date at which the Social Security Trust Fund would first need to be repaid would move up to 2009, from the current projection of 2017. [1]


This part is particularly amusing. What Mr. Riemer is frantic about here is a plan that would accelerate the shortfall in the Social Security fund by 15 years. Instead of having a shortfall in 2041 we'd face one in 2026! The tax increases that has got his panties in a knot will happen it is just a question of when. I find it amusing that liberals can breahtless go on about how we must do things for future generations in regards to the environment, but fuck 'em when it comes to taxes. Now if one were really cynical one could posit that Mr. Riemer is about my age (maybe a bit older) and he opposes these things because either:

  • He will be retired in 2026 and is worried about his own personal well being.
  • He'll be in that latter part of his career and looking to retire and not wanting to pay a huge tax increase.

    Now, this doesn't mean that there wont be problems. For example, some people might engage in excessive risk taking. Those who enjoy gambling might have a problem here. However, this raises another issue. Should I be responsible for the guy who likes to gamble and gambles away his retirement (either in stocks or in Vegas)? That is what Social Security implies, that all of us are responsible for each other. The problem is it then removes any incentive for the gambler to exercise any caution with his money. Why be overly worried about retirement when the full faith and credit (i.e. taxpayers money and credit) are there to bail you out? Conversely some people might be extremely conservative when presented with risk...too conservative. Instead of taking moderate risks they will take very little or none at all and find that they have far less money than if they stayed in the current Social Security system. Again though, should the rest of us be responsible for these people? Those who want the current system think the answer is yes

    The purpose of Social Security is to provide a guaranteed benefit in the event of retirement, disability and survivorship that is adequate to protect a family's standard of living. That benefit should be immune to stock market swings and it should be guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. That is what Social Security provides today.


    And from The American Prospect we get

    The end of Social Security in its purely public form would mean losses for Americans that are not just economic but social. In abandoning the largest and most popular public program that binds us together through its benefits, we would lose an institutional and economic linchpin of our political community. When stacked up against the uncertain financial gains from privatization, the benefits of a public Social Security system look increasingly priceless.


    While I think the rhetoric sounds lovely it is largely false. Do we really sit around feeling like some sort of gigantic version of Little House on the Prairie? I don't think so. I think for the most part people don't look at the taxes they pay to Social Security and think warmly of the recipients nor do I think people think ill of them either. They just look at it and sigh wishing they could have that money for themselves. We don't feel closer to the those who recieve these benefits because it is all handled impersonally through a gigantic bureaucracy. You don't go to the Social Security office to hang out with friends. You go there to feel like a piece of meat being processed. You walk in take a number and sit there in the unbelievably drab room waiting a small eternity for your number to be called so you can fill out some forms and have some lady not even look at you as she takes them, stamps them, and then puts them in the propre file for processing. Number 44....number 44?

  •  
    Some Stupidity from Hesiod Hesiod is still maintaining the Libertarians voted mostly for Republicans. However, John Miller in an NY Times breaks down the data and it shows that the libertarians are costing the Republicans elections. Some examples are Thune in S. Dakota, John Ensign in Navada, Slade Gorton in Washington. Jim Doyle won the governorship of Wisconsin by 68,000 votes...but the Libertarian candidate garnered 185,000 votes. The exit-poll data indicates that the Libertarian party takes 2 votes from the Republicans for every vote they take from the Democrats. Hence of that 185,000 as many as 123,000 would have voted Republican without the Libertarian candidate...or perhaps if the Republicans were more libertarian in their policies.

    Hesiod is basing his "logic" on the fact that the article by Miller and the article by Barnett, are attempts to keep the libertarian wing within the Republican party. The problem is that as we can see from the data, the libertarian wing has by and large left in sufficient numbers to actually hurt the Republicans in several key elections. The Slade Gorton defeat in Washington was very bad in hindsight. Without Gorton it gave the Democrats the opening to entice Jim Jeffords to switch sides giving the Democrats a 1 vote majority in the Senate. This made is very easy for the Democrats to slowdown Republican legislation. Simlarly with the John Ensign defeat. If he had won he wouldn't have been up for re-election in 2000 so that would have given the Republicans a 2 seat lead and made it virtually impossible for the Democrats to pull of the switch they did shortly after the 2000 elections.

    So we can see that once again Hesiod demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is the biggest idiot in the blogosphere.

    Tuesday, November 26, 2002

     
    The Humor Stylings of Hesiod

    SHOOTING THE MESSAGE: As I have maintained since election day, the voters actually do not like the GOP's actual policies. They just, for whatever reason, like the GOP better at the moment.


     
    Krugman Watch Hey, you get two today for the price of one! Krugman goes off on the nepotism/cronyism that is present in the Bush Administration. Yeah, it does look ugly, but hey lets compare it to Clinton:

  • Bill Clinton's wife Hillary is in the Senate
  • Bill Clinton's half-brother Roger got a presidential pardon
  • Webster Hubbell had to leave his post as deputy attorney general in order to serve a little jail time, but his wife held on to her job at Interior.
  • Clinton trade representative Barshefsky's husband, Ed Cohen, got a job at the Solicitor's Office
  • Clinton Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's Chief of Staff was Ann Shields, wife of former Democratic campaign strategist Mark Shields who was also a CNN and PBS political commentator and Washington Post columnist
  • According to the National Wilderness Institute, Rep. Congressman Gerry Studd's companion was given a job at the Minerals Management Service while Studds was Chairman of the Committee that had jurisdiction over Interior.
  • Hugh Rodham
  • Lets also not forget that Bill Clinton put his wife in charge of the Health Care Task Force during his first term.
  • Vince Foster (no, I am not implying anything about his tragic suicide)

    Frankly I don’t see much of a difference. This is typical of what happens in politics, you appoint your friends and associates to positions inside your administration. So Bush is doing it? Big deal..

    Here is what really gets Krugman’s goat

    It wasn't always thus. The influential dynasties of the 20th century, like the Kennedys, the Rockefellers and, yes, the Sulzbergers, faced a public suspicious of inherited position; they overcame that suspicion by demonstrating a strong sense of noblesse oblige, justifying their existence by standing for high principles. Indeed, the Kennedy legend has a whiff of Bonnie Prince Charlie about it; the rightful heirs were also perceived as defenders of the downtrodden against the powerful.

    But today's heirs feel no need to demonstrate concern for those less fortunate. On the contrary, they are often avid defenders of the powerful against the downtrodden. Mr. Scalia's principal personal claim to fame is his crusade against regulations that protect workers from ergonomic hazards, while Ms. Rehnquist has attracted controversy because of her efforts to weaken the punishment of health-care companies found to have committed fraud.


    That there isn’t this condescending attitude amongst these…these Republicans to help us peasants. That they should do something to help the peasants (that’s you and me by the way) because we can’t do it ourselves. Without the help of the likes of the Kennedys and Rockefellers we’d be nowhere. You’d be a failure. The rich (never to be damned enough) would have ground us all into the dirt.


