The GOP, the ACA, and the Deficit

Today, January 8, the House voted on and passed H.R. 30, the Save American Workers Act of 2015.  The final tally of the vote was 252 ayes (12 of whom were Democrats), 172 noes (not a single Republican), and 5 not voting.  Following the vote, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) tweeted that the bill passed with his support.  Since I hadn’t heard about the bill, I did a little digging, and this is what I found.

First, the summary given by states that “This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to change the definition of ‘full-time employee’ for purposes of the employer mandate to provide minimum essential health care coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service a week to an employee who is employed on average at least 40 hours of service a week.”

Second, the Congressional Budget Office came up with a cost estimate.  The two findings that stood out to me were the following:
1. The legislation would “Increase the number of uninsured—by less than 500,000 people.”
2. “Enacting H.R. 30 would increase budget deficits by $18.1 billion over the 2015-2020 period and by $53.2 billion over the 2015-2025 period.”

While I am concerned that the number of people without insurance would increase (in fact I believe that we should adopt a health insurance system similar to those in Europe), I was also intrigued that the GOP would support legislation that would increase the deficit.  The GOP!  The party that proposes deficit reduction plans and the party that wrote about President Obama’s deficit “problem” at the end of his first term.  Given their past, and ongoing, concern about the deficit, how is it that almost every single member of the GOP voted for H.R. 30?  Simple, it does not really matter to them; instead, they would rather dismantle the ACA and see more people go without health insurance.

Thanks for reading.


Summer of Maps

If you love maps, then you had a good summer because there were a number of stories floating around the web containing various kinds of maps.  As such, I thought it would be useful to put some of the more interesting ones here.

40 Maps That Explain the World— The maps that I found to be particularly interesting were: #2 (Where people are the most and least welcoming to foreigners), #12 (Who loves and hates America), #19 (Economic inequality around the world), #30 (What Europeans think about the European Union), and #33 (The nuclear powers, after the Cold War).

The Racial Dot Map— This one should lead to some discussions about race and segregation.

My Passport to Europe— As someone who has a keen interest in the EU, I used this website to teach my children a little bit about European countries.

Mapping Stereotypes— A tongue-in-cheek collection of maps. The map of “The World According to Americans,” was unfortunately spot on. There are also plenty of maps of “Europe according to (insert country here).”

Every Protest on the Planet since 1979— The timeline in the lower right-hand corner starts automatically, so be ready.

40 Maps They Didn’t Teach You in School— I’m most curious about “United States According to Autocomplete.”

While many of these maps contain a certain amount of humor or require a thick skin, there are some in these collections that will hopefully lead to some interesting discussions.  If there are any in the above selections that you find particularly interesting, feel free to leave a comment.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Commuting by Bicycle

I began bicycling in September 2010 for two reasons- the health benefits and to commute to work.  Living in Madison has made commuting a great experience, and I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned the past three years.

1. Before you begin commuting, ride your expected route at least once, if not twice.  Look for bike lanes that you can use.  If your route takes you down a busy street and you don’t feel safe, find a parallel side street that you can take.  You should also find out if there are paved bike trails in your area.  Finally, check out the WI Department of Transportation’s webpage with bicycle maps.

2. If you don’t remember what you learned about bicycle safety as a child, brush up by going to the WI Department of Transportation’s webpage for safety tips and rules for riding.

3. Depending on the distance of your commute, you might want to consider buying a pair or two of bike shorts.  My commute is 40 miles round trip, and I learned the hard (and very painful) lesson of riding long distances without proper gear.

4. Consider buying both a headlight and taillight.  This is especially important if you will be cycling in the dark.  If you will not be riding in the dark, they still increase your visibility with automobiles, thereby making your commute that much safer.

5. As a teacher, I bring a lot of work home with me; therefore, I decided to buy a basket big enough for my backpack and laptop.  I tried riding at first with my backpack on my back, but by the time I got home at night, I was uncomfortable.  If a basket isn’t your style, you could always choose a cargo bag or pannier.

6. If you work up a sweat on your commute, make sure your place of employment has a shower facility and place to change.  To decrease the amount of gear I need to take to work with each commute, I take a towel and a few days worth of clothes to work on Sunday.  I have a cupboard in my classroom, so I can store my “dirty” clothes in there for the week until the following Sunday.

7. Finally, if you live in the Madison area, you might want to check out the Choose to Commute workshop put on by the Wisconsin Bike Federation.

There are many other steps you can take to increase the comfort of your commute, but the above recommendations should be enough to get you well on your way.  Commuting really boils down to two very simple, but important, principles- the 6 P’s (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) and SAFETY.

