Excess Casualties in Puerto Rico, According to Mr. Trump

From Mr. Trump, this morning:

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000……..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

We do have one estimate of 200-400 through October 1, 2018, so at least there is at least one person who believed Mr. Trump as of 5/31/2018:

…Excess deaths in PR through year end, those recorded by the Statistics Office, numbered only 654. Most of these occurred in the last ten days of September and the whole of October. While the power outages there were exacerbated by the state ownership of PR’s utility, a large portion of the excess deaths would likely have occurred regardless, given the terrain and the strength of the hurricane. Thus, perhaps 300-400 of the excess deaths would have occurred regardless of steps anyone could have made to fix the power supply. The remainder can be attributed essentially to the state ownership of the power utility.

I would note that excess deaths fell by half in December. Thus, the data suggests that the hurricane accelerated the deaths of ill and dying people, rather than killing them outright. I would expect the excess deaths at a year horizon (through, say, Oct. 1, 2018) to total perhaps 200-400. Still a notable number, but certainly not 4,600.

See the analysis: https://www.princetonpolicy.com/ppa-blog/2018/5/30/reports-of-death-in-puerto-rico-are-wildly-exaggerated

For more reasoned analysis, see here.

Update, 3:15PM Pacific: Vox assesses.

72 thoughts on “Excess Casualties in Puerto Rico, According to Mr. Trump

  1. Steven Kopits

    “We do have one estimate of 200-400 through October 1, 2018, so at least there is at least one person who believed Mr. Trump as of 5/31/2018”

    1. That estimate was based on PR official data available as of Jan. 2. The data was revised shortly thereafter, and I accordingly revised my estimate. For the eighth time, I mention it.

    2. I don’t believe that I ever said that I believed President Trump on his headcount. You should support or retract.

    3. We still don’t know what Oct. 1, 2018 will bring. If the PROMESA death trend continues, then excess deaths could continue to rise.

    4. The Harvard study’s 4,645 number was wildly exaggerated. I stand by that statement, and subsequent events have shown that to be true.

    1. pgl

      You are still babbling about this? I bet your mother has decided to deny that you are her son by now. 3000 people died and you have one pathetic excuse after another. Enough is enough.

      1. Steven Kopits

        What’s your value-added here, pgl? Did you do any work? What’s your positive contribution to the conversation? Do you raise the level here at Econbrowser? I see lots of ad hominem attacks and plenty of invective, but very, very little substantive contribution to the group. If you disagree with me, do the work.

        1. pgl

          “Did you do any work?”

          Sorry Steven but I find all of this an incredible waste of time. So no – I am not going to participate in your serial excuse making for the incompetence of this White House.

          1. CoRev

            Pgl says: ” I am not going to participate in your serial excuse making for the incompetence of this White House.” but which White House? FEMA was operating under an Obama Budget Request. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/omb/budget/Overview
            Looking under Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings we find:
            ” FEMA Education, Training, and Exercises, Department of Homeland Security ………………………………………………………………………. 233 157 –76 FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants, Department of Homeland Security …………………………………………………………………………….. 100 54 –46 FEMA Preparedness Grants, Department of Homeland Security …………………………………………………………………………………………. 1,317 857 –460 Foreign Military Financing, Department of State ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 6,026 5,714 –312 ”

            Yup! It was Obama trying to cut FEMA.

    2. baffling

      on may 31, harvard was more accurate than steven. even today, without the benefit of updates, the harvard assessment is actually a pretty good assessment. steven, you were not even in the same order of magnitude. your criticisms are truly remarkable.

        1. pgl

          You lapped them? Your ego is worse than Trump’s. 3000 people died needlessly and you do stupid statistics to excuse it followed by a victory lap?

        2. baffling

          steven, please remind me what your latest conclusion is? we have the gw study at 3000, the harvard study at 4600 (CI between 800 and 8500). i have lost track of the timeline for your results. please give me a summary of date and revised update. then please tell me how you defined “lapped” them.

          1. Steven Kopits

            As regards Milken’s 3,000 number:

            My estimates for Sept. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017 come out at 1,281 on island and 221 off island, 1439 in total.

            The on island deaths are based on the underlying rate derived from the 2015-2017 trend line, which suggests increased mortality pre-hurricane, probably due to the effects of PROMESA.

            The off island deaths come from the difference between airline arrivals and departures from PR’s top three commercial airports. The demographic composition of leavers comes from the associated question on the MPR survey. Milken has access to another data source which I do not. I have asked them for comment. If they have better numbers, I will revise mine accordingly. The death rates of the leavers are based on the death rates provided by Milken for those who remained on the island (they would be about 1/3 less if they were in the US).

            I am unable to confirm Milken’s numbers for the Jan-Feb 2018 period. Using either the 2010-2017 trend line, or the 2015-2017 trend line, or the averages of the previous two or three years, expected deaths in Jan-Feb in Puerto Rico come out higher than the actuals, for the trend lines, about 40 above the observed number.

