Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blunt amendment—An attack women’s rights and access to health care.

The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the so-called Blunt Amendment which would override President Obama's contraception coverage rule and allow any employer to refuse to cover any kind of health care service for religious or moral reasons.  The Republicans have been arguing that the amendment is just about religious freedom and that it is unrelated to women's health.  The Amendment isn’t expected to pass but Republicans are offering it anyway in a cynical effort to create some kind of wedge issue for the 2012 election claiming that Obama is somehow attacking Religion by support women’s rights to a form of preventive health care that is universally recommended by the medical community.

CB writes in response to one of my posts defending the Blunt Amendment:

The Catholic Church is one of the largest providers of charity in the U.S. The Church wants to function as it always has, free of government intervention.  The Blunt Amendment simply uses exact text from the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467), so the church can function as it did before Obamacare.  So basically no one wants anything other than to function with the same "Religious Liberty" as the Church always has. Did you really think everyone who warned us about the Obamacare Mandates would just say- "Oh, OK"- we didn't really want the "Religious Liberty" our country was founded on anyway.

Well CB, if you are wondering why the Blunt Amendment and the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act contain the same wording, it is because Blunt introduced both of them.  Neither one will pass I’m happy to say.

Also, the Blunt Amendment has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom.  It is an attack on the rights of women, an effort to allow the extreme religious right to impose its theology on other Americans, and a not so subtle effort to destroy Obamacare by allowing any employer to opt out of providing health insurance coverage simply by declaring his/her “moral or religious” opposition.

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has posted an excellent analysis of the problems the Blunt amendment would cause should it pass.  Among other things, if passed, the Blunt Amendment would put CEOs between women and their doctors by making it possible for them to deny women employees or any employees for that matter access to health insurance coverage the CEO determined was against his “religious beliefs” or “moral convictions.” 

Read the Blunt Amendment and Respect for Rights of Conscience nonsense at these links:

Blunt Amendment

Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Olympia Snowe WILL NOT run for re-election

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, the senior senator from Maine, announced this afternoon that she WILL NOT run for re-election after 33 years in Congress.  Snowe said she and her husband were both in good health but that she would be leaving the senate because she was frustrated with the "atmosphere ofpolarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions."

There is no word on who might run in her place or the chances a Democrat might have to take her seat.  Last November, Public Policy Polling said Snowe "was expected to beat her two almost unknown possible Democratic opponents by margins of 42 and 47 points, and even well-known but less likely Democratic challengers, Rep’s Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, would fall by respective 17- and 19-point spreads."

Read more here:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Michigan: Too close to call

Three recent surveys of likely Michigan Republican primary voters have Santorum and Romney’s support within the poll Margin of Error, in other words, TIED.  Anything could happen.  

Most analysts are saying that if Romney loses we can expect a long, drawn out battle for the nomination and the real possibility that the race may not be settled until the convention.

American Research

Read full results here:

Why are gas prices going up? The answer may surprise you

Want to know why you are paying more at the pump for gas?  It has nothing to do with Obama administration policies.  It has nothing to do, believe it or not, with an oil shortage or even the threat of one.  It has to do with one thing and one thing only.  Watch this video and find out.  Then, you will know who to blame.  Clue:  It is NOT Obama and it is NOT the Democrats.  Look RIGHT for the right answer.

Wording in polls makes big difference

These results from a recent Pew Research poll show just how important wording is when it comes to gauging public opinion.

If you ask Americans whether government regulation of business does more harm than good, most agree.  However, if you ask Americans whether they think specific types of government regulations should be reduced, kept the same or increased, Americans OVERWHELMINGLY want the same or MORE government regulation, NOT LESS. 

Here are the findings from the Pew survey.  You can read more at this link:

George Will accuses Repubs of “Economic Nonsense”

Even George Will can occasionally get it right.  Here is what he had to say about the ridiculous Republican argument that Obama is somehow responsible for higher gas prices.  Will says such a charge is just “economic nonsense.”  Watch.  Enjoy.  If you can’t see the video below, go to

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Poll: Santorum leads Romney by 9

Rick Santorum has opened up a 9 point lead over Mitt Romney in a new national Quinnipiac University poll, 35% to 26%.  Gingrich is in third place with 14% and Paul is in fourth with 11%.  In a head-to-head contest, Santorum now leads Romney by 13 points, 50% to 37%. 

