Three reasons the US doesn’t have universal health coverage

Source: Timothy Callaghan, The Conversation, October 25, 2016

….Given these facts, it is important to ask: Why isn’t universal coverage through a national health insurance system even being considered in America? Research in health policy points to three explanations.

No. 1: We don’t want it
….In other words, Americans, and conservatives in particular, have a strong belief in classical liberalism and the idea that the government should play a limited role in society……

No. 2: Interest groups don’t want it
….The insurance industry was a key player in this process, spending over $100 million to help shape the ACA and keep private insurers, as opposed to the government, as the key cog in American health care……

No. 3: Entitlement programs are hard in general to enact
….The political system is prone to inertia and any attempt at comprehensive reform must pass through the obstacle course of congressional committees, budget estimates, conference committees, amendments and a potential veto while opponents of reform publicly bash the bill……

Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reach

Source: Allyson Fredericksen, People’s Action Institute, Job Gap Economic Prosperity series, People’s Action Institute, October 2016

From the summary:
Education is often lauded as the great equalizer and a solution to the growing income gap. But, as the cost of college breaks family budgets and requires students to take out thousands of dollars in educational loans, wages, even for those with a degree, have not kept pace, and have even declined in many occupations.

Though campaigns to increase the minimum wage have been won in cities and states across the country, current minimum wage rates do not provide a living wage for even a single adult. Research on living wage rates produced by People’s Action Institute shows that, nationally, a living wage for a single adult is $17.28 per hour. For those with student debt, that living wage rises to $18.67 per hour.

Increasing the minimum wage to a living wage and abolishing the tipped subminimum wage will help more workers make ends meet, but student debt forgiveness is also vital. And, because systemic barriers mean women and people of color are disproportionately impacted by low wages and student debt, more must be done to strengthen and enforce equal opportunity statutes.

At a minimum, working full-time should ensure financial stability, including the ability to pay off student loan debt. It’s time for elected officials to take action to make that a reality.
Table 1: Single Adult Living Wage vs Minimum Wage by State
Table 2: Median Student Debt and Monthly Payment for Graduates by State
Table 3: Traditional Single Adult Living Wage vs Student Debt Living Wage by State
Executive summary

Black workers’ wages have been harmed by both widening racial wage gaps and the widening productivity-pay gap

Source: Valerie Wilson, Economic Policy Institute, October 25, 2016

From the summary:
Participants in the ongoing discussion about how to remedy centuries of economic inequality experienced by African Americans generally fall into one of two camps. One group calls for explicitly race-based or racially targeted solutions, while the other group supports race-neutral, or universal, progressive economic policies and programs. This brief focuses on the damage done to typical black workers’ wages in recent decades and demonstrates that progress on both fronts is necessary to undo the damage. Specifically, widening black-white wage gaps and growing overall wage inequality between 1979 and 2015 imposed a dual penalty on black workers’ wage growth. Therefore, a dual strategy is necessary to put black workers’ wages back on a trajectory that lets them share in the fruits of overall economic growth while also closing persistent gaps with white workers.
Press release

Student Debt May Be Contributing to Racial Inequality

Source: Shahien Nasiripour, Bloomberg, October 24, 2016

Black college grads owe more on their student loans while being paid less than their white counterparts.
Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation
Source: Judith Scott-Clayton and Jing Li, Brookings Institution, Evidence Speaks Reports, Vol 2 #3, October 20, 2016

The moment they earn their bachelor’s degrees, black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages). But over the next few years, the black-white debt gap more than triples to a whopping $25,000. Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts. While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report we provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than even recent reports have recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with troubling trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. We conclude with a discussion of policy implications. Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation.

County Benchmarking Engine

Source: OnlyBoth, 2016

Benchmark a U.S. county or county-equivalent against all 3,143 counties described by 104 attributes.

There are 170,250 insights, or about 54 per county.

County data relates to geography, population, education, housing, income, employment, healthcare, resources, religion, land, and arrests.

Data sources are USDA ERC, CDC, HUD, CMS, DHSS, DOJ FBI, and USGS (all federal) plus the Association of Religion Data Archives (
Benchmark a hospital
Benchmark a nursing home
Benchmark a [private] college’s finances

Why companies like Wells Fargo ignore their whistleblowers – at their peril

Source: Elizabeth C. Tippett, The Conversation, October 24, 2016

Enron. Worldcom. The Madoff scandal. The mortgage meltdown. Now Wells Fargo.

High-profile corporate frauds like these all seem to follow the same pattern. First the misconduct is discovered, and then we learn about all of the whistleblowers who tried to stop the fraud much earlier. Congress then tries to enhance whistleblower protections, with varying success.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in 2002 after the Enron and Worlcom scandals, was supposed to protect whistleblowers who uncovered accounting frauds, but judges typically rejected their retaliation claims. The Dodd Frank Act, approved in 2010, provides financial rewards for certain whistleblowers. Its success is still unclear.

While these laws may protect employees who expose wrongdoing from retaliation and encourage more to do the same, nothing requires employers to take their disclosures seriously. And as we saw with the latest scandal involving Wells Fargo, several former employees say they tried to get the company’s attention in 2005 and 2006, to no avail….

Legal Processes for Contesting the Results of a Presidential Election

Source: Jack Maskell, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44659, October 24, 2016

Questions occasionally surface regarding potential voting fraud or election irregularities in presidential elections. …. If legitimate and verifiable allegations of voting fraud, or indications of misconduct by election officials on election day are presented, what legal recourses are available to complainants to litigate and potentially to remedy such wrongs and to contest the result of a presidential election? ….

Partisan Political Activities and Federal Workers: Questions in the 2016 Election

Source: Congressional Research Service, CRS Reports & Analysis, Legal Sidebar, October 20, 2016

As Election Day nears, interest in the Hatch Act’s regulation of government employees’ political activities peaks, with a number of issues raising congressional interest. Are federal officials permitted to appear with candidates for partisan political election at public events? Can federal entities endorse a candidate for partisan political election? The following Q&A addresses the issues implicated by these questions….