Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Friday night movie: One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB rating: [7.2/10]

Description:

During the Allied Bombing offensive of World War II the public was often informed that “A raid took place last night over …, One (or often more) of Our Aircraft Is Missing”. Behind these sombre words hid tales of death, destruction and derring-do. This is the story of one such bomber crew who were shot down and the brave Dutch patriots who helped them home.

The bomber in the movie that they start with is called a  Vickers Wellington. It’s not very good, but the four-engine Avro Lancaster they get at the end of the movie is as good or better than the B-17 bomber used by the Americans during the war. Most people think that the Avro Lancaster was the best bomber of World War 2 on either side. My Canadian readers will be thrilled to know that Avro Canada constructed many Avro Lancasters to help with the war effort. You can still see an intact Lancaster in Alberta,  Canada.

Happy Friday!

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American health care: does it cause poor life-expectancy and high infant mortality?

Probably one of the best health care policy experts writing today is Avik Roy, who writes for Forbes magazine.

Here is his latest column, which I think is useful for helping us all get better at debating health care policy. (H/T Matt from Well Spent Journey)

Excerpt:

It’s one of the most oft-repeated justifications for socialized medicine: Americans spend more money than other developed countries on health care, but don’t live as long. If we would just hop on the European health-care bandwagon, we’d live longer and healthier lives. The only problem is it’s not true.

[…]If you really want to measure health outcomes, the best way to do it is at the point of medical intervention. If you have a heart attack, how long do you live in the U.S. vs. another country? If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer? In 2008, a group of investigators conducted a worldwide study of cancer survival rates, called CONCORD. They looked at 5-year survival rates for breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. I compiled their data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and western Europe. Guess who came out number one?

Here is the raw data:

Health care outcomes

Health care outcomes by country and type of treatment

Click here to see the larger graph.

So, what explains this?

The article continues:

Another point worth making is that people die for other reasons than health. For example, people die because of car accidents and violent crime. A few years back, Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked the obvious question: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to…you guessed it…first. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.

It’s great that the Japanese eat more sushi than we do, and that they settle their arguments more peaceably. But these things don’t have anything to do with socialized medicine.

Finally, U.S. life-expectancy statistics are skewed by the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have one health-care system, but three: Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance. (A fourth, the Obamacare exchanges, is supposed to go into effect in 2014.) As I have noted in the past, health outcomes for those on government-sponsored insurance are worse than for those on private insurance.

To my knowledge, no one has attempted to segregate U.S. life-expectancy figures by insurance status. But based on the data we have, it’s highly likely that those on private insurance have the best life expectancy, with Medicare patients in the middle, and the uninsured and Medicaid at the bottom.

I know that my readers who like to dig deep into economics and policy will love the links at the bottom of the article:

For further reading on the topic of life expectancy, here are some recommendations. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw discusses some of the confounding factors with life expectancy statistics, citing this NBER study by June and Dave O’Neill comparing the U.S. and Canada. (Mankiw calls the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats “schlocky.”) Chicago economist Gary Becker makes note of the CONCORD study in this blog post. In 2009, Sam Preston and Jessica Ho of the University of Pennsylvania published a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that “the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.”

The funniest thing I have found when talking to people from countries with socialized health care systems, like Canada and the UK, is that they are woefully uninformed about American health care. They literally do not know about free emergency room care, which is free for anyone regardless of insurance – including illegal aliens. They do not know about our expensive Medicaid program, which helps people who cannot afford health insurance. And our very very expensive Medicare program, which provides health care to the elderly – including prescription drugs. I get the feeling that foreign critics of American health care are getting their views from amateur documentaries produced by uneducated Hollywood propagandists, or maybe from TV shows on the Comedy Channel. They certainly are not getting their information from peer-reviewed studies by credentialed scholars from top universities, like the ones cited above.

