So, I went through the alphabet to see what sites came up, and what they might say about me.
I've listed them below, so you can pay psychologist:
Tier 2 workers' benefits cost about 7 percent of their pay, but they contribute 9.4 percent toward their retirement. Veteran workers, on the other hand, also contribute 9.4 percent of their pay, but their benefits tend to cost more than 14 percent, teachers retirement fund analysts said.So, it's hard to feel much sympathy for the legislators.
"Right now, a Tier 2 member pays for more than the cost of their benefit," Ingram said. "We're subsidizing the state's pay down of the unfunded liability."
Different ages, family composition, income levels, and location will produce different outcomes that I am sure advocates and critics will use to come up with one study and example after another to make their arguments further complicating the Republican's ability to make voters comfortable with their plan.Furthermore, there's the general issue about any plan, in terms of what the actual finances will be in, say, 2025. That's a mystery with Obamacare, once the subsidies settle in and there's actual costs and the subsidies to insurers go away. Is the Obamacare structure financially viable, or just some financial house of cards overall?
Keep it simple. Complicated financial strategies and investments are mostly designed to enrich managers and salesmen. A simple, diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds, rebalanced yearly, will do just fine—if not better.If you don't understand it, don't buy it.
Never buy a lottery ticket. The lottery runs a profit, which means the players run a loss. And a study once found that the people who won ended up no happier than those who lost.What never?
Hobby Lobby is arguing that the Affordable Care Act should not require the company to cover birth-control in its employer-provided health insurance because it conflicts with the Christian owners' religious beliefs.
Most of the coverage has looked at this as a religious rights issue, or treated it as an opportunity for satire (the Daily Show being a prime example).
I seems to me that the real issue is a lot different. Why are corporate employers involved with health care in the first place? And what’s the path to getting them out.
How they go there is no mystery. During the post-WWII labor shortages, health insurance got added as an employee benefit by large corporations in order to compete. Medical costs were a lot lower, and group coverage was cheaper (because of the low sales costs), so this seemed like a win-win-win for the corporation, the health insurer, and the employee. The amount of coverage varied widely from employer to employer. For example, some covered maternity and some didn’t.
As health care costs rose all out of proportion to the rest of the economy, these costs became a burden to everyone (except the insurance industry and the health care corporations themselves). But due to the tax laws it didn’t make sense for the employer to just give the money to the employee and let them buy health care on their own.
The Affordable Care Act then took this relationship farther – legislating what employees needed to be covered and legislating a high set of minimum benefit. Now, with all that governmental intervention, health care doesn’t look so much like a fringe benefit being provided by an employer and more like any other tax – money that goes out, where the government determines how it will be spent on what (Consider: would I have wanted to pay for the second Gulf War or the war in Afghanistan with MY tax money?)
And the group rates issue can be handled by the ACA exchange function (OK, pause for laughter here. But they are supposed to serve this function for those who aren’t covered by an employer.)
So, given this, why do we need to have the employers involved at all?
Should we not, instead, just change the tax status of health care so an employer could just provide money toward health care, but let the employee make the decision on how to be covered? If they want a policy that covers acupuncture, let them buy it. If they don’t, let them buy a policy without it. If the government (unwisely) decides acupuncture must be covered, at least the employer isn’t involved.
This, of course, avoids the whole Hobby Lobby can of worms with employers’ beliefs and attitudes. It’s easy to make fun of the particular beliefs of the owners of Hobby Lobby because I don’t agree with them (and, in fact, wonder if they are sincere or just agreeing to serve as a test case). But no matter, let’s avoid the whole issue and get my employer out of my health care.
I’ve blogged several times on the financial crisis around the state of Illinois’s long-term tendency to promise pension benefits but not fund them.
So, a few months ago, they passed a pension reform bill. Shouldn’t I be happy now?
No. I think there’s a good chance this is just more theatre.
1. I haven’t seen an actuarial study that indicates this reform will actually solve the problem. The reform was pushed through in almost a star-chamber manner with little information about it ahead of the vote – even for legislators – and certainly not enough time for careful study. So they didn’t know it would work when then voted for it.
