Saturday, 17 September 2011

Not a Hypothetical Question

During the last GOP debate, there was a chilling moment when Wolf Blitzer asked candidate Rob Paul whether a hypothetical man without health insurance should be allowed to die. Someone from the audience shouted "yeah" and the audience applauded. Paul stumbled and was unable to answer.

But when we talk about whether people without health insurance should live or die, whether we should let them die, that's not a hypothetical question. It's very real, and very painful and actually applies to people here and now. People like Steve:

Our current law says that if someone shows up at an emergency room in need of urgent care, it is illegal to turn them away - whether they can pay or not. But what if they need chomotherapy for cancer? Or what if their diabetic? What if they're HIV positive - and there are expensive but effective drugs that could keep them alive.

The GOP answer is that the person should take personal responsibility for their health. But that's precisely what the Affordable Care Act calls for - it insists that if you can afford health care, you must purchase it so that your medical casts won't be an undue burden on your fellow taxpayers if (when) you need it. It says to insurance companies that they must offer insurance policies to everyone - whether they have a pre-existing condition or not. And it says to those who can't otherwise afford coverage, that the rest of us will chip in a little bit in the form of health subsidies to give you the insurance you need so that you can get preventative care and early treatment that you need to stop your health from deterioriating so that the cost to us, the taxpayers, of saving your life is as low as possible.

But in the end it says: No. You should not be allowed to die. It says, America is a country where easily preventable deaths should not take place because we simply turned our back on the suffering. It says we're all better off if we know that health care is not a luxury for the wealthy. It says that because every single one of us is at risk of losing our job, our savings and our health, we want to take some measure to protect ourselves from the consequences if that happens.

That's reasonable, it compassionate, it's economically sound. That's the Democratic policy. It's my policy.

What's yours? Ask yourself "Would you let him die?"

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Jobs Growth Since Obama Inauguration

Blog stats data tells me that a number of people are finding this site through a search for "Jobs Growth Since Obama Inauguration". That's a good thing to be searching for (both Google-wise and, you know, as a thing to want...)! Let me make that just a little bit easier for you - here's a chart that shows US jobs gained or lost through July this year:

A few points to note:
  • This chart is missing a month of data - in August, the Economy gained zero jobs as a whole. To be more exact: Number of private sector jobs gained in August, 17,000. Number of public sector jobs lost in August: 17,00.
  • Even if the public sector had not shed those jobs - the private job growth would not be enough to keep up with the increase in population, let alone recover from the jobs lost during the recession.
  • It is in this background that President Obama has called on Congress to urgently pass the American Jobs Act. Sitting around and waiting isn't going to create those jobs. Here's a few things that will: 
    • Cutting the payroll tax cut in half for 98 percent of businesses: The President’s plan will cut in half the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll, targeting the benefit to the 98 percent of firms that have payroll below this threshold.
    • A complete payroll tax holiday for added workers or increased wages: The President’s plan will completely eliminate payroll taxes for firms that increase their payroll by adding new workers or increasing the wages of their current worker (the benefit is capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases).
    • A “Returning Heroes” hiring tax credit for veterans: This provides tax credits from $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.
    • Preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs, while keeping cops and firefighters on the job.
    • Modernizing at least 35,000 public schools across the country, supporting new science labs, Internet-ready classrooms and renovations at schools across the country, in rural and urban areas.
    • Immediate investments in infrastructure and a bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank, modernizing our roads, rail, airports and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job.
    • A New “Project Rebuild”, which will put people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities, leveraging private capital and scaling land banks and other public-private collaborations.
    • Expanding access to high-speed wireless as part of a plan for freeing up the nation’s spectrum.
    • A $4,000 tax credit to employers for hiring long-term unemployed workers.
    • Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.
    • Expanding job opportunities for low-income youth and adults through a fund for successful approaches for subsidized employment, innovative training programs and summer/year-round jobs for youth.
    • Cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year: The President’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last year to cut workers payroll taxes in half in 2012 – providing a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, without negatively impacting the Social Security Trust Fund.
    • Allowing more Americans to refinance their mortgages at today’s near 4 percent interest rates, which can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket.Moody's Chief Economist Mark Zandy says that the American Jobs Act will create about 1.9 Million jobs and 2% growth for the economy.
The White House has published loads of helpful information about how the American Jobs Act will work. For instance:
  • Here you can find out what impact it would have in each state, if passed.
  • Here you can find a list of Twitter office hours, when administration officials will take your questions about the proposals. (Today, David Plouffe! Tomorrow, Stephanie Cutter!)
  • Here are responses to the Jobs Act from state and local officials.
The American Jobs Act uses a mix of ideas that have been supported by both parties over the years, and which economists think would be effective. Congress should pass it now.

And the President told them so.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A 9/11 Reader

There has been a flood of remembrances, reflections, and reporting on this 10 year anniversary of The Events. I've been pretty selective about the things I chose to read or watch - there's only so much mourning a person can do. But a few things stood out as unmissable - I pass them along to you:

  • The Washington Post reports on the 2 F-16 pilots who were scrambled to take down United Flight 93. The only problem was, they had no artillery or missiles. The plan, therefore, was to ram that plane with their own. 
  • The Boston Globe reports on the workers at Logan airport in Boston who, on that morning just like every morning before, checked in their passengers with a smile. A decade later they're still reeling from the shock and guilt. How would you feel to know you'd helpfully checked in four hijackers? That because you called in sick someone died in your place? That because you handed over Mohammed Atta's luggage to the FBI you might be on an Al Qaeda target list. Riveting and disturbing.  
  • The edition of The Onion that was published 2 weeks after the attack (one week after they published nothing. Nothing was funny for the first week, so that's what they published) remains the most cathartic funny-because-it's-true laugh-out-loud-to-release-the-tension thing I've ever read. I remember the photograph of a woman with a cake labelled, "unsure what else to do, woman bakes American flag cake." But the article, "God Angrily Clarifies Do Not Kill Rule" bears ample rereading. Make sure you read through the final two words.
If you want my thoughts on the anniversary, have a look at either:
Stay safe. Be well.