Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sign of the Times

The rhetoric from the right, which is all to often echoed by the maintream media, is that the Obama administration has moved policy so far to the left that it produced a backlash from a traditionally right-of-center populace. The latest object of right-wing scorn is the Federal Reserve's program of Quantitative Easign, meant to fight the growing specter of deflation while hopefully promoting employment. This policy has been roundly criticized by right-wing luminaries as varied as Ron Paul, William Kristol and Sarah Palin. So how far to the left is this policy? It is so leftist that in 2000 the policy was promoted, in an almost identical economic circumstances as a way of helping Japan out of its economic mailaise by no less prominent and raging a leftist than Milton Friedman:

David Laidler: Many commentators are claiming that, in Japan, with short interest rates essentially at zero, monetary policy is as expansionary as it can get, but has had no stimulative effect on the economy. Do you have a view on this issue?

Milton Friedman: Yes, indeed. As far as Japan is concerned, the situation is very clear. And it’s a good example. I’m glad you brought it up, because it shows how unreliable interest rates can be as an indicator of appropriate monetary policy.
During the 1970s, you had the bubble period. Monetary growth was very high. There was a so-called speculative bubble in the stock market. In 1989, the Bank of Japan stepped on the brakes very hard and brought money supply down to negative rates for a while. The stock market broke. The economy went into a recession, and it’s been in a state of quasi recession ever since. Monetary growth has been too low. Now, the Bank of Japan’s argument is, “Oh well, we’ve got the interest rate down to zero; what more can we do?” It’s very simple. They can buy long-term government securities, and they can keep buying them and providing high-powered money until the high powered money starts getting the economy in an expansion. What Japan needs is a more expansive domestic monetary policy. The Japanese bank has supposedly had, until very recently, a zero interest rate policy. Yet that zero interest rate policy was evidence of an extremely tight monetary policy. Essentially, you had deflation. The real interest rate was positive; it was not negative. What you needed in Japan was more liquidity.

All that's missing is a quote from Das Kapital, wouldn't you agree?

(David Beckworth via Brad DeLong)

Magic Spending Cuts

Fox News is touting a new AP-CNBC poll by loudly proclaiming that the public prefers the government balance the budget through spenindg cuts rather than by raising taxes: Poll: cut govt services to balance budget. But when you click through and actually read the article you find something quite different:

To ease surging budget deficits, Americans prefer cutting federal services to raising taxes by nearly 2-1 in a new poll. Yet there is little consensus on specific, meaningful steps — and a wariness about touching two gargantuan programs, Social Security and Medicare.
As for detailed cures, the poll shows little agreement — a problem that has long bedeviled lawmakers who often speak about taming federal deficits but seldom vote to do so. Given more than a dozen options for helping balance the budget, majorities backed just four: Reduce the number of federal workers, trim their salaries, cut overseas military bases and eliminate the tax deduction on home mortgage interest in exchange for lower income tax rates.
So as is typical with these things, the poll showed that the American public wants to eliminate the Federal deficit by taking measures that would barely put a dent in government spending while leaving the largest entitlement programs unchanged. On Social Security, for instance, the public is strongly opposed even to raising the retirement age:

There are some other interesting results, however, and some rather peculiar ones. For one thing, I'm not sure what the poll question about eliminating the mortgage deduction in exchange for lower tax rates has to do with balancing the Federal budget. As written the question seems to suggest a budget-neutral change in tax law. I'd wager that the response to the poll reflects the percentage of taxpayers who are currently servicing a mortgage vs. those who have paid off their homes or who rent.

More interesting, however, is the poll respondents' enthusiasm for cutting our foreign military presence. Given that Americans are opposed to cuts in Medicare and Social Security (even to raising the retirement age) the only big budget item still left on the table is defense spending. If the results of this poll are indicative, taxpayers are much more open to cutting the defense budget than out political leaders. This, seems to me, provides an opening for real spending reform some time down the line. I suspect the American public will have to wait for our political class to catch up, though. Defense spending is a peculiar "third-rail," more hallowed by the political class, it would seem, than by the public at large. No doubt the massive defense industry lines more than a few politicians' pockets in exchange for their fawning adoration.