If there is no clear leader by the convention, Republicans say they would prefer the convention pick New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as their top choice (32%), followed by Sarah Palin and Jeb Bush (20% each), and Mitch Daniels (15%).

Santorum’s comments about birth control and women in combat apparently have not hurt him among Republican women.  He continues to obtain about the same level of support among Republican women as men.

New 2012 election projections

Election Projection (EP) has updated its forecast for the 2012 election.  As of February 20th, EP projects Obama will win re-election with 332 electoral votes (270 needed to win).  Republicans will pick up seats in the Senate with an equal division of the seats between Democrats (49 + 1 Independent who caucuses with the Democrats) and 50 Republicans.  EP says Republicans will retain the House with 243 seats to 192 for the Democrats.  See the chart below and additional information at:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Republicans attack women. Pure and simple.

Daily Kos reports:

For the second day in a row, the Virginia House of Delegates has postponed a vote on the controversial legislation that would require women seeking an abortion to have an invasive, trans-vaginal ultrasound. After hundreds of Virginians lined the streets around the capitol in silent protest yesterday, the House postponed the vote until today.

But the controversy over the legislation, and perhaps the fear that they might just be overreaching on this one, led to another postponement.

Read more:

I want you to fully understand what the Republicans are demanding.  They want to pass a law that if a woman and her doctor decide she needs an abortion for whatever reason she will be forced against her will to undergo an invasive procedure.  What it exactly is that procedure.  Here is a graphic picture.  

This law is an attack on women.  Period.  No woman should tolerate and no man who loves any woman should tolerate it.  

Roosevelt got it right-Listen to him

He warned us long ago.  We should listen to him today.  Roosevelt warned us that Republicans would profess their commitment to Social Security and other programs Americans love.  But, said Roosevelt, we should be careful.  The grass they grow with their professed belief in the social safety net might be just hiding a big, ugly snake.  Watch and learn below or at this link.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Let’s enact a “Womanhood Amendment”

Republicans love amendments, personhood amendments to define when life begins, religious liberty amendments to prevent the evil Obama administration from forcing employers to insure preventive care, marriage amendments to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, and so on.  They usually argue that these amendments are needed to protect individuals from the tyranny of the state.  Well, here is an individual rights amendment I propose.  It call it the Womanhood Amendment.  It goes like this:

Womanhood Amendment:

Every woman resident in the United States shall have the sole right to determine to what use her body may be put regardless of any other law or statute to the contrary.

Now, that should be an individual rights amendment we can all get behind.

What do you say?

Understanding the stimulus

Here is the truth:  The stimulus worked.  Without it unemployment would have reached much higher levels and we would not be in recovery.

Rebecca Thiess at the Economic Policy Institute took at look at the impact of the stimulus on the three-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  She notes that the U.S. economy was in major trouble in the fourth quarter of 2008.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was declining at an annual rate of 8.9 percent.  Job losses were skyrocketing and unemployment was on its way to 12% or higher.

In February 2009, Obama and the Democrats passed the ARRA.  At that point, things began to change.  Slowly, much too slowly for many, the decline stopped or slowed and America began to recover.  Here are the facts:
  • In the second quarter of 2009—the first full quarter after the stimulus was passed—GDP declined at a much slower pace (0.7 percent), and growth resumed in the third quarter;
  • Job losses slowed dramatically throughout 2009 and the economy started adding jobs in early 2010; and
  • Private sector layoffs, which had peaked in Feb. 2009, began a rapid decline and returned to pre-recession levels by early Feb. 2010.

So, what the Republicans say is not true.  The stimulus worked.  But, why didn’t it work better or faster?  Thiess cites an explanation Josh Bivens offered in the form of a metaphor.

 “The unemployment rate without the Recovery Act would have reached nearly 12%, not the 9% foreseen by the Obama administration. A good metaphor for this controversy is the temperature in a log cabin on a cold winter’s night. Say that the weather forecast is for the temperature to reach 30 degrees Fahrenheit. To stay warm, you decide to burn three logs in the fireplace. You do the math (and chemistry) and calculate that burning these three logs will generate enough heat to bring the inside of the cabin to 50 degrees, or 20 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature.

