JC Penney closing stores in Wilkesboro, Salisbury - WXII (Channel 12 Winston - Salem - March 18, 2013 - JC Penney is closing at least two stores in North Carolina, including one in Wilkesboro. The store in Salisbury also will close, company officials said in a statement to WXII. Company officials didn't say in a statement when the stores would close. The company has been struggling recently, with sales down 32 percent in the last quarter. Company officials released the following statement regarding the closings: "Each year, we evaluate our store portfolio to determine whether there’s a need to close or relocate underperforming stores....While it’s never an easy decision to close a store, especially due to the impact on our valued team members and customers, we would not have moved forward with this difficult decision if we did not believe it was absolutely necessary."
Health Insurers Warn on Premiums - The Wall Street Journal through Yahoo - Anna Wilde Mathews - March 21, 2013 - Health insurers are privately warning brokers that premiums for many individuals and small businesses could increase sharply next year because of the health-care overhaul law, with the nation's biggest firm projecting that rates could more than double for some consumers buying their own plans. The projections, made in sessions with brokers and agents, provide some of the most concrete evidence yet of how much insurance companies might increase prices when major provisions of the law kick in next year—a subject of rigorous debate. The projected increases are at odds with what the Obama Administration says consumers should be expecting overall in terms of cost. The Department of Health and Human Services says that the law will "make health-care coverage more affordable and accessible," pointing to a 2009 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that says average individual premiums, on an apples-to-apples basis, would be lower. The gulf between the pricing talk from some insurers and the government projections suggests how complicated the law's effects will be. Carriers will be filing proposed prices with regulators over the next few months. Part of the murkiness stems from the role of government subsidies. Federal subsidies under the health law will help lower-income consumers defray costs, but they are generally not included in insurers' premium projections. Many consumers will be getting more generous plans because of new requirements in the law. The effects of the law will vary widely, and insurers and other analysts agree that some consumers and small businesses will likely see premiums go down.
The Face of Future Health Care - The New York Times - Reed Abelson - March 20, 2013 - When people talk about the future of health care, Kaiser Permanente is often the model they have in mind. The organization, which combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, is the kind of holistic health system that President Obama’s health care law encourages.
Kaiser has sophisticated electronic records and computer systems that — after 10 years and $30 billion in technology spending — have led to better-coordinated patient care, another goal of the president. And because the plan is paid a fixed amount for medical care per member, there is a strong financial incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, the same goal of the hundreds of accountable care organizations now being created.
Restaurants Hope Tax Refunds Bring Customers - CNBC - Anna Andrianova - March 23, 2013 - Payroll tax increases and high gasoline prices have pushed consumers to dine out less. But tax refunds, which are rolling in, may bring relief to the limping restaurant industry. "Payroll tax takes its negative toll. Starting February consumers have less money — low- and middle-income groups," said Darren Tristano, a restaurant industry analyst at Technomic, a market researcher. The payroll tax was raised in January two percentage points to its previous level from 2010. (Read more: Payroll Tax Hike Will Affect Your Paycheck and Economy)
According to research from the National Retail Federation that was released in February, nearly three-quarters of Americans said they're adjusting spending because of the payroll tax change. Plus, 16 percent of those surveyed said they're eating out less, and 15 percent are using coupons more often, according to the retail group. Rising fuel prices have hit restaurants even harder. More than 37 percent of those surveyed said they're eating out less because of the gas prices, according to a separate survey from the retail group.
3-D Printers and the Cool Stuff They Make - CNBC
Biotech Firms Slip in Amendment Allowing USDA to Overrule Courts on Genetically Engineered Crops - AllGov.com - March 23, 2013 - Food safety advocates and environmentalists have cried foul over Congress adopting a little-known provision that gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the power to overrule the courts in cases involving genetically engineered (GE) crops. While lawmakers worked on legislation to keep the federal government from running out of money, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, allowed a “biotech rider” to slip into the funding plan, known as a continuing resolution, presumably at the behest of biotechnology companies. That rider (referred to by some opponents as the “Monsanto Protection Act”) authorizes the USDA to nullify any federal court decision that bans the use of GE crops. The Center for Food Safety, a consumer organization, said on its website that the rider could undermine the courts’ “ability to safeguard farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops.” “Moreover, the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions and is a major violation of the separation of powers, an essential element of U.S. constitutional governance and law,” the group added.
