Monday, March 26, 2012

The Rich Get Even Richer

The Rich Get Even Richer
New York Times
March 25, 2012

NEW statistics show an ever-more-startling divergence between the fortunes of the wealthy and everybody else — and the desperate need to address this wrenching problem. Even in a country that sometimes seems inured to income inequality, these takeaways are truly stunning.

Economic Scene: Inequality Undermines Democracy (March 21, 2012)

In 2010, as the nation continued to recover from the recession, a dizzying 93 percent of the additional income created in the country that year, compared to 2009 — $288 billion — went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income. That delivered an average single-year pay increase of 11.6 percent to each of these households.

Still more astonishing was the extent to which the super rich got rich faster than the merely rich. In 2010, 37 percent of these additional earnings went to just the top 0.01 percent, a teaspoon-size collection of about 15,000 households with average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent.

The bottom 99 percent received a microscopic $80 increase in pay per person in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The top 1 percent, whose average income is $1,019,089, had an 11.6 percent increase in income.

This new data, derived by the French economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez from American tax returns, also suggests that those at the top were more likely to earn than inherit their riches. That’s not completely surprising: the rapid growth of new American industries — from technology to financial services — has increased the need for highly educated and skilled workers. At the same time, old industries like manufacturing are employing fewer blue-collar workers.

The result? Pay for college graduates has risen by 15.7 percent over the past 32 years (after adjustment for inflation) while the income of a worker without a high school diploma has plummeted by 25.7 percent over the same period.

Government has also played a role, particularly the George W. Bush tax cuts, which, among other things, gave the wealthy a 15 percent tax on capital gains and dividends. That’s the provision that caused Warren E. Buffett’s secretary to have a higher tax rate than he does.

As a result, the top 1 percent has done progressively better in each economic recovery of the past two decades. In the Clinton era expansion, 45 percent of the total income gains went to the top 1 percent; in the Bush recovery, the figure was 65 percent; now it is 93 percent...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rush Limbaugh Calls Sandra Fluke a Slut - Response Video

When the woman is using birth control, her husband or boyfriend is obviously also protected by it. What is Rush Limbaugh's name for the man involved?

Rush Limbaugh Calls Sandra Fluke a Slut - Response Video

A musical comedy duo fronted by Marie Cecile Anderson and Katy Frame has been lassoing hearts throughout the New York City comedy scene. Here's a song about Rush Limbaugh and birth control:

Being a Woman is not a pre-existing condition

Health insurance companies charge women up to 50 percent more than men for the same coverage. Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act will close the insurance gender gap once and for all: It will be illegal for health insurers to discriminate against women.

Right now, being a woman is considered a "pre-existing condition." In fact, insurance companies are charging women up to 50 percent more than men for the same coverage.

How many times have you heard Republicans say this is outrageous? Zero.

And how many times have you heard them vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act? We've lost track.

The Affordable Care Act will close the insurance gender gap once and for all. Beginning in 2014, it will be illegal for health insurers to charge women more than men for the same coverage.

So, by threatening to repeal this law, Mitt Romney and the GOP would essentially give insurance companies license to continue discriminating against women.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Does Propranolol Reduce Racism? Probably Yes, Subconsciously

Does Propranolol Reduce Racism? Probably Yes, Subconsciously
by Christian Nordqvist
Academic Journal
11 Mar 2012

A small study found that people's subconscious racial bias is considerably reduced if they are taking propranolol, a heart disease drug, researchers from Oxford University wrote in the journal Psychopharmacology. The study was carried out by a team of psychologists, ethicists and psychiatrists.

Lead author, Sylvia Terbeck and team carried out an experiment on 36 individuals. 18 were given propranolol, while the other 18 took a placebo that looked just like the propranolol. They found that those on the heart medication scored considerably lower on the Implicit Attitude Test which gauged their subconscious racial bias. The test measures people's levels of subconscious racism.

The authors stressed that propranolol made no difference in people's explicit attitudes to races.
What is propranolol (INN)

Propranolol (INN), molecular formula C16H21NO2, is a sympatholytic non-selective beta blocker. Sympatholytics are medications that are used for the treatment of anxiety, panic and high blood pressure (hypertension).

Propranolol was the first ever effective beta blocker. It is available in both brand name forms, such as Inderal, Deralin, Dociton, Sumial, and generic form as propranolol hydrochloride. It is a banned substance in the Olympics, because of its use in controlling stage fright (social anxiety) and tremors.

Propranolol is also used in treatment for cluster headaches prophylaxis, essential tremor, glaucoma, migraine prophylaxis, primary exertional headache, shaky hands, and tension headache (off label use).

Propranolol blocks activation in the peripheral autonomic nervous system, as well as in the brain area that impacts on emotional responses and fear.
How does propranolol reduce racism?

The authors suggest that racial bias is based on automatic, non-conscious-fear responses, which propranolol reduces.

Sylvia Terbeck said:

"Our results offer new evidence about the processes in the brain that shape implicit racial bias. Implicit racial bias can occur even in people with a sincere belief in equality. Given the key role that such implicit attitudes appear to play in discrimination against other ethnic groups, and the widespread use of propranolol for medical purposes, our findings are also of considerable ethical interest.

Many people with medical conditions are probably already on drugs which affect subconscious bias and more research is needed into how drugs which affect our nervous system affect our moral attitudes and practices.

Co-author,, Prof. Julian Savulescu, wrote:

"Such research raises the tantalising possibility that our unconscious racial attitudes could be modulated using drugs, a possibility that requires careful ethical analysis.

Biological research aiming to make people morally better has a dark history. And propranolol is not a pill to cure racism. But given that many people are already using drugs like propranolol which have 'moral' side effects, we at least need to better understand what these effects are.