Workers & Economic Inequality

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No Author, No Law

TCF fellow Robert Hockett delves into the fine print of the "Cromnibus" bill that was recently passed by Congress. He suggests that President Obama exercise his veto power to overturn the bill for the critical reason that it repeals Section 716 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Section 716 indicates that taxpayers, rather than Wall Street, will cover the losses that the next crash could incur. The general public would basically be bailing out Wall Street all over again. He suggests two remedies to clear this oversight up: that both houses of Congress have passed the bill with large numbers of Democrats and Republicans alike voting against, our only remaining hope is that the president thinks better of his earlier lobbying efforts on behalf of the bill and to now veto it. It would have been better, of course, had he shown the courage of conviction last week, but this week will be better than none.

As to the second remedy, I propose some such rule as the following: Any time a provision turns up in a bill as if out of nowhere, with no one prepared to claim credit or blame for it, the provision should be viewed in effect as a typo, and deleted accordingly. Where there is no author, there is no law.

Here is Hockett's full piece.

Tags: wall street, presidential veto, fiscal policy, congress

A Kentucky County Just Voted to Approve the First Local Right-to-Work Ordinance

The "right-to-work" ordinance has recently gained popularity by anti-union groups at the city- and county- level. This ordinance was finally recognized last week in a small Kentucky county where an affirmative preliminary approval was seen. If this law does get passed in the near future, it will begin a nation-wide fight for similar local-level "right-to-work" cases says TCF's fellow Moshe Marvit.

Promoters of the effort argue that although federal labor law generally preempts any local ordinances, Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, which permits right-to-work laws in “any state or territory,” is ambiguous as to whether it applies to cities and counties. They argue that counties are subdivisions of the state, and home rule cities have been delegated authority by the state, so these entities should be included under the term “state.”

Read Marvit's full piece.

Tags: workers rights, right to work, economics, anti-union activists

How Fiscal Policy Failed During the Great Recession

TCF fellow Mark Thoma says we need to reexamine the fiscal policies employed during the Great Recession to see what worked and what did not. He offers some insight into what we should be considering for future financial crisis solutions. This insight includes: 1) policies must be temporary, crises are not the time to push ideological change; 2) call for an improved culture in the financial industry; and 3) create an independent, Fed style committee in charge of making recommendations for fiscal policy during recessions.

In the end, it’s very frustrating and discouraging. Temporary, timely, and targeted fiscal policy in deep recessions could help so many people. It could make a huge difference for those who are struggling to make ends meet, and it could help the economy recover faster. But Congress seems unable to find its way past ideological gridlock even when people are in so much need, and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to solve that problem.

Check out Thoma's full article here.

Tags: task force, great recession, federal reserve, economic recovery

Is the EU’s New Infrastructure Plan a New Deal for the 21st Century?

TCF policy associate Jacob Anbinder discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the European Union's latest infrastructure initiative called European Fund for Strategic Investments or "EFSI." He says that the funds being allocated are not actually new spending but ones that are redirected from the EU's "budget margin." The main issue is getting private-sector parties on board to fund part of the infrastructure, since this is not a project that will turn a profit. Anbinder explains:

Given its heavy reliance on private-sector involvement, EFSI may ultimately function better as a financial tool than as a social one. That is, rather than proactively prioritizing construction of the continent's most vital infrastructure projects, it may instead merely lend money on a first-come, first-served basis to public-private partnerships that would have happened anyway.

Access the full article here.

Tags: public spending, private sector, infrastructure, european union, economic policy

SCOTUS Rules Workers Don’t Need To Be Paid for All Their Time Working

TCF fellow Moshe Marvit provides commentary on the Supreme Court's decision in the case brought against the online retail company Amazon by their warehouse workers. Marvit describes the parameters of the case saying that company employees are more often than not subjected to harsh working conditions such as extreme temperatures or brutally fast-paced production times. The Supreme Court now ruled against the worker's lawsuit which requested that their time spent in security clearance upon exit be considered paid working time.

...Justice Thomas explains that the workers are not eligible for pay for the time they spend in the security screenings. The screenings are not the principal activity of Amazon because they were not hired to go through screenings, and they are not integral and indispensable because Amazon could have easily eliminated the screenings. The Court’s argument, then, is that because it is unnecessary for Amazon to execute long security screenings to conduct its business, it need not pay these workers for the required time they spend in these screenings.

Marvit's full article can be accessed here.

Tags: workers rights, scotus, fair labor standards

No One Is 5.8 Percent Unemployed

In his second installment on unemployment for TCF's "Working Paper Series," policy associate Mike Cassidy states that it is important to look further than the single statistic that indicates 5.8 percent of people are unemployed making 94.2 percent of people employed. He points out that statistics about the labor market are more than meets the eye and that demographics play a large role in determining what groups might be more at risk of unemployment than others.

While the data doesn’t allow us to attribute cause and effect, it does teach us a lesson. America is not an equal playing field. Even if we were all equal in observable ways, some of us (minorities, young people, old people and women) would still be playing from behind, while others (white people, men, married people, immigrants) would get a head start, at least where jobs are concerned.

US News features Cassidy's full piece.

Tags: unemployment rate, minorities, labor market, demographics


Workers & Economic Inequality

Workers & Economic Inequality

In recent decades, and especially since 2000, the richest Americans have enjoyed soaring income and wealth while the rest of the population's living standards have stagnated. The Century Foundation was one of the first institutions to raise serious concerns about these trends and propose ideas for improving economic conditions for all Americans- not just the fortunate few.

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