3 weeks ago

Rethinking medical care

Governor Ivey imposed a statewide mask mandate last week as Alabama’s intensive care units (ICUs) approached capacity. We have experienced unprecedented restrictions on freedom to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming our healthcare system. The COVID pandemic will hopefully lead us to recognize that healthcare is an economic good.

Economists would identify a lack of hospital or ICU beds or ventilators as a shortage: the quantity people demand exceeds the supply. Shortages occur occasionally in markets, like the recent toilet paper shortage. Shortages can become permanent with government controls, as with apartments under rent control or basically everything in the former Soviet Union.

Shortages though do not normally lead to restrictions on freedom. The toilet paper shortage and the 1970s gas shortages (due to government price controls) certainly affected our lives. People curtailed driving, and long lines at gas stations were a pain. Yet states did not close businesses or issue stay-at-home orders to limit driving.

Furthermore, no argument for freedom I know of says that people should be free only when certain goods are plentiful. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are not void when hospitals are full. Yet in recent months, governments have prevented church services and funerals.

The difference stems, I think, from an economic confusion. We view healthcare as an objective good, not in subjective terms as we do other goods and services. The objective good fallacy rationalizes other government interventions into healthcare.

Subjectivity as used by economists means from the perspective and values of the subject (the consumer). Goods have value because we will trade our time, effort, or money for them. This makes voluntary exchange in markets possible. Consumers’ willingness to give up things of value for food, clothing or televisions gives suppliers an incentive to produce them.

Economics does not try to explain why people value certain things. And markets do not require justification of these values to anyone.

By contrast, we view healthcare objectively, or independent of subjects’ perceptions. Healthcare has an objective element; life or death is an objective fact. An elixir will not cure cancer just because we believe that it does.

This objective element, however, does not eliminate subjective value. Whether a car provides transportation is objective. The value people get from cars is largely subjective; driving a Corvette is not merely about getting from point A to point B.

The misperception that medical care is an objective good makes it seem like experts, namely doctors and bureaucrats, can efficiently ration it. Doctors determine the medicine or treatment needed to restore a person’s health. This illusion provides the rationale for Certificate of Need laws imposed by Alabama and other states. Under these laws, healthcare providers must get permission from state regulators to open a new hospital or clinic; experts decide what we “need” to avoid wasteful excess capacity. And objectivity means we must justify our desire for medicines to a doctor.

Shortages in markets are rare and short-lived, but capacity constraints affect many goods. Airplanes and hotels have fixed numbers of seats and rooms and can sell out. Markets manage such constraints through contracts. If you arrive at a hotel without a reservation, you might be out of luck; non-refundable reservations will guarantee you a room.

Our expert-driven system treats hospitals and ventilators as open access resources. This means that hospital beds are simply made available when someone is sick. We do not rely on contracts to determine access in the event of crowding.

Concierge medicine illustrates how markets might handle access to equipment. These doctors’ wealthy customers pay enough to ensure they have access to facilities when needed; I’m sure concierge doctors obtained ventilators as COVID-19 spread. While we might view this as hoarding or preferential access, I see it as empowering customers over experts.

Healthcare officials trampled our freedom to prevent excess demand for ICU beds. We would never consider stay-at-home orders to prevent the overcrowding of flights. If we find restrictions on freedom due to healthcare shortages intolerable, we should start thinking about medicine as a subjective good.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

4 hours ago

Rep. Aderholt: GOP control of House not out of reach, Senate should remain Republican

Before the onset of the pandemic, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill were optimistic about the possibility of recapturing the House and maintaining control of the Senate.

However, the mood of the body politic has changed with the arrival of COVID-19 and has made the future a bit murky. Still maintaining a level of optimism is U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who thinks Republicans could make gains this election but is unsure if they can make enough gains to assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Aderholt offered his view of those prospects on both sides of the U.S. Capitol as they stand now.

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“Republicans always want to be optimistic,” Aderholt said. “We’ve got about 18 seats that we’re down right now. And the question is, can we pick up that and plus a seat or two to get the majority. To say it is a sure thing — it’s not. It’s going to be a tough election year, especially in the congressional districts where the Biden folks are going to be getting out, or the anti-Trump. I don’t think they’re so supportive of Biden, but they’re just anti-Trump.”

“I think we can pick up seats,” he continued. “I think it is entirely possible because of Donald Trump. He is going to be at the top of the ticket, and he is going to really help some members that really get the vote out to help them. The question is nobody knows will there be how many we can pick up. I won’t be surprised if we do pick up some seats. The question is, will we pick up 18 to 20, enough to take the majority. And that’s something we won’t know until closer on.”

Aderholt did not think Democrats could regain the U.S. Senate and added that he saw the seat currently occupied by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) flipping to a Republican seat, which makes those prospects more difficult for Democrats.

