Public Policy is social agreement written down as a universal guide for social action. We at The Policy ThinkShop share information so others can think and act in the best possible understanding of "The Public Interest."

How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America | Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project

As the various candidates for the office of President of the United States define themselves and throw their hat in the ring, we should probably take a good look at their position on the American workforce and the American workplace. Especially important will be how economic policy affects these two important areas of life–both the quality of life for most working families in the country and the quality of life at the community level as it relates to access to quality education and training for working families.

More via How the Great Recession Has Changed Life in America | Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project.

Filed under: access to education, Blogosphere, Data Trends - American Demographics and Public Opinion, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Family Policy, Job Sector, Mortgages, News, Policy ThinkShop Comments on other media platforms, Political Economy, Polls and pollsters, Presidential Election, Public Policy, Unemployment, Vote, WeSeeReason

CBO | The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024

We talk allot about taxes but not enough about how our government spends them, or perhaps more importantly, how it chooses to spend them.

The budget of the United States is one of the main engines that make the world go around.  The office that is responsible for monitoring it and projecting how federal policies will impact the country’s future is the federal Congressional Budget Office (CBO).   The reports this office puts out are important because they spell out the inner workings and societal impacts of the nation’s spending plans.  The CBO report is also an important focal point for congressional debates on all matters public policy, especially the holly grail we now call the budget deficit.  The repository for all the nation’s ills and the proverbial excuse for doing one thing or another by politicians.

The Policy ThinkShop presents you with a user friendly link to this important resource.

Click to access 45010-Outlook2014.pdf

“The federal budget deficit has fallen sharply during the past few years, and it is on a path to decline further this year and next year. CBO estimates that under current law, the deficit will total $514 billion in fiscal year 2014, compared with $1.4 trillion in 2009. At that level, this year’s deficit would equal 3.0 percent of the nation’s economic output, or gross domestic product (GDP)—close to the average percentage of GDP seen during the past 40 years.

As it does regularly, CBO has prepared baseline projections of what federal spending, revenues, and deficits would look like over the next 10 years if current laws governing federal taxes and spending generally remained unchanged. Under that assumption, the deficit is projected to decrease again in 2015—to $478 billion, or 2.6 percent of GDP. After that, however, deficits are projected to start rising—both in dollar terms and relative to the size of the economy—because revenues are expected to grow at roughly the same pace as GDP whereas spending is expected to grow more rapidly than GDP. In CBO’s baseline, spending is boosted by the aging of the population, the expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, rising health care costs per beneficiary, and mounting interest costs on federal debt. By contrast, all federal spending apart from outlays for Social Security, major health care programs, and net interest payments is projected to drop to its lowest percentage of GDP since 1940 (the earliest year for which comparable data have been reported).”

More via CBO | The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024.

Filed under: Blogosphere, consumers, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Federal Entitlement Programs, Healthcare Reform, News, Policy ThinkShop Comments on other media platforms, Political Economy

The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World. –

The business world is always selling us something.  And thank God!  

Buying and selling is a huge part of our culture.  Measuring the value of what we own and what that means to us and those around us is also central to our social experience and identity.  America is about progress and the pursuit of happiness is at its very essence; we must always strive to have things and be places.  Understanding our place in the American social hierarchy  may not be as simple as counting our possessions though.  We are all Americans but we are not all equal–not even close.  Being an American is real.  But what about the so called “Middle Class”?  Have you seen it?  Do you possess a piece of it?  Are you standing in it?  If you can make a good argument that you are in it, will your children share as lofty an address?

Today’s NYTs clamors about yet another elusive metaphor that we have lived by: The Middle Class.  Illusive and metaphor because we cannot be sure if it really ever existed, at least not in all its Hollywood and public media glory.  Like the nuclear family propelled and burned into the public mind by popular TV shows like “Father Knows Best,” the middle class is a very inclusive category which most Americans strive to get into;  and yet another very important segment labors to stay above and beyond it (including today’s infamous top 1%).

