Progressive States Network's Research Roundup for January 19, 2012:
Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America  — This recent report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the NAACP surveys the rising tide of legislative measures designed to block access to the polls for voters of color, detailing various “block the vote” initiatives proposed or implemented in a number of states, and highlighting the disproportionate effects of the measures on voters of color. The report also focuses on efforts to expand democracy at the state level. In all, the survey notes that “fourteen states enacted a total of twenty-five measures that will unfairly and unnecessarily restrict the right to vote and exact a disproportionate price on African-American and other voters of color,” and highlights the dozens of additional restrictions that have been proposed nationwide, in what the authors call “a coordinated assault on voting rights.”
Health Insurance Exchange Section Module Testing  — The Minnesota State Department of Commerce released this series of sample interactive websites designed to simulate what a state health exchange (as called for under the Affordable Care Act) might look like for consumers looking to purchase coverage. The sample websites "encompass all the basic functions that the Health Insurance Exchange will need to perform: eligibility determination; individual enrollment; small employer eligibility and enrollment; health benefit plan options and costs; navigator/agent/broker listing; health care provider information; premium aggregation and payment; and account administration." An online survey at the site is collecting public comments on the sample exchange websites until January 30, 2012, and the feedback will be used to inform the planning team's development of an exchange interface.
Health Spending by State of Residence, 1991–2009  — This paper by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services examines the per capita spending for health care in each state over the last two decades. Among its findings are that, over the last decade, “the New England and Mideast regions exhibited the highest per capita personal health care spending, while states in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions had the lowest per capita spending.”
Corporate Tax Dodging in the Fifty States, 2008-2010  — This comprehensive study from Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy profiles 265 profitable Fortune 500 companies and finds that 68 of them paid no state corporate income tax in at least one of the last three years. In addition, the report finds that 20 of the companies averaged a tax rate of zero or less during the 2008-2010 period. In all, corporate tax dodging by these companies alone is estimated to have cost states a grand total of $42 billion over three years.
19 Million Jobs For U.S. Workers: The Impact Of Channeling $1.4 Trillion In Excess Liquid Asset Holdings Into Productive Investments  — Economists at the Political Economy Research Institute published this reportdetailing how, since 2009, large U.S. banks and nonfinancial corporations have been “carrying huge cash hoards and other liquid assets” totaling $1.4 trillion, even as small businesses have been locked out of credit markets. The authors examine the impact on job creation of mobilizing these excess liquid assets into productive investments, finding that U.S. employment could expand by about 19 million jobs by the end of 2014, with unemployment falling below 5 percent. The paper discusses policies to transform these hoards into job-generating investments, both for the national economy and, specifically, the Los Angeles and Seattle regions.
Other recent reports of note include:
Declining Labor Force Participation Leads to Sharp Drop in Unemployment  — Center for Economic and Policy Research
Hardly Working: Stories From Un- and Under-employed Americans — US Action Education Fund
Social Security in Rural America  — Center for Rural Strategies
Being Online Is Still Not Enough: Reviews and Recommendations for State Election Websites 2010  — Pew Center on the States
Essential Health Benefits: Balancing State Flexibility with Consumer Protections  - Commonwealth Fund
Washington’s minimum wage standard: Protecting Workers and Families During Tough Economic Times  - Economic Opportunity Institute