Utilities Took Public Money,Gave CEOs Millions,& Then Turned People's Lights Off During the Pandemic
See if your utility is one of the six that made the "Hall of Shame" for worst offenders.
By Molly Taft
A new report finds that some of the countrys most powerful utilities raked in millions of dollars in taxpayer bailout funds last yearwhile continuing to shut off service for households across the U.S. during the pandemic.
The report, released Thursday from the Center for Biological Diversity and BailoutWatch, takes a look at states with publicly available data on utility shutoffs. In the 17 states where there was available data on shutoffs, the report found that the 16 utilities operating in those states cut off electric services for their customers nearly 1 million times between February 2020 and June 2021. (For some context on shutoffs during a normal, non-pandemic year, the U.S. Census found that 1.2 million households in 50 states reported experiencing shutoffs within a three-month period of taking the survey in 2017, the latest Census Bureau data available on disconnections.)
The offenses here are not shared by the utility industry equally; there are especially bad actors. The report highlights six utilities that were responsible for a jaw-dropping 94% of all shutoffs last year. NextEra, Duke Energy, Southern Company, Dominion Energy, Exelon, and DTE Energy make up what the authors call a Hall of Shame. NextEra alone, the report found, accounted for more than half of all shutoffs.
The analysis also examined financial documents, including proxy statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission before a companys shareholder meeting, to calculate how much money these 16 utilities received from the government as part of relief efforts during the pandemic. The CARES Act was originally designed to help struggling businesses pay workers, but utilities took advantage of corporate loopholes within the act that changed how big businesses could report taxes. (The CARES Act also disproportionately benefited oil and gas producers: BailoutWatch, one of the authors of this report, has also used financial documents to show how oil companies laid off thousands of people and yet still gave their CEOs raises during the pandemic, all the while taking handouts from the government.)
David Dayen bio: is the executive editor of The American Prospect. He is the author of Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power (2020) and Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Streets Great Foreclosure Fraud (2016), which earned the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize. He was the winner of the 2021 Hillman Prize for excellence in magazine journalism.
by Michelle Diament | October 1, 2021
Disability service providers across the nation are in crisis, with a majority reporting that theyre shutting down programs, turning away new referrals and struggling to maintain standards.
A survey out this week of 449 organizations that provide services to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities paints a dark picture of the current state of the industry a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of those surveyed, 58% of providers said theyre discontinuing programs or services, 77% are turning away new referrals, 84% are delaying the launch of new offerings and 81% said they are struggling to achieve quality standards. Meanwhile, 40% of providers said theyre seeing higher frequencies of reportable incidents.
This is the first time since the deinstitutionalization movement that we are actually going backwards, said Barbara Merrill, CEO of the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR. The organization, which represents disability service providers across the nation, conducted the survey during a five-week period starting in August.
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By Heather Boushey
Ms. Boushey is a member of President Bidens Council of Economic Advisers.
Even in normal times, the nations economic policies can often feel detached from the daily lives of millions of Americans who get up and go to work each day, terrified that they might slip out of the middle class or never make it in but for me, an economist advising President Biden, the struggle to achieve economic security is deeply personal.
In the early 1980s, when interest rates hit almost 20 percent, my father was pink slipped from his machinist job building 747s at Boeing, an event that upended our family finances. It wasnt just my family. All the kids on my cul-de-sac watched as our parents worried about health insurance and the mortgage. We were lucky; the recession was relatively short, and between my moms paycheck and my dads benefits, we got by until the orders for planes resumed.
But I recall being shocked by how much power Boeing had over our lives. When my dad was laid off, the economic security my parents had long worked for disappeared overnight. It got me thinking about the question that would come to animate my career: How can what social scientists call countervailing forces things like unions and democratic governments that respond to crises affecting communities through no fault of their own cushion individual families against the whims of the marketplace?
Millions of Americans dont trust the government or its ability to improve their lives, and its not hard to see why. For decades, politicians of both parties have allowed corporations to grow into vast monopolies. They gave tax breaks to companies that shifted jobs overseas while promoting the use of fossil fuels that are destroying our planet and poisoning our communities. And they offered huge tax cuts to the very wealthy while refusing to support working families.
( Outstanding. )
Posted on September 29, 2021 by Yves Smith
Yves here. It should come as no surprise the Milton Friedman was willing to get in bed with just about anyone to advance his libertarian anarchist agenda. This post shows how Friedman, even in the era when his economic theories didnt have much of a following, was nevertheless able to do real harm, here by backing school voucher schemes designed to preserve school segregation after Brown v. the Board of Education.
By Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy, Duke University. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
The year 2021 has proved a landmark for the school choice cause as Republican control of a majority of state legislatures combined with pandemic learning disruptions to set the stage for multiple victories. Seven U.S. states have created new school choice programs and eleven others have expanded current programs, with laws that authorize taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schooling, provide tax credits, and authorize educational savings accounts to invite parents to abandon public schools.
School choice sounds like it offers options. But my new INET Working Papershows that the whole concept, as first implemented in the U.S. South in the mid-1950s in defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, aimed to block the choice of equal, integrated education for Black families. Further, Milton Friedman, soon to become the best-known neoliberal economist in the world, abetted the push for private schooling that states in the U.S. South used to evade the reach of the ruling, which only applied to public schools. So, too, did other libertarians endorse the segregationist tool, including founders of the cause that today avidly pushes private schooling. Among them were Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Robert Lefevre, Isabel Patterson, Felix Morley, Henry Regnery, trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), and the William Volker Fund, which helped underwrite the American wing of the Mont Pelerin Society, the nerve center of neoliberalism.
