Tag Archives: Health Care

Elections Have Consequences

It’s simple, really.  When there is an incentive to save money, there should be no surprise that incentives will drive behavior.  Consider Community College of Allegheny County:

To Community College of Allegheny County’s president, Alex Johnson, cutting hours for some 400 temporary part-time workers to avoid providing health insurance coverage for them under the impending Affordable Health Care Act is purely a cost-saving measure at a time the college faces a funding reduction.

But to some of the employees affected, including 200 adjunct faculty members, the decision smacks of an attempt to circumvent the national health care legislation that goes into effect in January 2014.

“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said Adam Davis, an adjunct professor who has taught biology at CCAC since 2005.

Temporary part-time employees received an email notice from Mr. Johnson on Tuesday informing them that the new health care act defines full-time employees as those working 30 hours or more per week.

As a result, the college as of Dec. 31 will reduce temporary part-time employee hours to 25 per week. For adjuncts, the workload limit will be reduced from 12 to 10 credits per semester.

The decision affects only temporary part-time employees and not permanent part-time employees who already are eligible to participate in the college’s health care plan.

My hope is that the folks impacted voted for Obama; you should reap the rewards of the decisions you make.

But that’s not all:

Darden Restaurants Inc. — parent of the Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Capital Grille eateries in Colorado and elsewhere — is cutting back hours of workers at some of its locations in an apparent effort to reduce insurance costs related to the new health-care reform law.

The Orlando, Fla., Sentinel newspaper reports that the Orlando-based company (NYSE: DRI) “has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in at least a few” of its locations.

The Sentinel quotes the company as saying it plans to limit employees at some restaurants in four unidentified markets to 28 hours a week. Darden said the move is intended “to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business.”

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the health-reform law that some call Obamacare, companies with at least 50 employees must provide health insurance, starting in 2014, to all those who work at least 30 hours a week. Those that don’t will pay a penalty.

I suspect that this will play out across America more and more.  As the ramifications of electing Obama continue to see the light of day, more and more we are going to see this reaction by business.  Fewer people hired, higher ratios hired as part time employees, more efforts to drive productivity by more and more automation.

It really is important to understand that there really aren’t solutions; only tradeoffs.

Want healthcare?  Lose jobs.  Sacrifice growth, accept higher unemployment.

If you voted for Obama, this is on you.  This is what you wanted, this is what you explicitly put into motion.

We warned you.


Walmart Wants To Pay People More

So, I’ve already commented on the fact that a union decided that a 100% pay cut was better than an 8% pay cut.

I don’t get it, but hey, maybe the principle behind the whole thing mattered.

Then I hear of the story of Walmart workers who are mad at the prospect of making more money:

Along with Target and Sears, Wal-Mart has plans to open retail stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Employees said they weren’t given a choice as to whether they would work on Thanksgiving and were told to do so with little warning. “They don’t care about family,” said Charlene Fletcher, a Wal-Mart associate in Duarte, Calif. She said she is expected to report for work at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The workers said that when they complain about scheduling and other problems, management cuts their hours or fires people.

I make a decent living.  In fact, I suspect I’m in the top 10% of Americans in terms of salary.  I enjoy the benefits of this condition.  However, there are sacrifices I have to make:

  1. When I got married, my wife and I stayed at a beach house.  I brought my laptop and was working everyday during my honeymoon.
  2. No matter where I go or what time it is,  I have my cell phone and am available night and day.  I often get called.
  3. Never, EVER, in my career have I let my management ever get the slightest inclination that I was a guy who would turn down work or responsibility.
  4. I remember a time when I worked 47 days straight, right through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Every. Single. Day.
  5. If all goes well, I’m on a plane right now to Puerto Rico for a weeks vacation with family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  My laptop is in my luggage; I’ll work every day.

I don’t get it.  I don’t get the concept that says that hard work doesn’t pay off.  That sacrifice doesn’t lead to rewards.  I don’t understand how people who want money are resistant to working to earn more money.

Or at least I didn’t understand.

I saw a Facebook post recently regarding the strike at Hostess and the totally shocking result of the closing of the business.  One of the comments went something like this:

If they strike and  get released, at least they’ll get 100 weeks of unemployment.

I added that they would also now get free healthcare.

And that reminded me of this:

More and more these people don’t need jobs.  If they lose their job they’ll get unemployment for nearly 2 years.  Plenty of time to work something out.  Further, with the election of Obama, they are sure to get free healthcare as well.

