Friday, March 13, 2020

Beat Coronavirus -- Go Spend Money

The latest strain of a common cold virus has world leaders in abject panic. Part of the reason why they're freaking right the hell out is that this strain's higher-than-usual lethality rate threatens to swamp their government-run, inherently inefficient public healthcare systems. It is a fact--people are going to die because free healthcare is worth every cent you pay for it. We don't (yet) have such a healthcare disaster and we have an opportunity to keep it from happening when we vote in November's Presidential and Congressional elections.

We also have an opportunity to help the U.S. economy weather the storm of panic and reduced human contact. Common sense tells us to take precautions to reduce the rate of the virus' spread, and that means less person-to-person interaction and a slowdown in economic activity. These events--which economists refer to as "externalities"--are not caused by typical up-and-down economic cycles. The 1970's oil crisis was one. The 2004-2005 hurricanes were another. Sadly, so were the 9/11 terrorist attacks. No fiscal or monetary policies undertaken or contemplated cause these things to happen. They just do, and things usually right themselves sooner or later.

So, in the meantime, if you'd like to do your part to minimize the economic damage of COVID-19, go spend money.

It's ok to buy as much toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol and bleach as you can afford. The people who make all that stuff will just make more of it. By all means, stock up on canned goods, batteries, peanut butter, saltine crackers, bottled water, bandaids and aspirin/tylenol/ibuprofen. Their makers are also glad to have the business and will cheerfully restock shelves with all of your favorites.

If you don't need more of these things and are a little shy of people thinking you're a hoarder prepper doomsdayer, that's ok. Your car could probably use an oil change. Maybe a new set of tires or at least an inflate/rotate. Maybe fix those brakes or replace those belts that are whining at you all the time. Here on the gulf coast, mild temperatures and sunny days mean lots of pollen. and the automatic carwash folks are open for business. So, why not?

You know who else would appreciate your patronage? Your favorite fast food joint with drive-thru service. Sorry Five Guys... McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's are social-distance friendly and their burgers ain't that bad, either. Tacos, chicken sandwiches, hotdogs and seafood are out there too, y'all. Partake in some nom-noms and be glad you did. Starbucks does drive-thru, don't they?

Earlier this month two of the most corrupt, authoritarian regimes in the world had a falling out over an oil price collusion scheme (that was doomed to fail, anyway). Both Russia and Saudi Arabia have thus opened their oil spigots in an attempt to drown each other in petroleum. As a result, gasoline is under $2.00/gallon on the gulf coast. Fill up your tank and smirk at the smarmy ecologist driving his now uneconomical electric golf-cart masquerading as a road-safe automobile. Funny how these things work, ain't it?

In the economic long run, free markets are never wrong. The collective, freely incentivized actions of consumers and suppliers will always allocate scarce resources in the most efficient manner. Unconstrained, unassisted buyers and sellers will always set the optimum price, and the desire to satisfy one's wants and needs will be met. As long as buyers buy, sellers will sell. People will have jobs and jobs mean money to spend, so forth and so on forever and ever, world without end, Amen.

So exercise your economic freedom, America.

Go buy stuff.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Coronavirus in Italy is a snapshot of America if Democrats win in November

Newsweek has published what is purported to be an op-ed from an "anonymous doctor" who lives and works in Italy. The op-ed is long on finger-shaking at western laissez faire culture and short on science and medicine, so let that guide you in deciding whether you're reading the opinion of an MD or that of an ethics-challenged journo with an axe to grind.

It does give us some insight on how a socialized, "free" healthcare system actually works.
Fast-forward two months, and we are drowning. Statistically speaking—judging by the curve in China—we are not even at the peak yet, but our fatality rate is at over 6 percent, double the known global average.

Put aside statistics. Here is how it looks in practice. Most of my childhood friends are now doctors working in north Italy. In Milan, in Bergamo, in Padua, they are having to choose between intubating a 40-year-old with two kids, a 40-year old who is fit and healthy with no co-morbidities, and a 60-year-old with high blood pressure, because they don't have enough beds. In the hallway, meanwhile, there are another 15 people waiting who are already hardly breathing and need oxygen.

