Don’t Track Me, Bro! Glenn Reynolds on Mileage-Based Gas Tax

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit comes out against
replacing the gas tax with a mileage-based levy, which would likely
be assessed via a GPS-style “black box” installed in cars. The
irony behind the reform idea? People are burning less gasoline,
which is one of the goals of transportation policy. But that means
government collects less money from the gax tax.

From Road & Track:

The response in many places — from Oregon to New
Jersey
 and points in between — has been to propose taxing
people based on the miles that they drive rather than on the gas
that they burn.  There are even test programs going on in
several states in which GPS trackers are being used to collect
drivers’ mileage.  Needless to say, this sort of thing has
people worried about privacy, especially in the wake of the recent
scandals involving government spying and abuse of data.  It
also raises the question of whether, by moving to a mileage tax,
we’re giving up on trying to get people to save gas….

After noting that tracking drivers in this way creeps out
privacy advocates, Reynolds further notes:

Simpler still, of course, would be an increase in the gas tax.
 Politicians don’t like that, because tax increases are never
popular, and gas is already expensive enough.  But, of
course, the mileage tax would be a tax increase
too,
 since the whole reason it’s being proposed is
because the highway administrators want more money than they’re
getting now.  If you’re going to pay more anyway, why give up
your privacy to boot, just so that politicians can pretend
something else is going on?  And the gas tax is still a pretty
good proxy for road use:  The heavier the vehicle and the more
it drives, the more gas it burns and the more tax its owner pays.
 Hybrids get better mileage (though often no better than
diesels) but that’s not enough to undermine this much, and
pure-electric cars are a tiny fraction of those on the road, and
that isn’t likely to change any time very soon.


Read the whole thing here.

The federal gas tax hasn’t increased in about 20 years and,
unlike most levies, is more clearly designed as a user fee – the
money collected is supposed to be used for highway and
infrastructure upkeep (though
it’s often diverted
 to other purposes). Note that Adrian
Moore of Reason Foundation favors trying out the black boxes. He
believes that privacy concerns can be addressed while getting more
accurate tallies. From an LA Times story:

Wonks call it a mileage-based user fee. It is no surprise that
the idea appeals to urban liberals, as the taxes could be rigged to
change driving patterns in ways that could help reduce congestion
and greenhouse gases, for example. California planners are looking
to the system as they devise strategies to meet the goals laid out
in the state’s ambitious global warming laws. But Rep. Bill Shuster
(R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has said
he, too, sees it as the most viable long-term alternative. The free
marketeers at the Reason Foundation are also fond of having drivers
pay per mile.

“This is not just a tax going into a black hole,” said Adrian
Moore, vice president of policy at Reason. “People are paying more
directly into what they are getting.”


More here.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/04/dont-track-me-bro-glenn-reynolds-on-mile
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Obamacare: Coming to Your Favorite Primetime Show?

Maybe they can sell the success of the program on "Once Upon a Time" along with the other fairy tales.Will Mike and
Molly
soon be browsing HealthCare.gov to find coverage for
their diabetes treatments? Will Tyrese on The Walking Dead
lament that the zombie apocalypse has ended any possibility of
getting the mental health assistance he would have been able to
access had the world not ended? Will CSI investigate the
murder-suicide of an elderly couple who had their insurance
policies canceled because they weren’t good enough, according to
the Obama administration?

Maybe. A California-based foundation is dangling
hundreds of thousands of dollars
in front of television shows
to see if anybody bites. From the Associated Press:

The California Endowment, a private foundation that is spending
millions to promote President Barack Obama’s signature law,
recently provided a $500,000 grant to ensure TV writers and
producers have information about the Affordable Care Act that can
be stitched into plot lines watched by millions.

The aim is to produce compelling prime-time narratives that
encourage Americans to enroll, especially the young and healthy,
Hispanics and other key demographic groups needed to make the
overhaul a success.

“We know from research that when people watch entertainment
television, even if they know it’s fiction, they tend to believe
that the factual stuff is actually factual,” said Martin Kaplan of
the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, which
received the grant.

