Friday assorted links

1. Compared to other consumption expenditures, the U.S. is not a significant health care outlier.

2. Enjoy famous artworks without gluten.

3. “The man said he was hired by the airport to keep track of the precise location of every car in the lot, explaining that the data is most often used by the airport when passengers returning from a trip forget where they parked their vehicles.”  Link here.

4. You get what you measure: millions of fake accounts at Wells Fargo.

5. Not all Chinese companies are paying off on the Taylor Swift boyfriend break-up.

6. One way to rank World Bank presidents, not the way I would choose.

7. John R. Coleman, RIP: “In his abbreviated career as a blue-collar worker, he concluded that academia was not quite as artificial as he had thought and manual labor not nearly as satisfying.”


Why are there breadsticks in the gluten-free Disney work?

1. When a large percentage of the population here don't participate in the health care system because they don't have health insurance, it's not surprising that our total spending on health care compares with the total spending in countries with single payer where everyone participates. Leave millions out of the system and it makes it seem like a bargain. Though not a bargain to those left out. "I honestly did not make any attempt to manipulate this data." Certainly not.

Health care insurance =/= health care. People who don't have health insurance still get healthcare in the US. And the uninsured rate is now quite low post-ACA anyway.

Yes, charity care and disproportionate share programs provide lots of free or nearly free care to the uninsured.

It's not just charity care. Plenty of people just go to the clinic and pay cash if they need to.

What clinic?

How much cash do you walk around with?

Over 7% of household have no bank account, so cash means cash.

mulp, there are over 2,500 health care clinics in the US. Someone is using them. Is this another example of you living in a different reality than the rest of us?

Also public (county) hospitals will provide care to people without insurance. They'll bill people with insurance, but rely on public funding to cover a lot of the costs of care for the uninsured.

"People who don’t have health insurance still get healthcare in the US. And the uninsured rate is now quite low post-ACA anyway"

What evidence do you have to back up that claim?

I'm sure I can find plenty of contrary evidence.

Such as the military vets who have been denied veterans benefits based on being discharged less than honorable due to disability, ie, combat tbi causing erratic behavior getting written up leading to discharge for bad behavior.

If everyone gets needed medical care without insurance, there would be no scandal like these vets becoming homeless or being arrested for violence or committing suicide.

And you can't argue the failure of the government to provide medical care proves government can't solve the problem and then claim everyone gets needed care without government.

Such as the military vets who have been denied veterans benefits based on being discharged less than honorable due to disability, ie, combat tbi causing erratic behavior getting written up leading to discharge for bad behavior.

Do you have any examples for this? Because according to the VA, it takes an outright "dishonorable" discharge to be denied benefits, and that requires something much more egregious than "erratic behavior."

Just because someone is denied health care under one program doesn't mean that they can't receive it an another. How is "healthcare" defined, anyway? If the daughter of some geezer looks after him, makes sure his blood pressure is OK and that he's taking his vitamins, is she providing him with health care? Or does it have to come from somebody in scrubs?

The $50B per year in charity care and uncompensated care provided by US hospitals would be a good place to start. But I didn't claim that everyone gets all needed care. The OP claimed that people without health insurance are "left out" of the US healthcare system, which is not even close to true.

If not everyone gets all care needed, was this trip really necessary?

This isn't even remotely true. Soldiers are not given a dishonorable discharge for TBI or erratic behavior. Also, returning soldiers are given a TBI exam upon redeployment to the states, based on predeployment results as a baseline. Dishonorable discharges are almost always for drugs and DUIs. You can try to make a tenuous connection with ptsd, but the majority of those dudes never saw combat and still drove drunk and did drugs. Find another victim card to use for your morality play please.

People without health insurance get plenty of care. The homeless and destitute for example are huge costs in many cities.

On the other hand, my $6000+ deductible means that I haven't been to the doctor in years even though a number of incidences could have definitely benefited from some care. I'm sure I'm not alone reigning in my consumption because of costs.

Who is this "large percentage of the population here don’t participate in the health care system"?

Are there a lot of folks in the US who need health care and do not get it? I don't think so.

