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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lessons Learned from My Cardiac Problem

Listen to your Body


OpEd in MetroWest Daily NewS, December 8, 2013.


NO LONGER ON LINE, SO HERE IT IS


Listen to your Body … Please                                                                                                  911 words



Martin G Evans





I didn't.



I first felt mild chest pains when walking in the old square in Wroclaw, Poland. It was an August  afternoon  after my lunchtime nap  On this walk, my aim was to go through the square and under the highway to see and take some photographs of the Renoma art deco shopping center which was about 15 minutes away. By the time I had walked for five minutes from the hotel to the post office on the South East corner of the square I was experiencing some chest pains. Oh, I thought, it's that food and beer I had had  for lunch – attributing, incorrectly, the cause to indigestion.



This seemed to me to be the issue because we had had a strenuous, at least compared to my typical sedentary life, two weeks in central Europe during which I had no problems at all despite long walks in Budapest, Krakow, and Wroclaw.



I sat down and rested and ,after a while,the pains went away. I continued my walk going through the underpass under the main road that circles Wroclaw old town. I got to the department store complex and some slight pain returned. I rested, took my photographs, and then returned to the square for an afternoon snack and then the hotel.  During this time I experienced some discomfort but was able to complete my self-imposed assignments



The next day, the same thing happened at the same time. The morning walking around went without any problem. But after lunch and a nap and soon after I sallied forth for some more photographing: this time another art-deco building.  As soon as I had crossed the square, I began to have chest pains. These behaved the same way as their predecessors, easing when I rested and returning as I continued to walk.



That evening, I casually mentioned that I thought I had some heartburn with all this heavy Polish food..



The next two days were symptom free. On the first, we had a road trip to Dresden so most of the day was being chauffeured around with only a couple of hour of walking. I had no problems at all. The following day we left for Boston. In the morning we walked round the old town for the last time. In the morning, the distance walked that would have triggered chest pains on previous days left me untroubled.  The heavy lifting of luggage at the airports and the heavier lifting of our duty free purchases had no impact on my activity, neither did the six hour flight. I got home without incident.



The next day, Sunday, we then loaded the car for our trip to the my wife's family cottage in central New Hampshire. We arrived at Alton soon after noon. Our daughter and her children were delighted to see us.  We took the new kayak out of its chrysalis; loaded it on top of the car; drove down to the beach; unloaded the kayak. All without any problem.



It was later at the beach that I had my next and most severe chest pains. I started to swim out to the raft, about half way out, I experienced severe chest pains and, if my memory serves, I think they spread to my shoulders. I managed to get to the raft and hung on for a while. I rested. I then started to swim back. Several times I tried to stand so as to rest my arms; but the water was too deep until I had gone a good way to the shore. Stupidly, I did not think of turning on my lack to propel myself with leg kicks. Accordingly I made my painful way to land using my arms. I was worried that I might have had more difficulty but there were lots of people around who could have helped me.



I didn't mention the pains to my wife. That is one of my big regrets. I should have told her. She had a right to know. These pains were an important signal; but I did say that last summer I could swim to the raft and then swim some more parallel to the shore and that I couldn't do it this time.



On Monday in the afternoon I had to go down to the crawl space under the cottage and was crawling around in pretty unusual kind of position; again I felt some pains in my chest. That night at dinner, after the main course was over and the kids had vanished somewhere, I allowed that maybe I had a touch of angina and explained when I had experienced it. Before I could finish speaking, my daughter, an ER physician, had packed me into the car and was driving us to the local hospital in Wolfeboro.



There, after many tests, the medics found out that I had cardiac problems. This was a complete surprise to me as I have had low levels of bad cholesterol all my life and even though both parents had, had heart problems, I thought that their influence on my health would work through the cholesterol level and not through other genetic routes.



I was transferred to the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester for surgery.. They found several blocked arteries. They put a stent in one and since that time I have felt quite well; though, of course, I have changed my eating and exercise habits. Thanks to Medicare, my out of pocket costs have been minimal.


