Daily Digest - November 22: This Black Friday, Labor Protests With Your Sales

Nov 22, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Wal-Mart Labor Group Promises 1,500 Black Friday Protests Next Week (Salon)

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Wal-Mart Labor Group Promises 1,500 Black Friday Protests Next Week (Salon)

Josh Eidelson speaks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren about upcoming protests at Wal-Mart. Dorian compares Wal-Mart to General Motors in the 1940s, as a company that works against the economy's best interest today, but could turn around.

New Bill Offers Tax Relief to Keep Students in State (The Michigan Daily)

Shoham Geva reports on a bill that gives Michigan college graduates a tax credit equal to half their student loan payments if they stay and work in state. Recommendations from the University of Michigan chapter of Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network are in the State House version of this bill.

Another Reason for Filibuster Reform: It Will Help Dems Crack Down on Wall Street (WaPo)

Ryan Cooper argues that, having invoked the nuclear option, the Democrats have now given financial reform a better shot at success, because court cases about these regulations go to the D.C. Circuit Court. Filling that bench is what set this whole thing off.

  • Roosevelt Take: Ryan references the Roosevelt Institute's report, An Unfinished Mission, as an example of the kind of regulations that reformers are seeking.

Good Benefits Don't Make Unemployed People Happy About Being Unemployed (Smithsonian Magazine)

Colin Schultz reports on a new study that compares the happiness of unemployed people across the European Union. Stronger benefit programs don't affect life satisfaction - nor do they affect how hard people look for new jobs.

Home-Care Aides at Poverty’s Edge Are Hottest U.S. Jobs (Bloomberg)

Tom Moroney writes about the fastest-growing job in the U.S., personal care aides, and profiles one aide in her work and home life. While their industry is booming, personal care aides are also among the worst paid workers in the country.

The 'Exploitative' Internship Economy (Pacific Standard)

Casey McDermott speaks to intern rights advocate David Yamada about the legal and ethical issues of the intern economy. Yamada is disappointed that some companies choose the lose-lose option of ending internship programs instead of paying minimum wage.

Here's Why Insurers Probably Won't Go Along With Obama's Obamacare Fix (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger argues that most insurance companies aren't going to reinstate the plans they've already canceled that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act's requirements, because that would cost money. It's possible this fix will mostly serve as political cover.

  • Roosevelt Take: Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argued in favor of the president's decision last week, because it would allow the administration to retain its focus on insuring more Americans.

Dying Sooner: America Falls Behind On Longevity (National Memo)

David Kay Johnston reports on new data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which shows that the U.S. is falling behind its peers on life expectancy. The report blames the country's poor health care system and income inequality.

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President's Insurance Announcement Keeps Eyes on the Prize

Nov 14, 2013Richard Kirsch

By allowing people to keep their current plans for another year, even if those plans are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, the President has retained a focus on the most important thing: insuring more Americans.

By allowing people to keep their current plans for another year, even if those plans are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, the President has retained a focus on the most important thing: insuring more Americans.

President Obama’s move today to allow people to keep their current insurance plans for a year, as long as they are told that they may be able to get better coverage at a lower cost from the new exchanges, is smart politics with little likely policy damage. It keeps the eye on the prize: getting people enrolled. That is exactly why Republicans are likely to balk.

For years the GOP has been throwing bombs at the Affordable Care Act (ACA) based on groundless talking points (a government takeover) or pure lies (death panels). I have always had confidence that as the law was actually implemented, and those charges demonstrated to be just hot air, that they would lose any punch beyond the hard-right base. My worries have always been about those who would see themselves as being hurt  (mostly by having to pay more than they can afford for coverage) when the law began to be implemented. Those are real people with real stories. The “if you like it you can keep it” firestorm is the first explosion of that fear.

While the fact is that most people in the individual market will do better under the ACA’s new exchanges – once they are able to get into the enrollment system and apply for subsidies – there will be some people, mostly young, healthy, with good incomes, who would prefer to keep the coverage they have. And, as I wrote last week, since bad news is both more prevalent and more powerful than good news, their stories could threaten to define the law. By discrediting the ACA, it could also suppress enrollment, particularly given the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov.

Democrats on the Hill are a panicky lot, driven to over-react to many issues that Americans outside of the Beltway ignore. But in this case, they were right to be concerned about not responding to what people most fear about health reform, that change will threaten what they now have. It was the power of that fear which led to the “if you like it you can keep it” promise in the first place.