The army is trying to bring some of them to other regions with helicopters but it's not enough: the flow is just too much, too many people are getting sick at the same time.
The Italian public healthcare system is heavily regulated and care is strictly rationed. Here's a synopsis from AllianzCare, an international health insurance provider that caters to expats and people who spend a lot of time abroad for both work and leisure.
The healthcare system in Italy is a regionally based national health service known as Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). It provides universal coverage to citizens and residents, with public healthcare largely free of charge. Treatments which are covered by the public system and a small co-payment include tests, medications, surgeries during hospitalisation, family doctor visits and medical assistance provided by paediatricians and other specialists. Furthermore, medication, out-patient treatments, and dental treatments are also available. However, public healthcare facilities in Italy vary in terms of quality depending on the region.

While the standard of public hospitals in Italy is generally adequate there are some state hospitals that fall well below the standards that some expats would be accustomed to. Therefore, regardless of where one comes from, it is best to organise health insurance before moving to Italy. Without it, issuance of a Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) may not be possible.


If moving to Italy as a non-European Union citizen, travellers will be required to have private insurance cover (sic). Upon arrival, there is an eight-day window to visit the local police station and present a health policy that is valid throughout the duration of one’s stay.
Italian healthcare is thus free for Italians. Everyone else...

When everyone is healthy and demand for medical services is low, the system may work just fine. Deficiencies in the level of care have fewer harsh consequences. But in the midst of an international health emergency, uh oh. From WSJ (subscription required):
“I never was at war, but that’s how I imagine it,” said Federica Brena, a medical oncologist at a hospital in Bergamo, another hard-hit area in northern Italy, on Facebook. “The health-care system risks collapse.”

A photo showing a sleeping nurse slumped over a computer while still wearing protective gear was widely shared on social media, becoming a symbol of the emergency and the strain the epidemic has put on medical personnel.

“We are doing everything humanly possible,” said Dr. Mangiatordi, who took the photo. “But sometimes I feel powerless.”

Medical staff risk getting the infection themselves. Despite protective equipment—double gloves, tightened face masks and scrubs—medical personnel account for about 12% of those infected in Lombardy.
The following is from The Atlantic, a publication that is far from being accused of right-wing propaganda.
Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.

Now the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has published guidelines for the criteria that doctors and nurses should follow in these extraordinary circumstances. The document begins by likening the moral choices facing Italian doctors to the forms of wartime triage that are required in the field of “catastrophe medicine.” Instead of providing intensive care to all patients who need it, its authors suggest, it may become necessary to follow “the most widely shared criteria regarding distributive justice and the appropriate allocation of limited health resources.”

The principle they settle upon is utilitarian. “Informed by the principle of maximizing benefits for the largest number,” they suggest that “the allocation criteria need to guarantee that those patients with the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care.”
This is what socialized, public, "free" healthcare looks like, y'all. It's a clear snapshot of what the U.S. healthcare system will look like if the left gains control of the levers of power in November and implements their wacked out plans for our healthcare system. "Medicare for All" or the "public option" will transform the world's greatest healthcare marketplace into a third world system of rationing; where doctors and their bosses decide whether you live or die. Our system is great because it's private sector financed, despite the burdens already placed on it by the Obamacare debacle.

Make no mistake about this truth as well--if you're rich enough, powerful enough and connected enough, you will be treated in Italy today. If tomorrow's U.S. system looks anything like today's Italian mess, do you really think the Mike Bloombergs, Warren Buffets and Robert DeNiros will have to stand in line with the rest of us schmucks?

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Amtrak decision is still costly, still risky and still appealing

The Mobile City Council postponed (again) the decision on whether to roll the dice on restoring Amtrak service to Mobile. Who can blame them? It's a big decision with big risk, as we saw in this post from December 2019, reposted here just ICYMI.

Amtrak's return to Mobile will be expensive and risky

If left alone to sink or swim on its own financial viability, Amtrak would have gone under long ago and we would never be having a discussion over whether the City of Mobile should commit scarce resources to an Amtrak station here.

Amtrak is not a profitable enterprise. It never really has been, either. At the end of Fiscal Year 2019, the national passenger rail service reported its lowest ever adjusted operating loss of $29.8 million. That followed operating losses of $194.1 million in FY 2017 and $170.6 million in 2018. Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (the standard that publicly traded companies use in reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission), net losses for 2018 and 2019 would have been $817 million and $875 million. Amtrak has just one route that would be profitable under real-world accounting rules--the Northeast Corridor. This route serves the country's most densely populated region and most closely resembles places like Japan and Germany with dense, high-income population centers.

