Franklin County Democrats

The official site of the Democratic Party of Franklin County, Missouri

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.

Infrastructure map

Are Too!

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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.

Read more:

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 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...  Memory loss

rise of the megarich

“Standing up to bully’s is the hallmark of a civilized society.”  In this short video Robert Reich explains the components of the Koch Brothers political operation, their goals, and their methods.  A great primer for anyone that wonders where all the money in politics comes from and where it its going.

When I tell people that shopping at WalMart is not an activity I engage in, some are surprised and some assume it’s about how WalMart treats their workers.  While WM’s treatment of their employees is inexcusable and their treatment of taxpayers abhorrent, the main reason I don’t shop there is How Walmart Destroyed U.S. Manufacturingwhat they’ve done to other company’s employees.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing looks at this issue in How WalMart Destroyed American Manufacturing.

Walmart has spent millions of dollars in the past two years on public relations promotions, advertising and conferences, trying to convince us that it, well, cares about America. From championing hiring veterans (which is noble, yes, but veterans deserve better than poverty wage jobs, and Walmart receives a substantial tax break for hiring them) to promoting “U.S. manufacturing,” the company has tried to evade the common sense of real, hardworking Americans by helping them forget Walmart was responsible for our manufacturing sector’s demise in the first place.

That’s why the Alliance for American Manufacturing’s petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has exposed the false claims by Walmart’s supplier Element Electronics, that its TVs are “Assembled in America” is so important. There isn’t enough work being performed on Element’s TVs once they arrive in the United States from China in their boxes (already covered in American flags), to meet the standard prescribed by the FTC for “Assembled in America.” To meet it, the FTC says, a products’ “principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial.”

On the surface, with the help of slick public relations firms, Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Initiative seems patriotic and good for the country, but it does not live up to the hype. Here are five reasons why:   continue reading…

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