Lessons from the food industry

I've never worked in a kitchen, but I've been a waitress in more than one establishment, so I can relate to some of this article about 23 important life lessons from the restaurant world. This one, about how to respond to a particular kind of ugliness, has a much broader application than the food industry: "You just have to get over it and remind yourself never to be like that in your own life." It's similar to advice I received many years ago about slander: "Live so that no one will believe it of you." There's also no disputing the high value of being close to a good chef who's always cooking new things he wants people to try out.


Georgia has now joined South Carolina's first steps toward state nullification of Obamacare.  The four-step process, developed by the Tenth Amendment Center, includes awarding citizens state tax credits to offset any federal penalties, and revoking the state licenses of insurers that participate.

South of the Border

Won't it be amazing if the U.S.-Mexico border stops demarcating a division between an northern economy that functions and a southern one that does not?
On Thursday, Mexico's Congress passed what could be the most transformative economic legislation there in a century.  The members had a few fist fights and some screamed "treason," but the lower House still voted to expose the state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, to the free market.  And at 354-134, the vote wasn't close.
It brings to mind the scene in that silly global-warming-causes-catastrophic-freeze movie in which millions of Americans try to pour over the border into Mexico.

A different death spiral

This Forbes article is a helpful explanation of the complicated choices facing insurance companies as their customers embark on a completely different scheme of self-selection from the one that has driven actuarial planning up to now.  It seems that the ACA tried to guard against some kinds of self-selection and their resulting death-spiral dangers by requiring insurance companies to create one risk pool for all of their customers, regardless of whether they purchased their insurance on or off the exchange.  The law's architects did not take fully into account, however, how many insurers might decide to boycott the exchange altogether.  Boycotting insurers are free to price their products on the basis of their own pools.  If I understand the author's argument, this is likely for several reasons to result in a divergence of the risk profiles that will favor the competitive position of the non-exchange insurers even on their ACA-compliant products.

Pricing is only one aspect that may vary sharply between exchange and non-exchange products:  there is already considerable pressure on exchange products to shrink their provider networks and covered drug lists.  I've become interested in Assurant Health, an insurer that decided to boycott the exchanges.  Its prices for a Bronze plan are slightly higher than those of Blue Cross, but its network is the old-fashioned universal sort.  The article cites to a detailed brief on risk pools, including this explanation of why network shrinkage may be a more powerful cost-control issue than I realized:
Prohibiting [denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions] leaves insurers vulnerable to attracting a disproportionate share of patients with poor health risks. This vulnerability might cause them to leave the market or encourage them to use more covert or indirect means of risk avoidance, such as selective marketing or structuring their provider networks to exclude the doctors or hospitals preferred by higher risk patients.
It's not just that excellent hospitals like the Mayo Clinic or cancer centers charge high rates.  It's that they attract exactly the sort of patient that an insurer needs to avoid if it can't tie its prices to the health status of brand-new customers.

"I can't believe they let you do that"

Bill Whittle is terrific.  I can't seem to link directly to this video, so here's a basic PJTV link that, for now at least, takes you directly to his piece describing the pleasures of visiting Texas for Thanksgiving.

How many uninsured Americans are there, really?

Megan McArdle tries to get a handle on just how many people really were uninsured.  Is it more or less than the number of people who were insured before the PPACA hit them like a truck?
A third possibility is that we don’t have the uninsured problem we thought we had.  Most of the estimates we have for the uninsured population are really pretty crude.  For one thing, we tend to treat the U.S.'s roughly 48 million uninsured as if they were part of a discrete group, like Mormons or people who know how to play the tuba.  But in fact, people change insurance status all the time.  If you look at data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, you’ll see that a lot of people are uninsured for at least a month, but if you look at who is uninsured for as long as two years, that number falls by two-thirds.  If you extend the reference period out to four years, just 7.6 percent of the population counts as “uninsured.”  That is not a negligible number, but it is less than half of the 48 million we think of as uninsured.  And it’s heavily skewed toward immigrants and the young. . . .

. . . and to all a good flight

Medieval Warfare, Lego-Style

No female Legos were harmed in the making of this documentary. At least, I assume not, since I didn't see any that were pink.

The one-way compromise ratchet

John Hinderaker at PowerLine wonders why budget "compromise" always results in higher spending.  The best conservatives ever seem to be able to get is decreases in the rate of increased spending.
A number of observers are praising today’s deal as a “compromise.”   Patty Murray set the tone: “‘Compromise has been a dirty word” in Washington, D.C., Murray complained in an evening news conference, but “we have broken through the partisanship and the gridlock.”  But wait! The 2011 Budget Control Act was itself a compromise.  The $967 billion discretionary spending limit was a compromise, just two years ago.  So why should a higher spending number now be lauded as a “compromise”?  How about if we reduce spending by another $50 billion, to $917 billion?  That would be a compromise too, wouldn’t it?  But somehow that isn’t the sort of compromise that is ever entertained in Washington.
Hinderaker also points out the soft underbelly of this and every other budget "deal"--the gambit Republicans fall for every single time:
Republicans did get something in exchange for increasing spending: notably, federal employees will have to increase their pension contributions.  But we can say goodbye to the $2.1 trillion in spending cuts that the GOP trumpeted following the 2011 Budget Control Act.  That is the real moral of the story–long-term budget agreements are meaningless.  Typically, minuscule spending cuts up front are augmented by major cuts in the out-years.  But the reality is that the out-years never come.  No Congress can bind a future Congress, and political will to reduce spending is always in short supply.  Consequently, any spending deal is meaningless, except insofar as it applies to the current year or next year’s spending.  Beyond that, all claims to have cut government spending are fatuous.
Wouldn't it be amazing to see a bipartisan compromise that imposed immediate spending cuts (not merely decelerations) in exchange for unspecified entitlement increases to be implemented in 2024?


Those of us who are well into our curmudgeon years probably have to stop and laugh now and then at our growing tendency to deplore the errors of this new crop of whippersnappers.  It is a pleasure, therefore, occasionally to find evidence that a characteristic error of the age is falling out of favor with the Young Turks:
More than 70 percent of [unionized] teachers on the job less than a decade are interested in changing the traditional salary scale, which rewards educators for longevity rather than performance.  Just 41 percent of more veteran teachers back such reforms, according to a national survey last year by the organization Teach Plus.  The poll documented similar gulfs in opinion about revamping teacher evaluations and pensions.
Unions are under intense pressure from falling membership, in the wake of movements to make their dues-paying membership voluntary.  They're finding that they have to consider what their members think.

My hometown

This five-minute clip from "Good Morning, America" is a brief introduction to the small town we live near.  The accents are interesting.  Several speakers are local, but the mayor obviously is a winter Texan who stayed on.  This time of year the parking lots are full of license plates from Wisconsin and Michigan.