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Presidential Race: Different Tax Policies Would Have HUGE Effects On Working People

Underneath all the headlines about emails and wandering hands, there are some very important policy differences between the two presidential candidates.  Let’s start with tax policies.

Donald trump 5 (Gage skidmore Flikr)Donald Trump:

  • His plan would give highest-income taxpayers – those with incomes of more than $3.7 million – an average tax cut of $1.1 million.
  • About 8 million large families and single parents would see their taxes increase under his proposals.
  • His tax plan would add about $7.2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
  • His plan would cut taxes for hedge fund operators and other money managers by more than a third — allowing them to use a special 15% “pass-through” tax rate.

hillary clinton (WisPolitics.com FLIKR)Hillary Clinton:

  • Her plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income households by an average of $100.
  • High-income taxpayers would see an average tax hike of $118,000.
  • Her tax plan would increase federal revenue by $1.4 trillion over the next decade (which could be used to lower the federal debt, or to offset spending).

Donald Trump is old enough to remember what happens when the rich get tax cuts:

  • Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut: “Despite the tax cuts, business investment remained weak… The ballooning budget deficit forced Mr. Reagan to give ground” and taxes were raised again in 1986. And the deficit kept growing, until George H.W. Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge in 1990.
  • George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut package was supposed to create enough new jobs to pay back the entire federal debt.  Instead, those tax cuts contributed to record-setting federal deficits.
  • Bush’s 2003 tax cut package didn’t fix the economy, either; and as the deficit kept rising, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested reducing Social Security to pay for the cuts.
  • By 2006, even the US Treasury was saying that tax cuts for the rich don’t do much of anything… other than cut taxes for the rich.

But here we are, just three weeks from the election, and the mainstream media is focused on leaked emails and wandering hands… and there’s almost no mention of the fact that Trump wants to give the highest-income taxpayers an average $1.1 million tax break

There’s almost no mention of the fact that his proposal would add $7.2 trillion to the national debt.

There’s almost no mention of the fact that these sorts of tax cuts never, ever generate the kind of job growth that they’re supposed to.  (Why?  Maybe because corporate decision-makers keep spending their extra money on Wall Street rather than hiring workers.  Just last year alone, corporations spent more than $5.5 trillion buying shares of stock in their own or other companies.  That same amount of money could have created more than 70 million median-wage jobs.)

Three weeks out from the election, and almost no-one in the mainstream media is looking at how Trump’s “greatest tax cut ever!” would actually affect our country.  So if you think your friends might be interested in this, please use social media to share it.

The Tax Policy Center analysis of the presidential candidates’ tax policies is available here.

Verizon Spends Billions To Buy AOL & Yahoo Then Cuts Thousands Of US Jobs

2015-07-25_Mass_Rally_Stand_Up_To_Verizon

Verizon’s Greedy Corporate Businesss Model Is Exactly
What Is Wrong With Our Economy

Continuing our “What’s wrong with the economy” series using Verizon as a case study…

You can read about Verizon’s decision to lay off 4,800 American workers in yesterday’s NH Labor News.  (You might have missed it in the mainstream press, under all the election headlines.)  The cuts include seven call centers as well as some retail stores.

How is Verizon going to serve its customers, once all those call centers are closed?  The company “is offshoring customer service calls to numerous call centers in the Philippines, where workers are paid just $1.78 an hour and forced to work overtime without compensation.”  (Wow.  Not exactly a living wage.)

Guess what else was in the news yesterday.  Verizon’s agreement to buy Yahoo for $4.83 billion.  So…right now, Verizon is laying off thousands of American workers while it’s spending billions to acquire another company.  Does that make any sense to you?

And I’m feeling déjà vu.

Remember that Verizon workers had to strike, earlier this year, after working without a contract for eight months while the company demanded employee concessions?  That was at the same time Verizon was buying AOL for $4.4 billion.  Does that make any sense?  Why would a company that can afford to buy another company need draconian cuts to employee pensions, health care, and benefits for workers injured on the job?

And when Verizon “buys” another company, what, exactly, does it purchase?  AOL and Yahoo sell ads on the internet, they don’t have much in the way of bricks-and-mortar assets.  So, Verizon is spending billions of dollars to… buy another company’s stock.  After spending $5 billion to buy back its own stock.

Doing the math here?  Looks to me like… between 2015 and 2016, Verizon will spend a total of $14 billion on shares of corporate stock.  At the same time it is closing US call centers, laying off American workers and demanding concessions from its unions.  Money coming out of workers’ pockets, going into the pockets of stockholders.

