ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Biased BusinessWeek, Part 2

BusinessWeek really has some credibility problems with those in the business community (here's Part 1 of Biased Businessweek). Many of the university professors that I talk to laugh whenever I mention an article in BusinessWeek. The following article from Laura D'Andrea Tyson is just an example.

Retirement Savings: A Boost For The Needy
Government matching would give IRAs a shot in the arm

There is a mounting retirement savings crisis in America. Too many middle- and low-income Americans are saving too little. The plunge in the U.S. household savings rate over the past decade has occurred just as baby boomers should be saving in earnest for their looming retirement. Even worse, personal savings have dipped just as employers have dropped defined-benefit pension plans in favor of defined-contribution plans -- shifting both the responsibility and investment risks of retirement savings onto workers. The good news is that there are some relatively simple and inexpensive policies that could ease this crunch.

Two recent studies from the Retirement Security Project, a joint venture between the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, demonstrate that savings plans that combine accessible information with ease of use and modest financial incentives can boost retirement savings -- even among middle- and low-income households.

For households on the verge of retirement -- those headed by someone between 55 and 59 -- the median value of savings held in both individual IRA accounts and employer 401(k) plans is a meager $10,000. Despite both tax advantages and matching contributions by employers, only about half of American workers participate in 401(k) and other employer-based retirement savings plans.

I read through the article 3 times and kept thinking to myself... "wait, something's missing here!!!"

Here are two things that were left out:
  1. Not one mention of Personal Retirement Accounts as an option to improve the retirement savings rates for the poorest workers. The current Social Security tax is the most regressive tax on poor workers and a PRA would provide them with significantly higher returns - and Bush' proposal to index future benefits based on need would give them an even greater boost
  2. No mention of Laura D'Andrea Tyson's previous role as chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton Administration

Oh, and no mention that Laura had a previous BW article that was critical of Social Security reform. One month, she's arguing that people shouldn't get a better return on investment than what social security will provide, -2% for me (YEAH!); the next month she's bitching that the poor and middle class aren't getting a better rate of return and recommend investing in mutual funds (ie the stock market).

yeah, that's what passes for logic on the Left. Amazed that she's the dean of a business school. Sociology dept? Sure... business school? Ummm, I;d want my money back.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Treason charge in California?

Captain Ed comments on the arrests of the Al Queda suspects in California today and recommends charging them with treason:

I may not be a lawyer, but in my opinion this amounts to one crime: treason. A US citizen has not only given aid and comfort to our enemy during wartime, but has explicity allied himself with them and actively pursued attempts to carry out missions against us on their behalf. If the evidence shows this to be true, Hamid should face trial in federal court for treason and suffer the consequences of that crime. Charging him with anything less would not only encourage others by a show of irresoluteness, but it would mean that no one could ever be tried and convicted of treason in the future. If what Hamid allegedly did doesn't fit the definition, then nothing will.

While I agree that this fits the definition of treason, I'm struggling to see how they could get a conviction when you look at the potential jury pool in California. It would only take one "activist" on the jury (such as a Downer) and there would be a hung jury.

The talking head shows would be full of defense lawyers talking about how the treason statute is so broad, and shooting at pictures of Bush is not treasonus, since after all he's evil.

Still I'm with Captain Ed. If you don't charge them with treason on this, what would you? My guess is that they would be charged under some of the new domestic terrorism laws, plus conspiracy.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Downer hates profits....

Downer replied to my post here about his lack of foresight with respect to economic issues, and med mal issues in particular. I'll repost his comment here in its entirety, so you don't have to go digging for it:

You would have a point about medical mal practice if the amount given by juries was the reason for high insurance rates. What we know from other states is that capping pain and suffering awards hasn't caused rates to lower. It just allows the insurance companies to pocket the savings.

It does affect the ability for doctor's to get appropriate levels of coverage however. Remember that a doctor is on the hook for anything in excess that his insurance company will not cover. As such, doctors faced with that sort of liability are leaving the states that do not cap awards. Which was my point all along. In exchange for the med mal lotto, innocent people, have to do with lacking health care.
You fail to address the millions of dollars in profits made by med mal insurance companies that are the real reason for the high rates they CHOOSE to charge doctors. I said that in my post but I guess it was easier to avoid that little discussion.

