Monday, October 15, 2012

The Real Cost of Contraceptives

Why should health insurance companies provide contraceptives?  From Nancy Folbre on Economix.

1. "In a recent Guttmacher Institute study of women at 22 family planning clinics in 13 states, the most frequently cited reason given for using contraception was inability to take care of a baby at the time."

2. "...unintended pregnancy costs American taxpayers roughly $11 billion each year." (same study)

3. "A report by Adam Thomas published in March by the Brookings Institution shows that unintended pregnancies are disproportionately concentrated among women who are unmarried, teenage and poor."

4. "...these pregnancies set in motion a series of unfortunate outcomes that effectively reproduce poverty." (same report)

5. "...people need to protect themselves, pre-emptively, from carelessness that can lead to costly consequences."

6. "A recent study in St. Louis enrolled more than 9,000 adolescent and adult women at risk of unintended pregnancy into a study that provided contraceptive counseling and offered participants the reversible contraceptive method of their choice at no cost....  The researchers reported a clinically and statistically significant reduction in abortion rates, repeat abortions and teenage birth rates."

If all women in the U.S. had access to free or low cost contraceptives and counseling, the financial benefits for families and the country would be tremendous.

Ms. Folbre said, "private choices are constrained by public policies."  I tried to think of a comparable example from men's medicine practices that is controlled by public policy the same way contraceptives for women are but could not.  When men want a particular medication (like Viagra) paid for by health insurance companies, it's done.  So why is this not the same for women?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Romney's Small Business Tax Prediction Wrong

In the debate, Mitt Romney said increasing taxes on the wealthy (income above $250,000) would hurt small businesses because the wealthy are the "job creators."

First, if they're the "job creators" they need to be fired for not doing their "job" over the past four years. 

More important, however, is that Romney was wrong.  Romney said:

Well, President, you're — Mr. President, you're absolutely right, which is that with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not — not taxed at the 35 percent tax rate, they're taxed at a lower rate. But those businesses that are in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half — half — of all of the people who work in small business. Those are the businesses that employ one quarter [25%] of all the workers in America. And your plan is take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent. (NPR)

Robb Mandelbaum writes in the New York Times:

First, there is the obvious error of transmission in his retelling — that these companies account for a quarter of the work force, when in fact the Census Bureau cohort included companies with up to 299 employees (not 250).

Romney got the numbers wrong.  But Mandelbaum continues:

...according to the N.F.I.B. [National Federation of Independent Businesses] survey, the share of the total work force that might be affected by the increase in tax rates is around 6 percent, not 25 percent.

So the 3% of businesses Romney refers to do not "employ one quarter [25%] of all the workers in America" but, according to the survey with the data Romney is relying on, employ 6% of all the workers in America.  Mandelbaum continues:

In 2007, according to the Census data, companies with 20 to 299 employees employed 55 percent of the total work force at companies with fewer than 500 workers, a common definition for a small business. But given the N.F.I.B. survey’s finding that only 22 percent of businesses in roughly that size range would actually face a tax increase, those businesses’ share of the small-business work force would be only about 12 percent.

So Romney said the 3% of small businesses affected by this tax "employ half — half — of all of the people who work in small business."  But, according to the Census data and N.F.I.B. survey, the 3% of small businesses affected by the tax employ 12% of all small business employees, not 50%, as Romney claimed.

Mandelbaum continues:

Mr. Romney’s larger point is that the 4 percent increase in taxes on small businesses making more than $250,000 a year will cause these profitable companies to cut jobs — 700,000 employees in all, he said.
Liberal economists see little, if any, effect from taxes on investment. Conservatives see a substantial effect, but even some conservative economists acknowledge that it is impossible to prove the connection using economic data given all of the other variables at work in the economy.

So the 700,000 jobs lost due to a 4% tax increase on those making more than $250,000 does not take into consideration the "variables at work in the economy".  Mandelbaum also points out:

The N.F.I.B. survey, conducted by Gallup in December 2007 and January 2008, interviewed only 154 businesses with 20 to 249 employees, which statisticians would consider a small sample. The businesses in the survey were randomly selected from Dun & Bradstreet lists.

Statistically speaking, the survey does not include enough businesses.

But, to make this more interesting, CNN Money gave an interesting scenario of what would have happened if Republicans in the Senate did not block the "Democrat-backed bill that would have extended tax cuts to small businesses".

$73 billion - Amount of the projected total increase in personal incomes if the Democrats' Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act had passed in the Senate.
$87 billion - Amount potentially added to the GDP.

So, let's say Democrats are a little liberal and their numbers are off by 50%.  Incomes would have increased by over $36 billion and the GDP would have added about $43 billion.  Who is really looking after small businesses and who is looking after the 1%?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Republican Party Collects Absentee Ballot Applications in Virginia

The Republican Party of Virginia mailed applications for absentee ballots to some Virginia voters, including me.

When compared with the applications provided by the Virginia State Election Board, there are two major problems.

First, the State Election Board application includes a page of instructions, including deadlines for when the application and absentee ballot needs to be turned in and special instructions for military members.

