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Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:40:12 +0000
Could Amazon’s new headquarters flip the presidential vote in a swing state?
Amazon promises its second headquarters will add as many as 50,000 jobs. That’s a lot. It’s bigger than Donald Trump’s 44,292-vote margin in Pennsylvania, a state that has two cities (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) in the final 20 contenders. In a few other swing states, it’s close. That raises a whale of a question: Could Amazon’s […]

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has twice asked the Agriculture Department for permission to ban soda and candy from the state's food stamp program. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Momentum is building for new food stamp restrictions that would ban the purchase of candy and soda. This week, however, the Trump administration denied a request from the state of Maine that would have placed such restrictions on its food stamp program.

The denial, issued Tuesday, is the first sign that Trump’s Department of Agriculture may prove no more receptive to so-called “junk food bans” than the previous administration. Now, supporters of such bans are trying to parse the meaning of the rejection.

“It’s hard to tell what they’re going to do,” said Angela Rachidi, a research fellow in poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute. A more thorough program proposal, she argued, might still get approved.

This was Maine's second attempt in two years at improving nutrition in the safety net formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

First in November 2015, and again this past February, the state requested permission to ban food stamp recipients from using their benefits for candy or sugar-sweetened beverages. Such foods have no nutritive value, the state argued, and probably contribute to high rates of obesity.

"The time has come to stand up to Big Sugar,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said during a Thursday radio address, “and ensure our federal dollars are supporting healthy food choices for our neediest people."

But in a letter to Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, USDA refused the request, citing its own concerns, according to the Portland Press Herald. Among them: additional administrative costs for retailers, difficulties deciding on the exclusion of particular foods and the lack of evidence that such restrictions yield “meaningful health outcomes.”

In its application to USDA, Maine said it would evaluate the ban’s impact on soda and candy purchases but did not propose any specific monitoring of health effects. It is not clear if USDA rejected the request because of this kind of omission or because the administration more generally opposes junk food bans.

"When considering waiver requests, USDA focuses on moving people into self-sufficient lives, protecting the integrity of the program, and improving customer service," the agency said in a statement. "We don't want to be in the business of picking winners and losers among food products in the marketplace, or in passing judgment about the relative benefits of individual food products."

This is the first action the Trump administration has taken on SNAP food restrictions, a subject of growing interest to welfare reformers and public health groups. The American Medical Association has endorsed such restrictions, as have the American Heart Association and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The bans are seen as a way to improve the nutrition of people on public assistance — as well as better target $73 billion in public funds. A 2016 report by the Agriculture Department showed that households on SNAP, much like households that are not on the program, spend heavily on snack foods, desserts and sodas.

“That’s completely inconsistent with the goals of the program,” said Rachidi, who helped draft a now-rejected ban on sugar-sweetened beverage for the food-stamp program in New York. “Soda has no nutritional value. No one can argue that it does.”

But many economists and anti-hunger activists disagree with the junk food ban approach — as do grocery stores and other retailers, who have described the new regulations as an “administrative nightmare.” They have faulted such proposals for imposing a burden on businesses, who would have to update their point-of-sale systems to accommodate the new rules, as well as for stigmatizing low-income shoppers.

The biggest problem, said Diane Schanzenbach, the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, is that no state has yet proposed a junk food ban that could be successfully implemented or evaluated after the fact.

“It’s really hard, even to just define soda — or, God forbid, junk food,” she said. “Where do you draw that line? And how do you come up with a rigorous test to gauge effectiveness?”

Maine, at least, is not prepared to give up on those questions. In an email, Julie Rabinowitz, a spokesperson for LePage, said the state planned to "revise and resubmit," for the third time, its USDA waiver request.

It probably won't be alone, either. In addition to Maine, New York, Illinois and Minnesota have requested approval to ban junk food or soda from SNAP.

All were rejected, but experts expect more states will make these requests in the future. The power to restrict the foods bought with benefits has long been a demand of the Secretaries’ Innovation Group, an organization representing welfare directors from states with Republican leadership.

In that regard, Rachidi said, the government tangle over food bans has only just begun. She is waiting for the next state request to judge exactly where the Trump administration stands.

