Good Health Starts Early: Two Studies Show Links Between Child Poverty and Poor Adult Health

Source: Kate Bell Center for American Progress, September 8, 2008

Improving children’s health is key to better overall health outcomes, and should be a cornerstone of any comprehensive health care reform. Two new reports from the World Health Organization and the Campaign to End Child Poverty explore the extent to which health outcomes are determined by social conditions, including poverty, and they show that poverty in childhood has a clear effect on adult health.

Income Inequality in Massachusetts, 1980 – 2006

Source: Rebecca Loveland, Raija Vaisanen, Roy Williams, and Robert Nakosteen, MassBenchmarks, Vol. 10 no. 2, August 2008

This article examines changing income distribution in the state and its regions, showing a long-term pattern of increasing income inequality in the Commonwealth. The article documents a widening gap between the haves and have-nots within every region of the state and, strikingly, between the Greater Boston and Northeast regions and the rest of the Commonwealth.

Got work?

Source: Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, September 17, 2008

Since December 2006, the number of job seekers per job opening available has skyrocketed more than 60%. The number of job seekers per job opening is now firmly in recessionary territory–at a higher level than during any month of the official 2001 recession–and it shows no signs of leveling off. This week’s Economic Snapshot and a companion Issue Brief look at current job openings trends, an important counterpart to the more commonly cited measures of unemployment.

Reversal of Fortune

Source: Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper #220, September 18, 2008

While bad economic news continues to pile up for America’s working people, the economic trends are even more disheartening for African American families. Gains made during the strong labor market of the latter 1990s business cycle have eroded, even as the economy grew significantly. On all major indicators–income, wages, employment, and poverty–African Americans lost ground between 2000 and 2007. Algernon Austin, director of EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, examines the trends and their impact in a new report: Reversal of Fortune: Economic Gains of 1990s Overturned for African Americans from 2000-07.

Preserving Safe, High Quality Public Housing Should Be A Priority Of Federal Housing Policy

Source: Barbara Sard and Will Fischer, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 18, 2008

From the summary:
This report, based on significant new research, examines the state of public housing in the United States today and discusses federal policy changes that have greatly improved public housing over the past decade, as well as the deteriorating funding situation that is undermining this progress. It then outlines several policy recommendations that could further strengthen public housing and preserve most developments for the future.

Financing the Productive Economy: The Heartland Development Bank

Source: Joel Kotkin, Delore Zimmerman, New America Foundation September 18, 2008

From the summary:
Throughout American history, infrastructure investment has played a critical role in economic development. As the nation moved west, the building of canals and turnpikes, followed by construction of railroads, expanded the field of economic opportunity. Later, investment in electricity and telephone networks facilitated the development of vast expanses of the American landscape that had previously been left behind. More recently, the national interstate highway system and now the continuing build-out of broadband telecommunications networks have enabled the de-clustering of many business endeavors that were once confined to large central cities.

Voting In 2008: Ten Swing States

Source: Tova Wang, Samuel Oliker-Friedland, Melissa Reiss and Kristen Oshyn, Common Cause and The Century Foundation, September 2008

In 2006, Common Cause, in conjunction with The Century Foundation and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, released a report, “Voting in 2006: Have We Solved the Problems of 2004?,” in which we looked at the findings of a post-election symposium on the serious flaws revealed during the 2004 general election and ascertained the extent to which states had successfully addressed these problems in the run-up to the 2006 elections. With the 2008 election only a few months away, this follow-up report, “Voting in 2008: Ten Swing States,” assesses how much progress has been made in the past two years in improving the voting process, and identifies what still needs to be done.

Defined Benefit Pension Plans: Guidance Needed to Better Inform Plans of the Challenges and Risks of Investing in Hedge Funds and Private Equity

Source: Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-692, August 14, 2008

Millions of retired Americans rely on defined benefit pension plans for their financial well-being. Recent reports have noted that some plans are investing in ‘alternative’ investments such as hedge funds and private equity funds. This has raised concerns, given that these two types of investments have qualified for exemptions from federal regulations, and could present more risk to retirement assets than traditional investments.

The Financial Crisis of 2007 – 200?

Source: Bill Barclay, New Ground, 120, September – October, 2008

On October 9th, 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both closed at new all time highs. By late January 2008, both had lost more than 10% of their value and investors worried about a developing bear market. In the intervening three months the outlook the U.S. economy went positive to negative. In November and December 2007, the auction rate securities market, used by tax exempt borrowers such as hospitals, collapsed with no bids; on Dec 12th, the Fed announced the creation of by the Term Auction Facility which allowed banks to borrow anonymously for 28 days using a wide range of collateral to meet their pressing liquidity needs and stave off possible bank runs; in March, 2008, the Fed orchestrated the acquisition for Bear Sterns by J.P. Morgan Chase for $10/share, down more than 90% from the previous year’s high (Bear was the only major investment bank that refused Fed pressure to assist in the bailout of Long Term Capital Management in the 1990s); and, in that same month the U.S. Congress agreed to a “stimulus package” of $150 billion. At the same time the rest of the world began to realize that the 2007 ¬ 2008 financial crisis was not restricted to the U.S. So much for the stock market as a leading economic indicator, a status it achieved under Alan Greenspan’s tenure at the Federal Reserve.

What happened? And why? And what should progressives be saying and proposing in response to what is now widely acknowledged as an economic downturn of potentially major significance? This article argues (i) that the economic problems the U.S. now faces are long term and not readily amenable to the usual policy fixes; (ii) that the crisis is rooted in a convergence of three trends, two long-term and one more immediate; and (iii) that there are important policy ideas that progressives should be proposing, although their adoption will occur only as the result of political struggle and pressure.