Posted by Kendall Harmon

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.

The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

6 Comments
Posted January 23, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

True to their "live to work" reputation, some baby boomers are digging in their heels at the workplace as they approach the traditional retirement age of 65. While the average age at which U.S. retirees say they retired has risen steadily from 57 to 61 in the past two decades, boomers -- the youngest of whom will turn 50 this year -- will likely extend it even further. Nearly half (49%) of boomers still working say they don't expect to retire until they are 66 or older, including one in 10 who predict they will never retire.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMarriage & FamilyMiddle AgePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePensionsStock MarketThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While plenty of baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, have become affluent and many elderly around the U.S. face financial hardship, the wealth disparity of this father and daughter is emblematic of a broad shift occurring around the country. A rising tide of graying baby boomers is less secure financially and has a lower standard of living than their aged parents.

The median net worth for U.S. households headed by boomers aged 55 to 64 was almost 8 percent lower, at $143,964, than those 75 and older in 2011, according to Census Bureau data. Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and many also lost their jobs in the aftermath at a critical point in their productive years.

Read it all.


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Posted December 18, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.

On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.

Read it all.

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Posted December 17, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No one wants to be against Grandma, who — as portrayed in the media — is kindly, often suffering from some condition, usually financially precarious and somehow needy. But projecting this sympathetic portrait onto the entire 65-plus population is an exercise in make-believe and, frequently, political propaganda. The St. Louis Fed study refutes the stereotype. Examining different age groups, it found that since the financial crisis, incomes have risen for the elderly while they’ve dropped for the young and middle-aged.

The numbers are instructive. From 2007, the year before the financial crisis, to 2010, median income for the families under 40 dropped 12.4 percent to $39,644. For the middle-aged from 40 to 61, the comparable decline was 11.9 percent to $56,924. Meanwhile, those aged 62 to 69 gained 12.3 percent to $50,825. For Americans 70-plus, the increase was 15.6 percent to $31,512. (All figures adjust for inflation and are in 2010 “constant” dollars. The “median income” is the midpoint of incomes and is often considered “typical.”)

There has been a historic shift in favor of today’s elderly. To put this in perspective, recall that many family expenses drop with age. Mortgages are paid off; work costs vanish; children leave. Recall also that incomes typically follow a “life cycle”: They start low in workers’ 20s, peak in their 50s, and then decline in retirement, as wages give way to government transfers and savings. Against these realities, the long-term gains of the elderly and losses of the young are astonishing. From 1989 to 2010, median income increased 60 percent for those aged 62 to 69 while falling 6 percent for those under 40 and 2 percent for those 40 to 61.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General

0 Comments
Posted November 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

1--A constant battle is underway between insurance companies that do not want to pay any claims, even legitimate ones, and doctors and hospitals incentivised to rip off patients, insurers, and taxpayers with unnecessary surgeries and Medicare fraud.

2--Insurance companies demand massive amounts of paperwork out of rational fear of fraud and unnecessary treatments. Doctors perform for-profit (as opposed to for-patient) procedures that guarantee more explanations and more paperwork.

3--Doctors and hospitals have direct personal contact with patients, but insurance companies don't. In cases where doctors put patients at huge risk with needless procedures and surgeries, it's easy for hospitals and doctors to point their finger at insurance companies. On the other hand, many sincere, honest doctors have difficulty getting patients the care they should have because insurers believe they are getting ripped off by unnecessary procedures, even when they aren't....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted October 29, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The bishops might have been promoting a strictly Democratic line, but U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black was more ecumenical. Amid the shutdown, Rev. Black offered a daily prayer in the Senate chamber asking God to “save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.” Later he condemned the “hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” His listeners in one party no doubt assumed he was talking about the other side.

It is one thing to spiritually shame politicians, as Rev. Black did. Trying to do their jobs is another. The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops’ calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate “unnecessary” military spending are not.

Bishops routinely assert their authority as “pastors and teachers,” as Bishops Blaire, Gomez and Pates did, but according to the tradition of their own church, they have no teaching authority when it comes to politics.

Read it all.

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3 Comments
Posted October 25, 2013 at 11:11 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Stan Druckenmiller makes an unlikely class warrior. He's a member of the 1%—make that the 0.001%—one of the most successful money managers of all time, and 60 years old to boot. But lately he has been touring college campuses promoting a message of income redistribution you don't hear out of Washington. It's how federal entitlements like Medicare and Social Security are letting Mr. Druckenmiller's generation rip off all those doting Barack Obama voters in Generation X, Y and Z.

"I have been shocked at the reception. I had planned to only visit Bowdoin, " his alma mater in Maine, he says. But he has since been invited to multiple campuses, and even the kids at Stanford and Berkeley have welcomed his theme of generational theft. Harlem Children's Zone President Geoffrey Canada and former Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh have joined him at stops along the tour.

Mr. Druckenmiller describes the reaction of students: "The biggest question I got was, 'How do we start a movement?' And my answer was 'I'm a 60-year-old washed-up money manager. I don't know how to start a movement. That's your job. But we did it in Vietnam without Twitter and without Facebook and without any social media. That's your job.' But the enthusiasm—they get it."

Read it all.

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1 Comments
Posted October 19, 2013 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Standard & Poor’s is only raising half a cheer at the deal:

“We believe that to date, the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 per cent off of annualised fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24bn out of the economy.

“The short turnround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will probably weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed. If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their cheque books. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

Read it all (if necessary another link is there).

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1 Comments
Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Top Senate leaders on Monday said they were within striking distance of a deal to sidestep a looming debt crisis and reopen the federal government two weeks after a partisan deadlock forced it to close.

Fourteen days after a partial government shutdown began, senators signaled a bipartisan resolution could come soon.

"I'm very optimistic we will reach an agreement that's reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation's bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said on the Senate floor.

Read it all.

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1 Comments
Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...it is still foolish to ignore the leverage that the individual mandate gives opponents of Obamacare. America's healthcare system for the elderly (Medicare, plus Medicaid for nursing-home care) is already edging the country toward generational war because Washington will sooner or later be forced to choose between drastic limitations on coverage in those programs or drastic increases in taxes on the decreasing portion of working Americans. Now we're adding a parallel obligation on younger workers to subsidize healthcare for fiftysomethings.

What to do? The path of least political resistance is to tough it out, hoping younger households will be unable to figure out what's happening, or simply unwilling to throw in their lot with opponents of gay marriage, marijuana reform and the like. Alternatively, we could start paying attention to the building crisis as younger households scramble ever harder for a middle-class living standard.

And none too soon, because the signs of generational conflict are already appearing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 14, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Asthma — the most common chronic disease that affects Americans of all ages, about 40 million people — can usually be well controlled with drugs. But being able to afford prescription medications in the United States often requires top-notch insurance or plenty of disposable income, and time to hunt for deals and bargains.

The arsenal of medicines in the Hayeses’ kitchen helps explain why. Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented.

“The one that really blew my mind was the nasal spray,” said Robin Levi, Hannah and Abby’s mother, referring to her $80 co-payment for Rhinocort Aqua, a prescription drug that was selling for more than $250 a month in Oakland pharmacies last year but costs under $7 in Europe, where it is available over the counter.

Read it all.

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1 Comments
Posted October 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....the Federal Disability Insurance Program...serves nearly 12 million people -- up 20 percent in the last six years -- and has a budget of $135 billion. That's more than the government spent last year on the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Labor Department combined. It's been called a "secret welfare system" with it's own "disability industrial complex," a system ravaged by waste and fraud. A lot of people want to know what's going on. Especially Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Tom Coburn: Go read the statute. If there's any job in the economy you can perform, you are not eligible for disability. That's pretty clear. So, where'd all those disabled people come from?

The Social Security Administration, which runs the disability program says the explosive surge is due to aging baby boomers and the lingering effects of a bad economy. But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations -- who's also a physician -- says it's more complicated than that. Last year, his staff randomly selected hundreds of disability files and found that 25 percent of them should never have been approved -- another 20 percent, he said, were highly questionable.

