May 26, 2006

If This Post Isn’t a Holiday Weekend Pick-Me-Up, Get Help

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 3:30 pm

Excerpt:

All the glorious technological innovations discussed in other articles here will allow the costs of health care, education, transportation, energy, and entertainment to plummet and allow poorer nations to rapidly creep up the ladder of prosperity and Maslow’s hierarchy. If we project even further into the future, the exponential curve continues to steepen and the wealth that awaits is so vast that perhaps even the grandest visions of science fictions might be quite economically feasible.

Check out his graphs. Smile a very wide smile.

Have a great weekend (but of course, check back for a couple of Saturday and Sunday posts :–>).

National Review’s Top 50 Conservative Songs List Gets Number 1 Right

Filed under: Immigration,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 2:31 pm

At the top of the heap (HT Michelle Malkin): The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Pete Townsend’s ode to failed revolutions is also the quintessential warning not to place too much trust in anyone, especially any government.

Anyone who has watched the immigration debate deterioriate into a theater of the absurd can’t help but thinking “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

A Social Security Indvidual Accounts Convert

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:23 pm

The May 22, 2006 issue of National Review had an article by on John M. Phillips about how he has changed his mind on Social Security private accounts.

It comes to me from Students for Saving Social Security via Social Security Choice (SSC).

The links, which are PNG pics of the two relevant pages from the magazine, are here and here. I have no reason to believe that SSC doesn’t have permission to use it.

It is a marvelous if somewhat regretful lesson (because of the author’s current age) in the power of compounding, and a passionate argument for moving as much of the Social Security system as possible to individually controlled investment accounts.

Read it.

Wow, Is This Clueless (Hillary Wants the Return of the 55 MPH Speed Limit)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:05 am

A nice sop to the enviros, but she hedges (HT Vodkapundit):

In a surprise move yesterday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called for “most of the country” to return to a speed limit of 55 mph in an effort to slash fuel consumption.

“The 55-mile speed limit really does lower gas usage. And wherever it can be required, and the people will accept it, we ought to do it,” Clinton said at the National Press Club.

Nice fudge, babe, because no one, at least no majority anywhere, will accept it.

Any “savings” from supposedly lower gas usage (which I dispute) are more than offset, and probably by a large multiple, by the extra costs involved in the 18%-36% longer drive times that will occur (do the math on 65 v. 55, and 75 v. 55).

In fact, I think I just saw a couple of blue states on my US map turn red at the very mention of the idea.
_________________________________

Some background from Best of the Web earlier this week:

The 55 mph speed limit is such an unpopular policy that people attribute it to Jimmy Carter (it actually originated in the Nixon administration). It was relaxed in 1987, then abolished in 1995 as part of a transportation bill the senator’s husband signed. The National Motorists Association notes that 49 of the 50 states now have top speed limits of at least 65.

Quote of the Day: OpinionJournal.com on Enron Verdicts

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:02 am

From today’s featured editorial:

….. We think these convictions of individuals–some 30 in the Enron case alone–will do more to deter future corporate crime than anything in Sarbanes-Oxley. At the same time, the U.S. economy has snapped back nicely, meaning that assertions of widespread corporate fraud back in 2001 and 2002 were way overblown.

The Enron verdicts are proof, if more were needed, that lying to employees, shareholders and the public about corporate finances is a serious crime that will be punished.

Oklahoma Medicaid Choice Brings in Common Sense

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:25 am

Senator Tom Coburn has some help in this column from last week about what his home state is doing to try to rein in runaway Medicaid costs:

They’d Sooner Fix Medicaid — Can market incentives save the system?
BY TOM COBURN AND REGINA HERZLINGER
Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

OKLAHOMA CITY–The state Legislature here is working to finalize an agreement for Medicaid reform legislation creating personal health accounts (PHAs) for Medicaid enrollees. This comes hard on the heels of similar innovations in South Carolina and Florida. Reform is in the air–much the way it was when Wisconsin revolutionized its welfare system in the early 1990s, forerunning a stunning national success. Are we on the verge of consumer revolution in health care?

