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The Consortium Report
The Consortium Report
A project of The Media Consortium
 

Arranging Mr. Geithner’s priorities


by ZachCarter, The Media Consortium: Tue., Nov 25, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderEconomyUncategorized

President-elect Barack Obama announced his economic transition team yesterday–and we’ll get to that–but first let’s take a look at the top economic stories from the week that you might not have heard–but need to know.

With so many recent headlines detailing the government’s policy position on some of the nation’s largest corporations, it’s important to remember that economic policy ought to include people living at the other end of the economic spectrum.

Obama was charged with being a “redistributionist” by conservatives within and without the McCain campaign during the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election. Funny what happened. It turns out people actually find that drastic inequality thing offensive, particularly when they are losing their homes while the nation’s largest banks are getting billions in speedy federal assistance.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson still refuses to allocate one dime of his financial bailout funds to help struggling homeowners, while giving lip service to the idea that the housing market “correction” is at the heart of our current economic woes. Even the modest anti-foreclosure bill Congress passed in July is slow-going. In addition to about $1.7 billion to help underwater homeowners refinance into affordable mortgages, the bill directed an additional $4 billion local governments to help communities rehabilitate foreclosed homes. That sum will barely make a dent in the deepening foreclosure crisis, as Garland McLaurin of American News Project and Mary Kane of the Washington Independent detail in this video, but many cities and counties are yet to see their share of the $4 billion kitty. By contrast, hundreds of billions of dollars have been injected into banks in recent weeks.

At this point in the economic cycle, mortgages are not the only loans causing major problems. Credit card delinquencies are at their highest rate in six years, and many banking industry experts expect them to go higher as laid-off consumers move basic expenses from checkbooks to plastic. What’s worse, credit card companies currently have legal leeway to alter contracts in almost any way they wish, even if borrowers are current on their payments, as Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., details in a blog for The Huffington Post. The Federal Reserve took a step in the right direction earlier this year by addressing some of the most egregious policies in the subprime credit card market, but it is time for Congress to rein in the rest of the predatory consumer lending industry.

Of course, wide swaths of the U.S. population do not worry about debt, but food. Writing for The Progressive, Brian Gilmore makes an impassioned case for swift public action to end poverty, noting that one in eight Americans did not have access to sufficient food in 2007.

When people are going hungry, the Bush administration appears to believe that eight years is an appropriate amount of time to wait for substantive public policy. But when the world’s largest financial institution is up against the wall, it gets what it wants, when it wants it. The Bush team granted Citigroup another $20 billion in bailout funds over the weekend, just days after ponying up $25 billion for company. The best part? The company’s management is still in place, and the government exacted no guarantees concerning how taxpayer money will be used.

Over at the American Prospect, Ezra Klein highlights former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s role in bringing the Wall Street titan to the verge of collapse. During the Clinton administration, Rubin resisted placing government oversight on the credit derivatives market, which after a decade of unregulated growth is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy. But Citi is one of the biggest losers in the credit market fallout, thanks in part to Rubin’s own advice as a member of the company’s board of directors.

Speaking of Rubin, Obama just named one of his protégés at the Clinton Treasury to succeed Paulson at the Department’s the top spot. Timothy Geithner, who has managed some of the most harrowing moments of the meltdown, including the Bear Stearns rescue in March, will move from the Fed’s New York office to the Treasury Department in January. Unlike Rubin, however, Geithner has spent the last few years sounding the alarm on the very risks to the financial system that have taken such a heavy toll of late, as Andrew Leonard notes at Salon.com.

The Citi debacle reveals that Paulson’s gambit to restore investor confidence in the U.S. financial sector has generated mixed results, at best. Citi shares closed at $3.77 on Friday, down from $18.35 on Oct. 3, the day Congress passed the bailout bill. The sad fact is that without some magical, and probably irrational, restoration of that elusive confidence, the $700 billion allocated by the financial rescue package will not be nearly enough to shore up the American banking sector, much less the auto manufacturing companies and retail stores that have been showing signs of extreme strain of late. William Greider details the state of affairs for The Nation, arguing that it is time to shut down the financial giants that are no longer viable and establish a new order based on smaller companies.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit Economy.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on the economy. And for the best progressive reporting on critical immigration and healthcare issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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Healthcare: Out with the Old, In with the New


by LindsayBeyerstein, The Media Consortium: Wed., Nov 19, 2008
Filed under: Health Care NewsletterNewsLadder

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Because if it bleeds, it leads… Sarah van Schagen rates the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products for Grist.

