Thursday, June 30, 2016

My COMMENT at Economist's View and DeLong:

Re: Which Thinkers Will Define Our Future? - J. Bradford DeLong
Re: The Anger Wave That May Just Wipe Out Laissez-Faire Economics - NYTimes

Karl Marx said America doesn't need socialism because it had labor unions. Opps! (Where'd they go?)

NYT writer does usual analysis of what-to-do-next w/o any mention of re-unionizing our labor force -- w/o realizing that de-unionizing is the source of almost all our other troubles.

Today's progressive thinkers (don't know about Keynes, et al) all seem to miss that only re-balancing the average persons' economic bargaining power and political power via re-creating high labor union density can re-constitute a health society.

My future-defining thinker might be Jimmy Hoffa. :-)

But as long as nobody talks about re-unionization (as the beginning and the end of re-constituting the American dream) -- nobody thinks it is possible to talk about ...
... or something.

Easy as pie to make union busting a felony in our most progressive states (WA, OR, CA, NV, IL, NY, MD) -- and then get out of the way as the first 2000 people in the many telephone directories re-define our future.

My  COMMENT at Noahpinion:

Re:  Some stuff economists tend to leave out

A hidden dimension in prime-age, non-college educated male labor market drop-out -- usually left out?

"The Crips and the Bloods" and my gang, American raised (former) taxi drivers, would enthusiastically work for $200 a week -- one hundred years ago when it would have been understood that that was the best a, then, much less productive economy could pay low skilled labor: the best in history, indoor plumbing, etc.

They, we, won't work for $400 a week today.  $800, yes.

The money is there.  The min wage was $440 in 1968 at half today's per capita.  $600 a week would transfer 5% of income from the 55% who now take 90% to the 45% -- not counting push-ups.  Push-ups: supermarkets pre-Walmart used to pay $800.

Beautiful thing about collective bargaining is that (in the US make that "would be that") labor feels it has squeezed the most out of the consumer for the era it habitates -- and subjectively on top of the world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Double the building instead of doubling the rents -- same money

"A North Beach [San Francisco] tenant recently received notice from his landlord that the rent on his apartment was going up from $1,800 a month to $8,000."


"Neil Hutchinson, who has lived in the building at Columbus and Scotland streets for six years, has been hit with a rent increase of 344 percent."


" MANHATTAN — The city’s rent-stabilized tenants will once again see a rent freeze on one-year leases."

"The Rent Guidelines Board voted Monday night against any increases on one-year leases and voted for a 2 percent increase on two-year leases, marking a repeat of its vote last year, which was the first time ever the board approved a rent freeze."


Strikes me that when rents double and triple, the same money could be going to build twice and three times as much housing instead of uselessly lining the landlords’ pockets (I think economists call this collecting rents).

Part of the solution, besides easing up on zoning like Seattle or happening to have plenty of land to extend construction to like Houston, might simply be a working market-realistic version of rent control like Germany and Paris and many Euro places (Singapore housing is 80% public I think).

Main idea: if landlords want to cash in on demand they will have to build to profit by it. Help; before we are all forced to move to Mexico!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Will 500,000 Americans a year die -- for lack of $30 million?

Fatalities from accidents and homicides in the US every year are a far distant second and third to the half a million Americans (and uncounted millions around the world) who die from heart failure.  There now there looks to be a stabilizing procedure for most all and an actual cure for many … but from Sunshine Heart, C-pulse device e-news I get, being $20-30 million short to fund final clinical trials stands between those millions and the rest of their lives.
It goes like this.  A trial with 20 very ill patients (stage III, stage IV HF, with at least one hospitalization and considered for another device) ended in 2012 with 5 complete cures (device removed), the majority improved and none worse.

Novel, implantable device 'could slow, reverse heart failure', Honor Whiteman,  Tuesday 7 October 2014
”Around 50% of people who develop heart failure [5.2 million Americans] die within 5 years of diagnosis. But could a novel, implantable heart device change this? In a clinical trial, the C-Pulse - a cuff that wraps around the aorta and pumps blood from the heart around the body - has proved effective in reversing heart failure, even in some patients with severe cases.”

No problems with clots or strokes with the C-pulse balloon outside the bloodstream.  Implanted non-invasively too.

Sunshine Heart has been working up a final trial with 200 patients to win FDA approval but can’t seem to get past 100.  Money seems the bigger obstacle.

“Unfortunately, there don't appear to be easy solutions to Sunshine Heart's primary problem - it lacks the resources of major cardiology companies like Boston Scientific (BSX), Medtronic (MDT), or St. Jude Medical (STJ) that could otherwise support and encourage enrollment. Getting the FDA's permission to run an interim analysis would certainly help, and the shares do appear undervalued, but the company is...”

One email from Sunshine Heart (can’t dig it out) made out private investors to be reluctant for fear any patent could be too easily worked around.

Here’s the thing.  I figure 5 million currently terminal patients (we all know somebody) would gladly pony up $6 apiece.  :-)  More sensible path – government supporting this and all clinical trials from now on – possibly neutralizing big pharma’s biggest gouging excuse without hampering innovation (encouraging) – in this case, with 10,000 American deaths every week, pronto.  Maybe states could get together and pitch in.  Maybe GoFundMe.  ???  Whatever, soon.

