Sunday, April 30, 2006

Medical Morons

Percent of people with HIV in Africa 1999-2001

Check out this recent headline – Circumcision, Fidelity More Effective HIV Prevention Methods than Condoms, Abstinence, Researchers say.

I touched on this in a prior post,

Researchers have found that male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 70%. Why does this make the Roundup? Because the world is spending billions of dollars to find an HIV vaccine whose targeted risk reduction level is only 30%. When are people going to realize that scientists are mostly a government subsidized welfare demographic?

Now that headline is somewhat whacky. I am not sure how anything could trump abstinence but nevertheless, it echoes what I previously said about circumcision.

The researchers said,

...they have tried to “put aside intuitions, emotions, ideologies and look at the evidence in as coldhearted a way as we can.”

Do you believe this? This is like a judge saying that he tried to consider the law before making a ruling. Scientists should learn objectivity when they are around nineteen years old. It’s almost like they want extra credit here. They also seem to be apologizing for ignoring ideology. Sorry, this AIDS stuff is serious business unlike “global warming” where it’s de rigueur to have ideology marching as the lead explanatory variable.

At any rate, the scientific community should put an asterisk next to this uniquely objective report.

So while millions of Africans are dying of AIDS, governments, NGOs, and philanthropists like Bill Gates are wasting mucho dinero on vaccine development despite the fact that a simple snip snip would do.

There’s actually a whole movement devoted to fighting circumcision with books out titled, Circumcision – The Hidden Trauma, websites like Mothers Against Circumcision, and countless experts like Dr. Dean and Dr. Spock carrying the torch.

But what about the "trauma" of HIV infection?

In a prior post on Health Savings Accounts, I posited that,

“Something like 40% of drugs don’t work.”

(Clearly I was referring to legal, prescription drugs.)

Forbes has a decent article in the May 8th issue titled Pushing Pills – How Big Pharma Got Addicted to Marketing.

In that article they lead off with Lamisil, a pill that attacks that fungus which makes one's toenails yellow.

10 million Americans have taken Lamisil, which costs $850 for a three-month treatment.

Lamisil sales jumped 19% to $1.2 billion worldwide in 2004 and held steady last year.

Now here is the kicker,

...the drug fully cures the problem in only 38% of patients.

That entire article is worthwhile reading but the over-marketing aspect of pharmaceuticals is a subject that has been hijacked by the econo-illiterate socialists. As I have promulgated in my HSA post, one of the main problems with healthcare is the Third Party Payer system. The average Joe is going to think twice about treating his yellow toenails if he has to shell out the $850 for a pill that is only 62% effective.

The socialists would rather blame evil Big Pharma than the misbegotten government dominated healthcare system. In fact, their answer for government induced problems is unflappably, always more government. (I am not sure, but I think that Ted Kennedy championed the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973 that obviously spawned the modern HMO.)

There’s another illustration in that article of the brainless Third Party Payer system,

"People would come in asking for--demanding [a COX-2 inhibitor]--and sometimes threaten to find a new doctor if I didn't prescribe it," says physician John Abramson, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School who has consulted for plaintiff lawyers. "Vioxx wasn't a bad drug for everyone, it was a bad drug for certain patients," says Chris D. Robbins of Arxcel, which consults to pharmacy benefit managers. "Unfortunately, people saw the ads and started demanding the drugs from their doctors."

Unbelievable. Here a doctor basically admits to letting the patient pick his treatment under the threat of losing him (i.e. money) to another, more liberal script writer. Then he has the stones to go work for plaintiff lawyers.

What’s next? Kids demanding less homework from their teachers? Why not let the inmates run the asylum while we are at it?

It’s much easier to just write the script, after all, neither the doctor nor the patient is directly footing the bill. And heck, everyone else is doing it. And when something unforeseen happens, be it a drug recall like Vioxx or healthcare costs skyrocket...

...they can just blame evil Big Business.

What's cheaper? Nail polish or Lamisil?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Just Speculating

In Bill O’Reilly’s vast, changeable oil price conspiracy, he often inveighs against speculators.

