I'd like to get a rough idea of how many years the funds in my FHA might last. I'm also curious to know if anyone knows what might be considered to be an average amount of funds in an FHA account. I have approximately $65,000 in my account, but I've no idea if that amount would be considered average, above average or below average. I've heard many people quote different dollar amounts in their FHA's, and most numbers I heard were less than $65,000 so I'm inclined to believe my account may be above average. Does anyone know what's considered to be an average amount of funds in an FHA?
Paying 100% is probably best for a couple reasons:
Among the sectors taking the hit, IT is taking the brunt of the offshore hits. The good news for domestic technology workers is that growth in offshore IT outsourcing is leveling off. Now offshore outsourcing will hit corporate finance at a compound annual job loss rate of 20 percent. Hackett estimated that by 2014, the annual number of finance jobs lost due to offshore outsourcing will eclipse IT for the first time.
Over the past six months, recruiter Nick Corcodilos, who also publishes jobs advice site AsktheHeadhunter.com, has seen a "significant increase" in chatter among headhunters on his site about overqualified hires looking to improve their situations. "Employees try first to pitch for higher-level roles within their companies, but if they can't get that, they're looking elsewhere," he said. Some companies are taking pre-emptive steps.
Groups like the Economic Policy Institute have begged to differ. In a report released just last month by EPI researcher Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he argues that the H-1B along with the L-1 visa, which is used by multinational firms to transfer employees for temporary work, allow employers to bypass U.S. workers "when recruiting for open positions and even [to] replace outright existing American workers" with visa-holding foreigners. The H-1B's wage requirements are too low, according to the report, and because visas are held by employers, not workers, the H-1B promotes a relationship "akin to indentured servitude."
That dovetails with the view of many domestic IT professionals, who have never subscribed to the idea that there was -- or is -- a skills mismatch in the industry. Among them is Kristine Serrano, laid off from IBM this year, who calls the skills gap a "myth" told by businesses and parroted by elected officials.
"The work didn't disappear. It's still being done; it is just being done by a group over in India now," said Serrano, who earned a master's degree in information science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1993 and was initially hired by IBM as a Unix system administrator.
Serrano's point is what makes the issue contentious. IT professionals who have been displaced from their jobs because of offshore outsourcing believe that the H-1B visa has made government a complicit partner in the shift of jobs. They maintain that the H-1B visa and offshoring have become inextricably linked, with offshore companies placing H-1B workers in client sites in the U.S. with the intention of ultimately transferring the work overseas. ...
But separately, the H-1B visa has changed the IT consulting landscape, creating a new type of company -- technically a U.S. company, but one that is staffed primarily by H-1B visa holders and often has offices overseas, usually in India, where client work is completed. These firms represent a new kind of competition in the IT consulting marketplace. A sampling of the makeup of these firms was detailed in a lawsuit filed by the TechServe Alliance in Alexandria, Va. The organization, which represents a handful of such firms, filed the suit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) over an interpretation of its rules. ...
As for Serrano, her layoff from IBM will mean a change of careers as she heads back to school to pursue a degree in nursing. She feels her IT career prepared her well for nursing because both fields require people who are detail-oriented and cool under pressure. An ideal outcome of the nursing training, she says, would be to combine her IT and nursing skills into a health informatics career. The contractor that Serrano trained at IBM was from China, but Serrano didn't know her immigration status. And despite having to train her replacement, Serrano says she had a good relationship with the woman, "because she's just another person that's struggling in a whole world of struggling individuals."
Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.
“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning,”.
The punchline to the punchline is that Harris is himself a doctor. And of course, he has access to -- and the resources to pay for -- COBRA, which would extend his current health insurance for the month-long gap.
Harris is seemingly unaware of the irony of his position -- railing against having to go uninsured (even though he doesn't have to) for a mere 28 days while some 30 million Americans really are uninsured, many of them for long stretches of time and with no light at the end of the tunnel. And Harris wants to repeal healthcare reform, which would only increase the number of uninsured citizens.
For a man of the people, that's a pretty impressive résumé. Most workers in this country have to wait weeks between their first day on the job and the day their health insurance kicks in. Sometimes more. ...
"Seventy-four percent of covered workers face a waiting period before coverage is available. Covered workers in the Northeast are less likely (64%) than workers in other regions to face a waiting period." the report reads. "The average waiting period among covered workers who face a waiting period is 2.2 months.... Thirty-one percent of covered workers face a waiting period of 3 months or more." That percentage is even higher in West's old field -- health care -- where a full 86 percent of workers have to endure a waiting period that averages 1.9 months.