Read it all or better still watch the video.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesMiddle AgePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National Deficit* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

5 Comments
Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The federal government moved closer to a partial shutdown Sunday as Republican and Democratic lawmakers showed no signs of negotiating through a standoff over the implementation of President Barack Obama's health law.

The standoff left little prospect that Congress could reach agreement on terms for funding the government by midnight Monday, when the current fiscal year expires. A shutdown would leave essential services operating but prompt federal agencies to suspend many functions and furlough hundreds of thousands of workers.

Early Sunday morning, after a late night of votes, the House passed a bill delaying the health law by one year and attached it to a plan to fund the government through Dec. 15. It also includes a provision repealing a tax on medical devices that is intended to help finance the health law. That legislation now goes back to the Senate.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 29, 2013 at 6:50 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The federal government on Sunday morning barreled toward its first shutdown in 17 years after the Republican-run House, choosing a hard line, voted to attach a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and a repeal of a tax to pay for it to legislation to keep the government running.

The votes, just past midnight, followed an often-angry debate, with members shouting one another down on the House floor. Democrats insisted that Republicans refused to accept their losses in 2012, were putting contempt for the president over the good of the country and would bear responsibility for a shutdown. Republicans said they had the public on their side and were acting to protect Americans from a harmful and unpopular law that had already proved a failure.

Read it all.

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3 Comments
Posted September 29, 2013 at 6:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County [Maine] receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 — or nearly one in 12 of the county’s adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to Social Security statistics.

The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.

The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 2016 — 20 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineMiddle AgePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National Deficit

0 Comments
Posted September 21, 2013 at 9:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There's plenty of fodder for deficit hawks in a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In short, the future looks grim....

First, the good news: The CBO projects the deficit will shrink to $378 billion in 2015, or 2.1 percent of the size of the overall U.S. economy. Compared with just a few years ago when the budget gap ballooned as a result of the recession, this marks a nearly unprecedented improvement in the deficit picture. It's a rapid decline in budget shortfalls not seen since the end of World War II. The national debt will bottom out in 2018, at 68 percent of GDP.

The bad news: From there, the picture gets decidedly less rosy. Budget deficits gradually rise, "mainly because of increasing interest costs and growing spending for Social Security and the government's major health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and subsidies to be provided through the health insurance exchanges)," says the report. By 2038, the national debt will reach 100 percent of GDP....

Read it all and follow the link to the actual report.


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1 Comments
Posted September 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of America’s chief fiscal burdens is the mounting cost of entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) – an obligation that will only grow larger as baby boomers age. In tackling this problem, the United States should look to what many might see as an unlikely model – the European welfare state, Sweden.

“Usually, U.S. policymakers look to Europe to determine what not to do when it comes to social-welfare policy,” James C. Capretta, former associate director of the US Office of Management and Budget, wrote a few years ago.

But, he continued: “When you are in a hole, the prudent first step is to stop digging, and the United States can indeed gain insight into how to ‘stop digging’ the entitlement hole” by studying the reforms that some European countries have implemented. Most notably, he suggested, we should study what Sweden and Germany did to cut their long-term government pension commitments.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeSweden* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 25, 2013 at 3:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Can we get real? For starters, $642 billion is serious money, and despite the modest improvements of the latest CBO report, the basic trends in federal finances remain the same. From 2014 to 2023, the government will spend $6 trillion more than it collects in taxes. The budget never comes close to balancing. Expanding spending on the elderly and health care continues to strangle the rest of government. As a share of the economy (gross domestic product), military and domestic discretionary programs (examples: drug approval, environmental regulation, Head Start, federal courts) drop about 40 percent from 2010 to 2023.

Nothing of consequence has changed. A few numbers have shifted slightly. That’s all. They moved in a favorable direction. Next time, they might go the other way. What’s also constant is the unwillingness of leaders of both parties, beginning with the president, to discuss budget choices candidly. The budget passed by the Democratic Senate barely touches entitlements for the elderly, which constitute the largest chunk of federal spending. The budget passed by the Republican House avoids a large tax increase only by making draconian and unrealistic spending cuts that would never pass Congress or be signed by the president.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Hospitals around the Lowcountry are billing Medicare at vastly different prices for the exact same procedures, according to data published Wednesday by the federal government.

For example, in 2011, Trident Medical Center billed Medicare an average $98,352 to insert a permanent pacemaker, while the Medical University of South Carolina billed $38,902 for the same surgery.

Read it all from the local paper.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted May 9, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

My read of the evidence is that the Affordable Care Act will have a much tougher first year than was initially anticipated but it won’t be the catastrophe that Republicans hope. The exceptions will be a handful of states where Republican governors have purposefully made it a catastrophe, but that’s likely to make the Republican governors look bad, particularly if the law is working smoothly in states that have tried to make it a success.

Conservative commentary on the law, with its continuous predictions of explosive premium hikes (and continuous omissions of the offsetting subsidies) and gleeful celebration anytime anything looks to be going wrong, is risking the mistake that the Obama administration made early on with the sequester. When the predictions of pain and chaos didn’t instantly come true, the whole narrative shifted in an instant.

Republicans have done a very good job prepping the country for the pain of Obamacare. They’ve not done a good job prepping the country for the people who will be helped by Obamacare.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentMedicarePolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, one of the health reform law's chief authors, says he’s worried about a “huge train wreck coming down” if the Obama administration doesn’t improve its public outreach about the legislation.

Baucus, a Montana Democrat who is up for reelection in 2014, sharply criticized the administration’s outreach efforts in a budget hearing on Wednesday. He told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that people and businesses “have no idea what to do, what to expect” from the law.

Read it all.

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13 Comments
Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is a great graphic here and some comment there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineMiddle AgeTeens / YouthYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 16, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The unexpectedly large number of American workers who piled into the Social Security Administration's disability program during the recession and its aftermath threatens to cost the economy tens of billions a year in lost wages and diminished tax revenues.

Signs of the problem surfaced Friday, in a dismal jobs report that showed U.S. labor force participation rates falling last month to the lowest levels since 1979, the wrong direction for an economy that instead needs new legions of working men and women to drive growth and sustain a baby boomer generation headed to retirement.

Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist for J.P. Morgan, estimates that since the recession, the worker flight to the Social Security Disability Insurance program accounts for as much as a quarter of the puzzling drop in participation rates, a labor exodus with far-reaching economic consequences.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineMiddle Age* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial Security* Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 8, 2013 at 10:13 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The CBO forecast finds a persistent mismatch between tax revenue and spending over the coming decade. As the economy improves, tax revenue should rise to 19 percent of GDP for the period from 2015 through 2023, up from 15.8 percent in 2012, the report said. But federal spending, after an early-decade dip, will start rising persistently faster than revenues.

"After 2017, if current laws remain in place, outlays will start growing again as a percentage of GDP," the CBO said. "The aging of the population, increasing health care costs, and a significant expansion of eligibility for federal subsidies for health insurance will substantially boost spending for Social Security and for major health care programs relative to the size of the economy."

The CBO's current-law "baseline" calls for spending to reach about 23 percent of GDP in 2023 and, more worrisome, to be "on an upward trajectory."

Read it all.

Update: An IBD article is also available on this, entitled "CBO Report Shows We're Still Headed Toward A Fiscal Cliff" and it may be found there.



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0 Comments
Posted February 6, 2013 at 7:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...the Labor Department’s latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath.

These Americans in their 50s and early 60s — those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security — have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company.

Their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time: just before they needed to cash out. They are supporting both aged parents and unemployed young-adult children, earning them the inauspicious nickname “Generation Squeeze.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicinePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePensionsThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial Security* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Every day more than 1.5 million Ohioans, nearly 14 percent of our population, wake up without health insurance coverage. As a result, many of them go without treatment until their condition becomes more severe and more costly to address. Often when they do seek treatment, it is in the most expensive way possible: through emergency rooms and hospitals. The cost of caring for the uninsured falls to everyone. Those with health coverage pay more in treatment costs, and we all pay more in taxes to support local and state public health programs.

