Posts tagged with: Business/Finance

bail bondsYou may think that if you’re a law-abiding citizen, the concept of “bail” may be irrelevant. Well, maybe you forgot to pay your car insurance. Or maybe your license lapsed. You get pulled over because your tail light is out. It’s not a violent crime – a lapse in judgement, or a lack of money, perhaps.

And suddenly you need bail. $1000, the judge tells you, or you have to go to Rikers Island, New York’s main prison complex. You and 140,000 criminals. And someone like Robert Durst, accused of murder in Texas, is able to cough up a quarter million and walk away free.

America’s for-profit bail system is a $14 million a year industry, and the U.S. is one of only two countries that allows a for-profit system. According to a 2012 Justice Policy Institute report:

For-profit bail bonding costs taxpayers through increased jail and other justice expenses. In addition, it impacts people from low income communities – generally the loved ones of the accused person – who must pay nonrefundable fees for the bond regardless of case outcome and who, through contracts with the bondsmen, bear the real monetary risk of paying the full bail amount in the event of a court no-show.

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The religious shareholders of As You Sow and Calvert Investments are heralding last month’s shareholder vote on greenhouse gas reduction targets as an out-and-out victory.

Ummmm … not so fast. Although the press release on the AYS website trumpets: “Shareholders Vote for Greenhouse Gas Reductions at Midwest Utilities,” the facts tell a much different story. Yes, some shareholders did indeed vote in favor of the AYS/CI resolution, but not nearly enough to pass it:

Citing climate change impacts and financial risks of carbon-intense coal assets, shareholders representing billions of dollars of assets voted for carbon reduction targets at FirstEnergy and Great Plains Energy, showing strong support for a pair of shareholder proposals put forth by non-profit As You Sow and investment group Calvert Investments.

All this from shareholder activists apparently unaware of a little government entity called the Environmental Protection Agency, which, for better or worse, won’t announce its final rules for existing and new, modified and reconstructed power plants until this summer. According to the EPA, the agency will release this summer a Clean Power Plan for existing power plants in states, Native American country and U.S. territories; Carbon Pollution Standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants; and issue a federal plan for meeting Clean Power Plan goals for public review and comment. (more…)

4.1.1Now that the U.S. has re-established diplomatic relations with Pearl of the Antilles, interest in Cuba is rising. While there are no crystal balls about Cuba’s future, here are a few things we do know about the island-nation’s economy, thanks to Pew Research.

1. Cuba was doing business with the U.S. even before the embargo was lifted. A partial repeal of the embargo allowed for this, and Cuba really needed food, medical supplies and medicine.

2. Cuba’s economic growth has slowed dramatically in the past few years.

The CIA estimates that Cuba’s GDP grew just 1.3% last year in real (inflation-adjusted) terms – 177th out of 222 countries ranked. One big reason: With global oil prices still well below their pre-recession highs, the heavily discounted oil that Venezuela sends Cuba – some of which Cuba re-exports – is less valuable.

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Blog author: ehilton
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
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student debtIs it time to write off the college experience? John Stossel thinks so.

Half today’s recent grads work in jobs that don’t require degrees. Eighty thousand of America’s bartenders have bachelor’s degrees.

Politicians such as Hillary Clinton promote college by claiming that over a lifetime, college graduates “earn $1 million more.” That statistic is true but utterly misleading. People who go to college are different. They’re more likely to have been raised by two parents. They did better in high school. They’d make more money even if they never went go to college.

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fight forRobert Reich seems to be a smart man. He served under three presidents, and now is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His video (below) says raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, he gets it all wrong.

Donald Boudreaux of the Cato Institute notes a couple of errors in Reich’s thinking. First,

Ignoring supply-and-demand analysis (which depicts the correct common-sense understanding that the higher the minimum wage, the lower is the quantity of unskilled workers that firms can profitably employ), Reich asserts that a higher minimum wage enables workers to spend more money on consumer goods which, in turn, prompts employers to hire more workers.  Reich apparently believes that his ability to describe and draw such a “virtuous circle” of increased spending and hiring is reason enough to dismiss the concerns of “scare-mongers” (his term) who worry that raising the price of unskilled labor makes such labor less attractive to employers.

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greece for saleGreece has had to deal with a very uncertain economic outlook over the past decade or so, but now it’s getting downright ugly. Greece owes over $1 billion this month in debt repayments, along with pensions, government salaries and other obligations. They likely don’t have the money.

