Are We Chasing Imaginary Numbers?
33 minutes ago
It's train wreck day for Gordon Brown. Not only has the map of England turned blue, but one of the Cabinet Ministers he's just reappointed may have quit in the middle of his press conference*. In that conference, he expressed defiance, which means that there will either have to be a swift political assassination (like mass resignations from his new cabinet) or there'll be a bloodbath Labour will take decades to recover from. Tune to Iain Dale or Conservative Home for the latest in what is proving to be great political theater.
*Rumors are circulating that the next reality TV hit will be I'm a Cabinet Minister, Get Me Out of Here!
Remember that employment is typically a lagging indicator, so the employment picture will still look bad even after the economy has begun to recover.The whole concept that employment is a lagging indicator of economic recovery is stupid.
The documents also reveal that the White House first contacted Sotomayor about the nomination four days before Justice David Souter announced he would retire.The above is from this article about Sotomayor and the various things being "gleaned" from the most recently released documents.
Sotomayor first got a call from White House counsel Greg Craig on April 27, then had near-daily contact with his office after Souter's announcement May 1. She spoke to about a dozen White House aides during the secretive selection process, leading to a face-to-face interview with Obama on May 21
One of the most important members of Gordon Brown's cabinet, Hazel Blears, has resigned today, the day before a set of local and European elections. At Oxford we called this a "knifing" — as in a knife in the back — and a particularly vicious knifing it is, too. See here for an excellent parsing of her resignation letter, which is also a useful introduction to just how nasty and underhanded British cabinet politics can be. Brown's days are numbered.
Especially as there's a good chance he might come fourth in the European elections. Remember, he'd probably have won an election and spelled the end for David Cameron if he'd called an election soon after he took over from Tony Blair. Talking of whom, I wonder how big the smile is on Tony's face these days.
The viciousness with which conservative women are discussed on the left borders on horrific. The blatant calls for violence against our military are pervasive. The mockery and derision directed at Christians and conservatives is habitual. And all this from the same left who have spent decades decrying climates of hate as breeding grounds for violence. This is their calculus. They are clear about it. They believe it. Disgraceful.
Since the election, however, with the threat of the rumors at least somewhat abated, the White House has been increasingly forthcoming about the president's roots. Especially when reaching out to the
In his April 6 address to the Turkish Parliament, President Obama referenced how many "Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim majority country. I know, because I am one of them."
A couple weeks ago, I complained how the Left thinks it's an incredible insight into, and damning indictment of, the nature of capitalism that it undergoes periods of crisis. My response, in short, was So what? Everything under the sun goes through periods of crisis. That is the nature of things.
Here's another example of the same sort of thinking. Steve Levitt observes that "In a market economy, there are inevitably winners and losers."
In every sphere of life there are inevitably winners and losers. In nature the bunnies are losers to the owls. The salmon are losers to the bears. In sports, there are winners and losers. In science, winners and losers. In families, winners and losers. And in every economic system that has, or ever will be, conceived of, there will be winners and losers. Does Levitt mean to imply there are no losers in socialism? Communism? How about in social democracy or corporatism or, I don't know, feudalism, or mercantalism or anarchism? It seems obvious to me that these systems created plenty of losers, particularly in the form of dead people.
This sort of comment reminds me of the Simpsons where Millhouse ominously observes of the kids in Shelbyville that they like their candy for "the sweet, sweet taste."
That's why everyone likes candy!
Likewise, everything creates winners and losers.
Or to be more accurate, nothing — nothing — prevents the inevitable creation of winners and losers. All any economic system can do is redistribute who gets a W and who gets an L. One of the many great and wonderful things about capitalism is that it creates endless opportunities for do-overs and second, third, and fourth chances. Capitalism may not take as much of the sting out of losing as European social democracy (You failed! Here's two years of paid vacation!), but it offers something better: another bite at the apple. One of the things European business gurus admire most about America is that we consider failure to be "experience." In Europe, you often only get one crack at the apple as an entrepreneur and if you fail, that failure stigmatizes you.