This budget cycle the Governor and legislature have an opportunity to control health care costs for the benefit of all Ohioans by expanding our Medicaid program, as provided for in the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). To do so is consistent with Gov. Kasich's efforts over the last two years to transform Medicaid in Ohio - reducing costs and improving the program's efficiency.
As Christian leaders, we hear the call of Jesus to reach out to the poor and those on the margins of society. We believe that Medicaid Expansion will help stabilize health care to the poor and marginalized among us. We are leaders of a faith community that believes all are equal in the sight of God.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicare

3 Comments
Posted January 28, 2013 at 3:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We agree with Obama that it will take a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to put the government's fiscal house in order. Republicans swallowed hard and accepted an increase in tax rates for the highest incomes to start the year. It's the Democrats' turn to recognize that federal benefit programs, and particularly healthcare entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid, are on an unsustainable path despite the savings from the 2010 healthcare law.

Obama should lead a Democratic push for reforms that preserve these programs for those who need them, while also reducing the deficit and stopping the federal debt from growing faster than the economy. He's in the best position to lead on this issue, able to provide political cover for Democrats concerned that their constituents won't put up with changes to the status quo, while showing Republicans that there are ways to save money without abandoning the government's commitment to the elderly and poor. To create an opening for the rest of his agenda, he needs to step up to that role.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 24, 2013 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A political class that botched the fiscal cliff so badly are not going to be capable of a gigantic deal on complex issues. It’s like going into a day care center and asking a bunch of infants to perform “Swan Lake.”
--David Brooks in a piece on today's NY Times Op-ed page entitled "The Next Four Years"

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 18, 2013 at 8:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38 percent in 1965. It is around 74 percent now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90 percent of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247 percent of G.D.P. 30 years from now, according to the Congressional Budget Office and JPMorgan.

By 2025, entitlement spending and debt payments are projected to suck up all federal revenue. Obligations to the elderly are already squeezing programs for the young and the needy. Those obligations will lead to gigantic living standard declines for future generations. According to the International Monetary Fund, meeting America’s long-term obligations will require an immediate and permanent 35 percent increase in all taxes and a 35 percent cut in all benefits....

[The final 'solution didn't] involve a single hard decision. It did little to control spending. It abandoned all of the entitlement reform ideas that have been thrown around.

Whom should we blame for this? Again, we should not blame Obama and Boehner. In their different ways, they and a number of other people in the Congress are trying to find a politically palatable way to deal with these hard issues. They got what conditions allowed.

Ultimately, we should blame the American voters. The average Medicare couple pays $109,000 into the program and gets $343,000 in benefits out, according to the Urban Institute. This is $234,000 in free money. Many voters have decided they like spending a lot on themselves and pushing costs onto their children and grandchildren. They have decided they like borrowing up to $1 trillion a year for tax credits, disability payments, defense contracts and the rest. They have found that the original Keynesian rationale for these deficits provides a perfect cover for permanent deficit-living. They have made it clear that they will destroy any politician who tries to stop them from cost-shifting in this way.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the House, the majority Republican party says it won't raise the debt limit without spending cuts of equivalent amounts. Mr. Obama has said he won't negotiate over the matter, saying it is the responsibility of Congress to enable the government to pay bills it has incurred.

The government spends 40% more than it takes in and borrows money to cover the difference. Without an increase in the debt ceiling, the Treasury won't be able to borrow the additional money needed to pay all its bills.

Failure to make payment on even some of its obligations could wreak havoc in the economy and financial markets and possibly trigger another financial crisis and recession, analysts have warned.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There are two major reasons for Medicare’s rising costs. The first is the program’s design, often tweaked but left fundamentally intact since its creation in 1965, which basically pays doctors and hospitals fixed fees for whatever they do. At a time of rapid (and often beneficial) medical innovation, the dominant incentive has been to provide more, and more expensive, care. Hence the House Ways and Means Committee’s 1965 estimate that Medicare hospital insurance would cost $9 billion by 1990 fell short by $58 billion. The second reason costs keep going up, of course, is the rising number of elderly eligible for Medicare, which is inevitable; the 50 million beneficiaries today will be 78 million in 2030.

The ultimate solution is structural: to limit growth in expenditures per beneficiary. Easier said than done. Liberals would empower the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB) to stop payment for treatments it deems not cost-effective. The idea hasn’t gotten very far, partly because Republicans denounce it as “rationing.” Conservatives favor “premium support,” which would subsidize seniors to shop among competing insurance plans, but Democrats, the president included, have tarred that idea as a skimpy “voucher.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicarePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 7, 2013 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While many in Washington are breathing a sigh of relief and some are trying to spin the outcome as a win for the president, those who characterize this bill as a genuine victory for anyone at all have clearly lost perspective. The deal brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does make good on President Obama's promise to bring a little more equity to the tax code by raising rates on wealthier Americans, and it temporarily averts the most draconian "sequestration" cuts. But the list of what it does not do, and what it does wrong, is long.

By midday Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office had concluded that the Biden-McConnell package would add nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits over the next 10 years. This was largely because it actually extends and makes permanent more than 80% of the Bush tax cuts. So much for the idea that this whole struggle was supposed to help America get its financial house in order.

Just as bad, or perhaps worse in terms of the day-to-day lives of average people, the bill only postpones the forced cuts of sequestration by two months, to precisely the moment the country will be engaged in another ruinous debate about lifting our national debt ceiling to ensure the country can pay its bills. It thus creates a new, even more dangerous fiscal cliff....

Read it all.

Update: George Will has also written on this I see--Perils Of The Entitlement State And Our Decadent Democracy.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:48 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congress' hectic resolution of the "fiscal cliff" crisis is the latest in a long series of decisions by lawmakers and the White House to do less than promised — and to ask Americans for little sacrifice — in confronting the nation's burgeoning debt.

The deal will generate $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years, less than half the amount President Barack Obama first called for. It will raise income tax rates only on the very rich, despite Obama's campaign for broader increases.

It puts off the toughest decisions about spending cuts for military and domestic programs, including Medicare and Social Security. And it does nothing to mitigate the looming partisan showdown on the debt ceiling, which must rise soon to avoid default on U.S. loans.

In short, the deal reached between Obama and congressional Republicans continues to let Americans enjoy relatively high levels of government service at low levels of taxation. The only way that's possible, of course, is through heavy borrowing, which future generations will inherit.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate [and House]... would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington.

More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of [December 31]

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

2 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congress approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama over the “fiscal cliff” late Tuesday after House Republicans surrendered to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households.

The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to Obama for his signature; the vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

Read it all.

Update: Here are the new numbers for 2013 in Congress--Democrats control of the Senate by 55 to 45 (change of 2) and Republicans control of the House of Representatives by 234-201 (change of 8)

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A US Senate-backed deal [by a vote of 89-8] to stave off a "fiscal cliff" of drastic taxation and spending measures has passed to the House of Representatives.

President Barack Obama has urged the House to pass the bill "without delay".

However, several representatives have spoken out against it, with one calling it "bad for America".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Senate leaders are racing against the clock to reach a "fiscal cliff" deal the House and Senate can approve on New Year's Eve.

Leaders in the upper chamber narrowed their differences Sunday as Republicans agreed to drop a demand to curb cost-of-living increases to entitlement benefits, while Democrats showed flexibility on taxes.

Yet after months of talks on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of 2012, House and Senate lawmakers find themselves approaching the new year without a bill to present to their members.
Significant differences remain over two key parts of a deal — the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester and the estate tax.

Read it all.

Update: a BBC article is there.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When President Obama talks about taxing the rich, he means the top 2 percent of Americans. John A. Boehner, the House speaker, talks about an even thinner slice. But the current and future fiscal imbalances are too large to exempt 98 percent or more of the public from being part of the solution.

Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax.

