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Tidbits Political Quotations
To Accompany the August 15, 2017 edition of Tidbits          
Bob Jensen at
Trinity University

USA Debt Clock --- ubl

How Your Federal Tax Dollars are Spent ---

To Whom Does the USA Federal Government Owe Money (the booked obligation of $20+ trillion) ---
The US Debt Clock in Real Time --- 
Remember the Jane Fonda Movie called "Rollover" ---
One worry is that nations holding trillions of dollars invested in USA debt are dependent upon sales of oil and gas to sustain those investments.

To Whom Does the USA Federal Government Owe Money (the unbooked obligation of $100 trillion and unknown more in contracted entitlements) ---
The biggest worry of the entitlements obligations is enormous obligation for the future under the Medicare and Medicaid programs that are now deemed totally unsustainable ---

How Americans Get Health Insurance ---


Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side because it's been fertilized with more bullshit.


Shoot for the space in between, because that's where the real mystery lies.
Vera Rubin


Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
T.S. Eliot

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
Margaret Wheatley
Even conversations that are not politically correct.

Why, we grow rusty and you catch us at the very point of decadence --- by this time tomorrow we may have forgotten everything we ever knew. That's a thought isn't it? We'd be back to where we started --- improvising.
Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Act I)

It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.

Babe Ruth, Historic Home Run Hitter
What's sad is to witness what Syria has become because nobody will give up.

And "because they're nonstate actors, it's hard for us to get the satisfaction of [Gen.] MacArthur and the [Japanese] Emperor [Hirohito] meeting and the war officially being over," Obama observed, referencing the end of World War II. 
President Barack Obama when asked if the USA of the future will be perpetually engaged in war.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. 
Joseph Campbell

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. 
George S. Patton

If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there.
Yogi Berra

Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
Henry David Thoreau

ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Office ---

Furious German town meeting begs rape relief from uncaring mayor (raped women ask for it)

Canada Doesn't Really Want Them After All the Media Hype
Asylum Seekers Flee America But Canada Sends Soldiers To Stop Migrant Border Crossing ---
Also see

NCAA Must Hammer UNC For Academic Fraud ---
John Feinstein

National Anthem protests (following Colin Kaepernick protest against police) led poll of reasons viewers tuned out ---

Media Keep Butchering the Facts About Obamacare ---

California Union Bill Looks to Ban Outsourcing Public Services ---

Why Trump's 'Buy American, Hire American' Is Un-American ---

Sunnis were the largest victims of ISIS.---

Elizabeth Warren Again Calls for ‘Equal Pay,’ Ignores Pay Gap in Own Office ---

On the Verge of Collapse Snopes Publishes Positive Trump Piece ---

Russia's Slumping Grain Yields are Bad News for Putin ---

30 firms earn half the total profit made by all US public companies ---
Jensen Comment
The title is misleading and should read "all publicly-traded companies." The database does not include the massive cumulative profits made by private corporations, partnerships, and entrepreneurships. Still the results do give pause for thought and debate.

The IRS Scandal, Day 1544:  How Lois Lerner Begat Robert Mueller ---

Henry David Thoreau’s views of 19th-century media resonate today ---

The Atlantic:  Trump Has Quietly Accomplished More Than It Appears ---

Sloppy History in the New York Times ---

Discredited, the Legend of Mattress Girl Just Won't Go Away (in the media) ---

For those going to San Diego, there is a 3% surcharge, at least at the Grand Hyatt, to offset the increase in state and local minimum wage.---
Email message from Dennis Huber
Jensen Comment
Rather than simply raise prices there perhaps are both public relations and political motivations for business firms tack on surcharges at the end of a billing for a variety of reasons such as to pay for a sports stadium, to pay for Obamacare premium increases, to pay for sudden increases in food prices, to pay for WiFi, and to pay for increases in the minimum wage. Local firms other than restaurants and hotels are adding surcharges, e.g., clothing stores and landscaping and roofing businesses.  
Some restaurants eliminated tipping in favor of surcharges since the amount of a tip is optional and customers were likely to reduce tips when hit with surcharges. In such cases the surcharges include tipping fees by some other names like "minimum wage". A headache for tax authorities (including the IRS)  has to be when customers include surcharge amounts as "sales taxes" in their income tax returns.

