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One Million Homes Lost and Counting: How to End the Foreclosure Crisis Now

Aug. 7th, 2008 | 12:04 am
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews

Over one million U.S. homeowners have already lost their homes due to foreclosures since the mortgage crisis began last summer. Another one million homeowners are 90 days past due on their mortgages (foreclosure notices usually go out after 90 days) and two million more are 30 days past due, so three million more households may face foreclosure in the months ahead. If current policies do not change, it is estimated that up to five million homeowners would lose their homes due to foreclosure over the next few years. Five million is roughly 10% of the total number of homes with mortgages. This is clearly the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, and will wreck havoc in the lives of millions of families unless something is done. A high foreclosure rate also has a deteriorating effect on surrounding neighborhoods, further depressing housing prices and quality of life.

Many of those facing foreclosure are low- to middle-income homeowners who were enticed into buying houses by fraudulent mortgage companies and low "teaser" interest rates that are adjusted up ("reset") after two to three years. As long as housing prices were increasing, homeowners could always refinance their mortgages and get a new teaser rate for another few years. However, now that house prices are falling, these homeowners can no longer refinance, and many of them cannot afford to pay the higher interest rates when they are reset. Falling prices also mean that many of these homeowners owe more on their mortgage than the current value of their house (i.e. they have "negative equity" in their house). The recession is also resulting in declining employment and income, meaning even more homeowners are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments. The further housing prices decline, and the worse the recession is, the worse the foreclosures will be, in a vicious cycle.

Clearly, the federal government must take some positive actions to stop the spreading foreclosures, especially for low- and middle-income families, who would suffer the most. But what should those actions be? At a minimum, policies should apply only to owner-occupied homes, and not to "investor" or "speculative" homeowners (those who buy houses in order to sell them later at a higher price). But beyond this, various policies have been proposed, and not all of them would truly help homeowners at risk.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/93055/one_million_homes_lost_and_counting%3A_how_to_end_the_foreclosure_crisis_now/
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America's Richest Will Pay More Under Obama's Tax Plan

Aug. 6th, 2008 | 11:53 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews


The ideologues who manage the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages have emerged, over recent years, as America's most unrelenting -- and shameless -- defenders of wealth and privilege. They enjoy the work. They do it well. No one turns reality upside-down any better. Take, for instance, the Journal editorial last week that defended George W. Bush from charges that his administration tilts to the wealthy. George W.'s tax policies, the Journal pronounced, have actually "caused what may be the biggest increase in tax payments by the rich in American history." Any Bush "giveaway to the rich," the Journal editorial added, exists only as "a figment of the left's imagination." The Journal offered some evidence for these bold assertions. According to just-released IRS statistics, the paper noted, America's richest 1 percent paid 40 percent of all income taxes in 2006, their "highest share in at least 40 years."

Case closed? Not quite. The rich, as a group, are indeed paying a larger share of the nation's income tax dollars, but only because they're pocketing a much larger share of the nation's income. As individuals, the IRS data show, the rich are actually paying less -- far less -- of these incomes in taxes than they have in years.

In fact, if average taxpayers in the top 1 percent had paid taxes in 2006 at the same rate as the top 1 percent paid taxes 20 years ago in 1986, those average top 1 percent taxpayers would have each paid $136,518 more in 2006 taxes than they actually did.

What do the McCain and Obama campaigns feel about this top-tilting tax status quo? Both campaigns had a chance to explain last week in the nation's capital, at the 2008 Presidential race's first debate devoted purely to taxes. The host for the event: the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, two bedrock pillars of the capital's policy wonk community.

Tax Policy Center researchers last month published a preliminary analysis of just how the McCain and Obama tax plans would likely play out. The researchers unveiled an updated analysis at last Wednesday's debate, 56 dense pages of numbers and charts.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/93057/america%27s_richest_will_pay_more_under_obama%27s_tax_plan/
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Your Health Care May Decide the 2008 Election

Jul. 31st, 2008 | 09:13 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews

McCain's health plan will only work for the young, healthy and lucky. This could be the the issue that costs him the election. 

Now we're in the presidential campaign's silly season. The primaries are over; the conventions are yet to come. Americans are tuning out politics and dialing in baseball, the Olympics, vacations and the price of gas.

