Democratic Party platform for 2016 repudiates a major provision of Obamacare – but no one has said this out loud. In particular, the Democratic Party has now officially called for abolition of the “Cadillac tax,” the Obamacare levy designed to control health care costs by taxing expensive employer health plans. Tucked away on page 35 of the Democratic platform is this enigmatic sentence: We will repeal the excise tax on high-cost health insurance and find revenue to offset it because we need to contain the long-term growth of health care costs.”
I first met Elie Wiesel in the summer of 1965. Wiesel’s book Night had been translated into English five years earlier. Night was just beginning to be recognized in English-speaking countries. Wiesel was not yet then the impressive speaker he was soon to become. As he addressed the audience that summer about the horrors of the Holocaust, Wiesel was diffident to the point of shyness.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has publicly stated that the US Supreme Court does not function well with eight members. I disagree. Under present circumstances, it would be best for the country and the Court to abolish the vacant Supreme Court seat held by Justice Scalia and to proceed permanently with an eight member court.
On 17th May, a massive fire caused Metro-North Railroad to reduce its commuter train service to and from Grand Central terminal. In light of this service disruption, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, “encouraged” commuters “to consider working from home.”
With surprising speed, state-sponsored private sector retirement programs have assumed an important place in the nation’s public policy agenda. California, a pioneer in many trends, was a pioneer in this area also. The California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act, adopted in 2012, was the first law authorizing a state-sponsored retirement program for private sector […]
Last Tuesday, the US Supreme Court issued an unusual order in Zubik v. Burwell. In Zubik, religious employers including the Little Sisters of the Poor, East Texas Baptist University and Southern Nazarene University object to the federal regulations governing birth control coverage for their employees. These regulations permit these religious employers to elect against providing such coverage.
Article III of the Constitution gives the President the right to “nominate…Judges of the supreme Court.” Article III also gives the Senate the right to grant its “Advice and Consent” to such nominations—or not. Both President Obama and Senate Republicans are settling into a protracted political struggle over the appointment of Justice Scalia’s successor.
Sometimes it is gratifying to have predicted the future. Sometimes it is not. The recent postponement of the so-called “Cadillac tax” until 2020 falls into the latter category. I predicted this kind of outcome when the Cadillac tax was first enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” I am unhappy that events have now proven this prediction correct.
At President Obama’s urging, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a new regulation condoning state-sponsored private sector retirement programs. The proposed DOL regulation extends to such state-run programs principles already applicable to private employers’ payroll deduction IRA arrangements. If properly structured, payroll deduction IRA arrangements avoid coverage under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the employers implementing such arrangements dodge status as ERISA sponsors and fiduciaries.
The Little Sisters of the Poor, an international congregation of Roman Catholic women, are unlikely litigants in the US Supreme Court. Consistent with their strong adherence to traditional Catholic doctrines, the Little Sisters oppose birth control. They are now in the Supreme Court because of that opposition.
S.B. 185, recently signed into law by California Governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown, Jr., requires California’s public employee pension plans to divest their investments in publicly-traded companies that derive half or more of their revenue from “the mining of thermal coal.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo says that he no longer wants New York to be “the tax capital of the nation.” The recent experience of Patrick J. Carr demonstrates the long distance New York must still travel to reach the governor’s goal.
John Oliver’s sardonic spoof of televangelists raises important issues that deserve more than comic treatment. Oliver’s satire was aimed both at the televangelists themselves and at the IRS. In Oliver’s narrative, the IRS acquiesces to televangelists’ abuse by granting their churches tax-exempt status and failing to audit these churches.
Medicare recently announced that it will pay for end-of-life counseling as a legitimate medical service. This announcement provoked little controversy. Several groups, including the National Right to Life Committee, expressed concern that such counseling could coerce elderly individuals to terminate medical treatment they want. However, Medicare’s statement was largely treated as uncontroversial—indeed, almost routine in nature.
The recent news about charitable contributions in the United States has been encouraging. The Giving Pledge, sponsored by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Jr., recently announced that another group of billionaires committed to leave a majority of their wealth to charity. Among these new Giving Pledgers are Judith Faulkner, founder of Epic Systems; Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani Yogurt; and Brad Keywell, a co-founder of Groupon.
In a letter addressed to President Obama, 26 members of the United States Senate expressed their support for the private sector retirement savings laws adopted in Illinois and California, and also being considered in other states. In particular, the senators asked that the United States Treasury and Labor Departments resolve three legal issues clouding the prospects of these adopted and proposed state laws.