Republican circles buzzed this week over Big Labor efforts to sneak an Obamacare fix into the bipartisan deal to fund the government and end the shutdown. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claims he stood firm, and the backroom deal to give unions a special exemption from the so-called “reinsurance tax” on group health plans didn’t make it into the final deal.
But what did make it in was big, fat pork package benefiting McConnell’s state.
A provision on Page 13 of the 35-page bill adds over $2 billion to help build a federal dam on the Ohio River that has gone way over budget. (Ever heard of a federal project coming in under budget?) McConnell has requested earmarks in the past for the floundering project, and critics quickly dubbed the perk the “Kentucky Kickback.” McConnell insists he had nothing to do with the deal, but it doesn’t pass the smell test. No wonder Americans have such a low opinion of Washington.
Freeze would help chill identity thefts
The Michigan Senate has approved legislation that would help state residents enhance their ability to protect themselves from identity theft.
Senate Bill 174, sponsored by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, allows individuals to use a PIN number to place or to lift a freeze on their credit bureau reporting accounts. Consumers could temporarily lift the freeze when applying for credit by contacting the reporting agency and providing proper identification.
The financially crippling crime permeates the nation. More than 11 million Americans in 2010 became victims of identity fraud, costing them $54 billion and countless hours of frustration in re-establishing their credit.
There’s also no age barrier. According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, children are 51 times more likely to become victims than their parents because thieves steal their Social Security numbers.
Meanwhile, ID theft among seniors accounts for about 10 percent of all cases, the Federal Trade Commission reports.
The bill would be a helpful weapon to fight identity theft.
Job training grants lack results
A $25 million federal job training grant recently awarded to Macomb Community College also prompts a question: Are there job training alternatives that don’t involve taxpayer funds?
The U.S. Department of Labor grant reportedly will help give students the needed skills to fill advanced manufacturing jobs that have been vacant because of a lack of qualified applicants. That’s a real problem for numerous employers in the state.
But extensive studies, many of them funded by the federal government, point to inefficiencies and poor results of these federal training programs. For instance, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found 47 disparate training programs run by nine agencies.
David Muhlhausen, research fellow in empirical policies for the Heritage Foundation, says research shows the job training programs don’t work. So these grants probably aren’t a good long-term solution.