While you’re getting mad, remember how Congress has structured our tax system.  Investment income is taxed at about half the rate of wage income; and it’s completely exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.  So the next time you hear a politician talking about how those systems are “going bankrupt”… ask them what would happen if they taxed investment income the same way they tax our wages.  I’m guessing it would fully fund Social Security and Medicare, as well pay down a good chunk of our federal debt.  But back to Verizon.

This is what’s wrong with our economy: CEOs and directors would rather purchase stock than pay workers. And so workers’ pay has been stagnant since the 1970s… even as our productivity has kept rising.

Meanwhile, the stockmarket is in the stratosphere.  And Verizon’s stock price keeps rising.

VZ stock chart

And Verizon’s corporate officers are doing just fine. (Read the rest of our Verizon series, starting here.)

And the Federal Trade Commission has already signed off on Verizon’s offer to purchase Yahoo … so it looks like Yahoo stockholders will be getting all those billions of dollars, while Verizon’s American workers face unemployment and its Philippines employees work unpaid overtime.

Because the folks who make corporate decisions would rather buy stock than pay workers.


Things weren’t always this way.  Once upon a time, it was illegal for corporations to repurchase their own stock.  But in 1982, the SEC created a regulatory “safe harbor” — and since that time, stock buybacks have skyrocketed.  Last year, corporations spent more than $650 million buying back their own stock.  All of that is money that could have been used for job creation or wage increases or facility expansion.  Sadly, some of that money came from the pockets of workers who were laid off, had their wages cut, or were forced to accept benefit cuts. (Read more about what Verizon “bought” with their 2015 $5 billion buyback program here.)

Once upon a time, corporate mergers and acquisitions were more closely regulated; but once the regulations were loosened again, mergers have risen to an all-time high.  Last year, corporations spent $5 Trillion buying up other corporations.  Again, that’s money which is not being used for job creation, wage increases or new plants and equipment.  And, again, some of that money came from the pockets of employees declared “redundant” when their company was acquired.  (Read more about AOL layoffs when Verizon acquired the company here.  Read more about Yahoo layoffs expected when Verizon acquires that company here.)

Source: Third Way

Source: Third Way


Do the math yourself. It adds up to more than $5.5 Trillion that corporations spent — just last year — buying stock rather than creating jobs.

And some folks wonder why our economy is in such a mess.

Legislative Committee Fails To Act On Governor Hassan’s “Gateway To Work” Program

Republicans Block The Proposal That Is Strongly Supported by New Hampshire’s Business Community 

CONCORD –Today, the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee failed to act on Governor Hassan’s Gateway to Work proposal, which would have strengthened workforce development in our state and has strong support from the NH Business and Industry Association. An attempt to remove the proposal from the table was defeated by the Republican majority on the Fiscal Committee.

Announced in Governor Hassan’s State of the State Address earlier this year, Gateway to Work will use repurposed existing federal funds to help New Hampshire’s citizens succeed in the workforce through strengthening job training, creating new apprenticeship opportunities, helping remove the barriers that cause too many citizens to fail in the workplace, and helping young people in the Granite State get a leg up on their futures.

“As we educate our young people and build the highly skilled workforce of the future, innovative businesses looking to grow here in New Hampshire need more workers now,” Governor Hassan said at the Gateway to Work kickoff event in March. “We have an opportunity to better use the talent of our own people right here in New Hampshire, helping our businesses thrive while closing the opportunity gap for New Hampshire’s children and families.”

“Through Gateway to Work, we can provide more of the workers our businesses need to thrive,” Governor Hassan said. “We can help give more of our families the opportunity to work their way to self-sufficiency and into the middle class. And we will do so using only existing federal funds, while achieving long-term savings for taxpayers by moving people off of public assistance,” added Hassan.  

The New Hampshire business community has continued to say that New Hampshire does not have enough skilled workers to fill the open jobs currently available now.  Recently the Washington Post highlighted New Hampshire’s growing need for skilled manufacturing workers as the majority of the workforce heads into retirement.

“While New Hampshire’s 2.8 percent unemployment rate is largely a good thing — it’s one of the nation’s lowest — it also means the labor pool is shallow. It’s created a squeeze for manufacturing companies in particular for two reasons: The industry’s workforce is aging at a faster than average rate, while fewer young workers have the proper skills — or interest — to fill the void of retiring workers,” wrote the Washington Post.

Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement after the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee failed to act on Governor Hassan’s Gateway to Work proposal:

“New Hampshire’s continued economic growth depends on our ability to meet the workforce needs of our businesses. As we work to retain existing businesses and attract new ones, the number one concern that I consistently hear from employers is their need for skilled workers.

