Let's Fix This Country
the economy

Congress Votes a Cut in the Minimum Wage »

May 11 2014

Members of Congress go to Washington pretending that they represent us. They are instead effectively hirelings of lobbyists and industry who pay for their campaigns. Thus, do polls show that close to 90% of Americans want background checks before a gun can be sold, but Congress refused to act.

And so it is with the minimum wage. A January Pew Research poll said that 73% of Americans (including 53% of registered Republicans) favor raising the base wage, but Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block even debate and a few Democrats voted with them. For that matter, if the 60-vote filibuster hurdle had been surmounted, the bill to raise the wage to $10.10 an hour stood not a chance against the Republican majority of the House.

The minimum wage law has never tracked inflation. So what Congress has let stand by its inaction is a decline in the minimum wage. Since 2009, when it reached $7.25 an hour, there has been 8% inflation. That has cut the buying power of $7.25 to $6.70. For people living so close to the bone, that’s significant. Across a year it’s about $1,150 of badly needed money — gone.

In articles such as “Minimum Wage Blocked, Obama Tries Overtime End Run”, “What’s Come Over America?” and “Let's Permanently End Minimum Wage Stupidity", articles that have looked at all sides of the question, this page has repeatedly done its own lobbying that the minimum wage should be raised and tied to inflation. Opponents say it will do nothing to close income disparity, that the broad reform we covered in “New Republican Thinking Would Overhaul Safety Net” is what is needed, and much of what is proposed makes sense. But implementation of reform takes years in this slow- moving country and low wage earners need help right now.

Since those article, wage-theft law suits were filed in California, Michigan and New York by workers who claimed that McDonald's franchisees required them to perform unpaid work before clocking in and after clocking out in order to satisfy McDonald's headquarters sales to payroll ratios. For its involvement in effectively setting wages, the corporation is being sued as well.

We view the minimum wage not at all as a cure-all for the income gap but as protection of powerless individual workers from exploitation by businesses as in the example just given. Those workers are forced to turn to public assistance which means we taxpayers are subsidizing businesses that pay workers too little. The Wall Street Journal reports that $10.10 an hour would take 3.5 million people off food stamps and cut $4.6 billion of taxpayer dollars. For Congress to turn its back on workers in deference to those big corporations is deplorable.

jobs

Let’s Permanently End Minimum Wage Stupidity »

Jul 29 2013

Workers at fast food chains have been rebelling against their low wages. There have been demonstrations and one-day strikes in seven cities against McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza, with employees typically demanding that wages rise to $15 an hour. The movement is growing and has attracted financial support from unions, even though organizing the nation’s four million fast food workers is not an expressed plan.


In Washington, D.C., Wal-Mart threatened to cancel building six stores when this July the city council passed a “living wage”measure that would require the giant chain to pay wages of $12.50 an hour.

Wal-Mart Wins Again: Sept 11: The D.C. mayor vetoed the bill that would have required Wal-Mart to pay $12.50 an hour calling it a "job-killer".
    

Workers are reminded constantly of the huge pay increases awarded the heads of their companies, but have seen no upward movement in their own… Read More »

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markets

Applying the Brakes to Super-Fast Trading »

We said it before: A tax would restore market sanity Apr 15 2014

“The United States stock market, the most iconic market in global capitalism, is rigged”, said Michael Lewis on “60 Minutes”. The perennially best-selling author was promoted his latest book, “Flash Boys”, which tackles the subject of high-speed trading.

It’s a topic we dealt with a year and a half ago in this article, when inadequately vetted code at trading firms or exchanges had caused a trio of market plunges such as the 2010 “Flash Crash” in which a market drop of 300 points in the Dow set off a computer-driven selling frenzy that caused a plunge of 600 more. The market recovered within minutes, but the alarming volatility of these crashes was thought to be driving individual investors from the market, a market that has become computerized trading. It now accounts for over half the daily volume of stock trades. We voiced “growing concerns that high-speed trading is manipulating the markets” without knowing quite how. Neither did anyone else, until — as recounted by Lewis — an executive at the Royal Bank of Canada cracked the code.

Lewis' book and "60 Minutes" interview caused an immediate sensation. The allegation that high-speed trading causes the market to… Read More »

policy

Food Stamps, Meet the Minimum Wage »

One high, the other low. Congress never makes the connection Feb 24 2013

Food stamps come in for particular ire from some. Over 46 million Americans pay for their groceries with federal food stamps. Half of the mouths that food stamps feed belong to children. It is a 40-year-old program (renamed “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” or SNAP) but only in recent years has it ballooned to one in seven people, currently costing taxpayers $72 billion a year.