So, you are saying hospitals are closing and doctors are moving out of rural regions of places like Alabama and Mississippi because no one in those areas are sick and need medical care, and they have lost money from sitting around doing nothing, not from patients not paying bills?

If there are people not paying their bills, that means they got free medical care, right?

1. Medicaid.
2. Post PPACA, to not be not "participate in the health care system" they have to be breaking the law. for those in need there are subsidies.
3. As Adam said below Health care insurance =/= health care. Most of the very effective stuff (vaccinations/antibiotics) is really cheap.
4. Per capita lifetime health care expenditures are $316,600, a third higher for females ($361,200) than males ($268,700) real insurance should kick in at about the $200,000 life time.

Medicine on the margin kills more people than it saves. Do you know what people do with full-indemnity health insurance? They go to the doctor for every sneeze, ache and fever. They come in with the flu and leave with MRSA. They get prescribed antibiotics for colds, which don't treat the disease and lead to obesity. They get top-to-bottom "preventative tests" like mammograms and colonoscopies, which actually increase mortality rates due to false negatives, stress and over treatment. They get full-body CT scans, which load them up with radiation and lead to cancer. They get prescribed opiates for minor pain, which lead to crippling addiction. Sleeping pills, which cause people to choke on their own vomit. SSRIs for borderline depression, which leads to suicide. Loads and loads of pharmaceuticals with dangerous by dozens of specialists who don't check with each other. Unnecessary and elective surgery which leads to infections, prolonged hospitalizations, and risky complications. Medical clerical errors alone cause a hundred thousand plus deaths a year.

There's no utilitarian justification to subsidizing healthcare. The reason that wealthy Americans spend so much on health-care is for status signaling. It's all because we decided to tie health insurance to employment post-war. The rich want "platinum plans", they want to see the "best doctors" and go to the most "prestigious hospitals". None of these things have any evidence of actually producing superior results. The "best doctors" are clever, good-looking, and charismatic, but they're also brash, arrogant, and the most-prone to minor mistakes. "Prestigious hospital" usually just means attached to a research university, where you're being treated by a 27-year old with 6 months of experience.

For much less we could buy poor people gym memberships, nicotine patches and frozen vegetables. It would save far more lives than covering every uninsured person.

And how would we make them use the memberships, nicotine and vegetables?

please do not bother the phd's with actual facts

4: "But obviously no one in [Wells Fargo] senior management wanted this."
I'm not at all sure that's true.

When I ran sales research as a large packaged goods company, the president of sales told me, "Salesmen will always game the system. The trick is to design the system so that when they game it, they are doing pretty much what you want them to do."

Not that dissimilar from what's in the article (and well known to Six Sigma people):
"You get what you measure.
The thing that you measure will get gamed."

If senior management bonuses themselves depended on certain numbers of accounts being opened (etc.) then the temptation is to look the other way, at least until some bonuses are collected.

The alternative is to conclude that the internal controls at Wells Fargo are shit. [these are not mutually exclusive explanations]

If senior management bonuses themselves depended on certain numbers of accounts being opened (etc.) then the temptation is to look the other way, at least until some bonuses are collected.

Since these practices were probably net negative profitability to Wells Fargo, a senior manager whose compensation is tied to earnings/profitability (a more likely target than account growth) would be aligned against them.

The alternative is to conclude that the internal controls at Wells Fargo are shit.

With the way the company blew up in size after the shotgun marriage with Wachovia, that wouldn't surprise me.

They've been caught recently with other shenanigans. For example, if I made a charge that would overdraw my account, but I made a slightly earlier cash deposit which would have covered it, they'd rearrange the order to generate a penalty. When I heard about this, I decided this is among the slimiest of banks. Others may be bad, but these people are at the bottom of the barrel.

That's not unique to Wells Fargo. There were data processors selling this service to multiple banks a few years back. At the end of the day, when they processed daily transactions, they would sort by size (descending) instead of by time.

