Category Archives: health insurance

Back Up and Running: Because Things Aren’t Changing

Okay, now the Internet connectivity is back … as in there wasn’t any Internet Connectivity for a few days … it’s time to get back up and running.  And, time to get back to nagging, entreating, nagging, begging, nagging, pleading, nagging…  it’s time to VOTE.

Why?  Because stuff’s not changing.

There are still children who are separated from their families at our borders.  The government has been told to reunite them.  Has been ordered to reunite them.  However, when cruelty is combined with incompetence we have a situation in which deported parents may lose their children to adoption. [NBC]  There was a two year old girl called to an immigration hearing. Two years old. 2. [NYT]  A five year old girl was persuaded to sign away her rights. [NewYorker]  Five years old. 5.

We know what two year old children can do, the average ones are walking and pulling their toys around; they climb on furniture; they can identify objects when the objects are named for them;  begins to know that objects have permanence even if they are covered by three or four layers.  And we put a child such as this in an immigration hearing?  Who on this planet could possibly believe this is right?

Four and five year olds?  We’re usually happy if they put sentences of more than five words together, if they can correctly name at least four colors, if they can draw some basic geometric shapes, if they use future tense, if they can count ten objects, and if they can name basic common household items.  And we want a five year old to understand a Flores bond?  Really.  Who on this planet could possibly believe this is right?

We could have comprehensive immigration policy reform coming from the Legislative branch of our Federal government, but we won’t get it as long as Republicans are content to shove show-pieces through the process which don’t address the essential cruelty and racism of current administration policy.   We won’t get comprehensive immigration policy reform accomplished unless and until Republicans no longer control the Legislative branch. Period. Full. Stop.

There are still children in our elementary schools learning shelter in place procedures for school shootings.   Additionally, it’s been over a year since the massacre at the Las Vegas music concert.  Still there are no bans on bump stocks; we’re told to wait patiently there’s something in the works… how long does it have to be in the works?  It’s been a year for crying out loud, for crying in silence, for crying on each others’ shoulders for young lives lost, church members slain, concert goers murdered, office workers killed, journalists shot and fatally wounded…  However, as long as the National Rifle Association and its myrmidons in the House and Senate refuse to consider common sense gun ownership, storage, and sales laws we’ll still be crying out loud.

We won’t get rational gun safety laws enacted in this country unless and until the Republicans and their NRA (Russian money) allies are no longer able to spread fear, anxiety, and money around the electorate.  Vote them out, and we can start to make sense, and we can stop crying out loud.

There are still children and families at risk of financial and physical peril for a lack of secure health care insurance coverage.   And the Republicans’ answer? Let people buy junk insurance that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, doesn’t meet the standards of coverage for the ACA, and doesn’t protect families from medical bill bankruptcies.  This isn’t the solution — this is a return to the situation that created problems for families in the first place.

There are students who are graduating from colleges and universities with crushing levels of student debt.   The New York Federal Reserve has been trying to tell us for years now that student debt levels have a tangible impact on our economy.   We yawn over the statistics, shiver when the statistics include someone or some family we know, and worry when the children are our own.  Will they be able to make a down payment on a house by age 30?  Some 60% of them may not be.  Will they be able to make long term purchases for automobiles and appliances?  At what borrowing rates?  Are we investing in the one commodity that can truly guarantee the success of this nation in the future — our children?  Right now… not so much.

We could do this, but we’ll have to stop buying in to the Republican line that children, especially other people’s children, are merely expenses, and not investments.  GOP politicians would have us believe we can’t afford to educate our children — Think of the Taxes! — the reality is we can’t afford not to.  We need those schools (and colleges) to educate them, those libraries to encourage them, those park and recreational facilities to help keep them healthy so we end up with a generation of educated, healthy, and productive members of the next work force.  Without that, as the saying goes, “we got nothing going for us.”

So we should vote our hopes not our fears.  Vote our hope for immigrant children and babies (and their families,) hope for the safety and well being of our children, hope for next generation’s productivity and wealth creation. The optimist may say he believes the elections will turn out “right.”  The hopeful person understands that while “things may turn out right in the end,”  the end is better achieved when hope is supported by action.  Act. Vote. Change. It can start happening in 2018.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Guinn, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Things That Go Bump In The Night and Things That Are Making More Noise Than Sense

Another week of the Trumpster Fire, another week of news from a fire hose, and another week during which we, as news consumers, are required to filter wheat from chaff, and the relevant from the nearly irrelevant.  What things bumping in the night should be attended to? Which can be set off to the side and safely ignored for the moment.