            Off island deaths, however, would continue to have accrued had those persons stayed on the island. Using the same basis as above, I calculate the number at 1,179 excess deaths on island and 346 counter-factual deaths off island for a total of 1,525 excess deaths for the Sept. 1, 2017 – Feb. 28, 2018 period.

          2. baffling

            ok steven, harvard is 1600 over the gw study, with numbers available in may 2018. this number came about 4 months prior to gw. as of today (since you did not specify the date you came up with the number, which is what i asked), you have a number of 1439 or 1525 (date of analysis unknown, but apparently post gw results). this put you at around 1500 under the gw study, and the numbers came out several months after the harvard study. there is no evidence that your results are any more accurate than the harvard study, and it took you much longer to produce those results-which relied on other folks work anyway. and you have the same deviation from the gw study as the harvard folks. so how, exactly, have you “lapped” the harvard study?

          3. Steven Kopits

            The period in question is Sept. 1 (20) – Dec. 31, 2017. That is the period of the Harvard MPR study.

            Havard: 4,645
            Milken: 2,098
            PPA: 1,439

            Harvard – Milken: 2,547
            Harvard – PPA: 3,206

            I understand that the Harvard numbers have been revised down somewhat. Milken includes off island deaths; I don’t think Harvard does.

            If we take average 2016 as the baseline, then the excess deaths are about 1400.
            If we take 2015-2017 as the baseline, then excess deaths are 1,439, including off island
            If we take the long term trend, then excess deaths are 1,555 + 221 off island, or 1,776 in total.

            You can see how you can kind of squeak it up to the Milken 2,098 number if you lean a little harder on the assumptions. But it brings you absolutely nowhere near the Harvard numbers.

          4. baffling

            steven, i asked for the dates you produced your results. not the dates your results are valid from. any joker can fix their numbers after they have a target to point towards. harvard produced a good number without fudge factors to achieve a desired target. you may argue you are revising your data, but in reality you are simply applying a fudge factor to get a more desirable result, in your opinion. once again, i take umbrage with your claim to have “lapped” the harvard study.

  2. Steven Kopits

    As regards Milken’s 3,000 number:

    My estimates for Sept. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017 come out at 1,281 on island and 221 off island, 1439 in total.

    The on island deaths are based on the underlying rate derived from the 2015-2017 trend line, which suggests increased mortality pre-hurricane, probably due to the effects of PROMESA.

    The off island deaths come from the difference between airline arrivals and departures from PR’s top three commercial airports. The demographic composition of leavers comes from the associated question on the MPR survey. Milken has access to another data source which I do not. I have asked them for comment. If they have better numbers, I will revise mine accordingly. The death rates of the leavers are based on the death rates provided by Milken for those who remained on the island (they would be about 1/3 less if they were in the US).

    I am unable to confirm Milken’s numbers for the Jan-Feb 2018 period. Using either the 2010-2017 trend line, or the 2015-2017 trend line, or the averages of the previous two or three years, expected deaths in Jan-Feb in Puerto Rico come out higher than the actuals, for the trend lines, about 40 above the observed number.

    Off island deaths, however, would continue to have accrued had those persons stayed on the island. Using the same basis as above, I calculate the number at 1,179 excess deaths on island and 346 counter-factual deaths off island for a total of 1,525 excess deaths for the Sept. 1, 2017 – Feb. 29, 2019 period.

  3. Steven Kopits

    As regards Milken’s 3,000 number:

    My estimates for Sept. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017 come out at 1,281 on island and 221 off island, 1439 in total.

    The on island deaths are based on the underlying rate derived from the 2015-2017 trend line, which suggests increased mortality pre-hurricane, probably due to the effects of PROMESA.

    The off island deaths come from the difference between airline arrivals and departures from PR’s top three commercial airports. The demographic composition of leavers comes from the associated question on the MPR survey. Milken has access to another data source which I do not. I have asked them for comment. If they have better numbers, I will revise mine accordingly. The death rates of the leavers are based on the death rates provided by Milken for those who remained on the island (they would be about 1/3 less if they were in the US).

    I am unable to confirm Milken’s numbers for the Jan-Feb 2018 period. Using either the 2010-2017 trend line, or the 2015-2017 trend line, or the averages of the previous two or three years, expected deaths in Jan-Feb in Puerto Rico come out higher than the actuals, for the trend lines, about 40 above the observed number.

    Off island deaths, however, would continue to have accrued had those persons stayed on the island. Using the same basis as above, I calculate the number at 1,179 excess deaths on island and 346 counter-factual deaths off island for a total of 1,525 excess deaths for the Sept. 1, 2017 – Feb. 28, 2018 period.

  4. joseph

    Donald Trump: “If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.

    Steven Kopits: “Thus, the data suggests that the hurricane accelerated the deaths of ill and dying people, rather than killing them outright.

    Great minds think alike!

    1. Steven Kopits

      I would be thrilled if Trump read my stuff. There’s a lot to do, things that only Trump could do and which would make the world a better place.