My lessons:

Listen to your body.

Act on its messages immediately. I know now that I should have done that in Poland, but I find the idea of being in a hospital where I don't understand one word of the language absolutely terrifying. 

Tell people about what is going on clearly and precisely – especially your loved ones.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Flaws in Obamacase

Mr. Sununu is right. Obamacare is flawed (Obsmacare fail isn't the site --it's the law. Boston Globe, November 25, 2013).
The flaws are due to the compromises that had to be made in order to get the big insurance companies on board so they wouldn't destroy it as they did the earlier Clinton proposals.
A flawless plan would have been to expand Medicare for all.
I would like to hear what Mr. Sununu would propose. It has been over 50 years since universal health care was introduce in Britain after World War II. Over 50 years for the magic of markets to bring universal health care to all Americans. Clearly markets have failed. What is Mr. Sununu's solution?




Sent to Boston Globe

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fixing Social Security

I am a progressive but I do not take a hard line about making changes in Social Security. I just object strongly to the changes that the President has proposed (Paul Krugman, Expanding Social Security. New York Times, November 22, 2013).).

Although Social Security does not contribute to the deficit, it is not yet on a firm financial basis.There are several ways to improve its finances but the one proposed: adopting the chained-CPI is the one that will harm the poorest recipients most. Chained-CPI does not reflect the reality of price changes that affect seniors. It severely underestimates them.
A better change, on the input side, would be to remove or raise the cap on Social Security earnings.

Paying out, we could change the tax treatment of Social Security earnings. Rich Americans only pay income tax on 85% of their Social Security income. One hundred percent of Social Security income should be included in gross income. The impact on low income seniors would be negligible; on rich Americans it would be a modest increase in taxes.

Paying out, we can also look at the payout rate. Despite being regressive at the paying in stage, Social Security is quite progressive when paying out.  Right now the Social Security formula for computing one's pension depends on Average Lifetime Earnings (ALE). Each year's earnings are converted into constant dollars and then a monthly average is calculated. Based on this, Social Security pays you:
- 90 percent of the first $767 of monthly ALE
- 32 percent of monthly ALE between $768 and $4,624,
- 15 percent of monthly  ALE above $4,625 to the cap of $9,475.
Changing the breakpoints, increasing the number of breakpoints (say new breakpoints at $3,000, at $6,000, and at $8000), or reducing the percentage payout at the highest level would maintain payouts for the poorest in our society, but reduce expenditures to those who can most afford it.

Both of these would affect higher income recipients while leaving the poorest unscathed.


Sent to New York Times

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Failed Tax Incentives

 Boston Globe letter

They cut it way back.
This was my original:


I rarely agree with Mr. Jacoby, but his column today was right on the money (The bitter pill of failed state tax incentives. Boston Globe, November 6, 2013: A15).

Giving tax breaks to big business (like BioTech firms, Theatrical Producers, Movie Makers, Insurance Companies, etc.) to encourage them to locate in a given area is a beggar-thy-neighbor proposition. Often, as in New London, CT, the jobs never materialize, or they last only a short time as in Devens, MA and Providence, RI.

Some years back, the legislature passed an inter-state compact (National Popular Vote) to bypass the Electoral College to ensure that the President is elected by all the people. We urgently need an inter-state, inter-city, inter-town compact that will disallow these ridiculous handouts to the wealthy top managers of corporations seeking tax breaks.
Alternatively, perhaps the Federal Government could ban the practice nationwide by invoking the Commerce Cause.

It is past time to say "No" to the corporate welfare bums (Quote from former Canadian New Democratic Party leader, David Lewis).

