Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

New Rules

New Rules

Some of the biggest banks in the world are expected to plead guilty to felonies this week.  Felonies! They are scandalous crimes, too: fraud and antitrust violations.

Finally, America will see members of the class that crashed the economy dressed in black and white suits that are hardly the Brooks Brothers pinstripes to which they’ve grown accustomed.  

Oh, wait, no. The New York Times says these felons will just pay some fines and go about their business of playing roulette with the world economy. Of course they won’t face prison like normal criminals. They’re bankers! Members of the exclusive Too Big to Jail Club. They’re protected. Just like millionaires and CEOs are. A CEO can, for example, be fired for failing to produce but still get $21 million in severance, then lose a well-financed race for U.S. Senate and still be considered a viable presidential candidate. That’s because the rules are written for them. The economy currently is constructed to ensure their enrichment. 

More ...

What We’re Arguing about When We’re Arguing about Trade Deals.

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

One problem in this whole debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that we lose the forest for the trees. We end up arguing about trade deals—and worse, a deal almost no one has read (because it’s negotiated in secret)—as opposed to the broader underlying issues of the economic impact of trade from the perspective of what matters most: growth, jobs, wages, incomes, and inequality.

I draw that distinction because what follows is not about politics. Many players in this debate form their views based on perceived labor or corporate interests, or the fact that their constituents are convinced, often legitimately, that prior trade deals have hurt them. That’s not what I’m thinking about here. What follows is instead is my brief take on the economic questions invoked by the debate. For a deeper dive into much of what’s here, see Chapter 5 in the Reconnection Agenda (I’m not saying it’s any good, but I will say that I spent a lot of time trying to make some of the less intuitive parts of this as clear as possible.)

There’s trade and then there’s trade deficits: Economists and the punditry typically pull for more trade because its benefits are well known: greater supplies of goods (and thus lower prices), the opportunities for trading partners to produce and sell more of the goods and services in which they specialize, greater interdependence between countries, the opportunity for developing countries to spur their development.

More ...

How the New Flexible Economy Is Making Workers' Lives Hell

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

How the New Flexible Economy Is Making Workers' Lives Hell

These days it's not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she's not needed right then.

Although she's already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won't be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of information such as traffic patterns, weather, and even sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don't need to pay anyone to be at work unless they're really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who'd otherwise just sit around.

More ...

The Trade Deal and U.S. Security: Don’t Believe the Hype

Robert Borosage

Robert Borosage Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future

“Patriotism,” as Samuel Johnson warned, “is the last refuge for a scoundrel.” As the administration has ratcheted up the pressure to pass fast track authority that will grease the skids for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)accords, it increasingly invokes national security as the central rationale for the treaty, with the president warning that “we must write the rules” or China will.

Even the administration’s own figures suggest there will be little economic benefit from the accords – and those estimates have always slighted the cost in jobs and wages at home. The hype now exceeds all limits. We keep hearing about the 95 percent of consumers that live outside the U.S., as if this treaty were about them. But the treaty excludes the major population centers of Asia – China, India, Indonesia. 550 million of the 750 million included are in the Americas, not in Asia, most of whom we already have agreements with. And the Asian Pacific Economic Council, established at America’s behest, already includes all of the major countries, including China and Russia, and aims to move to free trade by 2020.

For the treaty to make a major contribution to changing our failed trade policies – which even President Obama admits haven’t lived up to the hype – it would have to deal with currency manipulation. But that reality is explicitly not on the table.

More ...

Opportunity, Inequality, Public Opinion, and Power

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Opportunity, Inequality, Public Opinion, and Power

Here’s a timely result from a new NBC/WSJ poll out today:

Which concerns you more: the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of the country or middle and working class Americans not being able to get ahead financially?

Income gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country: 28%
Middle and working class not being able to get ahead: 68%

That’s a big difference, though not a surprising one. To the extent that we share national values, they tend to lean more towards equal opportunities than equal outcomes.

The thing is, these two phenomena are linked, and likely not just through correlation, but through causation. That means that we can’t increase opportunity without reducing inequality.

Though I’ve made this point a lot lately, I’ve got good reason to do so.

First, there is a theme, if not a meme (not totally sure of the difference; maybe the latter is a theme amplified on the internet) developing among candidates for president, especially among the many R’s, that what matters is opportunity, not inequality. As the poll shows, they’ve got public opinion on their side, and it is congenitally discomforting for politicians of all partisan stripes to focus on inequality, as they can be seen by the donor class as fomenting class warfare that’s unfriendly to the top 1%. (Though I’m with Warren Buffet on this one: “…there’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won.”)

More ...

Fast Track is an Economic Train Wreck

Fast Track is an Economic Train Wreck

Union Matters

Bernie Sanders' Political Revolution: An Idea Whose Time has Come

Hugh J. Campbell

Hugh J. Campbell Son of a steelworker, Philadelphia, Pa.

Big Lie: America Doesn't Have #1 Richest Middle Class in the World: We're Ranked 27th!  provides ample justification for Bernie Sanders' Political Revolution.

America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet's riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years!  

Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we're number 27.  

Why? Corrupt and/or unresponsive leadership. This leadership gap combined with the principle enablers of revolution, new technology and the empowerment of the masses makes Bernie Sanders' political revolution is so promising.

***

To submit a blog to Union Matters, e-mail it to bstack@usw.org. Keep it to 250 words or fewer. You MUST include your full name, hometown, and state. You may attach a photograph of yourself. Please include a phone number. This WILL NOT be published. Posting any given blog is within the discretion of the USW. No blog using foul language (this is a family site), false information (we don’t want to get sued), or unnecessary personal attacks (again, we don’t want to get sued) will be used. Wait a reasonable period of time, then blog again!

More ...