Bumps With More Noise Than Significance

Preliminary public polling results.  The Press/Media is enamored of the latest rendition of The Great Blue Wave.  This is one of the least informative ways of filling one’s air-time.  First, national preference polling is interesting, but all elections are local.  While some members of the punditry are beginning to mouth the words “vote suppression,” and “gerrymandering,” not enough information and analysis has been shared about the effects of these GOP efforts to maintain control of the Congress, and of state elections. Secondly,  there are no national elections for Congressional seats — to state the perfectly obvious.  Those elections will be determined by candidate recruitment and quality, personnel and monetary resources, and campaign competence.  None of these, with the possible exception of shared mailing lists and big donors (monetary resources) is national in scope.  Third, some campaigns will be assisted by the efforts of third party groups. For example, are Union members out canvassing? Are students out doing registration drives?  Are small groups of activists providing services like rides to the polls? The extent and nature of these ancillary groups and their activities will have an impact, we just don’t know the extent to date.  None of this will be “news” to anyone who’s been paying attention to American civic life for the last few decades.

Just because it’s on the news doesn’t necessarily mean it’s important.  The occupant of the Oval Office and some members of the media are still playing the DC parlor game, “Who is Anonymous?” Or anonomus or anamonomous or whatever.  I’m still working on why this might be important.  For my money we still have staff in the executive branch who are willing to explode the national debt in service to tax cuts for the top 0.01% of American income earners, at ease with putting 12,000 children in “detention” facilities for an indefinite period, and quite pleased to allow health insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing medical conditions more for their premiums.  That these people will occasionally arise on their hind legs and proclaim the Great One has gone too far doesn’t impress me.  What would impress me?

How about more attention paid to this nugget:

“Besides family, one of the only people Trump continues to trust is Stephen Miller. “The op-ed has validated Miller’s view, which was also Steve Bannon’s, that there’s an ‘administrative state’ out to get Trump,” a Republican close to the White House said. “There is a coup, and it’s not slow-rolling or concealed,” Bannon told me. “Trump believes there’s a coup,” a person familiar with his thinking said.”

And thus our Oval Office Occupant (Or Triple Zero if spelled 0val 0ffice 0ccupant) is more heavily reliant on a blatantly racist, far right wing conspiracy fabulist, who stokes the Occupant’s most divisive tendencies?  This seems to call for more analysis, and yet the punditry still grasps the Who-Done-It? segment, or pontificates upon the “effect” of the infamous Op-Ed on the President’s “mind set.”  Clue number one a White Nationalist was influencing the 000 might have been the initial Muslim ban?  More clues — no DACA agreement  by Congressional Democrats was ever going to be satisfactory — no one ‘would care’ that there might be children separated from their parents at the southern border — it’s considered acceptable to move funds from FEMA and the Coast Guard to pay for more ICE detention facilities —  it’s supposed to be all right for asylum seeking families to be kept in these detention facilities indefinitely?

Things Not Making So Much Noise But Nevertheless Important

Health care and health insurance.  There is nothing the GOP would enjoy so much as repealing the last semi-colon and comma of the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve heard the “more competition” argument currently coming from the House Speaker before.  It doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then.  Health insurance is not a product analogous to purchasing a motor vehicle or any other consumer product.  One doesn’t choose to get hit by a bus, or hit with a cancer diagnosis, or hit with a complicated pregnancy — or even an uncomplicated one for that matter.

Consumer protection.  While the great fire hose emits its inundation of noise about all things Trumpian, consumer protections enacted to prevent yet another Wall Street melt down are under attack.  The student loan market is being “deregulated.”  Not a good thing.  The smaller issues involved in the Dodd Frank Act have been resolved with some bipartisan legislation, but the administration wants to go further — and the assortment of Goldman Sachs alums in the administration are being ever so helpful in this regard.  Left unchecked we’re going to see another round of de-regulation, which didn’t work out so well for us the last time.  Caveat Emptor American consumer — be careful before voting for any candidate who vows to cut red tape and diminish the “burdens” of regulations — like those preventing the next melt down in the Wall Street Casino.

It’s the Stupid Economy.   Yes. Wall Street has been doing quite nicely thank you very much. I maintain my position that the worst business news is readily available on most broadcast networks.  If a person believes that the DJIA represents the state of the American economy then they’re in for more surprises like the ones which emerged in 2007-08.   Information like real median household income trends is available from FRED, but before we get too excited note median household income numbers may be obscuring other figures like wages adjusted for inflation for full time employees.   Further, what’s being added in to the mix as “income?”  All income includes everything from unemployment benefits to returns on investments.  It’s those returns on investments that have made some very nice progress over the last ten years…wages maybe not so much.  We’re on our own to dive more deeply into the wage issues and income distribution data.  There’s some good news, some bad news, and some news to think about like the 16 straight quarters we’ve had of increasing domestic household debt.  So, it’s time for the question:  Are we seeing candidates for Congress who acknowledge the need for common sense controls on Wall Street casino operations? Who are aware and concerned for wage and salary workers and their economic security?  Are we getting more noise from the highly generalized pie in the sky theoretical visionaries who want us to believe that those with great wealth are going to buy all the homes, cars, washing machines, shoes, movie tickets, and restaurant meals necessary to keep the US economy rolling on?

I could use a little more light on these subjects, and perhaps a bit less bump in the night stuff about a “crisis on the border” (manufactured by the current administration) or “The Press Is Out To Get Me,” from Orange Blossom.   And, I’m looking for Congressional and Senate Candidates who will speak to me about how to fix problems, rather than shout at me about how to fix the blame for them.  I’d like for political discourse to make more sense than noise.

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Filed under anti-immigration, banking, Economy, financial regulation, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

There Never Was Any Plan: The Story of the entire Orange Blossom Administration

Return with us now to those days of yesterday, if not exactly yesterday, when the Trump declared his health care plan would be wonderful — “No one will lose coverage. There will be insurance for everybody. Healthcare will be a “lot less expensive” for everyone — the government, consumers, providers.”  [Politico]  That was March 13 2017.  Well now, some people have lost coverage, it isn’t going to be any less expensive to get health insurance. In fact, health insurance premiums are expected to increase in California, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and it is just as bad elsewhere:

Rate filings to date show that many insurers are requesting large premium increases for 2019. The average requested rate increase was 30.2 percent in Maryland and 24 percent in New York state. Most insurers have specifically cited the repeal of the individual mandate in their actuarial memorandums. In New York, insurers attributed about half their large requested increases to mandate repeal. Even in states with small rate increases or overall decreases, insurer filings state that premiums next year would be significantly lower in the absence of federal sabotage. For example, BlueCross BlueShield of Vermontrequested a relatively small 7.5 percent increase for 2019 but said that its request would have been 2.2 percentage points lower if not for mandate repeal. Peter V. Lee, the director of Covered California, said that his state’s average rate increase of 9 percent “could—and should—have been much lower.” [CAP]

Let’s be serious here. There wasn’t a health care plan, not one with any specifics. There was a ton of “repeal and replace” rhetoric.  Trumpian campaign slogans never translated into much more than the continual erosion of Affordable Care Act provisions in favor of the insurance industry.  There never was a comprehensive plan to deal with market problems, industry sector issues, and the health care needs of some 330 million people in this country.  This administration doesn’t PLAN.

But wait, wasn’t there an “infrastructure plan?”  It would seem there should be since we keep having infrastructure weeks?   On February 11, 2018 the administration rolled out its grand infrastructure proposal [CNN] albeit without any suggestion about how this would be paid for;

“At the Conference of Mayors in January, Gribbin explained that the Trump administration would not be proposing a specific funding mechanism for the infrastructure plan, saying that will be a conversation with Congress. But that discussion just got a lot harder following the passage of a tax plan that is expected to expand the deficit by over a trillion dollars over ten years.” [MoneyCnn]

So, we got “conversations with Congress” about how to implement the “infrastructure plan,” but no infrastructure plan with much of anything except sops to for profit job training centers, lowered work rule and environmental permitting standards, and precious little else.  There never was a real, a comprehensive, plan in place such that the negotiations (or conversations) with Congress would ever be on a firm foundation. Surprised? We shouldn’t be.