The Atlantic:  Religion is playing a big role in Clinton’s post-election tour. What does she have to gain from sharing her faith now? ---

The Atlantic:  The Rise of the Violent Left ---

Why Russia Was Allowed to Fly a Surveillance Plane Over the Capitol and Pentagon ---

Four Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles employees and two others were arrested for allegedly creating false identification cards for illegal aliens; some of the false ids were used to register the illegals to vote in Boston ---
Jensen Comment
What is unclear is how much of this was motivated by only as a fraudulent cash scheme.

Do celebrity hero's ever stand the test of time?
The Toscanini Wars ---

The unemployable and the generic: rethinking the commons in the communist hypothesis ---

Bernie Sanders Releases Guide Book on Political Revolution For Teens ---

Look, football and school don't go together. They just don't. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they're here because this is the path to the NFL. There's no other way. Then there's the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.
UCLA's Josh Rosen (2017 Top NFL Draft Prospect)
Jensen Comment
In NCAA Division 3 football and school can go together. I think Division 3 is tougher for basketball and baseball players who have so many more games that entail much more travel away from campus.

GAO: IRS Provides Only 'Minimal Oversight' Of Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, Refuses To Collect Data That Would Allow It To Impose 'Basic Accountability' ---
See quotations from article provided below

The Economist Magazine:  The ANC’s failure to dump Jacob Zuma in this week’s confidence vote reveals its moral decline ---

The Economist Magazine:  There were better ways of dealing with an outspoken Google employee than immediately sacking him ---
Also see

Mazda's new gas engine, called Skyactiv-X, is 30 percent more efficient than regular gas motors ---

Genetically modified crops will have an essential role in ensuring that there’s enough to eat ---

New Orleans Official Blamed Flooding On ‘Climate Change,’ But Broken Pumps Were To Blame ---

Then They (think the NYT) Came for Ben & Jerry's ---

Newsweek Exclusive:  North Korea Missile Claims Are a Hoax ---



They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail,
Steal a lot and they make you king.
There's only one step down from here, baby,
It's called the land of permanent bliss. 
What's a sweetheart like you doin' in a dump like this?

Bob Dylan

Well, the rifleman’s stalking the sick and the lame
Preacherman seeks the same, who’ll get there first is uncertain
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin
Only a matter of time ’til night comes steppin’ in

Bob Dylan

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son
And what did you see, my darling young one
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Bob Dylan

Hear Bob Dylan’s Newly-Released Nobel Lecture: A Meditation on Music, Literature & Lyrics ---

Patti Smith Sings Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” at Nobel Prize Ceremony & Gets a Case of the Nerves ---

Who Pays USA Taxes?

USA Debt Clock --- ubl

Billionaires Buying Up Newspapers and TV Networks:  The slippery slope of the oligarchy media model ---

On July 28, Apple heiress Laurene Powell Jobs bought a majority stake in The Atlantic.

It’s the latest media purchase by the billionaire class, a group that includes Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (the Washington Post), Boston Red Sox owner John Henry (the Boston Globe), billionaire Glen Taylor (the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (the Las Vegas Review-Journal).

Some have praised this growing trend, arguing that wealthy individuals are journalism’s last, best hope. And there are notable cases of rich philanthropists, like Pierre Omidyar and Gerry Lenfest, making significant donations toward public service journalism.

Nonetheless, potential hazards arise when news outlets increasingly rely on private capital and billionaires’ largess.

The upside of privatizing the news

Private ownership of news organizations is, of course, nothing new.

Since at least the late 19th century, most major U.S. magazines and newspapers have been owned or controlled by wealthy individuals or families. Often these owners distinguished themselves by their commitment to journalistic excellence: at The New York Times, the Ochs-Sulzberger family; at the Los Angeles Times, the Chandlers; and at the Washington Post, the Grahams. In the magazine world, Condé Nast, privately owned by the Newhouse family’s Advance Communications, continues to produce magazines highly regarded for their journalistic rigor, from the New Yorker to Wired.

Between the 1970s and early 2000s, however, media companies increasingly became publicly traded stock corporations that often expanded into large chains. Gannett, owner of USA Today and over 100 other daily newspapers, and Sinclair, proprietor of 173 television stations, are currently two of the largest publicly traded media companies.

