Monday, May 30, 2022

How Will Covid Be Remembered?

As reported deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 1 million in the United States there have been some who have suggested that there should be a national memorial day in remembrance of the victims.


I have lost at least three people I knew well to Covid. All the deaths are a cause for immense sadness. However, to equate these deaths with the sacrifices that are remembered of those who died in service of our country is misguided.

There is simply no equivalence. It is not even close. In my view, establishing a memorial day for Covid victims (or even erecting a memorial in Washington, D.C.) would diminish the significance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice is misguided.

You have to ask as well if we believe that a Covid Memorial is warranted how come no memorial was ever considered for all of the victims of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/19?

It is estimated there were 675,00 deaths from the Spanish flu in the United States.

Covid looks worse at first blush but it is important to put that number in context.

The population of the United States in the 1920 census was less than one-third of what it is today.

The Spanish flu pandemic claimed twice as many deaths when measured as a percent of the population as Covid has.

That pandemic was also much more costly to the society at large as deaths were primarily concentrated in younger ages. 

You can see from this chart that the Spanish flu was particularly fatal for those under age 40. In fact, less than 1% of deaths from the Spanish flu were in those over age 65.

Distribution of Deaths by Age for Spanish flu, Ages 15-45

Covid, by contrast, has largely targeted older ages. 75% of Covid deaths have been in those over age 65. Over half of the deaths have been 75 years or older.

A young life lost is not just a loss of life it is an unfulfilled life of potential that is also lost forever. It could truly be said that it is an incalculable loss. It also carries a high economic cost to society. Who knows what might have been produced or invented by this young talent over their lifetimes?

I have written in the past how high that cost is as shown in this chart by Professor Kevin Murphy of the University of Chicago that shows the value of longevity gains in the economy since 1900.

We have never seen anything remotely close to the longevity losses we had from the Spanish flu in that 1918/19 period. Not in World War II or Vietnam.

You can see the enormous loss in 1918/19 due to the Spanish Flu and World War I. Notice as well that the gains between men and women diverged in the 1940's (World War II) and the 1960-1970 period (Vietnam War) as many more men were lost than women in those wars.

Since the Covid pandemic began I have always thought it interesting that I never heard my grandparents speak of the Spanish flu pandemic one time even though they were at an age (late teens, early 20's) that they were prime targets of the virus. They also must have had friends who succumbed to the virus. On the other hand, they spoke often of World War I and World War II. My grandfather served in the Army in the World War I.

That has led me to wonder exactly what level of importance we will ascribe to Covid in hindsight,

My guess is that there will be much more made of our public health response to the virus (lockdowns, school closures, masks, vaccine mandates), and how it affected our lives, than the actual virus itself.

Why do I say that?

Look at this chart of U.S. monthly deaths from 2015 through February, 2022 for ages 15-44 using data from the CDC's Wonder Database as of May 5, 2022.

2020 all-cause deaths for these age groups were 24% above 2019 levels.

2021 all-cause deaths were 43% above 2019 levels.

2022 all-cause deaths (for January and February) were also 43% above 2019.

Over 70% of the excess deaths for these age groups during the pandemic is for non-Covid reasons.


Notice as well that the vast majority of the Covid deaths for these age groups came well after the vaccines were introduced.

If this was a smallpox, polio or measles vaccine would we be stating that the vaccines have been extraordinarily effective?

What can you attribute the excess deaths (the blue bars) for non-Covid reasons over the last two years other than in some way to our public health response to the virus? 

Is there any other explanation?

These deaths are not trivial. Death rates in these age groups are over 40% higher than normal with the vast majority being for non-Covid reasons.

These excess deaths for non-Covid reasons for age 15-44 age groups are actually larger than all of the deaths by the U.S. in the Vietnam War!

This is a real tragedy that almost no one is talking about.

It may not qualify for a memorial.

However, someone should be finding the answers to what caused this in the memory of this loss of talent and potential contributions to our society. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Another Nightmare

It is difficult to write about the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas this week.

There is nothing more horrific than to see 19 elementary children murdered in cold blood along with two teachers.

There is clearly something wrong somewhere.

The question is what is it?

I typically do not like to write or comment on these incidents right after they occur as the early reports are so often inaccurate.

However, Democrats are quick to decide the fault lies with guns.

Left unanswered is how it is that we lived for decades upon decades in this country where people did not march into schools, grocery stores, malls or churches and start shooting. 

