Private Sector Financing: A Review of Service Delivery Models in Eight Communities

Source: Jeff Hughes, Lexi Kay Herndon, Journal – American Water Works Association, Volume / Number: 110, Number 1, January 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A study of private financing models in the water industry examines variations in implementation and design and whether outcomes differ from initial expectations.

Unions Held Their Own in 2017

Source: Doug Henwood, Jacobin, January 20, 2018

Unions had a pretty good year in 2017: they didn’t lose any ground.

According to the latest edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual survey, released this morning, 10.7 percent of employed wage and salary workers were members of unions, unchanged from last year. There was a mild uptick in the share of private-sector workers represented by unions (aka union density), from 6.4 percent to 6.5 percent. Density was unchanged at 34.4 percent for public-sector workers — mildly surprising, given the war on labor being conducted by Republican governors and legislatures across the country…..

And, as the graph below shows, unions bring higher wages — especially for workers who are neither white nor male.

the union difference

For example, black men who are not in unions earn 71 percent as much as all white men (union and nonunion); with a union, that rises to 89 percent as much. For black women, the numbers are 65 percent for nonunion and 81 percent for union. For what the BLS calls Hispanic or Latino workers the union boost is even sharper: from 69 percent of white men for nonunion men to 98 percent for unionized ones, and from 60 percent for nonunion women to 94 percent for union.

Unions also narrow gender gaps. Nonunion women of all races/ethnicities earn 82 percent as much as men; that rises to 88 percent for unionized women. Unions add 21 percent to the average weekly wage for men, and 30 percent for women. In other words, unions reduce inequality along all the familiar demographic axes — and make it harder to pit workers against each other…..

Union Members – 2017

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL-18-0080, January 19, 2018

The union membership rate–the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions–was unchanged at 10.7 percent in 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2017, edged up by 262,000 from 2016. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers. ….

Highlights from the 2017 data:
–The union membership rate of public-sector workers (34.4 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.5 percent). (See table 3.)
–Workers in protective service occupations and in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rates (34.7 percent and 33.5 percent, respectively). (See table 3.)
–Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11.4 percent) than women (10.0 percent). (See table 1.)
–Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
–Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 80 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($829 versus $1,041). (The comparisons of earnings in this release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.) –Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (23.8 percent), while South Carolina continued to have the lowest (2.6 percent). (See table 5.)…

Reward Work, Not Wealth

Source: Diego Alejo Vázquez Pimentel, Iñigo Macías Aymar and Max Lawson, Oxfam International, January 2018

From the abstract:
To end the inequality crisis, we must build an economy for ordinary working people, not the rich and powerful. Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days. Billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762bn in 12 months. This huge increase could have ended global extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all wealth created in the last year went to the top 1%, while the bottom 50% saw no increase at all. Dangerous, poorly paid work for the many is supporting extreme wealth for the few. Women are in the worst work, and almost all the super-rich are men. Governments must create a more equal society by prioritizing ordinary workers and small-scale food producers instead of the rich and powerful.

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

Source: Robert S. Kirk, William J. Mallett, Congressional Research Service, R44674, CRS Report, January 11, 2018

Almost every conversation about surface transportation finance begins with a two-part question: What are the “needs” of the national transportation system, and how does the nation pay for them? This report is aimed almost entirely at discussing the “how to pay for them” question. Since 1956, federal surface transportation programs have been funded largely by taxes on motor fuels that flow into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). A steady increase in the revenues flowing into the HTF due to increased motor vehicle use and occasional increases in fuel tax rates accommodated growth in surface transportation spending over several decades. In 2001, though, trust fund revenues stopped growing faster than spending. In 2008 Congress began providing Treasury general fund transfers to keep the HTF solvent….

Flippable

Source: Flippable, 2018

We’re aiming to flip 100 seats across the country.

We can’t flip Congress without the states.
State governments often draw the district maps for national elections—and controlling that process has given the GOP an unfair advantage. States control voting methods and set voting requirements. When the GOP suppresses votes, Dems lose.

From healthcare to racial justice, the laws that impact our lives the most are often passed by states—not by the federal government.
States chip away at access to reproductive health care and LGBTQIA rights.
– From 2010 to 2016, states passed 338 laws restricting the right to choose.
– In 2016 alone, GOP state politicians introduced 200+ anti-LGBTQIA bills.

