Editor's Note: The Heron Foundation has announced that President Clara Miller will assume the role of president emeritus starting in 2018, stepping down from a managerial role to write, speak, and undertake research on behalf of the foundation's mission. Read the news here.
The Senate bill would essentially end additional federal dollars by 2024 that allowed 11 million additional people to get coverage under Medicaid, but as CNN Money reports:
The wealthy would pay less in taxes. Just as in the House bill, the Senate legislation would eliminate two taxes that Obamacare levied on the wealthy to help pay for the law. Under the Affordable Care Act, single taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 annually have to pay an additional 0.9% Medicare payroll tax on the amount they earn above these thresholds. These taxpayers may also be hit with a tax surcharge of 3.8% on investment income above those thresholds. These levies would disappear in 2023 and 2017, respectively.
The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson notes that the differences between the House and Senate legislation is nothing to crow about:
Neither the House nor the Senate bill fully dismantles the scaffolding of Obamacare; rather, they allow the states to do most of the dirty work. Philosophically, Republican majorities in both chambers want to erase the central concept that the ACA established: that health care is a fundamental right, not a privilege depending on one's income...There are a few distinctions, though I wouldn't call them real differences. The Senate would determine who gets tax credits to help buy insurance by income, rather than age. And the Senate bill would take more time to phase out the ACA's expansion of Medicaid coverage; despite claims that this represents "heart," it may have less to do with compassion than skewing how the bill is scored by the Congressional Budget Office. This pig's lipstick is being applied with a trowel.
Meanwhile, the New York Times' Abby Goodnough looks at how this uncertain healthcare fight will affect not just the poor but also the middle class:
Although the 5.9 million low-income Americans who do benefit from cost-sharing payments will continue to have deductibles and co-payments waived as long as the Affordable Care Act survives, they, too, are facing uncertainty about the future of their health care. If Republicans in Congress succeed at repealing and replacing the law — still a big “if,” but the House has already passed a bill that would do so and the Senate is hurrying to finish its own version — insurance costs for low-income Americans could leap. The House bill provides flat premium subsidies based on age, not income — a formula that penalizes older and poorer people.
In The National Review, Kevin Williamson looks at how the U.S. healthcare system might become like the Swiss system:
Like Obamacare, Santésuisse mandates that all citizens purchase insurance from private insurance companies; establishes by law a minimum package of acceptable benefits to satisfy that mandate; subsidizes health-insurance premiums for lower-income people, with a goal of keeping their insurance premiums to less than 10 percent of their incomes; mandates coverage of preexisting conditions and imposes “community rating,” which means that low-risk insurance buyers pay higher premiums to allow for high-risk buyers to pay lower premiums, though the Swiss do make some adjustments for age and sex (!); it imposes controls on procedure costs and reimbursement for providers. The Swiss model also does a few things that ACA does not: It requires that insurance companies offer their minimal policies on a nonprofit basis; it is structured around relatively high out-of-pocket expenses (high copays and deductibles) in order to encourage consumers to spend soberly; and, perhaps most important, it does this in the context of a health-insurance market that is entirely individual: There are no employer-based health-insurance plans in Switzerland. Everybody buys his own health insurance, the same way people buy everything from tacos to mobile-phone service. Swiss regulations also mandate that prices be made public, which helps consumer markets to function.
In the National Review, William Voegeli discusses a new book on Class, looking at how liberal parents struggle with social justice rhetoric and where they would really like their kids to go to school:
Class fictionalizes a controversy that erupted in 2015 when the New York City school system proposed to redraw district boundaries, sending many children from P.S. 8, an overcrowded Brooklyn elementary school whose student population was 59 percent white, to P.S. 307, which was nearby, less crowded, and 90 percent black and Latino. The affluent parents who opposed their children’s transfer to P.S. 307 insisted that they were concerned about test scores, resources, programs, the high price they had paid for their homes in the expectation of sending their children to P.S. 8... anything but race.
...It turns out that “social justice” amounts to noblesse oblige, simultaneously strengthening the obligations and social status of our meritocracy’s credentialed gentry. Literary scholar William Deresiewicz, a self-described democratic socialist, says that the rise of political correctness means that privilege laundering pervades the entire college experience, not just the admissions process. The ultimate purpose of political correctness, he contends, is to “flatter” the elite rather than dismantle it. In effect, socioeconomically advantaged students, professors, and administrators use political correctness to “alibi or erase their privilege,” to “tell themselves that they are... part of the solution to our social ills, not an integral component of the problem.”
Meanwhile, US News & World Reports looks at community secession movements meant to resegregate schools: "Of the 30 states that allow secession, the researchers at EdBuild found that only four require that seceding communities gain the majority support in the school district being left behind and only six require consideration of the racial and socioeconomic effects of the separation. Moreover, only nine states require a study of the financial impacts of dividing communities."
Following on some controversial statements by HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Rutgers' Joan Maya Mazelis looks at why poverty is a state of mind for the rich not the poor: "The problem is not that people living in poverty need to have a better attitude to escape poverty. It’s that all of us should have a better attitude when it comes to poor people."