Barack Obama is traveling abroad, demonstrating that he really is a responsible driver. And John McCain seems intent on running into every pothole in the road. This week, he published an op-ed in the New York Post slamming Obama for agreeing with the Iraqi prime minister that the troops should be brought home by 2010. Sure, McCain admitted, "Iraq's army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year," but it will still need a lot of help. "The Iraqi air force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover." Particularly not against the fearsome al Qaeda air force. And McCain didn't even mention the need to build Iraq a blue-water navy. The $3 trillion that Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz estimates we've squandered on the war -- about a billion a day in direct and indirect costs -- isn't nearly enough.

Americans will begin to tune in to the election again around the conventions. And in the fall, they'll start to take a closer look at who the candidates are and what they believe. Issues matter less in this assessment than broad measures of the candidate's character and sense about whether he has a clue.

In this assessment, I suspect that one issue, seldom mentioned now, is going to matter a great deal by November. Iraq will be big, no doubt; the economy bigger. But health care may just be the pothole that cracks up McCain's Straight Talk express.

People worry a lot about affording health care. Workers accept lower wages with employers that offer health care. They hang onto lousy jobs to keep their health care. Most labor negotiations and disputes center largely on the costs of health care. On this issue, attention is paid over kitchen tables across the country.

So this fall, Americans will discover an inconvenient truth about John McCain: He wants you to lose your employer-based health care. He thinks you aren't sufficiently conscious about the cost of your health care, and you are using too much of it.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/92666/your_health_care_may_decide_the_2008_election/
Related Info: http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/92666/your_health_care_may_decide_the_2008_election/

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The Fabric of America Is Fraying as the Economic Downturn Continues

Jul. 31st, 2008 | 09:11 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews


By certain measurements, the U.S. economy has been quite successful in the last several decades, but the fundamental question remains: Successfully what?

We may lead the world in categories like gross domestic product, average house size, and ownership of color TVs, but we also "lead" the industrial nations in debt per capita, the child poverty rate, overall poverty rate, ratio of people in prison, rate of traffic fatalities, murder rate, carbon dioxide emissions per capita, and the per capita consumption of energy and water.

These are hardly distinctions we can be proud of. Clearly, we're not taking care of what really matters. On the upside, increased awareness of where we stand can guide a reordering of national and local priorities, resulting in a healthier and more satisfying American lifestyle.

Especially eye-opening is data compiled by John de Graaf, director of the non-profit Take Back Your Time, which advocates legislative and lifestyle changes to provide more discretionary time.

The data compares the U.S. with 14 European Union countries in key quality-of-life indicators, demonstrating that many of our economic and cultural priorities are out of step with what humans actually need. Despite the familiar aspiration to be/appear optimistic, it's clear that health care, safety, personal security, equality, education, and leisure time are faltering in America.

For example, even a need as basic as nutrition is compromised when money is poorly allocated or spent. The average American slurps 53 gallons of soft drinks every year, and now spends more in restaurants (many of the fast-food variety) than in grocery stores. "Even wild monkeys have healthier diets than most Americans," says anthropologist Katharine Milton, partly because in our fast-paced world, the emphasis is on snackability, convenience and shelf life rather than human life.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/92717/the_fabric_of_america_is_fraying_as_the_economic_downturn_continues/
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Steven Greenhouse: Why We're Working More and Earning Less

Jul. 31st, 2008 | 08:56 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews


Wages are stagnating, but productivity keeps going up. Author Steven Greenhouse explains why things are out of whack in the workplace. 

Juan Gonzalez: The federal minimum wage increased last week from $5.85 to $6.55. The increase gave nearly two million American workers a raise. The seventy-cent increase is the second of three enacted under a 2007 law that saw the first minimum wage hike in more than a decade.

But, adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage remains lower in real terms than it was forty years ago, despite record corporate profits.

A new book by the New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse examines how much of the American workforce is working more but earning less. Wages have stagnated, health and pension benefits have grown stingier, and job security has shriveled. The book is titled The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker.

Steven Greenhouse joins Democracy Now! You've traveled all around America, obviously, as a labor reporter for the New York Times, and you take us into all kinds -- not just to factories, but the Silicon Valley jobs, the service jobs, to give us a sense of what is happening to the everyday worker.

