An Instructive Graph

This one is from the Census Bureau’s Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013. The headline of the report is that American household median income stagnated for the second straight year and remains, in real terms, 8% lower than it was in the last year before the Panic of 2008. The graph below reflects that.2013MedianHouseholdIncome

What interests me about this graph, though, is not the end result snapshot, but the slopes of the graph’s separate lines, the changing levels of median incomes, as we come out of recessions and panics over the last 50 years.

Personal Health Information Security

We’ve had HIPAA—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—for nearly 20 years. This act requires, among other things, all handlers of our personal medical information (primarily, but not exclusively, our doctors, hospitals, and health coverage plan providers) to have our permission to pass that information along, even to other doctors, hospitals, and health coverage plan providers and to take adequate steps to safeguard that information when it’s in their hands or being passed along.

It seems that this administration doesn’t consider itself bound by that same law. The latest example of this evident lawlessness is ObamaMart. The GAO has completed its own assessment of ObamaMart’s security and security practices, and it’s unimpressed.

Obamacare, Errors, and Attitudes

The AP has an article that goes into the pitfalls and pratfalls that Obamacare faces this fall, 2014 enrollment period. I’m interested in one error in particular and the attitude of one Democrat in particular who voted for Obamacare’s passage.

The error was the overpayment by the Federal government of many of the subsidies it handed out to…defray…the premium costs of having an Obamacare health plan. Overpayments could occur from a plan buyer underreporting income, from ObamaMart not correctly matching income data with subsidy accruals, and so on.

Doesn’t College Cost Enough Already?

In an effort to combat the high cost if college, the Obama administration thinks it’s appropriate to make borrowing easier.

Under a plan likely to take effect next year, the Education Department would check the past two years of a borrower’s credit, instead of the current standard of five, for blemishes such as delinquencies or debts in collection. Also, any delinquent debts below $2,085 would be overlooked; currently, delinquencies of any amount are grounds for rejected applications.

Scottish Independence

The view of a poor, dumb colonial.

Suppose the Scottish referendum next week goes in favor of independence. What would be next for Scotland?

Among the complexities of separation is the matter of pensions provided by employers. Most such pensions are not fully funded; although, most such pension providers have apparently viable plans for curing the shortfall, over some number of years. However, the EU (and we’ll assume Scotland succeeds in joining the EU for this bit) requires all pension funds with members in two or more countries to be fully paid up. Moreover, funds that are not have only two years to get fully paid up. There are quite a number of large-ish UK companies, employing thousands each, whose pension funds have members in both countries, and whose pension funds are on one of those “some number of years to fund” plans.

Obamacare and Health Coverage Cost Growth

President Barack Obama promised us, all those years ago, that if only Obamacare were enacted, a family’s health plan premium would drop by $2,500 per year, and no one would lose their employer-provided health plan. Period.

These two graphs from The Wall Street Journal draw a different…picture.ObamacareCost

These graphs cover the period since 1999. As the upper graph shows, the premiums for employer-provided health insurance and, since Obamacare’s passage in 2010, for employer-provided health plans, have risen at a steady pace—unchanged by Obamacare, and specifically, no drop in premium cost. It’s the same with the employee’s share of those premiums; that share’s pace of increase also has been unaffected—that is, no drop in cost—from Obamacare.

The Problem with a Law

In 2012, the Labor Department threatened to seize the blueberry crops of a couple of Oregon farmers until they settled a Labor complaint and signed away their right to appeal the settlement. With crops at risk of rotting away, the farmers settled, agreeing to pay Labor more than $240,000. The alleged “crimes” were Labor’s claims the farmers had violated minimum wage requirements under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Labor used the threat of seizure of these perishable crops to extort the settlement.

After signing and getting their crops back, the two farmers sued.

The courts were unimpressed with Labor’s behavior.

Economic Gains

President [Barack] Obama used Labor Day to tout the country’s economic gains under his leadership….

Let’s look at those gains.

  • he’s increased the national debt in his six years by 70%—it stood at $10 trillion at the end of 2008; it’s now over $17 trillion
  • median income has fallen—it stands now at $53,900 compared with $56,700 in December 2007 at the start of the current economic dislocation
  • job creation is only just back to pre-Panic levels, 6 years into his administration, compared with normal economic recovery needing only 2-3 years to get to this point

Obamacare and ObamaMart Strike Again

In the continuing story of ObamaMart’s still incomplete (!) backend, the part of the Web site that takes the citizen’s input and sorts it, collates it with other government information, and then passes it on to other relevant parties—the health plan providers, for instance, and the IRS—there’s this:

Because of complicated connections between the new health care law and income taxes, the Department of Health and Human Services must send out millions of new tax forms next year.

The forms are called 1095-As, and list who in each household has health coverage, and how much the government paid each month to subsidize those insurance premiums. Nearly 5 million people have gotten subsidies through HealthCare.gov.

More Regulatory…Foolishness

Gordon Crovitz identified some.

The Obama administration’s standard reaction to technological innovation has been to block change via regulation….

Federal regulators are also putting the brakes on self-driving cars, which are closely related to the Uber innovation—enabling riders to order a car service using their smartphone app. If fast-moving technology hadn’t collided with slow-moving regulators, this might have been the last summer you’d have to drive your own car.

And

US regulators won’t let car manufacturers go much beyond what Mercedes now offers [active cruise control, automatic braking and lane-keeping technologies]. That means car makers can’t roll out technologies they already have, and auto makers in Europe, which has fewer regulations limiting technology, have surpassed their US competitors.