The Supreme Court—through the actions of tie breaker Chief Judge John Roberts—has resolved the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the best tradition of the court, his Solomonic ruling declares that the law is within the powers of Congress. Good law? Bad law? “Not my problem. It’s constitutional.” He also applied the “duck” test to the Administration’s “penalty”—if it looks like a tax and quacks like a tax, it’s a tax.
The constitutional sideshow behind us, let’s get back to the Main Event: Health care remains an unaffordable, inequitable mess. ACA addresses some of the coverage problems built into the American health insurance model, but it will inevitably create some inequities of its own.
Cost is still an enormous problem. In fact, the law will increase the share of GDP spent on health care. ACA’s supporters are eager to report the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) finding that the law will not increase the deficit. First, remember that this is a forecast built on complex models, loaded with assumptions. The CBO finding is an estimate, not a measurement. Read more »
I love summer and I love sports. 2012 has already produced many sports highlights with I’ll Have Another winning 2/3 of horse racing’s Triple Crown, Tiger Woods’ renewed success on the golf tour, Roger Federer’s and Serena Williams’ record breaking tennis wins at Wimbledon, the mid-summer classic, baseball’s All-Star game and King James winning his first NBA title. And now it’s the Tour de France and, soon, the summer Olympic Games.
Big Sports Event = Big Economic Impact?
Sports spectaculars are often lauded for their economic impact. Does the reality match the claims? Victor Matheson, an economics professor at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts has analyzed the economic impact of “mega sporting events” like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the All Star Game, and World Series. He finds many examples of major sporting events not living up to their pre-event hype. For instance, Major League Baseball claims economic impact on cities that host the All-Star game in the neighborhood of $75 million in direct benefits. Matheson’s ex post research suggests that for the cities that hosted All-Star games between 1973–1997, average employment actually declined by a half percent. Organizers of the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta suggested upwards of 77,000 new jobs would be generated. Matheson estimates that as few as 3,500 were actually created. Read more »
New York State has been working to make a high school diploma meaningful for most of the past two decades, and the work continues. Since a push toward higher standards began in the mid-1990s, the state tightened graduation requirements twice: first requiring all students to pass 5 Regents exams, then increasing the minimum score to pass from 55 to 65.
Many feared graduation rates would plummet, but recently released data showed they’ve mostly held steady or increased. In the last five years, as the 65 minimum score was applied to more and more tests, the statewide graduation rate increased from 69% to 74%. New York City gained 8 points, rising from 53% to 61%, and the combined rate for students of the 4 next largest cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) also increased from 47% to 53%. Rochester’s performance remained the lowest of the five, with a graduation rate of 46% in 2011.
At the same time, the federal government has gotten tougher about how states are to calculate graduation rates. Starting with the class of 2010, schools had to include every student in their building for even one day in their graduation cohort – the previous threshold had been 5 months. That means schools are held accountable for those students – those who moved or transferred don’t count against them, but missing students are considered dropouts. Read more »
Public Union Impact: Past and Future
Recent and ongoing work by CGR in several counties throughout New York has placed a spotlight on public employee unions and their impact on the cost of governmental services. In particular, the future status of county-owned nursing homes is directly affected by high labor costs and especially high benefit levels that have historically been negotiated with public unions, to the benefit of public employees and at the expense of taxpayers. County nursing home benefit levels, including retirement pensions and health insurance costs, are typically at least double the corresponding level in non-public facilities.
In decades past, county nursing homes were providers of last resort for the poor. While county homes continue to accept some residents that other facilities are reluctant to admit, as Medicaid has become a source of support for the long-term-care needs of both the poor and the middle class, nearly all nursing homes, both private and public, depend on Medicaid funding for a substantial share of revenue. Where county-owned homes are no longer the only facilities caring for the poor, they compete more directly with privately-owned homes. In this more competitive context, counties are questioning how much longer they can ask their taxpayers to cover the employee cost differential created by collective bargaining agreements—especially as counties face increasing fiscal stress, and as nursing homes face the prospects of probable declines in reimbursements looming in the near future. Read more »
Given a conflict between “good for us” or “good for me,” people generally pick the second. That proposition, obvious as it is, underlies most of economics. Thank goodness, human beings often rise above self-interest in ways that redeem human society.
