Dems Kill COBRA For Older Unemployed – Health Care Reform Subsidies Next?

House Dems killed COBRA subsidies for the long-term unemployed — generally older people — last week, which means they won’t be able to get health insurance.

This group — comprising generally older workers — has pulled up the average length of time that a current worker has been unemployed to a record high of 33 weeks as of April. The percentage of unemployed people who have been looking for jobs for more than six months is at 45.9 percent, the highest in at least six decades.

Think ahead to what this means for the recently-passed health care “reform.” If you think there are “subsidies” to help people afford the insurance they are ordered to purchase from the giant insurance corporations, just remember how Democrats treated workers who can’t find jobs.

Guillotines And Green / Tea Party Thinking

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Update – Digby calls it “simple cruelty.”
Congress is a big FAIL on jobs and unemployment. The Senate is heading home instead of helping the unemployed, the House is FAILing on jobs unemployment and COBRA subsidies.
Congress says they are worried about the deficit, but the deficit was The Plan. It is right in front of your faces:
Step 1: Cut taxes to “cut the allowance” of government so that it can’t function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is “going bankrupt” so they’ll let you sell off the people’s assets and “privatize” the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will “harm the economy.”
Congress: If you are so worried about the deficit, why don’t you fix what caused the deficit instead of taking it out on unemployed people?
Anything else I write about this will quickly devolve into a post about setting up guillotines, and joining the Tea or Green Party.
Except the guillotines will probably be made in China.
If you are as mad as I am you might want to come to the America’s Future Now conference, where we are going to be talking about how progressives can get more done, June 7,8,9 in DC. Click here to see the agenda, then click here to register.

Update – In case anyone foolishly believed this was about cutting the deficit: House defies Obama, OKs F-35 engine funds. And not even a guarantee it will be made in the US!

Millions Lose Health Insurance Starting Tuesday!

The Democrats in Congress have apparently decided to let millions of unemployed people lose their health insurance, beginning next Tuesday, June 1. They lose COBRA subsidies, making insurance unaffordable, and lose COBRA as well because it reverts to an 18-month program.
According to Dems cut health subsidies to salvage jobs bill,

House leaders have proposed dropping billions in aid to states and letting health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers expire in an effort to round up votes for a bill to extend unemployment benefits.

I suspect that millions of unemployed people will also lose any interest they may have ever had in voting for Democrats, as well.

