QUOTE OF THE DAY
Sun Sentinel: Florida doesn't have enough doctors for Medicaid expansion
TALLAHASSEE Brace yourself for longer lines at the doctor's office.
Whether you're employed and insured, elderly and on Medicare, or poor and covered by Medicaid, the Florida Medical Association says there's a growing shortage of doctors — especially specialists — available to provide you with medical care.
And if the Florida Legislature goes along with Gov. Rick Scott's recommendation to offer Medicaid coverage to an additional 1 million Floridians — part of the AffordableCare Act that takes effect next January — the FMA says that shortage will only get worse.
"Florida needs more doctors and it needs more nurses, and it needs them working together in teams," said Rebecca O'Hara, a lobbyist for the FMA.
About 15 million Floridians have health insurance today, and Obamacare, which requires most adults to have coverage by January, could add as many as 2.5 million more. One million would come through a potential expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program that Scott announced this week he was backing. The others would be the result of new mandates requiring employers and individuals to have insurance or be fined.
Currently, the state has 44,804 doctors, but about 5,600 of them are expected to retire in the next five years. And even though Florida has opened three new medical schools in the past dozen years, the state isn't producing as many doctors as it needs. Scott's budget this year has $80 million to fund programs to train 700 new residents a year, in hopes they'll remain in the state.
Of all patients, people covered by Medicaid may have the hardest time finding a doctor; only 59 percent of the state's physicians are taking new Medicaid patients, according to a Kaiser Health News study.
Forbes: As Oscar Nominated Hollywood Moguls Bag Tax Cuts, They Seek To Raise Yours
Hollywood is abuzz about this year’s Oscar contenders. Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, Argo—the nominees feature some of Tinsel Town’s hottest stars.
But when you cozy up on the couch to chomp popcorn and watch your favorite actors and directors receive this year’s Oscars, two words should glow in your mind: welfare recipients.
That’s right. Even as the Hollywood glitterati ruminate about social responsibility and the need for the wealthy “one percent” to pay their “fair share,” Hollywood millionaires and moguls are bagging an estimated $1.51 billion in tax revenues annually through something called “film tax credits.”
Consider a few of this year’s Oscar nominated films. According to a new report by the Government Accountability Institute, Quentin Tarantino’s controversial spaghetti Western, Django Unchained, featuring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio has applied to receive an estimated $8.4 million in film tax credits from the State of Louisiana. Actor-director Ben Affleck and producer George Clooney’s film, Argo, received $6.21 million in tax credits from the California Film Commission. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, featuring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones, hauled in $3.5 million in tax-free film credits. Silver Linings Playbook bagged a cool $5.6 million.
Indeed, 40 states now have some form of subsidy or incentive that allow filmmakers to defray income and/or sales taxes incurred during filming. Thirteen states even offer so-called “transferrable film tax credits” that allow filmmakers to convert unused credits into cash—at taxpayer expense, of course.
So why are taxpayers giving away over a billion-and-a-half dollars a year in Hollywood welfare handouts, especially at a time when public schools and local governments are slashing budgets and going broke? Hollywood executives and state-level politicians claim that film subsidies boost job creation and state tourism.
Journal Star: Strike threat raises stakes in state of Illinois union talks
The emerging threat of at least 30,000 Illinois state employees striking might seem extreme, but union leaders say they're seriously considering the prospect as contract talks have stalemated amid an overall state government financial picture that is equally extreme.
Illinois remains mired in a fiscal quagmire that includes a crushing $96 billion deficit in public-worker pension systems and a festering $9 billion backlog of unpaid bills to service providers.
That's the backdrop for ongoing negotiations between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the state's largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which often finds itself on the defensive at a time when organized labor across the country has suffered losses. AFSCME has futilely fought against facility closures, appealed to the courts to enforce raises promised in 2011 and has little to show for more than a year of contract talks to replace one that expired eight months ago.
Negotiators are expected to sit for another round of talks this week. But if progress continues to elude them, AFSCME leaders may decide it's time to "call the question" and ask members to vote on authorizing a work stoppage, executive director Henry Bayer says. Union leaders raised the prospect of a strike in a letter to members last week.
"People are getting to the point where they're so angry and so frustrated that they think, what's the use of sitting down with these folks every two or three weeks if nothing's going to change?" Bayer said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Since the 1973 advent of collective bargaining in Illinois, there's never been a state employee strike, Bayer said.
"But we've never had an employer that's been so obstinate and made such extreme demands on our members as this one," he added.
Reason: Parents Must Take Responsibility For What Their Kids Eat
Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., a Canadian obesity doctor and academic, writes a regular column on food and health for U.S. News & World Report’s website.
In his latest column, Freedhoff wonders, “Why Is Everyone Always Giving My Kids Junk Food?”
His basic premise? Everywhere his kids go, writes Freedhoff, “they're being smothered with junk.”
