Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We are doomed. Idiocracy has taken over.

An editorial by Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. 

$9 an hour is not enough: Opposing view

Every morning, millions of Americans drop their children off at day care, grab a cup of coffee from the corner shop, and drop their car keys off with a parking garage attendant before arriving at an office that has been cleaned overnight by a janitor.

In the morning rush, few of us probably stop to think about the workers who are making our routine possible — and we are certainly not thinking about how much they earn.

OUR VIEW: Index wage increase to inflation

Many minimum-wage workers — who serve in important and often difficult jobs, but earn just $7.25 an hour — do not earn enough to pay the bills, much less achieve the American Dream. Since its peak in 1968, the minimum wage has lost 31% of its purchasing power, while the prices of basic necessities such as food and rent have continued to climb.

This means that American workers are falling behind. If we are truly going to rebuild the middle class, we must start by helping these workers.

While I was heartened to hear President Obama make the minimum wage a centerpiece of his State of the Union Address, I believe that his proposal of $9 per hour does not go far enough to ensure that working families can make ends meet.

Soon, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and I will introduce legislation that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in more than 20 years. Our proposal, like President Obama's, would also provide for automatic increases linked to changes in the cost of living.

Raising the minimum wage is one of the simplest and most effective ways to help working families succeed. It also helps our economy by putting additional money in the hands of consumers who will spend it right away in their local communities.

Contrary to publicized myths, research proves that increasing the minimum wage will not cost us jobs; in fact, our proposal would create at least 100,000 jobs through increased consumer spending.

Our nation is on the road to recovery — a recovery that can and must include a raise in the minimum wage.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Friday, February 22, 2013

New York Times Calls for 35% Tax Hike on Middle Class


Today's editorial in the NY Times calls for at least a 35% increase in taxes on the middle class. Welcome to your liberal paradise.

Specifically, the Times says,
new taxes on high-income Americans are a matter of necessity and fairness; they are also a necessary precondition to what in time will have to be tax increases on the middle class. 
It also shares one of the reasons it is so intent on raising taxes on the millionaires and billionaires who make more than $250,000 per year.
there will never be a consensus for more taxes from the middle class without imposing higher taxes on wealthy Americans
So there we have it, the Times finally admits what I have maintained for quite some time, the real goal of this administration is increased taxes on the middle class.

How high will taxes need to be to pay for our liberal Shangri-La?

This graph is from the CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook for Fiscal Years 2013-2023.

 Current tax revenues about 17% of GDP. Projected outlays in Fiscal 23 about 23% of GDP, taxes have to go up about 35%. But wait, there's more. Projected outlays rise sharply after 2023 and consume upwards of 30% of GDP, necessitating a doubling of taxes.

Sequester looks pretty darn good from my perspective.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dwight Lee: A Higher Minimum Wage—but Not for Interns in Congress - WSJ.com

Everyone plays by the same rules etc.

Dwight Lee: A Higher Minimum Wage—but Not for Interns in Congress


President Obama called in his State of the Union for an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015, from $7.25, notwithstanding the evidence that it will increase unemployment among young, entry-level workers. This push by Mr. Obama and his congressional allies is especially difficult to understand because they clearly appreciate how valuable it is for young people to gain workplace experience and make connections that can lead to career opportunities.

Internships at the White House, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington introduce thousands of young people to working in government and to the discipline and industry needed to function in any workplace. Yet these unpaid positions are almost by definition reserved for the offspring of the well-to-do who are least in need of such an advantage.

Associated Press

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.)

Consider Barbara Boxer, the Democratic senator from California, who urged the country to "heed the president's call" to raise the minimum wage. Throughout the year, Ms. Boxer offers internships that provide "a valuable opportunity to see how a Senate office functions," according to her website. Interns are advised that they "should dress in a professional manner befitting the representative of a U.S. Senator at all times." Her interns may dress in a professional manner, but they are unpaid.

Universal Orlando dropping health insurance: Universal Orlando will drop health insurance for part-time workers - OrlandoSentinel.com

Well at least we've solved the access issue.

Universal Orlando dropping health insurance: Universal Orlando will drop health insurance for part-time workers - OrlandoSentinel.com

Universal Orlando plans to stop offering medical insurance to part-time employees beginning next year, a move the resort says has been forced by the federal government's health-care overhaul.

