How to reduce U.S. overdose deaths.

It has been widely reported that more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during the 12 months ended April 30, 2021, a record high. A large and increasing portion of overdose deaths is attributable to illicitly obtained drugs, especially fentanyl. Many addicts have no choice but to buy their drugs on the black market, so they can’t be assured of the strength or purity of the drug, or what other drugs might have been added to what they think they are buying. As a result, many overdose deaths are accidental.

Imagine if we treated drug addiction using a medical model rather than a criminal model? If addictive drugs could be purchased legally and were regulated as to strength and purity, many overdose deaths would be avoided. Additionally, people who become addicted might be more likely to ask for help to kick the habit if they weren’t afraid of getting arrested and put in jail. Finally, much of the crime and violence associated with the illegal drug trade would go away if our policy of prohibition were ended.

As I’ve written before, if a new pharmacy opens in your neighborhood, the existing pharmacies don’t start a shooting war to protect their turf. And if someone breaks into or otherwise trys to rob a pharmacy, the pharmacy calls the police. It is the prohibition that causes most of the violence.

Under a legal drug regime, it would still be illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, and children would be prohibited from buying drugs. But a person who minds their own business would not be a criminal for using drugs in a peaceful manner.

Our republic is not a pure democracy!

I disagree with the letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register written by Ivan T. Webber that, “The United States Senate is an outdated relic that can no longer be justified in the modern world.”  He noted that none of the upper houses of the other G-7  nations can block ordinary legislation.   (“The US Senate is unacceptably undemocratic” published 11/11/2021)


We elect our representatives democratically, but our founding fathers and our Constitution created a Republic that protects certain fundamental rights of minorities against the will of majorities.  The Senate was specifically designed to protect smaller states from being abused by larger states.  If a minority in the Senate blocks the majority from achieving their goals, it is a feature, not a bug.

  
Important decisions made by our government that affect the lives of everyone should require more than a simple majority vote.  As we’ve seen, when the party in power has passed laws by a slim majority, whether Democrat or Republican, it has created a very divided populace.  We have an increasingly diverse population in the U.S., so our laws should, as much as possible, allow people to pursue happiness in their own way, not forced by government policy, if we want to maintain a civil society.

John Deere workers need to be careful to stay competitive.

The striking workers at John Deere just rejected the second contract proposal offered by the company. The workers need to be careful to not put John Deere in the position of being not competitive in world markets.

About 40% of John Deere’s revenues come from outside the U.S.  If the company is not competitive internationally it will see a dramatic decline in revenues, profits… and jobs.  Many people today push us to “buy American”.   That sounds good and patriotic, but if other countries do the same we will all be poorer.

International free trade, just like free trade among the states in the U.S., has two sides:  In the long run, it makes everyone better off, but in the short run disrupts the lives of many.  The best policy is to have a safety net that helps those who lose their jobs transition to new jobs, while allowing free trade to help improve the income and wealth of people around the world.

The media should not cancel candidates who think Trump won.

I disagree with the letter in The Des Moines Register from Thomas O’Donnell in which he wrote that candidates who have any doubts about the fairness of the 2020 presidential election results should not be given any coverage by the media – essentially that they should be shunned.  (Published 11/1/21 – see link below.)  I do agree that President Biden was fairly elected, and that all media should be free to not cover candidates who disagree.  But I think it is better for voters and more consistent with the philosophy of free speech for the media to disclose and call out those who disagree rather than to shun or ignore them.

Link to letter by Thomas O’Donnell: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/readers/2021/10/26/letters-american-flag-revered-free-speech/6126184001/

The world population growth rate is slowing.

In his recent essay in The Des Moines Register, Jonathan Wilson wrote regarding the Earth’s population, “The current rate of population increase is simply not sustainable.” That statement is literally true. The rate of the world’s population increase has been slowing for decades. According to a forecast by the United Nations, which is more pessimistic than other forecasts, the world population is expected to peak at about 11 billion people near the end of this century and then begin to decline.

A clear pattern has been established. As countries around the world have become more affluent, their population growth rates have slowed. As people gain more income and wealth they have better access to birth control and respond to the various costs associated with having more children by having fewer of them. So, maybe the best thing we can do to further slow the rate of population increases is to help people in poorer countries to improve their economic situation. We might best do that by reducing barriers to free trade. Good jobs in poor countries will also result in fewer people wanting to illegally immigrate to other richer countries like the U.S.

Link to Johathan Wilson’s essay in The Des Moines Register: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2021/10/17/world-food-prize-feeding-birth-control-both-needed/8214529002/

 

Government incentivizes creation and disposal of CO2

Here is a letter I just sent to The Des Moines Register:

Thank you for reporting on the proposed carbon sequestration project by Summit Carbon Solutions.  (“Iowa company plans meetings on pipeline” 8/30/21)  This company exists only because they will receive tax credits for each ton of carbon sequestered.  And the carbon will come from ethanol plants that exist only because of federal and other tax incentives and the force of government which requires the blending of ethanol into gasoline.  So taxpayers and consumers are paying for both the creation and disposal of this carbon.  What a shame.

