. . . and asks "what happened in 1980?" If I had to guess, I'd say "some sort of data discontinuity", but other than that, I don't know.
I do, however, have a plausible candidate for what happened in 1986, when the thing starts rising briskly over a period of years: the Reagan tax simplification. It got rid of a lot of the ability to expense lifestyle enhancements for workers, but left an important one intact: the deduction for health care.
You can argue that the employee health care deduction basically explains the entire cost differential between American systems and the others. Take a look at this graph (you'll have seen some variant of it many times during the health care debate, but I got this particular one from a presentation by Scott Atlas at Hoover last month):
The blue lines show per capita spending; the purple, spending as a percentage of GDP. Now look at that same image, hamfistedly altered by yours truly to show what the graph would look like if the approximately 35% tax subsidy we give to employer health care benefits were withdrawn:
Suddenly, the US isn't really an outlier. We'd still be spending more--but we're richer, and in general, rich countries spend more of their GDP on health care.
Is this dispositive? Hardly. But it's suggestive. And there's some literature to back up effects that are huge, if not quite 35%, like Jonathan Gruber's recent paper.
Naturally, this puts me in mind of Ezra Klein's recent post:
The problem is that Medicare can't control costs too much better than private insurers or, as you see from the article above, doctors will simply abandon Medicare. In a world where there's only Medicare and Medicare decides to control costs, doctors can either take the pay cut or stop being doctors. And as we see from other countries, lots of people want to be doctors, even if being a doctor doesn't make you particularly wealthy. But in a world where Medicare is just one of many payers and Medicare decides to control costs, doctors can simply stop taking Medicare patients and a lot of legislators will lose their jobs.
Given how hard it's proven to tackle the tax subsidy for employer-sponsored insurance, I'm not seeing much of a change any time soon. In fact, a recent post by Austin Frakt suggests that we're expanding it:
Are you getting this? Let me make it clear. The PPACA may make it possible for workers to get the same tax break for purchasing health insurance on the individual market (via an exchange or otherwise) as they would if they bought their employer-sponsored plan (if they're offered one). If this is the case, it removes one huge incentive for maintaining employer-sponsored coverage. With respect to taxation, it levels the playing field between the group and non-group (individual) markets.
There are some economic efficiency arguments for doing this, but it's not going to help us control costs. Perhaps quite the opposite.
She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.
The ashes filled a black plastic box about the size of a toaster. It weighed three and a half pounds. I put it in a canvas tote bag and packed it in my suitcase this past July for the transpacific flight to Manila. From there I would travel by car to a rural village. When I arrived, I would hand over all that was left of the woman who had spent 56 years as a slave in my family’s household.
The condition has long been considered untreatable. Experts can spot it in a child as young as 3 or 4. But a new clinical approach offers hope.
This is a good day, Samantha tells me: 10 on a scale of 10. We’re sitting in a conference room at the San Marcos Treatment Center, just south of Austin, Texas, a space that has witnessed countless difficult conversations between troubled children, their worried parents, and clinical therapists. But today promises unalloyed joy. Samantha’s mother is visiting from Idaho, as she does every six weeks, which means lunch off campus and an excursion to Target. The girl needs supplies: new jeans, yoga pants, nail polish.
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At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). She seems poised and cheerful, a normal preteen. But when we steer into uncomfortable territory—the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family—Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. “I wanted the whole world to myself,” she says. “So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.”
The president’s business tells lawmakers it is too difficult to track all its foreign revenue in accordance with constitutional requirements, and it hasn’t asked Congress for a permission slip.
Days before taking office, Donald Trump said his company would donate all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, part of an effort to avoid even the appearance of a conflict with the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Now, however, the Trump Organization is telling Congress that determining exactly how much of its profits come from foreign governments is simply more trouble than it’s worth.
In response to a document request from the House Oversight Committee, Trump’s company sent a copy of an eight-page pamphlet detailing how it plans to track payments it receives from foreign governments at the firm’s many hotels, golf courses, and restaurants across the globe. But while the Trump Organization said it would set aside all money it collects from customers that identify themselves as representing a foreign government, it would not undertake a more intensive effort to determine if a payment would violate the Constitution’s prohibition on public office holders accepting an “emolument” from a foreign state.
Maine attached work requirements and time limits to its safety net, intensifying poverty in the state.
ORLAND, Maine—In the eyes of the state of Maine, Laurie Kane is an able-bodied adult without dependents, and thus ineligible for most forms of government support. In her own eyes, it is hard to see how she is going to find housing, work, and stability without help.
