Extreme Conservative judicial activism

Just wow.  It is hard to imagine a more extreme case of judicial activism than what came out of the DC Circuit Court yesterday.  In the Halibig case, two Republican-appointed judges basically argued that the ACA intentionally included the seeds of its own destruction.  And chose to argue this rather than the lights-years far more obvious interpretation that there was simply a drafting error.  Whatever the opposite of Occam’s Razor is, this is it.  The dissent on the 2-1 decision, which Drum quotes extensively from here, completely eviscerates the majority opinion

Their conclusion is that Congress deliberately withheld subsidies from federal exchanges as an incentive for states to set up exchanges of their own. On this point, Judge Harry Edwards was scathing in his dissent:

Perhaps because they appreciate that no legitimate method of statutory interpretation ascribes to Congress the aim of tearing down the very thing it attempted to construct, Appellants in this litigation have invented a narrative to explain why Congress would want health insurance markets to fail in States that did not elect to create their own Exchanges. Congress, they assert, made the subsidies conditional in order to incentivize the States to create their own exchanges. This argument is disingenuous, and it is wrong. Not only is there no evidence that anyone in Congress thought § 36B operated as a condition, there is also no evidence that any State thought of it as such. And no wonder: The statutory provision presumes the existence of subsidies and was drafted to establish a formula for the payment of tax credits, not to impose a significant and substantial condition on the States. [emphases are Drum's]

It makes little sense to think that Congress would have imposed so substantial a condition in such an oblique and circuitous manner….The simple truth is that Appellants’ incentive story is a fiction, post hoc narrative concocted to provide a colorable explanation for the otherwise risible notion that Congress would have wanted insurance markets to collapse in States that elected not to create their own Exchanges.

There’s no evidence that Congress ever thought it needed to provide incentives for states to set up their own exchanges. Certainly they could have made that clear if that had been their intention. As Edwards says, this claim is simply made up of whole cloth. In fact, he says acerbically, the entire suit is little more than a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “:

Don’t worry, though, writes Ezra, no way the SC is going to go along with this:

The Halbig case could destroy Obamacare. But it won’t. The Supreme Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar…

This is plainly ridiculous. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can’t afford it. The point of the federal exchanges is to make sure the law works even in states that can’t or won’t set up an exchange.

For Congress to write a law that provides for federal exchanges but doesn’t permit money to flow through them would have been like Congress writing a transportation law that builds federal highways but doesn’t allow cars, bikes or buses to travel on them…

For Halbig to unwind Obamacare the Supreme Court would ultimately have to rule in the plaintiff’s favor. And they’re not going to do that. By the time SCOTUS even could rule on Halbig the law will have been in place for years. The Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people due to an uncharitable interpretation of congressional grammar.

For five unelected, Republican-appointed judges to cause that much disruption and pain would put the Court at the center of national politics in 2015 and beyond. It would be a disaster for the institution. Imagine when the first articles come out recounting the story of someone who lost their insurance due to the SCOTUS ruling and then died because they couldn’t afford their diabetes or cancer treatment. Imagine when every single Democrat who had any hand at all in authoring the law says the Court is completely wrong about what the law meant. Imagine when every single Democrat runs against the Court.

Similar “don’t worry” take from Emily Bazelon.  This case is going to the full DC Circuit, where most seem confident wiser (and Democratic-appointed) heads will prevail.  Bazelon also nicely takes to task the textualism approach of the majority opinion:

Please. This is not about deferring to Congress. It’s about reading a text so myopically that you miss its larger meaning. More from Gluck: It “does a disservice to textualism and all those who have defended it over the years—turning it into a wooden unreasonable formalism rather than the sophisticated statutory analysis that textualists have been claiming they are all about.” The IRS lets people get subsidies when they sign up for health insurance, whatever the type of exchange, because this is what federal agencies are supposed to do: Choose the most plausible reading of a law, the one that fits with the consensus understanding of it. That’s how regulations are made. And once an agency has made its choice, courts are supposed to go along, unless it’s clear that the agency really blew it. Which is hardly true of granting subsidies to people who sign up for health insurance—the basic mechanism of Obamacare.

