Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rep. Clyburn: Health Care Reform a Step to Universal Care

(Courtesy of CNN)
I just got off a conference call with Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) that was held with Black bloggers in an effort to reach out to African-American media. It centered around health care reform, particularly what Democrats did right as they communicated it to voters and what they did wrong. 

Frequently, Rep. Clyburn analogized health reform to the Civil Rights struggle in that (1) it's a major piece of legislation that seeks to level the playing field and ensure access to care for everyone; and (2) it's a bill that is really a process and will require years of implementation. This goes to his central thesis: health care should be universal, and this bill will lead us to that point over time.

To me, however, it's more basic than that.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Value of a College Degree

I just tweeted about a powerful story in the WSJ about the value of a college degree. You'll hear -- especially in tough economic times such as these -- all kinds of reasons why people don't need a degree, and how even with it there are little guarantees or financial reward ahead. In good times as well bad that's hogwash. The WSJ article isn't some 20 year longitudinal study on higher education. Those are great but not always needed.

This one is anecdotal and involved two high school classmates who embarked on very different career paths. (I'm fully aware anecdotal experiences are not a reliable statistical variable.) However, the reason I believe the story hits home is because so often when the value of a college degree is written about, it's not done so in apples to apples comparison. Instead, it'll just focus on a college-degreed person losing their job, unable to pay back loans or is just distressed about their whole experience. That's not even half the story, though. It's about a tenth.

So, again, good job WSJ. At least you gave us something to think about. And you did it with a fair enough comparison for readers to take away some valuable information.

Affordable Care Act: Year to Year

Commonwealth Fund has an excellent multi-year timeline of the Affordable Care Act implementation. Take a look below.

Commonwealth Fund Afford Care Act Timeline -  

Four reasons a GOP takeover isn't such a bad thing

(Author's note: Excerpt of my weekly column in

You’ve heard the news. The GOP is the new sheriff in town. Come January they’ll be running things in the U.S. House of Representatives and maybe even the U.S. Senate after kicking Democratic butt in the November midterm elections. But so what? Not that the GOP being in the majority isn’t a big deal, for sure, it is. But here are four reasons why it may not be as big a deal as you think.

1. Democrats have been in control of the House and Senate since January 2007, which covered the majority of Bush’s second term. Yet I don’t remember too many prime Democratic objectives getting very far. Was there a drawdown in Iraq or Afghanistan? Nope. Was there a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ on the table? Nope. Clean energy initiative? Negative. How about health care reform, was that going anywhere during Bush’s time in office? We know the answer to that...

Read full article here:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Michelle Rhee on What's Next

EdWeek caught up with Michelle Rhee, DC's school chief, to find out what the education agenda is now that Mayor Adrian Fenty has lost his reelection bid.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Black issues MIA in GOP's 'Pledge to America'

(Excerpt of my article in TheGrio)

The Republican party's 'Pledge to America', which was released yesterday, isn't adding up -- at least not for African-Americans.

It's not that the pledge has bad ideas on combating poverty, stemming foreclosures, reducing urban unemployment and strengthening education reform -- it's far worse than that. There are zero ideas, no mention of the issues whatsoever.

I guess the GOP took the old saying 'If you don't have anything to say, don't say anything at all' to heart. Yet if there was ever a time to talk about poverty, now would be it.

The U.S. Census released figures last week showing the percentage of families below the poverty line is the highest in a decade. And the percentage of uninsured Americans is the highest since 1987, the year they began keeping track. Sadly, it isn't surprising that black and Latino families in particular are bearing the heaviest burden.

Read full article here:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Health Care Reform: Holding states and insurers accountable

(An excerpt of my weekly article in

For years health insurance premiums have risen and states have done little to nothing to stop it. Insurance commissioners have signed off on these increases with little more than a cursory glance at the latest actuarial tables shoved under their noses by the dominant insurers in their regions. I get it. For one, commissioners don’t have enough resources to adequately ascertain whether health insurers’ estimates actually match up. Second, their power is mostly muted so they’re really just armed with a recycled rubber stamp. Seemingly, they have tortured President T. Roosevelt’s well known words and have sadly subscribed to their own: Walk softly and carry an even softer stick.

