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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Quick Takes (National Edition)

1. Last week, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill that allows the state to move its funds to credit unions and small banks. The vote was 65 to zero.

 

2. Anthem Blue Cross is a subsidiary of health insurance giant Wellpoint. Recently, Anthem announced that it would significantly lower reimbursement rates to physical, occupational and speech therapists in California, where it is the largest health insurer with 8.3 million customers. Some therapists may no longer accept Anthem customers. Last week, Anthem announced rate increases in California of between 30 and 39 percent, beginning March 1. Wellpoint had its highest net profits ever in 2009.

3. In 2009, 17.3 percent of our country’s gross domestic product was spent on health care. The previous year, it was 16.2 percent. This is the largest single year increase in health care as a percentage of GDP since 1960.

4. Federal and state governments paid slightly less than half of all medical bills in 2009 and will likely pay slightly more than half in 2011, according to a Medicare study. The economic situation and an increase in Baby Boomers signing up for Medicare are two causes of the shift to government health insurance.

5. A study out of Northeastern University finds that as of the end of 2009, Americans in households earning over $150,000 had an unemployment rate of just 3.2 percent. Those in households earning $12,500 or less had an unemployment rate of 30.4 percent.

6. Despite some claims that recent snowstorms refute concerns over climate change, we just had the warmest January since satellites were first used to calculate temperatures in the troposphere in 1978.

7. The German government announced last week that greenhouse gas emissions in that country had been reduced by 22 percent of 1990 levels, meeting its goals under the Kyoto Treaty.

8. On Christmas Day and on New Year’s Day, there were squirrels and birds in my backyard.

9. The Pentagon’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review, a summary of defense and security strategy presented to Congress, lists global warming as a “destabilizing force” that will likely increase instability and conflict around the world. Climate change will be factored into war game exercises and long-term regional security assessments.

10. In the current 2010 Fiscal Year, which ends on Oct. 1, the United States is budgeted to spend $534 billion on Department of Defense programs, plus $130 billion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This spending does not include the costs of homeland security, civil defense, military aid to foreign countries, veterans programs and most of our intelligence and nuclear weapons programs, which are in the budgets of other departments. In 2001, the U.S. spent $306 billion on core military programs, an increase of 117 percent. During this same period, spending on all Social Security programs increased by 51 percent.

11. The United States spends $75 billion on its 16 intelligence agencies.

12. Depending on which estimate is used, China now spends between $84 billion and $122 billion on its military, by far the second largest amount in the world.

13. $1.05 trillion has been allocated so far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama has requested $163 billion to pay for these wars in 2011 budget proposal.

14. If you started spending $1 million a day in 729 B.C., shortly after the city of Rome was founded, you would finally spend $1 trillion in 2010…

15. In 2008, Americans ate 4.1 pounds each of shrimp. The second most popular seafood was canned tuna, of which Americans ate 2.8 pounds each. Most of our shrimp is imported (34 percent comes from Thailand) and almost none of it is inspected by any public agency.

16. Twenty-seven of America’s 104 nuclear power plants are leaking radioactive tritium, mostly from aging underground pipes. Tritium is linked to cancer if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that monitoring wells near the Vermont Yankee plant, about a two-hour drive from Albany, showed tritium in quantities three times the federal safety standard.

17. Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net