For hundreds of years the extended family and agrarian life dominated gender relations, work, time and leisure.    The modern middle class and Levittowns (Levittown was the first suburb and is considered the “archetype” for America’s suburbs America’s.) are an economic creation buttressed by Hollywood and Madison Avenue cultures.  The Nuclear family of “Mom, DAD and Children,” can be similarly understood as an ideal.   Nevertheless, in perhaps a nostalgic way, today’s popular media considers the Middle Class in danger of disappearing, if nothing else, from our imaginations.  In historical terms the middle class was here for about a relative minute.  Gone so soon?

“In Manhattan, the upscale clothing retailer Barneys will replace the bankrupt discounter Loehmann’s, whose Chelsea store closes in a few weeks. Across the country, Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants are struggling, while fine-dining chains like Capital Grille are thriving. And at General Electric, the increase in demand for high-end dishwashers and refrigerators dwarfs sales growth of mass-market models.”

via The Middle Class Is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World. –

Filed under: access to education, Blogosphere, Children and Poverty, consumers, Culture Think, Data Trends - American Demographics and Public Opinion, Demographic Change, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Education Policy, Education Reform, New American Electorate, News, Parenting, Philanthropy, Policy ThinkShop Comments on other media platforms, Political Economy, propaganda and spin, Public Policy, WeSeeReason

Your kid got “As” and you did all you could possibly do to ensure their success… But Jr. is still dependent on you and you are trying to prepare to retire and rest? How can this be???

The National Center for Education Statistics is following the young.  It is doing so for very important reasons.  What becomes of America’s youth post educational experience?

This query is significant for most today because the recent deep and lingering recession has shaken many of the tenets families have long taken for granted: Go to college, do well, graduate, marry well, do well…  This “fairy tale” may no longer be the case for a significant number of young adults.  This is especially troubling for baby boomer parents who have experience a lifetime of social mobility and progress.  As the baby boomers age, they are increasingly troubled by an unexpected contradiction in today’s economy:  you may have done all the rights things and your parents may have done their very best, and you are still not ready for success years after you left your university cocoon.

The Policy ThinkShop invites you to read and comment on the following report by the National Center for Education Statistics so that you can help us give perspective to the growing debate addressing the inadequacies of our educational system as these relate to the emerging labor market.

Full Report courtesy of The Policy ThinkShop:

“The Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) tracks the educational and developmental experiences of a nationally representative sample of high school sophomores in the United States.1 This First Look report provides a descriptive portrait of these 2002 tenth-graders a decade later, when most were about 26 years old and had been out of high school for 8 years. In so doing, this report draws heavily on information collected during the 2012 third follow-up data collection.2 By this time, many members of the cohort had already completed postsecondary education, started or even changed careers, and started to form families.”

More via:

Full report at:

Filed under: access to education, Aging, Blogosphere, Culture Think, Data Trends - American Demographics and Public Opinion, Demographic Change, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Education Policy, Education Reform, News, Parenting

What’s So Bad About Income Inequality?

Adam Smith played an important part in our understanding of how society affects the evolution of civil society and business.  As mathematics and reason improved economic theory through the development of rational choice theory, econometrics and mathematical modeling, economists took an important role at the governance table of most democracies.

The current deep and long recession and the troubling recovery, however, have cast some doubt on prevailing economic theories and their pundits and disciples.   Perhaps the turning points were the Enron scandal and Madoff caper because the inequality that pervades America today is not going away.  Somehow we have arrived at the moment when we are looking at values and relative differences between those who climb the ladder and those for whom there seems to be no ladder at all.  As America continues to be decided on ideological grounds and social space and social relations continue to be segregated in terms of education, access to higher paying jobs and wealth, it becomes increasingly difficult to see an American future where a large middle class supports the notion that everyone who tries hard can make it here.  That is a significant problem that is now seemingly being institutionalized as the American economy fails to create a necessarily clear and reasonable path between birth and upward mobility.

