Separating Ourselves from the Michiganders

Maureen Hayden, writing for CNHI, has an article entitled “Retracing a border incites tensions between Hoosiers, Michiganders” (h/t Indiana Law Blog).

The issue has to do with surveying the border between Indiana and Michigan. (If you’re a Michigander, dependent on hand-based maps, that’s the area between the palm and wrist.) When the original survey was performed in the 1820s they used wooden posts, most of which are long gone. The boundaries are generally known, but small differences can lead to problems. So, the states agreed to re-monument the border.

The new snag is that it’s taken awhile to get going, and Michigan doesn’t think the original cost estimate is reasonable. Apparently the original estimate from 2009 figured for about $1 million in expenses with each state footing half the bill. But, Michigan thinks that the estimates weren’t accurate Michigan anticipates that the true cost is more like $2 million.

Michigan insists that a survey crew needs to spend eight hours a day occupying a point on the boundary to get an accurate global positioning reading from satellites, for example. Indiana surveyors think the same work could be done in less than three hours.

“If you do it their way, it costs about $1,600 a day. If you do it our way, it costs $600 a day,” [St. Joseph County Surveyor John] McNamara said. “You can see how fast the extra costs add up.”

Indiana has only appropriated $500,000. So, it sounds like the states are going to haggle over the budget before they get started. Michigan should figure a way to get a bridge involved so Indiana could give them $1.7 billion the way we are to Kentucky.

The economy rewards leverage

As is his wont, Abdul just stirred the pot a little by saying on Facebook:

Ok, let’s make a deal. I’ll concede “income inequality” if you concede “work ethic” inequality.

That’s true, as far as it goes, but as he acknowledged in the discussion thread, the correlation is imperfect. It’s an old theme around here, but seems worth repeating.

Much as we’d like it to be, the economy isn’t a morality play. The economy doesn’t reward virtue. It rewards leverage. Hard work is one kind of leverage, and probably the most accessible form for the average person. Talent is another. Already having money is a big form of leverage. Controlling a bottleneck in the economy (e.g. monopoly or money supply) is yet another.

From the perspective of the person who makes the money, by and large, it seems like a function of their hard work and talent. They are acutely aware that they busted their ass, and they’ve seen, probably carried the load for at one time or another, any number of people who were lazy and talentless. What is often less obvious to someone in that position are the people who are also busting their asses with much less (or no) payoff. And even harder to recognize — on account of Upton Sinclair’s observation about the perspicacity of one whose salary depends on not being perspicacious — is when one’s own good fortune depends on siphoning off some portion of the value created by others.

The lack of insight into the condition of others is not unique to the well-to-do, of course. Just to pick an example, my guess is that there is a high percentage of employees who have no idea that their employer pays extra to Medicaid and Social Security on behalf of the employee for the privilege of employing them. While they no doubt have their own stressors in life, they perhaps don’t know what it’s like to continue thinking about work most of the day, every day, clocked in or out — where the next client is coming from, whether existing clients will renew their contracts, whether your vendors are cheating you, whether you have the company’s third quarter paperwork in order, etc.

In any event, the economy is complicated. We all have our problems. But, by and large, a person’s prosperity is not a good proxy for insight into the person’s moral character.

SCOTUS Declines to Hear Same Sex Marriage Cases. Lower Court Opinions Stand

The United States Supreme Court has issued its order denying to grant the petitions for certiorari to review the same sex marriage decisions by the various Courts of Appeal. The 7th Circuit had issued its opinion written by Judge Posner which upheld District Court Judge Young’s opinion issuing an injunction which nullified Indiana’s ban on same sex marriages.

Following an opinion by the Court of Appeals, the Clerk of the Circuit Court issues a mandate (See Fed. R. App. Proc. 41). This certifies the opinion to the lower court whose decision was under review. The Court of Appeals issued a stay which prevented the Clerk from issuing the mandate. The terms of that stay says that it terminates automatically if the Supreme Court denies the petition for certiorari. That has happened. Therefore, the stay on the 7th Circuit Clerk has been lifted. The 7th Circuit Clerk is now, I believe, free to issue the mandate, certifying the opinion to the lower court. That should probably happen as soon as the 7th Circuit Clerk can process the paperwork. Once that happens, Judge Young’s initial injunction will resume and Indiana’s prohibition on same sex marriages will be nullified.

A World Class Transportation System

Writing at Strong Towns, Charles Marohn notes that he has a book coming out entitled “A World Class Transportation System.” He is frustrated with the not-even-rising-to-the-level-of-a-Band-Aid approach to transportation policy. Our policymakers try only to come up with funding solutions for our current, outdated, system — and are not successful.

Transportation policy in America needs to focus on building cities that are financially productive and then connecting them with high speed, high capacity roadways. We built the interstate. Cross it off the list. We’re done. It’s now time to use that investment – to mature that system – to start getting more out of it.

Might be worth checking out.

Related – 50 years ago, on October 1, 1964, Japan began high speed rail service – Tokyo to Osaka at 130 miles per hour. Faster than we manage even today in the U.S.

Best Healthcare System in the World: Infant Mortality

One of the reasons for the push to Obamacare and away from the health care status quo is that our system costs way more than other places and yields results that are the same or worse as other countries. One of the metrics that lets us know our health care system is worse is that our infant mortality rate is worse than our peer countries. So, what explains the infant mortality rates?

Those in favor of the health care system status quo like to blame the differential on the measurements. It’s not that the U.S. actually has worse outcomes for infants, we just measure things more thoroughly and report more infant deaths. Aaron Carroll at the Incidental Economist has a post discussing a study that looks at this issue. And, in fact, these advocates have a point it seems. The reporting differences might explain up to 40% of the infant mortality differential — but that leaves us a long way to go.

