Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bush, Obama, and the size of government

As my old friend Todd Seavey details, he and I have made a bet on the growth of government under the Obama and Bush administrations, by three measures, in each case comparing Obama's [first] term with GWB's first term: the change in federal expenditures as a % of GDP over four years, the change in total government expenditure at all levels over four years, and the change in the federal budget, in percentage terms from its starting point, measured in constant dollars.

As will surprise few of either Todd's readers or mine, he's predicting socialist apocalypse under Obama, and I'm... not.

Discussing Obama's budget reminds me to link to this NYT profile of Peter Orszag, who I certainly can't call an old friend since we haven't been in touch at all since high school, but who was a friendly acquaintance from the high school debate team and my partner for one or two tournaments. I liked this bit:

As he heads to his job as White House budget director, he already seems to pulse with energy, but he asks his driver to stop at Starbucks for enormous doses of iced and hot tea. His epic caffeine intake concerned him until he solved the problem with typical Orszagian efficiency: he underwent genetic testing, confirmed that he could safely metabolize large amounts and happily moved on to the next worry.

They can test for that? And what, precisely, counted as "epic?" Peter's probably almost a foot taller than I am; I'm now curious how my intake compares.

And that, in turn, reminds me to finally blog about the most important article from the NYT in the past several days, mentioned to me by several sources. If I were putting up a separate post about it, its headline would of course be "I'm going to live forever... and break some Olympic records while I'm at it: part of a continuing series."
So even as sports stars from baseball players to cyclists to sprinters are pilloried for using performance enhancing drugs, one of the best studied performance enhancers is fine for them or anyone else to use. And it is right there in a cup of coffee or a can of soda.

Exercise physiologists have studied caffeine’s effects in nearly every iteration: Does it help sprinters? Marathon runners? Cyclists? Rowers? Swimmers? Athletes whose sports involve stopping and starting like tennis players? The answers are yes and yes and yes and yes.[...]

Now, Dr. Tarnopolsky and others report that caffeine increases the power output of muscles by releasing calcium that is stored in muscle. The effect can enable athletes to keep going longer or to go faster in the same length of time. Caffeine also affects the brain’s sensation of exhaustion, that feeling that it’s time to stop, you can’t go on any more. That may be one way it improves endurance, Dr. Tarnopolsky said.

The performance improvement in controlled laboratory settings can be 20 to 25 percent, Dr. Tarnopolsky said. But in the real world, including all comers, the improvement may average about 5 percent, still significant if you want to get your best time or even win a race.[...]

The beneficial effects on exercise, though, remain. Even if you are a regular coffee drinker, if you have a cup of coffee before a workout or a race, you will do better, Dr. Tarnopolsky said. “There is no question about it,” he added.

He puts the caffeine research to use when he trains and competes. Dr. Tarnopolsky is an elite triathlete, ski orienteer and trail runner who has competed at national and international levels. And, he said, he loves coffee: “I love the smell. I love the taste. It’s heaven.”

And before a race? He always has a cup.

I've gotten steadily more athletic over my adult life. I think we now have an explanation as to why that is.

1 comment:

Brian Macker said...

Well how are you going to count this. Do Nazi style corporate take overs count where there is nominal control by private enterprise and de-facto control by the Government?

Are you going to count the new government corporations such as GM, Chrysler, AIG, and the banks Obama is refusing to take TARP money back from?

Here the Democrats were calling the Republicans fascists and nazis and now they are following fascist and nazi economic policy.