Oooooohh jaaaaaa you beeetcha

North Dakotans and Minnesotans can be mistaken for funny-talking rubes for years to come with the advent of the new “Fargo” TV show.

Set in Bemidji and filmed in Alberta, it’s like to be the only thing people remember about us aside from the oil.  But they managed to include a North Dakota-born actor in the cast, so hey, it’s not like they completely threw us under the bus.

MN wage rise passes legislature

Following an announcement earlier this week, minimum wage legislation has passed the Minnesota legislature.  When signed into law, HF 2091 will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 “indexed” in 2016.

I have to use “indexed” in quotation marks, because the planned increases in the minimum wage won’t necessarily track inflation. Rather, the increase will track inflation between 0% up to a maximum of 2.5%, and there is administrative discretion to cancel scheduled hikes in any year. If inflation exceeds 2.5%, as it has in about 9 of the last 20 years [chart included], then minimum wage workers will get hit with a crunch.

But a partial index is better than no index at all, and Minnesota’s law could prove to outlast several states set to bump to $10.10 without indexing.

Too big a Target

There will be a day in court for thousands of North Dakotans affected by the grave breach in the fabric of the credit card system at Target Stores.

It is hardly enough to end at compensation for the victims, though. The large-scale data heist was only possible in an era of mass aggregation of payment data, where banks and merchants conspire to find purchase patterns to sell to advertisers, or really whoever will pay.

In all reality, each and every one of the 1797 retail outlets Target operates in the United States is big enough to allow serious fraud if the wrong person gets hold of payment data.  Add them all together, and you get an irresistible target for thieves.

The fallout from the data breach has shown the tremendous danger to public safety that comes from aggregating that payment information in a single place.  Merchants and bankers must end their delusions of omniscience and return to policies that protect individual privacy, not the thin cashouts on data sales.  Lawmakers need to step up and make it illegal for hundreds of millions of dollars in payment data to be stored centrally.

Transparently lopsided

Just thirty-six sources provided the majority of PAC funds in Minnesota over the past seven years, according to the StarTribune.

One wonders on these last fundraising days of the year, when e-mail inboxes are clogged with unusually large numbers of solicitations, just how much the little guy counts, when parties and candidates can score so much bigger from a handful of key players.

Ya health insurance hosers!

mnsuregtNorth Dakotans are paying over 60% more for health insurance on the individual market than their neighbours in Minnesota.

According to State Exchange data aggregated by SteveMorse.org, a 40-year-old resident of East Grand Forks (Polk County) pays $199.59 monthly for a Gold plan, where the cheapest such plan costs $323.04 monthly in Grand Forks.

What’s more, the North Dakota “Gold” plan only pays 70% coinsurance, where the Minnesota plan covers everything after the deductible.  Sure, the math for 100% after $2000 is subtly different than the math for 70% after $500, then 100% after $19500 in health costs, but on average, 80% paid out is 80% paid out, and the only real difference between the cost of such plans should be the costs over the entire risk pool.  Unless someone has mathematical proof it’s 62% deadlier to be a North Dakotan, we’re getting hosed.

Another hosing:  No North Dakota insurer offers a Platinum level plan, which would pay an average of 90% of healthcare costs.  In Minnesota, the cheapest such plan would still cost less than a Bronze Plan (the 60% coverage tier) in North Dakota.