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Timesizing News, January 2010 + Feb.1
[Commentary] ©2010 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

1/31-2/01/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. The Second Great Depression Bogeyman, by Dean Baker, truthout.org
    Our political leaders continually assert that we should be thanking them that we are not in a second Great Depression rather than complaining about how bad things are. The second Great Depression theme came up repeatedly in the debate over the reappointment of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke. It also featured prominently in Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's defense of his handling of the AIG bailout.
    While we should all be thankful that we are not in a second Great Depression, just as we should be thankful that the world has not been destroyed by nuclear war, the "Great Depression" defense is a tool of fools and liars. Exactly what set of events in the world would have given us a second Great Depression, defined as a decade of double-digit unemployment?
    It is almost certainly true that if we had let the cascade of bank collapses continue in the fall of 2008, taking down not just Lehman, but also Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, along with many smaller banks, that the current downturn would have been more severe. But what would have prevented the Fed from subsequently flooding the system with liquidity and the government from boosting the economy and employment with large-scale jobs programs? There is certainly nothing obvious that would have interfered with these efforts to boost the economy and restore employment.
    We do know how to create demand. It is really very simple - you just have to spend money; most people are willing to work for it. Since Keynes we have known how to create jobs and reduce unemployment in a downturn, even if politicians may lack the courage to act. There never was any basis for a fear of a second Great Depression. This is simply an invention by those who are trying to justify their disastrous economic policy. The second Great Depression line is then repeated by people who consider themselves to be knowledgeable about economics, but in reality don't have a clue as to what they are saying.
    It is important to come to grips with this second Great Depression bogeyman since, obviously, anything is better than a second Great Depression. As long as people believe that our leaders saved us from this horror, then they won't be sufficiently outraged about a bailout that left Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street crew richer than ever. They also won't be nearly as angry as they should be about economic policies that are projected to leave us with excessive rates of unemployment for many years into the future. And the public will not be nearly as mad as it should be about the incredible ineptitude of policymakers and economists that allowed for this collapse in the first place.
    The reality is that we got into this mess because of an overwhelming excess of greed and stupidity on the part of the Wall Street bankers and the people deciding economic policy. We continue to face excessive rates of unemployment because of a continuing reluctance to pursue policies that can restore the economy to health.
    Very briefly, one of these policies is more government spending to create jobs. The government can employ people directly; it can give companies incentives to employ people, and it can give tax cuts that give people more money to spend. Mix and match in large enough quantities and we will get the unemployment rate down to more acceptable levels.
    Similarly, the Federal Reserve Board can target a moderate inflation rate (3-4 percent) with its monetary policy. This would both lower real interest rates and help to alleviate the debt burden that is preventing many households from spending.
    Another route to boost the economy would be to deliberately push down the value of the dollar against other currencies. This would boost US net exports and get our trade deficit closer to balance.
    Finally, if we can't boost the economy to levels of output that support full employment, we can go the other way and adopt policies that encourage people to work fewer hours. Germany and the Netherlands have aggressively pushed "work sharing" policies that have kept unemployment from rising in the downturn. Thanks to work sharing, the unemployment rate in the Netherlands is less than 4.0 percent even though they have had a larger loss of GDP than the United States.
    For political reasons, the president and Congress are reluctant to pursue these paths. However, a population that is suffering through double-digit unemployment may not be very sympathetic to the political concerns of its leaders.
    However, the public will be hesitant to demand stronger action if they are convinced that they should be thankful that we have avoided a second Great Depression. So, it is important that the people know that they have nothing to be thankful for: our leaders wrecked the economy, end of story. It's time that they take the measures necessary to set things right, even if it is a bit unsettling to the Wall Street boys and other powerful interests.

  2. Boynton Commission weighs workings of winnowed work week, by Lona O'Connor, 1/31 PalmBeachPost.com
    BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Except for a few lost souls, residents seem to have adapted to City Hall being closed on Fridays.
    During an unscientific poll taken Friday, those rattling the locked doors included a man from Vermont who was looking for directions and a bathroom, a man from Fort Lauderdale seeking a permit, a woman on her way home to Miami, doing an errand for a friend, and one Boynton resident on a motorcycle who was unfazed but also unwilling to leave his cash payment on a water bill in the metal drop box.
    "There are about two or three an hour," said Kurt Bemiller, part of a crew that has been using Fridays to repair a portion of the city hall roof. The empty parking lot contained only their two cherry pickers, a pickup truck and a few plastic sawhorses.
    Over at the city library, open Saturday through Thursday, several cars used the drive-through book drop and two mildly disappointed winter residents said they would return the next day.
    The four-day work week, which began on June 8, has been a financial success, yielding $143,000 in savings, according to a report that will be presented to the city commission on Tuesday. The commission can then vote to continue the four-day work week, modify it or return to the old five-day, eight-hour schedule.
    [This may imply that the current "winnowed workweek" is really timesizing-irrelevant 4x10hr days but we couldn't resist the alliterative title.]
    Savings included lower electricity bills and air-conditioner use. Fuel consumption by public works employees dropped 28 percent.
    For the library, Friday was a slow day anyway, reported director Craig Clark, who reported no customer complaints.
    "We have had conversations with customers (and) they were satisfied," Clark wrote.
    So are most city employees. A December survey of 121 employees revealed that 64 employees saw no change in their productivity, 47 said their productivity had improved and seven people said their productivity had declined as a result of the change. Of those who completed the survey, 100 employees favored continuing the four-day week and 17 did not.
    Staff reported that customer inconvenience on Fridays was being at least partially offset by having extended hours on the other four weekdays. For example, about 17 percent of building-department customers are now using the hours between 7 and 8 a.m. and from 5 to 6 p.m. to conduct their business with the city.

  3. Employment Insurance (EI) Extension to Self-Employed Canadians Comes Into Effect - Represents one of the most significant enhancements to the EI program in a decade, 2/01 Marketwire via SYS-CON Media (press release) via yachtchartersmagazine.com
    OTTAWA, Canada-- As of January 31, self-employed Canadians are able to register for the Employment Insurance (EI) program, which will extend to them maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits, collectively called special benefits.
    The Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, made the announcement today at the office of the Canadian Real Estate Association in Ottawa.
    "Through Canada's Economic Action Plan, our government expanded the Employment Insurance program to give self-employed Canadians access to special benefits because it was the fair and right thing to do," said Minister of State Moore. "Families are the foundation of our great country. Our government believes that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between their family and their business responsibilities."
    The Fairness for the Self-Employed Act extends EI special benefits to self-employed Canadians. This measure responds to the Government's 2008 pledge to help provide improved economic security and support for all those who are self-employed. With these changes, self-employed Canadians will be able to voluntarily opt into the EI program and receive special benefits. Overall, the special benefits for self-employed individuals mirror those currently available to salaried employees under the EI program.
    "From coast to coast to coast, a large majority of our members are self-employed," said Mr. Pierre Beauchamp, Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Real Estate Association. "This initiative levels the Employment Insurance playing field for REALTORS®, and by extension, improves family life, strengthens communities and gives piece of mind to the thousands of real estate professionals who help make home ownership a reality for millions of Canadians."
    Self-employed Canadians can register for access to the EI program online as of January 31, and will be able to register in person at a Service Canada Centre beginning February 1. Those who choose to take advantage of EI special benefits will be required to register at least one year prior to claiming benefits. However, as a transitional measure in this first year, those who register on or before April 1, 2010, will be able to make a claim for benefits as early as January 1, 2011.
    Self-employed residents of Quebec will continue to receive maternity and parental benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan provided by the Government of Quebec. In addition, they will now be eligible to take advantage of sickness and compassionate care benefits offered by the Government of Canada through the EI program.
    This measure is part of the Government's commitment to make responsive and responsible choices to support Canadians through the EI program.
    "Our government is helping Canadians who have previously had little or no income protection to cope with major life events. Our government has listened and has delivered results for self-employed Canadians who are an integral part of our economy and economic recovery," said Minister of State Moore.
    EI for the self-employed is the latest in a series of improvements that the Government has made to the program. In November, the Government extended the length of time long-tenured workers can receive regular EI benefits.
    To help those hardest hit by the economic downturn, the Government has undertaken other measures through Canada's Economic Action Plan, including providing longer EI benefits, more efficient service and support for training, and protecting jobs through *Work-Sharing agreements. The Government has also frozen EI premiums for 2010 at the same rate as 2009.
    For more information, visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/self_employed_workers.
    This news release is available in alternative formats on request.
    Beginning in January 2011, self-employed Canadians will be able to access Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits. There are four types of EI special benefits:
    - maternity benefits;
    - parental benefits;
    - sickness benefits; and
    - compassionate care benefits.
    Eligibility information
    You may be eligible to access EI special benefits beginning in January 2011 if you:
    - are a self-employed person; and
    - are a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada; and
    - have entered into an agreement with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission through Service Canada.
    Application information
    As a self-employed person, you will be able to enter into an agreement with the Commission through Service Canada starting on January 31, 2010. To enter into an agreement with the Commission, you will have to register online using My Service Canada Account anywhere you can access the Internet, including at a Service Canada Centre near you.
    By entering into this agreement, you will confirm your interest in participating in this measure and in paying EI premiums on your self-employment income.
    Please note that if you have previously used My Service Canada Account, you can register using your existing user code and password.
    If you have not previously used My Service Canada Account, you can apply at any time for a personal access code on the My Service Canada Account Web page. Once you apply, it will take about 10 days to receive your personal access code in the mail.
    Dates and deadlines
    Self-employed persons will be able to enter into an agreement beginning January 31, 2010.
    If you enter into an agreement between January 31, 2010, and April 1, 2010, you will be able to make a claim for EI special benefits as early as January 2011. However, if you enter into an agreement with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission after April 1, 2010, you will have to wait 12 months before you will be able to make a claim for EI special benefits.
    Self-employed residents of Quebec will continue to receive maternity and parental benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan provided by the Government of Quebec. In addition, they will now be eligible to take advantage of the sickness and compassionate care benefits being offered by the Government of Canada through EI. Should they choose to take advantage of the program, they would pay EI premiums at the same rates as employees in Quebec, where rates have already been adjusted downward to take into account the existence of a provincial maternity and parental benefit plan.
    Further information on this measure is available at www.servicecanada.gc.ca.
    Office of Minister Finley
    Michelle Bakos
    Press Secretary
    Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
    Media Relations Office

1/30/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 15 library branches will reduce their hours, Seattle Times via seattletimes.nwsource.com
    SEATTLE, Ore. - Fifteen branches of the Seattle Public Library will reduce their hours beginning this week as part of budget cuts adopted last year by the Seattle City Council.
    Eleven branches will be open 60 hours a week, seven days a week. For those branches, that's an increase of 5 hours a week, a move to provide services to library-goers at branches where hours are being reduced.

    The council, in its budget negotiations, made a big priority of saving library hours. Members ended up restoring about $860,000 in cuts proposed by the mayor. Beginning Wednesday, the majority of library branches will be open just five days a week and will have reduced hours the days they are open. Currently, most are open six or seven days a week.
    According to the American Library Association, Seattle with its central library and 26 branches is one of the top cities of its size in the nation for library visits — more than 6 million a year. Nearly one in 11 Seattle residents uses the library, which is at least double the rate of many other library systems in the country.
    The reduction in hours is part of a $1.7 million cut to the library's 2010 budget because of the economy. Originally, former Mayor Greg Nickels asked the library to cut $2.6 million, but the council restored $860,000.
    In addition to the cutback in library hours, the entire library system again will be closed for a week, Aug. 30 to Sept. 6. However, library officials say there will be no layoffs because vacancies have been left open.
    Hours at the downtown Central Library will remain unchanged.
    Seattle Public Library reports that library usage in the city has soared, from 4.5 million in-person and virtual visitors in 2000 to 13.2 million last year.
    A 2008 survey of America's most-literate cities, determined by its library saturation, put Seattle fifth. Cleveland was first.
    A usage survey by the Washington State Library found that, between 2007 and 2008, circulation in surveyed libraries, including Seattle's, rose 11 percent, and computer usage in the libraries grew almost 10 percent. The survey reported a 20 percent rise in virtual library visits, where people signed onto the library online.
    Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

  2. Knock-on effect of job cuts on workers - Employees leave if change is not managed well, by Margaret Harris, (1/31) Johannesburg Times via TimesLIVE.co.za
    JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - A combination of retrenchments, the freezing of posts and other cost-cutting measures has meant many companies have to make do with far fewer employees.
    [which means far smaller markets, so better, all companies have to make do with far fewer workhours.]
    According to a Deloitte study released late last year, 25% of the 206 companies surveyed had retrenched staff in 2009, which would have put extra pressure on those still employed.
    Professor Marius Ungerer, an associate professor in strategic management at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, says companies need to consider more than just who to retrench. They should be aware of the effect of retrenchment on those left behind.
    "Organisational rightsizing or downsizing is not only about reducing the people head count, but also about the re-engineering of work processes to fit a changing work environment," Ungerer says.
    "This means managers in organisations where the workforce has been reduced should be clear on what activities they'll cease to do and how they're going to do things differently to align the available work capacity with the newly defined work demand or order book."
    If this process is not handled well, the fallout from the retrenchments can almost overshadow any benefits.
    An article on stresscure.com warns of some of these unintended consequences.
    "When change is not handled well, additional loss of jobs can occur. In addition, demoralisation of the workforce, increased worker turnover, decreased co-operation and teamwork, and increased levels of stress, anxiety, absenteeism, illness and mistakes can follow."
    A good way of surviving post-retrenchment is to make sure the right people stay behind.
    Richard Nefdt, CE of Reality Check, says companies must keep their most skilled employees in order to survive the bad times.
    "In fact, the cost of replacing top management who add value far exceeds the cost of making sure the right people stay within the business," he says.
    Another cost-cutting, job-saving procedure is to impose shorter hours. But this can increase the employees' workload.
    [It can also motivate more hiring - and more consumers - and more markets - and more real growth.]
    An article that appears on personneltoday.com warns that the process must be handled with care.
    Nefdt says: "The situation should be handled sensitively. As employee pay will be reduced, it's sensible to communicate with the workforce and explain the thinking behind the reduction in hours to encourage employees to be 'on side'. If the reduction is to reduce or avoid redundancies, employees are likely to be more amenable to short-time working."
    Ultimately, managers can make or break the process, whether it is retrenchments or another strategy.
    Ungerer says managers must be proactive in identifying workload challenges.
    "Best practice post-downsizing activities for leaders involve the rebuilding of teams and team spirit through open dialogue with team members to rediscover what is possible, who is responsible for what, and why what they're doing matters," Ungerer says.
    "Individual team members need to be guided by leaders to work positively with those employees who survived the retrenchments and to focus energy and attention on the tasks at hand. Leaders need to give attention to their performers through personal acknowledgement and encouragement to ensure positive performance contributions."
    Managers who drop a bombshell and then disappear into their offices will find it very hard to survive well into the inevitable [oh yeah?] good times that follow the bad.
    Ungerer says: "Personal presence in difficult situations is the hallmark of leaders who are in touch with their workforce. It's important to remember that a down cycle will be followed by a new growth cycle.
    "Winning companies prepare well in advance for these positive changes, which are mostly just around the corner. The future belongs to those who are ready to meet the unexpected."

1/29/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Big hurdles to Obama's $33 billion in tax cuts for businesses - Republican lawmakers usually back tax cuts for businesses, but the $33 billion price tag of Obama's proposal may deter those who are more worried about runaway deficits, by Mark Trumbull, Christian Science Monitor via csmonitor.com
    [We're with the Republicans on this one!]
    BALTIMORE, Maryld. - President Obama proposed a new tax credit to spur job creation Friday, and reached out for Republican congressional support to approve it.
    The $5,000-incentive-for-each-new-employee-hired plan faces big hurdles, however.
    The first challenge will be to win support in an election year, with Republican opposition emboldened by the recent win of a Massachusetts seat in the US Senate. The GOP takeover of that seat has made it harder for Obama-backed proposals to pass.
    Second, if the plan becomes law it may give only a modest lift to job creation at a time when the economy desperately needs to boost employment.
    Under the president's plan, employers would get a $5,000 tax credit for each employee they hire in 2010 (on a net basis, so businesses can't fire one person and reap a credit by hiring another).
    Also, small businesses that increase wages or hours for their existing employees will be reimbursed for the resulting rise in their Social Security payroll taxes. This could help boost the economy by raising incomes – and it could prevent employers from "gaming the system" by hiring more people but having them work shorter hours.
    [Whoops, Obama is now going backwards, preventing worksharing (the hiring of more people working shorter hours) instead of helping it! This contradicts the "selflessness of Americans willing to work shorter hours to save jobs" part of his inauguration speech and places him squarely on the highway to further economic collapse. What a confused guy! And sooo pathetic that sharing the vanishing work (or 'timesizing'), the only strategy that can sustainably save our economic system, is here being spun as "gaming the system."]
    It's a tax cut. What's not to like?
    [We have a national debt of $10.4 trillion thanks to massive taxcuts mostly for the rich and a carefully fostered, wage-depressing labor surplus. We have an annual deficit of over one trillion. We have the lowest taxes in the developed world. We have a black-hole-sized cancerous lump in the money supply coagulated in the financial community among a tiny population in the topmost income brackets. And this nitwit thinks there's nothing to dislike about another taxcut, especially for the wealthy? With suicidal stupidity like this, America is history. Rome's decline took centuries. Ours is only taking decades.]
    Mr. Obama, making his pitch Friday at a meeting of House Republicans in Baltimore, touted the idea as a policy on which the two major political parties can work together to lift the economy.
    "Join me," he said, arguing that tax cuts for business should appeal to Republicans. But the plan would expand the federal deficit, even as spending discipline is rising as a Republican priority.
    Economists, meanwhile, are divided over whether the tax credits will do much for job creation.
    "How can you hire a permanent employee based on a temp tax credit?" asks John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C.
    Supporters of the plan argue that it will encourage on-the-fence employers to hire this year rather than waiting, and that the nation’s jobs deficit is so large that policies need not be perfect in order to be tried. Echoing Republican views, Mr. Silvia says a better way to create jobs would be for Obama to remove uncertainty among employers about the policy environment ahead. Areas of uncertainty for firms currently include tax policy, regulation, possible healthcare mandates, and a boost to energy costs if a "cap and trade" system is imposed to curb US carbon-dioxide emissions.
    Other proposed breaks for business
    Obama has pledged to hold personal-income taxes at current levels, except for those with incomes above $250,000 (for households filing joint returns). That upper bracket includes many self-employed people who work under contract and small-business owners.
    In his State of the Union address Wednesday, where Obama first mentioned the jobs tax credit, the president sought to reassure Americans that he is focused squarely on jobs and is not unfriendly to business.
    "While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all ... businesses to invest in new plants and equipment," he said.
    [Ooh, another disastrous element in this misguided proposal, more tax cuts for wealthy investors, who already have far too many. And another attempt to save the economy waaay indirectly via the investment crowsnest instead of directly below the consumer hatches in the employment hold, via immediate worksharing and longer term timesizing.]
    The push by Obama and congressional Democrats to pass a jobs bill comes at the dawn of an election year, and also as the economy is showing some signs of picking up. A government report Friday showed solid economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2009. And in a recent USA Today survey of 50 economists, 47 percent said they are now more optimistic about the outlook than they were three months ago. Still, 61 percent in the survey said the federal government should do more to boost job growth.
    Conditions for people seeking jobs are unusually tough. The official 10 percent unemployment rate is the highest since the early 1980s, and that doesn't include 6 million people who want jobs but have dropped out of the labor force due to discouragement.
    “Today’s numbers showing GDP growth at 5.7 percent in the previous quarter is encouraging, but real economic recovery will only come when those who are unemployed are able to find good jobs once again," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) of North Dakota, in a statement supporting the tax credit.

  2. A state of concern - Culver visits Webster City to meet with local officials and workers affected by the closing of Electrolux plants, by Anne Blankenship, Daily Freeman Journal,Iowa via webstercitynews.com
    WEBSTER CITY, Iowa - Governor Chet Culver had a chance to hear first hand on Thursday about the concerns of workers who will lose their jobs when the Electrolux closes its doors next year.
    Culver, Elisabeth Buck of Iowa Workforce Development and Bret Mills of the Iowa Department of Economic Development stopped in Webster City for the meeting at city hall with city and county officials, community leaders and Electrolux workers.
    "The bottom line is we are here as a state to try to be as helpful as we can during this difficult time that the people of Hamilton County are going through," Culver said. "I personally want to make sure that families affected the Electrolux closing to know I am committed to working with Workforce Development and the office of Economic Development, our federal partners, the administration, and our state delegation. We're all working together to provide support and services that affected families need and rely on."
    Culver said his second goal is to help in terms of economic development opportunities by attracting new businesses as well as helping companies that are already here to be successful and grow.
    "Long-term, I think there will be a recovery and comeback with that kind of focus on jobs," he said. "Obviously, the most immediate challenge is to help the more than 800 individuals and their families through job retraining, unemployment compensation, health care, and all of those things every family needs."
    Buck said that workers from Electrolux have been qualified for trade assistance.
    "That's a program funded by the Department of Labor to provide for training, transportation and childcare during the training. It also extends unemployment benefits for workers affected by plant closings or layoff," she said.
    Four hundred Electrolux workers are currently on the trade assistance program, according to Buck.
    "We'll continue to reach out to any others who are interested in the benefits for retraining," Buck said, adding that she is researching a community trade assistance program to see what funds are available.
    "Because these jobs are going out of the country, these employees get to have access to all sorts of programs including educational ones. They can get an associates degree or bachelor's degree with these funds," Culver said.
    Mills said the Department of Economic Development was working with the community in terms of visioning and marketing for the city and its workforce.
    "We're working closely with City Manager Ed Sadler and Gary Sandholm of Webster City Area Development on an on-going basis," he said. "We have provided information on this community to 200 site selection companies that we work with across the country."
    Mills said his department will also work with present employers to retain jobs in the community.
    Hamilton County Veteran Affairs Director Rob Everhart asked if information was available on the number of veterans who face layoffs or job loss.
    Buck said that information was available and she would follow up on the question.
    Jason White, economic development director for Greene, Guthrie, Adair and Audubon counties told Culver he was in attendance representing the employees of the Jefferson Electrolux plant. That plant is scheduled to close sometime this year, he said, and would affect about 35 to 40 jobs. He asked how soon those employees could start talking to Workforce Development about benefits available.
    Buck said her agency could provide general information to the employees but more would be available when the closing date was known and which jobs would be affected.
    Others present in the audience questioned whether the retraining funds would allow those who already held bachelor's degrees to go on for further education.
    Buck said she didn't think there were restrictions, but took contact information from those people and promised to find the answer.
    "That's why its helpful to hear from people such as yourselves. Because if there is a need or cap on that, maybe we can alter a program a little so that people in that situation would have another pathway," Culver told the audience.
    Local United Auto Workers representative Paul Erickson reminded Culver that any new jobs coming in needed to be above minimum wage. Lower paying jobs, he said, would mean people would still need assistance in the form of food stamps, and other services.
    "It's not going to do anyone any good if the jobs brought in are minimum wage. They need to be good paying jobs with benefits," Erickson said.
    Culver said he shared that goal as well,
    Sherry Hotzler of Vantec Inc. asked about the possibility of creating a rail spur that could serve businesses in the southern industrial park.
    City Manager Ed Sadler said that talks with the railroads on that issue had not been successful. Culver and millersaid they would also look into the matter.
    Electrolux employee Rich Ayers told Culver he and his wife had worked reduced hours at the plant over the past year.
    "Because of that, my unemployment benefits are lower, because it's based on the previous quarter," he said. "Why isn't unemployment based on a 40-hour week at the wage I am making?"
    Ayers said there is a program, *Voluntary Shared Work program, that the company could sign up for to allow employees who are laid off for one day [per week] to get partial unemployment benefits.
    "That policy is sitting on someone's desk at Electrolux. They will not sign it," he said. "Is there anything you can do to put some pressure on Electrolux to help us back?"
    Culver said that he was concerned to hear about the matter.
    "Yes, we are going to try to address that directly with the company. We're going to try to resolve it, because you're right. It doesn't make sense and it doesn't seem fair," Culver said.
    Culver said Ayers' concern was one of the reasons he decided to visit the community and talk with workers.
    "This is why we felt it was important to come here today and hear from you, the people who are impacted by this situation," he said.
    Following their stop in Webster City, the governor, Buck and Mills traveled on to Sioux City to meet with employees of the John Morrell plant that is closing, and then to Council Bluffs to talk to those affected by layoffs from Tyson Foods.
    Contact Anne Blankenship at editor@freemanjournal.net or call 832-4350.

1/28/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Shared-Work proves popular - Unemployment: Program allows workers whose hours are cut to claim benefits to make up part of pay, by Rolf Boone, TheNewsTribune.com
    TACOMA, Wash. - A record number of statewide and South Sound businesses took advantage of a program in 2009 to offset the slower economy, and that record pace continues this year, a state Employment Security Department [ESD] spokesman said Wednesday.
    The ESD program is called *Shared-Work. It allows businesses to cut the hours of their full-time employees, then allow employees whose hours have been cut by at least 10 percent to make up the difference with unemployment benefits, spokesman Bill Tarrow said.
    Last year, 2,800 businesses and 51,000 employees used the program, up from 621 employers and 21,272 employees in 2008, according to ESD data. As of this week in Thurston County, 61 businesses and 511 workers were using the program. Year-over-year Shared-Work data for the county in 2008 and 2009 weren’t immediately available, Tarrow said.
    Shared-Work applications continue to pour in, with the ESD receiving 10 to 20 applications daily, Tarrow said.
    “We are forecasting continued growth at this time and are adding staff to keep up with the workload coming in,” he said. “We’re a huge advocate for the program, so we better be doing all we can to save the jobs that we have.”
    Employment Security paid out $40 million in Shared-Work benefits last year; that would have ballooned by an additional $54 million had those workers been laid off and collected a state average of 17 weeks of jobless benefits.
    ABC Printing owner Bob Kagy, who has turned his printing business into a 35-year-old Olympia institution, tapped the Shared-Work program last year for 16 of his 21 employees.
    “I would say it’s helpful overall to keep them working and keep their benefits intact,” said Kagy about the program. The economy is showing signs of improvement this year, but business still is tight, and Kagy said he would use the program again, if necessary.
    “Our goal is to keep everyone working as much as possible,” he said.
    Shared-Work benefits are capped at 52 weeks, and businesses can apply for up to two successive years. However, if it’s warranted in this recession, the ESD commissioner can approve a business for a third year, Tarrow said.
    [This 'recession' is definitely going to require an indefinitely sustainable plan - the super-rich have not yet realized that they are the problem - the unlimited concentration of the nation's money supply starves everything after a certain point of diminishing monetary circulation and reversing the multiplier.]
    Both public- and private-sector employees can participate in the program, and employers of all sizes are accepted, ESD officials said. The program will not subsidize seasonal employers, part-time employees, corporate officers or employees who are paid on a mileage rate, salary or commission.
    For more information about the state's Shared-Work program, *click here or call the shared-work hotline at 1-800-752-2500.
    Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403, rboone@theolympian.com

  2. Federal work-share program may be extended: Baird, The Canadian Press via CTV.ca
    [See also next article.]
    OTTAWA, Canada — The federal government may be preparing to extend the popular work-sharing program introduced in last year's budget that has saved some workers from layoffs.
    Transport Minister John Baird said Wednesday he was not making an announcement, but said the program is seen as key to preserving jobs in the current economy.
    Employment in Canada remains 323,000 below the peak prior to the recession and Prime Minister Harper has said he views creating jobs one of the key objectives of the upcoming March 4 budget.
    In last January budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty extended the work-sharing program by an additional 14 weeks to a full year, but some of those agreements start running out in the next month or so.
    The program allows firms to keep employees on a reduced work week. Employees on work-share qualify for employment insurance on days they have agreed to be idle.
    Business groups have asked Flaherty to extend the program because while the economy has started to recover, it is not yet strong enough to support robust job growth.

  3. Tories [alias Conservatives], Liberals [alias Grits] vie for title of workers' champion, Canadian Press via CTV.ca
    [See also previous article.]
    OTTAWA, Canada — Canada's two top political parties are jockeying to be seen as the champion of workers in pre-budget manoeuvring that could serve as a major theme in a future election.
    With the economy showing signs of a jobless recovery, Prime Minister Harper and his economic ministers are stressing they won't sound the all-clear until Canada has recouped all the employment losses from the recession.
    But the Conservatives appear to have left themselves vulnerable to a charge they are not sensitive enough to the plight of the unemployed with talk that the upcoming March 4 budget would outline plans for reining in government spending.
    Transport Minister John Baird moved to try and counter that perception at a news conference Wednesday in which he extolled the virtues of Ottawa's $46-billion stimulus program, which he said was creating "countless jobs."
    And Baird hinted strongly the upcoming budget may include an expansion of *the popular work-sharing program designed to reduce lay-offs at troubled companies.
    Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff upped the ante Wednesday issuing three specific proposals he said would help put Canadians back to work.
    Tackling the $56 billion deficit was important, he said, but creating jobs should take precedence in the next budget.
    Employment in Canada remains 323,000 below the pre-recession peak and economists expect the unemployment rate will stay above eight per cent throughout 2010.
    1- Offer firms cash advances to purchase new equipment to boost productivity and create jobs. Currently, the rules allow firms to claim a capital cost allowance when they become profitable, but Ignatieff said the battered manufacturing sector needs access to cash or credit to make needed investments.
    2- Offer employers temporary incentives to hire young workers and boost the summer jobs program. Ignatieff called the youth unemployment rate of 16 per cent, almost twice the national average, "a scandal."
    3- Provide new tax incentives to attract venture capital needed to create new enterprises in emerging industries such as clean energy and life sciences.
    "That's how we get this place humming," Ignatieff said.
    "It should be perfectly obvious, anybody who wants an attack on the deficit has got to get Canadians back to work."
    The Liberals say the measures would cost $125-$270 million a year.
    But the Conservatives quickly pounced on comments by Liberal infrastructure critic Gerard Kennedy which they say shows the Grits [Liberals] would raise taxes if they formed government.
    Earlier in the day the Toronto MP accused the government of having squandered the goodwill of Canadians to pay at a later time for spending now on job creation.
    In an interview, Kennedy noted money currently being injected into the economy is borrowed and would need to be repaid at a future date, but that could mean reduced services to Canadians, not necessarily higher taxes.
    Ignatieff said "the last thing you want to do in a recession, when Canadians are struggling, is raise their taxes."
    Baird's hint that the budget could include a provision for expanding the work-sharing program is an indication Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may be preparing to include new measures to stimulate the economy, although he has said there will be no significant new spending programs.
    "The work-sharing agreements have probably been one of the single most constructive parts of our economic action plan," Baird said.
    [Except they were in place long before the current totalitarian Conservatives came to power.]
    "It has consistently come up, certainly in the discussions I've had, as being an important thing to maintain jobs."
    An official with Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said about 165,000 Canadians are taking advantage of the program which allows firms to reduce the work week of their employees instead of outright layoffs. Those on work-share qualify for employment insurance, thereby softening the pay-shock, for the days they have agreed to be idle.
    Jayson Myers of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said the program, which was extended by 14 weeks to a maximum 52 weeks in last January's budget, has been a big success with many companies.
    With some of the job-sharing agreements due to expire as early as March, Myers said industry is asking Flaherty to extend the program to 18 months and to make other adjustments to make it easier for firms to hold on to employees during slow periods.

