02 December 2012

The Herald: Putting Absentee Landlord Policy In Perspective

 The Herald's Lisa Backus provides a thorough examination of the city's landlord license and issues related to regulating non-owner occupied housing in a December 2nd story.

Accurate and balanced information like this is the best way to combat the propaganda and misinformation coming from elsewhere, including the landlord lobby that has used political grandstanding and redbaiting instead of engaging in constructive dialogue.

NEW BRITAIN - Just days after an estimated crowd of 500 marched on City Hall to demand a repeal of two new ordinances aimed at imposing “hot spot” and licensing fees on out-of-town landlords, city detectives with a police shooting team were knocking on the door of 80 Clark St. to serve an arrest warrant on a home invasion suspect.

It wasn’t the first time city police had been at the address. According to dispatch records, since January 2011, officers had been at 80 Clark St. 50 times to deal with all manner of criminal and nuisance activity including the arrest of a man charged with attempted murder in the shooting of another Clark Street resident over owed drug money, a report of shots fired and six illegal drug investigations.
 Link to Herald story...

The New Britain Herald : New Britain, Conn., and surrounding areas (newbritainherald.com)

18 November 2012

Lessons from California for New Britain, Hartford and Washington

Elected officials  at all levels can learn something from Governor Jerry Brown and the victory of Proposition 30 in California this month as they contend with "fiscal cliffs" and budget holes.

What Brown says and did points to a way forward for those who serve us at New Britain City Hall, the State Capitol and the U.S. Capitol.

Well-financed anti-tax referenda in California have often prevailed. But Proposition 30 passed with a 54% majority.  The measure called the School Protection and Safety Act by proponents hikes the sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5% and raises income taxes progressively on high income individuals (above $250,000) for seven years.  Approval brings close to $7 billion averting what Brown promised would be draconian cuts and hardships for working and middle income people.

"It sold itself. The core reason it brought people together was a belief in schools and universities and the capacity of government to make wise investments that benefit all of us," Brown said on election night.

Prop 30 proponents such as California's American Federation of Teachers made the identical argument  President Obama and Congressional Democrats now must use to restore federal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to pre-Bush levels: 
Prop 30 asks no one but the wealthy to pay more in income taxes.  This income tax affects no one below $250,000/year. The top one percent of income earners has doubled its share of total state income over the past twenty years (from 12% to over 20%), while income for the rest of us has stagnated. Meanwhile, the top tier tax rates (state and federal) are lower than they used to be.  20 years ago the highest tax rate in California was 11% of income; today it is 10.3%.  When Congress extended Bush’s federal tax cuts for the rich in 2010, the top one percent in California received a windfall of nine to fourteen billion dollars per year—nearly equal to the entire state budget deficit.  The people who would be affected by this income tax can afford to, and should, invest more in their state.

Brown, 74,  is a  former Oakland Mayor, Attorney General, Secretary of the State, two-term Governor and Presidential candidate. The son of former CA Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Brown took over from "The Gubernator" after the 2010 election; stepping into the biggest economic crisis since 1930s, massive layoffs and disinvestments  and a gridlocked Legislature that needs two-thirds consent to get budgets done.

In his second coming as Governor,  Brown's modus operandi (he's fond of Latin phrases from his seminarian days and Jesuit training) has been, he says,  telling the unvarnished truth about the state budget and never using one-time revenue fixes and gimmicks that make matters worse in CA and everywhere.

Pragmatic progressive Brown will entertain plenty of cuts and austerity, but through Prop 30 he's now got a firewall against a Paul Ryan-style decimation of basic government services, especially to education.

In referendum-crazy California, Brown pledged not to raise any more taxes unless citizens approved them via the ballot initiative.  The tax cutters got beat at their own game. At the same time, Brown campaigned vigorously for a plan that gives  K-12 schools, community colleges and California's higher education system a new lease on life and keeps the books balanced.

Brown, according to the LA Times, says Prop 30 signals a national movement of taxpayer support for public investments and tax dollars spent prudently.  He draws a parallel to the famous Prop 13 of 1978 property tax revolt that cut regressive local taxes and Prop 30 that will raise taxes progressively.

Said Brown: "I was here in 1978, when Howard Jarvis beat the entire establishment, Republican and Democrat, because the property taxes had just gotten out of control. Now the cutting, the cutting and the deficits are out of control.”

29 October 2012

Mayor Issues Storm Safety Message for "Sandy"

An Important Safety Message from Mayor Tim O’Brien 
 Dear New Britain resident,
Ø  Hurricane Sandy is approaching Connecticut. This is a large, dangerous storm that will impact New Britain, for a period of 24 to 36 hours beginning Monday.
Please be advised of the following:
Ø   New Britain, is expecting high winds of 40 - 60 MPH and heavy rain.
Ø   Downed trees, power outages and flooding are expected with this storm.
New Information
·         Due to this storm, all public and private schools will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.   
·         There will be no trash or recycling collection for Tuesday morning pick-up.
·         The Senior Citizen Center on Pearl St. will open Monday morning at 8 am as a shelter.
Please do these things today:
       Bring inside all lawn furniture, cooking grills and trash bins.
       Be prepared to be self-sufficient in your home for 72 hours.
       Have food, water, flashlights and a battery operated radio available.
       Charge all cell phones.
       Check on elderly and at risk neighbors and relatives.
       Stay informed, listen to storm information, and please take action now.
      Please remember these things for your families’ safety: 
       Do not use candles for lighting, use flashlights.
       Do not use propane or charcoal grills indoors for any reason.
       Stay away from downed power lines.
       Call 860-826-3000, to report fallen trees, fallen wires and flooding.
       Call 9-1-1 for police, fire and medical emergencies.
Updates will continue to be available at www.newbritainct.gov as the city continues our work for you during the storm.

Posted at Mayor Tim O'Brien's Blog

06 October 2012

Absentee Landlord Licenses, Fees Exist In Many Communities

Updated November 21, 2012: Legitimate concerns about the city’s licensing of absentee landlords (all owner-occupied dwellings are excluded) have been drowned out by a phony anti-government coalition fueled by out-of-town interests and a failed GOP leadership seeking once again to use divisiveness for political gain.   The well-publicized and well-financed campaign of distortion is  now replete with paid protestors, intimidation of tenants and outrageous lies about the ordinance and who would be affected by it.
The absentee landlord lobby frets and whines that if this happens in New Britain, it will spread to other communities.  What they don’t want you to know is licensing and fees for absentee owners and investment properties exist from the Redwood forests to the New York highlands as a means of maintaining housing stock and improving landlord and tenant relations.  As the following post from NB Politicus noted in early October  the absentee landlord law suit flies in the face of similar ordinances in Connecticut and around the country, including laws that go far beyond what has been proposed for New Britain.

On October 4th, New Britain's Common Council adopted new fee ordinances on landlords owning non-owner occupied, multi-unit apartments  --  policies designed to raise an alternative source of revenue as well as to strengthen anti-blight enforcement in multi-unit housing.

The $150 per unit flat fee represented a compromise over an earlier proposal that the Council's Planning and Development committee left on the table. It will raise an estimated $1 million on rental properties with absentee owners.

A second ordinance known as a "hot-spot fee" would charge landlords $500 when emergency and public safety personnel are called to an apartment house five or more times in a year.  It is expected to generate another $1 million.

The combined measures can avert some service cuts and improve the anti-blight efforts as Mayor O'Brien and the Council seek to fill a $4 million hole growing out of  the structural deficits identified in the last fiscal year when O'Brien took office.  Clearly, they are not a panacea for the budget woes that stem from nearly a decade of gimmickry and one-short revenues of prior administrations. The license fee  is part of a strategy to avoid regressive taxation in tough fiscal times: raising the property tax  always falls disproportionately on homeowners and those least able to afford it.

