More Corporate Welfare

Of course.  Because we certainly couldn’t expect a company to ever just, you know, use its own money for investments.

Mars Inc. to invest $20M into old P&G site in eastern N.C.

Vance County Manager Jordan McMillan says county personnel have been going back and forth with Mars for some time on the investment.

“We’re still a little early on in this project,” he cautions, adding that discussions about possible incentives have begun, but nothing is final. And those incentives are purely for the investments Mars plans to make, not for any job additions at the site.

An Additional 500 Counties Nationwide Will Have One Obamacare Insurance Option In 2017

Vox reports the full story here.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.10.39 AM

Soft skills are hard to find, say employers

Wall Street Journal today:

In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.

A LinkedIn analysis of its member profiles found soft skills are most prevalent among workers in the service sector, including restaurant, consumer-services, professional-training and retail industries.

To determine the most sought-after soft skills, LinkedIn analyzed those listed on the profiles of members who applied for two or more jobs and changed jobs between June 2014 and June 2015. The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability.

Workers with these traits aren’t easy to come by, said Cindy Herold, who runs the Old Europe restaurant in Washington. In a moment of frustration, Mrs. Herold recently put a sign outside seeking workers with “common sense.”

“I can teach somebody how to slice and dice onions. I can teach somebody how to cook a soup. But it’s hard to teach someone normal manners, or what you consider work ethic,” she said.

Training new workers in technical skills takes time and resources employers say they are less willing to invest in workers who don’t have the soft skills to succeed in the long run.

Pay attention to the last two paragraphs, especially that last sentence. Mull their significance.

Longtime readers of our work at John Locke know about the crucial importance of overlooked soft skills. They have read about private job training charities like StepUp MinistryJobs for Life, STRIVE, etc. that emphasize teaching the soft skills that make people employable. Unlike local demagogues and dilettantes, they know having and being able to hold on to work is more important than being unemployable at “compassionate” wages.


90 NC counties may have only one Obamacare insurer

This is not necessarily breaking news—-insurers are pulling out of North Carolina’s 2017 Obamacare health insurance exchange, possibly leaving 90 counties—-that’s 90 percent—with only one exchange insurer:

Most North Carolinians — including those in the Triad — are projected to have just one insurer’s plans to choose from in the 2017 federal individual health exchange, according to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Only Alamance is projected to have Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. and Cigna Healthcare of N.C. among the 14 counties in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

The nonprofit’s analysis, released Sunday, projected about 613,000 exchange enrollees statewide, about 1,000 fewer than for 2016.
Enrollees typically receive a federal tax credit to subsidize their monthly premium cost.

Perhaps the starkest 2017 change for North Carolina comes from projections of no enrollees having at least three insurer options in their counties, compared with 409,000 enrollees in 2016.

Instead, 80 percent of projected enrollees, or 490,000, likely will have only Blue Cross. That includes a projected 21,700 in Forsyth County and 101,800 in the Triad and Northwest N.C.

North Carolina is mentioned in the Fox news piece below reporting —-imagine this–that Obamacare exchange enrollments are falling way short of projections for 2017.

Funniest part of the Fox news report is the breaking news that President Obama will meet with Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to discuss changes to Obamacare for 2018. That’s a nice sentiment, I reckon—our president is full of wonderful sentiments—but we all know it could be a radically different world in 2018 for a wide variety of reasons.

Kids as consumer products

Anna Mussmann documents in a Federalist column a disturbing trend in the public approach toward parents and parenting.

… [W]e are witnessing a drastic erosion of public support for the idea that ordinary parents are the people most likely to know what is best for their children. We no longer trust the dad and mom next door. This leads to a culture that not only undervalues what parents do, but is also increasingly willing to take away their ability to do it.

Sadly, the belief that children must be protected from their families is difficult to combat. Why? It makes perfect sense in a cultural framework like ours that routinely encourages parents to objectify their own children.

Attempts to limit parental control of their children’s lives and upbringing are visible in many spheres. We’ve all heard about folks who call the authorities because a neighbor has allowed children to play in their own fenced-in back yard without adult supervision. More examples abound. For instance, if your child is older than 12, it is illegal for your child’s doctor to tell you if your child is receiving mental health care, being treated for drug or alcohol abuse, or being given contraception or an abortion, unless your child agrees to share this information with you. It is startling to realize that we assume children are more likely to be harmed by fear of parental interference than by making important decisions about mind and body-altering drugs without parental guidance.

In the realm of education, parents who want to control or at least influence the values taught to their children—especially in health and literature classes—often meet accusations of censorship and bigotry. Discussions of young adult literature regularly affirm the idea that parents must stop trying to protect their children from violent and sexually explicit material. The tension can even reach heights of comic proportion, as when the Idaho School Board Association issued a resolution plaintively calling on the state legislature to stop increasing “parental rights in regard to education,” lest parental demands interfere with schools’ attempts to comply with state and federal mandates.

