Assorted links

by on January 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Saudi markets in everything.

2. Anti-drone clothing.

3. Was this Russian family cut off from human contact for forty years?

4. John Makin on Japan.

5. Robot surgery lawsuits.

6. Josh Barro on whether the conservative project is doomed.

7. There really is a major long-term budget problem, by Evan Soltas, and you can try this too.

Andrew' January 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

7. “The generation of Americans between ages 60 and 65 in 2010, for instance, has underpaid by some $292 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund.” Is a funny way to say it. Had we paid more in taxes, it probably would have bought us another war and nothing more.

rapscallion January 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm

3 makes me think surviving the zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be as fun as it seems.

John Schilling January 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

But the Lykovs, as the article points out, didn’t have guns. Hollywood assures me that all survivors of the zombie apocalyps will have guns. Lots of guns. And with guns + zombies, the entertainment never stops.

On second thought, we might need a permit system to ensure that zombies are not hunted entirely to extinction. Zombie reservatons? A designated Zombie season, somwhere between duck and rabbit seasons?

JWatts January 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Shaun of the Undead clearly indicates that Zombie’s would have a future in the service industry. They never get bored, sleep, nor need to be paid. Hygiene might be a problem.

Vanya January 30, 2013 at 10:55 am

The Lykov’s major issue seems to have been the lack of metal – no metal for cooking, for tools or for weapons. Come the zombie apocalypse you will be able to scavenge plenty of metal from the ruins of civilization all around you, so you will have a far easier time than the Lykovs did. The Lykovs don’t even seem to have had easy access to stone – the Taiga must be one of the hardest places in the world in which to survive.

As a side note, the point that the son had to hunt by “pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion” is another data point in favor of the Endurance running hypothesis

JWatts January 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

1) $13,000 for one kiss? I wonder what Tiger Woods paid per kiss if you did the math?

Jan January 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm

How many lashes for the maid?

Brian Donohue January 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

I give Evan Soltas an A for raising the generational issue, but I disagree on some particulars:

I’m more concerned with the specific generational swindle being played out in front of our eyes by the Baby Boomers.

People in their 40s and 50s make more and pay more in income taxes. We still have a chance to claw back something from the feckless Baby Boomers before they all retire if we raise taxes now.

If not, I prefer a consumption tax to taxing Social Security. As Soltas mentions, Social Security, by itself, is about 27% short long-term. Increasing full retirement to 70 solves most of the problem, and, by encouraging people to work an extra year or two, it addresses the real underlying demographic problem. This is gonna happen- it’s just too obvious and easy compared to alternatives. It happened in 1983, when benefits were cut 15%.

Also, millions of public sector employees don’t participate in Social Security, but enjoy generally much more lucrative pensions owed by (in many cases) broke states. And judging by the trend in court cases, unions have no appetite for entertaining the kind of benefit cuts Social Security has endured and will endure to ensure solvency.

I’d rather get money out of old Baby Boomers with a consumption tax.

JWatts January 29, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I haven’t seen any realistic solutions other than raise the retirement age. Everything else proposed is at best a band aid and in many cases just wishful thinking.

Brian Donohue January 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

But raising the retirement age solves most of the problem. Bumping up the wage base from $110K to $140K, maybe a 0.5% increase in the tax rate, and you’re done. Plenty of realistic combinations:

http://www.actuary.org/content/play-social-security-game

If only the rest of the government’s financing issues were so tractable.

TheAJ January 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Increasing the retirement age solves the problem of solvency but why is the fact that it would disproportionately hurt poorer people always ignored? It has been shown a number of times that poor people have had only marginal improvements in life expectancy at 65 (only a few years – completely offset by the higher retirement age) whereas wealthier Americans have seen LE at 65 increase by 6,7,8 years. In other words, it would be nothing more than a redistribution of income toward the already wealthy. I have yet to hear a response to this fact. It would be better to hear a “we don’t care” than to see proponents continue to skirt around or ignore that sticking point.

. Increasing full retirement to 70 solves most of the problem, and, by encouraging people to work an extra year or two,

I notice this has been suggested often too. I think its easy to just say “hey, why don’t you work for another year or two.” For all we know, your job might consist of full time blog commenting. You can probably do that until you are 100. But what about someone doing menial labor? These people don’t live very long to begin with and you want to make them work even longer before they can get any benefits?

mbutuomalley January 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Sorry, We don’t care and Yes. Sorry thought it was already implied. I worked in menial labor for seven years to fund my education to get a better job that would allow me to retire early. I also sacrificed another 5 years taking a job on the road for extra pay so that I could support a family and retire early. Most people I’ve met are either not smart enough or unwilling to make the trade offs for this. I would rather have a choice to fund them as opposed to be obligated to.

Brian Donohue January 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Social Security is social insurance against old age. If you die at 65, you don’t need it. You may as well complain about paying decades of homeowner’s insurance without having your house burn down once.

