Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gender Inequality At Home Leads to More Sex

Posted by Milton Recht:

From "Husbands who do more traditionally female housework have less sex" on ScienceBlog:
"Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage," said Sabino Kornrich, the study’s lead author and a junior researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid. "Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks—such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance—report higher sexual frequency."

The study, "Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage," which considers heterosexual married couples in the United States, relies on nationally representative data from the National Survey of Families and Households. Men in the study reported having had sex an average of 5.2 times in the month prior to the survey while women reported 5.6 times on average. But, both men and women in couples with more gender-traditional divisions of household labor reported having had more sex than those with more egalitarian divisions.

"The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity," said Kornrich, who co-authored the study with two University of Washington researchers, Julie Brines, an associate professor of sociology, and Katrina Leupp, a doctoral candidate in sociology.

Combined State And Federal Cell Phone Tax Exceeds 20 Percent In 7 States

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Tax Foundation, "State and Local Governments Impose Hefty Taxes on Cell Phone Consumers" by Joseph Henchman and Scott Drenkard:

State-Local Rate
Combined Federal-State-Local Rate
U.S. Simple Average 
U.S. Weighted Average
Source: Scott Mackey, KSE Partners, LLP, based on Methodology from Council on State Taxation, 50-State Study and Report on Telecommunications Taxation, May 2005.
Notes: The federal rate on wireless service is 5.82 percent. D.C. rank given for information purposes only and does not affect other ranks.
New York    
Rhode Island   

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Most State Mortgage Laws From Civil War Era: Not Adapted To Today's Realities Of Home Ownership, Lending, Or Securitization

Posted by Milton Recht:

From WP Carey School Of Business, Knowre "Housing-Market Woes: Prof Says They Should Prompt Legal Reform:"
According to her [Andra Ghent assistant professor of real estate at the W. P. Carey School of Business], most of today’s [mortgage] laws evolved by happenstance. “It’s not so much that each state made a conscious decision to design their mortgage laws in the most efficient way possible.” Often, she explains, laws evolved as a result of some individual judge’s decision rather than statutory intent. Or, they developed as one state tried to emulate another, assuming that the model state had it right in the first place.

The random development of mortgage laws is all the more disconcerting when you consider another reality. “These laws are very old and extremely slow to change,” Ghent notes. In fact, her research traces laws back to 1863 for 37 states. Among them, only 11 states changed their foreclosure proceedings substantially between Civil War days and 2008. In the states for which Ghent had more recent data, similar inertia prevails.

Heat From Cities' Energy Use Having Major Climate Change Impact

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Yahoo!News, "Energy-Guzzling Cities Changing Weather 1,000 Miles Away" by Tanya Lewis |
The heat released by everyday activities in energy-guzzling cities is changing the weather in far-away places, scientists report today (Jan. 27).

The released heat is changing temperatures in areas more than 1,000 miles away (1609 kilometers). It is warming parts of North America by about 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) and northern Asia by as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius), while cooling areas of Europe by a similar amount, scientists report in the journal Nature Climate Change.
"There's a tendency in climate science to overlook the effects of cities," Brian Stone, a professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, told LiveScience. "Cities occupy just a few percent of the global land surface, but the amount of energy released as waste heat is contributing downwind to pretty significant changes in climate. I hope this will encourage us to focus more on cities as important drivers of climate change," added Stone, who was not involved in the current study.
"The energy consumption in highly populated areas can cause changes in wind patterns, and that causes climate change far away from the heating source," said meteorologist and study author Ming Cai of Florida State University.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Supplementing Pregnant Women And Newborns With Omega-3 Diets Increases Children's IQ

Posted by Milton Recht:

From "Diet, Parental Behavior, and Preschool Can Boost Children’s IQ" on ScienceBlog:
Supplementing children’s diets with fish oil, enrolling them in quality preschool, and engaging them in interactive reading all turn out to be effective ways to raise a young child’s intelligence, according to a new report published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Using a technique called meta-analysis, a team led by John Protzko, a doctoral student at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, combined the findings from existing studies to evaluate the overall effectiveness of each type of intervention.
All of the studies in this database rely on a normal population (participants without clinical diagnoses of intellectual disabilities), focus on interventions that are sustained over time, use widely accepted measures of intelligence, and, most importantly, are randomly controlled trials (participants selected at random to receive one of the interventions).
Overall, the results of the meta-analyses indicated that certain dietary and environmental interventions can be effective in raising children’s IQ.