“I’m still optimistic the Senate can stay Republican,” Aderholt added. “I know there are three or four seats that are still toss-ups, so to speak that are Republican-held now. Obviously, I think we’re going to win the Doug Jones seat. That will be a pick-up for us. I don’t think the ones that are questionable, Republicans that are having a hard time right now, I don’t think we’ll lose all of them. We might lose one or two. But I think at the end of the day, we’re still going to stay over 50.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

5 hours ago

7 Things: Biden calls for impossible nationwide mask mandate, Alabama unemployment continues to trend down, good coronavirus news in the Yellowhammer State and more …

7. Black Sons of Confederate Veterans member wants monuments kept

  • Daniel Sims is a black man and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and during a now viral interview with a local news station, he advocated for keeping Confederate flags on display and leaving monuments up. In the interview, he displayed multiple depictions of the flag.
  • Sims said he is adopted and he has adopted his family’s heritage, saying that he “went to an all-white school, grew up in an all-white neighborhood. My grandfather was white, and he was the main one who fought in this war here. And he’s taught me everything I know.” He added that if he’s “got anything to do with it, ain’t no monument going to come down.”

6. No, Trump didn’t say don’t fund the post office

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  • While interviewing on Fox News, President Donald Trump discussed the issue of mail-in voting and the United States Postal Service, and Trump said that in the coronavirus relief package, Democrats have detailed that the USPS needs $25 billion. The president added, “[T]hey need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
  • Trump went on to say that “if we don’t make a deal that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting.” Now, people are saying this is voter suppression and calling for Trump to be impeached again.

5. Peace agreement in the Middle East

  • Progress in creating a peaceful Middle East took a step forward yesterday when the United States helped broker a peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel as part of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to stabilize a region of the world that has required a large amount of American military interventions in the past.
  • Obviously, not everyone is happy. American Democrats (except for Biden who thinks he did it) and the media view this as a problem while Iran and Turkey have called this peace deal “dagger” in the backs of Palestinians and the region’s Muslim populations. The Trump administration intimated that this was only the first step in this process and other deals could be announced soon.

4. Mazda Toyota is upping its Huntsville investment

  • The current Mazda Toyota Manufacturing investment is currently at $2.311 billion in North Alabama after the company announced that they’d be increasing their investment by $830 million during an event in Huntsville that was held virtually.
  • To detail what the investment will cover, Governor Kay Ivey made an announcement saying that it will “incorporate new cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to its production lines and provide enhanced training to its workforce of up to 4,000 employees.”

3. Good coronavirus news is good

  • For three straight days, the state of Alabama saw new case numbers below 1,000 for the first time since June. This is great news, but it doesn’t end there. The average of new coronavirus cases (1,156) is down 18% in a week from 1,415 on August 6.
  • Hospitalization across the state saw an average of 108 coronavirus patients per day last week, but the average was between 160 and 200 since July 17 and the first time the rate has declined week to week since all of this started. There is some grim news, too, as Alabama saw one of its highest mortality weeks so far with 24 people dying on average each day.

2. Unemployment claims are down

  • New data released by the Alabama Labor Department shows that 9,468 people filed for unemployment last week, which is the second-lowest week we’ve had in unemployment since March 14.
  • Jefferson County had the most claims at 1,142, Madison County had 573, Mobile County had 1,025 and Montgomery County had 459. This continues the downward trend for nearly a month now.

1. Biden is advocating for a national mask mandate

  • Presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden has come out in favor of a national mask mandate to fight the coronavirus, despite 34 states already having a mandate, and President Donald Trump is now accusing Biden of trying “to politicize a pandemic.”
  • During a press briefing, Trump addressed the idea of a national mask mandate, and emphasized, “Biden has been wrong about the virus, ignoring the scientific evidence and putting left-wing politics before facts.” He added that a national mask approach by Biden is “regressive, unscientific and bad for our country.”

5 hours ago

AG Marshall on prisons: ‘My hope is that both sides recognize that litigation is not in the best interest’ of DOJ, State of Alabama

Now that some three weeks have passed since the Department of Justice released a report highlighting deficiencies throughout the Alabama Department of Corrections’ prison system, it remains unclear what the objective was of the U.S. Attorneys that authored the document.

The timing suggests that the report could be a tool to motivate the decisionmakers in state government to act on alleged civil rights violations within the system. However, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall says the report’s purpose is still unclear.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Marshall said the letter could be a step in the process to proceed with litigation but argued that litigation would not be “in the best interest” of either the federal or state governments.

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“[T]his was a report — again, nothing that we don’t need to make sure we stand up and make sure that we correct — but of older news that was already in the public domain,” he said. “And so why it is the Department of Justice chose to do that at this point, I can’t particularly tell you. Although I will say just simply as a matter of federal law, the issuance of that report becomes a trigger for them after a certain period of time for them to be able to initiate litigation. So, that singularly could be the basis for it.”

“My hope is that both sides recognize that litigation is not in the best interest of either party,” Marshall continued. “But the problem with that consent decree, I think as you well know, is that high turnover, control by assigning it to third parties that are not connected to Alabama, that have direct ability to impact the general fund, and the amount of money that goes to the prisons in the general fund, and for which there is zero accountability to the people of Alabama, the decisions that make, and I’m just simply not going to do that.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

19 hours ago

Auburn to require students to self-screen beginning Aug. 17, supporting Alabama’s GuideSafe™ platform

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn has partnered with institutions across the state to implement the GuideSafe™ platform, one of many university efforts designed to facilitate a safe and healthy return to campus and reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

An integral component of A Healthier U, Auburn’s plan for fall reentry, the GuideSafe™ platform includes entry testing for all students returning to college campuses, a daily self-screening tool and an exposure notification app that will assist with critical contact tracing.