Read the whole piece
here
.

A Republican strategist quoted thinks it’s way too late in the
game to attempt using television shows to help recover the
Affordable Care Act’s ailing image and will be perceived as
partisan. 

It’s much more interesting to imagine what the outcome would
have been had ACA supporters had been prepared, and pro-Obamacare
stories were showing up on television shows right now as the
disaster was unfolding. Imagine patients at Seattle Grace Hospital
being earnestly encouraged to visit HealthCare.gov and sign up for
coverage in just minutes and have a good laugh.

Follow this story and more at Reason
24/7
.

Spice up your blog or Website with Reason 24/7 news and
Reason articles. You can get the
widgets
here
. If you have a story that would be of
interest to Reason’s readers please let us know by emailing the
24/7 crew at 24_7@reason.com, or tweet us stories
at 
@reason247.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/04/obamacare-coming-to-your-favorite-primet
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"Just When Consensus Thinks Europe Is Exiting The Crisis" Or Why You Can't Handle The Truth About Europe

… but for those who can, and wish to see beyond the propaganda of the Eurozone’s unelected leaders, here is Natixis with a candid, honest summary of Europe’s sad, “unsustainable” predicament.

Just when the consensus thinks Europe it is exiting the crisis…

by Patrick Artus of Natixis

This growing differential between real interest rates and growth rates is significantly harming borrowers’ solvency. Consider the case of public finances. Due to the widening differential between the real long-term interest rate and the real growth rate, the primary fiscal surplus which stabilises the public debt ratio (Chart 5) is currently (percentage points of GDP):

? 4.5 in Spain, versus an actual deficit of 4.0
? 7.0 in Italy, versus an actual surplus of 2.0;
? 11.7 in Portugal, versus a deficit of 1.0;
? 4.8 in Ireland, versus a deficit of 2.0;
? 26 in Greece, versus an actual deficit of 1.5.

These countries are therefore clearly entering deflation, a situation in which disinflation leads to excessively high real interest rates.

The rest of the euro zone is not in this situation. The real long-term interest rate in the euro zone, excluding the troubled countries, is 1%, just above the growth rate (Charts 7A and B); the euro zone excluding the troubled countries has no primary fiscal deficit (Chart 7C) and is therefore close to solvency.

The troubled euro-zone countries are faced with not only a rise in their real interest rates but also with the need to return to restrictive fiscal policies in 2014. In 2013 fiscal deficits were not reduced, except in Greece (Chart below, left), because these countries took advantage of the postponement of the date by which they have to bring their deficits under control. This situation is leading to a very rapid increase in public debt ratios (Chart below, right) and is therefore unsustainable; moreover, it is unacceptable for the European Commission, the ECB and Germany.

The ECB is therefore faced with a new heterogeneity in the euro zone. The troubled countries are being pushed into deflation due to the very large differential between real interest rates and growth rates which results from the rapid decline of inflation; this is not the case for the other countries. If the ECB does not react, the troubled countries will therefore find themselves in an even worse situation of confirmed deflation. What can it do? The solution that would be most effective, but is probably unacceptable for the ECB, would be to act like the Bank of Japan: massive purchases of government bonds of the troubled countries (Chart 10A) leading to a rise in inflation expectations and actual inflation (Charts 10B and C) and a fall in real long-term interest rates (Chart 10C). The probability of the ECB conducting this policy is very low; part of the euro zone is therefore likely to become mired in deflation just when the consensus thinks that it is exiting the crisis.

Source: Natixis


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/kj35xU6XCbc/story01.htm Tyler Durden

“Just When Consensus Thinks Europe Is Exiting The Crisis” Or Why You Can’t Handle The Truth About Europe

… but for those who can, and wish to see beyond the propaganda of the Eurozone’s unelected leaders, here is Natixis with a candid, honest summary of Europe’s sad, “unsustainable” predicament.

