Why the 2018 Midterms Matter for the U.S. Economy

Source: Bernard Yaros, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 2, October 2018
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Though midterms do not have much of an economic impact via policy uncertainty, they can still affect the economy by altering the course of federal fiscal policy. This is exactly what we expect to happen after the 2018 midterms. This article discusses how tax legislation, annual appropriations, and other areas of fiscal policy could change depending on the composition of the next Congress.

Why Are Unemployment Insurance Claims So Low?

Source: Dante DeAntonio, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 2, October 2018
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Initial claims for unemployment insurance continue to fall at an impressive rate, and the level of claims is low by any historical comparison. While the timeliness and frequency of UI data make it useful as an early labor market signal, it is important to understand the factors that impact the data. In this paper we show that recent changes in state UI laws have worked to depress new UI filings during the current expansion by as many as 100,000 claims per month.

The Economics of Puerto Rico’s Post-Maria Recovery

Source: Bernard Yaros, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 1, September 2018
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A year has passed since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In many respects, the economy is still reeling in its wake. This article looks back at the economic loss during and after the storm and also considers the road ahead for the island’s economic recovery under different policy scenarios.

U.S. Metro Area Cost of Living Index: Update Through 2016

Source: Suzanne Schatz, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 1, September 2018
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Living costs give insight into the quality of life, potential migration patterns, and the economic potential of metro areas. This article examines the most recent annual update of the Cost of Living Index to better contextualize recent cost of living trends and their implications for the outlook for U.S. metro areas.

Winning the War for Talent: Modern Motivational Methods for Attracting and Retaining Employees

Source: Anaïs Thibault Landry, Allan Schweyer, Ashley Whillans, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, First Published October 31, 2018
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From the abstract:
Given the struggle that many organizations face hiring and retaining talent in today’s tight labor market, it is critical to understand how to effectively reward employees. To address this question, we review relevant evidence that explains the importance of workplace rewards and recognition. Based on a review and synthesis of the current literature, we make the case that organizations should move beyond salary and traditional cash rewards to place greater emphasis on nonpecuniary, tangible and intangible rewards and recognition initiatives. We further highlight the importance of aligning rewards with universal psychological needs. Finally, we discuss the need to conduct more research to understand when and for whom cash and noncash rewards increase intrinsic motivation, organizational commitment and optimal functioning in order to improve the design and implementation of existing reward programs.

Prefunding Public Sector Retiree Health Benefits: The California Example

Source: John G. Kilgour, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, First Published November 1, 2018

From the abstract:
Most state and local governments have historically funded their retiree health care benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis. This has resulted in massive amounts of unfunded liability in many states including the five largest states of California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Recent accounting and reporting rules changes by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board has made these liabilities more visible and has resulted in more attention being paid to this problem. California has adopted a plan to pay off its huge unfunded retiree health benefit liability by 2044. It might serve as an example for other states with similar problems.

#MeToo: Sexual Harassment and Executive Compensation

Source: John L. Utz, Journal of Pension Planning & Compliance, Vol. 44, No. 4, Winter 2019
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It would not surprise me to learn that workplace sexual harassment has a history as long as that of working relationships themselves. The incidence of misbehavior may have varied with geography, work setting, or the times, but bad behavior seems obdurate. Power is intoxicating and, when combined with carnal impulses (and perhaps an executive’s inflated self-image and underdeveloped empathy for co-workers), makes possible mischief that is personally hurtful and institutionally corrosive.

The intractability of workplace sexual harassment has been noted with woe by a taskforce formed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”). That taskforce—the two co-chairs of which were EEOC commissioners—reported that studies of sexual harassment suggest 25 percent of women, at the low end, report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Select Taskforce on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, June 2016, p. 8. Also, this is the result 30 years after the Supreme Court held that workplace harassment is an actionable form of discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).

Perhaps 2017 will prove to have been a watershed year, both in the effort to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment, and the effort to identify and punish wrongdoers…..

We’re Pregnant: New State Law Protections for Pregnant Employees

Source: Theresa A. Kelly and Alba V. Aviles, Employee Benefit Plan Review ,Vol. 72, No. 12, November/December 2018
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Several states across the country (including most recently Connecticut and Massachusetts) have enacted legislation that provides additional protections to pregnant employees. In these laws, pregnancy is broadly defined to include not only pregnancy, but also childbirth and related conditions (such as lactation and expressing milk for a nursing child).

Many of these laws require an employer to reasonably accommodate a pregnant employee unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would result in undue hardship—a difficult standard to meet. This article provides an overview of the recently enacted legislation in Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as similar requirements in New Jersey and New York. ….

When Political Mega-Donors Join Forces: How the Koch Network and the Democracy Alliance Influence Organized U.S. Politics on the Right and Left

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol and Jason Sclar, Studies in American Political Development, Advance Access, Published online: October 22, 2018
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From the abstract:
As economic inequalities have skyrocketed in the United States, scholars have started paying more attention to the individual political activities of billionaires and multimillionaires. Useful as such work may be, it misses an important aspect of plutocratic influence: the sustained efforts of organized groups and networks of political mega-donors, who work together over many years between as well as during elections to reshape politics. Our work contributes to this new direction by focusing on two formally organized consortia of wealthy donors that have recently evolved into highly consequential forces in U.S. politics. We develop this concept and illustrate the importance of organized donor consortia by presenting original data and analyses of the right-wing Koch seminars (from 2003 to the present) and the progressive left-leaning Democracy Alliance (from 2005 to the present). We describe the evolution, memberships, and organizational routines of these two wealthy donor collectives, and explore the ways in which each has sought to reconfigure and bolster kindred arrays of think tanks, advocacy groups, and constituency efforts operating at the edges of America’s two major political parties in a period of intensifying ideological polarization and growing conflict over the role of government in addressing rising economic inequality. Our analysis argues that the rules and organizational characteristics of donor consortia shape their resource allocations and impact, above and beyond the individual characteristics of their wealthy members.