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Changes in Income

The Census has data on real median income from 1967 to 2006 by quintile. It shows the income level of the first four quintiles, and the bottom of the top 5% of income earners. Here’s what it looks like for selected years:

Here’s what the annualized growth rates look like. I’ve taken the liberty of color coding the negatives gray.

The data seems to have some serious Bush Derangement Syndrome… the Old Bush comes in dead last in every category, and the New Improved Bush comes second from the bottom in every category. One might also notice that all the negative growth seems to coincide with a Bush in the White House. The data also goes some way toward showing why much of the American public isn’t all that pleased with the economy despite all the good news touted on the National Review.



1. The “real median income” is provided in 2006 prices.
2. Note that there are two tables on the Census page. The top one shows the same data in nominal prices.

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Halloween econ 101 – does value = $ only

HALLOWEEN hits a new high tonight.

Still, fewer people are planning on celebrating Halloween in 2007, according to the National Retail Federation survey. Around 59 percent will celebrate Halloween this year, compared to the nearly 64 percent that celebrated last year. Rist said that the drop-off occurs due to tightening economic conditions. However, those celebrating plan on spending more than they did last year, an average of around $65 per person, driving retail spending up to $5.07 billion from last year’s $4.95 billion.“The folks that are continuing to participate are going to spend more,” Rist said.

What are consumers spending the most on? Their creativity. The average person, according to the National Retail Federation’s poll of 8,877 consumers nationwide is expected is expected to spend $23.33 on Halloween costumes this year, though 18- to 24-year-olds plan to be the most festive, spending $34.06 on costumes. Industry-wide, that’s around $1.8 billion. Candy is second, with consumers shelling out nearly $1.57 billion on sugary treats. 95 percent of consumers say they expect to purchase candy.

I hope that we are doing more creativity than the article indicates. New costumes seem to be highly muscled Spidey or Batman sorts of things, or the new slutty look. Maybe only in the burbs?

When in middle school, my two boys would build a haunted house in the cellar with different themes (ghoulish dungeon, horrible science experiments, movie themes)with maybe six friends weeks in the making, then families would come by to see, bringing some food along. Then the trick or treating and Unicef collecting (which appears to be out of favor).

It was also a time when several dads walked around, left in the dust and dark, for a couple hours of real conversation. Rare indeed for dads in my experience.

To put a real scare into kids this year I am handing out twinkies, moonpies to old folk. Happy halloween.

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Our Petulant Child President Lies About Government Spending Again

Over at EconoSpeak, I briefly discussed the latest news about GDP growth and a few details. Yesterday morning, I had to endure a stupid tirade from our Liar-in-Chief:

They have not been able to send a single annual appropriations bill to my desk … Spending is skyrocketing under their leadership – at least proposed spending is skyrocketing under their leadership.

BEA does not count proposed spending. To say spending bills have not passed but spending is skyrocketing is beyond stupid – even for the village idiot we call President. Sorry for the shrill tone but George Bush lied in so many ways – how wait, let’s have Keith Olbermann step up to the microphone:

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the president‘s petulance against Congress, against Democrats, against anybody else he sees thwarting his own id devolving last week‘s buffoonish door slamming to a level meriting the use of the word tantrum. He has today accused his critics of wasting his time … And by agreement, Mr. Bush means do it his way. By fiscally responsible he means, spend $200 billion and no questions asked on just the coming year in Iraq

Keith had a lot more splicing and dicing of Bush’s lies but the real star goes to Dana Milbank:

Certainly on the merits, it sounds a bit absurd, yes, that the spending bills haven‘t been passed and largely because the Republicans have block them from being passed.

The House passes a bill, the Democrats in the Senate get a few moderate Republicans to support it, but then Mitch McConnell filibusters on behalf of the White House. For the President to blame Congress for the delays is classic Bush BS. But I think Keith Olbermann nailed it when he suggested that Bush wanted more war spending and less spending on health insurance for the working poor. Permit me to expand on this comment with some real world numbers from the BEA:

Government purchases grew by 3.7 percent at annualized rate almost entirely because of defense spending growth. One has to wonder why our neocon President had his temper tantrum yesterday morning.

Comparing 2007QIII figures to 2007QI figures – all in nominal terms on an annualized basis we see that nondefense Federal purchases grew from $311.7 billion to $316.6 billion, while defense purchases grew from $634.8 billion to $672.6 billion. The former represents a 1.6 percent nominal increase over six months or an annualized real increase less than 1 percent. The latter represents a 6 percent nominal increase over six months or an annualized real increase greater than 9 percent. Facts don’t lie even if our President does.

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Rdan asks a poignant question…idealogy or performance based quality?

US News magazine reported their listing of the best healthplans in the US based upon multiple criterion, which readers can peruse on their site. I was surprised that the health plans I was familiar with were rated the best.

The Honor Roll recognizes the very best of the hundreds of commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid managed-care plans reviewed for this year’s U.S. News health plan rankings. Plans were scored from 0 to 100 based on data collected and analyzed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, managed care’s major accrediting and standards-setting body.

