Author Archives: afscme

Expediting the Return to Work: Approaches in the Unemployment Compensation Program

Source: Julie M. Whittaker, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R43044, April 18, 2013

The most recent recession led to an unprecedented increase in the number of those unemployed for more than 26 weeks (the long-term unemployed). As a result, congressional interest in policy initiatives to expedite the return to work grew. This report examines a variety of initiatives and measures within the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program that might reduce long-term unemployment for beneficiaries. …

…After a brief description of the federal-state unemployment insurance system, this report examines trends in the duration of unemployment benefits and then reviews a wide range of approaches for speeding the return to work. The report emphasizes measures that have recently been considered by lawmakers or have been tried on an experimental basis, particularly if evaluations of their impacts on duration of UC benefit receipt are available.

Class vs. Special Interest: Labor Regimes and Union Strength, US-Canada Union density 1911-2011

Source: Barry Eidlin, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Sociology, April 17, 2013 (under review)

Union strength has declined across the industrialized world, profoundly shaping socio- economic inequality and welfare states. However, there has been significant cross-national variation. Most explanations for variation focus on differences in state labor regimes. But such explanations leave unanswered why differences exist, and how they might change over time. Using an historical comparison of two similar welfare states, the U.S. and Canada, I explain why different labor regimes emerge, how these differences affect regime development over time, and how they affect union strength. Union strength diverged in the U.S. and Canada due to different processes of working class political incorporation. These created different labor regimes in the U.S. and Canada, governed by different organizing logics. In the U.S., labor was incorporated as an interest group into a labor regime governed by a pluralist idea. In Canada, labor was incorporated as a class representative into a labor regime governed by a class idea. This led to a Canadian labor regime that legitimized class issues and facilitated addressing them, and a U.S. labor regime that delegitimized class issues and prevented addressing them. As employer aggression flared in both countries in the 1970s, the Canadian regime proved better able to hold employers in check and protected workers’ collective bargaining rights. As a result, union density stabilized in Canada, while plummeting in the U.S.

Room for Debate: Should Social Security Taxes Affect All Wages? (6 essays)

Source: New York Times, April 18, 2013

As he tries to reach a broad agreement with Congress on taxes and spending, President Obama has raised the possibility of cutting Social Security benefits. But a Congressional Budget Office report has said that Social Security’s financial problems could be resolved if we eliminated the cap on income that is taxed for the program (currently $113,700 a year), without raising the limit on benefits.

Is that the fairest way to solve Social Security’s problems?

• Tap the Wealthy to Support a Program for All by Theda Skocpol, Professor Of Government
“High earners like me stop paying Social Security taxes in the spring. We should pay on all our salary like most employed Americans.”
• Don’t Raise or Eliminate the Cap by Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute
“Eliminating the cap would make Social Security a welfare plan; and raising it would hurt the economy and do nothing to put the budget on a sustainable track.”
• An Affordable Step for a Vital Program by Heather Boushey, Center For American Progress
“With incomes stagnant and the middle class needing economic stability, debate on Social Security must include lifting the earnings cap.”
• More Revenue, but Less Political Support by James Lee Wetzler, Former New York Tax Commissioner
“For the first time, some, including influential opinion leaders, would get a bad return on what they pay into Social Security.”
• For the first time, some, including influential opinion leaders, would get a bad return on what they pay into Social Security.
• The Only Path for Elderly Citizens by Dorothy A. Brown, Tax Law Professor, Emory
“Social Security keeps more than 21 million seniors out of poverty each year. Don’t cut their benefits, repeal the wage cap.”
• A Modest Rise Is Fine, but It’s Not a Panacea by C. Eugene Steuerle, Urban Institute
“Social Security actuaries say that even with a benefit cap eliminating the tax cap wouldn’t end the program’s deficit.”
See also:
Social Security Policy Options

Source: Congressional Budget Office, Pub. No. 4140, July 2010

Debate: Abolish The Minimum Wage

Source: Intelligence Squared U.S., April 3, 2013

From the summary:
The first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage, a part of 1933’s sweeping National Industrial Recovery Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. But in 1938, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a minimum hourly wage of 25 cents—$4.07 in today’s dollars. Three-quarters of a century later, we are still debating the merits of this cornerstone of the New Deal. Do we need government to ensure a decent paycheck, or would low-wage workers and the economy be better off without its intervention.

For the Motion:
James A. Dorn – Cato Institute Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Editor, Cato Journal
Russell Roberts – Research Fellow, Hoover Institution

Against the Motion:
Jared Bernstein – Former Chief Economist to Vice President Joe Biden
Karen Kornbluh – Former US Ambassador, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Fight Wage Theft with Direct Action

Source: Aaron Giesa and Kari Koch, Labor Notes, April 17, 2013

Wage theft—the illegal underpayment or non-payment of wages owed—affects workers across all industries, but is especially rampant in restaurants and construction. Low-wage workers are often forced to work off the clock, before and after shifts, and through meal and rest breaks. It’s difficult for unions to win contracts at these small, insecure worksites, so our foremost tool for getting quick victories and asserting power in the workplace is direct action….