In the New Republic, Clio Chang looks a new book by Yascha Mounk's at why the rhetoric of personal responsibility harms the welfare state:
In his new book, The Age of Responsibility, Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk argues that this “responsibility framework” is woefully inadequate and leaves liberals hamstrung. Debating “who bears responsibility for what” diverts us away from the more important question of how we can foster “equality and solidarity in capitalist democracy.” Instead of denying that responsibility ever plays a role, the left should, Mounk argues, often ask a simple question: Why do we predicate the receipt of benefits on personal responsibility at all?...The solution that Mounk proposes is no less radical: to reinvent the idea of personal responsibility itself. To argue for the need for this, Mounk runs through some of the pitfalls of the left’s response of denying that people have personal responsibility. First off, it’s counterintuitive. As Mounk notes, “ordinary people have reason to value responsibility, and they recognize this fact.” By denying that poor people and minorities have agency over their lives, liberals inadvertently diminish them.
In the American Prospect, William Spriggs argues that the "white working class" is a harmful theme and that politicians should be spending time helping Americans take the blinders off and see workers, of all races:
For an increasing share of the population—black and white—the market no longer works to serve basic needs like housing, health insurance, child care, or college education. As the share of income held by the middle 60 percent declines, the top 10 percent’s share continues to grow, and within that, the top 1 percent.
The effect of heavy concentrations of money in fewer hands means that market-based allocations of resources are dictated by a smaller set of decision-makers. Businesspeople react to where the money is, whether they are home-builders, college presidents, or day-care providers. In the market, price is used as the rationing device, and prices follow where the money is...What has happened to more whites now is that the market has moved past them as well. Pricing for child care and college education, essentials for their children, are outstripping their income growth; instead, prices are tied to the growth in income for the top 1 percent in the case of college tuition. And whites in the bottom 20 percent of income, who hold considerably more wealth than blacks in any part of the income distribution, can no longer self-insure themselves against the bumps in the economy.
In the Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch makes a "conservative case" for unions if they are serious about addressing "the malaise and distemper afflicting America’s lower-middle class":
[T]he conservative war on unions is beginning to look like a Faustian bargain. If 2016 taught us anything, it was that miserable workers are angry voters, and angry voters are more than capable of lashing out against trade, immigration, free markets, and for that matter liberal democracy itself...In principle, unions could offer skills training that qualifies workers for better jobs, a role that individual employers are not always eager to fill (they might be training employees to go work somewhere else). Unions could act as employment agencies, matching workers with jobs. They could offer and manage health-insurance plans and benefits programs. They could administer wage insurance, thereby helping workers through disruptive job transitions.
You might be interested in this interactive report from the Brookings Institution on demographics of out-of-work workers.
Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods and Fast Company's Ben Schiller looks at what this development might mean for the conscious capitalism movement:
Will Amazon safeguard Mackey’s and Whole Foods’ more enlightened attitudes and programs? Does Amazon’s acquisition represent a mainstreaming of Whole Foods’s philosophy, or perhaps a diminution of it, proving that Whole Foods couldn’t get any bigger on its own?“ Conscious businesses have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment,” Sisodia and Mackey wrote in the Harvard Business Review in 2013, laying out their philosophy. “They endeavor to create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical and ecological wealth for all their stakeholders.”
Amazon, by contrast, isn’t known for mollycoddling its stakeholders. It has a reputation for squeezing its suppliers, like Walmart before it, and for pushing its workers harder than most (in, one notorious case, warehouse workers suffered heat exhaustion and had to receive medical attention)...[I]n selling Whole Foods to Amazon, Mackey gives up on shareholder capitalism or leaves it to someone else to handle. And the episode makes you wonder if conscious capitalism–where all stakeholders are taken into account–is possible when the needs of shareholders inevitably finish on top.
Speaking of Amazon, Ashoka's Michael Zakaris answers Jeff Bezos' question on the direction of his philanthropic endeavors with a request to fund big ideas:
The fact is society does not progress by meeting immediate needs. It progresses in the hands of visionaries and movement builders and social entrepreneurs with transformative ideas that seem impossible at the start. Ideas that often take a generation or more to become reality. This is where we got women’s suffrage and the 40-hour workweek. The Civil Rights Movement and the National Park System and modern nursing...[I]f entrepreneurs like Bezos aren’t willing to take big bets on big ideas – including those that might fail – then who will? Our public dollars are simply too restricted for risk taking, and sadly many of our big foundations appear unwilling to back ideas that haven’t already been proven. Besides, the majority of our philanthropic dollars are already spent on direct service. Very few are aimed at systems change.
Over at the Guardian, PricewaterhouseCoopers's chairman Tim Ryan argues that company's promotion of diversity should be more than a bottom-line strategy:
We know that diversity and inclusion is good for business; that business suffers when employees feel they can’t bring their whole selves to work; that employees and customers increasingly expect businesses to share their values and have a greater sense of purpose; and that people want to work for companies that support diversity. So, of course, it follows, that business leaders should do more to advance diversity in the workplace because it helps grow their bottom line.
Unfortunately, diversity being good for business often seems to be the sole focus for some companies. But business is so influential in our culture, in our communities, and in our collective understanding, that to endorse diversity and inclusion simply because it is good for business falls short. And it sends the message that the only reason we are pursuing corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives is because it is good for business.