Profiles of Significant Collective Bargaining Disputes in 2007

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Twenty-one work stoppages that began in 2007 and two major work stoppages that continued from 2006 idled a total of 189,000 workers and resulted in 1.3 million workdays of idleness. This article profiles the issues involved in the three most significant stoppages of 2007 as measured by days of idleness and number of workers involved. The three work stoppages, in total, represent nearly half (47 percent) of the workers idled and 55 percent of the days idle for all major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers in 2007.

Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Quick facts on key states:
• Issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Massachusetts, California
• Recognizes same-sex marriages from other states: Rhode Island
• Allows civil unions, providing state-level spousal rights to same-sex couples: Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire
• Statewide law provides nearly all state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples (Domestic Partnerships): California, Oregon
• Statewide law provides some state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples (Domestic Partnerships): Hawaii, Maine, District of Columbia, Washington

Full report

EPA’s Report on the Environment

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

From press release:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the 2008 EPA Report on the Environment today, a document that provides the American people with information on trends in the condition of air, water, and land and related changes in human health in the United States.

In addition to national scale indicators, the ROE also provides data broken out by EPA Regions. This includes nearly 30 indicators for EPA Region 8, which includes the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Indicators presented include air pollutant emissions and concentrations, acid deposition, drinking water quality, land use patterns, population, fertilizer use, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, forestland, fish populations, carbon storage, temperature and precipitation, and more.

The EPA 2008 ROE is a valuable resource that will inform and focus EPA activities to improve and protect America’s environment. The report frames key questions related to the protection of human health and the environment, and addresses each issue using scientifically sound indicators that have been developed with extensive public input. The 2008 ROE updates a draft report released by EPA in 2003.

Download in sections (PDFs) or as full report (PDF; 32 MB). Regional indicators also available (PDFs).

Evidence on the Costs and Benefits of Health Information Technology

Source: Congressional Budget Office

From the CBO Director’s blog:
Many people believe that health information technology (health IT) has the potential to transform the practice of health care by reducing costs and improving quality. CBO just released a significant study, prepared at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, examining the evidence on the costs and benefits of health information technology.

“Health IT” generally refers to computer applications for the practice of medicine. (Those applications may include computerized entry systems for physicians’ orders for tests or medications, support systems for clinical decisionmaking, and electronic prescribing of medications.) Relatively few providers–as of 2006, about 12 percent of physicians and 11 percent of hospitals–have adopted health IT.

Full report (PDF: 1.6 MB)

Participation of Mothers in Government Assistance Programs: 2004

(PDF; 454 KB)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

From press release:
Although participation in government assistance programs has risen somewhat in recent years among mothers with a birth in the last year, it is much lower than when welfare reform was enacted in 1996, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report, Participation of Mothers in Government Assistance Programs: 2004 [PDF], analyzes the socioeconomic characteristics of mothers participating in six different public assistance programs. These include Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); food stamps; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Medicaid; housing assistance; and other assistance. It shows that in 1996, 42 percent of mothers with a birth in the previous year were participants in at least one of these programs. The rate dipped to 29 percent in 2001 before climbing to 34 percent in 2004. The corresponding number, 1.6 million in 1996, dipped to 1.2 million in 2001 before rising to 1.4 million in 2004.

Overall, 7.5 million mothers of childbearing age (15 to 44), or 22 percent, participated in one or more of these programs in 2004. Those with infants were more likely participants than those with older children (34 percent compared with 20 percent).

Mothers were also more likely to receive public assistance if they were younger than 25, living with either no other adult or with an unmarried partner, a minority, did not work in the past month, never attended college, or did not receive child support.

Full report (PDF; 454 KB)

A Reconsideration of Tax Expenditure Analysis

Source: Joint Committee on Taxation

This document, prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, reconsiders the utility of the JCT Staff’s current implementation of tax expenditure analysis. Tax expenditure analysis can and should serve as an effective and neutral analytical tool for policymakers in their consideration of individual tax proposals or larger tax reforms. Its efficacy has been undercut substantially, however, by the depth and breadth of the criticisms leveled against it. Tax expenditure analysis no longer provides policymakers with credible insights into the equity, efficiency, and ease of administration issues raised by a new proposal or by present law, because the premise of the analysis (the validity of the “normal” tax base) is not universally accepted. Driven off track by seemingly endless debates about what should and should not be included in the “normal” tax base, tax expenditure analysis today does not advance either of the two goals that inspired its original proponents: clarifying the aggregate size and application of government expenditures, and improving the Internal Revenue Code. The JCT Staff therefore has begun a project to rethink how best to articulate the principles of tax expenditure analysis, in order to improve the doctrine’s utility to policymakers, reemphasize its neutrality, and address the concerns raised by many commentators.

This pamphlet introduces a new paradigm for classifying tax provisions as tax expenditures. Our revised classification divides the universe of such provisions into two main categories: tax expenditures that can be identified by reference to the general rules of the existing Internal Revenue Code (not, as is the current practice, by reference to a hypothetical “normal” tax), which we label “Tax Subsidies,” and a new category that we have termed “Tax-Induced Structural Distortions.” The two categories together cover much the same ground as does the current definition of tax expenditures, and in some cases extend the application of the concept further. The revised approach does so, however, without relying on a hypothetical “normal” tax to determine what constitutes a tax expenditure, and without holding up that “normal” tax as an implicit criticism of present law. The result should be a more principled and neutral approach to the issues.

