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Hypocrisy Is Handsome

The State of North Carolina is getting ready to vote next week on, among other things, Amendment One, which would amend the state constitution to make anything other than heterosexual marriages unlawful domestic unions. Translation: It would make gay marriage unconstitutional (and do lots of other things that are very harmful, as a friend of mine recently pointed out). I don’t live in North Carolina anymore, so I won’t be voting on this, but plenty of my friends do, and some of them happen to be gay. Suffice it to say that they have been rather outspoken against the proposed amendment on Facebook and elsewhere. I actually don’t have a terribly strong opinion on this issue, as I’m: a) already married; and b) to a woman.

Since I’m not planning to get gay married, gay marriage isn’t a pressing issue for me. Sure, we can talk about the morality of civil rights issues, and that’s all well and good, but I’m not sure if being gay is the same thing as being black or being female. Some people think it is. Some people think it isn’t. And I just don’t know. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say I was in North Carolina next week, and I voted FOR Amendment One. Would it not then be hypocritical of me to go out and attempt to get married to another man? What if I voted for some pro-life legislation, only to turn around and beg my pregnant partner to have an abortion? All clear-cut hypocrisy.

So, I was rather surprised to learn that Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who replaced Sen. Ted Kennedy after his death, and who almost derailed the health reform effort by voting against the Affordable Care Act, has actually used provisions of the law to provide health insurance to his 23-year-old daughter, Ayla. He might as well have voted against ice cream and then asked for two scoops of chocolate when it didn’t work. What that should underscore is that the Affordable Care Act is already doing a number of great things. Things so good, in fact, that even people who opposed them want in on the action.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Would More Americans Support Health Reform If Obama Was White?

Would more Americans support health reform is President Obama was white? According to a recent study conducted by Michael Henderson of the University of Mississippi and D. Sunshine Hillygus of Duke University, the answer is yes. The researchers modeled changes in support of health reform between 2008 and 2010, and what they found was striking. According to Henderson and Hillygus, among a group who supported health reform in 2008, whites were 19 percentage points more likely than blacks to be opposed to health reform by 2010. Keep in mind that this race effect is seen after controlling for party affiliation and political ideology. It also controls for income, age, gender, education, and worry over the cost of health care. Said another way, this race effect isn’t likely to be biased by the usual suspects.

Moreover, the researchers included a measure of racial resentment, and those with the highest levels of racial resentment were 29 percentage points more likely to go from supporting health reform in 2008 to opposing it in 2010. These effects are additive. That means that whites with high levels of racial resentment are a whopping 48 percentage points more likely to switch from supporting to opposing health reform in the course of two years, compared to their black counterparts with low levels of racial resentment. That’s a big deal, to paraphrase Joe Biden for a general audience.

That doesn’t mean that people’s concerns over health reform aren’t legitimate. It’s perfectly reasonable to be opposed to an individual mandate, for example. The question opponents of health reform need to ask themselves, though, is how they would feel about the Affordable Care Act if the man who signed it into law looked like them. I don’t think opposition to reform would disappear–after all, when Clinton tried to pass reform legislation in the 1990s, it failed spectacularly–but I do think the tone of the debate would have been a little different, and I don’t think we’d be seeing the continued opposition after passage that we’re seeing now. Just look to the recent past for proof: Medicare Part D is all the evidence you need that a white President can pass a budget-busting piece of legislation without so much as a second glance from the American people. If George W. Bush had been black, perhaps America’s seniors would still be without adequate prescription drug coverage.

 

 

 

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Americans Must Be Bad With Fractions

Americans seem to have a problem with fractions. As in, they don’t appear to grasp how they work. That’s the conclusion I’ve finally reached after noticing a striking trend among public opinion polls in which Americans like the parts of something, but dislike the whole. The only way that one can hold such a position, it seems to me, is if one is unclear that the parts together compose the whole. With fractions, we understand that 2/8 + 1/4 + 1/2 = 1, but the logic doesn’t appear to hold elsewhere.

For example, consider the Affordable Care Act. When polled, the public strongly supported the individual components of the law. Asked to consider the law as a whole, though, and supported dropped off significantly. It’s a bit confusing, isn’t it? They might as well say “I love crust, cheese, tomato sauce, and pepperoni, but don’t you go putting it all together and trying to shove a slice of pizza down my throat.”

We see the same hard to reconcile pattern in Congressional approval ratings. The current approval rating for Congress is the lowest it’s ever been at an abysmal 13%. Asked to consider whether most incumbents deserved to be re-elected, the answer was another all-time-low: 20% said yes. In other words, very few of us approve of Congress as a whole. But the parts? Well that’s a different story. Asked to consider whether the incumbent in their district deserved to be re-elected, the answer was much higher: 53% said yes. Folks, those numbers just don’t add up. It’s time we realized that it’s impossible for everyone to be above average.

The parts necessarily make up the whole. That’s why fractions have denominators. If you, and more than half of everyone else, thinks that your (or their) member of Congress deserves to be re-elected, then the chances are pretty good that they will be. This explains why we keep voting the same people to another term, and yet we act surprised when the result is more polarization and less progress. It’s why we like all of the provisions of health reform, but oppose the law that would implement them, and then wonder why we continue to pay more and more for our health care. We need to understand the part we play in the way things are. If we don’t like the big picture, we need to stop assuming that we’re not the problem, and start figuring out how to fix it.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Opposition to Reform

 

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