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Tags: Surge | in | Disability | Claims | 7percentSpeak No English | WaPo Buyer Bezos Neoliberal Education Agenda | U.S. Paying for Customs Facility in Abu Dhabi

Disability Claims Surge; 60 Million in US Speak No English at Home

By    |   Sunday, 18 August 2013 01:54 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. WaPo Buyer Bezos Pushes 'Neoliberal Education Agenda'
2. Census: 60 Million Americans Don't Speak English at Home
3. U.S. Paying for Customs Facility — in Abu Dhabi
4. Surge in Disability Claims Called a 'Policy-Driven Epidemic'
5. No White House Response to Muslim Brotherhood Petition
6. County Workers Earn More Than Other Residents

1. WaPo Buyer Bezos Pushes 'Neoliberal Education Agenda'

Amazon.com founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos was thrust even further into the public eye with news that he has agreed to buy The Washington Post for $250 million. And it has come to light that Bezos has been "hyper-active" in education reform, with the Bezos Family Foundation pushing a "neoliberal education agenda," Lee Fang observes in The Nation.

The foundation has contributed to Education Reform Now, which bankrolls attack ads against teachers' unions and backs test-based evaluations of teachers.

The foundation has provided $500,000 to NBC Universal to sponsor the Education Nation, which supports testing, charter schools, and other education reforms.

It gave more than $100,000 worth of Amazon stock to an organization that helped pass education reform in Washington state, including a ballot measure that created a charter school system there.

The foundation has also supported Teach for America, many individual charter schools, and math and science programs nationwide.

It is notable, then, that Bezos's deal to buy the Post includes several Post-related media entities, but excludes Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company that provides educational materials and services.

Kaplan "helped prop up the paper's finances for years while the Post either largely ignored the issue of for-profit colleges or sent its executives to Capitol Hill to lobby against better oversight of the industry," Fang writes. "Part of the ugly history of the Post is its reliance on a predatory for-profit college called Kaplan University."

In 2010, Florida's attorney general opened a probe of Kaplan and four other for-profit universities for allegedly making misrepresentations to students about several matters, including financial aid.

Fang concludes: "With Bezos in charge, hopefully he can firewall his own education agenda from the Post in ways the previous owners could not."

Editor's Note:

2. Census: 60 Million Americans Don't Speak English at Home

The number of people in the United States who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled since 1980 — far outpacing the overall population growth.

According to a new report from the Census Bureau, some 60.6 million people — nearly 1 in 5 people age 5 or older — spoke a language other than English at home in 2011, up from 23 million in 1980. That number rose 158 percent over the three decades, while the population grew only 38 percent.

The report highlighted another sobering statistic — among those speaking a language other than English at home, 7 percent said they spoke English "not at all," including 9.7 percent of Chinese speakers and 9 percent of Spanish speakers. And another 15.4 percent of those who speak another language at home said they spoke English "not well."

Among those who speak a language other than English at home, nearly two-thirds or 37.6 million speak Spanish, up from 11 million in 1980.

Chinese was the next most widely spoken language in 2011 with nearly 2.9 million speakers, followed by Tagalog — widely spoken in the Philippines — (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), and Arabic (951,700).

In addition to Spanish, other European languages with more than 1 million at-home speakers are French (1.3 million) and German (1 million).

But there are now half as many Italian speakers in the United States as there were in 1980.

"While increased immigration led to gains for some language groups, other groups experienced aging populations and dwindling migrant flow into the United States," the Census Bureau report noted.

Speakers of Scandinavian languages were most likely to say they spoke English "very well" — 90.6 percent — followed by speakers of Native-American languages other than Navajo, 85.4 percent.

The number of Americans who speak Spanish in the home rose 231.8 percent from 1980 to 2010, but that increase was outpaced by speakers of Vietnamese (599 percent), Russian (393 percent), and Chinese (345 percent).

Texas is the state with the largest percentage of the population speaking English "not at all" — 8.9 percent — followed by California and Mississippi (8.4 percent) and Florida (8.3 percent). Montana has the lowest, 0.4 percent.

And among cities, Laredo, Texas, has the largest percentage of residents who speak a language other than English at home, 92.1 percent.

"Fueled by both long-term historic immigration patterns and more recent ones, the language diversity of the country has increased over the past few decades," the report stated. "As the nation continues to be a destination for people from other lands, this pattern of language diversity will also likely continue."

