Lying With Statistics

On Wednesday The Locker Room (a website of the John Locke Foundation) posted an article with the following headline, “CDC hints at scope of Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths “not related to Covid-19”.” Wait! What?

The article reports:

On June 26, WLOS News 13 was told by DHHS spokesperson Kelly Haight that “The number of people hospitalized [for Covid-19] includes those who have tested positive for COVID and those admitted for other reasons, but placed on infection prevention precautions.”

Wait, what?

As part of our “Fog of Covid-19 Data” series last year, I wrote about the great uncertainty surrounding actual hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19. A snippet:

In regular conversation, a hospitalized COVID-19 patient would mean someone whose COVID infection is so bad it’s put him in the hospital. To Gov. Roy Cooper’s Department of Health and Human Services, however, it means someone who is in the hospital for any reason and who has tested positive for COVID-19. That’s a key distinction. I’ll explain.

DHHS admits no distinction between a hospitalization for COVID and hospitalization with COVID. Hospitalizations for COVID are the dangerous infections people rightly worry about. Hospitalizations with COVID are when people are in the hospital for other reasons — a chest ailment, a car accident, a medical procedure, etc. — and as part of the routine clinical assessment, they test positive for COVID.

How many people are in one group and not the next? It’s hard to tell from this vantage point. Counting the two groups together, however, only inflates the number and gives the impression that dangerous infections are higher than they are. How much higher, who can tell?

Sounds a bit disingenuous to me.

The article also includes the following:

The article concludes:

So roughly one-fourth of “breakthrough” Covid-19 hospitalizations (26%) and deaths (24%) were “asymptomatic or not related to Covid-19.”

Note: Just as it’s in the political interests of the CDC, DHHS, et al. to inflate the overall cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, it’s in the political interests of the CDC to downplay concerns about the vaccines by removing the inflation from “breakthrough” Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Questions going forward

This revelation leaves several questions, however. Do “breakthrough” hospitalizations and deaths behave differently from other Covid-19 infections? Would that mean more inflation in “breakthrough” cases — or less?

How many of North Carolina’s Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths were “not related to Covid-19”? Is it more or less than one-fourth? We still don’t know.

All we know is, again, the official numbers are inflated. By how much, they still won’t say.

Covid is real. The question is how dangerous is it to the average American who is healthy with no medical issues.

 

Why Elections Matter

Yesterday The Carolina Journal posted an article about North Carolina spending policies in recent years.

The article reports:

At $6 trillion, President Joe Biden’s first budget calls for an unprecedented level of federal spending. Republican members of Congress who criticize the president’s plan are understandably reminded by Democrats that the GOP did not do much to resist—and even contributed to—excessive government spending during President Donald Trump’s time in office. During those four years, rampant spending led to nearly $8 trillion in more federal debt, though this included pandemic-related funding approved with bipartisan support. Still, this represents a 40% jump in mortgaging the future of ourselves, our kids, and our grandkids. It’s time for responsible budgeting at every level of government.

Republicans in Washington don’t have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to criticizing the profligacy of congressional Democrats and the Biden administration. But Republicans in many state capitals across the country, however, do. That’s because Republican governors and lawmakers in several states are getting government spending under control by passing conservative budgets which remain below population growth plus inflation. North Carolina is among the most prominent examples of this phenomenon—but is not the only one.

Since Republicans took control of the North Carolina General Assembly for the first time in a century a decade ago, they have kept growth in state spending on a conservative budget trajectory that keeps government growth within the average taxpayer’s ability to fund it. Since 2013, North Carolina state spending has grown by an average of 2.24% annually, which is below the population growth plus inflation rate of 2.58%.

These fiscal policies in North Carolina have resulted in budget surpluses and the lowering of the state income tax.

The article notes:

North Carolina lawmakers are now working to enact a new conservative budget that provides further tax relief. Those who want to continue the sustainable budgeting of recent years received good news in early June as legislative leaders from both chambers of the General Assembly announced a consensus spending figure that, if the new budget does not exceed it, would have state spending continue to grow slower than the combined rate of population growth plus inflation. More recently, the North Carolina Senate unveiled its version of the budget, which, in addition to spending less than the figure agreed to with the House in early June, cuts the personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 3.99% while phasing out the corporate income tax by 2028. That budget was approved with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority in the North Carolina Senate on June 24.

