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What We Read Today 29 March 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions (Madeline Stix, CNN Living) The federal government could reduce ink consumption by 30% simply by using only Times New Roman, Garamond and Century Gothic type fonts for printing. This was determined by a 14-year old boy for a high school science fair project.
  • What I Mean When I Talk About IS-LM (Wonkish) (Paul Krugman, The New York Times) This is almost a joke (but not quite because it is too sad). Prof. K defends his use of the IS-LM model because he did a better job with it than did those who predicted inflation from QE. Rephrasing the argument: If someone else makes more errors than I do then that justifies the value of my methods. The discussion of the value and limitations of IS-LM deserves a much better analysis. Prof. K is still going with his 2011 discussion IS-Lmentary column as the final word. What is lacking are definitions of boundaries on how such a crude conceptual model, with no empirical data to support, can be safely used. Citing examples of how it did better than some other similarly crude concept does nothing to avoid misapplication in other situations.

Today there are 14 more articles discussed 'behind the wall'.

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Click on graphic for larger image at Visualizing Economics.

  • Camp says feds have plan premium data (Allison Bell, Health Life Pro) The congressman accuses HHS (Health and Human Services) Secretary Kathleen Sibelius of lying. Econintersect has seen estimates that up to 25% of enrollments do not keep current with premium payments but has not found any data to date. HHS may have some data but also may not have confidence that it is anywhere near complete. So Sibelius can withhold current data and say HHS does not know or she could share data they believe to be incomplete. Regardless of the qualification of the data, if it changed later she would be called a liar in that case as well.
  • Ten Key Questions on Health Care Enrollment (Wilson Andrews, Haeyoun Park and Archie Tse, The New York Times) ACA enrollment got behind early and never made up the difference established in the first two months. In the second graph below the states did much better than the federal government with enrollment in spite of the abject failure of some state enrollment systems (e.g. Maryland (previous article today - outside the wall), Oregon, Massachusetts and Minnesota).



  • Chart of the Day Of course you put your million dollars in the S&P 400 on 09 March 2009 and have $3.5 million today. Or did you leverage and get to $5 million? Or more? Rear view mirror investing is g-r-r-e-e-a-a-t!!!!


  • The Emerging Arctic (Council on Foreign Relations) A comprehensive white paper.on the receding ice and what it means for out future.
  • How 83 bps Slammed The Fed’s Ersatz Housing Recovery (Jeffrey P. Snider, Contra Corner) In less than a year after the first mention of taper MBS (mortgage backed securities issuance has been cut in half. If the Fed is going to cut out funding housing (via MBS) doesn't that mean home sales will decline? Oh yeah, they are. See GEI Analysis here and here.

Click on graph for larger image at Alhambra Partners.

  • Nevada exchange spends $199 per sale (Allison Bell, Life Health Pro) The projection had been for an average cost for a navigator would be $42 per enrollee. The high average for Nevada was obviously driven up by "opportunistic operators" (one averaged $1,079.65) but also was boosted by a poorly functioning state health exchange website which has contributed to depressed levels of enrollment. The lowest costs of the five facilitating organizations came in at $87.52 per enrollee, more than double the hoped for amount.

Click on map to view a BIG image.

  • Why Are Rich Countries Democratic? (Ricardo Hausmann, Project Syndicate) Hausmann argues that democracy offers the analog to the "invisible hand" for markets, but for distributed political governance instead. He points out that Washington represents about 0.1% of the governance of the U.S.: 537 (539 including the president and VP) out of approximately 500,000 elected to state and local governments where much of the detailed governmental operations are determined. Hausmann suggests that the collective and interactive wisdom of the masses is a government optimization force that is found predominantly in the wealthy countries and not as much elsewhere. Econintersect columnist Frank Li makes an opposing argument that democracy is an inefficient form of government, and that market forces should predominate to the exclusion of much "political" control. Hausmann clearly thinks that there is value in government.
  • High-pitched voice theory - Neanderthal - BBC science (YouTube) There is a scientific theory that Neanderthals had a high pitched voice, based on anatomical evidence. Before you watch the following video consider other possibilities (Econintersect speculations, no scientific evidence to support - other than circumstances mentioned in the following): (1) They had huge brains, therefore maybe highly intelligent? Even telepathic (sixth sense)? (2) They had very large nasal cavities so maybe highly sensitive olfactory powers? (3) The Neanderthal domain was on the edge of the ice fields of the last glacial age (they went extinct near the peak of the last ice age). Considering the climate could they have been "Nordic" types: blond, with fair skin and blues eyes predominant? (4) Could they have been lumbering "hulks" who lost out to homo sapiens simply because they were outrun and out-maneuvered, not because they were less intelligent? What will happen if enough DNA is ever recovered to be able to create a clone? Will the cloning be carried out or prohibited?

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