"The official explanation is speculators will not pay as much for oil now as they did a few weeks ago… that’s bull." (official explanation?)

"If speculators are driving the global energy industry, we’re in huge trouble..."

Bill and his econo-illiterate brethren wholeheartedly believe that speculators are nefarious bogeymen, huddled in a backroom somewhere in Texas, sticking pins in dolls of American consumers.

So what exactly is a speculator? It certainly sounds shady, now doesn’t it?

I just did a blog search on it and just about every post that came up was about real estate speculators with probably about 10% mentioning oil markets. Of course the term predates contemporary mania. The Pilgrims were speculators, as were the pioneers who settled the West. There were money changers in the Old Testatment, etc. Speculating is an inherent human trait. I heard someone once say,

"Telling man not to gamble is like telling the wind not to blow."

Yes, indeed.

Wikipedia defines it thusly:

Speculation involves the buying, holding, and selling of stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, collectibles, real estate, derivatives, and any valuable financial instrument to profit from fluctuations in its price as opposed to buying it for use or income via methods such as dividends or interest.

The economic role of speculation:

The service provided by speculators to a market is primarily that by risking their own capital in the hope of profit, they add liquidity to the market and make it easier for others to offset risk, including those who may be classified as hedgers and arbitrageurs.

For example, if a certain market - say in pork bellies - had no speculators, only producers (pig farmers) and consumers (butchers etc) would participate in that market. With fewer players in the market, there would be a larger spread between the current bid and ask price of pork bellies. Any new entrant in the market who wants to either buy or sell pork bellies will be forced to accept an illiquid market and market prices that have a large bid-ask spread, or might even find it difficult to find a co-party to buy or sell to. A speculator (e.g. a pork dealer) may exploit the difference in the spread and, in competition with other speculators, reduce the spread thus creating a more efficient market.

Okay, that is the theoretical definition. Let me give some more examples.

First of all,technically CaptiousNut is a speculator. I have been trading the financial markets for over 10 years, mostly using my own money. When I wasn’t completely on my own, I had either one or two partners – but never any investor funds.

In the old days, when a large buyer showed up in IBM, perhaps a mutual fund manager with 50,000 to buy, he would tell the NYSE specialist who'd promptly move the stock up .50, 75, or even 1.00, and sell him the stock. But nowadays, because of evil speculators, an order like that probably wouldn’t move IBM more than .25. There are thousands of speculating entities (such as hedge funds along with individual traders) ready to smack down almost all large price jumps.

Now multiply that by the almost 20,000 public companies and add in stock price decimalization (remember they used to trade in increments of 1/8 and 1/4 points), the proliferation of electronic exchanges, the implosion of commissions down to less than half a penny per share, and the sea of money now invested in hedge funds. What do you get?

All of this dreaded speculation dampens volatility immensely -benefitting everyone who invests in mutual funds or index funds. In fact, the low commissions, which everyone now enjoys, are a direct result of not only technology, but of the very existence of many speculators who trade in great volume. It's kind of like how the dreaded rich people pushed LCD prices down to an affordable level for the little guy.

Before one recklessly bashes us speculators (mind you I am one of negligible size), he really should consider a world without us.

Instead of oil bumping up $5 a barrel on Katrina or Iranian Nuclear bluster, I can assure you that without an army of risk taking speculators, the price would jump $20 or more. The volatility would be gut wrenching and economically disruptive. Nobody would know how to price their goods. Supermarket prices would be all over the place, as would gasoline, airfares, electricity, and just about every price in America would be higher to reflect the complete uncertainty of energy prices. Such turbulence would hamper businesses' ability to expand and innovate. We'd have a less dynamic economy and a much lower standard of living.

I know that I sound uncomfortably like one of these Big Government apologists whose seemingly only defense is “Trust me, it would be worse off without government...” But supporting evidence abounds.