Best commercial plans
Rank Plan Type Score
1 Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Maine, Mass. HMO/POS 91.7
2 Tufts Associated Health Maintenance Organization Mass., N.H., R.I. HMO/POS 90.8
3 Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England N.H. HMO/POS 90.6
4 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Mass. HMO/POS 89.0
5 ConnectiCare Conn. HMO/POS 88.9
6 Health Net of Connecticut Conn. HMO/POS 88

Best Medicare plans
Rank Plan Type Score
1 Fallon Community Health Plan Mass. HMO 86.4
2 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Mass. HMO 86.0
3 Tufts Associated Health Maintenance Organization Mass. HMO 85.8

Best Medicaid plans
Rank Plan Type Score
1.Fallon Community Health Plan Mass. HMO 90.0
2.Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island R.I. HMO 88.7

Tufts Health Plans and Harvard Pilgrim Health Plans are both non-profit run companies. Their Ceo bonuses have not been a billion dollars.

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Healthcare Part XV – More Trade and Buyer Beware

An increased amount of our pharmaceutical supply chain begins in China, sometimes as finished generic drugs, or medical supply items (diabetic testing strips) and often as pharm component chemicals. The big push to generics has created a bigger push for low costs.

There is a huge problem.

Apparently the same guys who do quality control for lead-painted toys do so for the Chinese pharm industry (sarcasm intended).

The FDA has been warning about deficient and counterfeit diabetic testing strips for some time. The consequences can be fatal. Phony or adulterated chemical compounds can as well.

How do you protect yourself from faulty generic drugs? I do not have a clue.

I checked witht he world’s greatest nurse. One safety check she uses is apparence when dealing with patent drugs. She knows what a Vicodin is supposed to look like, and if it comes out of the bottle with the wrong appearance futher inquiries are made.

But as to generics, spotting counterfeits is almost impossible she says. Generic hydrocodone-plus-tylenol (Vicodin) will look different depending on the manufacturer.

So what’s a consumer to do?

Deal with a pharmacy you know and trust.

If you are not certain about something, ask questions.

If you have serious side effects for reasons known or unknown, seek medical help immediately.

Be very wary of mail order (if you get your meds through your employer’s pharm benefit manager you are probably safer than personal Internet shopping).

As to genuine generics made with faulty chemical compounds, a lab is required.

The most likely impact of shoddy drugs is the drugs do not work as predicted. Less likely is that you end up in ICU or dead. Be careful.

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The Democratic Debate, Social Security, and Tim Russert

On this one – Kevin Drum says it all:

JUST SHOOT ME….Words you hope never to hear at a Democratic debate:

And now, Tim Russert is going to take us into a segment on Social Security.

Time to switch channels to Jeopardy…..

UPDATE: OK, I stuck with it anyway. Hillary’s answer on Social Security wasn’t really very persuasive, but still, it was nice to hear both her and Obama flatly say that SS is not in any kind of crisis.

What? A Democratic politician said something accurate about this issue and Russert did not go off with “no, no, no, no, no”?

Update: Kevin Drum is on a roll:

Garance is right: the moderators need to figure out a way to illuminate the differences between the candidates, not just play gotcha against one of them. First step: get rid of Tim Russert. Ugh. He’s a terrible interviewer and a terrible moderator. Second step: put together a panel of Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, and Greg Mankiw to moderate a debate on economic issues. Find equally eminent subject matter experts to moderate debates on other subjects. Ditch the pundits and news anchors entirely.

Kevin was noting this from Garance Franke-Ruta. Kevin is right – it’s time NBC fire Tim Russert entirely. I’ve been saying this about his pathetic hosting of what used to be a fine Sunday show – Meet the Press. But then NBC made the awful decision of letting Russert be the host each Sunday morning.

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Words Relating to the Drug Trade – in English

I’m making breakfast, and listening to a news broadcast from Rio. They’re doing a story now on the drug trade, particularly synthetic drugs. The cops have been clamping down hard over the past year.

Here’s the interesting thing… its interesting how many words in this story come straight from English… words like “overdose” and “ecstasy” and “rave.” Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another, um, Brazilian industry which uses as high a percentage of American words. I’m not sure what to add, but I found it interesting.


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Unique and Difficult to Replace

In comments to my post about athletes and biologists, reader Rob notes:

ARod makes that amount of money because entertainment makes tons of money. And he isn’t easily replaced. You’d have a better argument as to why are money mangers, who are fairly easily replaced, worth so much money.

Your thoughts.

(I think Marginal Revolution may have covered something along these lines not long ago. But I’m running late and I don’t have time to check. Apologies.)

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A-Rod and Andrew Fire

Here’s a question… why does society bestow adulation on athletes, actors, models, socialites, etc.? Its especially odd when contrasted with how little adulation society bestows on people who do things. A superstar athlete and a biologist (to pick a profession) shortlisted for the Nobel are both, shall we say, outstanding specimens at their game, but odds are that only the latter makes any difference in the long run. And yet,a lot of people will pay attention to even trivial things done by the former, and have no interest in the major discoveries of the latter.

And of course, its not just the Nobel laureates. Most biologists (to stick with that profession) make a difference – remove a random biologist and the world in 100 years will be slightly diminished. Most athletes can make a difference, but if they do, its not through athletics (Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson notwithstanding). Remove the world’s greatest track star, or soccer player, or fencer, or whatever, and 100 years from now, will there be a difference to society?

(Incidentally, what is true for a biologist is not necessarily true for an economist. Economics, it seems to me, is still a profession where peddling silly notions is not only acceptable, it gets you political power and money. Sadly, we’re a long way from getting rid of our Lysenkos.)

I have my opinions on why, but I’m swamped right now… and I’m interested in what you think. Am I right about this? Why or why not? And if I’m right, why do we see what we see?

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