colorlines.com — One-year on from its beginning, progressives owe Occupy Wall Street a debt of gratitude. The movement’s clarion call “We are the 99 percent” has shifted the discourse on economic justice in the United States and around the world. Altered language is the first and essential step to political and policy change. When this fundamental change might happen, no one knows. But almost everyone, except perhaps those in the 1 percent, understand that it’s coming. This is in no small part to OWS’ ability, with a succinctly brilliant phrase, to highlight how and why things were so critically off course.
motherjones.com — It was one year ago today that the pioneers of Occupy Wall Street first unrolled their sleeping bags in Zuccotti Park. Though the movement is long gone from the headlines, it can be credited for calling BS on our money-driven political system and launching a national conversation about class and economic inequality—one that still looms large in the presidential campaign. I showed up at the Zuccotti Park encampment in its second week for what I thought would be just a day, but I ended up reporting on the movement from New York City all through the fall and beyond. What most fascinated me were the occupiers themselves, people alternately principled and unrealistic, brave and foolhardy, idealistic and naive. For the anniversary, I decided to track down five of the folks I met in Zuccotti—from a key movement organizer to a heroin addict—to see where they're at now. These are their stories.
Few individuals or organizations have been as influential as Mitt Romney and Bain Capital in worsening our runaway healthcare costs, causing unnecessary suffering, or accelerating our government's long-term deficit problem. Their highly leveraged investment strategy puts healthcare companies under enormous pressure to increase revenue. They often respond by overbilling -- or worse, by encouraging unnecessary medical treatments that can include anything from non-invasive tests to heart surgery.
I spent many years working in healthcare economics: running health service companies, projecting health plan costs for governments and employers, and analyzing healthcare investments. I've reviewed hospital bills in detail and seen shocking things: Thousands of dollars for bandages and gauze during a surgery; a 12,000-percent markup on ointments; a $250 charge for the lightbulb in a projector the hospital claimed was used during surgery.
I've seen hucksters put red filters over an ordinary flashlight, call it an "infrared" healing device, and charge insurance companies or hapless patients for their use. And I've seen hundreds of cases of human tragedy brought on by unnecessary surgeries performed solely for money. I can't say I was always on the side of the angels, but I can say this: Before Bain, I had never seen behavior that was as consistently bad as we're seeing today.
This week a lot of Democrats and "liberals" are attacking Chicago teachers for what they tell us are their extravagant and "unreasonable" demands. It's funny: If they think teaching's such a gravy train, why have they all become bankers instead? more »
propublica.org — Over the past several years, we've reported extensively on the big banks' foreclosure failings. As a result of banks' disorganization and understaffing — particularly at the peak of the crisis in 2009 and 2010 — homeowners were often forced to run a gauntlet of confusion, delays, and errors when seeking a mortgage modification. But while evidence of these problems was pervasive, it was always hard to quantify the damage. Just how many more people could have qualified under the administration's mortgage modification program if the banks had done a better job? In other words, how many people have been pushed toward foreclosure unnecessarily? A thorough study released last week provides one number, and it's a big one: about 800,000 homeowners.
policyshop.net — I have written often that tax reform would be a good challenge for President Obama to tackle, because it would allow him to both battle entrenched interests and also get something done in Washington, given the bipartisan and public support for streamlining the tax code. Governor Romney, meanwhile, has made tax reform central to his economic plan, saying that he would pay for a reduction in tax rates by closing loopholes. But he doesn't provide many specifics as to which loopholes. It's no surprise that Romney is mum on this most important of details. Tax reform is minefield. And given the immense influence of special interests, serious tax reform -- of the kind we saw in 1986 -- may simply not be possible. One way to gauge the scope of this challenge is to consider how much financial and lobbying muscle is now arrayed behind the most costly tax breaks.
baselinescenario.com — Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul D. Ryan as vice presidential running mate is widely interpreted as signaling the further rise of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party – with the implication that the private sector may soon be pushing back even more against the role of government. For most of the last 200 years, national economic prosperity has been about creating and sustaining a symbiotic relationship between government and private business, including entrepreneurs who build businesses from scratch. This symbiosis was long a great strength of the United States, something it got right while other nations failed to do so, in various ways. Is the partnership between government and business now really on the rocks? What would be the implications for longer-run economic growth of any such traumatic divorce?