Wednesday Morning Open Thread


(Signe Wilkinson via Gocomics.com)

When Thomas Friedman, America’s Most Conventional Dispenser of This Week’s Conventional Wisdom(tm) , sours on the business of unfettered consumption and announces bitterly that “The Earth Is Full“, is it really so surprising that more than a thousand sensible, middle-class Americans would volunteer for a “One-way ticket to Mars “?

… It was not proposed as a suicide mission, although the chances of a long life on Mars probably aren’t great. Rather, it was pitched as what would potentially be the greatest scientific adventure and exploration of all time.
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The idea was floated by two scientists, Paul Davies of Arizona State University and Dirk Schulze-Makuch of the University of Washington, in an article in the Journal of Cosmology. One of the journal’s editors, Ron Becker, said that as the hundreds of e-mails flowed in from prospective Mars explorers, the initial reaction of both researchers and journal staff was to dismiss them as not serious. But that changed as it became apparent that many of the correspondents were quite sincere…
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The idea, which is clearly not what NASA managers have in mind for Mars exploration, has now led to the release of “A One Way Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet,” a compilation of articles from the Journal of Cosmology, plus some additions from scientists with the Mars Society and others.
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Among the articles in the book are “The Search for Life on Mars,” “Medical Care for a Martian Transit Mission and Extended Stay on the Martian Surface” and “Sex on Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development and Sex in Outer Space.” The authors include dozens of NASA researchers, some former astronauts and some scientists and advocates who have pushed for decades (with no success) for a human mission to Mars….
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Schulze-Makuch said the idea would be to start a colony on Mars, not simply to send astronauts there and abandon them. He imagines them living in the shelter of a lava tube or some habitat they take with them, and imagines that a stream of others would follow. Robotic exploration has shown there is substantial water ice below the Martian surface, so many of the ingredients for survival are present…

To boldly go!

… And in a far more immediate timeframe, Book Chat reminder: I will put up the first post on When Everything Changed this evening, at 8pm EDT. What else have people got on the agenda for a too-soon-summer midweek?








30 million people have gone missing, again

The actual, as opposed to imaginary, health care plan that Paul Ryan put forth and the entire Republican Party signed onto (pdf) has many, many pieces but I’d like to point to the provisions for covering the uninsured. There aren’t any. The GOP health care plan repeals the parts of the PPACA that cover the uninsured, and replaces them with nothing.

Considering that we just had a two year debate on some hypothetical, abstract group we called “the uninsured” I’m a little confused as to why they aren’t popular anymore. The uninsured didn’t really go away. Nothing changed for them when Paul Ryan shot to stardom. Ryan’s awesome charisma is apparently powerful enough to completely eclipse the (formerly) urgent needs of tens of millions of people. That’s a little disconcerting. Where’d they go?

Ryan’s plan repeals the PPACA, except for the portion where 500 billion or so is cut from the privatized portion of Medicare, Medicare Advantage. Despite what the honorable Paul Ryan is telling FOX News personalities and viewers, Ryan’s plan retains the 500 billion or so in Medicare Advantage cuts.

Back when the uninsured were popular we discussed the provisions within the PPACA to cover the uninsured endlessly. What we didn’t do is talk about who they are, as a broad group.(pdf)

I think the broad demographic and class information on the uninsured goes a long way towards explaining why it took 30 years to pass anything at all to address their health care access problem. I think the same information also may explain why tens of millions of people have mysteriously dropped out of the fawning media coverage of the GOP health care plan.

This is who they are:

More than three-quarters of the uninsured are in working families—sixty-one percent are from families with one or more full-time workers and 16% are from families with part-time workers.

The vast majority of the uninsured are in low- or moderate-income families. In total, nine in ten of the uninsured are in low- or moderate-income families, meaning they are below 400% of poverty. The new health reform law targets these individuals through broader Medicaid eligibility and premium subsidies through health insurance exchanges for eligible individuals with incomes up to 400% of poverty that do not have access to employer sponsored insurance.

Adults are more likely to be uninsured than children. Adults make up 70% of the nonelderly population, but more than 80% of the uninsured. Most low-income children qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but low-income adults under age 65 typically qualify for Medicaid only if they are disabled, pregnant, or have dependent children. Income eligibility levels are generally much lower for parents than for children, and adults without children are generally ineligible. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid will be expanded in 2014 to provide eligibility to nearly all people under age 65 with income under 138% of the federal poverty level.

Young adults, ages 19 to 29, comprise a disproportionately large share of the uninsured, largely due to their low incomes. Young adults have the highest uninsured rate (32%) of any age group. More than half of uninsured young adults are families with at least one full-time worker, but their low incomes make it more difficult for them to afford coverage.The median income of uninsured young adults in 2008 was $15,000.