  5. Moses Herzog

    “so at least there is at least one person who believed Mr. Trump as of 5/31/2018”

    Got a good 20 seconds of involuntary chuckles out of that one. I wonder if, in the vein of a 12 year old boy with his football hero’s poster, “Princeton” Kopits has an enlarged laminated photo of Trump throwing paper towels to hurricane victims taped on the inside of his bedroom door.

    I’m on a “malleable” boycott of commenting in this blog, for reasons already stated, which apparently I have no self-control when the village idiots inspire Menzie to “go David Letterman” on them.

  6. joseph

    Steven Kopits: “We still don’t know what Oct. 1, 2018 will bring. If the PROMESA death trend continues, then excess deaths could continue to rise.

    Excuse me for a moment while I readjust my neck from the whiplash.

    Last month your excuse was that the number of deaths would decrease in future months because all the old sick people had died off early.

    This month your excuse is that the number of deaths will increase in future months because of PROMESA.

    It’s like the climate change debate. Just one more silly objection after another. It’s the sunspots. It’s the El Nino. It’s the HIATUS! It’s the satellite calibrations. It’s the urban heat island effect. It’s the weather station thermometers. We just need six more months of data to before we can tell — and six more — and six more.

    It’s a waste of time presenting facts to Kopits. He will just come up with one more bad faith objection after another (also known as sea lioning).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealioning

    1. Steven Kopits

      From the hurricane, yes, excess deaths should decrease. It looks like they may have already been decreasing from early this year.

      From PROMESA, not sure. To the best of my knowledge, I am the first person to take a crack at excess PROMESA deaths, so I don’t think anyone knew that, at least in quantitative terms. Nor sure Menzie thinks it’s material, even so.

  7. Menzie Chinn Post author

    FYI, more evidence of awareness of full enormity of crisis: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/13/trump-hurricane-maria-first-responders-823115

    Emails released Thursday by congressional Democrats show correspondence between first responders that appears to undermine the Trump administration’s public reporting of the human toll from Hurricane Maria last year.

    In one email, dated Sept. 29, 2017, a first responder – whose name has been redacted – describes “finding mass graves in mud slide areas,” and requests counseling support for federal first responders in the area. An unnamed Army National Guard general is included in the correspondence.

    1. pgl

      Gee – I bet Team Trump will now say these first responders were down there on Chuck Schumer’s political payroll!

    2. Steven Kopits

      Mass graves? Were the bodies exhumed? Or left in situ? If they were exhumed, did they go to an ME? Where was this?

  8. PeakTrader

    So, how many excess deaths are attributed to local government, unprepared people living in Puerto Rico, FEMA, and Trump?

    Or, how much higher would excess deaths be without Washington’s help?

    1. pgl

      Victim shaming?! Oh yea – you have bought Bruce’s line about Puerto Ricans being lazy and stupid. Go figure!

    2. Steven Kopits

      I think with Baffs we’re arguing that a big hurricane will flatten the grid of an island like PR or the USVIs. It’s simply not possible to reconstitute such a system easily, with the track record looking like four months to 50% and six months to essentially full recovery. If the grid was the problem, it’s not clear that FEMA really made that much of a difference.

      Without the direct support of the US government, however, with PREPA and PR in bankruptcy, the grid would never have recovered. Not for years. So you would have excess deaths until you ran out of people who could not live without the support of electric powered devices. The death count could have been much higher, but principally after Jan. 2018.

      Maybe Baffs has another view.

      1. pgl

        “Without the direct support of the US government, however, with PREPA and PR in bankruptcy, the grid would never have recovered. Not for years.”

        It might take years for someone to pay for this but doing the actual work does not take that long if we had tried. Thanks for confirming the Trump position that this is all about business and not people’s lives!

      2. baffling

        “Without the direct support of the US government, however, with PREPA and PR in bankruptcy, the grid would never have recovered. ”
        there is really no alternative. as a nation, we are obligated to rebuild the necessary infrastructure when parts of our nation suffer disaster. and we should rebuild it with resiliency. the thing is, you can always find an excuse for improper condition of somebodies infrastructure. but i can assure you, there is always a legitimate natural disaster potential in any area of the country that can overwhelm even the best conditioned infrastructure. as a nation, we have an obligation to rebuild those areas unless they are deemed too unsafe. los angeles has some of the best seismic codes in the world, and yet there exists the potential for that city to be overwhelmed by a large earthquake. would anybody consider abandoning them after such an event? no. there are simply certain obligations we must take on if we are to be a united, large nation.

        1. Steven Kopits

          To the best of my knowledge, Baffs, the US govt has committed $45 bn to rebuilding Puerto Rico.

          Peak asked a counter-factual. How many deaths without US government assistance?

          Right now, the PR grid and power system is in bankruptcy, as a practical matter owned by NY vulture funds. If the assets are to be acquired by the creditors in bankruptcy, well, that’s quite a process in itself, and could take years. And then, what is the basis for rebuilding? It’s very, very messy.

