Category Archives: Politics

Anita Finlay has written a book about women who run for office and the unique obstacles they face.

Teen Pregnancy and Plan B

The Obama administration has allowed age restrictions on Plan B to prevent anyone under 17 from being allowed to purchase it.  Plan B is a high dose hormone pill that can prevent pregnancy if it is taken within 3 days after unprotected sex.  Obama’s reasoning is focused on the red herring of an 11 year old, like his daughter, becoming pregnant.

Melissa McEwan says it best:

“You know, I don’t want 11-year-old girls having the need for Plan B, because an 11-year-old girl who has the need for Plan B is an 11-year-old girl who was raped. But in the imperfect world in which we live, where 11-year-olds are raped and made pregnant, often by the family members on whom they have to rely to get access to emergency contraception, the only real options are giving access to Plan B to 11-year-olds who need it and leaving those 11-year-olds with one less option.”

So lets look at teen pregnancy in terms of a kid’s life.  A normal pregnancy lasts longer than a school year.  It is likely delivering a baby will disrupt one of her semesters at school and she will get to repeat those classes. Girls who have babies before the age of 18 drop out of school at a much higher rate.

When they realize they are pregnant, many teenagers will hide the pregnancy from friends and family.  Even if a teenager is not hiding the pregnancy and getting prenatal care, there is a big chance that baby will be born with health problems, from the March of Dimes:

A baby born to a teenage mother is at higher risk than a baby born to an older mother for premature birth, low birthweight, other serious health problems and death. (emphasis mine)

Babies of teenage mothers are more likely to die in the first year of life than babies of women in their twenties and thirties. The risk is highest for babies of mothers under age 15. In 2005, 16.4 out of every 1,000 babies of women under age 15 died, compared to 6.8 per 1,000 for babies of women of all ages (9).

Teenage mothers are more likely to have a low-birthweight baby. Most low-birthweight babies are born prematurely. The earlier a baby is born, the less she is likely to weigh. In 2006, 10 percent of mothers ages 15 to 19 had a low-birthweight baby, compared to 8.3 percent for mothers of all ages (2). The risk is higher for younger mothers:

11.7 percent of 15-year-old mothers had a low-birthweight baby in 2006; 18,403 babies were born to girls this age, with 2,153 of low birthweight (2).
9.5 percent of 19-year-old mothers had a low-birthweight baby in 2006; 172,999 babies were born to these women, with 16,362 of low birthweight (2).

Babies who are premature and low birthweight may have organs that are not fully developed. This can lead to breathing problems, such as respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, vision loss and serious intestinal problems.

Very low-birthweight babies (less than 3 1/3 pounds) are more than 100 times as likely to die, and moderately low-birthweight babies (between 3 1/3 and 5½ pounds) are more than 5 times as likely to die, in their first year of life than normal-weight babies (2).

The age of consent in most states is between 14 and 16 years where the age of the partner is within 2-5 years, here is a table illustrating the age of consent by state if you are curious.

It is really hard to find good data on the ages of the fathers.  Most of the data is incomplete and the authors of the papers I could find would extrapolate the data out to be consistent with the reported ages of the fathers.  This paper (from the references sited by the Wikipedia page about Teen Pregnancy) makes the amazing statement that 2/3 of the pregnancies involving teenage girl’s are fathered by men over 20.   In other words, many of the teenage pregnancies are the result of rape even though popular wisdom would suggest teen pregnancy is the result of two teenagers “getting carried away”.  The Education Training Resource Associates map out the ages of both partners that show how many of the pregnancies involve men much older than the girls.  See this table illustrating the ages of both partners where the mother is a teenager.  There is also a contrasting illustration at the bottom of the same paper showing the boys who become fathers as teenagers with women who are over 20.

Why would Obama and Kathleen Sebelius deny girls the ability to prevent pregnancy using Plan B when so many of the girls are being raped through violence or coercion?

The Super Committee Failure -or- Why Can’t Americans learn to Love Austerity?

Since “increasing” taxes is off the table and so is letting tax cuts expire, we will be asked to believe token cuts of sacred military programs are part of a larger national “coming together”.  Nice how they were totally on board with dropping the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, in effect increasing taxes for the lowest paid in the economy during the last round of budget negotiations.

Here are my old posts from January outlining the playbook for this shell game that is all about how to make the lower and middle class LOVE austerity or at least believe corporations shouldn’t pay tax at all because they are “job creators” – in India & China.