The national rail service receives about $234 million in subsidies from state and local governments it serves. Without those subsidies, losses would have been well over $1.0 billion. In addition, Amtrak receives $1.3 billion annually in federal allocations, without which Amtrak would have been broken up and sold for scrap years ago. President Trump initially proposed a complete elimination of federal subsidies, then acquiesced and requested $611 million for FY2020, only to have Congress restore the $1.3 billion from prior budgets. Trump is likely to propose cuts in FY2021 and beyond.

Which brings us to the decision faced by the Mobile City Council on New Year's Eve. From John Sharp's excellent reporting at

City Council members were asked Tuesday to subsidize a local match to a federal grant that passenger rail advocates believe will not cost more than $3 million over three years. ...

“This investment is totally an offset for operational costs,” said Wiley Blankenship, president & CEO of the Coastal Alabama Partnership and chairman of the 21-member Southern Rail Commission that is charged with prompting passenger rail service and pursuing funding opportunities to support its mission. ...

As proposed, the three-year commitment under what rail commissioners call a “worst-case” scenario -- where annual ridership is around 38,000 people who spend an average of $18.33 per trip – would cost city taxpayers $3 million from 2023-2025. Over five years, the subsidy would rise to $7.7 million.

Rail commissioners, however, are proposing what they believe is a more realistic “conservative” estimate of around 86,400 riders per year who spend an average of $30 per trip. Under that proposal, it would cost Mobile around $2 million to subsidize the train’s operations, and about $5.4 million over five years.
Under the "worst case scenario" from Sharp's report, the route would generate gross receipts of about $3.96 million annually, the city's annual subsidy tab would be $1.0 million and Amtrak collects about $5 million total. Under the "conservative" estimate, annual gross receipts would be about $20.45 million, the city ponies up $1.67 million and Amtrak collects $22.1 million.

Amtrak collects all of this revenue. Ticket fare, food, beverage and sundry services all go to Amtrak and none go to the city or the state.

The city will also be on the hook to secure funding for capital improvements that could cost as much as $7.7 million. This will be needed for railway modifications west of the city and a new train station at Brookley, which is destined to become Mobile's consolidated commercial and industrial air traffic center.

Under neither of the two scenarios does the city's obligation fall below $1 million annually for the three-year planning scenario (years 2026 and 2027 do, presumably due to discounting). Keep in mind that both of the scenarios are "what if" imaginations of proponents. It's entirely possible that either scenario plays out or reality plays out somewhere in between. If we're honest about the City of Mobile's history in projecting usage of its grand ideas, even the worst case scenario is a tad on the optimistic side. A hard question with an unpleasant answer: "What is our cost if we get 5,000 riders a year and they only spend $10.00 each?"

Sharp's reporting also touches on the impact to Mobile's bona fide cash cow--The Alabama State Port Authority. The State Docks has said that moving any Amtrak station to Brookley would be preferable to having it located downtown near the Outlaw Convention Center on Water Street. However, it would still represent a significant and costly disruption to rail traffic through the port. We all hate it when rail cars are stacked up along Water Street and cut off access to the waterfront along Mobile River. That gets worse and costlier for both port traffic and tourism if the port's rail operations are disrupted for the twice (at least) daily arrivals and departures of the passenger train.

All of the above is not to say that passenger rail service with stops along the Gulf Coast from Mobile west to New Orleans doesn't have tremendous economic, cultural and historical appeal. This stretch of the Gulf Coast has a magnetic draw on tourists from elsewhere in North America and abroad. The State of Alabama is celebrating its bicentennial this year. The communities along this rail route have already celebrated their tricentennials. The culture of this region is unlike anything found elsewhere on the continent. A visit that encompasses the 150-ish miles between the cuisine of Louisiana and the pristine beaches of South Alabama with fun and gaming along the Mississippi coast is unique. History, fun, food, charm, hospitality, mild climate... It's a moneymaker. But the infrastructure to support that recreational order of magnitude is... expensive.

The City Council has a big decision to make on New Year's Eve. The cost of putting Mobile at the eastern edge of the proposed rail route is much more than just the $3 to $5 million dangled by the Coastal Alabama Partnership and the Southern Rail Commission. Ridership is probably going to be lower than projected (at first) and fares are probably going to be higher than the $25-ish estimate. Capital costs for railway improvements and station construction will go up because they always do. The disruption of business at the port will cost millions and probably a lot of jobs. Plus, Amtrak's finances are an unmitigated disaster and President Trump could scrap the whole system before 2023 even rolls around. There should be no misunderstanding that going forward will be costly and risky.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

ALDOT and bridge proponents are still NOT LISTENING

The problem with the Mobile River Bridge & Bayway Project is NOT the toll. The problem is much deeper and more complex than that. At any toll rate, even zero, the MRB&B Project represents a bad investment for Mobile & Baldwin Counties, the State of Alabama, the region and the Nation.

In August 2019, the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted to remove the Mobile River Bridge & Bayway Project from its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), effectively blocking federal funding for the project. The impetus for that vote was the product of public opposition to a proposed $3 to $6 one way toll to finance a project with a need that was never clearly established. The Facebook Block the Mobile Bayway Toll Group mobilized public opposition and made it clear to local elected figures that they were having none of this foolishness.

Now comes a news report detailing how ALDOT thinks that a "much cheaper toll" would be ok. These people at ALDOT and local proponents are still not listening.

Weeks before that fateful vote, this blog argued that the toll was never the real problem. The real problem was in the planning, engineering and design of a Taj Mahal bridge and bayway system that's not necessary and would never be economically feasible.
This project's problem isn't the toll. This project's problem is a failure to meet a basic NEPA requirement to evaluate a full range of alternatives. It won't be the tolling pain that kills the project. It will be the NEPA failure.

By now, it should be clear that nowhere in the public process of preparing the necessary NEPA documents is it stated that this project's economic benefits are equal to or greater than its costs.

The Benefit-Cost Ratio is a mathematical expression of a project's worth to taxpayers. A BCR greater than 1-to-1 means that the project will improve our economic well being. A BCR less than 1-to-1 means that the project will harm our economic well being. A toll would only make our state's agony worse.

Until this project's BCR is proven to be greater than 1.0, the statement "the cost of doing nothing is too high" is patently false.
In layman's terms, ALDOT designed and engineered a bridge and bayway system that would have been overbuilt. They failed to acknowledge that there is a level of storm surge damage risk that we are willing to accept. That level of risk is far higher than what ALDOT was asking us to pay for.

From an economics perspective, the project will suck more money from our local and regional economy than it ever could hope to pay for in more businesses, jobs and tax revenue.

ALDOT deliberately withheld information about the project during the public review period.

ALDOT also inadvertently disclosed what would have been the recommended plan had they accepted the fact that they were proposing an unnecessary behemoth of a project. They withheld information they knew we needed and accidentally disclosed information that showed their lack of candor.

Here is my full review of the Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

Here is an Economic Impact Fact Sheet showing that even with a reduced toll, the project is still a proposal for economic disaster.

The project will not go forward under the NEPA document ALDOT attempted to foist off on the public. Try it, and we'll see it aired out in federal court.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Colin Cowherd sets out to prove that even broken clocks are right sooner or later

The sun will rise tomorrow. February is coming soon. After winter's chill is over, spring will thaw and summer will warm again. Nick Saban's time will come to an end, some other program will enjoy a fleeting period of success and Colin Cowherd thinks that time is now.

Cowherd, Paul Finebaum and Jim Rome are sports media personalities that don't get ratings and don't make money unless they say stuff knowing that they may have to take it back and apologize for saying it later. It's just what they do. Car dealers sell cars, thieves steal things and pot stirrer-uppers stir up the pot.  But pot stirrer-uppers have an out when they make bold predictions like "the end of an era is upon us." Even the most outrageous doomsayer will be right sooner or later. This is much like the proverbial broken clock. It's always right twice a day.