And so you take the bait. Whats wrong with an insurance company making a profit? I've got news for you, insurance companies exist to make profits. If they can't make a profit, then they don't offer the service. The raw material of an insurance company is one thing. Money. They take in money from people they give insurance too, and pay out if necessary according to the policy. They get to pocket the difference. They don't exist to provide lottery services to plaintiff's attorney's and those unfortunate to be hurt.
Why blame people who have been disabled or can't work for the rest of their lives because of a negligent mistake made by a doctor? Why not look at those who are taking all the insurance premiums to the stock market and making bad investments, ie the insurance industry? Again, you side with the powers that be instead of the individual, which is what conservatism is all about these days.

Who says I was blaming them? Their ability to work or not has nothing to do with caps, since the caps were only on pain and suffering. Their ability to work or not is covered in economic damages, which are not capped. Non-economic damages (also known as pain and suffering) is the only thing capped.

As to the investment issue, thats one of the ways that Insurance companies can make that profit (remember that part?) without raising rates or simply not offering coverage. They can only invest a limited portion due to regulation however, so its investment loss and gains doesn't have as much impact as the potential risk they face with a given policy. By having a cap, then their risk is quantified, and its easier for them to offer insurance at lower rates. Doctors get to stay in the area, and the community as a whole gets to have medical care.
You also seem to forget that state employees pay money into their retirement plan. It doesn't all come from tax dollars. If the state makes a commitment to pay retirement it should take the steps necesary to ensure that money will be there when its needed.

But thats not what happens. The promises the states make keeps increasing, because the state doesnt get to go out of business when it can't raise the money it needs. It simply raises taxes. Or runs a deficit. The state can keep increasing its promises without having to worry about the liability, becuase it will be some other elected official's problem.

Sounds an awful like Social Security doesn't it?

Not surprised that Downer is opposed to profits. I'm sure that whatever his endeavor is in life, he doesn't charge his employer or his customers (if self-employed) for his services.

By the way... what is insurance? It's when someone such as a doctor passes on the risk associated with an activity to someone else (be it a huge insurance company or a local mom&pop insurance company from the old days). Why would someone get in the insurance business? To make a profit. I know Downer's response here - THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD RUN AND INSURE THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY!!! We'll just discount that as the ravings of a lunatic.

What happens when the insurance companies see that the average malpractice lawsuit involves millions above the actual economic damages involved (which include lost pay due to the injury as well as the actual medical expenses)? They have to raise their rates for the possibility that a huge claim will be awarded against one of their doctors. Thus, the rates skyrocket and doctors are unable to get insurance.

So, what if the doctors decide to forego insurance or if insurance didn't exist? They're making a bet that they'll never make a mistake or that every single patient will follow their post-procedure instructions and not complicate the recovery. If they make a mistake or if an unforeseen complication occurs, then the doctor is out of business. finito. kaputt.

Who would go into business where one mistake will put you into debt for life and cost you your livelihood (removing your ability to pay off that debt)?
Answer: No One

BTW, one of the reasons for the extravagant pain & suffering awards was that many juries recognized that the doctor themselves wouldn't pay the award, but rather that the big insurance companies would be writing the check. Now, in a trial you're not supposed to reveal that the one paying is the insurance company... but most jurors understand the system and they failed to look beyond step 1 (ie they only looked at the specific case and didn't consider its future implications).

For more (especially if you're a Leftist like Downer), read Thomas Sowell's Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One. 2 of 3 Conspirators agree that it's an awesome book! (Not sure whether Penelope has read it)

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

John Forbes Kerry: The Intellectual

Which one got better grades at Yale? The goofy (and creepy) looking guy on the Left... (I mean, what kind of smile IS THAT???) or the goofy looking guy on the Right?


Woops, not even close. Kerry's recently released grades from Yale show that he earned 5 D's while there. (Bush received one and was a consistent B/C student.) So, I guess that answers this question.

Other items of interest in the story?
One of Kerry's top grades in his Freshman year?
Guess... just GUESS... FRENCH

Kerry's speech during graduation?
against the war in Vietnam which he was about to go fight. He wasn't the disillusioned combat veteran, coming back home to stop the madness. No, he was a disillusioned kid who headed off to Vietnam.