Just when the consensus thinks Europe it is exiting the crisis…

by Patrick Artus of Natixis

This growing differential between real interest rates and growth rates is significantly harming borrowers’ solvency. Consider the case of public finances. Due to the widening differential between the real long-term interest rate and the real growth rate, the primary fiscal surplus which stabilises the public debt ratio (Chart 5) is currently (percentage points of GDP):

? 4.5 in Spain, versus an actual deficit of 4.0
? 7.0 in Italy, versus an actual surplus of 2.0;
? 11.7 in Portugal, versus a deficit of 1.0;
? 4.8 in Ireland, versus a deficit of 2.0;
? 26 in Greece, versus an actual deficit of 1.5.

These countries are therefore clearly entering deflation, a situation in which disinflation leads to excessively high real interest rates.

The rest of the euro zone is not in this situation. The real long-term interest rate in the euro zone, excluding the troubled countries, is 1%, just above the growth rate (Charts 7A and B); the euro zone excluding the troubled countries has no primary fiscal deficit (Chart 7C) and is therefore close to solvency.

The troubled euro-zone countries are faced with not only a rise in their real interest rates but also with the need to return to restrictive fiscal policies in 2014. In 2013 fiscal deficits were not reduced, except in Greece (Chart below, left), because these countries took advantage of the postponement of the date by which they have to bring their deficits under control. This situation is leading to a very rapid increase in public debt ratios (Chart below, right) and is therefore unsustainable; moreover, it is unacceptable for the European Commission, the ECB and Germany.

The ECB is therefore faced with a new heterogeneity in the euro zone. The troubled countries are being pushed into deflation due to the very large differential between real interest rates and growth rates which results from the rapid decline of inflation; this is not the case for the other countries. If the ECB does not react, the troubled countries will therefore find themselves in an even worse situation of confirmed deflation. What can it do? The solution that would be most effective, but is probably unacceptable for the ECB, would be to act like the Bank of Japan: massive purchases of government bonds of the troubled countries (Chart 10A) leading to a rise in inflation expectations and actual inflation (Charts 10B and C) and a fall in real long-term interest rates (Chart 10C). The probability of the ECB conducting this policy is very low; part of the euro zone is therefore likely to become mired in deflation just when the consensus thinks that it is exiting the crisis.

Source: Natixis


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/kj35xU6XCbc/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Wall Street Code Released

VPRO Backlight has just released the documentary we did with them earlier this year.  Wall Street Code is about the blatant and planned fixing of, specifically, the US financial markets.  After meeting with Haim Bodek and being introduced by him to the guys at Sang Lucci, we decided to ban together and contact Marije.  The following is a culmination of that initial meeting and the specials skills possessed by the journalists at VPRO.  @DirtyAutomatik aka Bryan Wiener who was Haim Bodek’s head trader and makes a special appearance worth noting.  Look for Bryan to join me over on BTFDtv.com on this coming Sunday to talk special order types and order book manipulation.

 


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/JK3nuuRYNIU/story01.htm CalibratedConfidence

Tepco Tore Down the Natural Seawall Which Would Have Protected Fukushima from the Tsunami

The Wall Street Journal noted in 2011:

cat

When Tokyo Electric Power Co. broke ground on the now defunct Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power station 44 years ago, the utility made a fateful construction decision that raised the plant’s vulnerability to the tsunami that ultimately crippled its reactors.

 

In 1967, Tepco chopped 25 meters off the 35-meter natural seawall where the reactors were to be located, according to documents filed at the time with Japanese authorities. That little-noticed action was taken to make it easier to ferry equipment to the site and pump seawater to the reactors. It was also seen as an efficient way to build the complex atop the solid base of bedrock needed to better protect the plant from earthquakes.

 

But the razing of the cliff also placed the reactors five meters below the level of 14- to 15-meter tsunami hitting the plant March 11, triggering a major nuclear disaster resulting in the meltdown of three reactor cores.

 

***

 

At the time, a 35-meter seaside cliff running the length of the property was a prominent feature of the site.

