Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 23, 2014

August 22, 2014

How Much Will Obamacare Premiums Rise?

Vox: “Average Obamacare premiums will rise 8.2 percent next year, according to an analysis from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. That figure relies on the 29 states that have so far released premium data for 2015. It varies from state to state, as you can see in the map below.”

“An 8.2 percent increase in premiums would be slightly smaller than the hikes that happened before Obamacare.”

 

obamacare premiums.0 How Much Will Obamacare Premiums Rise?

Posted at 10:53 a.m.
Health

Structural Racism Lit Ferguson on Fire, Not Looters

Steven Thrasher of The Guardian: “The symptoms of structural racism stain America everywhere, but its execution is particularly perverse in places like Ferguson.”

“The real perversion of justice by way of modern American racism is that black people in Ferguson – like black people in the greater St Louis metropolitan area and nationally – are marginalized economically and physically from day one. That is the real looting of Ferguson.”

“Racism, looting Missouri since crackers owned slaves, lit Ferguson on fire – not some looter with a firecracker.”

“Too often, a call for non-violence becomes a blanket excuse to do nothing and maintain the status quo. The National Guard is coming in to maintain the status quo and that is unacceptable – because black Missourians, like most African Americans, were already drowning in the status quo when Mike Brown was still alive.”

America’s Local Police Stock Up on Grenade Launchers and Armored Vehicles

The New York Times: “State and local police departments obtain some of their military-style equipment through a free Defense Department program created in the early 1990s. While the portion of their gear that comes from the program is relatively small (most of it is paid for by the departments or through federal grants), detailed data from the Pentagon illustrates how ubiquitous such equipment has become.”

Screen Shot 2014 08 22 at 9.07.01 AM e1408712861346 Americas Local Police Stock Up on Grenade Launchers and Armored Vehicles

A few highlights from the map:

  • Oklahoma County: 8 Helicopters, 400 Night Vision Goggles, 227 Assault Rifles, 2 Mine-Resistant Vehicles, 1 Plane
  • San Bernadino, CA: 208 Night Vision Goggles, 114 Assault Rifles
  • Burleigh, ND: 353 Assault Rifles, 1 Plane
  • Pine, MN: 1 Mine-Resistant Vehicle, 1 Armored Vehicle
  • Deschutes, OR: 4 Grenade Launchers, 1 Armored Vehicle, 30 Night Vision Goggles, 40 Assault Rifles, 40 Body Armor Pieces
  • Converse, WY: 23 Assault Rifles, 4 Armored Vehicles
  • Lancaster, NE: 1 Mine-Resistant Vehicle, 3 Armored Vehicles

Are Drop in ER Visits a Bellweather of Obamacare Success?

LA Times: “The pace of growth in Los Angeles County emergency room visits slowed in the early months of Obamacare, according to state records that offer a first local look at a key objective of the healthcare overhaul.”

“The inefficiency of using crowded and high-cost emergency rooms for basic medical care is a central problem Obamacare is supposed to correct. By requiring most Americans to sign up for medical insurance — and subsidizing premiums for the needy — the new healthcare system is intended to improve regular, preventative care and reduce unnecessary emergency room usage.”

“As a result, ER data is being closely watched by those seeking ‘to declare success or failure’ for the controversial healthcare law.”

 Are Drop in ER Visits a Bellweather of Obamacare Success?

Posted at 8:30 a.m.
Health

August 21, 2014

Health Care Prices Are Growing at a Surprisingly Slow Rate

Vox reports that health care prices continue to grow very slowly.

“The price of medical care commodities, which includes drugs and other medical  devices, grew 0.3 percent from June to July. That was one of the lowest monthly increases all year. Growth over the previous year was 3 percent.”

“Prices for medical care services (like health insurance and hospital care) grew an even smaller 0.1 percent over the same time  month and 2.5 percent over the year. This matters just as much — or maybe more — than news about total health spending.”

“The federal government isn’t the only one noticing the slow growth. The Altarum Institute, a nonprofit research organization, has charted growth in health care prices, comparing monthly prices to the month of the previous year. While it’s positive overall, growth in the index has been modestly slowing since May.”

Screen Shot 2014 08 19 at 12.35.05 PM.0 Health Care Prices Are Growing at a Surprisingly Slow Rate

 

Posted at 8:30 a.m.
Health

Religious ‘Persecution’ in America? Really?

