Keeping It Local

By Eddie Soliz

It was a regular Monday and I was pointed to canvass a neighborhood or city named Sterling, a middle class town located west of Dulles airport in northern Virginia. As it reflected in the press, healthcare was the national issue and it had most peoples’ attention, so as soon as I started to work I was talking about health care “…. And there are over 47 million Americans that can’t afford to pay for private insurance, that’s why we need a public insurance option and a health care reform. . . . . ”

After knocking and talking at some doors with different people I noticed that I was talking about the wrong issue, because for that particular community the most important issue was transportation and the beginning of the project about the extension of the Metrorail from Vienna to Dulles Airport. This project would bring million of dollars to the local economy and also employ hundreds of thousands of people for a period of ten to fifteen years. Realizing the issues that concern that community I started talking to people about Federal stimulus money. The federal government has already approved for money not only transportation projects but for unemployed workers here in Virginia and the projects in mention are delayed because of the inaction of politicians. The result was rewarding, most people now wanted to sign as members of Working America and actually build pressure on local politicians to take advantage of every federal aid or stimulus package that would benefit the city and state of Virginia.

Economic Struggles in Entertainment

Most of the time, money doesn’t enter into popular entertainment very much. Characters can somehow afford beautiful clothes and big Manhattan apartments no matter what jobs they have. But every now and then even Hollywood admits a lot of people are struggling. Countdown looks at how the recession is making its way into entertainment lately:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Working America’s own Naazima tells me about another moment of economic awareness on TV from a few weeks back, when the True Blood character Lafayette refused to go to a hospital to be treated for his injuries because even though he had three jobs, he didn’t have insurance.

Keep an eye out for more of those moments and let us know about them.

Interesting Things Around the Internet

  • I’m obviously way behind on my blogging, so while I want to get around to writing about these EPI studies in detail myself, for now I’ll link you to the AFL-CIO Now write-ups of a study showing President Obama’s economic recovery package has already created or saved 720,000 jobs and of two studies on health care costs, one focusing on costs to small businesses.
  • We’ve been hearing a lot about Sen. Max Baucus as a power broker in the health care reform process. The Missoula Independent has an in-depth profile of him.
  • The United Farm Workers have filed suit against California for not protecting farm workers from heat death.

The Media and Health Care Reform

There’s a player in the health care reform battle we need to give some attention to: The media. They may not be voting on it in the House or the Senate, but the TV news channels and the pundits tell us all day, every day, what’s important and what the most important facts out there are. But they want ratings, not reform.

Nate Silver recently wrote:

I also believe that the media can, in the short term, amplify and sometimes even create waves of momentum. But almost always only in the short term. And that is reason #1 why it’s not such a bad thing that the Democrats are getting a breather on health care. They’re at, what I believe, may be something of a ‘trough’ or ‘bottom’ as far as this media-induced momentum goes. By some point in August, the media will at least have tired of the present storyline and may in fact be looking for excuses to declare a shift in momentum and report that some relatively ordinary moment is in fact the “game changer” that the Democrats needed.

Now, Media Matters shows us how media-induced momentum works.

In their health care reform coverage, media have repeatedly given considerably more attention to perceived setbacks to progressive reform efforts than to events that signal progress for those efforts. A Media Matters for America analysis of transcripts available in the Nexis database has found that broadcast and cable news featured almost twice as many segments mentioning the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) reported opposition to a public insurance plan as segments mentioning the AMA’s recent announcement that it supported the House Democrats’ health care reform bill, which includes a public plan.

Got that? Group comes out against a public option, media covers it a lot. Same group supports a bill with a public plan, media covers it half as much. And that’s what you hear about if you pay attention to the news. You hear the bad stuff.

Lesson:

Be skeptical of what you hear on the news. Not because what you are hearing is wrong (though sometimes it is), but because of what you might not be hearing, or because of how often you’re hearing which pieces of information. Because of whose opinions you’re hearing.

Just be skeptical. Check things out.

Keep Green Jobs Here

Mike Elk at Campaign for America’s Future draws attention to something really important when we talk about green jobs: Making sure that those jobs stay in the U.S. Specifically, GE is sending all of their manufacturing of compact fluorescent lightbulbs to China.

Why would they do that?

Ohio could indeed be a hub of new light bulb production. Recently, a Chinese-owned manufacturer of high-efficiency light bulbs has opened a factory, citing Ohio as having some of the world’s most highly skilled light-bulb workers.

Ohio’s legacy of bulb production, and its factories that could easily be converted from incandescent production to CFL production, presents a grand opportunity to employ workers in building a green energy economy in Ohio.

The IMPACT Act introduced by Brown in the Senate would help small and medium-sized manufacturers transition to the clean energy economy. Brown’s bill creates a $30 billion Manufacturing Revolving Loan Fund to provide these manufacturers with much-needed access to credit to improve energy efficiency and retool for the clean energy industry.

The Apollo Alliance—a coalition of business, labor, and environmental groups—estimates that the IMPACT Act could create 680,000 direct manufacturing jobs nationally and 1,972,000 related jobs over the next five years.