          So, sure, let’s help by all means, But keep in mind those assets will be owned by NY vulture funds.

          1. baffling

            steven, if there is a continued loss of life associated with a poorly constructed/needs to be reconstructed electric grid, i think you need to reconsider the idea of a capitalist solution to these problems. people should not be dying in puerto rico so that a vulture fund can recover their business assets. that is simply absurd. place me in the camp that values ones life to a greater degree than the preservation of an extreme capitalistic ideology. or you can look at it this way-folks are blaming puerto rico for failing to protect and upgrade their electric grid. if those vulture funds want to own those assets, why not make them also liable for protecting and upgrading those public assets that they own and control? they want to own it, they should also be responsible for it. seems to me we just have folks dancing around technicalities which allow them to continue punishing those foreign latinos on that caribbean island, rather than protecting humans and us citizens.

          2. Steven Kopits

            “steven, if there is a continued loss of life associated with a poorly constructed/needs to be reconstructed electric grid, i think you need to reconsider the idea of a capitalist solution to these problems. people should not be dying in puerto rico so that a vulture fund can recover their business assets. that is simply absurd. place me in the camp that values ones life to a greater degree than the preservation of an extreme capitalistic ideology. or you can look at it this way-folks are blaming puerto rico for failing to protect and upgrade their electric grid. if those vulture funds want to own those assets, why not make them also liable for protecting and upgrading those public assets that they own and control? they want to own it, they should also be responsible for it. seems to me we just have folks dancing around technicalities which allow them to continue punishing those foreign latinos on that caribbean island, rather than protecting humans and us citizens.”

            First and foremost, we are not using a capitalist solution to the PR grid. The Feds are picking up billions of dollars in cost. However, PREPA is in bankruptcy, and therefore the assets or revenue flows of PREPA, which will include the rebuilt grid, may eventually belong to the vulture funds, ceteris paribus.

            The rebuilding risk is the use of the section 428 procedure.

            The funds do not control the power assets. They do not want the assets. They want to be repaid what they are owed.

            At root, the fundamental problem is the use of public monies to build assets which essentially guarantee the economics of private entities. Socialized risk, privatized profit. Hard to avoid in this case.

          3. baffling

            “First and foremost, we are not using a capitalist solution to the PR grid. ”
            steven, if that is the case, then we would not be stalled in court for years while the grid continued to deteriorate (and finally collapsed) so that bond holders could get their due. look, at some point, investors who make poor investments do need to pay the price for their poor deployment of capital. and when that market correction impacts the public safety, the government has a responsibility to step in and protect the public. it is not necessary to let thousands die to prove the point that the utility cannot pay back its bills. this was known years ago. the vulture funds and all others who invested in those bonds should have lost their money years ago, when the utility was bankrupt. dragging on the inevitable did nothing but punish the public, and also did not solve the problem.

            “At root, the fundamental problem is the use of public monies to build assets which essentially guarantee the economics of private entities. ”
            and we have a movement afoot to create more public/private ownership of infrastructure throughout the country. perhaps this approach, promoted by trump and many conservatives, should be revisited?

  9. sammy

    Why are you blaming all the deaths on Trump? What about the hurricane?

    Dou have to come up with a measure of how many deaths were caused by Trump “incompetence ” before you can blame any deaths on hi?

    1. pgl

      Hurricanes are a reality which is why Carter set up FEMA. No one said Trump caused Maria but it is a well established fact that our government response to Maria was woefully inadequate. But thanks for not blaming the victims like the rest of Team Trump does!

      1. CoRev

        Pgl claims “… it is a well established fact that our government response to Maria was woefully inadequate.”{ References please, otherwise ir is just another pgl exaggeration or lie. Add value, please.

        1. pgl

          I see you have not read any of Menzie’s post on this? C’mon CoRev – do take your preK reading classes more seriously.

      2. sammy

        ” it is a well established fact that our government response to Maria was woefully inadequate”

        No, it is more of an assertion by you. I don’t remember more than the usual outcry following a disaster at the time, and the issue was pretty dormant since. Pgl, you are being manipulated for political reasons. Dems used Katrina to devastate Bush politically with the black community, even though it turns out later many of the facts reported at the time were exaggerated and sensationalized.

        It worked last time so the Dems are trotting it out again (ahead of the mid term elections) only this time it is aimed at the Hispanic vote. Are you too dumb to see this? Or are you part of it?

        1. baffling

          “Dems used Katrina to devastate Bush politically with the black community, even though it turns out later many of the facts reported at the time were exaggerated and sensationalized.”
          no. the conditions as the superdome and muriel center were pretty dire. half the city was underwater. i think you need to reconsider what is considered an exaggeration.

  10. Steven Kopits

    And back to our main topic:

    Border apprehensions hit were the highest in August since 2010, which of course includes much of the Obama years. The gains were notably, up 20% on July and 26% over our forecast for the month.

    Further, illegal immigration could go a lot higher, I think.