Corporate Tax Expenditures: Information on Estimated Revenue Losses and Related Federal Spending Programs

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-13-339, March 2013

From the summary:
Estimated tax revenue that the federal government forgoes resulting from corporate tax expenditures increased over the past few decades as did the total number of corporate tax expenditures. In 2011, the Department of the Treasury estimated 80 tax expenditures resulted in the government forgoing corporate tax revenue totaling more than $181 billion. Many of these tax expenditures are broadly available to both corporate and individual taxpayers. More than twothirds or 56 of the 80 tax expenditures used by corporations in 2011 were also used by individual taxpayers, such as other types of businesses not organized as corporations. Modifying any of these 56 tax expenditures as part of broader corporate tax reform would likely affect both corporate and individual taxpayers to some degree.

Corporate tax expenditures span a majority of federal mission areas, but their relative size differs across budget functions. The 80 corporate tax expenditures had estimated revenue losses in 12 of the 18 budget functions in 2011. Of the $181 billion in estimated corporate tax revenue losses, 81 percent was concentrated in the international affairs and housing and commerce budget functions, exceeding federal outlays in those budget functions. The 24 tax expenditures used only by corporations in 2011 provide support intended to encourage certain activities, such as energy production, or provide support for certain entity types, such as credit unions. A corporate tax expenditure may have multiple purposes: one narrowly focused on a specific activity or entity as well as broader or additional purposes pursuing national priorities or other activities. For example, 7 of the 24 corporate-only tax expenditures are aimed at encouraging or supporting specific energy sources and technologies, and these tax expenditures may also have broader national purposes such as promoting domestic energy production and energy security. In examining their narrowly focused reported purposes, one-third of the 24 corporate-only tax expenditures appear to share a similar purpose with at least one federal spending program.
The Corporate Tax Code Gives Away as Much as It Takes In
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, April 18, 2013

Viewpoint: A Strategy Based on Strikes Means Breaking the Law

Source: Joe Burns, Labor Notes, April 16, 2013

It was a welcome arrival on the labor scene late last year: an organizing strategy centered on workplace activism and strikes. Unions set their sights high, taking on the fast food industry in New York, massive warehouse complexes near Chicago and Los Angeles, and even the nation’s largest employer, Walmart.

The strategy focuses on building organization inside the workplace, rather than on a rigged National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election process. By strategically striking, a group of activists can convince their co-workers that fighting back is possible, raise publicity for their struggle, and pressure employers into granting concessions.

It’s a very traditional strategy, reaching back to a time when a union meant people coming together. With the advantages of a fresh perspective and strong community ties, these emerging forms of worker organization represent new hope for the labor movement.

In the long run, however, it is hard to envision this strategy succeeding unless workers challenge and, if necessary, violate labor law…

The ‘Organizing Model’ Goes Global

Source: Erik Forman, Labor Notes, April 15, 2013

…It turns out the United States doesn’t export only Justin Bieber and Big Macs. We also export the trends of our labor movement. Over the last 15 years—as American management practices have cast a pall over the global economy—unions from the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, and Australia have looked to U.S. unions for survival strategies. They came back with “the organizing model” (see sidebar). The term was coined in a 1988 AFL-CIO manual called “Numbers that Count,” which drew a distinction between “the servicing model of local union leadership—trying to help people by solving problems for them” and “the organizing model—involving members in solutions.” The fact that this was a new idea speaks volumes. …

Has Pension Reform Gone Too Far?

Source: Liz Farmer, Governing, View blog, April 19, 2013

Nearly every state in the union and scores of localities have reacted in recent years to their growing unfunded public pension liabilities with reforms that aim to soften that financial burden in the coming decades. The changes have ranged from reducing benefits for current retirees to raising the retirement age to establishing new (read: cheaper) plans for incoming public employees.

But have some of these reforms gone too far? Might governments now be putting themselves in a position where they can no longer attract the best person for the job?…

Retiree Healthcare Benefits: The Next Shoe to Drop?

Source: Liz Farmer, Governing, View blog, April 22, 2013

…Of course Kentucky isn’t the only state that’s patching over its retirement health payment holes with Silly Putty (although it is the only one Kim knows of that is paying off those bills today by issuing more debt for tomorrow). Most states and municipalities today are grappling with the growing cost of retiree health care, a problem highlighted now on balance sheets thanks to relatively new accounting rules that require governments to report their OPEB unfunded liabilities.

As of the end of fiscal 2012, many states’ OPEB unfunded liabilities are in the billions: California’s is more than $80 billion between its state, trial court and university system retirees; Illinois’ State Employees Group Insurance plan reports more than $33 billion in unfunded liabilities; and Maine’s three predominant plans combine for nearly $24 billion in unfunded liabilities (not including life insurance costs)….