Survival rates are not the same as mortality rates

Survival rates are not the same as mortality rates – Yesterday’s post drew a stronger response than I expected.  Surprisingly, the email I received was about evenly split between people who claimed no one serious ever says “we have the best health care system in the world” and people who claimed “we have the best health care system in the world”.   Regardless, many of the emails attesting to the superiority of the US health care system proclaimed “Our survival rates for [fill in the cancer] are better!”  And while we can argue whether our ability to extend the life of a relatively small number of people a short period of time is the true hallmark of quality, it’s our fixation on survival rates and not mortality rates that is telling. Mortality rates define the number of people who die of a certain cause in a year divided by the total number of people.  For instance, the mortality rate for people with lung cancer in the United States is 53.4 per 100,000 people. Survival rates are something else entirely.  They calculate the percentage of people with a disease who are still alive a set amount of time after diagnosis.  The five year survival rate for people with lung cancer in the US is 15.6%.

Can the Fed’s helicopter drop money on Treasury? – Ricardo Caballero has an interesting idea: The economy is barely muddling through. While some of this is unavoidable given the magnitude of the financial shock that is slowly working its way out of the system, macro-policy still has an important role to play in preventing a relapse. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve has the resources but not the instruments, while the US Treasury has the policy instruments but not the resources. It stands to reason that what we need is a transfer from the Fed to the Treasury.Caballero doesn’t give an indication of how big this transfer should be. But presumably he thinks the transfer should be substantially larger than the sums that the Fed is already remitting to Treasury. And remittances are pretty large, and they’ve been growing sharply since the Fed started expanding its balance sheet. Remittances from the Fed to Treasury ranged from $19 billion to $34 billion between fiscal 2000 and fiscal 2008. In fiscal 2009, they were $34 billion — that’s the amount of money the Fed sent to Treasury between October 2008 and November 2009, about $2.8 billion a month. But if you look at calendar 2009, the Fed ended up remitting $46 billion to Treasury — that’s a rate of $3.8 billion a month. And in fiscal 2010, the CBO projects that total remittances will reach a whopping $77 billion — that’s $6.4 billion a month.

 Time to Make Hard Choices on the Budget – The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has made some splashes with this graph.  I find this strangely unconvincing as a policy argument for anything. For starters, the 0.7% of GDP that it covers only matches the shortfall for a brief period, at least according to the Social Security Trustees report.  By the middle-to-late twenties, the shortfall is more than twice the amount of the Bush tax cuts on the rich.  Even if we hadn’t already (hopefully) earmarked this money for something else, this would be at best a stopgap measure; the program would rapidly begin putting more pressure on the budge. But I can’t even make those numbers add up over the short term.  By the admittedly ham fisted method of dividing the roughly $700 billion the CBO said that extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich would cost, by the $190 trillion worth of GDP that the CBO projects over the next ten years, I get 0.36% of GDP, not 0.7%.  The CBO’s numbers don’t seem to be increasing much beyond the rate of inflation towards the end of the forecast period, so I find it hard to reconcile their numbers with the CBPPs even by extending out the forecast period. 

Insulating Fiscal Policy from a Dysfunctional Congress: The economic crisis has made two things clear. First, monetary policy won’t always be capable of stabilizing the economy on its own. When the problems become large enough, fiscal policy must be part of the response. Second, even when our economic problems are severe and righting the ship ought to be the primary concern, Congress is incapable of implementing fiscal policy with the timeliness and effectiveness that is needed. As Alan Blinder said recently, “I’m looking at the political system turning itself into a paralyzed beast.”  We need a better way of conducting fiscal policy, one that avoids the political fights in Congress that lead to delay and compromised, watered down policies, or to complete gridlock that prevents any response at all.  Automatic stabilizers are a tried and true means of stabilizing the economy. Increased reliance upon this type of stabilization could help solve the political problems that prevent Congress from responding effectively when the economy is most in need of help.

FDIC Q2 Banking Profile: 829 Problem Banks – The FDIC released the Q2 Quarterly Banking Profile today.  The FDIC listed 829 banks with $403 billion in assets as “problem” banks in Q2, up from 775 banks in Q1 2010, but the total assets declined from $431 billion in assets in Q1 2010.  There were 702 banks with $403 billion in assets on the list at the end of 2009. Note: Not all problem banks will fail – and not all failures will be from the problem bank list – but this shows the problem is significant and still growing. The Unofficial Problem Bank List shows 840 problem banks with $410 billion in assets – the difference is timing of releases of formal actions (or hints of pending actions). This graph shows the number of FDIC insured "problem" banks since 1990.All data is year end except Q1 2010. The 829 problem banks reported at the end of Q2 is the highest since 1992. The FDIC is just behind the pace for 1,000 problem banks by the end of the year, although it also depends on how many banks are removed from the list.