“If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk,” Crowley writes in a letter to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don’t happen to be Members of Congress. We also want to note that in 2011, the Federal government will pay $10,503.48 of the premiums for each member of Congress with a family policy under the commonly selected Blue Cross standard plan.”
As Think Progress points out, the baloney runs deep–55 Republicans are on Medicare, yet none of them support health care for the average American. In the most recent case–and the one that prompted Crowley to draft his letter–Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a doctor who won on a government-sponsored health care-hating platform, spent his first Congressional orientation session demanding his government-sponsored health care.
Many Democrats think they too will be vindicated as the public sees more of the benefits of the new healthcare law. Whit Ayres, a longtime GOP pollster, warned that Republicans risked a backlash if voters perceived them as more interested in scoring political points than in responding to voters' concerns. "There is no particular love for the Republican Party in the electorate," he said at a recent Health Affairs forum. "Republicans are going to have to earn [voters'] support and earn their respect, and the way you do that is by governing responsibly."
“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.
The private insurers' group gave $86.2 million toward the chamber's media and lobbying blitz against President Obama's health-care legislation in 2009 even as it was pledging general support for the idea of reform, according to tax records and sources familiar with the gift. The donation made AHIP the chamber's single largest funder in 2009, accounting for about 40 percent of the business lobby's $205 million in contributions that year, records show.
It was always clear that AHIP and the chamber were united in fighting against Obama's health-care plan, particularly a proposed "public insurance option" that would have competed with private insurers. But the new IRS filing illustrates the extent of the business lobby's alliance with AHIP, whose members include insurance giants such as UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and Aetna.
Christy Setzer of U.S. Chamber Watch, a labor-backed group opposed to the chamber, said the business lobby "has given up the right to call themselves the voice of American business; they are the voice of the insurance industry." "Insurers gave the chamber 86 million reasons to lie to small businesses about the benefits of health-care reform, and the chamber didn't let their CEO friends down," Setzer said.
Why did insurance companies try to hide their donations to the Chamber’s anti-health reform campaign? Given their own unpopularity and Obama’s pledge to be the first leader to successfully reform America’s broken health system, the health insurance industry hatched a plan to fundamentally deceive the public, the press, and politicians. Instead of fighting reform tooth and nail, the insurance industry worked to manipulate the process and ultimately kill reforms by adopting what ThinkProgress termed “The Duplicitous Campaign.” In public, health insurance lobbyists and executives promised to support reform and work closely with reform advocates. The top health insurance lobbyist, Karen Ignagni, went to the White House early in the reform debate and promised Obama, “You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass health-care reform this year.”
In private, the health insurance industry worked with conservative think tanks and media, right-wing front groups, and highly ideological trade associations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber to kill the bill. By using third party groups and ideological cover, the health insurance industry sought to trick Americans into hating reform. In September of 2009, while many in the media still believed insurance executives were honestly supporting reform, ThinkProgress released a report detailing the ways in which the health insurance industry secretly worked to undermine the process and poison public opinion (read it here). We also produced a video with health insurance whistle-blower Wendell Potter, who explained how insurers control the debate to defeat reform...
According to a new report by HCAN, a pro-reform group, health insurers posted a 22 percent increase in profits for 2010, largely by shedding customers. How much of that money — money from health insurance premiums — is being used on right-wing lobbying campaigns instead of actual treatments and health care for the sick?
"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.
That group reported higher revenue and better shareholder returns, which typically yield larger rewards. Total compensation for those companies' leaders rose 13.4%. Meanwhile, many boards lowered the bar, with "easier targets on bonuses and more reliance on restricted stock" not tied to performance goals, said Irv Becker, head of Hay's U.S. executive-compensation practice.
Selected reader comments concerning this article follow:
At the executive level, pay for performance does exist - the worse job a CEO does, the more they walk away from the job with severance pay. As much as I hate government interference in private business, I would like to see the feds step in and begin regulating the composition of Board of Directors and executive pay. NO shared Chairman/CEO roles, NO incestuous cross board directorships, NO severance pay for executives terminated for cause related to ethical issues; e.g., Mark Hurd of HP shouldn't have received a single cent when the HP door slapped him on his thieving backsides as he slipped out the door.