It seems that one major area where our health system fails is in the period between one month and one year old. And, in particular, it fails infants who don’t have the good sense to be born to white, college-educated, married mothers. Those infants have a similar mortality rate as their European counterparts. The other infants are more likely to die.

I think it’s safe to say that being poor in the U.S. is a lot tougher than being poor in other Western countries.

Consent of Putative Father for Adoption Where He Has Abandoned the Expectant Mother

I was struggling through the General Assembly’s barely usable website (somewhat visible framed PDFs everywhere!) and found a relatively interesting hearing conducted by the interim study committee on the judiciary concerning SB 27 from last session and the issue of whether the consent of a father who has abandoned a child should be required for the mother to put the child up for adoption. (Maybe it’s SB 27, I see references to legislation introduced by Rep. Steuerwald but went to his legislative page and can’t see such a House Bill listed. But, again, the General Assembly’s unnecessarily complicated web page is unnecessarily complicated.)

The Indiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court judges submitted a letter with concerns, stating that: 1) abandonment of the mother doesn’t necessarily equate to abandonment of responsibilities to the child; 2) the timing with which the father can be served with a notice of adoption or file a petition to establish paternity; 3) the situation where a pregnant woman refuses contact with the putative father without “justifiable cause;” 4) an inadequate definition of “abandonment.”

A letter from a birth mother about a situation where, in her mind, allowing the biological father to prevent adoption by requiring his consent even though he would have been unable to provide financially for the child or mother would be unfair. “If a man is able to prevent a woman from choosing adoption . . . and encumbers her with the ensuing responsibilities and expenses then it is only prudent that he shares in those responsibilities.”

Adoptions of Indiana submitted a letter indicating that there is a need for a law regarding pre-birth abandonment in the situation where a father signs up on the putative father’s registry or file a paternity action “out of a desire to control and spite the expectant father.” The letter suggests that, where the putative father fails to support the mother financially during the pregnancy, that is evidence that the father has abandoned the expectant mother.

AP: Toll Road Operator in Financial Trouble

Rick Callahan, writing for the Associated Press, reports that the Indiana Toll Road is in financial trouble and that the Indiana Finance Authority has sent a 90 day letter ITR Concession Co., a subsidiary of Cintra-Macquarie, requiring the company “to show that it can meet its obligations to its lenders in compliance with the company’s lease responsibilities.”

The Toll Road operator is reportedly considering bankruptcy and selling its interest in the toll road to someone else. We are something like 11% of the way through the 75 year lease at this point.

Journal Gazette: State’s Infant Death Statistics Grim

Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an article entitled “State’s infant death statistics grim.” She is reporting on information received by the Indiana Commission on on Improving the Status of Children.

•Indiana’s 2012 infant mortality rate is 6.7. It was only the second time in more than 100 years it has dipped below 7.

•Two-thirds of all deaths under the age of 18 are infants.

•One baby dies every 13 hours in Indiana.

Among the issues listed were premature births and low birth weight, congenital malformations, sudden infant death syndrome, and the mother’s smoking or obesity.

Sounds like a lot of the resulting education campaign is going to focus on telling women not to smoke and drink and telling them to breastfeed. None of those are bad things, but I’m not surprised that the efforts will focus on relatively cheap and morally righteous scolding rather than, say, spending a bunch of money combatting the sorts of poverty that is usually associated with poor infant health. Also, just throwing this out there: I find that breast feeding advocates can go a little overboard on the zealotry.

“If I pay a man enough to buy my car, he’ll buy my car”

Sheila Kennedy has a post discussing Indiana’s economic activity and sales tax. She references an Indiana Business Journal report indicating that low wages are bad for business and hurt the economy. Discussing Indiana’s heavy reliance on sales taxes, she also references Standard & Poor indicating that “the slowdown in wage growth for most Hoosiers means they’re not spending much more money than before. And our wealthiest residents tend to save a greater share of their income and spend it on untaxed services.”

None of this is surprising. Sales taxes are known to be more volatile than property taxes, declining as the economy declines — which is often when government expenditures are most needed by the citizens. And discretionary consumer income drives the economy because as Mr. Ford reputedly observed, “if I pay a man enough to buy my car, he’ll buy my car.”

But wages are kind of a tragedy of the commons sort of thing. As a business owner, focused on profits, you’d probably be ideally situated if you can produce your stuff with low wage labor and sell your stuff to people with high wages. But, as more businesses pursue this model, there will be fewer and fewer high wage customers. Eventually the economy stagnates.

Like the man said, “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” A little bit of greed makes the economic system hum. Too much greed will make the whole system seize up.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

I guess the news about Vikings running back Adrian Peterson hitting his kid in the name of discipline has prompted some new discussions about corporal punishment – a fancy term that helps us avoid saying “hitting kids.” I see from this Baltimore Sun editorial that the U.S. is joined only by Somalia in refusing to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child ‘in part because the treaty aimed at ending child trafficking includes language about “acting in the best interest of a child.’ That, in turn, has been interpreted by some in the U.S. Senate as anti-parental rights or anti-spanking.” But, when you have Somalia on your side, you’re in pretty stout company.

You can tell that this devotion to spanking is going to resist any number of studies showing that spanking children doesn’t help them. I think that’s at least in part because there is a deep cultural distrust of happiness in this country. Hard work and suffering are inextricably linked to probity.

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 23:13-14.

I suppose some parents think they need to hit their kid to make them behave. I don’t blame generations past who thought that’s the way things had to be. But now we have studies and experience showing that you can raise good kids without hitting them and, in fact, are more likely to raise good kids if you don’t hit them. Hitting your kids these days reflects a lack of patience and a lack of imagination.

It’s not o.k. to hit anyone else in the world except the most defenseless person who trusts you most? Seems legit.