Paul vs. Paul: Popular Economic Minds Debate on Bloomberg TV

Ok economic enthusiasts (I’m careful not to say "geeks" here), here is your Super Bowl. Famed libertarian Rep. Ron Paul against popular economist, author and left-leaner Paul Krugman on Bloomberg TV yesterday. In the comments section, let us know who you think wins this debate (and why) on the Federal Reserve and government’s role in the American economy.

Our Statement on NLRB’s Push for Swifter Union Control Via Election Process

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has just approved a push for swifter union control through speedier elections that could occur within two to three weeks after filing a petition. Before the rule goes into effect, it will be drafted into final language for a subsequent NLRB vote within the next three weeks.

Comments from Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar on this development:

"This is yet another attempt by organized labor to abandon the historical democratic process within labor-management relations and tip the scales in favor of employees voting for a union. Currently, the average time it takes to have an election is 38 days. By cutting that time in half, unions are boldly trying to rob employers of their time to fully discuss the impact of unionizing their workplace.

"It all comes down to fairness. Employees need to be able to fully hear both sides of the union organizing argument, and then let them make an informed decision. What the NLRB is attempting is basically an ambush and once again illustrates the Board’s increasing abuse of power."

There are other concerning changes covered in the new rule, says Brinegar, including no pre-election appeals to the Board and any post-election review of issues would be strictly discretionary.

Background:
The NLRB has less than three weeks to finalize its recommendations since the Board loses its quorum of three members later in December, including one key supporter of the approved election changes. The Board’s vote on Wednesday was 2-1. There are up to five members in total on the Board at any one time.

The National Labor Relations Act provides employees with the right to form or join a union in order to collectively bargain with their employer. To be recognized by an employer, a union must demonstrate it has the support of a majority of the employees. Any union election process is supervised by the NLRB.

Businesses & Politicos, Keep Those Statements Grounded

Anyone following politics knows former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had a bumpy go of it last week. In response, his press secretary gave a rather "epic" statement to the Huffington Post. To be frank, it was a tad dramatic and a little… I don’t know… Spartanesque? While the commentary is remarkable in itself, it became downright poetic when read by actor John Lithgow on Comedy Central’s "The Colbert Report." (Hat tip to Ragan’s PR Daily.)

Senate Republicans Call for Withdrawal of NLRB Member

Forty-seven U.S. Senators have signed a letter to President Obama asking him to withdraw his nomination that put Craig Becker on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Notable signers include Richard Lugar, John McCain, Tom Coburn and Mitch McConnell, among many others.

Sworn in April of last year, Becker had served as associate general counsel to both the SEIU and AFL-CIO. The letter (linked below) points out that the Senate voted in opposition to his initial appointment, and argues he has done nothing to alleviate previously held concerns. The Senators contend Becker "has led the Board to re-open and reverse settled decisions, made discrete cases a launching point for broad changes to current labor law, and used an 18-year-old petition to initiate a rulemaking proposal that likely exceeds the Board’s statutory authority."

Here is the full letter — with signatures.

Hoosier Legislators Remark on State of Union

As is standard practice, Indiana’s congressmen and senators released their thoughts on last night’s State of the Union speech. Here are a few samples, courtesy of Inside INdiana Business:

Sen. Richard Lugar
“More jobs, now, in private industry are essential to strengthen our country. The President spoke of his strong interest in job creation, but his State of the Union address needs immediate follow-up with very specific proposals and personal negotiation to bring bi-partisan legislation and encouragement for all businesses that are prepared to hire more people. This is job number one for President Obama and the U.S. Congress.”

Rep. Andre Carson
“I hope my colleagues on the Republican side recognize that leadership is more than just slashing spending. It’s also recognizing the importance of making investments in areas that are crucial to keeping the United States at the forefront. The President has committed to cutting the deficit as well as improving resources for infrastructure, education and research. This approach is bold, necessary and one that I support.”