To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted December 30, 2012 at 5:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Whether or not there is a deal, the weeks since the election have produced a stark display of political gridlock. "The government is not working," said Steve Bell, senior director of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who was a senior budget adviser to Senate Republicans for many years. "There is no doubt that the policy-making apparatus in this town has collapsed."

Following the tea-party wave in the 2010 election, the 112th Congress looks set to be the least productive in recent history. By the end of November, the House had passed 146 bills over the previous two years, by far the smallest number for any Congress since 1948. The Senate passed fewer bills in 2012 than in any year since at least 1992.

Rather than smoothing over differences, the November election appears to have hardened them. "We came out of the election with both sides thinking they won and had an equal mandate," said Ross Baker, a professor at Rutgers University who is now interviewing lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a book on bipartisanship. "One problem is we don't have a common narrative to guide us."

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to at KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.


Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A long line of America's top chief executives have rotated through Washington in recent weeks, loudly urging lawmakers and the White House to reach a broad deal to fix the budget. They once sounded optimistic. Now many of them aren't talking, and if they are, they're gloomy.

Mark Bertolini, chief executive of health-insurance company Aetna Inc., called the state of play "pitiful and embarrassing," saying the chances are growing that a deal might not be reached by the end of the year to avert $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts.

"Set aside my interest as the CEO of a participant in the economy here—as an American, I'm embarrassed if that's where we end up," Mr. Bertolini said in an interview. "It feels like it's starting to fall apart."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaState Government

0 Comments
Posted December 21, 2012 at 6:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The shape of a deal to avert the US fiscal cliff is at last emerging, with at least $1tn in new taxes, up to $1tn in fresh spending cuts and an increase in America’s debt ceiling, as negotiators scramble to reach an agreement before the end-of-the-year deadline.

Barack Obama, US president, and John Boehner, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, held their third face-to-face meeting in eight days at the White House amid signs of growing momentum in the talks. If they strike a deal in the coming days, and are able to pass it through Congress, it would remove a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the global economy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Budget negotiations between the White House and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have progressed steadily in recent days, people close to the process said, breathing life into talks that appeared to have stalled.

Both sides still face sizable differences before any agreement might be reached by the end of the year, and talks could well falter again over such controversial issues as taxes and Medicare before any deal is ultimately reached.

The people familiar with the matter say talks have taken a marked shift in recent days as staff and leaders have consulted, becoming more "serious." Both sides have agreed to keep details private, according to the people, who declined to detail where new ground was being broken.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama

0 Comments
Posted December 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....seasoned Washington hands say that once this rather gloomy back and forth has played out - and it might take another week or more - the work towards reaching a solution that both sides can sell to their parties and their lawmakers will begin in earnest.

A deal by Christmas, a week before the fiscal cliff deadline, remains uncertain but not out of the question. The so-called fiscal cliff is a combination of U.S. government spending cuts and tax increases due to be implemented under existing law in early 2013 that may cut the federal budget deficit but also tip the economy back into recession.

The pattern of little happening until very close to a holiday is well-established on Capitol Hill. The past three pre-Christmas seasons brought important eleventh-hour developments on health care in 2009, tax cut extensions in 2010 and the payroll tax holiday in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....President Obama's call for a return to Clinton-era tax rates is misleading: If the Bush upper-income tax cuts go away, tax rates will exceed those in place at the end of the 1990s.

The top effective federal marginal tax rate on work income would rise to roughly 44.6% from 37.9% in 2012.

That's higher than under President Clinton because of a 0.9-percentage-point Medicare payroll tax hike for upper-income households, which passed with Obama-Care and takes effect in January.

Tax rates on long-term capital gains also will be higher than when Clinton left office if Bush tax cuts expire as ObamaCare's new 3.8% Medicare tax on investment gains takes effect. Up to now, only wage and salary income has been subject to Medicare taxes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At first blush, it seems to make policy sense, too. The rich fabric of America’s civic life, from Boy Scouts to community orchestras to soup kitchens, is the envy of the world. Its diversity reflects in part how much it depends on private givers with diverse interests and motives, and not just on the government. Their giving is encouraged by the charitable deduction, enacted in 1917, just four years after the income tax itself. The deduction lets people feel they are beating the system even as they practice virtue.

But there’s a question of fairness that complicates the issue. Overwhelmingly, the deduction benefits the wealthy — and the rest of the country has to make up the gap.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit Organizations* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

18 Comments
Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I listened to NPR yesterday for over an hour back and forth from a doctors appointment.

The entire time they talked about President Obama's proposal to implement the middle class tax cut now.
Everywhere I turn its middle class tax cut, middle class tax cut...

Except it isn't but no one thinks about these things.

What is being proposed is not letting the current tax code STAY THE SAME.
So 98% of Americans WON"T HAVE A TAX INCREASE.

Since when is not having an increase a cut?

Anyone you know say I am getting the same number of days vacation this year as last year I am angry I get a benefits cut!

Filed under: * By Kendall* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate


Posted November 29, 2012 at 9:07 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama’s re-election and Democratic gains in Congress were supposed to make it easier for the party to strike a deal with Republicans to resolve the year-end fiscal crisis by providing new leverage. But they could also make it harder as empowered Democrats, including some elected on liberal platforms, resist significant changes in entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

As Congress returned Monday, the debate over those programs, which many Democrats see as the core of the party’s identity, was shaping up as the Democratic version of the higher-profile struggle among Republicans over taxes.

In failed deficit reduction talks last year, Mr. Obama signaled a willingness to consider substantial changes in the social safety net, including a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare and limits in the growth rate of future Social Security benefits. An urgent question hanging over the new round of deficit talks is which of those changes Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats would accept today....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For the first time in decades, a bipartisan consensus has emerged in Washington to raise taxes. But negotiators working to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” remain far apart on crucial details, including how taxes should go up and who should pay more.

Neither side gave ground in an opening round of staff-level talks last week at the Capitol. As President Obama and congressional leaders prepare for a second face-to-face meeting as soon as this week, the divide over taxes presents the biggest obstacle to replacing the heap of abrupt tax hikes and spending cuts, set to hit in January, with a less-traumatic debt-reduction plan.

People in both parties are exploring ideas for bridging the gap. Without a deal on taxes, there is not much hope for agreement on a broader strategy for restraining the national debt that also tackles the skyrocketing cost of federal retirement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

3 Comments
Posted November 26, 2012 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Of the two programs, Social Security is by far the easier to fix. In 1983, a bipartisan agreement shored up the program for decades. It can be rescued again, much as it was then, by gradually raising the retirement age for able-bodied workers and bumping up the payroll tax. Other options include slowly reducing the rate of benefit growth, raising the wage cap and tightening eligibility requirements for disability

The more urgent and difficult issue is the surge in spending on Medicare, Medicaid and related programs. The numbers tell the story. In 1990, Washington spent $180 billion on health care, accounting for 14% of federal spending. In 2017, the expected tab is $1.4 trillion, or 30% of federal spending. As President Obama said at his news conference Wednesday, "Health care costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits."

One obvious place to start is bringing the Medicare eligibility age in line with that of Social Security. In their failed budget negotiations in 2011, Obama and House Speaker John Boehner tentatively agreed to raise it from 65 to 67. Such a rise would cut the government's bill while increasing the share of the population in market-based health care.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General

11 Comments
Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As the high-stakes wrangling over the fiscal cliff gets underway, we though it might be the proper moment to remind everybody just how the United States managed to become the world's biggest debtor.

So, here's how....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetCensus/Census DataMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General

1 Comments
Posted November 15, 2012 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should lawmakers not reach agreement prior to the end of the year, the US budget deficit for 2013 would be cut almost in half, to $560 billion.

