JOBS

JOBS POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Jobs and Infrastructure domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with job creation and employment, unemployment insurance and job retraining, and policies that support investments in infrastructure. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the US Congress, the US Department of Labor, the US Department of Transportation, and state policies that respond to policies at the Federal level. Our Principal Analyst is Vaibhav Kumar who can be reached at vaibhav@usresistnews.org.

Latest Jobs Posts

 

Will Artificial Intelligence Save California… or Ruin It?

Brief #111 – Technology Policy Brief
by : Mindy Spatt

Artificial intelligence holds the potential to both revive California’s tech industry and jeopardize the integrity of its elections, as Supervisor Dean Preston cautions. With groundbreaking AI legislation on the line and facing intense opposition from industry players, California stands at a critical juncture in shaping its future.

read more

The Week That Was: Global News In Review

Brief #144 – Foreign Policy Brief
by: Ibrahim Castro

This week’s global news highlights significant events, including the Biden administration’s new asylum ban at the US-Mexico border and Human Rights Watch’s alarming report on mass killings of Ethiopian migrants by Saudi border guards. Additionally, unrest in New Caledonia over French electoral reforms and Haiti’s ongoing crisis under interim Prime Minister Garry Conille draw international attention.

read more

The Effect of Unpaid Student Loans on the Economy

Brief #92 – Education Policy Brief
by: Arvind Salem

Explore the economic ramifications of unpaid student loans amid the backdrop of the CARES Act and subsequent policy measures enacted by Presidents Trump and Biden. Delve into the complexities of student loan forgiveness proposals, legal challenges, and the efficacy of existing relief programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) initiative.

read more

Navigating Inflation: A Comprehensive Analysis

Brief #61 – Economic Policy Brief
by: Arvind Salem

As inflation rates surge, consumers face mounting pressure on their wallets, with prices soaring in key sectors like housing and groceries. Amidst political debates and policy clashes, understanding the root causes and potential solutions becomes critical for navigating the economic landscape.

read more

History of the Upside Down Flag and the Justice Alito Controversy

Brief #224 – Civil Rights Policy Brief
by: Rod Maggay

The controversy surrounding Justice Samuel Alito stems from reports of an upside-down American flag and a Pine Tree Flag flown at his properties, symbols recently adopted by far-right groups protesting the 2020 election results. This incident raises significant concerns about his impartiality and adherence to the Supreme Court’s Code of Conduct, prompting calls for his recusal from related cases and potential congressional censure.

read more

Ocean Coral’s White Skeletons Send a Stark Message

Brief #168 – Environment Policy Brief
by : Todd J. Broadman

Ocean coral reefs are facing an unprecedented crisis, with mass bleaching events threatening the survival of these vital ecosystems. As ocean temperatures rise, the vibrant reefs are turning into graveyards of white skeletons, sending a stark message about the urgent need for climate action and coral conservation.

read more

Story of Pulitzer winner Vladimir Kara-Murza, an oppositionist imprisoned in Russia: Part 1

Brief #143 – Foreign Policy Brief
by: Yelena Korshunov

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent Russian oppositionist and historian, has been awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for his courageous columns written from prison, where he has been held since 2022 on charges of treason. Despite severe health issues and isolation, Kara-Murza continues to advocate for democracy and expose human rights violations in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

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Tackling the Thirst: Water Scarcity and the Rise of Innovative Conservation Technologies

Tackling the Thirst: Water Scarcity and the Rise of Innovative Conservation Technologies

Tackling the Thirst: Water Scarcity and the Rise of Innovative Conservation Technologies

Environment Policy Brief #169 | By: Inijah Quadri | June 03, 2024
Featured Photo: www.knowesg.com

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Water scarcity has become a critical global issue that impacts over 2 billion people, living primarily in regions plagued by drought, land overuse, and pollution. The United Nations projects that, by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world could be under stress conditions due to water shortages. This growing crisis is compounded by the dual challenges of climate change and rapid population growth, which strain the limited freshwater supplies crucial for hygiene, health, agriculture, and industry.

In response to these daunting challenges, innovative water conservation technologies are being developed and deployed worldwide. These advancements include precision agriculture, smart water management systems, and revolutionary water purification techniques. Such technologies not only aim to reduce water usage but also improve the management and distribution of this scarce resource, offering sustainable solutions to a global problem.

Analysis

The underlying causes of water scarcity include natural variability in precipitation and human impacts such as water mismanagement, over-extraction for agriculture, and pollution. Inefficient water usage in agriculture, which consumes approximately 70% of global freshwater, exacerbates the problem. Traditional irrigation systems, which are prevalent in developing economies, can have efficiencies as low as 35%, meaning that over half the water used often does not benefit plants directly.

Technological innovations are addressing these inefficiencies in transformative ways. For example, precision agriculture technologies utilize GPS and IoT sensors to tailor water and nutrient delivery to the specific needs of each plant, significantly reducing waste. Israel, a leader in this technology, has implemented drip irrigation systems that can increase water efficiency by up to 90%. These systems deliver water directly to the plant roots, dramatically reducing evaporation and runoff.

Greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting are other pivotal technologies that improve water availability in urban areas. Cities like San Francisco have adopted municipal codes that require all new, large buildings to include greywater systems for non-potable uses such as toilet flushing and landscaping.

Additionally, AI-powered smart water management systems are being utilized in cities to optimize water distribution and reduce leakage. These systems use predictive analytics to manage everything from reservoir levels to pipe pressures, minimizing losses and ensuring efficient use of resources. An example of this is in Singapore, where the Public Utilities Board uses smart systems to monitor and adjust its water network in real time.

Policy Recommendations

To combat water scarcity effectively, governments and stakeholders must prioritize the integration of advanced water technologies through robust policy frameworks and substantial investments. Policies should focus on:

  1. Funding Research and Development: Increase funding for research into new water-saving technologies and methods. Government grants can incentivize innovation and lower the financial risks for companies developing new technologies.
  2. Encouraging Adoption through Incentives: Provide tax breaks, subsidies, and rebates to encourage industries and municipalities to adopt efficient water technologies.
  3. Regulating Water Use: Implement stricter regulations on water usage in agriculture and industry to push the adoption of more efficient systems.
  4. Educational Campaigns: Promote water conservation awareness through educational programs that inform the public about the importance of water conservation and how they can contribute.

