Friday, February 10, 2012

Contraception Accommodation: Insurers Will Be Required To Offer Birth Control Free Of Charge

Contraception Accommodation: Insurers Will Be Required To Offer Birth Control Free Of Charge:

Senior administration officials announced early this morning that President Obama will announce a new “accommodation” for religious liberties in the rule requiring all employers to offer contraception coverage without additional cost sharing. Under the new policy, “all women will still have access to free preventive care, including contraception,” no matter where they work. However, if a nonprofit religiously affiliated organization like a Catholic college or hospital objects to offering birth control, the insurance company will be required to provide the coverage free of charge and the employer will not pay for it. Sister Carol Keehan, President of the US Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards support the compromise, the administration officials said.

Significantly, unlike the Hawaii model, religiously affiliated organizations will not have to refer employees to contraception coverage. Instead, the same insurer that provides insurance to the employer, will be offering contraception coverage to the employee directly. Insurance companies will be able to deliver birth control at no additional charge because the cost of contraception is far less than the costs associated with an unwanted pregnancy, the administration official explained. Therefore, “there is no extra premium” associated with the service.

The new rule will also eliminate the one year implementation delay that was included in the original regulation, meaning that contraception without cost sharing will be available starting Aug. 1.

I just love it when a plan comes together. Women win, and the RAO's can go back to their respective irrelevancies. Oh, and the insurance companies can stuff it, too!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Mortgage settlement? Try bank Bailout II

Mortgage settlement? Try bank Bailout II:

At this writing, the federal government and forty-nine state attorneys general (all minus Oklahoma) have agreed to a settlement with the nation's five largest banks for their fraudulent robosigning practices. The banks will pay $5 billion penalty as part of this deal and also provide a vary range of credits which could account for another $20 billion. David Dayen at FireDogLake has the best rundown of what is in the deal, based on his own reporting and mainstream outlets. Dayen gives the breakdown:

$3 billion will go toward refinancing for current borrowers who are underwater on their loans, as well as short sales. $5 billion will go as a hard cash penalty to the states, which can use them for legal aid services, foreclosure mitigation programs, and ongoing fraud investigations in other areas (one official close to the talks feared that much of that hard cash payout will go in some Republican states toward filling their budget holes). The federal government will get a cash penalty as well. Out of that $5 billion, up to 750,000 borrowers wrongfully foreclosed upon will get a $1,800-$2,000 check if they sign up for it, the equivalent of saying to them “sorry we stole your home, here’s two months rent.”

The bulk of the money, around $17 billion, will go to principal reduction credits for troubled borrowers. The banks will not get dollar-for-dollar credit for every write-down; reductions on loans bundled in private-label mortgage-backed securities, for example, will be under 50 cents on the dollar, and write-downs for second liens (mostly home equity lines of credit) will be more like 10 cents. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan believes that they will be able to get between $35-$40 billion in principal reduction in real dollars out of the settlement. Donovan became the point person on the federal level, along with DoJ, as the Administration pretty much took over the investigation and settlement process from the states, who were led by Iowa AG Tom Miller.

But even this $35-$40 billion number, which is at best a guess since the direction of the principal reduction is mostly at the discretion of the banks, pales in comparison to the negative equity in the country, which sits at $700 billion. And the banks have three years to implement the principal reductions, drawing out the loss on their books. [Emphasis added]

Look at the section in bold. What this settlement says is that if the bank stole your home - and according to the deal, banks did this to 750,000 American families (though in reality the number is much higher) - the banks will get off scot-free for $2,000. Can you imagine the Department of Justice arresting a bank robber who stole $180,000 and letting him go as long as he returned $2,000? Wouldn't we all be bank robbers if such was the state of justice? This is quite possible the most insulting, if not the most problematic, aspect of the deal.

The banksters who perpetrated this fiasco, and sent the economy into the toilet, should be in jail. Anything short of that, especially a "settlement" that does nothing but add insult to injury for the victims, is yet another crime against humanity. This is what the One Percent thinks of us. Thanks a lot. And where are the jobs, by the way?

How Zealous Clergy and Their Media Enablers Are Manufacturing a Controversy Over Birth Control Coverage

How Zealous Clergy and Their Media Enablers Are Manufacturing a Controversy Over Birth Control Coverage:

The real opposition here isn't about conscience, it's about women and sex.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Did you hear the one about the multi-millionaire who played the poor union guy on the Super Bowl ad?

