Archive for July, 2012

URGENT NEED FOR MORE FEDERAL STIMULUS TO HELP STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS REPLENISH PUBLIC SECTOR JOB LOSSES

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Summary: Additional information has become available since our blog entry on 6/28/2012 on the importance of further stimulus to the Public sector economy of the United States .  A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute concludes that the lack of continued stimulus to the Public Sector is the single biggest factor responsible for inadequate country-wide job growth over the past 3 years.1 IPPA contends that this is a serious ethical as well as an economic concern. IPPA feels that this failure for Congress to provide further stimulus as a result of Republican unwavering resistance is not only immoral but unpatriotic.

The 2009 stimulus and the auto industry rescue, supported by President Obama and Congressional democrats, cushioned the serious effects of the recession Obama inherited. The mainstay of these initial stimulus efforts was Federal aid to States. The subsequent Republican opposition to providing a second federal stimulus in 2010 and ultimately also blocking President Obama’s $450 billion jobs bill in late 2011 has resulted in a catastrophic negative effect on State budgets and secondarily on public sector jobs.2

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute states that the loss of 627,000 public sector jobs since 2009, largely due to State budget cuts, has been the major negative effect on job growth in the last three years. This, as severe and disruptive as it is, understates the severity of the problem. Judging by population growth in those years the Public Sector should have added nearly 500,000 jobs simply to restore the level of local government services to the norm of the last 20 years. This widespread shortage of public sector jobs includes teachers, social workers, public health officials, and other professionals, along with police and firefighters–jobs that might have been available for the many currently unemployed recent college graduates.

An additional disaster is that this 1.1 million deficiency in public sector jobs translates into some 750,000 lost jobs in the private sector. This is a result of less spending by laid-off state and local government as well as private contractors losing out on government projects. Another 400,000 jobs may have been lost because of reduced consumer spending because states have made cuts in aid to the poor and unemployed. These compounded effects quickly spread and the nationwide economy suffers.

The Economic policy Institute concludes that if it were not for this widespread forced State and local government austerity [which the IMF has recently cautioned against and the European Union has finally realized that stimulus is needed to produced growth3] there would have been as many as 2.3 million jobs nationally and the unemployment rate would be more like 7% instead of the current 8.2%.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a Nobel Prize winner to conclude that this country needs immediate Federal stimulus to the Public Sector to help alleviate the widespread suffering this lack of job availability is causing nationwide. IPPA stands on the principle that this existing lack of Congressional response is a moral issue as well as an economic one. IPPA states that for the Republicans in Congress to continue to thwart and threaten to filibuster President Obama’s attempts to alleviate these dire and unnecessary circumstances is both immoral and unpatriotic.

1. Blevins, Josh and Shierholz, Three years into recovery, just how much has state and local austerity hurt job growth? 6/6/12 The Economc Policy Institute Blog http://www.epi.org/blog/years-recovery-state-local-austerity-hurt/

2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/12/opinion/the-road-to-more-jobs.html

3. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/business/economy/imf-clips-global-growth-forecast-for-2013-to-3-9.html

Israel Excels in Use of Sustainable Energy and Water Conservation Technologies

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Israel is a tiny country, two-thirds of which is inhospitable desert, with few natural resources, a population of less than 7.5 million, and it has been surrounded by intractably hostile neighbors ever since its founding 60 years ago. Israel sees sustainable energy use as a key to survival and has become a leader in the development of green technologies with some 1000 clean technology start-up companies.

Some examples:

 Better Place was founded by Shai Agassi who conceived the idea that the negatives attached to all-electric cars (eg. limited 140 mile range and battery cost) could be overcome by renting the batteries and having a country-wide network of re-charging stations, to complement at-home charging. To cover situations when there isn’t time to re-charge, there is a country-wide network of swap stations where you exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one in the same time as it takes to fill a tank of gasoline.

In 2013 an all-electric car network is to open in Israel and they are being set up in Australia, Canada, Denmark, California, and Hawaii. The cars are built by Renault-Nissan while the batteries are provided by Better Place,

It has been long known that certain materials, including asphalt and concrete, generate electric current when they are deformed. Innowattech has patented a new breed of piezoelectric generators that can harvest mechanical energy, resulting from the deformation of roadway surfaces by the traffic passing over, by converting the mechanical energy to electrical energy. The more traffic and the heavier the vehicles, the more electricity is generated. The piezoelectric generators are installed inches beneath the upper layer of highway asphalt in a new roadway or during resurfacing of an existing roadway. It is also testing prototypes for airport runways and railways.

