Does Contraceptive Coverage Pay for Itself?

The Upshot: “In his opinion last Monday, Justice Alito referred to an assertion made by the departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services that ‘providing payments for contraceptive services is cost neutral for issuers. Several studies have estimated that the costs of providing contraceptive coverage are balanced by cost savings from lower pregnancy-related costs and from improvements in women’s health.'”

“Studies the departments cited are suggestive, but far from definitive. A fuller review of the literature on the cost and cost offsets of contraceptive coverage by Daniel Liebman, a colleague, finds that the evidence is thin that, from an insurer’s perspective, contraceptive coverage pays for itself in the long term. Moreover, it almost certainly does not in the short. The cost of contraceptive coverage is immediate, and the possible offsets (reduced pregnancies) are downstream, often years in the future.”

New Gun Control Fight Brewing in the Senate

“Fifteen months since gun legislation stalled on Capitol Hill, the Senate is on the verge of a new fight over whether or not to expand gun rights, an unanticipated development at a moment of already high tension in the fractured chamber,” the Washington Post reports.

“A new political gun fight would be the first since a bipartisan gun control measure was swiftly defeated in April 2013, just four months after national outrage at the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. sparked calls for new legislation. The possibility of a new, mostly partisan debate on gun control likely would upend debate on a bipartisan measure to expand hunting rights on federal lands that is considered a potential political lifeline for about a half dozen Democrats seeking reelection in Republican-leaning states.”

American Companies Fleeing America Over Taxes

A Congressional Research Service report finds that 47 U.S. corporations have reincorporated overseas through so-called inversions in the last 10 years. That’s “far more than during the previous 20 years combined,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“And there are about a dozen prospective inversion deals involving U.S. corporations looking to reincorporate overseas, according to the data.”

Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) “posted the report to make the case for legislation he’s pushing that would make it harder for companies to move for tax purposes to the U.K., Ireland or other popular destinations. They usually do so by merging with another company – often a smaller one – that’s already overseas So far the legislation isn’t moving very quickly. Republicans and some Democrats say the proposed legislation is too narrow, and could make it even harder to fix the fundamental problems with the U.S. international tax system.”

Is Wage Growth the Problem or the Solution?

Josh Bevins: “Lots of talk has percolated recently about whether a sudden burst of rapid wage growth would force the Fed’s hand in pulling back monetary stimulus to the U.S. economy. Some who, like me, do not any evidence of an imminent wage take-off have argued that the Fed should wait for some evidence of wage inflation before hitting the brakes.”

“These arguments essentially treat a pickup of wage growth as a problem to be guarded against. But the most conspicuous failure in the U.S. economy over the past generation, by far, has been too slow wage growth for the vast majority of American workers. A recent report that I co-authored with colleagues from the Economic Policy Institute showed that a range of pressing economic problems–rising income inequality, failure to rapidly reduce poverty, failure to rapidly increase mobility, and even the too-sluggish recovery from the Great Recession–are rooted in the failure of most American workers’ hourly wages to come anywhere close to matching the growth rate of productivity.”

“Further, we provide evidence that many of the standard narratives for why inflation-adjusted wages for this large majority haven’t grown–technological change, lagging skills of U.S. workers and purely apolitical developments in globalization–don’t seem to fit the facts.”

Environmentalists Looked to Oil Industry for New Carbon Policy

“In November 2010, three combatants gathered in a sleek office here to build a carbon emissions policy that they hoped to sell to the Obama administration,” the New York Times reports.

“Over the next two years the lawyers, David Doniger and David Hawkins, and the scientist, Daniel Lashof, worked with a team of experts to write a 110-page proposal, widely viewed as innovative and audacious, that was aimed at slashing planet-warming carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. On June 2, President Obama proposed a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to curb power plant emissions that used as its blueprint the work of the three men and their team.”

“It was a remarkable victory for the Natural Resources Defense Council… The group’s leaders understand the art of influence: In successfully drafting a climate plan that heavily influenced the president’s proposal, the organization followed the strategy used by the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm of the oil industry, to write an energy policy for Vice President Dick Cheney during the Bush administration.”

White House Moves to Prevent New Obamacare Crisis

“Obamacare open enrollment closed March 31. The White House’s Obamacare war room did not,” Politico reports.

“Most state health insurance rates for 2015 are scheduled to be approved by early fall, and most are likely to rise, timing that couldn’t be worse for Democrats already on defense in the midterms.”

“The White House and its allies know they’ve been beaten in every previous round of Obamacare messaging, never more devastatingly than in 2010. And they know the results this November could hinge in large part on whether that happens again. So they’re trying to avoid — or at least, get ahead of — any September surprise.”