Finally, though the Fox article suggests that Americans prefer cutting services to raising taxes "by a 2-1 margin" the poll actually reveals that 65% of American believe taxes "will have to be raised" to cut the deficit.

So 65% of the American Public isn't buying GOP nonsense about tax cuts "paying for themselves." This is good news for Democrats and the President... if they're paying attention. One of the most fiscally irresponsible policy decisions we could take at the moment would be to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Sadly, the wheels of government seem to be turning in just that direction.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Question of the day: what is a terrorist

Fox News asks:

The dictionary says:

ter·ror·ism :
/ˈtɛrəˌrɪzəm/ Show
[ter-uh-riz-uhm] Show IPA
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

So the answer is, no, Fox News. Those guys aren't terrorists.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Did Low Corporate Taxes Kill Ireland? (Or Did Feminism!)

It is obvious to me that the Irish-British model is the way of the future, and the only question is when Germany and France will face reality: either they become Ireland or they become museums:

-Thomas Friedman, in 2005

Here is a staggering fact: right now, as I write this, every single citizen of the Republic of Ireland owes foreign creditors over $535,000.00.

How did this happen in a nation that free marketers from the CATO instutute to Thomas Friedman were just recently holding up as a model of 21st century economic development, and whose laissez faire policies were held in stark and favorable contrast with the Social Democratic welfare states of Germany and France?

Hery Farrell at Crookerd Timber thinks he knows: the genesis of the Irish economic catastrophe lies in the country's corporate tax rate. More speficially, Farrell finds fault in Ireland's low corporate tax rates:

The simplified political economy story goes as follows. Ireland had low nominal and even lower effective corporate tax rates. It also had low personal taxes, both because of the belief that this would foster entrepreneurship etc, and because the government used to periodically sweeten bargains between business and labor by promising tax cuts (which of course favored the rich more than the poor), inter alia buying off unions who might otherwise have started getting feisty about organizing the unorganized bits of the new Irish economy.
The result was that even with booming economic growth, the government faced a fiscal hole. This hole was filled by taxes on property transactions which, as the property market got ever more bubbly, became an ever more important source of government revenue. This provided the government with an extremely strong incentive not to deflate the bubble, reinforcing the already considerable incentives towards inaction resulting from cronyism between politicians and property tycoons, ideological notions about not interfering with ‘free’ markets etc.

Ireland followed the free marketers mantra to the letter: low taxes, lower taxes, even lower taxes, especially corporate taxes! But a government simply cannot function without some sort of revenue stream, so to make up for the revenue lost to lowered corporate taxes, the Irish government taxed property sales instead. And this new revenue stream proved so critical to the state that the Irish government was loath to turn down the tap when it became apparent that its tax base was over-reliant on a huge property bubble. There's no free lunch, as the Irish people have discovered much to their chagrin.

This may not be the whole story, but if even a libertarian like Megan McCardle thinks corporate taxes sunk too low in Ireland and produced an unmanageable investment surge, then its bound t be a very important piece of the puzzle.

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat offers another explanation:

To the utopians of capitalism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the biggest booms can produce the biggest busts, and that debt and ruin always shadow prosperity and growth. To the utopians of secularism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the waning of a powerful religious tradition can breed decadence as well as liberation. (“Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture,” Christopher Caldwell noted, but now “we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.”)
That's right: Ireland's economic collapse owes as much to the ravages of unfettered capitalism as to a society that had pushed aside the simple, timeless truths of traditional religion and found itself adrift in a materialistic sea bereft of the guidance once offered by its moral compass. And how did Ireland lose its moral compass? By accepting birth control and allowing women to work outside the home:

Progressives and secularists suggested that Ireland was thriving because it had finally escaped the Catholic Church’s repressive grip, which kept horizons narrow and families large, and limited female economic opportunity.

There are times when Douthat comes accross as a rare island of nuanced subtletly in a sea of spittle covered, right-wing bloviating. There are other times, ilke this one, for instance, when you'd much rather put yourself in the path of Bill O'Reilly's spittle for an hour than read another sentence of Douthat's disingenuous, patronizing, moralizing, garbage.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coulter Pwned

Ann Coulter gets her lunch eaten by a former Bush administration official in the following clip. The issue concerns the new TSA screening devices that have proven controversial because they can see through passengers' clothes.

