Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Americans Like Public Employees, Aren't So Hot on Unions

In case you missed it, the latest New York Times /CBS News poll found majority support for employees in public-sector unions: Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them. Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Americans aren’t exactly fond of unions -- 37 percent say they have too much influence on American life and politics -- but they also aren’t thrilled about hurting public employees to fix...

401(k)s: Not So Great for Workers

In lieu of defined benefits, some states and localities are mulling a shift to 401(k)-style pension plans, reports Jeannette Neumann for The Wall Street Journal : Republicans have taken the lead in campaigns to make the switch. In February, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for a shift to 401(k)-type plans when he proposed his budget. Former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called for a shift before stepping down in January. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval also proposed a switch in his January State of the State address. State lawmakers across the country, many of them Republicans, have echoed the calls. A California state senator recently introduced a bill proposing that new public employees enroll in 401(k)-like plans. There are two big problems with this switch. First, as Neumann notes, there can be hefty short-term costs associated with switching to a 401(k) plan, or a hybrid, 401(k)/defined benefit plan. Once closed, a traditional pension fund would begin to shift its asset...

Can More Flexibility Mean More Political Support?

The New York Times reports that President Obama plans to support an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would allow states to opt out at the beginning of the process -- in 2014 -- rather than three years later in 2017: The bipartisan amendment that Mr. Obama is now embracing was first proposed in November, eight months after enactment of the Affordable Care Act, by Senators Ron Wyden , Democrat of Oregon, and Scott Brown , Republican of Massachusetts. Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, a Democrat, is now a co-sponsor. The legislation would allow states to opt out earlier from various requirements if they could demonstrate that other methods would allow them to cover as many people, with insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, as provided by the new law. The changes also must not increase the federal deficit. Like Kevin Drum , I think this is a political ploy. Congressional Republicans have committed to a “repeal and replace” strategy, which rules out...

The Medicaid Costs Are Too Damn High.

State governors are practically begging the federal government for permission to cut hundreds of thousands from their Medicaid rolls. Why? Thanks to the recession, declining revenues, and the rising price of health care, state governments are increasingly unable to bear the burden of Medicaid costs. The Wall Street Journal explains : About eight million Americans joined the Medicaid rolls between 2007 and 2010, many because they lost jobs. The federal government picks up 57% of states' Medicaid tab, on average. But in July, $26 billion in additional federal Medicaid funding will expire, leaving states to plug a big budget hole. Here is a nifty graph to illustrate the problem: In hindsight, the stimulus package should have contained a federal guarantee to fully carry state Medicaid costs for a few years; through the recession -- which officially ended in 2009 -- and into 2010, to further stabilize state budgets. Indeed, to step outside the realm of the possible for a moment, it would...

Claim Chowder*

Nearly two years ago, David Brooks predicted disaster for the government’s acquisition of General Motors, calling it a quagmire: For the elemental facts about the Obama restructuring plan are these: Bureaucratically, the plan is smart. Financially, it is tough-minded. But when it comes to the corporate culture that is at the core of G.M.’s woes, the Obama approach is strangely oblivious. The Obama plan won’t revolutionize G.M.’s corporate culture. It could make things worse. […] The end result is that G.M. will not become more like successful car companies. It will become less like them. The federal merger will not accelerate the company’s viability. It will impede it. We’ve seen this before, albeit in different context: An overconfident government throws itself into a dysfunctional culture it doesn’t really understand. The result is quagmire. The costs escalate. There is no exit strategy. Let’s see how this prediction held up : General Motors has reported net income of $4.7 billion,...

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