From the examples Freedhoff gives—in his daughters’ schools, after one’s skating practice, in another’s book reading club—it would appear he’s made a good case. Others have made the same case before.
People are giving kids lots of foods that many parents say they wouldn’t give to their own children.
In Freedhoff’s case, his kids sometimes get those foods right in front of his nose (“Saturday skating lessons often include lollipops”). Other times, though Freedhoff is not present, he’s been given advance notice (as in the case of “[a]n email sent to parents” by pre-school administrators announcing upcoming treats for kids).
So what does Freedhoff do about this junk people are feeding his kids?
He says he often “couldn't decline if [h]e wanted to” because he’s sometimes not around when these adults give his kids foods he doesn’t approve of, and so he’ll “keep pointing out how crazy our new normal has become.”
Freedhoff is welcome to raise his kids however he’d like. But the “new normal” Freedhoff refers to isn’t that junk food is prevalent—it’s that some parents appear less inclined to put their feet down than were parents in days of yore (like when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s).
Freedhoff’s right that parents can't watch their children all day every day. But does that mean they lack the ability to ensure their kids don't eat certain foods? Of course not.
CNBC: Which Tax Deductions Are Most Likely to Go?
Tax loopholes and deductions are under immediate scrutiny in efforts to cut the deficit and raise revenues as Capitol Hill battles to avoid the sequestrations — the massive automatic spending cuts set to begin March 1.
Congressional hearings have begun on the most well-known, and according to some experts, most likely to be reformed or eliminated. Among them: charitable deductions, deductions on home mortgage interest, the so called carried interest — the tax break for private equity and hedge fund managers — and limiting tax deductions on corporate profits.
Loopholes and tax breaks cost the Treasury more than $1 trillion each year, according to government estimates. Among the biggest losses come from tax breaks for U.S. corporations — $114 billion — the mortgage interest deduction — an estimated $77 billion — and charitable donations — $38 billion.
Each of the parties at risk are fighting back. Several charitable groups testified before Congress recently, saying that if their deduction is lowered or eliminated, people will stop giving.
The housing industry — most specifically builders — say the mortgage interest deduction is necessary for the housing market to recover from its recession lows. Corporations say their U.S. tax rates are the highest in the world, at 35 percent.
CNBC: Who Benefits From High Gasoline Prices?
Retail gasoline prices are up for the tenth consecutive week, reaching their highest level since October. Who's winning here?
The average retail gasoline price in the US is currently $3.812 per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) -- the first time that gas prices have been that high this early in the year.
Of $50 spent on gas, for example, only about $1.25 goes towards a profit for your local gas station, according to figures compiled by Sageworks. The largest bulk of the cost goes into the actual commodity ($34), followed by refining ($4), distribution and marketing ($4.25) along with taxes ($6.5).
Some companies in the S&P 500 are reaping the gains from high oil prices. Consider the S&P Energy sector, which is up over 6 percent so far in 2013, while the oil and gas refining subsector is up 22 percent. Valero and Marathon Petroleum are the best performing stocks in the group, up more than 26 percent this year.
Other names involved in oil equipment and services are also performing well -- both FMC Technolgies and Halliburton are up more than 16 percent year-to-date.
Although WTI crude oil prices are off by nearly 4 percent in the past two sessions, the commodity is still up 10 percent in the past year.
Atlantic Cities: Delaying Car and Home Ownership Has Helped Millennials Dramatically Reduce Their Debt
Prior to the recession, a lot of us binged on things we had no business buying, like big houses and second cars and smaller luxuries affordable only with credit card debt. In the process, Americans – and young Americans in particular – became an impressively (and historically) indebted lot.
In retrospect, this wasn’t such a sustainable masterplan. But there are already signs that Millennials – if not their parents – are starting to seriously offload that debt. A report released today by the Pew Research Center reveals that households younger than 35 have shed substantial debt since the start of the recession. And that has largely occurred as they’ve backed away from owning two big-ticket items cherished by their parents' generation: cars and houses.
What’s most notable about the Pew study is that young Americans seem to be offloading debt at a much higher rate than older generations. Back in 2001, the typical household headed by someone younger than 35 held about $18,000 in total debt. That figured soared by 2007 to $22,000. As of 2010, in the most recent data available from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the median young U.S. household owed only $15,000, with an expanded share of it now coming from student loans instead of consumer debt.
Between 2007 and 2010, median young household debt fell by 29 percent. Households headed by adults aged 35 and older, on the other hand, saw a decline in debt of just 8 percent. The share of young households now holding any debt (78 percent) as the lowest it’s been since government data was first collected on this question in 1983.
Carpe Diem: America’s ridiculously large $15 trillion economy
On Friday, the BEA released data on GDP by Metropolitan Area for 2011, and America’s top 15 largest metro areas by GDP in 2011 are ranked in the table above. Together, those 15 metro areas produced $6.23 trillion of economic output in 2011, which represents more than 41% of America’s $15 trillion of total GDP in that year. If those 15 American cities were considered as a separate economy, they would have ranked as the world’s third largest economy in 2011, ahead of No. 4 Japan at $5.87 trillion, and behid No. 2 China at $7.2 trillion.
