Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Massive outreach and all atwitter

Matt Stoller @matthewstoller

I like that ‘Larry Summers once vaguely tried to talk to Elizabeth Warren but didn’t’ has become ‘massive outreach’…  http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-race-for-fed-chair-larry-summers-reaches-out-to-elizabeth-warren/2013/09/13/40a776ea-1cb0-11e3-82ef-a059e54c49d0_story.html

In race for Fed chair, Larry Summers reaches out to Elizabeth Warren
Economist sought meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Warren; opposition from Democrats intensifies.

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“able-bodied adults to work for food stamps”

“Gov. John Kasich’s administration will limit food stamps for more than 130,000 adults in all but a few economically depressed areas starting Jan. 1.

To qualify for benefits, able-bodied adults without children will be required to spend at least 20 hours a week working, training for a job, volunteering or performing a similar type of activity unless they live in one of 16 counties exempt because of high unemployment. The requirements begin next month; however, those failing to meet them would not lose benefits until Jan. 1.

‘It’s important that we provide more than just a monetary benefit, that we provide job training, an additional level of support that helps put (food-stamp recipients) on a path toward a career and out of poverty,’ said Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

For years, Ohio has taken advantage of a federal waiver exempting food-stamps recipients from the work requirements that Kasich championed while U.S. House Budget Committee chairman during the mid-1990s. Kasich and former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, co-sponsored an amendment requiring able-bodied recipients without dependents to work that was included in sweeping welfare-reform legislation adopted in 1996.

‘The governor believes in a work requirement,’ Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said yesterday. ‘But when the economy is bad and people are hurting, the waiver can be helpful. Now, fortunately, Ohio’s economy is improving.’”

This comes from a Governor who looks like he could use a little physical work himself.

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Okay, What Is It About This That I’m Not Understanding?

Union leaders note that under the law, workers whose family income is less than four times the poverty line will qualify for subsidies in the form of tax credits to obtain health insurance in the exchanges, with insurance sold by for-profit, nonprofit and cooperative companies. The union leaders say they want similar treatment — for unionized workers to qualify for those tax credits to help finance their Taft-Hartley insurance plans, which covers about 20 million workers and retirees.

“We just want to be treated like equals — we don’t want special treatment,” Mr. Taylor said. “An employer will say, ‘O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. I only pay a $2,000 penalty if I drop you. That’s an $8,000 saving for me.’ That’s actually going to happen all over this country.”

Unions’ Misgivings on Health Law Burst Into View, Steven Greenhouse and Jonathan Martin, New York Times, today

Because of Obamacare, an employer will say, “O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. I only pay a $2,000 penalty if I drop you. That’s an $8,000 saving for me.”? That’s actually going to happen all over this country?

Why, then, haven’t those employers said years ago, “O.K., your plan costs about $10,000 a year. Let me get this straight. If I drop your plan, that’s a $10,000 saving for me.”? Why hasn’t this actually been happening all over this country, for years?

Well, it has, of course, except when union contracts prevent it, or where the employer thinks healthcare insurance is a benefit that it makes economic sense to provide as part of employee compensation–a tax-exempt part.

Why is it suddenly more attractive to these companies to save $8,000 a year per employee than it has been for those companies to save $10,000 a year per employee?

C’mon, y’all.  Explain this to me.  What is it about this issue that I’m not understanding?

Seriously.

 

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Fodder For a Great Blog Post

 

I received the following email from Dan Crawford last evening:

Fwd: Blog Post Idea: SCOTUS Must Protect Free Speech in Ohio and Beyond

Is this interesting?

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kristen Thomaselli <kristen@keybridge.biz>
Date: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 6:25 PM
Subject: Blog Post Idea: SCOTUS Must Protect Free Speech in Ohio and Beyond
To: angrybearblog@gmail.com

Daniel,

I wanted to share an oped from this weekend’s Wall Street Journal that I thought you might find interesting (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324009304579040671355619380.html and pasted below).

It’s by Brad Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and it focuses on one man’s fight in Ohio to exercise his First Amendment right to speak freely about political issues in his community. In his piece, Brad calls on the Supreme Court to accept this important case, as it could have huge ramifications for Americans’ First Amendement rights — and states’ efforts to deprive them of those rights.

Few people know more about these issues than Brad, so his piece is quite instructive — and could provide fodder for a great blog post.

