Trends in Poverty in Wisconsin

Poverty, estimated using the official criteria and poverty threshold, or including taxes and non-cash benefits, rises in Wisconsin (while the officially reported Census measure declines in the US). [minor edits to clarify MDC 4/23]

The invaluable Wisconsin Poverty Report, coauthored by my La Follette colleague Tim Smeeding, Julia Isaacs (Urban Institute & IRP) and Katherine A. Thornton (IRP) under the auspices of the Institute for Research on Poverty, has just been released.

The key methodological innovation in the “Wisconsin Poverty Measure” is to calculate a taxes and non-cash benefits inclusive measure of poverty. Time series for the market income, official, and augmented measures are displayed in Figure 1.

wipov15_1

The * indicates that the change is statistically significant for the official series. While poverty rates by both the official and augmented measures both rise in 2013, the official series for the entire United States declined, from 15% to 14.5%.

Figure 5 shows official and augmented measures for children.

wipov15_2

Finally, I find it of interest that there are Econbrowser readers who constantly decry the trend in supplemental nutritional assistance program expenditures.

wipov15_3

Expenditures are being reduced, but in part because of termination of extended funding for SNAP. If Figures 1 and 5 convey any message, it is that there remains a need for SNAP (well, only if one cares about poverty).

The link to child poverty? From the report (pp. 8-9):

Children got some boost from the recovering economy in 2012, but that boost appears to have dissipated in 2013.While families with children continued to benefit from some of the program expansions under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), it was not enough to protect them against the rising market-income poverty of their parents in 2013.

In contrast, at the start of the recession, the WPM shows different trends from those shown by the two cash-based measures. Between 2009 and 2010, earnings fell sharply, but SNAP benefits rose as more families qualified for assistance and as both SNAP and the federal EITC and other refundable tax benefits were expanded under the ARRA. (Because the state EITC is tied to a percentage of the federal EITC, the state EITC also increased; however, the growth in the state EITC was offset by state action to reduce the state EITC, effective in tax year 2011 and continuing.) As these programs expanded, child poverty as measured under the WPM actually declined, despite the worsening economy and increase in market-income poverty (see Figure 5). Child poverty in 2010 was still higher than poverty for other age groups, but it was low relative to other years.

Update: Reader Patrick R. Sullivan expresses disbelief that the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM for short) falls in 2010. If he would read the report, he would find (page 6):

While the official poverty measure considers nothing beyond pre-tax cash income as resources, the WPM incorporates a more comprehensive range of resources, including tax credits and noncash benefits such as SNAP and housing subsidies, and it adjusts for household needs, such as out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related expenses that include child care and transportation costs. Consistent with our goal of measuring poverty in Wisconsin, we include Wisconsin-specific public resources, such as the Wisconsin Homestead Tax Credit and the Wisconsin state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), in addition to the federal EITC.

As noted in my quote regarding child poverty rates (and Figure 3), part of the reason for the mitigation of poverty was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which increased these benefits. Figure 7 highlights this point:

wipov4

As the report warns, we will see (in next year’s report) what happens now that SNAP benefits have been cut.

60 thoughts on “Trends in Poverty in Wisconsin

  1. Patrick R. Sullivan

    So, according to these guys poverty in Wisconsin declined from 11.1% in 2008 to 10.3% in 2010? I.e., during the worst part of the recession.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Patrick R. Sullivan: See update at the end of the post.

      I am still waiting to hear you admit you were in error regarding depth of the downturn in Canada vs. US during the Great Depression. As you recall, you stated unequivocally:

      Canada … had a less severe depression than the USA.

      And this statement is wrong.

      1. Patrick R. Sullivan

        ‘Reader Patrick R. Sullivan expresses disbelief that the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM for short) falls in 2010. ‘

        I didn’t say that the WPM didn’t say that, but now that you mention it, doesn’t their statistic support Casey Mulligan’s argument, made in his The Redistribution Recession? http://redistributionrecession.blogspot.com/

        ‘Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed were changed in more than a dozen ways after 2007. Economist Casey B. Mulligan argues that many of these changes were reasonable reactions to economic events, with the intention of helping people endure the recession, but they also reduced incentives for people to work and businesses to hire. He measures the startling changes in implicit tax rates that resulted from a labyrinth of new and expanded “social safety net” programs, and quantifies the effects of these changes on the labor market and the economy. He also reveals how borrowers can expect their earnings to affect the amount that lenders will forgive in debt renegotiation, and how this has acted as a massive implicit tax on earning. He explains how redistribution in the forms of subsidies, taxes and minimum-wage laws profoundly altered the path of the economy and made the recent recession one of the deepest and longest in decades.’

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Patrick R. Sullivan: You wrote:

          So, according to these guys poverty in Wisconsin declined from 11.1% in 2008 to 10.3% in 2010? I.e., during the worst part of the recession.

          The question mark seems to suggest skepticism regarding their finding. Is that not right?

          I am not surprised that you would quote Mulligan, who confidently asserted barring nuclear war, employment would not fall below 134 million in the recession. But you are free to choose your sources of analysis.

          Obviously these measures have incentive effects; but they also have aggregate demand affects. Assume away aggregate demand as a factor (like Mulligan does), and you get the conclusion that they were counterproductive. Like I’ve said, assume a can opener.

          I am still waiting to hear you admit you were in error regarding depth of the downturn in Canada vs. US during the Great Depression. As you recall, you stated unequivocally:

          Canada … had a less severe depression than the USA.

          And this statement is wrong.

          1. ottnott

            Oh, hell, Casey Mulligan has done far worse economics and made far more hackish assertions than that.

            One of his arguments against policies to stimulate the economy by boosting demand is, I kid you not, that businesses might not benefit from the increased sales, because their expenses would go up, too. He used that argument at least twice, though I could only find one of the examples the last time I searched: http://econbrowser.com/archives/2013/10/the_aftermath#comment-177236

            He does admit that “customers are normally charged more than cost” (suggesting that this wasn’t the first time he used the argument, and he realized he wouldn’t get away with pretending that businesses would be serving new customers at cost), but he calls this fundamental business fact part of “a more nuanced analysis”. In that same piece, he tries to pretend that we don’t really know if aggregate spending were increased if we transferred money from the wealthy to the poor, because we don’t know if one group has greater incentives to spend than the other group does. He says this, even though the spending examples he gives for the poor include groceries while the examples for the wealthy include yachts. Really.

