Category Archives: Government Issues

the root of the problem

Drug Death Rates

Drug Death Rates

I believe that most of us will agree that drug addiction is a serious problem. There are those that think that building walls will solve the import of illegal drugs. I do not agree. My experience tells me that when we have a problem, we need to paddle upstream to examine the root cause. In our case it’s that we have created, by far, the largest market in the world for illegal drugs. Regardless of what precautions we take or defenses we construct our system of Free Market Capitalism will create alternative methods to satisfy the insatiable demand. All countries have this same issue to some extent. How do we stack up compared to other countries?

              Country             Drug related deaths per 100,000 population

1UKRAINE10.9662LEBANON1.59123SRI LANKA0.81
2UNITED STATES10.8163AZERBAIJAN1.57124URUGUAY0.79
3RUSSIA10.7364ARGENTINA1.55125ALBANIA0.77
4BELARUS8.2365KUWAIT1.55126COSTA RICA0.76
5ESTONIA7.1966CZECH REPUBLIC1.53127PAKISTAN0.75
6NORWAY6.4067SUDAN1.48128PHILIPPINES0.75
7LITHUANIA6.1468MALTA1.45129CENTRAL AFRICA0.74
8FINLAND5.4969KIRIBATI1.45130MAURITIUS0.73
9NIGERIA5.2970ECUADOR1.42131QATAR0.73
10KAZAKHSTAN4.6671NEW ZEALAND1.41132NICARAGUA0.70
11AUSTRALIA4.5572SENEGAL1.38133BELIZE0.70
12KYRGYZSTAN4.0673GEORGIA1.37134PANAMA0.69
13COTE D IVOIRE3.9874ARAB EMIRATES1.36135NEPAL0.68
14IRELAND3.8875SPAIN1.30136ISRAEL0.67
15MOLDOVA3.8776MALAYSIA1.26137VENEZUELA0.66
16CAMEROON3.7777YEMEN1.25138HUNGARY0.66
17CANADA3.7378BHUTAN1.25139SERBIA0.66
18UNITED KINGDOM3.7279SAUDI ARABIA1.24140PORTUGAL0.66
19SWEDEN3.6280LUXEMBOURG1.23141SAO TOME0.63
20ICELAND3.5581NIGER1.23142BAHAMAS0.62
21DENMARK3.3882MOROCCO1.21143CHILE0.60
22EQU. GUINEA3.0583POLAND1.21144OMAN0.58
23CAPE VERDE2.7884CYPRUS1.20145BOSNIA/HERZEG.0.57
24SIERRA LEONE2.7385INDIA1.18146MICRONESIA0.56
25CHAD2.7386ANTIGUA/BAR.1.17147CAMBODIA0.55
26IRAN2.6887SLOVENIA1.14148UGANDA0.53
27ZIMBABWE2.6088LIBERIA1.14149DJIBOUTI0.53
28GHANA2.5589UZBEKISTAN1.14150EL SALVADOR0.51
29ROMANIA2.4290ARMENIA1.10151COMOROS0.51
30AUSTRIA2.4291ALGERIA1.09152LAOS0.51
31GREECE2.3792ANGOLA1.09153BURUNDI0.50
32NORTH KOREA2.3293TURKEY1.09154MALDIVES0.49
33PERU2.2594MONGOLIA1.09155PARAGUAY0.44
34SWAZILAND2.2495SYRIA1.07156TONGA0.42
35NAMIBIA2.1896BANGLADESH1.07157TIMOR-LESTE0.42
36TOGO2.1397SURINAME1.07158ERITREA0.41
37SWITZERLAND2.0998GABON1.02159INDONESIA0.40
38BOLIVIA2.0099SAINT VINCENT1.02160SAMOA0.40
39GERMANY2.00100CONGO1.01161BURKINA FASO0.39
40MAURITANIA1.97101ITALY1.01162FIJI0.39
41BENIN1.97102DR CONGO1.00163RWANDA0.38
42LESOTHO1.96103GRENADA1.00164CUBA0.37
43LATVIA1.96104MYANMAR0.99165SOMALIA0.36
44GUINEA1.94105HAITI0.98166TANZANIA0.36
45IRAQ1.90106VIET NAM0.97167NO MACEDONIA0.36
46BELGIUM1.87107THAILAND0.96168EGYPT0.35
47TAJIKISTAN1.87108TUNISIA0.96169JAPAN0.34
48MALI1.86109NETHERLANDS0.95170SOLOMON ISL.0.30
49TURKMENISTAN1.86110HONDURAS0.94171VANUATU0.28
50GUATEMALA1.85111COLOMBIA0.91172JAMAICA0.28
51CHINA1.84112DOMINICAN REP.0.88173NEW GUINEA0.28
52MONTENEGRO1.84113SLOVAKIA0.88174BARBADOS0.26
53SOUTH AFRICA1.82114BAHRAIN0.87175MALAWI0.26
54BOTSWANA1.82115ETHIOPIA0.86176SOUTH SUDAN0.26
55LIBYA1.81116TRINIDAD/TOB.0.86177SINGAPORE0.25
56JORDAN1.80117SAINT LUCIA0.85178MOZAMBIQUE0.24
57GUYANA1.78118BULGARIA0.85179ZAMBIA0.24
58CROATIA1.75119MEXICO0.85180SOUTH KOREA0.24
59FRANCE1.70120BRAZIL0.84181MADAGASCAR0.23
60GAMBIA1.69121AFGHANISTAN0.82182BRUNEI0.22
61SEYCHELLES1.65122GUINEA-BISSAU0.81183KENYA0.18

Why are our drug related deaths so much higher that other countries? Does our rate at three times the average of the EU countries make sense to you? In addition to wasted lives there is another factor to consider. Well over half of all incarcerations are a result of drug related crimes, most of which are relatively minor infractions by addicts. Many of these inmates are eventually released without any support and they end up back through the revolving prison door. At an average of $40,000 per year per incarcerated prisoner our inability to reduce the problem ends being a very heavy burden on the tax payer.