Friday, November 15, 2013

There is a role for adjuncts in the academic community. When the University's local environment contains a person with a special expertise. In such a case, the education experience of the students is deepened by having such a person teach a course in her/his specialty.
However the practice of employing adjuncts as major contributors to the University's teaching function is appalling. As well as the economic and psychological divide described by Mr. Hoeller (New York Times, November 13, 2013: A26) there are two other dysfunctional consequences.
First there is a smaller pool of talent on campus to draw on for administrative duties. However, those who think that the University has too many administrators would probably not see this as a disadvantage if it resulted in a reduction of he administrative echelon.
Second, the University is in the business of creating as well as disseminating knowledge. Have a large number of faculty whose responsibilities do not include research diminishes the research production and hence the development of intellectual seed corn for the nation's future.
We mus return to the days of specialist adjuncts rather than those who are generalists even if they are better teachers than the tenure stream faculty.



Sent to New York Times







Sunday, November 10, 2013

Efficient Markets and Food Labels

You are wrong to endorse the voluntary disclosure of Genetically Modified ingredients in the food we eat (Labels for Controversial Ingredients. New York Times, November 8, 2013: A28).
The underlying condition for effective markets is full information.
Consumers need to be told in order to make an informed choice. That is what the free market demands.



Sent to New York Times

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moral Equivalence? Hunger.

Charles Blow (October 26: A19) reports that one in four American children live in poverty.
Reporting from North Korea, Choe Sang-Hun (October 26: A4  )tells us that "more than one quarter of North Korean children under age 5 live with chronic malnourishment."
This is certainly not a time to cut Food Stamp funding.


Sent to New York Times

Social Security fixes

I am a progressive but I do not take a hard line about making changes in Social Security. I just object strongly to the changes that the President has proposed (Obama, allies at odds on budget. Boston Globe, October 28, 2013: A1, A6).

Although Social Security does not contribute to the deficit, it is not yet on a firm financial basis.There are several ways to improve its finances but the one proposed: adopting the chained-CPI is the one that will harm the poorest recipients most. Chained-CPI does not reflect the reality of price changes that affect seniors. It severely underestimates them.
A better change, on the input side, would be to remove or raise the cap on Social Security earnings.
Paying out, we could change the tax treatment of Social Security earnings. Rich Americans only pay income tax on 85% of their Social Security income. One hundred percent of Social Security income should be included in gross income. The impact on low income seniors would be negligible; on rich Americans it would be a modest increase in taxes.

Paying out, we can also look at the payout rate. Despite being regressive at the paying in stage, Social Security is quite progressive when paying out.  Right now the Social Security formula for computing one's pension depends on Average Lifetime Earnings (ALE). Each year's earnings are converted into constant dollars and then a monthly average is calculated. Based on this, Social Security pays you:
- 90 percent of the first $767 of monthly ALE
- 32 percent of monthly ALE between $768 and $4,624,
- 15 percent of monthly  ALE above $4,625 to the cap of $9,475.
Changing the breakpoints, increasing the number of breakpoints (say new breakpoints at $3,000, at $6,000, and at $8000), or reducing the percentage payout at the highest level would maintain payouts for the poorest in our society, but reduce expenditures to those who can most afford it.
Both of these would affect higher income recipients while leaving the poorest unscathed.



Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, October 28, 2013

Health Care [New Yorker]

I disagree strongly with Mr. Horner's assertion that society has no interest in protecting people from their own irresponsible behavior (Letters, October 21, 2013)..

I believe that the best analogy to requiring universal health insurance is hat "friends do not let friends drive drunk."
After all, the exemplar cited in Dr. Gawande's article was not the only one to suffer the results of his neglect.
He lost his business: perhaps he had employees who lost their jobs; his state an local government lost the tax revenue they relied on.
He lost his home: the state and locality had to pick up the costs he incurred in the homeless center.
He may have been unable to pay all his medical bills: these costs are thrust o Mr. Horner and me through the increased insurance premiums we paid in order to cover the costs of healthcare for the uninsured.

It seems to me that government does have a compelling interest in this case.
Of course, like Senator Cruz, I enjoyed single payer system in Canada, so I may be biased.



