Sunday, June 1, 2014

The road to pathetic weeniness

Elementary School Field Day Notice: ‘The competitive urge to win will be kept to a minimum’
The purpose of the day is for our school to get together for an enjoyable two hours of activities and provide an opportunity for students, teachers and parents to interact cooperatively. Since we believe that all of our children are winners, the need for athletic ability and the competitive “urge to win” will be kept to a minimum. The real reward will be the enjoyment and good feelings of participation.
HT: Jonah Goldberg

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mor(e)on the VA as a socialist success story

Ezra Klein has never impressed me in the least, so this statement of his from 2009 is not surprising:
If you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.
HT: Instapundit

Inequality obsession can kill

Megan McArdle has an interesting article (Would You Pay $84,000 for a New Liver?) that can be read as "A drug company develops a drug that saves money and lives.  But, because the company was motivated by profit and not solely by caring, the company is actually evil and should be forced to sell the at a loss." The story is partly about ignorance of the difference between average and marginal costs, and partly about whether those who do good should make money because of it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tyranny by bureaucrat

Forget all those silly notions about democracy and laws being passed by Congress and signed by the President.  The current administration continues to simply use its bureaucrats to punish legal activity it doesn't like.

The lesson from the VA scandal

Thomas Lifson spells out the lessons from the performance of VA hospitals, as described by a doctor in today's Wall Street Journal:
It is important that Americans understand the fundamental point about the incompatibility of monopolistic medical bureaucracies and high quality medical care. It is not a matter of incompetent management and employees (though such no doubt exist). The problem will not be solved by adding dedicated leaders and staff; they also no doubt exist in the VA health care system. 
People who can’t be fired and who know that no matter what they do their organization will continue to exist inevitably become self-serving. This is the moral hazard of government funded bureaucracies. 
The solution to the health care problems of veterans and all Americans lies in the competitive discipline of market forces. As Obamacare implodes, we must keep the example of the VA system in mind. And as we figure out how to get care to the veterans who have earned it, we must embrace market forces.
See my earlier post for a similar sentiment.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


(F)inding high quality whiskies could get a lot more difficult in the future. 
So, what’s a whiskey drinker to do? Well, not drinking whiskey clearly isn’t a viable option. So, as Esquire suggests, we also recommend you “buy as much as you can afford today.” 
The end is near (sort of), so stock up on high quality whiskey – the good stuff – while you still can!
Well, my kids will just have to do without braces for another year while I deal with this crisis.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The VA scandal is simply par for the course

I agree with the first and third parts of something Paul Krugman said in 2011 about the VA health system:
And yes, this is “socialized medicine”... But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.
It is socialized medicine, it doesn't work, and it does suggest what it will take to fix U.S. health care more broadly.

Having lived in the UK for five years and faced the socialist awfulness that is its National Health Service, the recent scandals regarding VA hospitals are very familiar.  Scandals of this sort are an extremely common occurrence in the UK.  Here's a rundown from the BBC of the scandals from 2013 alone:
  • February - The Francis Inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal said patients were "betrayed" by a system that put corporate self-interest first. A total of 290 recommendations proposed changes from top to bottom. The government responded by commissioning four new reviews into mortality rates, healthcare assistants, patient safety and complaints.
  • July - A review by NHS medical director Prof Sir Bruce Keogh into the 14 trusts with the highest mortality rates uncovered a host of problems not previously picked up by the official regulator. It led to 11 being placed in special measures.
  • July - The Cavendish Review into healthcare assistants called for mandatory training for the workforce, saying some were being allowed to work after simply watching a DVD.
  • August - A review carried out by Prof Don Berwick, a former adviser to US President Barack Obama, called for patient safety to become a "top priority" in the NHS.
  • October - A review led by Labour MP Ann Clywd into complaints said the NHS has a culture of "delay and denial".
  • November - In response to the Francis Inquiry - and the subsequent reviews - ministers published a blueprint for a "profound transformation", including the introduction of safe staffing levels and new standards for healthcare assistants.

This plaza has something for the whole family

There's also a Chinese restaurant, and I'm thinking that the empty former Blockbuster would make a good tattoo megastore, and the empty Kmart is ideal for a casino/bowling alley.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The fruits of the minimum wage

In case you were under the illusion that the minimum wage doesn't affect the employment of low-skilled workers (i.e., if you are an economic illiterate), you should know that McDonald's knows better:

McDonald's hires 7,000 touch-screen cashiers

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How are markets responding to global warming?

John Tammy at Forbes has an interesting take on global warming: Rather than listen to the overly emotional arguments from both sides, look at how people with actual skin in the game are responding. That is, if people with money on the line aren't bailing on coastal property, then maybe the coasts will be around for a while longer.

Are Global Warming Alarmists Shane Smith And Bill Maher Moving To Texas?

