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Worse Than The Usual Hypocrisy: Trump, Puerto Rico, And The Jones Act

Worse Than The Usual Hypocrisy: Trump, Puerto Rico, And The Jones Act

The Jones Act was passed 97 years ago to protect US shipping within the US from foreign-made ships.  I doubt I ever would have supported such an act, but at least back then there were plenty of US-made ships to fulfill the demand. Despite the Jones Act, the US shipping industry has collapsed in the last century so that the number of such ships is far below demand in normal circumstances, so that intra-US shipping costs are far higher than those outside the US.  Puerto Rico was covered by he Jones Act and remains so.

After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma the Jones Act was temporarily suspended for Texas, Louisiana, and Florida on orders of President Trump, going through the Department of Homeland Security.  The Jones Act is not being suspended for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurrican Maria, although damage to PR seems to be far greater than what happened on the mainland during Harvey and Irma (with those areas also accessible to supplies and aid by ground transportation, not relying nearly as much on ocean shipping).  The supposed reason is that PR’s ports are damaged, which is certainly the case, but even if suspending the Jones Act will only slightly speed up deliveries, it will certainly reduce the costs of supplies, allowing cheaper natural gas from Pennsylvania in place of more expensive oil from Venezuela, for example.

Which brings us to the worse then usual hypocrisy on the part of our president.  While he has been all worked up over football players kneeling and moved to get aid to Texas and Florida as rapidly as possible while expressing lots of sympathetic sentiments for the victims in those states, his initial reaction to Hurricane Maria, after several days delay, was to talk about how bad their infrastructure was before the hurricane and how they have a massive debt situation.  Of course, if he were really concerned about helping them, he could suspend their debt, but at a minimum, given that he is aware that they are poor and debt ridden, on top of having 80% of their crops destroyed and all their power out among other problems, he is insisting that they pay top dollar on supplies brought in by water, where almost all supplies will come.  His refusal to suspend the Jones Act for Puerto Rico after having done so for mainland US territories is far worse than the usual hypocrisy from any president, even this far more hypocritical than pretty much all others one.

Barkley Rosser

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Self-Driving Cars

Being a parent of a child under 16 means trying to figure out ways to get said child from here to there, say from school to home, and from home to after school activities, and then back. There is often a fair amount of juggling involved – one or more, er, “caregivers” are typically involved in the process To an economist, therefore, being able to put a child in a self-driving car means, potentially, more output in the economy. That’s a parent or grandparent that doesn’t have to take time away from something else (work?) to traipse across town, pick up the kid, drop him/her off, etc.

And of course, its not just kids. Other people or things that sometimes can’t drive themselves include some of the elderly, women in Saudi Arabia, and packages. And for those who do drive, I wouldn’t be surprised, for instance, if typical commutes become longer, but time spent on the commute will be “more efficiently” used – for instance, in a self-driving vehicle, one can eat a leisurely breakfast and read the morning news while on the way to work. So, what changes do you anticipate we will see as self-driving cars spread?

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Healthcare Insurance History

Last 21 Days ACA Healthcare History

On September 7th and shortly after Pelosi and Schumer decided to be nonpartisan and help Republicans who still had an ounce of decency to pass hurricane Harvey aid and set a new National Debt Limit, I wrote about the inherent dangers of being so magnanimous. Lets face it, during the Obama 8 years, Republicans made it a vow even before he took office to oppose everything coming from the other side of the aisle even refusing to participate in committee meetings. The ACA passed by Democrat votes only.

The danger with being nonpartisan with Republicans and passing good things which are beneficial to the constituency is you allow Republicans afterwards to concentrate on issues which will not favor the constituency or Democrats. Passing hurricane aid and a new debt limit did allow Republicans to get back to the more partisan effort of defunding the ACA and more money for the already rich through tax reform. The two are interlinked. The repeal passes funding for tax reform.

Angry Bear wrote on September 7 about the danger inherent in helping Repubs, wrote again on September 13 about Republicans being confident on defunding the ACA and its impact, again on September 15 about trusting Trump and Republicans with a hand-shake-deal, and last week on September 21 when Kimmel called Cassidy out as a liar and Krugman, other columnists, and blogs finally woke up to the impending danger of the Graham – Cassidy Bill.

Angry Bear called it early in the month on Republican treachery to defund the ACA. The vote will be this week before the 30th. I do not trust McCain. Hopefully, I am wrong on McCain.