Perhaps we should have been impressed with the trade plan?  After all, isn’t this supposed to put America First?  However, our friends and trading partners have been reduced to using color coded cue cards to explain high school level trade concepts to an American president [Marketwatch] and he doesn’t give any appearance he understands  fundamental concepts.  Reason sums up one area of dissonance:

“As Veronique de Rugy noted here a couple of weeks ago, “This is one policy area where he’s been remarkably consistent over the years.” Even when Trump pays lip service to free markets, she observed, it’s with the aim of increasing exports and reducing imports so as to bring down the number he thinks crystallizes our failure and lack of resolve. Trump is not talking like a mercantilist in service of free trade; he is talking like a free trader in service of mercantilism.” [Reason]

Let’s just operate on the simpler assumption — he doesn’t understand the subject; he doesn’t really have a plan; and, all the “motion” that passes for “action” in this administration’s trade policy is tantamount to economic and monetary plate juggling.  As long as he can make grand announcements about vague promises to eventually do something, and none of the plates fall, he’s all good.  Witness the EU deal:  “In reality, the Europeans gave up little except their prior refusal to negotiate under threat. Juncker’s pledge that the E.U. would import more U.S.-grown soybeans, for instance, formalized something that was likely to happen anyway.” [NewYorker]  Always assume: There is NO Plan.

And, about that Immigration enforcement policy which was supposed to have a plan to reunite children with their parents?   As of June 22, 2018 the Trump Mis-administration had to admit it had NO PLAN to reunite all children with their parents. [NYMag]  Really?  Well, not really completely opaque since the policy was all about punishing people who had the temerity to appeal for asylum in the United States who happened to be people with slightly darker skin than their Caucasian cohorts.   Thus if the policy didn’t meet the needs of the children and their parents, then the children could be conveniently re-categorized as “ineligible”  meaning the mis-administration might side step any accountability for their plight. [MSNBC]

Pick a topic, any topic.  Speak of environmental protections, clean drinking water, the protection of wildlife, or the protection of consumers from banking institution predation.  Speak of plans to provide better housing for married members of the US Armed Forces? Speak of plans to offer better, more efficient educational, medical, or dental services to Veterans?  Speak of plans to insure more cities are not plagued with lead in their water supplies?  Speak of how to provide long term assistance to American ranchers and farmers, and to promote the global trade in the crops and animals they raise for sale? Speak of how to research, study, and restrain the levels of gun violence in this country so that we are a safer place for ourselves and our children?  Speak of how we address matters of election security? To address Russian infiltration and attacks on our political institutions?  Pick a topic. Any topic.  Then rest unassured, this administration HAS NO PLAN.

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Immigration, Infrastructure, Politics, trade deficit

Dear Congressman, Why Are You

From the Department of Thanks A Bunch But Don’t Do Me Any More Favors

“Nevada’s premiums on the health-care exchange are likely to increase by about $843 next year as a result of Congress’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and a new Trump administration rule on short-term health insurance plans, according to a new report from the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

The report, released Friday, found that annual premiums nationwide will increase from an average of about $6,176 to $7,189 for the average 40-year-old, which is about a 16.4 percent increase. In Nevada, average premiums using the same benchmark are projected to rise from about $5,547 to $6,390, or an increase of about 15 percent.” [NVIndy]

All right, I’m not 40 years old and haven’t been for quite some time, but I can empathize with younger people trying to run households, raise kids, pay the bills, and keep it together.  What they don’t need is a 15% increase in their health insurance premiums.  And who does this help?  It doesn’t help promote the best practices of established health insurance corporations.  It doesn’t help those families who are facing rising costs for groceries and transportation.  It doesn’t help young people to sell them junk insurance that won’t actually cover expenses for major medical expenses for illness or injury.  It seems to primarily help the fly by night scam artists who want to sell insurance policies which barely deserve the name.  You can read the full report ?here.

From the Department of Questions to Ask Congress Critters which Don’t Include Why Are You An A–hole?

Dear Congressman ____ why is it impossible for you to vote in favor of a bill to require universal background checks for gun sales and transfers?  (It’s not like this doesn’t have massive support from the American people.  It’s not like this wouldn’t help to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who shouldn’t have them in the first place.   And while we’re about it, what’s so impossible about limiting the size of magazines, or keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers?)

