October 28, 2011

AP on Which Vendors Get Paid in Ill.: Both Parties Supposedly Have Political Influence, But Item Cites Only Dems

IllinoisUnpaidBills1011The news item I will cite goes back over a week, but the problem surely remains. In light of the ongoing battles over public-sector wages and benefits as well as the taxes which pay for them, it deserves far more attention than it is currently receiving. It follows up on an October 15 post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) where I noted, in reviewing an Associates Press story which originally appeared the previous day, that the State of Illinois’ financial inability to pay its vendors on time and the related hardships involved have been mostly getting the establishment press silent treatment, while efforts at fiscal balance in Ohio and Wisconsin largely involving collective-bargaining reforms have been national stories with mostly negative coverage.

An October 20 AP item by Political Writer John O’Connor informs us that who gets paid first is often driven by politicians’ pleas instead of place in line. Despite O’Connor’s claim that “Republican or Democrat” influence can be involved, he only cited examples involving Democratic lawmakers:

Bills get paid faster in Ill. with lawmakers’ help

If you plan on doing business with the state of Illinois, you’d better learn to beg – preferably to an influential politician.

With the state billions of dollars behind in paying its debt, collecting on unpaid bills can be a torturous, confusing process in which how fast you get paid may depend on who goes to bat for you.After receiving “hardship” appeals from businesses and community organizations awaiting payment from the state, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget office asked to speed up the payment of $1.1 billion on more than 21,000 vouchers in the last 13 months. That’s an average of 83 each business day, according to an Associated Press analysis of state records.

Nearly 1,000 pages of emails and letters to the state, obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act and supported by other documents and interviews, showed that businesses and nonprofits backed by lawmakers or others with clout – Democrat or Republican – often get paid more quickly than others.

But the rules for who gets paid and how quickly are not always followed. Even state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, whose office is in charge of writing the checks, acknowledges the system isn’t fair.

“Is any of this fair? None of it is fair,” said Topinka, a Republican. “No matter what we do, we’re going to have to juggle.”

To help them determine who needs it the most, Topinka said her staff relies on what “a legislator or an agency director tells us. I don’t know another way to get at it.”

The legislators named in the rest of O’Connor’s piece include:

  • Illinois Senate President John Cullerton — Democrat
  • House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie — Democrat
  • Currie’s “Senate counterpart,” James Clayborne — Democrat
  • Rep. Anthony DeLuca — “D-Crete”
  • Sen. Linda Holmes and Rep. Linda Chapa La Via — Both are identified as Democrats from Aurora

Here’s an intensely annoying quote from Democratic Governor Quinn noted by O’Connor:

In an interview with the AP, Quinn expressed no dissatisfaction with a system he said predates his time in office.

“No dissatisfaction”? No desire to improve an awful? No remorse of problems which haven’t been resolved despite 67% and 46% increases in personal and business income taxes, respectively?

Oh, but state employees have done just fine:

… cost of living increases for AFSCME members have averaged 4.25 percent a year over the past five years. From 2007 to 2010, the resolution says, the consumer price index has increased an average of 1.95 percent a year.

With compounding, 4.25% per year for five years amounts to just over 23% — and wages were already way out of kilter compared to the private sector in 2008. If state employee raises had averaged half of that over all five years, it might have the money right now to get its vendors back to 30 days. The state may not even have “needed” to raise income taxes — and wouldn’t be playing a political winners and losers game which (surprise) appears to be tilted towards helping people connected with the majority party over who does and doesn’t get paid.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Obamacare’s Marriage Penalties: Been There …

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:48 am

… wrote a column on that — 19 months ago, in March 2010 (PJ Media; BizzyBlog).

It’s good to see Jim Angle at Fox News (HT to an emailer) covering it, but his calling it “a new wrinkle” is more than a little hard to take.

My column was based on what had to be weeks of work done by Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation in January 2010. The Republican opposition’s failure to reference Rector’s work in opposition to Obamacare, aka “The Affordable Care Act,” was an epic strategic failure.

Here are a few paragraphs from Angle’s report today:

Obama’s Health Care Law Penalizes Marriage, Analysts Say

A new wrinkle has surfaced in the implementation of the federal health care law that critics argue will impose a significant penalty on women and marriage.

The law includes generous subsidies for the uninsured so they can afford to buy coverage in the new insurance exchanges that are part of the legislation.

But several analysts told Congress Thursday the nature of the subsidies has an odd effect.

“The way this bill is structured, there are disincentives for women to marry and disincentives for women to work,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “And for a bill that’s supposed to make Americans healthier, these disincentives are truly startling.”

Critics say that beginning in 2014, Americans will find it more advantageous to stay single than marry because it will be easier to afford health coverage.

It isn’t just “critics”; it’s the hard math, laid out in the table which follows:

ObamaCareSubsidiesHeritage032610

I explained the table and its clear implications in March 2010 (bolds added now were not in original):

The orange boxes represent examples where the subsidy decrease amounts to almost 80% or more than 80% of a couple’s $5,000 increase in combined or joint income. After adding another 7.65% for Social Security and Medicare taxes on top of the typical 15% (or higher) marginal federal income tax rate, the extra $5,000 earned will cost the couple more than $5,000 — even before considering state and local income taxes.