While the President’s credibility has sunk, he will not be on the ballot in 2014, but Democrats in Congress will. One of those Democrats, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, hit on a solution quickly. Landrieu has always been a consistent supporter of health reform and, despite representing a Red state, was never someone we were very concerned about losing in the legislative fight over the ACA. She deeply believes that people in her state should have health coverage. She stepped up last week with a bill that would allow people who are already covered to keep their insurance, but requires their insurance companies to tell them what ACA guaranteed benefits they won’t get with their current coverage and how to apply for coverage in the exchanges. Her proposal will make up for the misleading cancellation announcements sent out by insurance companies, which often have not told their policy holders that better, subsidized coverage might be available.

Today Obama implemented Sen. Landrieu’s proposal with one major change: his rule would only extend the coverage until the end of 2014, consistent with other delays in implementation, such as the employer mandate. His goal is to get over this current hurdle and then continue to move as many people into the exchanges as possible.

The President’s new rule is likely to be where the policy settles, but it is not likely to end the Congressional debate. The Republicans will seek to keep the issue alive by voting to approve a bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton, which would not just grandfather existing policies – the President’s promise – but open them up to more people. And that bill would leave out the information about the better, more affordable exchange policies in the Landrieu legislation and Obama rule.

Democrats may decide they need to offer a legislative alternative to the Upton bill, which could be the Landrieu proposal. The policy concern with the Landrieu proposal is that premiums will rise and the exchanges will be harmed, if the healthiest people stay out, which is why Obama wants to limit the extension to one year. While that is certainly better policy, if Democrats go the Landrieu route it won’t be cataclysmic. Fairly quickly, the number of people left with their original policies will shrink as they get older and sicker and their insurance premiums rise. And as the exchanges grow and policies outside the exchanges dwindle, more insurers will drop coverage outside the exchanges all together.

Will Republicans accept this compromise? Of course not. Everything they’ve done for the last five years demonstrates that they would rather try to keep the issue alive politically than address people’s problems.

The President’s move allows him and Democrats to take the high ground. The most important task – to build a solid political foundation for the Affordable Care Act and realize its purpose – is getting people more people enrolled. The experience in Massachusetts demonstrated that low initial enrollment numbers are to be expected. There is every reason to expect a huge acceleration in enrollment as the web problems get fixed and we get closer to the deadlines. Including Medicaid, there are already more than half a million Americans who will be newly-covered next year. There will be millions more by early in 2014.  And as the opponents of Obamacare and government as a positive force in people’s lives know and fear, in the end, those are the people who will count.  

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a Senior Adviser to USAction, and the author of Fighting for Our Health. He was National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now during the legislative battle to pass reform.

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The Real Movers and Shakers

Nov 13, 2013Erik Lampmann

Instead of electoral politics, we should be paying more attention to the community-based movement building happening around the country.

There are actions, policies, battles ... and then there are movements.

Over the past few weeks I’ve grown increasingly concerned that episodic protests, press releases, and elections receive the lion’s share of our concern, while strategic movements to build strong, resilient communities are left by the wayside.

Instead of electoral politics, we should be paying more attention to the community-based movement building happening around the country.

There are actions, policies, battles ... and then there are movements.

Over the past few weeks I’ve grown increasingly concerned that episodic protests, press releases, and elections receive the lion’s share of our concern, while strategic movements to build strong, resilient communities are left by the wayside.

Take, for instance, the media’s flirtation with Russell Brand’s ‘revolutionary politics.’ It seemed as though pundits were bending over backwards to support Brand’s calls for the fair distribution of wealth in the UK, heralding him a radical leftist. This isn’t the space to examine the authenticity of Brand’s claims to radical progressive politics. It is worth noting, however, the power asymmetries of a media landscape that affords Brand unheard of attention for his politics while failing to ever address the work of undocumented, queer, youth, and student activists (sometimes together) across the country.

Similarly, I’ve seen reductive partisan politics engrain themselves in my state, Virginia, through this most recent gubernatorial campaign, pitting a particularly bigoted conservative Attorney General against a Democrat with no previous experience as an elected official and an endless rolodex of IOUs to call in. I’m sad that my choice as a queer person boiled down to whether to vote for a candidate that would rather overturn Lawrence v. Texas or an eventually-successful corporate Democrat with no grounding in public service. With such distinct lack of vision to choose from, it almost seems as though one should have ironically followed Brand’s advice and not vote.

This is not to undervalue the importance of electoral politics. Without federal legislation, programs as essential to the American social safety net as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP would be impossible. However, focusing on electoral targets is a narrow lens through which to treat issues like community revitalization, green jobs campaigns, and food security. These issues are complex; they are, by their nature, multidimensional questions that require coalition-based solutions with stakeholders from advocacy groups, direct service organizations, and elected officials to make meaningful progress.

