Wednesday, January 29, 2014
► At Think Progress — States have lost $1.76 billion after long-term unemployment benefits lapsed — The loss of benefits is now impacting 1.6 million people who have been out of work for about six months or longer and used to rely on the subsidy to get by. It also impacts the 2.3 million children living with a parent who has been out of work for 26 weeks or longer. The economy as a whole is also expected to take a big hit if the benefits aren’t restored, losing as many as 240,000 jobs and 0.2 to 0.4 percent of GDP growth.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Meanwhile, adding insult to injury is “right to work” (for less) champion state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), who has sponsored a bill that would require people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own and actively looking for work to also do community service in order to receive their unemployment benefits.
► In the Washington Post — Democrats plan another push on unemployment insurance –Senate Democrats are eying a new proposal for a three month extension of unemployment insurance, to be paid for by a provision that Republicans previously supported.
► At Salon — ‘We’re gonna lose everything:’ One family’s urgent unemployment insurance story — “I can skip meals all the time,” unemployed secretary Kerstin Foster told Salon two weeks after losing unemployment benefits. “I just have a problem with my son skipping meals.”
► From KPLU — Gov. Inslee wants to put $200 million more into education for school supplies, teacher COLAs –” Under my plan, we would close seven current tax breaks which will generate more than $200 million per year in new funding,” Inslee said. Items on the governor’s list include eliminating the sales tax exemption for shoppers from Oregon and other no-sales-tax states. Inslee would also repeal the sales tax exemption for bottled water. Republican Andy Hill, who chairs the Senate budget committee, says tax breaks are hard to close, especially in a 60-day, election year session.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Obamacare enrollment continues to climb in Washington state — More than 320,000 people have signed up for insurance or newly enrolled in Medicaid through Washington’s online health insurance exchange. Of that number, more than 86,000 are now covered by private insurance purchased through the exchange. The rest are new participants in Medicaid.
► In the P.S. Business Journal — State senator suggests abolishing Office of Insurance Commissioner — Republican state Sen. Randi Becker introduced a bill Monday that would eliminate Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s position as an elected official and place power over the state’s insurance industry in the hands of a board that would be largely selected by the Legislature. Kreidler says a Legislature-driven board would be more likely to “kowtow” to the insurance industry and less likely to protect consumers.
► MUST-READ in today’s Seattle Times — Government effort to raise minimum wage may backfire (by Danny Westneat) — It’s possible that (President Obama’s and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s executive orders) giving huge pay hikes to some government workers will spark a prairie fire to get higher pay for all. But it could just as easily leave the taxpaying citizenry smoldering with resentment… In this state we have thankfully avoided full-blown Wisconsin-style resentment of public employees, who are only doing their jobs. But a surefire way to get there is for politicians to enable and even encourage the elimination of benefits such as pensions (for private-sector schlubs at Boeing, anyway) while at the same time pushing big wage increases (but mostly for the government itself).
There’s a bill in the Legislature to raise the wage to $12, by dollar increments over three years. Crucially, it would apply to everyone equally, government and private, all at the same time. No, it wouldn’t solve income inequality. It wouldn’t thrill the socialists or the capitalists. But what it would be is something missing so far from this debate: fair.
ALSO at The Stand — Labor backs bill to raise state minimum wage
► From Reuters — Boeing profits jump 26% — Boeing reported net profit that beat expectations for the fourth quarter on Wednesday, and said it expected deliveries of commercial airplanes to surge in 2014. It said net income in the quarter rose to $1.23 billion, or $1.61 a share, from $978 million, or $1.28 a share, a year earlier.
► From KUOW — After the Machinists vote, labor seeks new directions — Union members and leaders are asking themselves — how can the labor movement recover when one of the strongest unions in the country buckled under the pressure? David Freiboth, the executive secretary of the M.L. King County Labor Council, says things are going to change. “And that’s a good thing. There may be certain structures in the existing labor movement that don’t survive, but until someone comes up with a method to keep the excesses of the market from impoverishing huge amounts of people,” there will always be a need for the labor movement, he said. Adds Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council: “The realization that we have come to is that unions by themselves can’t make the type of political and social change that needs to be made.”
► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma council likes new nonunion pay hike plan — Tacoma City Council members voiced approval for giving pay raises to the city’s nonunion workforce for the first time in five years. A final decision could happen next week.
► In the Bellingham Herald — Bellingham scrutinizes tax exemptions for PeaceHealth, St. Joseph hospital — PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center is willing to consider making payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to the city, but the hospital hopes to keep its longstanding business and occupation tax exemption intact.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Oh, thank you so much! This Catholic-affiliated “nonprofit,” which has operations indistinguishable from every other for-profit hospital in the nation is “willing to consider” paying some of the taxes that all other businesses pay. How magnanimous! For more information…
► Last fall in the Oregonian — That healing touch at PeaceHealth (by Steve Duin) — “I recognize,” writes PeaceHealth President Alan Yordy (who made $1.272 million last year, an increase of $237,000 over the previous year), “that (looming layoffs) will be very painful and difficult for all of us, especially those dedicated caregivers and their families whose positions will be eliminated.” I’m guessing Yordy and his executive team are talented folks. Worth every dime in salary and bonuses. And if you live near one of PeaceHealth’s nine hospitals, you’re rooting for the facilities to remain innovative, prosperous … and open in your hour of need. But when you slap Jesus Christ on your masthead, when you insist that your primary mission is to relieve pain and suffering and treat “each person in a loving and caring way,” how do you defend laying off employees while your execs continue to live high on the hog?
STATE OF THE UNION
► In today’s NY Times — Obama vows to act alone on U.S. economy — After five years of fractious political combat, President Obama declared independence from Congress on Tuesday as he vowed to tackle economic disparity with a series of limited initiatives on jobs, wages and retirement that he will enact without legislative approval.
► From Bloomberg — Obama seeks trade deals in backing U.S. companies’ goals — President Barack Obama urged Congress to back two of the top priorities of U.S. multinational corporations: broader authority for his administration to negotiate trade deals along with changes to immigration laws. Obama’s trade comments drew rare support from Republicans. Many Democrats say they are skeptical of the so-called fast-track authority for trade deals because of concerns the accords won’t protect U.S. jobs and don’t give lawmakers enough say on them.
► At AFL-CIO Now — The AFL-CIO’s reaction to the State of the Union — Trumka tweets: Best #SOTU to date for @BarackObama. All the right points to lift up middle class but one: collective bargaining.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Sigh. Obama said “union” twice, once referring the U.S. and once to the Soviets. Is it too much to ask for our Democratic president — and certain other Democratic leaders — to embrace organized labor as more than just an ATM? If not now, when their attention has finally turned to income inequality, then when?
► In today’s NY Times — Executive order may be only option, but it comes with limits — With some notable exceptions, only so much can be delivered through the president’s pen if he is not using it to sign legislation. He cannot raise the minimum wage for most workers, overhaul the Social Security system, grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, reorder spending and taxes, or even make necessary fixes to the health care law.
► In The Hill — See you in court, says GOP — Congressional Republicans are taking President Obama to court over his use of executive power to sidestep Congress.
► In today’s NY Times — The diminished State of the Union (editorial) — With no cooperation from Congress for enacting good policy, President Obama is being forced to govern by executive order.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — McMorris Rodgers delivers calculated rebuttal to State of the Union — President Barack Obama had a case of a person helped by health care reform. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers had a case of someone hurt by it.
► In The Onion — Dad delivers State of the Union rebuttal directly into TV screen
► From ESPN — Northwestern University football players seek to form a union — For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees. Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, which is backed by the United Steelworkers union, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University and union cards signed by an undisclosed number of the team’s players. Says Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter: “Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Who wants to organize the Huskies and Cougs?
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.