It's good fun to watch:

Coulter's objection to the screening machines is typically vapid, Ann Coulter racist garbage: we shouldn't be screening everybody who goes into airports, just the swarthy foreigners.

I don't think it takes a genius to grasp the stupidity of Coulter's proposal: there's nothing a terrorist organization would love more than to know exactly what sorts of people will get screened by ariport security and what sorts will be let by with little more than a cursory glance.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chump Change

In their first big vote since the 2010 elections, Republicans, who took over the U.S. House of Representatives riding a wave of (misplaced) populist anger over the U.S. debt, have shown their commitment to fiscal austerity by... voting to defund NPR? (and failing)
I'd like to believe that the Tea Party faithful who voted these clowns in to office are going to revolt when they realize that proposed GOP budget cuts over the next few years are nothing but a series of sad little partisan gimmicks that do nothing to bring down the deficit (or absurd proposals specifically designed to fail). However, eight long years of Bush deficits have taught me that these same people who were marching on Washington protesting the national debt will quickly lose interest in our soaring tax-cut fueled deficits once the GOP holds the purse strings.

Nancy Pelosi Keeps Leadership Post

Nancy Pelosi has been elected incoming House minority leader. This is a welcome event, in my opinion. For all the carping about Democratic losses in the House and Senate, it would be folly and wholly unjust to place the blame on Pelosi's shoulders. In fact, Pelosi showed effective and courageous leadership in the House, marshalling support for Democratic initiatives that progressives saw as important. It was the Senate, and particularly Blue Dogs in the Senate who ultimately let us down. Senate Bluedogs are responsible for the death of the Public Option in health care. They are the ones reponsible for the inadequate stimulus. They are the reason DADT has yet to be repealed. Pelosi delivered on all these priorities in the House. It was the Senate's failures that dismayed traditional Democratic supporters, and it is because of them that depressed turnout in the latest elections directly contributed to the recent electoral bloodbath. Had Senate Democrats shown half the spine of Pelosi and supported Democratidc positions and proposals with half as much enthusiasm we would not be looking at two awful years of gridlock and mindless, politicized investigations.
So keep up the good work, Nancy. Hopefully you'll be majority leader again in two years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Put a Fork in Him

Joe Miller, the Tea Party backed, would-be Senator from Alaska is down by more than 10,000 votes against write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski, and there are just a few thousand more votes left to count. This figure is doubly significant given that the sum total of votes in that election was in the neighborhood of 200,000. It's very unlikely Miller can overcome this lead absent a shocking legal ruling that would invalidate more than 5% of all votes cast in the election.

In a curious little irony, Miller has filed a lawsuit in Federal court seeking to force Alaska to adhere to a strict vote count that would reject Murkowski votes in which the candidate's name was misspelled or in which sloppy handwriting could lead to ambiguity. The Alaska courts meanwhile are likely to favor a looser standard in which clear voter intent is all that is needed to count a ballot one way or another. The irony, of course, is that Tea Party members claim to oppose Federal power in favor of "States Rights." However, as several issues (such as statewide marihuana decriminalization movements and the 2000 presidential recount) have shown, "States Rights" generally plays second fiddle to conservative's broader ideological agenda and desire to exercise political power. Thus Miller's appeal to Federal courts in this case doesn't come as much of a shock, regardless of how hypocritical it might strike a casual observer.

Though a Murkowski victory issn't really all that much to celebrate for progressices, the likely results of the Alaska race do provide some comfort in that they demonstrate that even in a state like Alaska, Teabagger Krazytime doesn't play much beyond the GOP base.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Priviledged Classes

The irony is delicious: a Freshman GOP representative who ran on a platform opposing the Federal government's plan to expand health care insurance coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans is incensed that his new Congressional health care plan will not take effect for 28 days after his swearing-in:

Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.

What will he do? Uh, I dunno... maybe he can drive to a Hospital Emergency room when he gets sick (like the millions of uninsured who have little other option). And it's not like he's not eligible for COBRA coverage to tide him over for the next month.

Of course, Harris had a disingenuous explanation when confronted with his hypocrisy and sense of entitlement:

[Spokeswoman Anna ]Nix said Harris, who is the father of five, wasn’t being hypocritical – he was just pointing out the inefficiency of government-run health care.

