“How Can you Talk Economics When People are Dying”: A Blast from the Past.

Some people have been “pushing back” against the panic over the Chinese Coronavirus (Winnie the Flu), noting the damage these overreactions are doing, and will continue to do, to the economy.  But you know what else leads to people dying?  A faltering, let alone crashing, economy.  Which brings up this Blast from the (quite recent actually) Past.


It never fails.  When I (or a lot of other people) talk about the economic cost of some policy we always get “how can you think of economics when we’re talking about people’s lives here” or “you can’t put a price on human life” or the big one “if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.”  “If we don’t do this, people will die!”

The problem is that economics translates into lives.  And while whatever folk want to “solve” with their economically unviable proposal might “cost lives” impoverishing people, either as individuals or as the economy as a whole also costs lives.

Consider, that an Earthquake of a severity that might kill a dozen people in California, would kill hundreds, or even thousands, in someplace like Bangladesh.  Wealthier societies are more likely to have buildings built of sufficient strength to withstand earthquakes and, thus avoid crushing their inhabitants.  Wealthier societies are more likely to have networks of roads that allow sick and injured to reach hospitals or aid stations quickly–and the more quickly you can treat, the better the chances for recovery.

Or, never mind Earthquakes.  In wealthier societies more people have shelter from weather that can threaten their health, and not just against storms, but heat is a known killer, as is cold.  Having a draft-free dwelling with adequate heating and cooling for the weather saves lives.  Sure, for a lot of people it’s about comfort but many of the very old and very young, or the sick and injured, are less able to deal with temperature extremes.  Heat waves and cold snaps are invariably accompanied by rising death rates (with cold being by far the worse killer of the two).  Adequate heat and air, and modern, high-tech clothing meant to protect the wearer from temperature extremes make a big difference.

Ordinary illnesses and injuries?  People have accidents, get sick.  Once again, that extensive network of roads–a feature of wealthier societies–allows people to get their sick and injured to doctors and hospitals quickly.  And not just via ambulance.  That might be arranged by some government program which allows people to…

Oh, I can’t do it.  The simple fact is that many times, a person can get a sick or injured loved one to the hospital faster than an ambulance can get to them.  At least they can if they have their own car, which is something that is not common except in wealthy nations.

Look, some economists have tried to study this, to try and figure how many dollars (or whatever monetary unit you care to use) of GDP equates to how many lives saved.  Because of the complexities of such analysis results vary.  After all, there are other things that affect death rates than just the wealth of society.  The basic principle, however, is so universal that it’s not even controversial–people live longer, and better, in wealthier societies.

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The source for this is a site that does data visualization, but the data is very much real.

The results of all this is that you cannot dismiss economic realities–the cost of doing whatever “good thing” you want to do via government comes at the expense of no longer being able to do something else with those resources.  After all, Economics is the study of cause and effect relationships in the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses.  Scarce, meaning you never have enough for everyone that wants it.  And so, use them for one thing and lose the ability to use them for something else.

In politics, people tend to make categorical decisions.  We must do this, regardless of the cost.  And doing “this” means we don’t do “that.” Political solutions tend to miss the incremental tradeoffs.  How much of “that” are we willing to give up for how much of “this”?

And when the “that” is something as nebulous to most people’s thinking as a Gross Domestic Product, particularly when a lot of that product is in other people’s hands rather than ones own, the very real effects of trading “that” get lost in the shuffle.

It’s very short-sighted and we need to work hard to not do that.

Unless, of course, you want people to die.

Bailout?

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One of the most common mistakes people make with regard to economics is confusing money with wealth.  Wealth, real wealth, is the goods and services produced in an economy.  “Money” can be used to obtain wealth.  You can buy stuff with it.  You can hire people to provide services.  But it isn’t “wealth” itself.

Adam Smith’s great insight, which lead really to the explosion of real world wealth in the centuries since his writing, was that the wealth of a society was not, as the merchantilists of his day proclaimed, the amount of specie (gold and silver) in the public treasury.  It was the sum total of the goods and services available to the society.  It includes the things grown and manufactured locally.  It also includes the things traded for.