So, take the example whery you had $35 in an account and you wrote a check for $5, one for $10 and one for $40 in that order. Normally, the bank would process the first two and then return the last one with a NSF (non sufficient fee) of some amount, for example $35. Instead the processors would sort by size, in which case, the $40 would bounce, the $35 NSF would be deducted from the available funds (now $0). Then the $10 would bounce, then the $5 would bounce. So the customer would be hit with 3 fees of $35 each, instead of 1 fee of $35. This was indeed a very slimy business practice.

Yep. I had a bank do this to me once a number of years ago and I've never been as nasty to an undeserving customer service rep as I was when I caught it.

5,300 low-level employees spontaneously and on their own initiative came up with the plan to open 2.1 million fake accounts? Maybe the problem is that Wells Fargo needs to adopt a different method for recruiting low-level employees, since the one they've been using resulted in hiring a bunch of highly clever but dishonest low-level employees. Maybe all of these employees grew up on the same block in Los Vegas. Or maybe Matt Levine is a dope for failing for a scam that any sentient person would know was concocted by someone besides 5,300 low-level employees spontaneously and on their own initiative. My long-time assistant used to say that she may have been born at night, but she wasn't born last night.

What is the "scam," here, exactly? Wells Fargo earned less than $2 per fake account, which is easily swamped by the cost of simply creating them (much less additional burden placed on bank infrastructure).

Yeah, if some pickpocket gets your wallet with only 2 Dollars in it -- what's the big deal (?)... no real harm done. The law can't waste time with petty thieves (?)

Of course, the deliberate unauthorized transfer of money out of somebody's bank account is criminal theft everywhere on the planet. If done on a large scale -- it's big time felony... even if only small amounts of money are transferred from individual accounts. And many account holders were charged additional illegal fees for newly created illicit accounts, in addition to the primary illegal account money transfers.

The scam is mass criminal theft. The basic behavior was clearly criminal and doesn't get a pass because it was white-collar crime done with a computer keyboard. Restitution does not absolve the crime. The aim of the law is to deter similar behavior.

Why is it so weird to imagine that management said "open new accounts or else you are fired" and so the low-level employees said "fine, here are your new accounts!" I've seen this stupidity at companies lots of times.

Spontaneous order.

Right, I worked at Blockbuster in high school, and corporate management was pushing Rewards memberships like they were heroin. So my store manager gave all kinds of unauthorized freebies to get people to sign up. He was canned when they found out, as were a number of other managers in the area who did the same thing (and whom he was competing against), because it was really the only logical thing to do within the incentive structure they were given.

There are always two policies.

1. The policy as written

2. The policy as enforced and encouraged

How are you going to prosecute the middle managers when they claim that they had no idea such practices were wrong or illegal?

We live in a country where the former Secretary of State can claim that she thought the parenthetical 'C' on the classified document "was referencing paragraphs marked in alphabetical order" and a good chunk of the population is willing to defend such a statement.

The other major party candidate has over 3000 pending fraud suits against him and a few potential criminal charges as well.


JWatts, care to revise that? Was C really "classified?"

No, I'll just let it stand as it is.

Why would he given that he is completely correct?

All material marked (C) is indeed classified. "Confidential" is, by definition, the first level of classified information. Any originator of classified information who does not understand that is utterly incompetent or lying.

Furthermore, material is not classified because it has the markings, but is deemed to be classified based on subject content. Look, I despise Trump, but let's not try to sweep under the rug the insulting idiocy Clinton is claiming here. She did not give a rat's ass what the rules for handling classified information were and she utterly lacks the moral character to just come out and say that she intentionally used a private server to retain control over her correspondence.

Never have I seen two such terrible people ascend to such positions of power. A pox on both their houses.


" For information to be considered properly marked classified, it must contain a header. Clinton is correct that nothing in her email had a header signifying its classification status. Three email chains had a "(C)" indicating "confidential" information, but that is not enough to consider the emails properly marked classified. "

Seriously guys, on any number of things there is a public story, as well as a secret story.

If critics could admit that much, that public-level discussion of something is not the same as breaching the secret version, I would have more respect for them.

But as we saw, "we found the word Benghazi" was treated as "we found a secret." Crazy. Or wilfully stupid.

