Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

Tag: jobs (page 1 of 2)

Starbucks, College, and Interest

I’ve seen the various articles regarding Starbucks announcement that they are going to fund their employees’ college tuition at Arizona State University.  I’ve seen the articles that are pro and con (more con than pro, I should mention).  I’m not sure how I feel, because I need to understand it better and to see what’s going on.  I was researching the subject when I came across an article on Market Watch called “Why Starbucks is right, and Obama is wrong, on Tuition“.   The article is interesting and we do need to figure out how to lower tuition costs, but the article, also, makes a wrong point about college loans and interest rates.

According to the article, the average college student leaves college with $29,400 of debt.  The argument is that a payment of $375.14 a month isn’t that much of an economic problem.  It’s merely a car payment.  See the quote below.

Numbers don’t lie. That $29,400 borrower would pay $375.14 a month for 10 years at Sallie Mae’s highest current rate of 9.17%. But if that loan commanded 0.01% interest, the payment would still be $245.12. The real average is somewhere in between and covered by the spread between a college grad’s income and a high-school grad’s. It’s a car payment, and not really the economic problem many posit.

Except the author is missing a bigger point, that $130.02 a month savings adds up to a difference of $1,560.24 over a 12 month period or $15,602.40 over a ten year life of the loan.  Perhaps, that’s not a lot of money for the author, but it is for most people.

Realistically, the average student isn’t going to pay an interest rate of less than 1% and President Obama and Senator Warren haven’t suggested one that low.  Their plan calls for an interest rate on a refinanced loan of 3.8%.  Even at that amount, the total cost of the loan works out to $35,384.90 – $9,631.54 less than $45,016.45. That’s half a car.

One more item I’d like to point out.  He mentions spending $150,000 on an education for a $42,000 position.  In his opinion, this is way too much money.  He doesn’t really say if this was tuition or the cost of a loan, but I’m assuming he means tuition.  Here’s where the 3.8% interest rate comes in handy.  At this interest rate, the total cost of the education works out to  $180,535.21 .  It makes his argument look even stronger, doesn’t it?

Except, the $42,000 isn’t going to hold as the yearly salary for the rest of the student’s working life.  They, if they’re any good, should get some raises over the next forty years (assuming they start at age 25 and work until age 65).  But, let’s say they don’t receive any raises over the next forty years.  The student will have earned $1,680,000.00 minus the education cost, that’s a profit of $1,499,464.79. That’s not such a bad return on investment.

(The author, also, set me off by knocking people who scored a 20 on their ACT. I scored a 19 – not only have I graduated from college, but I’m at the top of my field, proving that test scores mean diddly squat. But, I digress, as that is off my subject.)

My whole point is this:  tuition needs to be controlled in some manner.  However; distorting facts and not telling the whole story isn’t going to help the overall debate.

Being Anti-Union Equals Anti-Worker

In nearly every single argument regarding Unions I receive two responses:

  • Unions did a lot, but we don’t need them now.
  • Unions protect bad workers, so we don’t need them.

I find both of these arguments ridiculous and let me tell you why.

Unions protect bad workers, so we don’t need them.

I have had a lot of jobs in my lifetime and I have never belonged to a Union.  At a lot of my jobs, I have sat next to or worked with someone who to put it bluntly sucked at their job.  They either didn’t work very hard (or, as hard as I think they should) or they were difficult and some we’re so busy holding on to knowledge that they actually hindered the work of the people around them.  Some people in this world are lazy.  This isn’t an opinion – it is an observable fact.  Some people rise as far as they can on the food chain and then stop putting in the effort – in other words – they just do what they need to do to get by and that’s it.

