Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Universal Health Care and Diseconomies of Scale

Companies often merge with one of the advantages being "economy of scale". What this means is that merged companies can save the cost of paying for duplicate functions, departments and divisions.

However, it is possible to grow to the point that an organization experiences "diseconomy of scale". Some of the math behind this is described in my posting, Why Can't Nine Woman Have a Baby in One Month.

I just finished the book "The Conscience of a Liberal" by Paul Krugman. I read it based on the advice "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer". Paul Krugman is the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics. Coupled with Al Gore's 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, I have found the Nobel Prize committee is losing credibility in my eyes.

Mr. Krugman is a strong proponent of universal health care (he also things that Congress and Obama haven't gone nearly far enough with the recent bailouts). This is my argument against his views.

First, he compares the poor state of U.S health care (based on cost per person) to the wonderful systems in Canada and elsewhere. It's interesting to compare size of a country (or state) based on population and GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The chart below is sorted by population size.

Based on this chart:
  • The U.S. blows away any country based on GDP
  • The U.S. is the 3rd largest country (based on population)
  • It makes more sense to compare Canada to California or Texas
  • It makes more sense to compare the U.S. to China, India or Brazil, where the per capita incomes are $865, $2,842 and $442 respectively. It's $33,000 for the U.S.
  • How long can the U.S. maintain such a high living standard for so many people as compared to other large countries?
  • After the "change" we are experiencing in Washington D.C.:
    • It will probably make even more sense to compare the U.S. to China, India or Brazil
    • "Spreading the wealth" will probably take on a global meaning.

At 15% of our GDP, U.S. health care costs are the most expensive in the world and need to be fixed. I think part of the problem is greed in the industry.

However, if universal health care is inevitable, I think it makes more sense at the State level than Federal level (and I think the U.S. Constitution would agree with me). I don't think I would want to depend on the health care systems of China, India or Brazil (though India's health care system is controlled by the States, not the central government). Also, I've lived in Brazil and received medical treatment there. I love Brazil, but I wouldn't want to depend on the Government providing health care as I saw countless people on the streets desperately in need of medical treatment.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

We had no choice

Liberty is the ability to change the course of future events. What this implies is that there must be options or choices in order to change the course of future events.

A few years ago, I took a course sponsored by my work. There were several teams each from different companies. For our final presentation, the audience included executives from the various sponsoring companies. During one of the presentations, the comment was made about the executives having the freedom to make choices to influence positive change at our companies. The executives responded, and all agreed, that the further up the ladder, the less freedom you have.

With that in mind, look at the quotes from our protectors of freedom and liberty.

  • Sept. 8, 2008 Henry Paulson - "We had no choice" on $200 billion bailout of Fannie-Mae and Freddie Mac (The largest in history)

  • Oct. 3, 2008 Barack Obama - "Congress has no choice" on $700 billion financial rescue plan (The new largest in History)

  • Jan. 7, 2009 Nancy Pelosi - "We must pass an economic recovery and jobs package no later than mid-February"

  • Feb 13, 2009 Congress passes $787 billion recovery package (Largest spending bill in history)

  • March 3, 2009 Ben Bernanke - "We had no choice" on new $30 billion lifeline to AIG (Total = $180 billion)

  • March 13, 2009 Timothy Geitner - "there was nothing he could do legally to stop..." the payout of AIG bonuses.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Creation/Evolution Scale

"Creationists" believe the Bible's version of God creating the world.
"Evolutionists" believe the physical evidence of a creation by natural forces and evolution of life.

For most, there is no compromise.

I would like to propose a scale with creationism on one end and evolution on the other to show that there is a middle ground. Then I'll explain my current belief.

  1. Literal Biblical Creation - As stated in the Bible, God created everything in 6 days (literally 24 hour days). This occurred about 6,000 years ago. Any physical evidence doesn't matter.
  2. Apologetic Biblical Creation - Same as literal biblical creation, but explain the physical evidence away by stating that dating methods must be wrong or God created all the evidence to make the earth look older.
  3. Interpreted Biblical Creation - God created everything, but a "day" could be interpreted as "period of time". Thus, the Creation can possibly be compatible with the physical evidence.
  4. Intelligent Design - The belief that accepts the physical evidence, but asserts that the order in our World and Universe to too extra-ordinary to have occurred by chance. Some divine hand must have been involved.
  5. Big Bang and Evolution - Everything started with the Big Bang and the laws of Physics governed the creation of our earth, solar system, stars, etc. Life started in the primordial soup and evolved to what it is today. This history is "proven" by science using the evidence of geological layers and other dating methods, fossil history, cosmology, etc.

