Thursday, December 22, 2016

CBO Projects A 29 Percent Cut In Social Security Benefits In 2030 When Trust Funds Are Depleted

From Congressional Budget Office, "CBO’s 2016 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information" December 21, 2016 Report:
Under current law, CBO projects, Social Security’s trust funds, considered together, will be exhausted in 2029. In that case, benefits in 2030 would need to be reduced by 29 percent from the scheduled amounts.

CBO's Projections Of Social Security Benefits Outlays
Source: CBO
What Is the Outlook for Social Security Spending and Revenues?
In 2010, for the first time since the enactment of the Social Security Amendments of 1983, annual outlays for the program exceeded annual revenues (excluding interest) credited to the combined OASDI trust funds. A gap between those amounts has persisted since then, and in fiscal year 2016, total outlays exceeded noninterest income by about 7 percent. As more people in the baby-boom generation retire over the next few decades and as longer life spans lead to longer retirements, that gap will widen, CBO projects. If current laws governing taxes and spending stayed the same and if benefits were paid as scheduled, outlays for the Social Security program would rise from 5.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 to 5.9 percent in 2026 and to 6.3 percent in 2046; they would exceed tax revenues by 33 percent in 2026 and by 42 percent in 2046.

According to CBO’s projections, without changes in the programs, the balance of the DI trust fund will be exhausted in fiscal year 2022, the balance of the OASI trust fund will be exhausted in calendar year 2030, and the combined balances of the OASDI trust funds will be exhausted in calendar year 2029. If a trust fund’s balance declined to zero and current revenues were insufficient to cover benefits specified in law, the Social Security Administration would no longer be permitted to pay full benefits when they were due. In the years after a trust fund was exhausted, annual outlays would be limited to annual revenues: All receipts to the trust fund would be used, and the trust fund’s balance would remain essentially at zero. [Emphasis added.]

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Medium And Large US Airport Consumer Satisfaction Ranking: JD Power

From J.D. Power, Press Releases, "Airports Rise to Challenge of Higher Traveler Volume, Aging Infrastructure:"
Portland International Ranks Highest in Satisfaction among Large Airports; Indianapolis International Ranks Highest among Medium Airports

COSTA MESA, Calif.: 15 Dec. 2016 — Even with an increased number of travelers moving through airports—many of which are not designed for the volume of people and flights they now support—satisfaction with their airport experience is improving, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study,SM released today.

Overall traveler satisfaction with the airport experience averages 731 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2016, an improvement from 725 in 2015. Overall satisfaction with large airports1 is 724, a 5-point increase from 2015, and satisfaction with medium airports is 760, an 8-point rise. The increase in satisfaction comes at a time when airports are posting a 5-6% annual increase in traveler volumes.

“Many airports, especially the nation’s largest airports, were never built to handle the current volume of traveler traffic, often exceeding their design limits by many millions of travelers,” said Michael Taylor, director of the airport practice at J.D. Power.
Large US Airport Consumer Satisfaction Ranking Chart
Source: J.D. Power

Medium US Airport Consumer Satisfaction Ranking Chart
Source: J.D. Power

Thursday, December 15, 2016

US Net Emissions Of CO2 Equivalents Downward Trending And Declining Since Year 2000

From The Wall Street Journal, Real Time Economics, "White House Economists Spell Out the Four Most Stubborn Economic Challenges: Economists pinpoint productivity, income inequality, workforce participation and sustainability as areas of focus" by Nick Timiraos:
The White House released Thursday its annual Economic Report of the President, the last such volume produced by the Obama administration. While the nearly 600-page report catalogs what the administration views as its greatest successes, it also neatly frames what White House economists see as the most stubborn challenges facing economic policy.
Decline In Net CO2 Emissions Since 2000
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Average Household Debt Chart

From Bloomberg, "Do You Have More Debt Than the Average American? Here come the interest rate increases. Good time to size up your borrowings." by Suzanne Woolley:
The household debt numbers, in a new Nerdwallet report, come as paying off debt is set to become more costly.
Average Household Debt
Source: Bloomberg

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize In Literature Banquet Speech, December 10, 2016

From The Nobel Prize Organization, "Bob Dylan - Banquet Speech". Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 10 Dec 2016:
Bob Dylan - Banquet Speech
© The Nobel Foundation 2016.
General permission is granted for immediate publication in editorial contexts, in print or online, in any language within two weeks of December 10, 2016. Thereafter, any publication requires the consent of the Nobel Foundation. On all publications in full or in major parts the above copyright notice must be applied.
Banquet speech by Bob Dylan given by the United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji, at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2016.

