I reached drinking age (mercifully 18 in those days) in 1980 and I can tell you from experience that the early 80's were a beer wasteland. Spent a lot of time learning foreign beers at a great little pub I discovered entirely by accident called the Gingerman in Houston (near Rice University). The beer landscape in the US today is awesome by comparison.
Posts tagged ‘Mark Perry’
I have written before that trade policy is generally ALL corporate cronyism -- tariffs or restrictions that benefit a narrow set of producers at the expense of 300 million US consumers.
Mark Perry has yet another example, though with a small twist. Most corporations are looking for limits on imports of competing products and/or subsidies for their own products exports. In the case of Dow Chemical, they are looking for limits on exports of key inputs to their plants, specifically oil and natural gas. CEO Andrew Liveris wants to force an artificial supply glut to drive down his input prices by banning the export (or continuing to ban the export) of natural gas. If gas producers can't sell their product? Tough -- let them try to out-crony a massive company like Dow in Washington.
But here is the irony -- there is absolutely nothing in his logic for banning natural gas exports that would not apply equally well to banning the export of his own products. Like natural gas, his products are all inputs into many other products and manufacturing processes that would all likely benefit from lower prices of Dow's products as Dow would benefit from lower natural gas prices.
So here is my proposal -- any company that publicly advocates for banning exports for its purchases must first have exports of its own products banned.
Via Mark Perry. This issue came up in the debates, when Obama claimed that he tried to take credit for the recent oil and gas boom, when in fact all of the boom is occuring on public lands (oil and gas production on federal lands is actually falling during this boom). Here is one reason whyL
Administrative bloat is a natural tendency of organizations. I am not entirely sure why, though I understand some of the drivers. Never-the-less, I have seen it in nearly every organization I have worked in or consulted for.
Even the best-run private companies still have this problem. To remain competitive, then, they have to come through every few years and wield the ax on these growing staffs, almost like trimming back a hedge that keeps trying to overgrow your house. I spent a depressing amount of time as a consultant helping them. It is uncomfortable, sometimes heartbreaking work, and one wonders the whole time why there is not some better way to keep staff in check. To my mind, there is a still a great academic work to be written on this topic some day.
The alternative, in organizations that can get away with it, is administrative bloat. Like, for example, in this public institution:
That staff adds up to an incredible billion dollars in administrative salaries, or nearly $21,000 a year per full-time student. And remember, if this is just salaries, the actual cost is much higher because they all need offices, supplies, travel, etc.
Apparently the news of the week is that the letter grade "A" is now the most common. Mark Perry has more on college grade inflation.
I am actually a fan of the grading system at Harvard Business School when I was there. 15% of the students in each course get the top grade (category I) -- no more, no less. 10% get the bottom grade (category III) -- again by rule, no more and no less. All the rest are in the middle. It effectively acknowledges that for most folks, the point is to demonstrate you have satisfactorily learned the course material, while still allowing folks to distinguish themselves on both ends. Budding young executives who complain that it is unfair to automatically "fail" the bottom 10% of each course are reminded that this is exactly how many Fortune 500 companies run their HR systems, seeking to constantly weed out the bottom 10%.
Update: The argument usually is that students need high grades to compete with other kids from grade-inflated schools in the marketplace. I just don't think this is true. Colleges themselves deal with this all the time in admissions. When they get a high school transcript, attached to that transcript is a fact sheet about the high school that gives its distribution of grades. That way the recipient can discount the GPA as appropriate. Every company doing hiring should demand the same of colleges.
Here is a personal anecdote. My son Nic's school grades hard. Something like 2 kids over the last 2 decades have graduated with a 4.0. One could argue my son's grades could have been higher at another school, but knowledgeable consumers of high school GPA's know how our school works and we have never felt he somehow was at a loss due to the school's grading policies (but Oh God can type A parents fret about this incessantly among themselves). [edit: took out brag about my son. Nothing more boring than other people bragging on their kids.]
I have zero desire to be a farmer. But that would seem to be the logical end result if we take Obama's recent statement to its logical conclusion. He said in his Kansas "OK, I really am a socialist after all" speech:
Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100—or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet.
As has been pointed out by economists everywhere since the speech, Obama is fighting against the very roots of wealth creation and growth and our economy. Productivity improvement has always been the main engine of a better life for Americans, but here Obama is decrying it.