Friedman and his allies saw in the backlash to the desegregation decree an opportunity they could leverage to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources. Whatever their personal beliefs about race and racism, they helped Jim Crow survive in America by providing ostensibly race-neutral arguments for tax subsidies to the private schools sought by white supremacists. Indeed, to achieve court-proof vouchers, leading defenders of segregation learned from the libertarians that the best strategy was to abandon overtly racist rationales and embrace both an anti-government stance and a positive rubric of liberty, competition, and market choice.
Posted on September 28, 2021 by Yves Smith
Yves here. This post presents a case study of charter school investors overtly grifting, as opposed to the usual slower-motion version of cherry-picking students via using any excuse to expel ones that look difficult to educate. Even with that (over time) selection advantage, large scale studies have shown that charter school students do not outperform their public school peers.
By Jeff Bryant, a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm. Produced by Our Schools
Charter school industry lobbyists, who appear to have lost a fight in the U.S. House of Representatives over an appropriations bill that cuts federal funding to charter schools operated by for-profit businesses, are rolling out a campaign to defend their taxpayer revenues in the U.S. Senate, but federal lawmakers may wish to consider new evidence of how for-profit charter enterprises introduce potential harms into public education.
One such potential harm, according to an in-depth examination conducted by Our Schools, stems from for-profit charter school operators partnering with private investors intent on turning quick profits from public dollars meant for educating children.
Published Mon, Sep 20 20213:09 PM EDT
Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
Covid-19 is about to become the most deadly outbreak in recent American history, nearing the estimated U.S. fatalities from the 1918 influenza pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Reported U.S. deaths due to Covid approached 675,000 on Monday, and are rising at an average of more than 1,900 fatalities per day, Johns Hopkins data shows. The nation is currently experiencing yet another wave of new infections, fueled by the fast-spreading delta variant.
The 1918 flu which came in three waves, occurring in the spring of 1918, the fall of 1918; and the winter and spring of 1919 killed an estimated 675,000 Americans, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. It was considered Americas most lethal pandemic in recent history up until now.
I think we are now pretty well done with historical comparisons, said Dr. Howard Markel, a physician and medical historian at the University of Michigan. He added it is time to stop looking back to 1918 as a guide for how to act in the present and to start thinking forward from 2021.
( And here we are, where a percentage of Americans are still demanding children not wear masks in schools. )
During the Front Ranges smoggiest summer in over a decade, its embattled air-quality watchdog has gone quiet. Ex-employees say theyre not surprised.
By: Chase Woodruff - Monday September 20, 2021 5:00 am
Few Coloradans know the Air Pollution Control Division by name, but every time they take a breath of Rocky Mountain air, theyre impacted by the decisions it makes.
A branch of the state health department with a staff of about 200, the APCD is tasked with overseeing Colorado air-quality policy and, increasingly, with leading many of its efforts to transition to clean energy and battle climate change.
Its important work that provokes strong opinions and sharp disagreements. Within the last year, the APCD has been sued by multiple environmental groups that accuse it of failing to implement critical climate legislation. Several of its own employees have filed a formal whistleblower complaint that has prompted both state and federal investigations. In July, it abruptly withdrew a pending transportation-emissions rule in a procedural maneuver that state lawyers said was unprecedented. As the agency regulating Front Range air quality, it faces an imminent federal downgrade reclassifying the region as a severe violator of the Clean Air Act.
All of this has unfolded as Colorado has experienced its smoggiest summer in more than a decade.
( No matter how you look at it, the entire planet is in deep trouble. )
Weve starved our public-health sector. The Costa Rica model demonstrates what happens when you put it first.
By Atul Gawande
August 23, 2021
The cemetery in Atenas, Costa Rica, a small town in the mountains that line the countrys lush Central Valley, contains hundreds of flat white crypt markers laid out in neat rows like mah-jongg tiles, extending in every direction. On a clear afternoon in April, Álvaro Salas Chaves, who was born in Atenas in 1950, guided me through the graves.
As a child, I witnessed every day two, three, four funerals for kids, he said. The cemetery was divided into two. One side for adults, and the other side for children, because the number of deaths was so high.
Salas grew up in a small, red-roofed farmhouse just down the road. I was a peasant boy, he said. He slept on a straw mattress, with a woodstove in the kitchen, and no plumbing. Still, his family was among the better-off in Atenas, then a community of nine thousand people. His parents had a patch of land where they grew coffee, plantains, mangoes, and oranges, and they had three milk cows. His father also had a store on the main road through town, where he sold various staples and local produce. Situated halfway between the capital, San José, and the Pacific port city of Puntarenas, Atenas was a stop for oxcarts travelling to the coast, and the store did good business.
On the cemetery road, however, there was another kind of traffic. When someone died, a long procession of family members and neighbors trailed the coffin, passing in front of Salass home. The images of the mourners are still with him.
At that time, Costa Rica was the most sad country, because the infant-mortality rate was very high, he said. In 1950, around ten per cent of children died before their first birthday, most often from diarrheal illnesses, respiratory infections, and birth complications. Many youths and young adults died as well. The countrys average life expectancy was fifty-five years, thirteen years shorter than that in the United States at the time.
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