Comptroller McCall Relaunches Gubernatorial Campaign at Wagner
Conference Explores Philanthropy's Potential Impact on Public Policy
Gara LaMarche, a senior fellow at NYU Wagner, was the recent co-sponsor of a highly successful conference at New York University on philanthropy and the new, post-2012 election landscape of policymaking and politics.
Foundation executives, individual donors, and civic leaders came together to examine what philanthropy’s evolving relationship with public policy and government means in the context of the rapidly changing political scene. Participants engaged on such issues as K-12 education, health care reform, and poverty. Among the questions examined were:
- How is America’s polarized political culture changing philanthropy?
- How has the political culture shaped the types of projects we fund, demands on grantees and partnerships with government?
- How successful or challenging have philanthropy’s investments been in the realm of policy change and with government? At the start of this new political cycle, what should we do now (or not do) given the ongoing polarization?
The Feb. 12 event was titled “Money and Power in Post-Election America: Where is Philanthropy?” It was co-hosted by NYU, Duke, and Philanthropy New York.
Conference on Social Theory, Politics and the Arts, Oct. 11-13
On October 11th, 12th and 13th, the Conference on Social Theory, Politics and the Arts (STP&A) -- the premier arts and cultural policy conference - will be conducted for the first time in more than a decade in New York City, and the first time ever at NYU. The 33rd annual conference, which was held last year in Vienna, Austria, will be chaired by NYU Wagner Professor Ruth Ann Stewart. It begins Thursday evening, Oct. 11, 2007, with an opening reception in the Puck Building in Manhattan, the landmark home of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. About 200 scholars, artists, and cultural-organization leaders from 26 countries and 22 states throughout the U.S. are expected to attend the conference and share their professional experience and research findings through papers and panels. The six conference themes are: Artists, Activism, and Social Change; Leadership in, of, and through the Arts; Sustaining Cultural Industries and Organizations; Role of the Arts in Bridging Ethnic, Cultural, and Regional Differences; Cultural Planning, Development, and Economics; Urban Revitalization and the Arts.
The online conference schedule can be found at http://stpa.culture.info. Anyone interested in attending this exciting event may contact the Conference Coordinator, Darren Flusche, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conversation Starter: 'Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Act' - Part II?
The House vote to repeal what critics call "Obamacare" (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - ACA -- signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010) was a key part of the GOP campaign to win back the House of Representatives in the November elections. It worked as an effective mobilizing call to arms.
HR2 (Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Act) passed the House by a vote of 245 to 189 on January 19, 2011. The Senate, however, killed the bill February 2, and the issue receded to a background murmur. Republicans and Democrats have drawn their swords over the President's budget, instead.
Still, repealing the health care act is likely to return to the political agenda. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) states that "The Congress can do better in terms of replacing Obamacare with common sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance and expand access for Americans."
To assess such a proposition, one would have to know more details about his party's solutions. But proposals so far are conspicuously absent.
After Congress passed the ACA, Boehner called it a "dangerous experiment." Texas Gov. Rick Perry called it "socialism on American soil." Many of their Republican colleagues have reread the script used by the American Medical Association (AMA) in opposing extensions of health insurance coverage propounded by President Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. They suggest that the ACA will result in a "government take-over" of American medicine, at worst, and "government-run" health care, at best.
But such attacks are dangerously misleading because they distort present realities and generate ill-founded fears.
We already have a massive government role in American health care; and for good reasons. We have socialized expenditures for our highest-risk populations - the elderly and severely handicapped (Medicare) and for the very poor (Medicaid) -- and we have a system of socialized medicine for our military veterans, which delivers health care of higher quality than what is received by the average American.
At the same time, most health care in the U.S. is provided by private non-profit hospitals and private doctors reimbursed on a fee-for-service basis. Clinical decisions remain largely in the hands of our physicians and to the extent that there has been increasing intervention and regulation of these decisions, it has come most forcefully from private insurance companies. Meanwhile, we have more government expenditure of biomedical research (NIH) and public health (CDC) than any nation in the world. And the system produces staggering rates of innovation in pharmaceutical research, medical devices and medicine.
The ACA is largely a bipartisan, half-way reform strategy inspired more by former Republican Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts than by left-leaning advocates of single-payer health insurance reform. It does not nationalize the health insurance industry. It does not increase the share of public hospitals. It does not set uniform prices for hospital and physician payment across all payers. And it does not assure universal coverage.
At best, the ACA, if implemented in 2014, will begin to increase coverage to 32 million of the more than 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured. It will achieve this objective through Medicaid expansion and the creation of health insurance exchanges that will strengthen federal regulation of the private health insurance industry through the prohibition of risk selection by insurance companies (the ban on refusals to cover pre-existing conditions and to set annual and life-time limits on coverage).
Finally, the ACA, passed before the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, begins to reverse the post-Reagan policies of increasing income inequalities. It does so by increasing the existing Medicare payroll tax on all those earning over $200,000 ($250,000 for couples).
These are significant, but modest, steps toward what political scientist Jo White calls the "international standard" among health systems in wealthy capitalist democracies - Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, and many more.
This standard, met by all governments in such nations, either imposes taxes on its citizens or enforces a health insurance mandate to provide access to a minimum level of health care services. Without taxes or a mandate, there can be no universal health insurance coverage. Without universal health insurance coverage, we cannot meet the international standard.
Conversation Starter: Mayor Bloomberg's Bid to Ban Soda Purchases with Food Stamps
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has long made it a paramount goal to rid New York City of unhealthful foods, and he recently asked the Federal government for permission to prohibit Food Stamp recipients from using stamps to buy soda and other sugared beverages in the city.
Supporters are cheering Bloomberg’s stance, saying he’s striking a blow for better dietary habits and ultimately lower public health costs and consequences such as obesity. But critics question the move, seeing it as an example of big government, even patronizing toward the poor.
Research can be a valuable guidepost for public officials. In 2009, after Mayor Bloomberg required restaurant franchises to put calories counts on their menus, NYU Wagner professors Rogan Kersh and Brian Elbel sought to measure the impact of the calorie labeling initiative on consumer habits at fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods. Their survey of 1,156 adult found little direct evidence to support the Mayor’s view that the posting of calorie counts causes fast-food patrons to buy items containing fewer calories. Elbel’s and Kersh’s widely discussed study, published in the journal Health Affairs, emphasized that follow-up studies are needed to determine the value and effectiveness of menu labeling and other obesity-related policies.
Professor Elbel describes the Mayor’s current proposal to prohibit the use of food stamps for the purchase of soda and sugary drinks as “an extremely innovative policy approach to tackle the complicated and multifaceted problem of obesity. It deserves a rigorous assessment, to evaluate its overall impact on healthy food choice and obesity,” says Professor Elbel, assistant professor of medicine and health policy. “The rest of the nation can then learn from the New York City experience as these and other policies to fight obesity are considered across the country.”
What’s your opinion of the Mayor’s food stamp initiative? Is it good public policy? Or should it just be allowed to fizzle out? Visit Wagner’s Public Service Today blog to post your comment today.