But, to say that Unions protect bad workers as a reason to not have a Union means that you’ve never experienced how bad workers are protected every day.  I once worked with a woman that was so bad that I wondered if she had pictures of our boss dancing naked at a pool party because nothing ever happened to her.  I don’t know if he felt sorry for her or what, but she did as little as possible and when you asked her a question, you usually got a blank stare.  For the record, I hate blank stares and I hate pulling someone’s teeth to get an answer, so I become an non-team player and just go find the answer myself and refuse to work with people who don’t want to work with me.  Oh, I’m pleasant, but pretty much, I’m calling you a moron in my head.

We’re never going to eliminate bad workers, but eliminating protections for good workers just to punish the bad ones is a lousy idea.

Unions did a lot, but we don’t need them now.

I once had a job where I busted my butt.  I was the second one in (in a group of 35) and the last to leave at night.  I would stick around work writing reports until 6 or 7 after arriving in the office at 8 and skipping lunch or eating at my desk.  I received near perfect reviews, which should have translated into large raises, as you received a percent based on the five point scale you met (earn a score of 5, you received 5%, for example).  However; since I was at the top of the food chain for my wage group, I never received the top raise.  Never, not once.  And, before you say, “Well, Julie, that’s just one job.”  This has actually been at the last three jobs I’ve held.  It’s one of the reasons I move around – to get that wage I feel I deserve.

At one position, I was told by my boss that yes, I did a great job; but you’re overpaid, so I’m not giving you a raise.  That wouldn’t happen in a Union position.  There would be set rules to follow.  I’m all for merit pay, but it seems like merit pay means, bust your ass and we’re give you whatever we feel like giving you.

Now, I’m blessed in that I have a college degree and I work in a field that has more positions than available workers.  When I’m unhappy or feel unappreciated, I just send out my resume and, usually, within three months (sometimes more, sometimes less) I have a brand new job with a brand new higher salary.

However; most people aren’t blessed to have a skill or live in an area where their skill is in high demand.  They get what the market pays and when times are a little tough, they cut salaries of the workers.

Have you ever noticed that CEOs never take pay cuts?  CEOs always have health care.  CEOs have paid sick days and vacation days.  Why is that?  Have they worked harder than the rest of us?  Hardly.  Have they made the company more profitable or run better?  Only if they’ve laid off a bunch of people for the first one and not very likely for the second.  There’s a reason the CEO of your company doesn’t want the workers to join a Union.  And, it has NOTHING to do with “You shouldn’t have to join a Union to work here.”  When employees join together to negotiate salaries and benefits, all of the employees benefit: from the dishwasher up to the computer programmer or sales clerk.

Want some hard facts?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “In 2012, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $943, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $742.”  That’s a difference of $201.  Over the course of a year, the amount adds up to $10,452 more that the Union member earns.

Still think Unions are bad for you?

Fact Check and Insurance Rebates

I’m going to start this by saying that I trust FactCheck.org.  It is at the top of my list of places to check when I receive emails where I’m not believing or I doubt what I’m seeing.  What I like about Fact Check is that I don’t always agree with them.  I am human and I don’t like it when facts mean I have to reconfigure my beliefs.  You can make this statement about a lot of humans – you know who you are.  People do not like to be proven wrong and they especially don’t like being proven wrong with numbers and facts.  Anyway, if they agreed with me 100% of the time, I would think they are biased and if they disagreed with me 100% of the time, I would believe that they were biased.

Anyway, Fact Check recently wrote an article about President Obama’s July 18th speech touting the savings of the Affordable Care Act (which is more commonly known as Obamacare).  Fact Check called the article “Obama Overhypes Health Savings“.  I’m not going to disagree with Fact Check that President Obama made the health savings sound wonderful, he did.  Unfortunately, his hype is needed to overshadow the hype on the other side, which claims no savings and total financial ruin for all if we continue on the Affordable Care Act path.  I just think Fact Check is overhyping the overhyping.

Case in point the following quote from President Obama

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check. In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states. Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.

Fact Check takes issue with this because ” The average rebate is about $100 per family — not per person. It’s not 8.5 million rebates “averaging around 100 bucks each,” as the president said. Instead, it’s 8.5 million consumers who will benefit, with an average rebate of $100 per family.”

