Not walking in Raleigh (and Cary)

BBC came to Raleigh to take a look at the problem of America’s non-walkable cities (thanks for the link, JW). Of which Raleigh is a prime example.  Alas, those bastards at the BBC have not enabled embedding on the video, so you’ll have to click over if you want to see it (it’s about 4 minutes).  I have, at least, included a screen shot that shows a sign that an activist has been installing all over Raleigh to show how walkable– or not– our city is.  I had been really wondering about the sign I kept walking past telling me it’s a 72 minute walk to the art museum from where I get pizza.  Who the hell is going to walk that, I kept asking myself.

Later, the video addresses the lack of sidewalks.  Personally, this drives me crazy.  Cary (a Raleigh suburb– yes, I’m the problem for living too far from work, I know) is supposedly a family-friendly community, but woefully short of sidewalks.  So, every time we walk the dog, i.e., every day, we’ve got to dodge cars while walking on the streets.  It’s horrible.  Not to mention kids walking around all the time.  In my former, decidedly non-progressive home of Lubbock, TX, every single inch of residential housing had sidewalks.  Now, that’s the way it should be.

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Montana vs. the Supreme Court

So, I sent this terrific Richard Hasen article about Citizens United out to my class earlier this week, but forgot to mention it here.  Now that Kevin Drum is on the case, I was reminded that I’ve been remiss.  Honestly, I think it does the best job of simply and clearly deconstructing what was so wrong about Citizens United as anything I’ve read.  And it’s not so much the corporatsions are people business, but the fact that Anthony Kennedy simply disposes of some very legitimate concerns about “the appearance of corruption” with the wave of a hand.  To wit:

Justice Ginsburg agreed that staying the Montana ruling was the right course, because lower courts are bound to apply Supreme Court precedent even if it is wrong; it is for the Supreme Court to fix its own wrong precedents. But then she added these words in astatement for herself and Justice Stephen Breyer with respect to the stay: “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United, … make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’ A petition [to hear the case] will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

In this short statement, Justice Ginsburg quoted from the least defensible part of theCitizens United opinion. As I explained in October, according to the Supreme Court, the only government interests that can justify limits on campaign money against First Amendment challenge are the prevention of corruption or the appearance of corruption.  (This interest is what explains the constitutionality of limits on contributions to candidates.) In Citizens United, Justice Kennedy, writing for the court majority, resolved as matter of fiat what had appeared to be a factual question about independent spending and corruption: “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” He further declared that “[t]he appearance of influence or access [coming from unlimited corporate spending] will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

Justice Kennedy presents the issue of corruption and the appearance of corruption as a matter of fact, and the Montana court took Justice Kennedy’s on his words and said, “Ok, let’s take a look at the facts” in Montana. There is a large history of corporate spending corrupting the political process here, so our state’s laws are justified.

With last week’s statement, Justice Ginsburg has signaled that she or one of the other justices opposing the Citizens United case will use the Montana case to expose the fallacy of the Citizens United argument.

The real world has proven Anthony Kennedy decidedly wrong.  The only question is, is he big enough to admit it.  Honestly, that’s not something I really expect from many SC Justices.  Anyway, if you have any interest in campaign finance, the whole thing is really worth a read.

Photo of the day

Turkish Seagulls:

Seagulls
Seagulls
By: nurhan tanrıöven

Someday I’d like to take just one photo this cool.

Health care is expensive because health care is expensive

Yes, it’s tautological, but its an under-appreciated point.  When I was explaining Medicare and our problems with long-term health care costs to Chinese bureaucrats last week (long story), I basically said that we need for our doctors to settle for less expensive cars.  Same for hospital administrators, medical equipment salespeople, etc.  A few more Acuras and a few less Mercedes.  Basically, when you get down to it, health care per unit delivered is just way more expensive in America than practically anywhere else.  Yglesias nicely followed up Sarah Kliff on this last week:

One of the most striking facts about health care economics in the United States is that our health care costs are so high largely because we pay such high prices…

but the main reason [Medicare is cheaper than private insurance] is simply that the prices are lower. Medicare is a bulk purchaser of health care services, and offers providers an offer they can’t refuse—perform medicine relatively cheaply, or get locked out of the Medicare client base.

Similarly, if you compare U.S. health care spending to health care spending in foreign countries you see that again the main issue is just paying higher prices for the same services. It’s not that Americans are unusually sick or that Americans use an unusually large amount of health care, it’s that foreign countries engage in more nationwide price-setting to ensure low per unit prices for health care services…

Demographic factors are the largest source of variation: Sicker people are costlier to care for and differences in age and gender matter. But if you look at the rest, differential price per unit of health care services is a much bigger deal than differences in the quantity of services rendered. Which is all just to say that if we actually want health care to get cheaper there’s a very simple solution staring us in the face: lower prices. I’m not sure this is something America really does want as a society. But certainly politicians and pundits talk an awful lot about how they want this. And yet nobody actually seems to want to do what’s done elsewhere and say that in exchange for the massive subsidies the health care sector receives it needs to accept price controls.

Yep.  No, we don’t need “socialized medicine” to achieve this (not that that’s a bad thing), but the evidence is pretty overwhelming that unless we do more to hold medical prices down– and the free market sure doesn’t do that– we are going to increasingly bankrupt our nation with health care costs.  Seriously, I’m just asking for Acuras instead of Mercedes.  No doctors need drive a Chevy.

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