Which doesn't sound like a bad thing. After all, the US is staggering under a monumental pile of debt and could potentially begin to face the kinds of difficulties that have plunged several euro-zone countries into crisis. It is a viewpoint shared by the ratings agencies -- a year ago, Standard & Poor's withdrew America's top rating, justifying the measure by pointing to the unending battle over the debt ceiling. The agency noted that "the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

From afar, it is difficult to argue; the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the face of a horrendously imbalanced budget looks catastrophically absurd. As their country heads toward the edge of the abyss, lawmakers preferred to debate whether or not French fries and pizza should be considered vegetables.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenateUS Presidential Election 2012

15 Comments
Posted November 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From an interview with the authors of the Simpson-Bowles reform plan and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein:

"...We just met with -- a dozen of the largest high-tech company CEOs in the country. Not only are they hoarding cash. All their customers, all their suppliers are. They're scared to death we're going to go over this cliff and it could be a catastrophe...."

You can find a summary article to read there, it has briefer video links, but the best use of your time is to watch the full interview over here or read the transcript (about 42 1/2 minutes). Also, David Brook's piece on the debt indulgence is worth a careful revisit.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

4 Comments
Posted October 16, 2012 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A federal strike force has charged 91 people, including a hospital president, doctors and nurses, with Medicare fraud schemes in seven cities involving $429 million in false billings.

At a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the case reveals an alarming trend in criminal efforts to steal billions of taxpayer dollars for personal gain. Holder called the action one of the largest such law enforcement efforts of its kind.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare

4 Comments
Posted October 5, 2012 at 6:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

And to draw, dear reader, what I think are critical relative comparisons, look at who’s in that ring of fire alongside the U.S. There’s Japan, Greece, the U.K., Spain and France, sort of a rogues’ gallery of debtors. Look as well at which countries have their budgets and fiscal gaps under relative control – Canada, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China and a host of other developing (many not shown) as opposed to developed countries. As a rule of thumb, developing countries have less debt and more underdeveloped financial systems. The U.S. and its fellow serial abusers have been inhaling debt’s methamphetamine crystals for some time now, and kicking the habit looks incredibly difficult.

As one of the “Ring” leaders, America’s abusive tendencies can be described in more ways than an 11% fiscal gap and a $1.6 trillion current dollar hole which needs to be filled. It’s well publicized that the U.S. has $16 trillion of outstanding debt, but its future liabilities in terms of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are less tangible and therefore more difficult to comprehend. Suppose, though, that when paying payroll or income taxes for any of the above benefits, American citizens were issued a bond that they could cash in when required to pay those future bills. The bond would be worth more than the taxes paid because the benefits are increasing faster than inflation. The fact is that those bonds today would total nearly $60 trillion, a disparity that is four times our publicized number of outstanding debt. We owe, in other words, not only $16 trillion in outstanding, Treasury bonds and bills, but $60 trillion more. In my example, it just so happens that the $60 trillion comes not in the form of promises to pay bonds or bills at maturity, but the present value of future Social Security benefits, Medicaid expenses and expected costs for Medicare. Altogether, that’s a whopping total of 500% of GDP, dear reader, and I’m not making it up. Kindly consult the IMF and the CBO for verification. Kindly wonder, as well, how we’re going to get out of this mess.

Please take the time to read it all and examine the chart closely. The only difference on this between Mr. Gross and myself is that I believe he understates the problem with the 60 trillion dollar figure. As has been discussed on the blog in the past, the correct figure may be as much as three plus times that amount--KSH.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

16 Comments
Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Jeanne Majors, 63, took an early retirement in December 2005, she assumed that she would pick up a part-time job and be in good financial shape. She didn't know that her future would quickly fall apart.

Majors, who is single and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., learned the hard way about the retirement obstacles that most women face today. When the economy slid into the recession, she lost her part-time job and could not find another.

"They wanted somebody young," Majors says. "Or if I was a man, somebody would have hired me at my age. I'm not sorry that I retired, but things didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Everything went bust."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyWomen* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinancePensionsStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial Security

2 Comments
Posted September 28, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Premium increases in certain Medicare drug plans may be more volatile next year with some popular plan rates jumping by double-digit percentages, a new study shows.

A report by Avalere Health, a Washington-based advisory firm and consultant to the health care industry said seven of the 10 most popular prescription drug plans chosen by seniors have double-digit percentage increases in their monthly premiums. Here’s a link to the Avalere report that analyzes the so-called Medicare Part D drug plans that contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer seniors prescription drug coverage.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare

2 Comments
Posted September 26, 2012 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



Watch it all.



Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National Deficit

0 Comments
Posted September 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It's game on. But to understand the contest — and the associated scare tactics — it's best to first understand a few unpleasant facts that are not in dispute:

•The popular old-age health insurance plan is on a financially unsustainable course. Medicare's payroll tax and premiums that beneficiaries pay cover barely half the program's costs, and as Baby Boomers retire, things will get worse. The tab is projected to rise rapidly: 7.6% a year for the doctor-care part of Medicare and 8.8% for the program's prescription drug benefit, for example. The economy, a rough proxy for the nation's ability to afford this, is growing less than 2% a year, leaving a huge gap.
•There is no painless fix. Both presidential candidates have committed to detailed plans for curbing costs, and no matter who wins, beneficiaries will pay more or get less, likely both. People who say otherwise are deluding themselves. As economist Herb Stein famously said: Anything that can't go on forever won't.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineMiddle AgeYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralOffice of the President* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Quick Stats[:]
As of 2012-06 the civilian labor force was 155,163,000
As of 2012-06 there were 111,145,000 in the private workforce
As of 2012-06 there were 56,174,538 collecting some form of SS or disability benefit
Ratio of SS beneficiaries to private employment just passed the 50% mark (50.54%)
....As of May 2012, the outlays are $756.9 billion annualized. Fewer worker relatively speaking, support more and more recipients with exponentially growing payments. This is supposed to work?

Read it all from Mish's economics blog (another from the long queue of should-have-already-been-posted material).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMiddle AgePsychologyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetCensus/Census DataMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted August 9, 2012 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Tuesday that unless lawmakers act to prevent scheduled tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year, a recession will likely result in early 2013.

Early next year income taxes are set to go up when the Bush-era tax rates expire. Automatic spending cuts totaling roughly $109 billion triggered by last August’s debt-ceiling deal are set to hit. Meanwhile, payments to physicians under Medicare will be slashed.

CBO projects that these and other elements of the so-called “fiscal cliff” will cause the economy to contract as demand dries up.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

1 Comments
Posted May 23, 2012 at 6:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Federal officials said Wednesday they had charged 107 people across the country in recent days for allegedly running a string of unrelated Medicare fraud schemes involving a total of $452 million in false claims....

Among those arrested were seven people in Baton Rouge, La., who were accused of recruiting elderly, mentally ill and drug-addicted patients from nursing homes and homeless shelters. The suspects allegedly signed up the recruits for mental-health services billed at $225 million over six years that never were given or were medically inappropriate, according to officials.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

6 Comments
Posted May 3, 2012 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Washington of conventional wisdom and the real Washington are two entirely different places. The Washington of conventional wisdom is overrun by well-paid insiders — lobbyists, lawyers, publicists — who systematically manipulate government policies to benefit corporations and the rich, defying the “will of the people.” The real Washington has government paid for by the rich and well-to-do. Benefits go mainly to the poor and middle class, while politicians of both parties live in fear that they might offend the “will of the people” — voters.

Recently, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, testified before the House Budget Committee on the growth of the 10-largest “means tested” federal programs that serve people who qualify by various definitions of poverty. Here’s what Haskins reported: From 1980 to 2011, annual spending on these programs grew from $126 billion to $626 billion (all figures in inflation-adjusted “2011 dollars”); dividing this by the number of people below the government poverty line, spending went from $4,300 per poor person in 1980 to $13,000 in 2011. In 1962, spending per person in poverty was $516.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

0 Comments
Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama's signature health reform law will add as much as $527 billion to federal deficits over the next decade, not cut them as advertised, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Affordable Care Act will add as much as $1.2 trillion to federal spending between 2012 and 2021, the report also finds. Charles Blahous, who serves as one of Medicare's trustees, wrote the report, published by George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

2 Comments
Posted April 12, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy some kind of health insurance or face stiff penalties--the so-called individual mandate. It is a way of moving toward universal coverage without a government-run or single-payer system. It might surprise Americans to learn that another advanced industrial country, one with a totally private health care system, made precisely the same choice nearly 20 years ago: Switzerland. The lessons from Switzerland and other countries can't resolve the constitutional issues, but they suggest the inevitability of some version of Obamacare....