But the forecast is wrong—and instead temperatures plummet to 10 degrees outside and burning the logs only results in a cabin temperature of 30 degrees. Has log burning failed as a strategy to generate heat? Of course not. Has your estimate of the effectiveness of log burning been wildly wrong? Nope—it was exactly right—it added 20 degrees to the ambient temperature. The only lesson from this one is a simple one: since the weather turned out worse than expected, you need more logs.”

In short, the stimulus didn’t fail.  It did just what it was supposed to do.  The only problem with the stimulus is that few people realized in early 2009 just how bad economic conditions were, so when the Republicans fought to keep the stimulus under a trillion dollars (they wanted none at all), the Democrats ultimately gave in.  They accepted a smaller stimulus believing that it would probably be enough.   They agreed to put just three logs on the fire to warm the economy.  The economy really needed six or nine.  So, we didn’t freeze to death as we might have without the stimulus logs but we didn’t get toasty warm, fast as we had hoped.  The stimulus was enough to knock the chill off the economy.  Now the extremely cold economy seems to be warming.  We will get there.  The stimulus worked.  It would have worked faster and better if it had been larger.  And, it probably would have been larger accept for Republican opposition.

Read more here:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Republican attacks on women MUST stop NOW

We have another instance in which radical Republican state legislatures are seeking to deny women basic human rights.  This time it is the Republicans who control the Virginia state legislature. 

The Republican controlled Virginia state legislature is expected to pass and the conservative Republican governor is expected to sign a law that will require women seeking an abortion to undergo a procedure in which a vaginal ultrasonic probe is inserted in their body against their will in an effort to dissuade them from terminating their pregnancies. Republicans are hailing this as "an update to the state's existing informed consent laws using the most advanced medical technology available."

Virginia State Representative Todd Gilbert expressed what is obviously the viewpoint of most Republican legislators.  He diminished the gravity of a woman’s decision to have an abortion saying, "in the vast majority of these cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience."

This is beyond disgusting. 

Read about this attack on Virginia women here:

Another forecasting model predicts Obama victory

A new presidential election forecasting model developed by Yahoo Labs economists Patrick Hummel and David Rothschild predicts that Obama will win the election with 303 electoral votes to 235 for his Republican opponent.  The model assumes:
  •  Obama’s approval rating will stay the same between now and mid-June,
  • Each of the 50 states will report personal income growth that is average for an election year, and
  • Certain key indicators of state ideology will remain unchanged this year.

The models developers note that the model’s estimate “may be a conservative estimate for Obama, because January's economic indicators suggest that the states are likely to experience greater-than-average income growth in the first quarter.”

They also note that “a key finding of the model is that economic trends—whether things are getting better or worse than they were a month ago—are more meaningful than the level state of the economy. In other words, whether the unemployment rate is increasing or decreasing is more important than what the unemployment rate actually is.”

See the state-by-state projections below or at the link.

American voters may be turning AGAINST Republicans

A new national poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner February 11-14 for Democracy Corps and Women’s voices is loaded with BAD NEWS for republicans. The behavior of Republicans in Congress since 2010 and on the campaign trail appears to have significantly damaged the Republican brand in the eyes of key voting groups—independents, seniors, and unmarried women.

Here is a sampling of the findings:

  • The percentage of voters identifying themselves as Democrats is up 7% since just last November.
  • Half of all voters now give the Republican party a negative rating due to a dramatic shift in the opinions of seniors and independents.  Both of these groups now view the Republican Party negatively.
  • 68% of voters now say they DISAPPROVE of Republicans in Congress—a 22% jump in disapproval over the last year.  The change is driven largely by a shift in the opinions of suburban voters, seniors and independents from approval to disapproval.
  • The majority of voters give Romney a NEGATIVE rating, including independents. Less than half of Republicans now rate Romney positively.  Rick Santorum performs only slightly better.
  • Obama has made significant gains among unmarried women, younger voters and minorities, the so-called “Rising American Electorate.”  This group was important in the 2008 election but drifted away from Democrats in 2010.  They now appear to be returning to the Democratic Party driven largely by the resurgence of support among unmarried women for Democrats.  Democrats are also making significant gains among seniors but are still having some problem with re-engaging young voters and Hispanics at 2008 levels.

