Volume 2.45 (Nov 4-10)

Pick of the Week– Poverty in America is Mainstream (Mark R. Rank, NYT)– “Finally, the common explanation for poverty has emphasized a lack of motivation, the failure to work hard enough and poor decision making in life.  Yet my research and that of others has consistently found that the behaviors and attitudes of those in poverty basically mirror those of mainstream America. Likewise, a vast majority of the poor have worked extensively and will do so again. Poverty is ultimately a result of failings at economic and political levels rather than individual shortcomings.”

Health Care Reform

The fog of health reform: Why there’s so much bad information about Obamacare (Ezra Klein, Wonkblog)

The President Wants You to Get Rich on Obamacare (Adam Davidson, NYT)– “No matter what investors thought about Obamacare politically — and surely many there did not think much of it — the law was going to make some people very rich. The Affordable Care Act, he said, wasn’t simply a law that mandated insurance for the uninsured. Instead, it would fundamentally transform the basic business model of medicine. With the right understanding of the industry, private-sector markets and bureaucratic rules, savvy investors could help underwrite innovative companies specifically designed to profit from the law. Billions could flow from Washington to Wall Street, indeed.”

In Shocking Development, Health Insurance Companies Still Suck (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “[I]t’s a good time to remind ourselves that many of [the ACA’s] provisions came about because, to put it bluntly, health-insurance companies are despicable scum who will literally kill people (more on this below) if it makes them more money. I bring this up because now, people in the news media are learning about a scam insurance companies are trying to pull on some of their customers, and are not only not portraying it as such, but are simply taking the insurance companies’ word and blaming the whole thing on the Obama administration.”

Healthcare.gov: How political fear was pitted against technical needs (Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin, WaPo)– “[T]he project was hampered by the White House’s political sensitivity to Republican hatred of the law — sensitivity so intense that the president’s aides ordered that some work be slowed down or remain secret for fear of feeding the opposition. Inside the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the main agency responsible for the exchanges, there was no single administrator whose full-time job was to manage the project. Republicans also made clear they would block funding, while some outside IT companies that were hired to build the Web site, HealthCare.gov, performed poorly.

Politics

A game changer for campaign reporting (Ezra Klein, Wonkblog)

An Argument for Federal Involvement in Housing (Jesse Eisinger, ProPublica)– “Keeping the Frannies as part of the government could resolve this issue. Government operations have flaws, but a voracious appetite for risk is generally not one of them. The mortgage market might become safer.”

Screw the taxpayer (Chris Bertram, Crooked Timber)– “In a state that at least markets itself as a democracy, the principle ought to be that the state is answerable to the electorate. Pretty much everyone in the electorate pays taxes (VAT at least) but the key idea is not that the state is answerable to them because they pay for it, but rather because it is a non-voluntary entity that claims authority over them and subjects them to its laws. Whether they are “net contributors” to the public purse is neither here nor there. People who pay in more than they receive – such as the mythical “taxpayer” – have no special claim to extra influence.”

America’s Going Rogue (Noam Chomsky, In These Times)– “Hegemonic power offers the opportunity to become a rogue state, freely defying international law and norms, while facing increased resistance abroad and contributing to its own decline through self-inflicted wounds.”

The Big Picture

The Democrats’ Original Food-Stamp Sin (David Dayen, The American Prospect)– “We shouldn’t forget that the same Democrats sponsoring bills to reverse SNAP cuts voted for them in the first place. They made a series of choices while in total control of Washington, and those choices have had consequences. If the party had more respect for the struggles of the poor, rather than a deep attention to political positioning and the scourge of the deficit, this would have never happened.”

The Adoption-Industrial Complex (Jessica Stites, In These Times)– “The conversation about adoption is often dominated by the perspective of adoptive parents. That’s of course a valid perspective, but the voices of birthmothers and adoptees— who are in some ways the weaker counterparts in the equation—their voices are often not heard.”

