Cashing in on Kids: 172 ALEC Education Bills Push Privatization in 2015

By Brendan Fischer and Zachary Peters, PR Watch | News Analysis | March 09 2016 | TruthOut 

ALEC’s agenda would transform public education from an accountable institution that serves the public into one that serves private, for-profit interests. (Photo: School Money via Shutterstock; Edited: LW / TO)

Despite widespread public opposition to the corporate-driven education privatization agenda, at least 172 measures reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bills were introduced in 42 states in 2015, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, publishers of and (A PDF version of this report may be downloaded here.)

One of ALEC’s biggest funders is Koch Industries and the Koch brothers’ fortune. The Kochs have had a seat at the table – where the private sector votes as equals with legislators – on ALEC’s education task force via their “grassroots” group Americans for Prosperity and their Freedom Partners group, which was described as the Kochs’ “secret bank.”

The Kochs also have a voice on ALEC’s Education Task Force through multiple state-based think tanks of the State Policy Network, ALEC’s sister organization, which is funded by many of the same corporations and foundations and donor entities.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is also funded by the billionaire DeVos family, which bankrolls a privatization operation called “American Federation of Children,” and by for-profit corporations like K12 Inc., which was founded by junk-bond king Michael Milliken.

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Iowa Poll: Majority want police to wear body cameras

by Kathy A. Bolten |  March 11, 2016 } The Des Moines Register

Eric Spring, sergeant for the Johnston Police Department, wears a body camera on his shirt. (Photo: Kelsey Kremer/The Register)

A strong majority of Iowans support requiring the state’s law enforcement officers to wear body cameras to capture interactions with citizens, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.

Iowans also favor treating the images those cameras record as public documents that anyone could inspect.

Marcia Beck of Des Moines is among the 76 percent of Iowans who favor requiring law officers to wear body cameras.

“I think (body cameras) hold police accountable for what they do,” said Beck, 63. “There can’t be any question about whether an officer did right or wrong — it’s there on camera.”

A growing number of Iowa’s 350 law enforcement agencies now — or will soon — equip officers with body cameras as a way to increase accountability and allay concerns about officer misconduct. Police officers in Des Moines are expected to begin wearing body cameras by June; officers in Clive, Waukee, Johnston and Iowa City already wear the devices.

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Corrupt Societies Encourage Lying

By Laurel Hamers | Mar. 9, 2016 | Science Magazine

How likely are you to tell a lie? A new study links individual cheating with institutionalized rule-breaking.

When do we decide it’s OK to tell a lie? Perhaps when we see people in positions of power doing the same. A new study finds that individuals are more likely to lie if they live in a country with high levels of institutional corruption and fraud—suggesting that poorly run institutions hurt society in more ways than previously suspected.

Past research has shown that people are more likely to break the rules if those around them are also doing so. For instance, people surrounded by graffiti and litter are more likely to drop trash themselves. “But what we really don’t know is to what extent societal norms like political fraud, corruption, and tax evasion trickle down—and to what extent such societal norms corrupt individuals,” says Shaul Shalvi, a behavioral scientist at the University of Amsterdam who was not involved in the work.

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Taxing Social Security Benefits

by Paul Craig Roberts, published March 09, 2016

Truth is the enemy of the state, and always has been. But today the Western populations live in a world of total lies. Try to think of anything that the government has told you the truth about. “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” “Russian invasion of Ukraine” are not the only lies. Everything the government says is a lie. The unemployment rate. The GDP growth rate. The inflation rate. Payroll jobs. 9/11. Tonkin Gulf. Boston Marathon Bombing. Paris attacks.

Consider the taxation of Social Security benefits. Social Security existed for 49 years, from 1935 to 1984 without the benefits being taxed. Wall Street, David Stockman, Alan Greenspan, and the Republican establishment are responsible for breaking the promise to the American people and subjecting Social Security benefits to income taxation. When the Supply-Side economic policy led to the collapse of inflation far quicker than Stockman’s budget prediction had taken into account, federal budget deficits appeared that Stockman and Wall Street blamed on Reagan’s economic program. In those days the only economics the Republican establishment knew was fear of budget deficits. The fools actually thought that a budget deficit caused by the unanticipated collapse in inflation was going to cause inflation.

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The Affordable Care Act isn’t wiping out unpaid hospital bills

By Melanie Evans | March 5, 2016 | Modern Healthcare

The economy of Gillette, Wyo., has slumped along with the fortunes of companies like Devon Energy and Peabody Energy, which have slashed jobs because of the prolonged downturn in oil and gas prices.

Taxes on property, coal and oil support the county-owned hospital, but revenue has dipped because of dwindling population and a rising number of uninsured residents amid the layoffs. Wyoming, so far, has chosen not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“We were really optimistic when the legislation was passed that there would be more folks with insurance and things would get better for hospitals,” said Dalton Huber, chief financial officer of Campbell County Health in Gillette.