"I wouldn't say this is a clear sign yet," she said. "And in the absence of a clear sign, I wouldn't make any assumptions."

Read more:

State group: USDA mulling big changes to food stamps, including allowing states to impose soda ban

Why Wawa won’t let food stamp recipients buy a sandwich on toasted bread

Trump's plans to cut food stamps could hit his supporters hardest


Fri, 19 Jan 2018 23:10:20 +0000
Why the Trump administration won’t let Maine ban soda and candy from food stamps
Momentum is building for new food stamp restrictions that would ban the purchase of candy and soda. This week, however, the Trump administration denied a request from the state of Maine that would have placed such restrictions on its food stamp program. The denial, issued Tuesday, is the first sign that Trump’s Department of Agriculture […]

The federal government is set to shut down at the end of Friday unless congressional negotiators can strike a last-minute deal to fund the government. But it’s not really the fight over government funding that has driven Congress to impasse: It is, at least in large part, a disagreement over immigration.

Specifically, it’s a fight over about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Democrats want the spending bill to contain a guarantee that those immigrants — known as “dreamers” — won't be deported, and they’re not willing to extend funding for the government, even for a short time, unless they get it.

It’s a rare moment of leverage for Democrats, as Republicans need help from at least nine Senate Democrats to pass a spending bill. And Democrats are trying to use that leverage to resolve an immigration struggle that has been simmering for nearly two decades.

Here are some of the key developments that brought us here.

August 2001: Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) introduce the Dream Act, which creates a pathway for young undocumented immigrants to become permanent legal residents.

December 2010: The Dream Act dies in the Senate in a narrow 55-41 vote after passing the House.

June 2012: Under intense pressure from immigration activists, President Obama announces hundreds of thousands of young immigrants can, if they meet certain conditions, receive a temporary reprieve from deportation and have the chance to apply for a work permit. Over the next several years, hundreds of thousands of the dreamers turn over their personal information to the federal government and receive protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.

November 2016: Donald Trump is elected president and Republicans secure control of the House of Representatives and Senate. Trump picks then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), widely seen as the senator most hostile to Obama’s immigration agenda, to serve as his attorney general.

Sept. 5, 2017: Faced with several lawsuits by attorneys general in Republican-led states challenging the constitutionality of the DACA program, Sessions announces that the executive branch will slowly phase it out rather than defend it in court. The White House calls on Congress to find a solution for the dreamers, but does not say it believes the dreamers should be deported.

Sept. 7, 2017: Congress passes a bill that keeps the government funded until early December and provides emergency assistance to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Every Senate Democrat votes for it, although Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) vocally opposes it for not doing anything to ensure protection for the dreamers.

Sept. 13, 2017: After a meeting at the White House, reports quickly emerge that Trump has agreed with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the broad outlines of a deal to protect the dreamers in exchange for more money for border security. But the White House immediately pushes back against reports that Trump has agreed to leave funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border out of a deal.

Oct. 25, 2017: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the daughter of two immigrants and a rumored 2020 presidential contender, becomes the first Senate Democrat to publicly vow to vote against government spending bills that do not protect the dreamers. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) soon follow Harris. 

Dec. 21, 2017: Facing a government shutdown, Congress agrees to extend existing government funding levels. Now, 17 Senate Democrats vote against the spending bill because it leaves the dreamers’ fate unaddressed.

Jan. 10, 2018: A federal judge rules that the Trump administration cannot end the DACA program, saying safeguards must remain in place amid a legal dispute over the program. The Trump administration immediately protests, with the Justice Department taking the unusual step of petitioning for the case to be immediately brought to the Supreme Court.

Jan. 11, 2018: A bipartisan team spearheaded by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), and Dick Durin (D-Ill.) reaches a bipartisan deal on immigration and takes it to the White House, where it is rejected by Trump and immigration conservatives. Trump suggests the U.S. in taking too many immigrants from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations — and too few from places such as Norway. The comments leak and throw the talk into further turmoil.

Jan. 18, 2018: House Republicans pass a spending bill to keep the government open for just one month and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill, which passes on a nearly party-line basis, is dead-on-arrival in the Senate.