Supplementing pregnant women and newborns with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, foods rich in Omega-3, were found to boost children’s IQ by more than 3.5 points. These essential fatty acids may help raise intelligence by providing the building blocks for nerve cell development that the body cannot produce on its own.

There is insufficient research, however, to determine whether other types of supplements — including iron, B-complex vitamins, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and zinc — have beneficial effects on intelligence.

Enrolling an economically disadvantaged child into an early education intervention was found to raise his or her IQ by more than four points; interventions that specifically included a center-based education component raised a child’s IQ by more than seven points.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Childhood Depression Does Not Lead To Violent Crimes

Posted by Milton Recht:

From "Youth Depression and Future Criminal Behavior" by D. Mark Anderson, Montana State University - Bozeman, and Erdal Tekin, Georgia State University, December 2012, NBER Working Paper No. w18656:
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we examine the effect of depression during adolescence on the probability of engaging in a number of criminal behaviors later in life.
We find little evidence that adolescent depression predicts the likelihood of engaging in violent crime or the selling of illicit drugs. However, our empirical estimates show that adolescents who suffer from depression face an increased probability of engaging in property crime. Our estimates imply that the lower-bound economic cost of property crime associated with adolescent depression is about 219 million dollars annually.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NY Has Longest Home Foreclosure Process: Three Years To Foreclose On Defaulting Homeowner: Five Times As Long As Arizona: NY Home Prices Show Yearly Decline While US Shows Gains

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Bloomberg, "New York Protecting Defaulters Stalls Rebound: Mortgages" by Prashant Gopal:
The New York area was one of only two in the country to post year-over-year home price declines in the latest Case- Shiller 20-city index. Homebuyers also could lose, with the Federal Housing Finance Agency considering a fee increase to compensate Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac for doing business in New York and four other states with slow, costly foreclosures.

"New York suffers from what appears to be altruism, in that it postpones foreclosures as long as possible -- the problem is that altruism can be expensive," said Anthony B. Sanders, an economics professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. “It slows down the housing market and it results in lenders being almost unwilling to lend. New buyers will pay the price for this.”
In New York it took 1,089 days on average to foreclose in the fourth quarter, the longest of any state and more than five times the pace in hard-hit Arizona, a non-judicial state that has worked through much of its backlog, according to data from RealtyTrac.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Prosecutorial Discretion Is A Huge Unregulated Threat To Civil Liberties: The Lesson Of Aaron Swartz And David Gregory

Posted by Milton Recht:

From the academic paper, "Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything Is A Crime" by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee. J.D. Yale Law School:
Attorney General (and later Supreme Court Justice) Robert Jackson once commented: "If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows he can choose his defendants." The result is "The most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted." Prosecutors could easily fall prey to the temptation of "picking the man, and then searching the law books . . . to pin some offense on him." In short, prosecutors’ discretion to charge – or not to charge – individuals with crimes is a tremendous power, amplified by the huge number of laws on the books.

Two recent events have brought more attention to this problem. One involves the decision not to charge NBC anchor David Gregory with weapons--‐ law violations bearing a potential year--‐long sentence for brandishing a 30--‐ round magazine (illegal in D.C.), despite the prosecutor's statement that the on--‐air violation was clear; the other involves prosecutors' rather enthusiastic efforts to prosecute Reddit founder Aaron Swartz for downloading academic journal articles from a closed database, prosecutorial efforts so enthusiastic that Swartz committed suicide in the face of a potential 50--‐year sentence.

Both cases have aroused criticism, and in Swartz's case even legislation designed to ensure that violating websites’ terms cannot be prosecuted as a crime. But the problem is much broader. Given the vast web of legislation and regulation that exists today, virtually any American is at risk of prosecution should a prosecutor decide that they are, in Jackson’s words, a person "he should get."
With so many more federal laws and regulations than were present in Jackson's day, the task for prosecutors of first choosing the man – or woman – and then pinning the crime on him or her has become much easier. This problem has been discussed at length in Gene Healy's Go Directly To Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything, and Harvey Silverglate's Three Felonies A Day. The upshot of both is that the proliferation of federal criminal statutes and regulations has reached the point that virtually every citizen, knowingly or not (usually not) is potentially at risk for prosecution. That is undoubtedly true, and the consequences are drastic and troubling. [Emphasis added, Footnotes omitted.]

Hispanics Show Biggest Increase In US High School Graduation Rates

Posted by Milton Recht:

Frpm Bloomberg, "U.S. High School Graduation Rate at Highest Since 1970s" by John Hechinger:
U.S. students graduated from public high schools at the highest rate since the 1970s, with the largest leap for Hispanic students, government data show.

