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At-risk Southern states dodge credit downgrade

Cross-posted from the Institute for Southern Studies.

aaa_credit_rating.jpgThe last-minute debt ceiling deal reached last week by Congress and signed into law by President Obama wasn't enough to prevent Standard & Poor's credit rating agency from downgrading the U.S. [pdf] for the first time in history from Aaa to Aa+, a move that sent the stock market plummeting today.

But the deal did keep three Southern states identified as being at risk from suffering downgrades of their own, meaning that for now they can continue to get the best interest rates when they borrow money for projects like roads and schools.
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Cuts in Motion

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Pop quiz: What is Newton's First Law of motion? (Extra points for the actual equation.)  I'll give you a few seconds to remember.

Ok, time's up - it states that the velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force.  Or, put another, way, an object in motion tends to say in motion, until something else acts upon it.  If you got that, give yourself a point.  Two more if you even attempted the equation.

My point? Remember all those budget cuts the General Assembly made last month? The funny thing about government spending is that it tends to continue until another force acts to change it.  What you may not realize is that legislators don't actually choose where the cuts are made - they just tell different programs to spend a specific amount of money.  The dirty work is left to agencies and panels and parts of government you probably never realized existed - until they, for example, trim the budget for your Medicaid benefits.

Consider your benefits acted upon.

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Utilities spark protests by sticking ratepayers with the bill for risky energy projects

Cross-posted from the Institute for Southern Studies.

nukes_burning-money.jpgConsumer advocates are blasting the Georgia Public Service Commission's unanimous vote this week requiring ratepayers to bear the burden of cost overruns during construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle while protecting the profit margin of the Southern Company's largest subsidiary.

"This settlement is yet another example of the Public Service Commission caving in to pressure from Georgia Power and placing the financial interests of the utility above those of everyday hardworking Georgians -- including thousands of business customers who are Georgia Power ratepayers," said Georgia Watch Executive Director Angela Speir Phelps, a former public service commissioner. Read more

Battles over voter photo ID laws come to a head

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Cross-posted from the Institute for Southern Studies.

Facing South readers know the story. After campaigning on jobs and the economy, Republicans in state legislatures in the South and nationally focused on pushing laws that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls.

There's scant evidence that voter impersonation is a real problem, and plenty of evidence that photo ID laws would disenfranchise voters (largely Democrats) and cost cash-strapped states millions of dollars.
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INSTITUTE INDEX: The debt deal's unequal burden

Cross-posted from the Institute for Southern Studies.

debt_sign_public_notice.pngUnder the U.S. debt ceiling agreement expected to be signed into law by President Obama today, initial cuts to federal discretionary spending over the next decade: about $1 trillion

Additional amount in cuts to be proposed by an evenly bipartisan, 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction by Thanksgiving: $1.5 trillion

Percent of the deal's burden that will be shouldered by poor and middle-class households: almost 100

Percent by which the deal increases taxes on the wealthiest Americans: 0

Amount the deal raises by closing corporate tax loopholes: $0

Amount it cuts in subsidies to oil companies: $0
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