Listen to Me Discuss ISIS and Terrorism on The Adam Thompson Show!

Last week, I was a guest on The Adam Thompson Show, a political talk show on KKRP 1610 AM radio. After the video of ISIS burning a prisoner alive, emotions were running high — and they came out in full force. I tried to be the voice of reason in a tough conversation. You can be the judge of whether I made a dent in the debate. My segment begins around the 43-minute mark:

You can also download it on iTunes!

Good News: Obamacare Clearly Isn’t Stifling the Economy

Part-Time Employment Before and After ACA

The latest GDP numbers are bad news for Obamacare critics.

You’d think that everyone would be happy when the Commerce Department announced that our economy grew by a whopping 4.1 percent in the third quarter of this year. But according to the naysayers, that wasn’t supposed to happen.

One of their biggest complaints against Obamacare was that it would stifle the economy. Penalties and fines would raise the cost of doing business. High premiums would impoverish middle-class families. Forcing businesses to offer health insurance to full-time employees would make them switch to part-time employees — or stop hiring altogether.

And yet, the more of the law that’s implemented, the better the economy seems to perform. How can that be?

Well, for one thing, the cost of Obamacare has been greatly exaggerated. The law states that companies with more than 50 workers must offer health insurance to their full-time employees or pay a fine of $2,000 per employee. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a heck of a lot less than most companies are already paying for health insurance, which costs an average of $15,073 per worker.

“You’ve got 5.7 million firms in the U.S.,” says health economist Mark Duggan. “Only 210,000 have more than 50 employees. So 96 percent of firms aren’t affected. Then if you look among those firms with 50 or more employees, something on the order of 95 percent offer health insurance.”

When you add it all up, the “employer mandate” probably affects less than 1 percent of the workforce. Definitely not enough to make a dent in the economy.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is no evidence that Obamacare is turning us into a “part-time” economy. Since President Obama signed the law, the economy has added millions of full-time jobs, while part-time jobs have actually declined. A lower percentage of workers are part-time than they were under President Reagan in the 1980s. Over the past year, there has been a significant decline in the number of people working part-time “for involuntary economic reasons.” And when you look at the part-time definition of “less than 30 hours per week,” the number of workers who fall just below that cutoff has been growing slower than the number of workers just above it.

And it makes even less sense to argue that the employer mandate would cause employers to drop coverage. If they’re offering coverage, it’s because their employees want it, and they want to attract and retain good employees. They’re not going to stop just because the penalty costs less than the insurance. If they wanted to drop coverage, they could have done it before Obamacare, when there wasn’t a penalty at all. In fact, in the years after Massachusetts enacted an employer mandate, their employer-based insurance coverage actually increased while the rest of the nation’s decreased.

What’s more, those small businesses that do offer coverage will receive a sizeable tax credit. For the small businesses that already offer coverage, this is a huge windfall. For the ones that don’t, the tax credit may make it profitable for them to do so. And since they fall under the 50-employee cutoff, they won’t be penalized if they don’t offer coverage.

The only remaining question mark is exactly how the employer mandate will affect insurance premiums. Since it doesn’t go into effect until the beginning of 2015, we’ll have to wait until the end of 2014 to find out. Just like this year’s fiasco, there will probably be a lot of complaints about dropped coverage and raised rates, and then those complaints will fade away as people realize that most of them can get better coverage and, on average, rates are going down.

And, as an added bonus, those Americans who do lose their employer-based coverage now have the comfort of knowing that they won’t be denied coverage or charged discriminatory rates on the individual market, thanks to the individual mandate and the online marketplace that are now in place. They will get affordable insurance, and they will live healthier lives, and they will continue to contribute to the rising productivity that is making our economy grow so fast.

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This op-ed was published in the Huffington Post, and a slightly edited version was published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Those Obamacare Stories Aren’t as Scary as They Sound

One of Many Plan-Cancellation Letters

‘Tis the season to be scary — and no one is getting in the Halloween spirit more than Obamacare critics. Forget the ghost stories this year, kids. You really want to scare your friends? Tell them some health insurance stories!

Did you hear the one about Dianne Barrette from Winter Haven, Florida? Dianne used to pay $54 a month for health insurance from Blue Cross and Blue Shield. But not anymore. Under Obamacare, her plan has been cancelled…and replaced with a new plan costing $591 a month!

Then there’s the one about Allison Denijs. Allison already pays a lot for insurance. She has a preexisting condition, and her plan covers her husband and one of her two daughters. All told, it costs her $20,000 a year. But Obamacare is cancelling her plan too!

Or maybe you heard the one about Robbie and Tina Robison from Franklin, Tennessee. They too are losing their current plan. In its place, Blue Cross is offering them a new plan that costs over 50 percent more!

And they’re not alone. In Florida alone, 300,000 customers have received letters from Blue Cross and Blue Shield notifying them that they will lose their current plan in 2014. All across the country, millions of Americans are receiving the same news!

But wait. Do you notice anything strange about these scare stories? None of them tell you why they’re losing their plans.

I’ll tell you why: Because the insurance companies wanted to make those plans worse.

Back in 2010, you probably remember President Obama saying, “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan, period.” He was referring to the “grandfather” clause of the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA requires that all health-insurance plans meet minimum standards. For example, they all have to cover prescription drugs, ambulatory services, mental health services, and several other categories that are currently excluded from many plans on the individual market. If you signed up for your insurance plan before the law went into effect on March 23, 2010, however, you’re exempt from this requirement. Your plan is “grandfathered” in.

Unless your plan becomes worse — say, because your insurance company wants to take away some of your coverage or raise your co-payments faster than the medical cost of inflation. In that case, it’s no longer exempt because it’s not the same plan anymore.

So, yes, you can keep your old plan. Unless the insurance company changes it. In which case it isn’t your old plan anymore.

That’s what the President meant.

In every one of those cases, the customers who lost their plans are being offered better plans — either by their current insurance carrier or on the government-run exchange.

What CBS and Fox News didn’t tell you about Dianne Barrette, for example, is that her $54-a-month plan didn’t cover hospital stays or ambulance services or brand-name drugs or…really, most of the things she’d need if she ever got really sick. Under Obamacare, she will receive coverage for all of those things.

Not so scary after all, is it?

But what about those premium increases? Those seem pretty scary…if you take the insurance company’s word for it.

After Allison Denijs appeared on Fox News, Salon reporter Eric Stern contacted her and asked if she’d found a new plan on the Obamacare exchange. She hadn’t looked yet, so Stern did it for her. He found a plan that covers her entire family — including her currently uninsured daughter — for $7,600, less than half of what her old plan cost.

Then Stern called the Robison’s. They refused to shop on the Obamacare exchange, which is a shame because Stern found a plan that they could get that would cost them 63 percent less than their old plan — and it would cover more services.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone will pay less under Obamacare, but the point of the law is to make health insurance affordable for people who need it the most. For young, healthy Americans, it may result in a slight cost increase, but we must remember why their insurance was so cheap before Obamacare came along: Because insurance companies were discriminating against the sick, excluding the most desperate and most costly customers.

Someday, when they’re not so young and healthy anymore, those Americans are going to be thankful that Obamacare is there — and that they can buy affordable health insurance that covers all the healthcare services they need. You might say Obamacare has given them one less thing to be…scared of.

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An abbreviated version of this op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Even the Shutdown Can’t Kill Old Republican Fallacies

Annualized Growth in Real GDP per Capita, by President

Old fallacies die hard.

You would think, for instance, that Americans wouldn’t trust Republicans anymore. Poll after poll has shown that the American public holds them responsible for the government shutdown — and the American public hated the shutdown. Their approval rating plummeted to 21 percent, while President Obama’s held steady at 42 percent.

And yet, according to a Pew Research survey released at the end of the shutdown, Americans still believe that Republicans do a “better job dealing with the economy” than Democrats.

Clearly, it will take more than a two-week shutdown to kill the myth that simply won’t die.

And it is a myth. Since the government started collecting economic data around World War II, we have accumulated plenty of evidence to measure each party’s success at “dealing with the economy” — and none of it makes Republicans look good.

In their book Presimetrics: What the Facts Tell Us About How the Presidents Measure Up on the Issues We Care About, economist Mike Kimel and journalist Michael E. Kanell use this data to calculate the performance of the economy under every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. Here’s what they found…

Real GDP per capita. The most basic measure of economic success is the growth of output per person, adjusted for inflation. The fastest growth came in the Kennedy/Johnson years, when “real GDP per capita” grew 3.48 percent per year. The second-fastest came in the Clinton years, a strong 2.49 percent per year. Compare those numbers to laggards like Eisenhower and Bush Sr., who oversaw annual growth of 1.11 percent and 0.93 percent, respectively. When you add up all the Democratic years and all the Republican years, you find that the economy grew 2.82 percent per year under Democratic presidents and 1.54 percent under Republicans.

You may say, “What about the Great Depression? Aren’t they cherry-picking numbers by excluding the biggest economic event of the 20th century?” Actually, if you add Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman, the Democrats’ average score goes up, and the Republicans’ goes down.

Another common criticism is that presidents inherit the problems of their predecessors. Should we really hold them responsible for the beginning of their term, when the economy’s fate is decided largely by the last guy’s policies? Fair enough. Let’s exclude the first year of each president’s term and recalculate the numbers. Guess what? Again, the Democrats’ score goes up, and the Republicans’ goes down.

Employment-to-population ratio. Instead of focusing on output, we could focus on jobs. Is the economy creating enough jobs to employ the same percentage of the population? Under Democrats, the employment-to-population ratio increased. Under Republicans, it decreased.

Real average weekly earnings. Often, economic growth doesn’t translate into the average American’s pocketbook. Why not look at weekly wages? Okay. Under Democrats, average weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, increased. Under Republicans, they decreased.

Real median income. But wages only tell part of the story. Maybe Americans work more hours or get more income from investments. Let’s look at the average household — the “median” — and see how their inflation-adjusted income changed: Under Democrats, it increased much faster than it did under Republicans.

Real net average disposable income. But Democrats are known for raising taxes (and, indeed, Kimel and Kanell find that the tax burden went higher under Democrats than Republicans). What if all that income growth winds up in the government’s pocket, negating the gains? Let’s measure average income after taxes: Still, the Democrats oversaw much faster income growth than Republicans!

Poverty rate. Under Democrats, the poverty rate decreased. Under Republicans, it increased.

Real adjusted S&P 500. The stock market grew much faster during Democratic administrations than it did during Republican presidencies.

Value of the dollar. Under Democrats, the dollar appreciated, as foreigners invested more in us. Under Republicans, the dollar depreciated, as foreigners invested less.

Of course, the picture is incomplete. Someday, we will add the completed Obama presidency to the list, and the numbers will change. But already GDP growth under Obama is faster than it was under George W. Bush, and it’s only improving. The stock market is surging up, and the shutdown confirmed what the data has proven: Republicans do not do a “better job dealing with the economy.”

The longer we believe that fallacy, the more shutdowns and recessions we will invite.

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This op-ed was published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.