    Someone is not going to be happy.

    https://www.princetonpolicy.com/ppa-blog/2018/9/13/here-they-come-border-crossings-surge
    https://www.princetonpolicy.com/ppa-blog/2018/9/13/illegal-immigration-could-go-a-lot-higher

  11. 2slugbaits

    CoRev So how would you characterize the government’s response to Maria? Merely “inadequate” rather than “woefully inadequate”? Mediocre? The best ever in all of human history? You like it but it’s a little hard to dance to, so it gets an 8? Give us your score.

    1. ilsm

      What “assets”* and what plans could have assuaged the collateral deaths?

      They (uninterrupted warrior legacy of presidents since St Ronald) have positioned Navy carriers in the middle east so that the only Airedale bombers to bomb for al Qaeda in Idlib, Syria are F-35B (how much more than $100K per flight hour?) from one of those big Amphibs.

      *The problem is US are ready to high profit, permanent war we are not ready to provide succor to Americans, mostly those who do not clip coupons for their livelihood.

    2. CoRev

      2slugs, why would I give it a score? I will however try to counter the exaggerations and out right lies, you seem to want to expand on them. Only Dems/libs politicize weather events. If you want we can start a list of those events later proved less than the Dems/libs politicized claims.

      1. 2slugbaits

        CoRev Ah, taking the cowards way out. You’re the one who pgl’s claim was an “exaggeration”. An exaggeration implies that you can quantify the degree to which something overstates the case. So tell us, what score would you give to Trump’s response to Maria? And the Dems aren’t politicizing a weather event, they’re politicizing a Trump policy response. Your seem to be taking the Fox Noise approach that there’s nothing to see here…just move along and put on your MAGA hat.

        1. CoRev

          2slugs, again, why would I give it a score? You seem to forget there was both an after action report and a GAO Study of the FEMA response.

          Pgl exageratedly claimed NY did more than the Trump Administration to help PR, and that DOD did not provide any support. You already know differently.

          Really? “And the Dems aren’t politicizing a weather event, they’re politicizing a Trump policy response.”
          https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/hurricane-harvey-climate-change-global-warming-weather/
          https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22092017/hurricane-maria-puerto-rico-congress-recovery-aid-poverty-climate-change
          https://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/12/democrats-hurricanes-climate-change-242618 Which provided this:
          “…Aside from a handful of outliers like Hawaiian Sen. Brian Schatz, leading Democratic politicians have been slow to use the double whammy from the tropics to denounce President Donald Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a “hoax.”

          That’s a contrast from past storms like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, when Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the disaster a sign that “climate change is a reality.” Even then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, cited the storm and climate change at the time among his reasons for endorsing Barack Obama’s reelection as president….”

          Since you believe: “And the Dems aren’t politicizing a weather event, they’re politicizing a Trump policy response.”
          Please tell us which specific policy and what specific response to which you refer.

          1. 2slugbaits

            CoRev Please tell us which specific policy and what specific response to which you refer.

            The specific policy response captured in Menzie’s post is Trump’s refusal to accept the latest and best estimate of the number of casualties due to Maria. Denying the obvious is a very serious policy issue because it tells us that Trump doesn’t believe there’s any need to rethink or revisit how things were done under Maria. Trump’s attitude reminds me of Voltaire’s “Dr. Pangloss”. It’s hard to improve on the best of all possible worlds, so why bother with a little introspection and self-criticism. Doing so only makes you look like a weak loser. It’s because Trump thinks that everything he does is the best (in his teens he even believed he was the best athlete in all of NYC!), so what hope is there that he’d be receptive to any “lessons learned” briefing from his staff? The only way his staff even got him to think about the seriousness of hurricane Maria was when he learned that his $17M mansion on the Virgin Islands was in danger. No one is blaming Trump for all 2,975 deaths. The magnitude of the destruction just made it inevitable that a lot of people were going to die. But there’s no reason why people were still dying weeks and months after the hurricane. No one expected PR to be rebuilt in a few months, but you don’t need to rebuild an island to save lives.

            Trump’s position on this is shot through with contradictions. On the one hand he tells us that things went great…only 64 deaths. That 2,975 number is just Democratic party fake news. Blah blah blah. Tweet tweet tweet. But then he blames the governor of PR and the mayor of San Juan for the disaster. Now which is it? If things were great and he really believes there were only 64 deaths, then shouldn’t he be congratulating the governor and mayor on a job well done? And even if he believes the governor and mayor were not doing their jobs, why is that a reason for the federal government to not step up and do the job? Is there some reason why FEMA could only do the bare minimum required by law?

            BTW, your discussion of the federal budget process is incomplete. The president submits budget requests and Congress approves appropriations for each fiscal year. But that’s hardly the end of the story. The president’s OMB can and frequently does (usually every Wednesday afternoon) forward to Congress reappropriation requests from all of the Department heads and absent a positive denial by Congress after five calendar days those reappropriation requests are automatically considered approved. So OMB has considerable ability to move monies around within certain appropriation point account limitations.

