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AFL-CIO Releases An Election Night Survey Of What Union Members Were Voting On

AFL-CIO Survey Cover

AFL-CIO Survey CoverFROM HART RESEARCH ASSOCIATES Election Night Voter Survey of 803 general election voters in  11 Senate battleground states. The 11 States surveyed are as follows: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire  For a link to survey highlights visit: http://bit.ly/1s5rhMa

  • This election was about the economy: Asked to choose one or two priorities from a broad list, economic issues such as “the economy and jobs (42),” “Healthcare” (29), “Social Security” (18), and “Government spending and the deficit” trumped “Terrorism and national security” (17) and Taxes (11).
  • Raising wages is good for workers and the economy:  68% of voters said that “raising wages and salaries is good because it improves people’s standard of living and boosts the economy by putting money in people’s pockets.” Voters supported “raising the federal minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents per hour” by 62-34%.
  • Congress and the president must invest in key economic priorities: The electorate’s economic focus is underscored by the answer to this question: “Which one of the following do you think should be the higher priority for the president and Congress right now–(A) reducing taxes on businesses and individuals or (B) investing in key priorities like education, healthcare, and job creation?” “Investing in key priorities” (67%) dominated “Reducing taxes.” (29%)
  • The 2014 electorate remains deeply pessimistic about Republicans in Congress and whether they can fix the economy: Asked “Do you think that Republicans in Congress have a clear plan for strengthening the economy and creating jobs?,” only 29% of the electorate said yes, while 62% said no.
  • The electorate is struggling economically: 54% say their income is falling behind the cost of living while only 8% say that there income is going up faster than cost of living.  33% say their income is staying about even with the cost of living.
  • Voters “feel that corporations had too much influence over this year’s elections” (62%): whereas only 5% said corporate influence was “too little.”

Along the same lines, 55% strongly agree with the statement that “politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties do too much to support Wall Street financial interests and not enough to help average Americans, while 25% somewhat agree, and only 13% disagree (only 4% strongly).

  • Empowered union members supported working family candidates: While the non-union electorate voted 6% more for Republicans than Democrats, union voters preferred Democrats by 26%. That difference continued over key demographic groups: while non-union seniors (65+) voted 21% more for Republicans than Democrats, union seniors voted Democratic by a margin of 35%. Similarly, Republicans won non-union white women voted by 25%, and union member white women voted for Democrats by that same margin – 25%.  Non-union voters who make less than $50,000 per year voted for Democrats 1% more than Republicans, while their union counterparts voted for Democrats 35% more than Republicans.
  • Corporations should pay their fair share of taxes: 66% supported using tax revenue from closing corporate loopholes to reduce the budget deficit and make public investments while only 22% were in favor of reducing tax rates on corporations.

That’s consistent with the finding that 73% of voters support “increasing taxes on the profits that American corporations make overseas, to ensure they pay as much on foreign profits as they do on profits made in the United States,” while only 21% oppose such a plan.

  • More funding is needed for public schools and higher education:“Increasing funding for public schools from preschool through college was supported 75-21%,” while “raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations to fund priorities like education, job training, and deficit reduction” was ahead 62-32%.
  • No fast-track authority for NAFTA style trade agreements: By 49% to 36% voters oppose having Congress give the president fast-track authority for a new Pacific trade agreement.
  • Social Security benefits should be increased rather than cut: Increasing Social Security benefits, paid for by having high-income people pay Social Security taxes on all of their wages was supported 61-30%, whereas raising the Social Security retirement age won only 27% support, with 66% opposed.

    Along similar lines, voters are opposed 76-18% to the idea of raising the age at which seniors are eligible for Medicare and oppose “Cutting the Medicaid health program” by a similarly overwhelming margin of 76-17.

 

Granite State Rumblings: 10 Ways To Cut Poverty And Grow The Middle Class

Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)
Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)

Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)

I spend a lot of time writing and working on poverty related issues and to some it may seem that I have little interest in talking about or protecting the middle class. This is not case. Issues that affect those living in poverty and policies that help move individuals out of poverty all relate to and have a direct impact on the middle class. A large and stable middle class has been central to America’s wealth and stability for decades. To help make the case, I am sharing a recent brief from Rebecca Vallas, Associate Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress and Melissa Boteach, Vice President of Half in Ten and the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center.

The Top Ten Solutions to Cut Poverty and Grow the Middle Class

The Census Bureau released its annual income, poverty, and health insurance report yesterday, revealing that four years into the economic recovery, there has been some progress in the poverty rate as it fell from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013, but there was no statistically significant improvement in the number of Americans living in poverty.
Furthermore, low- and middle-income workers have seen little to no income growth over the past decade, as the gains from economic growth have gone largely to the wealthiest Americans.

With flat incomes and inequality stuck at historically high levels, one might assume that chronic economic insecurity and an off-kilter economy are the new normal and that nothing can be done to fix it. But there is nothing normal or inevitable about elevated poverty levels and stagnant incomes. They are the direct result of policy choices that put wealth and income into the hands of a few at the expense of growing a strong middle class.

The good news is that different policy choices can bring different outcomes. When the government invests in jobs and policies to increase workers’ wages and families’ economic security, children and families see improved outcomes in both the short and long term.

Here are 10 steps Congress can take to cut poverty, boost economic security, and expand the middle class.

1. Create jobs

The best pathway out of poverty is a well-paying job. To get back to prerecession employment levels, we must create 5.6 million new jobs. At the current pace, however, we will not get there until July 2018. To kick-start job growth, the federal government should invest in job-creation strategies such as rebuilding our infrastructure; developing renewable energy sources; renovating abandoned housing; and making other common-sense investments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and boost our national economy. We should also build on proven models of subsidized employment to help the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged workers re-enter the labor force.

In addition, the extension of federal unemployment insurance would have created 200,000 new jobs in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Indeed, every $1 in benefits that flows to jobless workers yields more than $1.50 in economic activity. Unfortunately, Congress failed to extend federal unemployment insurance at the end of 2013, leaving 1.3 million Americans and their families without this vital economic lifeline.