Where money comes into it is a convenient method for trading.  If I make chairs, I don’t have to find someone who has something I want that’s willing to provide it in exchange for one of my chairs.  I can sell the chair to someone who wants chairs, in exchange for money, and take the money to use it for something I want.  And I can combine the money from multiple chairs to buy something much more valuable than one chair–or even all the chairs one person wants–like, say, a car.  Or I can divide it to buy things where a chair would be really too much.  I may only want a few toothpicks but wouldn’t really want to trade a whole chair for them?  Oh, sure, if I can make chairs I can make toothpicks, but I would probably be better off spending the toothpick making time instead making more chairs.

Money also brings in a time factor.  I can sell the chair today to buy something tomorrow or next week.  And with that, we bring in a whole host of other things:  savings, investment, credit, inflation, deflation, partial reserve banking, and the concept of monetary policy.

In the end, you have money on one side and the “economic output”–the production of goods and services–on the other.

So, in response to fears over the Chinese Coronavirus, Covid-19, Winnie the Flu, we’ve got a whole host of various shutdowns.  Businesses are being shut down or restricted in numerous ways.  People are being urged to stay home and avoid places where they’ll gather with others.  This has–indeed has to–drastically curtailed economic output not just in the US but in the world.  People are losing jobs.  The economy is tanking.

And so we have folk in Washington talking about a “stimulus”.  One suggestion was to simply send checks to people.  Free money.  A figure of $1000 has been batted around.

This would be a bad idea.

Let me reiterate.  Money is not wealth.  Money can be used to buy wealth, but the wealth itself comes from the economic output of society.  If the economic output is reduced then all the money in the world doesn’t make you any richer.  You just have more money chasing the same goods and services.   There’s a term for that:  inflation.

Real economic stimulus cannot come from sending people checks, increasing the money supply, while still keeping the fetters on economic production.  At best you’ll get a short blip while people quickly buy up the available resources before prices rise to accommodate the new balance of money supply to economic output.  And instituting price controls (which I figure is coming next) simply means that the shelves get empty that much sooner with no production to restock them.  The result will be worse than if nothing were done at all.

If one really wants to restimulate the economy, the way to do it is to remove the economic fetters.  If you absolutely must have restrictions to deal with a pandemic which, as I have said before, I don’t think is anywhere near as bad as portrayed, then find other fetters that can be removed so that people can profitably engage in economic activity producing real wealth (goods and services) for the American people.  And maybe, once the Winnie the Flu crisis is over, consider keeping those fetters off anyway.

In short, freedom, economic and otherwise, remains the best “stimulus.”

The Wuhan (Chinese) Coronavirus

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Yes, I’m going to call it that despite the outcry about using that descriptor.  It has long been common to name diseases after where they were first identified.  The list of examples is long.  German Measles, Spanish Flu, Rocky Mountain Fever, Lyme Disease (named after Lyme Connecticut), Ebola (named after the Ebola river), and on and on and on.  There’s nothing “racist” about it.  But the Chinese Communist Party declared it’s “racist” and their willing collaborators in government and the media go along with it. (I’m kind of partial to “Winnie the Flu” since that is tailor made to annoy Xi Jinping.)

First off, I consider the panic about it overblown.  This is not the disaster that some folk have been painting. (Yes, Italy has been bad but I’ll get to that shortly.) And there’s nothing about it that requires people to grab years supplies of toilet paper.  Really.  Diarrhea isn’t even a symptom.  A couple weeks supply, a month at most, and you’re golden.  Really.

On the other hand, some people have been utterly dismissive of it.  “It’s no worse than the flu” they say.  And now we get to Italy.

