Archive for the ‘#commonsense’ Tag
I’m a woman who does not believe the myth of the gender pay gap. Why? Because I work in a female-dominated sector of the economy where every male I know who works in the same profession gets paid less than I do. Furthermore, I work FOR another sector of the economy that is traditionally male-dominated, so I have observed the wage disparity between the men and the women in that profession and can easily see the underlying reasons for it.
Critics of markets claim that American women only make a percentage of what men make and insist that this is evidence that markets discriminate against woman. Back in the 1970s, women (as an aggregate) made about 65% of what men (as an aggregate) made. Now the figure is said to be about 80%, but recent studies show “the gap” is much narrower than that.
How does that work? Well, I alluded to it. The 80% number is comparing aggregate figures — all male workers compared to all female workers. The 80% number does not compare men and women with the exact same skills, experience and employment preferences. Instead, it refers to the ratio of female to male wages among full-time workers, across all kinds of jobs and regardless of skills and preferences of the workers. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison of men and women doing the same work.
So the claim that women get paid 80% of what men do for the same work is not just a myth … it’s really a lie.
The second myth involved here is that the missing 20% represents discrimination by employers. It’s not supported by the facts, which are discoverable through an apples-to-apples comparison of men and women in the workforce.
That’s what economic studies of “the gap” attempt to do – hold everything else constant and compare employees who are as similar as possible and who are in very similar jobs, except for gender. If such studies cannot explain a gap by skills and experience, then economists treat that as due to discrimination, pending further studies. The consensus of those studies has been that the clear majority of “the gap” is explained by skills, experience and job preferences.
I said “clear majority” of the gender wage gap is explained by factors other than discrimination. That doesn’t mean ALL of it is explained by other factors. There’s still about 3-5% of the 20% gap that cannot presently be accounted for by economic differences, so might possibly be due to discrimination.
Yeah, that was some precise language, because myths live in imprecision.
What this means is that discrimination might exist in labor markets. Economic studies show that most of the 80% figure is mythical and can be explained by factors other than discrimination, but a portion of the gap is not explained by economic factors, so could be attributable to discrimination … at this time, using existing studies.
But what about other forms of sexism? If employers mostly don’t discriminate based on gender by paying equally qualified men and women differently, isn’t it possible that other forms of discrimination are affecting pay differentials by gender? Maybe the differences in men’s and women’s skills and knowledge are due to sexism before they reach other labor market … sexism in education and socialization. Perhaps girls are told from a very young age that we’re not good at math and science, which discourage girls from majoring in professions that result in earning higher salaries and this contributes to the 80% figure.
Yes, that’s entirely possible, but why do we seek to punish employers for sexism engendered by parents and schools? If sexism pushes women into lower paying fields, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily being paid less than men for the same work at the same experience level in that field. What’s causing their lower wages is sexism in places other than the markets.
Defenders of markets can legitimately argue that markets usually don’t discriminate by gender, but that sexism exists elsewhere and might indirectly affect economic outcomes by gender.
Feminists will often balk at “gap” explanations that involve the different “preferences” that men and women have. It is true that women are more likely to work part-time than men and that they are less likely to work overtime when they work full-time. While there are some women who do not follow these patterns, women who prefer to spend more time with family or work in less risky occupations, will make lower incomes over the course of their careers.
Feminists argue that such “preferences” really aren’t preferences because they are the result of socialization. Women, they will claim, don’t really “choose” to work less or select less risky jobs, so much as they are forced into gender roles by social patterns. Yeah, okay, but again, why are we punishing employers for patterns that are set in childhood?
There’s no reason to deny that socialization might matter. Agreeing with that claim doesn’t imply an obligation by government or employers, because the problem largely isn’t with employers or in labor markets. If we think that socialization is a problem, and that the world would be a better and more free place if women felt more empowered to enter the math and science majors and earn a better living as a result, we can work to change the culture in ways that address these concerns. The same could be said of persuading men to devote more time to child raising and other forms of household production. If we believe that, then working through voluntary processes and institutions of civil society to reduce sexism seems like a better system than trying to force change through government policies designed to punish employers as if they are the cause and not the recipients of the issues we’re trying to address.