Opponents of traditional parental rights claim the old ideas treat children as parental property instead of free human beings. The practical implication is that the state is a more trustworthy guardian than parents—or, at least, that state intervention can place parent and child on equal footing with each other. This is in stark contrast to a 1925 Supreme Court declaration that parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their offspring because children are not “the mere creature[s] of the state.”

Up, up, and away with your beautiful ballooning Obamacare rates

Paige Winfield Cunningham of the Washington Examiner focuses on the latest round of rate hikes associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Many states that have released Obamacare price information for next year are showing double-digit price hikes that are steeper than in years past.

More Obamacare rate increases will trickle out over the next few weeks, with the healthcare law’s fourth enrollment season set to begin Nov. 1. The Obama administration is expected to release the biggest rate increases sometime next month, after reviewing plan information insurers had to submit by Aug. 23.

Some of the heftiest price hikes so far are from smaller insurers who cover just a tiny fraction of people without employer-sponsored coverage who buy individual market plans. But in some states, the biggest insurers are massively increasing their prices, creating a much broader impact on consumers, especially those eligible for small federal subsidies or none at all.

Cunningham spotlights a handful of states.

1. Tennessee

Insurance regulators are allowing the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plans to raise prices by 62 percent on average. The plans cover the vast majority of Tennessee’s Obamacare enrollees, with 83 percent individual market share.

2. Illinois

Health Care Services Corp., also a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee, has a massive share of individual market enrollees, nearly 82 percent. The company is raising rates an average of 51 percent during the upcoming enrollment season.

3. Kentucky

A third Blues plan, this one called Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, will charge Kentucky customers 23 percent more on average. The company covers 78 percent of the state’s individual market enrollees.

4. Georgia

Twenty-seven percent of individual market shoppers in Georgia are covered by Humana plans. The company has been approved to hike rates an average of 67 percent next year.

Your tax dollars at work again

Elizabeth Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon details another questionable use of federal tax dollars.

The National Institutes of Health is spending nearly $1 million on a study of lesbian couples to see if stress makes them drink too much.

The grant awarded to Old Dominion University will involve lesbians filling out daily diaries about their romantic relationships to determine what causes them to drink.

“Sexual minority women (i.e., women who self-identify as lesbian and bisexual) report more heavy drinking, more alcohol-related problems, and higher rates of alcohol use disorders as compared to heterosexual women,” according to the grant for the study. “Young sexual minority women are particularly vulnerable.”

The researchers contend that no one has ever studied the relationships of lesbian couples and their drinking habits.

“Despite this awareness, no studies have examined how relationship factors and partners’ alcohol use contribute to hazardous drinking among female sexual minority couples,” the grant said.

The research will be grounded in “Minority Stress Theory,” which blames discrimination and stigma for “negative mental health outcomes.” The latest grant, awarded this year, is a follow up to previous work that found “minority stress is associated with alcohol use and related problems via negative affect among lesbians.”

“Extending our previous research, we propose to examine how person-level factors and daily interactions contribute to drinking among female same-sex couples,” the grant said.

The project will employ a “daily diary approach” where lesbians will discuss their alcohol consumption, relationship experiences, and “person-level factors,” such as “connection to the LGBT community” and “positive sexual identity.”

One hundred fifty lesbians will be recruited for the study online.

The federal government and natural disasters

Tevi Troy explains at National Review Online why the federal government is not the best place to turn first in times of natural disaster.

Beyond all the natural devastation, Katrina is perhaps best remembered as a politically devastating event, in particular for the Bush presidency. In his own memoir, George W. Bush wrote that, “The legacy of fall 2005 lingered for the rest of my time in office.” Indeed, one could argue the popular perception of Bush’s failed response to the tragedy lingers to this day.

Katrina, in its power and ferocity, is the single greatest reminder of the limitations of government. State and local reactions were abysmal. The delays in evacuating the city were extremely costly. Officials lacked the means to communicate with one another in emergencies, and basic tasks typically assigned to state and local officials were left to federal responders. To make matters worse, both Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin – later sentenced to ten years in prison for accepting bribes from city contractors – were clearly out of their depth.

The basic failures at the state and local level during Katrina and its aftermath placed a heavier burden on the federal government. Federal officials evacuated hundreds of thousands of residents, but it was not nearly enough. The decision to allow federal troops was late in coming, and once citizens were whisked to safer ground, the logistical support and basic humanitarian comforts they needed were glaringly lacking.

Was anything learned? Today, over a decade later, we are seeing a much more resilient Louisiana react to recent flooding that has killed at least 13 people and displaced tens of thousands from their homes. To be sure, President Obama has declared disaster zones, freeing up federal-response money for people in the affected area. And, when done with his vacation, he did visit the area. The visit also took place only after Donald Trump seized the limelight by visiting first, garnering rare positive media attention for the GOP nominee.

But the federal response is not the focus of attention in the current crisis, because state and local leaders appear to have learned some important lessons over the course of the last decade. Republican representative Garret Graves has praised local communities who are “filling the void” in their response to the flood. Federal action, he noted, is only a “complement [to] some of the efforts our community is doing, our local and state governments.”