So What’s Going On With Obamacare?

NOTE: This video was recorded before Donald Trump’s election, which has likely changed the course of the Affordable Care Act going forward. But these comments are on the ACA as it now stands. 

Libertarian magazine Reason interviewed its features editor, Peter Suderman, about the status of the Affordable Care Act. He explains how the rising prices will impact consumers and taxpayers. Is this Obamacare’s “death spiral?”

Corporate Tax Reform Would Benefit Nation, Workers

Abstract View of Urban Scene and Skyscrapers

Lawmakers and candidates on all sides of the political spectrum acknowledge reforming America’s corporate tax rate is overdue. President Obama has even suggested reducing the rate from 35% to 28%. Writing for Reason, Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center sums up the necessity for this, concluding it’s an optimal way to benefit both businesses and the workforce:

Even such high-tax nations as France have lower rates. However, the real competition comes from Canada (26.1 percent), Denmark (25 percent), the United Kingdom (20 percent) and the many countries, such as Ireland (12.5 percent), with rates below 20 percent. Moreover, competition is intensifying. Last June, the U.K. announced that it would cut its rate from 20 percent to 18 percent in the next five years. It’s now saying that it will lower the rate even further, to 17 percent. These reductions are the final stage of drastic cuts implemented since 2007, when the country’s companies faced a 30 percent tax rate. That’s a second wave of reduction since the rate was as high as 54 percent in the 1980s.

Now contrast this with the United States. In the 1980s, policymakers responded to the pressure put on by many countries lowering their corporate rates by decreasing America’s rate from 49.7 percent to 33 percent. However, since then, the U.S. has fallen asleep on the switch (and even raised the rate by 1 percentage point in the 1990s) and is now widely out of sync with internal competition. In 2015, the average corporate rate for countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was 25 percent, down from 48 percent in the early 1980s.

As if that were not enough competition for American companies, the U.S. government burdens them with another layer by taxing them on a worldwide basis. In that system, income from American companies is subject to U.S. taxes whether it’s earned in Seattle, Paris or Singapore. By contrast, most wealthy countries don’t tax foreign business income; about half of OECD nations have “territorial” systems that tax firms only on domestic income. In other words, U.S. exporters face a much less competitive tax system than most of their biggest competitors…

Not everyone would like to reduce taxes on corporations, but everyone should. The data show that most of the corporate tax burden is actually shifted to workers, who end up shouldering the tax in the form of lower wages. With the U.K. taking further measures to reduce its burden on corporations, boosting its workers’ wages and inflicting yet another blow to U.S. competitiveness, Congress should do what’s right by reforming the corporate tax. It may be the one bipartisan issue out there. All we need is leadership.

Three Strikes, Virginians are Out (of Options)

Usually the only time you see three red X’s in a row is if you’re watching "Family Feud" and the family up to bat just struck out.

This time, however, a newspaper in Virginia has used the symbols to declare their endorsement of gubernatorial candidates. As in: none of them. Not the Republican candidate, current Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; not the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe; and not the Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.

It’s a first for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which recently outlined in an editorial the newspaper’s move not to endorse anyone in the upcoming race for the state’s highest office. The reasons the editorial board gave were broad: for instance, “The major-party candidates have earned the citizenry’s derision. The third-party alternative has run a more exemplary race yet does not qualify as a suitable option. We cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate for governor.”

Read the full editorial for more on the three candidates in the race and the newspaper’s decision.

There are a few themes, however, in the article that are worth highlighting. One such theme: the Democratic candidate lost out on the nomination for the same office years prior, when he and his opponent “spent the campaign spitting on each other.” For that reason, the editorial board notes that he “is not the conciliator necessary in times as nasty as these.”

Hear that refrain that is so prevalent on the national level these days? Refusing to compromise for the greater good – it sounds so familiar.

Then there’s the take on the Republican candidate. The newspaper takes issue, offense actually, at the man’s social issues, such as abortion and homosexual rights. The focus on social issues is also a common source of frustration for the (increasing number of) Americans that consider themselves moderates.

