Big is back. Light trucks (pickups, SUVs, etc) outsold cars by 100,000 in the month of November—sales were up 10% from the same period in 2013 while car sales were up just 1%. Oh, and gasoline prices have been sliding all year. Coincidence? Don’t think so.
And gas prices may have some distance to fall, even if crude oil prices stop their descent: Crude is down nearly 40% from its 2013 average while gasoline prices have dropped only about 25%.
Don’t you love the low gas prices? Filled my little car’s tank for under $30 for the first time in, oh, forever. Actually, it only feels that way. Today’s prices are roughly where they were in 2010. Isn’t it interesting how quickly we adjust to new prices? Read more »
I attended a Great Schools for All event on November 10, a discussion of the school reform efforts of Raleigh, NC. Underlying the discussion was the proposition that when a substantial share of children in a classroom are in poverty, it is nearly impossible for students to achieve at a high level. Raleigh, part of the Wake County school district, responded to poverty concentration by establishing and preserving a balance of poor and non-poor children in every school in the district. Raleigh points to trends in graduation rates and other indicators that suggest that the policy has been effective. See Hope and Despair in the American City: why there are no bad schools in Raleigh, by Gerald Grant, Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University. A book review and summary can be found here. Read more »
In last month’s column, I joined the beleaguered defenders of the Common Core standards. The evidence shows that American children leave school having learned less than peers in other nations—27th of 34 nations tested in math, 17th in reading and 21st in science. Mobility recommends some level of standardization of “scope & sequence”—what children learn when—particularly in the elementary grades. The expressed goals of the architects of Common Core are hard to argue with—that reading instruction should challenge students to think about the content, not simply decode the superficial meaning of the words; that nonfiction should receive greater emphasis; that math should focus on analytical, not simply technical, skills; that instruction across the disciplines should reinforce independent thinking. Read more »
62,000 New York registered voters signed a petition supporting a “Stop Common Core” ballot line in November. I wonder how many signed with knowledge of the Common Core (CC) standards, not because of overheated rhetoric from opponents?
Yes, CC’s introduction in NYS schools has been a mess. CC is more rigorous than the prior standards—harder is the point, after all. If you’re a gym rat who can bench 200 pounds, you don’t just jump to 275, you work up to it. Nor can students jump right into a tougher curriculum. Teachers can’t be expected to learn a new approach overnight. State Ed gets a “D” in CC Implementation. Read more »
I just watched a pair of fictional Supreme Court nominees debate the implications of repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—just the kind of “ripped from the headlines” thing that appeals to TV script writers. Only this was from a 2003 episode of The West Wing—my 27 year old daughter has discovered the show and is working her way through on Netflix. The case hit the court in 2013 and, as the The West Wing script suggested, was overturned. Now various state bans on same sex marriage appear headed to the high court, with the first—a ruling by the 10th circuit striking down Utah’s law—formally submitted at the beginning of August.
Nearly all Americans are disturbed by stories of atrocities by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL, etc). Whether the more appalling reports—the beheading of Christian children, female genital mutilation—are substantiated or not, radical Islam clearly sees fit to harness government to enforce religious conformity. Exile, imprisonment—even death—await those who break the rules or even disagree with accepted dogma. Christians have their own history to live down: The Catholic Church sent many “heretics” to a painful death during the Inquisition. The Protestant Reformation was equally intolerant in its early decades. Martin Luther and John Calvin were quite willing to use the power of government to impose their theology on all citizens. Read more »
“So, so tired of seeing children dying of measles. Our measles ward has overflowed and using an additional 15 beds. One to 2 kids dying every day from measles. Another one just started seizing as measles attacks his brain. It’s a truly terrible disease. I had forgotten since it has been uncommon in the US since my childhood.”
This poignant Facebook post came from my wife’s cousin, a physician volunteering in Papua New Guinea, which is suffering from a measles epidemic. It reminds me of a recent conversation with a friend. She mentioned that she and her husband have chosen not to vaccinate their daughter, and that “this was a very personal decision for us.”
This goes to the heart of how we think about evidence and about risk in an uncertain world. And is it possible for such a decision to be truly personal? Read more »
We are routinely bombarded by claims that have been “proven” with statistics. Today’s column offers tips in judging these claims.
- Surprising results get headlines. “Did you hear that hurricanes with female names are more deadly? Who knew?!!” An Internet search of this report from last week yields thousands of citations.
- “That’s why autism is on the rise!! It’s the vaccines!” The 1998 study making this claim got a lot more ink than The Lancet’s retraction, after the study’s publisher learned that the results were fraudulent.
Pure fabrication may be rare, but many studies are published with claims that should be served with many grains of salt. The first question to ask: “Is there enough data?” Read more »
Will more be insured? Will we have the health professionals to meet their needs?
Last month’s column looked at how health insurance eligibility changed under ACA and explored the “coverage gap” in states choosing not to expand Medicaid. This week we’ll explore other implications of this revolutionary change in how health insurance is secured and paid for.
On balance, will the share uninsured go down?
Cutting the ranks of the uninsured is a key objective of ACA. Not all of the 8 million who signed up for new plans were previously uninsured: According to early surveys, two thirds to three quarters of these enrollees were changing plans. No surprise here. ACA offers subsidies that are significant for many, making the Marketplace plans very attractive for those who qualify. Others who didn’t qualify for subsidies still found the Marketplace plans a good deal. Competition spurred by the Marketplace drove down prices for nonemployer plans in some states, including New York.
Yet some will choose to pay the penalty for being uninsured instead of the premiums. Insurers are now required to cover a fixed set of preventative services at no extra cost to the consumer. The law also limits what consumers can be charged for care within a single year. Initially, ACA required that a 2014 policy must cover all costs above $6,350 for singles or $12,700 for families. That’s the “out-of-pocket maximum,” now delayed until 2015. (These deductibles are subsidized for individuals and families below 250% of the poverty line.) This shifts the financial burden of major illness from the insured to the insurer. Both changes make for better insurance—but they cost insurers more and premiums will rise. Read more »
Part 1: Health Insurance Coverage for the Poor
The Affordable Care Act’s initial enrollment period is over and Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius has resigned, having earned a jacket full of Purple Hearts from countless Congressional hearings. What have we wrought?
Make no mistake—this will revolutionize health care delivery in the United States. As the Arab Spring suggests, revolutions can be good or bad. Or both, as in this case.
In the first of a two-part column on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), let’s focus on how coverage for the poor has changed. Read more »
The Polar Vortex has me thinking about global warming. No, not the reflexive, “How could the world be warming and still post the coldest temps in recent memory?” I’m on board with the scientific consensus on climate change and I’ve a healthy appreciation for the randomness of complex systems. Most economist & weather forecaster jokes are interchangeable, after all. Read more »