Outrageous Hospital Pricing

This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers.

The insurers’ trade association had called the rule unconstitutional and said it would “undermine competitive negotiations.” Four hospital associations jointly sued the government to block it, and appealed when they lost.

They lost again, and seven months later, many hospitals are simply ignoring the requirement and posting nothing.

But data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.

It shows hospitals are charging patients wildly different amounts for the same basic services: procedures as simple as an X-ray or a pregnancy test.

NY Times

Marathon Petroleum cut nearly 2,000 jobs – and reaped $2.1bn in pandemic benefits

Marathon Petroleum received more tax benefits than any other US oil company while also cutting about 9% of its workforce.

Last year, Marathon laid off 1,920 workers across the US despite taking $2.1bn in federal tax benefits meant to cushion the pandemic’s blow to the economy, according to a report from BailoutWatch.

According to SEC filings examined by BailoutWatch, Marathon came to receive roughly $1.1m in federal dollars for every job the company eliminated.

The Guardian

[Note: Marathon owns the gas station chain “Speedway”]

Leaked: The Rich Pay Less Taxes Than Wage-Earners

In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.

Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.

ProPublica

Generally, the wealthy of all stripes keep their tax rates low in multiple ways. Some are simple: They avoid forms of income, like wages, that are taxed at a high rate, 37%, and instead make most of their money via capital gains and dividends from investments, most of which is taxed at 20%.

You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire

Offshoring: U.S. Corporations Don’t Want You to Know What They Sell from Overseas

Amazon and other retailers oppose measure to require country-of-origin labeling for goods sold online.

Amazon and other retailers are opposing a bipartisan measure that would require online sellers to clearly state where their products are made, a rule proponents say could help consumers seeking U.S.-made goods.

WaPo

Related:

NOT Made in America: Top 10 Ways Walmart Destroys US Manufacturing Jobs

It’s the Wages & Benefits, Stupid.

After businesses complained they can’t find enough people to keep their doors open Indiana is set to become the latest state to bring back a requirement that unemployed workers will have to actively search for jobs to get benefits.

“Unemployment has been extended again, stimulus money again – you know, if you’ve got a couple of kids you’re really getting a lot of stimulus money,” Hunter said. “It’s good for them, but it’s bad for me.”

Hunter’s assumption is a common refrain from business owners, the reality is more complicated.

Micah Pollak, a professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest, said plenty of studies have shown that unemployment benefits are not, by and large, keeping people from taking jobs. Instead it boils down to wages.

“I think it’s kind of like a cop-out for business owners to say that because it puts all the blame on the workers and then they don’t take any responsibility for what’s happening,” Pollak said. “I mean, if a couple hundred dollars a week is enough to convince a worker not to work for you, then I think you need to question what kind of work environment and pay are you offering.”

Indiana Public Media

Right-Wing Solution to Hiring Problems: Cut Unemployment Pay. Impose Desperation for Low-Wage Jobs. Right-Wing Philosophy: Sticks are Better Than Carrots.

This right-wing website expends a great deal of effort bemoaning the inability of companies to find workers (mostly low-wage workers).

The problem, according to this right-wing view: The government’s unemployment pay assistance. The solution appears to be: Make workers suffer low income so they are forced to take low-wage jobs.

Completely ignored: The pandemic, workers’ fear of catching the virus, and one other solution: Increase wages.

Unemployment aid is running out for millions: “People are going to become desperate”

Millions of unemployed Americans faced an income “cliff” in July when the extra $600 in pandemic jobless benefits came to an end. But millions more are now facing another — and perhaps more dire — hit to their income as they exhaust all their unemployment options at both the state and federal levels. 

“People are saying, ‘Oh my god, I’m running out of money,’ and they have no idea what’s to come,” said Alex Emanuel, an actor, filmmaker and musician in New York whose unemployment aid ran dry two months ago. 

The issue is affecting a range of workers, including people who lost their jobs toward the end of 2019 and have run through multiple unemployment aid extensions provided by Congress earlier this year. Gig-economy workers and others who tapped the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program early in the crisis are also about to run out of aid.

CBS News

Pope Francis Laments Failures Of Market Capitalism In Blueprint For Post-COVID World

As Francis writes, the pandemic “unexpectedly erupted” and his focus widened, and the document became a treatise on the lessons that must be learned from the global health crisis.

Once the pandemic passes, the pope writes, “our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation.”

Picking up on some of his favorite themes, Francis says the marketplace cannot resolve every problem, and he denounces what he describes as “this dogma of neoliberal faith” that “resort[s] to the magic theories of ‘spillover’ or ‘trickle.’ “

A good economic policy, he says, creates jobs — it doesn’t eliminate them.

NPR