Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wealth Inequality In America

(reposted from 2013)

Related: It's not just inequality by quintile that needs a serious unskewing: it's also inequality by race. See Ta Nehisi Coates' piece The Ghetto Is Public Policy

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bloomberg TV: The Plight of America’s Long-Term Unemployed

Not Our Words

Quote of the Day

From the "Ask a Pollster" feature on The Upshot, the new data journalism section of the NY Times.

"If you don't believe in random sampling, the next time you have a blood test, tell the doctor to take it all."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today In Lying With Statistics

A right wing Tweeter engaged me in "dueling statistics" a few days ago. Looking back at the exchange, it's easy to see how only one thing matters to some on the right: regardless of the facts, pin the blame on President Obama.

In response to a chart highlighting the growth in the share of wealth owned by "the 1% of the 1%," I got back this reply:

Which, apparently, is trying to make two claims:
  1. TARP was Obama's fault;
  2. Income inequality is Obama's fault.

(The reply chart comes from IBD, and much like the person who engaged with me, it takes the source material from Pew and twists it into an attack on the President.)

When pointing out that TARP was signed by President Bush; that 75 Senators and 263 Representatives voted "yes" on the bill, that didn't matter. Only then-Senator Obama and then-Senator Clinton's votes matter.

When pointing out that income inequality was far greater under Presidents Reagan and Bush (41), that didn't matter, either. The only economic history that matters to the most rabid of the right began Jan 20, 2009.

Back and forth. For each claim, a rebuttal. For each rebuttal, a response that shifted the argument elsewhere, until we get to this:

If it was done deliberately, the chart is stunning in its dishonesty. Why? Here's a view of the same data, written up by AEI:

It's one thing to be partisan. It's another to cross the line, and simply lie.

Elizabeth Warren 2014 Minnesota DFL Humphrey-Mondale Dinner Speech

Monday, April 14, 2014

Five Thirty Eight: Losing Benefits Isn’t Prodding Unemployed Back to Work

So far, the evidence doesn't seem to support that theory. Rather than finding jobs, the long-term unemployed continue to be out of luck.

We now have three months' worth of job market data since the benefits program expired. The chart below shows job-finding rates for the long-term and short-term unemployed. Notice three things: First, the short-term unemployed have a much better chance of finding a job than the long-term unemployed and always have. Second, the short-term unemployed are seeing a steady improvement in their prospects, but the long-term jobless are not. And third, there's been no major shift since the benefits program expired at the end of last year. (The chart shows the data as a 12-month rolling average, which could obscure a sudden shift. The un-smoothed data, however, doesn't show a jump either.)

Daily Delaney Downer - now with added Republican Hostage-Taking

The latest from our series PASTED: The Email of the Jobless, a letter from one of the 2 million not receiving federal unemployment insurance since Congress dropped the benefits in December:

"I lost my job last summer and my benefits stopped three months ago. I am a 57 year old widow and the sole support of myself. I have lost my home. My car will be taken in 2 weeks. My credit has been ruined because I can't pay my bills. I am overdrawn at my bank due to bank fees and I have zero income and no money to buy food. I applied for state aid but have heard nothing. I had to stop taking my much needed daily medication because I don't have money to buy my medicine."

And how does the GOP react? By treating these men and women as bargaining chips for Republican interests:

While temporarily extending unemployment benefits is necessary for those most in need, we must not lose sight of the real goal — getting Americans back to work. Specifically, the GROWTH Act would approve construction of the long awaited Keystone XL pipeline, creating 42,100 direct and indirect jobs. It repeals the president’s job-destroying medical device tax, saving as many as 43,000 manufacturing jobs. The bill will also codify into law the 40-hour work week rather than the 30-hour figure in the president’s health care law, which, if not changed, will result in slashed hours and reduced wages.

This is both a responsible and conservative solution, which highlights the need for policies to spur real economic recovery while assisting families who are struggling through difficult times.

When Politifact looked at job creation claims, they came up with a different number than Reps. Dent and Meadows: they came up with 3,900 jobs for one year, or 1,950 each year for two years, plus 35 permanent jobs after construction.

