Posts Tagged ‘government’

Food, Education and Race.

August 14, 2012


At the same time as the CDC reports that obesity is increasing across the nation…

a study shows that school nutrition laws have a substantial correlation with reduced weight gain.

Also, studies show a persistent gap in health and longevity between people of different education levels and races.

If we were to make education through college- and quality school lunches in K-12- economically available to all Americans, perhaps we could substantially increase the health of America, and reduce health care costs as part of the deal.


Economic solutions are available: Political will is wanting

August 10, 2012

It will surprise nobody to hear that some state budgets have structural deficits.

But solutions may be easier to find than our political discussion indicates. Economist have a striking degree of agreement on some issues that are being heatedly debated by politicians. 40 economists surveyed – including Democrats, Republicans and others- gave answers to public economic policy questions and the results of two questions are as follows:

92% agreement that the stimulus reduced the jobless rate

0% thought that cutting taxes from current levels would create jobs.

If our political system had more respect for facts, perhaps we’d already be a great deal closer to being out of this recession with countercyclical fiscal policy, along with paying attention to what types of stimulus has the greatest impact.

As is, maybe we can pay attention in time to make use of the fact that more stimulus could still help.

Thanks to Wonk Wire for links.

How Recessions Work

August 4, 2012


The idea of austerity as a solution to recessions seems more reasonable as a form of penance to supernatural forces- the hand of the invisible market, perhaps- than it seems as economic policy.

It couldn’t possibly have been the work of economists, right?


Comic found at Political Irony.


Romney doesn’t know if he’s paid lower than 13.9% effective tax rate.

August 4, 2012

Mitt Romney was asked by ABC News if there was ever any year when he paid lower than a 13.9% effective tax rate as his 2010 tax returns show.

Said Romney: “I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.”

However, when pressed if he would get back to the interviewer, Romney wouldn’t directly answer the question.

There are a few reason why this matters:
One is that Romney is trying to portray himself as an economic policy wonk: the numbers guy. If he honestly doesn’t know if he has ever paid less than what he paid on the one tax return he release, that undermines his own narrative. On the other hand, he might know that he did pay less than 13.1%- and how much less- and he is dishonestly guarding that fact, because he knows it won’t play well with people making less than one hundredth what he makes and who pay a higher tax rate than he does.

Second is that Romney- while behaving as though his taxes are nobody’s business- is arguing for a tax plan that harms 95% of Americans– but not on people at the top. No, the top few- including Romney- are the ones he wants to give tax breaks. Of course, he already gets generous tax breaks, such as a tax deduction of $129,697 because of having large amounts of money overseas.

And third is this strange idea that capital should be taxed less than labor. Shouldn’t work be encouraged? After all, capital without labor fills storage rooms, gathers dust in warehouses or rots on the vine. And yet Romney’s income from owning capital is taxed less than income that Americans get from doing work.

When religion is a test for political office.

August 3, 2012

In the Constitution of the United States of America, there is this to say about religious tests for office (emphasis mine):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

But religion has become a de facto test in campaigns as the Christian majority is pandered to by politicians trying to out Christian each other, even when it involves attempts to infringe on the right to free exercise of religion of others.

In Tennessee, two candidates in a Republican primary are in a contest of who opposes the construction of a mosque more. In 2010, district lines were redrawn and so the mosque isn’t even in the district they are running in, but hey: these are Republicans and we can’t expect facts to get in the way of demagoguery.

So, they are opposing the Constitution they are bound to serve, in order to have an unconstitutional de facto test for office which, if more than rhetoric would infringe on the free exercise of religion of a minority group, if the mosque were still in the same district, which it isn’t.

It’s nice that sometimes stupid renders itself impotent.

But what about the underlying issues: the rights of the individual and minorities against possible tyranny of the majority, the right to build religious institutions, the tax exempt status of those institutions?

The Constitutional approach works better than we allow it to: the free exercise of religion including the building of places of worship, the protection of the rights of minorities and individuals is why we haven’t historical had problems with large groups of radicialized extremist minorities.

But- to pick a high profile example- Rep. King with his anti-Muslim panels wants to trample those rights and would increase the likelihood of radicalization, whether he desires that outcome or not.

And in the Bill of Rights this phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” was used by Jefferson in the sense of a wall of separation where Congress could not pass- not to create a religion, not to create ties to a religion, not to either support or oppose a religion. Madison famously called that wall “absolute.”

I would argue that making churches and other religious organizations tax exempt is in effect a subsidy by the government which violates the Constitution, and is an imposition on all- whether Muslim, Christian, atheist or Buddhist- who don’t want to pay higher taxes to support other people’s churches.

There may be an argument to be had against that mosque- or at least its tax exempt status- but it is the same argument that would apply to churches, and so you won’t ever hear it from someone rallying their Christian Soldiers to vote.

Links found at Political Wire.

Americans should be led, not driven by fear.

July 26, 2012

We have some serious issues in the United States:

We are embracing majority rule while turning our backs on individual rights.

We are complacent in the status quo and frightened of the other.

Our media and culture is trained to ignore the harm done by familiar institutions, while focusing on the harms of unfamiliar institutions.

We are told that immigrants will take our jobs – despite economics telling us immigration is a net good and emigration the net harm- and we are told that established multinational chains wouldn’t do anything to harm us because of the invisible hand of the market.

We are willing to give up our rights of privacy and freedom from bodily search for the sake of – not security – but the mere illusion of security.

We have public monies going to prop up a thousand intellectually bankrupt dogmas, and schools sacrificing scientific understanding in our children to the shrine of “teaching the controversy”: a controversy which only exists in culture, not in scientific fields.

We have the middle class and small businesses taking on a disproportionate share of taxes, while the ultra rich and mega corporations keep their money in tax havens and get the lion’s share of subsidies and services. And this is cheered on by those who cannot face the fact that they are more likely to get hit by lightening twice than to ever win that lottery which would still not make them of the 1%.

The American Dream still exists, but few can see it for fear.

GOP backs people killing “jobs” bill while opposing jobs

July 26, 2012

The GOP is proposing a number of bills to help their special interest groups make more money and calling these “Job” bills. These bills include environmental deregulation which would result in increased illness- and medical costs-  and death.

At the same time, the GOP opposes a bill which would eliminate tax breaks for outsourcers.

Links found through Political Irony.

Health care: The Supreme Court and possible industry changes

July 7, 2012

Now that moderates and liberals have pushed through a conservative plan to insure everyone, we are in the clear, right? Not so.

First, the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of PPACA’s medicaid expansion, which means that a great many people could find themselves without Medicaid who were covered until that ruling- subject to the will of their state governments. Something will need to be altered to cover those who won’t be covered under Medicaid.

Second, industry is now lobbying federal officials to amend the PPACA to favor them, which is likely an even greater threat to health care coverage.

When are we going to get industry money out of politics? The conflict of interest is apparent to anyone with even the slightest familiarity with politics.

Percentage Unemployment by Party in Office

July 6, 2012

For those who don’t think that Keynesian economic policy works to lower unemployment, consider that most of the Democratic Presidents believe it does: