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Category: General

The Core of Opposition to the ACA Is People Who Already Have Government-Provided Health Insurance

[ 108 ] April 21, 2015 |


Brian Beutler on the demographic breakdown of the 35% of the population that favors the repeal of the ACA:

Only a third of the country supports full repeal, and, like the Republican coalition itself, it is a very old third—comprised of the only people in the country with almost no stake in the law’s core costs and benefits.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, whose tracking poll is a touchstone for measuring public sentiment about Obamacare, the law is under water—barely. Forty one percent of respondents hold favorable views of the ACA, while 43 percent hold unfavorable views. But if you break it out by age cohort, you find that that two percent margin is entirely attributable to people who have aged out of the program.

Among 18- to 64-year-olds—the people who pay for the law, or are eligible for the law’s benefits, or might become eligible for the law’s benefits at some point in the future—Obamacare is breakeven. Forty two percent favorable, versus 42 percent unfavorable. Among those whose opinions we should generally ignore on this issue—old people—it’s a bloodbath. Only 36 percent view the law favorably, while 46 percent view it unfavorably.

As with so much in American politics, “I’ve got mine, Jack” is the dominant ethos of opposition to the ACA. The fact that so much opposition to the ACA comes from people with so little stake in whether the law survives (and what little stake they do have something that only a vanishingly small number of people would be aware of) doesn’t help the politics, but it’s certainly morally important.

As I’ve said before, if you actually take the heighten-the-contradictions critique of the ACA seriously — if you think that reform that stops short of nationalization is bad because it “entrenches” private insurers — the real villain is not Obama but LBJ. If there was any chance of single-payer or a comparable alternative, it died with Medicare. In my view, there almost certainly wasn’t any chance anyway, so Great Society Democrats were right to take what they could get. But certainly by cherry-picking a politically powerful constituency, Medicare made both passing and sustaining more comprehensive reforms much more difficult.

Coal Companies Up to Their Old Tricks

[ 19 ] April 21, 2015 |


The coal companies are using their traditional power in West Virginia to roll back state health and safety regulations at the same time the federal government is citing them for gross health and safety violations. Not that the companies really care since the penalties even at the federal level are too small for them to bother with.

West Virginia coal companies successfully lobbied for a rollback of state mining safety regulations in the same month that mines they own were issued more than two-dozen health and safety citations by federal inspectors. Murray Energy, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources are all members of the West Virginia Coal Association, which earlier this year led the push for the state’s newly elected Republican-majority Legislature to pass the controversial Coal Jobs & Safety Act.

Democratic Gov. Earl Tomblin signed the bill into law in March over objections from the mineworkers’ union and workplace safety advocates. It abolished a joint labor-industry panel that reviews underground diesel equipment to safeguard air quality, removed a prohibition on transporting equipment when workers are deeper in the mine than where the equipment is being shipped and expanded the maximum distance between rail tracks and work areas. The industry said the old regulations, which were stricter than their federal counterparts, were burdensome and did little to improve workplace safety.

In February, as the Legislature debated and approved the reforms, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) visited three West Virginia mines owned by Murray, Arch and Alpha and slammed the companies with a combined 25 citations.

“Unfortunately, it’s no coincidence that while these companies are advocating reducing state mine safety provisions to match the looser federal requirements, they are also being cited by the federal government for engaging in unsafe practices,” said Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia branch of the AFL-CIO.

If another 29 miners died like at the 2010 disaster at Massey Energy’s Big Branch mine, the companies still wouldn’t care. They never have.

SEK on Graphic Policy Radio talking about the politics of Daredevil

[ 20 ] April 21, 2015 |


I know I always encourage you to listen to my appearances on Graphic Policy Radio — co-hosts Elana and Brett really bring out the best in me — but in this case I really think you should, as the conversation was exceptional. (Likely because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Daredevil, as tomorrow’s Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast on the show will demonstrate, as well as an interview I did with NPR which may or may not have already aired.)

I should note, however, that the conversation addresses all 12 episodes, so if you haven’t finished the series and want to avoid spoilers, bookmark this and listen later.


Check Out Pop Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with graphicpolicy on BlogTalkRadio

Solar Energy Batteries

[ 29 ] April 21, 2015 |


Some potentially positive developments in the cost of batteries to collect solar energy from home-based systems, which right now is holding back solar energy development. There is some real reason to think major developments are in the offing, including that the traditional energy providers are nervous about it. Of course, we’ve been hearing these sorts of predictions for almost 40 years now. I’m also a bit curious about the water requirements of a giant new battery factory in the deserts east of Reno. But that might be a secondary concern.

