I’m of two minds here…on the one hand, Ralph Nader makes a good point; if Democrats want to make inroads in this year’s midterm elections, they really do need to emphasize populist issues such as raising the minimum wage. On the other hand, there’s still a lot of Americans (myself included) who really don’t care to hear anything Nader has to say nowadays…you can guess why.
Archive for the ‘economics’ Tag
…we would do well to remember King’s words today as we continue to fight for economic justice in this world…
H/T to Best of the Left
Given America’s energy needs at present, this is good news…
The U.S. Army announced plans on Monday to begin construction on the Department of Defense’s largest solar array on a military installation. Groundbreaking for the 20-megawatt project will take place on April 25, with commercial operations slated to begin late this year. It will provide about a quarter of the annual electricity use for Fort Huachuca in southeast Arizona.
“The project establishes a new path for an innovative partnering opportunity among the U.S. Army, other federal agencies, private industry and the utility provider,” said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability. “I applaud the significant efforts and teamwork to bring this project to fruition — and set the example for other large scale renewable energy opportunities.”
The project is being installed under a purchase power agreement in which the solar installer, in this case Tucson Electric Power, pays for installation, operation, and maintenance and then pays down costs and generates revenue through sales of electricity. The project is an example of public-private industry collaboration in which no taxpayer dollars will be spent. The installation, design, engineering and construction of the project will be overseen by E.ON, a multinational investor-owned energy supplier.(Think Progress)
From an economic standpoint, this kind of plan makes sense: it is a private-public partnership with no taxpayer funds at stake…in addition, from a national security standpoint, it makes sense in that no fossil fuels will have to either be used to build said project or be used to supply energy needs for Ft. Huachuca; even if power supplies elsewhere were disrupted, the base would continue to have a reasonable power supply system. As one analyst put it:
“The military’s clean energy installation initiatives are gathering momentum, enhancing base energy security,” Phyllis Cuttino, who directs Pew’s project on national security, energy, and climate, said when the study was released in January. “These improvements are possible even as the Pentagon’s budget is shrinking because the armed services are harnessing private-sector expertise and resources. This is a win-win-win proposition: The military gets better energy infrastructure, taxpayer dollars are saved, and the clean energy industry is finding new market opportunities.”(Think Progress)
…a win-win-win proposition indeed…
On transportation, manufacturing and environmental grounds, this is good news indeed, even though its’ only (for now) the Illini State doing this:
The Illinois Department of Transportation signed a contract to bring a total of 32 hybrid electric-diesel trains to the United States last month. The trains will start running by 2016. And the project, when all is said and done, will cost the United States $225 million — a number that may sound enormous but that will actually save a significant amount of both money and the carbon pollution that drives climate change.
“The Charger locomotives will be used exclusively in passenger service,” a release from Siemens, the company manufacturing the locomotives, says. The trains “will be manufactured in the U.S. by Cummins Inc., headquartered in Columbus, Indiana,” and, will run in Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington. Should all go well with the original 32, there’s an option for an additional 225 locomotives down the line. The hybrid electric engines will make the trains more efficient.(Think Progress)
In terms of both transportation and environmental concerns, this decision by IDOT should be seen as a good thing; given the current need to reduce greenhouse emissions, these new hybrid electric trains should cut both nitrogen oxide & particulate matter emissions by up to anywhere from 25-30% from current emission levels. These reductions, coincidentally, will also make these new trains some of the most efficient in usage today. In terms of manufacturing…well, anytime you can bring jobs back to the United States – particularly factory jobs – that’s a good thing for America’s overall economic health.
Walmart will begin adding worker hours this year as part of an effort to address complaints about empty shelves at the company’s understaffed stores. The retail giant’s top executives said that fixing the chain’s stocking problems could be worth $3 billion per year, a tacit acknowledgment that Walmart’s notorious efforts to wring productivity out of skeleton crews have hurt its bottom line.
Executives announced “plans to add labor hours as part of an effort to bolster ‘in-store execution’” at the company’s annual Year Beginning Meeting in March, Bloomberg reports. The news service did not offer specifics on how the plan will work, but Walmart has historically preferred scheduling workers for part-time hours to avoid paying them benefits required for full-time hours. Walmart workers around the country have gone on strike repeatedly in recent years, often listing the need for more staff hours among their reasons for protesting.
