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Financial Times Messes Up On Italy

by Barkley Rosser

Financial Times Messes Up On Italy

I have for a long time thought the Financial Times to be the best newspaper in the world, but now I am going to play Dean Baker beating the press on it.  I think they are slipping, and the sign is a story that appeared in today’s issue about Matteo Renzi in Italy, about whom I have posted here previously.

The story reported that he is likely to finally nail down the leadership of the Democratic Party in Italy this Saturday over two rivals.  It then praised him and compared him to Canada’s Trudeau and France’s Macron as a bright young guy all new and blah blah, even as it recognized that he stepped down in December as PM after losing a referendum he pushed.  It said he has learned his lesson.

Now it did briefly recognize that he might have a problem in the general election next year as the opposition Five Star movement now has 50% support in the polls, although so what.  The one thing that they mentioned as possibly causing problems for him would be the problems of Alitalia.

There was zero mention of the corruption problem of his father, zero.  I note that over the last several weeks basically every day on the front pages of all the newspapers in Italy have been stories about this matter, and it has badly damaged Renzi in the polls.  The Alitalia story is back pages. Heck, that airline is always in trouble, in “crisis.”  Big nothing.  But his old man being corrupt completely upends this story of him being the reformed young Trudeau-Macron.  He has a serious problem, and it could be a serious problem for the EU next year, if Renzi cannot get this under control.

But the Fin Times somehow completely missed this story.  I guess their reporter listened to some PR guy out of the Renzi camp and never bothered to check on the Italian press.  I am sorry to learn that the FT has joined so many other newspapers in just going down the toilet of bad reporting.

Ciao you all.

Barkley Rosser

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European Union ends relocation subsidies

by Kenneth Thomas

European Union ends relocation subsidies

This isn’t actually news, but it’s news to me, and it’s something you need to know. Greg LeRoy sent me an article by James Meek in London Review of Books (20 April 2017) that he’d been sent by a friend, documenting more EU-permitted job piracy by Poland that preceded the case I discuss at length in my book, Investment Incentives and the Global Competition for Capital. There, I criticized the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition for approving a 54.5 million euro subsidy for Dell to move from Ireland to Poland in 2009. During my January 2011 book tour, I took a lot of flak from DG Competition when I presented there, with several staff pushing back on my criticism of this decision.

As the LRB article pointed out, there was another case involving Poland, where Cadbury received state aid of about $5 million (14.18 million zloty when the zloty was worth about 0.35 USD) in November 2008 to move from the Somerdale, United Kingdom, to Skarbimierz (the LRB gives a much bigger number, but from unspecified “Polish government figures,” so I cannot find a way to compare it with the EU’s case report). This case is only listed in the EU’s Official Journal, where it is reported as having been notified under the General Block Exemption Regulation. As this regulation is intended for uncontroversial cases, that makes it evidence, though hardly proof, for a relatively smaller rather than larger aid amount. For my purposes, the amount is less important than the fact that we have another documented relocation subsidy.

What’s the big “news”? In Meek’s article we read, “In 2014, too late for Somerdale, the EU recognised its error and banned the use of national subsidies to entice multinationals to move production from one EU country to another.” Just like that.*

Okay, I’m abstracting from the political process. But it’s pretty clear what happened. As I reported in Investment Incentives and the Global Competition for Capital, when Dell moved to Poland, all of Ireland was up in arms, including government officials and Members of the European Parliament. The European Parliament made its displeasure known. What the Somerdale case shows us is that there was at least one other country on the wrong end of a relocation subsidy, strengthening further the political pressure for state aid reform.
As I said, Commission staff believed they made the correct decision in the subsequent Dell case, and the rationale would have been exactly the same for Cadbury. The move sent economic activity from somewhere with high per capita income to a place with a far lower per capita income. They saw this as an overall increase of efficiency within the European Union. As I argued, though, even if that were the case, the decision wasn’t good for intra-EU solidarity, and it undermined support for policies promoting the growth of the EU’s poorer regions (“cohesion” policy in EU-speak). In light of the 2014 policy change, we know that arguments aligned to mine were the ones that carried the day politically.

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The new Robert’s Supreme Court

Linda Greenhouse of the NYT comments:

A Supreme Court quiz: Who offered this paean to judicial restraint: “If it is not necessary to decide more to a case, then in my view it is necessary not to decide more to a case”?

That was nearly 11 years ago, only eight months into his tenure. It was before Citizens United erased limits on corporate spending in politics, before Shelby County v. Holder eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, before Chief Justice Roberts swung for the fences in the Parents Involved case to bar formerly segregated school districts from trying to preserve integration through the use of racially conscious student assignment plans. (Only Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s separate concurring opinion in that 5-to-4 decision retained some leeway for school districts looking for strategies to prevent resegregation.)