Sent to New Yorker

Monday, October 21, 2013

Representatives Upton and Walden are correct in one of their complaints about the Obama administration: the threat of retroactive regulation by the FCC (How Obama Puts the Brakes on Business. Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2013: A15).
Retroactive legislation or regulation is odious. The great uncertainty it generates makes it impossible for anyone to make informed decisions about their actions. The FCC should withdraw that aspect of their rules.
As for the problems induced by Obamacare in terms of reducing employment to get under the 50 person limit, this shows the stupidity of not enacting a completely changed system that disconnected health insurance from employment. Alas, politics got in the way of sensible reform.




Sent to Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Demonizing Opponents

I agree with Mr Jacoby that the demonizing of opponents has contributed to the gridlock in Congress. Unfortunately from day one, Republicans have worked relentlessly to make President Obama either a one term President or to overturn every legislative program he proposes.
There has been no hint of accommodation on the Republican side and, in the first term, the President was attacked by liberals for compromising too much (e.g., no single payer option in Obamacare).
I do take exception to Mr. Jacoby's context free comment about then-Senator Obama's vote against raising the debt limit in 2006.
At that time, the US was in the wake of President Bush's tax cuts. GDP was then at an all time high of about $12 trillion and was rising at an annual rate of 6%.  Now 7 years later GDP, after declining during the financial crisis, has risen to $16 trillion; but the rate of increase has been a sluggish 3%.
In 2006, the good times, it was a good idea to close the gap by increasing revenue rather than raising the debt limit. Today, either increasing revenue or cutting expenditures would be a very bad idea indeed.


Sent to Boston Globe

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Medicare: How about help across state lines

It is indeed "outrageous that millions of the poorest people in the country will be denied health insurance because of decisions made mostly by Republican governors and legislatures." (A Population Betrayed. New York Times, October 4, 2013: A30).

However there may be something that we can do about it. Perhaps Massachusetts which will face the fewest demands under Obamacare could rewrite its regulations for Medicaid eligibility so that those denied insurance through Medicaid in say Tennessee would be eligible for Medicaid in Massachusetts.

This would be relatively simple to manage at a distance, all that Massachusetts would be providing is insurance. Care would still be provided in Tennessee and providers would have to conform to the Tennessee standards.


This generosity would cost Massachusetts nothing as the Federal Government would be paying the additional Medicare costs (at least for the first three years, and by then Tennessee and the other non-expansion states might have seen the error of heir ways).

As an experiment in being good neighbors, this would be well worth doing.


Sent to New York Times

Friday, October 4, 2013

Yvonne Abraham (Laboring over a position, Boston Globe, October 3rd., 2013:B1) finds the arbitration award to police officers excessive. She derides arbitrators as being split the difference automatons. There is a better way: final offer arbitration.

This is the best procedure to use in public sector bargaining if the parties cannot come to agreement themselves.. In final offer arbitration, the city and the union would put forward heir best and final offers. The arbitrator would hen select from the two positions. This process forces both parties to come up with “reasonable offers.”

I would take strong exception to her acceptance of the norm that “workers all over the city are taking no pay increases, or worse.” This is not what we should expect; we should expect that workers share in the productivity increases that the county has enjoyed. This has not happened since the 1970's. Prior to 1970, employees shared the wealth. Pay increases averaged 4.2% per year. between 1948 and 1970. Since 1975, pay increase have averaged 0.3% per year in constant dollars..

We need to return to a society that values the contribution of all its members.


Sent to Boston Globe

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rating Agencies

The games played by the ratings agencies are a function of the business model they use (Since Relaxing its Bond Rating Standards, S.&P. Has Seen Its Business Increase. New York Times, Sept. 18 2013: B1, B7).

In their model,  the issuers of the financial instruments chose and pay the rating agencies; thus competition will result in a drive to the bottom, with raters giving high ratings to worse and worse debt issues. The problem is that an investor cannot detect a low quality AAA rating until after the issuer has defaulted.

In my view, there are only two solutions. Either, have the raters paid by the purchasers of the instruments, perhaps through a tiny Tobin-type tax, or nationalize the rating agencies and have a government agency carry out the ratings. I would favor the prior approach as competition would encourage accuracy in the ratings.




