One of the more unpleasant aspects of today’s media offerings is the tendency to confuse mountains and molehills. No disrespect to all those diligent moles out there assiduously plying their turf disrupting trade, but when Everything Is A Crisis! perspective is the first casualty.
Mountain: We have an immigration policy in place which doesn’t work for us. There are two bills addressing this issue, S. 744 which passed the Senate and H.R. 15 which languishes in the House while the TeaParty/GOP leadership decides which they’d prefer to tick off — their corporate backers or the xenophobic right wing. Representative Amodei (R-NV2) thinks he could support Rep. Eric Cantor’s “Kids Act” and he provides a summary of the issue on his webpage, but his statements on comprehensive immigration policy reform remain fuzzy. Where Representative Heck (R-NV3) stands is a bit more clear, given his statement on October 25th:
“I have spent countless hours meeting with community members and addressing town hall meetings on the topic of immigration reform. There is no doubt in my mind that reforming our immigration system is right and necessary and I remain committed to enacting real solutions that will fix our current broken system. I will continue to urge the House leadership to move forward on immigration reform with all possible haste.”
While he’s “urging leadership to move forward,” the question remains — toward what? A piecemeal enactment of immigration policies which serve only to protract the issues, and may never arrive at a complete picture — or — legislation like S. 744 or H.R. 15?
Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV1) drilled down to one of the major issues in the piecemeal approach to immigration policy reform: What of women who work in the service sector?
“Comprehensive immigration reform must take into account the fact that many immigrant women work at home or in the informal economy. If, for example, eligibility for the path to citizenship requires proof of employment, providing paystubs cannot be the only acceptable proof or we risk leaving millions of women behind. Approximately 74 percent of undocumented domestic workers do not receive documentation of their pay from an employer. Thankfully, H.R. 15, the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill recently introduced in the House, addresses this issue by allowing flexible forms of proof of employment. It is critical that we incorporate this thoughtful approach into any immigration reform bill considered by the House.”
Meanwhile, the mountain remains, impervious to rational debate and reasonable action.
Mole Hill: Those who have purchased individual health insurance plans constitute about 5% of the population. [UI] This translates to a maximum of 16,500,000 individuals out of a total 330,000,000; if we count every single person large or small, young or old. The actual percentage is probably closer to 14.3 million individuals. [UI pdf] Some of these people bought JUNK. In a search for low premiums they purchased policies that didn’t cover much, if anything, or bought policies the coverage terms of which were so confusing that the insurance corporation was able to deny compensation for even basic treatment options. The infamous Barrette Case is a classic example of a JUNK policy. Forbes magazine estimates that about 4 million Americans were sold some 1,200 of these junk policies.
Thus, it should be fairly easy for the press to find some individual examples for popular consumption of these Outraged Individuals who want to keep the cheap junk they purchased, out of a category of 4 million. Therefore, the media cry “there are millions of Americans affected by this ‘mistake'” is technically accurate but ultimately misleading. Some broadcasters have jumped on the “Crisis” bandwagon, only to have their stellar examples debunked within hours. You can tell when the mole hill is being magnified into a mountain IF (1) the report doesn’t compare the junk policy to the coverage available in the health insurance exchanges, (2) if the report doesn’t take into consideration the subsidies available to assist the policy holder pay for the premiums, and (3) if the report relies on individual examples to generate conclusions for which there is no other substantiation.
Mountain: Speaking of health issues — 32,163 Americans died as a result of gun fire in 2011. 6,220 died as a result of a homicide. 19,766 individuals used a gun to commit suicide. [GP] 73,883 Americans were injured by gun fire. 432 Americans died in gun related accidents. [GP] By contrast, in 2011 there were 9,878 fatal automobile accidents in which there was a driver with a BAC level above 0.08 or even higher. [NRD pdf] We are coming perilously close to the point at which the number of gun deaths equals or surpasses the number of automobile deaths. According to figures released by the CDC 33,687 Americans died in auto accidents, 31,672 died as a result of gun violence. We do something about drunk drivers. We restrict the licenses of some drivers. We have yet to address the issues related to the easy access to firearms in this country.
When Gallup polled Americans about controlling gun sales in the U.S. during the week of October 3-6, 2013 some 49% favored more stringent controls, 13% thought restrictions should be eased, and 37% called for controls to be kept the same. A September poll by Quinnipiac University found 89% of Americans supportive of legislation to require universal background checks. These numbers aside, on September 17th Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he didn’t have enough support to reintroduce the background check bill in the Senate. [TheHill]
Mole Hill: I’m really pleased that there are at least seven retailers who will give their employees a break for celebrating Thanksgiving with their families. [TP] That said — when wages for American workers have stagnated for the past decade [EPI], when there are about 10% of our young veterans still looking for work while the programs to help them are shrinking [CNN], and when the unemployment rate for Whites 6.3% while the unemployment rate for Blacks stands at 13.1% we have a problem far larger than whether or not people go home for Thanksgiving.
Mountain: Did anyone read the IPCC climate report? Did anyone delve into Chapter 12, wherein the commission discussed climate change implications for pattern scaling, temperatures and energy budgets, atmospheric circulation, the water cycle, the cryosphere, our oceans, and carbon cycle feedback? [IPCC pdf] One newspaper noted that the report made the climate change deniers overheat. Too many media outlets were engaged in sowing seeds of doubt about the report’s content and all but ignoring the conclusions and commentary contained therein.
Mole Hill: There were 48 bills in the 113th Congress related to the abortion issue. [GovTrack] There’s Sen. Rand Paul’s S.583 Personhood Bill, H.R. 2300 from Rep. Tom Price to “empower patients” (not), Rep. Trent Frank’s H.R. 1797 “pain” bill, and his H.R. 447 PRENDA, Rep. Jim Jordan introduced H.R. 1091, life begins at conception act, and the list goes on.
Meanwhile back in the world of reality — the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of child bearing age has declined from a high of 29.3 in 1981 to 19.6 in 2008. [Guttmacher]
Could we start talking about the mountains, and minimize our time spent in elaborate and protracted debates about mole hills?