The company estimates that its generators placed along a half-mile stretch of a four-lane motorway would yield enough electricity to power 2,500 households. It is noteworthy that this is pure energy harvesting (parasitic energy), that it functions in all weather conditions, and that it can be utilized locally or routed into the grid. Just imagine, cars powered by electricity generated by their passage over the highway.

Much of Israel is desert and her main water sources are controlled by Syria and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The risk of this geographic and political situation is mitigated by Israel’s recycling 70 percent of its waste water, and this is used for agriculture and fish farms in the desert.

More than 40 years ago, Israeli farmers revolutionized the manner of watering crops withthe introduction of drip irrigation. Water is transported directly to the roots of the plants through small tubes with tiny holes. The watering is set on timers that prevent excess water being delivered. This not only conserves water but also suppresses weeds and mold.

Netafim markets the technology to some 110 countries. The process has created self-sustaining agricultural communities in drought stricken countries particularly in Africa.

These technologies are both tools for Israel’s survival and they promote the ethical standards of sustainable use of natural resources. Other countries may adopt them for various reasons, including a preference for sustainable technology.

HOORAY FOR THE “HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICANS ACT”

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

We should all be celebrating the US Supreme Court’s historic decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act that finally will provide health care for all Americans. It will further provide many innovations for better coverage for those fortunate enough to already have insurance, and provides for those who do not. The law was passed by Congress in 2009 after strong urging by President Obama and now after many inconclusive federal court challenges, has finally become the law of the land. IPPA maintains that, after decades of effort,what has been realized is that health care for all American citizens is a moral imperative. This places our country, finally, in concert with the other industrialized countries of the world.

Hooray! for the “ Health Care for Americans Act”: IPPA suggests  a new name for the Affordable Care Act.  The new name–Health Care for Americans Act–conveys the metaphor that health care for all is patriotic, and that we’re all affected by public health. It stresses that it benefits the entire country, and that it’s in the long tradition of Americans helping one another1.

Now let’s stop agonizing and grumbling over what is not in the bill and celebrate the many important benefits that are in the Health Care for Americans Act:

1. Perhaps the least understood and discussed, as far as a benefit to our whole society, is the provision for health care for the 30 million previously uninsured American citizens.

This represents a moral victory, the simple decency of providing health security for millions of American families. It also has  the potential for improving public health at large, and is a huge benefit for society as a whole2.

In addition, the new law3:

2. Terminates the “doughnut hole” in medicare drug coverage for millions of Americans.

3. Provides a long-overdue expansion of mental health care.

4. There is an end to limits on lifetime and annual benefits in existing and future health insurance coverage.

5. There can be no rejection in new or renewable health insurance policies for pre- existing conditions.

6. Children up to age 26 may stay on their parents’ health  insurance.

7. There is a requirement that medium and large size businesses provide essential coverage and pay at least 60% of the cost.

8. Health insurance policies must contain free access to preventive care including  immunizations, mammograms, and pregnancy prevention [formally called birth control]4.

9. Some additional benefits specifically for women include; elimination of gender rating, pap tests, domestic violence screening and assurances of continuation of maternity benefits and special considerations for nursing mothers at work5.

As an added benefit, in the Health Care for Americans Act are  many incentives for reducing future health care costs such as the one that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premium cost on direct patient care. Also there are many pilot proposals to explore ways to control costs by changing existing fee for service payments and assisting changes in their organization so that health care institutions can be more efficient and responsive. There is also a premium placed on implementing patient safety throughout the health care system.

IPPA strongly encourages all of us to celebrate this historic progress in health care for all Americans.

1. Lakoff, George and Wehling, Elisabeth, The Little Blue Book, Free Press, New York             2012, p.116.

2. Too Quiet Again on Health Care. Editorial in NYTimes [NYT] July4, 2012

3. NYT July 4, 2012

4. Lakoff p.125

5. forbes.com/sites/brycecovert/2012/06/28/obamacare-decision-why-women-are-the-big-winners-health-care-supreme-court/