And, finally, Drum makes the point that in the event this truly absurd argument somehow gets five votes from the Supreme Court, the politics for conservatives become really, really tough.  It’s one thing to prevent a benefit from coming into being.  It’s quite another to yank the health insurance away from literally millions of Americans.  Those stories of the 40-year mom of four who can no longer get her chemotherapy will be politically devastating:

So what’s the political reaction? The key point here is that people respond much more strongly tolosing things than they do to not getting them in the first place. For example, there are lots of poor people in red states who currently aren’t receiving Medicaid benefits thanks to their states’ refusal to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. This hasn’t caused a revolt because nothing was taken away. They just never got Medicaid in the first place.

The subsidies would be a different story. You’d have roughly 6 million people who would suddenly lose a benefit that they’ve come to value highly. This would cause a huge backlash. It’s hard to say if this would be enough to move Congress to action, but I think this is nonetheless the basic lay of the land. Obamacare wouldn’t be destroyed, it would merely be taken away from a lot of people who are currently benefiting from it. They’d fight to get it back, and that changes the political calculus.

And I’m going to close this long post by just lamenting on how truly sad I find it that two judges on the second most important in the country can write an opinion of such pathetic intellectual merit and such transparent partisanship that it takes not a law degree, but simply a high school education to see through it.  This makes Bush v. Gore look like a magisterial legal decision.

How much sleep is best?

So, we’ve been hearing for years about how 8 hours of sleep (or maybe 7-9) is best.  Now, a lot of researchers are actually arguing that about 7 is truly optimal and that it goes downhill from there.  WSJ:

Several sleep studies have found that seven hours is the optimal amount of sleep—not eight, as was long believed—when it comes to certain cognitive and health markers, although many doctors question that conclusion.

Other recent research has shown that skimping on a full night’s sleep, even by 20 minutes, impairs performance and memory the next day. And getting too much sleep—not just too little of it—is associated with health problems including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and with higher rates of death, studies show.

“The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours,” said Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix. “Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous,” says Dr. Youngstedt, who researches the effects of oversleeping…

Getting the right amount of sleep is important in being alert the next day, and several recent studies have found an association between getting seven hours of sleep and optimal cognitive performance.

study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year used data from users of the cognitive-training website Lumosity. Researchers looked at the self-reported sleeping habits of about 160,000 users who took spatial-memory and matching tests and about 127,000 users who took an arithmetic test. They found that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline.

After seven hours, “increasing sleep was not any more beneficial,” said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham…

Now, here’s the part I simply don’t buy…

Experts say people should be able to figure out their optimal amount of sleep in a trial of three days to a week, ideally while on vacation. Don’t use an alarm clock. Go to sleep when you get tired. Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. And stay off electronic devices a couple of hours before going to bed. During the trial, track your sleep with a diary or a device that records your actual sleep time. If you feel refreshed and awake during the day, you’ve probably discovered your optimal sleep time.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own devices, I never wake up after only 7 hours feeling nicely refreshed.  It is always 8+ if not 9.  And anecdotally, I don’t think I’m particularly unusual in that.  That said, I used to always aim for 8, but after Sarah was born I found I was seemingly getting by just fine with 7, so that’s been my minimum goal ever since.  Maybe my cognitive performance suffers on those days I get to sleep in, but it sure feels good (and heck, I’ve got some cognitive performance to spare :-) ).

Meanwhile, Wired writes about “sleep drunkenness”

Oversleeping feels so much like a hangover that scientists call it sleep drunkenness. But, unlike the brute force neurological damage caused by alcohol, your misguided attempt to stock up on rest makes you feel sluggish by confusing the part of your brain that controls your body’s daily cycle…

When you sleep too much, you’re throwing off that biological clock, and it starts telling the cells a different story than what they’re actually experiencing, inducing a sense of fatigue. You might be crawling out of bed at 11am, but your cells started using their energy cycle at seven. This is similar to how jet lag works

If everything’s just fine with your sleep zone but you still can’t get under the eight hour mark, you might need to go see a doctor. It could be a symptom of narcolepsy, which makes it hard for your body to regulate fatigue and makes you sleep in more.

Oh, give me a break.  Now they want people who sleep 8.5 hours a night to actually go their doctor over the issue?!  Just not buying it.

