Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Middle East Petroleum Dependency Myth

The middle east petroleum dependency is the myth that we need petroleum from the Middle-East and that our military actions help in this regard.  I think that this is a dangerous idea that many voters to have. 

I see no reason for our military to be in Iraq or Afghanistan.  We do not need Iraq's petroleum. Perhaps if we had a separation of economy and state politicians would be less spooked by the myth that we need Middle-East petroleum.  There is more feed stock for making Gasoline and diesel fuel in Canada tar-sands than in all Middle-East petroleum, also there is CTL and GTL. 

Now I am NOT saying, as many democrats do, that we should not buy Middle-east Petroleum.  I see no benefits to us or them from us cutting them off from petroleum income and having higher fuel prices here. I am just saying that we should not worry about the negative economic consequences of a stoppage of Middle-East petroleum that could come out of a war or an embargo, pirates in the gulf or any other reason.  The consequences would be short run. 

My guess is that we are in Iraq and Afghanistan because there are many voters who want the USA to look very powerful and fearsome to would be attackers, but I think had we left Afghanistan as soon as toppled the Taliban and Iraq as soon as we got Saddam we would look more powerful and fearsome than we do today. 

Friday, October 2, 2009

Welfarize and Minimize Social Security

Welfarize and Minimize SS

What is the purpose of Social Security? Is it a welfare program or an investment program?

Democrats talk of the SS tax as a regressive tax but also argue that SS is an investment. If SS is a welfare program why is most of the money paid out to the rich and middle class? If it is an investment/insurance program why do they call FICA a tax and complain about the poor paying a high tax rate?  If it is an investment program why does the value go to zero on death. If it is insurance against out living one's support system and savings  why do the rich get a bigger benefit payout?

The rich and middle class do not need SS they can generally take care of themselves. 

One of social security’s effects is that though children still provide for their parents by paying the SS tax, the parents look to government and honor Government for taking care of them in old age. They show appreciation to government (and politicians particularly FDR) for the SS benefit rather that to their children who actually pay for their SS. They do not see it, but the money is coming from their children.  Studies have show that government funded pensions weaken family bonds.  It has become shameful to rely directly on your children in retirement but perfectly OK if the money passes through government. This seems a bit absurd.

Even the economics of this are bad! Most families would be better off providing in kind benefits (like housing) to their parents rather than money (which is what SS gives). It more efficient to have one better house rather than 2 homes.  The elderly can contribute around the house but instead we have more separate living. Some of this surely would have occurred without SS as people have gotten wealthier but SS surely contributed to the current state of the family.

According to some writings of FDR, SS was implemented to encourage older workers to retire in the mistaken belief that this would increase employment for younger people. This was a mistaken belief because the SS tax tended to decrease employment, few people in government at that time understood that. 

So what to do, it seems unlikely that Amercans would ever vote to abandon SS.  I see no practical way to get rid of SS now, so I propose that it be welfareized. To welfareize it we should:

1. End the charade of the separate SS tax and fund the program from general revenue. It is not now nor ever was a retirement plan, it has always been a pay as you welfare program.

2. Make the pay out (the check recipient receive each month) the same for every one, currently the more money you made in your work years the more SS you receive.

3. End the charade of the “trust fund” a “trust fund” never existed and cannot really exist (apart from the US government buying foreign bonds which would be politically unpalatable and somewhat risky) because when you are the source of all money as the federal government is it impossible to save up money for later use. Again the program has always been pay as you go where the money the young people pay goes to current recipients.

4. Increase the age one needs to reach to start collecting SS. When FDR started the program the average life expectancy was 62 years and to start collecting SS you had to be 63 years old. People today are much healthier at 63 than people were in the 1930s and most jobs are less taxing .

All of this would help decrease the tax burden on young workers and encourage people to seek other ways to live in their old age.

Here is Ross Douthat on the payroll tax.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Subsidize Everyone is to Subsidize No One.

If you subsidize everyone you subsidize no one. 

Therefore it is very difficult, if not impossible to subsidize the middle 
class. You would have to tax the rich at a very high rate which might 
impact investment. Since investment is like indiscriminate charity it 
might actually produce a lower standard of living for the middle class.
So if you are middle class and you think that you are not paying for 
your children's education you are wrong. You are paying every penny.
If you are middle class and you think that you will make out if medical 
care is socialized you, again, are most likely mistaken.

Love of Money in the Bible

1 Timothy 6:9-10 (King James Version)

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

First a better translation of "root of all evil" would be "root of all kinds of evil".

Further in the bible the words love and hate are often used to mean in a relative way. Thus the passage:

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother...he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)

What it means is that one should not put even father, and mother above God. If your father or mother wants you do immoral things you should not do them but put God first. (note:Luke the writer wrote elsewhere to love your parents and he was not stupid.)