I have literally spoken to Canadians who think that people in the USA without insurance do not get treatment and just die in the streets from stab wounds. They don’t know about the emergency room rule, or about charity care, or about Medicaid and Medicare. There is a lot of ignorance up there – wilful ignorance, in some cases. And keep in mind that the average Canadian household is paying over $11,000 a year for this substandard health care! They are paying more for less, and that’s not surprising since a large chunk of the taxes that are collected for health care go to overpaid unionized bureaucrats. Naturally, when their left-wing politicians need treatment, the first place they go is to the United States, where they pay out of pocket for the better health care. But that doesn’t stop them from denouncing American health care when they are talking to voters.

Higher infant mortality rates?

One of the other common arguments you hear from uninformed people outside the USA is the higher infant mortality rates argument.

Here’s an article by Stanford University professor Scott Atlas to explain why the argument fails.

Excerpt:

Virtually every national and international agency involved in statistical assessments of health status, health care, and economic development uses the infant-mortality rate — the number of infants per 1,000 live births who die before reaching the age of one — as a fundamental indicator. America’s high infant-mortality rate has been repeatedly put forth as evidence “proving” the substandard performance of the U.S. health-care system.

[…]n a 2008 study, Joy Lawn estimated that a full three-fourths of the world’s neonatal deaths are counted only through highly unreliable five-yearly retrospective household surveys, instead of being reported at the time by hospitals and health-care professionals, as in the United States. Moreover, the most premature babies — those with the highest likelihood of dying — are the least likely to be recorded in infant and neonatal mortality statistics in other countries. Compounding that difficulty, in other countries the underreporting is greatest for deaths that occur very soon after birth.

[…]The United States strictly adheres to the WHO definition of live birth (any infant “irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy, which . . . breathes or shows any other evidence of life . . . whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached”) and uses a strictly implemented linked birth and infant-death data set. On the contrary, many other nations, including highly developed countries in Western Europe, use far less strict definitions, all of which underreport the live births of more fragile infants who soon die. As a consequence, they falsely report more favorable neonatal- and infant-mortality rates.

[…]Neonatal deaths are mainly associated with prematurity and low birth weight. Therefore the fact that the percentage of preterm births in the U.S. is far higher than that in all other OECD countries — 65 percent higher than in Britain, and more than double the rate in Ireland, Finland, and Greece — further undermines the validity of neonatal-mortality comparisons.

You can listen to a podcast with Dr. Atlas here, from the Library of Economics web site.

If you want to read more about how American health care compares with health care in socialized systems, read this article by Stanford University professor of medicine Dr. Scott Atlas. And you can get his book “In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care” from Amazon.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Government spends $61,194 on welfare for each household below the poverty line

From the Weekly Standard. (With a rant from me below)

Excerpt:

New data compiled by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee shows that, last year, the United States spent over $60,000 to support welfare programs per each household that is in poverty. The calculations are based on data from the Census, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congressional Research Services.

“According to the Census’s American Community Survey, the number of households with incomes below the poverty line in 2011 was 16,807,795,” the Senate Budget Committee notes. “If you divide total federal and state spending by the number of households with incomes below the poverty line, the average spending per household in poverty was $61,194 in 2011.”

This dollar figure is almost three times the amount the average household on poverty lives on per year. “If the spending on these programs were converted into cash, and distributed exclusively to the nation’s households below the poverty line, this cash amount would be over 2.5 times the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, which in 2011 was $22,350 (see table in this link),” the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee note.

To be clear, not all households living below the poverty line receive $61,194 worth of assistance per year. After all, many above the poverty line also receive benefits from social welfare programs (e.g. pell grants).

How do people become poor anyway, in a rich country like America? Is it someone else’s fault, or is it a result of their own poor decision-making? Let famous black economist Walter Williams – chair of the Department of Economics at the prestigious George Mason University -explain it for us:

Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior.

If you graduate from high school today with a B or C average, in most places in our country there’s a low-cost or financially assisted post-high-school education program available to increase your skills.

Most jobs start with wages higher than the minimum wage, which is currently $5.15. A man and his wife, even earning the minimum wage, would earn $21,000 annually. According to the Bureau of Census, in 2003, the poverty threshold for one person was $9,393, for a two-person household it was $12,015, and for a family of four it was $18,810. Taking a minimum-wage job is no great shakes, but it produces an income higher than the Bureau of Census’ poverty threshold. Plus, having a job in the first place increases one’s prospects for a better job.

