By this time, if you follow politics at all, chances are you’ve heard a lot about the farm bill. Passed Tuesday, this bill represents nearly $1 trillion in new spending, with typical promises for paltry reform over the next decade.
At risk of presumption, the problems with the farm portion are rather obvious. It’s no surprise that 85% of economists from across the ideological spectrum oppose farm subsidies. It seems commonly accepted that the “farm bill” long ago ceased to be a temporary relief for struggling family farmers and has instead become a hefty bonus check for some of the biggest corporate agriculture. For example, the richest farmers get the most subsidies, and just three firms received the most in sugar subsidies last year. And Tuesday’s bill did little to address these issues.
A program so misguided is easy to attack. But unfortunately, the farm portion is a very small part of the “farm” bill. And the other part backs people who want to save the next generation from massive debt into quite a tough corner.
It’s tough being a smarty-pants, know-it-all, dismissive-of-logic-in-favor-of-groupthink, 25-35 year old true believer in Hope and Change this holiday season. Because that conservative and close-minded family of yours is about to hammer you at the Thanksgiving table over Obamacare, and it’s going to be hard to hear — and we know how difficult hard things are for you to hear.
But chin up little camper! The machine you believe in has some talking points to toss around in response — with your trademark false intellectual snobbery and Kruschev-like, self-righteous table pounding — when grandpa starts in on what a wreck that new healthcare system has turned out to be. And, lucky for you, there’s no thinking required at all. Just memorization and regurgitation. A common core of policy response, if you will. The Huffington Post makes it easier for you by including all those .gifs you like, and using some of your vernacular.
Emily: GOP Governors are largely responsible for the struggling health care rollout in the first place. And Democrats are wimps, so that’s not a surprise to anybody.
Back in 2012, President Obama gave a speech in Roanoke, Virginia wherein he uttered some now famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) words:
…look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something—there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Covered less — although not that much less in conservative and libertarian circles — was another statement he made in the same speech: his proposition that the wealthy “pay a little bit more” in taxes to “give something back”.
ObamaCare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is a bad idea, according to a recent study carried out by researchers at Stanford University.
The report indicates that ObamaCare could cost much more than previous estimates. According to the study, employers may choose to drop worker health coverage once ObamaCare kicks in. That’s because the employer may find it more affordable to let employees obtain their own health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, which places households with an income that falls anywhere between 133 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line in a group that may be benefited by publicly funded subsidies.
Once the number of people depending on publicly funded subsidies for health coverage goes up, the law becomes more costly to maintain.
The study also determined that about 37 million people could end up benefitting once the law is implemented, since employers would then give workers cash instead of paying for their health care coverage. By switching, employees could save by simply obtaining help from the government to get subsidized coverage, which is guaranteed by the exchanges.
While some households could benefit from that system, the law could be more costly to sustain, causing the Affordable Care Act to cost about $132 billion more than what was expected.
According to the study, an even greater number of employees could benefit from being dropped by their employers if premiums rise unexpectedly, which would add 2.25 million of people to the list of individuals receiving subsidized health coverage. Over 2 million people added to this list would increase the overall cost of the law by $6.7 billion.
ObamaCare’s employer mandate may have been delayed until 2015, but its disastrous effects on the price of labor are still being felt throughout the country. Now we have a new prime (and hilarious) example of its inevitable market distortions. Much of the budding bureaucracy being hired in a California ObamaCare call center inform eager entitlement-seekers how to access the new ObamaCare dole will be working under 30 hours/week. Of course this hiring policy is designed to avoid, of all things, ObamaCare.
Earlier this year, Contra Costa County won the right to run a health care call center, where workers will answer questions to help implement the president’s Affordable Care Act. Area politicians called the 200-plus jobs it would bring to the region an economic coup.
Now, with two months to go before the Concord operation opens to serve the public, information has surfaced that about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits — a stinging disappointment to workers and local politicians who believed the positions would be full-time.
The Contra Costa County supervisor whose district includes the call center called the whole hiring process — which attracted about 7,000 applicants — a “comedy of errors.”
With pressure in the Senate to pass the Farm Bill this week (they approved cloture this morning) and showmanship killing any consideration of further amendments, things aren’t looking good for reformers. This leaves taxpayers on the hook for an expanded crop insurance program with incredibly few taxpayer protections built in.