          2. Patrick R. Sullivan

            I know I can always count on Menzie to get to the heart of the issue. In this case, Casey Mulligan made a prediction in Oct. 2008 that turned out to be spectacularly wrong. So, before the election of November 2008, he should have known that Barack Obama would win, along with enough votes to pass some of the stupidest economic legislation EVER. Legislation that raised marginal income taxes for the lowest income Americans over 100% in many cases. What a dope!

            Do you think, Menzie, that Mulligan should have anticipated this, from Obama’s speech to a joint session of congress;

            https://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-to-a-Joint-Session-of-Congress-on-Health-Care/

            ‘… by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries….’

            If he had realized just how economically illiterate Obama was, he’d probably have made a more accurate prediction about the effects of the recession, I agree. But, you have to admit that he’s right about policies that reduce poverty rates during a recession by paying people not to work and penalizing them if they do, right?

            Btw, since you were telling me recently that Public Choice is so passe, how did you like the Clark Award to Roland Fryer today?

  2. Bruce Hall

    No one wants to see children or elderly living in poverty, but I find much of the available data confusing or contradictory.

    Wisconsin’s population versus the U.S. has a smaller percentage under 18-years old and a larger percentage 65-years and older. Wisconsin’s share of U.S. employment has increased during the past 4 years and its unemployment rate is averaging more than 0.8pp better (historical variance) than the U.S. during that period (even if it has declined recently).

    With more Wisconsin people working (increasing share of total U.S. employment) and fewer percentage of residents 18-years old and younger than the U.S., the argument that more of Wisconsin’s children are now living in poverty than the rest of the U.S. simply due to changes in Wisconsin’s program seems strange. I’m not saying it isn’t true… or maybe I’m misunderstanding what seems to be implied in Figure 3 (p.4) of the report… but there must be something unique to Wisconsin poverty I’m not seeing.

    Nevertheless, children in poverty do need to receive supplemental help from the state.

    1) Food – The school lunch programs have been devastated by recent well-intended, but deeply flawed concepts of nutrition. I’ve seen the result of that here in Michigan where students are forced into low-fat, low-calorie food programs that purport to “fight obesity”, but in reality only leave active, young children hungry… and this affects poverty-level children far more than others. Wisconsin could address this by rejecting these fad-based changes in nutrition and offering three free meals each day to poverty-level children.

    2) Health care – Wisconsin’s Medicaid budget has been increased by about $0.66 billion; what is the “correct” amount? http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2015/02/04/gov-scott-walkers-budget-includes-663-million-hike.html?page=all

    3) Other – “Our key finding is that while jobs and earnings are modestly rising in Wisconsin, they are not helping to reduce poverty, at least not in 2013. While the social safety net provided a buffer against poverty during the recession and still makes a substantial difference in poverty—with the SNAP program having particularly large impacts— the effects are beginning to level off or even shrink. This lessening impact of the safety net occurred both because of the recovery and because of the return to pre-recession levels in payroll taxes and other benefit changes. This as left the longer-term WPM poverty measure more or less flat from 2009 to 2013. ” (p.16) It’s unlikely that Wisconsin can do anything about payroll taxes, so what are the other benefit changes that could be addressed?

  3. Steven Kopits

    According to the US Census, Wisconsin was ranked, from the top, in terms of persons in poverty, with #1 being the best state:

    – #18 in 2011 (poverty rate of 13.1%)
    – #14 in 2012 (rate of 11.4%)
    – #12 in 2013 (rate of 11.0%)

    The state moved up six places in the two years from 2011 to 2013. I would call that a stand-out performance.

    See Table 19. Percent of People in Poverty, by State
    http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/historical/people.html

  4. Rick Stryker

    According to the report, there were a couple of key factors that contributed to the increase in poverty as measured by the Wisconsin Poverty Measure

    1) Increases in the payroll tax on Jan 1 2013 to pre-recession levels. To combat the recession, the 6.2% payroll tax was dropped to 4.2%. This was always meant to be temporary, lasting a year, even though Congress extended it. But it was always the Administration’s policy that the tax should go back up, and indeed it did–despite other taxes not being raised during the fiscal cliff fight with the Republicans.

    2) Increasing health costs, especially for the elderly. Of course, Obamacare care was foisted on a skeptical public with the justification that it was going to “bend the cost curve.” But that’s not happening, as many critics predicted.

    None of this has anything to do with Walker.

    1. baffling

      rick, there you go again. critics, like yourself, predicted the demise of obamacare and uncontrolled costs. but that did not happen. you brother and son were shown to be fools. costs have been contained. it is truly baffling skeptics like yourself continue to deny the reality of the situation.

        1. baffling

          rick, i did scan through the report, but i saw nothing saying that obamacare was not containing costs. please show me the data that illustrates how obamacare is not containing costs. i see a general statement regarding “rising health care costs (especially for the elderly)” but i do not see anything attributed to obamacare not containing costs. unless you feel that any increase in health care costs is attributed solely to obamacare? perhaps your gripe is with medicare instead?

          1. Rick Stryker

            Nope, that’s your job to show that Obamacare is reducing costs, as was promised. I pointed out that the report says that part of the reason for the increase in the poverty rate is increasing health costs, particularly for the elderly. But Obamacare was supposed to “bend the cost curve.” So, then why is the poverty rate going up in Wisconsin? If you want to refute my point, you need to show that Obamacare is in fact reducing health care costs. And then you’d need to square that with the apparently rising health care costs reflected in the Wisconsin poverty index. One way you could do that is to show that Obamacare reduced the rate of increase of health care costs relative to what it would have been in the absence of Obamacare.

            But, you can’t do that, can you? Being a typical man of the Left, you’d rather go for the easy, no evidence, no logic, no argument rejoinder.

          2. baffling

            rick, your lack of integrity is astounding. you make claims in your arguments, without evidence.
            “Of course, Obamacare care was foisted on a skeptical public with the justification that it was going to “bend the cost curve.” But that’s not happening, as many critics predicted.”
            show me the evidence. this is your statement. it is simply a political pot shot. your lack of integrity makes discussions with you a waste of time.

  5. c Thomson

    Born and raised in Ohio, I’ve never had much enthusiasm for the rust belt. Professor Chinn’s work on WI is helpful in justifying this. WI seems much of muchness with Cleveland, Detroit, and so on. Poverty, universities losing vital departments, moaning lefties – what a dump.

    Throw in the chance of a political reversal of some highly necessary WI labor reforms, and if I were still a businessman I’d avoid the place like the plague. No doubt higher taxes on the locals can make up any investment gap?

