Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are Gays Uniquely Vulnerable To Domestic Violence?

In the midst of a debate about the Violence Against Women Act, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez blurted out this startling statistic:
Here are some facts my GOP colleagues may be unaware of: 40 percent of gay men experience domestic abuse, as do 50 percent of lesbian women. 
As a supporter of gay marriage -- I was a bit startled, myself. This is one of the few times I have seen a fact that would seem to argue against allowing gays to marry. Could the Congresswoman -- who was doing what Congress critters do -- demanding extra funding and programs for an interest group -- be correct?

Well, the first thing to do when fact checking a politician's statistic is to try to run down the source. And, thanks to Google, here it is -- a fact sheet from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Do these statistics make sense? Are gay men and women really somehow more violent than the general population?

Well, um, no. In the case of gay men:

Gay and bisexual men experience abuse in intimate partner relationships at a rate of 2 in 5, which is comparable to the amount of domestic violence experienced by heterosexual women.
Which means, when you untangle the language used by the advocacy group, 40% of gay males, at some point in their lives, will experience an act of domestic violence (as defined by the advocacy group.)  Nothing unusual there. Nothing special there.

The lesbian statistic, though, startles. Are gay women more violent than gay men? Well, you'd think so, from the glib language of the Congresswoman. And you would think so, from the glib language of the fact sheet:
Approximately 50% of the lesbian population has experienced or will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.
In other places, however, you can find the reason:
However, this is because lesbians (vs. heterosexual women) are more likely to
have experienced IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) at the hands of female and male partners. Many lesbian have had intimate relationships with men prior to coming out as lesbians.One study on same-sex IPV found that about half of the 79 women in the sample had had relationships with men as well as with women.
Their findings indicate that male partners may pose a greater risk for IPV than female partners: of the total sample, about 39.2% reported being raped and/or physically abused by a partner in their lifetime (30.4% by male partner and 11.4% by a female partner).
To sum up -- there is a horrifying statistic on abuse in gay male relationships -- that is no different than the horrifying statistic for heterosexual relationships. And there is a horrifying statistic for lesbians -- that has little to do with their same sex partnerships.

So -- the question is -- why is there a special need for treating GLBT  domestic violence as somehow special? When it just looks like the general population?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mitch McConnell for GOP Spokesman!!

Finally, after much harumphing and blitherage from the GOP about the sequester, we finally see someone who can make the arguments needed in this stage of the budget wars, to counter Obama's nationwide tour of terror. And that, dear reader, is Mitch McConnell.

First, it is pretty clear that McConnell knows his opponent, and can characterize him memorably:
Now here we are, with the President presenting the country with two options: Armageddon or a tax hike. Well, it is a false choice, and he knows it, but the President is a master at creating the impression of chaos as an excuse for government action--do nothing, fan the flames of catastrophe, and then claim the only way out is more government in the form of higher taxes.
Second, McConnell grasps that the way to talk about the sequester is not to embrace Obama's narrative of doom, despair, and existential anguish, a la Boehner.
There is no reason in the world these cuts need to fall on essential services or emergency responders. After all, even with the sequester, Washington will be spending more than when President Obama got here. We are only talking about cutting one-tenth of what the President spent on the stimulus bill. Enough. Enough.
And, third, McConnell links the sequester argument into the larger GOP argument regarding governing.

The President has been going around warning of utter chaos if the sequester takes effect. While I agree that those cuts could be made in a much smarter way and I don't like the fact that they fall disproportionately on defense, what does it say about the size of government that we can't cut it by 2 or 3 percent without inviting disaster? Doesn't that really make our point? Hasn't government gotten too big if just cutting the overall budget by a couple of percentage points could have that kind of an impact?
It might be a good idea if Boehner works harder at NOT being the face of the GOP. Because he has a colleague who is simply much better at it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Memes That Never Die

The year is 1953. The time being described is 1946-7. A patriotic Socialist art dealer/super spy/ millionaire describes the US government to a young German:
"In the hotel dining room...they talked about the American elections. Lanny explained the peculiar system of American government, in which it could happen that the President and Congress were fighting each other, and everything they said or did was for political effect. Meantime, the bureaucrats would go on running the country as best they could. Congress would try to handicap them by denying them funds and would set up investigating committees which would subject them to hostile questionings."
 (Source is The Return of Lanny Budd, the last in a series of spy novels (!!??) by aging muckraker and self-proclaimed socialist gadfly Upton Sinclair.) But doesn't it sound like something our President might say?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Abortion Is The Worst Issue

Abortion is the worst issue, as it pits the basic right of one person, incapable of defending himself or herself, directly against the rights of another. It's amazing how politicians of left and right never seem to have a problem finding a nice comfortable spot to park their philosophy, and then spout the talking points they've adopted ever afterwards.

The right to life is pretty paramount. But it's a good idea to reflect, every so often, that there are sympathetic and powerful stories on the other side of the question. (Note -- this is not the usual sob story about wire hangers and desperate women in back allies.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obamacare -- It Wasn't For The Children After All

From the department of foreseeable but nevertheless unforeseen  consequences comes a an Obamacare fiasco in the making. The Regulators of Obamacare have determined that employers will only pay a penalty to the IRS if the individual  coverage to its employees is deemed to be not "affordable". (Affordable means the premium is less than 9.5% of W-2 income.)

Sounds reasonable, right? Family coverage -- at $15 to $20K per year per family per year -- is going to be much more than 9.5% of the income of anyone making less than $100K. A regulatory approach like this avoids a perverse incentive for employers to hire only single individuals.

But, in the magical world created by Obamacare, the reasonable actions one set of regulators take can often have a downright insane effect on how the other provisions operate. Health law expert Timothy Jost explains this at length in his post, cited above. But here is the bottom line explanation:
The bottom line seems to be that even though an employer must offer coverage for an employee and the employee’s children, the employer will not be penalized if family coverage is unaffordable as long as self-only coverage is affordable.  If self-only coverage is affordable (defined as costing no more than 9.5 percent of the employee’s income), the employer will have satisfied the employer responsibility requirement, even though family coverage is unaffordable.
On the other hand, if self-only coverage is affordable to the employee (defined now as costing no more than 8 percent of household income) an employee must purchase it to avoid the individual responsibility penalty, but need not purchase family coverage for dependents if family coverage costs more than 8 percent of household income. Spouses of employees, presumably, can get premium tax credits if they are not offered employer coverage, but the premium the employee must pay for self-only coverage will not be taken into account in determining the spouse’s eligibility. Family members eligible for employer coverage will not be eligible for premium tax credits if the employer can purchase self-only coverage for 9.5 percent of household income or less, even if family coverage costs more.
Employers can offer unaffordable family coverage and avoid a penalty. The federal government will pay less for premium tax credits as fewer people will be eligible. And hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of children (and spouses) will remain uninsured.
What does this mean, exactly? Families will not receive a subsidy to pay for their children's health insurance, nor will they pay a penalty for failing to provide it. That results in a large incentive not to insure for the children's health care. Add to that Obamacare's removal of preexisting condition requirements on individual policies and its mandate that policies not be priced to reflect the health of the insured, and you have an even larger incentive for people struggling to play chicken with their children's health coverage.

The bizarre thing is -- a legislative fix for this is unlikely. Requiring that premium credits be granted for family members would cost the US government billions, and requiring employers to provide affordable family coverage will create an incentive to hire people who do not have children (or not hire at all). The likely result is that at least some people will gamble with their children's health, and hurry to go buy an insurance policy for a child if it looks like he or she has a major health condition.

So, the next time Nancy Pelosi reminds us that a big government initiative is really for the children -- remember to laugh.