1. After making a big deal of publicly supporting the Affordable Care Act, Walmart—the nation’s largest private sector employer—is joining the ranks of companies seeking to avoid their obligation to provide employees with health insurance as required by Obamacare.

    It was not all that many years ago that Walmart announced, in response to harsh criticism over the low pay provided to Walmart ‘associates’, that the company would provide a healthcare benefit to its part-time, low earning employees. The uncharacteristically generous nod to worker needs was short lived as the company partially pulled back on the commitment in 2011, citing premium rate increases that Walmart deemed beyond their capacity to pay.

    Now, Huffington Post is reporting that the party is over for many more existing Walmart employees, along with all employees hired after February 1, 2012 that the company can classify as “part-time.”

    According to the 2013 Walmart “Associate’s Benefit Book”— the manual for low-level Walmart employees—part-time workers who got their jobs during or after 2011 will now be subject to an “Annual Benefits Eligibility Check” each August.

    Employees hired after Feb. 1, 2012, who fail to average the magic 30-hours per week requiring a company to provide a healthcare benefit, will lose their healthcare benefits on the following January. Part-time workers hired after Jan. 15, 2011, but before Feb. 1, 2012, will be able to hang onto their Walmart health care benefit if they work at least 24 hours a week.

    Anyone hired before 2011 will not be cut off from the company provided health insurance.

    Of course, Walmart carefully controls employee work schedules and will have the opportunity to design worker hours in a manner that will keep employees at a level below the threshold required to accomplish company healthcare benefits pursuant to the law.

    While there have been increasing reports of American employers reacting to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act by making plans to cut employee work hours so that these companies may deny health insurance as a benefit of employment—particularly in the restaurant and fast food industries—it appears that Walmart has been planning this move all along.

    If they can get away with it, companies like Walmart will always cut hours in order to get around changes in the law. Unfortuantely, I don’t know of any way to prevent them from doing this.

    (Source: sarahlee310)

     
  2. I don’t know how much of the devaluation of labor either technology or monopoly explains, in part because there has been so little discussion of what’s going on. I think it’s fair to say that the shift of income from labor to capital has not yet made it into our national discourse. Yet that shift is happening — and it has major implications. For example, there is a big, lavishly financed push to reduce corporate tax rates; is this really what we want to be doing at a time when profits are surging at workers’ expense? Or what about the push to reduce or eliminate inheritance taxes; if we’re moving back to a world in which financial capital, not skill or education, determines income, do we really want to make it even easier to inherit wealth? As I said, this is a discussion that has barely begun — but it’s time to get started, before the robots and the robber barons turn our society into something unrecognizable.
    — Paul Krugman (via azspot)
     
  3. But let’s keep in mind the choice Schnatter is really offering us. By avoiding the health care reform law through paying less to his employees as a result of cutting back their hours, Schnatter is only increasing the costs that you and I pick up when his employees—having no health insurance—show up at the emergency room for basic care because they have nowhere else to go. Thus, while Mr. Schnatter is deeply distressed by the notion of taking some responsibility for the health of the very employees who make his business work so that he can earn millions, he is perfectly happy to have you and I subsidize his profits by allowing us to pick up the cost of health care for his workers because he will not.
     
  4. During an April meeting, Bangladeshi suppliers reached out to retailers of their garments with a plan that would help upgrade their facilities to make them more fire-proof — other retailers approved the plan — only to have it fall through when Wal-mart and the Gap refused to pay higher prices to make such upgrades feasible.
     
  5. kyssthis16:

    colebloodedtruth:

    hahahahahhahahahahahahahha

    WELP!!!!!!!

    Hehe. But really, don’t touch people’s hair without their permission. In fact, don’t even ask to touch hair—it’s creepy.

    This also gives me the opportunity to be a feminist killjoy and point to this informative article about the global hair trade:

    Yet behind the bounce, the profit, and the rows of neatly packaged hair, is what hair historian Caroline Cox calls the “dark side” of the industry. With the exception of a handful of businesses such as Bloomsbury Wigs, most hair comes from countries where long, natural hair remains a badge of beauty - but where the women are poor enough to consider selling a treasured asset.

