Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You try to be cynical but you just can't keep up

There are actually people in this country who think it's good that our unemployment rate is at 9.7 percent (and that's a lowball figure; it's really higher than 16 percent when you count part-timers and discouraged job seekers). Susie Madrack at Crooks and Liars writes about the people who see a silver-lining in the jobs crisis thundercloud. She includes this lovely quote from an economist:

The secret to the amazing increases in productivity in the American economy is finally out. Companies in the US are not hiring full-time workers. They are gambling that they can keep their margins high by keeping a vast part of the workforce, perhaps millions of people, unemployed.

Unemployed people, it turns out to no one’s surprise, will work for very little. And, they will work without benefits, without job security, and without complaint.....

The development is a revelation, and a good one, (Emphasis added) for companies, municipalities, and states, all of which are tight on cash and unable to get credit at reasonable rates if at all.

Read the whole thing and feel your blood start to boil.

Is our Congress killing our economy?

Atrios points out the danger of cutting off unemployment benefits.

Remembering those who were killed serving their country

Staff Sgt. Eric Shaw, 31, of Tennessee, was serving with the 327th Infantry, First Brigade Combat Team from Fort Campbell, Ky., when he was killed on Sunday by enemy gunfire in Afghanistan.

According to the Boston Globe,

Shaw’s cousin, Dan Plunkett of Milford, N.H., said he would be remembered as an outstanding father and husband.

“He was an all-around great guy,’’ Plunkett said. “He was a hero. That was Eric. He’s going to be greatly missed.’’

His wife and three young children were visiting family in Maine when they learned the news. Maine Gov. John Baldacci announced his death:

“All soldiers in combat pay a deep price for their service. For some, they make the ultimate sacrifice,’’ Baldacci said. “Staff Sergeant Shaw was a dedicated soldier with a young family. We will keep his wife and his children in our prayers. Our entire state mourns with them.’’

Why Stephanie moved her money

Stephanie Frost decided to take her money out of Bank of America. She explains in the video how the bank treated her.

Links 6/30/10

Recession Strikes Deep Into Workforce Wall Street Journal
Financial-Rules Redo Passes Major Hurdle Wall Street Journal
Administration Cannot Drop Bid for Nuclear Waste Dump in Nevada, Panel Finds New York Times
Wal-Mart Names New Head of US Operations New York Times
In U.S. Bailout of AIG, Forgiveness for Big Banks New York Times
Democrats seek to extend emergency jobless benefits Washington Post
FedEx Wins Dismissal of Some Claims in Worker Suit Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ireland: A scary example of what fiscal austerity does to a country

A frightening portrait of Ireland after the government decided to tighten its belt, from Liz Alderman in The New York Times.

...the once thriving nation is struggling, with no sign of a rapid turnaround in sight.

Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations.

“When our public finance situation blew wide open, the dominant consideration was ensuring that there was international investor confidence in Ireland so we could continue to borrow,” said Alan Barrett, chief economist at the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland. “A lot of the argument was, ‘Let’s get this over with quickly.’ ”

Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. (Emphasis added.) Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

Joblessness in this country of 4.5 million is above 13 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed — those out of work for a year or more — have more than doubled, to 5.3 percent.

Some members of Congress adopted the same argument that it's more important to pay down debt than to spend money on economic stimulus. That's why a bill to extend unemployment benefits is stalled.

Here's Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican: "I cannot in good conscience continue voting for bills that aren’t paid for.” Tennessee's official unemployment rate is 10.4 percent.

According to the National Employment Law Project,

More than 1.2 million Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of June if Congress fails to work out a deal on an extension of unemployment


Links 6/29/10

State Workers, Long Resistant, Accept Cuts in Pension Benefits Wall Street Journal
Burned Before, Railroads Take Risks Wall Street Journal
Congress fulfills narrow ambitions with financial overhaul bill Washington Post
Jobs missing, not motivation Politico
As world watches soccer's Cup, Nike critic sees red Los Angeles Times
The three biggest lies about the economy Marketwatch

Friday, June 25, 2010

Here's the Teamster Take on Financial Reform

The Teamsters have supported regulation of private equity firms and derivatives, as well as stronger protection for investors and consumers and limits on executive compensation.

“This is a landmark bill that will help redirect bank capital toward creating jobs instead of destroying them,” Hoffa said. “It makes progress toward bringing back Glass-Steagall, which forbids traditional commercial banks from taking risks with other people’s money.

“While not perfect, this conference report protects consumers, imposes some restrictions on executive compensation and regulates derivatives and private equity. I urge lawmakers to pass this important legislation.”

The conference report forces derivatives to be traded on exchanges or cleared in clearinghouses. It also allows the Securities and Exchange Commission to require private-equity and hedge fund advisers to open their books to inspection.

