Friday, August 26, 2016

WHERE IS TEDDY ROOSEVELT WHEN WE NEED HIM

Teddy Roosevelt was known For his aggressive use of United States antitrust law, he became known as the "trust-buster". He brought 40 antitrust suits, and broke up major companies, such as the largest railroad and Standard Oil, the largest oil company.*]

EpiPins and other drug costs.

Then there are the medications that suddenly increase in price overnight when the rights to manufacture are sold to another pharmaceutical company. A few of the notable:  **
  • Cycloserine for tuberculosis, from $500 to $10,800 for 30 pills.
  • Ofirmed, an injectable painkiller, from $410 to$1,019.52 for 24 vials.
  • Vimovo for symptoms of arthritis, from $160 to $1,678.52 for 60 tablets.
  • Edecrin, a duretic, from $470 to $4,600 per vial.
  • Benznidizole, treats Chagas disease, a $60,000 per treatment increase.
  • EpiPen, for kids with life-threatening allergies, a 400% increase since acquisition.
  • But the ignominius topper is Daraprim. The day after purchase by Turing Pharmaceuticals, CEO Martin Shkreli bumped the price of this 62-year-old drug from $18.50 to $750. and bragged about it in the press. The medication is a critical treatment for a parasitic infection that could be fatal to those with compromised immune systems due to conditions like AIDS/HIV and cancer.
On EpiPins, the drug costs less than a dollar a dose, and I presume it may cost a few dollars to manufacture the injector, certainly less than $10 total but with the EpiPin charge of $608!  As a result of the uproar, Mylan Laboratories is offering a $300 coupon discount.   Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, tried to gain sympathy for their charge for an Epi-Pin ($274 for two pins with the rest added on my middle men and final sales) if she hadn't given herself a 672% increase in salary.   My medigap insurance company (the large non-profit GEHA) is charging $200+ for the EpiPin from a special negotiation, whereas I paid $56  back in 2013, I believe.

We need someone like a trust buster to stop this charging all the traffic will bear.  In my youth companies priced a new product to regain their development and manufacturing costs over two years, then they usually reduced prices somewhat.  But with prescription drugs, the price starts high and just increases with time.  There is no real competition with prescription drugs.  If one company raises the price of a drug, the competitors happily raise theirs also.

What we need is a law that says the a purchased drug must sell for less than the charge before the purchase.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt
** http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/25/mylan-expands-epipen-cost-cutting-programs-after-charges-of-price-gouging.html
*** http://itsnutsoutthere.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

NEW HOME SALES NEAR A NINE YEAR HIGH

Wow, new home sales suddenly near a nine year high.  I find the median home price to be shocking:
The median price for a new home slipped 0.5 percent from a year ago to $294,600.*
To buy such a home, I think you should earn over $92,000/yr to buy a home at the  median price; however, an online calculator says you can do it with an income of $55,200** that is somewhat more than the median HOUSEHOLD income that was a bit more than $53,000/yr in 2014, the most recent figure available***

* http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/23/new-home-sales-for-july-2016-reported-by-the-commerce-department.html
** http://michaelbluejay.com/house/howmuchhome.html
*** http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/us/

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TEXAS WOMEN DYING IN CHILD BIRTH IN TEXAS

There is a big increase in Texas of mothers dying in childbirth.*
The rate at which women die in Texas from pregnancy-related complications is higher than in any other US state—or even in the rest of the developed world, reports theGuardianA study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the maternal mortality rate in Texas doubled in a two-year span, from about 18 per 100,000 births in 2010—a year with 72 deaths—to about 36 in 2012, which saw 148 deaths. In the 48 states not including Texas and California, the rate was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2014, up 27% from 18.8 in 2000. California was the only state to see a drop. The authors say the hike in the death rate in Texas—no other state saw a similar uptick—is difficult to explain "in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval," per the Guardian.

The increase coincides with Texas cutting health care funding for women.

http://www.newser.com/story/229968/texas-saw-spike-in-maternal-mortality-hard-to-explain-in-absence-of-war.html?utm_source=part&utm_medium=united&utm_campaign=rss_home

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

HILLARY CLINTON IN GOOD HEALTH BUT IS TRUMP?

Republicans have been accusing Hillary Clinton of being in poor health.  The following reference discusses her health that is good.  Included in the article is a URL to Hillary's physician  report that concludes she is in good health.