The United States has always had rifles and other guns. Why didn't we have school shootings when I was growing up? Or even when my own children were going to school? What we are seeing is a relatively recent development.

What has changed? Is it the guns or something else?

In a blog shortly after Sandy Hook and Aurora that I wrote almost ten years ago, I asked the following question.

"Are we looking at the right target?"

It is easy to point the finger at guns but it seems there is a bigger issue.

Could it have something to do with culture?

Broken families? Fatherless homes? Violence in television and movies? Video games? The internet? Poor mental health screening and services? Less school discipline? Less religious teaching? Too much political correctness?

When we hear about these shootings the profile of the murderous assailant inevitably ends up being similar to what we are finding out about the Uvalde shooter. 

18-25 year old male.

Disaffected and disconnected from society.

Problems with his family.

Drug use.

These shooters all suffer from profound mental illness.

Sadly, I have written about this too many times before in these pages.

Sandy Hook.




What is even more troubling about this shooting are the reports that the shooter was outside of the school for 12 minutes firing shots before he entered the building.


Local residents voiced anger Thursday about the time it took to end the mass shooting at an elementary school here, as police laid out a fresh timeline that showed the gunman entered the building unobstructed after lingering outside for 12 minutes firing shots.

Similar to Parkland, we are also now hearing that police were at the scene but did not go into the building because they deemed it too dangerous without more weaponry and resources. It was at least an hour before the shooter was taken down.


It was too dangerous? The police at the scene needed to wait for a tactical weapons team?

How do you explain that to the families of the defenseless children?

Many Republicans suggest the answer is to have an armed security person at each school and harden the access to schools.

However, what good would that have done in Uvalde?

This guy was firing shots outside of the school for 12 minutes and they still couldn't keep him out?

A whole battalion of police were there but it was too dangerous to go in after him? How would a single "School Resource Officer" do any better?

Perhaps there are answers to these questions but all of this suggests that there are no SIMPLE answers.

Let's hope we get better answers over time.

In the meantime, I should repeat a few facts that I have before that always seem to be forgotten in these tragedies as we inevitably hear these talking points.

Why do these mass shootings only occur in the United States?

I have cited statistics in the past that this is simply not true.

This is a quote from a study done by the Crime Prevention Research Center that was published in 2020 that indicates that the United States is far down the list insofar as mass shootings are concerned.

The U.S. is well below the world average in terms of the number of mass public shootings, and the global increase over time has been much bigger than for the United States.

Over the 20 years from 1998 to 2017, our list contains 2,772 attacks and at least 5,764 shooters outside the United States and 62 attacks and 66 shooters within our country. By our count, the US makes up less than 1.13% of the mass public shooters, 1.77% of their murders, and 2.19% of their attacks. All these are much less than the US’s 4.6% share of the world population. Attacks in the US are not only less frequent than other countries, they are also much less deadly on average. Out of the 101 countries where we have identified mass public shootings occurring, the United States ranks 66th in the per capita frequency of these attacks and 56th in the murder rate.

We need to ban the type of rifles used in this shooting.

The fact is that in 2020 (the most recent year data is available) there were only 455 homicides where a rifle was used. This includes any so-called "assault" rifles and any victims of mass shootings.

Handguns were used 8,029 times.

Knives 1,739 times.

Hands, fists were used 662 times.

Homicides by Murder Weapon in U.S. 2020

It is true that it harder to create the mayhem we saw in Uvalde with a handgun but when the perpetrator has an hour alone with a room full of small children he could have used any weapon and gotten the same horrible result.

In fact, reports are that the Uvalde shooter also took a handgun into the classroom with a rifle.

We should raise the age that someone can buy a firearm from 18 to 21.

In my view, there is merit to this suggestion. There is little question that the judgment and maturity of an 18 year old is lacking compared to someone older.

We already ban the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes for those under age 21.

We used to limit voting to only those age 21 and older for the same reason. This was the case even though those 18 years olds became independent much earlier in the past than they do today. The voting age was 21 in the Civil War, World War I, World II and the Korean War.

However, the age limit was reduced from 21 to 18 principally based on the argument that if someone could serve their country in the military they should be able to vote. It should be remembered that this change occurred during the Vietnam War when the draft was in place.

We now have a volunteer military. No one is being forced to serve. The argument to lower the voting age does not have the same weight it once did especially when you consider the ages for alcohol and cigarettes were raised.