First off, let me be clear that Italy is not a good “model” for what results are likely to be in the United States.  Italians tend to keep very close personal space, as in, next to none.  They engage in a lot more casual physical touch than is generally considered comfortable in American society.  this facilitates the spread of diseases like the Wuhan Coronavirus.  However, the real issue can be seen here:

critical care beds

Note that this is “per 100,000” so that the US has just about five times Italy’s population has already been corrected for.  The simple fact is, America has the facilities to care for a larger proportion of its population in need of critical care than is Italy.  The closest anyone comes to the US capacity is Germany.  A large part of the problem in Italy is that their facilities were overwhelmed–more cases needing critical care than they had beds to handle.  What was an overwhelming crisis in Italy will be “a bit busy” in the US.

Now, this is not to say that the situation in Italy is not informative.  To the best of my knowledge, seasonal flu does not generally swamp Italy’s medical systems.  And so, while the fact that it is a crisis in Italy does not mean that it will be such a crisis here, nevertheless, I think it does point to Wuhan Coronavirus being worse than seasonal flu and probably even worse than the 2009 H1N1 strain.

So how much worse?  To consider that, let’s look at the Grand Princess cruise ship.  They had the disease aboard in a fairly closed environment.  Despite the best efforts of the crew, the ship was simply not equipped to fully isolate passengers from each other or from the crew.  Crew still ate in common and still had to interact with passengers if only to deliver food and other necessary goods.  We have 21 confirmed cases of Coronavirus on the Grand Princess.  Most of the passengers who didn’t show obvious symptoms declined testing.  Even with the attempts at isolation, we can pretty much presume that everyone on the ship was exposed.  Still 290 tests, 21 cases.  Given the situation on the ship despite efforts at isolation we can pretty much assume that everybody was exposed, that gives an infection rate of just under 10% and we can go ahead and round up to that  Estimates of death rates from those infected range from 0.5% to upwards of 8%.  Those higher rates, however, tend to be coupled with inadequate medical care (not enough beds to treat more serious cases–see Italy up above) and with older patients with other underlying health issues.  Also, those figures do not count minor cases which are never recognized as Wuhan Coronavirus.  The person thinks they have a cold, or even don’t show symptoms at all, and goes on about their life.  And I am, perhaps, less inclined to dismiss the “older with other underlying health issues”.  After all, I am older (pushing 60) with other underlying health issues (diabetes).  All told, however, that 0.5% is probably closer to an upper bound, in a developed country with adequate facilities for critical care, than the higher numbers.

Still, at worst case then, we’re talking about a total of 30 million cases in the US and 15,000 deaths.  That’s somewhat worse than the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, but not much.

So, yes, some caution and care is justified.  The current panic, not so much.  So wash your hands, people.  You should be doing that anyway.  And if you’re sick, stay home so as not to infect other people.  Beyond that?  You’re good.  Really.

And once you’ve got more than a couple weeks’ supply of toilet paper, you really don’t need to get any more.  Honest.  They’ll make more.

“A Good Family Man” a moderately updated Blast from the Past.

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Once up on a time it was high praise indeed to say of a man that he was “a good family man.”  Television and movies celebrated fathers who cared about, and took care of, their families.  Today, if you say that people look at you like you’re from another planet.  Or maybe they think that you’re referring to a certain cartoon–Family Guy–which in and of itself shows just how far the concept has fallen.

When my Ex referred to me as her “home papa” it took me a number of years before I realized that this was not a compliment.

This is underscored in media representations of fathers.  Once, fathers presented as positive models in shows like Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best.  Dated those shows may be and yes, sometimes the father was the butt of the joke (they were, after all, comedies), but that did not take away from the fact that these were loving families that cared about each other with fathers that were devoted to their families.

Contrast that with more recent fare where you have shows like Married with Children where the point of the show appeared to be how much these people hated each other.  Or perhaps Home Improvement where the father was the incompetent moron who caused all the problems. (Can’t give you much more recent than that–I almost never watch television and am, frankly, just too disgusted to bother.)

In older shows, when you had a single father (Ben Cartwright in Bonanza, Lucas McCain in The Rifleman, Steve Douglas in My Three Sons, and so on) it was usually a widower.  (And before you get started, there were shows about single mothers who are widows as well–Victoria Barkley in The Big Valley.)   Of course, even in modern ones, when you do have a single dad it’s often a widower because, well, over the years 1993-2007 (a range for which I happen to have found figures), the mother gets custody 83-85% of the time (making me one of the lucky ones).  More often these days the shows are about single moms.  These are rarely widows.  Either they left (for entirely justifiable reasons, of course), or were left by the fathers.