Keep the Bush Tax Cuts for a Couple of Years, But Reshuffle the Dollars – It seems increasingly likely that Congress will extend most, if not all, of the Bush tax cuts for at least a year or two. As the economy shows growing signs of softening, lawmakers are less and less likely to take steps that will be seen as “raising taxes.” But there is a way Congress could maintain the magnitude of the Bush tax cuts while moving around some dollars to enhance their short-term economic benefit. The goal of this shift would be to focus tax cuts on those most likely to spend the money. Here’s the problem: The Treasury Department figures that temporarily extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts would reduce federal revenues by roughly $200 billion in Fiscal 2011 and $260 billion in 2012. For technical reasons, those numbers may be off a bit, but you get the drift. Of that, about $75 billion would go to top-bracket taxpayers So why not take that $75 billion and give it to those who are more likely to spend it—people with low- and moderate incomes. It would be simple to do. Congress could, for example, expand the Earned Income Credit. Or it could continue a scaled-back version of President Obama’s Making Work Pay (MWP) tax credit that is also due to expire at the end of the year.

States That Received the Most Federal Funds – Obligations for federal domestic spending rose 16 percent in fiscal year 2009 to $3.2 trillion. That comes out to $10,548 per person living in the United States. Alaska received nearly twice the national average, taking in $20,351.13 per resident, the most of any American state. The state with the second-highest total in per-capita federal funds received was Virginia, at $19,734. The District of Columbia, however, received an even higher amount per capita than both those states. The nation’s capital received $83,196.12 per resident, mainly because of salaries and wages paid to the many federal employees who work there.The state receiving the least federal money per resident was Nevada, which obtained $7,148.49 per capita, followed by Utah with $7,434.65 per capita.Click on the interactive map below to see the amount of per-capita funds received for different categories of federal spending (retirement and disability, grants, procurement, salaries and wages, and other direct payments).

Study: Drinking water polluted by coal-ash dump sites – A new study identifies 39 additional coal-ash dump sites in 21 states that pollute drinking water with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. The analysis comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begins regional hearings on whether to regulate coal ash waste from coal-fired power plants. It will hold the first of seven hearings Monday in Arlington, Va. A public comment period ends Nov. 19. “This is a huge and very real public health issue for Americans. Coal ash is putting drinking water around these sites at risk,” says Jeff Stant of the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonpartisan group that co-wrote the report with the Sierra Club and Earthjustice. The heavy metals exceeded federal drinking water standards at every site equipped with monitoring wells.

Case-Shiller: Home Price indices increase in June – These graphs are Seasonally Adjusted (SA). S&P has cautioned that the seasonal adjustment is probably being distorted by irregular factors. These distortions could include distressed sales and the various government programs.  S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for June (actually a 3 month average of April, May and June). This includes prices for 20 individual cities, and two composite indices (10 cities and 20 cities) and the quarterly national index.  From S&P: For the Past Year Home Prices Have Generally Moved Sideways The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10 and Composite 20 indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).The Composite 10 index is off 29.0% from the peak, and up 0.3% in June (SA).The Composite 20 index is off 28.4% from the peak, and up 0.3% in June (SA).The second graph shows the Year over year change in both indices. The third graph shows the price declines from the peak for each city included in S&P/Case-Shiller indices.

A Look at Case-Shiller, by Metro Area (August Update) – The S&P/Case-Shiller Composite 20 home price index, a broad gauge of U.S. home prices, posted a 1% gain in June from a month earlier and rose 4.2% from 2009, but the gains decelerated as a government tax credit wound down. Seventeen cities posted month-to-month increases in June — just Las Vegas posted a decline — but the growth level was lower in 10 of those cities. The numbers also were boosted by seasonal factors in addition to the residual effects of the tax credit. On a year-to-year basis, which eliminates some of the seasonal variations, prices were down in five cities, though three cities — Minneapolis, San Diego and San Francisco — posted annual increases over 10%.The home-price gains in the Case-Shiller indexes may be difficult to sustain amid more recent indications that the housing market slowed substantially over the summer. “As we move further away from the tax credit boosted spring, home prices should level out somewhat — the year-over-year price improvement actually moved lower in June — if not move outright lower as we enter the fall,”

Creating jobs and savings with energy efficiency – Upgrading just 40% of buildings would generate 625,000 jobs and cut U.S. energy bills up to $64 billion a year – Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution: The biggest low-carbon resource by far.  “Efficiency Works,” a major new report by Bracken Hendricks, Bill Campbell, Pen Goodale, finds that a straightforward set of policies aimed at upgrading just 40% of the residential and commercial building stock in the United States would:
  • Create 625,000 sustained full-time jobs over a decade
  • Spark $500 billion in new investments to upgrade 50 million homes and office buildings
  • Generate as much as $64 billion a year in cost savings for U.S. ratepayers, freeing consumers to spend their money in more productive ways

What follows is a cross-post of the report summary.

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