It seems to me that if the age limit to purchase a firearm is increased because of concerns about judgment and maturity the same question should be asked about the right to vote.

It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if Republicans stated they would be willing to increase the age to purchase a firearm to 21 if the Democrats would agree to raise the voting age to 21.

We might find out how serious Democrats really are about all of this.

Of course, the U,S. Constitution's 26th Amendment guarantees the right to vote for those 18 years and older in federal elections. This raises the question as to why the 2nd Amendment would not also protect the rights of an 18 year old to bear arms?

As I stated, there are no easy answers.

What is clear is that there is something terribly wrong in our society that this nightmare has played out over and over.

Playing politics as Beto O'Rourke, Democrat nominee for Governor in Texas, did while disrupting a press conference by Governor Greg Abbott on the shooting and investigation before the children have even been  put to rest is not helping solve the problem.

We need to stop politicizing these events and start dealing with the uncomfortable fact that we have serious human and societal problems that underly these monstrous acts.

We are not likely going to be able to legislate this away. 

The root of this problem is much deeper and more complex than any law is able to cure.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Awake Rather Than Woke

Are you "woke"?

This is how the Merrian-Webster defines the word that is increasingly used in our society today.

You are woke if you believe that the Black Lives Matter organization cares more about racial injustice than it does about creating promoting a socialist agenda, racial division and raising money.

You are woke if you believe that the percentage of mixed race marriages in advertising today is in any way representative of the real world.

You are woke if you believe birthing people have babies rather than women.

You are woke if you believe that millions of people were assigned a gender at birth that is contrary to their biological DNA.

You are woke if you believe it is perfectly fine for biological males to compete with females in athletic competitions due to their "identity".

If you are not woke you are cancelled, censored or called out as racist, homophobic, misogynistic or a fascist.

However, I am seeing a few things recently that the tide may be starting to turn a bit.

More people are starting to look like they are "awake" to reality rather than "woke".

They understand the actual facts on some of the issues that surround the "woke" movement.

For example, net support for Black Lives Matter among voters has dropped by 25 points over the last two years.

More voters now oppose BLM than support it.

Part of this seems to be due to reports that BLM secretly bought a $6 million mansion in Los Angeles and other big spending items by its co-founders to relatives and the like.


This was after BLM's co-founder resigned last May after reports she had purchased three homes in Atlanta and another one in LA.

This was in addition to a number of other insider payouts involving the co-founders of BLM as reported by The New York Post.

The adage “wherever there is power, greed and money, there is corruption,” seems to ring true for Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

As The Post reported last week, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation tax documents filed (years late) with the IRS show Cullors used BLM funds to pay her graffiti-artist brother a whopping $840,000 for “security” services to the nonprofit and $970,000 to a company owned by her child’s father for “creative services.” Nepotism much?

Oh, and the foundation’s biggest single payout, over $2.1 million, went to a consulting firm owned by another of its current board members, Shalomyah Bowers.


Many have also concluded that the primary goal of Black Lives Matter--to defund the police---was not a very good idea.

For example, the Council on Criminal Justice reported that homicides in 22 major U.S. cities in 2021 were up 44% over 2019 levels.

A record number of homicides occurred in 12 cities. A number of these cities were the focus of major BLM protests to defund the police.


Black shooting victims are up 144% and Black murder victims are up 81% since 2019.

When you are awake and not woke you tend to come face to face with facts and reality.

One of the more interesting examples of someone becoming "awake" is noted liberal personality Bill Maher.

He did a monologue last week asking what is going on with LGBTQ? (Use this link if you can't open the video below in your browser)

Maher asks a lot of serious questions but he is also does it with a great deal of  humor.

The video is aboutr nine minutes long. It is well worth watching.

Maher cited this polling data that tracks the percentage of Americans who self-identify as LGBTQ.

He said that the percentage seems to be doubling every generation.

This is science?

He also joked that at this rate everyone will be gay or trans by 2056.

Maher also asked what is going on with all the "trans" issues with children?

If this is "science" why do we see this trend at much higher rates in California than we do in Ohio?

Is there a lot of suppression of LGBTQ in Ohio or is there social contagion in California?

For example, consider these children of various Hollywood celebrities.

Is there something in the water that makes these children want to dress like this?

Is this science or a way to show you are woke?


Charlize Theron actually adopted two sons who both now identify as girls. 

This person on Twitter asks what are the odds?

Awake or woke?

Someone should also check the water in Seattle.

