Tag: jobs

Obama’s Jobs Plan in 90 Seconds

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On September 8th, President Barack Obama introduced his plan to create jobs and curb unemployment; The American Jobs Act.

A tough road lies ahead for the American Jobs Act, with Republicans lining up against it and some conservative Democrats publicly expressing concerns. But behind the political chatter there is a bill and whether you like it or not it is important to know what is actually in it.

You’ve got 90 seconds, so please check out this week’s episode. And as always, more information below the fold.

Mondragon Miracle Part 3 of 3: Lessons Learned

“Nothing differentiates people as much as their respective attitudes to the circumstances in which they live. Those who opt to make history and change the course of events themselves have an advantage over those who decide to wait passively for the results of the change.”

SisyphusOver and over, I see commentary asserting we are stuck with our current cultural norms. The “rational” people of the world patiently explain to me how I am too idealistic. I am na├»ve and believe too deeply in the good nature of most people. Yet, the rational people only have their assertions to stand on. History is fraught with examples of people who fought for and won real change. People like the Basques in Mondragon. They created lasting change under deplorable conditions. Even a cursory review of history shows change occurs when and where people decide to change. You don’t live in a feudal monarchy rife with slaves and infanticide-all well ingrained institutions the Ancient Greeks considered necessary evils of civilization-because people decided to change.

In the first part of this series, I described how a Jesuit priest named Don Jose created a Basque cooperative–Mondragon. He could hardly have started from a more impossible position. Basque was severely oppressed, poor and under a harsh dictatorship. His Church considered him a pariah, and he was a poor speaker and sermon writer. Yet, he refused to dwell on his disadvantages, concentrating on finding Basque strengths, instead.

In part two, we examined Don Jose’s unique genius in organizing his local society. He felt it was never necessary for someone to win while someone else lost. That scenario showed a lack of ingenuity. He examined problems until he saw a solution allowing the common good for everyone.

Some argue Mondragon arose from Basque because a specific set of non-reproducible circumstances existed. To me, that sounds like rationalization to let ourselves off the hook for not seeking to better our world. While I agree Mondragon originated in Basque due to a specific set of circumstances, clearly those factors are not needed to reproduce cooperative society.

What may be necessary is a certain environment in order to affect positive change. This post will look at some of the factors influencing people’s willingness to change during the creation of Mondragon and how to use those factors to enable change in our own culture.

Poverty: It Will Get Worse

Cross Posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A lot worse. This should make you sick and most likely you will.

This report from the Center for Budget and Policies Priorities via digby:

Today’s Census report shows that in 2010 (pdf), the share of all Americans and the share of children living in poverty, the number and share of people living in “deep poverty,” and the number without health insurance all reached their highest level in many years – in some cases, in several decades – while median household income fell significantly after adjusting for inflation. The data also show that many of these grim figures and the level of hardship would have been much worse if not for key federal programs such as unemployment insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and Medicaid. Without unemployment insurance, for instance, 3.2 million more Americans would have fallen into poverty, Census said. All of that raises the stakes for the decisions that President Obama and Congress will make in coming months about whether to extend initiatives that were designed to address hardship during the recession, as well as whether to abide by a principle that the Bowles-Simpson commission report established that deficit-reduction plans should not increase poverty and thus should shield basic low-income assistance programs.

Specifically, today’s report shows that:

   In 2010, the share of Americans living in poverty reached 15.1 percent while the share of children in poverty hit 22 percent – both the highest levels in 17 years – while the number of people living in poverty hit 46.2 million, the highest level on record with data back to 1959.

   Both the number and percentage of people living in “deep poverty” – with incomes below half of the poverty line – hit record highs, with these data going back to 1975. Some 20.5 million Americans had cash incomes below half of the poverty line (below $11,157 for a family of four, and below $5,672 for a non-elderly person living alone) last year.

   Median household income fell 2.3 percent, or $1,154, in 2010, after adjusting for inflation, and those at the bottom of the income scale have lost far more ground than those at the top. Since median income hit its peak in 1999, income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen 12.1 percent for those at the 10th income percentile but only 1.5 percent for those at the 90th percentile. The income gap between those at the 10th and 90th percentile was the highest on record. These data go back to 1967.

   The number of Americans without health insurance climbed by 900,000 to 49.9 million, another record, with data back to 1999. The percentage of Americans without insurance remained statistically unchanged at 16.3 percent. Nearly one of every six Americans was uninsured.

(emphasis mine)

Americans turned to public health insurance in 2010

(Reuters) – More Americans became reliant on public health insurance and lost coverage sponsored by their employers in 2010, the U.S. government said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage showed that more people turned to state and federal programs as employer-based plans became more expensive and as unemployment levels stayed stubbornly high.