Jan. 19, 2018: Senate Democrats refuse to take up the bill passed by the House, and they have the votes to filibuster it, despite McConnell’s protests.


Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:21:52 +0000
This shutdown crisis was (at least) 17 years in the making. Here’s how we got here.
The federal government is set to shut down at the end of Friday unless congressional negotiators can strike a last-minute deal to fund the government. But it’s not really the fight over government funding that has driven Congress to impasse: It is, at least in large part, a disagreement over immigration. Specifically, it’s a fight over about 700,000 […]

 

Union membership held steady in 2017 at 10.7 percent of the workforce, according to figures released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An additional 1.2 percent of workers reported no union affiliation but had jobs covered by a union contract, bringing the total union representation up to 11.9 percent of the American workforce.

In 2017, union workers reported higher median weekly earnings ($1,041) than workers not covered by unions ($829). Percentage-wise, the union wage premium is essentially unchanged since the year 2000.

Union membership remains dramatically diminished from its peak in the middle of the 20th century, when roughly one-third of American workers were union members.

There are a number of forces driving the long-term decline in union membership. American manufacturing jobs historically had high union membership, but those jobs now make up a far smaller portion of the economy — down from about one-quarter of the American workforce in 1971 to about 10 percent in 2012.

Outsourcing of blue-collar jobs has been another factor in union decline, as has a less favorable political environment for union organizing starting in the 1980s.

This year the Supreme Court will hear a case that could weaken public sector unions by prohibiting them from collecting mandatory fees from workers who are covered by union contracts but are not dues-paying union members. According to BLS statistics, 38 percent of public sector employees are represented by unions.

Regardless of the causes, research has shown that declining union membership is one key factor in stagnating wages for middle-class workers. A 2011 study by researchers at Harvard and the University of Washington found that robust union membership helps set norms for pay across the economy, and that the decline of unions explained up to one-third of the growth in wage inequality since the 1970s.

The Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, tracked the rate of union membership versus the share of income going to the top 10 percent of workers over the past 100 years. The trends are essentially mirror images of each other: When union membership rose, the richest households saw their share of national income decline. But in the era of falling union membership, the richest have captured an ever-larger slice of the income pie.

This doesn't mean that union membership is responsible for all of the changes in income inequality over the past century — other factors, such as tax laws and the rise of superstar earners in certain industries, are also driving wage growth at the top.

But it is clear that lagging union membership rates are a key part of the changes to the economy since the 1980s that have allowed income and wealth to skyrocket for the richest Americans and stagnate for everyone else.

The public is starting to view them more favorably. As of last year, 61 percent of Americans told Gallup they had a favorable opinion of labor unions, up from an all-time low of 48 percent in 2009.

And last year, according to Gallup, a record 39 percent said unions should have more influence in society, compared to 28 percent who said they should have less.


Fri, 19 Jan 2018 17:11:03 +0000
Union membership remained steady in 2017. The trend may not hold.

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:49:41 +0000
The biggest losers in Amazon’s hunt for its second headquarters
Amazon’s search for a second headquarters is like a reality show, only way geekier and with way higher stakes. And true to that format, dreams are already getting crushed. We feel for you Minneapolis. The online retailer was quite clear when it solicited proposals, laying out criteria that applied at most to about two dozen […]

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

In 2017, Republicans handed the Internal Revenue Service a huge task. In 2018, Congress is about to send home much of the agency's workforce.

The architects of the recently passed Republican tax law are relying on the tens of thousands of IRS employees to turn their new vision for the tax code into reality.

IRS attorneys have to issue new guidelines to resolve legal questions unresolved by the legislation. Computer programmers have to update IRS software for processing tax forms. Call centers have to answer questions from confused taxpayers.

But now the IRS, like the rest of Washington, faces the threat of a government shutdown — one that would deprive the federal agency about 56 percent of its workforce, according to the U.S. Treasury, just as that workforce is needed for one of its biggest jobs in decades. Tax experts and former IRS officials are warning that a prolonged shutdown could exacerbate the challenge the already-strained agency faces in implementing the complicated new GOP tax law.