The giant theme-park resort, which generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, began informing employees this month that it will offer health-insurance to part-timers "only until December 31, 2013."

The reason: Universal currently offers part-time workers a limited insurance plan that has low premiums but also caps the payout of benefits. For instance, Universal's plan costs about $18 a week for employee-only coverage but covers only a maximum of $5,000 a year toward hospital stays. There are similar caps for other services.

Those types of insurance plans — sometimes referred to as "mini-med" plans — will no longer be permitted under the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2014, the law will prohibit insurance plans that impose annual monetary limits on essential medical care such, as hospitalization, or on overall spending.

Universal is one of the largest employers in Central Florida, with approximately 17,000 employees. It has thousands of part-time workers, though Universal said only about 500 of them are enrolled in the current insurance plan, as many part-timers are covered by a parent's or spouse's insurance.

"We care about our team members and we want them to have best, most-affordable medical benefits we can provide," Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said Tuesday. "This particular issue affects about 3 percent of our 17,000 team members, and we're going to continue to work toward a solution."

Universal said it would not save any money by dropping the part-time insurance plans. The resort said it currently does not spend anything itself on plan — it only negotiates a group rate through Florida Hospital and then helps facilitate employee enrollment.

Critics of mini-med insurance plans say they ultimately provide little protection for workers, with meager payout limits that are nowhere near enough to cover medical emergencies. Supporters argue they are a realistic option for low-paid, limited-hour workers who can't afford better plans.

Other large employers are grappling with the same issue as Universal.

A spokesman for Orlando-based Darden Restaurants said Tuesday its limited-coverage plans will "go away after this year," as well.

"We'd like to have the option to continue offering them, since they are popular with our part-time employees, but the ACA doesn't offer that type of flexibility," spokesman Rich Jeffers said. "There is still a lot we don't know about the new health-care regulations for 2014, but we are committed to helping all of our employees navigate through the new environment as we learn more."

Walt Disney World has about 1,400 part-time employees enrolled in limited plans. A spokeswoman for the resort would say only that Disney is "still assessing the health-care reform act and how it impacts our business."

"They have not talked to us about it yet," added Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, which represents some of Disney's part-time employees.

SeaWorld Orlando, too, offers some limited-benefit plans to part-time and seasonal workers. The company said it is "currently assessing options."

Other large businesses nationwide have also been paring back benefits for part-time workers. Two years ago, for instance, Wal-Mart Stores stopped offering health coverage to new part-time employees who work less than 24 hours a week on average. Last year, the world's largest retailer raised that threshold to 30 hours a week.

Still, Universal's announcement has angered some employees, who say the resort can afford to provide more-comprehensive health insurance for its part-time workers. Universal Orlando's immediate parent company, Universal Parks & Resorts, generated approximately $950 million in operating cash flow last year, up 10 percent from a year ago.

A few large employers — most notably Starbucks Corp. — offer comprehensive health insurance even to part-time workers.

jrgarcia@tribune.com or 407-420-5414

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Obamacare Supporters Feel the Fear

Well at least we've solved the coverage issue. 

Obamacare Supporters Feel the Fear

Obamacare supporters are unleashing a massive public relations campaign, turning to political networks and sports teams to help them sell the new law to a skeptical public. For the Affordable Care Act to succeed in expanding the ranks of the insured, many of the 30 million currently uninsured need to purchase an insurance plan in the new exchanges the law sets up. But advocates worry that it could be difficult to convince people to sign up for coverage. The WSJ reports:

According to backers of the law, enrollment faces big obstacles as polls and focus groups suggest a majority of uninsured people aren't aware of the new coverage options or the availability of subsidies toward the cost of health insurance premiums. Many respondents also say they have had bad experiences with finding health insurance or paying medical debts.

"This is a very skeptical audience," said Rachel Klein of Enroll America, a nonprofit group set up by the founding members of Families USA, a group that campaigned for the law's passage.

While Enroll America is relying on door-to-door grassroots political action to build support for enrollment, other states are using celebrity power to improve Obamacare's brand. But the law faces bigger problems than bad branding and a lack of awareness.