American citizens have several cultural attitudes toward health care and savings that has resulted in an economy that spends one-sixth of the GDP on medical care. Other countries don’t pay so much and many of them have universal medical coverage.
So what’s our problem?
A major issue is that Americans have stopped saving anything. Many of us have retirement accounts, which work because it’s not easy to tap into them, but most of us do not have savings accounts. I recently read an article by a financial guru who spent most of the article ripping into Dave Ramsey for suggesting that paying off debt and having 3-6 months of living expenses in savings made no sense to her. You should be investing those funds, not leaving them in the bank account.
So, naturally, since, they don’t believe in savings, the American middle class does not believe in saving up for medical care expenses. The idea that you should have $10,000 to 15,000 in savings for a potential acute medical episode is ridiculous in most people’s minds. This isn’t pre-World War 2 America, nor are we a 3rd world country. That’s “wasted money” just sitting in a bank.
We object to paying one-sixth of our personal income directly on health-and-medical expenses, but we also resent paying one-sixth of the government’s treasury on health-and-medical expenses. We are less willing to spend public funds to pay for health maintenance than we are to pay for medical services, even though study after study shows that we get better results from getting people to change unhealthy lifestyles than from treating the consequences of those lifestyles. You can’t really blame the American middle class from objecting to paying taxes in order to support people who are very poor or very sick when they themselves work hard to have an income and to take care of their health. Americans are not Scandinavians. We believe in personal responsibility, if only for other people.
Americans, especially medical care providers, do not want to think of medical care as a commodity that is bought and sold in an open market subject to supply and demand rules. Providers want to be paid (and paid well), but they don’t want to think of themselves as capitalists selling their services, so they prefer payment that comes from third parties where the price is hidden from consumers.
Americans are individualists at heart and object to telling other people how to live their lives or being told by others how to live theirs. This means that the right to live an unhealthy lifestyle is considered sacrosanct in the United States. Under the ACA or universal coverage, that means that healthier individuals pay for the poor choices of less healthy individuals.
Americans also tend to live in a state of denial about some health choices, so that about one-quarter of our population engages in unhealthy lifestyles that have long-term medical care expense consequences, the cost of which are born by people who take care of themselves rather than the poor decision makers who require the expensive long-term care.
Americans enjoy being “early adopters” of new treatments, which are often much more expensive in their early, experimental stages than when they have been available for many years. Forty years ago, when medical care was a smaller share of the economy, we could afford that attitude, but new treatment options now require expensive equipment and highly-trained specialists. Although these treatments promise incredible results, they are expensive to the individuals receiving the treatments … or the group that’s paying the bills.
All of these attitudes conspire to make the “Affordable” Care Act, or any replacement other than the free market, incredibly and increasingly expensive for all of us. Universal coverage will only exacerbate the problems that these cultural attitudes engender, leading inevitably in medical care rationing and resultant lack of availability of care, with the end results being similar to England’s 45% higher mortality rate.
Yes, we could choose universal coverage and then attempt to outlaw everything that makes people unhealthy. Good luck with that! It hasn’t worked in France and England, which is one reason England has a 45% higher mortality rate than the US.
Alternatively, we could work with human nature and return our medical care system to the free market it began in. Lift the government-created restrictions against individuals forming groups to drive down medical insurance costs. Lift the government-created restrictions that prevent us from buying insurance across state lines. Life the government-created monopoly against increasing medical schools and opening clinics. Yes, that would mean that some people wouldn’t make good health choices and wouldn’t have medical care coverage when those choices require them to seek medical care. That would be the consequence of being a poor-decision maker and it might drive some of this group to make better choices. Additionally, medical care would become less expensive because government-created barriers to care and affordable insurance would no longer be a factor in price.
We have a choice to make in this country. Do we want reduced access to expensive care, but everybody having insurance or do we want improved access to affordable care with some people choosing (for themselves) not to have insurance?
I know which one I prefer and which one I believe would result in improved health results.
I believe sincerely that everyone should have the right to do whatever he wants, provided it doesn’t harm other people or their property. I’m not saying I like it or think it is good for you, but I stand by your right to smoke like a chimney (so long as you don’t do it in my airspace), drink like a fish (but not if I share a household with you), or eat like a hippo (so long as I don’t pay your grocery bill).