Again, why would he when is completely correct:

Executive Order 13526
Sec. 1.6 (f)

Information assigned a level of classification under this or predecessor orders shall be considered as classified at that level of classification despite the omission of other required markings. Whenever such information is used in the derivative classification process or is reviewed for possible declassification, holders of such information shall coordinate with an appropriate classification authority for the application of omitted markings.

Note - "despite the omission of other required markings"

as noted in Sec. 1.6.(c) [note not (C)], the in text markings denote classification and the failure to place appropriate headers does nothing to change the status of the material as classified.

Also, please note that this line of argumentation means that someone was, habitually, in violation of Sec. 2.1.(b)-(d) or Sec 1.6.(a) which require that any derivative material, like summaries, emails, or memos carry forward the headers or place them at the time of original classification.

Regardless of the spin, the information was marked in text as classified and any failure with the headers do not change classification status, but do add yet another violation of national security policy if you really want to argue about the headers.

You are talking about confidential documents, not emails referring to confidential documents.

Use some common sense. "(C)" is an overloaded term. It also means Copyright or Centigrade. Of course no one would design a system that would use one letter alone, in non secure channels, in the naked assurance that there would never be confusion.

OMG, I just realized this page is now classified!

Everyone please erase your caches.

Tyler, I am sorry but this page must go.

Emails referring to confidential documents are themselves confidential documents; according to Sec.6.1.(o):

"incorporating, paraphrasing, restating, or generating in new form information that is already classified" is the definitive act for derivative classification.

This is why you have the in-text (C) marking at all - to show exactly which portions of a document are derivative classified material.

But we already know these emails were classified because large blocks of text within these emails had to be redacted prior to their release to the public. If you truly wish to maintain that failure to mark them means they are not classified then you are arguing that the Department of State is willfully violating Sec.1.7(a).(4) and several portions of the executive order (e.g. Sec.1.6.(h)).

Remember, it is the material in the document, not the markings themselves that make something classified. The fact that someone within the state department failed to comply with executive orders to retain appropriate headers in no way makes this material non-classified.

And let us not forget, Mrs. Clinton's actual response was not that failure to follow executive orders regarding headers made her emails somehow non-classified it was that she was UNAWARE of what the common in text markings meant in spite of working with them THOUSANDS of times. She made the claim that she understood them to be alphabetical markings. This format is contrary to the style guide in force at the state department and would be blindingly obvious as to its fallaciousness to a third grader.

Mrs. Clinton regularly violated the rules for handling classified information and insulted the intelligence of every American with an utterly nonsensical legal evasion.

Mrs. Clinton was running an illegal but de rigeur email server. Among the many thousands of emails sent and received just three chains had "(C)" on them.

This actually shows great care and that the real classified stuff. The stuff with the headers was kept separate. If the "maximum creep" was three chains with a "(C)" referring to "the good stuff," that is remarkably GOOD email management.

Basically Bob, you are acting like the real stuff was printed and left at the hairdressers. We are not anywhere near that, but that is what you are trying to paint.

Just to be clear, if someone was "irresponsible" with a private email server then among tens of thousands of email messages there should be THOUSANDS of classified documents.

Instead we have a private server, one that still looks like it was indeed secure, that had a few threads creep over from the classified side.

That is very good, probably better than you or I could do.

anon, who claims it was secure? The only basis for that is there is no evidence of a hack, which is because you need security in place for there to be evidence. She had absolutely none for quite some time. As SOS she was in the top ten list in the world as a hacker target. She used a server than a kid could break into. If she had left the classified material on her dresser someone would have to break into her house to get it. As it was all you needed was an internet connection and some basic skills.

The only bright part of this is that, if she's elected, this might explain how bad of a SOS she was. When everyone knows your secrets, it's a hard job to not be really bad at. Maybe she'll won't be nearly as bad a president as she was a SOS.

Also, on the classified markings. There were emails found where she instructed her underlings to remove the headers so they could transmit them unsecured. Maybe that's just part of what Huma calls her being 'often confused'.