By leveraging these resources and adopting forward-thinking policies, stakeholders worldwide can address the pressing issue of water scarcity, ensuring a sustainable and water-secure future for all.

Engagement Resources:
  • Water.org (https://www.water.org/): Advocates for sustainable water solutions in developing regions, providing innovative financial products to enable water and sanitation projects.
  • Alliance for Water Efficiency (https://www.allianceforwaterefficiency.org/): Offers resources and guidance on water conservation measures and technologies, advocating for policies that support efficient water use.
  • Water Footprint Network (https://www.waterfootprint.org/): Provides detailed insights and tools for assessing and managing water use at both the corporate and individual levels.
  • Global Water Partnership (https://www.gwp.org/): A vast network supporting water resource management policies worldwide, promoting sustainable water use practices.
  • International Water Management Institute (https://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/): Focuses on research for better water management practices in developing countries, highlighting sustainable solutions to tackle water scarcity.

Don’t miss out on the latest insights from our dedicated reporters – subscribe to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. Your support is vital in safeguarding fearless, independent journalism. If you value our content, please consider donating today to help protect democracy and empower citizenship. 

Will Artificial Intelligence Save California… or Ruin It?

Will Artificial Intelligence Save California… or Ruin It?

Will Artificial Intelligence Save California… or Ruin It?

Technology Policy Brief #111 | By: Mindy Spatt | June 07, 2024
Featured Photo by Indy Silva for US Renew Democracy News, 2024

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While some are looking to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry to revive  California’s faltering tech sector, especially in San Francisco, city Supervisor Dean Preston is worried about its impact on elections.  He held a hearing recently during which he found out that the San Francisco Department of elections has no jurisdiction whatsoever over deep fakes.

“I am alarmed to learn …. there is a lack of real ability to enforce against fake AI content,” Preston, said.  He comes by his concerns honestly.  An online news  outlet, BHH News, posted a false report last year saying Preston had resigned due to attacks on him by Elon Musk.  The story was reposted by MSN before Preston’s office was able to get it removed.  The real story is that Musk, owner of San Francisco based X, disagrees with Preston, a democratic socialist, on key issues and hence is going after him.

Concerns over election misinformation are not new, but are growing along with the explosive growth of the industry; Chat GPT acquired a million users just five days after it was founded in November 2022.  By January 2023 it had a million additional users, and it is now up to over 180.5 million users.  In a newly released poll, the advocacy group Free Press found that 79 percent of people worry that information they find online is “false, fake, or a deliberate attempt to confuse.”

Analysis

While the San Francisco Department of Elections may be unable to act, the California Legislature certainly has the ability to do so.  California has been a leader in privacy, and could become one in AI if a set of bills before the legislature this year passes.  But the bills will have to get past a wealthy and well-connected lobbying effort from an industry that always fights tooth and nail against any oversight.

One major area of contention is large language models (LLM), a type of artificial intelligence program that can recognize and generate text and is  trained on huge sets of data.  California’s proposed Safe and Secure Innovation for Frontier Artificial Intelligence Models Act would establish safeguards before models LLMs could be used, and require reporting of safety incidents.  The dangers include arbitrary code execution, data poisoning, data drift, bias predictions and toxic output and the impacts can be biased algorithms, misinformation and even the creation of lethal weapons.

The California Chamber of Commerce leads a coalition of industry groups hostile to the bill and sent an opposition letter including this choice bit of doublespeak:

This, unfortunately, does not better protect Californians. Instead, by hamstringing businesses from developing the very AI technologies that could protect them from dangerous models developed in territories beyond California’s control, it risks only making them more vulnerable.

Another effort moving forward is the California AI Transparency Act, (CAITA), a bill that requires providers of large generative artificial intelligence systems to label AI-generated images, videos, and audio with embedded disclosures. It also requires a detection tool for users to determine whether content was created by AI.   The author, State Senator Josh Becker (D-Menlo Park) said “AI-generated images, audio and video could be used for spreading political misinformation and creating deep fakes.  CAITA will advance provenance, transparency, accountability, and empower individuals to make choices aligned with their values.”

Other bills under consideration include California Assembly Bill 2930 which would place limitations on the use of automated decision-making tools.  Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, an east bay democrat, has authored a bill to compel online platforms to add watermarks to images and videos before elections this fall.  And California Senate Bill 893 would create an Artificial Intelligence Research Hub to “facilitate collaboration” and identify risks from AI in both government and the private sector.

Taken together the bills would provide the most robust legislative framework in the country for AI oversight.  That is if they are passed and signed, a scenario Governor Newsom recently cast doubt on.  “We dominate in this space. I want to continue to dominate in this space. I don’t want to cede this space to other states or other countries,” he recently said during an AI summit in San Francisco.   “If we over-regulate, if we overindulge, if we chase a shiny object we could put ourselves in a perilous position.”

But Supervisor Preston may take heart in Newsom’s indication that he’s in favor of laws to prevent election misinformation and deceptive content, because “I’ve got personal reasons to believe that’s legit — the voice, videos, these AI bots, the persuasion campaigns.”  In order to have an impact on November’s election, legislation would have to be approved on an urgency basis which requires a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate.

Engagement Resources:

Check out UsRenewNews.org/AI  for more news on Artificial Intelligence policies, technologies, and trends.

Stay in-the-know with the latest updates from our
 reporters
 by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

The Week That Was: Global News In Review

The Week That Was: Global News In Review

The Week That Was: Global News In Review

Foreign Policy Brief #144 | By: Ibrahim Castro| June 06, 2024
Featured Photo: www.vecteezy.com

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Global News in Review 06/07/2024

Members of the Texas National Guard stand near a razor wire fence used to prevent migrants from crossing into the United States from Mexico along the Rio Bravo river, January 22, 2024
[File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]


Biden’s asylum ban

The Biden administration has recently instituted a broad asylum ban on migrants caught crossing the US-Mexico border. Migrants caught crossing illegally can now be quickly denied asylum claims and deported or turned back to Mexico under the measure. The US Department of Homeland Security has said there will be exceptions for unaccompanied children, people who face serious medical or safety threats and victims of trafficking. Biden has shifted his approach to border security further to the right as immigration has again emerged as a top issue for Americans in the run-up to the US Presidential elections where he will once again face Donald Trump.

