Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Screwed Over Black, Hispanic and Native American Kids (and They Deserve Better)

Its been my observation that a surprising amount of research education sucks, either focusing on irrelevant trivia or desperately avoiding logic and common sense at all costs. Every so often, though, you come across something well written and cogent. Here are the first two paragraphs of an article that comes close:

Racial-, ethnic-, and language-minority schoolchildren in the United States have repeatedly been reported to be overidentified as disabled and so disproportionately overrepresented in special education (e.g., Artiles, 2003; Dunn, 1968; Harry, Arnaiz, Klinger, & Sturges, 2008; Oswald, Coutinho, Best, & Singh, 1999; Sullivan & Bal, 2013). These findings have led to characterizations of special education as “discriminatory” (Skiba, Poloni-Staudinger, Simmons, Feggins-Azziz, & Chung, 2005, p. 142), having “systemic bias” (Oswald, Coutinho, Best, & Nguyen, 2001, p. 361), constituting “a new legalized form of structural segregation and racism” (Blanchett, 2006, p. 25), and “another manifestation of institutionalized racism” (Codrington & Fairchild, 2012, p. 6). Federal legislation and policies have been enacted to reduce minority disproportionate representation (MDR) in special education (e.g., Posney, 2007; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, 2009). For example, the U.S. Congress observed that “more minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population” (p. 118 of Statute 2651, Public Law 108-446).

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November Jobs Report: good month, same caveats

November Jobs Report: good month, same caveats

HEADLINES:
  • +228,000 jobs added
  • U3 unemployment rate unchanged at 4.1%
  • U6 underemployment rate rose +0.1% from 7.9% to 8.0%
Here are the headlines on wages and the chronic heightened underemployment:
Wages and participation rates
  • Not in Labor Force, but Want a Job Now:  rose +53,000 from 5.175 million to 5.238 million
  • Part time for economic reasons: rose +48,000 from 4.753 million to 4.801 million
  • Employment/population ratio ages 25-54: rose +0.2% from 78.8% to 79.0%
  • Average Weekly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: rose +$.0.5 from a downwardly revised $22.19 to $22.24, up +2.4% YoY.  (Note: you may be reading different information about wages elsewhere. They are citing average wages for all private workers. I use wages for nonsupervisory personnel, to come closer to the situation for ordinary workers.)
Holding Trump accountable on manufacturing and mining jobs

 Trump specifically campaigned on bringing back manufacturing and mining jobs.  Is he keeping this promise?  
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by +31,000 for an average of  +15,000 a month vs. the last seven years of Obama’s presidency in which an average of 10,300 manufacturing jobs were added each month.
  • Coal mining jobs fell -400 for an average of -15 a month vs. the last seven years of Obama’s presidency in which an average of -300 jobs were lost each month

September was revised upward by +20,000. October was revised downward by -17,000, for a net change of +3,000.

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Americans and debt…

Lifted from comments Denis Drew points us to:

Americans are drowning in debt. Here’s where they have it the worst.

By Christopher Ingraham, December 8 at 1:58 PM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/08/americans-are-drowning-in-debt-heres-where-they-have-it-the-worst/?utm_term=.45e91dd1c24f

“Nationwide the data shows that 33 percent of Americans hold debt that is currently in collection. The median amount of debt in collections is $1,450.”

“At the county level, 68 percent of the residents of tiny Allendale County, S.C., (pop. 9,433) have debt currently in collections, the highest county rate in the nation. Cook County Minnesota can boast the nation’s lowest prevalence of past-due debt, at just 6 percent.”

“Urban’s numbers show that those sky-high health-care costs are saddling many Americans — nearly 20 percent of them — with debt they cannot pay.”

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“Congressional Leaders Signal They Intend to Kick the Can Down the Road on CHIP” Again

A Little History of the legislator who wrote the bill:

Chair of the House Appropriations Committee since 2017, Rodney Frelinghuysen’s campaigns have been funded by the aerospace, defense, pharmaceutical and health care industries. On domestic issues, he opposes legalized abortion, Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities, and federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. He endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. He voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). He was criticized for purportedly failing to have in-person town hall meetings since 2013, as well as writing a letter which had the effect of threatening an opponent’s employment.