A high school in Seattle reports that 80% of its students identify as LGBTQ+, nonbinary and transgender.


If you look at the mission statement of Nova High School there might be a hint that this has not resulted from science or water. There is something else going on.

This is what it means to be woke.

Are you awake yet?

I will conclude with one more tweet that puts this into a little better perspective.

It is a lesson that the world is not always as we want it to be.

We may be woke but there are a lot of people in this world that have no idea what that is.

There is a raw reality in the world that many cannot comprehend in the sheltered existence that so many who have been raised in the United States of America.

It is hard to survive in that world be being woke when you need to be awake.

I could not help but laugh at this tweet.

Awake indeed.

Monday, May 23, 2022

You Won't See This On The Network News

How do Covid cases compare now to the same time last year?

In most places in the United States things seem pretty normal.

You don't hear much about Covid cases on the news.

People are attending sporting events, concerts and congregating at bars and restaurants.

You see some masks when you go out but in most parts of the country they are pretty rare.

The exceptions might be in heavily blue voting areas such as San Francisco.

For example, San Francisco still has a mask mandate requirement for anyone using public transportation.

How much have Covid cases fallen compared to last year?

The fact is that Covid cases are actually four times higher in the United States right now than they were at the same time last year!

New Reported Cases in the U.S.
7-day average
Source: The New York Times

Cases this year are also very likely understated compared to last year since home test kits are much more plentiful and a lot of cases never get recorded in the official totals.

It is pretty incredible that these are the facts and yet it gets almost no news.

It also does not provide much to support the efficacy of the vaccines.

I know many will look at the data and suggest that the reason cases are much higher this year is that mask mandates and Covid restrictions were lifted.

However, wasn't the argument being made last year that the vaccines would allow us to return to life as normal?

We have also seen revisionist history over the last year. It was at this time last year that the argument was being made that if you were vaccinated you would be protected from illness and would not spread the disease.

This was stated by both the CDC Director and Joe Biden last Spring and Summer.

We were also told last summer that it had become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Eventually the narrative changed to "nobody ever said the vaccines were going to protect you from getting sick but they would prevent severe illness and death".

Do you remember?

It is true that reported deaths nationally are about half of what they were at this time last year.

This might be due to the vaccines.

This could also be due to the fact that the Omicron variant that is prevalent today is much less virulent than what we were seeing last year.

It is also unclear how much of this reduction is due to the fact that a number of states have changed the definition of what is a Covid death. Deaths must be "from" Covid rather than merely be "with" Covid.

Massachusetts is one such state.


Let's take a closer look at what is going on in Massachusetts since it is a very blue state with one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

What about cases, hospitalizations and deaths in that state right now compared to this time last year?

Last year at this time Massachusetts was averaging 472 cases/day (7-day average).

Massachusetts is currently averaging 4,426 cases/day. (9x higher).

Last year Massachusetts had an overall Covid hospitalization rate of 1.8/100,000.

Massachusetts currently has a hospitalization rate of 3.2/100,000. (78% higher).

More troubling is the fact that the hospitalization rate for those age 70+ was 6.1/100,000 last year at this time. It is now 15.6/100,000 for the age demographic most vulnerable to Covid. (156% higher).

New Daily Covid Hospital Admissions Per 100,000 in Massachusetts
Source: The New York Times

Last year at this time Massachusetts was averaging 10 deaths per day (7-day average). Deaths this year are currently averaging 12 per day. (20% higher).

This is in a state with 84% of everyone in the state age 5 and over fully vaccinated.

For those age 65+, 95% are fully vaccinated.

If the vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death how is it that hospitalizations for those age 70+ are 156% higher now than last year and deaths are also higher?

Massachusetts is not alone.

These are the ten states with the highest average daily Covid cases per 100,000 right now led by Rhode Island which also (coincidentally?) has the highest vaccination rate in the nation.

Source: The New York Times

Rhode Island has almost 7 times the cases they had at this time last year.

Hospitalizations among those age 70+ in the state are 10 times higher than they were at this time last year.

New Daily Covid Hospital Admissions Per 100,000 in Rhode Island
Source: The New York Times

Who can explain this?

95% of this age group are fully vaccinated and a large proportion boosted multiple times.

How are things going in San Francisco that still retains a mask mandate on public transit and undoubtedly has one of the highest mask usage rates in the country?

In addition, 88% of every man, woman and child age 5+ is fully vaccinated.

Cases are 36x higher this year than last year in San Francisco.

