This week’s audio netcast: Thanksgiving, a time for giving thanks – and for eating and drinking. This week, Professor Courtney Thomas says our food safety system is woefully antiquated. Professor Karen Piper warns that the world is on the brink of water wars – and that can affect our food supply. And Bill Press talks with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy about Republican obstruction on protecting Americans’ privacy.
This 18 minute interview with former Canadian Prime Minister and Finance Minister Paul Martin focuses on the actions taken by Canada that allowed that nation to avoid the bank collapse, bailout, and recession the United States experienced in 2008. As a bonus, he explains his positions on income inequality, CEO pay, entitlements, and even the Keystone pipeline. Be warned, his views don’t line up with the stereotypical positions of American Democrats and Republicans. An interesting interview with a man that has been a player in world economics and has taken responsibility for his positions.
Last night, 60 Minutes featured a segment on American infrastructure entitled Falling Apart. This sobering look at roads, bridges, sewer, water, air, and port infrastructure should scare everyone. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives America a D- on it’s infrastructure report card. The question posed by the report is how did we get to this and how will it be fixed?
While politicians skirt the issue of paying for renovations while tragedy looms begs a question. When the Recovery Act was being debated in 2009, at the midst of the Great Recession, with millions of Americans out of work, with interest rates at record lows, and a country full of crumbling infrastructure why did Republicans fight to make the infrastructure spending smaller and tax cuts bigger?
Sure, they succeeded in mitigating the positive impact of the stimulus and slowed the recovery but the bridges and roads remain underfunded and dangerous. If you take the time to watch the segment, take a moment and ask who to blame for the lives affected by the next bridge collapse.
Let’s kick off this week with America’s #1 Populist Jim Hightower and his piece Let Workers Vote On CEO Pay. You can read the piece or click and listen. Enjoy.
One difference between top executives and worker bees, is that those at the top can lower the pay of those down below, while simultaneously raising their own pay. If you wonder what’s causing America’s rapidly-widening income gap, there it is.
Technically, CEOs do not set their own pay levels, supposedly leaving that to the board of directors. The typical board, however, is a CEO pushover, largely made up of other highly-paid CEOs and brothers-in-law of the corporate boss. But in response to public disgust at the grotesque excess in the platinum paychecks of top bosses, corporations have added a new level of “pay police” to oversee the process – “compensation consultants,” they’re called.
Nick Hanauder asks Whatever Happened To Overtime…
Here’s a little history that will explain how: Back in the 1970s, when the share of total U.S. income that the top 0.1 percent of households got was at a 100-year low, corporate executives received most of their compensation in the form of a salary, just like you. But since the late 1980s, the largest component of income for the top 0.1 percent has been stock-based pay. This shift toward compensation via stock options and grants means that CEOs are directly incentivized to increase the share price of their company’s stock.
Building better products that lead to higher sales and fatter margins are the traditional way for a CEO to push up the price of his stock. But that’s so old-fashioned. So yesterday. Instead, ever since a former Wall Street CEO in charge of the Securities and Exchange Commission back in 1982 loosened the rules that define stock manipulation (beginning to see a historical pattern here?), U.S. corporations have increasingly resorted to stock buybacks to prop up share prices. According to a report in the Harvard Business Review by professor William Lazonkick—“Profits Without Prosperity”—over the past 10 years, America’s largest companies, those making up the S&P 500, have devoted a staggering 54 percent of their profits to buying back shares, reducing the total number outstanding and thus increasing the value of the remaining shares owned by capitalists like me.
A stock buyback, in case you are wondering, is when a public company buys its own shares. “Why on earth would a company do that?” you ask. To push the stock price higher, of course—which benefits senior managers who are all paid in stock—rather than, say, investing in R&D or in building new factories. Or paying you overtime for all those extra hours you work.
The New Republic looks at the first week of Open Enrollment for this year’s Affordable Care Act in The Silence You Hear Is The Sound of Healthcare.gov Working Just Fine.
So what’s not to like? Well, these trends and averages mask tons of variation. New insurers are jumping into the marketplaces and in many cases they are offering newer, cheaper options. In addition, some insurers who last year asked for high premiums have decided to lower their prices. The common goal of both is to attract more customers and, all else equal, it’s a sign that the markets are healthy. But some insurers are raising prices, because they underestimated costs last year. Here’s what the prices look like, across the country:
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
In addition, the law provides tax credits, which operate as upfront discounts, that reduce the price of insurance for most people with incomes of less than 400 percent of the poverty line, or about $95,000 a year for a family of four. The size of those tax credits depends on the price of that benchmark, second-cheapest silver plan. In communities where the price has gone down, the tax credit will be worth less than it was last year.
Jon Stewart has this take on the GOP’s sudden aversion to executive action...