Altmire To Vote “NO” On Debt Limit

Congressman Jason Altmire announced today he will vote against raising the debt limit:

“I intend to vote against raising the debt limit today because this legislation fails to make the real and immediate spending cuts needed to get our fiscal house in order. I do not want our country to default on its debts. However, for the long-term stability of our economy, the worldwide markets need to see that the U.S. Congress is willing to make the difficult decisions needed to rein in our budget deficits. This bill does not do that.

“Although increasing the debt limit does not authorize any new government programs or new spending, it does chart a path for the future. In order to prevent us from finding ourselves in this exact same situation down the road, we must enact long-term spending cuts and meaningful budget reforms now.

“The need to increase the debt limit this summer presents us with the opportunity to take steps that will put our nation on a sound fiscal path. I look forward to working with my colleagues to use this moment for real progress on our fiscal future.”

Such a vote would be extremely irresponsible and imperil the nation’s security.  A national default of America’s debt would raise interest rates horrifically forcing taxpayers to should more and more expenses to investors.  It would immediately drive the recovering economy into a 1930’s era depression and cause thousands of Altmire’s constituents to lose their jobs and homes.  He isn’t fit to sit as a Member of Congress.


Medicare Is A Defining Issue

Sen. Chuck Schumer said last week’s vote on Medicare will make the program “a defining issue” in 2012.  It already has been for Members of the House and Harry Reid’s bringing the Ryan Plan up for a vote forced Republicans in the Senate to go on the record.  All but five of them voted to end Medicare as we know it.  Let’s review for a moment what the GOP platform would do to Medicare.  The present program of government single payer health care for seniors, the disabled and orphans collects premiums in the form of payroll taxes and withdrawals from Social Security checks and disburses funds to the providers of health care:  hospitals, doctors, labs, radiation centers and so forth.  The Ryan Plan replaces it with a government voucher worth a fixed annual amount of $6,000 which these folks would use to obtain health insurance in the private market.

Medicare would no longer exist as we know it.  For example:

There is a huge difference in one important aspect between the Medicare program in the Ryan budget plan and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, or F.E.H.B.P., for federal employees and for members of Congress.

Basically, the F.E.H.B.P. is best described as a typical employer-sponsored health insurance plan. The federal government’s – that is, taxpayers’ – annual contribution to the premiums paid to competing private insurers by employees and members of Congress would rise in step with the average premiums charged by the private insurers (see Page 1).

These premiums have been rising over time more or less in step with the overall increase in per-capita health spending in this country.

By contrast, under the Ryan plan, the federal contribution toward the purchase of private health insurance by future Medicare beneficiaries would be indexed only to the Consumer Price Index (see Page 2 of the C.B.O. analysis).

According to The New York Times:

Calculations derived from the C.B.O. analysis show that in 2022, when the Ryan plan would kick in, the typical 65-year-old would pay $6,400 to $7,000 more per year than would be paid for comparable coverage under traditional Medicare.

The major talking point being used by Republican Members of Congress is that the Ryan Medicare Plan is the same they receive.  Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-06), for example, is telling this to constituents who call or write his office concerning his vote for the Ryan Plan.  It isn’t true.  Paul Ryan penned this lie in an OpEd in The Wall Street Journal where he stated:

“Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy.”

The only way this is true would be if Members of the House and Senate were kicked off the Federal Employee Health benefit Plan and forced to enroll in the Ryan Plan.  Here is a good comparison including graphs.  Think Progress notes:

Ryan’s other selling point about increased assistance to lower income Americans is similarly misleading because seniors who will be forced to choose from an array of private insurers would still have to pay more for the same amount of coverage than if they simply stayed in the traditional Medicare program. Private insurers carry extra cost, as a comparison of traditional Medicare and private insurers in Medicare Advantage demonstrates. Both operate under the same rules and enroll the same population, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, traditional Medicare spends less than 2 percent of expenditures on administrative costs, while private plans in Medicare Advantage spend approximately 11 percent on additional expenditures like profits. As the CBO concluded, under Ryan’s plan, “future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.”