There are almost no CEOs that couldn't easily be replaced with as good or better managers, the few that do exist almost all were founders of the companies they head.
It's time to call the party over and bring executive pay back down to Earth, or risk a painful revolution that will not help our economy when we need to truly have pay for performance at all levels in every publicly owned company.
Some 30 years ago a CEO made 40 times that of the average worker. Today they are paid 400 times more and today these same CEO's expect their employees to pick up the slack for job cutbacks needed to meet Wall Street expectations. Today's CEO isn't yet smart enough to understand that a healthy work force breeds profits. They only understand that short term personal greed can make them very happy.
One of the bills blocked was the Disclose Act, designed to end the scandal of secret money in election campaigns. If this year's contests prove anything, it's that voters should have the right to know which millionaires, corporations and special interests are flooding the airwaves with attack ads on behalf of candidates who can blithely deny any connection to the slander and any knowledge of who might be trying to buy influence.
Shortly after the election, Michael Isikoff and Rich Gardella of NBC News reported that one of the big Republican secret-money groups, Crossroads GPS, got "a substantial portion" of its money "from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls." These contributors "have been bitterly opposed to a proposal by congressional Democrats - and endorsed by the Obama administration - to increase the tax rates on compensation that hedge funds pay their partners."
It shouldn't take investigative reporting after the fact for voters to learn such things. Snowe, Collins and Brown say they are for disclosure, as does Mark Kirk, the new Republican senator from Illinois. Senate Democratic leaders should give them a chance to prove it by bringing up the bill. ...
Which brings up the biggest scandal of all: Imagine a Congress that their party still controls passing an extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires but leaving the unemployed in the cold. If this happens, laugh out loud the next time a Democrat claims to be on the side of working people.
Yet administration officials seemed eager to engage in premature capitulation - even if senior adviser David Axelrod tried to back off that approach on Sunday - without a word about the jobless benefits or replacing the tax cuts for the wealthy with measures more geared toward creating jobs, as Sen. Mark Warner has suggested. Couldn't they at least have gone to Sen. Chuck Schumer's compromise that would limit the tax cuts to those earning under $1 million? And some Democratic senators just don't want to be bothered with a long lame-duck session. They want to take care of the wealthy and not do much more.
By caving on tax cuts, the president would turn his recent speeches into empty talk, lending his hand to those who would drive the car back into that ditch he loved to talk about. And if Democrats don't turn the lame-duck session into a moment of action, they will end a Congress of great achievement not with a bang but with a craven whimper.
And it's against this backdrop that the incoming House Republican majority intends to get to work on their agenda -- and not focus on job creation at all. On the contrary, the GOP agenda, such as it is, focuses on issues that aren't considered especially important by the American mainstream -- gutting the health care system, protecting tax cuts for the wealthy, taking money out of the economy in the form of spending cuts, and reducing the deficit. (Yes, some of those are contradictory goals, since gutting health care and cutting taxes would make the deficit much worse.)
Unions, liberal advocacy groups and many congressional Democrats are expected to defend the new healthcare law and the new financial oversight system, created in the wake of the worst recession in more than half a century. They also are expected to defend efforts to expand worker safety rules. "The chamber's new campaign is disappointing and may threaten the health and safety of hardworking Americans if successful," said Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. ...
In the realm of financial services, Tom Quaadman, another chamber executive, said his group also was looking for some relief from new requirements governing derivatives trading by companies not involved in financial services. He said the chamber also sought some adjustment of the Volcker Rule, a reform named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker that would bar banks that receive federal support from engaging in speculative activity unrelated to basic bank services.
But it's not magic, for magic is an illusion, and this gravity-defying phenomenon of perpetual levitation is real. What is this "it" that keeps floating up, up, up? The annual bonuses paid to Wall Street's top bankers.
By the laws of economics, if not physics, bonuses should fall to earth this year, because the bankers have performed poorly. Trading is down, profits are flat (despite being given trillions of dollars in almost-interest-free money by the feds), firms are firing lower-level employees, and banker greed has ruined the public reputations of the financial giants.
Who cares, shriek the big shots – its bonus time, baby, so grab all you can! The CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and others have set aside billions of dollars to flood their executive suites with bonus cash at the end of the year – money that should go to shareholders. Their claim is: "We deserve it, for we took low pay during the crash of 2008-2009." For example, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs' boss was paid a mere $9 million last year, so this year he wants that "sacrifice" to be made up to him.
