Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MYTHS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

1. 640,329 jobs “saved/created” in Connecticut’s 45th Congressional district.
2. U.S. has high Infant Mortality.
3. 45,000 died because they didn’t have health insurance.
4. U.S. is unhealthy, only 37th healthiest in the world.
5. Social Security Trust Fund, Medicare trust fund.
6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi despises private insurers driven by profit.
7. Passive smoke, a killer but where are the bodies?
8. DDT, miracle that saves lives from malaria, banned.

1. 640,329 jobs created and saved? Bogus. House oversight subcommittee says $136 billion has been paid out from the $787-billion stimulus package, for jobs counted, double-counted, in nonexistent Congressional districts, including the 45th in Connecticut (we have five), 26th in Louisiana, 12th in Virginia and other imaginary places. An $890 shoe order, rated nine new jobs. An Alabama housing authority on a $540,071 project, rated 7,280 jobs but the Birmingham News only found 14. Where are the grants going? “Who knows, man, who really knows,” answers the Communications Director in charge for the Administration’s “recovery.gov” (WallStreetJournal 11-19, A20).

2. Infant-Mortality Rate
Definition: Number of infants per 1,000 live births, who die within one year. (The U.S. has a lot of premature births.) The U.S. counts births that are not counted in other countries. If, like those other countries, we didn’t count them, our rate would be higher than it is.

The U.S., Sweden, and Germany count every infant showing any sign of life: if its heart beats, if its muscles move, if it is breathing. Other countries don’t count them. Japan and certain European countries count infants only if they breathe.

Many countries don’t count underweight babies: France, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Netherlands, and Poland don’t count infants weighing under 500 grams, or premature infants of fewer than 22 weeks gestation.

Russia till the 1990s didn’t count babies weighing under 1,000 grams, or if fewer than 28 weeks gestation, or shorter than 35 cm. in length.

If the U.S. excluded infants not counted in other countries, its IMR would be 22% to 25% lower than it is, around #22 or #23 for Canada and the UK, and its IMR would be around 4.8 instead of 6.3. Data (it’s the U.N.’s) exist for 195 countries. Here are many countries with the lowest IMRs:

.
Rank IMR
1 Iceland 2.9
2 Singapore 3.0
3 Japan 3.2
4 Sweden 3.2
5 Norway 3.3
6 HongKong 3.7
7 Finland 3.7
8 Czech Republic 3.8
9 Switzerland 4.1
10 South Korea 4.1
11 Belgium 4.2
12 France 4.2
14 Germany 4.4
19 Netherlands 4.7
24 Ireland 4.9
33 U.S. 6.3
37 Poland 6.7


3. 44,000 deaths because decedents were uninsured.
A study “found that every year in America, lack of health coverage leads to 45,000 deaths,” Senator Max Baucus told his Senate Finance Committee. “No one should die because they cannot afford health care.”

Oft-repeated 44,000 is based on a sample of 9,000 collected from a survey between 1988 and 1992. Respondents were asked if they had health insurance. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Woolhandler and Dr. Himmelstein, the study’s authors, assumed that any health calamity was attributable to lack of insurance. Dr. H also co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program, which boasts it’s the only physician organization dedicated to single-payer national health insurance.


4. U.S. only the 37th healthiest country in the world? This is a faulty study by the World Health Organization. Based on data of a decade ago, it judged health-care systems by factors sometimes irrelevant: “responsiveness” (speed, choice, quality of amenities); health-level, inequality in health-care outcomes, individual spending. Where data for some countries did not exist, WHO used surrogates, literacy and income-per-capita (for what?). WHO adjusted for national health expenditures-per-capita, which it adjudged a bad thing: “Because the U.S. ranked first in spending, that adjustment pushed its ranking down to 37th behind Dominica, Costa Rica, and Morocco, which had ranked 42d, 45th, and 94th but after the adjustment ranked above the U.S. (WallStreetJournal Oct. 21 A19).


5. Social Security Trust Fund? Even a Medicare Trust Fund? There are no such things. There may be I.O.U.s and/or bookkeeping entries.


6. Insurance companies’ profits.
Profits of health-care insurance companies are relatively low compared with profits of other types of insurance. Most recent annual profits barely exceeded 2% of revenue. (They’ve been re-rated “negative” from “stable,” faced with a shrinking market for private insurance.) The list of industries which follows starts with the least profitable. All industries related to insurance are included in this list. The others, we have selected randomly from a long list.

