Monday, August 30, 2010

Debunking The "Individual Mandate is Unprecedented" Myth

Crossposted from The People's View.

For too many both on the right and the left opposed to the new health reform law, the favorite attack point is the individual mandate.  "The government has never before mandated that you buy a product from a private company!" goes out the outrage among the left ideologues in particular, as they note the lack of a public option.

First of all, it's important that we understand what this "mandate" really is.  It is this: starting in 2014, you will be required to obtain health insurance that meets excellent minimum coverage standards if you can find it for 8% of your income or less (or pay a small fine), and people with incomes under 400% of the poverty level, subsidies will be provided on a sliding scale.

Here's the deal about that meme of how the government has never mandated that individuals buy a product from a private company.  It's completely, utterly, and provably false.  The government does, on a regular basis, mandate the purchase of private products from private companies by the American people.  Let's look at a few things that proves this case.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Credit Card Reforms and How They Might Already be Paying off for Consumers

Crossposted from The People's View.

President Obama signed into law major credit card reform in May of 2009.  Big banks, in their usual fashion, have complained that the reforms are too restrictive and that it would hurt consumers.  They never mentioned just how much credit card debt hurts consumers.  Most of the reforms went in effect in February 2010, with the rest taking effect on August 22, and with creditors making changes throughout the last year.

Let's discuss the reforms that will help you, the consumer, first.  Then we will briefly go over the state of the falling credit card balances since reform has been proposed and enacted.

The right to know and the right to leave: The first thing to go into effect was last August, since when creditors have been required to give 45-day notice to consumers on changes in credit card terms, including interest rates.  Since then, credit card companies have also been required to give consumers at least 21 days (as opposed to 14) to pay their monthly credit card bills.  Not only that, if you don't like your new terms or interest rates, you have the right to opt-out, cancel your card, and pay off the balance under the older terms and previous lower interest rates.

How Kendrick Meek became the new Artur Davis

(Author's Note: Excerpt of my column in

It wasn't so long ago when many people were considering U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-FL) to be, well, (insert here trite political phrase of the moment): the next Obama. A Harvard-trained attorney, with strong national Democratic support, a close personal relationship with President Obama, extensive name recognition throughout the state, and centrist enough to actually have a shot at being Alabama's first black governor -- Davis had a bright future. And he still does, just not in the Democratic Party.

After losing in the gubernatorial democratic primary, in what could be considered a landslide, Davis went on an ill-conceived rant in a published op-ed against former adversary and primary winner, Ron Sparks. Not only did Davis commit the cardinal sin of lashing out at Sparks and withholding an endorsement of his candidacy for governor (essentially violating Election Etiquette 101) -- even worse, he lavished praise on Sparks' opponent: "Robert Bentley is one of the most decent, honorable people I know in politics. I have nothing but admiration for him. I believe he will be a very strong candidate."

In the end, Davis' behavior is nearly as bad as the campaign he ran. But I'll get to that a little later.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Colleges try to sneak out of health coverage for students

(This is an excerpt of my weekly column in

For many folks it's hard not be cynical about the state of health care and, in particular, health insurance in this country. While the government rightfully attempts to protect and empower consumers, health insurance companies and colleges are trying to squeeze maximum revenue out of students by offering limited benefit plans at relatively high rates.

This is not meant to demonize health insurance companies or universities. Clearly, some folks could benefit from a limited benefit plan based on their age, health status, risk profile, family history, and ability to pay. However recent pleas by colleges to waive out of some caps and new rules under the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act (ACA) should fall on deaf ears.

Some colleges along with the American Council on Education (who collectively account for 4.5 million students) assert in a letter, dated Aug. 12 and sent to Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius, that they will not be able to offer health plans that meet the "essential minimum coverage" required of all individuals in the individual mandate (set to go into effect in 2014). The mandate imposes an annual penalty on individuals who do not have qualifying plans meeting this coverage standard (See ACA §1501).

What these colleges fail to mention in the letter...

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Atlanta Regional Commission Tackles Health Reform

Studio Segment, Dr. Karen Minyard and Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford from Atlanta Regional Commission on Vimeo.

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21st Century Public Education Challenges and Solutions

ECS' 2010 National Conference on Education Policy's theme was "America Competes". If our nation's global competitiveness greatly depends on our ability to prepare our youth for post-secondary education and the workforce, what lead role will our states take to achieve this goal? The consensus among the individual states was to take immediate action as several policy alternatives were presented for state consideration.

Among the policy themes shared were college and career readiness and attainment, teacher preparation and effectiveness, 21st-century school finance and COMMON CORE STANDARDS.

Currently, only 38 states participate in state-led common core standards initiative. According to the forum's speakers, the state standards' purpose is to promote universal goals for our nation's school children as they seek to be globally-competitive on the college and career fronts. A common opposing argument is the movement will lead to more federal intrusion and oversight.

I will discuss the federal government's emerging role in K-12 Education in Part 2: 21st Century Public Education Challenges and Solutions. Until then, please continue to support 21st-Century Public Education!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Massive Federal Revenues Saved by Response to Economic Crisis

Crossposted from The People's View.

For all the Republican huffing and puffing about having to pay for unemployment benefits extension and state aid by the federal government in these hard economic times, as well as the right's ridiculous and debunk Laissez Faire economic ideas of doing nothing and "let the market handle it," there's one thing no one is telling you. Federal action on the economy saved at least enough revenue to pay for a good chunk of federal aid provided to the states.

