News Brief - October 28

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | News


“The Working Poor group knows that it is a political hot potato to call for public policy to improve wages and  benefits and increase training programs to help lift low-wage workers out of poverty.”
That potato would be a lot cooler if you dropped the “poverty” and kept up the inclusive rhetoric. 

Young workers in unions earn $4 more per hour than non-union, study shows
“Even though they’ve done everything right – finished high school and college at higher rates than in the past, young workers have been the hardest hit by stagnant and declining wages over the last 30 years.”

Workers unite for human rights
“The rally called attention to the plight of poverty-level workers who say they lack health care or educational opportunities to improve their job prospects.”

Health Care, Housing

Premiums soar; wages stagnate
“As health care becomes less and less affordable, Georgians face difficult choices in trying to provide health coverage for themselves and their families.”

Report: Energy efficiency key to housing affordability
“As we look at the age of homes and concentrations of low-income households, we see that the very people least able to afford high consumption live in homes built without energy efficiency measures.”


In race for president, economy passes war and health care as key issue

Keep the playing field level 

“The economic climate has affected us all, regardless of social standing, and if communities are going to survive, we had better start working together to make ends meet.”


Task force tries to redefine poverty 

“Poverty is high,” Dillon said, agreeing that the numbers being used to set guidelines don’t take into account people trying to pay utilities on $7 and $8 an hour jobs. “You can’t pay all the necessities to live” on those kinds of wages, he said.“

Then let’s cut the Sympathy Frame, and have a conversation about sufficient wages, and better jobs for everyone.

Campaign offers little on how to aid the poor
”All three are upset that poverty — affecting more than one in 10 Americans — is rarely spoken about on the presidential campaign trail.“
Allow me to direct you back to that whole ‘hot potato’ thing.

Crises on many fronts

”No one knows how to quell the uncertainty. And no one is even talking about the poor.“
Plenty of people are talking about the poor – no one is listening.

Report: Indiana working poor numbers grow
”Investing in job training programs, increasing the minimum wage above the federal wage standard, and initiatives such as paid parent leave for family and medical needs resulted in some states reducing their number of low-income working families, the report said.“  

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News Brief - October 24

Friday, October 24, 2008 | News


Study shows gap growing between rich and poor
“What will happen if the next decade is not one of world growth but of world recession? If a rising tide didn’t lift all boats, how will they be affected by an ebbing tide?”
It may be about time we retire this whole “rising tide” analogy. Some boats are apparently not boats at all, but seaplanes…

‘More inequality’ in rich nations
“The most equal distribution of wealth is in the Nordic countries, including Denmark, Sweden and Finland.”
Perhaps some of us are too quick to dismiss the Nordic track.

Inequality in major US cities rivals Africa: UN
“”The life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India, despite the fact that the United States is far richer than the other two countries,“ [the report] said.”

Pennsylvania Women Stop Closing Wage Gap With Men
“But in the current decade, despite a so-called economic expansion between 2001 and 2007, the progress of women in the Pennsylvania workforce stopped.”

Health Insurance

Health costs soar past wages
“So, it probably cuts into the amount of wage increases that they can get.”

Utahn’s wages not keeping up with rising insurance coverage costs
“The average Utahn’s work-based health insurance premium has increased five times faster than the average wage since 2000, the group says.”

Education, Schools

How one failing St Paul school made the grade
“We find out their learning styles, then we can address each child’s needs,” Johnson said.“
Not leaving children behind doesn’t have to be rocket science.

USDA to kill Phila. school lunch program
”The 17-year-old program aimed at poor students is unique because it doesn’t require students and their families to fill out application forms for free or reduced-price meals. This maximizes student participation.“
It also reduces administrative cost and stigma associated with free lunches.

Povert (of sorts)

Fuel poverty campaigners lose high court battle
”Campaigners failed today in a high court bid to force the government to spend more to end fuel poverty.“
Apparently there is a lack of legal as well as political will.

Poverty in America: The Problems and Solutions
”Communities know what they need. It is not more welfare or school vouchers… but jobs, programs which work in schools and for young people. Good public transportation and job training, learning how to be resourceful and make things again, self-sufficiency, and a deep respect for learning need to be privileged more than what television and advertising put out there.“

Poverty and Politics (Netherlands)
An example of the discussion that ensues when individuals are highlighted instead of the conditions or systems in which we live.