You can read more results from this poll by going to the following links:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More good news on jobs and the economy

Several pieces of good news about jobs and the economy have been released in the last few days:

  • The number of Americans filing for initial unemployment benefits reached its lowest level since March 2008. 
  • The business activity index of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank jumped from 7.2 to 10.2 on a sharp increased in factory orders and shipments.  Hours worked by existing employees increased indicating increased demand that, if sustained, should translate into additional hiring.
  • The Commerce Department reported that housing starts rose 1.5% in January, beating economists’ estimates.

Jim Awad, managing director of Zephyr Management in New York said of the new numbers: “"Everything is stronger than expected. Barring any unforeseen problems from Europe it appears we're in a self-sustaining cycle of growth.”

Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania added "The numbers add to the belief that the economy is shifting gears. There is just no number that is giving us a whole lot of trouble, except for consumer spending."

This set of new numbers may signal that February will be another month of jobs gains with the possibility that the national unemployment rate will fall under the current 8.3% rate.  Let’s hope that is the case.

The improving economy/job picture is causing real problems for Republicans who bet the election on high unemployment and an economy in or near a second recession.  One of the reasons we are seeing Republicans latch on to the contraception/religious freedom controversy may be that they hope to shift the election debate away from jobs and the economy onto what they think will be a more winnable topic—religious freedom.  Democrats must make the argument about contraception, not religious freedom, if they are to avoid losing ground they are gaining from the positive job/economy news.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Good signs for Democratic Party

Democrat Chis McDaniel has apparently won a landslide victory over his Republican opponent 62% to 28%. to retake an Oklahoma State House seat lost in 2010 in a special election.  Republican Rusty Farley, who had won the traditionally Democratic seat in 2010, died unexpectedly in July of last year setting up the special election.  McDaniel’s win is good news for Democrat hopes to take back the House in November since it may signal that Democrats have a good chance of reclaiming seats they lost in 2010.

Another Democrat in Oklahoma, Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, easily beat attorney Jason Reese 66.6 percent to 33.4 percent in ballots cast during the special election to replace Democratic Oklahoma state Senate leader Andrew Rice, who moved to Tennessee.

In Maine, Democrat Chis Johnson upset Republican Dana Down to take what was thought to be a secure Maine Senate seat.

This string of victories for Democrats at the state level may be a good sign for Obama and Democrats as they go into the national elections in the fall.  Stay tuned.  There are signs out there that American voters are having some buyers’ remorse about the choices they made in 2010.

Read more at these links:

New Analysis: Did the Stimulus Work?

Republicans say the stimulus Obama signed into law in 2009 not only didn't work, it harmed the economy.  Democrats say the stimulus worked.  Progressives say the stimulus worked and would have worked a lot better and faster if it had been a lot larger.

So, who is right?  Did the stimulus work?  Did the stimulus save the United States from going off the economic cliff?  Here is the answer in a new analysis by the Center for American Progress.  If you can't see the video below, go to this page:


Another poll shows Obama leading

CBS News has released a new poll showing Obama with a comfortable lead over all the potential challengers.  He beats Romney by 6, Santorum by 8, Paul by 11 and Newt by a whopping 18%.  See table below and more about the poll at the link.

Read more here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Forecast: Obama has comfortable lead over Romney

Election Projection says Obama would win re-election with 332 electoral votes to 206 for Romney if the election were held today.  (270 electoral votes are needed to win.) That gives Obama a 126 electoral vote margin.  Obama’s lead is based upon polls showing he would carry both Virginia and Florida if the election were held today.  These are two must-win states for Republicans if they hope to win.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Poll: Santorum in lead, Obama beats all comers

A new Pew Research national poll shows Obama running strong against Romney, Santorum and Gingrich in head-to head match ups and Santorum now essentially tied with Romney for the Republican nomination.

Republican Race:

Results from a new Pew Research poll released today shows Rick Santorum now tied with Romney nationally among Republicans—Santorum 30%/Romney 28% (MOE: 6%)  Santorum was trailing Romney 16% to 27% in this poll in January.

Santorum has a substantial lead over Romney among Republicans who are: Tea Party supporters, Conservatives, 50-64 year-olds, non-college graduates, White evangelicals and White Catholics.

Republicans in general and Tea Party supporters in particular, say they don’t think Romney is a strong conservative and don’t think he takes consistent positions on issues.

Obama vs. Possible Republican Candidates

In head-to-head match-ups, Obama leads Romney by 8 points (52% to 44%) and Santorum by 10 (53% to 43%).  He leads Gingrich by 18-57% to 39%.  In November, Obama and Romney were essentially tied—49% Obama, 47% Romney.