The measure will prevent any migrants who cross the southern border without authorization from applying for asylum if the average number of unauthorized daily crossings passes 2,500. Last month the average number of unauthorized daily crossings reported by the US Border Patrol was 3,700. The new regulations are said to remain in place until the number of unauthorized crossings drops below a daily average of 1,500. With the restrictions to be reimposed whenever numbers increase again. Still, operational questions about the measure’s implementation remain unclear, including how the administration would quickly deport migrants from far-away countries and how many non-Mexican migrants Mexico would be willing to accept under the new enforcement policy.

 

ForeignPolicy143 Pic2

The location of burial sites identified on satellite imagery close to the Al Raqw migrant camp. Photograph: Maxar/HRW


Saudi Arabia: Mass Killings of Migrants

According to a new report by Human Rights Watch, titled: They Fired on us Like Rain, details Saudi border guards who are claimed to have killed hundreds of mainly Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers, who made their way across the Yemen-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023.  Approximately 750,000 Ethiopians reside and work in Saudi Arabia. While many migrate for economic reasons, a large number have fled because of human rights abuses and armed conflict in Ethiopia. The report stated that a UN backed investigation should be launched and “if committed as part of a Saudi government policy to murder migrants, these killings, which appear to continue, would be a crime against humanity”.

 

 

ForeignPolicy143 Pic3

Garry Conille addresses the audience during a ceremony with members of the transition council, where he is presented as Haiti’s interim Prime Minister, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti June 3, 2024. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Ero


Situation in Haiti 

Haiti’s new interim Prime Minister Garry Conille stated that the new administration and other leaders in the country were setting aside their differences to work for the good of the country, which is battling a devastating crisis fuelled by gang wars. According to Unicef, as many as 4.4 million people in the country are in urgent need of food assistance, and 1.6 million people face emergency levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. A Kenya-led mission to help Haitian police and security forces combat the gangs is expected to arrive in the Caribbean nation in the coming weeks. The mission has been supported by the US, which will not be sending troops but will be providing logistical support to the mission, including intelligence sharing, communications, and air power.

 

 


Riots in New Caledonia

Mass protests erupted in New Caledonia after France’s parliament voted to implement electoral reforms that would allow French residents who have lived in the Pacific Islands territory for 10 years or more to vote in provincial elections. The Islands Indigenous Kanak community, who make up 40% of the islands’ population, fear these reforms will undermine their efforts to win independence from France. The French government imposed a strict crackdown on the protests, deploying troops to New Caledonia’s ports and international airport, with hundreds of heavily armed French marines and police patrolling the capital, Noumea. The government also temporarily banned TikTok, and placed those it accused of organizing the protests under house arrest.

At least seven people were killed in the latest civil unrest, with barricades erected across major roads and commercial sites looted and set on fire. New Caledonia has been a French territory since colonization in the late 1800s. Politics remains dominated by debate about whether the islands should be part of France, autonomous or independent, with opinions split roughly along ethnic lines.

For more updates, articles, in-depth analysis and weekly reviews on Global News, click here.

Stay informed with the latest insights from our dedicated reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. Your support is crucial in safeguarding fearless, independent journalism. If you appreciate our content, please consider donating today to continue in helping to protect democracy and empower citizenship.

The Effect of Unpaid Student Loans on the Economy

The Effect of Unpaid Student Loans on the Economy

The Effect of Unpaid Student Loans on the Economy

Education Policy Brief #92 | By: Arvind Salem | June 06, 2024

Featured Photo: www.theweek.com

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In March 2020, President Trump signed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security). This froze student loan interest, suspended collection efforts for defaulted loans, and paused student loan payment requirements for millions of Americans. The pause was originally designed to end in September 2020.

The repayment pause would be extended twice more by President Trump and another four times by President Biden. Both President Trump and President Biden knew that restarting student loan payments would throw a wet blanket on the sluggish economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. For almost three years, Americans with student loan debt lived in a state of limbo.

Progressives on Biden’s left advocated for broad student loan forgiveness during the 2020 presidential campaign. Senator Elizabeth Warren urged President Biden to cancel $50,000 of student loan debt for each borrower via executive action. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocated for higher amounts. For students with six figures of student loan debt, $10,000-$50,000 would not make much of an impact once student loan payments were restarted.

In August 2022, President Biden announced that he was canceling $10,000 of federal student loan debt for households with combined incomes of $250,000 or less, and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. Biden announced this measure to coincide with what was to be a final extension of the repayment pause through December 2022. This action was announced under the same authority that granted the Department of Education to alter student loan repayment plans due to the emergency declared as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There was general bipartisan support for using emergency authorization to pause student loan repayments. Both President Trump and President Biden did that multiple times. However, outright forgiveness was a different story, especially in the summer of 2022. By that point, the country was weary of restrictions such as mask mandates and social distancing. With unemployment surging above 10% in many regions, and businesses closing their doors, pausing student loan repayments in 2020 and 2021 made sense. More than two years after the first repayment pause, with the economy recovering, it was harder to justify.

Conservatives seized on Biden’s move and roundly condemned the measure as elitist and extravagant. Why should plumbers and farmers with high school diplomas be asked to pay the bills of wealthy liberals with art history degrees? Moderate Democrats also spoke out against the measure. Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from West Virginia, called the plan reckless and noted that it was projected to add $400 billion to the U.S. federal debt.

President Biden and his allies in Congress tried to paint Republicans as hypocrites for accepting federal debt relief for their businesses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while simultaneously criticizing students for accepting much lower amounts of loan forgiveness. $10,000 was a drop in the bucket next to the hundreds of thousands of relief that Republicans such as Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Mike Kelly received.

While this allowed Biden to score some political points, his legal arguments were much weaker.  Biden declared an end to the Covid-19 public health emergency in April 2023. Shortly thereafter, in a 6-3 ruling in the Biden v Nebraska case, the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s student loan forgiveness proposal. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, noted that President Biden overstepped his authority in using emergency powers to permanently cancel student loan debt. This was especially evident after President Biden declared an end to the public health emergency he was using as justification for the proposal.

