Thursday, January 31, 2013

China vs. U.S. Savings Rates

I was going to include an extensive write-up with this. But I think the charts pretty much do the talking. And what they say is not encouraging. That's savings as a percent of GDP for the United States and China. Guess which is which.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Big CON, Healthcare Edition

That is to say, "certificates of need." I recently learned about these, among other things, from reading an old John Cochrane blog post, and I am now inspired. I have seen the light. Seen the light in the sense that pretty much all of our national conversation on healthcare misses the point entirely, and by focusing on health insurance and the government pays-what-for-whom-when (Medicare for all! No, Medicare for none!) we're missing the mark by focusing on shifting the demand-curve for healthcare, when all the bodies are (literally in some cases) buried on the supply side.

Which brings me to the Certificates Of Need. A CON is a certificate that hospitals must submit for approval by the state government before they can purchase large-scale new equipment or expand physical operations, or build a new hospital at all. To be approved to expand operations, the hospital must demonstrate that its expansion will not impede the profitabilty of existing hospitals in the area or infringe on their market share.

Think about that, and imagine if that kind of rule were put in place in any other industry. Imagine if Verizon had to submit a form to the Federal government before developing a new cellphone and prove that it would not reduce AT&T's profits. Or Ford was prevented from building a new plant because it would harm GM's market share. We'd have a limited supply of cars and cellphones at higher prices. When you prohibit the expansion of production, that shifts the supply curve to the left. When you shift the supply curve to the left you get less output at higher prices. That's healthcare. It's not cellphones and cars because firms that provide these products are not LEGALLY PREVENTED from expanding plant and equipment; indeed it's encouraged. So prices continaully come down as quality and quantity grow. But not so with healthcare, so we instead get an endless series of schemes to expand "coverage" and reduce costs, when healthcare firms are legally prohibited from organically doing both on their own.

"Whoa, CONS are COOL."  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bernanke Is Not to Blame for Low Rates #387

Thought I'd hammer away at this again because I hadn't in a while. But it bears repeating because of the enormous policy implications and the political lobbying power of people who don't like low rates. Anyways, with the knowledge that "the" real interest rate will adjust and remain at an equilibrium that balances savings and investment in an economy, we expect the interest rate to fall when saving increases relative to investment. Bear in mind, this is the natural operation of a secular market, with no policy interference; simply a price changing to clear a market. Well check out the graph:

Ben Bernanke needs to throw this graph right in Paul Ryan's face next time he starts complaining about the "financial repression" caused by "artificially" low rates. Serisouly, look at that: in 2010, the American economy funded ALL the private investment firms wanted to make out of domestic savings and had over a trillion dollars left over. Of course, that was more than absorbed by the Federal budget deficit, which is why we still ran a current account deficit. But with inflation expections running so low and the private sector flooding the economy with net savings, low rates are the result of the market system, not an act of policy or choice.

P.S. as luck would have it David Glasner just made a new post with exactly this theme, but of course a lot better. Here's an exerpt and a link:
"First, it can’t be emphasized too strongly that low real interest rates are not caused by Fed “intervention” in the market. The Fed can buy up all the Treasuries it wants to, but doing so could not force down interest rates if those low interest rates were inconsistent with expected rates of return on investment and the marginal rate of time preference of households."