09 February 2014

Confirmations and Contradiction for 2014/02/09

The first in a, likely weekly, series of recaps of silliness and succor during the previous week. Now that there's no foobawl on Sunday to distract...

Let's start with Maher, from Friday. I didn't note down the numbers, being snuggled up in bed whilst I watched, and transcripts don't appear to exist, so these are ballpark. He went off on the Generational Divide, with $3,000 going to "kids" and $25,000 going to "grandfolks", and of the latter much in the last year of life, and of that most in the last month. In other words, we're squandering lots o moolah to keep Grandma alive an extra month. And that's pretty much true. How did this come to be?

The main driver is that Medicare is bound to approve drugs that gain FDA approval. Here's a (a bit dated) review of what's been going on. On the other hand, we find a Times column which asserts that cutting back on health care spending is actually impeding the economic recovery. Appelbaum, or his editor, certainly has a sense of humor.

He ledes thus:
LOST in all the debate last week about whether or not the Affordable Care Act will hurt the economy is the fact that health care is already imposing a drag on growth.

Oh shit!!! That liberal bastion is mouthing the Right Wingnuts' chorus!!! Not so much.
The health care sector has repeatedly helped to pull the economy from recession in recent decades, but this time around it is lagging behind the recovery.
Health care spending grew more slowly than the economy in 2011 and 2012 and will probably be found to have done so again in 2013. Meanwhile, health care employment also expanded more slowly than overall employment last year -- and the government estimates that in January employment actually shrank for only the second time since 1990.

The issue, mentioned in these endeavors on occasion, is that the overall economy has shifted from manufacturing to services over that last 50 years. Now, if you're a Wall Street vampire squid, then your kind of service is vital and even underpaid. But nurses and orderlies are clearly worthless and paying them even minimum wage is squandering the nation's future. But, again, as these endeavors have pointed out from the beginning, capitalists are simply hoarding moolah, and not investing.
But in the nation's current economic malaise, idled resources are not being put to better use. Workers, companies and the federal government are all paying down debt rather than spending and investing. Fewer homes are being bought; companies are building few factories. The government has been cutting back at a pace exceeded in modern times only during the military demobilizations after the Vietnam War and the Cold War.

All the rhetoric, originally and still mostly from the Right is that ACA and healthcare for all will "bankrupt" the country. What's amusing is that the Wall Street quant types always take the view that (micro)economics is value judgment free, yet they explicitly are sanguine with condemning the only aspect of modernity that actually makes us modern!


Consider this: being able to wake up tomorrow morning to see how the story is going is the most important fact of life. More important than whether that cellphone is a smartphone, or iPhone, or even that you have a cellphone. Another amusing aspect of the manufactured controversy over universal healthcare is the question of how to deal with geriatric psycho stuff. Old people do get depressed and they do, eventually, tune out and don't care how the story goes tomorrow. That's what they're supposed to do!!! That's how you know that it's time to go. Spending moolah to stop enveloping depression in 80-somethings is downright foolish. On the other hand, whether we, as a community (not just the 1%), want to spend 1% or 50% of our wealth and income on healthcare is for us to decide. Spend it wisely, yes.

Modernity's sole difference maker to all of us is medicine. The other stuff is just toys. Yes, the medical oligarches are nearly as squid-like as the Wall Street species, but at least they provide a visible service. Wall Street squids merely suck moolah out of the stream twixt savers and borrowers.

Next up, New Gold. Remember that piece? Probably not. In any case, it tells the tale of how the Almighty Dollar came to be the currency that matters. Yet another piece from the fount of News, which discusses the Almighty Dollar.
Interest rates in the United States have been driven extraordinarily low. Ten-year Treasury yields, which move in the opposite direction as prices, have declined to 2.68 percent, from 3.03 percent on Dec. 31. Rates had been expected to rise because of the Fed's tighter monetary policies. Flight to safety investing explains at least some of this, and it has helped keep rates relatively low for several years.

The dollar remains New Gold. Unlike the Euro, which Germans refuse to allow into the fiscal policy realm, the dollar is, and in ways the Right Wingnuts choose to ignore, used to move wealth around from wealthy states to poor ones. The ACA is just the latest example of the North subsidizing the South. And they'll bitch about it all day long.

Those are some confirmations. Now for a contradiction. Two pieces in the Times, one in the paper and the other in the magazine, discuss the problem of single parent (mostly, mother) households.

One views poverty as the egg, while the other as the chicken.

Some researchers think that marriage -- or a lack thereof -- is not the real problem facing poor parents; being poor is. "It isn't that having a lasting and successful marriage is a cure for living in poverty," says Kristi Williams of Ohio State University. "Living in poverty is a barrier to having a lasting and successful marriage."

The sociologist Kathryn Edin has shown that unlike their more educated peers, these younger, low-income women tend to stop using contraception several weeks or months after starting a sexual relationship. The pregnancy -- not lasting affection and mutual decision-making -- that often follows is the impetus for announcing that they are a couple. Unsurprisingly, by the time the thrill of sleepless nights and colicky days has worn off, two relative strangers who have drifted into becoming parents together notice they're just not that into each other. Hence, the high breakup rates among low-income couples: Only a third of unmarried parents are still together by the time their children reach age 5.

For myself, having grown up (mostly) in a welfare project (in New England, so perhaps less nasty than the South), poor folks act that way because they're poor. Over the last few decades, cities have been imploding "vertical ghettos" with abandon. But they never seem to want to do that to the luxury high rises on the other side of town, which manage to house at least as many humans per building as the ones that get razed. Could it be that living in such a building can be fun and enjoyable? It ain't the building, it's the moolah.

Tilt the economic playing field enough, and anyone would conclude that fucking and fighting are all that matter. Just as it was in the First Dark Ages.

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