About 1.5 million fewer Americans got their health insurance plans covered by their employers in 2010, while 1.8 million more joined government insurance plans.

snip

Healthcare programs, which account for a large percentage of the federal budget, are also expected to get a close scrutiny from a bipartisan congressional “super committee” that aims to slash at least $1.2 trillion from the U.S. deficit over 10 years.

snip

The number of people covered by Medicaid, the government program for the poor, increased 1.5 percent to 48.6 million, and Medicare, the government program for the elderly, 2.1 percent to 44.3 million.

Employers remained the biggest source of insurance coverage, with 169.3 million Americans covered by employer-based plans in 2010. That number, however, has been on a steep decline since 2000, when it reached 181.9 million, as such plans get more and more expensive.

The ACA does not fully kick in until 2014. From Jon Walker at FDL

Elections are often referendums on the general state of the economy. The electorate tends to decide whether or not to remove the incumbent party from power based on how well the economy is doing. Americans voters, for the most part, decide whether or not to keep a president based on the answer to a simple question like, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Since January of 2009, when President Obama took office, the American people as a whole are noticeably worse off financially. This is a serious problem for the Obama campaign, and why they desperately need strong economic growth between now and the election.

So much for electoral victory.

Obama Selling His Republican Agenda

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Obama is going to lay our his jobs plan before Congress on Thursday night and most will not even bother to listen. Why? it seems the President has a credibility gap. He says one thing and does another. His plan to pump $300 billion into the economy with tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct aid to state and local governments.

WASHINGTON — The economy weak and the public seething, President Barack Obama is expected to propose $300 billion in tax cuts and federal spending Thursday night to get Americans working again. Republicans offered Tuesday to compromise with him on jobs – but also assailed his plans in advance of his prime-time speech.

snip

According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president’s proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could still be subject to change.

The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.

Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment. The president and Congress negotiated that provision into law for 2011 last December.

Though Obama has said he intends to propose long-term deficit reduction measures to cover the up-front costs of his jobs plan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would not lay out a wholesale deficit reduction plan in his speech.

The majority of the tax cuts are payroll tax cuts that will siphon off more from the social safety net feeding the Republicans rhetoric that the big three are broken and adding to the deficit. The rest of the plan would only put less than $50 billion into jobs.

Does any of this sound familiar? As Atrios puts it:

The problem that arises is that if you start beating the deficit drum, then you haven’t made voters “trust you” on the deficit, you’ve made the case to voters that they should elect the Republicans who will be better on this very important issue … If you make the case that Republican issues are important, you’re making the case for … Republicans.

Much like Matt Taibbi: “I just don’t believe this guy anymore, and it’s become almost painful to listen to him”

There’s a football game you can get ready to watch instead.

The Infrastructure Bank – An Economic Elixir?

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With Congress returning this week, 90 Second Summaries kicks back into gear for the fall. All eyes will be on President Obama as he delivers an address Thursday evening to a joint session of Congress. Mr. Obama is expected to propose a infrastructure-related program to get the economy moving again, and an infrastructure bank is a prime candidate for inclusion in this package.

Last season, we covered a prominent infrastructure bank bill by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) and released an interview with the Congresswoman alongside it. Rep. DeLauro has reintroduced her proposal for the 112th Congress, so we are updating this episode to account for recent developments, and we’ll be posting highlights of the interview on Thursday.

Here’s the episode:

As always, the one-pager with more details is below the fold.

AFL-CIO President Gets Tough With Democrats

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Recently AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka laid in on the line to the White House and the Democrats, you don’t support us, we won’t support you. “In the past we’ve spent a significant amount of resources on candidates and party structures, and the day after election, workers were no stronger then they were the day before,” Trumka said, during a sit down at his Washington D.C. office slightly more than a week ago.

The failure to pass Employee Free Choice Act and the public health insurance option and the renewal of the Bush tax cuts and the consistent push for free trade deals have made Mr. Trumka cranky. In light of the events in Wisconsin, he has taken a harder stand and in recent interviews has politely let his frustrations show.  This is some of what he said in an interview with Huffington Post where he also spoke out on Social Security and Medicare:

“What we are now focused on is doing a couple of things differently,” Trumka said. “In the past, we would build our structure six to eight months before the election,” he added. “Now we’re not going to do that. We’re going to focus our resources on building a structure that has total fidelity towards America’s working people, both union and non-union working people. We’ll do it 12 months a year, so they’ll be able to transition from electoral politics, to advocacy, to accountability with no effort. And it will continue to build greater strength for workers after the election and in between elections.”

snip

“How do you tell someone like my dad, who retired the day he was 62, that he has to work to 67? It would have been a death sentence for him,” said Trumka. “He couldn’t have worked to 67 — he was completely disabled of black lung. So what do you tell then? You tell them that they ought to be able to retire at a lower range.”