“One interpretation of the Pareto Principle, which suggests that 20% of the people own 80% of the wealth, is that there\’s no point in being angry about that inequality. Maybe the 20% is doing better than you because they went to college and you didn\’t — but that\’s not hurting you.

Dr. Deaton: I agree with the Pareto Principle, but you can be hurt by that kind of inequality, and that can happen in many different ways. If a bunch of people get extremely rich but nothing happens to your income, that\’s OK. But if they use their wealth to start buying the government, for instance, then it\’s not OK, because you don\’t get your share in the democracy anymore.

I\’ll give you an example from the U.S. right now. If you\’re a drug manufacturer and you come up with a blockbuster drug that does very well, eventually the patent runs out. Your business could let the patent run out and let the generics manufacture that drug, which is what\’s supposed to happen. But your company could also spend a lot of money lobbying Congress to get an extension of your patent. That\’s an example of blocking equality, and it hurts people. And economists have been very weak on that.

Like everyone, we economists specialize in what we do. So economists think we\’re the gods of income; we tend to think about well-being in terms of income, and we don\’t worry too much about the other things that contribute to well-being, such as health, education, or participating in a democratic society. But not having access to an important medicine doesn\’t show up as a share of GDP.

When we think about well-being, we can\’t just think about wealth. That\’s one of the things we\’ve learned from the Gallup World Poll — how important many other elements are to a person\’s satisfaction with his life.”

via What’s So Bad About Income Inequality?.

Filed under: access to education, Blogosphere, Children and Poverty, consumers, Demographic Change, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Education Policy, Education Reform, Job Sector, News, Political Economy, Pundits

How Buying Insurance Will Change Under Obamacare | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Access to health insurance does not mean access to any healthcare or the quality of the healthcare we get.  This important truth notwithstanding, reforming the health insurance industry to empower people who need medical care and to increase access to health insurance are certainly a start in our shared goal of taking care of our family’s health needs.

The Affordable Care Act has now been if effect for its first week.  The focus of the entire healthcare reform process which led to the so called “Obama Care” and/or ACA, has been political infighting and the protection of state budgets who fear getting saddled with another Federal Government mandate that burdens local government budgets and makes current state administrations justifiably nervous and cautions in these times of economic hardship and post recessionary hangover.

Whatever the politics or problems, the Affordable Car Act is now the law of the land and getting to understand how it works and evolves will all of us to support families and children who need the services this law makes possible for those in need.

“…much has been done to simplify the process under Obamacare:

People will be able to apply for advance premium tax credits in exchanges in a variety of ways, including online, by paper application, and over the phone through call centers. There is a standard paper application, which is three pages plus appendices for individuals and longer for families.

Plan choices will be arrayed online based on where you live. A standard, short summary of coverage will be provided for all plans.  This will explain covered benefits and cost sharing and provide illustrations of how coverage would work for common medical events, such as having a baby. This summary will make it easier for consumers to compare plans.  When looking online, consumers are expected to be able to sort and compare plans based on the standard coverage elements they care most about.

All insurers will be required to cover mostly the same benefits, including some services that are often excluded or limited today for people buying their own insurance (e.g., maternity care, mental health, and prescription drugs).

Coverage will be standardized into tiers (from bronze to platinum). Deductibles and copays will typically vary from plan to plan, but all plans in a given tier will provide the same overall level of protection to consumers.

But, probably the single biggest step to make buying insurance simpler than today is the prohibition of what’s known as “medical underwriting.”

Now, in all but a handful of states, insurers request detailed information about your medical history when you seek to buy insurance on your own. If you have a pre-existing health condition, an insurer will generally either refuse to sell you coverage or charge you a higher premium.

