Friday, March 26, 2010

Weird FedEx shipping routes

From the department of "Huh?"

Wednesday night I ordered a DVD course from The Teaching Company. The Teaching Company sells lectures on many different college subjects by mail order. By pure coincidence, their headquarters is only a few miles from my home. Since my order has shipped, I decided to track it. Its Federal Express route is as follows, from the original location (A) to my home (D):

For some reason, after starting out in Chantilly, Virginia (A), Federal Express must first send it north to Hagerstown, Maryland (B), before sending it south to Alexandria, Virginia (C), before delivering it to my home in Centreville, Virginia (D), which is right near the original location (A).

Ah, the wonders of the hub and spoke system!

Daylight savings time wastes energy

A national policy to conserve energy backfires. Doh!

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to repeal health care reform

It can be politically difficult to run on the slogan "Repeal health care reform," because many Americans see it as a panacea for anything they don't like about the current system.* It would be much easier for political candidates to run against one unpopular component of ObamaCare. Luckily, it's possible to run against one component that bill break the whole thing.

Ezra Klein unwittingly explains how to destroy ObamaCare:
Pick your favorite system. Socialized medicine in Britain. Single-payer in Canada. Multi-payer with a government floor in France. Private plans with heavy public regulation in Sweden, Germany and elsewhere. None of these plans are "voluntary." In some, there's an individual mandate forcing you to pay premiums to insurance companies. In some, there's a system of taxation forcing you to pay premiums to the government. In all of them, at least so far as I know, participation is required except in very limited and uncommon circumstances. And there's a reason for that: No universal system can work without it.
In other words, the Democrats' health care reform law is a house of cards. Remove the right card and the whole house will collapse. In this case, the right card is the individual mandate.

Americans tend to dislike government mandates. I dislike them. You probably dislike them too. This is supposed to be a free country. Government mandates are the opposite of freedom. Government mandates are so abhorrent that the Democrats are waiting until after the 2012 general election for the health insurance mandate to take effect. Republicans should run against the mandate year after year, decade after decade, until it is repealed. Once the individual mandate is repealed, the whole ObamaCare house of cards will come crashing down.

The individual mandate will force people to buy health insurance no matter how expensive that health insurance gets. Expanding health insurance coverage by requiring people to buy something they can't afford, fining them if they don't buy it, and jailing them if they don't pay the fine... is just evil.

The individual mandate forces younger workers to subsidize the health insurance expenses of older workers. That's because the people who don't buy health insurance tend to be young and healthy. Since younger workers are just starting out in their careers and have had little time to save, while older workers have had decades to advance in their careers and build up a sizable nest egg, the individual mandate is a regressive tax. The individual mandate effectively forces entry-level workers to subsidize management. That's just wrong!

In addition, by forcing people to buy insurance, the individual mandate funnels gobs of money away from ordinary Americans and toward health insurance companies. Health insurance executives were happy to let Barack Obama bash them publicly, because he was advocating a law that will stuff their pockets with money. (He can bash me too if he forces people to pay me!)

Now here's the bad part. Of course, the individual mandate (or any part of ObamaCare) can't be repealed while Barack Obama is President. Furthermore, since ObamaCare is a copy of Massachusetts' RomneyCare, it can't be repealed by a future President Mitt Romney either. If Republicans want to collapse the ObamaCare house of cards, they need to both nominate someone other than Romney and win the 2012 general election. Since Mitt Romney is the likely Republican 2012 front-runner, it may be a long time before health care reform is obliterated.

In addition (not as a substitute!) to pursuing a legislative repeal of the mandate, it could be taken to the courts. Argue in court that forcing Americans, against their will, to buy something that may be difficult for them to afford, simply to exist as a human being in this country, is not one of the federal government's enumerated powers. The Washington Post puts it this way:
The individual mandate extends the commerce clause's power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying "cash for clunkers" is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.

If you choose to drive a car, then maybe you can be made to buy insurance against the possibility of inflicting harm on others. But making you buy insurance merely because you are alive is a claim of power from which many Americans instinctively shrink.