Sent to the New York Times

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Your lead editorial, The Other Targeting Scandal (WSJ, August7, 2013:A12) exaggerates the threat to corporate political speech.

What I want is for corporations to speak with the voice of their owners -- the shareholders -- rather than with the voice of the top managers or members of the Board of Directors.
That seems to me to be a very reasonable position to take. I hope that you will come support such a position.


Sent to Wall Street Journal

Friday, July 26, 2013

Health Insurance and Employment

The past few months have demonstrated the difficulties resulting from continuing to link health insurance to employment.
First, we see some with strong religious convictions, including the Catholic Church, fighting to exclude the coverage of contraception and abortion from the insurance they will purchase on behalf of their employees. Their claim is based on the first amendment "free exercise of religion" clause. The Catholic faith forbids contraception -- a rule much honored in the breach by Catholic families. So providing contraceptive coverage violates that rule. The Department of Health and the Church came up with an awkward compromise, but legislation by private firms to avoid providing such coverage is on-going.
Second, only full-time workers (over 30 hours per week) are required to be covered by employer based Obamacare. Accordingly we see firms working toward reorganizing their work forces so that the normal work period is about 29 hours per week. The result being that firms will not have to provide health insurance to the bulk of their employees. Of course, senior management will continue at 40 plus hours and retain their "Cadillac" health insurance plans.
With the delay in the implementation of the employer mandate, states are free to experiment. It would be very fruitful if scenarios could be devised that removed the employer role in health insurance. Perhaps we could begin by ensuring that the employees of small employers (say less than 50 employees) were required to receive their insurance through the exchanges rather than through employers.
This would be beneficial to small businesses who now pay higher premiums than large businesses and would be advantageous to the 25% of the employees of small business who are presently uninsured.
Working out the details for disentangling healthcare from employment may be tricky. Firms that cease to provide healthcare should increase cash wages so that employees will be able to afford insurance bought through the exchanges. There will need to be some oversight to ensure that this is done.
Taking these first steps with small firms would provide a wealth of experience to guide the process when we dissociate, as we must, health insurance from  employment for larger firms.



Sent to New York Times

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Your argument in favor of State Representative Dan Winsow's argument for exempting young people from an increase in the minimum wage is flawed (Raise the minimum wage, but exempt summer jobs for teens. Boston Globe, June 17, 2013: A12).

The assumption is that these young people are working for pocket money. However, these young people may well be working in order to pay for or save for a college education. According to the College Board the average amount (in constant dollars) actually paid (after taking into account scholarship support) has increased 29% at Public 4-year Colleges (and almost 26% at Private 4-year Colleges) over the past 10 years.

Over the same period, the value of the Federal minimum wage has eroded from being worth $4.75 in 1996 to being worth $4.04 in 2006 -- a decline of almost 15%.

To maintain the affordability of College, we should include teens in the raised minimum wage.



Sent to Boston Globe

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Justice at Guantanamo. When?

Mr. Carroll is one of many calling for the closure of Guantanamo where over 80 people cleared of terrorist activity languish still. Eighty innocent people in jail, this is unconscionable
However, he remains confined by the thinking that requires these people to be sent to "foreign countries willing to receive them."  ( It's your turn. Boston Globe, May 6, 2013). But there may not be any willing countries.

If we cannot release them into the est of the world, then they should be released into the United States. That, after all, is the full implication of Colin Powell's dictum: "If you broke it, you own it." We have broken these people's lives and are continuing to do so. It is time to stop and to provide some restitution.
Mr President, let these people go.
As for those who are awaiting trial, the President should defy Congress -- just as it defies the President -- and issue an executive order to bring them all to the United States for trial in our Courts, which are well capable of providing a fair trial.
Mr Obama should have done this on the first day of his Presidency, but better now than further delay.