This is why Sen. Schumer says the Ryan Plan votes will be a defining issue in 2012.  It isn’t the same plan Members of Congress have and it is a radical departure from the current Medicare program.  Americans aren’t being hoodwinked by the lies and rhetoric and they’re attending town halls, writing letters and emails and deciding to vote against this in November 2012.  Things are getting so bad that two Republicans from Pennsylvania, freshmen Congressmen Lou Barletta and Tom Marino are banning non media from recording anyone at their upcoming public meetings for constituents.

McConnell: “Ryan Medicare Plan Is Sensible”

Sen. Mitch McConnell says Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity plan to dismantle Medicare and replace it with private industry vouchers “is a very sensible way to go to try to save Medicare,” adding that President Barack Obama’s Medicare plan would empower “a board that would ration health care.”

Let’s take a good look at that statement.  Rationing of healthcare is a reality in any and every situation anywhere.  Unless everyone is given full access to medical care anywhere, anytime and for any reason (a hypochondriacs dream situation) there is “rationing.”  Some sensible management of a person’s medical care is important.  Too many x-rays, cat scans, MRI’s and such imperil one’s life from exposure to radiation.  Even getting too many, frequent dental x-rays is irresponsible.

So now we accept that some management is necessary so abusers don’t bankrupt the rest of us let’s actually examine the current situation in the U.S.  Most Americans receive their health care either from a government program or from private health insurers.  If you work for the government, are in the Armed Forces, are a senior citizen, disabled or an orphan you already have government healthcare.  Medicare and Medicaid are two of these programs.  A substantial portion of our population is covered by these programs including both Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.  I haven’t seen either of them renounce their coverage.

Private insurers, for profit companies and “non-profit” Blues which retain hundreds of millions in “profits” provide the balance of everyone’s coverage.  Except for the 59 million Americans who have been rationed out of the system entirely.  So we already have rationing.

Now we have a situation where those with pre-existing conditions get rationed in their coverage.  If you have had a “condition” in the past your private health coverage may likely exempt you from benefits for future treatment for it.  This is also rationing.

If you get seriously ill, cancer, MS, heart disease, need an organ transplant or whatever your private insurer can opt to drop you completely rather than pay for your medical care.  Unfortunately this happens frequently.  This is also a form of rationing.

You also have lifetime coverage limits.  Whether $1 million, $10 million or whatever coverage limits ration the healthcare available if you have private insurance coverage.  Your policy also rations how many times you can be hospitalized in a year, how many tests you may have done, where you go for treatment, who you may see and what you may have done.  This is all rationed healthcare.

If your primary physician refers you to a specialist and you cannot get into see them immediately and must wait for several days or weeks that is a waiting line.  We have always had “waiting lines” except for the most urgent situations.  Even going to an emergency room involves waiting your turn.  I’ve rarely gone to a doctor without having to wait in their office.  Mental health is severely restricted in our current health care system for example.  That care is severely rationed.  

Rationing and waiting lines have been intrinsic parts of health care for as long as there has been health care.  Republicans concocted these terms to scare people about single payer government health care.  Death panels is their latest fear mongering term.  Imagined by opponents to the Affordable Care Plan a feature which paid for a consultation for a person with their doctor to review end of life decisions, a Living Will for example, was twisted to mean a panel of bureaucrats would determine who might receive life saving treatments and who would not.  Gullible, stupid people swallowed this obscenity and actually believed it would happen.

Actually it did, under a Republican Governor in Arizona.  Faced with a mounting state deficit issue Jan Brewer decided that Arizona transplant patients would die rather than get life saving medical care.  They did.