 * * * * * * * * * *
“To use Sovaldi to treat each of the 3 million hepatitis C patients in the United States, it would cost around $300 billion, or about the same amount we annually spend for all other drugs combined.”

Thus the opposite end of the pharma-out-for-pharma cruelty scale.  Federal legislation exists* to put and end to what-should-be a $300 billion joke right now.  Be a nice Democratic campaign issue – if that’s what it takes. 

Bydureon (once a week) keeps my blood sugar down, my insulin up and caused me to lose 50 pounds in as many weeks without effort.  [Late animal studies note: GLP-1 drugs like Bydureon may prevent the gradual loss of beta cells which characterized Type II diabetes.] The VA endocrinologist (right hand man to a Nobel Prize winner) who discovered the prized molecule in the saliva of a Gila Monster is likely still working on salary.  Pharmasset's chief Sovaldi researcher made $446 million dollars for himself …
… made possible only because the "Gilead Monster" could fork over $11 billion in the expectation of getting back $1,000 a pill (that cost $1 to make).

$30 million or $300 billion short, America's wonder drug machine needs major redesign -- and in a hurry.

Late additions:


Follow up  --  FWIW?:

From what admittedly little I gleaned from Goggle, neuromodultion seemed not to carry much promise -- at least in the context of the trials shown.


Gilead again.  This time Gilead halted research on an improved version off its HIV drug for six years to stretch its current patent.

" The foundation had argued in the lawsuit that millions of patients could have benefited years earlier from the less harmful drug if the company had not delayed its development.

" The older drug’s label has long warned that it can damage a patient’s kidneys and bones. In a large study in 2012, doctors at UC San Francisco analyzed a database of more than 10,000 HIV patients at the Department of Veterans Affairs, finding the risk of chronic kidney disease rose 33% each year a patient took the medicine."

" Lucentis is just as good as slowing the progression of macular degeneration as Avastin. There’s just one little problem with Lucentis, however. Instead of costing Medicare $50 per pop, it costs up to $2,000. " 

Unfortunately Genentech wont manufacture Avastin in ready-to-use form and there is a very slight risk of infection with current application of Avastin.  No high priced research needed here -- simply manufacture easy-to-use.  But big loss of over priced sales. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How Hillary can leave Bernie in her progressive dust and Donald in her blue collar dust

Perfect issue for Hillary to leave Sanders in her progressive dust and Trump in her blue collar dust: make union busting a felony.  Only market in which one side may use unchecked market muscle by firing the other side's bargaining organizers -- to prevent monopsony (employer, one buyer) from being equally balanced in deal negotiating (that's "deal" as in Donald :-]) with a natural monopoly (organized employees, one seller).

Oh, it's illegal to muscle organizers alright -- and nobody would argue that it shouldn't be illegal.  There's just doesn't happen to be any working penalty other than being forced to hire the would be organizer back two or three years later (w/minimal comp for diff in wages) -- after which most are fired within a year for "something else", having no union to protect them from such.

Everybody (most anyway) think of the utter necessity of making union busting a felony for about one second -- about as long as it takes to reflect on the "immovable political object" of how things are set up now and immediately dismiss it from thought because it's, too different or something.  ???  Here's a little formulation that hopefully can make the thought of penalizing market busting on a grownup level last a few seconds longer:

In a labor market where wage levels are set by what I call subsistence-plus -- bottom skills paid by the very minimum below which no one will show up; better English, Starbucks?; better education, Whole Foods?, paid off in increments above the bottom -- where pay levels  depend wholly on worker compared to worker, rather than on what the ultimate consumer might have been willing to pony up (like we focus on in minimum wage discussions),  ...

... even with a labor force of 100% rich country workers (one example, primarily American born taxi drivers -- who will show up for $800/wk but not $400/wk) wage levels will be lower than in ...

... a labor market with 50% rich country and 50% poor country workers (possible population example, Chicago -- 40% white, 40% Black, 20% Hispanic) where wage levels are set by collectively bargaining -- according to how much can be squeezed out of the ultimate consumer (again, same as in minimum wage discussions).

Only look at France or Germany where a mixture of rich country and poor country workers does not put French or German workers out of work (think American born taxi drivers and the Crips and the Bloods).  Collective bargaining sets the rate of pay regardless of who is on the receiving end of the paycheck.  In Chicago fast food work has been outsourced to Mexico and India while Chicago taxi driving outsourced all over the world.

There's possibly another election angle (writing and thinking): collective bargaining could render immigration much more harmless appearing to some.  Of course we know Trump supporters are on financially better off than most -- many but not all.

Anybody ready to think for a couple of extra seconds?

Making union busting a felony, automatically backed by federal and 33 state RICO statutes (the latter necessary to deter employers from pushing the limits for too long) should be a shoe-in in progressive states (WA, OR, CA, NV, IL, NY, MD?) if someone would just make it a national issue.