In 2009-2010, 78.2 percent of students earned a diploma after four years, compared with 75.5 percent the year before, according to a U.S. Education Department report released today.
In 1969-1970, the rate was 78.7 percent. It fell as low as 71 percent in the 1990s, before inching higher in the current decade.

Ethnic Groups

In the most recent round, Asian-American students had the best performance, at 93.5 percent, trailed by whites at 83 percent. The Hispanic graduation rate of 71.4 percent rose from 65.9 percent, the largest increase of any ethnic group. For blacks, the percentage rose to 66.1 percent from 63.5 percent.

Friday, January 18, 2013

US Plans To Sell Remaining GM Shares Within 12 To 15 Months

Posted by Milton Recht:

From US Treasury Press Release, "Treasury Commences Plan to Sell General Motors Common Stock" 1/18/2013:
Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it took the next step in its plan to sell its approximately 300.1 million remaining shares of General Motors (GM) common stock with the initiation of a pre-arranged written trading plan.

Under the plan, Treasury will proceed with its December 2012 announcement that it intends to sell its shares into the market in an orderly fashion and fully exit its remaining GM investment within the next 12-15 months, subject to market conditions. That previous announcement was made in connection with GM’s repurchase of 200 million shares of GM common stock from Treasury, which was also completed in December 2012.

Geographical Differences In Health Spending Due To Socio-Economic Differences And Not Due To Medical Practice Style Differences

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Federal Reserve Board, Finance and Economics Discussion Series, "Why the Geographic Variation in Health Care Spending Can't Tell Us Much about the Efficiency or Quality of our Health Care System" by Louise Sheiner:
This paper examines the geographic variation in Medicare and non-Medicare health spending and finds little support for the view that most of the variation is attributable to differences in practice styles. Instead, I find that socioeconomic factors that affect the need for medical care, as well as interactions between the Medicare system, Medicaid, and private health spending, can account for most of the variation in Medicare spending. Furthermore, I find that the health spending of the non-Medicare population is not well correlated with Medicare spending, suggesting that Medicare spending is not a good proxy for average health spending by state.
More broadly, the paper shows that the geographic variation in health spending does not provide a useful measure of the inefficiencies of our health system. States where Medicare spending is high are very different in multiple dimensions from states where Medicare spending is low, and thus it is difficult to isolate the effects of differences in health spending intensity from the effects of the differences in the underlying state characteristics. I show, for example, that the relationships between health spending, physician composition and quality are likely the result of omitted factors rather than the result of causal relationships. [Emphasis added.]
Full 56-page research paper for those interested.

Wind Power Is 6 Percent Of US Electrical Generating Capacity

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Bloomberg, "U.S. Wind Power Accounted for 6% of Generation Capacity in 2012" by Louise Downing:
U.S. wind power accounted for 6 percent of the nation’s total electricity generation capacity after developers rushed to finish projects before expiration of a subsidy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

The threat that the U.S. Production Tax Credit would lapse on Dec. 31 prompted developers to complete as many projects as they could last month, the London-based research group said. A record 13.2 gigawatts of turbines were installed last year including 5.5 gigawatts in December, the most ever for a single month. Total wind capacity is about 60 gigawatts.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Head Start Does Not Benefit Low Income Students On Any Measure: US Department of Health and Human Services Report

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Brookings, "Can We Be Hard-Headed About Preschool? A Look at Head Start" by Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst:
The findings [Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study Final Report, December 18, 2012, US Department of Health and Human Services], in brief, are that there were effects favoring Head Start children on some outcome variables at the end of the Head Start year. However, these impacts did not persist. Both in the kindergarten and first grade follow-up data, released just short of three years ago[6], and the third grade follow-up data, released in December of 2012, there were no reliable differences in outcomes for children who won the lottery to attend Head Start vs. those who lost that lottery and served as the control group. In the words of the authors of the report, "by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts … in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children."[page xvii] [Emphasis added.]

If this conclusion by the authors isn’t clear enough, I’ll put it in less academic language:

There is no measurable advantage to children in elementary school of having participated in Head Start. Further, children attending Head Start remain far behind academically once they are in elementary school. Head Start does not improve the school readiness of children from low-income families.

$3 Trillion In Non-Residential Capital Investment Needed To Close Employment Gap

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Real Clear Markets, "Economic Growth Must Be Washington's Plan A" by Rich Lowrie:
In what I call the "Woodhill Equation," put forth by economic growth guru and fellow Cain economic advisor Louis Woodhill, GDP always equals 46% times non-residential produced assets (equipment, machines, structures, computers, etc.), plus 7% times residential produced assets. Accordingly, every additional dollar of capital investment in plant and equipment increases the stock of non-residential produced assets by a dollar, and this, in turn, generates 46 cents more GDP...every year! There is no better game in town.