Yes, low-income people tend not to live as long. But the benefit formula is skewed toward lower-income. Overall, I think the system is modestly progressive. Perhaps not enough for your taste, but…

There is already means-testing in Social Security, since up to 85% of the benefit is taxable if you have enough other income. I’m against further means-testing, because it will make it more of a welfare program, and it will lose the support of middle America by punishing the ants and rewarding the grasshoppers. For good reason, those who want to kill Social Security view means-testing as a first step.

Someone who works a menial job his whole career and dies at 65 may feel “screwed” by Social Security, but this fact pattern is consistent with someone who had access to government support in one form or another throughout his career, so I’m not losing too much sleep here.

Steve J January 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

“Someone who works a menial job his whole career and dies at 65 may feel “screwed” by Social Security, but this fact pattern is consistent with someone who had access to government support in one form or another throughout his career, so I’m not losing too much sleep here.”

I cannot wrap my mind around this comment. Possibly you have had different life experiences than me. Most of the successful people I know have had advantages over the average guy in at least one but probably all three of these ways: smarter than average, more access to financial backing than average, more access to “decision makers” than average. In addition they all worked hard. The idea that someone below average in these categories could compete with me and my friends who have done well is laughable. David does beat Goliath sometimes and along with that analogy goes the fact more below average people than above think praying to a man in the sky will help their economic well being. I don’t know… I think we should let those poor people sit around for a few years at the end of their lives.

Cliff January 30, 2013 at 12:10 am

Then put your money where your mouth is. Why should others be forced to comport to your ethical views vis a vis old poor people and luxury being the most pressing charitable cause.

Steve J January 30, 2013 at 1:01 am

I’m not suggesting we increase taxes to avoid increasing the retirement age. I believe we pay enough already. I would prefer we reduce benefits rather than increase the retirement age. Or you could just rename Social Security to Retirement Welfare and probably a bunch of people who worry about semantics would opt out.

liberalarts January 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I think that moving up the early retirement age to 64 would help a lot, making 64 the same mark-down as 62 was when 65 was the full retirement age. Most people don’t wait until 65 anyway, so moving up the top number only really helps if you move up the bottom number too. Most people are terrible savers, by the way, and any ss system has to insure against old age like the current system, or we will end up with under-saved and over spent retirees who we will have to then either bail out or let starve. Clipping a few years off of the early retirement seems to be the best way to go. Many of the people drawing that are still working anyway.

JWatts January 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm

“I think that moving up the early retirement age to 64 would help a lot, making 64 the same mark-down as 62 was when 65 was the full retirement age. ”

It’s a little late for that. If you are born after 1960 your full retirement age is already 67.

Here’s a link to the SSA site: http://www.ssa.gov/retirement/1960.html

liberalarts January 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Yes, I know that 67 is the phase in. But 62 as the early option ss has never been increased. My point is that moving 62 to 64 as the first chance age would save a bundle.

JWatts January 30, 2013 at 11:17 am

I’m not sure you’d see much in the way of savings.

Currently retirement at 62 is at a 70% level and retirement at 64 is at an 80% level. So, you while you would certainly save money at the front end for two years, you would be paying out an additional 14% to anyone who would have retired at 62 for their life span greater than 64.

Rahul January 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

#3 was one of the best articles I read lately.

JWatts January 29, 2013 at 3:20 pm

+2, this was a story I haven’t heard before

Peter Schaeffer January 29, 2013 at 7:12 pm

+3

Agreed. I found it incredibly sad, interesting, moving, and fascinating. Particularly how one generation of Soviet authorities drove them into the wilderness and a later generation tried to help them.

doctorpat January 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm

+4 The best story I’ve read this year.

Rahul January 30, 2013 at 4:46 am

Would they really have noticed the invention of artificial sattelites? I didn’t know what to think about that claim.

rpl January 30, 2013 at 8:03 am

Satellites are pretty obvious, if you spend any time at all watching the sky. Even if you don’t know what they are, it’s clear that they behave differently from everything else in the sky. If you observe them to have appeared during your lifetime, rarely at first and becoming more common as time goes by, then it’s not too much of a logical leap to conclude that they must be a human artifact.

IVV January 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

Also, since it’s the middle of the Siberian wilderness, the light pollution is nil. If you’ve ever seen the night sky in the wild and compared it to the night sky in the city, you’ll understand why it’s much easier to spot satellites with the naked eye.

dead serious January 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

I found it odd that nary an airplane nor helicopter ever flew overhead. I know Siberia wouldn’t be a popular route per se, but never?

Peter Schaeffer January 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

DS,

“I found it odd that nary an airplane nor helicopter ever flew overhead. I know Siberia wouldn’t be a popular route per se, but never?”

Several people made that point to me. Contrails are very distinctive even if the aircraft are too high to be seen.

Peter Schaeffer January 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

“Would they really have noticed the invention of artificial satellites?”

Seems very likely. Satellites are quite visible in any area without light pollution. They are bright and move very fast. I saw quite a few as a child. Now with more light pollution, they can only rarely be seen.

Brian Donohue January 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Yup

anne January 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm

This article was astounding. What people! I cannot begin to fathom.

Howl January 30, 2013 at 1:29 am

It does make a nice contrast to all the comments about how rough people on Social Security have it.

