Daily Digest - August 14: As Maine Goes, So Goes the Internet

Aug 14, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Racial Discrimination Alive and Well in Reproductive Healthcare (The Hill)

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Racial Discrimination Alive and Well in Reproductive Healthcare (The Hill)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Andrea Flynn looks at racial disparities in access to health care in the U.S. in light of the U.N.'s periodic review of countries' work to dismantle racism.

How Maine Saved the Internet (Bloomberg View)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford explains how a town in Maine with a population of only 3,321 got a reasonably priced, high-speed fiber optic network.

What’s Lost in the Market Basket Stories (Working Economics)

Workers should not have to rely on a benevolent CEO to ensure they have "good" jobs, writes David Cooper. Better labor laws would make sure everyone had those benefits.

Why Is it So Controversial to Help Poor Mothers Afford Diapers? (The Nation)

Bryce Covert calls out those who see diaper subsidy programs as "controversial," because these programs help children and working families to thrive. They should be a no-brainer, she says.

Working Anything but 9 to 5 (NYT)

Jodi Kantor looks at one mother's struggle with automated scheduling software that threw her and her child's lives into chaos, as she worked unpredictable and sometimes unreasonable hours.

Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote To Join Union (HuffPo)

One worker who voted against unionization in 2011 explained that since the last vote, grievances continued unaddressed, leading to yesterday's decisive win, reports Dave Jamieson.

Silicon Valley Is Ruining "Sharing" for Everybody (TNR)

Noam Scheiber decries the Silicon Valley definition of "sharing," which is more along the lines of under-regulated economic activity that takes advantage of users' skills, possessions, or property.

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Education Left Behind

Jul 31, 2014Edyta Obrzut

Young people in Illinois recognize that many aspects of the state's education system are broken, and they have some first steps for improving it.

Young people in Illinois recognize that many aspects of the state's education system are broken, and they have some first steps for improving it.

“Part of what is at risk is the promise first made on this continent: All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature and informed judgment needed to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself’”   — A Nation at Risk, 1983

In August of 1981, Secretary of Education Terrell Bell chartered the National Commission on Excellence to review and synthetize scholarly research on public schools nationwide, with a special focus on the educational experience of teenage youth. In their report, A Nation at Risk, they promised a comprehensive change to the students, their parents, and teachers. Years after National Commission on Excellence’s promise was made, The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network and Young Invincibles have banded together under the NextGen Illinois project in order to bring a youth-led agenda to state government officials. It is time to assess what has been done and what needs to be improved to completely fulfill the dream of equal access to the quality education and equality of opportunity for young people in the state of Illinois.

To that end, the NextGen project is hosting a series of caucuses across the state that offer an opportunity for young people to brainstorm and create a youth-lead policy agenda for the state of Illinois on issues that matter most to them. They foster discussion about state level politics and some of the most significant problems that are facing Illinois today. Through their participation, young adults offer their own insight about potential solutions to those problems that can result in positive change in their communities.

The NextGen project held its second caucus at DePaul University on Tuesday, May 27, where students pointed out several problems with the current education system in Illinois, including inequality in the distribution of education funding and challenges created by a centralized curriculum. In this system both teachers and students feel pressures created by the demands of accountability and insufficient resources.

Youth from the DePaul caucus further explained that demand for academic achievement and penalties for low-test scores have put extraordinary emphasis on accountability with both students and teachers being measured on their efficiency. The idea of consequences vs. high achievement creates a problem in which teaching in public schools is mostly directed toward test preparation rather than challenging and interesting classes. The lowest scoring schools are struggling with fewer funds and risk being placed on probation or being closed.

The use of standardized tests in high stakes decisions about the individual student is also problematic, as not all students receive an equal opportunity to learn. As recently as 2010, Illinois received a grade of F in equitable distribution of funds per pupil and in relation to the students’ poverty. Education funding distribution in Illinois has been assessed as regressive and unfair. And to make matters worse, in 2009, Illinois law makers cut assistance for P-12 education from the General Fund by more than $861 million (12%). Without addressing these problems, current practices focused on test scores and accountability may only deepen inequality. The top-down accountability model is shifting responsibility for the failure of the educational system from the state to the individuals and hurts not only teachers and parents, but most of all, kids. NextGen youth believe that market-style competition is not working well for them and that it is time to change it.

