Explaining Southern California's economy

Vice presidential debate: 5 (and a half) economic battles Biden and Ryan will fight

Vice President Joe Biden and Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan

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Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will get their big chance tonight to duke it out for their respective tickets as the Presidential campaign enters its final weeks.

Gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden and buffed-up Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan will trade barbs Thursday in the Bluegrass State. The garrulous, off-the-cuff Biden, 69, will likely offer vivid contrast with his much younger opponent, who at 42 is the wonky wunderkind of Congress.

Biden has run for President a couple of times, and his expertise is in foreign policy. Ryan has a reputation as a number-cruncher who can drill down into the weeds of economic policy. Given that the country still has not shaken off the Great Recession, it is reasonable to expect the two men to lock horns on economic issues. Here are five-and-half ones they'll most likely tackle.

Medicare and Medicaid. In his "Path to Prosperity" 2012 budget proposal, Ryan and the GOP proposed a radical — and there's really no other way to describe it — reform of government-supported health care for the elderly and the poor. The end result of Ryan's plan doesn't look terribly extreme, but by turning Medicare into a voucher system — in theory, giving seniors control over their own health-care choices — the Congressional Budget Office estimates that seniors could end up paying thousands of dollars more in health care expenses on a yearly basis. The White House also proposes to reform Medicare, via the Affordable Care Act. Both plans target the same problem: Swelling future Medicare costs threaten to render the entitlement insolvent.

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Will California once again lead the nation as Medicaid is expanded?

Supreme Court Upholds Obama's Affordable Care Act

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Obamacare supporters and protesters gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to find out the ruling on the Affordable Health Act June 28, 2012 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. California is already ahead of the curve on expanding Medicare. Will the nation follow?

One of the critical elements of the just-released Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," is the piece that gives states the option of saying no to money from the government that would have expanded Medicare coverage. This is from Josh Barro at Bloomberg:

Today’s Supreme Court ruling upheld the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. But it did strike down one part of the law—the provision that withdraws all Medicaid funding from states that do not expand eligibility to all people under age 65 living below 133 percent of the poverty line. States that do not expand eligibility will have to forgo only those federal funds that would have financed the expanded coverage, not all Medicaid funds.

I'm no legal scholar, but the debate over this piece of the law is a fairly straight-up case of federalism versus states' rights, that oldest of American Con Law dustups. Here's how it goes: The law as written would have effectively taken away all Medicaid money that didn't participate in the ACA expansion. That would represent a federal penalty imposed on the states for saying "No thanks" to the extra money. 

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