Health care spending vs. health

Very cool infographic via Wonkblog:

I was pretty intrigued by the portion on the left.  I think I’ve got the healthy behaviors down (other than not really eating fish, apparently) and access to care.  Heck, that’s 60% right there.  Don’t know how my environment should count.  Probably pretty good, I expect.  And,as for genes, obviously an unknown, but I’ve held up okay for 40 years.

Photo of the day

From a Pedal Power Big Picture set:

A man dressed as the Easter Bunny rides a Velib public bicycle in Paris on April 5, 2012. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Polarization

Great new report by Pew looking at how the American public has polarized over various issues in recent years.  It’s actually quite dramatic.   I’d say these are the two key charts:

Now, both Democrats and Republicans have changed, but I think when you look at the key drivers of increasing political conflict, some very prominent Republican changes are largely (and disturbingly) responsible:

Wonkblog also nicely summarizes the key findings.  When you look at the near impossibility of the parties to actually cooperate and get anything done these days, the fact that the rank-and-file membership is farther apart then ever goes a long way towards explaining things.  I think it is also a strong demonstration of elite influence on mass opinion and the power of party over ideology– and not vice versa.   These movements don’t come from bottom-up, but rather top-down in how elites frame and compete on these issues.  Democrats have moved to the left on marriage issues because they are Democrats and that’s where the party is going just as Republicans have completely abandoned any belief in having a healthy and sustainable planet because that’s where the Republican party is going.

Wisconsin

I really haven’t been paying too much attention to the recall election in Wisconsin. Mostly, because when I do it seems that the pundit class has been blowing the implications way out of proportion.  As if this somehow tells us what’s going to happen in a national presidential election in November.  I think this little tidbit really tells you enough not to over-interpret the results:

But it’s unclear that Mr. Walker’s victory will translate into a clear benefit for Mr. Romney in the fall. Wisconsin voters said in early exit polls that they would vote to re-elect Mr. Obama to the White House if the voting were taking place today.

Mr. Obama also bested Mr. Romney on the question of who would do a better job of improving the economy. And the president did better among the Wisconsin voters on the question of who could do a better job of helping the middle class, according to the survey.

That may reflect a queasiness with recall elections. A large majority of the voters who turned out on Tuesday said recall elections are only appropriate when incumbents are accused of official misconduct.

Good for Republicans?  Sure.  Meaningful for understanding/predicting the presidential election?  Nope.

The statistic that won’t die

Sure, maybe there’s more we should do policy-wise to lessen the disparity between men and women but leading Democrats– including President Obama himself– basically lying about it by repeating this $.77 for the same work trope is just too much for me to take.  Nice to see Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff take this on:

On its face, the gender wage gap is enormous: women working full-time earn just 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, contributing to a $431,000 lifetime wage gap, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The White House has rolled out such figures again this week in its push for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens the Equal Pay ABut the numbers don’t tell the full story. Women are more likely to work in lower-paying occupations and leave the workforce when they have children, for example. When such circumstances are factored in — along with race and other demographic data — about 40 percent of the gender wage gap is still unaccounted for, says Ariane Hegewisch of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), citing a 2007 study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn.

That means that women earn 91 cents for every dollar, as compared to men, due to factors that have nothing to do with life choices — a difference that many researchers identify as discrimination.

Other studies also confirm a similar gap that’s not accounted for by life choices. Among college graduates, women earned 5 percent less than men one year after graduation, and the gap grew to 12 percent among full-time workers a decade after graduation, according to Catherine Hill, director of research at the American Association of University Women, or AAUW.

Again– there’s real discrimination that we should address, but politicians and feminists need to stop lying about the true state of the world.  And as for the Paycheck Fairness Act that this is all about, color me somewhat skeptical.   Here’s the CS Monitor summary of the key issues:

The Paycheck Fairness Act would offer several additional protections for women in the workplace, including an increased ability to pursue punitive damages for unequal pay claims; prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who inquire about payment practices or who disclose their own salaries; and require businesses to prove that differences in pay between genders were rooted in business requirements.

Now those first items all sound reasonable to me, but the last item strikes me as problematic.  I do not think the burden of proof should be on a business to show that every wage disparity between male and female employees.  I think that, especially with the other reforms this act includes, that burden of proof should be on the employee.  I do not think the default assumption in these cases– especially given all that social science has taught us about women’s vs. men’s working patterns– should be that a business is guilty of discrimination until proven innocent.   This strikes me as an example of conservatives actually being quite right about an overly-intrusive, over-regulatory government approach to business.  (Of course, even a broken clock…)  And I don’t think liberals should be doing anything to make conservative’s job easier for them.

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