Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Obama administration has tried to deny that any employer would adjust hiring behavior to make sure it didn't have to provide insurance for its employees. Tell that to the University of North Carolina system.
Starting next year, large employers must provide insurance for all employees who work more than 30 hours a week. The UNC system has 8,586 visiting professors, graduate assistants and others who meet that threshold but don't qualify for coverage under the State Health Plan because they are considered non-permanent employees.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the university system would have to provide insurance to all of those workers. The average cost of state health insurance is about $5,400 per year, bringing the total potential cost to $46.4 million.

"This is an unfunded mandate that's coming down on us," said Charlie Perusse, chief operating officer for the UNC system and a former state budget director.

UNC administrators say they might reduce the hours for many of the temporary workers to fewer than 30 per week to dodge the health care law's coverage requirement.

Joel Kotkin ponders whether dismal employment statistics among young people might help the GOP make inroads with those usually Democrat-leaning voters.
Today even a college degree guarantees increasingly little in terms of social uplift. Tuition debt is nearing $1 trillion; the percentage of 25-year-olds with school debt has risen from 25% in 2004 to close 40% in 2012. Average indebtedness amongst borrowers has grown 70% from $15,000 to nearly $25,000.

A record one in 10 recent college borrowers has defaulted on their debt, the highest level in a decade. With wages for college graduates on a downward slope, one has to wonder how many more will join them.

Over 43% of recent graduates who are employed are working at jobs that don’t require a college education, according to a recent report by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Some 16% of bartenders and almost the same percentage of parking attendants had a bachelor’s degree or higher, notes Ohio State economics professor Richard Vedder.

Besides a tepid economy, the millennials confront paying off huge public debts, much of it due to the generous pensions of boomer public employees. This constitutes what economist Robert Samuelson has labeled “a generational war” in which the young are destined to be losers in the “withering of the affluent society.” As he puts it: “For millions of younger Americans—say, those 40 and under—living better than their parents is a pipe dream. They won’t.”

Not surprisingly, the young, who are traditionally optimists, are becoming far less so. According to a Rutgers study, 56% of recent high school graduates feel they would not be financially more successful than their parents; only 14% thought they’d do better. College education doesn’t seem to make a difference: 58% of recent graduates feel they won’t do as well as the previous generation. Only 16% thought they’d do better.
If the GOP could put forth a message to appeal to those disillusioned young people, they might have a hope of decreasing the numbers identifying as Democrats. Though I would suppose that, if there were movement, it would be, as Kotikin acknowledges, towards voting as independents rather than becoming Republicans. And Kotkin's forecast would assume that young voters would ever see a link between the liberal economic policies they have previously supported and the dismal employment picture. They also might be just as likely to vote for politicians who promise to forgive their college loans and give them more government handouts for being unemployed as they would to support a more conservative solution. And even if the employment picture improved for those young people, they would return to voting mostly on social issues. So I remain skeptical of Kotkin's thesis.

Kay Hymowitz examines the lack of success from the approach taken in Scandinavian countries to try to eradicate all differences in how males and females are treated. Liberals claim that the only reason women choose careers that allow them to work fewer hours so that they can spend more time with their children is because of society's expectations, not due to fundamental differences between men and women. Even with all that these countries do, it is still women who are more likely to work fewer hours.
Consider Sweden, a country where the goal of gender parity is close to a national religion. Swedes have extensive paid parental leave designed so that it has to be shared by mothers and fathers in order for couples to receive the full 13 months off. They have high quality child care, and political party quotas to equalize the number of men and women running for office. Children’s clothes, toy and book companies try to design products to discourage any thoughts of boy or girl stuff. In some preschools teachers say “good morning, buddies” to avoid the offensive “good morning, boys and girls.”

The results are not what anyone could call revolutionary. Yes, women make up 45% of the Swedish parliament compared to a paltry 18% in the U.S Congress. And, yes, Swedish women are more likely to be in the labor force than their American counterparts. (Most of the data that follows comes from the 2012 OECD report “Closing the Gender Gap”). But the difference in labor force participation is not dramatic, and in most respects, Swedish women behave much as sisters do in the U.S.

Like Americans, Swedish women work substantially fewer hours than men; they are 2 times as likely to be part timers. They are the vast majority of social workers, teachers, and child care workers and a small minority of scientists (PDF) and CEO’s (PDF). In fact, Sweden’s labor market is among the most sex segregated (PDF) in the world and their wage gap shows it. Mothers take in only about 20% as men, much the same as in the United States. (links in original)

James Taranto takes on Justice Sotomayor's passionate dissent against yesterday's decision that the Michigan ballot initiative banning racial and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting, and university admissions decisions.
The most quoted part of Sotomayor's opinion is this: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination." This is a rejoinder to Chief Justice John Roberts's assertion, in Parents Involved v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 (2007), that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." (Roberts in turn rebutted Sotomayor in a separate concurrence to today's decision, which we're leaving out of our ranking by clarity.)

Robert's statement was trivially true, which means that Sotomayor's defies logic. Her argument amounts to an assertion that a ban on racial discrimination is a form of racial discrimination--that everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Also Orwellian is her claim that she wants "to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race." Such an assertion is almost always disingenuous. After all, the way to speak openly and candidly is to speak openly and candidly. Declaring one's intention to do so is at best superfluous throat clearing.

And while Sotomayor may be open, she isn't candid. She presents a potted history of race in America in which there is a straight line from Jim Crow segregation through literacy tests to the Michigan amendment, which "involves this last chapter of discrimination"--even though it bans discrimination, and even though Sotomayor acknowledges that its substance is perfectly constitutional.
As John Fund observes, the position taken by Sotomayor and Eric Holder is that we should be fixated on race forever in this country. That is why Sotomayor drew a puzzling line from Jim Crow racists to the Michigan citizens who voted to ban any discrimination on the basis of race. And Justice Scalia, as the Washington Examiner notes, strongly refuted her accusation.
As Justice Harlan observed over a century ago [in his dissent to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision allowing separate but equal public accomodations], '[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,'" Scalia concluded, quoting the dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson. "The people of Michigan wish the same for their governing charter. It would be shameful for us to stand in their way."

And then, the Parthian shot: “And doubly shameful to equate ‘the majority’ behind [the constitutional amendment] with ‘the majority’ responsible for Jim Crow,” he added in a final footnote, citing the first two pages of Sotomayor's dissent.

Politico examines how Senator Lindsay Graham was able to maneuver in South Carolina so that he wouldn't be threatened in a primary by Tea Party challenger as Senators Bob Bennett and Dick Lugar were back in 2010. Graham is one Republican who has irritated the party base for his votes with Democrats on several important issues. His success, however, in building a loyal voter base in his state follows the Strom Thurmond model and should be an example to other politicians who want to keep their seats once they're elected.