What can we do to get education back on track? Young people who participated in the caucus at DePaul argue that Illinois has to reevaluate its budget and increase funding for education. Students believe that improved support from the state to schools, granted on a per student basis, will be more effective. They believe that each student should have the same access to quality education and resources so youth can obtain proper preparation for college and competition on the job market. NextGen participants also stress the importance of early career exploration courses and financial counseling, which will help students in their life after high school.

Students’ commitment to the issue of improving the Illinois public schools demonstrates the significance of the problem. They emphasize that improving educational outcomes of students in Illinois requires an effective educational reform that can only take place by including parents, teachers, and most of all- youth into the policy making process. High rate of participation in the NextGen caucuses by Illinois youth proves that if we try hard, we can make a difference!

Edyta Obrzut is the NextGen Illinois Research Fellow for the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network.

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Leadership Wanted: The College Access Crisis Needs You, Mayor de Blasio

Jul 31, 2014Kevin Stump

Focusing on programs that help at-risk college students achieve doesn't get them in the door, so the mayor must put more energy and funding into college access.

Focusing on programs that help at-risk college students achieve doesn't get them in the door, so the mayor must put more energy and funding into college access.

This time a year ago, New York City residents were knee-deep in sorting through the promising rhetoric offered by hopeful bureaucrats vying to become the next Mayor of New York City. "The Tale of Two Cities" – the signature campaign phrase that helped propel Bill de Blasio into becoming the next chief executive of America’s largest city – speaks to the severity of the economic inequality that exists in New York City and across the country.

Mayor de Blasio’s election was an overnight mandate for progressive reform, which greatly emphasized increasing resources for New York City’s schools. This year’s final New York City 2014 budget did take steps in the right direction by investing more in the City University of New York (CUNY) and programs like the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs and the Black Male Initiative to help the most at-risk students succeed while at college. These investments are necessary – especially given that 42 percent of CUNY community college students experience housing insecurity, 39 percent experience food insecurity, and 65 percent come from households with incomes less than $30,000.

However, let's be clear: the mayor is not placing equal priority on college access, a choice that is dangerously shortsighted and will be much more costly in the end. The programs and opportunities that at-risk New York City high school students have available to help them access college are just as important as the programs that help students after admission.

While most New York City high school students know that a high school diploma is no longer good enough, and acknowledge the need for a college degree, almost 70 percent of students believed that a high school diploma alone would adequately prepare them for college-level coursework. Yet only 25 percent of students are graduating college ready in New York City. Just 29 percent of high school graduates in the class of 2012 had test scores high enough to avoid remedial courses at the City’s public schools. What’s worse is that 74 percent of first-time freshmen entering CUNY community colleges needed remedial coursework in math, up 15 percent from 2002. Nearly three out of four high school students are either failing to graduate on time or lack the basic academic skills needed to hit the ground running at CUNY.

It is clear that the City should be doing more to help the most at-risk communities access college while simultaneously injecting the CUNY system with enough resources to effectively meet the demand.

There’s no debate: public higher education, while not perfect, is a proven and successful model to help socially and economically prepare young people to become life-long contributing citizens. However, the critical four years leading up to a young person's path to college can make or break a student’s college attainment. The Mayor should seize the opportunity and lead the nation’s cities and the people of New York to address this issue head on by jump-starting an inclusive public policy process that will lay out an aggressive plan for other cities across America to follow.

In addition to the obvious players like the NYC Department of Education, New York State Education Department, and CUNY, the Mayor must bring to the policy table local stakeholders like the College Access Consortium of New York and groups like the Goddard Riverside Community Center as well as national models such as College Track and key stakeholders like the Lumina Foundation to put New York City on a collaborative path to increasing college attainment and by doing so, tackling economic inequality.

To start, initial conversations should include how to best leverage existing government infrastructure and systems to think collaboratively and across agencies about policy solutions. For example, we could analyze programs offered by the New York City Department of Housing to integrate effective and proven programs in public housing facilities. The issue of college access is an intersectional problem and requires intersectional solutions. This issue requires Mayor de Blasio to employ a policy process that is inclusive, grounded in research and analysis, utilizes all the resources we have available, and injects even more resources to change this much-talked about but greatly under-addressed issue of college access or the lack thereof.  

Kevin Stump is the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Leadership Director.

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Two Tiers of College Tuition? Not on This Campus

Jul 28, 2014Mohanned Abdelhameed

A two-tiered pricing system would create dramatic inequality of access to a college education.