To augment what Dr. Williams said with a study:

Nearly three out of four poor families with children in America are headed by single parents. When a child’s father is married to his mother, however, the probability of the child’s living in poverty drops by 82 percent.

The collapse of marriage, along with a dramatic rise in births to single women, is the most important cause of childhood poverty but government policy doesn’t reflect that reality, according to a special report released today by The Heritage Foundation.

I had to spend all day Saturday and all day Sunday this weekend working to fix a defect so that I could get back on track on my next project. I am still 4 days behind schedule on that new project. If I can’t catch up, I’ll probably have to cancel my November vacation, and maybe even my December vacation. The massive expenditures on welfare for “the poor” is the reason why I have to come in on Saturday and Sunday to work. I have to  to work to pay for these people, and their enablers in the Democrat party.

Don’t I have a right to pursue my dreams and my marriage plans and my plans to be a public, effective Christian, with the money that I earn through my work? For example, on Saturday, I sent $125 to a young Christian scholar so that he could attend a conference and present a paper on a moral issue that we both care about. The government would never give him money, but they will tax me to pay for contraceptives for everyone else. I am a virgin – I don’t even buy contraceptives for myself! I really have better things to do with my earned income than buying “Obamaphones” for people who spend their entire lives collecting welfare. Don’t I have a right to spend what I earn on my own goals and priorities?

UPDATE: The Manhattan Institute explains how welfare waivers water down the work incentives for welfare.

Related posts

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Why is it so hard for a working man to provide for a family these days?

Here’s my argument which answers the question:

  1. Feminism was behind no-fault divorce.
  2. Making it easier to divorce means that more divorces will occur.
  3. Marital instability causes women to vote for bigger government.
  4. In the latest election (2008), exit polls showed that UNMARRIED women voted 3-1 for Obama.

*Please note that I am talking about unmarried women throughout this post.

Here’s the evidence for each point.

1. Feminism was behind no-fault divorce, according to this feminist, pro-no-fault-divorce writer.

Excerpt:

Households of 2010 don’t look quite like they did in 1969, when no-fault divorce actually was a controversial topic and these counter-arguments held some weight. The working dad/stay-at-home mom model of the middle class has been replaced by two-parent earner households and a growing number of working mom/stay-at-home dad arrangements. In working poor and impoverished families, the one-parent provider model was never the norm. No-fault divorce seemed scary when it had never before existed, but the truth is that its introduction was long overdue. Feminist groups at the time supported no-fault divorce, as it provided women an escape hatch from desperately unhappy marriages in a society where they were already disadvantaged on almost every level, regardless of their marital status. Imagine an abusive marriage in 1968, when the court-savvy abuser could actually force the victim to stay in the relationship forever. Imagine that now, and you know why domestic violence attorneys are in full support of introducing no-fault divorce to New York. And the judges aren’t the only problem.

Note that the author of this piece thinks that it is not women’s fault that they choose men who they then want to divorce. It’s not the woman’s fault that she is unhappy with the man she courted with and then chose and then made vows to – women need a no-fault escape hatch, and children do fine without fathers.

2. Easier divorces means more divorces.

Abstract:

This paper analyzes a panel of 18 European countries spanning from 1950 to 2003 to examine the extent to which the legal reforms leading to “easier divorce” that took place during the second half of the 20th century have contributed to the increase in divorce rates across Europe. We use a quasi-experimental set-up and exploit the different timing of the reforms in divorce laws across countries. We account for unobserved country-specific factors by introducing country fixed effects, and we include country-specific trends to control for timevarying factors at the country level that may be correlated with divorce rates and divorce laws, such as changing social norms or slow moving demographic trends. We find that the different reforms that “made divorce easier” were followed by significant increases in divorce rates. The effect of no-fault legislation was strong and permanent, while unilateral reforms only had a temporary effect on divorce rates. Overall, we estimate that the legal reforms account for about 20 percent of the increase in divorce rates in Europe between 1960 and 2002.

