ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesFebruary 10, 2015; NPR, “Shots”Although poor John Boehner has to lead his Republican colleagues through the monotonous mechanics of voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act whenever there is a lull in the House of Representatives, Speaker Boehner and his colleagues know that they have nothing to offer to replace the ACA. In fact, they know that to repeal and undo the program of national health insurance would be catastrophic for Americans. Aside from the indefatigable ideological positioning of some extreme wingnuts, the Republican establishment deep down doesn’t really want to scrap Obamacare.Writing for Kaiser Health News, Julie Rovner suggests that this might be the time to fix the problems in the Affordable Care Act rather than imagining the entire program ought to be tossed away. NPQ has suggested the same many times, noting that legislation is typically reopened for technical corrections after it is passed by Congress and signed by the president. In the case of the ACA, however, the political posturing and polarization have been so extreme that such logical, normal actions such as technical corrections were not possible to contemplate. But whatever their frustrations with the national health insurance program, by most indications Americans actually favor fixing rather than repealing the Affordable Care Act.If a sudden infusion of reason were to overcome congressional Republicans, what might be the agenda of fixes that our nation’s leaders might be well advised to pursue? A panel at the National Health Policy Conference earlier this week generated a list of potential ideas for improving the statute.Jon Kingsdale, who led the first health exchange in Massachusetts prior to the ACA, said, “We took the most complex health care system on God’s green earth, and made it 10 times more complex.” Simplifying the “impossible job” of implementing the ACA would be high on his and probably most people’s agendas.Judith Solomon of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities suggested that there should be a modification in the way income eligibility is determined. Currently, taxpayers and the IRS have to rely on tax returns that are more than a year old—obviously, with tax data that is two years old—to predict their income eligibility for ACA subsidies. For determining income eligibility, something more robust and reliable is needed. Solomon also called for a “hardship exemption for people expected to pay back tax credits…because they underestimated their incomes,” or if not a specific hardship exemption, some sort of sliding scale so that moderate income taxpayers aren’t whacked with enormous tax bills.Joseph Anton of the conservative American Enterprise Institute suggested a resolution to the problem of paying back tax credits—just get rid of the individual mandate entirely and replace it with a formula for requiring uninsured individuals to pay more for health coverage.Georgetown University’s Sabrina Corlette recommended getting rid of the provision that permits insurers to charge higher premiums to tobacco users. “It prices out of coverage low- and moderate-income people who could most benefit,” she said. “And there’s no evidence that it encourages people to quit.”The report seemed a little dispirited as the panelists acknowledged that Republicans were unlikely to be hit by that bolt of rationality necessary to repair rather than repeal the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, however, the truly vital fix is at the state level. Until all states expand Medicaid eligibility to include the near-poor as well as the poor, millions of Americans will be left in a coverage gap between incomes too high for subsidies on the exchanges but too low to afford some insurance premiums and copays.—Rick CohenShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share40TweetShareEmail40 SharesCC0, LinkJuly 30, 2018; Yale Environment 360Despite the Trump administration’s quest to invalidate California’s authority to enforce stricter rules on greenhouse gas emissions, California continues to lead the pack in reducing its carbon footprint through its cap-and-trade program. The program “caps” the amount of carbon dioxide emissions while allowing companies to “trade” surplus allowances to other businesses that surpass emission limits. Companies are able to purchase allowances at monthly auctions that have generated $4.4 billion in state revenue since 2012.As the state transitions to clean, renewable energy, it recognizes the need for equitable policies and practices that center the most marginalized. Research shows that low-income communities incur higher energy costs and are more likely to suffer from environmental pollutants, resulting in increased rates of disease. As a result, the state has engaged in energy justice—the involvement of underrepresented communities in creating solutions and the fair distribution of clean energy benefits within its clean energy laws. Under Assembly Bill (AB) 1550 (Gomez, Chapter 369, Statutes of 2016), 35 percent of auction proceeds