Levitt goes on to say that people who worry about the poor don't like markets very much. This is hubris masqerading as sociology and ingratitude posing as compassion. But we can discuss that another time.
If sharks stop swimming, they sink and drown. President Obama seems to view his health-care program the same way. "If we don't get it done this year," he said in a recent pep talk to supporters, "we're not going to get it done." Well, why? If laying "a new foundation" for 18% of the economy really is as important as the President claims it is, then surely it could withstand more than fleeting inspection.These healthcare plans must be fought tooth and nail. Socialized medicine has been a near universal failure in small, mostly homogeounous European industrial countries. A huge money suck-pit of a failure, chock-a-block with the rationing of medical services and medicines.
Instead, Democrats are trying to rush the largest entitlement expansion since LBJ into law with a truncated debate and as little public scrutiny as possible. At this point all they've released are the vaguest "policy options," not concrete specifics. Yet the Senate plans to begin marking up legislation next week, maybe hold a hearing or two, then have something to the floor by the end of the month, votes by the August recess and a bill to the Oval Office by Thanksgiving. On the seventh day, they will rest. Mr. Obama had 24 Senate Democrats over for a White House chat yesterday to drive the calendar ahead.
It's not hard to see why Democrats are trying to hew to this full-speed-ahead timetable. Their health overhaul will run up a 13-figure price tag at a time when spending and deficits are already at epic levels and hook up the middle class to an intravenous drip of government health subsidies for generations to come. These are not realities that Democrats want the American people to mull over for very long.
This is especially true for the majority of Americans who are generally satisfied with their coverage and doctors but worried about cost. They might get scared off if they were allowed the chance to realize that Democrats will do almost nothing to restrain rising health spending. Based on the leaks so far, this year's legislation will hone in on traditional liberal concerns of social equity -- covering the uninsured.
I happen to support a legal regime that would, in Bill Clinton's famous words, keep abortion safe, legal and rare. I hold no brief for the religious right, and its views on homosexuality in particular offend (and affect) me personally. But it's precisely because of my identity that I consider comparisons between so-called Christianists (who seek to limit my rights via the ballot box) and Islamic fundamentalists (who seek to limit my rights via decapitation) to be fatuous.The liberal rush to paint all conservatives with the same brush is as ugly as anyone doing the same to them. Unfortunately, conservatives in the past have been too polite to say so. Although Mr. Kirchick is no conservative or pro-lifer, that he has the guts to stand up for what is right is a very good thing.
Economists have consistently been expecting the economy to begin showing positive growth in the second half of this year. But the stimulus appears to have dampened the recovery that economists were expecting.
Take the expected growth in the third quarter (from July to September) this year. In January, the forecasters surveyed by the Wall Street Journal were expecting GDP during that period to rise by 1.2 percent at an annual rate. By May, the expected growth had been cut in half to 0.6 percent. The pattern is similar for both the second and fourth quarters this year. Paul Evans, the editor of the Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking and an economics professor at Ohio State University, agrees with this and tells FOX News: “Most likely the economic recovery would have been more rapid at this point without [the stimulus package].”
Other forecasts have shown a similar pattern. By the end of last week, the U.S. manufacturing output is now expected to plummet by 12 percent this year. In February, the drop was expected to be 8 percent. The decline in the housing market failed to slow down after the stimulus package. The mortgage delinquency and foreclosure rates in the U.S. just experienced their biggest quarterly increases since records started in 1972. Both numbers are also at their highest recorded levels. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index posted a 19.1% drop from a year earlier, the biggest single quarterly decline for the reading’s 21-year history. In January, forecasters expected about 770,000 new homes being built this year. By May, only 580,000 new homes were expected for 2009.