“They have so much to do already: You’re losing precious time in terms of getting important information to taxpayers,” said Mark W. Everson, who served as commissioner of the IRS from 2003 until 2007 and now works at the tax consulting firm alliantgroup. “A shutdown would certainly be frustrating at the time you’re trying to get on top of the new statute, and every day counts.”

Beset by budget cuts over the last several years, the IRS already faced a last-minute scramble to give taxpayers guidance on dozens of new policies in the GOP tax law that in some cases are already in effect. The agency has shed about 18,000 full-time employees amid a more than $900 million budget cut since 2010, leading even conservative Republicans who have traditionally sought to cut the IRS budget to say earlier this month that they want to increase it to ensure a successful implementation of the tax law.

But amid stalled talks over government spending levels, that additional funding is nowhere in sight. Instead, as of Friday morning, lawmakers on Capitol Hill had failed to come to an agreement over a variety of other issues. Congress has until midnight to approve a spending deal and avert a potential shutdown.

Analysis | Who gets sent home if the government shuts down?

The length of the potential shutdown would have a big impact on its severity on the IRS. A shutdown of a few days, or even a full week, may not create too much additional pressure on the IRS's ability to implement the tax law, according to tax experts. And while all the experts cautioned that the IRS was already burdened, others downplayed the impact on its ability to implement the tax law specifically.

“Very few of the regulations are really that time-sensitive — if employers implement new withholdings in March instead of February, the world does not end,” said Mark Mazur, who served as director of research, analysis, and statistics at IRS.

But companies and taxpayers will be impatient for clarifications from the federal government about a range of questions, and any lengthy delay could prolong the existing confusion about the new law's provisions. Brian Newman, a partner at the tax consulting firm CohnReznick, said he has been inundated with questions from confused business owners. He says some want to know under what conditions so-called pass-through corporations can qualify for the new 20 percent deduction now offered on business income, a provision that has already taken effect. Others are curious when real estate owners can claim a more robust deduction on interest expenses for their businesses.

“There are some really big provisions we need guidance on,” Newman said.

Then there's the question of how universities and colleges will be hit by a new college-endowment tax, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that schools are looking toward the IRS to clarify exactly how much they will owe in additional taxes. Another provision limits firms’ ability to deduct for meal expenses, but the IRS hasn’t clarified under what circumstances.

The longer the shutdown, the worse the IRS's implementation of the law is likely to be, experts said. “There’s going to be errors — the forms won’t look good; they won’t have answers to basic questions; the list goes on,” said Philip Hackney, a tax expert at Louisiana State University. “People are going to be looking to understand just what the heck this means.”

Previous government shutdowns may offer an imperfect gauge of their impact on the IRS. The government has never previously shut down amid the implementation of a massive overhaul of the tax code, and it has never shut down during tax filing season, either, although one in 1996 came close.

“This is going to be terrible — there are so many questions, and I don't think the IRS will have all the answers,” said Marvin Friedlander, who spent 40 years at the IRS before retiring in 2010. “And the people who need to develop guidance will instead be at home.”

Update: A previous version of this story cited an estimate from the National Treasury Employees Union that close to 90 percent of IRS employees would be sent home. It has been replaced with the U.S. Treasury Department estimate of 56 percent.


Fri, 19 Jan 2018 12:00:19 +0000
Congress asked the IRS to implement a massive new law. Now it could send more than half its workers home.
In 2017, Republicans handed the Internal Revenue Service a huge task. In 2018, Congress is about to send home much of the agency's workforce. The architects of the recently passed Republican tax law are relying on the tens of thousands of IRS employees to turn their new vision for the tax code into reality. IRS attorneys have to issue new […]

(iStock)

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” the old cliche goes. But in Sicily, a new paper contends, lemons also made mafiosi.

The peer-reviewed paper, published last month in the Journal of Economic History, argues that the infamous organized crime ring actually has roots in the 19th-century lemon industry. Using two sets of historical crime and agricultural data, economist Arcangelo Dimico and two co-authors contend that the Mafia would not exist without a boom in the global citrus trade that spanned several decades.

It’s a valuable insight into an otherwise murky underworld, the authors claim. And it’s a new glimpse at the surprising links between agricultural shocks and organized crime, a dynamic that still plays out around the world today.