It does appear Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen has some irons in the fire when it comes to woman’s healthcare, healthcare in general, the healthcare industry, and who is a priority in healthcare plus sanctuary cities and green-house gases. Definitely unbiased irons as Congressman Frelinghuysen, like Michigan’s Mike Bishop, refuses to meet with his constituents and learn of their interests. His “Chip Further Continuing Appropriations Bill” passed by the Senate was reported-on by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Center for Children and Families’ Joan Alkers. The bill does not solve the 5 year funding issue for CHIP as proposed in another Republican led bill.

What is coming to pass is a stopgap measure taking unused CHIP funding and giving portions of it to states running out of funding. Some states ware better funded due to timing and other reasons. It is as Chairman Greg Walden of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called the stopgap measure:

“a short-term, fill-the-gap for states – a little rescue, lifeline for them right now.“

Portion of the Bill:

DIVISION B CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (CHIP) ALLOCATION REDISTRIBUTION SPECIAL RULE

SEC. 201. CHIP ALLOCATION REDISTRIBUTION SPECIAL RULE FOR CERTAIN SHORTFALL STATES DURING FIRST QUARTER OF FISCAL YEAR 2018.

‘‘(B) DETERMINATION OF REDISTRIBUTED AMOUNTS IF INSUFFICIENT AMOUNTS AVAILABLE.

‘‘(i) PRORATION RULE. Subject to clause (ii), if the amounts available for redistribution under paragraph (1) for a fiscal year are less than the total amounts of the estimated shortfalls determined for the 3 year under subparagraph (A), the amount 1 to be redistributed under such paragraph for each shortfall State shall be reduced 3 proportionally.

‘‘(ii) SPECIAL RULE FOR FIRST QUARTER OF FISCAL YEAR 2018.

‘‘(I) IN GENERAL.—For the period beginning on October 1, 2017, 8 and ending December 31, 2017, with respect to any amounts available for redistribution under paragraph (1) for 11 fiscal year 2018, the Secretary shall redistribute under such paragraph such amounts to each emergency shortfall State (as defined in sub-15 clause (II)) in such amount as is equal to the amount of the shortfall described in subclause (II) for such State and period (as may be adjusted under subparagraph (C)) before the Secretary may redistribute such amounts to any shortfall State that is not an emergency shortfall State. In the case of any amounts redistributed under this subclause to a State that is not an emergency shortfall State, such amounts shall be determined in accordance with clause (i).

What is Stopping CHIP Funding?

The Hill blames it on Congress not reaching an agreement on how to fund the CHIP for children. The issue lies with the Republican Congress which wishes to take funds from other programs, etc. to fund the Children Health Insurance Program.

• Additional Means testing of certain higher income seniors. (if you start with this, it will grow to other things also. This is another Republican scam.)
• Allowing states to kick out Medicaid beneficiaries if they win the lottery (This can be done by asking for a waiver from the Republican run CMS).
• Shortening the grace period for people paying their Obamacare premium payments late. (The point to this is to penalize those who have lower incomes and have trouble paying during certain time periods.)
• Cutting more than $5 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s prevention and public health fund. These funds are used for the ACL, CDC, and SAMHSA programs.

Not satisfied with holding children hostage in the continental United States, Republicans are also holding Puerto Rico Medicaid funding hostage.

Another funding option suggested by Chairman Greg Walden of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is;

“letting states receive more money for CHIP from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This would not be new money, but would come from the agency’s unused funds.”

With Walden’s suggestion there would be no additional funding. This option would pit the needs of CHIP against the needs of Medicaid and Medicare. All of the funding options proposed either grow into something worse down the road for children and the elderly or steal from funding for those needing healthcare, programs again for the elderly and also programs for minorities and low-income constituents.

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas for Republicans will be stealing healthcare from children and those who can least afford it or lose it.