Obama has improved his standing among Independents by 11 points since November.  He now leads Romney among Independents 51% to 42%.  A majority of Independents now say that Romney is inconsistent on the issues (53%) and doesn’t understand their needs (60%).  A majority no longer say Romney is qualified to be president or honest.

The margin of error overall is 3%, 6% among Republicans and 7% among Tea Party Supporters.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How the contraceptive compromise will work

Some opponents of the HHS mandate for contraceptive coverage have accepted Obama’s accommodation, others are still holding out.  Those who still object argue that even though religious organizations will be able to exclude contraceptive coverage in their health insurance, they will still be paying for it since the free coverage from insurance companies will be built into the premiums religious organizations pay.  The White House is saying that won’t happen.  Here is the explanation from a senior administration official:

“The way this works [right now] is, I’m a Catholic hospital, and I say I’m going to offer insurance,” said the official. “I’m going to say, ‘Aetna, I don’t want contraceptives covered.’ Aetna is going to look at the benefits I cover, set a premium for the anticipated costs. Then they charge that premium, which goes into Aetna’s reserves.”

And here’s how it works after the compromise: “Our policy is saying that the Catholic hospital doesn’t want to cover contraceptives, and they don’t include that in their policy. It also says that Aetna needs to provide contraceptive services for free to workers in the plan. Aetna sets the premium, but it cannot be higher than it would have been without birth control. The premium does not include contraception.”

And, in the end, that leaves Aetna with the bill. “There is a sort of bank account, and Aetna is sucking it up…They have a reserve fund to pay for all the things they cover,” says the official. “We’re saying, ‘This is a legitimate cost of doing business.’ That cost is covering contraceptives, and they’re paying for that from a reserve.”

Note two important points concerning how the compromise will work.  First, under the proposed rule, the insurance company CANNOT charge the religious organization more than it would have been charged anyway.  The cost of the contraceptive coverage CANNOT be passed through to the religious organization through higher premiums.

Second, the insurance company must treat the cost of covering contraceptives as a “cost of doing business” like, for example, offering policy holders a free Wellness program to help them lose weight, eat better and manage stress or chronic conditions like diabetes and osteoporosis..  Like the wellness program, the insurance company absorbs the cost because in the long term the wellness program, or in this case covering contraceptive services, will SAVE the insurance company money by avoiding expensive treatments they might otherwise have to cover.  In short, long-term it is cheaper to cover people who get and stay health and/or avoid unwanted pregnancies. 

Of course, some opponents of the compromise will argue that the whole idea of the insurance company paying for the contraceptive services from a reserve fund as a cost of doing business is just an accounting trick and somehow the cost will still be passed through to the religious organization.  However, if you follow that logic then you could argue that ANY insurance company that provides free contraceptive services to ANY policy holder ANYWHERE somehow passes through the cost to the religious organizations in some way or another.  If that were true, the only way to avoid “attacking religion” would be to forbid insurance companies from offering free contraceptive services to ANYONE.  Of course, that would be absurd and would violate the rights of those who want such coverage. 

It is time for religious groups to accept the compromise and shut up.  Obama’s accommodation is a reasonable compromise that respects everyone’s rights and asks the insurance companies to provide a free service that long-term will be a net zero cost or even save them money.  We need to move on.

Read more:

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Forecast: Obama would win if election held today

Election Projection has updated its forecast of the presidential election.  As of today, Obama would carry 27 states and win the election with 332 electoral votes.  (270 electoral votes are need to win.)  Romney would carry 24 states with 206 electoral votes.  Obama would beat Romney by 2.6% in the popular vote 50.5% to 47.9%.

Obama would also win in a contest against Rick Santorum and by the same electoral vote margin—332 to 206.  However, he would do better against Santorum in the popular vote winning by 4%.

Election Projection notes: “The bottom line remains as it was always going to be in this election.  If the GOP nominates a credible candidate, this election will be a referendum on Obama's administration, and that will be driven by the state of the economy. Lately we're starting to learn two things in that regard. First, the economy is starting to look like it will be moving forward between now and November - a good sign for Obama. And second, Rick Santorum is starting to look like a credible choice for the nomination - a good sign for Santorum.”

