April 25, 2014

Bakers hosting meet and greet for Barry Finegold Sunday

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We are hosting a meet and greet for Barry Finegold, a candidate for State Treasurer on Sunday, April 27 from 4 – 5. He is currently the State Senator in the district that includes Lawrence, where Bob’s business is located and he and his staff are responsive, efficient, effectual, and just the kind of candidate that should be advanced statewide. Hope you can drop in to meet him and to hear his presentation. You can respond to Barry’s office at Kathyrn@BarryFinegiold.com or to Edye44@comcast.net.

Of course all are welcome and bring along your friends.

Best to all,

Edye and Bob

April 25, 2014

Markey needs help

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Dear All,

With only 10 days left, it looks like the Markey campaign is still in need of 6,000 certified signatures!. The weather forecast for this week-end is rain, so that leaves only next week, April 25 – May 6th to gather a huge number of signatures, before the deadline May 6 . If anyone has any amount of time this coming week, to help with this effort, please let us know.when you are available.

Ann Cohen and I will be having a signature event at Market Basket in Salem on Tues. from 3:30-5:30
On Sat. May 3 and Sun May 4 we will combine efforts with the Swampscott Dems at Market Basket.

If you are not available these days, we can work with you on another day or location. Even with an hour, you could potentially contribute around 20 signatures.

Please contact Rene’e Keaney at reneekeaney@gmail.com or 781-962-6577.

As always your team work for our Democratic candidates is much appreciated.

Rene’e Keaney

April 20, 2014

Getting a job at Google

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APRIL 19, 2014 , New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — HOW’S my kid going to get a job? There are few questions I hear more often than that one. In February, I interviewed Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of all hiring at Google — about 100 new hires a week — to try to understand what an employer like Google was looking for and why it was increasingly ready to hire people with no college degrees. Bock’s remarks generated a lot of reader response, particularly his point that prospective bosses today care less about what you know or where you learned it — the Google machine knows everything now — than what value you can create with what you know. With graduations approaching, I went back to Google to ask Bock to share his best advice for job-seekers anywhere, not just at Google. Here is a condensed version of our conversations:

You’re not saying college education is worthless?

“My belief is not that one shouldn’t go to college,” said Bock. It is that among 18- to 22-year-olds — or people returning to school years later — “most don’t put enough thought into why they’re going, and what they want to get out of it.” Of course, we want an informed citizenry, where everyone has a baseline of knowledge from which to build skills. That is a social good. But, he added, don’t just go to college because you think it is the right thing to do and that any bachelor’s degree will suffice. “The first and most important thing is to be explicit and willful in making the decisions about what you want to get out of this investment in your education.” It’s a huge investment of time, effort and money and people should think “incredibly hard about what they’re getting in return.”

Once there, said Bock, make sure that you’re getting out of it not only a broadening of your knowledge but skills that will be valued in today’s workplace. Your college degree is not a proxy anymore for having the skills or traits to do any job.

What are those traits? One is grit, he said. Shuffling through résumés of some of Google’s 100 hires that week, Bock explained: “I was on campus speaking to a student who was a computer science and math double major, who was thinking of shifting to an economics major because the computer science courses were too difficult. I told that student they are much better off being a B student in computer science than an A+ student in English because it signals a rigor in your thinking and a more challenging course load. That student will be one of our interns this summer.”

Or, he added, think of this headline from The Wall Street Journal in 2011: “Students Pick Easier Majors Despite Less Pay.” This was an article about a student who switched from electrical and computer engineering to a major in psychology. She said she just found the former too difficult and would focus instead on a career in public relations and human resources. “I think this student was making a mistake,” said Bock, even if it meant lower grades. “She was moving out of a major where she would have been differentiated in the labor force” and “out of classes that would have made her better qualified for other jobs because of the training.”

This is key for Bock because the first thing Google looks for “is general cognitive ability — the ability to learn things and solve problems,” he said. In that vein, “a knowledge set that will be invaluable is the ability to understand and apply information — so, basic computer science skills. I’m not saying you have to be some terrific coder, but to just understand how [these] things work you have to be able to think in a formal and logical and structured way.” But that kind of thinking doesn’t have to come from a computer science degree. “I took statistics at business school, and it was transformative for my career. Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market.”

