David has already hit on this point. But of course the Bush administration foreign policy team doesn't like President Obama focusing on the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It was Bush administration policy for seven years to de-prioritize[...]
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Two key steps have helped to ruin May Day in the United States. First, Labor Day was created at a completely different time of year -- labor day without the struggle, labor day without the history, labor day without the labor movement. Second, Loyalty[...]
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Mary McBroom told us her story at a closed Starbucks restaurant in Detroit. It's one we've heard too many times before: For 18 years she worked hard for her employer, GE before discovering GE cared less about her than she did about the company. Mary was not an unskilled worker: she wired circuit boards, most recently for Chevy Volt charging stations. Hired in 1991, she was a college graduate who had worked her way up in the company from entry level wages to $23 per hour in 2009.
Along the way, she raised two daughters and sent them to college, bought a house, saved for retirement, and did all the things "responsible people" do. Mary is a college graduate with a passion for giving her job her all. Even as she told her story, it was evident that more than feeling angry, she was hurt.
In 2009 GE laid Mary off due to the economic downturn with the promise that there was always a possibility she could be called back. On May 13, 2011 she was called back to the same job she had before the layoff. GE trumpeted the recall as a Big Move, publishing a "Welcome Back" to the eleven employees.
Yet, on her first day back she was told that she was classified as a "competitive wage" employee, and would be paid $13 per hour to do the same work she had been paid $23 per hour to do. She was expected to work alongside co-workers making the higher wage who had managed to get their 20 years of service so they could be considered "legacy employees." Worse, some of the coworkers receiving the higher rate had been hired one week before Mary. Whether they escaped the layoff or there was another reason, the inescapable fact was that employees were working side-by-side doing the same work, but one employee was paid $13 per hour and the other was being paid $23.67 per hour, and everybody knew it.
Mary's shock quickly turned to action, and she wrote to Human Resources in June, 2011 asking them to reconsider her classification and asking about the status of her pension, which was based on years of service and compensation levels. She also wrote a letter to Jeffrey Immelt expressing her concern that she was being recalled to a job she had done well for 18 years, only to suffer a 40 percent pay cut.
GE's response was to send out an investigator to assess the situation without interviewing any of the "competitive wage" employees causing supervisors and coworkers to be hostile to those who complained. In a second letter to Jeffrey Immelt on September 30, 2011, Mary and her fellow "competitive wage" coworkers asked Immelt to intervene and restore her pay to its former level.
On November 20, 2011 she and her fellow competitive-wage coworkers were laid off again without notice and after putting in an extraordinary number of overtime hours to make up for the difference in pay. This time, the layoffs were permanent. McBroom's position, along with 13 others, was being eliminated entirely. Those jobs would not be coming back. In a statement to the local newspaper, Human Resources manager Billy Futch said the layoffs came after they had "tried to avoid the move." He cited slow orders for Volt charging stations, but also said he anticipated "this will turn around soon."
Yet he let 14 workers go, permanently, right after they had asked for parity in compensation to other workers in the plant with comparable years of service and skill sets.
This graph highlighted Monday by Brad DeLong is a shocking visual representation of Mary's story:
enlargePrivate Industry Workers Wages & Salaries
The gray bars are recessionary periods. The line represents the average percentage change in workers' salaries.
Mary says she felt as though she was loyal for 20 years to a company that disrespects her. It's difficult to argue with her on that point. The group of us listening to her story that night felt a collective outrage for her situation.
Jeffrey Immelt has been with GE for 30 years. Over the past six years, his average compensation has been $10.26 million per year. That's $5,130 per hour, give or take. About 395 times Mary's hourly wage. Immelt could have given up $30 per hour and kept three employees. The whole 14 employees could have stayed on if he gave up $140 per hour. After all, they were expecting orders to pick up at that plant, right? To Immelt's credit, he did give up his paycheck in 2009, but honestly, I doubt it stopped him from making his mortgage payments or sending his kids to college.
If Jeffrey Immelt leaves GE, he walks away with over $100 million in GE stock and deferred compensation benefits along with exercisable, vested stock options. If he stays until retirement, he can expect to receive a large pension and many other benefits. I'm assuming health insurance for life will be one of them. Meanwhile, GE terminated its pension plan for new employees, despite the fact that it was fully funded and has been for years.