States are leading—or standing in the way—of efforts to fight climate change.
– Scientists have found that air pollution is a whole lot worse in states with GOP governors.
– In 2008, nine northeastern states pledged to cut their emissions by 40%—and they followed through. Now they’re working to cut another 30%.

Serving at the state level gets inspiring progressive Dems ready to run for national office.
– Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and Maxine Waters all made their way to the national stage via state governments. 
– State offices are a great way for young people, women and people of color, and non-wealthy people to get involved.

Compared to national races, state races are cheap.
Investing in these races is an extremely effective use of our dollars—that’s one big reason the GOP has been doing it for years.

What we’ll do:

Tip the Balance:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where winning just a few seats can flip a whole chamber of the state legislature.

Why We’ll Do It
By investing where we can flip a state house, we can enact progressive policies across the country.

Potential 2018 States
Colorado
Maine
Minnesota

Change the Game:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states with histories of gerrymandering or voter suppression.

Why We’ll Do It
States write the rules of our national elections and control voting requirements. By flipping seats in these states, we can start to restore democracy at both the state and national levels.

Potential 2018 States
Pennsylvania
Michigan
Iowa
Wisconsin
Florida
North Carolina

Turn The Tide:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where we can reverse Republican gains and lay the groundwork for future progressive victories.

Why We’ll Do It
We see opportunities in traditionally deep-red states where we can flip seats, make Democratic inroads, and break veto-proof majorities.

Potential 2018 States
Texas
Utah
Arizona

Defend Our Progress:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where the state legislatures or governors’ seats are blue, but are at risk of flipping red in 2018.

Why We’ll Do It
Democrats will face threats from GOP challengers in 2018, and we are prepared to help hold on to blue seats.

Potential 2018 States
Washington
Delaware
Oregon

What the dip in US life expectancy is really about: inequality

Source: Julia Belluz, Vox, January 9, 2018

Living in the US increasingly looks like a health risk. Average life expectancy here dropped for the second year in a row, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grim trend stems from a toxic mixture of more drug- and alcohol-related deaths and more heart disease and obesity in many parts of the country. And it puts Americans at a higher risk of early death compared to their counterparts in other wealthy countries.

But what’s often lost in the conversation about the uptick in mortality here is that this trend isn’t affecting all Americans. In fact, there’s one group in the US that’s actually doing better than ever: the rich. While poor and middle-class Americans are dying earlier these days, the wealthiest among us are enjoying unprecedented longevity….

The Bureaucratic Nightmare of Incrementalism

Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, January 17, 2018

America’s patchwork system of social services makes it hard to care for ourselves. ….

….It’s actually less expensive to spend public money on shelter instead — and meanwhile, people who receive shelter see significantly better health outcomes, which can help them attain overall stability.

Some cities and states have recently acknowledged this calculus. Salt Lake City’s enormously successful Housing First initiative has reduced chronic homelessness in the city by 91 percent by providing housing to homeless people without requiring proof of employment, treatment, or counseling — the principle being that housing comes first, making other services easier to administer. Houston, too, has seen major improvement in both homeless people’s health outcomes and the city’s budget with its Integrated Care for the Chronically Homeless program, which uses Medicaid funding to provide permanent supportive housing units to homeless people who make at least three emergency room visits over two years.

These initiatives are a big step in the right direction, since they take into account the close relationship between health care and housing security — issues that are usually siloed to detrimental effect. But programs like these face serious obstacles. In particular, it’s extremely hard to coordinate among a kaleidoscope of separate federal, state, and local agencies, social program stipulations, and funding streams..;…

The Resurgence of Universal Basic Income

Source: Kody Carmody, Econ Focus, Third Quarter, 2017

Concerns about the effects of automation have brought an old policy proposal back into the limelight. …. Today, a new set of techno-optimists argue that coming advances in automation and artificial intelligence will finally fulfill Keynes’ prediction, replacing most human labor. Even if machines don’t cause widespread unemployment, they have caused and surely will continue to cause substantial labor market shocks in specific industries. These concerns have breathed new life into the discussion over a policy now called universal basic income, or UBI.

Many variations have been proposed, but UBI generally refers to regular cash payments that would go to individuals regardless of work status or income (that’s the “universal”) and would cover some minimum standard of living (that’s the “basic”). ….

At the same time, questions remain about how it could be done and its effects…..