A lot of work, he added, is no longer tied to location. “So if you want your job tied to where you are, you need to be: A) quite good at it; and B) you need to be very adaptable so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today and tomorrow be able to interpret MRI scans. To have built the skill set that allows you to do both things requires a baseline capability that’s analytical.”

Well, what about creativity?

Bock: “Humans are by nature creative beings, but not by nature logical, structured-thinking beings. Those are skills you have to learn. One of the things that makes people more effective is if you can do both. … If you’re great on both attributes, you’ll have a lot more options. If you have just one, that’s fine, too.” But a lot fewer people have this kind of structured thought process and creativity.

Are the liberal arts still important?

They are “phenomenally important,” he said, especially when you combine them with other disciplines. “Ten years ago behavioral economics was rarely referenced. But [then] you apply social science to economics and suddenly there’s this whole new field. I think a lot about how the most interesting things are happening at the intersection of two fields. To pursue that, you need expertise in both fields. You have to understand economics and psychology or statistics and physics [and] bring them together. You need some people who are holistic thinkers and have liberal arts backgrounds and some who are deep functional experts. Building that balance is hard, but that’s where you end up building great societies, great organizations.”

How do you write a good résumé?

“The key,” he said, “is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”

What’s your best advice for job interviews?

“What you want to do is say: ‘Here’s the attribute I’m going to demonstrate; here’s the story demonstrating it; here’s how that story demonstrated that attribute.’ ” And here is how it can create value. “Most people in an interview don’t make explicit their thought process behind how or why they did something and, even if they are able to come up with a compelling story, they are unable to explain their thought process.”

For parents, new grads and those too long out of work, I hope some of this helps.

April 20, 2014

Know when to vote for GOP

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Know when to vote for GOP
The Lowell Sun

By Michael Goldman
People ask all the time if there is any way of knowing whether one is predisposed to cast a ballot for a Republican Party candidate.
This simple test should help you discover where your real political allegiance stands.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes the Massachusetts Republican Party didn’t rig the final convention tally in order to ensure party-insider Charlie Baker had no primary opposition in September.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie absolutely had no idea his closest aides were directly involved in punishing his political enemies by backing up traffic on the George Washington Bridge.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes it makes sense for the budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to target food stamps, meals on wheels for seniors and school-lunch programs while leaving in place every special-interest tax loophole now on the books.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes creationism should be taught alongside science in public schools; climate change is a hoax; Vladimir Putin is on God’s side when it comes to his opposition to gay rights; and Fox News is always fair and balanced.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republican in the next election if he believes it makes sense for allegedly pro-choice and pro-gay marriage Republican Richard Tisei to publicly pledge that his first vote if elected to Congress will be to ensure that an entire Republican leadership team passionately and publicly committed to ending all abortion rights and rolling back all gay marriage laws is selected to lead the US House in 2015.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes it makes sense to continue to oppose the extension of unemployment benefits even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office maintains that such an extension would eventually increase employment by 200,000 jobs.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election, if he believes the unprecedented strictly party-line vote of the House Ways and Means Committee by the Republican majority to seek an investigation against a former official of the IRS is about truth and justice rather than simply about partisan political grandstanding.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes it is wrong to demand that the time has long passed for the government to mandate rules that require equal pay for equal work.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes it made any sense whatsoever for New York Republican Congressman Peter King to flip-flop from his earlier pledge that “after how the Republicans treated the people of New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, anyone who contributes one penny to Congressional Republicans is out of their minds.”
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes the promise of Massachusetts Republican Party officials who claim with a straight face that despite losing five of five special elections this past month, in the next political cycle they will be competitive with Democratic candidates all across the state.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he believes despite all the independent evidence to the contrary that the Bush/Cheney torture program helped in any way capture Osama bin Laden one day sooner than we would have had we not tortured a single prisoner.
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republican in the next election if he believes it makes sense for Rand Paul to retain as his campaign pollster a guy some independent outside observers have crowned, “the pollster who’s always wrong.”
One should seriously consider casting his vote for the Republicans in the next election if he scored six or more on my quiz.
At least now you know for sure.
Michael Goldman is a paid political consultant for Democratic candidates and president of Goldman Associates in Boston.
This article is the:
• 5th most-clicked of the hour
• 11th most-clicked of the day
• #1 most-clicked among opinion articles today

April 16, 2014

Three Expensive Milliseconds

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APRIL 13, 2014 Paul Krugman, New York Times

Four years ago Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, abruptly canceled America’s biggest and arguably most important infrastructure project, a desperately needed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Count me among those who blame his presidential ambitions, and believe that he was trying to curry favor with the government- and public-transit-hating Republican base.

Even as one tunnel was being canceled, however, another was nearing completion, as Spread Networks finished boring its way through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Spread’s tunnel was not, however, intended to carry passengers, or even freight; it was for a fiber-optic cable that would shave three milliseconds — three-thousandths of a second — off communication time between the futures markets of Chicago and the stock markets of New York. And the fact that this tunnel was built while the rail tunnel wasn’t tells you a lot about what’s wrong with America today.

Who cares about three milliseconds? The answer is, high-frequency traders, who make money by buying or selling stock a tiny fraction of a second faster than other players. Not surprisingly, Michael Lewis starts his best-selling new book “Flash Boys,” a polemic against high-frequency trading, with the story of the Spread Networks tunnel. But the real moral of the tunnel tale is independent of Mr. Lewis’s polemic.

Think about it. You may or may not buy Mr. Lewis’s depiction of the high-frequency types as villains and those trying to thwart them as heroes. (If you ask me, there are no good guys in this story.) But either way, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to save three milliseconds looks like a huge waste. And that’s part of a much broader picture, in which society is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.

How much waste are we talking about? A paper by Thomas Philippon of New York University puts it at several hundred billion dollars a year.

Mr. Philippon starts with the familiar observation that finance has grown much faster than the economy as a whole. Specifically, the share of G.D.P. accruing to bankers, traders, and so on has nearly doubled since 1980, when we started dismantling the system of financial regulation created as a response to the Great Depression.

What are we getting in return for all that money? Not much, as far as anyone can tell. Mr. Philippon shows that the financial industry has grown much faster than either the flow of savings it channels or the assets it manages. Defenders of modern finance like to argue that it does the economy a great service by allocating capital to its most productive uses — but that’s a hard argument to sustain after a decade in which Wall Street’s crowning achievement involved directing hundreds of billions of dollars into subprime mortgages.

Wall Street’s friends also used to claim that the proliferation of complex financial instruments was reducing risk and increasing the system’s stability, so that financial crises were a thing of the past. No, really.

Funding was diverted to the state fund for highway construction so that an increase in New Jersey state gasoline tax could be averted.

But if our supersized financial sector isn’t making us either safer or more productive, what is it doing? One answer is that it’s playing small investors for suckers, causing them to waste huge sums in a vain effort to beat the market. Don’t take my word for it — that’s what the president of the American Finance Association declared in 2008. Another answer is that a lot of money is going to speculative activities that are privately profitable but socially unproductive.

You may object that this can’t be right, that the invisible hand of the market ensures that private returns and social returns coincide. Economists have, however, known for a long time that when it comes to speculation, that proposition just isn’t true. Back in 1815 Baron Rothschild made a killing because he knew the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo a few hours before everyone else; it’s hard to see how that knowledge made Britain as a whole richer. It’s even harder to see how the three-millisecond advantage conveyed by the Spread Networks tunnel makes modern America richer; yet that advantage was clearly worth it to the speculators.

In short, we’re giving huge sums to the financial industry while receiving little or nothing — maybe less than nothing — in return. Mr. Philippon puts the waste at 2 percent of G.D.P. Yet even that figure, I’d argue, understates the true cost of our bloated financial industry. For there is a clear correlation between the rise of modern finance and America’s return to Gilded Age levels of inequality.

So never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It’s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that’s undermining our economy and our society.

April 7, 2014

Supreme Oligarchy

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By E.J. Dionne Jr., Published: April 6, Washiongton Post

An oligarchy, Webster’s dictionary tells us, is “a form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons.” It’s a shame that the Republican majority on the Supreme Court doesn’t know the difference between an oligarchy and a democratic republic.