Dear Congressman ____ why, when banks had their most profitable quarter EVER, would you think it important to roll back the consumer protections of the Dodd Frank Act? [MoneyCNN] [Vox] [WaPo]

Dear Congressman ____ in what perverted universe is it considered acceptable to bait bears with donuts and bacon in order to kill them? To kill hibernating bears? To kill wolf pups? [NYMag]

Dear Congressman ____ Just what purpose is served by vilifying a Central American street gang and conflating its members with ALL immigrants to this great nation?  Criticizing a violent gang is laudable, conflating these people with ALL immigrants is inexcusable.  Since I’m not 40 years old and haven’t been for some time, I recall a time when this nation was recovering from a major war against a state which called Jews “vermin,” dehumanized them, and then used the appellation as an excuse to exterminate them.  Perhaps it’s time to have people, especially politicians, read (or re-read) Elie Wiesel’s Night.

Where does this lead?

“Wiesel’s prose is quietly measured and economical, for florid exaggeration would not befit this subject. Yet, at times, his descriptions are so striking as to be breathtaking in their pungent precision. He writes through the eyes of an adolescent plunged into an unprecedented moral hinterland, and his loss of innocence is felt keenly by the reader. His identity was strained under such conditions: “The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. My soul had been invaded – and devoured – by a black flame.” Night.

When bad things are done by bad people, bad things happen to innocent people.

Or maybe it would simply be easier to ask, Dear Congressman ____ why are you an A-hole?

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Filed under ecology, financial regulation, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Immigration, Politics

Incentives? What’s good for Geese and Ganders: Medicaid Work Requirements

We can rest assured the Nevada Policy Research Institute (aka Koch Bros) will be staunchly defending the notion that poor or working Nevadans are so debauched that any form of financial support will cause them to head for the couch and the TV remote, witness their position on work requirements for Medicaid recipients:

“Medicaid is supposed to provide a safety net for those who are unable to help themselves — an admirable goal,” said NPRI policy analyst Daniel Honchariw. “Unfortunately, as the system currently works, it actually encourages many able-bodied adults to stay out of the workforce. As a result, the program isn’t just draining public finances, it’s eroding the self-sufficiency of those it’s purportedly supposed to be trying to help.”  [h/t Nevada Independent]

Dear Lord, I’d hate draining away anyone’s “self sufficiency.”  However, I’m not prone to illusions about innumerable people who for reasons beyond comprehension prefer “getting welfare” to having a job.  But Wait!  Nationally, 42% of those non-SSI, non-elderly with Medicaid health insurance are working full time, another 18% are working at part time jobs.  14% are not working because they are ill or disabled.  12% are caregivers for someone who is ill or disabled.  6% of the enrollees are in school, and 7% give other reasons for not being able to work. [KFF] So, let’s be rid of the Medicaid as Welfare motif — it’s not welfare, it’s a health insurance program.  Further, 60% of the recipients are working full or part time.  So, what are the income requirements for Nevadans in the Medicaid insurance program?

“In addition to the basic Medicaid requirements, petitioners must qualify by earnings. What are the income requirements for Medicaid in Nevada? Nevada Medicaid eligibility requirements pertaining to income are structured around the federal poverty level (FPL). This financial marker of determining Medicaid benefits eligibility considers the size of the family and larger households will have higher income limits. Medicaid can provide health care coverage to households with income up to 138 percent of the FPL. However, children younger than 19 years of age with incomes up to 205 percent of the FPL will also be eligible for medical coverage.” (emphasis added)

Now we come to the Income Trap phase of the argument.  We can’t, dare not, increase the minimum wage from a paltry $7.25 per hour, argue the Conservatives, because to do so would “cost jobs.”  However, if one takes out the plastic brains, punches in the numbers for a person working 40 hours per week at a minimum wage job the conclusion displayed in the little calculator window will be below the 138% FPL line.  Here’s a thought: If the Republicans are bent on removing working people from the Medicaid rolls, how about raising the minimum wage to a living wage?  And, now we continue on to the Geese and Gander finale.

We’ve just survived the enaction of the Republican Tax Cut, Tax-Scam, in which it was argued that if middle and working class Americans would shoulder the burden of supporting the federal government and allow the corporations and hedge fund managers to “keep more of their hard earned money,” then our prosperity will soar, the economy will boom and those hard-working wealth management titans will work even harder at their investment strategies.  So, pay them more and they will work harder, and make their money work harder.  Funny, this principle never seems to apply to working people who drive trucks, serve food, repair fuel injection systems, build houses, landscape properties, clean hotel rooms, sell merchandise, type memos, file records, stock shelves,… you get the idea.