Older Healthcare Insurance History

I thought this comment by a blogger was interesting to read as we wait for the Senate to take up the Graham – Cassidy Healthcare Insurance Bill which will defund the ACA if passed this week. I wander the blogosphere and I run into some interesting people from time to time. This particular commenter had a wealth of knowledge on healthcare insurance going back a ways. I have captured the commenter’s words to present them to Angry Bear. Hope you enjoy them.

“When, early in our adventures in managed care, I was marketing for clients like Sisters of Providence, who were attempting to set up their own managed care, non-profit PPO (which ultimately they did not see to completion), in the late 1980s, health care insurance was still non profit.

At that time ‘commercial insurers’ did not refer to health insurers at all. Commercial insurers provided for-profit RISK insurance — which health ‘insurance’ isn’t (and can’t be without defeating its original purpose; to help more people afford care while helping providers maintain expensive facilities and services). Health insurance was created as an additional way, beyond taxes and charity, to socialize increasing health care costs — to assure the healthy, self-interestedly, that the resources to meet their inevitable health care needs would be there when needed. And to ensure hospitals would have a revenue stream to help them maintain the increasingly sophisticated and varied resources to meet the modern care needs of their communities.

Although the first actual, modern health insurance program is credited to a hospital in Texas in the 1920 which contracted with school district employees to provide services to for a monthly premium (it was non-profit); proto-insurance schemes based on the same principle — asking healthy EMPLOYED people to contribute a modest monthly amount to cover care if and when they were injured or ill — were used long before. The Sisters of Providence, for instance, established the first hospitals in my part of the world, the Pacific Northwest, in the middle of the 19th century, offered loggers care for their not-infrequent injuries for a payment of $1 a month (this I understand having cut down trees while gaffing up them). The connection between health insurance and employment did not, as many people believe, just arise as a government idea with favorable WWII tax policies. It arose from a much older recognition of the reality that injury and illness compromise patients’ ability to work, earn and pay — and the recognition the employed, especially those in the more commonly dangerous occupations, had both the income with which to make regular payments and an incentive to make arrangements to provide for themselves, as eventual patients, with care when needed despite the economic vulnerability illness caused — while providing providers with resources that helped maintain facilities and services and workforce to provide that care.

Until the advent of ‘managed care,’ which deregulated the health insurance market in ways giving insurers a greater ability to limit who was covered and what was covered — to their own benefit (but not necessarily to the benefit of our social need for broadly available health care, or increasingly, premium payers’ needs either). In fact, commercial insurers avoided the health insurance market like the plague.

It was understood by everyone that there was no way to make a profit in it While still meeting policy holders actual needs.

Health insurance was created solely as a way to socialize costs for health care consumers.

It did and does not and can not work like a car, flood, or even life insurance where insurers work out, and profit from, fairly reliable actuarial probabilities about what percentage of policy holders are likely to ever make a claim, the likely length of time the average policy holder will be paying premiums before making a claim, and from those probabilities charge — and deny coverage — accordingly. People, the overwhelming majority of policy holders, will depend on health care coverage again and again and again — for services large and small — with more and more needs, and more serious needs, accumulating over time.

Inviting commercial insurers into the market as we did in the late 70s and 1980s, with managed care, was a big mistake.

But many countries, Germany, Switzerland, France, provide excellent, cost-effective universal systems that are not single payer — they rely in different ways on a networks of non-profit and public insurance. Although some countries allow for-profit insurers who provide some limited extra coverage, they are very limited.

I don’t think we should throw their examples out while looking for the best way for the US to provide universal coverage.

Especially considering how many Americans do receive coverage through insurance at work, and are happy with that coverage, and our long history with that method of socialization.”

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A hurricane workaround for industrial production

A hurricane workaround for industrial production

Last week I mentioned that the regional Fed surveys plus the Chicago PMI can be used as a workaround to account for the effects of hurricanes on Industrial Production. It isn’t pretty and by no means is it perfect, but for the (hopefully only) two or three months that we need it, we can use the workaround to give us the underlying trend in production, particularly for manufacturing.This is a two-step correlation.

The first correlation is between the regional Fed indexes and the ISM manufacturing index.  This is something Bill McBride, a/k/a Calculated Risk, has been keeping track of for years.  Here’s his graph going back all the way to 2000:

While the correlation isn’t perfect, most notably in the years 2010 and 2011, when the regional Fed average was high, and in 2015 and 2016, when it was too low, in general it holds, with the two rising or falling between positive and negative in tandem, even if we just use the Empire State and Philly indexes.