Please let me know if you have any questions — or if you end up writing about Brad’s        piece!

All the Best,

Kristen Thomaselli
(202) 471-4228 ext. 101

Bradley Smith: The Supreme Court and Ed Corsi’s Life of Political Crime
How one Ohio man’s blog on politics got him in trouble with campaign-finance law.

By Bradley A. Smith

In the winter of 2008, Ed Corsi decided that he was tired of stewing about the politics in his home of Geauga County, Ohio, and the country at large. He started a website, put Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “The price of freedom . . . constant vigilance” at the top, dubbed the site “Geauga Constitutional Council,” and set about blogging his thoughts on local and national politics. So began his life of political crime.

Over the next two years, Mr. Corsi and a few friends would sometimes gather to talk politics. He occasionally sponsored meetings featuring speakers (not political candidates) on public policy issues (not elections), and charged a nominal fee for seating to offset his costs. He and two friends passed out political pamphlets they made at the Geauga County Fair.

Mr. Corsi spent $40 a month to maintain his website, and perhaps a couple hundred dollars a year in other expenses. According to the state of Ohio, however, these activities are illegal under campaign-finance laws because Mr. Corsi did not first register with the state, report to the state on his activities, and subject himself to the regulations governing the operation of a state political action committee.

When he was summoned to a hearing before the Ohio Elections Commission in April 2011, Mr. Corsi asked, “Do I have to hire a lawyer to [do] these things?” Commission Chairman Bryan Felmet replied, “Yeah, I guess so. I think that it’s very complicated without going to those lengths.” The commission ordered Mr. Corsi to register and report his activities to the state.

When the Supreme Court reconvenes in October, the big campaign-finance case will be McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which nervous censors have dubbed “the next Citizens United.” McCutcheon deals with the ability of affluent Americans to contribute to political parties and candidates. Never mind that the candidates and causes these people support represent the views of millions of citizens. “Reformers” argue, and many Americans seem to agree, that “big money” in politics must be regulated.

It is inconceivable, however, that America’s founders thought the First Amendment would allow the government to routinely require citizens to report their political activity, and be subjected to such complex regulations. They wanted to prevent government from doing precisely this sort of thing. Yet Mr. Corsi lost in state court. Now he waits to see if the Supreme Court will agree to hear his case.

The “big money” in politics can afford the accountants, consultants and lawyers needed to cope with campaign- finance law. The burdens frequently fall more heavily on grass-roots politics-the very thing we ought to be encouraging. There also is abundant anecdotal evidence that the main result, if not the purpose, of campaign-finance laws is to allow political insiders and government officials to harass grass-roots activists. The IRS targeting scandals are merely the most prominent example of the way these laws are used by those in power to harass their opposition.

On his blog, Mr. Corsi was critical of Ed Ryder, the chairman of the Geauga County Republican Party and a member of the county Board of Elections, and of various officials and candidates supported by Mr. Ryder. The initial complaint against Mr. Corsi was filed by Mr. Ryder, who admitted spending two months to find out who constituted the “Geauga Constitutional Council,” so he could file a complaint against Mr.Corsi.

In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), and again in Federal Election Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (1986), the Supreme Court held that the regulatory requirements of operating a political action committee could not be imposed on groups that lacked the primary purpose of supporting or defeating political candidates in elections. But across the country, states are flouting that command, imposing rigid requirements on ordinary citizens who are trying to express their political opinions.

In Colorado, for example, a group of friends calling themselves the Coalition for Secular Government operate a website on which they posted a long policy paper on abortion and church-state relations. The paper concluded by urging Coloradans to vote “no” on a ballot measure. For that, the state says they must register as a political committee and report their activities, income and expenses.

Most state statutes now simply ignore the Supreme Court and require that two or more citizens who spend even nominal amounts on politics to register and report to the government. Even printing yard signs or running an email list can trigger these requirements. In Ohio, a single dollar in expenditures will do, so be careful if you talk politics over a cup of coffee.

As a former commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, I have seen the effects these laws have on citizen participation and civic-mindedness. I have read the plaintive letters from citizens who could not afford a lawyer, and could not believe their government was fining them for political activity.

In the past, both liberals and conservatives on the Supreme Court were sensitive to this problem. Liberal Justice William Brennan wrote the majority opinion in the Massachusetts Citizens for Life case. But that sensitivity appears to be vanishing.

