Economic Discontent Deepens as Inflation Concerns Rise Growing Rich-Poor Divide in Affording Necessities

Source: Pew Research Center for People and the Press, News release, February 14, 2008

Public views of the U.S. economy, already quite negative, have plummeted since January. Just 17% currently rate the nation’s economy as excellent or good, down from 26% last month. The percentage of Americans rating the economy as “poor” has increased even more dramatically, from 28% to 45% in one month.

Using Income Taxes To Address State Budget Shortfalls

Source: Elizabeth McNichol and Andrew Nicholas, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 21, 2008

States are on the brink of their worst fiscal problems since the 2001 recession. At least half the states are anticipating budget shortfalls for next year (fiscal year 2009). For those states that have estimated the size of the gap, estimated deficits range from $34 billion to $38 billion in total. Among affected states, these deficits represent between 8 percent and 9 percent of total state expenditures.

The U.S. Economy And Changes In Health Insurance Coverage, 2000-2006

Source: John Holahan and Allison Cook, Health Affairs, Web Exclusives, Vol. 27 no. 2, published online February 20, 2008
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The number of uninsured Americans increased by 3.4 million between 2004 and 2006, despite improving economic conditions. In the first four years of the decade, during a period of economic recession, the number increased by 6.0 million. The dominant factor in both periods was a decline in employer-sponsored insurance coverage. Although the recent decline was less than that experienced from 2000 to 2004, growth in public coverage was small, and the number of uninsured people increased by 1.0 million children and 2.4 million adults. Employer coverage declined most for self-employed or small-firm workers, in the South, and among noncitizens.
See also:
Cost Impact Analysis for the “Health Care for America” Proposal
Lewin Group Cost Impact Analysis: Executive Summary
Costs and Savings: Breakdown of Lewin Group Cost Analysis
Two Approaches to U.S. Health Care Reform: Shared Responsibility vs. ‘You’re On Your Own’
Lewin Cost Analysis: Coverage Fact Sheet

Battles Over Nurse Staffing Ratios Spread Across Nation

Source: Mischa Gaus, Labor Notes Magazine, No. 347, February 2008

After a patient quietly died in registered nurse Danielle Magaña’s hospital hallway, she decided she’d had enough. Although an autopsy later said the woman had died of natural causes, Magaña said the incident was waiting to happen at her chronically short-staffed San Antonio hospital.

Intensive-care nurses like her were assigned up to five patients per shift, including two in the hallways who weren’t hooked into monitoring equipment that warns when a patient’s vital signs slip away. Magaña still questions whether the woman could have been rescued if the nurses on her floor weren’t carrying such heavy patient loads.

Hospital management, she said, “do not give us the right to say, you need to call in another nurse.”

So Magaña became one of the 40,000 Texas registered nurses the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) estimates have left the hospital bedside, largely they argue because hospitals cut staff in the 1990s and quickened the pace of nursing work to intolerable levels. In a national study released in September, 42 percent of newly licensed RNs said they would like to leave bedside nursing.

Typical Wealth Held by Those at the Verge of Retirement

Source: Gordon Mermin, Urban Institute, February 22, 2008

From the abstract:
A great way to assess how well adults have accumulated wealth is to look at their finances in the years shortly before they retire. We show wealth among households with an adult age 57-61 in 2004, using the Health and Retirement Study. This wealth snapshot highlights the extraordinary importance of Social Security, traditional pensions, and owner-occupied housing for typical near-retiree households today, which together comprise nearly four-fifths of wealth for middle quintile households on the verge of retirement.

Ohio’s Job Losses: 2000 to 2007 Worst Losses Since the Depression

Source: Dr. Charles W. McMillion, MBG Information Services, February 2008

According to the US Department of Labor, Ohio had -209,400 fewer nonfarm jobs in December

2007 than it had in December 2000. This loss of -3.7% of Ohio’s jobs is the worst seven-year loss in state records that begin in 1939 as the Great Depression was ending. The previous seven-year job loss record was the period ending in 2006 (-3.6% of jobs lost) and before that the record was held for the period ending in 1962 when -3.4% of jobs were lost in the demobilization after the Korean War.

Nine of the state’s thirteen metropolitan areas suffered recent job losses more severe even than Ohio’s statewide losses. Most devastated is the Springfield area, losing -10.0% of its jobs over the last seven years. The other areas with job losses worse than statewide include Canton -8.6% job loss, Dayton -7.6%, Mansfield -6.5%, Youngstown -6.3%, Lima -5.7%, Cleveland -5.5%, Toledo -5.0% and Steubenville-Weirton, OH/WV -3.8%.

President’s Budget Would Cut Deeply Into Important Public Services and Adversely Affect States

Source: Sharon Parrott, Kris Cox, Danilo Trisi, and Douglas Rice, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 20, 2008

The President’s 2009 budget would provide some $20.5 billion less for domestic discretionary programs outside of homeland security — a broad category of programs that includes everything from child care to environmental protection to medical research — than the 2008 level, adjusted for inflation.

The budget calls for reductions in a broad range of services, including some areas that have seen sizable cuts in recent years. For example, the budget would cut child care, environmental protection, and job training — all areas for which funding in 2008 is well below funding earlier in the decade, after adjusting for inflation.

State tables

Getting Ahead Or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility In America

Source: Julia B. Isaacs, Isabel V. Sawhill, and Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution, Economic Mobility Project (Pew Charitable Trusts), 2008

Since our nation’s founding, the promise of economic opportunity has been a central component of the American Dream. And while the Dream remains a unifying tenet for an increasingly diverse society, it may be showing signs of wear. Growing income inequality and slower economic growth suggest that now is an important moment to review the facts about opportunity and mobility in America and to attempt to answer the basic question: Is the American Dream alive and well?

This volume, authored by a team of scholars at the Brookings Institution, is one in a series of major research products that aims to further enlighten the public dialogue on economic opportunity. While it offers reassuring findings in some areas, in many others there is room for concern. By arming the public and policy makers with facts about the status of opportunity in America today, this volume seeks to stimulate and frame the debate about which policies are likely to be most effective in ensuring that the American Dream endures for the next century.

Key findings

Targeted at Work

Source: David L. Hudson Jr. and Lawrence D. Rosenthal, Legal Times, February 18, 2008

Victimized employees deserve the Supreme Court’s help against retaliation on the job

Retaliation cases have become significant — both for the workplace and for the Supreme Court. This term alone, the Court is hearing several retaliation cases — including two with oral arguments this week — with important consequences for victimized employees and for the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws.

Related article:
Employer Retaliation Cases Reach U.S. Supreme Court
Source: Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor, 02/19/2008