AC Alert for January 11, 2012 A Memorable, Historic Year in Review

Jan 12, 2012 12:30 PM ET AC Alert for January 11, 2012 A Memorable, Historic …

We can't say that 2011 was a dull or boring year. News of extraordinary events and circumstances dominated not only the headlines but also the pages of Accountability Central in the year just closed as we sought to provide our readers with the most informative and up-to-date information on a wide variety of issues and topics. 

As is customary for many editors at this time of the year, we looked back through the 50 + Alerts that we distributed in 2011 to identify what they believe were the ten most significant newsletters devoted to a topic or issue. Each Alert carried a particular message of its own as we identified trends that we thought readers would be interested in knowing about.  In this year-end review we've included a bit of the basic information from each -- but not the news clips. Those links may have been discontinued or the presentation changed considerably. But the meaning of each trend still very real and comes through loud and clear:

You may have different points-of-view about the importance of the new stories and in what order. Over the next few issues of the Alert we will present a capsule of our thoughts along with fresh new subject matter for you.

Issue #1 for 2011 – Healthcare Reform Gets Personal
Tom works for the State of New York and is covered by the State's huge health plan, commonly referred to as the Empire Plan. He and his wife Debra have two children, the oldest (Tom Jr) set to graduate from college this spring. Their son plans to start his job search soon but, like so many others, will be living at home with his family until he is able to establish some financial independence. Health insurance has always been a concern for the family but when the new health care act was passed permitting coverage for adult children up to 26 years of age, that problem seemed solved, at least for the short term. Now, with talk of repeal, Tom and Debra are worried all over again.

Over eight months have passed since President Obama signed the "Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act" into law, and certain elements of the new law, such as those mentioned above, are scheduled to begin this year. However, with the new leadership at the House of Representatives vowing to repeal what they call "Obamacare" and many citizens are confused and concerned. That's understandable, given the volume of conflicting information coming from Washington, especially regarding the plan's real costs. 

Where does this leave the average citizen? Your AC editors recognize the enormous issues at hand in regard to health care, and the need for factual unbiased information. In our Hot Topic on Health Care Reform, we present a daily dose of the very latest developments for our subscribers.

 2 – We Told You So… Months Ago – Watch Pensions –
The Accountability Central editors seldom get the opportunity to say "we told you so" but with recent developments in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, we can't help but remind readers that AC placed the spotlight on the public pension crisis before most of the mainstream media caught on. Here's what we said in June 2010:

A new feature was launched in our Hot Topics: Pensions: The Next Financial Crisis. As the Baby Boom Generation (born 1946-1964) nears or reaches retirement age by the millions, the pressure will be on employers in both public and private sectors to address the growing costs associated with pension systems that were launched years ago in a different economic climate. The fiscal squeeze will become especially severe in the larger states which have a million or more public employees in their retirement systems while still working and millions more in post-retirement. With the recent financial crisis, many public sector plans will come under extreme pressure.  What can be done? Reduce retiree benefits? Raise general taxes?  Increase return on investment?  All of these options and much more will be discussed in our new Hot Topics Section." 

Fast forward to March 2011. Hardly a day goes by without a related news article, or commentary. The situation in Wisconsin, in particular, has attracted unprecedented media coverage. News crews from virtually every newspaper and TV outlet have flocked to the Badger State capital to report on the conflict between the Governor and labor unions. And you can bet that the eyes of government officials as well as the labor movement from all corners of the country are carefully focused on developments in Madison to see the outcome of this epic struggle.

AC editors recognized that this type of showdown was inevitable last year when we first launched our Hot TopicPensions: The Next Financial Crisis. The articles we have been including in this special section bear out the validity of our expectations.

3 – The Impact of a Disaster – Near or Far Away
 One of our AC editors was at her ophthalmologists' office for a routine eye exam on Friday March 11th. As is often the case in waiting rooms and doctor's offices, there were several flat screen TV's in view. All the TV's were tuned to CNN as news and video of the disastrous Japanese earthquake flashed on the screen. It wasn't just the patients who were watching the TVs either: the staff, even the doctors, would grab a peek as they walked by. What they saw, for the most part, were the same videos played over and over, with some limited information flashed across the bottom of the screen. 

As it turns out, the information we saw that morning didn't even scratch the surface of how serious a situation this would be for Japan, and indeed the entire world. Here at AC, our hearts go out to the people of Japan, and we applaud the private and public firms from the US and around the world which have sought to lend assistance in Japan's time of dire need. At the same time, we recognize the need to offer straight forward, complete and detailed coverage of the earthquake and the aftermath. As a result we will continue to include important news and information on this major disaster long after the mainstream media turns its primary attention elsewhere. There are several areas of AC where information on the Japanese earthquake will continue to be posted on a daily basis, including our Enterprise Risk Management section.

We can say about 2011 – what a year it was.  Can 2012 top that?  Stay tuned – the Accountability Central editors will help you track news and trends. With a Presidential Election upcoming, with the national economy still a big question mark for many people, and with risks rising in a number of world regions…fasten your seat belts: Meanwhile, Happy New Year 2012,  everyone!

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.