San Francisco has gone from a 17 cases per day last year at this time to 617 now.

New Reported Covid Cases in San Francisco- 7 day average
Source: The New York Time

In fact, I found it interesting that San Francisco actually has almost 4 times more people hospitalized with Covid right now (64) than it had cases at this time last year (17).

Source; The New York Times

Wealthy Marin County just outside of San Francisco is the most vaccinated county in the United States.  93% of everyone age 5 and over is fully vaccinated.

Marin County now has more cases than at the Winter 2020/21 peak. Cases are 35x what they were last year at this time. Hospitalizations are 5x what they were last year.

How does any of this support the narrative on the vaccines?

That is why you won't see any of this on the network news.

One more thing you are not going to see on the network news is that Australia has now overtaken the United States in cumulative Covid cases per capita since the pandemic began.

New Zealand is on track to soon surpass the United States as well.

It was not long ago the story on the network news was that these countries were the models to follow for their strict Covid policies and harsh vaccine mandates.

Is it also a coincidence that the cases exploded in these countries at the same time that Covid vaccine booster doses were being administered aggressively to their populations?

Looking at this data I cannot help but think about the warnings of Geert Vanden Bossche on how the mass vaccination effort would inevitably lead to more variants that in the end would be more infectious and more virulent.

I can guarantee you have never heard the name Geert Vanden Bossche on the network news.

A year ago Vanden Bossche stated that we should be careful about believing the pandemic was over as we saw cases decline dramatically.

The tell-tale sign would be that although cases might decline, the likelihood would be that they would not decline below previous lows. They would fall and level off at a higher plateau than before.

He called this a "valley of fitness" in which the virus would be working around the immune pressure from the vaccinations and would ultimately result in viral escape with new variants capable of infecting more people.

Notice in this chart that U.S. cases came down but eventually exploded upwards to levels much higher than was seen before despite the mass vaccination campaign.

Vanden Bossche would argue this was caused by viral escape caused by the immune pressure from the vaccines. In effect, the vaccines are causing the variants and facilitating transmission of the virus.

Notice as well that while cases are down from the highs earlier this year they have not reached the level they were last year. They are persisting at a higher level than last year. ( As stated above, 4x higher than last year at the same time).

This is also consistent with the predictions of Vanden Bossche from over a year ago.

His thesis is that the virus is once again working around the vaccinal antibodies which has been made worse by the additional booster doses.

If he is correct, the next variant will be more infectious and more virulent than Omicron.

Are we already seeing this in the Northeast United States?

I hope not. However, the data is concerning.

I am going to be looking at the Covid data from the Sunbelt closely over the next several  months.

The last two years have seen cases go up dramatically in those states in the summer months.

I am particularly interested in seeing what happens in Florida with its large senior population and a vaccination rate that is higher than any other Sunbelt state.

In fact, cases are already about 3x higher in Florida and hospitalizations for those age 70+ are 45% higher than they were last year at this time.

Are we going to see this strong seasonal pattern repeat itself this year in the Sunbelt states?

That might tell us a lot of where Covid is headed next.

The bigger question is whether the network news will continue to repeat the narrative or will they start asking the tough questions and do some real reporting of why we are seeing what we are seeing over two years into this pandemic.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Beyond Meat, Bitcoin, Boom and Bust

I wrote a blog post three years ago on what was the emerging fad involving fake meat.

A company named Beyond Meat had recently gone public in an IPO.

When I wrote about Beyond Meat it had a total stock market value of $14 billion.

It had $95 million in annual revenue and had a net loss of $27 million in the most recent year.

To put that $14 billion market value in context I pointed out that made Beyond Meat more valuable than two giants in the food industry---Campbell's Soups and Conagra.

These are the brands that Campbell's owns.

These are the major brands that Conagra owns.

Beyond Meat was going to need to convince a lot of people to eat fake meat to justify that valuation.

I wrote at the time that my guess was that this was not going to end well for Beyond Meat shareholders.


That ought to give you a perspective on how much money is being bet that you will eat fake meat.

However, will you really eat fake meat?

Count me as someone who is not buying Beyond Meat at $235 per share.

How has Beyond Meat done the last three years in selling fake meat?

How have its shareholders done?

Beyond Meat reported revenues for the first quarter, 2022 of $110 million.

However, the company lost $98 million on those sales.

That amounts to an operating loss of an astounding 92% of sales!

It doesn't get much worse than that.


