I haven’t posted much this year about the 2014 Iditarod, now under way. This year’s Iditarod has had an unusually large number of scratches by veteran mushers. Many of the scratches have been caused by injuries which in turn are a consequence of the lack of snow.
Courtesy of Anchorage Daily News, there’s a really hair-raising video of top musher Jeff King, equipt with a head cam, negotiating the trail between Rainy Pass and Rohn:
Now that’s a rough trail. Check out the expression on his wheel dogs’ faces while Jeff frantically tries to right his sled after a spill late in the video, as if to say “What?” That’s severely edited down from a much longer (and higher quality) video which I wish I could show you. Sadly, it’s restricted to subscribers to Iditarod Insider which, as serious dog sled racing fans, we are. How serious? During opera intermissions the other night my wife was glued to the screen of her smartphone, watching the changing standings in the race.
As I reported on this blog yesterday, starting with the administration’s more recent enrollment total of 4 million, less than 15% of the 17.2 million people the Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated are eligible for subsidies have signed-up and paid for coverage––and many of these people who were eligible for subsidies were also previously insured.
The uninsured just aren’t buying Obamacare.
I believe they are not buying it because the premium––even net of the subsidies––is too much for plans that have deductibles that are too high. Consulting firm Avalere has put the average Silver Plan deductible at $2,567 and the average Bronze Plan deductible at $4,545. People are often being asked to pay hundreds of dollars per month in premium, net of subsidies, and they don’t see the value.
Hat tip: Megan McArdle. I think they’re not buying it because one of the assumptions underlying the PPACA was incorrect. The PPACA assumes that lots of people want healthcare insurance but aren’t able to afford it. I think that lots of people want healthcare but aren’t able to afford it. Not insurance, care.
He ends his post with what I think is a bit of wishful thinking:
Starting in April, when the final numbers are in, I hope we can have a meaningful conversation over how to fix the new health insurance reform law that is clearly not working.
That’s wishful thinking for any number of reasons. For example, what makes him think that we’ll have the “final numbers” in April? The open enrollment period could be extended, then extended again, indefinitely. Even if the open enrollment period isn’t extended the final numbers might never become available. And, most importantly, rather than starting a “meaningful conversation” I think that a lot of the PPACA’s supporters are more likely to double down on a plan “that is clearly not working” than to acknowledge that their assumptions were wrong to begin with and that they’ve been exerting all that energy defending a law that solved the wrong problem.
The past five years have been a Groundhog Day recovery. Every day, we wake up hoping that this will be the day that the economy finally picks up. And every day, we wake up to hear Sonny and Cher playing find out that it hasn’t. Jobs growth just keeps chugging along at 2 percent pretty much no matter what.
I think there are several points to make here. First, reversion to trend doesn’t suggest a structural economic problem or, at least, not a recent one. It suggests a cyclic problem.
Second, the U. S. birth rate is just under 2%, right about where it’s been for the last 40 years. We don’t have the same demographic problem that Russia or Germany or Japan have. We don’t import large numbers of foreign workers because we don’t have enough workers in the pipe. We import large numbers of foreign workers to save the business models of businesses that require a continuous stream of low income workers (and the incomes of their owners).
Finally, we’ll never escape the problem we have which I would characterize as too many people who have been unemployed in the long term without asking the right question. I think the right question is “Why were so many people employed before?” rather than “Why aren’t jobs being created faster?”
Regardless of how American critics of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy have framed it, Russia has serious long-term interests in Ukraine and we don’t. They’d've acted much as they have and we’d've done what we have regardless of who was president of either country.
If I have a criticism of the Obama Administration’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine, it’s contained in TR’s terse summary of his own policies: “Speak softly and carry a bit stick.” We still have a big stick, even with the defense cuts proposed by the Administration we’ll still have the biggest stick in the world. We can’t escape from the reality of our big stick. I just think we should be speaking more softly than we are.
After nearly ten years to the day I have changed web hosts. The declining performance, frequent security breaches (which I attribute to them), repeated suspension of my blog—mostly due to brute force or multi-site attacks on my blog—and complete lack of customer support had become intolerable. Several years back I had identified another web hosting company that used a somewhat different hosting strategy than the “shared server” approach used by my old web host and appeared to have better customer support than my old web host and established a backup site with them.
