Archive for category Economic Exploitation

Nick Hanauer: Another Thing Obama Can Do Without Congress

Nick Hanauer

Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer offers a smart policy proposal that President Obama could implement with a stroke of the pen. The President could raise wages and create jobs by directing the Department of Labor to expand the number of workers who can receive overtime pay. Sign the petition.

More from Democracy for America:

President Obama: Expand overtime pay!

We urge you to instruct the Department of Labor to significantly expand the number of workers eligible for federal overtime pay. By raising the salary threshold to $69,000, we would finally achieve the same eligibility for overtime pay that we had in 1975.

We also urge you to revise the rules in order to reduce the number of exemptions from overtime pay. Teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals (anyone who uses a computer), and many more professional workers have been working overtime and increasing their productivity but aren’t seeing the benefits of their labor. They should also be eligible for overtime pay.

Revise the rules to expand overtime pay without delay.

More info:
Whatever Happened to Overtime?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Are Our Public Lands Up For Grabs Now?

High in the Morning - Maynard Dixon

Tea-GOP Congresswoman-elect Mia Love regarding our public lands: “I support returning ownership back to the state of Utah.” The premise of this statement (not to mention the grammar) is completely wrong, because the public lands in Utah have always been in federal ownership since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The State of Utah did not exist until 1896, nearly a half-century later.

State-level land grab attempts such as the Transfer of Public Lands Act (the 2012 Utah law that demands the federal government hand over public lands to the state by December 31, 2014) violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate power over all federal lands. The Property Clause in Article 4 of the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…”

Now that the Tea-GOP controls both houses of Congress, will Mia Love get her wish?

Claire Moser on Think Progress:

For the Republican Party, the growing internal debate over whether America’s public lands should be seized and sold represents a choice between the conservation values of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and the power of a special interest-driven agenda. Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar observed in August that the RNC’s endorsement of land grabs would “cause Teddy Roosevelt to turn over in his grave.”

With the debate escalating over whether public lands should be seized or sold, candidates who dodged the issue but won on Tuesday will likely soon have to say whether they are with the party of Teddy Roosevelt or Cliven Bundy.

President Obama has the power (delegated by Congress to the chief executive in the Antiquities Act of 1906) to proclaim national monuments on public lands. He has already done so 13 times to protect more than 260 million acres of land and water, which is more than any other President. And he says he is “not finished” with national monuments.

There is a proposal for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument in Utah. The Tea-GOP has it coming. Will President Obama bring it?

More info:
The Sagebrush Gang Rides Again? (February 2012)

UPDATE:
Is possible San Rafael Swell state park another Utah land grab?

8 Comments

WaPo/ABC Poll: 1 Percent Say U.S. Economy is ‘Excellent’

Washington Post-ABC News poll Oct. 23-26, 2014
The 1% says economy is excellent
Mr. Burns

1 Comment

Facts About The Low-Wage Economy

The high cost of low wages

According to the National Employment Law Project (PDF), low-wage jobs made up 22 percent of job losses from Bush’s Great Recession, but accounted for 44 percent of employment growth after the recession. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession.

On FDL today, Peter Van Buren points out some facts about the low-wage economy:

  • One in four U.S. employees are low-wage workers. That is 20 percent higher than in the United Kingdom, and the highest percentage among industrialized nations.
  • The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
  • In 1968 the federal minimum was $1.60 per hour, approximately $10.70 in 2013 dollars
  • 88 percent of minimum-wage workers are adults, with more than a third over age 40.
  • The percentage of low-wage workers with at least some college education spiked 71 percent since 1979, to 43.2 percent today.
  • The way you functionally subsidize companies paying low-wages to workers– ponying up the difference between what McDonald’s and others pay and what those workers need to live via taxpayer-paid SNAP (food stamps) and other benefits– is a hidden cost in plain sight.
  • If the nation’s largest private employer Wal-Mart increased wages to $12 per hour it would cost the company only about one percent, so that made-in-China $10 item would run you all of $10.01.
  • A Paychex/IHS survey, which looks at employment in small businesses, found that the state with the highest percentage of annual job growth was Washington, which also has the highest statewide minimum wage.
  • Nationwide, even a small hike to $10.10 an hour would put some $24 billion a year into workers’ hands to spend and lift 4.6 million Americans out of poverty. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of our economy.
  • Two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are not employed by small businesses. Better yet, one survey shows three out of five small business owners favor raising the minimum wage; their profits depend on a strong local economy, which requires more money in local consumers’ hands.

64 Comments

The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Connecticut Enacts $10.10 Minimum Wage

Chris Rock

Via Think Progress:

This week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed it into law yesterday.

If implemented nationally, a $10.10 minimum wage would put it in line with where it would be if it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, although far behind the increases in workers’ productivity since then. It would also lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty, close the gender wage gap by 5 percent, and reduce spending on public programs by tens of billions of dollars. There is also real world and academic evidence to suggest that it won’t hurt job growth and could benefit the economy.

Given that the November midterm elections (like 2010) are expected to be dominated by Faux-News-watching senior citizens, it really looks like President Obama will be the only president since FDR whose administration did not enact any increase in the federal minimum wage.

America needs a raise!

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

UPDATE:
Half A Million People With College Degrees Are Working For Minimum Wage

72 Comments

Robert Reich: The ‘Paid-What-You’re-Worth’ Myth

Inequality graphs

As usual, Robert Reich says it better than I could (emphasis added).

“Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a dangerous myth.

…The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they’d be unionized if they didn’t come close to matching the union contracts.

Today’s Walmart workers don’t have a union to negotiate a better deal. They’re on their own. And because fewer than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, non-union employers across America don’t have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. The result has been a race to the bottom.

…The reason Wall Street bankers got fat paychecks plus a total of $26.7 billion in bonuses last year wasn’t because they worked so much harder or were so much more clever or insightful than most other Americans. They cleaned up because they happen to work in institutions — big Wall Street banks — that hold a privileged place in the American political economy.

…The “paid-what-you’re-worth” argument is fundamentally misleading because it ignores power, overlooks institutions, and disregards politics. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing whatever should be done to change what people are paid, because nothing can be done.

It’s not that working Americans are lazy/incompetent. Capitalists are greedy and powerful.

UPDATE:

Conservative Myths About the Minimum Wage, Debunked
Contrary to conservative myths, raising the minimum wage would boost the economy, benefit all workers, and won’t hurt consumers.

49 Comments

TPP Sidetracked?

Coporatocracy

While a major media news blackout provides cover, Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement, the secretly-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members of Congress haven’t even been able to read it even though corporate lobbyists have.

President Obama is at odds with Democrats in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the “trade promotion authority” (TPA), that would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is strongly against it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has now publicly opposed giving President Obama fast track authority.

“We need transparency. We need a seat at the table to understand what they believe they are doing, so we can make it better. And if we don’t make it better, then we will not accept a path that is a job loser.”

TPP is part of the plan for global corporatocracy run by and for the 1 Percent. Unelected lobbyists and trade representatives are at the table, while representatives from the public at large and businesses other than huge monopolies, are conspicuously absent. From what little we know of the agreement, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, weaken environmental protections, and lead to more job losses, erosion of wages, and worsening inequality. TPP also threatens freedom of speech on the Internet because it would extend restrictive intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on enforcement.

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Almost 40% of Our 401(k)s Lost in Fees

Yachts

h/t Paul Buchheit

Based on the 6% historical stock market return, an individual investing $1,000 a year for 30 years in a non-fee fund and then holding the accumulated sum for another 20 years would end up with $269,000. Imposing the industry average 1.3% fee would reduce the final total to $165,000, a 39% reduction.

In other words, almost $2 of every $5 in potential 401(k) earnings is lost because of bank fees.

The importance of preserving Social Security becomes even more apparent in light of this 401(k) exploitation. Since 1983, the number of private sector workers depending on a 401(k) instead of a company pension has increased from 12 percent to 68 percent.

It’s an old joke on Wall Street.

An out-of-town guest was given a tour in New York. The guide pointed out the beautiful yachts in the harbor and said “Look, those are the bankers’ and brokers’ yachts.” The guest asked “Where are the customers’ yachts?”

9 Comments

Pope Francis: Don’t Believe ‘Trickle-Down Theories’

Pope Francis

h/t DSWright on Firedoglake

The most inspiring Pontiff since John Paul II has done it again. Pope Francis has issued a rigorous and comprehensive denunciation of trickle-down economics, the long-discredited theory that the best way to aid poor people is through policies that help the rich get richer.

Called his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) makes clear that Pope Francis regards modern capitalism and the political movement promoting it to be antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.

Among other things, Pope Francis wrote (emphasis added):

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Apostolic exhortations like Evangelii Gaudium are basically calls to carry out existing Church teachings, so in many ways there’s nothing unique about the sentiments expressed in the document. Roman Catholics grew up on stories like Jesus’ admonition that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-26).

UPDATE: How To Use The Pope’s Agenda To Make The World More Equal

How do we ensure that the Pope’s shift in focus to inequality and the well-being of the poor becomes a focus of actual politics and not just a bunch of nice words that make us feel like our philosophical principles got a nod from the Big Guy?

UPDATE: Obama cites Pope Francis to attack income inequality and call for minimum wage increase

“The combined trends of increasing inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream,” Obama said.

83 Comments

Are we at the beginning of a period of political instability and violence?

Peter Turchin seems to believe so – although he also says that it’s not pre-ordained.  I don’t have time for a deeper examination right now, but it’s worth delving these two articles.

A couple key passages:

The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.

And this:

Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.

And finally this one:

How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.

,

5 Comments

Don’t Shop on Thanksgiving Day or November 29th

The following retailers have killed Thanksgiving for their employees and families. Don’t let them kill your holiday, too.

  • Walmart
  • Kmart
  • Old Navy
  • Target
  • Staples
  • Office Max
  • Sears
  • Best Buy
  • Toys R Us
  • Michaels
  • Macy’s
  • J.C. Penney
  • Kohl’s

The good news is that Costco, Nordstrom, REI, Burlington Coat Factory, and other companies are refusing to ruin Thanksgiving.

And don’t forget: Friday, November 29 is “Black Friday,” aka Buy Nothing Day. A good day to take a day off from shopping, or visit a locally-owned business. Feel free to laugh at those idiots freezing on line in a parking lot to get an XBox.

UPDATE: Walmart Store Holding Thanksgiving Food Drive For Its Own Workers

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