Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Serious Tabs

Who am I kidding... they're almost always serious tabs.

At What Moment Do Poor Kids Become Deserving of Poverty? by my recent crush Matt Bruenig. Also from Bruenig: Arguments for Flat Taxes Are Universally Bad.

And one more thing from Matt Bruenig. I've ruminated a few times on disability payments, and wondered about the trajectory of coverage numbers. Bruenig recently charted it:

The upshot: By the expected retirement age of 65 to 70, about 25 percent of people are disabled; at 80, about 50 percent are.

The War on Drugs: How President Nixon Tied Addiction to Crime by Emily Dufton, writing for The Atlantic. By shifting public perception, and making us believe that drug users were dangerous and a threat to America, Nixon justified his actions. We've been paying for it every since.

Raising the Dead: New Species of Life Resurrected from Ancient Andean Tomb, from Scientific American. Including the startling finding that yeast from Taiwan is present in first-millennium pottery dug up in Quito, Equador.

From Ezra Klein, a graph of wages as a percent of GDP, 1950 to present:

Note that the graph does that bad thing where it doesn't end at 0 and so exaggerates the decline. But still, it's bad enough.

Medicine is just for those who can afford it by Manica Balasegaram from Doctors Without Borders. Why don't pharmaceutical companies develop drugs for the poor?

As taxpayers, we are in essence paying for drugs twice. First, a lot of the R&D behind successful new drugs is heavily subsidised by the tax payer: Globally, at least 40 percent of all R&D is paid for from the public purse and by philanthropic organisations; for some diseases, such as tuberculosis, it's over 80 percent. Then we have to pay again the high prices for the patented medicines when they are produced. The only people satisfied by this current system are the shareholders of pharmaceutical companies.

It is critical that innovation is rewarded. But there are alternative models than high drug prices and long monopolies for supporting useful medical R&D. What we should have at the end of the R&D process is medicine which is effective, safe and - most critically - affordable for everyone who needs it. The current system not only fails patients in India, it fails the uninsured and underinsured worldwide.
Ready for a surprise? Money DOES equal access in Washington. Researchers piggybacked on a real citizen lobbying campaign. Meetings were requested with congress members or their staff members, with the citizens identified in the request as either past donors or as just regular constituents.
The results: Only 2.4 percent of the offices made the member of Congress or chief of staff available when they believed those attending were just constituents, but 12.5 percent did when they were told the attendees were political donors.

Also, nearly one in five of the donor groups got access to a senior staffer, while just 5.5 percent of the constituent groups did. That means the donors had more than three times the access to top staffers than the constituents.
Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill. Einstein, Saul Alinsky, Tom Paine, Malcolm X... what would their diagnoses have been if they were young today?
In an earlier dark age, authoritarian monarchies partnered with authoritarian religious institutions. When the world exited from this dark age and entered the Enlightenment, there was a burst of energy. Much of this revitalization had to do with risking skepticism about authoritarian and corrupt institutions and regaining confidence in one’s own mind. We are now in another dark age, only the institutions have changed. Americans desperately need anti-authoritarians to question, challenge, and resist new illegitimate authorities and regain confidence in their own common sense.

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