Wrong-Way Reforms for Allocating Electoral College Votes

Source: Monideepa Talukdar, Rob Richie, and Ryan O’Donnell, FairVote,
August 9, 2007

From abstract:
This paper analyzes two of the three major options available to state leaders interested in taking action to reform how their state allocates its Electoral College votes: the whole number proportional and congressional district systems. It evaluates them on the basis of whether they promote majority rule, make elections more nationally competitive, reduce incentives for partisan machinations, and make all votes count equally. We use vote returns from a number of previous elections to analyze what the outcomes would have been if Electoral College votes had been allocated according to the whole number proportional and the congressional district systems.

Our analysis reveals that both of these methods fail to meet our criteria. Neither reform option promotes majority rule, greater competitiveness, or voter equality. Pursued at a state level, both reforms dramatically increase incentives for partisan machinations. If done nationally, the congressional district system has a sharp partisan tilt toward the Republican Party. The whole number proportional system sharply increases the odds of contingent elections (the selection of president by Congress).

Historical Averages Not A Meaningful Benchmark For Future Revenues

Source: Matt Fiedler and Richard Kogan, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, August 22, 2007

The “Mid-Session Review” that the Office of Management and Budget issued last month projects that revenues will be slightly above their 30-year average in 2007, measured as a share of the economy. The Administration and many of its supporters have cited this fact as evidence that current tax policies are generating an appropriate level of revenue and the Administration’s tax cuts therefore should be made permanent without the costs being offset. Similarly, Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has cited this fact as a reason for repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax without offsetting the large costs involved.

The simple fact that the government collected a particular level of revenue in the past says little, however, about what level of revenues is appropriate today, will be appropriate or necessary in the future, or even was appropriate in the past.

How Much Do Americans Depend on Social Security?

Source: Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Ben Marx, and Pietro Rizza, National Center for Policy Analysis, NCPA Policy Report No. 301, August 2007

From Policy Digest:
Even the wealthy depend upon Social Security for much of their consumption after they quit working, according to a new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).
• Social Security accounts for virtually all of the discretionary consumption of households with preretirement incomes of less than $50,000 a year or $25,000 for singles.
• Social Security accounts for about one-third of all discretionary consumption for the highest-income households — couples earning $500,000 or singles earning $250,000 prior to retirement.

A primary goal of financial planning is to maintain a consistent standard of living during a person’s lifetime. If Social Security were abolished tomorrow, all retirees would experience an immediate reduction in their consumption. If younger workers were notified in advance, they could adjust their saving and spending habits today to avoid abrupt changes in their standard of living upon retirement. Yet only the highest income workers have the ability to adjust so as to completely smooth their consumption across their lifetime. Because low- and middle-income workers are constrained by current obligations they cannot completely adjust.

2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey to Begin Including New Home Health Aide Supplement

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 29, 2007

From press release:
The 2007 National Home and Hospice Care Survey (NHHCS) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will begin in August 2007 to collect information on this important segment of health care in America. The latest in a series of surveys about home health agencies and hospices, the 2007 survey will include a first-ever, nationwide survey of home health aides, the group that provides the majority of direct care to the Nation’s 1.5 million home health and hospice patients.

See also:
National Home and Hospice Care Data

1995 – 2005: Foreign-Born Latinos Make Progress on Wages

Source: Rakesh Kochhar, Pew Hispanic Center, August 21, 2007

Foreign-born Latino workers made notable progress between 1995 and 2005 when ranked by hourly wage. The proportion of foreign-born Latino workers in the lowest quintile of the wage distribution decreased to 36% from 42% while many workers moved into the middle quintiles, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Newly arrived Hispanic workers also were much less likely to be low-wage earners in 2005 than in 1995, in part because they were older, better educated and more likely to be employed in construction than in agriculture. Yet despite the clear movement into the middle range of the wage distribution, many foreign-born Latinos remain low-wage earners. Even though the share of Latino workers at the low end decreased, in absolute numbers this population grew by 1.2 million between 1995 and 2005.