“We are pleased to see that the fiscal restraint the General Assembly has shown over the last ten years will continue,” said Brian Balfour, senior vice president of research at the John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh-based think tank. “It’s a strategy we would like to see added to the state constitution in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.”

These policies have had the following results (reported in Global Trade):

NORTH CAROLINA

The second-largest food and beverage manufacturing state and the overall fifth-largest manufacturing state in America, North Carolina is home to the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast. The manufacturing industry employs 460,000 skilled workers in North Carolina–nearly 11 percent of the state’s workforce. North Carolina manufacturing makes up about 20 percent of the state’s gross state product, to the tune of $102.48 billion in 2017 and $31.06 billion in exports in 2018. North Carolina has experienced tremendous growth in manufacturing goods in recent years, with a nearly 35 percent increase in exports from 2010 to 2018. North Carolina’s pro-business climate and expert workforce make it an ideal state for manufacturers.

North Carolina has set an example Washington, D.C. needs to follow.

Following The Science?

On Tuesday, the John Locke website posted an article about North Carolina’s response to the coronavirus.

The article includes the following information:

Here is the NC Threat-Free Index for the week ending May 17:

    • As of May 17, there were 963,539 North Carolinians presumed to be recovered from COVID-19
    • Active cases comprised just 1.6% of NC’s total case count (note: a case of COVID isn’t a permanent infection, and only someone with an active case of the virus can conceivably transmit it to you)
    • Active cases represented over 0.1% (one-tenth of one percent) of NC’s population (note: active cases are lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 minus recoveries and deaths)
    • Now 34 out of every 35 (97.1%) of NC’s total cases were recovered, meaning they are no longer infectious
    • Only just over 0.1% of people in NC had died with COVID-19 (regardless of the actual cause of death)
    • About 90.6% people in NC had never had a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, despite the PCR test cycle threshold set so high as to produce a large amount of false positives (note: this proportion will always decline, but we have been living with this virus since February 2020, as far as testing is concerned)
    • All things considered, nearly 99.9% of people in NC posed no threat of passing along COVID-19 to anyone — a virus most had never had and the rest had recovered from (note: this proportion will fluctuate based on relative growth in lab-confirmed cases vs. recoveries, and it is likely understand because it does not account for vaccinations)

The title of the article asks the question, “The NC Threat-Free Index for the Week Ending May 17 — and Why Are We Still Under a “State of Emergency”?”  That is a very good question.

The Dangers Of Moving To Green Energy Before The Technology Is Perfected

On February 10th, The John Locke Foundation posted an article about the proposed energy policies of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

The article reports:

  • Last summer California suffered two days of rolling blackouts
  • California’s Utility Commission recently published their findings of what happened to cause the massive loss in power
  • Years of misguided policies led to a shortage of dispatchable energy — the same policies Gov. Roy Cooper is advocating for North Carolina

Last summer California suffered two days of rolling blackouts because the customers’ needs for electricity exceeded the California power system’s ability to generate electricity. Such a thing should never happen. The California Utilities Commission recently published a report explaining what happened and why.

North Carolinians should know that many of the energy policies Gov. Roy Cooper has advocated for here in North Carolina follow the mistakes identified as the cause of California’s blackouts. As in California, these missteps will leave North Carolina unprepared for our energy future and will ultimately lead to blackouts here. North Carolina should not repeat California’s mistakes.

The job of providing stable electricity to the consumer can be complicated, but this much is pretty simple: enough electricity must always be generated to meet the demand. The United States has developed one of the world’s finest electricity systems. Its costs are among the lowest, and its reliability is among the highest. What happened to California? What bad energy decisions were made over the years in California resulting in rolling blackouts?