Actually, there's no inefficiency here. This beginning coverage period is mandated by Federal law.

Harris' sense of entitlement is sickening, of course. It's nice that he's facing the same conundrums that many ordinary Americans who aren't wealthy doctors face every day. Also, let's face it. The guy's still got it pretty easy. he can easily afford COBRA and he at least knows for sure he'll be getting coverage in 28 days. I know of a woman whose employer informed her that she was being reduced from full time employment to part-time employment soon after the COBRA benefits from her previous job ran out: the new employer did not want to have to offer her the full benefits (including health care) that she would have been entitled to as a full time employee. Like Harris, her new employer had a probationary period during which she was not entitled to full benefits coverage. Unlike Harris, once she became eligible, her employer found a way to yank the benefits anyway. The cruelest irony, of course, is that she had already exhausted COBRA and was now left to fend on her own. (I know these details to be true because my wife was HR manager for the company and was instructed to change the woman's employment status by the company president for the aforementioned reasons).

UPDATE: Jonathan Chait gets the Gold for this one-liner:

I think we finally have a working definition of a health insurance crisis--when a member of Congress has to go a whole month without coverage.

(Via: Wonkette)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Pathetic Mainstream Media

Andrew Sullivan reprints the following chart of polling data on the new Health Care Reform law from the Kaiser Family Foundation:

Following Ezra Klein, Sullivan feels that the chart illustrates the difficulty Republicans will have in pursuing a repeal of the new law: almost all elements of the law are very popular (with support in the 70% range).

But something else about the chart stood out for me. Its inherent contradictions, I believe, serve as a clear illustration of the mainstream media's continuing failure to educate the American people on matters of public interest. Furthermore it is a failure that transcends partisan differences.

What caught my eye, primarily, were two items on the list:

A) 71% support for prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

B) 68% opposition to the public mandate.

The reason these two points are important is because, as any economist can tell you, you can't have one without the other. Requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions while not simultaneously requiring conumsers to purchase insurance when they are well would lead to a wholesale bankruptcy of the insurance industry as consumers held off on buying medical insurance until the very moment they need it --secure in the knowledge that coverage, by law, could not be denied them.

Now, typically, the way that serious, self-important, political commentators treat data like this is to scold the American people for "wanting to have their cake and eat it too." But isn't it just as likely that the real problem is that Americans by and large have not been made aware of the essential link that holds between the insurance mandate and the prohibition against denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions? After all, in my personal experience, Americans are fairly reasonable individuals and are possessed of enough innate intelligence to grasp the essential conflict between point A and point B once it is explained to them. And in view of the well documented and widespread public belief in falsehoods as wide ranging as the "death panel" myth and the fantasy that Barack Obama raised taxes, I don't think it can be denied that the media does an awful job of educating the public (as opposed to merely reprinting disingenuous, dishonest, misleading, partisan talking points).

The reason why I think this particular issue escapes the partisan divide is this: whether you are opposed to the new Health Care Reform law or whether you support it, you need somehow to account for Americans' incompatible views on point A and B above.

If you're opposed to the law, then you probably feel that Americans' desire to see a prohibition on coverage exclusions for pre-existing conditions is predicated on their ignorance of the essential link between this provision and the provision that they be required to purchase coverage. Once Americans realize how closely tied they are, you might surmise, support for the pre-existing condition portion of the law would drop accordingly.

And vice versa: if you support the law then you probably believe that most Americans would have less of a problem with the individual mandate if they realized that it's essential to ensuring that insurers cannot deny you coverage for a preexisting condition.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum teh end result is that what you are objecting to is not the fact that Americans want the impossible. It's the fact that they don't realize that they want the impossible. They simply haven't been educated on the link between provision A and provision B. And that, my friends, is a failure of the mainstream media to do its job.

