High Student Debt and Low Wages Don’t Mix

Students and graduates throughout the country continue to bear the burden of the high cost of education by taking out student loans. For those in states with high average student debt and lower median incomes, the weight of student loans combined with low incomes can mean a lifetime of debt.

The Alliance for a Just Society has released two new “A Mountain of Debt” reports, one last Thursday in Maine, and another today in Montana.  The state-specific reports highlight the difficulty of paying for school and paying off loans after graduation in states with predominantly lower wages. When comparing student debt to median household income, Maine has the 11th highest student debt-to-median income ratio in the country. Montanans fare even worse with the 6th highest ratio.

With half or fewer job openings paying a living wage for a single adult, average student loan debts after college graduation of over $27,000 in Montana and over $29,000 in Maine leave graduates without the means to pay off their loans in a timely matter – if they can afford to make payments at all.

As a single mother with significant student loan debt, Kimberly Hammill of Levant, Maine finds that her loans keep her from financial stability.

“Not only did I go to school to better myself and enter a rewarding career, but I also wanted to improve both my daughter’s and my quality of life. My student loans funded my education, but today they keep me in the same state of economic dependence I was experiencing before school. I still have to rely on social services to get by,” said Hammill.

Adam Bland of Presque Isle, Maine says his student loans keep him from saving for the future and living the life he wants today.

“My loan payments take up a little more than 20 percent of my monthly take home pay,” Bland said. “If I didn’t have to make these payments, I would be investing in a 401K, setting money aside for emergencies, and definitely doing a little bit of traveling, but the high interest payments mean I can’t.”

Jan Siemers of Helena, Montana doesn’t have student debt of her own, but she has seen her grown children struggle with their student debt.

“We want our children to be successful and are often told that a college education is the best path, but today I am witnessing firsthand how the resulting student debt is destroying economic opportunities for young people,” Siemers said.

Graduates like Clementine Lindley in Billings, Montana wonder whether student loans are worth it.

“My experience in college has meant so much to me, and has shaped who I am today,” she said. “Sadly though, I am not sure I would make the same decision if given the chance to go back and do it again. While the experiences were invaluable, the $90,000 price tag has been extremely difficult to handle.”

States need to reinvest in higher education, explore innovative solutions to address rising tuition and fees, allow students and graduates to refinance their loans, and increase wages so that graduates can actually afford to pay off their loans. Students and graduates in Maine and Montana deserve to have their hard work pay off, without seeing their dreams crushed by student debt.

Report: America’s Families Are Out of Balance

Media Advisory
Alliance for a Just Society
September 29, 2014
Contact: Kathy Mulady
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
(206) 992-8787

America’s Families Are Out of Balance

“The basic bargain of America is that no matter who you are, where you come from or what you look like, if you work hard & play by the rules, you can make it.”  – U.S. Department of LaborSecretary Tom Perez on the agency’s Labor Day 2014.

Millions of families in America work hard, play by the rules and are not making it.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been increased in five years.

A sobering report, Families Out of Balance, released this week by the Alliance for a Just Society, shows that the living wage for a single worker in Idaho or Montana is $14.40 an hour. In New York City, it’s $22.50 an hour.

For families it’s even more:

TeeJay Henry ­– A young man in Idaho is trying to support his wife and baby daughter on $12 an hour he earns working fulltime as a heavy truck tire technician. He’s had two raises in two years. They share a house with roommates.  A family living wage in Idaho: about $25 an hour.

Carlota Ortega – She and her husband have two children and live in New York City. She earns $8.50 an hour at a bakery; he earns $10 an hour in construction. They don’t have enough to eat. Living wage in New York City for this family with two working parents: $25.14 per hour for each parent.

Nazmie Batista – A young couple in Connecticut with two children count their pennies. Her husband works full time, but to save childcare costs, she works part-time. They cut back on groceries. She doesn’t know how she will cover her student loan payment. Living wage in Connecticut for a family with two children: $24.92 an hour for each parent.

