Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Universe In Numbers

U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Brendan James over at TPM:
Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power. 
Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters. 
"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence." 
As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first. 
The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's ruling onMcCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.
"Ordinary citizens," they write, "might often be observed to 'win' (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail."
Paul Krugman has more:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Does a Higher Minimum Wage Reduce Jobs?


Over 600 Economists Sign Letter In Support of $10.10 Minimum Wage: Economist Statement on the Federal Minimum Wage | Economic Policy Institute:
 The increase to $10.10 would mean that minimum-wage workers who work full time, full year would see a raise from their current salary of roughly $15,000 to roughly $21,000. These proposals also usefully raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the regular minimum.
This policy would directly provide higher wages for close to 17 million workers by 2016. Furthermore, another 11 million workers whose wages are just above the new minimum would likely see a wage increase through “spillover” effects, as employers adjust their internal wage ladders. The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet. At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers. 
In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.

Also see:  Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment? 

Nomi Prins on Secret History of Washington-Wall Street Collusion

U.S. Loans 500 Million Dollars to Tunisia



Also read: Tunisia has made strides in Democratic Transition: Can it get the Economy Right? | Informed Comment 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Media drops the ball on the ACA; conservatives forget they love it; Paul Ryan is a very serious person....

Dean Baker has a run down:The Washington Post is Confused About Obamacare, People With Insurance Benefit Too:
The Washington Post is still having a hard time understanding Obamacare. It repeated the silliness about the exchanges needing young people to sign up. (The issue is health, not age, as we have been trying to explain to elite reporters for years.)A front page article on the political impact of Obamacare told readers:
"Still, Democrats may be disappointed if they expect the newly insured to emerge as a politically powerful constituency, as senior citizens did for Medicare. Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, said polls suggest that nine of 10 people who vote in midterm elections are insured. Thus, they are unlikely to benefit from the law."
This is not true. Just as tens of millions of people who file no claims in the course of a year benefit from having insurance, the people who already have insurance benefit from Obamacare. They now are in a situation where if they lose their job or decide to quit they will still be able to get insurance. That was not previously true, especially if a worker or someone in their family has a serious medical condition. 
The political benefit of this ability to buy insurance outside of employment will depend on the extent to which people are aware of it. Insofar as major media outlets try to hide what is arguably the most important feature of Obamacare, it will not benefit the Democrats politically. However that is a function of media coverage of the law, not the law itself.


Lots of nonsense is floating about in regards to the ACA. Every Republican politician I know is against; and for all the things in the ACA that poll well with people.  Fact is, it was the Republicans idea before a black guy in the White House was pragmatic enough to implement it conservative insurance reform rather than push for singlepayer.  Obamacare is the replacement for  the ACA if Republicans want to repeal and replace without creating a singlepayer system.

Paul Krugman has more: ObamaCare, the unknown ideal.
No, I haven’t lost my mind — or suddenly become an Ayn Rand disciple. It’s not my ideal; in a better world I’d call for single-payer, and a significant role for the government in directly providing care.
But Ross Douthat, in the course of realistically warning his fellow conservatives that Obamacare doesn’t seem to be collapsing, goes on to tell them that they’re going to have to come up with a serious alternative.
But Obamacare IS the conservative alternative, and not just because it was originally devised at the Heritage Foundation. It’s what a health-care system that does what even conservatives say they want, like making sure that people with preexisting conditions can get coverage, has to look like if it isn’t single-payer.
I don’t really think one more repetition of the logic will convince many people, but here we go again. Suppose you want preexisting conditions covered. Then you have to impose community rating — insurers must offer the same policies to people regardless of medical history. But just doing that causes a death spiral, because people wait until they’re sick to buy insurance. So you also have to have a mandate, requiring healthy people to join the risk pool. And to make buying insurance possible for people with lower incomes, you have to have subsidies.
And what you’ve just defined are the essentials of ObamaRomneyCare. It’s a three-legged stool that needs all three legs. If you want to cover preexisting conditions, you must have the mandate; if you want the mandate, you must have subsidies. If you think there’s some magic market-based solution that obviates the stuff conservatives don’t like while preserving the stuff they like, you’re deluding yourself.
What this means in practice is that any notion that Republicans will go beyond trying to sabotage the law and come up with an alternative is fantasy. Again, Obamacare is the conservative alternative, and you can’t move further right without doing no reform at all.
Nevertheless, on a similar note Paul Ryan is a very serious person because #urgleburgle....

Paul Ryan's Budget: Take From The Poor, Sick, and Elderly | Demos