Not surprisingly, this makes insurance inaccessible for people with serious medical conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, or HIV/AIDS. In addition, as a study we did shows, even people with relatively minor ailments — like hay fever or a knee injury that was previously repaired surgically — can face challenges. This study was done more than a decade ago, but there’s no reason to believe that the findings are not still current today.

As the table below shows, 18% of applicants are denied coverage in the current individual insurance market (not accounting for those with pre-existing conditions who do not try to apply). This varies significantly across states, from 0% in a handful of states that already require insurers to accept all who apply to 30% or more in other states.

Medical underwriting not only makes insurance less accessible for people with pre-existing health conditions. It also makes applying for insurance much more complicated for everyone. Consider, for example, the standard insurance applications in Illinois and Wisconsin. (These particular applications are easily accessible online, but they are not at all out of the ordinary.)

The medical history and lifestyle questions go on for 5 pages in Wisconsin and 6 pages in Illinois, including questions such as:

Over the last five years whether you have been diagnosed with or treated for any of several dozen medical conditions. These range from ear infections, strep throat, hay fever, and eczema to cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, and bi-polar disorder.

The dates and details of treatment for any medical conditions, including lab results (e.g., cholesterol levels) and the name of the treating physician.

Whether you’ve received (or been recommended for) treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.

Whether you participate in dangerous or extreme activities like motor racing, bunjee jumping, or scuba diving.

Medical underwriting creates several challenges for consumers.

Most obviously, it means that people with pre-existing conditions can’t get insurance or face higher premiums. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 49% of Americans under age 65 say that they or a family member has a pre-existing medical condition. Among this group, 25% say that they or someone in their household has been denied coverage or faced a premium surcharge because of a pre-existing condition.

It also makes the process of applying for individual insurance today difficult and time-consuming for many. And, because a consumer has no way of knowing what premium an insurer will charge until the application process is completed, it is quite hard to comparison shop. Benefits also vary across insurers in complex ways that make it tough to compare what value one plan offers versus another.

This all changes starting October 1. With no medical underwriting, largely uniform benefits, and standardized tiers of coverage, consumers should have a much easier time applying for insurance and comparing prices. Consumers will have to make tradeoffs between the level of the premium, the degree of patient cost-sharing, and the breadth of a plan’s provider network, but they will have access to information to help make those decisions.”

MORE via How Buying Insurance Will Change Under Obamacare | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Filed under: ACA and Medicaid, Blogosphere, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Health Literacy, Health Policy, Healthcare Reform

Working hours: Get a life | The Economist

Of work, time and leisure…   The relationship between income and how long or hard we work may not be as obvious as one might think.  In these tough economic times it seems more and more difficult to make ends meet for many and the uncertainty in today’s economy may keep many working more and more hours “just in case”.

The Economist touches on this topic… even as we Americans struggle to understand what it is we have to do to ensure a decent living and a decent future for our kids…

BERTRAND RUSSELL, the English philosopher, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. Such a small working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life.” The rest of the day could be devoted to the pursuit of

via Working hours: Get a life | The Economist.

Filed under: Blogosphere, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, News, Parenting

Same-Sex Marriage: Public Life — The Policy ThinkShop reflects and comments

People are all deserving of dignity and happiness.  We live in a society that’s supposed to make it happen.  Well…. happiness within reason.  Perhaps Norman Rockwell’s four freedoms.  Perhaps those four are not enough?

All men are created equal, it’s just that we have all not evolved equally.  Hmmm… That’s a loaded statement.   Let us clarify.

Women and men of voting age in our society have full citizenship rights.  Which is to say, they theoretically have the right to understand and exercise their rights.  However, we know that the plying field is not leveled and that we all have differing resources in our pockets, sort of speak.  So even rights must be moved if you will with resources.  If rights are theoretically equal the exercising of those rights is not.

America continues her journey in the pursuit of her nobility of values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For America, as a metaphorical entity, this makes perfect sense. But for a divided, fractured and haunted by racial, gender and economic diversity America, it is quite something else.