Lawmakers must halt runaway minimum wage
”It was never designed to be a living wage. It was supposed to be an earnings floor for workers in entry-level, low-skilled or unskilled, often menial jobs, protecting a vulnerable work group from exploitation. If someone doesn’t want to earn just the minimum wage, then the solution is to get the education and/or skills and training needed to go up the wage ladder to qualify for better jobs.“
I’m assuming that the Yakima Herald Editorial Board realized the power of their argument, were promptly trained, and are now the New York Times Editorial Board.

Coweta wages in ‘rapid decline’
”[The economist] said more jobs isn’t necessarily a good thing, if they aren’t the right kinds of jobs. Fruth compared the situation to a baseball team’s roster. Adding a bunch of “scrubs,” he said, doesn’t lift the team batting average, and certainly doesn’t make for a better team, even with more players.“

UNH Study: State’s households struggle with less livable wage
”The study also projects a continued decline in livable wage jobs in New Hampshire due to the state’s transformation from a production-based to a service-based economy.“



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News Brief - September 5

Friday, September 5, 2008 | News


Group pulling Ohio sick leave measure from ballot

Study: Few California Workers Aware of Family Leave Law
And fewer have taken time off. 

Sick and Fired: US Workers Struggle Without Paid Sick, Parental Leave
“A new report finds the United States ranks at the bottom of 21 high-income nations in providing parental leave for workers.”
In spite of the revelation that…
American Workers Overwhelmingly Support Paid Sick Days

How does Swedish parental leave work?
A jealousy-inducing example of “elsewhere.”  

Labor Market, Economy, Wages

Struggles for worker justice take on new urgency, intensity
“As we enjoy barbecue picnics and time off from work, we should also remember the most fundamental aspect of Labor Day: honoring workers and their struggles for rights.”

Tough economy worsens struggle for workers, job seekers
It’s a recurrent story – wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, it’s harder to recover from job loss, and job security is fading. It will take better jobs to build the economy we so wistfully remember.

For others, Census data paints a rosier picture:
The Real Economic Scorecard

Let’s Stop Minimizing Minimum Wage
“Two years ago, more than 650 economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, signed a statement saying state and federal minimum wage increases can ”significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.“

Health Care

Cost of caring for Missourians without health insurance impacts everyone in the state

Kids of Stressed, Low-Income Mothers Prone to Weight Problems
Making jobs better – and ensuring that hard work earns a living wage – is not only good for workers, but for the health of their families and communities as well.

Absence makes baby’s brain grow softer: Call for two years paid maternity leave

Education, Housing

Economic Diversity: Why We Measure It
US News ranks colleges according to the economic diversity of their student populations.

Affordable housing hard to come by on coast
Hurricanes: conveniently gentrifying neighborhoods for the wealthy everywhere.

Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is back in the public eye, with poverty, not Palin, apparently to blame:
Poverty, not sex ed, key factor in teen pregnancy
Cause for Alarm? Understanding Recent Trends in Teenage Childbearing

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More on Insurance Mandates

Thursday, February 28, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Responding to a comment on my cross-posting about auto insurance mandates and uninsured rates at Talking Points Memo, I note that it’s important to know how states enforce the mandate. A commenter implied that there is almost no down side to going without auto insurance—especially if one is “judgment proof”.

Driving without insurance can be very costly. States impose penalties including license suspension, hefty fines, vehicle impoundment, and jail time.

It’s an unacknowledged reality of our labor market that most people must drive to work. Public transit just doesn’t work in most places or for many workers; less than 5 percent of workers commute using transit and many of those people live in Manhattan, Chicago, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. Thus, loss of license or car as a penalty for driving uninsured has a very high cost and it’s one most would avoid If they can.

There are certainly differences between auto and health insurance, yet there are still important lessons in the comparison.

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Lessons from Car Insurance Mandates for the Candidates

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Senators Clinton and Obama are continuing the debate over how best to ensure that everyone has health insurance and access to care.

Some online analysts have raised questions about the effectiveness of mandates by reviewing car insurance mandates.

We have been spending some time looking at access to car insurance in our transportation research.

Car insurance is regulated by states. Only two states do not require drivers to maintain insurance – New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Yet, a recent report finds that nearly 15 percent of drivers across the nation are uninsured.

What happens in the two states without a mandate?

Wisconsin ranks 20th with about 14 percent uninsured, while New Hampshire has one of the lowest rates of all states at 9 percent. Other state rates range from 26 percent (Mississippi) to 4 percent (Maine).

