Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Cruising the Web

A teacher at Success Academy in Harlem reports a question that tugs at the heartstrings from one of his students.
One seventh grader asked me, 'Why are so many people mad at us if we are doing so well?'
These children work incredibly hard, and they're proud of their success. No one, especially without knowledge of their situation or home life or personal effort, has the right to undermine their remarkable achievements.

There's an excellent reason why Success Academy scholars do extraordinarily well on the state exams: We believe they can. We believe all children can succeed, no matter their socioeconomic circumstances.

Our critics do not share that belief. To them, the achievement gap—with only 11% of African-American children and 12% of Latino students prepared for college—is a given, an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact of New York City's public schools.

Our students have flipped that "fact" on its head. Now it's time for educators to start believing that with the right changes, we can achieve these results for all New York City students.
Well, I doubt we'll see regular public schools, dominated by teacher unions, do what Success Academy does. Their students
are in school from 8:00 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. If some students do not fully understand a concept that day, they willingly stay for tutoring after school until they master it, sometimes working till 6 or 6:30 p.m.
You think that unionized teachers would stand for that? I doubt it.

I'm on a bulletin board for AP teachers and one teacher was writing about her desire to offer after-school review sessions for the AP exam since her students, like so many on the East Coast, have missed so many days due to weather this year. She wrote that the union at her school has been telling teachers that they should not offer any extra tutoring for students. She's afraid of being hassled by her fellow teachers if she offers AP prep sessions so she's soliciting ideas from the bulletin board of places where she could meet her students outside of the school where she could work with her students and escape the jealous eyes of her co-workers. With an attitude like that, do you think such a union would ever allow the extra hours that those dedicated teachers at Success Academy put in?

I'm so happy that I teach at a charter school where I won't get criticized for the 12 hours of prep sessions I just planned out yesterday to help our U.S. history students prepare for the AP exam.

Byron York looks at an LA Times analysis that claims that at least 9.5 million more uninsured people now have health insurance due to Obamacare. According to the data, most of the growth has come from expanding Medicaid and allowing young people to stay on their parents' policies until they are 26 years old. Only 2 million of that number come from people signing up on the exchanges.
The part where Democrats essentially blew up the health care markets, imposed the individual mandate, and caused premiums to rise and deductibles to skyrocket? That hasn't been such a success. If the Times number are correct, all of that -- placing new burdens of higher costs and narrower choices on millions of Americans, in addition to setting the stage for coming changes in employer-based coverage -- has resulted in two million of the previously uninsured gaining coverage.

The bottom line is that Democrats could have enacted two relatively small changes (small relative to the entirety of Obamacare, that is) in the health care system and achieved most of what Obamacare has achieved so far. Would Republicans have supported such changes back in 2009 and 2010? Who knows? Maybe a few would have -- certainly the until-26 change -- but the point is in the brief period when Obamacare was enacted, Democrats had about 255 votes in the House and 60 in the Senate. They could do what they wanted, which included pursuing more modest reforms that would have helped millions. Or they could blow things up and impose burdens on millions even as they helped others. Acting on decades of pent-up demand to take control of the health care system, they chose to blow things up. And that is the context for today's new numbers.

Al Hunt contemplates ways that a Republican Senate could enact policy changes by using the budget reconciliation process which isn't subject to a presidential veto. Of course, Hunt is horrified by this prospect. It would truly be poetic justice if this were to happen given how Obamacare was passed through reconciliation so that the Democrats could pass it through a Senate in which they'd lost the 60th vote after Scott Brown's election.

Learn about the political operative who is trying to bridge the Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell wings of the party.

Ross Douthat tries to analyze why President Obama's foreign policy approval numbers are low even though he's basically doing what people want.
And from the vantage point of the typical voter, it’s the outcomes, not the strategy, that define the major difference between Obama’s first and second terms: The first seemed to produce decent results (Bin Laden killed, Al Qaeda harried, Qaddafi toppled, the Arab Spring in its “people power” phase, the unpopular occupation of Iraq wound down without an immediate disaster for the U.S.), while the second has featured more obvious fumbles by the administration and more crises (Syria, Ukraine, the bloody aftermath in Libya, the post-revolutionary crackdowns in Egypt) where its approach has not reaped ideal results.

