Economic Report: Families USA Says As Many As Four Million People Lost Health Insurance Over Past Year – 10/22/09
Families USA estimates that nearly 4 million people could have been added to the ranks of the uninsured over the last year. They make the estimate based on the number of job losses over the past year. Sixty-two percent of US workers receive health insurance through employers. According to Familes USA executive director when workers lose jobs they also lose health coverage. The federal governments COBRA program only allows for some workers to continue health care coverage.
By Doug Cunningham
The NBA referees union has tentatively agreed with the league on a new contract. A ratification vote of the referees is expected by week’s end. The referees had been locked out after rejecting a contract proposal three weeks ago. It now looks like they will back on the courts for the start of the regular season.
Sun Microsystems plans to lay off upwards of 3,000 workers over the next year. The job cuts come as Sun waits for Europe to make a regulatory decision regarding the company’s takeover by Oracle. European regulators are investigating whether or not the acquisition would give Oracle a database software monopoly. Sun has already cut 6,000 jobs and the latest cuts will come from across the company’s global workforce.
The Obama Administration opened fire on the companies that received federal bailout money Wednesday.
By Doug Cunningham
The latest state-by-state jobs and unemployment numbers are out, and as the experts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) note we have a long way to go before we can say this recession is over.
Nationally, the economy lost 5.2 percent of all jobs since December 2007. In many states, the story is even more grim: Arizona has lost 10 percent of its jobs, Michigan has lost 9.8 percent and Nevada has lost 8.5 percent.
The official unemployment rate is at a 26-year high, at 9.8 percent, with states like Michigan, California and South Carolina even more severely affected. And the official unemployment rate doesn’t take into account the workers who have been discouraged due to long-term absence from the job market; it’s estimated that counting these discouraged, some 26 million people are out of work.
This is no time to play political games with unemployment insurance, as Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) are doing. Unemployment insurance must be extended so the U.S. economy isn’t further weakened. As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) noted in Huffington Post, the failure to provide unemployment insurance in this devastating recession doesn’t just hurt the unemployed, it hurts families, small businesses and communities:
Without an extension…about a million of our long-term unemployed nationwide will lose benefits by the end of the year. We must not allow this to happen, especially as the holidays approach. As our economic recovery continues to take shape, it’s crucial that we not forget about those families who are hurting the most, still struggling to find work in a very difficult job market.
Extending unemployment benefits is not only the morally right thing to do, it is good economic policy in a recession. These unemployment benefits not only put money in the hands of those that need it most, but they are immediately stimulative to the economy, as families use the funds for the most critical needs.
In addition to the nation’s short-term needs, lawmakers need to move programs that create jobs and train workers so that we can begin the hard work of recovery.
The ability to retire after a lifetime of hard work is not just an economic issue, it’s a moral one, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking today at the Retirement USA “Re-Envisioning Retirement Security” conference.
Joining U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and an array of experts and leaders, Trumka took part in a conversation about the breakdown of the promise of retirement security and what we need to do to restore it.
Trumka called the retirement security crisis one that
threatens American workers with yet another painful consequence of the “you’re on your own” social and economic model of the last thirty years.
Trumka noted that while day-to-day headlines focus on the short-term impact of the economic crisis, its effect on workers’ pensions and their ability to save for the future has been equally devastating.
In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Trumka said, the union movement helped to build a strong system for retirement security that included three important factors: Social Security, personal savings and private defined-benefit pensions:
As a result of these efforts, our parents could retire after a career of hard work, confident of a stable income they would not outlive. They could sleep at night knowing that should they die, their spouse would continue to have a dependable income. For millions of Americans—teachers and bus drivers, factory workers and flight attendants, construction workers and nurses—these reliable, employer-funded pensions made their lives immeasurably better.
Unfortunately, policy choices in recent decades have eroded the essential systems of retirement security. As bargaining power for workers disappeared, so did their pensions. As wages stagnated and personal debt skyrocketed, workers were less and less able to save for the future. Trumka noted that only 13 percent of workers say they’re very confident they’ll have enough money to retire. And since it’s harder than ever to afford retirement, we’re seeing older workers taking entry-level jobs—making it even harder for younger workers to get a start on the career ladder.
