In a gloomy mood yesterday, I looked up the mortality rate for American men of my age. I then saw that two more banks failed yesterday, bringing the year's total to 93.
Based on the CSO mortality table, and on the current rate of bank failures, I have a better chance of surviving to December 31 than my bank does.
My estimate of the odds has nothing to do with the actual condition of my bank, which I think is good; I hope it is, for I own some of its shares that would become worthless if the bank were taken from us. On the other hand, the bank holds some of my paper, which wouldn't be worth much if I were similarly taken. So it's a standoff: I'll agree to watch my cholesterol intake if it agrees to watch its other borrowers.
I know it's ghoulish of me, but in the way that other people watch the early returns come in on Election Day, every now and then, on Friday afternoons, I watch the FDIC site to see which banks have been taken over.
A casual comment from a schoolteacher friend brought to mind the current debate over national health care. We have a national health care system already, called Medicare, but it's age-limited, and those much less venerable than Venerable Mom aren't eligible. Proponents of national health care point to the success of Medicare; opponents complain about the cost and the spectre of creeping socialism.
My friend's comment made me think of an unsophisticated test for a national health care program: lets compare it to the public schools. We could (well, I can) imagine health care provided as the schools provide it, and then imagine education provided as we now provide health care. So here goes.
First, let's suppose that we could provide health care in more or less the way that we provide public education. Everyone would pay taxes to the local health care district in which they reside. The health care district would also get some state and national funding in exchange for undertaking the obligation to provide free (or very low cost) and appropriate health care for all of its residents who need medical attention. Each district would build and staff a number of health care clinics almost adequate to serve its population. People would register with the health clinic in their district. Some means would be worked out to allow clinics to exchange patients, or to cosponsor surgical hospitals (rather like the old union high school districts) so that not every district would need to provide a full range of care. The physicians would be somewhat underpaid, but in exchange would have tenure and a first-rate retirement program, won for them by their unions. All in all, not a bad system.
Now let's pretend that our government could provide education the way that it provides health care. People employed by large and generous corporations would be able to send their children to schools paid for by tax-deductible education premiums. People who lost their jobs could continue to send their children to school for another 18 months, but would have to pay the cost themselves, at just the time when they wouldn't be able to afford to do so. Private school insurance would be available, but inordinately expensive unless purchased in groups. Parents of slow learners who could not get into a group plan would find themselves slowly priced out of the market, or faced with notices of nonrenewal after Little Johnny fails a spelling test.
Students who want to study math or a foreign language would first need to obtain a referral from their primary care teacher, who could deny the referral if the teacher thought that the student wouldn't benefit from being able to multiply and divide, or being able to speak with the other 94% of the world.
People with no school insurance whose children, in an emergency, needed to learn the names of the states could take them to the emergency classrooms at the local schools. The schools would bill them for the education, but take few practical steps to collect, and ultimately pass the costs of providing emergency education onto their premium-paying members.
Some insurers would cover most of the schools in the area, but others would be selective, and parents who wanted their children to stay in the neighborhood school would have to pay up or change schools if Blue Cross or Aetna dropped their local school from its plan.
I'm a lot more open to the idea of national health care for the under-65 than I was before these two fancies popped into my mind.
Mark Twain included this delightful passage in his book Life on the Mississippi:
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen.
It came to my mind as I drove south (the only lawful direction) on SW Broadway past Portland State University, where from Market Street onward the City has removed one of the three traffic lanes to put in a bicycle lane. The specific question that occurred to me was to ask myself when, at the rate that the City is removing traffic lanes from city streets, it would have no streets at all. I think we have a supply that will be good for several thousand years to come, but I don't know all of the lane-removal projects, and I could be off by a few centuries.
On which did the government of the City of Portland work harder and spend more time and money: (a) helping Merritt Paulson move the soccer franchise from one soccer league to another, or (b) persuading Columbia Sportswear to retain its corporate headquarters in the city?
Extra credit question: How many persons will the promoted Portland Timbers employ within the City, net of the jobs lost when the Portland Beavers fold or move away? How many persons would Columbia Sportswear have employed within the City if the company had not moved to Beaverton when it couldn't get straight answers from the Portland zoning people? Compare these two numbers with the respective efforts put forth by the City, and explain any difference.
During the month of Ramadan, which this year began on August 22, observant Muslims refrain from eating during daylight hours. The Chinese government in Xinjiang wants the Uighur ethnic group, who are Muslims, to give up religious observance during Ramadan, and is threatening the Uighurs who do fast during Ramadan with being fired from their jobs.
As the Epoch Times reports, during Ramadan government offices in Xinjiang are offering free lunches to their workers. That's the carrot. The stick is that anyone found not eating lunch may lose his or her job and income, giving a new meaning to the phrase "eat or starve."
Beaverton's photo radar discourages speeders, but the police of Niketown, U.S.A. have been done one better by Jericho's finest. Jericho, Arkansas (population 157) is a speed trap. Even though it's lost a police car and a fire truck to the repo man, it manages to support 7 police officers on the strength of its traffic ticket revenue.
On August 27 one of the ticketed, Don Payne, came to court to protest his speeding ticket. Mr. Payne is Jericho's fire chief. His protest didn't go well, and when he went out to his car, he discovered that he'd been ticketed again. He went back to court to complain. All seven officers were present. Things "escalated," in the demure words of the Memphis newspaper (Jericho is 15 miles northwest of Memphis, just across the state line), and one of the seven officers shot Chief Payne. The bullet, in the best Barney Fife fashion, injured not only the fire chief but also one of the other police officers.
Chief Payne is recovering. The police department, on the other hand, has been closed down, and the county would like to know just where all the money from traffic fines has been going. The part-time mayor has no comment.