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Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

Food happens to be a relatable tangible good. I've had trouble with people claiming things like Netflix or cellular communication aren't "making things" and that the US doesn't "make things" because anything that's not concrete isn't real. If people are going to point at an increase in medical care, high-speed internet availability, and personal entertainment services and call that "not really making anything" to argue that the economy is failing and the US has collapsed, I'm going to have to start pointing at things that people can actually relate to.

Things like food.

By the by, I like my phone, and I like my 200Mbit/s Internet; but poor people need food and shelter first and foremost, and their ability to survive (and the general ability of a population to expand) kind of relies on their ability to eat. I encourage you to try not eating for one month and tell me how it goes.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

Uh, that rebuttle isn't so obvious. Food prices continue to be extremely low because population doesn't expand to drive prices up. The moment scarcity starts to set in, unemployment starts going up, poverty starts increasing, and we get more poor people and fewer middle- and upper-class. Do you see that happening around you?

My argument is that population expands to fit abundance. Do you see population rapidly expanding to consume all of our employment opportunities? What if I told you that the labor force would slow its expansion during high unemployment? What if that actually happened from 2008 to 2012? What if the population somewhat dipped during that time?

You haven't provided any argument that says that expanding beyond our means would not cause population to slow its growth, while I have shown good reasoning that it does and demonstrated the effect actually occurring during times when poverty (and thus individual access to means) has increased.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

You don't know that. There are many companies that operate on a tight profit margin

UH, I said that maximized competition can't push prices down below actual costs. If your business spends $1,000 and charges the customer $500, it goes out of business. That is a 100% guarantee. That's not a "tight profit margin"; that's a loss.

Maximized competition and whatever else can't push prices down below actual costs. If you charge customers less than you spend to produce goods, you go out of business. If a hospital is spending $63,000 to provide care and charging $58,000 for that care, it goes out of business. Period.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

Again, you're focused on insurance market competition and not on healthcare competition.

The insurance market is selling insurance to individuals.

The healthcare market is selling healthcare to patients.

The interaction between healthcare and insurance is that patients are less-accessible to healthcare providers if those providers don't provide rates to those patients which are competitive with the rates other providers provide; and that insurers engage in group negotiation on behalf of the insured.

That means healthcare providers are competing for patients when they negotiate with the insurance providers. The patients are paying healthcare providers to act as effective negotiators for them, and backing them with their patronage. If the healthcare providers don't negotiate a good deal with the consumer via their elected arbiter (insurer), then the consumer goes to someone who did negotiate a good deal with them; and we call those people who negotiate deals "in-network providers".

They also have very little reason to worry about competition since health markets tend to be very regional

So what? Nearly half of all providers are out of my care network. They're excluded from my healthcare options because they cost me three to ten times as much. If the hospitals, doctors, psychiatrists, and pharmacies wanted my business, they should have signed on with CareFirst's BlueChoice PPO network and CVS Caremark's Pharmacy Benefits Manager. I've got out-of-network providers charging me $1,079 for things my insurance won't cover, at all; my in-network providers have negotiated a rate of $101, refuse to cover it, and so I have to pay the whole $101 out-of-pocket. Guess who I go to for doctor's services, prescriptions, and drugs?

ACA has guaranteed their profit to be capped to a percentage of premiums

That's actually a constant, and it doesn't much matter if you don't have customers. Let's take a look before the ACA.

A great many insurance companies have operated as NPOs for decades. Healthcare Services Corporation is a customer-owned for-profit insurance company--the same way a Credit Union is a customer-owned bank--with 15 million customers. CareFirst Blue Cross formed as non-profit in the 1930s, and considered (but didn't go through with) converting to a for-profit entity in 2001. Most Blue Cross and Blue Shield association members are NPOs or customer cooperatives.

Because of the NPO status of most insurers, they operate largely on carry-over and can't distribute profits in giant bursts to board members. Essentially, NPOs pay no taxes on profits; and the IRS may revoke your 501(c)(3) status if you generate too much profit and don't spend it in pursuit of your NPO-eligible business activity. For an insurer, that means you have to spend your profits maximizing the effectiveness of your insurance.

