The documents revealed an economic system in which the sellers don’t set and the buyers don’t know the prices. The University of Pennsylvania hospital charged more than 12 times what Medicare at the time reimbursed for a chest scan. One insurer paid a hospital for 80 percent of the $3,232 price of a scan, while another covered 24 percent. Insurance companies negotiated their own rates, and neither my employers nor I paid the difference between the sticker and discounted prices.
In this economic system, prices of goods and services bear little relation to the demand for them or their cost to make — or, as it turns out, the good or harm they do. “No other nation would allow a health system to be run the way we do it. It’s completely insane,” said Uwe E. Reinhardt, a political economy professor at Princeton University, who has advised Congress, the Veteran’s Administration and other agencies on health-care economics.
Taking it all into account, the data showed we had made a bargain that hardly any economist looking solely at the numbers would say made sense. Why did we do it?
For all our obsessing about it, the national debt is a singularly bad way of measuring the nation’s financial condition. It includes only a small portion of the nation’s total liabilities. And it’s focused on the past. An honest assessment of the country’s projected revenue and expenses over the next generation would show a reality different from the apocalyptic visions conjured by both Democrats and Republicans during the debt-ceiling debate. It would be much worse.
That’s why the posturing about whether and how Congress should increase the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 has been a hollow exercise. Failure to increase the borrowing limit would harm American prestige and the global financial system. But that’s nothing compared with the real threats to the U.S.’s long-term economic health, which will begin to strike with full force toward the end of this decade: Sharply rising per-capita health-care spending, coupled with the graying of the populace; a generation of workers turning into an outsize generation of beneficiaries. Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Michael J. Boskin, who was President George H.W. Bush’s chief economic adviser, says: “The word ‘unsustainable’ doesn’t convey the problem enough, in my opinion.”
By the early 1970s, 17 IUDs were under development by 15 different companies. The problems started with the fourth one to actually hit the market: the Dalkon Shield. AH Robins (which also made ChapStick and Robitussin) marketed one version of it as a smaller option for women who didn’t have children. Like all medical devices at the time, the Shield wasn’t vetted by the FDA. While drugs got careful screening, safety and efficacy claims on device labels did not. The FDA stepped in only if people started reporting problems.
And report they did. Women with the Shield came to doctors ravaged by infection. Some complained of uterine bleeding or pain during sex. In others, the symptoms were less severe, like vaginal discharge or vague abdominal pain. Doctors diagnosed some of them with a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease—PID—which can be caused by chlamydia and gonorrhea or by normal vaginal bacteria. The women took antibiotics and usually got better, though a few rare cases led to hysterectomies. Furthermore, the Shield had a higher failure rate than originally reported, and some women who became pregnant with the Shield in place experienced spontaneous septic abortion, a miscarriage complicated by infection. At least 18 died. In 1974, faced with a flood of Shield-linked complaints, AH Robins took it off the market.
From ABC News, the key detail: “The special committee must make recommendations by late November (before Congress’ Thanksgiving recess). If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare. This ‘trigger’ is designed to force action on the deficit reduction committee’s recommendations by making the alternative painful to both Democrats and Republicans.”
“What explains the reticence of most journalists toward Fox News? Fear is no doubt a factor. No one wants to be ambushed by one of its camera crews or mugged on one of its shows. Some journalists worry that, if they investigate Fox, they’ll be accused of liberal bias. Others are dismissive of Fox’s influence. But Fox’s influence seems to be growing, as has been disturbingly apparent during the current debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The intransigence and extremism shown by so many Republicans in Congress has to a degree been enabled and enforced by Fox and its supporting cast on talk radio and the Internet. The cone of silence Fox has been accorded by other news organizations has helped it advance its agenda. It’s time to break it.”—Michael Massing, It’s Time to Scrutinize Fox (via nybooks)
What’s interesting is that Icahn isn’t even interested in buying the company. He already owns 9.4% and he’s more interested in getting a bidding war started between other consumer products companies. Icahn even suggested potential buyers. (Here’s his letter.)
On Friday, shares of $CLX closed at $74.55, which is short of Icahn’s offer. This means that investors are doubtful that a bidding war will start. In any event, Clorox’s board shot back saying that it had no interest in Icahn’s bid (“Our board has unanimously determined Mr. Icahn’s unsolicited proposal is neither credible nor adequate.”)
“Most journalism seeks to convey information objectively, but trauma stories have an agenda: they call to the reader to witness, to agree with the writer that “This should not have been.” If there is no agreement between reader and writer, or if the writer fails, the story is an exercise in voyeurism. In rape stories, we are
publicly exposing the personal suffering of survivors. If we do this with any other intention than that rape should not happen—or if we do this without any clear intention at all—we are indulging in a kind of storytelling that critics do not hesitate to call pornography.”—
“This was not a spa set up to cater to my whims for cucumber water; this was set up as a space in which clients are clearly guests, who may or may not be confused about protocol (I certainly was, and there’s nothing like being wet, naked, and confused with a bunch of other wet, naked, confused people to drive home the idea that though you might be the almighty consumer, you’re not necessarily going to experience any glory for merely having purchased a beauty service).”—Beauty, and What It Means: Equalizing Power in Salons and Spas, Or Why Spa Castle Is Basically the Best Place on Earth
The perturbed driver may be asking, ‘why do they have to close the whole thing down? Why can’t they just do it a lane at a time?’ And indeed, any number of strategies have been tried to mitigate traffic impacts during construction, from nocturnal work crews (which has been found to add 6% to the base price of a project) to various incentive plans for road contractors.
But as research by the Federal Highway Administration has shown, closing down a highway entirely means the job gets done, on average, 63 to 95 percent faster than projects that tried to maintain a semblance of traditional traffic. Why? No traffic means no interference from drivers, no work-zone crashes (in 2007, for example, 835 people were killed in work zone crashes) or other bad behavior, not to mention that the trucks hauling materials and workers don’t have to sit in the same congestion as everyone else as they go back and forth.
The secret to making this happen, as is happening in Los Angeles, is to enact a comprehensive “Traffic Management Plan,” with careful study of alternate routes and “network effects.” Implicit in this is to issue a prediction of Nostradamusian direness; to do for weekend driving what Jaws did for ocean swimming (“just when you thought it was safe to go to Santa Monica”).
Then I looked into it, and discovered that what I thought were right-wing conspiracy theories about the nexus of Western feminism and population control actually had some, if very distant and entirely historical, basis in truth. As it turns out, Western advisors and researchers, and Western money, were among the forces that contributed to a serious reduction in the number of women and girls in the developing world. And today feminist and reproductive-rights groups are still reeling from that legacy.
The story begins in the mid-20th century, when several factors converged to make Western demographers worried about global population growth. Thanks to advances in public health, people were living longer than ever before. Projections released by the U.N. Population Division in 1951 suggested what the sum of all those extra years of life could be: Rapid population growth was on the horizon, particularly in the developing world. As pundits forecast a global “population explosion,” anxiety mounted in policy circles, and the population control movement that coalesced brought together everyone from environmentalists to McCarthyites. Viewed through a 1960s Beltway lens, mounting numbers of people meant higher rates of poverty, which in turn made countries more vulnerable to communism.
I had a video posted of a sabong match in the Philippines. “Sabong” is cock-fighting, and I believe I’d marked the video as possibly-offensive/adult or whatever the indicator was… It’s been up there for a year or two, and I just (unexpectedly) got an email saying I’d received a…