The conversation should therefore shift to an analysis of whom we are leaving out of the discussion on movement-building. Let’s examine several community organizing wins from these past few weeks that weren’t covered in the mainstream media, amplified by elected officials or catalyzed by major national non-profits.

  1. Undocumented youth in California successfully pressured former Secretary of Homeland Security and current University of California President Janet Napolitano to invest $5 million in financial assistance for undocumented students.  Not only did these student activists succeed in securing much-needed financial support for their communities, they also compelled Napolitano to reverse her own immigration politics. The collective voice of these young people held an official from the administration with the highest number of deportations accountable to the needs of the communities she had previously helped marginalize.
  2. Youth in the Chicago Student Union launched a creative and strategic protest  during Halloween, dressing as zombies suffering the ‘death of public education.’ This youth-led action came after months of mobilizations of teachers, staff, students, and community members around Mayor Emmanuel’s attacks on the Chicago Teachers Union.
  3. Students at George Washington University – including members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network chapter at that school – are mobilizing around revelations that their admissions department had been secretly screening students based on their ability to pay. Despite marketing itself as a ‘need-blind’ institution, apparently GWU has used family wealth as a deciding factor in undergraduate admissions.

These struggles are not isolated, disconnected media headlines. Far from it. Instead, they represent the power of collective voices rising up to make demands on an establishment that has either attempted to quell their momentum, disenfranchise them, or otherwise push them to the margins of public discourse. They represent the power of community organizing to better our communities and create meaningful change at the grassroots level.

We speak often of the democratic experiment of the United States – of the on-going process of ‘making’ a nation. Yet our attention span for truly transformational struggles is so often limited to flashpoints in undoubtedly richer, more nuanced movement histories. As I embark on a capstone project within the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network to investigate best practices among fellow youth organizers, I’m taken by the importance of narratives that speak to the experience of those who devote their lives to movement work.

This week is already devolving into an endless series of gubernatorial recaps without much substantive analysis of grassroots organizing or movements that influenced the electoral landscape. It’s important that we reject pundits’ reductive understanding of social change as electoral change and affirm a more grounded understanding of the ‘real movers and shakers’ of our political landscape. They aren’t the Terry McAuliffes of the world who come to govern through a litany of party fundraising jobs, favors, and corporate savoir faire; they are the disadvantaged communities forging a better tomorrow through many small wins, and occasional big wins, and united under the banner of one movement towards justice for all people. These movements toward change are much more deserving of our concern, respect, and honor.

Erik Lampmann is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice. He studies political theory and French at the University of Richmond. 


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What Do the Millennials Want From the Affordable Care Act?

Nov 12, 2013Anisha Hegde

Millennials are more interested in learning about how the Affordable Care Act works and obtaining health insurance than hyper-partisan rhetoric.

Millennials are more interested in learning about how the Affordable Care Act works and obtaining health insurance than hyper-partisan rhetoric.

In addition to serving as Senior Fellow for Health Care for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, I am the Executive Director for my campus’ Roosevelt chapter. A few weeks ago at our general body meeting, I asked the crowd whether they had been talking with their friends about the Affordable Care Act, and what these conversations sounded like. Did they know the basics: that in January, most Americans will be expected to either carry at least minimal insurance or pay an opt-out penalty? Do they know that they will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, if they so choose? Have they compared the prices of different options available for young adults versus the penalty?

The question meant to take up the first ten minutes of our meeting turned into a full forty-minute discussion. As we scarfed down our pizza in true hungry college-student fashion, students shared their puzzlement about pro-ACA campaigns that encouraged individuals to just log on to healthcare.gov (you know, the website now infamous for its still-lingering usage problems) without further explanation as well as Generation Opportunity’s “don’t let government play doctor” campaign. In order to move the meeting along, we prematurely wrapped up the discussion, deciding that given the complexity of the ACA, Millennials want easy access to resources that educate us rather than simply feeding us instructions.

The kinds of resources we want are out there, but it seems their utility is suffocated by the louder (i.e. more well-funded) campaigns still focused on the politicization of health care reform. The campaigns focus on erroneous value-laden statements and criticism of public officials like Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius—ultimately leaving people aware of the latest stinging headlines but completely unaware that marketplaces opened October 1, or of the impact the marketplaces could have on them.

During our meeting, several students admitted that by getting sucked into media politicization of the ACA and calling into question the character of anyone who opposes it, they had lost sight of why we were retooling our health care system in the first place, and racing to fix the problems that came along with that process. The solid ten minutes of conversation that followed consisted of the health care wonks in the room answering the basic question of ‘why.’ Because we currently pay more for our health care than most other developed countries. Because our emergency rooms, required to treat all patients regardless of their insurance or ability to pay, drive up costs for the system as a whole. Because, in fixing these skyrocketing prices, we still believe that socioeconomic status should not determine an individual’s access to services essential for his or her life.

