High school math kills Trump’s infrastructure plan


Always ready to help a fellow New Yorker

❝ In his address to Congress…President Donald Trump once again brought up his support for a large infrastructure package. And there’s good reason for this: It’s not nearly as polarizing as most other parts of his agenda and would stimulate economic growth in a way that would benefit blue-collar workers who were key to his election. But like much of his agenda, it’s short on details, and the labor-market math doesn’t add up.

❝ Here’s the napkin version. The trillion-dollar package being discussed is understood to be $100 billion of spending per year for 10 years. Leave aside the fact that infrastructure spending is notoriously messy and slow, as environmental delays and other project-specific concerns make it hard to spend the money as fast as a policymaker or economist would like. The labor question alone shows that this vision is impossible.

❝ There are currently 6.8 million construction employees in the U.S. Annualized construction spending in the U.S. at the end of 2016 was $1.18 trillion. Dividing the two, we see that one construction worker supports around $175,000 in construction spending. (This doesn’t mean that construction workers make $175,000 per year — that figure accounts for other labor-supporting projects and building materials.)

One more simple calculation shows the daunting labor needs. If one construction worker can support $175,000 worth of construction projects, then $100 billion in spending each year would require an additional 570,000 construction workers, which doesn’t take into account truck drivers, project managers, environmental specialists, and all other support staff needed to complete projects. Perhaps infrastructure spending, which comprises 25 percent of all construction spending, is a little less labor-intensive than other types of construction spending. Maybe the shrewd administrative talent of this White House could generate some labor efficiencies. That still probably means 400,000 or 500,000 construction workers needed, not 50,000.

❝ How realistic is construction employment growth of 570,000 workers? It hasn’t happened since 1946. Even the peak of the housing bubble generated only one brief year-over-year increase of 500,000 construction workers.

The infrastructure proposal is among Trump’s most politically viable, but economics will kill it.

RTFA for the rest of the gory details. Trump is not only incompetent to develop and lead our nation into a construction project of national importance — he isn’t cunning enough to seek out advice and structural leadership from any of the talent we have in abundance in the GOUSA.

Cave dweller menus were limited by what’s available – from Woolly rhino to mushrooms

❝ Eating like a caveman meant chowing down on woolly rhinos and sheep in Belgium, but munching on mushrooms, pine nuts and moss in Spain. It all depended on where they lived, new research shows.

❝ Scientists got a sneak peek into the kitchen of three Neanderthals by scraping off the plaque stuck on their teeth and examining the DNA. What they found smashes a common public misconception that the caveman diet was mostly meat. They also found hints that one sickly teen used primitive versions of penicillin and aspirin to help ease his pain.

The dental plaque provides a lifelong record of what went in the Neanderthals’ mouths and the bacteria that lived in their guts, said study co-author Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA in Adelaide.

“It’s like a fossil,” he said.

❝ While past studies showed varied Neanderthal diets, genetic testing allowed researchers to say what kind of meat or mushrooms they ate, Cooper said. The 42,000-year-old Belgian Neanderthal’s menu of sheep and woolly rhino reflected what roamed in the plains around the Neanderthal’s home, he said. The research is in Wednesday’s journal Nature…

There were no signs of meat in the diet of the two 50,000-year-old Spanish Neanderthals, but calling them vegetarians would be a stretch, Cooper said. Their own bones showed that they were eaten by cannibals.

I don’t doubt that the politicians, priests and pundits of the time provided believable reasons for every part of life – from diet to ritual – even if they were crap. Part of the job description that hasn’t changed.

The world always counted on the US to help fight a global health crisis — Not anymore, man!


Panic, bad judgment and a disregard for science

❝ China is facing the biggest and deadliest outbreak of H7N9 bird flu in human history…The virus causes pneumonia and death in most of its victims, which is why it tops the list of global flu pandemic threats.

…460 human cases of the virus have been confirmed in China since last October — the most of any flu season since H7N9 was first reported in humans in 2013…Forty percent of those confirmed to have the virus have died — including at least 87 people this year alone. That high mortality rate is part of the reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers H7N9 the “most concerning” of the flu viruses it tracks…

❝ For now, the risk of H7N9 reaching the US is low. Still, the chances of the US being hit with some kind of pandemic in the next four years is high…Based on what we’ve seen from President Donald Trump so far, the US seems poised to botch an outbreak response:

1) Trump hasn’t named a CDC director and could cut 12 percent of its budget

2) “America first” doesn’t work during pandemics

3) Trump has advocated for closing borders to countries dealing with outbreaks. That’s dangerous.

4) The fallout from Trump’s travel ban could hamper research collaboration that could save lives

We’ll eventually learn whether Trump will put public health above politics — and hopefully the White House’s pandemic test doesn’t roll around too soon. Trump’s Ebola tweets and perpetuation of myths about vaccines certainly aren’t very encouraging. But perhaps the gravity of the Oval Office will change the stakes.

Anyone expecting Trump to acquire an interest in science or sensible governance may as well be smoking something mellow. His forte is loudness, blather designed to impress someone with the civic understanding of a sixth-grade social pass. Ignorance is his bliss – and our biggest danger.

Want more details? Click the link above and see what he’s done, so far. Or, rather, what he hasn’t done.