The Health Care Cul-de-Sac

What are the biggest threats to the American Dream right now, to our unity and prosperity, our happiness and civic health?

First, an economic stagnation that we are only just now, eight years into an economic recovery, beginning to escape — a stagnation that has left median incomes roughly flat for almost a generation, encouraged populism on the left and right, and made every kind of polarization that much worse.

First, an economic stagnation that we are only just now, eight years into an economic recovery, beginning to escape — a stagnation that has left median incomes roughly flat for almost a generation, encouraged populism on the left and right, and made every kind of polarization that much worse.

.. And if the Democrats, having blown up the insurance system once to implement Obamacare, really rallied around a Bernie Sanders-style proposal to do it all over again but on a bigger scale? Then not only would 2020 be a health care election, but if the Democrat won, the next two years would be consumed by outlandish single-payer expectations.

Where would that leave our two big problems, stagnation and the social crisis?

.. But when your main challenges involve men who aren’t working, wages that aren’t rising, families that aren’t forming and communities that are collapsing, constantly overhauling health insurance is at best an indirect response, at worst a non sequitur.

.. Democrats, meanwhile, could let single-payer dreams wait (or just die) and think instead about spending that supports work and family directly. They could look at proposals for a larger earned-income tax credit, a family allowance, and let the “job guarantee” and “guaranteed basic income”factions fight things out. If they want to go big in 2020, they could run on wage subsidies and public works, not another disruptive health care vision.

.. The country has bigger problems than its insurance system. It’s time for both parties to act like it.

The Economy Isn’t Broken

Middle-class wage stagnation is the biggest economic fact driving American politics. Over the past many years, so the common argument goes, capitalism has developed structural flaws. Economic gains are not being shared fairly with the middle class. Wages have become decoupled from productivity. Even when the economy grows, everything goes to the rich.

.. On both left and right, movements have arisen to fix capitalism’s supposed structural flaws, either by radically interfering in the marketplace (Bernie) or by clamping down on global competition (Trump).

.. In 2015, median household incomes rose by 5.2 percent. That was the fastest surge in percentage terms since the Census Bureau began keeping records in the 1960s. Women living alone saw their incomes rise by 8.7 percent. Median incomes for Hispanics rose by 6.1 percent. Immigrants’ incomes, excluding naturalized citizens, jumped by over 10 percent.

.. The numbers for 2016 have just been released by the Census Bureau, and the trends are pretty much the same. Median household income rose another 3.2 percent, after inflation, to its highest level ever.

.. The problem of the middle-class squeeze, in short, may not be with how the fruits of productivity are distributed, but the fact that there isn’t much productivity growth at all. It’s not that a rising tide doesn’t lift all boats; it’s that the tide is not rising fast enough.

.. There is still a yawning gap dividing

  • the median Asian-American household, which makes $81,000 a year;
  • the median white household, which makes $65,000; and
  • the median African-American household, which makes $39,490.

.. Right now moderates are in retreat. The populist extremes are on the march. But the fact is they are basing their economic and political agendas on a story that is fundamentally untrue.

How Hurricane Harvey Will Ripple Through the U.S. Economy

Economists in The Wall Street Journal’s monthly survey see hit to GDP and jobs in third quarter, followed by slow rebuild

Hurricane Harvey will distort measures of the U.S. economy in weeks and months ahead. Everything from jobless claims, which already surged in a report on Thursday, to gross domestic product and inflation, will be knocked off course by the storm.

The storm will make it difficult for economists to gauge the trajectory of the economy, with brief spikes across a wide range of reports. It will be hard to discern whether bad reports result from storm damage and then whether good reports owe to the effects of rebuilding. It could be well into 2018 before the storm’s effects have fully washed out of the economic data.

.. They expect the storm to reduce the pace of job gains by about 27,000 jobs a month in the third quarter on average, followed by little change in the fourth quarter and then a boost of 13,000 in the first quarter 2018, as many people find work in the rebuilding process.

..The growth rate of gross domestic product will fall by about 0.3 percentage points in the third quarter, they expect, followed by no effect on the fourth quarter, and an 0.2 percentage point boost in the first quarter of 2018.

..In the longer run, the storm is expected to have no lasting impact, with forecasts for gross domestic product, unemployment, inflation and other major economic indicators unchanged for 2018 overall, 

With Its Economic Heft, Houston Is Equipped to Recover From Harvey

Unlike New Orleans after Katrina, the city is better-positioned to absorb the blow from what could be the most expensive U.S. storm ever

But unlike New Orleans, the greater Houston area economy is better equipped to absorb the blow because of its size, diversity and prominence as the nation’s energy hub.

.. Houston is the country’s fourth-largest city by population and economic output, with 2.3 million people and a gross domestic product of more than $503 billion

.. At the time of Katrina, New Orleans had a population of roughly 450,000 and an economy largely dependent on tourism.

.. Some 84% of Houston’s economy was dependent on the oil-and-gas industry during the 1980s, according to data from the Dallas Federal Reserve. But that had dropped to about 44% by 2016.

.. Houston boasts one of the largest medical centers in the world. Its health-care and education industries were the city’s largest employers as of 2014

.. Mr. Kamins of Moody’s predicts the real “economic tragedy” will be for homeowners. He predicts that most of the property damage—$30 to $40 billion in damage to homes and vehicles—will be residential and is unlikely to be covered by insurance.

.. construction would provide a short-term boost to the economy, but that there could be constraints on the available labor force for building projects if people leave and don’t return and President Donald Trump pursues tighter immigration policies.

..  you can’t rebuild Houston without Mexican labor.”

.. Nearly 40% of small businesses never reopen their doors following a flood disaster, in part because many are uninsured