“Gateway to Work has strong support from the business community because it would move people off of public assistance into sustainable careers, saving taxpayer dollars and providing innovative businesses with the workers they need to grow and thrive. With a strengthening economy and an unemployment rate that is among the lowest in the nation, the business community is desperate for workers. I am disappointed by the Fiscal Committee’s repeated delays with transferring the existing federal funds to launch Gateway to Work, and I am concerned that Republicans on the committee are allowing politics to prevent us from moving forward with this common-sense initiative to fill jobs at growing companies and help close the opportunity gap for New Hampshire’s children and families.”

After the vote, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), member of the Fiscal Committee, released the following statement: 

“I am frustrated and disappointed that the Joint Fiscal Committee played politics with our state’s economy today by voting against transferring TANF dollars to fund the innovative Gateway to Work program.  This program that has strong support from New Hampshire’s business community would have gone a long way towards strengthening our economy by providing potential employees with the skills and services they need to successfully gain employment.”  

“We hear constantly that with an improving economy, the most significant challenge our employers face today is finding skilled workers who are able to take jobs when offered. Gateway to Work targets potential employees who have barriers to employment such as reliable child care and transportation and helps lower those barriers to get them into the workforce. Every day that we delay implementation of this program, we leave both our unemployed constituents and our businesses behind.  We should be doing all we can to help Granite Staters escape poverty and move off of public assistance and towards self-sufficiency, and the vote by the Fiscal Committee today is a step in the wrong direction.” 

“Today’s action by the Republican majority forces our unemployed constituents to stay on public assistance programs instead of finding good employment and leaves our businesses without the workers they need to thrive and expand our economy.”

Representative Mary Jane Wallner (D-Concord) issued the following statement after the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee failed to act on Governor Hassan’s Gateway to Work proposal:

“I am extremely disappointed that Republicans continue to obstruct the implementation of the Gateway to Work initiative. It is a common sense program critical to New Hampshire’s future and should be approved as quickly as possible.

The Gateway to Work initiative would help workers, businesses, and the economy as a whole by investing in job training, apprenticeship opportunities and other supports for hard-working Granite Staters. There is no reason to delay an initiative that benefits everyone: Gateway to Work would help workers to get good-paying jobs, help businesses utilize a skilled workforce, and reduce government spending by moving people off public assistance and into stable careers. Republicans need to stop playing politics with our state’s future and approve Gateway to Work.”

By continuing to block programs like the “Gateway to Work,”  Republicans in Concord are showing that they are less interested in doing what is best for working people and businesses in New Hampshire and more interested in chasing wild conspiracy theories from doctored videos and sticking to their partisan opposition to Governor Hassan.

Republicans routinely complain about having too many people “living off the system” on public assistance and yet oppose one of the strongest proposals to help people “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” by providing them with the skills necessary to find a lasting career that will help lift them out of poverty.

Nuns on the Bus Stop in Concord for Rally to “Mend the Gaps”

2016-07-22 Nuns on the Bus Sr Simone Campbell

Sr. Simone Campbell addresses the crowd, while some of the Nuns on the Bus take shelter from the heat under umbrellas.

About 125 Granite Staters braved today’s heat to meet Sister Simone Campbell and the Nuns on the Bus at a State House rally to “Mend the Gaps” between us that weaken society, including gaps in income, healthcare, housing and access to democracy.

Campbell and nearly 20 Catholic sisters from around the country are visiting 13 states and both major party conventions on a tour that began July 11.  The tour’s goal is “to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with our message of inclusion.  NETWORK’s 44 year-old faith-filled political message is an alternative to the anger, fear, and polarization of this election cycle.  We believe in faithful citizenship, which compels us to travel the country to listen to the lived experiences of people in their communities and hold elected officials accountable to the promises they have made to legislate for the common good.”

The sisters are caucusing with local advocates in Manchester tonight, and will hold a rally in Boston tomorrow starting at 10:00 am on the front lawn of Boston College High School, 150 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston, MA 02125.  The full tour schedule is available at www.nunsonthebus.org.

At today’s rally, the sisters distributed brochures comparing candidates’ positions on “Mending the Gaps.”  Download the brochure comparing Kelly Ayotte with Maggie Hassan here and the brochure comparing Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump here.

Granite Staters shared their stories about the growing gaps in our economy which are making the American dream unattainable for too many families.

  • Jazmine Langley and Olivia Zink of Open Democracy signed the Bus before it left Concord, on the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

    Jazmine Langley, a Democracy Fellow with Open Democracy/NH, spoke about the challenges facing her as a biracial woman. “I have seen oppression up close. I have witnessed the gaps woven into the fabric of our country that are very much racially and socioeconomically based. From drug addiction to poverty. From police brutality to mass imprisonment. From strict voter ID laws to felon disenfranchisement. Our elected representatives and ourselves need to be held accountable for mending this gap. Whether that is by trying to spark legal reform in getting big money out politics, registering more voters, or fighting voter suppression laws, doing non-profit work dedicated to some aspect of this issue, or just educating yourselves, families, friends, and children about the issue at hand – it all makes a difference. This is our democracy, so this is our fight!”  You can watch Jazmine’s speech here.