Senate Passes $3.7 Trillion Budget, Its First in 4 Years - New York Times through CNBC - Jonathan Weisman - March 23, 2013 - After a grueling, all-night debate that ended close to 5 a.m., the Senate on Saturday adopted its first budget in four years, a $3.7 trillion blueprint for 2014 that would fast-track passage of tax increases, trim spending gingerly and leave the government still deeply in the debt a decade from now. The 50-49 vote sets up contentious — and potentially fruitless — negotiations with the Republican-dominated House in April to reconcile two vastly different plans for dealing with the nation’s economic and budgetary problems. No Republicans voted for the Senate plan on Saturday, and four Democrats — Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana — also opposed it. All four are Red State Democrats up for re-election in 2014. The House plan ostensibly brings the government’s taxes and spending into balance by 2023 with cuts to domestic spending even below the automatic “sequestration” levels now roiling federal programs, and it orders significant changes to Medicare and the tax code. The Senate plan, in contrast, includes $100 billion in upfront infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy and calls for special fast-track rules to overhaul the tax code and raise $975 billion over 10 years through legislation that could not be filibustered. Even with that tax increase and prescribed spending cuts, the Senate plan would leave the government with a $566 billion deficit in 10 years, and $5.2 trillion in additional debt over that time.
Bernanke Fails to Answer Concerns about a Cyprus-Style Seizure of American Bank Deposits - Washington Blog - March 21, 2013 - ...The American government has seized private assets before, and President Obama authorized seizure of property again last year. (The Argentinian government grabbed 401k assets; and some in the American government have mulled the same thing. And the U.S. government’s take-down of Megaupload was also an exercise of the power to seize all of the legal property held in a storage facility because a handful of crooks have illegal property in theirs. )...
Question: I was wondering if you can tell me how if a run on the banks happens in Cyprus, how that might affect U.S. markets. And also is it possible for the U.S. to levy a tax on regular deposits here? Or why not?
Bernanke: As someone mentioned Cyprus is a tiny economy. I don’t think these issues as worrisome as they are and as concerned as we would be for the Cyprus people, I don’t think that they have a direct implications for the U.S. economy. The only way that they would create a problem would be if the runs became contagious in some sense, if depositors in other countries lost confidence. But to this point I’m not aware of any evidence that that is in fact the case. The argument the Europeans are making is that Cyprus is a unique situation, very different situation, and indeed, it is quite unusual to have a banking sector as large as they have relative to their economy.
In terms of the United States, the FDIC was founded in 1934, and we have insured deposits and they are very proud of the fact that no one has ever lost a dime in insured deposits. And during the crisis the response of the government was in fact to increase the level of deposit or account sizes that were insured. So I consider that to be extremely unlikely in the United States.
The Retirement Crisis Is Here For Millions-Income Inequality Now Set To Wreak Its Ugly Revenge - Forbes.com - March 21, 2013 - The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has today released its report highlighting the intense state of insecurity American workers are experiencing as they look forward—with ever increasing trepidation—to a retirement without sufficient money to see them through. According to the data, American workers have very good reason to be afraid. Per the survey conducted by EBRI, 57 percent of American workers currently have less than $25,000 in total savings and investments (excluding the value of their homes) put aside for retirement. In 2008, that number was 49 percent. As a result, almost 50 percent of the nation’s workers are either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that they will have sufficient resources to cover the bills in their retirement—while many who are feeling a bit better about the future may just be kidding themselves. What’s more, it’s getting worse every year. In 2009, 75 percent of the nation’s working class had managed to put something away for retirement, even if the amount was insufficient to take care of them in a time of increasing prices and rising life expectancy. Today—just four years later—that number has fallen to just 66 percent of workers who have been able to set something aside for their sunset years.
These dramatic numbers should come as a surprise to nobody as the statistics have long made clear how badly worker income has stagnated in America since the 70’s. As workers have increasingly struggled to pay their current bills, due to employee earnings remaining static at a time where the high end of the income scale rose to unprecedented heights, it has become all the more difficult for these people to set aside money for their retirement. Further, the decline of the private sector union movement and the end of the defined benefit retirement plans that were once provided to workers as a part of their employment package have only served to make the problem worse. If you are somehow unaware of the historic stagnation in the wages paid to the American worker since the 70’s, these bullet points, compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and based on the Census survey and IRS income reports, should open your eyes:
Wrong Again Ben - Gerald Celente