Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Joe and Marilyn

I just finished reading C. David Heymann's book, Joe and Marilyn, which chronicles the love affair between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.




Joe DiMaggio had just retired from his illustrious baseball career when he asked a friend to set him up with Marilyn in 1952. Monroe was just on the verge of international superstar status at he time.

They each got something they needed out of the relationship. Joe, the guy who had almost everything in life, got the most beautiful woman in the world. Marilyn got a steadfast father figure who was the only man in her life that was willing to give Monroe more than he expected in return.

Despite all of that, their marriage did not last one year. DiMaggio wanted a wife that stayed home and cooked him lasagna and wore turtle necks in public. Joe was both obsessive and possessive regarding Marilyn which was never going to work with the free-spirited Marilyn.

Marilyn was just as obsessive about her career and her image. She knew the assets she had, she knew how to market them and she was not shy about doing what she had to do to get ahead. The marriage seemed doomed from the start considering their conflicting interests.

However, despite their divorce, there remained a connection between the two until Marilyn' death in 1962. In fact, Joe claimed that at the time of her death they were planning to remarry. After Marilyn died, DiMaggio convincingly showed that he was her one true friend making all the funeral plans and arrangements. He stayed true to her for the rest of his life by never remarrying and sending fresh roses to her gravesite twice every week until his death in 1999.

There has likely never been a more iconic female star than Marilyn Monroe nor a baseball hero that surpassed Joltin' Joe. It was a storybook romance but storybooks never deal with the failings, feelings and foibles of real human beings. Heymann shows how true that is in Joe and Marilyn, Legends in Love. 

Reading this book about Marilyn Monroe reminded of this excerpt from a previous BeeLine post in which I wrote about the auction that had taken place back in 2012 where some of Marilyn's personal effects and wardrobe had been sold.

The conventional view of Marilyn on the silver screen was that she was a full figured woman. The facts and figures in the measurements of her wardrobe should put that myth to rest for good.

How did a numbers guys like me end up writing about Marilyn Monroe?

It is all about the data. That is the only thing that is of interest to me in any of this.


Marilyn Monroe in the "Seven Year Itch" dress that sold for $5.66 million
Joe went into a rage when he saw Marilyn film this scene in New York City on September 15, 1954.
They separated and divorced soon after.

From a January 10, 2012 BeeLine blog post.

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On the subject of data, I also came across these interesting facts about Marilyn Monroe recently.  A number of her personal effects and wardrobe were auctioned off in two separate auctions. One by her own estate and a second by the estate of Debbie Reynolds who had an extraordinary collection of Hollywood costumes of Marilyn and other stars.   These are summarized in this article from Bloomberg and this one from Slate.  The facts on Marilyn from the Bloomberg article.

We should never again hear anyone declare that Marilyn Monroe was a size 12, a size 14 or any other stand-in for full-figured, zaftig or plump. Fifteen thousand people have now seen dramatic evidence to the contrary. Monroe was, in fact, teeny-tiny.

The auction’s top-ticket item was Monroe’s famous white halter dress from “The Seven Year Itch,” the one that billowed up as the subway passed. It sold for almost $5.66 million (including the buyer’s premium) to an unknown phone bidder. Sharing a rotating mirrored platform with Hedy Lamar’s peacock gown from “Samson and Delilah” and Kim Novak’s rhinestone- fringed show dress from “Jeanne Eagels,” Monroe’s costume was displayed on a mannequin that had been carved down from a standard size 2 to accommodate the tiny waist. Even then, the zipper could not entirely close.

But that’s just one dress. Perhaps the star was having a skinny day. To check, you could look across the room and see that Monroe’s red-sequined show dress from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” was at least as petite, as were the saloon costume from “River of No Return” and the tropical “Heat Wave” outfit from “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

In fact, the average waist measurement of the four Monroe dresses was a mere 22 inches, according to Lisa Urban, the Hollywood consultant who dressed the mannequins and took measurements for me. Even Monroe’s bust was a modest 34 inches.

That’s not an anecdote. That’s data.

The Slate article by Simon Doonan who inventoried and auctioned all of the clothes in her personal estate sale puts it all in perspective.

When you look at Marilyn on-screen and—armed with the information I have just provided—you realize that the busty, ample gal brimming over Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot is literally one-third your size, you have every right to become suicidal. If she looks like that—zaftig, almost chubby—what on earth would you look like under similar circumstances?

Conventional wisdom says that the camera adds five pounds. After my Marilyn experience, I would say it’s more like 500 pounds.

On second thought, perhaps it is sometimes better not to be a facts guy.  Having no facts make life much easier.

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That is especially true if we try to compare ourselves with Marilyn Monroe...or Joe DiMaggio.

For all that we might admire in them, they each had significant flaws. Like us, they were only human.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

It is much too easy to take our freedoms for granted in this day and age.

Yes, we are in a War on Terror that is all too real and horrible. Witness what happened at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last week where 22 people were murdered. Most were women or children.

However, over 380,000 British soldiers and an additional 67,000 British civilians perished in World War II.

The British paid a heavy price standing up to Hitler alone for almost three years before the United States entered the fight.

Before it ended, over 400,000 American soldiers died defending our freedom in that war.

The count is high for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and who we honor on this Memorial Day.

Let us never forget those who have laid down their lives so we can live freely.


Civil War  625,000
WWII 405,399
WWI 116,516
Vietnam War 58,209
Korean War 36,516
Revolutionary War 25,000
War of 1812 20,000
Mexican-American War 13,283
War on Terror    6,867
Phillipine-American War  4,196


It is interesting to note that there were almost the same American combat deaths on Iwo Jima (6,800) in the 36 days it took to capture that island in WWII than all the military deaths in almost 16 years in the War on Terror to date. Almost 22,000 Japanese were killed in the assault on the island.

I have featured Angela Pan's photography in BeeLine previously. Angela is based in Washington, D.C. and some of her best work features the the monuments and memorials in our capital city.

I can't think of a better way to honor these fallen heroes than in the beauty of Angela Pan's images.


Credit: Angela Pan


Credit: Angela Pan


Credit: Angela Pan



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Trump Budget In Context

The Trump administration unveiled its 2018 federal budget proposal on Tuesday and it did not take long for the mainstream media and others to call it "inhumane", "improbable", "insane" or an "unimaginable level of cruelty."