As for GE, the company? It hasn't paid taxes that help fund schools or roads or the highways their products roll down on the back of 18-wheelers for several years, despite Immelt's protestations at this year's shareholders' meeting, which I attended as the holder of a legally executed proxy. Unfortunately, GE "lost" my name from their proxy list along with about 50 others holding similar proxies, so I was exiled to a room downstairs with a video feed, where I heard Immelt justify GE's low, low US income tax rate to applauding one-percenters in the room. Rather than paraphrase, I will just quote the annual report:
Our consolidated income tax rate is lower than the U.S. statutory rate primarily because of benefits from lower-taxed global operations, including the use of global funding structures and our 2009 decision to indefinitely reinvest prior-year earnings outside the U.S. There is a benefit from global operations as non-U.S. income is subject to local country tax rates that are significantly below the 35% U.S. statutory rate. These non-U.S. earnings have been indefinitely reinvested outside the U.S. and are not subject to U.S. income tax.
We expect our ability to benefit from non-U.S. income taxed at less than the U.S. rate to continue, subject to changes of U.S. or foreign law, including, as discussed in Note 14, the expiration of the U.S. tax law provision deferring tax on active financial services income.
In between those two paragraphs there is this statement: Income taxes (benefit) on consolidated earnings from continuing operations were 29.5% in 2011 compared with 7.3% in 2010 and (11.6)% in 2009. Later in the report, GE reports a $1.5 billion benefit due to lower foreign tax rates in 2011. That's $1.5 billion that isn't reducing the United States federal deficit, creating jobs, or building roads and bridges. The majority of the increase in taxes for 2011 came as a result of GE's partial sale of NBCU to Comcast, which was also offset by ongoing losses and writeoffs over at GE capital. Despite the protestation that GE pays its fair share of taxes, it goes without saying that paying their fair share to other countries doesn't really do a lot for this one.
In 2011, GE increased its workforce in the United States by 10,000 employees. In that same year, GE increased its foreign work force by 18,000 employees. After adjusting for the NBCU employees taken off the rolls due to the 2011 Comcast merger, less than 50 percent of the employees employed by GE's consolidated companies were United States employees. The actual percentage of US employees was 43 percent. The other 57 percent represent 170,000 jobs that are not going to American workers.
As for Mary McBroom, she's not sure what to do next. Her girls are still in college and she still has a mortgage to pay. Jobs are scarce in North Carolina, and she's fairly certain there isn't going to be one where she can earn the salary she was earning at GE. And make no mistake, she was earning it. She gave them a day's work for a day's pay until they decided a day's pay was worth 60% of what it was the day before, and then ultimately decided they didn't want her day's work at all.
This is why Mayday matters. Today's demonstrations are one way to stand up and tell the GEs and Jeffrey Immelts of the world that this system isn't working for Americans. Loyal workers are being laid off or having their pay cut by nearly half while GE holds earnings "indefinitely" outside the United States in order to avoid taxation while shareholders of GE saw a return on equity of 11.9 percent in 2011.
Disrespected? Yes, I'd agree with that. During and after last week's shareholders' meeting, about two thousand workers came to Detroit's Renaissance Center, stood up and told Mr. Immelt, the board of GE, and the one percent what they thought about GE's corporate citizenship. Here's just a little taste of what that was like:
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Part one of a series on US corporations, employees, and taxes.
Last night, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart criticized the Obama administration for failing to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal contracting. Stewart debunked the White House’s justification for the delay — that it is seeking a legislative solution to end discrimination in the workplace — by playing clips of Obama insisting “we can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job.” “Where we won’t act, I will,” Obama said in October 2011. “I told my administration to keep looking every single day for actions we can take without Congress.” “Oh, I found out,” Stewart exclaimed. “How about you sign an executive order that would protect gay people in the workplace!” Watch it:
Stewart also poked fun at North Carolina for advancing the discriminatory Amendment 1, Tony Perkins’ obsession with Mike and Ike candy, and interviewed Zach Wahls about his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family.
One of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions. But Republicans seek to repeal the law in its entirety and have gone to great lengths to oppose the new consumer protection. Just ask Georgia Rep. Tom Price, a medical doctor, who has introduced a replacement bill which would not require insurance companies to accept people with pre-existing conditions. When asked why he omitted that provision, Price was blunt in his assessment:
They are even divided over whether some of the popular pieces of Obama?s health law are a good idea. For example, most Republicans support the health law?s requirement that insurance companies accept all applicants ? but the replacement plan put forward by the most prominent Republican ignores that idea.