Sadly, your lifestyle choices became my problem when the Affordable Care Act was passed. Your poor decisions now cost me money, which is a form of property. Hey, you, with the 50-inch waistline … that’s my kid’s college education in medical expenses that you expect me to pay, so yeah, I have a problem with the Affordable Care Act.
Back in 2009 when the Democratic-dominated government started touting the Affordable Care Act, they assured that the expansion of medical insurance coverage to all Americans would come at no cost to any citizen. A lot of us (about 60% of the electorate) were skeptical and that time and anyone paying even cursory attention to their medical insurance premiums since the go-live date for Obamacare knows our skepticism was well-founded. Medical insurance premiums have dramatically increased for most Americans not in the subsidized classes.
It might have seemed like a noble idea – that everyone should be required to have medical insurance just in case, but the Affordable Care Act also required medical insurance providers to cover pre-existing medical conditions.
That means that health-conscious people like me must subsidize medical care costs for people who make poor health choices. These poor health choices lead to diabetes, coronary artery disease, cancer, obesity, COPD, etc., all long-term chronic diseases that require expensive treatment. Coverage of pre-existing medical conditions greatly increased the cost that medical insurance providers were forced to pay out for treatment. This was supposed to be offset by young, healthy adults joining the health insurance pool, but younger, healthier people take one look at the expensive premiums and choose to pay the mandatory fine, because it is less than the premiums. This increases medical insurance premiums even more.
As Rick tried to highlight, individuals are less likely to make wise health choices if it is perceived that they will not have to bear the financial consequences of those choices because insurance paid by others covers the majority of the costs. Medical insurance holders are able to seek out healthcare services without the cost of those services being a major deterrent, which encourages people to go to the hospital and doctor for very minor ailments. After all, you want to get value for what you are paying for. Then doctors are motivated to extract the maximum amount of payment … prescribing expensive and sometimes unnecessary treatments and medications because insurance is covering the cost.
Rick points out that doctors and hospitals are often at the mercy of insurance companies and what gets approved for coverage, so they use a scatter-gun approach toward billing. Patients often demand more expensive treatment because of an impression that it’s better and because cost isn’t an obstacle. This completely undermines doctor-patient relationships where the goal is to choose the best and most sensible treatment options based on a cost-benefit analysis.
All of this has increased the cost of medical insurance. While providing medical coverage to everyone seems very humanitarian, it forces health-conscious people to subsidize the medical care costs of people who make poor choices and is causing employers to drop insurance coverage as it becomes unaffordable. If current trends hold, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t, the Affordable Care Act is going to bankrupt the middle class.
We’re not joking when we call it the UN-Affordable Care Act.
In a perfect world where liberty was still an ideal we upheld, everyone would be able to live their life however they want and be accountable for the personal and financial impact of their choices. The fact that I love bacon even though my family has a history of stomach and bowel cancer would not matter in the least to you because it wouldn’t affect you. Unfortunately, with the ACA, we’re all in this mess together, which means we all affect each other. It becomes absolutely imperative that we all strive to be the healthiest people we can be so as to reduce the economic burden on our neighbors.
Please don’t think I’m down on obese people to the exclusion of smokers or alcoholics or whatever. I’m using obesity as my demonstration condition because of the costs associated with it and it’s lack of social stigmaticism. My Baptist friends who don’t drink or smoke will smugly sit on their ample rears complaining that I’m wrong. “Being overweight is not unhealthy and has no impact on the cost of healthcare,” they will say.
Sorry, folks. You’re wrong. Research demonstrates that obesity and even being moderately overweight are the second leading causes of preventable death, right behind tobacco usage.
Here are some alarming economic implications for obesity:
- Obese adults spend 42% more on direct medical care costs than adults who are a healthy weight.
- Per capita medical care costs for severely or morbidly obese adults (BMI >40) are 81% higher than for healthy weight adults. In 2000, around $11 billion was spent on medical expenditures for morbidly obese U.S. adults.
- Moderately obese (BMI between 30 and 35) individuals are more than twice as likely as healthy weight individuals to be prescribed prescription pharmaceuticals to manage medical conditions.