2. Raise the minimum wage

In the late 1960s, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could lift a family of three out of poverty. Had the minimum wage back then been indexed to inflation, it would be $10.86 per hour today, compared to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation—as President Barack Obama and several members of Congress have called for—would lift more than 4 million Americans out of poverty. Nearly one in five children would see their parent get a raise. Recent action taken by cities and states—such as Seattle, Washington; California; Connecticut; and New Jersey—shows that boosting the minimum wage reduces poverty and increases wages.

3. Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers

One of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty tools, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, helped more than 6.5 million Americans—including 3.3 million children—avoid poverty in 2012. It’s also an investment that pays long-term dividends. Children who receive the EITC are more likely to graduate high school and to have higher earnings in adulthood. Yet childless workers largely miss out on the benefit, as the maximum EITC for these workers is less than one-tenth that awarded to workers with two children.
President Obama and policymakers across the political spectrum have called for boosting the EITC in order to right this wrong. Importantly, this policy change should be combined with a hike in the minimum wage; one is not a substitute for the other.

4. Support pay equity

With female full-time workers earning just 78 cents for every $1 earned by men, action must be taken to ensure equal pay for equal work. Closing the gender wage gap would cut poverty in half for working women and their families and add nearly half a trillion dollars to the nation’s gross domestic product. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to hold employers accountable for discriminatory salary practices would be a key first step.

5. Provide paid leave and paid sick days

The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, making it very difficult for millions of American families to balance work and family without having to sacrifice needed income. Paid leave is an important anti-poverty policy, as having a child is one of the leading causes of economic hardship. Additionally, nearly 4 in 10 private-sector workers—and 7 in 10 low-wage workers—do not have a single paid sick day, putting them in the impossible position of having to forgo needed income, or even their job, in order to care for a sick child. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, would provide paid leave protection to workers who need to take time off due to their own illness, the illness of a family member, or the birth of a child. And the Healthy Families Act would enable workers to earn up to seven job-protected sick days per year.

6. Establish work schedules that work

Low-wage and hourly jobs increasingly come with unpredictable and constantly shifting work schedules, which means workers struggle even more to balance erratic work hours with caring for their families. Ever-changing work schedules make accessing child care even more difficult than it already is and leave workers uncertain about their monthly income. Furthermore, things many of us take for granted—such as scheduling a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher conference at school—become herculean tasks. The Schedules That Work Act would require two weeks’ advance notice of worker schedules, which would allow employees to request needed schedule changes. It would also protect them from retaliation for making such requests—and provide guaranteed pay for cancelled or shortened shifts. These are all important first steps to make balancing work and family possible.

7. Invest in affordable, high-quality child care and early education

The lack of affordable, high-quality child care serves as a major barrier to reaching the middle class. In fact, one year of child care for an infant costs more than one year of tuition at most states’ four-year public colleges. On average, poor families who pay out of pocket for child care spend one-third of their incomes just to be able to work. Furthermore, federal child care assistance reaches only one in six eligible children.

Boosting investments in Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, as well as passing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act—which would invest in preschool, high-quality child care for infants and toddlers, and home-visiting services for pregnant women and mothers with infants—will help more struggling families obtain the child care they need in order to work and improve the future economic mobility of America’s children.

8. Expand Medicaid

Since it was signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has expanded access to high-quality, affordable health coverage for millions of Americans. However, 23 states continue to refuse to expand their Medicaid programs to cover adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level—making the lives of many families on the brink much harder. Expanding Medicaid would mean more than just access to health care—it would free up limited household income for other basic needs such as paying rent and putting food on the table. Having health coverage is also an important buffer against the economic consequences of illness and injury; unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Studies link Medicaid coverage not only to improved health, improved access to health care services, and lower mortality rates, but also to reduced financial strain.

9. Reform the criminal justice system and enact policies that support successful re-entry

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world. Today, more than 1.5 million Americans are behind bars in state and federal prisons, a figure that has increased fivefold since 1980. The impact on communities of color is particularly staggering: One in four African American children who grew up during this era of mass incarceration have had a parent incarcerated.

Mass incarceration is a key driver of poverty. When a parent is incarcerated, his or her family must find a way to make ends meet without a necessary source of income. Additionally, even a minor criminal record comes with significant collateral consequences that can serve as lifelong barriers to climbing out of poverty. For example, people with criminal records face substantial barriers to employment, housing, education, public assistance, and building good credit. More than 90 percent of employers now use background checks in hiring, and even an arrest without a conviction can prevent an individual from getting a job. The “one strike and you’re out” policy used by public housing authorities makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with even decades-old criminal records to obtain housing, which can stand in the way of family reunification. Furthermore, a lifetime ban—for individuals with felony drug convictions—on receiving certain types of public assistance persists in more than half of U.S. states, making subsistence even more difficult for individuals seeking to regain their footing, and their families.

In addition to common-sense sentencing reform to ensure that we no longer fill our nation’s prisons with nonviolent, low-level offenders, policymakers should explore alternatives to incarceration, such as diversion programs for individuals with mental health and substance abuse challenges. We must also remove barriers to employment, housing, education, and public assistance. A decades-old criminal record should not consign an individual to a life of poverty.

10. Do no harm

The across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration—which took effect in 2013—slashed funding for programs and services that provide vital support to low-income families. Sequestration cost the U.S. economy as many as 1.6 million jobs between mid-2013 and 2014. Some relief was provided this January, when Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, but many important tools to help low-income individuals and families pave a path to the middle class—such as adult and youth education and training programs, child welfare, and community development programs—were on a downward funding trend even before sequestration took effect.

As Congress considers a continuing resolution to fund the federal government past October 1 and avoid another government shutdown, it should reject further cuts to programs and services such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which provides vital nutrition assistance to pregnant women and mothers with new babies. Thereafter, Congress should make permanent the important improvements made to the EITC and the Child Tax Credit as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which are set to expire in 2017. And it should avoid additional cuts to vital programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which suffered two rounds of deep cuts in 2013 and 2014.

Conclusion

It is possible for America to dramatically cut poverty. Between 1959 and 1973, a strong economy, investments in family economic security, and new civil rights protections helped cut the U.S. poverty rate in half. Investments in nutrition assistance have improved educational attainment, earnings, and income among the young girls who were some of the food stamp program’s first recipients. Expansions of public health insurance have lowered infant mortality rates and reduced the incidence of low birth rates. In more recent history, states that raised the minimum wage have illustrated the important role that policy plays in combating wage stagnation.

There is nothing inevitable about poverty. We just need to build the political will to enact the policies that will increase economic security, expand opportunities, and grow the middle class.

GROWING UP GRANITE

The NH Center for Public Policy Studies recently released their report, “What is New Hampshire?” 2014 Edition. Here is just a small piece of the report and here is where to go find and read the rest of it!

New Hampshire is navigating a series of shifting economic, demographic, social and political forces. Among the new trends shaping the state into the 21st Century: an aging population; increasing racial and ethnic diversity; a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past; and continued demand on the state budget for public services. While the implications of these and other challenges are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions explored in this report.

Throughout its history, New Hampshire has worn many identities: agricultural outpost on the edge of New England; bustling engine of the Industrial Revolution; oasis for nature-seeking tourists; haven for tax-fleeing transplants. In the early years of the 21st Century, New Hampshire is still evolving amid shifting economic, demographic, social and political forces.

Among the new trends shaping the “new” New Hampshire: an aging population; increasing racial and ethnic diversity; a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past; and continued demand on the state budget for public services

While the implications of these and other challenges are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions, including:

  • Economy: New Hampshire suffered the effects of the Great Recession less severely than many other states, but slow job growth continues to gnaw at the state’s economy. As of the summer of 2014, New Hampshire lagged behind the nation and the rest of New England in recovering jobs lost during the recession. What is the state’s economic development plan, especially in relation to demographic trends that show New Hampshire’s population growth slowing in coming years? What specific industries or regions of New Hampshire will help shape the state’s economy in coming years? What regional approaches to economic development will find greatest success?
  • Demographic change: While New Hampshire is consistently rated one of the best places in the country to raise children, our population as a whole continues to age. Meanwhile, our school enrollment continues on a decade-long decline, and several measures of youth well-being in the state show worrisome trends, including rising levels of childhood poverty. What are the implications of these developments on education policy, housing, public services and transportation?
  • Health care: New Hampshire’s health policy landscape faces great uncertainty amid recent reforms at the national level, as well as continued rises in cost and the continued aging of the state’s population. What impact will the shifting health marketplace have on New Hampshire’s economy and the well-being of its residents?
  • Long-term planning: State policymakers face a long list of critical issues in coming years: public infrastructure investment, education finance, corrections spending, health care, and energy policy, among others. Many of these require a long-term perspective and an understanding of multi-year trends. How will the state – which has a two-year budget cycle and a two-year term for all major state offices – manage to plan decades into the future?

This report is our annual survey of the major policy issues and critical questions shaping our future. The data explain where New Hampshire has been, forecast where it is heading, and explore how current trends and policy choices facing the state will affect the well-being of its citizens.

Nightmare on Wall Street? Are Stock Buybacks Creating Another ‘Financial Bubble?’

An American flag festooned with dollar bills and corporate logos flies in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. 
Image by JayMallin.com
An American flag festooned with dollar bills and corporate logos flies in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.  Image by JayMallin.com

Image by JayMallin.com

Some blog posts are easy to forget. But the one I wrote last week is beginning to give me nightmares.

Here’s why: the stock market keeps hitting record highs. But the so-called “economic recovery” – which started in June 2009 – is just beginning to “trickle down” to us average Americans.

And oh, such a sloooooow trickle! “Although the economic recovery officially began in June 2009, the recovery in household income did not begin to emerge until after August 2011. …Median income in February 2014 [was only] 3.8 percent higher than in August 2011.”

And we’re not anywhere near “recovered” from the damage caused by the last two recessions. “The February 2014 median was [still] 6.2 percent lower than the median of $56,586 in January 2000.”

So in last week’s blog post, I took a look at the research UMass Professor Bill Lazonick and his team have done, about how top US corporations have been distributing their net income to shareholders rather than reinvesting money in their business (or workers).

What Professor Lazonick found: since 2004, the surveyed companies have returned 86% of net income to stockholders through dividends and stock buybacks. In 2013, those companies spent an average of $945 million just buying back their own stock. Repeat: $945 million is the average. That’s per company. In one year.

So I took a closer look at that, using a couple of companies as case studies. I keep hoping that I’m completely wrong. I’m not an economist, I’m not an expert. I’m just a blogger who looks at things from my own personal perspective.  And when I looked, here’s what I found:

FedEx:

  • CEO Fred Smith owns more than 15 million shares of FedEx (not counting shares held by his wife, his family holding company or his retirement plan.)
  • Last October, FedEx announced plans to buy back 32 million shares – more than 10% of its stock.
  • FedEx borrowed $2 billion to help pay for that stock repurchasing program. Those bonds run from 10 to 30 years.
  • In the past year, FedEx stock has gained over 44 percent. That translates into a huge increase in net worth for Mr. Smith… somewhere between a half-billion dollars (as of my post last week) and $600 million (the stock price kept going up). Yeah… FedEx borrowed $2 billion… and its CEO personally benefited by a half-billion-plus.
  • But maybe there’s a reason why FedEx stock soared by 44%? Let’s see… according to the International Business Times, its ground shipping business grew by 13% and it is trimming employee benefit costs by 13%; and so the overall corporate profits grew by 24%.
  • Corporate profits grew by 24%… but the stock price grew by 44% (benefiting “company executives who receive stock-based compensation”).
  • But of course there are fewer shares of stock now than there were last year, because of the buyback program. So I looked at the company’s “market cap” – or, the total value of all the outstanding shares. And that also grew: from $39.03 billion when the stock buyback was announced last October… to $50.35 billion as of Friday. So the market cap grew by $11.32 billion – or about 29% – during roughly the same time that profits grew by only 24%.
  • Let me recap: The company grew its business a bit, while at the same time cutting employee costs. It borrowed to buy back stock, enriching its CEO. And Wall Street rewarded this behavior. Stock value grew – at a much faster rate than the company’s profits were rising.

wall_streetThat difference between 24% growth in profits and 29% growth in market value? Isn’t that just a “Wall Street bonus” for taking part in this borrow-and-buyback scheme?  But why is Wall Street is rewarding FedEx for moving toward a “loot the company” model of business behavior?