A college education is believed to help those that sacrifice and pursue their education achieve a better life. However, the graduating class of 2014 is the most indebted class in history. Students will graduate this year owing an average of $33,000 for their hard earned education. This problem grows worse as students currently face rising levels of tuition at all institutions.

A two-tiered pricing system would create dramatic inequality of access to a college education.

A college education is believed to help those that sacrifice and pursue their education achieve a better life. However, the graduating class of 2014 is the most indebted class in history. Students will graduate this year owing an average of $33,000 for their hard earned education. This problem grows worse as students currently face rising levels of tuition at all institutions.

My school, San Bernardino Valley Community College, looked at a different type of tuition increase by volunteering as one of five colleges to pilot a two-tiered pricing system, which effectively gives an advantage to higher income students. Assembly Bill AB955 set up a pilot program of five schools to offer classes at higher prices during intermissions from the standard academic schedule, making students who want to finish school faster pay more out of pocket for their degree. Assembly Member Das Williams, who proposed the bill, argued in The Daily Californian that “at the start of the fall 2012 semester, more than 500,000 students were left on waiting lists and effectively turned away at community colleges throughout the state due to lack of availability.” If the pilot is successful, then the program will open to all colleges state wide.

My school volunteered to participate in this pilot, because following the 2008 recession, budget cuts had forced the school to cut many classes. The administration needed a way to accommodate students that couldn’t get classes they needed in order to transfer or graduate. Many administrators were for the program because they believed they could make more space by offering classes in summer and winter sessions to students that would have to pay up to 300 percent more per unit. For instance, our normal tuition is $46 a unit, but in order to take the classes offered by this program students would have to pay an additional $230 non-resident tuition fee and a $19 capital outlay fee, totaling $295 per unit. Since most classes are three units, a class under this pricing model would cost $885 as opposed to the usual price of $138.

Many students were opposed to this legislation. A student protest staged on November 14, 2013 at a meeting of the San Bernardino Community College District Board paused the offering of such a two-tiered pricing scheme for this summer, and the future of the program will be decided at a later date. A huge group of students spoke out against our school's participation by organizing and using our voices to tell our college board we wouldn’t allow our school to be privatized. There was no evidence for the assemblyman's conclusions. He claimed students would prefer the opportunity to finish faster at a higher cost, as opposed to waiting and using needed financial aid to finish their classes. There are almost 15,000 students attending San Bernardino Valley Community College, and 67 percent of the student body receives financial assistance. It is unlikely that students will be willing or able to pay out of pocket for their education, when these higher-priced classes aren't covered by financial aid.

Students also opposed the bill because the argument that students could transfer out faster was untrue. Under the usual model of one low tuition rate for all units, many students take classes year round. With the two-tier pricing model, students that can’t afford to pay the grossly inflated price of units in winter and summer would be limited to classes in fall and spring, essentially making poorer students stay at a community college longer than their wealthier peers. Students were also concerned about how students paying full-price for these more expensive units would affect financial aid. There were also concerns that when policy makers saw students paying the higher prices, financial assistance given to other students would be at risk of defunding, ending access for those less fortunate.

Access to college is meant to be a vehicle to success for those willing to work hard for it. This program would be asking students that have very little to pay more for school in the long run. Students' passion against this new law can be a great benefit for implementing change. There is always a beginning of a movement but what actually makes it a movement is the consistency to keep coming back and addressing the issues. The students at my school understand that the effort they showed can be a force. We can have a bright future by fighting for future students, who deserve the same chance those before us received. It would be a shame to stand idly by while students lose their opportunity for an education and a better life.

Mohanned Abdelhameed is the Vice President of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network chapter at San Bernardino Valley Community College, where he is studying political economics.

Photo by Amerique via Creative Commons license.

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Daily Digest - July 22: Why Net Neutrality is All or Nothing

Jul 22, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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All Aboard for Net Neutrality (In These Times)

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All Aboard for Net Neutrality (In These Times)

Cole Stangler quotes Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford as he makes the case that the FCC should stop dancing around net neutrality and embrace common carrier regulation of the Internet.

Are Auto Insurance Companies Red-Lining Poor, Urban Drivers? (The Guardian)

Auto insurance rates are frequently determined by zip code, and risk factors like crime don't fully explain the price differences. Devin Fergus says redlining, or charging higher prices to minorities, may be to blame.