Editor's Note:

3. U.S. Paying for Customs Facility — in Abu Dhabi

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is drawing heat over plans to spend $425,000 per year to run a "preclearance" facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

The facility would allow fliers to be screened before boarding a plane and then enter the United States like domestic passengers, avoiding the long delays to get through customs at American airports.

Yet despite the cost to U.S. taxpayers, no American airline flies between Abu Dhabi and the United States, and fewer than 1,000 passengers follow that route each day, the New York Post reported.

Airline industry groups maintain that the customs facility will mainly benefit Etihad Airways, the Emirates' government-controlled airline, at the expense of American airlines. Passengers traveling from Asia or Europe could choose to fly Etihad and connect through Abu Dhabi to avoid U.S. customs lines, according to Aviation International News.

"It's outrageous that the federal government is helping a handful of travelers breeze into the U.S. from a foreign country while millions who rely on JFK [in New York City] endure hour-long wait times that hurt our airports and our city's brand," said Joseph Sitt, chairman of the Global Gateway Alliance, which focuses on metropolitan airports.

Testifying before a House subcommittee on July 10, Kevin McAleenan, Customs and Border Patrol acting deputy commissioner, said the early screening could prevent high-risk passengers from arriving in the United States and help relieve customs lines at several U.S. airports.

But Nicholas Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America, said: "What we have here basically is the United States government picking winners and losers in the international aviation business, and the winners are the international competitors of U.S.-based airlines.

"For the U.A.E., this is not a national security issue; it's a commercial play. It's about diverting traffic that otherwise would fly on American metal to their own airplanes."

According to the Post, Ireland, Canada, Bermuda, Aruba, and the Bahamas have preclearance facilities for travelers to the United States.

Editor's Note:

4. Surge in Disability Claims Called a 'Policy-Driven Epidemic'

The cost of Social Security Disability Insurance has risen so sharply in recent years that its trust fund is now projected to be depleted in just three years.

The Insider Report disclosed in June 2012 that nearly 11 million Americans were then receiving disability benefits, and the program cost taxpayers $132 billion the previous year — more than the combined annual budgets of the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Commerce, Labor, Justice, and the Interior.

But the cost has risen even more since then and is estimated to reach $144 billion this year — up from an inflation-adjusted $56 billion as recently as 2000, according to a report from the Cato Institute.

The SSDI trust fund is expected to take in $111 billion this year, and the fund would therefore have a deficit of $33 billion.

In 1970, there were less than 30 disability recipients per thousand U.S. workers; there are now nearly 75.

The rising number of SSDI recipients is also increasing Medicare spending, because disabled workers can go on Medicare after a two-year waiting period, regardless of their age. Disability status also makes recipients eligible for food stamps and other benefits.

Medicare benefits for SSDI recipients cost the government about 80 percent as much as the benefits themselves, which means that the disability program rings up another $100 billion in taxpayer costs.

A major reason for the surge in disability claims is that "Congress has expanded benefit levels over the decades, and eligibility standards have been greatly liberalized," Cato observes. "The result is that people capable of working are instead opting for the disability rolls when confronted with employment challenges."

The disability program formerly benefited people with debilitating conditions such as strokes and cancer. But Congress expanded the benefits pool to include such claimed ailments as depression, back pain, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

And fewer than 1 percent of those who start collecting benefits return to work.

The increase in disability claims has occurred even though the share of the U.S. working-age population reporting a severe disability has remained steady over the years.

Cato cites economists David Autor and Mark Duggan, who wrote that "the rapid growth of Disability Insurance does not appear to be explained by a true rise in the incidence of disabling illness, but rather by policies that increased the subjectivity and permeability of the disability screening process."

And economist Richard Burkhauser has called the surge in disability beneficiaries "a policy-driven epidemic."

Cato concludes, "SSDI has become financially unsustainable and economically damaging, and policymakers should pursue major spending cuts to the program."

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has said Congress could curb spending on the program by demanding more aggressive screening of applicants and providing more incentives for beneficiaries to go back to work.

Editor's Note:

5. No White House Response to Muslim Brotherhood Petition

A petition calling on the White House to declare Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization has far surpassed the number of signatures needed to require a response, but there has been no word on the petition from the Obama administration.

The petition was posted on July 7 by a resident of La Mesa, Calif., days after the Egyptian military ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Muslim Brotherhood has a long history of violent killings and terrorizing opponents," the petition states. "Also MB has direct ties with most terrorist groups like Hamas. A book by one of their prominent figures, Sayyid Qutb, is the bible for many terrorist groups."

