The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which helped some 20 million Americans obtain health insurance, turns eight tomorrow (Friday, March 23). Millions of our fellow Americans feel more secure, and three-quarters of the country wants Trump and his administration to make the law work.
But the president and congressional Republicans have other plans in mind, instead continuing their efforts to repeal the ACA and to cut longstanding, proven programs that generations of working families and retirees have relied on for their healthcare.
Average Americans Would Lose Health Coverage. Millions of Americans from working families would lose their health coverage because his budget repeals the ACA. It also rolls back Medicaid expansion, which insured millions more.
Cutting Medicare and Medicaid. Candidate Trump pledged not to make cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But now, his proposed budget cuts these programs by $675 billion over 10 years.
- Trump proposes cuts of more than $550 billion from Medicare, which helps older Americans to afford medical exams, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and other health services.
- His budget also cuts at least $306 billion from Medicaid, which pays for nursing-home care and helps veterans, Americans with disabilities, and people struggling with substance misuse.
Making Middle-Class Consumers Pay More. Republican policies could make you pay anywhere from 12 to 32 percent more next year for your healthcare coverage That’s because:
- The Republican tax bill eliminated the requirement that most Americans carry coverage.
- The Trump administration shortened sign-up times and cut back marketing for the plans.
The Toys “R” Us mascot—Geoffrey the Giraffe—is streaming tears down his long neck.
A Sad “Toy Story.” Once the nation’s leading toy retailer, Toys “R” Us has remained profitable, selling one of every five toys purchased in the U.S. last year.
- The superstore brought in $460 million in operating income before making its debt payments.
- But now, it’s filing for bankruptcy, closing its 730 U.S. stores, and laying off 33,000 American workers.
- Parents and kids are asking: Why?
Buying the Company with Its Own Money. Don’t believe the easy explanations—that Amazon and online commerce are solely responsible for bankrupting this iconic company.
- The real culprits are the corporate-takeover specialists, including Bain Capital (co-founded by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney), which bought Toys “R” Us for $6.6 billion in 2005.
- In an all-too-typical Wall Street maneuver, these investors bought the toy store with its own money. Bain and its partners paid only 20 percent of the cost out of their own pockets. They borrowed the rest, sticking Toys “R” Us with more than $6 billion in debt.
- In short, “Toys R Us” went bankrupt because it had to fork over $450 to $500 million a year in interest payments, eating up its earnings as a successful retailer.
Last fall, workers at Wells Fargo’s call center in West Bethlehem, PA, were called into the company cafeteria for an important announcement. The bank was closing the facility and eliminating about 460 jobs.
The company didn’t explicitly announce it, but the workers already knew: Their jobs weren’t vanishing so much as they were moving beyond America’s borders. While cutting back in the U.S., the scandal-ridden financial-services company has been expanding its call centers in low-wage countries around the world, including India and the Philippines.
Global Race to the Bottom. Call centers are an important sector of the American economy, with more than 2 million customer-service representatives working at facilities throughout the country.
- But about a half-million American call-center jobs have been sent overseas, mostly to India and the Philippines.
- The bottom line: Offshore operations can get away with paying workers only about $1 an hour and making them work 12-hour days or even longer.
Workers and Consumers Suffer. Consumer safeguards, as well as worker protections, are weaker in low-wage economies.
- American customers have lost millions of dollars—and had their financial information imperiled—because of scams and fraud at far-away call centers.
- For instance, 15,000 Americans had $300 million stolen by a fraud ring that included customer-service centers in India.
There Ought to Be a Law. Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania are actively supporting legislation to slow down this race to the bottom. The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would:
- Give preference for federal contracts to companies that haven’t relocated call-center jobs overseas;
- Require U.S. companies to identify the location of a call center and customers to be transferred to call centers in the U.S. on their request;
- Require companies to notify the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) before they relocate call centers overseas; require DOL to create a public list of those job-exporting companies.
It’s your boss’s worst nightmare: You find out how much your company is overpaying your CEO, while they shortchange you and your co-workers. And you just might demand a raise.
Under a new federal regulation, publicly traded companies are required to reveal how much their CEOs are making, compared to their typical workers. Adding to their embarrassment, most major corporations are using their “yuge” tax windfalls to reward their executives and shareholders, not raise workers’ wages.
Spotlighting Inequality. As required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law (best known for reforming the big banks), corporations are reluctantly shining a spotlight on imbalances in their own pay scales, reflecting outrageous inequalities throughout the economy:
- In a survey of large corporations on the S&P 500, the average CEO was paid 347 times as much as their average worker.
- With the stock market surge last year, median (typical) pay for CEOs at 133 of the largest U.S. companies reached $11.6 million—an all-time high.
Grabbing Tax Breaks, Gouging the Poor, Getting a Huge Salary. Bank of America pocketed a $2.7 billion windfall from the Republican tax cut. Instead of sharing its good fortune, it started charging fees to depositors with low bank balances.
- Now, its CEO, Brian Moynihan, revealed he’s paid $23 million—250 times as much as his typical employee.
Is Your Boss Worth 1,000 Times as Much as You? Some companies pay their bosses more than a thousand times as much as their typical workers. Among the companies with the most exorbitant CEO-to-worker pay ratios:
- Temp agency Manpower’s CEO is paid 2,483 as much as its average worker.
- Amusement park Six Flags’ boss gets 1,920 as much as frontline workers.
- Del Monte foods’ CEO’s salary is 1,465 times the typical worker’s paycheck.
Angela Green teaches kindergarten at Mill Creek Elementary School in Shively, Kentucky. Ninety percent of the students are eligible for subsidized lunches, and school budgets can be tight. That’s why, as she says, “Any time we’re going to be doing anything special, all the materials are bought by me. Poster board, art supplies, I buy them all. I buy Play-Doh and books for my library in class.”
Stories like Green’s explain why teachers across the country are taking action for raises, respect for themselves, and more resources for their students. They’re encouraged by the successful strike initiated by West Virginia teachers, and they’re restless because, across the country, teachers’ pay is falling or flat-lining while their health insurance costs are increasing.
- Fighting Pension Cuts in Kentucky. Kentucky teachers have rallied at the State Capitol against pension cuts proposed by the Republican-controlled state Senate. And they were outraged when GOP Governor Matt Bevin called the state’s teachers, whose service and self-sacrifice are exemplified by Angela Green, “selfish and short-sighted.”
- Ten Years Without Raises Not Okay in OK. After 10 years without pay raises, Oklahoma teachers have warned they’ll strike on April 2 if the state legislature doesn’t act. Lilly Lyon, a junior high school Spanish teacher, sent legislators nine years of pay stubs, explaining that, because of her stagnant salary, “I work two jobs after school, and I have a roommate who shares my house expenses.”
- Addressing Health Insurance Costs in NJ. Some 3,100 teachers in Jersey City went back to work after a one-day strike now that the school system has agreed to address rising health insurance costs.
Billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has never taught in, administered, attended, or sent her kids to public schools. And yet, despite her inexperience, she has attacked the nation’s public schools, the teachers—and now, the career employees at her own department.
- My Way or the Highway. Public school parents and teachers shouldn’t be surprised by the contempt that DeVos’ management team has shown almost 4,000 federal employees working for the Education Department across the country. The department was supposed to renegotiate an agreement with the employees’ union—the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 252. But management sidestepped the union’s request to meet in person and recently declared that it would not negotiate but would instead simply impose its own terms.
- Imposing an ‘Agreement.’ Management called its new 40-page rulebook a “collective bargaining agreement” and even put AFGE’s logo on the cover without its consent. But the employees never agreed to the so-called contract’s removal of their rights on workplace health and safety, telecommuting, and family-friendly work schedules. That’s why the union declared that this misnamed “collective bargaining agreement” isn’t collective, didn’t result from bargaining, and isn’t an agreement.
Subverting the Law. By imposing an agreement, DeVos’ management team subverted the process that Congress established by law 40 years ago and that has been followed by Democratic and Republican administrations. While the union is legally required to represent all employees, whether or not they pay dues, the Education Department has taken away the union’s office space and equipment. And the union’s local leaders have been locked out of the information system and are unable to access files and documents.
From health care to public education, the Trump administration is slashing services for working families. But that hasn’t kept the president’s cabinet from living lavishly—and sticking the hard-working taxpayers with their bills.
The $300 Million Man. With an estimated net worth of $300 million, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can afford his own vacations.
- But he took his wife, Louise Linton, on a military jet trip to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to watch the solar eclipse last August. The cost to the taxpayers: $33,000.
- That was one of Mnuchin’s eight trips on military aircraft last spring and fall, at a total cost of almost $1 million.
“Cone of Silence” at EPA. Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt spent $43,000 of the taxpayers’ money to build himself a cone of silence—a soundproof phone booth in his office.
- Maybe he needs secrecy because he’s meeting with fossil fuel executives who want to weaken anti-pollution rules, while he’s laying the groundwork for future campaigns in his home state, Oklahoma.
- And he’s also spent more than $107,000 of the taxpayers’ money on first-class air travel.
Office Doors, Not National Parks. Suggesting that veterans and the disabled shouldn’t get in for free, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to increase the entrance fees at 17 national parks.
- But the Interior Department is spending almost $139,000 to replace Zinke’s office doors.
- And, he charged the taxpayers for a chartered flight from Las Vegas to his home state, Montana.
Evicting Low-Income Tenants, Feathering His Own Nest. Trump’s budget will evict low-income families from public housing. But Housing Secretary Ben Carson is spending $31,000 in federal funds for a custom mahogany dining room set for his office.