Some writers have noted that California has a low-cost insurance option for low-wage workers. In that state, these writers point out, the uninsured rate is one of the highest at 25%.

We’ve interviewed some of the key actors implementing the California low-cost insurance option and find that there is a major problem with outreach and access. Most low-wage workers probably don’t even know about the option and the incentives don’t seem to be structured in a way that encourages brokers to sell it.

A number of people are working on improving knowledge and use of the low-cost option in California, but we should not assume that low-wage drivers wouldn’t buy it—-if they knew about it.

So, what do we know? A mandate does not guarantee universal coverage in this case. And creating and implementing a lower-cost insurance option for low-wage workers will require creativity, careful implementation, and outreach.

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Dear Paul Krugman

Thursday, February 14, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Paul Krugman idealizes the democratic process in Clinton, Obama, Insurance (Feb 4, 2008). If Congress adopted policy on merit alone, we would already have guaranteed, quality, affordable health care in this country. And gun control too.

There’s every reason to conclude that proposals sounding like they limit choice —by including something called a “mandate”, for example — will trigger public concerns about government interference and administrative competence. Indeed, even focusing on the “universal” aspect of health care proposals makes people who already have it think about what they would have to give up for others to get it.

We’ve recently had a brief debate about whether words matter in campaigns. Careful consideration about the public conversation that can create the space and public support for guaranteed health care in the future is exactly what’s called for now.

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Universal Health Care Moves Forward in San Francisco

Saturday, January 12, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

The New York Times reports that San Francisco won a round in the fight with local employers over how to pay for universal health care.

A federal panel of judges granted San Francisco the right on Wednesday to put in place a key part of its universal health care program as legal arguments about the first-in-the-nation plan continue.

The unanimous decision, from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, allows the city to require businesses with more than 20 employees to pay a fee to help cover employees’ health care costs, something city officials say will help about 20,000 people without insurance.

The law, which passed the city’s Board of Supervisors in 2006, had been successfully challenged by a local restaurant trade group, which argued that it would violate a 1974 federal statute that prohibits conflicting local, state and federal benefit plans. That opinion was seconded in late December by Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court, who suspended the law, which was due to take effect on Jan. 1.

But on Wednesday, Judge William A. Fletcher of the circuit court said that the city had a “strong likelihood” to prevail in the case, and granted a temporary stay of the district court order while the full appeal is heard.

Joined by Judges Alfred T. Goodwin and Stephen Reinhardt, Judge Fletcher wrote that “the balance of hardships tips sharply in favor of the city,” adding “that the public interest would be served by a stay.”

Dennis Herrera, the San Francisco city attorney, said the ruling would greatly strengthen the health plan, which has already signed up nearly 8,000 residents.

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Finally - Standing Up for Health Care, For Real

Thursday, November 15, 2007 | Margy's Blog & Updates

It’s about time.

Finally, a few Senators appear willing to engage in the fight over health care in a substantive way – not just in some (misguided) effort to establish a campaign issue.

Eight Democratic senators say they cannot support any compromise that limits their states’ ability to cover parents along with children.

Democratic leaders had been considering such a compromise. But in their effort to mollify Republicans, the Democrats have begun to alienate some members of their own party on this and other issues.

The eight senators told Democratic leaders this week that they could not support any bill if their states lost money for the coverage of parents.

A compromise bill must “protect state flexibility to cover parents,” the senators said in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and the House majority leader, Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. “Our states have taken the lead to provide health care to this specific population, and we do not want to inhibit their ability to continue providing this important coverage.”

The letter is signed by senators from five states that together cover more than 250,000 parents. The senators are Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin….

…. in their letter, the Democratic senators warned Congressional leaders against “further compromise,” saying it would erode their support for the bill.

Mere passage of legislation is not winning. Better to communicate what you stand for than just pass a bill that communicates something altogether different. Even if it means the bill doesn’t become law.

After all, will anyone believe you when you say you want health care for all but support a bill that moves in another direction?

If you support a bill that provides health care for the “poor kids”, where do you go next?

You will have a hard time convincing anyone that you REALLY want health care for everyone when you were willing to cut eligibility for families who cannot afford health care and whose employers are not providing it. Not only willing to cut, but actively proclaimed your preference for “poor children first”, while denying coverage to immigrants and adults in the same bill.

These senators haven’t said quite everything that’d be nice to hear on this topic – but this is a step in the right direction, finally.

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