So far, GE has shown every intention to take the American tax dollars being used to subsidize the green-energy economy and use them to build Chinese factories and pay Chinese workers.

So Ohio has the skilled workers and the factory facilities, and needs the jobs. But GE is going to China, with our tax dollars. Remember this whenever anyone gets started with rhetoric about how workers need to be retrained, learn new skills if they don’t want their jobs shipped overseas. Nope. Companies are pretty much going to ship jobs overseas even when their workers are already skilled. Bills like the IMPACT Act will help create incentives for some companies to stay. But we also need stronger regulations and trade policies, and we need to shine a light on companies like GE that talk big about the importance of manufacturing in the U.S. while moving their own production to China.

Read Mike’s whole piece for more.

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Economic Recovery All Around Us

A LOT has happened on the economic front since I last wrote, something I wouldn’t have known it if I only got my news from the increasingly frustrating mainstream media. The housing crisis continues to get worse, more and more folks are losing jobs, and corporate giants continue to make profits as if nothing had ever happened. What’s going on here? Didn’t we just have an election to change the course Bush and the corporate movement put us in?

Despite the bleak outlook, this is not a moment to despair. There are an incredibly large number of “green offshoots” that indicate that we can turn things around, but you have to know where to look for them. I’m not talking about the numbers and statistics President Obama and the Administration are using; I’m talking about real flesh & blood people working to turn things around.

In the piece “It’s The Economic Paradigm, Stupid!” blogger DaveJ makes some good points:

It is not just the economy out of whack. The business practices that brought us here — overextraction, overextension, overleveraging, overconsumption — have also whacked the planet’s resources…they are going to get things back “on track” by applying more of the same “solutions” that got us to where we are today.

I agree. This to me makes an interesting point clear – economic recovery means Main Street MAKING HARD CHANGES to how business operates. Anything short of this is just more of the same.
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Health Care Costs

Steven Pearlstein paints a pretty dreadful picture:

Among the range of options for health-care reform, there’s one that is sure to raise your taxes, increase your out-of-pocket medical expenses, swell the federal deficit, leave more Americans without insurance and guarantee that wages will remain stagnant.

So what’s that option? If you guessed “not changing anything,” you got it.

And that prediction is solid—after all, we’ve been watching exactly those things happen for years now. No reason to believe anything’s going to change on its own.

What are we paying now? David Leonhardt has some answers.

The United States now devotes one-sixth of its economy to medicine. Divvy that up, and health care will cost the typical household roughly $15,000 this year, including the often-invisible contributions by employers. That is almost twice as much as two decades ago (adjusting for inflation). It’s about $6,500 more than in other rich countries, on average.

We may not be aware of this stealth $6,500 health care tax, but if you take a moment to think, it makes sense. Over the last 20 years, health costs have soared, and incomes have grown painfully slowly. The two trends are directly connected: employers had to spend more money on benefits, leaving less for raises.

Can’t end it any better than by going back to Pearlstein:

So the next time you hear someone throwing a hissy fit because health reform might raise taxes on some people, or steer people into managed care, or require small businesses to contribute $2 a day for each employee’s coverage, just remember to ask yourself: And that’s compared with what?

Health Care Reform: Lives at Stake

A reminder from the Health Care for America Now blog:

We can’t make any excuses that will embolden the opponents of reform. There are real consequences for people each day that we put this off. Here is what happens every three weeks that we delay health care reform in America:

It’s so easy to say lives are at stake over something. This time, they really are.

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Health Care Round-Up

  • President Obama told the Today Show’s Meredith Vieira that health care reform shouldn’t be about politics:

    “This is not as important to me as it is to the people who don’t have health care. I’ve got health care,” Obama told Vieira. “This isn’t as important to me as the family that’s gone bankrupt because they got a bunch of medical bills that they thought the insurance companies had covered that turned out they weren’t covered. So, yes, absolutely, I am deeply invested in getting this thing done. But this isn’t Washington sport. This isn’t about who’s up and who’s down. This is about solving an enormous problem for the American people.”

  • Meanwhile, Jim DeMint, Bill Kristol, and others were trying to kill reform for political reasons.
  • The Washington Post debunks some numbers the health insurance industry has been throwing around.
  • Ezra Klein clarifies the important distinction between national health care expenses and public health care expenses. Technical, yes, but when you’re dealing with such a massive and important issue, knowing some of the technical stuff is important in assessing what you hear.

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Interesting Things Around the Internet

  • Have you heard the one about how the bailout could cost $23 trillion? Matthew Yglesias takes a look at that claim and finds it ridiculously inflated.
  • Jesse Taylor examines different conceptions of economic freedom.
  • If you’re interested in how your member of Congress voted on key working family issues, the AFL-CIO has a new voting record tool. Mike Hall explains some of its features.
  • Jill Richardson argues that you can’t fix rising health care costs without fixing food.
  • Susie Madrak draws attention to a William Greider piece on what we can expect from Phil Angelides as chair of the new Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission created by Congress. Apparently this is good news.