This reduction in employment in major industries due to productivity is not new. It began with the agriculture. Check this out from the always awesome Mark Perry
This is exactly what Obama is criticizing. Without productivity improvements of the type Obama seems to hate, nine out of ten of you would be laboring in a field rather than reading this on the Internet. Are you poorer because you don't have to grow your own food? Of course not. Every time we increase productivity in a major industry, we fee up labor for the next big thing. We couldn't have had the steel or auto or oil industries if agricultural productivity improvements had not feed up labor for them. The computer revolution would be impossible if we all were working in steel mills.
PS- of course this does not work if the next big thing, say domestic gas productions through fracking, is blocked by the government and private investment capital is diverted by the government to cronies with a solar panel factory.
The progressive argument for a larger state has, for over a hundred years, rested in part on the premise that smart people at the top in government can better optimize the allocation of resources and make better investment choices.
This premise always has been ludicrous. Government officials have neither the information nor incentives to perform this function, and lacking such, decisions always get made based on political rather than economic or other objective functions.
Ethanol is such a great example, it will almost be a shame when its mandates and subsidies are repealed. As a reminder, corn-based ethanol production get the trifecta of state sponsorship -- mandates for its use, subsidies for its protections, and stiff tariffs to prevent lower-cost imports.
The result is a classic government fail. The economic subsidies benefit only a small number of the politically connected, while hurting the great mass of humanity, even outside the US, through higher food and fuel prices. Because ethanol takes as much fuel to produce as it provides, it does nothing to change the amount of fossil fuels we use. And as a result, it does nothing to affect CO2 production and in fact has a number of environmentally negative effects, particularly in land and water use.
I am reminded of all this by these staggering figures, via Carpe Diem
"U.S. ethanol refiners are consuming more domestic corn than livestock and poultry farmers for the first time, underscoring how a government-supported biofuels industry has contributed to surging grain demand.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that in the year to August 31 ethanol producers will have consumed 5.05 billion bushels of corn, or more than 40% of last year’s harvest. Animal feed and residual demand accounted for 5 billion bushels."
As Mark Perry shows in his blog, US ethanol policy has also pushed corn prices up from $2 a bushel in 2007 to over $8 today.
From yesterday's Census report on educational attainment, the chart above shows the college degree gap in favor of women for all levels of higher education for age group between 25-29. More than 60% of advanced degrees are now held by women for that age group, up by more than three percentage points from the 58.2% reported by Census for 2009. For African-Americans ages 25-29, there are 239 women holding advanced degrees for every 100 men with graduate degrees (70.5% female vs. 29.5% male).
See his original for a good chart.
By the way, the answer to the question in the title is probably "no." Advocacy groups never go away -- they just seek new problems. Too much money to be gained in achieving victim status.
My column is up at Forbes, and is the fourth in a series on Obamacare. An excerpt:
Its amazing to me how many ways supporters of government health care can find to rationalize the bad incentives of third-party payers systems. Take, for example, the prevelance today of numerous, costly tests that appear to be unnecessary. Obamacare supporters would say that this is the profit motive of doctors trying to get extra income, and therefore a free market failure. I would point the finger at other causes (e.g. defensive medicine), but the motivation does not matter. Let’s suppose the volume of tests is truly due to doctors looking for extra revenue, like an expensive restaurant that always is pushing their desserts. In a free economy, most of us just say no to the expensive dessert. But the medical field is like a big prix fixe menu — the dessert is already paid for, so sure, we will got ahead and take it whether we are hungry or not.
It should be no surprise that while US consumer prices have risen 53% since 1992, health care prices have risen at nearly double that rate, by 98%. Recognize that this is not inevitable. This inflation is not something unique to medical care — it is something unique to how we pay for medical care.
Contrast this inflation rate for health care with price increases in cosmetic surgery, which unlike other care is typically paid out of pocket and is not covered by third party payer systems. Over the same period, prices for cosmetic surgery rose just 21%, half the general rate of inflation and just over one fifth the overall health care rate of inflation.
This is why I call free market health care the road not traveled. There are many ways we could have helped the poor secure basic health coverage (e.g. through vouchers) without destroying the entire industry with third-party payer systems. Part of the problem in the public discourse is that few people alive today can even remember a free market in health care, so its impossible for some even to imagine.