 

But Tepco outlined its intention to clear away about two-thirds of the bluff in its official request for permission from the government to build its first nuclear plant, according to a copy of the application reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

 

“While the tsunami countermeasures at Fukushima Daiichi were considered sufficient when the plant was constructed, the fact that those defenses were overwhelmed is something that we take very seriously,” said Kouichi Shiraga, a public-affairs official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

 

***

 

The destruction of that natural tsunami barrier at the Fukushima Daiichi site contrasts starkly with later decisions in the 1970s to build the nearby Fukushima Daini and Onagawa nuclear-power plants at higher elevations. Despite being rocked by the massive March earthquake, both of those plants’ reactors achieved “cold shutdowns” shortly after the tsunami struck and thereby avoided the damage wreaked upon the crippled Daiichi plant.

 

Both of those plants, located along the same coastline as Daiichi, survived primarily because they were built at higher elevations, on top of floodwalls that came with the landscape. As a result, the tsunami didn’t result in an extended loss of power at those plants, allowing their operators to quickly cool active reactors and avoid meltdowns.

 

Tepco’s 1966 application for permission to start construction at Daiichi … did review tsunami history in a three-page list of seismic activity dating from 1273. In that chart, Tepco does reference a tsunami of unspecified height that struck the immediate area of Daiichi in 1677. It destroyed 1,000 homes and killed 300 people.

 

The application cites typhoons as the bigger threat, noting an 8-meter-tall wave generated in 1960. “Most large waves in this coastal area are the product of strong winds and low pressure weather patterns, such as Typhoon No. 28 in February of 1960, which produced peak waves measured at 7.94 meters,” it stated.

 

A former senior Tepco executive involved in the decision-making says there were two main reasons for removing the cliff. First, a lower escarpment made it easier to deliver heavy equipment used in the plant, such as the reactor vessels, turbines and diesel generators, all of which were transported to the site by sea. Second, the design of the plant required seawater to keep the reactor cool, which was facilitated by a shorter distance to the ocean.

 

“It would have been a very difficult and major engineering task to lift all that equipment up over the cliff,” says Masatoshi Toyota, 88 years old, the former top Tepco executive who helped oversee the building of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. “For similar reasons, we figured it would have been a major endeavor to pump up seawater from a plateau 35 meters above sea level,” he said in a telephone interview.

 

***

 

“Of course there is no record of big tsunami damage there because there was a high cliff at the very same spot” to prevent it, said Mr. Oike, the seismologist on the investigation committee.

 

And Daiichi’s lower elevation contrasted with plants that were built in the following years along the same coast.

 

***

 

The Onagawa site, 60 miles north of Daiichi, was selected in large part because of its height beyond the reach of any recorded tsunami, according to a former executive at a Japanese manufacturer involved in the work.

Many Other Negligent Or Criminal Errors

Tepco has made many other negligent or criminal errors:

  • Tepco just admitted that it’s known for 2 years that massive amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the groundwater and Pacific Ocean
  • Tepco’s recent attempts to solidify the ground under the reactors using chemicals has backfired horribly. And NBC News notes: “[Tepco] is considering freezing the ground around the plant. Essentially building a mile-long ice wall underground, something that’s never been tried before to keep the water out. One scientist I spoke to dismissed this idea as grasping at straws, just more evidence that the power company failed to anticipate this problem … and now cannot solve it.”

Letting Tepco remove the fuel rods is like letting a convicted murderer perform delicate brain surgery on a VIP.

Top scientists and government officials say that Tepco should be removed from all efforts to stabilize Fukushima. An international team of the smartest engineers and scientists should handle this difficult “surgery”.

Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear (who sent us the Wall Street Journal article) sums it up pretty well:


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/9HTnIG9V30A/story01.htm George Washington

Healthcare In America: Countless Layers Of Grift And Counter-Grift

Submitted by James H. Kunstler of Kunstler.com,

The ObamaCare website rollout fiasco, joined by the bait-and-switch “You can keep your current insurance (not)” tempest, obscure the fundamental quandary about so-called health-care in America: that it is a gigantic racket structured to allow countless layers of grift and counter-grift. The end product of all that artifice is that medical care costs twice as much in America as any other civilized country, and that it has to be operated by a cruel and despotic matrix of poorly coordinated bureaucracies that commonly leave people more disabled financially than the diseases that brought them into the system.