Adam Lee of The Guardian — highlighting the plight of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq –  comments on the mockery of American conservatives’ cries of religious persecution.

“American conservatives who inveigh against the erosion of their religious liberties are crying that they’re the oppressed minority: not because they face forced conversion or death, but because they’re not getting their own way on same-sex marriage or the Obamacare contraception mandate (though the US supreme court’s conservative, male majority did side with them in the Hobby Lobby contraceptive access case).”

“As America becomes more diverse and less religious than ever, white conservative Christian men are losing their disproportionate influence on politics and, because they think of themselves as the natural and deserving custodians of that power, having to share it feels like a shocking injustice.”

“The only remedy is thus to declare, despite the evidence, that they are truly a persecuted minority in a country filled with other self-identified Christians, which makes a mockery of the true victims of religious oppression all around the world.”

Posted at 7:14 a.m.
Social Issues

Satisfaction With Job Security Reaches a New High

Gallup: “In the U.S., 58% of full- or part-time workers are completely satisfied with their job security. This represents an increase from the levels recorded during the aftermath of the Great Recession — from 2009 to 2013 — when roughly 50% of Americans said they were completely satisfied.”

Implications: “Americans are more satisfied with most job aspects than they were last year. It is not clear, however, if employers have worked to improve working conditions and benefits, or if general improvements in the economy and job market have made workers more satisfied. The latter seems to be the case when thinking about job security, but the reasons behind the increases in satisfaction with other job aspects are less evident.”

fetzgv k40gcwy4wvt9mkw Satisfaction With Job Security Reaches a New High

Posted at 6:53 a.m.
Economy

August 20, 2014

Most Police Don’t Live in Cities They Serve

Nate Silver: “In Ferguson, Missouri, where protests continue following the shooting of a teenager by a police officer this month, more than two-thirds of the civilian population is black. Only 11 percent of the police force is. The racial disparity is troubling enough on its own, but it’s also suggestive of another type of misrepresentation. Given Ferguson’s racial gap, it’s likely that many of its police officers live outside city limits.”

“If so, Ferguson would have something in common with most major American cities. In about two-thirds of the U.S. cities with the largest police forces, the majority of police officers commute to work from another town.”

“On average, among the 75 U.S. cities with the largest police forces, 60 percent of police officers reside outside the city limits… But the share varies radically from city to city. In Chicago, 88 percent of police officers live within the city boundaries — and in Philadelphia, 84 percent do. But only 23 percent do so in Los Angeles. Just 12 percent of Washington police live in the District — and only 7 percent of officers in Miami live within city limits. These differences reflect a combination of three major factors: a city’s racial composition, whether it has a residency requirement for police and its geography.”

“On average among the 75 cities, 49 percent of black police officers and 47 percent of Hispanic officers live within the city limits. But just 35 percent of white police officers do.”

Posted at 4:44 p.m.
Social Issues

The Futility of a Militarized Police Force

Leonid Bershidsky: “As the governor of Missouri calls out the National Guard to finish what Ferguson’s armed-for-combat police started, it’s hard not to question the efficiency, or even intelligence, of this kind of paramilitary policing.”

“Police officers around the world are becoming convinced they are fighting a war on something or other, whether that’s drugs, terrorism, anarchists or political subversion. This mindset contrasts with the public’s unchanged perception of what the police should be doing, which is to keep the streets safe, a conceptual clash that can lead to unexpected results.”

“That reaction helps to explain why the heavily armed police in Ferguson, Missouri … were unsuccessful.”

“Arming police with military weaponry and outfitting them for battle is a recipe for creating violent conflict where there was none and achieves the opposite of keeping public order. Governments need to make an effort to convince citizens that they are seen as allies, not enemies. Then there will be fewer rioters and insurgencies for military or paramilitary forces to suppress.”

Alcohol is By Far the Deadliest Drug in America

The Washington Post reports that alcohol, by far, is the most deadliest drug in the nation.

“It’s involved in more homicides than pretty much every other substance, combined. Alcohol’s relative importance has grown over the last fifteen years, as aging populations of cocaine users account for a declining proportion of violent crime.”

“Surveys of people incarcerated for violent crimes indicate that about 40% had been drinking at the time they committed these offenses. Among those who had been drinking, average blood-alcohol levels were estimated to exceed three times the legal limit. Drinking is especially common among perpetrators of specific crimes, including murder, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.”

“Recent data from the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS) bear out these trends … Researchers at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute analyzed 3,016 homicides occurring in five Illinois counties between 2005 and 2009.”

“Almost 40% of the homicide victims tested had some blood alcohol in their systems when they were killed.”

 Alcohol is By Far the Deadliest Drug in America

Posted at 11:05 a.m.
Social Issues

Why Attacks on Obamacare are Dwindling

Paul Krugman comments on the “dwindling” Obamacare attack ads.

“The reason is fairly obvious, although it’s not considered nice to state it bluntly: the attack on Obamacare depended almost entirely on lies, and those lies are becoming unsustainable now that the law is actually working. No, there aren’t any death panels; no, huge numbers of Americans aren’t losing coverage or finding their health costs soaring; no, jobs aren’t being killed in vast numbers.”

“Many of us argued all along that the right’s chance to kill reform would vanish once the program was actually in place; the horror stories only worked as long as the truth wasn’t visible. And that’s what seems to be happening.”

 

Posted at 8:13 a.m.
Health

Two Very Different Americas Reflected in Google Searches

David Leonhardt: “In the hardest places to live in the United States, people spend a lot of time thinking about diets and religion. In the easiest places to live, people spend a lot of time thinking about cameras.”

“This summer, The Upshot conducted an analysis of every county in the country to determine which were the toughest places to live, based on an index of six factors including income, education and life expectancy. Afterward, we heard from Hal Varian, the chief economist at Google, who suggested looking at how web searches differ on either end of our index.”

“The results … offer a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America. They’re a glimpse into the id of our national inequality.”

“For all the ways that the differences here may simply reflect cultural preferences, however, the main lesson of the analysis is a sobering one. The rise of inequality over the last four decades has created two very different Americas, and life is a lot harder in one of them.”

Rank In easiest places In hardest places
1 elph free diabetic
2 jogger antichrist
3 nb-4l 38 revolver
4 holiday greetings ways to lower blood pressure
5 ipad applications diabetic diet
Posted at 7:46 a.m.
Economy, Social Issues

August 19, 2014

Which States Are Ardent Recipients of Surplus Military Gear?

Christopher Ingraham: “The Defense Department’s excess property program provides state and local law enforcement agencies with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unused military equipment annually … These figures show exactly what kinds of equipment are being provided, where the equipment is going … and how the flow of equipment has increased dramatically over the past eight years.”

“In 2006, the Pentagon transferred roughly $33 million worth of goods to local agencies. By 2013 that number had risen more than tenfold, to at least $420 million.”

“Some states are more enthusiastic participants in the program than others … Alabama is on top, receiving more than $10,000 worth of military goods since 2006 for every sworn officer in the state. Delaware is second, at a relatively modest $5,800 per officer. Tennessee, Florida and D.C. are ranked three through five, respectively.”

map Which States Are Ardent Recipients of Surplus Military Gear?

“The free flow of combat gear like assault rifles and grenade launchers, and especially the sudden steep rise in transfers of heavily armored combat vehicles, should give anyone pause.”

Americans Shift Focus to Non-Economic Issues

Gallup: “Americans say the government, immigration, and the economy in general are the most important problems currently facing the country. Mentions of government and the economy have been at the top of the list since the beginning of the year, while mentions of immigration rose sharply in July, in response to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, and remain high this month.”

“Now that the economy appears to be recovering, as evidenced by positive signals such as a six-year high in Gallup’s Job Creation Index and increased consumer spending, non-economic issues such as government and immigration have become greater concerns to Americans.”

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There’s a Reason Why Obamacare is Working

Michael Tomasky underscores an important point in his piece on Obamacare: It’s not an accident that the law is working.

“Here’s a crazy thought—maybe it’s not just dumb luck that the law seems to be working, especially in the states that took the Medicaid money and set up well-run exchanges. Maybe it’s working because bureaucrats (!) anticipated all the potential problems and planned for them in the writing of the law. Nancy-Ann DeParle, one of the administration’s chief architects of Obamacare, put it this way: ‘… The Affordable Care Act was the product of nearly two decades of bipartisan analysis and discussions among health policy experts and economists to address these problems, and most–indeed, virtually all–of the policies in the law had widespread agreement from these experts.’ In other words, writing this law wasn’t guesswork.”