An actual government managed single payer system would fix this broken system with which we currently suffer.  The underlying weaknesses are costs which remain out of control and which keep forcing more and more people out of the pool.  The employer based coverage developed in the 1940’s to provide incentive for workers when wages were frozen has not worked well long term.

With no cost controls and 59 million uninsured citizens and millions more under insured we must re-examine how we deliver health care.  A single payer system means the government replaces private, for profit industry and the Blues and collects all premiums.  They then remit payments to all private providers of health care under rules, guidelines and regulations mutually agreed upon.  Now any huge insurance company can arbitrarily determine whether you get coverage, your coverage continues, you have access to medical care, what you receive and whether it can summarily determine it will no longer cover your illness, injury or situation.  

In the proposals for a single payer system all providers of health care would remain private.  No doctors, nurses, lab technicians or other providers of your medical care would become government employees.  This makes Congressman John Conyer’s bill a hybrid public/private method in which every person had an automatic right to health care.

The Paul Ryan plan which Sen. McConnell embraces in his quote would further ration health care by eliminating Medicare as we know it.  Currently eligible recipients (those 65 and over, the disabled and orphans) as they become eligible would get a voucher worth $6000 to use to obtain health insurance in the private market.  It replaces a system (Medicare) with 3% overhead with a market based system with average 25% overhead.  That means for every dollar you provide for coverage instead of 3 cents going to administer the program 25 cents is wasted.  That rations health care by sending your premiums to the pockets of shareholders, executives and CEO’s earning multiple millions in salaries each year.  That is rationing.

It means instead of getting Medicare automatically regardless of your health you will be sent to private insurers who could refuse coverage, exempt certain conditions or at any time in the future decide you will no longer be covered.  That is rationed health care.

I ask Mitch McConnell if he simply spoke from ignorance, callousness or stupidity?

Knee Jerk 101

Sorry I’ve been busy and didn’t have time to write about this.

Now comes the result of alarmist knee jerk reactionaries who don’t stop to think about the consequences of their positions.…

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is ordering the immediate shutdown of the countries older nuclear reactors and a general review of energy in Germany with an eye toward disengaging completely from nuclear power by 2022 as a result of the recent incident in Japan, which is not likely to occur anywhere in Germany.

A lot of nuclear power in Germany is used in the south of the country in the big cities and industrial areas. There is a possibility of replacing this loss with wind farms but they are in the north which means having to build lots of high power transmission wires and pylons cutting right through 100 miles of pristine German forest not to mention the effect these tall pylons and lines will have on migrating animals in the area.

In the near-term however the short fall will be made up from coal plants dumping even higher amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere to fuel climate change as well as German cities. They will also need to import more power from neighboring France and Czech Republic raising the cost of power for all Germans.

So in response to a threat that doesn’t exist in Germany the German government is going to destroy it’s pristine forests, increase the cost of power and foul the atmosphere.

This is the stupidity of knee jerk reactions.  

Memorial Day 2011: Two Names That Matter

Unless you were in a coma the past few years, you probably know who Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton are.

           You heard about them on radio, saw them on television.

           You read about them in newspapers and magazines, on Facebook, Twitter, and every social medium known to mankind.

           Because of extensive media coverage, you also know who dozens of singers and professional athletes are.

           Here are two names you probably never heard of. Sergeant First Class Clifford E. Beattie and Private First Class Ramon Mora Jr.

They didn’t get into drug and alcohol scandals. They didn’t become pop singers or make their careers from hitting baseballs or throwing footballs. They were soldiers.

           Both died together this past week from roadside bombs near Baghdad.

           Sgt. 1st Class Beattie, from the small rural suburb of Medical Lake, Wash., spent 17 years in the Army, and was in his third tour of duty in Iraq. On the day he was killed, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, he had participated in a run to honor fallen soldiers. Sgt. Beattie was 37 years old. He leaves two children, one of whom was three weeks from graduating from high school; four sisters, a brother, and his parents.