“Regulating private equity and derivatives is essential to help curbing abuses by financial institutions,” Hoffa said. “Private equity firms have wrecked too many companies and killed too many jobs to continue to operate without any transparency. Derivatives can create the wrong incentives, so that a handful of investors are motivated to destroy healthy enterprises.”

Hoffa said he’s pleased that the agreement includes an independent Consumer Financial Protection Board, which will have an independent budget and be headed by a presidential appointee. The CFPB will write and enforce rules for most banks, mortgage lenders, credit-card and private student loan companies.

“The CFBP has the authority and the independence to protect working families who have had too much of their hard-earned money plundered by greedy financial institutions,” Hoffa said.
The legislation would give shareholders the right to cast advisory votes on executive pay, and the Federal Reserve will set standards on excessive compensation deemed a dangerous practice for a bank.

“We have said all along that allowing CEOs to loot their own banks creates systemic risk,” Hoffa said. “I’m pleased the conferees recognize that outrageous pay for CEOs is not only wrong, but hazardous to our economic health.”

Finally, the bill includes a provision for proxy access that gives the SEC authority to decide adequate holding periods and ownership levels.

“This is a big victory for pension funds,” Hoffa said. “It will force corporate boardrooms to be more accountable to investors.”

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.


Links 6/25//10

Hoffa: Fund Rail, Infrastructure Repair to Create Good Jobs IBT
Biggest Wall Street Revamp Since 1930s Approved Bloomberg
Congress Fails to Pass an Extension of Jobless Aid New York Times
From card fees to mortgages, a new day for consumers New York Times
Food stamp usage drastically rises in Gulf region following oil spill Think Progress
Fox News is BP oil spill misinformation clearinghouse Media Matters

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two Workers Dead in BP Oil Disaster Recovery Effort

I guess we shouldn't be surprised, given the disregard shown for worker safety. Michael Whitney at firedoglake has the story of the workers who died.

Update: Both deaths appear to be unrelated to the cleanup effort. BUT a problem with the containment cap is causing more oil to spew forth. Heckuva job!

Strikes halt work at Toyota and Honda plants in China

The news from China's auto factories, as brought to you by Labour Start and the BBC. Workers at other Chinese plants have struck and received pay raises of 25 percent. Union organizers will not be surprised that one unnamed worker was quoted as saying:

"I feel not respected by the human resources department. They often say 'You can leave if you think other plants are better', when we ask for something."

Links 6/23/10

Senate confirms 2 labor board nominees Associated Press
Judge who nixed drill ban reported oil investments Associated Press
Lincoln Intervenes for Arkansas Bank Wall Street Journal
Democrats Weigh Tax-Pledge Pullback Wall Street Journal
U.A.W. Chief Is Taking On Toyota Plants New York Times

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"We have become a nation that is good at destroying things"

Bob Herbert tells it like it is in his column today. He says we've lost sight of how to build and maintain a flourishing society.

We could always start to rebuild by making it easier to join a union....

It's the Jobs, Stupid: Part II

Jon Walker has a great post over at firedoglake pointing out that Americans OVERWHELMINGLY care more about jobs than the deficit.

The disconnect between the Washington elites, who have been swept up in deficit hysteria, and the rest of the country couldn’t be more stark.
He couldn't be more right.

Here's the poll.

Links 6/22/10

As Law Takes Effect, Obama Gives Insurers a Warning New York Times
Census: With jobs scarce, Rust Belt cities decline Associated Press
Louisiana Police Pull Over Activist at Behest of BP Mother Jones
Tuesday Features Runoffs in NC, SC, MS; Primary in UT firedoglake

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's the jobs, stupid

Two moderate Republican senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, are standing in the way of a jobs bill that would extend unemployment insurance, raise taxes on investment managers and aid the states (thus preserving jobs).

AFSCME and Americans United for Change targeted the two senators in this ad, which will run in Maine.

A Teensy Bit of Good News

Jobs are slowly coming back, according to the Wall Street Journal. Indiana and Texas doing better, but only 12 states and the District of Columbia had more jobs in May than they did a year ago.

Brace Yourself for Another Assault on Social Security and Medicare

The peerless Dean Baker sounds a warning: the wingers will soon be making another run at privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

Today he writes:

Next weekend will feature another milestone in the drive to cut Social Security and Medicare. The organization America Speaks will be hosting a series of 20 meetings in cities across the country. They will ask the people at these meetings, a cross section of the nation, to come up with proposals for dealing with the country’s projected long-term budget deficit.

The way the problem is outlined for these meetings virtually guarantees that most of the participants will opt for big cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The results of this song and dance exercise will then be presented to President Obama’s fiscal responsibility commission on June 30th, which will use it as further ammunition for plans by its co-chairs to gut these programs.

Baker dissects the propaganda used by America Speaks -- the bad economics, the omissions, the bias. Read the whole thing here.