Tomasky stresses: “On the evidence available to us so far, nearly everything that the more vocal conservative critics have said about the ACA has been wrong. No. “Wrong” implies a statement made in good faith. These charges were often made in the worst possible faith. And they were lies.”

Posted at 8:33 a.m.
Health

Ferguson Exposes the Calcifying System of Inequity

Charles Blow: “Yes, there are the disturbingly repetitive and eerily similar circumstances of many cases of unarmed black people being killed by police officers. This reinforces black people’s beliefs — supportable by actual data — that blacks are treated less fairly by the police.”

“But I submit that this is bigger than that. The frustration we see in Ferguson is about not only the present act of perceived injustice but also the calcifying system of inequity — economic, educational, judicial — drawn largely along racial lines.”

“The discussion about issues in the black community too often revolves around a false choice: systemic racial bias or poor personal choices. In fact, these factors are interwoven like the fingers of clasped hands. People make choices within the context of their circumstances and those circumstances are affected — sometimes severely — by bias.”

“These biases do material damage as well as help breed a sense of disenfranchisement and despair, which in turn can have a depressive effect on aspiration and motivation. This all feeds back on itself.”

Posted at 8:22 a.m.
Social Issues

August 18, 2014

Study Finds Bigger Government Makes for More Satisfied Citizens

A new Baylor University study finds that people living in countries with governments that spend more on social services report being more contented.

Four measures of government policies were used by the researchers.

The study’s findings held true regardless of whether respondents were rich or poor. The researchers also ruled out alternative explanations such as an individual’s health, education level, and marital status as well as the gross national product and unemployment rate of the country that he or she lives in.

Countries ranked from most to least satisfied — with 10 the highest level of satisfaction:

  1. Denmark: 8.20
  2. Switzerland: 8.10
  3. Iceland: 8.04
  4. Ireland: 7.95
  5. Austria: 7.95
  6. Finland: 7.82
  7. Sweden: 7.82
  8. Canada: 7.82
  9. Norway: 7.78
  10. Netherlands: 7.76
  11. United States: 7.61
  12. Australia: 7.58
  13. Great Britain: 7.51
  14. Belgium: 7.49
  15. Germany: 7.08
  16. Italy: 7.05
  17. Portugal: 7.05
  18. Spain: 6.96
  19. France: 6.85
  20. Greece: 6.67
  21. Japan: 6.63

Behind Closed Doors, Republicans Support Action on Climate

Bloomberg BNA: “In stark contrast to their party’s public stance on Capitol Hill, many Republicans privately acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change and recognize the need to address the problem.”

‘Sources cited a variety of reasons for the gap between public statements and private opinions among Republicans: the devastating impacts of the economic crisis, the low priority Americans place on addressing climate change and what Republicans say is overheated rhetoric from Democrats. Also playing a role in the reluctance to speak out is skepticism among Republican voters about federal government intervention and the increasing role of special interest money in elections.”

“Most said they did not think Republicans will feel free to speak about climate change until the Tea Party loses some of its power to influence elections, a severe weather event forces serious discussion of the issue or the rhetoric on climate is dialed back among both Democrats and Republicans.”

How Did Cops Become Soldiers?

James Fallows asks: “The images from Missouri of stormtrooper-looking police confronting their citizens naturally raises the question: how the hell did we get to this point? When did the normal cops become Navy SEALs? What country is this, anyway?”

Fallows’ piece includes startling photos of numerous police force units that have a decidedly militarized flavor to them.

Elizabeth Beavers and Michael Shank, writing in The New York Times, explain how militarizing the police has become a national trend.

“Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. Due to the defense industry’s bloated contracts, there is a huge surplus. To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.”

“As Ferguson shows, this militarizing of routine police work exacerbates tensions and increases the likelihood of disorder. This, in turn, appears to justify a militarized police response, and so the cycle continues.”

Should Police Wear Body Cameras?

“Sometimes, like the moments leading up to when a police officer decides to shoot someone, transparency is an unalloyed good. And especially lately, technology has progressed to a point that it makes this kind of transparency not just possible, but routine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“So it is in Rialto, Calif., where an entire police force is wearing so-called body-mounted cameras, no bigger than pagers, that record everything that transpires between officers and citizens. In the first year after the cameras’ introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.”

