Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Looking at the numbers

The Treasury has released its “Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Report of the U.S. Government”. The report separates cash results from complete results. Net Operating Cost ($1.157 trillion) is defined as revenues minus costs,which I interpret as complete results. The Budget Deficit ($665.7 billion) is defined as receipts minus outlays (cash spent). The difference of $491 billion between the two is, according to the report, “primarily due to accrued costs (incurred but not necessarily paid) related to increases in estimated federal employee and veteran benefits liabilities and certain other liabilities that are included in net operating cost, but not the budget deficit.”

Here's where the $3.4 trillion in revenues came from: 
80% from Individual income tax and tax withholdings, including Social Security 
9% from Corporation income taxes 
11% from other revenue. 

The costs of $4.5 trillion were divided up as follows: 
24% Department of Health and Human services 
22% Social Security 
15% Department of Defense 
11% Department of Veterans Affairs 
22% All other 
6% Interest on Treasury Securities held by the public

A Stupid Liar

When will we reach this situation?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Living in Hell

In the New York Review of Books for March 8 Enrique Krauze describes current conditions in Venezuela. While Chavez and Maduro made a considerable number of bad decisions, the worst one was with the state-owned oil company, the driver of the economy. Their changes to the company resulted in a huge loss of production.Here is how the article begins:
In the spring of 2017, and all through the year, social media feeds in Venezuela were filled with images of deprivation and despair: long lines of people hoping to purchase food; women fighting over a stick of butter; mothers who could not find milk to buy; children picking through garbage in search of something to eat; empty shelves in pharmacies and stores; hospitals without stretchers, drugs, or minimum levels of hygiene; doctors operating on a patient by the light of a cell phone; women giving birth outside of hospitals. Venezuela’s economy, the economist Ricardo Hausmann wrote in a recent study, is suffering a collapse that is “unprecedented” in the Western world. Between 2013 and 2017 the country’s national and per capita GDPs contracted more severely than those of the US did during the Great Depression and more than those of Russia, Cuba, and Albania did after the fall of communism.
This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions. By May 2017, Venezuela’s minimum monthly wage wasn’t enough to meet even 12 percent of a single person’s basic food needs. A survey of 6,500 households by three prestigious universities showed that 74 percent of the population had lost on average nineteen pounds in 2016. Infant mortality in hospitals has risen by 100 percent. Diseases nearly eradicated in many countries, like malaria and diphtheria, have flourished; illnesses largely new to the area, like Chikungunya, Zika, and dengue, have spread. Caracas is now the most dangerous city on the planet. All this is happening in a country that has one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

Watch it and weep

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Comparing Health Systems

The Commonwealth Fund has concluded that our health system is worse than that of many high-income countries (Switzerland, Sweden, France, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway, Austria). Yet we spend more, as a percentage of GDP, on it than any of the other countries.

The Fund used 72 indicators to look at five areas: Care Process, Access, Administrative Efficiency, Equity, and Health Care Outcomes. Here's what they found.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Want some pie?

Or, do you want to frame it?

What is Truth?

One of the difficulties in writing a blog is trying to figure out what is true. Another problem is not reading as carefully as one should. I screwed up in both cases on a post about the Florida school shooting.

The Miami Herald article that was my basis clearly questioned whether there were 18 school shootings this year. This number was issued by Every Town for Gun Safety. It includes shootings where the only connection of a school to a shooting was that the shooting was near the school. The group included shootings late at night when the schools were closed. 

Well, this is the "first mistake" I've made this year. Hopefully, it's the last. But, that's highly unlikely as, being human, I do err reasonably often.

Friday, February 16, 2018

What am I missing?

On the previous post there are a number of charts related to deaths by gun. Vide:
We have the most deaths per million by firearm (29.7) than any other country. The closest is Switzerland at 7.7.
We own 42% of the guns in the world yet our population is only 4.43% of the world's population.
Yet we are below average in the amount of violent crime.
True, the number of suicides by gun in the U.S. are more than homicides by gun. But there are still a lot of people dying by guns, more than any other place in the world. We need much, much better control.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Some interesting charts

From VOX

Combining work and vacation time

David Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs, has been called to task by the Inspector General for a 10-day, $122,000 business trip he took to Europe in July, which included $4200 airfare for his wife. He led a VA team to Copenhagen and London for 10 days in July,but only 3-1/2 days were devoted to business. The rest of the time was spent on sightseeing and unofficial activities, such as attending the Wimbledon tennis tournament using free tickets. He was not alone; he was accompanied by his wife, a small staff and a six-person security detail.

To justify paying for the secretary’s wife’s $4,000 airfare, the IG's report said, the department’s chief of staff altered an email to indicate that Dr. Shulkin and his wife had been specifically invited to an honorary dinner in Denmark, when in fact they had not. While the couple were in London, the report found, they improperly accepted tickets to a tennis match at Wimbledon.

Shulkin is not the only cabinet secretary to be accused of lavish spending on travel. Tom Price was dismissed as secretary of health and human services over his use of private jets.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

More personnel questions

What does it take to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy? Before Trump, it has taken a very intelligent and experienced scientist. Trump has failed to nominate someone for this position. He has assigned the job to Michael Kratsios, a graduate of Princeton in 2008 with a political science degree that featured a concentration in American politics. 

GE and Barack used their guy to  handle the anthrax scare, the Deepwater Horizon disaster and an Ebola outbreak. Now we are having one of the worst flu seasons in more than a decade. What is the government doing about it? Then, there  are the questions about lead-poisoned drinking water and record-breaking disasters that many scientists say are sharpened by rising temperatures. What can Katsios do about these problems?

Concussions in women's sports

What's with schools and guns?

Today's shooting in the Florida high school is the 18th school shooting so far this year. That's a shooting every two-and-a-half days. Twenty people have been killed, or one every two-and-a-quarter days.

Good signs or bad signs?