- Orlando-Rising.com


-New York Times


-ThinkProgress.com

-RealClearPolitics.com


The criticism from the Left seems focused on two aspects of the proposed Trump budget.

1. They don't like the economic growth assumptions used in the budget proposals. These are "improbable" or "insane".

2. They don't like the amount that will be spent on social programs. The amounts represent "deep cuts" that are "morally repugnant", "cruel", "inhumane", " heartless" and "unimaginable".

Let's take a look at these claims in context which is something we like to do at BeeLine. After all, which we so often state in these pages, "context is everything when assessing anything".

First, let's look at the economic assumptions in the 2018 Trump budget and compare it with the economic assumptions that were in the 2017 Obama budget.

To read the headlines you would think that Trump was using wildly optimistic economic assumptions regarding domestic GDP growth compared to Obama. That is simply not the case.

Compare the two budgets for the years 2017-2022. Trump is using a lower number for 2017 than Obama did. (Was Obama's GDP assumption ever described as "improbable" or "insane"?) You can see the 2018 economic assumptions are identical. In later years, Trump has generally used a 3.0% growth estimate compared to 2.3% for Obama.



This is insane?

How about the claim that it is improbable?  It is true that the United States has not had annual real GDP growth of over 3% in a decade. However, in looking at a longer historical view, the U.S. has exceeded 3% growth (represented by the blue line on the chart below) for most of the post-World War II era.



Of course, many will say that this history is irrelevant. The world economy has changed. I am old enough to remember the same thing being said in the 1970's during the Carter administration. Ronald Reagan was elected President and those arguments were soon forgotten. The U.S. enjoyed in excess of 3% real GDP growth for most of the next 20 years.

A .7% increase in the long term GDP assumption compared to Obama hardly seems "insane" or "improbable" considering the potential for regulatory and tax reform and a new focus on developing United States energy sources under the Trump administration.

What about the "inhumane", "heartless" and "unimaginable level of cruelty" in the Trump budget?

For context, let's first take a look at how the $7 trillion of the taxes we pay to federal, state and local governments are spent. Bear in mind that this $7 trillion represents about 38% of the nation's total output. In other words, almost 40% of every dollar earned in the private sector is taxed and then spent of redistributed in some way by some level of government.


Credit: Reddit.com/ethervariance161

Note that of the $7 trillion of total government spending at all levels, 63% is being spent on health care (Medicare, Medicaid, etc), pensions (Social Security, government employee pensions), education (primary and secondary, college) and welfare (food stamps, housing assistance, unemployment, Social Security disability). In dollar terms that is almost $4.5 trillion.

By comparison, defense spending is 12%.

In other words, of all the taxes you pay, 12 cents of every dollar goes to Defense. 63 cents of every dollar is going to pay for the needs of another human being in the United States.

The last 25 cents is going for everything else---law enforcement, roads, infrastructure, prisons, parks, public transit, the FDA, government employees and interest on government debt.

Let's now take a closer look at just the federal budget numbers that are the focus of the news about the Trump budget proposal.

To see the headlines above you would think there would be massive cuts in the Trump budget in the human side of the budget.

Let's also put that in context.

The 2017 Obama budget projected that $4.250 trillion would be spent in 2026 on mandatory spending in the federal budget. (Obama budget-Table S-4)




Mandatory spending encompasses most of the entitlement spending in the federal budget including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment compensation, earned income and child tax credits. If Trump is being "obscene" and "heartless" it would show in these numbers.

What is the comparable projected mandatory spending number for 2026 in the 2018 Trump budget?

$3.754 trillion. (Trump budget-Table S-4). $3.919 trillion in 2027.



If you are doing the math, that is about a 12% overall reduction from what Obama proposed for 2026 last year.

These are the proposed increases in the various categories of mandatory spending in the Trump budget over the next decade.

Social Security  +82%

Medicare           +97%

Medicaid           +39%

Other                 + 3%


In order to maintain his promise to not touch Social Security and Medicare, Trump is proposing some reforms to the Medicaid and welfare systems that it projects could save in excess of $200 billion per year in 2027. Most of these reforms are designed to increase the incentive to work in comparison to relying on the social safety net with an objective of increasing the economic growth rate to 3%.

Most of these reforms also simply change the rules back to where they were before Obama became President. In other words, the rules would be similar to what was in place when that "unimaginably cruel" Bill Clinton (and George W. Bush) were in the Oval Office. There is another $170 billion in projected savings from Obamacare repeal and replacement.

What this budget puts into focus is whether we are going to maintain our promise to those who have earned their Social Security and Medicare or whether these people will be sacrificed in order to continue to support the welfare system as it came to exist under Barack Obama?

It simply is not realistic that both can be supported in the future as they have been in the past without very large increases in taxes.

However, despite what the critics may say, it should be noted that the Trump budget ends up balanced in 2027. Yes, it does take GDP growth of 3% in the out years to get there. Yes, it does require some reforms. However, it still has a pot of $4 trillion budgeted for the social needs of 320 million people in spite of any so-called "cuts". This budget will probably never be approved by the Congress but it is certainly not "insane" or "inhumane".

That is a lot more than can be said about the last Obama budget that projected an $800 billion deficit in 2026 and going higher after that.

What do you call that?

A day of reckoning is coming sooner or later.

Someone will pay. There is no free lunch in the end.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump's OMB Director, has shown in this budget that the first choice for that "someone" is not going to be the taxpayer.

You would think that somehow, someway our representatives in Washington could find a way to live within a $4 trillion budget.

However, with government, no matter the size of the budget, is is never enough.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Big, Strong and Fast

I have watched NFL football for 60 years.

I grew up watching the Cleveland Browns in the late 1950's on Sunday afternoons on a small black and white television in our knotty pine paneled den.

Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, Lou Groza, Dick Modzelewski, Galen Fiss, Paul Wiggin, Milt Plum and Preston Carpenter were some of the big names on those teams.

In those days the NFL only played 12 regular season games. There were no playoffs, wild card games or Super Bowl. The only post-season game was the Championship game between the Eastern and Western Conference (unless a tie in the conference standings necessitated a playoff as occurred in 1958 with the Browns losing to the New York Giants).