  4. American, European Governments Worlds Apart in Tackling Recession, by James Rosen, FOXNews.com
    [Not really. Seventeen states have worksharing alias shared-work alias short-time-working programs, and there are bills currently going through both the House (Rep. Rosa DeLauro) and Senate (Sen. Jack Reed) to strengthen the existing programs and spread them to other 33 states, and Rep. John Conyers is preparing a bill to take worksharing to the sensible, federal level, as in Canada and many other advanced economies.]
    Faced with tightening credit markets, plunging consumer spending, and mounting inventory stocks, American and European employers and governments pursued starkly divergent policies over the last year - and that could make all the difference in the world in terms of which region of the world recovers sooner.
    These distinct responses were apparent in the disparate figures for the two regions published in the most recent report by The Conference Board, the widely respected global economic analysis firm.
    The report showed that while productivity in 2009 grew by almost 3 percent in the United States -- even as U.S. employers shed some 4.2 million jobs -- productivity fell in Europe and across the rest of the industrialized world, where unemployment rates held more steady, by about 1 percent.
    Why the disparity? Because, economists say, American entrepreneurs moved swiftly to cut jobs and work hours for their employees, while European business owners and governments were willing to accept a decline in productivity in order to keep greater numbers of workers employed.
    "The American was a more brutal approach, I guess you would say -- dismiss people," said Barry P. Bosworth, a senior fellow in economics at the Brookings Institution and former adviser to President Jimmy Carter. "Here in the United States, firms were much more alarmed about the potential for a very severe economic collapse. And from the beginning, they responded with severe cutbacks in employment. Thus we had this peculiarity that, in the midst of a recession ... we had some of the biggest productivity gains that we've had in recent times."
    But across the Atlantic, major industrialized powers took pains to keep workers on their jobs, even at reduced hours and at the expense of productivity, in order to minimize joblessness.
    "For example, in Germany the government actively encouraged firms to try to share the work among the workers," said Bosworth. "So lots of people went part-time in the hours they were working, and the government made contributions to pay for that. So the firms were willing to keep the workers on because they weren't paying -- the government was."
    France, too, pursued a work-sharing agreement, in which the government essentially paid firms to keep workers employed at least on a part-time basis.
    Analysts contacted by Fox News said the differences between the U.S. and European approaches stemmed largely from historical and cultural differences. In Europe, where memories of sharp economic downturns in the 1980s and 1990s persist, unemployed workers have tended to remain without work longer than American job-seekers. This, in turn, leads to a more enduring underclass, since the longer a worker remains out of work, and his or her skills atrophy, the less likely the worker becomes ever to return to the working world. As well in European cities, festering unemployment has led to social unrest and riots far more frequently than in the United States.
    The use of government subsidies in Europe to bolster employment levels "was a short-term political calculus," said Jacob Kirkegaard, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "There's no doubt that this is a very clear social policy choice that European governments have made ... saying, 'We cannot survive politically a backlash of rapidly rising unemployment rates; therefore, we prefer to pay businesses to keep people employed, to avoid the political fallout of rising unemployment rates.'"
    Kirkegaard argued the American approach -- cutting back on workers' hours and jobs, with the expectation that they will find another job, or develop new skills, before the passage of 26 weeks, the point at which one is defined as "long-term unemployed" -- has usually paid off.
    "Historically, there's no doubt that in the case of the United States that has been a superior approach," he said. "Because unemployment rates traditionally in the United States have, at least for the last 25 to 30 years, been far lower than is the case in Europe."
    But the Danish-born economist, author of "The Accelerating Decline in America's High-Skilled Workforce," said he is "a little less certain this time around" that the classical American approach will pay dividends. That, Kirkegaard said, is because of the historically high rate of long-term unemployment afflicting Americans in this recession -- nearly 40 percent of the unemployed have been jobless longer than 26 weeks. He said those statistics seem "to suggest that the model that the United States has relied on so far, since World War II at least ... is no longer applicable. ... I fear that this time there might have to be some kind of change in labor market policy in the United States."
    Bosworth took a different view, suggesting European governments may be caught flat-footed when recovery finally hits full swing.
    "I think the problem the Europeans are going to face -- even if gross GDP starts to turn up -- they have a lot of excess workers. And so I don't think you'll see a turnaround in Europe in employment as quickly as you will see it in the United States," Bosworth said.

  5. Statement on The State of the Union Address, by Alan Barber, (1/27) CommonDreams.org (press release)
    WASHINGTON, United States - CEPR* Co-Director Dean Baker issued the following statement after President Obama's first State of the Union address:
    President Obama made several useful proposals on retirement savings, student loans and other areas that will benefit working families. However, this agenda is not bold enough to address the severity of the problems facing the economy and the country's workers.
    The unemployment rate is currently in double-digits. The newest projections from the Congressional Budget Office show the unemployment rate staying above 8.0 percent until well into 2012 and not falling back to normal levels until 2014. This is a crisis for tens of millions of workers who will face unemployment solely as a result of bad economic policy and Wall Street greed.
    We know the mechanisms through which we can expand the economy and bring the unemployment rate down: a much larger stimulus, more expansionary monetary policy from the Fed, and a lower dollar to bring down the trade deficit.
    If it is not possible to expand the economy, we can also keep people employed through the sort of work-sharing programs that have kept unemployment from rising in Germany and the Netherlands. Most people would much prefer to experience the downturn in the form of shorter workweeks and longer vacations than in the form of double-digit unemployment.
    All of these policies face serious political obstacles, but it is the President's responsibility to tell the truth to the country and to press for the policies necessary to right the economy. President Obama has apparently chosen not to fight this fight. If it is not possible to get the policies needed to restore full employment back on the political agenda, then tens of millions of people will suffer needlessly for years to come.
    *The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

1/27/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. State offers 24/7, online service for printing Unemployment Insurance tax form, by Governor Rell's Office, Stamford Plus Magazine via stamfordplus.com
    Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced that the state is offering a new, online service that allows Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants to print the UC-1099G tax form they need directly from the Department of Labor’s Web site. The service – paid for with a federal grant – will speed the processing time for both claimants and state employees and save the state on postage and printing costs.
    “The UC-1099G form is required by the Internal Revenue Service so recipients can report the benefits they have received, in the same way that a W-2 form is used to report regular income,” Governor Rell said. “This customer-friendly, 24/7 innovation is not only convenient for claimants, it saves the state time and money at a time when our budget is extremely tight.
    “This year we expect to distribute approximately 300,000 of the UC-1099G forms – so it is clear that savings on printing and postage can add up quickly,” the Governor said. “Moreover, the Labor Department is often asked for duplicate copies of the form from people who moved and did not receive it, or from those who misplaced or lost the form or need it at a later date. In the past, about 25 percent of the forms that were mailed wound up being returned to the agency.
    “This on-demand system allows claimants to enter their information into a secure system in order to obtain either the current tax year of unemployment data or previous years dating back to 2005,” Governor Rell said. “The printout includes all necessary tax information and is available to all claimants whether they were filing weekly, filing a claim for as little as one week or part of the state’s * Shared Work program .”
    [So far, 17-18 other states also have shared-work alias worksharing programs - and numerous other countries.]
    A special UC-1099G information line – (860)-263-6099 – is now in operation from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through April 15 to answer questions about the tax form. Representatives at this number are not able to answer questions about specific unemployment insurance claims.
    “Thanks to this newest online feature, we can now offer better service, save on mailing costs and reduce phone calls for those who need their unemployment compensation form for tax reporting purposes, financial aid requests, educational grants or related applications,” Governor Rell said.

  2. Springfield employers face possible bump in unemployment insurance rates, by Kathryn Wall, News-Leader.com
    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Companies that have been forced to lay off workers are seeing another expense crop up -- increasing rates for the unemployment insurance fund.
    Even those that haven't had layoffs may soon be paying more.
    "To go from $260 per person to $703 is outrageous," said Jack Stack, founder and CEO of SRC Holdings, a local remanufacturing firm.
    Employers pay a rate determined by the state government based on their employment history on the first $13,000 every employee makes. That money funds the unemployment trust fund, which is where the money for individual unemployment benefits comes from.
    Stack saw his unemployment insurance payroll tax jump after cutting down the workweek for his automotive division in the last five months of 2008.
    Local employers say they're anticipating the eventual increase in the base rate, which is the base percentage that is taken off that first $13,000.
    "It wouldn't surprise me given the recent extension of unemployment benefits and new emergency unemployment benefits," said Shawn Askinosie, owner of Askinosie Chocolate.
    The average Missouri rate paid by employers has been rising since 2005. The current average is 2.138 percent. The average rate in 2005 was 2.087 percent.
    Missouri has yet to raise its base rate, but several other states have in light of unemployment funds being completely tapped out by high numbers of unemployed people.
    The mounting number of people drawing from the funds has forced 36 states to raise their rates. Missouri's base rate can only be changed by the General Assembly.
    The state of Missouri has had to borrow $495 million from the federal government to pay for the benefits, and employers will be the ones paying the money back.
    The way unemployment insurance rates are determined is comparable to car insurance. If a driver doesn't have an accident over a period of time, he or she pays a lower rate. If there is an accident, rates increase.
    [We suspect this will to shift to universal "no-fault" rates and thence to targeting chronic overtime with an overtime tax and a complete exemption for OT-targeted hiring (and training if needed).]
    Similarly, there is a base rate for unemployment insurance.
    If a company has an increasing number of past employees drawing from the unemployment fund, that company is required to pay a higher rate than the base rate since it is contributing to more people taking from the fund.
    "It all depends on their experience rating versus essentially what's in their account," said Amy Susan, director of communications for the Missouri Division of Employment Security, which manages the unemployment trust fund.
    Stack saw such high increases in his rate because he utilized the *Shared Work program, a state program that allows employers to cut down workweeks to save money and then not have to lay off workers.
    [This is an obvious development that we had not foreseen! Full unemployment via downsizing would still mean much higher unemployment taxes on employers than partial unemployment via the shared work program. But shared-work funding will have to be switched from taxing the weak/poor = employers who have the least work - to taxing the strong/rich = employers who are practicing chronic overtime.]
    Instead, companies cut costs when employees work fewer hours, but employees can use unemployment benefits to make up the difference in what full-time work would have paid.
    Although Stack didn't lay off a group of people in favor of the Shared Work program, he's still paying the price for his employees using unemployment benefits.
    [One way or another, employers are going to have to get used to paying for their own markets (because there's nobody else to do it - exports? overwhelmed by imports!) and skimming less 'cream' off the top for their own luxurious lifestyles.]
    "Now we've got to scratch our heads and wonder if we did the right thing," he said.
    Susan said the Shared Work program is a better option over time.
    "In the long run, it's proven to be cheaper, simply because when they do come back after the recession, they'd have to train more individuals, which costs time and money and they lose their experienced workers," she said. "Their tax rates will increase if those 20 workers they had laid off were 100 percent reliant on unemployment benefits."
    Geoffrey Butler, president and CEO of Butler Rosenbury & Partners, a local architecture firm, lost 60 percent of his work force in the past two years.
    He said he hasn't seen a large increase in his unemployment insurance rate yet, but he knows it's coming.
    "Nobody knows when, or at least I don't know when, and I'm afraid to ask," he said.
    Askinosie said the fund presents a Catch-22.
    "There's only so much rope in terms of unemployment benefits," he said. "We have a finite capacity. We can't keep doing this, but yet, we have an obligation to help. So what do we do?"
    On one hand, he said, it's necessary to pay unemployment benefits.
    But that increasing cost may prevent employers from a speedy economic recovery.
    "We will probably delay hiring more people," Butler said.
    He said rising costs will force him to "work lean."
    "We're going to absorb it, but we're going to work harder with the people that we have," he said.
    Stack, whose automotive division went from 173 people at the end of 2008 to an increased 178 people at the end of 2009, said he won't be able to increase his fees to pay for the increased payroll tax.
    "We're going to lose money," he said. "You can bet your life that General Motors is not going to accept an increase."
    He said he also expects similar increases in his heavy-duty remanufacturing division, which had a slowdown after the automotive division did.
    "I'm going to get creamed," he said.
    While some analysts have said the recession is beginning to turn around and may even be over, local business owners fear an increase in unemployment insurance fees will slow their recovery.
    "I believe that if rates increase, it must be combined with policies which are favorable for creating new jobs," Askinosie said.
    He said the local economy will turn around when companies are hiring again, but with less money, it'll be slow going.
    "We need capital to be flowing, and the flow of capital will create jobs," he said.
    Currently the only pending legislation connected to unemployment would double the number of weeks businesses could use the Shared Work program, as proposed by Springfield Rep. Charlie Norr.

1/26/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Searching for the Perfect Job Subsidy Plan - Lawmakers Hunt for Ways to Rekindle Hiring, by Catherine Rampell, New York Times via nytimes.com
    Job seekers in Hallandale Beach, Fla., this month [shown in photo]. Lawmakers worry that employers may manipulate a system for job subsidies. [photo caption]
    Legislators are showing renewed interest in proposals for a government subsidy to encourage new hiring. President Obama last month endorsed the idea of a tax incentive for companies that add jobs, and many will be listening for more details in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night.
    Faced with populist anger about economic conditions, Washington has been looking for ways to promote job growth, with things like public works projects and aid for states. Many of these proposals, however, have been stymied by a partisan divide over economic policy and concerns about the deficit.
    A tax break that would appeal to both workers and buinesses could potentially bridge that divide, assuming that some problems are worked out.
    The biggest challenge is how to create a policy that minimizes businesses’ ability to manipulate the system, but that is still simple enough for employers to actually understand and use. The difficulty of striking that balance may explain why the proposal has resurfaced in so many configurations in recent weeks.
    On Tuesday alone, three prominent senators — Charles E. Schumer of New York, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Al Franken of Minnesota — announced two separate plans for hiring subsidies. Earlier this month, Representative Bob Etheridge, Democrat of North Carolina, submitted a similar proposal. Mr. Obama presented a vague version of the proposal as part of a broad job creation plan last month.
    The federal government last tried a job-creation tax credit in the 1970s. That policy was generally considered successful, but economists debate which portion of the jobs would have been created anyway.
    A recent Congressional Budget Office report estimated that a payroll tax cut for new hires would most likely have a bigger bang per buck — in terms of jobs created per dollar spent this year — than other major policies on the table. It might also give a bigger kick to overall output than most other stimulus programs in play, with the exception of increased unemployment benefits.
    Concerns remain, however, about whether employers might manipulate the system — for example, by firing existing workers only to rehire them at a discount, or replacing one full-time worker with two part-time workers.
    For this reason, legislators have placed creative restrictions in their hiring subsidy proposals. For example, the Schumer-Hatch plan (which the senators described in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times but have not yet introduced into the Senate) says that new hires who work fewer than 30 hours a week are not eligible for the tax subsidy.
    [Apparently Schumer and Hatch are still trying to maintain a pre-technology 1940 workweek of 40 hours.]
    Additionally, only hires of workers who have not been employed in the last 60 days can qualify for the tax deal, to encourage companies to hire an unemployed worker rather than one from another firm.
    “You have to find someone you can prove has been out of work for a set amount of time, who also happens to meet the qualifications of the job you’re trying to fill,” said Bill Rhys, tax counsel with the National Federation of Independent Business. “We certainly want to find ways to get people out of the work force back into jobs, but the more conditions you put on that, the less effective it becomes.”
    Debate continues on which conditions are necessary.
    “We tried to balance the legitimate criticism that you want to make sure that this goes only to people who are actual new hires with the fact that you want to make it easy to use,” Mr. Schumer said.
    The technical minutiae can have big implications for the effectiveness of the policy and its ultimate cost. Taking the time to iron out wrinkles and devise the fairest, smartest policy possible could undermine the program by causing employers to delay their hiring while they wait to see whether a subsidy materializes.
    “I hope they enact it quickly, but knowing the way things work in Washington, they probably won’t do it until December,” said Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin who helped plan the 1970s new jobs tax credit. “By that time the job market will be picking up anyway and it won’t do as much good.”
    A version of this article appeared in print on January 27, 2010, on page B1 of the New York edition.
    Catherine Rampell writes about economics and edits the Economix blog. Before joining The Times, she wrote for the Washington Post editorial pages and financial section and for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Slate, Smithsonian Magazine, The Village Voice, USA Today, NPR, MSNBC.com, The Miami Herald, The Dallas Morning News and various other publications. Catherine grew up in South Florida (the New York part) and graduated from Princeton. She can be reached at crampell@nytimes.com.

  2. Kingspan workers to strike over company's survival plan, by Patrick McDonagh, Irish Independent via independent.ie
    KINGSCOURT, County Cavan, Ireland - More than 100 staff at the building materials giant Kingspan are to stage a strike in protest at a survival plan put forward by the firm.
    Last night, SIPTU gave the company, which is based in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, two weeks notice of industrial action on February 9.
    Workers insist the plan, which aims to increase competitiveness and reduce labour costs, will see them hit with poorer terms of employment.
    The Labour Court backed the 10-point document after a series of talks between unions and management last year.
    And the cost-cutting measures contained in it were implemented on January 18.
    However the court's recommendation was overwhelmingly rejected by workers at the firm and they balloted for strike action last Tuesday.
    They argued the plan denies workers their annual bonus, flexi-time and overtime payments.
    [Here's a union that still doesn't get the connection between overtime and wage-depressing unemployment and labor surplus, let alone the need to get back to the battle for workweek reduction.]
    The also insisted it creates a two-tiered system by paying new entrants to the company minimum wage.
    [Compare recent union contracts with the Big Three U.S. automakers.]
    The move by SIPTU [Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union, HQ'd in Dublin] comes in the wake of more than 200 redundancies at the plant which has been on short-time working, of two or three days, for the past two years.
    "Our members have suffered already as a result of mass redundancies, have been reduced from a four-shift production cycle to day work only and have been on short-time working over the last 24 months," said SIPTU branch organiser Declan Ferry.
    "This is the final straw that broke the camel's back. Our members have been left with no choice but to undertake strike/industrial action as a result of the company drastically reducing their terms and conditions of employment."
    He pointed out that in its 2008 financial statements the company reported an operating profit of €157.1m.
    However, a spokesman for the company said the plan would have to be implemented if the company, which accounts for 3pc of all worldwide sales, was to remain viable.

1/24-25/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Shared-work program saved 20000 jobs in 2009, by Amy Rolph, 1/25 HeraldNet.com (blog)
    EVERETT, Wash. - More than 20,000 jobs avoided the chopping block in 2009 by enrolling in the Employment Security Department's *Shared-Work Program.
    That's according to numbers released by ESD Monday, showing a record 2,800 businesses and about 51,000 employees participated in the program in 2009. The year before, there were 621 employers and 21,272 employees approved.
    The program allows companies to temporarily cut employee hours by as much as 50 percent, and makes workers eligible for partial unemployment benefits.
    The program is flexible, so employers can add or reduce work hours based on workload needs.
    Employment Security officials said the program saved the state money last year. About $40 million in shared-work benefits was paid to participants that year. But the state would have paid about $54 million if those workers were entirely out of work and had collected 17 weeks of benefits.
    Know a small business you think we should write about? Contact Herald writer Amy Rolph at arolph@heraldnet.com.

  2. Grants could return Mesilla town employees to 40-hour workweek, 1/24 Las Cruces Sun-News via lcsun-news.com
    LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Mesilla town employees could return to a 40-hour workweek if the town is successful in applying for a pair of grants.
    [Sounds like New Mexico is suffering for lack of the kind of worksharing programs that seventeen more advanced states already have.]
    Mayor Michael Cadena said town officials have been working with U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-Las Cruces, and with Elizabeth Bernal, a specialist with Rural Community Assistance Corp., on grant funding that might be available. He will present details to the town's board of trustees when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday at Mesilla Town Hall, 2231 Avenida de Mesilla.
    [Some of the state reps should get off their butts and push thru a worksharing program.]
    "All I'll say is that we are in the process of applying for a grant to bring all employees up to a 40-hour (work) week," Cadena said. "From meeting with Liz Bernal, there might also be the potential for another grant from the Department of Labor."
    Town Clerk and Treasurer Juan Fuentes will present a monthly report of year-to-date revenues and expenditures, which he has been giving for more than a year, ever since impacts of a global economic recession began to be felt in Mesilla. In December, trustees cut the workweek for town employees from 35 to 32 hours when it was discovered that gross receipts taxes were not meeting initial projections. Town employees have not worked a 40-hour week for more than 13 months.
    Cadena said no additional budget cuts are anticipated, but fund transfers from one account to another could be considered to help ease Mesilla's budget concerns.
    Trustees and town administrators will also discuss the possibility of developing a marketing plan for Mesilla. Cadena said he met last week with David Hicks, general manager of the Las Cruces Convention Center, and they discussed a proposal for Mesilla to open a kiosk at the new convention center to help promote tourism.
    "Obviously, tourism has a great impact on our gross receipts taxes," Cadena said. "Setting up a booth at the convention center could really benefit the town. Mesilla is just trying to be a part of the new convention center."
    Cadena said he is also trying to arrange a meeting with Spaceport America officials to explore marketing Mesilla through that organization.
    Also Monday, trustees will consider the approval of a contract for more than $700,000 to Highland Enterprises, Inc., of Las Cruces, for improvements planned for Calle del Norte. Cadena said Mesilla has received $1.2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding for resurfacing and drainage improvements to an approximately one-mile portion of the street.
    "We believe now, because of the bid submitted by Highland Enterprises, that we'll be able to work on a longer portion of Calle del Norte," Cadena said. "Initially, we thought the funding was only going to pay to get the road paved from Avenida de Mesilla to the (Calle del Norte) bridge. But now it looks like we'll be able to afford not only the repaving, but some drainage improvements for the road, to Tres Sendas Road."
    Cadena estimated the road rehabilitation and improved drainage could be made for an approximately one-mile stretch of Calle del Norte.
    Trustees have also planned informal discussion of a proposal initiated by Trustee Carlos Arzabal that would adjust stipends paid to elected town officials and appointed members of Mesilla's Planning, Zoning and Historical Appropriateness Commission. As salaries of town employees have been cut because of concerns with the town's budget, Arzabal is proposing that elected and appointed town officials lower the monthly stipends they receive proportionately.
    If you go
    •What: Mesilla board of trustees meeting.
    •When: 6 p.m. Monday.
    •Where: Mesilla Town Hall, 2231 Avenida de Mesilla.
    •Information: Town Clerk Juan Fuentes, (575) 524-3262, ext. 105.

1/23/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Funding cuts force Berks libraries to cut hours, acquisitions - The recession reduces contributions from state and local government even as it increases the demands for services, by Erin Negley, ReadingEagle.com
    BERKS COUNTY, Pa. - Budget cuts at Bethel-Tulpehocken Library mean staff can't buy most of the movies and books people request.
    Hamburg Public Library cannot pay guest speakers and performers like the duo who played music of the Civil War last year.
    Louisa Gonser Community Library in Kutztown will be 4 degrees colder this winter.
    And Schuylkill Valley Community Library will close earlier every day.
    State and local budget cuts have forced libraries around Berks County to buy fewer items, cut free programs, turn down the heat and slash hours.
    The 2009-10 state budget hit libraries hard, cutting funding statewide by 27 percent.
    Individual library cuts vary, but in Berks County local libraries are starting 2010 with up to a third less money. The cuts come at a time when the libraries are busier than ever because of the recession.
    More people are visiting Muhlenberg Community Library because they don't have Internet service at home or can't afford to rent movies from a video store, library director Susan Davis said.
    But the budget cuts have forced the library to cut its collections budget.
    "When we're needed the most we have to say, 'Sorry we don't have that,' " she said.
    The cuts are disappointing to patrons like Saunja Vicari of Muhlenberg Township, who visits the Muhlenberg library often with her six children. They go to story time, borrow books and do research for school projects.
    "As a taxpayer, this is where I'd like to see my money spent," she said.
    Julie R. Rinehart, administrator of the Berks County Public Libraries, said this is the first time she has seen so many Berks libraries cut hours because of budget problems.
    "I think it's terrible," she said. "We have struggled for years to build library service to a point where we felt we were providing adequate and even excellent service."
    With the changes, that's not the case any more, Rinehart said.
    Bethel-Tulpehocken Library has cut eight hours a week and will buy half as many items because of its lower budget.
    "We used to buy whatever people requested," library director Elizabeth M. Caruso said. "We can't do that any more."
    Instead, she plans to buy as few items as possible to stay within the budget, which is 21 percent less than last year.
    In addition to cutting subsidies, the state eliminated a program that reimbursed libraries for serving people from outside the county. 
    Many of the Bethel-Tulpehocken library's patrons live in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties, so the program provided a significant amount of money for the library. That's gone now so the library is looking for ways to bring in more money.
    Caruso said the library will no longer waive fines for overdue items and expects fines to bring in $9,000.
    "I'm depending upon that money to keep us afloat," she said.
    While the cuts aren't close to closing the library, they have a profound effect.
    "If we are closed more hours and we have less items for people to choose from, circulation goes down and our state funding goes down," Caruso said. "It's a terrible cycle. It's like a domino effect."
    Exeter Community Library was hit twice with cuts.
    The state funding cut was coupled with a $100,000 cut in funding from Exeter Township. The total budget is 21 percent less than last year.
    To make up the difference, the library cut hours on Friday and Saturday but maintained weekday evening hours when most of the programs are held, library director Mallory McConnell said.
    "We are doing our best with keeping all of our same programming and keeping our collections with 2009," she said.
    Library staff sent out a fundraising letter in November and raised $13,000. The library also is looking to hold additional fundraising events to bring in more money.
    Mifflin Community Library in Shillington expanded in 2008 and has seen more patrons, especially in the computer area, director Helen Flynn said. She's worried about funding cuts at a time when library use has jumped.
    "I'm concerned that it's going to slow our growth," she said. "We've been on a good run here."
    The library will cut programming and invite just one group to perform for the children's summer reading program, for example.
    Library visitors might have to wait longer to borrow popular items because of cuts in its purchasing budget. Staff usually buys several copies of popular books, but this year they'll buy fewer.
    West Lawn-Wyomissing Hills Library had a modest budget cut of 3 percent.
    The Spring Township supervisors helped library by doubling the municipality's annual contribution to $20,000, library director Barb H. Kline said.
    The library still had to decide between not giving staff raises or cutting hours of operation. Staff salaries remained the same.
    Other libraries are coming up with creative ways to raise money.
    Robesonia Community Library has set up a tree decorated with cards. Patrons can pick a card and buy the book or movie listed on it for the library. Or they can donate the money so the library can make the purchase.
    Several people have donated money, director Margaret Ann Henderson said.
    Boyertown Community Library director Mark Sullivan is aiming higher.
    He has contacted state Rep. David R. Kessler, an Oley Township Democrat, to discuss the upcoming state budget.
    "I think it's unfortunate that the libraries were not a priority in Harrisburg," Sullivan said. "We can't survive another cut like that."
    Contact Erin Negley: 610-371-5047 or enegley@readingeagle.com.

  2. Another record breaking month - for unemployment, Historic City News,St.Augustine,FL via HistoricCity.com
    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - As we consider how many people we can send to rebuild Haiti, how many civilian, paramilitary and military personnel we can send to rebuild countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, let’s not forget those in crisis right here in Florida.
    The Agency for Workforce Innovation reported that Florida’s unemployment rate edged up to 11.8 percent in December, the highest the state has seen since Reubin Askew was governor. That percentage meant 1.1 million Floridians were out of work, about 232,000 more than a year earlier - and that’s not counting those who have stopped looking for work and others working shorter hours or taking part-time work.
    Now, state economists claim jobless rates in Florida could climb even higher before things start getting better.
    The three-year housing boom that peaked in 2006, has left Florida with 500,000 unsold homes on the market, a population drop and skittish lenders — a combination that is complicating recovery.
    Economists also cautioned lawmakers that any recovery will be slow; with jobless figures forecast as topping 12 percent.
    The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard sobering predictions that the Sunshine State economy won’t begin crawling back until 2011, with the state lagging behind a national recovery that federal officials say has already begun.
    “Florida is on a different recovery path than the nation as a whole,” economist Amy Baker told the committee.
    December’s unemployment figures were a far cry from the 3.3 percent jobless rate in July 2006, the peak of the last boom cycle. Since then, Florida has lost nearly 800,000 jobs.

  3. Pensions law Parliament passage after March, Financiarul.ro
    ROMANIA - The pension law will be passed through Parliament and the process will be finalized after February-March, Minister of Labour Mihai Seitan declared on Friday at the seat of the Ministry of Public Finance after talks with International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives.
    ‘We are about to set up a deadline to pass the pensions law through Parliament. We will have discussions with the Government and we will come to terms. It is less likely that this law should pass before February or March,’ said the official. With regard to the short time work scheme legislation, the Minister of Labor stated that the authorities will analyse ways to enforce it.
    As far as the state-institution employees’ wage grid is concerned, Seitan said that the subject was not tackled during talks with the IMF representatives. ‘The appointed commission needs to prepare a wage grid until summer,’ underlined the Minister of Labour. Mihai Seitan also added that the wage grid and the language of the Law on the unitary pay of public employees would not be amended.

1/22/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Governor sees 'glimmers of light' - Unemployment, budget focus of address, by Kevin Landrigan, NashuaTelegraph.com
    CONCORD, N.H. – Gov. John Lynch said there are “glimmers of light” during this down economy and proposes using jobless taxes already paid by businesses to help companies and workers that are struggling to make ends meet.
    “We are beginning to see glimmers of light through these dark clouds,” Lynch said in his State of the State address Thursday.
    Lynch..urged lawmakers to agree to tap the jobless benefits fund to convince firms to cut hours rather than lay off workers, let unemployed workers train for six weeks at no cost to the business and give remedial help to the unskilled work force.
    “It will help our citizens stay at work if they already have jobs; return to work if they are unemployed; and ensure that they are ready to work at new jobs,” Lynch said.