must be used for projects targeting state-defined disadvantaged communities.One shining example of the state’s progress, is the construction of Casas de la Viña, an affordable housing complex specifically designed for farm workers in Central Valley. The development was conceptualized by Self-Help Enterprises, a community development nonprofit whose mission is “to work together with low-income families to build and sustain healthy homes and communities.” The organization serves San Joaquin Valley, known for its agricultural production and high poverty rates. Casas de la Viña is considered a groundbreaking project for a region whose housing often lacks adequate sewer, energy and water services. The complex, which is managed by a nonprofit developer, has “upgrade[d] its hot water systems, put in interior and exterior LED lighting, replaced old refrigerators and faucets, sealed ductwork, [and] installed heat-pump water heaters (which are about 200 percent more efficient than the old models),” with the assistance of the Association for Energy Affordability, a nonprofit energy provider. The upgrades contributed to the complex achieving zero net energy status, one of the first housing complexes in the United States to do so.While the marriage of policy and nonprofit partnerships has proven successful in targeting such communities, building community trust continues to be a barrier to green energy adoption. Centering equity and the involvement of marginalized communities will be critical in changing energy consumption behavior and mindsets. Despite the inherent challenges, California has made considerable progress in this area. For instance, in 2017, the state increased the share of people from underrepresented communities enrolled in clean energy apprenticeship programs to 60 percent.Additionally, the state offers funding to nonprofits to promote energy justice through its California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants Program. Grants of $50,000 are provided to nonprofits that specifically engage underrepresented communities in designing solutions and benefiting from clean energy. Projects range from developing youth ambassadors, training cosmetologists in chemical reduction strategies, training indigenous tribes in wildfire reduction techniques, and engaging incarcerated people in creating solutions to environmental justice.As California continues its efforts, more states may look to California as a model for successfully engaging citizens as partners in a greener, more equitable future. As California has shown, multi-stakeholder partnerships with local agencies, community-based organizations, businesses and other stakeholders, are necessary to get the transformational change needed to stave off extreme weather.— Chelsea DennisShare40TweetShareEmail40 Shares
Share7Tweet2ShareEmail9 Shares“We need rent control,” JK B.February 28, 2019; The OregonianOregon Governor Kate Brown was hailed across the country yesterday when she signed the nation’s first statewide rent control law. The measure was hailed as a win for housing justice and a piece of bipartisan cooperation. However, it falls far short of providing a real solution for Oregon’s renting residents, and some advocates expressed concern that its shortfalls outweigh its gains.The bill, SB 608, is 22 pages long and includes many specific provisions. Its main point, according to the media narrative, is the cap it imposes on rent increases: 7 percent per year, plus the cost of inflation. Several notable exceptions exist, including:Rental units constructed within the last 15 yearsSubsidized units such as section 8 housingUnits vacated by tenants of their own accord Image courtesy of Portland Tenants Union.In addition to those exceptions, many observers noted that a 7 percent cap is quite high; cities in nearby California, which can impose local rent control measures, usually cap increases at the cost of inflation, which has ranged from 1 percent to 3.6 percent in Western states in the past five years. Oregon’s rule allows landlords to increase rents up to 10 percent per year. Not only is that level of increase unaffordable for many families, it’s actually a higher rate of increase than has occurred without the cap over the past 10 years.What’s more, localities do not have the power to impose stricter controls. In some states, such as California, voters have won the right to impose municipal controls, but SB 608 maintains Oregon’s ban on such measures; Elliot Njus, who has been following this issue for The Oregonian, reports that “landlord groups…viewed [SB 608] as a better alternative to removing the state’s ban on local rent control policies.” Margot Black, a Portland tenant organizer, said, “I think it does more to protect landlords from strong tenant protection than to protect tenants from landlords.”The cap does forbid the sudden price increases that have forced many Oregon tenants from their homes, which is certainly a win; some report overnight doubling of rents. But it doesn’t do anything to increase long-term neighborhood stability.Last June, NPQ’s Cyndi Suarez wrote about