Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Study compares CEO pay with taxes

Study compares CEO pay with taxes: Three Pittsburgh companies are among 25 U.S. corporations that paid their CEOs more last year than the company paid in U.S. corporate income taxes, according to a study by the Institute of Policy Studies.

The local companies on the list are Bank of New York Mellon, specialty metals producer Allegheny Technologies and Mylan, which makes generic drugs.

The institute compared CEO pay with the federal tax liabilities companies disclose in their 10-K, an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The institute states the figure is "the best approximation of actual taxes paid to the U.S. Treasury."

The Washington research report examines CEO pay every year. Last year it found the CEOs of companies that announced the largest layoffs earned, on average, 42 percent more in 2009 than the average CEO of an S&P 500 company.

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Cleared of wrongdoing, Penn State climatologist still sees 'smears'

Cleared of wrongdoing, Penn State climatologist still sees 'smears': Mr. Mann, a doctor of geology and geophysics who serves as director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center, already was a central figure in the controversy over climate-change science before emails were hacked in late 2009 from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom.

Now he's an even stronger lightning rod for critics of climate-change science, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Republican presidential candidate who continues to claim data was manipulated to prove climate change.

But on Aug. 15, the NSF and the U.S. inspector general concluded that emails did not reflect flawed or fraudulent science and closed the case. It represents the last of seven investigations of the heisted personal emails that included flippant statements and others that were described as reckless and injudicious.

But three investigations in the United Kingdom and four in the United States including ones by Penn State, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and now the NSF all have dispelled claims that climate-change research by Mr. Mann and others was manipulated to justify false conclusions.

"It's the seventh investigation that's arisen out of the leak of emails and false allegations by climate-change deniers who were mining for words and phrases out of context," Mr. Mann said. "This should be the final nail in their coffin."

But he said critics of his research continue saying "up is down and black is white in their climate-change denial."

"I'd be lying if I didn't say this was a major distraction for me and my colleagues," he said. "I've been wasting a lot of time responding to allegations. That being said, the scientific community has understood from the start that this was a manufactured scandal and smear campaign against scientists.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

An Insurance Maze for U.S. Doctors -

An Insurance Maze for U.S. Doctors -

"Researchers asked hundreds of physicians and administrators in private practices across the United States and Canada how much time they spent each day with insurers and other third-party payers, tracking down information for claims that were denied or incorrectly paid, resolving questions about insurance coverage for prescription drugs or diagnostic tests, and filing the different forms required by each and every insurance company.

"Physicians in Canada, where health care is administered mainly by the government, did spend a good deal of time and money communicating with their payers. But American doctors in the study spent far more dealing with multiple health plans: more than $80,000 per year per physician, or roughly four times as much as their northern counterparts. And their offices spent as many as 21 hours per week with payers, nearly 10 times as much as the Canadian offices.

“The amount of time we spend on this is just crazy,” said Dr. Sara L. Star, a partner in a three-physician pediatrics practice in suburban Chicago. “But each insurance company has its own language, its own set of rules and specific contracts with certain laboratories, hospitals, physicians and pharmaceutical companies.”

The Health Affairs article is here.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The rich are different — and not in a good way, studies suggest - Health - Behavior -

The rich are different — and not in a good way, studies suggest - Health - Behavior -

"In other words, rich people are more likely to think about themselves. “They think that economic success and political outcomes, and personal outcomes, have to do with individual behavior, a good work ethic,” said Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Because the rich gloss over the ways family connections, money and education helped, they come to denigrate the role of government and vigorously oppose taxes to fund it.

“I will quote from the Tea Party hero Ayn Rand: “‘It is the morality of altruism that men have to reject,’” he said.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

What Republicans get wrong about capitalism - Great Recession | Economic Recession, Economic Crisis -

What Republicans get wrong about capitalism - Great Recession | Economic Recession, Economic Crisis - "Smith would be highly skeptical of such claims. In the final edition of the 'Theory of Moral Sentiments,' written over a decade after 'The Wealth of Nations,' he added a chapter in which he describes the 'disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition.' This disposition, Smith says, colors the way we view the world, leading us to conflate wealth and greatness with virtue and poverty and weakness with vice.

It also leads to confusion in thought. Who makes capitalism work? is a very different question from For whom has capitalism worked best? We should guard against presuming the answers are necessarily one and the same.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know About Taxes

9 Things The Rich Don't Want You To Know About Taxes: "For three decades we have conducted a massive economic experiment, testing a theory known as supply-side economics. The theory goes like this: Lower tax rates will encourage more investment, which in turn will mean more jobs and greater prosperity—so much so that tax revenues will go up, despite lower rates. The late Milton Friedman, the libertarian economist who wanted to shut down public parks because he considered them socialism, promoted this strategy. Ronald Reagan embraced Friedman’s ideas and made them into policy when he was elected president in 1980.

For the past decade, we have doubled down on this theory of supply-side economics with the tax cuts sponsored by President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, which President Obama has agreed to continue for two years.

You would think that whether this grand experiment worked would be settled after three decades. You would think the practitioners of the dismal science of economics would look at their demand curves and the data on incomes and taxes and pronounce a verdict, the way Galileo and Copernicus did when they showed that geocentrism was a fantasy because Earth revolves around the sun (known as heliocentrism). But economics is not like that. It is not like physics with its laws and arithmetic with its absolute values.

Tax policy is something the framers left to politics. And in politics, the facts often matter less than who has the biggest bullhorn.

The Mad Men who once ran campaigns featuring doctors extolling the health benefits of smoking are now busy marketing the dogma that tax cuts mean broad prosperity, no matter what the facts show.

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S&P's credit rating cut: Downgrading our politics | The Economist

S&P's credit rating cut: Downgrading our politics | The Economist: "Investors largely tuned out the debt-ceiling debate until its final days out of a belief based on long experience that for all the antics and rhetoric of the Tea Party, the people who actually run Capitol Hill would never compromise the country’s credit worthiness. After all, it was Mr Boehner who reminded his freshmen colleagues that on the debt ceiling they’d have to act like “adults.”

That is not what happened. As the fight dragged on, the leadership moved closer to the Tea Party, not the other way around. And they seem happy with the results. Why else would Mitch McConnell have promised on August 1st to do exactly the same the next time the debt ceiling must be raised?

It is striking that the proponents of this strategy seem so oblivious to its impact. Our economy is lubricated by a sophisticated and stable credit market whose most vital component is also the most ephemeral: trust. As the crisis amply demonstrated, when trust erodes, the system freezes up. America has built a reputation for responsible and credible management of its finances over the centuries, and that reputation has been reduced to a political football, like a federal judgeship. Henceforth a foreign pension fund or central bank that once mindlessly ploughed his spare cash into Treasurys will have to think twice.

I never had much sympathy for the view that America’s economy was about to be eclipsed by China’s, and the main reason was our political institutions. Those checks, balances and laws provide an orderly means to change course in response to new challenges. China’s authoritarianism deprives the government of a feedback mechanism to tell it when it is meeting the needs and aspirations of its people. That makes its system intrinsically fragile.

Events of the last few weeks have forced me to reconsider.

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