moldybluecheesecurds 2

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social Insurance Keeps Millions Out of Poverty

Why would we even think of reducing anti-poverty programs before increasing taxes on the wealthy, say to where they were before George Bush decided that we needed to get rid of Clinton's budget surplus (one of the few things he did well)?:
Public Programs Keep Millions Out of Poverty, CBPP: With anti-poverty programs under serious attack in Washington, here’s something to keep in mind: a major new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finds that public programs keep one in six Americans out of poverty — primarily the elderly, disabled, and working poor — and that the poverty rate would double without these programs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Many Fruits and Vegetables Should I Eat: A Visual Guide


asparagusAsparagus: About 4 spears
black beansBeans, Cooked (black, garbanzo, etc.): 1 cup
red bell pepperBell Pepper: 1 cup chopped or 1 large pepper (about 3 inches in diameter)
broccoliBroccoli: A generous fistful (tennis ball size) of florets or about 16 small florets
carrotsCarrots: 1 cup chopped or 2 medium whole carrots (6 to 7 inches long)
cauliflowerCauliflower: A little less than a 1/4 head of florets
celeryCelery: 1 cup diced or 2 stalks (11 to 12 inches long)
cornCorn: 1 cup of kernels or 1 large ear (8 to 9 inches long)
cucumberCucumber: 1 cup sliced/chopped or about 1/2 of a medium cucumber (8 to 9 inches long)
green beansGreen Beans: 1 cup cooked (we counted: It's about 19 to 20 beans)
spinachGreens, Cooked (kale, chard, etc.): 1 cup
lettuceGreens, Raw (lettuce, spinach, etc.): 2 cups (about two large leaves of chopped romaine)
squashSummer Squash: 1 cup cooked/sliced/diced squash or 1 whole zucchini (7 to 8 inches long) or about 1/2 of a large yellow crookneck
sweet potatoSweet Potato: 1 cup mashed or 1 large baked potato (about 2 1/4 inches in diameter)
appleApple: 1 small apple (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, a little smaller than a baseball)
bananaBanana: 1 large banana (8 to 9 inches long)
cantaloupeCantaloupe: 1 cup diced or about 1/8 of a large melon
dried fruitDried Fruit: 1/2 cup
grapefruitGrapefruit: 1 medium grapefruit (about 4 inches across)
grapesGrapes: About 32 average grapes
orangeOrange: 1 large orange (a little bigger than a baseball)
peachPeach: 1 large peach (about the size of a tennis ball)
pearPear: 1 medium pear
pineapplePineapple: 1 cup chopped (a little less than 1/4 of a pineapple)
plumPlum: 2 large plums
strawberriesStrawberries: 8 large berries
tomatoTomato: 1 cup chopped or 1 large tomato (about 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a baseball)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Best Education Policy Article in a Decade

WASHINGTON—According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the nation's public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate students. 
Sources in the Congressional Budget Office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $80 billion earmarked for national defense was accidentally sent to the Department of Education, furnishing schools with the necessary funds to buy new textbooks, offer more academic resources, hire better teachers, promote student achievement, and foster educational excellence—an oversight that apologetic officials called a "huge mistake." 
"Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible," said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), expressing remorse for the error. "I want to apologize to the American people. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Americans."

Get Your Federal Tax Receipt

Find out exactly how Uncle Sam spends your taxes.

Three federal fiscal lessons

We're not broke:

So who is the we in the “we’re broke” mantra? The recession has certainly been a rough patch of road for many families, but the output produced by corporations in the private sector has already recovered to pre-recession levels, and these firms’ profits were 21.7% higher overall, driven largely by the 60% jump in pre-tax profits enjoyed by firms in the financial sector.
Why we have a deficit (#1 = Bush tax cuts, #2 = wars, #3 = recession):

Simple deficit reduction arithmetic (cutting spending is harder than it looks, which is why raising taxes also makes sense):

Suppose that the country – let’s call it Austerityland – has a GDP of $100/year, and a budget deficit of $10/yr, or 10% of GDP. And suppose that the government decides it wants to get the deficit down to 5% of GDP. How can it get there? ... 
To keep things simple (and to make it particularly relevant to the three examples mentioned above), let’s focus on the strategy of trying to halve the budget deficit primarily through spending cuts. So the government of Austerityland decides to cut spending by $5/yr. What happens? ...
If G is reduced by $5 in Austerityland, the first thing that happens is that GDP falls by $5. But then a bunch of secondary effects kick in ...[list of effects] 
So, what is the budget deficit in Austerityland after a $5 reduction in government spending? If we assume a relatively modest multiplier of 1.5, and a tax rate of 25%, then we get:
ΔG = -$5ΔY = -$7.5ΔT = -$1.875 
And the new deficit is now $6.875, which is 7.4% of the new level of GDP. Wait, I thought we were trying to get the deficit down to 5% of GDP? What happened?  
What happened is that we’ve missed our target, by quite a bit, due to the ... fall in tax revenues that resulted from the shrinking economy. In fact, just a bit of simple algebra allows us to figure out that government spending in Austerityland will have to be cut by about $9 in order to reach a budget deficit target of 5% of GDP. In other words, the government will have to cut spending by almost twice as much as it initially thought it would in order to reach its deficit target.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A spoonful of sugar help the medicine kick ass

Certain strains of bacteria can shut down their metabolic functions when trouble comes. They're called persisters. They are genetically identical to their non-persister brethren, but they're nastier. Although they're produced in low numbers, they're able to hide out for weeks or months in a patient being treated with antibiotics. Once they come 'back to life,' they re-start the infection. Once they're in, only patience, persistence, and luck can eventually eradicate them. Recently their luck took a turn for the worse. Researchers discovered a weakness: persisters have a sweet tooth.
Adding some ordinary sugar to the antibiotic helps it kill off persisters. Bacteria, persister and not, feed on sugars. Persisters survive by shutting down their metabolism when antibiotics strike, but if they're stimulated by sugar, they just keep feeding. This allows the antibiotics to destroy them exactly the way ordinary bacteria are destroyed.
Adding such a simple and widely available compound to existing antibiotics enhances their effectiveness against persisters, and fast. One test showed that a sugared up antibiotic could eliminate 99.9 percent of persisters in two hours, while a regular antibiotic did nothing. [emphasis added]

Journalism FAIL

When a Congressman does a town hall meeting touting a federal budget proposal for its deficit reduction properties, despite the fact that the bill also includes massive tax cuts that completely offset the specified spending cuts, should a news outlet just quote him and ignore the chance to set the record straight?

If your name is Minnpost, yes.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eight facts about social security

For those who like a fact-based conversation:

"Eight Facts about Social Security"Ezra Klein on Social Security:
Among his comments, my preferred solution:
Social Security’s 75-year shortfall is manageable. In fact, it’d be almost completely erased by applying the payroll tax to income over $106,000.Source (PDF).
1) Over the next 75 years, Social Security’s shortfall is equal to about 0.7 percent of GDP. Source (PDF).
2) For the average 65-year-old retiring in 2010, Social Security replaced about 40 percent of working-age earnings. That “replacement rate” is scheduled to fall to 31 percent in the coming decades. Source.
3) Social Security’s replacement rate puts it 26th among 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations for workers with average earnings. Source.
4) Without Social Security, 45 percent of seniors would be under the poverty line. With Social Security, 10 percent of seniors are under the poverty line. Source.
5) People can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62. But the longer they wait, up until age 70, the larger their checks. Waiting to 66 means checks that are 33 percent larger. Waiting to 70 means checks that are 76 percent larger. But most people start claiming benefits at 62, and 95 percent start by 66. Source.
6) Raising the retirement age by one year amounts to roughly a 6.66 percent cut in benefits. Source.
7) In 1935, a white male at age 60 could expect to live to 75. Today, a white male at age 60 can expect to live to 80. Source.
8) In 1972, a 60-year-old male worker in the bottom half of the income distribution had a life expectancy of 78 years. Today, it’s around 80 years. Male workers in the top half of the income distribution, by contrast, have gone from 79 years to 85 years. Source.

Brilliant politics

Faced with Republican legislators wanting to put poor Minnesotans on insufficient vouchers for health care, Sen. Goodwin offers an amendment to have legislators pilot the voucher program first.

If it's so great, why don't we try it?


Sunday, May 01, 2011

When the poor cheat, they get caught. We let the wealthy off easy.

And it speaks poorly of America.

Bring your judge a cookie

Because it unfortunately looks like hunger influences their decisions.

Eliminate the bell curve in math?

A teaching strategy known as Jump confronts the "myth of ability," and has nearly eliminated achievement diferences in math students where it has been used.  Amazing.  And as a math major and Upward Bound teacher, I totally believe it.

From the article:

What if Americans got to pick where their taxes went?

A fascinating thought exercise.  What if Americans could dedicate 1 percent of their taxes to any part of the federal budget?

But what interested me even more is finding out what people would spend on if allowed to choose. You think it's foreign wars and fossil-fuel subsidies? No. Lamberton sums it up as "more butter, fewer guns." Specifically:

Tough tax day for the richest

we know that in 2007, the fortunate 400 paid an effective tax rate of just 16.6 percent

The average American paid 22.5 percent.