          2. CoRev

            2slugs, your explanation is shot through with contradictions. On thing that is obvious is that the actual numbers of deaths due to Maria are still unknown. We have not even settled on baseline definitions for a single period for comparison nor have we seen a consistent definition of what constitutes a death. Some of those categories I can remember: direct, indirect, excess, excess due to (Promesa, PR Govt. failures, FEMA failures, etc.), and then Trump caused.

            What we have seen is a lemming stampede accepting the “latest and best” (your definition) estimate without defining the above baselines. Do you remember the article on Harvard’s version and now GWU’s version. All along we have had Steven Kopits trying to develop his independent estimate based upon the then available sketchy data,

            It’s ludicrous blaming Trump for not knowing and not believing the “latest and best” estimate. No on knows without defining those above baselines.

            Not even the PR Govt knows the number of deaths. They contracted GWU to do their estimate.

          3. Menzie Chinn Post author

            CoRev: So let’s just throw up our hands? I can’t even understand what point you’re making. Is Harvard’s estimate and range “wrong” in your book? What is your evidence. I’ve documented that Mr. Kopits’ estimates were based on a misreading of data and a (profound) misunderstanding of sampling error. Somehow, I think you seem to believe Mr. Kopits estimates more because they fit into your priors. By the way, several of the studies have used the end-December date, so you aren’t even right there.

            I will say this. In not one of the academic studies has an author said Mr. Trump was directly responsible for all excess mortality. Here, you are just setting up a straw man, as you are wont to do.

          4. CoRev

            Menzie, let’s start form the bottom up. “I will say this. In not one of the academic studies has an author said Mr. Trump was directly responsible for allexcess mortality.” We are not talking about the academic studies, but the comments, ARTICLES, and commenters here have both explicitly and implicitly blamed TRUMP.

            This is the portion of my response to which you are referring: “We have not even settled on baseline definitions for a single period for comparison nor have we seen a consistent definition of what constitutes a death. Some of those categories I can remember: direct, indirect, excess, excess due to (Promesa, PR Govt. failures, FEMA failures, etc.), and then Trump caused. ”
            I highlighted excess mortality.” because in this comment you have singled out one of the GENERAL categories of those hurricane deaths under discussion, but not all including your articles, have used a consistent baseline. Your response cited above referring to academic studies also fails to settle on a definition consistent definition of what constitutes a death.

            Instead of a strong refutation of my comment you have actually reinforced it. It is my contention that you are leading one of the lemming cohorts chasing the “latest and best” estimate without defining the above baselines. The end result of such an open ended ill-defined discussion is what we have seen to date n the comments and the core articles.

            If you doubt my points just look at the dates and definitions for deaths in your Figure 4: http://econbrowser.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/nejmsa1803972_f4.jpeg

            I will repeat. What did President Trump and his administration do wrong in Puerto Rico after Irma and Maria? As further evidence of the lemming/blame Trump cohort here, pgl answered that question by citing the 3,000 deaths. Clearly blaming Trump for the ill-defined term total, or at least one of them discussed.

          5. baffling

            “On thing that is obvious is that the actual numbers of deaths due to Maria are still unknown. ”
            this seems to be an ongoing theme with corev. when data suggests an outcome different than his ideology, the blanket response is simply to throw doubt on the subject. he has done the same thing with respect to global warming. the end game, is to raise his level of doubt to the degree that no evidence could ever be presented which would change his mind. maria and the gw study are a prime example. throw doubt on the harvard study, and wait till we get these official numbers from gw sanctioned by the pr government. then the gw numbers come out, and they indicated we have deaths in the thousands. now we need to question the validity of these numbers themselves. why? because they do not paint the ideological picture that is desired. couple this with corev’s disdain for anything in the academic world, and there you have it, there are no valid studies outside of heritage or aei.

  12. Moses Herzog

    More children being held in ICE prisons. Will more of the children be drugged by ICE staff?? Will more of the children be sexually abused by ICE staff?? Will they EVER see their parents?? Nevermind, trump is upset the media in the White House is allowed to ask him any question they want, and that’s “unfair” to Orange Excrement.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiFDLOkGYYk

  13. Bob Flood

    Can someone tell me the precise question to which 2975 is the answer? We know the recorded deaths, but what is the counterfactual? Does it account for the state of the capital stock and the nearness of default? Does it account for the healthy people moving to FL? The counterfactual economic methodology tries to account for everything that was going. (The methodology is great fun and the arguments are about facts.) What was the effect of FEMA? What was the effect of storm prep?

    1. Steven Kopits

      Bob –

      That’s what we’ve been debating here.

      The 2975 includes approximately 280,000 people who Milken contends left the island between mid-September and mid-February. The only problem with this is that I can only account for 136,000 (on average) who left by air. Thus, if we allow for 4,000 deaths over births during the period, Milken has to account for 140,000 people, who, by all appearances, left the island in the Sept-Feb period by a means other than commercial airline. They haven’t done so yet.

      Further, I believe Milken is assuming that those who left had the same demographics as those who stayed. This matters because 77% of those who died were 65 and older. By chance, the Harvard MPR study asked this question in their survey, and that suggests that the 65+ age group was 2/3 less likely to leave the island than their pro rata share in the population. Thus, by my count, 136,000 people left the island, not 276,000. And of those, 5% were 65+ rather than 15% (I think) per the Milken study. This means that off island deaths by my count were substantially lower (I think) than per the Milken study.

      The second big difference is in the underlying death trend — to your point. (Indeed, I was thinking of you when doing the analysis.) It appears that deaths ticked up after the PROMESA austerity was imposed in 2016. That is, deaths were going up before the storm. Therefore, the long term average would have under-estimated expected deaths and over-estimated excess deaths due to Maria. If, however, we take the trend line from the PROMESA austerity, that is, 2015-2017, then relatively more people died from austerity and fewer from the storm. This is in line with what you have contended: that a bankrupt island under a harsh austerity program was already in trouble — showing higher mortality rates — even before the storm.

      Finally, I have a material disagreement with Milken over the Jan.-Feb. excess death rate. I can’t find any excess deaths over that period. Indeed, using either a short or long term regression brings observed deaths about 40 below expectations. To this we still add off-islands deaths at on-island death rates, but the total comes out at 1,525, hardly more than half the near 3,000 Milken states.

      So, to repeat, my Sept-Dec excess death toll from Maria is 1,439 v nearly 2,100 for Milken. For the entire Sept-Feb period, my count is 1,525, and Milken is just less than 3,000.

  14. CoRev

    Wait a minute! Wasn’t the FEMA FY 2017 budget an Obama budget? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes it was. And, in the Obama budget wasn’t some of the FEMA budget cut? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes it was. So all the deaths and damage due to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria should be blamed in President Obama? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes it should.

    Don’t liberals blame the severity of storms on warming temperatures? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes they do. And in the past 30 years hasn’t nearly all the warming temperatures occurred under Democrat Presidents and all the cooling temperatures occurred under Republican presidents? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes it has. https://debunkhouse.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/trend-1.png So all the deaths and damage due to hurricanes should be blamed on Democrat Presidents? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes it should. And, hasn’t the worst temperature rise in the past 30 years been under President Obama? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes it has. So, for all those who blame worsening storms and all their death and destruction on temperature change actually blaming President Obama? Why, yes Mr CoRev, yes they do.

    There you have it. It is/was Obama’s fault!

    1. pgl

      “And in the past 30 years hasn’t nearly all the warming temperatures occurred under Democrat Presidents and all the cooling temperatures occurred under Republican presidents?”

      Presidents control the weather? That is stupid even for you. So Presidents are all powerful – except when it comes to preventing an Al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center. Yes – CoRev thinks our military was too inept to carry out the Delenda Plan back during the spring of 2001. Even though the same plan was executed to perfection in the fall of 2001. Maybe Bush should have ordered a deep freeze for Afghanistan since CoRev tells us that Presidents control the weather.

      1. CoRev

        Pgl, do you dispute the data? You again confused weather with climate. They are not the same. Why did you again put words in my mouth? ” Yes – CoRev thinks our military was too inept to carry out the Delenda Plan back during the spring of 2001.” Those are your words, not mine.

    2. pgl

      Notice that CoRev decided NOT to provide any link to his alleged FEMA budget cut story so permit me:

      http://time.com/money/4918458/trump-budget-targest-disaster-response/

      “When President Trump released his proposed budget earlier this year, it included cuts across the board — including hundreds of millions from programs that help Americans cope with disasters like Hurricane Harvey. Throughout last fall’s election, President Trump called for cutting billions in waste out of Washington. The White House’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget, released this past May, attempts to make good on those promises. Hefty cuts are proposed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency charged with overseeing the government’s response to natural disasters, as well as the National Weather Service and the government’s flood insurance programs.”

      Only Trump would declare FEMA expenditures a waste. Oh wait – the citizens of Puerto Rico are not real Americans to him. So saving them from Maria would be a waste.

      1. noneconomist

        See also attempts by Trumpers–and Glorious Leader– to blame California for failure to properly maintain NATIONAL forests , which cover a considerable amount of land in the state while proposing budget cuts to same.
        That’s in addition, of course, to all that water being” diverted” to the ocean instead of being allowed to flow freely uphill as God intended.

    3. pgl

      CoRev keeps blaming Obama for allegedly slashing FEMA’s budget. Of course CoRev has no clue what he is babbling about. Even though Chris Edwards is a right wing lunatic who wants to downsize FEMA – at least he knows the history of FEMA’s budget:

      https://www.downsizinggovernment.org/fema

      “The figure below shows real, or inflation-adjusted, spending on FEMA since 1970. (FEMA was created in 1979, but federal budget figures include spending on predecessor agencies). Put aside the mid-2000s spike from Katrina, and you can see that FEMA spending has trended strongly upwards. FEMA spending averaged $1 billion a year in the 1980s, $3 billion a year in the 1990s, and more than $10 billion a year recently.”