Here’s how Military spending will offered up for cuts to give us a “sense” of “shared sacrifice”. My posts are from January, but I can see this playing out now since these things operate at the speed of government:

Occupy whatever the hell you want!

All my favorite blogs are dominated by posts for or against OWS (occupy wall street) and I’ve been missing newsy liberal posts  in the posts for/against the whole OWS thing.  For the record, I’d love (LOVE) to see some bankers in orange or at least charged/tried for the fraud that led to the meltdown in the economy.  I’d settle for breaking up the large, un-auditable banks into smaller, more oversight friendly banks and financial institutions.  I’d love to see OWS improve the focus on the part of our elected officials to help people find jobs and afford healthcare.

But, to be honest, I’m not feeling it.

It seems like everyone has a different idea about OWS is based on what they need.  While I can appreciate those positions, there doesn’t seem to be enough criticism of our government from OWS.  The government has allowed the needs of the banks needs to trump the needs of everyone else  and they have actually contributed to making banks even bigger when they were too big to fail to start with.   The government has also given only lip service (at best) to the unemployed and underemployed while mandating a health insurance bailout and austerity for individuals.  All the while our courts have been giving corporations a voice commiserate to the money they can spend in political speech and life.

I would be more on board with OWS if they were actually trying to change the legislation that allows the corruption or chooses not to prosecute it.

I Just Brokeup with the DSCC

I should have done it a long time ago. I surely get enough spam for girls in Russia wanting to be my pal, on-line viagra sales and of course – the DSCC. Well now my spam is reduced by email from the DSCC.

It wasn’t easy, they have a labyrinth style dialog where they want to be super sure you meant to unsubscribe.  I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to be solicited for money every day by the DSCC or various politicians? 

After I made it through, gosh, I don’t know how many pages of:  “Are you sure?”, “Really, really sure?” I arrived at a small dialog box asking me to explain the breakup in 250 words or less.  Actually, it didn’t say 250 words… I might be exaggerating a little.

Here is what I wrote in the little text box:

Count all the votes, stand up for democratic principles, don’t compromise on the rights of women, minorities or the poor.  You can look for my support when you DO what you were elected to do – not just talk about it.

I’m pretty sure this will land in a bit bucket somewhere, but it did feel pretty good to just say it.

This is pretty funny!

Imagine if the US Government went into the annuity business as suggested by Henry T. C. Hu and Terrance Odean in the NY Times,  Paying for Old Age

Just think about it, Americans could pay a monthly amount and invest in, say treasuries.  Then when it is time to retire, Amercians can collect money from this annuity each month.  It could be indexed to inflation, no less, AND backed by T-bills!  The Government would get to use the “invested” money to run things until we retire and then they can start paying out from the fully funded annuity.  What a deal!

It just sounds kind of familiar… Imagine, we pay our government a little in every month and when we retire we get some money every month for the rest of our lives. 

It sounds like a brand new, shiny Social Security program!  

Just in case nobody noticed, in a couple years Social Security will have to pay some of the monthly expenses from the trust fund that is currently invested in treasuries.  Turns out, now that the trust fund money is going to be needed to do the very thing it was designed to do, pay for the baby boom retirement, the government doesn’t want to pay it out.

Why on earth would anyone give the government more money than we already do for Social Security and depend on that money for retirement income?  Wouldn’t an annuity be just another entitlement that would involve annual hand-ringing and reviews by future catfood commissions to reduce benefits or change the way the inflation index is applied? 

The sad thing about it… I think these guys were serious when they submitted this op-ed.

American Schools Have ALWAYS Scored Lower on Math Internationally!

Did you know that? I sure didn’t! 

Myth of Declining Schools

“…in the latest report by the wonderfully contrarian Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, that the notion of America on the downward track is a myth. The data show that we have been mediocre all along, as far back as 1964. If anything, we have lately been showing some signs of improvement.” (emphasis mine)

Wow!  Who knew?  All this time we’ve been told crap like this from CNN Money on-line: Hey, Americans: you suck at math, so we are moving the call center to India!

“If you want to get a sense of what’s in store for the American workforce, just take a look at how our students match up against the rest of the world in math and science.”