When The Motley Fool looked at Obamacare enrollment numbers and the medical device tax, this is what they said: (my emphasis)

"Given the uncertainty surrounding the implementation of Obamacare most hospitals have held back on making large equipment purchases. This extra cash flow generated by a lower rate of uninsured patients could be the perfect impetus for hospital operators to differentiate themselves from competitors with state-of-the-art equipment. In other words, while all medical device makers could ultimately benefit, those which make high-priced and specialized equipment could become the most direct beneficiaries."

And as far as the 30- or 40-hour work week rule, that's a lot of GOP smoke and mirrors. The ACA requires companies with 50 or more full-time employees to provide healthcare coverage for them. Workers who put in a 30-hour week are counted as full-time workers for the purpose of the law. If the GOP had their way, and redefined the rule to 40 hours, fewer employees might be counted, and fewer companies would have to provide insurance coverage.

It's normal and reasonable to bargain in politics: you need a bridge; I need a road widened - let's do a deal.

It's abnormal, unreasonable and utterly unconscionable for the GOP to hold millions of desperate American men and women hostage to oil companies and business interests.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand Facebook Chat

Sign the petition calling on John Boehner to bring unemployment insurance extension up for a vote.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Is Bernie Marcus Talking About?

Bernie Marcus, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, wrote the following:
"Consider the 'fee' - really a hidden sales tax - that all health-insurance companies have been forced to pay since the first of this year on premiums for policies sold to individuals and small and medium-size businesses. The health-insurance tax - known as HIT in business circles - is expected to generate revenues of about $8 billion this year and as much as $14.3 billion by 2018, according to the legislation."

So, what's the HIT? Even the initials make it sound a little threatening. Here's how Aetna describes it in one of their flyers:
"Many of these new entrants (health insurance purchasers) are lower-income families and individuals who may not have coverage today and who will receive federal subsidies toward the purchase of insurance.

"The ACA established a fee to help fund these subsidies. The fee will be assessed on health insurers beginning in 2014 and will not expire unless federal legislative changes are made.

"The federal government will collect these amounts from health insurers to pay for the subsidies
  • 2014: $8 billion
  • 2015 and 2016: $11.3 billion
  • 2017: $13.9 billion
  • 2018: $14.3 billion
  • Years after 2018: preceding year amount increased by the rate of annualized premium growth

The Health Insurance Providers fee (HIP, not HIT) will help pay for the subsidies (tax credits) that will help make health insurance plans more affordable for more people. Remove the fee, and you either increase the federal deficit to keep the subsidies in place, or you make health insurance plans less affordable for people, particularly people with lower incomes, by eliminating the subsidies. This would suit Bernie Marcus just fine, since he has been railing against Obamacare for years now.

What about the claim that people "will be paying much higher premiums because of this tax"?

Not according to this 2013 report:

"Intense price competition among health plans in the marketplaces for individuals has lowered premiums below projected levels.

"In an analysis of plans offered in the marketplaces, the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform found that new entrants into the market make up 26 percent of all insurers. These new entrants are introducing competitive pressures into the individual market. The McKinsey analysis found that new entrants tend to price their plans lower than the median premiums in their market."

More people can afford health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. People who already have insurance are getting a better deal, thanks to Obamacare.

Sorry, Bernie.

more information about the Health Insurance Providers Fee:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bloomberg: Long-Term Unemployed Make for Just as Strong Hires: Study


"People who have been out of work for an extended period, once hired, tend to be just as productive on the job as those with more typical work histories, according to an analysis of almost 20,000 employees.

"The research, provided to Bloomberg News by San Francisco-based Evolv Inc., shows no statistically significant difference in measures of job performance between two pools of entry-level call center agents: those who hadn’t held a single full-time job in at least five years before they applied for the position, and the rest. Evolv, which helps large companies assess and manage hourly workers, analyzed data collected from six employers in about 90 locations in the U.S."

Maybe we can put another zombie lie to rest with this news?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Debunking Thomas Sowell

I recently came across this quote from Thomas Sowell:

"The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state."

If that were true, red states, who are the largest benefactors of Federal spending, would be blue.