Happy Mother’s Day, especially to all of you family caregivers

Today is Mother’s Day. I just want to give a shout-out to all of those family caregivers–usually though not always moms–who should be honored today, as well. Yeah, that is my wife and my brother-in-law in a fairly recent picture.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 10.03.37 PMMore than 800,000 Americans diagnosed with intellectual or developmental disabilities currently live with a caregiver over the age of sixty. That’s usually “Mom,” with spouses, daughters, or others helping out.

Props to all of them. They’re working some serious overtime, in more than one way.

Glenn Loury and I on Bloggingheads

Hitting Cornel West, issues in urban policing, Al Sharpton, white identity politics in the GOP. And I have a final gratifying announcement on a more personal front, too.

 

Congratulations to Dr. Vivek Murthy, our 19th Surgeon General

Just a nice moment.

Congratulations to Dr. Vivek Murthy, our nation’s nineteenth Surgeon General. Here’s a nice article in Vox about what he hopes to do in the position. Here’s another on why I am especially gratified by the outcomes of the successful nomination fight.

Also congrats to Dr. Alice Chen, with whom I worked closely at Doctors for America, which I advise.  I remember especially fondly sharing a burger with Alice and my brother-in-law Vincent while Vinnie and I were on a Hollywood vacation. Alice is a whirling dervish of energy. And she does it all with a smile.

PS. Congratulations to both Dr. Murthy and Dr. Chen on their engagement.

PPS: Dr. Murthy’s grandmother was on-hand to see Vice President Biden officiate at the swearing-in-ceremony. What kind of nachas is that?

murthy_swearing_in

Hey Weekly Standard: Could you correct that Obamacare tax thing?

Kimberly Pinter is a tax attorney in northern Virginia*. So her April 3 article in the Weekly Standard, “Obamacare Pinches the Poor,” on ACA’s tax requirements will understandably concern many low-income citizens.** She writes:

According to the www.healthcare.gov web site, you can get an income-based exemption if “you don’t have to file a tax return because your income is below the level that requires you to file.”

Sounds simple enough, right? Until further investigation reveals that this exemption is claimed directly on the tax return. That’s right – the tax return you’re not required to file.

While the circular nature of this exemption is ludicrous on its face, its effects are far-reaching and incredibly regressive….

It’s a safe bet that many members of this population will not be cognizant of their need to file simply to avoid the Obamacare penalty for being uninsured.

[….]compliance with this behemoth law disproportionately burdens the poorest of the poor.  Like a shark silently stalking its unknowing prey, Obamacare lurks waiting to take a bite out of the unwary. And in this case, it’s the poor.

Yet another stupid Rube Goldberg application of the Nanny State, right?  Well no. actually. ACA has its share of glitches and complications. But this isn’t one of them. As ACA legal expert Timothy Jost notes over email, Pinter is wrong.

Indeed here is the government’s actual directions to low-income people. I found this through a quick Google search at a website called IRS.gov:

If you are not required to file a tax return and don’t want to file a return, you do not need to file a return solely to report your coverage or to claim an exemption.

This isn’t Nanny State. It isn’t Rube Goldberg. Nothing behemoth. No shark is stalking or biting. It’s not particularly complicated, either.

The Weekly Standard should run a correction on this important point.

*A friend notes that my description of Ms. Pinter as a tax attorney conveys the impression that Ms. Pinter is someone whose main duties are assisting people with their taxes. Her byline says: “Kimberly Pinter is a tax policy lawyer and writer in Northern Virginia.” Her Twitter byline notes that she is a “Tax policy expert, lawyer, lobbyist, jewelry designer, and Zumba fitness instructor.”  Sounds kindof cool, actually.

**Update: I received a very professional email from the Weekly Standard. To their credit, they are now looking into this. I await a correction or amplification.

The GOP’s political incompetence in Selma

I share Mark’s admiration for the president’s speech for the ages in Selma. It was written for the history books commemorating what happened fifty years ago, and for the history books yet to be written about President Obama himself. We will soon miss his eloquence, not to mention his no-drama integrity.

The contrast yesterday in Selma between the president’s largeness of spirit and Republicans’ small response was fairly astonishing. Two presidents Bush attended, to their credit. Some senior Republican lawmakers scrambled to attend once their pending absence became embarrassing news. But where was John Boehner? Where was Mitch McConnell? Where was Paul Ryan? Where were the main Republican 2016 presidential candidates? Where was Mitt Romney, whose father did so much to advance civil rights?

This was horrid optics bordering on the politically incompetent. A party trying to reassure moderates that it’s more than a party of cranky old conservative white people might have used this occasion to mark its own civil rights heroes who helped pass landmark civil rights legislation. The Republican Party of 1960 actively competed for black votes. Its civil rights wing included liberals who would later become Democrats. This wing also included more traditional conservatives on other matters.