It might seem odd that the law's supporters should need to convince Americans to purchase a plan, given that those who don't will be taxed. But the tax will be less expensive than the cost of coverage. The minimum tax per person will be $695 per year. Higher earning individuals will have to pay more: a couple who makes $100,000 per year, for example, will be taxed around $2,025. That may sound like a lot, but the CBO estimates that the annual premiums for the least-expensive plan offered under the new law would reach about $12,000 for a family and about $5,000 for an individual (all figures can be found here).

This means that for a lot of people paying the tax will be cheaper than buying insurance. And since the new law prevents insurance companies from denying you coverage or charging you more if you have a pre-existing condition, you can always buy a plan later if you develop an expensive medical condition.

Over time, more and more people are going to figure this out. Many healthy people (especially the young and the single) will just pay the tax, knowing they can get it later if they need to. In the meantime, everybody with expensive health care problems will flood into the system, driving up costs and premiums. Then even more healthy people will choose the tax over the increasingly expensive insurance premiums, in turn forcing premiums up even higher.

Keeping this dynamic from undermining the new health care system is going to be one of the biggest tests Obamacare will face. There may be ways around it. As of 2010 Massachusetts's similar plan has successfully raised its insurance rate from about 90 percent up to 98.1 percent. But it will be a serious challenge. This glitzy "buy insurance now" marketing campaign is a sign that the government recognizes this vulnerability and fears it.

Original Page: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/02/13/obamacare-supporters-feel-the-fear/

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of the Union Preview


I think I'll pass on the State of the Union. We're still early in "House of Cards." The re-run of "Walking Dead" is available. I still haven't seen the last episode of "Modern Family," and maybe a new episode of "The Americans," will be on. Plus, I finally started Robert Caro's "The Passage of Power," and it is marvelous. Caro is finishing up the beginning of the feud between Johnson and Bobby Kennedy. Bobby sounds like the biggest rectal orifice God created.

Besides, on the State of the Union, I already know what he's going to say:
It's George Bush's fault.
The Republicans are evil, unpatriotic, stupid and venal.
I try to compromise but the Republicans disagree with me.
Solve our deficit in a balanced way.
I've already cut spending.
Torture is bad. Killing is good, if it's done with a drone.
Every one pays their fair share.
Every one plays by the same rules.
Here are some players who need special rules.
Grow from the middle out, not the top down. (One of the most mystifying statements I've ever heard).
Catastrophe is around the corner, and it's George Bush's fault.


Friday, February 8, 2013

The End is Nigh. Serious this time. We mean it. Not kidding. This is not a test. Believe us. Really. Please.


Another day another warning of gloom and doom from Obama, the Dems and the Amen Corner. This time Armageddon can be avoided by removing the sequester.

Krugman weighs in that cuts occurred in the Clinton administration yet nothing dire happened since the Fed lowered interest rates, offsetting the impact. But the Fed can't help this time because rates are already close to zero.  That would be an interesting story about the Fed if true, but it isn't true.

Here is a chart of the Fed Funds Rate from 1992 through 2000:

I'm looking for the big cut the Fed instituted, but I just don't see it.

Maybe I'm looking at the wrong interest rate. Maybe I should be looking at the US Treasury 3 month bill.

Unless he's talking about the very short-term drop in 1992 I still don't see it. But that's a pretty powerful cut, that it can spur the economy for the next eight years despite interest rate INCREASES and FALLING government spending from 1993 onwards.

So the Clinton cuts were NOT offset by falling interest rates. In fact, interest rates ROSE.

You, and others, love to point out how higher tax rates under Clinton did nothing to deter a robust economy. Your strong form of that argument is somehow higher taxes CAUSED a robust economy. The mechanism for that is never explained, but that doesn't seem to bother anyone. I think both forms of the argument are dubious claims, but let's take them as true. Look at the arc of government spending and outlays from 1962 through 2023, as presented by the Congressional Budget Office.

According to your logic, the sharp drop in government outlays should be just the thing to spur the economy, after all, worked for Clinton.

The whole argument is silly and full of contradictions. Why increasing government outlays worked for the Regan recovery, but falling outlays worked for Clinton, but nothing works for Obama is a mystery no one has explained.  The Obama and Krugman et al doomsday predictions are, in my mind, a temper tantrum, on a grand scale.