Thursday, December 27, 2018

Did You Pay for Medicare and Social Security

I run into the above sentiment pretty regularly, now that's a strange use of the word entitlement but going with it the way the writer seems to want it understood.

No one paid for Social Security and Medicare, people were taxed like they were taxed to pay for defense, TANF and SNAP. Paid for it implies a quid pro quo, but a quid pro quo is not even possible. The current congress has no ability to bind a future congress. 

You are taxed to pay for public goods and congress has ostensibly (though some would consider it more a case of vote buying) considers taking care of those over 62 a public good. (BTW Medicare is funded primarily from general revenues (41 percent), payroll taxes (37 percent), and beneficiary premiums (14 percent) (Figure 7)) 

It seems to me that that a sensible thing would be to follow the Australian model and pay the same amount out to all retirees. 

Combined social security plus Medicare make up almost half of the federal spending and medical spending for people over 65 is the least effective medical spending, spending for pregnant women and infants and children would yield much more health for the dollar. Much of the healthcare for the elderly yields so little in better health that it is hard to see in the data. See. Also few people even know how Social Security benefits are calculated, if you're curious and want to be surprised, look Here

Security is very much a welfare program disguised as a Ponzi scheme. (I love to say that.) And BTW for you constitution supporting Republicans out there, SS and Medicare are unconstitutional, now I think we should amend the constitution to allow the federal Government to do charity like that. 

None of the above means that you shouldn't be for keeping them as they are, but the argument that you paid for them and are therefore entitled to them is not correct.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Immigration To and From the USA

From here. 

Immigrants from the US to:
Belgium: 10,000
Canada: 310,000
Denmark: 10,000
France: 50,000
Norway: 20,000
Sweden: 20,000
UK: 190,000

Immigrants to the US from:
Belgium: 40,000
Canada: 890,000
Denmark: 30,000
France: 180,000
Norway: 30,000
Sweden: 50,000
UK: 750,000

Do you know what country goes the other way, net migration seems to be from the USA to Mexico.
htt ps:// ttps://

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More Random Critical Analysis of Helathcare

More Random Critical Analysis of Helathcare

He is again arguing that USA healthcare spending is in line with other USA spending and we are not an outlier.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Healthcare Spending VS Length of Life in Countries Selected by Me to Highlight a Point

                             Healthcare spending   GDP Per    Life                  Per Capita Healthcare
Country                as % of GDP                 Capita       Expectancy     Spending
Costa Rica          8.15%                             17,200      79.6                  1,401
Denmark             10.33%                           49,600      80.6                  5,124
USA                     16.84%                           59,500      79.3                 10,020
Italy                       9.0%                               38,000      82.7                  3,420

People in Costa Rica life a much rougher life. The murder rate in Costa Rica is 10/100,00, 2x times as high as the USA and 10x as high as Denmark. If you back out murders, and one reasonably might, the USA will get close to Denmark and Costa Rica will be way ahead. Italy, famous for corrupt government is as far ahead Denmark in length of life as Denmark is ahead of the USA, and Costa Rica beats the USA and is close to Denmark!

I would expect spending as a percent of GDP and total spending on healthcare to be a factor in health.  GDP for the costs of staff and total spending to be for the costs of equipment much of it being imported.  But as for the differences in the countries about we see little of either.

The healthcare is Switzerland and Germany seem reasonably close the system in the USA post PPACA.

So healthcare spending beyond some low level does not seem to have that much effect on health.

I got the data from:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bang for the Effort in Education

A Review of “The Case Against Education”

I think that I have a better way to put Bryan Caplan's hypothesis here it is:

  • My grandfather went to school for 1 years. He successfully ran a barber shop and speculated in real-estate (though he lost most of it in the great depression). He could read, write and do arithmetic, so it looks like the marginal value of an addition year of education falls off fast. 
  • Did you ever notice that people like Bernie Sanders seldom talk about ways of educating at lower cost?
  • Did you ever notice that we talk a lot about more about how to teach students more but little about what knowledge and skills will yield the most bang for the effort?
 From the review:

So what do we actually do in these courses? Push through hard problems, endure boredom, write, follow instructions, coordinate and communicate. Those are all job-relevant.

Would we learn those better another way like working or playing or while learning useful skills/knowledge? And BTW Bryan does address that saying you could learn that better working a job.

