K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Thursday September 5, 2019 10:33 AM PDT •
The term “gig” is common parlance among musicians, who contract to play engagements at various clubs, festivals concert halls and such. One such gigging professional is tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. He and other jazz artists might think it strange if politicians demanded that they lose independent status and became employees of the establishments in which they play. Politicians and union bosses are attempting to impose that sort of deal on rideshare companies.
Uber, Lyft and others provided riders with a long-overdue alternative to get where they need to go. The default response of politicians and union bosses was to make it a duplicate of the highly regulated and expensive taxi industry. As Katy Grimes notes at the California Globe, Assembly Bill 5 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, formerly with the AFL-CIO’s San Diego-Imperial County Labor Council, is the most aggressive of the proposed bills to classify rideshare drivers as employees. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is pushing a separate bill to organize drivers, ignoring the April decision by the National Labor Relations Board and the US Department of Labor that Uber drivers are independent contractors.
• Wednesday September 4, 2019 1:11 PM PDT •
The headline in the Washington Post‘s reporting on the latest scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was bad enough: “How Veterans Affairs failed to stop a pathologist who misdiagnosed 3,000 cases.” But there’s an even worse story contained deep within the article, shedding light on how health care would work under a government-run single-payer system like that now being marketed to American voters under the “Medicare for All” banner. The story is a harbinger for how such a policy would make health care worse for all Americans.
How can government-run single-payer health care be worse than the misdiagnosis of over 3,000 patients over Dr. Robert Morris Levy’s twelve-year career at the Veterans Health Administration’s medical center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the former chief pathologist now faces three counts of involuntary manslaughter charges?
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Tuesday September 3, 2019 2:46 PM PDT •
This month, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), California’s state stem-cell agency, hands out its final grants. By the count of Anna Ibarra of California Health Line, that marks $3 billion CIRM has spent—“6 billion with interest”—with scant returns for California taxpayers. In 2004 Proposition 71, which authorized CIRM, promised a host of life-saving cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases, but the FDA has yet to approve “any treatments funded by CIRM.”
In similar style, founder Robert Klein, a wealth real-estate developer, promised a stream of fees and royalties that would make CIRM self-supporting. The stem-cell agency reported no royalties until 2018, and only in the amount of $190,345.87. That is less than the salary of former state senator Art Torres, whom CIRM hired when it had a biotech professional willing to work for no salary. With royalties amounting to chump change, and none of the promised cures in the offing, CIRM bosses have a plan.
• Tuesday September 3, 2019 11:50 AM PDT •
With almost $22.5 trillion in debt, the U.S. Treasury Department has a tough job in sorting out just who has loaned money to the federal government.
That’s because around 30 percent of all the money the government borrows comes from overseas, where the amount of U.S. government-issued debt reported to be held in a given country may partially represent money that was loaned to the U.S. government by another country altogether. For example, over the years, China has loaned money to the U.S. government through international banking centers in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Ireland, to name just a few.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Wednesday August 28, 2019 2:01 PM PDT •
Back in 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown tucked $5 million into the budget for the Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the center, claimed to be “driven by data, not by a policy agenda,” and told reporters the center’s first project would be “a survey that looks at who owns guns, why they own them and how they use firearms.” Strictly speaking, who owns guns is not a matter of medical science or public health. Neither is the center’s new target, those who sell guns.
“A new UC Davis study has found that cities that experience increases in gun purchases also experience more gun-related injuries,” the Sacramento Bee reports. The study found that gun-related injuries increased by 4 percent after the spike in gun purchases, which meant approximately 290 more injuries. As study co-author Rose Kagawa concludes, “more purchases do seem to create more harm.” It also seems that such a post hoc ergo propter hoc approach does not exactly qualify as medical science.
Ronald L. Trowbridge
• Wednesday August 28, 2019 9:20 AM PDT •
I wrote this article in August 2007 but never submitted for publication. Yet it is every bit as relevant today as it was then and will remain so as long as cancer and pain from cancer exist. The case I cite here was my own wife.
