Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Conservative's Dilemma

I'm on travel today, in the Washington DC area, for a couple of business meetings. Nothing really stressful today, just a three hour session with some business development folks after a lunchtime train ride down. We hung around the office a little late trying to plan out the rest of the week, since none of our higher-level management will be in on Friday.
So after we finished that, I took the Metro down to Alexandria. It was after 6:00, so the cars were not crowded at all. I picked a hotel in Old Town Alexandria for the night, since they have a negotiated rate with my company (got to keep the bean counters happy). I was kind of surprised when I walked into the hotel, because there was a medium sized crowd in the lobby, with several eager young faces watching the doors like hawks. Obviously, they've been placed in charge of greeting the guest speaker for whatever event is going on. I know they aren't waiting for me, so I go check in.
On my way to the elevator, I notice that this group has a placard up by the entrance to the room they've rented - it looks kind of like a woodcut portrait in black, on a bright red background. It's a familiar face. As I get closer, I can see that those waiting are wearing red, white, and blue buttons, I guess to identify the group.
So here's the conservative's dilemma: the group is called "Friends of Hillary." (Yes, that Hillary.) What is the proper response when faced with such a situation? Return to the lobby, wait for the Senator, and try to get her attention so I can tell her how much I loathe her politics? Maybe a little impromptu street protest? Or just ignore the whole thing?

Update: I tried to ignore the whole situation, but couldn't. A thunderstorm popped up as I was getting hungry, so I decided to eat in the hotel. I walked into the bar, and standing there is James Carville waiting for a table in the restaurant. I let him off the hook ;-) , because he had his daughters with him. (Lovely girls, by the way. Mr. Carville is a lucky man.)

Update 2: Apparently, the highlight of the fundraiser was Senator Clinton's flogging of the budget deficit. As I was eating dinner at the bar, a woman sat next to me and made a telephone call to her office - probably a reporter, as she was careful to point out that she was paraphrasing and not quoting. From what I heard, the point made was that our budget deficit costs us $50 billion per day, that the Saudis and Chinese are holding the notes, and that are vulnerable because we can't go against our bankers.
I must have misheard the conversation, because $50 billion per day works out to about $18 trillion per year. This is clearly impossible, since the total gross domestic product of the US economy was only $11.735 billion in 2004.
Watch for the press releases / articles to see what the real claim was. In the meantime, here are a couple of facts for your consideration:

  • The public debt as of June 28, 2005 was $7,780,135,114,161.43.
  • Nearly 42% of that debt is carried as "intragovernmental holdings," which includes trust funds.
  • Interest paid on the public debt in fiscal year 2005 (through May) averaged $26.05 billion per month, or about $870 million per day.
  • The average interest paid on the public debt in the four most recent full years was $332.9 billion: just over 4% of the current balance, and only 2.8% of gross income. The US government gets a very good rate on its debt.
  • The national debt ($7.78 trillion) amounts to about 66% of national production ($11.7 trillion). This could be compared to a family with an annual income of $50,000 holding a mortgage for about $76,000. The total monthly payment on a $76,000 mortgage (30-yr fixed @ 5.375%) would be $425.58, or $5,106.96 annual -- 6.7% of the balance, 10% of gross income.
This comparison shows pretty clearly that the national debt is not a significant economic problem, with the nation as a whole in much better position than a moderately indebted homeowner. So, why would Senator Clinton be trying to make hay with a line that says otherwise?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 6


The Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers is on the road this week over at Riehl World View. Lots of interesting subjects this week, ranging from alarm to Zombies, pants, pensions, and the usual mix of taxes, politics, and scary things in Hoboken.

Oh, and a link back here, too.

Go, now, and read.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Why Links are Good Things

I got an interesting email this morning. An old shipmate from my tour in Jubail, Saudi Arabia dropped me a line to ask if I was me. I hadn't heard from him since about 1993, and was really happy to get back in touch.
I owe this renewed contact to blogging, and specifically to The Yankee Sailor. It would appear that Yankee Sailor is on deployment with my old shipmate, since the hit on my blog came from this post about being at sea again. Small world, isn't it?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Republicans Get Behind Forrester - Sort of

I received the attached email today.

