You can’t giveaway something that isn’t your’s to begin with

Today, Chuck Schumer demonstrated why I have a tougher time aligning with democrats than the other side.

In response to Trump’s tax plan, he described it as a “tax giveaway to wealthy.”

I prefer public servants that think of taxes as something that people pay to the government, not as something the government already owns.

In my opinion, public servants that think of taxes as the former are more likely to spend the people’s money prudently.

Public servants who think of taxes as something the government already owns will spend it less prudently and will never be satisfied the amount they have to spend. They will always want more.

Such folks are less like public servants and more like lords.

 

Competition in health care?

Sheldon Richman explains why more competition would be good in health care.  He writes:

Competition is the universal solvent: it dissolves all kinds of problems. (I refer to competition in its broadest sense, including what goes on in the unrestricted marketplace of ideas.) The reason competition is so effective at enhancing public welfare is that no person or group has a monopoly on knowledge and wisdom. These are scattered throughout society, and we cannot know who has the information or vision that is exactly what some or all of us are looking for. With goods and services, knowledge comes largely in the form of prices, which communicate supply and demand conditions and give entrepreneurs clues to how they can satisfy hitherto unsatisfied consumer demand and thereby earn profits.

Everything in the previous paragraph applies to medical care and insurance. The dogma that such services and products are outside the scope of economics is merely self-serving nonsense.

He then goes onto explain how competition is currently “curtailed”:

The practice of medicine (physicians, nurses, etc.) is licensed by state governments. The medical-facility industry is largely governed by state certificate-of-need requirements. Medical schools are subject to government-linked accreditation. The insurance industry is ruled by 50 state governments in cahoots with insurers and, since 2010, the national government; the Department of Health and Human Services defines basic coverage, criteria for acceptance, and price rules. Drugs and medical devices are the domain of a government bureaucracy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and patent law. Individuals are mandated to have insurance. This only scratches the surface.

I know it’s very, very tough for people to imagine a world where doctors are not licensed by the state government.

Who will make sure they are any good?

The same people who do now. Us.

Anecdotes prevent licensing from going away. It only takes one horror story of an unlicensed doctor to get most people to think, “See! This is why doctors need to be licensed.”

Yet, even with licensing there are horror stories. Nobody asks, “How did licensing let this one through?”

The straw that is breaking the camel’s back in retail

Amazon.com itself isn’t killing off retail. One simple, sleepy innovation is: Free 2-Day Shipping.

Yes, it came from Amazon.com and it requires Amazon.com to back it up. But, before Free 2-Day Shipping, I rarely ordered stuff online unless I simply couldn’t get it at a local store.

Free 2-Day Shipping was the game changer for that.

It made me realize how much I didn’t like going to stores. The parking lots are a pain. You have to walk lots. People are weird. They manage their cashiers so tightly to save costs that you must always wait in line to check out. And, the big boxes often do not have what you want.

What is legal vs social norm

I think this argument that United Airlines was within its rights is well-articulated.

I also think the author misses that there are sometimes a big difference between what is contractually legal and social norms. A reason the United Airlines case is receiving so much attention, most of it against United, is that it grossly violates social norms whether or not it violates the law.

The speed limit is 65 mph (what is legal). People often drive 70 mph (social norm) without fear of being pulled over. Do people receive tickets for doing 70 mph? Yes. Does that stop us from breaking that law? No. Have we all driven past a police officer while going 5 mph over the speed limit without getting pulled over? Yes. Lots of times.

In the United Airlines case, social norms are saying that paying for a ticket should not carry the risk of being forcibly removed from the flight.

Social norms are also saying that airlines, not its customers, should pay a fair price if the airline decides it needs to remove passengers.

Maybe articles like the one I linked to will help change social norms.

I hope not. I’d rather that the pressure from social norms cause airlines to rethink their overbooking policies to come up with something more agreeable with social norms than converting paying customers into trespassers at the airline’s whim.