What do you believe? (Note: I haven't included viewpoints from other cultures)

I believe:

A. We are children of God who loves us and created this world as an opportunity for us to learn and grow.

B. God is omnipotent and capable of creating anything in any amount of time. He is capable of performing the "Literal Creation" in 6 days. This would include creating fossils, geological formations, and all the physical evidence of an old earth and evolution.

C. God would NOT create the physical evidence of evolution, as that would be deceptive. I don't think God would deceive us.

D. The physical evidence science has provided is real, however the truth may deviate from the conclusions of scientists (I think extrapolating back millions of years leaves room for error).

E. God had a hand in shaping all events that lead to the creation of all physical evidence. This includes a belief that God is not bound by time as we are.

Here are some interesting tidbits I consider in my belief of creation:
  • The organization of atomic matter (protons, neutrons, electrons) just happens to create an enormous variety of physical properties. (I actually had a spiritual witness in my Chemistry class when I learned about this. It was a beautiful experience)[1]
  • The organization of molecular matter adds even greater variety.
  • The Earth has the most perfect orbit of all the planets, resulting in a moderate environment with H2O in solid (ice), liquid (water) and gaseous (clouds) forms. Ideal conditions for life.
  • DNA is so complex that a single cell can continuously divide and each cell knows when and where to be skin, muscle, bone, nerves, blood, hair, organs, etc. The eye alone contains cells arranged intricately to make up the cornea, pupil, iris, lens, retina. The retina includes 126 million photoreceptors (rods and cones) connected to the brain via the optical nerve. Our "optical system" is more capable than the most sophisticated camera and computer of today.


Monday, March 16, 2009

"Global Warm This..."

In a recent post I told about the upcoming 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. It happened last week. From the Heartland Institute website it says:

The world’s largest-ever gathering of global warming skeptics took place in New York City on March 8-10, 2009, to confront the issue, “Global warming: Was it ever really a crisis?”

About 800 scientists, economists, legislators, policy activists, and media representatives attended the event...

I followed this up with my blog post on Global Warming. This is my second official Global Warming posting.

I titled it "Global Warm This..." as a response to the GW hysteria.

Here are some silly facts:

  • Using Google increases Global Warming [1]
  • Divorce increases Global Warming [2]
  • Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs help Global Warming but are bad for the environment (If you break one, it could cost $2000 to clean up the spilled mercury)[3]
  • Fat people are bad for the environment[4]

And now you can really commit yourself to helping the environment!!!

Try Wallypop "Family Wipes"



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Smog Days

The U.S. Constitution gives the Federal Government the power to promote the general welfare. I decided to point out an area where our Government actually has done this.

I think it would be interesting to poll Americans to see how many have heard of or experienced a "Smog Day". I'm guessing the demographics would be limited. I've asked a few younger friends and my kids and they gave me blank stares.

I grew up in Los Angeles County a few miles from the beach where I attended grade school in the 1970s. I remember several days each year that were "Smog Days". We weren't allowed to play outside and instead had recess and lunch in our classes and were told to put our heads on our desks. On these days, too much activity would make your eyes and lungs burn.

Fast forward 20 years.

My children attended grade school in East Los Angeles County (where the air quality is typically worse than the coast) in the 1990's until we moved to San Diego County in 2000. They never had a "smog day" that I know of.

What changed?

In 1979, the South Coast Air Basin (of which Los Angeles is a part) experienced 228 days above the state one-hour ozone standard; in 2007, the number of days in violation was down to 96. The change is even more dramatic when looking at individual communities. From 1979 to 2007, Pasadena dropped from 191 days over the limit to 13, Reseda from 138 to 22, Anaheim from 61 to 2, Pomona from 167 to 19, and West Los Angeles from 76 to 2. This story is replicated across the region. It is also broadly true for the other pollutants that comprise smog.[1]

Here's an interesting chart. It doesn't go back to the 1970s, but you can see the trend. (I'm glad I don't live in Houston ;-)

Why did it change?

