October 17, 2007

NPR et al’s Bull-SCHIP Push Poll (Update: CBS Too)

Filed under: Health Care,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:17 pm

From NPR:

Despite President Bush’s veto two weeks ago, seven in ten Americans still support continuing and expanding SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

That’s according to a new poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Support for reauthorizing and expanding SCHIP didn’t fade much even after people heard the strongest arguments for and against adding 4 million children at a cost of $35 billion. Support for the plan stayed at 65 percent overall.

My response: Bull-SCHIP. This is a push poll hastily conceived in the run-up to the override vote that was intentionally designed to get a desired result.

Even a cursory review of the poll (original PDF version; a less-than-perfect but serviceable HTML conversion will be posted when BizzyBlog’s host finishes some system maintenance) reveals several howlers that would, or should, embarrass a college freshman.

First, 31% had not heard about the SCHIP issue at all, yet they were included in the rest of the poll! This 31% was totally at the mercy of how accurately and completely the questions were worded. You will see that the questions were misleading, to say the least.

Here’s the poll’s core question:

READ TO ALL: The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP (ess-chip), is a program in which the federal government joins with states to fund health insurance for children whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid. Currently, approximately 6 million children get health insurance through this program at a cost to the federal government of $25 billion over 5 years.

Congress is proposing to spend an additional $35 billion over the next 5 years in order to maintain coverage for those already in the program and expand coverage to an additional 3.8 million uninsured children. The expansion would be financed by an increase in cigarette taxes. In general, would you say you support or oppose the increased funding for this program?

(results) 70% Support 26% Oppose 3% Don’t know

Give, me, a, break:

  • There is no mention of the fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of adults are already covered under SCHIP, and that even more adults would be covered under the new bill. In fact, the word “adult” does not appear in the entire survey!
  • The question only focuses on “make too much” (i.e., income) and ignores the issue of whether parents might “have too much” (i.e., assets and net worth). As noted previously, 46 states don’t have asset limitations for SCHIP qualification, something that is disclosed at the web site of one of the poll’s co-sponsors.
  • The funding mechanism claimed is bogus. Heritage has shown that the only way that cigarette taxes can fund SCHIP over its anticipated five-year span is for tens of millions of additional Americans to take up smoking.
  • The inclusion of the words “in general” in the final question above are, in my opinion, designed to disarm the person being interviewed into feeling forced to say they’d support SCHIP, because of course they “generally” support the idea of health insurance for children (who except a meanie wouldn’t?). The problem is that SCHIP isn’t a “general” bill, it’s a very specific bill.

There’s more — lots more:

  • Even in a survey stacked with 31% know-nothings, the respondents, when asked where they would cut off SCHIP eligibility for a family of four, said that families making “about $40,000″ should be eligible (66-29 for) and those making “about $60,000″ should not (65-32 against). Imagine that; $40,000 is roughly double the 2006 poverty line, the threshold under current law. In effect, the respondents are saying that the current law is OK as it is!
  • Ah, but just in case respondents gave the “wrong” answer to the previous question, Kaiser et al had a backup plan: Ask only half of the surveyed group the dollar-figure question, and frame the question for the other half in terms of the little-known poverty line (one time, two times, three times, etc.). When they did that, support for the $60,000 question (“three times poverty”) went to 43% from the dollar-figure framed 32%. Of course this works, because most people believe that the poverty line is lower than $20K. NPR even tells SCHIP supporters how to frame the debate along party lines: “….. (this) makes a difference when political leaders are choosing language to frame the debate. Democrats seem to be the group most influenced by using the ‘three times poverty’ description instead of $60,000 per year, according to our poll.” Thanks so much, NPR. Are you angling for extra office space at MoveOn, or what?

Here’s one final poll question result NPR conveniently left out of its report:

If your Member of Congress was OPPOSED to the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, would that make you more likely (to vote FOR them) in the next election, more likely (to vote AGAINST them), or wouldn’t it make much of a difference to your vote? (GET ANSWER THEN ASK: Is that much more likely or somewhat more likely?)

8% – Much more likely to vote for them
6% – Somewhat more likely to vote for them
14% – Somewhat more likely to vote against them
21% – Much more likely to vote against them
46% – Wouldn’t make much difference to your vote
5% – Don’t know
1% – Refused

Earth to wobbly GOPers: The survey, skewed by party as usual, had 34% Dems, 23% GOP, and 43% indies/others. SCHIP or no SCHIP, the 35% “vote againsts” above (21% + 14%) were, and still are, never going to vote for you even if yours is the only name on the ballot. So what?

