Friday, February 24, 2012

Public Policy Polling Survey and California's "Favorable" and "Unfavorable" Rankings

Public Policy Polling (PPP) recently released the results of a nationwide poll of 1,200 American voters.  Those surveyed were asked whether they had a "Favorable" or an "Unfavorable" perception for each of the 50 United  States.

Unfortunately, the results for the (once) Great State of California were less than unenthusiastic.  As a forth-generation Californian, I have to ask, "What happened to my state?"

States Ranked by Their Favorable Rating

Hawaii had the highest "favorable" rating while Illinois scored dead last.  California ranked below the national average at somewhere between #39 and 41 (Alabama and Minnesota had similar "favorable" scores).

States Ranked by Their Unfavorable Rating

Here's where the trouble begins for California.  Montana has the lowest "unfavorable" rate while California's "unfavorable" rating was significantly higher than the national average (by over 3.5 standard deviations!).  Even with the uncertainty in the poll results, this shows that California has a very high "unfavorable" rating.

The bottom five states are Illinois, New York, Texas, New Jersey, and California.  Four out the five are also the most-populous U.S. states (New Jersey ranks 11th in population, Florida is among the five most-populous states).  Three of the five (California, New Jersey, and New York) also have the nation's least-favorable business tax climate, according to the Tax Foundation.

Perhaps not surprisingly, California also has high chronic unemployment.  That said, Nevada has the nation's highest unemployment rate yet scored 19 points better on its "unfavorable" ranking.

The Net/Net:  Difference between "Favorable" and "Unfavorable"

This chart shows the difference between a state's "favorable" rating and its "unfavorable" rating.  Only five states had a higher "unfavorable" rating than its "favorable" rating--California, Illinois, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Utah.  Because of its high "unfavorable" rating, California ranked dead last (by over 2.5 standard deviations!).

Digging Deeper

Here are a variety of cross-tabulations of the data that provide a little more insight and confirmation of the results.

By Age Group

All age groups had an overall "unfavorable" view of California.  Respondents 18 to 29 years old had the smallest gap between "favorable" and "unfavorable" ratings while those 30 to 45 years old had the largest gap.

By Gender

Both women and men had an overall "unfavorable" view of California.  Men had the greatest gap between "unfavorable" and "favorable", with fewer "not sure" responses.

By Ethnic Background

Likely due to California's large Hispanic population, Hispanics provided a net "favorable" rating. Whites had a the largest "unfavorable" rating and the largest different between "favorable" and "unfavorable".  Given California's strong multi-ethnic population, I personally found it odd that African-Americans and Others (mostly Asian and Pacific Islander) provided the strongest "not sure" rating. 

By Political Party

Not surprisingly, Democrats had the highest "favorable" rating for California.  Currently, every major California state-wide office is held by a Democrat and both Houses of the California State Legislature are dominated by Democrats, who hold strong, nearly 2-to-1 majorities.  Equally unsurprising is that Republicans have high "unfavorable" ratings, likely for the same reasons that Democrats have "favorable" ratings.  I did find it surprising that Independent/Other voters had such high "unfavorable" ratings.

By Political Leaning

Again, not surprisingly, those who consider themselves "liberal" had "favorable" ratings for Left-leaning California--a strong Blue state.  Those who consider themselves "conservative" had very strong "unfavorable" ratings, likely because of California's fiscal mess and liberal policies.  Among the "very conservative" group, there was an amazing 64% difference between "unfavorable" and "favorable" ratings.  Also not surprisingly, those who consider themselves "moderate" had more balanced ratings, with "unfavorable" or "not sure" ratings edging out "favorable".

See also ...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

United States Federal Reserve Buys Nearly $1 TRILLION in U.S. Treasury Securities Over One Year Period

Over about a one year period from August, 2010 to September, 2011, the United States Federal Reserve System acquired nearly $1 TRILLION more in U.S. Treasury Securities, surpassing the holdings of China. Before the start of 2011, China was the largest holder of United States Treasury debt.

Question:  Where did the Federal Reserve get $1 TRILLION to buy United States debt?


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rick Santorum on Prenatal Testing, Abortion, and My Experience with Both

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" on February 19, 2012 to defend a controversial claim that free prenatal screening increases the number of abortions and consequently helps reduce health care costs.  He specifically mentioned that such screening leads to abortions of disabled children, including those with Down's syndrome.  Mr. Santorum has a daughter named Bella who has a a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18.

I'm willing to bet that Rick Santorum will be vilified by the media for his claims, but I can personally attest that his claims are true and that abortion is encouraged even when test results are not 100% accurate..

With our first daughter, our OB/GYN recommended the usual battery of tests including one called AFP (alpha fetoprotien).  A short time later, we heard that the AFP test results were "positive" and we were encouraged to meet with a genetic counselor.  The counselor told us that, based on the test result, it was possible that our child would be born with debilitating spinal bifida.  We were told about the immense costs we would likely personally incur to care for such a child, not to mention the great emotional heartache.  My wife was in tears for quite some time.  Naturally, abortion was the first option offered by the counselor.

My wife and I are personally opposed to abortion but the meeting really tested my personal faith and values.  I mean, if abortion is the recommended course of action by a health care professional, then the outcome must be foreordained, right? After much soul-searching, prayer, and tears, my wife and I both emphatically agreed that we would have our child, regardless of the test results.  My wife recollects that we even had to sign papers to that fact before discussing the matter further with the counselor.

As an engineer and professional skeptic, I questioned the AFP test and the accuracy of the results.  I later found out that the AFP test has a very high false positive rate.  It is meant as a screening test to trigger additional testing, which I found odd because abortion was the first recommended course of action.  We refused abortion so the next recommended course of action was an amniocentesis procedure.  After additional research, I discovered that amniocentesis itself had a higher probability of causing a miscarriage and thereby killing our daughter than the probability that our positive AFP test would be confirmed as a positive by the amniocentesis, indicating that she really might have spinal bifida.

