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Maine House of Representatives votes merger with Senate

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Is the bicameral legislature a legacy of the era of wealthy landowners?
clipped from freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com
Freakonomics - New York Times Blog

Consolidate That Government!

[...] Maine’s House of Representatives voted this week to merge itself with the state Senate, creating one unicameral body, potentially saving taxpayers $11 million each two-year legislative session. But the cost savings are secondary, supporters of the plan say, to the real goal of bringing state government into line with modern times. Maine state representative Joseph Wagner called the state Senate a “colonial legacy” of the state’s early days, in which the upper chamber was “a council of [the state's] wealthiest landowners.” [...]

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That’s a pile of money saved for other things.  Wonder how the new body would be elected—like a Senate or a House—for that decision will shape who holds the power.

How does it strike you?

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Written by Monte

June 11, 2009 at 9:47 am

Posted in Politics

Spot the health insurance hokum in this TV ad

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It appears that a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights has begun running healthcare ads designed to knock down changes in healthcare insurance before they can stand.

But good old FactCheck.org points out that the ad knocks down a straw man instead.   Some examples:

clipped from www.factcheck.org

CPR Ad: “Not So Innocent”

A conservative group’s ad implies Congress is on its way to instituting a British- or Canadian-style health system.

Summary

A group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights began airing a television ad this week that criticizes government-run health care and falsely suggests Congress wants a British-style system here in the U.S.:

  • The ad neglects to mention that President Obama hasn’t proposed a government-run plan and, in fact, has rejected the idea.
  • It claims that a research council created by the stimulus bill is “the first step in government control over your health care choices.” The legislation actually says the council isn’t permitted to “mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies.”
  • The ad quotes a Canadian doctor who has been critical of his country’s system, but leaves out the fact that the doctor has praised other government-funded systems, such as those in Austria and France.

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A conservative group’s ad implies Congress is on its way to instituting a British- or Canadian-style health system.

Lots more good details may be found at the link.

The health insurance industry is a marvel of cynical ingenuity: it keeps itself profitable by insuring people who are healthy (whose claims, on average, will not exceed their payments), and terminating people when they become too sick to be profitable (i.e., when those people most need health insurance).

The industry – having become fabulously wealthy by offering insurance to selected clients, while posing as a helper to Americans generally – has a great deal to lose from an honest public discussion. Expect more alarmist hokum.

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How did rich and poor people vote in ’08?

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UPDATE March 8: For another analysis of the same data graphed in a different format see Rich and poor still vote differently in red and blue states


Who would have won if only rich people had voted in the last election? Or only poor ones?
Check it out:
clipped from www.fivethirtyeight.com

pewmaps.png[W]e took the Pew pre-election poll data and broke it down by state and income [...]

Here’s what we got (red and blue states are those McCain or Obama would’ve won) [...]

The most striking pattern is our estimate that Obama would’ve won almost all the states, if only low-income voters were counted [...]

Among rich voters, Obama won in California and some northeastern and midwestern states–“blue America,” if you will. [...]

The five income categories I used in the analysis are: 0-20,000; 20-40,000; 40-75,000; 75-150,000; over 150,000. The graphs above show the estimates for the highest, middle, and lowest of these five categories. I assume the numbers represent family income (as reported by the survey respondent). [...]

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I’m astonished. When poor voters are heard alone, every state but two (Idaho and Wyoming) becomes blue.

Since many of my readers are Christians, allow me a religious question:

Christian, with whom did you stand?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? [...] You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – from The Letter of James, chap. 2 (NRSV)

Watcha think?


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Written by Monte

March 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Politics

400 richest Americans’ incomes doubled under Bush tax cuts; economy collapsed

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clipped from thinkprogress.org
Bloomberg reports that, according to recently released IRS data, “the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million.” Much of their income came from capital gains resulting from the Bush tax cuts:
The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9 percent was due largely to ex-President George W. Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15 percent in 2003
Capital gains made up 63 percent of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, the 400 wealthiest Americans reported a combined $105.3 billion of adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data.
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Observe the present economy. Like what you see?

O'Pari Luxury Yacht
Image by yachtfan via Flickr

Certainly the tide has risen for the very wealthy: their fortunes have doubled. But has this “rising tide” lifted “all boats?” Has trickle-down affected your income? Can we say that business has been stimulated?

Perhaps it’s a good time to wonder why tax cuts for the rich did not result in national prosperity as promised.

Mired on the shore in our jonboats, most of us look on as the yachts head for the open sea.


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Written by Monte

January 31, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Poverty impairs brain function like a stroke

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I wonder how many potential Einsteins—or Beethovens or Marie Curies or Mother Teresas or Mohandas Ghandis or Martin Luther Kings—struggle for survival, unable to follow the yearning of their hearts.  I wonder how many millions of good, productive, loving people—people who would bless their world—are locked into spending all their strength battling desperate personal conditions.

Are we not all poorer when one of us is poor? Is there anything that would improve us all as much as dragging poverty to its knees?

clipped from www.usatoday.com

Life Expectancy at birth (years) {{col-begin}}...
Image via Wikipedia

A new study finds that certain brain functions of some low-income 9- and 10-year-olds pale in comparison with those of wealthy children and that the difference is almost equivalent to the damage from a stroke.

“It is a similar pattern to what’s seen in patients with strokes that have led to lesions in their prefrontal cortex,” which controls higher-order thinking and problem solving, says lead researcher Mark Kishiyama, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley. “It suggests that in these kids, prefrontal function is reduced or disrupted in some way.”

Research has shown that the neural systems of poor children develop differently from those of middle-class children, affecting language development and “executive function,” or the ability to plan, remember details and pay attention in school.
“It’s really important for neuroscientists to start to think about the effect[...] of people’s socioeconomic status [...] on their brain function [...]
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