Update: Coincidently, Mark Perry has a post that addresses just the issue I do in my article, that is the positive effects of high-deductible health insurance and out of pocket health expenditures on pricing transparency and reduced costs. The high deductible health plans at GM seem to be having a positive effect on the health care market. A shame they will probably be illegal under Obamacare. Of course, since GM is owned by the government, it can get any special rules that it wants, unlike the rest of us. But that his how things work in the corporate state.
Here is a simpler explanation of QE2: The same people who always get us out of recessions, eg private business people, will eventually get us out of this one. However, the government has an incredible stake in trying to convince everyone that they actually drive the economy. Therefore, it is important for the feds to be able to claim credit for any recovery. Since some sort of natural recovery from the recession is likely in 2011 (and per Mark Perry may already be in progress) the government needs some program that it can credit for the recovery. Since Congress will not pass Obama's (or Krugman's) desired son-of-stimulus bill, then the Fed must step up to create a plausible high-profile program.
I have to reprint this Carpe Diem post nearly in its entirety. Mark Perry does some editing on a Harold Meyerson WaPo article:
"This week, committees on both sides of Capitol Hill will plumb the conundrum of Chinese currency manipulation. The conundrum isn't that -- or why -- China is manipulating its currency: By undervaluing it, China is systematically able to underprice its exports, putting American (and other nations') manufacturing consumers and businesses that purchase China' cheap imports at a significant disadvantage. The conundrum is why the hell the United States isn't doing thinks it should do anything about it.
There are certainly plenty of senators and congressmen -- and Main Street Americans U.S. producers that compete with China -- who'd like to see the White House place some tariffs taxes on American consumers and businesses who purchase the underpriced low-priced Chinese imports. If the administration doesn't act, Congress may just consider mandating some tariffs punitive taxes against American consumers and business on its own."
I must say that I am not much of a fan of trying to find spurious relationships between long-term economic trends and the political parties who hold office at various times. But I must say I kind of liked this one from Mark Perry:
PS- I was around a dinner table this weekend with a group of Republicans, including some activists. I asked them what exactly they thought Republicans would do next term if they won real gains in Congress. None of them, many hard-core activists, could name anything except divide government and slow the pace of growth. Which I suppose is better than we have now.
More recently, progressives have turned their economic attention to lesser developed nations. Progressives go nuts on the topic of Globalization. Without tight security, G7 and IMF conferences have and would devolve into riots and destruction at the hands of progressives, as happened famously in Seattle. Analyzing the Globalization movement is a bit hard, as rational discourse is not always a huge part of the "scene", and what is said is not always logical or internally consistent. The one thing I can make of this is that progressives intensely dislike the change that is occurring rapidly in third world economies, particularly since these changes are often driven by commerce and capitalists.
Progressives do not like American factories appearing in third world countries, paying locals wages progressives feel are too low, and disrupting agrarian economies with which progressives were more comfortable. But these changes are all the sum of actions by individuals, so it is illustrative to think about what is going on in these countries at the individual level.
One morning, a rice farmer in southeast Asia might faces a choice. He can continue a life of brutal, back-breaking labor from dawn to dusk for what is essentially subsistence earnings. He can continue to see a large number of his children die young from malnutrition and disease. He can continue a lifestyle so static, so devoid of opportunity for advancement, that it is nearly identical to the life led by his ancestors in the same spot a thousand years ago.
Or, he can go to the local Nike factory, work long hours (but certainly no longer than he worked in the field) for low pay (but certainly more than he was making subsistence farming) and take a shot at changing his life. And you know what, many men (and women) in his position choose the Nike factory. And progressives hate this. They distrust this choice. They distrust the change. And, at its heart, that is what the opposition to globalization is all about "“ a deep seated conservatism that distrusts the decision-making of individuals and fears change, change that ironically might finally pull people out of untold generations of utter poverty.
Which is why I really enjoyed this article linked by Mark Perry:
"Years after activists accused Nike and other Western brands of running Third World sweatshops, the issue has taken a surprising turn. The path of discovery winds from coastal factory floors far into China's interior, past women knee-deep in streams pounding laundry. It continues down a dusty village lane to a startling sight: arrays of gleaming three-story houses with balconies, balustrades and even Greek columns rising from rice paddies.