* ObamaCare is only designed to expand health insurance coverage. It is not designed to lower costs or improve quality. Unfortunately, many people incorrectly think it is.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Top ten highest-paying college majors

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, these are currently the ten highest-paying college majors for new college graduates:
  1. Petroleum Engineering — $86,220
  2. Chemical Engineering — $65,142
  3. Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological) — $64,552
  4. Computer Science — $61,205
  5. Computer Engineering — $60,879
  6. Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering — $59,074
  7. Mechanical Engineering — $58,392
  8. Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering — $57,734
  9. Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering — $57,231
  10. Information Sciences & Systems — $54,038
In general, technical majors pay the most. Finance-related majors (e.g. finance, accounting, economics, business) are the second-highest-paying group of majors. Health and natural sciences come next. Liberal arts, agriculture, and education majors pay the least. A technical undergraduate degree combined with an M.B.A. pays extremely well. For more on this topic, see here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fareed Zakaria criticizes ObamaCare

CNN's Fareed Zakaria echoes one of my main complaints about ObamaCare:
CNN: What's your view of the health care legislation Democrats may pass in the next week?

Zakaria: My own feeling is it's a missed opportunity — while it would be great to expand coverage, it doesn't fundamentally reform a broken health care system. We have a system that has out-of-control costs, where there's a huge incentive for the overconsumption of costs by the consumer and oversupply by the producers. Patients are willing to consume more health care services than they need, and doctors and hospitals are willing to supply more health care services than are required ...

We consume many more tests, we do many more interventions, all of which are much more costly and at the end of the day, we don't live longer, we don't have better outcomes on virtually any disease.
By the way, his most recent book, The Post-American World, is outstanding. I've recently become a huge Fareed Zakaria fan.

For more on the problem of high health care costs, see my blog posts here, here, here, here, and here. Or, you could just click on the health care tag below to read all of my health care–related blog posts.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unemployment rate by level of education

In case you can't read the legend, the education categories are:
  • Less than high school diploma
  • High school graduate, no college
  • Some college or associate's degree
  • Bachelor's degree or higher
Click on the graph to see the full-sized version:

I find it interesting to see that the typical unemployment rate for someone with a college degree is only about 2-3%.

From Calculated Risk.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quote of the day

From Megan McArdle:
Green jobs have become the ginseng of progressive politics: a sort of broad-spectrum snake oil that cures whatever happens to ail you.
Real environmentalism would encourage people to use less energy, therefore there would likely be fewer jobs in the energy sector.

Smart energy policy would simply raise the cost of fossil fuels via a carbon tax or cap and trade. There should be no subsidies for renewable energy, because energy subsidies encourage people to waste energy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tahir ul-Qadri: Terrorists are kafirs (unbelievers)

Islamic scholar Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri has issued a 600 page fatwa declaring that terrorists are unbelievers:
A fatwa, or religious ruling, issued this week is roiling theological waters after it took aim at those notorious for targeting others: terrorists.

The anti-terrorism fatwa by renowned Muslim scholar Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri pulled no punches, declaring that terrorism was "haraam," or forbidden by the Quran, and that suicide bombers would be rewarded not by 72 virgins in heaven, as many terrorist recruiters promise, but with a suite in hell.

Qadri, the founder of the Minhaj-ul-Quran International, an Islamic movement with centers in 90 countries, told a news conference in London, England, on Tuesday that his decree categorically condemns terrorism and suicide bombings in the name of Islam.

"Until now, scholars who were condemning terrorism were conditional and qualified what they said," Qadri said in a phone interview, noting that his 600-page ruling left no room for interpretation. "I didn't leave a single, minor aspect that, in the mind of radicals or extremists, can take them to the direction of martyrdom."

The 59-year-old Pakistani scholar called his fatwa an "absolute" condemnation, going as far as to label the terrorists themselves "kafirs," a term in the Quran meaning "unbeliever." ...

"This is not an academic or an intellectual argument alone. This is a theological argument, based in the Qur'an and Sunnah [practice of the Prophet]," Ahmed said. "What it provides are easily available argumentation and proof for the millions of preachers across Pakistan, who can, in turn, incorporate this into their weekly sermons."
Information directly from the source can be found here.