Exposing the Feeble Attacks on Medicare

Paul Krugman: “Medicare turns 50 this week, and it has been a very good half-century. Before the program went into effect, Ronald Reagan warned that it would destroy American freedom; it didn’t, as far as anyone can tell.”

“The real reason conservatives want to do away with Medicare has always been political: It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful. But when they make their case to the public they usually shy away from making their real case, and have even, incredibly, sometimes posed as the program’s defenders against liberals and their death panels.”

“What Medicare’s would-be killers usually argue, instead, is that the program as we know it is unaffordable … And then a funny thing happened: [Obamcare’s] passage was immediately followed by an unprecedented pause in Medicare cost growth. Indeed, Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole.”

Grading the Governors Who Want to be President

Bloomberg: “While comparing governors directly is problematic because they served in different times amid varying economic conditions, one can examine their median national standings of their states on the 11 indicators. Florida under former Governor Jeb Bush had the highest median ranking at seven, scoring higher in more categories than any other state. Texas under Perry was second, with a median of 11 and Ohio was third at 17. New Jersey under Governor Chris Christie had the lowest median at 41.”

“Scrutinizing the numbers beneath the rhetoric shows how bubbles, booms and outside forces can make the miraculous look distinctly down to earth.”

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Carbon Pollution is a Business Risk

Vox: “By next year, a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions will be priced in some way. Businesses that now emit carbon pollution for free (or cheap) will soon see their costs rise … In other words, carbon pollution is a business risk. It’s a bubble that’s going to pop, probably soon.”

A new study by Chris Hope of Cambridge University “attempts to put a number on the carbon risk facing the world’s top 20 fossil fuel companies, the ones most directly vulnerable to a price on carbon. The results suggest that those companies are in a perilous situation.”

Hope “multiplied the carbon emissions embedded in the companies’ products by the ‘social cost of carbon,’ i.e., the net economic, health, and environmental cost of a ton of carbon dioxide. He ran the calculation for data from 2008 to 2012 and took the results as a rough proxy for the level of carbon risk facing each company.”

“‘For all companies and all years, the economic cost to society of their CO2 emissions was greater than their after‐tax profit, with the single exception of Exxon Mobil in 2008.’ In other words, if these fossil fuel companies had to pay the full cost of the carbon emissions produced by their products, none of them would be profitable. It’s even worse for pure coal companies, for which ‘the economic cost to society exceeds total revenue in all years.'”

What Entitlements Crisis?

Paul Krugman: “A few years back elite policy discourse in the United States was totally dominated by the supposed entitlements crisis. Serious people all assured each other that history’s greatest menace was the threat posed by the unstoppable growth of Medicaremedicaidandsocialsecurity, which could only be tamed by dismantling the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society, while of course cutting top marginal tax rates.”

“In 2009 the Trustees projected a gigantic rise in Medicare spending, which was obviously unsupportable (although Social Security never looked like a big problem). But in the most recent report most of that projected rise has gone away.”

The view from 2015

“The truth is that there never was an entitlements crisis. But now there isn’t even an excuse for pretending that such a crisis exists. I know that a large part of the commentariat is professionally and personally invested in fiscal crisis rhetoric — admitting that it’s no longer relevant would suggest that they have, all along, been silly rather than Serious. But next time you see someone solemnly intoning that we must destroy Medicare to save it, remember that there is no there there.”

Republicans Dislike Their Party

Washington Post: “Americans’ opinion of the Republican Party is at a six-year low — in part because an increasing number of Republicans don’t think much of their own party. In a new Pew Research poll, just 32 percent of Americans view the Republican Party favorably, a nine-point drop since January.”

“Among Republicans, that decline has been even sharper: The percentage of those who view the party favorably has dropped 18 points since January, to its lowest share in two years.”

“As the survey notes, the GOP has trailed the Democratic Party in favorability ratings in recent years. For the past four years, Americans have said the Republican Party has more extreme views than Democrats.”

“These latest approval numbers for the GOP show that party leaders who are nervous about Trump have real reason to be. If they don’t cut ties with Trump, and do it quickly, their nightmare appears to be on its way to becoming true: People are associating Trump with the Republican Party — and as a result, turning away from the party itself.”

States With Gun Control Have Fewer Gun Deaths


Washington Post: “In 2011, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths.”

What is the Real Minimum Wage?

New York Times: “It started in New York City as what seemed a quixotic drive confined to fast-food workers. But the movement to raise the hourly minimum wage took root in other parts of the country, and is emerging as a significant, and divisive, element in the presidential campaign.”