Did you know that 68.8% of the US citizens are considered overweight and obese? That represents a dramatic impact of overweight and obese individuals upon our medical care system.
Obesity is just one of many other preventable medical conditions that contribute to the cost of medical insurance, but obesity and being overweight are the most widespread.
We would all be personally well-serviced by quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, exercising more, making better food choices, taking supplements wisely, and getting adequate sleep. There’s the direct positive impact on yourself, but better health habits would have a direct positive impact on the economy, and especially those of us who are forced to bear the cost of our nation’s medical care costs.
Unfortunately, you won’t see a financial benefit to making these changes. Unlike car insurance, where you receive lower premiums if you are a good driver who doesn’t have a lot of accidents, getting healthy doesn’t work the same way. Unlike life insurance, where you receive lower premiums if you’re a healthy individual, the ACA assures you will be paying for others who don’t make the same wise choices.
A less health population, which is indicated by slipping mortality rates. Although it sounds like such a great idea to provide medical insurance to everyone so they will be “healthier”, the reality is that the United States population has become less healthy as more of us have become covered by medical insurance.
Bill Clinton increased the military budget from $302 billion in 2000 to $313 billion in 2001.
George W. Bush increased military spending from $357 billion in 2002 to $465 billion in 2004 and then to $621 billion in 2008.
Barack Obama (he who won the Nobel “Peace” prize) increased military spending from $669 billion in 2009 to $711 billion in 2011, then supposed decreased it to $596 billion in 2017 (I’m skeptical).
And now Donald Trump wants to increase the military budget to $650 billion for 2018.
So, Clinton increased the military by $11 billion, Bush increased it by $264 billion, and Obama increased it by $42 billion. Trump’s increase of $54 billion is on the same trajectory as his predecessors. I’m not saying that is a good thing. I’m suggesting that we should be freaking out over the overall trend, not because one specific president is doing it.
The United States recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s speech to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany. That seems appropriate to a nation where the president inherited a half dozen conflicts and the Democrats are clamoring for war with Russia, but let’s take a moment to review World War 1’s goals and consequences.
In 1916, Woodrow Wilson was narrowly re-elected using the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war.” This was a lie. Wilson had massively violated neutrality by providing armaments and funding to the Allied powers that had been fighting Germany since 1914. In his war speech to Congress, Wilson hailed the U.S. government as “one of the champions of the rights of mankind” and proclaimed that “the world must be made safe for democracy.”
American soldiers helped turn the tide on the Western Front in late 1918, but the cost was much higher than Americans anticipated. More than 100,000 American soldiers died in the third bloodiest war in U.S. history, which another half million Americans perished from the Spanish flu epidemic spread by the war.
In his speech to Congress, Wilson declared, “We have no quarrel with the German people” and feel “sympathy and friendship” towards them. Americans of German descent was the largest ethnic group in the country at the time, so he had to be careful in what he said, but his administration speedily commenced demonizing the “Huns.” One Army recruiting poster portrayed German troops as an ape ravaging a half-naked damsel beneath an appeal to “Destroy this mad brute.”
Wilson treated the congressional declaration of war against Germany as authority to suspend the US Constitution. Harvard professor Irving Babbitt commented in 1924: “Wilson, in the pursuit of his scheme for world service, was led to make light of the constitutional checks on his authority and to reach out almost automatically for unlimited power.” Wilson even urged Congress to set up detention camps to quarantine “alien enemies.”
Wilson unleashed ruthless censorship of any criticism. Anyone who spoke publicly against military conscription was subject to arrest and incarceration on federal espionage or sedition charges. Possessing a pamphlet entitled Long Live the Constitution of the United States earned six months in jail for a Pennsylvania malcontent. Censorship was buttressed by fanatic propaganda campaigns led by the Committee on Public Information, a federal agency whose shameless motto was “faith in democracy… faith in fact.”
The war enabled the American equivalent of the Taliban to triumph on the home front. Prohibition advocates “indignantly insisted that… any kind of opposition to prohibition was sinister and subversively pro-German,” (William Ross, World War 1 and the American Constitution). Even before the 18th Amendment banning alcohol consumption was ratified, Wilson banned beer sales as a wartime measure.
