The military’s sexual assault epidemic
File under ‘news you could use to make yourself incredibly angry:’
The number of servicemembers who reported being sexually assaulted rose consistently over the past four years, according to an internal Pentagon report released Tuesday, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to address the problem. But because only a fraction of servicemembers ever report assaults to their superiors, the Pentagon also conducts an anonymous survey to estimate the true scope of the problem, and those reveal a much larger number: For 2012, for example, the report estimates that the real number servicemembers experiencing “unwanted sexual contact” is closer to 26,000, which means about 90 percent of servicemembers assaulted kept quiet about it.
For an extra dose of rage-face also read about the recent sexual battery arrest of the man in charge of investigating such assaults in the military.
The ACA’s part-time conundrum
This isn’t an issue specific to Indiana: From movie theater chains to state governments, there is a lot of debate over how large businesses will react to the requirement to provide insurance to full-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week.
The health care law requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide affordable insurance coverage to workers. For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, the story is different: A company does not get penalized for not providing health insurance coverage.
Of course it’s a little more complicated than that; firms must have fifty plus one full-time, non-seasonal, workers to incur the penalty portion of the Affordable Care Act.
Still. There is definitely a strain of relatively straight-forward logic accompanying the decision to grow your part-time workforce in response. Of course that has consequences as well, something rarely kept in mind by ACA detractors (though Kliff covers it). There’s also a compelling logic to not avoid the penalty and simply have a more well-rounded semi-professional employee base.
Everybody assumes the worst, which is a fair-minded populist cynicism, and that firms will make their employees ‘pay’ for such new restrictions. Yet somehow that remains a indictment of the legislation for many rather than the companies themselves. I’m mystified that some assign such innocent reverence for the inevitable logic of firm reactions and not for the logic of elected officials pursuing their ideological priors.
Anyway, assuming the worst case scenario and Wal-Mart and McD’s and others vastly increase their part-time workforce, does that make the ACA an unintended job’s bill?
On the Oregon Medicaid study: “Keep calm and collect more data”
The New England Journal of Medicine sent out a press release Wednesday evening with the click-bait title of “The Oregon Experiment — Effects of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes” (abstract here, the full paper is gated). Some background: because of a lack of funding the state of Oregon conducted a lottery system for Medicaid enrollment, and the ensuing results are being studied as a rare randomized controlled trial (RCT). The lottery has allowed healthcare researchers to, essentially, study the effects of Medicaid coverage in a way that people can begin to talk in terms of empirical causality. The first results (see here & here) were promising; for those who ‘won’ the lottery Medicaid appeared to provide increased health benefits and greater income security. This second result, however, is a little bit more mixed:
Let’s review. The good: Medicaid improved rates of diagnosis of depression, increased the use of preventive services, and improved the financial outlook for enrollees. The bad: It did not significantly effect the A1C levels of people with diabetes or levels of hypertension or cholesterol.
There is much, much more on this from folks smarter and more able to suss out the details behind this study than I can. For a wonderfully BS-free version go see Matt Yglesias’ take. I’ve read them all and so should you. For what it’s worth, on matters such as these, at the very least you will should be reading the folks at The Incidental Economist (where the above quote comes from). They’re serious, fair, and do this sort of thing for a living.
Unfortunately it was also an opportunity for some conservatives to, what in some cases I can only describe as gloatingly, declare everything they’ve ever argued negatively about Medicaid as validated. That is, yet another opportunity for them to delegitimize the program. I won’t bother linking to those simply because their arguments are (to be polite) disingenuous at best, or (to be impolite) a massive dollop of conservative derp at worst.