The Senate lauds this as progress, claiming $24 billion in savings over ten years. But a simple breakdown makes it clear that these supposed savings will never be realized. Luckily, the American Enterprise Institute has a great infographic presenting the numbers as they are likely to look over the next ten years. Instead of finding $24.4 billion in savings, the AEI graphic shows $31.2 billion of increased spending, which they rightly term a “bait-and-switch” for the taxpayer.
So where do these costs come from? The answer is the Agriculture Risk Coverage provision, a proposed “shallow loss” program that would make up the difference for revenue not covered by crop insurance. The program works with crop insurance to guarantee revenues, basically ensuring farmers 89 percent of their average revenue over the last five years. So if prices fall or your yield decreases, ARC will smooth over the difference.
Written by K. William Watson, trade policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Herbert A Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Do you remember the 112th Congress—the one that repeatedly almost shut down the government while still managing to raise taxes and spending? It turns out they did some interesting things with trade policy. The votes recorded in Cato’s congressional trade votes database have been counted, tabulated, and analyzed, and the results are mixed. The predictable legislative outcome was that with a Republican House and Democratic Senate, the 112th Congress furthered the bipartisan establishment trade policy of reciprocal tariff reduction and unilateral subsidy expansion.
The more interesting revelations come from looking at the voting records of individual members. Rather than simply noting whether a policy would promote or diminish free trade or would increase or decrease America’s engagement in the global economy, Cato’s Free Trade, Free Markets methodology distinguishes between barriers (like tariffs and quotas) and subsidies (like loan guarantees, tax credits, and price supports). This distinction enables us to place members within a two-dimensional matrix.
Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
When it comes to reporting on the Small Business Administration, it seems to me that most journalists simply assume that if a government agency exists to “help” small businesses then it must be good. So I was pleased to read a weekend piece from two investigative journalists with the Dayton Daily News that challenges the conventional wisdom on the SBA.
As the reporters explain, the SBA’s main job is to back loans issued by private lenders to small businesses that couldn’t get financing on market terms. The result is that taxpayers end up holding the bag when these naturally riskier loans go bad.
And quite a few go bad as this Cato essay on the Small Business Administration explains.
Lenders have little skin in the game so for them it’s heads they win, tails they win. Thus it was shocking – absolutely shocking – that a representative from the SBA and the head of the Ohio Bankers Association provided the reporters with the most favorable quotes.
The entire piece is worth reading, but the authors did a particularly good job of turning the spotlight on the racket that exists between the SBA, lenders, and national franchisors:
Let’s put aside for a minute that ObamaCare is unconstitutional, adds $6.2 trillion in debt, piles on countless new taxes, and has already racked up $31 billion and 71.5 million hours in regulatory compliance costs. Yes, that’s a lot to put aside. But for just a moment assume the role of a liberal with an entitlement mentality. For a law with enormous riches and political capital invested in it, wouldn’t you expect it to at least function on its most basic level consistent with its namesake? In other words, you would expect for the Affordable Care Act to provide affordable coverage.
The latest of ObamaCare’s fundamental flaws to be euphemistically reported as a “glitch” that needs to be “tweaked” is its failure to provide affordable family coverage for a broad group of employees. As a result, Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 3.9 million family dependents may not be able to afford employer-sponsored family coverage or receive subsidized coverage on an ObamaCare exchange.
Understanding the family glitch requires a quick primer on the byzantine regulatory structure governing Obamacare’s subsidies:
Seemingly in response to this letter from Chairmans Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dave Camp (R-MI) on January 29 to the Treasury and IRS, on February 1, the IRS again finalized the Obamacare subsidy regulations that flagrantly deviate from the statutory authority. This issue continues to simmer relatively under the radar since I last wrote about it in August. To refresh everyone’s memory, Obamacare’s core redistributionist provisions are its refundable premium tax credits and cost sharing subsidies available for individuals to purchase coverage on state exchanges starting in 2014. The credits will be available to anyone with annual income under 400% of the federal poverty line who isn’t covered under an employer-sponsored plan. To put that in perspective, a family of four today earning up to $92,200 per year would be eligible for the credits.
Federal Exchanges Excluded
Here’s the kicker: Obamacare specifically limits these credits and subsidies to individuals who purchase coverage on an exchange established by the state. Below is the actual, unambiguous provision from PPACA [emphasis added]: