Weekend Reading 12/14/12

Children's cells in mothers' brains, an easy Social Security save, and more.
This post is 86 in the series: Weekend Reading

Eric:

I’m so glad Kevin Drum is around. One of his blog posts this week, “The World’s Easiest Plan to Rescue Social Security,” deserves some kind of award for clarity and good sense. And for those reasons, I suspect his plan will go nowhere fast.

I saw Safety Not Guaranteed last weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Clark:

Policy note: cuts in family planning services—ostensibly to “save money”—wound up costing Texas hundreds of millions of dollars over the long haul.

In politics, we’ve all heard about the “liberal-conservative” axis, right? But how about the “simple-complex” axis? While not strictly ideological, complexity can make government both less effective and less responsive. So argues Steven Teles in a new article, “Kludgeocracy: The American Way of Policy.”  Take Social Security: we pay our taxes now, and we get some money when we retire. Simple! But compare that to the jumble of tax-advantaged retirement and savings programs created over the last few decades—IRAs, Roth IRAs, 529 plans, health savings accounts. Each presents a bewildering array of choices, limits, and tax implications—complications that simultaneously lower savings rates, raise private costs, and generate huge profits for the middlemen.

Toll Roads: Build It and They May Not Come.

At risk of sounding like shill for Big Car Sharing, next week Car2Go is launching its nifty rent-by-the-minute car sharing service in Seattle. For a little while longer, you can even sign up for free! One of the service’s key selling points is that you don’t have to return your rental car to any particular spot: when you’re done with it, you can leave it parked anywhere in the “Home Area” – which, in Seattle, includes the majority of places where people live and work.  This is a big step forward, and should propel Seattle from a distant third in the Northwest Car Sharing Olympics to…a somewhat less distant third. Progress!

Anna:

Over at Colorlines.com, Imara Jones argues that the core problem with how our government taxes and spends is that the poor are actually the ones subsidizing the rich.

This blows my mind—perhaps even in some literal way. Scientists discover children’s cells living in mothers’ brains.

The neuropsychology of persuasion? Robert Cialdini, professor of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University, gives us 6 shortcuts for winning someone over. (Hint: It’s reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus…there’s an animated video to explain how they work).

Alan:

A sweet and inspiring little item about a doctor with type-2 diabetes who quit the ER to start a health-coaching business for people with chronic conditions. She bikes to all her visits, with studded snow tires for the Massachusetts winters.

Two intriguing documentaries in the making came to my attention this week. One is on the power of Latinas. The second is on a community in Paraguay where people make a living picking trash in a landfill and improve life by making beautiful music on instruments built from reclaimed materials.

I’ve been closely monitoring developments in the US Senate around filibuster reform, because it’s a prerequisite for much that needs doing in Washington, DC. This week, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, a leader of reform efforts whom Sightline has been aiding as much as we can, released more details on his reform proposal. I’ll spare you the multi-page policy memos we’ve been preparing on the intricacies, but I’ll point you to his artful explanation for his colleagues. He also warned the Washington Post that filibuster reform will only happen if enough people demand it from their Senators. (Hint, hint.)

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