John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Why SCHIP matters

EPI has this out on SCHIP today with links to data on health care coverage.

Why SCHIP matters

Yesterday, the Senate passed a $35 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would allow state plans to enroll an additional 3.8 million uninsured children.
The money is sorely needed. The share of children covered under employer-based health insurance has dropped from 66% in 2000 to 60% in 2006, according to a recent EPI Issue Brief by economist Elise Gould. Meanwhile, the share covered under government plans has leveled off, leaving a growing number of children without coverage.
Gould highlights the social and economic consequences of this trend: higher illness and mortality rates among children as well as an increase in avoidable hospitalizations. Uninsured children also don’t do as well in school. But children aren’t the only ones who pay the price: the social costs include higher personal bankruptcy rates, lower work productivity via increased absenteeism and turnover, and higher premiums for the insured.
The SCHIP bill passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, and the program is popular with voters of all political stripes. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has tried to block attempts to use state funds to expand SCHIP by accusing the program of crowding out private plans. But economist Jared Bernstein points out in a recent EPI Snapshot that the evidence shows that few children have enrolled in SCHIP after voluntarily switching from private plans.

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BEA Introduces New Measures of the Metropolitan Economy

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released new data on GDP by metro area. The link below leads to a variety of metro-by-metro output and growth data.

BEA Introduces New Measures of the Metropolitan Economy

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released experimental measures of economic output produced in the Nation’s metropolitan areas. GDP by metropolitan area is the measure of the market value of final goods and services produced within a metropolitan area in a particular period of time. GDP is BEA’s preferred and most comprehensive measure of economic activity. Metropolitan (statistical) areas, defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, are standardized county-based areas having at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core, as measured by commuting ties.

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Top 100 Economics Blogs

Some kind words from

Top 100 Economics Blogs | Currency

ArgMax Economics – This well respected site contains economics news, data, and analysis, as well as various other economics related services. Considered one of the best economic blogs on the internet with awards from Forbes and MSNBC.

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Economy Sends Off Warning Flares

So, I’m usually an optimist. But the current economy ain’t lookin so good. Here are my notes on the slowdown from 2 weeks ago, and additional data seem to be adding fuel to the recession fire (see NY Times link below).
I would strongly suggest that congress and presidential candidates begin to think now about what it would take to provide a fiscal stimulus (Bush seems otherwise preoccupied). We don’t need to jump right away, but we need to have a plan in our collective back pocket if needed.

Economy Sends Off Warning Flares – New York Times

Crumbling consumer confidence and slumping home sales could prove to be a bad combination for retailers, and for the broader economy going into the holiday shopping season, if the labor market contracts further and chokes off spending, economic data showed Tuesday.

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House Votes to Expand Children’s Health Insurance Program

Bush has threatened to veto expanded health insurance for 3.4 million low-income kids… 151 republicans and 8 democrats voted against the bill. Hopefully they will reconsider when it comes time to vote to override the president’s veto.

House Votes to Expand Children’s Health Insurance Program –

That would be enough to boost the program’s enrollment to 10 million, up from the 6.6 million, and dramatically reduce the ranks of America’s 9 million uninsured children, supporters said.

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Housing prices continue to fall

Not really a surprise given the mortgage financial crisis unfolding. How much farther will they go?
Full press release is here.

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Something afoot at the Treasury

The treasury department is apparently starting to trickle out a series of whitepapers on social security. This first one has a headline number of $13.6 trillion, which is supposed to be the present value of the shortfall over the indefinite future. (It’s always hard to give a decent interpretation to this kind of indefinite-future calculation by itself… in fact it’s pretty close to worthless.) They do note that this is about 3.5 percent of future payroll… much less scary of a number.)
I’m not sure who their audience is for these reports. There is approximately a zero chance of anything of substance happening by way of Bush-led social security reform, and Bush has long-ago lost any credibility on the issue. Is this perhaps Paulson’s attempt to reopen the issue?
Looks like the White House seems to have quickly stated that they want to cut benefits:

Report: social security short $13 trillion – Sep. 24, 2007

A report issued by the Treasury Department said that some combination of benefit cuts and tax increases will need to be considered to permanently fix the funding shortfall. But White House officials stressed that President Bush remains opposed to raising taxes.

(PS – Did the treasury fire their graphic designers? This report looks like it came straight out of Microsoft word – no graphics, pictures of old people, or anything. Perhaps money is tight over there…)

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Budget Veto

Bush is threatening to veto some federal spending… I’ll let you guess which:

200 Billion for 1 year of Iraq
After smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq, President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure — totaling nearly $200 billion — to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.
If Bush’s spending request is approved, 2008 will be the most expensive year of the Iraq war.


$22 billion for domestic priorities
For many Democrats, the whole purpose of controlling Congress is to shift priorities by spending more on veterans, health care, medical research, education, law enforcement and public works. […]
…the amount in dispute is relatively modest: $22 billion, which represents 2.4 percent of the amount subject to annual appropriations and less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget.

And the answer is, of course, (B).
“Mr. Bush has threatened to veto 9 of the 12 appropriations bills. More significant, he has said that the total for all the bills cannot exceed the amount he requested in his budget…”

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Middle class squeeze

Interesting graphic from CQ today. No wonder only 20% of people say economic conditions are getting better, while 72% say it’s getting worse (see this Gallup Poll.)

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What he said…

I was thinking of writing up a quick note on where I was, what I was doing Monday through Wednesday. But Jared beat me to it… see Notes from the Road

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