A series of "Clean Air Acts"[2] in 1963, 1967, 1970, 1977 and 1990 were enacted by the Federal Government to limit air pollution (The EPA was created in 1971). The result is a much better quality of life for millions of people.

How did it change?

Technological solutions: catalytic converters, unleaded gasoline, smog checks, etc.

Note: The Government didn't spend money to fix the problem. They set standards and intelligent, inventive people found solutions.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Constitution still works - part 2

The drafters of the U.S. Constitution were very familiar with the corruption of power. Extensive debates were held with one of the main concerns involving giving too much power to the Federal government. Too much power is fine in the hands of good men, but is terrible in the hands of evil men. Unfortunately, you can't always guarantee good men come to power. To be safe, the Constitution restricts this power.

One way to restrict this power was to use checks and balances. A consequence of this is that many times it ties the hands of those in power and slows down the process of change. Sometimes this is bad. Usually it is good.

The Obama administration found out the negative consequences of our founding father's design when they tried to bring the White House into the information age.
(See "Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages")

The "most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history" enjoyed the same advantages of modern information technology that many companies, homes, libraries, teenagers, etc. in the U.S. enjoy. Yet, when seated in public office, "Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy".

So the question I have is: if there are so many constraints on our Federal Government, why do they think they are the best ones to solve our problems?

I heard recently that if we eliminated the income tax for all Americans, it would be about the same as all of our bailouts (about $1 trillion). Imagine how that could stimulate the economy! But, instead of leaving the $1 trillion in the hands of working people, let's give it to people that have "a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts".


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Constitution still works - mostly

I've been taking a course on the U.S. Constitution, and while it is tempting to think our country is falling apart, there are still many things that still work. I'll try to make a "glass half full" list.
  • The People can vote the President out within four years (Article II:1)
  • No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States (Article I:9)
  • The People can vote the entire House of Representatives out within two years (Article I:2)
  • The People can vote approximately 1/3rd of the Senate out within two years and the entire Senate out within six years (Article I:3)
  • The People can see what Congress has been doing and how much they're spending (The Congressional Record)[1][2] (Article I:5)
  • Only the House of Representatives can write Bills for raising revenue (Article I:7)
  • No Taxes on imports/exports between States (Article I:9)
  • Criminals cannot escape justice by fleeing to another state (Article IV:2)
  • The trial of all crimes shall be by Jury (Article III:2)
  • "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence." (Article IV:2)

I'm currently looking at the Congressional record, specifically at how they are spending the money. I hope to have some interesting insights soon.

Even though the U.S. President proposes a budget, his constitutional rights are:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient (Article II:3)


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mush and making things better

This is one of my favorite stories from my family. I've retold it many times with my own "moral".

Background on Mush

Growing in a large family, my mom had to be creative in keeping us all fed. For breakfast, she often made "mush". To make mush, she would crack whole wheat in her wheat grinder (how many houses have a wheat grinder today?). My wife now buys cracked wheat in bulk at the local health food store. My mom would boil the cracked wheat for 8-10 minutes. We would add milk and honey and it wasn't too bad (I'm sure that it was better than going hungry, which we never did).

I don't think any of us liked mush very much, but we got used to it. I know some of my siblings have had cravings in their older years for mush. Several years ago I was living in Brazil and had a craving. They sold cracked wheat in the grocery store for meatballs (I don't remember what they were called, but they were good!). I had the bright idea of making mush, but it wasn't like my mom's. I had to add a little flour to make it creamy like her's.

The Mush Story

One time, Leif, a friend of our families stayed with us. I think his parents went on a trip and they farmed their kids out. In the morning, my mom made mush and dished everyone up a bowl. Leif, who was trained well, made his best attempts at eating the mush. To make it easier to swallow, he was taking very small bites. We noticed he was less than fond of mush, and we noticed he hadn't added milk and honey. We told him that it would taste better if he added milk and honey. He looked up at us with a determined look and very seriously said, "I don't want to make more of it".

The Moral

There have been many occasions in my work career when I have been in meetings. It's not my nature to sit quietly if I think things could be better. After attempting to speak up and make the meeting better, I end up creating controversy that results in the meeting lasting longer while we try to resolve the issues I have raised. I usually end up leaving wishing I had said nothing. Basically, I was just trying to add "milk and honey" to make it taste better. Since then, I've learned that Leif had it right: sometimes it's better not to "make more of it".