The table above also shows entire national economies that had approximately the same amount of economic output in 2011 as America’s 15 largest metro areas, and help puts the enormity of the $15 trillion US economy into perspective. Pretty amazing, and a testament to the size of the US economy and the productivity of American workers, that America’s largest metro areas produce economic output equivalent to entire countries like Mexico, Turkey and Sweden, etc.
As the WSJ wrote last summer “Inside the $15 trillion machine that is U.S. economy are dozens of metropolitan economies, from New York to Honolulu, that are the real pistons and gears of U.S. growth and prosperity.” In fact, more than 89% of America’s economic output in 2011 ($13.445 trillion) was produced in the 366 US metro areas identified by the BEA.
Cafe Hayek: Minimum Grade
In a bold effort to improve the educational fortunes of students who perform at academic levels significantly below the average of their peers, Congress has mandated a minimum grade to be assigned to each student in each course taught at any school in the country. Starting in September, it shall be unlawful for any teacher, professor, or instructor charged with assigning course grades to assign to any student a grade lower than C-.
Sponsors of the Fair Academic Standards Act decry the injustice that occurs each time a student earns a low grade, such as a D or an F. ”It’s impossible for students with ‘D’s and ‘F’s on their transcripts to succeed as they deserve in life,” remarked Sen. Bernie Franken, an Independent from Elitia. ”This law ensures that no American will ever again suffer that hardship.”
Opponents of the Act worry that the requirement of a minimum grade will prompt schools to refuse to enroll students whose academic preparation or skills aren’t yet sufficient to enable them actually to earn good grades.
Sen. Paul Rand, an outspoken opponent of the bill, admits that ‘D’s and ‘F’s are poor grades that are not likely to win good jobs for students that have many such grades on their transcripts. Sen. Rand argues, however, that the Act will steer schools away from enrolling less-prepared students and, as a consequence, deny these very students the opportunity to acquire the education that will enable them in the future to perform better in the classroom. ”It’s an unintended bad consequence of Sen. Franken’s good intentions,” suggests Sen. Rand.
Sen. Franken and other supporters of the Act disagree. ”I can show you several studies, by prominent professors of education at Ivy League universities, that make clear that this Act will in no way diminish schools’ willingness to enroll all the students who seek enrollment,” said Sen. Franken. ”Opponents of this Act, frankly, are simply indifferent to the plight of academically challenged students and wish to deny to these students the benefits that are enjoyed by their more-talented classmates. My colleagues and I merely wish to ensure that these benefits are spread more equitably. It’s the fair thing to do.”
Sen. Rand responds by insisting that grades should accurately reflect each student’s actual performance in class. He says that the minimum-grade requirement, to the extent that it doesn’t simply cause academically challenged students to be kept from enrolling in school, will result in report cards and school transcripts that are full of “lies” – grades that do not reflect each student’s actual performance. Sen. Rand worries that graduate schools and employers will be obliged to find other ways, beside grades, to assess the qualifications of students who apply for admission or for jobs. He worries that these other ways will be less accurate and more arbitrary than are course grades as these are currently assigned.
Tech Crunch: If America was a startup we’d all quit
So I was chatting with my dad yesterday. We had a long drive home after the Department of Homeland Security seized and impounded my boat. The mood was somber.
We were talking about how awful America has become. We are a nation that has been split into groups that absolutely hate each other. Debt is rising, taxes are rising and freedom is being demolished. Meanwhile our elected officials are doing little more than stoking the drama fire while fiddling with the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Whatever your politics, you must see it too. Just pick a political story at random and read the comments. There is no logic or reason on either side, only hypocrisy and hate.
I’m a creature of startups. For example, I don’t want government interference in the startup ecosystem.
And more importantly, as someone immersed in startup culture, I am a big fan of just walking away from stuff that can’t be fixed. In my post “Always Swim Downstream” I talk about focusing on what you’re good at and just walking away from unsolvable problems.
America is an unsolvable problem, a nation divided and deeply in hate with itself. If it was a startup we’d understand how unfixable the situation is, most of us would leave for a fresh start and the company would fall apart.
America is MySpace.
But leaving America means renouncing your citizenship, moving out of the country and leaving family and friends behind. You can retain your citizenship if you like, but you’ll still be away from loved ones and still be paying taxes. You lose all the good stuff about America and have to keep all the bad stuff.
I love this country but we have a management team that’s both evil and incompetent. And the way “stockholder rights” are implemented there’s absolutely no way to stop or even slow down the rush to misery. I wish people had the choice of voting with their feet. This tends to keep the individual states somewhat honest in their dealings with citizens because they have to compete against 49 other states. But there’s no escaping the fed. It’s like a startup where everyone is miserable but no one is allowed to quit.
CARTOON OF THE DAY