It’s not just FedEx.

One analysis, from June 2014:

Since the end of 2012, using the DOW (NYSEARCA:DIA) companies as a large cap company market proxy, share buybacks in dollar volume have exceeded the actual level of after tax profits recorded by the 30 companies in the index. What this means is that somewhere in the DOW there must be more than a handful of companies, which are either borrowing money or deferring capital expenditures in a potentially harmful manner for the sole purpose of buying their shares back in the market to boost share price.

From last week’s Wall Street Journal:

Companies are buying their own shares at the briskest clip since the financial crisis, helping fuel a stock rally amid a broad trading slowdown.

Corporations bought back $338.3 billion of stock in the first half of the year, the most for any six-month period since 2007, according to research firm Birinyi Associates. Through August, 740 firms have authorized repurchase programs, the most since 2008.

No, it’s not just FedEx.

Cisco:

Back in February, Cisco announced an $8 billion bond issue “to help finance stock buybacks after the shares lost almost 6 percent over six months.”

  • Cisco CEO John Chambers owns about 2 million shares of Cisco stock.
  • Cisco stock was trading at $22.12 when that bond issue/buyback was announced. Now, it’s trading at $25.20. Do the math: that’s about a 14% increase in per-share price; and more than a $6 million increase in Mr. Chambers’ net worth.
  • Cisco’s market cap was $113.95 billion when the bond issue/buyback was announced.   Now, it’s $128.7 billion. Do the math: that’s about a 13% increase in Wall Street’s assessment of the company’s total value.
  • But what’s going on with the actual company?   Last month, Cisco released an earnings statement “that illustrated its troubles as one of the tech industry’s giants competing in a rapidly changing environment.”  Profits are down, compared to last year. And it is planning to eliminate 6,000 jobs.
  • Let me recap: Profits are down, layoffs are pending. But the company borrowed $billions to buy back stock, enriching its CEO and other executives.   And Wall Street rewarded this behavior.

Want to know what worries me most about Cisco? It looks like Cisco’s CEO is selling his stock. According to the filings, he owns a lot less Cisco stock now than he did when the bond issue/buyback was announced. Doesn’t he have any faith in his corporation’s long-term prospects?

It’s not just Cisco.

Bloomberg News:

American companies have seldom spent more money than they are now buying back shares. The same can’t be said for their executives. … While companies are pouring money into their own stock because they have nothing better to do with it, officers and directors aren’t… Insiders buying stock have dropped 8 percent from a year ago, poised for the fewest in more than a decade.

wall street bullAnd even worse? That perspective that companies “have nothing better to do” with their money than buy back stock.

As of a couple of weeks ago:

In total, US companies have announced USD309bn worth of share repurchases year-to-date, up from USD259bn for the same period a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Do the math. Nine months of stock buybacks equals about 6 million median-wage American jobs.

Let me rephrase that.

The money that US corporations are spending buying back their own stock “because they have nothing better to do with it” could give a $52,000-a-year job to two-thirds of unemployed Americans.  

Or: a job paying more than twice minimum wage to all unemployed Americans.

Instead… Cisco’s cutting 6,000 jobs. FedEx is cutting employee benefits. And who knows what all the other companies in Professor Lazonick’s survey are doing?

Here’s the thing: buying back stock doesn’t add any intrinsic value to a company. It’s not a new product line, it’s not a new factory, it’s not any kind of investment in the company’s future. All it does is concentrate the stock ownership. Same everything else – just fewer shares of stock. (Sort of like ultra-concentrated dish soap… same basic thing, just in a smaller bottle.)

So, aren’t these rising market caps at least somewhat artificial? Why should a company be worth more, just because it has fewer shares of stock?

Cisco may have declining profits… but its market cap is growing. FedEx may be growing, but its market cap is growing faster. Why?

Here’s the other thing: To accomplish this concentration of stock ownership… corporations are bonding untold billions of dollars. (Yes, that’s another thing I couldn’t find tracked anywhere.)

So yeah, they’re borrowing against the future… to improve stock prices today.

soap bubbleAnd Wall Street is encouraging this.

There’s a technical term for those sorts of artificial increases: they’re called “bubbles.”

And that’s why I’m starting to have nightmares.

I’m wondering when this latest Wall Street bubble is going to burst.

Why the Economy Doesn’t Work for the 99%: Massive Payouts to Corporate Stockholders

http://2bgr8stock.deviantart.com/art/Money-Cash6-117258936 By 2bgr8STOCK
We Are the 99 Percent photo by Gawain Jones via Flikr Creative Commons license

Photo by Gawain Jones via Flikr Creative Commons License

Wondering what happened to America’s Middle Class? UMass Lowell professor William Lazonick has some numbers for you.

  • Since 2004, top US corporations have paid 86% of their net income to stockholders through dividends and stock buybacks.

Why that’s important: Money paid out to stockholders is not available for long-term growth investments such as R&D, opening new facilities, updating equipment or hiring new employees. It’s also not being used to give raises to current employees. But I’m digressing. Back to Professor Lazonick:

  • And 86% is just the average return to stockholders. Professor Lazonick names 15 corporations that spent more than their net income on dividends and stock buybacks, including: Time Warner (280%); DirecTV (192%); Hewlett-Packard (168%); Pfizer (137%) and Home Depot (134%).

Wonder how corporations can pay more out to stockholders than they receive in net income? Here’s one possible answer: they can borrow the money. From May 20, 2014 Time Warner Inc. Prices $2.0 Billion Debt Offering: “The net proceeds from the issuance of the notes and debentures will be used for general corporate purposes, including share repurchases.” (Remind you of…say, What Mitt Romney Taught Us About America’s Economy?)

