It started over the weekend when SNL included some of the most anti-Democrat-policy skits ever to broach their halls. Most at the expense of Obama and Obamacare.
Yesterday’s Star-Tribune included the headline (in moderately larger than normal type just below the masthead) “MNsure costs steeper in some areas”. The article itself sounded almost like it was lifted right out of the New York Post. This from a newspaper nicknamed ‘The Red-Star’ for it’s socialist leanings.
Above the fold on the Metro section was a headline “Taxpayers to pay $60k in legal fees” referring to costs awarded to a group of home childcare folks who sued Governor Dayton, and won, over his efforts to unionize them. And yes, for those outside of MN, Dayton did indeed attempt, with considerable effort, to unionize people who run a childcare out of their home.
This morning it was the turn of CBS. You’d be forgiven if you checked the channel thinking that you’d accidentally switched to Fox News Channel. A Billion “with a B” wasted taxpayer money was rolling off their tongues with only a slight hint at a choke as they said it.
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras recently posted this article on Foxnews.com about binge drinking among teens. The overall point he’s trying to make is that our raising the drinking age to 21 in 1984 has been beneficial and that 1,000 lives per year have been saved in decreased traffic fatalities.
First, I want to point out that Kardaras is a former NYC club owner who nearly died from a drug overdose. Afterward, he had a spiritual awakening and today is a psychologist specializing in addictions. I have a considerable bit of respect for anyone who turns their life around like this.
That said, there are several problems with his article. First, he tries to support his article with a study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics by University of Michigan ISR. That study concluded that binge drinking is a significant problem among U.S. teens. It also indicated that binge drinking among teens has declined from 22% in 2005 to 18.1% in 2011.
First, a decline in binge drinking from 2005 to 2011 has nothing to do with a law enacted in 1984. By sandwiching his thesis between comments about this study he strongly implies that it does, but there is absolutely nothing from this study that supports his supposition.
Quite the contrary in fact. Kardaras says:
“What we do know is that raising the legal drinking age saved lives. When the National Drinking Age Act of 1984 went into effect and states were compelled to eventually raise their minimum drinking age to 21—or face federal funding cuts—an estimated 1,000 lives per year were saved in decreased highway fatalities—that’s almost 30,000 lives saved by a change in federal legislation.”
He provides no support for his statement of 1,000 lives saved. Let’s quickly look at reality. Here’s a chart of road deaths in the U.S. from 1921 to 2011.
Now, let’s look closer at the years surrounding 1984, the year we raised the drinking age:
Deaths declined considerably in the years leading up to the law’s passing in 1984. In the first year the law was fully enacted deaths increased by 2,262. The following year, 1987, deaths increased by 303. And they continued to rise. They didn’t come back down to the 1985 level until 1991. Deaths continued to decline for two more years and then rose again. There is nothing in this data nor in road deaths per capita nor road deaths per vehicle miles traveled nor road deaths among teens that gives any indication that the 1984 law had any positive impact.
What we do know is that the declines do correspond to mandatory seatbelt legislation in various states. Also, cars were getting continuously safer throughout this period which accounts for considerable declines.
So, any theory of Kardaras that the 1984 law saved lives on our roads has zero basis in fact.
How do we compare to other countries, Europe in particular? Young teens in the U.S. do drink less and get drunk less often than young teens anywhere in Europe. In fact, young teens in the U.S. have been drunk less often than young teens of all OECD countries.
By 16-years-old however, this changes considerably. Overall European teens still drink more, and both groups appear to have been drunk about the same number of times. However, binge drinking (five drinks in two hours) and extreme binge drinking (10 drinks in two hours) are now the domain of U.S., U.K., and Austrian teens, with rates about four times as high was Western Europe overall.
Worse, 17 out of every 100,000 teen boys in the U.S. between 15 and 19 die a violent (often alcohol or drug related) death. Switzerland is next with 4 per 100,000 and Ireland is about 3. The rest of Europe is below 2 per 100,000.
Our road fatalities rates look worse. While 10 out of every 100,000 people are killed on U.S. roads every year, Europe averages 3.4 per 100,000. Our roads are 3 times as dangerous as Europe’s.
Both of these latter contribute to our lowest in the industrial world life expectancy.
Any way you slice it, the U.S. is as bad (drunkenness among older teens) or worse (binge drinking, extreme binge drinking, road fatalities, violent deaths among teens, overall life expectancy) than Europe.
Yes, our younger teens don’t get drunk as often, but a couple of years later, when it counts, how’s it working out?
Do you want Europe’s culture with much lower violent death, lower binge drinking, hugely lower road fatalities, and longer life expectancy, or our current culture?