Sent to Boston Globe

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I was distressed to read in your editorial (Boston Globe, April 29, 2013: A10) an attack on one of the few remaining protections for state workers: the anti-privatizing laws (Pacheco Law).
In a world in which private sector wages, except for top management, have been beaten down, it is worth keeping in mind that public sector jobs provide a buffer against severe declines. Since 2000, according the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, income for the lowest 10% of wage earners has declined by 3% (corrected for inflation); while wages for the top 10% have risen 9% (also corrected for inflation).
So, do we really want the work that needs to be done on behalf of the Commonwealth to be done by workers who are exploited by their employers, or do we want to ensure that the work is done by our public servants who, despite the publicity about patronage and corruption, are in the main honest and competent workers.
The House did well to preserve these protections.


Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, April 29, 2013

Over 80 people are being held in  Guantanamo after being cleared of any terrorist involvement. This is unconscionable.

Mr. President, Let These People Go.
If we cannot release them into their own countries, then they should be released into the United States. That, after all, is the full implication of Colin Powell's dictum: "If you broke it, you own it." We have broken these people and are continuing to do so. It is time to stop.
As for those who are awaiting trial, the President should defy Congress -- just as it defies the President -- and bring them all to the United States for trial in our Courts, which are well capable of providing a fair trial.
Mr Obama should have done this on the first day of his Presidency, but better now than further delay.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Your Editorial , Social Security, Present and Future (New York Times Weekly Review, March 31, 2013: 10) is correct in dismissing the chained CPI as a solution. The adoption of the chained-CPI would be most regressive. Chained-CPI lags the regular CPI by 0.25%. Worse, the regular CPI lags an experimental elderly-CPI by 0.3%. The impact would be most severe on the poorest of seniors. As you suggest a firm elderly CPI should be developed.

There are other alternatives to ensure a solvent Social Security fund on both the paying in  side and at the paying out side.

As you suggest, paying in, we could lift or abolish the cap.

Paying out, we could change the tax treatment of Social Security. Rich Americans only pay income tax on 85% of their Social Security income. One hundred percent of social security income should be included in gross income. The impact on low income seniors would be negligible; on rich Americans it would be a modest increase in taxes.

Paying out we can also look at the payout rate. Despite being regressive at the paying in stage, Social Security is quite progressive when paying out.  Right now the Social Security formula for computing one's pension depends on Average Lifetime Earnings (ALE). Each year's earnings are converted into constant dollars and then a monthly average is calculated. Based on this, Social Security pays you:
- 90 percent of the first $767 of monthly ALE
- 32 percent of monthly ALE between $768 and $4,624,
- 15 percent of monthly  ALE above $4,625 to the cap of $9,475.
Changing the breakpoints, increasing the number of breakpoints (say new breakpoints at $3,000, at $6,000, and at $8000), or reducing the percentage payout at the highest level would maintain payouts for the poorest in our society, but reduce expenditures to those who can most afford it.

Could both Democrats and Republicans agree to such a scheme?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fix the Broken Tax System.

The corporate tax system is broken, badly broken (Tax lobbyists help businesses reap windfalls. Boston Globe, March 17, 2013: A1, A8, A9).

The fix is simple: abolish the corporate tax. If many corporations are not paying it, then it does not serve as a reliable source of revenue. If many fine minds are engaged in counterproductive legal and lobbying activities to reduce taxes, a better use could be made of their talents.

The corporation tax should be replaced by a financial transaction tax. Such taxes are being introduced in Europe's financial centers so that such a tax imposed in the US would be unlikely to result in a flight of trading to foreign bourses.

A very small tax applied to the multitude of financial transactions would generate the funds to replace the lost corporate taxes and might even reduce the speculative frenzy that sometimes inflames stock and bond markets.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I am very disturbed by one phrase in your description of this agreement (Big Hedge Fund Pays $616 Million in Trading Cases, New York Times, March 16, 2013: A1,A3).

You say: "SAC ... holds one of the best investment records on Wall Street..."

I, too, could have a good investment record if I was able to enjoy multiple instances of trading on the basis of insider information.

With that kind of information it is easy to buy low, sell high, and short stocks with no danger of losses.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It is time for the US to adopt a Financial Transactions Tax (A Tax that May Change the Trading Game, Business Day, February 22, 2013: B1, B6).