Calculations in the Families Out of Balance report are no-frills, with a small cushion of savings to cover the minor emergencies that can sink low-income families. Our budgets don’t include payments on student loan debt or medical debt that burdens many low–income families.

What our report does show is that 9 out of 10 low-income families prioritize paying their bills, even if it means skipping meals or turning off the heat in the winter.

Now it’s time for Congress and our state legislators to prioritize families. It’s time for businesses to pay real living wages, so working families can thrive – not just barely survive. Here are some recommendations to get started.

Please let me know if you would like to interview families included in the report, or the authors of the report, Ben Henry and Allyson Fredericksen.

You can find the full report at http://www.thejobgap.org

Using Our Stories to Win: Native Organizing Alliance Webinar

As Native people, no one knows our issues and struggles better than we do. Storytelling, an art form that is indigenous to us, can be used to shift power dynamics and substantiate ourselves as experts on the social justice issues that we fight for. In this hour-long webinar witness Native organizers discuss ways to capture the stories that enliven our communities, how to make a case for change, and how to use stories to build and leverage power in campaigns.  

Recorded September 8, 2014. Hosted by Danisha Christian.

Daley Weekly: Foreign Policy Takes Center Stage in D.C.

Obama Takes Charge

Wow. Quite a week for our President. He gave three separate speeches at the U.N. that can only be seen as forceful displays of U.S. leadership, however one might view some of the actual policies.

The big one was an address on foreign affairs that bluntly confronted Russia and the Islamic State. You could see some of this coming a few weeks ago when Obama reacted with uncontained anger to the beheading of American journalists. Looks like we are into a long term air war in Syria and Iraq. (We have some strategic advice later in this report.)

Obama even presided in person over a session of the Security Council that passed a resolution committing the international community to cutting off access for those who want to join ISIS in the Middle East.

Earlier, Obama gave a presentation on climate change where he specifically called out China as a major polluter and pressed for global change to limit carbon emissions.

He ended his time at the U.N. with a challenge to other countries to get involved in the Ebola crisis in Africa.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this has any political effect here in the U.S. Obama’s foreign policy critics seemed to be throwing the linguini at the wall to see if they can find anything that might stick. The Rs apparently are going to play the racism card – they began running political ads trying to tie the problems in the Middle East to Obama’s immigration policy.

Latte Land

Huge news event. Apparently overshadowing the President’s performance at the U.N., was the video of Obama exiting a helicopter and saluting the guards with a Starbucks cup in his hand. The right wing went crazy – they had finally found grounds for impeachment even though they apparently do not know whether it is a medium or a drip grind. We have other important questions that the press seems to have missed. Was this a venti or a tall? Was the absence of a burn protection sleeve another failure on the part of the Secret Service? Is Obama covertly signaling his support for the terrorists by ordering beans from Yemen? This story is just beginning. The Birthers soon will report that the coffee actually came from Kenya.

If you somehow missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m85jKv8nDQk

Ebola

Folks are finally recognizing just how serious the Ebola epidemic in Africa actually is. The CDC put out an estimate that the disease could strike 1.4 million people in the next four months. The death rate has also been adjusted upward from 55 percent to 70 percent, worse than the bubonic plague.

President Obama included a plea for international assistance in his U.N. speech and is working to send 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia. Lest you worry that this is Obama’s response to the cries for “boots on the ground,” understand that they will be building aid shelters and many of them are medical personnel. The shelters are badly needed – only 18 percent of Ebola victims in Liberia are in treatment centers.

While we have opined for weeks about the Ebola epidemic spreading because of a weak healthcare infrastructure in Africa, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a serious AIDS problem here at home among the poor African American populations in the South. States that have not expanded Medicaid have a health care infrastructure problem of their own.

Anyone wanting to understand how the South has become the “epicenter” of AIDS can read a Washington Post report here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/southern-states-are-now-epicenter-of-hivaids-in-the-us/2014/09/22/9ac1525a-39e6-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html.

Beneficial Ownership                       

This wonky term refers to the effort by advocates to require states to identify the true owners when they register a corporation – the owners who actually benefit. Because no state gathers this information, owners of corporations headquartered in the U.S. can commit crimes and law enforcement cannot trace the perpetrators.

The consequences of this secrecy have been documented in a study authored by our friends at Global Witness: The Great Rip Off. Among other findings, the analysis shows how it is easier to set-up an anonymous corporation in the United States than in other countries, including such places as the Cayman Islands. The study reports twenty-two cases of anonymous companies in twenty-seven states involving fraud, tax evasion, political corruption, mob crime and money laundering. Access the report and see how your state is doing: www.globalwitness.org/greatripoff.

Efforts to require states to identify beneficial owners during the state run corporate registration process have been successfully opposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State. Once you peek at this report you might want to ask your Secretaries of State why they are helping to harbour these criminals.

Eric Holder and Policing

Last week the Attorney General (more below about his resignation) launched an effort called the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. This effort will bring a combination of law enforcement experts, social scientists, community leaders and researchers into a three-year effort to work on the problem of the police and their relations with minority communities.

Let’s hope they can make some progress.

Let’s also recognize that they quickly will discover that the problem is much broader and deeper than just the minority communities and the cops. How can the cops solve the problems of poverty, under-funded schools, health disparities, bad housing, and joblessness? How can we get the cops in a better place when we all keep hearing the thinly veiled racism of T Baggers and their political ilk? How can the cops get rid of the vote suppressers, the Medicaid deniers, the immigrant deporters, the food stamp cutters, and all the rest?

One other tiny little matter – how do you explain to a black kid who bought a dime bag of ganja that he has to go to jail when he knows that a rich, white bank executive who ripped us off for billions will never face a jury?

Immigration

The National Immigration Center has developed an analysis of the demographic impact of immigrant women. Great charts and some useful tools for advocates. http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/immigrant-women-united-states-portrait-demographic-diversity.

Poverty

The latest figures, released by the U.S. Census last week, show a modest reduction in the rate of poverty. Before the cheering starts, take note that 45 million of your fellow Americans still live below the poverty line. Note also that poverty among children reaches one in five overall and one in three among black and Latino children.

The Coalition on Human Needs has done an analysis of the figures and reports that many more would still be in poverty were it not for safety net programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance.

 Workforce Development

Concerns persist that there will be a shortage of physicians to fill the needs created by the expanded coverage under the ACA. This issue has been thrown into high relief by efforts to pump money into the VA health system to overcome serious shortcomings in veteran’s health care – they do not know where to get the health providers they need to fill the gaps.

Marching into the breach is the American Association of Nurse Practitioners with the useful suggestion that nurse practitioners be permitted by the VA to practice within the full extent of their training, rather than having them limited by unnecessary scope of practice rules.

The whole health care system should be listening to them. A more widespread use of nurses and physicians assistants would ease shortages everywhere but changes in state scope of practice laws are being opposed by traditional physician lobbies.

Mr. Sensitivity

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) gained and then lost 50 pounds after a pregnancy. She reports that some Members of the Senate made seriously senseless and prejudiced remarks that are too stupid to quote.

One member of the Senate was outraged by Gillibrand’s revelations. Ron Johnson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, demanded that Gillibrand disclose who made the remarks. Johnson said: “If you’re going to throw out accusations, my guess is you’d probably ought to name names.”

Johnson is Mr. Sensitivity about the treatment of victims. In 2010 he attack a bill in the Wisconsin State Senate aimed at protecting the victims of childhood sex crimes because it would be bad for business if employers who hid such crimes were held accountable. Just to prove his point, Johnson’s office refused to pursue the charge by one of his female aids that she had been assailed by a Wisconsin State Representative who was later convicted of other assaults. Johnson is one of five Senators to vote “No” on the Violence Against Women Act.