Steven Greenhouse: We all love Barbara Ehrenreich's book Nickel and Dimed, and I felt, I'm going to try building on that. And I really try looking across the board what's happening to the nation's workers. I look at, you know, farm workers. I look at Microsoft workers. I look at, you know, factory workers, whose jobs are disappearing to Mexico. And I look at, you know, software engineers at Hewlett-Packard, at some other places, you know, that have lost their jobs to India. I look at janitors in Houston who -- I focus on one janitor in Houston, who, after ten years, is making just $5.25 an hour. I write about a Dominican worker in Brooklyn who works eleven hours a day for just $35 a day. You know, the whole panoply of what's happening, to show that there's this big squeeze on the nation's workers, where, as you were just saying, wages have been flat, health and pension benefits are getting worse, at the same time corporate profits have gone up very, very nicely. Employee productivity has gone up 15, 20 percent, yet wages have been flat, plus companies are pressuring workers, you know, to work harder and harder. 

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/93241/steven_greenhouse%3A_why_we%27re_working_more_and_earning_less/
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Obama and McCain Suck Up to the Bankers

Jul. 31st, 2008 | 08:54 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews

Both candidates are scrambling to enlist the expertise of the geniuses who helped spur our economic meltdown. 

This is a time to condemn the bankers, not to embrace them. They are the scoundrels who got us into the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression, lining their own pockets while destroying the life savings of those who trusted them. Yet both of our leading presidential candidates are scrambling to enlist not only the big-dollar contributions but, more frighteningly, the "expertise" of the very folks who advocated the financial industry deregulations at the heart of this meltdown.

Republican candidate John McCain even appointed as his campaign co-chairman Phil Gramm, who went from being chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, where he sponsored disastrous legislation that empowered the banking bandits, to becoming one of them at UBS Warburg. Gramm was forced to resign from McCain's campaign only after he went public with his contempt for the financial concerns of ordinary Americans, calling them "whiners" and perpetrators of a "mental recession."

But Gramm and the Republicans couldn't have done it without the support of leading Democrats. The most egregious of Gramm's legislative favors to the financiers took the form of legislation named in part after him -- the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which became law only after then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin prevailed upon President Clinton to sign the bill. The bill's immediate major effect was to legitimize the long-sought merger between Citibank and insurance giant Travelers. Rubin's critical support for the bill was rewarded with an appointment, within days of its passage, to a top job at Citibank (later Citigroup) paying more than $15 million a year.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/93318/obama_and_mccain_suck_up_to_the_bankers/
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How Long Will Your Doctor Continue Accepting Private Insurance?

Jul. 23rd, 2008 | 04:55 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews


Doctors are getting fed up with private insurers. Here's a look at what out-of-pocket costs could look like for patients. 

More and more doctors are fed up with private insurers. It's not just a question of how stingy they are, but how difficult it is to get reimbursed. Paperwork, phone calls, insurers who play games by deliberately making reimbursement forms difficult to interpret ...

Some physicians have just said "no" to insurers.

What does this mean for patients? Business models vary. Some doctors charge by the minute. I recently read about a physician who punches a time clock when the appointment begins. She has calculated that her time is worth $2 per minute. Fifty-nine minutes = $118. Will you be paying cash, or by charge today? Somehow, I think the meter would make me nervous. I suspect I might begin talking very quickly. But this is only one model.

Rather than charging by the minute, some doctors make fee-for-service charges. In those cases, many physicians mark up their fees well beyond what an insurer would pay. But, they point out, they also spend more time with their patients. No one feels rushed.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/91876/how_long_will_your_doctor_continue_accepting_private_insurance/
Related Link: http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/91876/how_long_will_your_doctor_continue_accepting_private_insurance/

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How Many More Workers Will We Let Die in the Fields This Summer?