Stimulus Shifts To Reverse — Where Is The Congress?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The stimulus is running out, millions lose health insurance in 12 days as COBRA subsidies start to run out, unemployment benefits also start running out, all while the unemployment rate is rising. Foreclosures are up. At the same time out-of-money states are laying off hundreds of thousands of employees, beginning with teachers. (But hey, who needs teachers?) They are deferring infrastructure maintenance like roadwork and water/sewer systems and other public investments that employ people while creating the conditions that enable to economy to grow.
In fact, the stimulus is not only running out, but these state layoffs and other factors mean that government is now a net drag on the economy. The hope was that the stimulus would be enough to hold off the effects of the downturn and provide enough of a boost to get the “economic engine” running again. But for various reasons much of the stimulus was cut back or wasted on ineffective tax cuts, so as it runs out there are signs that the economy could sink back down.
This chart shows government contribution to GDP growth, now negative due to state and local governments laying off employees and reducing infrastructure investment.
With all of this going on the DC “conventional wisdom” is that the economy has turned the corner, and no more help is needed. Wall Street and big corporations are making money again so it is time to move on and let regular people fend for themselves. The public wants jobs and a government that works for them, the DC insiders want government to stop spending on We, the People and focus on big corporations.
Compare this DC “conventional wisdom” with the current jobs situation. While the economy has finally stopped losing jobs, it is not yet creating enough jobs even to keep up with new workers entering the labor force. Never mind putting unemployed people back to work. Following is a chart of job losses during recessions. This chart shows just how bad this recession is compared to previous recessions, and how we are nowhere near normal.
This “Wall Street and corporations are OK so our jobs here is done” sentiment combines with the right-wing drumbeat that anything government (We, the People) does is bad, (which translates to all decisions should be made by the biggest corporations) and the related drumbeat that any government spending on We, the People is a very bad thing after President Bush left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit.
Congress, what’s the holdup?
There are efforts in the Congress to try to do something to help the situation for regular people. For example, the War Supplemental (this is in a war bill because bills for bailing out Wall Street, and for anything to do with military MUST PASS and do so within 72 hours) contains $23 billion to help keep states from laying off 300,000 teachers. It is meeting opposition as “another bailout.” That’s right, the very people who bailed out Wall Street are now blocking a bill helping teachers, calling it a “bailout!”
Then there is the Local Jobs for America Act. This act puts $75 billion into direct government hiring at the state and local level, creating or saving an estimated one million jobs. According to EPI, the $39 billion comes straight back from taxes and reduced unemployment payments!
Unemployment is about 10%. Millions are unemployed and are about to lose COBRA subsidies and unemployment benefits. States are laying off hundreds of thousands. Investment in maintaining and modernizing infrastructure is nil. DC elites think everything is fine. The disconnect between people inside and outside the DC bubble is growing almost as fast as the concentration of wealth at the top.
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
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We Need Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. And Jobs.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Things are good for the plutocrats. Stock market soaring, bonuses are big… Things are going mighty fine. So fine, in fact, that the urgency of extending unemployment, COBRA and programs to help the people harmed by the financial disaster is moving off the table.
But out here on Main Street we need jobs, jobs, jobs. And we need jobs, too. You just hear people say this over and over, and it’s like we’re told in response, “OK go to bed now, children.”
Here’s the deal: Say what you want about bailing out Goldman Sachs and AIG pass-throughs, and letting the FASB suspend “mark to market” accounting, it was unemployment benefits and the FDIC and the stimulus’ job-creation that kept this economic crisis from turning int a full-blown depression. And it is still unemployment benefits and FDIC and the stimulus’ job creation that are preventing it from happening. They may have hidden the bad assets on the banks’ books by using a “mark to model” trick, but the bad assets are still there. The private-sector jobs are not.
We need a real economy, and real jobs for real people. If the plutocrats think they can have an economy without all of those people who are right now losing their benefits, losing their homes, losing their dignity, then we might all be in for a surprise. We need jobs. And that requires government action. If the available money goes instead to deficit reduction, you can’t create the jobs. You can’t create the green jobs that will drive the economy of the future, you can’t keep the teaching jobs, and you won’t keep the stimulus jobs.
Why isn’t the Local Jobs For America bill on the front burner of the Congress?
We need a new WPA program to directly create jobs.
We need unemployment benefits and COBRA extended — both the subsidies and COBRA itself.
What is the matter with these people? Do they really think an economy of, by and for the rich and only the rich can really work? It’s been tried, and the results aren’t usually pleasant:


Oh, did I mention that we need jobs, and we need government action to create jobs, and in the meantime we need unemployment and COBRA extended?
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COBRA Runs Out Soon For Many

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.
The unemployed have a lot to fear, including losing COBRA itself.
Congress is considering passing an extension of COBRA subsidies for the unemployed. But a bigger problem is not just the subsidies running out, but COBRA itself running out.
COBRA allows people to continue to buy the same health insurance they had on the job, at full price (plus 5% to cover the administrative overhead of handling the paperwork.) COBRA lasts 18 months. It is very expensive, but the way insurance works in the U.S. many of these unemployed people would not be able to buy health insurance at any price.
Everyone had assumed that Congress could get its act together and pass health insurance reform by now, so the problem of COBRA’s 18-month period has been ignored. But Congress didn’t and that 18 months is running out soon for many, many of the people initially laid off after Wall Street deregulation caused the financial crisis. A subsidy does no good if it subsidizes insurance that you can’t get.
These millions of people were not laid off because they scammed people and sold them CDO bonds fraudulently rated AAA. They didn’t run “free” credit-card scams with incredibly small print or the ability to change the terms of the contract at will. They don’t hold payments and then charge “late fees.” They don’t charge huge “fees” that drain your accounts. These millions of people don’t get million-dollar bonuses paid for by taxpayer dollars and Fed guarantees or zero-percent “windows.” So maybe this means they don’t qualify for consideration by our Congress .
Congress: EXTEND COBRA FOR AN ADDITIONAL 18 MONTHS. There is no cost for doing this, it only allows people to buy health insurance that they would not be able to buy otherwise. AND pass another extension of the subsidies.
Oh, and pass health insurance reform, too.