Quite frankly, the money saved by investors is in the multi-billion dollar range. Every stock transaction costs less in terms of commissions and market impact. How much more would housing cost today if there weren’t an army of evil real estate speculators building homes on every empty lot and converting old mills and whatnot into condo’s?

Devil’s Advocate: But haven’t those speculators actually wildly bid up property, making it prohibitively expensive for others?

You sound like Bill O’Reilly. In some cases, and in some convoluted way, yes they have. But that is like buying AOL at $100 a share, then after it plummets to $10, blaming everyone that bid it up to the $100 price where you bought. Nobody forced you to buy it. The same goes for housing. No one is forced to buy a certain sized home or one within an expensive neighborhood. People can rent (quite cheaply I must add) or live in close quarters. People used to raise nine kids in three bedroom homes and everyone survived - not too long ago either.

Plus, speculation is a pendulum and swings both ways. This fall, natural gas ran up to $16 before the mild winter crashed it down to $7. I can guarantee you that so-called speculators got killed on this move. Loading up on natural gas was almost a no-brainer with oil roaring and the weakness exposed in the supply chain during Hurricane Katrina. And let’s not forget how freezing cold last year’s winter was either, despite “global warming”. Considering all these factors together, natural gas longs were licking their chops this autumn.

I can also guarantee you that natural gas is cheaper today than it would otherwise be without the bleeding speculators in the futures market. I can’t totally prove this (no one could), but I have seen this play out countless times over my ten year trading career. When something gets extremely overbought and craters like natural gas did, it takes a very long time for the price to recover. In the meantime, natural gas is now oversold, and will stay somewhat cheap for a while. Even today as oil flirts with $75 a barrel, natural gas hasn't budged. (Remember it's a substitute for oil, and as such they should move more or less in lockstep.)

Another example. All of those clothes at Banana Republic, marked down to 50% off...where do you think they came from?

They are the byproduct of too much speculation. Don’t think for a second that Gap Stores (Banana’s parent) wanted to have excess inventory that they'd essentially give away. They overbought (or over-produced) and savvy consumers reap the benefits.

So instead of your wife buying one sweater for $100 when it first hits the shelves....

...She can smartly wait until it goes on sale, and buy two $50 ones instead.

All you have to remember about speculators is that they are merely a subset of Risk Takers, the engines of our economy and of progress.

Bill O'Reilly works for one of the biggest risk takers around in Rupert Murdoch. The guy was almost bankrupt more than a few times, risking his entire net worth on precarious media investments.

Bill might never gotten his shot at the big time if someone with capital hadn't speculated on his potential.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Philadelphia Food Vacation

I recently drove my family 300 miles down to Philly simply so I could eat my favorite food in the world (okay maybe in the USA - Italy is tough to beat.)

First, above find one pizzazz from Celebre's.

It's not exactly a pizza. It has american cheese and sliced tomatoes (along with hot peppers). You wouldn't think this is any good, but it tastes unbelievable.

This pizzazz is surprisingly good also because PHILADELPHIA PIZZA FLAT OUT SUCKS.

New York pizza is of course the gold standard (my favorite is made by the illegal immigrants at My Little Pizzeria on Court Street in Brooklyn Heights). The pizza in New England is not that bad. But I lump Philly pizza in with its inedible cousins in the southern and western states.

Another thing that will shock quite a few of you is the fact that Italian food in general sucks in Philadelphia. Even in South Philly - despite the preponderance of Italian Americans.

My next stop on the food tour was the most deservedly famous Pat's for a cheesesteak. It may have been around 2 am and I may or may not have been overserved that night.

Now some of you probably call it a "steak and cheese" or a "Philly cheesesteak", but down there it is simply a "cheesesteak" or even a "steak".

Everyone in Philly has their favorite cheesesteaks. Some like Dallesandro's (which I loathe), some like Abner's in West Philly (thumbs up from me, especially since the guy with the gold chains there used to sell me beer when I was underaged and thirsty), and the suburbanites from the Main Line all go to Jim's on South Street - mostly because they 1) they are sheepish and 2) they likely are afraid to drive into South Philly.