Good evening, everyone. I extend my warmest greetings to the members of the Swedish Academy and to all of the other distinguished guests in attendance tonight.

I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but please know that I am most definitely with you in spirit and honored to be receiving such a prestigious prize. Being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is something I never could have imagined or seen coming. From an early age, I've been familiar with and reading and absorbing the works of those who were deemed worthy of such a distinction: Kipling, Shaw, Thomas Mann, Pearl Buck, Albert Camus, Hemingway. These giants of literature whose works are taught in the schoolroom, housed in libraries around the world and spoken of in reverent tones have always made a deep impression. That I now join the names on such a list is truly beyond words.

I don't know if these men and women ever thought of the Nobel honor for themselves, but I suppose that anyone writing a book, or a poem, or a play anywhere in the world might harbor that secret dream deep down inside. It's probably buried so deep that they don't even know it's there.

If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon. In fact, during the year I was born and for a few years after, there wasn't anyone in the world who was considered good enough to win this Nobel Prize. So, I recognize that I am in very rare company, to say the least.

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn't have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I'm sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: "Who're the right actors for these roles?" "How should this be staged?" "Do I really want to set this in Denmark?" His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. "Is the financing in place?" "Are there enough good seats for my patrons?" "Where am I going to get a human skull?" I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare's mind was the question "Is this literature?"

When I started writing songs as a teenager, and even as I started to achieve some renown for my abilities, my aspirations for these songs only went so far. I thought they could be heard in coffee houses or bars, maybe later in places like Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium. If I was really dreaming big, maybe I could imagine getting to make a record and then hearing my songs on the radio. That was really the big prize in my mind. Making records and hearing your songs on the radio meant that you were reaching a big audience and that you might get to keep doing what you had set out to do.

Well, I've been doing what I set out to do for a long time, now. I've made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world. But it's my songs that are at the vital center of almost everything I do. They seemed to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures and I'm grateful for that.

But there's one thing I must say. As a performer I've played for 50,000 people and I've played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life's mundane matters. "Who are the best musicians for these songs?" "Am I recording in the right studio?" "Is this song in the right key?" Some things never change, even in 400 years.

Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, "Are my songs literature?"

So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

My best wishes to you all,

Bob Dylan

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Affordable Health Care, Not Affordable Health Insurance, Is The Problem

In reforming our expensive health care system, politicians and health care experts overly emphasize health insurance. Our fundamental problem is health care costs and not health insurance costs.

Health Insurance Is Reimbursement

Health insurance is a way to reimburse us for our health care costs. Total health insurance premiums plus out of pocket medical costs for the US population can never be less than the total health related costs for the same population. If it were, some medical service providers would go unpaid.

Competition in the health insurance arena does not increase competition among health care providers and will not lower the costs of providing health care.

Our politicians can hide some of the premiums of health insurance by using tax dollars and deficit financing borrowed funds for part of the premiums, but the total health care cost we pay is not lowered. Expecting changes in the laws regulating health insurers to lower health care costs are equivalent to expecting changes in automobile insurance to lower the price of a new car.

US Health Expenditures In 2015

The data from The Center For Medicare & Medicaid Services below shows that, on average, an individual's health insurance premium should be around $10,000, or about $40,000 per year for a family of four.

From The Center For Medicare & Medicaid Services, Research, Statistics, Data and Systems, National Health Expenditure Data, Historical, Highlights:
National Health Expenditures 2015 Highlights

In 2015, U.S. health care spending increased 5.8 percent to reach $3.2 trillion, or $9,990 per person.
Increasing Competition

Increasing competition among health care insurers or other changes in the laws governing these insurers will not lower the amount the US spends on health care.

The US needs to lower the barriers to entry of health care providers to increase their numbers. The US also needs to remove barriers to competition among health care providers so as to lower the unit costs of health care and to increase the efficiency and the productivity of health care providers. We also need to enable individuals with less than a full medical degree to provide some of our routine medical diagnosis and care.

Increases in the number of health care providers and increases in their productivity are the only ways that the US will be able lower health related costs and make health care affordable for the average American.

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act failed to follow sound economic principles for lowering medical costs. Hopefully, future changes to our health laws will increase the number of health providers, make it easier to become a health provider, and foster greater competition among providers. With more providers and more competition among them, our health care and our health insurance will become affordable.