But politicians shouldn’t push their luck. Consider what the European Union is asking of the Greeks. The austerity imposed as a condition of the bailout goes beyond expecting Greeks to behave like Germans, which would be heroic enough. No, the Greeks are expected to do penance for their past profligacy, the “sackcloth and ashes” Full Monty.
Reluctant to think ourselves selfish, we have a remarkable capacity to convince ourselves that “good for me” is also “good for us.” That capacity for self-delusion is evident in results from the Pew Global Survey: Respondents in Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic were asked to identify the “hardest working” people of Europe. Seven picked the Germans. The Greeks picked themselves. For the title, “least hardworking,” five picked the Greeks, but the Greeks fingered the Italians.
Is it any wonder that the Greeks’ penance is insincere? Or that support for austerity among voters proved to be so tenuous in Sunday’s election? Read more »
Anybody who has followed the local government consolidation issue knows the difficulty of enacting significant, large-scale change. Old habits die hard, so it is no surprise that the procedural challenges to municipal restructuring are often daunting. Ever powerful are the inertia of the status quo and the “leap of faith” required on the part of voters to be convinced it’s possible to get to greener pastures.
Such is the case in New Jersey, where history hasn’t been kind to the municipal consolidation movement. In the time between a 1934 New York Times article lamenting the state’s inability to streamline its local government structure and today, just two consolidations occurred. In January, the number grows to three as the Township and Borough of Princeton merge following an affirmative 2011 referendum. Read more »
In 2009, Joel and Phillip Levy pocketed $2 million between them annually as leaders of a Medicaid-funded nonprofit serving the developmentally disabled. The Levys used tax dollars to purchase multiple homes, luxury cars, pay their kids’ college tuition, and support family members’ living arrangements in NYC. The misuse of public dollars violates the public trust. It makes us angry—and it should.
In January 2012, New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order to limit executive pay and established a commission to investigate excessive nonprofit compensation. Now Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have announced proposals to regulate nonprofit executive compensation. Schneiderman’s proposal–the “Nonprofit Revitalization Act”—was just introduced by Senators Carl L. Marcellino and Michael H. Ranzenhofer. Many of the elements reflect recommendations from the statewide task force (discussed in an earlier blog here).
Governor Cuomo’s proposal calls for a salary cap to limit the amount of state dollars applied to executive compensation to $200,000. His proposal also includes options for waivers to surpass the cap if an organization can justify the difference (hospital executives, for example, often have salaries well above seven figures and argue that this is required in the competitive health care market). Read more »
According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association and the United States Fire Administration, from 1995 to 2010:
- The number of residential building fires fell 15%.
- The number of deaths and injuries in residential fires fell 31%. [i] [ii]
- The number of paid firefighters increased by 30% and the number of volunteer firefighters decreased by 8%.[iii]
With the increase in dependence on paid staff, there has been an increase in cost for the fire service. From 1995 to 2008, the cost of Local Fire Protection has increased 65% to an inflation adjusted $39.7 billion.[iv] Read more »
School districts share needs that can be more efficiently provided regionally, just as individual schools share needs that are more affordably provided by districts. What are we to think when the State Comptroller reports that New York’s approach to regional service sharing in the schools (BOCES) costs more than it saves? Read more »
The decade of continuous combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has created a demand for veterans’ services that the US has not experienced since Vietnam. The sheer numbers of veterans (almost 2 million troops deployed since 2001) would be hard enough for the Veterans Administration (VA) to address. But the heavy reliance on National Guard and Reservists has changed the veteran population, subsequent needs and community impact substantially. Read more »