Thus, what is sauce for the Geese (those hard working wealth management, upper 1% of the income earners, etc.) i.e. more benefits and breaks from the government is toxic bilge water for the other 99% Ganders, who if given even the least disincentive in the form of affordable health care will shed their uniforms and work clothes, head for the nearest couch and dissipate into a mere shadow of their former selves as their “self sufficiency” is drained by the system.

Perhaps we should call this out for what it is — yet another attempt to reduce the number of people eligible for assistance with their health care expenses because rich people don’t want to pay for it.  Because they imagine some otherwise healthy soul taking advantage of their fellows merely because the are “unworthy.”  If this sounds selfish, it’s because it is, essentially, a fundamentally selfish argument.  The saddest part of the entire issue is that the Geese having quacked for years about Welfare Queens (non-existent) and Unworthy Lazy Bums have convinced numerous Ganders of the horrors of expending any funds in support of those less fortunate.   There is one last point illustrative of the moral deficiency of the conservative argument.

Opioids.  Remember those 7% who gave other reasons for not working?  Some of them have been laid off from jobs and are seeking new employment, and some others are finding it difficult to secure employment because of opioid addiction.  Just for the record, Medicaid covers about 4 in 10 non-elderly adults with opioid addiction.  13.9% are white non-Hispanic; 6.6% are Black, and another 4.6% are Hispanic.  13.7% are males, 7.3% are females.  [KFF]  If we want to address opioid addiction in this country then we need to be taking care of those who are seeking help with this scourge, and not lecturing them about the wonders of the free market system and healthy lifestyles.

We could use a few less lectures on the Great American Rugged Individual and a few more mentions of our collective responsibility to care for our fellow citizens as we would wish to be cared for by them.

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Filed under health insurance, Medicaid, Politics

The Great Bamboozle: GOP Tax Plan Targeted Right At the Middle Of The Top 1%

There are some amazing feats of verbal legerdemain going on as Republicans try to explain why their Jam It Through Tax Plan isn’t a real bag of snakes.

Oh, don’t worry about our plan…people want to see an improving economy…people want to see more in their paychecks…now 90% of the people can file a simple return…there’s a lot of wishful thinking going on here, and most of it is wrong.  The political advertising is going to write itself in 2018.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is correct to say that “haste makes waste,” and in its haste the GOP is about to unload both barrels into their own feet.

The tax cuts will explode the debt.  Remember all the times the GOP told us that debt is a problem?  It certainly can be.  When there was a Democrat in the White House the Heritage Foundation positively screamed about the impact of increasing the national debt:

Current and projected increases in government debt, cutting into future economic growth rates, also mean slower future growth of government revenues. Even as future interest expense rises as taxpayers are called upon to service all this debt, growth in government revenues will slow, leaving less available for other priorities, such as national security and economic security, education, and innovation-driving research.

The only difference now is that the accumulated deficits will be driven by a Republican penchant for rewarding the investor class with amazing tax cuts.  Now the argument is reversed: there will supposedly be More revenue, More innovation, More funds for national security and research.  No there won’t. And we don’t need to kid ourselves, because the same basic economic elements are going to underpin the new tax/budget structure that are girding the current one. 

Nothing in the tax bill reverses the current emphasis on short term gains. The GOP is fond of pointing to gains in the stock market as “proof” of its stewardship of economic growth.  There’s an obvious problem with this, as noted by the Chicago Tribune:

Nearly half of country has $0 invested in the market, according to the Federal Reserve and numerous surveys by groups such as Gallup and Bankrate. That means people have no money in pension funds, 401(k) retirement plans, IRAs, mutual funds or ETFs. They certainly don’t own individual stocks such as Facebook or Apple.

So, nearly half the population has Zilch invested in The Market. What about the others?  While people don’t generally have elephantine memories, 2008 isn’t that far in the rear view mirror, and that’s part of the reason about 54% of Americans have some sort of investments, as opposed to the 62% prior to the Big Crash of 2007-08.

Further,  there’s some recent research indicating the decline isn’t over.

Rosenthal and Austin’s main focus was the precipitous decline of taxable investment accounts. In 50 years, the amount of stock owned by individual investors and funds outside retirement and nontaxable accounts such as 529 college-savings plans has dropped off a cliff — to about 25% in 2015 from over 80% in 1965.

But wait, there’s more:

The other startling finding was the growth in foreign investment in the US stock market. What was once a small sliver of the makeup now accounts for a quarter of all stock ownership at $5.5 trillion. Part of this may be due to increasing wealth in foreign countries, but, as the researchers noted, it could also be influenced by corporate inversions, in which foreign-domiciled firms have large direct holdings of US-based stock.