Hard Brutal Living

[ 28 ] April 21, 2015 |


Your must read of the morning is William Finnegan’s essay on the highest settlement in the world, which is an unregulated gold mine town in Peru. As I’ve said before, I’ve been to Potosí in Bolivia and those conditions were unbelievable enough. To think of an even colder, harder, worse life, yet one that thousands of people choose to do (they are working for themselves after all), is remarkable and says a lot about the economic options for the poor in these nations.

Do Minimum Wage Increases Necessarily Lead to Reduced Employment?

[ 82 ] April 20, 2015 |

Well, no. But if the facts don’t fit the theory so much worse for the facts…

What Political Scientists Wish Pundits Knew

[ 44 ] April 20, 2015 |

A good summary.

…Julia Azari has more.

Gawker Unionization

[ 46 ] April 20, 2015 |


I suppose I should say something about Gawker’s decision to unionize and the CEO’s seeming decision to let it happen. I don’t have all that much real insight to have. The site has been excellent on labor issues for some time. It should be said though that the limits of the bargaining unit may be pretty tight–full-time employees in a heavily contingent world. Is there some generational shift happening here? Who knows. I think it’s significant if it means that young, relatively well-educated people are going to be seeking to create unions in newer forms of business. In any case, it’s at least an interesting data point that needs further monitoring.

By the way, the above image is from a 1948 strike in New York. Mostly, I was looking for an excuse to put it up here.

Unpredictable Work Schedules

[ 199 ] April 20, 2015 |

AK Plastic Bags 1

The plague of unpredictable work schedules, with employers changing workers’ weekly schedules as their whim, must end. It causes all sorts of problems for those workers. A few examples from Gillian White:

According to a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute, this is life for about 17 percent of the labor force. So called “just-in-time scheduling” is far more common for those who work for hourly wages or are part-time employees, or both. Part-time workers—more than six million Americans—are more than twice as likely to have unpredictable hours than full-time employees.

Many workers had one week or less of advanced notice about their upcoming work hours, the study found. Such haphazard scheduling has been linked to not only lower levels of job satisfaction, but also to greater levels of work-family conflict, according to the Lonnie Golden, the study’s author. Another study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, had similar findings, linking irregular shift schedules to diminished cognition and physical health, with workers who were exposed to such schedules for extended periods showing decreases in their ability to reason, think, and recall information.

In some cases, the differentiation in weekly work hours or varying start times may reflect a move toward increasingly flexible work places, but that’s not likely the case for low-income, part-time workers, who make up such a large portion of those working with unpredictable schedules, says Golden.

Additionally, the phenomenon may be contributing to the growing economic inequality in the country, according to Golden. For example, a lack of predictable hours can lead to difficulty obtaining or keeping government benefits for some workers. A 2014 study from researchers at the University of Chicago noted that in some states, qualification for child-care subsidies are tied to the number of hours worked. That can mean that decreased hours lead to a loss of child-care benefits, which then leaves parents unavailable to work, even when shifts become available. “Work-hour requirements are based on the assumption that workers decide how many hours they work, yet because hours are a key component of labor costs, corporate policies often restrict their availability,” write Susan Lambert, Peter J. Fugiel, and Julia R. Henly, the study’s authors.

There’s no actual reason for this sort of scheduling to exist. It should not be that hard for employers to give workers a consistent schedule that can be set weeks or even months in advance. It’s just that employers don’t want to do it.

What Does It Mean to be a Just Ruler in Westeros?

[ 43 ] April 20, 2015 |

"Game of Thrones" politics: Is a fair and just ruler possible for Westeros?

I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be writing some political essays on Game of Thrones for My first essay is on the topic of a just ruler – what does a just ruler look like? What do they do about justice and punishment, war and peace, inclusion and exclusion?

Feel free to kibitz in-thread.

BREAKING: Earl Warren Still Dead

[ 18 ] April 20, 2015 |

Via Sean McElwee, this is remarkable:


Sure, this is the most conservative court since 1937, and sure its decisions tip well to the right. But if you are the most common type of Republican in 2015, if not literally every politically salient decision produces a conservative result than the court is liberal.

America’s Favorite War Criminal

[ 40 ] April 20, 2015 |


The fact that Henry Kissinger continues to not only be given a pass for his many crimes but is feted as the elder statesmen of American foreign policy on the most exclusive stages is infuriating.

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