How have the shareholders of Beyond Meat done?

I wrote that blog post right after Beyond Meat had hit almost $235/share.

Beyond Meat (BYND)

The stock is now trading at below $27/share. You are down over 88% if you bought stock in Beyond Meat in July, 2019.

It is down almost 60% just since January 1, 2022.


Of course, there are many other stocks like Beyond Meat which have been annihilated in the current market environment.

Some of these have much better track records and performance than Beyond Meat.

A few examples of big stock losses YTD.

Coinbase Global    -73%

Netflix   -68%

Caesar's Entertainment.   -45%

Intuit   -41%

Tesla    -37%

The stock market has not been the only investment sector that has been hit hard in 2022.

Crypto currencies have also fallen.

One of the arguments given by those who are fans of cryptos such as Bitcoin was that it was a store of value and that it would have little correlation with traditional investment classes making it an ideal asset to protect one's wealth.

Bitcoin is down 36% since the first of the year.

It was as high as $67,000 last November. It is around $30,000 right now.

What is particularly interesting to me, contrary to the argument that Bitcoin has little correlation to other investment classes, is that Bitcoin has fallen almost in lockstep with the NASDAQ index.

In fact, it is a .95 positive correlation.

Bitcoin doesn't look like a store of value right now.

It looks like just another risky asset class.

The New York Times prepared this chart that compared the performance of gold, NASDAQ and Bitcoin thus far this year.

Bitcoin and the stock market did well when interest rates were low and the Federal Reserve was supplying all sorts of liquidity to the markets.

The question is how well will Bitcoin, Beyond Meat and a bunch of other investment do when the Fed is no longer filling up the punch bowl at the party?

The early returns are not encouraging.

In fact, at Bitcoin's current value about 50% of the owners of this crypto are already underwater on their investment.

It has always been true that as interest rate yields get more attractive, riskier asset classes have a harder time attracting buyers.

For more than a decade the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historically low levels in order to entice more and more people to put their money in riskier asset classes in order "to help the economy".

If we look at the high prices that some investors paid for Beyond Meat, Bitcoin and other names they succeeded in what they set out to do.

The further question is what type of damage did the Fed do to those investors and the economy in the long term?

We will find out together.

In the meantime, Warren Buffet recently made these remarks about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

You can read the entire quote below but the essence is that Buffett would not pay $25 for all the cryptocurrency in the world.

I would not call that a vote of confidence from someone who is arguably the greatest investor of all time.

“If you said … for a 1% interest in all the farmland in the United States, pay our group $25 billion, I’ll write you a check this afternoon,” Buffett said. ”[For] $25 billion I now own 1% of the farmland. [If] you offer me 1% of all the apartment houses in the country and you want another $25 billion, I’ll write you a check, it’s very simple. Now if you told me you own all of the bitcoin in the world and you offered it to me for $25 I wouldn’t take it because what would I do with it? I’d have to sell it back to you one way or another. It isn’t going to do anything. The apartments are going to produce rent and the farms are going to produce food.”

Beyond Meat might still be a potential investment for Buffett.

You just have to get people to want to eat fake meat.

If things continue as they are right now, we may get to that point much sooner than we want.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Sticking To The Facts On Abortion

Most people never hear the real facts on the abortion issue.

That is because the facts are drowned out by a political narrative.

A good example of this were the comments last week by liberal tv host Bill Maher who stated he was shocked to learn several facts about abortion he did not know.


“I learned things this week, because this put it on the front page, that are pretty basic things that I did not know about abortion," Maher told guests Michele Tafoya and Paul Begala. "Like in Europe, the modern countries of Europe, [are] way more restrictive than we are, or what they’re even proposing. If you are pro-choice, you would like it a lot less in Germany, and Italy, and France, and Spain, and Switzerland. Did you know that? I didn’t know that.”

“I learned most people who are pro-life are women. Did not know that. ... "

Maher has not become a pro-life advocate but he seems to now understand that the facts often do not match the narrative advanced by the Democrats and most of the mainstream media.

The Democrats in the U.S. Senate held a vote last week on a bill that would have allowed abortion for any reason for up to nine months, until the baby is born.

They claimed it was to codify Roe v. Wade but the fact is that it went far beyond what was permitted under the ruling in that case.

The bill actually did not even get majority support failing with 51 votes against--all 50 Republicans and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All other Democrats voted in favor of the bill.

After the vote I thought it was amusing that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was complaining that a minority in the Senate should not have the ability to block things that the majority wants to do.

