States have been slow to create the health-insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act, most likely because of recalcitrant governors waiting to hear the Supreme Court's decision on whether the law is constitutional. The Urban Institute, a think tank, has found that only 14 states have made significant progress in creating the government-subsidized exchanges while 16 had made little or no progress. The study also showed that the states that have been slowest to move have the most uninsured residents.
Kansas Republicans, under the leadership of “compassionate conservative” Sam Brownback, are working hard to stick it to the poor:
A Kansas House tax committee passed a bill in which anyone making less than $25,000 a year — roughly half a million of the state’s 2.9 million residents — will pay an average of $72 more in taxes, while those making more than $250,000 — about 21,000 people — will see a $1,500 cut, according to Kansas Department of Revenue estimates cited by the Kansas City Star.
The hike would come from the elimination of tax credits typically benefiting the poor.
Obama has upped his campaign game on energy in the past week, while conceding there is little he can do to combat the rising gas prices before November. The president has been advocating an "all of the above" response to gas prices, including pushing more domestic oil production and stricter fuel-efficiency standards.
As winter fades, the Occupy Wall Street movement is heating up again. But don’t expect the same focus on physical encampments and rowdy protests. While the blood of the 99 percent is still boiling at the injustice of growing inequality, in organizing meetings and workgroups, cooler heads are prevailing. This is Occupy 2.0—the mainstreaming of momentum.
From my conversations with Occupy organizers and supporters, my sense is that the main thrust of organizing energy and attention will go toward Occupy Our Homes— a coalition of Occupy activists joining with existing grassroots groups to support families that are facing foreclosure or have been evicted by big banks. Prioritizing Occupy Our Homes is great choice for two reasons.
The White House plans to release guidelines for internet companies to help them protect consumers' privacy today. However, the rules are voluntary, which means the web will likely remain an information free-for-all. The Federal Trade Commission will only police companies who agree to the administration's Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The only real incentive for companies to agree to the rules is to boost consumer confidence.
Obama is stealing the spotlight from Mitt Romney—who plans to announce a new economic plan on Friday—by announcing his framework for simplifying the corporate tax code. The White House is asking Congress to lower the top corporate tax rate to 28 percent, while ridding the code of any loopholes and subsidies.
The federal minimum for an hourly wage was $3.35 in 1982 and now it’s $7.25, up 120 percent. Inflation, meanwhile, has climbed during that period by 135 percent. Eight states, including New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, are considering legislation to boost the base wage. Advocates say that such state measures are fair and make good economic sense: Putting more money in the hands of workers means more demand—good news for small businesses struggling to overcome poor sales. Then there’s politics. More than two-thirds of Americans favor raising the hourly wage to at least $10.
Early today, eurozone finance ministers finally approved the €130 billion rescue package to prevent Greece from defaulting, a move that will hopefully keep the country off the precipice before its bond repayment comes due March 20.
Foxconn Technology—responsible for assembling iPhones, Xbox 360s, and Dell computers—announced a 25 percent pay raise for its employees at Chinese factories on Saturday. News of the raise comes after weeks of increased scrutiny of the working conditions at the plants, which together employ 1.2 million workers who work as much as 14 hours a day. The pay raise comes with a limit on overtime hours. “This is the way capitalism is supposed to work,” said David Autor, a MIT economist, to The New York Times. “As nations develop, wages rise and life theoretically gets better for everyone.
As Europe works toward bringing Greece back from the edge of default, the United States is trying to puzzle out how good of a partner we want to be to the eurozone. Lael Brainard, the Treasury's top international diplomat, told the Senate banking committee yesterday that the International Monetary Fund doesn't need an infusion of cash from the U.S. in order to create a buffer from whatever may happen with Greece and the other European economies. “The challenge Europe faces is within the capacity of the Europeans to manage,” she said.
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance:
The Greek Parliament passed austerity measures that were a crucial step to getting a €130 billion eurozone bailout yesterday. However, the country isn't out of the woods yet. Eurozone financial leaders will meet Wednesday to discuss the logistics of the bailout, which won't get approved—if it gets approved—until March. The austerity package, which includes wage and pension cuts and reduces the government payrolls by 150,000, passed by a 199-74 vote, but was accompanied by mass protests leaving forty buildings in Athens aflame.
ATHENS, GREECE—After a night of high drama, both inside and outside parliament, the Greek government passed the slew of new austerity measures demanded by its official lenders in return for a second bailout package worth 130 billion euros. The deal slashes the minimum wage by 22 percent, reduces pensions, and will result in public-worker rolls shrinking by 150,000 employees, among other measures. The final count for the controversial package, which was announced after 1 a.m. Monday morning, was 199 in favor and 74 against. Politicians accused each other of national betrayal, and tensions erupted into angry exchanges about a deeply divided country on the verge of desperation. Meanwhile, outside parliament, a vast swathe of downtown Athens was once again left defenseless against violence, with smashing, burning and pillaging until the early hours of the morning. Protests also turned ugly in other parts of Greece, from Salonica to Crete.