For example: CareFirst's CEO, Chett Burrell, got $2.5 million in salary and incentive pay in 2013; in 2014, CareFirst had an $865 million surplus, which prompted the city of DC to investigate whether CareFirst DC had a compelling need to float that much cash. In 2015, CareFirst was ordered to spend $268 million of this surplus to pay for public health services in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, including wellness programs, free clinics, public vaccination programs, and so forth. If CareFirst doesn't reduce its excess holdings or simply starts liquidating them via $13 million dollar executive bonuses each year, the IRS can revoke their 501(c)(3) status and make them pay 40% of their profits (that means $350 million of that $865 million) in taxes.

How does that tie profits to premiums?

In this situation, as you observe, CareFirst's profits are reliant on their premiums: if they have higher costs, they can charge higher premiums; and if they have to charge higher premiums, they have to carry over a larger surplus to cover for risk. Adverse risk events would easily take down an insurer who didn't carry over enough money to pay for sudden, unplanned costs; the size of those events scales with the size of costs, meaning rendering the same services at half the cost allows you to secure yourself with half as big a bank account in reserve.

Thus, as you point out, bigger premiums means you can carry over more money, taking more profits, and paying bigger executive bonuses without drawing IRS scrutiny. You still can't pay dividends--unless you're a customer-owned cooperative, in which case you can pay dividends to your customers (including yourself).

The other side of this is you need customers in the first place.

ACA or not, "a percentage of your premiums" only matters if you actually manage to charge premiums. If your customers go on the exchange and see your shit-level plan for $800/month and a silver-level plan for $235/month, they're going to buy the silver-level plan. Insurers have an incentive to draw customers so they can keep a percentage of those premiums as profit.

The only way to get those premium prices down is to get costs down. To get costs down, you must get the healthcare providers to lower their prices. Healthcare providers can lower prices until margins make a sustainable profit, but no lower; to get lower, they must lower costs, which means medical devices, drug costs, and the efficiency of treatments (labor time spent) must go down. Turning a 27-hour surgery with 6 weeks of in-patient care and 4 months of follow-up into a 35-minute outpatient procedure really cuts down the amount of wages paid to doctors, nurses, and staff. We pretty much spend all of our time researching medical technology to cut those costs back in that way; less-traumatic surgery tends to go hand-in-hand with fewer complications and greater patient outcomes.

You can only disconnect competition from the healthcare insurance market by ignoring half of the stuff actually going on. You have to ignore insurance customers, or you have to ignore healthcare providers. If you include customers, insurers, and providers, you can only identify a highly-competitive market.

Comment Re:Greed by any other name... (Score 3, Insightful) 435

Money: irrelevant.

Wage inequality: you work and make $20/hr. They work and make $10/hr. Your 1 hour of work lets you induce them to work for 2 hours.

Technology: It takes 100 hours of human time to make a thing you buy. It costs 50 hours of your work ($1,000) because cheap labor makes it. We found a way to make it in 50 human hours (technology), so now it costs 25 hours of your work ($500).

Markets in long term: You're now spending 25 hours of your labor to buy what 50 hours once bought. You have 25 hours's worth of your labor ($500) unspent. You buy some other thing.

In other words: "technology" has been happening since humans sharpened a stick into a spear--or, hell, since humans learned to hunt effectively in groups instead of ineffectively alone. The whole point of technology is to reduce the number of labor-hours to make something so you pay fewer peoples's wages for that thing. That's how food went from 40% of the median income in 1900 to 33% in 1950, to 12% today. (Clothing dropping by trade was largely wage inequality, but China has improved its manufacturing processes sufficient to push the prices even lower while their workers's standard-of-living increases.)

Remember: wages are paid by revenue. You pay people's salary. Businesses only transfer that revenue around to carry out the transactions between you, workers, other businesses, and management chains. Even business itself is an organizational structure composed of management chains whose entire purpose is to make stuff happen with less labor--because self-organized laborers would be inefficient and everything they make would be expensive as all hell (it's called "artisan", "small-batch", or "hand-made" in general; but more importantly, logistics and business process management eliminate a lot of time costs).

The important point is rate. If you unemploy 50% of your labor force in a year, your economy crashes; if you do it over a decade or so, you end up with an extremely wealthy middle-class which somehow still complains that all the wealth is going elsewhere even while their internet becomes 1,500 times faster, cell phones become available, smart phones become available, more and better healthcare becomes available, clothing gets cheaper, food gets cheaper, they start living in much larger houses to store all the crap (read: luxuries) they're buying, more and more money goes to video games and home theaters, and in general every standard-of-living goes up and up without end.

