#ThanksObama

That title might sound tongue-in-cheek, but it isn’t meant to be. President Obama’s policies over the last six years are leading to astonishingly positive outcomes. I realize that for a certain set of the population, all numbers are lies and only they know the real truth.

However, for the rest of us, I’m not sure the truly terrific outcomes of this president’s policies are being touted enough. President Obama has lead an incredible turnaround in America and while there is always more work to be done, he is putting together a record that should place him among our greatest presidents. Seriously.

For example, this morning the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 18,000. This chart shows the DJIA for the last 10 years. Can you tell when Obama’s policies began to be implemented? Hint: it’s just after the lowest point.

DJI Interactive Stock Chart _ Yahoo! Inc

In other news, the U.S. economy grew at a sizzling 5 percent annual rate in the July-September 2014 period, the fastest in more than a decade, on the strength of consumer spending and business investment.


What about unemployment?

In an interview with Time magazine (5-23-12), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney pledged six percent unemployment by the end of his first term in office.

“I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we’d put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, and perhaps a little lower,” he told Mark Halperin. Unemployment currently stands at 8.1 percent.

Here is the opening statement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 5, 2014 report:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 321,000 in November, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains were widespread, led by growth in professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.

Impressive, huh? Obama’s policies have accomplished more in two and a half years than Romney hoped to achieve in four!


How about the number of uninsured Americans? 

But is the ACA costing more or less than projected?

45231-land-ACA3

To be 100% clear, the ACA is costing less than projected.


I could go on and on. These are just some of the broad economic indicators that President Obama is really doing an amazing job in spite of an obstructionist Congress that has made this work far more difficult than it had to be. One thing is for sure: pass or fail, Obama deserves the credit (or blame) for these policies. He owns them. Fortunately for him, they seem to be paying off in spades.

It’s one thing to have a different political philosophy and desire different policies. However, if you are convinced Obama is intent on destroying America, you just aren’t paying attention. Good news, though: those tinfoil hats are probably on sale right now!

Conservatives and liberals should agree on housing the homeless.

homeless jesus

The Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue that was installed in front of his church, St. Alban’s Episcopal, in Davidson, N.C. (NPR.org)

In the first post in this series, I looked at some obstacles I see to good policy development. However, I very much believe that there are opportunities ripe for collaboration between unlikely parties, like drugs.

Let me again note that not all ideals will be served here. For instance, these suggestions should appeal to fiscal conservatives, but not necessarily to social conservatives. That being said, there are examples of public policy which will save money, reduce crime, respect the dignity of those affected, and lead to positive social outcomes.

Some of these require more study before widespread implementation, but I believe there is enough data to warrant further inspection and at least merit experimentation.

The Issue: Housing the Homeless

From National Alliance to End Homelessness:

While circumstances can vary, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford. It is the scarcity of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in more urban areas where homelessness is more prevalent, that is behind their inability to acquire or maintain housing.

By the numbers:

  • There are 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.
  • Of that number, 222,197 are people in families, and
  • 387,845 are individuals.
  • About 18 percent of the homeless population – 109,132 – are considered “chronically homeless,”and
  • About 9 percent of homeless adults- 57,849 – are veterans.

The Good News

Recent data indicates that we can largely solve homelessness in the United States and it’s fairly easy. The solution: provide stable housing to the homeless.

Again, from National Alliance to End Homelessness:

Studies have shown that – in practice, and not just in theory – providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing saves taxpayers money.

Permanent supportive housing refers to permanent housing coupled with supportive services.

  • A study recent study followed the progress of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle, WA. All the residents at this Housing First-styled residence had severe alcohol problems and varying medical and mental health conditions. When taking into account all costs – including housing costs – the participants in the 1811 Eastlake program cost $2,449 less per person per month than those who were in conventional city shelters, as described in the article from theJournal of American Medical Association.
  • A cost study of rural homelessness from Portland, ME found significant cost reductions when providing permanent supportive housing as opposed to serving the people while they remain homeless. The study specifically noted a 57 percent reduction in the cost of mental health services over a six-month period, partly due to a 79 percent drop in the cost of psychiatric hospitalization.
  • A study from Los Angeles, CA – home to ten percent of the entire homeless population – found that placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing saved the city more than $80,000 per year.