Friday, November 9, 2018

CO2 tax Fails in Highly Demoratic Washinton State

And one striking result from Tuesday’s election is that voters in Washington state, a Democratic stronghold, soundly rejected a proposed carbon tax by a margin of 56 to 44 percent. This raises the prospect that the carbon tax may be dead as a policy for the time being, including at the state level. As my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Liam Denning writes: “We can debate the magnitude of the vaunted blue wave, but there was definitely no green wave.”

It seems that each Democrat only wants to tax people who are richer than them. I democrat who makes the enormous sum of $150,000/year only wants to tax people make $200,000/year or more.

Republicans on the other hand only want to tax those who make less them (i'm just kidding), or a per person tax. One of my GOP friends actually says now and then, that the only fair tax  is a per person tax.

So politicians have become masters at hiding taxes and showing benefits. For example CAFE standards are not seen as a tax but cost 6x as much per unit of CO2 saved than a CO2 tax. See:
I and other scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that the new standards will cost the economy on the whole — for the same reduction in gas use — at least six times more than a federal gas tax of roughly 45 cents per dollar of gasoline. That is because a gas tax provides immediate, direct incentives for drivers to reduce gasoline use, while the efficiency standards must squeeze the reduction out of new vehicles only. The new standards also encourage more driving, not less.

Nevertheless, it is hard to address a problem before harm is obvious, especially by raising taxes.

AGW doesn't scare me because the solutions seem adequate to the problem and when the harms get obvious it will be addressed and I would bet that solution will not be too costly.
Solar, wind, batteries and nuclear basic research is mostly done, we'll need businesses to reduce costs incrementally and that look promising. I think nuclear, along with solar might be a very good way to reduce emissions in the developed countries and India and china?

But I think removal from the air might turn out to be less costly than abatement and it can be done latter. (Enhanced weathering, deep ocean iron fertilization and biochar might have potential.) 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

More Money More Children

At any given education level the richer people have more children.

Once school is completed educated women have children at the same rate as uneducated women but they have fewer years at it.

Most women still say that they want to have 2 or 3 children but educated women are more likely to fall short of their own stated desire.

So it looks like it is the time that school takes up is what makes more educated women end up having fewer children and more educated women tend to be richer. Colleges might want to cater more to married with children students.


A New Kind of Federalism

Me responding to a comment here.

The comment included the following:
For Democrats who hate having their money sent out of state, the centuries-old solution staring them right in the face is decentralization and federalism

The obvious problem with federalism for Democrats is that states do not have enough ability to tax because it is not hard enough for people to move to another states. It is the same adverse selection problem that caused communist limit emigration.

Since the Federal Government's main comparative advantages are collection tax and defense, I think it would be interesting in they collected the taxes as they do today but sent the SS, Medicare and most of the other non-defense money that they currently spend to states on a per capita basis and write laws demanding (amend the constitution to allow that) that the states provide for the elderly (SS, Medicare) and poor in some reasonable way. The states and locals could still have there small taxes or not. Some states might even pay a dividend or return of some of the taxes.

Low Skill Workers and the Supply Side of Employment

Tyler Cowen points to  a study that looks at low skill workers in rich vs poor societies look at the propensity to work. The finding was that low skilled people are more likely to work in poorer societies.

He writes:
An alternative view, not mutually exclusive, is that in poor societies low-education workers simply have to take jobs, due to extreme need.

Recently, I was listening to The Glen Show, and the guest said that unemployment in some majority black parts of Chicago was over 30%!

Also according to Feakonomics illegal drug industry workers make less than minimum wage

Considering the above, is it plausible that the old conservative idea that welfare and minimum wage laws have had harmful effects on black Americans? That would be by blacks not working and gaining skills and by pushing them into the illegal sector.

This would be true for low skilled whites also but might be more damaging to blacks because of people propensity to use statistical discrimination.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

J.K. Galbraith on Migration

"Migration is the oldest action against poverty. It selects those who most want help. It is good for the country to which they go;it helps break the equilibrium of poverty in the country from which they come. What is the perversity in the human soul that causes  people to resist so obvious a good?" J.K. Galbraith

Friday, October 12, 2018

Glenn Loury on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)

Glenn Loury (this guy should be famous) does a great job here of being unbiased not on AGW. It is worth listening to but the discussion was excessively negative because they ignored a few things...