But I’m digressing again. Back to Professor Lazonick, again:

  • The top corporations kept paying dividends through the recent recession, with a barely-noticeable drop between 2008 and 2010. “[T]hrough boom and bust, dividends were stable, and on the rise from 2010. In 2004 mean dividends were $349 million; in 2013 double that amount at $685 million.”

Repeating that: an average of $685 million in dividends per company. Paid out to stockholders, not reinvested in the business. Just in 2013.

Wondering what effect that has on America’s economy? Here’s one example, using a company that paid out much less than $685 million in dividends:

http://2bgr8stock.deviantart.com/art/Money-Cash6-117258936 By 2bgr8STOCKLast year, we estimated what FedEx CEO Fred Smith received – personally – in dividend income: “According to SEC filings, he owns about 15 million shares of the company.  Last year, FedEx paid out a total of 55 cents per share in dividends.  Do the math… and it looks like Mr. Smith received about $8.5 million in dividends (not counting dividends to his family holding company, his wife, or his retirement fund).” Also last year, we estimated what that meant in the larger scheme of things: “his 15 million shares in the company represent only a fraction of the outstanding stock. For Mr. Smith to receive $8.5 million in dividends, personally, the company has to pay out well over $100 million in total dividends – money that could have been invested in new hires, or new planes, or new facilities (or improved employee benefits).”

Now, compare that $8.5 million that we calculated he received as dividends with his $13.7 million “compensation package” that was reported about the same time.

Hey, maybe we did the math wrong. Maybe Mr. Smith didn’t actually get two-thirds again as much in dividends as he got in official “compensation.” It’s really, really hard to track dividend payments to corporate CEOs – that information is not reported anywhere that we have been able to find.

But doesn’t it seem possible that Mr. Smith’s decisions about how FedEx treats its workers… could perhaps be influenced by the fact that he gets a substantial share of the dividends paid out to stockholders? Read FedEx And The Real Reason Why There’s No Jobs: Cut Back On Worker Hours And Raise Profits. Also remember that a federal appeals court just ruled that FedEx improperly classified 2,300 California drivers as “independent contractors” rather than “employees”… to the tune of “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

BTW, it’s not just difficult to track dividend payments to CEOs… it’s also hard to track the effect of stock repurchasing programs on CEOs.

Going back to Mr. Smith… Late last year, FedEx announced plans to buy back up to 32 million shares – or, about 10% of outstanding stock. Since then, the market price of its stock has risen by about $35 a share. Multiply $35 per share by the roughly 15 million shares Mr. Smith owns… and you’re talking some serious numbers.

Not to repeat myself (again), but: that type of information isn’t tracked anywhere. At least, not anywhere we could find.

Going back to Professor Lazonick:

  • The corporations in his survey spent 51% of net income on stock buybacks.

Yep, must be lookin’ real rosy up there in the corporate offices. Extrapolating from our FedEx example, can you imagine how much all those different stock buybacks have enriched America’s CEOs?

EGTRRA signingAnd as near as I can tell, it’s going to keep lookin’ rosy in corporate offices as long as our federal tax system encourages this sort of thing. Ever since the Bush tax cuts, investment income has been taxed at a much lower rate than wage income. Are we really surprised that CEOs are taking more compensation in stock options and awards, rather than traditional wages?

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Meanwhile, yesterday’s New York Times hosted a “Room for Debate” on the policy implications of Professor Lazonick’s research.

Want to know how deeply ingrained the “No New Taxes” ceiling has become, in our public discourse?

Not a single policy expert quoted in that “debate” even suggested that America should return to taxing investment income at the same rate as wages.

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#dejavu

My “Why the Economy Doesn’t Work for the 99%” post from last year is available here.

Will Senator Sanders Run? After This Speech, I Hope So!

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

There is a war out there and whether you know it or not, you are a part of it.  This is a war between a few ultra-wealthy families and the rest of us living here in America.

These ultra-wealthy 1%’ers have been buying elections and forcing policy changes that weaken our labor laws, weaken environmental protections, and most importantly take money from hard working Americans and put it into the pockets of Wall Street hedge fund managers.

What is a middle class worker supposed to do?

Every year we sit and watch, as our paychecks appear to shrink and our grocery bills get higher and higher.  Corporate run healthcare is costing us more and more, and yet our employers refuse to increase wages.  Effectively Corporate is slowly eating away at our take home pay.

We need someone who will fight back against Corporate America, the Koch brothers, and the Walton family greed.  We need someone who will fight to rebuild the middle class, and reach down to help those who are not there yet.

Who could that person be? Hillary Clinton? Maybe, well have to see. Elizabeth Warren? Love her, but we need her in the Senate right now.

Have no fear, Bernie Sanders is here!  

The truth is that nobody knows if Bernie Sanders is officially going to run for President or not, and trust me I tried to ask him at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast.  Even though I did not get a straight answer, after watching Senator Sanders speak there is no doubt in my mind he is running. And that makes me very happy!

As an avid political commentator, and devoted follower of politics, sadly I do not think Bernie will win the Democratic Party nomination.  That being said it is vitally important that Senator Sanders puts his name in the race, because he is going to ask the questions that absolutely nobody on the right will dare answer, and he is going to change the entire debate on the left, which may make Hillary a little uncomfortable.

The fact that Senator Sanders is even considering to run has many 1%’ers running scared. The more Bernie talks about running, the more speeches like this one, get pushed into the mainstream media.  The 1% does not want you to know that they are secretly creating policies that suppress your wages, and boost their profits.  The 1% does not want you to know that they have been working to break our unions, and repeal the minimum wage. The 1% does not want you to know that they are secretly changing our environmental laws to make it easier to pollute our planet.

“The problems we face today are probable more serious than at any time since the Great Depression” warned Sanders.  “From the bottom my heart, I believe these problems are solvable, but they will not be solved unless working people come together and have the courage to take on the greed and the selfishness that we are seeing all over this country.”