ACA

The ACA detractors insisted that folks would enroll but not pay. It looks as though 7.3 million actually paid up, way higher than the right wing ideologues suggested. With subsidies, coverage has cost them an average of less than $100 per month.

Too Big to Jail

Wells Fargo reached an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay a $5 million fine for failing to prevent insider trading. Company executives looked away as one of their brokers used confidential information to make profitable stock investments in Burger King via associates in Brazil. A miracle may be in the works here – there still might be criminal prosecution of the broker, but the executives who looked the other way will be protected by the too big to jail principle.

The Arab Bank has been convicted by a jury in a civil case for knowingly supporting terrorist organizations by laundering funds associated with attacks in the Middle East. This is a civil case, so they will have to pay up, but will anyone enter a prison cell? By the way, this case pales in comparison to the HBSC’s laundering of $200 trillion in money for drug lords and terrorists. The right wingers think we are coddling the poor. Actually, it looks like we coddle the rich.

Foreign Policy

Everyone following the interstices of U.S. policy in the Middle East should be reading Edward Luttwak’s The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. I carry my copy with me everywhere. Running to a mere 498 pages, this humble tome shows how the Byzantines survived for centuries while constantly being attacked from the outside, even when they had limited military options. They constantly played one invading hoard off against another. While there have been intervening millennia, very similar tribal/religious sects are there now.

The preferred methods for getting the factions fighting among themselves were bribery and dynastic marriage. While intermarriage might be the simplest solution, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Obama will not be willing to marry Sasha or Malia off to one of the Emirs. So he is pretty much left with the cash option, which apparently will be sent in the form of ballistics. But if he can get them fighting with one another, which they seem willing to do, maybe their energy will be wasted away in the deserts and not against us or our allies.

Musical Chairs

Eric Holder has announced his resignation. He is the longest serving of any of Obama’s original cabinet members. The timing has both a good and bad side. Holder just announce a major initiative on policing that needs strong leadership. However, if he is determined to leave, it is good that he go in time for a successor to be confirmed in a Lame Duck Session of Congress rather than risk having to get someone through a changed Senate membership next year.

Schedule

The elections are November 4.

 

Bank of America Settlement Could Fund Principal Reduction Programs

Screen shot 2014-09-24 at 3.43.37 PM

Reset Seattle members listen as homeowners facing foreclosure ask Seattle City Council members to enact a principal reduction program to help them save their underwater homes from foreclosure. Photo: Reset Seattle

It has taken six years and dozens of lawsuits and settlements after the largest housing collapse since the Great Depression – and finally we may have a way to set up and implement local principal reduction programs in cities across the country.

September has brought us what is expected to be the last of the big settlements by the Justice Department against the big banks. The good news is that the settlements have grown progressively larger each time, with more and more specificity regarding how the banks must comply.

On the flip side, however, there are the murky oversight mechanisms that present challenges for municipalities and community groups looking for a handle.

In the latest settlement Bank of America is required to provide $2.5 billion in principal reduction where foreclosure is not pursued. Additionally, they’re required to pay $50 million to capitalize local programs administered by local governments, Community Development Financial Institutions or other community organizations.

This is ready-made for the proposal the Reset Seattle coalition is working to implement. Reset Seattle is an alliance of hundreds of individuals and more than 30 faith, community, and labor groups in Seattle dedicated to stopping the foreclosure crisis.

The Bank of America settlement money could create a revolving loan fund that is designed purchase underwater homes in zip codes that are particularly hard hit – such as those in southeast Seattle where 15 -20 percent of homes are underwater and homeowners haven’t felt the recovery the way parts of the city have.Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 12.02.24 PM

Seattle must seize this opportunity to demand Chase, Bank of America and Citibank meet their settlement obligations by funding principal reduction proposals, like the one proposed in Seattle. This seems like a perfect fit for everyone – the banks meet their obligations, the city doesn’t have to issue bonds to capitalize the program and underwater homeowners in the city get their principal reduced saving hundreds of dollars every month.