And, while I’m at it, I’m going to combine what was going to be a separate post about kids and sleep.  Basically, we need to have our children appreciate the value of sleep:

We tell children why it’s important to eat their vegetables. We tell them why they need to get outside and run around. But how often do we parents tell children why it’s important to sleep? “Time for bed!” is usually the end of it, or maybe “You’ll be tired tomorrow.” No wonder children regard sleep as vaguely punitive, an enforced period of dull isolation in a darkened room. But of course sleep is so much more, and maybe we ought to try telling children that…

There is evidence that educating children about the importance of sleep leads them to sleep more. Two studies conducted with seventh graders, for example, found that after participating in a “sleep smart” program, they went to bed earlier and slept longer on weeknights.

I was particularly intrigued by this because of what I’ve seen in my oldest son.  Years ago I told him about the research finding that chronically sleeping too little can impact the cognitive performance of children by as much as two grade levels.  I told him that not enough sleep might cause his 5th grade brain to function like that of a 3rd grader.  Damn, we he sold on it.  I never have to tell him to go to bed earlier.   In fact, on occasion I have to convince him that it is okay to stay up late on occasion for special events.  I love the degree that he has internalized the importance of good sleep.  I guess now I just have to worry about him wanting more than 7 hours when he is an adult :-).

Quick hits (part II)

1) My favorite use for “big data”?  Baby name analysis.  Here’s a cool analysis of trendy baby names, i.e., names that burned bright, but for a short period.  Here’s to you Ashley, Linda, Jason, and Mark.

2) I did not know that almond milk has become a thing among hipsters.  I am a regular soy milk drinker because I simply like it’s taste better than low-fat milk and it has a similar health profile.  I’ve never used almond milk because, despite almonds being full of protein, almond milk is strangely devoid of it.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.

3) Very thorough look at what the research on bed-sharing with you baby does and does not tell us.  I think a very telling point is that the research groups together those who do it haphazardly with those who do it on purpose and these are very different groups.  All of our children slept in our bed some as infants because when you are breast feeding in the middle of the night, that’s just way easier.

4) Nice to see Weird Al getting so much love with his new videos.  This post makes a case for “Smells like Nirvana” as his finest work.  Nice post  I’m pretty partial to Amish Paradise, myself:

5) I hate tipping.  I’m a reasonable tipper, but I totally object to the concept of it for most all cases.  And I am right to, writes Brandon Ambrosino in Vox.  There was also a nice Freakonomics podcast last year on just how foolish the practice really is.

6) I love Yahoo Tech (formerly NYT) Technology writer David Pogue.  It’s pretty amusing the silly question people write to him with, as he explains in this video.  The best part is I found out about Let Me Google that for You.  So need to use this site with my students.

7) Loved this video on how dark matter forms the invisible structure of the universe.

8) I kind of like how Vox has taken to debunking popular myths/misconceptions about social science and such.  Here, they render the Myers-Briggs (i.e,. I’m an ESTJ) harmless.  Not new, though– Gladwell wrote about these same problems a decade ago.  In a similar vein, they nicely summarize the long-existing evidence that sugar does not make kids hyper.

9) How becoming a father changes your brain.

10) I think the idea of “bandwith poverty” is really important.  Excellent NPR story on the matter.  It is really cognitively demanding to be poor.

11) Want to learn better?  Test, test, test (or quiz, quiz, quiz).

12) No, it will never become law, but I love the idea of this legislation that simply says that abortion clinics should simply be regulated in the same way as all other clinics that provide outpatient medical services.

13) 50 state-themed lego dioramas.  Awesome.

14) The secret of effective motivation.

15) Yet more evidence that if you really want less teen pregnancy and less abortion, you should want more free/low-priced IUD’s.



Quick hits (part I)

Lots this week.  More tomorrow. Here we go…

1) This security system tested at the World Cup seems pretty great.  Would love to see it in airports soon.

2) Krugman’s nice column on the failure of Obamacare to fail.

3) This NYT piece on the utter mis-handling of a rape and a college is truly a must-read.

4) Heck, not just marijuana, the case for decriminalizing all legal drugs.  This Vox piece presents a very even-handed analysis.

5) As if I could somehow ignore an article entitled “We are our Bacteria.”

6) NC Republicans have argued that cutting unemployment benefits has helped get more people working.  The evidence (and Dean Baker) suggest otherwise.

