Found: 30 records....
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Wednesday August 23, 2017 @ 04:19:59 AM mt

Wages and the Cost of Employment



Senior Fellow Pamela Villarreal writes at NCPA's Taxes and Retirement blog:

Recently,William Galston of the Brookings Institution penned anoped in the Wall Street Journal about the lack of workers' wage growth despite a technically "full-employment" economy. Adjusted for inflation, workers' wages have grown 0.1 percent over the past year, and only 0.5 percent since 2010. While there are many unknowns, he attributes some of the problem to weak unions, slow productivity growth and cash-rich firms that aren't interested in sharing their treasures with workers.

But there is even more going on here than Galston describes. I would venture to say that compensation costs havehad a hand in slow wage growth. Compensation costsnot only include a worker' wages, but also the costof providing benefits to the worker, such as health insurance,workers' comp, unemployment insurance and paid vacation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.8 percent the firstquarter of 2017 and 2.2 percent over the past 12 months.

When policymakers mandate employer-provided benefits, they don't often consider that employers have to pay for these benefits in some way, shape or form. One of the ways to do so is to slow-walk wage growth. In order to make employees aware of the cost of doing business, there are a few firms that send their employees implicit compensation statements every year. They state not only what the employee's annual salary is, but also the monetary cost of every benefit provided by the employer, such as the employer-paid portion of health insurance, the cost of the state's workers' compensation insurance, the cost of unemployment insurance, contributions to retirement accounts andthe cost of benefits such as vacation pay, sick days, holiday pay, maternity leave, etc. These can add up to thousands of dollars. Some of these benefits are mandated by law, while some are fringes to attract workers. But imagine if an employee could forgo all mandated and fringe benefits and take the monetary value of them in the form of cash. Of course, that would never happen since government doesn't trust workers to allocate their own money wisely.

But if progressives have their way and employers are forced to allocate more money to "paid this and that," don't expectsubstantial wage growth.This is less of an "economic mystery" than Galston realizes. (See more on this topic from the NCPA: How To Raise Wages.)

For more on Economic Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=17

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Wednesday August 23, 2017 @ 04:19:58 AM mt

Wind Power's Future in U.S. Could Be Thwarted by Grassroots Opposition



Senior fellow Thomas Hemphill's article is featured in Real Clear Energy:

The luster is coming off wind power as an economically viable, environmentally friendly, community-friendly source of America's energy future--and for some very good reasons. To start, rural residents across America are increasingly rejecting the encroachment of wind-energy projects in their communities whenever they get a chance to voice their opinions in local ballots.

The Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce reported in National Review ("Big Wind Gets Spanked in Michigan") that citizens in 37 jurisdictions in 10 different U.S. states have rejected or restricted the expansion of wind power in local referenda so far this year. Our home state of Michigan is a bellwether of this trend, as voters in 20 rural towns in the "Thumb region" rejected wind-power ballot initiatives in May.

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For more on Environment Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=31

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Monday August 21, 2017 @ 03:17:37 AM mt

Terrorism in Latin America Part Two: The Threat from Human Trafficking



Hypothetical scenarios often dominate the storyline of possible collusion betweenorganized crime and jihadists in Latin America. The elaborate web of networks wovenby drug cartels and Islamists adds to the confusion. A wide range of U.S. adversaries haveconducted successful human smuggling operations, posing an immediate threat to U.S.national security.

It Is All about Networks. Complicated networks of fringesupporters, associate funders and full-time operators help connectcriminal and terrorist elements from hot spots around the globe. Thesewebs help them facilitate each other's illicit behavior. Hezbollah-- amilitant Islamist group based in Lebanon and proxy force of Iran--works with powerful Colombian and Brazilian drug syndicates to movetons of cocaine into Africa and Europe. Meanwhile, networks of looselyaffiliated criminal organizations facilitate the paid covert transfer ofterrorists over international borders.