Apparently, economists have fucked up so bad that they adjust median income for inflation to cite "real" median income, which might actually make it mathematically-impossible to demonstrate a large deviation in median income. When you see GDP-per-capita, that tells you what the per-capita income can buy. So when you see $49K median income becomes $52K median income in 15 years, but $31k GDP-per-capita becomes $57k, what actually happened is people who were making $49k were able to buy what $33k buys now, and people today can buy what $52k buys now.

In other words: the numbers don't make any god damned sense at a glance. "Real incomes" aren't buying power. Buying power income is a complex calculation.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

it's not "magic" that causes this complete crapshoot of prices...it's the lack of a competitive market.

You mean the competition among insurers for customers, and the competition among health care providers for access to large insurer provider networks? The things that can make or break your business: whether your premium is $425 or $317/month, and whether the 240,000 regional customers in your 30-mile radius are disinclined to even show up at your office because the next guy over is covered by their insurance?

"Competition" means true costs are exposed (not "negotiated rates") and consumers have the freedom and mobility of choice to pick one doctor or hospital over another based on known rates

Actually, competition means that two or more participants stand to gain only at the expense of the others, and so tend toward behaviors which maximize their gains. In markets, that means supplying the best service at the lowest price point. In insurance markets, that means attracting customers by lowering premiums; and to do that, you must lower costs. In healthcare markets, that often means attracting insurers to allow you to participate in their provider networks, which means you must lower your prices closer to your costs if there are other providers adequate to care for the clients of the insurers (you're competing with those providers).

Businesses generally tailor their own insurance through a third party. My current employer uses Carefirst for healthcare and CVS for prescriptions, with unique plans designed by the insurance adjusters and our HR department. My employer has to pay Carefirst large amounts of money for insurance (if you've ever looked at COBRA rates, that's what your employer was paying), and I only take up about $25/month of it (of some $700). My last employer used Aflac, and the employer prior used Guardian, each having negotiated similarly for appropriate plans and bid between insurers to find who could provide something they could use to entice employees while also keeping their premiums low to maximize the business's profitability by minimizing benefits expenses.

It's an enormously-competitive market; the problem is healthcare costs in the US are ridiculous, and there's a lot of gerrymandering to cover this. Healthcare profits are all over the place, and some of them are actually pretty big; although how big is a matter of debate. That question has been asked before, with claims like HCA making 20% profit margin and Pfeizer making an egregious 43%. That compares to a rough 10% average profit margin; but are they really that big?

That's not even the whole story, though.

High profit margins are frequently a sign of risk. Pfeizer's profit margin reached a whopping 45.5% in the past few years; their current quarter margin is 10%; and their minimum profit for one year was -1.22% (a loss in Q4 2015). Their 5-year average margin? 19%. Prescription drugs are volatile, and can face large losses; when you include the cost of risk--the losses faced that eat up previous profits so the business doesn't just file for bankruptcy and make someone else pay for it all--80% of the actual price paid to Pfeizer itself is sucked into costs.

Drugs aren't even a large part of the cost of care--which is the other shoe dropping. Hospitals might average 20%, and medical devices might be 33%--although HCA seems to average 6%, and Medtronic seems to max at 25% and average only 17%--but how much medical care is drugs and hospitals, rather than doctor's office visits and preventative care?

That probably doesn't matter all that much when it comes to actual surgery. Catastrophic care is easy to talk about as a sort of edge case offset by high insurance premiums while you just get all the cheap stuff like vaccinations when we're talking about cancer treatment; but people have heart attacks, they break bones working around the house, they get hit by cars, and they get shot and stabbed by criminals. So what's the impact of all these expensive medical devices, drugs, and the lot?

Well, in surgery, you only need so much morphine and such else. The drugs might cost you a few hundred dollars at worst, out of an $80,000 hospital bill. Their 20% average profit margin is pathetically-pointless, and it doesn't even apply if the drugs are highly-generic, cheap crap like epinephrine or morphine.