In contrast to a private company – which can forgo profits if it chooses – a publicly traded company has obligations to maximize shareholder value. Emphasizing profitability often comes at the cost of professional excellence or civic commitment, even at media companies like the Washington Post, where the founders retained control of voting stock after going public in 1971.

As Kathryn Weymouth, the last Graham family publisher of the Washington Post, remarked when she passed the baton to Bezos: “If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for the Post.”

So compared to Wall Street control, private ownership has many potential advantages. As Bezos has demonstrated, a private owner can absorb short-term losses in service of long-term gain. While most news organizations are still in austerity mode, the “new” Washington Post is increasing staff and budgets. Many believe it’s also dramatically improving its quality and impact.

How benevolent is the billionaire model?

But private ownership is no guarantee of either commercial or professional success. And not all private owners are the same. Today, one of the fastest-growing forms of private media ownership is the investment company, linked to hedge funds or other forms of private equity.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment

Oddly the article leaves out how a Mexican billionaire (the richest man in the world 2010-2013) is helping to save the New York Times from financial disaster without owning it outright ---

And no mention is made of Rupert Murdoch (although Chris Owens mentions Murdoch in a comment at the end of the article) ---

Murdoch's News Corporation acquired Twentieth Century Fox (1985), HarperCollins (1989), and The Wall Street Journal (2007). Murdoch formed the British broadcaster BSkyB in 1990, and during the 1990s expanded into Asian networks and South American television. By 2000, Murdoch's News Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries, with a net worth of over $5 billion.

Note the comment at the end by Con Papadakis.

The fact of the matter is that billionaires are probably saving news sources (and their reporters) like The Washington Post, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, etc. The advertising model of the 20th Century will no longer support thousands of newspaper reporters. Journalists must make every effort to maintain professionalism in their reporting. An governments should maintain every effort to maintain competition among the major news sources.

Interesting Stolen Car Facts in the USA

Where Your Car is Likely to be Stolen in Every State ---

Jensen Comment
This article is an eye opener regarding some interesting statistics such how states vary in terms of the most popular vehicle to be stolen. For example, why is the most popular stolen vehicle in Arizona, California, and other states is a 1998 Honda Civic? To me that makes no sense given the frequency of other vehicles on the road such as 1998 Ford 150s and other pickup truck models and years.. This must have something to do with how easy it is to steal a Honda or maybe its the longer expected life of a Honda.. Still it makes no sense to me why Honda models in general are so popular among car thieves.

Why are theft rates so high in low population states of Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming relative low population states of Vermont and New Hampshire?

Car theft in Texas is a serious problem in large measure due to the closeness of the border with Mexico. This is why it surprised me that car thefts were more of a problem in Odessa than in San Antonio and other Texas cities closer to the border. Perhaps car owners closer to the border take more precautions --- such as using steering column locking devices and electronic alarms.

Compared to most other states car thefts in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are negligible. I leave it up to you to speculate why. I still have two steel "clubs" that I used to lock on our steering wheels in San Antonio where we lived for 24 years. I don't even take these clubs out of our barn in New Hampshire.

One thing common in New Hampshire that almost never happens in Texas. In New Hampshire it's common to leave the keys in the car while stopping for a short while to run into a store such as running into a store for a soda or a pack of cigarettes. In Texas drivers are much more likely to always take their keys and lock their cars at all times --- a good habit for all drivers in all states.

When renting a vehicle I always pay for the extra insurance. I came the closest to needing it in 2001 in Denton, Texas. After my father died in Iowa we moved some of his possessions to San Antonio in a U-Haul Truck. Along the way we spent the night in a Denton Hotel. While we slept in the dead of night thieves shot out a window of the truck. The next morning I discovered the ignition mechanism dangling from the steering column. The techie sent by U-Haul said the thieves were withing 30 seconds of starting the motor and driving the truck off. Something must've scared them off!

The Denton police officer that investigated said there was a gang of thieves that specialized in trucks in hotel parking lots. They liked to drive them into the country, empty the back of the truck, and then set it on fire to cover their tracks.

Because I had the extra insurance, this event would not have cost me a penny for the truck if it had been stolen. Of course I might have lost the value of the possessions being hauled in the truck. I'm not sure in my home owner's policy would've covered some of that loss. But in any case there was no loss other than having to wait for an hour for U-Haul to install a new ignition.