Don’t be steamrolled by faux “bipartisanship.” Uphold the veto.

Cross-posted at Wide Open.

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UPDATE: More fraudulent polling, this time at CBS (article; current PDF, with at least 60 questions being held for later; HT Brent Baker at NewsBusters). Here’s their core question, after 66 others that appear, based on what CBS reveals, to relate to other areas:

Currently, a government program provides health insurance for some children in low-income families. Would you favor or oppose expanding this program to include some middle-class uninsured children? (81% support, 15% oppose)

That question falsely assumes that no middle-class children are currently covered under existing SCHIP. For example, the current income limit for a family of 4 in California is $4,303 a month. Sorry, CBS, that’s middle-class — not really comfortable middle class, but middle class nonetheless. The CBS question would have been appropriate in 1997 when SCHIP was first conceived. It isn’t even in the same universe with what is being considered now.

And, of course, there are the same problems as with NPR’s poll: no mention of adults covered, no mention of the lack of an asset test, etc., etc. Same old, same old from CBS.

OK, We Can Stop Criticizing George Voinovich Now

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:03 pm

Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion has done the definitive skewer, to which little, if anything, needs to be added.

So until further notice, all references (and I expect, thanks to Matt, that they will be brief) to Ohio’s senior senator here at BizzyBlog, or by me at Wide Open or NewsBusters, will be to “failed Senator George Voinovich,” duly linked to the WMD post Matt just put up. Others who do the same will likely save themselves considerable energy which they can direct towards politicians who are either already agreeable or possibly salvageable.

It probably exists, but I can’t now imagine the series of events that would have to take place for me to change that assessment.

I like this division of labor thing. :–>

Update: Welfare Rolls Still Plunging After All These Years, and Still Underreported

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:29 pm

OVERVIEW: An underappreciated accomplishment of the past six years has been the continued reduction in the number of people on welfare.

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The welfare caseload, after declining dramatically in the first four years after Welfare Reform was enacted, might have been expected to level off, or even rise slightly with overall population growth, after the initial impact of the 1996 law wore off.

After all, the reduction in the number of welfare recipients during the 1990s was stunning. From a peak of over 14 million in 1994, and over 12.5 million at the end of 1996 (over 4.5 million families) when the new took effect, the number of those receiving welfare came tumbling down to about 5.5 million by the end of 2000 — a decline of nearly 2 million per year.

I’m not sure that anyone expected the numbers to steadily fall after the first four years of reform, but that is exactly what has happened. Here are the details for families and recipients on welfare as of the end of each calendar year beginning with the turn of the century (000s omitted):

Dec. 31, 2000: 2,155; 5,527 (from year-end 2001 reports)
Dec. 31, 2001: 2,101; 5,276 (from year-end 2002 reports)
Dec. 31, 2002: 2,045; 5,014 (from year-end 2003 reports)
Dec. 31, 2003: 2,003; 4,844 (from year-end 2004 reports)
Dec. 31, 2004: 1,970; 4,695 (from year-end 2005 reports)
Dec. 31, 2005: 1,863; 4,386 (from year-end 2006 reports)
Mar. 31, 2006: 1,808; 4,223 (from year-end 2006 reports)
Dec. 31, 2006: 1,740; 4,093 (from interim 2007 reports)
Mar. 31, 2007: 1,696; 3,971 (from interim 2007 reports)

The reductions in families and recipients on welfare over the last 6-plus years are over 21% and over 29%, respectively, which the country’s overall population has increased by about 6-7%. The percentage of the population receiving welfare benefits has dropped from 1.95% at the end of 2000 to 1.32% in March 2007 — a per-capita drop of almost one-third.

It’s also worth noting that since reform took effect, the ratio of recipients to families has gone down from 2.56 to 2.34 — perhaps indicating a significant slowdown in the “babies making babies” phenomenon.

It seems to me that The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) deserves kudos, and at least some media attention, for the continued, mostly unknown, and I believe mostly unexpected, progress.

To get the numbers down further and thereby move more individuals and families into the economic mainstream, ACF would do well to focus on two persistent problem spots, both of which have also generally escaped media mention.