“Led by some large labor unions, the movement to make $15 the floor for hourly wages has revealed how deeply divided Americans are on the issue. It has also raised the prospect of much wider variations in how people are compensated for the same basic work in different parts of the country. And it has infuriated companies large and small, which say it compels hard choices between raising prices and firing workers.”

Washington Post: “Minimum wages … are only as valuable as what they can buy, which also varies by geography, according to an analysis of purchasing power by state. New York ranks among the top 10 states for its minimum wage, but factor in the cost of living, and it falls to the bottom 10. ”

Americans Are Finally Eating Less

“After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better,” the New York Times reports.

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“Calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent. The declines cut across most major demographic groups — including higher- and lower-income families, and blacks and whites — though they vary somewhat by group.”

Key finding: “In the most striking shift, the amount of full-calorie soda drunk by the average American has dropped 25 percent since the late 1990s.”


Businesses Feel Steamrolled on Minimum Wage

Washington Post: “That’s a feeling common among businesses nationwide, as minimum wage increases steamroller their way through cities and states. Emboldened by their victories, minimum wage backers are planning a slew of new bills and ballot initiatives in the coming election cycle. The private sector is used to being a powerful force in politics. So how has it been so impotent on the issue of the minimum wage?”

Said venture capitalist Nick Hanauer: “The reason that business has not been able to stop these minimum wage hikes is that they have completely lost the public argument about how the economy works and where growth comes from. The key to winning this was to create a new kind of argument about how capitalism works that’s both true and beneficial to 99 percent of the people who participate in the economy. So literally, when we took [the issue of] growth away from the business community, they went dark, they were silent.”

“Well, not quite. Business-backed groups still protest that while the economic research suggests that minimum wage hikes haven’t historically led to job loss, there aren’t any studies yet on what happens when the floor goes all the way up to $15. As that happens, they predict that businesses in the fast food industry especially will find ways to cut jobs through automation.”

Why Trump Matters

Edward Luce of the Financial Times argues that Donald Trump’s mark on the Republican party is permanent.

“In a field of 16 candidates, when one polls a quarter of the vote it is the equivalent of a landslide. Mr Trump’s detractors, who form arguably one of the largest bipartisan coalitions in memory, comfort themselves that he is simply on an ego trip that will turn sour. That may be true. But they are missing the point. The legions of Republicans flocking to Mr Trump’s banner are not going anywhere. If he crashes, which he eventually must, they will find another champion.”

“Nor is it possible to steal Mr Trump’s policy clothes. There is no logic to his platform. Mr Trump’s success is based on the spirit of anti-politics — the dislike of poll-tested campaigns, scripted candidates and the political classes in general. Consistency is a vice. Coherence spells dishonesty.”

“These are the angry swaths of America that feel left behind, belittled and insulted. They want to take their country back but cannot put their finger on what exactly they mean. For them it is evening in America. Nobody argues their case.”

This “is the power of anti-politics. Mr Trump is merely a symptom. His Republican rivals should beware. Trump Towers will fall. Other skyscrapers loom.”

How to Cut Emissions and Boost the Economy? Look to the Northeast.

RTO Insider: “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative provides substantial economic benefits and has not raised prices or impaired reliability,” according to a new report by economic consulting firm Analysis Group.

“RGGI added $1.3 billion in economic value, created more than 14,000 new jobs and saved consumers $460 million on electricity and heating bills from 2012 through 2014 … ‘Based on an analysis of years of hard data, RGGI shows that multi-state, market-based carbon control mechanisms work and can deliver positive economic benefits,’ Analysis Group Vice President Paul Hibbard said.”

Figure ES-4 shows the net economic value broken out by the macroeconomic effects of RGGI on consumers and pow er plant owners, as well as effects that flow  from direct spending of RGGI auction revenues.

Figure ES-4 shows the net economic value broken out by the macroeconomic effects of RGGI on consumers and power plant owners, as well as effects that flow from direct spending of RGGI auction revenues.

“The report’s authors said the findings ‘provide valuable lessons for states’ preparing for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.”

“RGGI regulates carbon emissions from power plants in the six New England states, New York, Maryland and Delaware. The states have received about $2 billion in auction proceeds over its existence, investing those funds in energy efficiency programs, low-income assistance and clean energy development.”

“The region also cut annual carbon emissions by about a third, from 140 million metric tons in 2008 to 90 million tons in 2014, according to the report. RGGI also reduced dollars used to pay for fossil fuels imported from outside the region by more than $1.27 billion in 2012-2014.”