So, we have a structural situation in which the percentage of individual investors is declining precipitously, the percentage of institutional investors is increasing, as is the percentage of foreign investors.   It doesn’t take much effort to perceive that the produce of stock market gains aren’t going to benefit most Americans, but should assist institutional and foreign investors.

But surely those institutional investors will be looking for long term investment prospects and will act as a curb on short term pursuits as exemplified by hedge fund operations?  Nupe.  That part of the structure hasn’t changed either.  It’s not happening:

Across the world, a clamor is rising against corporate short-termism—the undue attention to quarterly earnings at the expense of long-term sustainable growth. In one survey of chief financial officers, the majority of respondents reported that they would forgo current spending on profitable long-term projects to avoid missing earnings estimates for the upcoming quarter.1

Critics of short-termism have singled out a set of culprits—activist hedge funds that acquire 1% or 2% of a company’s stock and then push hard for measures designed to boost the stock price quickly but unsustainably. 2 The typical activist program involves raising dividends, increasing stock buybacks, or spinning off corporate divisions—usually accompanied by a request for board seats.

If corporations increase profitability I am hearing, “raising dividends, increasing stock buybacks, and mergers, acquisitions, and spin offs.  I am NOT hearing investment in plant expansion, workers’ wages, and company benefits.  And, I’m certainly not hearing anything about encouraging the promotion of taxable investment accounts, the kind that  puts revenue into the Nation’s coffers.

Nothing in the tax bill addresses wage stagnation.   And, no, this is not a myth:

“After adjusting for inflation, wages are only 10 percent higher in 2017 than they were in 1973, with annual real wage growth just below 0.2 percent.[1] The U.S. economy has experienced long-term real wage stagnation and a persistent lack of economic progress for many workers.” […] ” The portion of national income received by workers fell from 64.5 percent in 1974 Q3 to 56.8 percent in 2017 Q2.”

Ouch.  Somehow, the Growth Fairy is supposed to be so enamored of tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals that more greenbacks will float down and squirm into the pay packets of average American workers.  Probably not, and putting more dollars into the pockets of institutional investors — foreign and domestic — isn’t going to be all that helpful either.  So, not only does the tax plan not address short term-ism, it doesn’t really address paycheck issues either.

But Wait! How about increasing the child tax credits and standard deductions?  It’s no secret that those people earning $75,000 or less aren’t going to be the big winners in this tax bill.  “The tax bill Senate Republicans are championing would give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade, according to a report released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official nonpartisan analysts.” [WaPo]

But, but, but…Your tax filings will be simpler!  Simple doesn’t matter if you aren’t getting your taxes cut.  And, if the tax preparation deduction is eliminated then there are going to be some mom and pop franchises in serious straits — those just happen to be local small businesses as well.

But, but, but…jobs won’t go overseas!  You can only dream.  The arguments get a bit into the economic weeds, into territorial taxation, but the bottom line is clear:

This might seem like a small difference, but the design of their global minimum tax creates perverse incentives for companies to offshore jobs and shift profits to tax havens—outcomes that a per-country minimum tax would avoid.

Perverse indeed, especially if one expects the new tax plan to provides incentives for companies to expand operations domestically.  Nothing in this plan actually and directly promotes domestic expansion in the economy — it’s all indirect and absolutely hopeful, perhaps even illusory if not downright delusional.

In the meantime, Medicare will be facing cuts of about $25 billion.  There will be calls to “reform” Social Security” in order to reduce the debt — translation: Higher requirements for fewer benefits.  There will be calls to cut SNAP programs — not a drop in the bucket needed to fill the debt hole; and, educational funding — another squeeze on programs that actually help people eventually earn higher wages.

This won’t prevent Republicans like Nevada’s Senator Dean Heller from enjoying the passage of a “great tax cut,” while he hopes to high Heaven no one in the state notices cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Childrens’ Health Insurance, and no one talks about increased premiums in the individual health insurance market.  Perhaps no one will notice that graduate students at UNR and UNLV are supposed to pay taxes on tuition waivers while they’re actually earning minimum wages for part time jobs?  No one will notice the reduction in home mortgage interest deductions?  No one will observe the reduction or elimination of deductions for major medical expenses — much of which will be out of the pockets of the elderly.