The fluidity of this network, however, poses a problem forcounterterrorism and interdiction efforts. Navy Admiral Kurt Walter Tiddexplained that "what's true about [a network] todayisn't necessarilytrue tomorrow." Understanding the complexities of the internationalconnections linking organized crime with terrorist organizations can beconfusing since they remain in constant flux, he said.

Terrorism expert Douglas Farah offers a more static picture ofnetworks, breaking them down into three essential elements: fixers, superfixers and shadow facilitators. Local fixers are business elites that profitfrom connecting seedy organizations to otherwise difficult to penetratelocal financial networks, while the super fixers do something similar on aregional or global scale. The shadow facilitators, Farah writes, specializein moving weapons and commodities, in addition to having access tofraudulent documents and money-laundering services.

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For more on International Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=26

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Monday August 21, 2017 @ 03:17:37 AM mt

Why Trump's Industrial Policy Will Fail



President Trump appears set to press for a mixed bag of fiscal and trade policiesthat will likely have contradictory effects. In addition to taking pages from PresidentRonald Reagan's agenda to lower corporate and personal tax rates, trim governmentspending and deregulate business, President Trump also seems committed topushing a version of the Democrats' 1980s "New Industrial Policy" agenda.The 1984 Democratic candidate for president proposed an array oftax and trade policies to mitigate the ongoing loss of middle-class jobsand income by slowing the movement of manufacturing plants to lowerwagecountries around the globe, most notably to Mexico and China.[See the sidebar, "New Industrial Policy."] Similarly:

  • President Trump has signaled a willingness to impose a tariffof up to 35 percent on goods imported by U.S. firms that closetheir domestic plants only to open new ones abroad to achieveproduction-cost (and profit) advantages.
  • He also supports some form of the House Republicans' proposed "border-adjusted corporate tax," which would provide a significantcorporate tax advantage to U.S. firms that export goods (such asBoeing), and penalize those that import goods and parts producedabroad (such as Walmart).

President Trump has not yet proposed adoption of the Democrats' fullindustrial policy agenda. However, as Democrats proposed in the 1980s,Trump has indicated his intention to use state and federal treasuries topay firms not to close their U.S. plants and move production abroad.Even before inauguration, Trump and Vice President Pence used a $7million payout from the State of Indiana to persuade Carrier to cancelplans to move production of air conditioners to Mexico.

The logic undergirding Trump's policy agenda appears to beprimitive: The United States will prosper under federal policy "sticks"(such as import restrictions) and/or "carrots" (such as subsidies),because any reduction in U.S. imports will translate into correspondingincreases in U.S. jobs, production and real income.

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http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=17

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Monday August 21, 2017 @ 03:17:36 AM mt

The Silly Appeal of Expanding Medicare for All



Senior Fellow Devon Herrick writes at NCPA's Health blog:

Many people believe Obamacare was a conspiracy, with asinine design features intended to cause the program to fail. The primary goal in the minds of conspiracy buffs was to usher in a single-payer program of Medicare for All once Obamacare collapsed under adverse selection. The theory goes something like this: with nowhere to turn except the government, Americans would finally throw up their hands and acquiesce to government intervention. Seniors purportedly all love their Medicare, so why not expand the program to cover even more people?

Over the years I've derisively referred to simpleton ideas to expand Medicare to cover the entire U.S. population as Medicaid-for-All. My point was to point out that the program the elderly have come to rely on is not the same program we would have if it were expanded to cover the entire population. Little did I know I was being prophetic? There are now calls to expand Medicaid as a safety net program to everyone who cannot afford private health insurance, by allowing them to buy into the programs for the poor. Nevada's legislature even passed a bill to allow all state residents to buy into the program.