    But Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon, of Milford, said Lynch would do more for job retention or creation if he got rid of his new tax on investments from limited liability companies used to balance the current state budget.
    “It’s the tax and spend policies of Governor Lynch and leaders of the Legislature that are hurting businesses and making it difficult for them to create jobs,” Bragdon said.
    “The best thing they can do is repeal the LLC tax because it’s damaging our business climate.”
    Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, said the incentives for companies and workers are just the right approach, and they don’t require additional state spending.
    “The jobs proposal I think is terrific because this will give companies incentives to keep their employees on and help get them the trained, skilled work force they need,” Lasky said.
    Lynch is expected this fall to seek an unprecedented, fourth term in office. His lofty approval ratings have slipped a bit in recent polls, but he remains among the most popular governors in the country.
    Former state Rep. Karen Testerman, of Franklin, and Dover businessman Jack Kimball have said they will seek the Republican nomination. Many GOP leaders are encouraging ex-Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen, of Manchester, to get into the race.
    Lynch’s three-part, New Hampshire Working initiative emerges as unemployment reached 7 percent last month, twice the rate of a year ago, with the first actual drop in the state’s total labor force since 1970.
    Currently, about 36,000 are collecting jobless benefits while state estimates the out-of-work labor force exceeds 52,000.
    Last May, Lynch and lawmakers significantly raised those jobless taxes on business to shore up this benefit fund that still will have to borrow from the federal government to avoid running out of money this spring.
    Further state budget cuts will be needed, Lynch said, because state revenues have failed to hit targets while the state public assistance rolls have swelled by 20,000.
    Lynch did not offer specifics on spending cuts he would support.
    The state faces a revenue shortfall of $65 million over the next 15 months.
    Republican legislative leaders believe the budget hole is much bigger and criticized Lynch and Democratic leaders Thursday for moving too slowly.
    They have proposed deep spending cuts and repeals of tax and fee hikes that legislators and Lynch adopted in the state budget last June.
    “I ask for your cooperation and your best ideas so that we can respond to economic conditions and protect essential services,” Lynch said. “In 2009, the worst year of the recession, we balanced the budget. And we will do the same this year.”
    Former House Speaker Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said he wanted to hear more sense of urgency and a specific plan to cut spending.
    “He kind of glossed over the budget in my opinion, and I think that’s unfortunate,” Chandler said.
    Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said when Republicans and Chandler controlled the Legislature, they raised multiple taxes and fees to get through the recession of the early 1990s.
    “The Republican Party record versus the rhetoric just doesn’t match up,” Buckley declared. “Governor Lynch has come up with some solid, uniquely New Hampshire proposals on jobs, health care and education and led this state well through some very difficult years.”
    Lynch also called for spending $750,000 in federal stimulus money for the University of New Hampshire to help 10 firms bring green technology jobs to market.
    “We can make it possible for even more companies to create the technologies that will reduce pollution, reduce energy costs and provide new sources of energy,” Lynch said. “We can and we will help these companies grow right here in New Hampshire.”
    On health care, Lynch urged Congress and President Barack Obama to only pass reform that treats all states fairly and set a lofty goal to contain health care costs in the future.
    “Our goal should be ensuring that New Hampshire is in the top five of all states in terms of health care outcomes, and in the lowest five in terms of costs,” Lynch added.
    Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.
    Special Report: Hard Times
    The Telegraph has launched a major company-wide effort to help readers get through these difficult times, and this page is the source for news and events related to the project. In addition to in-depth coverage of the recession and its local impacts on businesses, social services and everyday folks, you'll find money-saving ideas, job-seeking advice and other tips and hints aimed at helping you stay afloat in tough times. We're following the stimulus money as it funnels down to New Hampshire cities and towns, and looking to balance all the bad news with stories about bright spots in the local economy. The goal is to keep you informed, entertained, financially savvy - even hopeful.

  2. Some thoughts on how to get out of this economic quagmire, by Maude Gilmer, Asheville Citizen-Times via Citizen-Times.com
    ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The banking crisis we experienced during the last days of the Bush administration was the result of years of mismanagement and abuse that also produced other economic problems.
    The most demanding of these is war. A war economy is profitable for the military-industry complex about which President Eisenhower warned us, but it is a vast liability to the public and the soldiers on the battlefield. Our armed forces entered Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden, but he is probably no longer there. It is time to bring the troops home.
    Another urgent economic problem is unemployment. The solution to this is not overproduction and overconsumption. That is the road to irresponsible destruction of Earth's resources and climate change. We need to establish a foreign trade balance by reducing imports and restrict foreign investments that transfer U.S. jobs to foreign nations.
    In order to more widely distribute available employment in a declining job market, we need to cut the workweek to 30 hours and simplify our lives.
    Maude Gilmer, Asheville

  3. Pioneer Press union approves concessions pact - Shorter workweek, furloughs are part of deal, by Leslie Brooks Suzukamo lsuzukamo@pioneerpress.com, TwinCities.com
    ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Newspaper Guild at the Pioneer Press voted Friday to drop to a 37 1/2-hour workweek and take an unpaid week of furlough in exchange for no layoffs for the next 12 months.
    [As we say in Québec, PARFAIT! This is exactly "timesizing, not downsizing"! See also Pioneer Press story on 1/15/2010 #1 below.]
    The guild, which has roughly 270 members, also agreed to a freeze on the company's 401(k) match and to forgo a previously negotiated 3 percent pay hike in July.
    The agreement modified an existing contract that expires in July 2011. In February 2011, the 40-hour workweek returns and the layoff protections end.
    In total, the union members agreed to roughly a 10 percent pay cut, which the company estimates will save between $1 million and $2 million on an annual basis.
    Had the guild not agreed to the cuts, the Pioneer Press was prepared to lay off up to 26 employees.
    The vote was approved by "a significant margin" on a strong turnout, Guild spokesman and Pioneer Press reporter Dave Orrick said. The vote showed members were "willing to make sacrifices for the sake of quality journalism and for the sake of our readers and clients."
    "We're pleased. We had thought that this was better than the alternative, which was having layoffs," Publisher Guy Gilmore said.
    The paper begins formal negotiations with its pressmen's union next week on a contract that expires March 31 and will negotiate with the mailers union after those talks conclude, Gilmore said. The mailers contract expires in October.
    The Pioneer Press was the lone unprofitable newspaper among MediaNews Group's chain of 54 daily and more than 100 nondaily newspapers in the past fiscal year, according to the Guild and MediaNews officials.
    Gilmore emphasized that the Pioneer Press has had positive cash flow for the past three years.
    But the Pioneer Press has been saddled with its share of a debt incurred when Denver-based MediaNews bought the St. Paul paper and three others in California in 2006. Debt, along with some other expenses, is not included in calculating cash flow.
    [Unfair - Pioneer Press's "share" of the chest-thumping M&As of testosterone-fading CEOs is ZERO! This is management and business-school suicide packaged up as "smart mgmt." What an outrage! Cannibalizing their own consumer base via their employment basement.]
    Even excluding debt payments, rising expenses in other areas contributed to the Pioneer Press' unprofitability in fiscal 2007 and 2009, according to a Newspaper Guild audit of the paper's books. Those include pension expenses, said Marshall Anstandig, MediaNews general counsel.
    The newspaper industry has been losing revenue for several years, resulting in at least 14 bankruptcy filings since December 2008.
    MediaNews' holding company became the latest Friday, filing for Chapter 11 protection in a pre-arranged agreement with its creditors. The bankruptcy will reduce the debt of the holding company, Affiliated Media, from $930 million to $165 million, boost cash flow and allow for greater financial flexibility, the company has said.
    The company expects Affiliated Media to emerge from bankruptcy in a month or two. The restructuring will not affect day-to-day operations at any MediaNews newspaper, the company has said.
    Associated Press reports were used in this story. Leslie Brooks Suzukamo can be reached at 651-228-5475.

  4. West Milford weekend overtime employees pay questioned, by Ann Genader, NorthJersey.com
    WEST MILFORD, N.J. - With residents raising questions and concerns as to why they see the West Milford Public Works Department employees doing catch-basin repair work on Saturdays with increased cost of overtime-weekend paychecks, Councilman Phil Weisbecker put the issue on the table at the Jan. 6 council workshop.
    The discussion is far from over and will continue on future meeting agendas with the township required to meet a state mandate without sufficient staff numbers to do the work during regular work-week hours.
    Council President Joseph Smolinski believes such "unfunded state mandates" need to be addressed and he’s going straight to the top.
    Smolinski said he wants West Milford to be one of the first communities to reach out to ask Governor Chris Christie to address the issue of state mandates that are burdening taxpayers throughout the state.
    The township has 4,000 catch basins that fall under the state mandate for attention by Public Works crews. Township Administrator Kevin Boyle agreed that there is major cost involved with this directive from the state that falls on the backs of local property owners.
    As for costs piling up already, Boyle commented, "This is just the tip of the iceberg."
    Boyle referred to a report from Township Engineer Richard McFadden who recommended that the Saturday catch basin repair program continue in order to have the township in compliance with the state requirements.
    Boyle said the backlog of work cannot be eliminated with current staffing levels. Performing catch basin repairs on Saturday enables a significant increase in the number of them repaired each year and should demonstrate to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that the township is making a good faith effort to meet its permit requirements, shared Boyle.
    Councilman Dan Jurkovic suggested it may be premature to continue to approve overtime for the Public Works Department to continue Saturday work until the council has a chance to look at the 2010 municipal budget. For now he thinks the work should be done by the crew during regular work hours. "The real issue is overtime," he said.
    Smolinski added that if "comp time" is used to pay the workers this is "a disguise" when shown in the budget.

    Councilman Robert Nolan questioned what the consequences would be if the township does not do all the work in 2010. Noting that there’s not need to inspect all 4,000 catch basins this year he said there is information the council should have.
    Mandate history
    West Milford’s Tier-A Municipal Stormwater permit, originally issued April 1, 2004, requires that the township maintain its stormwater facilities, including catch basins.
    It also requires an annual inspection of each of the approximately 4,000 catch basins in the township stormwater system.
    In 2004, after assessing the enormity of the permit requirements, the road improvement program and other Department of Public Works (DPW) tasks, McFadden in his report shared it was apparent that the township could not meet those requirements with the existing staff.
    He said it was therefore suggested to the township administrator that overtime be authorized on Saturdays for catch basin repairs.
    The township administrator subsequently recommended this to the mayor and the program began. Succeeding township administrators have continued to approve the program.
    According to McFadden’s report, the 2009 annual catch basin inspection showed a total of 942 catch basins in need of repair. DPW employees repaired a total of 282 of them in 2009.
    This includes 61 catch basins repaired on Saturdays at a total cost of approximately $21,500, or an average of about $350 per catch basin, including labor and fringe benefits. The estimated cost to have these catch basins repaired by a contractor is $350 for a minor repair to $1,500 or more for a major repair.
    Former Township Manager Ken Hetrick had unsuccessfully challenged West Milford’s Tier-A designation, believing Tier-B would have been more appropriate, recalled Weisbecker.
    Weisbecker said he does not want to micro-manage but also cannot understand why this costly program cannot be approached differently and will be asking for more answers.

  5. Flexible Working Hours Announced by Law Firm to Retain Women Employees, TopNews.co.uk (blog)
    LONDON, England, U.K. - Leading partners at a renowned London law company will, for the first time ever, be looking at offering female employees with flexible working hours, under a plan which is effectively able to reflect the degree to which the law sector is suffering an unusually large number of top women stepping down, as they do not find it feasible to work under some conditions.
    On Thursday, law firm Allen & Overy introduced a scheme, wherein there would be four working days a well, in addition to extended holidays, with the aim to curb the continued leaving of female lawyers, who are mainly at the junior levels, but sometimes end up stepping down as they think it would be difficult for them to manage a family while also working under present hours.
    The plan has been a result of an 18-month long consultation, and critics have been quick to point out that the law industry has been quite slow in catching up, and most major multi-nationals across the world already operate by these rules.
    “If we continue as we are doing at the moment, there is a risk we will be choosing from an ever-shrinking pool of potential candidates", said David Morley, Allen & Overy Senior Partner, while stressing that the flexibility offered will help the firm increase its female partner percentage, which has reportedly been stuck in mid-teens for almost a decade now.

  6. Borough unemployment lower than in last recession, ThurrockGazette.co.uk
    THURROCK, Essex, England - Unemployment in Thurrock is currently lower than during the last recession.
    The latest figures show that 3,999 people in Thurrock were unemployed in November,which equates to 4.2 per cent of people at working age in the borough.
    At this time during the last recession of 1992, 6,878 people, 8.4 per cent, were joining doll queues.
    East Thurrock MP for Labour, Angela Smith, believes the country will come out of the recession stronger.
    She said: “Anyone who has ever lost their job will know how awful it is, and we have seen far too many redundancies recently.
    “But these new figures show how stable the economy is compared to the last recession in 1992.
    “Both Basildon and Thurrock have half the level of unemployment today than they had then. It is tough now, but it was much worse then.
    “My role as the local MP is to encourage more investment into our areas, especially in skilled jobs and to support government action and investment in jobs. We can come out of the current recession stronger than before, but only if we continue to take action to support employment.”
    Prospective Tory MP, Stephen Metcalfe, who is contesting Angela Smith’s seat in May, says that while this is good news, there is still a long way to go.
    He said: “"Any fall in the level of unemployment is welcome news. But yesterday’s figures are still a real cause for concern.
    "Comparing yesterday’s figures with those of 18 years ago does not make it any easier for those who have lost their jobs this time round.
    “Nor is it any comfort for the thousands of people working in the private sector who have been asked to take pay cuts and go onto short time working, none of whom are counted in the published figures.
    Speaking about Conservative plans to combat unemployment, he added: "We have set out a bold plan to Get Britain Working again including 400,000 extra apprenticeships and training places for young people over the next two years, to ensure that a generation is not written off in this recession.
    “We will also create a big, bold and simple National Loan Guarantee Scheme to help get credit flowing and save jobs and tax breaks for companies which create new jobs, and cuts in National Insurance and Corporation Tax for all small companies."

  7. Shepherd Group calls recovery 'fragile' as it reports loss, by Bernard Ginns, (1/21) YorkshirePost.co.uk
    SIGNS of economic recovery are "sporadic and fragile", one of Yorkshire's biggest family-owned businesses said yesterday as it reported an annual pre-tax loss of £1.5m.
    The Shepherd Group, the industrial, construction and property firm, said gross turnover fell by two per cent to £701m, while operating profit before exceptional items fell by 23 per cent to £23.6m during the year.
    The York-based company said its results were significantly affected by recession-related exceptional costs, including a charge of £12.4m after a withdrawal of bank funding from the Trinity Walk retail scheme in Wakefield. Work at the site resumed this month after Shepherd Construction – a group division – helped to develop a new consortium to complete the project, which the group said "should show a favourable return in future results".
    A writedown in commercial property values led to an exceptional cost of £7.8m, while the group spent £4.9m on reorganisation costs to match overheads with reduced workloads, which included 240 redundancies across the group. The group employs around 3,300 people in total.
    Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and exceptional items were £45.3m, helped by strong performance in the Portakabin, Portasilo Bulk Handling and SES businesses. The results cover the year ending June 30 2009. The previous year the group reported a pre-tax profit of £22.9m.
    Group chairman Alan Fletcher said: "In the face of such challenging market conditions, the business continues to generate cash and the balance sheet is exceptionally strong, particularly in comparison with competitors. Debt is a modest 14.7 per cent of shareholders' funds and the group is operating well within bank facilities, which were recently renewed on favourable terms in the present climate."
    He added: "The group's 2009 earnings of £45.3m is, I believe, a good level in the current recession. For comparison, the 2007 figure of £53.4m, the highest in the group's history, was recorded in much more favourable conditions.
    "The outlook remains uncertain, with signs of recovery remaining sporadic and fragile. Current and anticipated order intake in the industrial and construction and engineering divisions is lower than it was 12 months ago. This has necessitated some unavoidable redundancies across most businesses and short time working in the industrial division. However, the group's strong resources and focused management teams leave it well placed to take advantage of the opportunities which will arise when more normal conditions return."
    Frederick Shepherd founded the group in York in 1890. Today, it is owned by more than 30 members of the family, including Patrick Shepherd, the deputy chairman, and Mark Shepherd, who are both on the board.

  8. Flexi talks wind down, by Edmond Campbell, Jamaica Gleaner via jamaica-gleaner.com
    KINGSTON, Jamaica - More than a decade of talks on flexible work arrangements are nearing conclusion with a joint select committee of Parliament completing its final meeting yesterday at Gordon House.
    Committee members combed through a draft report with numerous recommendations which will be submitted to Parliament shortly for debate.
    At yesterday's meeting, former president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Senator Norman Grant, called for an exemption for agriculture workers from the proposed 40-hour workweek.
    Grant argued strongly that a 40-hour workweek in the agriculture sector would saddle the employer with huge overtime costs.

    [Fine, if agricultural workers get compensatory time off within the year - the French called it annualization when they enacted their 35-hour workweek.]
    He said this might threaten the viability of certain projects in the sector.
    Grant received support from Government Senator Dwight Nelson, who argued that there were occupations which demanded special consideration.
    No prescribed task time
    According to Nelson, the committee should be careful not to prescribe to an employer the number of workers he should employ to carry out a task.
    Committee chairman Pearnel Charles had earlier suggested that after a worker exhausted his 40-hour workweek, the employer could recruit another person to carry out additional work.
    However, Senator Nelson expressed reservations about the proposal.
    Responding to the proposal, committee member Fitz Jackson said the employer and employee could reach a mutual understanding on a particular work arrangement.
    During the extensive deliberations which started on February 18, 2009, the committee heard submission from several stakeholders such as employers and various denominations representing the church.
    Under the proposed flexi-work arrangements an employee would be confined to a 40-hour workweek. Duties carried out after this period would attract overtime. [Which should be smoothly and automatically converted into another job, and training if necessary.]
    The new arrangement will impose a 12-hour cap on the daily number of work hours.

1/21/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Labour markets: At the sharp end? by Chris Giles, Krishna Guha and Ralph Atkins, Financial Times via ft.com
    Something weird is happening to labour markets in the rich world. The link between depth of recession and rise in unemployment is broken. And for the first time in a generation, Europeans can bask in the knowledge that their unemployment would have to rise in order to approach US levels.
    In some countries – the US stands out – the decline in output has not been so terrible but the employment shake-out has been brutal. Many more American jobs have been lost than in other countries – and many more than in the past.
    In large northern European economies – Germany, the UK and France – the loss of output has been exceptionally nasty and far surpassed expectations, but the loss of jobs has been relatively modest.
    In countries around Europe’s geographic and economic periphery, meanwhile – Spain and Ireland in particular – the economic crisis has taken its toll on both employment and output.
    Around the world, the accepted relationship in economics between employment and output [alias productivity] – known as Okun’s Law – does not even appear to be a dependable rule of thumb. Instead, it seems to be an arbitrary relationship. As for the effect of the financial and economic crisis on households and society, collateralised debt obligations are an irrelevance; jobs are everything, as President Barack Obama saw to his cost in Massachusetts this week.
    The loss of a breadwinner’s job shocks and angers families; if unemployment persists it can rob individuals of hopes and dreams, add to already growing burdens on taxpayers, limit rises in living standards and transmit its malign influences across regions and generations.
    So what is going on in global labour markets? The standard and dependable theory is that the US, with its hiring and firing culture, has suffered sharp rises in unemployment but also achieved gains in relative and absolute productivity. That will see it in good stead in the years to come. By contrast, employers in big European countries and Japan have been slow to recognise the seriousness of the recession and have often been more hidebound, both by law and cultural obligations, in addressing it – and so have held on to staff at the expense of plunging labour productivity.
    The prediction flowing from this line of thinking is that in the recovery, the US will have much more rapid jobs growth than Europe and will be better positioned globally because it has already endured the pain and, having taken the medicine, can enjoy the recuperation.
    There has to be truth in the explanatory part of the theory, since it is a description of the data. The Conference Board, a global business organisation, calculates that output per hour worked rose 2.5 per cent in the US in 2009, while it dropped 1 per cent in the eurozone and 1.9 per cent in the UK. “These are unusually large differences in productivity growth between the US and Europe,” says Bart van Ark, the board’s chief economist. “US employers have reacted much more strongly to the recession than their European counterparts in terms of cutting jobs and hours.”
    Europeans are already nervous about what the theory predicts. Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, European Central Bank executive board member, warned last week that “if capacity utilisation remains at low levels, job losses may increase further”.
    But there are some big problems with the productivity story, both in explaining the trends in unemployment and in predicting what will happen next. The theory does not really explain why the UK, also with a hiring and firing culture, looks more like Germany and France than the US – in fact, even worse. It does not explain why US employers have shed staff much more readily in this recession than in the past; nor why British and German employers have clung to their labour this time round; nor why employers in Spain and Ireland are rather like those in the US and unlike those in northern Europe.
    One issue that cannot be discounted is that the figures on output might simply be wrong. Statisticians around the world have a habit of miscounting gross domestic product, the output of an economy. Intriguingly, the mistakes made in recent years, as painstakingly documented by Kevin Daly at Goldman Sachs, have reflected certain national stereotypes. Between 1999 and 2006, gung-ho American statisticians overestimated the first stab at US annual economic growth by 0.3 percentage points. Their more sober European counterparts underestimated growth by about 0.5 points.
    So while the news has persistently implied that the US is a far more dynamic economy than Europe, the later reality is that at least two-thirds of that superior performance was a statistical mirage. If the traditional patterns of revisions are repeated for 2009, the fall in US output will grow, bringing it more in line with the loss of jobs, while the opposite will occur for Europe.
    Stefano Scarpetta, head of employment analysis at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, provides a second reason to doubt the simple productivity story. Advanced economies, he argues, have suffered from two quite distinct types of recession. One, characterised by an initial bust in housing construction before a drop in aggregate demand, is true of Ireland, Spain and the US; the other, hitting Germany, Japan, France and the UK, came predominantly via a collapse in consumer and business confidence and trade.
    The argument that differing routes to collapse resulted in different impacts on jobs has much going for it. While a Californian housebuilding company knows it will be able to rehire a plasterer when a recovery comes, a Rhineland machine toolmaker cannot have the same confidence it will be able to find someone with the precise skills it needs when demand picks up.
    Using this logic, Willem Buiter, chief economist of Citigroup, even dares to envisage a relatively optimistic outlook for the global jobs scene, saying: “The really good news might be that both [the US and Europe] have done the right thing given their institutions and demand.” But he adds that it is far too early to be sure this positive conclusion will survive the coming year.
    The detail of individual labour market stories gives good reason to doubt the strength with which the US labour market will bounce back. It also casts a shadow over some European prospects, particularly in peripheral economies.
    The US has experienced the worst recession in terms of jobs for at least a quarter of a century, with the early 1980s as the only recent parallel. Data (for job openings and labour turnover and supply) initially showed unemployment surging, because hiring evaporated at the same time as fewer people left their jobs voluntarily and firing stepped up a little from its naturally high level. More recently, the less rapid rise in unemployment has come as the rate of firing has declined but hiring rates have remained stubbornly low.
    The fear has to be that hiring might not return to its former levels and might be weaker than in the 1980s. A perception is emerging that America’s wheels of economic adjustment are not turning as rapidly as normal.
    Like Europe in the 1980s, the US unemployed are finding themselves out of work for increasingly long periods. Four in 10 have been unemployed for more than six months and many more have quit the labour market entirely, with the participation rate at its lowest level since 1985. The long-term unemployed, becoming less and less likely to land a job, are thus also less likely to act as a restraint on the working population in seeking inflationary wage increases. That raises the possibility that the sustainable growth rate of the entire US economy could fall.
    The failings of flexibility
    Macroeconomics has learnt the art of eating humble pie. Since the onset of the financial crisis, long-cherished predictions, theories and rules of thumb about the way whole economies work have fallen by the wayside. Is it now the turn of microeconomists to taste some of the same medicine when it comes to the labour market?
    For years, it has been the settled view in economics that, in most cases, flexible labour markets are best. More jobs might be lost in a downturn, but this cost was far outweighed by the benefits of flexible pay and the ease of reallocating jobs from dying industries to dynamic ones. No body was more closely aligned with such recommendations than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based club of developed nations.
    But now the OECD is modifying its view. “We have been promoting flexibility, not for the sake of it, but for economic performance and for workers to get into new jobs,” says Stefano Scarpetta, the OECD’s head of employment analysis.
    This motivation is allowing a change of view. “Judging from the outcomes so far, short-time working schemes seem to have been rather successful in containing the job haemorrhage,”
    he says, adding that even his organisation is “a little bit more positive on public works programmes: we argue that as part of a labour market approach, they might be worthwhile”.
    While this is not a wholesale repudiation of the OECD’s former views, it reflects the fact that, according to the organisation’s own analysis, the gains in employment flexibility of recent years have failed to protect employees from the economic crisis. “There do not appear to be any clear grounds for concluding that workers, generally, are any better or worse prepared to weather a period of weak labour markets than was the case for the past several recessions,” the OECD concluded in its latest Employment Outlook.
    Some top economists argue that the theory of superiority of flexible labour markets applies only at full employment. It will not work well when there has been a large shock to demand, output is well below potential and jobs are effectively rationed. In these circumstances, German-style institutions that cushion and spread the pain are probably superior.
    For professor Richard Freeman of Harvard University, the problem is simpler. Microeconomists and policymakers spent much too much time fiddling with the work incentives of poor people. “If the unemployed person or the welfare mother ... doesn’t do quite as much work as we would like them to do, or as they should, that’s a very small cost to society; when a big banker takes excessive risks, it can bring the whole system to a disaster ... so we took the eyes off the ball of the really risky part of capitalism.”

  2. Unemployment: The hidden pain in the statistics, by Clinton Manning, Mirror.co.uk
    U.K. - Any fall in unemployment is good news. The government deserves credit. The dole queues would be longer if it hadn't invested in initiatives such as the car scrappage scheme.
    But there's more pain in the pipeline as VAT and stamp duty cuts come to an end.
    The figures also mask harsh truths. Worst is the big shift from fulltime, well-paid, skilled jobs to low-paid, semiskilled, part-time work.
    More than a million people who want fulltime jobs are making do with short-time working.
    It is grim too for young people, even the well qualified, trying to find employment. Many are continuing their education or training and don't appear in the figures. And if there are no jobs when they finish, unemployment will leap again.

  3. UK ad jobs take worst hit since 1991 - Jobs at ad agencies down more in 2009 than in any year since 1990s recession, industry survey finds, by Mark Sweney, The Manchester Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    The UK ad industry last year suffered its largest drop in employees since the depths of the early 1990s recession, including a 23% fall in the number of under 25-year-olds it employs.
    The figures come from the IPA's annual UK employment census, which also finds that the industry remains overwhelmingly white and that its senior positions continue to be dominated by men.
    The year-on-year fall in UK ad agency employees is given as 7.4%, down some 1,500 to 18,635.
    The IPA, which has 264 member agencies accounting for more than 80% of the UK's advertising business, said that this was the biggest drop in employee numbers since 1991, when the industry lost 1,800 staff.
    Employment numbers in the industry have decreased only three times since then: in 1993, by 900; in 2003, after the dotcom crash, by 164; and in 2007, by 100.
    It was a particularly harsh year for those aspiring to get into the advertising industry, according to the IPA's figures. Only 242 trainees entered the industry, some 1.3% of all UK employees. In 2008, those figures were 785 and 3.9%.
    The total number of employees aged under 25 fell by 22.7% year-on-year in 2009, from 3,565 to 2,756. Overall, 45% of the UK agency staff were 30 or under while 37% were aged between 31 and 40.
    "This has been the toughest period for agencies in living memory," said Hamish Pringle, director general of the IPA.
    Just over 52% of all UK ad industry staff were male, rising to 79% at agency management level.
    Only 8.9% of UK ad industry staff came from a "non-white" background, up slightly from 8.4% in 2008 and 6.1% in 2007.
    There were 886 temps and freelancers working in IPA member agencies, a 27% year-on-year drop.
    To counter the downturn, 16% of UK ad agencies introduced short time working patterns and 18.7% allowed employees to take sabbaticals or unpaid leave.
    Despite the downturn some agencies, such as Wieden & Kennedy London and Iris, say they are still trying to push forward with their graduate recruitment schemes. Iris claims to have tripled its investment in its graduate schemes, Iris Potential for account handlers and The Bunker for those interested in the creative side of the industry.
    • To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000

1/20/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. The Big Question: What does Brown's win mean for Obama and Dems? by Sydelle Moore, The Hill's Congress blog (where lawmakers come to blog) via thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog
    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:
    Scott Brown beat Martha Coakley. What is the message for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats?
    Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
    President Obama and the Democrats have to show that they are serious about creating jobs and taming Wall Street. The absurdity is that it is easy to create jobs. They do it in Germany and the Netherlands by work-sharing. This is really simple and it doesn't cost any more than UI benefits.
    Unfortunately, Larry Summers, the head of President Obama's National Economic Council, rejected work-sharing insisting that it is not the American Way. Instead, he argued that double-digit unemployment is the American Way. President Obama cannot afford this sort of thinking from his top advisors.

    He also has to get serious about being on the side of the public rather than the Wall Street banks. The $9 billion bank tax is a start, but it is really small change. It comes to about 5 percent of their annual profits and bonuses. The Wall Street banks will undoubtedly put up a big show of fighting it, but at the end of the day, they will gladly fork it over in exchange for all the help that they got from the taxpayers.
    Without our help, these boys and girls would all be beating the streets looking for work, instead they are richer than ever, while the rest of the country is coping with double-digit unemployment. It wouldn't be this way if the Obama administration did not want it to be this way.

  2. Lessons of a Mass revolt - Though many oppose health reform, Barack Obama's rejection in Massachusetts is mainly because millions are still out of work, by Harold Evans, The Manchester Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    Read the tea leaves but read them carefully. To the mainly rightwing folk who make up the Tea Party crowds of protesters, the vote in Massachusetts is to shove the whole Obamacare health reform package into the sea – and a vote, too, against Obama himself whom they variously portray as Adolf Hitler or Joe Stalin (it depends on the weather).
    The latter conviction is a delusion. Obama personally remains admired as a good guy, even though neither he nor Bill Clinton could swing it this time. Voters can distinguish between the man and the administration. More substantively, the pundits of all shades agree today with the more radical of Tea-Party crowds, folk known as Wingnuts. Almost all declare that the failure of attorney-general Martha Coakley to hold the Senate seat from which Edward Kennedy for years campaigned for health reform means it cannot pass, indeed ought to be abandoned.
    The big assumption here is that the negative votes, particularly from the growing number of independents, were simply because of the health bill. It doesn't wash. Three sets of voters have given the thumbs down to the Obama administration's first year. Republicans recently won the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, yet in the exit polls they supported the health bill. So, too, in a special election upstate in the 23rd district of New York.
    Yes, it's true that in polls the public has become disenchanted with the bill, as they see it – only 38% for it in the latest Real Clear Politics analysis – but this wasn't a single-issue election. Of more significance, in my view, is the mood of the country, and it is becoming as sour as it was in the worst Bush years.
    With Obama, this disenchantment is not so much because of what might be. It's because of what is. And what is lies at the core of the national despair. The Obama administration has disappointed millions by its failure to get people back to work. Nearly 9 million jobs have been lost. The official unemployment rate of 10% understates the disaster because it does not reflect the short-time working, nor those out of work for a year who've given up bothering to look – that's nearly a million people.
    Where the administration has failed is in the scale of its recovery plan and in Obama's distraction by making health reform his No 1 priority. Obama basically left it to Congress to decide where the stimulus money should go. Too little went on infrastructure, too much on Congressional pork. The idea of a stimulus was decried by the Republicans as runaway spending, but they have been as wrong on this as Herbert Hoover was in 1929. History's clear lesson is that public investment is essential in a depression – and that's nearly where we are. But the concept has never been fully grasped by the electorate, and the Republicans have been able to rouse resentment at the amount of entitlement spending.
    Now Obama is in a tight spot. He ought to restimulate the economy. The Mass vote gives him no scope for that, especially since the major weakness of the health bill is that it is not convincing on its cost reduction elements. My own view is that despite its weaknesses he should go right ahead and press on with the bill. For all its deficiencies, it is a big improvement. And if he backs away from the bill on which he has lavished so much of his attention, what will he have to show? He has accomplished many minor reforms, reversing some of the cruder Bush policies, but he will be seen as weak, and that is already the damaging perception of his attitude to terrorism.
    One good thing may emerge from the Mass revolt. It may yet make the Democratic leadership pause in thinking it can do what the hell it likes to feed the party base – exempting unions from the tax on luxury health plans, and extending entitlement programmes. This administration is not as transparent as Obama promised, arrogance has seeped in. They'd do well to remember the rejoinder of the Massachusetts victor, Scott Brown. Asked on TV whether he really would vote against healthcare reform if he were to "sit in Teddy Kennedy's seat", he replied: "It's not the Kennedys' seat. It's the people's seat."

