Health insurance

Love this from a FB friend:

I know it doesn’t seem fair to make young healthy people buy health insurance. When I was a young healthy person I carried a minimal policy in case I ever got cancer or something. I never used it once in 10 years and spent $100 a month on it. I relied on Planned Parenthood for my preventative care. In the 13 years that I have had real health insurance I have had two kids–one who probably cost that insurance over $100,000 as an infant, and one who is now costing insurance $4500 per month in medicine alone. YES, you are being forced to buy insurance now to subsidize the olds and the breeders, but when you are an old, someone will be subsidizing you. If we all paid in exactly what we took out, it wouldn’t be insurance, it would be a bank account.

So true.  Certain things work much better when socialized, and health care happens to be one of them.  The health costs for many middle-aged and older people would simply be crippling and prevent them from being productive members of society.  Meanwhile, the health costs of young adults are almost nothing.  But those young adults are, in many case, going to grow up and have sick kids.  And then get old and sick themselves.  This is why civilized societies have universal health care coverage.

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Buy experiences

I think the social science on happiness is catching on enough now, that more and more people are getting the message to spend money on experiences, not things.  At least if you want to be happy, that is.  Of course, I’ve known about this research for a while, but it’s always nice to have a stark confirmation.

My wife and I went to see Bon Jovi last week (first time we had a babysitter put the kids to bed since shortly before Sarah was born almost three years ago when we went to see Muse).  I thought hair metal was beneath me in high school, so I was never much a Bon Jovi fan back then, but you cannot be a 40-something fan of rock/pop and not be quite familiar with his music.  And he does have some great songs.  We got an amazing deal on tickets $20 with no ticketmaster fees from Groupon.  Anyway, to be in an arena singing along to “Wanted Dead or Alive” with 20,000 others?  I cannot imagine too many material possessions that could bring me such pure happiness.

Photo of the day

Via Twisted Sifter….  that’s some wind!

windswept-trees-slope-point-south-island-new-zealand

Photograph by Ben on Flickr

Slope Point is the southernmost point of South Island, New Zealand. Lying just east of the Waikawa and Haldane settlements, the land is primarily used for sheep farming. With no roads nearby, the area is only accessible by a 20-minute hike.

According to an article on Kuriositas, “airstreams loop the vast circumpolar Southern Ocean unobstructed for 2000 miles and then they smash into land here. They are so persistent and so violent that the trees are perpetually warped and twisted into these crooked, windswept shapes.”

The branches of these windswept trees point northerly in order to offer the least resistance to the relentless winds.

VWIP’s

Loved this Matt Miller column last week on how most all the opponents of Obamacare do it from a position of having very solid and secure health insurance coverage.

Let’s just say it: To judge by their behavior, the Affordable Care Act’s enemies couldn’t care less about helping millions of low-income workers achieve health security, and every time they open their mouths, it shows…

When conservatives rant about the latest mess-ups attending the rollout, they never add the obvious empathetic refrain. It would be simple, really. They’d just need to preface or append to their daily attack a line like this: “Of course we all agree we need to find ways to get poor workers secure health coverage that protects their family from ruin in the event of serious illness.”

That’s all it would take. But they don’t say that. None of them…

Obamacare foes are more than just angry with the “lying” and the bungling they disdain. They are Very Well-Insured People. We all know about “VIPs.” Well, these are VWIPs. Or at least, a certain conservative species of VWIP.

For many on the right, being a VWIP seems to bring with it a certain blindness. They see the Web site comedy of errors and cry (rightly) “incompetence!” They see some people who have to change their health plan and cry (with some fairness) “liar!” …

But that’s all they see. What they don’t see is nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, 20 million or so of whom stand to have relatively desperate lives made immeasurably more secure thanks to this law. These Americans will finally know what it’s like to go to bed at night certain that they can’t be wiped out financially by illness — and that free or affordable preventive care may help their loved ones uncover disease while there’s a chance for a cure.

Obamacare’s well-insured critics don’t see these Americans at all. And they seem unable to imagine what it would feel like to be one of them.

A complete failure of empathy (and a concomitant certainty that, damn it, they deserve the solid health care they’ve earned and those people without good health care are just lazy, dumb, etc.).