Yes, I said “the Republican majority,” violating a nicety based on the pretense that when people reach the high court, they forget their party allegiance. We need to stop peddling this fiction.

On cases involving the right of Americans to vote and the ability of a very small number of very rich people to exercise unlimited influence on the political process, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and his four allies always side with the wealthy, the powerful and the forces that would advance the political party that put them on the court. The ideological overreach that is wrecking our politics is now also wrecking our jurisprudence.

The court’s latest ruling in McCutcheon et al. v. Federal Election Commission should not be seen in isolation. (The “et al.,” by the way, refers to the Republican National Committee.) It is yet another act of judicial usurpation by five justices who treat the elected branches of our government with contempt and precedent as meaningless. If Congress tries to contain the power of the rich, the Roberts Court will slap it in the face. And if Congress tries to guarantee the voting rights of minorities, the Roberts Court will slap it in the face again.

Notice how these actions work in tandem to make the wealthy more powerful and those who have suffered oppression and discrimination less powerful. You don’t need much imagination to see who benefits from what the court is doing.

Roberts’s McCutcheon ruling obliterates long-standing rules that limit the aggregate amounts of money the super-rich can contribute to various political candidates and committees in any one election cycle. In 2012, individuals could give no more than a total of $70,800 to all political committees and no more than $46,200 to all federal candidates.

The rule is based on a political reality Roberts sweeps aside with faux naivete: Access and power come not just from relationships with individual members of Congress but from strong links to party leaders and party structures. Someone who helps a party keep its majority by contributing to 200 or 300 candidates and Lord knows how many political committees will have a lot more power than you will if you make a $25 contribution in a congressional race.

Roberts writes as if he is defending the First Amendment rights of all of us. But how many people are really empowered by this decision? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 1,715 donors gave the maximum amount to party committees in 2012, and 591 gave the maximum amount to federal candidates. The current estimate of the population of the United States stands at more than 317 million.

Those using the word “oligarchy” to describe the political regime the Supreme Court is creating are not doing so lightly. Combine McCutcheon with the decision in the Citizens United case and you can see that the court is systematically transferring more power to a tiny, privileged sliver of our people.

I keep emphasizing the word “power” because the Roberts decision pretends that the concept is as distant from this issue as Pluto is from Earth. The philosopher Michael Walzer, in his book “Spheres of Justice,” made the essential distinction: “Freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly: none of these require money payments; none of them are available at auction; they are simply guaranteed to every citizen. .?.?. Quick access to large audiences is expensive, but that is another matter, not of freedom itself but of influence and power.”

In his McCutcheon opinion, Roberts piously declares: “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” This lovely commitment escaped him entirely last summer when he and his allies threw out Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Suddenly, efforts to protect the right of minorities “to participate in electing our political leaders” took second place behind all manner of worries about how Congress had constructed the law. The decision unleashed a frenzy in Republican-controlled states to pass laws that make it harder for African Americans, Latinos and poor people to vote.

Thus has this court conferred on wealthy people the right to give vast sums of money to politicians while undercutting the rights of millions of citizens to cast a ballot.

April 4, 2014

Roll Call….Tierney in Wide lead over Moulton

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March 19, 2014

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Barbara Doucet of Newnan, Georgia, has been waiting for affordable health insurance for years. A restaurant server, she has been uninsured almost continuously for 15 years and, until she visited an urgent care clinic a couple of months ago, hadn’t seen a doctor in 14 years. At 63, Doucet is, in her words, “stoked” about the Affordable Care Act.

Doucet signed up for a health plan through HealthCare.gov on Dec. 3, and is paying just a penny a month for that coverage because she qualifies for a tax credit covering all of her $660 premium. Her “silver” plan (plans range from bronze to platinum) has a $500 deductible and a $750 annual maximum on out-of-pocket expenses. Doucet is paying so much less than she expected that she also picked up a $30-a-month dental plan so she can get some much-needed work done on her teeth.

“I’ll be able to really sleep at night because I won’t be terrified: ‘Oh my God, what happens to me if I slip and fall in the bathtub?,’” said Doucet a few weeks before her coverage kicked in on January 1. “And I won’t have to worry about going through bankruptcy again.”