Anon: leaving stuff at the hairdressers is far less problematic than having it on private server that is not compliant with current Executive Orders regarding electronic security. The former requires adversaries to physically go to the hairdressers or for the hairdresser to realize the value and then to elect to commit treason by passing it on to an adversary. Both of those or low odds events. Hacking servers is what foreign intelligence agencies do. Were her emails hacked? I have no idea, and nor does anyone else because her home server was not equipped in such a manner to detect high end hacking. We do know that someone tried to hack her server multiple times on 09 JAN 2011, but unfortunately her server was not sophisticated enough to determine the nature of the attack and was manually shut down, at least this is what the IT guy in charge of the server claimed.

But let us also recall what is actually ADMITTED by the relevant parties at this point:
1. According to the Department of State no fewer than 1,300 were confidential; many of which required redaction prior to release to the public.
2. Emails were found that improperly handled confidential, secret, top secret, secure compartmented information, and special access program information. This includes information from all levels of classification (or at least according to Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III)
3. Mrs. Clinton's server was not integrated into the state department IT network. Communicating with the server required state department officials to disable multiple security measures on government computers. This direct noncompliance with executive orders is directly cited by the State Department inspector general.
4. Mrs. Clinton claims that she was IGNORANT about the meaning of the markings which she, as an original classifying authority, is required by law to place on newly generated material.

This is not the only game in town. It is simply the most obvious and insulting of the many legal evasions Clinton offers about her email.

Clinton no longer maintains that she never received classified information on her home server.

Clinton no longer maintains that she never received information marked as classified on her home server.

Clinton maintains that she never received information marked as classified in manner she understood.

Outside of her homebrew email, Clinton has worked for over a decade with normal intelligence product under normal channels (e.g. as a senator). It beggars the imagination that she expects us to believe that she though all of these "(C)"s were alphabetical markings when there were NEVER any (A), (B), (D), or (E) markings to be found immediately preceding or following the documents.

She is making a legal dodge in sworn testimony. It is her choice to claim to be incompetent in under to avoid facing the consequences of her reckless decisions; however it does make her craven.

Dude, you are actually surprised that the Secretary of State's email would require redaction before being made public?

Contradict much?

These were private, secure, emails. They were for staff use. There was some cross-over from the secure system, but this was again among State staff.

The amazing thing is that people against Hillary want to fault here, while asking that these same emails be made public.


And very crazy that you would support them being released, even with redaction.

So, the only thing left here is who the anon troll is. I bet double troll Ray Lopez.

Redaction only occurs if and only if the emails on the private were classified in contravention of the law and executive orders.

I presume you now agree that Mrs. Clinton did indeed have classified material on her servers against the law then?

It's rather obvious anon has no experience with classified information.

I am not the anonymous experts claiming to supersede not just politifact, but the FBI.

I have tried to explain what I think is the expert rationale.

Why bother? Anonymous comentators will always think they know more than the world.

anon: The FBI has categorically said that the emails were indeed classified. They have said that Clinton's conduct, while violating multiple executive orders, is not worthy of indictment and prosecution.

At no time has the FBI held that Mrs. Clinton "did nothing wrong" nor that her emails were not classified. They have merely said that she is either not guilty of a crime or that her guilt does not warrant prosecution.

That is a fair position. The position that Clinton has been above board and actually thought that the (C) markings were merely alphabetical markings is not. The FBI is legitimately parsing case law in a manner consist with precedent while avoiding a major political minefield. Clinton is just being craven to avoid just saying what is pretty obvious - she wanted to control her communications and exercised terrible judgment throughout the process.

Additionally, to turn the implausibility of the number of people involved on its head--if there were directives from upstairs to engage in these practices, wouldn't at least one of the 5,300 employees involved have rolled over to the Feds to help nail the more senior managers?

Rayward, this guy, clearly never worked for tyrannical and stupid employers.

Let's put things in some perspective: the average amount refunded to offended customers was $25...

... it's hard to believe that any actual human in senior management wanted that to happen. They wanted employees to open lots of real accounts, and designed a system that they hoped would encourage that.