Forty-seven years ago, in Mills v. Alabama, the court struck down a lawprohibiting election-day newspaper editorials, noting, “there is practically universal agreement that a major purpose of [the First] Amendment was to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

Is that still true? Will the court leave millions of Americans who want to engage in politics at risk of prosecution? Will it leave Mr. Corsihanging?

Mr. Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is a law professor and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which is representing Mr. Corsi at the Supreme Court. 

Hmm.  Happy to oblige, Kristen.

Yes, this is very interesting.  Especially because Smith’s piece actually focuses on one man’s fight in Ohio to misconstrue Ohio campaign-finance law as impinging upon his right to speak freely about political issues in his community.  Or as having anything to do with his right to speak freely about political issues in his community.

Or maybe it’s really about one high-profile Washington, D.C. lawyer’s longstanding anti-regulatory, anti-campaign-finance laws crusade.  Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the FEC upon appointment by George W. Bush, is a longtime rightwing, anti-regulation crusader.

Which may be why he says in that piece that McCutcheon deals with the ability of affluent Americans to contribute to political parties and candidates, rather than that McCutcheon deals with the ability of affluent Americans to contribute as much as they wish to political parties and candidates.

Or maybe it’s just that factual accuracy is not his forte.  He did, after all, baldly misrepresent in the op-ed that the IRS targeted conservative political groups, but not liberal ones, for harassment, saying, “The IRS targeting scandals are merely the most prominent example of the way these laws are used by those in power to harass their opposition.” Since actually the IRS used its power to try to prevent misuse of exemption regulations by liberal as well as conservative groups, that statement is merely the most prominent falsity in Smith’s article.  But maybe the Ohio Elections Commission, unlike the IRS, would target only Republican social welfare groups. Hurray!  Apparently Ohio law doesn’t exempt  social welfare groups such as Mr. Corsi’s.

In any event, the issue in McCutcheon is whether it is unconstitutional for government to place any limits at all on campaign contributions directly to parties and candidates, not whether affluent Americans can be barred from contributing to parties and candidates within the same amount limitations as everyone else.

What is Smith’s forte, apparently, is the artful sleight of hand, the use of the non sequitur as sophism.  Which may be why he claims that because the candidates and causes that, say, the Koch brothers want to financially sponsor represent the views of millions of citizens, the Koch brothers should be allowed to pay for millions of dollars of TV ad buys in order to try to persuade millions of other people to vote for these candidates.

Why, of course, David Koch should serve as campaign proxy for the minimum-wage Walmart employees he wants to enlist in his cause of lowering the Kochs’ income tax and eventual estate tax obligations, of disassembling the social safety net, of keeping the minimum wage at $7.40 an hour, and of ensuring the continuation of Chamber of Commerce control of the entire federal and most state judicial systems!  The Kochs are altruists!  The Walmart employees can’t pay millions of dollars in campaign contributions for TV ads that will convince them to vote Republican, so the Kochs will do that for them!  (Tautologies are another Smith specialty, apparently.)

It may well be inconceivable, as Smith claims, that America’s founders thought the First Amendment would allow the government to routinely require citizens to report their political activity, and be subjected to such complex regulations.  But the government does not routinely require citizens to report their political activity; it requires them to report–or rather, requires those to whom they give monetary support in election campaigns–to report that funding, so that those whose votes are solicited as a result will know who, exactly, is soliciting their vote.

And as for those complex regulations, anyone who complains about that should try instead to navigate, say, the federal court system as a non-corporate and non-wealthy litigant.  It’s unlikely that America’s founders, or at least the Framers of the Reconstruction Amendments, thought the Constitution would allow the government to methodically turn the civil, criminal and habeas judicial processes in this country into bureaucratic regulatory labyrinths navigable only by rightwing crusaders, Chamber of Commerce members, others who can retain $1,000-per-hour “name” counsel, and state and local governments (dignity for states, except the ones that enact affirmative action programs!); no one else need apply.

Who knew that Rube Goldberg was a Federalist Society member?

And, while I do recognize that the Framers thought it fine that the right to vote be limited to the landed gentry and others who could afford to pay a steep poll tax, I’m not sure they actually had campaign contributions in mind when they drafted the First Amendment’s speech clause.  Nor do I recall learning in Civics class that George Washington, et al., thought corporations are people, my friend.  But maybe I was absent from school the day of that lesson. Or just didn’t attend Mitt Romney’s, Anthony Kennedy’s or Bradley Smith’s elementary school alma mater.