It is unacceptable, Trumka said, to go back to the era when seniors could expect only crippling poverty upon retirement. We need to rebuild workers’ bargaining power so they have access to dependable pensions. We must restore the promise that if you work hard all your life, you can retire with dignity.
Trumka recommended reforming and strengthening both labor law and laws governing pensions, so that workers can bargain for better retirement benefits and trust that they will get to keep what they bargained for. We also need to make sure that workers, who are more likely now to be temporary, freelance or contract workers—have portable pensions.
Given the raging jobless rate in this country, it’s no surprise that only 10 percent of Americans say now is a “good time” to find a quality job, reflecting no improvement since February, and less than the 33 percent who held similar views as the recession began in January 2008, according to a Gallup poll out this week. The poll concludes:
Job-market conditions across the U.S. are a little better than they were six months ago, but remain far worse than they were during the first year of the recession. Another jobless recovery—no matter its overall shape—is the last thing Americans need after the worst recession since the Great Depression.
It’s bad enough America’s workers can’t find jobs. But even those with jobs are experiencing such a decline in wages that the United States has seen a dramatic increase in economic inequality. According to a new paper by the Center for Economic Policy Research:
While the United States has long been among the most unequal of the world’s rich economies, the economic and social upheaval that began in the 1970s was a striking departure from the movement toward greater equality that…was a central feature of the first 30 years of the postwar period. This is…the direct result of a set of policies designed first and foremost to increase inequality.
The vast majority of us are on the downward end of the inequality scale. But as Robert Shapiro writes on the NDN blog, CEOs are richer than ever: “We didn’t need this latest and most conspicuous instance of greed at Goldman [Sachs] to know that the compensation provided to the uppermost echelons of American business is out of control.”
Since 1990, the pay of American CEOs has jumped from 90 times the average workers’ pay to 250 times—compared to 15 to 30 times for British, French and Japanese CEOs.
Not to worry. Jobless workers can now get a gig standing in line for wealthy financial industry lobbyists. Seems the well-coiffed from Goldman Sachs and other beneficiaries of taxpayer bailout money don’t want to wait to get into congressional hearing rooms—where these lobbyists are fighting to kill regulatory reform and proposals like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and other reforms that would actually help America’s workers.
They might get a hair out of place.
(Mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore? Join AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the Oct. 27 Showdown in Chicago, where thousands of working families will gather outside the American Bankers Association meeting to demand these taxpayer-bailed out institutions stop blocking essential financial reform.
At 10:30 a.m., the march departs from the corner of East Wacker Drive and Stetson Avenue. After an approximately 15 minute march the rally will be outside the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St.
The New Jersey governor’s race is just two weeks away, and President Barack Obama is in the state today to support Gov. Jon Corzine for re-election.
Christie must be desperate to make voters think Obama is supporting him to distract from voters’ real concerns: New Jersey working families increasingly are questioning his stands on key issues like women’s health care, his ethics and his support of George W. Bush.
As blogger Josh Marshall puts it, “the facts are now campaigning against him.”
Monday’s New York Times broke a story suggesting one of Christie’s top aides during his time as a Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney improperly aided his campaign, including adjusting the timing of indictments to give Christie the credit and taking over Freedom of Information Act requests about Christie’s job record. Michele Brown, a top aide, previously received a $46,000 loan from Christie while he was still her employer. Brown now works at a Christie-tied law firm that helped a company under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office avoid criminal charges.
Over the next two weeks, union volunteers in New Jersey will go door to door, hitting the phones and visiting worksites for union member-to-member outreach—just as they did on Obama’s behalf in 2008. And they’ll let thousands of union members know that Christie’s agenda—the anti-working family agenda that New Jersey and the nation rejected last year—isn’t what they need.
To learn more about Christie and the race for New Jersey governor, click here.