Glenn Beck's Herd of Suckers

Megan McArdle sees a nasty bubble in gold prices. The key paragraph:

It's not that quantitative easing may not cause inflation--it might. In fact, that's sort of the point; the Fed wants a little more inflation in the money supply, in order to ease the unemployment rate. But consider how much inflation there would have to be for this gold price to make sense. Even assuming that something like the July 06 price of $550 is a more natural price, the price of gold is now almost triple that. Are we going to get 10% inflation a year for a decade or so out of this quantitative easing? Not really very likely. Especially since what the Fed giveth, the Fed can take away--if inflation spikes that high, Uncle Ben will convert to an inflation hawk.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Limbaugh's Disingenous Diet

So Andrew Sullivan links to this stunning segment from a recent Rush Limbaugh show:

Michelle Obama's on this big obesity kick, right? Gotta eat healthy stuff, gotta eat the garbage that she grows in the garden, nothing but fruits and vegetables.

Okay, along comes Mark Haub, professor, human nutrition, Kansas State University, who ate a Twinkie every three hours, and when he got tired of Twinkies, he ate Doritos, sugar cereals, and Oreos. And he was out there to prove that pure calorie counting is what matters most, not the nutritional value of the food. And the premise held up on his convenience store diet available in what Michelle calls food deserts. He lost 27 pounds in two months eating Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and sugar cereals. "For a class project, Haub limited himself to less than 1,800 calories a day." He didn't care where they came from. It was 1,800 calories. "A man of Haub's pre-dieting size usually consumes about 2,600 calories daily. So he followed a basic principle of weight loss: He consumed significantly fewer calories than he burned. His body mass index went from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9, which is normal. He now weighs 174 pounds." He weighed 201.

"But you might expect other indicators of health would have suffered. Not so. Haub's 'bad' cholesterol dropped 20 percent on a diet of --" Dawn, are you listening to this or are you ignoring me on purpose? Kathryn, you hear this? She sent me a note up there, "Don't get any Twinkie ideas." (laughing) When I first mentioned this in the first segment she sent me an instant message, "Don't you get any Twinkie ideas." Kathryn, are you hearing me on this? Nothing but Twinkies.

So I went and read the whole article on CNN. As expected, Limbaugh's description of the diet is seriously flawed. For one thing, the guy didn't just eat Twinkies. He ate a can of vegetables, a protein shake and a multi-vitamin every day. Limbaugh doesn't mention those trivial details in the transcript. The Twinkies provided the diet's caloric content. The nutrition came from other sources. So, refering to it as a Twinkie diet is somewhat disingenuous. Another point Limbaugh fails to mention: when you do the math, the guy only ate five individual Twinkie cakes a day. That's not exactly stuffing your face with Twinkies.

Finally, I decided to reasearch what's actually in a Twinkie. Though the pastries have a reputation as being tiny cakes of death, they're really nothing more than 150 calories of flour, sugar, eggs, and lard (plus a bunch of flavor and texture additives with scary names, that are nonetheless ubiquitous in processed foods). The fat content is 4.5 grams, so eating five a day amouts to 22.5 grams of fat intake a day, significantly less than the 30 grams that constitute a low fat diet. And the Cholesterol content? A mere 20 mg, or 7% of the RDA. Multiply that by 5 and you've got a grand total of 35% of your daily recommended cholesterol content. No wonder his cholesterol count improved!

Limbaugh mentions none of this, of course. Instead he uses this diet to attack Michelle Obama, and reinforce his listener's need to be told that everything those danged liberal authority figures have told them up to now is false, and the way to really lose weight is to stuff yourself with Twinkies, Doritos and Cheese Puffs.

(VIA: Andrew Sullivan)

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Post on Stinque

I've got a new post up on Stinque.

(Blame daylight savings for me posting that darned thing at 5:00 AM)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fox "Experts"

Gotta love Fox News. Today they're running a story about Barack Obama's impending Trip to Asia. The front page blurb reads:

Bruised by Tuesday's election losses, President Obama heads to Asia today in an effort to improve U.S. trade relations — but experts say the trip probably won't benefit the American economy.
And who are these experts? Open up the article and those "experts" magically shrink down to one, Daniel Griswold, who works for the CATO instiute --not exactly a non-partisan source. And furthermore, Griswold does not actually make the claim that the trip "probably won't benefit the American ecnomy." In fact, nowhere in the body of the article is such a claim made by anyone, expert or not.