Nick Saban is a mortal human and his time at Alabama is limited. It is unlikely that any near term replacement will duplicate (or even exceed) his success. But anybody who watched all of the Tide's 13 games in the 2019 season saw a program that was about a cat hair's distance from being another link in the dynastic chain. The team was loaded with talent among the first-teamers but just didn't have the depth and experience of the 2015-2018 teams. Those teams made four appearances in the CFP Championship game and won two while beating would-be aspirants Clemson and Georgia twice each. Injuries and eventual graduation to the NFL are part of the game of Big Boy College Football. That both bugs bit in the same season doesn't mean that an empire is crumbling. Not... yet.

Anyway, here's the pot stirrer-upper, practicing his craft.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Dylan Moses to return to Alabama

He's coming back, y'all.

Dylan Moses was the missing part in a good-but-not-great 2019 Alabama defense. After the devastating knee injury suffered in August, the team lacked a squad leader. Fans watching Alabama football this season could sense that something was missing:
Moses brings a steadying presence to the quarterback spot of a complex Alabama defense. He was the veteran voice obviously missing from a defense that regressed through attrition. This program overcame incredibly bad linebacker injury luck in 2017 but just didn’t have the depth when disaster struck in August.

Opponents picked on the inexperienced middle linebackers with schemes designed to attack them. Moses was always around the program but couldn’t have the impact he’ll have next fall counseling them from the field instead of the film room.

“I think a lot of the times,” Golding said Sunday of the freshman linebackers, “they are looking for confirmation and the guy beside him doesn’t really know either. And I think that’s been the big difference.”
Coach Nick Saban is delighted, of course:
“He can create value by coming back, and we certainly have to, as an institution and an organization, make him feel comfortable relative to how we insure him and what he can do so that hopefully he’s not going to have these kinds of problems and he’ll be able to improve his draft status.

“I think the big thing with Dylan was he wanted to be a part of the team. He wanted to be a leader of the team, he wanted to come back and play well for Alabama and that was probably the deciding factor for him. Obviously, he’s a great player, he’s a good person and a good leader, and he can make a significant impact on making us better next year.”
Some people who fancy themselves gurus of the draft were a little perturbed:
Oh, well. Roll Tide!

In WaPo Op-Ed, Doug Jones parrots Chuck Schumer

Providing proof beyond reasonable doubt that Doug Jones is a Chuck Schumer puppet, the doomed Democrat junior Senator from Alabama pleads with his colleagues in the upper chamber to "pursue the truth over all else."

This is insulting.

If there were any honest truth-seekers left in the Democrat Party, this impeachment circus would have folded its tents and left town before Halloween. Honest truth-seekers would have read the transcript of the phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and said, "nothing to see here." Instead, Democrats and their media mouthpieces manufactured a no-no out of whole cloth and blatantly lied through their teeth about what the two heads of state said to each other.

They conducted closed-door hearings, hand-selected their own witnesses, conspired with a "whistleblower" to fabricate a second- and third-hand story, refused to allow Republicans to subpoena witnesses, leaked testimony and paraded a bunch of Deep State bureaucrats before the public who just didn't like how President Trump was exercising his Article II, Section 2 powers.

Democrats rushed the impeachment process. They issued subpoenas to everyone listed in Schumer-Jones Op-Ed. When the people summoned declined to testify, the Democrats failed to seek court orders to compel testimony. Why? Because they didn't have time to wait for a drawn-out court battle. No, in the age of the internet, 24-hour news cycles and the microwave Starbucks, the old fashioned way just would not due. So after a scant 84 days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rammed two Articles of Impeachment through the House on a party-line vote.

That Chuck Schumer would cry about an impending Senate trial that lacks truth is insulting. This is a purely partisan attempt to fulfill a fantasy Democrats have held since November 2016. There hasn't been one iota of truth in this since Eric Ciaramella filed his complaint.

What Democrats demand is not the Senate's cross to bear. This is the political equivalent of empowering a courtroom jury to call witnesses and develop its own evidence. That was the House's job. They failed so miserably that neither of the two Articles of Impeachment even allege that the President has committed a crime. Fortunately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican majority are having none of this nonsense. A trial will be conducted and votes will be held based on the evidence developed by the House.

And that will be that.