Again, we refused the amniocentesis procedure and opted for a more-accurate level-2 ultrasound.  Although not foolproof, the level-2 ultrasound showed no signs of spinal bifida..

Fortunately, our daughter was born beautiful, happy, and healthy.  In fact, our little supposed "genetic deformity" earns straight A's in school and even won a first place ribbon at the county science fair a few years ago.  Her only disability is the complete inability to pick up her room--which she inherited from her father.

A friend of the family is a nurse.  She found out that she was pregnant at 41.  Because of her age and because she already had children, she was recommended to have an abortion to avoid the possibility of having a Down's child.  Fortunately, her youngest is also completely healthy.

Here in California, I believe that there are indeed financial incentives for the state to provide AFP screening tests due to the high cost of POSSIBLY caring for disabled children.  I can understand this, but the tests must be accurate!

How many prospective parents know that high false positive rate?  How many prospective parents ever questioned the health care system's recommendations?  How many compare the risks and rewards of various treatment options based on scientific facts?  How many perfectly healthy children were unnecessarily aborted because of a POSSIBLE negative outcome?

I believe Rick Santorum is right on this one, but this will be spun out of control by the media and some on the Left.

See also ...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Did the Susan G. Komen Foundation Make the Right Decision on Planned Parenthood?

UPDATE:  Kowtowing to political pressure, the Komen Foundation reversed its decision and will now continue to partner with Planned Parenthood, despite that fact-based, logic argues against that position.

Recently, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who aims to eradicate breast cancer, announced that they would no longer provide financial support to Planned Parenthood.  Breast cancer touches many lives.  It killed one of my favorite aunts and sickened two of my friends, who both successfully beat breast cancer.

Does the Susan G. Komen Foundation decision make sense?  After all, Planned Parenthood and their affiliates  performed over 747,604 "breast exams/breast care" procedures in 2010, according to their annual report.  But let's allow independently-verifiable, independent facts guide our way.

Would you agree that the Susan G. Komen Foundation exists to fight breast cancer and save the lives of females?

According to United States Census Bureau data (Table 121. Deaths by Age and Selected Causes: 2007), there were 40,970 deaths from breast cancer in the United States in 2007.  Although the data does not indicate it, a majority of these deaths were likely females, although males can also have breast cancer.

According to its own annual report, Planned Parenthood performed 329,445 abortions in 2010. In the annual report, "Abortion Services" is printed in a subdued gray as if to deemphasize these facts.  The text in the image below is darkened to make the data more readable.

Worldwide, abortion kills more females than males.  Just look to China's demographic imbalance and the "gendercide" that aborts females at higher rates than male. For simplicity's sake, let's assume that abortions in the United States kill males and females at equal rates.

If the Komen Foundation successfully and completely cures breast cancer, they could eliminate some 41,000 deaths annually.  This number pales in comparison to the 165,000 females killed by abortion annually via Planned Parenthood alone.  Where does the 165,000 number come from?  Assuming half of all aborted babies are female, divide the 329,445 abortions performed by Planned Parenthood or its affiliates by 2.

Some might argue that the comparison is unfair.  After all, according their recent annual report, Planned Parenthood screens patients for other types of cancers, an impressive-sounding 1,596,741 procedures in all.  Perhaps Planned Parenthood saves more lives via cancer screening than they take via "Abortion Services".

Okay, let's make some overly-generous assumptions and see where it takes us.  For the sake of argument, let's assume that Planned Parenthood screens ALL Americans for cancer.  Despite the screening efforts, there were 562,875 cancer deaths (malignant neoplasms) in the United States in 2007.  Not all cancers affect men and women equally.  Men don't contract ovarian cancer; women don't contract prostate cancer.  Breast cancer afflicts woman at far higher rates than men. For the sake of argument, let's assume that 60% of all cancer deaths are for females, or 337,725 cancer deaths annually.

Under the most-favorable assumptions, Planned Parenthood barely saves as many lives as they take via abortion.  However, Planned Parenthood does not see every cancer patient.  Nor do they perform every abortion in the United States.

According the United States Census Bureau (Table 102: Abortions by Selected Characteristics, “Total Abortions,” 2007), there were an estimated 1.21 MILLION abortions performed in the United States in 2007.  The data shows "1,210" but the numbers are in 1,000s, so the real number is 1,210 times 1,000, or 1,210,000 or 1.21 MILLION.  From the data, it appears that Planned Parenthood and its affiliates perform about 25%-27% of all abortions in the United States (329,445 abortions by Planned Parenthood out of 1.21 MILLION abortions total).  The Planned Parenthood data is from 2010 while the total abortion data is from 2007, the latest year available.

The data shows that more Americans die from abortion every year than from all types of cancer PLUS heart disease, HIV/AID, and all homicides COMBINED.  To put the 1.21 MILLION abortion deaths in perspective, this equates to the entire population of Dallas, Texas--America's 9th largest city.  This is also roughly the number of people murdered by the Nazis at the Auschwitz death camp during all its years of operation.  However, remember that this the number of abortions performed in the United States EVERY YEAR!

From the available data, I support the decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to withdraw funding support from Planned Parenthood. From its annual report, Planned Parenthood receives nearly half (46%) of its funding from the United States Government anyway.  Contributors to the Komen Foundation can decide to give or not to give.  The United States Government mandates funding via taxpayers.  Planned Parenthood will argue that none of the funding goes toward abortion--in the same way that I never spend money on beer.  My wife buys it for me at the grocery store.