This is not the slam-dunk evidence you’re looking for
A new study from the Society of Actuaries this week made the rounds on various conservative outlets with headline number of 32 percent — the amount by which the SOA prediction that claims costs for insurance companies offering policies on the individual market will rise after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately some have interpreted this as meaning that individual policy premiums will rise by the same amount, which isn’t true. Although traditionally claims costs are thought to strongly influence premiums the connection between the two after the ACA will be decidedly murkier to discern:
On “pulling a check” in disability
Over the weekend NPR’s “Planet Money” released a story on the rise of Americans on disability. I thought it decent overall, but I see some others had issues with the “This American Life” complimentary piece (which I haven’t listen to) on disability and children. In the past I’ve enjoyed both program’s work — their “guide” to the financial crisis is probably one of the best — but PM in particular is known for their ‘laymen’ approach to reporting on economics. Oftentimes that’s helpful, but not especially in the case of the section on kids:
As I got further into this story, I started hearing about another group of people on disability: kids. People in Hale County told me that what you want is a kid who can “pull a check.” Many people mentioned this, but I basically ignored it. It seemed like one of those things that maybe happened once or twice, got written up in the paper and became conversational fact among neighbors.
Then I looked at the numbers. I found that the number of kids on a program called Supplemental Security Income — a program for children and adults who are both poor and disabled — is almost seven times larger than it was 30 years ago.
The reporter, Chana Joffe-Walt, goes into some anecdotal detail afterwards, but I think the impressionistic damage is already wrought upon the reader’s mind — here are the moochers we always knew existed! Parents retarding their children’s progress to get their grimy hands on undeserved cash from hard-working folks, as I imagine some people I know would instinctually respond. Furthermore, the contextual picture doesn’t really expand past that point. Joffe-Walt concludes that portion with something most people would agree with; namely, that a child’s education shouldn’t be held back by disability or a program that “stands in opposition” to their potential.
That’s all well and good, I suppose. Who would oppose such a safe, centrist judgement?
All of life is not a dependency tale
Apropos of my last post Jeff Spross over at ThinkProgress reminds us that the ‘dependency’ myth of people who benefit from the safety net — like food stamps, or SNAP — is an actual policy position from Paul Ryan and the House Budget Committee (as well as all those that just voted for H.Con.Res. 25). As he writes (emphasis mine):
In his latest budget, he introduced his cuts to Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and other support programs for low-income Americans with a warning that the safety net “can create a powerful disincentive to get ahead.”
This narrative of supposedly moralistic concern for a class of Americans Ryan once described as “takers” encounters some empirical issues; Spross highlights information from the CBPP showing that most SNAP households will pull in a paycheck within the year. Furthermore, as the CBPP also notes, the broader budget Ryan touts would remove those aspects of the safety-net that actually makes it easier to work.
Food stamps and verstehen in Woonsocket, Rhode Island
Scent and memory have a well-established connection in psychological research and our common cultural epistemology. They’re usually associated with joyful concepts: holidays at home, childhood weekends outside, or baking at the grandparents. We use them to evoke similar human experiences in personal anecdotes. Other times they’re often an avenue to giving people some verstehen on darker subjects — a subjective understanding of the hardship and tragedy affecting other people, like poverty and food insecurity. Those two bring scents from my past to the forefront: industrial sweet glue from reams of packaging tape, the type of stale dry dust that gets flung when you spend hours assembling cardboard boxes, and the sticky, clingy stench of mass-donated hotdogs portioned from a pallet-container lined with some mystery preservative. These are the smells I remember most from spending time in food banks packing charity for folks in Colorado and Missouri.
While that’s hardly representative of such a complicated subject like poverty, it helps me reach for verstehen when I read articles like this one in the Washington Post, “Food stamps put Rhode Island town on monthly boom-and-bust cycle.”
Read more — http://wp.me/p30RY5-4i
How This Recovery Is Different In One Chart
This graph was included in the new Economic Report of the President, which explains the difference:
From the end of the recession in mid-2009 to the fourth quarter of 2012, real State and local purchases declined 6.8 percent. By contrast, during the comparable period of each of the six previous recoveries, real State and local purchases posted positive growth, averaging an increase of 10.3 percent over the first three and a half years of the recovery.
The dichotomy between this facet of the current recovery and others should be an appreciable one; a 10.3 percent addition versus a 6.8 percent subtraction from the economy.
