• Tuesday July 30, 2019 8:23 AM PDT •
Regardless of where you might live around the world, if you live on less than $2 a day, you would be considered to be living in extreme poverty.
According to the World Bank, in 2015 about 736 million people around the world, or just under 10 percent of the world’s population, had incomes that put them below this international poverty line. Believe it or not, that is extraordinarily good news because poverty rates around the world have fallen dramatically since 1981 when 42 percent of the world’s population lived on an inflation-adjusted $1.90 or less per day.
Raymond J. March
• Monday July 29, 2019 12:44 PM PDT •
Industry-leading pharmaceutical companies, often referred to collectively as “Big Pharma,” remain one of the public’s least trusted entities. A major reason for this lack of trust is drug producer’s perceived influence over powerful legislative and regulatory bodies.
David Mitch, president and founder of the campaign group Patients for Affordable Drugs, echoed this sentiment when he wrote, “I sort of view Big Pharma, as an industry, as an octopus with many tentacles, and at the end of every tentacle is a wad of cash... It reaches into academic medical centers, professional organizations, patient organizations, state houses, campaigns, Congress – they’re everywhere.”
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Monday July 29, 2019 10:20 AM PDT •
In Detroit, Michigan, for the recent Democratic debates, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pulled off his promised trip to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in search of cheaper prices for insulin. The review in the Windsor Star may prove enlightening to patients everywhere, particularly in states represented by the presidential contenders.
As the Star’s writer Lindsay Charlton notes, life-saving insulin “was discovered by Canadian medical scientist Frederick Banting with his partner Charles Best. Banting sold the patent rights for insulin to The University of Toronto for $1 allowing the medication to be mass-produced and available to the public.”
Charlton fails to note that this was in the early 1920s, long before Canada adopted its version of government monopoly health care. The Windsor Star does not recall any other life-saving drugs that government health care systems might have produced, as opposed to independent initiative by medical scientists.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Thursday July 25, 2019 9:25 AM PDT •
As this column has noted for several years, even if built according to plan, California’s vaunted high-speed rail project would be slower and more expensive than air travel. The so-called bullet train has yet to carry a single passenger but the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) did succeed maintaining a Sacramento headquarters, three regional offices, and providing a soft landing spot for former congresswoman Lynn Schenk. In 2019, after the original Los Angeles to San Francisco plan has been effectively killed off, bullet train bosses are rushing to cover their tracks.
“Thousands of pages of public records were removed from the California High Speed Rail Authority website in June,” Katy Grimes of the California Globe reports. “The HSRA has taken down business plans, documents, reports and financials from 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and on,” assemblyman Jim Patterson told the Globe. Bullet train bosses also took down board meeting minutes and change orders, and claimed that the deletions were to make the HSRA compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Randall G. Holcombe
• Thursday July 25, 2019 8:45 AM PDT •
One of the most frequent shortcomings of capitalism cited by capitalism’s critics is inequality. People at the top of the economic ladder have so much more than those at the bottom. Inequality is capitalism’s biggest challenge because there is so much popular support for public policies that would cripple capitalism’s economic engine, or even policies that would completely replace capitalism.
Whether you think inequality is a problem is irrelevant to its challenge to capitalism, because enough other people do that there is a political groundswell of support to throttle capitalism because of inequality in capitalist economies.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Wednesday July 24, 2019 12:49 PM PDT •
As Daniel Turner notes at Fox News, Berkeley, California, has become “the first city in America to ban natural gas from new homes and businesses, including restaurants that use natural gas for stoves.” This alleged victory for the environment has prompted more than 50 other California cities to follow Berkeley’s lead. For Turner, the ban is a bad idea because “natural gas is incredibly clean, producing very low emissions,” and thanks to the fracking revolution, “American natural gas production has exploded.” Berkeley imagines helping the planet by switching to electrical heating and cooking. As Turner notes, California “imports electricity from neighboring states like Utah and Arizona where it is generated by coal.” As it happens, Berkeley’s natural gas ban is not a one-off.
“The city of Berkeley, California, is banning some commonly used words in favor of more gender-neutral alternatives,” CBS News explains. “Manhole” and other gender-specific language will be eliminated from the municipal code. “Gender” is actually a grammatical term, but such realities count for little in Berkeley, which lives in the subjunctive mood. On the other hand, some terms associated with the town could stand some cleaning up.
• Tuesday July 23, 2019 11:26 AM PDT •
Monday, July 22, 2019, saw President Trump reach a two year, bipartisan budget agreement with the majority Democratic party leadership in the House of Representatives and the majority Republican party leadership in the U.S. Senate. The deal avoids the potential of another partial shutdown of the U.S. government or defaulting on federal liabilities in early September 2019, while also unleashing much higher spending out of Washington, D.C.
Prior to the agreement, the White House Office of Management and Budget projected the U.S. government would spend $9.691 trillion dollars in its upcoming 2020 and 2021 fiscal years, of which $2.169 trillion would need to be borrowed.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Tuesday July 23, 2019 11:12 AM PDT •
Citizens have “the right to education. This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges.” Citizens also have the right to “free medical service,” and the provision of a “wide network of health resorts.”
These “rights” to “free” education and medical service come from the 1936 Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, also known as the Stalin Constitution after the former Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, the vaunted “Man of Steel” and “Great Leader.” In his speech on the Constitution, Stalin said, “we have already achieved the first phase of Communism, Socialism.” The 1936 Constitution preserves “the regime of the dictatorship of the working class, just as it also preserves unchanged the present leading position of the Communist Party of the USSR.” Those “bourgeois” constitutions, on the other hand, “confine themselves to stating the formal rights of citizens,” and “the Constitution of the USSR is the only thoroughly democratic Constitution in the world.”
• Monday July 22, 2019 1:27 PM PDT •
President Ronald Reagan often joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”
But for Americans troubled by the ongoing lack of fiscal discipline on Capitol Hill, nine other words are perhaps even scarier: “We have actually now agreed on the spending numbers”.
Here’s the full quote of what U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in announcing the deal struck between the Trump administration and political leaders in both the House and Senate:
We have actually now agreed on the spending numbers for both years, we’re now working on offsets and certain structural issues and as part of this, we’ve agreed that there would be a long-term debt ceiling extension.
• Monday July 22, 2019 9:30 AM PDT •
On Saturday, I spent the bulk of the day going to and from Chetumal and taking care of business there. As usual, I had a fairly successful trip. Whenever I make these trips, which I do on average every three or four weeks, I am reminded of how well I get along in a country where I speak the language—to give myself more credit than I deserve—poorly.
Now, it’s true that my transactions are eased by the fact that Mexicans, in general, are very nice, accommodating people. But something else is at play here, and it deserves recognition as another “miracle of the market.” You see, people who are dealing with one another as buyers and sellers, as lenders and borrowers, as investors and entrepreneurs are highly motivated to reach a successful deal. They are therefore not inclined to let the niceties of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax stand in the way of a mutually advantage transaction. However clumsily I may stumble around in speaking and writing Spanish, I virtually never draw a blank from the Mexicans, much less a Parisian dismissal. (I should add, however, that even in Paris I rarely drew such an oft-mentioned dismissal, probably for the same reason I’m discussing here.)