  6. Samuel

    What I am waiting to see is if some reporter on the national stage will bring a thoughtful analysis to Mr Walker’s economic/jobs performance as you have done. It is his centerpiece and what he has said he wants to take credit for.
    Wisconsin could be an interesting economic model for what happens when a conservatives/tea party/far-right group gets everything it asks for. As you have documented even his most vocal supporters can see that WI job generation has been mediocre at best. Heck, compare Wisconsin to Minnesota or any other similar state. Heck, compare Wisconsin to Ohio, where fellow right-wing traveler, Kasich, wisely decided to take federal dollars and didn’t enact all the anti-Union measures that Walker did. Yes Ohio is doing better, ranking 29th in job growth to Wisconsin’s 40th
    Now we have a $2.2 billion deficit that can’t be blamed on Gov. Doyle and Walker wants to cut K-12 education funding, cut long-term care for the disabled community, and cut higher education. I thought the primary responsibility of state gov. was to take care of the disabled and elderly and help educate the next generation.
    Instead Walker gave $2 billion in tax cuts to corporations.
    Maybe Walker can sell his snake oil on a national stage because it seems as if the people of Wisconsin have given Walker an approval rating of 41% since the details of his latest budget proposal came out in October. Or maybe the drop in approval is because Mr. Walker has been trying to learn foreign policy by jetting off to trade shows in Europe, all on the taxpayer’s dime. Turning Wisconsin into a paradise for the 1% and income inequality and poverty in Wisconsin increases. This isn’t the Wisconsin I used to know.

  7. Bruce Hall

    CORRECTION

    As much as I hate to ever admit I made a mistake, it appears that my statement that Wisconsin was gaining share of total U.S. employment was erroneous. There was an error in the formula for calculating those values in the spreadsheet. The more I thought about the confusion and contradictions that I perceived in the data, the more I felt compelled to recheck everything.

    The fact is that Wisconsin has been share of the U.S. employment total all the way back to 1980. I certainly can’t pin that on any one person because it seems a fairly consistent losing battle.

    My apologies to everyone on this.

  8. Rick Stryker

    I’m not sure why we are talking about so inconsequential an issue as Wisconsin poverty statistics on today of all days, Earth day. On earth day we should be celebrating the earth and reflecting on the peril that capitalism poses for our environment. Let’s take a step back and celebrate.

    Today, we should celebrate the accuracy of scientific predictions made about the environment. AEI has helpfully put together a list of 18 predictions made around the first Earth day in 1970.. When we look at the stunning accuracy of the predictions, it only gives us more confidence in the scientists current warnings about climate change.

    Today, we should also celebrate the leaders who founded Earth Day and reflect on the sacrifices they’ve made. For example, Ira Einhorn was the master of ceremonies at the original Earth day in 1970, but years later investigators found his girlfriend’s body mummified and stuffed into a trunk in his apartment. Recognizing a conspiracy of climate change deniers to frame him, Einhorn jumped bail and was on the lam for 23 years until he finally was returned to US to stand trial. Einhorn claimed he was framed by the CIA, but in a clear miscarriage of justice the jury gave him a life sentence anyway.

    Today, we should celebrate the public intellectuals who have laid out the case for climate change, starting with the Unabomber’s “Manifesto” and culminating in Al Gore’s magnum opus “Earth in the Balance.” When you read these two great works, you can’t help but be struck by the similarity of the analysis and conclusions. In fact, there is a fun internet quiz Al Gore or the Unabomber? in which you are challenged with passages and you have to decide whether the author was Al Gore or the Unabomber. It’s a surprisingly hard quiz and I didn’t pass, proving I guess the old cliche that great minds think alike.

    And finally, today, we should celebrate our current leaders who are continuing to wage the fight for our environment. The President and noted scientist Bill Nye the Science Guy boarded Air Force One to fly down to the Everglades to challenge the climate change critics and get in a few rounds of golf. Bill Nye the Science Guy told reporters just before boarding that “I love the smell of jet fuel”. Nye must have been in heaven since they burned 9180 gallons of the stuff going down to Florida.

    So much to celebrate. Happy Earth day to Menzie and econbrowser readers!

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Rick Stryker: Are those predictions akin to characterizations that in a typical recovery, net job creation is 500,000/month?

      But I’m not surprised you think poverty in Wisconsin is a trivial matter.

      1. Rick Stryker

        Menzie,

        You missed the point again, as usual. Of course, I think poverty is an important issue. My question is why you and other progressives are not paying attention to global environmental catastrophe on Earth Day, when you guys are supposed to be focused on it. The Earth Day website reads:

        “Scientists warn us that climate change could accelerate beyond our control, threatening our survival and everything we love. We call on you to keep global temperature rise under the unacceptably dangerous level of 2 degrees C, by phasing out carbon pollution to zero. To achieve this, you must urgently forge realistic global, national and local agreements, to rapidly shift our societies and economies to 100% clean energy by 2050. Do this fairly, with support to the most vulnerable among us. Our world is worth saving and now is our moment to act. But to change everything, we need everyone. Join us.”

        If you really believe that the survival of the human race is seriously threatened by climate change, then every issue, including poverty in Wisconsin, pales in significance. Why aren’t you talking about the threat to all mankind on Earth Day? Or could it be that, despite all the lip service, you secretly don’t believe it? Hmmm.

    2. baffling

      rick,
      “AEI has helpfully put together a list of 18 predictions made around the first Earth day in 1970.. When we look at the stunning accuracy of the predictions, it only gives us more confidence in the scientists current warnings about climate change.”

      thanks for putting the list together (or at least giving us the link, since perry did the hard work). if you read the details of the list, a remarkable number of items on the list were related to pollution and other toxins polluting the environment-a focal point of the 60’s and 70’s. certainly we are grateful that the predictions for the demise of the modern world did not come to fruition. but alas rick, many of the predictions in your list did not occur exactly because we instituted some policies after 1970. for instance the EPA with the clean air and clean water acts. so the country can take pro active actions to eliminate or minimize the demise of the modern world. thank you for providing such a nice list of problems we minimized by strong regulatory policy on the environment over thirty years ago. imagine what other catastrophes we can avoid in the next 30 years by following a similar proactive agenda. Earth Day simply reminds us of those successes in spite of your spin, smoke and mirrors.

      1. Rick Stryker

        Baffles,

        Let’s look at some of the quotes from the environmental alarmists around the first Earth Day:

        “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

        “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

        “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

        “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

        “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

        So you think the EPA and other environmental policies prevented these catastrophes from happening?

        Would you mind sharing whatever it is that you’re smoking?