Jim Brown in the 1957 NFL Championship game
Credit:Wikipedia

The players were also more evenly matched in size than they are today. A running back like Jim Brown who was 6'2', 230 pounds might be running behind an offensive line that averaged 6'3, 245 pounds and a defensive line that was about the same size.

Players today are bigger, stronger and faster and there is a wider distribution of sizes in the players. These all might be factors in what seems to be a higher rate of injuries than we used to see 50 years ago.

I recently came across this data visualization tool that Noah Veltman developed that shows the distribution of the heights and weights of NFL players since 1920.

Look at these NFL player sizes in 1920. There are many high school teams that have more size than this today.




Here is a snapshot of NFL player sizes in 1960. Players over 6'5" and 280 pounds were practically non-existent. Notice also how there was a pretty concentrated core of players that were between 6'0 and 6'3" and 200 to 250 pounds




By 1980 you can see that players were getting taller but you still did not see 6'6'', 300 pound offensive linemen. You also begin to see a larger dispersion of heights and weights. Linemen and linebackers begin to get much bigger with most of the skill positions staying about the same. From that point until today the increased specialization in the sport has meant wider variations in the sizes of the players on the field.




2014 was the last year that Veltman did the data analysis and by this time you can see there is a very wide dispersion in the sizes of players. In addition, there are a lot of players over 300 pounds with most of those being 6'3 or taller.

Of course, today a quarterback that is less than 6'3" is immediately suspect because of concerns they will not be able to see over their own offensive lineman or complete a pass over the outstretched arms of opposing rushers.




SB Nation also developed another interesting data visualization of the hometowns (rather than the college they attended) of all of the first round NFL draft picks over the last ten years. This gives a better view of where the top NFL talent is being born and bred.




As you might expect, most of the talent comes from the large population centers in the country. There are only so many people blessed with the size, strength and speed with the potential to play in the NFL. You are simply more likely to find it where there is a larger pool of human beings.

The populations centers of metro NYC, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington shows up red hot on the heat map as do the metro areas around Miami, LA, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago.

The Southeast United States and Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are also fertile grounds for future NFL talent.

Here is a heat map close-up of the Southeastern United States.




Over the last 10 years, Texas is home to more NFL first rounders (38) than any other state. California (35) and Florida (31) have been other fertile areas for top NFL draft talent.

However, interestingly in the 2017 draft, not one player who hailed from Florida was selected in the first round.

The state with the most first rounders in 2017?

My home state of Ohio with four.

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears,  (#2 Overall)
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Saints (#11)
Gareon Conley, CB, Raiders (#24)
Taco Charlton, DE, Cowboys (#28)

The complete list of where the 2017 NFL first rounders hailed from.

Credit: SBNation


Sunday, May 21, 2017

"Social Justice": It Doesn't Compute

You can't go a day any more without hearing the term "social justice."

Liberal progressives like to throw the term around in their quest to transform our culture, society and country.

To them, injustice is everywhere. Everything is unfair. You have too much money. You don't pay enough in taxes. You use too much energy. Your parents were better than mine. Your school is better than mine. Your health care is better than mine. Your job is better than mine.

To liberal progressives, "social justice" is defined as equality in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges in our society.

That covers a lot of ground but I had no idea that the "social justice" warriors are now even pointing their fingers at mathematics as a tool of social injustice "because it has historically been used to oppress people". (For further background read this National Review article)

Yes, 2=2=4, 4x4=16, xa+xb= x(a+b) mathematics.




How has mathematics been used as a tool of oppression?

This is how Teach for America and EdX explain it as reported by Campus Reform.

...for centuries, mathematics has been used as a dehumanizing tool. Does one’s IQ fall on the lower half of the bell curve? Mathematics tells us that individual is intellectually lacking. Mathematics formulae also differentiate between the classifications of a war or a genocide and have even been used to trick indigenous people out of land and property.

In other words, because mathematics shows that some people are in the bottom half in intellectual capacity it is a tool of oppression?

It is also beyond me how mathematics has been used to trick anyone out of land or property. If a tribal chieftain personally placed a higher value on cloth and beads than on the island of Manhattan what does that have to do with mathematics?

Speaking of mathematics, I pointed out in a previous blog post that had the Indians, who traded Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 in cloth and beads, invested that amount from 1626 until today at 7.2% (the rule of 72 in mathematics says that a sum will double in value in every 10 years at 7.2% interest) that $24 would now be worth in excess of $10 trillion. ( Since I wrote that blog post in 2011 that number today is closer to $15 trillion.)




To put that number in context, the New York City Department of Finance places a total current market value on all the property in the borough of Manhattan at $421 billion in its annual property tax report for 2017. That includes all of the buildings on the land. Who got the better part of the deal when looking at that math?

All of this talk of "social justice" got me interested in where the term came from in the first place.

Michael Novak of The Heritage Foundation traces the roots of "social justice" back to the 1840's when the Catholic Church first developed the concept in his report "Social Justice: Not What You Think It Is". However, what "social justice" originally stood for is far different from how the term is being used today since it was hijacked by the liberal progressives.

The term social justice originally was coined as the Church saw the increasing challenges in transitioning from a rural agrarian society to a society centered more upon city life. On the farm, the focus of almost all pursuits was on the family unit. Almost everything the family needed was produced by the family unit on the farm. There was little dependence on others. You produced what you consumed and you wore many hats. Builder. Farmer. Repairman. Livestock Breeder. Veterinarian.

As people began moving from farms to cities in mass, the model changed. People could no longer depend on the family food supply. Family members spread far and wide in different jobs. People who used to be very independent in their lives became wage dependent for their needs. The changes put a lot of stress on families.

The Church understood that this new model of city living required a Christian with a deeper sense of the need for cooperation and a greater appreciation for the diversity of skills in their fellow human beings. In order to have a civil society people needed to have a spirit to cooperate and associate to solve problems by and among themselves or the state would exert more control to the detriment of individual freedom.


Pope Leo XIII
Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

To this end, Pope Leo XIII published an encyclical in 1891 that addressed what was meant by social justice from the Church's perspective. This quote is from that encyclical.

There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition.
Such inequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition

Novak summarizes what Pope Leo XIII said this way.

