TCF fellow Harold Pollack provided commentary on Vivek Murthy, the recently confirmed U.S. Surgeon General. After countless deliberations over his nomination for the post, with considerable criticism from those that refuse to acknowledge any link between public health and gun policy, Murthy stepped in and put some critics at ease by announcing that his focus will be on obesity prevention. Nevertheless, Pollack says that its impossible to pretend that gun violence and mental illness are two entirely separate issues.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health 85 percent of gun-related suicides are successful, compared to only 3 percent of drug related suicides. States with more gun ownership have higher rates of gun-related suicide. “It’s not a question of Second Amendment anything,” Pollack said. “It’s an issue of how do we talk to patients about threats to their health."
Read the rest of Pollack's comments via Bloomberg Politics.
Delays on Amtrak passenger trains have been a regular issue over the past few years, but instead of natural delays, TCF policy associate Jacob Anbinder says this issue may actually be linked to freight fraud. Freight railroads own over 97 percent of the track that it shares with Amtrak, which may be responsible for the recurrent untimely departures and arrivals. Anbinder suggests that these delays may work to the agency's advantage because it serves as a constant reminder that the agency demands reform. One potential solution to restore riders' faith in the train system that is slowly being pursued is a reduction of long-distance routes and an increase in shorter state-supported ones.
On one Norfolk Southern-owned stretch of track in Indiana, for example, Amtrak trains bound for Michigan are typically delayed almost seven minutes for every 10 miles they travel. Those delays represent an impediment to Amtrak’s future success, since potential customers will choose to drive if they know there’s a significant chance their train will be delayed.
Here's Anbinder's full article from US News.
TCF fellow Robert Hockett delves into the fine print of the "Cromnibus" bill that was recently passed by Congress. He suggests that President Obama exercise his veto power to overturn the bill for the critical reason that it repeals Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Section 716 indicates that taxpayers, rather than Wall Street, will cover the losses that the next crash could incur. The general public would basically be bailing out Wall Street all over again. He suggests two remedies to clear this oversight up:
...now that both houses of Congress have passed the bill with large numbers of Democrats and Republicans alike voting against, our only remaining hope is that the president thinks better of his earlier lobbying efforts on behalf of the bill and to now veto it. It would have been better, of course, had he shown the courage of conviction last week, but this week will be better than none.
As to the second remedy, I propose some such rule as the following: Any time a provision turns up in a bill as if out of nowhere, with no one prepared to claim credit or blame for it, the provision should be viewed in effect as a typo, and deleted accordingly. Where there is no author, there is no law.
Here is Hockett's full piece.
The "right-to-work" ordinance has recently gained popularity by anti-union groups at the city- and county- level. This ordinance was finally recognized last week in a small Kentucky county where an affirmative preliminary approval was seen. If this law does get passed in the near future, it will begin a nation-wide fight for similar local-level "right-to-work" cases says TCF's fellow Moshe Marvit.
Promoters of the effort argue that although federal labor law generally preempts any local ordinances, Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, which permits right-to-work laws in “any state or territory,” is ambiguous as to whether it applies to cities and counties. They argue that counties are subdivisions of the state, and home rule cities have been delegated authority by the state, so these entities should be included under the term “state.”
Read Marvit's full piece.
TCF fellow Mark Thoma says we need to reexamine the fiscal policies employed during the Great Recession to see what worked and what did not. He offers some insight into what we should be considering for future financial crisis solutions. This insight includes: 1) policies must be temporary, crises are not the time to push ideological change; 2) call for an improved culture in the financial industry; and 3) create an independent, Fed style committee in charge of making recommendations for fiscal policy during recessions.
In the end, it’s very frustrating and discouraging. Temporary, timely, and targeted fiscal policy in deep recessions could help so many people. It could make a huge difference for those who are struggling to make ends meet, and it could help the economy recover faster. But Congress seems unable to find its way past ideological gridlock even when people are in so much need, and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to solve that problem.
Check out Thoma's full article here.
The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") recently revolutionized the way that labor unions can organize by adding email as an approved medium of communications between members. TCF fellow Moshe Marvit says email trumps the law that bans labor unions from using company spaces such as bulletin boards, telephones, photocopiers and televisions because it does not restrict both parties from simultaneously communicating.
Recognizing the changing nature of the workplace, Liebman and Walsh explained that email was becoming the new water cooler, and that the Board fundamentally misunderstood how email systems work. In a passage that reads almost as if written by a millennial to her out of touch grandparents, the two members explained in basic terms to the Board majority the difference between emails and more traditional communication media: “If a union notice is posted on a bulletin board, the amount of space available for the employer to post its messages is reduced. If an employee is using a telephone for Section 7 or other nonwork-related purposes, that telephone line is unavailable for others to use.”
Check out the whole article here.
In recent decades, and especially since 2000, the richest Americans have enjoyed soaring income and wealth while the rest of the population's living standards have stagnated. The Century Foundation was one of the first institutions to raise serious concerns about these trends and propose ideas for improving economic conditions for all Americans- not just the fortunate few.
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