      Notice the graph that shows how volatile the budget is – when things like Katrina hits, FEMA gets more money. Surprise, surprise, surprise. In 2016 we had not had the triple whammy of 2017. After the triple whammy of 2017 – one would think Trump would want more FEMA spending but he proposed even more cuts.

      Of course do not expect CoRev to get any of this. He is not paid by his political masters to get the facts right.

      1. CoRev

        Pgl, Bwahahaha, links to a Trump article, but totally ignores the source referenced here: ”

        CoRev
        September 14, 2018 at 8:32 am

        Pgl says: ” I am not going to participate in your serial excuse making for the incompetence of this White House.” but which White House? FEMA was operating under an Obama Budget Request. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/omb/budget/Overview
        Looking under Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings we find:…”

        Claiming I don’t know how the Federal Government works after a career there is hilarious. I guess you still haven’t figured out the Federal FY dates. All the FEMA planning and initial response to Maria was under the Obama budget. Plus hurricane Harvey and Irma responses was primarily under the same Obama budget.

        Furthermore your grade school misunderstanding of the funding (emergency and appropriations) process is monumentally ignorant. An example of your ignorance of this subject: “Notice the graph that shows how volatile the budget is – when things like Katrina hits, FEMA gets more money. ” Your simplistic response completely ignores the process and politics associated. This si what happened for Katrina funding: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/85xx/doc8514/08-07-hurricanes_letter.pdf

  15. sammy

    Results of some other analyses:

    The New York Times calculated 1,052 deaths through October. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/08/us/puerto-rico-hurricane-maria-death-toll.html

    The Center for Investigative Reporting calculated 985 through October. http://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2017/12/nearly-1000-more-people-died-in-puerto-rico-after-hurricane-maria/

    University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez professors calculated 822, with a 95 percent confidence range that the total was somewhere between 605 and 1,039. http://academic.uprm.edu/wrolke/research/Maria%20Deaths%20-%20Significance.pdf

    Pennsylvania State University professors calculated excess deaths of about 500 in September, or a total of 1,085 if the same pattern held in October. That estimate was based on six weeks of mortality records. https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/s7dmu

    A Latino USA analysis, using updated data from Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, calculated 1,194 excess deaths in September and October. https://latinousa.org/2018/02/28/data-puerto-rico-institute-statistics-confirms-excess-deaths-hurricane-maria/

  16. pgl

    The Vox piece does a nice job of noting why we should trust the GWU estimate of the number of excess deaths and not the lies of Trump and the asinine ramblings of Princeton Steven. But they say a lot more:

    “Make no mistake: Most of the deaths resulting from the humanitarian crisis following the hurricane were avoidable …When the storm made a direct hit on the island on September 20 and knocked out 80 percent of the island’s power transmission lines, it was clear that many lives would be at stake. Thousands of sick, elderly, and small children were left without electricity, water, and medical care. And as the response progressed painfully slowly (in part because FEMA was stretched responding to two other hurricane disasters and wildfires in California), we saw that thousands continued to be with power, water, or medical care for months…Many of the deaths that ensued likely could have been avoided if more attention and resources had been offered early on.”

    Of course the Usual Suspects will come up with all sorts of excuses as they could care less about these Puerto Ricans. The latest of course is CoRev telling us this is all Obama’s fault. I hope Trump pays the Usual Suspects well!

  17. pgl

    CoRev
    September 14, 2018 at 8:32 am

    tries another one of desperate and dishonest attempts to blame Obama for the Trump incompetence after Maria. Of course CoRev has no clue how the Federal government works. It is not like the piggy bank ran out of money and Trump’s hands were tied. No – the Federal government has a lot of discretion with respect to incurring emergency expenses and worrying about the funding later.

    I guess CoRev is so stoooopid that he does not know this. Or maybe he is not the dumbest person on the planet. Which means he is doing what he does best – LYING!

    1. CoRev

      Steven, I too have problems believing excess deaths for those who left PR for Maria are something of a reach to blame on the hurricanes Irma and Maria. If the goal is to tally total deaths during the period, then OK, we’ll count them.

      The emergency response model is based upon three levels of response. Primary is local (1st responders, businesses and individuals), 2nd is state level management and support (state police and agencies along with National Guard), and the 3rd longer term level is Federal (FEMA, DOD, otehr Federal agencies and neighboring states private and Govt resources). Response from these players over lap starting within hours to days and weeks of the event.

      What is clear is that liberals want to blame FEMA/the Trump administration for the totality of these deaths, while ignoring the responsibility of the Puerto Rican administration and perhaps even the residents. PROMESA and PREPA both impacted PR’s ability to respond, and as you point out PROMESA was already impacting critical services, health care and infrastructure maintenance etc.

      To assign the total number of deaths resulting from a hurricane is difficult. Assigning blame for those deaths even more difficult as we see in Puerto Rico.

      Hurricane Florence will be a good case study comparing hurricane response in well developed and less developed areas of the US for adjusting Federal response responsibilities.

Comments are closed.