Distributional Analysis of Pension and Social Security Reforms: Alternative Approaches and a Report on an Expert Panel Meeting

Source: Eric Toder, Urban Institute, September 16, 2008

From the summary:
In April 2008, the Urban Institute convened an expert panel of researchers inside and outside of government agencies to discuss how best to perform distributional analyses of proposals to reform Social Security and private pensions. The panel discussed key technical issues, including how to measure the baseline income distribution and characterize current policies, how to address changes that alter the timing of taxes and benefits, and how to measure and report gains and losses from policy interventions. The group revealed diverse viewpoints, but we conclude that current methods used in recent UI research fall within the range of reasonable alternatives.

Aligning Incentives: The Case for Delivery System Reform: Testimony Before The United States Senate Committee on Finance

Source: Robert Berenson, Urban Institute, September 16, 2008

From the summary:
In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Robert Berenson, M.D. explores possible reasons that integrated care organizations that include multispecialty group practices have not become a major feature of the U.S. health system despite prominent success stories. These organizations are often penalized financially for undertaking activities that reduce costs because the benefits of efficiency are not internalized to the organization. Berenson makes the case that current payment incentives embedded in Medicare and private payer approaches promote behavior that may not benefit patients, such as rewarding preventable hospitalizations and producing a mismatch between the services patients need and those that fee schedules encourage.

Food Stamps, Federalism, and Working Families

Source: Kenneth Finegold, Urban Institute, September 16, 2008

From the summary:
Food stamp benefits can provide an important supplement to the income of working families (families with children under 18 and earnings), who now make up nearly 40 percent of program participants. States can take advantage of Food Stamp Program policy options that increase eligibility and benefits. Seven policy options are particularly important for working families: more liberal vehicle rules, expanded categorical eligibility, transitional benefits for families leaving cash assistance, outreach, longer certification periods, reduced reporting requirements, and waivers of the required face-to-face interviews at recertification.

Texas Juvenile Probation Today and Tomorrow

Source: Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and Juvenile Justice Practitioners, July 2008

Key issues impacting the Texas juvenile probation system are discussed. This report includes the following sections: executive summary; Texas Juvenile Probation Commission — history, role, and function, and 26 years of accomplishments; juvenile justice trends; four guiding principles; and research supporting these guiding principles.

Improving Responses to People with Mental Illness: The Essential Elements of a Specialized Law Enforcement-Based Program

Source: Matt Schwarzfeld, Melissa Reuland, Martha Plotkin, Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum For the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs U.S. Department of Justice, 2008

The ten essential elements comprising a specialized law enforcement-based program are described. Elements are: collaborative planning and implementation; program design; specialized training; call-taker and dispatcher protocols; stabilization, observation, and disposition; transportation and custodial transfer; information exchange and confidentiality; treatment, supports, and services; organizational support; and program evaluation and sustainability.

How Projected Surpluses Became Deficits: Main Causes Were Tax Cuts and Higher Security Spending

Source: Richard Kogan and Gillian Brunet, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 12, 2008

From the summary:
The federal budget is projected to run a $546 billion deficit in 2009, compared with the $710 billion surplus that budget experts projected for 2009 back when President Bush took office nearly eight years ago. This $1.3 trillion deterioration in the nation’s fiscal finances for 2009 can be seen by comparing estimates that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released this week with those that CBO released in January 2001.

Industrial Justice: Privacy Protection for the Employed

Source: Ariana Levinson, Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 18, No. 3, 2009

From the abstract:
118 years ago Samuel Warren & Louis D. Brandeis proclaimed that technological change necessitated new protections for the right to privacy. Today, new protections for the right to privacy are called for once again because, in the American workplace, technological change continues unabated and little privacy is afforded employees from employer monitoring using the technology. Moreover, employers are disciplining and terminating employees based on information uncovered by monitoring. Recently, many employees have been terminated for off-duty blogging. Employees are often disciplined for using e-mail for personal reasons while at work. And global positioning systems (“GPS”) have been relied on to discipline drivers and other employees.

This is the first academic article to provide a detailed review of labor arbitration decisions governing the right to privacy from employer monitoring in over thirty years. The article uses the decisions, on employee privacy and technologies such as GPS, e-mail, and the Internet, as a springboard to propose privacy protections in the non-Union private sector workplace. It, thus, fills a gap in the academic literature. The framework suggested provides the greatest protection for off-duty behavior, intermediate protection for on-duty expression of thought, such as through computer usage, and baseline protection for on-duty actions. It could be implemented through legislation of minimum rights or mandates for employers to adopt safe-harbor policies.

States Hard Hit By Rising Unemployment and End of Federal Jobless Benefits: Nearly 800,000 Workers Left Without Assistance Soon After Congress Recesses

Source: National Employment Law Project, September 19, 2008

The economy took a serious turn for the worse in August, when the unemployment rate reached a five-year high of 6.1 percent and nearly 9.4 million Americans were officially counted as unemployed and still actively looking for work. Just since the federal program of extended jobless benefits was enacted in June, nearly 900,000 more workers are struggling to find jobs in a rapidly declining economy. At the same time, twice as many states are experiencing especially high levels of unemployment, with nearly a dozen states now exceeding 6.5 percent unemployment.

Large number of states, especially in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri), the South (Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina), and the West (California, Nevada) now have unemployment rates that compare to the peak they reached during the extended 1990s recession (when the unemployment rate was 7.8%). Northeastern states, including Rhode Island and Connecticut, are also experiencing record rates of joblessness. Compared to when the situation when the extension of unemployment benefits passed in June, there are now triple the number of states with unemployment over 6% (averaged over three months) and six times as many states with unemployment rates over 6.5%.
See also:
BLS Report

The Arbitration Trap: How Credit Card Companies Ensnare Consumers

Source: John O’Donnell, Public Citizen, September 2007

From the summary:
This report details how arbitration firms and credit card companies enjoy a cozy, mutually beneficial relationship at the expense of consumers they force into binding mandatory arbitration. Using data from California, the findings provide a glimpse of how arbitration traps consumers throughout the country in unfair, secret proceedings where for-profit arbitrators make the rules. Public Citizen’s research uncovered consumers who spent years fending off collection agencies, cleaning up identity theft messes and struggling to bounce back from credit rating hits.
• Read the press release
• Read our news coverage
• Read the testimony of Laura MacCleery [pdf] before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law regarding the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007
• Read Public Citizen’s rebuttal to industry’s misleading statements about the report.
• Read our fact sheet on the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007
• Read a letter of support of the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 signed by 32 groups
• Take action now
• Learn ways to protect yourself
• Read the blog
• Read the statement of Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen President
• Read the statement of Laura MacCleery, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch
• Read the statement of Troy Cornock, victim of binding mandatory arbitration
• Read the statement of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), sponsor of Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007.
• Read our bibliography of law review articles critiquing binding mandatory arbitration
• Examples of BMA clauses from MBNA (April 2006) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (2005)
• NAF California data Jan. 2003 to Mar. 2007* [Excel file]