I really only had a few hours to spare, so obviously I can’t say anything for real. Just arrived via CalTrain then took a light rail line over to the Ferry Building to check out the farmer’s market then walked to a great dim sum place that a bunch of people recommended over Twitter. Walked a tiny bit more then had to hustle to the airport to head back to the east coast. So what do I really know? But it certainly seemed great. Walkable cities are better than sprawly ones, mid-sized cities are better than giant ones, and good weather is better than bad weather. San Francisco wins on all three. Only complaint I was able to develop over the course of the morning is that the existence of overlapping BART and Muni transit systems is confusing.
Holiday drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation’s roads — just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, a USA TODAY analysis finds. That’s a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975.
Another measure of the trend: Americans spent just 46 cents on gas taxes for every $100 of income in the first quarter of 2010. That’s the lowest rate since the government began keeping track in 1929. By comparison, Americans spent $1.18 in 1970 on gas taxes out of every $100 earned.
This largely reflects growing fuel efficiency, which is a good thing, but also indicates that we ought to raise gasoline taxes. Pollution and traffic congestion are still bad things, and the country still needs revenue to make our infrastructure work.
This week on a local Iowa radio show, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said the Obama administration has not responded adequately to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But according to King, it wasn’t because there was confusion and disarray within the administration. Rather, the problem is that President Obama has it out for Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal because Jindal is a Republican:
CALLER: You know it’s absolutely despicable the way our president is acting on this oil slick. And it boils down that the governor is a Republican and Obama is a Democrat and he’s not gonna help in any way to make him, to help Louisiana. … So as far as I’m concerned the blood is on his hands. [...]
KING: I appreciate Larry’s statement and I agree with his analysis of it. As I watch the reluctance on the part of the White House to cooperate with Bobby Jindal. I’d like to think it’s being done out of policy perspective, but there is a political component. And to delay these skimmers all this time, and to refuse to wave the Jones Act, well essentially they passed that hot potato around, and nobody asked for it.
Not only is it absurd to suggest that the President is purposely refusing to give federal assistance to a state in an economic and environmental crisis because that state’s governor is of the opposite political party, but also, King’s accusation is based on a falsehood. In fact, Obama did not “refuse to wave the Jones Act,” as McClatchy reported this week:
Maritime law experts, government officials and independent researchers say that the claim is false. The Jones Act isn’t an impediment at all, they say, and it hasn’t blocked anything. “Totally not true,” said Mark Ruge, counsel to the Maritime Cabotage Task Force, a coalition of U.S. shipbuilders, operators and labor unions. “It is simply an urban myth that the Jones Act is the problem.”
Indeed, FactCheck.org has also weighed in, noting that “the Jones Act has yet to be an issue in the response efforts. … Reports claiming that the federal government has refused help are not only incorrect — foreign assistance has been utilized — but are also misleading.”
Earlier in the interview, King complained about the “professionalhyperventilators out there that are monitoring everything that I and others say” and said, “My approach is to just go forward, make sure that what I say is based on solid, well informed, broad, in-depth truth.” “I just try to give well-grounded, well-informed truth,” King reiterated. It doesn’t seem like he’s off to a good start. (HT: Iowa Independent)
Not since the first years of the Clinton administration has a White House had to debate whether to give precedence to stimulating the economy or reducing budget deficits. Now, as the recovery shows signs of faltering, that debate is playing out within the Obama administration, with a twist compared to the 1990s: the economic and political teams have switched sides.
While President Bill Clinton’s political advisers favored more spending and tax cuts coming out of the recession of the early 1990s and his economic team pushed to start reducing deficits, in President Obama’s circle the opposite is true. Political advisers are channeling the widespread public anger at deficits while the economic team argues that the government should further spur the economy to avert another recession.
The President should almost never side with his political team in a dispute of this nature. The reason is that the single most important factor determining a president’s political fortunes is the fate of the economy. Tradeoffs can exist in the form of things that are short-term economic pain for long-term economic pain. But there’s no real tradeoff between “unpopular but growth-boosting measures that ultimately make you more popular” and “popular but growth-strangling measures that ultimately make you less popular.” When it comes to macroeconomic management, it’s results that matter most.
Plus science blogosphere roundup: “Fred Pearce is a rubbish journalist” and Eric Stieg on PNAS
Ironygate: The king of cherry picking just threw the prince (jester?) of cherry picking under the bus for picking some really, really bad cherries:
Thank you Anthony Watts for leaving this nonsense on your blog and acknowledging it as “an example of what not to do when graphing trends, to illustrate that trends are very often slaves to endpoints” — as opposed to 99% of your other posts, which you continue to embrace even though they are also examples of what not to do, such as these recent absurdities:
Not often is a saint of the Episcopal Church attacked in the chambers of the United States Senate, but incredibly, it has happened this week. As we prepare to celebrate our cherished American values of equality and justice on Independence Day, we must also rise to defend Justice Thurgood Marshall, an Episcopalian who embodied those ideals.
Marshall is an Episcopal saint. He was the first African American to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court and was the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case that struck down the institutional racism of segregated public schools. He was also a man of deep religious principles. Last summer, the Episcopal Church voted to include him in our book of saints, called Holy Women, Holy Men. May 17, the day of the Brown vs. Board decision, is his feast.
During his years in Washington, Justice Marshall and his family belonged to St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, where his widow, Sissy, is still an active member. On behalf of all Episcopalians in the Diocese of Washington, I extend to her my sympathy for the hurtful remarks made this week about her late husband. Let me assure Mrs. Marshall and all Episcopalians that our church is resolute in our gratitude for and admiration of Justice Marshall’s legacy, and we pray that we may all receive his exceptional grace and courage to speak the truth.
Will Wilkinson offers the provocative suggestion that ending birthright citizenship might be beneficial from a cosmopolitan point of view since it might make people more open to higher levels of labor market integration. His model is the European Union:
When Britain opened its labor markets to Polish workers in 2004, the gap in average income between the two countries was about as big as that between the United States and Mexico. But per capita GDP in Poland has improved markedly since then, hastening the day when Poland provides a robust market for British goods – and possibly British labor, too. Similarly, by 2012, Romanians and Bulgarians, who are on average poorer than Mexicans, will be able to live and work in rich countries such as France, Germany, and Britain. It’s worth noting, however, that not a single EU country has a birthright citizenship rule like that in the U.S.
I suppose I don’t really see the causal link here. What is it about saying that US-born children of Mexican migrants won’t be American citizens that would make people open to much higher levels of legal Mexican immigration? Normally when I see people objecting to birthright citizenship, what they’re objecting to is specifically the idea that it creates undue obstacles to deporting undocumented migrants or else that it creates an undue incentive for Mexicans to migrate. In other words, people upset by birthright citizenship are generally aiming at it as part of an overall program of reducing the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States. So I don’t see what the Wilkinson proposal is going to accomplish.
The Shorenstein Center released an excellent study (PDF) recently showing that in the pre-9/11 era, the American media consistently referred to waterboarding as torture. Then once it was revealed that the US government had been involved in torturing people via the waterboarding method “media sources appear to have changed their characterization of the practice.”
Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper has written so much about the issue of water-boarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”
In an e-mail message on Thursday, Mr. Keller said that defenders of the practice of water-boarding, “including senior officials of the Bush administration,” insisted that it did not constitute torture.
“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and human rights advocates as a form of torture. Nobody reading The Times’ coverage could be ignorant of the extent of the practice (much of that from information we broke) or mistake it for something benign (we usually use the word ‘brutal.’)”
The Times did a lot of excellent reporting on this issue, as Keller says. But it’s also the case that, as Keller says, once something becomes the active subject of partisan political controversy the NYT follows much of the rest of the mainstream media in becoming agnostic about factual and analytical judgments it wouldn’t hesitate to reach in other circumstances.
The Associated Press has an interesting story looking at what the health care law will do to the nation’s emergency rooms. Carla Johnson suggests that the expansion of coverage will actually lead more people into the emergency rooms and here’s why:
– People without insurance aren’t the ones filling up the nation’s emergency rooms. Far from it. The uninsured are no more likely to use ERs than people with private insurance, perhaps because they’re wary of huge bills.
– The biggest users of emergency rooms by far are Medicaid recipients. And the new health insurance law will increase their ranks by about 16 million. Medicaid is the state and federal program for low-income families and the disabled. And many family doctors limit the number of Medicaid patients they take because of low government reimbursements.
– ERs are already crowded and hospitals are just now finding solutions.
There is little to quibble with here. The health care law expands coverage, and invests in the nation’s workforce, but on balance we’ll probably face a situation where some people will still be turning to the emergency room for care. The law has already begun making important initial investments in workforce expansion.
On June 16, (in addition to other provisions in the new law) Sebelius announced $250 million from ACA to increase the number of primary care providers. The money would create 1,700 new primary care clinicians, expand more primary care clinics in underserved areas and provide money to states to plan and implement innovative strategies to expand their primary care workforce by 10 to 25 percent. And, two days ago George Washington University released a study showing that the ACA investment in primary care though Community Health Centers will ultimately provide care for an additional 17.5 million people over the next ten years while saving the health care system $181 billion by eliminating unnecessary ED visits and hospital admissions.
We’ll have to invest more dollars in training primary care physicians and paying more for Medicaid services, but more can also be done with the money we’re already spending. Ellen-Marie Whelan, our in-house workforce expert, tells me that Medicare and Medicaid spend about $12 billion dollars funding Graduate Medical Education (GME) in hospital based residency programs. But rather than appropriating those dollars towards primary care, or other priories, we simply give hospitals the check in a lump sum and then they spend it however they like. Surprisingly, “states are not required to regularly report on Medicaid spending to support resident education,” even though experts estimate that 2/3 is spent on hospital administration and 1/3 goes towards residency salaries. But if we’re really interested in dealing with the emergency room crunch wouldn’t it make sense to deliberately funnel that money toward primary care doctors or training doctors in community settings? For more recommendations, see the most recent MedPAC report here.
So we can begin to address emergency room overcrowding by reorienting the existing workforce resources towards primary care and the new expansion of coverage can serve as the inspiration and motivator.