Dear Friends,
If you haven't already done so, please take down any Murphy for Governor signs that you come across.

Thank you,

The Murphy Team

Paid for by John Murphy for Governor, Inc., 1719 Route 10, Suite 123, Parsippany, NJ 07054, Debra D. Tedesco, Treasurer

Good idea, Mr. Murphy. Might have been nice to encourage your supporters to support the Republican nominee in the process.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 5

Enlighten has posted the latest Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers. I'm kinda bummed about it, because this is the first time I've had nothing to contribute.
The big news this week is that the Carnival is going mobile. I've volunteered to host, and I'm sure many other Jersey bloggers will also.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

What a wonderful day to be the Dad. My boys (ages 3, 5, and so close to 7 he can smell it) wanted to bring me breakfast in bed this morning. Fortunately, Mrs. Adams convinced them that sausage and eggs would NOT work well on a waterbed.
After breakfast, I was gifted in most satisfactory fashion.

Mark (the 3-year-old) and I spent a happy 10 minutes opening the package, looking at each piece, and deciding how best to store them. It was fun.
Unfortunately, now I must return to the grind of finishing a paper for school.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

So much to do, so little time

What a week! My mother-in-law and brother-in-law are visiting (and helping paint the house). Two major efforts at work coming to a head. 40-page project due for a systems engineering class.

Needless to say, blogging will be light.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers

Once again, the gang at Enlighten New Jersey have put together a great run down of the week in Jersey blogging. They've also managed to pick up a couple of new (to me) Jersey blogs: BeLow Me and Tomato Nation. Both are well worth a read.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bad Hair Day

Dan over at Riehl World View has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle. He had agreed to guest blog for both Fausta and Ace, but then the whole Natalee Holloway thing dropped itself in his lap. He's been posting non-stop as bits of information pop up, and asked me to give Fausta's readers his sincerest apologies for not being able to drop in. He also managed to work in an explanation at his blog, and had these kind words to say about Fausta:

Fausta at the Bad Hair Blog is an incredibly intelligent woman and hosts an exceptionally consistent and well-written blog. I would recommend it to all of Ace’s readers, too. Okay, maybe not all … I did say she is highly intelligent, after all. Heh! Please check out her blog here.

Drop by Dan's place and pay him a visit. You'll find it's time well spent.

[posted by Ken to The Bad Hair Blog and SmadaNek]

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Corzine Connection :: Open Thread Hissy Fit

Yesterday this post I noted what looked like a banning in progress over at the Corzine Connection. My question generated a less than satisfactory response, along with a criticism of my posting from one of the other users. The other user decided that my questioning of Matt constituted a "hissy fit," nearly worthy of banning.

Remarks like that SmadaNek's above are just a hissy fit. That snotty "what's that say about your boss" stuff is just wrong and treads close to banning territory because the one thing you don't get away with is abusing the host.

I tried to be polite in my response.
So, it's wrong to ask the Corzine Campaign's representative to the blogosphere about his actions and how they relate to "how your boss intends to govern?"
Note that I asked about policy, not about the man. I find your characterization of my post as a "hissy fit," "huffy" and "snotty" to be offensive and demeaning. You claim to be for good manners, but fall far short of that standard yourself.
If you want your comments section to be nothing more than a mutual adoration society, then by all means go right ahead. But if you are going to take that route, I would respectfully suggest that you change the Corzine Connection's motto. As ROC pointed out, that motto says
The Corzine Connection is a coalition of New Jerseyans who seek a better state through active civic involvement. This web site is focused on building a conversation and community around the issues that are important to New Jerseyans.