Links 6/21/10

The Stealth Attack on America's Best-Loved Program New Deal 2.0
BP was told of oil safety fault 'weeks before blast' BBC
As China Aids Labor, Unrest Is Still Rising New York Times
In Budget Crisis, States Take Aim at Pension Costs New York Times
Peddling Relief, Firms Put Debtors in Deeper Hole New York Times
The Town that Loved Its Bank New York Times

Friday, June 18, 2010

Does BP really care about the small people?

Here’s a shock (not): BP is underreporting the number of workers who’ve been hurt or sickened during the Gulf cleanup, according to Michael Whitney at firedoglake.

No one should expect BP to show any concern for its workers. CEO Tony Hayward actually complained, “I’d like my life back” – just weeks after 11 BP workers lost their lives in the rig explosion. He later apologized.

Gordon Jones was one of the workers who died in the fire. His brother Chris said BP never called the family to offer condolences.

Now, apparently, working conditions for the cleanup workers suck. Mother Jones reports that workers don’t have respirators or protective clothing. If they ask for a medic’s help they’re automatically drug tested. And the company keeps losing their checks.

Seems they really don’t care about the small people.

Links 6/18/10

Lawmakers Boost Airline-Merger Plans Wall Street Journal
That '30s Feeling The New York Times
Jobs Bill Blocked in Senate Washington Post
Robbing the Poor To Give Air Miles to the Rich Mother Jones
GM To Skip Summer Factory Shutdowns Due to Demand AMERICAblog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good luck finding a job if you're over 55

The jobs crisis is bad enough, but even tougher for older workers. Annie Lowrey at The Washington Independent has the story.

Ruh-roh: Supreme Court Rules on NLRB

Michael Whitney over at firedoglake has the story:

Joblessness Is Bad All Over

Over at billy blog, Australian economist Bill Mitchell reports on the devastation that the recession is having on real people around the world.

It is a very bleak picture indeed.

“The crisis has clearly led to significant increases in unemployment (particularly among the youth) – around 45 million workers have been pushed into unemployment since 2007.”

That’s not all. Vulnerable employment has skyrocketed. The ILO defines “vulnerable employment” as:

…inadequate earnings, low productivity and difficult conditions of work that undermine workers’ fundamental rights …

Mitchell says "workers in vulnerable employment, defined as the sum of own-account workers and contributing family workers, are less likely to have formal work arrangements, and are therefore more likely to lack elements associated with decent employment such as adequate social security and recourse to effective social dialogue mechanisms."

The ILO says the vulnerable employment rate ranges from 49.4 … to 52.8 per cent … In 2009, that meant between 1.48 and 1.59 billion workers were vulnerable worldwide.

According to the ILO, the increase in the number of unemployed is “unprecedented.” At the same time, the potential increases in vulnerable employment and working poverty are even more alarming. More workers are likely to be affected, particularly in view of the lack of decent work already evident before the economic crisis.

Mitchell’s conclusion:

“You can guess that things are going to get much worse for workers in the coming years. It is clear that the imposition of austerity programs will damage the bottom end of the income distribution significantly while the top-end-of-town will be spared. In fact the latter will be able to buy up (steal) valuable public assets at bargain prices as the governments are forced by the IMF, the EU and their own stupidity to privatise them.

“As a result there will massive wealth shifts from the public to the wealthy end of the private sector.”


Investment partnership industry says tax hikes in Senate jobs bill are unfair Washington Post

Lawmakers Agree to Place Fed Under More Scrutiny Washington Post

Hoffa Commends Congress for Rules on Private Investment Funds IBT

New UAW chief faces old woes Wall Street Journal

New Autoworkers Leader Hopes to Revitalize Union New York Times

Spirit says flights to resume Friday after reaching accord with pilots Wall Street Journal

FedEx Reports $419 Million Quarterly Profit New York Times

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fox & Friends Gets It Wrong -- As Usual

The website Media Matters does a great job checking the sloppy reporting and outright lies of irresponsible media outlets. So when Fox & Friends today said Ohio lost 400,000 jobs since Obama was elected president, Media Matters pointed out the truth:

In fact, the 400,000 figure includes job losses that occurred for two years
before Obama took office in the midst of a deep recession.

Media Matters points out that the recession began on George W. Bush's watch, and jobs are coming back to Ohio under the Obama administration.

Economic activity began to decline in December 2007. The National Bureau of
Economic Research announced on December 1, 2008, that based on "economy-wide measures of economic activity," including domestic production and employment, the recession began in December 2007.

Ohio has been gaining jobs in 2010. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicate that Ohio has added jobs during each month of 2010, through April.

Today's Links

Spirit, Union Gain Chance to Resume Labor Talks Wall Street Journal
Mexico's deadly drug violence claims hundreds of lives in past 5 days Washington Post
Senate Democrats dismantling aid package due to deficit Washington Post
China's workers learn to speak up -- but carefully Washington Post
Partners Atrios