84 Million People

Lying in bed worrying about how to pay for health care had become a routine part of life in the U.S. for many working people. According to a 2012 Commonwealth Fund survey, 84 million people, or nearly half of working-age Americans, were uninsured or underinsured in 2012, which means their out-of-pocket health care expenses consumed 10 percent or more of their income. The report also found that 43 percent of adults skipped needed treatment or did not fill a prescription because it cost too much. And 41 percent of adults reported problems with medical bills or medical debt.

Not surprisingly, the problems are starkest among those with low to moderate incomes. More than half of adults making less than $57,625 a year in 2012 said they had cost-related issues getting health care. And many people earning between $30,657 and $57,625 took major financial hits because of steep medical bills: 53 percent received a lower credit rating, 32 percent were unable to pay for basic necessities such as rent, food, or heat, and 24 percent were forced to delay their career or education plans.

“I’ll be able to really sleep at night because I won’t be terrified: ‘Oh my God, what happens to me if I slip and fall in the bathtub?,’” said Doucet a few weeks before her coverage kicked in on January 1. “And I won’t have to worry about going through bankruptcy again.”

The New Coverage Options

The Affordable Care Act was designed, in part, to help prevent people like Doucet from skipping care or going bankrupt if they are unlucky enough to get sick or injured. Under the law, as of October 2013, each state has a health insurance marketplace, operated by the state or the federal government, through which people without affordable employer-sponsored or public coverage can buy a private health plan. Individuals earning up to $46,000 a year, and families of four earning up to $94,000, are eligible for federal subsidies, or tax credits, to help cover premiums costs. In addition, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can shop for coverage for their workers on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace.

The Affordable Care Act also called for expanding Medicaid in every state to people earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, the equivalent of about $16,000 a year for an individual. But after the U.S. Supreme Court determined in 2012 that state participation in the Medicaid expansion was optional only 26 states are expanding Medicaid.

The ACA also requires all health plans—whether sold in or out of the marketplaces—to offer an essential benefit package, including outpatient and emergency care, maternity care, and other services. Within the marketplaces, there are four tiers of plans—bronze, silver, gold, and platinum—that each offer a different level of cost-sharing for consumers. So a bronze plan covers between 60 percent and 69 percent of a person’s estimated medical expenses for the year, while a platinum plan covers more than 90 percent of estimated bills.

For comparison, in 2010 about two-thirds of people with employer-sponsored coverage had the equivalent of a gold or platinum plan, while about half of those who bought coverage for themselves had plans with benefits that were less comprehensive than a bronze plan. Many of these skimpy plans were canceled by insurers at the end of 2013 because they did not meet ACA standards.

David Weidman, 51, of Los Angeles, had such a plan prior to January 2014. A realtor, Weidman was buying his own coverage as well as coverage for his 10-year-old daughter, Lulu, on the individual market. Prior to this year, there were few consumer protections in individual health insurance market in most states: women were charged more than men, people with preexisting conditions were denied coverage, and premiums and deductibles were often prohibitively high. In fact, a 2011 Commonwealth Fund survey found nearly half of people who sought a plan on the individual market didn’t end up buying one.

Weidman’s plan, which was canceled at the end of 2013, cost about $600 a month, with a $5,000 deductible. His new coverage, purchased over the phone through Covered California on October 3, costs him $192 a month, thanks to a tax credit based on his estimated 2014 income. (Weidman will pay back the Internal Revenue Service [IRS] some of his monthly subsidy of $360 at the end of the year if his income is higher than anticipated. If his income is lower than his estimate, the IRS will credit him.) He also has a more manageable $500 deductible and broader coverage with the silver plan he selected. His daughter is now covered through MediCal, which has no premium.

This winter, Weidman plans to have nasal polyp surgery, something he had been postponing while on his old coverage because of its $10,000 price tag. This sinus surgery is covered under his new marketplace plan.

David’s previous coverage costs:

$600/month
$5,000 deductible
David’s new

coverage costs:

$192/month

$500 deductible
+ broader coverage

Michael A., 49, and his wife, Catherine, of Montclair, New Jersey, were also buying their own coverage for themselves and their two children before the ACA marketplace opened. Both are self-employed: Michael is a composer for film and TV and his wife is a psychotherapist in private practice. They paid $1,300 a month for their former coverage.