Oh, one particularly interesting example of “single fathers” was My Two Dads.  The mother was sleeping with two men, had no idea which the father was, so both came to take care of the child.  While kudos to the characters for rising to the occasion in the end, getting to that point relies on remarkably poor decisions on all three of the adults’ parts.

So where are the good fathers in recent years (for which I’ll say mid 80s or later–yes, that’s not so recent, but then, I’m not so young).

A surprising one is John Matrix in Commando.  He’s a single father, who appears to have a great relationship with his daughter.  No mention is made of what happened to the mother but given the totality of the film I’d guess he’s probably a widower.  And Matrix’s entire motivation throughout the film is to get his little girl back safe.

Another one is Adam Gibson in The 6th Day.  Gibson, a devoted family man, sees an “imposter” taking his place in his home and attempts to overcome tremendous obstacles put in place by the bad guys in his effort to return to his home and family.

Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon.  A major part of his character is his devotion to his family (and the stress of dealing with a daughter reaching an age where her becoming sexually active is a possibility) and, indeed, that family and its devotion to each other is a large part of what brings Riggs back from the brink of his own personal Hell.

Gomez Addams in the Addams Family movies (okay, I prefer the 60’s TV show, but the movies are great too).  His utter devotion to his family is unquestionable.  (Okay, there’s the modern portrayal of Wednesday, which is part of why I prefer John Astin’s version.)

Then there’s the single dad with kids who need to “rescue” him by trying to get him a girl. (Sleepless in Seatle would be the archetype of this.) Kind of a reversal of the parent/child role where the child “takes care of” the parent instead of the other way around.

One movie deserves special mention:  “The Family Man” staring Nicolas Cage.  During the “glimpse” Jack Campbell gets to see what life would be like as a devoted family man–considerably less wealthy than he was, but surrounded by people he loves, and who love him.  The glimpse ends, the “angel” (I can argue that it’s actually a demon straight out of Hell) takes it away from him and, although they try to graft on a “happy ending” by showing a possible reconciliation between Jack and the woman who was his wife in the “glimpse”, he can never have that life.  Even if they do get together they are older.  Her father in this reality is dead.  The house they had is owned by somebody else.  The daughter they had will never exist.  And neither of them is the person they were in the “glimpse”.  So that life is closed to them.  Will they make a decent one from where they are “now”?  We’ll never know.

Frankly, you have to look far and wide to find strong, loving, caring fathers dedicated to their families in movies and TV these days.  They’ve fallen out of favor.   And whether this is art imitating life, or life being influenced by art, we’re seeing a lot of disparagement of the family, and the roll of strong, caring, involved fathers in it in society.  I suspect it’s a little of both in a kind of feedback loop.

As it stands, my personal goal is to be the kind, caring, compassionate father seen in many of those early sitcoms (and if you say “Patriarchy”, you just prove that you haven’t paid close attention to those programs.  Yes, the division of labor between inside and outside the home was different from what is common today, but if you look at the division of power and who generally got their way, you’d see something quite different).  One could do worse than choose John Astin’s Gomez Addams or Fred Gwynn’s Herman Munster as a role model.

One could do a lot worse.

One might, for instance, choose Al Bundy (Shudder).

A Response to a Libertarian Group

There was this:

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While I can agree with the basic idea, the presentation in that graphic is horribly misleading

In the first item a lot of things get lumped into vague terms like “corporate welfare.” When it comes to things like actual subsidies and bailouts, I fully agree. There should be no such thing as “too big to fail”. If a company can’t survive in the market it should fail, releasing those resources to more productive uses. Many people, however, include deductions for expenses and the like. An argument might possibly be made to base taxes on gross revenue rather than “profit” (revenue-expenses) but that would…be bad I think.