  • Amy Shaw, a mother of two living in Rochester spoke about the challenge of finding affordable childcare. “Even with both my husband and I working, we couldn’t afford to send our kids to daycare. I had to quit my job because my monthly income wasn’t going to cover my childcare costs.” Watch Amy’s remarks here.
  • Jen Cole, of Pittsfield, said “Low wages make it challenging to pay the bills week to week but nearly impossible when life throws you a curveball. My husband was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and could not work for several months. We had to survive off of my income and rely on family and friends to help us through what was already a difficult time. If someone is working full time they should be able to make ends meet and not have to fear they’ll lose everything if they get sick.”
  • Sister Eileen Brady, of Nashua, is a Social Worker and Advocate at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter. As a Sister of Mercy, she has been a staunch advocate for peace and justice for decades.  “The Sisters of Mercy have been trying to ‘Mend the Gaps’ since 1858,” Sister Eileen said.  She shared stories of people she has met through the Nashua Soup Kitchen, “My friends who have no place to live tonight.”  You can watch her remarks here.

“Pope Francis challenges all people to come together to work for the common good,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, which launched the first Nuns on the Bus tour during the 2012 presidential campaign. “On our journey as Nuns on the Bus we will talk to those Pope Francis voters and, hopefully, inspire them to make mending the gaps the defining issue of the 2016 election.”

2016-07-22 Nuns on the Bus crowd2

Part of today’s crowd on the State House lawn.

“Every New Hampshire family deserves a fair shot at the American dream but rising costs, stagnant wages and unfair workplace policies are putting that dream out of reach for too many working people,” said Amanda Sears, director of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, a co-sponsor of the Concord rally.  “The visit from the Nuns on the Bus today highlights the need for family friendly policy solutions that lift workers and make our communities stronger.”

Today’s program was emceed by Gail Kenney of the United Church of Christ Economic Justice Mission Group.  Jack Bopp and Arnie Alpert led everyone in a rousing rendition of “We’re All Riding with the Nuns on The Bus.”  Opening prayers were offered by Rev. Gary M. Schulte, the Conference Minister of the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ, and Woullard Lett, president of the Manchester, NH branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Today’s rally was cosponsored by organizations including AFSC’s NH Program, NH Voices of Faith, Granite State Organizing Project, United Church of Christ Economic Justice Ministry, NH Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, NH Sisters of Mercy, and Stamp Stampede.

 

 

 

Governor Hassan’s Statement on June Unemployment Rate

Maggie-Hassan-Headshot-WebCONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan today issued the following statement on the announcement of the June unemployment data, which showed that the number of employed Granite Staters and the labor force continued to grow in June:

“As the number of employed residents and the labor force continued to grow in June, our unemployment rate still remains among the lowest in the nation. Despite these encouraging signs that indicate that our economy is moving in the right direction, we know that we still have more work to do to help all of our citizens access high-quality jobs and to support our innovative businesses who are looking for more skilled workers now.

“We must continue working together to build a stronger workforce with the skills and innovative thinking needed for success in the 21st century economy. This is why it’s more important now than ever to get Gateway to Work up and running as soon as possible. Gateway to Work will help us to develop and expand our workforce as our economy continues to strengthen, while at the same time closing the opportunity gap for our families. By strengthening job training, creating new partnerships between community colleges and businesses for apprenticeships and helping to remove the barriers that cause too many citizens to fail in the workplace, Gateway to Work will help us provide more of the workers our businesses need to thrive while helping our young people in the Granite State get a leg up on their futures.

“I remain committed to working with members from both parties to continue working together to support job-creating businesses, expand middle class opportunity and build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire where all of our people who work hard have the opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead.”

The AFL-CIO Pushes Back Against Pro-Business Democrats Trying To Change The New Overtime Threshold

Pay Check Everyone agrees that the current overtime threshold needs to be updated. The issue is, how quickly should this update take effect?

In May, the Department of Labor announced that they would be lifting the salary threshold for overtime from just over $23,660 a year to $47,476. This means that if you are a salaried employee who makes less than $47,476 dollars you will now be entitle to overtime (time and 1/2) for every hour worked in a week above 40.

“New overtime protections mark a major victory for working people that will improve the lives of millions of families across America,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO in a May press release. “We applaud the Obama Administration heeding the call for action to ensure working people get paid for all the hours we work. Taking this step to restore overtime is one of the many ways we are beginning to change the rules of our economy that are rigged in favor of Wall Street.”

