Opinion L.A.
Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
House GOP lawsuit wages surprising fight over federal purse strings

When the House GOP authorized a lawsuit accusing President Obama of overstepping his authority, the rationale it offered was a head-scratcher: the administration's move to delay the employer mandate, a requirement that House Republicans unanimously opposed.

The lawsuit filed Friday devotes only half of its attention to that issue, however. The other half takes up a topic much more important to Republicans in Congress, and indeed to any lawmaker in a divided government: the power of the purse.

The lawsuit accuses the administration of funding a provision in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Congress had not appropriated money for. The provision, Section 1402, makes coverage even more affordable for lower-income Americans by reducing their deductibles and co-pays.

The "reduced cost-sharing" goes hand in hand with the premium subsidies the act provides to those whose incomes are between one and four times the federal poverty level. The ACA requires insurers to meet...

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Coca-Cola gave L.A. residents 'free' rain barrels. What's the catch?

I like recycling. I like innovative solutions to California’s drought. And I like ice cold Coca-Cola. So I figured I’d love Mayor Eric Garcetti’s announcement last week that the city will provide 1,000 free rain collection barrels -- and workshops on how to use them -- to residents around the city in partnership with Coca-Cola and Keep Los Angeles Beautiful.

Rain collection in the parched L.A.!  Now there’s a long overdue idea.  And yeah, it’s mildly dystopian that the donated materials are recycled 55-gallon corn syrup barrels, the sketchy ingredient in the company's sugary drinks, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Judging from the city’s HGTV-esque installation video, residents who were lucky enough to score a barrel stand to collect a lot of water for gardening and other “non-drinkable” activities -- assuming it rains again one day.  One inch of rainfall on a 1,200 square foot roof can produce up to 700 gallons of water.  My back of the envelope math concludes that, if L.A....

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Why these new manufacturing jobs won't save the American middle class

One of the more shortsighted and self-destructive policies local governments embrace is the pursuit, via tax breaks and other enticements, of manufacturing plants. The idea is that if a municipality gets a company to relocate a factory within its borders, then riches will flow from the added jobs.

It doesn’t usually work out that way. In reality, such competition ends up marginally benefiting the company and its shareholders at the expense of the community from which the factory moved, and the taxpayers of the community it moved to. And even the promise of the new manufacturing jobs rings hollow, according to this new report by the National Employment Law Project. While manufacturing jobs have increased in recent months after years of steady decline, the new jobs aren’t quite like the old jobs.

Here are three significant bullet points from NELP's new report, “Manufacturing Low Pay: Declining Wages in the Jobs That Built America’s Middle Class”:

-- While in the past, manufacturing...

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Obama to Dreamers' parents: No deferral for you

By the time President Obama addressed the nation about immigration Thursday night, the centerpiece of his executive action was old news: He would protect from deportation millions of immigrants in the country who have lived here for at least five years and whose children are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
 
The most curious aspect of the proposal was what it didn’t contain: deferral of deportation for the parents of the so-called Dreamers, children brought to this country illegally by their parents.
 
Two years ago, Obama protected many Dreamers from deportation with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, and the Dreamers hoped that he would extend the same consideration to their parents.
 
They were disappointed. In his speech, Obama said that “I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers.” Yet by failing to protect the Dreamers’ parents, he is – theoretically,...

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BitTorrent users may be illegal downloaders, but they're not killing the music industry

When Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify earlier this month, she brought the high-watt media glare onto a question that's dividing the industry: do on-demand services shrink the pie by turning music buyers into streamers, or do they grow it by extracting revenue from those who were stealing music online instead of buying it?

The latter argument has long been predicated on the belief that people who use file-sharing services never pay for a CD (or an MP3, or a movie for that matter). Surveys have long shown, however, that illegal downloaders aren't so easily categorized. In fact, they may be more active buyers of music and movies than the typical consumer.

The latest evidence comes from San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc., the company behind the world's most popular file-sharing software. BitTorrent is the protocol of choice for illegal downloaders across the planet. Nevertheless, BitTorrent Inc. has been trying to persuade bands, labels, filmmakers and other content publishers...

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NYC takes on 'man spread' and other rude subway habits; L.A. should too

New York City’s transit agency will launch a public education campaign in January to remind (or scold) riders not to take up so much space on crowded subways, BuzzFeed News reports. The effort will target people who fail to remove their backpacks and smoosh other standing passengers, as well as “man spreaders” or passengers (generally men) who sit with their legs wide open and take up more than the allotted seat space.

The campaign will focus on courtesy and teaching subway etiquette. It’s a good idea and one the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority should also consider. Man spreading may not be a big issue on L.A.’s rail and bus lines. (NYC’s subway seats are typically long benches, where a passenger sitting with legs splayed can take up three seats. L.A.’s trains have bus-like arrangement with pairs of spacious seats.) But there are other etiquette lessons to be learned on L.A.’s transit lines, such as:

Don’t hog the handicapped seats. I’ve seen a fit-looking young...

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