Posts by Donald Cohen
By Donald Cohen | Published in The Huffington Post | October 9, 2010 |
Gregory Mankiw, Chairman between 2003 and 2005 of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, is back.
On Dec. 31, the Bush tax cuts will expire unless Congress acts. President Obama wants to extend the cuts for middle class families but let the tax on the wealthy revert to pre-2003 levels. Mankiw along with congressional Republicans and the conservative message (i.e. not fact) machine are in full gear calling the tax on wealthy Americans everything from a Job Killer to bad economics. Read More
Your second-grader has been up half the night with a hacking cough. Do you call in to say you can’t go to work – and risk losing a whole day’s paycheck? Or do you pack some tissues in his lunch box and hope that he makes it through the school day without getting worse or infecting half the class?
No working parent should face such a choice. But for thousands of New York City’s public school parents, this is a very real dilemma. It doesn’t need to be. Read More
By Donald Cohen | Published in LA Progressive | September 29, 2010 |
Without doubt, history books will remember the sweeping health care reform law passed exactly six months ago as a major historic milestone and President Barack Obama’s most significant achievement. But the reform bill hasn’t yet won the hearts and minds of most Americans, who don’t understand it, or who, depending on their political views, think that it doesn’t go far enough, or goes too far.
Lots of reporters and pundits – all of whom, of course, have good, employer-provided health insurance plans – now say that Obama invested too much political capital getting the Affordable Care Act through Congress when he should have been concentrating on fixing the economy. Some House and Senate Democrats are worried that their support for reform will hurt their re-election chances in November. Even Obama has been gun-shy about hyping the law as he travels around the country giving speeches and trying to help Democrats keep their majority in Congress. Read More
Alf Landon, the Kansas governor running as the Republican Party’s 1936 presidential candidate, called it a “fraud on the working man.” Silas Strawn, a former president of both the American Bar Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempt to “Sovietize the country.” The American Medical Association denounced it as a “compulsory socialistic tax.”
What was this threat to American prosperity, freedom and democracy they were all decrying? It was Social Security, which Roosevelt signed into law 75 years ago, on Aug. 14, 1935.
The opponents of Social Security were not the counterparts of today’s “tea party,” but the business establishment and the Republican Party mainstream. Read More
By Donald Cohen | Published in The Huffington Post | February 25, 2010 |
A note from Shadow Elite author Janine Wedel:
America’s governors descended on Washington this week for their association’s winter meeting. To see the amiable crowd mingling in black tie at the Governors’ Ball, you’d never guess these public servants are in the midst of a fiscal tsunami, frantically slashing jobs and vital services as they face a combined $134 billion budget hole over the next three years. This post, by Donald Cohen, Executive Director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, is a troubling look at one way politicians are trying to help plug that staggering hole: selling off bridges, buildings, even parking meters to private enterprise, in deals engineered by the very Wall Street interests that helped bring on what some call the Great Recession. Read More
California is broken — and broke. Its K-12 public schools, roads, levies, aqueducts, parks, and bridges; its health-care system; home health care for the elderly and disabled; and even its once-envied public universities are all crumbling from long-term neglect and underfunding. State employees have been forced to take three unpaid furlough days per month — equal to a 14 percent pay cut.
Every public service and every community across the state has taken a hit. Emily Merchant, 27, saw the number of students in her San Diego kindergarten classroom double in one year. “I love teaching, but now I’m looking at other options,” she laments. “It’s too exhausting to do this forever and do my best for the students.” In Sacramento, the municipal fire department has slashed $2.1 million from its budget by shutting down some water-bearing trucks, a decision that could put lives and property at risk. The state adopted a budget in July that cut 585,000 children from the popular Healthy Families program. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is even considering releasing 20,000 inmates from California’s overcrowded prison system. Read More
By Donald Cohen | Published in TPM | May 20, 2009 |
Sometimes business groups lie so blatantly that even their strongest allies in Congress have to call their bluff.
That’s what happened this week when the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to put new limits on the credit card industry, passing a bill to curtail its ability to raise interest rates at will and charge unreasonable fees. The bill also will require credit card issuers to explain their terms in fewer words and use plain English. The Senate voted 90-5 in favor, following a 357-to-70 vote in the House on April 30.
