Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hope and change update

Here's a quick roundup of various items on the Obama administration's agenda, starting with a health care article from The Washington Post:
Some of the country's most prominent health insurance companies have decided to stop offering new child-only plans, rather than comply with rules in the new health-care law that will require such plans to start accepting children with preexisting medical conditions after Sept. 23.

...Three insurers - WellPoint, Cigna and CoventryOne - all cited uncertainty in the health insurance market for their decisions. That incertitude and the resulting decision of other insurers to drop their child-only plans, according to WellPoint spokeswoman Kristin Binns, "has created an unlevel competitive environment."

CoventryOne spokesman Matthew D. Eyles said that the insurer was facing "unique challenges that could undermine our ability to offer value and meet our continued obligations to existing policyholders."
Next up is a look at stimulus spending from The Wall Street Journal:
Eighteen months after the bill was signed into law, Michigan has weatherized 10,194 homes with stimulus dollars. It has 23,216 more to go before it meets its target.

Michigan says it is on track to finish the homes on its list by March 2012, the deadline set by the U.S. Department of Energy. Many states are at a similar stage.

But when Obama administration officials were selling the idea of a huge federal stimulus program to buoy the U.S. economy, they talked about a plan that would get money into the economy quickly. Instead, spending stimulus dollars fast has turned out to be surprisingly hard.

The stimulus package, which has a current estimated price-tag of $814 billion, had three components. One was tax breaks for individuals and companies. Another was aid to states to fund unemployment benefits, Medicaid and schools. Nearly all this money has been spent.

The third element was around $230 billion in funding for infrastructure projects ranging from road repaving to modernizing the electric grid. This was to be the most visible element of the job creation effort. Federal agencies have designated recipients for around 80% of the funds, but paid out only about a third of them to date.
The article notes some of the causes for delays in spending, including "prevailing wage" requirements that are a sop to unions. Can someone explain to me again why such spending was preferable to tax cuts?

Then we have high-speed rail, a hobby horse that the left has latched on to for some reason. This story is again from the Wall Street Journal:
Opposition from freight railroads is threatening the Obama administration's multibillion-dollar push to make high-speed passenger trains an integral part of the U.S. transportation network.

The standoff demonstrates the difficulties of introducing new passenger service to a rail network that is at least 90% owned by freight railroads and outfitted for slower trains.

To save time and money, government officials want new high-speed rail routes to operate on the vast system of train corridors that already crisscross the U.S., unlike European and Asian countries that have built dedicated tracks for high-speed rail.

But Norfolk Southern Corp., Union Pacific Corp. and other railroad companies are balking at sharing their tracks or rights-of-way with trains that would run between 90 and 200-plus miles an hour. They argue that mixing high-speed passenger trains with slower freight trains would create safety risks, prevent future expansion and cause congestion.

Cargo would be pushed to their competitors—trucking firms—the railroads argue, just as freight loads are picking up after the recession. Weekly average carloads in August were the highest since November 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads, the industry's main trade group.
It's all going swimmingly.

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