Literally, what is it that would incent these people to work?  If they lose their jobs, what really is the downside?  How much would they net lose?

What kind of perverse incentives are we building into our society?



Education Reform In America: A Critique I Resonate With

While I don’t think that I’m alone in  my call that America’s educational system is in trouble I do find myself in the minority when it comes to ideas for possible reform.  Included in my list of ideas are:

  1. Reducing the power of teacher’s unions.
  2. Merit pay -merit pay is paying the good teachers more, not offering bonuses for targets-.
  3. Firing poor performing teachers.
  4. Continuing the public funding of education but allow the money to follow the backpack; public or private.

I’d imagine that for those that know me, this list isn’t shocking.  It might be cringe worthy, but not out of line for how I think.  For those that don’t know me, the list reads like the regular right-wing scree seen everywhere.

Whatever you think of the list, in favor or against, that list isn’t the point.  The point is that the traditional view of America’s performance is being taken to task  by Diane Ravitch in her recent CNN article:

It’s time to set the record straight. The only valid measure of academic performance in our schools is the federal test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP has been testing American students since the early 1970s.

This is something I didn’t know.  I have always thought that tests like the SAT, ACTs and the Iowa Standard were legitimate tests.  But whatever, I won’t quibble on the testing.

The NAEP test scores of American students are at their highest point in history: for black students, white students, Hispanic students, and Asian students.

They are at their highest point in history in fourth grade and in eighth grade, in reading and math.


To be sure, encouraging news.  Further, news I must admit I didn’t know.

As for the international test scores, which Rhee loves to recite to knock our public schools, she is obviously unaware that our nation has never had high scores on those tests. When the first international test was given in 1964, our students ranked 11th out of 12 nations.  Yet our nation went on to become the most powerful economy in the world.

In the 50 years since then, we have regularly scored in the bottom quartile on the international tests or at best, at the international average. Clearly, the international scores do not predict our future as we are the dominant economy in the world despite the scores.

I can’t resist to mention that things like economic freedom contribute to such things….

Why are our international rankings low? Our test scores are dragged down by poverty.   As the poverty level in the school rises, the scores fall.

Rhee ignores the one statistic where the United States is number one. We have the highest child poverty rate of any advanced nation in the world. Nearly 25% of our children live in poverty.

THAT is the point of this post.

THAT is an argument that I resonate with.  Of course, when comparing scores across nations, it’s important to normalize in some way across the variable that impact performance.  And to Ms. Ravitch, poverty is just such a variable.


On the latest international test, called PISA, our schools with low poverty had scores higher than those of Japan, Finland, and other high-scoring nations. American schools in which as many as 25% of the students are poor had scores equivalent to the top-scoring nations.

When normalized on poverty, the United States performs among the top in the world.

Should this be surprising?  For me, it is.  But then again I’ve bought into the narrative that we suck.  So, taking our performance in new light…maybe it isn’t surprising.

One thing, however, I wonder if Diane Ravitch would be willing to slice the data in equivalent ways when it comes to healthcare?

Somehow I doubt it.


The Gun Mandate

We all live in a dangerous world.  Crime all around us.  We spend untold amounts of money keeping ourselves safe.  It might be stronger locks on our doors, cameras in the roof, alarm systems in the house.

I have a safe; two even.

And then we spend money on public infrastructure.  We pay the local police, the state police and even federal law enforcement officials.

Given that private ownership of guns reduces crime, and that we are all living in a crime market, I would like to see the federal government mandate gun ownership.


Of Studies And Numbers And Questions

I make a decent living fixing very complicated broken things.  Much of my life is dominated by trends and reports; statistics.

So when someone says to me:

Cardiac arrests in marathon and half-marathon runners have become more common during the past decade – a fact that has generated more terrifying accounts about fit athletes keeling over in the midst of competition.

I always, ALWAYS, question the data, the gathering and the incentives.

This is true in my professional life where the reports describe very complicated broken things or when I stumble on a report that says:

…many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe.

When a “report” doesn’t ring true, you have to investigate.  For example, the report about the alarming increase in heart attacks among marathon runners?

The increase in cardiac arrests, it turns out, has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of participants…

Honest to God.  “They” reported that heart attacks were on the rise!  Regulate marathons!  Then “they” did a study to identify the reason why more runner were experiencing heart attacks.  And it was because there were more runners.