7) Former Obama Budget Director Peter Orzag with a nice column on political polarization.

8) I’ve actually said some nice things about Politico here.  Charles Pierce takes on an article that shows all that is wrong with them.  Remind me never to get on Pierce’s bad side.

9) Fascinating NYT column on just how hard it is to learn a foreign language as an older adult.  And how good it may be for your brain.

10) Sweden has totally embraced vouchers and school choice.  The result?  Declining student performance.

11) Loved this Mark Bittman column on the true cost of a hamburger.  If there’s one concept from public policy, I wish more people understood, it’s externalities.  And hamburgers are all about externalities.

12) I had the same thought as the person Sam McDougle upon seeing the trailer for Lucy.  As if humans only use 10% of their brain.  Sadly, aparently a lot of people still belief this total malarkey.

13) Apparently nitrous oxide, yes, laughing gas, is quite an effective anesthestic for child birth.  It is widely used in Europe, yet hardly in America.  In part, because of a turf battle between anestheloiogists and nurses.

14) Loved this Guardian column on Manuel Neuer’s goalkeeping, especially this part:

 On a football pitch you are looking to gain any advantage you can. Like the opposition, you only have access to 11 players so you must use these players as efficiently as possible. If one of them has no role other than babysitting the net, then you’re already at a disadvantage.

Football is a lot like chess. You have the same number of pieces as your opponent, you face-off on the same playing surface and you both have the same aim. The great chess players know they need to get the most out of each of their pieces to win. This gives rise to the maxim: “The King is a fighting piece – use it.” …

By using your goalkeeper not just to protect your own goals but to actually participate in defending, building attacks and keeping the ball, you are utilising your 11th man. If your opposition are not doing this, you immediately have a man advantage.

Map of the day

Smoking by state via Amazing Maps

Embedded image permalink

Quick hits

1) On the fashions of World Cup soccer coaches.

2) New Republic has a new Jonathan Cohn-led policy blog.  I’m looking forward to good stuff.

3) Really wanted to give this own post since I’m always fascinated by IUD policy, but it’s just not happening.  Anyway, good Slate story about an Ohio legislator who wants to ban coverage for IUD’s (while admitting he doesn’t actually know anything about medicine).

4) So, what do those extra thousands for a premium DSLR lens really get you anyway?

5) How Americans pronounce common tech words (I had no idea some people say “wiffy.”)  And it’s .gif with a soft “g” damnit!

6) Sticking with language, love this on words that are most known to only men or only women.  Two thoughts… Paladin!!  and damn, I thought I’d know more of the “women” words.

7) I’ve only remembered to try this with a paper towel once, but it didn’t quite work.  Maybe I need to shake more.

8) Nice NPR story on trying to be a better parent.

9) It’s really kind of pathetic that it has taken this long to have the technology in place to allow planes to have consistently descending glide paths in their landings.  The good news is that it finally is and that it saves a ton of jet fuel.

10) Loved this on the under-performance of top NBA draft picks.  And 538 makes the case that teams should draft college sophomores (I just don’t think freshman year is always a good enough sample size for prediction).

11) Yes, sports heavy week.  Loved this Atlantic piece on the siblings of World Cup players, especially Clint Dempsey’s big brother.

12) The relationship between political attitudes on guns and abortion.  Richard Nixon brings it all together.

13)Science, politics, and NC beaches.  Personally, I just hope Topsail Beach lasts long enough for me to take my grandkids there.

14) Jeffrey Toobin on when the Constitution itself gets it wrong and (again) the folly of Scalia’s originalism.

Why the Republicans really hate Obamacare

With ever more information/results coming in, it is pretty clear that, while certainly imperfect, Obamacare is basically working as intended.  And by any account, far from the total disaster Republicans were predicting.  So, what’s a Republican to do?  Admit the actual problem with Obamacare– great post by Chait:

Conservatives spent years predicting Obamacare would collapse in all manner of gloomy scenarios. But those predictions all occurred in the run-up to the law coming on-line, on the basis of sketchy, preliminary data or pure conjecture. But in the months since the law has come into effect, a steady stream of far more solid data has come in, and the doomsaying predictions are being hunted to extinction. The right’s ideological objections to Obamacare remain, but I can’t think of a single practical analytic claim they made that still looks correct. Just within the last week, numerous predictions of Obamacare skeptics have suffered ignominious deaths. Consider a few:

[feel free to click through and consider]

And so conservative objections to Obamacare are finally turning from the practical to the philosophical. In response to reports that Obamacare insurance turns out to be affordable, Roy, who has spent months warning of rate shock, mocks that “other people’s money will pay for it.” Conservative columnist Byron York likewise argues “Obamacare’s ‘good news’ applies only to the poor.”