“We opted to get a fairly minimal plan and just pay for things as they came up,” Michael says. “It was a compromise between having and not having insurance—hospitalizations would be covered. But it turns out that our son has a condition that requires electrocardiograms (EKGs) and we have a $500 limit per year on outpatient testing and that covers nothing. Anytime any of us needs an EKG or blood work, we’re paying in full out of pocket.”

In the New Jersey marketplace, Michael and his wife chose a gold plan that will cover 80 percent of the costs of their son’s routine medical tests, with a full premium of $1,893, a deductible of $2,000, and an out-of-pocket max of $5,000. With the subsidy they qualify for under their 2014 estimated income, he and his wife are paying considerably less than they were before, for better coverage. They have some concerns about the accuracy of their 2014 estimated income, however, since they are right on the subsidy line. If Michael and his wife make more than they did in 2013, their plan would become unaffordable.

Yet, overall, Michael is comforted by the fact that he and his wife will be able to change plans during the next enrollment period if necessary, and that their coverage is so much more comprehensive.

“When we hear on the news about these non-ACA compliant plans and how three out of four people who go bankrupt because of a health event had insurance…I definitely feel like we were in line to join them. If something major had happened, it’s very possible that it would have been more than we could have handled financially. And having some familiarity with the ACA and knowing what it mandates in terms of minimum coverage I feel a lot safer and more secure, and like that I’m going to actually have insurance in the literal sense of the word.”

“When we hear about how three out of four people who go bankrupt because of a health event had insurance…I definitely feel like we were in line to join them. Having some familiarity with the ACA,

I feel a lot safer and more secure.”

Ensuring Marketplace Success. Enrollment in the marketplaces, which began in October, was not made easy by the technical problems that plagued HealthCare.gov and many of the state websites. In fact, Michael and his wife hit online snags that delayed their enrollment and required repeated customer support calls. Fortunately, enrollment has grown at a fast pace since December, reaching 4 million by mid-February. People have until March 31 to sign up for coverage in 2014 and not face a penalty for being uninsured.

The Commonwealth Fund’s latest Affordable Care Act tracking survey finds that awareness of the new coverage options stands at 63 percent among the potentially eligible, indicating there’s more to be done to bring people into the marketplaces. Yet, among eligible people who are aware, there is still definite interest. According to the survey, 59 percent of adults who either had not yet gone to their marketplace, or had visited it but not yet applied for or enrolled in a plan, said they were likely to visit by the end of March 31 to enroll or find out if they are eligible for financial help.

One factor considered key to the success of the marketplaces is the participation of health people and young adults, who have high rates of uninsurance, in order to spread out insurers’ risk and keep premiums low. While the makeup of the enrollees is still not clear, the Commonwealth Fund marketplace survey data suggest that by December, 41 percent of marketplace visitors were ages 19 to 34, and more than three-fourths of all visitors reported that they were in good health. A recent Commonwealth Fund study found that the health status of enrollees of all ages was more important to the success of the marketplaces than young adult participation.

Alison Megliola, 30, of Los Angeles, signed up for a bronze plan through Covered California in October. Megliola recently completed a master’s degree in nutrition and is doing a required internship without benefits at the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. With her basic plan, she says, there’s a high deductible of $5,000 but her monthly premium is just $25, with her subsidy of $188. “I got insurance for peace of mind,” she says. “I run a lot and am concerned about injuries or getting hit by a car. On the other hand, I am a healthy person and rarely go to the doctor.”

Megliola adds that her plan covers her first three doctors’ visits entirely, so she can get a yearly exam and two other visits “before I start chipping away at my deductible.”

While the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion won’t wipe out people’s worries about their health and health care, it will, for many, provide a stronger sense of financial security. And someone like Barbara Doucet will no longer have to “self-medicate” at the local Walgreen’s or Publix because she can’t afford to go to the doctor. “It was getting tougher every day.”

March 12, 2014

How Democrats Can Compete for the White Working Class

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MARCH 11, 2014, New York Times

On the surface, the Democratic Party’s bid to win back the votes of the white working class looks like an impossible task.