In a recently published study of the impacts of federal intervention to rescue the economy from a second great depression, economists Mark Zandy and Alan Blinder estimated that those actions saved over 8 million jobs. But it's not just the saving of over 8 million jobs, but also how it happened overtime.  Have a look at this chart to see the aggregate of jobs saved with each quarter:

Jobs saved due to federal response

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Antione Green blogging from the National Forum on Education Policy

Policy Diary featured contributor Antione Greene will be blogging from the Education Commission of the States National Forum on Educational Policy, starting Wednesday, August 18 until Friday, August 20. Antione was most recently C.E.O. of Patrick Henry School of Arts and Science, and was appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) to the Education Commission on July 30.

Policy Diary readers should look forward to in-depth analysis on the most pressing issues in education that states are grappling with. Also, a heartfelt congratulations to Antione on his gubernatorial appointment. It was well earned!

Another congratulations is in order for Molly Huffstetler, who was appointed to be Senior Advisor for the Virginia Health Reform Initiative and Confidential Assistant to the Virginia Department of Health. I worked with Molly while I was a Governor's Fellow this summer in the Office of the Secretary of Health of Virginia. She's a great person and extremely capable. 

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don't mistake Obama's high approval among blacks for a free ride

(Author's Note: This is an excerpt of my weekly column in

We already know that the U.S. economy is continuing to struggle and forcing families and communities and states to make tough decisions. What is also known is that it’ll take years for the unemployment rate to dip below 9 percent much less get back to the low rates enjoyed during the Bush administration (clearly I’m referring to those previous to the 2008 recession). But what intrigues me is when we look deeper at the unemployment rate in the black community -- above 15 percent, much higher than the 9.5 percent for the general population -- and how that is affecting the standard of living and, more important, attitudes about their future and President Obama’s leadership.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Obama on Education: “The economic issue of our time”

(Author's Note: This is an excerpt of my weekly column in

Obama recently touched down at the University of Texas to talk about the strong correlation between higher education and the economy. He proclaimed ““Education is an economic issue. Education is the economic issue of our time,” as he proceeded to lay out a four part plan that his administration has already begun to implement, three of which I will cover here.

(1) Making college more affordable

Tripling the value of education tax credits; increasing the value of Pell Grants and indexing them to the inflation rate; and better loan repayment terms that will allow more flexibility.

I am a fan of tax credits because they allow middle class families to catch a break as they invest in their children’s education. They should not be penalized for making this investment; conversely, they should be rewarded by receiving assistance. Better repayment terms also are a good thing. They will allow students themselves to understand that education is a long term investment and will require self-sacrifice -- now and in the future -- but won’t require them to take a vow of poverty to go with it. Indexing Pell Grants to the rate of inflation sounds like a good idea as well.

However there have been many arguments made in the past (some of which even persuasively) that link higher education costs to -- ironically -- higher federal loan and grant limits...

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Health Reform Nurses Medicare Back to Health

Crossposted from The People's View.

On August 5, the Social Security and Medicare Trustee Report was issued for 2010.  In this post, I plan on talking about the report's implications for Medicare, and the saving grace of the health reform law passed this year (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) on it.  It's important both to understand how Medicare plans to keep its promise to seniors, and also to understand the positive effects of health reform, since the 24 hour news cycle is bereft of depth on policy.

The first good news in the Trustees' report summary was that the life of fully funded Medicare, without cutting guaranteed benefits, has been extended by 12 years - which is to say that the life of Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund (Part A) has been extended by 12 years.  Quoting the rpeort:
In contrast with the 2017 fund exhaustion date reported last year, the ACA is expected to result in much smaller HI deficits for the next several years, followed by small annual surpluses through the remainder of the short-range period, which postpones trust fund exhaustion to 2029.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dear Chris Dodd, Elizabeth Warren IS Worth The Fight

Crossposted from The People's View.

Elizabeth Warren, the Chair of the Congressional oversight panel for the TARP funds is without a doubt the best consumer advocate to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Chariman Barney Frank of the House Financial Services Committee has been an unabashed supporter of Elizabeth Warren to head the CFPB. But the other half of the namesake of the financial reform bill, Senate Banking Chairman and retiring Senator Chris Dodd, does not seem to be so hot on the idea.

First, Dodd went on a radio show right after financial reform passed and announced that Warren might be "unconfirmable." But Noam Schieber at The New Republic debunked Dodd's theory and reported that Warren would likely be confirmed should she be nominated, and the White House held firmly to its view that Warren is confirmable. With his "she can't be confirmed" theory debunk by journalists and repudiated by the White House, Dodd has come up with a new tack: she might be confirmable, but the fight would be too hard. On Bloomberg with Judy Woodruff, Dodd said:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Summer School? Left Behind and Falling Further Back

(Courtesy of

(Author's Note: An excerpt of my weekly column in

It’s no secret that school districts are struggling in this economic climate. In an effort to tighten their belts districts are cutting back on teacher training and technology purchases, laying off staff, and some are even eliminating summer school. All of these decisions are made with the faulty understanding that while in the interim they are necessary, in the long term they’ll have little to no impact. Unfortunately, this is surely not the case.

While support staff may be rehired and technology purchases deferred to a later date, the time in which children (who are either already behind or soon will be) can gain parity with their peers is short and getting shorter.

In regards to summer school closures Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said: “At a time when we need to work harder to close achievement gaps and prepare every child for college and career, cutting summer school is the wrong way to go. These kids need more time, not less.”

Yet schools in New York, California, Missouri, and Indiana have already ended summer school programs or soon will. The Associated Press reports:

“An American Association of School Administrators survey found that 34 percent of respondents are considering eliminating summer school for the 2010-11 school year. That's a rate that has roughly doubled each year, from 8 percent in 2008-09 to 14 percent in 2009-10.”

So what’s the big deal?

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