Sunday, December 04, 2011

Problems that Will Still Be Around Even After They Save the Euro

A selection.  First:
The fact is that the primary beneficiary of the United States Postal Service today is arguably the advertisers whose leaflets and catalogs flood our mailboxes. First-class mail - items like bills and letters that require a 44-cent stamp - fell 6.6 percent in 2010 alone, continuing a five-year-long plunge. Last year was the first time that fewer than 50 percent of bills in the United States were paid by mail. There were 9.3 billion pounds of "standard mail" - the low-cost postage category available to mass advertisers - but only 3.7 billion of first-class mail.

Link. Also:

The  [departing Medicare honcho], Dr. Donald M. Berwick, listed five reasons for what he described as the “extremely high level of waste." [I.e., in health care generally,  not just medicare.--ed.]   They are overtreatment of patients, the failure to coordinate care, the administrative complexity of the health care system, burdensome rules and fraud.

“Much is done that does not help patients at all,” Dr. Berwick said, “and many physicians know it.”
Link. Also:
More people take buses and trains in Germany than in the United States (8 percent of all trips versus 1.6 percent), in part because German cities are more compact. Still, an interesting pattern emerges when Buehler and Pucher looked at changes in spending and ridership over the past two decades. Between 1991 and 2007, the United States boosted public-transit funding 50 percent and expanded transit miles by 20 percent. Yet trips per capita have actually declined slightly over that time. What’s more, U.S. public transportation has become ever more dependent on taxpayer subsidies — the share of expenses covered by fares dropped from 37 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2007. Germany is a different story entirely. Over that same period, the country shrunk its public-transportation system slightly, with fewer miles for bus and light rail. And German transit agencies more than doubled fares, on average. Yet trips per capita rose by 22 percent, and fares now cover 77 percent of the system’s costs. Germany is getting more riders with fewer subsidies — indeed, per trip, Germany transit subsidies are less than one-third of those in the United States.
Link. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.    

1 comment:

Ken Houghton said...

The first problem with reverse itself when banks and/or companies start charging users for paying bills electronically, instead of just collecting the excessive rents provided by maintaining prices at a level that allows for mail processing while payments are received by ACH.

Of course, by that time, we will be in the Netflix/Video Store mode, where the USPS has been downsized too much to cover any increase in volume as part of an "austerity" measure.