Twenty years ago, Switzerland had a system very similar to America's--private insurers, private providers--with very similar problems. People didn't buy insurance but ended up in emergency rooms, insurers screened out people with pre-existing conditions, and costs were rising fast. The country came to the conclusion that to make health care work, everyone had to buy insurance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaTaiwanEuropeSwitzerland

21 Comments
Posted March 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At some point, the spectacle America is now calling a presidential campaign will turn away from comedy and start focusing on things that really matter—such as the "fiscal cliff" our federal government is rapidly approaching.

The what? A cliff is something from which you don't want to fall. But as I'll explain shortly, a number of decisions to kick the budgetary can down the road have conspired to place a remarkably large fiscal contraction on the calendar for January 2013—unless Congress takes action to avoid it.

Well, that gives Congress plenty of time, right? Yes. But if you're like me, the phrase "unless Congress takes action" sends a chill down your spine—especially since the cliff came about because of Congress's past inability to agree.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted March 19, 2012 at 9:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The agency's 2011 long-term budget outlook showed that federal debt would begin to hurt the economy once it reaches about 77% of GDP. CBO's January budget and economic outlook estimated that it will hit that level in 2013 under its high-debt scenario that is based largely on current policy.

"CBO expects that the large government deficits during the recession and afterward will raise the cost of capital in the future . . . constraining investment," the nonpartisan scorekeeper wrote in its January budget and economic outlook.

Initially, the impact would be minimal, but it would grow over time as debt levels increase.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

4 Comments
Posted March 8, 2012 at 8:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In place of those cuts, the president offered a mixture of real steps to reduce the deficit — including nearly $2 trillion in additional taxes over the coming decade, mainly at the expense of high-income Americans — and bogus ones, such as almost $850 billion in "savings" from the previously planned end of foreign combat operations, a chunk of which would be spent on infrastructure and jobs programs. The one bright spot: Obama didn't ignore the rapid and unsustainable growth in healthcare entitlements, as he did in last year's budget. Instead, he called for saving about $360 billion over 10 years on those programs, in part by paying drug companies less for medicines prescribed to low-income Medicare patients.

There's little chance this Congress will agree to many, or even any, of those suggestions. Tax increases seem particularly unlikely. But even if lawmakers were to adopt all of Obama's deficit-cutting measures, they wouldn't go far enough to set the budget on a path toward balance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

8 Comments
Posted February 16, 2012 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Against these downward [price] pressures stand three powerful counter-forces: a reviving economy that eases people’s anxieties about elective spending; an aging society that raises the need for health care; and the start of Obamacare’s insurance mandates in 2014 that expand coverage by 30 million people or more. Those with insurance routinely use more health care than do the uncovered.

Health care poses a dilemma. On the one hand, we all want — for our families and ourselves — the best care available without artificial limits imposed by government regulations or private insurers. On the other, we don’t want soaring health spending to crowd out other government programs or depress take-home pay. The latest spending figures delude if they suggest we’ve overcome that dilemma. The Neanderthal Cure is an ugly stop-gap, nothing more...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralState Government

1 Comments
Posted January 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just 1% of Americans accounted for 22% of health care costs in 2009, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

That's about $90,000 per person, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. residents spent $1.26 trillion that year on health care.

Five percent accounted for 50% of health care costs, about $36,000 each, the report said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareThe National Deficit

17 Comments
Posted January 12, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Congressional leaders reached an agreement Thursday to temporarily extend a payroll-tax cut by two months and begin negotiations on a yearlong extension, aides said.

he agreement could end a political stalemate over the payroll-tax cut, which lowered Social Security taxes for 160 million Americans in 2011. Under the tentative agreement, the House will vote again on a two-month extension and the Senate will prepare to negotiate for an extension that will run through 2012.

Aides said House Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio) has agreed to hold a new vote Friday on extending the tax cut, bowing to increasing pressure to end an impasse that threatened to leave workers with a tax increase next year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted December 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We Americans fool ourselves if we ignore the parallels between Europe's problems and our own. It's reassuring to think them separate, and the fixation on the euro -- Europe's common currency -- buttresses that mindset. But Europe's turmoil is more than a currency crisis and was inevitable, in some form, even if the euro had never been created. It's ultimately a crisis of the welfare state, which has grown too large to be easily supported economically. People can't live with it -- and can't live without it. The American predicament is little different.

Government expansion was one of the 20th century's great transformations. Wealthy nations adopted programs for education, health care, unemployment insurance, old-age assistance, public housing and income redistribution. "Public spending for these activities had been almost nonexistent at the beginning of the 20th century," writes economist Vito Tanzi in his book "Government versus Markets."

The numbers -- to those who don't know them -- are astonishing. In 1870, all government spending was 7.3 percent of national income in the United States, 9.4 percent in Britain, 10 percent in Germany and 12.6 percent in France. By 2007, the figures were 36.6 percent for the United States, 44.6 percent for Britain, 43.9 percent for Germany and 52.6 percent for France. Military costs once dominated budgets; now, social spending does.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEurope

0 Comments
Posted December 5, 2011 at 6:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Though it reached no agreement, the special Congressional committee on deficit reduction built a case for major structural changes in Medicare that would limit the government’s open-ended financial commitment to the program, lawmakers and health policy experts say.

Members of both parties told the panel that Medicare should offer a fixed amount of money to each beneficiary to buy coverage from competing private plans, whose costs and benefits would be tightly regulated by the government.

Republicans have long been enamored of that idea. In the last few weeks, two of the Republican candidates for president, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, have endorsed variations of it.

The idea faces opposition from many Democrats, who say it would shift costs to beneficiaries and eliminate the guarantee of affordable health insurance for older Americans. But some Democrats say that — if carefully designed, with enough protections for beneficiaries — it might work.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare

0 Comments
Posted November 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We haven't had the robust democratic debate about the role of government that lies at the heart of America's budget stalemate. The truth is that most Democrats and Republicans want to avoid such a debate because it would force them into positions that, regardless of ideology, would be highly unpopular. This does not mean that the congressional supercommittee, charged with making modest cuts in deficits, need fail. There is a basis for honorable compromise; squandering it would confirm politicians' preference for fighting over governing.

Contrary to much press coverage, the committee's Republicans opened the door to compromise by abandoning -- as they should have -- opposition to tax increases. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania proposed a tax "reform" that would raise income taxes by $250 billion over a decade. First, he would impose across-the-board reductions of most itemized deductions and use the resulting revenue gains to cut all tax rates. Next, he would adjust the rates for the top two brackets so that they'd be high enough to produce the $250 billion. All the tax increase would fall on people in the top brackets....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted November 22, 2011 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Committee members continued to meet on Capitol Hill to present legislation that could be voted on by the Congress to cut $1,200bn from the budget over 10 years.

But both sides had already begun to blame each other, with Republicans resisting tax rises in any form and Democrats demanding extra revenues be balanced against spending cuts on the grounds of fairness.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate

1 Comments
Posted November 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Medicare inspectors must do a better job of tracking reports of serious mistakes in care at the nation's hospitals, as well as of informing rating agencies of the errors, according to a report released today by the agency's inspector general.

Hundreds of serious errors go unrecorded, the report found, because the inspectors who find problems at hospitals don't tell the national agencies that accredit hospitals. That means that those hospitals continue to participate in Medicare and that they don't learn from their mistakes, Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote.

Also, Levinson wrote, no one tracks the effectiveness of policy changes or how the hospitals actually correct mistakes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicare

0 Comments
Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States will likely suffer the loss of its triple-A credit rating from another major rating agency by the end of this year due to concerns over the deficit, Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecasts.

