Saturday, March 20, 2010

More, Better, Cheaper, Healthcare....MAYBE this is the solution? Worth a try??

Hmmmm....How can this possibly happen?  The operative sentence/phrase for me is in red/bold....

Seeing is Believing (in the free market)...
Everywhere we look it seems that health care is more expensive: prescription drug prices are increasing, costs to visit the doctor are up, the price of health insurance is rising. But look closer, even closer, closer still. Don’t see it yet? Perhaps you should have your eyes corrected at a Lasik vision center.Laser eye surgery has the highest patient satisfaction ratings of any surgery, it has been performed more than 3 million times in the past decade, it is new, it is high-tech, it has gotten better over time and… laser eye surgery has fallen in price. In 1998 the average price of laser eye surgery was about $2200 per eye. Today the average price is $1350, that’s a decline of 38 percent in nominal terms and slightly more than that after taking into account inflation.Why the price decline in this market and not others? Could it have something to do with the fact that laser eye surgery is not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and not heavily regulated? Laser eye surgery is one of the few health procedures sold in a free market with price advertising, competition and consumer driven purchases. I’m seeing things more clearly already.

Feeling "Inferior"? You are in good company

Goods that actually experience an increase in demand during a recession are called "Inferior" goods.  The definition of an inferior good is when Income DECREASES, as it tends to do during a downturn in the business cycle, or when incomes are low (like college students) the demand for the inferior good actually INCREASES (vice versa when Income INCREASES). This is not to say that the good is of poor quality, as a matter of fact, it may be quite the opposite.  Easy examples of inferior goods might be the category of generic brands of, well, anything.  This LINK (by way of MR)will take you to a site with more examples of potential inferior goods that we don't often call inferior.  What do you think? Should these be categorized as inferior?
The market for traditional sodas and juices is flat, but California-based Hansen has been logging record sales and earnings this year thanks to its expanding lineup of Monster Energy drinks. Innovations like resealable cans and clever spinoffs like the Anti-Gravity and Killer-B varieties have helped keep the brand fresh.

Is your favorite example of "Americana" made in America? Probably not...

Click HERE for photos of products that are/have been uniquely American made that are no longer made in America...(by way of Carpe Diem)

It still says “Ohio Art” on the frame, but the magnetic drawing toy isn’t made in the Buckeye State—or any other state, for that matter. After 40 years, Ohio Art Co. shut down domestic production in 2000, seeking labor cheaper than the unionized, $9-per-hour workers who had been making the toys. The Chinese factories that now make Etch A Sketches have been the subject of unflattering allegations about work conditions.

Movie Sequels that Bombed... Is your favorite on the list???

Sequels often fall victim of the economic concept of The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility.  This suggests that as we "consume" an additional unit of the movie franchise (fancy way of saying the sequel) that we, perhaps, get less satisfaction relative to the first movie.  Our satisfaction may still be positive but is decreasing as we consume the sequel.  One example of a sequel that actually maintains utility (satisfaction relative to the first) would  PERHAPS be the Rocky franchise. The first was great, the second, bleh, but how about the subsequent ones??  DEFINITELY have to say they reach negative utility affter IV? V?...Can you think of a movie and it sequels that kept up your utility overall?? :)  From (Chartporn)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pres. Obama Destroys Shamrock--We are at War with Ireland!! You heard it here FIRST!!

St. Patrick's Day massacre of White House shamrocks!

Well,  not really, BUT we have gone to war for lesser reasons...

...But after nearly 60 years of St. Patrick's Day ceremonies, what's actually become of all those bowls of shamrock?Ronald Reagan used one of his Waterford bowls to hold jelly beans. Bill Clinton displayed his glassware in the White House. "Upstairs in our residence, there is so much Irish crystal now," he mock-lamented at his eighth and final shamrock ceremony. As for the shamrock itself, it has a short shelf life after its long journey from Ireland.  White House security regulations dictate that any food, drink or plant presented to the president be "handled pursuant to Secret Service policy." That's Secret Service-speak for destroyed -- an unceremonious fate, for an enduring symbol of a long friendship.

Will your job be OUTSOURCED or OFF-SHORED? The answer REALLY does matter!!

The technically correct word to use when companies shift jobs performed in the U.S. to another, presumably low-wage country, is "off-shoring" not "out-sourcing"---Most businesses out-source SOME of their daily  business functions, such as accounting, temps, material fabricaton, etc.  They do this because doing it "in-house" is not cost efficient.  Sending a job currently performed by someone here and transferring it to, say, India would be off-shoring.  This graph located HERE and linked from HERE gives the positives and negatives of off-shoring.  However, more prominence is given to the positives, so beware of that when viewing...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

60 Minutes Segment on Michael Lewis...

60 Minutes segment on the financial crisis---WELL WORTH A VIEW!

Part 1

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Part 2

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Parachuting Bears to Capture bin Laden---PLEASE let this be true!!!

Could Airborne Bears Catch Bin Laden?
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Could parachute-wearing bears sniff out Osama bin Laden?
That's one suggestion the Pentagon has received from someone who noted, quite correctly, that a bear's sense of smell is much more powerful than a bloodhound's. "Overnight, Parachute some bears into areas [bin Laden] might be," the innovator wrote. "Attempt to train bears to take off parachutes after landing, or use parachutes that self-destruct after landing." The bears-in-the-air idea, and scores of others, came from people who clicked on the "contact us" button on the Defense Department's Web site, which allows the general public to ask questions or make suggestions.  Not that the Pentagon needs any particular help in the idea department. Not long ago, for example, the agency spent $2 million to find out whether honey bees could be relied upon to sniff out roadside bombs.

Two BIG words on Heathcare debate---People vs Government...which one is/should be bigger?

I love these "word bubbles"---the size of the word reflects how much it is used relative to the others, in this casea poll on heathcare reform from Gallup...Interesting dichotomy from both sides in a very close poll on the issue (worth a look at the results)..

From Five Thirty Eight blog:  Two Pictures Tell the Story on Health Care Debate
Gallup did something pretty cool in connection with their latest health care survey, which was to provide the verbatim responses (.xls) of the rationales given by people who would tell their Congressman to vote for or against the current health care bills, respectively.  I ran the responses through Wordle, a word-cloud generating tool, omitting certain words that were parts of speech or were otherwise nongermane.  

Here are the words that were used most frequently by the 45 percent of the country who would tell their Congressman to vote for the health care bill:

And here are the words used most commonly by the 48 percent of the country who would tell their Congressman to vote against it:

In some sense, this is a very old-fashioned debate about the proper role of government. The message that the pro-reform voters have taken away comes through loudly and clearly: 'PEOPLE ... NEED ... INSURANCE', whereas concerns among the anti's boil down to 'GOVERNMENT' and 'COST'

Nice reference for Civil Rights Era Photos by Charles Moore....

A great reference if you need photos of the Civil Rights Movement.  All photos by Charles Moore (photo on left)...Some I have never seen before and all are very impactful...

Monday, March 15, 2010

The National Debt is about the size of a city block---See for yourself...

This is a visual representation of our National Debt to give you an idea of the scale and scope of what it means...Each tiny square you see is the eqivilent of a wooden pallet that holds $100 Million (click HERE for THAT visual). Notice in the bottom left hand corner (very tiny!)---a person of average height!!  This graphic represents $11 Trillion Dollars...Keep in mind the current National Debt is $12.4 Trillion...Add a couple of more layers...

Engineering Grads Earn The Most---good news for the NERDS!!!!

From WSJ: Engineering Grads Earn The Most

 Major                                                       Average Salary Offer

Petroleum Engineering                                                   $86,220

Chemical Engineering                                                    $65,142

Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological                 $64,552

Computer Science                                                        $61,205

Computer Engineering                                                   $60,879

Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering        $59,074

Mechanical Engineering                                                 $58,392

Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering                              $57,734

Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering         $57,231

Information Sciences & Systems                                    $54,038

Source: Winter 2010 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. Data represent offers to bachelor’s degree candidates where 10 or more offers were reported.

Looking for a Job? Head to Brazil or India---Lookin' good there...

The Economist: Hire or fire?

IN 27 out of 36 countries surveyed by Manpower, an employment-services firm, more companies said they expected to add jobs in the three months to the end of June than said they reckoned on reducing their workforce. The difference between the proportion of hirers and firers was highest in Brazil and India. Throughout Asia companies have become more optimistic about hiring than they were a year ago, most dramatically in Singapore but only slightly in Japan. Things look less rosy in Europe. In several countries, including Spain and Ireland, more companies expect to see cuts to their workforce than expect it to grow. Of the four countries where the outlook has darkened, three are in Europe.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How sweet it is...well, if you live in a country other than the US that is...

From WSJ:  Price Gap Puts Spice in Sugar-Quota Fight
The world market price for sugar is much lower than the US (Domestic) price of sugar (see chart to the left).  How can this be? The US maintains a numerical quota on how much sugar can be imported into the US.  The current domestic supply PLUS the amount of allowed imports is not enough to supply the domestic demands of sugar refiners, producers that use sugar as an input, and consumers. 
About 85% of the sugar consumed by Americans grows domestically, with the rest imported from about 40 countries under a quota-allocating system and Mexico, which isn't bound by the program under a free-trade treaty. Within the quota, exporters get higher prices paid by U.S. buyers but are subject to stiff tariffs once that limit is exceeded.
The presumed market price, quantity demanded and quantity supplied would be at point "A" in the US Market for Sugar (below on the left). 
Because of the import quota, the ACTUAL market price, quantity demanded and quantity supplied is at point "B" in the US Market for Sugar.   The world price for sugar is represented by the graph on the right at point "A".  The world (international) price for sugar is considerably lower ($19.67 per pound world vs $35.02 per pound in US)
The gap between what Americans and the rest of the world pay for sugar has reached its widest level in at least a decade, breathing new life into the battle over import quotas that prop up the price of the sweet stuff in the U.S. For years, U.S. prices have been artificially inflated by import restrictions designed to protect American farmers. That has kept the price well above the global market.
Quotas are one way to restrict imports.  The other way is through tariffs.  Both serve to limit imports, but tariffs bring revenue to the government and quotas allow domestic producers of sugar to reap a higer price market price, hence, presumably higher profits.  Regardless of the method it seems we pay, directly or indirectly, more for sugar and products we consume made with sugar.  The government does this to protect the US sugar industry and to ensure that we can continue to have a virbrant domestic source of sugar.  Is this policy correct?  Should we allow more imports even if it puts domestic producers out of business?  Tough choice...You make the call!!!

Iraqis appreciate Democracy more than Americans do...No question....

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