Infrastructure, roads, bridges, airports — all suck, all need repair


Michigan fixes road the way they fix water supplies

❝ The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the nation’s highways and bridges face an $808.2 billion backlog of investment spending, including $479.1 billion in critically needed repairs. More than two-thirds of the nation’s roads and nearly 143,000 bridges are classified in “dire need” of repair or upgrades. U.S. ports are clogged and need dredging to improve the flow of goods; railroad tracks need modernizing; airport communications technology needs updating and expansion; and urban mass transit is old and inadequate. As president, Trump wants to rebuild America’s core…

If you think the whole of these needs or a significant portion will produce a campfire singalong between elite Democrats, Progressive Democrats, Opportunist Democrats, Teapublicans, Trumpublicans, Hoover Republicans, elite Republicans — I might offer you a deal on one of those bridges. In Brooklyn.

Thanks, Obama — Fewer people are skipping doctor’s visits to save money

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-2-43-02-pm

The Affordable Care Act…has many provisions, but by and large it raises taxes on the rich to subsidize health insurance for people in the bottom third of the income distribution. Under the circumstances, it’s not that puzzling that conservatives want to get rid of it.

At the same time, saying that the main reason to repeal the law is in order to deliver a six-figure tax cut to millionaires is a weak argument politically. So repeal proponents often seize on very real ways in which the law’s benefits fall short, to try to make the case that somehow the ACA system is actually worse than nothing for the people who are in it. Paul Ryan [and other assorted assorted pricks], for example, says Obamacare has “failed the American people, and things are only getting worse.”

But while it’s certainly true that if you are in the top one percent of the income distribution you are paying higher taxes thanks to the ACA, a new study from the Commonwealth Fund shows that the law is succeeding in its core goal of providing people with access to health care. It looks at a number of different indicators across all 51 states (they are counting DC as a state for these purposes) and shows how many saw improvement versus stasis versus worsening.

…a couple of these things measure actual health care utilization. That’s important because many people have been disappointed by the high deductibles that often come with Affordable Care Act plans, and say the insurance the law offers is “too expensive to use.” Obviously people would be better-off with more generous insurance, but we’re seeing here that even with existing ACA plans many fewer people skipping needed care.

Part of how Republicans will try to escape this reality is by lying, of course. Interesting, so far, is that the Congressional Budget Office – a stodgy portion of our career civil servants – announced they will not participate in Republican lies about what actually is insurance vs crap imitations of health care.

Court strikes down Wisconsin Republicans’ crooked redistricting – let’s do this nationwide!

❝ With the 2016 election, Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin in nearly 30 years and Republicans took control of nearly two-thirds of the Legislature, including their largest majority in the Assembly since 1957, despite a roughly even split of votes between Democrats and Republicans in statewide races.

But now a federal court may undo the redistricting that aided Republican gains in recent years with one ruling.

On Monday, a federal court overturned Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps as an “unconstitutional gerrymander” that likely played a major factor in the party’s disproportionate electoral success.

❝ A three-judge panel…ruled that the Republican plan was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander…“We find that Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats,” wrote federal appeals court senior judge Kenneth Ripple, in an 116-page decision. “Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect.”

Ripple, a Ronald Reagan appointee, continued: “Finally, we find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest. Consequently, Act 43 constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.”

Sensible Western nations have taken away the opportunity for corrupt politicians to steer state elections into an undemocratic ambush. Not really as surprising as the James Gang showing up on payday to collect everyone’s money. Historically, both the two parties we’re generally allowed have been guilty of the same deceit one time or another; so, the Dems haven’t a boatload of motivation. Trouble is as economic inequality grows to a pointed failure of opportunity sectarian pressures grow. Populism drags its old lies on board the downbound train.

Civics-minded organizations like the ACLU fight to restore the spirit of democracy that still stands in constitutional law as One Person, One Vote. Perhaps they and their peers can win it all for all of us? I’d feel safer if folks construct a political movement that lives beyond a single issue and brings this nation back to principles over slogans, a broader economy over 1930’s-style exploitation.

In Oklahoma, thousands with mental illnesses get to go to jail, not medical treatment


Click to enlargeChris Landsberger/The Oklahoman

❝ A monthslong investigation by The Oklahoman, including the examination of hundreds of pages of jail inspection reports, found that jail staffs across Oklahoma are tasked with attempting to be mental health professionals, often with little or no training…

❝ Since statehood, Oklahoma has grappled with how to create a sustainable, comprehensive mental health system. The state has spent among the least in the nation on mental health care, all while filling jails and prisons with people who wouldn’t be there if they could afford and access basic health care for their brain disorders.

Imprisonment is not only the least effective form of “treatment” but also the costliest.

The cost of a year of state-funded mental health treatment: $2,000.

The cost of a year in prison for someone with serious mental illness: $23,000.

At last count, 60 percent of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ population — 17,000 people — have either symptoms or a history of mental illness…

Often, before these Oklahomans are sentenced to prison, they spend months, if not years, cycling in and out of county jails.

I won’t try to precis this excellent article down to the size of a blog post. The article reflects the first two of a four-part series on Oklahoma’s lousy excuse for mental health care. I think a mirror image approach to the state’s mediocre criminal justice system would show the same.

Hypocritical ideologues run the state. They care not for science, modern medicine, current concerns and remedies to substance abuse or mental illness. They run Puritan jails the way they run a Puritan legislature. RTFA. Make up your own mind.

Facts, facts? — we don’t need no stinking facts!

❝ Now that the election is over, expect the GOP to start seeing how fantastic the economy has become; to a somewhat lesser extent (no false equivalency here), the Democrats will start seeing more of its weaknesses…

❝ As Rebecca Sinderbrand, Deputy national political editor at the Washington Post noted on November 15: “that must’ve been some weekend.”

This graph and brief commentary was added by Barry Ritholtz to the larger piece he blogged – about the Dangers of a Fact-Free America.

Worth reflecting upon as thoroughly as the tag I posted here.

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”

Don’t mourn, organize.

That’s not saying you should rely on joining the Democratic Party and their coming “opposition” to Trump-style fascism. I’m not confident this has been enough of a shock to liberal and moderate political hacks to force them into sprouting courage.

Recent years in New Mexico have encouraged that – to a certain small extent. After all, Hillary won New Mexico by close to 10%. Democrats took back the House in our state legislature, extended control in the state Senate. Progressive candidates in our district won – one close, one knocked it out of the park.

This only happened after a decade of Dems in charge going to prison for corruption – and getting Bon Voyage farewells thrown by their peers. This only happened after a decade of Democrats picking and choosing candidates for governor whose main qualification was – “It’s their turn!”

Hopefully, Americans will feel the results of their ignorance in time to prevent further gerrymandering after the 2020 census. Maybe take that power away from pols the way other democracies did decades ago.

Will the Dems have the backbone to stonewall reactionary legislation the way Republicans decided that gridlock was payback for a nation electing a Black president? Might be a stretch too far – for courage, for principles. Obamacare, medicare, social security are all now at risk. Does the Democrat political establishment care enough to fight for the rest of us?