Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 16:13:00
The modest budget deal between U.S. Reps Paul Ryan
and Patty Murray
is a small step forward for "sound governing and economic policy," writes Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic
. Or as Neil Irwin at the Washington Post puts it
, "The budget deal isn’t good for the economy. It’s less bad for the economy."
The $85 billion deal softens the blow of sequestration in 2014 and 2015 and raises money via increases in various government fees (the big ones will hit air travelers and federal workers who will have to contribute more to their pensions). That said, more than 90 percent of the sequestration cuts remain in place (for example, the deal does nothing about the more than 50,000 slots lost at Head Start programs
already because of sequestration). And the deal is silent on the long-term unemployed, more than one million of whom are slated to lose benefits at the end of the year. More on the issues surrounding the 4 million long-term unemployed Americans in this Washington Post interview
with American Enterprise Institute economist Michael Strain.
Matthew Yglesias at Slate despairs
The bad news is that the long-term unemployed are screwed.
In effect, when companies are looking to hire people, they scan through the résumés they get in the mail and their first step is to throw out all the résumés of people who've been unemployed for a long time. This is research based on pretty well-designed experiments that control for other variables beyond long-term unemployment. You should feel free to see that as a vile form of discrimination, or as a sensible business heuristic according to your temperament. The point is that the people who are about to lose UI benefits are not going to be able to find jobs. Not today, not after they lose benefits. In fact, they probably won't be able to find jobs ever.
Mailing unemployment insurance checks to people who aren't so much unemployed as unemployable is obviously not an ideal public policy. But simply doing nothing for them is cruel and insane.
It will be interesting to see how Rep. Tom Cotton
votes. Club for Growth
, Heritage Action
, and Americans for Prosperity
have already slammed the deal as the treasonous stuff of RINOs, despite the fact that it represents a substantial victory for conservatives on spending (see chart below from Center for American Progress).
Sen. Mark Pryor
will presumably vote for it, as it's likely the best deal with any hope of passing the House. Still, it remains a woefully inadequate response to the problems the nation faces today. The Post's Irwin nails it:
"[A]t a time of high unemployment, falling deficits and low interest rates, budget-cutting is still making the economy worse than it otherwise would be. But with this deal, Washington policy will be less counterproductive than it otherwise would be."
After the jump, here's the chart to bear in mind when the Cruz (and Cotton?) contingent labels the deal capitulation:
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 15:08:00
The Obama administration released new numbers this morning
on enrollment in plans on the new marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act
. As expected, enrollment in November was significantly up compared to October as healthcare.gov
— the federally run website used by 36 states for signups — has steadily improved. Enrollment spikes on healthcare.gov have been even higher in December
, so the trend line you see above will likely be even more dramatic when enrollments from this month are included.
In total — including both people that signed up on healthcare.gov and people using the state websites, which have generally functioned better — 364,682 Americans have enrolled in private plans through November 30. In Arkansas, 1,404 have enrolled in a private plan. As with the rest of the country, enrollment in Arkansas has increased significantly since October (when only 250 successfully enrolled) but still lags behind initial projections. While the big national numbers probably matter politically for Obamacare, when we think about how well the policy will "work," we'll likely get different answers in different states, each of which has its own marketplace.
The pro-Obamacare spin is that enrollment is picking up rapidly; the anti-Obamacare spin is that it's well behind the original targets. We'll know much more once December numbers are in. There's reason to believe the next batch of numbers will be impressive. As of the end of November, more than 2 million Americans have completed an application and been deemed eligible but haven't yet picked a plan, and we know that in the early days of December, tens of thousands were enrolling per day.
All of the numbers above refer only to private plans. Almost 1.5 million Americans
enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program just through the end of October.
One thing worth noting about Arkansas in particular: because of the "private option," the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace
will have a large pool of people in addition to the population that sign up to buy private plans. Around 70,000 Arkansans have enrolled in the "private option." In addition, more than 11,000 Arkansans were determined eligible for Medicaid by healthcare.gov, and most of them will end up in "private option" plans. That should help insulate the state from worst-case scenarios in terms of low enrollment (while the government is fully picking up the tab for "private option" premiums, from the insurance companies' perspective, "private option" beneficiaries are still tens of thousands more customers).
Thus far Arkansas is somewhat lagging behind in enrollment (though not if we include the "private option" folks) — after the jump, see a chart from Josh Barro at Business Insider
comparing Obamacare signups by state. I've mentioned this before, but I think it's worth stepping back from the politics and remembering what's at stake here. If Arkansas fails to attract a large and relatively healthy pool of people to the marketplace, the result will be higher premiums for thousands of Arkansans dependent on the marketplace for insurance.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 12:40:00
Wouldn't you know it? The day after the Times
philanthropy issue goes to press comes word from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
of a $1 million gift for its Breast Center.
Longtime supporter Stuart Cobb,
who was one of the founders of the gift shop at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute,
was the donor. Her donation will support construction and services to the Breast Center, to be located on the third floor of the cancer institute. The Breast Center is now located in the Outpatient Center.
Cobb is also a charter member of the Cancer Institute Auxiliary, and was its president in 1991-92. She serves on the Cancer Institute Foundation Fund board.
More Arkansas Blog
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 08:27:00
'PAGANS ON BOBSLEDS XXII: NICE AND NAUGHTY'
8 p.m. The Public Theater. $8-$10.
If ever there were a holiday that needed an occasional smart-alecky jab to take the wind out of its sails just a bit, it's Christmas. And for more than two decades, Red Octopus Theater
has been taking that jab, with sketches that (lovingly) skewer those sentimental Yuletide traditions.
This year marks the 22nd edition of Pagans on Bobsleds, and it will be marked with sketches old and classic, as well as songs, songs, songs. Some of the ol' faves will include The Solvecki Brothers ("selling their collection of emotional songs for guys"), Fauzio (with "Christmas party fashion tips") and the Old Lady (who'll be "wheeled out for a reading from her memoirs").
New sketches include: "Santas from Around the World," "Celebrity Wish List," "Law & Order: North Pole" and "Unjustified Elves."
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:20:00
8 p.m. The Cavern (in Russellville).
If you've been digging the ongoing '90s indie rock fixation/revival of the last few years, what with these groups of youngsters getting together to craft fuzzy guitar rock with catchy melodies and a Pavement/Dinosaur Jr./Yo La Tango kinda vibe (Yuck, Weekend, PAWS, many others), then you really ought to check out Swearin
' of Philadelphia.
This crew has released two albums since last year, both rooted in buzzsaw pop-punk and that enduring Pixies-style quiet/loud dynamic. Singers Kyle Gilbride and Allison Crutchfield offer appealing sweet 'n' gruff vocal counterpoints that suit this style of music well.
The group's new record, "Surfing Strange," finds them stretching out from their DIY, house-show roots, from scrappy punk to something with a bit more nuanced. That said, it's not a radical shift in direction or anything. Also on this bill: Pecan Sandy
and Rad Rad Riot
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 21:31:00
Acclaimed singer/songwriter Malcolm Holcombe
returns to White Water Tavern Thursday at 9 p.m.
More Rock Candy