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Cleaning up Election Day Disasters

Even with the good news that came last Tuesday, all too much evidence exists that the basic machinery of democracy in America is broken. Election Day is like Groundhog Day and the first stories of problems with voting machines, long lines, or voter intimidation hit the wires in the early A.M. Fortunately, with progressives in control in more states than ever before, we have an opportunity to get the machinery working, so that the engine of democracy starts humming again.

Free Health Care? Hospitals Look to Contain Long-Term Costs

A 2005 Families USA report estimated that uncompensated care, or bad debt and charity care, cost the US health care system $43 billion, resulting in an average increase of $922 in family health insurance policies through the year. A New York Times report discusses how some hospitals, in an effort to reduce their uncompensated care costs, are providing free primary care to uninsured patients with costly chronic conditions, recognizing that preventing emergencies that arise from untreated chronic conditions saves money and yields better health outcomes. Some patients involved have seen their costs reduced by half.

Losing the Freedom to Form Unions

The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that a range of professionals, estimated at 8 million workers, are now deemed "supervisors" and thus lose all protections under labor law. What this means is that an estimated 8 million workers who say a positive thing about unions can be fired at will by their bosses seeking to eliminate unions. The AFL-CIO has more here on the legal details.

Wal-Mart Moves to Cut Wages

Let no one tell you that the problem America faces is that our workers are treated to well. In addition to having the National Labor Relations Board basically sign on to a union-busting agenda, the nation's largest private sector employer offers more bad news for workers.

Uninsured Children, NAFTA Job Losses, Local Economic Development, the Cost of Real ID, and Sexual Assault in Women's Prisons

The Economic Policy Institute reports that from 2004 to 2005, the number of uninsured children in America grew by 361,000, the first increase in seven years. The Campaign for Children's Health Care has released a report called No Shelter from the Storm: America's Uninsured Children, that lays out in detail the magnitude of the crisis of uninsured children in America.

Wal-Mart Guts Health Care Options for Workers

Prices are going up at Wal-Mart, for employees that is.

The Middle Class Squeeze and the Burden on Families

American families are under economic strain, but there is a rousing debate among economists over whether workers and families are doing better than a generation ago-- and what that means for shaping economic and social policy. The American Prospect is hosting a lively debate online on the fate of the middle class and how progressives need to tailor their message accordingly. Stephen Rose of Third Way makes the case that the middle class is doing better than many progressives think, while Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute disagrees with Rose, highlighting the stagnation of middle class families incomes in the last generation, even as wealth at the top of the economic ladder exploded. Read the debate and the responses by other commentators.

Welfare "Reform": Ten Years Later

It's now ten years since the 1996 welfare law promised to end "welfare as we know it." That goal may have been accomplished, but the results have been decidedly mixed, both for poor families and for state lawmakers coping with changing federal mandates.

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.