Progressive States Network and the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform will host a webinar outlining effective messaging strategies for health care reform on tomorrow, Friday, September 10th from 1pm-2pm Eastern.
This year, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the American people achieved a historic victory in moving our country towards quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Unfortunately, negative attacks and flat out lies by the opposition has diverted attention from the large gains for working families from passage of the law.
Public support for the law continues to grow, but effective messaging by supporters of health reform can not only respond to attacks the Affordable Care Act, but strengthen public support as we move into elections and state implementation of the law in 2011.
See Progressive States Network's Health Care Messaging site for resources on health care messaging that will be discussed on the webinar call.
National Calendar of Events around Sept. 23rd, Health Reform's 6-month Anniversary
With the approach of six-month anniversary on Sept. 23rd of the signing of federal health reform -- and the coming into effect of a number of key provisions -- legislators and advocates around the country will be holding events to highlight how the law will end insurance abuses and extend coverage for tens of millions of Americans.
Progressive States Network has been working with advocates and legislators to assemble a national, state-by-state listing of events on and around Sept. 23rd to help people learn about and participate in activities happening in their communities. Check out the calendar at www.progressivestates.org/statefedhealth/events.
If you are sponsoring or know of events being planned in the next month in support of health reform and its provisions, please email us details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal Health Law Helping Cash-Strapped States -- And Right-wing State Leaders Lining up to Benefit
While the right wing continues their rhetoric to repeal, many of the same states calling loudly in both legislatures and courts for the law's rejection are simultaneously preparing to implement it and benefiting from the opportunities the health care overhaul provides them. In fact, a Department of Health and Human Services release revealed that, of the 20 states who have joined the constitutionally dubious multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the health care law, eight of them - Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, and Washington - were claiming subsidies for retired state government employees provided by the very law their states are arguing should be thrown out by the courts.
Obama's $50 Billion Infrastructure Job Program Could Increase Impact with Focus on Funding Local Transit
President Obama this week announced a proposed $50 billion initiative to upgrade America's transportation infrastructure. While this infrastructure spending is desperately needed, and the focus on upgrading the nation's rail system will have broad economic impacts, the immediate job creation impact could be increased through greater support for local transit projects as well, as a new report by the Transportation Equity Network emphasizes.
Polluters Fund Effort at Ballot to Rollback Clean Energy Programs in California
This November, Californians will vote on Prop. 23, an effort funded by polluters to repeal California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – Assembly Bill 32 - a landmark bipartisan achievement that is already creating jobs and reducing pollution in the state. If passed, the initiative would damage California’s clean-energy economy and lower unemployment levels by crippling the emerging clean energy industries.
As the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approaches on September 23rd, many popular provisions of the health care law are set to take effect, including the expansion of coverage to young adults up to the age of 26 on their parents' plans; prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions or rescinding coverage on those who get sick; eliminating lifetime limits on insurance coverage, and requiring insurers to provide free preventative care through all their plans.
One key benefit to state budgets is a new program to subsidize employer-provided health coverage for early retirees age 55 and older who are not eligible for Medicare. Employers eligible for the program include state governments, which will likely save hundreds of millions of dollars in coming years.
Conservative State Leaders Calling for Repeal Enjoy Law's Benefits: Yet while the right wing continues their rhetoric to repeal, many of the same states calling loudly in both legislatures and courts for the law's rejection are simultaneously preparing to implement it and benefiting from the opportunities the health care overhaul provides them. In fact, a Department of Health and Human Services release revealed that, of the 20 states who have joined the constitutionally dubious multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the health care law, eight of them - Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, and Washington - were claiming subsidies for retired state government employees provided by the very law their states are arguing should be thrown out by the courts.
This hypocritical approach to federal health care implementation is not a recent development. Earlier last month, it was reported that a full 19 states who are suing the federal government to overturn the health care law also applied for grant money provided for in the law to "help improve the review of proposed health insurance premium increases, take action against insurers seeking unreasonable rate hikes, and ensure consumers receive value for their premium dollars." And as noted in previous Dispatches, states like Utah and Texas, who have joined the lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, are also taking real, constructive steps towards implementation.
Conservative leaders in a few states are choosing ideological rigidity over the needs of their constituents. Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty recently ordered all state agencies not to apply for any federal health care funding from the federal government if it was related to provisions in the new health care law. This short-sighted move has been vociferously opposed by many in the state, including Minnesota's largest private employer, the Mayo Clinic, who noted they had already lost a projected $25 million in federal funding due to the Governor's directive. The Governor's order could end up costing the state a total of over $1 billion.
Right-wing Business Leaders Also Seeking Government Subsidies: Hypocrisy on the new health care law also extends to the funders of the right-wing movement. As ThinkProgress recently reported, the same HHS release outlined over 2,000 employers -- "large and small businesses, state and local governments, educational institutions, non-profits, and unions" -- in all 50 states already accepted as participants in the $5 billion Early Retiree Reinsurance Program under the new law. The HHS release also revealed that the applicants included the secretive energy-industry conglomerate Koch Industries, which spent millions of dollars opposing the new law. Progressive States Network recently reported on Koch Industries' ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council and state-based groups that continue to deny climate change.
As Progressive States Network continues to document, 28 states and counting across the nation have rejected legislative attempts to nullify the health care law, and the vast majority continue to move forward on aspects of implementation that will benefit their residents.