I’m not really sure what the issue is here.  Fact Check admits that the rebates average $100 each.  When millions of Americans open the letters, I’m sure that the letter opener most likely be either the male or female head of a family.  I’m sure that the rebates for single people will be less than the rebates for families.  No, President Obama didn’t say millions of American families opened letters, but I don’t think what he did say was too much hype.  — This is a matter of opinion, not an actual fact.

The fact is that millions of rebates will be sent out this summer and that the average of these rebates is around $100.

But wait…there’s more!

Fact Check, also, takes issue with the fact that President Obama didn’t mention that a lot of these rebates are going to businesses.  In fact they say just that:  “But the more glaring omission is an acknowledgment that a lot of this money goes to businesses, not individuals.”  I don’t see the problem in this, either.  Even if the employer gets the rebate, it has to be used to benefit the employee.  In fact, Fact Check even quotes the  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as saying such, ” if you bought your insurance through your employer, your employer must use the rebate for your benefit.”  I don’t really understand their problem with the hype in this case.

I think the main point in all of this is that the Affordable Care Act is to some extent causing people and businesses to save money on their health care insurance premiums.  Second to this is that it didn’t cause premiums to go up, as the opposition claimed it would.

 

Obamacare and unAmerican Companies

Here’s a quick, yet truthful thought.  Every large company that is announcing cutting employees’ hours to avoid paying healthcare for them isn’t a company that should be held up in esteem.  It is a company who should be avoided as much as possible and derided for being unAmerican.

It is time the profit hogging corporate types and Wall Street bozos start taking care of business and the American Worker.  You break your back for forty years, do you get a pension?  Hell no, you probably don’t even get a watch.  You get a 401K that isn’t worth shit if the banks and Wall Street screw with the economoy, like they did in the run up to the crash of 2008.

Our health care system needs  a lot of changes.  We spend more than nearly every other developed country and, yet, we’re sicker than ever.  Part of this is that we don’t take care of ourselves and part of it is that companies don’t take care of employees.

I have healthcare.  I happen to have a skill set that will remain in demand probably until the day I die and beyond.  I am blessed because of this.  Many people – in fact, the majority of people – are not blest as I am.  I will not have to worry about health care, because I’ll never have to work for a company that doesn’t offer it.  Even when I worked as a contractor, because of my earning power and salary, I was offered health care paid for by the company – that doesn’t happen often in contracting jobs.

Don’t blame President Obama for forcing companies to do what they should’ve been doing all along.  The CEO has health care.  The President of the company has health care.  So should the workers on the floor who actually perform the duties that keep the company going.

The Republicans don’t understand this.

Fox News doesn’t understand this.

The people in the red states don’t understand this.

We do the work, we should reap the benefits.  The guy on top – he didn’t dig that ditch, put that car together, bake that pizza – the guy on top is receiving the big salary made possible by YOUR hard work.

Don’t forget that.

Shelling Out to Access Your Pay

How would you feel if you had to pay a fee to access the money from your paycheck?  I know I’d be pretty upset.

That’s what’s happening to employees at various companies.  These companies have phased out paper checks or direct deposit and there’s nothing the employees can do about it.  They don’t have a choice, but use the prepaid cards their employers are handing out.

According to an article in the New York Times, “one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.”

This is totally outrageous.  When people complain about regulations, they don’t realize the reasons behind why we have them.  This is a reason.  Companies shouldn’t be cutting costs by so much that their employees have to pay fees in order to receive their own money from their paychecks.

Read the article and decide for yourself if I’m correct.

Affordable Care Act & Scott Walker

Fact:  By 2014, all 50 states have to have their health care exchanges up and running.  If they don’t, the Federal Government will step in and take control.

Fact: By 1/1/2013, all 50 states have to have a plan in place on just how they’re going to create these exchanges.

