Archive for March, 2010

How will health reform affect you?

After a year of wrangling, the showdown on health care is set for Sunday.

Some of the bill’s features include:

Cost: $940 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

How many covered: 32 million uninsured. Major coverage expansion begins in 2014. When fully phased in, 95 percent of eligible Americans would have coverage, compared with 83 percent today.

Insurance mandate: Almost everyone is required to be insured or else pay a fine. There is an exemption for low-income people. Takes effect in 2014.

If passed, how will this affect you or your workplace? Will it make things better or worse? Why?

What do you think about the tortuous political process to get us to this point?

How will this affect your vote come November?

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Power Breakfast: Showdown on health care, Fulton job cuts, bankers’ bankruptcy, CCE-Coke, Greenspan

Look for a weekend showdown on health care.

Pushing toward a Sunday vote that could transform the nation’s health-insurance system, House leaders announced a $940 billion compromise Thursday that would extend coverage to the vast majority of Americans, cut billions of dollars from Medicare, and impose new taxes on the wealthy and the well-insured, the Washington Post reports.

The stakes are so high and the outcome so uncertain that Obama canceled a trip to Indonesia and Australia to continue lobbying undecided lawmakers with phone calls and invitations to White House meetings, the Post writes.

House Democratic leaders hope to approve the Senate bill along with a separate 153-page package of revisions to that bill that House members are demanding. The compromise would extend coverage to an additional 32 million Americans over the next decade by expanding Medicaid eligibility and creating state-run insurance exchanges and federal subsidies for lower-income families who lack …

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Power Breakfast: Rewriting the American Dream, Ga. unemployment sets record, big Wachovia fine, health reform

What happened to the American Dream?

That’s the question AJC reporters asked several Atlantans who we’ve followed over the past year. Here are their stories:

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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Georgia’s unemployment rate rises to record 10.5 percent

Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to a record 10.5 percent in February, up from 10.4 percent in January, the state labor department reported Thursday.

The February jobless rate was up 1.8 percentage points from 8.7 percent at this time last year, the labor department said.

For 29 consecutive months, Georgia’s unemployment rate has exceeded the national unemployment rate, which is now 9.7 percent. Metro Atlanta’s rate is 10.8 percent.

The number of jobless workers in the state increased to 496,030, from 488,163 in January.

Statewide, the annual losses came in manufacturing, construction, trade, transportation and utilities, along with professional and business services and financial activities. On a positive note, educational and health services added 5,700 jobs over the year.

Also in February, 66,069 laid-off workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a decrease of 30.6 percent, from January.

The average length of time Georgians drew unemployment benefits …

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Transit issue bigger than Clayton

This issue is not going away — not for a long time.

Business execs have consistently ranked traffic congestion and transit as one of the metro area’s key problems. But little gets done.

Now, bus service in Clayton County is scheduled for shutdown March 31, leaving thousands of riders scrambling for alternatives to get to their jobs.

Meanwhile, MARTA is in a deep financial hole and talking about major service cuts.

On the state level, the legislature is considering a regional tax proposal to fund transportation projects, but similar measures have failed in previous years.

Will anything ever get done?

Shouldn’t a major county, despite budget constraints, provide some bus service for its residents? Is that too much to ask?

And shouldn’t state politicians, after more than a decade of talking about the growing transportation mess, have passed some funding mechanism by now?

What do you say?

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Power Breakfast: Atlanta’s small businesses No. 1 in tech, Clayton bus shutdown, drug testing, AARP, health reform, Fed

Maybe Atlanta should market itself as the wired capital of the South.

Forbes recently ranked Atlanta No. 2 on its list of the “most wired cities.”

Now, metro Atlanta’s small businesses were ranked as the most tech savvy in a new survey of small businesses in 10 U.S. markets, AJC staffer David Markiewicz reports.

Atlanta’s WiQ or “Wireless Quotient” rated highest because of local small business’ use of wireless technology including smart phones and cell phones, and because of the importance they place on wireless services, Markiewicz writes.

Small businesses here are more likely than those in other markets to use smart phones, Wi-Fi hotspots and laptop data cards, according to the report.

The online survey was conducted by AT&T — which hopes the findings will fuel sales of more wireless service — of 2,023 small business owners or their information technology employees.

Also in the AJC:

Continue reading Power Breakfast: Atlanta’s small businesses No. 1 in tech, Clayton bus shutdown, drug testing, AARP, health reform, Fed »

‘Brave new world in wireless’

From the outside, it seems that AT&T’s wireless arm has been dealing with the classic blessing-curse dilemma.

Ralph de la Vega

Ralph de la Vega

As the exclusive U.S. network for the Apple iPhone crowd pleaser, Atlanta-based AT&T Mobility has enjoyed the benefits of millions of new customers. At the same time, the network has been so overwhelmed that the company has scored poorly in some customer satisfaction surveys.

From the inside, however, Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, chalks up the problem to short-term growing pains.

“It’s a brave new world in wireless. Anytime you’re dealing with new technologies, you’re going to run into a few obstacles,” he said. “We had to adjust our network capability in quick fashion.”

I mentioned to de la Vega that I posted a blog item shortly before our recent interview to take an unscientific pulse of Atlanta cellphone consumers. The result: AT&T was clearly the target of the most venom.

But, de La Vega was undaunted, saying the company …

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Power Breakfast: Foreclosure for luxury condo, Toyota, home builders, Fed, health reform

Another big condo tower, the new 20-story Mezzo Atlanta between Midtown and Buckhead, is being advertised for foreclosure, AJC reporter Gertha Coffee writes.

The luxury highrise, scheduled for auction April 6, was developed by Atlanta-based Tivoli Properties. Tivoli, which develops high-rise condominiums, apartments and hotels, was involved in Aqua Midtown in Atlanta and the Mandarin Oriental.

Mezzo, built in 2008 as a condo at 2171 Peachtree St. between Midtown and Buckhead, has been converted to rental apartments. Units range from $2,295 a month for a two-bedroom to $5,495 a month for a penthouse.

Mezzo is scheduled to be sold at auction on the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse. The amount of the loan is $36 million, according to Databank Atlanta.

Also in the AJC:

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Metro Atlanta taking lots of big hits

Record unemployment in metro Atlanta — 10.8 percent.

Monthly foreclosures hit an all-time high — 12,568 notices.

One of the crown jewels of our economy — Hartsfield-Jackson — is affected by a slowdown in traffic.

Schools and colleges are facing their most serious budget cuts since who knows when.

You get the idea.

How are you dealing with all this? What will it take to turn around?

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Power Breakfast: Hartsfield traffic slipping, foreclosures, commercial loan losses, Final Four, Macy’s, health reform

Hartsfield may not be quite so busy over the next few years.

AJC staffer Kelly Yamanouchi reports that the Atlanta airport’s passenger counts have slipped since the peak year of 2008. That’s when 90.6 million people got on or off flights here, and forecasts are that there won’t be a full recovery until 2014.

The slowdown is a mixed bag for passengers, Yamanouchi writes. The airport may be marginally less crowded — or at least no more crowded than they are used to. But as airlines pull back flights to match demand, planes are often jam-packed and fare deals can be harder to find.

Hartsfield-Jackson remains the busiest airport in the world by far, as its rivals are feeling similar slowdowns. Still, Yamanouchi writes, flat passenger traffic could trim airport revenues — parking income plummeted last summer. Already, there have been budget cuts.

Also in the AJC:

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