Obama Signs Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Order (Slate)

Mark Joseph Stern calls the order, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, Obama's biggest gay rights achievement since ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Businesses Need to Spend More. The Future of the Economy Depends on It. (NYT)

Increased capital spending by businesses would create jobs, and would also generate the productivity gains that make the economy more competitive over the long term, writes Neil Irwin.

Fed Researchers Optimistic on Long-Term Unemployment Drop (Bloomberg News)

Jeff Kearns reports on the Federal Reserve's reasons for optimism, which include signs that the long-term unemployed are still connected to the labor force and don't have significantly more trouble finding jobs.

New on Next New Deal

Lifelong Roosevelt Connections Help Students Lead Policy Change

Meeting alumni in her role as the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network Special Initiatives Intern has shown Madelyn Schorr that students' ideas benefit from alumni input and assistance.

The Etsy Economy Prevails

In her speculation on the future for the Next American Economy project, Althea Erickson, Public Policy Director at Etsy, imagines a gig-based economy in which market platforms provide benefits like health care.

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Fighting Bad Science in the Senate

Jul 17, 2014Andrea Flynn

The Senate hearing for the Women's Health Protection Act shows just how important it is for women's health advocates to push for the facts.

The Senate hearing for the Women's Health Protection Act shows just how important it is for women's health advocates to push for the facts.

The propensity of anti-choice advocates to eulogize false science was on full display on Tuesday’s Senate hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). That bill is a bold measure that would counter the relentless barrage of anti-choice legislation that has made abortion – a constitutionally protected medical procedure – all together inaccessible for many U.S. women.

The bill was introduced last year by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Judy Chu, Lois Frankel and Marcia Fudge. It prohibits states from applying regulations to reproductive health care centers and providers that do not also apply to other low-risk medical procedures. It would, essentially, remove politicians from decisions that – for every other medical issue – remain between individuals and their providers.

The WHPA is long overdue. For the past three years, conservative lawmakers have used the guise of protecting women’s health to pass more than 200 state laws that have closed clinics, eliminated abortion services, and left women across the country without access to critical reproductive health care. The WHPA would reverse many of those policies and prevent others from being passed.

Tuesday's hearing was representative of the broader debate over abortion rights. Those in favor of the bill argued that securing guaranteeing unfettered access to reproductive health care, including abortion, is critical to the health and lives of U.S. women and their families.

Those in opposition used familiar canards about abortion to argue the law would be calamitous for U.S. women. Representative Diane Black of Tennessee had the gall to make the abortion-leads-to-breast cancer claim, one that has been disproven many times over. Others repeatedly cited the horrific cases of Kermit Gosnell, insinuating that all abortion providers (abortionists, in their lingo) are predatory and that late term abortions are a common occurrence. In fact, if women had access to safe, comprehensive and intimidation-free care, Kermit Gosnell would have never been in business. Given the opposition’s testimony, you’d never know that late term abortion is actually a rarity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 90 percent of all abortions occur before 13 weeks gestation, with just over 1 percent taking place past 21 weeks.

At one point Representative Black argued that abortion is actually not health care. The one in three U.S. women who have undergone the procedure would surely argue otherwise.

Perhaps the most ironic testimony against the WHPA – and in favor of abortion restrictions – came from Senator Ted Cruz, who hails from Texas, a state with so many abortion restrictions that women are now risking their health and lives by self-inducing abortions or crossing the border to get care in Mexico. Senator Cruz attempted to validate U.S. abortion restrictions by referencing a handful of European countries with gestational restrictions on abortions. This was a popular argument during the hearing for Texas’ HB2 – the bill responsible for shuttering the majority of clinics in that state.

Cruz wins the prize for cherry picking facts to best support his argument. When citing our European counterparts, he conveniently ignored that such abortion restrictions are entrenched in progressive public health systems that enable all individuals to access quality, affordable (often free) health care, including comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Senator Cruz and his colleagues have adamantly opposed similar policies in the U.S., particularly the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for contraceptive coverage and Medicaid expansion. On the one hand conservatives lean on European policies to argue for stricter abortion restrictions at home, and on the other they claim those policies are antithetical to the moral fabric of the United States.

Would Cruz support France’s policies that enable women to be fully reimbursed for the cost of their abortion and that guarantees girls ages 15 to 18 free birth control? Or Belgium’s policy that enables young people to be reimbursed for the cost of emergency contraception? Or the broad exceptions both countries make for cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment, to preserve woman’s physical or mental health, and for social or economic reasons? He absolutely would not.