“Cuccinelli’s hostility to marriage equality offends. The rights applying to human beings by definition apply to homosexuals. The concerns relating to Cuccinelli do not relate to McAuliffe and Sarvis.”  

And then there’s the Libertarian candidate. The newspaper notes that he has no experience that would parlay into a governorship of a state (even though the candidate was kept from participating in any of the televised debates so far, so how he stacks up against the other two is mostly a mystery). Instead, the editorial goes on to mention that it takes issue with the libertarian ideology and that the candidate would “be in over his head.”

Smart political candidates will take heed of this clear example of what Americans are fed up with and stay away from the paltriness, pigheadedness and cronyism that is so prevalent in politics these days.

All I can say is: Good luck, Virginia. 

Learning Lessons from Teach for America

Teach for America has made a significant impact in Indiana and in states across the country. The now nearly 25-year effort to bolster the teaching profession has adapted to changes in the education landscape and earned the support of lawmakers through proven results. Heartland reports:

As shifting employment opportunities and reform movements alter the U.S. education landscape, one organization has received steadily increasing support from lawmakers.

Teach for America (TFA) began as Wendy Kopp’s senior thesis in 1989. A Princeton University undergraduate, Kopp wanted to improve poverty-stricken urban schools by recruiting young, enthusiastic, and persistent college-educated adults into education. In 1990, 500 new college grads joined the first TFA class as teachers who bypassed traditional teacher education.

Kopp started “a Peace Corps for urban education,” said Alan Borsuk, a senior fellow at Marquette University Law School. “There was a much bigger need then for a shot in the arm for urban teaching, a lot of jobs open, and it tapped into a realistic [desire] that college grads had that they wanted to do something to help.”

Now TFA is active in almost half the states, this year supporting more than 10,000 young teachers. Donations provide 70 percent of TFA’s income, with governments picking up the other 30 percent. TFA recruits heavily from Ivy League and top-rated public universities, and was listed as one of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for in 2013. Corps members commit to a two-year stint in needy public schools.

Study Says
Teach for America has been controversial, however, because its teachers get good results from students with only a summer of teacher training before their two-year placement.

Studies in Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina have found students with TFA teachers learn as much as or more than those with traditional teachers.

Political Polls: This is Getting to be Ridiculous

Well this is just depressing: A third-party candidate for president was omitted from a presidential poll in North Carolina.

When I look at the two mainstream presidential candidates, I find that I have a hard time siding with either of them, so I am all for a third party coming in to shake up our political system and maybe work on behalf of the taxpayers instead of the political machine.

But that’s not the truly depressing part: Instead of asking a key voting state about all the candidates on the ballot (Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is indeed on the ballot in North Carolina), the poll from Public Policy Polling took the space and time to ask the question: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Honey Boo Boo?

Okay, for those of you who don’t have cable (that would be me), or don’t have time to tune into TLC (The Learning Channel, amusingly), Honey Boo Boo is apparently the nickname of a child pageant participant from Georgia (first seen on the channel’s "Toddlers & Tiaras" program), who has her very own show on TLC: "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

As I have never seen the show myself and don’t want you to have to search for it, here is what I can find on the Internet: “Star” of the show, Alana Thompson, is a seven-year-old beauty pageant contestant. Her mother regularly feeds her a mixture of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, fondly called “Go Go Juice” just before her pageants. And, even though the family resides in America, a good portion of the show is subtitled, due to the slang and thick accents of its cast.

So, let me break it down for you one more time. Instead of asking 1,084 potential North Carolina voters between October 12 and 14 about their opinion of the only third-party presidential candidate on the ballot, Public Policy Polling instead asked about their opinion of a seven-year-old reality television star from a different state.

WHAT?

I am not a political expert, so while I’m sure there is some over-arching reason for asking such a silly question, it just gives me even less heart about our political system. I’m flabbergasted that this is what it has come down to these days.

