Not Burying the Good News

The New York Times reports:

Death rates from cancer have been dropping by an average of 2.1 percent a year recently in the United States, a near doubling of decreases that began in 1993, researchers are reporting.

“Every 1 percent is 5,000 people who aren’t dying,” said Dr. Richard L. Schilsky, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and president-elect of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “That’s a huge sense of progress at this point.”

I’ve complained in the past that good news like this gets buried or ignored, while even minor bits of bad news make the front pages. In this case the good news was bannered on the front page of USA Today and was the lead story on the CBS Radio News. (It was on page A18 of the Times, but teased on page 1.)

The Times did manage to find the cloud in the silver lining: As is universally the case in all human affairs, the decline is not uniform across all demographic groups. In particular, groups who still have high rates of smoking are not seeing cancer declines as large as other groups. But the news still fits the message of Indur Goklany’s book, The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet

Why Can’t Republicans Embrace Corporate Tax Cuts Like Canadian Liberals?

When they were in power, Canada’s left-wing party reduced the corporate tax rate from 28 percent to 19 percent. Now they are proposing to reduce the rate even more (and by more than the trivial 0.5 percentage point reduction proposed by the incumbent Conservative Party). As reported by Tax-news.com, the leader of the Liberal Party makes a very strong supply-side/tax competition argument for the lower rate:

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has pledged to further reduce the Canadian federal corporate tax rate to better compete with other countries and strengthen Canada’s economic sovereignty. …Dion told the Economic Club of Toronto…“A lower corporate tax rate is a powerful weapon in the federal government’s arsenal to generate more investment, higher living standards and better jobs.” …The previous Liberal government reduced the federal corporate tax rate to 19% from 28%. Dion said he would go deeper than the Conservatives have done with their reduction to 18.5% in 2011. …“If you lower the corporate tax rate, you lower the cost of capital for Canadian companies. Therefore, these companies are induced to spend more on capital equipment. As for foreign investment, we need a big hook to snare investment, including Canadian investment, that might otherwise go south of the border. Finally, it would strengthen Canadian companies against foreign takeover,” Dion concluded.

Securing Land Rights for Chinese Farmers

A critical determinant of China’s long-term economic growth and social stability will be whether the wealth of its economic boom can reach the majority of its 700 million farmers, who make up approximately 56 percent of the total population. In the new Cato study, “Securing Land Rights for Chinese Farmers: A Leap Forward for Stability and Growth,” authors Zhu Keliang and Roy Prosterman confirm one fundamental cause of the widening rural-urban income gap: most Chinese farmers still lack secure and marketable land rights that would allow them to make long-term investments in land, decisively improve productivity, and accumulate wealth.

Universal Coverage: Check Your Freedom at the Door

Today, the Cato Institute releases a study by attorney Kent Masterson Brown titled, “The Freedom to Spend Your Own Money on Medical Care: A Common Casualty of Universal Coverage.”  Brown addresses a dark side of universal coverage that proponents tend to de-emphasize:

Most people would agree that a patient should always be able to spend his own money on the health care services he desires. Yet that freedom is often threatened or denied when government tries to provide universal health insurance coverage, as in the U.S. Medicare program, which provides health insurance to seniors and people with disabilities. Over the past 20 years, the Medicare bureaucracy—and to a lesser extent Congress itself—has limited the freedom of Medicare beneficiaries to purchase medical services with their own money. Those limitations violate beneficiaries’ right to privacy, undermine a tool that could reduce the burden Medicare imposes on taxpayers, and may deny care to Medicare beneficiaries outright, or deny them access to the highest quality care available.

Brown was the lead attorney in Stewart et al. v. Sullivan (1992) and United Seniors Association et al. v. Shalala (1999), two cases challenging Medicare’s efforts to eliminate beneficiaries’ freedom to spend their own money as they wish.

Note that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and others want “Medicare for All,” while Hillary Clinton wants to open Medicare or a similar program to all Americans.

This debate is going to be fun.

Bush Administration Seeks More Risky Government Housing Handouts

John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains in the Wall Street Journal how the Federal Housing Administration has hindered the effective functioning of the housing market - and how Congress and the White House want to make the problem even worse:

Both Mr. Frank and President Bush support major increases in the limits on the value of loans the agency can make, which are contained in a bill that passed the House of Representatives last month. Only 72 Republicans, mostly members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, voted against the bill. A similar bill cleared the Senate Banking Committee 20-1. But before the FHA’s loan spigots are opened up, a little due diligence by the political sector is in order. The FHA’s recent credit history shows it is far from the prudent institution it is said to be. By its own estimate, next year the agency expects to be in the red, paying out more for defaulted loans than borrowers pay to it in insurance premiums. …The agency poses more than just a threat to taxpayers. The collapse of whole segments of the housing market can be traced to FHA-subsidized mortgage products. Despite its decreasing market share, the FHA appears to have played a significant role in the current mortgage “meltdown” attributed to subprime loans. For the past three years, delinquency rates on the oh-so-safe mortgages insured by the FHA have consistently been higher than even those of the dreaded subprime mortgages. …FHA-insured loans have also been at the center of some of the worst excesses of the housing boom, including mortgage fraud, loans made without income verification, and property “flipping” with inflated appraisals. …In both the Clinton and Bush administrations, the FHA’s response to private alternatives for low-income borrowers was to aggressively compete with them – by making the agency’s own lending standards even more “subprime” than those of the private sector. Since its inception in 1934, the FHA has required a down payment – originally 20%, but gradually whittled down to 3% – for a home loan. …Despite these trends, HUD Secretary Jackson’s biggest concern has appeared to be not the FHA’s solvency, but the government agency’s loss of business to the private sector. “I am absolutely emphatic about winning back our share of the market,” he told the Washington Post in 2005. Looking at the agency’s dismal performance over the past few years, we can predict that, if the FHA racks up more “wins,” taxpayers and low-income home buyers will likely be suffering the losses.

Democratic Candidates Uniformly Bad on Capital Gains Tax Issue

The Wall Street Journal opines about the universal support for higher capital gains tax rates by the leading Democratic presidential candidates. Hillary is the “moderate,” seeking to raise the rate to 20 percent, while Obama and Edwards want a 28 percent rate. Yet as the WSJ explains, the capital gains tax is a perverse form of double taxation that ultimately hurts workers by reducing the amount of capital in the economy:

When it comes to taxes, Barack Obama is no Jack Kennedy. The Illinois Senator recently announced that he wants to raise the capital gains tax to restore “fairness” to the tax code. That makes it a three-peat: All of the leading Democratic contenders for President have endorsed higher taxes on stock ownership. Hillary Clinton is the “moderate” in that so far she’d merely raise the tax to 20% from the current 15% – a 33% increase. John Edwards and Mr. Obama want to nearly double it, to 28%. …roughly 52% of American adults own stock in some form, and last year 8.5 million of these investors paid a capital gains tax. The value of those assets will decline if capital gains taxes go up because financial markets instantly capitalize higher taxes on stock profits into lower stock prices. …Since we already tax corporate earnings at 35% through the corporate income tax, taxing those profits again when the stock is sold imposes a double tax on risk capital. That’s why 12 industrialized nations, including Hong Kong and Korea, impose a zero capital gains rate. …A study by former Treasury Department economist Gary Robbins has found that from 1946-1998, about 90% of the returns to capital investment accrued to workers in the form of higher wages, because when workers have more tools like computers, forklifts and robotic equipment, they produce more.