Privatization is not capitalism

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The slow-roll collapse of the ill-advised Iowa Medicaid privatization, which was put in place by former Governor Terry Branstad, continues under his successor, Kim Reynolds, to harm the lives of real Iowa citizens with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. Because of that fiasco, I thought it would be useful to dispel some widely-held myths about government privatization efforts in general…. Read more »

The casualties of culture

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How “normal” are you in terms of interacting with the culture around you? A continuing theme of this blog is that we can view a lot of medical and social problems as various aggregations of “probabilistic randomness.” That is, many conditions in nature at least appear to occur randomly, but with predictable patterns to that randomness. And when you see a… Read more »

Bank deregulation: Wash, rinse, repeat

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With “bipartisan” bank deregulation rushing its way through Congress again (Why do bad bills progress so quickly?) I thought it time for a little history lesson. As if the 2008 housing debacle wasn’t enough to keep Congress understanding that the banks are rarely to be trusted, let’s go back a couple bank crises before that one, the forgotten one from… Read more »

Me and my homunculus

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Homunculus is one of those great words to have in your back pocket. You never know when it might come in handy, and it is a fun word to say. Traditionally, the homunculus was a small physical representation of a human used in the practice of alchemy during the 16th century to symbolize their attempts to re-create human life by… Read more »

Government budgets are moral documents

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“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” – U. S. Constitution, Article I Section 8 With the release of President Trump’s first proposed budget, I thought… Read more »

Uber wages and the Amway model

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A recent controversial study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [1] has asserted that Uber and Lyft drivers’ median wage is really just $3.37 per hour. I don’t want to wade here into the final number calculated by MIT, but I thought it might be useful to demonstrate that the techniques used by Uber and Lyft to keep the “real… Read more »

Do bad things really happen in threes?

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In an earlier post about Poisson processes, I teased the question, “Do ‘bad things’ really happen in threes, as the common folk wisdom goes?” The short answer is, “No.” Okay, there is some wiggle room of basis for this myth for certain familiar Poisson processes, where some random timing effects can cause our minds to perceive a natural grouping of… Read more »

Taxpayer-financed business failure insurance

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Two recent posts looked at private equity (PE) as an aberrant form of business model dependent first on very artificial tax preferences and second on the ability to empty the cash from “cash cow” businesses. In this final part of my critique of PE, I will look at the liberal use of bankruptcy protection as a “feature, not a bug”… Read more »

What makes the United States different on guns?

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A February 26 interview by NPR’s Steve Inskeep with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin on the curiously-ignored mass school shooting in his state in January was one of the most disturbing discussions with a politician I have heard recently. In short, Governor Bevin has no explanation for school shootings except “evil,” and thus no useful suggestions for countering this national tragedy. He… Read more »