Analysis

I am the head coach of a high school debate team. Through a random draw, we received the assignment of arguing against federal student loan forgiveness. We won that round handily.

The opposition argument is the better argument. As Senator Manchin noted, there are numerous existing pathways to federal student loan forgiveness. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives student loans after ten years of working for a federal, state, or local non-profit organization. Graduates with advanced degrees can often earn high salaries in the private sector. The PSLF program provides incentive for these graduates to pledge a decade of their lives in service to their communities. The country needs high-quality teachers, police officers, and nurses. The PSLF program, combined with income-based repayment plans that cap payments at a low percentage of take-home pay, provides affordable pathways for graduates to escape crippling debt.

President Biden and Senator Warren are absolutely right to note that student loan debt places a heavy burden on millions of Americans. I am one of them. I had $138,000 in student loan debt when I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with my doctorate.

I am well on my way to student loan forgiveness through the PSLF program and have knocked over $50,000 off of my loan totals. My ten years will be up before my loans are repaid. I believe a decade of public service is a much more convincing rationale for loan forgiveness than the mass loan cancellation plan originally proposed by President Biden.

It seems that President Biden has also come to this realization. A month ago, the Biden Administration issued a press release detailing plans for expanding student loan forgiveness through PSLF and keeping monthly payments low through income-based repayment plans. The Biden Administration has also been active in canceling or reducing the debt of graduates from predatory for-profit institutions which took students’ money and then either closed outright or issued degrees which were not worth the paper they were printed on.

These arguments are much more potent than blanket student loan forgiveness. The Democratic Party built its brand as a defender of working Americans in the face of corporate greed. President Clinton forged a coalition of nurses and teachers that helped him achieve victory in the 1992 and 1996 elections. Giving wealthy college graduates loan forgiveness and asking all taxpayers to pay for it goes against every principle that built the modern Democratic Party. It provides free fuel to the silly argument of the MAGA movement which aims to portray Democrats as elitists and President Trump, with his golden toilets and multiple bankruptcies, as a champion of the working man.

Proposing broad student loan forgiveness was a political blunder. President Biden should continue to hammer Republicans for accepting loan relief from the federal government while refusing graduates the right to accept similar debt forgiveness. However, public servants present a much better contrast to those Republicans than wealthy college graduates getting a free $10,000 check.

President Biden’s 2024 campaign should look to President Clinton’s 1992 campaign for inspiration. American voters have much more respect for nurses, teachers, firefighters, and police officers than the entitled students who demanded food delivery after vandalizing and occupying campus buildings.

PSLF is good for the country and for graduates seeking relief. The path to victory runs through the political center. If President Biden attempts to appease the political left at the expense of the traditional Clinton coalition of nurses and teachers, he will soon join President Carter as a one-term President.

Engagement Resources

Stay in-the-know with the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

Navigating Inflation: A Comprehensive Analysis

Navigating Inflation: A Comprehensive Analysis

Navigating Inflation: A Comprehensive Analysis

Economic Policy Brief #61 | By: Arvind Salem| June 06, 2024

Featured Photo: www.techopedia.com

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As people clamor for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates, the Fed stands firm: mainly due to inflationary pressure. From April 2023 to April 2024, the inflation rate was 3.4%, compared to the average of 2.5% from 1989 to 2019. For the average consumer, prices rose 19.32% between January 2020 and April 2024, particularly in the housing market and the grocery store. Rent and homeownership, along with hotel prices, accounted for two-thirds of the annual rise in “core” inflation, which excludes the more volatile components of inflation such as food and energy. Especially leading up to the election where 75% of Americans say strengthening the economy is their top priority and 72% of adults are very concerned about the price of food and consumer goods.

President Trump is attempting to pin the blame on President Biden, who is arguing that he has actually been vigorously fighting inflation. Biden has pointed to his signature achievement: the Inflation Reduction Act, which was enacted in August of 2022. However, even as Biden admits, the Inflation Reduction Act hasn’t lowered prices in the short term: but is supposed to address structural problems to lower prices in the long run. For example, through tax credits for renewable energy, the Inflation Reduction act is projected to cut electricity rates by as much as 9 percent  and lower gas prices by as much as 13 percent through electric vehicle tax credits.

Analysis:

The approaches to combating inflation differ greatly on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Conservatives, unsurprisingly, favor supply-side methods. The Joint Economic Committee of Republicans favors a prescription of lowering government spending (which they perceive as a driver of inflation), coupled with structural fixes including occupational licensing reform, deregulating  energy and housing, and restoring free trade through the repeal of regulatory barriers and tariffs like the Jones Act and Foreign Dredge Act.

However, all of these prescriptions lower costs, with the assumption that those lower costs would get passed on to consumers as lower prices, thus lowering inflation. Yet, the Progressive Caucus rightly points out that many savings don’t get passed onto consumers but get absorbed as corporate profits. Since the Great Recession, companies enjoyed a 25 percent bump in year-over-year corporate profits, while real wages barely changed. This shows that profits are independent of costs, so the lasting solution will be to regulate profit, rather than helping to lower costs. Additionally, Progressives rightly favor allowing the federal government to negotiate prices with Medicare, which Biden has already begun to do.

The 2024 Presidential Election will largely be a battle on the economy, an area where Biden is winning both in terms of messaging and policy, and an area that Biden should continue to emphasize to draw attention away from his key weaknesses on his age and foreign policy.

Engagement Resources:
  • Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact. Readers that agree with supply-side attitudes and fiscal responsibility may be interested in this organization.
  • Roosevelt Institute, The Roosevelt Institute is a progressive think tank that supports progressive policies and analysis on a variety of economic problems, including inflation. Readers interested in exploring the progressive perspective on this issue more may be interested in this organization.