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Holy crap! What me worry?

Politico points to major tax cut headaches to come:

Other issues arise from the fact that lawmakers are mostly skipping the custom of having a transitional period between current tax rules and the new ones, in order to give the public time to adjust to the changes.

The House bill also includes a whole new way of taxing multinational corporations — aside from the one-time tax — that lawmakers have hardly debated, and which experts are still trying to understand.

“It’s crazy,” said one Republican lobbyist. “I don’t think anyone could explain it, let alone comply with it” by Jan. 1.

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Stop talking affordable water and start talking poverty

David Zetland writes at Aguanomics

Stop talking affordable water and start talking poverty

Circle of Blue published this long, aggravating article of the efforts of activists, water managers and (far too many consultants) to “find a compromise” on the price of water that will cover system costs without “burdening the poor.”

Let me solve this “puzzle.”

First, there’s no point in making water cheap to help poor people. Cheap water will not make them rich. If you want to help poor people, then give them money.

Second, water utilities are neither charities nor social innovators. Their job is to deliver safe and adequate quantities of water at prices that cover their costs of operations, maintenance and expansion. Utilities that are underfunded (like those in India that lose money on every cubic meter delivered) cannot provide good service.* Utilities that are asked to take care of poor people (like those in England where the government is too stingy to help poor people [pdf]) lose track of their primary mission (good service) as they struggle to identify who is “poor”.**

Third, any politician who claims that water needs to be cheap to help poor people is a lying, lazy incompetent. It’s the politician’s job to tax the rich to help the poor, but US politicians work for the rich. Sad.

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Pakistan Today, Here Tomorrow

I cannot speak for the credibility of the Asian Human Rights Commission, nor about this story they published entitled Pakistan: The last nail in the coffin of democracy. However, it does ring true to me based on other material I have read in Western media. To quote liberally, if not to lift wholesale:

The year 2017 in Pakistan has been marked by tussles between state institutions and the army. The chain of events that started with a seemingly whimsical news item about the war of words between the military and civilian top brass, known as the Dawn Leaks, culminated into a sit-in the capital city of Islamabad that lasted for more than 21 days in November, and ended with bloodshed and a surrender document duly signed by the civilian government under the bayonet of army.

The sit-in was called by religious cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Chief of the hitherto unknown Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (LYRA), a militant and political organisation that purports itself to be peaceful. The sit-in was a reaction to the alleged amendments in the Election Bill 2017, which changed the wording of the declaration required of elected parliamentarians proclaiming the finality of the prophet hood. The government soon reverted back to the original text, but the damage was done.

The clerics called a sit-in the heart of Pakistan’s capital city, and kept the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi virtually inaccessible for 21 plus days, causing severe troubles for daily commuters. The situation was a Lahore Model Town de ja vu of 2012, with the care taker government of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi unable to take any action against the violent protestors.

Finally, after being served several ultimatums, the government was forced to take action against the protestors on November 25. What ensued is a textbook example of the utter break down of state apparatus and police incompetence. The police forces were beaten up by the protestors, with many officers receiving severe injuries (footage of the attack on the police can be viewed here). In total 173 were injured by the fundamentalists including 54 police officials and among them 32 police officials are seriously injured. According to the electronic media, seven persons including one child were killed, whereas other sources claim that around 45 persons were killed.

The freedom of expression was the first casualty of the pandemonium, with TV channels ordered to go off air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. For 42 hours, the channels remained off air, unprecedented in the country. Meanwhile, journalists, cameramen and photojournalists covering the protest were brutally beaten by the protestors (watch the footage here).

The army was then called on to take control of the situation, in aid of the civilian government, under Article 256 of the Constitution of Pakistan. In contravention to the clear orders however, the military chief refused to intervene and “suggested” that the government find a peaceful solution to the chaos. Given the circumstances and the refusal to act despite orders from the Premier of the state, it must be questioned why Article 6 of the Constitution was not applied against the General?

