Archive for May, 2012
Another week of loss. Robin Gibb passed away, leaving us with one Bee Gee. An earthquake in Italy destroyed thousand-year-old buildings. Oh…and a lot of people lost money on Facebook stock, leading to numerous lawsuits.
And it’s Friday. Your day. What’s on your mind?
Don’t see an article on a particular topic, but want to talk about it somewhere? This is Open Mic. Talk about whatever you want, but stay respectful.
We create a new Open Mic every week to give a clean slate, but feel free to add to this topic at any time.
In March, we previewed Astrue v. Capato, in which Karen Capato attempted to collect Social Security survivor’s benefits for twins conceived after the death of the father, based on the father’s income.
The court ruled unanimously that no good definition of a surviving child exists, given technological changes which came into effect since Congress passed the original Act. However, writing for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the Social Security Administration’s interpretation of what is a “child”, while not perfect, makes more sense and is more consistent with the Act than Karen Capato’s.
Kristine Knaplund, over at SCOTUSblog, gives this plain English analysis of the Court’s decision:
The United States Supreme Court decided unanimously that a child conceived and born after a parent’s death cannot rely solely on a genetic connection to the deceased parent in order to qualify for Social Security survivors benefits. Siding with the Social Security Administration’s interpretation of the law, the Court held that all children, including those born via assisted reproduction technology, must either demonstrate that they would be eligible to inherit from their late parent under state law or satisfy one of the statutory alternatives to that requirement. The SSA’s interpretation was more consistent with the core purpose of the Act, which is to protect family members who depend on another family member’s income from hardship if that family member dies.
When do the religious rights of an organization override the religious rights of an individual? Does the health of an employee take second place to the religious or political preferences of an employer? If corporations are people for the purposes of political contributions, are they also people for purposes of religious observance?
A number of Catholic organizations are suing the Obama Administration over contraception, claiming that new rules under the Affordable Care Act violate the religious rights of those organizations. This is an extension of the flap starting last February, when the Health and Human Services department proposed that employer-provided health care must cover contraceptive services. The Catholic Church objected, insisting that providing such services is contrary to Church doctrine, and that, therefore, Catholic organizations which employ people must be exempted. This led to overinflated rhetoric from the right about the Administration’s “war on religion.”
HHS responded with a compromise, requiring instead only that the insurance companies, not the employers, would be subject to this rule. This would provide proper and adequate health choices for women, while respecting the doctrinal dictates of the Church. That wasn’t good enough for Catholic Bishops, though many other Catholic organizations praised the move. The issue refuses to go away. (more…)
Lately, a convergence of events — graduation season, impending expiration of a subsidy on student loans, and an election year — have led to a broader discussion about the overall economy of higher education. In particular, some have suggested that we have an “education bubble”. How accurate is this suggestion? And, if it is, what are the potential impacts of it bursting?
To answer this, we should start by examining the meaning of an economic bubble. Historically, economic bubbles were referred to as “booms”, and their popping as “busts”. Only the terminology has changed.
Booms are caused when credit grows rapidly in a particular market, leading to rising prices, and overexpansion. Eventually this leads to a point where the return on investment is no longer assured, which causes the credit to quickly dry up, and the market to then collapse (the “bust”). The credit for the boom can come from many different sources, but typically the late stages of the boom are funded by private creditors.
We saw this happen with Internet companies in the late 1990s, as their stocks skyrocketed from a tremendous influx of private investments. We saw it happen more recently with real estate, as home prices skyrocketed from a tremendous influx of private investments in credit default swap–backed collateralized debt obligations, which funded the mortgages that funded the real estate purchases. In both of these cases, the credit dried up when speculators were no longer able to turn profits by reselling the investment property.
What about higher education? (more…)
Nebraska held their primaries Tuesday, and there was a major upset: a little-known rancher and State Senator in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature won out over two establishment Republican candidates.
State Senator Deb Fischer (R-Valentine, NE) easily won a three-way contest, with 41 percent of the vote. Former front-runner Attorney General Jon Bruning was second with 36 percent, and State Treasurer Don Stenberg was third with 19 percent.
Bruning staked out a position far to the right of the political spectrum. For example, he publicly attacked the supposed “Unconstitutional Assault on Religious Liberty” represented by a 12-year-old rule based on a 33-year-old law supposedly “requiring” religious organizations to cover contraception. I’ve written before (here and here) about the corrupt and cynical position taken by major Republican lawmakers on this issue.
Apparently, Bruning was still too much of a socialist running dog for Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and the Club for Growth, both of whom poured a huge amount of money into Stenberg’s campaign. According to them, Stenberg, who served as State Attorney General for 12 years, is a “genuine, lifelong conservative” who is concerned that we need to “Take Back America” [sic] from socialist running dog Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). Nelson is apparently even more socialist, a faster runner, and more canine than socialist running dogs like Bruning. (more…)