Rep. Todd Rokita:
The President’s proposals to freeze discretionary spending does not go far enough. Rokita told WIBC the federal government should follow Indiana’s lead. He says the state reverted to 2008 spending levels and then cut another 15 percent across the board.

Rep. Pete Visclosky
“President Obama made clear tonight, and I agree, that our nation’s economic security is a critical component of ensuring our broader national security. As we rebuild our nation’s economy, we must defend our existing industries, invest in our public infrastructure, and address the problem of our massive federal debt. Meeting these worthy goals can help ensure access to solid employment, expanded economic opportunities, and a good quality of life for residents of Northwest Indiana.”

Gov. Daniels Asks Feds Not to Trash State Health Program; Will they Listen?

Gov. Mitch Daniels recently sent a formal request to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking federal officials not to terminate the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan, which has many satisfied participants and 99% planning to renew their coverage, according to the state of Indiana.

The state has sent several letters to Health and Human Services representatives requesting answers to questions about utilizing HIP as the program to serve Indiana’s newly-eligible Medicaid recipients beginning 2014. So far, there has been no guidance.

Here is a link to the governor’s letter: http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Press/011411letter.pdf

Previous correspondence may be found at this link: http://www.in.gov/aca/2330.htm

Executive Order authorizes establishment of state healthcare exchange

The governor also has signed an executive order authorizing the Family and Social Services Administration to work with other state agencies to conditionally establish and operate a state-based healthcare benefit exchange. The steps taken will be preparatory only and do not connote a decision to put a state-run exchange in place.

According to Affordable Care Act (ACA), states are required to establish a health benefit exchange by January 1, 2014. The federal government will establish exchanges for states that have not made adequate progress by January 1, 2013.

The governor said it is in Hoosiers’ best interest to begin to put a framework in place. There has been little information or guidance from the White House about how a federally-based exchange would operate.

“The nation will be best served by the repeal of this expensive and unworkable law, or by its judicial overturn. But for now, there seems no alternative but to prepare for the possibility that Indiana will try to operate an exchange of some kind,” said Daniels.

Individuals and small businesses will use health exchanges to find, compare and enroll in health insurance plans and to obtain federal tax credits for premium expenses. It is estimated that at least 1.4 million Hoosiers will use the exchange; however, the numbers are likely to increase as businesses and individuals drop their existing health insurance to receive tax credits.

More on Illinois: Tax Until You Drop, And They Probably Will

We told you here two days ago that Illinois lawmakers were seriously considering tax increases of 75% on individual income and 49% on corporations. Well, good news for the residents of the land that might more closely resemble its nickname (Prairie State) in the coming years as those increases were lowered to 67% and 30%, respectively.

Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign the legislation to help stem an ever-growing budget deficit. The state anticipates it will raise an additional $6.5 billion in revenue in 2011. But do those projections take into account the companies and the families that will be fleeing for points near (Indiana) and far?

We hinted earlier that Indiana would need to be ready to roll out the welcome mat for those defectors. A brief conversation with someone from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (and public comments from Mitch Roob) confirmed that an aggressive marketing plan is in the works along with additional personnel in Northwest Indiana and focused efforts in Terre Haute, Evansville, etc.

The Tax Foundation reports the moves (if part of the 2011 evaluation) would drop the Illinois tax climate from No. 23 to No. 36. Indiana, by the way, is a solid No. 10.

Here’s the Tax Foundation brief on the impacts of the spend, spend, tax and spend some more plan in Illinois.

Angry Americans

Chris Cillizza of The Fix offers a post on recent findings that Americans are — get this — not happy with their government and the future of the country. Not too suprising, I suppose, as our past two presidential administrations haven’t exactly topped the approval charts. Not to bum you out over the holidays or anything, but there are some interesting thoughts and numbers here:

Americans are deeply pessimistic about the state of the country and its future, according to a series of new national polls, a negativity that puts politicians in a difficult place as they try to woo voters and keep hold on office.