Read more here:

Some Catholics immediately reject Obama compromise on HHS mandate

We are beginning to get reactions from Catholic and other religious leaders who had complained about the HHS mandate for contraception coverage concerning Obama’s compromise on the issue.  Under the proposed compromise, religious groups who object to contraception would not have to provide the coverage but their insurer would have to reach out to the women affected to inform them that they can obtain contraception coverage at no cost.

As we might expect, some of the most extreme opponents have already rejected the compromise.  For example, John Garvey President, The Catholic University of America, Mary Ann Glendon Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University, Robert P. George McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University, O. Carter Snead Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame, Yuval Levin Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center released a statement today which reads in part:

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise. The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust. Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.  It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage. For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers. More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual. They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

Now, if you except this logic then ANY provision of contraception services of ANY type to ANYONE in ANY organization, religious or not, results in religious organizations paying for this aspect of insurance coverage since the cost of providing these additional services would be passed along by insurance companies to its policy holders.  If that is true, the only way avoid such so-called pass through of the cost would be for all insurance companies, or at least those who sold policies to religious employers, to REFUSE TO COVER CONTRACEPTION AT ALL for any policy holder regardless of religion. 

Of course this whole line of reasoning is absurd for one reason if no other. Long term the provision of free contraceptive services drives down the cost of health insurance because it is much cheaper for insurance companies to provide women with access to contraception than to absorb the increased cost of medical care that often results from unplanned pregnancies.   The net cost of providing women with access to free contraceptive services is either zero or results in a reduction in premium costs assuming the savings are passed along to policy holders. 

Read more here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The U.S. is number one in LOW WAGE jobs

The United States has the dubious distinction of leading the modern world in the percentage of workers in low wage jobs.  We have gained that honor for three reasons.  First, we have systematically destroyed unions.  Second, we have grossly underinvested in a social safety net.  Third, we set the minimum wage much too low.  We can and should do better.

The Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has released a new report looking at wages and the workforce in 19 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.  The following charts are from the CEPR report.

Finding #1: Nearly a quarter of U.S. employees are in low-wage jobs.
Finding #2: There is a significant correlation between low-wage jobs and low collective bargaining coverage (union membership).
Finding #3: There is a significant correlation between low-wage jobs and low social expenditures.
Finding #4: Federal minimum wages levels are far below the low-wage threshold.
The CEPR researchers conclude:
The experience of the last few decades suggests that we have a pretty good idea of how to reduce the size of the low-wage workforce. “Inclusive” labor-market institutions that extend the pay, benefits, and working conditions negotiated by workers with significant bargaining power to workers with less bargaining power appear to be the most effective general remedy for low-wage work. The specifics can take many forms, from extending collective bargaining agreements to cover workers who are not themselves members of unions, to setting a minimum wage at or near the threshold for low-wage work. Greater public social spending may be another way to increase the “inclusiveness” of national industrial relations systems since a generous social safety net improves the bargaining position of low-wage workers relative to their employers. The national details aside, the available cross-country data show a strong association between higher levels of inclusiveness and lower levels of low-wage work.

NOTE: Republicans consistently oppose all of these actions.  They fight hard to make it more difficult for unions to organize.  The seek to reduce, not expand, the safety net.  Finally, they always resist any effort to raise the minimum wage.  At the same time, they insist on maintaining and expanding preferential tax treatment for the super rich.  It you want to understand why the United States is a country of lousy paying jobs, look to the policy positions of the GOP.  Then, vote for the truly DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Obama leads Romney in Virginia

Virginia is a key swing state in the presidential election.  Republicans will have a hard time beating Obama if they cannot carry Florida, Ohio and Virginia.  For the first time a respected poll is showing that Obama has gained a lead over Romney in a head-to-head matchup in Virginia.  A Quinnipiac University poll released today has Obama leading Romney 47% to 43%. That’s well outside the margin of error of 2.5%.  In December, Romney was leading/tied with Obama at 44% Romney to 42% Obama.  What is interesting about this poll is that “Virginia voters still give the president a slightly negative 46 - 49 percent job approval rating. They split 46 - 48 percent on whether Obama deserves a second term in the Oval Office, but that represents a serious improvement from December when voters said 53 - 41 percent he did not deserve four more years.”