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Gentrification

by Peter Dorman (originally published at Econospeak)

Gentrification

This is the bane of urban development, right? Old housing stock, built for yesterday’s working class, is spiffed up and priced far out of reach of today’s regular folk. High end shops replace hardware stores, bric-a-brac recyclers and appliance repair centers; a tide of designer coffee flushes out the cheap, refillable kind. Who can afford to live there?

But wait! Those refurbished old houses are beautiful. It’s a pleasure to peruse delicate artisanal fabrics and custom-designed furniture. The food is fresher, healthier and tastier. And what’s the alternative—to put a blanket over everything old and keep out all improvements? Is gentrification even a problem?

It is. It’s wrong if whole neighborhoods are uprooted, unable to afford housing and services available to them for generations, and the dynamism of city life is crippled if only those who have already made it can make their home there.

Regulations that restrict the development of new housing have rightly come under attack. Encouraging infilling and greater density benefits the environment and keeps housing costs down, but that only moderates the impact of gentrification. The luxury apartments that replace old single family houses are still beyond the means of most of us.

My hypothesis is that the basis of gentrification as an urban problem, rather than a type of broad-based development that benefits everyone, is extreme inequality of income. Gentrified neighborhoods are those outfitted for the upper echelon to spend their money on, and prices are geared to what the traffic will bear. The rest of us can’t afford it.

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Insanely Concentrated Wealth Is Strangling Our Prosperity

Dan here…Angry Bear Steve Roth’s clear and thorough writing continues…please go to the original for more graphs…I could not include the largest in the Angry Bear format in its proper place.  Go straight to read more to view the whole post….

By Steve Roth (originally published at Evonomics)

Insanely Concentrated Wealth Is Strangling Our Prosperity

Remember Smaug the dragon, in The Hobbit? He hoarded up a vast pile of wealth, and then he just hung out in his cave, sitting on it (with occasional forays to further pillage and immolate the local populace).

That’s what you should think of when you consider the mind-boggling hoards of wealth that the very rich have amassed in America over the last forty years. The picture at right only shows the very tippy-top of the scale. In 1976 the richest people had $35 million each (in 2014 dollars). In 2014 they had $420 million each — a twelvefold increase. You can be sure it’s gotten even more extreme since then.

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A thought for Sunday: the most important issue in the 2016 election was…

A thought for Sunday: the most important issue in the 2016 election was . . .

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for several months. For a while after the election last year, there was a debate about whether the “economic anxiety” in the (white) working class was the most important factor vs. was it simply a matter of racism. The consensus has nearly settled on the narrative that racism was decisive, to the point where “economic anxiety” has become a taunt, and some who embrace identity politics actively disparage progressive economic issues.

I’m here to show you data that – in part – disputes that consensus. What was the most important issue in the 2016 presidential election?  The below data on that issue all comes from the Voter Study Group, from its survey published several months ago: “Insights from the 2016 Voter survey.”

In the below graphs, the potency of various issues are examined in terms of how well they lined up on a liberal/conservative or favorable/unfavorable axis, but for simplicity’s sake it is pretty clear that they correlate with a vote for Clinton (left) or Trump (right).  The more vertical the line, the more decisive the factor, whereas a horizontal line means that the factor made essentially no difference in whether a vote was for one candidate or the other.  the 2016 results are in red, vs. the 2012 results in gray. What I’ve done is to delete the names of the nine factors they tested, so you won’t be swayed by any pre-existing opinion you might have had about the factor.  Here they are:
I’ll give away one finding right away.  The most decisive factor, shown at the right of the lowermost column, is party affiliation. D’s voted for Clinton. R’s voted for Trump.
But after that, it’s pretty clear that the close runner-up for most decisive factor in how people voted is the issue at the left of the middle column, which was …
the economy!
That’s right. The single most decisive factor in the 2016 vote was how people felt about the economy.

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Worldwide Deaths, by Cause & Age, 1990 v. 2016

Here’s a fascinating graph from an article in the Lancet:


Click to embiggen. (The figure should show deaths all the way to >95 years)

The graph is a bit complicated at first, but it will convey some interesting information if you stare at it. What jumps out at me is how many more people were dying under age 25 in 1990 than in 2016. The number of deaths in 2016 v. 1990 increased dramatically for those above 25, particularly among the older cohorts. Simply put, a lot of people are living a lot longer.

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