The hospital's already taking an average 6%, somehow. They have to deal with someone selling them medical devices at some rough 17%-over-cost average, but the medical devices themselves last a long time, and largely back up other, larger costs in terms of both maintenance and operation. Chances are a $1 million medical device is going to hold up through at least 10,000 uses, and so makes up $100 of your bill; if it only holds up to 1,000 uses, it's still only $1,000.

Put those profit margins to use. $1,000 fractional cost of a medical device with a 17% profit means you paid $150 to that net profit margin. A thousand dollars of drugs at 20% means you paid $166 to profits. The rest of that $80,000 hospital bill... $75k of it was cost. You paid $5k of it into business profits.

That's the reality of the situation.

Now tell me what in the hell causes all those costs. Maximized competition and whatever else can't push prices down below those actual costs, else the hospitals and medical companies go out of business.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

We have the lowest costs of these resources now, we should have the highest growth now according to your theory.

Food BECAME cheap at a point in the past. Our population expanded. That's not the only aspect, though.

Let's say you have fertile land to make food for 1,000,000 people, but you have a population of 500,000 people. Now, you need 20% of your workforce to make food, so 100,000 of your population is farmers or farm support, and food costs roughly 20% of the income. With me so far?

Increase your population by 20%.

Now you have 600,000 people. You have ample fertile land, and can make food by employing 20% of these new people--20,000--to that end. That's 120,000 of 600,000 making food, and food costs 20% of your income.

So get up to a population of 1,000,000 already. Then, increase that by 20%.

With a population of 1,200,000, you're 200,000 past your fertile land capacity. You can still provide food, and growing it on less-fertile land means you need more irrigation and fertilizer. Yields are lower, so you need to tend 1.2 times the land, at 1.5 times the labor. So for this 20% increase, you need 30% more labor per land-area, and 20% more land area per yield... a total 56% more.

In other words: You need 31.2% of your labor to provide food for these new people, or 62,400 workers. That gives you a total 262,400 farm-related workers, and an average food cost of 21.9% of your income. Food is 9.4% more expensive.

That puts downward pressure on population growth. Your population can outright explode to 1,000,000 people; but then food gets more expensive. More labor is invested in making food, and that means less available to make the other luxuries we like; but that's okay, because there's more wages going to farmers, and higher food prices, meaning some people can't afford those luxuries anyway--more poor people, poverty increases.

Now invent GMOs.

You can now grow GMO corn, soy, and wheat. All of these things use half the farm land you used before. Now to feed 1,200,000 people, you only need the same land as you needed for 600,000 people: 40% of your fertile land is unused.

Suddenly, you can explosively grow your population by 67%, up to 2,000,000. Because literally half as much land is used for food, fertilization, irrigation, planting, and clearing actually take about half the labor: you only need 10% of your population to make food. That means food costs half as much; that, however, isn't really important in terms of scarcity. What is important is the cost of food won't increase until you break 2,000,000 people--whereas before it increased when you broke 1,000,000 people.

Does all that follow? If it costs twice as much to support twice the population at the same standard-of-living, then population can grow to double. If it costs ten times as much to support thrice the population at the same standard-of-living, the population isn't going to triple until you've found a way to scale production to support it. When it grows past double, it'll start seeing higher living costs and lower standards of living, unless you manage to bring new technology by then.

In other words: it's not that food is cheaper; it's that food doesn't get more expensive when population increases.

The practical example of this is the first green revolution somewhere around the 1920s, when population jumped from 1.3 billion to 3.2 billion in like 14 months, the year all kinds of new agricultural tech came out. Up to that point, there was a lot of screaming by global economists about us heading to famine as population started to exceed what we were capable of feeding; a lot of people got Nobel Prizes for preventing a global catastrophe.

Comment Re:I understand your argument (Score 1) 525

You're saying that the value of a job isn't as important of the purchasing power created from its wages.

Ah ah no. "The value of a job" isn't a real thing. Things don't have value--even jobs.

You don't need to justify that point any further or defend it with an Economics 101 lesson.

Actually, if I brought this stuff into ECON101, the teacher would probably cry. A lot. I deal a lot in macroeconomics, and I'm using theories that are a lot more advanced than current in some places. One of my favorite economic tricks as of late is to demonstrate that scarcity does not imply that demand has exceeded supply--which has the metaphorical effect of sharpening a lot of the edges around fuzzy economic theories.