At one point Senator Sanders talked about how our entire tax structure is unbalanced and that we have to do something about the vast income inequality currently dividing our country.  This is effecting our communities as local budgets are getting tighter and tighter. Lack of revenue and budget cuts have forced teachers to be laid off.  Laying off teachers is the worst thing we can do if we are trying to build strong community.  Teachers are forced out while Wall Street hedge fund managers collect obscene amounts of money.

“24 of the most lucrative hedge fund managers made more money than 425,000 public school teachers. That makes sense to nobody I know,” Sanders said.

Senator Sander also talked about David Koch’s Libertarian agenda when he ran for Vice President in 1980.  All of the things that were too extreme for main stream Republicans in 1980 like, repealing the minimum wage, the repeal of Social Security, repealing campaign finance laws, the abolition of the USPS and the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid, are now the basis of the modern day TEA Party led Republican Party.

All of these policy changes favor those ultra-wealthy 1%’ers and basically screw the rest of us.  That is not what our founding fathers wanted when they created our democracy.

Senator Sanders said, “We live in a Democracy not an Oligarchy!”

I say RUN, Bernie, RUN!!!

 

Watch Senator Sanders entire speech at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast below. 

 

Scott Brown Takes Big Money From A Company That Outsources American Jobs, Locals Discuss

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

New Hampshire Leaders Discuss Scott Brown’s Role On Board Of Outsourcing Company and Record Of Supporting Breaks For Companies That Offshore U.S. Jobs

Brown Is Cashing In Again, Collecting Quarter Of A Million Dollars On Board Of Outsourcing Company At The Expense Of NH Economy

Manchester – Today, following reports that Scott Brown is lining his own pockets with more than a quarter of a million dollars from a company that outsourced American jobs, New Hampshire economic leaders and elected officials spoke on a conference call about why Brown’s role on the company’s board of directors makes him wrong for New Hampshire. Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier, former DRED Commissioner George Bald, and Nashua State Senator Bette Lasky discussed the negative impact outsourcing has had on local economies in New Hampshire as well as Scott Brown’s record of voting to protect tax breaks for companies that offshore jobs when he was Massachusetts’ U.S. Senator.

“I was really disappointed to find out that Kadant’s focus really is not on creating jobs in New Hampshire or in this country, and that outsourcing is a major part of its business plan,” said former Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald. “I know what Senator Shaheen has accomplished and when you look at that accomplishment it’s pretty significant in terms of creating good jobs. And as far as what Mr. Brown has done for the state of New Hampshire, it is a blank sheet of paper.”

“It’s not only that Scott Brown is profiting from this outsourcing company, but in his first year in Massachusetts as Senator, he voted to protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas,” said Nashua State Senator Bette Lasky. “In New Hampshire we value leaders who invest in our state’s economy and believe in our workforce. Scott Brown is wrong for New Hampshire and the people of New Hampshire deserve better.”

“There’s the politics of watching outsourcing and then the living of outsourcing,” said Paul Grenier, Mayor of Berlin. “Over the course of one generation Berlin has lost over 3800 manufacturing jobs. That’s the end result of some of the policies Scott Brown supported and I could never support him. I’ve worked closely with Senator Shaheen on a number of issues and I could tell you that protecting and creating jobs in the North Country has been of paramount importance to her.”

On Sunday, the Nashua Telegraph reported that Scott Brown has collected more than a quarter of a million dollars as a member of the board of directors of Kadant, Inc., a company based in Westford Massachusetts that touts its outsourcing of American jobs to China and Mexico. Brown’s involvement with the company fits his record from when he was a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and voted to protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

This isn’t the first time Scott Brown has been caught cashing in on his Senate candidacy and selling his reputation as a former Senator. This past spring, Brown was caught collecting $20,000 at a Las Vegas hedge fund conference.  Separately, Brown was forced to resign from a beauty supply company turned weapons manufacturer that was paying him $1.3 million in stock options as an advisor, and whose executives had been sued for fraud.

As New Hampshire’s Governor and U.S. Senator, Jeanne Shaheen has worked to spur investment in New Hampshire’s economy and create new jobs.  Her support for Trade Adjustment Assistance grants supported the development of advanced manufacturing training programs that helped workers who had lost their jobs because of foreign competition.  Those job retraining programs have been cited by New Hampshire businesses as a reason they chose to locate, and create jobs, in the Granite State.

AFT Hails Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Law

AFT_Logo-2

WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s signing of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

“Career and technical education programs provide incredibly important pathways to success. The bipartisan bill that President Obama signed today extends the ladder of opportunity to middle-class Americans by providing the guidance, skills and training needed to compete for good 21st-century jobs. The law will help young people, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those barely getting by on hourly wages to become economically self-sufficient.

“The workforce law provides a blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which has been a lifeline for job training opportunities and focuses on career and technical education programs and collaborative partnerships among employers, communities, schools and labor. We hope that as Congress works on the Perkins reauthorization, it provides much-needed funding for guidance counselors, who can help students explore career options as they contemplate their futures.

“I have witnessed how great career and technical education high schools change lives, such as New York City’s Aviation High School; New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-Tech, which has IBM and the City College of New York as core partners; and the Toledo (Ohio) Technology Academy, whose partners include the United Auto Workers union. The Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT have been stalwart advocates of career and technical education programs, and we will continue our efforts to help high-quality CTE programs flourish to create innovative pathways to a high school diploma and college and career readiness.”

Senator Shaheen Cites Dire Need For Transportation Funding To Spur Economic Growth

Jeanne Shaheen

At Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials 2014 Conference, Shaheen highlights importance of transportation program funding to New Hampshire

(Portsmouth, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) this morning addressed the 2014 Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials (NASTO) conference where she highlighted the dire need to maintain funding for the Highway Trust Fund so that critical transportation infrastructure projects are not delayed in New Hampshire. Shaheen was joined by Chris Clement Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and President of NASTO as well as other Northeast transportation officials including Ted Zoli, National Bridge Chief Engineer with HNTB Corporation, who was responsible for designing the new Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth.

