Monday, July 31, 2017

This and That

Critical thinking leads to some interesting questions and observations.

A friend recently asked me why he has to pay for syringes for his wife’s diabetes injections while drug addicts on the street can get them for free, funded by taxpayers like him.

How can people plan to pay for their children’s education or their own retirement when they can’t even plan for an annual vacation?  “According to a survey by financial planning company LearnVest, 74 percent of Americans have taken on debt to go on vacation.  The study surveyed 1,000 adults. It showed that, on average, Americans take on about $1,100 in debt for each vacation.”

The article adds:  “Around 55 percent of Americans forget to plan ahead for vacations when setting their budget for the year, according to the survey. It also shows that one-third of Americans would rather save money for a vacation than for a house or retirement.”  (See my earlier comments on vacation planning and gasoline price.)

People are puzzling about the drastic increase in overweight pets.  An analysis from veterinary clinics across the country of about 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats treated last year found an increase of more than 150% in overweight dogs and cats over the last 10 years.  About 1 in 3 are either overweight or obese.  The only surprise here is that they are still doing better than their owners.  (Can I say owners or do I have to call them pet parents for fear of offending someone?)

What is the city council of Minneapolis thinking?  They want to “require stores to charge a fee for any type of bag — paper or plastic — they give out.”  Can’t they see that this will hurt the poor the most?  Don’t they know that more people know about recycling than know that cloth grocery bags should be washed out periodically to avoid cross-contamination?

Two studies, one from University of Washington and the other the University of California, Berkeley, about the effects of the first tier of minimum wage increases in Seattle came to different conclusions.  One says it hurts the workers; the other says the workers benefit.  But Forbes reports there are “potential problems with both studies.”  The jury is still out and many economists do agree that the potential success or failure will be influenced by factors unique to the Seattle economy.  This is why it’s so important to conduct most of these experiments on the state and local level, rather than trying to impose a one-size-fits-all solution from Washington, then wring our hands as flaws later appear.

Here is a link to an informative table.  It shows murder rates by state by year from 2001 to 2015 with highlights showing which states had the death penalty (also by year).  It appears that the death penalty has no effect at all on the murder rates, even looking at data from individual states that banned it during that time period.  But some persist in defending capital punishment despite the fact that besides apparently not deterring crime, those cases are many times more costly than comparable cases.

Also interesting is that, despite what we might hear on the news or from politicians, the overall murder rate in America is half of what it was in 1980.

It’s a strange world we live in.  We all must be critical thinkers and question rather than passively accept any idea just because it sounds good.

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