For instance, recent stories out of California have shown what can go wrong when commissioners are asleep at the switch. The California Department of Insurance has filed suit against Pacificare for violating state law 1 million times in a two year period. Violations ran the gamut from late processing of doctor’s reimbursements to rate changes to slow approval of new providers. This has led to higher, out-of-network charges for patients and missed treatments. The fines sought add up to nearly $9.9 billion. And worse yet, these offenses allegedly took place after United Health Care, one of the largest insurers in the country, purchased them. So it begs the question: As health insurers get bigger do they get worse?

Please read full article here:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Helping Insure Early Retirees: Health Reform In Action

Crossposted from The People's View.

We hear plenty of whining in the media and in the blogosphere about how the historic health care reform law passed earlier this year is a political loser because it did not front-load enough benefits. But we hear precious little from so-called experts and talking heads on television about the actual benefits of health reform that are going into effect as we speak. I believe that as advocates of health care reform, it is our job to get the truth out there about what is happening now, and how that is impacting the lives of real Americans right now.

One such early benefit of the health reform law is the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP). In the Affordable Care Act, Congress authorized $5 billion to help employers and unions keep early retirees (retirees 55 or older but not yet eligible for Medicare) covered with health insurance until additional regulations on insurance companies go into effect and the health insurance exchanges open in January of 2014. Over 2,000 plan sponsors have already been approved for this plan.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Poverty Affects Education

Spotlight Webcast: Education, Equity and Poverty from Spotlight on Vimeo.

In this Spotlight webcast, two of the nation’s foremost education leaders, Dr.Eric Cooper, founder and president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, and Dr. Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, examine the impact of race and poverty on education. 
Cooper and Domenech examine the effect of dropping out of high school on national, state and local economies. They also discuss the need for a comprehensive education reform effort that bridges the work of schools, parents and community organizations. Cooper and Domenech argue that such an approach must take into account the professional development needs of teachers and principals while engaging community leaders and parents in the education policy debate and other critical areas such as after-school and tutoring programs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monsoons and Money

With the arrival of the monsoons, Pakistan saw the beginning of rains that eventually became a flood unprecedented in history. The rains began in July and continued through August until rivers and dams overflowed affecting all four provinces. Approximately twenty million people have been affected. The death toll continues to rise but currently stands between 1,600 and 2,000. It is impossible to estimate, however, due to the large populations being displaced. A number of cities and provincial governments have declared a state of emergency with a fifth of the nation underwater, including the crops that are much of the nation’s livelihood.

The Pakistani military is giving up its pay to the relief efforts and dedicating itself wholly to the disaster victims. We can then assume, that counterinsurgency is not a priority right now. This is one the claims that allows America to downplay and justify insignificant attention to the matter. Critics claim that aid money in Pakistan will only go down a drain of terrorist activity as it has been a hotbed of militant activity in recent years.

In addition, aid money to Pakistan is perpetually lost in the never ending cycle of corruption via political representatives. These are all reasons that certified aid agencies get involved, and aid is not just handed over to any agency. All the more reason that the world should be watching, because then corruption and misuse will be apparent and can be appropriately handled, whereas if we just wait for the nation to pick itself back up we will be doing a great disservice not only to the world but to the world economy.

Policy Diary is Expanding

I am excited to announce an expansion here at Policy Diary that will no doubt enhance the value that we deliver to our readers. First, we have put together an incredible board of advisers that will be an immediate and knowledgeable source of information and industry analysis spanning health care, higher education, legal education and social media.

Second, we have added more contributors. Some of these contributors you will see every few days, for instance, Spandan, who is cross-posting from his blog, The People's View. Others, such as Antione Green, Khyla Craine, or Zarmeena Waseeem, you may see a few times a month. Lastly, we will be adding more contributors that are able to lucidly communicate an original viewpoint on a host of public policy topics. As always, please stay tuned.

Please read their bios here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Defeat of Mutality

By Hunter D. Hanger

(Editor's Note: This was previously published on the author's Facebook Page)

One of the great failures of modern America is its obsession with adversarial sports. While it would be foolish to attempt to critique the adversarial system in its entirety, it does a poor job of simulating the real world, or at least encouraging an atmosphere of mutuality. Elementary schoolers learn the rules to the game, learn how to pick the best players to succeed, and keep score. One team wins, the other loses. If the game doesn't involve winning and losing, either interest is lost, or some clever little devil comes up with a way to create a winner and a loser (think homecoming; one winner crowned, 400 girls either green with envy or crying in the bathroom). (Clearly, this mentality is propagated throughout the remainder of life through ESPN and Reality TV).

