Uber still losing big bucks

Ridesharing may well be a disruptive technology, changing how people get around, but so far its not a profitable development. From Bloomberg via the Charlotte Observer:

The ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. is not a public company, but every three months, dozens of shareholders get on a conference call to hear the latest details on its business performance from its head of finance, Gautam Gupta.

On Friday, Gupta told investors that Uber’s losses mounted in the second quarter. Even in the U.S., where Uber had turned a profit during its first quarter, the company was once again losing money.

In the first quarter of this year, Uber lost about $520 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to people familiar with the matter. In the second quarter the losses significantly exceeded $750 million, including a roughly $100 million shortfall in the U.S., those people said. That means Uber’s losses in the first half of 2016 totaled at least $1.27 billion.


“I think what Uber is trying to do is, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to take the losses up front in order to get to disproportionate scale,’” said Robert Siegel, lecturer in management at Stanford’s business school. “The question is when they can get to profitability.”

Medicaid Expansion Costing Taxpayers 49% More Than Projected

…In dollars, that comes out to $26 billion more than original government estimates. Watch the Mercatus Center’s latest video explaining why actual spending is out of control.

State Insurance Departments Begin To Approve Steep Rate Hikes For 2017 ACA Plans

As Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS NC) waits for the Department of Insurance (DOI) to approve an average 18.8 percent premium increase for 2017 health plans, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reports on other states that have begun to sign off on underlying double-digit rate hikes:


  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield: 21.4%


  • Anthem: 22.9%
  • Humana: 31%


  • Humana: 43%


  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield: 62%   
  • Cigna: 46.3%
  • Humana: 44.3%


  • Anthem: 15.8%

Of course, those who qualify for heavily subsidized health plans won’t be exposed to the underlying cost of health insurance premiums. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that three in four enrollees will be able to purchase a health plan for under $75/month. What they don’t mention, however, is that while the exchange structure benefits certain low income families with incomes below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (which amounts to a family of three with an income of $50,000), those with household incomes above that amount are struggling to pay their monthly premiums on top of out of pocket cost sharing. In other words, when subsidies are added to the mix, it only makes a product more expensive for others. And, if people are simply shopping based on price, the trade-off is narrower networks and limited access to care.

University of Chicago Affirms Its Committment to Freedom of Speech

At the Marginal Revolution blog, Alex Tabarrok provides an excerpt from a letter that the University of Chicago recently sent to incoming freshman:

Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.

Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

N.C. not alone in seeing dwindling Obamacare options

Ali Meyer explains for the Washington Free Beacon that large sections of the United States will see just one option for Affordable Care Act health insurance policies in the next year.

In 2017 there will be only one insurer selling health care plans in the Obamacare exchanges in one-third of the country, according to an analysis from Avalere experts.

Avalere, a health care consulting firm, compared the health insurance carriers that offered Obamacare coverage in 2016 to the carriers who have announced their intention to exit the exchanges in 2017, such as Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and some co-ops.

The experts projected that 36 percent of exchange market rating regions in the United States in 2017 will have just one health insurance carrier, and 55 percent of regions will have two or fewer carriers. This is a significant increase from 2016, when only 4 percent of regions had one or fewer health insurance carriers and 33 percent of regions had two or fewer insurers.

Seven states—Alaska, Alabama, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming—will have only one health insurance carrier per rating region in 2017.

Experts at Avalere said there may be some sub-regional counties where no plans are offered in 2017. No insurer plans to sell coverage in Pinal Country, Arizona next year, according to a report from the Hill.

“Depending on where consumers live, their choice of insurance plans may decrease for 2017,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, senior vice president at Avalere. “Some exchange enrollees may need to choose another insurance plan in order to maintain coverage.”

Large health insurers have announced they are exiting the marketplaces because of unsustainable financial losses.

Walter Williams offers a warning as students return to college campuses

Walter Williams‘ latest column at Human Events decries the “lunacy” plaguing college campuses across the country.

As the fall semester begins, parents, students, taxpayers and donors should be made aware of official college practices that should disgust us all.

Hampshire College will offer some of its students what the school euphemistically calls “identity-based housing.” That’s segregated housing for students who — because of their race, culture, gender or sexual orientation — have “historically experienced oppression.” I’d bet the rent money that Hampshire College will not offer Jewish, Irish, Polish, Chinese or Catholic students segregated housing. Because there is no group of people who have not faced oppression, Hampshire College is guilty of religious and ethnic discrimination in its housing segregation policy.