Since the average job is supported by roughly $210,000 of non-residential produced assets, to create 15 million average jobs, a little more than $3 trillion (roughly the amount Congress and Obama have squandered) of private sector capital investment is needed. Putting people back to work is a great way to reduce federal outlays and increase federal revenues.

Standing in the way of growth is a wall that separates people with ideas from people with capital. It makes no sense to wall off those with ideas. That's where we get innovation, new business formation, job creation and wealth generation. This wall consists of a tax code that retards new capital formation and double taxes any capital that does form. It is reinforced by an unstable monetary system that diverts precious capital from its most productive uses because of the need to guard against the chaos caused by a floating dollar. As if that's not enough, the wall is guarded by regulators who treat the marriage of capital and ideas as an anti-social act.

CBO's Forecasts Tend To Slightly Overestimate Inflation, Interest Rates And Wages, But CBO's Economic Forecast Are As Accurate As Private Forecasts

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Congressional Budget Office report, January 17, 2013, "CBO's Economic Forecasting Record: 2013 Update:"
Do CBO’s Forecasts Exhibit Notable Bias?
A simple and widely used indicator of statistical bias is the mean error—the average tendency of a forecast to be low or high over an entire period. In general, CBO’s forecasts and those by the Administration and the Blue Chip consensus have had similar mean errors. Specifically, CBO’s evaluation finds this:
  • For CBO’s forecasts that look two years ahead, the mean errors have generally been very small. The agency’s forecasts have shown slight tendencies to overestimate future interest rates and wages and salaries.
  • For CBO’s forecasts that look five years ahead, the mean errors imply a slightly stronger tendency to overestimate inflation compared with that of the agency’s two-year forecasts—which largely accounts for higher mean errors for growth in nominal output and in wages and salaries. In other respects, the mean errors generally resemble those for forecasts that look two years ahead.
How Accurate Are CBO’s Forecasts?
Accuracy is the degree to which forecast values are dispersed around actual outcomes. One widely used measure of accuracy is the root mean square error. By that measure, the forecasts by CBO, the Administration, and the Blue Chip consensus have been about equally accurate over two-year periods as well as over five-year periods.

Ineffectiveness Of American Schools, Dumbing Down Of Text Books And Progressive Education Theories, Responsible For The Increase In Income Equality Since The 1970s

Posted by Milton Recht:

From City Journal, "A Wealth of Words: The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary" by E D Hirsch, JR:
Early in the twentieth century, a well-meant but inadequate conception of education became dominant in the United States. It included optimism about children’s natural development, a belief in the unimportance of factual knowledge and book learning, and a corresponding belief in the importance of training the mind through hands-on practical experience. In the 1920s and 1930s, these ideas began spreading to teacher-training institutions. It took two or three decades for the new teachers and administrators to take over from the old and for the new ideas to revolutionize schoolbooks and classroom practices. The first students to undergo this new schooling therefore began kindergarten in the 1950s and arrived in 12th grade in the 1960s.

Their test scores showed the impact of the new ideas. From 1945 to 1967, 12th-graders’ verbal scores on the SAT and other tests had risen. But then those scores plummeted. Cornell economist John Bishop wrote in the 1980s of “the historically unprecedented nature of the test score decline that began around 1967. Prior to that year test scores had been rising steadily for 50 years.” The scores reached their nadir around 1980 and have remained low ever since.

Some scholars thought that the precipitous fall of verbal SAT scores simply reflected the admirable increase in the percentage of low-income students taking the SAT. But Bishop observed that the same downhill pattern had occurred in verbal scores on the Iowa Test of Educational Development—a test given to all Iowa high school students, who were 98 percent white and mostly middle-class in attitude. He argued that the declining effectiveness of American schools was a leading indicator for the shrinking income of the American middle class. The evidence today suggests that he was right. The decline in the educational productivity of our schools tracks our decline in income equality. For 30 years after 1945, Stiglitz observes, economic equality advanced in the United States; after about 1975, it declined.