“I definitely think that there is an interesting parallel,” said Omar Garcia-Ponce, a political scientist at the University of California at Davis who has studied agriculture and Mexico’s drug cartels and was not involved in the study. A growing body of literature shows that agricultural commodity prices affect patterns of violence, he added.

Before there was organized crime in Sicily, however, there were lemons — lots of them.

According to the researchers, the island’s lemon industry exploded in the 19th century as doctors around the world realized the fruit cured scurvy, a condition caused by lack of vitamin C. That created a huge global demand for lemons, which grow well in the Sicilian climate, but had not been a major export previously.

Lemon-growing became hugely lucrative. Some historians have estimated that, by the mid-1880s, it was 60 times more profitable to grow a hectare of lemons (roughly 2.5 square acres) in Sicily than to grow other crops, like olives, grapes or wheat.

A U.S. government trade report, filed from Sicily in 1889, recorded high prices for lemons. (via Google Books)

But lemon growers also faced challenges, among them, dealing with brokers who sold the fruit abroad and fending off thieves who raided groves by night. As a result, many growers began contracting “protectors” to watch their trees and enforce their contracts, Dimico writes. This gave both money and structure to a loosely affiliated band of brigands and businessmen, helping them consolidate into the Mafia as it's known today.

To back that assertion, Dimico and his co-authors model the statistical correlation between historical data on crop production and mentions of the Mafia in historical crime surveys, both dating to slightly after the emergence of the term “Mafia” in 1865.

“The most robust determinant of mafia activity is the production of citrus fruits,” the authors write.

There is some debate about the degree of the lemon effect. While several historians have drawn the parallel between the citrus trade and the Mafia before, few have gone so far as to suggest the first launched the second.

“The peculiarities of the citrus market may indeed have provided a strong demand for Mafia services, and boosted its activities,” said Diego Gambetta, a sociologist and Mafia historian at the University of Oxford, by email. But the timing doesn’t line up neatly, he added: The largest boom in Sicilian citrus took place years after the Mafia emerged.

Historians have also traced the origins of the Sicilian Mafia to a string of revolts against the Italian state in the 1860s and '70s. Almost every early Mafia boss served in a police or national guard unit at that time, said John Dickie, a professor at University College London who has written extensively on the history of the Mafia in Sicily.

That said, Dickie acknowledged, most of those bosses were also involved in the lemon industry. In either case, the paper's greater contribution may be to economics, rather than Mafia history.

Dimico, its head author, argues that his work provides further evidence for the link between high-value export crops and organized crime — a link that continues to vex many places, including Italy. The Mafia's agricultural holdings there topped $23 billion in 2016, according to the Italian farm lobby, Coldiretti.

Similarly, in Michoac


Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:20:33 +0000
How a 19th-century lemon craze gave rise to the infamous Sicilian mob
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” the old cliche goes. But in Sicily, a new paper contends, lemons also made mafiosi. The peer-reviewed paper, published last month in the Journal of Economic History, argues that the infamous organized crime ring actually has roots in the 19th-century lemon industry. Using two sets of historical crime and agricultural […]

If Congress fails to reach a deal to avert a government shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, federal workers won't be the only ones worrying. Parents of the 9 million children insured through the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, are panicking because funding for the program has nearly run out.

Republicans in Congress thought they had a grand solution: They pitched Democrats a deal to do a one-month extension of overall government funding and a six-year extension of CHIP money. But President Trump tweeted Thursday morning that was a bad idea. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) says he spoke with Trump and the president is now on board, but confusion abounds in the Capitol.

There is a real chance that CHIP funding won't get renewed this week, a scenario with potentially dire consequences for kids. Colorado, Virginia and Connecticut have already sent letters to parents warning them their kids' insurance might end as early as February because of Congress's inaction. More states are expected to issue notices to parents soon.

“In Washington it may seem like just a political game, but at the state level the stakes are very real: Kids will lose health-insurance coverage and lives are on the line now,” says Heather Howard, a lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School who's keeping track of which states are about to run out of funds. Both red and blue states are in trouble.

How did we get here?

