Photo of the day

As seen on facebook:

Hmmm.  But wouldn’t you rather have young women die needlessly of cancer than have socialized medicine!?

Gas mileage

I cannot remember where I first read about this, but as it’s a fact I’ve enjoyed pointing out for years, I really enjoyed Brad Plumer’s post pointing out that automobile manufacturers have actually been churning out steadily more efficient engines.  The problem is that nearly all those gains have gone into more horsepower and heavier cars than into better mileage.  Optimistically, this means that if we actually focus on getting better mileage, this is pretty low-hanging fruit.  Somehow, I seem to survive just fine in my 116 hp Corolla.  Plumer:

The charts below, for instance, show how the Honda Accord has evolved over time. The car’s weight, horsepower and torque have all climbed dramatically since 1980. By contrast, the car’s gas mileage (shown in the lower right corner), spiked briefly in the early 1980s before plummeting and then largely stagnating for a decade:

Here’s another way of making the point: If Americans were still driving the same-sized cars that they were back in 1980, Knittel calculates, the average gas mileage of vehicles would be about 37 miles per gallon today, rather than the 23 miles per gallon we’re currently getting. But oil prices fell during the 1980s and 1990s, and fuel-economy standards stagnated. Automakers had few incentives to improve gas mileage. So they didn’t.

I do love how clearly those charts demonstrate the story.  I don’t really have anything to add, just think it is a fact that more people should appreciate and should definitely guide our policy regarding fuel efficiency standards.

Social Mobility and early education

Well, here’s a post I know John F. is going to love.  Kevin Drum excerpts a chart from a Times article on social mobility that compares the US and Denmark on social mobility.  As he points out, far and away the biggest difference is on the ability of those in the lowest quintile to move up:

This, of course, has some very real policy implications:

So that’s the problem: lousy opportunities for the very poorest kids. They start out worse off than Danish kids, and they end up worse off than Danish adults. There’s no single reason for this, but one of the big ones is early childhood education. Danes do a much better job on this score than we do, and if we put more money and energy into this I’ll bet it would make a big difference.

Surely one of our great failures as a nation policy-wise is to do more to address this left-most portion of the graph.  Especially, since we pretty much know what we need to do.  It seems there’s just not the political will to spend money on poor kids, despite the fact that it gives you about the biggest bang for the buck as anything you can do.  Not sure if there’s any political science studies on public opinion towards this.  If there’s not, somebody should do one.

Also, Drum doesn’t point this out, but I do like the fact that it is significantly more easy for top quintiles Danes to fall into the bottom quintile.  That’s obviously what would happen to the Paris Hiltons and such in a more just world.

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