First, there’s California — The Golden State apparently abandoned governor Ronald Reagan’s landmark welfare reforms of the 1970s. Paul Weyrich noted in a 2006 Townhall column that “Reagan managed significantly to cut welfare rolls while increasing support for those who really needed help.” But by the time nationwide welfare reform kicked in, a mind-boggling 8% of the state was on the dole — over 2.6 million people. The state’s welfare reform progress has consistently trailed the rest of the country, but the past year has been especially weak.

While almost every other state in the union continued to see welfare rolls decrease, California had 1.16 million people on welfare in March 2007, about 100,000 MORE than in March 2006, primarily because of a 140,000-case spike in October 2006 (if anyone knows what happened to cause this, e-mail me or throw in a comment). California today has just over 12% of the nation’s population, but a ridiculous over-29% share of total welfare recipients — up from about a 25% share a year ago. The state would have at least 700,000 fewer welfare recipients if it reflected the rest of the country, and I can think of no good reason why it shouldn’t.

The state’s outsized welfare problem probably cannot be traced to immigration, as Florida, Arizona, and Texas do not have disproportionately large welfare populations. In fact, the percentages of the nationwide caseload in each of those three states is lower than their percentages of the US population — In the cases of Florida (6% of the population, 1.9% of the caseload) and Texas (7.8% and 3.4%), quite a bit lower.

Then there’s Tennessee — The Volunteer State’s welfare situation, while improved from last year, is still seriously out of whack; it has 2% of the nation’s population but 4% of all welfare recipients. The state’s nearby neighbors do not have anything resembling this severe of an imbalance.

Other candidates for closer scrutiny would include Michigan (3.4% of population, 4.9% of caseload), Indiana (2.1% and 3%), Missouri (1.9% and 2.6%), and Washington State (2.1% and 3.1%).

The most-improved area by far is the District of Columbia — Its caseload dropped by over 70% from March 2006 to March 2007, almost entirely due to a 25,000-case reduction in October 2006 (as before, if anyone knows why, e-mail me or comment below).

I would hope that the record of improvement continues. Every former welfare recipient who enters the workforce transforms himself or herself into a societal contributor, and from a tax-taker to a taxpayer.

Finally, here’s a related thought that I wish I had time to follow up on: How much of the prosperity of the late 1990s, and how much of the budget-deficit turnaround that occurred, can be traced to over 2 million adults coming off the dole and entering the workforce during that time? I suspect that the answer is “much more than a little.” And we should never forget that Bill Clinton only signed on to Welfare Reform to preserve his reelection viability:

For all that Clinton got wrong, welfare reform was one thing he ended up getting very right. He had vetoed two previous reform bills passed by the Republican-controlled Congress, and when the House and Senate came back with a third bill, liberal pressure for another veto was intense. But political strategist Dick Morris warned Clinton that a third veto could cost him the 1996 election, and so, pronouncing it a “historic opportunity to do what is right,” he signed the bill.

If he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing to Welfare Reform, exactly why does Mr. Clinton deserve credit for the economic and job growth that resulted from it?

This post updates a related one from September 2006.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org and Wide Open.

The Specifics of the Bureaus’ Credit Freeze Programs

Filed under: Business Moves,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 8:39 am

This is a public WSJ link for the moment, but in case it goes away, most of Terri Cullen’s October 14 article is excerpted below for fair use and discussion purposes:

By November, consumers in all 50 states will be able to “freeze” their credit reports at the three major credit bureaus to help prevent identity theft.

Previously, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian Group generally extended this privilege only to identity-theft victims and to senior citizens as required by state law.

When you freeze, or lock, your credit files, lenders and other third parties can’t access your credit report until you request that the credit bureaus “thaw,” or open, it. That means you — or a potential identity thief — can’t open a line of credit in your name until the credit-reporting companies get written permission from you to let third parties see your information.

TransUnion will offer security freezes nationwide starting tomorrow (October 15). Equifax says it will offer freezes by the end of the month. Experian announced last week that it will make freezes available to all on Nov. 1.

….. But it’s not an easy process — or an inexpensive one. To freeze a credit report, you must write to each of the three bureaus (certified mail is recommended). When your file is frozen, you are given a personal identification number (PIN), which you’ll need to remove the freeze from the file. To thaw the files, you must again write to all three bureaus, and the process can take three business days or more. If you can’t remember your PIN, it can take even longer.

Then there are the fees: Generally, victims of identity theft can freeze their credit reports at no charge, but non-victims on average must pay $10 to initiate a freeze on one file and another $10 to thaw it. (Those fees may be reduced or eliminated for residents of states that require lower freeze fees.)

