Climate Change Can Take a Toll on Mental Health

“Climate change is not only harmful to our physical health — it can be debilitating for our mental health as well, according to a report published Wednesday,” Jia Naqvi reports for The Washington Post.

“Severe weather events and natural disasters linked to climate change have the most dramatic impact on mental health, according to the report by the American Psychological Association and EcoAmerica: Natural disasters cause intense negative emotions in people who are exposed to them, primarily fear and grief. Anxiety, depression and unhealthy behavior are also common responses. Some people, particularly those who experience tragic events, such as the loss of a loved one or repeated exposure to extreme weather, develop post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“The weather people experience also influences their mental health, the report says. Prolonged exposure to warmer weather makes people more aggressive and diminishes cognitive functions, according to earlier studies.”

Trump Can Wound Obamacare Without the Help of Congress

Casey Quinlan: “There are a number of things the administration could do to weaken the Affordable Care Act. One would be to dramatically expand the definition of ‘hardship’ — a condition that exempts people from the individual mandate — which would depress enrollment, [Edwin] Park said.”

“The administration could also unilaterally eliminate cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which bring down the amount that low- and modest-income people on marketplace plans have to pay for their health care costs. Two years ago, House Republicans brought a lawsuit against the Obama administration arguing that these subsidies were illegal because Congress had not designated appropriations for them.”

“The administration could also drop the Obama administration’s legal defense of an ACA rule mandating contraception coverage. The U.S. Department of Justice recently requested to wait until May 1 to file another status report in ongoing litigation.”

Can Trump Fix Government by Running It Like a Business?

Clare Foran: “Donald Trump is taking steps to make the government more like the private sector. Past administrations have tried similar exercises in reform with mixed results, however, and it might be harder for a White House with relatively little governing experience to make improvements to the sprawling federal bureaucracy.”

“There’s a long history of presidential administrations looking to the private sector for advice on how to fix government—as well as examples of those efforts amounting to little more than unrealized recommendations… Other administrations have attempted to improve government by modernizing it, a goal the Trump administration is also promising to achieve.”

“It’s too early to judge how this latest effort  might turn out. But unless the administration makes a substantial effort to tap existing governmental expertise, it’s hard to see how this latest attempt at reform could succeed.”

Republicans Have Their Plot for an Indestructible House Majority to Blame for Trump’s Healthcare Defeat

“Unfortunately for House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell—the top two Republican officials who are in the tough position of whipping votes from these ultra-conservatives on a weekly basis—the system of gerrymandering that has dominated how congressional districts are drawn virtually assures that this inter-party war won’t end anytime soon. A tool that Republicans have used to shift the electoral map to their advantage has come back to bite the Republican leadership in the rear,” Daniel DePetris argues on Quartz.

“Gerrymandering has in effect been one of the greatest levers for the House Freedom Caucus, the same group of lawmakers who shut the government down in 2013, almost shut the Department of Homeland Security down in 2015, and torpedoed a top legislative priority of a Republican White House last week. Republican leadership and the dwindling share of moderates in the GOP caucus are left scratching their heads about how to deal with these people, or whether they will take ‘yes’ or an answer. As long as gerrymandering continues to be in the hands of partisan state lawmakers who look out for their colleagues at the national level, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and even President Donald Trump will scratch their heads until they don’t have any hair left.”

America Is Getting Richer and Sicker

Justin Fox: “Per capita gross domestic product is much higher in the U.S. than in the other major developed economies, and no one really seems to be catching up.”

Life expectancy, on the other hand, is lower in the U.S. than in those same peer countries — and the gap has been growing.”

“In the past, one could argue that the diversity of the U.S., and its huge income disparities, helped explain the poor performance: Economically disadvantaged minority groups were dragging the average down. Recent research by Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, however, shows that since 1999 longevity gains have slowed most dramatically, and in some cases reversed, among white Americans.”

Break Up the Liberal City

Ross Douthat: “So has the heyday of these meritocratic agglomerations actually made America greater? I think not. In the age of the liberal city — dating, one might argue, to the urban recovery of the 1990s — economic growth has been slack, political dysfunction worse, and technological progress slow outside the online sector. Liberalism has become more smug and out-of-touch; conservatism more anti-intellectual and buffoonish. The hive-mind genius supposedly generated by concentrating all the best and the brightest has given us great apps and some fun TV shows to binge-watch, but the 2000s and 2010s haven’t exactly been the Florentine Renaissance.”

“Thus this week’s installment in my series of implausible, perhaps even ridiculous proposals: We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies — not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and power and conspire against the public good. And instead of trying to make them a little more egalitarian with looser zoning rules and more affordable housing, we should make like Teddy Roosevelt and try to break them up.”

Compelling New Evidence That Robots Are Taking Jobs and Cutting Wages

Quartz: “In a recent study (pdf), economists Daren Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University try to quantify how worried we should be about robots. They examine the impact of industrial automation on the US labor market from 1990 to 2007. They conclude that each additional robot reduced employment in a given commuting area by 3-6 workers, and lowered overall wages by 0.25-0.5%.”

In order to isolate the effect of robots, Acemoglu and Restrepo used a clever statistical trick. They collected data on adoption rates of industrial robots in Europe, and then analyzed what happened to American labor markets by comparing industry trends with their equivalents in Europe. This isolated the changes likely caused by the spread of robots, and not some other factor peculiar to the US.”

No One Knows What to Do with the International Space Station

Sara Chodosh: “In 2024 the clock will run out on the International Space Station. Maybe. That’s the arbitrary deadline that Congress imposed back in 2014, at which point they’ll have to decide whether or not to keep funding the ISS. And yeah, that’s a whole seven years away. But then again…it’s only seven years away.”

“The ISS takes up half of NASA’s human exploration budget—half of the pile of money allotted for things like sending humans to Mars or to an asteroid. And if they want to push further into space exploration, NASA can’t keep sinking three to four billion dollars a year into the ISS. Not that it’s really their decision. Congress—specifically the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology—decides how much money NASA will get. And because politicians aren’t experts in space travel, they keep holding hearings to discuss what they could possibly do with the ISS in seven years’ time. Let private industry take it over? Let it crash and burn into the South Pacific? Let the program keep running? The latest hearing took place last week.”