More differences between US and European youth soccer

This excellent blog post is on Sacha van der Most van Spijk is on his organization, Home Field Advantage, website.

I think the following from it is a good adder to my post about Sacha’s interview with 3Four3.com:

I spent many years in my native country of the Netherlands coaching at a community-based club. As I began to find a deeper love with coaching I decided to make a switch and move to the United States in hopes of sharing my love and passion for the game. My first stop began in Northern California where I coached soccer camps with the Ziemer brothers. Later, I moved to Southern California where I took a position as the head coach of a High School soccer program. The following year my progression in the coaching world continued and I began coaching a couple of Club Soccer teams.

Not knowing what to expect, I was very surprised with the way the Club Soccer was structured. Our club played “home” games at a variety of different fields in the area and the league season lasted a mere 3.5 months. Most of the weekend games were being played back-to-back both on Saturday and Sunday. In Europe every youth club has their own home field, league season is spread out in a 9-10 month season, and games are played only once a week.

During State Cup is when I began to question whether my involvement in coaching was actually fun. Early morning games were scheduled at giant soccer complexes about a 2-hour drive North, parking fees were charged to add to an already expensive weekend, games would be scheduled 3 to 4 hours apart, and the boys were required to play 3-4 games in two days!

Some things sound good about the structure of soccer in the Netherlands. Ten month season. One game a week.  A long season to be able to gain the mastery with the burn-out drudgery or multiple game weekends. Games always on the same day (from the podcast). Mostly in the same place.

What’s keeping us from doing that? The fragmentation of the sport between rec, clubs and schools, that’s what.

Missing ingredient in US youth soccer II

There is another thing worth mentioning from the podcast interview with Kephern Fuller that I wrote about in this post.

He said that the youth sports experience is more independent of parents than in the United States. The kids ride their bikes to the club. Their parents don’t come to practice. He said the kids would be mortified if they did. It’d be like a parent coming to watch a child in school.

 

The answer, my friend, is in the feedback loop

I sometimes forget about my ToE (Theory of Everything): All problems can be traced back to a problem in the feedbacks.

I find this provides a useful lens to look at a lot of problems.

Walter Williams provides a good example in his column this week, Educational Sabotage. It turns out, if you don’t discipline (feedback loop) students for their bad behavior, you get more bad behavior. That shouldn’t be shocking. But, for some, it is. Sadly, the kids who want to get an education suffer the most because of this unwillingness to provide good feedback.

John Stossel provides another good example in his column, Free Market Care. He correctly points out that:

Someone else paying changes our behavior. We don’t shop around. We don’t ask, “Do I really need that test?” “Is there a place where it’s cheaper?”

Cost is a feedback that you and I use to determine if something is ‘worth it’.

When I changed from my previous ‘subscription’ health plan (what most people call insurance) to an HSA+insurance plan, about 10 years ago, I went from paying a flat monthly fee with small co-pays when I visited a doctor to paying for the first few thousand dollars of my medical expenses out of my HSA before the lower monthly fee insurance kicked in.

Shortly after that switch, I took my son to the ER because he wasn’t able to keep anything down. The docs suggested an X-ray to rule out an obstruction.

I asked what the chances were that it was an obstruction (less than 5%) and how much the X-ray would cost ( I was thinking $500, but they said less than $200, depending on insurance).

I decided to get have the X-ray. He was clear. I was pleasantly surprised when the bill was $74. As I was writing the check, I  thought, had this been a year earlier when I was still on the subscription plan where the X-ray would not have cost me anything extra, I would not have asked questions to evaluate whether it was worth it.

The total amount of what I saved each month in my HSA plus the cost of the insurance was the same as the what I used to pay for my subscription plan. In this case, about 75% went to my HSA and 25% went to insurance.

So, in this case, the feedback loop was improved by simply putting a portion of my medical expenses in my control.