The second issue, however is a horrible misrepresentation of what “limited liability” actually means and is largely what prompted this response. Limited liability is for the investors. It basically means that if the company goes bankrupt, the creditors can’t come after your Aunt Sally (who owned a share or two of stock) for her house to help pay them. It does not mean that the actual decision makers are immune from the legal consequences of their decisions. There are problems with the legal justice system which often shield the rich and powerful from the consequences of their actions but corporation “limited liability” is not one of them.

The next, “economic privilege”, when it comes to government influence is a result of the size, scope, and intrusiveness of government, pure and simple. Once government starts meddling in the economy it becomes a matter of self-interest to the point of survival for businesses to attempt to influence that meddling. More regulation simply makes matters worse by making influence still more valuable (and thus folk who can being willing to pay more for it). “More regulation” to attempt to stop that influence is actually counterproductive. First off, the people who would be creating those regulations already benefit from said influence. Likewise, the folk who already have the influence are going to use that influence to neuter any such regulation, at least when it comes to their influence. Those two turn it into a “bell the cat” situation. And even if you could somehow solve that, the simple truth is that any laws/regulations which have fallible humans involved anywhere in the process is going to have flaws and weaknesses. And the folk with the fund to do so, will now be even more willing to spend those funds to find those weaknesses and flaws because you’ve just made that influence even more valuable. The solution there, paradoxically, is to reduce the power of government, reduce its influence over business and the economy. This makes influence over government less valuable and, therefore, people will simply be unwilling to spend resources on that influence. That, unfortunately, is one approach that’s almost never advocated by those who decry the “economic privilege” of big business and the wealthy “buying” influence over government.

Finally, we have that last one. That’s actually correct as written (IMO). The problem is that many people define “enforce contracts” not to mean just according to what the contract in question actually says, but by what they think it should say. Anybody making a “living Constitution” argument is doing just that. And if anybody talks about “enforcing contracts” and an unwritten “social contract”, run. Likewise, they want to restrict what contracts one is allowed to enter into and what contracts one is not (see “health insurance).

So again, while the concepts I, in general, agree with, the specifics noted leave much to be desired.

My Life Part 6: Vaccines and Tonsils

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This covers some assorted things that I don’t have a real “sequence” to, or that I had simply neglected to mention, on the last few parts.

Sometime before I started first grade, my mother took me to someplace I had never been before.  It was a long, low brick building and we joined a long line of people waiting to enter the building.  The people waiting were, like my mother, adults with one or more children in tow.  My mother said it was for vaccinations.  I, of course, had no idea what a “vaccination” was.

The line moved forward rapidly.   Eventually we reached a point where I could see what was going on ahead of me, and what was happening to the kids in front of me.

Eeep!

I was ready to bolt right there.  Those needles looked to my six year old eyes to be about a yard long.  Not me.  No thank you.  And this was before I had dealt with the dentist who gave me a pretty serious fear of needles.  The fact that they were needles was scary enough, without the need for any experience with ham-fisted folk inflicting exquisite pain with them.

My mother told me I was her brave boy, and it didn’t hurt, and… And while I had my doubts about that “didn’t hurt” part, well, I was her brave boy, wasn’t I?  I couldn’t let her down.  So I pressed my lips together and stepped up to the counter (it was a counter and not individual desks) when it was my turn.

First there was that yard long needle.  I don’t know what vaccines it was for, but it went into my shoulder and…didn’t hurt.  Next there was a needle that wasn’t attached to a syringe.  I got jabbed with this one several times in a small area, just enough to lightly prick the skin.  I remember it as being to the inside of my forearm but that can’t be right.  Mandela effect, I guess.  This would have been the smallpox vaccine and, therefore, would have been applied to the shoulder.  On reflection, I think I’m conflating the memory with a TB skin test I had some years later in fifth grade.

My mother told me that the area would blister and itch and that I must not scratch it otherwise it could get infected.