  •  
    Krugman Watch Krugman suddenly becomes an environmentalist in his latest column. I might find some agreement with him if it weren’t for the fact that he is just a stupid hack when it comes to writing his political diatribes. For example, how come he is not on his high horse about Grey Davis getting the emissions rules for generators relaxed to try and help alleviate the power crisis in California? Namely

  • Power plants will be separated from the rest of the RECLAIM market until at least 2004;
  • Power plants will be put under enforceable plans that require them to install pollution control equipment over the next two to three years;
  • Power plants will pay into a mitigation fund for any excess emissions at the rate of $7.50 per pound of pollution; and
  • AQMD will use this money to reduce pollution by cleaning up equipment at the ports and other areas – like tug boats, yard hostlers used to move containers in shipping yards, trash trucks, and agricultural water pumps. This will provide permanent reductions in emissions of both smog-forming pollution and cancer-causing diesel soot.

    Sounds good right? But emissions credits were running as high as $40/pound on the spot market. That is the price of the pollution was priced by the market at $40/pound, but the AQMD is letting them pay only $7.50/pound. This means that you will have more, not less, pollution. Krugman’s ideological blinders must be huge.

    Here's another reason: As long as new source review was in effect, the regulated industries had an interest in fundamental reform; a sensible cap-and-trade system could have both reduced pollution and increased profits. But now the polluters have gotten what they want; they would be hurt, not helped, by new restrictions. There's no longer any basis for a deal that clears the air.


    Uhhhh…what? I understand the idea here. A cap-&-trade program would cap the amount of pollution allowed and allow various firms to sell “permits to pollute”. This would internalize the externality imposed by pollution and thus result in a more economically efficient outcome. However, I see no reason why this has to result in increased profits. I suppose it could, but simply stating this is, IMO, bullshit. Krugman is talking out of his ass.

  • Monday, November 25, 2002

     
    Democratic Underground This is an update on the "Profits, Okay Learn Me Some Economics" thread at DU. Code_Name_D has just posted a reply and God is it funny, funny in its incoherence, funny in its ignorance, funny in the posters insistence on demonstrating his poor knowldege. What makes it even funnier is he claims to have been one of the economic theory "gurus" there at DU. This guy has trouble with some basic concepts. When I get home tonight I'll post a response, to try and keep from getting banned it'll have to be toned down. Basically, Code_Name_D is a moron. Amazing that this is what passes an economics expert at DU....well okay maybe not.

    Update: I have responded to Code_Name_D. He can't even see that I have destroyed several of his patently ridiculous claims. Oh well, when I get home, if I am not already banned, I'll post a response.

    Update II: Code_Name_D has replied. Can we say circular and specious reasoning. Labor has special consideration because it is not a commodity. Labor is not a commodity because it has special consideration. There you have it folks, Code_Name_D's economic theory in a nutshell. (Disclaimer: if you hurt yourself laughing I am not responsible!)

    I also liked the bit that only labor produces things and only labor consumes things. My computer is not consuming electricity right now. Fuuuuuuuuck. Where are the guys with the white coats and the canvass overcoat with the sleeves that meet in the back?

    Sunday, November 24, 2002

     
    Another Stupid Economics Thread at DU This one about tax reform. Now I am confused, the whackjobs at DU are going on about the regressive nature of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. I mean they are right, that isn't what has me confused. What has me confused is that the mental midgets are ranting and raving that it has something to do with Bush/Repubicans and the rich. Keeerwhat??? Oh well, check it out and remember I am posting as EconomicsDude. (Personally I am amazed I have made it to 18 posts.)

     
    Altercation on the Limbaugh Daschle Dust Up Alterman readers agree that Limbaugh is literally a dangerous man, literally.

    Of course, Daschle is right — but its not just Limbaugh but the whole gargoylish lot of them, from ex-convict G. Gordon Liddy through Bill O’Reilly hiding behind his supposed No Spin Zone and up to and including a very strange and scary broadcaster named Michael Savage who continually “savages” anyone outside the right wing of the Republican Party . . . these commentators hammer away seemingly on every local Atlanta Radio station at all hours of the day and the fallout has yet to be seen or felt.


    Fall out? What does he think this is a nuclear bomb blast or something? Sheesh. Most of these guys have been on the air for the last decade (I remember running across rush Limbaugh on AM 640 about 15 years ago). Whenever I tune in to listen to talk radio (I actually haven't listened to Rush Limbaugh in years) the basic message seem unchanged: The Republican/Conservative approach is best, and here is why the Democratic/Democrats are bad. But now suddenly these guys are not just annoying, shallow, or even wrong...nope they are now a danger to society, literally.

    Another reader, Justin, expounds on the real reason Limbaugh is so dangerous:

    With regards to Rush Limbaugh being dangerous. The only reason he is dangerous is because a great many Americans are either intellectually lazy or just plain stupid and won’t or can’t think for themselves.


    Stupid Americans. Most Americans are just a bunch of fat heads who hear somebody like Limbaugh nod their collective heads pick up the phone or turn on their computer and start in with the threats of violence. If only Americans weren't so stupid they'd realize Limbaugh is an idiot; heck they'd have even voted Democrat and life would be great, well except that Limbaugh would still be around...but maybe we could introduce a nation wide speech code (like many liberal campuses) prohibiting Limbaughesque hate speech.

    Here is Rich Procter pontificating on how Limbaugh is actually calling the shots and not President Bush (and here I thought it was Cheney all along).

    Rush Limbaugh is the shadow President of the United States. How do I know this? When Bush didn’t denounce the global warming report produced by his own administration, El Rushbo accused him of turning into Al Gore. The Limbaugh web-site actually featured a tiny head of Bush dissolving into a tiny head of Gore. THE NEXT DAY Bush denounced the global warming report, and flushed it down the toilet. Bush is so obsessed with “securing his base” that he doesn’t dare offend even one of the brain-dead dittoheads. Ergo, the Round Mound of Sound is, de facto, in charge.


    Hey Rich, want another dose of post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc? Post hoc ergo propter hoc is the type of reasoning that notes that B follows A therefore A causes B, based on nothing else. Perhaps is silly Rich had a number of examples he might be onto something. But as with many monomaniacs Rich has focused on one issue noted the order of events and leapt to an asinine conclusion.

    JohnIAT needs to get some help soon otherwise he is about to pop an artery:

    Is Rush Limbaugh dangerous — literally?
    Of course he is.
    How dangerous? Hell, even HE doesn’t know.
    The fact of the matter is we have entered into a new era quietly but irreversibly.
    An entire mode of mass communications/radio has been completely taken over by rightwingers for the delectation of what is assumed to be a vast right wing listening audience.
    Twenty-four hours a day seven days a week-and nothing can be found on the dial except Hilary is a pervert, Daschle is a sneak and a traitor, etc etc etc...
    Fifty percent-plus one of the electorate in 2000 voted for a democrat, yet one hundred percent of talk radio is loud, obnoxious and reactionary to a fault.
    Why this is, I cannot say.
    But I do know that the effects of such saturation are far reaching to the point where quite frankly the Limbaughs, the Imuses, the Hannity’s have no idea where their power ends IF it ends.
    And that from a political science point of view, is a a very bad thing indeed.
    I think this radio-reactionary loving forty-two percent of the electorate is being driven systematically insane by this constant bombardment of paranoia from the AM dial.
    And at a certain point, 42 percent of the electorate will be living in a “disassociated state,” thanks to talk radio.
    What effects will this have on democracy I don’t know.
    But it will happen if present trends continue.