The Muslim Brotherhood, the petition also asserts, has shown that "it is willing to engage in violence and killing of innocent civilians in order to invoke fear in the hearts of its opponents. This is terrorism."

A White House "We the People" petition that garners at least 100,000 signatures within 30 days requires a response from the White House.

The Muslim Brotherhood petition quickly collected that number, and at the end of this past week had received more than 187,900 signatures.

When CNS News asked if the Obama administration would respond, the White House referred to the Frequently Asked Questions section on the "We the People" site, which states that every petition, with some exceptions, that reaches the numerical threshold will get a response, with the caveat that there may be delays due to the volume of petitions.

But the White House in the past has been quick to respond to some petitions," CNS News noted. "For example, after the Dec. 14 attacks at a school in Newtown, Conn., the White House responded in just seven days to petitions calling for increased gun control.

The Obama administration supported Morsi, who was elected in June 2012, until protests seeking his ouster broke out in Egypt earlier this summer.

In recent weeks Morsi's Islamic backers have rejected negotiations with Egypt's military-supported government, setting the stage for confrontations with authorities that have cost the lives of hundreds of Egyptians.

The State Department has a list of more than 50 Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and several al-Qaida groups.

Editor's Note:

6. County Workers Earn More Than Other Residents

All across America, many county employees earn more than the taxpayers responsible for their salaries — in one case, twice as much, an analysis of Census Bureau data reveals.

In Alameda County, Calif., which includes Oakland, the average government salary is the highest in the nation, $88,184 a year, while the median salary for a working resident is $56,109. Nine of the 10 counties with the highest average government salary are in California, and one is in New York.

But in Miami-Dade County in Florida, the average government employee earns 240 percent of the median salary for working residents — $77,320 compared to $32,174.

The Washington Examiner computed average county worker salaries from the Census Bureau's 2011 Government Employment & Payroll survey, and compared them with the median salaries of full-time workers in the same counties, from the Census' 2009-2011 data, to account for cost of living differences. (Median salaries were not available from the government employees survey.)

All counties with populations of 100,000 or more, and a few smaller counties, were included. Teachers were excluded because they are not year-round employees.

After Miami-Dade, the counties with the highest discrepancy between average government salaries and median salaries for working residents were Clark County, Nev. (190 percent); Santa Barbara, Calif. (187 percent); Kern, Calif. (178 percent); Monterrey, Calif. (178 percent); and Stearns, Minn. (176 percent).

In all, the Examiner listed 200 counties where the salaries of government workers outpace the salaries of all working residents, with Santa Fe County, N.M., at No. 200 with 117 percent.

The Examiner found that "country employees earned more than their private-sector counterparts virtually everywhere on the East Coast, the West Coast, and the Rust Belt."

Of the 50 states, 38 have at least one county in the list of 200.

The list of counties where government workers earn significantly less than other residents is topped by Williamson County, Tenn., where the average government salary equals 69 percent of the median salary for working residents — $43,611 compared to $62,711.

Next come Wilson, Tenn. (72 percent); Boone, Mo. (73 percent), Morgan, Ala. (73 percent); and Delaware, Ohio (73 percent).

The lowest paid country workers are in Hidalgo County, Texas, where the average salary is $37,524. But that's still 139 percent higher than the median salary for working residents.

The Examiner adds that the government employees' salaries "do not include the generous benefits and more time off compared to private workers."

Footnote: Employees of San Francisco's BART transit system who are represented by the American Federation of State, Country, and Municipal Employees union reportedly have a median gross income of $104,000 a year, and BART employees pay nothing toward their pensions and only $92 a month for healthcare coverage. Yet BART workers walked off the job for four days in early July, demanding a 23 percent raise, and threaten to walk off again if no agreement is reached at the end of a 60-day cooling-off period ordered by a judge on Aug. 11.

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Editor's Note:

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Insider ReportHeadlines (Scroll down for complete stories): 1. WaPo Buyer Bezos Pushes 'Neoliberal Education Agenda' 2. Census: 60 Million Americans Don't Speak English at Home 3. U.S. Paying for Customs Facility - in Abu Dhabi 4. Surge in Disability Claims Called a...
Surge,in,Disability,Claims,7percentSpeak No English,WaPo Buyer Bezos Neoliberal Education Agenda,U.S. Paying for Customs Facility in Abu Dhabi,No White House Response to Muslim Brotherhood Petition,County Workers Earn More Than Other Residents
Sunday, 18 August 2013 01:54 PM
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