Now, we wonder why a "free market" is considered unfair and left to the bullies of banking and business. Since not everyone can win, and very few do so consistently, the experience of losing leaves a bitter tinge of resentment toward those who always seem to rise to the top. Adversarial events teach us that they do so at our expense. What a way to kill capitalism.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Paying People Not to Work"

Crossposted from The People's View.

That's how the Tea Party Republican astroturfers describe unemployment benefits.  So today, I want to find out just who wants to pay people not to work.  I intend to prove that it's the conservatives and right wingers that want to pay people not to work, but as you might guess, it's not the unemployed they want to help.

They document their contempt for the American worker in pieces like this one by FreedomWorks, the astroturf group founded by former Republican House leader Dick Armey:
Following Nancy Pelosi’s logic, she should be thrilled to hear that the number of first-time filers for unemployment insurance rose to 500,000 last week—the highest in nine months. However, paying more people not to work will not stimulate the economy or create any jobs.
They are talking about this clip from Speaker Pelosi's news conference on July 1, where she defends American workers and this social contract by pointing out that unemployment benefits are one of the most stimulative actions that can be undertaken in a shaky economy.

Anyone have a Bible to Burn?

You're probably looking at that title and asking : "Who would ever do something like that?" Your questions should be the same as people get ready to burn Qur'ans in Florida.

Pastor Terry Jones of Florida has decided that he and his parishioners are to burn the Holy Book of the Islamic Faith, the Qur'an, on Saturday. Of course, Saturday is not just another weekend day, but the 9th anniversary of the attacks on our nation. This "man of God," a person who is supposed to be called by God to spread His word to His people, are directing those under his watch to desecrate another's holy book.

My question is: where are all of the pastors and other clergymen and women across the country to stand against this man? I realize that it says that there is one God, but are we all so ignorant as to not realize that Islam has the same origins as Christianity? In my estimation, though not being a theologian, Muslims pray essentially to the same God as Jews and Christians, but their route to Him is different. Muslims believe in Jesus, not as the Messiah as Christians, but as another prophet, similar to Jews…surprisingly.

That aside, when did it become ok to openly and proudly say that you're going to destroy the holy book of a faith? More importantly, what does that do? How does that help our fight against those who actually want to do this Nation and those nations that believe as we do, harm? Also, what about those troops about which you supposedly care, that are fighting in a Muslim country. If you hadn't realized, we don't live in a bubble, and just because too many of us don't speak another language, this author included, doesn't mean the rest of the world is the same. Quite opposite, because of America's previous domination around the world, many countries implore on their youth to learn English. Hence, many in the Muslim world are acutely aware of what is to take place in Florida on Saturday.

General David Petraeus, the commander of the troops in Afghanistan has called for Pastor Jones not to do the Qur'an burning as it brings heightened potential harm to the troops. However, it doesn't seem to phase Jones.

This is just the continuation of a rash of problematic reactions to people of the Islamic faith. Despite the fact that the faith itself is a peaceful one and that American Muslims DIED during the attacks on our Nation. No matter that radical people of the Christian and Jewish faiths have done horrendous things to other people around the world, we still find it acceptable to persecute those Muslims in America who choose to live, work and give of their lives for this nation.

Some brave persons need to stand up and stand with our Muslim neighbors and declare that this is "un-American." It is almost parallel to what those radical Islamic persons are doing in the name of Islam. Without a strong voice in opposition, America runs the risk of being labeled not simply anti-Islam, but also one that would destroy its holy teachings. Would those who died on September 11, 2001 approve of the bigoted and uneducated practices against Muslim persons in their name? I don't think they would…at least I'd hope not.

Khyla D. Craine is a nurse, social activist and second year law student at Howard University.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Easy Money: health insurers charge more for less

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

Do you like paying more for less? When it comes to health insurance get used to it. According to the 2010 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust, “Workers paid nearly $3,997 this year toward the cost of family healthcare coverage -- up $482 from the average employee share in 2009 and a jump of 47 percent from the average employee share for family coverage in 2005.”

With those kind of increases you would naturally assume that workers are getting more for their money -- but they aren’t -- “30 percent of companies surveyed said they reduced the scope of benefits at the same time that they increased the amount their employees must pay for health insurance in the past year, according to a Medpage Today article on the report...