Second, the State Election Board includes a list of General Registrar addresses where the absentee ballot application needs to be mailed.  The Republican Party's absentee ballot application is mailed to the Republican Party of Virginia, P.O. Box 12025, Richmond, VA 23241-0025.

Why are absentee ballot applications being mailed to the Republican Party and not the General Registrar, where they are processed?  Why does the Republican Party need to intercept the applications?  It would have been just as easy to have the address of the General Registrar's Richmond office printed on the mailings.

Al Spradlin, the General Registrar for Chesapeake, Virginia, also received an absentee ballot application from the Republican Party of Virginia. He told News Channel 3 that groups can legally collect absentee ballot applications, "...but I don’t like it. Whether it’s Republican or Democrat, it’s outside of what we consider to be the normal channel."

The Republican Party of Virginia hired a company with a reputation for voter fraud: Strategic Allied Consulting. Strategic is owned by Nathan Sproul, who was paid about $3 million for work in five states, including Virginia. The Virginian-Pilot reported that the state's Republican Party paid Strategic Allied $500,000 to "provide new voter and absentee ballot registration services".  The Republican Party of Virginia recently fired Strategic Allied after it was involved in voter fraud in Florida.

Apparently, the firing did not come until after the applications for absentee ballots were mailed.  The question now becomes, can we trust an organization that has a reputation for voter fraud?  And can we trust anyone associated with that organization who know they have this reputation?

Strategic Allied's owner, Nathan Sproul, owns at least five companies involved in voter registration drives and political polling for the Republican Party.  The New York Times reported that, since 2004, Sproul and his various companies have collected "$17.6 million from Republican committees, candidates and the “super PAC” American Crossroads, mostly for voter registration operations, according to campaign finance records".

In addition to voter fraud in eleven Florida counties, Strategic Allied was connected with complaints of voter fraud and intimidation in Nevada, Oregon, and Pennsylvania (New York Times).

The Florida voter fraud is especially detrimental to civil rights because it involves changing a voter's address so they are assigned to a new precinct without their knowledge, and when they go to vote, they will not be able to.  According to the Miami Herald, the "Florida Division of Elections has received more than 1.3 million forms from third party organizations of voters who registered for the first time or changed their information".  If even 2% of the third-party voter registrations prevent some from voting, that would be 26,000 people who are denied their right to vote.

Read more here:"
Governor Rick Scott of Florida, the torchbearer of purging voter rolls and self-appointed defender of a person's right to vote (as long as that person meets certain criteria), is still silent on the actions of Strategic Allied. (Huffington Post)

What will happen to the people who receive the same mailing I received and decide to mail it in?  If they are Democrats (and Republicans and Democrats have lists of party affiliations), will their application be tossed?  Or their address changed to a different precinct?  (The application includes a change of address section.)

Interesting dilemmas we voters face when trying to engage in civic participation.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Peaceful Protestors Arrested

Ladies, do you think your civil rights are the same as gun rights activists?  Let's compare.

On January 18, 2010, gun rights activists marched on Richmond, Virginia, to support laws that would allow concealed guns on school property, in courtrooms, and in houses of worship.
A pro-gun, pro-states rights rally at the state Capitol this morning drew roughly 1,000 people who were encouraged afterward to file into the General Assembly Building to lobby their legislators. (Richmond-Times Dispatch)
Some in the crowd were carrying weapons.  Riot police were not called and no one was arrested.

On March 3, 2012, women's rights activists marched on Richmond, Virginia, to protest laws that would force a woman to have an ultrasound before having an abortion.  Most of the protestors were women.  When women walked around police officers telling them they could not protest in front of the Capitol, riot police were called. 
Disobeying police orders is often a good way to get in trouble, but things spun out of control remarkably quickly, as the video shows. The protestors, remaining peaceful and chanting, "This is what democracy looks like!" march up to the building, plant themselves on the steps, and lock arms. Suddenly, the handful of cops are supplemented by a squad of heavily armored riot police. After them come combat-fatigued, masked officers with what appear to be shotguns and automatic rifles. (the Atlantic)
Riot police "controlled" the crowd by holding plastic shields, and 31 protestors were arrested for trespassing. (Video

Since the Capitol is public property, how were they trespassing?  And if the gun rights advocates were allowed to protest at the Capitol building, and were even invited inside, why were the women's rights advocates not allowed on the Capitol steps?  Both groups appeared to be peaceful, however, as far as we know, none of the women's rights activists were carrying guns.

What is obvious from the 2010 and 2012 events is the extent Gov. Bob McDonnell and his conservative legislators will go to get what they want.  They use their power to silence those who do not agree with them.  Is this democracy?  Is this the kind of leadership we want in government?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virginia Government Violates Doctor-Patient Relationship

There are laws that regulate the doctor-patient relationship that are helpful, like the legal requirement to report possible child abuse, but proposed Virginia law HB462 interferes with a doctor's ability to make the best medical decision for patients.  In addition, this law affects women only -- no man will ever undergo an ultrasound to determine pregnancy. 