The trigger would be a likely failure by Congress to agree on a credible long-term plan to cut the U.S. deficit, the bank said in a research note published on Friday.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted October 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Surgery is surprisingly common in older people during the last year, month and even week of life, researchers reported Wednesday, a finding that is likely to stoke, but not resolve, the debate over whether medical care is overused and needlessly driving up medical costs.

The most comprehensive examination of operations performed on Medicare recipients in the final year of life found that nationally in 2008, nearly one recipient in three had surgery in the last year of life. Nearly one in five had surgery in the last month of life. Nearly one in 10 had surgery in the last week of life.

The very oldest patients were less likely to have surgery. Those who were 65 had a 38.4 percent chance of having surgery in the last year of life. For 80-year-olds, the chance was 35.3 percent, but the rates fell off more sharply from there, declining by a third by age 90.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted October 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[BETTY] ROLLIN: Our medical system can’t keep everyone healthy, but it excels at keeping people alive, which is expensive. Twenty-five percent of all Medicare spending is for the 10 percent of patients who are in their final year of life. For the year 2012 alone, that’s expected to be $137 billion. Most of the money is spent in the last 6 months of life, which is often of little benefit, if any, to the patient. And the conversations between patients and doctors and family members which might make a difference, Dr. Forrow says, aren’t happening, partly because people are afraid to talk about death and because the part of the Obama health care reform plan, which would have reimbursed doctors for these conversations, was shot down.

DR. [LACHLAN] FORROW: Cheap, political, inflammatory comments like “death panels” and “pulling the plug on grandma” for cheap political points have terrified the American people in a way that I think—I think that’s immoral.

ROLLIN: Dr. Susan Mitchell, who has studied advance dementia in nursing home patients, has found that even though these patients can be treated and kept more comfortable in a nursing home, they are often hospitalized where they receive aggressive and sometimes painful treatment that is covered by Medicare.

Read or watch it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted October 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We're just stuck?

If we don't deal with it – if we don't proactively say we're going to get our deficit under control –let me put it this way: My personal belief is that if we do proactively get our long-term budget issues under control, the bond market will say, "Okay, you're credible and we will buy your bonds, because you have put yourself on a credible path – whether it's through cuts, whether it's through tax increases, however you want to do it – but you have to do it. But you have shown us a credible way to get to the place where the growth rate of your deficit is below the growth rate of nominal GDP."

But if we don't do that, my wine bottle of pain becomes a jeroboam and we end up downing it all at once.

That sounds ugly.

It is. It will force budget cuts; it will force tax increases of the magnitude that no one is ready to contemplate. We're talking cuts in Medicare, cuts in education, in defense, in spending of all kinds. That would create a depression, a true depression that would last 4-5 years, push unemployment to 20%-25%....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketTaxesThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaEurope--European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010

0 Comments
Posted October 2, 2011 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka super Congress or super committee, is Congress's answer to its own inability to break the hold of partisan gridlock that took America to the brink of default on Aug. 2, prompting the first-ever downgrade of the nation's credit rating.

The panel, which on Thursday holds an organizational meeting open to the public, has a sweeping mandate to propose cuts to spending and entitlements and recommend tax reform by Nov. 23. Congress must vote the package up or down – no amendments or filibuster – by Dec. 23, or trigger a $1.2 trillion package of automatic spending cuts, equally divided between defense and domestic spending.

"Never has Washington had an all-or-nothing panel that is empowered and backed by a firm timeline like this one is," says John Ullyot, a public-affairs consultant in Washington and former GOP Senate staffer. "The starter pistol will fire right after Labor Day."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

3 Comments
Posted September 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In absolute numbers, the total public debt as of Aug. 11 was $9.924 trillion, and the intra-government debt was $4.666 trillion, for a total of $14.587 trillion. That's well over 300 million times the country's median household income....

The GDP of the United States was $15.003 trillion at the end of the first quarter in 2011. That makes the public debt equal to 66.1% of GDP and the intra-governmental debt 31.1%. Total debt is now 97.2% of GDP and climbing rapidly.

And it's the climbing rapidly part that is worrisome, not the debt's current size relative to GDP. Indeed, the debt has been substantially higher by that measure in earlier times. In 1946, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, it was 129.98% of GDP. But while the debt had increased enormously during the war (it had been 50% of a much smaller GDP in 1940), it did not increase substantially over the next 15 years....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General

1 Comments
Posted August 30, 2011 at 6:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Boston University's Laurence] Kotlikoff explains that America's "unofficial" payment obligations — like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits — jack up the debt figure substantially.

"If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That's the fiscal gap," he says. "That's our true indebtedness."

We don't hear more about this enormous number, Kotlikoff says, because politicians have chosen their language carefully to keep most of the problem off the books.

Read (or much better) listen to it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

30 Comments
Posted August 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[If done properly]....Tax reform will already have slashed rates radically. In one Simpson-Bowles scenario, the top rate plunges to 23 percent. Conservatives could at that point contemplate increasing net revenue by slightly tweaking these new low rates, say, back to Reagan’s 28 percent, still much lower than the current 35 percent and Obama’s devoutly desired 39.6 percent. The deviation from revenue neutrality would yield new tax receipts for the Treasury, in addition to those resulting from the economic growth stimulated by the lower rates.

Democrats would have to respond by crossing their own red line on entitlements. That means real structural changes. That means raising the Medicare and Social Security ages, indexing them to longevity (until 70 becomes the new 65) and changing the inflation formula. Perhaps even means-testing Social Security (after one has recouped what one originally paid in).

The result of such a grand bargain would be debt reduction on a scale never before seen. World confidence in the American economy would rise dramatically. Best of all, we would be back on the road to national solvency....

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted August 6, 2011 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The costs of the government's big health care programs are soaring again, expenses not tackled in the agreement President Obama signed into law Tuesday to raise the nation's debt limit and cut federal spending.

Medicare and Medicaid spending rose 10% in the second quarter from a year earlier to a combined annual rate of almost $992 billion, according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The two programs are on track to rise $90 billion in 2011 and crack the $1 trillion milestone for the first time.

The jump in health care spending is the biggest since the Medicare prescription drug benefit was added five years ago and ends a brief lull in the spending increases that occurred during the economic downturn.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare

0 Comments
Posted August 3, 2011 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

--​Nothing in the Congressional compromise reached over the weekend makes a significant dent in our $1.5 trillion deficit.
--In addition to an existing nearly $10 trillion of outstanding Treasury debt, the U.S. has a near unfathomable $66 trillion of future liabilities at “net present cost.”
--Aside from outright default, there are numerous ways a government can reduce its future liabilities. They include balancing the budget, unexpected inflation, currency depreciation and financial repression.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

15 Comments
Posted August 2, 2011 at 7:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama and congressional leaders Sunday night sealed a deal to raise the federal debt limit that includes sharp spending cuts but no new taxes, breaking a partisan impasse that has driven the nation to the brink of a government default.

The agreement brings to an end a self-created crisis that has consumed Washington, rattled Wall Street, and shaken confidence in the American political system at home and abroad. The deal could clear Congress as soon as Monday night — barely 24 hours before Treasury officials have said they could begin running short of cash to pay the nation’s bills.

Passage of the agreement, however, remained far from certain in the House, where skeptical Republicans were just beginning to digest the details....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsStock MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

7 Comments
Posted August 1, 2011 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tea Party activists in and out of office, including 1st District Rep. Tim Scott, have been demanding more spending-cut assurances than House Speaker John Boehner can deliver on the debt accord. They should realize that with Democrats still controlling both the Senate and White House, they can't get everything they want this time around.

Tea Party folks also should realize that unless the debt ceiling is raised in time, the immediate bottom-line consequences could include a federal default and U.S. credit-rating downgrade.