Happy Commuting.

Final Thoughts on the OAH Annual Meeting

One of the goals I had for my time here at the annual meeting was to find some books to use for our new AP U.S. History course.  I spent this morning perusing the catalogs while watching/listening to country music videos from the ’90s, counting down the minutes until the exhibit hall opened.  I think I found some good books, but I could definitely use some advice.  This is why I am calling on you, my readers, to give me some suggestions for books to use in my AP course.  I am looking for three or four books that cover some of the big time periods or issues in U.S. history.  Additionally, they cannot be overly long (nothing over 500 pages) and should not be too narrowly focused.  In particular, anything dealing with early colonial America, Native Americans, the antebellum period, and Reconstruction, would be especially useful.  Please leave suggestions as comments.  Many thanks in advance.

One of the things I really liked about this conference was the variety of professions represented.  I went to two different receptions last night, one by the NCPH and then the OAH Presidential Reception.  I went to the NCPH Consultants reception because the description in the program said if one was interested to attend.  Prior to the reception I knew nothing about historical consultants, but the conversations I had were definitely engaging and opened up my eyes to a whole new aspect of history.  It sounds as if the field is growing, which must mean that there is a demand by the public for the type of work that historians do.  My time at the second reception was also well spent as I sat at a table with an independent scholar/writer, a librarian at Ohio State University, and a retired teacher-now graduate student at Texas Christian University.  It was quite interesting to hear about their experiences in history, especially because they are not part of the professorial-side of the field.

Overall, my time here at the annual meeting was fruitful.  I heard some fascinating presentations, gave my own presentation, networked a bit, and picked up what I hope are good books.  Even though I’ve only been to one AHA annual meeting and one OAH annual meeting, I get the sense that the OAH is much more welcoming and inclusive of precollegiate teachers.  I hope that this continues for future meetings.  Next stop- the APSA (if my wife allows me to leave her alone with our three kids for four days again.)



More Thoughts from the Annual Meeting of the OAH

Last night’s panel on Getting the Most Out of the OAH went quite well.  Much to my surprise, we had probably 40 or so in the audience.  I hope that more and more precollegiate teachers become members of professional organizations, like the OAH, and begin attending annual meetings and perhaps even volunteering for committees (I actually just applied to help out with the OAH Committee on Teaching).  I can understand, however, if my precollegiate teaching colleagues feel out of place in such organizations.

As I noted in my essay about my experience at the AHA meeting in Boston last year, I was often asked the question, “What are you doing here?” as if a high school teacher was out of place at the annual meeting.  I realize that as a high school teacher, I might not necessarily make a big splash in the field of history, but I would like to think that my work would at least lead others to believe that I am a professional historian.  Recently, in the “From the President” column of the March 2012 Perspectives, William Cronon wrote an essay titled, “Professional Boredom.”  In it he argued that those of us not at a university/college should still be treated as professionals.  His call provides an excellent opportunity for organizations like the AHA and OAH to reach out to precollegiate teachers.

For example, there are a lot of us teachers who would like to continue taking content courses at universities; however, many institutions do not offer history courses at times conducive to teachers (meaning after 3:30ish), and if they do, they are usually so specialized that the content, while interesting, might not be useful for a teacher.  This problem could hopefully lead to some fruitful dialogue between post-secondary and K-12 teachers to see how university history departments could better serve the needs of teachers.  (I should mention that I am quite fortunate to live in Madison, WI, home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and that I have been lucky to work with professors on independent studies and even two courses, although the “actual” courses were in political science.)  Would history departments suddenly collapse if they offered a few early evening/night classes for teachers each semester?

That said, my precollegiate teaching colleagues also have their fair share of work to do with this issue.  I am well aware of the time constraints placed on us due to our very full platters (let’s face it, we no longer have full plates, we have full platters); however, that should not lead teachers to take the quick and easy way when it comes to graduate coursework (cough, video courses, cough).  Surely, we would not expect our students to take the quick and easy way when it comes to assignments; so if we want to take courses at universities/colleges, we need to be prepared to engage in hours of reading and writing, the activities that led us to become history teachers in the first place.

I would also love to see organizations like the OAH and the AHA, not to mention the various history societies and conference groups, reach out to precollegiate teachers and welcome them, perhaps even provide them with opportunities to participate in committees or workshops/conferences throughout the year.  If they are going to reach out to K-12 teachers, however, then those teachers need to start attending annual meetings and volunteering their time. Once this happens, the history profession will emerge stronger and more unified.  Until then, the feeling of “us versus them” will continue to divide our field.