Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Seattle PI Complicit In McKenna Doubletalk

I sent this letter to the PI staff today about their coverage of the Washington Governor's race. They botched their Inslee, McKenna offer ideas for Maritime industry article. It's a nice snapshot of what's wrong with the coverage of the Inslee/McKenna matchup:
It is disappointing that the PI is letting Rob McKenna get away with his double talk. The article "Inslee, McKenna offer ideas for maritime industry" quotes McKenna as saying that Washington corporations can't grow because they pay too much for insurance. The cost of hiring a new worker is a lot higher than the wages that the corporation pays to the employee. Insofar as his logic is concerned, he's right; we could encourage job growth by taking insurance burdens away from corporations. Bringing down the marginal cost to higher a worker will mean more jobs created in good times and fewer people laid off in lean times. That's what Rob McKenna says.

What Rob McKenna has done, however, is the opposite. The highest non-wage cost of hiring is by far health insurance. In 2010, health insurance cost employers an average of $3.35 per employee hour according to this study by the Kaiser Family Foundation: http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/Employer-Health-Insurance-Costs-and-Worker-Compensation.cfm That surcharge grew four times as faster than wage growth over the previous decade. Yet Rob McKenna has obstructed, litigated, and lobbied against the only national means of reducing that burden on employers. His decision to fight against the Affordable Care Act may have been good politics for his gubernatorial campaign, but it's terrible policy for Washington workers and businesses.

The Affordable Care Act introduces competition into small group markets into which the majority of Washington businesses fit. It's a market-driven approach that will bring prices down and service quality up. Rob McKenna has fought against this common sense measure. While Rob McKenna's 'solutions' point to small potatoes "unemployment insurance, high workers compensation cost and burdensome taxes," any business owner knows that he's distracting from the bigger picture. Rob McKenna's opposition to more affordable, flexible, and reliable health insurance for Washington business owners and employees is the elephant in the room in the economic debate.

While Rob McKenna's job is to distract Washington from his record, the Seattle PI's responsibility is to hold him to it. Please do a better job in the future.
You can let the PI know how you feel by email too.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lying Through Your Teeth: Rob McKenna edition

I'm beginning to get the sense that Rob McKenna is not the political wunderkind that Washington political reporters have been waiting for. He's made a continued campaign to highlight his own discrepancies on issues. He has consistently done one thing and said another on women's health, biased ballot initiative language, and protection against health insurance company abuse. McKenna is making a pattern of saying one thing and doing the opposite.

This has been an open secret of the Inslee-McKenna campaign so far, but it's rare to see an acknowledgement of the McKenna duplicity in print. I was shocked to see this in the Spokesman-Review, the flagship East of the Cascades paper.
McKenna did support a maneuver by all 22 Republicans and three breakaway Democrats late in the regular session that pushed through an alternative budget. Murray questioned how McKenna, who has called for increased spending on education, could support a budget that cut public schools and colleges.
McKenna later said he “wasn't thrilled” with the education cuts in that alternative budget, which later was revised in the House. At a campaign press conference during the third week of the special session, he said if he'd been involved in discussions over that alternative Senate budget “I would've gone to them and said 'Let's not make the education cuts.'”
 The thing about "I would have" quotes is that they are proof that McKenna is saying one thing and doing another. He "would have" supported a budget that didn't cut the education budget, but he did support a budget that cut $74 million in education funding next year. It appears that McKenna's staffers was actively involved in whipping votes for the Republican education-gutting budget. He

When it comes to the Washington marriage equality ballot initiative, Rob McKenna was responsible for drafting the language of the initiative that would appear in front of voters. Rob McKenna inserted right-wing talking points into the ballot title. A state judge had to straighten out the mess McKenna made. I bet the judge feels better knowing that McKenna "would have" not used "anti-gay" language if only Rob Mckenna had any common sense.

And then there's the Affordable Care Act, which McKenna decided to sue along with the other Republican Attorneys General, and then claimed that he supports the popular provisions in the law. A gap of that size between behavior and self-proclaimed values borders on a psychological disorder.

This is beginning to show up around the fringes of the Washington establishment media. This Spokesman-Review piece appeared first in a blog post. McKenna has been getting off easy from state media, but that tide may be turning.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Self-reinforcing Bias

Every now and then, I read a Megan McArdle blog post. It's never truly an accident. Her masthead is a caution to all who read below that they will encounter tepid thoughts drowned in muddy analogy.

She is illustrative of self-reinforcing bias, in her case, one born of ideology:
Other readers will likely differ, but while the advice parts may generate more lifetime utility for me, the history and economics lessons in the book captured my interest more. In particular, Cowen's history of how American food came to be so mediocre is a strong counterargument to those who look to blame the phenomenon on commercialization, capitalism, and excess of choice. In contrast to the usual narrative, Cowen tells us how bad laws have played an important role in shaping our food ecosystem for the worse over time. This includes prohibition's negative and long lasting impact on restaurants, and the government aggressively limiting one of our greatest sources of culinary innovation: immigration. This is not to lay the blame entirely on the government. Television and a culture that panders to the desires of children have also incentivized poor culinary trends. 
There's a nice dodge in here that speaks either to how McArdle views the world, or how she manages to self-censor her thoughts to support libertarian outcomes. See the last sentence:
Television and a culture that panders to the desires of children have also incentivized poor culinary trends. 
Americans have a culture that panders to childish tastes in food? That's an awfully squishy claim. I don't know how McArdle arrived at this conclusion, and she doesn't attempt to provide any evidence or logic to lay this at the feet of Culture. Let's try an alternate hypothesis:
Television and a market that panders to the desires of children have also incentivized poor culinary trends. 
I'll leave it to you to decide which hypothesis has more intuitive appeal. I think that deep down, however, McArdle believes that the "poor culinary trends" were "incentivized." That origin story sounds more like capitalism to me than cultural development.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Why So Racist?

Why have there been a string of racist articles in prominent conservative news outlets by prominent conservative pundits saying prominent conservative things?

Bueller? Bueller?

Meanwhile, George Zimmerman has launched a PayPal account to collect bounties for killing black teens. The money will be spent on "living expenses and legal fees." Now you can directly subsidize hate crimes!