Fact: Scott Walker doesn’t like Federal Government Control and yet, he is putting off beginning the work on the exchanges until after the November election.  He’s probably thinking that Romney will win and he’ll never have to put it in place.

Opinion: Scott Walker is a dofus who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.  It’s too bad the man kept his throne in the Wisconsin State House, because he’s going to screw us like he is the Marquis De Sade.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek (August 13 – 26, 2012),  “only 18 states had even started putting in place the …health benefit exchanges.”  That’s one eight, people.  One of those states is Wisconsin.  The article states: “The Republican governors of six states are simply refusing to create the exchanges…”  And, our Governor is one of them.

Apparently, Scott Walker wants to wait until the outcome of the November election (see article here) to act on creating an exchange.  He also ” turned down $38 million in federal money that could have gone to implementing the federal health care law in Wisconsin.”

Does he even have a clue about what setting up a health exchange will entail?  First, you need an interface that end users (that’s us) can interact with to pick out the insurance, actually, that would be second.  First, you need the list of insurance companies, plans and rates that will be sold.  Then, an end user interface.  Then, you need for this software, database, etc. to interact with Medicare and Medicaid.  You need an interface for the insurance companies.  You need an interface for the government employees that will have to assist people signing up for insurance.  You need all of this to speak to the Federal Government’s computers.

And, you need money to create it, run it and maintain it.  So you really shouldn’t turn down $38 million from the Federal Government earmarked to help you do just that.

You need Business Analysts who can talk with all the parties to see how this can be put together – that can’t be done in a day.

And, Walker thinks he can wait until after November to do it.

The man is doesn’t understand the value of making it easier for people to purchase insurance.  And, he doesn’t understand the value of getting this project off the ground.  He doesn’t see the big picture.

Our state is still losing jobs and Scott Walker wants to put this off as long as he can.  Let me explain the big picture:

Setting up a healthcare exchange requires (at the very least) the following:

1. Business Analysts

2. Project Managers

3. Quality Assurance Testers

4. Database Administrators

5. Data Analysts

6.  Web Designers

7. Network Engineers

8. Web Services Programmers

9. Computer Programmers

10. Managers

11. Administrative Assistants

12. Technical Writers

When your state leads the nation in job losses, a project like this can put a lot of people to work, which in turn creates demand in the economy.  Think about it, when one person is working their money (i.e., wages) spreads through their community.  They pay their rent or mortgage – rent is better, as the money goes to a landlord, who then spreads it out.  But, a mortgage payment means a bank has money to lend (in a very simplistic view).  They purchase gas at their local station.  They buy groceries at their local market.  They take their family out to dinner.  They purchase new clothes and, this is personal, they purchase new programming books.  (I’ve never started a new project without purchasing a book.)  $10 here, $20 over there and pretty soon demand is up again.

But, Scott Walker is sitting on his hands, ignoring the Federal Government Mandate and hoping it just goes away.  He has to have the plan in place by January 1,2013.  Walker’s hoping that 1/20/2013 will bring in a new President and he won’t have to follow the law.  Romney’s not going to win, our country can’t be that full of stupid people.  But, even if he does win, the Affordable Care Act won’t disappear that face and Scott Walker will be breaking the law.  Oh – one more little item – Walker proclaims that he doesn’t want Federal Government interference, but the Feds will take this over if he doesn’t comply.  Why would you want to give up control of something so momentousness?  Could it be that Scott Walker is out of his realm?  That he cannot get this job done, because he is an uneducated man who doesn’t know how to run a project?

Thanks, Governor Walker.  I cannot tell you how much I hang my head in shame that my fellow Wisconsinites voted for you not once, but twice.  God help us all.

 

Scott Walker’s Job Problem

According to a new Scott Walker Ad, he has created 33,000 jobs.  Boy, wouldn’t that be nice?  The fact is – he hasn’t.  Wisconsin still leads the US in job losses.  In fact, according to the BLS report, the state of Wisconsin is the ONLY state to show job losses over the past year.

