Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Problem with the White House and the Media

Ron Fournier @ National Journal writes a thoughtful piece on the declining popularity of Mr. Obama, and his logic could be applied as well to the declining popularity of national media.

He begins with an earlier conversation he had with an unnamed Democrat:
"Who's the hero in the White House narrative?" the Democrat asked.

I shrugged; "Barack Obama." Aren't all elections about the candidate, and all White Houses about the president?

The Democrat shook his head. "That's the problem with this White House. Barack Obama is the hero of their narrative, but he's not supposed to be," he said. "The hero of every political narrative should be the voters."
Fournier thought about that conversation during his vacation in Michigan, "where the dearth of quality jobs gnaws at everybody" and "where financially desperate families are selling second- and third-generation cottages—a tangible loss of 20th-century middle-class vibrancy."
What do these folks hear from the White House and the rest of Washington? Whining, mostly. Obama and his GOP rivals can't seem to tell the story of America without casting themselves as the protagonists.
He argues: 
Even Democrats are starting to tire of their president sounding less like a leader than a kindergartener—whiny ("They don't do anything except block me and call me names"); petulant ("So sue me"); and self-absorbed ("I ... me … my"). [snip]

Pity the president? No. In fact, White House officials, stop talking about him. And, Mr. President, put a muzzle on "I," "me," and "my."

Obama's slide in popularity will be permanent unless he realizes that the story of his presidency is not about him. It's certainly not about the GOP. It's about the people in Michigan and throughout the rest of the country who face enormous obstacles—and struggle heroically to overcome them.
Applying Mr. Fournier's logic to journalism could also explain the declining respect for national media. While American middle class families struggle, many in national media continue to treat every public policy debate—from immigration to energy to economics—as a scoring game between the players of the two political parties.

Yet for many worried Americans, it is not a game.It's not about the political parties, personalities or players. It's certainly not about which leaders scored the most political points on a given day. It is about accurately and honestly reporting the substance of public policy discussions in the quest for solutions to get America and her economy back on track.

The media's slide in respect will be permanent as Mr. Obama's popularity unless it realizes the story isn't about Washington; it's about Americans who live everywhere else.

Hold Those Sexy Photos!

"Girls who post 'sexy' pictures on social media sites are seen by their female peers as less pretty, less likely to get a job done and not someone they'd want to be friends with, a new study shows," reports the UK Telegraph.
The Oregon State University asked 58 girls aged 13-18, and 60 women aged 17-25, what they thought of a girl when her Facebook profile picture was 'sexy', and when it was 'conservative'.

Researchers found that the less revealing pictures scored the highest in terms of the girl’s perceived physical attractiveness, social attractiveness and task competence.

The biggest difference was found in task competence - those girls with 'sexy' photos were seen as not able to complete a task.

“This is a clear indictment of sexy social media photos,” said researcher Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology who studies the effect of media on girls’ body image.

“There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy. But sharing those sexy photos online may have more negative consequences than positive.
The study was published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Making Sense of the Millennial Generation

Millennials' political views don't make any sense is the headline of an Atlantic article about a new Reason-Rube survey of millennials. Senior editor Derek Thompson writes:
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They're for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they've heard of. They'd like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn't run anything.

That's all from a new Reason Foundation poll surveying 2,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Millennials' political views are, at best, in a stage of constant metamorphosis and, at worst, "totally incoherent," as Dylan Matthews puts it.

It's not just the Reason Foundation. In March, Pew came out with a similar survey of Millennial attitudes that offered another smorgasbord of paradoxes:

  • Millennials hate the political parties more than everyone else, but they have the highest opinion of Congress.
  • Young people are the most likely to be single parents and the least likely to approve of single parenthood.
  • Young people voted overwhelmingly for Obama when he promised universal health care, but they oppose his universal health care law as much as the rest of the country ... even though they still pledge high support for universal health care. (Like other groups, but more so: They seem allergic to the term Obamacare.)
Thompson has three takeaways from the poll.
  1. Millennials are more liberal but they get more economically conservative when they make more money.
  2. Millennials don't know what they're talking about when it comes to economics. He cites several examples of conflicting, even irreconcilable, ideological positions. Examples: 58% want to cut taxes overall, but 66 % want to raise taxes on the wealthy; 66% say 'when something is funded by government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful', but more than two-thirds think government should guarantee food, shelter and a living wage.
  3. Millennials don't know what socialism is, but they think it sounds nice: 42% think socialism is preferable to capitalism, but only 16% could accurately define socialism in the survey. [To their credit, 52% said capitalism is the better system.]
Yet maybe the explanation for millennial ideological schizophrenia is as simple as this: their transition from childhood idealism to adult realism is taking years longer than previous generations.

