Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Santa Instantiation Hypothesis

Today, Kathy and I spent the afternoon at the mall marketing our veterinary business next to the Pictures with Santa fantasyland. At one point, I explained to Kathy that in the moment that the picture is taken, the real Santa momentarily exchanges places with the fake Santa. In this way, the picture with Santa is always with the real article, and the real Santa can spend his time preparing for Christmas.

She didn't believe me.

Seen on a T-Shirt

"I've just kidnapped myself. Give me $100 or you'll never see me again."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Politically Powerful Dinner Guests

Let's say that you are into the health care reform debate in a big way. Let's also say that a Democrat leader from the Senate is your Thanksgiving dinner guest this year. (Let's also pretend momentarily that your fellow hosts have not forbidden political discourse--which they actually have for the sake of peace and harmony.) What questions would you have to ask your guest? Here are mine:
  1. The U.S. spends considerably more per capita on health care. Leaving aside the assertion of disparate outcomes, how much is the spending influenced by demand factors such as demographics (particularly age and other factors), lifestyle choices, wealth and income effects, geography and population density (see also the demographics link); by supply factors such as pharmaceutical (PDF) and capital equipment expenses (and associated research and development expense), labor expense (and associated regulatory costs, such as licensing, the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc.), and facilities expense (and associated regulatory code compliance expense); and by price factors such as state insurance mandates (PDF), Federal regulations, insurance market structure, foreign price controls on pharmaceuticals, and financial market performance (both for access to credit and for investment income purposes)? Is the comparison influenced by currency exchange rates, or is a more stable method of exchange utilized?
  2. Where does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to compel a private citizen to purchase health insurance? Does this conceptually abrogate the freedom of the private citizen to contract with providers of goods and services? What is the limit to what Congress may compel the private citizen to purchase? Can Congress compel a private citizen to associate with any group, regardless of whether the mission and values of the group are antithetical to the beliefs of the private citizen? If we pierce the veil, isn't the "tax" upon the private citizen for failing to purchase health insurance really a penalty or fine? What does the concept of "liberty" mean, and does it include the freedom to not act just as much as it includes the freedom to act.
  3. What is the contribution to the rate of growth of private sector health care costs that is attributable to price caps enforced for public sector health costs? (Mathematically, if the growth rate of the public sector half of the health care spending is artificially lowered, then the growth rate of the remaining private sector half must be artifically higher in order to balance to the average growth rate of the entire amount spent--which I assume is presently based on demand, not on government decree. In equation form, P1 * Q1 + P2 * Q2 = Pavg * Qavg. where P is price, Q is quantity, 1 is the public sector, and 2 is the private sector.)
  4. What is the contribution to the expense of health care costs in general and on insurance premiums in particular due to government regulation, such as state mandates (PDF), prohibition on interstate commerce in insurance policies, and Medicare and other Federal rules for providers and insurers?
  5. What are the desired effects of health insurance reform on Medicare, and what is the intended and estimated impact on the $36.4 trillion unfunded liability (pg. 69, infinite time horizon)?
  6. With Medicare fraud in the billions of dollars, can the Federal government contain fraud in a Federally sponsored/managed insurer?
  7. Why refuse to extend the Hyde Amendment to insurance subsidies contemplated in congressional health reform bills?
  8. Why refuse to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) Program to prevent illegal aliens from utilizing Federal spending contemplated in congressional health reform bills?
  9. How do ten years of revenues and six (House bill) or seven (Senate bill) years of expenditure produce a stable, long-term program?

I doubt that I could get many Federal politicians (of any party) to answer these questions without prevarication. If you watch enough of the BBC series "Yes, Minister", the reasons become evident rather quickly.

I think I'll stick to eating and drinking this Thanksgiving.

I'm a Tenther.... How about you?

Sticking "-er" to the end of the topic du jour seems to be in vogue: "birthers", "tea baggers", "truthers", etc. Tonight I decided that I am a "Tenther". That is, I am a believer in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. (That's the one that reserves to the states and the people all powers not granted to the Federal Government and all those powers not prohibited to the states.)

Wikipedia has an article about the Tenther Movement. I didn't know this name was already in use, so I feel smart for having coined it myself. (If Leibniz can get credit for developing calculus along with Isaac Newton, I can also get credit for coining the term.)

Note: Being a "tenther" doesn't make me a secessionist. There are good reasons to have a federal government. Too bad so many of those reasons are obscured by present practices.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Congress is becoming increasingly corrupt. Pretty soon, they could put a fence around the Capitol and turn it into a minimum-security federal prison."

--Tommy Butler, WSJ Commenter

Article: Senate Alters Taxes for Big Companies