My guess is that Nevadans will notice.  The political ads may, indeed, write themselves.

 

 

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Filed under health insurance, Heller, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, Taxation

Demolition Days On End

The television talking heads are talking about today’s sound and fury from the White House as “Demolition Day;” as if every day the mullet-maned moron occupying the Oval Office hasn’t been doing this from day one.

What is buttressing my sanity for the moment is the fact that MMM had a 49.4% approval rating in Nevada as of January 2017 (38.9% disapproval) and dropped to an approval rating of 43.6% in September 2017 and a disapproval rating of 51.2% in the Silver State.  [CNBC]

Much more love from the Republican Congress and the President and Nevada’s going to find itself in a world of hurt.   Case in point:  If the Republicans get their way in the FY 2018 budget 56,044 Nevada families will lose food assistance as of 2023, and 52,613 will lose them as of 2027.   But wait, there’s even more fun … another grand idea in this budget fiasco is to shift $100 billion of SNAP costs to the states.  So, Nevada would have to come up with 10% of the costs by 2020 and this increases to 25% in 2023 and beyond. Just in case lower income, mostly working, families in Nevada aren’t punished enough the GOP plan says states will have more “flexibility” to cut benefit levels to “manage costs.”  Of course Nevada will have to figure out how to get lower income working families basic food items at the local groceries, at state expense.  In case someone’s thinking this makes economic sense (that tired old canard about welfare queens on food stamps with waste and fraud) the actual numbers indicate that for every $5.00 spent on food stamps $9.00 is generated in economic activity. [CBPP] [MJ]

Case in point: The FY 2018 budget calls for cuts in fire-fighting operations.  As if the fires in California weren’t headline news at the moment.  The IAFC isn’t happy  seeing an FY 2017 budget of $2,833,000 for wildland fire management cut to $2,495,058 in FY 2018; or cuts to State Fire Assistance from $78 million down to $69.4 million, and Volunteer Fire Assistance from $15 million to $11.6 million.  And, by the way, the FLAME program (pdf) funding (wildfire reserve suppression fund, large fires) would be eliminated in the GOP budget.  Supposedly, the FY 2018 would sustain current 10 year average costs for fire suppression. [ECO]  The word “supposedly” is used with some caution, because as we experience climate change effects, the cost of fire suppression can be reasonably expected to increase, with a coterminous effect on budgets.   Meanwhile, there’s the matter of expensive fires in Napa and Sonoma counties.

And, then there’s the not-so-small matter of FEMA:

“The president’s budget blueprint calls for FEMA’s budget for state and local grants to be cut by $667 million, saying that these grants are unauthorized or ineffective. The program it explicitly calls out as lacking congressional authorization is the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, and a second proposed change would require all preparedness grants to be matched in part by non-federal funds. All of FEMA’s pre-disaster grants are meant to reduce federal spending after disasters, and according to the agency’s website, there’s evidence that $1 in mitigation spending saves $4 in later damages.”  [Newsweek]

There are two points to highlight in this paragraph.  First, the budget cuts are made to grants for disaster mitigation efforts, without saying why the grants are “ineffective,” and we should note that any program can be declared “ineffective” if the standards aren’t reasonable. Secondly, as in the case of food stamps, there’s an upfront economic benefit — for every $1 spent on mitigation we save $4 in subsequent damage costs.   Once more we have a grand example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Nor are the Republicans keeping their promises not to mess with Social Security and Medicare.

“Not only would it (the FY 2018 budget) cut Medicaid by $1 trillion, it would also cut Medicare by more than $470 billion in order to pay for hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America. Further, the Republican tax plan this budget calls for would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which will likely pave the way for savage cuts to Social  Security.”  [SenDem]

Oh, and by the way… let’s sabotage the NAFTA talks, scrap the only treaty containing Iran’s arms aspirations (and tick off all the other European allies who signed on), send a signal to North Korea that our word’s not worth paper on which it’s written, let the health insurance market destabilize into chaos, and withdraw from UNESCO.

And here we sit, not a shining beacon on a hill, but a flickering flame bent to whatever winds happen to be blowing through the head of MMM in the White House.  Not only are programs and services in peril within our own state, but the nation and the world are facing similar dangers emanating from an unraveling White House.

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Filed under Economy, FEMA, Health Care, health insurance, Nevada, Nevada budget, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics, public health, Republicans, Social Security, tax revenue, Taxation