As many jobs created as those who left work force under Obama

Bud Meyers | September 12 2016 

14,770,000 net new jobs were created since January 2009 when Obama first took office — and according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, most of those went to foreign-born workers: Foreign born workers / Native born workers — And the U.S. has 13,862,000 more working age Americans not in the labor force since January 2009 since Obama first took office.

For the sake of argument (to give the Obama administration the best benefit of the doubt), we’ll assume that all 8.7 million people who lost jobs during the Great Recession have either went on disability, retired on Social Security, were incarcerated (criminally or medically), passed away, left the country or found another job — and not a single one is officially counted as “unemployed” today (as of September 2016).

Since Obama first took office in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. has averaged over 3 million high school graduates every year during his tenure (24 million total during Obama’s time in office) — and many, probably most, have went on to college for a certain amount of time and then either dropped out or graduated from college (and we can assume that most of them have attempted to enter the job market).

Net new jobs created under Obama per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (in thousands)

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24 million graduates during Obama’s tenure
-15 million jobs created during Obama’s tenure
– 9 million jobs short (minus those who have either went on disability, left the country, was incarcerated (criminally or medically), passed away or left the country — and we have almost 14 million more working age Americans “not in the labor force” during Obama’s tenure.

Continue reading As many jobs created as those who left work force under Obama

Religion in US ‘worth more than Google and Apple combined’

Harriet Sherwood | September 15 2016 | The Guardian

Faith economy worth $1.2tn a year – more than combined revenues of 10 biggest tech firms in America, study shows

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St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. More than 150 million Americans are members of faith congregations, according to the report. Photograph: Getty

Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world, according to a study.

The faith economy has a higher value than the combined revenues of the top 10 technology companies in the US, including Apple, Amazon and Google, says the analysis from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The Socioeconomic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis calculated the $1.2tn figure by estimating the value of religious institutions, including healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.

Continue reading Religion in US ‘worth more than Google and Apple combined’

Five Deadly Sins of Big Pharma

Paul Buchheit | September 12 2016 | Common Dreams

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A pharmacist holds a package of EpiPens epinephrine auto-injector, a Mylan product, in Sacramento, Calif., last month. Mylan said it will make available a generic version of its EpiPen, as criticism mounts over the price of its injectable medicine. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

For Mylan, it was a perfect plan—diabolical, unstoppable. The company made changes in its anti-allergy EpiPen dispenser in 2009, enough to give it patent protection. Then, in 2012, it began to give away free pens to schools, gradually making school nurses at least partly dependent on them. Meanwhile the company was successfully lobbying for the “Emergency Epinephrine Act,” commonly referred to as the “EpiPen Law,” which encouraged the presence of epinephrine dispensers in schools. Most recently, after raising the price from $100 to $600, Mylan announced a half-price coupon, making itself appear generous even though the price had effectively jumped from $100 to $300.

This is capitalism at its worst, a greedy and disdainful profit-over-people system that leaves millions of Americans sick… or dead. These are the sins of the pharmaceutical industry.

1. Gouging Customers

The Mylan story is just one of many. An American with cancer will face bills up to $183,000 per year, even though it hasn’t been established that the expensive treatments actually extend lives. A 12-week course of Sovaldi, for hepatitis, costs Gilead Sciences about $84 and is priced at $84,000.

This is an industry that can suddenly impose a 60,000% increase on desperately ill people. Yet the pharmaceutical industry’s profit margin is matched only by the unscrupulous financial industry for the highest corporate profit margin.

2. Disposing of People Who Can’t Afford Medication

A Forbes writer summarizes: “Somewhere, right now, a cash-strapped parent or budget-limited patient with a severe allergy will skip acquiring an EpiPen. And someday, they will need it in a life-threatening situation…and they won’t have it. And they will die.”

A recent Health Affairs study concluded that since 2004 our medical dollars have been “increasingly concentrated on the wealthy.” As a result the richest 1% of American males live nearly 15 years longer than the poorest 1% (10 years for women). The high cost of medication is one of the factors leading to early death.

3. Gouging Us a Second Time

We’re paying twice for outrageously overpriced medications, both directly and with our tax dollars. The average medical insurance deductible has increased 67 percent since 2010, and most Medicare patients still face out-of-pocket costs of $7,000 or more a year.

Continue reading Five Deadly Sins of Big Pharma

Hillary Clinton Used Bleachbit To Wipe Emails

Slashdot | August 26 2016

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin:

The open-source disk cleaning application, BleachBit, got quite a decent ad pitch from the world of politics after it was revealed lawyers of the presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, used the software to wipe her email servers. Clinton is currently in hot water, being accused of using private servers for storing sensitive emails. “[South Carolina Representative, Trey Gowdy, spoke to Fox News about Hillary Clinton’s lawyers using BleachBit to wipe the private servers. He said:] ‘She and her lawyers had those emails deleted. And they didn’t just push the delete button; they had them deleted where even God can’t read them. They were using something called BleachBit. You don’t use BleachBit for yoga emails or bridesmaids emails. When you’re using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see.'” Two of the main features that are listed on the BleachBit website include “Shred files to hide their contents and prevent data recovery,” and “Overwrite free disk space to hide previously deleted files.” These two features would make it pretty difficult for anyone trying to recover the deleted emails.