“I think the President made a strategic mistake when he abandoned talking about the jobs crisis and job creation and focused completely on the politically manufactured debt crisis,” he said when asked for a review of the administration’s economic record. “You have one very obvious way to make a dent in the deficit crisis, which is to get people back to work.”

“But you don’t have anyone actually talking about jobs,” Trumka said. “And when you bring it up to people at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, their almost universal response is we have a Congress that won’t do it. So what do you do? You do what leaders do, you lead.”

Another labor official spoke about plans to engage more on the local level:

“One of the most important aspects of the labor movement, which is different then for other entities, is that we have an enormous network of local community workers who are responsible for talking to people after their election,” one top union official said. “The experience of the last six years should teach progressives a great deal about the difference between elected people who say the right thing in their candidate questionnaires and the people who are there voting for workers, voting for jobs and advocating our positions.”

“There was a perception in the progressive community in January 2009 that things had gotten pretty good,” the official, who requested anonymity, added. “But we didn’t have an infrastructure in place to say we need a bigger stimulus, or we need to be concerned about jobs or we need to have a different national agenda.”

So what has President Obama done since he was elected? He has met with and capitulated to the demands of Republicans, banks, Wall St. and corporations. I sincerely doubt that Obama will have anything that will be any different to say on Thursday than this mediocre responses of the past.

Enabling Neo-Liberal And Republican Tax Cuts

Cross posted fromThe Stars Hollow Gazette

The former vice chair of the Federal Reserve and member of the President Obama’s Deficit Commission (aka Cat Food Commission), Alice Rivlin joined  a panel discussion about what should be included in the Obama’s jobs initiative.

Most of what she has suggested will not create jobs and will just put our social safety nets at further risk of being cut or completely dissolved. The idea that a one years payroll tax holiday for both employers and employees is ridiculous on its face. Not only have tax cuts not produced jobs over the last eleven years but this particular tax cut will put Social Security at even further risk. Nor will the idea that so-called “reform” of Social Security  and Medicare would “grow the economy”.

Economist Dean Baker examines President Obama’s “widely hyped upcoming speech on jobs after the Labor Day weekend.” He states:

At the top of the list of job-creating measures is extending the 2 percentage-point reduction in the social security payroll tax. This provides no boost to the economy, since it just keeps in place a tax cut that was already there, but if the cut is allowed to end at the start of 2012, it will be a drag on growth.

As it stands, the social security programme is being fully reimbursed for the lost tax revenue, but there is always the possibility that Republicans will use this as a basis for attacking the programme. Given President Obama’s willingness to support cuts to social security, it is understandable that this part of his jobs agenda doesn’t generate much enthusiasm.

snip

There are also reports that President Obama may propose some sort of tax subsidy for job creation. Such a subsidy can be bad or not so bad. One of the proposals, temporarily eliminating the employer side of the payroll tax, is a great plan – if your intention is to give still more money to business and undermine social security.

There is extensive research showing that increases in the minimum wage of 15-20% have no measurable impact on employment. If raising the cost of labour by 15-20% doesn’t reduce employment, then we can’t think that reducing the cost of labour by 6.2% as a result of temporarily eliminating the payroll tax will increase employment. (Sorry, Mr President, logic can be cruel.)

(emphasis mine)

Nor will the creation of an infrastructure bank:

This would allow the government to treat long-lived infrastructure investment as capital expenditures depreciated over their expected lifetimes, rather than expenditures to be paid for in full in the years the construction takes place. This is good policy and accounting (it is the same approach used by both private businesses and state governments), but it is not going to create many jobs and certainly not in the next couple of years.

The there are all those trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia, that as Baker says, “even their supporters can’t claim with a straight face that they will generate any noticeable number of jobs.”

We so screwed.

On Doing Better Than 50%, Part Two, Or, Is “Made in USA” A Jobs Program?

When last we met, it was to discuss a Big Idea that the Obama Administration might apply to get some job creation going, despite a difficult Congress; the Big Idea was to look at the “Buy American” provisions that exist in our laws, regulations, and Executive Orders and see if we could practice a bit of “jobs arbitrage” by not just meeting the “Made in USA” requirements when governments across this country make purchases, but exceeding them.

(As it stands today, pretty much any “good or service” with more than 50% Made in USA content qualifies as a Made in USA purchase, even if 49% of the “good or service” comes from somewhere else).

At the time, I told you that if all went well we could look forward to comments from both Labor and the Administration as to the practicality of the Big Idea, and as it turns out I have comments for you that hit close to that mark – and a bit more besides:

On Saturday I just happened to bump into Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09); in the course of that conversation I told him what we’re doing here, and he wanted to offer a few thoughts of his own…and when you put all that together, I think we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

Hedge Fund Manager: US In Need Of Massive Stimulus

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Back in July, Barton Biggs, a hedge fund manager for Traxis Partners, said that the U.S. needs to invest in a massive public works program, and rich people and corp’s should pay more taxes. Perhaps President Obama, Secretary Tim Geithner and all those who think that spending and tax cuts are the right path should listen to this.