Conservative Appeal

Conservative beliefs:

  • Personal responsibility
  • Limited government
  • Free markets
  • Individual liberty
  • Strong national defense
  • The role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.
  • Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

As demonstrated above, providing permanent supportive housing saves taxpayers money. A LOT of money. This alone should be enough to enlist conservative support in the cause.

However, let’s examine this through the lens of personal responsibility. One conservative view might be that this is providing a handout to someone who should be working on their own to obtain housing, that we are teaching them dependence on the government. That’s one way to look at it, I suppose.

However, another conservative might argue that permanent housing is the lever through which to encourage personal responsibility in all other areas of life. For instance, it’s difficult to obtain and keep employment without permanent housing. It’s difficult to maintain health conditions and stay on critical medication without housing. It’s more difficult to take proper care of children and be sure they are being educated well (222,000+ families are homeless).

Viewed in this way, providing one benefit allows people to take more personal responsibility for their lives in all other ways. This seems very consistent with a conservative philosophy.

Oh, and 9 percent of homeless adults are veterans. Surely, they have ‘earned’ their permanent housing (if that’s important)?

Liberal Appeal

Liberal beliefs:

  • Government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.
  • Duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.
  • The role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.
  • Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.

In light of the beliefs stated above, I think it is self-evident why liberals should be supportive of these policies. Providing permanent supportive housing is a government response that alleviates social ills and helps to reduce the number of people in need.

Conclusion

Permanent supportive housing is a clear win for all involved. Taxpayers save significant money, individuals and families receive critical help, and society benefits tremendously from a variety of positive outcomes. For people of faith, this policy seems pretty clearly to line up with the ideals of somebody named Jesus.

Politicians, this is an easy one.


Further Reading:

It’s getting even harder to justify not expanding Medicaid via The Incidental Economist

It’s getting even harder to justify not expanding Medicaid | The Incidental Economist notes the following:

[T]he projected state share of the Medicaid expansion is even lower than previously thought.

The Incidental Economist has become one of my favorite blogs (h/t to Nathan Flynn for alerting me to it). The authors at TIE have consistently provided rational, thoughtful analysis of the Affordable Care Act without resorting to demagoguery or misrepresenting arguments. Their analysis is based on careful observation of empirical data and using that data to speculate on future outcomes.

Their series of posts on Medicaid expansion is well worth reading. It provides compelling arguments for states to expand Medicaid. It is clearer than ever that the states choosing not to do so are largely doing so out of spite and hurting their citizens in the process.

I hope that Gov. Pence will look at how Indiana’s decision not to expand Medicaid is hurting some of our most vulnerable citizens. Let’s put politics aside and help our fellow Hoosiers.

Remembering Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert died one year ago today, on April 4, 2013. It is hard to put into words the influence this wonderful man has had on my life. His views on politics, religion, culture and really, life itself have had a profound impact on the evolution of my own perspectives. I was enthralled reading his reviews; I read every one that I could, whether I was interested in the movie or not. I still remember the excitement I felt when I realized that his blog would become a way to know his thoughts on an ever-expanding array of topics.

When I read Ebert’s words, I can often feel myself growing in wisdom and compassion. I feel that reading Ebert taught me things that I could only have hoped to have learned by the end of my life. To know these things now and use them to inform my daily life as I live it out is a gift.

I know that many reading this will think it odd to feel such affection for a man I never even met. Indeed, it may be odd. But Roger Ebert opened up new worlds of thought and ways of processing emotion to me that continue to inform my worldview today. His emphasis on kindness, optimism, compassion, and honesty creates a standard that I often fall short of, yet always strive to reach.

With that, I offer you a collection of some of my favorite writings by Roger Ebert:

From Roger Ebert’s Journal:

Reviews (in no particular order):

Roger Ebert Defending a Film at Sundance:

TL;DR: Roger Ebert is one of America’s most important writers. I miss him.