Quinnipiac says: “In the Obama-Romney matchup, independent voters favor the president 45 - 41 percent, compared to a 41 - 41 percent tie in December. A gender gap is opening up as women shift to the president, backing him 52 - 40 percent, compared to a 43 - 45 percent split in December. Men back Romney 47 - 43 percent, compared to 43 - 42 percent in December.”

This is more good news for Obama and more BAD news for Republicans, particularly Romney.  If Romney cannot carry Virginia against Obama, then his entire argument for being the nominee for Republicans comes into question.   

Stay tuned.  There are a number of signs out there that Obama is gaining and that the Republicans may end up in a cat fight that does their party real damage.  And then, there is the issue of the economy which may be slowly improving.  And, the Catholic church/Republican temper tantrum about the mandate for contraception coverage may blow up to do damage Republicans much more than Obama.  Right now, the Obama folks must be feeling pretty good.

FACTCHECK:The truth about insurance coverage of contraceptives

The Catholic Church and Republicans are pushing a lot of lies and distortions concerning the Heath and Human Services (HHS) mandate for non-religious employers and religious organizations engaged in non-religious businesses to provide women contraceptive coverage in employer health insurance plans.  Here are two sites that provide the facts about current state-regulation of this issue.  Please direct your Catholic and Republican friends to these sites so that they can become better informed.

The CDD says contraceptive coverage is an important health benefit for women:

Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age: 98 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method. In 2002, 90 percent had ever had a partner who used the male condom, 82 percent had ever used the oral contraceptive pill, and 56 percent had ever had a partner who used withdrawal.
The leading method of contraception in the United States in 2002 was the oral contraceptive pill. It was being used by 11.6 million women 15–44 years of age; it had ever been used by 44.5 million women 15–44 years of age. The second leading method was female sterilization, used by 10.3 million women. The pill and female sterilization have been the two leading methods in the United States since 1982.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says most women want and need coverage and depend upon employer-based coverage:

Insurance coverage of oral contraceptives has received greater attention in recent years. Nearly 59 million women in the U.S. are of “reproductive age,” between 16 and 44 years old1. The majority of these women are at risk for unintended pregnancy and use some form of contraception. Employer-based coverage is the primary form of health insurance for 64% of women of reproductive age, but a sizable minority of women lack coverage for contraceptives.

More than half of all states currently require employers and insurance providers to provide coverage of approved contraceptive drugs and devices.

28 states require insurers that cover prescription drugs to provide coverage of the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.  The Guttmacher Institute provides a summary of state provisions here:

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides similar information in an earlier report here:

The Catholic Church/Republican charges are NOT SUPPORTED by facts of the HHS mandate
Here is a summary of the facts about the mandate from HHS as compiled by TruthOut:

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers and private insurance providers will be required to provide reproductive preventative services, including birth control and other contraceptives, to women who choose to use them. The services are free of charge at the point of service and provided without co-pays, deductibles and cost-shares.

Nonprofit organizations that "primarily" exist to spread their religious values and primarily serve and employ people who share those values are exempt from the rule. This means that churches and houses of worship are exempt, but religiously affiliated schools and hospitals that serve and employ people of different faiths are not exempt.

Officials said that some parochial schools could qualify for the exemption if they exist to teach religion and primarily serve and employ fellow believers.

The rule applies only with private health insurance and does not require individual practitioners to provide contraceptive.

Most women use contraceptives in their lifetime, including 98 percent of Catholic women. (Meanwhile, 100 percent of Catholic bishops are men.) The average woman uses contraceptives for 30 years of her life at a cost of $30 to $50 per month.

The policy does not cover drugs that cause abortion, such as RU-486.

Twenty-eight states already require contraceptive coverage. North Carolina, New York and California have identical religious exemption standards and other states have no exemptions at all.

There is no list of specific institutions that are exempt but institutions must meet the above requirements. There is no application for the exemption, and an institution must use the requirements to evaluate itself and then notify its insurance provider that it is exempt.

Administration officials said they are working with states on enforcing the rule.

After taking public comments, the administration decided to give some religious nonprofits, including those that employ people of other faiths, one year to comply with the rule.