President Obama this week announced a proposed $50 billion initiative to upgrade America's transportation infrastructure. The proposal includes an infrastructure bank; a plan to rebuild 150,000 miles of roads; projects to construct and maintain 4,000 miles of rail; and an initiative to rehabilitate or reconstruct 150 miles of runway and install a new air traffic control system.
Transportation for America called the plan “fundamental to the long-term health of our economy...The President today has promised to press for carefully targeted investments in those projects that compete best in satisfying clearly articulated national goals for energy security, safety, affordability, environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness."
More Jobs from Transit Spending: While this infrastructure spending is desperately needed, and the focus on upgrading the nation's rail system will have broad economic impacts, the immediate job creation impact could be increased through greater support for local transit projects as well, as a new report by the Transportation Equity Network emphasizes.
According to the report, each billion dollars spent on transit creates 36,108 jobs while the same money spent on roads yields only 30,319. Even more dramatically, spending some of the money directly on local transit operations would actually generate 41,140 jobs for each billion dollars spent. Transit systems across the country have been raising fares, cutting service, and shedding jobs since the onset of the recession, and the crisis is far from over.
This report reinforces the findings of other recent reports (here and here) that analyze the greater job creation potential of funding transit compared to roads.
This November, Californians will vote on Prop. 23, an effort funded by polluters to repeal California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – Assembly Bill 32 - a landmark bipartisan achievement that is already creating jobs and reducing pollution in the state. If passed, the initiative would damage California’s clean-energy economy and lower unemployment levels by crippling the emerging clean energy industries. According to the California Employment Development Department, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created thanks to these innovative policies.
Polluters Funding Deceptive Repeal Effort: The initiative is financed by Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. in order to secure their own profits and continue our dependency on foreign fossil fuels. According to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Tesoro and Valero are among the largest corporate air polluters in the country. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the California Environmental Justice Alliance also conclude that these oil companies are the two biggest polluters in the state of California.
The forces behind Proposition 23 have deceptively framed it as a “jobs” initiative and have stated that it would “suspend” rather than “repeal” laws requiring reducing greenhouse gas emissions until unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or less for four consecutive quarters. In reality, the initiative could mean a permanent repeal of California’s clean energy law because unemployment has only been below 5.5% three times since 1970.
What's at Stake: The Global Warming Solutions Act was signed in 2006 with support from business, labor, environmental, and health organizations. It established the first ever mandatory reporting guidelines for global warming pollution, and set a statewide limit for carbon that will guide emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020. This limit is implemented through a scoping plan that includes establishing a price for carbon in addition to tailpipe-emissions standards, a low-carbon fuel standard, building energy-efficiency standards, and a statewide renewable electricity standard of 33% by 2020.
Thanks to California’s innovative policy, the Golden State leads the nation in clean energy employment. Clean energy jobs in California are growing 10 times faster than the statewide average. As a 2009 Pew Charitable Trusts study found, California has the largest clean energy economy of the 50 states precisely because of its state policies. Repeal of AB 32 could cost the state 100,000 new clean energy jobs. And it's thanks largely to AB 32's precedence that the federal government and other states have followed suit.
In fact, 118 economists have signed an open letter warning against delaying the implementation of clean energy policies. They have expressed their support of AB 32, emphasizing that it stimulates innovation and efficiency, helps the state become a technological leader, and improves our energy security while creating new business opportunities and more jobs. More than 400 local businesses, civic, labor and environmental organizations are also against proposition 23, including the AARP, the NAACP, the American Lung Association, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the state’s largest gas and electric utilities.
Great Recession Devastating Worker Paychecks, Unionization and Those in Poverty
Recession Hits Workers’ Paychecks: Wage growth has collapsed- Wages are growing at less than half the rate they were before the recession, according to this Economic Policy Institute report. The report
recommends providing fiscal relief to states to preserve government and private-sector jobs, while raising the minimum wage.
Women in Poverty During the Great Recession - 15.5 million women are living in poverty but the number of women receiving public assistance is much smaller, with widely different benefit levels in different states, according to this study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. 10.6 million adult women in poverty have either public or private health insurance, another 4.9 million are not covered. For nutrition support, 5.9 million women in poverty use food stamps, but 9.6 million do not. Meanwhile, fewer than 750,000 poor adult women with children receive cash aid through TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) while 5.4 million do not.
Public Attitudes Toward and Experiences With Workplace Safety - Drawing on dozens of surveys and polls, this study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 85 percent of workers rank workplace safety first in importance among labor standards, even ahead of family and maternity leave, minimum wage, paid sick days, overtime pay and the right to join a union. Public awareness of the problem is low due to poor media coverage of the crippling, non-fatal injuries that occur every day in workplaces across the country.
“FairTax” Proposals to Replace State Income and Business Taxes With Expanded Sales Tax Would Create Serious Problems - The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an analysis of "FairTax" systems that states like Missouri, South Carolina and Arkansas are considering, which would would replace personal and corporate income taxes with higher, broader sales taxes. The laws would apply sales taxes to health care, school tuition and new home sales in ways that would likely feed protests and a spiral of rising tax rates and widening exemptions. The result would be long-term revenue losses and higher taxes on the middle class.
U.S. Unauthorized Immigration Flows Are Down Sharply Since Mid-Decade - The annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center. This has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.-to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007.
Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers - A range of education scholars agree that student test scores cannot fully measure teacher skills or account for a wide range of factors such as the student's background, over which teachers have no influence, according to this study by the Economic Policy Institute. The paper concluded that test results were an unreliable measure of teacher performance even when using a method of value-added modeling, or VAM, designed to obtain a more sophisticated analysis of the test scores.
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