To punish lawbreakers, the federal government added poisons to industrial alcohol that was often converted into a type of moonshine; ten thousand people were killed as a result. Professor Deborah Blum, the author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, noted that “an official sense of higher purpose kept the poisoning program in place.”
History records that Prohibition was a public health disaster; the rate of alcoholism tripled during the 1920s.
The war also provided the pretext for unprecedented federal domination of the economy. Washington DC insisted that “food will win the war” and farmers vastly increased their plantings. Price supports and government credits for foreign buyers overstimulated crop and land prices. When the credits ended in 1920, prices and land values plunged, spurring massive bankruptcies across rural America. This spurred perennial political discontent that helped lead to a federal takeover of agriculture by the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s.
World War 1 was ended by the Treaty of Versailles, which redrew European borders without much thought to nations and imposed ruinous reparations on Germany. Henry White, one of Wilson’s top aides at the peace talks, lamented: “We had such high hopes of this adventure; we believed God called us and now we are doing hell’s dirtiest work.”
Wilson intensely disliked Vladimir Lenin because “he felt the Bolshevik leader had stolen his ideas for world peace.” Wilson had proclaimed 14 points to guide peace talks; instead, there were 14 separate small wars in Europe after peace had been proclaimed. Millions of Irish Americans were outraged when Britain brutally repressed Ireland during and after the war. The League of Nations was worded so that it might have obliged the U.S. to send troops to help Britain crush the burgeoning Irish independence movement.
The chaos and economic depression sowed by the war and the Treaty of Versailles helped open the door to some of the worst dictators in modern times, including Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, and Vladimir Lenin–whom Wilson intensely disliked because “he felt the Bolshevik leader had stolen his ideas for world peace,” (Thomas Fleming, The Illusion of Victory: America in World War 1, 2003).
Despite winning the war, Wilson’s Democratic Party was crushed at the polls in both 1918 and 1920. H.L. Mencken wrote on the eve of the 1920 election that Americans were sickened of Wilsonian “idealism that is oblique, confusing, dishonest, and ferocious.”
Apparently, today’s policymakers have learned nothing from this century-old debacle. Wilson continues to be invoked by politicians who believe America can achieve great things by warring abroad. Both Republican and Democratic leaders echo Wilson’s desire to “make the world safe for democracy,” but never seem to have considered that their version of democracy may not be safe for the world.
Everytime this subject comes up, I consider expressing my thoughts on the subject and therefore, I entitled this blog post “We should have destroyed this brute.” Woodrow Wilson and his fellow intellectual travelers should be shouted down by saner voices and certainly not elected to public office. That includes every Congress person currently who wants to march American troops into Syria or go to war against Russia.
STOP! Wake up! We’ve been here before and it didn’t work out so well.
Have you heard? President Donald Trump has proposed that funding be cut to a whole slew of agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts. Oh no! There will not be anymore music, painting, acting or dancing. We must DO SOMETHING!
My daughter has always been a creative soul. Mom’s a novelist. I suppose that makes sense. She was drawing good pictures with her crayons at three and she colored inside the lines. She loved to sing and did so at every opportunity. When she was old enough, she informed us that she wanted to take ballet lessons, which progressed into jazz lessons, and hiphop lessons, and ballroom, highland, tap, and Polynesian dancing.
She went to private schools until high school, so arts often were not part of the curriculum, but we paid for private lessons and my brother (who is older than us and had grandchildren late) kept her well-supplied in art supplies and bought her an electronic keyboard. Brad plays guitar so she learned that instrument from him. I taught her poetry, which finds its way into her lyrics (yes, she writes songs too).
She is now a bluegrass musician (though she’s thinking about going to culinary college now to provide a steady job that pays a living wage). Her room remains filled with art projects and she’s talking about possibly concentrating on her drawing and metal art more than her music in the future. She still dances for fun and while she probably can’t go on pointe, she can still do some amazing things on the dance floor.
