Blame your late flight on the Senate

Interesting chart on flight delays via Ezra:

That orangey-red is the delay due to our pathetically behind crumbling air travel infrastructure.  Wouldn’t want to spend money on that.  Might require taxes.  No, let’s just lose an estimated $41 billion in lost productivity per year.   Plus, when we do spend money, we don’t actually do it in a rational way:

Although the worst delays are concentrated in the busiest metro areas, Congress tends to sprinkle money for improvements on as many localities as possible. In 2009, for instance, the FAA spent $2.6 billion on airport improvements, but only one-quarter of that money went to the country’s largest airline hubs (which, in sum, serve about three-quarters of traffic). It’s good to be a small state with disproportionate representation.

Next time you are stuck waiting, don’t curse Delta, curse the money wasted on air travel infrastructure in North Dakota.

Forget about a third party president

My co-author Seth Masket partners with fellow Political Scientist Hans Noel to write a terrific Op-Ed in the LA Times about the futility of (and journalistic obsession with) hoping for a centrist, Independent candidate for president.  Awesome beginning.  Who says political scientists can’t write in an engaging way:

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Barack Obama and an independent and pragmatic president beholden to no party, ideology or interest group are walking down the street. At the same time, all four spot a dollar bill on the ground. Who gets the dollar?

Obama, of course. The other three are figments of your imagination.

Or, more to the point, the imaginations of many political journalists, who in every election cycle talk excitedly about the prospects for an independent candidate to run for the presidency. Recently, some columnists have been singing the virtues of a new organization called Americans Elect, which proposes an Internet convention to nominate a centrist, outsider presidential candidate for 2012.

The desire for an independent candidacy is easy enough to understand: Why wouldn’t the solution to our nation’s problems be a moderate president, without ties to the usual suspects, who is free to simply do what is right?

The problem is, it’s not going to happen. What’s more, we really don’t want it to.

Read the whole thing if you want to know why we don’t want this to happen.  Short version: political parties are essential to a well-functioning (and even not very well-functioning) political system.

Juxtaposition of the day

Just learned about this amazing photo essay “Where Children Sleep.”  Here’s two of the examples:

Yeah, I know there’s only so much we can do about endemic poverty, but if this doesn’t make you question just what kind of a world we live in, you’re probably a Republican.  Seriously, how can you possibly argue that Jasmine “deserves” or has “earned” in any way her bedroom as compared to Roathy’s.

Has Fox News noticed that Obama is Black?

So pathetic and so transparent.  Via Media Matters:

Video of the day

Alright this is super-cool (or at least I think so as I really love this song):

The hopeless Fed

I’m so not an expert on the Fed.  But, this is an area where I have learned infinitely more from reading blogs (primarily Klein and Yglesias) than reading the news stories of the Times and Post.  What I can say with some confidence is that they are truly failing on half their mission and I can hazard a pretty good guess on why.  From yesterday’s Times story on how the Fed is basically going to do nothing, even though we clearly could benefit from a QE3 without undue inflation risk:

By law the Fed is responsible for keeping prices steady and unemployment as low as possible. But Mr. Bernanke, like his predecessors, places greater emphasis on price

Look, if you are rich, successful Federal Reserve Governor unemployment is just something that happens to poor (and heck, Middle Class) people you don’t know.  Inflation, might actually affect your life.  It’s hard not to conclude that members of the Fed, living in their bubble of privilege, just don’t really give a damn (or half as much as they should) about the unemployment which creates widespread pain and misery because they are so worried about inflation hitting 3%, which might create mild discomfort, but especially of concern for other rich people.

The real cost of meat

Was listening to an NPR story about the huge ground turkey recall due to Salmonella (not quite this one, but close).   Amazingly, the poultry industry has succeeded to this point in preventing anti-biotic resistant salmonella from being labelled an “adulterant.”  If bacteria in your food that can make you amazingly miserable and even maybe kill you isn’t an adulterant, I don’t know what is.  The current system is pretty much what you would design if you wanted to create anti-biotic resistant bacteria– pervasive low doses of antibiotics given to healthy animals.  The same anti-biotics we use on humans.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  I’m sure you can guess why we do this– it results in cheaper meat, i.e., meat with a lower price tag in the store.

Anyway, they got the industry spokesperson to come on there, and quite predictably, she emphasized the affordability of our meat supply.  Here’s the thing, though.  This is an absolutely classic example of externalities.  The meat producers sell us cheap meat and make a profit larger than deserved because society as a whole deals with the very significant costs of anti-biotic resistant bacteria and salmonella outbreaks.  Now, if that was priced into our meat, you’d have to pay more, but that’s as it should be.  One of the reasons I really like buying my meat at Whole Foods is that, though imperfect, their suppliers avoid many of these externalities that shift the costs of meat production onto the general public.  Yes, I pay more for meat at Whole Foods, but that’s because it is, appropriately, more expensive to raise meat with fewer of these externalities.

Not to mention, I personally consider it a cost of meat that we treat the animals like absolute crap on your typical factory farm.  Again, meat should be more expensive and animals should have a reasonably humane life before slaughter.  I recently read a story about how scientists are trying to create a more heat-resistant chicken.  Apparently, in their tightly-packed, stultifying warehouses, a lot of NC chickens die in the summer.  Rather than possibly try and create a more humane environment where less chickens die from the heat they just want to make it so that chickens can suffer more before they actually die.

Yeah, I eat meat, but I don’t have to like it.   (And, yeah, I didn’t get into it, but this very much belongs in the “Politics” category).

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