March 2011

A refrain I frequently make is that we buy so many other products and services on our own, without insurance or a “system”.  We go into the store and buy it.  Maybe we have to research a little, compare prices and services, discuss with friends and family.  Maybe we have to figure out how to pay for it.  But we make a decision then do it.  Why not with healthcare?

Does America have a “grocery system”? An “automobile system?” A “tourism system”?
The nation does, of course, have a “healthcare system” and the fact that the medical-services sector can’t be described as a market… well, it’s the prime cause of the “healthcare crisis.”



Chuck’s email tagline reads: “Notice: It’s OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.”

Here. Hmm. I used to say not printing saves two kinds of green: trees and money. But I may be wrong.

He promises to tackle a historic deficit by slashing spending in his first budget and then…tries to jack up spending by 11 percent during his first two years in office?


I’m very sorry to report sad news: Lanny Friedlander, the man who founded Reason magazine as a student at Boston University in 1968 has died at the age of 63.


Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced agreement on a $132.5 billion budget Sunday, marking the first cut in overall state spending in 15 years.
. . .
The new budget reduces spending approximately $3.7 billion from the current fiscal year.

Here and here. $3.7 billion out of the previous budget of $136.2 billion works out to a 2.7% reduction. That’s it?  Whoop-ti-do. A rounding error.

The primary problem with defined benefit pensions is that they rely on estimates of returns on their investments in order to decide how much to pay out.  Politicians and pension administrators decide what that number is, and if they choose a high number, say 7.75%, fewer taxes and lower contributions from participants have to be paid into it.  Likewise, a lower number means higher taxes and higher contributions.  The risk is that if the investment comes up less than the number, more taxes must be contributed to make up for the difference.  So if investments return 3% instead of 7.75%, the difference has to be made up some how by contributing higher taxes or paying out less.


1. “Economists are often asked to predict what the economy is going to do. But economic predictions require predicting what politicians are going to do– and nothing is more unpredictable.”

2. “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”


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