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.

Another Look at Tax Inversion Mergers

Burger King Worldwide Inc is in talks to buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc, a deal that would be structured as a so-called tax inversion and move the hamburger seller’s base to Canada.

After all, Canada’s corporate tax rate is competitive even with Ireland’s 12.5% rate, at least from the lofty perspective of our own 35% top corporate rate: Canada’s rate is 15%. This inversion isn’t just the fiscally sound thing to do, it satisfies the company management’s fiduciary duty to control costs and maximize profits for the company’s owners.

BK isn’t alone in moving to Canada:

Obamacare and Jobs

The results are starting to come in, via three independently done polls by three separate Federal Reserve Banks.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia:

  • 78.8% of businesses in the district have made no change to the number of workers they employ as the specific result of ObamaCare
  • 3% are hiring more
  • 18.2% are cutting jobs and employees
  • 18% shifted the composition of their workforce to a higher proportion of part-time labor
  • 88.2% of the roughly half of businesses that modified their health plans as a result of ObamaCare passed along the costs through increasing the employee contribution to premiums, an effective cut in wages

Drug Markets and Regulation

With this attitude, we’re not going to have much of a drug development or production industry—to the detriment of our drug market.

“A big part of our concern is not just Sovaldi [a new, and so still very expensive, drug with a near-perfect cure rate for Hepatitis C], but all the other specialty drugs,” said Mario Molina, the CEO of Molina Healthcare that runs Medicaid and ObamaCare plans in nine states, on a July earnings call. He added: “I think that the government needs to step in here and make sure that the market is rational. If we as a health plan want a rate increase, we have to go to our regulators and get it approved. There’s no such thing going on in the pharmaceutical market.

A Trade War

Russia has announced that it won’t buy certain goods from certain of the nations that are sanctioning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and its fomenting of rebellion in eastern Ukraine. This is a trade war that Russia shouldn’t be expected to win.

For one thing, Russia’s economy is the size of Italy’s and more moribund, so any trade war can only hurt Russia relatively more than it can hurt the far larger economies of the US, the EU, Australia, Canada, even Norway, who are the targets of the Russian boycott.

For another thing, here are some facts related to this boycott.