1. Nuclear power, that is fusion nuclear more of non fossil fuel power is from nuclear.

“56 percent of France's installed generating capacity -- 63 GW out of 112 GW -- is nuclear-based. 78 percent of the electricity generated in France -- 419 TWh out of 537 TWh -- is nuclear power.”

2. There are ways to remove co2 from the air and keep it out for hundreds or thousands of years. For example enhanced weathering, deep ocean iron fertilization and biochar, even if those do not work there are other ways. Considering that you could pay out the proceeds for removal of co2 from the air you could fly around and on fossil fuel AND we could reach an equilibrium where the amount of co2 going into the air is equal to the amount going into the air. AND IT MIGHT NOT BE VERY EXPENSIVE, like maybe as low as $100/ton (which comes out to about $1/gallon).

3. Geoengineering which might be even cheaper than the above abatement or removal of CO2 from the air. See here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Concerning What was Conservative Just a Few Years Ago.

Concerning what was conservative just a few years ago.

Trumpty Dumpty promised a wall
Trumpty Dumpty reneged it all
All what was conservative then
is not conservative now.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Are American corporate profits really so high?

The debate among economists on corporate profits rages on.  Are they real up relative to wages or not. The first link it Tyler Cowen on the same, and the 2nd link is a search of the subject on Marginal Revolution.


Are American corporate profits really so high?

More on the same.

What does Spain Tell Us about Crime

I vacationed in Spain recently. People warned us of the crime so I looked a could of stats. Spain has a very low rate of crime. 

Spain's murder rate is second lowest in the EU, data shows

Spain Unemployment Rate is at 16.55%, compared to 16.38% last quarter and 18.63% last year.

The gap between the rich and poor of Spain has widened during the economic crisis, a new report on income inequality has confirmed. 

The causes of crime are not what most people think they are. It is not poverty nor relative poverty. I have a suspicion though that what causes crime causes relative poverty.

Alcohol abuse appears to me to cause crime and relative poverty.

Alchohol and Child Abuse

Maltreatment of girls and adolescent pregnancy in the US  by Bill Gardner

The US National Academy of Sciences reports on US health in a global perspective and the news is bad. Citizens of peer nations live longer than Americans do, and the difference is growing, especially for women. The report notes nine health domains where the US falls short. I’m going to highlight two domains that are critical to child health: Injuries and Homicides and Adolescent pregnancy. These two domains are connected in a distressing way.

It interests me that Italy shows up as so low on the chart above. It makes me think that the biggest problem is alcoholism. The rate of alcoholism is very low in Italy. Interestingly Japan has one of the lowest overall rates of crime in the world where Italy is close to the middle of the pack of developed countries in crime but the rate of Maltreatment death is more than double in Japan what it is in Italy (at least on that chart).

(Here is a great post by Tyler Cowen on the subject of alcohol. ) So the question is what can we do to reduce the overuse of alcohol. It is important that we diagnose the problem correctly. I wonder if we have good studies on the relationship of alcohol use to abuse.

Middle Class Decline?

Many people are talking about a decline in the middle class. I think they are wrong. I think that the middle class is as solid as it has ever been. Median real wages have continued to rise, though slower than in 1950-1975, as have wages at the 20 percentile.

But what I agree has happened is NIMBY has driven up housing costs in the highest wage cities to an absurd degree, allowing owners of existing housing to capture most the rise in income in those cities.

Also at it's 1970's peak about 18% of USA workers worked in manufacturing and a little more than half of them were highly paid. Those jobs are almost all gone. But though highly paid, those where not great jobs, it was boring, hard work. So as sad as it is that they are gone the lower paying jobs that replaced them at least are not as hard. When I worked in restaurants we joked that the one good thing about a low wage job is you did not care so much if you lost the job but the environment was good.

If you took all the income gains to the top 20% above the gains of the rest and spread it over the rest of workers you would raise the bottom 20% by about 25%.  That would be great but not life changing.

