Why we don’t let public opinion make policy

So, I was encouraged by this article the other day that talked about the Democrats actually trying some serious pushback on the Republican health care repeal efforts.  This one little bit, though certainly not new, caught my attention, though:

Public polling has shown certain provisions of the law are more popular than others. Tax credits to small businesses, gradually closing the Medicare “doughnut hole,” and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions have had overwhelming support.

One of the most unpopular provisions, the requirement that individuals get health insurance or face penalties, is key to the entire overhaul. In a post-election Kaiser poll, nearly seven in 10 said they thought the individual mandate should be repealed.

As myself (and many others) have explained before, this is simply impossible from a policy perspective.  You just cannot have all these things you want without the individual mandate to increase the risk pool.  You might as well wish to have cleaner water by cutting treatment at water treatment plants.  Point being, there’s a damn good reason we don’t have public policy via public opinion.  “The Public” has some general ideas on things, but when it comes to actual policy, “the public” is basically clueless.


Autism and vaccines

I’m a little late to commenting on the newly discovered fraud on the autism-vaccine link, but since 1) Big Steve encouraged me; and 2) I have a child with autism, I feel obligated to weigh in.

Back in 2003 when I first found at that Alex has autism I did a lot of reading and was far from convinced on the MMR-autism link, but certainly thought it seemed plausible.  Since then, its been hard for anyone with an open, scientifically-oriented mind to deny the truth that there’s just no link between vaccines and autism.   In one sense, I’ve always felt quite lucky that we know exactly where Alex’s autism comes from: his genetic disease– Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.  One of only two definitive causes (the other being Fragile X).  Thus, no parental flailing about in frustration wondering just what has caused this to happen to my child.  In part, I’ve felt like this has allowed me to be a bit more open-minded about addressing all these issues as I’m heavily invested in autism, but unlike most parents, I know exactly why my child has autism and that it is not related to any environmental factors.

Anyway, when all that is said and done, it’s pretty breathtaking, the degree to which the “scientific” data on the autism MMR vaccine link is clearly little more than outright scientific fraud.  The worst part is all the “educated” parents who have held back on getting their children important vaccines.  Not that I want their kids to get sick, but in some sense that’s okay.  What’s really wrong is that the effectiveness of vaccines depends on herd immunity.  When you start shrinking the size of the herd that’s vaccinated, you’ve got real problems.  Everybody who doesn’t vaccinate their kids puts my daughter at risk, as she is still too young for vaccinations.  I’ve got a real problem with that.

Anyway, best take I’ve read on all this comes from Laura McKenna (interestingly, a former political science professor whom I once had a really interesting conversation with after sharing a panel at a conference):

Many have long been skeptical about the connection between autism and childhood vaccinations, but to learn that a researcher had consciously altered facts in his report is horrific. It makes this blogger want to spew flames of hate in his general direction.

How many families held back from immunizing their children out of fear? How many medieval diseases were spread? Deaths certainly resulted from these lies. This fraudulent research may have also distracted parents from providing their children with useful therapy and gave them a false cause for their children’s condition.

These researchers are just a few of the jackals that thrive in the world of autism. There are countless therapies and services for autistic children, which are not only useless. They are also expensive and time-consuming.

Yesterday, I took Ian to a special swim class at the local YMCA. I ran into another parent from my town who has a son with severe autism. She told me about all the therapies that her son had endured — everything from B12 shots to audio-integration therapy. None of these measures had helped him, but they had cost the family thousands of dollars. She had spent the past decade dragging him to various professionals who claimed miracle cures.

Again, I’ve been lucky.  We’ve spent a bit of money on more questionable things, e.g., high dose B-12, but for the most part our efforts have gone to proven therapies, such as speech and occupational therapies, rather than spending whatever for a biological cure, which is basically an impossibility in Alex’s case (his brain is literally full of benign tumors).   Closing point?  It’s a shame that it seems so many people take advantage of the hopes and frustrations of parents of children with autism.

Because its my blog

Love, love, love this picture of my wife and our new daughter just after returning from her baptism.  And because it’s my blog, I can post it here.

Dionne on Giffords

Great post from EJ Dionne on the Giffords shooting:

Let’s begin by being honest. It is not partisan to observe that there are cycles to violent rhetoric in our politics. In the late 1960s, violent talk (and sometimes violence itself) was more common on the far left. But since President Obama’s election, it is incontestable that significant parts of the American far right have adopted a language of revolutionary violence in the name of overthrowing “tyranny.”

It is Obama’s opponents who carried guns to his speeches and cited Jefferson’s line that the tree of liberty “must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”…

The point is not to “blame” American conservatism for the actions of a possibly deranged man, especially since the views of Jared Lee Loughnerseem so thoroughly confused. But we must now insist with more force than ever that threats of violence no less than violence itself are antithetical to democracy. Violent talk and playacting cannot be part of our political routine. It is not cute or amusing to put crosshairs over a congressional district.


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