Unions and deficits

One of the ridiculous claims from supporters of the Wisconsin Governor’s attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers is that somehow giving state workers this right leads to budget deficits.   If only it were so simple.  I’m not expert on state budgets, but I do know we’ve got a massive budget hole here in NC, and one of the most draconian laws in absolutely forbidding any collective bargaining for state employees.  Anyway, the folks over at the Monkey Cage bring the Political Science (and the data) on the matter:

I do not know of readily available data on public-sector collective bargaining or on public-sector union strength, so I used the percent of employed people who are members of unions (from this BLS report).

Here is the graph, with a non-linear fit line estimated via lowess.


There is not much of a systematic relationship. The fit line bumps and wiggles but is essentially flat. The bivariate correlation is 0.19, with a p-value of 0.21. Based on these measures, states with larger unionized workforces do not have larger budget deficits.

Short version: stop lying.

Health care law upheld by federal judge: news not at 11

So, a federal judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act is Constitutional.  I had to dig down the Post and Times websites to find the article on it.  It probably won’t merit more than a 3o second mention on evening newscasts.  That is understable to a degree, it’s certainly much bigger news when major federal laws are held Unconstitutional.  Yet, as Ezra Klein points out, the cumulative effect of reporting on the issue is sure to lead to significant misunderstanding among the American public:

I’m not alleging bias here: A judge upholding the status quo is not as newsworthy as a judge radically altering it. But the reality is that the public is seeing a lot of coverage of the rulings against the Affordable Care Act and almost no coverage of the rulings — which are substantially more numerous, particularly if you include the many cases that have been thrown out of court — in the law’s favor. That’s quite a gift to the opponents of the legislation. A typical consumer of news probably does not realize that the balance of the courts, at this point, have ruled the law constitutional.

What also won’t be reported, is how much smarter and persuasive this ruling is than the two striking it down.  Jon Cohn gives a nice run-down.  First, the judge eviscerates the economic activity/inactivity distinction:

As to the argument, put forward by the plaintiffs, that the mandate is unconstitutional because it purports to regulate “inactivity,” she dismisses that argument as “semantics.”

this Court finds the distinction, which Plaintiffs rely on heavily, to be of little significance. It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not “acting,” especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality.

I think she does an even better job of going after the “if health care is Constitutional, the government can make you buy broccoli non-sense”

If the government can make you pay for health care, the critics say, then why can’t it make you buy broccoli? Or a GM car? Or anything else?

This second aspect of the health care market distinguishes the ACA from Plaintiffs’ hypothetical scenario in which Congress enacts a law requiring individuals to purchase automobiles in an attempt to regulate the transportation market. Even assuming that all individuals require transportation in the same sense that all individuals require medical services, automobile manufacturers are not required by law to give cars to people who show up at their door in need of transportation but without the money to pay for it. Similarly, food and lodging are basic necessities, but the Court is not aware of any law requiring restaurants or hotels to provide either free of charge.

It should be emphasized that this distinction is not merely a useful limiting principle on Congress’s Commerce Clause power. Rather, it is a basic, relevant fact about the operation of the health care market which is critical to understanding the ACA’s efforts to reform the health care system. The requirement placed upon medical providers by federal law to care for the sick and injured without recompense is part of the cost-shifting problem that Congress sought to redress by enacting the ACA. When a supplier is obligated by law to produce goods or services for free, there is bound to be a substantial effect on market prices if consumers’ behavior results in that obligation’s frequent invocation.

Doesn’t to take a law degree to know that that’s good legal reasoning and puts the opinions of Hudson and Vinson to shame. Of course, you’re not actually going to hear about that in any mainstream news articles.  Maybe we can get Sarah Palin to tweet about it.

Redhead’s lament

Who knew all my boys were at risk for “ginger abuse.”  Well, according to the latest “What would you do” on ABC, this is a problem for them to be worried about (never seemed to affect me as a kid).  Anyway:

Throughout the years, “What Would You Do?” has explored a multitude of situations involving intolerance and bigotry, including obesity, age, and gender issues. But have you ever heard of “ginger abuse?”

Ginger abuse is a form of bullying directed at people with red hair. It may be a relatively unknown type of harassment to many, but according to one young “What Would You Do?” viewer, it’s an obstacle he faces on a daily basis.

Here’s my abuse-free gingers (and darn, if I didn’t have to go back over a year to find a decent picture with all three boys in it):

Charts of the Day

Oh, my, this is awesome.  Not everything, but most of what’s wrong with America in 8 handy charts.  I’ve pasted my favorites:

Aevrage Household income before taxes.

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

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