My son took a job as an assistant plumber right out of high school within a few years he was doing great pay wise, so the skilled trades still doing quite well. He bought a very nice 2 bedroom condominium here for $44k. He lived with us 2 years and saved his money and added some college money that he got from my father and paid cash for the condo. Why is so cheap here in Gainesville FL to buy a nice condo, because they let people build sufficient housing unites here in Gainesville FL. See here

We could all live much better than folks in the 1970's and before if we lived more like they did. Here is a story about the poorest county in the USA the folks there live middle class similar how people used to live.


Lyman Stone on fertility:

It turns out, once they are out of school, most women have very similar fertility trajectories. Regardless of their degree, once women are out of school, their odds of having a kid ramp up to about 10 to 15% a year, and it remains there until they hit their 40s, when biological limitations become significant and fertility declines (negative figures here represent generational differences in prior fertility, not lost children). In other words, the measurable effect of education on birth rates is very small, and even such effect as does exist appears to be unrelated to the actual degree obtained and more related to whether or not a person is enrolled at any level.


The fertility rate for non-enrolled women is vastly higher in all cases. Now, it is possible that becoming pregnant induces some women to accelerate degree completion and then forestalls subsequent degree-seeking, possibly distorting these statistics. But it is at least as likely that women simply postpone childbearing until they have completed their education. The result of successfully following this “success sequence,” however, is that many of these women never have the kids they want to have. Indeed, economic research has recently shown that in the U.S. and U.K. at least, most women systematically overestimate their likelihood of working in a field that will require a degree and also overestimate the number of children they are likely to have. In other words, the gender norms surrounding higher education today both place enormous pressure on women to obtain higher degrees than they are likely to use, and in turn, the time spent pursuing those degrees reduces the odds that women have as many children as they want to have.

Two Surprising Results

Could be wrong but interesting even if they are wrong:
Data on 25 major [US] cities … 1900-1940 … municipal-level public health efforts that were viewed as critical in the fight against food- & water-borne diseases. … None … contributed substantially to the observed declines in total & infant mortality"
A tweet about that one.
1. For per capita prevention, the U.S. is a clear first in the world.  (I wonder, by the way, to what extent this contributes to higher health care costs in the United States, since preventive care also can drive doctor and hospital visits.)
2. The UK and France made a deliberate decision to switch away from public health to curative medicine, after the end of World War II, when they were building out their universal coverage systems.
3. The American history with public health programs is a pretty good one, with advances coming from the anti-smoking campaign, lower speed limits, anti-drunk driving initiatives, fluoridated water, and mandatory vaccination programs.
4. The British fare poorly on various public health metrics.
5. “The US system of public health fares rather well compared to other Western nations.”  On net, our population is not as anti-science as it may seem, at least not if we look at final policy results, as compared to some of our peer countries.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Article Contends Healthcare could be 80 to 90% Cheaper Based on Direct labor Costs

I found this very interesting:
80 to 90% off
Yes, that’s my best guess. I do the analysis by considering a particular medical service, finding out roughly how much a person providing it gets paid per year, and dividing by how long it takes to do to get the direct labor cost; finding out the cost of the equipment used and amortizing it; and adding in an estimate of the overhead (cost of the building and a reasonable level of administrative work). I’m reasonably skilled at this sort of analysis as a consequence of having run small businesses.Estimates may vary, but everyone seems to agree that heath care is way more expensive than what you’d expect based on this sort of analysis. No one seems to know why; or, put a different way, where the money all goes. Everyone who has studied the problem agrees that it’s highly mysterious. It’s clear that administrative costs are needlessly much higher in health care than elsewhere, but that’s probably not the only source of the discrepancy.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Robin Hanson's Call for Unbelievers to Adopt a Religion

People with religious beliefs, and associated behavior, consistently tend to have better lives. It seems that religious folks tend to be happier, live longer, smoke less, exercise more, earn more, get and stay married more, commit less crime, use less illegal drugs, have more social connections, donate and volunteer more, and have more kids. Yes, the correlation between religion and these good things is in part because good people tend to become more religious, but it is probably also in part because religions people tend to become better. So if you want to become good in these ways, an obvious strategy is to become more religious, which is helped by having more religious beliefs.

More data:

Depression is the leading cause of illness and disability in adolescence. Many studies show a correlation between religiosity and mental health, yet the question remains whether the relationship is causal. We exploit within-school variation in adolescents’ peers to deal with selection into religiosity. We find robust effects of religiosity on depression that are stronger for the most depressed. These effects are not driven by the school social context; depression spreads among close friends rather than through broader peer groups that affect religiosity. Exploration of mechanisms suggests that religiosity buffers against stressors in ways that school activities and friendships do not.