How Social Security Redistributes Income from Minorities to Whites (Brad Plumer, Wonkblog)

Billionaires Received U.S. Farm Subsidies, Report Finds (Ron Nixon, NYT)– “The Working Group said its findings were likely to underestimate the total farm subsidies that went to the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list because many of them also received crop insurance subsidies.”  Money well spent.  Ugh.

Feeding families made more hungry by Congress (Alexandra Ashbrook, WaPo)– “For a family of four, this cut is the equivalent of taking away 21 meals per month…The SNAP program provides about 20 times as much help as the entire charitable food network. That means when SNAP benefits are cut by 5 percent, charitable organizations have to double their contributions across the nation to keep up.  In reality, there is no way that charitable efforts can quell the ongoing hunger of Americans who are now expected to live on SNAP benefits averaging less than $1.40 per person per meal. Churches and food banks will be the first to say that they simply cannot cover recent and proposed cuts. In the District, Martha’s Table’s food budget is $1 million for the entire year. We cannot possibly make up for $15 million in cuts.”

Americans already think a third of the budget goes to foreign aid.  What if it did? (Dylan Mathews, Wonkblog)

Privacy and Surveillance

Before You Reboot the NSA, Think About This (Eric A. Posner, New Republic)

No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming NSA (Scott Shane, NYT)– “From thousands of classified documents, the National Security Agency emerges as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations. It spies routinely on friends as well as foes, as has become obvious in recent weeks; the agency’s official mission list includes using its surveillance powers to achieve “diplomatic advantage” over such allies as France and Germany and “economic advantage” over Japan and Brazil, among other countries.”

Are We Puppets in a Wired World? (Sue Halpern, NYRB)

Race/Gender

Richie Incognito’s Accidental Racism: An Apologia (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic)– “We have heard a lot about the peculiar context of the locker-room. I think we should remember the peculiar context in which the locker-room exists.  The locker-room is a workplace controlled–almost entirely–by white people. In this sense we are all in locker-rooms, workplaces with different rules, but with white control remaining constant. I see no reason why the NFL should be immune to the basic laws of American gravity.  On the contrary, players, like all workers, have interests–among them, securing food for their families and loved ones.  Players, not unlike workers, do this by subverting individual interests in favor of the interests of their employers.”

The Ethics of Mob Justice (Sady Doyle, In These Times)– “I can understand public anger, but I have to oppose any manifestation of that anger that manifests as gendered insults, gendered violence, or the wish to terrorize her or inflict physical harm.”

Education

Teachers Were Never the Problem (David Sirota, In These Times)– “In short, if we were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn’t be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all.”

Mormonism

Senate Bill on Bias Against Gays Finds Support in Mormons (Jeremy W. Peters, NYT)– “[Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)] recalled having two neighbors in Nevada he always called “the bachelors.” Thinking of them now, he said, he realizes they must have been gay. “Let’s assume they got married. What difference would it make to me and my family? Zero. None. None,” Mr. Reid said.”

8 & Up (Julie M. Smith, Times & Seasons)– “What I am afraid will happen is that the talks in this meeting will be very generic and simplistic in order to be appropriate for the young girls. I am also concerned that the rhetorical distance between the General Priesthood Meeting (where serious doctrine is taught, where the speakers are not afraid to call the audience to repentance, and where uncomfortable topics are addressed) and the General Women’s Meeting (where out of concern for the 2nd graders in attendance, the talks will probably be fluffy, simple, and sweet) will become a concern inasmuch as the difference is interpreted to mean something about the natures/roles of men and women.”

In Praise of Cafeteria Mormonism (Patrick Mason, Peculiar People)– “In the end, it’s not so much that cafeteria Mormonism (and Catholicism, and Islam) is good or bad.  It’s simply all we have.”

Holy Envy: Pope Francis Edition (rah, Feminist Mormon Housewives)

I have seen hell, and Jesus won’t save us from it (mmiles, By Common Consent)– “Further, in societies without any semblance of social justice, Jesus means nothing—except for the hope of peace in a post-apocalyptic world, and I truly hope Mormonism offers more tangible, practical outcomes than this. Jesus, in many ways, is social justice manifest, alleviating the needs of the poor and down trodden and elevating the outcasts of society.”

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