It is true that Obamacare is far more helpful to people lower down the income scale. The poorest people get Medicaid, which is free. Those higher up the income ladder get tax credits, which phase out at $45,000 a year for an individual, and $94,000 a year for a family of four. (I wouldn’t call people earning under those levels “poor.”) Of course, people who get employer-sponsored insurance also get their coverage paid for with “other peoples’ money.” The difference is that employer-sponsored insurance uses a tax deduction, which gives the largest benefits to those who earn the most money, as opposed to Obamacare’s sliding scale tax credit, which gives the most to those who earn the least.

But at least conservatives are now representing their true bedrock position on Obamacare. It is largely a transfer program benefiting people who either don’t have enough money, or pose too high a health risk, to bear the cost of their own medical care. Conservatives don’t like transfer programs because they require helping the less fortunate with other peoples’ money.  [emphasis mine]

Yep.  That’s pretty much it.  Of course, they don’t actually want to say that too loudly, so they rely on the other complaints that simply haven’t panned out.  Also, while Chait (and me) see those needing the benefits as “less fortunate” many conservatives see them as lazy, undeserving, leeches on society, and therefore not deserving of any benefit.

Microbiome and malnutrition

Here’s some more fascinating micriobiome news I just could not resist sharing.  It seems that a key feature in malnutrition is a deficient micriobiome.  Basically, if you are malnourished and have a deficient microbiome, even once you have proper nutrition your healthy bacteria don’t really catch up and these kids stay permanently behind in a number of key developmental metrics.  The potential solution– address not just the nutrition intake, but the microbiome as well.

From National Geographic:

The current treatment for malnourishment doesn’t help the child’s system catch up to normal maturity, which may explain why formerly malnourished children still suffer from short height, immune problems, and intellectual delays, said Jeffrey I. Gordon, who studies the gut microbiome at Washington University in St. Louis and who led the research.

“There’s something lacking in our current approach to treatment,” said Gordon, who suspects the children may need to eat therapeutic foods for longer and/or get supplements of probiotics, or beneficial microorganisms, to catch up. “We need to think of food as interacting with this microbial organ.” (See our Future of Food series.)…

To conduct the new study, Gordon and his team collected monthly fecal samples from 50 healthy Bangladeshi children for the first two years of their lives. From those children, they found that a combination of 24 species could be used to predict the maturity of a child’s microbial ecosystem.

When these healthy children had diarrhea, their microbial systems regressed but quickly bounced back, the research showed.

The researchers then examined fecal samples from 64 infants and toddlers hospitalized for malnutrition and diarrhea. The children received antibiotics and therapeutic foods for a week or two and then their families were taught how to better support their nutrition.

But these children, who had an immature balance of microbes to begin with, only got a little maturity bounce at the beginning, then remained far behind their peers, Gordon said.

“Food alone wasn’t able to repair the maturity,” he said.

As for me, I’m still anxiously awaiting results on the health of my microbiome (though I feel pretty damn confident about it)

US Health care in perspective

The latest report from the Commonwealth fund (nice summary in the Atlantic) compares the US to 10 other similar developed nations and we’re just where you would expect (if you’ve been paying the least bit of attention)– dead last.  Here’s a handy chart of various rankings:

You can also see that Canada is in 10th of 11.  There’s a reason that health care reform opponents like to pick on Canada and not Sweden, Switzerland, or others. But still, better than us.  But, of course, this chart is the real killer– we are paying so damn much for worse care:

How anybody can justify this is beyond me?  Okay, not really.  Just the power of political (conservative Republican, in this case) ideology.

Quick hits

Sorry for the bad blogging of late.  Traveled out of town to my nephew’s HS graduation.  Here’s some overdue quick hits:

1) Great, Lawrence Lessig essay on campaign finance.  This is going right into my Campaigns & Elections syllabus.