It turns out that factory workers -- not the activists labeled "preachy" by one expert, and not the Nike executives so wounded by criticism -- get the last laugh. Villagers who "went out," as Chinese say, for what critics described as dead-end manufacturing jobs are sending money back and returning with savings, building houses and starting businesses.
Workers who stitched shoes for Nike and apparel for Columbia Sportswear, both based near Beaverton, Oregon, are fueling a wave of prosperity in rural China.
Update: I would have thought it unnecessary to add these provisos, but apparently per the comments it is necessary for some. Of course people need to be treated as human beings. Companies in some poor countries that are using the power of local government to actually enslave workers or to employ them in non-consensual ways are not organizations a good libertarian would ever defend, as our bedrock principle is to deal with other human beings without force or fraud.
My point is that we cannot apply our wealthy middle class values to the pay/benefits/workweek package being offered in poor countries. To my mind it is immoral to try to deny poor people in poor companies jobs just because we rich people in the US would not consider taking such a job. This arrogant and frankly clueless attitude forgets a critical question - what is their alternative? We may think the Nike factory job sucks, and against the choices we have it probably does, but I would bet the subsistence rice farming job, with one's family always one bad harvest away from starvation, would suck worse. Of course we should aspire that everyone in the world can work in an air conditioned building for $40,000 a year while spending most of the day surfing the Internet and texting friends complaining that they are underpaid. But you can't tell these countries that the only ladder they can use to escape poverty doesn't have any rungs in the first 20 feet.
I am really swamped at work, but I have a number of good things saved that I want to share.
1. This picture is the best single explanation of what is wrong with the stimulus jobs creation numbers -- the stimulus money comes from somewhere, and starves efficient businesses of capital in favor of politically connected endeavors. HT Russ Roberts
2. More on what I call the only good idea for reducing health care spending -- making individuals responsible for making price-value purchasing tradeoffs like we do, oh say, with absolutely everything else we buy. This article on on HSA's in Indiana:
State employees enrolled in the consumer-driven plan will save more than $8 million in 2010 compared to their coworkers in the old-fashioned preferred provider organization (PPO) alternative. In the second straight year in which we've been forced to skip salary increases, workers switching to the HSA are adding thousands of dollars to their take-home pay.
Most important, we are seeing significant changes in behavior, and consequently lower total costs. In 2009, for example, state workers with the HSA visited emergency rooms and physicians 67% less frequently than co-workers with traditional health care. They were much more likely to use generic drugs than those enrolled in the conventional plan, resulting in an average lower cost per prescription of $18. They were admitted to hospitals less than half as frequently as their colleagues. Differences in health status between the groups account for part of this disparity, but consumer decision-making is, we've found, also a major factor.
Mark Perry reports in a later post that Congress is declaring war on HSA's
3. There has been a lot of good stuff lately on the growing rift between the two America's -- those in government or with access to government patronage and those who actually make a living by being productive. I am increasingly convinced that Obama and Congress are working to create a European-style corporate state, where government insiders, a few large corporations, and a few large unions protect themselves against everyone else. Katherine Mangu-Ward looks at a study of government vs. private pay for the same jobs. It used to be government paid less in return for having to work less hard and being impossible to fire. Now government workers have it all.
There are two million civilian federal workers. 1.1 million of them have direct private sector equivalents. And they are laughing their asses off at those private sector suckers, who are doing similar jobs for less pay"”often a lot less.
"Accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector," according to a USA Today report. In jobs where there are private equivalents, the feds are earning $7,645 more on average than their private counterparts.
Her post has more data. And an update and response to criticisms is here. Mark Perry looks at wage growth, and the difference is amazing. Government employees are the new robber barons, and this time, the title is appropriate.
And speaking of the corporate state, this was an interesting essay at the Claremont Institute, via Maggies Farm.
Joseph Schumpeter ominously speculated that as capitalism succeeded, democracies in time would come to expect its end (wealth) but reject its means (free-market competition). He worried that because of the inequality and creative destruction it brings, capitalism would provoke a kind of adverse reaction. A popular call would arise for government to plan market outcomes according to some utopian view of society's good, and this democratically guided central planning would inevitably slow economic growth. Schumpeter predicted, in turn, that if economic expansion faltered, individual liberty would be directly imperiled or quietly ceded by citizens resigned to having their diminished economic position protected by the state.