    We can see here some of the slothful thinking that goes on on the left (and the right has its slothful thinkers too). Notice that because the country is roughly 50-50 on Democrat/Republican it is a travesty of justice that Talk Radio isn't 50-50. The problem is liberal talk radio just doesn't do well ratings wise and radio is a business about making money. So you pick the guys who'll get you ratings. Perhaps the problem isn't the Republicans or the talk radio hosts, but it is the fact that Democrats aren't listening. Clearly they do exist (we see them voting), but it seems they just aren't tuning into talk radio's liberal hosts.

    The "Hillary is a pervert, Daschle is a sneak..." line is a nice bit of hyperbole. But what do we get from the liberals? Bush is a moron, he is the President Select, etc. Clean up your own shit as well. Lets look at a liberal talk show host, Mike Malloy


  • Fight The Murderous Lies And Sickening Incompetence Of The Bush Crime Family!
  • Listen to Bush's Five Easy Steps Using Fear and Loathing to Manipulate the Public Into Accepting Totalitarian Rule.
  • How to tell the Bush Administration from the Terrorists
  • Here is Malloy implying Bush is a cocaine addict (audio)
  • Right Wing Psychopaths


  • Once again we can see that the Liberals at Altercation are in fact the fat heads who simply nod when their talking heads speak. Perhaps if these people came out decrying this kind of negative speech on all sides I might listen to them. Instead they are just a bunch of whiney snot nosed children.

    Friday, November 22, 2002

     
    Ricky West on Taxes and Democrats Ricky looks at a new measure by Democrats on reducing taxes. This one is for making payroll taxes deductible from your income taxes. The problem is that low income people often don't pay income taxes anyways. So giving them an additional deduction isn't going to help...unless it results in a tax credit (i.e. they get money from those of us who do pay taxes).

    Ricky also has this fantastic table



    Income
    Percentile
    Taxable
    Income
    % of Total
    US Income
    % of Total
    Income Tax Paid

    Top 1%$313,46920.81%37.42%
    Top 5%$128,33635.30%56.47%
    Top 10%$92,14446.01%67.33%
    Top 25%$55,22567.15%84.01%
    Top 50%$27,68287.01%96.09%



    Now, if the top 50% of income earners pay over 96% of the taxes...then doesn't it logically follow that they are the ones who are going to largely benefit from any tax cuts?

     
    What Republicans can do to Attract Libertarian Voters This is pretty good article that describes why libertarians don't like Republicans and what Republicans should do if they want to attract/retain libertarian within their ranks.

    One of my main complaints about the Republicans is symmetrical to the compliant about Democrats have made about Democrats. The Democrats are moving too much to the "right". Well I think the Republicans have moved to far to the "left", or more accurately towards big government. I don't like corporate welfare, I don't like invasions of privacy, I don't like activist government. Yet, the Republicans will favor all these things when it suits their needs and adopt libertarian rhetoric when it suits their needs.

    A little more consistency in regards to these issues will go a considerable way to getting me to favor voting Republican over Libertarian. (Link via Eugene Volokh)

     
    Universal Health Care, Response With my challenge below about finding where in the Constitution it lays out or implies that health care is a right, I decided to go back and re-read my post on universal health care (UHC) again. And I saw I had a comment! And what a big comment it is too. So big I thought, what the heck lets address some of the points it raises here on the main page. (To see the full comments go to my post on UHC and click on the comments).


    Okay, first. Do you object in principle to group health insurance? You shouldn't, because it's always cheaper per person to insure a group than to insure individuals.


    Nope, don't have a problem with a group of people getting together and purchasing insurance together. I don't see how this goes against the main point of my post which is health care is not a public good, though.

    Very well. A national or a state-wide health insurance program is simply a group insurance policy covering every resident, with no anti-selection.


    Ahhhh...this is where he is going with this. Sorry no. A group of people voluntarily getting together to purchase insurance is not the same as national health insurance/health care. In the first case (i.e. the voluntary group) the members can leave the group and in fact this might happen with the healthiest members. In insurance markets a pooling equilibrium (i.e. where individuals with different characteristics are put in the same group) is broken by a seperating equilibrium (an outcome where those with different characteristics are given different premiums/coverage). A popular term for this is cream skimming.

    Imagine for example, the group is comprised of 10 people and the relevant characteristic is health. Nine out of the 10 are very healthy (i.e. require little in the way of medical resources) and their expected health costs are $90. The one remaining fellow is unhealthy and his expected costs are $100. Now as a group their expected costs are $190 which translate into about a $19 premium per person. Suppose another insurance firm offers a premium of $10 with a the provision that the unhealthy individual is not part of the group? The unhealthy guy is left behind.

    The only way to prevent this is through coercion. That is making those who are healthy stay in the pool with the unhealthy and subsidize their consumption of health care resources. That is what the national version of health insurance does. It forces everybody into a pooling equilibrium so that the healthy can subsidize the unhealthy. Now, this might be "the right thing to do" morally or ethically, but economically the two situations are not the same. Now in the real world it is a bit more messy than this in that insurance companies like to charge deductibles to keep people from running to the doctors whenever they get a sniffle or bruise. Further, these deductibles can be structured to keep the unhealthy from trying to get in with the healthy people. That is the deductible is structured so that people "self-select" which group they are in.

    Now, as to the question of who gets care -- in the current, broken, American health care system it is not the market that decides who gets care, but blind chance. Most people with health insurance are insured through their employer. How secure are most people's jobs today? Ha, joke. So for most people, sickness or the proverbial truck had better strike before the pink layoff slip, or they're right out of luck.


    First, layoffs and unemployment is simply just a random event. It isn't like the Star Trek episode where the Enterprise was determined to have been hit by a "theoretical" attack and all the crew had to report to disintegration chambers. Also, private insurance is available. When my wife was pregnant with my son and neither of us had jobs we got insurance for her through Kaiser Permanente for, IIRC, $70 a month. Not cheap, but we were able to afford it. Also, for many people the duration of unemployment is not permanent and it truely is chance that a person who is unemployed does happen to get hit by the truck.

    And if you're buying insurance individually, maybe in a COBRA plan, or maybe you're a contractor (and paying through the nose for it because you're not in a group, see above), your premiums are going to rise year after year as you age, until when you are most likely to need care, you are least likely to have been able to afford to keep up the premiums.


    Which is why people should be planning early for purchasing health insurance when they are elderly. The fact that income taxes can erode away the earnings of savings makes this problem rather ironic. You want to save so you can buy health insurance, but the taxes on the income from your savings reduces your future savings so you can't. Now you are dependent on the largesse of the government. I don't consider that free, but beholden to the whims of the government bureaucrats, the politicians, and the voters. So long as the elderly are a large voting block that votes pretty much the same way great, otherwise not so great.

    So you're worried that decisions about what conditions are covered will be political. (This, from a country that elects judges?) Well, news flash! Nothing's perfect.


    Never claimed that anything was perfect. Further, this argument can be used against the socialized medicine argument just as easily. So you don't like the market providing health care because some people might not have insurance. Well, news flash! Nothing's perfect.