Urso January 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

Too bad no one asked their opinion on TGS.

DK January 30, 2013 at 11:43 am

Amazing. Particularly how the last woman survived there alone for 25 years.
I find it a little strange that they never made a bow.

TheAJ January 29, 2013 at 3:24 pm

7. Insisting on greater generational equity would lessen the incentive for voters to award themselves bigger benefits than they’re willing to pay for.

We have tried addressing this. In response, geriatric conservatives have doubled down on hoarding their entitlements while simultaneously calling the younger generation a bunch of takers, stupid English majors, lazy, “entitled” (that one is my favorite).

Why does anyone think there will ever be “compromise” as long as this continues?

Nate January 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I’m hoping for single-payer health care, enacting NHS style QALY measures, and these behaviors will work themselves out.

Benny Lava January 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm

+1000

Sigivald January 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm

#2 appears to be “design student posturing” more than “effective and real”.

(Yeah, metallized fabric can temporarily hide you from IR – not visual, which drones also have, it turns out – by not transmitting heat very well.

Problem is that makes you exceedingly warm [it's why those emergency "space blankets" are metallized mylar], but it does eventually heat up…)

You can’t cheat thermodynamics.

axa January 30, 2013 at 11:17 am

science is boring!!!!! politics is more fun =)

dearieme January 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm

“There really is a major long-term budget problem”: ho, hum. In the long term all countries are dead.

Robert January 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm

If a similar family had been found in the United States, we would have deemed them to be a dangerous cult and burned their encampment down, killing them all. Sadly, the good intentions of the Soviets didn’t help them either.

Steve J January 29, 2013 at 9:04 pm

On #7 seems strange to me when people talk about our budget problem when the issue is almost entirely healthcare.

http://www.pgpf.org/Issues/Fiscal-Outlook/2013/01/~/media/16CF7D37191042268F866469C8F9C91F.gif

Of course in my opinion those projections on health care spending are ludicrous. Doctors in the US cannot keep globalization at bay forever. Once medical costs outweigh transportation costs medical vacations abroad will become the norm. More and more medical services will be offered virtually. It amazes me at times just how much money people get paid in the US to write prescriptions.

doctorpat January 29, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Why would someone go to another country when they can get all their health care at home paid for by the government?
Medical vacations only make sense if you’ve already reformed the system to a user pays basis.

Steve J January 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm

That sounds like a valid point but I don’t think it actually is. Do you think Medicare will end up paying higher rates than private insurance just because it is provided by the government? That has not been the case so far. Much of the population does pay for their own medical services and they will (eventually) stop this increase in health care costs by finding cheaper alternatives. There is also a strange preference for humans over machines for doctors. While it is very hard to evaluate the effectiveness of a doctor (half of us go to below average doctors yet somehow everyone I know has a “good doctor”) people still would rather pay to see a person than to have an automated system do their diagnosis. This is another area where over time it will just become harder and harder to justify having people involved in a process where they are not needed.

ad nauseum January 30, 2013 at 10:45 am

Time is money, and money is time. If you have a one year waiting list for medical services in your home country that will pay for it all, then it may be worth the extra expense of going somewhere that will take care of it within one week. Just food for thought.

David Fornis January 30, 2013 at 4:38 am

What is the rational for fixing shrinking work force with immigration? Wouldn’t you expect birth rates to normalize among immigrants and return to a similar demographic pattern when immigrants get older?

Ed January 30, 2013 at 7:14 am

It might be better to just peg the full social security retirement age at 90% of median life expectancy.

The main problem I see with the proposal I just made is that the government will start manipulating the life expectancy statistics to reduce the amount of money they have to pay out in social security, like they already do with CPI. I think life expectancy statistics will be harder to treat this way without outright lying and fabrication, though.

8 January 30, 2013 at 8:05 am

My solution is simple: money in equals money out. No tax increases to SS or Medicare. Kick them off-budget and incorporate them. Allow people to join, or not. If you join, you can vote on how to restructure the system, knowing that no additional tax monies are coming unless economic growth picks up.

This gives young people the same deal as people had in recent years (retirees still had a better deal with lower tax rates previously) and makes retirees think about growth. It also ends all talk of insolvency, since you can’t go broke if you don’t borrow. Future liabilities gone, pro-growth agenda on the table.

buddyglass January 30, 2013 at 9:33 am

The young vs. old thing seems less true than some folks make it out to be. At least, for the not-yet-old whose parents are still living and with whom they maintain a loving relationship. If my parents’ benefits were cut they would draw more deeply from their retirement savings. Savings destined to go to me when they pass away. Either way I’m paying: through taxes to stave off cuts to their benefits or through a reduced inheritance.

If my parents had no retirement savings and Medicare were cut, and they needed some medical procedure but couldn’t afford it themselves, who would end up paying? Myself and my brother, out of pocket. Again, I’m paying either way: either through taxes to keep their Medicare benefits or out-of-pocket to make up the difference when the need arises.

Those whose parents have already passed away or who are unwilling to support them financially would, of course, benefit much more from cutting old-age benefits than from maintaining those benefits through higher taxes on the productive class.

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