In her latest brief on principal reduction, Alliance Policy Associate Allyson Fredericksen writes that “many other cities are already taking action to give banks the incentive to renegotiate mortgages and work with homeowners to avoid foreclosure”

Some of those incentives, according to Fredericksen, include instituting fees to encourage mediation, to issuing fines for blight on foreclosed homes, to releasing reports on banks’ actions in the community. Such actions put the responsibility on banks to act without putting additional pressure on homeowners.

Seattle should learn from other cities, and lead the way in helping homeowners, without requiring those stretched and stressed homeowners to negotiate with banks on their own.

Unfortunately as we’ve seen time and again since the housing market collapsed, common sense rarely wins out and unnecessary suffering is inflicted to score an ideological point. Hopefully the stars have finally aligned

You can read the Bank of America settlement here.

You can read the details of the Community Relief section here.

 

Graduates Struggle Under a Mountain of Debt

College is supposed to be the pathway to a better job and a better life, but for students across the country college is also the pathway to a life of debt.

Since 2008, states across the country have decreased their investment in higher education, with every state except for Alaska and North Dakota providing less per student in 2014 than in 2008. These cuts have led colleges and universities to increase tuition to make up for the lost funding, shifting that burden onto students and their families.

“A Mountain of Debt,” released this week in Washington and Connecticut, show clearly that when students face increased tuition and low wages, many must turn to student loans to cover costs. In fact, nationwide 70 percent of students graduate with student loans. The average amount of debt at graduation is $29,000.

Students in states like Washington and Connecticut find themselves unable to get by without loans for college, and unable to easily pay them off after graduation.

“I was working 80 hours a week to pay for school and living expenses. My average day would include working multiple fast food jobs sporadically thrown between classes, working one job until 8:30 at night, working 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. loading trucks in a factory, then getting up for class at 8 a.m. and doing it all over again,” said Alex Katz, a student at the University of Connecticut.

Christina Hoadley, a student at Central Connecticut State University, works two jobs to help pay for college, but still is worried about the prospect of paying off her loans. “After grad school, I anticipate walking away with a loan amount to the tune of $40,000. I’ll have to begin paying on all that within 6 to 8 months after completing school. It’s a lot of stress knowing the huge weight of debt that lies ahead.”

In Washington, Roxana Pardo Garcia loves the work that she has found since graduation, but she does not earn enough to make paying off her student loans easy. “My current student loan debt load is $19,000, and my loan payments take about 20 percent of my monthly take-home pay. I just wish I could help my mom out more. After all, she is the reason I went to school: to lift us out of the cycle of poverty.”

Bernadette Binalangbang of Tukwila, Washington has had to take a job outside of her field just so she can work to pay off her student loans. “I really love to bake and making pastries is my passion, [but] I’m currently employed full-time at a medical lab. It’s a complete shift from what I’d like to be doing, but it pays my bills and keeps me afloat — just barely. My student debt payments take up more than 30 percent of my monthly income.”

Disinvestment by states has left students and graduates like Alex, Christina, Roxana, and Bernadette in an uphill battle against the mountain of debt they’ve accumulated. States like Washington and Connecticut need to reinvest in higher education, or even more students will find themselves with no choice but to take out loans that they will repay for years to come.

Daley Weekly: Cheney, Mortgage Bankers, and good news, too

The Daley Weekly, Sept. 19, 2014

Continuing Resolution

Setting your national government on autopilot once again, the Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep things afloat into December.  No changes in appropriations for nearly two years. At least it contains no entitlement destroyers or ACA repeals. It also includes no restoration of the Sequester and no stimulus that might give a friendly shove to a sluggish economy.

Most of the debate in both Houses was about foreign policy. The CR includes a provision authorizing the President to support opposition forces in Syria. This is all about the push to put “boots on the ground” in the Middle East to fight ISIS.

The President has refused to put in U.S. troops so the option is to provide weapons and boots to those fighting both Assad and ISIS in Syria.

