Tuesday, July 29, 2014
MEDICARE & SOCIAL SECURITY
► In the Washington Post — Medicare finances improve partly due to ACA, trustee report says — Medicare’s financial health is improving, according to a new official forecast that says that the program will remain solvent until 2030 — four years later than anticipated a year ago — because of the Affordable Care Act and lower-than-expected spending on hospital stays. The report, issued Monday by trustees for Medicare and Social Security, shows a substantial strengthening of the trust fund that pays for hospital care in the federal health program for older Americans.
► From AFL-CIO Now — Good news for all Americans in Social Security, Medicare reports — The annual reports from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released Monday “have good news for all Americans,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
Social Security and Medicare will be there for us and our families if elected leaders listen to the American people and reject calls to cut benefits. Instead of undermining these crucial programs, we must build on their success and adopt measures to strengthen and expand them.
► At Vox — Medicare isn’t going broke and this chart proves it. — The Obama administration will release its annual report on when it expects the Medicare Trust Fund to run out of money. This is known, more formally, as the Medicare Trustees Report — and it will likely lead to a moderate amount of hand-wringing about Medicare’s ultimate demise.
► But, of course, here’s the AP story most Americans are reading this morning — Despite good news, Social Security, Medicare face problems — Despite some good news, Medicare and Social Security still face long-term financial problems as millions of baby boomers reach retirement. Social Security’s disability program is already in crisis as it edges toward the brink of insolvency.
► And this gem of a headline in The Hill — Social Security, Medicare march toward insolvency
► From AP — Sick leave law passed by Eugene City Council — The Eugene City Council has joined cities such as Seattle, Portland and San Francisco in approving a mandatory sick leave law. The ordinance passed Monday on a 5-3 vote requires employers to provide workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours work, up to a maximum of 40 hours a year.
► In today’s (Everett) Herald — State share of Boeing jobs grows even as number shrinks — In the late 1990s, Boeing had more than 100,000 workers in the state, about 20,000 more than it has now. But Washington has grown as a share of Boeing’s total workforce from about 43 percent in 1998 to 48 percent this year, according to The Daily Herald’s analysis.
► In today’s Peninsula Daily News — Initiative petitions would have Sequim voters weigh in on city employee union bargaining — Calling for more accountability from both the city and the unions that represent 50 of its workers, and saying municipal employees should have the choice of joining a union, citizens’ advocates filed a pair of initiatives Monday they want to put before voters.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Stubborn concrete slows work on Bertha’s repair by a month — A deep access pit to repair tunnel-boring machine Bertha will be finished a month late because crews need extra time to grind and chisel through concrete.
► At Northwest Progressive — Republican Party trying to drive down support for Isenhower with attack mailers — In an apparent attempt to make the high-profile contest between incumbent Republican Andy Hill and his Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower look less competitive, the Senate Republican caucus (of which Andy Hill is a member) has begun sending out attack mailers to Democratic voters in the 45th District, trying to discredit Matt Isenhower by claiming he is really a Republican — which is not true.
► In the Bellingham Herald — I’m running to improve education, jobs (by Seth Fleetwood) — My name is Seth Fleetwood and I am running for Washington state Senate in the 42nd District… I’ve been troubled by the legislative gridlock we’ve seen in the news. While the Senate pushed our state to the brink of government shutdown our needs in Whatcom County went unaddressed. Our schools are overcrowded, our roadways in disrepair and our small businesses are struggling. It’s time to stop the D.C.-style bickering and get things done.
► In today’s Olympian — PEBB ready to set health premium rates that don’t climb a lot for state workers in 2015 — The Public Employees Benefits Board must approve rates that state workers will pay next year for health coverage. State taxpayers are picking up 85 percent of premiums, leaving 15 percent for staffers.
► In today’s Olympian — Pension Council sets contribution rates that will jump up in 2015 for state workers, taxpayers — Changes to contribution rates for more than a half-dozen plans is driven by two factors — retirees living longer and falling investment returns.
► From AP — Obama mulls large-scale move on immigration — Even as they grapple with an immigration crisis at the Mexican border, White House officials are making plans to act before November’s elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers in touch with the administration.
► At Politico — Obama immigration moves could raise legal questions — Even if President Barack Obama tests the bounds of his presidential power with the big, unilateral moves he’s promising on immigration, there may be no way to stop him. Lawyers are debating the legality of a series of immigration-related executive actions the White House is reportedly considering, but there’s broad agreement suing the president isn’t likely to work.
► At Politico — Poll: Let border kids stay — Nearly 70 percent of Americans believe the undocumented Central American children entering along the U.S.-Mexico border should be treated as refugees, a new poll shows.
► In The Hill — $17B deal reached to overhaul VA — The new bill would provide $10 billion for veterans to seek private care at hospitals and clinics outside the VA, and $5 billion to allow the department to hire more doctors, nurses and medical staff. Another $1.5 billion could be spent on leases to use other medical facilities at 27 sites around the country.
► In today’s Washington Post — VA bill would make firings easier. Is that a good thing? — The Department of Veterans Affairs would have greater authority to fire senior executives. Their advocates strongly oppose the firing proposal, saying it would roll back civil-service protections and discourage talented professionals from joining the VA.
► In The Onion — ExxonMobil, Chevron locked in bidding war to acquire lucrative Pennsylvania Senator — “This legislator represents an incredibly valuable commodity in the energy world, and both ExxonMobil and Chevron appear to be willing to pay whatever is necessary to acquire him,” said oil and gas industry analyst John Blakey.
► At Think Progress — Wall Street has raked in almost a billion dollars helping companies move overseas to avoid U.S. taxes — The top 10 firms to work on the so-called “inversion” deals have brought in $819.8 million from the deals in just the past three years. The top of the list of corporate offshoring advisers is full of familiar names. Goldman Sachs leads the way with an estimated $203 million in fees, followed by JP Morgan ($185 million), Morgan Stanley ($98 million), and Citigroup ($72 milion). Inversions are just one facet of the many-splendored jewel that is international corporate tax evasion. The eccentricities of the tax code and the international race to the bottom among tax haven countries mean that companies have a variety of options for legally reducing their U.S. tax bill while maintaining their day-to-day operations in America. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Caterpillar, and many other business giants use elaborate licensing deals and shell company subsidiaries to shift profits off their American books. Despite costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars per year, companies that move profits overseas to duck taxes still receive over $1 billion per year in government contracts.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.