Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday Newspaper Round-Up

Nicholas Kristof (once again) wrote a good intro to the Occupy movement, including this tip for another great read: "In his important new book, The Darwin Economy, Robert H. Frank of Cornell University cites a study showing that among 65 industrial nations, the more unequal ones experience slower growth on average. Likewise, individual countries grow more rapidly in periods when incomes are more equal, and slow down when incomes are skewed." Income inequality is the enemy of democracy and prosperity, and if we have to occupy parts of every city to point it out, it's worth it. (And check out this semi-rant by a "reformed broker," addressed to his colleagues on Wall Street.)

Today's Pioneer Press informed me that it makes a big difference how you donate clothes and used goods to nonprofits. If you put your stuff out curbside for a pickup service (such as the ones in my area for the Lupus or Epilepsy Foundations), the nonprofit receives only -- get this -- about 4 percent of the value! They're paid by the pound, which for clothing tends to be pennies per item, and then the for-profit pickup service turns around and sells the clothes at prices in the dollars. And if maximizing the value of your donation isn't enough of a motivator, remember this: Your tax deduction is supposed to be based on the fair market value of your stuff, so if the nonprofit only got a per-pound rate for it, that's what you're supposed to deduct as well. (I take my stuff directly to Goodwill, which has the added benefit of doing job training for people who need it.)

A Star Tribune health care op-ed by geriatrician and palliative care specialist Victor Sandler started out slow but built up a list of health facts we all should know:

Few people realize that having health insurance in the United States confers no mortality benefit. People with health insurance do not live any longer than those without health insurance. That is what Dr. Richard Kronick uncovered in his seminal article published in Heath Services Research in 2009.
Sandler continues with facts like this: "patients hospitalized with exacerbations of serious chronic illness (e.g., heart failure, emphysema, cancer) on average live longer if they choose hospice care." And this: "As an added bonus, patients in hospice live better until they die and experience more comfortable deaths. Their surviving family members are healthier. And they cost the health care system a lot less."

The Star Tribune included this Catch-22 story about a metro-area woman whose time in jail is greater because of which county she lives in and the fact that she's a woman. Here's the deal: Dakota County resident Felicia Reinke was sentenced to 27 months with jail time of 12 months. Dakota County doesn't have enough female inmates to house them efficiently, so they contract with Ramsey County. Sounds good so far, but the problem is that Dakota County's jail has an early-release program that would have gotten Reinke out of jail by now. But because she's in a Ramsey County jail, she wasn't eligible for the program. Ramsey County allows its inmates to serve the last 150 days on supervised home monitoring, but Reinke wasn't eligible for that either because they don't want to monitor her since she doesn't live in Ramsey County. Reinke is (appropriately, in my opinion), suing both counties under the 14th Amendment equal protection clause. And that's all outrageous enough, but the thing that spurred me to write about it here, instead of just shaking my head, was this sentence: "But because Dakota is among the counties in the state suffering from low jail populations, Reinke was sent to Ramsey County, where Dakota pays to have its female prisoners kept at a cost of about $500,000." Suffering?!? from low jail populations? I always thought low crime was a good thing, but I guess these day's it's just another problem.


Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Interesting info! Guess I should start taking things to Goodwill rather than putting them out for pickup!

Ms Sparrow said...

I don't get the Pioneer Press so I didn't see that article. I've been putting stuff out for pickup for a while now. I am really upset that the donations are doing so little good for the organizations that they are supposedly benefiting. No more!
I'll be taking them to Goodwill too.