How do we get better at managing this problem? I honestly do not know, but I do know how to find out. My approach is called “base-lining”. I would research at least five countries that have a drug related mortality rate at least 1/3 of ours and determine why they are doing a better job. By implementing some of the best practices established by other countries I am convinced that we could cut our death rate in half, if not even more.

A few countries worth investigating, in my opinion, are: Canada, Austria, France, Greece, Italy & New Zealand. Our best hope to reduce drug addiction and incarcerations may be by learning from others.

Election Polls Post Mortem

Election Polls Post Mortem

The results of the election are finally tabulated. I have been tracking the polls and Las Vegas odds since the beginning of the year. The first thing that I notice is that on average the polls where mostly accurate within their stated margin of error. The other factor that appears in the final results is that, again on average, the polls were skewed slightly in favor of Biden. The Las Vegas odds were slightly more accurate.

It is interesting to note that Biden won the popular vote with over twice as many votes as Hilary in 2016. The margin for the popular vote was almost 6 million votes. The Electoral College vote was the exact reverse of what it was in that year. It was not close, but it was not a land slide. The average of the polls in late October showed Biden ahead by about 4 ½% and he won by almost 4% (as of 11/19/2020). The Vegas odds just prior to the official election day showed Biden as a “slight” favorite.

There were a few areas where predictions were off the mark at the state level. In both Michigan and Wisconsin Biden was favored to win by about 6%. He did win, but by a much smaller margin (especially in Wisconsin where it was less than 1%). Arizona and Florida were both rated as toss ups and each candidate won one of these. Both Vegas and the polls got the Georgia outcome wrong.

On the Senate races the polls and Vegas got the races in Maine and North Carolina wrong and Vegas also missed the mark on Iowa.

The post election run off polls (average of the polls) in Georgia were predicted to be very close. The last day polls gave a very close nod to on race and called the other a toss-up. These proved to be very accurate.

All that said, the polls were on target on the vast majority of the races and only erred on the races that were close calls with the exception of Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Return to Prominence

A Return to Prominence

Make America Great Again was a slick slogan and not altogether unwarranted. To make things better it is important to understand the areas where we once led the world, but have lost that position.

Shortly after WW II we were the only viable Super Power politically, economically and militarily. Our standard of living was unsurpassed. The rest of the world looked to us for both leadership and as an example of what is possible.

Today we rank 15th in terms of standard of living behind all of the Scandinavian countries, most of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. While our economy, in terms of GDP, has risen by 100% in the last 20 years, the average middle class family incomes have only risen by less than 10%. Over the past 20 years the cost of both healthcare and advanced education has risen at 2 ½ times the rate of overall inflation. Our per capita healthcare cost is by far the highest in the world and averages 2 ½ times the average for the EU countries. Our per capita healthcare costs exceed $11,000 per year. At the same time our quality of healthcare is ranked only 37th by the WHO. The healthcare is the single largest industry in our economy currently standing in excess of $ 3.5 trillion. Our infrastructure, especially as it relates to transportation, has substantially deteriorated. Our debt to GDP ratio stood at 35% in 1970 and it currently stands at 136%. Our spending is out of control. While this is only a sample of areas where we have lost prominence, but they are important issues that deserve attention and affirmative action to repair.

What needs doing, you ask? I can tell you what doesn’t work. Finger pointing and blaming the “other” side. My observation that the extremes on both sides of the political divide are in control of the narrative. Unfortunately, they seem to be attracting more folks that in the past confedered themselves to be open minded and more moderate. Polarization is increasing and it does not serve our country well. Many persons tend to blame both the media and our elected officials for what is wrong and they are definitely co-dependent. However, I ask what are we, as individuals, doing to make a difference. I witness republicans pointing fingers at the democrats saying that their liberal, socialist agenda is ruining the country. I witness democrats saying that our problems are a result of short-term profit-oriented agenda espoused by republicans. I ask, how is this working for us?

What I am suggesting is that the solution can start with each of us. It’s a simple behavioral change that is most difficult to implement. It begins by not playing the “blame game”. If we can achieve that then the next step will be to look for common ground. We will always have issues that are beyond compromise and on those we simply agree to disagree. I am certain that there are items on education, healthcare, middle class incomes, budgeting and infrastructure where common ground is possible. It only takes a few to be examples for others. Become an example and spread the word.

Our career politicians will not make the needed changes as it would threaten their political longevity. The only other way to make the changes that the majority of voters want is through the Constitutional Amendment process. Our founders saw this as a way for the will of the people make changes as times warranted it. After the initial 10 (AKA the bill of rights) we have made 17 additional changes. Now is the time for one that makes comprehensive improvements. The first item would be term limits (you can understand why your elected representative will not favor this change). The most recent polls indicate that over 2/3rds of voters’ favor term limits for members of congress. A recent poll in Idaho came in at 84%. Once this occurs it will be making future elected politicians more accountable to the will of the people.

Including too many provisions in a potential Amendment would make it more difficult to survive the approval process, but I would include the following provisions: Elected representatives to have the same healthcare coverage as the general population and add on amendments to proposed legislation (that have nothing to do with the intent of the bill) are no longer allowed. All of these have tremendous support of the voters and none would ever pass Congress.