American Elephants

Monday Morning Miscellany. by The Elephant's Child

— 89,000 stimulus payments of $250 each made to people who were dead or in prison. The Social Security Administration’s inspector general reported that $18 million went to 72,000 people who were dead.  A little more than half were returned. 4.3 million more payments went to a little more than 17,000 prison inmates.  The payments were part of the government’s massive Keynesian economic recovery package enacted in February  2009. Some stimulus.

—  The centerpiece of President Obama’s health care plan was a lifeline for those whose medical conditions made them uninsurable.  The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan started this summer, but there is no rush to join.  California has the money for about 20,000 people, but has received only 450 applications. Wisconsin has received 200 applications, but has room for 8,000.  Government economists projected  in April that 375,000 would gain coverage this year, and wondered if that would be enough. Premiums may be too high, and rules require that people be uninsured for at least 6 months.  A requirement that they provide documentation to prove that they’ve been turned down by an insurer may be a problem. Where the federal government runs the program directly, the plan doesn’t provide coverage for prescription drugs until people have met a $2,500 deductible.   How do you keep a $5 billion program going if nobody signs up?

Charging up your electric car can take 15-18 hours or more to charge a full-battery car like the Nissan LEAF through a regular wall socket.  GM has come up with a charging system for the Volt—  that will cost only $490.  The car can plug into any old 120 volt wall socket and be fully charged in only 10 hours. For those who opt for the wall charger at $490, installation will cost around $1,475, for a car that goes just 25 to 50 miles on an electric charge.  This might bring the time required to recharge down to four hours.  So if nobody but Leonardo Di Caprio buys one and the government has to buy vast quantities to avoid terminal embarrassment about the Volt and all those battery factories — what will be the government costs for all the electricity to recharge the batteries every day?  That should send the meters spinning.

In the wake of ClimateGate, an overhaul was needed to win back public trust. In November of 2009, an archive of some 1,000 emails sent and received by scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was leaked to the blogosphere. Was it evidence of malpractice among the scientists on both sides of the Atlantic?  Had scientists tried to suppress views critical of their work? Allegations were serious and could not be just brushed aside.  The government quickly set up  inquiries by the University of East Anglia, the Royal Society and essentially asked the scientists if they did anything wrong, and recommended some modest changes in the way things were done and put the same people back in charge, which has produced some very outraged complaint from highly respected sources. On this side of the pond, the University of Pennsylvania was asked to investigate Michael Mann.  The University apparently asked him if there was any problem with his work, and he said no, so there you are.   The Attorney General of Virginia is suing, and demanding information. Don’t question us, we’re scientists?

— We are not alone in our folly. The world’s largest wind farm opened off the Kent coast last week. The most important and shocking aspect of this vast project according to Christopher Booker is that over the coming years the Brits will be giving the wind farm’s Swedish owners a total of £1.2 billion in subsidies.  That same sum, invested now in a single nuclear power station could yield 13 times more electricity, with much greater reliability.  It is an array of 100 three-megawatt turbines, each the height of Blackpool Tower, which will have the “capacity” to produce 300 MW of electricity, enough to power 200,000 homes.  The key word again is “capacity.”  That means what the turbine could produce if the wind blew at the perfect speed constantly, which, sorry, doesn’t happen, and is useful only for impressing gullible government bureaucrats.

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The Social Security Administration’s inspector general reported that $18 million went to 72,000 people who were dead. A little more than half were returned.

So? What is so surprising about that? The article from which this news item comes says that “the $250 payments were sent to about 52 million Social Security recipients and federal retirees.”

The death rate in the United States is slightly over 8,000 per million population (803.6 deaths per 100,000 population). Over the course of a year, one would expect 416,000 of an average-aged population of 52 million to die, or 35,000 per month. The target group were elderly, however, so the death rate could have easily been twice that rate, or around 70,000 per month — i.e., close to the 72,000 dead people who received checks. So, in short, people died betwen their previous social-security check and the stimulus payment. Big Deal.

And as for only half the checks being returned, the usual policy (e.g., as was the case for Bush’s tax rebate), surviving spouses are entitled to the money.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

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