Later, another Cornell scholar, the sociologist Donald Hayes, showed that the decline of the verbal SAT scores was indeed correlated with a dumbing-down of American schoolbooks. Following the lead of the great literacy scholar Jeanne Chall, Hayes found that publishers, under the influence of progressive educational theories, had begun to use simplified language and smaller vocabularies. Hayes demonstrated that the dilution of knowledge and vocabulary, rather than poverty, explained most of the test-score drop.
The entire article is worth reading.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Chart Of Owners Of US Debt

Posted by Milton Recht:

From "Who Really Owns the U.S. National Debt? [Preliminary FY2012 Edition]" on Political Calculations Blog:

Source:  Political Calculations
The information presented in our chart above is preliminary, as the U.S. Treasury typically revises its foreign entity debt ownership data in March of each year.

Getting Closer To An Alzheimer Vaccine

Posted by Milton Recht:

From "Major Step Toward An Alzheimer Vaccine" on ScienceBlog:
One of the main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the production in the brain of a toxic molecule known as amyloid beta. Microglial cells, the nervous system’s defenders, are unable to eliminate this substance, which forms deposits called senile plaques.

The team led by Dr. Serge Rivest, professor at Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and researcher at the CHU de Québec research center, identified a molecule that stimulates the activity of the brain’s immune cells. The molecule, known as MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A), has been used extensively as a vaccine adjuvant by GSK for many years, and its safety is well established.

In mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms, weekly injections of MPL over a twelve-week period eliminated up to 80% of senile plaques. In addition, tests measuring the mice’s ability to learn new tasks showed significant improvement in cognitive function over the same period.

Defense Versus Entitlement Spending: Chart

Posted by Milton Recht:

From AEIdeas, "Charts: Is the big US budget problem entitlement spending or defense spending?" by James Pethokoukis:

Source: AEIdeas
Source: AEIdeas

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tax Foundation 2013 Map Of State Gasoline Tax Rates

Posted by Milton Recht:

From the Tax Foundation, map of state gasoline tax rates:

Source: Tax Foundation

Social Security (OASDI) Holds Enough Assets To Pay Benefits For 4 Years Without A Debt Ceiling Increase

Posted by Milton Recht:

At the end of December 2012, the Social Security Trust Fund held $2.7 trillion in investments. The fund also receives $100 billion per year in interest payments on these investments.

According to the 2012 Social Security Trust Fund report, Table III.A5, Social Security paid out $725 billion in Old Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits in 2011.

By selling the US bonds it holds as investments, Social Security can continue to pay OASDI benefits for 4 years without a debt ceiling increase.

With payroll taxes, interest on investments and tax receipts from taxable portion of Social Security benefits, the Trust Fund will see a net addition to the fund for the next few years, according to the OASDI Trustees actuarial report, Table IV.A3. In which case, the fund can continue to pay OASDI benefits for many years without a debt ceiling increase.

Sorry Democrats and Mr. President, Social Security beneficiaries do not need an immediate debt ceiling increase to continue to receive their benefits.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Fix The Machine, Not The Person" Excerpt: In Memory Of Aaron Swartz

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Aaron Swartz's Raw Thought, "Fix the machine, not the person" by Aaron Swartz, September 25, 2012:
Three months after they got back to the US and reopened the [GM Fremont] plant, everything had changed. Grievances and absenteeism fell away and workers started saying they actually enjoyed coming to work. The [GM] Fremont factory, once one of the worst in the US, had skyrocketed to become the best. The cars they made got near-perfect quality ratings. And the cost to make them had plummeted. It wasn’t the workers who were the problem; it was the system.

An organization is not just a pile of people, it’s also a set of structures. It’s almost like a machine made of men and women. Think of an assembly line. If you just took a bunch of people and threw them in a warehouse with a bunch of car parts and a manual, it’d probably be a disaster. Instead, a careful structure has been built: car parts roll down on a conveyor belt, each worker does one step of the process, everything is carefully designed and routinized. Order out of chaos.

And when the system isn’t working, it doesn’t make sense to just yell at the people in it — any more than you’d try to fix a machine by yelling at the gears. True, sometimes you have the wrong gears and need to replace them, but more often you’re just using them in the wrong way. When there’s a problem, you shouldn’t get angry with the gears — you should fix the machine.

If you have goals in life, you’re probably going to need some sort of organization. Even if it’s an organization of just you, it’s still helpful to think of it as a kind of machine. You don’t need to do every part of the process yourself — you just need to set up the machine so that the right outcomes happen.