The Common Council's actions occurred amid a raucous and at times churlish crowd of opponents prominently led by the statewide landlord lobbying group which opposes the fees and previously opposed tougher anti-blight measures that the O'Brien Administration has adopted.

According to press reports, Bob De Cosmo, president of the Waterbury-based Connecticut Property Owners, said his group will file a class-action lawsuit against the city.  In an effort to bully and intimidate city councillors DeCosmo was quoted as saying "we will be looking into suing each individual council member that voted for this illegal tax."

The hollow threat of a legal fight over the modest New Britain flat fee flies in the face of policies and fees that are found in many other  communities throughout the country and that have been on the books for a good long time.

In Connecticut, for example, Stamford has an annual fee structure on multi-family units tied to housing code enforcement: a $60 fee and $30 per additional unit for three to nine apartments; $75 and $40 per additional unit for 10 to 39 apartments, and; $200 fee and $60 per unit for 40 or more apartments. Sounds doubtful absentee landlords will dump their New Britain properties to go buy dwellings downstate.  Nor will they pull up stakes and go to places like Gainesville, FL, North Chicago IL, Burlington, NJ, Cedar Rapids IA, Salt Lake City UT, Minneapolis, MN (and many more). They'll find landlord fees and licenses and charges for rental units in all of them.

One other thing municipalities here in Connecticut and elsewhere have as a sensible part of housing policy is a Certificate of Occupancy ordinance. That was lost to New Britain in the 1980s when Tom Bozek was the Council majority leader.  It would be a feather in the cap to Mayor O'Brien and the Council to restore the CO ordinance, not just for fees but to fairly handle the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.

The Mayor and Common Council clearly didn't deserve the insults and push back at the Council meeting from some of the attendees, particularly absentee landlords who need to learn a lesson in shared sacrifice without diminishing a return on their investments. They need to be responsible members of this community whether they live here or not.

22 September 2012

Add City of New Britain To McMahon's Bad Debts

It's not  the tax windfall that municipal government is looking for these days,  but last week's uncovering of Vince and Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon's bankruptcy records by the Day of New London shows the City of New Britain was one of the creditors.
Included on a list of debts to banks, stores, the phone company, unions, individuals and the IRS is an item from April 30, 1976 showing the McMahons stiffed the city where they once lived $988.22.  The debt to the Town of West Hartford was considerably higher at $9,729.96. These are paltry sums compared to hundreds of thousands owed the IRS and banks,  but are part of the record of a rags-to-riches narrative -- riches made possible by taking over a family wrestling enterprise and using sleaze to make a fortune.

The press revelations led Mrs. McMahon's campaign to announce that she and her wrestling mogul husband will now repay some of the  debts with interest to individuals if they can find them. Under bankruptcy laws, however,  debtors may often "discharge" government taxes owed under statutes of limitations and the timing of court actions. Debtors like the McMahons are often  given a pass on tax debts to reorganize and start anew without the liability. The McMahons maintain that they paid back taxes and nearly half of the money owed but have not produced any documents to show when debts were paid prior to the revelations reported in recent days.

The Day, whose reporter J.C. Reindl uncovered the debt list in IRS archives, editorialized on September 21st that McMahon's move to finally pay creditors is the "most insincere"  stunt of the 2012 campaign. It went on to lambaste McMahon for her hypocrisy:
The old adage about not tossing stones from a glass house seems to apply. The McMahon campaign has had great fun poking Mr. Murphy about news reports of his fiscal missteps over the past 10 years - being late on mortgage, rent and car tax payments. But he did pay, and his debts were paltry compared to the McMahons' 1976 meltdown. Then came word Friday the McMahons were late on paying taxes on their Stamford penthouse. Oops!
On the heels of the McMahons' mea culpa to creditors they had long ago stiffed and forgotten, Linda and Vince (as noted in the Day editorial) were  hit with a new tax delinquency this month on their "penthouse" in Stamford, according to a story in the Hartford Courant.

Meanwhile, the McMahon campaign, on a track to spend $100 million over two campaigns to buy a U.S. Senate seat, continues its saturation ad campaign on the housing debts of Cong. Chris Murphy -- all of which were reconciled and  paid in full. 