Given the House of Representatives seems to be more motivated by suing the President than by voting on – let alone passing – laws that will actually improve the health and lives of their constituents, it’s highly unlikely the WHPA will become law. But Tuesday's debate – and the bill itself – is significant and shows a willingness among pro-choice advocates to go on the offense after too many years of playing defense.

Bills such as the WHPA – even if they face a slim chance of being passed by a gridlocked Congress – provide an opportunity to call out conservatives' use of bad science in their attempts to convince women that lawmakers know best when it comes to their personal medical decisions. And they allow us to remind lawmakers and citizens that despite all of the rhetoric to the contrary, abortion is a common, safe and constitutionally protected medical procedure, and that regulating it into extinction will only force women into back-alley practices like those run by Gosnell, costing them their health and their lives.

Those in support of the WHPA showed anti-choice lawmakers that the days of make a sport of trampling women’s health and rights are numbered.

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

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Daily Digest - June 17: Obama's ENDA Executive Order Sends a Message

Jun 17, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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Obama Making Bold Move on ENDA Protections (MSNBC)

Steve Benen says the President's executive order protecting LBGT federal contractors could be an attempt to push Congress to act on broader anti-discrimination legislation.

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Obama Making Bold Move on ENDA Protections (MSNBC)

Steve Benen says the President's executive order protecting LBGT federal contractors could be an attempt to push Congress to act on broader anti-discrimination legislation.

The Fed’s Unemployment Conundrum (WaPo)

Ylan Q. Mui notes that the Federal Reserve's decision to tie its stimulus program to unemployment is problematic because unemployment is falling faster than the economy is growing.

In San Jose, Higher Minimum Wage Pays Benefits (USA Today)

For minimum-wage workers in San Jose, the increase from $8 to $10 per hour meant small but meaningful changes, like being able to afford dental care, writes Paul Davidson.

After Piketty, the Ownership Revolution (AJAM)

Gar Alperovitz suggests that experimenting with broad, democratized ownership of capital could help counter the trend toward inequality highlighted by Thomas Piketty's Capital.

You Can Blame Student Debt for America's Inequality and Shrinking Middle Class (HuffPo)

Sean McElwee argues that while a college education may be a gateway to the middle class, high student debt holds back low- and middle-income students.

Three Fed Governors Sworn in Just in Time for Meeting (WSJ)

Pedro Da Costa reports on the swearing in of the newest members of the Federal Reserve Board, which is expected to continue to scale back the Fed's bond-buying program this week.

Miami Sues JPMorgan Alleging Mortgage Discrimination (Reuters)

The city's suit against JPMorgan claims that the bank not only issued higher-cost loans to minorities but also discriminated when determining refinancing terms, reports Dena Aubin.

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Teachers and Tutors Can't Fix All of Low-Income Students' Problems

Jun 13, 2014Casey McQuillan

Targeted public policy could help with many of the problems students face that their teachers can't solve alone.

My parents, both teachers, often blurred the line between being parents and being educators. Luckily, I found academics to be second nature. As a result, my teachers in the local public school system served as valuable role models and fostered my personal growth not just as a student, but as a whole person. I always felt supported by my community and equipped with the necessary tools for my success.

Targeted public policy could help with many of the problems students face that their teachers can't solve alone.

My parents, both teachers, often blurred the line between being parents and being educators. Luckily, I found academics to be second nature. As a result, my teachers in the local public school system served as valuable role models and fostered my personal growth not just as a student, but as a whole person. I always felt supported by my community and equipped with the necessary tools for my success.

I faced a stark contrast to my own experience when I worked with Achieve, a program that offers tuition-free educational enrichment to impoverished students in Boston. I taught critical math skills and literacy comprehension for eight weeks during the summer, and volunteered on Saturdays during the school year. Over the three years I spent with Achieve, I developed intimate and meaningful relationships with my students; but I felt that my impact, even the impact of the entire program, was severely limited.

These students did not have the same tools I did to succeed in the classroom. As a teacher, it was excruciatingly painful to hear a student who is already falling behind explain he could not do his homework because his mom could not pay the bills and the electric company shut off the power. It kills me to tell a student to take notes in class only to find out later that her parents can't afford the prescription glasses she needs to see the board and take those notes. I was expecting these kids to read when some of them could not even see.