  3. German firm offers productive lessons, by Ralph Atkins, Financial Times via ft.com
    OBERURSEL, Germany - For commuters heading out north from Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital, to the villages in the nearby Taunus hills, Barth Galvanik offers a drive-by guide to productivity in the country’s industry-focused economy.
    The family-owned metal processing company grew steadily before the global financial crisis hit Germany’s economy severely in late 2008. A new logistics centre was added in 2005, staff numbers rose to over 90. Late-working bankers, motoring past its premises on an industrial estate in Oberursel, a prosperous town just beyond Frankfurt’s borders, could watch the forklift trucks working busily into the night.
    But since early 2009, Barth’s factories, galvanising and lacquering metals for car parts suppliers and other industries, have been quiet. That was the time, recalls Melanie Bremser, 26, finance director and Barth family member, “when the real hit came,” and orders tumbled.
    Production has fallen by 45 per cent during the crisis. Since February last year, Barth has been officially on “short time working,” using government subsidies to cut staff hours while restricting the impact on pay packets.
    From the start, Barth’s owners promised the company would try to live-through the crisis without laying-off permanent staff. “You feel it is like a family – the employees know the company and the company know the employees,” Ms Bremser. “We don’t know how long the crisis will last, but it is like marriage – for better or for worse.”
    As a result labour costs have risen significantly in relation to output, eating into profitability. But that is not top of the controlling family’s mind. “In our sector, you can’t run the business down overnight,” says Ms Bremser, whose relatives built company over three decades. “If your company didn’t have substance, you had to throw out the ballast and cut jobs, but I don’t think much of that.”
    “The decision making process – the speed of reaction – in the US is too fast for me. It’s too short term to react now, when it could be different tomorrow.”
    As is typical at a German Mittelstand company – the thousands of specialist, often family-owned businesses that form the country’s industrial backbone – public talk about profit levels is vague. Barth has not yet produced figures for 2009, although turnover clearly fell. Ms Bremser notes, however, that prior to the crisis the company “had built up a [financial] cushion”.
    Last month, an improvement in orders led to the company suspending the short time working scheme temporarily and Ms Bremser says “the experience since the end of November gives us reason to believe that 2010 will mark a return to normal.”
    Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

1/19/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. The Economy Is a Disaster: We Should Fix It, by Dean Baker, truthout.org
    The unemployment rate is 10 percent and almost certain to rise further in the months ahead. This is truly a disaster. If anyone questions whether 10 percent unemployment is a big deal, consider that the first stimulus to boost the economy was passed in February of 2008 when the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent. We are now looking at an unemployment rate that is more than twice the level that was high enough to prompt George W. Bush to sign a stimulus package.
    There is an incredible complacency about this unemployment rate around Washington even though all the official projections show it remaining high years into the future. For example, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the unemployment rate will not fall below 7.0 percent until well into 2012 and will not return to normal levels until 2014. Perhaps, if more of the people in policymaking positions faced unemployment they would be more concerned about the problem.
    The especially disturbing part of the story is that we do know how to get the unemployment rate down. In principle, we could create demand through another stimulus package, with the government directly or indirectly creating the demand needed to employ many of the 15 million unemployed workers. For political and superstitious reasons, a stimulus package large enough to substantially boost demand does not seem feasible.
    [Superstitious? Until the wealthy accept higher taxes, another stimulus package falls mainly on the non-wealthy and the consumer base, thereby weakening consumer demand even more and accelerating the path from recession to depression and from First World to Third World.]
    However, we can also go the route that has proven successful at keeping unemployment down in Europe: work-sharing. The concept is very simple. Instead of paying workers unemployment benefits when they are not working, we pay companies to keep workers employed, but working shorter hours at pretty much the same pay.
    In Germany, under a typical arrangement, if the workweek is cut by 20%, then the government picks up 60% of the lost pay (12% of total pay), the company picks up 20% (4% of total pay) and the worker ends up taking home 4% less than they had previously, even though they are working 20% fewer hours.
    This strategy has proven remarkably successful. In Germany, the unemployment rate has not risen at all during this downturn even though its GDP has actually fallen more than in the United States. In the Netherlands, which also has had a larger fall in output than the United States, the unemployment rate is below 4.0 percent.
    Work-sharing is not just a foreign concept. Seventeen states have work-sharing programs tied to their unemployment insurance system that have saved a total of more than 300,000 jobs. There are bills before Congress (introduced by Jack Reed in the Senate and Rosa DeLauro in the House) that would provide funding to expand work-sharing in the states that already have it and to provide start-up money in the 33 states that do not.
    This legislation could make a substantial dent in the unemployment rate, but it is possible to go further. Rep. John Conyers has proposed a bill that would provide a tax credit to employers that reduced their workers' hours while keeping their pay unchanged. The credit would cover up to 10% of annual compensation or $3,000. This credit could be used to pay for any form of reduction in hours, including family-friendly policies such as paid family leave, paid sick days or paid vacations, in addition to shorter workweeks.
    A Conyers-type tax credit could also be targeted to disproportionately benefit hard-hit areas like Cleveland. Instead of being limited to 10% of work-time and $3,000, in areas of especially high unemployment the credit can be allowed to cover 20% of work-time and $6,000 of compensation. The rates could even be set higher in order to provide a larger boost to employment.
    Polls show that the public is angry at the country's leaders. They have every right to be. The policies put in place have made the Wall Street banks more profitable than ever at a time when the unemployment rate is 10% and we are seeing close to two million foreclosures a year.
    The refrain that we should be thankful we didn't have a second Great Depression doesn't cut it. The only reason that anyone is even talking about the Great Depression is because of the ineptitude of our economic policymakers and the greed of the Wall Street banks.
    We know how to fix the problem. Instead of double-digit unemployment, we could be enjoying shorter workweeks and longer vacations. We just need a Congress that cares as much about ordinary workers as it does about the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street.
    Dean Baker is the Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. CEPR's Jobs Byte is published each month upon release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment report.

  2. Unionists from Cartel Alfa to go on strike, Financiarul.ro
    ROMANIA - The federation of trade unions know as CNS Cartel Alfa will organise a protest rally in front of the Ministry of Finance, to ask for the Emergency Ordinance on the short-time work scheme be prolonged, said Bogdan Iuliu Hossu, chief of Cartel Alfa.
    The unionists argued that, on February 1, 2010, the Emergency Ordinance on keeping employees at job under a short-time work schemes will expire, which means ‘more than 200,000 employees will be laid off, with even higher pressures to be felt on the social security budget, says Hossu.
    The employers have also joined the trade unions, the President of the Employers’ Federation in the Chemical and Petrochemical Field Ioan Cezar Coraci arguing that, if the bill is not be extended, the employers will for sure be forced to send people home.
    We want to keep our employees by maintaining the short-time work schedule, which means, more precisely, wages being [maintained] by the three partners together: the state, the employee and the employer. Otherwise, we will lose the qualified labour supply, while the risk will increase more and more units to go bankrupt,’ said Coraci.

  3. Press review (Jan 19), Financiarul.ro
    ROMANIA - The Romanian dailies on Tuesday carry reports on the rise in the number of newly-set up companies in the agricultural sector, the banking analysts’ confidence that Romania could see an upgrading of the its credit ratings this year and redundancies planned to be made this year.
    President of the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) Crin Antonescu commented Liberal Radu Stroe’s win of a seat in the Deputies’ Chamber in Sunday’s Bucharest constituency election by saying that President Traian Basescu and the ruling Democratic Liberal Party have lost the capital city, Jurnalul National reports. Stroe polled 70.17 percent of the votes in Sunday’s by-election, while Democratic Liberal contestant Honorius Prigoana got 29.83 percent of the votes.
    One in ten companies set up last year targeted the agricultural sector, Ziarul financiar announces. The farming sector was the only one to post growth during a year of downturn, besides the energy sector – where the number of newly-set up firms advanced 3 percent – due to the fact that Romania has available 8 billion euros by 2013 in European Union money for rural development; such money can be drawn in by companies alone. Actually, this was a 140 percent rise on 2008, the daily comments.
    Romania, on 1.5 billion euros, will build three times less kilometres of mountain motorway than other countries. The average 25.8 million euros for a kilometre of motorway, as resulted from the contract signed yesterday for the construction of the Comarnic-Brasov stretch, is the EU’s biggest, Adevarul says. The government will pay for the 55-km stretch of the motorway linking Comarnic to Brasov (central Romania) some 4.7 billion euros by the end of the contract only after the construction works are completed, i.e. in four years, the daily adds.
    In other words, French-Greek consortium Vinci-Aktor will get no money from the government until the first car runs on the motorway, in 2015, the Bucharest-based papers point out. Romania is not yet ready to take advantage of the start of the positive global developments, so that it stands all chances to miss being part of such a trend, X-Trade Brokers analysts argue.
    They say the drop in the public expenditure by personnel cuts, if not accompanied by moves meant to stimulate and support the business climate, does nothing but contribute to blocking the economy. ‘The drop in the public expenditure by personnel cuts, if not accompanied by moves meant to stimulate and support the business climate and certain industries that have a strategic potential for development, will contribute to blocking the economy and by no means to emerging from the crisis’, Curierul National quotes Victor Safta, director of X-Trade Brokers Romanian branch, as saying.
    Nevertheless, the banking analysts are confident there will be an upgrading of the credit ratings somewhere in two years, according to Financiarul. Raiffeisen Bank chief economist Ionut Dumitru believes Romania deserves at least the rating upgrading. Once the domestic political crisis has been settled and the agreement with the IMF and the EU observed, such an upgrading of the outlook at least would be justified, Dumitru argued.
    The Romanians based outside the country can send money directly home by the accounts opened by CEC Bank, that operates the service in partnership with specialised firm Transfer Rapid, Ziarul financiar announces, adding CEC Bank operates a 1,350-unit network across Romania.
    Cartel Alfa union confederation leaders demand that the short-time working should be extended in order to curb the effects of the inevitable: another 200,000 axed jobs from February 1. A Eurostat study made public on Monday confirms the difficult situation in Romania, which is ranked second in the European Union by the poverty risk, Romania libera reports.
    ‘The number of 200,000 redundancies results from the announcements made by the employers in all fields. The jobless may come from the chemical industry, textile and leather industry, engineering and other downturn-hit sectors. There are companies that have barely survived up until now, by combining short-time working with various other forms of survival in 2009. The employers told us that if the short-time working is not extended, the only way they could solve the problem is to make redundancies’, Cartel Alfa union leader Bogdan Hossu told Jurnalul National.
    The deuterium depleted water or the so-called ‘live water’ made in Ramnicu Valcea (central Romania) by the white collars of the National Research Institute for Cryogenic and Isotopic Technologies is something the people call downright ‘miraculous’, Gandul says in an item on the remarkable curing properties of this Romanian invention. A physician doctor based in the western Timisoara city uses the water to treat cancer patients, seeking to double their life expectancy. The water is shipped mostly to Hungary, Germany, Japan, the United States and Turkey, the daily reports.

  4. (ECB) The euro area macroeconomic situation: Where do we stand, where are we going, ForexHound.com
    Keynote address by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB, At the New Year’s Reception 2010 organised by Industrie- und Handelskammer, Frankfurt am Main, 18 January 2010
    Ich freue mich sehr, am Beginn des neuen Jahres bei Ihnen zu sein und die Gelegenheit zu haben, mit Ihnen über die ökonomische Situation im Euro-Raum und den Ausblick für 2010 zu diskutieren.
    I would like to stop here with my very poor German and switch to English, which is, after all, the language of business. And Frankfurt is a city of business, so much so that even parking tickets are written in the two languages. This is the excuse I give for not having improved my German over the last four years: English is so widespread.
    I guess that at the beginning of any New Year we are all quite interested in looking ahead, but especially after such a horrendous year as 2009. As business people, you know well how severely affected the euro area economy was, in terms of the speed and depth of the fall in economic activity. By the middle of 2009, euro area real GDP was more than 5% below its peak at the beginning of 2008, wiping out much of the growth witnessed between 2005 and 2007. Euro area industrial production excluding construction fell by more than 18%, while export volumes came down by more than 17%.
    The euro area was not alone – indeed, this stark decline in economic activity took place amid a global slowdown unprecedented in recent times. But with its high degree of openness, the euro area economy was hit particularly hard by weak external demand.
    The extreme financial tensions triggered a strong response from governments and central banks, without which the downturn would have been even more dramatic. On the monetary policy side, the ECB reacted swiftly to ensure that liquidity risk did not become solvency risk and lead to a major systemic financial crisis. Fiscal policies also significantly helped to contain the growth fallout in the euro area.
    Against this background, where do we stand now? The latest available information suggests that euro area quarterly real GDP growth turned positive in the third quarter of last year. Information for the last quarter of 2009 is still incomplete, but survey indicators suggest that real GDP growth remained positive. The euro area benefited from a steady recovery in global demand throughout 2009, driven in part by the monetary and fiscal policy stimuli in most of the world’s regions since the beginning of the recession, as well as by modest improvements in confidence. Activity has also been boosted by a reversal of the inventory cycle. But growth remains sluggish, reflecting the ongoing balance sheet adjustments in the euro area and elsewhere. This process has not only affected the financial sector, but also households, which have cut back consumption and increased their savings, and firms, which have restrained their investment spending.
    The key question now concerns the economic recovery, its strength and fragilities.
    Let me start with a comment of a general nature. I have the impression that many people, whether in the business sector, the financial markets, or in academic and political circles, think that the post-crisis world will be quite similar to the pre-crisis one in 2006-2007. In other words, they expect the economic recovery to bring us back to where we were before the crisis.
    My feeling is that those who think like that are deluding themselves. The pre-crisis situation was not in equilibrium. It was not sustainable. The crisis occurred precisely because the situation was unsustainable, both within certain countries and globally.
    If the world economy were to return to the pre-crisis situation, within a short time span a new crisis would be likely to occur because the same imbalances that led to the crisis would build up again. Considering some recent developments and behaviour, and considering the way certain policies are being discussed and the thinking of some key players, such a scenario does not seem that unlikely.
    I think that it would be a big mistake to regard the recession we experienced in 2008 and 2009 as just a somewhat sharper cyclical downturn. There has been a major structural shift in our economies. Once the crisis is over, the world economy will look very different. This is true not only for the overall aggregates, but also for individual enterprises. The longer people take to recognise it, the more difficult it will be to recover.
    Some would say that it is useless to make forecasts under the current circumstances, given the state of uncertainty. I don’t think so. After all, economic agents – individuals, households, companies, financial institutions – have to have some idea about the future in order to take their day-to-day decisions on investment, expenditure, education, savings. This is especially the case in the aftermath of a crisis like the one we have just been through. Many of the decisions that economic agents will take over the next few months will turn out to be right or wrong depending on whether they have fully understood the implications and the opportunities of this crisis and have made a realistic assessment of how the post-crisis world could turn out. Not being forward-looking is a luxury that cannot be afforded under current circumstances. But being forward-looking is quite difficult amid the current uncertainties, even for a central bank. Indeed, all our economic models are estimated over a sample period in which imbalances were accumulated. These models may thus consider disequilibrium behaviour as ‘equilibrium’. The resulting forecast might inevitably be biased. Judgement is thus required, but also some ability to think ‘outside the box’.
    Let me come back to the economic perspectives. The pick-up in activity since mid-2009 has been supported by a rebound in global trade and a reversal of the inventory cycle. It has also been underpinned by unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimuli. Overall, the recent economic recovery has largely relied on temporary factors. Yet, it is also clear that firms and households are also coping with the longer-term challenges of restructuring and adjusting balance sheets. These elements contribute to the moderate pace of growth projected for the euro area economy this year. The latest Eurosystem staff macroeconomic projections place euro area real GDP growth between 0.1% and 1.5% – well below the annual growth rate of above 3% witnessed in 2006. As for next year, euro area activity is expected to improve further, but with the expansion remaining moderate and probably uneven.
    As the recovery unfolds, euro area activity should be supported not only by exports, but also by stronger domestic demand. Global economic growth is expected to remain below past trends. Advanced economies, in particular, are likely to experience a subdued recovery given the ongoing effects of the crisis. Indeed, it is likely that a number of factors will weigh negatively on the economic outlook, making it difficult to achieve pre-crisis growth rates. Let me briefly mention a few of these factors.
    First, before the crisis erupted, economic growth was sustained by excessive credit, which in turn reflected unsustainable domestic and international developments. We are experiencing a substantial de-leveraging of the financial system, which will have an impact on the real economy. I will come back to this issue shortly.
    Second, the dramatic drop in economic activity could have lingering effects on potential and actual output. There are several sectors of the economy where activity is unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels because of structural shifts in the composition of world demand or permanent changes in relative prices. The construction and automotive sectors are perhaps the most obvious examples.
    Third, the increase in public debt and the cost of servicing it may crowd out private spending. This risk is not apparent yet because of the fall in private investment. However, as the recovery picks up, the pressure on financing both private investment and public spending will mount.
    Fourth, the slower the recovery, the greater the impact on unemployment, which may in turn affect confidence and thus reduce spending and heighten uncertainty.
    Finally, supply shocks stemming from rises in commodity prices cannot be ruled out.
    On the domestic side, a continued need to repair balance sheets in various sectors will affect the outlook, as it did in 2009. In the near term, uncertain labour market prospects might also continue to constrain household spending. Indeed, while the recession may have ended in terms of GDP contraction, we should bear in mind that employment growth typically lags business cycle fluctuations. Moreover, there are reasons for believing that such lags may be more pronounced in the current context. Many euro area governments implemented special working time schemes – such as Germany’s *Kurzarbeit programme – as the economic crisis unfolded, in an attempt to prevent a sharp rise in unemployment and to smooth the process of adjustment. But if capacity utilisation remains at low levels, job losses may increase further as the impacts of these schemes fade.
    [Nooo, if capacity utilisation remains at low levels, it will be necessary to make Kurzarbeit permanent by switching funding from the unemployment insurance fund to a tax on overtime with an exemption for OT-targeted training&hiring.]
    The pace of private consumption will be affected by employment prospects.
    Concerning private investment, the pace of contraction is expected to slow over the year. But business investment is likely to be held back by low capacity utilisation, weak demand, high uncertainty and depressed profits.
    As I said earlier, this – or any other scenario – is surrounded by high uncertainty. There are several risk factors. I will not mention all of them. I would like to consider one which may be relevant for you, related to the financing conditions of companies.
    During the financial crisis, there was a sharp fall in bank loans to non-financial corporations, partly reflecting banks’ balance sheet difficulties, and partly the plummeting loan demand.
    It seems that some firms have replaced some of their bank financing with market-based financing, as was reflected in the strong recourse to financial markets by non-financial firms during 2009. Relatively favourable cost developments, but also the refinancing needs of corporations have contributed to this development. While generally large and high-rated firms are able to profit from favourable market conditions, the high-yield bond market segment is also benefiting.
    Let me turn now specifically to the financing conditions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the euro area. These companies typically have a strong dependence on bank financing. SMEs play an important role in the euro area corporate sector. They account for the vast majority of all non-financial businesses, for roughly 60% of gross value added and for about 70% of employment. So it is important to monitor not only the non-financial corporate sector as a whole, but also large firms and SMEs separately.
    Recent survey results [1] confirm the finding that SMEs were generally somewhat less successful than large firms when applying for bank loans in the first half of 2009. Typically, the larger and the older a firm, the more successful it was when applying for a bank loan. This is a familiar story: banks typically have greater difficulties in assessing the financial situation of SMEs, which are subject to greater information asymmetries between lenders and borrowers.
    Let me now look ahead to this year with respect to financing conditions. I will focus in particular on the recovery in bank lending, which is subject to some risks.
    Experience shows that loans to non-financial corporations recover with some lag vis-à-vis the turning point in the economic cycle. As I mentioned, the latest available information indicates that the economic recession in the euro area ended in the third quarter of 2009. Therefore, it can be expected that corporate loan growth will continue to decelerate in the first few months of this year. However, the uncertainty surrounding the outlook for loan growth is exceptionally high, related to the depth of the current economic cycle.
    One factor that contributes to the uncertainty of the loan recovery is the interplay between the supply and demand of loans. While subdued bank lending has so far mainly reflected the weak state of the real economy, credit supply restrictions may become more binding when loan demand by enterprises picks up as the economy recovers. At the same time, however, there are signs that banks are starting to ease their credit conditions and that efforts to support the financial system are bearing fruit.
    The recovery in both loan demand and credit supply in 2010 depends to a considerable extent on further improvements in the corporate sector as well as in the banking sector.
    The banking sector plays an essential part in any economic recovery. When the demand for credit based on enhanced investment perspectives rises again, the banking system will have to be able to accommodate it. The traditional role of banks is to grant credit to projects which promise a return on their money. This is vital if SMEs are to realise their investment plans and finance their working capital.
    This raises at least a couple of questions, from a policy perspective. First, how can banks be made sound enough to extend credit as soon as the real economy picks up and investment demand increases? Second, how can the environment for private companies, in particular SMEs, be improved so that they can boost investment and start growing again?
    Let me briefly answer the two questions.
    Let me start with the banking system. Large and complex banking groups have recently benefited from higher trading income, associated largely with the low level of interest rates. At the same time, however, banks’ profitability remains fragile. The expected losses on loan exposures to households and corporations are likely to increase, as a lagged effect of last year’s recession. Furthermore, the short-term profits obtained through trading activities hide risks which may materialise over the medium term and weaken banks’ profits over time. This second factor appears to be widely underestimated, as banks seem to be conducting carry trades – including those in the same currency which exploit maturity mismatches, i.e. borrowing short-term to buy long-term bonds – on the assumption that such activities are risk-free. Experience shows instead that the short-term gains of such trades may be eroded by capital losses at a later stage, resulting from changes in short-term financing conditions and in the underlying value of the asset. Each bank may think that it can unwind its trades before its competitors and avoid capital losses. But not all banks will be able to do that at the same time. There is thus a risk that, in addition to the losses resulting from non-performing loans, banks may suffer capital losses on their trading activities that further hinder their willingness and ability to provide loans, adding to the generally high uncertainty about the economic recovery.
    Banks thus need to recapitalise and restructure so as to prepare themselves to meet the stronger demand for credit, when the latter materialises. Banks should use the substantial profits they obtained in 2009, in particular through trading activities, to strengthen their capital position rather than to remunerate their shareholders and their managers. This policy is not only preferable over the medium term; it is also more ethical. Indeed, it does not appear appropriate under the current circumstances that banks use the profits stemming from the direct or indirect support of public policies, be they fiscal or monetary, for remuneration purposes.
    This applies not only to those banks that have received direct public support, but also to those that did not. In fact, without the support for some of the weaker banks, those that claimed to be stronger would have succumbed as well. Furthermore, these banks are benefiting from very easy liquidity conditions, which have allowed them to be profitable. To sum up, even for the banks that look healthier, their profits are the result of public interventions and should thus be used to bolster their capital position rather than for remuneration purposes.
    There is still a lot of work to be done, in several countries, including in the euro area, to ensure that banks are sufficiently equipped to support the real economy as it recovers. This work is urgent and cannot be delayed in the expectation that other policies will bear the burden. The experience of the past, particularly the case of Japan in the 1990s, has shown the dangers of underestimating the problem.
    This brings me to the second question. Monetary and fiscal policies have successfully averted a collapse in economic activity. This success may now create the illusion that monetary and fiscal policies will be able by themselves to restore economic activity to its pre-crisis level. Why is it an illusion?
    As I said earlier, the pre-crisis situation was not in equilibrium, in particular because of the excessive level of private indebtedness. If monetary and fiscal policies aimed at re-establishing that situation, especially by replacing private debt with public debt, they would themselves become unsustainable. It is already widely expected that most advanced countries will come out of the crisis with higher public debt, and with higher payments to be made on that debt through higher public revenues. The sustainability of the debt depends on the ability of governments to withdraw their very expansionary fiscal policies in a timely way.
    The only way to get the economy back on a path of sustainable growth is to improve the growth potential of the economy through profound structural reforms. There are still huge inefficiencies in our economies, largely due to restrictions, barriers to entry, monopolistic rents and other factors. This affects all sectors in all euro area countries.
    The objective of structural reforms is to make markets function better, in particular the labour as well as the goods and services markets. Greater competition has to be achieved in many sectors. This would create job opportunities and reduce prices, thereby increasing the purchasing power of consumers.
    Let me give you an example of the positive effects of better functioning markets, taken from the experience we have had in planning the new premises of the ECB, here in Frankfurt.
    When we launched the tender procedure, we initially opted for a general contractor to build the new premises in the area of the Frankfurter Großmarkthalle. But there was little competition and few truly competitive bids as not many large firms were able to take on such a large-scale project on their own. We then split the original tender into 12 distinct sub-tenders, with smaller lots; this encouraged competition as it allowed many SMEs to participate in the tender and it led to considerably lower bids for the construction work, which is, overall, within the agreed budget. We will now proceed with the construction, which is expected to be finalised by mid-2014.
    The lesson from this episode is not new but it is a reassuring one. Although the changes in the economic environment have certainly contributed to reducing the costs, competition has been beneficial, not only for the ECB but also for the contractors. A construction project which was not possible under the previous tender model can now be realised.
    This is obviously only one example, but we should ask ourselves: how many times do we as individuals decide to postpone projects because they are too costly? I am sure we can spend a whole evening talking about how difficult it is to get certain services, and how expensive they are just because of market rigidities and a lack of competition.
    This example reminds us that without major structural reforms, in all euro area countries, growth potential cannot be achieved and the recovery is likely to be subdued. As in the past, there is a risk that growth will only rely on exports, while domestic demand remains sluggish. The euro area economy cannot grow in a sustainable way only on the basis of exports. Employment and productivity have to start rising again if purchasing power is to increase and thus support private consumption and investment.
    The reforms needed vary from country to country, because both the problems and the rigidities differ. But all countries need to work hard to remove the numerous obstacles to growth, starting with the labour and product markets. Ultimately, this effort should be stepped up also at European level, with a view to implementing a true internal market. The most serious repercussion of this crisis would be that the integration of Europe’s economies moves into reverse and that protectionism within the Union stages a comeback.
    Let me conclude.
    The prospects for economic recovery are fraught with considerable uncertainty. However, this should not be an excuse for inaction, either for policy-makers or for companies. After all, this is not the first time that we have been through very uncertain times. When we look back, can we really say that our countries – whether in Europe or even the US – have never experienced comparable levels of uncertainty? Consider 1947-48, with the post-war recession and the start of the cold war. Can we say that in those days the uncertainty was any less than it is today? Or even in 1974, immediately after the first oil shock, people here in Germany, for instance, were not allowed to drive their cars on four successive Sundays. Nobody knew exactly how long the world’s oil reserves would last. Was the world less uncertain than it is today?
    It’s difficult to answer, but I guess there have been cases of high uncertainty also in the past. And people coped and ultimately the economy recovered.
    Of course, the world is more complex today than it was forty or sixty years ago. Our societies are older, wealthier. As a result, the reaction might be slower. I think that what is most important is not to fool ourselves into thinking that problems can be overcome by repeatedly postponing them, by borrowing indefinitely from future generations. Our economies will face serious challenges in the coming years, not least because, as I mentioned, the post-crisis world will be different from the pre-crisis one. Facing up to those challenges calls for action not only from policy-makers but all economic agents – companies, unions, financial institutions, households. Immobility is the biggest danger ahead.
    I hope that over the last couple of years the ECB has shown that it can act quickly and effectively. But it cannot solve all problems. All those who play a part in economic life have to take action, they have to reform our economies so as to restore prosperity.

1/17-18/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. What are legislators' priorities? by Chad Livengood, 1/17 News-Leader.com
    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Here's a look at the goals and legislation lawmakers representing Greene, Christian, Webster, Stone and Taney counties are working on this year.
    Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield
    Entering his second year in office, Rep. Eric Burlison is proposing increasing the length of concealed weapon permit certifications from three years to five.
    Burlison, who has a concealed weapon permit, said the current law requiring a renewal every three years is burdensome on gun owners.
    The law requires a background check be performed by local sheriff's office every three years.
    Each check costs the permit holder about $100.
    "To have to do this every three years is a lot of money for some people and a lot of work," Burlison said.
    Sen. Norma Champion, R-Springfield
    Entering her final year in the legislature, Sen. Norma Champion has introduced legislation that would prevent companies selling Medicare insurance products from cold-calling seniors at home.
    The legislation, Senate Bill 583, would mirror current federal statutes that bar companies from making unsolicited sales calls for Medicare Advantage and parts A-D supplemental coverage, Champion said.
    Under the legislation, seniors would have to contact the companies themselves, Champion said.
    Champion said adopting a state law to match an existing federal statute would give the law more enforcement power in the state.
    Her bill also would require long-term care insurance companies to issue refunds to customers who paid in advance for the coverage but want to drop it.
    Sen. Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield
    Sen. Dan Clemens, a farmer from Marshfield, is entering his eighth and final year in the Senate.
    He is barred from running for re-election because of voter-imposed term limits.
    As of Friday, Clemens had not filed any legislation for the current session.
    But as chairman of the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee, Clemens will be working to get a resolution passed rejecting a State Tax Commission plan to increase the taxable value of the most productive farm land and lower the value and taxes on less productive ground.
    Rep. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville
    Last year, Rep. Mike Cunningham sponsored legislation designating Dec. 25 of each year to be known as Christmas and require state agencies, universities and public schools to use the traditional names of holidays.
    The bill passed out of the House 140-16, but died in the Senate after a Democratic member threatened to filibuster the legislation. But that hasn't stopped Cunningham from re-introducing the legislation this year.
    Cunningham also is bringing back a proposed constitutional amendment he sponsored last year that would give citizens the right to a secret ballot when voting on public officeholders and whether to join a labor union.
    The resolution is in direct response to efforts in Congress to make it easier to form a union by eliminating laws requiring a secret ballot vote to unionize.
    Rep. Charlie Denison, R-Springfield
    The recent attempt by the agency that manages health insurance for state workers to switch southwest Missouri workers over to CoxHealth's network has prompted legislation from Rep. Charlie Denison.
    He proposes changing the makeup for Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan Board of Trustees to give southwest Missouri workers a guaranteed voice.
    Under protest from state workers, Missouri Consolidated's board allowed members to remain with the St. John's health system for at least one more year.
    Denison's legislation, House Bill 1435, would increase the board size from 13 to 16 and require the governor to appoint nine members, one from each congressional district.
    As it stands, the governor appoints six members of the board and there's no requirement that they be from any particular region of the state. The board currently has nobody from southwest Missouri, Denison said.
    Rep. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield
    Running for Champion's Senate seat this year, Rep. Bob Dixon has his eyes set on bigger ticket items, like protecting education funding and tackling the state's insolvent unemployment insurance fund.
    Since last February, the state has borrowed $495.8 million from the federal government to keep paying benefits to jobless Missourians.
    "We have to find a way to make that fund solvent," said Dixon, who offered no solutions.
    Despite massive budget shortfalls, Dixon said he would work to get more operational funding for Ozarks Technical Community College, which has been historically underfunded on a per-student basis compared to peer institutions.
    "It isn't right that because a college that is located in St. Louis, that they get twice as much of an appropriation as OTC gets," Dixon said.
    Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield
    Rep. Sara Lampe has introduced a bill to rename a section of West Bypass after Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. The renaming is in response to the Springfield Unit of the National Socialist Movement adopting that section of roadway for litter clean-up.
    The section of road -- from Mount Vernon Street to one mile south of Sunshine Street -- would be called the "Simon Wiesenthal Memorial Highway."
    Last year, Lampe got the roadway renamed after Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, but the daughter of the late Jewish scholar and Civil Rights leader objected to having a road adopted by neo-Nazis bearing her father's name.
    Because of the daughter's objections, a sign was never erected on West Bypass in Heschel's honor.
    Lampe's bill, which has 76 House co-sponsors, would eliminate Heschel's name in statute and replace it with Wiesenthal's name.
    Rep. Charlie Norr, D-Springfield
    In 2009, 44,190 workers in the state received partial unemployment insurance for being laid off one or two days a week, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
    But jobless benefits through the Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program expire after 26 weeks.
    Rep. Charlie Norr has introduced a bill that would double the number of weeks a worker could be in the Shared Work program to 52 weeks.
    Norr said the program allows companies to avoid entire layoffs of employees during periods when work and money is scarce. At the same time, employees can stay partially employed, while drawing unemployment benefits for being laid off 20 to 40 percent of the work week.