Continue reading The Affordable Care Act isn’t wiping out unpaid hospital bills

Our Economy Is Obsessed with Efficiency and Terrible at Everything Else

by Umair Haque, published MARCH 01, 2016 at the Harvard Business Review

MAR0116-ObsessedWithEfficiency-169x300Who doesn’t want to be more efficient? Pay someone else to do your grocery shopping — and clean your house, walk your dog, take that package to the post office. Blend your food so you don’t have to spend time chewing it. Don’t waste time remembering to buy toilet paper; just sign up for an Amazon Prime subscription.

Swipe right. Tap an app. What other on-demand drone-delivered same-day next-hour thingy do you need? Efficiency! Yay!

But perhaps our noble pursuit of efficiency is becoming something more like a frenzied — and self-destructive — obsession. The latest rage in tech is apps that call on-demand dogwalkers, personal assistants, concierges,butlers. Are these really the game-changing innovations that they’re heralded to be? Or are they something more like the rumblings of a new feudal age, in which a small number are masters, and the people formerly known as the middle class servants? And if they are, should we desire such an economy — not for moral reasons but for the sake of prosperity?

Here’s the problem.

Efficiency is a stagnating economy’s problem — not its solution. We live in what isalready probably the most efficient economy in human history. One where you can drive your car down the super highway to the local mega warehouse store and buy giant jars of peanuts for peanuts.

Continue reading Our Economy Is Obsessed with Efficiency and Terrible at Everything Else

Iowa Poll: Majority prefer state-run Medicaid

by Tony Leys, published March 08, 2016 at The Des Moines Register

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Cedar Rapids resident Melyssa-Jo Kelly, an advocate of oversight of Iowa’s Medicaid privatization, spoke before lawmakers Feb. 24. (Photo: Jason Clayworth/The Register)

Iowans are more likely to trust state government than private companies to run Medicaid, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.

Fifty-five percent of poll participants say they would have more faith in the state government to run a program such as Medicaid, which covers health care for 560,000 poor or disabled Iowans. Thirty-six percent say they would have more faith in a private company to run it. Nine percent are unsure.

The poll comes as Iowa prepares to shift its $4 billion Medicaid program to private management on April 1. The transition, pushed by Gov. Terry Branstad, is controversial. Branstad says it will save money and offer more flexible services. Critics predict it will lead to cuts in services while the for-profit management companies siphon off millions of dollars.

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Democrats and Republicans Are Quietly Planning a Corporate Giveaway—to the Tune of $400 Billion

By William Greider, published March 04, 2016 in The Nation

Why isn’t anyone talking about it?
A protest against corporate greed in Albany, New York in 2012 (AP Photo / Mike Groll)

Young people are the good news of 2016. They see the stressful realities of American life more clearly than their elders and are rallying around the straight talk of Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, the big hitters back in Washington politics are working on an ugly surprise not just for the kids but for all of us—another monster tax break for US multinational corporations.

The bad news is that key leaders of the Democratic Party—including the president—are getting on board with Republicans, despite some talk about confronting income inequality. Influential Democrats intend to negotiate with Republican counterparts on the size and terms of post-facto tax “forgiveness” for America’s globalized companies. This is real money they’re talking about—a giveaway of hundreds of billions.

Why haven’t voters heard about this from candidates? Because Republicans and Democrats both know it would make angry voters even angrier.

Continue reading Democrats and Republicans Are Quietly Planning a Corporate Giveaway—to the Tune of $400 Billion

Flat wages show the US doesn’t have a labor market

by David Cay Johnston, published August 4, 2015 at ALJAZEERAAMERICA

Government action is required to correct imbalance in employer power

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Another warning sign of our fragile economy popped up Friday in the latest quarterly employment-cost-index report, which measures the total cost of labor to employers. The index rose by one-fifth of 1 percent — the smallest increase since the data series was launched in 1982.

Without real growth in wages the economy cannot grow because the capacity of people to buy goods and services — what economists call aggregate demand — will remain flat.

This is a problem that we can fix, and there are three obvious ways to address it. But it requires the involvement of government, which makes the rules governing the market. If there is one thing that centuries of experience have taught, it is this: Whatever the rules, businesses adapt.

Flat wages

The median wage — half make more, half less — has been stuck since 1998 at a bit more than $500 a week. In 2013 average pay declined from the previous year in 59 of the 60 salary levels the government tracks.  Only jobs paying $50 million or more had higher average pay.

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Why Seniors—Not CEOs—Deserve a Raise

by Elizabeth Warren, published March 07, 2016 at Common Dreams via TalkPoverty

Demonstrators form a symbolic chain to protest against a proposed change in the formula for determining annual Social Security benefits known as “chained CPI,” Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Photo: AP/Matt Rourke)

Any conversation about tackling poverty in the United States should include protecting and expanding Social Security. The reason is pretty straightforward: Social Security is the most powerful tool available to lift people out of poverty. Nearly two-thirds of seniors depend on Social Security for the majority of their income, and millions more children and adults depend upon survivors and disability benefits. According to Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Census data, Social Security kept 21 million Americans out of poverty in the last year alone. All told, that’s more people than any other government program.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.39.33 PMSocial Security works. No one runs out of benefits, and payments don’t rise and fall with the stock market. Despite scare tactics from Republicans in Congress, the facts are clear. Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus. If we do nothing, Social Security will be safe for the next 18 years, and after that will continue to pay three-quarters of benefits through the end of the century.

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