Author Archives: afscme

Financial Literacy and Defined Contribution Pensions: A Global Snapshot of an Unrecognized Problem

Source: John A. Turner, Dana M. Muir, Compensation Benefits Review, Vol. 44 no. 5, September/October 2012
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From that abstract:
The increasing importance of defined contribution plans, both as employer-provided plans and as mandatory individual accounts, has increased the responsibility placed on workers for making financial decisions. While early on it was assumed that workers would be capable of managing these accounts, studies have documented that many workers make financial mistakes. Financial education has been used as a remedy, but experience has shown that many workers are not interested and others do not follow up on changes they indicate they intend to make. The use of defaults for investments and increased transparency concerning fees are two further developments that have addressed this problem. Now, attention is turning increasingly to financial advice. However, often financial advisers have conflicts of interest that affect the quality and cost of the advice they provide. Some countries are enacting laws that address this issue.

Public-Private Pay Comparisons: An Analysis of Florida

Source: Robert E. Lee, Andrew M. Thompson, Compensation Benefits Review, Vol. 44 no. 5, September/October 2012
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From that abstract:
As state and local governments attempt to manage fiscal stress created by the Great Recession, the level of compensation received by public sector workers has become an increasingly debated policy issue. A significant amount of research exists that addresses national public sector compensation trends, but relatively few state-level studies have been performed. This analysis provides a preliminary analysis of public and private sector compensation in Florida. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, sector-level comparisons are made between public and private sector workers within the state with regard to compensation, age and education. This sector-level comparison is then supplemented by an occupational analysis of career fields found in both sectors. The sector-level analysis suggests public sector workers in Florida are, on average, not only better compensated than those in the private sector in aggregate but are also considerably more educated and older. The occupational analysis suggests that public sector workers in Florida are in general less well-compensated than private sector workers employed in the same field, even when older and more highly educated on average.

Coming to a State Near You: Tax Reform That Might Get It Wrong

Source: Citizens for tax Justice, January 17, 2013

Note to Readers: This is the first of a six part series on tax reform in the states. Over the coming weeks, CTJ’s partner organization, The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) will highlight tax reform proposals and look at the policy trends that are gaining momentum in states across the country.

Following an election that left half the states with veto-proof legislative majorities, 37 states with one-party rule and more than a dozen with governors who put tax reform high on their agendas, 2013 promises to be a big year for changes to state tax laws.

The scrutiny lawmakers will be giving to their state and local tax systems presents an extraordinary opportunity to assess and address structural flaws and ensure that states have the necessary revenue to provide vital public services now and in the future. Yet, it is already clear that “tax reform” for some state lawmakers may be little more than a vehicle for ideological goals like shrinking government spending or cutting taxes for profitable corporations and the wealthy.

Lawmakers in more than 30 states will take on taxes in some shape or form this year – at least 15 states are expected to consider a major tax overhaul (CA, IA, KS, KY, LA, MN, MO, NC, NE, NY, OH, OK, OR, VA, WI) and the list seems to grow by the week.

What to Do About the Gas Tax?

Source: Penelope Lemov, Governing, Public Finance, January 17, 2013

Two states, two different approaches for fixing how we pay for roads. … This year, gasoline taxes are on a number of state legislative agendas. But raising the tax is taking a backseat to newer approaches. One would use vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) rather than gas consumed as the base for assessing road use. The other would get rid of the state gas tax altogether and replace it with an increase in the sales tax. …

Proposal to Eliminate Income Taxes Amounts to a Tax Increase on Bottom 80 Percent of Louisianans

Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Policy Brief, January 2013

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said that he supports the elimination of the state’s personal and corporate income taxes. In fiscal year 2012, Louisiana collected nearly $3 billion in revenues from its personal and corporate income taxes. In order to pay for the drastic reduction in revenue that would come from eliminating them, lawmakers would likely raise the state’s sales tax rate or broaden its base by eliminating various exemptions. Governor Jindal is reportedly developing a plan along these lines that is said to also include some type of income tax relief for low income Louisianans who will be hit hardest by shifting the tax structure to rely more heavily on revenue generated from the sales tax.

Levee Repairs Needed Across America, Including Washington, D.C., Dallas And More, Study Says

Source: John Flesher and Cain Burdeau, Associated Press, January 17, 2013

Inspectors taking the first-ever inventory of flood control systems overseen by the federal government have found hundreds of structures at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states.