Doug Jones is doomed. Unless Republicans crap the bed and nominate Creepy Uncle Roy to run against him, Jones' tour of the DC cocktail circuit ends January 2021 with the election of Jeff Sessions, Tommy Tuberville or Bradley Byrne. So, Jones will vote to convict-and-remove if the Articles ever come up for a vote in the Senate. He'll do it because Schumer has commanded him to do so. Even if he dares to defy his master and he votes to acquit, there's no chance that it saves his job.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Illinois tax increase will benefit FIVE states that voted for Donald Trump

Liberals are bad at math everywhere, but starting January 1, 2020 the liberals running the state of Illinois will begin learning math the hard way. As an added irony, all five of the states that will benefit most from Pritz's folly are states that voted for President Donald Trump.

The New Year marks the effective date for a slew of new tax increases, passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature during their Spring 2019 money grab. These included a new gas tax, a new tobacco tax and 18 other "ways and means" signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker.

One of the most onerous measures is a trade-in tax, which will be applied to the value of a car with a trade-in value over $10,000.
The trade-in tax is particularly bad tax policy and cannot be justified as anything other than a revenue grab. The money isn’t even targeted to roads.

The state currently collects no sales tax on a car’s trade-in value, which acted as credit toward a new vehicle purchase. The sales tax only applies to the difference between trade-in value and the new vehicle’s purchase price, preventing residents from having to pay sales tax first when a vehicle was purchased new and then a second time when it was traded in. After Jan. 1 that trade-in vehicle will be taxed twice.

Any trade-in value above $10,000 will be subject to the full state and local sales tax burden, which is highest in Chicago at 10.25%. The tax is expected to cost Illinoisans $60 million. The state’s auto dealers are rightly upset about the dampening effect this is likely to have on car sales and have called foul on the double taxation aspect.

If you trade in a car valued at $20,000 before Dec. 30 to purchase a $35,000 vehicle, you will pay $1,311 in sales tax, which was only on the value of the new car above the trade-in value. But that exact same transaction will cost you $2,185 after Jan. 1.
You paid sales taxes when you first bought the vehicle. You pay the state the license and registration fee. You pay sales taxes on the new car and now you have the honor and privilege to pay taxes on the trade, to.

Auto dealerships in  Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri are cackling in delight. There is no stopping a car owner in lovely Mt.Vernon from driving an hour or so to St. Louis or Evanston to trade in their well-maintained Toyota Tundra and buy a new one. Who wouldn't spend a couple of hours to save a few grand? Now think of car owners in Chicago, who have options in South Bend, Gary, Racine and Kenosha.

Automobiles are your property. Once it's paid for, you can sell your property in any state in the union (or overseas, if you want). What you do with that money is your own business. You can put it down on a newer model. You can bank it for something else and sign a zero-down lease.

Automobile sales will be very hard hit in Illinois while sales in her sister states will benefit from a yuuge uptick in volume. You can't have used car sales without used car supply and St. Louis and South Bend is about to be swimming in a sea of inventory, all compliments of Pritz and his ill-schooled liberal friends in Springfield.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Tua Tagovailoa Teases a Return

Will he return for a senior season, or jump to the NFL? The possibility of Bama's most prolific quarterback's return was a topic of some discussion earlier this month.

From his interview with's Cecil Hurt:
“Whatever God puts in my heart and my parents’ hearts, that will be the right thing.”

Tagovailoa, who suffered a hip dislocation in Alabama’s Nov. 16 game at Mississippi State and had hip surgery two days later in Houston, is finishing the semester at Alabama and will take final exams next week.

As far as his decision, Tagovailoa said he was looking “at both sides of the spectrum.”

“There is a risk and a reward if I stay and a risk and a reward if I go,” Tagovailoa said.
Tua was later seen at post-season workouts either on a scooter, cart or crutches (practices are allowed by NCAA rules for teams eligible for bowl games), and speculation on message boards, talk radio and social media ran rampant. The man has always been the consummate team player and told people that he was there to show solidarity with his teammates.

Board chatter made mention of the fact that he truly enjoys collegiate life and really likes being on campus with his younger brother, 2019 freshman Taulia.

Then yesterday during the College Football Playoff semi-finals in Atlanta and Tempe, Tua dropped this cryptic message on his Instagram feed:

I think he wants to come back, but his decision might hinge on how other players decide between now and January 20, the drop dead day for commitment to forgo collegiate eligibility. If a whole bunch of top-drawer players decide to bug out and register for the NFL draft, it could push him deep into the 1st round; possibly early 2nd (No way he gets drafted late 2nd).  That scenario makes a return to Tuscaloosa more likely. 