I've seen this sort of move from Fox before. My suspicion is that the propaganda ministers at Fox realize that many of their readers don't actually scan beyond the front-page blurb, so it's essential to trash the President there, even if the claims are unsupported in the body of the article itself. An added bonus is that it's not possible to create a permanent link to the front page blurb, so these are lies that won't live on for future fact checkers to reference.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Omnipotent FAIL...

So Jesus went mano-a-mano with Barack Obama and the best he could do was flip the House of Representatives? He couldn't even deliver the Senate?

(Via Wonkette)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Other Big Loser

Maybe I should have titled this post simply "The Big Loser." Because, let's face it: everyone expected the Democrats to get hammered. After all, the economy is still on the rocks, unemployment remians high, and Wall Street and Big Business, having gotten what they wanted out of the Obama adminsitration (a bailout and a stabilized economy) now want to get the party back in power that will allow them to go back to doing what they were doing before the economy collapsed, and thanks to the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United decision, they had carte blanch to throw money at the race. Seen in historical context, then, the Democratic losses are about what one would expect from the party in power during a mid-term election taking place before the backdrop of a very sour economy. This really is little different from what happened to Bill Clinton in 1994. So all in all, it's not a terrible night for the Obama adminsitration. And it should not be forgotten that keeping the Senate in Democratic hands was a major plus for the Administration.
Which brings me back to the real loser of last night: Sarah Palin. Because, let's face it, Democrats kept the senate largely by winning races Nevada and Delaware, two states where the most extreme of Palinite, Tea Party candidates faced off against mainstream Democrats. Nevada is perhaps the most important bellweather. Harry Ried was (unfairly) highly disliked in Nevada, but apparently voters were even more mistrustful of the radical right-wing candidate with the Sarah Palin press strategy (run awaaaaaaay!). And in Delaware, Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate soundly trounced a pretty, perky and oh so dumb Christine O'Donnell (basically a younger version of Sarah Palin). These were races the Democrats would probably have lost if Republicans had chosen a more moderate opponent. As much as the Tea Party movement helped energize Republicans, last night's elections proved that there is definitely such a thing as too much tea in many parts of the country (even in Alaska, it seems, where Lisa Murkowski's write-in candidacy appears to be on a path to defeat Joe Miller, for whom Sarah Palin campaigned exhaustively). So I think we can officially announce, from this, that last night constituted the nail in the coffin of any presidential aspirations that Sarah Palin may have harbored.
Yes, gridlock will be the order of the day for the next two years, but it's not all bad. After all, despite what you may have read, the Democrats actually managed to push through a pretty astonishing agenda these past two years, including an ambitious health care reform package that will bring coverage to 95% of Americans for the first time in history, important Wall Street and Financial industry reforms, the rescue of the U.S. and World Economies from a potential depression, the rescue of General Motors (a leaner, more survivable company) and a host of smaller issues as well. Ezra Klein has a good summary of what was accomplished here.
These next two years are going to be rocky, but at least the Democrats don't have to deal with the illusion (and it was really more illusion than reality) that they have a fillibuster proof majority in Congress and can get anything they want. It's going to be interesting seeing things unfold.
On the economic front, however, things look much gloomier. If Paul Krugman is right (and he's been right about almost everything so far) then we're looking forward to a decade or two of high unemployment, rising debt and slow economic growth. My guess is that the debt situation will only be exacerbated by the resulting swings in voter loyalty over that time as the country bounces between Democratic administrations pushing stimulus and successive Republican administrations chocking off whatever green shoots might sprout by mandating austerity when it's their turn to govern.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

HCR in action

For all the handwringing about Health Care Reform, it looks like the law is starting to have a positive effect on people's lives. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The number of small businesses offering health insurance to workers is projected to increase sharply this year, recent data show, a shift that researchers attribute to a tax credit in the health law.

Many small businesses, however, remain opposed to the law. Some small businesses are benefiting from portions of the law, which includes a tax credit beginning this year that covers as much as 35% of a company's insurance premiums.

According to a report by Bernstein Research in New York, the percentage of employers with between three and nine workers and which are offering insurance has increased to 59% this year, up from 46% last year. The report relies on data from a September survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

This strikes me as especially significant in an economy characterized by high unemployment, a situation that naturally reduces the need for employers to provide new incentives to find good workers.