Obama’s Pay and Productivity Misconception
The Heritage Foundation
In his economic address Wednesday, President Obama lamented, "since 1979, when I graduated from high school, our productivity is up by more than 90 percent, but the income of the typical family has increased by less than 8 percent." In other words, the link between pay and productivity has been shattered. This would be appalling if it were true -- but it is not. This argument has nonetheless become conventional wisdom in many circles. The belief that workers' pay no longer rises with their productivity helps explain why liberals' policy focus has turned so sharply to redistributive policies. The president and others essentially argue that the American dream has died and the modern economy does not reward employees for their hard work. Fortunately, they are wrong. Data shows average compensation has risen in tandem with productivity over the past generation.
The Minimum Wage & The Rise of Machines
American Enterprise Institute
After you heard Pres. Obama's call for a hike in the minimum wage, you probably wondered the same thing I did: Was Obama sent from the future by Skynet to prepare humanity for its ultimate dominion by robots? But just in case the question didn't occur to you, let me explain. On Tuesday, the day before Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, the restaurant chain Applebee's announced that it will install iPad-like tablets at every table. Chili's already made this move earlier this year. With these consoles customers will be able to order their meals and pay their checks without dealing with a waiter or waitress. Both companies insist that they won't be changing their staffing levels, but if you've read any science fiction, you know that's what the masterminds of every robot takeover say: "We're here to help. We're not a threat." But the fact is, the tablets are a threat.
Wisconsin Conservatives Targeted in Secret Probe
The New American
With the Obama administration still under fire for scandalously abusing the IRS to target conservative and TEA Party organizations, a Democrat-led District Attorney's office in Wisconsin is making headlines nationwide for a controversial secret investigation of political forces that supported GOP Gov. Scott Walker. While details of the shadowy "John Doe" probe remain murky, multiple conservative political organizations and figures have reportedly been subjected to raids and subpoenas searching for evidence of potential campaign-law violations. Sources quoted in media reports said they did not know of any liberal groups or Democrat candidates contacted in the probe. According to news reports, dozens of conservative groups that backed Gov. Walker in his efforts to rein in government-employee unions and his subsequent recall election have been subpoenaed so far.
San Francisco ‘Values’ Pricing Poor Out of the City
People use the term "San Francisco values" to refer, proudly or facetiously, to the occasionally oddball politics and culture in the City by the Bay. While many San Francisco debates--i.e., over Happy Meal bans or limits on nude dining--are unique, the latest brouhaha could have implications for the state. With the area economy rebounding, San Francisco is in the midst of a housing crisis as many residents are evicted from their apartments. "It is a situation rooted in limited housing stock and surge in demand that has pushed the median rent up from $2,968 in 2010 to $3,414 this year...," reported the San Francisco Chronicle. The median home price has soared to nearly $900,000, which helps explain why nearly two-thirds of the city's residents are renters. So the rent hikes are particularly acute--and have put the city's tough rent-control laws in the spotlight.
GAO Fails to Account for
Success of School Choice
Only dug-in Washington bureaucrats would criticize the District of Columbia's successful local school choice program for failing to offer enough information about choice. A quibbling new report from the Government Accountability Office faults the administrator of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for not giving adequate information to parents about participating private schools. The administrator in question is the DC Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp. The GAO evaluation, conducted at the request of Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, sought to determine, among other things, "the extent to which the trust provides information that enables families to make informed school choices." In short, GAO wants to ensure that families in Washington who turn to the scholarship program to find better schools for their children are aware of all their choices -- and what they entail.
Why Are Fannie & Freddie Funding Advocacy?
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in federal conservatorship since 2008. Should these government-sponsored housing enterprises -- essentially broke -- still be required to spend taxpayer money to fund activities of housing advocacy groups? Five years ago, Congress left this question unanswered, but Ed DeMarco, the acting head of the enterprises' regulator, took the sensible step of stopping the payments. In a sane world, preventing insolvent enterprises from spending money they don't have on political "trust funds" is a no-brainer. Yet, housing advocacy groups are campaigning to have their taxpayer-funded spigot turned on and enshrined in new legislation. For years, affordable-housing groups have funded their programs using a combination of state and local trust funds. Many of the federal grants have come through the Dept of Housing & Urban Development.
Obamacare Driving Doctors
& Patients to Direct Pay
The New American
UnitedHealth Group has dropped thousands of doctors from its networks due to falling reimbursements, leaving patients wondering what their options are. So are those physicians. One of those physicians, Dr. Josh Umbehr in Wichita, Kansas, has opened his own "direct pay" practice as an answer to both. What's driving people to Dr. Umbehr's office is not only the increasing pressure on physicians to perform more duties in addition to practicing medicine and the resulting increasing declines to patient access, but also a little known provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Section 1301 and amendment Section 10104. This allows practices such as Dr. Umbehr's to compete with traditional health insurance options under Obamacare when they are combined with a high-deductible, lower premium plan designed to cover catastrophic medical costs.
The Coming Fall of the Welfare State
I routinely (some would say repetitively) argue that the burden of government spending is a drag on the economy because labor and capital are being misallocated via the political process. My message is that we need to reduce the size of the public sector, even if we do it in a very gradual way by imposing some sort of spending cap that fulfills the Golden Rule requirement of having government grow slower than the productive sector of the economy. That being said, a modest short-run agenda doesn't mean we shouldn't have bold long-run goals. So while I'm glad the TEA Party has helped restrain government spending in the past two years, that's just an interim step. And I'm all in favor of bringing federal government spending back down to about 18 percent of GDP, which is where it was when Bill Clinton left office. But why stop there?
Democrat Policies Rejected in
'America, Writ Small' Colorado
American Enterprise Institute
Colorado, writes National Journal's always-insightful Ronald Brownstein, is "America, writ small." "A microcosm," he goes on, "of the forces destabilizing American politics." Of course Colorado is not entirely typical of the nation. It has America's lowest rates of obesity, for example, because of a young population and because most Coloradans live a mile or more above sea level. You burn more calories there just getting out of the car and walking to the mall. Colorado has also been a success story for the Democrat Party. It voted twice for Pres. Obama after voting Republican for president for years. It has a Democrat governor and legislature and two Democrat US senators. Much of that Democrat success can be ascribed to a few high-tech millionaires and trust-funders who banded together and shrewdly spent big bucks to advance liberal causes.
How Obamacare Will Affect All Americans
In response to the wave of insurance cancellations hitting millions of Americans, and the admission by some that President Obama's "if you like your plan" promise was false, Obamacare's defenders are now taking a different tack. While the law's supporters finally admit that some people will be worse off under the law, they now claim that those "losers" will be few and far between. The facts speak otherwise. Few Americans will be unaffected by Obamacare's new healthcare regime. The idea that "only" 3 percent of Americans will end up on the short end of a 2,700-page law remaking the nation's healthcare system seems as fanciful as the president's pledge that those who like their current plan could keep it. The facts are clear: Obamacare isn't just unfair for a small percentage of Americans; it's unfair for the entire country.
Why the Fear of American Exceptionalism?
Talk of American exceptionalism enrages some liberals. For example, it drove Oliver Stone and American University professor Peter Kuznick to pen a USA Today commentary saying Washington should have a wall with "the names of all the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, and others who died [in the Vietnam War]." That, they said, would be "a fitting memorial to all the victims of 'American exceptionalism' a perfect tombstone for that most dangerous of American myths." New America Foundation's Michael Lind, in a 2011 piece titled "The Case Against 'American Exceptionalism,'" dismissed the idea as "amusing, if it were not so dangerous." American "exceptionalists," he argued, are know-nothing boastful boobs "not allowed to peep beyond [their] borders, to learn from the successes and mistakes of people in other countries."