What makes a return even more likely? The fact that even an athlete of his prowess will not be able to participate fully in the NFL Combine or late winter/early spring private workouts. Rehabbing a dislocated hip and pelvic fracture is a months-long, grueling affair. Even if he does return for the 2020 season we won't see much of him in the spring drills or A-Day game.

Coach Nick Saban and his staff have an excellent track record of advising players about the decision to go pro or come back for their senior year. The severity of the injury and the progress of the recovery will complicate things a bit, but it's not like Tua is rolling loaded dice. He'll receive wise counsel.

My hunch is that he plays for Alabama again in 2020 just because of the uncertainty associated with the progress of the rehab.

Cover Photo via Sports Illustrated 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Homelessness ticks up in the U.S., despite unprecedented prosperity

You would think that with record low unemployment, record numbers of people in the workforce, record employment totals and income growth among the lowest income earners that we'd see a corresponding decline in the numbers of homeless Americans.

And you'd be right if it weren't for a certain part of our country that's quite literally playing with fire. History's convincing lesson is that socialism and its requisite authoritarian control of economic activity distorts market processes, pollutes natural market incentives and quietly deceives people into doing things that harm their own interests. Guess where that's happening, and guess what that means:
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is reporting its third consecutive uptick in its homelessness projection for the country, based on a summary of its annual report obtained by The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has been highly critical of the homeless problem in California, and HUD said the increase seen in its January snapshot was caused "entirely" by a 16.4% increase in California's homeless population.

"As we look across our nation, we see great progress, but we're also seeing a continued increase in street homelessness along our West Coast where the cost of housing is extremely high," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said. "In fact, homelessness in California is at a crisis level and needs to be addressed by local and state leaders with crisis-like urgency."
A deeper dive into the data shows that California and her left coast sister states Oregon and Washington are collectively making the whole country look as if it's descending into a death spiral of abject human misery. But if you take those states out of the mix, the homelessness situation in this country is improving.

There is a strong correlation between tax & regulatory burden and homelessness statistics. Another can be found between those burdens and other indicators of social decay, such as drug abuse and violent crime. The same report linked above shows that Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Dakota are the best five states in terms of homeless persons per 10,000 in population. Furthermore, if you remove the metropolitan areas of New Orleans, LA; Birmingham, AL and Jackson, MS the numbers for those states are even more impressive. The states with the lowest income and property taxes have the lowest rates of homelessness, and they'd be even better off if it weren't for the largest metro areas in their states. Those metro areas are (of course) governed by people of the same ideological persuasion as the states with the worst homelessness problems.

When your governing philosophy consists of heavily progressive taxation, oppressive regulatory burdens and strictly limited personal liberty, the hardest hit are always on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder because they are the least capable of adapting or leaving. These governing principles are also highly correlated with income inequality. The more meddlesome and oppressive the regime, the greater the difference between the haves and the have-nots. When you tighten restrictions, only those who can't escape them are restricted. The homelessness problem will thus always get worse, never better.

Dr. Carson is absolutely right that the problems out west need to be addressed "with crisis-like urgency." But I don't think the leaders at the state and local levels there are capable of even comprehending what they need to do. Rolling back decades of regulations would be a good start but decreasing the role of government is not a tool in their kit. It's going to take someone else.

President Trump is also right to be concerned about the west coast. Those three states are responsible for about 19% of total U.S. economic output. A significant downturn in those states' economies could have profound impacts on U.S. productivity and global economic progress in the years ahead. This is the reason for my "playing with fire" comment in the second paragraph of this post. America is poised to lead the world again in another peacetime expansion of global free trade, economic freedom and individual prosperity. Having children in California, Oregon and Washington playing with the deadly authoritarian conflagration of socialism is not going to help that happen.

Millions are already leaving California each year. The population growth rate has reached its lowest rate since 1900. Emigration from the state looks eerily like the diasporas from pre-Soviet revolutionary Russia, pre-Mao China, pre-Castro Cuba, pre-Chavez Venezuela... The most striking similarity is that the people leaving are the hated bourgeoisie class so-despised by Marxist ideologues. They are the people with the means, education and desire to prosper. Those they leave behind are the ones who will suffer.