We Need to End Employer-Based Health Insurance

Paul Waldman: “Today, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that if a ‘closely held’ corporation (a private one with a small number of owners) doesn’t want to abide by the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that all insurance plans offer preventive care including contraception at no cost, then it doesn’t have to. There are many ways to look at this decision and many implications, but for the moment, I want to focus on just one: This is yet more evidence that our system of employer-based health insurance has got to go.”

“The fact that most Americans get their health coverage through their employers is something that we all take for granted but has no logical purpose behind it whatsoever. No other industrialized country in the world does it this way, and the system didn’t develop in the United States because it made sense from any standard of efficiency, cost or providing superior benefits to citizens. It was an accident of history — one that would take some time and work to undo, but which is worth undoing. Not only that, both conservatives and liberals would have reason to support such a shift.”

Map of the Day

State preparedness for the current economic transformation. (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation)

Washington Post: “The authors looked at five indicators to measure a state’s economic dynamism—how easy it is for a new business to flourish and businesses to change. Those measures were: job churn, the number of fast-growing businesses, the number and value of initial public offerings, new business formation and the number of inventor patents granted. On this measure, Utah led the list, followed by Colorado, California, Massachusetts and Arizona.”

Are You Rich?

Lynn Vavreck: “If you’re like most Americans, it depends on how much money you currently bring in, but the number is likely to be more than what 99.5 percent of American households bring home. Americans, it seems, have a pretty good sense of how much money it takes to be at the top level of the income distribution.”

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Brat Says Bernanke Failed Because He Underestimated Protestants

“Ben Bernanke got it wrong because he forgot to account for God, or at least for the Protestant way of worshiping him,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“That’s the basic argument of David Brat, the Virginia Republican who toppled House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) Tuesday. Before his foray into politics, Mr. Brat has spent his career as an economics professor at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va., where he wrote about typical economists’ fare such as the determinants of long-term growth.”

In a 2005 paper, Brat took on Bernanke saying the former Fed chairman’s work on economic growth “overlooked the role that religious institutions–particularly Protestant ones–play in driving a country’s growth rates.”

Brat said that Protestantism “provides an efficient set of property rights and encourages a modern set of economic incentives” so “one might anticipate positive economic performance.”

He added: “Give me a country in 1600 that had a Protestant led contest for religious and political power and I will show you a country that is rich today.”

Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at 6.3%

“The U.S. economy added jobs at a steady clip in May, providing renewed evidence that the five-year-long recovery accelerated this spring,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Nonfarm employment advanced a seasonally adjusted 217,000 last month, the Labor Department said. April’s gain was revised down slightly to an increase of 282,000 from an initially reported gain of 288,000. Still, April’s improvement was the best in more than two years. March’s gain was unrevised at 203,000.”

“The jobless rate, obtained from a separate survey of households, was unchanged at 6.3% in May, matching the lowest level since September 2008.”

Politician Proposes Tying Stadium Money to Wins

“Last year, voters in Cuyahoga County approved a 20-year extension of a sin tax to pay for upkeep on Cleveland’s three pro sports stadiums. Today, one elected official presented a proposal to tie part of that payout to the teams’ performance. He calls it, a little obviously, a ‘win tax,'” Deadspin reports.

“The tax on cigarettes and alcohol is expected to raise at least $260 million over the next two decades, with the money earmarked for improvements and repairs to FirstEnergy Stadium, Progressive Field, and Quicken Loans Arena. The measure passed, but it hasn’t yet been agreed how to distribute the money. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants 20 percent of that annual payout to be contingent on where the Browns, Indians, and Cavs appear in the standings each year.”

Said Fitzgerald: “We love these teams, we’re loyal to these teams and we’re committed to maintaining these facilities. But we can also try to demand to get something a little bit better than we’ve gotten over the past 50 years.”

Conservatives Look for Ways Not to Save the Planet

Jonathan Chait: “When the Obama administration launched its health-care reform project five years ago, conservatives were held back by the sheer lack of interest in the issue they had accumulated over the decades. Conservative intellectuals had paid hardly any detailed attention to the specific problems of health-care economics and found themselves grasping for generalized right-wing bromides. (They have played vigorous catch-up in the years since.)”

“The same rough dynamic can be seen now as Obama launches a major climate change initiative. Conservatives are grasping for ideological truisms to fill a void of any detailed policy-level engagement. A case in point is the conservative belief that carbon reduction is pointless because China will never go along.”

“The striking thing about this reasoning is not so much that the conclusion is certainly wrong, but that it does not even recognize the counters of the debate. It’s true that the U.S. accounts for only around 15 percent of global carbon emissions, and Obama’s proposed reductions would have a modest impact on rising temperatures. But nobody thinks limiting U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions will solve climate change in and of itself. The entire purpose of doing so is to enable an international treaty.”