Monthly Archives: January 2012

MBTA considering halting weekend service

I urge people from MA to sign the following petition. Halting weekend commuter rail service would be a detriment to the city, state and the environment.

Visit the site to see the wording of the petition.

Subject: Save Jobs, Environment & Accessibility

In an effort to reduce the deficit of Massachusetts’ public transit system (the MBTA), one of the proposals under consideration is cancellation of commuter rail service on Saturdays and Sundays. These environmentally friendly trains connect Boston with cities and towns in a 60-mile radius allowing access to jobs, loved ones, culture, recreation and the list goes on and on.
That’s why I signed a petition to Richard A. Davey, MassDOT Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan R. Davis, Acting General Manager Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and Governor Deval Patrick.
Will you sign this petition? Click here:

Randy Ellis

Which US Presidents Grew the Public Debt Fastest?

US Public Debt Fiscal Years 1960-2011

This figure, based on US treasury numbers, is in nominal dollars. Each president is credited with the debt created in the year after leaving office since budgets are largely set the year before.

Democratic presidents were in office for $4.6 trillion in debt since 1960, Republican presidents for $9.9 trillion.

The rate of increase in the US public debt grew under Reagan and Bush Jr, and slowed down under Clinton and Obama.

Brocolli and Insurance Mandate

This is an excellent short NEJM article summarizing why the federal government does have the authority to mandate that people buy health insurance.   Written by a Harvard Law School professor.

The Irrelevance of the Broccoli Argument against the Insurance Mandate

Einer Elhauge, J.D.

N Engl J Med 2012; 366:e1January 5, 2012

Favorite passage:

“Others argue that the Constitution’s framers could not possibly have envisioned a congressional power to force purchases. However, in 1790, the first Congress, which was packed with framers, required all ship owners to provide medical insurance for seamen; in 1798, Congress also required seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves. In 1792, Congress enacted a law mandating that all able-bodied citizens obtain a firearm. This history negates any claim that forcing the purchase of insurance or other products is unprecedented or contrary to any possible intention of the framers.”

How Doctors Die

How Doctors Die

It’s Not Like the Rest of Us, But It Should Be

by Ken Murray

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.


Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

The book I am just finishing that is chock full of new ideas, (actually mostly old ideas, but ones that had not been systematically presented) is Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” I see it has climbed to the top ten bestsellers among nonfiction. I am loving it. It will be a terrific read for you, or someone you know who is open to new ideas about how real people (but not academic economists) actually make choices.

Under $20 on