Even with the ‘why’ of health care reform answered, it is valid to make sure that the cure is not harder to stomach than the disease itself. For Millennials, one of the biggest pros of the Affordable Care Act is that individuals with lower salaries will be able to afford insurance and obtain health services thanks to government subsidies. This is critical, given that Millennials have the highest uninsured rates and that the Millennials with the highest uninsured rates are in the lowest income bracket. Possible cons must also be addressed, including the fact that Millennials who have a higher income might end up paying higher premiums for insurance purchased on the exchanges than they have paid on the individual market in the past. 

So, Millennials have choices to make, choices that were the cornerstone of the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the ACA. These choices will be colored by individual comparisons of marketplace premiums versus out-of-pocket costs, the future outlook and trajectory of these premiums, and which doctors and services would fall into certain networks, among other questions. Given that 53 percent of Millennials say they do not have a trusted source for information about the ACA, gauging an answer to these questions becomes a difficult, time-consuming task.

These sources need to be readily available and widely publicized soon, as the ACA relies on the comparatively healthier Millennials to keep premiums down for the rest of the population. Assuming discussion sparked in our Roosevelt chapter is a rough indication of Millennial sentiments as a whole, we are ready for the media to shift its focus from the embittered political debate to see that presenting one hyper-partisan side of the ACA leaves Millennials suspicious, unwilling to act either to keep premiums reasonable or to contribute to the defunding of the ACA. We do not want orders barked at us or abstractions and hyperboles hurled at us. Instead, we want the facts to empower us – to guide us in translating ACA jargon of marketplaces and mandates into the value of health care as a fundamental human right.

Anisha Hegde is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Health Care.

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Daily Digest - November 12: Populism On The Rise

Nov 12, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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Hillary's Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren (TNR)

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Hillary's Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren (TNR)

Noam Scheiber explains why Senator Warren is at the heart of the debate about the Democrats' identity. The argument between populists and Wall Street allies could be the central question in the Democratic primaries for 2016.

  • Roosevelt Take: Senator Warren will give the keynote address at "An Unfinished Mission: Making Wall Street Work For Us," where the Roosevelt Institute and Americans for Financial Reform will launch a new report on the policy questions that remain within and beyond Dodd-Frank.

House Dems Can Block GOP Food Stamp Cuts—By Killing the Farm Bill (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger suggests that the best way for Democrats to stop cuts to food stamps would be to vote with the far right. If the farm bill fails, funding should continue at the same level, which makes voting with those who want even more cuts the way to go.

Could There be a Bipartisan Truce on Infrastructure? (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm suggests that infrastructure could be one of the only issues in the budget negotiations that already has bipartisan support. The president's $50 billion infrastructure plan seems unlikely, but smaller projects have already passed even as the GOP yells about spending.

How Badly Has the U.S. Economy Been Damaged? (The New Yorker)

John Cassidy looks at a research paper by three economists at the Federal Reserve, which suggests that the recession has harmed the economy's capacity for growth. High unemployment and reduced capital investment may have cost up to seven percent of GDP.

“If You Like Your Current Health Insurance, You Can Keep It”: DeLong Analytical Failure Weblogging, Chapter CCXI (The Equitablog)

Brad DeLong looks at the reasons that some people are losing their current insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Of his four reasons, three are goals of reform, so it seems strange that those reasons are getting so much negative attention.

New on Next New Deal

Story Wars: Why Personal Stories Are Shaping the Health Care Battleground

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argues that media bias means only certain (mostly negative) stories about the Affordable Care Act are getting serious attention. Supporters of the law need to ensure that the positive stories get covered, too.

"The Kids Aren't Alright": Millennials Demand Economic Stability for all LBGTQ People, Now

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Senior Fellow for Equal Justice Erik Lampmann says that Millennials can't understand why the GOP opposes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but that doesn't mean they have to accept a flawed version of the bill.

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Daily Digest - November 8: Worker Safety in Workers' Hands Isn't Enough

Nov 8, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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It’s Not Safe Out There (In These Times)

Leo Gerard writes about the serious dangers workers faced due to a perpetually understaffed Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency is so shorthanded that it frequently relies on workers to report safety violations despite legitimate fears of retaliation.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

It’s Not Safe Out There (In These Times)

Leo Gerard writes about the serious dangers workers faced due to a perpetually understaffed Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency is so shorthanded that it frequently relies on workers to report safety violations despite legitimate fears of retaliation.