           PFC Mora, from Ontario, Calif., a city of about 170,000 near Los Angeles, was in his first tour in combat. He was 19 years old. “He was a very serious student, and education was important to him,” Carole Hodnick, Mora’s English teacher and advisor, told the Ontario Daily Bulletin. Hodnick also remembers him as having “a charisma about him, and the students just fell in line with him.”

Clifford E. Beatttie and Ramon Mora Jr. were just two of the 6,049 Americans killed and 43,418 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in war the past decade, the longest wars in American history.

           You can’t know or remember all of their names. But you can remember two.

           Clifford E. Beattie. Ramon Mora Jr.

Two Americans. One near the end of his Army career. One not long out of Basic Training. A White Caucasian and a Hispanic. Two different lives. Two different cultures. Two Americans.

Clifford E. Beattie. Ramon Mora Jr. Killed together more than 7,000 miles from their homes.

           As you prepare for Memorial Day barbeques, surrounded by celebrity-laden news, remember the names of Clifford E. Beattie and Ramon Mora Jr., and all they stood for. Theirs are the names that matter.

[Walter Brasch is a social issues columnist and author. His next book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at and other stores after June 20. For more details, see YouTube.]  

Women Demanding Seat at Budget Table

As more and more important programs face the budget axe women’s groups are calling for a seat at the table.  Too many important and critical federal activities are being slashed and President Obama isn’t using that scalpel he promised during the campaign.  Last week The Older Women’s Economic Security Task Force of the National Coalition of Women’s Organizations sent the following letter to President Obama:

Dear Mr.  President:

We, the undersigned members of the Older Women’s Economic Security Task Force of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, write to request a meeting with you and the Vice President to discuss the impact of the budget on women and American families and how women can help address the economic problems that affect us all.  Women rely disproportionately on Social Security and Medicare, and they must have a voice in any negotiation on these essential–and successful–programs. Yet the media reports regarding the administration’s experts who are assisting Vice President Biden suggest that there are no women in the room. In 2011, it is disturbing to have to ask why women would not participate in virtually every important discussion in the White House.

We would like to bring you the real stories from women who make up the struggling families and hard-working people all across our country who are in the throes of a rocky recovery in which women are being left behind. While men have recovered 24 percent of the jobs they lost during the recession, women have recovered only 14 percent of the jobs they lost. Single mothers and women of color are particularly at risk; their unemployment rates remain in the double digits.  The federal government’s failure to create a robust jobs program means that many more women will lose their jobs as state and local governments reduce their workforces. Women are being asked to shoulder a burden that is not of their making, to pay a “fair share” of the sacrifice that is needed when they are not getting a fair share of the jobs in the recovery or equal pay for an equal day’s work.

The National Council of Women’s Organizations is composed of more than 200 women’s organizations representing more than 12 million American women. The Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES) Task Force was formed in 1998 to study, monitor, and act to enhance older women’s economic security. This task force represents economists and activists, service providers and community organizers, legal, political, and social networks who have vital expertise and national recognition as problem solvers and protectors of the rights and responsibilities of our nation’s women and children.

The Task Force is deeply concerned about the impact of the current proposals for budget cuts and debt reduction on older women’s lives. Older women would be disproportionately affected by cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Their families also face loss of income and increased costs when such vital programs and services as family planning, work training, child care, schools, and education are cut or terminated.

Women must be a party to these discussions. It is simply not enough to send a few privileged men to the table to “solve” the nation’s budget problem. We welcome the opportunity to bring our voices and expertise to a discussion with you and your advisors, and we request that members of your administration with expertise on women’s issues, such as Secretary Hilda Solis and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, be added to the White House’s advisory team working on these negotiations.

