The Benfield Group is pushing back against the highly problematic McKinsey study about employers dropping coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Acrt and has released this four page perspective showing that large employers — those with 5000 or more employees — “will continue to offer comprehensive health insurance coverage to their employees”:
Under the right circumstances?and some might say extreme circumstances?Benfield?s research suggests that some jumbo employers could drop ESI. However, when we asked about what would cause employers to exit employer sponsored healthcare, the responses we received focused more on the need to compete for talent than to manage costs. In fact, nearly three-quarters of employers we surveyed indicated that ?competing for talent? was the main factor they would consider in a decision to continue providing health and pharmacy benefits to employees. Conversely, when asked the likelihood of discontinuing benefits to their employees, 21% said they were highly likely and 49% somewhat likely to drop coverage if their industry competitors stopped offering health benefits. Think ?arms race,? with health care benefits as weaponry. Economics of the decision came in second to talent retention concerns. [...]
McKinsey reports it is advantageous for employers to drop healthcare coverage and pay the penalty vs. bear cost of continuing to provide coverage. Meanwhile, Benfield?s jumbo employer panel indicated that the math behind dropping ESI doesn?t work out to an economic benefit… If you take whatever you?re spending today on behalf of your employees and give that to them saying ?go out and buy what you can with that,? then you have to do a couple things (to keep employees whole). One, you?ve got to make up to them the tax basis that they?re now going to have to account for as income. And two, in doing so, you?re going to have to replace the lost income to them in their overall remunerations.
Benfield’s findings are in line with other reports predicting relatively small drops in insurance coverage. After the first 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that ?the number of people obtaining coverage through their employer would be about 3 million lower in 2019 under the legislation.? Actuaries at CMS estimated that just 1.4 million would move out of employer coverage. Some of this is premised on the belief that employers are generally reluctant to give up control over a key employee benefit and recruiting tool, which the Benfield findings reinforce.
NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has just released an overview of its new “1981-2010 Climate Normals” (PDF here). Meteorologist Paul Douglas, founder and CEO of Broadcast Weather, explains what this means:
NOAA just released the latest climate “normals” for the USA. When you hear the “average high” or “average low”, it’s a running, 30-year average. Data was just updated to show the first decade of the 21st century…. For a look at how the new normals were calculated click here – the full data set is set to be released on July 1. For continuity the same 5,053 weather observation sites were used. Averaged together (all reporting stations) the inclusion of the 2000-2010 data showed a 0.6°F warming trend nationwide for the latest, running, 30-year averages.
Here is the one “showing the difference between the 1981-2010 normals and the older 1971-2000 numbers. The data shows a distinct warming trend, factoring in the last decade’s worth of highs and lows, a 2-4 temperature increase for January low temperatures.”
Why does winter warming in the West matter? We’ve already seen the new USGS study that found global warming is driving Rockies snowpack loss unrivaled in 800 years, which threatens western water supplies.
Then we have the voracious bark beetle, which just loves milder winters.
Climate change inherently favors invasive pests. Milder winters since 1994 have reduced the winter death rate of beetle larvae in places like Wyoming from 80% per year to under 10%. At the same time, hot-weather uber-droughts ? aka ?global-change-type droughts? ? have made trees weaker, less able to fight off beetles. A 2008 Nature study looked at the beetle?s warming-driven devastation in British Columbia and concluded, ?This impact converted the forest from a small net carbon sink to a large net carbon source.?
Last year, a Montana entomologist said of the bark beetle infestation: ?A couple of degrees warmer could create multiple generations a year. If that happens, I expect it would be a disaster for all of our pine populations.? In other words, in a few decades, the new normal will be a disaster – assuming we don’t reverse greenhouse gas emissions trends sharply and soon.
The summer maximum temps do not appear to have risen quite as rapidly as the winter minimums:
But don’t worry, the real summer heat is yet to come (see “Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up).
We are, after all, on track to warm up to 20 times more this century, than than we did in the last three decades.
Asked about federal disaster relief to recent tornado and flood victims at last night’s GOP debate, candidate Mitt Romney called the spending “immoral” and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be privatized. With greenhouse pollution on the rise, the United States has been struck by a “punishing series of billion-dollar disasters.”
Embracing a radical anti-government ideology from the most extreme elements of the Tea Party, Romney said that the victims in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and other communities hit by tornadoes and flooding should not receive governmental assistance. He argued it is “simply immoral” for there to be deficit spending that could harm future generations:
Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. . . . We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.
From its founding, the federal government has served the Constitutional goals of domestic tranquility and general welfare of the American people by aiding the victims of climate disasters. Romney’s extremist stance in favor of corporate “disaster vultures” would leave the United States in ruin, with only rich and well-connected people like the Romneys assured of getting food, water, shelter, and protection when disaster strikes.
If Romney actually cared about the welfare of future generations, he would take action to arrest global warming pollution instead of supporting the oil company agenda, and would cut subsidies for billionaires instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.
KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?
ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.
Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…
KING: Including disaster relief, though?
ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.
