Libby Anne: “On Chivalry, Opening Doors, and Basic Humanity”
Today I hold the door for people all the time. If I’m there, and it’s not going out of my way, why in the world wouldn’t I? I hold the door for women, and I hold the door for men — honestly, gender doesn’t even cross my mind when I do it. I’m just trying to be nice. And if I see someone coming with a box, or a stroller, or what have you, I hold the door even if it means going out of my way. The thing that I don’t do is determine whether I hold a door for someone by that person’s gender. Why in the world would I? It’s simply about treating others as you would have them treat you.
Sorabji Swaraj: “Confessions of an ‘Undocumented Immigrant'”
Recently, I came across a video in which pastors from influential churches read the passage Matthew 25:31-46. They were part of an initiative called the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge. I’ve got to say that evangelicals were the last people I thought would fight for undocumented immigrants like me.
The Evangelicals I knew were über conservative, legalistic and strongly believed that all “illegals” were parasitic rats who needed to deport themselves at their earliest convenience. With the urging of population control groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA, evangelicals were instrumental in stopping the DREAM Act and President George W. Bush’s reform plan in their tracks. As I watched the video, I was overwhelmed with joy because my Christian brothers and sisters were finally doing what Jesus would do. They were fighting for the least of these; they were fighting for undocumented immigrants.
Dean Baker: “Fix the Economy, Not the Deficit”
The reason that the deficit suddenly exploded in 2008 and 2009 was that the economy collapsed. This led to a plunge in tax revenue and an increase in payments for programs like unemployment insurance. We deliberately added more to the deficit with the stimulus. This was done in a context where demand in the private sector was not sufficient to support the economy.
Rather than being a bad thing, the deficit is providing a needed boost to the economy. There is no plausible story whereby private-sector demand will fill the gap created by a smaller deficit. Whether they know it or not, those pushing for smaller deficits are promoting less growth and more unemployment.
Matt Yglesias: “Steven Brill’s Opus on Health Care”
I can see two reasonable policy conclusions to draw from this, neither of which Brill embraces. One is that Medicare should cover everyone, just as Canadian Medicare does. Taxes would be higher, but overall health care spending would be much lower since universal Medicare could push the unit cost of services way down. The other would be to adopt all-payer rate setting rules — aka price controls — keeping the insurance market largely private, but simply pushing the prices down. Most European countries aren’t single-payer, but do use price controls. Even Singapore, which is often touted by U.S. conservatives as a market-oriented forced-savings alternative to a universal health insurance system, relies heavily on price controls to keep costs down.
What’s noteworthy about the decision in this case is not the outcome, but the detailed and well-reasoned dissent crafted by Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner. In examining the question of what it means for the Grotes to run a for-profit business to run according to the precepts of their faith, Rovner first points out that the business itself has “stated no religious goals as part of its mission, it does not elect its employees, vendors, or customers on the basis of their religious beliefs, and it does not require its employees to conform their behavior to any particular religious precepts.” Because, Circuit Judge Rovner reasons, there is simply nothing from the perspective of the company that demonstrates any religious beliefs, let alone sincerely-held ones that belong to the company, it is impossible to imagine the company, as distinct from its owners the Grotes, has any religious interests or rights to assert at all.
Breaking down the distinction between the owners and the company even more, Circuit Judge Rovner states what should be obvious: the owners do not provide the contraception coverage, the company does. Even in self-funded health plans like the ones offered by Grote Industries, those premium payments come out of the company’s bank account and not the owners. The Grotes are simply not at liberty to “treat the company’s bank accounts as their own” unless they are also comfortable waiving the personal liability protections afforded to them under corporate law as well. The Grotes, Circuit Judge Rovner points out, are not in any way personally compelled to engage in any activity they disapprove of, they do not have to approve or endorse contraceptive use, and can even actively discourage the use of contraception by others.