    Which is worse -- a political decision where you get to vote people who make bad decisions out of office, or a faceless bureaucratic decision by an HMO that's trying to maximize its own profits?


    Actually I don't see why you wouldn't get the same result with government or for-profit or non-profit HMOs. All three have some pressure to minimize costs. Look at the waiting lines in Canada to get an MRI. Also, yeah I don't like my health being a political question. Suppose a segement of society is deemed unworthy of being taken care of any longer? Scoff, but it has happened before. Further, bureaucrats will ultimately be the onew running any form of UHC. As such you'll have the same mentality in either case (HMO vs. government) IMO.

    Let me repeat that news flash. No health care system anywhere is going to be perfect. The question is, are you going to distribute whatever care is available fairly, or are you going to make it a lottery?


    Say that is a mighty fine strawman and false premise you got there. I am not advocating a lottery for determining who gets health care/insurance, but advocating that health care be distributed via a market mechanism. Thus, those who can and are willing to pay for it get it.

    A lottery where, okay, you might win big, but if you lose, you lose your house, your life savings, your kids lose their chance at college. Or you die.


    So basically you want something on somebody else's dime? Also, as to the dying: News Flash!, you do not get shoved out of the hospital if you can't pay. That is a complete myth and I challenge anybody to find evidence supporting this myth.

    Universal health care, as we have it in Canada, is equitable and affordable. Nobody has to worry about being ruined for life by medical bills. The level of care is as good as the country has the money for, and everybody receives it. No, not all treatments are covered, but on the other hand, no-one has to go without any care.


    Right, and if the country decides it doesn't want to spend beyond a certain amount? Then what? Rationing? So you end up suffering while waiting for your treatment. Gee great system. But as you said nothing is perfect.

    Personally I am amazed at the willingness of people to pay for something in such huge amounts. You are stilly paying when you wait months for a test or procedure. You are paying by waiting. Suffering, losing out on certain activities. These are costs just as much as the dollar costs. Its like the old Soviet Union. The toilet paper costs only $.10, but since you spent 3 hours in line waiting to buy it, it actually costs you $3 * (your hourly wage) + .10.

    There is no "red tape" to speak of. Because there's a single payer, doctors only have to submit one simple form, and they get paid with one regular check, rather than having to wrestle with the accounts payable departments of a dozen different insurance companies and HMOs, where it seems the bigger they are, the slower they pay.


    Oh there is red tape. This is the government we are talking about. There are lots of administrative types running around doing stuff costing lots of money. Trust me. You might not see them, but they are there.

    As for the "public good" business, a thing is a public good if and only if the public decides it is.


    No, this is false. A public good is just as I defined it in the Universal Health Care post. Your idea has everything being a potential public good and thus renders the term meaningless.

    The decision as often as not is based not on reason but on historical accident. Roads and sewers are a public good paid for through taxes; railroads, airports and garbage collection are sometimes public, sometimes private enterprise; telecommunication is just about all private enterprise. Why? That's just how it happened to turn out.


    No, it isn't an "accident" look at your list. Telecommunications are private because when I am using the line you cannot. That is the exact opposite definition of what a public good is. A public good is a good where my consumption does not diminish your ability to consume the good. Garbage collection and sewers can have external effects and hence the provision of said services by the government could be quite reasonable.

    The employer-based health insurance in the US exists mainly because, way back, unions won health care benefits through collective bargaining, and the idea spread because nobody had come up with a better idea, but people desperately wanted medical insurance, and group insurance was more affordable than individual. In other words, it was historical accident. Nothing inevitable about it, or even logical.


    Not true, firms providing health benefits to employees was due to being able to avoid taxes on that "income".

    In Canada, we decided there was a public interest in having a healthy population, just as there is a public interest in having an educated population. So we made it a public good. And, what do you know, universal health care turned out to be more efficient into the bargain. Because, well, group insurance for a group of 30 million people is about as cost-effective as you're going to get


    Which is why it can take months to get an MRI...yep that's efficiency for you.

     
    Hesiod and the Dialectizer

    SIDE-TAPPED: Tappid fell into de ritewigg spin machine's trap obeh the, uh, the whole Marda Burk controbehsy.

    Dey'be got Tappid arguigg bou' whedeh dey liid bou' what Marda Burk wrote, uh uh uh, instead of discussigg de REAL issue...Augusta Nashunal's unconscionaggle refusal t' admit women as membehs.

    It doesn't MATTER whedeh Burk's article was satirical or earnest! COOOL MAN! It's been a delibehate, uh uh uh, ad hominem distrackion from de beginnigg. Duh.An eff't t' discredit heh, widout habigg t' abbress de mehits of de Augusta Nashunal issue.

    Dis is a common propganda technike of de rite: When dey can't winb an argumin on de mehits, duuhhhh, dey crate a controbehsy bou' some irrelebant side issue in ordeh t' distrack ebehyone from de original progglem.

    GEE danks. Refuse t' play de game on deir tehms.


    We'll I personally think he makes more sense this way.

     
    Ricky West Has a funny one today (although I don't think he meant it to be funny). It is hilarious the stupidity that some on the left continue to exhibit. Ricky is also right in encouraging the Democrats to keep putting vitriol and bile spewing talking heads like Begala and Carville out there as their spokespeople. I also find it amusing that people get so worked up about what Rush LImbaugh says, given that Carville has said some pretty nasty things himself. I'm still wondering what exactly it was that Rush Limbaugh said that got people so fired up they'd make threats against Senator Daschle.

    Thursday, November 21, 2002

     
    The Liberal Challenge I am curious about something and since the claim that Health Care is a right comes typically from liberals, I am making this challenge. What part of the U.S. Constitution states or implies that health care is a right. I personally can't see anything that does, but so many people say it they must be basing it on something. Post your answer in the comments seciton.

    (Note to conservative and libertarians, if you have a blog put up a link and lets see if we can get some answers. Also feel free to take a shot at it too, i.e. what do you think the liberals are thinking of when they make such claims.)

    Update: Well first let me thank Jay Caruso at the Daily Rant, Henry Hanks at Croooow! Blog, Ricky West at North Georgia Dogma, and Robin Roberts of Final Protective Fire for putting up links to this post.

    Also, so far nobody seems to be able to point to anything in the U.S. Constitution that supports this idea that health care is a right. The best that people have come up with is an appeal to providing for the general welfare in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

    Fine, but there are, in my opinion, a number of problems with this.

    1. Such a view can be stretched to include a great many things. For example, one could argue that having computers and/or televisions in the home provides for the general welfar (people being more informed/computer literate) and hence is the responsibility of the Federal government.

    2. The Tenth Amendment which states the following:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.


    Which to me says, if it isn't spelled out in the Constitution or prohibited by the Constitution then it is a matter for either the States or the people themselves.

    3. Health care is not a public good, as I have argued here. I myself would be comfortable with reading the general welfare portion of Article 1, Section 8 as applying to public goods and externalities. Since health care is neither at best it is a State issue, and is probably best handled by taking it even lower and making it an issue for the people themselves, i.e. individuals.

