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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

November 1, 2010 at 9:55 AM

On election’s eve, health-care costs and other voter anger data

If the polls and pundits are correct about a Republican triumph Tuesday, we may never know how the health-care overhaul would have worked. We do know that rising costs under the old (and perhaps soon to be preserved) system have been a continuing drag on American businesses and workers.

Health benefit costs in dollars-per-hours-worked rose from $1.03 in March 1999 to $2 in March 1999, according to new data by the Labor Department. That was the cost to employers in private industry. Employee paid an average flat-rate premium of $67.57 per month for single coverage in 2004; by 2009 it had risen to $92.43 per month. Family coverage went from $264.59 per month in 2004 to $349.36 in 2009.

Meanwhile, other factors seen as likely to agitate voters include high unemployment, poor job creation and falling incomes. But what will the outcome be?

Steve Cochrane of Moody’s Analytics argues that these will be felt in power shifts in the Southeast, Midwest and parts of the West, all of which have done poorly in the recession and “recovery.” Maybe, but economics doesn’t drive everything.

For example, South Carolina has seen some of the worst unemployment in the country, but seems ready to return the Republican ticket strongly, from Sen. Jim DeMint on down. If veteran Rep. John Spratt loses, it will be the ongoing elimination of elected Democrats in the South (like moderate Republicans in the Northeast). A similar situation is happening in the Intermountain West, where incumbent Republicans seem likely to keep their seats and gain more.

The industrial Midwest is another story. But neither party is willing to take on the biggest sources of the ailing heartland: bad trade agreements, trade cheating by China and others, and offshoring of jobs by American employers.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

O.J.’s in the pen

The Appalachian Trail’s clear

The tab’s new chapter

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