 …a one standard deviation increase in religiosity decreases the probability of being depressed by 11 percent.  By comparison, increasing mother’s education from no high school degree to a high school degree or more only decreases the probability of being depressed by about 5 percent.

Wondering Why People Voted for Trump

This is an old article but I am continually draw back to it. If you are wondering why people voted for Trump a good place to start is asking them.

Here is the only article that I have seen that asks: 
What Do Donald Trump Voters Actually Want?

I understand that is not the end of it because people lie and sometimes do not know themselves well enough to know why (see: Elephant-Brain, Matt 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9), but asking is a good place to start.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Misunderstanding The PPACA

Do Obamacare’s Left-Wing Critics Actually Understand It?

Few Democrats seem to appreciate it but the PPACA moved the USA reasonably close the systems in German, France and The Netherlands.

Also Democrats should play around with different incomes on the The premium subsidies are pretty high. They should be happier than they are about the program as it is and stop asking for single payer. While single payer works reasonably well in Canada at the time being cost are still rising and could at some point cause some large dead weight losses.

Admittedly starting in 2019 the penalty for not having insurance is eliminated and that may or may not doom the program. Well will have to see.

BTW it seems top me that healthcare is a mess all over the world with Singapore being the best. See below:

80 to 90% off
Yes, that’s my best guess. I do the analysis by considering a particular medical service, finding out roughly how much a person providing it gets paid per year, and dividing by how long it takes to do to get the direct labor cost; finding out the cost of the equipment used and amortizing it; and adding in an estimate of the overhead (cost of the building and a reasonable level of administrative work). I’m reasonably skilled at this sort of analysis as a consequence of having run small businesses.
Estimates may vary, but everyone seems to agree that heath care is way more expensive than what you’d expect based on this sort of analysis. No one seems to know why; or, put a different way, where the money all goes. Everyone who has studied the problem agrees that it’s highly mysterious. It’s clear that administrative costs are needlessly much higher in health care than elsewhere, but that’s probably not the only source of the discrepancy."

Monday, August 13, 2018

Not Only the EU but the USA Should have More than One Currency

I quote Arnold Kling about a quote of Paul  Krugman

The quote:
fiat currencies have underlying value because men with guns say they do.
Don’t peek at the answer, which is below the fold.
Hint 1: You may have read the essay by following a link from Marginal Revolution (but I came across the essay earlier from a different link).
Hint 2: I find much to agree with in the essay.

The writer is not otherwise known for libertarian dog-whistling.

Before I looked I guessed an MMTer like Simon Wren-Lewis.

But I agree with Paul Krugman that this is not a problem. On the other hand I think competitive private currencies (also) would be more stable. The problem that I see is people in developed countries  trust Government currency to much and so horde it in a down turn exacerbating the problem, making it so when one bank fails rather than strengthening competing banks it weakens them.

I also think the USA and the EU are too big to each have a single currency. That is because mismanagement by a single central bank, like in 2008 can significantly, hurt the world economy too much. The USA could have 4 or five regional banks and currencies.

Florida Number One in School Measure

Is Florida number one in education? I don't think that there are significant differences between states in education quality, but this is fun for us who live in Florida.
Nevertheless go Florida! We're number one.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Do Workers Get The Same Slice of the Pie They Always Have

I think I saw this same argument from Dean Baker who is considered more left but who I consider willing to look honestly at the data but I cannot find the Baker post.
Her is Scott Winship on the same: 

Workers Get The Same Slice of the Pie As They Always Have

Of the issues Scott mentions I think Dean mostly talked about this: 
Use net GDP to compute productivity rather than GDP, so that income taking the form of depreciation--which does not go to workers or owners but will simply affect future productivity--is excluded from productivity, and

 According to both of them, growth in inequality is mostly about wages. That is CEO's and people like LeBron James, plus on the lower end of the top 20% computer technicians and MD's pulling away from the lower 80% of earners.