Slashdot reader ahziem adds:

The IT team for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the open source cleaning software BleachBit to wipe systems “so even God couldn’t read them,” according to South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy on Fox News. His comments on the “drastic cyber-measure” were in response to the question of whether emails on her private Microsoft Exchange Server were simply about “yoga and wedding plans.” Perhaps Clinton’s team used an open-source application because, unlike proprietary applications, it can be audited, like for backdoors. In response to the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, privacy expert Bruce Schneier advised in an article in which he stated he also uses BleachBit, “Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software.” Ironically, Schneier was writing to a non-governmental audience.

Have any Slashdotters had any experience with BleachBit? Specifically, have you used it for erasing “yoga emails” or “bridesmaids emails?”

Is Toothpaste Dangerous to Your Health?

Larry Schwartz | August 27 2016 | Naked Capitalism (cross posted from Alternet)

Jerri-Lynn here. This article summarizes the sad state of affairs of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of personal care products, with companies allowed to practice self-regulation. The article also embeds a link to a New York Times article describing legislation that would give the FDA authority to initiate recalls of such products and describes the lobbying muscle, both pro and anti, that has lined up around this initiative (click on current problems below to access that article).

Note that the current status quo, under which Canada, Europe, and Japan follow the “precautionary principle” and don’t authorize the use of chemicals until it is determined they are safe, would be threatened if the Obama administration gets its way and secures passage of trade agreements that incorporate Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms.

Moreover, such ISDS provisions, if enacted, would also allow potential challenges to current US regulations, and also potential future regulations, if major political change occurred and US regulators sought actively to increase the level of US health and safety or other regulatory protections.

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By Larry Schwartz, a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and American history. Cross posted from Alternet.

The average American will use 20 gallons of toothpaste in their lifetime, and a new study by the Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit organization that studies ecological best practices, makes clear we should all be concerned about exposure to toxic ingredients found in toothpastes. Chemicals in toothpaste are readily absorbed through the membrane that lines the mouth (oral mucosa), meaning that, regardless of whether you swallow toothpaste or not, you are exposing yourself to some level of absorption. Children, who we know often do swallow toothpaste, are even more at risk.

When we use personal care products, we make the assumption that what we have purchased is safe and won’t harm us. We might be assuming wrong. Look no further than the current problems faced by some users of Wen hair products. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which are regulated closely by the Food and Drug Administration, the cosmetic industry, which includes personal care products like shampoos, hair care and toothpaste, is free from scrutiny from the FDA. The regulatory agency has no power of review or recall over products, nor are industry products required to even list all of their ingredients. Instead, the $71 billion industry regulates itself. And that always works out great!

Continue reading Is Toothpaste Dangerous to Your Health?

Des Moines Register Editorial: Branstad’s legacy: Killing health care jobs

Des Moines Register | August 20 2016

For someone who talks big about job creation, Gov. Terry Branstad is doing a stellar job of jeopardizing the solvency of some Iowa employers. Four months after implementation of his plan to privatize Medicaid administration, the carnage is in full swing. Stories of small employers not being paid by managed care companies are being reported across the state.

Cedar Rapids-based JVA Mobility is no longer selling medical equipment to nursing homes. Despite obtaining prior authorizations from the insurers to repair or provide wheelchairs to residents, the company is not being reimbursed for the cost.

“They’ve come up with all sorts of answers why,” owner Vince Wolrab told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “Some say it’s trial and error — we’ve used the wrong (billing code). But then some they just flat out deny and tell us it needs to be billed to Medicare, when they know Medicare won’t cover it.”

Senior Resources in Muscatine, a nonprofit organization that helps older Iowans live independently, may soon need to take out more loans. It has no other way to make up for the loss of revenue after being stiffed by private insurers.

Continue reading Des Moines Register Editorial: Branstad’s legacy: Killing health care jobs

Iowa: Time to Pull the Plug on the Medicaid Mess?

Iowa House Democrat Leader Mark Smith | August 11 2016 | Journal Express

A few months ago, Governor Terry Branstad and Republicans privatized health care for over 500,000 Iowans on Medicaid. After months of delays, confusion, and scandal, Branstad’s privatization scheme is now officially a disaster.

All around the state, we’ve been hearing horror stories from Iowans and local providers dealing with the new private, out-of-state companies Branstad picked to manage Medicaid (called MCO’s).

