October 24, 2013
No, Marty Golden, Obamacare will not ‘implode’ because of Medicaid.

Under the typically breathless headline "ObamaCare puts more NYers into Medicaid," the New York Post reports that of the 37,000 New Yorkers who have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, about two-thirds of those newly-insured people enrolled in Medicaid, not through the insurance exchanges.

The paper quotes Brooklyn State Sen. Marty Golden, one of only two Republican state senators in the city, who said “the early signs are not good” for Obamacare. The healthy people who are supposed to be signing up for the exchanges, bringing the cost of insurance down, haven’t yet, and Medicaid is a 100 percent taxpayer-funded program.

"It’s the taxpayers picking up the tab for Medicaid,” Golden told the paper. “If more young people don’t enroll in the program, ObamaCare is going to implode,” 

Too expensive! Moochers!

Golden (perhaps best known as the pol who offered to teach “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence” to women who didn’t know how to “walk like a model”) is a member of the state Senate Health Committee, which is a shame, because he doesn’t seem to understand how the Affordable Care Act is supposed to work.

The ACA is about providing insurance and better coverage to those currently without. And in order to provide that coverage, there had to be some way to address families who made too much money for Medicaid, but had no way of paying for insurance on their own.

To do that, we had to raise the Medicaid threshold. And while the Post says that means a new group of people have “hit the jackpot,” what we actually did was raise the Medicaid threshold from $18,330 for a family of four (below the poverty line) to $23,550 (the actual poverty line.)

Treating poor people like poor people. Jackpot!

This is a feature of the ACA. People living in poverty who just weren’t living-in-poverty enough will now be insured. And since this is the demographic most in need, it makes sense that this demographic would also sign up for insurance first.

And this is all fully-funded by the federal government for three years, and will phase down to a measly 90 percent by 2020.

As the Post notes, in Washington and Minnesota, 90 percent of enrollees signed up for Medicaid (instead of what the paper calls “regular insurance.”)

Young, healthy people, meanwhile, will likely sign up more gradually, or opt out and choose to pay a fine, which, if it goes unpaid, comes out of your tax return (if you have one; there’s not really any other enforcement mechanism.)

It might sound like a scary headline, but a government program doing exactly what it’s supposed to do isn’t as scary as Golden makes it seem.

October 24, 2013
Start Today: Questioning a progressive de Blasio, some pre-k reality and documents for the uncdocumented.

They longed for the fadeaway.

July 26, 2012
Larry Seabrook

We hardly knew ye.

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Filed under: Larry Seabrook 
July 10, 2012
Terrible ideas afoot! (Housing edition.)

OK, here’s a silly thought experiment.

Let’s say we put a rule in place that says the United States is only allowed to use X amount of cows to make milk. A farmer can milk his cows as much as he wants, but if a cow dies, we can not replace it with another cow. We are forever limited to that amount of cows.

Now, milk is a desirable thing. Not Rolex or flat-screen TV desirable, but a lot of people buy milk. So now there’s a limited milk supply that isn’t meeting a high milk demand. As a result, maybe the prices of milk go up.

So we have to find ways to meet that demand. Maybe we start cutting the milk with water, maybe we add something else. And for a time that works. People are still buying their milk, even though the quality has gone down a little.

But how long does that last? Well, until the cows all die, which could be a long time from now, or could be next year. But the point is there is a system in place that limits the amount of milk we are able to process, which is making it harder for us to provide quality, affordable milk to people. The answer is to get rid of an arbitrary rule.

Does that make sense? OK.

Here is something that is happening in New York. No, the Mayor is not saying we’re only allowed to buy certain amounts of milk. But what is happening is that the Mayor and the city planning commissioner are toying with the idea of making smaller apartments for a new lifestyle of New Yorker. What that means is that there are more and more single young professionals moving to the city who don’t need a ton of space to live. They can live comfortably in a small studio space.

And this is true: more and more, New York, while I’d argue still a place for families to settle, has become a less-desirable place for families. And so it makes sense to build places that accomodate them.

But here’s where my little analogy comes into play: we’re still using a limited number of cows. We can make the apartments smaller and smaller — cut it with as much water as we’d like — but the reality is we have a limited housing stock, and a limited area to build more housing.

And there are rules in place that make this so, as Matt Yglesias points out in his excellent ebook, The Rent is Too Damn High:

A quick visual guide of the impact can be seen in any picture of the New York skyline. There’s a cluster of skyscrapers in Midtown, and another cluster in the Financial District, and then a broad valley of shorter buildings in between. What explains this valley? The phenomenon is so noticeable that an urban legend has grown up that holds it’s caused by the varying quality of Manhattan’s bedrock. The real answer is simpler—the buildings are tall where you’re allowed to build tall buildings and they’re shorter in places where you’re not.

The reality is we are causing a shortage of housing by enforcing overly-restrictive zoning policies that don’t allow us to build ‘up.’