I found the Dean Baker post here. The title is: The Struggle to Explain Things That Didn't Happen: The Non-Existent Shift Away from Wages

Also see  6839117979693056

Friday, May 25, 2018

Bryan Caplan's Case Against Education and Effective Altruism

Bryan Caplan was interviewed by Rob Wiblin of Effective Altruism and they got me thinking about how much schooling the charities we support try to provide.

I think we should push for breath over depth.

1 year of schooling for all before we go to 2 years for some.
2 year of schooling for all before we go to 3 years for some.
3 year of schooling for all before we go to 4 years for some.

And the some beyond 4 years should be small, maybe only the 10% should continue beyond the 3rd grade.

Perhaps cut that in half after 12 years and only 5% go to University.

Then perhaps half of those go on to graduate school because these are the students who could greatly help push science and technology forward. 

Schools in the first 3 years should focus on reading, writing, arithmetic, basic algebra, basic general science and skills that are useful in life and in demand in their country. For us being outsiders knowing what skills are in demand is difficult. If the demand is for basic manufacturing workers teach those skills that would help with that, if agriculture focus or tourism focus on those skills, trading skills might be important (that is how not to be scammed).  but we should not assume that we know. Of course that brings up a point maybe the best thing is to give them cash and make some education available at a low price and let them buy what they see as valuable.

The problem people point out with having students stop going to school so early, is the late bloomers. You would miss out on maximising the production by missing the late bloomers.

I am one of those who would have been left behind  because I am to this day very bad at spelling grammar, I was barely advanced even here were we push everyone to higher (I failed 1st grade twice and 2nd grade once).

But that might not be so bad because, that is where the great auto-mechanics, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs come from.

Some random related data points that support my idea:

  • Even with the system that we have, the most impressive artist I have know was an electrician.
  • My son's boss is a plumber who just graduated high school, he started a business and is a millionaire at about 30 years old.
  • My grandparents went to school for just 1 year and ran a successful barber shop, speculated in real-estate were not ignorant and sent there son to Brown University.
  •  Immigrants are often ill suited for running service businesses but are forced into it and make a lot of money.
  • School completion in not important for  entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

On Government Charity Nothing Happens until and if the Bond Market Turns on US T-Bills.

The Niskanen center has has a post: The Free-Market Welfare State: Preserving dynamism in a volatile world

 My comments:

Seems to me that in the USA we spend more than enough money on what I call Government charity, but that we spend it very inefficiently. For example if we changed Social Security to be like the government part the Australian pension system, where everyone over some age gets the same amount of money we could use the savings to help the non-old low income people. Maybe greatly increase the EITC. Also ideally Medicare would pay out less to providers.

But for now any politician who proposes such will be destroyed by the AARP.

We also waste a lot of money on administration in schooling with little evidence that it helps educate better. (And of course our Defence spending is ridiculously high but that is not Government charity.)

Cut all those and we might be able to do a UBI and good healthcare scheme.

But the political reality is nothing happens until and if the bond market turns on US treasury bills.

Monday, April 9, 2018


Here is Arnold Kling on what he calls Legamorons which are laws not meant to be enforced.

many laws are the legal equivalent of oxymorons – legamorons, if you will. A legamoron is any law that could not stand up under widespread enforcement. Laws against marijuana use are a prime example. Rigorous enforcement of these laws on middle-class college campuses would cause a furor.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Medical Treatment of King Charles

Swiped from here.

On February 2, 1685, England’s King Charles II was struck by a sudden illness. Fortunately his physicians were the best of the best. To reassure the public they were kept abreast of the King’s treatment regimen. King Charles was made to swallow a toxic metal; had blistering agents applied to his scalp; had pigeon droppings attached to his feet; was prodded with a red-hot poker; given forty drops of ooze from “the skull of a man that was never buried”; and, finally, had crushed stones from the intestines of an East Indian goat forced down his throat. Sadly, despite these heroic efforts, he passed away the following week.
Why did the doctors go this far?
Prof Robin Hanson – Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University – suspects that on top of any medical beliefs the doctors had a hidden motive: it needed to be clear, to the King and the public, that the physicians cared enormously about saving His Royal Majesty. Only extreme measures could make it undeniable that they had done everything they could.
If you believe Hanson, the same desire to prove we care about our family and friends explains much of what’s perverse about our medical system today.
And not only what’s perverse about medicine – Robin thinks we’re mostly kidding ourselves when we say our charities exist to help others, our schools exist to educate students, and our political expression is about choosing wise policies.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Poverty in the USA

Lots to discuss about this. I will preface this with the fact that I may be out of touch with low income because I have been doing well for a long time now, but at 28 I was working for just a little more than minimum wage.