Well, it did blister (as smallpox vaccinations do), and it did itch.  But I didn’t scratch.  It was hard, but I avoided it.  Instead, what happened is that I was a very active six year old boy and in the course of play the bump on my shoulder tore off.  I’m pretty sure it was just a scab at that point but what did a six year old know?  I picked up the piece that had torn off and went running back home with it.  I remember my mother taping the piece back in place with a bandaid, but I doubt that happened.  It would have been filthy and not something you would put over a bleeding wound.  As I said, I’m pretty sure in retrospect it was just scabbing.  I suspect there was some slight of hand there to make me think my mother was putting the piece of my shoulder back in place while she simply bandaged the wound.

It did get infected somewhat, at least as my mother related the tale in later days, but I recovered and then had my smallpox vaccine scar.  It’s completely faded now.  Can’t find a trace of it.

Later, and still before “the dentist” (Part 5 of this series) while we were in school we were given some materials to explain why it was so very important to get vaccinated against Rubella, German Measles.  There were little comics about how a kid, not vaccinated, got it and passed it to a pregnant relative and, as a result, said relative’s child was born blind.  Scare stuff, but entirely valid.  So, once again we were lined up.  The procedure was slightly different this time.  Instead of a yard long (as it seemed to me) needle, they used the air guns to “blow” the vaccine through the skin.  And so we got the MMR vaccine.  One of the “M’s” was supposedly not operative for me.  My mother said that I had had mumps when I was younger but I have no memory of that.

The other medical issue of the time was tonsils.  Back then, mid to late 60’s, tonsillectomy was very common.  And with my recurrent sore throats made me an excellent candidate for one.  And, so, I went into the hospital for one, something Memorial Hospital (either gone or name changed in the interim–can’t find any “Memorial Hospitals” in or near Portsmouth now). I was in a semi-private room with another kid also in for tonsils.  We immediately become friends.

One of the things I remembered was my new friend and I thinking it would be a good idea to press the nurse call button “just because.” Well, we ended up being scolded by the nurse.

Eventually it became time for the surgery.  No food allowed that morning which was definitely disappointing to a growing boy.

My new friend’s turn was first.  Some folk came in and then I heard my friend set up a howling.  Shortly thereafter, they wheeled him out of the room and that was the last I ever saw of him. (He didn’t die nor was there anything sinister. We just ended up going separate ways after our respective operations and, well, the only thing we had in common was sharing a hospital room pre-op.)

Not long after, it was my turn.  I found out why he howled so.  Part of my immediate pre-op prep was to get a needle (didn’t see it, but I’m sure it was a yard long) jabbed into my rear end and the fires of Hell (although I never would have used that word back then) injected into my backside.

I howled.

Afterward my mother, who was there with me, told me what a brave boy I had been. (I’m not sure my mother quite grasped the concept of bravery.  Just kidding.  She was being a mother.)  After the injection, I was turned face up on a gurney (nowadays the beds themselves are on wheels and used to move patients) and I was wheeled into the operating room.

I am told that the injection was probably demerol and the reason it was so very painful is back then the approach was to give the injections quickly to “get it over with”.  The medicine being shoved into the muscle quickly causes pressure which makes it hurt more.  A more gradual injection (more common today) allows the medicine time to disperse and is less painful.

In the operating room they put a mask over my face and…Boom.  Lights out.

While I was out, I dreamed.  In my dream they were talking about having the surgery to take my tonsils out “tomorrow.” And so, when I woke, feeling groggy and just plain not very good at all, I saw my mother there and asked her if they were going to take my tonsils out tomorrow?

“They’re done.  They’re already out.”

And then I got sick.  I have since learned that I always get violently sick to my stomach after coming out of general anesthetic.  Always.  Anti-nausea drugs don’t touch it.  I get violently sick to my stomach when I come out of it.  This isn’t helped by the surgery being in my throat meaning I very likely swallowed a significant amount of blood.  As was explained to me by my ENT after nose surgery many years later, human blood is an emetic.  It makes most people sick.

