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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Especially the 42% of Americans who don’t even realize that it’s an actual law yet. This is going to be a financially devastating event for many people. I’m guessing millions of people will just refuse to comply simply because they can’t possibly afford it (even with the government subsidies). It will then fall on whichever agency is enforcing the penalty provisions to track them down. Who wants to bet that millions of people will end up being exempted by some Executive fiat down the road?

According to consultants from Oliver Wyman (who wrote on the issue in the January issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries), around six million of the 19 million people with individual health policies are going to have to pay more—and this even after accounting for the government subsidies offered under the law. For example, single adults age 21-29 earning 300% to 400% of the federal poverty level will be hit with an increase of 46% even after premium assistance from tax credits.

Determining the number of individuals who will be harmed by changes to the small-group insurance market is harder. According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, around 30 million Americans work in firms with fewer than 50 employees, and so are potentially affected by the small-group “reforms” imposed by ObamaCare.

Around nine million of these people, plus six million family members, are covered by employers who do not self-insure. The premium increases for this group will be less on average than those for people in the individual market but will still be substantial. According to analyses conducted by the insurer WellPoint for 11 states, small-group premiums are expected to increase by 13%-23% on average.

This average masks big differences. While some firms (primarily those that employ older or sicker workers) will see premium decreases due to community rating, firms with younger, healthier workers will see very large increases: 89% in Missouri, 91% in Indiana and 101% in Nevada.

Because the government subsidies to purchasers of health insurance in the small-group market are significantly smaller than those in the individual market, I estimate that another 10 million people, the approximately two-thirds of the market that is low- or average-risk, will see higher insurance bills for 2014.

Higher premiums are just the beginning, because virtually all existing policies in the individual market and the vast majority in the small-group market do not cover all of the “essential” benefits mandated by the law. Policies without premium increases will have to change, probably by shifting to more restrictive networks of doctors and hospitals. Even if only one third of these policies are affected, this amounts to more than five million people.

In addition, according to Congressional Budget Office projections in July and September 2012, three million people will lose their insurance altogether in 2014 due to the law, and six million will have to pay the individual-mandate tax penalty in 2016 because they don’t want or won’t be able to afford coverage, even with the subsidies.

via Daniel Kessler: The Coming ObamaCare Shock – WSJ.com.

We could only wish this were so. I believe Mr. Geraghty’s first statement is, if not already so, quickly approaching truth.

It is entirely possible that we have a public so spectacularly ill-informed, we are no longer capable of governing themselves. Here’s an April tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation: “Four in ten Americans (42%) are unaware that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is still the law of the land, including 12 percent who believe the law has been repealed by Congress, 7 percent who believe it has been overturned by the Supreme Court and 23 percent who say they don’t know enough to say what the status of the law is.”

With the public so vague on whether or not Obamacare is actually law, we should take all poll results with a grain of salt. But the law is even less popular than when it passed:

“Overall, the public remains as divided as ever when it comes to their overall evaluations of the health law. This month, 35 percent report a favorable view, 40 percent an unfavorable view, and a full 24 percent report they have  no opinion on the law, continuing a recent trend of particularly high shares not offering an opinion. Partisans remain quite divided, with a majority of Democrats in favor (57 percent) and most Republicans opposed (67 percent).”

In terms oft he law’s political future, just over half of Americans (53 percent) continue to say that they approve of efforts by opponentsto change orstop the law “so it has less impact on taxpayers, employers, and health care providers”,

via 42 Percent of Americans Don’t Think Obamacare Is Law | National Review Online.

tiny swiss army knife braden-224x300

Photo via Fox News

It seems there is no longer any common sense; only strict adherence to an inflexible set of idiotic rules.

A 10-year-old California boy was suspended and threatened with expulsion after he brought a Swiss Army Knife on a week-long school school camping trip.

Tony Bandermann told Fox News that his son Braden was on a science camping trip with his class at Garden Gate Elementary School in Cupertino, Calif.

Braden with the Swiss Army Knife that got him in trouble.

According to a school incident report, the boy showed the small knife to other students who then reported him to teachers. The incident report stated that law enforcement was also notified. However, no charges were filed.

Bandermann, who was out-of-town on a business trip, said he received a telephone call from the school’s principal informing him that his son had violated the school’s weapons policy. The punishment, she told him, must be immediate and severe.

“She threatened to expel him,” he said. “She kept telling me, ‘you can’t bring a weapon to school.’ A Swiss Army Knife is a tool not a weapon.”

Since he was unable to pick up his son, the principal put the boy in 24-hour isolation at the camp – held in a teacher’s lounge where he was forced to eat and sleep in solitude.

via Fox News Radio

Good.

The bankrupt assets of Hostess Brands, Inc., the company responsible for Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Sno Balls and Ding Dongs, are being put back to work by a buyout firm. What’s not being put back to work are the former Hostess unionized employees.

The unionized workers had been on strike when the company folded late last year.

The company had imposed a contract that would cut its 19,000 workers’ wages — 15,000 of whom belonged to the workers from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) — by 8 percent. (The Teamsters was Hostess’ largest union, followed by BCTGM.) The contract would have also cut benefits by 27 to 32 percent.

Hostess filed for Chapter 11 in January 2012. In November 2012, the company announced it would be shutting its doors for good. By that time, it had lost about $1.1 billion, largely due to bankruptcy filings.

But last month Apollo Global Management, LLC, and Metropoulos & Co., which owns Pabst Blue Ribbon and Vlasic pickles, bought the 83-year-old company for $410 million, renaming it Hostess Brands LLC. It is planning to re-open four bakeries over the next two and a half months, in Columbus, Ga.; Emporia, Kan.; Schiller Park, Ill.; and Indianapolis. It is also contemplating a fifth in Los Angeles.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, C. Dean Metropoulos, the company’s chief executive, said that between now and September, he plans to inject $60 million in capital investments into the plants, and hopes to hire at least 1,500 workers.

But those workers won’t be unionized.

“It appears that they are discharging the union contract in bankruptcy,” said Matthew A. Kaufman, a labor attorney in Los Angeles who is not affiliated with the case.

via Twinkies Return, Hostess Unions Won’t – Yahoo!.

That’s what Congress is busy trying to do – find a way to exempt (or lessen the impact, or whatever they want to call it) for themselves and/or their aides. Gee, isn’t it swell for them that they can even consider this option. The rest of us poor saps are stuck with it.

Here’s an idea: how about we just repeal the thing, and exempt everybody from it? One of the guys who helped to craft it already said it’s going to be “a train wreck.”

Congressional lawmakers and aides are considering exempting themselves from the mandate to enroll in the health care exchanges the ACA sets up. Hill leaders have been holding confidential meetings for months, trying to weigh the PR costs of exempting themselves and their aides from the financial realities the law is forcing them to face. Politico:

The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer—in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers—especially low-paid junior aides—could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty […]

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said if OPM decides that the federal government doesn’t pick up “the 75 percent that they have been, then put yourself in the position of a lot of entry-level staff people who make $25,000 a year, and all of a sudden, they have a $7,000 a year health care tab? That would be devastating.”

Some pols, like Rep. Henry Waxman, think the concern over cost hikes is overblown. He claims the federal government will subsidize the health care plans used by lawmakers and aides and nobody will have to pay anything more than they already have been.

via Conclusive Proof That Obamacare Is Brilliant Legislation | Via Meadia.

Keith Hennessey is a lecturer who teaches Economics in Government at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He also served as the senior economic advisor to George W. Bush for 5+ years, so he’s spent a lot of time with him. He’s a pretty smart guy, by almost anyone’s reckoning. His conclusion -that he shared here with some graduate students- is that you (being the better-than-average graduate student, not just the average person) are not as smart as he is. Good article.

English: Official photograph portrait of forme...