Quite frankly I think Jim's sucks.

Of course you have Geno's, right across from Pat's. Some militants swear it's better, but the length of the lines always favors Pat's - by a mile.

What astounds me is how few people realize why cheesesteaks in Philly taste so much better than everywhere else. Some simple deduction says that the onions, cheese, and meat are the same as found in the rest of the country. Surely they don't have some special cooking appliances that are only extant in Philadelphia.

It is the bread you fools.

Philadelphia bread is very soft. As such, the hoagie rolls expertly absorb all of the juices: be it oil, grease, mayo, ketchup, whiz, etc. That is quite simply what makes a hoagie or cheesesteak taste better.

You can't replicate Philly bread elsewhere. Just like you can't grow tomatoes in your garden to rival those of southern Italy. The local air and water uniquely determine how the Philly bread dough rises. Go a mere 100 miles north to New York City and the bread rises completely different. In fact, New York bread is disgustingly tough, though ideally suited for bagels and pizza.

Actually, Lido's Subs in Santa Maria, California gets Amoroso's rolls overnighted from Philly. I don't know why more places don't do it. And I especially don't understand why Pat's doesn't open a place in Manhattan. I was recently speaking to a guy who is friends with Pat's owner and he told me that the guy is very hands-on, and doesn't want to open another place if he can't be there to micro-manage.

That sounds like hogwash to me. Eventually someone is going to start selling cheesesteaks in NYC and shipping rolls up the turnpike. They will be slammed 24 hours a day and everyone is going to be shaking their heads that they didn't do it. If there ever was a risk free business plan, this is it.

Pictured above is one Primo Italian hoagie ("italian, works, hots")

Again, it is all about the bread. At Primo's they use Sarcone's bread - which is actually kind of tough and chewy, but like nothing you have ever tasted. Anyway, you haven't had a hoagie until you've had a Primo.

One place on my list that I didn't make it to was Franco & Louigi's. They used to have an unbelievable cheesesteak stromboli, but alas, I found out the place was no more. Another place on my list that I skipped was Nick's Roast Beef in South Philly. I was told the ownership changed hands and the place wasn't what it used to be. I tried to make it to Cherry Street Tavern for their lunchtime roast beef but just couldn't pull it off. Cherry Street is allegedly where Larry Bird hangs his hat each night that he is in town.

Not sure if he and Dr. J clinked beer mugs that fateful night of November 9th, 1984 (looks like it may have been in Boston too).

Sidebar - Who did the NBA consider the instigator in that fight?

Answer - Bird. Larry was destroying the aging Doctor (he had scored 42 points while Erving made just 6) and started taunting him.

Sorry for the nostalgia. Nowadays, the guy with 6 points initiates the taunting or the touchdown dance.

There are a couple of more places I want to recommend in Philly. Monk's Cafe is definitely worth going to. Most of their food is worth eating, especially the burgers on LeBus bread. Monk's is also known for its inventory of a zillion or so beers. I waited 45 minutes for a table last week but had to walk out as the hostess had too many piercings and not enough civility.

Lastly, DiBruno's is a high end Italian Deli, the likes of which I haven't seen matched anywhere even in New York. The place is spectacular. My favorites are their homemade foccacia and aged cheese spreads, especially the Abruzze.

They don't even list the ingredients on the cheese spread containers, which may in fact be illegal. I called up once and asked what exactly was in the Abruzze - feigning an allergic reaction to the cheese. They laughed, told me nice try but they's seen that ruse many a time.

Writing this blog has been torture on my taste buds - it's just making me want to go back.

And I haven't even gotten to Tony Luke's cutlets, Cavanaugh's wings, or Chickie's and Pete's crab fries.

As far as soft pretzel's are concerned....

I haven't had one in years.

A guy on the trading floor of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange told me this discomfiting story. Apparently his brother-in-law used to make deliveries to Federal Pretzel in South Philly. More than once the delivery guy showed up early in the morning, walked into the back room, and saw some guy with his pants around his ankles HUMPING THE DOUGH.

Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Common Sense and Interest Rates Collide

The 10-Year Treasury Bond just hit a 4 year high.

The 30-Year, though one percentage point off its low, still can rise a bunch.

I post those interest rate charts as a warning. An investor really has to ask himself if he wants to buy anything (such as real estate) levered to interest rates, when they are still so close to a 46 year low.

When stuff is at multi-decade extremes, you just have to be a contrarian.

Look at the CRB (Commodities) index below. Again, click on any charts to enlarge.

In 1999, not only were commodities at 17 year lows, they were actually much lower if inflation is factored in. In fact, many commodities, so adjusted, rivalled Depression level prices. Obviously, the CRB has almost doubled from its 1999 nadir.

Making money, or investing, has never been about much more than common sense and patience.

Back to un-real estate.

There are plenty of homes for sale in my tony hometown of Newton, Massachusetts. has 704 listings today (533 priced over $500k and 189 over $1 million). I will re-check this periodically.

Like everywhere else, in Boston they are building new homes wherever they can - like a single home on the lot down the street from me, the new multi-home development near Hammond Pond Parkway, a huge new condo building near the Atrium Mall, countless luxury condo conversions on the Boston waterfront, etc.

Now let's apply that common sense weapon. If they are building new construction everywhere (though not to the extent of Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, etc.), and the state is losing population, how can local real estate possibly appreciate?

Some real estate perma-bulls have argued that immigration is the wild card that's been driving home prices. I never believed that for a minute - I think it has all been interest rates and investment momentum. But supposing that was true, wouldn't Boston's meteoric housing market coupled with a declining state population serve to debunk that theory? Putting all of that aside, I think is it safe to say there will be some immigration (illegal) abatement going forward. Don't you agree?

Summing it all up, we have:

1) Rising interest rates.

2) Increased supply.

3) Decreasing demand.

and I will throw in,

4) Higher energy costs, both electric and heat.

I really do pity today's first time homebuyers in Boston.

There are arguments that interest rates will never rise to past heights ever again. The logic is based on technological and financial innovation.

Of course the same stuff was said about commodities in the 1990s.

Fool me once.....

Friday, April 07, 2006

Capitalism Versus Moronic Politicians

Politicians never cease to amaze me. They are wrong on seemingly every issue.

Everyone knows that college tuitions are out of control, but good luck finding a politician that has the slightest clue why. In fact, Congress is going to start hauling university presidents before them and demand to know why tuition hikes are “outpacing inflation”.

But this is like giving a dog a bone and then indicting him for eating it.

We, the public, should haul Congress before us and hold them accountable for the stratospheric college costs.

College is expensive simply because of federal grant money and most importantly, government subsidized student loans. If you subsidize something, the price will eventually go up.


The geeks at Harvard are whining about having to answer to the hand that feeds them.

The College’s tuition and fees will increase by 4.75 percent next year. But Harvard also recently expanded its financial aid program so that families making under $60,000 a year won’t face any required contribution.

Notice how they try to justify the excessive inflation by hiding behind Harvard's version of the poor (families making under $60,000 a year - not likely a significant population). In other words, we are only ramping up the bill on the dreaded rich just like the Commi progressive income tax.

Ignorant and spineless politicians lack the guts to ever propose “cutting student loans”. They lack the guts to cut just about anything but education is probably second to “cutting Social Security” benefits - at least in terms of the fear factor.

Consider for a moment the rank hypocrisy and misdirection of Congress hauling oil executives before a committee and grilling them about the cost of gasoline?

Congress won’t let them drill in ANWAR, in the Gulf Coast (although Mexico can), or off the coast of California. They have the gall to restrict drilling and yet complain about the cost of oil and our reliance on imported oil.

The oil companies should haul members of Congress before them and GRILL THEM!!!

Sadly, this resonates with the economically illiterate part of the citizenry.

Massachusetts this week gleefully announced “universal health coverage” or at least a mandate for it.

