Sunday, February 13, 2011

Societal Trends

Societal trends over two to four decades can be telling in helping one to understand significant shifts that are taking place. Since 1980 the average personal income in the United States has increased from $24,079 to $40,454, adjusted for inflation. How does that 168% increase compare to other major expenses.

Average gasoline prices have increased from $1.25 to 2.85, at 228% in real dollar terms. While the number of miles driven a year have increased by about 22%, with more efficient engines the amount spend on gasoline when inflation is taken into account has increased only 12%, from $2,015 to 2,269.

First class stamp has increased 193% from 0.15 to 0.44, This increase does not take into account inflation.

Milk has increased from $2.16 per gallon to 3.29, a 52% increase.

The cost of the average new home has risen from $76,400 to $268,800, 251% in real dollar terms. Primarily due to more expensive land, much larger and more well appointed homes, the increase is new home prices has been a greater rate than income increase. When inflation is taken into account, the increase drops below 160%.

Over the last thirty years the amount spent on health care on a per capita basis, and adjusted for inflation, has increased 202%, again at a much higher rate than income. Health care is consuming more and more a person’s budget from 1980 when it consumed about 7.5% of the average person’s income. Today health care consumes almost 14% of a person’s income…and with more than three times the rate of people who uninsured than ever before. An aging population is a factor but it and lawsuits are not as significant a factor as the citizenry believes. The major factor is a growing profit return at all levels.

Suppliers of equipment and medicine profit share on a per dollar of sale prices has increased dramatically. In 1980 most major health care insurance plans and hospitals were run by nonprofits companies who had 3.5 to 5.5% rate of return whereas today the insurance and hospital market is dominated by profit firms who have pushed the rate of return to 18 to 20%. In 1980, 95% of insurance premiums went out to providers whereas today that has dropped to 82 to 80%. This does not take into account that for profit hospitals are retaining a greater share of each payment they receive. Further it does not account for fewer benefits being provided and with co-pays that are rising three to fivefold. Matters are not expected to improve for the better as companies seek to increase the rate of return to 78%.

Healthcare is and will continue to be one of America's greatest challenges, and will become even more so over the coming years. Significant changes are not likely to happen until the system starts to crash. Hopefully it will not take the type of protests and marches that took place during the Viet Nam error or at the level we have just witnessed in Egypt.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

America's Commitment to Democracy is Tested

With what has been taking place in Egypt we are seeing played out in the White House and in Congress the depth and nature of the United States’ commitment to democracy and the citizenry choice of government. Politicians of both parties and citizens of the United States repeated proclaim that democracy is one of its core values, yet cracks have appeared in the nature and depth of that commitment when an American friendly despot is being openly challenged by his citizens.

Some have criticized President Obama and his administration from giving mixed signals to Egypt in the first day or two the protests started. One can understand some mixed signals while information is being evaluated. In those early hours we heard statements supporting the citizenry to peacefully express their opinions, for the Egyptian leadership to listen to those voices and not respond with violence. As the days passed the public statements by the Obama administration clearly signaled that the Egyptian despotic government had lost credibility.

There were too many political voices who have insist that the United States government should have stood behind Mubarak as Mubarak had been a good friend. Those voices still continue to insist that it was better for the USA to support a tyrannical regime that is friendly to the USA than risk the people establishing, even via a democratic process, a government that is less friendly or even hostile to America. When it is all boiled down to the essence, those voices, regardless of pontifications otherwise, are stating the democracy, an empowered citizenry, and personal freedom are not the dominant principles as they hold them to be.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Junk Mail...Does It Ever End?

Junk mail, junk mail, and more junk mail. I can take it in my mail box for once I walk in the door I can readily sort through the mail and immediately toss it into the garbage. My email box is another matter where to my frustration it clutters and multiplies.

While the junk mail keeps coming to my street address, the volume is limited by the costs which run about $0.18 to 0.23 per item, excluding production and name costs. Costs are not the same limiting factor with emails addresses as once the name is purchased for a two to four cents per address, the cost to send emails when done in bulk with millions of addresses becomes less than a penney. Hence the volume of email junk mail keeps building and building.

I have tried to avoid getting on email junk mail lists but it is not possible. I know it will keep coming. All it takes is for one or two product registrations and subscriptions to sell the address to a broker and it multiplies. It took me some time but I finally concluded that I needed to create one or two email addresses to use for product registrations. Now I have two "dummy" addresses that can get cluttered to my hearts.