Health

Why Big Business Loves Desperate Workers

And how a strong social safety net can make us all more free

by Stephen Pimpare

We don’t think enough about the economic functions of social welfare policy, or about the relationship between the safety net and labor markets, and this hinders our ability to make sense of why some people fight so hard against programs that aid poor and low-income people: We mistake them for anti-welfare ideologues, and dismiss them as cruel or ignorant, but there’s an economic logic to their activism, one that’s revealed if we look at the relationship between welfare and work from both the employee’s and the employer’s perspective. Let me explain.

Imagine that we have two workers, worker K and worker O, each with two young children.

Worker K is laid off when the company “downsizes.” K is nervous, but has some savings, is eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits, Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and TANF, has access to free local day care, and lives in a Section 8 apartment, with their monthly rent tied to their income.

Landslide Burys Prohibition, New Poll: Over 60% of Americans Support Retail Marijuana Sales in Colorado

by Paul Armentano

DENVER, CO — More than six out of ten Americans – including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – support the regulation and retail sale of marijuana in Colorado, according to the findings of a nationwide HuffPost.com/YouGov poll released Tuesday.

Colorado voters in 2012 approved a statewide initiative legalizing the personal consumption and cultivation of the plant. The measure also allows for the state-licensed commercial production and retail sales of cannabis to those over the age of 21. Commercial cannabis sales began on January 1st of this year. To date, these sales have generated nearly $11 million in tax revenue.

How to Inspire Millions More People to Bike

by Jay Walljasper

You can see big changes happening across North America as communities from Fairbanks to St. Petersburg transform their streets into appealing places for people, not just cars and trucks.

“Over the past five years we’re seeing an infrastructure revolution, a rethinking of our streets to accommodate more users—busways, public plazas, space for pedestrians and, of course, bike lanes,” says David Vega-Barachowitz of the National Association of City Transportation Officials. “More protected bike lanes is one of the most important parts of this.”

Protected bike lanes separate people on bikes from rushing traffic with concrete curbs, plastic bollards or other means— and sometimes offer additional safety measures such as special bike traffic lights and painted crossings at intersections.  Protected bike lanes help riders feel less exposed to danger, and are also appreciated by drivers and pedestrians, who know where to expect bicycles. Streets work better when everyone has a clearly defined space. 

ASA Gives D Grade to Illinois Medical Marijuana Law

Americans for Safe Access, the national medical marijuana patient's right organization has just released a national compilation of its evaluation of state medical marijuana laws. Although Illinois had a MMJ provision in its cannabis laws since the late 1970s, it was never more than a bit of window dressing and totally ineffective in protecting patients from prosecutors bent on running up their conviction rates. They simply ignored that part of the law, while prosecuting patients under the provisions of the law they are personally inclined to enforce.

That changed in 2013 when after years of trying, Illinois passed and Governor Quinn signed a MMJ law. While a small advance from the dreadful status patients faced previously, it is struggling to get off the ground, with significant doubts as to its ability to create improved access for patients, supply their needs at a reasonable cost, and prevent law enforcement abuse of patients.

ASA summarizes the current situation like this:

Arsonists Posing as Firemen: How GOP Sabotages Government for Fun and Profit

by John Atcheson

Across the board, Republicans have been sabotaging government by a variety of measures, then pointing to the resulting  – and inevitable – governmental failures to reinforce their Ayn Rand fantasy of government as inept and the private sector as the solution to all our problems. 

Doubt that? Well, it appears that they will spend more money investigating the Benghazi "scandal" than the Veterans Administration debacle.

Meanwhile, the Democrats stand back and mumble lame protestations under their breath, being careful not to anger the corporatists and fat cats at whose trough they feed.  And the press?  Pulleez.  They are the corporatists. 

None of this is new, as far as a generally accepted meme, but what’s not getting much play, are how the specific problems Republicans are shouting themselves into a frothing frenzy about at the moment have been engineered by them.

Let’s look at the top five, and one emerging issue.

The Hobby Lobby Lesson: We Need To Fight For Single-Payer Health Care

by Emily DeVito

(Credit: flickr / cc / National Nurses United)

Here is the clearest, and scariest, implication of the Supreme Court’s Monday ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Inc.: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – is fatally flawed. It is clear we now need a public, single-payer health care system – because the Supreme Court can no longer protect us.

The fact that Hobby Lobby Inc. actually had a legal standing to bring this case to court in order to contest providing comprehensive health care to their 18,000 employees should prove that a key feature of the Affordable Care Act is unsound: It relies too heavily on private entities to deliver a public good – health care.

Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Illinois Home Care Workers

by Samantha Winslow

The Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn has struck down agency fees for Illinois's home care union, finding the workers to be only "quasi-public employees." Home care workers provide in-home care to elderly and disabled clients. Above, members occupied a Washington state agency office in 2012 to protest cuts to services for their clients. (Photo: SEIU Healthcare 775NW)

 

Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker to Offer Groundbreaking Medical Marijuana Amendment on Senate Floor

by Drug Policy Alliance

Amendment Seeks to Protect 32 States With Medical Marijuana Laws from Federal Interference

WASHINGTON, DC — Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) will offer an amendment to a federal spending bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from undermining state marijuana laws.

The House approved a similar bipartisan measure on May 29th.

An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp production for research purposes also passed the U.S. House. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar hemp amendment in committee June 5th that was offered by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Congress Votes to De-fund DOJ Enforcement in Medical Marijuana States

by Americans for Safe Access

WASHINGTON, DC — In an unprecedented 219-189 floor vote late last night, the House of Representatives approved the end of funding for Department of Justice (DOJ) enforcement in medical marijuana states.

Advocates are hailing the vote as a major victory that signals a shift in the approach Congress is taking on this issue. The vote was on Amendment No. 25 to the Commerce, Justice & Science (CJS) appropriations bill. One hundred seventy Democrats and 49 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment.

“This Congressional vote is a huge victory for patients,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. “No longer will we have to look over our shoulder and worry when the next raid or indictment will prevent us from safely and legally accessing our medicine,” continued Sherer. “This is a game-changer that paves the way for much more policy change to come.”

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