    Cox points out that such exploitation has underpinned the industry since false fronts and hair pieces became popular in the UK in Edwardian times. “It’s taking advantage of those who are disadvantaged,” she says. “Working-class women’s hair is used to bedeck the head of those who are more privileged. It’s been going on for hundreds of years.”

    Much of the hair on sale comes from small agents who tour villages in India, China, and eastern Europe, offering poverty-stricken women small payments to part with their hair. As one importer, based in Ukraine, told the New York Times recently: “They are not doing it for fun. Usually only people who have temporary financial difficulties in depressed regions sell their hair.” More worryingly, back in 2006, the Observer reported that in India some husbands were forcing their wives into selling their hair, slum children were being tricked into having their heads shaved in exchange for toys, and in one case a gang stole a woman’s hair, holding her down and cutting it off. When Victoria Beckham said in 2003 that her “extensions come from Russian prisoners, so I’ve got Russian cell block H on my head”, she may have been joking, but it was not long until the Moscow Centre for Prison Reform admittedit was possible: warders were forcibly shaving and selling the hair of prisoners. Thanks to such horror stories, reputable companies try to ensure the hair they sell is “ethical”…

    (Source: badboibilli)

     
  6. image: Download

    jakke:

asymmetric-effects:

So the times put together a pretty accessible dataset on the 48 U.S. companies that have received more than $100 million in subsidy in the past 5 years. Definitely worth a look.

Oh goodness yes. Click through for some ridiculous benefits governments have given to big flagship companies. Google got $100 million from the Illinois government, for example. And Texas has transferred $277 million to Amazon. GM is obviously way ahead of everyone else with $1.77 billion in transfers in the last five years AND then it went ahead and closed lots of the subsidized facilities anyway. Sneaky work, GM!
For a fun leftist outrage exercise express the cost of these transfers in terms of school lunches and/or subsidized housing. For a fun libertarian outrage exercise express the cost of these transfers in terms of deadweight loss when companies locate their facilities where subsidies are highest instead of where costs are lowest.

    jakke:

    asymmetric-effects:

    So the times put together a pretty accessible dataset on the 48 U.S. companies that have received more than $100 million in subsidy in the past 5 years. Definitely worth a look.

    Oh goodness yes. Click through for some ridiculous benefits governments have given to big flagship companies. Google got $100 million from the Illinois government, for example. And Texas has transferred $277 million to Amazon. GM is obviously way ahead of everyone else with $1.77 billion in transfers in the last five years AND then it went ahead and closed lots of the subsidized facilities anyway. Sneaky work, GM!

    For a fun leftist outrage exercise express the cost of these transfers in terms of school lunches and/or subsidized housing. For a fun libertarian outrage exercise express the cost of these transfers in terms of deadweight loss when companies locate their facilities where subsidies are highest instead of where costs are lowest.

    (Source: oro-blanco)

     
  7. Details of the meeting have emerged after a fire at a Bangladesh factory that made clothes for Wal-Mart and Sears Holdings Corp. killed more than 100 people last month. The blaze has renewed pressure on companies to improve working conditions in Bangladesh, where more than 700 garment workers have died since 2005, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, a Washington-based advocacy group.

    At the April 2011 meeting in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital, retailers discussed a contractually enforceable memorandum that would require them to pay Bangladesh factories prices high enough to cover costs of safety improvements. Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Wal-Mart director of ethical sourcing, told attendees the company wouldn’t share the cost, according to Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, who attended the gathering. Kalavakolanu and her counterpart at Gap reiterated their position in a report folded into the meeting minutes, obtained by Bloomberg News.

    “Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories,” they said in the document. “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

    — 

    Wow that is some effed-up cost/benefit analysis. I’m not sure what the correct policy response from the wealthy industrialized countries buying the output is, here. Tariffs on goods produced at factories without safety audits, possibly? Obviously there needs to be something done to fix this system but it’s hard to think of a way of doing so that would be feasible to enforce. (via jakke)

    An effed-up, but not uncommon calculation. In order for goods to be cheap, human lives have to be devalued.