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“The launch of this multi-tool resource is a major step forward in our ongoing work toward a safe and healthy campus and supports our plans for a strong start to the fall,” said Auburn President Jay Gogue. “These tools are an important means to keep our campus community safe, as well as a way for our students, faculty and staff to demonstrate personal responsibility.”

On the first day of classes, Aug. 17, all students coming to campus must begin using HealthCheck, a daily self-screener that allows users to report COVID-19-related symptoms. After completing the HealthCheck, students will receive an A Healthier U pass. A green pass indicates students are safe to come to campus, while red means they should stay home or seek medical attention. Students may be asked to show their pass at any time as they move around campus.

In addition to the GuideSafe™ platform, the university has launched a COVID Resource Center, a multidisciplinary team created to respond to questions and requests from Auburn faculty, staff and students regarding COVID-19. Staffed by trained volunteers from across the university, the center is a centralized resource that works closely with the Auburn University Medical Clinic, Facilities Management, University Housing, Human Resources, Campus Safety and Security, Student Affairs, academic and other campus units.

“Auburn has put numerous measures in place for the fall semester to help reduce the transmission of the virus and safeguard the health of our students, faculty and staff as much as possible,” Gogue said. “Together, we all play a vital role in keeping our campus open by being responsible and wearing face coverings, completing a daily screening, maintaining physical distance and practicing proper personal hygiene.”

In addition to Entry Testing and Healthcheck, the GuideSafe™ platform also includes a voluntary Exposure Notification App, which alerts users of potential exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 14 days. The Exposure Notification app, currently in a pilot stage, enables individuals to make decisions best for them and their loved ones, such as seeking medical advice or staying home. To preserve user privacy, the exposure notification technology assigns random number codes to each user, ensuring all parties remain anonymous to each other and to the system itself.

All Auburn students, faculty and staff with a .edu email address are invited and encouraged to participate in the app’s pilot phase. The pilot app was built by the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Birmingham-based MotionMobs in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health. It integrates exposure notification technology developed by Google and Apple exposure notification, and Alabama is one of the first states in the country to leverage the new technology. Once the pilot phase of the app has ended later this month, it will be assessed and made available for public download via Apple and Android devices.

The GuideSafe™ platform is supported by Gov. Kay Ivey’s direction of more than $30 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding and allows for robust testing, symptom monitoring and notification of exposure to COVID-19 for students in all Alabama public and private institutions.

For more information about Auburn’s implementation of the GuideSafe™ platform, visit the university’s A Healthier U website.

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

20 hours ago

FedEx to build distribution center in Birmingham that will employ 285 workers

FedEx confirmed on Thursday that it will be building a 300,000 square foot distribution center in southwest Birmingham that projects to employ 285 full and part time employees by 2024.

The distribution center is a $40.6 million investment for the FedEx Ground division of the international shipping giant. It will be constructed on a 46 acre plot on Lakeshore Parkway next to the recently finished Dollar General distribution center.

“The jobs and investment are very important to our economy and I want to thank FedEx Ground for choosing this site,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin in a statement on Thursday.

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According to a release from the Birmingham Business Alliance, 94% of the facility will be located within Birmingham’s city limits and 6% will be in Bessemer.

The FedEx location will reportedly be immediately adjacent to the Dollar General facility. (Google Maps/Screenshot)

“This project required extraordinary communication due to its multi-city location,” remarked Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons.

“This project is an excellent example of regional cooperation as we worked with Bessemer and Jefferson County to bring about an expansion of FedEx Ground in the Birmingham area,” Woodfin added.

The plot of land where the center will be built was previously owned by U.S. Steel.

According to The Birmingham Business Journal, a Missouri developer purchased it in recent days for $2.8 million to clear the way for building the FedEx facility. Cooper Construction in Birmingham is said to be the contractor tackling the project.

Work on the building is slated to begin in September of this year, with the goal of completion by June 2021. Full employment at the center is not expected until three years after the construction is completed.

A spokesperson for FedEx Ground told the Birmingham Business Journal that the company needed the facility to “meet growing demand for our services” and chose the Lakeshore site because of its “ease of access to major highways, proximity to customers’ distribution centers and a strong local community workforce.”

The Birmingham Business Alliance spearheaded the recruitment process for the project.

The City of Birmingham, City of Bessemer, Jefferson County Commission, and Birmingham Industrial Development Board all teamed to create a package of abatements and incentives to help lure FedEx to the area.

“Adding more jobs, especially during this pandemic, is crucial for our local economy,” commented Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens.

He concluded, “Our job as elected officials is to improve the quality of life for our citizens. This is a prime example of what we can accomplish together.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95