Comparison of Ownership vs. Rental Costs in 100 U.S. Cities Demonstrates that Rental Options Should Be a Consideration in Housing Proposals

Source: Hye Jin Rho, Danilo Pelletiere, and Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2008

From a press release:
As Congress debates solutions to the mortgage meltdown and ever more homeowners find themselves facing foreclosure, a report released today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows that in many bubble-inflated markets, homeownership remains a costly and risky proposition.

The study, “Ownership, Rental Costs and the Prospects of Building Home Equity: A Comparison of 100 Metropolitan Areas,” evaluates the median house price and fair market rent, as determined by HUD, for the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The study extends the methodology from an earlier study, “The Cost of Maintaining Home Ownership in the Current Crisis: Comparisons in 20 Cities,” to the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Have People Delayed Claiming Retirement Benefits? Responses to Changes in Social Security Rules

Source: Jae Song, Joyce Manchester, Congressional Budget Office, Working Paper Series, 2008-4, May 2008

Two changes have been made recently to rules governing the Social Security program:

The retirement earnings test was eliminated in 2000 for people aged 65-69, and the full retirement age (FRA) for people born in 1938 or later was scheduled to gradually increase in two-month increments until reaching age 67.

This paper examines changes in the age at which people claim Social Security retirement benefits in response to those changes. Data comes from a 1 percent sample of administrative data from the Social Security Administration for 1997 to 2007.

After Twelve Years: Where Is That Labor-Intellectual Alliance?

Source: Herman Benson, Benson’s Union Democracy Blog, January 18, 2008

The following piece first appeared in the current issue of New Politics.

Cheerleading is not enough. It’s time for those scholars, artists, and writers to take another look at what’s happening in our labor movement.

When John Sweeney defeated Lane Kirkland and Tom Donahue to take over as president of the AFL-CIO in 1995, he proposed to lead the federation out of its doldrums. What resounded with promise was his call for “a reborn movement of American workers, ready to fight for social and economic justice … a new progressive voice in American life …changing the direction of American politics …a vibrant social movement, a democratic movement that speaks for all American workers.”

Good Buildings, Better Schools: An Economic Stimulus Opportunity With Long-Term Benefits

Source: Mary Filardo, EPI Briefing Paper, April 29, 2008

From the summary:
The nation’s 97,000 public school buildings comprise an estimated 6.6 billion square feet of space on over 1 million acres of land. And while states and local communities invested over $500 billion in K-12 school building improvements from 1995 to 2004, considerable additional investments are needed to ensure that the nation’s public schools are healthy, safe, environmentally sound, and built and maintained to support a high-quality education.

Today, many of the nation’s schools face the combined challenges of deteriorating conditions, out-of date design, and changing utilization pressures (including intense overcrowding in some communities and rapidly declining enrollments in others). These combined deficiencies impair the quality of teaching and learning and contribute to health and safety problems for staff and students. Building design and facility conditions have also been associated with teacher motivation and student achievement.
See also:
Press release

Why Does Funding Status Vary Among State and Local Plans?

Source: Alicia H. Munnell, Kelly Haverstick, and Jean-Pierre Aubry, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, State and Local Pension Plans #6, May 2008

From the summary:
While state and local pensions as a group are about as well funded as plans in the private sector, significant variation exists. More than 60 percent are adequately funded, but almost 40 percent are not. Low levels of funding means that future taxpayers will have to pay the cost of unfunded pension promises, as well as the unfunded costs of retiree health insurance. Alternatively, if taxpayers balk at covering these pension commitments, future beneficiaries risk losing benefits, such as ad hoc cost-of-living increases.

Report shows U.S. infrastructure needs immediate improvement

Source: American City and County, May 1, 2008

The United States risks losing its ability to compete globally if steps are not taken immediately to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, according to a report released Tuesday by the Washington-based Urban Land Institute (ULI). The report, “Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage,” calls for the creation of a federal framework to replace the “outdated” regional planning process that has led to “a mish-mash of disconnected regional infrastructure management approaches.”
See also:
Press release

Office of Thrift Supervision Proposes New Rules on Unfair Banking Practices

Source: Consumers Union, Press Release, May 1, 2008

Proposal Offers Important Protections for Consumers But More Safeguards Needed To Rein In Abusive Practices

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) announced today that it has approved for public comment a proposed rule to prohibit savings associations from engaging in certain unfair and deceptive practices. The proposed rule offers important new protections for credit card consumers, but more safeguards are needed, according to Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

See also:

Office of Thrift Supervision, Press release

Rule summary

Who Pays for Health Care When Workers Are Uninsured?

Source: Sherry Glied, and Bisundev Mahato, Commonwealth Fund, Volume 37, May 2, 2008

From the overview:
Employer-sponsored insurance coverage forms the backbone of the U.S. health insurance system, yet there are crucial weaknesses that have contributed to a growing number of uninsured Americans. Ultimately, the lack of employer-based coverage generates public costs in the form of taxpayer bills to fund public insurance or uncompensated care programs for care that would otherwise be paid for through insurance. This report quantifies those costs, using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys to estimate public program spending and uncompensated care costs for uninsured workers and their dependents. In 2004, uninsured and publicly insured workers and their dependents accounted for $45 billion in public costs. This includes $33 billion associated with public program insurance costs and $12 billion in uncompensated care costs. Public costs associated with uninsured and publicly insured workers and their dependents were 45 percent greater in 2004 than in 1999. All costs are reported in 2004 dollars.

See also:

The Widening Health Care Gap Between High- and Low-Wage Workers

Congressional Testimony–Widening Gaps in Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: The Need for Universal Coverage

Rethinking U.S. Rental Housing Policy

Source: Bruce Katz and Margery Austin Turner, Brookings Institution, Opportunity 08, April 24, 2008

From the summary:
Despite the fact that one-third of all Americans–representing 36 million households–live in rental housing, rental policy often takes a back seat to home-ownership policy in Washington. To ensure that low- and moderate-income Americans can afford rental housing, Bruce Katz says that the next president needs to help supplement incomes through tax credits, empower local governments to expand and preserve the supply of affordable housing and deal with the subprime mortgage crisis.

See also:

Position Paper
Fact Sheet

Transportation and the Economy

Source: Brookings Institution, Opportunity 08, April 28, 2008

From the summary:
On April 28, the Brookings Institution’s Opportunity 08 project hosted U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters for a discussion of America’s transportation infrastructure. Secretary Peters focused on the challenges facing the nation’s transportation network, and how local, state and national leaders can take advantage of new technology and approaches to unleash a new wave of transportation investments in this country.

Watch the video