She refuses to meet with journalists and editorial boards and has limited her exposure in debates with Murphy, avoiding exchanges on issues that should be front and center in this senate race.
McMahon, who hides her Republican affiliation in paid advertising, is also running as fast and far away from the Republican-Romney-Ryan agenda that she would most certainly support in the Senate to protect her wealth and keep her taxes low -- WHEN SHE PAYS THEM.

Debunking Romney's 47% Assertion

Myth Four: It's poor people who are the biggest freeloaders. What's especially galling about conservative attacks on "takers" is that they focus exclusively on lower income groups and leave out all the subsidies to middle and upper income households. Yes, tax breaks for the working poor -- like the EITC -- have been expanded, but they still pale in comparison to the giveaways to better off groups. The three biggest tax breaks in FY 2014, according to Congressional Research Service, will be as follows: $164 billion for employer-provided health insurance, $162 billion for retirement savings (mainly 401ks), and $99.8 billion for the home mortgage interest deduction. Needless to say, most poor people don't benefit from these giant breaks because they don't have employer-provided health insurance, 401ks, or own homes. Meanwhile, the EITC will cost $58 billion in FY 2014.
Beating up on the economic losers is not new in America. It was popular in the late 19th century, when Social Darwinism was in vogue. But today such attacks have moved to the very heart of the conservative project. 

Excerpted from DEMOS - The Policy Weblog at  Freeloader Fabrications

27 August 2012

The Race to the Bottom - August 27th Post From Other Words

 The Race to the Bottom - IPS

The Race to the Bottom

The American middle class isn't the envy of the world anymore.

William A. Collins
Labor had
Its happy day;
Now that time
Has flown away.
Is the love of money the root of all evil? OK, so Jesus may have played down bigotry and megalomania when he said that, but overall his observation holds true 2,000 years later.
Labor relations are a contemporary battleground for greed. Man's inhumanity takes many forms. But we all have to work, and that means interactions between owners and toilers generate a lot of conflict.
Happily, a few nations have acted to help workers get a fair shake. Western Europe, shaken today by waves of economic turmoil, got the hang of it a century or so ago. The United States jumped on the worker bandwagon after the Great Depression. Our very successful experiment with employee rights, which have been gradually dismantled for years, ushered in the heyday of the American middle class.
Communism promised millions some hope for a fair shake, but it relied too heavily on repression meted out in the name of the people. Japan later picked up the concept of worker equity, followed by Taiwan and South Korea.
Hellish Working Conditions, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
Hellish Working Conditions, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
Today, Brazil, Argentina, and other Latin American nations are reshaping their economic systems to be more labor-friendly.
Most U.S. leaders don't worry about worker rights anymore. They believe that government has no business in business. We're gradually privatizing whatever public services we can. Across the nation, public schools and prisons are increasingly run by private companies.
And mercenaries and other "military contractors" have replaced hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in our endless wars.
This privatization push is a key part of the trend toward exporting jobs and attracting immigrant workers who will accept conditions that most Americans thought they had long ago transcended. It's called "the race to the bottom."
Under our cherished old system, championed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the government set standards that all employers had to obey. Minimum wages, safety conditions, child labor laws, limits on the length of a permissible workday, and the freedom to form unions and collectively bargain — all these rights were supposed to be protected by law.
This system once worked commendably. By the 1960s, the American middle class was the envy of the world. No more. After big employers transferred millions of industrial and service jobs overseas, and technological advances rendered millions more jobs obsolete, we've got a surplus of workers. Wages have plummeted to the point that many autoworkers aren't middle-class anymore. Unions are a vanishing breed, especially in the private sector.
Nothing much has changed, of course, for agricultural workers. They've long enjoyed virtually no protections at all, lest they drive up the price of food. The same goes for domestic workers, like caretakers and housekeepers, whose exploitation is a growing problem as our population ages and more mothers work outside the home.
As much as I'd like to point to some silver lining to relieve all this despair, I'm just not seeing any faint glow on the horizon. If anything, things look worse now that the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling has stripped many previous limits on the torrent of corporate cash that can flood political campaigns. As a result, very wealthy companies and individuals are positioned to tighten their control over Congress, as well as state and federal governments.
What would Jesus say?
OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. otherwords.org

