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Bernanke: Recession ‘Likely Over
Sept 16, 2009; Wall Street Journal | Fed Chair Bernanke is now “cautiously upbeat” in declaring the recession “likely over.” Retail sales are up, particularly for cars and auto parts (due to the recently-expired clunkers program, watch the decline ensue shortly, Mr. Chairman). But for many Americans, like those without jobs or working part-time because they can’t get full-time work or working at places that are taking advantage of the economy to pay shrinking wages, the recession is barreling right along. The unemployment rate jumped to 9.7 percent in August, up from 9.4 percent in July. Economists tried to give this a positive gloss, saying that the economy had shedd less jobs in August than July. Uh, maybe that’s because there are less jobs to shed, since millions of jobs have already disappeared. Unemployment is going to rise to double-digit levels according to some economists. The corporate world’s recession may be receding, allowing the big banks to pay back their TARP subsidies and revive big salaries and bonuses with the Department of Treasury’s blessings, but the recession is in full swing for people without jobs and benefits.—Rick Cohen

Charity Care Minimum for Nonprofit Hospitals Dropped From Baucus Health Care Proposal
Sept 14, 2009; Daily Tax Report | It is hard to fathom, but the national debate on health care reform is moving in reverse gear. Leaders of both political parties are competing to see who can appear more anti-immigrant in their vociferous statements that “illegal immigrants” will not receive a dime’s worth of coverage under comprehensive health care reform. The clearly necessary public option (which should be a single-payer system, but let’s call it “public option” for the purpose of how it is named in current political discourse) is fading from the legislation in favor of unworkable and inadequate nonprofit cooperatives. After the President’s recent speech to Congress on health reform (the Joe Wilson “you lie” speech), insurance companies announced they felt much better than they did before about the White House plan. Now comes Senator Max Baucus’s compromise plan. There are plenty of eyebrow-raising elements to this compromise, and hopefully plenty of the Senator’s political compatriots will deposit the plan where it should go (Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia has made his position crystal clear). But one item of concern for nonprofits is Baucus’s willingness to drop the “controversial” element that nonprofit hospitals would have to commit to a 5% charity care requirement. After all of the Senate Finance Committee hearings on nonprofit hospitals laying out so clearly how crummy many nonprofit hospitals are in terms of charity care, this is the result? What’s the alternative? Per Baucus and the “nonprofit” hospital industry, instead of charity care, it’s “community benefit” activities. The nonprofit hospitals, lead by the Catholic Health Association, lobbied hard, claiming that a 5% charity care requirement would put some of its members out of business, deprive rural areas of hospitals, etc. etc. etc., you can imagine the litany. As though there wouldn’t be provisions for the low-revenue/low-profit nonprofit hospitals! Come on! Please, look at the numbers, don’t get thrown by the hospital lobbyists pitching “community benefit,” look at what they deliver and don’t, look at their top salaries, look at their profits, and ask what the heck is going to happen to the millions of people—immigrants and others—who will not be covered by the inadequately “universal” health care reform our nation is likely to implement-—if it implements any health care reform at all.—Rick Cohen


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