Providers are facing huge financial burdens because of payment delays and lower reimbursement rates from the MCO’s. According to a recent survey, nearly 80% of providers said they aren’t getting paid on time while nearly every provider said their own administrative costs have increased trying to navigate the new system.

We heard similar stories from providers at a legislative health committee hearing at the State Capitol last week. I held a listening post in my hometown of Marshalltown just a few weeks ago to get feedback as well. When I asked what was going well with Medicaid privatization, the room went silent.

My biggest fear about Branstad’s privatization scheme has always been the impact on health care services Iowans depend on.

Continue reading Iowa: Time to Pull the Plug on the Medicaid Mess?

Where Median Incomes Have Fallen the Most

Justin Fox | August 19 2016 | Bloomberg View

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Of all the indicators describing the not-very-impressive U.S. economic performance of the first decade and a half of the 21st century, the least impressive is probably median household income. It hit an all-time high in 1999 of $57,843 (converted into 2014 dollars), and as of 2014 stood at $53,657 — a 7.2 percent decline. Monthly estimates by the former U.S. Census Bureau officials at Sentier Research indicate that median income made a big recovery in 2015 (the official 2015 numbers aren’t out yet), but as of this June was still below the 1999 level. The typical American household remains poorerthan it was 16 years ago.

In a nation as vast and diverse as the U.S., economic trouble like that tends not to be evenly distributed So I was curious: How does the Great Median Income Slide break down by state? Thanks to a Census Bureau spreadsheet that you can download right here, I have the answer. Here are the states where median household income has slid the most since 1999:

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Continue reading Where Median Incomes Have Fallen the Most

Most Welfare Dollars Don’t Go Directly To Poor People Anymore

Andrew Flowers | August 25 2016 | FiveThirtyEight

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Protesters demonstrate against welfare reform outside the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles Sunday, Aug. 4, 1996. AP PHOTO/FRANK WIESE

Twenty years after President Bill Clinton fulfilled his vow to “end welfare as we know it,” it’s fair to say: mission accomplished. The old U.S. welfare system is dead. Whether the system that replaced it is better for the poorest Americans remains the subject of fierce debate.

The welfare reform bill that Clinton signed into law 20 years ago this month fractured the U.S. welfare system, from one managed mostly by the federal government to one largely directed by individual states. As each state became empowered to spend its welfare grant as it saw fit, one monolithic system devolved into 50 different ones — with far less money going directly to low-income families.

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The 1996 reform didn’t result in a reduction in total spending on welfare, now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Since 1998, the first year for which we have complete data, total TANF spending — both from federal block grants as well as required state matching funds — has remained essentially flat, after adjusting for inflation,1 according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank that is critical of welfare reform. Per-person spending has fallen, however: In 2014 there were about 12 million more people below the poverty level than in 1998, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. population has grown nearly 20 percent during that time.

Continue reading Most Welfare Dollars Don’t Go Directly To Poor People Anymore

Escalating the War on Low-Income Families

Paul Buchheit | August 22 2016 | Common Dreams

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For the nation’s poor, things are not getting better. They are getting worse. (Photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Illinois Governor Rauner recently cut “Meals on Wheels” for seniors and at-risk youth services. Chicago residents were hit with a nearly 13% property tax increase. Some Chicago public schools could face 2017 cutbacks of an incredible 20 percent.

But six of Illinois’ largest corporations together paid ALMOST ZERO state income taxes this year. Full payment of their taxes would have exceeded the $1.1 billion Chicago Public School deficit.

It’s much the same around the nation, as 25 of the largest U.S. corporations, with over $150 billion in U.S. profits last year, paid less than 20% in federal taxes, and barely 1% in the state taxes that are vitally important for K-12 education.

Sticking It To Low-Income Mothers

Because of the missing corporate tax revenue, House Republicans have tried to break even by proposing cuts to programs that are essential to mothers and children, such as Centers for Disease Control health programs, family planning, contraception, and—unbelievably, again!—food stamps. It is estimated that almost two-thirds of the proposed cuts would largely impact low- and moderate-income families.

At the state level, the suffering residents of Louisiana are facing some of the steepest regressive tax increases, along with cuts to vital programs that investigate child abuse and provide pediatric day care. The maternal death rate rose dramatically in Texas after women’s health programs were cut. In Kansas, where a Republican state senator has called Governor Brownback’s lowering of taxes on the rich a “train wreck,” 2017 cuts are targeting universities, Medicaid recipients, and the Children’s Initiatives Fund.

Sending Mental Health Patients to Prison

A 2014 government report found that nearly one in five adult Americans experienced mental illness the year before. Yet in the four years before that report, states cut $5 billion in mental health services and eliminated nearly 10 percent of the nation’s order lasix drug psychiatric hospital beds. Over half of U.S. counties don’t have a single psychiatrist or social worker.

Continue reading Escalating the War on Low-Income Families