English: Official photograph portrait of former U.S. President George W. Bush. Português: Foto oficial de George W. Bush, presidente dos Estados Unidos da América. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new George W. Bush Presidential Center is being dedicated this week. This seems like a good time to bust a longstanding myth about our former President, my former boss.

I teach a class at Stanford Business School titled “Financial Crises in the U.S. and Europe.” During one class session while explaining the events of September 2008, I kept referring to the efforts of the threesome of Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Tim Geithner, who were joined at the hip in dealing with firm-specific problems as they arose.

One of my students asked “How involved was President Bush with what was going on?” I smiled and responded, “What you really mean is, ‘Was President Bush smart enough to understand what was going on,’ right?”

The class went dead silent. Everyone knew that this was the true meaning of the question. Kudos to that student for asking the hard question and for framing it so politely. I had stripped away that decorum and exposed the raw nerve.

I looked hard at the 60 MBA students and said “President Bush is smarter than almost every one of you.”

More silence.

I could tell they were waiting for me to break the tension, laugh, and admit I was joking.

I did not. A few shifted in their seats, then I launched into a longer answer. While it was a while ago, here is an amalgam of that answer and others I have given in similar contexts.

I am not kidding. You are quite an intelligent group. Don’t take it personally, but President Bush is smarter than almost every one of you. Were he a student here today, he would consistently get “HP” (High Pass) grades without having to work hard, and he’d get an “H” (High, the top grade) in any class where he wanted to put in the effort.

For more than six years it was my job to help educate President Bush about complex economic policy issues and to get decisions from him on impossibly hard policy choices. In meetings and in the briefing materials we gave him in advance we covered issues in far more depth than I have been discussing with you this quarter because we needed to do so for him to make decisions.

President Bush is extremely smart by any traditional standard. He’s highly analytical and was incredibly quick to be able to discern the core question he needed to answer. It was occasionally a little embarrassing when he would jump ahead of one of his Cabinet secretaries in a policy discussion and the advisor would struggle to catch up. He would sometimes force us to accelerate through policy presentations because he so quickly grasped what we were presenting.

I use words like briefing and presentation to describe our policy meetings with him, but those are inaccurate. Every meeting was a dialogue, and you had to be ready at all times to be grilled by him and to defend both your analysis and your recommendation. That was scary.

We treat Presidential speeches as if they are written by speechwriters, then handed to the President for delivery. If I could show you one experience from my time working for President Bush, it would be an editing session in the Oval with him and his speechwriters. You think that me cold-calling you is nerve-wracking? Try defending a sentence you inserted into a draft speech, with President Bush pouncing on the slightest weakness in your argument or your word choice.

In addition to his analytical speed, what most impressed me were his memory and his substantive breadth. We would sometimes have to brief him on an issue that we had last discussed with him weeks or even months before. He would remember small facts and arguments from the prior briefing and get impatient with us when we were rehashing things we had told him long ago.

Read the rest at George W. Bush is smarter than you | Keith Hennessey.

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There is something seriously wrong with the way these people think.

The mother of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing says she believes the tragedy that killed three people and injured dozens more was staged, that the bombing was fake.

“That’s what I want to know, because everybody’s talking about it — that this is a show, that’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to understand,” said Zubeidat Tsarnaev.

She has seen a video purporting the wild idea, she told CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, who interviewed her in Makhachkala, Dagestan. He asked if she has seen the news images of the actual bombings and the suffering they caused.

“I haven’t,” she answered. There was no blood, she said. It was paint. But her disbelief broke down when she spoke of the victims. “I really feel sorry for all of them. Really feel sorry for all of them,” she said, her voice cracking. But she is resolute about not believing that her sons, Dzhokhar, 19, and Tamerlan, 26 were involved.

The elder son was killed after the two allegedly violently resisted and fled police. Tamerlan’s body remains unclaimed. Dzhokhar is hospitalized with severe injuries, and faces terrorism and murder charges. His mother said at a news conference Thursday that authorities “already told us they will not let us see Dzhokhar.”

via Bombing Suspects’ Mom: Blood was ‘Paint’ | FOX8.com.