Now, Politifact (a group with whom I normally agree) has rated a statement of Tom Barrett’s regarding the blame for the job losses as half true.  Barrett’s statement:

“Governor Walker has caused Wisconsin to lose more jobs than any other state in the country.”

PolitiFact says that, while Barrett’s numbers are correct – we have lost more jobs than any other state in the country – “there is no proof that the measures caused the job losses”.

That’s where I have a problem.  You see, 17,800 of the jobs lost were government jobs.  Walker’s policies and budget shredding caused the loss of more than half the jobs that were lost over the past year.  How can you say he isn’t to blame?

And, a political point I would like to add:  You can’t take the credit, if you’re going to sideswipe the blame.  In other words, while the rest of the country has seen an economic improvement, our state has not.  I don’t blame Walker for the economic downturn.  That would be like blaming President Obama for the economic downturn that happened before he came on board.  It is foolish.  However; while 49 states have seen their job numbers go up, our state has seen job losses – in the year that Walker has been in charge.  Sorry, dude, you have to shoulder the blame.

Scott Walker has spent more time making his rich backers happy. He’s been kissing the Koch brothers’ collective rears and he hasn’t been supporting the people of the great state of Wisconsin.  He took away collective bargaining rights for public employees and he has caused job losses of government employees.  We lost 6,100 private sector jobs.

Scott Walker and his policies are bad for Wisconsin.  Slashing budgets during a recession just makes the recession worst.  On June 5, we need to vote the boy out and put in a man who can get the job done.

Recall Governor Scott Walker

Today kicks off the effort to remove Scott Walker from the Governor’s office.  We could’ve saved ourselves a lot of trouble and never voted him to be Governor in the first place, but that’s another story.

So, why remove Governor Walker?

He’s done almost exactly what he said he would do.  We are now all able to carry concealed weapons in this state.  He’s limited the power of those nasty unions.  Wisconsin is now open for business.  He’s created more jobs.

Um, wait, no he hasn’t.

Now, pay attention:  Governors and Presidents do not create jobs.  Small businesses and corporations create jobs.  People purchase items, which creates demand, which creates the need for more employees, which creates jobs.  Companies are not going to hire merely because they’re sitting on millions of dollars.  Most of the large corporations and companies (I am not discussing small businesses, because I don’t have the facts about them) that had trouble are now back in the black.  A lot of corporations are showing record profits on the books.  Thanks to tax cuts, subsidies and other benefits, they aren’t paying all that much in taxes.

They’re not hiring.  Why?  Because there’s no demand there.

Now, that said, I would like to point out that unemployment rate in the state of Wisconsin was 7.4% in January, 2011 – when Scott Walker took office.  With the exception of a brief moment (April, 2011 7.3%), the unemployment rate has steadily grown to a high of 7.9% to 7.8% (September, 2011).

Walker’s campaign was about how we were going to balance the budget and create jobs.  He pounded his Wisconsin’s open for Business slogan until you wanted to choke him with it.  He hasn’t created jobs.  Unemployment has gone up and not down.

Is it fair to judge him on something I really don’t think he could do anyway?  Yes.  Yes, because job creation was his own standard.  He was opening Wisconsin for business.  He was going to create jobs.  Then, he turned away the millions for the high speed rail system and cost the state 4,000 jobs.

And, the lack of jobs isn’t my only beef with him.  He’s made our state unsafe with the concealed carry law.  Sorry, no – I don’t believe that every single person who legally obtains a weapon is sane, rational and knows how to use it.  No, I don’t think being able to carry a weapon into bars and office buildings make us all safe.  Just one example:  Charles Julius Guiteau legally obtained his weapon and he used it to shoot a president.  (That’s one example, from 130 years ago, but this discussion isn’t about concealed carry.)

Anyway, there’s only been 2 successful recalls of governors in US history – let’s make it 3.