So the passage that talks about the love of money is a warning against putting money above God and or morality. E.g. doing immoral things to get money.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some Revealing Healthcare stats

Lots of Healthcare Stats Here : I see 2 things in these stats:

1. The political power of providers in the USA. Groups like the AMA (the AMA is in effect the doctors union). They often assert this power through over regulation and excessive licensing which insure that they will be used to do things that less licensed people could do. They also use licensing to keep supply low and in turn prices high.
2. Monopsony enabling the squeezing of providers is a big factor in how other countries achieve lower healthcare spending. Monopsony is a monopoly of buyers. So for example in Japan the government pays for almost all health so they can tell the providers (doctors and hospitals) what they will pay. The only alternative to accepting the low compensation that the providers have is to leave the business of healthcare. This gives the single payer great power to reduce prices but creates the shortages and waiting that we hear about.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Healthcare Compromise

This is a compromise between advocates of government provided health insurance and those against:
The state would provide insurance to all Americans but the annual deductible would be equal to the family’s trailing year adjusted income minus the poverty line income (say $25,000 for a family of 4) + $300. So a family of 4 with a trailing year adjusted income of $30,000 would have a deductible of $5,300. A family of 4 with a trailing year adjusted income of $80,000 would have a deductible of $55,300. Middle class and rich people could fill the gap with private supplemental insurance but this should be full taxed. This would encourage the middle class and rich, who are generally capable people, to demand prices from medical providers and might force down costs. They could opt to pay for most health-care out of pocket while the poor often less capable would be protected.
It is not a perfect plan but it might help. Some deregulation of health-care would also help the poor gain access. The gauntlet that Doctors have to run these days to get to practice seems like an anachronism in today’s world. Let smart people get to practice medicine after on the job training. Let the medical businesses decide who is qualified to practice medicine. 12 years of training to tell if my child has an ear infection is overkill and reduces access to health-care for the poor.
Another benefit of my plan is that it would encourage capable Americans (the rich and middle class) to be a counter weight politically against the providers.

Here is an article that makes a strong case for a system similar to the one that I propose.  His plan suggests a  insurance for catastrophic events that cost more than, $50,000 combined with a large health savings account.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Italian Spinach Pie Recipe

Italian Spinach Pies

In Providence RI, Italian bakeries sell spinach pies. Similar to a spinach calzone. Delicious try this recipe:


  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • !/2 to 1 teaspoon yeast (the longer you are willing let it rise the less yeast you can use. Less yeast and longer rise time yeailds better texture, bigger holes)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups bread flour


  • 1 lb spinach fresh or frozen - NEVER EVER canned!
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup canned slice black olives
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • garlic salt


In a mixer whisk water a Little flour and yeast together and allow to stand for 3 minutes. Then Whisk in oil, salt and flour. Knead to make dough.

Allow to rest for a few minutes and then form into a ball. Let rise for 4 hours or better over night.


If you are using frozen spinach thaw and drain well. If you are using fresh spinach just clean and dry and use it as is, alternatively you can saute is slightly to mak it easier to work with . Put the spinach in a bowl and add the olives, mushrooms, garlic, salt, olive oil and crushed red pepper. Mix lightly with a spoon.

Stretch the dough like for pizza and cut into 4 pieces. Place filling in the center of each piece and roll the dough over like a calzone forming a pocket.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake pizza for 15 minutes at 425 F. Reduce heat to 375 F. and continue baking (for a total of 30 to 35 minutes) or until golden brown.

Cool and eat at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Italian Bakery Pizza recipe

Italian Bakery Pizza

In Providence RI, italian bakeries sell a crusty pizza with simple toppings (crushed tomatoes, herbs, olive oil) with no cheese or pepperoni. It has a great olive oil and garlic taste. Try it. Here is a recipe for that pizza.

  • 510 grams cold water
  • 1/2 package instant yeast (the longer you are willing let it rise the less yeast you can use. Less yeast and longer rise time yields better texture, bigger holes)
  • 28 grams olive oil
  • 14 grams salt
  • 710 grams bread flour


  • 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes - drained
  • 2/3 cup tomato puree
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic - crushed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (or dry)

  • garlic salt


In a mixer whisk water a little flour and yeast together and allow to stand for 3 minutes. Then Whisk in oil, salt and flour. Knead to make dough.

Allow to rest for a few minutes and then form into a ball. Let rise for 4 hours or better over night.  Fold and stretch the dough.  Let it rise for another hour.  


Drain tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Crush well with your hands add puree. Add pepper and salt (to taste), oil, herbs and garlic.

Deflate dough. Line a 20-by-15 inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat pan generously with olive oil - about 1/4 cup (this seems like a lot but trust me) and sprinkle with garlic salt. Press out dough to fit pan. If dough resists, let it rest for a few minutes, then gentle coax it to fit the pan. Drizzle olive oil lightly on top of dough then sprinkle with garlic salt. Let the dough rise in the pan for about 15 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 425 F.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the top starts to brown a little. Then take it out of the oven and paint the top with some olive oil.  Then spread on the tomato topping and drizzle the top with a little olive oil.

Bake pizza for 10 more minutes at 425 F. Reduce heat to 375 F. and continue baking (for a total of 40 minutes).

Cool and eat at room temperature.