I call BS. Sure, they wanted real accounts, but they looked away when the accounts started coming in. No semi-sensible control system would miss this. Senior management would have known if they had paid the slightest attention, instead of congratulating themselves on the outstanding growth in accounts. If they weren't paying attention then what are those big salaries for? If I were a shareholder I'd ask that the penalties come straight out of executive compensation.

This, IMO, is similar to what happens in the various trading scandals that pop up from time time. "Hey, it's working. Ask no questions and you'll be told no lies."

6. How would others choose?


This Wells-Fargo bank fiasco goes far beyond the fine points of management technique and measurement --- it is gross mismanagement and broad criminality.

As usual, the senior Banksters get off with merely a fine (to the bank stockholders). And a bunch of low-level employees are quietly fired --- when they should be criminally prosecuted.

There's no way the bank's middle-management was unaware of this criminality.

It is possible that the incompetent, aloof senior-management did not know what was actually happening in the trenches.

Plenty of corporations these days have 'empty-suits' occupying senior "management" positions (VP level and above).

a bunch of low-level employees are quietly fired — when they should be criminally prosecuted.

Prosecuting a bunch of first-time offenders for gaming a poorly-designed system in a way that barely hurt anyone seems like a poor use of prosecutorial resources.

Particularly since the most straightforward theory of prosecution would be that the employees had defrauded Wells Fargo through the creation of these falsified accounts.

It would be interesting, if a company were to experiment with having bonuses paid out over multiple years to mid-level management. "You can work for us, but we'll create a bonus account in your name. You get paid the bonus 5 years after you have accrued it. You don't get any of the money remaining in the account if you quit or are fired."

Granted such companies might have to pay slightly higher salaries up front, but they would have a far better staff retention and their employees wouldn't be likely to get involved in such obviously shaky schemes if they knew there was no immediate payouts.

That company would quickly get out-competed for the best talent by firms willing to pay some combination of earlier bonuses and guaranteed bonuses (the part about leaving the money when you leave is fatal to your proposal). That's why deferred compensation in the financial industry has to be more or less rammed down the industry's throats by regulators.

"(the part about leaving the money when you leave is fatal to your proposal)."

Then you modify it so that the ex-employee gets paid out as the money accrues after they have left, as long as they weren't fired for cause. Granted, you won't be able to hire as many people who think that they might be fired for cause in the future.

Such a scheme isn't significantly different than a startup offering equity stakes in lieu of pay.

Conceptually, I would agree that it's not all that different from equity compensation. However, I think there's a psychological difference between "we don't generate enough income to pay you, but come build something with us and you can have a part of it" and "we generate enough income to pay you, but think it would be better to pay you later."

“we generate enough income to pay you, but think it would be better to pay you later.”

That's also not much different than a 401K, ESOP, employee stock or a pension fund. You will certainly get a different type of employee. One's who are willing to defer current payment for higher future payment.

Isn't it? Most current forms of deferred compensation (i.e., 401k matching, pension plans, and stock options) are generally just cost-optimized ways of piggy-backing on allocations employees already make (i.e., saving for retirement), and due to tax incentives it's not cost-effective to substitute an up-front compensation increase. It's much more idiosyncratic to find someone who is saving on, say, a 5-year time horizon--much less enough of those people to structure the system in a way it appeals to all of them--nor are there any tax incentives to make the 5-year savings plan optimal over increased present pay.

"It’s much more idiosyncratic to find someone who is saving on, say, a 5-year time horizon–much less enough of those people to structure the system in a way it appeals to all of them"

Yes, I agree with this but I'll point out that every college freshman is investing on a 4+ year time frame. And there are millions of them.

"–nor are there any tax incentives to make the 5-year savings plan optimal over increased present pay."

Sure, but the point is that you'll get employees who's incentives are better aligned with the long term profitability of the company. Are those employees worth the higher cost? I don't know, hence my original phrasing, 'It would be interesting, if a company were to experiment...'.

Some firms offer NQDC plans as a benefit, not a penalty. There are tax advantages, along with significant credit risk, for the employee.

See, for example,

I was not familiar with this practice, thanks for pointing out.