Global Warming's True Believers Are Screaming At The Proverbial Scoreboard

More on American oligarchs

Oligarchy in the Twenty-First Century: Think rich conservatives rule the world? Think again.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Perhaps the plutocrats ARE in charge

If one were so inclined, it would be pretty easy to connect some dots and come up with a story about how a couple of billionaires have bought themselves a president who is willing to risk natural and human disasters in return for campaign cash:

Billionaire Dem environmental activist Tom Steyer vows “efforts to defeat Keystone will continue”

Warren Buffett Cashes In on Railroad Tank Cars

Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train

Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline again

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The real issues surrounding the gender wage gap

As indicated in my post from yesterday, the notion that the "gender wage gap" is a measure of workplace discrimination is absolute nonsense.  Most of the gap is the result of women's choices about balancing career, family, etc., and not discrimination in pay.  As I mentioned briefly in that post, by being so obviously innumerate, those who claim otherwise are probably harming their own cause. That is, by using this trumped-up measure, they are making it too easy to avoid the actual issues.  Here are two issues off the top of my head:

1. Are women's choices about career, family, etc. made freely, or is it discrimination that leads them to not even try to succeed in male-dominated professions or to work as many hours as men do? My own experience and observations indicate that the most important determinant of women's choices is that they are the ones who God has decided will bear children. One might point out that women didn't choose this state of affairs, but one must admit there is little that government can do to change it. But I think the question of discrimination affecting women's choices is a real issue. Even if women's choices are mostly a product of biology, some of them are not. Megan McArdle has a nice discussion of this issue.

2. After adjusting the gender wage gap for women's choices, the gap almost--but not quite--disappears. Most research is able to explain all but 2 to 5 percent of the gap, but fails to note that a gap of that size is perfectly consistent with there being a great deal of wage discrimination. For example, a 2 percent gap can occur if one-quarter of all working women are being paid 8 percent less than the otherwise identical man doing the exact same job; or if one in ten women are being paid 20 percent less. Wage discrimination on either of these scales should be worth looking into. The focus on the easily debunked gap of 23 cents on the dollar means that more-accurate measures of discrimination are ignored too easily. But maybe those who choose innumeracy do so because they want to force the idea that all women are discriminated against all the time.

If you like your phony numbers, you can keep them. Period.

RAND study: By our estimate, 3.9 million people signed up for ObamaCare, not 7.1 million like the White House says

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The President didn't mean that HE discriminates, only that we do

Apparently the ridiculously idiotic use of the gender wage gap to measure discrimination applies only to everyone else, but not to the White House.  Among White House staffers, women make only 88 percent of what men make.  But the president's spokesman says that if you account for other factors the gap disappears, so it's unfair to use the gap to indicate discrimination. If only he'd had the decency and honesty to make these corrections for everyone else.

Update: When the White House loses CNN, you know they're in trouble.  Who next? MSNBC?

When economists sell their soul, II

Anyone with half a brain knows that President Obama's claim that the so-called gender wage gap shows the extent of sex discrimination in the workplace is complete bull. Every year this number is trotted out, and every year it has to be redebunked. It is a very tiresome exercise. The claim is so ridiculously stupid and so easily debunked that it probably sets back the cause of eliminating actual workplace discrimination because the discussion centers on the idiocy of the number.

Apparently, even one of the president's personal economists couldn't bring herself to stick to the script. Betsey Stevenson is a member of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and a very accomplished professional economist. Now, any economist who is able to talk about the wage gap as a measure of discrimination is either a ridiculously bad economist or a soulless shill. Stephenson is not the former and she is having a tough time becoming the latter.  

After spouting the nonsense about the gender wage gap at a news conference she was asked a simple question about whether or not is actually shows what she had just claimed it to show. Being a good economist who is having troubling selling her soul, she immediately crumbled from the party line.  She tried to save it, but her brain was not letting her soul be sold for so little.  I can't really give her kudos for this, so I'll just give her a single kudo.

Update: I think I will take back the kudo. Stevenson's performance was just too pathetic and she ended up sticking to her original lie.

Update: Go here for further points about the gender wage gap.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

President Obama: Tea party anarchist

At least according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Obama is a tea party anarchist for denying the fact that Obamacare is the law of the land. Here is Reid in September of last year:
We’re not going to bow to tea party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law. We will not bow to tea party anarchists who refuse to accept that the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional,” Reid said in a blistering opening speech. “The simple fact remains: Obamacare is the law of the land and will remain the law of the land as long as Barack Obama is president of the United States and as long as I’m Senate majority leader.
Now we have yet another in a long line of unilateral changes made to Obamacare by the president himself:
ObamaCare's implementers continue to roam the battlefield and shoot their own wounded, and the latest casualty is the core of the Affordable Care Act—the individual mandate. To wit, last week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty.
At least the president is becoming aware that all of this tea party anarchism of his is somewhat embarrassing. This latest change was hidden in a technical bulletin and received none of the notice that accompanied the other major changes.