For example, let’s say you want to build a treehouse in the backyard. You’re great at sawing and hammering, but architecture is not your forte. You build and build, but the treehouses keep falling down. Sure, you can try to get better at architecture, develop a better design, but you can also step back, look at the machine as a whole, and decide to fire yourself as the architect. Instead, you find a friend who loves that sort of thing to design the treehouse for you and you stick to actually building it. After all, your goal was to build a treehouse whose design you like — does it really matter whether you’re the one who actually designed it?
When you’re upset with someone, all you want to do is change the way they’re acting. But you can’t control what’s inside a person’s head. Yelling at them isn’t going to make them come around, it’s just going to make them more defiant, like the GM workers who keyed the cars they made.

No, you can’t force other people to change. You can, however, change just about everything else. And usually, that’s enough.

See also, "Who Writes Wikipedia?" by Aaron Swartz.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why Doesn't Amazon Provide Free Digital Cloud-Based Copies Of Hard Books As It Does For Physical CDs? Probably Coming Soon

Posted by Milton Recht:

I own a Kindle Fire and use it for reading, email, video, games and other things. Over the years, I purchased many books from Amazon. It would be a nice Kindle feature to have digital access to books I purchased as hard copies. When I purchase a new book, it also would be pleasant to have it available to me as both a hard copy and a digital copy. There are occasions when I enjoy reading a physical book and there are occasions when a digital copy is more convenient and enjoyable. Shouldn't my purchase of a book allow me to read it in both formats for the same price?

From "Amazon to Provide CD Buyers With Cloud-Based MP3s For Free (Update: It’s Just Launched!)" by Jamie Condliffe:
CNET is reporting that Amazon is planning to launch a reward scheme for CD buyers. When they purchase music in its physical form, they'll also receive a digital copy, which they'll be able to listen to via Amazon's cloud music service.

Update: The service is now live! See below for more details

Codenamed "Auto Rip", the service will automatically deposit the audio tracks into the customer's Amazon cloud account upon purchase.

Government Not Needed To Provide Medical Care To The Uninsured: Of Course, Affected Competitors Want Them Out

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The New York Times, "As ‘Bodega Clinicas’ Fill Void, Officials Are Torn on Embracing Them" by Sarah Varney:
The "bodega clinicas" that line the bustling commercial streets of immigrant neighborhoods around Los Angeles are wedged between money order kiosks and pawnshops. These storefront offices, staffed with Spanish-speaking medical providers, treat ailments for cash: a doctor’s visit is $20 to $40; a cardiology exam is $120; and at one bustling clinic, a colonoscopy is advertised on an erasable board for $700.

County health officials describe the clinics as a parallel health care system, serving a vast number of uninsured Latino residents.
"Someone has to figure out if there’s a basic level of competence," said Dr. Patrick Dowling, the chairman of the family medicine department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
many of these clinics are actually private doctor’s offices, not licensed clinics, which are required to report regularly to federal and state oversight bodies.

It is a distinction that deeply concerns Kimberly Wyard, the chief executive of the Northeast Valley Health Corporation, a nonprofit group that runs 13 accredited health clinics for low-income Southern Californians. "They are off the radar screen," said Ms. Wyard of the bodega clinicas, "and it’s unclear what they’re doing."

Background Article About Josh Angrist: One Of The Most Cited Economists In The World

Posted by Milton Recht:

From MIT Technology Review, "The Natural Experimenter: MIT economist Josh Angrist’s meticulous ­methods have influenced scholars for two decades. Now he’s zeroing in on what makes some schools better than others." by By Peter Dizikes:
Over two decades, [Josh] Angrist’s natural experiments have made him a prominent figure within economics. As of August, he was one of the 100 most-cited economists in the world, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which keeps data on more than 33,000 authors. Among his best-known papers are studies on the relationship between length of schooling and income; the effect military service has on earnings; and the link between class size and student achievement.
"He’s had tremendous influence," says Whitney Newey, PhD ’83, chair of MIT’s Department of Economics, who was one of Angrist’s graduate-school advisors.

Angrist’s citation ranking within economics probably understates that influence. Biostatisticians, who study cause and effect in medicine and biological research, regularly cite his methods, and political scientists and sociologists have adopted natural experiments as a basic research tool as well.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Household Wealth Is Mostly Human Capital: Value Depends On Industry, Occupation And Education: Differences In Industry Human Capital Values Affect Sector Expected Stock Returns

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Journal Of Finance, "Industry-Specific Human Capital, Idiosyncratic Risk, and the Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns" by Esther Eiling:
a significant fraction of wealth for virtually all investors is human capital. Heaton and Lucas (2000) report that about 48% of household wealth is due to human capital, while only 6.8% is invested in financial assets. Lustig, van Nieuwerburgh, and Verdelhan (2010) even estimate human capital to be 90% of total wealth, while the share of equities is only 2%. This suggests that, in theory, human capital should matter for portfolio choice and asset pricing.
The nature of human capital is investor-specific and depends on, for example, age, education, occupation, or the industry or firm in which the investor works.
This paper shows that human capital heterogeneity [differences] affects the cross-section of expected stock returns. I focus on industry-specific human capital. In the labor economics literature, several papers document the existence of significant inter-industry wage differentials (e.g., Katz and Summers (1989), Neal (1995), and Weinberg (2001)), suggesting that labor income and human capital are determined in part by industry affiliation.

