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Mike Hall – Health Insurers Raised Premiums at Staggering Pace in Past Decade

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the AFL-CIO Now Blog:

Health Insurers Raised Premiums at Staggering Pace in Past Decade

by Mike Hall, Dec 15, 2010

Here’s more evidence that the past decade has been very, very good for the health insurance industry and more insight into why Big Insurance fought so hard to derail health care reform, especially the new law’s requirement that companies actually spend premium dollars on health care.

Family health insurance premiums more than doubled between 1999 and 2009, far outpacing the growth in workers’ earnings and overall inflation, reports the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Those premium dollars fueled nearly annual levels of record profits along with outrageous CEO salaries and extravagant executive perks and bonuses.

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Conway Twitty – Okie from muskogee

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Steely Dan – Black Friday

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Columbia Journalism Review

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Skeptical To a Fault: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, says Sharon Terlep’s story in the WSJ on GM trying to pay down its debt is a great indicator of how the leverage-is-good meme simply refuses to die, even after the financial crisis. The main reason for GM to carry debt is the tax advantages it gets, but the carmaker already has all the tax advantages it will be able to use for the foreseeable future, thanks to all the losses it made in previous years. Meanwhile, as GM vividly remembers, carrying a large debt load can be devastating in a cyclical downturn. But Terlep just can’t seem to believe it’s as simple as that.

Googlopoly?: Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum lauds The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein for an excellent column taking up the Google monopoly case.  If you want to know why there’s a problem with what Google’s doing, this is about the best place to start.

Flyover News: Iowa’s credible attorney general, Tom Miller, recently said he will bring criminal charges over the foreclosure scandal. But, as Chittum points out, most of the press didn’t have that significant news. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism picked up on this story, as did The Huffington Post and HousingWire. But the only mainstream media coverage it got was in the Des Moines Register and Reuters.

More, Please: In Audit Notes, Chittum says The New York Times reported that The Atlantic magazine, a longtime money loser, is in the black. The Times credits the mag’s focus on the Web, but in fact most of the magazine’s revenue gains game from elsewhere. We’d like to know more.

Meme Watch (cont’d.): Chittum says the Journal went page one this week with a story on our mangled tax code, which is oviously inefficient and causes uncertainty for businesses and individuals. But it seems to him that the Journal overplays the case somewhat that such “uncertainty” is what’s keeping businesses from hiring. And, in doing so, the paper channels the business lobby’s political agenda.

Fred Schulte – Wall Street Quietly Creates a New Way to Profit From Homeowner Distress

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From The Center for Public Integrity:

Is nothing sacred? Bank of America and hedge fund Fortress Investment Group have spotted a fresh money-making opportunity – collecting the tax debts of regular citizens. The investigation, by reporter Fred Shulte, shows how the bank and hedge fund can add interest charges and fees and bundle the debts as securities for investors. In late May and early June, proxies for the corporate duo quietly bought hundreds of millions of dollars in homeowners’ property tax debts in Florida by bidding at a series of online auctions held by county tax collectors. (Shulte is joining the Center as a result of our merger with the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.)

Pat Garofalo – Republicans Lay Out Plan To Slow Walk Derivatives Reform

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Wonk Room:

Republicans Lay Out Plan To Slow Walk Derivatives Reform

By Pat Garofalo

Incoming House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) told the Birmingham News this week that “in Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” And Bachus plans to provide that service by trying to slow down a whole host of measures being implemented under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

One of the targets that Bachus has in his sights is derivatives reform, the title of the Dodd-Frank law that aims to bring some prudent regulation to the currently unregulated derivatives market, which played a significant role in the 2008 financial meltdown. During the debate over Dodd-Frank, Bachus had an utterly incoherent position on derivatives reform, but that hasn’t stopped him from saying that derivatives reform is “one of the job-killing provisions of Dodd-Frank that needs to be addressed.”

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Igor Volsky – TX Attorney General: Health Law Infringes On The Freedoms Of ‘People Who Are Worth Billions’

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From the Wonk Room:

TX Attorney General: Health Law Infringes On The Freedoms Of ‘People Who Are Worth Billions’

By Igor Volsky

This afternoon, following oral arguments in the Florida-based multi-state challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Attorneys General Greg Abbot (TX) and Bill McCollum (FL) held a press conference on the steps of the court house, in which the pair made two very peculiar arguments against the health care law. McCollum bragged that if the mandate is declared unconstitutional, the insurance companies will again be allowed to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. Abbott complained that the requirement to purchase coverage hindered the freedoms of billionaires:

ABBOTT: There are so many, perhaps millions, who are in their 20s who don’t need access to health care, who may not go get any health care….On the other hand, there are people who are worth billions of dollars who may choose to pay the high end of costs for health care, more than what the average American would have paid and not have any kind of health insurance. They should have the freedom to pursue that path also.

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