CHIP funding expired in September. Congress passed a short-term Band-Aid just before Christmas to keep the program limping along a few more weeks, but CHIP is now on life support. States are scrambling to keep the program going so working-class kids don't lose the ability to go to the doctor or get needed prescriptions. Nearly 9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women receive care because of CHIP. These families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. These are the children of janitors, home health aides and store clerks, among others.

Isn't CHIP bipartisan?

CHIP has successfully cut the number of uninsured children in America in half since it was enacted in 1997, and it is often held up as a model of successful bipartisanship.

Crafted by Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), CHIP has been renewed several times since its creation with broad support from both parties. “We must stop holding CHIP hostage and get this important program extended to ensure the families who rely on it get the care they need,” Hatch said this week.

CHIP appears to have the support to pass easily if it were just a stand-alone bill, but so far, Republican leaders aren't proposing that. Instead, CHIP has become a bargaining chip in the bipartisan budget fight. House Republican leaders are tacking it onto controversial bills to dare Democrats to vote against it.

“Historically, CHIP has been one of the few things that remained above the fray,” says Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2015 to 2017. “It’s unfortunate and kind of curious that Republicans decided to make it an issue Democrats care about this year as opposed to saying, well, it's children's health insurance, let's keep that bipartisan.”

Speaker Ryan and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are trying to get enough votes for a bill to keep the government open for about another month. They added a six-year extension of CHIP to the deal. But Democrats have yet to sign on and some Republicans were also balking, even before Trump's tweet.

Here's what Republicans, Democrats and Jimmy Kimmel are saying

“At some point, we Democrats will not be held hostage to bad policies,” said House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Democrats have ripped the GOP for passing a massive tax cut that costs at least $1 trillion — and possibly far more — while complaining about a program for children that costs a few billion dollars annually.

While Hoyer is a firm supporter of CHIP, he says many Democrats think short-term budget extensions are a mistake, and they are upset that there is no agreement yet to save the 690,000 immigrant “dreamers” who are on the verge of losing their protected status to stay in the United States. On the other side, some Republicans are holding out for more money for the military. CHIP may be the casualty of a massive tug-of-war game in Congress.

Republicans are trying to pin any failure to extend CHIP this week on Democrats; Democrats accuse Republicans of playing politics on CHIP for more than 100 days.

“Republicans are the ones funding CHIP completely and immediately. Democrats are the ones voting no,” a spokesman for Ryan tweeted, getting into a back-and-forth with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

“Shame on you for making CHIP a bargaining chip,” Kimmel responded.

Democrats have mounted a Twitter campaign of their own in recent days. “It’s been more than 100 days & Republicans continue to fail Americans & their children who desperately rely on CHIP. It’s appalling because our most vulnerable deserve affordable, quality health care,” tweeted Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Penn.).

Passing CHIP could save the government money

Some Republicans complained CHIP was too expensive in the fall, but the Congressional Budget Office reported last week that a five-year CHIP extension would cost the government $3.4 billion, while a 10-year extension would actually save the government money.

“CBO updated their score and gave us the momentum to push a long-term CHIP extension across the finish line,” Hatch says, although as recently as December Hatch himself was on the Senate floor saying, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore.”

The reason a 10-year extension saves money is because if CHIP is not extended, some of the 9 million children who lose insurance would likely end up on Medicaid or a government subsidy, and those costs are expected to rise a lot faster than CHIP. Republicans repealed the individual mandate as part of the tax plan, a move that CBO says will cause most health insurance premiums to rise sharply. States cover part of the cost of CHIP, so that also helps scale back the federal government expenses.

For now, the blame game continues, leaving parents and grandparents to ask: How can lawmakers do this to my child?


Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:21:50 +0000
Let’s remember: 9 million kids’ health insurance is at stake in this budget fight
If Congress fails to reach a deal to avert a government shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, federal workers won't be the only ones worrying. Parents of the 9 million children insured through the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, are panicking because funding for the program has nearly run out. Republicans in Congress thought they had […]

Workers prepare a new housing lot in Alexandria, Va., on Oct. 17, 2012. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Some of the United States' most homogenous cities attract a surprisingly diverse set of newcomers. Others still seem to be magnets for white people, but more on that later.