While I'm not an economist, I am a mathematician, who, as such, is inclined to tell you that "you and ten people" is eleven people total, though your math indicates a labor pool of ten. Try not to fail mathematics when you argue mathematics.

Hah, good catch; although I'm sure the point got across correctly.

Arguing about purchasing power being up when median income isn't is like a patient telling his doctor that he's not worried about his cholesterol levels because he exercises everyday and feels fit.

Actually, it's a bit like arguing that people in Japan eat a hell of a lot more salt than people in America, and yet they generally experience lower blood pressure. This happens to be true, and it's been leading us to identify that stable sodium intake does not raise blood pressure, but sudden increases in sodium intake do.

Purchasing power is income. If we doubled all of the money in circulation and doubled all the wages, median income would be up; yet people wouldn't be any richer. They'd still buy the same things they buy today, and they'd live the same lives; their savings accounts would be ransacked, although anyone holding a stock portfolio would recover quickly enough thanks to the run-up of stock prices in sudden inflation.

In other words: I can give you more dollars and change nothing about your financial situation by giving everyone more dollars. Raising the median income on its own is just inflation.

The existence of capital induces demand for products, which induces a demand for labor. Median income measures the strength salaries have to pay for products and services, which induces job creation.

There's your problem.

I told you: if I work an hour for $20/hr, I have 1 hour of labor for which I can induce someone with a $10/hr wage to work 2 hours.

What if we raised all the incomes by double?

Now instead of $20/hr or $40,000/year, I make $40/hr, or $80,000/year. The median income has doubled from $52,000 to $104,000. Salaries are up.

At the same time, that guy making $10/hr is making $20/hr. His salary doubled, too.

Well, to pay for 2 hours of his work, I was buying a $20 product. Now $20 only induces him to work 1 hour. That $20 product is now $40. I spend my 1 hour--the same amount of labor time--and induce him to work 2 hours. The same number of hours goes into products, and is bought by the same number of my working hours.

Where, pray tell, are these new jobs coming from, if a person working for 40 hours per week, for 52 weeks per year, is still only able to purchase the same products and induce the same labor and thus the same jobs as when the median income was half?

So when lower-wage jobs replace higher-pay jobs*, when existing jobs producing the same product pay less to laborers, and when jobs move to overseas markets where labor is cheaper, less demand for labor is induced. Less demand for labor creates less demand for work, restricting access to capital among laborers, which restricts their access to goods and services, decreasing quality of life.

Actually, when some but not all jobs have higher wages, the money goes into fewer hands, thus creating fewer jobs.

Income is paid out of revenue. In a given time frame, there is a limited amount of income. It's unchanging. Dollars aren't created by your employer chanting over a boiling cauldron to induce coins from the ether; they're taken from the money consumers spend on products.

New income is available in new time frames because of debt. A consumer's available income per month, for example, may not allow them to buy a house or a car; but stretch that purchase across five, ten, or thirty years and they can afford it. The Fractional Reserve System allows banks to loan more money than is on hand, and so issuing new money and getting it into banks (for example: by the government buying into bonds, then steadily recovering and circulating the new money by taxes on what the bond issuers spend that money on) allows consumers to spend large amounts of cash today, getting it into circulation. That cash becomes new income, which is then spent in the next time frame. This causes inflation.

As stated above: if all wages go up equivalently, then no change occurs. In that case, every individual consumer is able to buy the same amount of goods.

If, however, only some wages go up--for example: minimum wages--then the amount of total available wages are spent on fewer services. For example: a minimum wage increase from $8.50/hr to $15/hr would affect fast food prices in such a way that a McDonalds $8 value meal would become $8.17 (yeah, doubling minimum wage won't double the price of your hamburger). With the 268 billion customers served per year, that 17 cents represents $45.56 billion. At $8.50/hr, that's 2.68 million jobs.

What that means is those 17 cents are no longer available to spend on anything else when you buy a fast food value meal at the example $8 average. At each two-week pay period, consumers collectively receive a lot of money; then they spend that money, and two weeks later receive another increment. When you raise a subset of wages, there's the same amount of money to be spent, yet someone is getting a bigger chunk of that money. That someone is undoubtedly in a better position to buy, and thus richer; and someone else isn't receiving those dollars, because new dollars aren't created by the act of raising someone's wage, but rather have to already exist as income to be spent, or be brought into existence by issuance of money and by debt.