Between 2008 and 2012, President Obama’s already weak support among these voters dropped from 40 percent to just 36 percent.

Looked at from a different perspective, though, Democratic prospects do not seem so gloomy. There was a wide disparity in Obama’s performance among white working-class voters in different sections of the country: awful in the South and significantly better in much of the rest of the country. This suggests that a targeted regional strategy could strengthen the Democratic Party’s chances with what was once its core constituency.

Before we get into regional subtleties, let’s examine the question from the national vantage point.

The results of two national surveys released last year in March and in July by Democracy Corps, a polling organization sponsored by Democrats, provide little ground for liberal optimism.

In response to my request, Erica Seifert, a senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which conducted the Democracy Corps surveys, provided detailed results comparing the views of white, noncollege-educated voters with the views of all voters.

For Democrats, one of the more worrisome findings that Democracy Corps turned up is that these voters are far more suspicious of government than the general public. This is in contrast to Democrats generally, who are by most measures far more pro-government than the rest of the electorate, according to American National Election Studies,

Democracy Corps found that less well-educated whites agree, by a huge 46.2 percentage point margin, with the statement “When something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful.” This is 11.6 points more than all voters.

Similarly, the general public agrees that “It is the responsibility of the government to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves” by a 19.5 percentage point margin, while whites who did not go to college agree by half that.

Asked to choose between two statements — “I’m more concerned we will go too far in cutting spending and will cut off programs that middle- and working-class people rely on” or “I’m more concerned we won’t go far enough in cutting spending and our deficits will continue to grow” — all voters came down firmly on the side of worrying about cutting too much, 58-42. The white, noncollege voter was evenly split.

According to Democracy Corps, working-class whites fall on the more conservative side of the spectrum on a broad range of issues, including military spending, gay rights, immigration, public works spending and the potential expansion of pre-K classes.

There are a few — but very few — issues on which the white working class is more liberal than the general public, all of which capture the group’s bread-and-butter concerns: expansion of family, maternity and sick leave; a belief that “Wall Street hurts the American economy more than it helps”; and support for the protection of Medicare benefits.

Let me stress here that the Democracy Corps findings are from national surveys.

A far less pessimistic analysis of Democratic prospects among working-class voters emerges from a major study that the Public Religion Research Institute released in September 2012, “Beyond Guns and God: Understanding the Complexities of the White Working Class in America.”

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The key finding in the P.R.R.I. study is that working-class whites in the South are – no surprise — far more conservative than their counterparts in the rest of the country. Lumping all of these voters together exaggerates this constituency’s overall rightward tilt.

The regional differences are striking in the cases of both partisan voting patterns and how voters feel about particular issues.

The pre-election P.R.R.I. study found that white working-class voters in the South backed Romney over Obama 62-22, compared to a 46-41 Romney advantage in the West, a 42-38 edge in the Northeast and an Obama lead of 44-36 in the Midwest.

Similarly, while working-class whites in the South opposed same-sex marriage by 61-32 in the P.R.R.I. survey, in the Northeast they favored it 57-37; in the West they were split 47-45; and in the Midwest they were modestly opposed, 44-49. In the case of abortion, majorities of non-college whites outside of the South believe the practice should be legal, while those in the South were opposed 54-42.

In general, the findings of the P.R.R.I. study suggest that outside the South, Democrats should be able to make significant inroads among working-class whites – and, in fact, they have. In 2008, when Obama was losing nationally by 18 points among noncollege whites, in Michigan he carried these voters 52-46; in Illinois, 53-46; and in Connecticut, 51-47.

In the South, the anti-Obama margins were staggering, which did not go without notice. Noncollege whites in Alabama voted against Obama 90-9; in Mississippi it was 89-11; and in Georgia 78-22.

The P.R.R.I. study did point to one Democratic stumbling block: affirmative action and “reverse discrimination.”

Three out of five working-class whites believe “that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.” This view is strongest in the South, at 69 percent, but it is the majority conviction of working-class whites in all regions of the country, where it is never lower than 55 percent.