The one mistake writers often make is to call capitalism a "system." Capitalism is the un-system. It is the lack of a system. It is the natural self-organization of individuals when they freely follow their own self-interest.
4. The individual responsibility story of the day, via Overlawyered
In 2004, truck driver Simon Loza Mejia violated company regulations, and took his eight-year-old Diana Yuleidy Loza-Jimenez along on a long-haul trip from Oregon to Bakersfield. That November 27, he was pulling away in the truck, but apparently didn't bother to check where his daughter was, and ran over her. This was, argued her attorneys, the fault of her father's employer"”and a Sacramento County judge agreed with the argument that it was legally irrelevant that her father was the one who ran her over. Unsurprisingly, a jury ignorant of the facts awarded Diana, whose lower body was crushed, a jackpot verdict of $24.3 million.
5. Charter schools in Harlem. Never have so many kids been held hostage to so few, in this case a few union officials and their captive legislators.
The United Federation of Teachers and its political acolytes in the New York state legislature are hell-bent on blocking school choice for underprivileged families. Worried that high-performing charters are "saturating" Harlem, State Sen. Bill Perkins and State Assemblyman Keith Wright have backed legislation that would gut state per-pupil funding at charter schools and allow a single charter operator to educate no more than 5% of a district's students. Unions dislike charter schools because many aren't organized. But how does limiting the replication of successful public education models benefit ghetto kids?
These obstructionists, Mr. Clark says, aren't doing the community any favors. "The teachers unions ought to be ashamed of themselves because they know better than I do how bad these schools are," he says. "Everybody on my block and in my building and around the corner . . . they all want charter schools. They don't want a political debate."
6. I could have sworn the politicians swore up and down they would never ever interfere with business decisions at GM.
General Motors Co. will reinstate 661 dealerships it sought to drop from its sales network.GM executives said Friday that the dealerships -- more than half of those seeking to stay with the automaker -- will receive letters giving them the option to remain open. GM said it would not have enough time to negotiate with all 1,100 dealerships that appealed the automaker's decision to close them within a four-month window imposed by the federal government....
"It's not exactly what they wanted to do, and it's always I think a little embarrassing when you have to make changes based on an arbitration process, but they've had to adjust and move forward," he said.
Well, at least the Congress and the DOT is hammering GM's competitor Toyota, so I guess they can call it even. Welcome to Europe, guys. I have said it before, but this is exactly the kind of BS European nations do all the time - hammering foreign competitors of their domestic politically connected manufacturers in exchange for substantial ability to regulate and modify these companies decisions. Soon to follow - Europe's lower growth rates and higher structural unemployment.
7. Dog bites man: Paul Krugman still a political hack who is willing to eschew everything he knows or has written about economics to support his team.
I love it when Mark Perry rewrites trade stories
"U.S. Steel Unions Score American Consumers Dealt Yet Another Huge Victory Loss As China They Are Slammed With New Steel Tariffs Taxes"
One has to envy pity the insignificant amount of pull U.S. steel workers consumers and steel-using companies have. The majority of U.S.-China trade agitation is caused by imposes signifcant costs on this one relatively tiny huge part of the U.S. economy.
Mark Perry suggests allowing tiger ranching to save tigers, and offers the alligator example as an analog of how commercial use helped revive an animal' fortunes. This kind of ownership rights has revived a number of fisheries, and hasn't hurt either buffalo or ostriches either.
This video below is pretty funny, and gets at these issues towards the end. "There might be a few polar bears left if people wanted one for breakfast."
For a variety of reasons that have a lot more to do with subsidizing preferred business interests than energy or environmental policy, Congress has fallen in love with biofuel subsidies and mandates. We've talked quite a bit on this site about ethanol. Here is another example, via Mark Perry:
It sounded like a good idea: Provide a little government money to convert wood shavings and plant waste into renewable energy.
But as laudable as that goal sounds, it could end up causing more economic damage than good -- driving up the price of raw timber, undermining an industry that has long used sawdust and wood shavings to make affordable cabinetry, and highlighting the many challenges involved in decreasing the nation's dependence on oil by using organic materials to create biofuels.