The rapid increase owes partly to the weak economy that has followed the financial crisis of 2008, but also to a loosening of the eligibility rules to assist the victims of that economy. It is no longer required that a family sell off all its assets and belongings to qualify, for example.

But Congress sees only the cost. Food stamps are part of the perennially stalled farm bill, which comes up every five years. Congress has repeatedly passed temporary bills with sunset clauses. A mare’s nest of subsidies from crop insurance energy, telecommunications, forestry — you name it — the current extension expired last September 30. Since then we have therefore technically reverted to the last permanent bill passed as law — in 1949. You read that correctly.

It may be a farm bill but food stamps make up 79% of the near trillion dollar ten-year bill the Senate passed last June. (Yes, June, and it is now January with nothing having been passed). They cut $4.5 billion from food stamps. House Republicans want to cut $16.1 billion, which would drop about three million Americans out of the program. but their bill has never made it to the floor for vote because of those who say cuts are not deep enough.

The swelling numbers in people and dollars says to conservatives that the program is out of hand. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page is representative. An op-ed piece said about food stamps, “thanks to Obama’s stimulus, [the cost] doubled again between 2008 and 2012”, without mentioning that the stimulus aid was brought about by millions thrown out of work by the 2008 financial crisis that took food off their tables. Another is entirely about the military but has the gratuitous title “Defense vs. Food Stamps: What Would You choose?”. Or Read More »

policy

New Republican Thinking Would Overhaul Safety Net »

Approach focuses on increasing upward mobility Mar 20 2014

After gaining the majority in the House of Representatives in the 2010 election, Republican strategy has been to gridlock every Democratic initiative, enough to earn them the sobriquet of “The Party of No”.


But think tanks on the right and some of the more prominent figures in the Party have come to realize that simply accusing the left of “class warfare” every time the subject is raised will not quell the growing anger over income and wealth disparity and stranded mobility.

But their solution is certainly not to amplify current government programs. On its 50th anniversary, they point to Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” as a failure for treating the symptoms rather than the causes. It’s a point well taken. The conservative position is that the mix of welfare, food stamps, housing allowances, the minimum wage, Medicaid, etc. may help people but they do nothing to extricate them from the bottom stratum of society. All simply create a culture of dependency.

Outfits such as the American Enterprise Institute, and Party luminaries such as senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio, and congressmen Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor, propose a fresh approach. House Republicans opened a campaign at the beginning of March for a total overhaul of social programs with a 204-page critique of federal anti-poverty efforts from House budget chief Ryan. He argues that scores of programs actually create a “poverty trap” that keeps people from getting ahead.

what works is work

The Republicans’ new ideas… Read More »

the economy

What’s Come Over America? »

Is it tough love or genuine contempt for our fellow citizens? Jan 13 2014

It would seem that Americans have suddenly adopted a stern view of our own people as irresponsible and indolent and that we've decided to exact harsh measures, all at once, that are causing widespread economic hardship.

Congress stripped food stamps from the farm bill and the House wants to cutUpdate: The 5-year farm bill, just signed into law, trimmed the $40 billion proposed food stamp cutback to $8.6 billion
    

back the program by $40 billion across 10 years, estimated to bump 3.8 million families off the rolls.

House Republicans unanimously rejected an increase in the minimum wage last March leaving it over 30% below what it was in 1968. Pressure mounts to raise the hourly rate from $7.25 to $10.10, but the House seems obstinate, which will strand workers at the poverty level.

In their backlash against Obamacare, governors and legislatures in 24 states have chosen to spite themselves by refusing to expand Medicaid to over 4.9 million more of their people even though the federal government will pay 100% of the tab for the first two years and 90% thereafter (see map later).

Businesses are reducing workers to under 30 hours a week and hiring more part-timers so as to avoid the Affordable Care Act mandate that they provide health insurance for anyone working 30 or more hours.

Companies are converting employees to independent contractors for that same reason as well as to avoid paying for half of Social Security and Medicare and for other benefits mandated by law.

Sequestration has cut back government spending on social programs.

More states are considering or passing right to work laws that hurt or destroy the unions that give employees some say in their wages and benefits.

College students and recent graduates who want a job with… Read More »

the economy

Socialism? They Must Be Kidding »

Mar 17 2013 This riveting video turns the income and wealth of all strata of Americans into a vivid set of graphics that is nothing less than astonishinng in showing how badly skewed is America in favor of a small segment of our society.



Not to be missed (sound on). This is one case where we all really should forward this to everyone we know to get rid of the nonsense we hear about creeping socialism. We are in the midst of the extreme opposite.