Republicans and Fox News are missing an important element of Obamacare. A huge number of people will go on the exchanges and decide that they really like Obamacare:
- For many this will be the first time they’ve been able to afford any health insurance or the first time in a long time.
- Many others will find insurance for premiums considerably below what they are currently paying.
- Few people, if any, will experience any immediate negatives.
The vast majority of folks in the U.S. will see Obamacare as either a huge positive or at the very least, nothing negative. They’re all going to look at the Republicans and Fox News like they’re nuts to be so upset over it. Obamacare will, very likely, appear to be a huge success.
And in fact, there are many things about Obamacare that are either good or at the very least not so bad:
- Coverage for Children Through Age 26
- Coverage Regardless of Pre-Existing Conditions
- The Exchanges Themselves (which are actually rather capitalist)
The one note I’ll make is that websites like eHealthInsurance have provided the same function as the exchanges for over a decade. The state exchanges under Obamacare have simply garnered more press and public relations (and cost taxpayers billions of dollars to develop).
The problems with Obamacare are things that many people will not really feel.
- The Medical Device Tax
- Personal Mandates
- Employer Mandates
- The Size of Entitlement Subsidies
The only one of these that many people will feel is the personal mandate. But even this will be muted since a number of those impacted by this will also be well in to the heavy subsidy range so won’t have to pay too much.
The Medical Device Tax will very likely be repealed soon since the majority of Democrats now agree that it is quite harmful. The Employer Mandate has already been having a significant negative impact with employers either not hiring new employees to stay below the magic bullet of 50 or reducing the hours of employees to keep full-time employees below 50. That sure is working well.
The biggest problem however, will be the huge increase in entitlements. Few will feel this directly, though everyone will feel it indirectly—they just won’t know it. Taxes will have to be raised significantly to cover this new entitlement program that will likely be the largest in U.S. history. Significantly increased taxes will not only reduce how much money people have but also less money invested in companies and products and thus fewer jobs available.
Like a frog in a pan of cold water that’s heated to boiling, we’ll roll happily along.
In striking down state laws requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote they’ve decided that while people must be legal citizens of the U.S. to vote, there can be no requirement to prove it.
So, while it’s not necessary to prove you’re a citizen to vote, it is necessary to prove you’re a citizen to get a job. And employers are required to check this.
Target are introducing a new line of organic foods in their stores tomorrow. The problem with their new Simply Balanced line is that about one-quarter of the items, according to Target, contain Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMO’s.
Last I checked that was quite un-organic.
When OpenTable first came out we were very enthusiastic supporters. It was a great idea and provided a great service to us as customers. We’d tell restaurants that, more and more, we chose where to eat using OpenTable. And we did. Most of our favorite restaurants signed up and they got more business from us and many others.
Now they’re all signing out, and so are we.
Apparently OpenTable have raised their fees so high that it’s no longer worth it. With more and more restaurants dropping out it’s also no longer worth it for us to use OpenTable as a primary source of where to eat.
R.I.P. OpenTable. We’ll miss ya.
Attorney General Eric Holder recently wanting to meet with representatives of the press to negotiate how he’ll conduct future investigations involving them is like a thief meeting with neighbors after robbing one to negotiate how he’ll conduct future robberies.
Only Holder’s is worse. A thief is only taking our stuff. We can replace that. Holder wants to take our freedom. He want’s to negotiate how he’ll continue to violate our 1st Amendment – one of the most important cornerstones of our democracy.
I recently overheard some realtors discussing how best to help people relocating to our metro from other cities. What intrigued me most was a comment to stay away from X, Y, and other northeastern suburbs because younger couples won’t buy there.
This concerned me because I live in X.
The gist of the conversation was that younger couples value being able to walk and bike to local stores and such. We apparently don’t have as good of sidewalks and bike lanes as southern parts of our city and southern suburbs.
According to two of these realtors, many couples will be interested in houses they’re shown in our area, but then loose interest quickly when they realize the not so great walking and cycling infrastructure. They’ll pay considerably more for the same house where they can more easily and safely walk and bike to the store or their kids can bike to school
Not very encouraging to hear that our city isn’t so desirable.
The overreaction from both sides as we approach sequester is quite amazing.
For a bit of perspective, consider this. Sequester is the same as a 50 employee company who was hoping to hire a new person not being able to. Imagine you work for a 50 employee company and your boss calls everyone together and says that, due to the economy, income hasn’t been as high as they’d hoped and while they’d hoped to hire a new person and give all existing employees raises, they’ll only be able to do one of these and they’ve decided to give everyone raises and hold off on the new hire. Sounds pretty reasonable. In fact, many people have gone through much worse at their companies in the past few years. ONLY getting raises and not getting a new employee probably sounds pretty good to a lot of people in the private sector.