Why are not black Americans insulted and outraged? [Nordlinger is refering to the Ricci case] Perhaps many are, and I have merely been unaware of it. But I would expect an outcry that goes something like, “Don’t you dare inflict injustice on others for my sake. Don’t you dare discriminate so grossly in my name.”
Indeed, I believe that race preferences at large will come to an end when that happens. When the preponderance of black opinion says, “Enough. Not for our sake; not in our name. Commit injustices if you must — but not for our benefit, thank you very much. Look to the individual, of whatever color. The time for ‘compensatory discrimination’ has passed.”
The Republican National Committee slammed the outing in an "RNC Research Piece": "As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills. ... Have a great Saturday evening – even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense. ... PUTTING ON A SHOW: Obamas Wing Into The City For An Evening Out While Another Iconic American Company Prepares For Bankruptcy."At least Carter wore a cardigan when he asked Americans to turn down their thermostats.
The RNC's Gail Gitcho added: "If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn’t the Presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?”
From Dr. L in Illinois:
As a brief background, I am a board certified medical oncologist in private practice with a 22 physician group in Chicago and the adjacent suburbs. We see patients in ten hospitals, seven offices, and see nearly 5000 new patients per year. I finished training in 1993 and joined my practice that same year. I am a partner and practice manager, responsible for both patient care and 'nuts and bolts' financial and organizational management of the practice, along with our other officers.
This weekend, the American Society of Clinical Oncologists will hold their annual meeting in Orlando Florida. While it is directed at the American cancer treatment community, it has become the de facto World cancer meeting. Much of that stems from the plethora of companies based in the US that have brought to the market a multitude of groundbreaking drugs, developed in US academic centers and thereafter applied to the American population at large who suffer from cancer.
Reading the Meeting Proceedings between [visits with] patients in my office (not my turn to go this year), I've rarely seen an annual report that held such promise. There are a multitude of both new drugs, and new applications of established drugs that promise to accelerate the 1-2% annual drop in cancer mortality that we've seen since the late 90's. It's a better time to have cancer than ever before---if, of course there was ever a good time for such misfortune.
Alas, I think many of these advances will be stillborn. And yes, I expect the Obama administration to be the instrument of its destruction.
I will be the first to point out that there is enormous waste in American medical care. There's plenty of blame to go around; physicians are rarely capable economists, and rarely consider the cost:benefit ration of that extra test or that extra day in the hospital; "Nothing's too good for my patient" is laudable, but is also a screen behind which too many of my colleagues hide their intransigence. Greed is hardly unknown, though I believe far less widespread among physicians than their various suppliers. I admit to something less than objectivity on this. Medicare guidelines are often the perfect example of the adage "there's no problem that government can't make worse and more expensive".
Despite the fact that perhaps 15% of healthcare expenditures go to physician compensation, it's the convenient target. Hospitals, private payors and Pharma are very effective in the political arena. The AMA, looked upon by the uninitiated as the'voice of American medicine' is nothing of the kind. We, frankly haven't the time, nor often the inclination to participate in the political wrangling; many of the 'thought leaders' in medicine are academics, whose goals are often diametrically opposite the more than 80% of physicians who practice in the private, nonuniversity sector.
Every analysis of oncology suggests that we have a 10-30% deficit of trained physicians staring us in the face by 2020. Every academic analysis suggests one or another program, and bemoans the difficulty in attracting qualified medical students and residents to oncology. It's quite simple, really: very hard work, and declining income. Private practice physicians have seen a fall of approximately 30% since 2004. Worsening economics are right around the corner. Given the extraordinary expense of chemotherapy and supportive therapies, combined with reimbursements that just exceed a wash, it will become impossible to deliver outpatient care in more than half the venues in the United States quite soon. And then, simply put, the senior physicians will quit.
Make no mistake: most of us enjoy the opportunity to do what we do. After all, we cure cancer for a living. Hard to top that on the "Useful Professions" scale.