Levees deemed in unacceptable condition span the breadth of America. They are in every region, in cities and towns big and small: Washington, D.C., and Sacramento Calif., Cleveland and Dallas, Augusta, Ga., and Brookport, Ill.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue ratings for a little more than 40 percent of the 2,487 structures, which protect about 10 million people. Of those it has rated, however, 326 levees covering more than 2,000 miles were found in urgent need of repair. …

Bidding Adieu to the SEIU: Lessons for Its Next Generation of Organizers?

Source: Steve Early, WorkingUSA, Vol. 15 no. 4, December 2012
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Review of McAlevey, Jane, with Ostertag, Bob. Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement. New York and London: Verso Books, 2012.

From the abstract:
Few modern unions have done more outside hiring than the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), America’s second largest labor organization. Beginning in the mid-1970s and continuing unabated today, the SEIU and its local affiliates have employed tens of thousands of nonmembers as organizers, servicing reps, researchers, education specialists, PR people, and staffers of other kinds. While most unions hire and promote largely from within (i.e., from the ranks of their working members), the SEIU has always cast its net wider.

It has welcomed energetic refugees from other unions, promising young student activists, former community organizers, ex-environmentalists, Democratic Party campaign operatives, and political exiles from abroad. (One prototypical campus recruit was my older daughter, Alex, a Latin-American studies major who became a local union staffer for the SEIU after supporting the janitors employed at her Connecticut college.)

Many, if not most, of the SEIU’s outside hires no longer work for the union, in part because of its penchant for “management by churn.” This means that its network of distinguished alumni today is far larger than its current national and local workforce, which is not small. And not all of these SEIU alums have fond memories of their tour of duty in purple, the union’s signature color. For an institution that demands great loyalty from its staff, the SEIU is not known for its reciprocal attachment to those who do its bidding. Ex-SEIUers include many dedicated, hard-working organizers who were useful for a while, until they were not.

In several recent purges, the SEIU even managed to forget about the past services rendered by organizers sometimes described as “legendary.” I refer here to Bruce Raynor, former head of Workers United/SEIU, and Stephen Lerner, a fellow SEIU executive board member who directed the union’s Private Equity Project and devised its much-applauded “Justice for Janitors” campaigns two decades ago. …
See also:
Author Response to Steve Early’s Review of Raising Expectations
Source: Jane McAlevey, WorkingUSA, Vol. 15 no. 4, December 2012
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Can Occupy and Labor Coalesce?

Source: Peter Rugh, CounterPunch, January 17, 2013

…Backed against the wall in recent contract negotiations with the US Maritime Alliance (USMX), the ILA has threatened to strike. Picket lines could start popping up at ports from Maine to Texas on January 28. USMX has sought concessions from the union including reductions in hiring and healthcare payments, along with a slicing of the royalties workers receive on the cargo they handle. The strike threat comes as unions across the country are being urged to swallow concessions. Meanwhile, wages for both organized and non-organized labor have stagnated since Wall Street financiers crashed the economy in 2008, intensifying a four-decade earnings decline. The possible strike also arises at a moment of increased militancy among rank-and-file workers inspired by the Occupy movement, which shifted the national debate on to economic inequality. …
…With its emphasis on direct democracy, spontaneity and flexibility of tactics – and unbounded by union hierarchies or legal impediments such as the Taft-Hartley Act – Occupy has infused the labor movement with a fresh dose of radicalism…. Occupy has also leaned on labor at times. … But organized labor and Occupy haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. … In this sense, Muldoon said, Occupy wasn’t so much something new as it was a return to the basics. While expectations about the Occupy movement working successfully with organized labor may have been too high too early, OWS had a visible impact– and will continue to be a part of the fabric of the labor movement going forward, she said….

Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role Of Money In The 2012 Elections

Source: Adam Lioz, Blair Bowie, Dēmos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, January 2013

From the summary:
This report offers a comprehensive analysis of the fundraising and spending in federal races in the 2012 elections. The primary goal is to provide a quantitative analysis to describe tangibly what the vast majority of Americans already understand: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the populace—threatening the very concept of government of, by, and for the people. … But, more important than the total amount spent in any election is where all this money comes from. If candidates for federal office were mostly raising money in small contributions from average citizens, and if outside spending groups were organizing these average citizens to give them a louder voice in the political process, the sheer volume of money raised and spent might not present such a troubling problem. Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, this is not the case. Spending on modern U.S. elections is dominated by a small minority of special interests and wealthy donors who use their economic clout to amplify their preferred messages and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in the public square. The wealthy translate their greater electoral role into increased influence over public policy in two basic ways: by helping elect candidates who share their values, and by limiting the range of acceptable policy positions that candidates may take if they want to remain competitive—effectively shaping the agenda in Washington and state capitals across the country.