Apparently, the focus of the website is really on building a conversation about how wonderful Jon Corzine's policy proposals will be for New Jersey.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The GOP Primary

Back in this post, I disagreed with The Prop and made a prediction that has come true. Sort of. I said, "Lonegan surprises everyone and pulls in 9% for third."
Looks like The Prop was a better prophet than I, although we both missed the boat on Murphy's level of support.
Listening to Forrester's acceptance speech tonight, I gained some confidence in our newly-chosen candidate. He was passionate and articulate, effectively skewering Corzine's record in the Senate.
It'll be an interesting campaign.

Corzine Connection :: Open Thread

A disturbing comment appears in the Open Thread at the Corzine Connection.

Especially gald you removed the part about

booting me from the site.

by Right of Center on Mon Jun 06, 2005 at 10:40:35 AM EST

This comment is followed by advice from Connection user Ed Rosenberg, who says,
So good, Matt.

Continue trying to be inclusive of everyone. Eventhough it appears that it can be difficult at times, I think it will pay off in the long run.

Don't "boot" anyone off for disagreeing or challenging you. If you wish to get "better" and "better serve," then those are the ones who may help you do so. Of course...if those individuals don't follow your rules, then that's another story.

Take care and thanks again for including me. It has been a long and difficult road for me...particularly on my home turf.

Everyone is Included...All People, All Places, All Ways

So, what's going on here? Right of Center has been pretty insistent on getting answers to questions on Health Care and Property Tax Relief, and it appears that he's gotten under Matt Stoller's skin in a couple of the threads.

I posted the following comment in response to the open thread:

Ed's comment is right on...If you want to portray your blog as an open forum, you'd be well served to keep it as such.

Matt, have you removed posts from an open thread? Have you threatened to remove a user? If so, what does that say about how your boss intends to govern?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Primary Turnout Light?

I voted this morning at 7:45. In the 1-3/4 hours from poll opening to my arrival, a grand total of four people had voted, two in the Republican primary and two in the Democrat.

This is extremely light turnout, even for a primary. Is my data point indicative of anything? Could be...

Jersey bloggers, let's collect some data here. Let me know what time you voted, what your precinct turnout has been, and how it compares to the normal count. Maybe we can scoop the MSM.

Update (noonish): NJ Conservative reports roughly 10 voters per hour in his precinct. Polls are open about 14 hours, so a weak linear projection would indicate 140 votes total. The average precinct has somewhere around 400 voters (for a general election), and with light Republican registration that probably means an average of 160-175 per precinct. That seems to indicate a heavy turnout, but they do have an interesting mayoral primary going on.

Update 2 (9:00): I stopped by my district polls (Delanco 3rd) around 7:30 tonight. We had 23 Republicans, and 15 Democrats in 13.5 hours. My wife and I comprised nearly 10% of the Republican turnout in our district. The 4th district is in the same location, and over there it's a completely different story -- 116 Republicans and 80-some Democrats had voted. The poll workers (and official Republican challenger) there said that their district was the largest in town, with about 500 registered voters. The difference from one district to another is pretty staggering.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Recent History Suggests Schundler Can Win

Polipundit's Alexander McClure notes today's swing in the Quinnipiac poll, showing Forrester and Schundler in a dead heat with 10% undecided. Some of the commenters think poorly of Schundler's chances:

NYC Steve: Schundler will pull it off. AND then lose by 15 points in November
NY Andy: Assuming he gets the nomination, if history is an example then the NJ GOP will abandon their own nominee.

I think they may be wrong. Going back over the last five elections for Governor in New Jersey, I noticed an interesting pattern in the data.

1. The incumbent party lost votes in a 2nd election. Florio's vote total in 1993 was 170k less than in 1989, and Whitman's 1997 total was 103k under 1993.
2. Losing as a challenger to the incumbent party may improve your statewide chances in the next cycle. In 2001, McGreevey increased his total by 149k votes over 1997. The seat was effectively open as the acting Governor was not in the race.