The financial sector is, after all, where the money is.

I think that this tax should be a replacement for Corporate Income Taxes which can be avoided by careful transfer pricing games.


Sent to New York Times

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Keystone Pipeline

Friends don't let friends binge.

That should be the watchword for President Obama as he considers whether or not to authorize the Keystone Pipeline (Obama Faces Risks in Pipeline Decision. New York Times, February 17th., 2013: B1-B2).

We should not binge on the Tar Sands oil. Actually we won't as all the refined product will be exported. But we also should not help our Canadian friends binge on dirty oil either.

The President should not issue permits. Let the filthy oil stay in the ground.


Sent to New York Times

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cardinal Mahoney

Cardinal Mahoney should not be going to Rome to help select a new Pope (Cardinal to be deposed in abuse suit. Boston Globe, February 16, 2013: A2).

The Cardinal has a clear conflict of interest. He has failed his flock. He might well be induced to vote for a Papal candidate who promises not to discipline him.


Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, February 18, 2013

Targeted Assassination

Mr Sununu is right to draw our attention to the O07bama "license to kill" (Boston Globe, February 17, 2013: A11).

Targeted assassination should not be one of our weapons in the War on Terror. We are fighting this war in defense of our values. When we descend to the tactics of the terrorists, we are ceding to them the victory.

We must find alternative procedures to defend ourselves that are consistent with the rule of law.

One of the enduring disappointments with the Obama Administration has been its failure to reverse the indefensible habits of the previous Administration.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Rating Agency Fix

I fail to see how "open[ing] up the duopolistic world of rating agencies to greater competion" would result in "better performance" unless the business model is also changed (On the Waiting List at the Debt Rating Club. Sunday Business, February 10, 2013: B1, B7).

If the issuers still employ and pay the rating agencies, more competition will result in a drive to the bottom, with raters giving high ratings to worse and worse debt issues. The problem is that an investor cannot detect a low quality AAA rating until after the issuer has defaulted.

In my view, there are only two solutions. Either, have the raters paid by the purchasers of the debt, perhaps through a tiny Tobin-type tax, or nationalize the rating agencies and have a government agency carry out the ratings. I would favor the prior approach as competition would encourage accuracy in the ratings.


Sent to New York Times

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tax Expenditures

Mr. Jacoby is absolutely correct (A guaranteed flop for Massachusetts. Boston Globe, February 6th. 2013).

Giving tax breaks to big business (like Theatrical Producers, Movie Makers, Insurance Companies, etc.) to encourage them to locate in a given area is a beggar-thy-neighbor proposition. Often, as in New London, CT, the jobs never materialize, or they last only a short time as in Devens, MA and Providence, RI.

Some years back, the legislature passed an inter-state compact (National Popular Vote) to bypass the Electoral College to ensure that the President is elected by all the people. We urgently need an inter-state, inter-city, inter-town compact that will disallow these ridiculous handouts to the wealthy top managers of corporations seeking tax breaks.

Where do you think that $4m or $10m or $20m tax rebate will go: right into the pockets of the CEO and top management through their profit related bonuses.

It is past time to say "No" to the corporate welfare bums (Quote from former Canadian New Democratic Party leader, David Lewis).


Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, January 21, 2013

Effects of Inequality

Neither Professor Stiglitz (Inequality is Holding Back the Recovery, Week In Review, January 20, 2013:A1, A6,A7) nor Mr. Davidson (The Great Divergence, Magazine, January 20, 2013: 17-18) focus on the ongoing effects of inequality in our society.

In their book, The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett document thourghly the dysfuntional effects of inequality across nations and even between states in the United States.

In unequal societies rich people are sicker than rich people in more egalitarian societies and, of course, poor people in unequal societies are less healthy than poor people in egalitarian societies. The same is true of mental illness. The same is true in terms of people's  happiness, and so on.

Unequal societies are less well off in the things that matter than more equal societies.

We need to put this right.

Sent to New York Times