Fighting Vote Suppression by the Rightwing

Complicated and confusing processes, threats of punishment for voter registration volunteers, systematic purging of voter databases -- a wholesale effort to use any means necessary to deny the right to vote to wide swaths of Americans. This is what People for the American Way recently called The New Face of Jim Crow.

401(k)s Delivering Worse Financial Returns than Traditional Pensions

In the last few decades, there has been a massive shift from traditional defined benefit retirement plans -- where workers are guaranteed a yearly return in retirement -- to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s where money may be contributed each year with no guaranteed return. The numbers are stark: of workers with pensions (which includes today only 60% of the population), 83% had defined benefit plans in 1980, while only 39% had a defined benefit plan by 2004.

MN: Blue Cross Calls for Forced Universal Health Coverage

The Blues have joined the health care for all bandwagon in Minnesota. The state's Blue Cross Blue Shield is endorsing a bill based on the Massachusetts model of achieving health care for all through compelling the purchase of insurance, highlighting both a key strength and a key weakness of the model. The mandatory nature of the law builds bridges to new interested parties: insurance firms well positioned to benefit from a law requiring that the public purchase their product.

CA: A Progressive Agenda in Action

The Los Angeles Times has a rundown of bills passed by the legislature-- and for those wondering whether progressives have an agenda, it's a pretty good illustration of what could be done with a progressive majority. Many of these items may get vetoed by Arnie, but it's still an impressive list. Here are the highlights:

CA: Legislature Votes for Single-Payer Health System to Cover Uninsured

Yesterday, the California Assembly voted for a bill, SB 840, that would provide health care to all state residents under a government-run universal health insurance system, joining the state Senate which enacted a similar bill last year.

Anti-Tobacco Efforts Gain Steam

At the same time that a new study out of Massachusetts reveals that tobacco companies are steadily increasing nicotine levels in cigarettes, the fight to limit the health impacts of tobacco is gaining new steam. Ballot measures will be considered in eight states this fall regarding tobacco. And in Virginia, where tobacco is king, Governor Tim Kaine is considering a ban on smoking in state buildings.

CA: Integrating Immigrants into Education and Licensing Laws

In the state with the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the countries, state legislators in California are bucking the trend of enacting punitive measures against immigrants and instead voted for two proposals that actually seek positive solutions in integrating new immigrants into the economy.

A Convenient Truth: States Can Seize the Lead on Global Warming

In the groundbreaking film An Inconvenient Truth, Vice President Al Gore makes an impressive case that it is now essential that the world act to prevent the potentially catastrophic implications of global warming. The film could not come at a more critical time. While the planet warms, Washington dawdles. The nation's political elite remains mired in a debate manipulated by powerful energy interests.

Multi-state Advertising Campaign Targets Public Employees

For public employees in four states, this may have been a rough week. As if balancing typical duties of work and family is not enough, a front group for anonymous business interests this week began running ads in Michigan, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon accusing public employees of being lazy and overcompensated. The campaign is connected to the well-orchestrated rightwing attempt to impose TABOR-style spending limits in numerous states through ballot measures this fall.

NY: Pataki Vetoes Credit Card Reform Bill

You sign up with a credit card promising you a fixed interest rate. You pay all your credit card bills on time and in full, but slip up paying a bill to a totally different company, say the power company, a bit late. Your credit card company suddenly changes the rules and raises your credit card rate to up to 35%, based on a provision buried in the fine print of credit card agreements called "universal default."