“Improving our transportation infrastructure is critical to continued economic growth and job creation here in New Hampshire,” Shaheen said. “We must maintain funding for the Highway Trust Fund so that we don’t see delays to important projects such as the widening of I-93 and other investments in New Hampshire’s infrastructure. I’ll continue to work to make sure that our state has the federal resources necessary to maintain the transportation infrastructure needed to compete in the 21st century.”

Shaheen has been vocal about the need to maintain New Hampshire’s transportation infrastructure for both public safety and economic competitiveness. She worked with the New Hampshire and Maine congressional delegations to obtain funding for the replacement of the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth and has repeatedly called for the replacement of the Sewalls Falls Bridge in Concord. She has also fought against cuts to the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Return (TIGER) program which encourages economic activity and jobs in New Hampshire through important infrastructure investments. Earlier this year, she introduced the Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges Act of 2014 (SAFE Bridges Act) which would establish a program to provide funding specifically dedicated to repair and replace aging and deteriorating bridges.

In National Defense Authorization Act, Shea-Porter Authors Multiple Provisions to Protect Troops and Grow NH’s Economy

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard 3

NDAA would protect Portsmouth Naval Shipyard by
prohibiting Base Realignment And Closure

WASHINGTON, DC –As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter authored a number of provisions that passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of H.R. 4435, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. The bill includes language written by Shea-Porter to help provide for a strong national defense, save taxpayers money, and strengthen services for America’s troops. The legislation specifically bars additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), which protects the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and also includes a provision to honor the anniversary of the sinking of the U.S.S. Thresher.

“I am pleased that this bill includes many of my provisions that support both America’s national defense and New Hampshire’s economy,” Shea-Porter said.

H.R. 4435 passed 325 – 98 with bipartisan support. The legislation includes a 1.8 percent pay raise for the troops, bars increases in TRICARE costs, protects commissary benefits, and addresses the issue of sexual assault in the military. It also includes a provision barring the use of funds to “propose, plan for, or execute” additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure, which protects the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter serves on the House Armed Services Committee and wrote multiple key provisions and amendments that passed the House and are detailed below.

PROTECTING TROOPS AND PROVIDING FOR A STRONG NATIONAL DEFENSE

Protecting Troops from Toxic Burn Pits: Shea-Porter continued her work to protect soldiers from toxic waste burned in open-air pits. Last year, Shea-Porter’s Save Our Soldiers’ Lungs Act was signed into law as an amendment to the FY 2014 NDAA. The amendment expanded the list of prohibited waste in open-air burn pits to include toxic material such as munitions, asbestos, tires, mercury, batteries, and aerosol cans.

This year, it was revealed that such prohibited waste was being burned in open-air burn pits from 2011-2013, a clear violation of 2009 law and US Central Command regulations.  Current law requires the burning of toxic wastes to be reported and justified to Congress whenever it occurs, but no such reports were ever filed. We would never allow our families to be exposed to toxic emissions on a daily basis, and the current reporting requirement is clearly not working.

Shea-Porter’s amendment to the FY 2015 NDAA requires combatant commanders to certify every six months that they are not violating the law by disposing of hazardous, medical, and other toxic wastes in open-air burn pits. If they cannot certify compliance, then they are required to report to Congress the justification for non-compliance. The amendment provides increased accountability to protect the health and safety of our military and other personnel during contingency operations.

Disposing of Hazmat Safely: The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has observed serious problems with incinerators at several bases in Afghanistan. Inspectors found that these incinerators, built at a total cost of $21.9 million, could not be used due to poor construction, planning and design, and a lack of coordination between contracts for constructing the incinerators and for operating and maintaining them. This was not only wasteful of taxpayer funds, but exposed troops to continuing unsafe toxic burn pit emissions. To avoid future waste of taxpayer funds, inoperable or unsafe incinerators, and the use of toxic burn pits, Shea-Porter’s language directs the DoD to report to the House Armed Services Committee on the lessons learned related to waste-disposal methods in contingency operations and to update the committee on its assessment of and future plans for waste-disposal technologies.

Protecting Troops from Toxic Smoke: Often serving in sandy and smoky environments, service members are exposed to harmful and toxic airborne matter which may carry pathogens, carcinogens, lead (from gunfire), and infectious diseases. This exposure can harm their health, and troops lack a flexible and wearable system to protect themselves from these inhaled hazards. Troops often resort to using shirts or cloth to cover their faces in dusty or smoky environments. We can’t do much to change the environment in which they operate, but we can develop and provide gear to mitigate these environmental dangers.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter believes that fabric-based solutions could provide a lower-cost, more flexible way for the Army to protect soldiers from some environmental hazards than continued reliance on cumbersome gas mask systems. Last year, Shea-Porter secured language that directed the Secretary of the Army to provide a report, not later than February 15, 2014, evaluating the potential utility of fabric-based solutions to address soldier exposure to inhalation of sand, dust, smoke, and pollutants.

This year, Shea-Porter’s language directs the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Natick, Massachusetts, which has technical and scientific expertise in the areas of environmental protection and protective clothing, to undertake this testing. The Secretary of the Army is directed to report to the congressional defense committees not later than December 1, 2014, on NSRDEC’s evaluation of the capabilities of known fabric-based solutions to mitigate soldier exposure to the hazardous effects of inhaling sand, dust, smoke, and pollutants.

Procuring Safe and Reliable Personal Protective Equipment:  We owe our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Special Operations Forces the best equipment at the best price. When we procure personal protective equipment like body armor, combat helmets, combat protective eyewear, or fire resistant clothing, it needs to work well or else lives are at risk. As the Department of Defense budget has decreased, due to sequester cuts and shrinking funding, the use of contracting based on cost-saving methods has increased. But placing the emphasis on cost savings over contractor past performance and technical capabilities for meeting critical and dangerous mission requirements can jeopardize the safety of our troops. Shea-Porter’s amendment requires the Department of Defense, to the maximum extent practicable, to value factors in addition to cost or price over cost or price alone, when procuring items of personal protective equipment, critical safety items, or when the requirement is complex, performance risk is high, or failure to perform has significant consequences.