Thus, Leo XIII did not mean by "social justice" equality. On the contrary, Leo held that it's good that there's an unequal society. Some people are fitted for different kinds of work, and it's wonderful to be able to find the work that fits your talents. This had been an argument that the founders of the United States used to justify a commercial system: that it provided more opportunities for a wider range of skills than farming life did, so it allowed a much larger range of talents to mature and to develop as people found different niches for themselves.

In the way that social justice was first conceived by the Church it was not about trying to equalize differences, it was about utilizing those differences in a positive manner for the common good and for the benefit of the wider community.

Social justice is learning how to form small bands of brothers who are outside the family who, for certain purposes, volunteer to give time and effort to accomplishing something.
In a word, social justice is--a virtue, a habit that people internalize and learn, a capacity. It's a capacity that has two sides: first, a capacity to organize with others to accomplish particular ends and, second, ends that are extra-familial. They're for the good of the neighborhood, or the village, or the town, or the state, or the country, or the world.

It is also important to understand that all of this social justice had nothing to do with state authority stepping in to redistribute or equalize anything. In fact, Pope Leo said that to try to do so would be useless. The lowest in a civil society could never be made equal with the highest. He also made clear that Socialists would attempt to agitate on those differences but they could never deliver on their promises.

These were the exact words of Pope Leo XIII.
Therefore, let it be laid down in the first place that in civil society, the lowest cannot be made equal with the highest. Socialists, of course, agitate the contrary, but all struggling against nature is in vain.

Novak concludes by making the point that the notion of social justice is ideologically neutral as it really is about using people to organize, associate and cooperate for the common good.
Finally, it's important to note that this notion of social justice is ideologically neutral. It's as common to people on the Left to organize and form associations, to cooperate in many social projects, as it is to people on the Right. This is not a loaded political definition, but it does avoid the pitfall (on the Left) of thinking that social justice means distribution, √©galit√©, the common good only as determined by state authority, and so forth. It also avoids the pitfall (on the Right) of thinking of the individual as unencumbered, closed-up, self-contained, self-sufficient. 

What do I make of all this modern day "social justice" talk?

When the liberal progressives are making the argument that mathematics has been a tool of social injustice it really speaks to how far off the rails today's "social justice" movement is.

When you add in the background and history of what social justice was originally considered to involve, it does not take a mathematician to figure it out.

"Social Justice", as it is being promoted by the liberal progressives, simply does not compute.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hang Together or Hang Separately?

Over the years that I have followed politics there has been one major difference between the two major political parties in the United States.

Democrats always circle the wagons around their own. They don't admit mistakes. They don't criticize their leader. They always stick to the party line. They always stick together no matter how bad it seems to be.

The Republicans follow a completely different path. I don't know if it is because they believe they are driven by values and virtues but they are far less likely to stay the course on anything. There seems to be no glue holding any of them together.

Democrats follow the advice that Benjamin Franklin gave his fellow signers of the Declaration of Independence shortly after they declared independence from Great Britain.

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to follow this 16th century proverb.

"Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost."

Contrast the difference in how the impeachment proceedings of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton played out.

Richard Nixon lost the support of a minority in his own party when there were impeachment hearings and was forced to resign.

Bill Clinton was actually impeached by the full House (only 5 Democrats voted for one of the articles of impeachment) but not one Democrat in the Senate voted for his conviction.

Bill Clinton would not have survived in office if the Democrats had not stuck together.

Richard Nixon did not survive because his own party did not hang together behind him.

Consider as well the differences we already see between the Obama and Trump administrations.

Barack Obama's administration was wracked by scandal upon scandal.

Benghazi.

IRS scandal.

Hillary Clinton email server.

Solyndra.

Operation Fast and Furious.

Spying on Journalists.

NSA spying scandal.

Iran nuclear deal and ransom payment.

How many times did Democrats say these should be investigated more fully even though there were massive conflicts of interest involving the Obama Administration and its Justice Department?

ZERO.

How many special counsels or independent prosecutors were appointed?

ZERO.

However, here we are barely four months into the Trump administration and we already have a special counsel appointed to investigate Russian collusion in the election.

Would this have happened to Hillary Clinton if the tables were reversed? Not in a million years.

The Democrats would never have allowed it.

Just as important, the media would not have allowed  it.

The media actively turned down the volume on every one of the scandals mentioned above to protect Obama and the Democrats. With regard to Trump and the Republicans, the media does nothing but amplify anything and everything they can to advance their anti-Trump agenda.

Of course, Donald Trump has one other problem that is unique to him.

He is not really accepted by the Republicans on Capitol Hill as one of their own. Therefore, it makes evereything even more difficult for President Trump. He truly is in the swamp and most Republicans officeholders would be just as happy to see him bogged down in their swamp. There are probably only a handful that are truly interested in giving him a hand at draining the swamp.

Does the GOP have it wrong?

Do the Democrats have it right?

I would not like to think that circling the wagons and ignoring all values and principles is the way to conduct yourself. However, you have to look at the facts.  The Democrats have gotten the results they wanted. The Republicans win elections but get very little in the way of results.

Like it or not, Trump now represents the Republican Party in the minds of most Americans. Those GOP officeholders might think there is some distinction between themselves and Trump but I can guarantee you it is lost on 90% of Americans.

I wrote about all of this last June right at the time that Trump was securing the nomination but when many GOP officeholders were on the fence about Trump in a blog post titled "Risky Business".

Every Republican politician has to make a high risk decision whether they are on or off the Trump Train. It is a decision fraught with risk to those in office.
The people are sovereign in our system. Their power is absolute  Unfortunately, too many people don't believe it. The simple fact is that politicians have no power unless the people provide it.
Laws that do not have public backing do not survive over the long term. Lawmakers who make laws that people do not support do not stay in office very long. Politicians who do not do the will of the people soon need to find other employment.
We have heard many in the Republican Establishment say that Donald Trump does not represent the principles and values of the Republican Party. He might not represent what the Republican Party has been heretofore. However, if he wins in November, Donald Trump will be the Republican Party. The people will have made the decision of what it now stands for and against. Those that aren't supporting Trump will be at risk of not serving much longer. That is just the way the power of the people works. 

The Republicans on Capitol Hill need to understand what Benjamin Franklin said and what the Democrats practice.

They better starting learning to hang together.