1. Of course some people have no income due to poor health, they mostly are on SSDI.

2. I think the studies about poverty that talk about the stress of poverty are not about what we call poverty in the first world.

3. Measured by consumption there is very little poverty in the USA see here:

4. Recently there was an article, I cannot find it, about how positive about the future people in El Paso TX are. Also the people working in the little Chinese restaurants around here are probably working for less than minimum wage but I bet most are optimistic about the future. So perhaps a more positive message would help, say: “You can do it like this guy:

5. One of my impressions is that many people in the USA that are low income and have no or negative wealth are there because the do not worry and so do not save and hold off on consumption. Am I wrong? Maybe they are right to think like that, as starvation is virtually unknown in the USA.

6. Some people talk about people having too live in a bad neighborhood, but we cannot all be above average. So that is unsolvable, although more and better police might help. and here: Also legalizing drugs might help in 2 ways:

7. Nevertheless we are very rich in the USA and a UBI or an hourly wage subsidy to replace the complex and convoluted matrix of programs that we current;y have for least capable among us. The trick is to do it with while minimizing the negative incentive affects.

8. Certainly the church could, should do more but it is very fragmented now and without the big denominations building new hospitals, old age homes, orphanages is difficult. I think some of that is due to crowding out by government. The mutual aid societies have been almost completely displaced. Further according to sociologist Charles Murray, today poor people tend to not go to church any more.

Some really Good News on Extreme Poverty Worldwide

Some really good new on extreme poverty worldwide here.

The most important conclusion from the evidence presented in this entry is that extreme poverty, as measured by consumption, has been going down around the world in the last two centuries. But why should we care? Is it not the case that poor people might have less consumption but enjoy their lives just as much—or even more—than people with much higher consumption levels?


According to these household surveys, 44% of the world population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of poor people in the world has declined very fast—in fact, faster than ever before in world history. In 32 years, the share of people living in extreme poverty was divided by 4, reaching levels below 11% in 2013. Although the World Bank estimates for 2015 are not yet available, the projections suggest that the incidence of extreme poverty has fallen below 10% for that year.

Social Security Complaints

I think what makes people angry is that the system was designed specifically to fool them (for their own good of course.) Social Security is a welfare program (maybe a good and necessary one, maybe not) that was disguised as a Ponzi scheme to make is palatable to the voters. That's because in the 1930's people liked to think that they did not get welfare. The SS system was brilliantly designed to make people think it that what they get is based on what they contribute but that's not really accurate, the system is fairly progressive. That is low earners get much more back based on what they contribute (I think that is a good thing) see hereHere is spreadsheet that I made. 

All taxes including FICA and Medicare taxes are supposed to exist to fund public goods.  Providing money to retirees has been considered a public good since the creation of Social Security until now. What is spent where and how is always up to the current voters and their representatives in congress. The current voters and congress cannot obligate future voters and congress to spend money on what they want. It cannot be any other way.

When you buy an annuity from a life insurance company, it is guaranteed by their assets. That is if they renege you can sue and get their assets driving them in bankruptcy if need be.  

But when Governments tax you to pay for things they consider public goods any program that they make can be unmade by congresses.  They really have no mechanism to guarantee you anything. How could congress guarantee anything like that? There are no courts or enforcement above them to enforce the guarantee and the congressmen themselves do not have enough money personally to be significant guarantures.

As far as Social Security goes you are relying on future voters continuing the program, which has been changed in the past and can be changed at the whim  of the voters and congress. It's like all the other welfare programs in that way.

IMO we in the USA should slowly move toward a system like Australia has, where all retired citizens get the same monthly payment from Government portion of the retirement system. Under such a system the needy would get more and the wealthy would get less.

BTW when debating taxes if FICA is a tax rather than forced savings then SS is welfare, if it is forced savings then you cannot really include it when talking about how much taxes wage earners pay verses the rich.   