If all goes as planned, poor people will be offered free or heavily subsidized coverage; those who can afford insurance but refuse to get it will face increasing tax penalties until they obtain coverage; and those already insured will see a modest drop in their premiums.

The measure does not call for new taxes but would require businesses that do not offer insurance to pay a $295 annual fee per employee.

The cost was put at $316 million in the first year, and more than a $1 billion by the third year, with much of that money coming from federal reimbursements and existing state spending, officials said.

The state's poorest — single adults making $9,500 or less a year — will have access to health coverage with no premiums or deductibles.

Those living at up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $48,000 for a family of three, will be able to get health coverage on a sliding scale, also with no deductibles.

Those living at up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $48,000 for a family of three, will be able to get health coverage on a sliding scale, also with no deductibles.

The plan hinges in part on two key sections: the $295-per-employee business assessment and a so-called "individual mandate," requiring every citizen who can afford it to obtain health insurance or face increasing tax penalties.

One goal of the bill is to protect $385 million pledged by the federal government over each of the next two years if the state can show it is on a path to reducing its number of uninsured.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has threatened to withhold the money if the state does not have a plan up and running by July 1.

The House approved the bill on a 154-2 vote. The Senate endorsed it 37-0.

When they say that poor people will be "offered free or heavily subsidized coverage" I am not sure what they are talking about. The sacred poor already get free healthcare and there is a growing line of bankrupt hospitals to prove this.

Again, alway be wary about those championing the poor.

This is really just an excuse to attack businesses that don't offer health insurance because by some natural law, politicians (and other econo-illiterates) simply have to blame someone else for high healthcare costs.

Read this line again.

The measure does not call for new taxes but would require businesses that do not offer insurance to pay a $295 annual fee per employee.

That is pure Commi-Speak.

A $295 fee per employee IS A TAX.

This is what politicians do. They scapegoat every issue. Healthcare is expensive so who can we blame? How about Wal-Mart and businesses that don't offer health insurance?

This is pure misdirection. The pols are responsible for high healthcare costs.

Consider the richness of this inanity. You have something (healthcare) that is prohibitively expensive and the demented politicians prescribe that everyone has to run out and buy it.

...requiring every citizen who can afford it to obtain health insurance or face increasing tax penalties.

How the heck is that supposed to lower the cost of healthcare? All it is going to do is throw more dumb money into our inefficient healthcare system. The only thing that will drive costs lower would be the complete opposite - more people opting out of health insurance. Hospitals, doctors, HMOs, and other healthcare providers would be forced to streamline, innovate, and essentially lower their prices.

It would be like the government complaining about the cost of apples and then mandating that everyone eat three a day.

The only way this convoluted logic can hold is by the ridiculous theory that rich uninsured working people are somehow driving up everyone else's health costs.

My regular blog readers know how I despise demand component warfare but if any one group is burdening another, it is the uninsured poor who raise everyone's costs (and taxes). But I don't blame them for anything. I blame the politicians who have over-regulated, over-subsidized, basically neutered the free market's ability to lower healthcare costs for everyone. Essentially, the only growth they have fostered is that of the uninsured demographic. And now these same culprits want to wipe away the reality of that statistic by fiat.

The pols spent decades propagating the notion of health coverage as an entitlement all the while their economic illiteracy kept making it tougher to deliver. Until they (or the public) realize their own supreme complicity, people should expect continued rising costs and more misguided finger pointing.

Oh, and let's not forget high gasoline prices, runaway college tuitions, etc.

With Big Media running this vast conspiracy to keep the public poor and stupid, capitalism (or what's left of it) is the only check on these politicians. Actually in Massachusetts it more precisely described as transportation as people keep fleeing this state that ranks 46th in tax/fee friendliness.

I just googled "massachusetts losing population" and found some nuggets.

The powers-at-be go into full blown spin mode when confronted with the fact that the state has lost population for two years in a row.

From that same link:

...a spokesman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday dismissed the latest census data.

"The numbers are merely estimates,” said spokesman Seth Gitell. “They fly in the face of what Mayor Menino sees every day when he’s out in the neighborhoods.”