    "It's not such a hardship for everybody," Norr said.
    Rep. Shane Schoeller, R-Willard
    This will be the third year that Rep. Shane Schoeller will pursue new laws regulating the Department of Social Service's Children's Division stemming from child abuse oversight issues that surfaced in a Springfield toddler's 2005 death.
    Schoeller plans to re-file the bill this year proposing a series of reforms reacting to failures by DSS to respond to allegations of abuse before 18-month-old Gavin Jordan died in 2005 at the hands of his mother's boyfriend.
    Schoeller's legislation got stalled last year after concerns were raised by fellow Republicans that parents don't know their rights when a DSS social worker shows up at their door.
    Schoeller said he intends to add a provision to his bill that would require DSS workers to inform parents of their rights -- either orally or in writing -- at the time of a visit to investigate child abuse allegations.
    "Like a search warrant, you don't want to empower government so much that they're able to walk in without any type of limitation," Schoeller said.
    Rep. Jim Viebrock, R-Republic
    It would be a crime to not return rental equipment under a bill Rep. Jim Viebrock has filed.
    Viebrock is proposing making it a class A misdemeanor to steal leased property valued between $100 and $1,000. Failure to return rental equipment exceeding $1,000 in value would be a class D felony under Viebrock's bill.
    Rental company owners would be able to seek charges if a renter gives a fictitious name or identification or fails to return the property within seven days of receiving written demands via certified mail.
    "It is a very serious problem in southwest Missouri," Viebrock said.
    Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa
    Rep. Jay Wasson serves on the House Budget Committee, where lawmakers are required by the state constitution to write a balanced budget. He thinks Congress should live within its means as well.
    Wasson, who is running for the Senate's 20th District seat this year, intends to file a non-binding resolution calling on Congress to pass a balanced budget.
    Wasson said its important for the General Assembly to send a message to Congress about runaway spending on behalf of all their constituents.
    "My personal feeling is that 80 percent of what we find wrong with the federal government is that they don't have to balance a budget like we have to," he said.
    Rep. Ray Weter, R-Nixa
    Taney County would get its own circuit court judge under a bill filed by Rep. Ray Weter, who represents eastern Christian County and part of northern Taney County.
    Weter's legislation would remove Taney County from the 38th Judicial Circuit Court it shares with Christian County and create a new 46th Judicial court for Taney County.
    Judge Mark Orr currently handles Circuit Court cases for both growing counties.
    "Currently, with one judge trying to take care of the cases in both counties, there is such a backlog that people who need to go to trial are forced to exist in a limbo because their trial is delayed," Weter said.
    Weter got the bill attached last year to a larger omnibus bill last year, which passed out of the House but died in the Senate.

  2. Grim job loss outlook set to continue, by Dan Atkinson, 1/17 ThisIsMoney.co.uk
    Unemployment is continuing to rise, despite widespread wage cuts and short-time working, figures are expected to show on Wednesday.
    [Maybe unemployment is still rising because the only parliament in the United Kingdom that has implemented a government-backed short-time working program is *Wales - England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man are without.]
    While flexibility by bosses and workers has helped keep people in jobs, the medium-term outlook is parlous, analysts say.
    Not only will spending cuts from next year cut into public sector pay, but the fact that firms have kept staff on their books will limit the extent to which they will start hiring once the recovery takes off.
    In November, the 'claimant count', the traditional measure of unemployment, fell by 6,300 to 1.63m.
    But the Government's preferred joblessness measure, the Labour Force Survey (LFS), continued to climb, from 2.47m in the three months to the end of July to 2.5m in the three months to the end of October.
    Another increase is expected in Wednesday's figures and some believe the claimant count for December could also rise.
    Peter Dixon strategist at Commerzbank, said: 'The LFS measure has some way up still to go, from the current 7.9% of the labour market to 9%.'

  3. BMW, Daimler, E.ON, Lufthansa, Metro: German Equity Preview, by Andreas Cremer, 1/18 Bloomberg.com
    The following is a list of companies whose shares may have unusual price changes in Germany. Stock symbols are in parentheses, and share prices are from the previous close.
    The benchmark DAX Index fell 1.9 percent to 5,875.97 on Jan. 15. Futures on the measure expiring in March lost 1.9 percent to 5,877 in Frankfurt.
    Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW GY): The world’s largest maker of luxury cars will end short-time working at its plant in Dingolfing, Germany, on Jan. 29, Bild Zeitung reported, without saying where it got the information. The shares fell 0.8 percent to 31.63 euros.
    Daimler AG (DAI GY): The world’s second-largest maker of luxury vehicles denied a report it broke off negotiations with BMW about cooperation, saying it was still in talks. The stock fell 1.6 percent to 36.49 euros.
    Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA GY): Pilots at Europe’s second- largest airline are voting on a plan to strike over future pay raises, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said, citing the VC Cockpit pilots’ union. The shares rose 1.2 percent to 12.72 euros.
    Deutsche Post AG (DPW GY): TNT NV, Europe’s second-biggest express-delivery company, will ask a German court this week to rule on what it calls “unfair” practices by Deutsche Post, a spokeswoman said. The stock dropped 2.4 percent to 13.72 euros.
    EnBW AG (EBK GY): Germany’s four largest power suppliers E.ON AG, RWE AG, EnBW AG and Vattenfall AB may be required to hand over to the government “at least half” of the profit earned from running nuclear plants longer, Handelsblatt reported, citing German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle. The shares fell 0.3 percent to 40.48 euros.
    E.ON AG (EOAN GY): Germany’s largest utility would be able to cut the carbon dioxide emissions of its power plants by half in the next decade if rules such as a global trading system for emission permits were put in place, Chief Executive Officer Wulf Bernotat told Die Welt. The shares fell 2.6 percent to 27.86 euros.
    Germany’s four largest power suppliers E.ON AG, RWE AG, EnBW AG and Vattenfall AB may be required to hand over to the government “at least half” of the profit earned from running nuclear plants for longer, Handelsblatt reported, citing German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle.
    Hymer AG (HYM GY): The German maker of motor homes and trailers said it will continue to cut costs “vigorously” as it aims to avoid a loss this year. The stock was unchanged at 25.60 euros.
    Jenoptik AG (JEN GY): The German maker of optical equipment expects to post a profit this year and plans to lower net debt as its photovoltaic and semiconductor operations rebound, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Michael Mertin. The shares fell 3.7 percent to 4.75 euros.
    Lanxess AG (LXS GY): Germany’s biggest publicly traded specialty chemicals maker will increase spending on research and development this year and create “several hundred jobs” at a German site, Wirtschaftswoche reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Axel Heitmann. The shares fell 1.6 percent to 29.37 euros.
    Metro AG (MEO GY): Germany’s largest retailer may scrap plans to buy Karstadt department stores from insolvent competitor Arcandor AG, Wirtschaftswoche said, citing Chief Executive Officer Eckhard Cordes. The stock gained 0.2 percent to 40.37 euros.
    ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG (PSM GY): The German broadcaster may get as much as 140 million euros ($201 million) in loans from majority owners Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Permira Advisers LLP if it fails to meet credit terms with its lenders, Der Spiegel reported, without saying where it got the information. The shares rose 3 percent to 9.68 euros.
    RWE AG (RWE GY): Germany’s four largest power suppliers E.ON, RWE AG, EnBW AG and Vattenfall AB may be required to hand over to the government “at least half” of the profit earned from running nuclear plants for longer, Handelsblatt reported, citing German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle. The stock fell 0.8 percent to 68.12 euros.
    ThyssenKrupp AG (TKA GY): Germany’s largest steelmaker wants to quit civil shipbuilding and is in talks over a possible sale of the business to Abu Dhabi MAR Group, Der Spiegel reported, citing no one. The stock declined 2.1 percent to 26.66 euros.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Andreas Cremer in Berlin at acremer@bloomberg.net
    Last Updated: January 17, 2010 18:01 EST

1/16/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. A Boxing Icon, the latest World Almanac, a Handsome Plant Book,.. the Possibility of a 4-Hour Workweek.., TucsonCitizen.com
    Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson by Wil Haygood (Knopf, $27.95)...
    The World Almanac and Book of Facts (World Almanac Books, $12.99)...
    Flora Mirabilis: How Plants Have Shaped World Knowledge, Health, Wealth and Beauty by Catherine Herbert Howell with a Foreword by Peter H. Raven (National Geographic, $35)
    This handsome book is an absolute joy. You don’t have to be a plant lover to be gob smacked by the more than 200 rare and exquisite illustrations that are scattered throughout this work, in addition to a lively narrative, both documenting how plants have shaped our history.
    The text by Catherine Herbert Howell, who holds a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Virginia, and the foreword by Peter H. Raven, who served as president of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis for more than 38 years, both add just the right touch to make “Flora Mirabilis” accessible even to the most novice of plant enthusiasts.
    Individual plant profiles, each with accompanying time lines, relate the extraordinary roles played by 27 of the plants that have been most critical to world history – from rice to corn, tobacco to rubber – and the impact they had on everything from economics to politics to taste. The contents are broken down into six basic chapters: Origins, prehistory-1450, Date Palm, Wheat, Rice and Olive; Discovery, 1450-1650, Black Pepper, Sugarcane, Maize, Citrus, Tulip; Exploration, 1650-1770, Tobacco, Tea, Coffee, Peppers, Cinchona; Enlightenment, 1770-1840, Tomato, Rose, Grape, Cotton, Apple; Empire, 1840-1900, Cannabis, Rubber, Potato, Opium Poppy, Orchids; and Science, 1900 to present, Bamboo, Yam, Cacao.
    Captivating quotes by botanists, poets, and philosophers underscore the importance of each of the featured plants. Comprehensive in content, lavishly illustrated, and extremely interesting, this is nothing less than a celebration oof botanical discovery and a delight it truly is.
    The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5m Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss (Crown, $22) This book has a title that grabs readers by the scruff of the neck by claiming it really is possible to create a “luxury lifestyle design” by working less, earning more, and living anywhere you like. According to the author, he has done just that. Ferriss, a guest lecturer at Princeton and author the “The 4-Hour Week,” a New York Times Bestseller when first published in 2007, claims that you can accomplish all this and more if you have the right plan. He adds that he has the right plan and after putting it into use he went from a salary of $40,000 per year, which he earned working 80 hours per week, to making that same amount each month and toiling only four hours each work week.
    In his new and expanded edition, he explains how he accomplished that and much more by utilizing a step-by-step guide that he calls a blueprint for success. For example, he shows how to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist, and how to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent mini-retirements. The new edition includes more than 100 pages of new, cutting-edge content such as practical tips and case studies from readers who have doubled their income, along with the latest tools and tricks, as well as high-tech shortcuts, so that almost anyone can live like a diplomat or millionaire without being either.

  2. Business owners bemoan state 'hoops' - Local politicians listen to community’s concerns, by Jonathan Randles, The-Signal.com
    SANTA CLARITA, Calif. - Alan Olick, president of General Plating Company and Brite Plating Incorporated, said that over the last year he has had to cut employees and payroll to keep his businesses out of debt.
    He said he reduced his staff by about by about 60 employees — from 125 to 65. Olick said he reduced the number of hours worked to 32 hours a week and has stopped overtime.
    The payoff?
    “We worked our (tails) off last year and broke even,” Olick said.
    California State Senator George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, held a town hall meeting about government regulations and taxing of businesses at Santa Clarita City Hall on Friday morning.
    Runner announced in February he will be running for a seat on this year’s California Board of Equalization. The board oversees and collects state property and sales tax.
    “Just to get a business license the state makes you jump through a bunch of hoops,” Smyth said. “The state makes you feel like you’re a burden when you open a business.”
    Santa Clarita Councilwoman Marsha McLean, College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, William S. Hart Union High School District board member Joe Messina and Newhall County Water District board member B.J. Atkins all said taxes or government regulations have made doing business difficult.
    Olick’s metal plating company paid more than $500,000 worth of taxes last year, he said in an interview, showing an itemized list of state taxes and fees.
    Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce board member Bill Kennedy said California’s budget crisis is driving business out of the state.
    “The biggest impediment has become the budget mess,” Kennedy said. “California’s debt has become more adverse to business than any regulations.”

1/15/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Tentative deal: Pioneer Press workers trade pay cuts for layoff ban, by David Brauer, MinnPost.com/braublog
    ST. PAUL, Minn. - With the major proviso that workers have not approved anything yet, the Pioneer Press Newspaper Guild announced a tentative agreement trading pay and hours cuts for a no-layoff pledge through January 2011.
    In a memo to members (below), Guild negotiators explained that if they didn't accept management's cost-cutting demands, "25 to 26" workers would be laid off immediately. The Pioneer Press Newspaper Guild represents newsroom, advertising and circulation employees.
    The existing contract runs through July 2011, but Denver-based owner Media News Group has insisted on cuts for many months; the Guild agreed in November to renegotiate. In the memo, union leaders blame the cuts on "severe financial stress triggered both by the continuing revenue decline and by the debt incurred during the Media News purchase of the Pioneer Press" in April 2006.
    In December, Media News executives predicted a debt restructuring plan would be completed by the end of the current quarter.
    There is, of course, no guarantee this newest contract won't also be torn up, since that appears to be standard operating procedure these days. Still, a contractual no-layoff provision does give workers enhanced security; a similar provision held firm in a recent contract. At least for 12 months, management has less leverage if they want employees to agree to renegotiations.
    All told, PiPressers will see their workweek cut from 40 hours to 37.5. They must also take an unpaid one-week furlough, lose their company 401(k) match, and forgo a scheduled 3 percent wage bump. The union estimates workers will be paid 9-10 percent less for 8 percent fewer hours. Of course, this means less time for news-gathering — the paid kind anyway.
    The union did fight off other proposed cuts. Night workers did not lose extra pay, and low-seniority workers will get annual "step" raises.
    Here's the memo:
    Guild negotiators, Pioneer Press reach tentative agreement on contract modifications
    Two days of difficult negotiations between the company and Guild negotiators have resulted in a tentative agreement to modify our contract. It includes painful cuts but is coupled with job protection — a reasonable tradeoff at a time when our newspaper, like the entire industry, faces daunting financial challenges. We did our best to mitigate harm while protecting jobs.
    Nothing would change until and unless the members of our unit vote to ratify the contract provisions that we, your negotiating committee, will be recommending. We have scheduled an initial informational meeting for 3:30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 15 at the Crown Plaza Hotel. We will meet in the Kellogg Room on the first floor. We plan to schedule a vote on Friday, Jan. 22; additional details will follow. Your negotiating committee members will be available to discuss these issues any time before the vote.
    The company held firm to a demand that we meet their needs for financial relief. They eventually agreed to our demand that any cuts be tied to a no-layoff agreement. The Guild’s analysis of the newspaper’s financial records showed severe financial stress triggered both by the continuing revenue decline and by the debt incurred during the Media News purchase of the Pioneer Press. We were told to expect 25 or 26 immediate layoffs if no agreement was reached.
    We tried, as much as possible, to make the cuts equitable, and not to impact one group of workers more than another. We sought, and believe we succeeded, to trade time off for pay, rather than merely taking a direct pay cut. In that vein we succeeded in preserving the hourly wage rate, night differential, step increases and merit pay, but we lost the company’s 401k contribution, which does disproportionately affect some of us more than others.
    Here are the provisions of the tentative agreement:
    JOB SECURITY — The company will not lay off any Guild members through the last payroll period before Feb. 1, 2011.
    SHORTER WEEK — The agreement provides for a 37.5-hour work week. That means Guild members lose 2.5 hours of pay per week, or about 6.25 percent per year. If you work more than 37.5 hours, you would be paid straight time up to 40 hours, and then overtime would kick in. Our 40-hour week would “snap back” at the end of the last payroll period before Feb. 1, 2011, the same time that layoff protection ends.
    ONE FURLOUGH WEEK — Guild members must take one unpaid week between July 1 to Dec. 31 of this year, under the same terms as last year’s furlough.
    FROZEN 401K CONTRIBUTION — The company’s match to our 401k contributions, now pegged at up to 3 percent, would end if this agreement is approved. That means employees can continue to save in the Media News 401k plan, but the company will not provide any match.
    NO PAY HIKE — A 3 percent across-the-board pay increase, negotiated to take effect in July as part of our current contract, is lost.
    NOVEMBER UPDATE — We agree to meet again with the company in November, without committing to any further changes in the contract.
    The shortened work week amounts to a 6.25 percent pay cut, but we do get the time (albeit in small increments) in return. The furlough translates roughly to a 2 percent cut, also a trade of money for time. The pay hike that we will not be getting is 1.5 percent over half a year (3 percent over the full year.) Adding it up, we will be taking home 9-10 percent less this year than called for in the contract. But it’s also true that we will be working 8 percent fewer hours.
    Once we realized that significant financial reductions were unavoidable, our goal was to protect the integrity of the newspaper by preventing further job losses. In short, we opted to take less money in order to protect jobs and the newspaper. We realize it is a difficult choice but we think, on balance, it is the best — or the least bad — option.
    Gayle Grundtner
    Sandy Kelch
    Meggen Lindsay
    Jim Ragsdale
    Greg Sundeen

  2. Anger as Bosch cuts 900 Welsh jobs - Unions and MPs protest at German firm's plan to shut factory at Miskin in 2011, by David Prosser, Independent.co.uk
    WALES, U.K. - Welsh politicians and trade union officials yesterday vowed to fight on to secure the best possible deal for 900 workers at Bosch's plant in Miskin, near Cardiff, amid anger over the German company's plans to close the factory.
    Unite, the trade union that represents most of the workers at the factory, which makes alternators for the automotive sector, complained that Bosch had decided to shut the factory next year despite having been in detailed discussions with its representatives for four months over alternatives to closure.
    "The workers are devastated that the closure of Bosch's Cardiff site has been recommended to the board," said Unite's regional officer David Lewis. "The company has not supported our proposals – this is a terrible blow to 900 workers and their families."
    The union, which will hold a mass meeting of employees at Miskin today, is particularly disappointed that Bosch intends to transfer all of the plant's work to a similar operation in Hungary, rather than retaining a limited presence in South Wales that could be expanded once the economic situation improves.
    Ieuan Wyn Jones, the deputy first minister of Wales, met with Bosch yesterday in an attempt to persuade the company to reconsider its closure of the Miskin plant, which was set up 20 years ago with the help of more than £20m of grants from the Welsh Development Agency.
    "We have regularly met with senior representatives of the company and today I met them again to press the case for keeping the plant open," Mr Jones said. "Despite our efforts, we deeply regret that Bosch has come to this decision to proceed with the option to phase out production."
    At its height, Bosch's Miskin plant employed about 1,500 workers but production had previously been scaled back as demand for its products slumped amid the worldwide downturn in the automotive sector.
    Last October, the company said it was reviewing the plant's future and promised to consult staff about its proposals. Bosch is currently predicting a 65 per cent decline in sales this year of the components the factory makes.
    Adam Willmott, the director of the plant, said Bosch had been left with little option but to shut down the factory in the face of that sort of slide in business, despite the company recognising the skilled nature of the workforce.
    Mr Willmott added: "They have come to the conclusion that they need to consolidate production in Eastern Europe to really gain the economies of scale with other divisions in the same plants and, of course, labour costs there are 65 per cent lower."
    The closure of the Miskin plant is a blow to the Welsh economy, which is particularly vulnerable to a manufacturing slowdown, but it will also unnerve other suppliers to the automotive sector throughout the UK. While Britain is now widely thought to have come out of recession during the final quarter of last year, car industry analysts are very nervous about the prospects for their sector this year as stimulus schemes come to an end.
    Many European countries, including the UK, and the US, have sought to help car manufacturers with scrappage schemes, providing incentives to those who replace their old vehicles with new models. But these schemes are now coming to an end, prompting warnings that sales will fall back sharply once these incentives are no longer available.
    Bumpy road: Wales modernises
    Bosch's decision to close its Miskin plant is another blow to Wales's manufacturing sector, which accounts for around a fifth of the Principality's economy, twice the UK average. Though Wales has made great strides in diversifying its economy since the coal and steel sectors first began to struggle 30 years or so ago, the transformation has not yet been completed.
    Welsh manufacturing was hit by a series of hefty job cuts last year, with Corus closing two plants and cutting jobs at several other works, Hoover shutting its factory in Merthyr Tydfil, and the automotive supply sector shedding many more posts throughout the south of the country.
    However, the Welsh Assembly's interventionist approach has been credited with limiting some of the damage. It has offered wage and *training subsidies for companies that have switched to short-time working, worth as much as £4,000 individually. The Assembly has also offered public money to companies moving into Wales, particularly in hi-tech sectors deemed to be less vulnerable to the economic ebb and flow.
    The Airbus plant in Broughton, North Wales has received almost £30m in such grants and subsidies, while food and healthcare are also growing industries. Siemens, for instance, transferred work from the US to Wales last year.

  3. Economists predicting jobless recovery, EurActiv.com
    Financial markets across the globe went into a tailspin following the US sub-prime mortgage crisis in early August 2007, forcing central banks to make massive cash injections to keep the system rolling and fend off a possible liquidity crisis.
    In September 2008, the crisis stormed into Europe, pushing member states to rescue banks and help the economy to recover from the worst depression in decades.
    The response to the crisis by European governments has helped dampen the impact of the recession, with a number of governments implementing short-time working schemes to contain job losses and others pumping billions of euro worth of stimulus spending into their economies.
    France and Germany technically emerged from the recession in the second quarter of 2009, followed by a number of other eurozone countries at the end of the year.
    However, unemployment is still hitting double digits in most EU countries, and business confidence is mixed at best.

    EUROPE may return to modest growth in 2010 but economists are warning that unemployment will remain high amid fears that recovery will be painfully weak.
    At a conference in Brussels yesterday (14 January), analysts forecast another tough year ahead, adding that the risk of a W-style or "double dip" recovery could not be ruled out.
    The event, hosted by the European Policy Centre (EPCexternal ), focused on growth and jobs but economists made it clear that rising GDP would be no guarantee of improved employment numbers.
    Jørgen Elmeskov, deputy chief economist at the OECDexternal , predicted "continued but very slow recovery" in the OECD area. He said the situation in Europe was less encouraging than in the US, where unemployment is close to its peak.
    However, he said there were some tentative signs that confidence had been restored to the markets, evidenced by healthier securities and corporate bonds markets, which are making it easier for larger companies to raise capital.
    World trade was also rebounding [or recrawling], driven by strong performances in the so-called 'BRIC' countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – all of which had implemented effective policies for dealing with the crisis. "In particular, the policy-induced recovery in China has been amazing and we're forecasting growth above 10%," said Elmeskov.
    He said house prices could also bottoming out in a number of countries, but added that there is a "nagging doubt" about whether property values have truly hit the bottom, warning there could be a second leg of price drops.
    Payback time as recession ends
    Shaky financial institutions and burgeoning government debt stand out as major threats to recovery, according to economists. Governments must walk a fiscal tightrope in trying to cut spending as this can have spill-over effects in the real economy – discouraging consumer spending and hitting business confidence.
    Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist at the EPC, said there was "little scope for optimism" on the job creation front. Unemployment, he noted, tends to lag behind economic growth.
    He also highlighted disparities across Europe in how badly the jobs market was hit by declining GDP. Spain, he said, had seen its GDP fall in line with the EU average while its unemployment rate had soared and was headed for 20% – double the European average.
    Looking at the longer-term prospects for Europe's labour market, he said employment might not pick up if sluggish growth hovers around the 1.5% mark.
    "We are moving out of the crisis, not into recovery but stagnation. Will we ever get back to where European economies were before the crisis? It's highly doubtful. Labour markets will be affected long term," Zuleeg said.
    Demographics and the need to tackle climate change will also serve to exacerbate the problem, he added.
    EU executive sounds note of optimism
    If there was an optimist among the assembled ranks of dismal scientists, it was István Székely, director for economic studies and research at the EU executive's economics and financial affairs directorate (ECFINexternal ).
    He said the market is looking considerably more optimistic than some outside analysts, while global manufacturing is returning to where it was before the outbreak of the crisis.
    Székely compared the experiences of Japan and Finland, both of which were struck by devastating financial crises in the past. In Japan's case, a failure to reform the financial system and tackle its problems head on resulted in a "lost decade" of stagnant growth.
    Finland, on the other hand, provides cause for optimism, he said. "It came out of a serious recession and caught up. It took 15 years to return to the growth trajectory it had before its crisis but, thanks to technology-driven efficiencies and a society that embraced innovation, Finland recovered," said Székely.
    He acknowledged that the short-term prospects for job creation in Europe were nothing to write home about. Unemployment will continue to rise until 2011, he said, and even then the upturn will be slight.
    Göran Hultin, EU affairs advisor to the employment agency Manpowerexternal , said a survey of 71,000 employers in 35 countries showed improved confidence compared to this time last year.
    Employers were less likely to foresee layoffs in 2010, although he said this marked a plateau in job losses rather than growth in recruitment. "Yes there is stabilisation in the jobs market but it's very fragile, very weak," he said.
    The OECD's Jørgen Elmeskov said the levels of public debt accumulated during the financial crisis are unsustainable, but added there is a limit to how quickly this can be reversed. He said governments have to convince the bond markets that they are serious about getting back on the straight and narrow.
    "Only half of OECD countries have a plan for how to do it. They have to prove they have a plan, and they have to take action now," he said.

1/14/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Charlemagne's notebook: A federalist writes..., Economist.com/blogs
    THE other day, I wrote about the debate in EU circles about the Lisbon Strategy, which set out a decade ago to transform the union into "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment", and all by the year 2010. Now that 2010 is upon us, there is no getting away from the fact that Europe is not the most dynamic economy in the world, whether you look at growth, employment rates, or markers for innovation such as spending on research and development and education. Nor is it the most competitive in the world, judged by such markers as productivity or labour costs. I reported that some leading European politicians, including the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister who now heads the Liberal group in the European Parliament, were arguing that the big problem was the lack of sticks and carrots to make national governments embrace reforms. Last week, both men called for a new system, in which the EU could levy sanctions or "corrective measures" on countries that drifted from the path of reform.
    I suggested three problems with this theory: first, I did not think national governments would stand for it. Secondly, I worried that it might be counter-productive for Brussels to be seen "fining" reform-phobic countries like Greece, say, and handing more money to star pupils like Sweden. Finally, I suggested that the real reason that Europe is not the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world is not process. Instead, it is the fact that lots and lots of Europeans don't want to live in a dynamic and competitive economy. At least, not if it threatens their job security, long holidays and shorter working hours.
    [And why the heck would they or should they? They live in paradise now, and all this nitwit wants is for them to move to hell = job insecurity, short holidays and longer working hours. They can get all that in USA or China or anywhere else in the Third World. They don't have to create it in Europe too! Who gives a damn about these bogus goals of "dynamism" and "competitiveness" that are constantly shoved down our throats by the "suicide, you first" CEOs and idiot-savant economists with their "Free" [heh-heh] Trade Regardless religion? What matters is sustainability, not performance according to carefully cooked indices that merely allow unlimited concentration of the national income and wealth in the topmost brackets, and successive collapses in a race to the bottom, which we define as China, currently the most "dynamic" and "competitive" economy - but heading for the Mother of All Collapses, and a hellish place to live if you're outside the doin'-OK top 20% - especially down in the bottom 20% unemployed = 200,000,000 people! And an ecological disaster of air pollution, no birds, ruined rivers... Whatever happened to Chinese wisdom, to Lao Tzu? Like the Israelis, the Chinese need to really practice their own religion.]
    It took about four days for national governments to prove that they would not stand for binding targets, policed by Brussels. On January 9th, the German economy minister, Rainer Brüderle, declared: "I do not think the idea of imposing sanctions on member states for not fulfilling fixed targets is sensible." Shortly afterwards, the Spanish government said Mr Zapatero had not been suggesting sanctions, oh no, merely thinking of ways that policy co-ordination could be improved.
    Frankly, I see no reason to budge from my other two gloomy predictions. But now I have received a thoughtful email from Guy Verhofstadt, taking me to task for my fatalism. I have his permission to reproduce it, because it makes very well a point that readers often make in comments: ie, how can I criticise the EU for being ineffective, when I am not a [supporter of] believer in [corrected in response to comment below] much closer integration. Here is the thing, I think much closer integration will not work, and after five years in Brussels, talking endlessly to politicians, officials, diplomats, think-tankers and the like, I am convinced I sense no mood out there for much deeper integration. And when I say the current system is not working well, it is not Brussels-bashing for the sake of it. I am a European, it pains me to see my continent falling behind. But there it is. I cannot pretend the emperor is wearing lovely robes. I cannot say I think the European Parliament can be fixed with lots of new powers, because I go there, and see a place that has gained huge amounts of new power in recent years, but remains dominated by mediocrities, and just as obsessed with gaining new powers as ever. I cannot pretend that I think Europeans yearn to be more competitive. Because after living in China and the United States I fear my home continent is tired, old and anxious, and in danger of embracing genteel decline, preferring that to wrenching change.
    Anyway, here is a fine counter-blast from Mr Verhofstadt. We absolutely do not agree about European integration—he is one of the last true federalists, who dreams of a United States of Europe. But he is a proper free market liberal, a clever man, and we both wish our home continent well. Here is his take:
    Dear Charlemagne,
    I read your article "Do Europeans want a dynamic economy?" with great interest - and with some degree of surprise. The assumption underpinning your argument is that while Europe would benefit from an open, integrated and dynamic economy neither national governments nor Europe's citizens are prepared to make it happen. Your logical conclusion is that when it comes to European economic plans, since the EU can't put up it should shut up.
    Frankly, you might be right. National governments are not begging for EU-interventions in their economy and I don’t see mass protests in the streets of our capitals by angry citizens demanding to work harder and longer. But there are two ways of reacting to the situation we are in. One is to become cynical and prepare the funeral pyre for Europe’s economy. The other is to try and change the hearts and minds of both the politicians and the people.
    [No, there are three ways. The third way is to realize that the stupid macho-posturing goals of the EU top bureaucrats are ridiculous and meaningless to everyone but their isolated and bored selves. The rest of the world including the USA, is trying to copy Europe, while these Brussels blockheads are striving to become more like suicidal USA and China. Brilliant. So yes, the EU should indeed SHUT UP and get with the people - who have a lot more common sense and sustainability - and ability to enjoy life now instead of waiting till they're FIRST in some nutty race to the bottom.]
    Of course, few people relish the uncertainty inherent to reform. But that doesn’t mean that people will not see the merit in change that is reasoned and reasonable. People are not stupid. They know very well that Europe will lag behind if nothing happens.
    [And maybe they also know that "the first shall be last, AND THE LAST, FIRST."]
    It is the duty of politicians, representatives of the unions and the industry to discuss, explain and defend what is needed.
    [No, it's the duty of politicians in representative democracies to lead from behind - representing the people's views.]
    In fact that is exactly what they are doing. Danish industry for example has published a document on Europe 2020 in which they ask for far reaching economic goals for all EU Member States - and penalties for those that do not reach them.
    [Danish industrialists seem just as dumb as industrialists anywhere else.]
    On the political side there is the Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, the Council President Van Rompuy and the Commission President Barroso at the top of the EU saying more or less the same thing. These are serious players backing the so-called ‘lost idea’. What we need now is a proper, wide and public debate that will flush out all the arguments and encourage others still to see the wisdom [or the unsustainability] of this approach.
    We all know that economic "reform" [our quotes] doesn't come easily, but it is essential if European industry is to have a successful future, and it is the best way to tackle the poverty that blights citizens across the EU. So I call on all of those who feel strongly - including Charlemagne - to set aside the cynicism and fatalism. Let's have this debate. Give our ideas at least the oxygen they need to grow, prosper and inspire economic dynamism in twenty first century Europe.
    Regardless, thank you for reporting it.
    Best regards,
    Guy Verhofstadt