But is Donald Trump in good health?  He has cancelled his heavily promoted speech on immigration for Thursday, August 25 (perhaps no surprise) in Colorado, but he has also cancelled his rally for the following day in Las Vegas (August 26) and another at the end of the month (31st) in Portland, Oregon.  You know how he loves these rallies.  They are his life's blood.  What's the matter with Trump?

http://www.newser.com/story/229968/texas-saw-spike-in-maternal-mortality-hard-to-explain-in-absence-of-war.html?utm_source=part&utm_medium=united&utm_campaign=rss_home

Monday, August 22, 2016

NEW POLITICAL/ECONOMIC SYSTEM NEEDED

A most interesting article has been published by Howard Marks and I recommend reading it in its entirety.*  Following are just a few quotes from the article leading up to the thesis that a new political/economic system is needed (Bolding in quotes are in the original.):

If something might have negative consequences in the real world, politicians seem to feel free to ignore them. If someone annoying, like a journalist or an opposing candidate, asks about potential consequences, it’s easy these days to misrepresent them or deny they exist. And if it turns out that costs or consequences were willfully ignored, no redress is available: election victories based on unmet promises can’t be rescinded, and candidates can’t be sued over falsehoods on the stump.
.................................................................
Trump cites unfair competition from China as a main source of our loss of manufacturing jobs. As I pointed out in “Economic Reality,” however, in recent decades the U.S. has lost roughly ten times as many potential jobs to increased productivity, mechanization and automation as it has actual jobs to low-cost competition from China.
.................................................................
We often see poll results showing that increasing numbers of Americans doubt their children will live better than they do. We’d like them to, but why should they? Other than technological improvements which doubtless will continue to make life better for everyone, why should our standard of living improve monotonically? And improve relative to the rest of the world? Certainly the advantage in this regard can shift to other countries, just as it shifted to us in the past.
..............................................................
I’ll move toward summing up on the causes of today’s conditions by quoting from Thomas Friedman in The International New York Times of June 30. I think he did a great job of capturing the situation:
It’s the story of our time: The pace of change in technology, globalization and climate have started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political inovations needed for some citizens to keep up.
.................................................................
The strategy includes more investment in the nation’s buckling infrastructure and expanding unemployment and health insurance. It calls for paid sick leave, parental leave and wage insurance for workers who suffer a pay cut when changing jobs. And they argue for more resources for poor families with children and universal early childhood education. (The International New York Times, August 3, emphasis added)
This is a very liberal agenda, and many Americans would say the whole and many of its parts constitute undesirable government intervention. What, then – if anything – should be done to arrest the trends described above? If we don’t do something, it’s likely that the income and wealth gap will continue to grow; the downside of globalization will continue to be felt; and our political process will continue to be riven by widespread dissatisfaction.
Though Mr. Marks does not specifically endorse a guaranteed minimum annual income,**  he comes very close to saying it.  There may well be other solutions, but this is one that should be considered.

* http://www.barrons.com/articles/howard-marks-time-to-face-political-reality-1471547346?mod=BOL_hp_highlight_2
** http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-basic-income-controversary.html

Sunday, August 21, 2016

DONALD TRUMP'S BIGGEST CON

There is nothing quite like trying to con the public into voting for you for president when you have no qualifications.  Even Obama had a few.  What is the old saying: You can fool all of the people some of the time., you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  Well Donald Trump is trying.

Just last night he generically "regretted" saying certain hurtful things.*  What things and to whom?  After he made his statements about the Khans, he was asked if he had any regrets and he said no.  He was also asked after his statements about McCain whether he regretted his comments, and he said no (Though Trump eventually endorsed McCain.).  Just what did he regret?  What he has been saying is carefully constructed to appeal to a certain group of people, mainly in the Republican Party.  So finally he appears to be making a pivot to being more reasonable, but the bar is set so low that his unreasonable statements are now endorsed as reasonable.   He is really saying the same things but in a more pleasant fashion. He said that he would never lie to you which is maybe his biggest lie.

He added: "But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth."

Perhaps he is regretting his showing an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz as he has said that he wouldn't have sent it if he had it to do things over, but earlier he always has said that he has no regrets on everything else.

 Soon after saying this he said he was financing his own campaign.  Just last July (2016), he was bragging about how he had raised $80 million for his campaign in just a few days.