That was a long time ago. There is now the tawdry effort to reverse-engineer and hinder the Obama ’08 campaign’s success in turning out African-American and Latino voters. In battleground states where the GOP controls the statehouse, Republicans seem conspicuously more interested in hindering early minority voting practices than in actively engaging minority communities. Ninety percent of poor adults being denied ACA’s Medicaid benefits live in Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and a few other southern states.

Republicans’ awkward handling of an event sacred to African-Americans sent an unavoidable message: These are not our people. It strains credulity to imagine Republicans would have offered up same bumbling and belated response if African-American voters were key constituents in Republican primaries or in Republican fundraising. More Republican candidates participated in Sheldon Adelson’s various personal primaries than chose to make their appearance yesterday in Selma.

Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and others damaged the soul of the Republican Party to court race-conservative whites.  There’s no denying that the southern strategy and its successors helped win big elections. Such discomfort with a widening circle of “others” still works for many in the congressional GOP, especially in non-presidential years. On a national level, it is increasingly out of step with a changing society.

Hey suburban parents—let’s stop spending money at Abercrombie and Fitch

Not long ago, I followed my daughter to Abercrombie and Fitch in a suburban mall.  I and a legion of other middle-aged parents were fairly stunned by the throbbing background music and frenetic atmosphere. I was also fairly stunned by the high price of the clothes.

Abercrombie and Fitch is now in court because the company declined to hire an otherwise qualified young woman because she wears a Hijab. Apparently she didn’t fit the company’s preferred look.

Shabby treatment of this Muslim young woman is just the latest infraction. Abercrombie and Fitch has attracted controversy for its refusal to sell women’s pants above size 10, its icky soft-core advertising, its apparent race/ethnic bias in recruitment, its mistreatment of an employee whose prosthetic arm ran afoul of the company’s “look” policy, and—not least–its CEO’s casual description of its cool-kid marketing philosophy:

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids… We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, every attractive all-American kid should deliver this guy a swift kick in the pants.

Our kids, particularly our daughters, are forced in so many ways to contend with a predatory commercial culture that reinforces the most crummy and stupid aspects of adolescent life.

As adults, this is partly our fault. We bankroll many purchases in stores that can’t be bothered to sell a pair of pants to somebody’s wonderful 16-year-old girl who wears plus-size pants.

I have no idea whether Abercrombie’s various policies violate various employment laws. I know that this company that doesn’t deserve my money. If every parent did the same, maybe the people hawking stuff to our kids would at least pretend to some basic decency.

When a caregiver leaves

For the fourteen years that I knew my mother-in-law Janice, she would sit at her computer for hours doing her bookkeeping working or just playing solitaire. Her son Vincent would sit quietly beside her, keeping her company. Then Janice passed away. Pretty soon, he kept Veronica and I company in the same way, for the time he lived with us. More recently, for the almost-six years that he has lived in a group home near our house, he has sat quietly beside the night manager Carol, while she has done her own computer work and play. Carol and Vincent have a special relationship.

Carol has firm opinions about things. She and Vinnie squabbled frequently, often when he was caught cutting corners on some rule. We sometimes squabbled with her, too. There’s awkward negotiation and role conflict regarding various details of Vincent’s care. She was away for awhile on sick leave after some surgery. The guys missed her terribly.

We called her last weekend to get a phone number. She surprised us with the news that she will be leaving her position. Like so many black women caring for other people’s loved-ones, she’s had to move on. Not for the first time, no one quite knows the right thing to say. “Thank you for everything” is essential, but leaves so much unsettled and unsaid.

Through circumstances that were beyond her control, she would not be able to say goodbye in person. So she asked one thing: Would we please tell Vincent that she will miss him terribly, but that she won’t be able to see him anymore. Would we also say goodbye to my two daughters, whom she has come to know? Veronica and I spoke with Vincent about it. A staff member had already gotten the guys together. She broke the news to them, rather in the way one tells small children about the death of a close relative.

Vincent is resilient and hungry for human connection. So he will soon find a new person to keep company with before he kicks in for the night.

Vincent’s not saying much about it. That’s his way. I’m helping him pen a goodbye card, as we’ve done when others have passed through his life. Given the low pay and the difficult working conditions in direct care work, he’s experienced this before.

At some random moment long in the future, he’ll say: “I miss Carol.” I’ll say: “Me, too, Vin. Me, too.”

Fidelity investments wrote their own little investment card. Guess what is missing?

Fidelity Investments today tweeted “6 steps to pay off #debt while saving money at the same time.”


These are pretty good rules, nicely presented. Indeed they remind me of something I first posted here at Samefacts:


That index card is probably my most famous contribution to American financial journalism. It was featured all over the place, and has been copied, plagiarized, modified, even translated into Romanian.

Somehow, Fidelity omitted a few items. Consider these two… Continue Reading…