Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New CBO Budget Projections

The Congressional Budget Office released its projections over the next decade for the federal budget deficit and the overall outlook of the economy in general. The data and summary can all be found at cbo.gov. Remember that sustained budget deficits lead to larger and larger national debt.

Budget outlook for 2009-19:

The dramatic expansion of the deficit in 2009 (up from 3.2 percent of GDP in 2008) results from a projected rise in outlays of 24 percent (the largest percentage increase since 1952) and a drop in revenues of 17 percent from last year’s levels (the largest percentage drop since 1932). Those changes have largely been the result of the severe economic downturn and the fiscal impact of federal policies enacted in response.
On the long term outlook:
Over the long term (beyond the 10-year baseline projection period), the budget remains on an unsustainable path. Unless changes are made to current policies, the nation will face a growing demand for budgetary resources caused by rising health care costs and the aging of the population. Continued large deficits and the resulting increases in federal debt over time would reduce long-term economic growth by lowering national saving and investment relative to what would otherwise occur, causing productivity and wage growth to gradually slow.
I recommend again for everyone to watch I.O.U.S.A. which can be found here in Part I and Part II. Also check out this "Fiscal Wake-up Tour" slide presentation.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Reform Ideas

Here are some common sense ideas for the health care reform debate, from the CEO of Whole Foods. Let's hope some of them make it in any bill that's finally cobbled together and attempted to be rammed through Congress.

Some highlights:
- Medicare/Medicaid reform
- Make individual health insurance tax deductible just like employer-provided insurance
- Tort reform
- Cost transparency so consumers can make informed decision about their own health

Health care reform is important - the costs really are skyrocketing. However, the government should take a real long hard look in the mirror and actually address the sources of the increases. Shifting the costs around only makes the problem worse.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Green Shoots?

"The Wall Street crash doesn't mean that there will be any general or serious business depression... For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game... Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before."

- Business Week, November 2, 1929

#7 of 20 preemptive prognostications highlighted here.


Friday, August 7, 2009

A Look at Agave Nectar

This article, from Radish Magazine, takes a critical look at a natural sweetener that has recently gained popularity - agave nectar.

For those who are not familiar with agave nectar, it is a syrupy sweetener produced from the juices of a succulent plant resembling a cactus. Numerous species of agave plants are native to Mexico and the Southwestern U.S.--one of which is used to make tequila. A mature agave plant may be up to 8 feet tall with leaves spreading out to a diameter of 12 feet!

The agave nectar is sold in many health food stores (in light, amber, dark and raw varieties) for general sweetening purposes and also incorporated as a sweetening agent in many so-called organic, raw and/or diabetic-friendly health foods. It is portrayed as an unrefined and healthful sweetener, but the truth is a much more complex story.

The chemical and genetically-modified enzymatic processes used to manufacture the juices into agave nectar end up giving it a profile of 70 percent or more as fructose, compared to only 55 percent fructose found in HFCS. (Raw honey contains only about 38 percent fructose.) Concentrated levels of fructose in the diet may lead to mineral depletion, inflammation of the liver, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

While it is true that high levels of dietary fructose will not necessarily cause spikes in blood glucose, agave nectar certainly still falls short of being a healthful alternative. It is for this reason that noted low-carb advocate, Dr. Michael Eades, M.D., has said of agave nectar: "Avoid it like death."

A less-than-ideal sugar profile may be offset somewhat by the presence of abundant minerals, which agave nectar reportedly has, including iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. However, it is more correct to say that the juices of the agave plant contain an abundance of such minerals (as well as valuable amino acids) rather than the resultant agave nectar. While "miel de agave" retains these factors, modern processing removes many of them in order to make the taste of the agave nectar lighter and more palatable.

Other Sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part I
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment
Alternative Sugar Names


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Peter Schiff for Senate