This Orwellian Dream Might Be an Orwellian Nightmare for the IRS

The Tax App:  Eliminating Tax Returns Entirely ---

Jensen Comment
The IRS is still operating with antiquated computers from the 1990s (think the obsolete  XP and Windows 7 operating systems and everything between). Eliminating tax returns would entail making a massive investment in the IRS --- which is not likely to happen in this political environment.

Secondly there are risks. The biggest risk is the driving of some taxpayers deeper into the underground (illegal) environment. I've already told the story about how my wife's dentist wanted to give a huge discount for paying our bills in cas. I'm very suspicious regarding his motivation. Sometimes employers in the underground economy pay income taxes on cash revenues even though they do try to avoid union-scale wages, payroll taxes, medical insurance coverage of employees, and regulations like OSHA regulations.

Thirdly there are risks of missing payments that players in the underground economy currently report on their tax returns. I've already told the story about how I paid cash to a contractor who added a garage to my barn. It's possible that this contractor reported part or all the cash payments on his tax return.

Our corrupt legislators will never agree to eliminating tax returns, because doing to makes a giant step toward the cashless economy that makes corruption more difficult for those legislators.

Summers Are Getting Hotter (but not in New Hampshire, at least not in recent years) ---

Jensen Comment
I would have to say that recent summers are not hotter in our White Mountain Region in New Hampshire. In no month of the winter or summer are we setting record highs or record lows 2013- 2017. Aside from having somewhat more 2017 rain in spring and summer this seems like an average summer ---
Lancaster is about an hour away in the from our cottage. No historic monthly data were available for where we live in Sugar Hill. Mountain regions and coastal regions in NH have cooler temperatures than our larger towns to the south like Concord and Manchester.

The coldest site in New England winter and summer is the summit of Mt. Washington that I can see from my desk (28 miles). The 1935-2015 temperature trend regression line is slightly upward but is still quite variable by year ---
The slight upward trend line does not seem to be caused by more extreme highs as much as it does by having fewer extreme low averages.


Jensen Comment

There probably will always be disputes such as that in Chile where both the rich and the poor became better off with the "Chicago Model" while the spread between poor and rich  became even wider, leading to social unrest.

The spread between rich and poor narrowed in Castro's Cuba, but there's real doubt that the Cuban Model is sustainable --- as evidenced by the spread of the capitalist model in this "communist" nation.

How crisis-hit economies become investment darlings
The Economist, August 3, 2017 ---

. . .

Start with the ashes. Circumstances will differ from country to country but the general pattern is quite similar. The economy hits a financial constraint: sometimes it is the budget deficit; more often the trade deficit. Investors become loth to offer financing. Interest rates shoot up. The flow of foreign capital dries up or—worse—capital begins to flee. The currency is propped up by intervention: foreign-exchange reserves are run down to sustain the illusion that it is worth more than it really is. Reserves grow thin. Hard currency is rationed, creating shortages of essential imports. The economy falters.

The triggers for crisis vary. A weak spot in Pakistan, for instance, was its reliance on oil imports to fuel much of its electricity supply. When the price of crude rose above $100 a barrel in 2013, the cost of the government’s fuel subsidies blew out its budget deficit. In Egypt the constraint was its current-account deficit, which widened from 0.8% of GDP in 2014 to 5.6% by 2016. The descent in the oil price hit fees from the Suez canal and crimped the value of remittances from oil-rich neighbours. Security fears led to a drop in revenue from tourism.

The second stage of a turnaround sees the realisation that orthodox exchange-rate, monetary and fiscal policies are required. This usually means allowing the currency to fall, cutting the budget deficit by trimming wasteful subsidies, and using monetary policy to control inflation rather than to finance the government.

It is not enough for senior technocrats to argue for such changes. The head of government must back the reforms. Andrew Brudenell, of Ashmore, a fund manager, says that once an example is set from the top, the effect trickles down to other institutions. A big plus is a high-profile champion for policy changes, such as Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s president, who was elected on a platform of economic reform. Often the IMF will be brought in to lend hard-currency reserves and policy advice. Egypt began a three-year IMF programme last November. Pakistan signed up to its most recent one in September 2013.