Twenty-somethings in the 1940s had childhood idealism brutally stripped from them by a world war overseas and rationing of food, gas, and every other material good at home. Forced to face and overcome evil and deprivation, they went on to become "the greatest generation" of achievement and accomplishment.

In contrast, many of today's twenty-somethings reside in the protected economic shelter of family (living at home or subsidized by it) and/or government (subsidized by student loans, food stamps, etc.). They can afford to cling to childhood idealism longer.

The question isn't whether the 86-million-strong millennials will come to grips with adult economic realities (they will have to at some point). It's whether the nation can economically survive the length of time it's taking for them to do so.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Incredibly Tiny Gay, Bisexual Population

Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are was the headline of a June 2012 Atlantic magazine article on the percentage of gay and lesbian population in the U.S., real and perceived.
In surveys conducted in 2002 and 2011, pollsters at Gallup found that members of the American public massively overestimated how many people are gay or lesbian. In 2002, a quarter of those surveyed guessed upwards of a quarter of Americans were gay or lesbian (or "homosexual," the third option given).

By 2011, that misperception had only grown, with more than a third of those surveyed now guessing that more than 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian. Women and young adults were most likely to provide high estimates, approximating that 30 percent of the population is gay. Overall, "U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian," Gallup found.

Only 4 percent of all those surveyed in 2011 and about 8 percent of those surveyed in 2002 correctly guessed that fewer than 5 percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian.
Now it appears even 5 percent was too high an estimate. This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of "the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans' sexual orientation," reports Sandhya Somashekhar @ Washington Post — a survey that "comprised 33,557 adults between the ages of 18 and 64."
The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.

The overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, labeled themselves as straight in the 2013 survey. An additional 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded “I don’t know the answer” or said they were “something else.”

The figures offered a slightly smaller assessment of the size of the gay, lesbian and bisexual population than other surveys, which have pegged the overall proportion at closer to 3.5 or 4 percent. In particular, the estimate for bisexuals was lower than in some other surveys. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hobby Lobby Improved Public Opinion of High Court

YouGov.com reports that the public's overall favorable opinion of the Supreme Court rose after its Hobby Lobby Decision:

The "greatest change in perception" of the Court was among independents:

Health Savings Account Plans Have Soared

"The biggest trend [in health care reform] is the rapid growth in private Health Savings Account plans," write Investor's Business Daily editors.
HSAs let people buy high-deductible insurance and put pretax dollars into savings accounts to cover — tax-free — out-of-pocket costs. Extra funds are rolled over. The accounts are portable.

For years, conservatives championed HSAs as market-based health reform that gives consumers more control of their health care and their spending.

Democrats, naturally, hated the idea, claiming that HSAs would appeal only to the young and healthy, would destabilize the insurance market and wouldn't hold down health costs. Ted Kennedy, for instance, dismissed them as "an untried, untested, expensive system that could provide billions of dollars of benefits to wealthy individuals and insurance companies."

Republicans were finally able to overcome this intense opposition, authorizing HSAs in 2004. They've proved a big hit ever since.

According to America's Health Insurance Plans, nearly 17.4 million people are in HSAs today, up 12% from last year and more than double the number in 2009.

And none of the Democrats' attacks proved true.

Politico: Governors Livid Over Border Crisis

"The surge of Latin American children trying to cross the U.S. border threatens to strain states' resources and is testing their already fragile relationship with Washington, governors from both parties warned Friday," writes Kyle Cheney @ Politico.
As they gathered here for a meeting of the National Governors Association, the state leaders seethed at what they said was a lack of support and information from the federal government.

That's left them groping for solutions to an issue they say combines humanitarian concern for vulnerable children, fears of lax border security and intense election-year politics.
As expected, Obama critics blame his administration for the crisis, and Obama supporters blame the Congress. Yet for all the supposed rage, not one governor had the courage to openly raise the issue with Vice President Biden when given the chance:
The border crisis was on the tip of nearly every governor's tongue in the early part of their meeting here, yet the group passed on the chance to grill Vice President Joe Biden on the subject when he appeared before them Friday.

During a question-and-answer session that followed a keynote address by Biden to the governors, the state executives asked him relatively tame questions about workforce development and jobs. And Biden — who also may run for president in 2016 — didn't refer to the controversial topic, either.