Gun nuts

Via Think Progress:

On Saturday, nearly 40 armed men, women, and children waited outside a Dallas, Texas area restaurant to protest a membership meeting for the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun safety advocacy group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

According to a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action (MDA), the moms were inside the Blue Mesa Grill when members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) — an open carry advocacy group — “pull[ed] up in the parking lot and start[ed] getting guns out of their trunks.” The group then waited in the parking lot for the four MDA members to come out. The spokeswoman said that the restaurant manager did not want to call 911, for fear of “inciting a riot” and waited for the gun advocates to leave. The group moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours.

MDA later released a statement calling OCT “gun bullies” who “disagree[d] with our goal of changing America’s gun laws and policies to protect our children and families.” The statement added that the members and restaurant customers were “terrified by what appeared to be an armed ambush.” A member of OCT responded by tweeting, “I guess I’m a #gunbullies #Comeandtakeit.”

Not all people who own guns are this nuts (if so, this country would be the wild West), but sadly a disproportionate share of gun owners are really nuts and they are the ones shaping debate.  Something tells me this is not exactly what the Founders had in mind with the 2nd Amendment.

Education and poverty

I truly believe there are lots of things we should be doing policy-wise within the field of education that could make a real difference– most prominently valuing and compensating teachers as high-quality professionals.  That said, there’s lots of evidence that a huge amount of the problems our nation has with education stem not from education policy at all, but from the poverty in our vastly unequal society.

The Times’ Eduardo Porter had a great column on this last week.  Here’s the nub of the problem:

The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.” The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.

Exactly.  We’re so used to this that we just don’t stop and think enough who truly absurd (and unusual) this state of affairs is.  If you want to complain about bad teachers, bad schools, etc., I would suggest you stop doing so until you are ready to redress this foolhardy state of how we fund education.

Money, to be sure, is not a silver bullet that will automatically lift the test scores of poor American children and close performance gaps. How the money is deployed is absolutely crucial.

Still, the disparity matters a lot. Social and economic deprivation has a particularly strong impact on student performance in the United States. Differences in socio-economic status account for 17 percent of the variation in test scores, according to O.E.C.D. researchers, compared to 9 percent in Canada or Japan…

These gaps will be hard to close until the lopsided funding of education changes. As income and wealth continue to flow to the richest families in the richest neighborhoods, public education appears to be more of a force contributing to inequality of income and opportunity, rather than helping to relieve it.

Elaine Weiss makes similarly good points:

A new study showing explosive growth in student poverty suggests, though, that we have misidentified the problem. What if we have actually been teaching the right skills in US schools all along – math and reading, science and civics, along with creativity, perseverance and team-building? What if these were as important a hundred years ago for nurturing innovative farmers and developers of new automobiles as they are now for creating the next generation of tech innovators? What if these are the very characteristics of US schools that have made us such a strong public education nation, and the current shift toward a narrower agenda just dilutes that strength? What if, rather than raising standards, and testing students more, the biggest change we need to address is that of our student body?

The October 2013 Southern Education Foundation study indicates clearly that poverty, which has long been the biggest obstacle to educational achievement, is more important than ever. It is our true 21st century problem. Fifty years ago, we educated mostly working-class kids and up, and we did not expect those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to graduate. Now we educate all students, including the very poorest and otherwise disadvantaged. And we expect them all to graduate. Compounding this shift, a large and growing proportion of US students students live in poverty and even concentrated poverty, have a disability, and/or are learning English as a second language. THAT is the paradigm shift, and we need a totally new set of policies to address that 21st century reality…

This devastating reality demands a set of education reforms radically different from those on which policy has fixated of late. Without a set of supports that enable all students to acquire basic literacy, problem-solving and communications skills, kindergarten teachers must tailor their instruction to an ever-broader range of academic capacities and behavioral challenges. And too many students will be doomed from a very early age to remedial education and dim prospects of life success. Until we ensure that basic, preventable medical problems do not keep large numbers of students out of class and lack of food does not prevent them from focusing, effective teaching will become further out of reach. So long as we put school nurses, social workers and counselors on the “expendable” list when budgets are tight, teachers will shoulder more non-teaching burdens, and instruction will be impeded. In the absence of systemic, consistent after-school and summer enrichment, a growing number of students will lose much of what they gain during the day and over the school year, wasting taxpayer dollars and future talent.

Not only have we not addressed these realities, we have exacerbated them.

I think both these pieces are spot on.  And depressing.  Because we are not anywhere close to doing anything policy-wise to address these problems.  The evidence is increasingly clear that you are not truly serious about improving education in the US unless you are also truly serious about addressing poverty.

 

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