Some quick notes, questions, and random thoughts about the news from this past week.
On Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the employment data for February and announced an unemployment rate of 4.9%. However, that only tells half the story. This number comes from the Household Survey where the feds literally call people on the phone, ask them if they have a job, and if they don’t the BLS asks if they looked for a job this week. The last question – did you look for a job this week? – is crucial. If you did but were unsuccessful in finding one then the feds count you as unemployed. Thus you are part of the 4.9%.
But – and this is an Oprah sized but – if you didn’t look for a job this week then you are NOT considered to be unemployed. The fact that you don’t have a job but want one, perhaps desperately, is irrelevant. According to the BLS, you are not unemployed. This is insane.
The BLS calls these not-unemployed unemployed people “discouraged workers”. In February there were 5.87 million discouraged workers. When you add them to the 7.815 million the BLS counted as unemployed you get the true number of unemployed people in the US – 13.685 million. This gives us a true unemployment rate of 8.3%.
The feds are undercounting the unemployed by nearly 70%, a fact of which they are fully aware. But doesn’t 4.9% sound so much better in a press release?
The Whitehouse also told us last week how well Obamacare (ACA) is working. Nearly breaking her arm as she patted herself on the back, Sylvia Burwell, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, said “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans have gained health-care coverage.” That number counts everyone who gained insurance, from whatever source, since the first provisions of the ACA went into effect in 2010.
Let’s dig into that 20 million number a little. At the beginning of 2010 the economy was in the crapper and unemployment was at its highest level in 30 years. In the six years since about 11.2 million people have found jobs. Roughly half of all employees get health insurance through work. That means 5.6 million people got insurance because of their job, NOT because of the ACA.
But that still leaves 14.4 million who are now insured because of the ACA, right? Sort of.
Because of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision 18 million people joined Medicaid. But Medicaid is a program that’s been around since the 1960s as a safety net for the poor. All the ACA did was raise the income limit for qualifying thus “allowing” more people to join. I put scare quotes around the word allowing because Obamacare actually forces people into Medicaid. If your income is below the qualifying threshold then you can’t buy regular ACA insurance, instead you MUST join Medicaid or be uninsured. On a side note, Medicaid isn’t actually insurance. Recipients don’t pay premiums to obtain Medicaid.
So if Medicaid picked up 18 million people but only 14.4 million gained insurance because of the ACA, we apparently have a discrepancy of 3.6 million. That’s because the Obamacare insurance scheme raised prices for real insurance so drastically that 3.6 million previously-insured folks can no longer afford it. In other words, 3.6 million lost their insurance because of the ACA. Obamacare didn’t newly insure 20 million people. It forced people onto welfare or out of the insurance market completely. This is nothing to cheer about.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer wants you to pay more for an airline ticket. OK, that’s not exactly what he said but that would be the end result of what he wants. It seems Amy Schumer’s cousin is upset that airlines have reduced the leg-room between seats to 31” or less. He thinks there should be more room because “Consumers are tired of being packed into airplanes like sardines.” Hmmm … wouldn’t there be less people flying if they are as upset as Chucky says?
Schumer, like most Democrats, has a tenuous understanding of economics. Why have airlines reduced the distance between seats? So they can put more seats on a plane. What happens when you increase the supply of seats but demand stays constant? Prices go down. So what will happen if Schumer gets his way? There will be fewer seats for the same demand, thus prices will go up. Why is it that the economic illiterates always end up costing the rest of us more money?
Finally, police in Connecticut want to arm their drones and are trying to get legislation through the state legislature to do so. If this passes, how long will it take for a police drone to “fear for its life” and shoot someone’s dog?
As the year progresses I will keep a running tally of the number of unarmed citizens and dogs killed by police. I will also keep tabs on the number of cops killed in the line of duty.
Here’s the count for the first 9 weeks of the year along with links to the most recent killings:
Unarmed Americans killed by police: 13
Dogs killed by police: 8
Police killed in the line of duty: 12