    4. Also, if you look at the Bill of Rights you'll see that many of the rights are "negative rights". For example, the right to free speech shall not be abridged (the First Amendment). That is, my right to freedom of speech is not going to have any impact on you. I can stand on my soap box (or more accurately my blog) and blather all day and it doesn't restrict in anyway what you can do in your life. However, health care and the provision of health care is laying claim to actual resources. Further, when these resources are consumed that is it, they are gone. If Bob consumes some of those resources, no I cannot. For the government to provide these resources to everyone, they will have to have the power to say who can and cannot have these resources. Personally, I find that a little disconcerting.

    So, I see absolutely nothing in the Constitution that even hints remotely at health care as being a right. When somebody uses this kind of rhetoric it is just that, rhetoric and empty rhetoric at that.

     
    Steve Yates on the Intellectual Class Steven Yates is Visiting Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and he is writing on the peculiar phenomenon of intellectuals who teach others to hate the very civilization that gave rise to the intellectual class.

    It is a pretty interesting article that has a nice summation of what capitalism is, IMO.

    In Mises's view, capitalism involves acting man, pursuing his ends, trading in value-for-value exchanges, because each believes he will benefit from the transaction. The market is a processs coordinating millions of such exchanges. It is a constellation of millions of people buying, selling, hiring, working, and so on, trying to satisfy their needs and wants. The market process communicates to the observant what ought to be produced and in what quantity, what wages workers ought to be paid, and so on. The study of this process is called economics.


    My view process is that by process they mean economics is dynamic. That is people make decisions through time. The part about people entering transactions because they think it will benefit them is crucial, in my opinion. In my experience this notion is completely devoid in critiques of capitalism. Why should we prevent people from engaging in transactions that they believe will benefit themselves? In fact, Yates argues that this is precisely the reason why Marxists and others who despise capitalism hate it. People are free to do and produce whatever they want. There is no central authority that determines that something should be done for the “good of society”.

    Now pure capitalism is not without its problems, in my opinion. There are problems with externalities. An externality is where my actions have a detrimental or beneficial impact on you (or other people) and I am not bearing (receiving) the costs (benefits) so I either over produce or under produce. Still this by itself does not imply that capitalism is a failure, anymore than a when a car has its headlights out is useless. You can try to fix this problem, just as you would try to fix the car. Such fixes can be as simple as determining property rights to more intrusive methods such as regulations, or even doing nothing (say when the cost of fixing the problem exceeds the benefits from having the problem fixed).

    There is also a problem with public goods, i.e. those goods where my consumption of the good does not limit your ability to consume the good. The solution here is for government to supply these goods. Fortunately there are not many such goods. For example, contrary to what many might like to believe health care is not a public good, as I explain here.

    When the essay gets to freedom vs. power you can see why the Austrians mix in ideology with their economics to a greater degree than many non-Austrian economists do. I think the idea that markets promote freedom is true myself. After all, nobody is forced to participate in any market. You could choose not too if you wish. Sure the consequences might not be pleasant, but where does it say all outcomes have to be pleasant? Anyhow an interesting read.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2002

     
    Sowell on Republicans Appointing Judges Sowell points out that it is important that when appointing judges it is important to pick candidates who will not be swayed by their own political ideology, but instead apply the law as written. The problem for Republicans is that even though there is a Republican Majority in the Senate it would be possible for the Democrats to filibuster and slow down or prevent certain nominations. Sowell concludes with an interesting recommendation.

     
    Tom Daschle: Whiner Daschle goes to the press and whines that Rush Limbaugh is a big meanie. That he is getting more threats against himself and his family because of the "tone" Limbaugh uses. That is incites people to acts of violence or at least threatening acts of violence. I can't help but remember Alec Baldwin screaming about going to Henry Hyde's house and stoning Sen. Hyde and his family to death. Later it was said to be a satire (this seems to be the defense du jour lately...when caught acting like an ass say it was a satire). I'd like to know what it is that Limbaugh says that is so inflammatory? I find him entertaining but usually shallow in his "analysis".

    By the way, Alec Baldwin campaigned for the Democrats this last election too. I guess when it comes to trying to set a more civil tone, the Democrats aren't up to the task either. Hypocritical nonsense.

     
    Peter Werbe: Idiot I went to his site and found this comment:


    REPUBLICAN "SWEEP?"
    63% of eligible Americans boycotted the polls. Of the 37% who voted, 19% voted for the Republicans, 18% for the Democrats.


    So let me see. 37% of eligible voters, 19% voted Republican and 18% voted for Democrats....so who the Hell did the remaining 63% of those who voted vote for? Werbe, obviously a mathematical idiot, doesn't realize that you don't mulitply 37% by 51%. Lets try a quick simple example:

  • 100 Eligible voters.
  • 40 Vote
  • 22 Vote for Republicans
  • 18 Vote for Democrats


  • Now, of those who voted, what percentage voted for Republicans? By dividing 22/40 I get 55%. Using Werbe's approach I'd say 22%.

    What makes this even more funny is that the blurb about Werbe's radio show says the following:

    Peter Werbe, along with producer, Juline Jordan, encourage listeners to think about issues relating to social change and to become actively involved.--emphasis added


    Think? Oh the irony.

     
    Laurence Kotlikoff on Reviving the Economy Prof. Kotlikoff asserts that unless something is done to stop the Bell Operating Companies (a.k.a. the Baby Bells) and reverse the trends in telecommunication it will take alot longer for the economy to recover. He has additional commentary on this here, here, and here.

    Contrast this to the crud we see from the likes of Paul Krugman. Krugman just wants to spend, spend, and spend while at the same time whining about the deficit (if that is giving you a headache, join the club).

    Update: Here is some commentary from Cato that supports what Kotlikoff is saying with regards to the failure of "dergulation".

     
    Molly Ivins’ Political Science Ms. Ivins writes in her latest column that drug manufacturers are big time contributors to politicians and that they give most of the money to Republicans. Here is what she wrote:

    The Center for Responsive Politics reports that drug manufacturers are the top spending lobby. The industry has 400 lobbyists in Congress and spent nearly $97 million in 2000. As of June 30, the industry ranked ninth among more than 80 industry groups in direct contributions to congressional candidates and political parties: 73 percent of its $18.1 million spent to that date went to Republicans.


    First off we see that Molly is lying here. While pharmaceutical companies do contribute a lot, they are 10th overall for 2002 and 8th in 2002. Some of the industries that beat the pharmaceutical boys? Lawyers contributed about $62.5 million in 2002, TV/Movies/Music (i.e. those liberal Hollywood people) contributed around $29.9 million. In 2000 the lawyers still beat big Pharma by contributing over $114 million. Also, for 2000 OpenSecrets.org has big Pharma down for only a bit more than $26.4 million. Oh and that money the TV/Movie/Music guys were spending…in 2002 78% went to Democrats, in 2000 66% went to Democrats, and in 1998 63% went to Democrats. Also, when Molly says 73% went to Republicans that is for 2002, in 2000 the distribution was 68%. So Molly is mixing two different years (and not being all that clear about it), claims falsely that pharmaceutical companies are the top spending lobby (when they aren’t). Even if we restrict things to just contributions to Congressmen and Senators, TV/Movie/Music still beat big Pharma for 2000.

    So we can see that Molly herself wont let facts get in here way, which makes it very ironic when she says,

    Why let experience and evidence bother us?