That is often the cue for the rebirth, during which capital flight goes into reverse. Attracting capital back is “somewhere on the scale between pretty important and absolutely crucial”, says Paul McNamara, of GAM, a fund-management firm. It takes a while to shrink a big current-account deficit, even with a cheaper currency. Capital inflows are thus needed both to finance the residual deficit and to rebuild foreign-exchange reserves.

The first people to tempt back are those citizens who shifted money offshore ahead of the crisis. The lure of high interest rates (needed to curb inflation) and the diminished currency risk that follows a big devaluation will tempt others, too. For instance, foreign investors now hold almost a quarter of Egypt’s treasury bills, according to JPMorgan Chase. Tax amnesties are another way to tempt money back. Argentina raised $117bn in 2016-17 in that way.

The hope is that within, say, two years of the crisis, inflation has peaked, the economy is growing at a decent rate and the current-account deficit is manageable. That then provides a platform for more reform and a period of crisis-free economic growth. But lots can go wrong.

A danger is that hardship and social unrest derail the reform process.
Cuts to subsidies on top of big devaluations in both Argentina and Egypt have pushed up inflation rates to 22% and 31% respectively. In Egypt food-price inflation is close to 40% (see chart). Even so, in both places the economy is starting to pick up steam. Optimists hope Nigeria is in the very early stages of another turnaround, but there have already been a few false dawns. Nigeria bounced back impressively from a slump in the price of oil, its principal export, in 2009. Its reform champion was Lamido Sanusi, the central-bank governor, who won plaudits for taming inflation and cleaning up the banks. The stockmarket boomed. But the reforms dried up. Mr Sanusi was sacked. By 2016, Nigeria’s economy was deep in trouble again.

There are risks even for graduates of the phoenix-economy school. Once a modicum of stability returns, the impetus for further reform often fades. Take Pakistan. Since it reached the end of its IMF programme last year, there has been a slackening of fiscal and monetary discipline and a re-emergence of old problems in its power companies. The prospects for faster growth now rest on Chinese investment in a 3,000km (1,875-mile) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC. But that also puts Pakistan in a familiar spot: a reliance on foreign capital, which can turn out to be fickle and expensive. Trouble would take a while to surface. By then, investors may be talking about the big turnaround in Zimbabwe or Venezuela


Jensen Comment
Social unrest can derail the reform process. The problem is that this social unrest has a horrible record of providing better solutions.

Where is there a model for a better solution that worked? Cuba maybe? But Castro himself declared that:  "The Cuban Model does not work."

"Report: Castro says Cuban model doesn't work," by Paul Haven. Associated Press, Yahoo News, September 8, 2010 ---

Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba's communist economic model doesn't work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.

The fact that things are not working efficiently on this cash-strapped Caribbean island is hardly news. Fidel's brother Raul, the country's president, has said the same thing repeatedly. But the blunt assessment by the father of Cuba's 1959 revolution is sure to raise eyebrows.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

He said Castro made the comment casually over lunch following a long talk about the Middle East, and did not elaborate. The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Goldberg's account.

Since stepping down from power in 2006, the ex-president has focused almost entirely on international affairs and said very little about Cuba and its politics, perhaps to limit the perception he is stepping on his brother's toes.

Goldberg, who traveled to Cuba at Castro's invitation last week to discuss a recent Atlantic article he wrote about Iran's nuclear program, also reported on Tuesday that Castro questioned his own actions during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, including his recommendation to Soviet leaders that they use nuclear weapons against the United States.

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has clung to its communist system.

The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen's food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidized prices.

President Raul Castro and others have instituted a series of limited economic reforms, and have warned Cubans that they need to start working harder and expecting less from the government. But the president has also made it clear he has no desire to depart from Cuba's socialist system or embrace capitalism.

Fidel Castro stepped down temporarily in July 2006 due to a serious illness that nearly killed him.

He resigned permanently two years later, but remains head of the Communist Party. After staying almost entirely out of the spotlight for four years, he re-emerged in July and now speaks frequently about international affairs. He has been warning for weeks of the threat of a nuclear war over Iran.

Castro's interview with Goldberg is the only one he has given to an American journalist since he left office.

Jensen Comment
We must keep in mind that nations have more problems than just those of economic models.

Cuba offers safety to visitors while nations like Pakistan, Egypt, and Nigeria have more troubles attracting tourism dollars because of threats of kidnappings and robbery.