And typical of the Boston Globe and other Big Government - High Tax apologists.

Massachusetts will never be a low-cost state.

There's plenty more spin. Bostonian elitists actually decry that these population numbers are simply "estimates" that undercount their college students and immigrants. I am sure they mean illegals, like no other state has them. Give me a break. It is certainly one thing to argue against more complicated statistics, but here they are arguing with counting.

"I disagree with your statistics" is a transparent and deflective debating tactic favored by Morons everywhere.

I have some more sobering news for the pols. You may be able to impose your Commi healthcare mandate on today's residents and businesses...

... but you can't force them to stay in your state.

In fact, hordes of productive businesses and people have already left.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Undocumented Econo-Illiteracy

No one knows the economic effect of illegals, whether they depress wages or not. Look at it backwards, a doctor makes 120k, what could you change to make them earn more or less? It is much harder than you think to figure out.

Devil's Advocate: If you made medical school tougher to get in, there would be fewer doctors, and their salaries would go up.....

Not necessarily. Look today how much rising malpractice premiums have eroded doctor's incomes. Today malpractice is a decisive factor in doctor incomes, tomorrow it could be something different (like Medicare solvency).

In the same vein... has subsidizing college loans made tuition more affordable?

At forty thousand plus per year I don't think so.

The examples are endless.

Say we got rid of the illegals today, wages will still be a function of like 25 variables: interest rates, stock markets, global politics, terrorism, oil prices, weather, education, healthcare, food, demographics, drugs, taxes, real estate market, etc.

One simply cannot say, either way, what the economic effect of illegal/guest/temporary/migrant workers has been.

Yet you see this casuist argument everywhere,

"Illegals are suppressing Americans' wages at the lowest skill level..."

To which I respond,

"How does the ability to pay a nanny only $400 a week, so both parents can further their careers, depress wages?"

Devil's Advocate: But they are likely high skill level people...

So you don't think that high wage incomes should be counted in those real wage averages?

Also, when high level earners go out to restaurants, remodel their kitchen, and whatnot, who do you think benefits from that spending?

Devil's Advocate: So you are trotting out the "trickle down" theory?

If you want to have that battle now....sure.

First of all, by citing the term "trickle down", you are manifesting yourself as a propaganda inhaler. As Thomas Sowell says,

"...there has never been any school of economists who believed in a trickle down theory. No such theory can be found in even the most voluminous and learned books on the history of economics. It is a straw man."

"Trickle down" is the socialist caricature of free market capitalism. Middle and lower class people absolutely benefit from the same free market low-tax environment that behooves wealthier people.

Don't believe my propaganda? Well then go out and try to find work where there are no rich people. Go up to Vermont or some rural town anywhere. Who makes more money, a bartender in Manhattan or one in Western Massachusetts? You won't even be able to earn money cutting lawns far outside of the big cities (away from the dreaded hoarding rich). There are no restaurants except maybe Applebee's and McDonalds. No Starbux. No Wholefoods. No hedge funds to work for.

Growing up in Worcester, Mass (a veritable economic wasteland), I couldn't so much as get a job above minimum wage when I was a teenager. I moved to Philadelphia and instantly got several lucrative jobs.

If you don't believe in "trickle down", then you're intellectually blind or parochially ignorant. You don't have to believe anything - just accept the empirical reality all around you.

Furthermore, if you still think you don't need rich people, why don't you move to where the homes are really cheap?

Read that whole Thomas Sowell column for his concise, yet trenchant explication of "trickle down" economics.

Devil's Advocate: So it seems like you come down on the side of "illegals aliens are a net positive"...

As usual, your inference is woefully off the mark. I just threw the "trickle down" stuff out to debunk that canard about illegals depressing wages. Had someone initiated the dialogue with,

"Illegals definitely stimulate the economy..."

I would have fired back,

"Have you considered the costs inflicted on hospital emergency rooms in the Southwest or the fact that over 20% of prison populations are illegals? Have you measured these societal costs? Do you not think that everyone else will end up paying for this in terms of higher medical bills and higher taxes?"