Noble values and pursuits aside, our American family is trying to get along and it is acting like a typical family–bickering, blaming, competing and demanding.

The difference here, though, is that yet another segment of our polity is claiming that it is alienated from the whole–that it needs legal remedies in order to ensure its proper place and, perhaps most importantly, the full exercise of its citizen status under our framework of laws and rights.  “Our framework of laws and rights?”  Indeed, if by “our” we do not mean the entire polity then it seems meaningless to say that we are one nation.  And so it goes that our citizenry is divided because our laws, our economic way of life and our burgeoning diversity seem inadequate for a nation that clamors for more in the face of world recession, political division, perpetual war, a broken healthcare system, and a global security problem that threatens to let drones loose in our backyards… Hmmm…. wait a minute, it already has.

What is essentially a tax, health coverage and inheritance problem is now morphing into the next semantically charged issue that will mobilize the next electorate and shape our political future in ways that go well beyond civil rights issues here at home.   But our house seems ever more divided and our ability to clamor for more “from a broken house” is akin to the lung filled screams of a baby, saying: “MAMA! I want more!”  Perhaps naively groups form, put together leadership and a voice and clamor in the public square, the courts in this case, for their dignity and their dollars.  Others have clamored, have achieved their screams in legal code and yet are left wanting… Yet here we go again–like The Who song goes…

“The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down two landmark same-sex marriage rulings, one striking down a major provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the other leaving uncertain the fate of California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that prohibits gay and lesbian couples in the state from …”

via Same-Sex Marriage: High Court Strikes Down DOMA but Leaves Fate of Calif. Ban Uncertain – Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Filed under: Blogosphere, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Culture Think, Demographic Change, Discrimination, drone attacks, Economic Recession, News, Policy ThinkShop Comments on other media platforms, symbolic uses of politics, symbols as swords, , ,

States’ Policies on Health Care Exclude Poorest –

It is dumbfounding!   It paralyzes the brain, the heart and almost all hope–without need for audacity.

Ph.D.s, advocates, health professionals, and good old moms and dads come to the agreement that healthcare needs changing and that sick people should get help–especially those who have difficulty getting it.  Presumably, it is logical and reasonable to think that many of these people are what we, all of us for hundreds of years, have called “the poor.”

Yet for as long as there have been those with and those without, those with often have the efficacy to get more and those without, perhaps by definition, get even less–always…

So here we are well into healthcare reform and the NYT is sounding the whistle on the haves once again–millions have been spent and the poor are somehow invisible once again when it comes to targeting the needs of those who are hurting and are having a difficult time getting good, reliable, continuos, patient centered, medical home care!  Go figure… or better yet, go read the New York times…

“The refusal by about half the states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance under President Obama’s health care law even as many others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to …”

More via States’ Policies on Health Care Exclude Poorest –

Filed under: access to education, Aging, Behavioral Health Outcomes, Blogosphere, Children and Poverty, consumers, Death and Dying, Economic Recession, Feminization of Poverty, Health and Exercise, Health Literacy, Health Policy, Healthcare Reform, Maternal and Child Health, Medical Research, Medicare, News, Parenting, Policy ThinkShop Comments on other media platforms, Public Health, Public Policy, Public Service, WeSeeReason, , ,

Insecure and Unequal: Poverty and Income Among Women and Families, 2000-2011 | National Women’s Law Center

The recovery from the worst recession in memory has hurt the vulnerable in ways that could set families back for a decade…


Download the report at:

Click to access nwlc_2012_povertyreport.pdf


“This report provides a gender analysis of national Census data for 2011, released by the Census Bureau in September 2012. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) supplies this analysis, as it has for several …”

via Insecure and Unequal: Poverty and Income Among Women and Families, 2000-2011 | National Women’s Law Center.

Filed under: access to education, Blogosphere, Children and Poverty, Economic Recession, Economic Recovery, Family Policy, Feminization of Poverty

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