We also, however endure just the stressors and personal strains that you might imagine. We trade time, and inconvenience, for money. Just like everyone else in the private sector, only more so---after ten years of training after college. With the prospect staring us in the face of working harder than the average internist, and earning less: well, if I were 58, and my kids were grown and my mortgage paid: well, I'd call it a day. At 48, I'm already working on an exit strategy by 55 in anticipation of this scenario.
I could go on, but this note is far too long already. Specialists, and underpaid generalists will hang it up years ahead of their planned exit from medicine in just about any system that the Obama administration is likely to devise. They'll scarcely need to ration care: there just won't be anyone around to deliver it. Government will kill the golden goose, and then blame it upon everyone and anyone else. As usual.
Dr. L. MD FACP
Again, I wish I could include the interactive chart it shows, but it breaks down the $668,621 by various components of federal government debt ($546,668) and personal debt ($121,953). Presumably that means this astronomical figure does not even include state and local government debt. I thought it might be fun to put this number into perspective.
Because it's pretty hard to identify what the weighted-average interest rate is for this debt, I show a few different scenarios. That way you can decide for yourself which scenario you find most plausible. The interest rate is shown, along with two different time horizons for each scenario. I then provide the amount of money that would be needed to pay off the debt per household, per year.
Scenario #1: 5%
30 years: $43,469
50 years: $36,603
Scenario #2: 3%
30 years: $34,092
50 years: $25,971
Scenario #3: 0%
30 years: $22,274
50 years: $13,364
So in the hopelessly optimistic best case scenario, each American household would have to pay $13,364 per year for 50 years. That is, of course, assuming that the federal government closes the deficit (fat chance), and each household does not incur additional debt (doubtful). And recall: it does not include state and local debt. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the 2007 median household income was $50,233 -- before taxes. So you can kind of imagine how impossible even the best case scenario of $13,364 per household, per year would be anyway.
I admit this is a gross oversimplification. It does not consider inflation, which is sure to happen, and which will help a bit. But if you assume the above interest rates are real interest rates (nominal interest rate minus inflation), then this might make the 0% scenario a little more likely -- but probably not for 30 or 50 years, I hope. My scenarios also do not consider U.S. population growth, which there undoubtedly will be.
According to the forecast, the sun should remain generally calm for at least another year. From a research point of view, that's good news because solar minimum has proven to be more interesting than anyone imagined. Low solar activity has a profound effect on Earth’s atmosphere, allowing it to cool and contract. Space junk accumulates in Earth orbit because there is less aerodynamic drag. The becalmed solar wind whips up fewer magnetic storms around Earth's poles. Cosmic rays that are normally pushed back by solar wind instead intrude on the near-Earth environment. There are other side-effects, too, that can be studied only so long as the sun remains quiet.And check out the two graphs below. Every claim environmentalists make is wiped away simply by looking at the sun.
What does Hillary Rodham Clinton have against Jewish babies? Last week, the secretary of state issued a demarche to Tel Aviv stating that Washington "wants to see a stop to [West Bank] settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." The euphemism "natural growth" refers to children. About 9,600 babies were born in West Bank settlements in 2007, and the State Department views these bundles of joy as a threat to its precious peace process.Read the whole thing here.
I've heard time and again this morning that GM is paying the price for bad management decisions. Up to a point, Lord Copper. The really bad management decision they took had nothing to do with cars, but with striking a deal with the unions that led them to a $20 billion liability that they probably would have survived without. As for making cars Americans wouldn't buy, what they did was build cars that Americans would buy, but were forced by government to make other cars as well that Americans did not prefer to those of their competitors. Cut out the union liability and the requirement to build small cars and you have a profitable company. Add them in and you have an industrial disaster.
“There was a time between Nov. 4 and mid-February when I was the only full-time member of the auto task force,” Mr. Deese, a special assistant to the president for economic policy, acknowledged recently as he hurried between his desk at the White House and the Treasury building next door. “It was a little scary.”