Our government claims each citizen maintains the right to an education, but fails to substantiate this right with everything needed for an education. The social safety net did not subsidize electricity for low-income families, and Medicaid doesn't cover prescription eyewear. How could these students possibly reach their full potential under such circumstances? I could see the changes needed to better these students’ lives, but I could not enact them. Our political system remains apathetic or even complicit to the systemic inequality I faced everyday in the classroom. I cared about these students and their success, and it deeply disturbed me to see them seemingly destined for failure because of conditions out of their control.

I only grew more frustrated when I continued to encounter these obstacles with my students. I tried to provide these students with an education that would empower them to be agents of change in their community; instead, when I faced these situations, I felt more helpless than helpful. My students looked to me for help, but I was utterly powerless. I came to the conclusion that to affect positive change would require more than volunteering with these students. Children in these situations needed more from me than an education. Instead of growing more frustrated within the system as I continued to confront these impediments to my students’ success, I decided the entire system needed change. That brought me to the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, and to the Summer Academy Fellowship.

This summer, I will be researching and writing a policy proposal regarding economic equality and equitable development in New York City. I am also working with Operation Hope to provide financial guidance and education to low-income communities. My students remain my driving motivation: I hope this work improves their lives, and the lives of other students in similar situations. To meet their needs and help them achieve their best, our system needs to change.

Casey McQuillan, one of four Andrew Goodman Foundation Fellows in the 2014 NYC Summer Academy, is a rising sophomore and active Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network member at Amherst College studying Math, Economics, and Law.

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Daily Digest - May 20: In a Weak Recovery, Even the Employed Feel Stuck

May 20, 2014Rachel Goldfarb

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The Recession’s Effect on Job Churn (St. Louis Fed)

David Wiczer cites Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's writing on the decline of job-to-job transitions and agrees that workers staying put highlights a weakness in the job market.

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The Recession’s Effect on Job Churn (St. Louis Fed)

David Wiczer cites Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's writing on the decline of job-to-job transitions and agrees that workers staying put highlights a weakness in the job market.

  • Roosevelt Take: Mike argues that the struggles employed people face in finding work can tell us as much about the economy as the struggles of the unemployed.

Eric Holder, Michelle Obama talk about racism (The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren says Holder and Obama's speeches on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board show the need for both policy and social change to fight racism.

Americans Owe $1.2 Trillion in Student Loans, Surpassing Credit Card and Auto Loan Debt Totals (NY Daily News)

As Senate Democrats prepare a bill that will allow student loans to be refinanced, Dan Friedman speaks to young people who feel their debt prevents their next steps forward.

  • Roosevelt Take: The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network report "A New Deal for Students" lays out student-crafted policy proposals for solving the student debt crisis.

Thomas Piketty and the End of Our Peaceful Coexistence With Inequality (The Atlantic)

Moisés Naím looks at the rise of the "Piketty effect," which describes how the discussion of inequality and wealth spreads beyond academics into people's daily lives.

Here's The Painful Truth About What It Means To Be 'Working Poor' In America (HuffPo)

Nick Wing and Carly Schwartz introduce a new Huffington Post series on the working poor with quotes from many such workers that lay out the harsh realities they face.

Mortgage, Home-Equity Woes Linger (WSJ)

Underwater mortgages are still holding back the housing market, writes Conor Dougherty. When homeowners can't leave, inexpensive houses don't enter the market.

Credit Suisse Pleads Guilty in Felony Case (NYT)

Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg report that this is the first time in two decades that a bank has pled guilty on criminal charges, in this case conspiring to aid tax evasion.

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In Georgia, Lawmakers Taking Pride in Policies That Hurt the Poor

May 16, 2014Andrea Flynn

This post is the final in the Roosevelt Institute's National Women's Health Week series, which will address pressing issues affecting the health and economic security of women and families in the United States. Today, a close look at the state of Georgia, where the legislature is taking active steps against the Affordable Care Act.

This post is the final in the Roosevelt Institute's National Women's Health Week series, which will address pressing issues affecting the health and economic security of women and families in the United States. Today, a close look at the state of Georgia, where the legislature is taking active steps against the Affordable Care Act.

Georgia has taken the lead in the mad dash to thwart the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and prevent poor people from accessing health care. Last week, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law two bills that ensure the state won’t be expanding Medicaid any time soon, and that make it decidedly more difficult for people to gain coverage under the ACA. These laws – a notch in the belt of conservatives preparing for the fall election – compound the social and economic injustices already experienced by many low-income Georgians.