This suggests a maximum potential swing of about 285k votes -- incumbent party loses 136k, returning challenger gains 149k. Granted, five data points aren't a whole lot upon which to base trend analysis, but this is as good as anything else out there.

In the primary tomorrow, Republican voters should keep this in mind. No matter who wins the nomination, he will need the support of the entire party. If we take our ball and go home because our guy didn't win the nomination, then a Corzine victory becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Get out and vote in the primary, and get involved in supporting the Republican nominee.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Corzine Care Again

Cruising around the internet this evening, I stumbled upon some source material for Corzine's health care plan. It appears to be a recording of a briefing on the basic business model for improving health care. Check it out.

Carnival Time

Enlighten New Jersey has just posted the latest installment of the Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers, and kindly highlighted my latest post about Corzine Care.
I think the gang over there is much too modest. They failed to also point out their own post on the same subject, which was much more coherent than my own rambling drivel.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hosting A Barbecue

The Onion's recent item on Hosting A Barbecue has more than the usual grains of truth to it, especially the following:

# Marinate your ribs in bourbon before barbecuing. The best way to do this is by pouring the whiskey down your throat.
# For optimal flavor, raise your own animals, make your own charcoal, and distill your own vinegar. For passable flavor, head on down to Smokey's Ribs & Things out by the airport.

These two pieces of sage advice reminded me that I have been lax in my social duties recently. My friend Mitch hosts an annual event, MEATFEST, at which 99.99% of the plant products consumed are of the fermented variety. At a recent MEATFEST, someone had put corn on the grill, and Mitch declared, "Corn is not food! Corn is what food eats!" In the invitation for MEATFEST, guests are admonished in advance, "you can't bring anything, maybe a chair, or some Tennessee whisky for the cook." I am absolutely convinced that the staff of the Onion has attended MEATFEST at some time in the past.
Mitch, my apologies for failing to previously promote MEATFEST on my blog. I hope you can forgive me.

[posted to both SmadaNek and The Bad Hair Blog. Not really on topic for either, but it's a lazy Saturday afternoon]

Guest Blogging

Fausta of The Bad Hair Blog has gone off on a little family vacation, leaving her little corner of the blogosphere vacant for the next nine days. Knowing how squatters tend to take over any available spot, she has asked me to fill in some of the white space. Mary from Exit Zero, Dan from Riehl World View, and Scott from The Daily Ablution will all be posting as well.
Here's hoping I can live up to the standards of such a talented group.

Corzine's Health Care Plan: The Discussion Still Lives

If you haven't recently, go read the comments on Curtis Fisher's post at Corzine Connection. Right of Center has been hacking away at the problem with great diligence. Repeated calls for facts are being pointed at the original posting and speech that started the whole discussion. Mathematics are studiously avoided by Matt, and Curtis isn't saying a word, while Media in Trouble seems to think that "federal funds" grow on trees.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Keel for U.S. Navy's First Littoral Combat Ship Laid

I don't normally blog about work, but this one's important. For nearly the last 4 years, I've had the privilege of working on the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) design.

Today, we laid the keel for the first in the class, just 12 months after we won the final system design competition. Admiral Vern Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke at the ceremony:

"It was barely three years ago that we dared to dream of a new vision for our Navy's future," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark. "Today that vision of American seapower will be welded into the keel of the very first Littoral Combat Ship - and that ship shall be called the United States Ship Freedom."

Now for the good part, and the reason I decided to break my normal no-blogging-about-work policy. In addition to naming new ships, the Secretary of the Navy selects the ship's sponsor. Secretary England made a wonderful choice for USS Freedom: Mrs. Birgit Smith. Mrs. Smith is the widow of Army Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.*

I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Sergeant First Class Smith. USS Freedom will carry his memory as she lives up to his example for the next thirty years.

*Check out posts by Citizen Smash, Enlighten New Jersey and Sluggo Needs a Nap for more details on Smith's heroic action.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Handicapping the GOP Primary

The Prop at coffeegrounds Handicaps the GOP Primary pretty effectively, but I think he misses the boat on the end result. Forrester's attacks on Schundler will backfire, and he loses to Bret in a squeaker, 41-40. Lonegan surprises everyone and pulls in 9% for third. The other four split the remaining 10%.