    Also, lets consider the possibility that the pharmaceutical companies are not just backing people who support their pet projects, but also candidates the pharmaceutical boys think likely to win. I mean it seems obvious to me that if the guy who supports your position isn’t going to win why support him. So try to get the guy who is going to win to support you. Of course, it doesn’t always work, look at Enron. Enron greased quite a few palms, but when the brown stuff hit the fan and Enron needed help, nobody was interested.

    In the end Molly’s big piece of advice is for the Democrats to be obstructionists. Kill legislation and don’t focus on passing good legislation. Just do whatever it takes to make the Republicans look bad. In other words, if it hurts the country its good for the Democrats down the road. Just don’t make it look like you hurt the country.

    Great, with politicians like this the U.S. doesn’t need enemies.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2002

     
    Krugman Watch What utter dreck. Lets get right to the meaty parts:

    First, it's about providing political cover. In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration — determined to expand, not reconsider the program of tax cuts it initially justified with projections of huge surpluses — must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that the administration doesn't dare attack openly.


    Okay, so Krugman is now back to whining about deficits. Nevermind that earlier he was whining here and here about stimulus spending and the lack of it from the Bush Administration. Lets think about this. Deficit spending is good so long as taxes are high...because the spending is a stimulus. Lowering taxes and not changing spending (i.e. deficits) while also providing a stimulus is bad...because this causes deficits. Does this make sense to anybody? I suppose one can argue that the spending is better because it is the "right kind of spending", but tax cuts result in people spending their money which is the wrong kind of spending. The only problem is that Krugman doesn't tell us this is so, let alone explain why this is so. Further, the reason nobody can talk about cutting entitlement programs (no matter how reasonable or sensible such cuts are) is because guys like Krugman are out there waiting to pounce on this with partisan attacks. Gleefully attacking the person suggesting such cuts as mean, cruel and heartless.

    A few months ago Mr. Rove compared his boss to Andrew Jackson. As some of us noted at the time, one of Jackson's key legacies was the "spoils system," under which federal jobs were reserved for political supporters. The federal civil service, with its careful protection of workers from political pressure, was created specifically to bring the spoils system to an end; but now the administration has found a way around those constraints.


    It also created an atmosphere where it is practically impossible to fire a government employee who is incompetent or unproductive. Much like how the tenure system can result in professors who publish nothing after they achieve tenure. The bureauracracies become loaded with excess personnell and inefficient. Granted it isn't a great deal of money in terms of pay, but the improved efficiency might result in further gains (although I am doubtful of this).

    Also, I don't see Bush actually endorsing the "spoils system", but it sure is a nice thing to hang on Bush. Who cares if it is true or not.

    We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."


    The large civil servant work force hasn't stopped Gov. Grey Davis from doing similar things in California. In fact, this sounds like standard politics to me. You have a pet project you want to go through so you go and donate to the appropriate politicians campaigns in the hopes of getting some "help". This isn't new with Bush (either Jeb or George), and both sides partake in it. Nancy Pelosi has quite the reputation for raising lots of money from big time contributors. But that must be different. So don't let these glaring inconsistencies stand in the way.

     
    Iraqis "Staggered" by the List of U.N. Demands Gee, what did they think? That the inspectors would hit Baghdad, try a few restaurants, look for health code violations then go home?

    Such is the scale of information the UN is demanding, Iraqi officials told Mr Blix's team they may have difficulties meeting the 8 December deadline by which they must submit a detailed report.


    Yeah, the Iraqis need more time to hide their weapons of mass destruction.

     
    Social Security: A Big Ripoff? I was cruising through Cato's website looking for stuff on simplified tax codes and potential savings when I ran across this article. Here are some numbers to consider. Suppose your grandparents socked away $100 a year in a mutual fund every year since 1936. What would it be worth today?

  • $1,249,988.67.

    Hard to believe? Not really, the stock market typically earns a rate of return at about 11%. But, and this is a really big but, taxes are going to eat up a big chunk of that. Taxes at the end of the 66 years could eat up somewhere around 50% of the value. So that $1.25 million is now down to about $612,500. Talk about a massive disincentive to save. It has effectively reduced the rate of return from about 11% by about 20%. Basic economic theory tell us that when you lower the interest rate investment decreases. The reason is simple, with the reduction in interest rates consumption today becomes (relatively) more desireable than in the future. Although, Grandpa and Grandma are still evil rich S.O.B.s who got rich by crushing poor people (obligatory class warfare rhetoric).

    So when you hear a politician bemoaning the pitiful savings rate, problems with Social Security and what not, ask them why don't they lower income taxes to spur savings? They'll probably give some bullshit answer, but at least you'll get a few seconds of satisfaction watching them squirm.

  •  
    BEA's GDP Figures for 2001 The big news here is that the declines in manufacturing were fairly substantial. For example, durable goods and non-durable goods manufacturing declined 5.2 and 7.1 percent respectively. However, the press release notes that the slowdown in 2001 was "mild by historical standards".

     
    CPI Figures from BLS Looks like inflation is clocking in at an annualized rate of under 3.1% (for All Urban Consumers) and 2.8% (for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers).

     
    Pelosi to Make Economic Growth Her Primary Focus Well, I'll believe it when I see it. So far the Democrats have been long on talk and short on details about the economy. In fact, the only thing I can find on the economy at the DNCs websit is 2 years old! The recent stuff they had for the last election is gone (wonder why...maybe somebody told them it was stupid).

    So far, I give the Republicans higher marks on their economic policy, but before any Republicans start high-fiving themselves remember you beat the Democrats, getting a grade better than an F doesn't mean you are doing great. So don't get cocky and slack off.

    President George W. Bush has urged Congress to spur growth by making permanent the $1.35 trillion in tax cuts that were passed in 2001 and are due to expire after 2010. Senate Democrats, such as Tom Daschle, say the cuts mainly help the rich and fuel budget deficits.


    Well lets assume this is true for a minute (I don't know if it is, although I suspect it is true) lets consider a couple of things.


  • Who pays most of the taxes?
  • Who is most likely to invest extra income?


  • Now, it seems to me if you want to put money back into the economy and do it via a tax cut then the "rich" will probably get a larger share back. If you just give a tax cut to the poor and middle class it wont put as much money back in the economy (unless of course the Democrats are talking about income redistribution--i.e. you take money from John and Jerry and give it to Mary, Paul, Roger and George). Now don't get me wrong, if there is going to be a tax cut the poor and middle class should get one as well.

    Personally I'd also like to see simplification of the tax code. Consider these facts


  • The tax code contains 1.4 million words
  • The IRS produces 649 forms which amount to 16,000 lines
  • The IRS 340 publications
  • Federal tax payers contact the IRS about 117 million times a year
    Source


  • In short this is hugely wasteful. All this was done by Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) to cater to constituents. They have created a very, very large industry of tax attorneys, accountants, enforcement, etc. who make billions every year. That is billions of dollars spent complying with extremely complicated laws that could be invested/spent elsewhere. According to Cato it costs $150 billion a year to comply with tax codes. Imagine if that money was not spent on such a non-productive activity, but instead on productive activities.