It seems that the Conventional Wisdom that Kerry is an intellectual (despite some of the idiotic things he's said and done) has no foundation in reality. Thanks to a B-average senior year, he was able to bring his grades up to just one or two points below Bush's Yale average. Yeah, he's an "intellectual."

Oh, well... Oh, and remember Al Gore, the "intellectual?" Turned out his grades weren't anything to write home about and he flunked out of divinity school for post-graduate... In comparison, Bush completed his MBA from Harvard. Hmmmmm...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Monday, June 06, 2005

Well Duh!

H/T Drudge:

It appears that Mark Felt's family motive for revealing that he was Deep Throat?

Wait for it....

Money! Moohlah, Smackola's, media gold!

There were many reasons why we decided to do it. I won't deny that to make money is one of them," Felt said. "My son, Nick, is in law school and he'll owe $100,000 by the time he graduates. I'm still a single mom, still supporting them to one degree or another, and I am not ashamed of this," Felt said.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Interesting insight in Jay Nordlinger's column on NRO

Jay Norlinger has an interesting insight from a German MP on the recent rejection of the EU Constitution by French and Dutch voters.

My favorite comment on the recent rejections of the EU constitution by the French and Dutch? It came from a most unexpected source: Danny the Red, or, as he’s known more formally, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a German member of the European Parliament. This was even before the French vote, actually: “The feeling of the people is that we want to say no to what exists to prove that we exist.” To prove that we exist: That’s exactly it. Hey, don’t forget about us down here, EU elites. We exist.

Kind of sums up all kinds of things from "our betters" in Europe.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

The Airline industry: Dead Dinosaurs

Weekly, I read AvWeb, a website/newsletter devoted to pilots and people associated with aviation. There's a regular column called CEO of the Cockpit that covers the perspective of a pilot for an airline.

His latest column, covers attempts by his management to cut costs to stay in business. He laments:

Our mission? To somehow staunch the rapid flow of money from our airline into the coffers of the fuel vendors. The ship had long since sailed on the idea of raising ticket prices to match our expenses, and the airline had spent the past few years in a vain attempt to cut the employees' salaries, retirements and medical benefits to the serf level to compensate.

He goes on on and on with nonsensical solutions to the problem of the major airlines not being able to make any money. Including not turning on the airconditioning, filling cargo holds with helium, and removing the seats.

In the end he concludes one solution:

We could save all the fuel in the world. Even if we could find a way to fly without using fuel, it wouldn't make any difference. The airlines will take every cost-cutting result we come up with and turn it into cheaper ticket prices. They are literally killing themselves and there is not much left that we can do about it.

His solution is to simply raise the ticket prices. That of course would be doomed to failure, which is why his CEO in the article didn't allow that as an option.

The Airline industry has very high fixed costs; the costs for the jets, and the costs for the union, high-priced labor are there if the plane flies with 1 seat or all seats filled, or even if it just sits at the gate. The flying public has gone from the business traveler who would pay any price to get somewhere when he needs to, to the family/vacation travel who will travel only at the lowest price, and if its not low enough will simply not go, or drive. A raise in ticket prices will simply leave his plane a quarter full, and cause his airline to lose even more money.

Their are too many legacy airlines left that have inefficient business models, who are still pining for the days of regulation, when only business travelers traveled, and they could charge what they wanted since they had a monopoly on the route.

The "minors" of the airline industry (Soutwest, JetBlue) are making money and slowly eating the major's lunch. They have controlled their cost game. Their employees are paid less, but are still loyal, they reduce maintenance expenses, and they pass those savings on to customers, who continue to fly them instead of the majors.

Business travelers are more and more utilizing new technology (web/video/audio conferences) to conduct business, or utilizing fractional charter operations for those instances when money is no object. With new VLJ's coming into production soon, even more business travelers will be lured away from the majors.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Magical North Korean Ninja hackers...