        1. baffling

          rick,
          “So you think the EPA and other environmental policies prevented these catastrophes from happening?”
          i think the EPA and other environmental policies did this country, and the world, a TREMENDOUS service. if you feel otherwise, quit smoking your herbs. you linked to a list of 18 statements put together by a dubious conservative think tank, and in that list 6 statements were attributed to the same source. nevertheless, it appears you are unable to grasp the concept that environmental policy can have significant positive impacts on the future earth. not a surprise.

          so you don’t believe the EPA and policy such as the clean water and air acts were beneficial to the environment we live in today?

          1. Rick Stryker

            Nice attempt to wriggle out of your statement by changing the subject. But let’s just stick to what you said:

            “but alas rick, many of the predictions in your list did not occur exactly because we instituted some policies after 1970.”

            Which prediction on the list did not happen because of environmental policies after 1970? Be specific.

            Would civilization have ended within the next 15-30 years but for the EPA? Did environmental regulations prevent 100-200 million people from starving over the next 10 years? Which environmental regulations saved the world from running out of gas by 2000? What environmental regulations prevented the world from getting 11 degrees colder by 2000?

          2. baffling

            not changing the subject rick. the issues brought about because of environmental activists decades ago have led the way to very good policies in which we have significantly improved our water and air quality, eliminated acid rain problems, significantly reduced the smog issues of our major cities (have you seen Beijing recently?). i am sure i could have counted on conservatives to have led the way in these efforts to clean our environment had there not been environmental liberals already taking that position, because conservatives are again today at the forefront of climate changes issues as well, right?

            so i will ask you again. you don’t believe the EPA and policy such as the clean water and air acts were beneficial to the environment we live in today?

      1. Rick Stryker

        Steven,

        That’s a respectable score. I don’t know anyone who has gotten above 50%.

    3. Robert Hurley

      Poverty anywhere is not trivial especially to those who are caught in its web. Only someone whose vision is blinded by ideology would make such a statement

  9. PeakTrader

    I think, one reason why poverty remains high is many people choose government benefits, without the need to work, over a low-paying job, or even a decent paying job, although the total value of the government benefits may be less than a low-paying job.

    That can create a dependent class with less experience in the workplace, than otherwise, and a poor work ethic, to compete with other workers.

    1. Bruce Hall

      Rick,

      Poverty is a symptom of individual and societal failures… and it occurs in every society, in virtually all economic systems, and throughout human history. The question is how do we handle it in present-day U.S.?

      There are those who argue for increased taxation to support expanding a multitude of programs. Others argue that programs are too generous and too many people take advantage of them. There are studies that say people are trapped in a cycle of poverty. There are others that show individuals move in and out of poverty all of the time. More recently, the federal government and courts have declared that illegal immigrants and their families are eligible for various benefits. This has happened throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia and has created massive financial and social strains on those societies.

      What appears to be missing is any comprehensive policies to deal with the issues of welfare, education, immigration, and taxation. It is unlikely that there will ever be such comprehensive effort. So, we are left with pushing a balloon which flattens one section while inflating another. Could the U.S. declare a “war on poverty”? That sounds catchy and somewhat familiar. What are the consequences… intended and otherwise? Could taxes be increased to fund expanded social programs?What are the consequences… intended and otherwise? Can the educational system be reformed? What does that really mean? Is present immigration strengthening or weakening our society? What should be done?

      Poverty is a symptom, not a cause. It is a symptom of personal and public failures. What is the optimal balance of corrective actions? You would argue that it is up to individuals to solve their problems. That might be fine for adults; what about children? You might argue that irresponsible adults are continuing to breed new generations of irresponsible offspring. What is your solution? Is pouring more money on the problems solving them?

      What we all seem to agree upon is that there are these problems. What we all can’t seem to agree upon are the means to reduce these problems in ways that do not cause other problems. From my own perspective, one might consider that increasing the school lunch program by using existing funds from the general assistance program might accomplish a few things: 1) ensure that children get three meals a day, 2) provide an incentive for the children to go to school and stay in school, 3) provide an incentive for parent(s) of poverty-level children to seek even undesirable jobs in order to increase their available funds, and 4) create social pressure to address federal and state policies that divert funds from needy citizens. These policies can and do include immigration management, taxation, regulation, and massive grants to public and private entities.

      One area that should and can be more aggressively addressed is waste and fraud in the social programs. However, the SNAP program appears to be relatively fraud-free. Correcting misuse of welfare funds could help provide more of those funds to the truly needy… especially children. Benefits to illegals may or may not be a real issue… although the possibility of fraud may be high because proof of citizenship or legal status seems to be somewhat lax. http://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2015/jan/12/undocumented-immigrants-id-cards-new-york

      * Disability – http://oversight.house.gov/release/oversight-report-finds-disability-programs-rubber-stamping-judges-waste-billions/ (significant issue)
      * SNAP – http://www.fns.usda.gov/fraud/what-snap-fraud (recent studies find this is minimal) http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665383.pdf
      * Benefits to illegals – https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/49868-Immigration4.pdf appears to be too complicated for the CBO to draw specific conclusions.

      1. Rick Stryker

        Bruce,

        I think it’s important for people to solve their own problems, but that does not mean that we don’t have a moral obligation to help them. I would think most people agree with that. The disagreement is about how to do it. But just as we have a moral obligation to help people get out of poverty, we also have a moral obligation to oppose policies that promote poverty.

        I believe the policies of the Left aggravate poverty. Here are three examples:

        1) The minimum wage contributes to poverty in a number of ways. First, it disproportionately affects the least able, who most need help to climb out of poverty. More importantly, it discourages training. It may be very good for people to work at a very low wage temporarily if they are being trained in some job, are learning good habits, and are honing workplace social skills. Eventually, many of those people will make the transition to more productive jobs and higher wages. But the minimum wage never lets them acquire that training they need. Scott Walker properly said no to the minimum wage and was excoriated by the Left in Wisconsin for doing so.

        2) High implicit marginal tax rates imposed by government social programs discourage the transition from low to higher wage jobs. In particular, Obamacare imposes 100% marginal tax rates over the range in which people need to transition to begin the climb out of poverty, thus encouraging people to remain in poverty. Walker opposes Obamacare as should we all.

        3) Probably the most significant contributor to poverty is the failed public schools. If you saw the documentary “Waiting For Superman,” you would have seen the heart-wrenching stories of people in the inner city desperate to get their children out of the public schools. The documentary, which was made by a progressive film maker, puts a lot of the blame for the failure of the public schools on the teacher’s unions, which have a stranglehold on the public school systems. Scott Walker fought to reduce the power of teachers unions in Wisconsin and was met with a ferocious assault from the enraged Left, who did everything in their power to stop him.

        Having failed to remove Walker early or to defeat him in 2014, the Left in Wisconsin has now resorted to gestapo-like tactics, with partisan Democrats sending police to intimidate, harass, and frighten the children of people who supported Walker on the union issue. You can learn more about this shameful behavior of the Wisconsin Left from this video.

    2. baffling

      peak, perhaps one solution is to make sure people who do work are able to generate enough income to economically justify the decision to work? is it a market failure if salaries do not encourage this action?

    3. Robert Hurley

      I wish those who make these comments about government dependency would get out in the real world and get to know both who gets these benefits and why. From what I see from volunteer work with those you would classify as dependant, they often have a better work effort than my white collar colleague did

  10. Vivian Darkbloom

    “Poverty, using official measures or including taxes and non-cash benefits, rises in Wisconsin (while the official measure declines in the US).”

    I have a hard time reconciling this with the data. The above statement is, at best, very misleading.

    The Wisconsin study cited uses its own methodology, explained in detail at their website. Under the IRP methodology “poverty” indeed rose slightly in the most recent survey. However, unless I’ve overlooked something, that study does not contain any data for the other 49 states, which does not permit a comparison as to how Wisconsin would have done in regard to all the other states using the same methodology.

    Menzie has made the claim that under the “official poverty measures” poverty declined overall for the United States (suggesting with his use of “while” that it increased in Wisconsin under the “official measure”, but decreased overall in the US). Menzie also writes this, following Figure 1: “While poverty rates by both the official and augmented measures both rise in 2013, the official series for the entire United States declined, from 15% to 14.5%.” Now, I have to ask myself, “over which period”? Any reasonable person reading this would assume we are talking about consistent periods. Since the latter statement follows Figure 1, one would strongly suspect that it would be the period 2008 to 2013. But, according to the “official figures”, the US poverty rate *increased* from 13.2 to 14.5 percent over that 2008 to 2013 period. It was only from the period 2011 to 2013 that the overall US “official rate” decreased (from 15 percent to 14.5 percent). During that same 2011 to 2013 period, Wisconsin’s performance under the “official measure” actually outperformed—it *decreased* from 13.1 percent to 11 percent (see, also, comment by Steve Kopits, above).

    https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33069.pdf (see Appendix A).

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Vivian Darkbloom: The statement is exactly correct. I am not responsible for your inability to interpret. I do not think other people have had difficulty with interpreting the statement. The use of the word “rises” suggests at the point that one is referring to the most recently reported data; however, I understand that you might not “do nuance”.

      To reiterate, in clear, plain, English, no appositives, etc.

      The official poverty rate rises from 2012 to 2013 in Wisconsin, with statistical significance. The official poverty rate in the US fell in the corresponding time period.

          1. Vivian Darkbloom

            Menzie,

            I find it very gracious of you to first indicate that the statement was “exactly correct”, charge me for my “inability to interpret” and failing to understand “nuance” and for you now to simply attribute your edit to “my confusion”. Thank you very much for setting *me* straight. By the way, it appears that your “minor” edit was not limited to the opening sentence, but also the sentence after Figure 1. Too bad your readers cannot track these things.

            Even after your edit, the first sentence is misleading. It is misleading because you are comparing with “while” apples and oranges. It makes no sense to indicate that under the Wisconsin IRP poverty standard, poverty rose in Wisconsin (in 2013), while under an entirely different “official” standard, poverty declined overall in the US. The IRP measure says nothing about what happened in the US overall in 2013 because the authors of that study apparently did not do the work necessary to make that calculation so it is unfair to make such a comparison particularly, as my rather “nuanced” comment pointed out, the poverty rate in Wisconsin actually declined in 2013 under that “official” standard.

            I get nuance very well, Menzie.

  11. Menzie Chinn Post author

    Vivian Darkbloom: If you find it misleading, then I apologize, even if no one else has brought this up.

    Now, as to your allegation that I changed the sentence after Figure 1: I have checked the revisions-log in WordPress. There is no such change. Hence, your memory is incorrect. I am afraid you will have to take my word for it, unless you want me to post screen shots of the log, and the associated revisions.

  12. JoshK

    I grew up in Wisconsin and I think you miss a lot of the subtlety of the situation there. To compare it to a growth state like Georgia or Texas is not really fair. As I grew up there people moved out their businesses whenever they could. The main office would usually stay where the family was in Milwaukee or the suburbs, but most work was done away. The downtown area decayed over many years. It’s not as bad as Detroit, but it has more similarities to Detroit than to Dallas.

    At the same time Wisconsin aggressive expanded it’s state aid programs and the general impression that many voters had was that it brought in benefit seekers, who then filled up the abandoned areas where businesses used to be. It was against that backdrop that the GOP was finally able to win at the state level.

    Every state has it’s issues and probably Wisconsin has some positives. But it seems really hard to extrapolate a few percentage difference – even if your data is right – to make more broad conclusions.

  13. Rick Stryker

    No, Baffles, you are changing the subject in your comment above. I linked to a list of laughable predictions made by environmentalists around the first Earth Day and you tried to defend these predictions by saying “but alas rick, many of the predictions in your list did not occur exactly because we instituted some policies after 1970.” I have asked you several times which predictions would have come true but for environmental regulations and you have refused to answer, attempting to change the subject to the question of whether environmental regulations have had any value. Of course they have, but that’s not the question at hand. You won’t answer because you can’t answer. Obviously, none of these crazy predictions were prevented by environmental regulations.

    In your other comment, you again want to shift the burden of proof to me so that you can continue to take fact-free, argument-free potshots. I can’t remember you once in all your comments citing any study, linking to any evidence, or making any serious argument whatsoever. I do it all the time, but to no avail with you. It’s a waste of time for me because I know you’ll just respond with yet another irrelevancy.

    I’m not going to bother to respond to you anymore unless you start making real arguments. And I do mean real arguments. For example, if you want to talk about how Obamacare has cut costs, you should also distinguish between cost cutting that has reduced services from cost cutting that has kept service levels constant. Speaking of arguments and evidence, I may have been the first person on the internet to note here, in econbrowser comments, that Covered California was dramatically restricting access to doctors. I learned that by looking at the plans on offer when Obamacare was rolled out and actually reading their literature. I’d like to see you do something like that for once.

    You should be aware that Covered California has a one star rating on Yelp. (Note the link to evidence.) That’s pretty remarkable. No private business could survive with ratings like these. If you read the comments on Yelp, you can see what a disaster Obamacare has been for many Californians. And yet the Federal government has sunk about $1 billion dollars into Covered California.

    I am sure that you will respond to this with more fact-free argument-free distractions and irrelevancies.

  14. baffling

    rick
    “Of course, Obamacare care was foisted on a skeptical public with the justification that it was going to “bend the cost curve.” But that’s not happening, as many critics predicted.”
    no data to support your statement. period. you began this discussion with this fact free argument, and have avoided any facts regarding this statement ever since.

    “Obviously, none of these crazy predictions were prevented by environmental regulations.”
    and none of those regulations would have been implemented if environmental issues had not been raised. we saw what happened in america before environmental regulations were implemented: acid rain, polluted water, smog, etc. we saw what happened after regulations were implemented. we also know which group was in denial that the regulations were even needed. and if you want to see act 2, simply look at china today, with india not far behind. look rick, i am not going to waste time dissecting a list put together by a political operative to support a conservative agenda. but you and i both know that without the activism which took place decades ago, the world we live in today would be much different, and not for the better.

    fyi, yelp would be considered a fact free source of evidence. please improve the quality of your sources.

    1. Rick Stryker

      Baffles,

      You have replied exactly as expected–more fact-free, argument-free distractions and irrelevancies.

      You are not able to make any counterargument that Obamacare is indeed bending the cost curve, which is what I wanted to be crystal clear. I gave you many chances. Someone told you that Obamacare is working–maybe the NYTimes, or the Huffington Post, or Krugman–and you believe it uncritically. But you can’t explain why you believe it. When challenged, the best you can do is to throw it back at me and hope that I can’t provide evidence that Obamacare is not bending the cost curve, a sort of Mexican standoff that disguises your own ignorance.

      Silly Baffles, you should know by now that your strategy won’t work. The data on health care spending is readily available. If you go to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid available here, you can examine the data up to their most recent analysis, which is the end of 2013. Since 2009, the growth rate of health care spending has followed economic growth, with the growth rate in 2013 being 3.6%. The share of health care spending as a percent of GDP has remained constant since 2009 at 17.4%.

      CMS does not yet have the data on 2014, but you can get 2014 analysis from the Altarum Institute. Their most recent report (research supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) estimates the growth of health care spending over 2014 to be 5%, a clear acceleration. As a share of GDP, they expect health care spending to move higher with respect to 2009-2013 period, up to 17.8% by the end of 2014.

      Just to repeat the point, Baffles, Obamacare care was foisted on a skeptical public with the justification that it was going to “bend the cost curve.” But that’s not happening, as many critics predicted.

      Your second point is yet another attempt at distraction. I asked you several times now to defend your statement that any of those wacky predictions were prevented by the EPA or other environmental policy. You now respond with the new irrelevant point that it is necessary to raise environmental issues to make environmental progress. You keep changing the subject, which is understandable: you made a foolish, indefensible statement and you want to run away from it.

      Your third point on Yelp is another example of the fact-free, argument-free analysis for which you are famous. You just state dogmatically, using the passive voice to avoid any sourcing, that “yelp would be considered a fact free source of evidence.” No, it’s a very widely followed review site. The facts are people’s reviews of the good or service in question. As I said, no private business could survive with reviews like those, which are scathing. Primarily, people are angry about how poor the website and customer service is and, more importantly, the costs coupled with the lack of access to doctors.

      The Yelp reviews are pointing to real discontent that is reflected in the re-enrollment numbers in California. People are voting with their feet. Covered California retained only 65.3% of their 2014 enrollees. New 2015 enrollees were only 35% of the 2014 total, implying only a 1% increase in total enrollment for 2015, putting California well behind other states.

      Since you never stop, I wonder what new irrelevant distractions you’ll bring up.

  15. baffling

    rick, it is not my responsibility to provide data for your statements-that is your job. you clearly stated obamacare was not containing costs, but you did not provide any evidence to support this statement. it was a fact free assertion. to then blame me for not wanting to do your work is truly baffling. in your follow on response, you provided generic stats that said nothing regarding obamacare specifically. in a similar vein, you wanted to blame rising elderly health care costs on obamacare. of course health care costs rise each year, your population is growing. demographically, you have more people each year entering into senior citizen status-these are rather proficient consumers of health care services. you don’t think the recession itself slowed health care cost growth over the past few years? i suppose in strykerworld these catch up costs are obamacare’s fault as well. none of the evidence you presented indicates obamacare is not doing its job. you simply hide behind the assertion that since health care costs have risen, obamacare has failed. in strykerworld, cost containment simply means fewer people should have health insurance and fewer people should have access to health care. any other outcome is considered failure. fortunately you were not elected into public office.

    your opinion that yelp should be considered a factual source of information beautifully illustrates the quality of your arguments.

  16. baffling

    cute rick. my statement in full was
    “thanks for putting the list together (or at least giving us the link, since perry did the hard work). if you read the details of the list, a remarkable number of items on the list were related to pollution and other toxins polluting the environment-a focal point of the 60’s and 70’s. certainly we are grateful that the predictions for the demise of the modern world did not come to fruition. but alas rick, many of the predictions in your list did not occur exactly because we instituted some policies after 1970. for instance the EPA with the clean air and clean water acts. so the country can take pro active actions to eliminate or minimize the demise of the modern world. thank you for providing such a nice list of problems we minimized by strong regulatory policy on the environment over thirty years ago. imagine what other catastrophes we can avoid in the next 30 years by following a similar proactive agenda. Earth Day simply reminds us of those successes in spite of your spin, smoke and mirrors.”

    rick, in mimicking menzie, you failed to do what menzie actually did. he provided factual data to support his claim. so please provide your factual data to support your argument, and remember you are not allowed to use your opinion as fact. and yelp does not constitute a fact based source. please tell me what the world would be like if the EPA and environmental policies had not been enacted. apparently you have that data. again let’s stick with the facts here, not opinion.

  17. baffling

    rick,
    “12. Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in his 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.”
    We have evidence of air pollution deaths outside of the US. environmental policy inside of the usa reduced its magnitude.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/health-26730178

    “11. Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.”
    we have evidence of this problem in Lake Erie, the mouth of the mississippi river, chesapeake bay, etc. environmental policy reduced the current magnitude.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/us/lifting-ban-toledo-says-its-water-is-safe-to-drink-again.html?_r=0

    “17. In 1975, Paul Ehrlich predicted that “since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it.”
    extensive environmental policy has been enacted in the past several decades to decrease the depletion of rain forests. 9/10ths of the rain forests were not removed in part due to this of this awareness.