    Of course we wont see this. Why? Because both Republicans and Democrats wont go against such a powerful industry. Make no mistake, about this. Tax code is set by Congress, one reason why it is so complicated is to because the tax compliance industry pays to have the tax code complicated. If it were simple it'd put them out of work, and $150 billion dollars is alot of money. This would be one nice place for the Democrats to start, but I don't expect anything from them as they seem to be completely bankrupt on ideas and courage at the moment (and to be fair I don't expect much from the Republicans either...why rock the boat when things are going your way).

    Anyhow, as is typical with the Democrats the article is completely devoid of any details and full of empty "touchy-feely" pap about "across the board consensus building" Bravo Sierra.

    Update: I just went to Pelosi's website in Congress and zip on the economy. So far, par for the course.

    Monday, November 18, 2002

     
    Hesiod the Microcephalic Here Hesiod claims that Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit was "Fisked by the C.I.A." with this article in the NY Times. Can Hesiod be anymore stupid? First, Glenn Reynolds didn't say the tape was a fake (i.e. with certainty), he said he was skeptical. Now while this news should make most people re-evalutate their opinions of the tape, it is not by any means a closed case. For example, I'd be surprised if the analysis on the how recent the tape is is not the most subjective/speculative part of it. Also, the NY Times article notes that no analysis is 100%. Great job of advertising your ignroance for us Hesiod.

     
    South Knox Bubba and Health Care Bubba doesn't understand some of the basics of insurance.

    First off, insurance (any kind) is protection against uncertainty. That is you face an uncertain outcome over being sick or health. So you buy insurance to reduce the impact of the adverse outcomes and at that same time reduce your wealth when there are no adverse outcomes. Bubba's argument amounts to, "I was healthy last year so the insurance company should return my premiums to me." Sorry it doesn't work that way. Yeah, so you have a pre-existing condition, thats really bad. But, the problem is that there is now no more uncertainty about whether you will get sick with this ailment. You are now sick and from the context of your post you will stay sick. This is not a problem that can be solved by insurance.

    See insurance works this way. You have a large group of people. Say, 10,000 and the rate for accidents is say .1% per accident (or ailment, or whatever) and the average cost is $1,000 per incident. So, we have an expected cost of $10,000 for the 10 people who are going to have an accident (get sick, whatever). Now, we spread that cost back to all 10,000 people, for a premium of $1 per person.

    Now the basic idea here is that each person has a probability of getting sick of 0.001. A person with a pre-existing condition does not have such a probability. His probability of getting sick is 1, that is he is sick, he will be sick, and he will consume $1,000 of resources without a doubt. If a health insurance company were to offer coverage to these people the problem is that it would raise the probability from .001. Suppose that we have 9,800 people who have the .001 probability of getting sick and 200 who will get sick. Now the numbers who get sick are 210 (actually 209.8, but lets just round up to keep it simple). Now what are the costs? At $1,000 a pop the expenditures just went to $210,000 or an individual premium of 21$.

    So where is the problem? Lets say you run the insurance company above. I see you have all those people you are covering and it dawns on me. If I set a premium of $15 per person and reject those with pre-existing conditions then I can have $147,000 in revenue and only $10,000 in costs. A $137,000 profit sure looks good, and you are stuck with all the pre-existing people and loose $195,800. Now you have just seen a basic fact of insurance theory, a seperating equilibrium always breaks a pooling equilibrium, or in other words, I am cream skimming. I am taking the good customers and leaving you with the pre-existing ones. Your only option, exclude people with pre-existing conditions and try to price below me. Pretty soon we are down to $.98 per person premium and the pre-existing people are left out.

    So what to do about those with pre-existing conditions? Well, somebody has to pay for them or else they get no treatment at all. One option is to have the government do it. The problem here is WFA, Waste, Fraud and Abuse. This is where the system is abused at tax payers expense. Another option is to try and rely on charitable donations/giving. But complaining about insurance is just dumb. You will not get insurance. You don't need insurance, you need medical care.

    As for why employers pay for insurance, the reason is obvious; it is a great way to pay somebody a lot of money that is not taxed. Since they are buying your insurance that "money" does not show up on your income tax forms and you don't pay taxes on it. For some people this can be several thousand dollars. Perhaps if taxes were lowered then people might be more willing to purchase their own. For example, suppose my employer says, "Steve we aren't going to buy insurance for you, but we are going to give you $5,000 so you can buy insurance for yourself and your family." Now, that $5,000 is taxed. Lets say the tax rate is 10%, that is after taxes I know have $4,500. If the company was buying $5,000 worth of insurance for me, now I am worse off by $500!

    As for government health care for the elderly and prescription drugs. Hello, doesn't it even dawn on people that this is one reason why current health care expenses are so high? The elderly are massive consumers of health care resources. Subsidizing them just means they will consume more of it. As they consume more of it, that means prices go up. This is basic economic theory. Nothing fancy. No arcane mathematics here, you can see this with a piece of paper and a pencil. Draw a downward sloping line and call it D1 (for demand). Draw and upward sloping line (called S1 for supply) that passes through the demand line you drew a second ago. Now, parallel to D1 and on the right hand side of D1 draw another line sloping down called D2. This is the new demand curve with elderly people being supsidized. Now, notice something about the point of intersection? It is to the right and above the first intersection point (D1 and S1). The above part means the price just went up. Q.E.D.

    This is a no brainer. There really isn't anything to argue about in terms of the economics (oh sure, we can talk about principle agent problems and adverse selection, but it wont change much). The only argument left is a moral/policy one of whether or not we should do it. Further, there is no discussion as to what this kind of policy is; it is a welfare program. That is, a program where you take money from one group and give it to another.

    Here are a few other things to consider. When you make a policy it will change people's behavior. Suppose I tell you that if you come into my house it is policy that I shoot anybody who doesn't use a coaster with a cold drink. Are you going to change your behavior, i.e. use a coaster at all times? Probably. Now if you subsidize the consumption of medical care for seniors those who are not yet retired and eligible will change their behavior. They might save less for medical expenditures during retirement figuring the government will pick up the tab. Since the government will pick up the tab, there will be less incentive to avoid unhealthy activities (eating lots of cheeseburgers, taking unnecessary physical risks, etc.).

    Well I think that covers most of the issues.

     
    DU Thread Update When in doubt call your opponent a name. Actually, I didn't call anybody a name, but Vinne, realizing he is outclassed popped the "ad hominem" smoke grenade. That is where you accuse (falsely) your opponent of callng names then run away in the confusion. Not a bad technique...as long as nobody catches it, unfortunately Vinnie has been caught.

    Also, notice no substantive reply to my last post. Typical.

     
    Doug Bandow from Cato: Making Enemies or Protecting Americans I have to admit, I do share some of this concern. I am a bit worried that the focus on Saddam Hussein is going to result in less focus on al Qai'da which as we have recently seen is still alive and kicking (click here, here, and here).

    Although, I think it is a mistake to ignore Hussein as well. Frankly, Bandow provides no new arguments. Yes, North Korea and Pakistan have nukes. Yes, that is a problem. I don't see that this implies "do nothing" (or do nothing yet...or do just a little bit) about Iraq and Hussein. Once Hussein has nuclear capabilities, it will be much, much more difficult to counter his bellicose nature. In short, this argument that "those guys over there do bad things too, so leave Hussein alone," just doesn't work for me. Yes, everything he says is true, but as Bandow says, "the world is an ugly place," and one reason is because Hussein is in it. If by getting rid of him it can be made a little bit better, then good. That we will be putting a stop to a source of major instability in that region, even better.