In a matter of months, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program -- a small provision tucked into the 2008 farm bill -- has mushroomed into a half-a-billion dollar subsidy that is funneling taxpayer dollars to sawmills and lumber wholesalers, encouraging them to sell their waste to be converted into high-tech biofuels. In doing so, it is shutting off the supply of cheap timber byproducts to the nation's composite wood manufacturers, who make panels for home entertainment centers and kitchen cabinets.
The federal government can provide up to $45 a ton in matching payments to businesses that collect, harvest, store and transport biomass waste to an authorized energy facility. That means sawdust or wood shavings may be twice as valuable if a lumber mill sells them to a biomass energy company instead of to a traditional buyer.
This is bad news for the composite panel industry, which turns these materials into particleboard and medium-density fiberboard, and outranks the U.S. biomass industry in terms of employees and economic impact, with 21,000 employees and annual sales of $7.9 billion, according to 2006 U.S. Census data.
The article poses this as a dueling jobs situation, but the result not only leaves us worse off economically, it leaves us worse off environmentally. And the explanation is all Hayek and the limits on information possessed by a few individuals in Congress vs. 300 million market actors. It is pretty clear to me that, to whatever extent Congress even thought at all about this legislation, they must have assumed that wood shavings were "waste." What happened, most likely, is some entrepreneur and his VC backers came to Congress saying that all this sawdust is just wasted and if you give us a fat subsidy, we can build a valuable business burning it for power.
But in fact, businesses (no matter how much environmentalists believe otherwise) abhor waste. When a tenth of a percent on margins is important, a lot of people have financial incentives to either reduce the waste or do something productive with it. Which is why there is a whole industry using sawdust and chips already to make various building products. And I won't go into the math, but trust me that this kind of use for waste is far more efficient, both economically and environmentally, for the waste than just burning it.
I could link Mark Perry almost every day, and have to restrain myself. If you like my blog, you should be reading his too. Anyway, here is his take on US manufacturing figures:
If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a separate country, it would be tied with Germany as the world's third largest economy. It would also be larger than the entire economies of India and Russia combined. As much as we hear about the "demise of U.S. manufacturing," and how we are a country that "doesn't produce anything anymore," and how we have "outsourced our production to China," the U.S. manufacturing sector is alive and well, and the U.S. is still the largest manufacturer in the world.
It's always impressive to see one person excel in two widely disparate activities: a first-rate mathematician who's also a world class mountaineer, or a titan of industry who conducts symphony orchestras on the side. But sometimes I think Paul Krugman is out to top them all, by excelling in two activities that are not just disparate but diametrically opposed: economics (for which he was awarded a well-deserved Nobel Prize) and obliviousness to the lessons of economics (for which he's been awarded a column at the New York Times).
It's a dazzling performance. Time after time, Krugman leaves me wide-eyed with wonder at how much economics he has to forget to write those columns.
I am not sure anyone has actually said this, but that has certainly been the implication, right? Obama & Pelosi spends a lot of time accusing insurance companies of having profits that are too high, so I have to believe his intention is to reap cost savings by cutting into them.
I have blogged about this before, but Carpe Diem also picks up this thread, observing that health insurance companies are #86 on the list of US industries in terms of profit margins, with a ROS of 3.3%. As Mark Perry points out, this gives them a profit of about $100 per individual policy. Not really a very promising source of savings, is it? But it is very scary for any industry that makes more than 3.3% profits, knowing that the Administration thinks they are making too much money and has shown a willingness to slice into profits it thinks to be excessive.
Sure, we all know that a series of carefully edited anecdotes on film constitute better evidence than comprehensive data and statistics, but Mark Perry soldiers on and does what he can anyway to rebut Michael Moore's new movie. He has lots of good charts, but his summary is:
the evidence clearly demonstrates that along with capitalism and greater economic freedoms come: a) higher per-capita incomes, b) higher incomes for the poorest 10%, c) greater life expectancy, d) less corruption, e) cleaner environments, and f) greater political rights and civil liberties. Not a bad record for a system that Michael Moore portrays as evil, and says did "nothing for him."