Possibility Of US Government Debt Default Due To Debt Ceiling Is A Myth

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Wall Street Journal, "Rivkin and Casey: The Myth of Government Default: The Constitution commands that public debts be repaid. There is no such obligation to fund entitlement programs." by David B Rivkin Jr and Lee A Casey:
Contrary to White House claims, Congress's refusal to permit new borrowing by raising the debt ceiling limit will not trigger a default on America's outstanding public debt, with calamitous consequences for our credit rating and the world's financial system. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment provides that "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned"; this prevents Congress from repudiating the federal government's lawfully incurred debts.
This means that a failure to raise the debt ceiling—to prevent new borrowing—does not and cannot put America's current creditors at risk. So long as this government exists, and barring a further constitutional amendment, those creditors must be paid.

Nor are they at risk in practice, since the federal government's roughly $200 billion in tax revenue per month is more than sufficient to service existing debts. If the executive chose to act irresponsibly and unconstitutionally and failed to make any debt payments when they come due, debt-holders would be able to go to the Court of Federal Claims and promptly obtain a money judgment.
Second, despite White House claims that Congress must raise the debt ceiling to pay the bills it has incurred, the obligations protected as "debts" by the 14th Amendment do not include entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. These programs are not part of the "public debt," which consist of loans that are made to the federal government through bonds and similar financial instruments. Entitlement programs are instead political measures that are fully subject to the general rule that one Congress cannot, by simple legislation, prevent a future Congress from making cuts.
The distinction was recognized by the Supreme Court in Flemming v. Nestor (1960), which involved the power of Congress to modify Social Security benefits. The court noted that entitlements and "contractual arrangements, including those to which a sovereign itself is a party, remain subject to subsequent legislation by the sovereign."

Congress can reduce a wide range of payments to various beneficiaries at any time by amending the statutes that authorize them or simply by failing to appropriate sufficient funds to pay for them. Nor does Congress have any legal or constitutional obligation to borrow money to pay for entitlements.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

42 Percent Of December's New Jobs Were In Healthcare And Education: 25 Percent Of New Jobs For All Of 2012 Were in Health and Education

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Federal Reserve Bank Of Cleveland, Economic Trends, "Employment in Education and Healthcare Services" by Tim Dunne and Kyle Fee:
About one-quarter of the jobs added in 2012 have been in the education and health services sector, and in December alone the sector accounted for 42 percent of the new jobs.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank Of Cleveland

IBM Again Receives Most US Patents: 20th Year In A Row

Posted by Milton Recht:

From NETWORKWORLD, "IBM cements 20 years of patent dominance: IBM earned more U.S. patents in 2012 than any other company, topping the list of patent winners for the 20th year in a row" by Ann Bednarz:
IBM earned 6,478 utility patents last year, topping the list of patent winners for the 20th year in a row, according to data from IFI CLAIMS Patent Services. With its record haul, Big Blue bested its 2011 patent tally by 5%.

Samsung was the second most prolific patent winner, with 5,081 patents received in 2012, according to IFI, which tracks and analyzes patent data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Canon placed third with 3,174 patents, followed by Sony (3,032), Panasonic (2,769), Microsoft (2,613), Toshiba (2,447), Hon Hai Precision Industry (2,013), GE (1,652), and LG Electronics (1,624).

13 Percent Reduction In Current Trade Between US States Due To Civil War Aftereffects, North South Cultural Differences And Regional Trust

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Economic Inquiry, "Within U.S. Trade And The Long Shadow Of The American Secession" by Gabriel Felbermayr and Jasmin Gröschl:
Using data from U.S. commodity flow survey, we show that the historical Union–Confederacy border lowers contemporaneous trade between U.S. states by about 13%. The finding is robust over econometric models, survey waves, or aggregation levels. Including contemporaneous controls, such as network or institutional variables, lowers the estimate only slightly. Historical variables, such as slavery, do not explain the effect. Adding U.S. states unaffected by the Civil War, we argue that the friction is not merely reflecting unmeasured North–South differences. Finally, the border effect is larger for differentiated than for homogeneous goods, stressing the potential role for cultural factors and trust.
Ungated earlier working paper version available on EconPapers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Correction And Reposting: Yield Curve Slope Predicts 0.6 (Not 0.7) Percent Real GDP Growth In 2013: Federal Reserve Bank Of Cleveland

Posted by Milton Recht:

CORRECTION: Due to an editorial error, a previous version of the Cleveland Federal Reserve GDP yield curve prediction was used in the original version of this post on January 4, 2013. The corrected GDP growth prediction is 0.6 percent growth and not 0.7 as originally posted.

