Thursday, July 25, 2013

Supply-Side Economics in One Lesson : The Freeman : Foundation for Economic Education

Obama’s Misleading Obamacare Claims

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The New York Times, in its oft-cited article, said that "State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York."
"Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly."
At least the Los Angeles Times had the conscience to write that these types of "savings" are an aberration. "New York, for example, announced this week that the average premium will be 50% lower for individuals who buy health coverage on their own, in large part because the state has some of the highest rates now," they report (emphasis added). "New York may have been more ripe for savings than other states," notes Bloomberg.
And even The Washington Post, a champion of Obamacare, points out, "But it shouldn't be shocking: New York has, for two decades now, had the highest individual market premiums in the country." USA Today led with the title "Most states won't see N.Y.'s drop in insurance rates." This The New York Times cleverly left out of its reporting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Look deeper at preconceptions about race and self-defense - Cathy Young

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As proof of pervasive bias, some cite a June 2012 Tampa Bay Times report based on a study of cases involving self-defense claims since 2005, when Florida passed its "stand your ground law": 73 percent of defendants who killed blacks were cleared, compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white person. Yet, since most homicides were between people of the same race, this also suggests black defendants were more likely to win. Indeed, the study found that "black defendants went free 66 percent of the time in fatal cases compared to 61 percent for white defendants." In mixed-race cases, "four of the five blacks who killed a white went free; five of the six whites who killed a black went free."
Of course, one study in one state and a few anecdotes do not prove a national pattern. Critics point to an Urban Institute analysis of FBI statistics for 2005-10 which shows that firearm homicides are far more likely to be ruled justified when the shooter is white and the victim is black than vice versa. But without knowledge of the specific circumstances of these homicides, it's impossible to say how much of the disparity is due to bias.
One Florida case has been widely cited as a contrast to the Zimmerman verdict and a shocking injustice: the case of Marissa Alexander, a black woman said to be serving 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot to scare off her violent ex-husband. But that's not quite what happened. Alexander's "stand your ground" claim was rejected because, after the altercation with then-husband Rico Gray, she went to the garage, returned with a gun and fired a shot that Gray said narrowly missed his head (a claim backed by forensic evidence). Gray was indeed abusive, but Alexander was no innocent; she also assaulted him while out on bail for the shooting. Her 20-year sentence, required by a mandatory minimum for firearm offenses, was a travesty; her conviction was not.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Doubting Stephen Meyer's 'Darwin's Doubt' : The New Yorker

Political Diary: Democrats' Prop. 8 Veto -

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Recall that both Mr. Brown and Ms. Harris declined to defend the initiative against a challenge in federal courts. Thus, the initiative's proponents took on the job, as permitted by the California Supreme Court. However, an ideologically mixed majority on the court (which included Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Antonin Scalia, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) has ruled that they lacked standing to do so.

"Once the District Court issued its order," which was to strike down Prop. 8, "respondents no longer had any injury to redress, and the state officials chose not to appeal. The only individuals who sought to appeal were petitioners, who had intervened in the District Court, but they had not been ordered to do or refrain from doing anything," wrote the chief justice for the majority. Thus, the lower court's decision holds.
Many Californians are no doubt celebrating the decision. Public opinion has swung sharply in favor of same-sex marriage since a bare 51% majority of voters approved the ban five years ago. However, the decision is a huge blow to the principle of popular sovereignty, which underlies California's initiative process.
California's initiative system originated in 1911 to bypass entrenched and often unaccountable state politicians. As Justice Anthony Kennedy points out in his dissent (joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor), "the initiative system 'grew out of dissatisfaction with the then governing public officials and a widespread belief that the people had lost control of the political process.'"
As the California Supreme Court has determined, "this purpose is undermined if the very officials the initiative process seeks to circumvent are the only parties who can defend an enacted initiative when it is challenged in a legal proceeding . . . Giving the Governor and attorney general this de facto veto will erode one of the cornerstones of the State's governmental structure.
"And in light of the frequency with which initiatives' opponents resort to litigation"—over one-third of the initiatives approved in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington between 1900 and 2008 were challenged in court—"the impact of that veto could be substantial."
The court's ruling means that state officials and a single district court will be able to nullify initiatives on every thing from school choice to tax reform. The danger is particularly acute in California, where federal courts with jurisdiction are notoriously liberal, though the implications extend to any of the 26 other states with an initiative or popular referendum system.
Liberals may rejoice now, but perhaps they should consider the flip side: a Republican governor and attorney general who refuse to defend, say, an environmental initiative which is struck down by a federal court. Liberal proponents would no doubt want to appeal, but by the court's reasoning they couldn't.