Federal Deficit Has Fallen Faster Since End of WWI

Via Investor’s Business Daily

“Believe it or not, the federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.

In fact, outside of that post-WWII era, the only time the deficit has fallen faster was when the economy relapsed in 1937, turning the Great Depression into a decade-long affair.”

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Study: Tea Party Membership Linked to Racial Bias

A new study, just published in the journal Social Science Research, finds a link between Tea Party affiliation and racial bias, especially against Blacks. “The findings suggest that, among conservatives, racial resentment may be a more important determinate of membership in the Tea Party movement than hard-right political values.”

Major highlights of the study include:

  • Racial resentment and political conservatism are both key predictors of Tea Party Movement (TPM) membership.
  • TPM members have even higher levels of racial resentment than very conservative non-TPM members.
  • Conservatives who evinced greater levels of racial resentment were substantially more likely to claim TPM membership than were other conservatives.

Reference

Tope, Daniel, et al. (2014).Anti-Minority Attitudes and Tea Party Movement Membership. Social Science Research. Available online 19 October 2014, doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.09.006

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Why Isn’t there an Ebola Vaccine?

Via Real World Economics

Back in August, James Surowiecki observed that the lack of an Ebola treatment was disturbing but predictable.

When pharmaceutical companies are deciding where to direct their R. & D. money, they naturally assess the potential market for a drug candidate. That means that they have an incentive to target diseases that affect wealthier people (above all, people in the developed world), who can afford to pay a lot. They have an incentive to make drugs that many people will take. And they have an incentive to make drugs that people will take regularly for a long time—drugs like statins.

This system does a reasonable job of getting Westerners the drugs they want (albeit often at high prices). But it also leads to enormous underinvestment in certain kinds of diseases and certain categories of drugs. Diseases that mostly affect poor people in poor countries aren’t a research priority, because it’s unlikely that those markets will ever provide a decent return. So diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, which together kill two million people a year, have received less attention from pharmaceutical companies than high cholesterol. Then, there’s what the World Health Organization calls “neglected tropical diseases,” such as Chagas disease and dengue; they affect more than a billion people and kill as many as half a million a year. One study found that of the more than fifteen hundred drugs that came to market between 1975 and 2004 just ten were targeted at these maladies. And when a disease’s victims are both poor and not very numerous that’s a double whammy.

In addition, NIH’s purchasing power is down 23 percent from what it was a decade ago, and its budget has remained almost static . Scientists at NIH say they would be a lot closer to a vaccine if not for cuts and government shutdowns.

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Environment Prosecutions Decline Under Obamab

Environment Prosecutions Decline Under Obama 

Via: Transactional Records Access Clearing House

The number of federal prosecutions for environment-related offenses continues to fall. The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first nine months of FY 2014, the government reported 271 new prosecutions in this category. If such prosecutions continue at the current rate, there will be a total of 361 environment prosecutions for the full year. This would represent a decrease of 19.6 percent from the 449 reported in FY 2013, which was already a marked drop from the 612 defendants prosecuted in FY 2012.

The result of this two-year decline would be a projected total for FY 2014 that falls well under half of the 927 environment crime prosecutions in FY 2007, a peak that occurred near the end President George W. Bush’s second term.

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Effect of Voter ID Laws on Voter Turnout

What effect do voter ID laws have on voter turnout? The U.S. Government Accountability Office provides an answer.

“GAO’s analysis suggests that the turnout decreases in Kansas and Tennessee beyond decreases in the comparison states were attributable to changes in those two states’ voter ID requirements,” the report said.

It estimated that reductions in voter turnout were about 2 percent greater in Kansas and from 2 to 3 percent steeper in Tennessee than they were in the other states examined. The four other states, which did not make their voter ID laws stricter, were Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, and Maine.

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Illegal Immigration is Below Numbers a Decade Ago

According to researchers at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, “the overall rate of illegal immigration is incredibly low—in 2013, the number of people apprehended at the United States-Mexico border was 64 percent less than 2004. Preliminary estimates for 2014 show that the total for this year will also fall far below the number of apprehensions a decade ago.” Continue reading –>

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OECD: Increase in Income Inequality is Exceptionally Worrisome

A new report from OECD signals growing concerns for expanding income inequality across the globe.

“The increase of income inequality on a global scale is one of the most significant – and worrying – features of the development of the world economy in the past 200 years,” according to the report’s authors.

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First Study Examines the Neuronal Basis for Equity Theory

The first neuroimaging study designed to examine how the brain responds to the distribution of income in different situations has been completed by Cappelen et al. (2014). As such, it’s the first study to examine the neuronal basis for equity theory.

Abstract

The present paper reports results from, to our knowledge, the first study designed to examine the neuronal responses to income inequality in situations in which individuals have made different contributions in terms of work effort. We conducted an experiment that included a prescanning phase in which the participants earned money by working, and a neuronal scanning phase in which we examined how the brain responded when the participants evaluated different distributions of their earnings. We provide causal evidence for the relative contribution of work effort being crucial for understanding the hemodynamic response in the brain to inequality. We found a significant hemodynamic response in the striatum to deviations from the distribution of income that was proportional to work effort, but found no effect of deviations from the equal distribution of income. We also observed a striking correlation between the hemodynamic response in the striatum and the self-reported evaluation of the income distributions. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first set of neuronal evidence for equity theory and suggest that people distinguish between fair and unfair inequalities.

Reference

Cappelen, Alexander W. et al. (2014). Equity theory and fair inequality: A neuroeconomic study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Public Trust Has Dwindled With Rise in Income Inequality

Is it possible that trust in others and confidence in societal institutions are at their lowest point in over three decades and this lack of trust is related to growing income inequality? Analyses of national survey data reveal a possible connection. The findings are forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Compared to Americans in the 1970s-2000s, Americans in the last few years are less likely to say they can trust others, and are less likely to believe that institutions such as government, the press, religious organizations, schools, and large corporations are ‘doing a good job,’” explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University.

Twenge and colleagues W. Keith Campbell and Nathan Carter, both of the University of Georgia, found that as income inequality and poverty rose, public trust declined, indicating that socioeconomic factors may play an important role in driving this downward trend in public trust:

“With the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, people trust each other less,” says Twenge. “There’s a growing perception that other people are cheating or taking advantage to get ahead, as evidenced, for example, by the ideas around ‘the 1%’ in the Occupy protests.”

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Social Security Benefits to Increase by 1.7 Percent

Via Social Security Administration

The latest COLA is 1.7 percent for Social Security benefits and SSI payments. Social Security benefits will increase by 1.7 percent beginning with the December 2014 benefits, which are payable in January 2015. Federal SSI payment levels will also increase by 1.7 percent effective for payments made for January 2015. Because the normal SSI payment date is the first of the month and January 1 is a holiday, the SSI payments for January are always made at the end of the previous December.

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