$10 Minimum Wage Proposal Has Obama’s Backing (NYT)

Catherine Rampell and Steven Greenhouse report on the White House's announcement, which gave the President's support to a bill that would also tie the minimum wage to inflation. The House rejected that bill earlier this year, but apparently it's not over yet.

15 Under-the-Radar Progressive Wins of Election 2013 (Bill Moyers)

Moyers & Company reports on the less publicized victories for progressives this year. Highlights include mayoral races in cities beyond New York and Boston, anti-fracking ordinances in three Colorado cities, and Royal Oak, Michigan's ban on LGBT discrimination.

Blaming Conventions (Washington Monthly)

Ed Kilgore considers whether it really matters if candidates are chosen by primary or convention, since some are blaming the convention selection of Ken Cuccinelli for the GOP's loss in Virginia's gubernatorial race. He says it doesn't make a difference.

New Help for the Poor: Cash Grants, Through a Web Site (The New Yorker)

Sasha Abramsky looks at the website Benevolent, which helps people solicit funds for very specific needs. He contrasts the site's success at fundraising around stories with the often strong political opposition to cash grants.

The More Central Bankers Explain Themselves, the More Confused the Markets Get (Quartz)

Jason Karaian asks why the Federal Reserve hasn't been sticking to its philosophy of "forward guidance," meant to minimize market uncertainty. It seems that analysts are taking central bankers' statements as the word of god, even though nothing is set in stone.

New on Next New Deal

Progressivism in America: Are We Opening a New Chapter in Our Book of Self-Government?

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian David Woolner suggests that this week's election results are not just a rejection of the hard right, but a return to one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's ideas regarding faith in government to reach united purposes.

  • Roosevelt Take: David Woolner is one of many speakers at "Progressivism in America: Past, Present, and Future," a conference cosponsored by the Roosevelt Institute and University College Dublin's Clinton Institute, today and tomorrow. The event is being livestreamed from Dublin.

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Federal Court Decision Doesn't Just Limit Abortion: It Creates a Crisis for Women's Health Care in Texas

Nov 1, 2013Andrea Flynn

Yesterday's decision, which will close about one third of the clinics that provide abortion care in Texas, will change the landscape of women's health care infrastructure in the state, maybe permanently.

Yesterday's decision, which will close about one third of the clinics that provide abortion care in Texas, will change the landscape of women's health care infrastructure in the state, maybe permanently.

We used to think change couldn’t happen overnight. That’s certainly not the case in Texas, where in the last 24 hours the landscape of abortion access has changed drastically.  Many women who went to bed anticipating an abortion appointment today woke up to find their clinic closed thanks to yesterday’s U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the state’s draconian abortion regulations do not constitute an undue burden on women.  

That decision immediately shuttered clinics whose abortion providers do not have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles the clinic. We don’t know yet know the exact number of closures, but information from the Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund and the Lilith Fund – important organizations that enable low-income women seeking abortion care to access it by helping to pay for the procedures – put that number at between 13 and 15 out of a total of 36 clinics across the state. Some parts of the state, such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley – home to two of the nation’s poorest counties – are left with no provider at all.

Of the clinics that remain open, many have some physicians on staff who have not obtained admitting privileges and as of today cannot perform abortions. Those clinics will be forced to serve fewer patients at the very time more and more women from across the state will rely on them for care.

The most recent decision is the latest in the never-ending onslaught on women’s rights in the state of Texas. It comes only three days after a federal judge blocked the law because he believed it would be deemed unconstitutional and found it to be “without a rational basis and place[ing] a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.” But, as The New York Times reported, the appeals panel came to the opposite conclusion, saying the admitting privileges rule is in fact constitutional because it serves a “legitimate state interest” by regulating doctors and does not impose an undue burden on the right to abortion.

Women seeking abortions just before the 16-week mark are especially in trouble today. There are currently only two facilities in Texas that perform abortions between 16 and 20 weeks. But the closure of so many clinics today and in the coming weeks will force women seeking abortions to traverse the state to access care, which will likely increase the number of procedures that have to happen in this window. This travel requires time and resources that many women simply do not have.

As part of the sweeping anti-abortion legislation passed this summer, Texas lawmakers today also implemented a ban on abortion after 20 weeks and a law that providers must adhere to out-of-date regulations for medication abortion.

For women needing an abortion at or after 20 weeks in Texas there are few options. Abortion at this stage of pregnancy is outlawed in neighboring Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Women could travel to Albuquerque, NM, but the city will soon hold a special election for a ban on abortion past twenty weeks, so that could be off the table too.