At least 50% of those responders were “not sure” (47% “unfavorable and 3% “favorable”). Oh, and the poll had Republican Mitt Romney with a small lead in the state over President Barack Obama, in case you cared.

Though, had the third party candidate been included, who knows what the results might have been?

Not a Fan of Romney or Obama? Third Party Candidates Offer Views in Debate

It’s been a while since a third party candidate has really made a splash in the presidential election. Ross Perot garnered 19% of the popular vote back in 1992, and many left-leaners fault Ralph Nader’s Green Party bid in 2000 for serving as the reason Al Gore lost the election — although the onus should probably fall on the Supreme Court for that. (Additionally, this year’s Green Party nominee, Harvard educated physician Jill Stein, was arrested for trying to get into the first presidential debate.) But frankly, my favorite third party candidate in American history would have to be former-President Theodore Roosevelt, when he ran for a second term with the progressive Bull Moose Party.

Unless Libertarian and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson gets a surprising chunk of the vote and potentially hinders Romney’s chances (although many libertarians scoff at the notion that those votes would otherwise go to a Republican), it’s doubtful third parties will make an impact this year. However, Larry King moderated a debate between them on Tuesday, and it’s worth noting.

The New York Times blog The Caucus reports:

The call by the liberals, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, for an end to the war on drugs was amplified by Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Mr. Johnson offered bona fides on the question: “I have drank alcohol, I have smoked marijuana” — though not anymore, he said. Even Virgil Goode of the conservative Constitution Party, who opposes legalization, said he would cut financing for federal drug enforcement in the name of closing the deficit.

But their passion and refusal to compromise on the principles that reflect their ideas of American democracy marked each person on stage. In an illustration of the circular nature of the political spectrum, the staunch liberals and small-government conservatives all firmly opposed the practice of indefinite detention without trial and said that the Pentagon’s budget should be cut as the United States takes a less aggressive posture.

“We cannot be the policemen of the world,” Mr. Goode said, followed shortly by Ms. Stein’s similar sentiment: “A foreign policy based on militarism and brute military force is making us less secure, not more secure.”

The particular set questions, submitted by social media and the event’s organizers, disproportionately addressed issues where the candidates’ views are alike. It took a question about the cost of college to reveal strong differences. Ms. Stein, a physician, and Mr. Anderson, a former Democrat and mayor of Salt Lake City, both said the government should provide free higher education. The right-leaning candidates both said they would cut Pell grants, Mr. Johnson reasoning that guaranteed government loans make universities “immune from pricing.”

And even Mr. Johnson and Mr. Goode had differences. The latter said he would cut off immigration until the unemployment rate dropped to 5 percent, while Mr. Johnson, a former New Mexico governor who unsuccessfully ran in the G.O.P. primary, wants to make it easier for immigrants to get work visas.

Both men have been seen as possible spoilers for Mitt Romney, and Mr. Goode seemed to particularly relish that potential. A former Virginia congressman, he overcame Republicans’ efforts to keep him off the ballot in that state, and he frequently contrasted his plans to cut the budget with the slower approach of the Republican ticket.

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.

Small Business Owners Send Clear Message in Poll

Small business owners are confident, but economic growth is not following due to too many regulations and concerns about energy prices. Those are among the results in the latest U.S. Chamber small business survey. More than eight in 10 respondents want Washington to "get out of the way."

Concerns about regulations and energy prices continue to impede growth for small businesses, according to a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive between March 27 and April 2, 2012, found that while small business confidence grew in the first quarter of 2012, small businesses continue to lose employees. 30% of small businesses reported laying off employees in the last year.

“This survey confirms that slow gains in economic growth are being undermined by uncertainty over rising gas prices, an onslaught of pending regulations, and stalled pro-growth bills in Congress,”  said Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist. “To deliver long-term confidence to small businesses, Washington should act to provide certainty and enact regulatory reform that will boost their ability to grow.”