These often-antiquated rules are the real problem with housing in the city, and make everything from the effects of gentrification to real estate prices worse. This is a city of 8.2 million people, and those people all need to live somewhere. We need to increase the amount of housing available to people.

And while land may be sparse, height is not.

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Filed under: housing 
June 18, 2012
Start Today: GOP Senate debate, the broken budget and a silent march..

I spent part of this weekend at my sister’s high school graduation party, which included a bunch of teenagers playing beer pong against my dad and uncles. The oldies had some game, I have to admit.

  • Three GOP Senate-hopefuls faced off last night in a debate moderated by Errol Louis and Liz Benjamin. The Times' Thomas Kaplan has a nice recap here. I didn’t get a chance to watch the debate, but simply from reading Kaplan’s piece it appears that Turner is positioning himself as (relatively) moderate: he didn’t waiver on raising taxes, said he “probably” wouldn’t report an undocumented immigrant working in his home and, while against gay marriage, said “the ship has sailed in New York,” and wouldn’t focus on repealing last year’s legislation. All of these were positions his opponents— well, opposed. 
  • A judges ruling temporarily blocking a plan to issue 2,000 new yellow taxi medallions is putting the city’s budget process in jeopardy, reports the Times' David Chen. July 1 is the start of the next fiscal year. The medallions were supposed to raise $1 billion, and highlight the mayor's hastiness in tying the budget process to a not-at-all-definite revenue stream.
  • Bill de Blasio is planning to sue the city if they go ahead with cutting child care programming for thousands of kids, the Erin Durkin reports. Interestingly, his partner in the cause is none other than Letitia James, who plans to run for the Public Advocate position after de Blasio leaves.
  • Thousands of people marched silently to protest the city’s stop-and-frisk policy this weekend. From the Times: “As many marchers dispersed, police officers at 77th Street and Fifth Avenue began pushing a crowd that defied orders to leave the intersection, shoving some to the ground and forcing the protesters to a sidewalk, where they were corralled behind metal barricades.” How nice.
  • David Storobin, who, after a seemingly decades-long race finally secured a State Senate seat last month, has introduced a bill to repeal same-sex marriage, Capital Tonight reports. The bill has no sponsors or Assembly counterparts.
  • The Post endorsed Adriano Espaillat in his race against Charlie Rangel, then wrote a story in which they allege he’s involved in a “charity caper.” To paraphrase Mario Puzo, it’s nothing personal, Adriano. Just business.
  • The Empire blog has a cool map detailing the shift in demographics in the sixth congressional district

April 24, 2012
Start Today: Chris Quinn, not Chris Quinn and Fresh Direct.

Chris Kreider celebrates after scoring his first NHL goal. The goal would end up being the game winner against the Ottawa Senators, sending the playoff series to Game 7. (Photo Credit: blueshirtsunited.com)

Back to it, then.

Let’s go Rangers!

April 10, 2012
Today in Bloombergian Hypocrisy.

Photo credit: nyc.gov

Mayor Mike, from the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Bloomberg, whose schools policies are grounded in competition, said making teacher rankings public as the city did earlier this year will “provide pressure to constantly upgrade.”

"We should have all of the data available to everyone," Mr. Bloomberg said.

An interesting point, Mr. Mayor! I’m actually not 100 percent sure I agree — we’re not sure how good these rankings really are, and I don’t know that the data will really do any good for the public other than to spark a lot of unnecessary outrage — but in general, more data is a good thing. Right?

And yet:

Bloomberg insisted the analysis of New York’s emergency-response systems would be candid and unvarnished.

But as it turned out, the 216-page report, written by a Washington-area consulting firm, was so damning that it sent fear through the highest echelons at City Hall and the NYPD, which runs the 911 system.

Already a top police official has been reassigned.

“The system is as inefficient and ineffective an operation as you could get,” the source said. “Seconds count in emergencies. People are going to die.”

After learning of the report’s ugly conclusions, City Hall ordered everyone familiar with the document to shut up.

Some people call Bloomberg a technocrat, and it’s true that he’s had a very data-focused tenure as this city’s mayor. Unfortunately, much of the time we’re focusing on the data he’s tucked away.

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Filed under: Bloomberg 
March 28, 2012
Why Mayor Bloomberg’s Equivocations on Civil Liberties No Longer Cut It

Via the New Republic.

March 28, 2012
Will no one step up and protect the white people?

Old news here, but the Daily News reported last week that white people made up 10 percent of people stopped, questioned and/or frisked by the NYPD in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last year. 

I didn’t know exactly what to say about this when it came out. I don’t think the News is using this as an excuse for the NYPD tactic, although there is some bit of ridiculousness in using the quotes “it matters what you wear, just don’t look like a hoodlum” and “maybe if we dress nicer people will leave us alone” by the one black guy in the story. But if you just look at the numbers it paints an interesting picture of where we are as a city/country.