Just parenthetically, it was wonderful to see Dick Cheney consulting with the U.S. House on ISIS. Darth Vader has been missed. He’s always good for a quotable snarl or two. Should we really trust a guy who talks out of the side of his mouth? Cheney wants to put U.S. combat troops back into the Middle East. This is his way of suggesting that he and his fellow liars who got us into Iraq in the first place were right. We always have to be wary when this fellow shows up

The debate on the CR cut across the political spectrum with both conservatives (Rand Paul) and liberals (Rosa Delauro) opposed. Moderate Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Virg.) also opposed. Lots of Rs pounded on the President for being weak, but voted to send military aid to folks we barely know. The Senate vote was 78 to 22 for the CR.

Elections

The Supreme Court of the State of Kansas has ordered the name of the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate removed from the November ballot. His voluntary withdrawal had been blocked by the Republican Secretary of State. This probably means that an Independent will defeat the Republican incumbent Pat Roberts and deny the Rs a much cherished seat in the U.S. Senate.

Minimum Wage

Wonderful story in The New Yorker on September 17 called “Demonizing the Minimum Wage” that features the AJS Job Gap report.

No cartoon, alas, but a report on the news that Koch Brother lead advisor Richard Fink is worried that anyone displaced because of an increase in the minimum wage will become vulnerable to recruitment into totalitarianism, fascism and suicide bomb squads. It might be possible to grasp the notion that the very rich will oppose the minimum wage out of raw greed, but to wrap the issue in such ridiculous palaver shows how completely nuts these folks really are. Everyone should recall political theorist Hannah Arendt’s insight that the real danger in propaganda is that the liar who invents it will come to believe that the lies are the truth.

You can read all about it: http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/demonizing-minimum-wage.

Eligibility Terminations

Health and Human Services has announced that coverage terminations have been sent to 115,000 folks who have unresolved immigration status issues. These terminations are for consumers who were permitted to get subsidies in the exchanges even though the info they submitted could not be verified in the Fed’s data bases. Advocates note that there have been problems with the verification system even for eligible immigrants.

Our friends at the National Immigration Law Center suggest that those receiving termination notices continue to try to submit documentation. Consumers erroneously terminated may be eligible for re-enrollment once coverage is verified.

Reconciliation

No, this is not about an expectation that the Ds and the Rs will reconcile their differences and restore civility to the Congress. It is about a process whereby a budget resolution can enable the enactment of laws without having to get sixty votes in the Senate. It is not often used, but was the technique that the Democrats resorted to in order to pass the ACA after losing a Senate seat in Massachusetts.

The bloggers here are suggesting that, should the Republicans gain control of the Senate, they will use this process to do a whole bunch of things. One idea is to tie entitlement cuts, tax reform, and raising the debt lid into one bill and send it to the President. Others might want to throw in changes to the ACA.

The President cannot veto parts of bills so Obama would face the choice of vetoing the whole thing and not getting a debt lid bill which then shuts down the government.

Paycheck Fairness

Three women Republican Senators, Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, joined their male brethren by voting to filibuster the Paycheck Fairness Act. Sponsors of the Act point to the fact that women only make about 78 percent of what men make for the same work (64 percent for black women and 54 percent for Latinas). The bill sought to outlaw compensation secrecy rules that prohibit employees from discussing their pay levels with other employees – a technique used to keep women from knowing that they are being cheated. The bill also would tighten the definition of what constitutes a legitimate business reason for pay differentials.

In a new female friendly initiative, the Republican National Committee announced that the Republicans favor equal pay. All 40 votes against the Paycheck Fairness bill were Republican.

Medicaid Expansion

With the recent inclusion of Pennsylvania, there now are 27 states that have opted for the Medicaid expansion. There are signs that Tennessee, Wyoming, Utah and Indiana might follow suit. Expansion efforts in Maine, Georgia, and Florida might be based on the outcome of races for governor. It looks as though Virginia’s expansion is still being stalled by a Republican House.