It’s for pundits and analysts to debate the underlying strategic issues here — the extent to which (as his supporters would argue) Obama is playing a difficult hand better than he’s given credit for, the extent to which (as Kagan would contend) his “leading from behind” first-term decisions actually sowed the seeds of current difficulty, the extent to which (as Larison would argue) U.S. presidents get too much blame and too much credit for hard-to-master world events, etc. But invoking public opinion to prove that his policy has erred in one direction or another seems like (mostly) a mistake: Those numbers reflect casual judgments on outcomes, not informed judgments on strategy, and should be treated mostly just as examples of the near-inevitable orphaning of difficulty, setback and defeat.
I tend to agree that those low numbers don't reflect some ideological slant of voters wanting the administration to take different positions; they just want to feel that our foreign policy is being competently run. And they haven't gotten that feeling in recent years. This is what damaged President Bush's approval ratings and is now coming to bear on President Obama's.

Guess which party represents the richest House districts.
in Congress, the wealthiest among us are more likely to be represented by a Democrat than a Republican. Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six, sprinkled along the East and West coasts. Most are in overwhelmingly Democratic states like New York and California.

The richest: New York's 12th Congressional District, which includes Manhattan's Upper East Side, as well as parts of Queens and Brooklyn. Democrat Carolyn Maloney is in her 11th term representing the district.

Per capita income in Maloney's district is $75,479. That's more than $75,000 a year for every man, woman and child. The next highest income district, which runs along the southern California coast, comes in at $61,273. Democrat Henry Waxman is in his 20th term representing the Los Angeles-area district.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district comes in at No. 8.
Ruth Marcus rightly castigates Congress for working in a bipartisan basis to kick budgetary problems down the road. The most recent such act was the "doc fix." Instead of actually fixing the problem that Congress itself caused, they keep enacting fake fixes and try to put the issue behind them by pushing it off to future Congresses.
So the responsible approach, instead of applying a 17th Band-Aid to a broken system, would have been to ditch the sustainable growth rate, replace it with something more realistic and pay for the difference with smaller-scale tweaks.

Lawmakers flirted with such a long-term fix but doubled down on irresponsibility. They not only applied a one-year patch, they also used budgetary prestidigitation to make some of the cost disappear by crediting themselves now with savings a decade away. Money saved — in theory — more than 10 years down the road gets used to pay for real costs today. Voila! Problem solved. The House resorted to the no-fingerprints tactic of a voice vote. The Senate is poised to act this week.

Next up, tax extenders, the grab bag of corporate tax breaks too popular to repeal but too costly to build into the permanent cost of the tax code. This is spending by another name, and a lot of it: $47 billion for a one-year extension, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, $693 billion for the entire decade.

Extenders are the perfect obscure corner for bipartisan consensus: so mind-numbing that no regular voter will take notice, so important that legions of lobbyists, and cascades of campaign checks, are deployed on behalf of the various provisions.
Eliana Johnson details the history of how the Kochs and their ideological allies came together in 2009 to create a network to fight Democrats.

Sunday was the 33rd anniversary of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan and Forbes Magazine covers a legacy of that event.
The other difference in the care the president received was much more important—and shocking to O’Leary. In a retrospective review, the Secret Service and GWU officials concluded that there were no missteps at all in the president’s treatment. “That in itself is a miracle, that there were no mistakes,” O’Leary said.

In 1981 nobody was systematically counting the harm and death caused by medical errors, injuries, and infections, but providers like O’Leary knew the problems were rampant. Today we have a somewhat better means of counting. Studies suggest that hundreds of thousands die from errors every year. So the absence of error in the president’s care was indeed remarkable.

Perhaps inspired by the president’s flawless care, O’Leary’s later leadership of the Joint Commission pivoted around preventing errors for all patients. Early in his tenure, around the late 1980s, O’Leary was visited by Harvard’s Dr. Lucian Leape, one of the founding fathers of the patient safety movement. Leape’s writing and research in the 1990s broke open the field of patient safety. With Leape and others, O’Leary was determined to document and address the problem of patient safety, and hold hospitals more accountable.

O’Leary led a re-engineering of the Joint Commission’s quality and safety standards, including for the first time measuring health care quality indices, documenting health care errors and accidents, and providing a means for the reporting of so-called sentinel events (or catastrophic errors) and their causes.
Just what I enjoy - a circular firing squad of Democrats. I'm too used to the Republicans doing that.

The NYT covers how the Democratic coalition is particularly ill-suited for turnout in off-year elections. So look for the Democrats to attempt to distract from economic and health-care issues to the social wedge issues that might drive young people, women, and minorities to the polls.

Don't be fooled by the phony efforts of endangered red-state Democrats to supposedly "fix" Obamacare.

Byron York suggests that the Kochs and their allies make ads with details found just in the New York Times.

James Taranto explains--+ why Obamacare is not an example of laboratories of democracy at work.

Gee, too much of the world seems to be dissing our president.