Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Credit History & Employment

One of many sore points in today's economy is an employer's ability to check the credit history of job applicants. This is an outrageous invasion of privacy and should not be allowed. It stands to reason an applicant's credit history might be spotty if he/she has been out of work for a period of time or experiences a financially catastrophic medical procedure.

Individual credit histories should not be made available to employers who might use the information as a hiring qualifier. To state the obvious, job skills and credit histories have nothing to do with one another.

In addition, just as employees are often required to give a two-week notice before quitting a job, it should be mandatory for employers to give the same notice prior to layoffs or closings.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Truth Emerges

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich appeared on the Ed Schultz Show yesterday, where he hit the nail on the head regarding our current state of immovable affairs:

What the Republicans want to do is keep the unemployment rate as high as possible because history has shown it's the best way to make sure a president is a one-term president.

Reich, who is also a UC Berkeley Professor, went on to say: "President Obama needs to make sure the public understands what republicans are doing, what they've been doing for more than two years with their just say no attitude, which is to sabotage the presidency and to undermine the economy."

Related commentary from Reich's web site: "The disconnect between Washington and the rest of the nation hasn't been this wide since the late 1960s. The two worlds are on a collision course: Americans who are losing their jobs or their pay and can't pay their bills are growing increasingly desperate. Washington insiders, deficit hawks, regressive Republicans, diffident Democrats, well-coiffed lobbyists, and the lobbyists' wealthy patrons on Wall Street and in corporate suites haven't a clue or couldn't care less."

In essence, GOP hatred of President Obama far outweighs their concern – or lack thereof – for the American people. Their number one goal is not jobs or fixing the economy, but getting rid of President Obama come 2012.

Click here
to see Friday's video with Reich from the Ed Show (MSNBC).

Cut Congress Benefits (CCB), Part One

Job security is a constant source of worry and stress for most Americans. Unlike members of Congress, we don't have assured benefits at the end of our working lives. Some of us have to make choices between paying rent, buying food or obtaining medicine, much less deciding what to do with a pension.

The perks enjoyed by members of Congress appear to rival those of a financially thriving corporation. While the base salary of a junior member of Congress is $174,000, they also have access to an "allowance" that helps fund their office staff. For instance, House members are allotted more than $900,000 to pay the salaries of up to eighteen employees. On top of that, they receive $250,000 for travel expenses and mass constituent mailings (also known as "franking"), the cost for which is borne by the taxpayer. Worse yet, Senators receive $3.3 million for office expenses. Some senators also receive $500,000 to hire up to three legislative assistants.

According to a report from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) and Our Generation (OG) advocacy groups, "Federal legislators earn 3.4 times more than the average full-time American worker and are among the highest paid legislators in the industrialized world."

Furthermore, the report states: "Congressional salaries and benefits are compared with what private sector workers receive, and with those of foreign legislators. Members of Congress receive an annual salary of $174,000 - which alone puts them in the highest-paid 5 percent of U.S. workers. They also, however, receive a host of additional benefits that put their total annual compensation at around $285,000. By comparison, the average full-time American employee earns just $50,875 annually."

David Williams, president of TPA, says: "Congress has run up a $14.3 trillion debt and a $1.5 trillion deficit, yet they are still among the best compensated employees in America. It is time to hold our representatives in Washington responsible for their job performance. With the high salaries Congress is collecting, we don't think it's too much to ask that they do their jobs and get our economic house in order."

The TPA also points out that that if congressional salaries were cut to $100,000 taxpayers could save $39 million each year.

Current annual salaries for top positions in the House and Senate:

• Speaker of the House ($223,500)
• House Majority Leader ($193,400)
• House Minority Leader ($193,400)
• Senate Majority Party Leader ($193,400)
• Senate Minority Party Leader ($193,400)

Many of us would be more than grateful for just a fraction of such salaries, willing to work our fingers to the bone to earn the money. That's more than can be said of our legislators at the moment.

Members of Congress also enjoy an annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA), unless Congress votes against it. Why not leave constituents to vote on whether members of Congress receive annual COLA’s instead? Because congressmen and senators know they would never be granted raises if they let us decide the issue.

If members of Congress faced the same level of financial and healthcare insecurity the average American deals with every day, perhaps their voting consciences will take a direction for the better. Most important of all, perhaps the sense of urgency and panic many of us feel will be experienced by those in power and will propel them to set aside the poison and acrimony now polluting Washington D.C. and get down to business.

Pay cuts for members of Congress should be implemented, above and beyond any wage freezes currently in place. Since the rest of us have to live within our means, right in line with the virtually non-moving Cost of Living index, so should members of Congress. If they cannot live on their wages, so be it.