Author: Marcus Denton

Legally Hazy, Morally Certain

This week the Supreme Court hears oral arguments to decide if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional. There’s no doubt the health reform law – commonly referred to as “Obamacare” – has been controversial. As expected, exaggerated claims and half-truths are again flying across the political airwaves. While it won’t be fully implemented until 2014, in the last few months preliminary evidence of the law’s benefits has started to accumulate. This demonstrates that, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the law as a whole, the Affordable Care Act contains numerous consumer protections that should be preserved. For example, since September 2010, over 2.5 million previously uninsured young adults have gained health coverage. This is a result of an ACA provision that allows individuals to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to the age of 26, regardless of whether they are out of school, unemployed or married. Another protection has made numerous preventive care services available for free. So far, around 86 million Americans have received improved access to vaccinations, cancer screenings, wellness counseling, well-baby visits and more. New rules are also helping ensure value for consumers’ premium dollars. For example, not only do insurance companies have to publicly justify all rate increases above 10%, but independent experts now review all proposed rate hikes to ensure they are based on reasonable cost assumptions. Moreover, depending on the...

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Learning to Be Critics

  Three years ago, while contemplating applying for graduate school, I asked an LBJ student about the activist climate at the school. His answer – that there weren’t any “bomb-throwing Marxists” – told me all I needed to know: LBJ was not going to be a hotbed for radical organizing. It turns out he was right. To be clear, I’m fine with the lack of bomb-throwing. And I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to grow intellectually and personally among a highly intelligent student body and faculty. Still, for all of its strengths, the LBJ School’s chief weakness is its lack of a community of critical inquiry. My own experience illustrates the meaning and necessity of such an environment. From 2006 to 2010 I worked at a dropout recovery charter high school on Austin’s east side. Our goal was to educate our students the best we could. It was soon painfully apparent, however, that social problems that had for me been mostly abstract concerns to that point – racialized poverty, family instability, food insecurity and the like – did not stop at the classroom door. This meant that what had begun as a relatively simple task soon required asking complex, far-reaching questions about the underlying nature of society. My school’s immediate goals were to raise standardized test scores and boost graduation rates, but to achieve these goals we needed to...

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A Cure That’s Worse Than the Disease

  In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama declared deficit reduction to be a critical step to move the country forward. Republicans and Democrats disagree vehemently over how much to cut from the federal budget. Yet neither party seems to have considered that the right amount might be none. It is certainly true that we are living in an era of unprecedented deficits. In each of the last three years the federal government has run a shortfall topping $1 trillion. It is also true that there is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that the deficits must be addressed. As President Obama stated, “Now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable.” Just a day earlier, House Republicans pushed government spending cuts to the top of their legislative agenda. In all this talk about the deficit, one topic has taken a back seat: the economic crisis. Perhaps we’ve become used to it. Or perhaps it is the prevailing view that – calls for civility aside – this divided Congress is unlikely to reach common ground on boosting economic growth. The fact remains that close to one out of every 10 Americans who wants to work can't find a job. Astoundingly, the figure is closer to one in...

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