Dual charts of the day

Love what Kevin Drum does in this post.  It’s a dead horse, but it’s a damn good horse.  First: government spending as percent of GDP over time.  Second, government spending minus healthcare spending, over time:

But what the bottom chart shows us is that government expenditures in general haven’t been on an inexorable upward path over the past three decades, and there’s no special reason to think they’ll rise inexorably in the future. Generally speaking, domestic spending, defense spending, and Social Security are on extremely sustainable paths.

What’s left is healthcare spending. That’s it.

So this is basically just another excuse to repeat something that I and others have said over and over: We don’t have a spending problem in America. We have a healthcare problem. The other three categories of government spending taken together will probably rise by a point or two over the next few decades, but that’s not a big deal. We need to pay normal, prudential attention to them, but nothing more.

Bottom line: no one serious should spend an awful lot of time talking about “the deficit” or about “government spending.” We should be talking about healthcare. Everything else is just a red herring.

Nothing for me to add to that.  Just that I wish more people understood this fact.  Hey, you: spread the word.

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On gay marriage and “hating” gays

So, my recent post about gay marriage, civil unions, and the extremely punitive North Carolina anti gay marriage, anti civil union  Constitutional Amendment, got quite a debate going in the comment section.  Especially one commenter who insisted it was not about “hating” gays or any anti-gay bias.  Anyway, I was inspired by all of this to go and run some data last night (when I should have been sleeping).  Anyway, most of you will not be the least bit surprised to learn that attitudes towards gays pretty much dwarf everything else when it comes to predicting attitudes towards gay marriage vs. civil union vs. no legal recognition.  Here’s my SPSS multinomial logit results using 2008 ANES:

What this shows is that attitudes towards gays (0-100 scale, collapsed to 0-1) having an extremely statistically significant effect and a very strong substantive effect even when controlling for just about every other possible factor.  This model controls for age, gender, income, religious intensity, views on the bible, marital status, party identification, ideology, egalitarian values, and traditional values.  And after all that, the feeling thermometer rating from gays is a very signficant predictor.  Logit results are not straightforward, but all the variables here are on a 0-1 scale so the relative coefficient sizes are indicative.

In this model 1 is coded allow gay marriage, 2 is civil union, and 3 is no legal recognition.  These results show the impact of 1, gay marriage, and 3, no legal recognition, relative to the omitted baseline of 2, civil union.  So, what you see with circled coefficents is that one’s attitude towards gays, with all the controls, makes one significantly more supportive of gay marriage relative to civil unions.  Likiwise, the negative coefficient at the bottom indicates that as attitudes towards gays get more negative, one is more disposed to favor no legal recognition relative to civil unions.  I haven’t tested the difference in size of coefficients, but I do think it interesting that attitudes towards gays has more of an impact on choosing the “no legal recognition” response, which I argued is largely about just not liking gays.

So, one could argue semantics about “not liking” or “hating” gays or whatever, but what is clear that attitudes about gay marriage are overwhelmingly about how you feel towards gays in general.

Greene media conquest

Made it onto Morning Edition today with a brief comment on the Buffet rule (of course, this <10 second clip came from a 10 minute interview).  Still, NPR is pretty much the ultimate for a professor because you just know some of your friends are going to be listening and get a nice spontaneous surprise.  I’m about 3 minutes in.

Photo of the day

Well, meant to do this Sunday for the the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, but here it is a couple days late.  Nice set of Titanic photos at the big picture.


In this April 10, 1912 photo the Titanic leaves Southampton, England. The tragic sinking of the Titanic nearly a century ago can be blamed, some believe, on low grade rivets that the ship’s builders used on some parts of the ill-fated liner. (Associated Press)

Not long after the movie came out and piqued my interest I did read a terrific book on the matter.   First published in 1955, Walter Lord’s  Night to Remember remains a classic account of the sinking.  It’s a gripping, chilling, and highly informative read.  If the 100th anniversary has piqued your interest, give this book a try.

TSA and snow globes

As I went through security a the Raleigh airport last week and took off not only my shoes, but now my belt as well, I couldn’t help think that this was now some sort of ritual humiliation as I tried to keep my pants from falling down to far (benefit of the successful weight watchers efforts).   Hooray for Chicago– somehow they determined my belt was not a threat to national security.  Alas, they did, however, determine that the snow globe I bought at Shedd Aquarium for David was, in fact, a threat to national security.  It was lose the snow globe or check the bag.   I checked the bag.  Fortunately, not much wait for that, but damn frustrating for a snow globe that couldn’t have contained more than 2 ounces of water.  Argh.  Well, then, Drum actually blogged yesterday on this very issue (though, snow globes get mentioned only in passing).  Turns out we might be getting a touch more sanity to our security theater:

Kip Hawley, former head of the TSA, has some suggestions this weekend for making airport security screening more convenient without lowering safety standards…

In any case, none of his suggestions involve shoes (still dangerous, he says), full-body scanners, pat-downs, or any of the things that do the most to piss us off. But there was this:

2. Allow all liquids: Simple checkpoint signage, a small software update and some traffic management are all that stand between you and bringing all your liquids on every U.S. flight. Really.

Say what? Here’s the detail:

I was initially against a ban on liquids as well, because I thought that, with proper briefing, TSA officers could stop al Qaeda’s new liquid bombs. Unfortunately, al Qaeda’s advancing skill with hydrogen-peroxide-based bombs made a total liquid ban necessary for a brief period and a restriction on the amount of liquid one could carry on a plane necessary thereafter.

Existing scanners could allow passengers to carry on any amount of liquid they want, so long as they put it in the gray bins. The scanners have yet to be used in this way because of concern for the large number of false alarms and delays that they could cause. When I left TSA in 2009, the plan was to designate “liquid lanes” where waits might be longer but passengers could board with snow globes, [emphasis mine, naturally] beauty products or booze. That plan is still sitting on someone’s desk.

Slow-moving bureaucracy– gotta love it.  Of course, in this case surely there’s somebody who’s deathly afraid they’ll allow snow globes only to have a snow globe bomb.  Though, of course, right now anybody can put liquids through in larger amounts under the guise of medicine anyway.  Is a little rationality to much to ask?

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