Technological Change and the Growth of Health Care Spending

Source: Congressional Budget Office, Publication number 2764, January 2008

Health care costs in the United States have grown substantially for decades and are expected to continue to grow in the future. For the federal government, rising health care costs constitute the principal challenge of fiscal policy-no other single factor will exert more influence over the long-term balance of the federal budget. The effects of rising health care costs are not limited to public programs, however. Private payers have experienced similar growth in costs.

This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) paper-written at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget-describes the historical growth in spending on health care in the United States. It examines the factors that determine health care spending and how they have contributed to spending growth over time. Special emphasis is given to the largest single factor driving spending growth-the greatly expanded capabilities of medicine brought about by technological advances in medical science over the past several decades. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of continued technological change for future growth of health care spending.
Testimony on Growth in Health Care Costs

Transforming the National Guard and Reserves into a 21st-Century Operational force

Source: Commission on National Guard and Reserves, Final Report to Congress and the Secretary of Defense, January 31, 2008
From an Associated Press story:
The U.S. military isn’t ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don’t have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88% of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.

The independent commission is charged by Congress to recommend changes in law and policy concerning the Guard and Reserves.

The Economic Report of the President

Source: Economic Report of the President, February 2008

The Economic Report of the President – “Today, the White House released the Economic Report of the President, an annual report to Congress on the Nation’s economic progress. The report released today reviews the state of the U.S. economy, the outlook for the next several years, and a wide variety of economic issues that underlie many of the Administration’s economic policies.”
See also:
Fact Sheet
• Economic Report of the President: 2008 Report Spreadsheet Tables
• Previous Economic Reports of the President: Download entire reports and statistical tables

Union Membership Rises, but Quality of Jobs Has Changed

Source: Jeremy Smerd, Workforce Management, February 7, 2008

The proportion of union workers is up for the first time in decades, but jobs are more likely to be low-wage.

Union membership as a part of the overall workforce in the United States grew last year for the first time in a quarter-century, according to analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The news, published January 25, came a day after the Ford Motor Co. announced it would further reduce the number of hourly workers by 11,000 on top of the 44,000 jobs the auto-maker has shed since 2006.

It represents part of the seismic shift in the makeup of America’s unionized workforce. Today, a union worker is more likely to be a low-skilled, low-paid service worker than a skilled, well-paid manufacturing employee.

“The future of the unions is the $8-an-hour home health care worker,” says David Gregory, professor of law at St. John’s University. The unions may have regained membership with lower-wage service workers, but they cannot regain the dues lost along with higher-paid jobs, Gregory says.

British Union Plans Merger With American Steelworkers

Source: Mark Milner, The Guardian, February 11 2008

· Super-union will square up to multinational firms
· Unite and USW merger will cover 3m members

Two of the largest British and American unions are hoping to announce an agreement this summer to create a transatlantic super-union capable of defending workers’ rights in the globalised marketplace.

Unite, which has about two million members, and the United Steelworkers union (USW), which represents about a million members in the US, Canada and the Caribbean, see the creation of an international union presence as the key to meeting the challenges posed by the onward march of globalisation.

Every Kid Counts in the District of Columbia: 14th Annual Fact Book 2007

Source: Jennifer Comey, Peter A. Tatian, Elizabeth Guernsey, Betsy Chang, Urban Institute, February 08, 2008

From the abstract:
The 14th annual Fact Book is a comprehensive data source for indicators of child well-being in the District of Columbia. Over 50 data indicators are tracked over time. This publication provides a broad perspective on the status of children and youth in the District. We seek to inform and educate our readers about the issues affecting children and their families in the District. We encourage community residents, policy makers, professionals, and others who work with and/or on behalf of children and families to create conditions that foster the optimal health and development of our children.

The Fact Book is organized to reflect the six citywide goals for children and youth in the District of Columbia. The six citywide goals are: children are ready for school; children and youth succeed in school; children and youth are healthy and practice healthy behaviors; children and youth engage in meaningful activities; children and youth live in healthy, stable, and supportive families; and all youth make a successful transition to adulthood.

Immigration to Play Lead Role In Future U.S. Growth – U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050

Source: Jeffrey Passel and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center, February 11, 2008

From the executive summary:
If current trends continue, the population of the United States will rise to 438 million in 2050, from 296 million in 2005, and 82% of the increase will be due to immigrants arriving from 2005 to 2050 and their U.S.-born descendants, according to new projections developed by the Pew Research Center.

Of the 117 million people added to the population during this period due to the effect of new immigration, 67 million will be the immigrants themselves and 50 million will be their U.S.-born children or grandchildren.

Responding to the Foreclosure Crisis

Source: James H. Carr, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Testimony before United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, January 29, 2008

Regional economic downturns, speculation on skyrocketing home prices and rampant unfair and deceptive mortgage lending practices have combined to create the perfect foreclosure storm in America. According to the FDIC, there is roughly $1.3 trillion of outstanding subprime mortgage debt (Poirer, 2007). In 2006 alone, more than $600 billion of subprime mortgages were originated (Inside Mortgage Finance, 2006). RealtyTrac data shows roughly 450,000 homes experienced foreclosure in the third quarter of 2007, up a full 100 percent from the same period one year ago (Yoon, 2007). And, although foreclosures are most heavily concentrated in 12 to 20 states, foreclosures are up in 45 of 50 states. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke reported that 21 percent of subprime adjustable-rate mortgages were ninety-days delinquent or more as of January 2008 and according to the Center for Responsible Lending (Center for Responsible Lending) fully one in five subprime loans are expected to fail (Bernanke, 2008; Center for Responsible Lending, 2007). That rate of foreclosure is estimated to translate into more than two million families losing their homes to foreclosure over the next year to 18 months (Center for Responsible Lending, 2007). Estimates of the full economic costs of the foreclosure crisis vary greatly. The projections share, however, a common theme: the prospect of significant financial costs that extent beyond the housing market.

Child Labor

Source: Megha Bahree, Forbes, Vol. 181 no. 4, February 25, 2008

That garden stone, handmade carpet or embroidered T-shirt you just bought was probably made by child labor.

Every time you buy an imported handmade carpet, an embroidered pair of jeans, a beaded purse, a decorated box or a soccer ball there’s a good chance you’re acquiring something fashioned by a child. Such goods are available in places like GapKids, Macy’s, ABC Carpet & Home, Ikea, Lowe’s, and Home Depot. These retailers say they are aware of child-labor problems, have strict policies against selling products made by underage kids and abide by the laws of the countries from which they import. But there are many links in a supply chain, and even a well-intentioned importer can’t police them all.

“There are many, many household items that are produced with forced labor and not just child labor,” says Bama Athreya, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum in Washington, D.C. It’s a fact of a global economy, and will continue to be, as long as Americans (and Europeans) demand cheap goods–and incomes in emerging economies remain low. If a child is enslaved, it’s because his parents are desperately poor.