When someone tells you that America doesn’t have the world’s best medical care; don’t believe them.

When someone says that America doesn’t have the greatest ability to lift you out of poverty; don’t believe them.

Dig deep.  Find the data.  And discover for yourself that truth.

Maybe A Mirror Would Be Better

For nearly 5.5 years now Barack Obama has been blaming Dubya for the condition of the economy.  In some cases, to be fair, he’s right.  Dubya and the Republicans had control of things for a number of years and they all spent like massive fools.  They deserve their share of the blame.

The strategy has run it’s course.  Except for the far left Liberati, the idea that Bush is to blame is a Trivial Pursuit answer; next to meaningless.  The current administration has had time to try their grand experiments, the results are in and stock must be taken.

Obama has to see that what he’s doing isn’t working.  In fact, what he’s doing is making it even worse.  In short, he’s taken a bad, very bad, situation, and simply done wrong.

Obamacare – an economy killing piece of legislation.  Feel good?  Free rubbers for everyone?  Sure; maybe.  But a jobs driver?  Not so very much:

From the post:

Correlation is not causation, but in fact we have a lot of independent evidence (including my own experience) that many small and middle sized companies have changed their hiring plans based on costs and uncertainties of Obamacare.

Say what ya want.  Data seems to be adding up that kids of socialist Marxists growing up learning to despise colonizers who then go to liberal law schools and organize the poor while never holding a job that demands results within the context of larger organizational constraints don’t make good Presidents.

I’m just sayin’.

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

This is why we need to be leery of government.

It’s not because government is always “evil”.  It’s not because all people working in government are self absorbed power hungry influence brokers.  It’s not because of man’s natural desire to rule their own world; whatever world that is.

Now, to be sure, some or all of that exists, but the vast majority of the people who make up government are honest hard working folks.

The problem with government is that it creates the wrong incentives.

And the North Carolina State Parks is no exception.

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Expect More Liberal Hand Wringing

Get ready for the gnashing of teeth, the tearing of clothes.  Massive amounts of money are going to be spent in the coming months by an organization not friendly to Barack Obama.

I anticipate much in the way of complaining that corporate interests are polluting the campaign process, that big money is drowning out the little guy.

All that, I expect it all.

Cause here comes CrossroadsGPS with a massive $20 million ad campaign:

WASHINGTON – Today, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) announced a new $20 million issue advocacy initiative over the next two months to frame the national debate on jobs, the economy and the national debt in anticipation of congressional action on these issues.

In the first phase of the initiative, on Monday Crossroads GPS will launch a new national TV ad, “Shovel Ready,” which details the Obama Administration’s failure to improve the economy with its $830 billion stimulus legislation and other policies.

The spot’s $5 million television buy covers national cable news channels as well as local network affiliates in key states, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia.

The ad can be seen right here:

Awesome work.

30 seconds.


Brutal – I capital “L” love using NBC!

But they have more:

A beautiful attack on unions and union leadership.

Finally, top it off with:

Thought Experiment

Okay, okay.  For a second, close your eyes and follow along.


Doesn’t work in this medium.

Read this and THEN close your eyes and think through the scenarios.

Or whatever.

Consider dinner.  Fine dining at a fancy schmancy restaurant.

Over the course there will be 1000 people served.  They can come in tables of 2 or or 4.  1 or more even.  Doesn’t matter.  Now, consider these two scenarios:

  1. The price of dinner will be carried by the individual.  That is, when the meal is over, the waiter will bring the check.  One check for each individual.
  2. The price of dinner will be carried by the group.  That is, when the meal is over, the waiter will charge the account.  When all 1000 people have eaten, the total bill will be divided by 1000 and each person will recieve a bill in the mail.

These two methods of payment are going to cover the cost of the whole experience.  Appetizers, desserts, cocktails and even valet parking – heck, coat check too.

Now, here is the question:

Under which scenario would you expect the restaurant to sell more desserts in?

How about appetizers?

For extra credit, explain your answer.

Jobs, Hiring and Uncertainty

We all know how to mitigate risks.  We do it everyday in our everyday life.

We drive a car to work, or to school or to a bus stop.  Or we walk.  Across a street or next to one.

We swim.

Or buy a gun.

We know, as rational people, what our risks are.  And we are remarkable at acting in such a way, as a group, that our risks are minimized while our rewards are maximized.

We all do this.  All. Of. Us.

So don’t think for a second that business owners don’t do this as well.

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