Antibiotic Resistance: blah, blah, blah, blah

Antibiotic Resistance: A Mismanaged Public Good

Yes, we all know that bacteria and other microbial beasties are developing resistance to antibiotics faster than scientists can develop new antibiotics.  Same old, same old, right?   This interesting article doesn’t offer specific solutions but it opens a door, I think.  It suggests that the Tragedy of the Commons phenomenon is a good analogy to the over-prescription and over-use of antibiotics.  The costs of over-use are not borne by the over-users; they’re borne by the rest of society. The free market isn’t working.  Regulatory intervention may be required to ensure that all the costs are borne by the producers (and thus reflected in their prices.)

Having nicely encapsulated the problem, author Timothy Taylor, the Conversable Economist, offers a few unrealistic solutions to the problem of growing antibiotic resistance:

  • invent our way out of the problem with new groups of antibiotics;
  • avoid over prescribing antibiotics;
  • more hand-washing and sterilization, which would reduce the need to prescribe antibiotics

Seriously – “more hand-washing”?

Instead, why not slap a Federal Excise Tax on the sale of antibiotics used for food animal production?  Tasty as they are, food animals are responsible for about half of all the antibiotics sold in the US. The cost of the antibiotics to the farmer is very small; the cost of growing antibiotic resistance to the population at large is very high.  Tragedy of the Commons.  We should tax the farmers and use the proceeds to bring an NHL team to Seattle – or something else worthwhile like funding basic research into new ways to fight bacterial infections.

What’s that you say, “The farmers are already living at subsistence level* and any further taxes will drive them off the farm and jeopardize our nation’s food independence.”?  Corporations, not farmers, raise food animals.  If the corporations can’t absorb the additional tax (reducing their profit) they will raise their prices.  Yes, this will result in a lot of Meatless Mondays, Tofu Tuesdays, and Wegetable Wednesdays.  It’s a small price to pay.

*P.S. Don’t get me started on the subsidies that our governments already pay to the farmers who raise these food animals.  That’s the subject for another column.

via CONVERSABLE ECONOMIST: Antibiotic Resistance: A Mismanaged Public Good.

The A-10 gets a temporary reprieve, maybe

The political wheels are turning in an effort to save the A-10.

Candice Miller, representing the 10th Congressional district of the State of Michigan, is the Vice Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. She issued the following statement after the House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment to the House’s FY15 National Defense Authorization Act that protects the A-10 fleet from divestment as proposed in the President’s FY15 budget:

“This week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee forcefully defended the A-10 fleet, highlighting the cost-effective, reliable protection it provides our ground troops in combat. 

“Today, a bipartisan majority of the House Armed Services Committee reaffirmed the importance of this indispensable fleet with the adoption of an amendment to the House’s defense authorization bill that will preserve the fleet through 2015.  The amendment would also require an analysis on the capabilities of alternate close air support planes compared to the A-10.

“I hear it time and time again from our troops engaged in combat.  They all agree that the A-10 ‘Warthog’ is the most reliable close air support aircraft.  I fully support the amended authorization and believe that any attempt to divest the fleet without a suitable replacement would be a shortsighted cut that would severely impact our ability to protect our troops on the ground.

“While this authorization must still be approved by the full House and Senate, I am encouraged by the support behind the A-10s and am hopeful that we will, again, succeed in preserving the combat services provided by the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.”

The requirement to produce an analysis of the capabilities of “alternate close air support planes” is a great idea.  It’s my understanding that there are no viable alternatives to the A-10 in this role.  I expect the analysis will extend the A-10 service life by a decade or more.

Rep. Miller Applauds House Committee’s Adoption of Amendment to Keep A-10s | Congresswoman Candice Miller.

P.S.  Selfridge Air National Guard Base is indeed in Michigan, about 20 minutes by car north of Detroit (less if you’re in an A-10).

Checks and balances? We don’t need no stinkin’ checks and balances!

  • Statistics Canada and the “Long Form”
  • Elections Canada and the “Fair Elections Act”
  • Auditor General of Canada and the “Fair Elections Act”
  • Supreme Court of Canada and the nomination of Marc Nadon
  • . . .

There’s no end to the list of respected Canadian institutions that are in the PM’s way.

I didn’t get too exercised when Harper upset the Canadian police chiefs by terminating the Long Gun Registry but he’s raising the stakes. Taking on the Supreme Court is heady stuff.  The Supreme Court, along with Parliament, is emblematic of the principle of separation of powers which distinguish western democracies from other, less fun, forms of government. It’s really dangerous (not the right word) to demonize the Supreme Court in order to advance a political agenda. Otherwise well-meaning people (I’m thinking of talk radio hosts) will take up the campaign – castigating the audacity of these “unelected potentates” to interfere with the will of the elected government.

So words fail me. I don’t know how to make the point to the PM that he’s gone too far.

Chantal Hébert makes the point well, but I don’t think think the PM reads her stuff.

Connect the dots between the ongoing skirmish between Harper’s PMO and McLachlin and past and present Conservative feuds with other independent critics and you get the pattern of a governing team that has little tolerance for the checks and balances designed to prevent governments usually elected with the support of minority of voters from abusing the exceptional latitude that attends a parliamentary majority.