By one estimate, the federal government spent over $367 billion in 2005 aloneon subsidizing Americans' retirement savings and tax breaks to build upother assets like buying a home. Unfortunately, those subsidies gooverwhelmingly to those Americans who already have high-incomes; almostnone of it goes to the poorest Americans who need the most helpbuilding the financial assets that can lead to long-term economicopportunities and security.
Even with many states having short sessions, the 2008 state legislative
sessions have already had some impressive milestone victories for
families and communities across the country. This Dispatch
covers a few of the key issue victories this year -- and points out
that states are still taking the lead on issue after issue. Most of
the bills highlighted became law, while a few, falling short of final
passage, were innovative enough and showed enough movement to promise
greater things for 2009.
With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least
welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour
scheduled to go into effect on July 24th. Even better, a number of
states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:
While national press coverage has focused on the historic ruling which
made California the second state to allow same-sex nuptials, lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender rights are making slow and steady progress across the country. In the recent weeks a few more states have taken action to help further civil rights for the LGBT community.
The Right, including Presidential candidate John McCain, wants every American to purchase their health insurance in the individual market, where a
of non-elderly Americans currently get their coverage. As
a new Families USA
report makes clear, this would expose Americans to even more
volatility than they currently experience in accessing health care and health
This session, the Colorado legislature had three main priorities: health care, education and fixing the transit system. They succeeded
in making substantial progress in education, slight progress in health care, and no progress on transit.
In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the US health care system 37th in the world despite spending more than any other country. In 2007, according to the US Census Bureau, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy.
If you are a person of color, a low-wage worker, non-English speaking,
or live in a low-income community, the picture is much worse. For
instance, the life expectancy for African-Americans
is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites. For
African-American men, it is 69.8 years, just above averages in Iran and
Syria, but below Nicaragua and Morocco.
Absent a national health care
policy, states have found ways to expand the reach of Medicaid by
covering more low-income, senior and disabled people and expanding the
list of covered services. Because of state action, 58 million
Americans now have health coverage they would not otherwise possess.
To push back on the states, the Bush Administration put forward several new Medicaid regulations
last year that, if implemented, will shift the burden and costs to
states. This will result in reduced benefits for millions of Americans
unless already cash-strapped states find some way to pick up the slack
- to the tune of $50 billion over five years.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.