Jul. 23rd, 2008 | 04:48 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews


A week ago, 46-year-old Ramiro Carrillo passed away at his Selma, CA home after picking nectarines for about four hours in 112-degree heat at Sun Valley Packing. Two weeks ago 42-year-old Abdon Felix died after working in the fields at Sunview Vineyards near Delano, California. His body temperature was 108 degrees when he arrived at the hospital. Last month Jose Macarena, 64, collapsed in a field in Santa Barbara County and later died during a 110-degree day. Back in May, 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, who was two months pregnant, died in a vineyard near Stockton, after working eight hours in the heat without adequate water or shade. When she collapsed, the labor contractors who hired her opted to not rush her to the hospital and instead attempted to cool her off in a car by putting rubbing alcohol on her skin.

As we enter the dog days of summer, we should expect more days of 100-degree temperatures in the Central Valley of California and other agricultural regions. With the extreme heat, we'll see more farmworker deaths as well, unless there is stronger enforcement of labor laws designed to prevent heat related deaths.

Kerry Trueman of the Huffington Post recently connected the dots between global warming and heat-related deaths in the fields. The EPA has given contradictory statements about whether global warming poses a health risk to humans - it's stated that there isn't a connection between increased and man-made global warming, and it's said that we must regulate green house gases under the Clean Air Act. The valleys of California have trapped smog for as long as residents have been heating and cooking with fire. With the addition of the automobile, millions of people, and industrial farming techniques, the valleys have come to feel like ovens, especially during the summer months. The Central Valley is also experiencing one of the driest seasons on record since 1962. In late June, Governor Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought. The National Weather Service is recommending that people use swimming pools and drink plenty of water to avoid heat related illness, but it seems that this message isn't resonating with the farmers or labor contractors. Not everyone in sunny California has a swimming pool.

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/92397/how_many_more_workers_will_we_let_die_in_the_fields_this_summer/
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America's Middle Class Can't Take Much More Punishment

Jul. 23rd, 2008 | 04:35 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews

Whether we like it or not, America is in the midst of revolutionary economic changes that are crushing the middle class. 
A few weeks back, I got a call from someone in the office of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders wanted to tell me about an effort his office had recently made to solicit information about his constituents' economic problems. He sent out a notice on his e-mail list asking Vermont residents to "tell me what was going on in their lives economically." He expected a few dozen letters at best -- but got, instead, more than 700 in the first week alone. Some, like the excerpt posted above, sounded like typical tales of life for struggling single-parent families below the poverty line. More unnerving, however, were the stories Sanders received from people who held one or two or even three jobs, from families in which both spouses held at least one regular job -- in other words, from people one would normally describe as middle-class. 

More Info: http://www.alternet.org/workplace/92431/america%27s_middle_class_can%27t_take_much_more_punishment/
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Five Hidden Benefits of Designing Your Own Logo

Jul. 15th, 2008 | 02:42 pm
posted by: jacksmoderator in corporatenews

Five Hidden Benefits of Designing Your Own Logo 

1. If you're an entrepreneur, your brand is a reflection of your personality, not of someone else's interpretation of it. No one knows your brand like you do. If you hire someone else, be prepared to explain a lot about your brand, including its history, benefits, audience, competition, etc. Some entrepreneurs assume they can't design it themselves because they're "not creative."
2. You'll end up doing the "heavy lifting" anyway. Whether you hire a designer or create it yourself, you must decide what you want to say and how you want to say it. You, not the designer, will be called upon to clarify your ideas and prioritize your messages. I refer to this as the "heavy lifting" because it's actually at the heart of your design. 
3. You'll save time. By designing it yourself, you can work on your project at your speed, based on your timetable, at your convenience. The revision process requires no meetings, phone calls or email communication. There's no waiting on someone else's schedule, or hoping they'll hit the mark by a certain date. And time savings equals cost savings. 
4. With DIY, functionality usually trumps form, not vice versa. Many designers assume their job is to make your materials look great -- not necessarily sell great. (Consider that most graphic design awards are based more on creativity than results.) You don't want mere decoration. Other common mistakes in the graphic design field include making a piece too trendy (so longevity suffers) or "over-designing" it (so sales suffer).
5. Self-sufficiency breeds satisfaction. Receive the satisfaction and actual pleasure that comes from turning your ideas into visual reality. You've customized your project to meet your exact needs. You're bringing your brand to life and sharing it with the world.

More Info: http://www.thestreet.com/story/10424476/2/five-hidden-benefits-of-designing-your-own-logo.html
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