2. After several months, I haven’t seen such an actuarial study.
3. There are, of course, lawsuits filed by interested parties. The reform bill seems unconstitutional on its face, since the Illinois constitution states:
SECTION 5. PENSION AND RETIREMENT RIGHTS
Membership in any pension or retirement system of the
State, any unit of local government or school district, or
any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an
enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which
shall not be diminished or impaired.
4. About the only thing working in favor of the judges ignoring the clear language of the constitution is (1) as Madigan noted, many of the judges are his political allies, and (2) the pension reform deliberately does not cut the benefits of judges.
Madigan … believes "at least four members of the Illinois Supreme Court that will approve the bill." Snickering, arrogant Madigan said this about not including judges in the bill: "That's a practical judgment that was made. No further comment."
5. The court does not have to rule with any particular timing; the law is scheduled to take effect in June, 2014, but they could easily defer that until the case is settled. So they can wait until after the November elections to rule, and probably would want to avoid such a hot button issue in what will probably be a very dirty campaign for governor.
6. So, my prediction is that they will rule against the pension reform bill after the November, 2014 gubernatorial election – putting us back where we were years ago, but with the financing problem having compounded since then.
I’ve been watching “Cosmos”, and so the idea of life on other world is something I’ve been thinking about.
Titan, for example, might have methane-based life, rather than water-based life. And that life might look very different. Most “life” on earth is pretty similar – e.g. the DNA for handling the digestion of sugars is evidently the same in oak trees as in humans.
Raising the interesting question: if we found “life”, would it be “life”, or something so different than “life” wouldn’t make sense?
For example, we aren’t that far from having machines that can replicate themselves (e.g. print new copies of themselves, and have robots assemble the parts. So it’s possible to imagine a community of machines self-sustaining community of machines without human intervention. (I know, we still have to mine, refine, etc.) Would we consider this community of machines “living” in any sense resembling our own?
And how about self-replicating molecules, such as proteins outside of living cells?
It is likely that when we find something, it will be stranger than we can now imagine.
Plasma as an example
When I was in school – and even when They Might be Giants did that science song – there were three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Surprise, there are four – we need to add plasma to that list. And there’s a lot of plasma. The sun is plasma, and it’s larger than all the planets put together. The sun isn’t a ball of hot gasses, but a ball of plasma.
We could not even has imagined plasma until the 20th century. We needed to understand ionization and to be able to technologically produce plasma in the lab for study.
The results aren't surprising. What is surprising is that the Planet Money team investigated 74,476 pizzas from 3,678 pizza places around the country. That sounds like overkill. Maybe I'm giving too much my public ratio station.
This appeared in my in-box at the university today:
Yes, that’s it. This is an organization I’ve never heard of, and certainly the alphabet soup in the email isn’t much help. My guess is that this is some form of scam; this makes me curious about how this scam might work, but not curious enough to reply!
That’s not a live link; I’m not shilling for Ace (although my local Ace on Waukegan Rd in Glenview has been a big factor in enabling me to maintain my >100 year old house over the last 30 years).
It seems so wrong to have a four-day National Battery Day. Why not make it National Battery Week? Maybe the batteries don’t last that long?
Today’s fun fact: 7 is the only prime number followed by a cube (2^3 = 8)
[Tom] Perkins, a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in January wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he said the public's turn against the rich represents a "dangerous rift" in America and compares such progressive radicalism to the German Kristallnacht.
"I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its '1 percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American 1 percent, namely the 'rich,'" he wrote.
To which Sam Zell added:
"The 1 percent are getting pummeled because it's politically convenient to do so," Zell said, an interview Wednesday on Bloomberg Television’s "In the Loop" with Betty Liu.
People "should not talk about envy of the 1 percent, they should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder, the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society."
Do the 1% work harder? Well, probably the ones who made a substantial amount of that money themselves, as Zell did. Zell probably works harder than most people.
But are the 1% getting pummeled?
The top federal tax bracket is 35%.
It was about 40% in the 1990s.
It was about 50% in the 1980s.
It was about 70% in the 1960s.
It was 92% in 1952.
It’s hard to say that a long term trend of mostly lowering the top tax brackets means the top 1% is being pummeled.
Not much evidence of pummeling anywhere that I can see.
Whining, yet. Pummeling, no.