From the Chosun:
A [South Korean] defense expert warned Thursday that North Korea’s small army of computer hackers has capacity equal that of the U.S. CIA. He said North Korea also operates some 39 bugging and surveillance posts from where it eavesdrops on communication and signals from all across South Korea.
I don't doubt much of his conclusions. Cyber security is pretty lax in the US, but getting better all the time, although his assertion that the CIA is our premiere hacking arm of the US government just sounds like so much movie fluff. I'm sure the NSA, DIA, et. al. have much more capacity for information warfare attack than the CIA.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Deep Throat revealed...

My only comment on Mark Felt coming forward as Deep Throat is how peeve'd Woodward and Bernstein were that they couldn't reveal it in their own book.

I also find it funny that all the media who is so enamored with Mark Felt for leaking grand jury testimony was so against Ken Starr when he was alleged to have released similar testimony. Guess it just matters which President is in trouble at the time.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Kossacks scared by the big bad military

Plutonium Page has a post on Daily Kos about how the military is looking at their options for Space based combat. All the talk looks preliminary at the moment, but PP decides that this is just scary and too much like the Death Star in Star Wars

I'd be more scared if our military wasn't exploring our options in space. There's nothing magical about space. It's not a magical peaceful place with unicorns and faeries. Surely our enemies, current and future, would deploy weapons in space in a hearbeat if they could.

Complain about the cost, fine, although we might find that space based weapon systems are cheaper than traditional systems both in money and lives, but don't complain about space being weaponized.
Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Downer falls prey to the "dont think too far ahead" syndrome...

Saw this on the always amusing DownLeft blog the other day, and wanted to comment on some of his "desires". It's typical of those on the Left that they don't think too far ahead, only what they want the immediate outcomes to be.

Instead, we're making sure people who are disabled for life due to a doctor's mistake can't get awarded enough money by a jury (how long will $500,000 last if you can't work anymore?)

The damage award caps being sought in Illinois would cap non-economic damages, otherwise known as pain and suffering. This means you wouldnt have to "live" on the $500k, its simply a payment for the pain and suffering you have endured or will continue to endure. Economic damages are separate and not capped. That means that if you can't work because of some doctor's mistake, you'll have a separate payout for economic damages. I.e. the money you would have made, but can't now because your injured.

But Downer, like other lefty's, envisions a system where you hit the payday if you find that a doctor made a mistake. But lets look at where that would take us if we follow it to its logical conclusion. That money has to come from somewhere, there is no magic "hurt by a doctor" money tree. A doctor can't pay for it out of his own pocket, since even the $500,000 amount is more than a single doctor could afford. Instead, it comes from an insurance company. Who, because they don't have a magic money tree either, must raise their revenues to pay for the damages. Their primary method for raising said revenue is to raise the premium payments paid by Doctors. Those doctors also dont have a magic money tree, so they must raise the fees they pay. Since they are typically "capped" on the amount of money they can charge for a given service, they instead leave the medical profession. Either moving their practice to a state with lower premiums, or altogether, since its no longer profitable for them.

So by allowing high tort judgements for non-economic damages, we're actually decreasing the incentive for doctors to practice in the areas where such judgements are possible. This causes a decrease in the available doctors, which decreases medical care for the community. And guess what? Its typically the poorest (uninsured), that get hurt the most, since they can't drive over the state line or take the day off of work to see a doctor.

So in Downer's desire for the poor sap who was the victim of medical malpractice to hit the malpractice lotto, he is condemning other folks to reduced medical care.

And not only that, he's also reducing the availability of jobs. Because, see, those Doctors employee people, from the nurses on their staff, to the clerical workers, to their rent payments for the office building, etc. His desire for "creating more jobs in struggling downstate towns" is impacted negatively by his very desire for the malpractice lotto.

Because see, downstate Illinois is notorious for large judgements on non-economic damages. Which is causing not only doctors, but also insurance carriers, to leave downstate. And taking those jobs with them.

Lets take the next statement in that very same paragraph cited above, by good ol' Downer:
and we're monkeying around with the retirement security of state employees.

Why are they monkeying around with the retirement security of state employees? Is it perhaps because there's no "magic retirement security money tree" either? The state can only get revenue by taxes (or fees, but they are essentially the same thing). Money taken out of the businesses pocket to pay for state workers means there's less money to do business and pay employees. Their own employee's retirement futures. In your world Downer, private sector employees come second to state employees because the state has the guns and the jails. Or your delusional and you think such a magic money tree does exist.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian