Friday, January 25, 2013

Looking at Various Firearm Homicide Data

This is the beginning of a work in progress.  I want to post the graphics so they are available to related works.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Daily Kos Tracks Shootings on "Gun Appreciation Day" but Misses Big Picture

A recent Daily Kos article, "Gun Appreciation Day shootings," tracked 103 shooting incidents that happened during "Gun Appreciation Day" including 38 fatalities. The article is meant to promote much more stringent gun laws, including a federal assault weapons ban.

What's missing from the article is the big picture view.  Using United States Census Bureau data from 2007 as a guide (the most-recent data I found that shows all deaths), the Daily Kos article significantly UNDER-estimates the total number of gun incidents and lacks any sort of perspective.

Let's assume that the U.S. Census Bureau data from 2007 remotely approximates this year's data.  If it does, then ...

  • There will be approximately 31,224 deaths this year related to firearms, or about 86 firearm-related deaths per day.  
  • Of those 86 firearm-related deaths per day ...
    • 35 firearm-related deaths will be from homicide
    • 48 firearm-related deaths will be self-inflicted injuries, i.e. suicide
    • 2 firearm-related deaths will be from accidents
    • 1 firearm-related death will be from unknown causes
Without perspective, 86 deaths per day sounds like an absolute bloodbath, right?  But let's look at the data more closely.  On that same day, we could expect ...
  • 144 deaths from influenza and pneumonia (ban handshaking!)
  • 120 deaths from motor vehicle accidents (ban gasoline!)
  • 105 deaths from drug-induced causes (ban drugs!)
  • 61 deaths from falls (ban gravity!)
  • 39 deaths from alcoholic liver disease (ban alcohol!oh wait, we already tried that)
  • 30 deaths from AIDS (pass a federal mandate requiring condom use)
  • 3,315 deaths from 100% legal abortion (er, well, let's not do anything about thisforget I mentioned it)

No doubt, we can and should work to sanely reduce both accidental shootings and violent crime caused by firearms.  However, we can do so without punishing law-abiding, responsible citizens and without violating their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.  To avoid risk entirely, perhaps we should pass a federal mandate that we all remain in bed, which would enjoy wide popular support on Monday mornings.

Do gun laws work?  According to United States Department of Justice data, some gun laws apparently do work while others have marginal value.  As shown in the following chart, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act seems to have had a positive effect by reducing homicide deaths from handguns.  The effect of the federal assault weapons ban is less clear, which spanned from 1994 until 2004.

The homicide data for "assault weapons" is lumped into the Other Gun category, which also includes rifles and shotguns, but not handguns.  Looking at the data in isolation, it appears that the federal assault weapons ban possibly had an effect.  Homicides from "Other Guns" dropped during the ban.  However, note the downward trend in homicides from Other Guns before the ban.

Now, let's look at the data with surrounding information.  The following chart shows the same Other Guns data but also includes homicides from Knives and Other Weapons for comparison, neither of which were federally regulated.  Like Other Guns, homicides from Knives and Other Weapons decreased before the federal assault banand continued to drop.

In full disclosure, my life has been affected by guns and gun violence.  A co-worker and friend, Tom Waugh, was shot and killed in Boston while on a business trip.  Boston had among the most stringent gun laws in the country at the time, although the Brady Bill hadn't been passed.  Yet, despite the stringent gun laws, Tom was killed by a 16-year-old boy using an already-illegal, concealed pistol.  My cousin took his own life with a pistol.  If it weren't a pistol, I'm sure that he'd have figured out another way.  Yet another friend supposedly died when "the pistol he was cleaning accidentally misfired" into his chest.  Those that knew him also know that he was too smart to allow this to happen and we suspect it was a suicide.  In none of these cases do I find the gun at fault.  Again, I support sane and prudent firearm regulation.  But let's not go crazy and let's not deceive ourselves that laws alone will curb violent crime.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What the President Said and What He Should Have Said

During his 2013 Inauguration speech, President Obama sounded a clear warning on the possible dangers of climate change.
"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."
It's funny how the President can be so focused on the possible dangers of climate change, yet apparently so incredibly blind to obvious threats posed by massive overspending and deficits created by the federal government--a significant chuck added under his own supposed "leadership."  A bankrupt federal government will have ZERO hope of influencing environmental policy.

Here's what President Obama should have said.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of massive federal government indebtedness and overspending, knowing that the failure to acts betrays our children and future generations of Americans.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of basic economics, but none can avoid the devastating impact of annual trillion dollar deficits, an unsustainably-expensive social safety net, and large increases in inflation if we continue to borrow heavily from the Federal Reserve Bank.  Massive indebtedness, unless for an investment that will provide gain, is merely just postponed poverty. 
As a side note, here's a snippet from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees' Report, signed by three Obama Administration cabinet officials.
Projected long-range costs for both Medicare and Social Security are not sustainable under currently scheduled financing and will require legislative action to avoid disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers. If lawmakers act sooner rather than later, they can consider more options and more time will be available to phase in the changes, giving the public adequate time to prepare. Earlier action would also help avoid adverse impacts on vulnerable populations, including lower-income workers and people dependent on program benefits.

Friday, January 18, 2013

California December 2012 Unemployment Rate Compared to 49 Other States

California's December 2012 unemployment rate remained flat compared to November 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  California's unemployment rate dropped 1.4% from the 11.2% rate one year ago. California's unemployment rate is 3rd highest in the nation, ahead of only Rhode Island and Nevada.  Nevada's economy is closely coupled with California's.  However, Nevada's December unemployment rate improved by 0.6% compared to November's rate, tying Rhode Island.

The EMRATIO shows that there continues to be lower-than-usual participation in the labor market nationally.  Compare the duration of the current low ratio against the deeper but shorter dip during the early 1980s.  Remember also that the current situation stubbornly persists even after a whopping $878 BILLION federal stimulus program and significant quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve.

The UEMPMEAN data shows the average duration that a worker is unemployed--currently around 38 weeks!  Again, notice the stark difference to the recession in the early 1980s.

The UEMPMED data shows the median duration of unemployment.  Half the workers have shorter unemployment, half the workers have longer unemployment.  Note the difference between the average (mean) duration above and the median duration, shown below.  Half the workers are finding jobs in about 18 weeks.  However, the large average indicates that the other half require significantly longer to find a new job.

The wide spread between the average duration and the median duration (UEMPMEAN-UEMPMED) indicates that there are a large number of unemployed workers that still have not found jobs.  There could be possible effects of the federal government providing up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.  Again,  the difference between the 1980's recession and the most-recent recession is interesting.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Small Business' Experience with ObamaCare and Blue Shield of California

I am a partner and owner in a small technical consulting firm that serves high-technology firms in Silicon Valley.  Despite the global financial crisis, we've held on to all of employees in the face of an ever-changing work dynamic and very late payments from some of our clients.

One new wrinkle to our small business' finances is the impact of ObamaCare.  All employees receive have a company-funded health savings account (HSA) backed up with a high-deductible major medical plan, roughly modeled on the highly effective Singapore plan.

While correlation does not necessarily imply causation, we've experience above-average rate increases by Blue Shield of California that seem to be tied to ObamaCare.  The following chart shows our health care premiums dating back to 2007, unadjusted for inflation.

President Obama proposed his vast expansion of U.S. government healthcare back in February 2009.  Four months later, we received a 15% rate hike--slightly ahead of schedule-- followed by another 15% rate hike just seven months later.

President Obama signed ObamaCare into law in March 2010.  Just five months later, we received a massive 29% increase followed by another 1% increase just 66 days later!  Since then, we're back to a 15% roughly every 1.2 years.

The net overall effect is that health insurance premium have more than DOUBLED for our firm in the last five years!  Certainly, part of this is due to the national increase in health insurance premiums (inflation and aging employees).  However, I don't believe it to be a coincidence that the biggest increase happened immediately after ObamaCare was signed into law.

California Public Schools Receive 'F' Rating from StudentsFirst

SudentsFirst created the State Policy Report Card to evaluate the education laws and policies in place in each state.  California was one of only eleven states that received an overall grade of 'F' for its public school policies.  No state received an 'A'. California received its highest grades of 'C' in "Value Effective Teachers" and "Promote Governance Structures that Streamline Accountability" categories.

View the StudentsFirst 2013 State Policy Report Card web site or download the national report, "State of Education: State Policy Report Card 2013" [PDF].

Download the California State Public School Report Card 2013 [PDF].

See also ...

What If Somebody Wiped Out Aurora, Colorado ... And Nobody Noticed?

Planned Parenthood Federation of America released their 2011-2012 annual report.  In it, they diligently enumerate all the wonderful services they perform, most highlighted in vibrant colors.  Strangely, "Abortion Services" appears in subdued gray text, almost as if they were embarrassed by the numbers.  As shown on page 5 of the 2011-2012 annual report, Planned Parenthood executed 333,964 abortion procedures in that year.  In contrast, Planned Parenthood referred 2,300 mothers to adoption agencies.

Let's put 333,964 "abortion procedures" into perspective.  Imagine if a gunman killed EVERY last person in Aurora, Colorado--the 56th largest city in the United States?  If a gunman killed that many people, it would make national headlines around the nation and the world, prompting immediate demands for more stringent gun control to end the "senseless slaughter of innocent lives."  However, when Planned Parenthood takes that many lives, nobody takes notice. 

Some will argue that Planned Parenthood provides some worthy services, especially for the poor.  That's true.  Similarly, some also claimed that the Nazi's provided good social services to some members of its society--all the killing aside.

Please note that Planned Parenthood only executes about 27% or a little more than one quarter of all abortion procedures in the United States.  There were an estimated 1.21 MILLION abortion procedures executed in the United States in 2007.  See Table 102. Abortions by Selected Characteristics: 1990 to 2007 from the United States Census Bureau.