Do More People Have Health Insurance Now That We Have Obamacare?

Sam Seder

A new survey finds that just 11.9 percent of people in the United States did not have health insurance in the first quarter of the year. It is a drop of 5.2 percentage points since Obamacare went into effect, states The Hill.

The Gallup-Healthways survey was released Monday and finds that since Obamacare’s coverage expansion went into effect at the beginning of 2014, the rate has fallen from 17.1 percent.

Majority Report looks at the statistics regarding the uninsured after the passage of Obamacare.

(Updated post)

November U-5 Unemployment Rate: 6.8%

The U-5 unemployment rate for November is 6.8%, and seasonally-adjusted, it would be 7.1%.

The “official” unemployment rate is the U3 unemployment rate, but it used to be the U5 unemployment rate.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the Current Population Survey in 1994, and among the changes made was the measure representing the official unemployment rate.  It was changed from U3 to U5.

Here are some explanations of various unemployment classifications:

U-3 – Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate).

U-4 – Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers.

U-5 – Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

The official U3 unemployment rate does not include “discouraged workers.”

“Discouraged workers” are people of legal employment age who are not actively seeking employment or who do not find employment after long-term unemployment.

Wikipedia states: “…even if a person is still looking actively for a job, that person may have fallen out of the core statistics of unemployment rate after long-term unemployment. and is therefore by default classified as ‘discouraged.’”

Also, U3 unemployment does not include persons marginally attached to the labor force, or “marginally attached workers.”

The BLS defines “marginally attached workers” as “Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.”

It has also been claimed that other countries such as Germany include the “marginally attached worker” and “discouraged worker” in their official unemployment rate calculations.

Considering the fact that prior to 1994, the unemployment rate used to be the U5 rate and that other countries include the “marginally attached” and “discouraged worker” in their statistics, the U5 rate might be considered more appropriate than the “official” U3 rate.

Economy: We’re #2 ?

IMF Headquarters 1 in Washington D.C.

According to MarketWatch, the Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. “For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet,” states MarketWatch.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the latest numbers for the world economy. When you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.

To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.

China’s recent decision to bring gross domestic product calculations in line with international standards has revealed activity that had previously gone uncounted.

As recently as 2000, the U.S. produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.

The calculations are based on a well-established and widely used economic measure known as purchasing-power parity (or PPP), which measures the actual output as opposed to fluctuations in exchange rates. So a Starbucks venti Frappucino (or a Big Mac) served in Beijing counts the same as one served in Minneapolis, regardless of what happens to be going on among foreign-exchange traders.

PPP is the “real” way of comparing economies: it is “exchange-rate-adjusted.” It is the one reported by the IMF and was, for example, the one used by McKinsey & Co. consultants back in the 1990s when they undertook a study of economic productivity on behalf of the British government.

When you exclude the PPP, the U.S. economy remains allegedly almost 70% bigger than that of China.

But many economists or financial institutions consider such measures largely meaningless. Does the U.S. economy really shrink if the dollar falls 10% on international currency markets? Does the recent plunge in the yen mean the Japanese economy is vanishing?

Back in 2012, the IMF tried to challenge the importance of PPP, for reasons of ideology.  It is not in anyone’s interest at the IMF that people in the Western world start focusing too much on the sheer extent of China’s power.

However, when the IMF’s official World Economic Outlook compares countries by their share of world output, it does so using PPP.

All statistics are open to possible dispute. It is possible China’s latest numbers overstate output — or understate them. That may also be true of U.S. GDP figures. But according to MarketWatch, the IMF data are “the best we have.”

This will not change anything in the short term, but it will change much in the long term.

We have lived in a world dominated by the U.S. since at least 1945 and, in many ways, since the late 19th century.  However, throughout history, political and military power have always depended on economic power.


538: A Net Gain For Republicans?

According to FiveThirtyEight:

If the polls are right, Republicans will take control of the United States Senate when it reconvenes next year.  They’ll retain the majority of the nation’s governorships, although perhaps with a net loss of one or two seats. FiveThirtyEight hasn’t issued a House projection this year, so here goes nothing: Republicans will keep it. (Want more detail? The Cook Political Report thinks Republicans will gain a few seats, probably a net of 6 to 12, from Democrats.)

“Sounds like a pretty good night for Republicans? It would be. But there are a few apparent complications.”

Complication No. 1.

Some prominent Republican incumbents are likely to lose. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is no better than even money to keep his seat against independent Greg Orman. Incumbent Republican governors are underdogs — some by slim margins — in Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Maine and Pennsylvania.  Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are likely but not certain to survive.

Complication No. 2.

Republicans are largely playing on “home turf.” The average Senate race this year is being held in a state where Barack Obama won just 46 percent of the vote in 2012. In the House, meanwhile, the median Congressional district is Republican-leaning. (Democrats tend to be packed into geographically compact, urban areas; this tendency is sometimes enhanced by gerrymandering.) A method of assessing the score probably needs to account for this.

Complication No. 3.

The House, Senate and gubernatorial results seem to tell different stories. Polls project major Republican gains in the Senate but modest ones in the House and perhaps a net loss of Republican governorships. How to reconcile this evidence?