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For more on Health Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=16

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Monday August 21, 2017 @ 03:17:35 AM mt

California Money Couldn't Buy Georgias Special Election



Senior Fellow Devon Herrick writes at NCPA's Health blog:

The special election for Georgia's Sixth District to fill the seat vacated by Secretary Price was heated. Jon Ossoff wasthe Democrat who ran for the seat with considerable outside support. He lost, nonetheless. A precinct captain supposedly complained that many of Jon Ossoff's potential voters were hard to reach because they live with their parents. Democrats purportedly spent $200 per democratic vote, but I guess it wasn't enough.

About the time Jimmy Carter was president or maybe it was after he left office, he was interviewed about Georgia politics. If I understood him correctly (I was young at the time), he explained that it was during his lifetime that the state had to pass a law limiting the number of years a wife could vote her deceased husband's preferences. (Presumably the limit has been reduced to zero since then.) I guess this means there was a time when it was legal for dead people to vote in Georgia. I wonder if some of them voted in Tuesday's special election?

The special electionwas the most expensive House race in history. This isan illustrate how divisive the politics in the time of President Trump is; and the GOP health initiative in particular. The election was not so much about the preferences of Georgians from the Sixth Congressional District as it was about outside interests intent on swaying the election and denying Trump the votes he needs to pass his agenda.

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For more on Government Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=33

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Friday August 18, 2017 @ 09:38:13 AM mt

Legislating Drug Price Transparency



NCPA Senior Fellow Thomas Hemphill writes in Regulation magazine:Essential Medicines.

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry has once again become a target of consumers' and politicians' ire. In the past few years, public outcry ensued after a new, blockbuster drug was marketed at a seemingly exorbitant price and an older, off-patent generic drug underwent a progression of price hikes.

The former controversy was over the drug Harvoni, first released by Gilead Sciencesin 2014. Harvoni can completely cure many people of the most common type of hepatitis C (and with few side effects), resulting in its being hailed by the medical community as a major breakthrough. However, the patient cost of this "miracle drug"-- $94,500 for a 12-week treatment -- elicited a firestorm of condemnation. By late 2014, both Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee were demanding detailed cost data on Harvoni from Gilead Sciences because the new drug was already placing an additional strain on the budgets of state and federal health care assistance programs.

The latter controversy was over Turing Pharmaceutical's marketing of Daraprim, a medication used to treat protozoal infections in AIDS and cancer patients. Daraprim is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. In the summer of 2015, Turing announced that the drug's price would rise from $13.50 to $750 per tablet -- a 5,500% increase.

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For more on Health Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=16

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Friday August 18, 2017 @ 09:38:13 AM mt

Maryland's Drug Price Gouging Law: The Potential Consequences



NCPA Senior Fellow Thomas Hemphill writes at RealClear Health:

On May 26, Maryland became the first state to pass a law which applies specifically to "price gouging" practices by generic pharmaceutical manufacturers of essential drugs. This law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 137-2-2 in the Maryland House of Delegates, and 38-7-2 in the Maryland Senate, had more than enough votes to override the Governor's veto. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R), in a letter to the speaker of the Maryland House, explained that he withheld his signature because the bill vaguely defines what constitutes "price gouging" and may not withstand a legal challenge on constitutional grounds.

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Friday August 18, 2017 @ 09:38:13 AM mt

The Opioid Crisis and the Law of Unintended Consequences



Senior Fellow Devon Herrick writes at NCPA's Health blog:

A letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine back in 1980 is thought to have been the nudge that set the opioid crisis in motion. The letter claimed only four addictions were documented out of nearly 40,000 patients who were prescribed powerful opioid pain pills. The article arguing addiction to prescription opioids is rare has been cited 600 times -- often incorrectly. Doctors and drug makers used this as evidence that it was safe to prescribed opioids to more patients with chronic pain.

Fast forward nearly 40 years and it has become clear that opioids can be dangerous in the wrong hands. There is also significant risk of diversion to the illicit market. After states began closing down so-called "pill mills," heroin and fentanyl began flooding the US to take the place of the prescription drugs that were no longer available. Whole regions of the country have been hard hit by prescription drug abuse, including large areas of Appalachia. Other disease also tend to accompany IV drug abuse, including as hepatitis C and HIV.