  2. Major trade unions provide vital backing for German government, by Dietmar Henning, WSWS via AxisOfLogic.com
    For the first time in many years, Germany’s two biggest trade unions—the engineering union IG Metall and the Mines, Chemical and Energy union (IGBCE)—have agreed not to demand a wage increase in 2010. They justify their stance by claiming that due to the economic crisis, the protection of jobs has priority.
    The announcement makes clear that after years in which both jobs and wages have been undermined in German industry, the unions will work to ensure that workers bear the full brunt of the current economic crisis. The German government coalition, comprising the conservative “union” parties—Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU)—and the free market Free Democratic Party (FDP), is deeply divided and grateful for the all the help it can get.
    With a total of 22,000 factories and a workforce of 3.45 million, the engineering and steel industries are key factors in the German economy. At the end of October 2009, IG Metall Chairman Berthold Huber laid down the line for contract negotiations in 2010, telling one newspaper, “At the moment, I see no chance of putting in claims for substantial pay increases.”
    He went on to say that a crisis is “never the time for the trade unions to achieve successes on the pay front” and added that he would be forced to forego the usual bargaining tactic of demanding pay raises in line with inflation rates and productivity.
    This line of argument exposes the real character of the unions. At a time when the defense of workers’ interests is most urgent, the head of the IG Metall declares that this is impossible, citing the crisis in the steel and engineering industries. IG Metall Vice Chairman Detlef Wetzel said shortly before Christmas that up to 750,000 jobs are immediately at risk.
    The union has further declared that its members in the state of Bavaria, home to many engineering and auto concerns, should be prepared for a “null round” in contract negotiations. According to IG Metall official Werner Neugebauer, in 2009 some 30,000 jobs were lost in Bavarian factories out of a total workforce of 720,000. Further job losses were only avoided by the short-time work measures introduced last year by the German government. Neugebauer announced that he would be satisfied if it proved possible to limit further job cuts in the state to 20,000 in 2010.
    In Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, IG Metall district organizer Oliver Burkhard declared, “We need to arrive at solutions faster than the pace of the problems we will confront in the factories in 2010.”
    Although the current contract (a two-year agreement signed in 2008) does not end until April, IG Metall functionaries have already been working closely with the employers’ associations to draw up plans to shift the burden of the crisis onto the workers. According to the union, its regional contract commissions have been developing proposals since last autumn.
    The negotiations between the unions and employers have concentrated on three issues.
    1. First, management is to be empowered to cut work hours even more drastically than they have up to now. Under the current contract, employers can reduce the work week from 35 to 29 hours, with no compensation for lost wages. The IG Metall now suggests reducing the limit to 25 hours on the basis of a “partial wage adjustment.”
    2. Second, apprentices threatened with unemployment after they have completed their training should be retained “if necessary with zero short-time work until the situation improves,” i.e., on the basis of no work hours and no wages. According to union spokesman Jürgen Kohlinger, “a last resort” would be the inclusion of apprentices in so-called “transfer companies.” Such “transfer companies” have proved in the past to be half-way houses to outright unemployment.
    3. Third, workforces are to be cut by the widespread introduction of part-time work for elderly employees.
    The IG Metall sums up its policy with the statement that it “wants to prevent companies from using the crisis to reduce permanent staff, who will be replaced by subcontracted workers when the crisis has abated.”
    This is a formula for cooperating in layoffs and wage cuts while minimizing the loss of union members and dues income to the union apparatus.
    In the Ruhr district, which, like Bavaria, has been hard hit by the collapse in demand for industrial goods, the local IG Metall has agreed an additional measure. Companies will be allowed to redistribute their workforces amongst themselves without the consent of the workers involved.
    Those workers consigned to other companies will remain employees of their original company, from which they will continue to receive their wages. The basis for this deal is the so-called “crisis contract” agreed by 350 enterprises within the industrial employers’ federations in the cities of Dortmund, Bochum, Emscher-Lippe, Essen and Ruhr Niederrhein.
    The union argues that this unprecedented agreement is a means to prevent the use of subcontract labor, under conditions where layoffs are taking place. In reality, the deal gives the employers another weapon to use against their workforces. Some 70 kilometers separate Duisburg in the west of the Ruhr district and Dortmund in the east. Any transferred worker who refuses to accept the additional commute time will be subject to “legal consequences” arising from breach of contact.
    IG Metall argues that its multiple concessions on the jobs front do not involve compromises over pay. This is aimed at duping the workers, but the employers appreciate the real significance of the union’s stance.
    The business daily Handelsblatt writes, “It would be a really new development: Before the pay round begins, IG Metall and the employers put forward a carefully counterbalanced compromise for job protection—and declare the whole conflict resolved.”
    The IGBCE entitles its bargaining policy for this year “Use Opportunities for Jobs.” The recommendations of the IGBCE executive are the basis for contract discussions affecting some 1,900 chemical factories due to begin this spring.
    The chemical industry contracts cover around 550,000 employees, although contract expirations vary according to region. The current wage contracts are due to expire between March 31 and May 31.
    In March of 2009, a number of unions, including the IG Metall, organized national demonstrations under the slogan “We Will Not Pay for Your Crisis.” These protests were supported by the Left party.
    However, the unions are working precisely to make the workers pay for the crisis, in the form of wage and job cuts, while those responsible for the crisis—speculators, bankers, corporate executives—are once again stuffing their pockets at the expense of society.
    The government rightly sees the position of the unions as a green light to implement its policy of sweeping social attacks this year, under conditions where the full impact of the jobs crisis will make itself felt. The government and job market experts anticipate that unemployment in Germany will rise to at least 4 million in 2010.
    The government is divided on how to proceed, with opposing positions emerging on the issues of tax cuts and other economic measures. The declarations of IG Metall and the IGBCE make clear that the unions will in no way exploit this political crisis and will instead seek to suppress working class opposition to the regime.
    (emphases added)

  3. Concerns over work hours of doctors, by Lyric Anderson, (1/15 cuz dateline) MuswellbrookChronicle.com
    NEW SOUTH WALES STATE, Australia - Doctors are working long hours which has led to the peak medical body calling for a review of overtime practices in NSW hospitals.
    [Time to bust the bottleneck on access to medical skills - mandatory reinvestment of overtime "savings" in training and hiring, preferably by hospitals (first refusal) or, by default, the government.]
    The Australian Medical Association NSW has released a survey that shows 41 per cent of doctors-in-training feel they are required to work unsafe hours.

    AMA NSW president Dr Brian Morton said overtime practices were putting the welfare of patients and doctors at risk, while exacerbating the shortage of training places in hospitals.
    “The number of medical graduates outstrips the number of available training places at hospitals and it is understandable that doctors-in-training in NSW are desperate to secure their futures,” Dr Morton said.
    “Many are being pushed into working unsafe hours often without pay.”
    Hunter New England Health director of workforce development, David Dixon, said there were about 800 junior medical staff members across the region and on average they worked around 6.5 to seven hours of overtime per week.
    But he said Muswellbrook Hospital was not a training facility for doctors-in-training and was staffed by more senior medical staff and GPs.
    He said the number of new intern (first year) positions in the Hunter has remained stable in recent years, but was projected to increase significantly and peak in 2013 as a result of the Federal Government’s commitment to providing increased training positions for more doctors.
    Brook Medical Centre’s Dr John Rogers said the doctor shortage had created an unusually severe workload in Muswellbrook over the past year or so.
    He said the centre has had two trainees - fully registered but working with supervision - staying for six to 12 months for over 25 years which added up to nearly 100 different doctors from all over the world.
    “Rural general practice is quite different to the city and some towns have much heavier loads than others,” Dr Rogers said.
    “Virtually all doctors in the Brook Medical Centre work after hours at Muswellbrook Hospital, and for many it’s a heavy load.
    “We have four more doctors now and we hope in the coming year the after-hours load will become more manageable,” Dr Rogers said.
    “Some of their fellow registrars in other towns have no after-hours or hospital work but this is the nature of rural medicine and our local hospital and medical centre would certainly find it more difficult without them.”
    “We appreciate their commitment and work ethic and support them fully,” Dr Rogers said.
    In the AMA survey of 87 doctors-in-training, 38 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed the hours they worked were safe, while 21pc sat on the fence by neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
    However, not one respondent strongly agreed there would be enough places in NSW to match the increasing number of medical graduates with 87pc disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the statement.
    Dr Morton said the State and Federal governments needed to work with doctors to develop a way forward for training in public hospitals.
    “Doctors-in-training need people to learn from but the issues around workloads and training places for medical graduates can be solved if we all work together.”

1/13/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Everyone is happier and feels healthier on the weekend, submitted by Kathleen Blanchard RN, eMaxHealth.com
    A new study shows that individuals from all walks of life are happier and feel healthier on the weekend. Increased feelings of vitality, better mood, and fewer aches and pains was reported among construction workers, physicians, lawyers, secretaries, and laborers, from the “weekend effect”, in a study led by author and psychologist Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.
    According to Ryan, "Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend. Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being. Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing — basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork."
    The study tracked the moods of 74 adults age 18 to 72 employed at least 30 hours a week. The participants were paged throughout the day, answering questions about their mood, activities, positive or negative feelings, and physical symptoms that might indicate stress such as headache, upset stomach, low energy or respiratory complaints. The findings showed that the “weekend effect” has a positive effect on both men and women who consistently felt better mentally and physically on the weekend. The group was observed for three weekends.
    The “weekend effect” did not reveal any difference between individuals who were single, married, or of a certain age - nor was there any relationship to income or job status that contributed to feeling happier and healthier on the weekend. Everyone felt better Monday through Friday.
    To better understand why Monday through Friday makes people feel happier and healthier, the researchers determined that people have more freedom and sense of closeness to family and friends on the weekend. They also felt more competent, an important contributor to long term happiness found in other studies.
    The authors say the study “offers one of the first substantive and theory-based explanations for why wellbeing tends to be more favorable on the weekends: People experience greater autonomy and relatedness, which are, in turn, related to higher wellness." In contrast, working during the week, "is replete with activities involving external controls, time pressures, and demands on behavior related to work, child care and other constraints."
    The authors say the findings show the need to restructure work environments to promote wellness, “to the extent that daily life, including work, affords a sense of autonomy, relatedness, and competence…” Maintaining a continuous state of happiness and feeling healthier could do much to for disease prevention. Everyone studied reported feeling happier and healthier on the weekend. 
    University of Rochester

  2. Gender pay gap doubled in 2009, AusIMM, by Michael Mills, (1/14 cuz dateline) Australian Mining via miningaustralia.com.au
    AUSTRALIA - A study of remuneration trends and employment practices in the Australian mining industry has revealed the gap in gender pay increased last year.
    The 2009 Remuneration and Employment Survey, published by the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) yesterday, outlined an increase in the gender pay gap across all levels of responsibility compared to the 2008 survey.
    The pay difference for new entrants into the industry (Level One) was 15.8%, while the gap for Level Two workers rose to 8%.
    According to the study, the gap then escalated at every responsibility level up to the senior management bracket (Level Five), which stood at 58.3%.
    The chair of AusIMM's Women in Mining Network Donna Frater said the Level Five gap had almost doubled in size, since the 2008 survey was compiled.
    "The clear implication is that while equity may be touted as a priority when times are good, some decision makers fall back on old biases about the relative value of male and female employees when the going gets tough," she said.
    According to AusIMM, the survey also revealed that companies looked to hold on to more experienced staff by granting larger salary increases across the more senior levels.
    In an effort to survive the downturn, the industry also looked to shorten working hours and reduce fringe benefits.
    Some companies actually introduced four-day working weeks to cut costs but hold on to key staff, AusIMM said.
    "In an industry known for rigid working hours and culling staff in downturns, it was heartening to see creative human resourcing approaches aimed at retaining staff," Frater said.

    "As the industry is now poised for an upturn, it is hoped that some of this creativity might be redirected towards closing the gender pay gap and incorporating more flexible work practices for all employees."
    According to AusIMM, the survey also suggested workplace flexibility was becoming a larger priority for employees.
    More than 30% of the respondents indicated they had caring responsibilities, with 90% of these being carers for children.
    Around 43% of carers indicated their responsibilities had forced them to reduce their hours or accept roles with lower salaries.
    The AusIMM purports the survey is the most comprehensive analysis of remuneration trends, work practices and attitudes of professionals in the minerals sector.

1/12/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Employers running into state Work Share limits, AP via KTVZ.com
    EUGENE, Ore. - A number of Oregon employers have been able to reduce layoffs by using a state program called *Work Share.
    The program allows employers to cut hours for workers, who then collect part of their unemployment benefits to help make up for their lost earnings.
    The State Employment Department says 875 Oregon employers were using Work Share as of last week - up from about 100 a year earlier.
    But the Register-Guard newspaper reports that some employers have had to drop the program as the recession drags on. They've reached the point where their Work Share employees are taking more out of the state's unemployment insurance fund than the employer is paying into it.
    When that threshold is reached, employers must reimburse the fund for every additional dollar their Work Share employees draw from it.
    Employers say they can't afford it.
    For their employees, it means further cuts in already reduced incomes, or even lost jobs.

  2. Grounding of flight attendants riles Transat union, by Francois Shalom, MontrealGazette.com
    MONTREAL, Quebec - Transat A.T. Inc. has furloughed 52 flight attendants since November, union official Nathalie Stringer said yesterday.
    But the Montreal-based company's spokesperson, Jacques Bouchard, said that it could have been much worse - closer to 252 - if Air Transat and the union had not worked closely to minimize job losses. Many jobs were saved by programs like work-sharing agreements, voluntary leaves of absence and a shorter work week for those looking to reduce their winter hours, Stringer and Bouchard agreed.
    It is not unusual for Air Transat's cabin crews to take leaves or join work-sharing programs during slow times - between Christmas and late spring - and the country's largest travel operator is expected to recall most, if not all, of those temporarily laid off.
    But Stringer, component president for the Canadian Union of Public Employees' (CUPE) which represents all 1,200 Air Transat flight attendants, said that this marks the first time there were such furloughs despite the carrier not grounding any of its planes.
    So-called "back crews" - non-pilots - routinely take a break for up to five months in off-peak season, but Stringer said that until this year, this was a function of fewer planes flying.
    "This time around, all (Air Transat) planes are flying. The airline is making money and the planes are flying, but they're flying without us," she noted.
    She blamed sub-contracting flights to other carriers, including Halifax-based CanJet Airlines, which is flying several sun destination routes for Transat.
    Over the years, Transat has operated flights for many third parties - including the White House, Céline Dion and EgyptAir - but such deals involved full Air Transat crews - pilots and cabin staff.
    Air Transat, for instance, provides the pilots for the CanJet planes, but not the flight attendants.
    The union said that "this repeated practice" by Air Transat "produces a systematic staffing surplus."
    In addition, "Air Transat leases a plane to French company XL, including the pilots, for the winter season (from January to April) but excludes the flight attendants. The same situation will re-occur this year for the hajj, the pilgrimage of Muslim faithful to Mecca, because Air Transat intends to lease three planes (for pilgrims), once again without the flight attendants, resulting in a large surplus of personnel, which the union estimates at 300 employees."
    For the hajj last year, Air Transat leased two of its planes - with pilots but not attendants - to Indonesian carrier Air Guaruda.
    Stringer said that the practice of excluding flight attendants from lease agreements will become a hot point of contention when the contract comes up for renewal on Oct. 31.
    "These contracts are very profitable for Air Transat, but our members pay their cost," she added. "It's a flagrant lack of respect."
    Bouchard replied that "the reality is that ours is a very cyclical business and the potential existed for many more layoffs. We were able to minimize that."

  3. In Europe and US, data shows murky job outlook, by Matthew Saltmarsh & Peter Goodman, New York Times via Deccan Herald of Karnataka State, India via deccanherald.com
    The Euro area has joined the United States in reaching a 10 per cent unemployment rate as the American economy lost more jobs than expected in December, according to statistics relaesed recently.
    FRANCE & GERMANY - The latest data tempered hopes in Europe and the United States for a rapid recovery that did not depend on large doses of government support.
    Before the American report was released, many analysts were predicting that the number of jobs there might increase for the first time since the recession began in December 2007. But the estimated net loss of 85,000 jobs, while a vast improvement over the situation for much of last year, pointed to continued reluctance on the part of employers to hire new workers.
    At a news conference, President Obama acknowledged the American data as a setback, while outlining plans to deliver $2.3 billion in tax credits to spur manufacturing jobs in clean energy.
    “We have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring,” the President told reporters. In Europe, which typically lags behind the United States, job losses continued to mount as the unemployment rate inched up to 10 per cent in November, from 9.9 per cent, hitting the highest level since 1998, a year before the euro was created.
    “It’s a recovery, but it’s a weak, U-shaped recovery,” both in Europe and America, said Arnab Das, Global Head of Market Research and Strategy at Roubini Global Economics in London. “We’ve lost a lot of jobs and it will take some time for creation to kick in. There is still enormous slack in the market.”
    Of the two regions, job seekers in America might be in a slightly better position to benefit from an upswing, analysts said. During past recoveries, labor markets in the euro area have taken longer to improve than the United States because the American job market is more flexible, making it susceptible to sharper swings. The unemployment rate in the United States, which is based on a separate survey from the job numbers, was unchanged at 10 per cent, but only because huge numbers of unemployed people remained pessimistic about their prospects and had given up, at least for now, on their search for work.
    Change in numbers
    But in a twist that highlighted the erratic nature of economic renewal, the data pointed to a minuscule increase of 4,000 jobs in November — rather than a loss of 11,000 the government originally estimated. If that holds up through future revisions, it would be the first monthly gain in two years. Another 16,000 job losses were added to October’s tally.
    The American report “shows that there is going to be some difficulty in making the transition to move from the end of firing to actual hiring,” said Julia Coronado, senior United States economist at BNP Paribas. “Eventually we will see some job growth, but there are a lot of weak patches still in the economy.”
    Christina D Romer, Chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, called the report a “setback” but echoed the view of a number of private economists that the United States economy was likely to move to overall job creation sometime early this year. In Brussels, the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, said that the number of unemployed in November rose by 102,000 in the 16-member euro area, a significant increase but well below the peak of 475,000 jobs lost at the start of the year. The 10 per cent jobless rate contrasts with an 8 per cent rate a year earlier.
    “We think that the labor market correction has a long way to go” in the euro area, said Nick Kounis, Chief European economist at Fortis Bank in Amsterdam. “Employment has still not fully adjusted to the fall in output during the recession, reflecting institutional rigidities in the euro zone labor market.”
    Highlighting the difficult business climate, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer and the maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois beers, said that it would cut some 10 per cent of its work force in Western Europe, including hundreds of jobs in Germany and Belgium. InBev declined to give a figure for the total number of jobs to be cut.
    The unemployment rate for the broader 27-member European Union was 9.5 per cent in November, Eurostat said, from 9.4 per cent in October and 7.5 per cent in November 2008.
    Das of Roubini Global Economics pointed to significant differences between European nations. Jobs in countries like Germany appear to be safer, as that economy is benefiting from increased demand for its manufactured exports, like high-end automobiles, machine tools and capital goods, particularly from emerging markets.
    The Eurostat data showed that seasonally adjusted unemployment in Germany was 7.6 per cent, unchanged from October. Years of wage restraint have also helped make German companies competitive on a cost basis, protecting orders and jobs. Data released by the Federal Statistics Office showed that German exports rose again in November, increasing by 1.6 per cent on October.
    The European unemployment rate would almost certainly be higher if governments like France and Germany had not established programmes that offer support to companies putting workers on shorter hours to help cushion the effects of recession.
    France’s publicly financed partial-unemployment programme allowed companies experiencing exceptional difficulties — like PSA Peugeot Citroën, the automaker — to lay off staff members temporarily and to draw on state funds to pay them during those periods.
    Germany also has measures to reduce working time, many of which are specifically framed as employment-saving measures. The federal Kurzarbeit system, which translates as “short work,” offers a state-supported backup for enterprises resorting to short-time working outside the provisions of collective agreements.
    In France, the rate stood at 10 per cent, up from 9.9 per cent in October. For Italy, the rate was 8.3 per cent, up from 8.2 per cent a month earlier. The lowest European rates were in the Netherlands, at just 3.9 per cent, and Austria, at 5.5 per cent, Eurostat said.
    In other European countries, the strains of the swift collapse in house prices and consumer confidence have created greater imbalances and are taking a greater toll on workers.
    In Spain, for example, unemployment in November hit 19.4 per cent, the second-worst figure in Europe behind tiny Latvia, at 22.3 per cent. In Spain, unemployment among people under 25 years old has now touched a shocking 43.8 per cent.
    Andrew Watt, a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute for Research in Brussels, said labour market flexibility would be less of a factor in defining near-term changes in unemployment in European and America than whether factories and other producers could reach sustained growth of output that goes beyond simply restocking depleted inventories. “Flexibility is a long-term issue,” he said. “The level of growth is what will drive the unemployment data.”

  4. Venezuela Deepens Energy Rationing as Blackouts Loom (Update 1), by Heather Walsh and Daniel Cancel, Bloomberg.com
    CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela said it will cut electricity on a rotating basis to sections of the South American country’s capital and major cities as the government deepens energy rationing amid a drought.
    Power will be cut for four-hour intervals in parts of Caracas starting tomorrow as dry weather reduces generating capacity at the nation’s largest utility, Javier Alvarado, president of government-run Electricidad de Caracas, said today on state television.
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is increasing energy rationing amid an economic slump and falling oil revenue that prompted his government to devalue the nation’s currency on Jan. 8 for the first time in five years. Venezuela is at risk for forced nationwide blackouts unless it stems declines in water levels at the reservoir supplying the nation’s largest utility, Electricity Minister Angel Rodriguez said yesterday.
    “We could be entering a situation with no return” if the nation fails to save energy, he said.
    Chavez cut working hours for government employees last week and urged Venezuelans to save water and energy amid the country’s worst drought in about 50 years. The drought may last another five months, Rodriguez said.
    Output and refining at state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA won’t be affected by the rationing, a PDVSA spokesman who can’t be named because of company policy, said today in an interview.
    In December, Venezuela halted several production lines at state-run aluminum companies Alcasa and Venalum as well as two units at Siderurgica del Orinoco’s steel mill known as Sidor to save electricity.
    To contact the reporters on this story: Heather Walsh at hlwalsh@bloomberg.net; Daniel Cancel in New York at dcancel@bloomberg.net
    Last Updated: January 12, 2010 16:48 EST

  5. Has IR [industrial relations] come of age? BusinessSpectator.com.au
    CANBERRA, Australia - In the 13 days since the Rudd government’s Fair Work system took effect, there has been no shortage of doomsayers on either side of the industrial divide – employer body and union – on how the new system will be contrary to their interests.
    Their language, of course, is never this blunt. Their statements are always couched in terms of the “national economic interest” or “the employee’s right to fair wages and conditions”. No one ever mentions “profits” or “industrial action”.
    The Australian Industry Group (AiG), which covers much of the manufacturing sector, was quick to tell its members that they “would be operating in a whole new environment of workplace change with the introduction of so-called modern awards and the new national employment standards”.
    AiG chief executive Heather Ridout said: “Employers can potentially get into a lot of trouble in a lot of new places unless they move quickly to understand the new rules and entitlements. The national employment standards and modern awards deal with day-to-day employment issues such as minimum pay, hours of work and leave entitlements. Employers need to ensure they comply with the new safety laws.”
    For AiG, it wasn’t just the Fair Work system. The new bargaining laws took effect last year and they are opening the gate for the left-wing Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) to push for higher wages and secure greater employment security. Since July 1, the AMWU has signed off on about 1000 agreements, and is looking to finalise another 500 in the first half of this year.
    So what has been upshot of this union bargaining under Labor’s Fair Work regime? Widespread industrial action? Lockouts? Lengthy disputes? With the notable exception at the Campbell’s Soup plant in Shepparton in central Victoria (and that dispute lasted less than a week), those 1000 agreements have been reached with a minimum of industrial activity.
    In addition, employers have not been paying above the odds; in labour hire and contracting jobs they have been getting 7 per cent and 9 per cent over two years and in the traditional manufacturing sector it’s been around 3 per cent annually – about the rate of inflation.
    That this is the situation should surprise no one. The union knows – and its rhetoric aside, appreciates – the precarious position manufacturing faces in this country. With the Australian dollar above 90 US cents, it's hard work for niche manufacturers looking to find export markets. At the same time there’s uncertainty surrounding the global recovery and the Reserve Bank is increasing the cost of debt (see Rates, rhyme and reason, December 15, 2009 and RBA says rates decision 'finely balanced', December 15, 2009).
    This economic reality was borne out by the latest Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index – a joint survey of the sector by AiG and the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. Its figures for December show a dip in activity after four consecutive rises – hardly the economic background for a union looking to pursue strong wage claims.
    Even in the pre-enterprise-bargaining era, when the union movement was much stronger, there was pattern bargaining and a centralised wage-fixing system and employers were cushioned by industry protection in the form of quotas and tariffs, it was much the same.
    The push by the then metalworkers union for a 35-hour week (on the back of projected resources boom [and funny we aren't mentioning the waves of automation...] ) back in the late 1970s and early 1980s saw widespread industrial action across the industry that ended in substantial pay rises and a 38-hour week.
    [AND a commensurate growth in Australia's domestic consumer base and consumption-dependent domestic markets (ie: all other domestic markets)...]
    But barely was the ink dry on those agreements than a soaring price of oil saw the world’s developed economies slip into recession, Australia included. For the union, it meant revisiting all those sites where they had won a shorter working week and higher wages.
    [Note the natural association here of shorter hours and higher pay, not lower pay - as in long-hours China and the Third World.]
    Only this time around they were negotiating retrenchment packages.
    [If they "retrenched" to longer hours and lower wages, that would have concentrated working hours on fewer employees, accelerated job loss and worsened the recession in Australia.]
    The cost in manufacturing jobs was enormous [from the longer hours and employment concentration and the recession thus worsened!], prompting the then Treasurer Paul Keating’s famous quip at a Labor Party conference that the union’s irresponsible hours and wages campaign had “cost 100,000 jobs”.
    [Typical richboy getting it backwards. The job loss was from employers' not cutting the workweek further to save jobs and keep the vanishing work spread around and avoid engaging the reverse-multiplier effect of more, poorer people with less money and spending less, instead of a few more, richer people with more money and looking for sustainable investments which weren't there due to the recession - ergo, more money deactivated in the top brackets and a weaker consumer base.]
    Today, the industrial mind-set among employers, the union and, importantly, employees, is very different; no one bargains without considering the macro settings. This is why Labor’s industrial relations [IR] laws will cause a ripple – but not much more.