Abortions occurring after this gestational limit represent a small fraction of the total. Conservatives demonize women seeking later term abortions as being lazy, careless or irresponsible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that the majority of women who seek an abortion this late in pregnancy do so because they learn of a fetal abnormality or are unable to afford one sooner; for those whose economic circumstances preclude them from accessing care when they first need it, traveling across or out of the state is just not possible.

The requirement that physicians use an outdated protocol on medication abortion is a blatant attempt to throw one more obstacle at women seeking the procedure. The original FDA guidelines require a higher dosage of medication than is necessary, carry higher risks of complications, require four visits to a clinic, and restrict the procedure to seven weeks. The more current protocol followed by nearly all providers in the U.S. and around the world calls for a lower dose and enables women to access it up to nine weeks of pregnancy. So on the one hand, anti-choice lawmakers chastise women for not seeking abortions early in pregnancy, and on the other they make it nearly impossible and less safe for women to access the procedure as soon as possible.

In Texas, conservative politicians and anti-choice activists have been maniacally focused on decimating the health infrastructure that serves as a point of primary care for hundreds of thousands of low-income women.  Since 2011, 76 family planning clinics have closed. Now at least a third of the state’s abortion providers – the majority of which also provide a full range of women’s health services – are closed. This is nothing short of a crisis situation.  

Lindsay Rodriguez of the Lilith Fund said, “All of these regulations disproportionately fall on low-income, rural women, and women of color. When lawmakers say a lot of women still have access, it’s not the people who need it most.”

Conservative lawmakers insist that all of the restrictions and regulations are in fact in the best interest of women. Nothing is more disingenuous. As my colleague Susan Holmberg and I wrote in August, restrictions on family planning and abortion do nothing but create more unintended pregnancies, more abortions, more sexually transmitted diseases, and push abortions into later stages of pregnancy.

Women’s health advocates are sure to appeal yesterday’s ruling. But in the meantime clinics are closed. Lights are shut off, staffs are let go, buildings are sold and women are just stuck. Conservatives have left their mark on the health of Texas women for the foreseeable future. You can tear down an infrastructure overnight, but building it back up will take far longer. Even if yesterday’s decision is overturned, women in Texas will be left without the care they need for years to come.  

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She researches and writes about access to reproductive health care in the United States. You can follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

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Daily Digest - October 28: Watching the Surveillance State - and its Money

Oct 28, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Data Shows Democrats Fully Embraced by Surveillance Industry (The Real News Network)

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

Data Shows Democrats Fully Embraced by Surveillance Industry (The Real News Network)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Tom Ferguson speaks to Jaisal Noor about his new working paper, which drew a connection between the surveillance state and campaign donations. When PRISM became public, it was hard to miss the connection in the data.

  • Roosevelt Take: "Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections," by Tom Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, is available here.

Post-Partisan: Fixing our ideological divide (Reuters)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Soros argues that geographic segregation among ideological lines is causing more partisanship then gerrymandering. Changing district lines won't fix that, but some alternative election models might.

Politics and Reality Radio (Public Reality Radio)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal speaks with Joshua Holland about how the rollout of Healthcare.Gov vindicates an old-school New Deal style of liberalism. Neoliberal approaches to social insurance are causing the problems here, not progressive ideas.

  • Roosevelt Take: Mike wrote about this topic for Next New Deal last week.

Making government simpler is complicated (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal considers what a "simple" regulation really means. If "simple" policies aren't easy to implement with clear and simple results, are they are simple, or just inefficient nudges?

The Republicans' War on the Poor (Rolling Stone)

Elizabeth Drew writes on the GOP's assault on food stamps, which ignores the program's decades of success. This is a prime example of the current government dysfunction, in which the Tea Party disrupts long-standing policies for its anti-Obama crusade.

Bipartisan Budget Love Suddenly in the Air (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait suggests that there may finally be space for compromise in budget negotiations. For one thing, some Republicans are finally admitting that compromise doesn't mean that the Democrats give in to all their demands.

For Some, Joblessness Is Not a Temporary Problem (NYT)

Floyd Norris looks at the international problem of long-term unemployment, which is even worse in other developed countries than in the U.S., where for the first time since World War II, more people have been unemployed for over a year then for less then four weeks.

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Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State

Oct 23, 2013Tom FergusonPaul JorgensenJie Chen

This piece was cross-posted from AlterNetThis is the first in a new series from AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project, edited by Lynn Parramore. 

This piece was cross-posted from AlterNetThis is the first in a new series from AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project, edited by Lynn Parramore. 