how, starting with the Nixon administration, government support for affordable housing has been cut back, leading to a dearth of supply. Governor Brown seems to agree; she called for $400 million for “affordable housing development, rental assistance and homelessness prevention” and said, “We need to focus on building supply.”Many outlets cited economics studies purporting to show that rent control ultimately decreases the supply of affordable housing, because price controls disincentivize landlords from renting. However, NPQ’s Steve Dubb pointed out,It sounds so obvious…except that it is not. In economics, the core neoclassical assumptions vary greatly from what we see. A well-functioning market requires “perfect information,” but anyone who has ever looked for a place to live knows that real estate is riven with uncertainty. A well-functioning market also requires perfect competition, which, due to barriers to entry, doesn’t characterize real estate either. It is hard for tenants to organize and become their own landlords, which doesn’t stop housing cooperatives from being a good idea.A 2018 study from Stanford University found that rent control in San Francisco limited renters’ mobility (meaning it increased neighborhood stability) by 20 percent. The study also found that supply was reduced, but as Dubb points out, this is likely due to the tech boom more than to rent control.Oregon’s bill deals with other common issues faced by renters; it includes provisions related to no-cause eviction, relocation assistance, and vacancy control. And critically, the bill is declared as an emergency, so it goes into effect immediately, giving landlords no time to raise rents before the cap hits.However, as Portland Tenants United (PTU) argues, there are many loopholes in these provisions a well; for instance, no-cause evictions are allowed during the first year of tenancy and the language around qualifying reasons that a tenant may be evicted is so weak, it hardly protects renters at all.PTU had a thoughtful and informative Twitter thread about SB 608, in which they highlighted tenant advocacy and called for restoration of local control over rents.Cyndi Suarez pointed out that the movement to consider housing a basic right is only now growing in the US. Joshua Mason, an economics professor at Roosevelt University, wrote,The real goal of rent control is protecting the moral rights of occupancy. Long-term tenants who contributed to this being a desirable place to live have a legitimate interest in staying in their apartments. If we think that income diverse, stable neighborhoods, where people are not forced to move every few years, [are worth preserving] then we collectively have an interest in stabilizing the neighborhood.As long as the US fails to consider housing a basic right, it will be subject to the market forces that make it unaffordable for so many people. Rental units are subject to much greater price variation than mortgage rates or property taxes, disproportionately punishing those with fewer means.Katrina Holland, the executive director of Oregon’s Community Alliance of Tenants, was dissatisfied with the bill and said, “You’d better believe we’ll be back.”—Erin RubinShare7Tweet2ShareEmail9 Shares
Outgoing Virgin Media boss Neil Berkett has spoken out against “clumsy” government intervention in the rollout of high-speed broadband, warning that it could prove detrimental to competition.Berkett, who is due to step down from Virgin Media in the coming months when Liberty Global closes its planned buyout of the UK operator, used a keynote speech at Cable Congress to warn that though politicians may be tempted to write cheques to speed up broadband rollout, this “can often do more harm that it will good.”“Few disagree that even in times of austerity, and perhaps particularly in this tough economic period, that investment and infrastructure is a wise thing to do,” said Berkett, admitting that there was a case for helping to connect rural communities and for investing in digital infrastructure, which he called “a 21st century essential.”However, he added that “the closer you get to areas where genuine competition exists, the more you risk even a modest amount of public money scaring off the investors all together.“Any cable company should be comfortable with the idea of competing. But the point at which those competitors enjoy help from the tax payer is the point at which our investors become less confident and the investment in our infrastructure disappears,” he said.In a pointed attack at the UK government, which alongside its commitment to bring high speed broadband to rural communities has pledged £150m for an Urban Broadband Fund to create ‘super-connected cities’, Berkett said: “Don’t focus on short-term projects or areas where the market is already delivering. Instead, do more to boost the long-term skill and capabilities necessary to ensure businesses take advantages of the opportunities of the digital age.”He added that “competitive markets in big infrastructure-heavy businesses such as ours, are difficult to build and actually easy to break.”
