Autonomous Vehicles: The Revolution is Upon Us

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent Gardner“it’s unlikely that any on-road vehicles will feature “fully autonomous” drive technology in the short term (for instance, by 2020–22)”

McKinsey, June 2015

Possibly jealousy of its eye-watering fees, I enjoy seeing McKinsey proved wrong. All of punditry has been caught off-guard by the neck-snapping acceleration of autonomous vehicle (AV) adoption.

Uber made the headlines last year when it unleashed a fleet of self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh. The Regulatory Capital of America, the State of California, approved true driverless AVs in April, joining a number of other states, all eager to become the center of a new industry. While Uber’s expansion has been stalled by a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, the level of investment in AVs across a number of firms is very significant. The apparent industry leader, Google-spinout Waymo, reports 7 million miles of impressive performance. The question is no longer “if autonomous vehicles?” but “when?” Read more »

RIP, Obamacare

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent Gardner We stand watch at Obamacare’s bedside, filled with uncertainty about the timing of its demise and what will follow. There are good deaths and bad deaths—good ones are peaceful and offer time for reflection and fond farewells. Bad deaths are filled with misery and leave behind discord, estrangement and confusion.

Born of compromise

Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed without Republican support, it did not emerge full grown from the head of Obama. Unlike the Clinton Health Care Reform, the Obama Administration consulted with and received the support (mostly) of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Society, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Consumers Union, and many other interested parties. The Obama Administration did not want to resurrect the AHIP-funded Harry & Louise ads that doomed the 1993 Clinton plan. Born of compromise, ACA was a frail child.

Each of the interested parties got something in exchange for their political support. AHIP won the personal and employer coverage mandate and dodged the “Medicare for All” public option. AHA, courtesy of the “out of pocket maximum,” hoped for fewer bankruptcy-driven write-offs. PhRMA escaped negotiated drug prices. AMA’s support bought a long list of free preventative services, like annual physicals and screenings. Consumers advocates won community rating coupled with an end to “pre-existing condition” exclusions.

Rejecting the “single payer” models of the United Kingdom and Canada, the ACA retained private insurance and provider markets, imitating the health care systems of many of our trading partners, e.g. Germany, France, Japan and Switzerland. While private, the payers and providers in these countries are subject to comprehensive price regulation. Read more »

The High Cost of Dying

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerMy mother died in October at age 92. It has yet to become real to me—I reached for my phone to tell her how lovely her funeral had been. I’m sorry she missed it. One of my browser’s home pages remains set to our ongoing Scrabble game on Facebook. She’s winning. And always will be.

A child of the Depression, she’d tucked a newspaper clipping tucked into her papers that suggested ways to cut the cost of a funeral. When my sister & I sat down with the funeral director, I handed him the clipping and said, “We’re under orders!”

Read more »

Rochester: “City of the Arts”

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner Question: Which city has the largest concentration of professional musicians in the nation? If you guessed Nashville, you’d be right.

But Rochester’s in second place. Among all metro areas with at least half a million employed, Rochester leads San Francisco and Portland, both recognized for their music scene.

And Austin—“The Live Music Capital of the World”—clocks in at #16. Musicians may flock to Austin for SXSW and Austin City Limits, but many of them live right here.

Many of the nation’s professional musicians learned their trade right here, too. Among roughly the same group of large metros, Rochester colleges and universities graduate more musicians per capita than anyplace but Boston.

Much of the credit goes to the Eastman School of Music, routinely ranked one of the globe’s top music schools. In addition to frequent performances by faculty luminaries like the Ying Quartet and lutenist Paul O’Dette, Eastman’s three principal venues bring the best musicians in the world to our ears. But the spillover from Eastman’s riches is vast. The Hochstein School of Music & Dance is the largest community music school in the nation (for a comparably-sized city). Read more »

New Evidence on Minimum Wage Hike

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerIn November 2015, I wrote a column titled, “$15 Minimum Wage is Uncharted Territory,” discussing New York’s minimum wage law and speculating on its effects. Given how early we are in the process, however, we know very little currently. New York is not the first jurisdiction to attempt to address low wages legislatively, however. We’re now receiving reports from the territorial explorers in Seattle. And the news, while unsurprising, is disappointing to those who hope to help low wage workers by passing a higher minimum wage.