The poll of 1,339 small business executives found that eight out of ten of small business owners cite higher energy prices as an immediate threat to the success of their business. Concern about gas prices has more than doubled in the last three months, increasing from 10% to 24%. The majority of small businesses (78%) do not think the administration is doing enough to keep prices low, increase domestic sources of energy, or support American job creation. Additionally, three out of four (73%) say the new health care law is an obstacle to hiring new employees.

Overall small businesses see Washington as the problem instead of the solution, with 81% asking Washington to get out of the way and 92% believing the business community is the best entity to lead the economic recovery.

Almost all small business owners (97%) say it is important to vote for a candidate who is a strong supporter of free enterprise; 84% say it is very important. Only 9% of small business owners approve of the job the Democratic Senate Majority is doing on the economy; 87% disapprove. The House Republican majority’s approval rating on handling the economy has increased from 40% approval in January to 46% in April.

“Small business owners are increasingly demanding accountability from members of Congress on how they vote on the issues that impact their operations,” said the Chamber’s Senior Vice President and National Political Director Rob Engstrom. “We’re seeing small businesses unable to hire, or worse, forced to let employees go because of the Senate’s refusal to take up job-creating measures like domestic energy exploration and regulatory reform.”

The survey defined a small business as a company with fewer than 500 employees and annual revenues of less than $25 million.  To read a complete copy of the Q1 Small Business Outlook Survey, please visit: http://www.uschambersmallbusinessnation.com/community/small-business-outlook-survey—march-2012

Indiana Could be Factor in GOP Primary

Whether in support of Romney, Gingrich, or even Paul, Indiana Republicans and primary crossovers could play a key role in deciding who the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will be. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports how:

The early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be the center of the Republican Party’s world next month, but Indiana’s May 8 primary could prove more important.

Republican Party rule changes, penalties for early primary states, and candidates with enough money and supporters to remain in the race may all combine to give Indiana Republicans a taste of the campaign fun Democrats enjoyed in 2008.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is among the Hoosier Republicans rooting for a drawn-out nominating process.

"One can conjure a scenario … that might lead to a situation that’s still in play when May gets here, and that’d be terrific," Daniels said. "I thought it was so great when it mattered on the Democratic side last time."

Republicans changed their rules for awarding convention delegates last year hoping to capture the excitement Democrats had as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled for months to win the nomination in 2008.

As a result, most early primary states in 2012 will award convention delegates proportionately, based on a candidate’s share of the state’s primary vote, instead of winner-take-all.

In addition, five states that moved their primaries to before March 1 were penalized by the GOP and lost half their delegates.

That means the minimum 1,142 delegates needed for nomination won’t be selected until March 24 and no candidate is likely to win every one of them, putting later primary states with a lot of delegates, such as Indiana’s 46, in play.

Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Ron Paul, said the Texas congressman will strategically compete for delegates throughout the primary process.

"Our campaign has a comprehensive plan to win the delegates needed to either secure the nomination or enter into a brokered convention in Tampa," Benton told POLITICO.

The last time a Republican convention opened without the front-runner in control of enough delegates to win the nomination was 1976 when Ronald Reagan tried to wrest the GOP nomination from President Gerald Ford. Ford lost in the general election that year to Jimmy Carter.

Daniels, who briefly considered running for president earlier this year, believes a brokered convention might not be all bad, even though intra-party fights tend to turn off undecided general election voters.

"At a time when the country is facing just terribly consequential issues, if it led to a good healthy debate about not merely personalities but about what kind of program of change to bring to America, I could convince myself it’s not the worst outcome," Daniels said.

The term-limited governor said he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring at a brokered convention, but he’d enjoy watching it.

"I’ve always said the greatest spectator sport, forget the Super Bowl, if either party ever had a truly deliberative convention in the mini-camera world, it would be spectacular," Daniels said.

Not all Republicans believe the nomination will be up in the air when their convention begins Aug. 27.

Schererville Republican Dan Dumezich, who is leading Mitt Romney’s Indiana campaign, is confident the former Massachusetts governor will have the nomination locked up.

"I think we’re going to have an answer a lot sooner than most people think," Dumezich said. "I’m hoping we have one by January 31."