In another key measure of white working-class racial resentment, the P.R.R.I. survey found that by a margin of three percentage points, the white working class agreed “that the government has paid too much attention to the problems of minorities.” White noncollege voters were split down the middle on this issue in the Northeast and Midwest. In the South, 58 percent agreed.

Since nothing in this summary mentions gender, it’s entirely meaningless, and a waste of space. White working class men and White working…

“In the South, the anti-Obama margins were staggering, which did not go without notice. Noncollege whites in Alabama voted against Obama…

Thirty years ago, in the aftermath of the 1984 presidential election in which Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale, Democrats weredeeply alarmed over the defection of blue-collar voters.

Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, conducted focus groups in 1985 in the white working-class suburbs of Detroit and found that “these white Democratic defectors express a profound distaste for blacks, a sentiment that pervades almost everything they think about government and politics.”

The perception of reverse discrimination was an even more acute source of anger: “The special status of blacks is perceived by almost all these individuals as a serious obstacle to their personal advancement. Indeed, discrimination against whites has become a well-assimilated and ready explanation for their status, vulnerability and failures.”

A separate study that year, financed by the Democratic National Committee, found that white working-class voters were convinced that “the Democratic Party has not stood with them as they moved from the working to the middle class. They have a whole set of middle-class economic problems today, and their party is not helping them. Instead, it is helping the blacks, Hispanics and the poor. They feel betrayed.”

Over three decades, at least on the part of less educated whites outside the South, the intensity of the hostility toward the Democratic Party has clearly ebbed. In Ohio, according to a different P.R.R.I. study conducted after the 2012 election, white working-class voters were almost evenly split, 44 percent for Obama, 46 percent for Romney.

Ohio provides a valuable test case for the viability of Democratic Party efforts to make gains among white noncollege voters in the North.

Both the 2012 Obama campaign and its allied “super PAC,” Priorities USA, put on a full-court press to win over these key voters in a crucial battleground state, producing commercials featuring factory closingsthat were explicitly aimed at the white working class. By splitting the white working-class vote in Ohio, Obama was able to go over the top among all voters in the state 51-48.

White working-class voters outside the South are becoming more open to the Democratic Party because, as the P.R.R.I. polling on abortion and same-sex marriage shows, they are coming to terms with the cultural transformations stemming from what sociologists call the “second demographic transition.”

As I wrote last September, one of the more visible dividing lines between left and right in American politics is the extent to which voters in a particular state or region have adopted the values of this second demographic transition — a lessening of sexual constraint, extensive nonmarital cohabitation, delayed childbearing, reduced fertility, family disruption, a stress on personal autonomy and individual self-expression, declining religiosity and growing acceptance of women’s rights.

For decades, the cultural conflicts that emerged from the 1960s gave the Republican Party highly effective wedge issues to build support among white working-class Americans.

These voters were first the “silent majority,” then “Reagan Democrats” and subsequently “angry white men,” but they were crucial at every point to the conservative coalition that produced presidential victories for the Republican Party in five of the six elections between 1968 and 1988.

The declining commitment of white noncollege voters outside the South to conservative values has been masked, politically and culturally, by the continued ferocity of sociocultural and racial conservatism among working class whites in the South. But insofar as the second demographic transition is taking hold among these voters in the North, the Midwest and the West, Democratic prospects may well be better than national polling data suggests.

February 28, 2014

Jim DeMint Hasn’t Destroyed Heritage’s Intellectual Integrity The organization never had any.

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Paul Krugman, New York Times

I think it’s interesting that DeMint has pushed Heritage into aneven more blatant political role; but the subtext of such stories often seems to be that until DeMint arrived Heritage was a center of honest, serious, if conservative-leaning research.

In their dreams — or maybe in the dreams of self-proclaimed centrists, who wanted to believe that such an organization existed.

The truth is that the pre-DeMint Heritage was Hack Central, producing garbage posing as research. It promoted the death tax scam; it proclaimed that the Ryan plan would push the unemployment rate down to 2.8 percent, then tried to send that “result” down the memory hole. Heritage economists have promoted the fallacy that government spending can’t increase demand. And so on.

So Heritage never was a “think tank” in the sense that actual thought or research took place there. It just played one on TV.