Just what kind of fees are we paying in Rhode Island under the current treasurer’s “alternative” investments?
…And don’t accidentally use that HSA debit card for something else, or you’ll be sorry. Read on.
This article explains how 31 people are being laid off from a hospital in Keene, New Hampshire, due to a number of factors including less reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid and problems stemming from high deductible health plans:
Hospital officials said in December recent trends toward high-deductible health insurance plans have apparently led to increases in outstanding bad debt, which includes unpaid patient bills, and also to reductions in the public’s use of some medical services. The number of patients, which at the hospital averages more than 30 filled beds at any one time, is down, and demand for outpatient services is also off.
Just after the New Year, Hostess Brands, the largest producer of baked goods in the United States, filed for bankruptcy. Formerly called Interstate Bakeries Corporation, the company had previously filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004. It emerged from what became the most protracted bankruptcy process in history in 2009 and renamed itself Hostess Brands. The resolution of that previous bankruptcy filing was secured through major concessions by the company’s unionized employees in exchange for equity in the company, infusions of cash from GE Capital and three private equity companies--one of which, Ripplewood Holdings acquired a 50% share of the company--and the termination of public trading of the company’s stock.
While being a member of Congress definitely has its benefits, it seems to be a pretty frustrating job these days. Take, for instance, this article by Ezra Klein outlining why this is the worst Congress ever:
Nevertheless, some people are trying to get work done, or at least make it look that way. In fact, some are willing to stay up all night if that’s what it takes to get some attention:
Senate Democrats to Hold “Midnight Vigil” on DISCLOSE Act
If GOP Blocks Effort to End Secret Election Spending, Democrats Will Continue Debating Past Midnight and Ask for Second Vote Tomorrow
Washington, DC – With Senate Republicans threatening to block debate this evening on the DISCLOSE Act, Senate Democrats are sending a clear message that they won’t back down easily. If Republicans succeed in blocking a key procedural vote on the measure today, a group of Democrats have pledged to hold onto the Senate floor late into the night tonight in an effort to bring greater attention to the issue and force a second vote on the bill tomorrow.
The late night “midnight vigil” effort will be led by the members of the Citizens United Task Force, which includes U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Al Franken (D-MN). The group was organized by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, who will also take part in tonight’s effort.
“We recognize that you don’t win every fight in round one, and this is a fight worth continuing,” said Whitehouse, the lead sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act. “Putting an end to secret election spending by special interests is an essential step in protecting middle class priorities. For that reason, we are committed to continuing the debate on the DISCLOSE Act late into the night and asking for a second vote tomorrow if need be. We can’t let the special interests off the hook after just one round.”
The DISCLOSE Act requires any organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours, identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more. It will require political groups posing as social welfare organizations to disclose their donors and will prevent corporations and other wealthy interests from using shell corporations to funnel secret money to super PACs.
“We are determined to prove that transparency is not a radical concept,” said Udall. “Our bill is as simple and straightforward as it gets – if you are making large donations to influence an election, the voters in that election should know who you are. The American people are blessed with common sense. They know that when someone will not admit to something, it is usually because there is something to hide.”
“This is too important an issue to let it lie quietly,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire voters were subjected to a flood of negative ads this primary season, many of them fueled by unregulated, secret money. It isn’t right. We need to stand up for accountability and fairness in our politics.”
“Tonight we will debate whether we truly believe in the first three words of our Constitution: ‘We the People.’ The flood of secret money unleashed by Citizens United is drowning out the voice of the people,” said Merkley. “Indeed, those who oppose disclosure are seeking to replace ‘We the People’ with ‘We the Powerful.’ This is wrong in so many ways. It’s way past time to shine a light on the darkness and discover who or what this money really stands for.”
“Coloradans have been inundated with attack ads funded by a small number of people through anonymous groups,” Bennet said. “Disclosure would at least provide information about who is behind these ads and bring accountability that bolsters democracy in our elections. Unfortunately, a minority of senators are poised to block progress on the DISCLOSE Act and prevent necessary transparency in our election system.”
“The DISCLOSE Act will not fix all of the evil effects of Citizens United, but it is certainly a step forward,” said Sen. Franken. “And it will bring much needed sunshine to our political system, which will go a long way toward reducing the number and dishonesty of negative attack ads that further corrode our public dialogue and ultimately threaten our democratic system.”
“We believe that all of the unlimited cash allowed by the Citizens United decision must at least be disclosed,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer. “This legislation seeks to limit the damage of the Supreme Court decision that has given corporations and the very wealthy unprecedented sway over our elections, and represents one of the most serious threats to the future of our democracy.”
Individuals are encouraged to follow the floor debate throughout the night on Twitter, using the hashtag #DISCLOSEVote.
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.
Barbara Ehrenreich has a new blog called Economichardship.org, which talks about how the Great Recession is impacting regular folk. This article has some information on how government and law enforcement are getting into the business of making money off the poor.
At the local level though, government is increasingly opting to join in the looting. In 2009, a year into the Great Recession, I first started hearing complaints from community organizers about ever more aggressive levels of law enforcement in low-income areas. Flick a cigarette butt and get arrested for littering; empty your pockets for an officer conducting a stop-and-frisk operation and get cuffed for a few flakes of marijuana. Each of these offenses can result, at a minimum, in a three-figure fine.
And the number of possible criminal offenses leading to jail and/or fines has been multiplying recklessly. All across the country — from California and Texas to Pennsylvania — counties and municipalities have been toughening laws against truancy and ratcheting up enforcement, sometimes going so far as to handcuff children found on the streets during school hours. In New York City, it’s now a crime to put your feet up on a subway seat, even if the rest of the car is empty, and a South Carolina woman spent six days in jail when she was unable to pay a $480 fine for the crime of having a “messy yard.” Some cities — most recently, Houston and Philadelphia — have made it a crime to share food with indigent people in public places.
Being poor itself is not yet a crime, but in at least a third of the states, being in debt can now land you in jail. If a creditor like a landlord or credit card company has a court summons issued for you and you fail to show up on your appointed court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. And it is easy enough to miss a court summons, which may have been delivered to the wrong address or, in the case of some bottom-feeding bill collectors, simply tossed in the garbage — a practice so common that the industry even has a term for it: “sewer service.” In a sequence that National Public Radio reports is “increasingly common,” a person is stopped for some minor traffic offense — having a noisy muffler, say, or broken brake light — at which point the officer discovers the warrant and the unwitting offender is whisked off to jail.
It just keeps getting better. From the Boston Globe:
The news is not good for the $75 million dollar gamble that Governor Carcieri talked the state of RI into taking. It looks like 38 Studios is already looking for a bailout. From Bob Plain at the RIFUTURE blog:
If only more people could cut through the right-wing “protect the rich” talking points like Stephen King, we might actually have a strong middle class again.