Foreign-born workers in general did well during that time period, though there were significant differences among them. While Latino workers moved out of the low end of the wage distribution and into the middle, Asians significantly boosted their presence in the high-wage workforce.

Katrina’s aftermath: How our disaster plan was tested

Source: Jeannie Thompson, RN, Vol. 60 no. 8, August 2007

Now two years and counting, we look back at lessons learned when Hurricane Katrina landed more than 300 miles away, and it became our responsibility to provide care to thousands of New Orleans’ ill and injured.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita revealed the flaws in hospital disaster-preparedness plans. Solutions include regular drills, plans to set up “surge hospitals” for mass casualties, staffing contingency plans to counter caregiver shortages, and standardized disaster-skill training.

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Progress Report: Findings From A 2006 National Survey Of Seniors

Source: Patricia Neuman, Michelle Kitchman Strollo, Stuart Guterman, William H. Rogers, Angela Li, Angie Mae C. Rodday, and Dana Gelb Safran, Health Affairs, Vol. 26, no. 5, published online 21 August 2007

A national survey in 2006 found that Part D secured drug coverage for most seniors who were without it in 2005, prior to the Medicare drug benefit. Seniors without drug coverage in 2006 generally fell into two groups: those in relatively good health and those potentially difficult to reach. Compared with seniors covered through employer plans or the Department of Veterans Affairs, Part D enrollees had higher out-of-pocket spending and greater cost-related nonadherence. Low-income subsidies offered protection against high out-of-pocket spending; without them, one-third of Part D enrollees at or below 150 percent of poverty paid more than $100 a month for their medications.

Income Inequality

Source: NOW, PBS, Show 332, Airdate 8-10-2007

In America, the top one-tenth of one percent of earners makes about the same money per year collectively as the millions of Americans in the bottom fifty percent combined. This is putting a tight squeeze on the middle class, while leaving millions of others in the cold. This week, David Brancaccio talks with Pulitzer prize-winning financial reporter David Cay Johnston, as well as author and advocate Beth Shuman about the state of our country’s vast income divide and how it’s hurting those just trying to make ends meet.
Related stories:
2005 Incomes, on Average, Still Below 2000 Peak
Source: David Cay Johnston, New York Times, August 21, 2007

New IRS Data Pegs Cost of Special Low Tax Rates on Capital Gains
and Dividends at $92 Billion in 2005 Alone -Three-Quarters of the Tax Cuts Went to Best-Off 0.6 Percent

Source: Steve Wamhoff, Citizens for Tax Justice, August 10, 2007

Offer Rates, Take-Up Rates, Premiums, and Employee Contributions for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance in the Private Sector for the 10 Largest Metropolitan Areas, 2005

Source: John P. Sommers, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS, Statistical Brief # 178, July 2007

Employer-sponsored health insurance for current workers is one of the primary sources of health insurance coverage in the United States. According to data from the Insurance Component of the 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-IC), approximately 97.5 million of the 112.2 million employees from the private sector worked in firms where the employer offered health insurance. Of those employees who worked where health insurance was offered, approximately 61.1 million were enrolled.

In recent years, premiums and employee contributions for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen significantly, while offer and enrollment rates have dropped modestly. These values for employer-sponsored health insurance vary considerably by where one lives and other factors, such as size of firm and industry.

State Differences in the Cost of Job- Related Health Insurance, 2005

Source: James M. Branscome, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, MEPS, Statistical Brief # 177, July 2007

Health insurance provided by employers is the primary source of medical coverage for most Americans under age 65. The cost of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage varies considerably depending upon where one lives and on the number of persons covered by the plan.

This Statistical Brief presents state variations from the national average of the cost of job-related health insurance and how these costs are shared by employers and their employees. The brief specifically examines the average premiums and employee contributions for private sector establishments in the 10 most populous states in 2005, using the most recent data available from the Insurance Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-IC). Estimates for all other states and the District of Columbia are available on the MEPS Web site.