Federal Reserve Bank Of Cleveland, "Yield Curve and Predicted GDP Growth, December 2012" by Joseph G. Haubrich, VP, and Patricia Waiwood:
Projecting forward using past values of the spread [difference between long and short interest rates] and GDP growth suggests that real GDP will grow at about a 0.6 percent rate over the next year, even with both October and November. The strong influence of the recent recession is still leading towards relatively low growth rates. Although the time horizons do not match exactly, the forecast comes in on the more pessimistic side of other predictions but like them, it does show moderate growth for the year.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Are We Nearing The End Of The Current Economic Recovery?

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Economist Free Exchange Economics, "Business cycles: Running out of time" by RA:
Source: The Economist
 The chart at right shows the duration of expansions since the Second World War. On average, the economy has grown about 58 months at a time during this period, an age the current American expansion will reach in April of next year. Since the Volcker recession, good times have gone on for longer—95 months on average—though the expansion of the 2000s was just 73 months long, a milestone the current recovery will reach in July of 2015.

1990 To 2012 Federal Debt Chart

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Wall Street Journal, "Vital Signs Chart: Growing National Debt" by Josh Mitchell:
The federal debt is now equivalent to 101.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product, up from 53.5% in early 1990. Not all the federal debt is subject to the nation’s borrowing limit of $16.394 trillion.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Friday, January 4, 2013

Correction: Yield Curve Slope Predicts 0.6 (Not 0.7) Percent Real GDP Growth In 2013: Federal Reserve Bank Of Cleveland

Posted by Milton Recht:

CORRECTION: Due to an editorial error, a previous version of the Cleveland Federal Reserve GDP yield curve prediction was used in the original version of this post. The corrected GDP growth prediction is 0.6 percent growth and not 0.7 as originally posted.

Federal Reserve Bank Of Cleveland, "Yield Curve and Predicted GDP Growth, December 2012" by Joseph G. Haubrich, VP, and Patricia Waiwood:
Projecting forward using past values of the spread [difference between long and short interest rates] and GDP growth suggests that real GDP will grow at about a 0.6 percent rate over the next year, even with both October and November. The strong influence of the recent recession is still leading towards relatively low growth rates. Although the time horizons do not match exactly, the forecast comes in on the more pessimistic side of other predictions but like them, it does show moderate growth for the year.

Earliest Flu Season In A Decade

Posted by Milton Recht:

From The Washington Times, "Starting in the South, flu season off to a fast and miserable start" by Meredith Somers:
This year’s start to the flu season is the earliest in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, setting off a wave of doctor visits in mostly Southern states from Louisiana to Virginia that have been hard hit. Although the early onset doesn’t necessarily portend an epidemic, medical professionals say this year’s strain is particularly severe.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Government Bureaucracies' Attempts To Minimize Banking Risks Leads to 78 Calculus Equations And 509 Pages of Rules

Posted by Milton Recht:

From Bloomberg, "Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety" by Yalman Onaran:
The first Basel agreement on global banking regulation, adopted in 1988, was 30 pages long and relied on simple arithmetic. The latest update, known as Basel III, runs to 509 pages and includes 78 calculus equations.

The complexity is emblematic of what happened over the past four years as governments that injected $600 billion to rescue failing banks during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression devised ways to make the global banking system safer. Those efforts have been stymied by conflicting laws, divergent accounting standards and clashing rules adopted by nations to protect their interests, all of which have created new risks.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Patti Page Has Died

Posted by Milton Recht:

Extra Body Weight Not As Unhealthy As Thought

Posted by Milton Recht:
From The New York Times, "Study Suggests Lower Mortality Risk for People Deemed to Be Overweight" by Pam Belluck:
The report on nearly three million people found that those whose B.M.I. ranked them as overweight had less risk of dying than people of normal weight. And while obese people had a greater mortality risk over all, those at the lowest obesity level (B.M.I. of 30 to 34.9) were not more likely to die than normal-weight people.