Then there are the purple boxes, where subsidy loss alone amounts to more than $5,000, including one case where it’s more than double that, before considering any other taxes.

… There’s a term for a state that penalizes additional earnings on a dollar-for-dollar basis, and it surely isn’t “representative democracy.” I don’t think anyone has yet coined a word describing a political philosophy that is okay with taking more than that. Perhaps it should be “Obamism.” Note that this is far more extreme than virtually anything Europe’s most brazen socialists have attempted since World War II.

Given the disincentives, many and probably most lower- and middle-income Americans will conclude that there’s no point in accepting promotions, working overtime, getting a second job, or attempting any other form of financial self-improvement (except perhaps under the table). They will thus end up stuck where they are. The remarkable income mobility which is so critical to long-term economic growth and prosperity and which has marked this great nation as so unique for centuries will become a distant memory.

To update to reflect current news, Obamacare is perhaps the most effective mechanism ever invented for keeping the 99% right where they are.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (102811)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder follows. Other topics are also fair game.

___________________________________

Lee Stranahan at BigGovernment.com (“Banks Beware: #Occupy’s Next Targets Revealed”) — “The Occupy movement is planning to take ‘direct action’ against banks in the next several days, using a variety of tactics, according to video and email evidence compiled by Big Government. … The assault on banks appears to be the movement’s latest strategy and part of an overall scheme to ‘take over the banks, to nationalize them’, as one #OWS supporter said in a recent email revealed by BigGovernment.com.”

“Unemployment Fraud on the Rise ” — It’s an Alabama story, but it’s not an isolated problem.

Associated Press (“FBI: Hundreds of NY rail workers part of $1B fraud”) — “Hundreds of Long Island Rail Road employees may have cheated their way to big pensions through a $1 billion fraud by paying off doctors to say they were unable to work …” Note that the word “unionized” was conveniently missing from the headline, and that such a widespread fraud could not have been possible without the union representation and bargaining framework. LIRR has “17 … bargaining units represented by 10 different unions.”

Concentrating on the important stuff — “President Obama to locked-out NBA: It’s later than you think”

Fair is fair (HT Instapundit) — “The Richmond tea party is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city, claiming it unfairly charged them for rallies while allowing the Occupy protesters to use the same space for several weeks for free.” Good for them, but sadly, they probably won’t collect, and Occupy Richmond’s freeloaders probably won’t pay.

Michelle Malkin“Re-confirmed: John Murtha was a rotten corruptocrat.” Murtha, it must be recalled, the darling of “immediate withdrawal” leftist peaceniks everywhere during the Iraq War — in which, by the way, U.S. troops under the command of David Petraeus and George W. Bush were victorious — and the deserved target of OH-02 Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s “Cowards cut and run, but Marines never do” comment on the House floor in 2005.

“There’s almost no vote fraud” update from Minnesota (Alternate headline: “Conclusive proof that Al Franken and Minnesota Democrats stole the 2008 Senate race”) — “113 convictions represent small fraction of total unlawful votes.” More broadly, “… most of the (over 2,800) suspects on Minnesota Majority’s original list did, in fact, vote while ineligible, but the standard for prosecution in Minnesota is ‘ineligible voter knowingly votes.’ If an ineligible voter claims not to have known they were breaking the law, it’s difficult for prosecutors to prove otherwise. In essence, to be convicted of voter fraud, the suspect must generally admit willful, knowing guilt.” Franken stole the election from Norm Coleman by 235 votes. And yes, I’m asserting based on years of evidence accumulated by John Fund that voting while ineligible — knowingly or “unknowingly” — is an overwhelmingly Democratic Party phenomenon.

Positivity: Rome celebrates first ever Feast of Bl. John Paul II

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Rome:

Oct 22, 2011 / 07:08 pm

Blessed John Paul II was remembered with celebrations all over Rome on Oct. 22, his first feast day since his May 1 beatification.

Among other events in Rome, the day was celebrated with a pilgrimage from one papal basilica to another.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, head priest of St. Peter’s Basilica, started off the pilgrimage in St. Peter’s Square in the early afternoon. It concluded four hours later with a prayer vigil at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Diocese of Rome’s vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, then celebrated Mass.

John Paul II’s personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisc of Krakow, Poland, celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s earlier in the day with more than 200 other priests and several cardinals and bishops.

In his homily, the Polish cardinal said John Paul II can inspire the new evangelization.

“Committing ourselves to this work,” he said, “we fulfill in the best way the testament the blessed introduced to the Church in the third millennium of Christianity.”

Also on Saturday, Cardinal Comastri celebrated Mass at Rome’s Shrine of Divine Love. He blessed a new mosaic depicting Bl. John Paul II. The shrine, on the city’s southern edge, was visited by the late Pope just months into his papacy.

Though John Paul II was elected a week prior to Oct. 22, the chosen feast day, the date marks the official beginning of his pontificate in 1978. …

Go here for the rest of the story.