?It?s a terrible idea,? Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the sponsor of the plan, told POLITICO. He said Democrats only enacted the provision in order to require exactly what kinds of insurance Americans must have. He would rather expand coverage voluntarily.
Price may think opening coverage to Americans who need it most is a “terrible idea,” but for many of those Americans, it is a matter of life or death. As many as 122 million Americans have an illness which could result in an insurer denying them coverage; they paid as much as $4,844 more a year for health care than those without pre-existing conditions. And a study from 2009 found that 45,000 Americans a year died because they don’t have access to care.
Despite some Republican claims that this provision would somehow do more harm than good, children up to the age of 19 are already receiving care regardless of pre-existing conditions as a result of the law. By 2014, that provision will extend to everyone. If, on the other hand, the individual mandate is repealed, health insurers have already said they will return to the practice of denying coverage to sick Americans.
Connecticut took a step closer to enacting Election Day voter registration as the House passed H.B. 5024 last night by a mostly-party-line 83-59 vote. Nine states and Washington D.C. currently allow their citizens to register (or update their registration) on Election Day. Studies have shown that Election Day registration boosts voter turnout by seven percentage points, an increase that would make Connecticut one of the highest turnout states. The bill will now advance to the Connecticut Senate, where Democrats enjoy a 22-14 advantage over Republicans. If enacted, Election Day registration would first take effect in November 2013.
It’s not often that the folks at Big Hollywood and I agree, but we’re in the same place on the casting for a new reality show. The backstory: CBS is putting together a new dating show, apparently based on an Israeli format, called 3. According to the casting call, the show is “about finding love; it?s about meeting amazing people who could be a good fit in real life; it?s about having a good time and making a connection. It?s not about fancy dates and roses. It is not about ‘TV,’” so, standard TV pitch. But apparently, CBS wanted to cast a wider net in order to catch people than the standard famemongers who wash up on The Bachelor and its infinite spinoffs. So the network started reaching out to widows who had lost their husbands in Iraq and Afghanistan, often contacting them through their blogs.
As Jaci Greggs reports, the production company behind the show hit up women who aren’t widows. Or who are widows, but are in new relationships. Or who have absolutely no such interest in putting their personal lives on-screen. And sometimes, even after they asked not to be contacted, the production company kept coming.
I am absolutely on board with the idea that pop culture in general is more interesting when it features different kinds of people and different kinds of stories. But when networks try to go into communities they haven’t traditionally show much interest in?and with the exception of Army Wives and Are You There, Chelsea?, military wives and widows fall into that category?it’s a good idea to be sensitive and on the watch for new dynamics, like, for example, the fact that military widows may feel an obligation to be seen to be true to their late husbands. The best way in might not have been to ask women if they wanted to participate, but to ask them to initial meetings, get a feel for their reaction to the idea of the show and their concerns, and then asking a few women for referrals. Of course, that would take time, energy, and a commitment to listen, none of which are Hollywood’s strong suits. But it also might have an increased possibility of success.
by Shauna Theel, via Media Matters
A recent study of satellite data found that nighttime land temperatures in the immediate vicinity of wind turbines in Texas have increased relative to nearby areas without turbines. Conservative media outlets, including Fox Nation, Rush Limbaugh and Jim Hoft, are distorting the research to claim that wind farms “cause global warming” and Fox News’ morning show concluded “wind ain’t working.” But the study’s lead author said via email that this coverage is “misleading.”
The researchers, led by Liming Zhou, said it is “[v]ery likely” that “wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only re-distribute the air’s heat near the surface, which is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” The turbines pull down warm air, increasing land surface temperatures, which already have “a larger day-night variation” than the surface air temperatures featured in daily weather reports.
The authors further noted that “this analysis is from a short period,” from 2003 to 2011, and is “over a region with rapid growth of wind farms,” west-central Texas, so it is likely that their estimate of a “nighttime warming effect” is higher than “in other locations and over longer periods.”
This piece was originally published at Media Matters for America and was republished with permission.
See also the Washington Post’s, “No, wind farms are not causing global warming,” which quotes Stanford’s Mark Jacobson on the subject:
To get a sense for what scientists know about this topic, I called Mark Jacobson, an environmental engineer at Stanford who has done a fair bit of modeling work in this area. The key thing to note is that, for now, humanity doesn?t use anywhere near enough wind power to make a big difference to global wind patterns. Jacobson?s earlier research suggested that there?s somewhere around 72 terawatts of wind power that could feasibly be harnessed worldwide. At the end of 2011, the world?s wind power generation capacity was still just 0.2 terawatts. (Human beings use about 16 terawatts of energy, all told.)