Unlike Mr. Smith, who, I guess, did.  Which is nice for the Fab Five members of the Supreme Court.  Mr. Smith, who went to Washington long ago, already has provided them the first draft of their opinion in the Corsi case.  Justice Scalia will join his four other fair-weather dignity-of-the-states-crusading colleagues in striking down the Ohio statute, just as the five of them summarily struck down a Montana one last year, before he returns, briefly, to indignant-umbrage posture at the very suggestion that courts should strike down duly enacted legislation. Briefly is a very safe bet; there is, after all, another Obamacare challenge heading toward the Supreme Court.  Not to mention the likelihood of another state-university-admissions affirmative-action case, surely soon.

I hope Ms. Thomaselli likes this blog post.  If not, I can beef it up a bit.  Trust me.

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“Record income inequality hits another new record”

I’m sure we’re all shocked that the rich are taking yet another record share of the national economic pie:

The gulf between the richest 1% of the USA and the rest of the country got to its widest level in history last year.

The top 1% of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3% of total household income in 2012, which is their biggest slice of total income in more than 100 years, according to a an analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Paris School of Economics at Oxford University.

The richest Americans haven’t claimed this large of a slice of total wealth since 1927, when the group claimed 18.7%. The analysis is based on data from Internal Revenue Service data.

Is it any wonder that New Yorkers just voiced such strong support for a strident economic progressive like De Blasio? It appears the dam is beginning to burst at long last.

Hat Tip David Atkins at Hullabaloo

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Paying Fast Food Workers More . . . “Moo Cluck Moo”

 

A Meal from Moo Cluck Moo (K Manely)

                                       Picture by K Manley

 

With all the activity by fast food workers to increase their salary, one fast food restaurant located in Dearborn Heights (just outside of Detroit) and north of 94 on Telegraph is leading the way with increased hourly wages for its workers. Presently at $12.00/hour, “Moo Cluck Moo” is planning to increase its worker’s salaries to $15.00 starting October 1. Daniel Gross (hi Daniel) reports on the planned increase at The Daily Beast:

In August, I spoke with the owners of Moo Cluck Moo, a Detroit-area burger and chicken fast-food joint that is aiming to do something revolutionary: pay far more than the minimum wage. In an industry that treats labor as a commodity, co-owners Brian Parker and Harry Moorhouse decided to turn the conventional wisdom on its head. They’d start workers at $12 an hour, and design their business so that it could run profitably at those wages. Rather than take advantage of the epic slack in the Detroit-area labor market, they’d aim to set a slightly higher standard.Now,  Moo Cluck Moo is doubling down on its high-wage strategy. Brian Parker says that beginning October 1, the company will start employees at $15 an hour. That’s a 25 percent increase from $12, and it represents the living wage level that workers are demanding and that many critics regard as foolish.

Moo burger combo meal (fries and a drink) is $6.00 and not that much more than McDonalds Quarter Pounder with similar sides. Lettuce, Tomato, and Cheese come free with the Moo burger while McDonalds will charge for the extras. It sounds like improved throughput to me which would negate the increase in Labor cost. I would love to get a hold of the breakdown of Labor, Materials, and Overhead for Moo Cluck Moo to see cost impact on the ratios. I suspect it is not much greater than what it is today.

Moo Cluck Moo” plans to open another restaurant in Fall.

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Obama-care and part time employment –Part 2

I’m seeing all types of comments on the 2013 rise in part time employment that blame it on Obama-care and that is just plain wrong.

Based on unpublished BLS data so far this year federal employes forced to work part time because of the sequester account for over 100% of the increase in part time employment.

So far this year private part time employment is actually some one million jobs lower than in the same 8 months of last year.  Because the data is not seasonally adjusted ( NSA ) the correct comparison to make is the year over year change because frequently the month-to-month changes can be misleading.

Time after time I’m seeing people observe the jump in part time workers and just jumping to the conclusion that it is Obama-care.  That is what they want to believe, so they do not bother to check  if their is another explanation. Economist generally call this  the omitted variable problem.  But I suspect it is just more Republican disinformation.  All it takes to get the data showing that the jump in part time  employment is all federal employes is just one simple phone call or email to the BLS . But it appears that people do not want to be confused by the facts.

