Commentary
Cover me

Image: NC AIDS Action Network – www.ncaan.org

A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts makes clearer than ever just how mean-spirited and morally bankrupt the decision of state lawmakers and Governor McCrory to turn down federally-funded Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of  low-income North Carolinians is turning out to be. The report, “Southern States Are Now Epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.” tells the story of a woman from New York named Deadra Malloy who had successfully managed her HIV infection for decades while living in New York where public subsidies made medication affordable. When she moved to North Carolina and then South Carolina, however, all that changed. Soon she was skimping on necessary drugs and quickly wound up in the hospital with pneumonia.

As the story notes, the woman’s case is sadly typical:  Read More

Commentary

fuzzy-math-300x225In case you missed it, one of this morning’s “must reads” is a story posted late yesterday by WRAL reporter Mark Binker about the ongoing controversy over North Carolina’s muddled and troubled new teacher pay plan.  As Binker reports:

When Gov. Pat McCrory wrote to welcome teachers back to the classroom, he touted a “substantial” pay raise that amounted to “an average pay increase of 5.5 percent for teachers.”

That might have been exciting news, except that legislative leaders have been touting a 7 percent average pay raise for more than a month now. House Speaker Thom Tillis trumpets that 7 percent figures as “simple math” in a recent campaign ad for his U.S. Senate campaign.

For educators like Michelle Pettey, a first-grade teacher at Wake County’s Brier Creek Elementary School, that “simple math” doesn’t add up; 5.5 percent doesn’t equal 7 percent and neither number matches the smaller-than-expected pay bump that showed up in her first paycheck of the year.

“No teacher can figure out what happened,” said Pettey, a teacher with 16 years in the classroom who said her actual raise worked out to be something like 1.39 percent over last year’s salary. The single mom whose own kinds are in the school system says she has friends outside the profession who ask her why teachers are complaining about a 7 percent raise.

According to Binker’s story, the confusing new plan has even left one of the state’s most powerful politicians — Senate Rules Committee chairman Tom Apodaca — confused.

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Commentary

Tax the rich 2The good people at Too Much, the online newsletter of Inequality.org have another sobering but powerful article this week. The rather amazing and disturbing finding: the wealth of the average American family is up over the last 25 years, but the wealth of the median family has actually dropped. If this finding leaves you scratching your head, it boils down to the fact that the rich have become so rich that they’re dragging up the overall average even though typical families are faring worse. This is from the article:

The growing wealth of these affluent, the new Fed data show, is driving up America’s average family net worth. But straight averages can mislead — and even deceive. If nine people each have zero net worth and a tenth person holds a fortune worth $10 million, the average person in that 10-person group will be a millionaire.Medians, by contrast, tell us more about how everyday people are truly faring. At the median point, half the people in any distribution have more, half less. In 1989, the new Fed Survey of Consumer Finances details, the median — most typical — U.S. family held $84,800 in net worth, after adjusting for inflation.

In 2013, America’s most typical families held only $81,200, 4 percent less.

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Commentary

Thom_Tillis_official_portraitWhen I last posted about the Senate debate between Speaker Thom Tillis and Sen. Kay Hagan I had listened to the exchange on radio but I had not yet watched the video. Watching television coverage of the debate one could hardly miss that Tillis was, once again, wearing a blue lapel pin from the science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

The pin highlights an important question that the media and voters should be asking Tillis: Where does he stand on minimum coverage requirements for insurance?

The primary argument Tillis pushes against the Affordable Care Act and Sen. Hagan is that the health law set a new floor for health insurance benefits. That’s why some plans were initially cancelled. It’s why some plans cost more than before the enactment of reform. But for the Autism community setting minimum standards for insurance was one of the most important parts of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, Autism Speaks and the Autism Society are still doing critical work to ensure that insurance companies are adhering to these new mandates.

Moreover, Tillis personally advocated for a bill expanding on the minimum requirements set by the ACA by mandating insurance coverage for the diagnoses and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Assuming that Tillis was sincere in his support of new insurance requirements it’s difficult to see how he could object to the health reform law establishing similar mandates. And if he supports minimum requirements in general but opposes specific coverage mandates in the ACA then he should specify which services he would make optional for insurance companies. Would he say that insurers can go back to not covering pregnancy? What about prescription drugs?

The answers to these questions cut to the core of the Speaker’s opposition to health reform and voters need to know where he stands.

Commentary

Health-Reform-SBIn case you missed it, be sure to check out Sahil Kapur’s article today on Talking Points Memo about the fast-fading attacks on Obamacare and why a political “nightmare” may be coming to pass for the American right. One of Kapur’s key sources: none other than long-time conservative icon William Kristol, who two decades ago led the charge to defeat Bill Clinton’s proposed healthcare overhaul. Back then, Kristol’s chief fear was of what would happen was, effectively, the same thing that is happening now: the establishment of a new law that would fast become an integral part of the middle class safety net and, as such, quickly become politically unassailable.

As the TPM story notes: the massive healthcare industry is adapting, premiums are stabilizing and even Mitch McConnell wants the hundreds of thousands of newly-insured Kentuckians to keep their Obamacare.  In short, Kristol’s fear that “reform would paint Democrats as ‘the generous protector of middle-class interests’ and strike a ‘punishing blow’ to the GOP’s anti-government ideology” appears, by an increasing number of indications, to be coming true.