Profit Industry Rank

3.3% Health care plans 86th
3.6% Hospitals 77th
3.6% Insurance brokers 75th
6.6% Drugs, generic 45th
8.4% Home health care 30th
13.5% Drug delivery 14th
16.5% Drug manufacturers 7th
25.9% Beverages—Brewers 1st


7. The Environmental Protection Agency, after numerous gross statistical errors, could only boost the very low ranking of environmental tobacco smoke (passive smoke) to a miserably low significant figure, way below getting lung cancer from drinking one glass of whole milk daily for 70 years. Perhaps for public consumption, EPA settled on the figure of 3,000 deaths a year. One official in a private letter to his friend, which we have in our file, wrote that zero deaths would be equally valid.)


8....DDT, the most wonderful chemical ever. “It is estimated that in little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable,” concluded the National Academy of Sciences in 1971, the year before EPA head William Ruckelshaus banned it. Thanks to Ruckelshaus, Rachel Carson, environmentalist extremists, and the WHO, millions of Africans including children are dying or disabled today.

Why, these irrational policy errors?

By Natalie Sirkin
c2009

2 comments:

Ed Darrell said...

Banning DDT from agricultural use was an extremely rational act, as vouched for by the summary judgment against the DDT manufacturers in both of the cases brought against EPA for the ban, and as vouched for by the removal of the bald eagle and brown pelican from the Endangered Species List.

Sirkin wrote: "DDT, the most wonderful chemical ever. 'It is estimated that in little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable,' concluded the National Academy of Sciences in 1971, the year before EPA head William Ruckelshaus banned it."

EPA relabeled DDT in 1972, not 1971, effectively banning the use of DDT on cotton. Under that rule, DDT could be available to fight malaria in the U.S., and DDT was manufactured in the U.S. for export to anyone who wished to use it. There has never been a ban on using DDT to fight malaria.

But DDT ceased to work well against malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the 1960s. Africans are not stupid. Had DDT been a panacea, I'm sure they would have used it.

But while I worry about your implicit denigration of Africans and Asians in suggesting they are somehow incapable of deciding for themselves to use an effective weapon against disease, I am more concerned at your erroneous characterization of DDT's value. The National Academy of Sciences made an editing error, so part of your error is understandable. DDT was never credited with saving 500 million lives. During the entire time DDT has been available to fight malaria, from 1946 to today, the death rate worldwide from malaria has never exceeded 4 million a year, and since the 1960s the death rate has been about a million year. At 4 million deaths per year, to save 500 million lives, DDT would have had to have been used for 125 years prior to now. Insecticidal properties of the stuff were discovered only in 1939, 70 years ago.

At about a million deaths per year, to save 500 million lives, DDT would have had to have been used for 500 years.

Clearly there was an error in math, or confusion in citations. About 500 million people are afflicted with malaria annually, which is where I think the 500 million figure came from.

But let's leave that aside for a moment. That 1970 publication by the National Academy of Sciences was an evaluation of chemicals in the environment. That sentence crediting DDT with saving so many lives, erroneous as it was, was in a call to ban DDT as quickly as possible, and to increase research to find alternatives to DDT in order to get DDT use completely stopped.

NAS recognized the value of DDT, but said it was too dangerous to keep using.

Don't cite NAS's credit to DDT without noting they said we must stop using it, because its dangers outweigh the benefits.

You can find a more thorough discussion of the NAS report at this blog.

[More, next post]

Ed Darrell said...

[Continued from previous post]

Sirkin wrote:
"Thanks to Ruckelshaus, Rachel Carson, environmentalist extremists, and the WHO, millions of Africans including children are dying or disabled today."

With the great assistance of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and continued efforts of the World Health Organization, several African nations have cut malaria rates by 50% to 85% with the use of bednets and "integrated vector management" (IVM), usually known as integrated pest management (IPM) in the U.S.

Anyone who reads Carson's astoundingly accurate book knows that she did not call for a ban on DDT, but instead called for the use of an integrated program of pest management. Had we listened to Rachel Carson in 1962, we could have saved several million children from death, in Africa, from malaria alone. It is scurrilous, calumnous, and inaccurate to the point of sin to blame Rachel Carson for deaths caused by failure to listen to her and heed her words.

Ruckelshaus acted with full knowledge of the National Academy of Science's calling for an end to DDT use due to its harms, known and then unknown. It is foolish to blame people for acting with hard evidence and careful, rational thought. It's particularly ungraceful to then accuse them of acting irrationally.