Of course, even with a debt deal, the nation still faces serious financial risks -- including a credit-rating demotion. Fortunately, next year's presidential and congressional elections will give voters another chance to send the message that Washington can't keep spending so far beyond our means.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National Deficit

5 Comments
Posted July 30, 2011 at 9:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If leadership is the capacity to take people where they need to go — whether or not they realize it or want it — then we’ve had almost no leadership in these weeks of frustrating and maddening debate over the budget and debt ceiling. There’s been an unspoken consensus among President Obama, congressional Democrats and Republicans not to discuss the central issue underlying the standoff. We’ve heard lots about “compromise” or its absence. We’ve had dueling budgets with differing mixes of spending cuts and tax increases. But we’ve heard almost nothing of the main problem that makes the budget so intractable.

It’s the elderly, stupid.

By now, it’s obvious that we need to rewrite the social contract that, over the past half-century, has transformed the federal government’s main task into transferring income from workers to retirees. In 1960, national defense was the government’s main job; it constituted 52 percent of federal outlays. In 2011 — even with two wars — it is 20 percent and falling. Meanwhile, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other retiree programs constitute roughly half of non-interest federal spending.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

20 Comments
Posted July 29, 2011 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Take a look.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are urging the GOP-led House to reject a cuts-only approach to the budget as Washington tries to avert an unprecedented government default on its multi-trillion-dollar debts.

“A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons,” wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., in a Tuesday (July 26) letter to House members.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

1 Comments
Posted July 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

That’s why the posturing about whether and how Congress should increase the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 has been a hollow exercise. Failure to increase the borrowing limit would harm American prestige and the global financial system. But that’s nothing compared with the real threats to the U.S.’s long-term economic health, which will begin to strike with full force toward the end of this decade: Sharply rising per-capita health-care spending, coupled with the graying of the populace; a generation of workers turning into an outsize generation of beneficiaries. Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Michael J. Boskin, who was President George H.W. Bush’s chief economic adviser, says: “The word ‘unsustainable’ doesn’t convey the problem enough, in my opinion.”

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

3 Comments
Posted July 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Both bills cut discretionary spending by about the same amount, roughly $1.2 trillion depending on which benchmark is used. Both set up a bipartisan fiscal commission with special powers. Neither raises taxes, or significantly changes entitlement programs.

Mr. Reid’s bill contains a little bit more deficit reduction by cutting agricultural subsidies, selling radio spectrum licenses and improving I.R.S. enforcement. Its savings are also somewhat more front-loaded, with deficit reduction of $30 billion in 2012 as compared with $1 billion for Mr. Boehner’s, although the speaker’s bill is being rewritten.

Most of the difference in their price tags, however, has to do with the fact that Mr. Reid’s bill would count $1 trillion from the winding down of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as deficit savings, while Mr. Boehner’s would not — a matter of accounting rather than a substantive difference.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

2 Comments
Posted July 27, 2011 at 6:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should America embark on such fiscal contraction at a time when economic growth has already slipped to stall speed, and debt deleveraging continues with a vengeance, I would like to flee to Mars for safety.

Yes, there is such a concept as an “expansionary fiscal contraction”, as in Ireland (1980s), Denmark (1990s), arguably Canada (1990s), and the UK after both 1932 and 1993, but in every successful case this was accompanied by monetary loosening. That card has already been played this time.

Should America instead opt to evade these fiscal cuts by actually defaulting on debts accumulated by self-indulgent baby boomers, I would also like to flee Mars because such an outcome might be even worse.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Treasury Secretary Timothy GeithnerPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

10 Comments
Posted July 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Today's spectacle of a dysfunctional Washington, unable to tend to even its most basic task of protecting the nation's financial standing, may be appalling. It should not, however, be a surprise.

he inability, after eight months' warning, to agree on any plan to deal with deficits and raise the nation's debt ceiling isn't some freak accident. Instead, it is the logical culmination of two giant trends in American politics: an unresolved debate over the size of government and the growing hyper-partisanship of Congress, particularly the House of Representatives.

Put those two together and you end up with leaders of the two parties speaking, as they were over the weekend, of the need to "defeat them," as if the two parties were Cold War adversaries rather than partners in running the same nation. President Barack Obama, in a nationally televised speech last night, bluntly acknowledged how bad the picture looks to his countrymen, and to the world: "The American people may have voted for divided government," he said, "but they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

6 Comments
Posted July 26, 2011 at 5:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[In the 1950's] the federal safety net designed for a time when unemployment was 20 percent and stockbrokers were jumping out of windows was still there. Not yet unmanageable, still a small fraction of the federal budget, still considered a lifeline for the desperate and a retirement income supplement for the rest.

Then along came the tumultuous, iconoclastic, game-changing 1960s....

In 1965, Medicare and Medicaid began paying medical expenses of the retired and those who could demonstrate "need." Human nature being what it is, two things happened. First, those who could demonstrate "need" availed themselves of free medical care far beyond any level they would have used had they been required to pay for it. Second, given virtual carte blanche by the government, hospitals and other medical providers jacked up their prices in breathtaking fashion....

And voilá, our citizenry became entitled to medical care and a retirement income no matter what the cost. The more they got, the more they wanted...Now their time is up.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

10 Comments
Posted July 26, 2011 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The biggest share of federal spending now goes for Social Security (20.4 percent in 2010) and Medicare (13.1 percent), the two entitlement programs that big majorities of Americans want to protect from any reductions, according to a recent poll. Together these two programs for senior citizens consume more than one-third of spending, far more than national defense, which accounts for just 20.1 percent, despite the increases of recent years....

Who pays all of these taxes? The best information on that comes from the Congressional Budget Office, which has tracked the tax burden for many years. The most recent complete data cover 2007. CBO figured in that year more than half of all federal taxes was paid by the top 10 percent of income earners. They paid 55 percent of all federal taxes in 2007, CBO said.
That's a comprehensive figure, counting the income tax, payroll taxes, excise taxes and even the corporate income tax (borne by stockholders in the form of reduced dividends and appreciation). And perhaps surprisingly, the top 10 percent of earners pay a greater share of federal taxes now than they did before the Bush tax cuts, which Democrats constantly criticize as a giveaway to "the rich." The top 10 percent paid 50 percent of all federal taxes in 2001.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicareSocial SecurityThe National Deficit

7 Comments
Posted July 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

House Speaker John A. Boehner and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, were preparing separate backup plans to raise the nation’s debt ceiling on Sunday, after the leaders were unable to end an increasingly grim standoff over the federal budget.

The dueling plans emerged as lawmakers appeared to miss a self-imposed deadline of 4 p.m. Eastern time to cut a deal before markets open in Asia. And at about 6 p.m., President Obama began meeting with Mr. Reid and the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, in the Oval Office to discuss the Reid proposal.

Mr. Reid, the Senate’s top Democrat, was trying Sunday to cobble together a plan to raise the government’s debt limit by $2.4 trillion through the 2012 election, with spending cuts of about $2.5 trillion. He would seek to avoid cuts to entitlement programs, but it was unclear how those savings would be achieved.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

1 Comments
Posted July 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

House and Senate negotiators have not reached a deal that would lift the nation’s debt ceiling just hours before markets in Asia are set to open — a test of whether Washington political dysfunction is beginning to shake the global economy.

House Republicans are not able to reach a deal with Senate Democrats, said congressional sources, though staff-level negotiations are continuing.

And in a sign that talks with Republicans appear to be going sour, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) began to draft his own legislation Sunday that would slash at least $2.5 trillion to match an extension of the nation’s borrowing limit through the 2012 election, leadership aides said.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsStock MarketTaxesThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

0 Comments
Posted July 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is great disagreement in Washington over the meaning of last year’s midterm elections, but it’s almost certain that most Americans did not vote for the kind of paralysis that now surrounds the negotiations over the terms of raising the debt ceiling.

Americans voted for, or got, divided government because the public doesn’t fully trust either party with the reins of power. That means the only way out of this problem is through compromise, or what one administration official called “bipartisanship by necessity,” not by choice.

Up until now, enough lawmakers haven’t been ready to accept that in order for a deal to be struck. So the clock ticks.

Read it all


Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketStock MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate

7 Comments
Posted July 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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