I became aware of the 1980 letter on Real Clear Health. Notice the stock photo on the page linking to the article (AP Photo credit Mary Altaffer). It's not an opioid pain reliever, it's Bextra. Bextra is a pain reliever from a class of selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors known as COX-2 Inhibitors. That photo got me to thinking: The opioid crisis isn't just due to a letter to a medical journal back in 1980. It is also due to risk aversion at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and trial lawyers.

Bextra was withdrawn from the market in 2005 due to some claimed (rare) side-effects that included slightly elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. Vioxx is another COX-2 inhibitor that was withdrawn from the market (in 2004), also due to safety concerns when prescribed for long-term use or in high doses.

Vioxx and Bextra are both anti-inflammatory drugs once used to treat arthritis and acute pain. They were popular because they do not irritate the stomach like other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The millions of people worldwide who benefitted from access to Vioxx and Bextra are the real losers in withdrawal of the once popular prescription pain relievers.

The evidence that Vioxx is dangerous was pretty slim, but try telling that to the trial lawyers. Over the course of a multi-year study that followed nearly 2,600 people, 45 of the patients taking Vioxx experienced heart attacks or strokes, compared to 25 people taking a placebo. The number of people in each group who actually died was five. Even though the death rate was equal, Merck removed Vioxx from the market -- probably to reduce its liability. The makers of both Vioxx and Bextra paid out huge sums to settle lawsuits for people who died while taking the drugs.

Of course, it's easier to count those few people whom statistics suggest may have died in greater numbers than expected, even if only from natural causes, than to count those whose lives might have been extended by access to a drug that has been taken off the market. The latter have no right to sue. One reason people paid more for Vioxx (10 to 15 times more) than less-expensive pain relievers was because it caused less post-operative bleeding and protected the stomach against ulcers cheaper medications often cause. The family members of the 16,500 patients who die annually of bleeding ulcers caused by older pain relievers can hardly be expected to attribute the deaths of their loved ones to a drug they couldn't take. Yet under current law, those who die of a heart attack while taking a drug have every right to sue-even if the drug did them far more good than harm. They also have a right to sue even if the death of a family member cannot be proven to have been caused by the drug itself. The less effective, less expensive generic and over-the-counter pain relievers are poor targets for lawsuits.

More than 100 million people took Vioxx before it was removed from the market. The use of COX-2 pain relievers also precludes taking aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks. Maybe that explains the slightly elevated risk of heart attacks and strokes from these drugs.

How many of the people in chronic pain who became addicted to opioids could have safely taken Vioxx or Bextra? We will never know. There is little reason to deny patients access to drugs like Bextra and Vioxx. The ones who suffer the consequences are the patients, and they should be allowed to decide whether drugs are worth the risk, rather than having the decision made for them by a risk-averse FDA and other people's lawyers.

For more on Health Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=16

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Friday August 18, 2017 @ 09:38:12 AM mt

Cost Transparency Improves Collections and Boosts Satisfaction



NCPA Senior Fellow Devon Herrick writes for Managed Healthcare Executive:

One complaint about Obamacare is that deductibles have skyrocketed since its inception. The average deductible has about doubled in the past decade in the employer market, a phenomenon that began long before Obamacare. In 2016, the average deductible for employee-only coverage was $1,478. The average deductible for marketplace plans in 2017 is $6,105 (bronze) and $3,609 (silver). As a result of higher deductibles, many individuals are essentially having to pay virtually all their medical care bills out of pocket.

Patients are often shocked when they get hit with out-of-network medical bills or even just an expensive charge they did not expect. A recent survey claimed more than one-third (37%) of Americans could not pay a medical bill of $100 without incurring debt. One-in-five reported being so cash-strapped they could not pay anything toward a medical bill without incurring debt. In the same survey just more than half of Americans indicated they have received medical bills they could not pay.

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For more on Health Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=16

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