The only economic truth about illegal workers is that nobody knows their overall impact.

Another example. RightWingNews has a widely disseminated post titled,

Answering 13 Frequently Asked Questions About Illegal Immigration.

I take issue with number,

8) But, aren't these illegal aliens doing jobs Americans won't do?

"...Moreover, it needs to be pointed out that there's no such thing as a job, "Americans won't do." There are only jobs Americans won't do at a certain price. Consider your job. Would you still do it if the pay were 50% less? For most people, the answer to that question is, "no."

Well, since illegal immigrants generally come from poor countries with mediocre economies, they're willing to work for much lower wages than the going market rate because they're still making substantially more than what they can make at home. So, if there's a large influx of illegal aliens into an America industry, it depresses wages so much that Americans simply won't do those jobs any more for the going pay rate.

This harms poor Americans the most, because they're the group that generally ends up competing with illegal aliens for jobs on the low end of the pay scale."

While on most of the 13 questions they posed I generally agree with their perspective, this one here I take major issue with because it's redolent of Big Media Commi logic.

First, this statement,

"...large influx of illegal aliens into an America industry, it depresses wages so much that Americans simply won't do those jobs any more for the going pay rate."

This is total crap. Wages are set by both the demand and supply for labor. For many jobs, the demand for the work is very sensitive to the price (wage). For example, I may pay $40 every week to get my lawn cut but I will not pay if the price rises to $60. At that cost I will instead cut my own lawn. This whole argument that the illegal willing to cut grass for $40 is lowering the wage of the $60 worker falls flat on its face because that $60 job will never exist. So in this sense, many illegals ARE DOING JOBS THAT AMERICANS WON'T DO.

So ignore this pervasive canard, "There are only jobs Americans won't do at a certain price." because you can't separate the job from the wage that the market is willing to bear.

Always be wary of the Morons that don't consider both supply and demand components.

Speaking of demand and econo-illiterates, 8) also sounds like Big Media agitprop with its,

"This harms poor Americans the most, because they're the group that generally ends up competing with illegal aliens for jobs on the low end of the pay scale."

This is Demand Parsing. As I have said many times before,

Be wary of anyone who tries to parse the demand component of something. The demand parsers are, 9 times of 10, econo-illiterates trying to promulgate political propaganda.

In this case, they are saying, "Wake up you poor Americans, illegals are hurting you the most."

I hate this as much as when skinny people blame fat people for healthcare costs or when SUV drivers get blamed for char-broiling the earth and subsidizing terrorism.

Now there is some subtlety here that warrants further explanation. It's crystal clear that this notion of illegals disproportionately hurting the poor is a thinly veiled hypocrisy accusation. Rightwingnews is saying to all of the poverty advocates and self-styled vanguards of the "little guy" that they have to condemn illegal immigrants or don the hypocrisy badge.

Make no mistake, the "poor" are a rhetorical football. This may sound awful, but always be wary of anyone claiming to be on their side. First of all, I disagree with term "poor". The difference between poor people and rich people is not simply money. One could substitute "high school dropouts and teenage parents" for "poor" and be referencing almost the identical demographic.

I don't believe we even have poor people in America. The people with less money have more often than not, either spit on all of the opportunities implicit in a free public education and free market economy or simply made one bad decision after another. (I especially loathe the propaganda term "working poor".)

To say that "poor people" are simply competing with illegal immigrants for "the jobs Americans don't want do" is absolutely ridiculous.

Poor people are competing against lifetimes of bad decisions and immorality. They are competing against educated and diligent Americans and even against technological innovation. So sorry RightWingNews, poor people are competing against a lot more than simply illegal immigrants.

Certainly illegal immigrants put both downward and upward pressure on wages.

Certainly illegal immigrants are in some ways stimulating the economy and depressing it in others.


Please, keep your illegal immigration debates free of distorted economic theory. God knows, there are plenty of factually based arguments you can wield.