“The fight for even stronger overtime protections and to raise wages for all working people continues. But today, millions of workers will receive a long overdue raise, healthier and more productive jobs, and more time to spend with our community and loved ones,” added Trumka. 

Congressman Kurt Schrader

Congressman Kurt Schrader

This week, Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5), Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-5), Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Congressman Collin Peterson (MN-7) introduced legislation that will “initiate a reasonable three-year phase-in of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule.”

“The current overtime threshold is horribly outdated and needs to be raised as both employees and employers navigate our changing economy. This bill will do exactly that without disrupting the way businesses operate and employees are paid,” said Congressman Schrader. “Since the DOL’s immediate phase-in date was announced, we’ve heard from business owners and their employees who are worried about implementing this increase overnight. Without sufficient time to plan for the increase, cuts and demotions will become inevitable, and workers will actually end up making less than they made before. It’s long past time we strengthen overtime pay protections for American workers in a meaningful and effective way.”

“While I believe the time has come to increase the overtime threshold, the DOL rule would put businesses in a bind and potentially lead to job loss,” said Congressman Peterson. “Both businesses and constituents in my district have expressed concern about the impact of an immediate threshold increase. A three-year phase in will provide adequate time for business to adapt to the new standard while also ensuring workers are fairly compensated.”

Surprise, businesses do not want to have to pay workers more money.  How are businesses going to win the race to the bottom if President Obama and the DOL keep raising the floor?

The Schrader plan is to phase the overtime threshold  in slowly to decrease the impact on businesses. Schrader’s office explained this proposed legislation would work in their most recent press release.

“On December 1, 2016, the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act will immediately increase the threshold more than 50% to $35,984. Each year following, the salary threshold will be raised by $74 per week until December 1, 2019, when we reach the DOL’s proposed $47,476 threshold.”

The one thing that Schrader’s office neglected to mention is that the newly proposed legislation would also eliminate the automatic increases to the overtime threshold every three years.

The AFL-CIO quickly spoke out against this newly proposed legislation in a stern letter to all Representatives in the U.S. House.

July 14, 2016

Dear Representative:

            I am writing on behalf of the AFL-CIO to urge you to oppose legislation, introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader, that would rob millions of workers of the overtime pay protection they have earned. The misnamed “Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act” would delay by three years the full implementation of the Labor Department’s new overtime regulations, originally scheduled to take effect in December, 2016.

            The Schrader bill would also eliminate the final rule’s mechanism that would automatically update the salary threshold every three years after implementation. As you know, workers have waited decades for an update to the salary threshold—it has only been updated once since the 1970s—in 2004 (when it was set too low). Having experienced decades of wage stagnation and uncompensated overtime, workers should not have to wait three more years for the protection the new regulations will provide.

            The current salary threshold for overtime pay would be over $57,000 if it had kept pace with inflation since 1975. Instead, effective December 1, 2016, the salary threshold below which salaried employees are automatically eligible for overtime pay will rise from $23,660 ($455 per week) to $47,476 ($913 per week). The Labor Department based this new threshold level on the 40th-percentile salary for workers in the lowest-wage Census region (currently the South). Because history demonstrates that it can take years for the regulatory process to adapt to changing labor markets, the rule also indexes the threshold to inflation. Once implemented, the threshold level will increase every three years, beginning in 2020.

            For approximately 12.5 million workers, this new regulation is the most effective way to raise wages, create jobs, and restore the 40-hour work week. The AFL-CIO urges you to oppose the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act and any legislation that would delay or weaken implementation of this important rule.

Sincerely,

William Samuel, Director
Government Affairs

Phasing in the new overtime rule by $74 dollars a week may be good for some businesses but it is definitely not good for workers. This proposed legislation would create confusion as to when workers would qualify for overtime leaving workers wide open for wage theft.

Aside from ensuring that workers are paid fairly for the hard work they are doing, this new overtime rule is intended to stimulate job growth. Rep. Schrader is worried about potential job losses from the new rule taking effect, yet the only businesses who would be effected by this rule have workers making less than $47,000 a year salary, who work more than 40 hours a week.  This means that businesses will have to choose:

  • Do they want to continue to pay their employee a low salary and pay them overtime for every hour above 40?
  • Do they want to raise the employee’s salary to $47,476, allowing the employee to work unlimited hours without having to pay them overtime?
  • Do they want to continue to pay their employee a low salary and then hire an additional employee to complete the extra work that needs to be done?

Either way workers are going to get a benefit. Either workers will get more money in their paycheck or more workers will receive paychecks.

This proposed legislation is bad for workers and will only continue the stagnation of our economy while leaving workers vulnerable to wage theft by their employers.  This legislation will do more harm than good and should be rejected.