We know this because every year, millions of people choose to move across county, state or even country lines. There may be extenuating circumstances, but broadly each person who relocates is expressing a strong preference for where they want to be and whom they want to be with.

With detailed census data, we can see their preferred destinations among the 100 largest metro areas, and — crucially for this post — which places draw in a broad spectrum of Americans and which are attractive only to a certain subset.

We're examining only newcomers. Outgoing movers, net migration and other components of growth will have to wait. Most moves, of course, tend to follow population. But more nuanced patterns will emerge when we adjust for size and break down figures by race and ethnicity.

New York wins the overall popularity contest, as you may have guessed. The nation's largest metro area, which is particularly dominant among those who come from abroad, has long relied on a steady stream of fresh, young faces to feed its growth.

But when you take population into account, New York vanishes and is replaced by other locations that are luring residents with strong economic growth (San Jose, Calif.)  or a large university (Provo, Utah) or a military presence (Virginia Beach, Va.), and thus tend to have more transient populations.

These overall numbers mask vast variations within racial and cultural groups. Among African Americans, notably, the most popular destination isn't the New York area — it's Atlanta.

Asians trend in the opposite direction: Almost one in every 10 Asians who moved during our time period ended up in the greater New York area. Part of this is the result of immigration — 3.3 percent of U.S. residents who identify as Asian moved from other countries during this period.

Those headliners demonstrate a common pattern: With a few notable exceptions (Washington, D.C., foremost among them), the nation's movers tend to follow prior demographic distributions.

Non-Hispanic whites and Hispanic residents of all races end up in New York, but their preferences after that diverge. Boston and Denver are popular among whites, but don't even register in the top 10 for Hispanics, who favor Miami and Southern California, which includes Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario. 

As we've seen before, established population centers dominate any chart based on population. With few exceptions, smaller, trendier towns such as Durham, N.C., don’t make the cut regardless of their universities or economy.

But when we adjust for size, the Durham-Chapel Hill area, in the heart of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, ranks in the top 10 destinations for Asian (5th), white (6th) and black (7th) movers. Overall, it ranks up with Virginia Beach and Colorado Springs as the metro areas with the highest share of recent arrivals.

The chart suggests that people who moved recently are looking outside the traditional coastal population centers, as well as established central-state behemoths such as Chicago, Dallas and Houston, and toward the South and the mountain West. The exception is Asian movers, who tend to follow a more traditional pattern.

It also gets a bit distorted by places that draw significant numbers of new arrivals for education or military service (or both). Colorado Springs’ metro area, for instance, includes Army and Air Force bases, as well as several universities and the Air Force Academy. El Paso and Virginia Beach are also military destinations.

That doesn't entirely explain their popularity, as there are many other military and college towns (and areas with large populations in correctional institutions) buried deep within the rankings.

The above chart answers only “which places are most attractive to each group,” a question in which the same metro could conceivably top all four broad categories, and not “which places bring in movers of just one demographic.”

Many metros on this list show up multiple times — there are newcomers of every race and ethnicity in Virginia Beach, Durham and Washington, D.C. But what are the trends in areas that have a narrower appeal?

The next chart goes beyond broad national trends to the point that it may not really be considered a measure of popularity. Instead, it reveals those regional towns where each group may be either sorting itself or repeating long-established patterns of concentration.

To better answer that question of narrow or wide appeal, we can look at the newcomers relative to the overall distribution of race and ethnicity in each metro area.

This can be distorted by small numbers — the 19.8 percent share of new black residents in the Boise, Idaho, area is based on a total black population of 6,111 — but even in cases in which they don’t show a significant population movement, they show where new faces are having the biggest effect on a group’s presence.

Broadly, one thing stands out: White people love Colorado. Denver, Aurora and Lakewood together account for the 21st largest metro area in the United States in terms of total population by our measure, yet it’s the seventh most popular among whites.

Taking into account population, Colorado Springs and Denver are the second and third most popular destination among whites. And even relative to their already substantial white populations, both metro areas are in the top seven in terms of how many new, white faces they have.