The bill was passed by the Virginia Senate (21-19) and now goes to the House of Delegates for a vote.  According to the Virginia Pilot, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will sign the bill and said,
"I think women have a right to know all of the medical information before they make decisions." (Virginia Pilot article)
Obviously, Gov. McDonnell knows nothing about early pregnancy or ultrasounds.  According to Dr. Ralph Northam, a Virginia Senator, an abdominal, or non-invasive, ultrasound will not provide a clear picture of the fetus in early pregnancy.  Sen. Northam, a Democrat, views HB462 as an invasion of privacy.
"...the last thing our society needs is a bunch of nonmedical politicians mandating invasive medical procedures and telling doctors that their extensive medical training does not qualify them to do what is in the best interest of the individuals under their care. This isn't about whether you're pro-choice or opposed to abortion; it's about having less government in our lives and trusting women and their doctors to be the best protectors of life and health." (Link)
This legislation is not about denying women access to information about her pregnancy.  Women have the option of an ultrasound prior to having an abortion.  HB462 is about government encroaching on the doctor-patient relationship and demanding an expensive test that, in most cases, is not necessary.  According to the American Pregnancy Association, doctors are more likely to use hormone levels than an ultrasound to determine the age of the fetus.

By voting for HB462, Virginia legislators are forcing their personal, moral, and/or religious beliefs on citizens.  Virginia legislators are creating a slippery slope that could lead to other forms of interference between doctor and patient. 

Here are the Virginia State Senators who voted for and against the bill to regulate the doctor's ability to provide care for patients:

Voting for HB462:

Richard Black (R-13)
Harry Blevins (R-14)
Charles Carrico (R-40)
Charles Colgan (D-29)
Thomas Garrett (R-22)
Emmett Hanger (R-24)
Stephen Martin (R-11)
Ryan McDougle (R-4)
Jeffrey McWaters (R-8)
Stephen Newman (R-23)
Thomas Norment (R-3)
Mark Obenshain (R-26)
Phillip Puckett (D-38)
Bryce Reeves (R-17)
Frank Ruff (R-15)
Ralph Smith (R-19)
William Stanley (R-20)
Walter Stosch (R-12)
Richard Stuart (R-28)
Jill Vogel (R-27)
Frank Wagner (R-7)

Voting against HB462:
George Barker (D-39)
R. Creigh Deeds (D-25)
Adam Ebbin (D-30)
John Edwards (D-21)
Barbara Favola (D-31)
Mark Herring (D-33)
Janet Howell (D-32)
Mamie Locke (D-2)
L. Louise Lucas (D-18)
David Marsden (D-37)
Henry Marsh (D-16)
A. Donald McEachin (D-9)
John Miller (D-1)
Yvonne Miller (D-5)
Ralph Northam (D-6)
J. Chapman Petersen (D-34)
Linda Puller (D-36)
Richard Saslaw (D-35)
John Watkins (R-10)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dana Milbank's Wrong Male Thinking

Dana Milbank, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, responded to the Democrat's hearing on contraceptives and religion, and testimony from Sandra Fluke, with wrong male thinking.

First, Mr. Milbank called the Democrats meeting to hear Ms. Fluke a "pseudo-committee".  Pseudo means false, fake, or sham.  
"Now Democrats are turning Fluke into a feminist martyr. On Thursday, the student was surrounded by dozens of cameras as she sat before a pseudo-committee chaired by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a rump session designed entirely to exploit the Republicans’ mistake." (Milbank at WaPo)
Mr. Milbank might view this as a sham committee hearing, but I doubt women did.  However, he, being a man, would not view reproductive health as important because it's not important to him.  A committee convened for the purpose of hearing a woman talk about the importance access to affordable contraceptives is to women's health is a sham to Mr. Milbank.

Second, Democrats did not make Fluke a martyr.  Fluke was already working to improve access to contraceptives before Democrats asked her to speak.  They chose her because she has the expertise -- she's the boots on the ground, so to speak, and has done the research.  The Democrats gave her a platform, but she was already committed to changing how women's health is handled (or not) in religious affiliated schools.  Democrats are not turning her into a martyr.  They simply chose a knowledgeable person who could speak for women.

Third, you called the hearing a "spectacle" and a "performance" and said Democrats were "putting on a show."
"It was just the spectacle the lawmakers had planned. “If we had gone to central casting to find a representative to speak for American women,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told Fluke, “we could not have done better than you.” Moments later, the lawmakers joined the audience in the unusual act of standing to applaud a witness.

It was quite a performance. The question is why Republicans keep giving their opponents so many opportunities to put on a show." (Milbank at WaPo)
This so-called "performance" and "spectacle" was convened to defend women's rights.  Again, Mr. Milbank, your insensitivity to women's issues is most evident.  For women across the country, this was no performance.  Most of us know what it's like to be denied something that we needed because we are women.  This hearing may have seemed frivolous to you, but it was important to women, which makes it important.  Period.

Be careful, Mr. Milbank.  You're mighty male ego is showing.