Food Safety, Public Health, Real ID Problems, The High Cost of HSAs, the Cost of Takings, and Katrina

With the recent outbreak of e. coli from infected spinach because of the negligence of the federal Food and Drug Administration, it's worth reviewing the report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest on how a proposed federal law, H.R. 4167, would overturn 200 state food safety laws protecting the public health.

"Despite high expenditures, the United States lags behind other countries on indicators of mortality and healthy life expectancy," according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund published in the journal Health Affairs. The study emphasizes that our country needs to make system-wide reforms that end the bureaucratic costs of "fragmented and unstable coverage" in favor of universal coverage of all Americans.

Looking at the impact of rightwing laws to create onerous identification requirements to vote, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that 11 million citizens do not have access to a birth certificate or passport, documents required to register to vote under a number of state and proposed federal laws, meaning that millions of voters will be effectively denied the right to vote by these laws.

For states considering using Health Savings Accounts as part of state health care reform, a sobering GAO study finds that such accounts overwhelmingly benefit high income individuals -- and that such plans will separate wealthier, healthy individuals into HSA plans, while poorer and less healthy individuals will be stuck with even more costly health plans.

A study by Washington State's Office of Financial Management finds that the proposed I-933 "regulatory takings" ballot initiative would cost the state over $2 billion and cities and counties as much as $5.3 billion in compensation to land owners who challenge local land use and environmental laws -- amounts that would effectively cripple environmental and planning laws in that state.

Surveying the tax incentive policies created to encourage post-Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast, the Brookings Institution concludes that they are inadequate to meet the needs of residents unless they are combined with good planning, local capacity-building and more direct to rebuild local governance structures.