Weekly Roundup 4/9/2012

Welfare Aid Isn’t Growing as Economy Drops Off
By Jason De Parle, The New York Times, April 8, 2012, p. A1

Synopsis: The nation’s revamped welfare system, which gives the states great discretion in providing welfare funds to the unemployed, is not responding to growing hardships caused by soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Takeaway: Eighteen states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years, Jason De Parle wrote. Of the 12 states where joblessness grew most rapidly, eight reduced or kept constant the number of people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the main cash welfare program for families with children. The program mainly serves single mothers.

For background, see Peter Katel, “Child Poverty,” Oct. 28, 2011; Thomas J. Billitteri, “Domestic Poverty,” Sept. 7, 2007 (updated April 27, 2011); and Sarah Glazer, “Welfare Reform,” Aug. 3, 2001.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor


Why Health Care Isn't Broccoli -- Some Basic Economics
By Henry Aaron, Huffington Post, April 2, 2012

Synopsis: In deliberations over the health care-reform law, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia famously compared the law's "individual mandate" to buy insurance to a hypothetical universal mandate to buy broccoli. Law supporters argue that every American must buy health insurance because -- as accident and injury eventually strike us all -- every American will someday be in the health-care market. But "everybody has to buy food sooner or later,"
too, said Scalia. "So you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli." Brookings Institution health-care economics guru Henry Aaron explains why that's not the case.

Takeaway: For one thing, Aaron writes, "when someone consumes broccoli, one is not normally imposing costs on other consumers that make broccoli more costly or unaffordable." But when someone without insurance uses the emergency room, that's exactly what happens. Hospital charges for those who have coverage go up, as they pick up the costs that the uninsured patient couldn't pay.

For more on health-care economics, see my reports on Health Care Reform, (Aug. 28, 2009, and June 11, 2010 -- updated May 24, 2011), Universal Coverage (March 30, 2007), and Rising Health Costs (April 7, 2006).

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Stand Your Ground laws coincide with jump in justifiable homicides
Marc Fisher and Dan Eggen, The Washington Post, April 7, 2012 (print edition: April 8)

Synopsis: Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, a prominent part of the controversy over the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch coordinator, became the model for similar laws in roughly half the states after its enactment in 2005. In the years since, the number of homicides by private individuals deemed to be “justified” has increased by almost half – from 192 in 2005 to 278 in 2010, according to the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Takeaway: Prosecutors say the law is a barrier to bringing charges against genuine criminals. But the former National Rifle Association president who championed the enactment of the Florida statute says, despite the controversy over the Martin case, there is nothing wrong with the law.

For CQ Researcher coverage, see “Florida Police Under Scrutiny in Trayvon Martin Case” in my report, “Police Misconduct” (April 6).

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor