April 2008
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Day April 30, 2008

UMass Law

I was pretty bummed in 2005 when the Republican-packed UMass Board of Trustees voted down  a very reasonable proposal to create an affordable public law school. They even floated the idea of free tuition for students who committed to be public defenders for a year after graduation. While it may be too late to benefit me, I’m nonetheless glad to see the effort revitalized by a Worcester city councilor. With a Democratic governor and an ex-Worcester mayor as Lt. Gov. I think this plan  might have legs this time around. Massachusetts is one in six states without a public law school. That bastion of economic progressiveness, the State of Arkansas, has two. I believe a UMass Law school would go a long way in promoting market access to those who cannot afford  to attend private law school and would expand the scope of public interest attorneys whom would remain in the state.  

How the Rev. Wright Controversy Actually Helps Barack Obama.

(And I use the word “controversy” loosely.)  Here is how it actually helps Obama.  First, it should convince anyone out there who still thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim that he is not.  (I am offended that it should even matter, but that is for another discussion.)  I bet there were still a lot of ignorant people up until yesterday who still thought Obama is a Muslim.  They would have to be a moron (and hopefully not a voter) to still believe that today.   Second, it has given Barack Obama an opportunity to repudiate Rev. Wright more forcefully than he did before.  Obama’s previous response to the original Wright feeding frenzy may not have been enough to convince the voters he needs to win over in order to win the Presidency, particular Reagan Democrats.  I realize this is a stretch, but it sure is going to be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next week.            

John McCain’s health care disaster

John McCain rolled out his health care plan yesterday. For the tens of millions of Americans who currently receive their benefits through their employers it promises to be a total disaster, as the average family’s premiums will more than double. From the New York Times:

Mr. McCain’s health care plan would shift the emphasis from insurance provided by employers to insurance bought by individuals, to foster competition and drive down prices. To do so he is calling for eliminating the tax breaks that currently encourage employers to provide health insurance for their workers, and replacing them with $5,000 tax credits for families to buy their own insurance….

Democrats and some experts said the proposal might lead some employers to stop offering health insurance, and questioned whether the tax credit would cover the cost of private insurance.

There is no “might” about it, the proposal will cause many employers to drop health care insurance altogether or significantly roll back their offerings. The tax break that employers get is the most significant incentive for them to offer insurance to their employees. Without it, the only incentives to an employer are intangible. For instance, more competitive benefits help attract better workers, and healthier employees are more productive. But how many companies will continue to shell out $7,000-8,000 per family per year for coverage if they are not able to deduct those costs? Probably not that many.

Based on the most recent statistics, the tax credit will not nearly cover the cost of private insurance. According to the National Coalition on Health Care, the total cost of the average family health insurance plan is $12,100. Of that the average family pays $3,300 in premiums with the rest covered by the employer. Under McCain’s plan, that average family would receive a $5,000 tax credit to offset the cost of the plan, leaving the family to cover the remaining $7,100 in premiums.

The average family who pays $275 per month for health insurance would see their premiums rise to $592 per month under McCain’s plan, a 115% increase.

Trailing the Readiness Project

Looks like the Governor has started trailing some of what the initial phase of the Readiness Project is likely to encompass.  I think he’s going about this well.   He’s bringing together stakeholders to develop a shared vision of where we could take education over the next decade and setting out what it will take to get there, including what it may take in funding.  And then on the basis of that vision and a realistic look at evidence and costs, is then opening up a wider dialogue on how to shape a 21st century education package, with free access from kindergarten through the first years of college.  This from an AP story in the Herald this morning: A group of educators and others serving on the governor’s Readiness Project are trying to determine the total cost of educating a child from pre-kindergarten through state-funded community college and other higher education. Gov. Deval Patrick told school superintendents participating in a Statehouse lobbying day Tuesday that he, lawmakers and education interest groups will then use that number to debate how much of that cost the state can afford. The governor says he expects the first recommendations from the Readiness Project members […]

What does it mean when a bill is “Discharged to the committee on JUDICIARY”

I am tracking a bill and noticed that it moved from the Joint Committee of Policy and Steerting to Discharged to the committee on JUDICIARY. What does this mean? Can anyone help?