22 August 2012

Campaign Stop: Cong. Murphy at Mickey D's Jazz Night in Hard Hittin':

NEW BRITAIN - Another Wednesday night. Another evening with a packed house for jazz and dancing at the West Main Street McDonald's in New Britain for seniors who turn the fast food restaurant into a night club every week.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Sam Kimball and musician friends, including members of The Rockin' Heartbeats, started up with Jazz standards and kept going.

This week  Cong. Chris Murphy, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, moved comfortably from table to table,  talking with New Britain constituents and listening to their concerns after a long day of campaigning and meeting with constituents.

Murphy, who's represented New Britain for three terms in the House, has come to the New Britain McDonald's in past campaigns.  It's a place where he draws energy and encouragement from older voters, some of whom told him they're not buying the paid televised snake oil from the lady wrestling executive. Murphy's well-heeled opponent from Greenwich, who once lived in New Britain,  avoids speaking to newspapers and continues to hide behind misleading commercials in hopes of buying a Senate seat. You're not likely to find her at Mickey D's on Jazz Night either. Having a conversation with real people and answering unscripted questions is something her handlers won't allow.

19 August 2012

Good Food and Politics: NB Black Democratic Club Hosts Soul Food Fest

A tradition for New Britain Democrats continues...

posted from www.newbritaindemocrat.org 
Politics and traditional Southern cuisine were on the agenda at the annual Soul Food Fest sponsored by the New Britain Black Democratic Club on Saturday, August 18th at the Pride of Connecticut Lodge of Elks in New Britain. Club and DTC members also extended birthday wishes to DTC member and community leader Alton Brooks who is celebrating his 91st birthday this week.  Cong. and Senate Nominee Chris Murphy and Attorney General George Jepsen participated.
Friends of DTC Member Alton Brooks (seated in center) presented “Mr. Brooks” with a birthday cake at the August 18th Soul Food Fest. Brooks observed his 91st birthday on August 16th. Standing from left State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, Alderwoman and Black Democratic Club President Shirley Black and DTC Chair John McNamara (photo by F. Gerratana)
Enjoying the New Britain Democratic Black Club’s Soul Food Fest from left DTC Treasurer John Valengavich, Attorney General George Jepsen, State Senate Terry Gerratana, Chef and CT Democratic Party Treasurer Emma Pierce, Rob Blanchard, aide to Jepsen, and New Britain DTC Chair John McNamara (photo by F. Gerratana)
Greeting Cong. and Senate Nominee Chris Murphy (right) were from left Bessie Surratt, Paulette Fox and Ron Davis. (Photo by F. Gerratana)
Cong. and Senate Nominee Chris Murphy chats with participants at the Black Democratic Club’s Soul Food Fest. Murphy received 68% of the vote in New Britain’s Democratic Primary on August 14th. (Photo by F. Gerratana)

12 August 2012

Other Words On Tax Dodgers: Mitt Romney Is Not Alone

Marching Toward Greater Inequality

The world's super rich, according to a new report, are squirreling away phenomenal quantities of their cash in secret tax havens.

