Quote of the day

Megan McCardle gets her first quote of the day:

It’s not that I’m against third parties, mind you.  It’s just that when I look at multiparty states elsewhere, I can’t say that they look noticeably more honest than our two-party system.  A third party might be an improvement over the ones we’ve got.  But I doubt it would get into office by telling us the truth:  that solving our problems is going to mean hefty tax increases or unpleasant spending cuts, or both.  American voters seem to like being lied to.

The Tea Party hates puppies

Via TPM:

A conservative group in Missouri is picking up the backing of the Tea Party and Joe The Plumber in its quest to stop the Humane Society and other animal rights groups from passing “radical” anti-puppy mill legislation.

The measure, which can be read in full here, is called Proposition B or the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act.” It aims to help eliminate the “3000 puppy mills” in Missouri that constitute “30% of all puppy mills in the U.S.,” according to Michael Markarian, the Chief Operating Officer of the Humane Society.

“This measure would provide common sense standards for the care of dogs,” he told TPM, including sufficient food and clean water, vet care, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles, among other things. Markarian said the measure only applies to “commercial dog breeding facilities” that have more than 10 breeding females who they use for “producing puppies for the pet trade.”

Sounds pretty straightforward, no?

Well, according to the Alliance For Truth, the main force behind the anti-Prop B movement, there is something much more nefarious afoot (er, apaw) in the Humane Society’s measure. The Alliance For Truthclaims that the Humane Society of the United States has a “radical agenda” and is “misleading the public with its intentions on Prop B. The society seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners.”

I am not a witch!

Via Jon Chait, here’s Christine O’Donnell’s latest ad:


There’s a saying in politics that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. If it’s true, then it can’t be a good sign for Christine O’Donnell that she running ads denying that she is a witch.

Don’t make fun of her– Christine O’Donnell is you.

Male perception: female reality

Lot of news lately on the latest survey of American sexual behavior.  This was my favorite tidbit:

About 85 percent of men report that their partner had an orgasm at the most recent sexual event; this compares to the 64 percent of women who report having had an orgasm at their most recent sexual event. (A difference that is too large to be accounted for by some of the men having had male partners at their most recent event.)

Excess health care spending

Over at the Incidental Economist, Aaron Carroll ran a great series of posts looking at why we spend so much more on health care than other countries– even when controlling for our national wealth.  The essential premise is explaining what’s going on in this chart:

Pretty much every other country hews pretty closely to that line, and then the US is way off in over-spending territory.   It’s really worth exploring the whole series to see what we’re doing wrong (can probably do it in 10-15 minutes), but this chart at the end sums things up fairly well:

Given the politics of things, I’m especially partial to his post on “red herrings” in health care spending.   Here’s the malpractice part:

I’m already bracing for the screaming.  You should be ready for this, if you’re a reader of this blog.  Yes, the malpractice system costs money.  Yes, defensive medicine exists.  But no, malpractice is not the real reason for the high cost of care in the United States, and no, tort reform won’t fix it.

How much does the malpractice system cost?  The most recent estimate published in Health Affairs found that medical liability system costs are about $55.6 billion in 2008 dollars, or about 2.4% of all US health care spending. Most of this, or about $47 billion, is due to defensive medicine.  So yes, that is theoretically care that should be reduced.  But we have no idea how much of it is actually not beneficial.  It’s likely that some good comes from that care.  How much?  Blaming the massive amount of overspending we’re seeing on this relatively small amount is not going to help.

Moreover, pushing this as the real cause of high costs is misleading because there’s little reason to believe that tort reform will do any good.  A recent study showed that tort reform which led to a 10% reduction in malpractice premiums might translate into a health care spending reduction of 0.1%.  That’s not going to make any difference.  This is confirmed by what we’ve seen tort reform do in Texas.  And, it’s confirmed by what we’ve seen tort reformdo in California.

Malpractice isn’t the root cause of our cost problem, and tort reform isn’t the solution.  I wish it were that easy.

When you hear people arguing that we need to reform malpractice as the major component of reforming our health care system, you know one of two things about them: A) they are hopelessly ignorant about health care policy in the United State, or B) they are lying for political gain.

Information vs. Misinformation

Sticking with the TARP theme, I got to thinking about political information vs. misinformation.  As Political Scientists, I’m not entirely sure are measures of political knowledge (also called political sophistication) are entirely well-suited to the modern political environment where one political party is constantly fed fantasy as reality through Fox News, right-wing talk radio, etc.  Sure, there’s misinformation and mis-understanding based on ideology on the left, too, but it is degrees of magnitude less.  When one looks at what so many Republicans believe about, TARP, the stimulus, or absolutely pure, unadulterated reality such as the black of Obama’s birth or whether he wants to impose Sharia law, it’s flat out disturbing.  Yet, traditionally we measure political knowledge simply by seeing how many facts you know, e.g., who is the Speaker of the House, which party has a majority in Congress, who is the PM of UK, etc.  The wing-nuts who listen to Rush every day know who Nancy Pelosi and David Cameron are.  Probably is, they also “know” that Obama passed the bank “bailout,” that it didn’t work, that Obama’s goal is socialism, and that he’s a secret Muslim.

So, on the one hand they are plenty informed, yet they are also very misinformed.  I think that it is probably better for our Democracy to have citizens who know neither who Nancy Pelosi is nor about Obama’s socialist, Islamist, agenda than to have citizens who know both these things.  Sadly, I expect the proportion of the latter is only on the rise.  Once I (some day) finish with parenthood and politics, I just may want to explore this more.

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