By Arthur J. Rosenberg

Florida has a tremendous opportunity to boost its economy and help thousands of unemployed workers stay afloat as they look for their next job.

More than 1 million of our residents are now unemployed. Our neighbors, our friends, and their families are struggling everyday to cover necessities like housing, health care, and food. Unemployment compensation (UC) is a necessary tool to help them and our state get back on its feet.

As a result of the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Florida could receive $444 million in federal funding to pay for unemployment benefits. For Florida to get this sorely needed money, the legislature needs to modernize our UC system and mend holes in our UC safety net.

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By Margot Dorfman

The reckless and deceptive practices of our financial industry have devastated businesses, families and our economy. It is time for Congressional leaders to stop listening to financial industry lobbyists and start protecting the future of our nation. The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce believes the establishment of a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) is a crucial step in reforming financial rules and restoring the trust we need to rebuild a thriving American economy.

The CFPA will benefit business, especially small businesses, which create most of the nation’s new jobs. It’s too often forgotten in the debate over the CFPA that small-business owners frequently rely on personal credit -- such as personal credit cards and home equity loans -- to start, run and expand their business.

Small-business owners have been hit hard by the continuing crisis in business and consumer lending. They have been rocked by waves of credit contraction, foreclosures and business closures -- affecting them, their customers, suppliers, the communities they do business in and their families.


By Warren Yoder

Just when we need it the most, thousands of Mississippi workers are being denied unemployment benefits because of a broken, outdated system. When the national unemployment system was created in 1935, the work force was made up predominately of full-time, male workers. Today, that work force includes more part-time and female workers. Although America’s economy has changed, our state unemployment insurance system has not. This spring, fewer than 4 of 10 Mississippi workers qualified for unemployment benefits.

Because of the base period the state uses to consider eligibility, workers can have up to six months of their most recent earnings excluded when determining eligibility for unemployment benefits. This rule disproportionately hurts low-wage workers, because monetary qualification is based on earnings during the base period. A Mississippian can work more than other employees, yet not receive unemployment benefits simply because they are paid less. This is one of the reasons low-wage workers are half as likely as higher wage workers to receive unemployment benefits.


Karen Hadden

Heavily subsidized by taxpayers and rate-payers, nuclear power is susceptible to delay, cost overruns and significant environmental risks. Investing billions into more nuclear power threatens to derail funding that would be better spent on energy efficiency and safer, cleaner renewable energy.

Moody’s advises investors that nuclear projects frequently lead to financial crunch and credit rating drops. The two South Texas Project reactors proposed for the existing Bay City site were supposed to lead the so-called “nuclear renaissance,” but there has been strong citizen and legal opposition and the cost has already skyrocketed. Estimates now exceed $18 billion, three times original projections. No shovel has yet been turned and no license granted.

Maybe you remember the massive boondoggle when the South Texas nuclear reactors ran six times over budget; were eight years late coming online; and plagued with mismanagement, construction problems and lawsuits. Think déjà vu.


By Pat Byington

It was one of those see-it-to-believe-it moments. While visiting my sister-in-law on a typically gray day in Seattle, I noticed she had just replaced her roof, and on top of the house were several solar panels.

Solar panels in cloudy and rainy Seattle?

With a grin on her face, she took me down to her basement and showed me her electrical meter. And there it was...running backward.

She then explained, "At this moment, Seattle City Light, the local power company, is paying me. And, in fact, they want this." She then pulled out her monthly Seattle City Light newsletter. It had a story encouraging its customers to help them "build a power plant" by using less energy and turning to alternative sources so it would not have to build a new coal-powered plant.


By Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich

Judging from current media coverage, one might think that women who repeatedly get falling-down drunk or pass out in public places from taking illegal substances are merely observing a rite of passage from stressful childhood to irresponsible-but-fun adult life.

Countless celebrities fill tabloid and mainstream news slots with their substance-abuse antics, and in doing so become poster girls for the fast life.

The "cure?" An escape into a hospital or upscale rehabilitation retreat, which is quickly portrayed by media spin artists as an experience of reflection, remorse and religious epiphany that allows the penitent to emerge reborn…only to do it all over again.


By Sen. Timothy M. Keller

Almost 10 years ago, our country was coping with a series of corporate accountability crises in the wake of Enron, World Com and other breakdowns in organizational governance. Widespread public outcry led to responses through our legal system and in Congress. Hundreds of lawsuits were filed in an effort to retrieve squandered funds and lawmakers responded by passing the Sarbanes Oxley Act. It’s now time for New Mexico to act.

