Friday, August 21, 2009

Justifiable warfare?

Would there come a point in the future where bombing a nation’s coal power plants would qualify as justifiable self preservation?


I wonder…  hm…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More health care blah blah

I’m beginning to like what I’m hearing about decoupling health insurance from employment.  And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

People who are working are, at the very least, healthy enough to work.  As a consequence, they’re cheaper to insure (pay doctors’ bills for) than people who are not healthy enough to work.  Most of the (allegedly) 50m people who are without health insurance are unemployed.  There’s a chunk who simply don’t want insurance, and can’t afford insurance, but the rest are either temporarily or permanently unemployed and for some reason do not qualify for Medicaid.

The unemployed uninsured I’m not so terribly worried about, because “unemployed” is generally a temporary condition that can be remedied by becoming employed.  Of course, becoming employed at a place that offers health insurance is another matter, but if you’re willing to work, there’s a dock somewhere that needs labor.

It’s the other folks, who are unable to work due to health problems that are the real issue here, and the way I get my health insurance is hurting their ability to get insurance.  Because I’m relatively healthy and receive my health insurance through my employer, the group rate I receive is reduced—I’m in a group of relatively healthy people who are healthy enough to work.  If, on the other hand, I break my leg and am unable to work, I no longer qualify for benefits through my employer as I am no longer an employee.  This puts me in a new group of people who are not healthy enough to work and, consequently, require more health care.  If I were able to stay in the first group of relatively healthy people, the contribution of all the premiums of all the other relatively healthy people would more than offset the added costs of my broken leg that has me laid up and too injured to work.  But I’d be in the injured pool where everyone is requiring medical payments that outstrip the ability to bring in revenue to cover those payments.

The short version is that the more healthy people you have in the insurance pool, the more capable you are to cover catastrophic injuries and the lower the cost of coverage for everyone, even the healthy ones.

Therefore, if the pool was sufficient large enough—not just the 1000 people who work with me, but, say 25m people who live in my state—then there would be enough healthy people to cover the sick people, assuming everyone had to pay a premium, even the invincible 18 – 23 year olds who never get sick.


The problem comes in to the practicality of the thing.  If you remove health insurance from employers’ benefits package, would that money go back to the employees or the shareholders?

If the money went back to the  employees, would the employees actually buy health insurance, or would they piss it away on cable or crap at WalMart, or another breakfast burrito at McDonalds every morning?


Personally, I don’t trust companies to return those funds to the employees.  And if they did return it to the employees, I don’t trust the employees to be responsible enough to actually buy health insurance.  If they were, McDonalds, Marlboro, and WalMart would be out of business already.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Math rules

When is $0.90 greater than $1.70?


When $0.90 represents a 30% gain and $1.70 represents a 10% gain.

Let me explain:


Let’s say you have 2 stocks.  One is valued at $3, one is valued at $17.  You have $500 dollars to invest.

This translates to 166 shares of the one stock, and 29 shares of the other.  Both stocks do their thing, and the first notches a 30% gain for $0.90 and the second a 10% gain for $1.70.


The $500 in the first stock has “become” $650 while the $500 in the second stock has “become” $550.

$0.90 is greater than $1.70, which is why Citibank notching a $0.15 gain is bigger news than Wells Fargo notching a $0.30 gain.  (Still wish I would have pulled the trigger when I first looked at it rather than going on vacation and missing the first 200% bump in the stock, though.)


[Now, if you had unlimited funds but could only purchase 1000 shares of either stock—not a single share more or less, you purchase the second stock that went up a larger dollar amount, though with a lower return.  The 1000 shares result in a higher gain.]


Math is awesome.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bill Clinton, FTW!

Congratulations on the big win in North Korea, President Clinton!

As more details of the story trickle out—the near deal in 2000 for an actual end to the Korean War, the intervention of Arab-Israeli politics in preventing that, the relatively close relationship between Kim Il Sung and Clinton—the better this story begins to look (and the worse the diplomatic atmosphere of the previous 8 years begins to look, as well).  Has Kim Il Sung lived for a little while longer, maybe history would have a different chapter written now.


Regardless, the maneuvering to spring the two hostages from the clutches of the North Korean regime was a masterful move.  Good job.

Now, if only we can figure out how to get the rest of our policy with regards to North Korea to be a little more consistent…  hhmmm.


In other news, President Obama is announcing yet another couple billion dollars in spending.

Hold on to your wallets, people.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"Cash for clunkers"

I actually like the Cash for Clunkers program.  I think it’s good policy for fuel economy standards, and it makes sense.

There’s a gap between the fuel economy we have among the fleet of cars on the road today and the fuel economy we’d like to have.  The best way to fix this is not merely let market forces go as they may because people bitch and moan when market forces suggest they are driving vehicles that are wildly inefficient (remember $4.00 gas?).  By and large, the market forces that determine what car we buy are the oil market forces.

Expensive oil mean expensive gas.  Expensive gas means more fuel efficient cars.  More fuel efficient cars means cheaper gas, and consequently, more fuel inefficient cars.  Auto makers have no idea what to build

Unfortunately, expensive oil brings with it a whole host of bad things from more expensive food (yes, most of our cheap food comes from cheap oil, but that’s another discussion), to more expensive electric bills and more expensive everything in between.

So, what, as a tax payer, would you prefer?  $3,000,000,000 divided by 180,000,000 taxpayers, or more expensive utility bills every year forever and ever?  By my math, the clunkers program costs each and every one of us about $16.67, plus interest, forever (or until the deficit gets paid off).  Higher utility bills will cost me, personally, upwards of $100 in the summer months alone, forever.


The clunkers program is a bargain.


Now, to follow up with higher CAFÉ standards and a gasoline surtax would be REALLY good policy.