And scientists dispute what would happen if we did start blanketing the globe with wind turbines. One 2004 study led by the University of Calgary?s David Keith found that getting just 2 terawatts of electricity from wind could produce ?non-negligible climactic change at continental scales? ? including shifts in rainfall patterns. (That much wind power would not, however, change the overall temperature of the planet.) But, says Jacobson, the effects that Keith?s group modeled don?t appear to be distinguishable from random fluctuations in the Earth?s climate. ?To me,? says Jacobson, ?that?s a meaningless result.?
Jacobson himself is working on a more in-depth effort to model the effects of a very large ramp-up in wind ? those results could be published later this year. He says it?s possible that a massive expansion of wind turbines over both land and sea could even cool the planet somewhat, by slowing the rate at which water evaporates from the soil and enters the atmosphere. But his study is still under review.
For any of these effects to be noticeable, however, the wind industry would have to be several orders of magnitude larger than it is now. As far as the present day is concerned, there?s no evidence that wind power is having a major effect on the world?s climate, while there?s plenty of evidence that the greenhouse gases we?re pumping into the air are doing quite a bit to heat the Earth.
The deep-pocketed super PAC that helped Mitt Romney bury his Republican primary opponents in negative campaigns is hoping to erase memory of those same ads as the candidate it’s supporting pivots to the general election. Politico reports Restore Our Future has scrubbed its YouTube channel of all but two spots:
The [two ads] that are left are a contrast spot about Romney and President Barack Obama and one about Romney helping a Bain official search for a teenaged daughter who’d disappeared in New York City. That spot, the best of the 2008 cycle for Romney, was made by Larry McCarthy for the campaign back then. McCarthy is now with ROF.
The super PAC removed nasty ads going after former candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, both of whom are expected to endorse Romney soon. Both candidates launched vicious attacks on Romney, with Gingrich explicitly calling Romney “a liar” and Santorum calling the former Massachusetts governor the “ultimate flip-flopper.” Restore our Future returned fire with at least $11 million in negative ads hitting the candidates, playing an essential role in helping Romney secure the nomination.
But now that Romney is the presumed nominee and heading into the general, the super PAC backing him and its former rivals would rather have voters forget what they said about each other during the primary.
Mitt Romney hasn’t appreciated the fact that President Obama’s campaign released a new video pointing out that Romney said in 2007 that he would not order military action similar to the one Obama ordered that ended up killing Osama bin Laden.
Romney now says that “of course” he would have done what Obama did. “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,? he said yesterday. And this morning during an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS, Romney reiterated that sentiment. “Of course I would have,” he said, “any thinking American would have ordered exactly the same thing.”
Apparently some of Obama’s top advisers don’t fit into the “thinking American” category. Vice President Joe Biden said in January that he advised the president against the raid. “Mr. President, my suggestion is, don?t go. We have to do two more things to see if he?s there,?? Biden recalled. Biden added that “every single person in the room” expressed reservations about going forward with the raid, “except Leon Panetta.”
Obama’s top counterterror adviser John Brennen, in an interview to be aired this Sunday, confirmed Biden’s account. “It was a divided room as far as, you know, some of the principal sentiments on this issue were concerned,” he said.
The New Yorker reported last August that Obama’s “military advisers were divided” and “Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the most outspoken opponents of a helicopter assault,” recalling President Carter’s failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.
When Charlie Rose pointed this out to Romney this morning, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee stuck to his talking points:
ROMNEY: Well you can look at the different military options but clearly if you’ve identified where Osama bin Laden is, the United States of America is going to take action, capture him or kill him. And that was the right action to be taken, that was the right course to be taken. We haven’t heard all the different military options there were.
Watch the clip:
It seems that Romney hasn’t been paying much attention to reports on the bin Laden raid. In fact, U.S. intelligence had not “identified” bin Laden, as Romney claimed. “My worry was the level of uncertainty about whether bin Laden was even in the compound,” Gates said in an interview with 60 Minutes. “There wasn`t any direct evidence that he was there. It was all circumstantial.”
Moreover, while it’s possible that “we haven’t heard all the different military options there were” for the bin Laden raid, as Romney also said, various reports have outlined a number of courses of action Obama could have taken. “Most were variations of either a JSOC raid or an airstrike. Some versions included co÷perating with the Pakistani military; some did not,” the New Yorker reported.