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Outrage du jour…

This just leaves me shaking my head:

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service handed out $2.8 million in bonuses to employees with disciplinary issues — including more than $1 million to employees who didn’t pay their federal taxes, a watchdog report says.

The report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said 1,146 IRS employees received bonuses within a year of substantiated federal tax compliance problems.

And the bonuses weren’t just monetary. Employees with tax problems received a total of 10,582 hours of paid time off — valued at about $250,000 — and 69 received permanent raises through a step increase, the report said. The report looked at bonuses in 2011 and 2012.

Employees’ tax problems included “willful understatement of tax liabilities over multiple tax years, late payment of tax liabilities, and underreporting of income,” the report said.

Here’s a question. If these IRS employees are known to have “willfully understated” their tax liabilities or under reported their income (how can they do that when they WORK for the IRS?), why, oh why are they STILL employed by the IRS?

Oh, that’s right. They’re represented by a union….

Moving back home: The Baby Boomer edition

Because we’ve had such a fabulous recovery post stimulus……

At a time when the still sluggish economy has sent a flood of jobless young adults back home, older people are quietly moving in with their parents at twice the rate of their younger counterparts.

For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents’ homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

The jump is almost exclusively the result of financial hardship caused by the recession rather than for other reasons, such as the need to care for aging parents, said Steven P. Wallace, a UCLA professor of public health who crunched the data.

“The numbers are pretty amazing,” Wallace said. “It’s an age group that you normally think of as pretty financially stable. They’re mid-career. They may be thinking ahead toward retirement. They’ve got a nest egg going. And then all of a sudden you see this huge push back into their parents’ homes.”

Hush campaign ACTIVATE!

Just because you have Obamacare doesn’t mean you’ll see a doctor.

First it was that the Obama administration had somehow miraculously coerced enough people into signing up for healthcare insurance (under penalty of law) that they had reached their seven million sign ups goal by the end of the enrollment period.  There were cheers far and wide from the media and other adoring sycophants.  All that was missing was a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

Then, just a few days ago, President Obama himself did a victory lap and announced that the enrollment number had grown again and now topped eight million people.  This time, his announcement was delivered with a jab at Republicans, suggesting that they need to accept Obamacare and move on already.

But as the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold,” and just because those new enrollees may now have health insurance (many being subsidized by their fellow taxpayers), they may not be able to see a doctor. This phenomenon is particularly true in California where the largest number of new Obamacare enrollees (three million plus) are located:

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) – While open enrollment for coverage under the Affordable Care Act is closed, many of the newly insured are finding they can’t find doctors, landing them into a state described as “medical homelessness.”

Rotacare, a free clinic for the uninsured in Mountain View, is dealing with the problem firsthand.

Mirella Nguyen works at the clinic said staffers dutifully helped uninsured clients sign up for Obamacare so they would no longer need the free clinic.

But months later, the clinic’s former patients are coming back to the clinic begging for help. “They’re coming back to us now and saying I can’t find a doctor, “said Nguyen.

Thinn Ong was thrilled to qualify for a subsidy on the health care exchange.  She is paying $200 a month in premiums. But the single mother of two is asking, what for?

“Yeah, I sign it. I got it. But where’s my doctor? Who’s my doctor? I don’t know,” said a frustrated Ong.

Nguyen said the newly insured patients checked the physicians’ lists they were provided and were told they weren’t accepting new patients or they did not participate in the plan.

Yes, people now have medical insurance, but what good is it when you can’t find a doctor willing to accept it?

Making matters worse is that one third of the primary care physicians in the state are ready to retire so the squeeze is just beginning.


People really like “free” stuff, especially when it’s healthcare

Great Britain’s National Health Service, held up as an example to be admired by many on the left in the United States, is in a bit of a pickle.  The “free” healthcare services program that they provide for their residents is now running a deficit.  In an effort to get the program back into the black, the government is entertaining the idea of actually charging people to see their general practitioners.  The idea is not a popular one:

Britons are overwhelmingly against paying to see a GP to help the NHS balance its books, even if that means their local surgery closing, an opinion poll reveals. (emphasis mine)

There is growing interest in charging as a way to help the NHS meet rising demand for healthcare at a time when it is likely to receive only tiny budget increases. Even the chairman of the NHS in England has said the next government will have to consider charging in order to help the health service survive. But while one in four (27%) said they would be willing to pay £10 for a GP visit rather than see their practice shutting down, more than double that – 56% – were against.

Those polled were also against charging even more than the ten pounds rate to see their general practitioner (not surprising), charging for a guaranteed next-day appointment, and for paying for a higher quality of care.  In fact, those receiving “free” healthcare are so against paying anything out-of-pocket, they’re willing to risk losing their provider.