Although it looks like a simple tax-optimization agreement between the firm and employee, rather than a loyalty-inducing deferred bonus of the sort JWatts suggested.

Mostly that's true. Except that, as the beneficiary you become an unsecured creditor of the firm, so you better hope it stays solvent.

There are ways the agreement can be funded by a trust, but you still have a real risk of losing your cash if something happens that takes down the firm.

I think it's a pretty common perk for upper middle income folks. It gets around the relatively low limits on the various qualified plans like 401(k)s and IRAs.

This deferred income sounds like the pension fund expectations that are getting gutted at many companies.

As an employee, I'd go in assuming they'll try to find a way to make sure I don't get it.

It doesn't sound to me like Wells Fargo had particularly good talent in management.

I favor a simpler solution. Fines and remuneration come out of the bonus pool and executive salaries. Don't like it? Quit and go elsewhere. There are plenty of incompetents out there happy to take your job for half the pay.

"This deferred income sounds like the pension fund expectations that are getting gutted at many companies."

Well, it is a defined contribution scheme, rather than a defined benefit scheme, so it's on more solid ground in that respect. And again, a lot of these programs have trusts (Rabbi trusts, IIRC?) behind them.

But yes, most people who have these things are fairly nervous about using them. They make a lot more sense when you're making $600k at 62 than $300k at 40.

"Well, it is a defined contribution scheme, rather than a defined benefit scheme"

That's a bit of an oversimplification on my part. Anyway, yes, be careful trusting such a plan with a lot of money for a long period of time. They're a lot better for shifting income a few years out if you have high taxes and may have a lower income in the near future, perhaps at another kind of job or in retirement to bridge the gap to required distributions from other plans.

What puzzles me is why no senior managers were fired. You don't need to talk about fraud or other criminal acts to recognize that this was a terrible way to run the bank. So why shouldn't those who ran it that way get fired for poor performance?

$200 million mistakes are a serious matter.

No great stagnation... Robot receptionists.

# 5 Well, I guess my portfolio has become worthless then. "Why do things that happen to stupid people keep happening to me?"

"He received his PHD from UChicago Econ in 1950 and wrote at least one book with George Shultz."
Wow, a man who got his PHD (shouldn't it be Ph.D?) years before Eisenhower was president. In fact, according to Wikipedia, he served on active duty in WW II. They just don't make this kind of people anymore.

Indeed, they stopped making WWII veterans over 70 years ago.

It is a pity.

People that served in WW2? Yes, that's right, they don't make them anymore. Heck, they don't even make the people who served in the Vietnam War anymore.

But they still make lots of people who tell me they served in Vietnam (if all those guys had been there, there would be no place for the Vietcong) or watched in loco Brazil's tragic defeat in the 1950 World Cup final game in Rio de Janeiro. Neither the stadium nor the city was big enough for this having come to pass.
There are upsides too, though.

I was kind of at the Woodstock thing in NY in 1969 but spent most of it shooting snooker with a guy named Hendrix and an albino dude called Johnny in a poolroom in Bethel.

This is silly. Anyone who can remember Woodstock wasn't there.

I'm from Minnesota. You can't find anyone there who didn't vote for Reagan in 1984.

I guess this is the reason Mondale didn't ask for a rematch.

+1, yes, from the Greatest Generation. Reminds me of another guy from that generation, a white man, who injected himself with a drug that makes your skin turn black, and became black for a while. Later they made a movie about it: "watermelon man". True story.

How in heaven's name did he not know about the nature of manual work? Had he done none as a schoolboy or as a student?

Watermelon Man is a comedy. I think you mean Black Like Me.
What few people remember today is that Lois Lane did the same about ten years later.

I suspect #4 goes on a lot more than is reported.

In the 2000s I worked at a small community savings bank.

One branch manager was fired for doing this exact thing, taking new account holders who opened a checking account and applying for overdraft and credit cards in their names in order to meet sales goals. After the manager was caught and fired an investigation revealed that the bank had given the manager's friend a home equity loan. The friend was married, but the wife knew nothing of the loan. The manager had falsely notarized the wife's signature on the loan docs.