The rapidly deteriorating Greek economy makes its already daunting debt pile even harder to manage, a key point of contention between Athens and its lenders. The [European Commission’s] latest forecast reckons that Greece’s debt will reach a whopping 180% of GDP this year, much higher than expected in recent months. Greece’s most recent bailout agreement called for its debt-to-GDP ratio to fall to 110% by 2022, which looks nearly impossible without some sort of restructuring, write-down, or default.

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An employee at Indiana-based Carson Manufacturing

An employee at Indiana-based Carson Manufacturing

There is a group of workers out there who are uniquely qualified for many jobs, intensely interested in working and being as independent as possible, often joyful in attitude and thankful for the little things many of us take for granted.

They are adults with cognitive and intellectual disabilities.

I’m not talking about “pity” jobs here. I’m talking about people with real talents who are looking to share those talents with others in a way that is mutually beneficial. Most of us call that a “career” but for the disabled, a career can be hard to come by. Chalk it up to misunderstanding, ignorance and prejudice. However, businesses are getting on board.

More and more companies out there are realizing there’s an untapped pool of talent that makes for very good workers,” [said] Peter Bell, President and CEO of Eden Autism Services, “Employers are becoming interested in hiring these people not because it’s charity, but because it’s the right business decision.”

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debt-collection-final-noticeFor decades The Episcopal Church (ECUSA) has faced declining membership (in 1966, the ECUSA had 3,647,297 members; by 2013, the membership was 1,866,758, a decline of 49 percent.) But even when people are leaving the pews someone still has to pay for those pews, as well as the other overhead costs that come with running a large organization. Not surprising, the denomination has sought ways to bring in additional revenue.

Currently, the ECUSA has two primary sources of income. According to its latest audited financial statements for the calendar year 2013, it received a little over $27 million from its member dioceses, and it received half as much again, or $13.8 million, from the federal government.

As A.S. Haley notes, the money ECUSA received from the federal government was in connection with the services provided by Episcopal Migration Ministries, which assists the State Department in relocating refugees throughout the United States. That is certainly noble and necessary work, and the denomination should be commended for providing a valuable service to a vulnerable community.

But as Haley points out, the records show the ECUSA also makes a lot of money as a debt collector:

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This past week, The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal offered up a piece of agitprop masquerading as trenchant political analysis. It seems – well, not seems inasmuch as Blumenthal pretty much declares outright – that he isn’t much of a fan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s antipathy toward shareholder proxy resolutions promoting political spending disclosure policies. Likewise, writes Blumenthal, three other “usual suspects” – the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Wall Street Journal – are aligned with the Chamber against all that the left considers right and proper regarding corporate political transparency and disclosure.

In the article, tellingly titled “The Chamber of Commerce Is Fighting Fiercely to Stop the Scourge of Corporate Transparency,” Blumenthal writes as if guided by the hands of the Center for Political Accountability’s Bruce Freed and the religious activists at As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility:

This spring, shareholders in more than 100 companies will introduce resolutions calling for greater disclosure of corporations’ political and lobbying activity. Six major companies — Dean Foods, Eastman Chemical, H&R Block, Marathon Oil, U.S. Steel and Valero Energy — have already reached agreement with New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the third largest pension fund in the nation, to adopt political spending disclosure policies in exchange for the comptroller’s office withdrawing its resolutions.

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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
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7figuresToday is tax day, the day when individual income tax returns are due to the federal government. Here are seven figures you should know about tax day:

1. The average federal tax rate for all households (tax liabilities divided by income, including government transfer payments) before taxes is 18.1 percent.

2. Households in the top quintile (including the top percentile) paid 68.8 percent of all federal taxes, households in the middle quintile paid 9.1 percent, and those in the bottom quintile paid 0.4 percent of federal taxes. (Quintiles — fifths — contain equal numbers of people.)

3. Social insurance taxes (e.g., Social Security, Medicare) account for the largest share of taxes paid by households in all but the top quintile.

4. The U.S. tax code is approximately 2,600 pages long (about 1.5 times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace and 2.5 times longer than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).

5. At midnight, the U.S. Treasury gets an extra $760 million. Taxpayers have three years to claim refunds, so the $760 million that is owed to 918,600 people will, by statute, go to the governments coffers tomorrow.

6. If you’re owed a refund, you won’t get in trouble if you miss the April 15 filing deadline. But if you’re wrong and you actually owe money, you’ll incur a maximum penalty of 5% for each month after the deadline. If you’re more than 60 days late, you’ll be fined $135, or 100% of the unpaid tax — whichever amount is smaller.

7. Examining 30 years of road crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researchers found that fatal car crashes increase 6 percent on April 15.