In the most-extreme case, we simply buy what was previously $45.56 billion dollars's worth less fast food. 2.68 million fast food jobs go away, and we continue to spend those 17 cents on other things. That math works out perfectly because it assumes we allocate the same amount of money to fast food and spend until we run out. We still spend that $45.56 billion dollars on fast food; just we buy less total fast food because it costs 2.125% more.

In a less-extreme case, we buy the same amount of fast food, but less of something else. That tends to mean that shippers, retailers, and other people in the supply chain lose their jobs (the same is actually true of fast food: it's not all burger flippers). The higher the mean wage of jobs lost, the fewer jobs we lose in this turn-over.

The ugly truth is we create more jobs by pushing people into poverty, and we destroy jobs by elevating them out of poverty with higher wages. There are alternate strategies that can reduce poverty more-effectively; and the labor force essentially adjusts (via everything from early/late retirement to more people going to grad school or exiting college to work) to buff away any permanent losses and gains, which is why raising minimum wages to keep up with inflation hasn't been an absolutely-catastrophic strategy for the past hundred years (and also why trade can't permanently-destroy jobs or permanently-create jobs, even though it can create and destroy jobs). Welfare is an important part of a functioning economic system.

The biggest take-away that people miss is time and source. Wages and consumer spending are roughly the same thing, and so people can only spend as quickly as they get paid; and they have to spend enough to make sure the person doing the work gets paid, which means higher labor costs bring higher prices. Money isn't instantiated when you pay someone; it's taken from consumers. Put these together and you get stuck with any subset rise of wages creating unemployment.

Median nominal wages have gone up, yet median "real" wages (inflation-adjusted) hasn't. In a sense, that's a good thing: an increase in median inflation-adjusted wages would mean higher unemployment, by rough mechanism. In another sense, I hate these economic measurements, because a flat "real" wage coupled with an increase in "real" GDP-per-capita (productivity) in general means your actual buying-power income has increased by the GDP-per-capita increase--your wages have gone up, for real, somehow, even though "your real wages" haven't gone up. These measurements are... annoying... because they don't do what they say on the tin.

which restricts their access to goods and services, decreasing quality of life. All this happens, even if our purchasing power has risen relative to median income.

The problem is "our purchasing power has risen" means that our purchasing power has risen. That is the definition of increasing quality of life: the median purchasing power has risen, the purchasing power of every class of income has risen, and thus they can more-easily get food, more-readily access health care, and live in larger and more-comfortable houses with more luxuries. That median income that hasn't gone up? It buys more shit. That's what an increase in quality-of-life is. That's the only measure of quality-of-life.

Also, I found your labor force statistics fascinating. Honestly. Though I'd like to know their source.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, number of employed. We don't count farm workers. I computed the total labor force aged population by dividing the labor force size by the labor force participation rate (e.g. if you have 170 million labor force at 62.9% participation, 170M / .629 tells you how many people are in the age range of 16 to retirement and, ostensibly, could be put to work).

Comment Re:DEA already has rescheduled and overruled itsel (Score 1) 148

Actually, we could pass a constitutional amendment banning the private printing of United States money if we wanted. That doesn't mean the private printing of US money isn't already illegal or bannable under Federal law.

Frequently, the role of a constitutional amendment is to establish the constitution of a country (surprising, that). For example: nothing in the U.S. Constitution establishes any sort of equal rights treatment for gay marriage--or any recognition of any marriage--and yet we had a short-lived effort to ban gay marriage with a constitutional amendment. At the time, it was understood that the Federal government could not be legally-compelled to accept gay marriages as legitimate; the goal of a Constitutional amendment was to make sure no future Federal government would, unless the states ratified an amendment repealing the one banning gay marriage.

The Federal government has unilateral right to repeal the prohibition of marijuana and other drugs (barring international treaty). This would result in a scrambling of other states to re-implement DEA controls, and to provide duplicated DEA resources to control any substances they believe should be controlled. It also heavily impacts interstate commerce because of Utah being right next to Colorado, thus being flooded with smuggled drugs across the UT-CO border as UT tries to keep MJ illegal. Thus Utah would be interested in a constitutional amendment prohibiting Marijuana, although they'll never get it: they have a great interest in making sure a coalition of states can uphold their ideal moral fiber and prevent other states from snapping it.