     
    Historical Revisionism DNC Style I decided to go to the DNC website to see what was new after the election and came across that link. Notice right off that bat the Democratic Party is lying to you. 8 years ago was, by my back of the envelope calculations 1992. There was no recession in 1992. If you go to NBER's site on recession dates it is obvious the recession that so many Democrats love to rail against (besides the latest one) ended in March of 1991, in the first quarter. That is the economy was expanding from that point on. Floundering indeed.

    They took office with a new set of ideas about how to get the economy moving again. They knew that the private sector is the engine of economic growth, but they also knew that, in Franklin Roosevelt's phrase, "the national community" - acting through government - can make a big difference.


    Yeah lets not mention the bubble economy of the dotcoms, or how the Clinton-Gore Administration managed to miss the Enron, et. al., financial scandals that were brewing. Nope, they did such a great job using the government as a "mechanic" that everything was going just great...so great that Gore won the election by a landslide....errr wait. Granted, Bush didn't win a landslide either, but to make it out that Clinton-Gore saved the world from utter ruin is just laughable.

    Time after time, Republicans opposed the ideas that brought prosperity to America. Time after time, they have been proven wrong. But their sorry record does not give them pause, it does not even slow them down. Despite a Democratic record of success, the Republicans now propose to rewind to the policies that brought America the days of deficits, doubt, debt, and decline; a retreat to the thinking of the era of recessions, repossessions, and retrenchment.


    What era is that?!?!

    For the 12 years before Bill Clinton and Al Gore took office, Republicans talked about fiscal discipline while they quadrupled the national debt. They ran up monstrous yearly deficits and nearly ran the American economy into the ground.


    Yes, there were large deficits, but as a percentage of GDP the debt was not that outlandish. Further, returning once again to our friends at NBER, we see that during these awful 12 years 8 of them were actually economic expansions.

    Now, it is one thing to put out your message, but to blatantly lie like this. And these guys wonder why they are losing ground. People are not stupid, they don't like being lied too. Putting forward these kinds of lies will just piss people off. The hardcore lefties, such as those at DU will eat it up with a spoon, but those who are more in the middle will not take kindly to it. These kinds of lies presuppose stupidity on the part of the American people (i.e. they are too stupid to figure out the Democrats are lying) and when the American people find out they probably wont be too happy about it.

    We must not go back. That's why Democrats now vow to balance the budget every year, barring a national emergency.


    Oh. Great, but this kind of logic doesn't apply to Republicans. If they are in control and there is a national emergency they cannot engage in deficit spending. How mighty fine and inconsistent of these jerks. No wonder the Democrats were beaten, the leadership of the DNC are dishonest, condescending, and two-faced.

     
    Mixed Signals from the Left One thing I noted prior to the election, but never really discussed much was the incredibly inconsistent message from the Left on a particular issue. The Democrats were busy bemoaning the loss of Federal budget surplus and decrying the deficit spending, but at the same time were clamoring for some sort of government stimulus. Uhhhhhh....guys...hello, deficit spending is a stimulus. You cannot be bitching about the deficit on one hand and excoriating Bush for not spending enough. Its stupid, so stop it. You look like idiots.

     
    Alterman On Vacation...Still? As expected given the defeat of the Dems at the polls a couple of weeks ago Alterman, like many Dems, is spewing bile and vitriol at the moment.

    For example, Eric links to this story about a plan to privatize upto 850,000 government jobs and he decides it is simply to "destroy unions". Notice any contradictions here? Well, on one hand we have the liberal Dems bashing Bush for current deficit, but in trying to reduce federal expenditures (one way of reducing the deficit) he is attacked. I guess it isn't the "right" kind of cut. Never mind that government bureaucracies that are loaded with fat and excess personnel are a drain on the economy.

    Alterman also recycles the old liberal argument that Bush wasn't elected, but appointed. Sorry Eric, if that were true, if the majority of Americans really didn't want Bush and his policies then you would have seen a different outcome on 11/5/2002. Get over the 2000 election already. You guys lost, suck it up and get your shit together for the next election or continue on the path to becoming a minority party.

    If you read the above WaPo article you'll find this in there


    The new policy, which can be enacted without Congressional approval, is a major expansion of a trend that has been taking place in government at all levels for the last two decades. State and local governments as well as Washington have been hiring private companies to pick up trash, run prisons, collect traffic tickets and do much of the other mundane business of government.

    In many if not most cases, the changes have gone smoothly, and have been seen as living up to their goals of saving money and improving services, although there have been problems as well.


    In other words, what Bush is planning to do has worked at the local level. This doesn't mean it will work at the Federal level, but it does help make the case, IMO.

    Friday, November 15, 2002

     
    Daniel Pipes on the term Jihad Daniel Pipes looks at the word we have heard so much about, Jihad, and what it means. He first presents the story of Zayed Yasin, who gave the commencment speech at Harvard last spring. The title of the speech was, "My American Jihad." Yasin put forward the notion that Jihad is not what most Americans have come to think it is, that is "holy war". The actual interpretation of the word is to struggle, and that this struggle is spiritual/personal to be a better person and not to as many believe to wage war.

    Pipes also presents the interpretations of the word my several academics. Most of them concur that Jihad is not about war or physical struggle, but spiritual or personal. The struggle is to be a better person, to become better in terms of Islam. A few note that Jihad can have a defensive conotation and in that sense the use of arms is valid. Or in the words of Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im of Emory:

    "War is forbidden by the shari'a [Islamic law] except in two cases: self-defense, and the propagation of the Islamic faith."


    Sounds pretty good to me.

    However, Pipes poses this question:

    THE TROUBLE with this accumulated wisdom of the scholars is simple to state. It suggests that Osama bin Laden had no idea what he was saying when he declared jihad on the United States several years ago and then repeatedly murdered Americans in Somalia, at the U.S. embassies in East Africa, in the port of Aden, and then on September 11, 2001. It implies that organizations with the word "jihad" in their titles, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and bin Laden's own "International Islamic Front for the Jihad Against Jews and Crusade[rs]," are grossly misnamed. And what about all the Muslims waging violent and aggressive jihads, under that very name and at this very moment, in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao, Ambon, and other places around the world? Have they not heard that jihad is a matter of controlling one's anger?


    That is are all those who use the term Jihad when talking about violent conflict wrong? Are they all completely unaware of the fact that they are actuall bad muslims? Or are they co-opting the term for their own purposes and agendas and are knowingly perverting the true meaning of the word (again being bad muslims)?

    Pipes also points out that despite what the meaning of the word Jihad is in Islam, those such as Osama bin Laden and other groups are using in a way that does mean holy war. Further, that it is okay to use thedespicable tactics used on 9/11 in prosecuting this holy war. Pipes also points out that one can look at history to see that Islam was spread by warfare. There can be no doubt that muslim armies reached advanced to such distant places as India and Spain, which seems like a difficult task if one is just fighting defensive wars.

    Oh well, check it out.