Economy & Budget

Slashing Workers' Wages and Benefits? Why Not CEO's Too? (Rep. John Conyers)

It's a story told so often that we know the ending well before the last chapter. Company suffers losses, bankruptcy looms, and workers sacrifice their rights to collective bargaining, and lose their pension and benefits to save their jobs while company executives not only keep their benefits and pensions, but also receive generous bonuses.

It's a national embarrassment that the same executives who steer a company to the brink of collapse are given preferential treatment with the remaining assets. What's alarming is that current law actually favors this type of activity.

The Bankruptcy Code ranks creditors that have a financial claim against the company in bankruptcy proceedings. The ranking assigned by the Code determines which entity has priority to get paid first from the company's remaining assets. Workers who have pensions with investments in company stock are ranked as shareholders and are, in fact, among the last to be paid.

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The Big Question: Would a VAT make sense for the U.S.?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Would a value-added tax make sense for the United States?

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Fixing the foreclosure crisis facing minority populations (Rep. Mike Honda)

The Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities have been particularly hard hit by housing foreclosures. Homeownership rates for Asians, for example, fell 1.2 percent in 2008, compared with a drop of 0.8 percent among Latinos and only 0.4 percent for whites.

Now the Department of Housing and Urban Development has taken an important step by naming a housing counseling intermediary. The National Coalition of Asian Pacific American Community Development is the first federal network of community-based groups focused on offering housing counseling services.

This HUD move is essential, especially in a year projected to hit a record high in national housing foreclosures.

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Federal student loan lending - a scheme that has already failed twice (Rep. Dan Burton)

Decades of dramatically increasing costs, in both good economic times and bad, are threatening to push the dream of a college education out of reach for millions of American students and families. This is a national tragedy since the need for a college education is greater than ever because of global competition in our rapidly changing world.   

President Obama and Democrat Leaders in Congress believe that the solution to this problem is to Federalize the student loan industry. And, on March 30th, President Obama signed into law the “Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010” – making the Federal government the sole provider of college loans starting on July 1, 2010.

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Stopping runaway Washington spending one seat at a time (Gov. Tim Pawlenty)

Today, the federal government owns or controls the nation’s largest insurance company, two of the three American auto manufacturing companies, the two entities that hold a majority of our mortgages, the entire student loan industry, wide swaths of the banking industry and now a major portion of the American health care delivery system.

Think about it. With his individual mandate, President Barack Obama and the federal government are now forcing Americans to buy a good or service simply for no other reason than they are alive. Their reform will lead to higher taxes and higher premiums – and not reduce the exploding health care costs that are the underlying problem of America’s health care system.

Let me put it bluntly: America is headed in the wrong direction.

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Beware of Greeks bearing bailout plans (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers)

As the Greek Debt Crisis continues, President Obama needs to stand firm: American tax dollars should not be used to bail out Greece – or any country – that engages in reckless government spending and deficits.  And yet, a bailout paid for by U.S. taxpayers remains a real possibility.

This week, leaders of the European Union will be meeting to consider aid for Greece. But instead of using their own money to bail out Greece, it’s more likely the EU will adopt Germany’s proposal to use money from the International Monetary Fund. That way U.S. taxpayers – not just the European Union – will be on the hook for an international bailout.

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Financial reform: it's the derivatives, stupid

Tricky auto loans didn’t cause the financial meltdown on Wall Street. Unscrupulous payday lenders didn’t cost taxpayers a $700 billion “troubled asset” bailout.

So fussing about whether U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s financial reform legislation contains an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency is like worrying about whether you’ll lose your tool shed as a conflagration consumes your home.

Sure, shielding consumer borrowers would be nice. But safeguarding the entire economy from another collapse is essential.

Preserving the economy requires limiting, regulating and exposing derivative trading.  That’s because derivatives – those credit default swaps – took down Wall Street.

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Chinese currency - not the bargain we're looking for (Sen. Debbie Stabenow)

For 109 years, people in Muskegon, Michigan have been making paper – until last year. The Sappi Fine Paper North America mill shut down in 2009 and 190 workers lost their jobs. Mark Evans, a Sappi employee, said "The [Asian companies] can sell the paper cheaper than we can make it. This is foreign competition killing the American worker again".

Mark was half-right. It's not competition that is killing the American worker – it's cheating.

Some people argue that it really is just fair competition. If only Americans would accept lower wages, dangerous working conditions, and non-existent environmental standards, maybe Mark's plant could have stayed open. But I don’t call giving massive industrial subsidies, stealing American companies' intellectual property, and manipulating your currency a "comparative advantage". I call it what it is – cheating.

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