Many of these expansions hinge on waivers the Feds are now negotiating with states that have recalcitrant political leadership. Here are some of the things states are requesting: premium charges, lock-outs for non-payment of premiums, wellness programs, privatization, and job-search requirements. To great Republican regret, the jobs one was refused by HHS, but you get the picture: “The poor in our state do not deserve to participate in this program unless we first treat them badly – hooray for our state.”

Too Big to Jail

The Mortgage Bankers Association has begun a push to weaken lending rules in order to allow mortgages with as little as 3 percent down.  They think that these loans are plenty safe and by God they are determined to protect the right of borrowers who do not really have the money to pay for the loans to get into unmanageable debt. We have been through all this before. Taking regulatory advice from this unprosecuted criminal element in our society is like taking foreign policy advice from Dick Cheney.

Social Security

New polling shows broad support for expanding Social Security benefits. The poll, sponsored by the Center for Community Change and Social Security Works reflects a widespread public concern that we face a retirement security crisis that is not being solved by the conservative austerity philosophy. Detailed samples were drawn in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oregon. The story is here: http://www.socialsecurityworks.org/new-polling-shows-support-expanding-social-security-benefits/

Meanwhile, over in the House, an Appropriations Subcommittee is processing a bill that would provide a decrease of $762 million for the administration of the Social Security program – an agency that already is closing field offices and curtailing services. They will lose another 5,000 employees. As advocates push for improvements in Social Security they are being told that the agency simply does not have the resources to take on any more programs, however important they may be to American families.

Next up will be a fight over the continuation of the Disability Insurance program which needs funding to continue paying benefits beyond 2016.

Economy

Those watching the national debate over the economy should be following Paul Krugman’s essays in the New York Times about the “inflation cult.” He has been pointing out that there is a drum beat of voices warning us that inflation is about to ravage the economy in spite of there being absolutely no evidence that this is happening or is about to happen.

“This tribal interpretation of the inflation cult helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It’s comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.

“But what about the economists who go along with the cult? They’re all conservatives, but aren’t they also professionals who put evidence above political convenience? Apparently not.

“The persistence of the inflation cult is, therefore, an indicator of just how polarized our society has become, of how everything is political, even among those who are supposed to rise above such things. And that reality, unlike the supposed risk of runaway inflation, is something that should scare you.”

We quote at Krugman length here (and completely without permission) because he so ably makes the point about how many of the contemporary debates are fueled by absolute fiction.

Meanwhile, worried about the persistence of sluggish jobs growth, the Federal Reserve, apparently not a part of the “inflation cult,” has announced that it will keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future.

Hospitals

It is a little difficult to figure out just what the non-profit hospitals are up to these days. Last year Moody’s Investors Service predicted a gloomy outlook for them in 2014, and a story in the Wall Street Journal last month suggests that their profits have fallen. One of the supposed causes is the cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospitals scheduled to take place under the ACA. The problem is that these cuts have been delayed until 2017 and your friendly Weekly reporter is convinced that they will never take place.

Smart betting is that the big culprit here is the failure to expand Medicaid. Perhaps to emphasize this point, last week the National Health Law Program and Florida Legal Services filed an administrative complaint with the IRS contending that Jackson Health System, a publicly funded system in Miami-Dade County, is violating the ACA by failing to inform low-income consumers about their access to charity care and about protections from aggressive collection practices. The supporters of this effort point out that the whole problem could be solved if Florida were to participate in the Medicaid Expansion.

Along those lines, LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance, wrote this terrific piece in Huffington Post this week on just this subjecthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/leeann-hall/hospitals-and-clinics-fee_b_5826448.html

Musical Chairs

Could it be that Debbie Wasserman Schultz will not be the Chair of the Democratic National Committee after the November elections? Tension with the House and Senate Democratic Campaign Committees, tension with the White House. Bad history with the Clintons. Even a Democratic sweep in November cannot save her.