1/10-11/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Oklahoma bill would help part-time workers, AP via The Oklahoman via NewsOK.com
    [So we might be adding Oklahoma to the list of states with worksharing programs.]
    An Oklahoma senator has filed legislation that would allow part-time employees to receive unemployment insurance payments.
    Sen. Jim Wilson of Tahlequah said Monday his bill would authorize the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission to create a voluntary Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program.
    Wilson says the bill would allow employers to cut back hours without laying people off.
    Those whose hours have been reduced would be able to supplement their income with unemployment payments.
    He says fewer people would lose their jobs under the plan and wages would be kept up at a level higher than a part-time salary.
    Employers would have to submit written shared work plans to the commission to participate. They would also have to agree to furnish reports on the plan's operation.
    Read more: http://www.newsok.com/oklahoma-bill-would-help-part-time-workers/article/3431243#ixzz0cSpGEphd

  2. Passing a torch, by Rebecca Nappi, The Spokesman Review via Spokesman.com
    Erin Bried is hoping to teach a generation of women the skills their grandmothers took for granted, such as how to shine your shoes, swaddle a newborn and spring-clean your home.
    And sew on a button, of course, because the title of Bried’s new book is “How to Sew a Button – and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew” (Ballantine, 304 pages, $15).
    “I’m 35, and I hadn’t roasted a chicken before I wrote this book,” Bried said in a recent interview from her Brooklyn, N.Y. home. “I make it once every two weeks now. It’s delicious.”
    Bried interviewed 10 grandmothers throughout the United States who grew up during the Great Depression, including Jean Dinsmore, 91, who lives in a retirement community in North Spokane.
    Bried’s book is one more indication of an intriguing generational phenomenon. The “home production” skills that Depression-era women learned from their mothers – and carried with them into their own homes in the 1950s – were sometimes rejected by their liberation-era daughters.
    Now, the grandchildren of these grandmas hunger for those lost skills, such as baking from scratch and knitting.
    How to Mop. Step 1: Send everyone with pitter-pattering feet packing, move any furniture that’s in your way, and put on some good music. Remember, the word mop doesn’t end with an “e.” Step 2: Sweep the floor. Step 3: Fill a bucket with cold water and add a squirt of dishwashing detergent. Step 4: Dunk your mop, thoroughly wring it out, and go to it.
    – From “How to Sew a Button”
    Jean Dinsmore grew up on a farm in Troy, Idaho, one of four children.
    “Because her local hospital shut down due to the 1918 flu epidemic, Dinsmore was born at home. … She still has the old kerosene lamp that was burning the night she was born,” Bried writes in her book.
    “We used to trap squirrels, my sister and I,” Dinsmore recollected in a recent interview. “My dad gave us 2 cents for every squirrel.”
    From her mother, she learned how to cook, clean, do laundry, sew and knit. She tried to bake pies, but her mother was a pie crust perfectionist, and so Dinsmore never perfected them, but she made some mean cinnamon rolls.
    Dinsmore grew up around women who dedicated yeoman’s hours to chores. A 1920 Ladies Home Journal article calculated that meal preparation took up nearly 30 hours a week and washing dishes consumed another 10. Sewing and mending took nearly four hours out of the typical week.
    “My mother made our clothes,” Dinsmore told Bried. “She’d buy the material, but some people used flour sacks.”
    Dinsmore graduated from the University of Idaho in 1939 and worked as a teacher for a year before marrying and having her two children.
    Time spent on traditional women’s work didn’t decrease for the housewives and mothers of her generation, despite modern appliances which proliferated in the 1950s and 1960s. Full-time housewives sometimes spent as much time on housework in 1965 as they did in the 1920s, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research report.
    French writer and early feminist Simone de Beauvoir was one of the first to complain. In the late 1940s, she said: “Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”
    How to scent your home without candles. Step 1: Put that $30 you were about to spend on a fancy candle back in your pocket. Step 2: Pour water into a small pot and place it on the stove over low heat. Step 3: Add several cinnamon sticks, and if you’d like, cloves and peels of a lemon, orange or apple. Step 4: Let simmer for as long as you’d like, making sure there’s always water in the pan.
    Sandy Colquhoun, Dinsmore’s daughter, is 61. Though she majored in home economics at the University of Idaho, she remembers well the rebellion of her generation of women against most things traditional, especially the work of the home.
    “We were purposely saying that it’s passé,” she says. “And who cares if it’s not clean? There are more things in life than having your house be clean. We didn’t want things that looked homemade. It was time-consuming. It was easier to buy things. ”
    Colquhoun, a librarian at Post Falls Middle School, is grateful now that she learned some traditional skills from her mother, such as sewing and baking, including the making of those mean cinnamon rolls.
    In the 1970s and 1980s – the height of the women’s liberation movement – time spent on housework began to decrease. By 1995, women spent an average of 15 hours a week doing housework, compared with 26 hours in 1965.
    [So technology did save time for, and free up, housewives. But they only used the extra leisure to enter the job market (often at the 1940 forty-hour-a-week level), render 'housewife' obsolete, and worsen the wage-dropping labor surplus.]
    Men picked up some of the slack, according to the book “Time for Life.” By 1995, they were doing nearly 10 hours a week of housework, double the amount they did in 1965.
    Rebellion by daughters against the work of their mothers fits another generational reality. The pendulum swings back and forth between the generations.
    “A lot of these skills skipped a generation,” Bried points out.
    How to remove grease, red wine or coffee (stains). Step 1: Mix ¼ cup white vinegar with ¼ cup cold water. Stir in 1 teaspoon laundry detergent. Step 2: Apply the solution to the stain and dab with a paper towel. Step 3: Rinse with cold water.
    Bried’s book contains more than 100 life skills. Not all of them involve housework, sewing or cooking.
    She includes a tip on how to brew your own beer, for instance, and brewed some for her book party.
    Her book “has a pink cover, but it can be useful to men and women,” Bried says.
    She likes to quote another grandmother who said, “There was no men’s work or women’s work. There was only work, and anybody who was around was expected to chip in.”
    And speaking of housework, no one’s doing a Depression-era share of it anymore. On an average day, according to the 2008 American Time Use Summary report, 83 percent of women and 64 percent of men spent some time doing household activities, such as housework and cooking. The category also included lawn care, plus financial and other household management tasks.
    Women spent an average of just 2.6 hours on these activities, while men spent two hours.
    Bried’s hoping that the book inspires people to try some of the old tips, and also interview the grandmas surrounding them.
    “The biggest lesson I learned writing the book? Being rich has nothing to do with your bank account, and it has everything to do with your resourcefulness and your generosity of spirit and your ability to find joy in good times and bad times,” she says.
    “Our grandmothers knew it, and we should all keep it in mind.”

  3. Learning From Europe - The economic demise that wasn't, op ed by Paul Krugman, 1/11 NYT, A15
    [Quite the contrary - the USA is in economic demise - but bubble formation masks the process and our CEOs are desperately trying to blow another one (pun intended).]
    As health care reform nears the finish line, there is much wailing and rending of garments among conservatives. And I’m not just talking about the tea partiers. Even calmer conservatives have been issuing dire warnings that Obamacare will turn America into a European-style social democracy. And everyone knows that Europe has lost all its economic dynamism.
    Strange to say, however, what everyone knows isn’t true. Europe has its economic troubles; who doesn’t? But the story you hear all the time — of a stagnant economy in which high taxes and generous social benefits have undermined incentives, stalling growth and innovation — bears little resemblance to the surprisingly positive facts. The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.
    Actually, Europe’s economic success should be obvious even without statistics. For those Americans who have visited Paris: did it look poor and backward? What about Frankfurt or London? You should always bear in mind that when the question is which to believe — official economic statistics or your own lying eyes — the eyes have it.
    [There it is from a Nobel-winning U.S. economist - our official economic statistics are misleading (after all, they've been subjected to years of politicized doctoring, especially our highly publicized unemployment rate.]
    In any case, the statistics confirm what the eyes see.
    It’s true that the U.S. economy has grown faster than that of Europe for the past generation.
    [Doesn't he mean "inflated faster" or "bubbled faster" - it's all hype, because all we've done is coagulate more and more of our money supply in the topmost brackets - which essentially weakens our consumer base and takes it out of circulation. Why do you think we're always hearing about American productivity and never about marketable American productivity? = the only meaningful kind!]
    Since 1980 — when our politics took a sharp turn to the right, while Europe’s didn’t — America’s real G.D.P. has grown, on average, 3 percent per year.
    [Sure, from military buildup and bogus investment instruments - nothing real, nothing sustainable.]
    Meanwhile, the EU-15 — the bloc of 15 countries that were members of the European Union before it was enlarged to include a number of former Communist nations — has grown only 2.2 percent a year. America rules!
    Or maybe not. All this really says is that we’ve had faster population growth.
    [which means a big move toward the overpopulated Third World - lots of dirt-poor people and a few rich beyond the dreams of Midas - we are turning America into hell.]
    Since 1980, per capita real G.D.P. — which is what matters for living standards — has risen at about the same rate in America and in the E.U. 15: 1.95 percent a year here; 1.83 percent there.
    [And you better believe that in the U.S. figure there's still a lot of negative stuff that's being counted as positive.]
    What about technology? In the late 1990s you could argue that the revolution in information technology was passing Europe by. But Europe has since caught up in many ways. Broadband, in particular, is just about as widespread in Europe as it is in the United States, and it’s much faster and cheaper.
    [In other words, Europe may be a little slower on the uptake, but the innovations get more optimized and available than in our big Third-World-plunging rhetorical "utopia."]
    And what about jobs? Here America arguably does better: European unemployment rates are usually substantially higher than the rate here, and the employed fraction of the population lower.
    [But unemployment rates are not comparable, because the U.S. rate is biassed downward. And most of the new U.S. jobs are "McJobs" with collapsing pay and benefits.]
    But if your vision is of millions of prime-working-age adults sitting idle, living on the dole, think again. In 2008, 80% of adults aged 25 to 54 in the EU-15 were employed (and 83% in France). That’s about the same as in the United States [and the US figure is ___??!]. Europeans are less likely than we are to work when young or old, but is that entirely a bad thing?
    And Europeans are quite productive, too: they work fewer hours, but output per hour in France and Germany is close to U.S. levels.
    [No, it's higher than U.S. levels.]
    The point isn’t that Europe is utopia. Like the United States, it’s having trouble grappling with the current financial crisis. Like the United States, Europe’s big nations face serious long-run fiscal issues — and like some individual U.S. states, some European countries are teetering on the edge of fiscal crisis. (Sacramento is now the Athens of America — in a bad way.) But taking the longer view, the European economy works; it grows; it’s as dynamic, all in all, as our own.
    [No, it is more dynamic because less of the money supply is being redistributed to the topmost brackets where circulation is greatly decelerated by the reverse multiplier effect.]
    So why do we get such a different [less flattering] picture from many pundits? Because according to the prevailing economic dogma in this country — and I’m talking here about many Democrats as well as essentially all Republicans — European-style social democracy should be an utter disaster. And people tend to see what they want to see.
    [In short, the USA has become the USSR with a Party Line so undermined by events and facts that it is grasped more and more desperately and repeated more and more stridently - and totally forget about any possibility of admitting that the USA is no longer The Greatest Country on Earth. The dream is over - unless we're first with Timesizing.]
    After all, while reports of Europe’s economic demise are greatly exaggerated, reports of its high taxes and generous benefits aren’t. Taxes in major European nations range from 36 to 44% of G.D.P., compared with 28% in the United States. Universal health care is, well, universal. Social expenditure is vastly higher than it is here.
    So if there were anything to the economic assumptions that dominate U.S. public discussion — above all, the belief that even modestly higher taxes on the rich and benefits for the less well off would drastically undermine incentives to work, invest and innovate — Europe would be the stagnant, decaying economy of legend. But it isn’t.
    [And in the next few years, even in the next year, the gap between the US and Europe will widen, as the income gap in the US widens and the dumb-parasitic US super-rich, true to form killing their host, continue to cannibalize the US consumer base - and employment basement. "They just want their share" (100%). And as we move toward 1% of the population owning 99% of the income and wealth, we sink backward and lose our economy. Deconcentrating the money supply has to start with deconcentrating the employment supply, and that has to start by unfreezing our 1940 workweek and resuming the downward adjustment of our working-hour maximum per person, which despite all our lip service to "free-market economics," we have rigidly regulated for the last 70 years.]
    Europe is often held up as a cautionary tale, a demonstration that if you try to make the economy less brutal, to take better care of your fellow citizens when they’re down on their luck, you end up killing economic progress.
    [Here's an example from the front page of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal: "Small firms cast a large cloud over a European comeback," 1/12 WSJ, A1.]
    But what European experience actually demonstrates is the opposite: social justice and progress can go hand in hand.
    [Pathetic that the leading US progressive has to try sooo hard to convince himself/others of this but then, it took a long time for Krugman to be able to call Bush a liar. Next, an easier sell -]

  4. Good News: Will We Hear It? by David Swanson, 1/11 OpEdNews.com
    Whenever I write about U.S. politics, people ask me "Don't you have any good news?" (Unless the Republicans are in power, in which case people ask me "Who are you going to vote for?") But I do have good news, boatloads of good news, if Americans want to hear it.
    If a city or state next to yours were to achieve a dramatic breakthrough for democratic representation, environmental sustainability, healthcare, education, peace, or justice, wouldn't that be good news? Wouldn't you trumpet that news where you live and demand the same of your elected officials?
    When the United States gets something right nationally, and even when we don't, we're happy to assume that others around the world would like to imitate it. Some of us think bombs are the best way to help them do so. Others prefer diplomacy. But we all pretty much believe in sharing our wisdom.
    But what if another country, or a large block of other countries, were to solve the most vexing problems facing the United States? What if they were to show us a general outline of how we could fix all the troubles that most trouble us?
    Well, that would, of course, be an affront to denounce, ignore, and avoid. Unless our pining after good news were to outweigh our xenophobic pride and we were to become open to accepting the gifts of some of that non-American 95 percent of humanity.
    If that happens, the first place we should look is Europe, and our guide should be Steven Hill's brilliant and comprehensive new book "Europe's Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope in an Insecure Age."
    The European Union (EU) is the world's largest and most competitive economy, and most of those living in it are wealthier, healthier, and happier than most Americans. Europeans work shorter hours, have a greater say in how their employers behave, receive lengthy paid vacations and paid parental leave, can rely on guaranteed paid pensions, have free or extremely inexpensive comprehensive and preventative healthcare, enjoy free or extremely inexpensive educations from preschool through college, impose half the per-capita environmental damage of Americans, endure a fraction of the violence found in the United States, imprison a fraction of the prisoners locked up here, and benefit from democratic representation, engagement, and civil liberties unimagined in the land where we're teased that the world hates our rather mediocre "freedoms." Europe even offers a model foreign policy, bringing neighboring nations toward democracy by holding out the prospect of EU membership, while we drive other nations away from good governance at great expense of blood and treasure.
    What wonderful news! And yet, how many times during the Great Health Insurance Reform Debate did anyone take a look at the wheels already invented in Europe, where single-payer systems and systems built around non-profit insurance companies and price controls out-perform the for-profit U.S. system in every way? We would rather suffer more and die sooner than learn from people who live across an ocean, even if they learned a lot from us, even if we imposed structures on them a half-century ago that would have benefitted us as well.
    Of course, this WOULD all be good news, if not for the extreme and horrible danger of higher taxes! Working less and living longer with less illness, a cleaner environment, a better education, more cultural enjoyments, paid vacations, and governments that respond better to the public -- that all SOUNDS nice, but the reality involves the ultimate evil of higher taxes! Or does it?
    As Hill points out, Europeans do pay higher income taxes, but they generally pay lower state, local, property, and social security taxes. (They also pay those higher income taxes out of a larger paycheck.) And what Europeans keep in earned income they do not have to spend on healthcare or college or job training or numerous other expenses that are hardly optional but that we seem intent on celebrating our privilege to personally pay for.
    If we pay roughly as much as Europeans in taxes, why do we have to pay for everything we need on our own, in addition? Why don't our taxes pay for our needs? The primary reason is that so much of our taxes goes to wars and the military [and the wealthy]. Recently much of it also goes to Wall Street and corporate bailouts. And this is not entirely new. In a given year, our government gives roughly $300 billion in tax breaks to businesses for their employee health benefits. That's enough to actually pay for everyone in this country to have healthcare, but it's just a fraction of what we dump into the for-profit system that, as its name suggests, exists primarily to generate profits. Most of what we waste on this madness does not go through the government, a fact of which we are inordinately proud.
    Europe is not perfection, and indeed has much to learn from us. Notably, we are ahead of Europe in confronting the endless menace of racism and nativism. Europe faces many dangers, but any lamented little steps its nations take in an American direction on taxes and benefits are relative to the great distance that separates us. Even were Europe to implode tomorrow, which seems far less likely than the United States doing so, it would have shown us the basic model for a more just and sustainable capitalist society in which wealth is more equitably distributed and most people are happier, less stressed, and less prone to severe frustration or violence.
    The key to this, as Hill demonstrates, is a deeper and richer democracy in which workers share seats with owners on councils overseeing corporations, children's assemblies propose new laws to legislatures, everyone is automatically registered to vote, proportional representation allows more voices to be heard, free media is provided to campaigns (and newspapers and independent public media subsidized), and campaigns are financed by the public -- using some of those hated taxes that we prefer to bestow on weapons makers and bankers.
    Of course, when I say "we prefer" I'm being tongue-in-cheek. The point is that Americans, in polls and surveys, would prefer to move much of our money from the military and bailouts to human needs. The problem is primarily that our views are not represented in our government, as this anecdote from "Europe's Promise" suggests:
    "A few years ago, an American acquaintance of mine who lives in Sweden told me that he and his Swedish wife were in New York City and, quite by chance, ended up sharing a limousine to the theatre district with then-U.S. Senator John Breaux from Louisiana and his wife. Breaux, a conservative, anti-tax Democrat, asked my acquaintance about Sweden and swaggeringly commented about 'all those taxes the Swedes pay,' to which this American replied, 'The problem with Americans and their taxes is that we get nothing for them.' He then went on to tell Breaux about the comprehensive level of services and benefits that Swedes receive in return for their taxes. 'If Americans knew what Swedes receive for their taxes, we would probably riot," he told the senator. The rest of the ride to the theater district was unsurprisingly quiet."
    David Swanson is the author of "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to "The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush" published by Feral House and available at Amazon.com. Swanson holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson is Co-Founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, creator of ProsecuteBushCheney.org and Washington Director of Democrats.com, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, and Voters for Peace, and chair of the Robert Jackson Steering Committee.

  5. Permanent Shift? Library Budgets 2010 - As many libraries are hit by gloomy times, they’re challenged to offer less and work differently, by Norman Oder, 1/11 (1/15) Library Journal
    It’s no surprise that libraries in LJ’s annual budget survey reported an overall downward trend, with the expected decline in total budgets some 2.6% and the change in materials budgets 3.5% (see Table 1, p. 45). Per capita funding is nudging down after years of steady if sometimes modest increases, with a projected decline of 1.6% in FY10.
    After all, the country has not emerged from a major economic downturn, and libraries—especially those lacking a dedicated funding stream—are particularly vulnerable to budget cutbacks and declining property values.
    While it may be politically tougher to close buildings than drain services, some library boards and local governing authorities, their backs to the wall, have begun to shut down facilities. In several high-profile cases, however, such as in Omaha and Pittsburgh, branches were saved through fundraising and emergency government funds. And some libraries, notably those in economically healthy areas, are still sailing ahead.
    But the general mood is one of caution and concern. Only 16% of those reporting say they are “very positive, upbeat” about their financial future, while 23% are “very negative, depressed.” Notably, 35% of the largest libraries report the latter. More than 40% of libraries have frozen salaries and reduced staff. Libraries serving one million or more population have lost, on average, 50 employees.
    Thus, library service has been chipped away; not only have materials taken a hit, but open hours have gone down on average 1.3 hours over the past year, and programming has declined. This occurs, of course, at a time when library circulation remains up—6% in the current year, FY09—and libraries have gained attention for their crucial and continuing role in fostering e-government and, more critically, job-related services (see “When Service Matters,” p. 40–43). Nearly 60% of respondents say they’ve heard comments about the decline in library services, hours, or materials. But those losses are not equally felt. Some 74% of those polled say they think patrons care most about hours, not service or materials.
    Permanent realignment?
    The economic crisis, coupled with continued demands on libraries for traditional services such as books and programming, portends significant, perhaps permanent, realignment regarding library spending. Libraries are relying more on volunteers: on the one hand a rich potential resource, on the other a not necessarily reliable one—or one that could undermine commitment to permanent staffing.
    With more than half of those reporting saying they’ve cut or eliminated budgets for conferences, travel, and education, that suggests a further squeeze on in-person national and state conferences, with library association members forced to foot the bill themselves or seek out virtual conferencing. That 51% figure actually understates the impact, because 84% of libraries serving one million or more say they’d cut such support, as do 68% of those serving 500,000 to 999,999.
    But libraries and their leaders have come up with creative responses regarding spending and fundraising (see “Fundraising in the Downturn,” p. 48–50) and have used staff differently. This year’s budget survey asked for more narrative responses regarding strategies, services, and outlook.
    Looking up
    Some libraries had good reason to look on the future positively. An annual fund drive led to an increase of 50% in private donations, while municipal support remains dependable, states the Guthrie Memorial Library, PA (pop. served: 40,711).
    “Even with the economic downturn, we are simultaneously building three new branch libraries and adding six new full-time staff positions; we have an outstanding library staff, supportive county council, supportive local state legislators,” plus support from a local foundation and the Friends group, reports the Florence County Library System, SC (pop. 131,000).
    Ames PL, IA (pop. 65,805), sits in a university town that has been less scathed than most by the recession. And in New Braunfels, TX (pop. 53,000), near San Antonio, the library is valued as “a strong indicator of livability.”
    Weber County Library System, UT (pop. 221,846), notes that property tax in Utah is stable, even growing; the library foundation recently raised $1.5 million to furnish and equip a new branch, protecting the operating budget.
    Fort Worth PL, TX (pop. 720,250), reports that, despite the slow recovery and staff turnover owing to salary and benefit cuts, it has a comprehensive plan seen as essential by the city council and has marshaled advocacy to save two branches.
    Looking down
    Other respondents are gloomier, including those in Ohio, where libraries have traditionally relied on state funding. “As the state...shifts its historic responsibility for library funding to the local level, the capacity of localities to pick up the [slack] is constrained by property devaluations,” reports the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County (pop. 240,000).
    In California, several libraries cited the strain of decreasing property values. Santa Barbara PL (pop. 227,349), for example, operates in a city where projected revenue is down almost 20%. In Florida, economic growth hit harsh reality; Walton County PL (pop. 50,750) lost 20% of its hours, 85% of its book budget, and all of its programming money.
    Michigan suffers similarly. Clinton-Macomb PL (pop. 160,000) is bracing for property tax decreases of at least 10% for three years running.
    “Our five libraries currently are staffed by” (at press time) 11 people, 8.5 FTE, laments Chesterfield County Library System, SC (pop. 43,000). “We are desperately short-staffed as it is, and with our use increasing by about 15% a month, we are going to become even more stretched.”
    Coping with challenges
    While libraries have historically cut the materials budget, LJ asked about new strategies, and the results show some divergence. Smaller libraries rely more on volunteers and have decided they needed to gain grants. And those libraries may be better off; about a quarter of libraries serving populations under 50,000 say their budgets are stable.
    By contrast, more than one-third of larger libraries—those serving more than 500,000 people—have had layoffs, and nearly 30% of libraries in that group have instituted furloughs.
    While two-thirds of the libraries that have furloughs have maintained hours, a majority of the larger libraries that have had furloughs have lost public hours. (More than one-third of libraries let staffers choose individual days, while 29% institute uniform furloughs, which leads to closings.) And more than 20% of the largest libraries have cut back their bookmobile or similar services.
    Some 20% of libraries—excluding those serving populations over 500,000—use volunteers to shelve books, while some 16% of libraries across the board deploy volunteers for computer or technical assistance.
    Several libraries say they are using volunteers differently, for registration at reading programs, at the circ desk, at the learning lab, and in the special collections department. Anaheim PL, CA (pop. 348,467), reports success in using subsidized senior worker programs funded by the Department of Labor. And the nearby Santa Ana PL (pop. 353,184) has implemented a “Circle of Mentoring” in which volunteers mentor teens and teen volunteers mentor children.
    Asked which strategy offers lessons for other libraries, respondents gave a variety of answers. “Perhaps the greatest lesson is that libraries should never rely on one source for their operation budgets,” comments Lima PL (pop. 89,689). Similarly, Kootenai-Shoshone Libraries, ID (pop. 76,500), cites “independent taxing authority.”
    “Budget conservatively and spend frugally,” suggests Greenville County Library System, SC (pop. 379,616). “Maintain a fund balance” to brace for cuts and new expenses.
    “Don’t cut anything that can’t be added back when the economic picture improves,” proposes Carol Stream PL, IL (pop. 40,738), citing staff as “the heart of the library.”
    At Santa Ana PL, teen programming has relied solely on grants. Palos Verdes Library District, CA (pop. 68,000), has raised revenues by charging for passports, notary service, and room rentals to for-profit organizations.
    At Campbell County PL System, VA (pop. 53,789), “adequately training more volunteers has been the biggest help.” Geauga County PL, OH (pop. 85,787), has been able to hire teen pages via a Catholic Charities jobs program.
    Focus on “core services critical to the library mission,” advises Woodland PL, CA (pop. 55,000). Thus the library debuted self-check and outsourced processing and cataloging.
    There’s still room to leverage public support. “My Library/My Story,” a public awareness campaign adapted from the New Jersey State Library/New Jersey Library Association, generated more than 1200 responses in two weeks at Montgomery County Memorial Library System, TX (pop. 430,000). Those responses helped prevent even deeper cuts.
    And in what may be a harbinger of further changes, Johnson City PL, TN (pop. 71,183), suggests that “librarians must be able to manage successfully a larger team of paraprofessionals” as budgets tighten.
    “Stick to your key business!” exhorts Maricopa County Library District, AZ (pop. 718,248). “Gaming, programming, etc., are nice, but [our] key business is material out the door.”
    Maintaining motivation
    There’s no magic bullet for maintaining staff motivation in a time of austerity—many agree it is difficult—but more than 40% of respondents say that communication and transparency is the best policy. Others emphasize staff recognition and asking for staff input. Some make sure to inform staff of free or low-cost opportunities for training.
    Several mention that small gestures go a long way, such as monthly drawings for prizes. And a few cite “lots of chocolate.”
    Not only does Hall County Library System, GA (pop. 184,200), try to offer a special activity day each month, but “we also still insist everyone cross-train.”
    “Focus on streamlining what they do,” suggests Washington County Library, MN (pop. 211,000), where fiction awaiting shelving sits on carts for patrons to sift through.
    Emphasizing services
    Unsurprisingly, libraries are emphasizing job-related services most of all; 23% cite it as a recent priority. Some 21% mention Internet access/Wi-Fi; a similar number cite programming. And 18% say they’re emphasizing online services and resources.
    Notably, at least 18% of libraries serving populations larger than 250,000 are pushing self-check or self-service, with 28% of the largest libraries reporting such a focus.
    Pioneer Library System, OK (pop. 341,741), says it is stressing several things, including outreach to rural schools and community centers, mall and convenience store book lockers for pickup, and remote book drops. Alachua County Library District, FL (pop. 250,000), highlights e-government, in a state where social services have migrated to the web.
    Technology of course plays a role. Terrebonne Parish Library System, LA (pop. 109,000), reminds patrons to “text a librarian.” Davenport PL, IA (pop. 98,359), has drawn teens via an e-gaming program and has had success with a contest for teens to create their own movie—to be shown on the local IMAX screen and on YouTube.
    Services cut back
    Libraries are most likely to cut back on outreach, including bookmobiles and school visits, as cited by 14% of the total sample. Some 12% cite materials and hours. However, more than 21% of larger libraries—serving more than 500,000—are slashing materials.
    Moreover, more than one-third of the largest libraries—serving more than one million—have cut hours.
    Harford County PL, MD (pop. 247,760), eliminated its small business librarian. Santa Barbara PL System, CA, axed interlibrary loan. And Sheridan PL, OR (pop. 7500), eliminated both audiobooks and entertainment DVDs.
    The wish list
    Libraries want to do more. They want to provide computer classes, programming, and hours. Notably, some 25% of larger libraries—serving more than 500,000 people—would like to offer more hours, while about 20% of that sector see the need for expanded collections.
    Branch District Library, MI (pop. 47,418), speaks for many with strained bandwidth when it requests 100 Mbps Internet service, the kind that delivers the video so many patrons request. Maricopa County Library District would like “unlimited downloadable DVDs”—a service perhaps several years in the future—though for most libraries even downloadable audiobooks remain a relatively low priority.
    Driftwood PL, OR (pop. 16,000), would like the staff time and skills to use social media better.
    Omaha PL (pop. 486,929) cites the library’s de facto larger social responsibilities, requesting more help “for the homeless, needy, and un/underemployed.” Not dissimilarly, Denton PL, TX (pop. 118,994), would like to offer more outreach to the homebound, those in detention centers and shelters, and those in nursing homes, retirement villages, and assisted living facilities.
    The continuing paradox
    As libraries face increased demand and constrained resources, they will have to plan ahead. “Self-check would really have helped with the recession and will help in the future when making public service staffing decisions,” observes Roddenbery Memorial Library, GA (pop. 25,000).
    Libraries small and large may be thinking about similar changes. It’s impossible for many libraries to fulfill all their patrons’ needs and wants. So they’ll have to be prudent, keep watch on local priorities, and remind funders of the library’s value as they navigate a challenging future.
    Population Served/ Total Budget 2010/ % Change in Total Budget/ Materials Budget 2010/ % Change to Mat. Budget/ Salary Budget 2010/ Change to Salary Budget/
    Total Sample (weighted) $6,855,000 -2.6% $792,000 -3.5% $4,260,000 -1.4%
    Under 10,000 206,000 -0.5% 29,000 -3.4% 130,000 +2.2%
    10,000–24,999 747,000 +0.1% 92,000 -1.5% 454,000 +1.1%
    25,000–49,999 1,882,000 -2.5% 237,000 -3.8% 1,168,000 +0.5%
    50,000–99,999 3,162,000 -2.6% 364,000 -2.7% 2,009,000 +0.2%
    100,000–249,000 6,235,000 -0.6% 699,000 -1.4% 3,897,000 -0.1%
    250,000–499,000 13,920,000 -2.1% 1,802,000 -1.0% 8,928,000 -1.6%
    500,000–999,999 30,000,000 -3.5% 3,252,000 -6.8% 17,536,000 -2.4%
    1 million or more 62,443,000 -4.5% 6,698,000 -6.0% 38,763,000 -3.0%
    Average Per Capita Funding
    FY 2008 $42.91
    FY 2009 $42.79 NET CHANGE –.3%
    FY 2010 $42.11 (projected) NET CHANGE –1.6%

1/09/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Clark libraries considering levy request, by Bridgette Outten, SpringfieldNewsSun.com
    SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - Clark County Public Library trustees are discussing the possibility of seeking an operational levy to help expenses as a troubled financial outlook isn’t getting any better in the new year.
    The board of trustees is having a special meeting at 4 p.m. Monday in the Gaier Board Room of the library, 201 S. Fountain Ave.
    “We realize that it’s not going to get any better this year,” said library Director Sally Rizer. “In fact, the state is saying we may get 8 (percent) to 9 percent less than last year.”
    State funds have dwindled since 2008, with a $4.8 million distribution that year; $3.9 million in 2009 and a projected $3.4 million for 2010, Rizer said.
    The public is encouraged to attend Monday’s meeting, she added.
    “We just have realized that it’s not fair to provide the best service to our patrons,” she said.
    If administrators decide to go forward with the levy, it would be the first time the library has ever had one, Rizer said.
    “We had a bond issue about 20 years ago to build our newest building,” she said. “But we’ve never had a levy.”
    The library has had to cut hours and offer unpaid furlough days to make ends meet, but have so far avoided layoffs. The library system closed for 10 days at the end of the year and furloughed staff, in part because of budget problems.
    Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0374 or boutten@coxohio.com.

  2. The Bad Job Numbers and the Secret Second Stimulus, by Robert Reich, (1/08) robertreich.org via WallStreetPit.com (blog)
    The Labor Department reports that 85,000 jobs were lost in December. The official rate of unemployment (which measures how many people are looking for jobs) held steady at 10 percent nonetheless. That’s because so many more people have stopped looking. Reportedly, 661,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force last month, deciding there was no hope of finding a job. Had they continued to look, the official unemployment rate would have been 10.4 percent.
    These statistics mask an even more troubling reality. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, around 8 million jobs have been lost. But this doesn’t include all the people who, in a growing national population, would have entered the labor market had there been jobs for them. These “never entereds” amount to an estimated 2.5 million. So, in truth, the national economy is down by 10.6 million jobs overall. There’s no way to make this up for years.
    The most painful political truth for Democrats is the nation won’t possibly be out of this jobs hole by the presidential election of 2012, even if the recovery is vigorous. Do the math. In order to get out of the hole, we’d need an average monthly increase of 400,000 jobs between now and then. But even at the peak of the 1990s jobs boom, the highest we ever got was 280,000 jobs a month. At the peak of the last recovery, in 2005, we got no higher than 212,000 jobs a month. Bottom line: Obama will be going into an election year with a higher total level of unemployment than before the Great Recession. He will have to argue that, were it not for his policies, things would be even worse. Counter-factuals like this do not sit well on bumper stickers.
    Almost 40 percent of the jobless have been without work for over six months. That’s a record. People who have been out of the labor force for more than six months have a particularly hard time getting back in. Many never do.
    What worries me most about all this is the trend line. If we were coming out of a recession with any potential strength in the job market, we’d at least see growth in the length of the average workweek. But there’s no sign of any growth. The average workweek held steady in December at 33.2 hours. Employers aren’t even giving their own workers more hours.
    [What Bob's stuck in is the unquestioned framework of a Full Time Work Week of Forty Hours, Given by God Hymself to Moses on the Mount of Sinai. But if we go with the flow of the shorter average workweek, and just declare it full time and worthy of all benefits, and then cut it further to create more jobs, and employees, and consumers - we leach the money supply back out of the thousands of employers in the upper income brackets, spread it back out to the millions of employees and consumers, and restore the markets...and the economy.]
    Big American companies are more profitable, to be sure. But there’s a massive disconnect between profitability and employment. Companies are increasing profits by cutting their costs (including payrolls), outsourcing more jobs abroad, and selling more abroad. But American workers — and, therefore, American consumers — are still stuck in a deep recession.
    Only two things are keeping unemployment from rising more: The stimulus package, which is approaching its peak spending; and the Fed, which continues to keep a loose rein on the money supply and buy up mortgage-backed securities. After December’s discouraging job’s report, don’t expect the Fed to tighten any time soon — probably not until after the middle of 2010, at the earliest.
    What about fiscal policy? A second stimulus? Yes, to this extent: Democrats are looking into the cross-hairs of a mid-term election that won’t be pretty, to say the least. Pelosi has to hold on to 40 seats. In the Senate, Dodd’s and Dorgan’s departures pose a huge problem. Without 60 reliable votes, the Senate Dems won’t be able to do much of anything. Rarely in history have the Republicans in both chambers been so relentlessly united. The dismal jobs picture makes Republicans salivate over 2010 and 2012. Dems know they have to do something to show voters they’re focused on jobs. A victory on health care won’t cut it.
    So expect the Dems to move toward more spending — more unemployment benefits, more cash for clunkers, more help for small businesses, maybe a new jobs tax credit. A larger defense budget will also be part of the stimulus. But don’t expect any of this to be dressed up as a “second stimulus package.” That would give Republicans too much ammunition to attack Dems as big spenders and try to focus the public’s attention on the widening deficit and growing federal debt.
    The truth, of course, is that the most important fiscal indicator is the ratio of the debt to the GDP. And the most important issue there is how quickly America can get jobs back and the GDP growing again. More spending in the short term is the only way to accelerate a jobs recovery, and reduce the debt-GDP ratio over the longer term. In other words, more deficit spending is a good thing to do now, a but a bad thing three or four or five years from now when the economy is back to normal. (I should admit at this point that I don’t think we’ll ever get back to “normal” because I believe “normal” got us into the pickle we’re now in, but I’ll save this for another time.) Yet Republicans will demagogue the deficit and debt like mad in coming months.
    I hope the President doesn’t take the bait and begin talking about deficits and debts, when he should be talking only about creating more jobs. How issues are framed for the public makes all the difference.