Full report (PDF; 367 KB)

Medicaid Managed Care for Children in Child Welfare

Source: Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc.

Children in the child welfare system have an extremely high prevalence of physical and behavioral health problems. This issue brief examines the complex physical and behavioral health care needs and associated costs for children in child welfare and outlines critical opportunities and challenges within Medicaid to better manage care for this high-risk, high-cost population.

Full Document (PDF; 147 KB)

Evaluating the Potential for a Recession in 2008

Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

The U.S. economy has faced some bad news lately. The housing boom has come to an abrupt halt, and housing sales and house building have been falling at double digit rates. Problems in housing markets have spread to financial markets, causing a “liquidity crunch” in August 2007, and calm has not been restored since. Financial institutions have written off large losses because of falling asset values, particularly for mortgage-backed securities. Commodity prices have been rising, and the price of crude oil has recently topped $120 per barrel. While each of these factors might not be enough to cause a recession in isolation, their cumulative effect could be great enough to push the economy into recession. In light of this news, it is perhaps unsurprising that consumer confidence is at a five-year low. In response to these events, Congress has enacted an economic stimulus package (P.L. 110-185) and the Federal Reserve has aggressively cut interest rates and lent directly to the financial system to spur economic growth.

Despite these actions, a recent survey of private sector forecasters put the chance of a recession in 2008 at 60%. A look at the available data suggests that economic growth has slowed considerably, but it is too soon to tell if the economy has entered a recession. Typically, the NBER does not announce that the economy has entered a recession until the recession is well under way, for good reason. Recessions are defined as prolonged and sustained declines in economic activity, so by definition, a persistent downturn cannot be identified until it has persisted.

Any decline in economic activity at this point is only nascent. Growth was slow in the last two quarters for which data are available, but remained positive. During the onset of the liquidity crunch, economic growth was an unusually high 4.9% in the third quarter of 2007. Employment declined slightly in the first four months of 2008. The same forecasters who believe there is a one in two chance of recession also predict that growth will average 1.4% in 2008. Given the lags between policy changes and their effects on the economy, the economy has not yet felt the full impact of the stimulus package and the Federal Reserve’s actions.

Full Report (PDF; 152 KB)

Covering Uninsured Children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

Source: Congressional Budget Office (Testimony)
SCHIP has significantly reduced the number of low-income children who lack health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) estimates, the portion of children in families with income between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level who were uninsured fell by about 25 percent between 1996 (the year before SCHIP was enacted) and 2006. In contrast, the rate of uninsurance among higher-income children remained relatively stable during that period. The difference probably reflects the impact of the SCHIP program.

The states’ outreach efforts and simplified enrollment processes for SCHIP appear to have also increased the share of eligible children who participate in Medicaid–and contributed to a decline in the percentage of children living below the poverty level who are uninsured.

The enrollment of children in public coverage as a result of SCHIP has not led to a one-for-one reduction in the number of low-income children who are uninsured, however. Almost any increase in government spending or tax expenditures intended to expand health insurance coverage will displace private coverage to some degree. In the specific case of SCHIP, the program provides a source of coverage that is less expensive to enrollees and often provides a broader range of benefits than alternative coverage. As a result, the program displaces–or “crowds out”–private coverage to some extent. On the basis of a review of available research, CBO has concluded that for every 100 children who gain public coverage as a result of SCHIP, there is a corresponding reduction in private coverage of between 25 and 50 children.

CBO’s analysis of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, as passed by the House of Representatives, suggested that the legislation would result in 5.8 million children gaining coverage under Medicaid or SCHIP in 2012. Of that increase, CBO estimated, 3.8 million children would otherwise have been uninsured, and 2.0 million children would otherwise have had private coverage. In other words, about one-third of the children who would be newly covered under SCHIP and Medicaid would otherwise have had private coverage. That crowd-out rate is probably about as low as feasible for a voluntary program to increase coverage among children, given the size of the proposed expansion. (Policies to reduce the rate below that level would most likely also reduce the number of children enrolled in the program who would otherwise be uninsured.)

Emergency Response Guidebook 2008

Source: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (U.S. Department of Transportation)

The Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG2008) was developed jointly by the US Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico (SCT) for use by firefighters, police, and other emergency services personnel who may be the first to arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving a hazardous material. It is primarily a guide to aid first responders in (1) quickly identifying the specific or generic classification of the material(s) involved in the incident, and (2) protecting themselves and the general public during this initial response phase of the incident. The ERG is updated every three to four years to accommodate new products and technology. The next version is scheduled for 2012.

DOT’s goal is to place one ERG2008 in each emergency service vehicle, nationwide, through distribution to state and local public safety authorities. To date, nearly eleven million copies have been distributed without charge to the emergency response community.

Full Version (PDF; 2.6 MB)