Americans Hate Government But They Like What it Does

Washington Post: “The Pew Research Center has just released a fascinating deep-dive on how Americans feel about government … One finding stands out: Even if Americans don’t trust the government, they still want the government to do a whole bunch of stuff.”

“The low level of trust in government is not surprise … Small wonder, then, that only 19 percent of Americans interviewed in this Pew survey said that they trusted the government always or most of the time.”

“But when given along list of issues, most Americans still wanted government to have a ‘major role’ in handling those issues. The vast majority (94 percent) thought government should help keep us safe from terrorism. About three-quarters said that it should have a major role in strengthening the economy, protecting the environment and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure. Majorities also wanted the government to play a major role in helping the poor and seniors.”

“In fact, what’s striking is that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats felt this way on most of these issues. Here’s a graph from Pew:”

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A Failing Grade for GOP Candidates’ Climate Science Knowledge

Associated Press: “When it comes to climate science, two of the three Democratic presidential candidates are A students, while most of the Republican contenders are flunking, according to a panel of scientists who reviewed candidates’ comments.”

“At the request of The Associated Press, eight climate and biological scientists graded for scientific accuracy what a dozen top candidates said in debates, interviews and tweets, using a 0 to 100 scale.”

“To try to eliminate possible bias, the candidates’ comments were stripped of names and given randomly generated numbers, so the professors would not know who made each statement they were grading. Also, the scientists who did the grading were chosen by professional scientific societies.”

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had the highest average score at 94. Three scientists did not assign former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a score, saying his statements mostly were about policy, which they could not grade, instead of checkable science.”

The Case for High Gas Prices: Safety

City Lab: “In a sharp post on the topic, Joe Cortright at City Observatory points us to a very instructive study that sheds new light on how safety suffers when pump prices plunge. Or, if you prefer rosier goggles, how higher gas prices lead to fewer crashes.”

“During hard times, or when gas prices surge, people drive less: some shift to cheaper travel modes, some just stay home.”

“For the recent study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers gathered Mississippi crash data from April 2004 to December 2012 on a month-by-month basis. Then they collected gas prices over this period as well to see when safety connections emerged … For every 10 percent increase in gas prices, the lagged effect produced a 1.5 percent decrease in traffic crashes per capita.”

“The researchers extrapolate the findings to estimate what the broader safety impacts would be at either end of the gas price spectrum. If fuel costs had been at their lowest point ($1.81) over the entire study period, the researchers would expect 57,461 more crashes to have occurred—a 5.7 percent rise. But if fuel costs had been at their highest ($4.17) during this time, the expectation would be for 70,655 fewer crashes, or a 7 percent decline.”

John Bel Edwards Victory is Victory for Medicaid Expansion

Times Picayune: “Governor-elect John Bel Edwards called expanding Medicaid ‘among the highest priorities’ of his new administration, though he said Sunday (Nov. 22) he may not be able to approve an expanded program on Day One.”

Edwards: “‘The expansion of health care coverage for working families is among the highest priorities. It’s something I’ve been working on for three years, and I never once during this campaign shied away from that particular issue,’ Edwards said during a news conference with reporters in New Orleans. ‘So we are going to expand the Medicaid program in Louisiana. We’re going to do it as soon as we possibly can and as responsibly as we possibly can.'”

With Edwards’ victory, “supporters of ObamaCare are increasingly hopeful that Medicaid expansion could sweep through the deep-red South,” according to The Hill.

“More recently, there was surprising news out of Alabama, as a commission appointed by Republican governor Robert Bentley recommended expansion. Bentley said earlier this month that he is ‘looking’ at the possibility of broadening Medicaid.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell: “What is going to happen is that support for Medicaid expansion will continue to build … You hear the Alabama governor. You’ve heard conversations in Louisiana.”

“Supporters of Medicaid expansion hope that if they can get a foothold in the South, other states will follow … One option is the Arkansas model, where the expansion enrolls people in private health insurance plans instead of government-run Medicaid.”

Most Americans Say Government Should Ensure Healthcare Coverage

Politico: The government should ensure the health care coverage of all Americans, 51 percent of adults said in a new Gallup survey released Monday. That is slightly more than the 47 percent of Americans who said it is not the government’s responsibility, though the difference is still within the poll’s margin of error.

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The 51 percent is the highest share of American sentiment in that direction since 2006, when nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) said government is responsible and just 28 percent did not. In the years following, only in 2011 did Americans have a more positive view of the role in government in health care than negative.

Though at its lowest level in recent years, 55 percent to 41 percent expressed support for a health care system based on private insurance rather than one run by the government. In 2014, 61 percent to 35 percent felt the same way.

Americans Concerned About Health Care Costs

Gallup: Americans continue to name the cost of (22%) and access to (20%) healthcare as the most urgent health problems facing the U.S. Obesity and cancer are next on the list, cited by 15% and 14%, respectively. No other issue receives more than 2% of mentions from Americans.

Trend: Cost and Access Remain Most Commonly Named as Urgent Health Problems

The Obama administration has made a major effort to address healthcare cost and access by passing the Affordable Care Act. Since its major provisions went into effect, there has been a drop in the percentage of Americans who lack health insurance. But the law probably did not affect the healthcare situation for the large majority of Americans, most of whom get health insurance through an employer or Medicare. The percentages mentioning both cost and access are down from the later years of George W. Bush’s administration, even though they remain the top overall issues.

Is a December Rate Hike a Done Deal?

Washington Post: “The minutes of the central bank’s October meeting shed light on the lingering divisions among the Fed’s top ranks over whether to raise its key interest rate for the first-time in nearly a decade when they convene in Washington next month.”

“The documents show that most of the 17 Fed officials who participate in the debate expected that the economy would be ready for a rate hike by December. Delaying a move could increase uncertainty in financial markets, which have been scrutinizing officials’ every word for signs of when the decision might come: Investors might interpret additional delay as a sign of the central bank’s lack of confidence in the economy. Additionally, the Fed’s target rate has been at zero since 2008, and participants noted that the long period of extraordinary stimulus could be distorting the financial system.”

“In a policy statement after its October meeting, the Fed explicitly stated it could raise rates in December. The minutes show most officials believed the wording indicated they were leaning toward action but also as ‘leaving policy options open’ … Expectations that the Fed will move next month have jumped to more than 60 percent since the October meeting and a blockbuster October jobs report.”

Fewer Employers Choosing to Terminate Coverage Due to Obamacare

Forbes: “The likelihood that small employers will terminate health coverage for their workers due to the Affordable Care Act is far less likely than the ‘early days of the health reform debate,’ according to a new analysis.”

“Employee benefits consultancy Mercer … said just 7% of employers with 50 to 499 employees now say they are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to terminate coverage for their workers within the next five years.”

“This is in sharp contrast to the early days of the health reform debate when employers worried the law would ad layers of bureaucracy and higher costs from various new rules and mandates. In 2013, one in five small employers, or 21%, said they were ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to terminate their health plans, the Mercer annual employer health survey shows. And in 2014, the likelihood of employers dropping coverage fell to 15% of these smaller employers.”

Few employers now say they will drop coverage due to issues related to the Affordable Care Act. Source: Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans

Americans Increasingly Concerned With Harmful Effects of Global Warming

The most recent Yale Project on Climate Change newsletter announces the the release of their latest national survey: Climate Change in the American Mind: October 2015.

“This report details results from our latest national tracking survey about global warming beliefs, risk perceptions, conversations, perceived ethical dimensions, and the impact of Pope Francis on American views of global warming.”

“Here are a few interesting findings. Since spring 2015, the number of Americans who think global warming will cause harm has increased substantially. More think global warming will harm them personally (42%, +6 percentage points since spring 2015), people in the U.S. (56%, +7 points), people in developing countries (61%, +9 points), and future generations (70%, +7 points).”

“The number of Americans who say they discuss global warming with family and friends at least occasionally increased by 9 percentage points over the past six months, from 26% in spring 2015 to 35% in fall.”

“Majorities of Americans say global warming is a major environmental (69%), scientific (62%), or agricultural issue (56%). About half consider it a major health (49%) or economic issue (47%). Fewer consider it to be a major moral (24%), poverty (17%), social justice (17%), national security (14%), spiritual (8%), or religious issue (7%).”

A Nation of Immigrants That Opposes Refugees

Philip Bump: “On Wednesday, a new poll conducted by Bloomberg after the terror attacks last Friday in Paris that killed 129 people shows a 10-point increase increase in the percentage of people worried about the Islamic State and a 7-point increase in the percentage of people most worried about terrorism. Unemployment and jobs? Sank.”

“The most politically powerful data point in the new poll, though, is the one dealing with the possibility of Syrian refugees being re-settled in the United States. More than half of Americans oppose the existing plan to allow 10,000 refugees to enter the country — with nearly 70 percent of Republicans holding that position.”

Climate Change Risk Becomes an Investment Issue

CBC News: “Climate change risk has arrived as an investment issue, according to the world’s largest institutional investment manager. BlackRock Inc., with $4.5 trillion US under management, has begun watching carbon risk on all its portfolios.”

“In a new report, it warns a raft of new rules to curb carbon emissions out of the climate change summit in Paris may have a significant effect on investment returns in the years ahead.”

“This so-called ‘regulatory risk,’ meaning the impact of climate change regulations, is an impact that all corporations will be seeking to manage, says Ewen Cameron Watt of BlackRock.

“Long-term asset owners worry about ‘stranded’ assets, such as coal or oil that may have to be left in the ground to keep the world from warming by two degrees Celsius [and] there is the impact on the insurance industry of paying for repairs after extreme weather and the potential for growth among clean-energy companies.”

Recently “three new climate change indexes, which measure carbon exposure to individual companies, have been developed for the Toronto and New York markets. In addition BlackRock partnered with FTSE to create a Fossil Fuels Index Series that excludes companies linked to extraction and sale of fossil fuels.”

Watt: “The bigger the carbon footprint to start with, the greater the mitigation effort can be.”