Unlike the Prop, I don't guarantee the accuracy of this forecast. Your mileage may vary. Offer void in Alaska, Hawaii, and Rhode Island.

But I think it's real.

Corzine Care: The Numbers Just Don'’t Add Up

The gang over at Enlighten New Jersey reviews Curtis Fisher's response to my question and finds The Numbers Just Don'’t Add Up. Overall, a beautiful piece of work.
One little factoid they dug up that I missed in my research:

According to a State of New Jersey report, one-half of the uninsured (600,000) are in good or excellent health. (All uninsured statistics cited are from a New Jersey State report prepared under the direction of Jim McGreevey in 2003 and may be read here)

It's clear that the Senator's team has missed the boat when their response to a simple question generates so many more questions. It's also clear that Corzine Care cannot be allowed to get past the discussion stage. The only way to ensure that is to defeat Corzine in November.

Corzine's Health Care Plan

Last week, I questioned the costs of Corzine Care, both here and on the Corzine Connection. Surprisingly, the Senator's staff has an answer, claiming Corzine's Health Care Plan: Why It Saves Money and Doesn't Tax NJ Citizens. Their introduction is more of a pitch for the plan than an explanation of how they expect to achieve a 20,000% return on investment. Curtis Fisher, the policy analyst who wrote the plan, writes:

Thanks for the question. The answer in short is that the Corzine plan changes how the system works.
Senator Corzine's plan makes our health care system: (1) more accessible -- providing access to 95% of New Jersey citizens;
Point (1) might be a good thing, if it were the state's responsibility to provide health care access for 95% of citizens. The state's Constitution grants no such power or responsibility to the government. Even if it did, enacting law or regulation to provide health care access to anything less than 100% of the citizens would probably run afoul of equal protection.
(2) more affordable -- reducing costs by 10% below what they would otherwise be, over the next three years; and
In Economics 101, I learned that the law of supply and demand forces price to increase proportionally with demand. If we increase the demand for medical services by opening coverage to more people, how does that make it less expensive?
(3) safer -- improving technology and allowing doctors and patients to make medical decisions.
Again, might be a good thing, but not within the purview of the state. Doctors and patients already make medical decisions. Bill-payers make monetary decisions. Somewhere, a balance is reached. State intervention by eliminating the moderating effects of cost-consciousness will inevitably drive costs up. Improving technology might help make medicine safer, but the medical industry already works hard to keep ahead of the curve in that regard.
Your question focuses on how we intend to provide increased access to health care without asking state taxpayers for more money.
No, my question was "So exactly where does the Senator propose acquiring the $3-4 billion dollars his program would cost each year?" Changing the question is intended to distract from the basic fact that this will cost more than you are claiming. (An aside: The government has never "asked" me for more money, it has simply confiscated it, under threat of prosecution, from my weekly paycheck.)
Before discussing the financing of the plan, we should all remember that either through our taxes, or when we pay for health care insurance, we are paying for the 1.2 million NJ citizens who are uninsured.
Assuming you can pass the equal protection test, to get to your 95% goal, you will need to find a way to cover 1,140,000 people. Miss 60,000 of the 1.2 million, and you miss the target. But wait, Matt said, "Jon Corzine [sic] plan will help 776,000 New Jerseyans who are falling through those cracks today." So, is it 776k, or 1.2 million?
These folks often have chronic illnesses, and end up seeking treatment in costly emergency visits. This year the state provided hospitals $582 million for "charity care" to cover uncompensated care (and that only met part of their expenses).
While the state may write a check for that amount, it's not the state's money. A breakdown from Governor Codey's 2006 budget, page 21, shows that only 8% of the total $532 million will be drawn from the general fund. The rest:
- 38% diverted from the Unemployment Compensation Fund
- 29% from cigarette taxes
- 8% from federal revenues
- 16% from assessments levied on health care providers (HMOs, ambulatory medical facilities, cosmetic surgery procedures).
This is nothing more than a subsidy to big city hospitals.