More than half (63%) of nonelderly uninsured adults have no education beyond high school, making them less able to get higher-skilled jobs that are more likely to provide health coverage. Thosewith less education are also more likely to be uninsured for longer periods of time.Minorities are much more likely to be uninsured than whites. About one third of Hispanics are uninsured compared to 14% of whites. The uninsured rate among African-Americans (23%) is also much higher than that of whites

It is not now and has never been politically advantageous to address the health care access problems of the working poor and lower middle class- particularly younger people within those groups- because “the uninsured” don’t have any real cohesive organized advocacy or lobbying clout.

That’s why politicians didn’t get anything done on this, prior to the PPACA. There was little or no anticipated political return on the huge political risk inherent in actually doing something to address the chronic problem.

The same uninsured who were (supposedly) vitally important to our national conversation a year ago have gone missing again. Nothing changed for them, yet Paul Ryan somehow succeeded in leading the circus away from any discussion of how his bold and brave plan leaves them, once again, high and dry. Weird how this particular group of Real Americans keep dropping out of our national conversation. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they weren’t important.



Late Night Open Thread: You Kids, Off My Lawn Get

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Because I am old and ADD, I endorse Barney Frank’s insta-news stance, as reported by John Hudson on the Atlantic Wire:

I don’t get news on my phone. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. I want substance. I’m not betting on stocks. I don’t deal in emergencies and I don’t know CPR. There’s enough possibility of misunderstanding as it is without 140 character tweets. Of course, when you’re talking about somebody getting shot, tweets have been good. But generally, I want more than you can get on a phone.

(ETA: Thanks to commentor Kdaug)








Austerity Anchors


(Tom Toles via Gocomics.com)

Nick Kristoff uses his perch at the NYTimes to go full-throttle DFH about the Republicans’ “Fantasy Nation“:

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.
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It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.
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This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled. The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.
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So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.
[…]
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I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They’re typically characterized by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?
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In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar? And the upshot is societies that are quasi-feudal, stratified by social class, held back by a limited sense of common purpose.
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Maybe that’s why the growing inequality in America pains me so. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans already have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent, based on Federal Reserve data. Yet two-thirds of the proposed Republican budget cuts would harm low- and moderate-income families, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities…

Expect Andrew Breitbart to show up on Fox News no later than next Wednesday, with a retweeted freeper link to a video clip purporting to “demonstrate conclusively” that Kristoff’s crusade against underage prostitution in the developing world is a cover-up for something very, very unseemly…








Double Dip, Here We Come

On top of the horrible jobs report that DougJ just mentioned, Calculated Risk has a slew of horrible awful not good news- sales decreased as compared to last year by 1.2% at GM, the manufacturing index plummeted, mortgage applications are flat and refinancing declined, and so on. And mind you, none of this is in a vacuum- global manufacturing is crashing, and the austerity parade in Europe is paying dividends:

You can see why we’re now at the panic stage. The Bundesbank is already very upset about its large claims on troubled debtors, which are backed by sovereign debt as collateral. Yet if financing stops in the wake of a debt restructuring, the result will be to collapse the debtor nations’ banking systems, a process Martin believes would lead to their ejection from the euro. (He makes me look like an optimist!)

So the ECB keeps saying that restructuring is unthinkable. Yet austerity programs are not working; the prospect of a return to normal financing is receding rather than approaching.

If you ask me, the water level has now dropped so far that the fuel rods are exposed. We really are in meltdown territory.

Domestically, the WH is by all appearances paralyzed and unable or unwilling to do anything because the Republicans, the Blue Dogs, and the “suffer little children” brigade in the media have them completely cowed on the issue of spending and job creation:

If I had to guess, I’d say many White House officials would approve of this kind of approach, but tend not to say so. Why not? Because of political realism — the president and his team don’t see much value in pushing a series of proposals that have no chance of passing Congress. An ambitious approach to lowering unemployment was effectively taken off the table the moment Americans elected a Republican-led House. If voters wanted policymakers to focus on jobs they shouldn’t have backed candidates intent on making unemployment worse.

The administration could still push the issue, even if a jobs agenda can’t pass, but Obama’s team see political risks in such an approach — the more the president sticks his neck out, the more he appears ineffectual when Congress ignores him.

But Krugman urges everyone who still cares about the issue to speak up anyway: “As I see it, policy makers are sinking into a condition of learned helplessness on the jobs issue: the more they fail to do anything about the problem, the more they convince themselves that there’s nothing they could do. And those of us who know better should be doing all we can to break that vicious circle. “

This viewpoint was thoroughly reinforced yesterday when almost 100 dems joined with the wingnut caucus to vote against an increase in the debt ceiling. We are well and truly fucked, and barring a miracle, we’re looking at another economic collapse on the heels of a non-recovery.

And the Dems will have no one to blame but themselves when President Romney/Palin/insert wingnut du jour is elected in 2012 and begin to enact more of the same policies that got us where we are now.

Just start drinking and keep a good eye on your garden. It’s you or the god damned rabbits this year. At least we still have plenty of money for bombs.