Warren seems to be poor at math. 51 out of 100 is not a minority. It is the majority.

Warren should also be careful about citing "democracy" on this issue.

A Pew Center poll of voters in March found that only 19% stated they wanted abortion to be legal in all instances as the Democrat bill was written.

I also thought it was interesting that last week we even had Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen weighing in on abortion claiming that eliminating abortion rights would have "very damaging effects on the economy".


Yellen's view on this seems to be counter to almost every other economic study in the world which has cited falling birth rates in developed countries as the bigger threat to future economic growth.

An example is this recent report from the the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. 

Lower birth rates are associated with less growth and a more rapidly aging population and, hence, slower economic expansion.

You may recall that Yellen was once Chairman of the Federal Reserve. 

Yellen seemed to be arguing that abortions were good for the economy because it meant fewer "low-income and often black" teenage women did not have babies they were not in a position to care for.

Can you imagine the reaction to this if a Secretary of Treasury in a Republican administration had said the same?

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina had a highly appropriate and personal response to Yellen's comment.


Let's put that aside and look at the data on abortions.

Is it primarily, low-income, black, teen age women having abortions?

The Brookings Institution  (a liberal think tank) did a study on abortions by income groups in 2015.

That study found that there were many more abortions by single pregnant women who were earning at least 4X the federal poverty rate ($54,360/ yr in 2022) than those at the poverty level.

32% of the pregnancies in single women making at least $54,000 were aborted compared to only 9% among single women making the federal poverty rate of $13,590 or below.


So much for the low-income argument.

How many total abortions are for teenagers?

The CDC collects data on abortions in 49 states (California refuses to provide its data for the survey) for an annual national urveillance study.

The most recent CDC data is for 2019.

The fact is that only 8.8% of abortions are related to teen pregnancies.

Most abortions are done on the 25-29 age group (29.3%).

So much for the teenager argument.

Another argument made by Democrats is that there should be no abortion restrictions in that many women do not know they are pregnant until after the first trimester so a 9-12 week limit is too restrictive.

However, the CDC data indicates that 43% of all abortions were done in the first six weeks of gestation and another 36% were done in weeks 7-9. 

92% of abortions are done by the 13th week before the end of the first trimester.

We also hear that abortions are not being done as a substitute for contraception. 

However, the CDC data shows that 42% of all abortions involved women that had already undergone a previous abortion.

Finally, a lot is made of the necessity of abortions in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is at risk due to the pregnancy.

The state of Florida requires that a reason must be provided for every abortion performed within its borders.

There are typically more than 70,000 abortions in Florida each year. That is over 10% of the total in the United States so the Florida statistics are probably a good representation for the national numbers.

Those statistics show that rape, incest and the life of the mother do not even account for half of one percent as the reasons for abortions in the state.

Serious fetal abnormalities account for less than 1% of all abortions.

There is no reason for almost all abortions other than the mother did not want the child for social, economic or personal reasons.

Reasons for Abortion, State of Florida, 2020

Abortion is really not about the life or health of the mother. It is not about rape, incest or fetal health.

As I have written before, it is really involves one fundamental question.

Does a woman have the right to put her rights above the right of the life growing within her?

If so, is there a point at which those rights end and the right to life of her baby take precedence?

Is it at conception? The point at which a fetal heartbeat is heard? The point at which the child would be viable outside the womb? At birth? After birth?

Tough questions involving a very tough issue. It always is when you start balancing "rights".

Just make sure you understand the bias inherent in much of what you see and read on the abortion issue.

And make sure you understand the actual facts about the issue rather than be force-fed a narrative that supports a political agenda.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the abortion issue. 

However, you can't have your own facts. Facts are facts.

It is also a fact that there is no national consensus on the abortion issue. There wasn't any 50 years ago and it is even truer today.

That is why I believe that overturning Roe v. Wade is the correct legal decision.

The correct result under the Constitution is that the collective opinion of the American people in each state are in the best position to determine how to balance the rights of mother and child.

If a national consensus forms around one position then a constitutional amendment can be used to enshrine whatever that is and any "right" that should be recognized in the Constitution.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Ukraine Aid in Context

Congress is about to approve $40 billion in additional aid to Ukraine.


$40 billion is a lot of money.

It should be kept in mind that this amount is in addition to billions of dollars in previous aid.

$13.6 billion was previously approved by Congress and signed into law by Biden back in March.