     
  8. A constant conservative charge against President Obama is that he is inherently anti-business. However, businesses keep defying the storyline by making larger and larger profits, rebounding nicely out of the Great Recession.

    In the third quarter of this year, “corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago.” Corporations are currently making more as a percentage of the economy than they ever have since such records were kept. But at the same time, wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low, as this chart shows. (The red line is corporate profits; the blue line is private sector wages.):

    Corporations made a record $824 billion in profits last year as well, while the stock market has had one of its best performances since 1900 while Obama has been in office.

    Meanwhile, workers are getting the short end of the stick. As CNN Money explained, “a separate government reading shows that total wages have now fallen to a record low of 43.5% of GDP. Until 1975, wages almost always accounted for at least half of GDP, and had been as high as 49% as recently as early 2001.”

     
  9. Nuh-uh. Creamy > chunky. But anyway, interesting article:

    Shipped off to boarding school in England during the Great Depression, the twelve-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr., was sustained by regular care packages from his father. The biweekly deliveries contained a case of grapefruit and a large jar of peanut butter. In a 1981 essay titled “In the Thrall of an Addiction,” Buckley recalled that his British schoolmates “grabbed instinctively for the grapefruit—but one after another actually spit out the peanut butter.” No wonder, he sneered, “they needed help to win the war.”

    Half a century later, when I left Washington, D.C., for school in Northern Ireland, I packed my bags with jars of Skippy. Not much had changed. “Mashed peanuts on bread?” my friends in Belfast asked, incredulously—as if peanuts were synonymous with maggots. The American love of peanut butter is as mystifying to many Britons as the British love of Marmite (yeast extract on toast?) is to me, but, as Jon Krampner writes in “Creamy & Crunchy,” his enjoyable and informative new history of peanut butter, there are plenty of other countries that adore the crushed goober pea. Canadians eat it for breakfast; Haitians call it mamba and buy it, freshly pulverized, from street vendors; it is popular in the Netherlands, where it is known as pindakaas, or peanut cheese. Peanut butter is also increasingly found in the Saudi Arabian diet, thanks, in part, to expatriate oil workers. Nevertheless, it remains, in Krampner’s phrase, an “all-American food.”

     
  10. The average household already spends about $90 a month for cable or satellite TV, and nearly half of that amount pays for the sports channels packaged into most services.

    […]

    The obvious answer, of course, is to offer channels on an a la carte basis—or perhaps on a semi-a la carte basis—but both the content providers and the cable companies fight this tooth and nail. Here’s the excuse:

    National and local sports networks typically require cable and satellite companies to make their channels available to all customers….The idea of offering channels on an “a la carte” basis used to be sacrilege to the industry. Executives argued it would not lower prices because networks would just charge more to make up for the loss of subscribers.

    You know what? That’s exactly what would happen. People would start to understand just how much they’re paying for sports programming and they’d be appalled. Many wouldn’t subscribe, and sports fans would be forced to pay the actual cost of their sports programming without being subsidized by the rest of us. This is exactly how it should be. There’s no reason that, for all practical purposes, every single person in the LA area should be forced to pay a tax to the Lakers and Dodgers even if they don’t care about basketball and baseball.

     
  11. image: Download

    pantslessprogressive:

“This is why, conventionally, business leaders exercise their political clout through behind-the-scenes activity or cloaked in the guise of trade associations. People aren’t going to stop eating out if the National Restaurant Association gets involved in a high-profile political controversy, but Papa John’s hurts itself by becoming the face of opposition to a signature Obama administration initiative.” - Matt Yglesias
Anti-Obamacare Rants Hurting Restaurant Brands | Slate

    pantslessprogressive:

    “This is why, conventionally, business leaders exercise their political clout through behind-the-scenes activity or cloaked in the guise of trade associations. People aren’t going to stop eating out if the National Restaurant Association gets involved in a high-profile political controversy, but Papa John’s hurts itself by becoming the face of opposition to a signature Obama administration initiative.” - Matt Yglesias

    Anti-Obamacare Rants Hurting Restaurant Brands | Slate

     
  12. A surprisingly good article about the appropriation of Native American culture. I think the reason why is that it liberally quotes Native Americans themselves:

    …[A]cts of cultural appropriation are not simply isolated incidents of “hipsters in Navajo panties and pop stars in headdresses,” said Sasha Houston Brown, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska. They are byproducts of “systemic racism” that perpetuate the idea that there’s no such thing as contemporary Native culture.

    "Despite what dominant society and mainstream media say, Native culture is a vibrant and living culture. We are not a relic of the past, a theme or a trend, we are not a style or costume, we are not mascots, noble savages or romantic fictional entities," Brown said in an editorial for the blog Racialious, "Nothing Says Native American Heritage Month Like White Girls in Headdresses.”

    It’s a discussion that is especially vital as the holiday season of mass consumerism kicks off, she said. The goal is not to ban from the marketplace beaded jewelry or clothing incorporating tribal motifs, Brown said, but to involve Natives in their creation, marketing and profits.

    "Collaborations can work as long as the dynamics at hand are empowering Native artists and designers so they are actually able to participate in an equitable manner," said Brown, who advises American Indian students at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

    As the American-Indian and Alaska Native community, which numbers 5.1 million and makes up about 1.6% of the population of the United States, works toward getting a stronger voice in mainstream media, it needs allies, including non-Natives, she said.

    "What an ally does is support and help communicate the message of Native artists and entrepreneurs instead of speaking for them," Brown said. "There’s a huge market for Native and non-Native partnerships, but there’s also an inherent distrust of non-Natives coming into communities because of the examples that have been set in history. It just takes time."

    Read More

     
  13. marfmellow:

    ohsosupreme:

    I hate what America is becoming.

    becoming?

    wake up. 

     
  14. America’s Internet started out as No. 1 in speed. It now ranks 26th, far behind the networks in Bulgaria, Ukraine and Lithuania. Americans pay the sixth highest median price in the modern world for Internet data — 16 times the rates paid by South Koreans, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Just as serious is the problem of coverage: in France, South Korea and other modern countries a superfast Internet is or will soon be available everywhere. In America, AT&T’s fiber optic lines stop short of homes and small businesses, while Verizon plans to end its fiber-optic installation work once it reaches 18 million residences. As of now huge parts of the United States will never get on the information superhighway but will rather slog along on the digital equivalent of a country road. This presents a genuine economic threat to America: the future industries and jobs that require a universal ultra-high-speed network, after all, will most likely be developed somewhere else.
    — 

    Break Up the Telecom Cartels - NYTimes.com (via rickwebb)

    THIS. In many parts of this country, people only have a few options to choose from if they want high-speed internet. Sometimes not even that many.

     
  15. image: Download

    kohenari:

The Troubling Dean-to-Professor Ratio:

At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty. “Administrative bloat is clearly contributing to the overall cost of higher education,” says Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas. In a 2010 study, Greene found that from 1993 to 2007, spending on administration rose almost twice as fast as funding for research and teaching at 198 leading U.S. universities.

Presented without commentary … except to note, of course, that this doesn’t apply to any deans, provosts, or vice-chancellors who happen to read this blog!
HT: Jon Lunsford.

    kohenari:

    The Troubling Dean-to-Professor Ratio:

    At universities nationwide, employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty. “Administrative bloat is clearly contributing to the overall cost of higher education,” says Jay Greene, an education professor at the University of Arkansas. In a 2010 study, Greene found that from 1993 to 2007, spending on administration rose almost twice as fast as funding for research and teaching at 198 leading U.S. universities.

    Presented without commentary … except to note, of course, that this doesn’t apply to any deans, provosts, or vice-chancellors who happen to read this blog!

    HT: Jon Lunsford.