Morning Must Reads: Haute Couture, Extended Unemployment Benefits and Nursing Home Cuts

ZoolanderProject Runway fans (don't judge) know that this week is Fashion Week in New York. So in a nod to our fashion forward readers comes a story about an effort to provide more workplace protections for fashion models.

Models are more than just pretty faces. They're often overworked, underfed and underage independent contractors with little say when things go bad behind the scenes. Many are just teenagers far from home, in some cases earning as much in a day as their poor families back in Russia and Eastern Europe do in a month. As a result, many fear speaking out about sexual harassment, unscrupulous booking agencies, demands to alter their bodies, lack of backstage privacy and punishing stretches with little sleep.

"Modeling is precarious freelance labor," said model Sara Ziff, who was discovered at 14 walking home from her New York City school. "We have very little job security. It's also a winner-takes-all market. There's only one Gisele. Basically, it's a labor force of children who are working in a very grown-up business."

Dorian Warren at NewDeal 2.0 has more on the effort to provide workplace protections for models.

You really must read all of Simon Johnson's post this morning on efforts in Washington to weaken extended unemployment benefits.

The principle behind unemployment insurance is simple. Since the 1930s, employers have paid insurance premiums (in the form of payroll taxes, levied on wages) to the government. If people are laid off through no fault of their own, they can claim this insurance — much the way you file a claim on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy if your home burns down...

The original legislative intent, reaffirmed over the years, is clear: Help people to help themselves in the face of shocks beyond their control.

But the severity and depth of our current recession raise an issue that we have literally not had to confront since the 1930s. What should we do when people run out of standard unemployment benefits — much of which are provided at the state level — but still cannot find a job?

In negotiations currently under way, House Republicans propose to cut back drastically on these benefits, asserting that this will push people back to work and speed the recovery. Does this make sense, or is it bad economics, as well as being mean-spirited?...

The jobs crisis was caused by recklessness in the financial sector, made possible by irresponsible deregulation (including a period when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House) and resulting in enormous unconditional bailout protection for the bankers at the heart of the disaster (under both President George W. Bush and President Obama).

Let’s be generous for a moment and simply state that mistakes were made — on an enormous, macroeconomic scale with gut-wrenching consequences for families around the country. Why would anyone now seek to punish these people when they seek work but cannot get it?

Since Simon brought up punishing the 99% for the sins of the 1%, let's turn our attention to the state budget. My colleagues at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center have released their full analysis of Gov. Corbett's proposed budget. The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning focuses in on the budget cuts targeting nursing homes. 

Pennsylvania nursing-home operators, already hit hard by last year's cuts in federal and state funding, face another revenue loss in Gov. Corbett's proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The budget proposal, released Tuesday, calls for a 4 percent cut in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for nursing homes. The total revenue loss for nursing homes is projected by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association to be $46.5 million...

"The issue isn't: Can you cut costs? Everybody can cut costs. The issue is: Can you cut costs and provide quality care?" Kleinberg said. Cutting aid to elderly poor who rely on Medicaid is a relatively "easy thing to do," she said. "Their need is so great, but their voice is so small."

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