RECALL WALKER!!!

And, while I am not affiliated with this group in any manner, here is a link to United Wisconsin’s website.  You’ll learn even more information on the recall effort and why you should support the recall.

373 – 1

373 – 1 => that’s the difference between your salary and the salary of the guy on top.  For every dollar you earn, a CEO is earning 373 dollars.  And, what do you get for that huge difference?

You get a boss who thinks you’re paid too much.

You get a boss who wants to raise profit margins and he does this by laying off your co-workers or even you.

You get a boss who is more than willing to move a factory overseas to save money, so he can make even more.

You get bad health insurance – if you have any health insurance at all.

You get to save for your own retirement out of the little bit of money that you have – and you get politicians that want to take away your safety net.

You get the feeling that you are expendable.

We could blame the government for our nation’s economic woes.  However; it isn’t entirely the government’s fault.  Greed is good, so the saying goes.  Except, greed is only good for those on top and it harms those of us on the bottom rung (and, even those of us a couple of rungs higher).

Perhaps, the government should take some, but not all, the blame.  It was the government that removed the financial regulations that had prevented a financial collapse for sixty years.  The free market system would work if only greed and the ever desire for higher and higher profit margins wasn’t part of the deal.  When men (and women) only concern themselves with profit and not sound business decisions, economic collapse ensues.

I’m not entirely sure what can completely fix our economy, but I can tell you what won’t and what hasn’t.  Lowering taxes even farther and ending financial (and other business) regulations are not going to put this great nation back on solid financial footing.  We need to put the Glass-Seagull act back into place to protect our financial markets.  And, we need to raise taxes on the upper classes.  The top limit needs to be moved back to 39%.

Ronald Reagan was correct to lower taxes in the eighties.  It was a good thing and it started economy recovery.  However; too much of a good thing can do us harm.  Our current economic status is proving just that.

You have been fooled…

If you’re even thinking for a second about voting for a Republican, then you are a fool.  You’ve been hoodwinked and you don’t even know it.  You don’t know enough about the history of this country to make a proper decision.  You don’t understand enough about economics, moral hazards and deregulation to make the right decision.

It’s not your fault.

For the last thirty + years in this country, we have been told over and over again that what is good for business is good for America.  You know, I feel sorry for Ronald Reagan.  By all accounts, he was a nice man.  Tip O’Neil and him would have beers in the White House after a hard day debating.  He was easy going, soft-spoken and he believed what he said.

But, he was wrong.

Let me explain business to you.  Business isn’t a game, Businesses are not people and they don’t give a damn about you, the environment or your children.  The men and women who run businesses could give a rat’s ass about you.  Sure, there are some few and far between exceptions, but they’re, well, few and far between.

People go into business for one reason: to make money.

That’s it – nothing more.

I love my job, but quite frankly, I am there for a paycheck and health benefits.  If I could support my family by not working, I would.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love what I do and I’m good at it – so I’m lucky, I work a job I actually love, but love doesn’t make the world go around – money does.

Continuing on, what caused the economic crisis cannot be summed up in just one sentence.  There are many factors – predatory lenders, housing bubble, too much credit to the wrong people, deregulation and the list goes on.  But, the jobless recovery?  That’s easy: Companies are making huge profits because they aren’t hiring you.  And, the companies that are hiring, are paying the lowest wages possible.

Because?

Well, it’s easy…Businesses want profits, the higher the profits; the better the business.  The stock market rewards the businesses with the highest profits, by keeping their stock prices high.

Somebody’s getting rich – it’s just not you.

The GOP wants to dismantle the rest of the regulations that keep us safe at work, that help the environment and keep our food safe.  The GOP wants to dismantle the safety nets for the people who do the real work – you and me.  They want to lower taxes on businesses, because they say that will cause businesses to start hiring.

It’s not true.

The GOP wants to continue their destruction of America.

Don’t let them.

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