Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Matthew Yglesias examines the direct effects of social programs, and finds there's every reason to invest more in them:
  • Mercury emissions (mostly from coal plants) end up in the water, where they end up in fish, from whence they end up in the bloodstreams of children and pregnant women, poisoning their brains and lowering IQ. This problem was tackled in a limited way by the Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency, but the transmission of coal emissions into fish and thus into food is a highly globalized process that, like the better-known issue of climate change, really requires an international solution.
  • As a bonus inconvenience, if you skip past the toxic heavy metals contained in most fish, eating fish is really good for kids’ neurological development, so to the extent that parents respond to environmental degradation by reducing the quantity and variety of fish that kids eat, kids’ brains suffer on the other side.
  • Relatedly, neurologically damaging levels of lead are present in the soil of essentially every American city. There is also a lot of toxic lead lurking in the paint on old houses.
  • Beyond heavy metal toxicity, there’s considerable evidence that good old-fashioned welfare works well. Research on the Mothers’ Pension programs from the early 20th century showed that kids whose mothers received a very modest welfare check ended up with early-adult incomes that were 20 percent higher than those of mothers who didn’t receive checks, and were also 35 percent less likely to be underweight as adults and received additional schooling.
  • More modern welfare programs work too. A January 2015 paper by David Brown, Amanda Kowalski, and Ithai Lurie studied Medicaid expansions in the 1980s and ’90s and concluded that kids who benefited from expansion ended up paying more in cumulative taxes and receiving less in EITC disbursements than those who did not.
  • Speaking of the EITC, in 2013, a paper by Michelle Maxfield found that kids whose parents benefited from increased EITC generosity had higher math scores, were more likely to graduate high school, and were more likely to complete one or more years of college.
  • Indeed, it is in some ways likely that standard methods are undercounting the benefits of social assistance programs. Chloe East, Sarah Miller, Marianne Page, and Laura Wherry found in September 2017 that the grandchildren of low-income pregnant women who benefited from Medicaid expansion in the 1980s were less likely to suffer from low birth weight (which itself seems to correlate with low IQ, among other health problems).
As a society, we can, and should, take decisive action to reduce environmental contamination and improve the material living conditions of poor children and their parents. The evidence that doing this will have broad secondary benefits for cognitive development is overwhelming.
- Rowan Walrath discusses the need for improved mental health services for U.S. farmers. And Murray Mandryk makes the case for investments in mental health across Saskatchewan.

- Meanwhile, Lynn Parramore writes that the right's attacks on education are aimed largely at rendering much of the workforce unable to envision anything other than going along with the status quo.

- Terri Gerstein notes that many of the Sinclair anchors who embarrassed themselves spouting corporate propaganda on the air face severe financial penalties for questioning their employer. And Alexander Colvin studies the spread of mandatory arbitration provisions to cover 60 million American workers - though it's worth noting that if workers are required to deal with issues through arbitration in any event, they may have a strong incentive to ensure they have a union on their side in that process.

- Finally, Drew Brown highlights how the Libs' criminal justice bill is just another example of faux progressivism. Jordan Press examines their housing plan and finds that it falls far short of the mark. Duncan Cameron writes that Trudeau's incoherence on the environment is only creating more problems for Canadians. And Michael Harris sees Trudeau as a prime example of practicing politics based solely on short-term calculation rather than long-term vision.

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