Long before President Obama kicked off his 2008 campaign, many Americans took it for granted that George W. Bush’s vast, sprawling national security apparatus needed to be reined in. For Democrats, many independents, and constitutional experts of various persuasions, Vice President Dick Cheney’s notorious doctrine of the "unitary executive" (which holds that the President controls the entire executive branch), was the ultimate statement of the imperial presidency. It was the royal road to easy (or no) warrants for wiretaps, sweeping assertions of the government’s right to classify information secret, and arbitrary presidential power. When Mitt Romney embraced the neoconservatives in the 2012 primaries, supporters of the President often cited the need to avoid a return to the bad old days of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld National Security State as a compelling reason for favoring his reelection. Reelect President Obama, they argued, or Big Brother might be back.

But that’s not how this movie turned out: The 2012 election proved to be a post-modern thriller, in which the main characters everyone thought they knew abruptly turned into their opposites and the plot thickened just when you thought it was over.

In early June 2013, Glen Greenwald, then of the Guardian, with an assist from journalists at The Washington Post, electrified the world with stories drawn from documents and testimony from Edward Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton working under contract with the National Security Agency, who had fled the country. They broke the news that the U.S. government had been collecting vast amounts of information on not only foreigners, but also American citizens. And the U.S. had been doing this for years with the cooperation of virtually all the leading firms in telecommunications, software, and high tech electronics, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, and Facebook. Sometimes the government even defrays their costs.

For most election analysts, the revelations came like a bolt from the blue, despite a whole series of warning signs. These included Obama’s rapid fire decision to step up the war in Afghanistan right after he took office, the alacrity and severity with which his administration prosecuted national security whistleblowers after promising greater transparency and the administration’s sweeping claims about the government’s right to hold citizens without trial for indefinite periods. Not to mention the Justice Department’s insistence that killing American citizens without any kind of court hearing is lawful, the efforts to prosecute journalists for simply posting links to leaked documents, the overkill that attended official responses to the Occupy movement and protests at the national party conventions, or the White House claims that press freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights do not cover bloggers in an era in which everyone, including the New York Times, uses blogs.

Even now, the suggestion that the Obama administration embodies a distinctively new form of extensively privatized National Security State organically linked with the famously contentious Bush-Cheney structures takes some getting used to. In particular, many readers are likely to wonder what a bitter, partisan stalemate such as the U.S. just witnessed over raising the debt ceiling can possibly mean in a situation where Big Brother and Big Money are working hand in hand through it all.

As the storm over surveillance broke, we were completing a statistical analysis of campaign contributions in 2012, using an entirely new dataset that we constructed from the raw material provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenues Service (which compiles contributions from so-called “527”s).  In light of what has transpired, our quantitative analysis of presidential election funding invites closer scrutiny, particularly of the finding that we had already settled upon as perhaps most important:  In sharp contrast to endlessly repeated claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the President, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of  “industries of the future” – telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software – showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the President in 2012 than they did for Romney.

Though documenting the claim would take us far beyond this post, we believe that the emergence of these new industries is a key factor in transforming the old National Security State into its new, even more sinister twenty-first century model. They are not the only important influence in that transformation, of course. These would include not only 9/11, but the rapid growth of the rest of the homeland security “industry,” including private prison companies and many other non-obvious players focused on data collection in particular domains, such as the vast infrastructure built out to service and support U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The policy of macroeconomic austerity, which made privatization of the old National Security State so seductively attractive to policymakers under pressure to cut government expenditures, has also played a significant role.

But the point that our findings document is perhaps most instructive of all. Many of the firms and industries at the heart of this Orwellian creation have strong ties to the Democrats. Bush and Cheney may have invented it, but national Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in this 21st century National Surveillance State and the interest group pressures that now help to sustain its defenders in Washington work just as powerfully on Democrats as on Republicans.

Over the next few weeks on AlterNet, we will explore what our data show about the 2012 election. But for now, we want to focus on the telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software industries, which contain many firms deeply involved in the surveillance programs.

We built two datasets for our research. One covers big business, meaning firms big enough to rank among the 350 largest on Fortune's lists plus members of the Forbes 400 richest Americans. The second is a much larger sample containing every firm of every size, from the smallest to the largest.

We assess support by firms and their executives (our dataset is the first to integrate contributions from both, including “independent” expenditures and, of course, Super Pacs) in two ways: We count the percentage of firms that make any contribution at all to each candidates’ campaigns (and their party’s national committee) and we track the legit cash money split between the two candidates. For more details, see the preliminary version of our full length study, available here.

In our big sample, which pretty well approximates “business as a whole,” Obama trailed far behind Romney. 41 percent of all the firms (or, thanks to the Supreme Court, their executives) contributed to Romney; only 24 percent donated to Obama. But rates of contributions from big businesses were much higher for both candidates: Just over half (56 percent) contributed to Obama, while fully 76 percent donated to Romney. Our conclusion is straightforward: the traditional view that the Republicans are the party of business finds some support, but our results suggest much stronger backing for the President within big business than any account of the election suggests.

But the really significant findings emerge when you look at particular industries. Six industries where the President ran especially strongly attracted our attention: telecoms, software, web manufacturing, electronics, and computers, plus the defense industry. His support in these industries ran far above his average levels of support either for business as a whole or the rest of big business. In fact, it equaled or exceeded the backing these firms afforded Romney.

In subsequent posts we will look at other industries in which Romney showed particularly strongly and consider the now red hot question of support by business groups for Tea Party and “main line” Republican congressional candidates. But we think this finding is the most significant of all: Firms in many of the industries directly involved in the surveillance programs were relative bastions of support for the President.

It is a sobering conclusion. At the time President Obama took office, many of his supporters expected a radical change in course on national security policy. This did not happen. For sure, limitations on some of the worst excesses were put in place, but there was no broad reversal. The secret programs of surveillance expanded and the other policies discussed above, on indefinite detention, treatment of whistleblowers, and executive prerogatives relative to Congress stayed in place or broke even more radically with tradition.

Our analysis of political money in the 2012 election shines a powerful new light on the sources of this policy continuity. We do not believe that it would be impossible to strike a reasonable balance between the demands of security and freedom that accords with traditional Fourth Amendment principles and checks abuses of government surveillance rapidly and effectively. But a system dominated by firms that want to sell all your data working with a government that seems to want to collect nearly all of it through them is unlikely to produce that.

The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Working Group on the Political Economy of Redistribution of the Institute for New Economic Thinking for preparation of the database, but the paper represents the views of the authors, not the institutions with which they are affiliated. The entire Political Money Project database for this essay is to be freely available to the public when work on it is completed.

Thomas Ferguson is a Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and contributing editor of AlterNet. His books include "Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems" and "Right Turn: The Decline of Democrats and the Future of American Politics."

Paul Jorgensen is assistant professor of political science at University of Texas, Pan American and non-resident fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center at Harvard.

Jie Chen is university statistician at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.


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Daily Digest - October 22: Keep an Eye on Banking Reform

Oct 21, 2013Rachel Goldfarb

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The New Populists (In These Times)

Sarah Jaffe considers the work that Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have been doing to bring back banking reform. This populist push isn't necessarily making changes today, but it's bringing the issues into the news.

Click here to receive the Daily Digest via email.

The New Populists (In These Times)

Sarah Jaffe considers the work that Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have been doing to bring back banking reform. This populist push isn't necessarily making changes today, but it's bringing the issues into the news.

The $13 Billion JPMorgan Settlement Is a Good Start—Now Someone Should Go to Jail (The Nation)

William Greider argues that until individual bankers or the corporate "persons" of banks are prosecuted as criminals, the banks aren't being treated equally under the law. Paying a fine that is almost meaningless to the bank isn't enough.

After the Shutdown and the Debt Ceiling Row – What Happens Next? (The Guardian)

Jana Kasperkevic looks at what's to come in the next couple of months of budget negotiations. She sees a trend toward multiple continuing resolutions, semi-annual fiscal drama, and political theatrics, which aren't exactly good policy.

Poll: Major Damage to GOP After Shutdown, and Broad Dissatisfaction with Government (WaPo)

Dan Balz and Scott Clement report on a new poll in the aftermath of the shutdown. Even a majority of supporters of the tea party disapproved of the shutdown, and support for Congressional Republicans is at an all-time low.

Jersey City Mayor Signs Country’s Seventh Paid Sick Days Law (ThinkProgress)

Bryce Covert reports on Jersey City's new law, which is estimated to give 30,000 workers new access to paid sick leave. State- and city-wide pushes for these bills are growing, which isn't surprising when paid sick leave actually saves employers money.

The Solar Revolution is Being Fought by the Middle Class (Quartz)

Todd Woody looks at a report from the Center for American Progress, which shows that the vast majority of home solar panels are being installed in middle-class neighborhoods. He suggests that middle-class families see solar energy as a money saver.

New on Next New Deal

Block a Grand Bargain with Bold Progressive Solutions to Social Security and Medicare

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch argues that now is the time to fight for solutions to the problems facing Social Security and Medicare. The proposals he suggests would fix the financial solvency of these programs without cutting a dime in benefits.

What Did the Government Shutdown Battle Really Accomplish?

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter considers what really came out of the government shutdown. Perhaps most importantly, it set the stage for the President to revitalize his second term with a new agenda, since he's one of the few politicians to retain any credibility.

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