EconFact 09/09: Army Strong(ly in need of Reform).

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As the US Congress is debating entering another conflict, one factor may sway their decision: the cost of veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the government body responsible for healthcare claims as well as other post-conflict benefits for veterans, projected their budget to balloon too around $153 billion dollars which is about double the budget it received in 2005. In comparison, the VA office spent $87 billion in 1947, right after World War II, and $77 billion in 1976 after the Vietnam war. There are around 1,800 VA facilities around the country.

Record-high malpractice suits, rising number of veterans coming back, a mis-match between the Defense Department health records and VA records, a confusing policy regarding same-sex couples and a massive backlog plague the government institution. Despite all this, leadership of the VA department are still $5.5 million dollars worth bonuses even though half a million veterans waiting more than 125 days for their claims to be acknowledged. There are literally such a backlog that the papers cause a safety risk to VA employees. 

Sounds like an audit should be in order.

Takeaway: For a soldier, dealing with bureaucracy of the Veteran Affairs department can be as complicated as conflicts abroad.

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EconFact 09/05: How to Succeed in Broadway

via Expert Vagabond

via Expert Vagabond

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get some tickets to go see “The Book of Mormon”, the hit-Broadway show that has a satirical take on the practices of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Besides having a reputation for being really funny, they’re also known to be really expensive. 
Normally, the ticket prices are really expensive hovering around $300 (fig  1, source: Seat Geekleading to a number of ways  you can get tickets, including ticket lotteries and lining up to get standing room seats.
Broadway is a half a billion dollar industry and growing due to rising ticket prices (fig 2, source: Daily Finance). The reasons are many but it mostly has to do with higher and higher demand; increasing number tourists who visit New York, high-profile Hollywood actors joining the fray (case in point,  Hugh Jackman made over $1 million in a week just chilling on a stage), word-of-mouth from people who get seats (because people can’t afford tickets are “in love”  with the possibility of striking it big), and that shows are relying onrepeated viewings to drive sales (hey, it is proven that repeated viewings of art may increase utility with time depending on what emotional state you were originally in).
Takeaway: Paul and Chloe getting lucky Book of Mormon tickets and talking about how fantastic it was feeds back into the ticket-price-complex because it drives up demand.
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EconFact 09/04: Made in Brooklyn

The future of tech?

The future of tech?

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to move from my first college in New York is because of variety; I felt that the students I met in my first school were too focused on a singular track (med school) and wanted to be in a place where I’d be exposed to people who chose a variety of paths.

Same can be said about opportunities in New York; within the city there are clusters of industries. Wall Street has finance. Madison Avenue has advertising. Garment District has…well, garments but the same can’t be said about technology, at least just yet.
A recent report from Bloomberg speculates falling vacancies and rising rental rates in Brooklyn office spaces signal a rise in New York’s tech and start-up industry.  Currently, Brooklyn has about 21 million square feet of office space (about the size of downtown Philadelphia) with an average square foot price of $32.13 compared to lower rent upwards of $40s Midtown South and downtown Manhattan.
Brooklyn is in a middle of a housing and construction boom and hopes to replicate the cluster effect for tech companies.
New York City’s unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.4% in July from June which is lower than comparable cities like Chicago (10.4%)  and Los Angeles (10.3%) but higher than San Francisco (5.4%).
Takeaway: Rising Brooklyn office prices is just one of many indications of New York’s tech industry stimulus.
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Jon Stewart Returns
Questions? Comments? Compliments (much appreciated). Follow-up? Cool link, bro? Hit “comment” 🙂
– Paul
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EconFact 09/03: El Dinero Habla

Happy Tuesday everybody!
 
Usually, being fifth place in anything is not a good thing but in the case for the small, Spanish-language movie “Instructions not Included”, it’s pretty remarkable.
 
 
The movie earned $10 million over Labour Day weekend beating out Hollywood films like “Elysium”, “The Mortal Instruments” and “Getaway” (granted, those movies aren’t very good).
 
 
The movie follows Eugenio Derbez, Mexico’s “Jim Carrey”, as an aging playboy learning to reconcile with his daughter.
 
 
As the U.S. population becomes increasingly more diversified, with Hispanics as 16.9% of the overall U.S. population and growing, “Instructions not Included” success follows increasing trends in the United States that language is not necessarily a barrier to mainstream success; Univision, a Spanish-language broadcast channel, beat out FOX and ABC to be the most viewed network for adults 18-34 which has traditionally been the most coveted demographic. Furthermore, there are some theories that speculate Hollywood has already recognized this trend and have adapted to simpler dialogue, sequels, and racially-diverse cast to adapt to racially diverse audiences.
 
Takeaway: “Instructions not Included”‘s box-office surprise shouldn’t be all that surprising given demographic shifts.
 
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