The OB Media Rundown for 6/13/12

States Stay in Austerity Mode Even as Revenue Rises 

Even though tax revenues are finally rising faster than expenses, governors across the nation are recommending more austerity in the budgets they’re presenting to state legislatures this year, the latest survey from the National Governors Association shows.

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, governors are recommending a 2.2 percent increase to $683 billion in general revenue fund spending. That’s down from the 3.3 percent increase in state spending in 2012. Revenue, meanwhile, is projected to rise four percent during the coming fiscal year.

Health Care Costs Causing More Americans To Go Without Needed Care: Survey

Americans skipped doctor and dentist visits, didn’t receive diagnostic tests, didn’t take their medicines, cut pills in half or took other steps to save money that could make them less healthy, the survey found. Twenty-six percent of Americans reported they or a family member had difficulty paying medical bills, the same percentage as last August.

GOP attacks student aid

There’s a conservative talking point that opposes federal aid for college because, they claim, the aid just gets absorbed into higher tuitions.  Careful research does find such linkages when it comes to for-profit schools, but much less so when it comes to publics and non-profits, which is where about 90% of undergrads get their higher ed (see figure).*

A column in today’s WSJ reports evidence of this sort of transfer, but the results apply exclusively to private, for-profit schools:

The study’s authors warned their findings don’t apply to public colleges and private nonprofit schools, which they say are different because they aren’t motivated by profits and because their prices are largely determined by state funding and donations.

Research shows that tuitions at the public universities, where 75% of students enroll, are very much a function of revenue flows.  Thus, when they hit recession – and remember, states must balance their budgets – a couple of unfortunate things tend to happen at the same time.  First, tuitions tend to rise, and second, with the increase in unemployment, more young adults decide that given the weak job market, this would be a good time to get some more education.  (Another interesting strain of research finds that increased state Medicaid costs has also led to higher tuition at public universities.)

Will conservatism bankrupt America? The right’s privatizing alternative to the welfare state will leave us broke

If you provide citizens with vouchers to purchase merit goods from a naturally monopolistic or oligopolistic industry, competition will not work to keep prices down.  Instead, the producers are likely to hike their prices, by the amount of the voucher. That is essentially what has happened in higher education, health care and housing in the United States. Contrary to conservative theory, subsidizing the private purchase of these merit goods, without regulating the prices that producers charge, has allowed universities to increase their tuitions and doctors and hospitals to increase their fees without providing more or better health care. And housing as a share of middle-class budgets is higher now than it was in the 1950s and 1960s, defeating the purpose of housing subsidies.

If ever there were a real-world test of competing public policy models, it is found in the realm of merit goods in America. In the last half century, we have not seen out-of-control cost inflation in merit goods that are provided directly by government, like public K-12 schools and direct income maintenance payments to citizens like Social Security and unemployment insurance. Instead, the runaway costs have all come from merit goods like higher ed, health care and housing which follow the conservative model of subsidizing purchases of privately-provided goods.

And this is the failed, out-of-control, overly-expensive model that conservatives want to extend to all middle-class merit goods!

Citibank Cancels Foreclosure Auction of Minneapolis Mom?s Home; Commits to Loan Modification With Reduced Payments

After a several month campaign pressuring Citibank to negotiate with Colleen Mckee Espinosa and a last minute blitz of social media, petition signatures, and calls to the office of CEO Vikram Pandit, Citibank canceled a scheduled sheriff’s sale and approved a loan modification for the Espinosa’s home. An official with CitiMortgage?s Executive Response Unit contacted the Espinosa family with news that Citibank had approved a loan modification that would keep the family in their home and reduce their payments by one-third on a 7.5 year payment plan. The dramatic news came less than 24 hours before the house was to be sold at auction on Wednesday, June 13.

“I’m so relieved that my family’s home of 16 years will not be on the auction block tomorrow,” said Colleen McKee Espinosa, a nurse and single mother who received widespread support after she pledged not to leave her home without a good faith negotiation. “We are grateful that Citibank has decided to accept my payments, and we look forward to signing the final paperwork.”