According to the “Root Cause Analysis” published by California Independent System Operator, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Energy Commission, here are the factors that led to the outages:

  1. Climate change–induced extreme weather caused the demand to exceed the generating capability of the California system.
  2. In transitioning to “clean” energy, the State’s dispatchable generating capacity had “not kept pace” with the state’s needs.
  3. The State’s “Resource Adequacy” program failed to predict the needs of the heat wave.

The article concludes:

Cooper is steering North Carolina in the same direction. He opposes building new natural gas pipelines while pushing for more solar plants, which need natural gas backup. Is this where we want North Carolina to go? Do we want more poverty? Do we want the poorest having to pay more of their monthly income for electricity? Do we want rolling blackouts?

Shouldn’t we learn from California’s mistakes instead and keep natural gas plants supplied with gas while we build more nuclear power?

There are a few things those promoting green energy (including electric cars) fail to mention when promoting their agenda. The disposal of the blades on windmills and the disposal of solar panels are creating an environmental hazard. The mining of lithium for electric car batteries involves the use of slave labor in Africa. (articles here, here, here, and here). Rolling blackouts are not acceptable in a country as prosperous as America. We have cut our carbon footprint significantly with the use of natural gas. It is folly to believe we can run a successful economy without the careful use of fossil fuel to keep the economy going. Spain learned that lesson in the early 2000’s (article here).

Hopefully the legislature can put Governor Cooper on the right track.

 

Benign-Sounding Policies Often Have Negative Consequences

North Carolina is a battleground state in this election. After a responsible State Treasurer and a responsible State Legislature brought us into fiscal solvency, we are in danger of forgetting where we have been and what it took to get where we are. Because of an influx of people fleeing high tax states with bad weather (guilty as charged), it is possible that North Carolina will become a purple state instead of a red state. Many of those people coming into the state are attempting to implement the very expensive state policies that they fled. That would mean that the hard-fought income tax decreases passed by the legislators would be undone and spending would increase drastically as it had under previous Democrat legislatures. One of these items currently being mentioned in the gubernatorial campaign is Medicaid Expansion. Governor Cooper supports it and Dan Forest does not.

On September 22, 2020, The John Locke Foundation posted an article explaining what Medicaid Expansion would mean to North Carolina.

The article reports:

Expanding Medicaid in North Carolina is a misguided and costly plan for our state, and would not be free to state taxpayers, as Gov. Roy Cooper claims. New economic analysis released by the John Locke Foundation reveals that expansion would leave the state with a funding gap estimated between $119.3 million and $171.3 million in the first year alone.

The expansion funding gap would continue every year and could increase based on enrollment in the program and cost of the enrollees in the future. Multiple North Carolina expansion scenarios are detailed by JLF Health Care Policy Analyst Jordan Roberts in the report, Big Government, Big Price Tag: Medicaid Expansion = Funding Gap For State Government.

…Nearly 2.4 million people are currently enrolled in North Carolina’s program. Gov. Cooper and state Democrats have fiercely advocated for overloading Medicaid with 500,000 to 600,000 additional people. Nearly eight of 10 of the proposed expansion population are able-bodied, working-age adults with no children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Gov. Cooper claims that adding this massive new group would not require any state money and that the state’s portion of costs would be paid for via taxes on hospitals and providers.

“The governor’s statement is wrong,” said Roberts. “Our modeling is rigorous and uses varying enrollment numbers and expenditure data from respected sources. The most likely modeled scenarios result in the need for state appropriations. That means taxpayers.”

Beyond the fiscal implications for the state, Roberts worries about the fate of those currently enrolled. “If massive numbers of new people are added, it will be harder to access care. Many current Medicaid patients have multiple health issues; they’re our most vulnerable. The worst thing we could do is to push their needs aside.”

We need to provide a way for all Americans to get the healthcare they need. However, we need to do it carefully–providing what is needed to the people who need it. The welfare state has grown so large that there is no concept of individual responsibility included in allocating resources. There is also no incentive for the overgrown bureaucracy to decrease the number of people getting assistance. It is time to encourage all Americans to take responsibility for their own economic welfare. That may mean providing a path out of government dependence rather than bringing them deeper into it.