Respectfully yours,

Terry O’Neill

Co-Chair, OWES Task Force

President, National Organization for Women

Dr. Heidi Hartmann

Co-Chair, OWES Task Force

President, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt

President and CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Deborah L. Frett

Chief Executive Officer, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation

Cristina Caballero

President, Dialogue on Diversity

Bobbie A. Brinegar

Executive Director, Older Women’s League

Margot Dorfman,

Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Cindy Hounsell

President, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement

Susan P. Scanlan

President, Women’s Research and Education Institute

Gloria Lau

Chief Executive Officer, YWCA USA

Lulu Flores

President, National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC)

Linda Lisi Juergens

Executive Director, National Association of Mothers’ Centers (NAMC)

Julia Wartenberg Director,

Global Women’s Project at the Center of Concern

Cynthia Harrison

Vice-Chair, Women’s Committee of 100

Ariel Dougherty

Director, Media Equity Collaborative

A Few Cutting Remarks

Throughout the country, the taxpayers have been revolting. Shocked by the enormity of the taxpayer revolt, and the untimely retirement of several hundred politicians, today’s current legislators, civil servants, and business executives have suddenly became the “people’s champions.” In a parallel universe, we can report the following, just since the latest election:

— Congress got the taxpayers’ message, and cut tax-supported junkets to only 15 per member. “The people have spoken,” said Rep. Horace Sludgepump from the Bahamas where he was on a fact-finding tour for the Maritime subcommittee. However, Rep. Sludgepump cautions that forcing Congressmen to stay at home and work for a living could bring chaos to the nation. Nevertheless, he promises to cut expenses even further three months before the next election.

— The Department of Defense was able to significantly reduce its budget by cutting back on the hours its golf courses and officers clubs were open. Complaining about the cuts were tax-reforming members of Congress whose districts were in the golf club re-appropriation. However, they were voted down by congressmen from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota who were pleased to tell their constituents there would be new naval bases in their states.

— The Governor’s office announced that although the administration was forced to make severe cuts in education and human services, by strict cost-counting measures it was able to maintain staff salaries, and keep off the unemployment lines 125 administrative assistants, 265 executive assistants, 835 assistants to the administrative assistant, and 1,255 deputy special assistants.

— The budget cuts directly affect the nation’s 200,000 homeless veterans. But, there’s an upside to this. Sixty-three-year-old Cpl. Willie Joe Lumpkin, a veteran of the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, re-enlisted. “After being downsized three times in the past decade and having the bank foreclose on my mortgage,” says Lumpkin, “at least I now have a bed and meals.” Lumpkin is expected to have shelter in Afghanistan for at least the next year.

— The president of Mammoth State University said that it too will cut expenses. Beginning next semester, the university will eliminate the departments of history, journalism, and philosophy, recruit high school students with at least a “C-” average who are willing to pay the increased tuition rates, add low-paid graduate assistants to teach megasection classes formerly taught by full-time professors, and cut the library budget by 35 percent. When asked if those changes weren’t severe, the President replied, “We tried to be as humane as possible. We allowed our 1,249 administrators to keep their jobs, have maintained our $6 million football program without restriction, and added three more PR people to better explain the mission of the university.”

— Slagheap World Airlines announced that in the spirit of national cost cutting, it would cut back its cockpit crew to one pilot and eliminate flight attendants, meals, and life rafts. “This way,” said the president, “we won’t have to penalize our loyal stockholders by lowering our return on investment.”

— The Association of American Landlords, which had lobbied extensively against annual safety inspections and property tax increases because they would be unfair to their tenants who would be required to pay higher rents, has also made concessions. Beginning September, in the spirit of tax reform, the landlords will sub-divide all apartments, and raise rents only 10 percent. “Sharing a bathroom and kitchen will bring people closer together,” said the Association president from his McMansion Media Room.

— Newspapers have been swept up in the spirit of reform. At the Daily Bugle, publisher Ben “Cash” Fleaux, from his villa in Bermuda, announced that his newspaper was forced to eliminate stories about local government, consumer and environmental reporting, and news of the courts when it cut its editorial staff by half in order to maximize profits during the Recession. To compensate, the Bugle is running more PR releases and added more stories about celebrities in rehab.