The thing I find most disingenuous about this debate (besides the fact that the US has actually improved at math) is that many of the top performing countries only educate and test the richest kids.  That is WAY different from our concept in the US where ALL children are required to attend school until they are sixteen.  Our tests include pretty much all public school students with only the most disabled students being excluded.  I did find some data that shows kids who attend private schools do better on these standardized tests, but consider who these kids are: they come from families who can afford to pay private school tuition and many private schools are very selective in the first place.  To me, the comparisons with other countries aren’t equal to begin with, when the countries performing at the top only include the rich and highest performing students.

The “myth” of losing ground leads to corporate CEO’s complaining about the state of American education and using lower math scores to explain moving a factory to China. It also leads to the US Department of Education funding fact-finding commissions (because, you know those CEO’s can’t be blowing smoke!) where they identify the “source” of poor quality of math instruction.

Guess what the source is?

I’ll give you a minute…

Of course! Teachers!! 

Admittedly, I am not big on the “blame teachers game”. I have certainly had my share of run-ins with teachers over the usual collection of goofy things, but that doesn’t mean that teachers aren’t doing their best to educate all American kids.

The US has always been mediocre at math. That means my generation wasn’t any better at math than our kids. My parent’s generation wasn’t better either. This means support at home for math will not be super. I can’t even tell you how many parents I know who complain that they can’t help elementary students with math homework. I will admit that part of this is because kids argue that their teacher “told them to do it THIS way” and of course, that would be the ONLY way.  But part of it is that the parents, themselves, have a hard time seeing the pattern being taught because it looks different from the “drill and kill” method we grew up with.  

Next, consider teaching is largely a female profession, particularly in the lower grades where the foundation for future math competence is built.  I am female, and honestly, I had NO IDEA that I was good at math until I was an adult and in college.  Girls of my generation were routinely pushed away from math and science through unsupportive messaging and more direct “you don’t really need all that math!”, even in today’s world, the message that girls are terrible at math is loud and clear – just ask Larry Summers. I don’t buy that theory, but many of today’s teachers were hearing the same messages when they were students and being steered away from higher math classes, just like me.

So now Americans fund studies to “examine” the so-called decline in mathematics that demonstrate how our teachers don’t do a good job teaching math and the usual prescriptive “what can we do?”.

Seems like the first thing would be to admit that we were always barely OK at math when compared internationally and the next thing would be to set our improvement bar to increase our scores incrementally. Mostly, Americans need to admit that the comparison of ALL American kid’s average scores to the average of the rich and privileged of the Asian countries is a bad comparison to start with.

Hey, Wisconsin Public Employees –

Roland Martin thinks the public employee unions in Wisconsin should take one for the team.  (Hat Tip – Ralphb)

Walker wants public employees in Wisconsin to pay more for health care benefits and to contribute to their pension plans. Frankly, those are reasonable requests. Where he has largely run into trouble is the effort to end the collective bargaining rights of the various public employees.

Oh, is that all Walker wants?  Walker only “ran into trouble” because he tried to end collective bargaining rights.  I see.  This doesn’t have anything to do with Walker taking it to the Legislators rather than the union.  Good to know. 

First, the need to pay more for health care and pensions. An increasingly number of Americans who work in the private sector are paying 50 percent or more of their health care costs. Yet when you look at government employees, many local and state governments are paying upwards of 80 percent to 90 percent of health care costs. I just do not think that unions will be able to win over the public when elected officials ask them to pay for an additional 5 percent to 10 percent of their health care costs.

Why would Roland Martin think changing the public employees benefit package to look like the private sector would be a good idea?  Maybe because advocating something like this will NEVER impact him.  Roland is a author and TV “journalist”, he doesn’t live like us in the un-washed masses. 

Giving up benefits now to “do our share” means they are never coming back.  Period.  It is easy to rally the “have-nots” against the “haves” at a time like this, but the only guarantee in that scenario is that everyone will become “have-nevers”

The public employees in Wisconsin and the people of the state would ultimately be better off if the public employees were laid off to the level the state can afford.  (In Washington State the state employees have had days where they are laid-off.  While it does reduce our cost in the state and reduce their pay, it doesn’t change thier benefits as much or reduce their hourly rate.)   That would mean EVERYBODY suffers from the reduced government services but can feel really good about the cost savings.  The people who want lower cost *SHOULD* get lower services.  We aren’t helping ourselves AT ALL if we advocate pitting one group of middle class workers against another.  