My daughter didn’t need the National Endowment for Arts to be an artist, musician, dancer or actress (yeah, she does that too). She just decided she was going to do it and she did. Alaska is, by the way, filled with creatives. Many of us have other jobs to pay the rent, but we create because that is who we are. Sometimes we sell what we create and sometimes it is for our own amusement. I think if I were to poll my fellow Alaska creatives, I wouldn’t find very many who have gotten grants from the Endowment. They probably didn’t bother to apply because they know it’s a rigged system that primarily funds elites, but they still create and their creative world will not end if the Endowment is no longer funded by the government. Hopefully, eventually, if the government actually spends less money, our taxes will come down so that it will be easier for private individuals to fund creative endeavors, both for their own work and for the work of others. And, no, having a job that pays the bills does not diminish your art. As a writer, I find it gives me a source for my writing. Otherwise, I’d be sitting at home staring at four walls and not be able to crib off my coworkers’ personality eccentricities.
On Tuesday there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria‘s. Idlib providence in which dozens have reportedly died. Today, the Trump administration bombed an airfield in Syria in apparent retaliation.
Only last week the Trump administration was suggesting that it might leave the Assad regime alone, but now they’re attempting to frame the evidence to justify a strike on Assad without even considering other possibilities.
Chemical weapons attacks have occurred in Syria before. In 2013, there were two devastating attacks which prompted the Obama administration to try to justify a direct strike on the Assad government.
It turns out the Obama administration was wrong in its assessment. The U.N. thoroughly investigated the first 2013 attack and ultimately said the evidence indicated the attack was carried out by the Syrian rebels – not the Syrian government. Despite this report, the US and its allies increased support for the Syrian rebels, which makes me wonder why Obama condemned the chemical attacks.
Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh investigated the second major attack and discovered it was committed in a similar manner. Hersh found that the U.S. quite deliberately attempted to frame the evidence to justify a strike on Assad without even considering al-Nusra, a terror group with access to nerve agents.
In 2016, the U.N. concluded that the Syrian government and ISIS had used chemical weapons during the years-long conflict, despite that the U.N. also declared in 2013 that the regime no longer possessed chemical weapons.
These reports are accessible, available to anyone who wants to study the issue, but the media and politicians want us to rush to blame Assad without any actual investigation. The Guardian is all over it (see here and here). The New Zealand Herald is insisting that only Donald Trump can stop the Syrian atrocities. These articles ignore the reports from 2013, claiming that “Obama did nothing” in response. That claim makes no sense since in 2016, Obama more than 10,000 bombs on Syria. As president, Obama also oversaw the CIA’s expenditures of about $1 billion a year training Syrian rebels.
If you care about fake news, you might want to pay attention to this entire situation because this constitutes “fake news”. These are biased reports designed to invoke a particular response from the United States, preferrably quickly, so that we don’t know all the facts until later … or ever. Did we learn nothing from the “Saddam is seeking to purchase yellow-cake uranium” debacle?
Maybe Assad has completely lost his mind and decided to use chemical weapons just days after the U.S. openly acknowledged they would consider leaving Assad alone. Maybe he wants to be bombed out of existence by the international community. He doesn’t come off as insane as Kim Jung Il, but maybe he’s hiding his lunacy better. But we should have taken a deep breath and considered the possibilities for a moment.
What if the rebels committed this attack because they don’t want their funding cut off? The US government could actually have stopped the atrocities in Syria simply by withdrawing support for groups that resort to these tactics.
But, of course, the government isn’t going to do that because the Deep State has wanted US involvement in the War in Syria since 2013 and having expended so much effort in empowering the rebels, it couldn’t let the Trump administration squander the opportunity.
Never let a chemical weapons attack go to waste when you can use false information about it to oust a foreign government that doesn’t want to play ball with the US State Department.
And, hey, a twofer would be even better. Let’s antagonize Russia so we can really force things to a higher level of insanity.
I objected to Obama’s red line in the sand and then backing off because the red line was never necessary. The Assad regime isn’t warm and fuzzy, but it turned out they weren’t the worst of the evil in Syria … something we didn’t know for months after those j2013 attacks. If we’re going to send young Americans into harm’s way, we should be certain of who is responsible. Obama backing off was not something he did … he had no choice when Congress refused to do what he demanded.
Now it’s Trump’s turn and he’s done the same stupid thing … jumped to a conclusion for which there is very little supporting evidence. We learned nothing from the “Saddam is wanting to buy yellow-cake uranium” debacle and our government has potentially started World War 3 on onion-skin slim evidence.