The bottom-line is that we can save a lot of money if the uninsured get preventive care at a doctor's office, instead of at expensive emergency rooms across the state.

Here is the Corzine plan to increase health care access, simplified:

Require insurance companies to offer coverage to about 370,000 uninsured 19-30 years olds, through their parents. By allowing these individuals to join their family's health care plan, they can get coverage for less than 50% of the cost they'd face as an individual, in the private market. No state costs.

Imposing a cost on insurers, by forcing them to offer coverage at children's rates for grown adults, is an abuse of government power, pure and simple. It also imposes additional costs on insurance premium payers (who are also taxpayers), in the form of half the cost of the premium for each new subscriber under your plan.
But let's assume that it's OK to do this anyway. In a 2000 paper published by the Urban Institute, a non-partisan economic and social policy research organization, John Holahan and Niall J. Brennan noted (Table 2) that while 9.6 million young adults (ages 18-34) were uninsured, only 28% of them were "low-income" uninsured. This suggests that 72% of your 370,000 can afford insurance coverage, but choose not to purchase it. Assuming you can convince half of them of the need for insurance, this group alone will cause you to miss your 95% goal by 73,000 people.

Allow all children and pregnant women, plus adults with kids in FamilyCare program, to "buy-in" and purchase FamilyCare coverage at the rate the state pays. In other words, the state is offering people their "bulk" rate they get from insurance companies to these people - and the cost is about half the rate in the individual private market. This gives affordable access to about 400,000 people (with some overlap in the above category). No state costs.
As of June 1, 2004, there were 229,743 people enrolled in FamilyCare. According to the program's web site, "NJ FamilyCare is a federal and state funded health insurance program created to help New Jersey's uninsured children to have affordable health coverage." Also, on their FAQ page is this little tidbit:
Is NJ FamilyCare no longer allowing parents and guardians to apply?
In order to assure that there would be enough money to continue to insure children, we have stopped enrolling parents and guardians whose applications were received after June 14, 2002.
So, either your claim of no state costs is incorrect, or the state is publishing false information on one of its web sites. Care to tell us which it is?
Cover about 200,000 children and pregnant women in the traditional FamilyCare system that will maximize federal money (65%) and take advantage of a federal "waiver" for the state costs (35%). Legislation to implement this initiative is cosponsored by Republican Senator Tom Kean Jr. A similar effort to secure the federal "waiver" was recently signed by Missouri Republican Governor Blunt. No state costs.
This effectively shifts costs from state taxpayers to federal taxpayers. That'd be great if this was Alaska. In case you hadn't noticed, the New Jersey tax dollar is only worth 57 cents in federal spending. Either way, my tax dollars have to fund your pipe dream.
To further reduce the costs that all New Jersey citizens pay for the uninsured, Senator Corzine also will expand the hours of operation of community health centers with an investment of $5 million. These centers provide affordable primary and prevention care for close to 300,000 New Jersey citizens but unfortunately their full potential is not realized because many centers have limited hours during nights and weekends.
Gov. Codey proposed a $5 million increase to this program in his 2006 budget (Budget in Brief, page 21). He claimed that a $5 million investment would enable the health centers to increase the number of uninsured served by 30,000, not 300,000. Your characterization of increased operating costs as an "investment" is somewhat disingenuous, as investment would imply a non-recurring capital cost to build new infrastructure. Placing the increased cost in a paragraph with the total number of people served by the program is also deceptive. That total cost is currently $26 million, and I assume that the Senator's proposal would run that up to $31 million.

Overall, I'm not convinced you've answered the question, Curtis. Let's see you sell this plan to a new business review board at a company that has to answer to its shareholders. They'd throw you out before you got past the first claim.