If not, they will assuredly all hang separately in the very near future.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Baby Data Dump

I have an interest in demographics and have written about it from time to time in BeeLine.

It is a window to the future that is too often overlooked or ignored.  The long-term trends are often the most difficult to see in the 24 hour news cycle world we live in today.  In this day and age when there is so much focus on the trees (even the leaves at times!), demographics forces you to look at the forest.

I have been tracking U.S. birth rates for a number of years. The birth rate data for 2015 was recently released by the National Vital Statistics System section of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A few factoids from the report.

  • There were 3,978,497 reported births in the U.S. in 2015
    • That is 1% lower than in 2014
  • 40.3% of the births were to unmarried women
    • In 1960, only 5.3% of birth were to unwed mothers as shown in the chart below.
    • 70.1% of black babies and 53% of Hispanic babies were born to unwed mothers in 2015.
    • Rate for Whites is 36.8% and Asians is 16.4%

Credit: Child Trends Databank

  • There are more babies born to mothers in the age 25-29 age group than any other age cohort. The age 30-34 cohort now has more babies than does the age 20-24 group.
    • However, the birth rate per 1,000 for women 25-29 and 20-24 is the lowest it has ever been in the history of the U.S.
    • The total fertility rate for all women over their lifetimes is 1.84 children. This is below the 2.1 replacement rate necessary to maintain a stable population. It has been below this level since 1971.
  • Teen births continue to decline.
    • Teen births are at a record low. Births to teens are 46% below their levels in 2007 and  about 1/3 of what they were in 1960.
  • Births of twins dropped slightly from its all-time high in 2014---33.5 per 1,000 births compared to 33.9 in 2014. Triplets and higher-order births are decreasing---down 46% since 1998 peak.
    • There were 133,115 sets of twins born during the year
    • 24 sets of quintuplets were born during the year. These births used to get all sorts of publicity. When is the last time you saw anything about this on the news?
  • Six women of age 19 had their 8th child  (or more) during 2015! (Are you kidding me?)
    • Three Hispanic women, Two white women, one black woman 
  • 754 women age 50-54 gave birth to a child during the year
    • 232 were first births (Congratulations! However, these mothers will be eligible for Social Security and Medicare when their kids are teenagers. Good luck as well!)

The chart below shows births from 1950 through 2015 in order to give you some better perspective on historical birth rates.  This is a chart that I have been tracking since the early 1990's.

You can see the Baby Boom period which existed up until 1965. It was followed by what I call the Baby Dearth period which lasted roughly from 1966-1986. There was not one year in this 20-year period in which births were above 3.8 million.

1986 to 2009 might be called the Baby Boom Echo period.

However, since 2010 there has not been one year in which births have exceeded 4 million.




Where are we headed with births in the future?

Boom or bust?

It is already a bust in most of the rest of the developed world. And the UN expects that trend to continue and extend to the rest of the world between now and 2050 until most countries are below the replacement rate.




Why does it matter?

Economies need people.  They need them to invent things, build things and to buy things.  They need them to invest and innovate.  They need them to start new businesses.  They need them to pay taxes. If you don't have a supply of new people replacing older people in a society you begin to shrink and you eventually shrivel away.

When the old outnumber the young you are heading for big problems. Who buys the real estate that has been built? Does a 60-year want to start a business?  Most inventions and innovations have historically come from those in their 20's and 30's than in their 50's and 60's.  Thomas Edison invented the phonograph at age 30.  Alexander Graham Bell was 29 when he invented the telephone. Steve Wozniak invented the Apple I computer at age 26. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were both age 25 when they incorporated Google.  If you don't replenish with enough young blood, you really do die as an economy and and as a society.

We are already in uncharted territory in historical terms on birth rates. It could become even more uncharted in the future.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It's Not Fair!

It has been said that there is nothing more dangerous than for an investor than to see their neighbor grow rich.

Why?

Because it usually means you will do something stupid with your money to catch up with the Jones'. They might have purchased Apple at $10. You are buying at $140. It is an altogether different cost/benefit relationship. However if your neighbor can get rich buying Apple, you should be able to do it as well. It does not work that way. You can't let emotions get in your way when it comes to money.

Of course, emotions always get in the way. It is the way of the world.

We also don't measure ourselves in a vacuum. We measure ourselves in relation to others.

For example, Harvard students were asked in a survey whether they would prefer (a) making $50,000 a year while others made half, or (b) $100,000 per year while others made twice as much.

The majority chose (a) even though they made only half as much in absolute terms---$50,000 rather than $100,000. It is not logical but that is the way our minds work.

People do not measure their circumstances in absolute terms. They measure in relative terms.

We constantly hear about income inequality and unfairness in the U.S. economic system. However, measured on a global scale, 56% of Americans are considered "high income" and 32% are considered "upper middle income" according to Pew Research. That is 88% of all Americans. Only 7% are considered "middle income", 3% "low income" and 2% "poor" when measured across the entire world.

On a global scale, of all the people in the world, 56% are considered low income and 15% are considered poor. Only 7% meet the high income definition.

In other words, 56% of Americans are considered high income as measured against a global standard in which only 7% are. On the other hand, 71% of the people in the world are considered "low income" or "poor" while only 5% of Americans are in that group. Despite these facts, there are millions in this country who think they live in an economic system that is unfair.

You begin to understand where all of this comes from if you view this video clip that a BeeLine reader sent me.

The video is an excerpt from a TED talk by Frans de Waal, a primatologist, ethologist, and professor of primate behavior at Emory University.

It is a little less than 3 minutes but it is well worth the time.

You should have a much better understanding of the concept of relative compared to absolute incomes and where it comes from.

You might also see a little bit of yourself in the clip.

I know I did.

Click here if the video does not open in your browser.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Teen Green

Piper Jaffray is out with its semi-annual "Taking Stock With Teens" survey research which highlights spending trends and brand preferences among U.S. teenagers.

What caught my eye in the survey was the fact that Chick-fil-A has unseated Starbucks among teens in the restaurant segment. Starbucks had been at the top of the survey for the last seven years.




This ranking is all the more remarkable when you consider that Starbucks has over 13,000 store locations in the United States compared to just over 2,000 for Chick-fil-A. There are still areas of the country where Chick-fil-A has not opened a lot of stores, particularly in the Northeast.

Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings and Panera follow in the restaurant rankings. I guess those Happy Meals that teens ate when they were younger didn't make a permanent impression.

Food is the top spending category for teens and it has been growing in importance over the last decade compared to clothing purchases. Teens spend 24% of their money on food compared to 19% on clothing. In 2003, food accounted for 15% of purchases and clothing was over 25%.

This chart shows how teen spending on food and clothing has changed since that time.




Cars (9%), accessories and cosmetics (9%), shoes (8%), video games (8%), and electronics (7%) are other significant teen spending items according to the survey.

Nike is the favorite clothing line by a wide margin.




Nike is even more dominant as a footwear brand with teens.



Snapchat is their favorite social media platform followed by Instagram. Facebook is the favorite of only 11% of teens. Do the central bankers in Switzerland realize this?




It is no contest when it comes to teen preferences regarding smartphones. 81% of teens expect their next phone to be an iPhone. That is also the highest percentage that the survey has ever found on that question. This would appear to bode well for the launch of the iPhone 8 later this year.

Looking at all this teen spending made me wonder where the money they are spending is coming from?

Knowing what I do about the labor force participation rate for teenagers, it does not look like most of them are spending their hard-earned money. The labor force participation rate for teens aged 16-19 has been dropping steadily since 2000.




Only about 1/3 of teens work today compared to an average of about half for the previous 50 years up until the year 2000.

The survey indicated that about 63% of teen spending comes from their parents. Yes, the same parents who can't afford to save for their own retirement or for their child's college education have the money to give their teens to go to Starbucks to buy a white chocolate mocha frappuccino blended coffee.

One of the great joys in life is spending someone else's money. My wife and I always marveled at how quickly our teens decided they didn't need something that they had told us they desperately needed when we told them "You make a great case for buying that. It is probably a good use of YOUR money. Go ahead, we support your decision." Things that they said were necessities quickly became unnecessary when they had to spend their own money.

Total U.S. teen spending (by and for teens) is approximately $260 billion per year. To put that in context, that is more than the entire GDP of Venezuela...or Pakistan, Finland, Greece or New Zealand.

My advice to all of these teens--- enjoy it while you can.

It won't be long before the roles are reversed and you will be paying the bills for your own teens...as well as my Social Security and Medicare and those of millions of others.

Work hard. You teens are going to need the green.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Obamacare Repeal Observations

The House GOP has passed their version of the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

It will now be up the U.S. Senate to develop their own version and then see if it can be reconciled with the House bill.

Will whatever comes out of this process be better than what we have right now?

I have no idea.

The only thing I know is that it could not be worse no matter what the critics are saying right now.

The mistake Trump made on Obamacare

That being said, I think President Trump made a political mistake in getting behind the Republican effort in the House. I understand why he did it. He kept hearing the statements in his head that he made during the campaign that he was going to do something about Obamacare. He said he would repeal Obamacare. He said he would make it better for everyone.

Of course, when you are dealing with something like Obamacare, there is no way you can make it better for everyone. Someone is going to be unhappy.

To show you how ridiculous it all has become, Jonathan Gruber (the so-called architect of Obamacare who I wrote about previously in a BeeLine post) is claiming that many of Obamacare's problems are due to Trump! I kid you not.

I think this goes to show that Trump would have been much smarter to go on the stump and make the case consistently that Obamacare is coming apart at the seams.  He could cite evidence of that almost every day. And he could have exhorted Congress to do something about it. Not the GOP Congress. The entire Congress.

For example, consider this Washington Examiner story on proposed Obamacare premium increases in Maryland and Virginia. Insurers in Maryland have requested average rate increases for 2018 of between 18% and 59%. In Virginia, insurers have requested rate increases averaging 30.6%.

Iowa is on the verge of having no individual health care options under Obamacare as the lone insurer left in the state has stated it is close to exiting the state market.

Humana has stated it will exit all of the Obamacare exchanges in 2018 no matter what happens in Congress. 

What Trump should have done

Trump then should have made it clear to both parties that he would not sign any repeal and replace bill unless it had substantial bipartisan support.

This would have three political advantages (what else is important in Washington?).

First, it would have allowed Trump to stay above the fray for the time being and allow him to do what he is best at. Elevate attention to the real problem---Obamacare--- while also allowing him to keep his political powder dry until he was needed at the end to help put a final deal together. Who is better than dealing?

Second, it puts the political pressure on the Democrats rather than on his own party, as it is right now. The message would be clear---the Democrats gave us this mess, they have a responsibility to help fix it. If they are not willing to act, they own every bad story that comes out on Obamacare leading to 2018.

Third, this strategy would have protected members of his own party. Yes, many were elected because of their promise to repeal Obamacare. However, what is the point of winning in 2010 on a promise to repeal Obamcare if you are going to be defeated in 2018 because you messed up the repeal of Obamacare? 

I understand the desire to do something but I don't think the GOP in Congress understands where this is all going to end.

For example, I believe it is already too late to make any real changes for the individual plan market for 2018. There simply is not enough time for insurers to re-do their products and pricing. That means Obamacare plans and prices will be in place for 2018 at a minimum. Any changes will not come until 2019---after the mid-term elections. You see that from the news stories above where insurers have already made most of the big decisions for 2018. 

When you also consider the fact that the Republican House bill envisions turning many of the decisions back to the individual states on key points in the law (what are essential benefits, risk pools, etc) having anything ready for the 2018 year looks even more far-fetched.

Pre-Existing Conditions Should Be A Non-Issue

One final point on all the craziness surrounding those that are trying to defend Obamacare.

The biggest issue that those who want to defend Obamacare seems to be about the possibility that coverage for pre-existing conditions could be lost in any repeal and replacement of the present law.

The first thing to consider is that there is no issue regarding pre-existing conditions at all with regard to anyone in a group health plan as long as the individual had coverage previously. In other words, if you are in one group plan and change jobs and join another plan, that plan cannot deny you coverage as long as you had continuous coverage for the last 12 months

Let's put that in context. There are approximately 156 million people who have group coverage in the United States. There are another 105 million people who are on Medicare or Medicaid. There are 6 million in various public plans. There is no real pre-existing condition issue with any of these people within these plans. This accounts for 270 million people.

