Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
In the largest privatization deal ever proposed in the United States, a
consortium led by Spanish company Abertis Infraestructuras offered
$12.8 billion to lease operation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike
for 75 years. The deal would allow the company to immediately hike
tolls 25 percent and then increase tolls each year thereafter up to the
rate of inflation.
In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the US health care system 37th in the world despite spending more than any other country. In 2007, according to the US Census Bureau, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy.
If you are a person of color, a low-wage worker, non-English speaking,
or live in a low-income community, the picture is much worse. For
instance, the life expectancy for African-Americans
is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites. For
African-American men, it is 69.8 years, just above averages in Iran and
Syria, but below Nicaragua and Morocco.
On Wednesday night, the Connecticut House passed
a simple, yet far-reaching bill to offer small businesses and
municipalities better, more affordable health insurance. The
Connecticut Healthcare Partnership, HB 5536,
allows small businesses and municipalities to join the state employee
health insurance plan. This is significant because small employers,
towns, employees and their families will be able to join forces with
and benefit from the bargaining power of the 200,000 member-strong
state employee pool.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.
$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent
on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health
care costs. While spending on hospital and physician care surpass
spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills
and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to
reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications
covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue
influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out
at $30 billion each year.
As Congress debates a stimulus to the economy in the wake of the
housing bust, many economists are urging federal leaders to make aid to
state governments a core part of the package. While direct tax rebates
for individuals can help, it will not do much for the economy if states
are forced to cut back on critical spending on public works, health
care, and education at the same time. As Nobel prize-winning economist
Joseph Stiglitz, who was also chair of the President's Council of
Economic Advisors in the 1990s, wrote this week in the New York Times:
On December 24th, the California Supreme Court gave a major Christmas
present for labor rights, affirming that under California law, union
members in a mall could distribute handbills calling for a consumer
boycott of one of the mall's tenants. The decision, Fashion Valley Mall v. NLRB, built
on an earlier state high court decision in 1980 that deemed malls to be
a "public forum" where the public had free speech rights. The recent
decision extended that principle to active labor boycotts -- a critical
tool for labor to get its message out to consumers.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared this
year's Nobel Peace Prize with Al
Gore, recently released a
report detailing the negative environmental changes that will result from
climate change, including higher temperatures leading to increased deaths
from more severe heat waves, increased incidence of infectious
diseases, and severe damage to ecosystems. The IPCC report
warned that there were only eight years left to act to prevent the
worst effects of global warming.