But now, according to those who joined him in the middle of his crash course about the automakers’ downward spiral, he has emerged as one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama’s biggest experiment yet in federal economic intervention.
Re: Is Socialized Health Care Popular in the U.K.?
Some very interesting questions, Pete. Here's my go at answering them.
1. How popular is the NHS? The polls suggest it is not as popular as people think. This poll for the Daily Telegraph (I am unsure of the date, because I can only find reference to it on the Daily Mail web site, and the Mail does not datestamp its articles, but its clearly pre-2006) suggests that 4 out of 10 would go private "if they could" and that two-thirds are unhappy with the NHS service. However, when faced with a choice between the NHS and other systems, a slim majority prefers the NHS.
2. Does David Cameron or any other conservative want to reform the NHS? Ever since it became a big issue during Mrs. Thatcher's ministry, conservatives have been declaring that "the NHS is safe in our hands." There was a brief attempt to introduce a "patient's passport" during one of the leaders between John Major and David Cameron, but that policy has been dropped and the "safe in our hands" policy is now back. However, the two brightest lights in the intellectual wing of the Conservatives, Douglas Carswell MP and internet megastar Daniel Hannan MEP, have a comprehensive reform package outlined in their essential work, The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain. Since the expenses scandal, the political pendulum has certainly been swinging their way.
3. Why isn't there a groundswell against it? I have never seen a poll that drills down into the bedrock to ask just why people like the idea of the NHS, but I suspect it is a combination of three things: a confusion between "free" and "free at the point of use," a failure to appreciate that general performance is much better under other health systems, and an attitude to risk that wants a low-cost remedy in the event of catastrophe. If people did appreciate that other systems are better, the other two considerations might change. However, all Health Ministers of all parties have constantly repeated the refrain that the NHS is the "envy of the world." I hope that will change under a Conservative government and a more realistic assessment will be given to the British people.
Incidentally, the splendid British think tank Civitas has a useful collection of tables relating to NHS performance and comparisons with other health systems. This is the direct link to the one comparing the NHS to U.S. insurance.
Very interesting new poll over there. The expenses scandal seems to have concentrated mostly on Conservative MPs over the past week or so, but David Cameron's leadership in forcing out the more egregious members (although some less deserving of suspicion have also gone) seems to have contribued to a sustained 20% lead in this latest survey. Peter Roff earlier this week compared Cameron's new approach to that of Grover Norquist, which is not as surprising as it sounds. His latest, excellent speech was heavily influenced by the thoughts of the aforementioned Messrs Carswell and Hannan, whose views strongly accord with many of this page. It seems that conservatism in the U.K. is at last going through an intellectual revival to match its revival in the polls, and that this is attractive as the genuine voice of reform over there.
Also note that if you add the result for the U.K. Independence Party to the Conservatives' numbers in the EU elections poll (the elections are next week, on Thursday in the UK's case) you get to 49%. As UKIP self-identifies as a libertarian party, this demonstrates that solid, identifiable conservatism is back with a vengeance over there. My long national nightmare may soon be over . . .
Getting arrested doesn't normally bolster a politician's credibility. But when South Carolina state Sen. Robert Ford told me recently that he saw the inside of a jail cell 73 times, he did so to make a point. As a youth, Mr. Ford cut his political teeth in tumultuous 1960s civil-rights protests.Sometimes if you do the right thing long enough, liberals catch on and realize conservatives were right all along.
Today this black Democrat says the new civil-rights struggle is about the quality of instruction in public schools, and that to receive a decent education African-Americans need school choice. He wants the president's help. "We need choice like Obama has. He can send his kids to any school he wants."
Mr. Ford was once like many Democrats on education -- a reliable vote against reforms that would upend the system. But over the past three and a half years he's studied how school choice works and he's now advocating tax credits and scholarships that parents can spend on public or private schools.