Regardless of how the company goes about staffing up, the decision to foreground in-store personnel issues at a major annual meeting confirms that Walmart is reconsidering the relationship between its workforce and its profits. Despite opening more than 600 new stores over the past five years, Walmart now employs 20,000 fewer people than it did in 2008. That aggressive decrease in staff eventually left stores unable to do the most basic thing for any retail company: putting merchandise on the shelves.(Think Progress)
As someone who used to work in the retail business, I can say with a little bit of certainty that the easiest way to upset customers is by not having product on one’s shelves and the easiest way to have that happen is to not have enough people working the floor to stock one’s various products. While this is an endemic (or near-endemic) problem across the grocery and retail business, Walmart’s the worst of the bunch; one of the reasons I stopped shopping at Walmart’s old Morganton store was precisely because of this reason.
To be fair, though, this is but one of Walmart’s problems…
Adding staff hours might well calm those kinds of complaints from industry analysts and shareholders, but they are unlikely to put an end to Walmart’s bad press around broader labor issues. Worker unrest has led to dozens of strikes in the last few years, with Walmart employees citing poor treatment from scheduling managers and low wages among their reasons for walking out. In 2013, the National Labor Relations Board found the company guilty of illegal retaliationagainst workers who expressed interest in forming a union, and the company’s internal guide instructing managers to monitor workers’ private conversations and quell union chatter leaked earlier this year.
If Walmart wants to put an end to its labor unrest, giving workers more hours could be a good start. But the larger issue is wages. OUR Walmart, the group that has helped organized workers in recent years, wants the company to commit to paying its associates a minimum salary of $25,000 per year. Workers today make an average of $8.81 per hour, just three-quarters of the average wage at other retail giants and far below the $21.96 average hourly rate that fellow big-box retailer Costco offers.(Think Progress)
It’s not rocket science here, folks: if businesses want to lower the growing swell of labor unrest, there’s a simple solution and that is simply to raise the wages of their workers; by most equitable reports, a raise up to the proposed federal minimum wage of $10.10 would result in no appreciable increase in company costs or in appreciable decreases in shareholder value for the company.
Next time deficit scolds tell you we need to keep cutting and cutting federal expenditures – never mind their effect on the economy – remind them that the federal budget is already heading in that direction…
The federal budget deficit fell faster last year than in any year since the end of World War II, according to a Treasury Department report on Thursday. It declined from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $680 billion in 2013.
That represents the smallest deficit since 2008 in nominal terms. It’s now 4.1 percent of GDP, dropping from a high of more than 10 percent during the depths of the recession. It’s less than half of what it was in 2009, when the recession ended.(Think Progress)
(Image credit: New York Times)
2 factors are driving the above deficit decreases: higher tax revenues and austerity measures passed over the past few years, resulting in the sharpest decline in federal deficits since World War II…which is all good & well except for the simple fact that had austerity not become the watchword of the day amongst the chattering classes of Washington:
…without the deep spending cuts, the health of the economy would look much better. There would have been 2.4 million additional jobs since 2010. The deficit would have improved even faster without last year’s automatic sequestration cuts, which are still continuing for many programs.(Think Progress)
It’s rare that I ever agree with RedState on anything but on this occasion, I agree with RedState’s John Hayward on the current Mike Rowe/WalMart kerfuffle, to wit the ‘controversy’ over Rowe’s recent voiceover of a WalMart ad where they announced their intent to spend $250 billion on American-made goods and services over the next 10 years.
Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the proverbial toolshed but on this one occasion, I’d like to think WalMart is dead serious on this one; God knows they get enough flak from most of us on the Left yet, to borrow Alanis Morissette’s words, isn’t it ironic that they (Wal-Mart) are now catching flak for wanting to pump $250 freakin’ billion dollars into American manufacturing!
I mean, what the fuck is the Left’s problem on this? I have to ask, partly because this is one of those rare occasions where I actually like what they’re doing and partly because I’ve always thought it was important to build up American manufacturing…or is that only under certain freakin’ circumstances (like, when government spends it)? Tell me that, for crying out loud!
Consider this an open thread, readers.