Income stats

From an article about why the bottom half of earners do not vote to soak the rich.
Many don’t know. In 2015, Ipsos MORI asked respondents in 28 countries to guess the average annual wage. That year in the United States, the correct answer was around $59,000, according to the OECD. The average guess was less than half that — about $26,000. (Even if we suppose respondents had in mind post-tax not pretax income, the guesses were way too low.)
Another survey in 2007 asked Americans about average household income. The median respondent guessed $40,000. According to the Census Bureau, average household income that year was $69,193 — again, much higher than the typical answer.

Niskanen Center

Good article I love the stuff coming out of the Niskanen center because it is quite reasonable.

IMO in USA, school funding is not a problem. Does the United States spend more per student than most countries? I think funding is high enough. I also would go as far as to say that there are really very few bad schools in the USA, most of the schools we call bad rather have bad, poorly motivated students. (Why the children of lower income people are not more motivated and how to change that is another question.) 

Nor do I think less access to healthcare is the reason that the USA lags in health. Some groups with less access to healthcare are healthier.  See here
Also more evidence here, in that Hispanics are healthier than the overall population despite having less access. 

It seems to be mostly accidents and homicides that lower US overall health ratings. We have more auto related fatalities but people still choose to live in rural areas where they have to drive a more. See here and here

Also Italy seems to do much better than Denmark on social progress indicators but I do not think that the Government of Italy is anywhere near as good as that of  Denmark, so that indicates culture is a big factor (and maybe even genetics a small factor too). 

Given that I think we should target our goals as directly as possible: here are some ideas that I think might help the poor. I tried to think of more direct ways to help, like maybe for health, a subsidy for cars that avoid accidents would more effective than a subsidy for health insurance. Maybe more better trained police than the PPACA.

Does the United States spend more per student than most countries?

Some groups with less access to healthcare are healthier.

hereHispanics have less access to healthcare and are healthier than the overall population


More traffic fatalities in rural areas makes for higher death rate

List of countries by traffic death rates. More traffic fatalities in rural areas makes for higher death rate List of countries by traffic death rates. Does the United States spend more per student than most countries? Some groups with less access to healthcare are healthier. Hispanics have less access to healthcare and are healthier than the overall population More traffic fatalities in rural areas makes for higher death rate List of countries by traffic death rates.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Democrats Seem to Run Local Government Badly

Democrats seem unfit to run local Government because they do not believe in commercial rights like the right to subdivide and build. Think NIMBYism in New York City and San Francisco, they are beginning to also mess up places like Austin TX and Colorado.

If we could keep The Democarts from NIMBYism and/or the GOP away for wars metaphorical or real we could make great gains.

Monday, February 19, 2018

PBS Documentary about Cabrini Green

I found this documentary I saw on PBS very interesting.

It confirmed my belief that people outside a community often have a very distorted view of that community (BTW I normally hate the use of the word "community" these day but in this case it's the correct word to use).

If we want Government to help people we should just give them money, make a good environment for jobs to form and maybe provide adequate police protection and public goods. Other ideas often seem better than giving cash, like we should make sure that they buy food so we give food stamps,  but we don't know enough about other lives nor do we want to spend the time to find out for those to be better.

We see a place like Cabrini Green on the news when things go wrong there but we do not see the day to day living. the relationships etc.We end up with a distorted view of life there and we can do more harm than good.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Are US Schools Better than Schools in Europe

Counter to what the article says, I really do not believe that USA schools are better than schools in any other developed country, or worse for that matter, nor do I belive that PISA is a good measure of school quality but the linked article gives a little evidence of what I DO believe, that is as far as what they try to teach they are all about equally effective. Also there are very, very few bad schools in developed countries (an insignificant number).

Now I had some teachers incapable of controlling a class and some lazy teacher who it seemed where out of the class about 1/2 or the time but they seem to have little effect. (I had some very good teachers too.)

What makes a school look bad is a bad student body now why is a big question, but her is the article:

Tino Sanandaji
The amazing truth about PISA scores: USA beats Western Europe, ties with Asia.

I do believe that schools could get better but it would require more changing what they teach than the teaching quality and it would probably make PISA scores worse not better.

Do the USA bottom 10% Live Better that the German bottom 10%?

Tim Worstall on that subject:
Astonishing Numbers: America's Poor Still Live Better Than Most Of The Rest Of Humanity

Tim Worstall