I am always amazed at these attempts to portray countries like Cuba as superior to the US for the common man. One only has to look at immigration patterns (and even better some measure of desired immigration intent, since our ridiculously restrictive immigration laws keep so many people out of this country) to see the common man's preferences. Moore and his pears are like a man who looks at a river running from north to south and then arguing that the land in the south must be higher.
Just as an aside, there have probably been thousands of states in world history. Of all those thousands of states and regimes from history, including the hundreds that exist today, there are probably only 15-20 that would have social, economic, and political systems that would allow a man born to modest circumstances to make a fortune through criticism of the government and the social elite.
It is amazing to me that there can be numerous health care plans in Congress plus a jillion speeches on the topic by the President and not once does anyone mention "torts." Now, I am not one to ascribe all cost problems in the medical field to defensive medicine and tort settlements. Buthey t certainly are a factor. It is just stunning that a President can stand up and talk numerous times about "unnecessary tests and procedures" and ascribe all of these to some weird profit motive by the doctors - weird because generally, the doctor gets no extra revenue from these tests, so somehow he or she is motivated by the profits of a third party lab.
But I think the rest of us understand that American tort law, which allows juries to make multi-million dollar judgements based on emotions and empathy rather than facts and true liability, has at least a share of the blame. Not just the settlements, but the steps doctors go through to try to protect themselves from frivolous suits down the road. Here are two interesting stories along these lines. The first from Carpe Diem:
Zurich University Hospital has stopped treating North American "medical tourists," fearing million-dollar claims from litigious patients if operations go wrong. Hospitals in canton Valais have also adopted measures to protect themselves against visitors from the United States, Canada and Britain.
"The directive applies only to patients from the US and Canada who come to Zurich for elective, non-essential health treatments," said Zurich University Hospital spokeswoman Petra Seeburger.
"It is not because treatment is not financed; it is because of different legal systems." In a statement the hospital said it was "not prepared to risk astronomical damages or a massive increase in premiums." Seeburger emphasised that the restrictions only affected people not domiciled in Switzerland.
Apologies to Mark Perry for quoting his whole post, but if you are not reading Mark Perry, you should be. The second example comes from Overlawyered:
Oh, I miss the days when you got a radiology report that said, "fracture right 3rd rib, no pneumothorax". Because of frivolous lawsuits radiologists have learned to be vague, noncommittal and to pass the buck of possible litigation. So now you get a 2 page report that says "linear lucency in right 3rd rib, clinical correlation recommended, underinflated lung fields cannot exclude underlying interstitial disease and or masses. CT recommended for further evaluation, if condition warrants." along with several other paragraphs of lawyer imposed legalmedspeak"¦.
For years, I have suspected that a lot of increased per pupil spending in public schools has gone to increasing numbers of administrators rather than teachers or facilities. I just have to compare the administration numbers at my kids private school and those at the local public school and the contrast is just amazing.
This decade has been good for associate vice chancellors at UNC-Chapel Hill. Their numbers have nearly doubled, from 10 to 19, and the money paid to them has more than tripled, to a total of nearly $4 million a year. The university now admits that some of these people were in jobs that were not vital. They represent the rapid management growth in the 16-campus UNC system that has added tens of millions of dollars to annual payrolls.
Now, with a tough economy and sinking tax revenues, UNC officials and state lawmakers say these jobs need cutting first.
Systemwide over the past five years, the administrative ranks have grown by 28%, from 1,269 administrative jobs to 1,623 last year, UNC-system data show. That's faster than the growth of faculty and other teaching positions -- 24% -- and faster than student enrollment at 14%. The number of people with provost or chancellor in their titles alone has increased by 34% the past five years, from 312 in 2004 to 418 last year. The cost was $61.1 million, up $25 million from five years before.
Perry also show similar numbers in his own university in Michigan.
Kudos to the UNC system for at least considering cuts in these bloated administrator positions. You never see public grade schools systems ever suggest such cuts - when forced to economize, they always suggest cutting something inflammatory like textbooks for high school or crayons for kindergarteners. One difference is that UNC faces competition from a myriad of other public and private colleges, while most local grade school districts do not.
I would still like to find similar staffing numbers for our local public school district, breaking out teachers from principals, assistant principals, and administrators, but they seem loath to share such detail.
Mark Perry links a story on the "cash for clunkers" program, including a small taste of the 136-pages of rules, regulations, and procedures dealers must follow to qualify for the payment.