    1. Rick Stryker

      Baffles,

      You are trying to defend your indefensible statement by changing those apocalyptic predictions into more sedate forecasts. For example, in the first case, you cite a WHO article that links air pollution to deaths caused by such things as heart disease and stroke, giving the impression that that’s what Ehrlich was talking about in his crazy prediction. Obviously, you don’t know who Paul Ehrlich is. Ehrlich was talking about the rather sudden deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom would literally die in the streets.

      The Ehrlich prediction comes from an article he wrote in 1969 called “Echo-Catastrophe.” In that article, Ehrlich imagined what would happen to the world if environmental policies were not changed drastically. Here’s what he said would happen by 1973, four years after he wrote the article, as a result of pollution:

      “Air pollution continued to be the most obvious manifestation of environmental deterioration. It was, by 1972, quite literally in the eyes of all Americans. The year 1973 saw not only the New York and Los Angeles smog disasters, but also the publication of the Surgeon General’s massive report on air pollution and health. The public had been partially prepared for the worst by the publicity given to the U.N. pollution conference held in 1972. Deaths in the late ’60s caused by smog were well-know to scientists, but the public had ignored them because they mostly involved the early demise of the old and sick rather than people dropping dead on the freeways. But suddenly our citizens were faced with nearly 200,000 corpses and massive documentation that they could be the next to die from respiratory disease. They were not ready for the scale of the disaster. After all, the UN conference had not predicted that accumulated air pollution would make the planet uninhabitable until almost 1990. The population was terrorized as TV screens became filled with the scenes of horror from the disaster areas. Especially vivid was NBCs coverage of hundreds of unattended people choking out their lives outside of New York’s hospitals. Terms like nitrogen oxide, acute bronchitis and cardiac arrest began to have real meaning for most Americans.”

      So, Baffles, you and Ehrlich seem to be in agreement that but for the new environmental regulations in the 1970s, people would be “dropping dead on the freeway,” “200,000 corpses” would pile up, the planet would be “uninhabitable until almost 1990,”and NBC would cover “hundreds of unattended people choking out their lives outside of New York’s hospitals.”

      If you want to continue to make this claim, then I am compelled to repeat:

      Baffled,

      I am still waiting to hear you admit you were in error regarding your claim that many of these apocalyptic environmental predictions were prevented from happening by new environmental regulations. As you recall, you stated unequivocally:

      but alas rick, many of the predictions in your list did not occur exactly because we instituted some policies after 1970.

      And this statement is wrong.

  18. baffling

    fascinating rick. i provided you with some evidence and you simply changed the argument from the cited list to another narrative, and then make the claim I did not answer that narrative. any more goal posts you want to move in this discussion? or as i asked before, if you want to claim i am wrong, you need to prove those predictions would not have occurred in the absence of environmental policies. but you cannot do that. your arguments lack integrity.

    maybe you can learn a little bit about the possible detrimental effects of air pollution when it is not restrained:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10555816/Chinas-airpocalypse-kills-350000-to-500000-each-year.html

    but never fear, i am always willing to accept your apology for being wrong.

    1. Rick Stryker

      “you simply changed the argument from the cited list to another narrative”

      No, I stopped you from attempting to change Ehrlich’s wacko prediction into something much more benign to prevent your attempt to escape responsibility for your indefensible statement. I did that by quoting from Ehrlich’s article the exact passage from which his prediction was taken. That article is filled with absurd environmentalist predictions. After finishing his doomsday scenario of what will happen if environmental policy is not changed, Ehrlich comments:

      “A pretty grim scenario. Unfortunately, we are a long way into it already. Everything mentioned as happening before 1970 has already occurred; much of the rest is based on trends already appearing.”

      A little later Ehrlich makes one of the comments for which he is famous: “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born.” Talk about environmentalist alarmism!

      Of course in your typical Baffling manner, you just simply deny what Ehrlich actually said, preferring to make up another interpretation that gets you off the hook. I and others have commented before about your amazing inability to learn. You stick doggedly to your position no matter what. Up is down. Black is white. 2 + 2 = 5.

      Since you persist in defending your statement, I must then remind you that I am still waiting to hear you admit you were in error regarding your claim that many of these apocalyptic environmental predictions were prevented from happening by new environmental regulations. As you recall, you stated unequivocally:

      but alas rick, many of the predictions in your list did not occur exactly because we instituted some policies after 1970.

      And this statement is wrong.

  19. baffling

    no rick. you accuse me of being wrong without any proof. i have asked you repeatedly to show the facts which support your statements. i provided adequate response to the list you linked. but i have yet to get any response, beyond your opinion, which indicates my statement is false. which is what you are claiming. you have taken the position of a hypothetical, and you cannot prove it. you need to demonstrate in the absence of environmental policies, the predictions would not have come true. but you cannot do that. until you can do that, you are in no position to tell me i am wrong. all you can do is simply disagree. but you need to remember, rick’s opinion is not fact. i realize that is confusing for you.

    but never fear, i am always willing to accept your apology for being wrong.

    1. Rick Stryker

      Baffles,

      Thanks–that’s the admission I was looking for.

      You’ve finally confirmed that you really do believe Ehrlich’s environmental predictions. You really do believe that had there been no Clean Air Act of 1970, people would have been dropping dead just a few years later on the freeway, hundreds of thousands of corpses would have piled up in NY and Los Angeles, the planet would have been uninhabitable until 1990, and TV news would have shown people choking out outside of hospitals. And all this by 1973. You weren’t just trying to avoid responsibility for making a silly statement. You really do believe it.

      In your mind, someone needs to prove that these environmental disasters wouldn’t have happened had there been no Clean Air Act of 1970 before you’d even consider re-examing your beliefs. That’s how strongly you believe in environmentalism.

      It’s often advisable not to discuss religion or politics with people that you don’t know well. Environmentalism is even harder to discuss since it’s both religion and politics, and so doubly impolite. And when we’re dealing with religious belief, there’s not much use arguing.

      Baffles, you seem to follow the Black Night school of argument. You always want to have the last word and I’m tempted at this point to let you have it, much as King Arthur did in the linked video clip.

    2. baffling

      rick,
      i will take your statement as an admission that you were wrong, that you made an accusation using your opinion as fact, and you could not back it up. in the future, if you want to accuse somebody of being wrong, at a minimum you need to be able to prove that fact. otherwise you are simply assuming your opinion is fact, which we have seen time and time again is not correct. apparently you really do believe that environmental regulations are not necessary because pollution and similar effects will never cause an environmental catastrophe. not a surprise, since you also support discrimination against gay and interracial couples if your religion supports such a view.