I'm shocked, shocked find out that there's cronyism going in here!

Surprise, surprise. It looks as if the Obama administration, which was the major shareholder in General Motors, decided to look the other way when reports of malfunctions of GM cars were rolling in. Coincidentally, around the same time there was a full-on attack against Toyota by the very same administration agency.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Remember, it's all about the children

Speaking of union goons, at the bidding of the local teachers' unions, New York mayor Biin office.l DeBlasio recently kicked some charter schools out of their facilities.  Here are some of the children that DeBlasio and the teachers' unions have thrown out onto the streets:

These children are viewed as the enemy by the mayor and the teachers' unions who helped put him in office.

Legal goons

There are two arenas of American life where goons are given wide latitude to ply their trade without fear of legal repercussions: the National Hockey League and union organizing. As Alec Torres outlines,
Labor organizers and union enforcers are exempt from important criminal laws in some of the country’s largest states. California, Illinois, and Wisconsin are among the states that allow union members to stalk, harass, and threaten victims — so long as they are putatively doing “legitimate” union business.
Now, reasonable people can disagree about the benefits of unions, but is it reasonable to allow thuggery in the name of one side of a reasonable disagreement?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Obamacare: They can't stop lying

Obamacare was forced down the country's collective gullet using blatant lies that were repeated by the president himself for several years. Given that, I guess they figure, "Why stop now? It's gotten us this far." The latest whopper is from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has become so used to peddling falsehoods that she appears to have lost track.

Now (after the rollout disaster): "Seven million was not the administration's [enrollment goal."]

Then (before the rollout disaster): "Success looks like at least seven million people signing up by the end of March."

Guy Benson has the videos of these two claims right next to each other, and the shamelessness is a sight to behold.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ranking economics research in Missouri

My annual update of economics research rankings in Missouri is appearing earlier than in the past. This is because there have been several changes in affiliations and I wanted the information to be more accurate by doing it in the middle of the academic year.

The good news is that my own department, the Center for Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University, remains among the top five academic departments in Missouri.  Here is the ranking, which is taken from this page at RePEc and excludes the states' two Federal Reserve banks because of their idiosyncratic methods for counting people.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What planet does President Obama live on?

From the Washington Post today: With 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to era of austerity

aus·ter·i·ty   noun \-ˈster-ə-tē, -ˈste-rə- also -ˈstir-ə-\ : a situation in which there is not much money and it is spent only on things that are necessary

Just so you know, every year of the Obama Administration, including 2013, the Federal budget deficit as a percentage of GDP exceeded the previous post-war high. This is the "age of austerity" that the president wants to end:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Development tax credits are a complete waste of money

I have a new paper published in the Missouri Policy Journal (which is brand new itself) that looks at the effectiveness of the Missouri Quality Jobs Program (MQJP) on employment.  The MQJP and has been increasingly popular with economic development folks in Missouri.  The problem is that, as is typical of tax credit programs, it is more likely that it is killing jobs than creating them.  Here's the abstract
According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), the Missouri Quality Jobs Program (MQJP) will create 118 new jobs by 2020 for each $1 million dollars in tax credits awarded under the program. The claimed sources of these job gains are the direct increase in employment at the firm receiving the credits, and indirect increases at other firms due to spinoff and multiplier effects. Unfortunately, the DED’s estimates for these effects are based more on faith than on evidence. First, the DED rather naively assumes that all of the job gains at the firm receiving tax credits occur only because of the credits. Second, the DED’s projections of spinoff and multiplier effects are generated with a forecasting model that is incapable of an accurate accounting of negative substitution effects, such as the fact that many of the new jobs will be filled by people already employed locally. This paper summarizes new estimates of the employment effects of the MQJP using the actual, rather than the assumed, experience of local economies. What these estimates show is that after an initial net increase in employment following the authorization of tax credits, the net effect on employment becomes negative by the second year after authorization: Job gains in the county receiving the tax credits simply came at the expense of neighboring counties, who tended to have lost more jobs than the recipient county had gained. Finally, by the fourth year after authorization, the only statistically significant effects of the tax credits are job losses in neighboring counties.
 And the concluding line
(I)t is difficult to imagine that the trend reverses itself to result in anything close to the DED’s projection of 118 new jobs per million dollars of tax credits. The more likely best-case scenario is that the employment distortions eventually work themselves out and the net effect of the tax credits approximates zero.