In 2014 it was anticipated that "America's Car Capital Would Soon Be Mexico" ---  

In 2017 the future of the Mexican economy is more uncertain. Mexico is increasingly discouraging tourism and new industry with publicity about risks of kidnappings and robbery. 

Crytocurrency ---

Blockchain ---

From MIT

What Bitcoin Is, and Why It Matters

First, here’s your primer: what the cryptocurrency is, how it works, and why the hell people seem to like it so much. If you prefer, you can also check out our 2-minute explainer video on blockhain.

Technical Roadblock Might Shatter Bitcoin Dreams


The root of this week’s fork was a software limitation in Bitcoin that limited the currency to a paltry seven transactions per second. That essentially crippled its chances for growth.



A Weekend in Bitcoin City: Arnhem, the Netherlands


What’s it like to actually live on Bitcoin? Our writer sweated through huge swings in the currency’s value and endured strange looks from shopkeepers when he toured one of Europe’s most Bitcoin-friendly cities.



Leaderless Bitcoin Struggles to Make Its Most Crucial Decision


The decentralized nature of Bitcoin, often seen as a strength, posed a real headache when it came to making an upgrade to boost transaction rates—because nobody could decide what to do.



Bitcoin Transactions Get Stranded as Cryptocurrency Maxes Out


Then the theoretical problem started to became a painful reality: Bitcoin got so popular that that transactions starting queuing up. It was time for the cryptocurrency community to do or die.



Wait, Bitcoin Just Did What?


Which brings us right up to this week, when an upgrade to its software caused Bitcoin to split in two. But for now, we simply don’t know what it means for the future of the currency.



Can Bitcoin Be the Foundation of a Fairer Financial System?


Still, even if Bitcoin falters, its legacy may live on. As the first successful cryptocurrency, it could inspire whole new ways of running the world’s financial systems .


Index Funds ---
Especially note the advantages and disadvantages

The Atlantic:  Are Index Funds Evil?

GAO: IRS Provides Only 'Minimal Oversight' Of Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, Refuses To Collect Data That Would Allow It To Impose 'Basic Accountability' ---

What GAO Found

In its May 2016 report on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), GAO found that state and local housing finance agencies (allocating agencies) implemented requirements for allocating credits, reviewing costs, and monitoring projects in varying ways. Moreover, some allocating agencies' day-to-day practices to administer LIHTCs also raised concerns. For example,

qualified allocation plans (developed by 58 allocating agencies) that GAO analyzed did not always mention all selection criteria and preferences that Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code requires; and

allocating agencies could increase (boost) the eligible basis used to determine allocation amounts for certain buildings if needed for financial feasibility. However, they were not required to document the justification for the increases. The criteria used to award boosts varied, with some allocating agencies allowing boosts for specific types of projects and one allowing boosts for all projects in its state.

In its 2015 and 2016 reports, GAO found IRS oversight of the LIHTC program was minimal. Additionally, IRS collected little data on or performed limited analysis of compliance in the program. Specifically, GAO found that

Since 1986, IRS conducted seven audits of the 58 allocating agencies we reviewed. Reasons for the minimal oversight may include LIHTC being viewed as a peripheral program in IRS in terms of its mission and priorities for resources and staffing.

IRS had not reviewed the criteria allocating agencies used to award discretionary basis “boosts,” which raised concerns about oversubsidizing projects (and reducing the number of projects funded).

IRS guidance to allocating agencies on reporting noncompliance was conflicting. As a result, allocating agencies' reporting of property noncompliance was inconsistent.

IRS had not participated in and leveraged the work of the physical inspection initiative of the Rental Policy Working Group—established to better align the operations of federal rental assistance programs—to augment its databases with physical inspection data on LIHTC properties that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains.

In its prior reports, GAO made a total of four recommendations to IRS. As of July 2017, IRS had implemented one recommendation to include relevant IRS staff in the working group. IRS has not implemented the remaining three recommendations, including improving the data quality of its LIHTC database, clarifying guidance to agencies on reporting noncompliance, and evaluating how the information HUD collects could be used for identifying noncompliance issues. In addition, because of the limited oversight of LIHTC, in its 2015 report GAO asked that Congress consider designating certain oversight responsibilities to HUD because the agency has experience working with allocating agencies and has processes in place to oversee the agencies. As of July 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to give HUD an oversight role for LIHTC.