Imagine if instead your boss came in screaming that the because income didn’t increase as much as they’d hoped that the company was in dire straights and would have to lay off a bunch of employees and cut the wages of those left and would have to cut healthcare and customers would be angry of this and they’d start to leave and they’d probably file lawsuits and oh what a terrible horrible thing this is.
Janet Nepolitano is screaming that our national security will be in danger and that people need to get to airports hours earlier because of TSA shortages and this and that and all kinds of horrible things. HER BUDGET IS INCREASING! She’ll have 1.2% more in 2013 than in 2012. She and all these others are pitching temper tantrums because they’re not getting as much more as they wanted. She won’t have to lay off any employees, she just won’t be able to hire more if she also wants to give raises to all of her current employees. Consider TSA. Walk through an airport and notice how many TSA employees are working and how many are standing around. She should be able to absorb cuts of 20% – 50% without any impact in service levels.
This is one I’m surprised I hadn’t found out about earlier
Cities and Counties (not sure about states) have a trick for increasing revenue from speeding tickets when they can’t find enough speeders – increase lane width.
Most of us have known that ticket revenue is a critical part of funding law enforcement. And this has become even more apparent in recent years with ‘administrative fines’ that are purely a revenue source and have nothing to do with road safety.
This new trick isn’t much different. Traffic engineers are encouraged to widen road lanes but not raise speed limits accordingly.
Here’s how it works.
The maximum legal width of vehicles is between 8’ and 8.5’. EG, the widest a semi, bus, or other vehicle can be is about 8’. The average car is 5’5” wide with the largest consumer vehicle being the Chevy Suburban at 6’7”.
Lane widths are based primarily on the intended speed of the roadway with some consideration given to other factors such as traffic handling capacity, one-way vs two-way, shoulders, parking, and other factors. Throughout most of the industrialized world and historically in the U.S. these widths have been:
< 25mph = 7’ – 8’ lanes
25mph = 8’ lanes
30mph = 9’
35mph = 9.5’
40mph = 10’
45mph = 10.5’
50mph = 11’
> 50mph = 11’ – 12’
Lane width has a significant impact on how fast people drive. The widths above generally result in people driving about the desired speed. Increasing the lane width increases the average speed accordingly.
Combine increased lane width with not raising the speed limit and you have increased opportunity for ticket revenue.
For example, over the past two years the city and county re-stripped four roads by my house that I’ve used nearly every day for about 25 years. These roads previously had lane widths of either 9.5’ (with a 35mph speed limit) or 10’ (with a 40mph speed limit). The 9.5’ lanes were increased to 11’, the 10’ lanes were increased to 11’ and 11.5’.
A couple of months ago I got a ticket for going 45 in a 35 on one of these (what is now a long, straight, flat, wide road). The poor cop wasn’t aware of what he’d gotten himself in to by stopping me. Many questions ensued and, fortunately, he was very nice about it. He told me that they’d never had many complaints of speeding on that road until recently and over the past year he’d found that he could pull people over as fast as he could write tickets. I asked if this corresponded with the re-stripping and he replied “of course”, like how dumb was I not to know that.
It only took a couple of calls to traffic engineers to confirm this game.
Revenue First, Safety Second
What galls me far more than government using this charade for raising revenue is that it does so at the expense of safety. Prior to the widening of the lanes, drivers stuck pretty close to the desired speed. Me included. Intentionally increasing speeds the way they did also intentionally decreased safety for the people who live along these roads (these are all residential roads). It’s more dangerous for them leaving their driveways or when working in their yards near the roadway. Not to mention the increase in tire noise created by faster vehicles (an increase from 35mph to 42mph doubles the noise level).
Further, the total pavement width was not changed so the shoulders used by pedestrians and cyclists were decreased by anywhere from 1.5’ to 2’ which made all of these roads much more hazardous for these users. Shoulders that were 3’ to 5’ are now 1.5’ to 3’. Not a smart move given the significant increase in people riding bikes and walking.
The response from local traffic engineers is that the wider lanes reduce crashes. There are two problems with this though. First is that no study, of dozens done on this topic, supports this position. Worse, several, three in particular, indicate that widening lanes beyond an appropriate width (see above) increases crashes and decreases safety due to the natural increased speed. Second is that actual crash data for these roads thus far shows no change in number or severity.
So, less safe for residents, significantly less safe for pedestrians and cyclists, more noise, and no safer for motorists. But more revenue for the city.