Archives for January 22, 2013

The Public Health System in Action

Bethlehem’s Health Bureau is giving out free flu shots, and I’m wondering if they’re checking people’s addresses to make sure nobody’s free-riding from the other Northampton County municipalities who don’t pay for a public health department. Bethlehem taxpayers are paying for the flu shots, after all.

That’s a stupid way to think about public health of course. Somebody eating at Jenny’s Kuali could get breathed on by another patron from Freemansburg who’s got the flu. Communicable diseases do not respect the various political fiefdoms, so it would make more sense to have everybody in the region pay for a health department that provides stuff like free flu shots.

Income Inequality and Regional Tax Bases

Here’s a fun tool called Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks that overlays data on household income over city maps, showing you the differences in income within regions, cities and neighborhoods.

Here’s the scale:


And here are the maps for the 3 Lehigh Valley cities:

Everybody knows this already, but the trend you see is that median income in the cities is lower and median income outside the cities is higher.

If there was a regional tax base, the size of Northampton County or Lehigh County, to pay for local public services, then people could actually have a debate about progressive taxation. Should the people who earn more money pay more of the taxes, and the people who earn less money pay less? I think so. But with all these different political boundaries, you can’t even debate that. The richer people are separated from the poorer people by an arbitrary political boundary that has no real justification.