And now we have Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, a case argued last week that presents the question whether a state that provides grants to schools for upgrading their playground surfaces can constitutionally disqualify a church-run nursery school from eligibility because of its religious character.

“Having eight was unusual and awkward,” Justice Alito said, according to The Journal article. “That probably required having a lot more discussion of some things and more compromise and maybe narrower opinions than we would have issued otherwise, but as of this Monday, we were back to an odd number.”

That’s a bold statement that hardly needs translation, but here’s mine anyway: We’ve got our mojo back. Consensus? That was so 2016. And the Roberts court in 2017? Now it begins.

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Poland: “What Are These People Complaining About?”

by Barkley Rosser

Poland: “What Are These People Complaining About?”

Thus spake Jeffrey Sachs in January 1994 at the ASSA/AEA meetings shortly after the Solidarity government of Lech Walesa was defeated in an election over plans to cut old age pensions, which Sachs thought were too high. He has since recanted some of his views from that time, but indeed Poland had been the poster boy for the Washington Consensus on transition, with its “shock therapy” approach of sudden change that looked like it was doing well.  Poland had sharply reduced inflation from triple to single digits and after a 7% GDP decline in 1990 had turned to positive growth before any other transition economy and was growing impressively with sharply falling unemployment.  What were these people complaining about?

This parallels more recent developments.  Poland was the only European nation not to fall into recession in 2009, able to devalue its zloty as not in the Eurozone and able to continue exporting to strong neighbor Germany.  Its unemployment rate has remained fairly low and its poverty rate falling and below that of the US.  Yet in 2015 the Civic Platform party was ousted by the Law and Justice Party, which has since taken to shutting down free press and judiciary and otherwise engaging in general demagogic and populist authoritarianism along with hyper-nationalism.  Well, thank the Civic Platform raising the retirement age for those large pensions back in 2012, which the Law and Justice Party hammered them on hard.  Part of why Poland has done well has been that indeed it has not undone its social safety net inherited from the communist period, even as so many outsiders and insiders have said they should do, including at some points the mastermind of shock therapy and the finance minister who put it in place, Leszek Balcerowicz.

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Gibberish

by Sandwichman

Gibberish

Repeat after me: The world is not a zero-sum game. Technology often creates more jobs than it destroys. The number of jobs in the economy depends on how much people are spending and investing. High-skilled tech workers grow the economic pie by boosting productivity, encouraging more investment and increasing entrepreneurship. Economists call this “the lump of labor” fallacy.

Jennifer Rubin, WaPo

Trump and right-wingers who have never heard of the lump-of-labor fallacy seek to construct a false narrative to explain real hardship caused by a whole variety of issues, including automation, a skills mismatch and education inadequacy. We would hope the poll is a positive sign that Americans grasp that “the world is not a zero-sum game where natives must lose out in order for immigrants to gain — or vice versa.”

Isabel Sawhill, Brookings Institute

One problem is that when people look at the labor market, they often come to the wrong conclusion. They see well-paid jobs in manufacturing or elsewhere disappearing. They conclude that there are simply not enough jobs to employ everyone who wants to work. Their implicit view of the world is that there are a fixed number of jobs and that it will be impossible to supply everyone with a reasonable livelihood. Economists call this “the lump of labor” fallacy. This way of thinking is a fallacy because the number of jobs in the economy depends on how much people are spending and investing, that is on the total demand for goods and services.

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Dancin With the Stars or “Why is there an Exemption for Representatives, Senators, and Washington staff?

After being confronted by TPM reporter Alice Ollstein about the exemption for Washington elected officials and their staff, it was obvious they were caught off guard. Read some of the answers dancing around the issue.

New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur who proposed an amendment allowing states to opt out of key PPACA requirements. Read what he and other Republican House Representatives had to say when they were asked about the exempt to the latest AHCA amendment I had writen about.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ); he is working to fix the language in question.

Rep. MacArthur puts out statement saying Congress shouldn’t get special treatment, they are working to fix exemption.

Rep. Scott Desjarleis (R-TN); “I don’t know about that. That’s a good question,”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).; “I’ll have to read the language more closely,”

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY); “I didn’t know there was [an exemption for members of Congress]. I don’t know what you’re talking about,”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), ” because D.C. is not a state, it can not apply for or receive the same waivers states can under their bill.”

Rep. David Brat (R-VA) “an exemption for members of Congress seeking to deregulate the health care market “would be, politically, completely tone deaf.”

Other Republicans: “the carve-out would have to be addressed with a new piece of legislation for complicated parliamentary reasons. A senior leadership staff member confirmed that they are working on a ‘stand-alone effort’ to undo the exemption, which lawmakers would vote on at the same time as the larger health care package.

Freedom Caucasus member Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA): “the fix has to come through a separate bill. Did not know whether D.C. could get the same waivers as a state under the legislation; but, Griffith said it did not matter because ‘liberal’ D.C. wouldn’t seek a waiver in the first place.