2) Enjoyed this Slate blog post on the messages we send to young girls about how the dress with the fingertip rule, etc.

3) Paul Waldman on right-wing rhetoric and right-wing terrorism.  Good stuff, though, I suspect that crazy people will always find some larger ideology to cling to in order to self justify and self -aggrandize.  Right-wing nuttery is just particularly easy to grab onto now.

4) Think being an ER physician will get you good care in the ER?  Think again.

5) Really enjoyed this Grantland guide to watching the World Cup.

6) Delaware shows the way on how to get more smart, but poor, kids into college.

7) George Will wrote an extremely misguided column on sexual violence on campus.  One of the better responses I read.

8) It’s really just dumb to specialize your child in one particular sport at a young age.

9) Love this Dan Kois first-person account of trying to spend a month without sitting.

10) In NC, military leaders have taken to defending the Common Core.  Alas, our legislators would rather listen to the modern day know-nothings (i.e., the Tea Party).

11) The hidden genius of traffic lights.

12) Rob Christensen on how the libertarian strain of conservativism has taken over NC.

Tens of thousands of North Carolinians are being hurt by the actions of the legislature – whether being denied health insurance or unemployment insurance, or losing their jobs in the schools, or their earned income tax credits. They are being harmed by ideas put forth by economic thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman and sold by national groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and locally by the John Locke Foundation. The theory, of course, is that the changes will lead to a more productive economy that will float all boats.

The reality, as we and Christensen know, is that of course it will not.

13) There’s a proposed bill in Missouri to allow police to shoot people (supposedly justifiably) and keep it a secret!.  What could go wrong with that?

14) I read Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World way back when it was new.  Good stuff.  Brainpickings excerpts Sagan’s baloney detection kit.  It’s really, really good.

15) I’ve come across one female soccer coach  (and she was just a sub) in my years of coaching the Blasters.  That seems wrong, but heck, they are boys.  Alas, it does not appear things will change much when I start coaching Sarah’s team in a few years (yes, she damn well better play soccer).

16) I’m pretty sure I’ve linked before to this great Slate story and summary of the crazy, crazy, crazy modern-day Salem Witch Trials that overtook this country in the 80′s and 90′s.  I’m actually glad I was not more aware of these cases at the time as the absurdity and injustice would have driven me crazy.  Alas, here’s a sad case of a surely innocent man still languishing in prison 27 years later here in NC.

17) Speaking of injustice, while driving back from the aforementioned graduation, I listened to this terrific This American Life account (it’s a classic from 9 years ago) of a wrongfully-imprisoned man with my son.  He was shocked and incredulous that this could happen.  Alas, all too common.  Also a good occasion for me to give him some helpful advice, like, never, never submit to a police interview without a lawyer.

Budgets = priorities

The NC GOP is putting their finishing touches on the budget proposal.  Chris Fitzsimon has a nice take:

No matter how many ways Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders try to deny it, the main reason they are struggling to find enough money to give teachers and state workers a meaningful raise next year is the massive tax cut they passed last summer for the wealthy and out of state corporations.

They based their budget projections for next year on a forecast that the tax cuts would cost the state $438 million. And it turns out that was too optimistic…

And while there is a heated debate about what percentage of the population pays more under the plan and what percentage pays less, there is no dispute that the bulk of the tax cut goes to corporations and folks at the top of the economic ladder. The conservative groups readily admit that. Millionaires, for example, received of a break of more than $10,000.

That leads to the inescapable conclusion that McCrory and the leaders of the General Assembly decided last year that the tax cuts for the wealthy were more important than paying teachers and state employees more.

You may not agree with it, but that was the philosophy behind their budget. The tax cuts were so important that lawmakers also cut funding for textbooks and school supplies and human services programs to pay for them.

The state budget is simply a list of priorities. Tax cuts were the priority. They were made first.

Yep.  And as for more priorities, here’s today’s news:

The Senate budget proposal upends the state Department of Health and Human Services by moving to take away its biggest responsibility, Medicaid. At the same time it would cut thousands of elderly and disabled people, and other beneficiaries with high medical bills, from the government insurance plan.

This appears to be a first step Senate Republicans are proposing to cut Medicaid services and shrink the number of beneficiaries.