Why GAO Did This Study

The LIHTC program, established under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, is the largest source of federal assistance for developing affordable rental housing and will represent an estimated $8.5 billion in forgone revenue in 2017. LIHTC encourages private-equity investment in low-income rental housing through tax credits. The program is administered by IRS and allocating agencies, which are typically state or local housing finance agencies established to meet affordable housing needs of their jurisdictions. Responsibilities of allocating agencies (in Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code and regulations of the Department of the Treasury) encompass awarding credits, assessing the reasonableness of project costs, and monitoring projects.

Continued in article






Finding and Using Health Statistics ---

Tapper:  Democrats' Obamacare Pitch Was Dishonest ---
Jake Tapper, CNN


Medicare Fraud is Rampant ---

More Than 400 People (many physicians) Charged for $1.3 Billion in Medicaid and Medicare Fraud ---

Media Keep Butchering the Facts About Obamacare ---

United Kingdom:  Six month wait for 65-year-old skydiver's glaucoma appointment is 'unacceptable' ---

Four Ways Going to the Doctor is Radically Changing ---

How Americans Get Health Insurance ---
Only 43.3 million are on Medicare (not free even in retirement) whereas 62.4 million have Medicaid (free for basics)

Historical NHE (National Health Expenditures), 2015:

·         NHE grew 5.8% to $3.2 trillion in 2015, or $9,990 per person, and accounted for 17.8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

·         Medicare spending grew 4.5% to $646.2 billion in 2015, or 20 percent of total NHE.

·         Medicaid spending grew 9.7% to $545.1 billion in 2015, or 17 percent of total NHE.

·         Private health insurance spending grew 7.2% to $1,072.1 billion in 2015, or 33 percent of total NHE.

·         Out of pocket spending grew 2.6% to $338.1 billion in 2015, or 11 percent of total NHE.

·         Hospital expenditures grew 5.6% to $1,036.1 billion in 2015, faster than the 4.6% growth in 2014.

·         Physician and clinical services expenditures grew 6.3% to $634.9 billion in 2015, a faster growth than the 4.8% in 2014.

·         Prescription drug spending increased 9.0% to $324.6 billion in 2015, slower than the 12.4% growth in 2014.

·         The largest shares of total health spending were sponsored by the federal government (28.7 percent) and the households (27.7 percent).   The private business share of health spending accounted for 19.9 percent of total health care spending, state and local governments accounted for 17.1 percent, and other private revenues accounted for 6.7 percent.

·         For further detail see NHE Tables in downloads below.

Projected NHE, 2016-2025:

·         National health spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 5.6 percent per year for 2016-25, and 4.7 percent per year on a per capita basis.

o    Health spending is projected to grow 1.2 percentage points faster than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year over the 2016-25 period; as a result, the health share of GDP is expected to rise from 17.8 percent in 2015 to 19.9 percent by 2025.

o    Throughout the 2016-25 projection period, growth in national health expenditures is driven by projected faster growth in medical prices (from historically low growth in 2015 of 0.8 percent to nearly 3 percent by 2025). This faster expected growth in prices is partially offset by projected slowing growth in the use and intensity of medical goods and services.

·         Although the largest health insurance coverage impacts from the Affordable Care Act’s expansions have already been observed in 2014-15, the insured share of the population is projected to increase from 90.9 percent in 2015 to 91.5 percent in 2025.

o    This expectation is mainly a result of continued anticipated growth in private health insurance enrollment, in particular for employer-sponsored insurance, during the first half of the decade in response to faster projected economic growth.

·         Health spending growth by federal and state & local governments is projected to outpace growth by private businesses, households, and other private payers over the projection period (5.9 percent compared to 5.4 percent, respectively) in part due to ongoing strong enrollment growth in Medicare by the baby boomer generation coupled with continued government funding dedicated to subsidizing premiums for lower income Marketplace enrollees.

·         National health spending growth is projected to have decelerated from 5.8 percent in 2015 to 4.8 percent in 2016 as the initial impacts associated with the Affordable Care Act’s major coverage expansions fade. Medicaid spending growth is projected to have decelerated sharply from 9.7 percent in 2015 to 3.7 percent in 2016 as enrollment growth in the program slowed significantly. Similarly, private health insurance spending growth is projected to have slowed from 7.2 percent in 2015 to 5.9 percent in 2016 (also largely attributable to slowing expected growth in enrollment).