Sam Pizzigati
Are America's rich getting richer? Certainly. Every official yardstick shows that America's most affluent are upping their incomes much faster than everyone else.
How fast? Between 1980 and 2010, note economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, incomes for America's top 1 percent more than doubled after inflation. They now average a little more than $1 million.
The top 0.1 percent saw their incomes more than triple, to $4.9 million, over that same span. And income more than quadrupled for the top 0.01 percent — the richest 16,000 Americans — to nearly $24 million.
And what about the rest of us? After inflation, average incomes for America's bottom 90 percent actually fell — by 4.8 percent — between 1980 and 2010, from $31,337 to $29,840.
These numbers tell us how much peoplemake. Measuring wealth gauges how much people have. The two, common sense tells us, ought to be related. If incomes are getting much more unequal, then the distribution of our national wealth ought to become much more unequal too.
But that doesn't seem to be the case. A Congressional Research Service of new Federal Reserve data indicates that the gap between the wealth of America's most awesomely affluent and everyone else is holding steady.
In 2010, the Fed data show, the top 1 percent held 34.5 percent of the nation's wealth, almost the same exact share as in 1995, and not that much more than the 30.1 percent share they held in 1989.
These numbers just don't add up — income is increasingly skewed toward the top, but wealth distribution is holding steady. What can explain this paradox?
Maybe the Federal Reserve isn't doing a good job of assessing just how much wealth the wealthiest Americans own. Indeed, Fed researchers do acknowledge that they don't take into account — for privacy reasons — the wealth of anyone listed in the Forbes magazine annual list of America's 400 richest.
But including these 400 only moves the top 1 percent's share of America's wealth up by a bit over a percentage point. It isn't enough to explain the disconnect between the extraordinary income gains of America's rich and the modest rise in their share of national wealth.
Maybe the rich are simply living large, wasting their astronomical incomes on caviar, private jets, and other luxuries. But wasteful consumption can't explain the inequality paradox either. Deep pockets in America's top 0.01 percent could shell out $5,000 every single day of the year and still have 93 percent of their annual incomes left to spend.
So what in the end can explain the inequality paradox? The London-based Tax Justice Network has an answer. The world's super rich, the group has just reported, are squirreling away — and concealing — phenomenal quantities of their cash in secret global tax havens.
The Network's new tax-dodging study "conservatively" computes the total wealth stashed in these havens at $21 trillion. That total could plausibly run as high as $32 trillion.
Americans make up, we know from previous research, almost a third of the global super rich. That would put the American share of unrecorded offshore assets as high as $10 trillion.
Add this $10 trillion to the wealth of America's top 1 percent and the inequality disconnect between wealth and income largely disappears. Paradox solved.
Now we have to tackle a much bigger challenge: ending the march to ever greater inequality. Shutting down tax havens would make a great place to start.
OtherWords columnist Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality published by the Institute for Policy Studies.  This post courtesy of Sam Pizzigati and OtherWords.org

17 July 2012

When Local News Isn't Local: Is Courant Coverage outsourced to Philippines?

In another blow to the readers and remaining journalists of the nation's oldest continuously published newspaper, the Hartford Courant may be tapping into Journatic -- a faux news gathering operation that relies on the outsourcing of local news coverage involving low-wage news writers half way round the world.

According to Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund,  the Chicago Tribune, the Courant's parent company that is still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, was forced to drop Journatic services last week over fake bylines and plagiarism contained in  coverage in the Trib's stories in the Chicago area.

Journatic, however, may still be part of the news columns in the Courant.

Free Press supporters in Connecticut received the following e-mail appeal below that calls out the media company for using the low-wage and ethically challenged Journatic in Connecticut:

Is there any job that can't be outsourced?

Millions of American workers have lost their jobs as employers have moved operations overseas. It’s true for manufacturing, data processing and customer service.
Now it's true for local news. Media giants including Tribune Company and Hearst Corporation have sent local reporting jobs abroad. To the Philippines.
It's happening in your community. The Hartford Courant has outsourced local news production to Journatic, a company that hires underpaid workers in the Philippines to create local news stories for newspapers in the United States.

