Contrary to the recent letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register from Rod Pierce, our government should not create or subsidize a carbon credit market in order to create an additional source of income for farmers. It reminds me of the ethanol debacle. Fifteen years ago our government created a market for corn-based ethanol by forcing fuel suppliers to add ethanol to gasoline under the misleadingly named Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Farmers and ethanol producers fight tooth and nail to prevent our government from phasing out the RFS. A carbon credit scheme could very well be another government program that will be costly to maintain and difficult to ever end. Farmers become dependent on subsidies just like everyone else. We don’t know what new technologies will emerge – just like no one predicted the shale oil boom in North Dakota. Our government needs to stay out of the energy and agricultural markets. Farmers will be on a surer footing when they don’t depend on government subsidies.
The statistics used in the recently published White House coronavirus report for Iowa, and published in The Des Moines Register do not prove that the coronavirus is growing faster in Iowa than the rest of the nation. The two key statistics used are not valid indicators. The statistic “average number of positive tests per day per 100,000 population” is not valid because the results vary depending on how many tests are reported each day, and because those getting tested are not representative of the entire population. The statistic “percent of tests reported each day that are positive”, (the positivity rate), is not valid because, again, those getting tested are not representative of the entire population. The only currently available valid statistic is the death rate, which is a lagging indicator, and which is going down. We should not be locking down parts of our economy based on bad data. We should continue to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing when appropriate.
In a letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register, Lauren Lasswell asked, “Why do we support a transportation system that’s incredibly inefficient?” (See link below to Lasswell’s letter published 8/14/20.) She advocated for more public mass transit. She wrote, “…the gas and money saved… would be astounding.” She does not account for the fact that the vast majority of roads are paid for by fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, much of which would go away if people moved away from passenger cars to mass transit. Also not mentioned is that our freely made individual decisions make it clear that most people prefer the convenience and time saved by using their own passenger car to go quickly and directly from any place to another.
I agree with William Cotton’s essay in The Des Moines Register that we must make changes to eliminate systemic racism. (See link below to his essay in the Register.) Here are two specific actions we should take: 1. Eliminate stops by police of vehicles with equipment violations such as broken lights. If appropriate, tickets can be issued by mail against the owner of the vehicle based on videos or photos. This will help eliminate pre-textual stops. 2. Repeal or stop enforcement of laws against the possession of marijuana. It has been clearly established that marijuana possession laws are enforced unequally between black and white people. We have made great progress over time in reducing government-supported racism in our country, but we must continue to eliminate it everywhere we find it.
The editorial team at The Des Moines Register, (as well as many liberals), seem to think that anyone who does not follow the recommendations of our government’s scientists is a “science denier.” That’s not true. People can believe the science but disagree about how to respond politically. Science can give us a pretty good idea of what will happen when we take certain actions, but science does not tell us what risks are acceptable or what trade-offs we are willing to make to achieve any specific level of safety. Those are either individual or political decisions. We could stop COVID-19 completely if everyone was required to stay in their home for the next 30 days. But even then, some would die in their homes. There is no perfect answer. It is a proper role of government to use its force to stop or slow the spread of a communicable disease. But as we can clearly see there are wide differences of opinion regarding what trade-offs we are willing to make and what level of safety should be our goal. To the extent that those who are not willing to take a risk can protect themselves, others should be free to take risks.
I just started listening to the audio podcast of the Soho Forum debate: “There is overwhelming evidence that our criminal justice system is racist.” The debaters are Radley Balko (for), and Rafael Mangual (against).
The opening statement by Radley Balko is full of evidence of systemic racism in the administration of our criminal justice system. If you want specifics, the video and audio links are below.
I agree with John Stanford’s essay in the Wall Street Journal today that controlling drug prices would slow biomedical innovation and and research. (WSJ 7/2/2020 – see link below.) When you spend less money on anything you will get less of it. But that’s okay. Today, we get more drug research and innovation than we want to pay for.
Most drugs approved by the FDA are required by law to be covered and paid for by Medicare and Medicaid regardless of price! Many are required by law to be covered and paid for by private insurance companies regardless of the price! This is true even when the drug provides little or no improvement over other existing approved drugs! Under such a situation we, of course, get maximum research and development.
If we did the same for space exploration, we would probably already have colonies on Mars. If we did the same for climate change, we would probably already have that problem solved. The point is that development of new prescription drugs is not our only priority, and our ability to pay is not unlimited.
We don’t have anything close to free market capitalism in the prescription drug market in the U.S. Government is already very involved, mostly providing subsidies, protection from competition, and other benefits to drug manufacturers. It is not unreasonable to set a drug price ceiling that is 20% higher than what is being paid by Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. We can always make special exceptions for something like a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.
Bob Vander Platas’ essay in the Register supporting the State ordered prohibition of abortion was a poor attempt to rationalize his religious beliefs. (See link below.) Most would agree that if an abortion is to be done, it is best done at the earliest stage possible, ideally during the first trimester. Iowa should not be prohibiting abortions or other “elective” surgeries that increase a person’s health risk if they are delayed. Currently, hospitals in Iowa are not that close to capacity, and surgical masks are different than the N95 masks. This is one area where restrictions should be eased now.
Stay-at-home and shelter-in place orders appear to be no different than what I see happening in Iowa, regardless of what you call it. In all cases, people are still free to walk, shop for groceries, get medicine, access medical care, all while social distancing. Iowans are doing their part to bend the curve to help not overload our healthcare system. Those who want further protection can quarantine themselves as much as they want. Those who criticize Governor Reynolds for not using different terminology are just playing politics.
I don’t doubt the good intentions of our government leaders, including elected officials and public health regulators, as they tighten restrictions on our freedom of movement.. We are “bending the curve” and easing the pressure on our health care system. But unless an effective anti-virus drug is found and administered to everyone very quickly, bending the curve will only delay the time before most of us will become infected, and will lengthen the time that we all suffer emotionally and economically.
Why is our response to this situation so dramatically different than our response to the flu or automobile accidents? Both the flu and auto accidents kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and are preventable. We could dramatically reduce those deaths if we used the same extreme measures that we are using against COVID-19. But what is the point of living if we have to stay away from our family and friends? For a few weeks, fine. For several months or more, not acceptable. Life has risks. We need to balance the costs and the benefits of our efforts. Soon, we need to once again let people decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take.