Each of the four groups in the above chart are diverse. The whites or Asian Americans moving into one area may be of completely different ancestry and demographics from those moving into another. This only gives the broadest outlines of who tends to end up where.

But that reinforces the chart’s message, which is that places that once had no diversity to speak of are attracting groups that had little traditional presence in the area. Look up and down the columns for each race and ethnicity, note the regions and states where each has a substantial new presence, and you’ll recognize how millions of moves to hundreds of places are literally changing the faces of midsize American metro areas.

Read more:

Norway was once the kind of country Trump might’ve spit on. Now its people don’t even want to come here.

Hawaii has record-low unemployment and it’s not a frozen hellscape. Why are people leaving?

Why people really want to move to Idaho but are fleeing its neighbor, Wyoming


Thu, 18 Jan 2018 11:00:58 +0000
The top 10 places people are moving, and how their choices differ by race
Some of the United States' most homogenous cities attract a surprisingly diverse set of newcomers. Others still seem to be magnets for white people, but more on that later. We know this because every year, millions of people choose to move across county, state or even country lines. There may be extenuating circumstances, but broadly each person who relocates […]

(Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)

The world is going through a huge health transition, where the problems of the 6 billion people who live in emerging markets are increasingly the problems of the 1 billion people who live in rich countries. For the first time in history, more people suffer from eating too many calories than too few. Improving global health is no longer primarily about combating infectious diseases.

Today, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and I announced the Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health. We are bringing together fiscal-policy, development and health leaders from around the globe, including ministers of finance, to address the enormous and growing health and economic burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The hope is to identify underused fiscal-policy tools to lighten that burden.

Given the human and economic toll, the prevention of NCDs — cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes — should be of great interest to us all. The statistics on the big three are staggering:

Fiscal measures, in the form of taxes, are underused, yet we know they work for two important reasons. First, prices on goods matter, especially to the younger and poorer populations. People, particularly the poor, will buy less if it’s more expensive. Second, taxes on certain goods can be educative and signal disapproval. Nothing illustrates this more than gains we have seen from taxing tobacco over the past 50 years in our country and others. In Brazil, when tobacco taxes increased 116 percent (in real terms, i.e. adjusted for inflation) between 2006 and 2013, sales decreased by 32 percent, and tax revenue increased 48 percent. Countries like Mexico have had great success with fiscal tools and sugar. A 1-peso-per-liter tax on sugary beverages resulted in a nearly 10 percent reduction in consumption after two years.

I would venture to say that sugar is where tobacco was in 1972: The dangers have been recognized and pointed up, but not much is happening YET to reduce the demand.

Behavioral economic considerations have indicated that taxes are more potent than we otherwise may have supposed. Beyond the direct effects of higher prices in discouraging consumption, taxes send a signal of social disapproval. No one wants to be the only one eating dessert after a group restaurant meal. So through social multipliers, higher taxes discourage emulation of risky behaviors.

The task force will examine the growth of NCDs in LMICs and the evidence to support excise-tax policies and develop recommendations on fiscal policies for health. While NCDs are the leading cause of death worldwide and a barrier to development, only about 1 percent of global health funding is aimed at preventing them. The World Health Organization predicts major economic losses, $500 billion a year and growing, for LMICs if NCDs are not addressed. Ministers of finance shape tax policy — a powerful tool to reduce the harmful use of these products. But we also know that these ministers have many competing priorities. Viewed through a public health lens, tackling NCDs can easily be seen as someone else’s issue. Our task force aims to help ministers of finance around the globe understand the importance of their role in setting effective tax policies to save lives in their countries.

Taxes are what makes a government function. Taxing “bads” like tobacco and sugar over “goods” like savings and income is as close to a free lunch as you can get in economics. This is low-hanging fruit that makes people’s lives better and makes the world a better place.

Lawrence Summers is a professor at and past president of Harvard University. He was treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001 and an economic adviser to President Barack Obama from 2009 through 2010.



If we want to improve global health, we need to tax the things that are killing us
The world is going through a huge health transition, where the problems of the 6 billion people who live in emerging markets are increasingly the problems of the 1 billion people who live in rich countries. For the first time in history, more people suffer from eating too many calories than too few. Improving global health […]
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