Here are some ideas to reduce the financial obligations in the state:  Reduce the number of days government offices are open, increase class sizes, make parents purchase the construction paper and pencils.  Have the kids and government workers wear sweaters everyday and lower the temperature in the buildings.  Reduce the number of social workers and civil engineers.  These options mean that all the people participate in helping to save money in the state with the added benefit that when money is better, they will be sure that the service levels are increased by increasing employees. 

Don’t reduce the pay per person.  That will hurt all of us when employment comes back (slowly) then all of those screaming for lower salaries and benefit packages for the public servants will end up being worse off than they were before.  We will all get what they got, only it will be worse because public servants have always received lower pay in exchange for stable work and better benefits.  Does anyone really think shifting more of the cost to the public servant will make their package look more like the rest of us in the private sector?  I think it will just set the “high bar” for great benefits a little lower. 

Reductions in the value of labor through benefit and pay cuts will NEVER come back.  People forget that they lose the compounding of raises on their base amount and the compounding effect of reserving for retirement and interest.  The cost is way more than the percentage of the initial reduction.  Also remember that increasing the employee share of premiums, co-pays and deductibles reduces realized take home pay even further, with the most difficutly going to the sickest workers or people with kids.  

The government should be the “premier” employer in a time like this because it will set that “high bar” for the salary and benefit packages of the jobs that get added back in when the economy improves. 

Roland Martin is a privileged and coddled journalist with poor analytical skills.  We’ve known that for years, this isn’t a good time to forget.

Sneering at Unions

When I was a teenager, Ronald Reagan was president.  I can remember that complaining that the union members were getting “more than their fair share” was popular at that time.  What I can’t say for sure is whether that was happening before I was a teenager.  I pretty much became aware of the greater world in high school.   

Today, the anti-union sentiment is still going strong.  It must have been some advertizing campaign!  If there is any news story on the local newspaper or TV website having to do with unions, the comments are widely anti-union and cheering any move by corporate interests to “bust” unions.  When a Boeing announced they were building a production facility in South Carolina a couple of years ago, the machinist union was widely blamed.  Last year, there was a dispute between a waste management company and garbage collectors and then, right before Thanksgiving, there was talk that the grocery workers might strike.  In each case, where the local news reports that unions might strike, the sentiment in the comments is largely negative and largely anti-union.

The anti-union sentiment has helped business leaders loot the public with “our” blessing, God forbid we get anything we don’t deserve!

Which brings me to an interesting opinion piece by Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post.  Meyerson argues that the e-book, “The Great Stagnation” by economist Tyler Cowen is not a complete picture and doesn’t fully explain the growing wage disparity between the rich and everyone else.  I have not read the e-book myself, but according to Meyerson, Cowen promotes the hypothesis that stagnating incomes in America are caused by declining innovation with world-changing force as the automobile or electricity brought.  Meyerson also points out some of the government policies that contribute to the growing wage disparity:

Lagging innovation may explain many things, but it doesn’t explain the rise of the rich over everybody else. For that, we need to look at changing power relationships, something that most mainstream economists resolutely ignore. Surely, the shrinking of unions – from 35 percent of the private-sector workforce in the 1950s to less than 7 percent today – has decreased American workers’ ability to win good wages. Surely, the offshoring of manufacturing has diminished both the number of good jobs and our ability to exploit our innovations productively. Surely, the deregulation of finance has diverted more and more resources to a relatively small circle of bankers and speculators. And that tiny cadre has chiefly enriched itself at the expense of the rest of the nation. (emphasis mine)

You can read his entire opinion piece here: What’s holding back the U.S. economy?

Wow, the President sends me (me!!) email…

Dear jjmtacoma,

In this new Congress, it is not enough to talk about common ground. We must — together — seek it.

… snip!  Cheerleading deleted to save space.

Please contribute $5 or more to help the DSCC meet its goal.

…snip!  Laundry list of “big ideas” from SOTU deleted to save headaches (like re-tooling our education system to prepare salmon for green jobs while reducing the number of government agencies responsible for salmon) 

To lay the groundwork for that kind of progress, the DSCC must raise $50,000 before January 31. Chip in $5 or more to help them meet their goal.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Whoever wrote could have tried this shorter message:

Dear jjmtacoma,

Send us your money so we can elect more Senators willing to commit your future tax dollars to our new BFFs!

Thx!  Da Prez