It is of course too soon to tell, but the Oklahoma case study is auspicious. The state’s antiquated Medicaid bureaucracy has fostered, by turns, a lack of patient choice, provider dissatisfaction, a 9.5% payment error rate, and an escalating price tag of some $3.5 billion. Against these discouraging trends, state leaders spent six months last year formulating stopgap measures with state agencies, policy innovators, providers and beneficiaries.

Instead of assuming the indigent are incapable of decision-making, Oklahoma legislators proposed that Medicaid beneficiaries be given a risk-adjusted allowance to purchase private health insurance. A PHA would be established for annual out-of-pocket expenses without a “use it or lose it” penalty–that is, the unspent balance could be used for future health-care needs.

Having said that, I do hear a bit of an echo in Mr. Coburn’s piece in what I wrote back in October:

New York, Ohio, and other high-cost Medicaid states would actually be better off if they entirely funded health-care allowances for all Medicaid recipients and told them “Here. This is yours to spend ONLY on medical care. If you go over the allowance, we’ll cover you. But we’ll split the savings with you every year that you stay under.” Access to the money would only be permitted by approved medical providers, and the accounts could be easily monitored by state and federal auditors. Overall, I would characterize it as the voucher concept with a cost-saving twist.

Oklahoma’s system sounds better, with enrollees “keeping” all the leftovers, but having them earmarked for future healthcare. (I do wonder what happens to the leftovers when someone comes off of Medicaid.)

Later in the piece, Coburn and Regina Herzlinger mention Ohio as a state that has enacted Medicaid choice. We’ll have to see whether this reins in the state’s previously out-of-control growth in Medicaid cost.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (052606)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:59 am

Free Links:

  • So It’s YOUR Fault for Reporting That OUR System Is Vulnerable — Talk about shooting the messenger. Here is an article, and a blog post (HT Techdirt), about how security firms and users are deciding not to report system vulnerabilities because the grief isn’t worth it, and because some system and web site owners are claiming the investigators breached security when they did their investigating — even when they did no harm. So I guess it’s caveat user until you’re burned?
  • Dell to Open Retail Stores — But, “….. Sticking with its direct-sales approach, the stores will only carry display models. Consumers will still have to order online or over the phone and then wait for their purchase to arrive in the mail. That strikes me as weak, because it is NOT what the consumer will expect. Geez, at least set up terminals in the store they can order from.
  • If you have thought that those unsolicited e-mails about pre-approved cards, lottery prizes, and investment opportunities that have been filling up your junk folder are scams, you’re right: “More than 560 people have been arrested in an international investigation of mass-marketing fraud schemes that have victimized more than 2.8 million people in the United States, the Justice Department said Tuesday. Losses exceeded $1 billion in scams that included bogus lottery, prize and sweepstakes offerings, phony preapproved credit card and card protection deals and invitations to pour money into nonexistent investments, the department said.”
  • You know it’s bad when so-called “fiscal conservatives” get a lecture from Barney Frank (HT Instapundit) — and Barney Frank is the one who’s right.
  • Is Britain devolving into an Orwellian nightmare before our eyes? — “Transport authorities in London are planning to test systems that would prevent cars from going over the speed limit in an attempt to reduce traffic fatalities. They want to create a ‘digital speed-limit map’ that could be used by GPS navigation systems to alert drivers of the speed limit on the road they’re traveling, while it would also presumably be linked to a speed limiter that would cut down engine revolutions should a driver go too fast.”
  • Before you file a class-action lawsuit, it’s helpful to have a commitment from your lead plaintiff — Apparently that commitment wasn’t in place in the suit that has been filed over iPod Nano scratches. Oops.
  • The State of New York demanded that a home worker based in Tennessee pay New York’s income tax because the branch he reports to is located in The Empire State and the employee occasionally visited — and won in court. Congress may end what has become known as the “telecommuting tax.” They should; it would be a nice break from making mincemeat of immigration law.

Positivity: Miracle Tot Fell Three Floors

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:03 am

With barely a scratch (HT Good News Blog):

(more…)