That totals about $54 billion of aid for Ukraine in a little over two months.

Let's put that in context.

The entire military budget of Russia for 2022 according to the Russian news service Tass was budgeted at $51.3 billion.

MOSCOW, October 1. /TASS/. Federal budget expenditures on Russia’s national defense will total around 10 trillion rubles ($154.1 bln), according to the files to the draft budget for 2020 and the planned period of 2021-2022.

"Budgetary provisions for ‘National defense’ will total 3.1 trillion rubles ($47.7 bln) in 2020, 3.24 trillion rubles ($50 bln) in 2021, and 3.3 trillion rubles ($51.3 bln) in 2022. The share of expenditures on ‘National defense’ will stand at 2.4% of GDP in 2020, 2.7% of GDP in 2021, and 2.6% of GDP in 2022," the document said.

In other words, the United States Congress and Biden are about to approve more money to Ukraine within two months than the Russian military was budgeted to spend in 2022 for the entire Russia national defense budget.

Let's also consider that $54 billion in dollars goes a lot further in Ukraine than it does in the United States right now.

The median pay of a worker in Ukraine in 2021 was $775/month or $9,300/year. Median pay in the United States is approximately $52,000.

The entire GDP of Ukraine in 2021 was $195 billion in U.S. dollars.

Another way to look at this is that we are sending aid to Ukraine that is equal to about 28% of its entire annual GDP.

To provide further perspective to the Ukraine aid, consider that Congress approved $4.5 trillion in total Covid relief in 2020 and 2021.

That was equal to about 19% of the $24 trillion in U.S. GDP in 2021.

We know how costly the Covid spending intervention was in the United States. 

We are actually sending more aid to Ukraine relative to its GDP than was spent in the United States on Covid relief.

I think it is also interesting that Congress rebuffed Trump's requests for spending $18 billion to build a wall on the southern border in the 2018 budget, $5.7 billion in 2019 and $8.6 billion in 2020. All of these requests in total do not equal the $40 billion Congress is prepared to provide Ukraine for its national security.

Congress also refused to allocate $3 billion that President Trump requested in March and April , 2020 to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve up to its capacity limits in order to take advantage of the low prices of oil at the time.

The Democrats were opposed because they said it was too costly and would help the oil companies.

Of course, now Biden cannot pull oil out of the SPR fast enough now as he attempts to reduce the price of gasoline at the pump and increase his sinking approval rating.

Over the last year, Biden has already taken almost 100 million barrels of oil (630 million barrels in May, 2021 now reduced to 542 million barrels) out of the SPR.

Has it really made much of a difference? Gas at the pump reached an all-time high this week.

What happens if we have a situation that is not price-centered but involves the actual disruption of oil supplies? That is what the SPR was really intended for.

Another interesting factoid to put that $54 billion in Ukraine aid in context involves the investment of the U.S. in that Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

We are about to spend twice that amount in additional aid to Ukraine if the Biden request is approved by the Senate?

I am all for doing what we can to support Ukraine.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine was indefensible.

However, $40 billion (or $54 billion ), or whatever the amount of the aid will be, is a lot of money when there are so many people hurting in the United States right now.

Money does not grow on trees. Congress has not understood this for a long, long time.

However, trees are necessary to print the money that the Federal Reserve will need to in order to pay for all of this.

It is even more money when you put it in context with what that money would buy in Russia or Ukraine.

This might be a good time for some people in Washington to take a couple of deep breaths and really think about what they are doing.

One guy who thinks a few more people should be taking a deep breath right now is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Senator Paul stood up in the Senate yesterday and blocked the $40 billion Ukraine aid package from being steamrolled through Congress without much scrutiny.

"We cannot save Ukraine by dooming the U.S, economy."

It will be a short delay. Too many people in Washington, D.C. have Ukraine fever. Spending money we don't have to fight Putin seems to be the only cure.

Is all of that money really necessary to support Ukraine?

How about saving a little bit for some Americans?

In particular for the Millennials and the Gender Z generation which will end up paying the biggest price for all of this in the interest of that debt.

How much are those European countries contributing in aid?

This is the most recent update on that question since I last wrote on this topic.


The next update of this information will be provided May 18.

How about we pass a bill to match anything the Europeans agree to do?

You would think they would be good for at least $20 billion considering the threat Russia poses to all of them. That by itself would cut our cost by half.

Of course, that is a logical and practical approach. Why would that ever be considered?