Since the story broke, Journatic's credibility has rapidly unraveled. We've learned that Journatic-produced stories with fake bylines have appeared in several papers. More than 350 articles with fake bylines ran in the Houston Chroniclealone. And over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune indefinitely suspended its use of Journatic after it uncovered instances of plagiarism.
That's not all. The morning after the Chicago Tribune's announcement, Journatic's editorial chief Mark Fourcher resigned due to ethical concerns. And the uproar has forced Journatic's other newspaper clients to look into whether other ethical breaches have occurred.
But the story isn't over.
In the next few weeks, we're going to be putting pressure on all of Journatic's major clients — including Tribune and Hearst newspapers in Houston, Hartford and San Francisco, where hometown journalists have been laid off in droves — to stop doing business with this jobs-killing operation. We'll be making phone calls and delivering tens of thousands of signatures from people like you who are speaking out in favor of local jobs for local reporters.
Local news organizations must be accountable to the communities in which they operate. That means hiring reporters who work among us and walk the same streets, who have direct ties to the people and issues that affect our lives.
Sign our letter so that media executives across the country know that you can't fake local news. With your help we can return local reporters to local beats.

More information at www.freepress.net

28 June 2012

SCOTUS Upholds ACA And Ted Kennedy's Goal

Today's 5-4 Supreme Court decision validating the Affordable Care Act (ACA) staved off a right-wing rear guard action to upend the law. John Roberts, making the right decision for the wrong reason, essentially saved the Supreme Court's credibility for preserving constitutional law and common sense.
At its best the law is a modest reform that is a far cry from the less costly and more equitable single-payer options (Medicare for All) that would more efficiently insure the uninsured. 
The ACA springs from Republican reform proposals despite what Mitt Romney says now. 
As of now the law stands to save more lives of individuals who might otherwise not have coverage for that pre-existing condition or be denied coverage in a system where health care is a privilege, not a right.

When I heard a woman caller on NPR after the decision explaining her ongoing cancerous eye problem, the human impact of this ruling was clear. She broke down in tears of relief knowing she'd be covered now. 

The ACA is a work in progress and a step in the right direction, affirming the late Ted Kennedy's hopes expressed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

For me this is a season of hope -- new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few -- new hope.
And this is the cause of my life -- new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American -- north, south, east, west, young, old -- will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.
We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.

25 June 2012

10 Ways A Supreme Court Decision Against The Affordable Health Care Act Will Hurt

If the Supreme Court strikes down all or a part of the Affordable Care Act here's what will be lost:

1) Access to health insurance for 30 million Americans and lower premiums. More than 30 million uninsured Americans will find coverage under the law. Middle-class families who buy health care coverage through the exchanges will be eligible for refundable and advanceable premium credits and cost-sharing subsidies to ensure that the coverage they have is affordable.
2) The ability of businesses and individuals to purchase comprehensive coverage from a regulated marketplace. The law creates new marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to compare and purchase comprehensive coverage. Insurers will have to meet quality measures to ensure that Americans can access comprehensive coverage when they need it.
3) Insurers’ inability to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. Beginning in 2014, insurers can no longer deny insurance to families or individuals with pre-existing conditions. Insurers are also prohibited from placing lifetime limits on the dollar value of coverage and rescinding insurers except in cases of fraud. Insurers are already prohibited from discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions.
4) Tax credits for small businesses that offer insurance. Small employers that purchase health insurance for employees are already receiving tax credits to encourage them to continue providing coverage.
5) Assistance for businesses that provide health benefits to early retirees.The law created a temporary reinsurance program for employers providing health insurance coverage to retirees over age 55 who are not eligible for Medicare, reimbursing employers or insurers for 80% of retiree claims. The program has offered at least $4.73 billion in reinsurance paymentsto more than 2,800 employers and other sponsors of retiree plans, with an average cumulative reimbursement per plan sponsor of approximately $189,700.
6) Affordable health care for lower-income Americans. Obamacare extends Medicaid to individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty line, guaranteeing that the nation’ most vulnerable population has access to affordable, comprehensive coverage.
7) Investments in women’s health. Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging women substantially more than men and requires insurers to offer preventive services — including contraception — at no additional cost.
8) Young adults’ ability to stay on their parents’ health care plans. More than 3.1 millionyoung people have already benefited from dependent coverage, which allows children up to age 26 to remain insured on their parents’ plans.
9) Discounts for seniors on brand-name drugs. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to provide a 50% discount on prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap. Seniors have already saved $3.5 billion on prescription drug costs thanks to the Affordable Care Act provision.
10) Temporary coverage for the sickest Americans. The law established temporary national high-risk pools that are providing health coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who cannot find insurance on the individual market. In 2014, they will be able to enroll in insurance through the exchanges. 67,482 individuals have already benefited from the program.