As background, I once held a high-level appointment by President Reagan, so I am not predisposed against Republicans. Still, I had a tragic experience with Judge [now Justice] Brett Kavanaugh that I would be remiss not to reveal. The Abigail Alliance, on whose board I sat, sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over cancer patients not being allowed to use experimental drugs when no other therapeutic option existed, even when the FDA had found the drugs safe and promising. We argued that if people have a constitutional right to defend themselves against an attacker, why can’t they have that same right of self-defense against cancer? My wife had terminal lung cancer and had been given in a trial an experimental drug that extended her life and ended her chronic pain, which had required constant doses of morphine.
Raymond J. March
• Tuesday August 27, 2019 12:43 PM PDT •
Josh Wilkerson had type 1 diabetes and depended on regular insulin injections to manage his blood glucose levels. Without them, he risked long-term complications from his condition or slipping into a diabetic coma. When he turned 27, he was no longer covered under his stepfather’s insurance. His employer-provided health insurance did not cover insulin treatments. Without coverage, Josh found himself paying nearly $1,200 a month for insulin, a burdensome expense for someone earning $16.50 an hour.
To make financial ends meet, Josh switched to another insulin named ReliOn. ReliOn is available without a prescription at many pharmacies and some national retailers such as Walmart and CVS. More importantly, it is often considerably cheaper than most prescription insulins. A vial of ReliOn (about a month’s supply) costs about $25. A vial of Humalog, a comparable kind of insulin, typically costs $275.
Robert P. Murphy
• Tuesday August 27, 2019 11:36 AM PDT •
In 2017 migrants in America sent a whopping $148 billion to recipients in their home countries, with Mexico receiving the most ($30 billion) and China coming in second ($16 billion). Some Americans are understandably alarmed by this massive flow of remittances to foreigners, worrying that it siphons wealth away from our country and/or reduces jobs for Americans. These fears are unfounded, but it’s useful to analyze the phenomenon to better understand the economics of international trade.
We will focus on remittances specifically, rather than the broader question of immigration. Specifically, we’ll assume that certain immigrants have come to the United States and are working. Now the question is: if they send some of their pay back home, do their decisions make other Americans poorer than they would have been if immigrant workers had kept their money in the U.S.?
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Monday August 26, 2019 12:01 PM PDT •
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has transformed a convicted felon into a “justice-involved individual,” which could describe someone studying for the bar, or applying for a job as a public defender or district attorney. The board also pronounced those convicted felons who were formerly incarcerated as “returning residents,” which would also apply to someone moving back to the Bay Area from Detroit or Sioux Falls.
The board is attempting to make crime disappear, and wants the convicted felons and parolees of San Francisco to feel good about themselves. On the other hand, not much diversity is going on here.
As Debra Heine notes at American Greatness, the San Francisco supervisors did not come up with a new name for the victims of crime. These would be the people who suffer theft of catalytic converters and any other item worth less than $950, the crime wave touched off by Proposition 47. These would be the family members of those recently murdered in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton. These would be people like Nicole Clavo, who son was shot dead in 2015, and whose murderer will be freed at the age of 23. That was due to Senate Bill 1391, signed by Jerry Brown, which forbids the prosecution of those under 16 as adults, whatever the gravity of their crime. Call it the Murderer Empowerment Act.
• Monday August 26, 2019 11:37 AM PDT •
What would it take to balance the U.S. government’s budget over the next 10 years?
Since the Congressional Budget Office updated its 10-year budget and economic outlook on August 21, 2019, to consider the effects of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019—which has been described as “the worst budget deal in history—that’s a good question to ask, seeing as the deal didn’t come anywhere close to balancing the budget.
Better still, all anyone needs to do to answer the question is to connect the dots between this year’s projected spending total and 2029’s projected revenue total from the CBO’s updated analysis. Just like in the graph below!