My opponent on the other hand wants a 550% increase in Syrian refugees. Her plan would bring in roughly 620,000 refugees from all refugee-sending nations in her first term, on top of all other immigration. Hillary Clinton is running to be America’s Angela Merkel, and we’ve seen how much crime and how many problems that’s caused the German people.**


It is really something for the Great Liar to call Hillary Clinton a liar, this from a man who is said to make a misstatement (lie) very 5 min.***

I am unable to confirm that Hillary Clinton plans to bring in 620,000 refugees from "all refugee-sending  nations in her first term."  This is certainly a lie.  First of all, the figure is totally unrealistic to do in four years or even eight years because of our immigration policies.  It might be possible for her to bring in 65,000 Syrian refugees  (the 550% increase from 10,000) in her first term, but it is most unlikely as Obama has been unable to get close to his goal of 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

Donald Trump says that he plans to end American Nation building of other countries.  Well, George W. Bush (Bush-43) said that and Obama said that .  I think both were sincere when they said it, but when it comes down to it, we can't seem to resist.

And now Donald Trump is trying to con African Americans into voting for him while speaking to totally white audiences (or close thereto).  Lots of luck with that, Donald.

Working people should keep in mind that Donald Trump has said that the American worker is overpaid.  For example:****
"Taxes too high, wages too high," he later added. "We're not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and they have to get into that upper stratum. But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can't do it."

The one thing I am sure of the Donald Trump wants to do is build the Great Wall of Trump on our Southern border to compete with the Great Wall Of China.

But will the Great Con work and yield him the presidency?

* http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/18/politics/trump-i-regret-sometimes-saying-wrong-thing/
** http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/donald-trump-never-lie-227183
*** http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/trump-fact-check-errors-exaggerations-falsehoods-213730 (We chronicled 4.6 hours of stump speeches and press conferences, from a rally in Concord, N.C., on Monday to a rally on Friday in St. Louis.  The result: more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false – the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.)
**** http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/donald-trump-wages-too-high

Thursday, August 18, 2016

JOBS, PRODUCTIVITY, AND GDP

Jim Paulsen of Wells Capital Management says he thinks there is something wrong with the  declining productivity numbers and also the low GDP.*  I've also felt that there is something wrong with GDP.**

Paulsen said he believes something is amiss because today's productivity data is out of sync with the long-term historical trend.
Throughout the post-World War II era, productivity grew faster than normal when real wages also exceeded average growth, at least until the economic recovery that began in 2009, Paulsen said. But throughout the seven-year recovery, real wages have grown above average, while productivity has lagged the historical average.*
.................................................
"If productivity is stronger, then so is growth, which might explain why profits have done so well, why auto sales are at record highs, why we've returned to full employment," he said. "It might explain a lot of things that are tough to explain if we're really only growing sub-2 percent," he said.*
(Click on figure to enlarge)

The new figures are from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as Jolts. The report is released with a one-month lag from the main jobs report , which showed the economy added  255,000 jobs in July. The Jolts report, which only goes through June, shows the monthly rates at which people quit one job or are laid off, and the rate at which people are hired.
The report has presented a consistently mixed picture in recent years. On the one hand, it has shown very low layoff rates, which aligns with data showing relatively few Americans have been filing jobless claims in recent months. But it has also shown the pace of hiring into new jobs has been slow to recover. Because switching jobs is one of the key ways that American workers get raises, the report helps explain why, for so much of the economic recovery, wage gains have been hard to come by.***  (Bolding mine)
I have put the final phrase above in bold because it seems to be in conflict with other reports.  Perhaps the key is in "for so much of" whereas other reports are dealing with more recent reports dealing wiht the economic recovery.

There has been a remarkable number of weeks with new unemployment claims being below 300,000:

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a strong labor market, for 76 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1973, when the labor market was much smaller.
The labor market is now viewed as either at or near full employment, suggesting limited scope for more declines in claims.****
(Click on figure to enlarge)

* http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/12/heres-why-productivity-isnt-growing-the-data-are-wrong-says-paulsen.html
** http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2016/08/economy-better-than-gdp-suggests.html
*** http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/08/10/rate_of_layoffs_matched_a_record_low_in_june/?mod=djemRTE_h
**** http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/18/us-weekly-jobless-claims-aug-13-2016.html