During last night’s Republican presidential debate, CNN’s John King asked Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) to choose between a hip-swiveling corruptor of youth and a drug-addict who liked to pretend he was a hardened malefactor:
KING: Congresswoman Bachmann, to you, Elvis or Johnny Cash?
BACHMANN: That’s really tough. That’s really?both, both.
BACHMANN: I’ve “Christmas with Elvis” on my iPod.
I mention this in part because it’s funny that people who listen to Elvis’ Christmas songs think that they represent mainstream America better than people who invite Common to the White House. But also, given the latest brouhaha over Fox Business? Eric Bolling pretending he is edgy and cool by referring to the White House as “the big crib,” it’s worth remembering that attacks on rappers are just racialized versions of the same old nonsense. This stuff is going to be hilarious and depressing in about 20 years when Common is on some white president’s Council on the Arts and Humanities and Republican candidates are telling folks they have Eric B. and Rakim on whatever the 20-years in the future equivalent of an iPod is.
Today, the Republican-controlled House will begin another onslaught on programs designed to help low-income and middle class families. The GOP quite literally wants to take food from the mouths of children, cutting $47 billion — or 10 percent — from domestic programs, to pay for more defense spending. In negotiations to reach a debt ceiling compromise, Republicans have declared defense cuts “off the table,” even though Pentagon spending is notoriously bloated and Secretary of Defense Gates and other top generals have admitted spending should be curtailed:
But the GOP-dominated chamber will soon resume its budget-slashing ways as it kicks off debate Tuesday on a food and farm spending bill that cuts aid for low-income pregnant women and their children and slashes a key overseas food aid program by about one-third below this year’s funding.
At the same time, the Appropriations Committee is set to approve a $649 billion measure that slightly boosts the Pentagon’s operating budget [...]
Once money is added for programs like defense, veterans and homeland security, spending on domestic programs like food aid for the poor, education, health care and housing subsidies falls to levels where lawmakers are going to find it difficult. After a $17 billion increase for the Pentagon is factored in, domestic agencies and foreign aid programs would absorb cuts of $47 billion that would translate into cuts averaging about 10 percent.
Essential programs on the chopping block include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Commodity Supplemental Food programs, which both help low-income people get nutritional food. Hundreds of thousands of people will be cut from the programs if House Republicans get their way. WIC “provides healthy foods like milk, eggs and infant formula to about 9 million poor mothers and pregnant women and their children,” and would absorb a $868 million cut under the GOP bill, which falls $1.3 billion short of what’s needed to adequately fund the program with food prices on the rise.
The GOP measure also calls for cuts to food safety programs, a childhood obesity initiative backed by First Lady Michele Obama, and food aid for senior citizens:
The bill also cuts a program that delivers food to low-income senior citizens 23 percent below current levels. The popular Food for Peace program, which uses taxpayer dollars to buy U.S. commodities and ships them to deprived areas in Africa and elsewhere across the globe, would absorb a $457 million cut of almost one-third. The White House says that would translate into 1.1 million fewer people getting U.S. food aid.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) spoke out against the GOP’s callousness, saying, “Tightening our belts is one thing. But people who depend on supplemental food programs, like WIC, or food stamps, or school lunches, have belts that are already cinched.”
Yesterday, the White House blasted the proposed deep cuts to food programs, saying it would leave children and mothers hungry, but stopped short of threatening a veto.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) announced today she will not run for re-election in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination. Minnesota state law would, however, allow her to seek re-election if she drops out of the primary race by June 5, 2012, just two months shy of the August Republican National Convention in Florida.
Yesterday, California’s anti-gay Proposition 8′s supporters tried to convince a federal judge to throw out retired Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision striking down the discriminatory marriage ban because Walker might someday want to marry his same sex partner. In a telling sign of just how weak this claim is, even Fox News thought it was garbage. During a discussion shortly after the court hearing concluded, both Fox guest host Gregg Jarrett and Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano agreed that the case against Walker is wholly without merit:
JARRETT: Alright, look. Over the years black judges have decided civil rights cases, Hispanic judges immigration cases, and, of course, women judges have decided women?s rights cases. So why can?t a gay judge decide this case?
NAPOLITANO: There?s no reason why he can?t. And it is utterly unprecedented to inquire into the personal life of a judge after the case has been ruled on and over the judge left the bench because of what the judge revealed about himself. This Reagan appointee, who had been a state court judge appointed by then-Gov. Reagan, has never manifested any kind of bias whatsoever.
Setting aside Jarrett’s somewhat odd suggestion that immigration is an issue that only applies to Hispanic people, there’s very little in Fox’s analysis that should be the least bit controversial. Indeed, there is no better sign that Prop 8′s supporters have gone off the deep end than the fact that even Fox has abandoned their offensive legal argument.
Lebanon?s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, announced yesterday that his new government will be dominated by members and allies of Hezbollah. The news has prompted House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) to call for a cut-off of U.S. aid to Lebanon. On Monday, Ros-Lehtinen said:
The U.S. should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the US as foreign terrorist organizations participates in it.