ObamaCare was designed to work like a giant roll of duct tape that would allow the current cast of characters in charge (Democratic Progressives) to pretend that the system could keep going a few years longer. But it looks like it has already blown out the patch on the manifold and is getting ready to throw a rod — which duct tape will not avail to fix.

I had three major surgeries (hip, open heart, spine) the past year and paid attention to the statements that rolled in from my then-insurer, Blue Shield (the policy was cancelled in October). These documents were always advertised as “this is not a bill” and that was technically true, but it deflected attention from what it really was, a record of negotiated scams between the “providers” (doctors and hospitals) and the insurance company.

 

There was never any discussion (or offer of discussion) of the cost of care before a procedure. When asked, doctors commonly pretend not to know what their work costs. Why is that? It’s not to spare the patient’s feelings. It’s because sick people are hostages and both the doctors and the hospital management know they will agree to anything that will get them through the crisis of illness. This sets up a situation that allows the “providers” to blindside the patient with charges after the fact.

 

My hip “revision” operation was necessary because my original implant was a defective (“innovative” circa 2003) metal-on-metal joint that released metal fragments into my system and it had to be removed. The stated charge for replacement part — a simple two piece bearing made of metal and plastic, about the size of tangerine — was $14,000. Blue Shield “negotiated” the price down to about $7,000. If you go to the websites of any of the manufacturers of these things, you will not see any suggested retail or wholesale price. The markup on these things must be out of this world. Cars come with four ball joints that carry roughly the same time warrantee, and they come with a staggering array of “extras”— engines, transmissions, air-conditioning, seats, air-bags, and radios. The pattern was similar for the other surgeries and what they entailed. I ended up paying five-figures out-of-pocket. Lucky for me that I saved some money before this all happened. I don’t have kids so I haven’t been paying extortionate college tuitions during my peak income years.

 

All the surgeries I had required hospital stays. For the hip op, I was in for a day and a half in a non-special bed (no fancy hookups). The charge was $23,000 per day. For what? They took my blood pressure nine times. I got about six bad meals. The line charge on the Blue Shield statement said “room and board.” It would be a joke if this extortion wasn’t multiplied millions of times a day across the nation. Citizen-hostages obviously don’t know where to begin to unravel this skein of dreadful rackets. If you think it’s possible to have a productive conversation with an insurance company rep at the other end of the phone line, then you’re going to be disappointed. You might as well be talking to a third-sub-deputy under-commissar in the Soviet motor vehicle bureau.

This ghastly matrix of corruption really only has two ways to go. It can completely implode in a fairly short time frame (say, five years, tops), or we can, by some miracle of political will, get our priorities straight and sweep away all the layers of racketeering with a single-payer system. The evidence in other civilized countries is not so encouraging. England’s National Health Service has degenerated into a two layer system of half-assed soviet-style medicine for the proles and concierge service for the rich. France’s system works more democratically, but the nation is going bankrupt and eventually their health care network will fall apart. The Scandinavian countries have relatively tiny populations. I don’t know, frankly, how the Germans are doing.

Here in the USA, you can make arguments for putting a greater share of public money into a single-payer system. For instance, if we redirected the money spent on our stupid military adventures and closed some of the countless redundant bases we run overseas. That would be a biggie. Given the current choke-hold of the military-industrial complex on our politicians, I wouldn’t expect much traction there.

You can argue that nobody complains about government spending on the highway system, so why should “the people” complain about organizing a medical system that really works? Obviously, there’s no consensus to make that happen. Too many doctors want to drive BMWs. Too many insurance executives and hospital administrators want to make multi-million dollar salaries. Too many lobbyist parasites and lawyers are feeding off that revenue stream. Too many politicians with gold-plated health insurance coverage don’t want to change the current distribution of goodies. End-of-story, as the late Tony Soprano used to say.