For more information on who will benefit from the new overtime rule read our previous post from May 2016 or check out this handy info-graphic on the DOL overtime changes

Rep. Peter DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Curb Speculative Wall Street Trading and Bolster Main Street

Rep. Peter DeFazio

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today introduced legislation that would levy a 0.03 percent tax on transactions of stocks, bonds and derivatives to discourage the same speculative financial trading that led to the 2008 Wall Street collapse and 2010 ‘Flash Crash’.  Revenue could be directed to programs that strengthen Main Street American families. 

The Putting Main Street FIRST Act: Finishing Irresponsible Reckless Speculative Trading would provide billions of dollars in revenue each year by taxing three basis points, or three pennies for every hundred dollars, on most financial trading including stocks, bonds, and other transactions.  According to the Joint Committee for Taxation, the tax would raise $417 billion over ten years, which could be used to fund national priorities such as free higher education or job-creating infrastructure repair.

The legislation is supported by the AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Communications Workers of America, and Public Citizen. 

“Thanks to the reckless greed of Wall Street over the past few decades, the American economy is a grossly unbalanced playing field,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “The only way we can level it is if we rein in reckless speculative financial trading and curb near-instantaneous high-volume trades that create instability in the stock market and our national economy. These financial practices have no intrinsic value, and exist to make a quick buck for already-wealthy speculators. If we want to give middle-class families a fair shot at a strong economy that works for all Americans, we need to put Main Street FIRST.”

“The ‘Putting Main Street First Act’ will help encourage long-term investing, fund badly needed public investment and make our tax code fairer for working people,” said AFL-CIO Director of Policy Damon Silvers.

“Given the massive costs of the financial crisis and its devastating impact on families across the country — and on the wealth of minority communities in particular — it is long past time for Wall Street to pay its fair share in taxes, said Lisa Donner, Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform. “We applaud Representative DeFazio’s financial transaction tax proposal; a Wall Street speculation tax would not only help move our financial markets away from dangerous high-frequency trading, but also raise significant revenue to address unmet needs.”

“This tax is a great way to raise money for the federal government by making the financial sector more efficient,” said Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “The cost of the tax will be fully covered by the savings from reduced trading. This means that the ordinary investor will be left unharmed by this tax. The only people who feel the impact will be the short-term traders and the financial intermediaries.”

“Our Take on Wall Street coalition is determined to end to the finance industry’s practice not paying its fair share of taxes and sticking working families with the bill. We’re proud to join with Congressman DeFazio in putting working families and Main Street first, by setting a small fee on the billions of dollars of Wall Street trade that happen every day. Not only would this raise more than $400 billion to help families and communities, it would put the brakes on risky Wall Street behavior that threatens our economy,” said CWA President Chris Shelton.

“This bill is good policy and good precedent,” said Lisa Gilbert, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division. “Not only would taxing Wall Street trades grow revenue, it would stop the sorts of high-speed trading that adds volatility to our markets and increases costs for everyday investors and the public. Reining in Wall Street by stopping dangerous speculation is the right thing to do, and Public Citizen applauds Representative DeFazio and other champions for their support of this critical reform.”

Dear Platform Committee: Stock Buybacks Should Be Illegal

Bernie Sanders Hillary ClintonThis weekend, the Democratic Party Platform Committee will put the finishing touches on the party’s official policy positions.

What’s not in there, yet?  A clear stand against corporate stock buybacks.

Hillary Clinton made buybacks part of her presidential platform almost a year ago.  Bernie Sanders has been talking about buybacks even longer than that.

But while the presidential candidates were talking about the issue, corporations spent $600 billion buying back their own stock. (And that’s just counting what the big corporations spent.)

If that money had been spent on new hires, rather than just on concentrating corporate ownership, it could have created almost 8.5 million jobs.  (That’s at the average US wage, including benefits.)

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU

Imagine what the US economy could look like, if 8.5 million more of us were working right now.  Instead… well, you can read “US companies have spent $2 trillion doing something that has absolutely no impact on their business” for yourself here.  (That’s what the past five years of buyback spending adds up to: $2 trillion.  Yes, “trillion” with a “T.”)

Buyback spending drives up stock prices, which enriches corporate executives and investors who sell their stock.  But it’s not an investment in the corporation’s future – just the opposite, in many cases.  A lot of recent buybacks have been financed by new corporate debt, in a practice that one Wall Street insider described to me as “monetization of future revenues.”  They’re borrowing against future corporate revenues to pay stockholders now.  They’re mortgaging the future, rather than investing toward it.

This used to be illegal, back when the economy worked for the middle class.  This weekend, the Democratic Party Platform Committee should take a clear stand: it ought to be illegal, now.

Read more NH Labor News coverage about stock buybacks here.