University of Connecticut administrators think that more black men will graduate if they spend more time together. According to Campus Reform, they are building a new residence hall to facilitate just that. Dr. Erik Hines, the faculty director for the program, said that the learning community “is a space for African-American men to … come together and validate their experiences that they may have on campus. … It’s also a space where they can have conversation and also talk with individuals who come from the same background who share the same experience.” By the way, Hampshire College and the University of Connecticut are not alone in promoting racially segregated student housing.

Then there’s an effort for racial segregation in classes. Moraine Valley Community College attempted it in a class titled “College: Changes, Challenges, Choices.” It mandated that some class sections be “limited to African-American students.” The college defended racially segregated classes by saying that they make students “feel comfortable.” After facing massive national notoriety, the college just recently abandoned its racial segregation agenda.

Suppose a student at Ripon College enrolls in a chemistry, math or economics class. What do you think ought to be the subject matter? Zachariah Messitte, Ripon’s president, who is also a professor in the politics and government department, has encouraged fellow professors to disparage Donald Trump, arguing that it’s “fine” for professors to “acknowledge Trump’s narrow-minded rhetoric” in class, suggesting that Trump’s “bigotry” is a valid topic for most any course.

Sue, settle, send proceeds to Democrats

Michael Bastasch and Ethan Barton of the Daily Caller outline a scheme that uses the legal system and tax dollars to help fund Democrats.

A nonprofit that employs dozens of Democratic donors makes millions by suing the federal government for stricter environmental regulations, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found.

Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that grew out of the Sierra Club, has sued federal agencies at least 39 times since 2009. Using three environmental laws, Earthjustice has raked in nearly $4 million, according to a DCNF analysis of the Department of Treasury’s Judgment Fund, which tracks court ordered federal payments.

Certain Earthjustice staff have donated $2.4 million to Democrats, TheDCNF found. …

… Earthjustice isn’t alone. TheDCNF found many environmental groups, law firms and attorneys have sued the government for millions of dollars in what are called “citizen suits.” Such lawsuits are often environmentalists looking to force a federal agency to issue more regulations.

“Citizen suits are often brought to enlarge environmental regulation beyond the scope of statutory authority and congressional intent, frequently with the willing help of overzealous bureaucrats and sympathetic judges,” Reed Hopper, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), told TheDCNF.

Activists not only use such lawsuits to further their own policy goals, they can also get taxpayers to pay for their legal fees. Republican lawmakers have been huge critics of environmentalists’ use of “citizen suits” to collude with agencies in what are called “sue-and-settle” lawsuits.

“Sue-and-settle” happens when environmentalists sue a federal agency for missing a regulatory deadline under the CAA, CWA or ESA; the federal agency opts to quickly settle the case and issue a new rule instead of fighting it out in court.

An election without a mandate

Whatever the outcome of this fall’s presidential election, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute argues at National Review Online that the winner should not consider victory as a sign of a mandate from the electorate.

Whoever wins in November will likely be the most unpopular presidential candidate ever elected. The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows that 53.5 percent of voters disapprove of Hillary Clinton. And many of those polls were taken during her post-convention bounce. That means that the best she can hope for is that somewhat over half the electorate doesn’t like her. But she actually looks good compared to Donald Trump. Just a third of voters approve of Trump. Nearly 63 percent disapprove.

Even voters who have settled on a candidate are less than enthusiastic about their choice. Less than half of both Trump and Clinton voters say that they “strongly support” their candidate. Overall, 57 percent of voters say that they are dissatisfied with both candidates, including 31 percent who are “very dissatisfied.” Only 13 percent report that they are “very satisfied” with their choice.

Since, barring a Gary Johnson upset or intervention by the Sweet Meteor of Death, one of them will have to win, millions of Americans will be voting for someone they don’t think should be president. In fact, half of all those voting for Clinton and 55 percent of those voting for Trump say that they are actually voting against the other candidate rather than for their choice.

That’s not exactly what one would call a mandate.

Of course, even if Trump or Clinton were far more popular than they are, it’s hard to see what either of them would have a mandate to do. Both candidates have changed positions with almost metronomic regularity. About all we really know about Donald Trump’s program is that he wants to build a wall, loves guns, and doesn’t love Muslims. And for all of Hillary’s 257-page position papers, does anyone really know what she is for besides a vague idea of higher taxes and bigger government? Perhaps that’s why 59 percent of voters say that they are more focused on the candidates’ personalities than on their positions.