Low and stagnant incomes at the bottom of the income distribution and the growing gap between high and low wage workers are serious problems for families with low incomes and for the economy. These trends are also potentially destabilizing for society. Read more »

Bearing One Another’s Burdens: The Challenge of Health Insurance (Part 1)

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner“Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Asked of Jesus by the religious authorities of the day, this question haunts many conversations about social welfare and health policy. Self-reliance—that people should “get what they earn”—is embedded in America’s cultural mythology. In some subtle way, people in poor health must be responsible for their condition and simply have to pay when illness strikes.

This is the moral question underlying health policy: Who should bear the cost of caring for the sick? That we are neither wholly blameless or nor wholly guilty for the state of our health is the Gordian knot we labor in vain to untie. We know that smoking often causes lung cancer and obesity can trigger diabetes. But not all lung cancer comes from smoking and diabetes has other triggers. We’re not willing to deny care to victims of either disease. We admire self-reliance but also sense the injustice in “blaming the victim” for diseases and conditions that have no known link to personal decisions (and some that do). As the Republican Congress and the Trump Administration seek to unwind Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), this “who pays?” question takes center stage. Read more »

Bearing One Another’s Burdens: The Challenge of Health Insurance (Part 2)

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner Last week we looked at how the Affordable Care Act and the Republican replacement plan changed health insurance for those of us who buy insurance either through our employers or on the individual market. This week we’ll look at how the ACA and the new plan change access to health insurance for people with low income.

Medicaid expanded under ACA

The ACA expanded Medicaid in two ways. First, it added adults in poverty to the program, not just poor children and their parents. Before the ACA, low-income adults without dependent children were ineligible for Medicaid in 26 states—the cost of doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs—all had to be paid in cash. The ACA also pushed Medicaid eligibility up to 138% of the federal poverty line (FPL) for everyone (although some states, like New York and California, were already there). For context, the FPL for a single adult is $12,060 and, for a family of 3, $20,420.

At least until a group of states took the matter to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress could not require the Medicaid expansion, even though most of the cost was shared among all federal taxpayers. Currently, 19 states have chosen not to expand Medicaid eligibility. Read more »

“New” Internet provider—same pricing & service?

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner “Welcome to a New Day!” proclaims Spectrum’s website. Like the (probably not) Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times”, being “new” may not be a good thing. Spectrum is the spawn of Time-Warner Cable (TWC) and Charter Communications. Do we expect that two market-dominating cable providers to produce a consumer-friendly child?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that economists, fond as we are of markets, blindly favor the interests of business. No, we like markets because we distrust business. The 18th century’s Adam Smith noted that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public.” When competition reigns in a free market economy, the competitors police one another and protect consumers. Read more »

Promoting Effective Local Government in NYS

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner Just over a week ago, the tranquil Village of Cherry Creek voted, by a 2-1 margin, to dissolve. Located about 20 miles northeast of Jamestown in Chautauqua County, the village was formed in 1893 to offer residents more “urban” services than were offered in the town, now including street lights, water, sewer and sidewalks. In 1900 the village was home to 700 with another 1,000 in the Town of Cherry Creek outside the village. It was a self-contained community with a successful cannery, foundry, and flour mill plus a business district with a bank, hotels, churches and other establishments. Nearly everyone who lived in Cherry Creek, worked in Cherry Creek. Read more »

Excelsior Scholarships are a Shotgun Solution to NYS Workforce Challenge

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner Governor Andrew Cuomo, channeling the presidential campaign positions of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, has proposed eliminating college tuition for all families with income below $125,000. I was a tenured SUNY college professor in a former life—shouldn’t I be cheering Governor Cuomo’s call for free tuition for the children of nearly three-quarters of New York’s families?

But I’m not. Let me try to explain. Read more »