Social Security And Medicare Report Shows We Need To Rein In Pharmaceutical Costs

2016 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports Highlight Need to Expand Social Security and Rein in Out of Control Pharmaceutical Corporations

Today the Social Security and Medicare Trustees released their annual report. The report showed some things we already knew, the Social Security trust fund is holding steady and will continue to pay full benefits for almost 20 more years.  They also showed that big pharma is fleecing Americans with out of control prescription drug prices.

“Both Social Security and Medicare face long-term financing shortfalls under currently scheduled benefits and financing. Lawmakers have a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce the long-term financing shortfall of both programs,” wrote the Social Security Administration. “The Trustees recommend that lawmakers take action sooner rather than later to address these shortfalls, so that a broader range of solutions can be considered and more time will be available to phase in changes while giving the public adequate time to prepare. Earlier action will also help elected officials minimize adverse impacts on vulnerable populations, including lower-income workers and people already dependent on program benefits.”

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, issued the following statement:

 “The Social Security Trustees reaffirmed that Social Security can pay full benefits until 2034. After that, it can pay three-quarters of benefits. This is unchanged from last year’s report.

“The Medicare Trust Fund for hospital care has sufficient funds to cover its obligations until 2028, two years sooner than projected last year.

“The message we must take is that it’s time to expand Social Security. There are several bills already pending in Congress that would expand Social Security benefits and adopt a more accurate formula for determining cost-of -living increases. Economists, public opinion surveys and our members’ own experiences all indicate that Social Security benefits are becoming a larger portion of Americans’ retirement income. The minimum benefit will need to be increased to keep most retirees out of poverty.

“We can also significantly strengthen Medicare by tackling skyrocketing prescription drug prices, which are increasing at more than twice the rate of inflation. Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $103 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013. We need to stop the profiteering and monopolistic behavior by pharmaceutical corporations to save both retirees’ and the taxpayers’ money.

“Nothing in today’s reports justifies Paul Ryan and the Republican Congressional leadership’s stated goal of cutting Social Security or Medicare by privatizing the systems or raising the retirement or eligibility age.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka took the opportunity to show that Hillary Clinton is “committed to strengthening Social Security,” while Donald Trump “can’t be trusted to protect” Social Security and other programs.

Today’s reports provide reassuring news for retired and disabled workers, their families and all Americans working toward a secure retirement. But fully funding Social Security’s modest benefits into the indefinite future in the face of a growing retirement income crisis is not enough; and the Medicare report establishes the precipitous growth of prescription drug prices as a major driver of healthcare costs. These represent some of the most important issues at stake for working people in this election.

Hillary Clinton is committed to strengthening and expanding vital programs working people rely on while Donald Trump can’t be trusted to protect them. We will stand with leaders like Hillary Clinton so together we control the cost of prescription drugs and improve benefits to ensure that future generations get the retirement security they need and deserve.

Progressives Rejoice As Obama Announces Support For Expanding Social Security

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

(Official White House File Photo by Pete Souza)

Progressives are celebrating a huge win this week as President Obama announced his support for expanding Social Security as part of a larger economic agenda.

 

“To me, if we raise the minimum wage; if we make it easier, not harder, for people to unionize; if we negotiate trade deals that raise labor standards and environmental standards in other countries, instead of letting them sell here and we can’t sell there; if we make sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our infrastructure to put a bunch of folks in hardhats back to work; if we make Social Security stronger rather than cutting it — if we do those things, then we are going to see wages go up, labor markets tighten, and we will relieve a lot of the stress that people feel,” said President Obama at a town hall discussion in Elkhart, Indiana on June 2nd.

This is a complete change in direction for Obama as it was only a few years ago that he was willing to make cuts to Social Security as part of his “Grand Bargain” with Republicans.

“Progressives led, they people spoke out, and the politicians are now embracing change we can believe in: Expanding Social Security benefits — never cutting them,” said Adam Green & Stephanie Taylor, Co-Founders of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “This will be a defining issue in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and congressional candidates across the nation are for expanding benefits to keep up with the rising costs faced by our grandparents and veterans. Donald Trump and Republicans oppose increased benefits, and many support cuts.”

“I applaud President Obama for joining the growing movement in the Democratic Party to expand Social Security — for today’s seniors, workers, persons with severe disabilities, and for generations to come,” said Eric Kingson, Co-Founder of Social Security Works. “With two-thirds of today’s working persons, especially those in their late 40s and 50s, facing a personal retirement income crisis, yes, it’s time to expand benefits. With the Social Security benefits for today’s seniors averaging just $14,000, today’s older Americans need benefit increases, and they need fairer cost-of-living adjustments. With the United States being one of only three nations that do not provide paid maternity benefits at birth or adoption, it’s long past time to add up to 12 weeks paid family and sick leave to our Social Security.”