Stay in-the-know with the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

History of the Upside Down Flag and the Justice Alito Controversy

History of the Upside Down Flag and the Justice Alito Controversy

History of the Upside Down Flag and the Justice Alito Controversy

Civil Rights Policy Brief #224 | By: Rod Maggay | May 28, 2024

Featured Photo by Indy Silva for US Renew Democracy News, 2024

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Policy Summary: On May 16, 2024 an article in the New York Times by investigative reporter Jodi Kantor reported that an American flag was seen flying upside down outside Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home. While the New York Times report was published in 2024, the incident occurred in January 2021 after the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. On May 22, 2024 a second article was published by the New York Times which reported that the Pine Tree Flag was seen flying outside another home owned by Justice Alito. The Pine Tree Flag is a white flag with a green pine tree on it with the words “An Appeal To Heaven” above the picture of the pine tree. The Pine Tree Flag has recently been adopted by Christian Nationalists, far-right extremist groups and supporters of Donald Trump who believe the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from the former President.

On November 13, 2023, the United States Supreme Court issued a Code of Conduct for Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Canon 3 of the Code is titled “A Justice Should Perform The Duties of the Office Fairly, Impartially, and Diligently” and under the Disqualification Section of Section B(2) of the Canon it states, “A Justice should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The Code of Conduct is not enforceable on the Justices and merely acts as guidelines for what Justice should do if they decide to follow it. LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis: The controversy over the multiple flags seen flying at two of Justice Sam Alito’s residential properties calls into question the Justice’s ability to be impartial. That in turn is directly related to Canon 3, Section B(2) of the Supreme Court’s recently adopted Code of Conduct because it shows that the Justice is publicly taking a side on a political issue. Namely, that he supports the January 6th rioters and their efforts to thwart the legitimate results of the 2020 election.

Flying the American flag upside down has a long history going back centuries. It was originally used by sailors who were experiencing difficulties at sea. They would fly the American flag upside down as a signal that they needed immediate assistance. The flag has also been flown upside down to protest slavery and in modern times to protest the Vietnam War. And when the flag has appeared on stamps some have placed the stamps upside down on their mailings as a subtle way to express their displeasure with the government. In the 1920’s the United States issued rules regarding the flying, treatment and protocol of the American flag and one section of the rules specifically states that the flag should never be flown upside down, “except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

But lately, the act of flying the flag upside down has been adopted by Christian Nationalists and far – right extremist groups to protest what they perceive as the United States currently being in distressing and troubling times. While the symbolic act may be to express their support for falsehoods such as the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump, Justice Alito’s act is far more troublesome because of his position as a Justice on the Supreme Court. While he is free to have his own personal political opinions, it does not appear that Justice Alito or his family was in “dire distress” or was in a situation that involved “extreme danger to life or property.” For the Justice to claim a neighborhood argument rose to this level was completely unnecessary on his part.

And it was unnecessary because his actions have now raised the possibility that the Justice cannot be impartial if cases are argued before him. Justice Alito had a professional obligation to present the appearance of impartiality and that he can be fair when adjudicating a case. That is all thrown out the window now because his act of raising two controversial flags over his property signals that he supports right wing extremist groups and the efforts they are undertaking to currently undermine American democracy. The Justice could have avoided being accused that he is not biased by simply not flying the flag upside down or flying a flag that has become a symbol of the Christian Nationalist movement.

So, what’s next in this unfortunate incident? Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois has called on Justice Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election that might come before the Supreme Court while also demanding the Supreme Court adopt an enforceable code of conduct. Additionally, the non – profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts asking him to intervene and persuade Justice Alito to disqualify himself. And another option, one that seems more likely, comes from Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He is going to introduce a resolution censuring Justice Alito. The resolution would be a public reprimand of the Justice in order for Congress to express their disapproval of the Justice and his acts regarding the two flags that now raises questions about his ability to be impartial. This might be the more feasible option as it seems highly unlikely that the Chief Justice will force Justice Alito be disqualified from cases or that Justice Alito will recuse himself. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact rodwood@email.com.

Stay in-the-know with the latest updates from our reporters by subscribing to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. We depend on support from readers like you to aide in protecting fearless independent journalism, so please consider donating to keep democracy alive today!

Autocracy Now! Examining the Global Surge in Authoritarianism

Autocracy Now! Examining the Global Surge in Authoritarianism

Autocracy Now!

Examining the Global Surge in Authoritarianism

US Renew Democracy News OP ED | By: Ibrahim Castro | June 04, 2024
Featured Photo: www.carnegieendowment.org

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To be frank with the reader right out of the gate, free and fair democratic governance is in trouble, and unfortunately, there’s no sign it will get any better anytime soon. This article won’t present a take on why democracy is important or even how to combat growing authoritarianism (subjects for another time) but rather why authoritarianism has taken hold in the first place and continues to do so. The past two decades have presented us with an unfortunate series of events wherein countries around the world have experienced continuous democratic backsliding. From the rise of the far-right in Europe to military coups in various African states, and the solidifying of authoritarian rule in Asian countries, the election of fascist-leaning strongmen in America, authoritarianism and autocracy are on the rise. There are, unfortunately, too many contemporary examples to draw from, so this article will make use of only a few countries, mostly current democracies, and their shift towards authoritarian rule.

What’s the current situation?

According to the democracy and human rights research organization Freedom House, a greater number of countries became more authoritarian in 2022 than in any year since 1990, the year before the fall of the Soviet Union. If the decline of democracy continues at the present pace, less than 5% of the world’s population will live in a fully free democracy by 2026.

This topic could be, and perhaps needs, an entire book to fully and appropriately explain the renewed rise of authoritarianism. Each region and each country has its own specific reasons, and yet, as this is a global trend, there are common reasons that can be examined at a macro level to help us understand this shift. This article will use four main factors to provide us with our examples: economics and inequality, globalization, and technology.

Economics and Inequality

Inequality is perhaps the most cited and apparent reason for the rise of authoritarian leaders around the world. People living in poverty experience social exclusion and devaluation, which can be reflected in feelings of shame and abandonment. This shame and abandonment, in turn, are likely to increase support for authoritarianism, mainly due to the promise of social re-inclusion and often take the form of pushing that shame onto an outsider group.

Take a look at Argentina. At the end of 2023, the country had an annual inflation rate of 211%, people were unable to afford basic necessities like food and housing. Then came the newly elected President, Javier Milei, a political outsider who rode to power on the back of voter anger at the worsening economic situation. Along with his economic populism came antagonism to deals and relations with neighboring countries such as Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, anti-abortion rhetoric, the gutting of state services, and the denial of climate change, to name just a few.