And so, my throat hurt. (Gee, you think?) But I nevertheless went back to sleep.  When I awoke again, I asked the nurse looking in on me (didn’t touch the call button–I’d learned.) if I could have some ice cream.  You see, my mother had told me before the surgery that I could eat a lot of cold, soft foods like ice cream and Jello after it to help soothe my throat.  The nurse said the doctor had to check me before I could have anything to eat.  I didn’t complain.  I wasn’t really hungry, still groggy and uncomfortable.  I just wanted some ice cream because my throat hurt and I thought it might soothe it just like my mother had said.

So, a bit later that morning the doctor checked me and pronounced me fit to release.  And shortly after I had ice cream.  Chocolate.  In one of those little Styrofoam packages with the little wooden vaguely-spoon-shaped object.

And so, for the next two weeks I was eating mostly soft foods (eggs, grits–we were a southern family, grits was one of the four main food groups–, and yes, ice cream and jello).  Then we switched to “scratchier” (as my mother termed it) foods.  Hamburgers!  One of my favorites.  This was, I was told, to help “clear out” the stitches.  In retrospect, I am…dubious of this claim.  Since I did not go back to have sutures removed, I expect they used absorbable sutures (Dexon was available at the time).

I have been “under the knife” several times since then, most recently for nose surgery (deviated septum and issues with the “turbinates” that were causing breathing problems).  Every time, I’ve been seriously sick to my stomach afterward.

And to this day I am really, really reluctant to push that call button for anything short of imminent death.

A Modest Proposal.

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As I write this (2020) the estimated Federal deficit for the year is about $1 trillion.  To give you some perspective, you could have started at the Birth of Christ, spent One Hundred Thousand dollars a day from that day until this, and you still would have spent only about 3/4 of a trillion.

And whenever anyone talks about “cuts” it’s almost never actual cuts but reduction in an expected rate of increase.  And the cost of government keeps spiraling up and up and up.  Did I say spiraling?  No.  I misspoke.  They’re going straight up.

But if we cut anything, police and firefighters will be out of work, schools will shut down for a lack of teachers.  Doom will be upon us!

In that vein, perhaps, might I make a modest proposal.  We lived through previous years without facing doom.  It might not be as comfortable as we would like, but perhaps we could live with, say, the Federal Government size and scope of, say 2004.  I mean, 2004 and “fighting two unfunded wars” (we paid for them, the claim was that we didn’t raise taxes enough to cover them).  And that was with the “Bush Tax Cuts”. So, surely we could live within not even the budget but the amount we spent that year:

$2.23 trillion dollars.

Oh, sure, prices have gone up since then.  $2.23 trillion doesn’t buy today what it did then.  Fair enough.  So let’s allow for inflation.  That’s 36.56 percent.  So, with an inflation adjustment that comes to:

$3.05 trillion dollars

But wait, somebody is sure to complain, our population has increased.  We’re going to have to spend more on things like police, fire, and education, as well as all the other “services” government provides because there are simply more people needing those services.

Again, fair enough.  Now, not everything government does (whether it should or not is a different matter, but suffice to say that it does) scales with population.  The size of our military, our coast guard and border patrol, agriculture department, and so on don’t really scale with the size of the population.  But let’s ignore that.  Let’s just say that government expenditure has to go up proportionally with population.  The US population at the end of 2004 was 293 million.  By the end of 2020 it’s estimated to be 331 million.  That’s a 13% increase.  So, let’s increase that budget by another 13% and we’re at.

$3.44 trillion dollars.

That’s a lot of money.  However, the estimate of government revenue (and that’s with Trump’s tax cuts) for 2020 is:

$3.71 trillion dollars.

Oh, look at that.  Revenue is projected to be higher than expenditures.  That means we can put $265 billion toward reducing the accumulated national debt.

So, if we simply rolled back Federal expenditures to what they were in 2004, adjusted for inflation and population, we would not only balance the budget but begin to pay down the debt.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be everything everyone would like, but surely, surely we would survive it.  After all, we survived it before.  What we have done, we can do, right?  I mean, we’re certainly no less capable of surviving than we were 16 years ago.

And because not all things scale with population we’d even have some extra money to pay for some other “nice things” my friends on the Left would like to have.

And that’s my Modest Proposal.