“The Alliance for Retired Americans welcomes President Obama’s statement in favor of expanding earned Social Security benefits,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Alliance advocated the expansion of Social Security benefits for years and we are pleased that the President agrees with us.”

“Forty percent of Americans over the age of 50 say that Social Security will be their primary source of retirement income, and the current level of benefits is not keeping pace. It’s time for Congress to pass one of the many bills that has already been introduced to make a more secure retirement for current and future retirees,” added Fiesta.

Progressives like Senator Elizabeth Warren have tirelessly been taking the floor of the Senate to talk about how we need to do more to help our nation’s seniors.

“After a lifetime of work, people deserve to retire in dignity. Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, and for 15 million seniors — 15 MILLION — Social Security is the only thing standing between them and poverty,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “I’m proud that President Obama spoke out Wednesday about protecting and expanding Social Security for millions of people who are struggling to get by.”

“For me, this is about whose side you stand on. We have a growing retirement crisis in this country. Democrats recognize that. The President supports expanding Social Security. Nearly every Senate Democrat voted for my budget amendment in support of expanding Social Security. Both Democratic Presidential candidates support expanding Social Security. And the vast majority of Americans support expanding Social Security. Republicans may still be living in the Stone Age of trying to cut benefits, but on Social Security, the American people stand with President Obama and the Democrats to take on the retirement crisis,” added Warren.

As Sen. Warren alluded to, the battle over Social Security is a defining issue in the Presidential election.

In typical Donald Trump fashion, Trump says he is going to save Social Security, and the millions of seniors who rely on it, by not doing anything.

“I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is,” Trump said at a campaign event in Miami, Florida (3-10-16).

Trump also claims that Social Security is full of fraud, waste and abuse.

“Waste, fraud and abuse is massive in Social Security and Medicaid,” Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. In the same interview Trump attacked Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders for wanting to increase Social Security.

The Democratic candidates strongly support expanding Social Security and the Presidents new initiative.

Secretary Clinton tweeted out her support for expanding Social Security saying, “We can never let Republicans cut or privatize Social Security — we should protect and expand it. Thanks, @POTUS.”

 

Before campaigning for President, Senator Bernie Sanders was one of the loudest voices in the fight to expand Social Security.

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Before it was signed into law, nearly half of senior citizens lived in poverty,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “Today, the elderly poverty rate is 10 percent. Although still much too high, that’s a dramatic improvement.”

“I applaud President Obama for making it clear that it is time to expand Social Security benefits. Millions of seniors, disabled veterans and people with disabilities are falling further and further behind on $10,000 or $11,000 a year Social Security,” added Sanders.

Senators Warren and Sanders, along with Rep Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Rep Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have been asking Congress to “scrap the cap” on Social Security.

“We thank President Obama for speaking up on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities by calling for an expansion of Social Security benefits,” said Rep Keith Ellison and Rep Raul Grijalva. “So many Americans rely on these vital, earned benefits that they have secured through a lifetime of hard work. Still, too many seniors struggle to make ends meet. Expanding benefits and scrapping the payroll tax cap, which prevents the wealthy from paying their fair share, is the responsible way to ensure full Social Security solvency in the long-term while protecting today’s seniors.”

“We applaud the president for reaffirming the importance of Social Security, and we believe his statement shows just how important the progressive movement is in shaping the policies that will drive our country forward,” added Ellison and Grijalva.

It has become painfully obvious to many people that Social Security benefits have not kept up with the needs of seniors. New Hampshire Executive Councilor, and Gubernatorial candidate, Colin Van Ostern, explains how critical Social Security is to New Hampshire seniors.

“I applaud President Obama in his call to expand Social Security for hardworking Americans,” said Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern. “Here in New Hampshire one in five residents collect Social Security and without this critical program, nearly half of those individuals 65 years or older would have incomes below the poverty level. After years of too many calling to cut Social Security, this is a welcomed direction. Issues like this, and access to debt-free college are the path to a stronger future where everyone has a chance to succeed, not just those at the top.”

Expanding Social Security is a direct infusion to our local economies as seniors spend the majority of their Social Security check in their communities. Even though Social Security was designed to provide assistance to seniors as they retire, many now fully depend on Social Security as their sole source of income.

As part of expanding Social Security we should continue to push for higher payouts to seniors and to eliminate the payroll tax cap. We can add additional strength to the Social Security trust fund by increasing the minimum wage. By raising the minimum wage, workers would earn more in their paycheck and pay more in to the Social Security trust fund. Ultimately raising the minimum wage would provide higher payouts to workers 30-40 years from now when they retire as Social Security payouts are based on quarterly income rates.

Expanding Social Security is the only way to ensure that more seniors do not slip into poverty and can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve after a lifetime of hard work.

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