Kane is struggling to put her life back together amid a spell of homelessness that has lasted for three years. She has a severe anxiety condition, along with other health problems, and had suffered a panic attack on the day I met her. But she had not managed to sign up for MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, because she cannot get a doctor to certify her as being disabled. That’s not because a doctor has evaluated her and found her to be fine, but because she’s been unable to get a doctor’s appointment. “I was denied MaineCare because I’m considered an able-bodied person,” she told me. “A lot of people say, ‘Well, you can just get free care.’ They say, ‘You can go to a clinic with a sliding-fee scale, which would be $20 a visit.’ But what if I can’t come up with $20?”
When the FBI discovered a network of Bosnian-Americans giving support to terrorists, they also discovered Abdullah Ramo Pazara, a U.S. citizen and a battalion commander in Syria.
Abdullah Ramo Pazara had a craving for packets of instant hot cocoa. The Bosnian-American former truck driver was, at the time, a commander of an Islamic State tank battalion in Syria. Apparently, even foreign fighters who reject their former lives in Western countries for a chance at martyrdom for ISIS sometimes long for the creature comforts of their previous homes.
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In 2013, six Bosnian immigrants in the United States allegedly sent money, riflescopes, knives, military equipment, and other supplies to jihadists in Syria and Iraq through intermediaries in Bosnia and Turkey. According to the U.S. government’s allegations, individual ISIS fighters would make specific requests—mostly for money and military equipment—and the group would then raise funds and send supplies to Syria. The requests included what was surely an unexpected revelation of nostalgia—packets of Swiss Miss hot cocoa. By sending the cocoa mix and other supplies, federal prosecutors argue, these U.S.-based Bosnians provided what is known as “material support” to terrorists, in violation of the Patriot Act.
The television host is chalking up the loss to a liberal media crusade.
At least five advertising firms have pulled their commercials from the Sean Hannity Show on Fox News following the television host’s coverage of a false murder conspiracy. On Tuesday of last week, Hannity reiterated a now-debunked theory regarding the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee employee who was gunned down last summer in Washington, D.C. While local police suspect the shooting to be a botched robbery, Hannity claimed that Rich was murdered over his alleged ties to WikiLeaks. Moreover, Hannity argued on Twitter that the story could potentially discount any evidence of collusion between Russian officials and the Trump administration leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election:
And removing him from office won’t ease the country’s misery.
It's hard to pick the Venezuelan president’s greatest flaw. Which is more serious: his cruel indifference to the suffering of his people, or his brutal autocratic behavior? Which is more outrageous: his immense ignorance or the fact that he dances on television while his henchmen murder defenseless young protesters in the streets? The list of Nicolas Maduro’s failings is long, and Venezuelans know it; over 80 percent of them oppose him. And it's not just Venezuelans. The rest of the world has also discovered—at last!—his despotic, corrupt, and inept character.
And yet … Maduro doesn’t really matter. He is simply a useful idiot, the puppet of those who really control Venezuela: the Cubans, the drug traffickers, and Hugo Chavez’s political heirs. Those three groups effectively function as criminal cartels, and have co-opted the armed forces into their service; this is how it is possible that every day we see men in uniform willing to massacre their own people in order to keep Venezuela’s criminal oligarchy in power.
To understand both changes to the workforce and changing attitudes toward work, don’t watch young people. Watch their parents (and uncles, aunts, and grandparents).
Young people are the supposed vanguards of a new economic age. Unlike their parents, young people are said to value happiness over money. They prefer gigs over jobs. They prefer flexibility and meaning rather than status and hours at work. Rather than attach themselves to a single company, they are ushering in an economy of coffee-shop “creatives,” hot-desking between WeWork-style shared work spaces in pursuit of their individualistic dreams.
But there is another generation of U.S. workers with those non-monetary values and gig-style jobs. It’s not America’s youngest workers, but rather America’s oldest.
There is little question that an aging workforce—and an aging country—is one of the most important features of the modern economy. By 2024, one quarter of the workforce will be 55 and over—more than twice what the share was in 1994. And as they extend their working years, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity, it’s older Americans who are quietly adopting Millennial stereotypes, far more than actual Millennials are.
They’re so steady that you can balance a dead one on a single leg.
Young-Hui Chang can remember exactly when he realized how flamingos balance so effortlessly on one leg.
He and a fellow biologist Lena Ting suspected that the pink birds might have features on their legs that help lock their joints in place. But when they started dissecting one, they couldn’t find anything. With the bird lying flat on their table, they tried moving its legs this way and that. Nothing. And then Ting said: Why don’t you try and pick it up by the leg?
Chang grabbed the bird by its shin and held it upright—and the leg snapped into place, becoming rigid and unyielding. The flamingo looked almost like it was sleeping—one leg extended, the other bent, and the head tucked back into its feathers. And Chang probably looked like a fever-dream version of Mary Poppins, holding a dead flamingo aloft like the world’s unlikeliest umbrella. “It was a lightbulb moment,” he says. “We weren’t expecting it to be stable, but it totally was.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.