·         Health spending is projected to grow 5.4 percent in 2017 related to faster growth in Medicare and private health insurance spending.

·         Health expenditures are projected to grow at an average rate of 5.9 percent for 2018-19, the fastest of the sub-periods examined, as projected spending growth in Medicare and Medicaid accelerates.

·         Through the second half of the projection (2020-25), increasing medical prices are offset by projected decelerations in growth in the use and intensity of medical goods and services, leading to average growth of 5.8 percent per year for national health expenditures.

For further detail see NHE projections 2016-2025 in downloads below.

NHE by Age Group and Gender, Selected Years 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012:

·         Per person personal health care spending for the 65 and older population was $18,988 in 2012, over 5 times higher than spending per child ($3,552) and approximately 3 times the spending per working-age person ($6,632).

·         In 2012, children accounted for approximately 25 percent of the population and slightly less than 12 percent of all PHC spending.

·         The working-age group comprised the majority of spending and population in 2012, almost 54 percent and over 61 percent respectively.

·         The elderly were the smallest population group, nearly 14 percent of the population, and accounted for approximately 34 percent of all spending in 2012.

·         Per person spending for females ($8,315) was 22 percent more than males ($6,788) in 2012.

·         In 2012, per person spending for male children (0-18) was 9 percent more than females.  However, for the working age and elderly groups, per person spending for females was 28 and 7 percent more than for males.

For further detail see health expenditures by age in downloads below.

NHE by State of Residence, 1991-2014:

·         In 2014, per capita personal health care spending ranged from $5,982 in Utah to $11,064 in Alaska.   Per capita spending in Alaska was 38 percent higher than the national average ($8,045) while spending in Utah was about 26 percent lower; they have been the lowest and highest, respectively, since 2012.

·         Health care spending by region continued to exhibit considerable variation. In 2014, the New England and Mideast regions had the highest levels of total per capita personal health care spending ($10,119 and $9,370, respectively), or 26 and 16 percent higher than the national average.   In contrast, the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions had the lowest levels of total personal health care spending per capita ($6,814 and $6,978, respectively) with average spending roughly 15 percent lower than the national average.

·         For 2010-14, average growth in per capita personal health care spending was highest in Alaska at 4.8 percent per year and lowest in Arizona at 1.9 percent per year (compared with average growth of 3.1 percent nationally).

·         The spread between the highest and the lowest per capita personal health spending across the states has remained relatively stable over 2009-14. Accordingly, the highest per capita spending levels were 80 to 90 percent higher per year than the lowest per capita spending levels during the period.

·         Medicare expenditures per beneficiary were highest in New Jersey ($12,614) and lowest in Montana ($8,238) in 2014.

·         Medicaid expenditures per enrollee were highest in North Dakota ($12,413) and lowest in Illinois ($4,959) in 2014.

For further detail, see health expenditures by state of residence in downloads below.

NHE by State of Provider, 1980-2014:

·         Between 2009 and 2014, U.S. personal health care spending grew, on average, 3.9 percent per year, with spending in North Dakota growing the fastest (6.7 percent) and spending in Rhode Island growing the slowest (2.5 percent).

·         In 2014, California’s personal health care spending was highest in the nation ($295.0 billion), representing 11.5 percent of total U.S. personal health care spending. Comparing historical state rankings through 2014, California consistently had the highest level of total personal health care spending, together with the highest total population in the nation. Other large states, New York, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania, also were among the states with the highest total personal health care spending.

·         Wyoming’s personal health care spending was lowest in the nation (as has been the case historically), representing just 0.2 percent of total U.S. personal health care spending in 2014. Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, and South Dakota were also among the states with the lowest personal health care spending in both 2014 and historically. All these states have smaller populations.

·         Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by state measures the value of goods and services produced in each state. Health spending as a share of a state’s GDP shows the importance of the health care sector in a state’s economy. As a share of GDP, Maine ranked the highest (22.3 percent) and Wyoming ranked the lowest (9.3 percent) in 2014.  

For further detail, see health expenditures by state of provider in downloads below.





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