Did you hear the one about the multi-millionaire who played the poor union guy on the Super Bowl ad?: From Republican Report:

This morning, Republic Report published a post revealing the backers of an anti-union ad that ran during the Super Bowl. We realized after publication that one of the actors playing a disgruntled union mechanic was actually Rick Berman, the consultant advising the anti-union lobbying campaign. A call to Berman and Company confirmed that Berman, who owns a $3.3 million dollar house and is known for his elaborate astroturf campaigns on behalf of big corporations, played the part of a mechanic in the ad.

Birtherism Makes A Comeback Among Republicans

Birtherism Makes A Comeback Among Republicans:

A new poll from YouGov’s Adam Berinsky shows that the number of people who believe President Obama was born in the United States has dipped to levels below even the weeks leading up to President Obama’s release of his birth certificate last April. The movement appears attributable to Republicans, 37 percent of whom now say that President Obama was not born in the US. That’s 12 points higher than when Republicans were polled just before President Obama released the certificate.

So, what is it with these people? Besides the obvious attempts to disenfranchise and denigrate the leader of the free world, how do they get away with this hogshit? The media is just not doing its job, and that's all I can bring myself to say about this absurdity that should have been laid to rest before it even started. At least the climate change deniers have some wiggle room in the sense that science has been wrong about things on occasion (though the evidence of climate change keeps building beyond any reasonable doubt), but this? Proof is proof and facts are facts, though this apparently has no bearing on the subject when it comes to the birthers. Shameful, since it is only a thin veil over the racism and hatred that drives it.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Does Right to Work Actually Lead to More Jobs?

Does Right to Work Actually Lead to More Jobs?:

Most people watching the Super Bowl last night probably had no idea that only a few days before, in the same city of Indianapolis, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law that will cripple unions. As I've written before, Indiana is the first Rust Belt state to pass a right-to-work law, which prohibits both mandatory union membership and collecting fees from non-members. The news, however, has hardly gotten the attention the labor-minded might have expected. Blame it on the big game or the GOP presidential primary. Or blame it on the loss of union power that allowed the law to pass in the first place.

Whatever the reason, this lack of stories has meant little discussion of the actual impact of right-to-work legislation. Daniels, along with many proponents of such measures, argues that companies choose to locate in right-to-work states rather than in states with powerful unions. And the Indiana governor says he's already seeing the fruits of the newly passed law. Union advocates, meanwhile, say the laws decrease not only union power but also wages and workplace protections. According to conventional wisdom, it seems, the choice is between fewer good jobs and more cruddy jobs.

But according to Gordon Lafer, an economist at the University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center, that's a false choice. In fact, he says, there's no evidence that right-to-work laws have any positive impact on employment or bringing back manufacturing jobs.

While 23 states have right-to-work legislation, Lafer says that to adequately judge the law's impact in today's economy, you have to look at states that passed the law after the United States embraced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and free trade in general. "Anything before the impact of NAFTA started to be felt in the late '90s is meaningless in terms of what it can tell us," he says.

Because of free-trade agreements, companies can go to other countries and get their goods made for a fraction of the cost. Even in the most anti-union state in the country, there are still basic worker protections and a minimum-wage law to deal with. Such "roadblocks" to corporate profit can disappear if the business relocates overseas. "The wage difference that right to work makes ... is meaningless compared to the wage savings you can have leaving the country," Lafer says.

Only one state has passed right to work since NAFTA: Oklahoma in 2001. (Before that, the most recent was Idaho in 1985.) About a year ago, Lafer and economist Sylvia Allegretto published a report for the Economic Policy Institute* exploring just what had happened in the decade since Oklahomans got their "right to work." The results weren't pretty.

Rather than increasing job opportunities, the state saw companies relocate out of Oklahoma. In high-tech industries and those service industries "dependent on consumer spending in the local economy" the laws appear to have actually damaged growth. At the end of the decade, 50,000 fewer Oklahoma residents had jobs in manufacturing. Perhaps most damning, Lafer and Allegretto could find no evidence that the legislation had a positive impact on employment rates.

"It will not bring new jobs in, but it will result in less wages and benefits for everybody including non-union workers," says Lafer.

*Full disclosure: I was a writing fellow at the Economic Policy Institute in 2008.


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