Some drug price control by Government/Medicare is probably appropriate.

Jessica Hyland is correct that if our government starts regulating drug prices, then the development of new drugs will slow down. (Below is the link to her essay in the Des Moines Register.) Our current government policies have given us more new drugs at higher prices than we are willing to pay for. So maybe getting new drugs more slowly would be a good trade-off for significantly lower drug prices.

Good health might be the most important thing in our lives, but it is not the only thing. The pandemic proved that many people are willing to risk their health in order to do those other things they consider to be important in their lives.

Today, drugs approved by the FDA are required to be covered by Medicare regardless of the price, and whether or not the drug is any better than cheaper existing drugs!  Government granted patents prohibit competition by generic drug makers for 20 years or more!  There is clearly no free market for prescription drugs.  As a libertarian, I would love to see our government get out of the healthcare business altogether, but we don’t live in that world.  Our government has had its thumb on the scales in favor of drug companies for decades, so it is not unreasonable for it to now start regulating drug prices.

Link to Register essay by Jessica Hyland: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2021/05/25/hr-3-prescription-drugs-stifle-health-care-innovation/5240432001/

Don’t make Washington D.C. a new state!

Some Democrats are pushing to make most of Washington DC a State. (Washington DC would be reduced to the Capitol, the White House, the Mall and not much more. The remainder would become a new State.) More people live in Washington DC than in some of our smallest states. They say they do not get fair representation in Congress. If the area were to become a state, it would have two Senators and, I think, one Representative. About 75% of the registered voters in DC are Democrats. 6% are Republican. The rest are other parties or no party. So, it is easy to see why Democrats would like to have it added as a new State.

As you might guess, Republicans have another idea that would get the current citizens of Washington DC the representation that they want. That would be to return the land to the states that it originally came from: Virginia and Maryland. I understand that neither Virginia nor Maryland want the territory returned to them. Both of those states already appear to clearly have a Democrat majority, so it may be that they don’t want the territory returned because they already have control of those states and think it would be best for Democrats for Washington DC to be a new State.

I have a hard time trying to come up with a logical reasons why one alternative is better than another. What would happen if any state wanted to split into two or more states? Would that ever be allowed? Why or why not? For every possible scenario, it seems like what anyone would like to have happen depends on how it would affect the political party that they support. That being said, in this case, I’m in favor of returning the territory to the original states, or doing nothing. Doing nothing might be best because the other alternatives open up a big can or worms.

Paid time off to get vaccines?

This is from a White House Fact Sheet:

“Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a paid leave tax credit will offset the cost for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees for up to 80 hours (i.e. 10 work days) up to $511 per day of paid sick leave offered between April 1 and September 30, 2021. This tax credit will allow these employers to provide paid leave for employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination and for any time their employees may need to recover from that vaccination at no cost to the employer. ” Here’s the link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/21/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-call-on-all-employers-to-provide-paid-time-off-for-employees-to-get-vaccinated-after-meeting-goal-of-200-million-shots-in-the-first-100-days/

The tax credit can also be taken by self-employed people on their income tax return.

Wait, there is more in the Fact Sheet:

“Building on today’s IRS release and the American Rescue Plan’s provisions, the Administration is committed to expanding paid leave more generally. That’s why the tax credit in the American Rescue Plan will enable employers with fewer than 500 employees to claim up to $17,110 for 14 weeks of paid leave for each impacted employee not only to get vaccinated, but also to take time off if they have COVID-19 symptoms and are going to the doctor; are getting tested for COVID-19; are under quarantine or isolation order by the government or a doctor (or are caring for someone who is); or have to care for a child whose school or child care provider closed, due to COVID-19.”

If a company with less than 500 employees already provides paid family leave will they get the credit? How will they prevent fraud and abuse by small employers and self-employed individuals?

It is hard for be to believe that the President has this power. It just doesn’t seem right. It seems out of control.

FEMA – $9,000 Covid-19 Death Benefit!

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has announced a benefit of up to $9,000 to reimburse funeral expenses for those who died from Covid-19. There is no means test, so people qualify for the benefit regardless of the income or wealth of the deceased or family members. (This same benefit has been available in previous disasters.) FEMA will not reimburse any amounts paid for or reimbursed by pre-planned sources such as funeral insurance, veterans benefits, etc.

Everyone dies eventually. If a person died with no resources and there is no insurance or other benefit available, it can be difficult or impossible for relatives to pay funeral expenses regardless of when or why the person dies. Most states have provisions to pay for a burial if the person died with no resources and no one else volunteers to pay. And relatives cannot be forced to pay for a funeral or burial.

So why should we expect FEMA to pay such a benefit? And even if a benefit is available, why should there be no means testing?