Author Archives: afscme

Time for Democrats to Pay Their Dues

Source: James Thindwa, In These Times, February 6, 2013

For too long organized labor has failed to ask the Dems, ‘Which side are you on?’…Democratic leaders who think their party can survive without labor are grossly mistaken. Who will turn out the base—…The fact is, the success of the American labor movement has always depended upon a welcoming policy environment facilitated by an allied political party. While many forces are contributing to labor’s decline, we can no longer ignore a central one: The once-reliable Democratic Party has abandoned the cause. However, the party remains heavily dependent on labor for financial and organizational infrastructure….

Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism

Source: Jeffrey Levi, Laura M. Segal, Dara Alpert Lieberman, Rebecca St. Laurent, Kendra May, Albert Lang, Trust for America’s Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, December 2012

From the summary:
In the 10th annual Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism report, 35 states and Washington, D.C. scored a six or lower on 10 key indicators of public health preparedness.
The report found that while there has been significant progress toward improving public health preparedness over the past 10 years, particularly in core capabilities, there continue to be persistent gaps in the country’s ability to respond to health emergencies, ranging from bioterrorist threats to serious disease outbreaks to extreme weather events. In the report, Kansas and Montana scored lowest – three out of 10 – and Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin scored highest – eight out of 10.

The Ready or Not? report provides a snapshot of our nation’s public health emergency preparedness. Its indicators are developed in consultation with leading public health experts based on data from publicly available sources, or information provided by public officials. Some key findings from the report include:

-29 states cut public health funding from fiscal years (FY) 2010-11 to 2011-12, with 23 of these states cutting funds for a second year in a row and 14 for three consecutive years. In addition, federal funds for state and local preparedness have decreased 38 percent from FY 2005-2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds, adjusted for inflation). States are reporting that gains in public health preparedness achieved in the past decade since September 11, 2001 are eroding, and since 2008, budget cuts have resulted in more than 45,700 job losses at state and local health departments;
-Only two states have met the national goal of vaccinating 90 percent of young children, ages 19-36 months, against whooping cough (pertussis). This year Washington state has seen one of the most significant whooping cough outbreaks in recent history;
-35 states and Washington, D.C. do not currently have complete climate change adaptation plans, which include planning for health threats posed by extreme weather events;
-20 states do not mandate all licensed child care facilities to have a multi-hazard written evacuation plan; and
-13 state public health laboratories report they do not have sufficient capacity to work five, 12-hour days for six to eight weeks in response to an infectious disease outbreak, such as novel influenza A H1N1.
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Press Release

The State of Local Government Pensions: A Preliminary Inquiry

Source: Tracy M. Gordon, Heather M. Rose, and Ilana Fischer, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Inventory ID WP12TG1, July 2012

From the abstract:
State government pensions have attracted considerable media and scholarly attention. Less well understood are the nation’s 3,196 locally administered plans. This paper represents a first step toward filling this gap. After reviewing issues common to state and local plans, it summarizes existing data and research on local pensions. Based on their own technical assumptions, local plans are as well funded as their statewide counterparts (Munnell et al., 2011). However, applying a lower discount rate and generalizing from the nation’s largest municipal plans (those with assets above $1 billion), researchers have estimated aggregate unfunded liabilities of $574 billion (Novy-Marx and Rauh, 2011). Results from an original news scan suggest that pensions are already burdening some local budgets. Key issues going forward will be determining how local government employee pension costs affect current municipal cash flows and whether pension funding status is capitalized in local property values.

Employer costs for defined benefit and defined contribution retirement plans

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Editor’s Desk, December 26, 2012

Private industry employers now spend more per employee hour worked for defined contribution retirement plans (retirement plans that specify the level of employer contributions and place those contributions into individual employee accounts) than for defined benefit retirement plans (plans that provide employees with guaranteed retirement benefits that are based on a benefit formula). March 2012 private industry employer costs for defined contribution plans were 60 cents per employee hour worker, compared to 43 cents for defined benefit plans.

Projections of Education Statistics to 2021

Source: William J Hussar, Tabitha M. Bailey, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2013008, January 2013

From the abstract:
This publication provides projections for key education statistics. It includes statistics on enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools, and enrollment and earned degrees conferred expenditures of degree-granting institutions. For the Nation, the tables, figures, and text contain data on enrollment, teachers, graduates, and expenditures for the past 14 years and projections to the year 2021. For the 50 States and the District of Columbia, the tables, figures, and text contain data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2021. In addition, the report includes a methodology section describing models and assumptions used to develop national and state-level projections.

Home Video Surveillance Without a Warrant? EFF Asks Appeals Court to Reconsider

Source: Hanni Fakhoury, February 6, 2013

The next time you allow a guest into your home for dinner, should you be worried they’re secretly video recording every detail of your home for the government? In a new amicus brief filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, we’ve asked the court to reconsider a decision finding that allowing someone into your home means you’re also placing yourself at the risk of warrantless home video surveillance.

A Bleak Outlook for Higher Education in the Northeast

Source: Jason E. Lane, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Observations, February 2013

A series of recent reports suggest a bleak outlook for higher education. Moody’s had downgraded its outlook for the entire higher education sector to negative. Other recent reports show declining state appropriations, erratic returns generated by university endowments, and that the Northeast will be losing significant numbers of high school students in the coming decades.

In this new observation piece, Jason Lane, Rockefeller Institute’s director of education studies, examines the data and argues that this new environment might lead to more closures and consolidations of institutions in the Northeast if they are not prepared to adapt to this new environment.
Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates
Source: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Print publication number: 2A366, December 2012

Announcement: Moody’s: 2013 outlook for entire US Higher Education sector changed to negative
Source: Moody’s Investors Service, Global Credit Research, January 16, 2013

In a Volatile Economy, Colleges’ Endowment Returns Fall Flat
Source: Don Troop, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 1, 2013

The Hidden Cost Of Offshore Tax Havens: State Budgets Under Pressure From Tax Loophole Abuse

Source: Jordan Schneider and Elizabeth Ridlington, Phineas Baxandall and Dan Smith, U.S. Pirg Education Fund, January 2013 
From the summary:
When U.S. corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes to the federal government, it is an abuse of our tax system. Tax haven abusers benefit from our markets, infrastructure, educated workforce, and security, but they pay next to nothing for these benefits. Ultimately, taxpayers must pick up the tab, either in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public spending priorities, or increased national debt.

Tax havens are countries or jurisdictions with minimal or no taxes. Corporations and individuals shift earnings to financial institutions in these countries to reduce their U.S. income tax liability – costing the federal government $150 billion in lost revenues each year….

In 2011, states lost approximately $39.8 billion in tax revenues from corporations and wealthy individuals who sheltered money in foreign tax havens. Multinational corporations account for more than $26 billion of the lost tax revenue, and wealthy individuals account for the rest….
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Press Release

What are the Retirement Prospects of Middle-Class Americans?

Source: Barbara A. Butricia, Mikki D. Waid, AARP Public Policy Institute, January 2013

From the abstract:
Using The Urban Institute’s Dynamic Simulation of Income Model, Barbara Butrica and Mikki Waid project that workers today are less likely than their parents or grandparents to enjoy the living standards of their working years when they retire. Much of the projected decline is expected because health care costs are rising faster than wages. That is a central finding from this report from the Urban Institute and AARP’s Public Policy Institute, based on computer modeling of retirement prospects for middle-class workers under age 55 in 2012.
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