Abandoned by the army, the government was forced to meet the demands of Rizvi and his band of hooligans. The agreement, hailed as a suicide note by analysts, includes preposterous demands, such as ease of filing an FIR for blasphemy cases and having three representatives of LYRA in the Punjab textbook board to review the curriculum. Other salient features of the agreement were that a board of clerics led by Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri will be set up to probe remarks made by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah against the persecution of Ahmadis, and Sanaullah will have to accept the decision made by the board. Also, no leniency will be given to those convicted by courts for blasphemy, and no ban will be imposed on the use of loudspeakers.

Furthermore, the agreement notes that two representatives of Tehreek-i-Labaik (LYRA) will be included in the panel assigned to decide changes in textbooks. The officials will push for inclusion of translation of the Holy Quran, and chapters about Seerat-un-Nabi (PBUH) and Muslim leaders. Every year, November 25 will be observed as “Martyrs of Prophet’s honour” day.

The agreement clearly reveals the influence of the extremist clergy in Pakistan’s state affairs. The preposterous demands were accepted by the state to the letter, and the surrender document was duly signed by Interior Minister Mr. Ahsan Iqbal and cleric Khaidim Hussain Rizvi. Ironically, the guarantor of the agreement was the army itself. Moreover, in a TV interview, Khadim Hussan Rizvi admitted that he dealt only with the military leadership and the ISI, and it “must have been” the army leadership which got the Interior Minister to sign the agreement. A video of the director general Rangers disbursing money amongst protestors after the sit-in ended caused many to question whether this was a soft coup or a conspiracy to over throw the elected civilian government. However, shamelessly the army general was making the selfies with the protestors and assuring them that army stands with you.

By ceding to the demands of the violent demonstrators, the state has virtually given absolute power and blanket immunity to fundamentalism and militancy in the name of religion in the country. The government has set a shameful legacy for itself, wherein some 1500 people managed to overcome the government and a country of 200 million people, a 600,000 strong army and the world’s sixth nuclear state. The whole world saw the drama unfold that leased the people of Pakistan to non-state actors, who will now decide who is ‘Muslim enough’ to live in the country.

If this is accurate, it bodes ill. And not just for that segment of the Pakistani population that doesn’t want to live under the rule of this particular brand of fundamentalists. Militant fanatics like to export their ideologies, and the West has made its borders permeable to violent militants.

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An astute progressive critique of the Trump Administration from … CNBC?!?

An astute progressive critique of the Trump Administration from … CNBC?!?

John Harwood of that well known lefty outlet, …. ummm, CNBC …. writes this morning that “Trump has Forgotten his ‘Forgotten People’:”

He forgot them on health care. Jettisoning his campaign pledge to “take care of everybody” regardless of income, he proposed cutting federal health subsidies for the hard-pressed blue-collar voters who put him into office.

He forgot them on financial regulation. Abandoning talk of cracking down on Wall Street executives who “rigged” the economy to hobble the working class, he seeks to undercut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ….

And he forgot them on taxes. Discarding his vow to reshape taxation for average families at the expense of rich people like himself, he’s working with Republican leaders to hand the biggest benefits to corporations and the wealthy.

To the contrary, his budget includes big cuts to Social Security disability program. Meanwhile his much-vaunted infrastructure plan has ‘failed to materialize.”

But, Harwood points out:

The president hasn’t forgotten everything. In lieu of big financial benefits, Trump has steadily given “the forgotten people” at least one visceral commodity [: ]  affirmation of shared racial grievances.

I think this is a good summary of Trump’s domestic policies as revealed by the past year.  On social issues, he has governed exactly as he promised during his campaign, issuing a de facto ban on Muslim immigration, unleashing ICE against Latinos, and fulminating against protesting black NFL players.

But on economic issues he has behaved exactly like a standard issue country club republican.The requirement that the GOP enact a “replacement” for Obamacare? Gone. Preventing the offshoring of manufacturing jobs? Gone. Enacting at least something like a tariff at the borders? Gone. Actually *doing* something about the opioid crisis, which is strongly correlated with areas of economic distress (as opposed to lip service)? Nothing.

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