In all seriousness, this has been a very exciting week in healthcare news. The Bush administration is racing to take away as many reproductive rights as it can before leaving office. The Democrats in Congress are taking the lead on healthcare reform by writing up their own proposal before president Obama takes the Oath of Office.

Last week, Sen. Max Baucus unveiled a detailed proposal to provide health insurance for all Americans. Brian Cook has a roundup of reactions.

Note that the Baucus plan is by no means a call for radical change.  The blueprint proposes to fix the healthcare system with the same piecemeal strategies that  get trotted out every time Americans talk about healthcare reform. The stated goal is to enable more people to buy “affordable” private health insurance while expanding Medicare and Medicaid for the poor and the elderly.

Why such timidity? As Josh Marshall argues at TPM, Obama’s election is a mandate for fundamental structural change in the healthcare system.

The fact is, majority of Americans support single-payer health insurance, even if they’d have to pay higher taxes. Daina Saib reports in YES! that even Republicans are getting on board. Saib introduces us to an unlikely champion of single-payer, Dr. Rocky White, conservative Christian and former Republican who started advocating for single payer when the system made his own practice unmanageable.

As we talk about the dire state of the Big Three automakers, remember that the Canadian auto industry stays competitive because the government takes care of health care, unlike in the ‘States where automakers and unions are struggling to pay for it.

Ezra Klein gives us a crash course two strategic approaches to healthcare reform. He explains that there are two basic schools of thought: delivery system reform and financing reform. Delivery reformers hope to make the system work better by bringing down costs and delivering better value for money. Financing reformers focus on how we’re going to pay for it all. The Baucus blueprint is financing reform. Repealing Medicare Plan D would be delivery reform.

These two approaches are complementary. Ezra writes: “[T]he two agendas fit neatly in a comprehensive reform package. Coverage expansion isn’t sustainable unless cost growth is slowed. Cost growth can’t be slowed without delivery system reform.”  He notes that The Center for American Progress has a new, free, book on healthcare reform, available for download, here.

The Bush administration is weighing an eleventh hour rules change that could prevent women on Medicaid from receiving birth control, deny rape victims emergency contraception, and push the country one step closer to theocracy with a single stroke of the pen.

The proposed rule would prevent any entity that receives federal funds (e.g., hospitals, universities, etc.) from requiring employees to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services” or “participate in abortions or sterilizations” if these activities offend their religious or moral convictions.

President-elect Obama has already spoken out against the proposed rules change.

Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones notes that civil rights law already protects employees from discrimination on the basis of religion. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces the federal employment discrimination law, is strenuously objecting to the new rules because they would create an absolute right to religious accommodation, as opposed to the balance between employer and employee that exists under current law.

With Sarah Palin back in Wasilla, we thought we’d heard the last about victims paying for their own rape kits. Not so fast. While the Violence Against Women Act forbids victim-pay rape kits for civilians, women in the armed services may not enjoy the same protections.

Penny Coleman, writing in AlterNet, explains: “TRICARE, the United States Department of Defense Military Health System that covers active duty members, will only pay for rape kits if the victim is seen in a military or a VA facility.” However, service women are being seen in a non-VA facility in the USA, they shouldn’t be paying for their rape kits, thanks to VAWA.  This shouldn’t be happening.

Another sobering statistic: The US military loses the equivalent of a brigade of veterans to suicide each year–yet more evidence that mental health parity should be a priority in health care reform.

Finally, Stephanie Losee interviews Valerie Frankel, the author of Thin is the New Happy, a memoir about coming to terms with weight and body image in an appearance-obsessed society.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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