Unemployed and Uninsured

5 04 2009

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in March, the economy had a net loss of 663,000 jobs and unemployment rose from 8.1 to 8.5 percent. The number of unemployed persons swelled from 12.5 million in February to 13.2 million in March 2009, that’s more than the combined population of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

By contrast, at the beginning of the recession in December of 2007, the unemployment rate was at 5 percent representing a somewhat tolerable 7.7 million people out of work.

Of course, while its true that almost everyone is feeling the crunch, the unemployment situation has not affected everyone equally.

  • African Americans had the highest rate of unemployment in March 2009 with 13.3 percent, which is not much different from the 13.4 percent in February 2009, but still representing a sharp increase from the 9 percent in December of 2007.
  • Latinos had the second highest unemployment rate in March 2009 with 11.4 percent up from the 10.9 percent in February. In December 2007, the unemployment rate for Latinos was 6.3 percent.
  • White unemployment in March 2009 was 7.9 percent up from 7.3 percent the previous month and a sharp increase from the 4.4 percent in December 2007.
  • Asians were the only racial group that saw an improvement in their unemployment numbers for March which was at 6.4 percent down from 6.9 percent in February, but still higher than the 3.7 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in December 2007

Given the prevalence of job-based health care, more unemployed people almost certainly means more uninsured people. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured found that nationally, a 1 percentage point rise in unemployment results in 1.1 million more uninsured and 1 million more enrollees in Medicaid and SCHIP.

So, its likely that the number of uninsured people has climbed to 50 million, since a 2008 U.S. Census Bureau report found that number of uninsured people has grown from 45 million in 2005 to 47 million in 2006 with nearly 11 percent of all whites uninsured compared to more than 20 percent of all African Americans and 34 percent of all Hispanics.

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Obama G-20 Presser

3 04 2009

At his G-20 presser yesterday in London, President Obama deftly handled a question about the death of the Washington Consensus and the decline of American standing in the world. Jonthan Weismen of the Wall Street Journal asked ” is the declaration of the end of the Washington consensus evidence of the diminished authority that you feared was out there?”

After citing a few polls noting a favorable opinion of the U.S. and noting that American influence in the world still remains high, the president observed that the world has changed in ways that call for forging more  “partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions.”

He also cautioned against comparing the current G-20 summit to the Bretton Woods accords, which created the financial architecture of the post-World War II era.

“Oh, well, last time you saw the entire international architecture being remade.” Well, if there’s just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, that’s a — that’s an easier negotiation. (Laughter.) But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.

Its so refreshing to hear a U.S. president talk like that instead of fumbling around and simply looking out of place like Bush did. That kind of humility will certainly go a long way in restoring American standing in the world. But so will recognizing the efforts of other countries that have made significant strides during the last few decades.

And so that’s not a loss for America; it’s an appreciation that Europe is now rebuilt and a powerhouse. Japan is rebuilt, is a powerhouse. China, India — these are all countries on the move. And that’s good. That means there are millions of people — billions of people — who are working their way out of poverty. And over time, that potentially makes this a much more peaceful world.

And that’s the kind of leadership we need to show — one that helps guide that process of orderly integration without taking our eyes off the fact that it’s only as good as the benefits of individual families, individual children: Is it giving them more opportunity; is it giving them a better life? If we judge ourselves by those standards, then I think America can continue to show leadership for a very long time.

Drop the needle at the 2:07 mark in the video below to see the exchange between Obama and Weismen.





Chatter about Bank Nationalization

22 02 2009

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined a growing minority of Republicans in support of the prospect of more aggressive federal intervention of the nation’s the banking system, an idea that has inspired stern opposition from members of his own party and deep anxiety among Wall Street investors and many taxpayers.

The Austrian born Hollywood actor turned politician, who immigrated to the U.S. in part due to his “hatred of socialism, of the whole socialist system”, denied any  change in his views concerning the merits of a centrally planned economy and simply asserted that there was real difference between the kind of intervention currently debated in U.S. and what actually exists in Europe.

“Well, I — first of all, I think that we have a really good system here in America. You don’t have to talk about nationalization. All it basically says is that if a bank doesn’t have the money to — to give their customers, so if it, you know, defaults in some way,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger in an interview on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

” So the federal government always had that right to take over. So it’s not nationalizing anything. I don’t see it as such. There’s a difference of the way it is in Europe, where the — where the federal government owns some of those banks, whereas here only if there is a problem financially that the federal government comes in and takes over and helps out, ” added the California governor.

The notion of temporary intervention has also found support among GOP free market champions like former Chairman of Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan. “It may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring,” Greenspan told the Financial Times.

Citing the the proliferation of toxic assests rooted in the mortgage sector, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham echoed the former chairman’s recommendation last Sunday. “To me, banking and housing are the root cause of this problem. I’m very much afraid any program to salvage the banks is going to require the government,” said on This Week.  “I would not take off the idea of nationalizing the banks.”