In the US, about 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, an issue that impacts both low-wage and high-income families alike, according to new research from LendingClub. While low-wage earners are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck, even 4 in 10 high-income Americans, or those earning more than $100,000, say they’re in the same position. The typical American also, perhaps unsurprisingly, cannot afford to buy a home in a growing number of communities across the country. According to ATTOM researchers, home prices are beyond the reach of 99% of average income earners.

Conditions like these allow politicians like Donald Trump to run on the promise of solving these grievances, bringing the security and peace of mind families across the country desire, while also shifting the blame for the current situation to immigrants and ethnic minorities. Trump recently made statements similar to Nazi Germany’s pure Aryan blood rhetoric, stating that “migrants crossing the southern border are poisoning the blood of America”. He also published a video with words saying the US would be a new “Unified Reich” under his presidency. While some of Trump’s support might be purely due to far-right views, much of his support also rests on the economic uncertainty facing the majority of the population. Whether it’s one or the other reason for the public casting their votes for him, his authoritarian style of governing and policies will follow.

On the other side of the authoritarian spectrum, already governed by authoritarian rule, China has been doing quite well economically for the last few decades. It is now the second-largest economy and plays a larger role in global affairs than ever before. When it was once expected that authoritarian regimes would ultimately collapse under their own repression, its success instead has led to it solidifying authoritarian rule under Xi Jinping. In 2018, China approved the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing Xi Jinping to remain in power for life. During Xi’s rule, China has clamped down on many freedoms, interned over one million Uighur Muslims in re-education camps, increased its state surveillance and censorship programs, and cracked down on democracy in Hong Kong.

There are numerous examples to draw from; many countries around the world today are facing economic uncertainty, which has pushed them towards strongman leaders promising to provide adequate living conditions for them and their families.

Globalization and Migration

There is compelling evidence that globalization, often working through culture and identity, has played an important role in driving up support for populist movements. International integration, once thought to be an engine for change and unification of the globe, has, at the same time, produced domestic disintegration in many countries, deepening the perception between the winners and the losers of global interconnectedness and competition. A change in migration patterns, which historically went between countries in what is now the global north, Europe, and the US, to the global south has now shifted, to where more irregular immigration occurs from poorer to richer countries. This trend has seen increased numbers of asylum seekers showing up on shores in various countries, whether fleeing war, climate disaster, or economic insecurity, causing huge spikes in support for authoritarian parties in countries across the global north.

Take the example of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU). The UK’s current far-right conservative party came into power through the promise of Brexit. The Brexit referendum of 2016 represented the worst-case scenario for the European Union in terms of the impact of Euroscepticism and dissatisfaction with global and regional integration. Britain often found the EU’s organization and policies incompatible with its interests. The question of European and non-European immigration in the country became the cornerstone of the right-wings political strategy to push the UK to leave the EU.

The UK may have been the first, but there has been a wave of Eurosceptic parties headed by authoritarian leaders making gains in European elections. They are already in power in places like Victor Orban’s Hungary or Georgia Meloni’s Italy. As regional blocs like the EU were meant to provide unity and ensure that another war did not break out on the continent, dissatisfaction with the EU has continued to rise and has allowed far-right parties to strike up a narrative about returning countries’ sovereignty to themselves and away from centralized unified bodies like the EU headquarters in Brussels. This up until now has not caused a disintegration of the EU but rather helped uplift far-right nationalist leaders across the bloc.

Another factor in aiding authoritarian figures in Europe has been the increase in migrants arriving at the borders of wealthier nations. This issue has become a central theme for much of the 21st century; it has had a sizable impact on the election of far-right-wing parties in Europe and the US. In 2022, Giorgia Meloni won the Italian general election and went on to form Italy’s most right-wing government since Benito Mussolini’s fall during World War II. Italy is the second most indebted state in the Eurozone, and the number of people arriving by boat after crossing the Mediterranean has put pressure on Italian society and created anti-immigrant sentiment in the country that Meloni ran on during her campaign. For example, the number of migrants arriving doubled in 2023, to 106,000, compared to 53,000 over the same period in 2022, according to government data.Italy had been largely left to deal with the issue on its own while facing economic insecurity, sparking the public to shift sharply to the right.

The election of authoritarian leaders in Europe has also legitimized and enabled the funding of other authoritarian leaders in non-European countries. In 2023, Meloni joined European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to strike a controversial pact with Tunisia, exchanging aid funding for stricter efforts to prevent migrants from making the crossing.

Through these pacts, Italy and the EU break international humanitarian law and have helped promote anti-democratic leaders in North African countries Tunisia and Libya (which is currently in a state of civil war and governed by rivaling warlord factions). In 2022, Tunisia’s President Saied transformed Tunisia from a hybrid presidential-parliamentary lead country to a supra-presidential system with nearly unchecked executive authority. A move that mirrored strongman Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to consolidate power. Turkey under Erdogan also put in place an EU anti-immigration deal that seeks to have Turkey forcibly block migrants and refugees from reaching Europe in exchange for EU funding.

Technology

Propaganda methods and media have always been used to spread ideas, thoughts, and doctrines. Today, the digital sphere, in addition to all the benefits it provides us, also works as a modern space to disseminate all kinds of extremist propaganda both nationally and internationally. The primary characteristic of all fascist modernizing movements is conformity of thinking and behavior. Online platforms create various echo chambers where fascistic ideas can reverberate, and you can see how individuals, often charismatic individuals, can use these chambers to reflect and enhance a sense that was already there. One recent often-cited example is the 2016 US Presidential election, where Donald Trump used the digital sphere as no one running for office previously had, pushing out populist and extremist messages that uplifted Trump, giving him his cult-like following.

A new and perhaps most problematic factor to technological threats to free and fair democratic rule is the arrival of AI. Something that can also be used to target and manipulate individual voters, based on their individual psychology. This technology is able to produce misinformation that hides in plain sight, producing enormous volumes of content that can flood the media landscape, the internet, and political communication. Instantly producing fake pictures, video, and audio of officials, to news stories.

AI algorithms can be used to surveil and repress dissenting voices. In Israel, to help maintain an apartheid system against Palestinians, Israeli authorities use AI facial recognition to track and impose harsh restrictions on their freedom of movement. Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem and Hebron describe how the omnipresent surveillance system has invaded their privacy, repressed activism, eroded social life, and left them feeling constantly exposed.

A similar technology is used in China’s expansive networks of surveillance cameras in Xinjiang province to monitor the Uighur ethnic minority, profiling them based on their appearance and keeping records of their comings and goings for search and review. These practices prevent them from challenging the status quo, and already are in many instances used upon their own citizenry. Technology has always and will continue to be used in the authoritarian playbook.

Concluding Thought

Once authoritarian leaders come into power, it is difficult to remove them. This article presented examples as to why authoritarian leaders come into power through factors such as economics, globalization and migration, technology, and the normalization of authoritarian policies and leaders. Of course, there are perceived short-term benefits to authoritarian rule. Authoritarian leaders are capable of delivering specific or certain positive programs to their populations in the short term. However, as we have seen throughout history, authoritarian rulers never have the true issues of their citizenry at heart. Normalization of authoritarian rule has and will continue to enable autocratic leaders to continue to expand their reach and power beyond the constraints placed on them, and they will continue to make gains so long as we, proponents of free, fair, and egalitarian societies, let them.

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Ocean Coral’s White Skeletons Send a Stark Message

Ocean Coral’s White Skeletons Send a Stark Message

Ocean Coral’s White Skeletons Send a Stark Message

Environment Policy Brief #168 | By: Todd J. Broadman | May 30, 2024
Featured Photo: www.carbonbrief.org

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Coral worldwide is in the midst of a fourth mass bleaching event according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Huge stretches of coral reef have turned white or are losing color , primarily due to warm ocean temperatures. These bleaching events do not necessarily kill off the corals, yet mortality usually follows such events. Current average ocean temperatures, say most scientists, exceed the threshold for coral reef survival and their prognosis is that between 70% and 90% of reefs will die off within the next decade if they do not make a recovery.

In arriving at this conclusion the NOAA gathers satellite data which records ocean temperatures over a long period of time. Scientists also gather data directly through on the ground observation. The accumulated heat stress indicates an intensity of bleaching not seen before. So somber are their reports that there is jubilation when they find stretches of reef that have not been bleached.

“We have crossed the tipping point for coral reefs,” according to ecologist David Obura, with Coastal Oceans Research and Development.  “They’re going into a decline that we cannot stop, unless we really stop carbon dioxide emissions.” The beautiful coloration seen in coral is due to algae. Algae lives inside coral and has a symbiotic relationship with coral tissue. The bleaching or whiteness happens when algae leave coral due to stress. If the algae loss persists over a long period of time, the coral will then die.

While this process is unfolding, there is a U.S. federal agency focused on coral reefs: the United States Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF). The USCRTF was established in 1998 by Executive Order with a mission to preserve and protect coral reef ecosystems. Historically, the USCRTF has helped build partnerships and strategies, yet has carried out minimal on-the-ground action to conserve coral reefs. Other federal agencies that partner with the USCRTF include: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). The USCRTF has gone so far as to have “approved a resolution recognizing coral reefs of U.S. states and territories as national, natural infrastructure.”  This resolution “encourages” the use of federal funding to help conserve and restore coral reefs. They aim to “fortify the nation’s commitment” to coral reefs. These faint intentions fall short of effective policy-making.

While coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, they deliver vital benefits for marine ecosystems and economies. A full quarter of marine life depends upon coral reefs for shelter, food, and spawning. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network estimates that every year coral reefs provide about $2.7 trillion in goods and services, from tourism to coastal protection. Recreation generates about $36 billion from snorkeling and scuba diving tourism. Coral reefs are a natural protective barrier against storm surges and large waves.

ANALYSIS

In March of this year, global average sea surface temperature (SST) reached a record monthly high of 21.07C (69.93F), according to the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service. Neal Cantin, a coral biologist with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, outlines the stakes: “We’re certainly in a new regime. Corals clearly aren’t keeping up.” As a consequence, 75 percent of the Great Barrier Reef, an area the size of Italy, has experienced bleaching this year, the fifth bleaching event in the last 8 years. Since 1950 nearly 90 percent of the live corals in the Florida Keys have been lost. A 2005 bleaching event in the Caribbean around Antilles and Puerto Rico saw a loss of 50 percent. This alters the entire ecosystem of the surrounding oceans; like having “a rain forest without the rain forest trees.”

What we know is that the time gap between one bleaching event and the next is getting shorter. And those gaps are critical because they are a time window for the corals to recover. Corals need time – nine to twelve years – for the waters to cool so that the life-giving algae returns. More and more of them will not recover and left as “graveyards of calcium carbonate skeletons” which will erode and break apart.

Interventions such as breeding corals in labs will do little to stay the mass death of this species. Anticipating possible extinction, scientists are placing coral larvae into cryopreservation banks, as well as breeding corals with more resilient traits. As David Obura underscores, “When a 50- or 100-year-old coral dies, it takes at least that length of time to replace it. And we just don’t have that kind of time anymore.” As with other species, what has taken millennia of biology to develop is undone in a few generations of human environmental disregard. The spectacular beauty and place of coral is no match for an anthropocentric worldview with oil at its center.

Engagement Resources:
  • https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/  The National Ocean Service provides data, tools, and services that protect our ecosystems and enhance climate and economic resilience.
  • https://www.barrierreef.org/ collaborates and invests in innovative ideas and designs real-world, scalable conservation programs in Australia and the Pacific.
  • https://insideclimatenews.org/ provides essential reporting and analysis on climate change, energy and the environment, for the public and for decision makers.

Don’t miss out on the latest insights from our dedicated reporters – subscribe to the US Renew Democracy Weekly Newsletter. Your support is vital in safeguarding fearless, independent journalism. If you value our content, please consider donating today to help protect democracy and empower citizenship. 

Story of Pulitzer winner Vladimir Kara-Murza, an oppositionist imprisoned in Russia: Part 1

Story of Pulitzer winner Vladimir Kara-Murza, an oppositionist imprisoned in Russia: Part 1

“Others will come to take our place.”

Story of Pulitzer winner Vladimir Kara-Murza, an oppositionist imprisoned in Russia: Part 1

Foreign Policy Brief #143 | By: Yelena Korshunov| May 30, 2024
Featured Photo: www.independent.co.uk

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Russian publicist, politician, and historian Vladimir Kara-Murza was awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for comments in his articles published in The Washington Post. In its statement on May 6th the Pulitzer Committee said that Kara-Murza “won for passionate columns written at great personal risk from his prison cell, warning of the consequences of dissent in Vladimir Putin’s Russia and insisting on a democratic future for his country.”

The death of Alexei Navalny, a major figure of Russian political opposition,  right before the president’s election in Russia, strengthened voices demanding to free the other political imprisoners. One of them is Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been languishing in jail in Russia since April 2022 for treason after he spoke out against the war on Ukraine. Kara-Murza survived two poisonings in 2015 and 2017, and in 2023 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the longest term an oppositionist had been sentenced to in Russia. Despite the fact that Kara-Murza was diagnosed with polyneuropathy of the legs, which may be a consequence of assassination attempts. In September 2023the court sent him to a correctional colony in Omsk (city in Siberia) as they did to Aleksei Navalny. And exactly the same way they led Navalny to his death, at the beginning of 2024 officials placed Kara-Murza in a single cell, isolating him from any communication with other prisoners.

In April, 2023 a number of charges were brought against Kara-Murza. He stood accused of treason for public speeches in the US and Europe. He spoke about “state terror” for political reasons, election fraud, and human rights violations in Russia. He also called Russia an aggressor country in the war with Ukraine. By these actions, according to Russia’s investigation, he “created threats to the external security and territorial integrity” of the Russian Federation. Investigators insisted that one of the events at which Kara-Murza harmed Russia “out of selfish motives” was the ceremony of presenting the Helsinki Committee award to political prisoner Yuri Dmitriev

Treason is the most severe, but not the only charge. Kara-Murza was also accused in spreading “fakes” about the army and for collaborating with the undesirable organization Free Russia Foundation. The foundation was declared undesirable in 2019. In 2021, according to investigators, Kara-Murza organized an annual conference on political prisoners at the Sakharov Center — with money from Free Russia.

On March 15, 2022, Vladimir Kara-Murza spoke about what was going on in Russia at the Arizona House of Representatives. Russia investigated his speech and then  announced that Kara-Murza “deliberately spread false information about the use of the Russian Armed Forces to bomb residential areas, maternity hospitals, hospitals and schools” in Ukraine.

Later, a second criminal case was opened for work in a “foreign or international NGO [Non-Government Organization], in respect of which a decision was made to recognize it as undesirable.” Kara-Murza was accused of collaborating with the undesirable organization Free Russia Foundation. Treason was the third and most serious charge, the sanction of which provides for up to 20 years in prison. Kara-Murza is charged with three episodes of treason: speeches at the NATO Assembly, at the Helsinki Committee in Oslo and in the USA.

During the announcement of the verdict, it was noted that Kara-Murza has dual citizenship: in addition to Russia, he is a British citizen and has a residence permit in the United States. The announcement was attended by 40 diplomats from 25 countries, including the US, Great Britain, France, Canada, and Germany. The imprisoned politician’s wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza told the BBC she is sure that “sooner or later Volodya [Vladimir Kara-Murza] would be accused of high treason.”

Engagement Resources

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Checking in on 14 Years of Obamacare: Part 3

Checking in on 14 Years of Obamacare: Part 3

Checking in on 14 Years of Obamacare: Part 3

Health and Gender Policy Brief #174 | By: Geoffrey Small | May 22, 2024

Featured Photo: www.npr.org

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March 2024 highlighted fourteen years since The ACA (Affordable Care Act) has been enacted. When it was passed more than a decade ago, there were three primary goals of the ACA, or more popularly referred to as Obamacare. According to HealthCare.gov, the first was to make affordable health insurance more available for the American public. The second goal was to encourage states to expand their Medicaid coverage to all individuals whose income is significantly below the federal poverty level. Finally, the ACA would provide federal support to “innovative medical care delivery methods designed to lower the costs of health care generally.” This part in the series will analyze the ACA’s impact on innovative medical care, and the delivery methods designed to save the American public money.

Policy Analysis

When the Affordable Care Act was first administered, a conference held by the Board on Health Sciences Policy, Board on Health Care Services, and the Institute of Medicine published a presentation  Leveraging the Affordable Care Act and Information Technology to Innovate. The presentation’s primary focus was using the ACA to enable a better disaster response. The consensus from expert speakers concluded a “Social-Health” information exchange must include community-based service organizations, where health care providers focus on the person as a whole. This includes housing, shelter, and other social needs, along with acute medical care. Using data analytics to engage in preventative health care can help reduce costly medical disasters. Also, hospitals could meet the ACA community benefit requirement by engaging in a health information exchange with their local community. Telemedicine was another big factor on sharing expertise remotely and extending medical care workforce capacity. Finally, educating  the community on new healthcare technologies must be administered in a user-friendly capacity, so it’s easier to learn and use.

Despite expert opinions on creating a road map for innovative affordable healthcare, a recent Washington Post article concluded that the ACA efforts still haven’t found “the magic pot of money.” Pilot projects in preventative care run by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, after the ACA was administered,  were projected to save 2.8 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. However, it ended up costing the government 5.4 billion within the first decade. This was due to the fact that medical care providers needed to treat a lot of minor issues to prevent a serious health crisis.

Estimating cost projections in the healthcare industry is extremely complicated. Especially in the U.S. where healthcare is not universal. Strictly mandating lower medication costs can lead to companies abandoning accessible medicines for Americans. Average U.S. physician salaries are approximately twice as much compared to their European colleagues. However, enforcing lower salaries can create a political quagmire for a healthcare system that is already overwhelmed with staffing issues. Telemedicine has thrived in post-pandemic society, but the impact of COVID-19 has reduced the cost-saving-projections that we’re initially estimated.

Overall, the ACA has helped the American public navigate the costly healthcare system. The United States is the only post-industrial country that does not have universal healthcare. The evidence presented in this three-part series makes it abundantly clear that the ACA, although helpful, should be a stepping stone to affordable universal healthcare.

This is the third part in a series. For Part 2 of the Obamacare series, click here. For the rest of the series, click here

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