The budget includes a provision that would have the state health agency develop proposals by next year for cutting optional Medicaid services for elderly and disabled beneficiaries, limiting coverage to only that required by federal regulations or laws.

Cutting health care for elderly and disabled so rich people can pay less taxes.  I swear, these guys are like Disney villains.  And it just won’t matter enough because most voters just don’t pay enough attention and, even then, these are Republican legislators in gerrymandered Republican districts.  And, unfortunately, most Republican voters apparently aren’t so interested in helping those elderly and disabled freeloaders.

Super Mega Quick hits

1) If you read one thing this week, read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic.  Seriously.  I knew it was still pretty bad how official policy treated Blacks for most of the 20th century, but I didn’t appreciate how bad.  Really a disturbing and an amazing article  that I think pretty much every American should read.

2) NYT on the intra-party conflict between NC’s Republican governor and Republican legislature.  I liked this bit:

But Chris Fitzsimon, director of the left-leaning NC Policy Watch, called Mr. McCrory the “mayor” of North Carolina, saying the governor had been relegated to a quasi-ceremonial role. “He’s out somewhere every day touring a factory, cutting a ribbon, and yet he can’t get any significant policy through the General Assembly and he can’t stop things he opposes,” Mr. Fitzsimon said.

3) I’ve always loved the little bit of probability theory of how surprisingly common it is for two people to share a birthday.  I really need to try this out in my classes (much like one of my professors demonstrated to me 20+ years ago).

4) The birth of the Koch brothers as a political force.  It all started with the 1980 Libertarian VP nomination.

5) Loved this essay about admitting to our kids that the primary purpose of sex is actually pleasure.  David had understood the basic biology for years before we got around to the fact that his mother and I had “mated” more than the four times necessary for he and his 3 siblings.  He was so suprised.  And his questions were so funny– but where?  but when?  etc.

6) Great EJ Dionne column on Elizabeth Warren.

Warren tells of meeting with Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), a former FBI agent, to talk about the consumer agency. “After a bit,” she reports, “he cut me off so he could make one thing clear: He didn’t believe in government.”

That seemed strange coming from the graduate of a public university and a veteran of both the military and a government agency, though Warren didn’t press him then. “But someday I hoped to get a chance to ask him: Would you rather fly an airplane without the Federal Aviation Administration checking air traffic control? Would you rather swallow a pillwithout the Food and Drug Administration testing drug safety? Would you rather defend our nation without a military and fight our fires without our firefighters?”

How often are our anti-government warriors asked such basic questions?

7) Ezra provides the best explanation I’ve seen for Jill Abramson’s ouster– her boss just didn’t like her.

8) Paul Ryan’s take on poverty– back to the 19th century.

9) Awesome infographic on “what’s the difference” between oft-confused animals, e.g., alligator vs. crocodile.

10) The unknown environmental crime of the 20th century– Soviet whaling.  Great story.  And so disturbing.

11) Really nice essay about the role of force in rape and how we and victims think about the crime.

12) Remember that horrible chemical spill in WV where they had to bring in tons of bottle water.  Not surprisingly, the nearby prisoners were not a high priority for clean water.  Not surprising, but so very wrong.

13) The NFL and DirectTV are totally screwing the public.  The disdain for the fans is truly disgusting.

14) Albuquerque police seem to have quite the high number of “justifiable” shootings.  It basically seems that there is a culture where bad policing provokes suspects to the point where the police can legally shoot them.

15) Republicans are now making now effort to hide the fact that they don’t actually care at all about the basic welfare of poor children.  At least if they live in cities.

16) Matt Bai on our age of intolerance:

What’s happened is that we’ve effectively left behind the Age of Persuasion and ushered in the Age of Confirmation. It sometimes seems the whole world exists to re-affirm our conceptions of it; you can get through days, even weeks, without being at all discomfited, if you know which sites to visit and which channels to watch.

17) Political polarization– a nice summary of the asymmetry.

18) The next frontier for tackling your health through healthy bacteria– your skin.  We’ve basically made a commitment to completely washing away helpful skin bacteria which process sweat, etc., and keep our skin healthy.  What if we sprayed that bacteria back on our skin and gave up showers?   You know I’m thinking hard about this one :-).


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