Currently, a similar crisis faces state pension and investment funds across the country and at home in New Mexico. Our State Investment Council (SIC) has been drained by scandal costing over $5 million in legal fees. State funds finished 2009 in the very bottom 1 percent of performance nationwide, down a whopping $2 billion. Like those affected by Enron, our citizens and state should push legal actions to get our money back. We must also address the state investment fund’s inherent structural flaws much like Congress did with Sarbanes Oxley to prevent further deterioration of investor confidence and improve performance.

A central tenet of good governance is to have any board of directors be as diverse in experience as possible. Much attention has been given to ideas directed at diluting the Governor’s influence on our SIC. This idea is warranted, however, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Our state has numerous structural conflicts of interest built into statute.

Tennessee Editorial Forum

By Jaime Gonzalez

My parents are Americans. They are citizens of this great country, which they are proud to call home. They are also immigrants.

My father immigrated to this country from Mexico in 1972 when he was 18 years old. At the time he wanted little more than to provide for his growing family. My mother, then pregnant with my oldest brother, had come over a few months earlier. Before crossing the border my dad was told to squeeze into the spare tire compartment of a station wagon as they drove through customs in Tijuana. For over an hour he prayed and thought of his young wife while trying not to inhale too much of the exhaust that was seeping in from the tail pipe.

That night he slept in a country where dreams come true; a country where people from all over the world are literally risking death just to live here.

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Tennessee Editorial Forum

By Rev. Jeremy Tobin

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 13 states that, “Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country.” Article 14 states that, “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

From these and other articles and principles enshrined in the UDHR, came “The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families,” which was ratified by the United Nations on December 18, 1990.

People of faith believe that human rights are given by the Creator. They come with birth. Good law is to safeguard and protect these rights.

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By Ellen Collins and Gregory Taylor

Mississippi is a state that has historically faced severe economic challenges, as well as high rates of poverty, dropouts, and illiteracy. Efforts though to bring community partners together have gained traction to create a system of quality education for young children.

Community, state and national leaders saw the need for action to improve the state’s ability to compete economically, to enhance the quality of life for its children and families, and to increase opportunities for all Mississippi children to achieve success. With the support of business, philanthropic, community and education leaders, many child care programs and preschools are receiving help to increase quality early childhood education.

Mississippi has adopted a quality rating system to promote quality improvements and business leaders have backed an early childhood education demonstration model that aims to improve the quality and delivery of services to children in early learning settings. At the same time, coalitions and calls for early education innovation and investments that will benefit young children across the state continue to grow.
Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) Mississippi has helped to lay a foundation from which an early learning system in Mississippi can evolve. This system includes multiple strategies and service components that ensure children’s health care needs are addressed, parents are supported in their efforts to provide nurturing and stable home environments, and that early care and education settings provide high-quality learning experiences while working with schools to develop effective transition plans.

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By Michael Aldridge, Craig Cammack, Chris Hartman, Travis Myles and George W. Stinson

January of 1966, with Gov. Edward T. Breathitt's signing of a law Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a southern state,” the Commonwealth of Kentucky became the first state in the south to adopt a Civil Rights Act with enforceable repercussions for acts of discrimination. Two years later, Kentucky was again first in the south, this time in the passage of a statewide fair housing law, which cemented our commonwealth's legacy as the nation's southern civil rights leader.

At its core, the purpose of the Civil Rights Act is to guarantee equality for everyone. It ensures all Kentuckians have the same opportunities to earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and care for the ones they love. When there has been a history of a particular group's lack of access to these fundamentals of the American dream, the just and appropriate response has been to add that group to existing antidiscrimination laws.

Today our state has the opportunity to once again stand as the pioneer of fairness and equality among its southern peers, and we challenge each and every Kentuckian to add their voice to the call for comprehensive civil rights in the commonwealth.

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By Jane McGrath, M.D.

You may hear a lot of talk about taxing soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. A new tax never sounds like a good idea, but this one is well worth considering. The proposal would add an excise tax of 1 cent per fluid ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax would be levied on the manufacturers and would show up as a small price increase on the drinks on the supermarket shelf.

I don’t think anyone needs reminding that we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic in New Mexico, as well as in much of the rest of the world. Obesity is a complex problem with multiple causes that result in very high medical costs—which is unsurprising given that complications from obesity include diabetes, heart disease, liver failure, sleep apnea and orthopedic problems. In fact, we spend an estimated $147 billion dollars nationally each year on obesity-related medical costs, half of which are paid with taxpayer dollars through Medicaid and Medicare. Strategies such as an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages will help decrease obesity rates and save taxpayer money by reducing medical costs.

Fixing the problem of obesity will involve many different kinds of strategies—much as we are doing with smoking. We have anti-smoking public information campaigns; taxes on cigarettes; age restrictions on buying cigarettes; and policies that restrict smoking in many public places, including the workplace. It takes this kind of multi-pronged approach to make an impact. So a targeted tax on sugar-sweetened beverages is part of how we can begin to deal with obesity from a legislative perspective.


By Pat Wheatley and Anthony Berkley

Communities, school districts, and policymakers are creating new ways to teach and nurture children from birth through third grade. National and state leaders are taking notice, and more importantly taking steps to replicate successful programs across the map.

The time is right, too. President Obama is asking states and communities with innovative ideas to help reshape American education. To propel these innovative ideas, two new federal funds for innovation will provide a total of $5 billion to inspire communities to shake up the education landscape.

While all levels of education need shaking up, it is important that we start with early learning to get our kids on the right track as soon as possible.

American Forum

By Ken Smythe-Leistico and Anthony Berkley

The best ideas for education, we’ve long known, bubble up from the community level. Now the stars seem aligned to give this type of bottom-up innovation serious consideration.

The President is asking states and communities with innovative ideas to help reshape American education. To propel these innovative ideas, two new federal funds for innovation will provide a total of $5 billion, enough to launch what Education Secretary Arne Duncan has described as “education reform’s moon shot.” These funds aim to do nothing less than inspire communities to shake up the education landscape.

All levels of education, we believe, need shaking up, but none more than the long-ignored area of early learning.


By Laurie Potts and Anthony Berkley

All levels of education need shaking up, but none more than the long-ignored area of early learning.

Now the stars are aligning to give this type of bottom-up innovation serious consideration.

The President is asking states and communities with innovative ideas to help reshape American education. To propel these innovative ideas, two new federal funds for innovation will provide a total of $5 billion, enough to launch what Education Secretary Arne Duncan has described as “education reform’s moon shot.” These funds aim to do nothing less than inspire communities to shake up the education landscape.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Supreme Corporations


By Gene Nichol

I am Texan by birth and Southern by acculturation. My family would attest I'm not beyond relating stories that mysteriously expand upon each re-telling. Given my trade, I read much of Madison, Hamilton, Story and Marshall. But, truth told, I prefer Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Woody Guthrie and Huey Long. I do not find hyperbole completely uncongenial.

That conceded, I find no words to convey adequate outrage over Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision, in the Citizens United case, to radically untether corporate spending in our electoral politics. It is bizarrely anti-democratic. It overtly robs the American people of any conceivable tool to prevent a complete slide into mocking, cynical, purchased, cash-register politics. It marks the court as mere shill for the dominance of economic privilege. Unmolested, it will lead to both democratic and constitutional crises. It is a ruling that will come to reside, deservedly, in infamy.
By a slim majority, the court reached beyond the factual dispute before it to reshape the way elections are conducted. Justice Anthony Kennedy's stunning opinion overruled two recent, major precedents - one from 1990 and one from 2003. Giving the back of the hand to statutes like the Tillman Act that have placed limits on campaign spending by business entities for over a century, the justices determined corporations must be treated like human beings in the political sphere.


By Michael Mariotte

Imagine for a moment that you want to build a house and need a loan. Your financial track record is shaky: Last time you tried to build a home you went over budget by 800 percent and the project took years to complete. Based on past performance, the odds are about 50-50 or better that you’ll default on this loan.

Adding to your problems is the fact that nobody’s ever built a big, complicated house like this one. Engineers have identified serious safety flaws in design that must be corrected before plans are approved. It’s anybody’s guess how much those changes will add to the price tag. Even without the mandated safety changes, costs have increased.

Forget about getting your loan from a bank. No private lender would touch this. Indeed, Wall Street calls this type of project a “bet-the-farm” investment, so risky it could be a “corporate killer.” Where do you turn? The U.S. taxpayer, of course.

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