While Hezbollah controls most of the country?s south and maintains an armed force, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are an under-equipped but nonsectarian institution that has cooperated with the UN?s mission in the south. Hezbollah, on the other hand, has received weapons from Iran and serves as a proxy for Iranian and Syrian interests in the region.
It’s unclear at this point how the new Hezbollah dominated cabinet will govern, but it’s important to note that previous attempts to cut off aid have backfired.
When congress put a temporary freeze on military aid last August, Iran reportedly stepped in and offered its own military assistance to the LAF. Whether Iran will offer to make up for a cut in U.S. aid if Ros-Lehtinen gets her way remains to be seen. But any steps that weaken the LAF and diminish U.S. influence in Lebanon are bound to strengthen the importance of Hezbollah’s militant wing in Lebanon and Iran and Syria’s regional power.
And the State Department isn?t ready to write-off the potential gains from military-to-military aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces. A State official in October defended the military assistance as an important tool for strengthening democratic institutions in Lebanon:
US support to Lebanon is part of an international commitment to help strengthen the institutions of the Lebanese state and the ability of the Lebanese government to exercise its sovereignty and authority over all of its territory.
In March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued for a continuation of U.S. aid to the LAF, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
We worry that if the United States does not continue supporting the Lebanese armed forces, its capabilities will rapidly deteriorate, security in the south and along the border with Israel will be at risk.
The State Department was much slower to pass judgement on the new government. A spokesperson told reporters yesterday that it’s important “that the new Lebanese Government abide by the Lebanese constitution, that it renounce violence, including efforts to extract retribution against former government officials, and lives up to all of its international obligations.”
Ah, republicans...can't live with 'em, can't hunt them for sport, so what the hell good are they?
The whole GOP schtick seems to be predicated on the fear that somewhere, someone might be doing okay and be content with their lot in life -- and this intolerable situation must be brought to an end, right now.
So sacrifice is ordered up all around. Social Security recipients won't get their COLA, federal employees have their wages frozen, we can't afford to help the 99ers, food stamps have to be cut and those dollars WIC wastes on nutritional foods for young children and pregnant and nursing mothers are killing us as a nation, because hey, we're broke!
Except when congresscritters want to go a-junketting. Then we're not broke. Not even close.
With gas prices pinching the wallet and the national debt mounting, members of Congress proclaim that they feel Americans' pain and are committed to cutting back. Just not one of their favorite perks -- globetrotting to far-flung locations at the expense of taxpayers and special interests.
Lawmakers' trips are up sharply during the first five months of 2011, erasing any memory of Hill leaders pledging just last summer to rein in travel costs, a Daily Beast review of congressional trip reports shows.
The pledges of travel austerity have been replaced this spring with fresh images of lawmakers strolling down an ornate European street with their spouses or touring the Bosphorus by boat -- all supposedly in the name of doing the people's business.
Not a bad business if you can get it.
"This is an important issue for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that millions of dollars are spent on flying lawmakers all around the world," says Craig Holman of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. "It is a form of influence peddling when sponsored by private entities. When the government pays for it, we need to know that tax dollars are being used wisely instead of funding junkets."
Lawmakers can travel at taxpayers' expense or accept free trips to symposiums paid for by academic institutions and think tanks. The latter often gets lawmakers and their family members to exotic destinations for a little food for thought and a whole lot of wining and dining.
If you thought that congressional travel was on the wane you can be forgiven. It was when Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House. She ordered cutbacks in congressional travel and told members to fly coach unless the trip was over 14 hours. But her rules were scrapped once John of Orange and his giant gavel were in charge. Now junkets are back, and in a big, big way.
Take, for instance, a trip to Austria last spring that trundles 20 lawmakers and 19 spouses off to the European capital on the Aspen Institute's dime. Did I say dime? I ment "quarter million dollars." Then there were the nine lawmakers and eight family members who jetted off to Tel Aviv in April. That trip was funded by AIPAC affiliate the American Israel Education Foundation, to the tune of $160,000.
But they are just as frivolous with our money as they are think tank dollars. Every time you turn around, there is a congressional delegation in Afghanistan or Iraq, and they use every trick in the book to conceal not just their travel plans beforehand, but after-the-fact to muddy the waters and keep the American people who foot the bill for these fools from having a real accounting of where they are spending our money.
The only thing we can be sure of is that the really obnoxious and noisy teabagger types are proving to be extremely easy to corrupt. And that, to me, will be worth the price of admission if we manage to take back the House next year.
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George Soros is a world-renowned former billionaire hedge-fund manager and philanthropist. He co-founded the Quantum Fund in the 1970s with Jim Rogers, another world-famous investor. Soros' fame grew in 1992 when he made $1 billion by short-selling the pound sterling, speculating that the British government would be forced to devalue the currency. He became known as "The Man Who Broke the Bank of England."
Unlike his former partner Jim Rogers, who is credited with anticipating the commodity boom that started in the late 1990s and who is keeping his gold, Soros has been selling a lot of gold. The moves speak volumes. He believes gold is in a bubble and he'd rather sell before everybody else catches . . . → Read More: 5 Reasons George Soros is WRONG about Gold
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