Another branch based at the local university had their entire staff fired for engaging in the unauthorized/fake account openings.

This was just 2 branches out of a total of 23 in a 6 month period.

4) The oldest wheeze in the book. I've seen this in the mid-90's, when I was a GM at one of the Australian 'Big 4'. Cross-selling into the customer base!

2. Does the gluten-free Last Supper omit Christ?

Come on, this is one of the best comments here ever. Guve this man his due.

#1: the argument I've seen, fair or not, is that the US not only spends an unusually large amount on healthcare, but is rewarded by an average lifespan a couple of years shorter than comparable countries.

I have seen attempts to explain the latter point, starting from the reasonable premise that lifespan depends on more things than healthcare expenditure. Nonetheless, these arguments seem to me quickly to degenerate into attempts to explain away, rather than explain, the discrepancy in lifespan.

Maybe explanatory attempts are handicapped by censorship, or self-censorship, of lines of argument that might otherwise be weighty.

"Weighty." I see what you did there.

In related news, moderate to vigorous exercise saves $2500/yr in medical costs:

I thought most of the difference (or more than 100% of the difference in some studies) was explained by two things: (1) higher obesity and (2) more gun and car accident deaths among young people

It is fat shaming to tell someone to lose weight.

Was life expectancy adjusted for differences in racial demographics? As I understand it, most Americans have longer lifespans (African Americans live longer than Africans, Japanese-American women live longer than Japanese women), but were less healthy overall due to obesity.

Race has little to do with it, Blacks don't live as long as Whites but Asians and Hispanics live longer. It cancels out, America's total life expectancy is about the same as its White life expectancy. Asian Americans do live longer than Asians in Asia, but this is not true for American Whites.

Also, Mexican immigrants live longer than whites, but after a generation or two of terrible US diet and habits, the effect goes away. Lots of bizarre trivia like this in the demography literature.

"Depends on more things" is putting it mildly. Going by the RAND health insurance experiment, replicated recently by Oregon prior to the ACA, on the margin additional healthcare seems to have no effect on health outcomes, other than making people feel good they have access to it (which occurs prior to actually receiving any treatment).

1 is perhaps an explanation of why we spend much, but probably not a good argument against cost containment.

If poorer people can live longer for less, maybe we can too.

Re: #1, I'm happy to recycle my comment on this blog from 2010:

Draw a similar curve for education spending in the U.S. vs other countries.

It looks the same.

So why aren’t people complaining that we spend too much on education in the U.S. and that it’s a crisis?

We spend more on Health care in the U.S. because we are wealthy enough that we want to consume more of it.

I don't think I am really the only one concerned with both health and education costs.

It's not how much we spend, it's how much we get for what we spend. We are a rich country that is spending vast amounts of money on additional health care (mostly in the form of new technology) for little additional benefit because of diminishing marginal returns e.g. keeping a patient with terminal cancer alive for a few months longer. Some people think it's worth it, some don't.

The point is that we don't decry when people are spending more on books, or automobiles, or iPads, or houses, or going out to eat, we say "Hey, look at how wealthy we're getting... people are able to consume more stuff!" so it seems odd that people consuming more and spending more on health care (yes, I realize there is also a supply-side of it as well) is automatically a dramatic crisis. Would like to see if someone has a more nuanced view that explains it as a problem beyond the obvious "The United States is much wealthier and thus its citizens can blow more money on marginal consumption than other place are able to."

I think "college affordability" nets a pretty big haul on Google. And I actually agree with the right-leaning that easy college loans have contributed to rapid price inflation.

Love a lazy Friday read

Can the CFPB and the legislation behind it get a shout out here? Or are we in some libertarian fantasy world where customers were supposed to put a stop to this through non binding arbitration or individual research?

Can we call into question the banks objections to more regulations and supervision yet?

I give a begrudging shout out to the CFPB. But my preferred fantasy world would be one where prosecutors stop this by charging bank employees with identity theft or wire fraud-related charges.

This customer put a stop to it by visiting his branch and telling desk person to fix the "mistake" right now and refund relevant fees. Took fifteen minutes.

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