In the  new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, the highest number in President Obama’s term to date. A similar 67 percent said the country was headed off on the wrong track in a Washington Post/ABC News survey released earlier this week.

New Pew data paints an even darker picture of Americans’ views about our current standing — particularly in regards the economy. Nearly nine in ten Americans say the current economic conditions are either "fair" or "poor" and there is an overwhelming sense that we as a country are losing ground.

Fully 67 percent of the sample said the country was "losing ground" on the budget deficit — today’s expected House vote on the tax cut compromise won’t help there — while 64 percent say ground is being lost on "cost of living". Two thirds (63 percent) said the country is losing ground on the "availability of good-paying jobs" and 58 percent said the same about the "rich-poor gap".

The numbers are startling and make clear the challenge before President Obama — or any politician — hoping to convince people that better days are indeed ahead.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff said that the overall pessimism is intertwined with the state of the economy, noting that more people in the NBC/WSJ poll said that the economic recession was the issue that has impacted them most this decade — more so than even the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The only things that would significantly change the right direction number is a substantially better economy or an event like 9/11 that rallied the country," added McInturff.

Barring that, what’s a politician to do?

Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster, said consistency is the key to surviving the country’s bout with pessimism. "Once [politicians] decide upon the best policy/solutions, they need to spend more time than ever before in making sure the public is invested and are continually kept informed," said Yang. "Leadership is about good government, but it is also about communicating good government effectively."

That sort of constant education effort takes time — and money out of campaign coffers. But, with Americans seemingly ready to believe the worst about just about everything, it may be an elected official’s only path back to office in the coming months and years.

Pelosi Survives as Dem Leader

As was expected, Nancy Pelosi retained her post as Democratic House Leader yesterday by a vote of 150-43 over Blue Dog Heath Shuler. See a full Politico article and video of Shuler’s takeaways from the vote here.

Pelosi’s win as Democratic leader was expected, but the bumpy ride was perhaps the greatest challenge to her authority since she claimed the speaker’s gavel four years ago. Pelosi defeated conservative North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler, who ran for minority leader saying, “We need to include others in leadership.”

Pelosi’s victory all but assures that the Democratic leadership team will remain intact despite a historic loss of at least 61 seats in the Nov. 2 election. Several moderate lawmakers in the anti-Pelosi camp used two days of private meetings to vent their frustrations, and in some cases blame Pelosi for the heavy Democratic losses. (See: Democrats in chaos over Nancy Pelosi’s power)

Separately, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who declined to challenge Pelosi for minority leader, was elected minority whip by acclamation on a quick voice vote.

"She is the face that defeated us in this last election," said Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), who lost reelection on Nov. 2. “The truth is Nancy Pelosi’s season has passed, and she’s the face of the defeat two weeks ago at the polls.”

Three Democrats in the Shuler camp — Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Larry Kissell of North Carolina — have already vowed to vote against Pelosi on the House floor in January.

Shuler was surprised he did as well as he did; the 43 votes represent more than 20 percent of the Democratic caucus.

Key 2008 Voters Moving to Sidelines?

Young voters, critical to the outcome of the 2008 presidential vote, may be sitting it out for the most part this time around. So says the latest poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics.

The reason: They voted for change and they haven’t seen the results.

Just 27 percent of Millennials — 18-to-29-year-old voters — say they will definitely vote this year. That’s down from 36 percent who said a year ago that they were likely to vote in this year’s elections. And it’s way down from the 51 percent of Millennials who voted in 2008.

John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director, blamed the enthusiasm drop on first-time voters’ sky-high expectations of the president and economic woes.

"The expectations among young people have not been met relative to what they were thinking was going to be quick change," he said. "This isn’t just college students, this is an entire generation, and in many states the unemployment rates for this generation are twice as high as the overall unemployment rate. They don’t see the efficacy of voting relative to 2008 and 2006."