However, lest you worry that poor Lloyd's family needed food stamps to make ends meet in that tough $9-million year, note that he had a bit of a cushion, having pocketed a record Wall Street payday of $68 million in 2007 – even as his bank was crumbling.
One executive pay analyst says he assumed that bonuses would go down this year. But, he said, "I underestimated the industry's resiliency." By "resiliency," I assume he was referring to the industry's incurable greed.
My point was that the wealthiest plutocrats now actually control a greater share of the pie in the United States than in historically unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana. But readers protested that this was glib and unfair, and after reviewing the evidence I regretfully confess that they have a point.
That’s right: I may have wronged the banana republics.
You see, some Latin Americans were indignant at what they saw as an invidious and hurtful comparison. The truth is that Latin America has matured and become more equal in recent decades, even as the distribution in the United States has become steadily more unequal.
The best data series I could find is for Argentina. In the 1940s, the top 1 percent there controlled more than 20 percent of incomes. That was roughly double the share at that time in the United States. Since then, we’ve reversed places. The share controlled by the top 1 percent in Argentina has fallen to a bit more than 15 percent. Meanwhile, inequality in the United States has soared to levels comparable to those in Argentina six decades ago — with 1 percent controlling 24 percent of American income in 2007.
At a time of such stunning inequality, should Congress put priority on spending $700 billion on extending the Bush tax cuts to those with incomes above $250,000 a year? Or should it extend unemployment benefits for Americans who otherwise will lose them beginning next month? ...
I’m appalled by our growing wealth gaps because in my travels I see what happens in dysfunctional countries where the rich just don’t care about those below the decks. The result is nations without a social fabric or sense of national unity. Huge concentrations of wealth corrode the soul of any nation. And then I see members of Congress in my own country who argue that it would be financially reckless to extend unemployment benefits during a terrible recession, yet they insist on granting $370,000 tax breaks to the richest Americans. I don’t know if that makes us a banana republic or a hedge fund republic, but it’s not healthy in any republic.
In case you missed it, a story circulated around the Web on the eve of President Obama’s trip that it would cost U.S. taxpayers $200 million a day — about $2 billion for the entire trip. Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before he had had Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, on his show and had asked her where exactly Republicans will cut the budget.
Instead of giving specifics, Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phony story into the mainstream. She answered: “I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.”
The next night, Cooper explained that he felt compelled to trace that story back to its source, since someone had used his show to circulate it. His research, he said, found that it had originated from a quote by “an alleged Indian provincial official,” from the Indian state of Maharashtra, “reported by India’s Press Trust, their equivalent of our A.P. or Reuters. I say ‘alleged,’ provincial official,” Cooper added, “because we have no idea who this person is, no name was given.” It is hard to get any more flimsy than a senior unnamed Indian official from Maharashtra talking about the cost of an Asian trip by the American president.
“It was an anonymous quote,” said Cooper. “Some reporter in India wrote this article with this figure in it. No proof was given; no follow-up reporting was done. Now you’d think if a member of Congress was going to use this figure as a fact, she would want to be pretty darn sure it was accurate, right? But there hasn’t been any follow-up reporting on this Indian story. The Indian article was picked up by The Drudge Report and other sites online, and it quickly made its way into conservative talk radio.”
Cooper then showed the following snippets: Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama’s trip: “In two days from now, he’ll be in India at $200 million a day.” Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: “Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he’s traveling with 3,000 people.” In Beck’s rendition, the president’s official state visit to India became “a vacation” accompanied by one-tenth of the U.S. Navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, “$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents.”
But that pro-billionaire version of populism seems to have won big in the midterm elections. And it probably means the demise of a congressional effort to strike down one of the most outrageous provisions of our messed-up tax code, which is the special treatment of "carried-interest" compensation that's paid to many investment fund managers.
This loophole is so unfair that it gets criticized even by some of the tycoons who have benefited from it, such as former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and other prominent investors I've queried. Basically, it taxes the money paid to managers of private-equity funds and similar partnerships at 15 percent, as if it were risk capital, rather than at ordinary income rates of 35 percent. (I'm assuming that the neopopulist Congress will balk at letting that rate rise to its old, pre-Bush level of 38 percent.)
As is so often the case with policies that benefit big business, the carried-interest break survives by invoking small business. It's argued that if congressional reformers have their way, they will gut compensation for all the little mom-and-pop partnerships that depend on carried interest. (Not to mention the hard-pressed little guys who own oil partnerships.)
