Archive for September, 2014

Only in America

Posted: 30 September 2014 in Uncategorized
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According to Bloomberg Businessweek [ht: sm],

A political candidate’s firing in Florida offers a reminder of a little-understood fact of American life: Companies have sweeping discretion to effectively regulate what their workers do outside of work, including running for elected office.

That startling reality resurfaced after Marriott Vacations Worldwide came under fire for terminating Viviana Janer, a senior manager who is also the Democratic nominee for a seat on the Osceola County Commission. “I think it’s a stinking maneuver to rob her of her job and rob the voters of their votes,” Democratic Representative Alan Grayson charged this week. Janer says her candidacy is consistent with the company’s support for civic participation; her employer, a time-share company spun off from Marriott International in 2011, says her candidacy threatened a conflict of interest.

In a Sept. 19 termination letter, Marriott Vacations wrote that Janer had been given the choice to either resign from her campaign or resign from her job. “She was given those two options,” confirms Edward Kinney, a vice president for the company, “and she chose not to do either one.” . . .

The First Amendment protects free speech and the right to petition the government, but it only restricts the government from trampling those rights—it doesn’t ban your boss from punishing you for exercising them.

infant mortality

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [pdf],

In 2010, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, and the United States ranked 26th in infant mortality among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Devel­opment countries. After excluding births at less than 24 weeks of gestation to ensure international comparability, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 4.2, still higher than for most European countries and about twice the rates for Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Infant mortality is an important indicator of the health of a nation because it is associated with a variety of factors such as maternal health, quality of and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices.

Clearly, as inequality continues to rise, the health of the United States is not good.


Special mention

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According to Andrew Levin [pdf], the current employment gap of 3 percentage points is roughly three times the oft-cited difference between the official unemployment rate and the so-called natural rate of unemployment.

Levin defines the overall employment gap as the the deviation of actual employment from its maximum sustainable level. It is the sum of three components: (a) the unemployment gap, the deviation between actual unemployment and its longer-run normal rate; (b) the participation gap, the deviation between the actual labor force and the level that would solely reflect demographic and structural factors; and (c) the underemployment gap, the extent of involuntary part-time work (measured in full-time equivalent jobs) relative to its longer-run normal incidence.

Those who can’t find a job, have given up looking for a job, and are working a part-time job when they’d prefer to be working full-time watch with disbelief as the inflation hawks push the Fed to raise interest rates and private employers say they’re doing all they can to hire available workers.

Only in America

Posted: 29 September 2014 in Uncategorized
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Maria Fernandes


From the New York Daily News:

A New Jersey woman who worked multiple jobs to support herself died Monday while snatching a few minutes of sleep in her car.

Maria Fernandes, 32, succumbed to a deadly combination of carbon monoxide and fumes from an overturned gas container that she kept in her 2001 Kia Sportage, cops say.

The woman worked shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Harrison, Newark and Linden.

“She used to work like three shifts every day,” Parth Patel, who worked with Fernandes at Newark Penn Station, told “Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep for five days.”

One of her managers, Sophia Paches, said that Fernandes had been an excellent employee during her four years at the Linden store. The woman would sometimes finish an overnight shift at 6 a.m., sleep in her car for a few hours, and then move on to her next shift.

Despite the grueling schedule, Monday was the first time Fernandes missed a day of work.

The woman had pulled into a Wawa parking lot on Route 1 & 9 in Elizabeth at about 8:30 a.m. She apparently left the car running, cops said. She was found dead about eight hours later.

A Hazmat team had to monitor the fumes for four hours before it became safe enough for rescuers to enter the Kia.

“This sounds like someone who tried desperately to work and make ends meet, and met with a tragic accident,” Elizabeth police Lt. Daniel Saulnier said.

Former boyfriend Richard Culhane said Fernandes was born in Massachusetts, but returned to her parents’ native Portugal when she was about 9 years old. She moved back to the U.S. some 14 years ago, taking classes at a Harrison school and bunking with a family friend.

“I told (her) she could get a better job, but she said she didn’t want to work in an office,” Culhane said.

Friends and co-workers remembered Fernandes as a “sweet” and “hardworking” person who was always ready to lend a hand to people and animals in need.

One coworker remembered how Fernandes would save food scaps to feed to the birds after work.

She also idolized Michael Jackson, singing his songs and attempting his dance moves during her shifts. She told friends she planned to take the entire day off Aug. 29 to celebrate the pop star’s birthday.

An exact cause of death has not yet been released.

“She was just a nice human being,” Patel said. “She was everywhere, she used to do everything. And the good thing was, she never called out.”


Special mention

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Chart of the day

Posted: 28 September 2014 in Uncategorized
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As Ben Casselman explains,

One common definition of the American dream is the belief that each generation will do better than the one before. By that measure, the dream is fading. Take the generation born in 1970. In early adulthood, these Americans outearned their parents, those born in 1950. But their gains stalled in the 2000s, when they were in their 30s. Now in their 40s, their earnings have fallen behind those of their parents at the same stage in their lives.


According to the new census by Wealth-X and UBS, almost half (45 percent) of the world’s billionaires partially or fully inherited their wealth. In fact, over the past year, the number of billionaires with partly inherited wealth experienced the largest growth in both relative and absolute terms.

But, clearly, the largest number of billionaires (some 80 percent) acquired their wealth at least partly through their participation in either privately held or publicly held businesses. According to the report, 63 percent of billionaires’ primary businesses are private companies, compared to only 31 percent that are public companies and 6 percent that are other types of institutions (education, government, non-profit, and social organizations).


Opportunities for significant wealth gains can be found across most, if not all, industries. But certain industries have been particularly important sources of billionaires’ wealth generation. The largest share of the world’s billionaires have made their fortunes through finance, banking, and investment. But, outside of Europe and the United States—for Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East—the largest proportion of new billionaires made their fortunes in industrial conglomerates.

In other words, most billionaires acquired their fortunes—either now or in the past—by helping themselves to the surplus created by their employees.


Special mention

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That’s right: during the first three years of the current “recovery,” the top 10 percent captured 116 percent of all income gains. That’s because incomes actually fell for the bottom 90 percent, even as they rose nicely for those at the top.

1 percent gains

Even more striking is the fact that 95 percent of the income gains during the same period went to the top 1 percent, with only 5 percent left for everyone else.

In other words, the fruits of the current expansion have been captured almost exclusively by those at the very top—in contrast to every other period of economic recovery in the postwar period.

We have to face the fact that capitalism’s crises have become increasingly severe, and the solutions to those crises have increasingly involved redirecting the income gains to a tiny minority at the top. Everyone else is being left behind. Is it any wonder that the current economic system is facing a legitimation crisis?