More Economic Gloom On The Horizon

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

With states and cities struggling to balance their budgets with lay offs of workers, cuts to benefits and wages, as well as, reduction of aid to schools, hospitals, clinics, and other agencies, states government desperate for revenue are looking to on-line gambling but may run up against the obstacle of the Justice Department:

It’s an idea gaining currency around the country: virtual gambling as part of the antidote to local budget woes. The District of Columbia is the first to legalize it, while Iowa is studying it, and bills are pending in places like California and Massachusetts.

But the states may run into trouble with the Justice Department, which has been cracking down on all forms of Internet gambling. And their efforts have given rise to critics who say legalized online gambling will promote addictive wagering and lead to personal debt troubles.

The states say they will put safeguards in place to deal with the potential social ills. And they say they need the money from online play, which will supplement the taxes they already receive from gambling at horse tracks, poker houses and brick-and-mortar casinos.

“States had looked at this haphazardly and not very energetically until the Great Recession hit, but now they’re desperate for money,” said I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School, where he specializes in gambling issues.

When it comes to taxing gambling, he said, “the thing they have left is the Internet.”

Meanwhile the Obama administration is mulling over whether to take a tougher approach to economic issues:

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers, according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

Even if the ideas cannot pass Congress, they say, the president would gain a campaign issue by pushing for them.

“The president’s team puts a premium on being above the partisan fray, which is usually the right strategy,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate. “But on this issue, when he knows what the right thing to do is, and when a rather small group on one side is blocking any progress, you have to be willing to call that group out if you want to get anything done.”

While Obama drags his feet staying with his bipartisan tick that has made matters worse, the housing market continues to sink under the weight of 4.6 million homes with delinquent mortgages and real estate owned sitting empty and the jobs market stagnates with the U3 at 9.1% mostly because 193,000 people dropped out of the labor force and weak jobs growth. There were only 117,000 jobs created in July not nearly enough to even keep up with population growth.

Calculated Risk has two great graphs that illustrate the two problems:

Click in images to enlarge

It well past time for Obama and the Democrats to stop whining about the obstructive Congress. So whatsoever the White House puts forth won’t get passed, at least make it a fight you can take to the street to say you at least tried to do something. Pragmatic won’t get it done, it hasn’t for the last three years.

Mondragon Miracle Part II of III: The Genius of Don Jose

It’s been a rather tough week for capitalists. With people waking up from the illusion of money and riots erupting in otherwise reserved England, I almost feel a little sorry for the advocates of Milton Friedman. Almost.

As you scrape together your last dollars to exchange for gold and throw another bucket of water on your burning London flat, have you considered abandoning this system? There is a choice, you know. We choose to have this system and all the pain that comes with it. Not offering opposition to a bad system is making a choice to continue with the dysfunction.

What’s that? You didn’t know you had choices? No one has explained to you the alternatives? Well, if you don’t feel obligated to ride this sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean, come along with us as we start talking solutions.

In Part I of this three part series, we discussed the history of a little known cooperative venture called Mondragon. This company went from a twelve-man paraffin stove manufacturing plant to a conglomerate that holds Wal-mart at bay in miniscule country of Basque, and employs 130,000 people. The cooperative has a remarkable 80% success rate in business ventures, far outstripping the typical success rate of 20% (less in this market). It has consistently helped the Basque people strengthen their communities with education, health care, housing and a robust social safety net.  It creates jobs where none existed before, stabilizing their economy while nearby Spain and Portugal flounder.

How could this one company achieve such miraculous results? Well, it may actually be a divine intervention–through a Jesuit priest named Don Jose. In this segment, I delve deeper into Don Jose’s unique genius in devising the Mondragon system.

On Doing Better Than 50%, Or, Could More “Made In USA” Mean More Jobs?

We gotta grow some jobs, and that’s a fact, and we probably aren’t going to be able to do it with big ol’ jobs programs funded by the Federal Government, what with today’s politics and all, and that means if this Administration wants to stay in the jobs game they’re going to have to find some smaller and more creative ways to do it.

They are also going to have to come up with ideas that are pretty much “bulletproof”, meaning that they are so hard to object to that even Allen West and Louie Gohmert will not want to be on record saying “no no no!”; alternatively, solutions that work around the legislative process entirely could represent the other form of “bulletproof-ery”.

Well, I have one of those “maybe bulletproof” ideas for you today, and it has to do with how “Made in USA” the things are that our Government buys.

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