A minimum wage proposal to boost the economy

A $4 minimum wage can get people back to work

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hayek destroys E.J. Dionne from the grave

I realize that it is folly to take E.J. Dionne as a serious thinker, but his recent column blaming Austrian economics and, more specifically, F.A. Hayek for the nation's ills needs to be corrected.  Unfortunately, Dionne's silliness is what passes for seriousness among progressives these days.  Blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, which is now part of the Washington Post's family of blogs, Todd Zywicki does an efficient take-down of Dionne, while also providing a very nice summary of Hayek's contributions to economics.
Start with Hayek. Dionne’s attack on Hayek is summarized in this paragraph:
Hayek and Mises perceived little difference between democratic governments that used their power to plan against recessions and dictatorships that did the same thing. In this view, the policies of Franklin Roosevelt led down what Hayek called the “Road to Serfdom” and were thus objectively comparable to those of Hitler or Stalin.
Later on, Dionne conflates this statement with what he represents to be the takeaway from Hayek’s critique of the New Deal and related policies:
Hayek believed, Judt said, that “if you begin with welfare policies of any sort — directing individuals, taxing for social ends, engineering the outcomes of market relationships — you will end up with Hitler.”
This is not an accurate summary of Hayek’s thesis in the book (I observe in passing, it isn’t evident from the column that Dionne has actually read The Road to Serfdom itself, as opposed to just reading commentators on the book who have also fundamentally misunderstood the book). Hayek did not believe that “if you begin with welfare policies of any sort” that you were necessarily on the road to serfdom. In fact, the entire last part of his famed The Constitution of Liberty is dedicated to explaining how many modern welfare-state policies could be implemented in a manner that would not unduly threaten liberty and the rule of law.
Hayek never said that the basics of the welfare state were incompatible with individual liberty. Hayek’s concern was that comprehensive economic planning of the economy by the state was incompatible with individual liberty and the rule of law over the long run. His attack on the New Deal was not about Social Security, but rather the National Recovery Act and other interventions designed to cartelize industries, erect barriers to entry, raise prices for producers at the expense of consumers, fix wages, and divide markets among incumbent producers. Central planning, not the welfare state, is what was incompatible with individual liberty.
Perhaps Dionne didn't realize that there was a cartoon version of the Road to Serfdom. It might be more his speed.

Much more than a smidgen of scandal

The IRS, the Democrats' Cat Paw:
Encouraged by the lack of a public backlash, an uninquisitive press, cover from the White House and an eager-to-please bureaucracy, the Democrats are boldly counting on the IRS to be their political and policy enforcer.This statement isn’t an overreach by the “vast right-wing conspiracy” or a phony crisis created by hecklers (like me) on the right — it goes back to the early stages of President Obama’s reelection campaign. Remember the case of Romney supporter Frank Vandersloot? Before the 2012 campaign, he was publicly accused of having a “less-than-reputable record” by Team Obama and then found himself the target of IRS and Department of Labor audits. This was just one example of an individual who was persecuted because of his donation to a pro-Romney super PAC, but it served as a sufficient warning and no doubt had a chilling effect on others who were inclined to support the Republican nominee for president in 2012. And we now know that while this was going on, the IRS was actively suppressing conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status because they opposed the president and the Democrats’ policy positions.
Lois Lerner, the government official at the center of the IRS scandal, took the fifth amendment in a high-profile congressional hearing, then quietly retired from the agency with a taxpayer-funded pension. She hasn’t been heard from since. The Obama administration has gone into overdrive since the scandal broke to avoid any accountability, with the president famously telling Bill O’Reilly of Fox News only a few weeks ago that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Comically, this is still an active and ongoing investigation by the Obama Department of Justice, so you would think the president wouldn’t be able to come to that conclusion quite yet. Of course, no one in the administration can comment on an active and ongoing investigation, so it is the perfect cover for self-preservation and is reassuring to those doing the Democrats’ bidding in the IRS and elsewhere.  Let’s also remember that the Justice Department’s farce of an investigation into the IRS targeting scandal is now being led by trial lawyer and Obama donor Barbara Bosserman. It’s so brazen, I almost admire their audaciousness. In politics, gall pays off.
And don’t forget, it is the IRS that is now tasked with enforcing the Democrats’ penalties against businesses who do not conform to the latest Obamacare changes, in addition to their pursuit of individuals who are not in compliance with their law. Last week, we learned President Obama unilaterally gave the IRS the mandate to monitor the thinking and attitude of any business that might be trying to circumvent the negative impacts of Obamacare, and punish them accordingly. And presumably the punishment isn’t limited to civil fines, but includes criminal perjury charges as well.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Paul Krugman: Still wrong after all these years

I realize that this is another of those dog-bites-man stories, but Greg Mankiw would have easily won his proposed bet with Paul Krugman about the effectiveness of Obamanomics.  This is, if the former had had the guts to take the offer.  Krugman had actually called Mankiw's prediction "evil".  I guess it's a classic conundrum: Would you rather be evil but be almost always right, or be self-described as non-evil but be wrong about pretty much everything.