Category Archives: Economic Policy

Why Not a New WPA?

Sidewalk Lippitt Park

That’s a seventy-year-old sidewalk laid down by WPA workers in the Great Depression. Still sound, like a lot of the infrastructure work done then.

The New York Times business section puts in simple terms why stimulus money used wisely on needed repairs is smart policy…

Millions of Americans remain out of work only because employers can already produce more than enough to meet depressed demand. The obvious remedy is to increase total spending. Although economic stimulus has become a controversial topic in the abstract, a few simple observations should persuade every sensible legislator — perhaps even a majority! — to support a specific type of higher spending: accelerated refurbishment of our crumbling infrastructure.

Some in Congress have consistently opposed the president’s infrastructure proposals, citing the huge national debt. But that’s an incoherent objection. If repairs to the Capitol dome or a tattered stretch of interstate highway are postponed, they will just become more costly. Many job seekers have the skills for this work. If we wait, we’ll have to bid them away from other tasks. The required materials are cheaper now than they will ever be. And interest rates are at record lows.
Of course, the debt is an important long-run problem, but deferring infrastructure repairs will only worsen it. Relative to current policy, then, such projects would address multiple pressing problems without distress.

Pumping up consumption while neglecting essentials just means that the car we bought on credit gets dinged in the pothole we didn’t fix.

It’s true, Americans want jobs, but when we get past the desperate stage we want work that matters. The WPA created both jobs and useful work. Why not build on what we learned then at such cost?

Support National Children’s Mental Health Funding

An email from the Children’s Mental Health Network about an upcoming Action:

ACTION ALERT

The federal government supports many programs that benefit all Americans, including mental health and social services; public health; housing; public safety and law enforcement; medical and scientific research; and education and job training. In Washington, these programs are collectively referred to as “nondefense discretionary” or simply “NDD” programs. On January 2, 2013 these programs will face devastating, across-the-board cuts of 8.2 percent through an arcane budget tool known as “sequestration” unless Congress works together to prevent these cuts through a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

On September 20th please join us in a National NDD Community Call-in and Tweet Day and ask your member of Congress to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to NDD programs, including children’s mental health.

NDD programs represent a relatively small and shrinking share of the federal budget and our overall economy—already reduced to levels not seen since President Eisenhower held office. They are not the drivers of the debt. In fact, even completely eliminating all NDD programs would still not balance the budget. Yet to date NDD programs have borne the brunt of deficit reduction efforts. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, core services upon which Americans have come to rely will be greatly curtailed or even eliminated.

Email, Call, Tweet, or Facebook your Members of Congress on September 20th to let them know that NDD programs, including children’s mental health and research, have already done their part to help reduce the deficit – it’s now time for a balanced approach! We have made links on the Network website to send an email, sample Facebook posts, Tweets, and information about how to call your Members of Congress and are also included below to help you advocate to protect public health and research from further cuts! These materials are also available on the Coalition for Health Funding’s website.

Email Your Congressman

Take approximately five minutes and send an email to your Members of Congress: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/share-your-voice. You’ll simply click the “Take Action” button, scroll to the bottom of the page, enter your name, address, and contact information. Click the blue Send Message button and you’re done!

Call Your Congressman

For those not familiar with calling the offices of your Members of Congress, you can call the Capitol Switchboard and asked to be connected to your Members’ offices. The phone number is (202) 224-3121. You can also go to http://www.Congress.org to find the office’s direct line and to look up your Members of Congress.

Suggested Facebook Posts

This January, essential jobs and services will face more deep cuts through sequestration. There is bipartisan agreement that these cuts would be devastating to the nation. Only through a balanced approach can we avoid sequestration, balance the budget and restore the nation’s economic stability. Take action!

Suggested Tweets

How to Tweet Your Members of Congress:
Use the Children’s Mental Health Network Tweet Your Legislator tool to get in touch with your member of Congress via Twitter. For those relatively new to Twitter, this is a great Twitter 101 Guide from the folks at Half in Ten/Center for American Progress.