“It isn’t known how many police departments are making regular use of cameras, though it is being considered as a way of perhaps altering the course of events in places such as Ferguson, Mo., where an officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.”

Will the Fed Keep Rates Too Low for Too Long?

“Will the Fed fall behind the curve and keep interest rates too low for too long as the economy strengthens? The question looms as officials travel this week to their annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyo., where they and the world’s leading central bankers discuss economic issues,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and academic papers presented at the meeting will focus on labor markets, which are improving rapidly even though U.S. economic growth has been sluggish and erratic. Ms. Yellen seems likely to acknowledge the improving job market, though she has argued for much of the year that slack and headwinds endure after the 2008-09 financial crisis.”

“A growing number of economists believe slack in labor markets is diminishing, making the economy prone to inflation and financial markets prone to overshooting with short-term interest rates near zero. The unemployment rate fell to 6.2% in July from 7.3% a year ago, a decline far faster than Fed officials expected.”

MI CE557 OUTLOO G 20140817174803 Will the Fed Keep Rates Too Low for Too Long?

Posted at 6:34 a.m.
Economy

August 13, 2014

Lack of Police Diversity Hurts Crime Fighting

Emily Badger: “The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson where the working-class, majority-black population has been clashing with law enforcement for the last three days has 53 commissioned police officers.”

“According to the city’s police chief, three of them are black.”

“These numbers … speak to a fundamental problem rooted deep in history and driving the perception of injustice in Ferguson today: This community isn’t represented in its own institutions of power.”

“Such scenarios still exist in many places, including Ferguson. Last year, the Urban Institute and Todd Gardner, a survey statistician with the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies, compiled a brilliant historic dataset comparing the demographics of U.S. cities to the makeup of the civil servants who serve them. Historically, from Cleveland to Birmingham to San Jose, we see minorities underrepresented in higher-paying, more powerful public sector jobs like police officer, while they’re overrepresented in low-wage government jobs like janitor.”

 Lack of Police Diversity Hurts Crime Fighting

 

Posted at 11:25 a.m.
Social Issues

Carter Disappointed in Obama’s Climate Policy

Fox News Denver: “President Jimmy Carter called a tax on carbon emissions ‘the only reasonable approach’ to combating climate change during an appearance here Tuesday, but lamented that even piecemeal actions are unlikely to get through a divided Congress.”

“The Obama administration is currently considering new rules to force states to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030, but Carter cautioned that executive actions taken without the support of Congress won’t be as impactful as passing legislation.”

Carter: “I was a bit disappointed he took a wait and see approach during his first five or six years in office, but he’s moving now … The biggest problem we have right now is some nutcases in our country who don’t believe in global warming.”

Posted at 11:04 a.m.
Energy & Environment

Even the Most Conservative Cities Are Liberal

Vox: “Even the most conservative cities in America are barely right of center, as this great chart from the Economist, based on research from Chris Tausanovitch at UCLA and Christopher Warshaw at MIT, shows.”

“What’s interesting is how liberal even the median big city is. Cincinnati, for example, hangs around the center of big cities’ political spectrum, but the Economist’s chart shows it’s still fairly liberal.”

liberal conservative cities Even the Most Conservative Cities Are Liberal

Posted at 10:54 a.m.
Social Issues

African Countries Try Medieval Tactic to Head Off Ebola Virus

“The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is so out of control that governments there have revived a disease-fighting tactic not used in nearly a century: the ‘cordon sanitaire,’ in which a line is drawn around the infected area and no one is allowed out,” the New York Times reports.

“Cordons, common in the medieval era of the Black Death, have not been seen since the border between Poland and Russia was closed in 1918 to stop typhus from spreading west. They have the potential to become brutal and inhumane. Centuries ago, in their most extreme form, everyone within the boundaries was left to die or survive, until the outbreak ended.”

“Plans for the new cordon were announced on Aug. 1 at an emergency meeting in Conakry, Guinea, of the Mano River Union, a regional association of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hardest hit by Ebola, according to Agence France-Presse. The plan was to isolate a triangular area where the three countries meet, separated only by porous borders, and where 70 percent of the cases known at that time had been found.”

Posted at 7:55 a.m.
Health

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