Even most Republicans voted for the bill, which is likely to arrive on President Barack Obama’s desk before the Memorial Day recess. Read More
By Donald Cohen | Published in SDNN.com | May 13, 2009 |
When I think about election day next week, the mental image I find most fitting is in the 1954 classic, the “Lord of the Flies,” about a group of teenagers stranded on a desert island that revert to savagery in their struggle for survival.
Californians struggling to keep important programs are on a different kind of island. The metaphorical island that we are on now is the one built by Proposition 13 and the Howard Jarvis tax rebellion of the late 1970s. That was the beginning of California’s descent from a once golden state of opportunity to a land starved of investment and resources. Read More
Imagine we in San Diego County had $2 billion to spend every year — that’s $5.5 million a day, including weekends and holidays — to help relieve traffic congestion, rebuild the urban infrastructure and lessen the impact of global warming. We could do a lot.
Or, imagine we leveraged that annual revenue to generate a massive $25 billion to invest up front in a new green and sustainable infrastructure for the 21st century. We could rebuild San Diego to get our homes closer to our jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring a higher quality of life to our neighborhoods. We could even expand on ideas used in other cities such as bicycle zones and universal broadband access to increase telecommuting. Read More
The San Diego City Council has an opportunity to affirm its commitment to solving the affordable housing crisis for the city’s working families.
Last week, responding to a lawsuit by the Building Industry Association, a Superior Court judge invalidated the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance on a technicality, and an apparently thin technicality at that. The judge gave the city the language it needs to fix the ordinance, and that should be done immediately.
In 2002, housing advocates and the City Council came to the table in good faith, seeking workable solutions for all stakeholders. It’s now clear that the BIA was not sincere in its commitment to build homes for all San Diegans. It has not acted in good faith.
When the City Council considered the first inclusionary housing ordinance, the council brokered an agreement between the housing advocates and the BIA to water down the ordinance. When the ordinance was passed, the BIA promptly went to court to have it overturned.
The BIA went to court a second time when the City Council agreed to a settlement that resulted in even lower in-lieu fees. The BIA then demanded that additional items be included in the settlement. So back to court it went.
The inclusionary housing ordinance needs to be legally amended – but it also needs to be strengthened so that real affordable housing gets built. The City Council has a chance to get it right – to craft an ordinance that creates housing that San Diegans can afford and puts in place an action plan to address the housing crisis.
It can adopt a second amendment to the ordinance to require the construction of affordable housing and eliminate the in-lieu fees altogether. We can say to builders: Either build your entire project affordable to households earning less than $90,000 per year or build at least 10 percent of it for families earning less than $32,000 per year.
Despite arguments being put forth by opponents of inclusionary housing, it has had an impact in San Diego and across the region.
In Carlsbad, Chula Vista and San Marcos, inclusionary housing ordinances have been an extremely effective tool in making housing affordable to working people. The builders in these cities are required to build the units, and consequently more than 4,000 homes have been created that are affordable for the working class. These are 4,000 homes that would not have been built without strong inclusionary ordinances.
In San Diego, the BIA has stated that the cost of inclusionary has been added to the price paid by the home buyers. The truth is the builder does not set the price of the homes it sells, the market does. For the last five years, the market has been willing to pay much more than the original asking price of the builders. Profits have been at record levels, not because the builders asked for those prices, but because the buyers bid them up. In the hot real estate market we’ve experienced in San Diego, it’s a little hard to imagine builders saying they don’t want to accept what the market will pay because their profit margin will be too great.
Furthermore, builders do receive subsidies from the city for complying with the law. They qualify for density bonuses and additional waivers on development requirements. They qualify for expedited processing, which can save them six months to a year in planning. And their large projects even qualify for federal, state and local financing subsidies. As matter of fact, seven of the nine rental housing allocations from the 2002 state housing bond have helped finance inclusionary housing developments in the county.
The BIA argues that inclusionary zoning does not help the affordable housing crisis. We agree. The city of San Diego’s current ordinance is not as effective as it could be because the builders negotiated a compromise that drove the in-lieu fees so low that the fees are insufficient to construct the inclusionary units or serve as an incentive for the builders to build them.
In the midst of the legal and political rhetoric, the hundreds of thousands of families who are experiencing the deep economic pressures of the housing crisis have only one question: When are we going to get serious about building housing for San Diego’s working families?
Akinfosile is co-chair of the San Diego Organizing Project. Cohen is executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives. Lawrence is president of the Affordable Housing Coalition.
Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.