The pre-existing condition issue (even if Obamacare is repealed) only relates to the 22 million people who are on individual plans (or would enter those plans from a group plan) and the 28 million people who are still uninsured despite the fact that Obamacare has already mandated they purchase coverage for over 3 years.

I have never understood why the HIPAA law that disallows pre-existing conditions in group plans was not simply extended to the individual marketplace as well. It would solve the problem once and for all. You could not be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition if you had previous coverage in the preceding 12 months. Problem solved!

It really should be an easy fix today as everyone, by law, is supposed to have had coverage for the last three years. There should be no one with a pre-existing condition in the United States anymore. Obamacare was supposed to fix that.

Of course, the problem is that 28 million people have had every opportunity to buy coverage (liberally subsidized for those with lower incomes) and yet have not done so. That is the sad truth about Obamacare. It really has done very little to reduce the ranks of the uninsured unless the taxpayers are paying the bill.

All of this disruption and costs for a meager 1%?

Investors Business Daily reports that 14.2 million gained coverage under Obamacare since it was enacted. However, 12 million of that number are on Medicaid. 2.2 million more are covered in the individual market. However, 84% of those are receiving subsidies. By my count, that means of the 14.2 million that have gained coverage, 97.5% of them are having their coverage paid for by someone else.

Think about that 2.2 million number for a moment.
ObamaCare has caused massive disruptions of the individual market, forced millions to drop health plans they like, caused huge price spikes and mounting insurance losses, created monopoly markets around the country, and resulted in the virtual takeover of the individual market by HMO plans.
That's to say nothing of the enormous costs of setting up and running the ObamaCare exchanges and the trillion dollars in subsidies to offset the cost of premiums for lower-income families.
All to increase the number of privately insured by a meager 1%.

Yes, Obamacare is a great deal for that 1% and those who are now on Medicaid. It is always great if someone else is paying the bill.

However, what about the millions and millions of other people who have lost coverage they liked, or seen their health care costs and taxes go up to fund Obamacare?

For those who don't qualify for subsidies, the costs of the coverage is causing more and more people to go without coverage. A perverse result indeed and one that will only get worse if Obamacare is not reformed.

It needs to be reformed but President Trump and the GOP are making a monumental political error in trying to do this while the Democrats who caused the mess sit idly by.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Facebook- Good As Gold?

There was once a time when central banks owned gold and silver to back their currency.

In fact, each dollar of U.S. currency could at one time be converted to silver of equal value. This was denoted on paper currency which were called "Silver Certificates".




Note that on the top of this 1957 silver certificate bill it states,

"This Certifies That There Is On Deposit In The Treasury Of The United States Of America"

and it continues on the bottom,

"One Dollar In Silver Payable To The Bearer On Demand."

The United States ceased producing silver certificates in 1964 and ceased redeeming these bills for silver in 1968.

What do you get today? A Federal Reserve Note. What is on deposit backing that up? These are the reported gold reserves held by various countries around the world. Of course, all of these are mere fractions of the currency in circulation for these countries.

Gold Reserves by Country as of Dec. 2016
Credit: Statista.com

The United States continues to have the largest gold reserves in the world. Contrast that with Canada which now has absolutely no gold reserves. It has sold over 1,000 metric tons since 1965.

The UK sold off half of their reserves in the 1999-2002 period which explains the UK's relatively low standing on this chart. They also managed to do that when gold was selling at about 25% of what it it trading for today. And we are supposed to believe that central bankers are the smartest people on the planet?

On the other hand, Russia and China have been net buyers of gold reserves in recent years. as have other third world countries. Both have added approximately 700 metric tons of gold reserves since 2009.


Credit:BMGBullion.com


Many of these countries have turned to gold as an alternative to accumulating US Treasuries on the balance sheets of their central bank. The US dollar remains the world's reserve currency and US Treasuries continue to make up about 60% of reserve assets for most central banks.

On the other hand, Switzerland, which for decades has been known for its rock solid currency and has been considered the ultimate safe haven for the world's most conservative and risk-averse investors, is embarked on an altogether different diversification plan for its reserve assets.

The Swiss Central Bank now owns more shares of Facebook than Mark Zuckerburg!




How many of those global elites know that when they are opening up a Swiss Bank account with those Swiss francs they are really relying on Facebook and other U.S large cap stocks for the backing of that currency?

This Reuters story provides the background in which it reports that the Swiss Central Bank now holds equity investments equal to over 161 billion Swiss francs in its reserves. That is about 20% of its total foreign exchange reserves. Equity holdings are up 41% in the last year. $62 billion was invested in U.S. stocks alone as of last June. That number is undoubtedly much higher today.

Why are the Swiss backing their currency with stocks?

The simple answer is that they have virtually run out of bonds to buy. As their monetary base has expanded they needed reserves to back it up. To fight the economic problems in Europe they bought so many bonds that interest rates fell to zero and below. They simply couldn't buy any more bonds at negative rates with the risk attached should rates rise. In order to continue their "free money" policies, they had to continue to expand their balance sheets and they needed to diversify their risk. Their answer has been to buy massive amounts of equities.

However, is this really a safer strategy in the long term?

When you see what is going on here you should also get a little nervous about stock market values. The Swiss National Bank is creating Swiss francs out of then air and then using those francs to buy stocks thereby pushing up the price of those equities.

The Swiss are really are not buying Facebook, Apple and Exxon Mobil directly but it is doing so through index funds to keep their transaction costs low.  Of course, these large cap stocks dominate the indexes and over the last year the share prices of the largest stocks are up around 30% compared to 15% for the S&P 500 as a whole.

The Swiss are not the only one to be using its central bank to buy equities.

Japan has been printing money like there is no tomorrow and the Bank of Japan has become the top shareholder of many of Japan's largest companies in the process. In fact, the BOJ is on track to be the largest shareholder of 55 of the companies in the Nikkei 225 stock average by the end of the year.

Again, Japan is buying stakes in equites through passive investing using ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). However, the equity purchases have become so large in comparison to other investors that the Bank of Japan effectively owned 60% of the nation's ETF market as of last June!




No matter how you look at it there is a lot of air being pumped into stock markets around the world as a result of massive money printing.

The question is what problems are we going to see when the air starts seeping out of the balloon or, even worse, the balloon bursts with no warning?