It’s the old quandary of fire or ice… which way do you want to go? Since I’m interested in reality-based outcomes, my bet would be on implosion. In any case, several of the other systems that currently support the activities of our society are scheduled for near-term implosion, too. That would be the banking-finance system, the energy supply system, and the industrial agriculture system. As those things wind down or crash, you can be sure that everything connected with them will be affected, so the chance that we could mount a real national health care system is, in my opinion, zero.

The ObamaCare duct-taped system will go down. The big hospitals, HMOs, insurers, pharma companies will all starve and shrivel. Like all things in the emergent new paradigm, they will reorganize on a small and much simpler basis. Everyone will make less money and high-tech medicine will probably dwindle for all but a very few… and for them, only for a while. Eventually, we’ll re-set to local clinic style medicine with far fewer resources, specialties, and miracle cures. There will be a whole lot less aggravation, though, and people may die more peacefully.

Finally, there’s the pathetic American lumpen-public of our day itself, steadily committing suicide en masse by corn byproducts, the three-hundred pounders lumbering down the Wal-Mart aisles in search of the latest designer nacho. What can you do about such a people, except let fate take them where it will?


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/s9HzrxixnfY/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Here Are The 9 Nations Most At Risk From China's Third Plenum

Market attention is on the Third Plenary Session meeting of the 18th Central Committee (Third Plenum), where a blueprint for major reforms over the next decade is to be announced during the four-day congress starting on November 9. However, history shows that economic growth tends to be lower after major third plenum meetings. This is because structural reforms, while good in the longer term, tend to slow growth in the near term. While this is ‘bad’ for the global economy overall, the following nine nations, who are dependent on China to consumer over one-half of all their total exports, are particularly at risk.

Economic growth usually slows after major Third plenum meetings

(via Barclays)

And will weight extremely heavily on the following nations

Countries Dependent on China to Consume Half or More of Their Total Exports

(via @M_McDonough)


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/nNfBikhegvk/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Here Are The 9 Nations Most At Risk From China’s Third Plenum

Market attention is on the Third Plenary Session meeting of the 18th Central Committee (Third Plenum), where a blueprint for major reforms over the next decade is to be announced during the four-day congress starting on November 9. However, history shows that economic growth tends to be lower after major third plenum meetings. This is because structural reforms, while good in the longer term, tend to slow growth in the near term. While this is ‘bad’ for the global economy overall, the following nine nations, who are dependent on China to consumer over one-half of all their total exports, are particularly at risk.

Economic growth usually slows after major Third plenum meetings

(via Barclays)

And will weight extremely heavily on the following nations

Countries Dependent on China to Consume Half or More of Their Total Exports

(via @M_McDonough)


    



via Zero Hedge http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/zerohedge/feed/~3/nNfBikhegvk/story01.htm Tyler Durden

Poll: Majority of Brits Want Rail, Energy Companies Nationalized

Here is part of a write-up on the latest
terrifying poll from the other side of the Atlantic (from
YouGov
):

The majority of the British public – including the majority of
Conservative voters – support nationalising the energy and rail
companies

Labour’s plan to freeze energy prices for 20 months has
re-ignited the debate over the role of the government in markets,
with Conservatives arguing intervention is a ‘con’ while Labour
claim the state should ‘reset’ the market. Shadow transport
secretary Mary Creagh has even suggested Labour are open to
re-nationalising train services.

However, YouGov research for the Centre for Labour and Social
Studies finds voters of all politics united in their support for
nationalisation of energy and rail.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most Labour Party
supporters, who are
unashamedly socialist
, want rail and energy companies to be
nationalized. However, it is frightening that more than half of
Conservatives polled agree with Labour supporters on the issue:


The graph above not only shows that the nationalization of rail
and energy companies has majority support across the British
political spectrum, it also highlights that UKIP members are hardly
the supporters of limited government and free markets
some seem

to think they are
. In fact, UKIP members support the
nationalization of rail and energy companies more than Liberal
Democrats, who are oftentimes described as center-left.

Below is another terrifying graph from the same poll. It turns
out that over a third of the British public believe that the
government should have the power to control the price of food:


Read the full results of the poll
here

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/04/poll-majority-of-brits-want-rail-energy
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