“The Burkean builds on the concrete existing historical base, not on a vacuum of abstract wishful thinking”
From an excellent read at The American Conservative, Maisie Allison writes about mid-20th century (then soon to be movement apostate) Peter Viereck;
Above all, Viereck worried that a politically charged conservatism would degenerate into “a transient fad irrelevant to real needs.” A static conservatism “does real harm when it … enters short-run politics conjuring up mirages to conceal sordid realities or to distract from them.”
How is the above not an accurate description of the contemporary conservative political structure? Mainstream conservative arguments against its political opponents have been headlined with “death-panels,” “Bengazi-Gate,” “birthers,” and protestations of “secular socialism.” This is a movement of mirages, not one of serious and insightful critiques…
If the laboring mountain of the new campus of conservatism can turn out no humane and imaginative Churchill but merely this product of narrow economic privilege, then we might need a revolt against the revolt against revolt.”
Allison’s piece is about the new “revolt against the revolt against revolt.” I for one welcome it.
There is no (balanced budget) spoon
Two general points: 1) The federal government is not a household. Full stop. The federal government is not a household. Nor is it a business, either. 2) If you must make the analogy (which I beg of you, please do not) then it’s worth pointing out incessantly that most households don’t balance their budgets every year. If and when people sit down to make a budget, access to credit is usually included in that process. Which is to say, the amount of debt we can incur is often included as the money we have to spend. Otherwise people would rarely buy houses. When I had a middle-class income I bought a car with money Paul Ryan would say I didn’t have. That year I was, technically, far far into the red. Yet the credit markets that year deemed it acceptable to vastly increase my purchasing abilities. The same thing happens to the federal government except where I was paying six percent interest, the feds are currently paying 1.4 percent for a comparable term, less than near term inflation expectations.
All of that is, again, besides the point because households do not print their own money, which in and of itself renders the whole exercise moot. That the comparison is mostly a failure even if that is ignored should tell you the utility of the whole process. Yet Ryan’s argument after saying that he believes they “owe the American people a balanced budget” is entirely an exercise of proving this a-priori assumption.
Read more - http://wp.me/p30RY5-3T
Paul Ryan’s Budget
Conservatives tend to dislike the commonly-held belief that they don’t care about the poor and are primarily interested in protecting the wealthy and defense. Paul Ryan’s budget is why this characterization exists. Yes, of course, Republicans would never describe their budget ambitions this way — in fact, they see these policies as benefiting all Americans. So it should be understood that such a characterization is entirely a non-conservative-centric viewpoint. Yet this viewpoint exists because budgets are typically seen as moral documents, laying down the spending priorities we consider important. So when Ryan releases a budget that spends drastically less on the poor and working class while leaving wealthy Americans and defense contractors much better off the interpretation is rather simple.
Read more - http://wp.me/p30RY5-3M
On “The Queen of Versailles”
I finally got around to watching The Queen of Versailles this weekend. The documentary, from Lauren Greenfield, follows David and Jackie Siegel as they attempt to build the largest home in America. David is the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, the largest time-share company in the world; an all-around curmudgeonly billionaire. Jackie, mother of seven, is a former Miss Florida from working class roots that started at IBM as an engineer but soon turned to modeling before meeting David at a party in Orlando.
Versailles is ostensibly a story of conspicuous consumption, the type that’s been enjoyable to watch in some form or another since Robin Leache’s trademark “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Everyone marvels at the cars, the in-sourced help, the pooches and non-traditional pets (at one point they show pictures of a personal white tiger), the wanton disregard for how much it costs to get what they want in the facsimile of Louis the Fourteenth’s grand vision. At least that may have been the original intent. The financial crisis of September 2008 happened when Greenfield was filming; a proverbial tidal wave of WTF that changed many folk’s lives, including the Siegels. Thus the story became something slightly different — though not, necessarily, as David characterizes a “rags to riches to rags” narrative. The time-share titan doesn’t fall, but he’s knocked down a few pegs — perhaps enough to seem like a fall from grace to his profit-driven mind.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p20KZx-MP