Submarine Detection Research: One emerging threat to our national defense is that of “stealthy” submarines that can operate covertly in coastal areas of the United States. However, submarines create wakes that can alter the seafloor and leave traces that can be used to identify and track enemy forces. Through advancements in sonar, the United States could track and identify these stealthy submarines and protect our nation. Shea-Porter’s language encourages the Navy to evaluate advanced concepts and technologies for submarine detection.

Honoring the U.S.S Thresher: Shea-Porter’s resolution recognizes the 51st anniversary of the sinking of the U.S.S. Thresher. On April 10, 1963, the U.S.S. Thresher, which was based at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, sank roughly 200 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. All 16 officers, 96 sailors, and 17 civilians perished aboard the nuclear submarine. In response to the loss of the U.S.S. Thresher, the Navy instituted new regulations to ensure the health of submariners and the safety of submarines. Those regulations led to the establishment of the Submarine Safety and Quality Assurance program (SUBSAFE). Since the establishment of SUBSAFE, no SUBSAFE-certified submarine has been lost at sea, which is a legacy owed to the brave individuals who perished aboard the Thresher.

Shea-Porter’s resolution states that the House of Representatives “recognizes the 51st anniversary of the sinking of U.S.S. Thresher; remembers with profound sorrow the loss of U.S.S. Thresher and her gallant crew of sailors and civilians on April 10, 1963; and expresses its deepest gratitude to all submariners on ‘eternal patrol’, who are forever bound together by dedicated and honorable service to the United States of America.”

SAVING TAXPAYERS MONEY AND CREATING JOBS

Supporting Small Business: The Department of Defense has had a program to allow military departments and defense agencies to determine whether comprehensive subcontracting plans would reduce administrative burdens on prime contractors while enhancing opportunities for small business subcontractors. Shea-Porter’s provision extends the program and ensures that the program collects the data necessary to evaluate its effectiveness.

Common Sense Cost-Efficiency: In a world of limited resources, it’s just common sense that the Department of Defense (DoD) requirements for new work should be performed by the most cost-efficient workforce if cost is the sole criterion. Due to law, policy, or risk, many new requirements must be assigned to one of the three DoD workforces (civilian, military, or contractor).  Shea-Porter’s amendment, which would apply when and only when cost is the sole criterion, would require DoD to use its existing methodology to determine which workforce is the most cost-efficient for new work—rather than to rely on informal arrangements or arbitrary decisions—allowing it to reap the savings.

The Department of Defense supported this provision and noted that it would “ensure increased availability of limited fiscal resources for training, modernization, and readiness accounts.”

Preventing Waste and Fraud in Afghanistan:  Last fall, the Department of Defense reported to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) that, as of September 2013, it has committed $4.2 billion and disbursed nearly $3 billion in direct assistance to the Afghan government for the sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).  SIGAR has identified a number of oversight weaknesses that increase the risk that this direct assistance is vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse. Although DoD plans to provide increased amounts of direct assistance, a comprehensive risk assessment has never been conducted by DoD to determine the Afghan government’s fraud risks and develop ways to reduce these risks.

Shea-Porter’s language requires the DoD Inspector General to make a comprehensive risk assessment of the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior in order to identify risks and prevent diversion of DoD direct assistance funds through fraud and corruption.

Holding the Afghan Government Accountable: According to a U.S. government audit, the Government of Afghanistan levied almost a billion dollars in taxes on US assistance to Afghanistan since 2008, even though this assistance to Afghanistan is supposed to be exempt from Afghan business taxes. These inappropriate and illegal taxes increase costs to American taxpayers.

Shea-Porter’s language to address the problem of Afghanistan improperly imposing taxes on Department of Defense aid was re-authorized and enhanced this year. First, the amendment requires a report to the congressional defense committees on the amount of taxes assessed the previous year on U.S. defense contractors, subcontractors, and grantees. Secondly, it requires that an amount equivalent to 150% of the total taxes assessed by the Afghan government on that assistance be withheld from funds appropriated for Afghanistan assistance for the succeeding fiscal year to the extent that such taxes have not been reimbursed. This penalty should encourage the Afghan government to cease levying improper taxes, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Hosts Women’s Business Leadership Roundtable in Berlin

Annie Kuster

Roundtable brought together a diverse group of female business leaders for a discussion about how to better support women in the economy

Annie KusterBERLIN, N.H. – Yesterday afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) continued her “Women’s Economic Agenda” listening tour with a roundtable discussion in Berlin about the issues facing women professionals across the Granite State.

During the discussion, Kuster met with a diverse group of female business leaders to discuss her recently released Women’s Economic Agenda. Participants shared their own personal experiences with some of the issues outlined in her Agenda, including pay equity, family leave time, and access to capital. Roundtable participants included representatives from the Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (WREN), the executive director of the North Country Council, and a number of North Country small business owners.

“During today’s discussion, I was so grateful to hear from inspiring New Hampshire women business leaders about how we can bridge the gender wage gap and address other issues I’ve outlined in my Women’s Economic Agenda,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Discussing everything from equal pay to college affordability issues, these women underscored the need for Congress to prioritize initiatives that will help level the playing field for New Hampshire women. I sincerely thank today’s participants for sharing their inspiring stories with me, and I will continue to fight for their best interests back in Washington.”

“It was wonderful to have Congresswoman Kuster here to discuss these issues that are so important to so many women and families here in the North Country and all across New Hampshire. Issues like pay equity and access to capital are close to WREN’s heart and mission, and we look forward to working together to help North Country women and families,” said Marilinne Cooper, executive director of WREN.

Last month, Kuster released her Women’s Economic Agenda, a plan to help Congress prioritize initiatives to help level the playing field for Granite State women and their families. Kuster has worked to create equal opportunities for Granite State women since taking office; she is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would increase the effectiveness of remedies available to victims of pay discrimination on the basis of gender, and she has successfully pushed the President to issue executive orders to support fair pay for federally contracted employees.  Kuster has also hosted a series of roundtable discussions with women business leaders from New Hampshire to hear directly from them about what she can do on the federal level to help New Hampshire women succeed in the economy. These roundtables helped inform the crafting of her Women’s Economic Agenda.

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