The Republicans are playing with the fire by shooting down this moderate piece of reform; next up will be single payer or Medicare for All.

10 June 2012

Board of Ed Should Consider CT Health Partnership; "Significant" Savings To Support Services Possible

When State Comptroller Kevin Lembo talked with city officials last winter he came bearing potential good news that the city could gain hundreds of thousands of dollars for its municipal and schools' budgets without a new tax or cut to services.

It may sound too good to be true but it is real and obtainable as the city grapples with the threat of cuts and layoffs and the need to adequately fund public education.  There is a way for cash-strapped New Britain government to realize significant dollars it doesn't have now.

The new money -- potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars -- wouldn't be part of  state aid allocations but would come from savings of the CT Partnership Plan,  a new state law that allows cities and boards of education to join the state health plan effective July 1, 2012.  In effect in more than 20 states throughout the country,  the partnership plan, adopted after a three-year legislative effort by House Speaker Chris Donovan, utilizes the power of pooling employee groups to lower insurance premium costs, which have been a rising cost item for City Halls and Boards of Education in recent years.

In rolling out the CT Health Partnership in March,  Lembo said his analysis found that 50 municipalities, including New Britain, would receive lower premium rates under the partnership for health insurance. "Over 50 municipal employers analyzed so far would receive lower premium rates under the CT Partnership Plan -- 30 percent of those with rate reductions greater than five percent," declared Lembo who prior to being elected Comptroller in 2010 was the State Health Advocate.

Opponents of the partnership, including former Mayor Stewart and former Ald. Lou Salvio, have complained that adoption of the health partnership would be a state takeover -- a false and ridiculous claim that distorts the issue and continues a status quo of rising health premiums.  The partnership takes over nothing, but restructures good health coverage in a way the reduces the costs.

"Our initial analysis of more than 50 municipal employers revealed significant savings of five to eight percent in some cases -- real money for municipalities seeking local property tax relief," stated Lembo.

The O'Brien Administration and the city's labor unions are apparently on board with the idea and ready to implement it.  To date the the Board of Education has yet to commit to the idea.

To achieve the savings in the partnership plan both school and municipal labor force need to be part of it. The Board of Education needs to give the idea fair and serious consideration.

06 June 2012

LTE from Billy Mac: Don't Trash Talk New Britain

In a letter to the Hartford Courant, former six-term Mayor William McNamara upbraids a wise-cracking reader who posted a not -so-nice put down of his city:

Shame on The Courant for allowing a comedian from East Hampton to ridicule the city of New Britain. In the Caption Contest of June 3, the cartoon shows two people sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus, wondering "Once we get to New Britain what do we do?"
I am sure all 26 or so elected officials, and the scores of appointed officials from New Britain have already written The Courant, defending the city's honor and objecting to this low-brow sense of humor. I would, however, suggest the following:
1. Visit the American Museum of American Art (the oldest and perhaps the best museum of American art in the country).
2. Enjoy a Class AA Rock Cats baseball game at New Britain Stadium (you will probably see a future Major Leaguer). As an enticement, I am sure I can arrange to get you a free bag of peanuts.
3. Visit New Britain s Industrial Museum. You will learn that New Britain was known as the Hardware City of the World. In fact, you probably have at least one Stanley tool in your home!
4. Enjoy a concert by the New Britain Symphony Orchestra.
5. Stop by the admission's office at Central Connecticut State University; perhaps you can make arrangements to get your G.E.D. there.
6. Take in a play presented by the Repertory Theater of New Britain.
Oh yes, a question: The contest winner's hometown, East Hampton, is known for what?

Way to go Billy Mac