News Corp’s entertainment and publishing arms begin trading under separate companies today following the completion of its split.The entertainment division of Rupert Murdoch’s company, which houses its film and television assets, will now be known as 21st Century Fox after spinning out of the publishing arm, which will remain trading as News Corp.The old News Corp formally split on Friday after the close of trading, though some preliminary shares of the new units have been on the market since Wednesday.Under the news set up, Murdoch will control around 40% of the controlling shares of both – akin to his level of influence in the previous organisation.21st Century Fox will house assets including a Hollywood studio, the Fox television network and its sister channels in the Fox Networks Group, Fox International Channels and other pay TV stakes it holds around the world.Murdoch first announced the split last year in the face of shareholder concern of the performance of the publishing arm following the UK phone hacking scandal that enveloped the company in 2011. The entertainment wing, on the other hand, has been shovelling in huge profits and recording major growth, especially through its international pay TV operation.
Europe’s economic recovery is spurring a global uptick in advertising revenues according to new research.ZenithOptimedia’s latest advertising expenditure projections mark the first time in over a year it has not downgraded its ad spend forecasts, which it said was a “promising sign of stability in the global ad market”.Globally and across all mediums ad expenditure will rise 3.5% this year taking the total to US$503 billion. There will be stronger growth next year and in 2015 – of 5.1% and 5.9% respectively – Zentih added.Despite recent concerns about growth slowing in some developing markets, Brazil, Russia, India and China are still driving the increases in ad spending. The US, however, remains the single largest contributor of new ad dollars to the global market.The Eurozone recovery has helped lift the figures but the worst hit countries in the Eurozone and northern Europe areas will remain in negative territory this year while all other regions, globally, will register growth.The top ten largest ad markets worldwide will remain largely unchanged between now and 2015 with the US, Japan, China, Germany and the UK taking the top positions. The one difference will be that France will exit the top ten and Russia will make an entrance by 2015.Internet advertising is the fastest-growing category, but TV still takes the largest share. By medium TV accounts for 40% of all advertising dollars in 2012. It’s overall share will peak this year at 40.1% before falling back slightly to 39.5% in 2015.
Bulgarian telco Neterra Communications has signed a direct-to-home satellite TV services deal with SpaceCom, operators of the AMOS brand of satellites.Under the deal, Neterra will use SpaceCom’s W4 DTH TV services platform to offer more than 60 TV channels and additional HD services to its end-users.These will be delivered on the AMOS-2 satellite located at 4˚ West, and, after this goes out of service, via AMOS-6.The deal also includes video distribution to cable head-ends, VSAT communications and broadband Internet services via AMOS-2.
Multinational cable and telco firm Altice has announced plans to float on the stockmarket, saying it expects the initial public offering to raise around €750 million. Altice said that it will use the proceeds to reduce its debt and to pay for transaction costs relating to the offering, with plans to list its shares on NYSE Euronext in Amsterdam.Announcing the move, Altice, which owns 40% of French cable operator Numericable, said that for the nine months ended September 30, its pro forma adjusted EBITDA was €1.1 billion.The firm also has a presence in Israel, Belgium and Luxembourg, Portugal, the French West Indies and Indian Ocean Area and the Dominican Republic.
UK broadcast management company, EPG broker and channel launch specialist, Canis Media, has upped former general manager Clare Bramley to the CEO role.Prior to joining Canis, Bramley was chief operating officer for Comux UK, where she was responsible for the non-technical requirements of existing and future local TV licensees in the UK.She has also previously worked for BT as head of media industry marketing, and as director of international marketing for the oil, gas and telecoms group Williams Vyvx, Tulsa.The appointment comes less than a month after Canis Media founder and CEO Ed Hall left the firm after more than 10 years.
Sharon WhiteCivil servant Sharon White, who currently holds the top role in the Treasury overseeing the UK’s public finances, has been tipped to take the CEO role at broadcast regulator Ofcom.According to a Sky News report, White is understood to have been recommended to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid as Ofcom’s new chief executive, though the appointment has not been finalised. The Financial Times also named White as “frontrunner” for the role.White was appointed as the new Second Permanent Secretary responsible for the Treasury’s finance ministry functions in October 2013. Prior to this she worked as Director General for public services at HM Treasury.Ofcom’s existing CEO, Ed Richards, announced in October that will step down from his role at the end of December after eight years in charge of the broadcast regulator.Steve Unger, Ofcom’s director of the strategy, international, technology and economist group was named as acting chief executive last month.