Read the full article here:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Park51 AKA the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

There is a new collective controversy in America. This topic raises an opinion from almost every citizen, if not affects every citizen. The construction of new mosques has caught the public eye all over the United States. One in particular has struck a national nerve, the proposed construction of an Islamic Center famously referred to as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ in the lower east side of Manhattan. During the first event of the semester hosted by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Virginia Commonwealth University on Monday Aug 30, many students discussed the issue with varying points of view.

The national interest that has sparked on this particular topic has, “highlighted Islamophobia, the real issue that was not being explicitly addressed. The bigger problem has been exposed and that problem is acceptance” said junior Ashraf Eltahir who is a Radiology major. The establishment of this Islamic Center has been met with wide varieties of resistance and criticism from the local and national public.

Another point of argument is whether or not this construction should be carried out in its original form. Sophomore Jesse Hudson who is a Chemistry major expressed his views on the idea that maybe the plans for the community center should be modified, “It shouldn’t be modified because of others’ bigotry, and we shouldn’t compromise the integrity of the original plans just to quell fear. I hope this center is a beacon and dispels fears to show people that it truly is a community center and brings people together.”

A centerpiece of debate has been the proximity of the mosque to Ground Zero of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Site on September 11, 2001. Matthew Moore, a senior Marketing major reacted to this particular point, “It is not on ground zero, and it’s a community center not a mosque. This would otherwise be another empty building; it is going to be good from the community and the economy.” Many of the structures surrounding the building under scrutiny have remained empty and profitless since 2001.

Further disagreements on the creation of such a community center include the foundation of the United States and religious rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Senior and Biology major, Limah Taeb commented, “People came to this country for religious freedom and that is what America was founded on. It’s ironic to me that it has become a problem in our country.” Religious freedom is a topic that comes to the national spotlight time and again.

Another sore point stands about funding and where the money for the center is coming from and what exactly it will be going to support. Mahmood Rasheed spoke to that end, “Muslims focus so much on  buildings and not enough on the people inside them. Imagine, if we took all the money that this project will take and put it in to the community and existing community projects, which is the work we should be doing.”

The President of the Muslim Student Association, Charlie Turner, expressed his fears and hopes for the Park51 Islamic Center. “It needs to be built and offers a lot as a community center, it is more than just a mosque. Hopefully, it will come through and be constructed without incident, but it has received so much criticism that that may not be possible.” History will decide what this community center says about society. Regardless of criticism and cynicism, fundraising has begun and only the end result will show us how far our nation has come and how much progress we have truly made.

Zarmeena Waseem is a thrid year Undergraduate student attending Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond Virginia. Her concentration is Broadcast Journalism with a minor in the Spanish language. She is passionate about national politics as well as international affairs and an avid writer on these issues. She has written for the Commonwealth Times (VCU’s campus paper) as well as anchored in the past for a local TV production on Pakistani-American community called Community Talk. As a Muslim American, she values the importance of “liberty and justice for all’, regardless of religious, cultural, gender, or ethnic differences. One of her goals in life is to travel extensively around the world in search of spreading and gaining knowledge and understanding.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

This Just In: Labor-Hating White House Saves Union Jobs!

Crossposted from The People's View.

This also just in: Rahm Emanuel has got a foul mouth.  Stop the presses!  Ed Schultz had it on his show on MSNBC today as one of his "hot buttons" - ZOMG, Rahm said "fuck the UAW!"  The story broke on Huffington Post, which reported that the former Obama administration Car Czar is writing a... book.  And in that book, he says that Rahm says bad words.

Poutrage!  Obama White House insults workers, check that, they hate labor unions!!  Of course, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek set Ed straight on this nonsense.  Here, watch the exchange:

Charter vs. Public Schools - Fear and Loathing in Education

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

A charter school opens, does well, wins praise, and becomes a model of reform for many others. Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s practically the charter school movement’s slogan. And it’s a somewhat similar happenstance when a public school or district is successful as well.

But that’s where the similarities end. Because when both the charter school and the public school are underperforming, they are each treated quite differently. The charter school typically gets the ‘one bad apple shouldn’t ruin the whole bunch’ treatment while the public school is deemed emblematic of a dysfunctional national public school system. Why is this the case? Largely, it is a matter of perception and not reality...

Read the full article here:


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