  20. Rick Stryker Jr

    I just saw the argument my Pop has been having on his computer. It reminds me of what just happened.

    So the lady at the Obamacare office called a couple of months ago and said I should come down. She says the government insurance is worth it. Yeah right, that’s not what I heard, but I’ll go down there. Maybe it’s free.

    When I got to the office there was a really long line, kind of like at the DMV. Anyway, who was standing next to me in line but the religious dude from down at the beach. He used to drive around in his van that was painted on the side with the date Aug 23, 2013. He told me once that that was the day that Rasputin predicted the world would end with a fire storm that would destroy all life on earth. But that could all be avoided if people prayed. I said, “Dude. It’s 2015. What happened to your prediction?” “People prayed,” he said. “C’mon man,” I said. “You expect me to believe that prayer prevented that fire storm. I bet there would have been no fire storm even if people had not prayed.” That’s when the dude hit me with some serious logic. “Can you prove that if people had not prayed, then the world would not have ended in a storm of fire?” he asked.

    “Damn, I thought to myself, he’s got me there.”

    About 3 hours later, the lady from Obamacare called my number. “Why don’t you have insurance,” she asked. “What if you get a serious illness?” “Well that’s just it,” I said. “I didn’t get Obamacare because I don’t want to get a serious illness.”

    “You see, I know this religious dude down at the beach. He’s good at forecasts and prophecies and what not. He told me that if I buy insurance I’d be tempting fate. If I buy insurance, he predicted I’ll get a serious disease. So, I didn’t get the insurance, which worked out just fine because I feel great and I had enough money left over to get a big screen TV at the electronics store.”

    “That’s ridiculous,” the lady said. “Most likely, you would not have gotten a serious illness if you bought the insurance. That’s why they call it insurance.”

    “Yeah,” I said, “but can you prove that I would not have gotten a serious disease if I got the insurance?” “Uh no, but that’s a silly point,” she said.

    “Hah, you can’t prove it,” I said. “Besides, if I do get a serious illness, I can always get the insurance then.”

    With that, I jumped on my scooter and popped over to the electronics store. I’ve got some extra cash.

  21. Rick Stryker Junior

    I just saw the argument my Pop has been having on his computer. It reminds me of something that just happened.

    So the lady at the Obamacare office called a couple of months ago and said I should come down. She says the government insurance is worth it. Yeah right, that’s not what I heard, but I’ll go down there. Maybe it’s free.

    When I got to the office there was a really long line, kind of like at the DMV. Anyway, who was standing next to me in line but the religious dude from down at the beach. He used to drive around in his van that was painted on the side with the date Aug 23, 2013. He told me once that that was the day that Rasputin predicted the world would end with a fire storm that would destroy all life on earth. But that could all be avoided if people prayed. I said, “Dude. It’s 2015. What happened to your prediction?” “People prayed,” he said. “C’mon man,” I said. “You expect me to believe that prayer prevented that fire storm. I bet there would have been no fire storm even if people had not prayed.” That’s when the dude hit me with some serious logic. “Can you prove that if people had not prayed, then the world would not have ended in a storm of fire?” he asked.

    “Damn, I thought to myself, he’s got me there.”

    About 3 hours later, the lady from Obamacare called my number. “Why don’t you have insurance,” she asked. “What if you get a serious illness?” “Well that’s just it,” I said. “I didn’t get Obamacare because I don’t want to get a serious illness.”

    “You see, I know this religious dude down at the beach. He’s good at forecasts and prophecies and what not. He told me that if I buy insurance I’d be tempting fate. If I buy insurance, he predicted I’ll get a serious disease. So, I didn’t get the insurance, which worked out just fine because I feel great and I had enough money left over to get a big screen TV at the electronics store.”

    “That’s ridiculous,” the lady said. “Most likely, you would not have gotten a serious illness if you bought the insurance. That’s why they call it insurance.”

    “Yeah,” I said, “but can you prove that I would not have gotten a serious disease if I got the insurance?” “Uh no, but that’s a silly point,” she said.

    “Hah, you can’t prove it,” I said. “Besides, if I do get a serious illness, I can always get the insurance then.”

    With that, I jumped on my scooter and popped over to the electronics store. I’ve got some extra cash.

  22. baffling

    fortunately for rick jr, he encountered a polite Obamacare lady whose opinion disagreed with him, but did not take the arrogant position that all others should see the world the same way as well. again rick, you can disagree with others. but when you call them wrong because they disagree with your opinion, and not fact, you are out of line. you should take some lessons in etiquette from the nice Obamacare lady. you will probably find some friends in the world because of it-my opinion, not fact.

    “You expect me to believe that prayer prevented that fire storm. ” I guess in strykerworld prayers and environmental regulations are equivalent?

  23. Prof Peabody

    Rick Stryker:

    I have been following your discussion with Baffled. Although I agree that some of the predictions on your list were exaggerated, as a climate scientist who does active research in the field I can assure you that a few of those predictions might well have happened if environmental policies had not been strengthened in the 1970s. I am currently in residence at an institution that specializes in the effects of climate change, among other policy questions. Unfortunately, the world is facing some similar problems today if we don’t change our environmental policies.

    1. Rick Stryker

      Prof Peabody,

      I’m surprised that any scientist would say that any prediction on that list was even remotely possible. Are you an academic? What are the similar problems today you are referring to?

      1. Prof Peabody

        Rick Stryker:

        My research is in the area of global atmospheric circulation models and I focus on the non-linearities in climate change processes. The problem is that the warming process will likely occur much faster than consensus estimates. Once the atmospheric carbon concentration reaches a critical level, which, if current policies are not changed, will occur in 2019, the feedback effects will become non-linear and the temperature will rise very rapidly. By 2020, the polar ice caps will have melted and the entire planet will be under water. Those who survive the calamity will be living in a world much like the movie “Waterworld” starring Kevin Costner. Although that sounds dire, we avoided similar disasters in the 1970s by appropriate environmental regulation. We can do it again if we have the will to survive.

        No, I’m not an academic. I’m a scholar in residence at an institution that supports my research and the similar research of my colleagues. The staff of the institution meet with me and my assistant Sherman both individually and in a group setting on a weekly basis to discuss my findings. Besides providing the time to do research, the institution also provides housing and food for the scholars in residence. Basically, the staff takes care of all our needs so that we are free to pursue our research. Sometimes, it goes a bit too far I think. Every day, for example, the staff makes sure that my colleagues and I take our pills and they watch us to make sure we swallow them. But otherwise it’s a great research set up.

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