As an aside, what aren’t they against? By a three percent margin (47%-44%), those polled favored making the “rich” (those earning over 150,000 pounds annually) pay for their appointments with a general practitioner.  So much for “free” healthcare being a right for everyone” claim.   Apparently it’s only a right for those under a certain income.


Smile! You’re on Candid Government Camera!

Just when you thought government only collected your cell phone records and text messages, it turns out that in the UK that’s not all they’ve gathered up. ….Surprise!

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. (emphasis mine)

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

Yahoo is apparently fuming over the hackery:

In a furious reaction to the report, a Yahoo spokeswoman said: “We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity.

“This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable and we strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.

“We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”

Given all the Snowden revelations, should we really be surprised that governments seem to be taking whatever steps they can to peer into our private lives without our permission?  And yes, I said governments plural, because it would be downright silly to believe that the U.S. isn’t, or at least hasn’t, done this as well to its citizens given the fact that our government is the one that helped the UK perpetrate these intrusions to begin with.

So the next time you’re using a webcam, smile and say something nice about the government, because there may be more people than you know watching.

The private sector isn’t alone in cutting workers’ hours to avoid Obamacare requirements. The public sector is doing it too.

While there have been a lot of reports of private sector businesses limiting employee hours in order to avoid having to provide healthcare insurance under Obamacare’s regulations, there has been little reported about the same happening in the public sector.  Until now.

Hot off the New York Times presses:

WASHINGTON — Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say.

Even after the administration said this month that it would ease coverage requirements for larger employers, public employers generally said they were keeping the restrictions on work hours because their obligation to provide health insurance, starting in 2015, would be based on hours worked by employees this year. Among those whose hours have been restricted in recent months are police dispatchers, prison guards, substitute teachers, bus drivers, athletic coaches, school custodians, cafeteria workers and part-time professors.

Mark D. Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn., and a board member of the American Association of School Administrators, said in an interview that the new health care law was having “unintended consequences for school systems across the nation.”

In Connecticut, as in many states, significant numbers of part-time school employees work more than 30 hours a week and do not receive health benefits. “Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees?” Mr. Benigni asked. “If I had to cut five reading teachers to pay for benefits for substitute teachers, I’m not sure that would be best for our students.”

In Medina, Ohio, about 30 miles south of Cleveland, Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the city had lowered the limit for part-time employees to 29 hours a week, from 35. Workers’ wages were reduced accordingly, he said.
Welcome the new normal, America.

The twenty-three cent myth

Just a note in passing on the claim that women make “seventy-seven cents for every dollar men make” that the President cited last night in his State of the Union address.  As with all data, it can be manipulated and analyzed in a number of ways.  And if a person analyzes it in a specific way, the results can be used to support a political policy.  The problem is, unless you’re comparing “apples to apples,” the analysis you end up with isn’t valid.

If you believe women suffer systemic wage discrimination, read the new American Association of University Women (AAUW) study Graduating to a Pay Gap. Bypass the verbal sleights of hand and take a hard look at the numbers. Women are close to achieving the goal of equal pay for equal work. They may be there already.

The AAUW has now joined ranks with serious economists who find that when you control for relevant differences between men and women (occupations, college majors, length of time in workplace) the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing. The 23-cent gap is simply the average difference between the earnings of men and women employed “full time.” What is important is the “adjusted” wage gap-the figure that controls for all the relevant variables. That is what the new AAUW study explores.

That new study referred to above finds that the difference in wages betweens the sexes amounts to about 6.6 cents while still including some dubious comparisons between occupational categories:

Furthermore, the AAUW’s 6.6 cents includes some large legitimate wage differences masked by over-broad occupational categories. For example, its researchers count “social science” as one college major and report that, among such majors, women earned only 83 percent of what men earned. That may sound unfair… until you consider that “social science” includes both economics and sociology majors.

Economics majors (66 percent male) have a median income of $70,000; for sociology majors (68 percent female) it is $40,000. Economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute has pointed to similar incongruities. The AAUW study classifies jobs as diverse as librarian, lawyer, professional athlete, and “media occupations” under a single rubric–”other white collar.” Says Furchtgott-Roth: “So, the AAUW report compares the pay of male lawyers with that of female librarians; of male athletes with that of female communications assistants. That’s not a comparison between people who do the same work.” With more realistic categories and definitions, the remaining 6.6 gap would certainly narrow to just a few cents at most.

While there might be a few cents difference in pay in a direct work comparison between the sexes, it doesn’t come anywhere near a twenty-three cent difference.  But as is so typical in the political arena, the latest findings won’t stop politicians from repeating the larger disparity as a means of both playing to a select audience and pushing an agenda.


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