House Bill 990 moves the authority to expand Medicaid out of the Governor’s office and over to lawmakers. In a state where conservative politics run deep, HB 990 is Governor Deal’s clever way of way of ensuring Medicaid expansion will never get passed, and abdicating all responsibility for the health and economic consequences that will surely result. The second bill, HB 943, restricts state and local agencies and their employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion, bans the creation of a state health insurance exchange, and prohibits the University of Georgia from continuing its navigator program once its original federal grant expires in August. The University’s navigators have been working throughout the state – especially in underserved rural areas – to help demystify the ACA, assist individuals in gaining coverage on the national exchange, and help those who already qualify for Medicaid to enroll.

“Someone else will now have to re-invent the wheel and figure out how to get resources to people in rural areas," said Beth Stephens of Georgia Watch, a non-partisan consumer advocacy organization.

Like many other states that refuse to participate in Medicaid expansion, Georgia isn’t faring so well by most socio-economic indicators. The poverty rate, which now hovers around 20 percent, is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000. Nearly two million Georgians do not have health coverage, ranking the state fifth nationally in numbers of uninsured. Close to half of those individuals between the ages 18 and 64 have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, many of whom would be covered under Medicaid expansion. Georgia has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates (seven percent) and today the average family makes $6,000 less than it did 10 years ago, when inflation is factored in. Individuals living outside of major cities have few health care options. In recent years eight rural hospitals have closed, leaving residents with scarce health resources and hospital workers without jobs.

To make matters worse, lawmakers in Georgia have been systematically dismantling the state’s social safety net. Of the 300,000 Georgian families living below the poverty line, only 19,000 receive TANF and more than three quarters of those cases involve children only. That means that fewer than seven percent of low-income Georgians are able to get the welfare assistance they badly need. On the same day that Governor Deal signed the aforementioned bills, he also signed HB 772, requiring certain individuals to pass – and foot the bill for – a drug test before receiving welfare and food stamps. That bill is thought to be the nation’s most stringent when it comes to public assistance.

The environment is especially hostile for Georgia’s women, 21 percent of whom live in poverty (33 and 36 percent of Black and Hispanic Georgian women, respectively). More women in Georgia die of pregnancy-related causes than women in all but two other states. The U.S. maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 18.5; that is the number of women who die for every 100,000 births. Georgia’s MMR has more than doubled since 2004 and is now 35.5 (a shocking 63.8 for black women and 24.6 for white women). Expanding Medicaid would extend health coverage to more than 500,000 uninsured Georgians, 342,000 of them women. That coverage would surely save women’s lives.

Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do, and it makes good economic sense. It would support the development of 70,343 jobs statewide in the next decade. In that time it would bring $33 billion of new federal funding into the state, generating $1.8 billion in new state revenue. Despite all this, and despite the fact that poverty is increasing, access to health care is decreasing, and more women are dying because of pregnancy than in any time in the past 20 years, conservatives in Georgia proudly reject Medicaid expansion.

Grassroots groups in the state are working hard to counter anti-ACA sentiments. SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, an Atlanta-based non-profit that is educating and mobilizing Georgians on issues related to the ACA, released a statement in support of Medicaid expansion immediately after the Supreme Court determined states could opt-out. In addition to hosting press conferences at the capital and participating in public education events, SPARK is empowering young people to collect and tell their own stories – and those of their families – to illustrate the need for improved health access in the state and clear up confusion about how the ACA would benefit various communities. The organization is also collaborating with health navigators, particularly those working in low-income, LGBT, and black communities, to get across the message that all Georgia citizens deserve health security. “We are telling them they shouldn’t have to worry about sacrificing gas, transportation, prescriptions, etc. We are putting it back on our state and our policymakers to make it right for everyone," said Malika Redmond, SPARK’s executive director.  

The majority of Georgians want lawmakers to make it right. Polls show that 59.6 percent disagree with the state’s refusal to participate in expansion. That sentiment is shared by 64.9 percent of women and by 82.9 percent of African-Americans.

Conservative lawmakers don’t seem to care. They are busy patting each other on the back for sticking it to Obama and undermining the ACA. But the ACA isn’t going away. It’s only getting stronger. And the only people conservatives are sticking it to are the poor families in their state that are already reeling from policies that are costing them their health, their happiness, and their lives. 

Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.

Banner photo via Flickr.

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