The only reason we are having this debate is that most Americans depend upon their employer for access to affordable health insurance coverage.  If we had a single-payer universal health insurance system, like Medicare for all, then there would be no issue.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is Obama attacking Catholics or religion? Nope

By now you have probably heard a bunch of garbage from the right and religious groups AND Mitt about how the Obama administration is attacking religion, the Catholic church, etc. etc. etc. because Health and Human Services says if you take federal dollars, unless you are in the religion business, you must include access to contraception as part of your health insurance offering.  It’s all very sensible and ISN’t an attack on anyone’s religion, particularly Catholics.

Facts are most Catholic women use contraception and most Catholics, like most Americans regardless of religion or non-religion SUPPORT requiring employers to provide their employees with the OPTION of choosing health care plans that cover contraception or birth control at NO COST.  Here are the results of a February 2012 survey.  Most Americans SUPPORT such coverage.  Catholics actually SUPPORT such coverage in GREATER NUMBERS than most Americans and those unaffiliated with any religion.  The only group opposed are WHITE EVANGELICALS, the same nuts that want to ban teaching evolution, keep gays from marrying, require all kids to recite the Lords Prayer in public schools even if their parents aren’t Christian, etc. etc.

This isn’t about an attack on religion.  It’s an orchestrated ATTACK on Obama.  It’s politics, nothing else.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Romney: Unqualified to lead

Romney says: This is a president with the spy drone being brought down, he says pretty please? A foreign policy based on pretty please? You got to be kidding. This is a president who fundamentally believes that this next century is the post-American century. Perhaps it’s going to be the Chinese century? He is wrong. [It has to be] the American century.  See:

Don’t believe him.  Romney reveals with this talking point just how out-of-touch he is with the real world, the world in which an American President must operate today.  The world has changed.  Romney doesn’t get it.  That’s why he is unqualified to lead.

Watch this video below or at this link:  Fareed Zakaria at CNN sets the record straight. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unemployment 8.3%!!!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that unemployment dropped to 8.3%, continuing a five-month trend of improving job numbers.  This slow but steady improvement in jobs is very GOOD news for Democrats and Obama and BAD news for Romney and the Republicans.  It is going to be very hard for Republicans to run on jobs if the unemployment rate keeps trending down.  

The table below summarizes other data from the most recent jobs report or go to the link for more.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Unemployment drops to 8.3%--It’s possible.

Gallup says its own measure of unemployment in January rose slightly to 8.6% from 8.5% in December.  However, when Gallup measured at mid-January, unemployment was down to 8.3%.  Gallup’s mid-month reading normally provides a pretty good estimate of the government's unadjusted unemployment rate for the month.

Is it possible we might see a report for January showing unemployment down to 8.3%?  Maybe.  Then again, the feds have revised how the measure unemployment beginning with the January numbers so the previous relationship between Gallup’s mid-month numbers and government numbers may no longer hold.

Most analysts think the official unemployment numbers will stay the same for January at 8.5%.  But, if they tip down again that would be very good news for Obama and the Democrats.

There are a couple of additional signs pointing toward a further decline in unemployment in January.

1. Gallup's Job Creation Index continues to improve, reaching its highest monthly point since September 2008. That should indicate that jobs are being added.

2. Unemployment applications fell 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000. When applications stay consistently below 375,000, it usually signals that hiring is strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow’s jobs report should be VERY interesting.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gingrich’s bleak prospects

Even after Romney’s convincing victory in Florida where he met, if not succeeded expectations, Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race.  However, as David Hawkings at CQ Roll Call says, Newt’s prospects for scoring some victories over the next few weeks aren’t great.

But where does Gingrich go to try to stage his third big comeback of the campaign, with 46 states to go? Not the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, which Romney has in hand thanks to the organizational help of fellow Mormons. Not Tuesday’s caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, where he’s done minimal work. Not Missouri’s non-binding primary, where Rick Santorum is making a significant push. Not Maine, where Ron Paul has reason to hope for an actual caucus win. Not the primaries four Tuesdays from now in Arizona (where John McCain has Romney’s back) or Michigan (where Romney is still a favorite son). It won't be Virginia, where he's not even the ballot. The best answer is probably Texas — assuming Rick Perry follows through with his promise to do whatever he can to help Gingrich reap as many of the 155 delegates as possible. But that’s not until April 3.

So, Newt may be able to round up enough money to stay in the race for awhile but it looks like Romney is going to remain securely in the lead for some time to come.  No wonder Romney is already pivoting to focus on Obama and Obama is beginning to strike out a Mitt.