Is a credit freeze right for you? If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s generally a good idea. Even if you haven’t been a victim, freezing your credit files provides a powerful layer of protection against identity theft.

That said, if you know you’ll be opening a line of credit in the near future, or you’re changing jobs and it’s likely potential employers would want access to your credit history, hold off for now. That way you can avoid the fees and hassles of having to lock and unlock your files in the near term.

I would hope that the bureaus figure out a way to allow freezes and thaws online or via mail, with appropriate security precautions. The snail-mail restriction will be a significant deterrent to sign-ups.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (101707)

For Newsweak staff, conservatives all look alike (HT Instapundit).

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Guess that fortune-telling gig didn’t work out too well — Look who’s at 17th position on this list (HT MarketWatch)

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How these two sentences show up in the same paragraph is beyond me:

“Based on our numbers, 95 percent of the folks didn’t know their rates would adjust up,” (East Side Organizing Project Director Mark) Seifert said. He said brokers told others, “Don’t worry. In two years you’ll have equity, and we’ll get you out of that ARM and into a fixed rate.”

Follow me closely here:

  • The first sentence says that people didn’t know.
  • The second, unless it’s only supposed to apply to the remaining 5% (doubtful, in context), shows that people were told that they were in an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage.

What, they thought their rate could only go down?

It would not surprise me to learn that the answer to the seeming contradiction is this: “Mr. Seifert has told his clients to tell him that they didn’t know their rates would adjust up, even though the vast majority of them know better. That way he could say ‘based on our numbers,’ and he would look like he’s telling the truth.”

Separately posted at Wide Open.

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Ford’s revival of the Taurus has flopped so far. Of course, it’s entirely a marketing failure. This couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it (/sarc).

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This letter-writer almost gets it right. Allow me to correct:

Turkey resolution borders on is treason

One definition of treason: “a crime that undermines the offender’s government.” The resolution’s timing is designed to do just that with the war effort in Iraq.

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May the Fox Business Channel do to CNBC what Fox News did to CNN — relegate the competition to also-ran status. There’s a need for a serious breath of fair-and-balanced fresh air in the horribly biased Old Media coverage of business and the economy. Has anyone seen Maria Bartiromo smile since Bush took office?

Positivity: Medical Miracle Saves Newborn’s Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Omaha (video is at link):

POSTED: 8:09 pm CDT October 4, 2007
UPDATED: 8:27 am CDT October 5, 2007

She kicked her tiny pink stocking feet and squealed as 6-month-old Emma Hogan tried out a baby swing at Omaha’s Memorial Park for the first time. Her attentive parents prompted her to laugh and smile.

Her mom and dad said it was a moment made possible by a medical miracle.

Emma had a rough start, even before she was born.

“I was scared to death. I was so scared,” recalled mother, Amanda Hogan, a nurse from Sioux City, Iowa.

Hogan has a negative blood type and her blood wasn’t compatible with the baby’s. Normally, an injection of Rho-GHAM during pregnancy takes care of the problem. But for some reason, Hogan’s body didn’t react to the treatment.

“I have a different blood type than the baby and my blood recognized it as something foreign in the body and it began to attack it,” Hogan explained.

Through ultrasound and various pregnancy screenings, doctors realized baby Emma was not thriving.

“The baby will die because the baby is profoundly anemic,” said Dr. Michael Barsoom, high risk maternal medicine specialist at Creighton University Medical Center.

Barsoom is one of two doctors in the entire region trained to deal with Hogan’s medical problem.

At 17-weeks gestation, Barsoom performed a risky transfusion procedure on baby Emma. He placed a needle through the mother’s abdomen and into the baby’s abdomen and transfused the unborn child with roughly one tablespoon of blood.

More transfusions would follow, every two weeks of the pregnancy, this time injecting blood into the umbilical cord. Barsoom said it took a steady hand.

“It’s about the size of a straw that’s moving and floating around in fluid,” he said.

Barsoom said the condition that affected Hogan, pari-umbilical blood sampling, is very rare. He’s treated just four patients with the problem during the last five years.

The Hogan family’s close call underscores the need for early pre-natal care. It was a routine screening that caught the problem early, and advanced medical expertise that corrected it.

The grateful mother wrote a letter of thanks to Dr. Barsoom and promised to send him Emma’s holiday pictures for the rest of their lives. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.