Template
Invest in public health, mental health, medical research, & infrastructure [insert Member Twitter handle]. Support balance to stop #sequestration! #NDDUnited.

Sample
Invest in public health, mental health, medical research, & infrastructure @MaxBaucus. Support balance to stop #sequestration! #NDDUnited

———————————-

Template (links to NDD national sign-on letter)
Remember [insert Member Twitter handle] over 3000 groups want you to support a balanced approach to stop #sequestration! http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

Sample
Remember @MaxBaucus, over 3000 groups want you to support a balanced approach to stop #sequestration!http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

———————————-

Template
#Sequestration means an 8.2% cut to #mentalhealth funding in 2013. [insert Member Twitter handle] support a balanced approach! http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

Sample
#Sequestration means an 8% cut to #mentalhealth funding in 2013. @MaxBaucus support a balanced approach! http://bit.ly/N2jgsB #NDDUnited

———————————-

Template (links to The Hill editorial by American Federation of School Administrators)
#Sequestration devastates medical research, education, & infrastructure. [insert Member Twitter handle] find a balanced solution! http://bit.ly/OPmbSl #NDDUnited

Sample
#Sequestration devastates medical research, education, & infrastructure. @MaxBaucus find a balanced solution! http://bit.ly/OPmbSl #NDDUnited

———————————-

Let us know what you need from the Network! We love feedback so let us know how we can improve the website to better meet your needs. Contact us here. As always, thank you for your continued support of the Children’s Mental Health Network, and remember to take action on September 20th!

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO

http://cmhnetwork.org

More Stimulus Needed to Employ College, High School Grads

This editorial from the New York Times lays it out plain and simple: until we invest more in creating jobs through the government, our economy is going to be weak. College graduates need a place to get a job, and we need to create the jobs with the government’s help.

The Class of 2012 – NYTimes.com.

And what about high school graduates? They also could use some more employment options. This study out of Rutgers University finds that only one in three high school graduates are employed today.

Kiersten Marek:

Don’t be fooled by the Change.org petition by Students First — it’s a scam for the corporate-funded reform movement.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

A reader submitted this post:

http://backburner-nkk.blogspot.com/2011/08/ive-been-conned.html

It tells the now-familiar story of how an unwary person was conned by Michelle Rhee’s Students First. The reader was going through her email, and along came a “puppies-and-kittens” petition from Change.org, and “Click!”

Too late: “And suddenly, there it was…the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Trojan horse of all Trojan horses: Join the Fight to Save Great Teachers,  a petition initiated by Students First, the education policy lobby run by faux education expert, Michele Rhee.  Remember her?  The mythologized Bee Eater who got results in the Washington, D.C. schools, and then quickly ducked out when her mayoral patron was evicted from office?

This blogger was repentant but not fooled:

Here’s what Students First says they’re for which sounds a lot like “kittens and puppies” at first blush:
  • Elevating the teaching profession by valuing teachers’ impact on students;
  • Empowering parents with real choices and…

View original 367 more words

Interview with Sheldon Whitehouse at Netroots Nation 2012

Short interview with Sen. Whitehouse in which he extolls the virtues of Netroots Nation, appreciates the value of the Occupy Movement, and talks about his efforts to keep funding for wellness and health. He also talks about his phone conversation with President Obama following the Buffet Rule vote in the Senate, and how the fight is not over to change our tax policies to support the middle class.

Diane Ravitch Talks about “Waking Up the Town” to Face the War on Public Education

I got to meet Diane Ravitch today as she served on a panel at Netroots about the war on public education. She spoke with amazing authority about what is going on in public education now with the overemphasis on testing, the blaming of teachers and teachers unions, and the right-wing money that is being poured into the movement for “education reform.” The best way to experience what went on is to watch the video.

Link to video of the panel.

Interview with Sheldon Whitehouse at Netroots Nation Upcoming on Kmareka

Netroots Nation is going fabulously. I am talking with Sheldon Whitehouse’s office and will be doing a short interview with him while he is at Netroots. If you have any questions you want me to ask, please suggest them in the comments. Keep it short and polite!

I attended a panel this morning entitled “Beyond Occupy: What Does a New Economic System Look Like?” The answers included an economy focused on happiness rather than growth. This idea was suggested by Colin Mutchler, who likened America’s devotion to “growth, growth, growth” to the formation of cancer. Others on the panel were more inclined to answer that the new economy needs to focus on job growth and recognizing and valuing work that is currently undervalued or not valued at all, such as caring for the elderly and small children. The panel leader, Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, suggested that we need to begin developing “Progressive Capitalism” so that as progressives we are not dismissed as being anti-capitalist, since many of us are not.

Beyond Occupy Panel at NN12

Had lunch sponsored by Windmade, a consortium of wind, environment, and business organizations. The message there was about how to respond to the misinformation anti-wind campaigns out there. We have written about the increase in wind power here on Kmareka, and we have had comments from some anti-winders, so this was good to know about. I will begin aggregating news about the wind industry and doing more to respond to the anti-wind rhetoric.

An Argument for Health Care as an Economic Driver

By 2014, if all goes well, we should have something that resembles national health care.  This may mean that millions of people who have suffered in the pool of 17.7% of Americans in the United States without health insurance, may suddenly be seeking care for everything from anxiety to obesity and beyond.

In Rhode Island, this would be a welcome relief from the recent trends in health care in terms of numbers of people with insurance.  The recent trends, according to the Rhode Island Health Commissioner’s office, are that between 2005 and 2010, the number of insured people in Rhode Island dropped by 65,000.  In 2005, there were about 620,000 people insured by the three big insurers, BCBSRI, United, and Tufts, and in 2010 this number had dropped to about 555,000.  During that same time, there was a modest increase in the number of people receiving either Rite Care and Rite Share.  If you look at the study cited below issued in January of 2011 from the Rhode Island Senate Fiscal Office, you will see that in 2009 and 2010, there was a significant amount of stimulus money that was used to cover the costs of the growing Rite Care and Rite Share programs — $35.2 million in 2009, $56.8 million in 2010, and $56.5 million in 2011.

Now, let’s give it some thought.  Let’s just say Obamacare goes through.  Could it be possible that part of the growing economy can be the growing health care provisions that are made for those nearly 50 million people who are newly insured?  Could neighborhoods in South Providence, downtown Woonsocket, and Eden Park Cranston all begin to flourish with new health care providers serving the throngs of people flocking in for health care?  Statistically, the uninsured are more likely to be obese, smokers, and drinkers, so there are plenty of preventative care issues that could be addressed with could treatment plans.

So instead of giving $75 million to Curt Schilling and betting on the idea that we need another MMOG video game on the internet where people will waste time being sedentary and eating junk food while they try to climb inane hierarchies, perhaps we should think about ways that government can promote health care businesses that will likely be in great demand in the very near future.

Link to the report on Privately Insured Rhode Islanders

Link to report on RITE Care and RITE Share Insured Rhode Islanders

Should We Pay Doctors to Take Patients for Walks?

This is an interesting piece for the way it calls on us to shift our approach and pay doctors and other health care professionals to engage patients in prevention.  I have to ask, though:  what would the rate of reimbursement be for doctors taking patients for walks?

A Long View on Health Care – Think Like an Investor – NYTimes.com.

I have developed my own argument for how health care can be an important way to invest in economic development in our country.  More to come on that shortly.

Headline Rewrite: Spending Cuts and Tax Breaks for the Rich Could Prompt Recession Next Year

I like how the headline on the article linked below cites only “tax increases” as the problem with next year’s budget.  While there are some issues with taxes that will affect the middle class, the real issue are staring us right in the face in the text of the article:  spending cuts and tax breaks for the wealthy. If we let the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy expire, we would have $221 billion dollars to put toward other things.  $221 billion dollars, folks.  You could take half of it and put it toward economic stimulus and jobs, and put the other half toward the national debt, and that would go a long way to working on our problems and preventing another recession. So ignore the right-wing propaganda headline, and click on to read about the real problems:  Looming Tax Increases Could Prompt Recession Next Year: Accounting Today.

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