That 10 percent figure is pretty much in line with the rate of the entire city: white people made of nine percent of the stops in New York, although precinct-by-precinct it’s often much lower. Now let’s look at the demographics of that neighborhood: according to the article, 59 percent of the 90th precinct is made up of white people.

An old stereotype we’ve had as a society is that people in the minority, by their very nature, are more prone to crime than white people. If you’re white and have grandparents you’ve probably heard all about it. Even Geraldo Rivera thinks so: he recently told the hosts of Fox and Friends, “when you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street.”

A variation on this has come up in the stop-and-frisk debate. People who are supportive of stop-and-frisk say that we’re just targeting high-crime neighborhoods, point to the results and proclaim its effectiveness. Hey, we’re just going after the criminals, and if they happen to live in black or hispanic neighborhoods, what are you gonna do?

But here is an example of a neighborhood — Williamsburg — where there are tons of white people walking around. And yet 88 percent of those stopped were black or hispanic. Suddenly the compelling argument by Nate Morgan, the mohawked, 20-year-old guitarist in the story, that it’s “not about race,” it’s “about class,” doesn’t really hold up.

Now, I don’t think Morgan was trying to make some broad statement about how racism doesn’t exist. And classism is an issue often confused with racism. But his assertion — “white people get messed with too!” — came to mind when I saw this cartoon:

That was published in the Daily Texan, a publication printed by my girlfriend’s alma mater, the University of Texas in Austin. She was a reporter there, and as she said, the Texan has a long history of fighting the good fight, running articles about integration on the sports teams, in the dorms, school-wide. And now they’re running thoughtless nonsense like this.

Let’s analyze this cartoon. First, the artist (Stephanie Eisner) spells Trayvon Martin’s name incorrectly. And it’s obviously race-baiting: white has arrows pointing at it, stressing the importance. The liberal media, its clear, just can’t help vilifying white people— except that George Zimmerman is not white, and no one in the media reported it that way. Finally, the use of the word colored is a nice touch, and a clear indicator of this artist’s mindset before drawing the cartoon.

But what is the cartoon really trying to say? By putting so much emphasis on white, Eisner is trying to make a very specific point that is central to much of what conservatives have believed over the last 20-30 years: white people are under attack. Is it by affirmative action? Al Sharpton? The Black Panthers? Liberalism? Eisner doesn’t say, but I’d imagine it’s any or all combinations of those things.

This isn’t the only racial controversy to come out of U.T. this year. Last month the Supreme Court agreed to take on a case about affirmative action that started when Abigail Fisher, a white woman, said she was denied admission to the university based on her race.

This, too, is an old refrain: affirmative action allows less-qualified minorities to achieve something that a white person deserves. But this is only actually true if you believe that, overwhelmingly, a white person is more qualified than any other person for literally any job or school. That is the only way you can make work the staggering numbers of white people in these institutions.

And what is U.T.’s admissions policy? Well, to start, if you place in the top 10 percent of your Texas high school class, you’re automatically in. Clearly, Fisher did not qualify. Once those spots are filled, there are a number of other factors that come into play, including academic achievement and, yes, race. But to imagine the University of Texas accepting so many minority students that white people have no shot at getting in? It just doesn’t stand up to even ten seconds of scrutiny.

As late as 2010, there were 25,662 white students at U.T. The next closest demographic was hispanics, who numbered 7,781 (a 4.1 percent increase from the year before and surely a reflection of Texas’ shifting demographics as a whole.) Black students numbered a whopping 2,146.

So what does this mean? Is it in any way possible that Fisher just wasn’t qualified enough to get into the University of Texas, a very good school with high standards? Or how about the possibility that she was borderline qualified, but the school happened to choose an equally or more qualified person based on the desire to make their learning environment more diverse?

No, the answer for Fisher is that she didn’t get in because she’s white. The answer for white conservatives is that affirmative action is unnecessary, and unfair to white people. The answer to conservative pundits and politicians is that mentioning race in any way actually makes you the racist, because, hey, we don’t see race, we think everyone should have a fair shake, ignoring the fact that we see white as the default in any situation.

The answer, to small-minded white people, is that we are the real victims. Will no one protect us?

March 28, 2012
Start Today: The budget, lobbyists and prisons.

Dear hearts, we had a rough start.

  • We got ourselves a budget, folks. The $132.5 billion budget marks two straight years of on-time budgets — a rarity in Albany — and the first time in decades that spending will decrease for two straight years.
  • The lobbying industry is-a-boomin’. And the number one spender is a group that supports the governor’s agenda, according to the Times Union and the Times.
  • The governor’s “close to home” initiative is about to start taking effect, gradually migrating downstate about 400 city youth serving sentences upstate.
  • City Limits magazine (donate!) reports that solitary confinement is on the rise at Rikers Island.
  • The MTA will pay $599 million and receive 300 new cars.

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