Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A Sigh of Relief

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Our health insurance bill is up only 11% this year.

At that rate, our healthy family annual outlay will now be $15,420. Cash.


Smart Guy: The Science of Saving

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

I like this guy, Dan Ariely. We’ve actually adopted some of his ideas in our daily domestic budget, and they’ve worked extremely well. Credit cards = evil. There is no doubt. Video is seven minutes long.

About the News

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009


This morning, the Federal Trade Commission started hearings on the state of the news media industry. Their stated view is that the news is a public good and, if the public is not well served by the current regime, then it should be regulated to ensure that the public good is maximized.

These are fine sounding words for what is a thinly veiled attempt by newspapers and, to a lesser extent, broadcast media to re-assert the monopoly positions they have lost to the internet. The hearing this morning is being very well covered by Jeff Jarvis (Jeff’s feed is here, the hearing feed is here). UPDATED: Arianna Huffington’s speech is now here(more…)

Obama Health Care Costs

Monday, November 30th, 2009

family_planWhere do I sign up?

As an entrepreneur, my costs are FAR GREATER than any of these figures. I worked out our 2009 fees to just under $14,000. And the legislation clearly points out that my group (independent individuals and families) are the ones most screwed by the current health insurance regime. This has my enthusiastic, I-want-it-now vote.

Figure above is from the Congressional Budget Office, from a report here. Hat tip to Paul Krugman, here.

Awesome Motivation

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Watch this!

Another Great Recession Change

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

calbank_seizedOver the weekend our corporate bank, California National, was seized by the FDIC. As with all of these major financial changes, there is no apparent effect on us as the end user of services. Quite a dance going on though.

In case you haven’t been keeping score, here are the changes we’ve had through the Great Recession:

  • Personal bank accounts through Washington Mutual, converted to Chase.
  • Life insurance, now government sponsored through AIG
  • Home mortgage, now explicitly covered by the federal government through Freddie Mac
  • Corporate bank accounts through California National

Medical Reform: The Cost Burden Now

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

medical_expensesI’m not a doctor, though I come from a medical family. My father, older brother and middle sister are doctors: 2 pathologists and one family practitioner turned PhD researcher. My one direct medical experience, six years working in a medical laboratory, was three decades ago.

So, if I’m going to comment on American health care, it is as a user of services. I’m aware of some of the issues that providers of services have, but I don’t have any special knowledge. No, my here-and-now ability is to offer what I truly know that few other people do: the cost of the current system. (more…)

End of the Recession

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Paul Krugman has an insightful graph on his blog that shows what it means to have reached the end of the recession.

gdpgapIf you look at this, you see that actual GDP is no longer going down (technically, the end of the recession). However, GDP is not going up substantially, and we’re a long way from the earlier trend line – about 8% down according to Krugman.

I like the graph since it illustrates the end of the recession does not mean that all is rosy with the world. On the other hand, the earlier trend line leaps to mind as the “natural” order of things. It’s not. That trend line was fueled by your-home-as-an-ATM mentality, which was itself created by an unsustainable conundrum on Wall Street.

Incidentally, I’m convinced that no one really understands macroeconomics. When I have studied the field (in college at the undergraduate level and since then following Krugman, Delong and others), it appears to be some very smart people using some very strong math to create graphs like the one above. The results are NEVER counter-intuitive (the sole exception, David Riccardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage). It’s fun stuff to study, but the fact is these are smart people creating equations and graphs to show to one another; they are not uncovering new, unexpected, verifiable results.

This is not to say macroeconomic study is useless, but it has less rigor than its practitioners would have you think. And they do create the data by which public policy is made.

Contrast this with a quantitative, microeconomic approach like Steven D. Levitt in Freakonomics, which results in some very surprising pieces of verifiable data. This is a real science. Unfortunately, it has little applicability for most public policy.

Jedi Obama

Thursday, September 17th, 2009


Yeah, I know that health care and missile shields in Poland and Czech are the real issues of the day. And I feel strongly about both of them (yes to public health care in the US; yes to the missile shield, though I’m pretty sure that it was traded for something worthy).

But nothing makes me feel more like I voted for the right president than this photo that popped up yesterday. Go, Jedi Obama!

James Kahn on Health Care Reform

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Jay Kahn is a friend in Santa Barbara. He is a physician working in an emergency room there. He participated in a conservative sponsored town hall meeting on health care and has written a report on it. It’s posted here with his permission.

On Monday, August 24, I engaged in a debate on health care reform at a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Vandeventer Group.  The audience, though civil, was often hostile, and intimidated me into silence on a few occasions.  When it was over I ended up feeling that I’d left things unsaid, which I’d like to clarify now. (more…)