The prohibition of alcohol was the same: the states didn't realize what they were getting into when they all decided alcohol was detrimental to the moral fiber of the United States and that it should be constitutionally banned. They knew they wanted to prevent legislative pressure from constituents in multiple states from pushing back after the ban went into effect; they didn't realize the pressure would be so great as to distort the moral fiber of the United States, glorifying illegal drug smuggling operations as heroic efforts against tyranny and undermining their important puritan message. The social and economic impacts were so great that the states actually repealed that amendment; and they will never give up that much flexibility again without good reason.

When FDR did it, he instated a separate payroll tax to fund Social Security and unemployment, thus giving contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. This was to prevent future politicians from scrapping the social security system--the same way a constitutional amendment might make it a tiny bit difficult to repeal your new anti-Budweiser law. Defense against hostile successors is a common thread in lawmaking.

Comment Re:That can't be right (Score 1) 525

Actually, there is sharp growth from 1950 to 1970, after which point it becomes more-flattened. 33% of income spent on food in 1950, 15% in 1980, 13% in 2000. That's cutting it by more than half in 30 years, and then by barely 1/7th in 20 years.

The slower growth occurred when things stopped getting cheaper more-rapidly: growth was rapid in abundance and slow in scarcity.

Comment Re:Average income down, fewer people working (Score 1) 525

TFA is talking about a month-to-month report.

And the OP said:

These are not the hallmarks of a thriving economy. The US economy is in a sickly state, with too many part time jobs with no benefits. We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. The fact that the numbers look like an improvement is a bit like a doctor telling a patient wife that he's not sick any more. He's dead. The US needs to get healthy before it dies.

Are you telling me the OP's argument here is, "Oh my! The economy was healthy in October, but it is actually sicker in November! This is a crisis of immense magnitude! One month of severe illness is killing the US!" Was this OP's argument made in isolation of any trend leading up to the month of October, 2016?

Are you arguing that the above quote is about October 2016 to November 2016, with no prior context, rather than about the long-running state of the economy?

Comment Re:I appreciate using the correct Unemployment met (Score 1) 525

Even looking at take-home pay would blow that argument out of the water. The fact that we can buy more and better things than we could years or decades ago is an increase in real income.

Nobody wants to admit income is actually hard to measure, and that wage income doesn't tell you about buying power because the entire point of technical progress is to make the same things with less labor, and thus to employ the same wage-compensated hours to make more things and more-complex things. It sounds easy when I describe it in terms of wooden chairs versus chairs with cushions, but what happens when we get to talking about cars with fluid couplings versus cars with torsen differentials?

One day, we will have the same cars with self-driving modules in them. Look at Tesla: the self-driving hardware is already in the cars; you pay $2,000 for a software update. Building a car with a self-driving module versus building it without isn't flatly the cost of the module; it's also the cost of labor to make two different assemblies, and logistics to determine how many to supply of each. Those labor and logistics costs are so high in some cases that many cars with a heated seat option actually ship all seats heated, and simply don't install a heating port or connector on the seat itself--that way it gets built the same, and they simply skip a step. How do you gauge how much buying power you've gained now that a car with heated seats or a self-driving software program costs trivially-more than one without, when those things come with all cars and you only pay for the permission to use them?

Comment Re:Average income down, fewer people working (Score 1) 525

Arguing about long-term economic trends like incomes going up or down requires a long-term context. A context of one-month is like trying to describe climate change in terms of August to September.

GP even argued about inflation. How much inflation do you suppose happened--or was even measured--between October and November? For that matter, with holiday sales, wouldn't inflation over a few weeks be negative, if you picked the right weeks?

It's unreasonable to assume an economics discussion about the general state of the US economy is a short-term discussion. Unemployment rate falling segways into larger discussions quite-readily. If the discussion were meant to be in a one-month total context, then OP and GP are just morons; while I don't doubt they're terrible economists, I tend to doubt people are truly that stupid--usually those kinds of absolute retards have some sort of pathological mental illness and exhibit defense mechanisms that look an awful lot like, but are distinct from, schizophrenia.

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