— The medical insurance industry, in keeping with the spirit of cost cutting, today announced it was cancelling coverage for 25 percent of its subscribers. “We hated to do it,” said an insurance spokesperson, “but some people insist on getting catastrophic illnesses, and that’s unfair to the rest who are healthy and don’t apply for benefits.”

— Finally, Dr. Guy Nacologist, the state’s richest obstetrician, announced that in keeping with the spirit of tax reform, he was now requiring all his patients to deliver their babies in eight months, thus saving a full month. When asked if he had also considered lowering his fees, he looked at the reporter, and then pointedly proclaimed that with the increase in country club fees, his patients were lucky he didn’t raise their costs by a similar amount.

[Walter Brasch says that since columnists are the soul of a newspaper, they should be downsized only after the last editor shuts off the lights in the newsroom. He reminds his readers that without their support, he’s likely to become unemployed and a burden on their hard-earned tax dollars. His next book is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, available at and other stores after June 20. Also check out his YouTube video.]


News & Notes May 27, 2011

Memorial Day weekend is here so enjoy the nice weather (finally!) and remember to thank a veteran.

Hopefully everyone avoided the strong storm which hit central PA yesterday.  A lot of trees came down from Carlisle to Harrisburg.  Fortunately we don’t get as severe weather as some other places though tropical storms and those old nor’easters cause a lot of damage.  Following the ravages of recent weeks and swaths of devastated towns the Republicans cut disaster preparedness in the federal budget by $1.5 billion.  So the next time a tornado is headed your way and your notification decreases remember whom to blame.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota have filed suit against a new law in SD which severely limits women’s reproductive rights.  One thing it requires is that women consult a “crisis pregnancy center” before having an abortion.  These are religious organizations whose mission is to convince women not to exercise their health care choices and brainwash them with lies.  Why would we use tax dollars to mandate religious indoctrination?  (I’m a Board member of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, Federation and PAC).

In Kansas a state lawmaker compared getting raped with having a flat tire.  thus far over 1,000 anti-abortion bills have been introduced nationally by Republicans after campaigning on job creation.  The main thing getting raped is women’s rights.

This is delicious:  Andrew Breitbart and Glenn Beck are attacking each other and laying blame for their predicament after attempting to destroy the public service career of Dept. of Agriculture manager Shirley Sherrod last year.  She is now suing Breitbart.  His pro bono attorney is providing terrible representation for Breitbart.  He’s getting what he’s paying for…  I’m loving this.

Easton City Council passed same sex partner benefits in a unanimous vote.  This follows a recent move by Bethlehem to do the same.  Absent any state wide bill being able to be passed various municipalities are taking action themselves.

With $500 million additional revenues already in state coffers the GOP House refused to replace any budget cuts this week.  Projections are that an additional $1 billion should be available by the end of this next fiscal year in June 2012.  That $1.5 billion could replace almost all of the education funding cuts.  This tells us it isn’t about the money.  Republicans want to eviscerate all public education in Pennsylvania. There is no other explanation for their actions.

Third and State This Week: Teacher Salaries, Legislative Updates & Paid Sick Leave in Philadelphia

This week at Third and State, we blogged about teacher salaries and a paid sick leave bill in Philadelphia City Council, along with providing legislative updates on efforts to cut unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania and advance a state budget with deep cuts to education and human services.


  • On workplace issues, Steve Herzenberg takes apart an analysis by an economist for the National Federation of Independent Business that vastly overstates the impact of a paid sick leave bill now before Philadelphia City Council.
  • On unemployment insurance, Mark Price reports on the defeat of an anti-worker unemployment compensation bill in the state House, and has a follow-up post with data on income in York County to explain what is at stake when politicians tinker with unemployment.
  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal writes about House passage of a state budget that cuts $1 billion from public schools and reduces Governor Corbett’s budget by $471 million for health and human services for women, children and people with disabilities.
  • Finally, on education, Steve Herzenberg highlights a project that is educating Americans on the relatively low teacher pay in this country compared to the most successful educational systems in the world.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Using NFIB Economist’s Estimates on Paid Sick Days: It’s Not Cricket

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

As a kid living near Manchester in the north of England, my first love was cricket. The sport (it is a sport) comes up nowadays when I use the phrase “it’s not cricket” – as in, it’s not acceptable, it’s not done.

In a report circulated to Philadelphia City Council and the media (but not online that I can find), Dr. William Dunkelberg estimated the cost to employers of enacting paid sick days legislation in Philadelphia. Even if you oppose paid sick days, you shouldn’t use the Dunkelberg estimates because, well,  “It’s not cricket.”  The estimates are so transparently inflated that folks who live in a fact-based world shouldn’t use them.

Dr. Dunkelberg, the Chief Economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, conducted an analysis of implementing paid sick days, concluding that it would cost $350 million to $752 million to implement, and would reduce employment by 4,000 jobs.

So what’s wrong with this estimate? (This post draws from a more extended critique of Dunkelberg online.)

The most basic mistake is that Dr. Dunkelberg double counts the maximum cost of paid sick days. He assumes that workers will take all their legally permitted paid sick days each year, costing $350 million. He then says that some of the absent workers will be temporarily replaced. The maximum cost of this, if every worker is replaced, would be another $350 million. So that gets you to $700 million. Add $52 million in compliance costs at businesses that already have paid sick days and you get Dunkelberg’s $752 million figure.

But wait a minute. If workers aren’t sick, they get their job done at a cost to the employer of $350 million. If those workers are out sick and temporary replacements are hired, the work still gets done but somehow it costs the employer an additional $700 million? Wrong. The additional cost is $350 million – $700 million minus $350 million equals $350 million. I keep asking myself, am I missing something here? He can’t possibly have made this kind of mistake, can he? He can and he did.

Beyond this, consider two assumptions that drive Dr. Dunkelberg’s high-cost estimate.

First, he assumes that all workers take all of their sick leave. Evidence from national surveys and San Francisco indicates that people actually take a third to 40% of their permitted leave.  Many workers view paid sick days as insurance – to be saved up in case they are needed, not used as personal days or extra vacation. Using the 40% figure, $350 million becomes $140 million.

Second, let’s consider how much employers actually hire replacements. Data from San Francisco indicate that employers do so less than 10% of the time. That means the additional, out-of-pocket, labor costs (for employers currently without paid sick days) fall to less than $14 million, a far cry from $700 million.

To be fair, there will be some lost productivity when workers are not replaced. It’s hard to say how large this will be. Many workers who are occasionally out sick “get their work done” anyway. (I don’t notice my work disappearing when I’m out.) Where that is not possible (e.g., nursing home care, customer service jobs, hotel housekeeping), other workers may pick up the slack. Based on this, the $14 million might climb to somewhere between $50 million and $100 million.

But wait, we haven’t even considered yet a series of positive benefits from paid sick days:

  • Reduced turnover and recruitment and training costs
  • Improved worker-supervisor relations and higher levels of work effort and commitment as workers’ reciprocate for paid sick days
  • Reduced health problems due to contagion of other workers and of customers or clients

When you take all of these factors into account, there is a solid analytical and empirical reason for believing that implementing paid sick days would pay for itself – or better.

Bottom line, when carefully scrutinized, William Dunkelberg’s analysis of the costs of the proposed Philadelphia paid sick days ordinance is simply not credible. Regardless of whether you think paid sick leave is a good idea or not, if you agree with me about the Dunkelberg study, I hope you won’t use it. Because using something you know is wrong, “that’s not cricket.”

Come back next week for another take on why advanced labor standards such as paid sick leave can be good for the economy.