Occupy D.C. Packing Up Shop, Moving Out Of Tents Into Offices

Occupy D.C. is moving out of McPherson Square in Washington. The group made the decision to leave Sunday and tore down some tents then. Other remnants were torn down Monday.

An official goodbye ceremony is planned for the weekend. The group is now operating out of offices at 16th and L streets.

We Will Not Be Moved!

Dawn Butler might have been evicted but Occupy Our Homes D.C. (OOH-DC) vows to continue its culture of mass resistance. On June 5th, U.S. Marshals arrived at 917 Maryland Avenue NE at 8:50 a.m., a little before their scheduled time. Typically, marshals are hired by a landlord to carry out actual evictions. In Dawn’s case, Chase bank asked U.S. Marshals to proceed in removing all of Ms. Butler’s belongings into the streets.

But June 5th was a not-so-typical day for U.S. Marshals. As they arrived to Dawn Butlers residence, Marshals were greeted by 50 revolutionaries linking arms to nonviolently protect Dawn’s home. Neighbors and activists rose to challenge a powerful global force that day. Marshals were introduced to people power and collective resistance.

Reluctant to evict, U.S. Marshals waited and waited, hoping the people on Dawn’s lawn would eventually get bored and leave. OOH-DC organizers thought the same of the Marshals. The Chase representative eventually showed up and ordered the U.S. Marshals to quickly move on with the eviction process. They made their move.

Can Occupy Wall Street Trust Its Own Candidate?

Given the movement’s ambivalence (at best; more often, antipathy) toward electoral politics, Martinez is a lightning rod. His campaign exposes ideological and tactical fissures as old as Occupy Wall Street and older.

For some, his candidacy reeks of co-option, representing a textbook example of the ways a corrupt, broken system recuperates and metabolizes every threat into a neutered, defanged format. A movement organized in opposition to a national politics so thoroughly captured by corporate power that the people are voiceless regardless of whom they elect can’t be expected to take seriously someone who proposes running for office as a solution, they say.

Others in the movement are ready and even eager to bring the energy that was born in Zuccotti Park into the halls of power, to harness the dynamism of the streets to a focused drive to reclaim political power, and to show that the people, working together, can still recapture the political process from a flood of corporate money.

More US police use YouTube to tell their own stories

Weeks before the Occupy demonstration in April, Minneapolis police created their own YouTube channel to give officers a venue to tell their own stories.

“We want to be transparent,” Assistant Chief Janee Harteau said. “Here is what we did. You can see for yourself and be your own judge.”

Larger departments in cities such as Boston, Baltimore and Milwaukee have had YouTube channels for years. They often post surveillance video, updates on cases, messages from the chief and public-service announcements.

Two farm protesters will not face charges

Alameda County prosecutors have decided not to file charges against two women arrested on suspicion of trespassing during the Occupy the Farm protest on UC Berkeley-owned land in Albany, officials said Thursday.

Last week, prosecutors opted not to file charges against seven of the protesters, who had been arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly.

The two other protesters arrested by police will not be charged with trespassing, said Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

Youths occupy Ibadan for Abiola (Nigeria)

SCORES of pro-democracy activists yesterday took to the streets of Ibadan in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 presidential election believed to have been won by the late Chief MKO Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).

They called on President Goodluck Jonathan to declare the winner of the election recorded as Nigeria?s freest and fairest ever as president.

Former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) annulled the results of the election in controversial circumstances.

Burning tires and rubber bullets: Spanish miners rage against austerity

Spanish miners raging against government cuts blocked off a highway with a burning barricade of tires before clashing with security forces in the country?s north.

Clad in masks and scarves to guard their identities, miners set a makeshift barricade of tires ablaze across a highway in the northern province of Asturias on Tuesday.

The miners then fell on the Spanish Civil Guard with a hail of rocks launched from slingshots as thick black smoke billowed behind them.

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