It seems obvious, but more evidence never hurts.

3. Marital instability causes women to vote for bigger government for security.

Excerpt:

Giving women the right to vote significantly changed American politics from the very beginning. Despite claims to the contrary, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s. Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue, and these effects continued growing as more women took advantage of the franchise. Similar changes occurred at the federal level as female suffrage led to more liberal voting records for the state’s U.S. House and Senate delegations. In the Senate, suffrage changed voting behavior by an amount equal to almost 20 percent of the difference between Republican and Democratic senators. Suffrage also coincided with changes in the probability that prohibition would be enacted and changes in divorce laws.

[…]More work remains to be done on why women vote so differently, but our initial work provides scant evidence that it is due to self-interest arising from their employment by government. The only evidence that we found indicated that the gender gap in part arises from women’s fear that they are being left to raise children on their own (Lott and Kenny 1997). If this result is true, the continued breakdown of the family and higher divorce rates imply growing political conflicts between the sexes. 19

Bigger government must be paid for by higher taxes, of course, which makes it harder for one working man’s income to provide for a family. In fact, feminists wanted men to be displaced as sole-providers. They would prefer that women are “equal” to men, and that means making women get out and work like men. Feminists had every reason to want bigger government and higher taxes to make traditional single-earner families unfeasible financially. They did it for equality.

4. Women are in fact observed to vote for bigger government. (Original story was here, now pulled)

Excerpt:

On Tuesday, the nation made history. It made history in electing the first African American president; it made history in building a bigger margin for the first female Speaker of the House; it made history in delivering the biggest Democratic margin since 1964; it made history in sending a record number of people to the polls and the highest percentage turnout since the 1960 election. Analysts will spend the next few months sifting through the data, trying to figure out what happened and why. Historians will likely spend the next several years and decades studying this election, as well. But one thing is immediately clear. Unmarried women played a pivotal role in making this history and in changing this nation. They delivered a stunning 70 to 29 percent margin to Barack Obama and delivered similarly strong margins in races for Congress and the U.S. Senate. Although unmarried women have voted Democratic consistently since marital status has been was tracked, this election represents the highest margin recorded and a 16-point net gain at the Presidential level from 2004.

And since the Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006, and then the Presidency in 2008, the national debt has doubled from 8 trillion to 16 trillion.

Voting for Democrats means voting for bigger government which means voting for higher taxes to pay for it all. Higher taxes means that a married man can no longer retain enough of his earnings to support a family. And that means his wife has to work, and that means that his children will learn what the government schools decide they should learn – so that all the children will be equal and think the same (pro-government) thoughts. This should not be controversial, because it is what it is. Very often, women complain about the very problems that they themselves have caused with their own voting, and their own embrace of feminism and rejection of the traditional roles of men as protectors, providers, and moral/spiritual leaders.

So, you have women voting to defund actual providers so that they are free to make babies with good-looking non-committing, non-providers – like in the UK Daily Mail story that I recently blogged about. Feminists often don’t want to share parenting duties with a man – they prefer government social programs instead of a man. And liberal feminist politicians also oppose encouraging traditional marriage with tax breaks. In the feminist UK, IVF is free – paid for by the British taxpayer (including male sole-providers!) making single motherhood by choice much more common. Here’s the result of that: single mother of 10 receives 30,000 British pounds per year in benefits. A recent study showed that the cost of family breakdown to the American taxpayer is $112 billion per year and a recent UK study showed that the UK taxpayer pays 9 billion pounds per year for “problem families”. This money is in addition to the growth of government caused by liberal voting patterns, documented above.

And that’s why “a man working full time [cannot] actually support a family and buy a house, as the sole income earner”, as one philosopher recently asked.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Melanie Phillips: The real intolerance comes from secularism

Here’s a great post by conservative British journalist Melanie Phillips. (I think she is Jewish, by the way)

Excerpt:

I have a rather different take on this great division of our age. My view is that while we may be in a post-biblical — and post-moral — age, we have not disposed of belief. Far from it. We have just changed what we believe in. Our society may have junked the Judaeo-Christian foundations of the West for secularism. But this has given rise to a set of other religions. Secular religions. Anti-religion religions.