Republican lawmakers and staff: it was inserted in the first place in order to ensure that it could pass the Senate under what is known as the Byrd Rule, though they did not fully explain why.

The Byrd Rule dictates that strict budgetary legislation that does not increase the federal deficit after 10 years can be fast-tracked through the Senate on a simple majority vote.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX); the Byrd Rule was ‘the genesis’ of the exemption provision, but promised that “every member of Congress is going to vote to make sure we are treated like everybody else.”

Again Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC): It was a provision that, from a fatal standpoint, would not allow us to address it because jurisdictionally on the budget reconciliation instructions, that were narrowly tailored to two different committees of jurisdiction. To fully address that would had to have gone over to another area which would have made it fatal.” huh?

And the truth?
Health care law expert and professor at Washington and Lee University, Tim Jost: “D.C. is clearly defined as a state in the Affordable Care Act. And I don’t see anything in the AHCA that changes that, including this provision,” he said. “The provision provides for congressional coverage through the marketplace, and the language is clear [regarding the exemption].”

I think most of these reps are residents of the state they represent in Congress, so why wouldn’t they be exempt from the exclusion as defined by the amendment?

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Congressional Republicans looking Out for Your Health, Healthcare Insurance, and Their’s Too . . .

One Happy Republican House Representative
invisible hand If you have not been paying attention, it looks like the Republicans are getting ready again to submit another version of a PPACA/ACA repeal bill. New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur is proposing an amendment allowing states to opt out of key PPACA requirements. For example:

- Preventative Care: The PPACA has 62 preventative measures or Essential Preventive Care benefits which are no cost to a patient. Cholesterol screening, Type 2 Diabetes screening various immunizations for adults and children, breast cancer screenings, hepatitis B screenings, HIV tests, lead screening for children, etc.

- Community Rating: In the good old days when people had a heart attack , disorder, or illness; insurance companies would rate the individual and either insure them at a much higher rate or deny insurance to them. The PPACA acting like a true insurance pool spread the risk amongst the community adapting a more uniform rate for people. Two exceptions were smoking at 150% of the lowest cost individual and 300% for older people (Republicans wish to increase this to 500%). Where people with pre-existing conditions had to pay much higher rates or had no insurance, the PPACA established rates covering them and spreading the cost.

This new GOP amendment allows states to waive community rating. Insurers could again charge people based on their health and expected health care costs. The state would have to participate in the Patient and State Stability Fund (which would be underfunded) before it could waive out of Community Rating. The PSS is a pool of money in the AHCA that states can use to set up high-risk pools or shore up insurers that get stuck with really expensive patients (think of Corridor Risk and Reissuance programs which Republicans defunded).

Initially, the AHCA as proposed by Republicans would have resulted in an estimated 24 million people becoming uninsured over 10 years with a loss of 14 million in one year. We would be back to pre-PPACA with no single payer, universal, public option, Medicare-for-all in sight. The change in the Community Rating would target those with severe illness or disorders, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions. Removing the Preventative Care portion of the PPACA targets women and children and again patients would have to pay for them. There is just the healthy left or healthy today and the rest of the populations gets to fend for themselves. That would certainly lower healthcare insurance costs until the healthcare industry sucked it up in increasing prices. Not quite sure who the Republicans are tossing a bone to with this amendment, the healthcare industry or healthcare insurance companies?

As Vox’s Sarah Kliff points out; when the PPACA came into play, all Representatives and staffers had to purchase healthcare insurance on the individuals exchange. What was good for the gander was also good for the goose so to speak. I seem to remember differently; but, let’s go with this for now. There was quite a bit of grumbling going on in Congress when this was proposed.

invisible hand Fast forward to today’s amendment by New Jersey Republican Representative Tom MacArthur; it appears Congress now likes the PPACA when it comes to their healthcare insurance. If Representatives and staffers live in one of those states waiving out of Preventative Care and Community Ratings, Congress is exempt from the wavier. Looking at section 1312(d)(3)(D) of the amendment (sixth page) there is an exemption for those who will not be included in a state’s waiver. Senators, House Representative, their staffers and I am sure every other staffer in Washington, the Cabinet and their staffers, Bannon, etc. are all excluded from any state wavier on healthcare. I am glad they are looking out for us and the people who vote for them.

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The real world

Via Diane Ravitch’s`blog comes this bit of news…the real world is business is a meme underlying our conversations in politics.

Well, this is good news!

Ohio Governor John Kasich’s proposal that teachers should be required to “job shadow” a business to learn about “the real world” has been shot down (thanks to Ohio Algebra Teacher for sharing!).

Democrats’ counterproposal that Kasich be required to spend 40 hours annually job shadowing people who work in public schools. That won’t pass either, but it was a nice response.

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