Here’s some positive economic news.
Orders for durable goods, items meant to last three years or more, rose strongly last month after an upwardly revised 1.3% gain in June, the Commerce Department said. Analysts were expecting durables orders to remain unchanged from the previous month.
Transportation orders rose 3.1% in July, largest gain since February, on a 28% rise in civilian aircraft orders. That followed a 21.3% drop in aircraft orders in June.
Even when volatile transportation orders were stripped out, demand for durables rose 0.7%. Analysts had expected a 0.5% drop in durables orders excluding transportation.
Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, seen as a barometer of business spending, jumped 2.6%, steepest gain since April. Analysts were expecting that category to decline by 0.1%.
Why these numbers are important is because this means that people think that the economy is going to pick up in the near future – why else buy something that is going to last a couple of years if you don’t think you’re going to be able to pay for it or make money off of it?
Here are the numbers for last year.
Census found that 45.7 million people, or 15.3% of the population, were uninsured in 2007, down from 47 million or so in 2006. While total enrollment in private insurance remained stable — due to population growth — it eroded slightly in percentage terms, continuing a downward trend. The growth in coverage was mostly concentrated in public programs — partially due to an aging population shifting to Medicare, but especially in Medicaid. Democrats are already claiming vindication of their post-2008 priority of moving even more people onto the federal balance sheet.
Yet the Medicaid increase isn’t exactly a shocking revelation. Each year, a significant portion of the uninsured qualifies for government assistance but hasn’t signed up. In spite of 2007′s uptick, 24.5% still earned under $25,000 and are probably eligible for help. Some 22% made over $50,000, which is hardly rich, but enough to afford coverage in most states. Meanwhile, about 54% are between the ages of 18 and 34, and many of them voluntarily choose (risky as it may be) to forgo coverage. In other words, the latest batch of data shows, again, that the policy problem of the uninsured isn’t as large as election-year opportunism would have it.
What causes this?
Most of the gaps in coverage owe to the way the tax code creates problems for the insured while shortchanging everyone else. People who are covered through their employers — 59.3% in 2007 — pay no taxes on the value of the benefit, encouraging them to launder their health dollars through third-party insurers while burdening business with increasing medical costs. Meanwhile, the size of the subsidies are smaller for lower-wage workers — who typically have less generous plans as part of their compensation — and nonexistent for individuals.
In a lot of ways, the new figures probably underestimate the effects of the tax code distortions. The Census counts people who were insured for only part of the year as “insured.” But other studies have shown that the number that are uninsured at some point during prior years — usually because their coverage lapsed while switching jobs — reaches as high as 69 million. Restoring the tax parity of health dollars would allow individuals to buy policies themselves, rather than rely on their employers, and take those policies with them wherever they work. It would increase access and affordability for everyone.
Government intervention strikes again!
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