After several days of transfer, testing, and domain name propagation I think I’ve completed the somewhat stressful transition. I may have missed a few comments during the gap.
I would very much appreciate any reports of performance or site behavior problems. Please leave them in the comments. With any luck my new digs will result in a better experience at The Glittering Eye for everyone.
I’m convinced that if you make it right gumbo never turns out exactly the same twice. That stands to reason. Good gumbo is mostly made from things that haven’t been processed into uniformity: onions, bell peppers, celery, seafood, and whatever you like to put into it.
There are probably as many different styles of gumbo as there are cooks making it. I make brown gumbo (some people make red gumbo; some make brown gumbo for some things and red for others). I think that gumbo without gumbo is absurd so I always put okra in my gumbo. I also put filé in it even if it isn’t strictly traditional to put both okra and filé in the same gumbo. I like filé.
Last night at my wife’s urging I made a pot of gumbo. Shrimp because that’s what I could afford. I didn’t think it was going to turn out too well for one reason or another but it was one of the best gumbos I’ve ever made. That’s how it is with gumbo.
There’s an interesting op-ed on inequality from Thomas Edsall in the New York Times today. In the op-ed Mr. Edsall takes note of the work of economist Richard Freeman suggesting that there is an optimum level of economic inequality from the standpoint of economic efficiency with inequality less than the optimum or greater than the optimum producing less economic growth than might otherwise be the case, creating a curve of outcomes reminiscent of the Laffer Curve. Here’s the part I think we should mull over:
Freeman argues that the costs of excessive inequality are high: “Inequality that results from monopoly power, rent-seeking or activities with negative externalities that enrich their owners while lowering societal income (think pollution or crime), adversely affect economic performance. High inequality reinforces corruption by allowing a few ‘crony capitalists’ to lobby politicians or regulators to protect their economic advantages. When national income goes mostly to those at the top, there is little left to motivate people lower down. The 2007 collapse of Wall Street and bailout of banks-too-big-to-fail showed that inequality in income and power can threaten economic stability and give the few a stranglehold on the economy.”
Let’s put that in terms of concrete actions and policies. Creating monopolies—like the cable companies, for example—produces less economic activity. Bailing out banks produces less economic activity. Bailing out automobile companies produces less economic activity. Innovations of the sort that the financial sector engaged in not all that long ago (“activities with negative externalities that enrich their owners, etc.”) produce less economic activity. Rent-seeking of the sort exemplified by the scandalous farm bill recently enacted into law by the Congress produces less economic activity. Giving your bundlers sweetheart loans for their ill-conceived sustainable energy projects reduces economic activity. Subsidizing the healthcare sector produces less economic activity.
Now, I can see how people (politicians, especially) feel the need to do all of those things anyway, for reasons other than economic efficiency. Fair enough. At some point don’t you either a) need to come up with a way to replace all that economic activity you’ve decided to sacrifice or b) just acknowledge that all of the jobs lost due to cronyism, rent-seeking, and so on just had to be sacrificed because you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs?
With a victory in Ukraine under his belt, Mr. Putin might manufacture grounds for a Russian military intervention to protect the ethnic Russians in Latvia. They could be for him what Czechoslovakia’s Sudeten Germans were for Hitler in 1938: a pretext for aggression. If Mr. Putin thinks NATO is bluffing when it says it will defend the Baltic states, he may call that bluff. If he’s right, he could destroy NATO without war, the very alliance that destroyed the Soviet Union without war. Nice.
I think that Moldavia or, maybe, Georgia are actually better candidates but he’s got a point.
That does raise a question: is Germany actually prepared to go to war against Russia to protect the territorial integrity of Latvia? Is the United States? Will expanding NATO into former Soviet republics prove to be stabilizing of destabilizing? I’ve always been skeptical of its prudence and unless all parties are very careful we may have the opportunity to find out.
The editors of the Wall Street Journal aren’t impressed with President Obama’s 2015 budget: Mr. Obama’s budget doesn’t make even a token outreach to the GOP, and in that regard it is at least honest. With Democrats at risk of losing the Senate, Mr. Obama views a revival of tax and spend as his party’s […]
Much is being made of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reaction to a phone call with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin that Putin was “out of touch with reality”: US reports said Merkel phoned Barack Obama on Sunday evening after speaking to the Russian president to press him to back down from his invasion of Ukraine […]