(See table after the read more)

Clipboard01 PART

 

 

 

 

Disinformation was the old Cold War practice of both the CIA and KGB of planting false information in the press for propaganda purposes or to fool each other.The KGB actually had an entire Disinformation Division.Now it just seems to be the conservatives-liberaterians trying to fool themselves.

 

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Kaiser Foundation Calculator Out of Date

Bill Clinton has become the The Secretary of Explaining Stuff for the PPACA. Maggie goes on to explain to one writer why the Kaiser Calculator is out of date as the Healthcare Exchanges come on line with real pricing.

Bob

The Kaiser Foundation Calculator is out of date. They created it before any of the states had announced rates. So they were not able to accurately calculate subsidies because subsidies are based on the actual cost of the 2nd least expensive Silver plan in any given market.

You have to know what that premium is to figure out the subsidy. In addition, they are using their estimates of “national averages” as to what a Bronze or Silver plan will cost a person of a certain age with a certain income. Now that many states have announced actual rates, we are finding that they are significantly lower than expected.

For instance, in L.A. if a 30 year-old earning $30,000 receives a subsidy of $507, he could buy a Bronze plan (which covers everything a Silver plan covers) for just $1341 a year–not the $1902 you suggest.

In New York City (the most expensive insurance market in the nation for young people because we don’t let insurers charge older people more), he would receive a subsidy of $2190 (because the benchmark silver plan that determines the subsidy is quite expensive. He could then take that $2190 subsidy and purchase a Bronze plan for $1506 a year. Can he afford $1506? Yes.

Bob, I think you’re out-of-touch with how well a 30-year-old who earns $30,000 a year is doing. He earns more than roughly 70% of Americans in his cohort ( 21-30) You’re looking at $30,000 a year from the perspective of a 40-something. A 30-year-old male with that income is likely to be single and living in an urban area where he spends far less on rent/mortgage than a 40-year old would (I know this because my kids are roughly that age, one in NYC). He probably lives in a small apt. in a part of the city that is not a middle-class family neighborhood. His neighborhood is more commercial, surrounded by bars and restaurants with a decent night life (this is where he wants to be and very likely he shares the apt with someone [a girlfriend]). That cuts his rent in half. Depending on the city he lives in and the public transportation, he may or may not need a car. (A 40-year old with kids does) The 30-year-old earning $30,000 spends much of his paycheck on eating out, ordering in, etc. He’s not yet worried about saving–he spends most of his paycheck every month. This is why he can afford to spend $100 to $132 a month for health insurance in two of the most expensive cities in the nation. He no doubt spends well more than that each month for beer, pizza, drinks with friends at local bars, and ordering in junk food. If he cooked dinner 1 or 2 nights a week, he could save enough to cover the premium (This is just one of many ways to economize–my point is only that he can afford $100 a month.) .

And when you look at the actual rates in most of the country, after his subsidy he is likely to be paying somewhere between $40 and $80 a month for insurance. . I have written a post looking at actual rates for young adults and will be posting here on HealthBeat this evening. PLEASE Stop using and quoting the KAISER CALCULATOR. You wind up spreading misinformation.  The Secretary of Explaining Stuff  Maggie Mahar, Healthbeat Blog

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Regular coastal towns and cities and sea level rising

Seeing this piece by Andrew Revkin Can cities adjust to a retreating coastline? reminded me to also look closer to home. We all too readily forget that NYC is not a typical problem of a coastal communitiy…so what do planners in smaller towns face? How do they choose responses, for instance, if an engineering report proposes possible loss of 20% of your tax base by 2050 due to rise in sea level predictions and the particular configuration of your coastal areas? The towns of Scituate, Duxbury, and Marshfield in MA face real decision making in terms of planning. As Selectman Rick Murray of Scituate told a friend of mine, “They who keep their heads in the ground will drown.”

As an exercise in arguing sea level rise and consequences in or near your own neighborhood, walking the information and language through this lens might help to clarify some of the problems involved that are not at such a large scale point of view and beyond most of our imaginations and expertise, and could be in your own neighborhood or vacation home. (Or is your land sinking?) (Disclosure: I do not own any coastal property. Nertz.)

Sea level rise

Scituate news

Final South Shore Adaptation Planning Report

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