These are also based on a set of dogmas. They proselytise. They involve faith. But unlike the Judaeo-Christian thinking they usurp, these secular anti-religions suspend truth and reason. What’s more, I would say that it was the Judaic foundations of the West which, far from denying reason, gave the world both reason and science in the first place.

God has been pronounced dead, and in his place have come man-made ideologies — in which people worship not a divine presence but an idea.

These ideas, which brook no dissent, give rise inescapably to intolerance and indeed to tyranny. Indeed, they are far more tyrannical in their effect than the God of the Hebrew Bible who gets such a bad press for being so authoritarian. In fact, he has a truly terrible time getting his way. His people are always complaining, refusing to do what he tells them, blaming him for everything and always, always arguing with him. But ideologies which represent the will of man bend everything to the governing idea, which cannot be gainsaid. There can be no argument with them.

Rather than being rational, I suggest these are irrational; not tolerant at all, but deeply illiberal; not open to other ideas, but as dogmatic as any medieval pope. Indeed, these atheistic ideologies are reminiscent not just of religion but of medieval persecutions, witch-hunts and inquisitions.

Let me illustrate all this with an anecdote. After a debate in which he took part some time ago, I pressed Richard Dawkins on his belief that the origin of all matter was most likely to have been an entirely spontaneous event — which meant he therefore surely believed that something could be created out of nothing. Since this ran counter to the scientific principle of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this itself seemed to be precisely the kind of irrationality which he scorns.

In reply, he acknowledged that I had a point but said that the alternative explanation — God — was more incredible. But then he remarked that he was not necessarily averse to the idea that life on Earth had been created by a governing intelligence — provided, however, that such an intelligence had arrived on Earth from another planet. Leaving aside the question of how that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself been created in the first place, I put it to him that he appeared to be saying that “little green men” provided a more plausible explanation for the origin of life on Earth than God. Strangely, he didn’t react to this well at all.

However, Dawkins is not the first scientist to have suggested this. It is a theory which was put forward by no less than Professor Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA.

A committed atheist, Francis Crick found it impossible to believe that DNA could have been the product of evolution. In 1973, Crick and the chemist Leslie Orgel published a paper in the journal Icarus suggesting that life may have arrived on Earth through “directed panspermia”. According to this theory, micro-organisms were supposed to have travelled in the head of an unmanned spaceship sent to Earth by a higher civilisation which had developed elsewhere some billions of years ago. The spaceship was unmanned so that its range would be as great as possible. Life started here when these organisms were dropped into the primitive ocean and began to multiply. Subsequently, Crick abandoned this theory and returned to the idea of the spontaneous origin of life from purely natural mechanisms.

How can someone so committed to reason be so irrational as to entertain such a fantasy?

What I found great about this article is that even though Melanie Phillips is a popular columnist, she actually deals with evidence when talking about God. So often on Christian blogs, you can read tons of posts that are really just inside baseball for Christians. It’s just pablum or lists of todos. The right way to talk about God is by talking about the evidence. Even Melanie Phillips sees that. Why don’t we?

I think we need to be very forthright when speaking with atheists and call them out for what they are. They are the people who hate astrophysics, and despise the Big Bang cosmology. They are the believers in the unobservable, untestable multiverse. They are the believers in the unobservable, untestable aliens who seed the Earth with life. They are the believers in the as-yet-undiscovered Cambrian precursor fossils. They believe that material processes can somehow produce creatures that have free will and consciousness. They are the ones who think that right and wrong are purely arbitrary – matters of opinion that are decided one way or the other in different times and places. They are the ones who believe that when you die, you are not accountable for anything you’ve done, and nothing that you’ve done has ultimate meaning. Let’s be up front about all of that, and hold them accountable for their anti-science, anti-morality, anti-human views. And let’s hold them accountable for running away from debates with their tails between their legs – like that coward Richard Dawkins did.

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