Thursday, June 30, 2011

Shimon Peres on Foreign Aid:
Look, the West can’t help everyone and the regimes would be insulted if we tried. But they don’t need our help. The greatest poverty in our time has been in China and India. Did these countries reduce poverty because of our help? No. They did it themselves.

Giving is problematic. We take money from poor people in rich countries and give it to rich people in poor countries. Aid sometimes creates corruption.

And suppose we gave people computers. Would computers help? No. There is no technology without civilization, civilization is the carriage of technology. It is a matter of institutions. If a country discriminates against women, for example, no computers will help. Do you know who are the greatest opponents of democracy in the Middle East? The husbands. As long as husbands discriminate against their wives the husbands will support the dictators.

Now, however, there is a young generation who are realizing that the glory is within. The glory [of civilization] it is within their power to grasp.

(as paraphrased by Alex Tabarrok).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cost growth in health care spending:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How green are electric cars?
ELECTRIC cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found.

An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes. …

The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which is jointly funded by the British government and the car industry. It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed.

Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our unconstitutionally vague tax code:
All 46 tested tax professionals got a different answer, and none got it right. The professional who directed the test admitted "that his computation is not the only possible correct answer" since the tax law is so murky. The tax computed by these professionals "ranged from $34,240 to $68,912." The closest answer still erred in the government's favor by $610.
Climate Change: is adaptation our best bet?
Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall. If sustained, these rains could revitalize drought-ravaged regions, reclaiming them for farming communities. This desert-shrinking trend is supported by climate models, which predict a return to conditions that turned the Sahara into a lush savanna some 12,000 years ago.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Avik Roy addresses the myth of the "Free Rider" health care problem.

  1. “Free-riding” is an artifact of clumsy government policy
  2. PPACA’s individual mandate overshoots the free-riding problem:
    Obamacare’s individual mandate doesn’t allow people to buy inexpensive insurance focused on emergency care: instead, it forces people to buy comprehensive insurance packages with a generous list of basic benefits, benefits far exceeding those required to address the issue of uncompensated emergency room care.

    You’re not going to the emergency room to get a mammogram. Hence, a significant portion of the individual mandate—the portion that requires people to buy insurance exceeding ER care—has nothing to do with the policy problem of uncompensated care.

  3. The individual mandate only somewhat reduces uncompensated care, at massive taxpayer cost
    Yes, Massachusetts has saved about $250 million in uncompensated care. On the other hand, in 2011, the state’s insurance subsidies will cost more than $830 million, and are growing at 5% a year.

  4. Uncompensated care is a small problem, relative to undercompensated care
    Because Medicaid dramatically underpays physicians for treating Medicaid patients—under 60 percent of what private insurance pays—very few physicians actually admit Medicaid patients into their practices. As a result, many Medicaid beneficiaries are forced to go to the ER to seek basic medical care. And Medicaid underpays hospitals just as it underpays doctors. Indeed, on average, hospitals lose money on every Medicaid patient they treat, receiving 88 Medicaid cents for every dollar of health costs.

    So hospitals are losing money, not because of uncompensated care due to EMTALA, but rather because of under-compensated care due to Medicaid and also Medicare.

  5. Mandates reduce access to emergency care for the most vulnerable
    between 2005 and 2007, Massachusetts ER visits rose by 7 percent, and the state’s costs of caring for ER patients rose 17 percent between 2007 and 2009.

    The uninsured don’t even account for their fair share of health expenditures. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that, while the uninsured made up 15 percent of KFF’s surveyed population, the uninsured accounted for only 14 percent of total ER visits, and only 12 percent of aggregate ER expenditures.

    By contrast, Medicaid beneficiaries accounted for 9 percent of the population, but 15 percent of visits and 9 percent of expenses. (For those with private insurance, the stats were 60%, 47%, and 54% respectively; for Medicare beneficiaries, 14%, 20%, and 22%.)

    Why does this happen? It’s pretty simple: if your health care is paid for, you are more likely to see the doctor more, and consume more tests and procedures, than if you are uninsured. Hence, people with insurance consume, on average, twice as much health care as do the uninsured.

    This problem leads to more ER crowding, poorer access to emergency care for the truly vulnerable, and more losses for hospitals.

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