A similar illogic leads many people to believe you are attacking Main Street if you suggest withdrawing the Bush-era tax cuts to people making more than $250,000. Perhaps it's part of the American ethos that we all think we're rich. Otherwise, it's hard to explain this popular defense of privilege - and the fact that the politically enfeebled Obama administration has caved to extending the tax cuts.
Democrats tried to stand up to pressure from the billionaires' lobby on the carried-interest loophole. Barack Obama campaigned against the provision in 2008, and he included the repeal in his first two budgets. The House passed a version of the reform on May 28, denying capital-gains rates for what the House report rightly said was "investment management services income." The Joint Committee on Taxation said treating most carried interest as ordinary income would raise $17.7 billion over 10 years, not small change for a country that needs to get serious about balancing the budget. ...
The happy-talk version of "billionaire populism" can be found in the mission statement of American Crossroads, an independent political-action group linked to Karl Rove. It trumpets an America where "the human creativity and initiative that are unleashed by liberty and free enterprise generate the economic growth this nation needs" - vs. those universal nemeses, taxes and wasteful government spending. Among the little guys contributing to American Crossroads are developer Donald Trump and several other billionaires. The donors to its companion Crossroads GPS are hidden, but according to NBC News, "a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS's money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls" who are "bitterly opposed" to the administration's plan "to increase the tax rates on compensation that hedge funds pay their partners."
The tycoons can relax. Two White House economic officials told me this week that fixing the carried-interest loophole is probably dead, for this Congress and the next. It was hard enough to beat the big guys. But once they successfully hid under the cover of the little guys, it was impossible. That political legerdemain is making America more unequal every year, and the polls show people are mad as hell at Wall Street and Washington, both. And yet the popular chorus continues: Save the tax breaks for the rich.
As this tax policy gets ready to expire next month, it's worth noting that the Republican plan failed rather spectacularly. On job creation, Bush's record was the worst since the Great Depression. On balancing the budget, Bush racked up the biggest deficits ever, and added $5 trillion to the debt, en route to being labeled "the most fiscally irresponsible president in the history of the republic" by his comptroller general.
But what about economic growth? Did the Republican tax policy generate the robust economy Bush promised? David Leonhardt, responding to a Fox News item, sets the record straight.
Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.
The competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 -- the dreaded 1970s -- but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.
The picture does not change if you instead look at five-year periods.
This isn't a subjective question open to debate; we tried a policy and we can evaluate its results. In this case, Republicans said Bush's tax policy would produce wonders for the economy, and they got exactly what they wanted. We now know, however, that the policy didn't generate robust growth, didn't create millions of new jobs, didn't spur entrepreneurship and innovation, and certainly didn't keep a balanced budget.
The very rich want more, more and more and they are prepared to dismantle the existing political and social order to get it. During the last campaign, as a result of the (Republican) Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, billionaires were able to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of secret money into the campaign – helping to elect dozens of members of Congress. Now, having made their investment, they want their congressional employees to produce. Republicans in Congress, needless to say, are all on board. The key question is whether a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate go along to get along, or whether they draw a clear line at protecting the interests of the middle class and vulnerable populations of our country while tackling our economic and budgetary problems in earnest.
In the next month, despite all their loud rhetoric about the “deficit crisis,” the Republicans want to add $700 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years by extending Bush’s tax breaks for the top 2 percent. Families who earn $1 million a year or more would receive, on average, a tax break of $100,000 a year. The Republicans also want to eliminate or significantly reduce the estate tax, which has existed since 1916. Its elimination would add, over 10 years, about $1 trillion to our national debt and all of the benefits would go to the top 0.3 percent. Over 99.7 percent of American families would not gain a nickel. The Walton family of WalMart would receive an estimated tax break of more than $30 billion by repealing the estate tax. ...
We know what the billionaires and their Republicans supporters want. They’ve been upfront about that. But what about the Democrats? Will President Obama continue to reach out and “compromise” with people who have made it abundantly clear that the only agreement they want is unconditional surrender? Or, will he utilize the powerful skills that we saw during his 2008 campaign for the White House and bring working families, young people, the elderly and the poor together to fight against these savage attacks on their well-being? Will the Democrats in the Senate continue to pass tepid legislation, or will they use their majority status to protect the interests of ordinary Americans and, for a change, put the Republicans on the defensive?
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