The good news in the United States is that under current law the Federal Reserve is barred from owning any corporate assets---stocks or bonds.

However, Fed Chairman Janet Yellen seems to be envious of some of the other central bankers in the world and thinks it might be advantageous to have that authority to help the U.S. economy in a downturn.

Why is it that in developed countries the central bankers all want more tools in their toolkit and the developing countries are only interested in gold?

We live in a very confusing world indeed when Facebook is considered to be just as good as gold.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Friday Favorites

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that will repeal and replace Obamacare. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.

I have written about Obamacare numerous times since it was enacted. I had long stated that the law was poorly designed and would vastly increase costs. I predicted that it would bring down the number of uninsured but it would come at a high cost in disrupting the individual market and in putting federal and state government budgets on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending for subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

What a mess it all is. Fixing it is like trying to repair a broken egg.

Will the House Republican bill make it better? That is still open to question. However, the GOP didn't have much choice. Obamacare's individual market will totally collapse at some point as things stand now. The rest of the program is totally dependent on more and more money being spent to prop up the subsidies and Medicaid spending.

I have many new readers over the last year or two so I am introducing a new segment where I will republish some of my favorite posts from the past on select Fridays.  It seemed appropriate that the first Friday Favorite is from March 28, 2013 ( 9 months before Obamacare became effective) which I titled, "The Unaffordable Care Act".

It might be impossible for anyone today to conceive of spending 4 days in the hospital and walking out with a bill for $82.56.  That was the total bill for my wife's birth in 1952.

How did we get from there to here?

A lot of it involves the increased involvement of the federal government in the health care industry and the loss of the concept of what insurance is supposed to be.

Read how health care costs got totally out of control and how I predicted Obamacare would make the problem worse, not better.


The Unaffordable Care Act
(Originally published March 28, 2015)

Does your homeowner's insurance pay if the water heater needs to be replaced?

Does your car insurance pay for oil changes?

Of course not.  If these things were covered by insurance the costs of these insurance coverages would be astronomical.  People buy insurance for large, unexpected costs to protect their assets and savings.  The basic principle of insurance is that it allows a large number of individuals to pool and share risks so as to protect the group from unexpected losses that only some would likely incur in any one period.

Therefore, homeowner's  insurance is there to protect you from the catastrophic impacts of a fire or tornado that could totally destroy your home.  It is not designed to pay for a furnace that needs to be repaired or replaced.  The same is true for auto insurance.  It is there to pay for damage caused by a hailstorm or being rear-ended on the freeway but it does not pay to repair or replace a transmission.

When health insurance was first introduced it followed the same general principles of all insurance.  In fact, most early versions of health insurance were actually called hospitalization insurance.  Coverage only was provided if you ended up in the hospital and were exposed to the risk of the high costs associated with a hospital stay.  Doctor visits, x-rays, drugs and the like were not considered within the purview of health insurance.

Those were much simpler times.  Health care costs were also much cheaper.  In 1965, the average cost of a one day stay in the hospital was about $45.  Yes, you read that right-$45! By 2002, that cost had increased over 28-fold to $1,289.  Today that cost is around $4,000 per day.

Inflation since 1965 has pushed prices up by about 6.4 times. Therefore, adjusted for inflation, a day in the hospital should only cost about $288 today.

Should you not believe how much hospitalization costs have changed, here is a copy of the hospital bill for the birth of my wife.  The total bill was $82.56 for four days in the hospital for mother and daughter in 1952.





First and foremost, health insurance costs have increased dramatically because underlying healthcare costs have increased.  You can see from the above what has happened with hospital costs.  New technology, drugs, tests and treatments also have also pushed up costs over the years.

In addition, there has been a continuing trend in using health insurance to cover more and more and more costs.  Routine doctor visits, physical therapy, mental health visits and the list goes on.  The end result is that health insurance looks less like the traditional model of insurance, which is to protect people from catastrophic loss, and has become nothing more than a model designed to transfer costs to a third party.  Health insurance today has little to do with sharing the risks of the people in the insurance pool.  It really is about creating a pool where the risks and costs are transferred to a third party (an employer or the federal government) that is completely removed from the process.

It probably should not come as a surprise that the explosion in health care costs in this country began in 1965-the year that Medicare and Medicaid took effect.  This is when the traditional health insurance model began to break down and the third-party pay system took over.  This chart shows health care spending in the United States from 1900-2012.



We were told when Barack Obama first ran for President that he was going to do something to make health care more affordable.  I remember something about reducing the average family's cost of health care by $2,500 per year.  I also remember something he signed into law called "The Affordable Care Act".  You might know it as Obamacare.

Obamacare is upon us and it will largely take effect in 2014.  The non-partisan Society of Actuaries released a report this week on what we can expect to happen to health care premiums as a result of Obamacare. The news is not good for most Americans.  This independent group of actuaries predicts that Obamacare-driven changes could drive up underlying health care costs by an average of 32% due to mandated benefits, increased use of medical services and other provisions in the law.  My state of Ohio is expected to see an 81% increase in costs!


What does HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have to say about the increases?
"Some of these folks," Sebelius said, referring to those hit by ObamaCare's price spikes, "have very high catastrophic plans that don't pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus. They're really mortgage protection plans, not health insurance."
Investor's Business Daily says it better than I can.  Obamacare is the exact opposite of what is needed to  control health care costs and make it more affordable.
Sebelius has it exactly wrong. It's precisely those catastrophic plans that are real insurance, which in case anyone has forgotten is supposed to protect against unforeseen costly events, not pay $20 doctor visits.
What Obama and company are trying to force down everyone's throats isn't insurance, it's massively expensive prepaid health care.
Too bad for those who'd rather buy real insurance and spend their money on something else.
The problem is that ObamaCare's push toward comprehensive "insurance" coverage will only fuel health care cost inflation.
Back in 1960, people paid almost half the nation's health care tab out of pocket. By last year, that figure had dropped to just over 10%, with the rest paid by government health programs or increasingly generous, tax-subsidized workplace health benefits.
That, in turn, has pushed up health spending, since it looks to consumers like they're getting something for virtually nothing.
By driving out-of-pocket spending for health care down even further, ObamaCare will only succeed in driving up costs for everyone.
Perhaps we should stop calling it Obamacare and just start referring to it as "The Unaffordable Care Act".