THINK TANK ROUND-UP: NO POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE EDITION.

TTR offers you a warm welcome, as well as the latest public-opinion research on American health care, why undocumented immigrants should be counted in the census, how an increase in life sentences is straining the prison system, and what the Obama administration can do about global aid.

  • Not according to Americans. Despite the chorus of assurances from congressional Republicans and their echo chamber, the American people are unconvinced that the United States has "the best health care system the world has ever known." That's the finding of a recent study by the Pew Center for People & the Press, which found that just 15 percent of Americans rated our national health-care system as "best in the world." Overall, 39 percent think the system is "above average" or "the best," while 59 percent say it is "average" or "below average." Conservative Republicans were the only group with overall positive ratings for the health-care system. We are pretty keen on the military, though: 82 percent of Americans rate our national defense as above average or the best. Who runs that? Oh yeah, the government. -- CKS
  • Get the numbers right. The Drum Major Institute argues in favor of counting undocumented immigrants in the 2010 census. Costly as it may be, research shows that it is ultimately more costly to not count them. Failing to count undocumented immigrants will disrupt local and state government service funding, leading to inadequate health-care coverage and underfunded schools. Census data also affects business investment choices that could help immigrant communities grow as businesses profit from the economic demand of a community larger than otherwise estimated. English language classes provided by the government in response to census data could vastly improve the lives of these undocumented residents, as immigrants proficient in English make 14 percent more than those who are not. This also matters for the younger generation, many of whom are U.S. citizens but ELLs (English language learners) who are more likely to drop out of high school than language-proficient students. In the economic downturn, they argue, it is especially important that funding is apportioned accurately. -- CIA
  • Prison blues. The same day President Obama ignited a media maelstrom with his comments about racial disparities in law enforcement, the Sentencing Project released a dramatic report titled No Exit on the expanding use of life sentences in prison systems nationwide. As a result of tough mandatory sentencing laws and declining use of parole for eligible convicts, more people today are serving life sentences than ever before -- 140,610, up from 34,000 in 1984. The report reveals “overwhelming” racial disparities in the allocation of life sentences: two-thirds of prisoners serving life sentences are black or Latino, and 77 percent of of juveniles serving life terms are non-white. The number of inmates over 50 has also risen sharply, nearly doubling from a decade ago to comprise 20 percent of the prison population. Because of health needs, states spend much more on older inmates ($100,000 or more per prisoner compared to the national average of $35,000). These trends have strained state budgets that are already struggling to cut costs in hard economic times. -- MD
  • Foreign affairs. The Brookings Institution is urging President Obama, Congress, and top-ranking Cabinet members to act more aggressively on global development initiatives. While the administration has made commendable strides on matters such as global public health and substantially increasing foreign aid, there is a need for much greater political involvement, a less dysfunctional bureaucracy, and more multilateral aid programs. Due to a lack of leadership, the United States government fails to play the prominent role in major international aid forums, even as it remains the single greatest source of foreign aid in the world. To ensure the positive impact of U.S. international development initiatives, the policy paper recommends Obama's appointment of an empowered USAID administrator, enactment of comprehensive foreign assistance legislation, and clear delegation of authority and budgetary planning. -- AS

-- TAP Staff

Previous Round-Ups::
7/21/09
7/14/09

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