Even though there seems to be some sort of daylight between Gov. Schwarzenegger and some of his Republican brethren over the use of the word “nationalization” in substance they seem to be in agreement about the nature of the intervention, which would entail the federal government temporarily owning a majority of the the stake in at least a select number of banks to provide them enough capital to lend, invest and prevent more economic contraction. Other options include securing or outright buying a considerable amount of toxic assets tied to a dismally underperforming mortgage sector and coursing through the major arteries of our ailing credit system and leading to even greater bank undercapitalization.

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We are All Eco-Pessmists Now

16 02 2009

George Will penned another column today declaring global warming a product of liberal scientific group think imagination. To make his case, Will argues that since past assertions about climate change were wrong so too are the ones we are hearing now even though the science to do is far more exact that it was several years ago. In tone and substance, the column is a firehose blast of oil and gas industry lobby talking points designed to subdue the any impulse to vigorously regulate green house gas emissions.

Money quote:

As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.

An unstated premise of eco-pessimism is that environmental conditions are, or recently were, optimal. The proclaimed faith of eco-pessimists is weirdly optimistic: These optimal conditions must and can be preserved or restored if government will make us minimize our carbon footprints and if government will “remake” the economy.

Hours later one of the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center – offered to correct the record on what Will erroneously claimed concerning their data on global sea ice levels.

In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”

We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.

I suppose the researchers at the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center are apart the vast left wing conspiracy spearheaded by the ” eco-pessimists.”





Almost Triffling

12 02 2009

This is so true:

Even trimmed to $789 billion, the recovery measure will be the most expansive unleashing of the government’s fiscal firepower to fight a recession in modern history. And yet it seemed almost trifling compared with the potential price tag of $2.5 trillion for the rescue plan for the financial system announced on Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.





Intuitive Yet Still Fascinating

28 01 2009

The Center on Tax Policy provides the following assessment of the “Making Work Pay Tax Credit” provision in the House version of the stimulus plan.

This proposal gets high marks for timeliness, assuming it is implemented as an adjustment to tax withholding, and that mechanism would also maximize the chances that the credit would be spent rather than saved. As a refundable tax credit, the proposal would aid many low-income workers who are most likely to spend the money. However, the credit would also be available to many higher-income workers who are less likely to spend the additional income. Were the credit better targeted, it would have been graded an A.

CTP explains why:

Evidence from behavioral economics suggests that taxpayers view small increments to after-tax pay as income, to be spent, whereas they tend to view lump-sum payments as wealth, to be saved.

Well, its intuitive depending on where you fall on the political spectrum.





Prioritizing Human Rights

12 12 2008

I know Human Rights Day was on Wednesday, but I thought I would cross-post an interesting piece on how to incorporate human rights law and principles into U.S. domestic policy making  that I saw on the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights website, entitled Making Human Rights a Domestic Priority.

In an effort to institutionalize the nation’s bipartisan commitment to human rights at home, the American Constitutional Society for Law and Policy (ACS) has released a report by human rights scholar and Fordham law professor Catherine Powell offering guidance to the next presidential administration on how to integrate human rights principles into U.S. domestic policy making.

In response to a widening gap between what the U.S. promotes abroad and what it practices at home, Powell laments how “human rights has come to be seen as a purely international concern, even though it is fundamentally the responsibility of each nation to guarantee basic rights for its own people, as a matter of domestic policy.”

Human Rights at Home: A Domestic Blueprint for the New Administration” recommends either transforming or replacing the current U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) with a U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights to bridge the divide.  Armed with a broader mandate, this new commission would monitor both civil and human rights progress in the U.S., report on U.S. compliance with international human rights treaties, and investigate and hear complaints of human rights violations in the U.S.

A group of experts and senior officials from various federal agencies would implement the findings.

To avoid the politicization plaguing the present USCCR, the report recommends that every commissioner be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to ensure “highly qualified leadership, broad bipartisan consensus, accountability, and professionalization of the Commission’s work.”

Currently, the president and the Congress are each allowed to appoint four out of the eight commissioners to the USCCR without either branch consulting the other. Single party dominance has also worried some critics after two commissioners reregistered as independents shortly after being appointed as Republicans, bringing the total of Republican commissioners to six.

Powell said that independence and credibility are critical in investigating allegations of human rights violations, such as those during the responses to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

A recent survey by The Opportunity Agenda reveals substantial support for advancing a strong human rights agenda in the U.S. For example, 80 percent of Americans believe each person has certain basic rights even if governments don’t recognize them and that the U.S. should “strive to uphold human rights in the U.S. because there are people being denied their human rights in our country.”

Plus, the public also overwhelmingly agrees that equal access to public education (82 percent), equal opportunity regardless of race or gender (85 and 86 percent), a right to health care (72 percent), and freedom from torture and fair treatment by the criminal justice system (83 percent) are in fact human rights.

Such social justice issues of fairness and equality speak to the heart of the Blueprint’s aims.  As Powell notes, “We should make the transition from a society of structural inequality to one in which not only the very highest glass ceilings are broken, but also in which sticky floors and broken ladders to opportunity are repaired.”