1/08/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Battleship New Jersey will reduce staff, cut hours, by The Star-Ledger Continuous News Desk, The Star-Ledger via NJ.com
    CAMDEN, N.J. -- The Battleship New Jersey said Thursday it is reducing staffing, slashing the budget, and cutting hours of the city destination, a report on Philly.com said.
    Jim Schuck, president of the museum and memorial, said he is laying off 12 employees today, leaving seven full-time workers, according to the report. Visits by noneducational tour groups dropped, reducing revenue, while state funding has decreased, the report said. The museum also cut hours the beginning of last year.
    [So if cutting hours is "communist!" the Battleship New Jersey is communist.]
    The Battleship New Jersey Museum on the Camden waterfront.The Battleship New Jersey, the second craft so named, was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and launched a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. It was decommissioned for the final time in 1991 and opened as a museum and memorial in October 2001.

  2. Rockford libraries to cut hours, by Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star via rrstar.com
    ROCKFORD, Ill. — The Rockford Public Library will undergo a massive change in operating hours and staffing levels next week as it embarks on a new world of providing services in a tough economy.
    All six library branches will close Thursday to implement the changes and reopen on staggered dates from Friday to Jan. 18.
    Starting Jan. 18, weekly library hours will be reduced from 312 to 225. Hours of operation at all branches, except the Rock River branch on 11th Street, will be cut. The library’s newest branch, the East Branch on East State Street, will be open 45 hours a week during the school year as opposed to 76. The library’s main branch on Wyman Street will go from 65 hours a week to 40.
    And hours at the Lewis Lemon branch will be cut in half.
    While most branches will open at 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, most will be closed Sundays and Mondays and offer noon to 8 p.m. hours during the week. The East branch will be closed Mondays. The main branch will be closed Thursdays. The East branch will be the only location open on Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m., and only from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
    “It’s been a painful process,” said Emily Hartzog, the library’s community relations officer.
    “We’ve been forced to live in a new budget reality. ... And we anticipate it to continue to be challenging.”
    For months, the library has been working to address an estimated $1.7 million budget shortfall for 2010, exploring options for reduced hours and negotiating employee layoffs and wage freezes.
    Library officials hope to save about $1 million through layoffs.
    Public’s reaction
    Patrons reading, surfing the web, and playing PlayStation 3’s Soul Calibur IV video game in the “Young Adult Zone” at the downtown main branch were caught off guard and disappointed to hear of the new hours.
    “I think Rockford is too big of a city to have hours cut down,” said Tiara Spates, 23, of Rockford. “I read a lot, like constantly. I come here to get the books I need to do reports.”
    Nick Van Thof, 19, of Rockford is a daily patron of the library and was well aware of the reduced hours.
    “I’m livid,” he said. He said not only does he enjoy the services at the library, but the people who provide them.
    “When I was looking for a job, the people on the second floor helped me out.”
    Brad Carlson..of Rockford, who was tutoring a young student was aware of the library’s financial plight and thought the cuts would be more drastic.
    “I thought it would be closing branches, at least one,” he said.
    Reducing staff levels
    The library plans to reduce its staff of 104 full-time equivalent positions by about 30 employees next week, Hartzog said. All six branches will close Thursday to allow staff time to settle into new locations and retrain remaining employees, as many will take on new responsibilities under the reorganization.
    Four library employees did take the early retirement package being offered, Hartzog said.
    Library officials said the target number of employees that needed to be laid off — 30 — could be reduced if more employees opted to retire early.
    Job cuts will come from exempt employees as well as union employees, Hartzog said.
    Service wise, Hartzog said the library doesn’t have any plans to cut any services but will need to change how it offers services. Storytimes, for example, will no longer be held weekday mornings as libraries won’t open until noon.
    “This is a big change for us,” Hartzog said. “As with any organization undergoing this type of change, it’s been extremely stressful on our employees. The emphasis among everyone has been to minimize the impact on the public. I think our staff is anxious to start anew and work creatively in their environments.
    “The people on our staff are some of the most creative people you’ll ever meet. They can take duct tape and twine and make the Eiffel Tower out of it. ... If anyone can make this work, it’s them.”
    Staff writer Corina Curry can be reached at ccurry@rrstar.com or 815-987-1371.

  3. INSTANT VIEW 4-Euro zone inventories drive Q3 GDP, jobless jump, Reuters via Interactive Investor via iii.co.uk
    A stronger jump in inventories and positive but smaller than expected net trade drove the euro zone out of recession in the third quarter, but investment was weaker than thought, revised data showed.
    Separately, Eurostat said euro zone unemployment jumped more than expected in November to 10.0 percent of the workforce and the jobless rate in October was higher than previously reported at 9.9 percent, rather than 9.8 percent.
    For the euro area this was the highest rate since August 1998, Eurostat said...
    "We think that the labour market correction has a long way to go. Employment has still not fully adjusted to the fall in output during the recession reflecting institutional rigidities in the euro zone labour market as well as government-sponsored short-time working schemes.
    "This is consistent with past experience, when the euro zone labour market has tended to adjust much more slowly than in the U.S. On average during past business cycles, the unemployment rate tends to peak five quarters after the trough in GDP in the euro zone, compared to around one quarter in the U.S.
    "What is more, following the trough in output, the unemployment rate does not start to decline until 10 quarters later in the euro zone, compared to four quarters in the U.S.
    "We think that the unemployment rate will continue to rise until around the third quarter of this year before remaining at these higher levels through 2011. The upshot is that consumer spending will remain weak for a protracted period and that the overall economic recovery will be slow."
    "The breakdown of the third-quarter euro zone GDP shows that more favourable inventory developments and a rebound in exports were the key factors behind the return to growth. Indeed, inventories contributed 0.5 percentage points to quarter-on-quarter growth, although net trade only added 0.1 percentage point as a 3.1 percent quarter-on-quarter rise in exports was largely countered by a 2.7 percent quarter-on-quarter rise in imports.
    "Government spending also contributed to growth. Investment contracted at a markedly reduced rate, although it was still down by a significant 0.8 percent quarter-on-quarter. Disappointingly though, consumer spending suffered a modest relapse, very possibly reflecting a reduced overall positive impact from car scrappage schemes.
    "Latest euro zone data and survey evidence continue to show overall improvement and growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 is likely to have at least matched the third-quarter outturn. Euro zone economic activity is currently being supported by the monetary and fiscal stimulus measures that have been enacted, while improved global economic activity and trade is lifting exports. Meanwhile, inventory developments are becoming more favourable following the sharp slashing of stocks in the first half of the year that was triggered by the collapse in demand in late-2008/early-2009.
    "Nevertheless, we suspect that the euro zone's recovery could well lose momentum for a time in 2010 before growth starts to gradually pick up again. This loss of momentum is expected to be the consequence of the withdrawal of some stimulus measures, including car scrappage schemes and employment support measures.
    "In addition, inventory developments could start to become less positive towards the middle of the year while the strong euro, high and still rising unemployment, and persistent tight credit conditions amid still significant financial sector problems are also seen as weighing down on euro zone growth prospects.
    "In addition, there is a danger that global growth could also falter for a time during 2010, thereby limiting euro zone exports.
    "Consequently, we expect the euro zone to find it difficult to grow by more than 1.0 percent in 2010 following estimated contraction of 3.9 percent in 2009. The likely fragility of the recovery means that both governments and the ECB need to be wary about withdrawing stimulus measures too soon or too aggressively. It also underpins our view that the ECB will keep interest rates down at 1.00 percent until at least late-2010.
    "In addition to the euro zone's return to growth since the third quarter of 2009 and improved business confidence, the rise in euro zone unemployment is currently being limited to some extent by government jobs support in a number of countries (most notably in Germany).
    "Nevertheless, euro zone unemployment still seems likely to rise significantly higher in 2010, thereby limiting consumer spending (along with modest wage growth), and hence growth prospects. Even though the euro zone exited recession in the third quarter of 2009 and has since continued to expand, growth is unlikely to be strong enough to generate net jobs for some considerable time to come -- particularly as some of the current government measures to support employment will come to an end.
    "Furthermore, given how difficult and costly that it can be to lay off workers in many euro zone countries, firms will be reluctant to take on new workers until they are really confident that recovery will be sustained and will gain momentum.
    "Significantly, euro zone business confidence is still relatively soft compared with long-term norms, despite further overall improvement in December from the record-low levels suffered in most sectors in March 2009.
    "Consistent with this, the European Commission's survey of business and consumer confidence showed that while employment expectations among euro zone companies improved modestly further in December, they were still low compared to long-term norms."
    "November's rise in euro zone unemployment was relatively modest, but still suggests that it might be some time before consumers really join the recovery.
    "The unemployment rate rose from 9.9 percent to 10 percent -- the highest since August 1998. But the 102,000 rise in the number of unemployed was far better than the increases of around 500,000 seen at the height of the recession.
    "The German rate was unchanged, while those in France, Italy and Spain rose further. Survey measures of hiring intentions point to a further slowdown in the rate of job cuts in the coming months, suggesting that the labour market downturn might be nearing its end. But there is a risk that unemployment rises again later this year as government subsidies run out, particularly in Germany.
    "What's more, wage growth has yet to respond to the earlier rise in unemployment and might well drop towards zero this year. In all, today's figures provide some encouragement, particularly taken together with the recent rise in consumer confidence. But a strong pick-up in consumer spending growth seems unlikely for the time being."

  4. Cold Remedy: 18 Real-World Lifestyle Design Case Studies (Now, It's Your Turn), by Tim Ferriss, HuffingtonPost.com (blog)
    The video case studies that I asked for in the last post really caught me unprepared.
    I...am...so happy that it's hard to put it into words.
    From Denmark to India, from college students to retirees, from yoga instructors to engineers, the stories poured in. Narrowing them down to finalists, even with several people, was excruciating, but below you will find 15 of our favorites. Many more are worth watching (I watched them all) and can be found here, or by searching "4hww success" on YouTube.
    The below videos represent a real-life crash course in the many paths and practicalities of lifestyle design. I hope you love watching them as much as I did.
    Happy New Year, y'all. Decide today that 2010 will be the year when everything changes.
    It can be.
    Chuck Holton
    My attempts at leaving the corporate world met with very limited success until I read the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. In the last few years, we've successfully done the following:
    1. Left the corporate world for good.
    2. Taken a 1-year mini-retirement (with 5 kids!) to Panama.
    3. Paid off our house through the application of geoarbitrage.
    4. Diversified our cash flow into more than ten different streams
    5. Automated over 50% of our cash flow (passive or semi-passive)
    6. Cut my work hours from 70+ per week to however many I feel like (closer to 20/wk)
    7. Implemented 4hww strategies into my children's home schooling, teaching them to structure their own lives to attain freedom.
    Two of Chuck's children -- both under 15 years of age -- are also earning $300-500 per month with their own companies.

1/07/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Gwinnett library board to consider budget adjustments, by Patrick Fox, Atlanta Journal Constitution via ajc.com
    Gwinnett library officials, recently on the ropes because of funding shortfalls, will discuss services it can now offer in the wake of the county's passage of its $1.3 billion 2010 budget earlier this week.
    The budget includes restoring the library system's $18.9 million funding. Officials had faced 10 percent cuts as late as last fall and proposed a series of controversial measures to trim services. Ultimately, the library board voted to reduce hours at all branches to 35 hours a week in order to staff the new Hamilton Mill Library, which is set to open this spring.
    [This would be an example of job creation through shorter hours.]
    County commissioners said the restored funding will allow all branches to operate about 50 hours a week.
    The meeting begins with public comment at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Five Forks Branch, 2780 Five Forks Trickum Road, Lawrenceville.

  2. RCC trustees approve summer 4-day work week, LaurinburgExchange.com
    RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C. - A $10,000 cost savings in utility bills and an overwhelmingly positive response from a faculty and staff survey led the Richmond Community College Board of Trustees on Tuesday night to approve moving to a four-day work summer work week beginning Monday, May 24, and ending Friday, July 30.
    The college tried the schedule in 2009 and found there was no negative impact on instruction, students saved one day of driving to campus, and utility cost savings were significant.
    The board also received audit reports from the RCC Foundation and the RCC Internal Equipment audits.
    Both indicated no findings or recommendations. Board members complimented college officials for having no equipment losses for the fiscal year.
    In other business, the board renewed the Scotland County Early College High School agreement for the fourth year of the program.
    A construction progress update on the F. Diane Honeycutt Center in Laurinburg indicates the project is on schedule and should be ready for occupation in June.

  3. What You Should Know About the December Jobs Report, by Sr.Economist Mark Lieberman, FOXBusiness.com
    There will be lots of numbers to wade through in the monthly employment situation report to be released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s a quick primer on what to look for.
    Headline writers will be divided between looking at the unemployment rate and the month-month change in payroll jobs. The data are derived from separate surveys – the unemployment rate from a survey of 60,000 households and the number of payroll jobs from a survey of 160,000 businesses and government agencies covering approximately 400,000 individual worksites.
    The surveys cover essentially the same period of the month – the week including the 12th calendar day. Once reported, household survey data are not revised but payroll data are using a seasonal adjustment factor, complicated this year because the factor is based on changes in the same months one year earlier. Those adjustment factors, once developed, are applied retroactively to the prior two months – or in the report Friday, to data already published for November and October.
    According to John Williams, an economist who tries to get behind all government data at his Shadow Government Statistics Web site, “the purpose of seasonally adjusting data is to remove regular, recurring patterns of business activity tied to holiday seasons, school years, trading days, etc., so that remaining changes in monthly (or other period less than annual) activity reflect relative changes in economic activity.”
    Those factors though, according to Williams “never were designed to account for repetitive annual declines in activity due to an ongoing downturn. With the economy tumbling at the end of 2007 and end of 2008, anything less severe at the end of 2009 can become an outright rebound after seasonal adjustment.”
    Since the change in payroll jobs is just that, a change, it depends on what the prior month’s totals are. For November, BLS reported 130,996,000 jobs. If that number is reduced in the revision, it will lower the bar for December and increase the likelihood of a report showing jobs increased – but it will also mean more jobs were lost in November than the originally reported 11,000. So lesson number one will be to watch not just the December totals, but the totals for November (and October) as well.
    The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of individuals unemployed (a defined term which requires an individual to be out of work, available for work and actively looking for work) by the sum of employed and unemployed, the labor force. As confidence in the economy improves, people out of work who have not been looking might grow more confident in their ability to land a job and thus begin looking – increasing the number of people who meet the definition of unemployed. But that would also affect the labor force, so lesson two is to watch the change (if any) in the unemployment rate compared with the change in the labor force. If both increase – especially because the number of “unemployed” goes up – it could actually be a sign of an improving economy, or at least that more people are confident of their ability to land a job.
    Although perhaps not an immediate factor, the number of government jobs is an important indicator and will – in the next few months – have a significant impact on both parts of the employment report. The Census Bureau has announced plans to hire 180,000 workers in January, February and March and another 1.2 million workers in April, May and June for the decennial population count. In the three months ended December, Census had plans to hire about 17,000 workers. The government churn points to lesson three to pay closer attention to private sector rather than total payrolls.
    The report will also hold clues to the future direction of the economy including whether jobs will increase. One tactic employers have been using to avoid layoffs is to reduce the workweek. Since the recession began in December 2007, the average workweek has declined from 33.8 hours to 33.2 (dipping as low as 33.0). This indicator requires some arithmetic. In December 2007 there were 138,152,000 payroll jobs at that 33.8 hour average workweek. In November, with the workweek down to 33.2 hours, there were 130,996,000 payroll jobs. If the average individual workweek had not been cut, employers would have needed 128,671,000 job slots – about 2.3 million fewer. So, the next lesson is to look at the change in the average workweek: as it increases it means employers have more work and are more likely to hire.
    Increasing the workweek also means earnings – and the ability to spend – increases. Since the recession began 23 months ago, average weekly earnings have increased about $23.50. In the prior 23 months, earnings increased $41.62. Improved earnings means we have more to spend which means retailers can sell more and have to order more, setting in motion cyclical growth. So lesson five would be to watch not only the workweek, but average hourly earnings as a clue to whether spending and thus the economy will improve.
    As employers are often reluctant to add to staff until they are confident of an economic upturn, they use temporary employees. Temporary employment has increased now for four straight months. Historically increases in temporary employment have preceded an increase in broader payrolls by nine months (1990-91 recession) and 19 months (2001 recession); the four-month streak – dating back to August – would suggest a more lasting pick-up in jobs by the middle of 2010. Lesson six would be to look for trends in temporary hiring.
    Temporary employment is though hard to interpret with precision. BLS reported last month retail employment had dropped by 15,000, the smallest decline since mid-2008, even in anticipation of holiday shopping. Remember the report for November was based on payroll levels in the middle of the month, before Black Friday sales began. The report Friday will include retail hires for the entire shopping season. To the extent they increase and fuel the overall job total, it may be reason for concern as those jobs may disappear when consumers put their wallets away. Lesson seven then would be to watch the sources of any change in payroll jobs.
    That’s the homework assignment.
    Mark Lieberman is the senior economist for the Fox Business Network. Prior to joining FOX, he served as first vice president and manager of economic analysis and research at Washington Mutual in New York. Before that, he served as senior vice president at Dime Savings Bank of New York (which was later acquired by Washington Mutual), where he specialized in credit and risk management. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York Association for Business Economics. He has a degree in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

  4. Quality of Life in Britain is Getting Worse - According to a brand new quality of life survey from a leading international lifestyle magazine, Britain has slumped in the rankings because life in the UK is getting ever worse, ShelterOffshore.com
    Whilst many in the UK are snowbound and homebound and apparently the economic output has ground to almost zero as a result, there will be those sitting at home or freezing as they attempt to commute who will be actively contemplating their fastest route out of Britain. You see, according to a brand new survey, not only is the quality of life in Britain worse than in nations such as Austria, Uruguay and Lithuania, the quality of life in Britain is actually getting worse.
    So, on this sunny but freezing day in Britain, as you sit and contemplate why no one clears roads of snow any more, or invests in critical infrastructure, and as an assault on Brown’s leadership is discussed as being suicidal for the government and the nation’s economy is as frozen as many major roads in the UK, you will be 100% right in your thinking if you decide that actually, things in great Britain are going from bad to worse…
    The new Quality of Life Index has been published by the respected International Living magazine that’s been researching up to 194 countries’ quality of life for 30 years…so it’s not like this is some random survey that’s plucked its findings from the ether. And yes, according to the Index, not only is the quality of life in the UK behind that achievable in countries as diverse as Germany, the United States, Spain and Norway, but it is worse this year than it was last year.
    Last year Britain languished in 20th place in the survey – but this year it has fallen a further five places and sits on the list as the 25th nation in the league. Topping the charts is France – which is probably unsurprising given that the French have a very positive attitude towards achieving a decent quality of life – and anyone who stands in the way of that be damned! The French have shorter working hours than the British, they have more holiday entitlement, a greater number of public holidays, they have an incredibly diverse landscape across their vast nation that allows the French access to everything from the best Mediterranean beaches to the finest skiing without having to leave their beloved country.
    The French savour life, they eat well, drink well, rest well, socialise well and generally seem to regard life with a little more respect than the Brits. In Britain we commute long hours, have job insecurity hanging over us even when we’re not in recession, we’re consumerists driven to owning our own homes and therefore getting into deep debt, we live in a country where the weather is generally poor, the government is unsupportive and all we have time left for at the end of a long working day is slumping in front of the TV. This can lead to poor eating habits, poor socialising tendencies, over eating and drinking and fatigue. So, it’s no wonder Britain has slumped in the Quality of Life rankings really is it?
    And it’s a tragedy – because the UK is a beautiful and diverse nation too, it’s a nation peopled with individuals with great character, we are prepared to work hard for what’s important to us, but somehow the rewards are just not there any more in sufficient number to retain loyalty or commitment from the people. Which is why the UK is again witnessing the beginnings of a brain drain, which is why there are more people than ever searching for information about starting a new life abroad, and which is why you’re possibly wondering which countries made up the top 10 in the Quality of Life Index?!
    Well, we’re going to be examining the top ten places in the world to live in closer detail in two forthcoming reports about where in the world you can move to live, work or retire if you want a better quality of life. In the first part we’ll examine the nations in reverse order from 10 to 6 inclusive – and they are, in tenth place, Italy then Canada, Belgium, the United States and Luxembourg. In the second report we’ll work from five up to the best place in the world to live, namely France. So we’ll cover New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and finally France.
    We’re going to cover the reasons why these nations rank so well in terms of the quality of life they offer. We’ll suggest who the country in question might appeal to and why, how you can gain entry to the country and also offer up the counter position and highlight some of the less appetising points about each country too – so that you have as rounded a view as possible!

1/06/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Record setting year for unemployment claims, TacomaWeekly.com
    OLYMPIA, Wash. - The recession was one of the more prominent news stories of 2009, with good reason: more Washingtonians were unemployed, more received unemployment benefits and more sought job-search assistance than ever before.
    According to the State Employment Security Department, about 475,000 Washingtonians received unemployment benefits in 2009, compared to 290,000 in 2008. The agency paid nearly $4 billion in unemployment benefits in 2009, compared to $1.2 billion in 2008 and $725 million in 2007.
    Although Employment Security more than doubled the size of its unemployment-claims staff since the recession began, employees at the call centers worked about 65,000 hours of overtime last year to handle the dramatically increased workload.
    Approximately 410,000 job seekers received employment counseling and assistance through local WorkSource centers in 2009, compared to about 275,000 in 2008. WorkSource is a statewide partnership of Employment Security and other state government, local government and nonprofit agencies that provide a comprehensive array of employment and training services to job seekers and employers.
    “This recession has shown how valuable it is to have a solvent unemployment insurance system that not only helps families pay their bills, but also sustains the local businesses where they spend their benefits,” Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee said. “Without the $4 billion we paid out in benefits last year, the recession would have had a bigger toll on our state.”
    There was some good news to report. Unemployment-insurance tax rates in 2009 were the lowest in 40 years, with an average rate of 1.55 percent. The last time employers faced an unemployment-tax increase was in 2004, as the state emerged from the last recession.
    A record number of businesses turned to Employment Security’s *Shared-Work Program in 2009 as a way to reduce payroll costs and avoid layoffs. The number of employers and employees approved to participate in the program topped 2,700 and 47,000, respectively, compared to a peak of about 150 employers and 5,700 employees in 2008.
    A study by Employment Security economists concluded that unemployed workers who used WorkSource job-search services found jobs faster and, as a result, earned more money than those who didn’t seek WorkSource assistance.
    “We are seeing a lot more people who have never lost their jobs before,” Lee said. “A lot of them need help learning how to look for work, and many will need to switch to a new occupation. WorkSource provides counseling, information and training services that are vital to job seekers in this economy.”

  2. Senate passes health care bill with payroll provisions, CCH via hr.cch.com
    The Senate approved the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) on December 24, 2009. Among other things, the bill contains some payroll related provisions. The House approved its version on November 7, 2009.
    Automatic enrollment
    Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill does not require employers to provide health insurance coverage. However, the Senate bill mandates automatic enrollment in health insurance plans sponsored by large employers. “Large employers (essentially large and mid-size employers) that fail to offer minimum essential coverage during any month for which a full-time employee has enrolled in a qualified plan and receives a premium assistance tax credit or cost-sharing reductions would be liable for an additional tax. A full-time employee is an individual who is employed on average at least 30 hours per week.
    [Unfortunately, to get beyond the downstairway of bubbles and fix the economy, we need not a minimum workweek like this "at least 30 hours" but a maximum workweek, such as "at most, 35 hours."]
    That penalty would equal the product of the applicable payment amount (defined as, with respect to any month, 1/12 of $750) and the number of full-time employees employed by the employer during such month.
    Large employers offering coverage with employees who qualify for premium assistance tax credits or cost-sharing reductions would also be liable for an additional tax equal to the product of the number of fulltime employees for the month and 400 percent of the applicable payment amount. Large employers with extended enrollment waiting periods (generally those exceeding 30 days) would be liable for an additional tax of $600 for each full-time employee for whom the extended waiting period applies. Special rules would apply to construction employers.
    Large employers
    The Senate bill’s definition of large employer is not what immediately comes to most people’s minds: large multinational companies. The Senate bill defines large employer as an employer who employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees on business days during the preceding calendar year. The Senate bill includes an exception for employers of seasonal employees and special provisions for newly organized businesses.
    Information returns
    Employers and other entities providing minimum essential coverage would be required to file information returns with the IRS identifying the individual, the coverage and the amount of premium, if any, paid by the individual. Penalties would be imposed for failure to file an information return.
    Higher Medicare tax
    The Senate bill imposes an additional 0.9% Medicare payroll tax on individual earned income over $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers). Self-employed individuals would also be liable for the additional tax. The additional tax would apply only to the employee portion of the tax. The Senate bill would not start this additional tax on high earners until 2013.
    Form W-2
    The Senate bill would require employers to disclose the value of employer-provided health insurance to employees annually on Form W-2 for tax years beginning after December 31, 2010.
    Flexible spending accounts (FSA)
    FSA contributions would be capped at $2,500 and indexed for inflation. The bill also disallows the use of FSA funds for nonprescription drugs. This would apply to distributions and reimbursements for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2010. 
    Health savings accounts (HSA)
    The bill would increase the additional tax on nonqualified distributions from HSAs from 10 percent to 20 percent and from Archer MSAs from 15 to 20 percent.
    Cafeteria plans
    The Senate bill would relax the cafeteria plan rules to encourage more small employers to offer tax-free benefits to employees, including those related to health insurance coverage. It does so by carving out a safe harbor from the nondiscrimination requirements for cafeteria plans for qualified small employers.

  3. AK workers cheer minimum wage boost, AP via CapitalCityWeekly.com
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Some Alaskans got a welcome raise on New Year's Day, when the state's minimum wage went up to $7.75 an hour.
    "Yeah, it's nice to get a raise every once in a while," says Heidi Hilmes, who works at Anchorage's Tastee-Freeze.
    In the past year, the pay rate has gone up 60 cents in Alaska. In June, the government increased the federal minimum wage to $7.25, forcing Alaska to raise its minimum by 10 cents to catch up. The Legislature then passed a bill that requires Alaska's minimum wage to always be at least 50 cents higher than the federal rate. The law took effect January 1.
    Many workers, including Hilmes say the raise will make a difference.
    "I live in the area," she told Anchorage television station KTUU. "That was one thing that really puts me over the edge, so it was easy transportation."
    Mostly, the high school student says, she tries to save money from her first job for college. But she adds, "I put a lot of it into my car, actually-I have an old beater."
    Alaska's cost of living is among the highest in the nation, but its minimum wage is not. In Washington state, it's $8.55 an hour, while Oregon's is $8.40 and California's is $8.
    Economists at the Alaska Department of Labor say it's too soon to predict what effect the increase will have, but say it's needed because wages have not kept up with inflation.
    An estimated 8,000 Alaskans will receive the raise. Exceptions to the increase include minors working under 30 hours a week, baby sitters in private homes and people working in agriculture.
    [Penalizing the powerless is a bad thing. Penalizing part-timers is a bad thing. The fact that minimum wage laws are so rigid and market-disruptive as to require so many questionable exceptions demonstrates their mixed-blessing aspect - and they are unnecessary with workweek levels low enough to provide full employment at currently prevailing levels of worksaving technology.]

  4. IBA Can Continue to Cut Hours, Court Says, (20:58 Jan/05) Arutz Sheva via israelnationalnews.com
    ISRAEL - Management at the Israel Broadcasting Authority can continue to reduce workers' hours, a labor court ruled Tuesday. The court thus rejected a petition against firings of IBA workers by the National Journalists' Organization.
    In order to prevent labor unrest, the court suggested that management and workers discuss the situation over the coming week and try to arrive at a solution. The IBA management lauded that suggestion.

  5. Staying late – millions are working for nothing, by industrial correspondent Angela Jameson, (1/07) London Times Online via business.timesonline.co.uk
    UK workers are giving away £27.4 billion in unpaid overtime, but the TUC [Trade Unions Council] says the collaborative sacrifice has meant the rescue of thousands of jobs (photo caption)
    LONDON, England - If you spent yesterday playing in the snow with the kids, there is no need to feel guilty. If you were one of the five million people who regularly work unpaid overtime, you were merely redressing the balance, at least for a day.
    The TUC said yesterday that UK workers were giving away £27.4 billion of unpaid overtime, despite a prolonged recession that has seen many companies cut working hours and drastically scale back paid overtime.
    According to the TUC’s latest research, the five million people who regularly work unpaid overtime are working on average 57 days a year for nothing. The figure represents the highest number of unpaid extra hours worked since the late 1990s.
    TUC calculations suggest that the average employee works 7 hours and 12 minutes a week — worth £5,402 — on top of their paid hours. If everyone who worked unpaid overtime did it from the start of the year, they would start being paid on February 26.
    Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “The recession has forced many employees to do fewer hours in an effort to save jobs and this has also had an effect on the amount of unpaid overtime worked.
    “This flexibility and the sacrifices made by staff has saved jobs and kept companies afloat.”
    On the positive side, there has been a small decrease in employees who regularly work unpaid overtime. Since 2008, when the TUC last analysed official statistics, 168,000 fewer people have said that they regularly work extra hours for no pay.
    The flexibility of the UK’s labour force is credited for the lower than expected rise in unemployment in recent months. Some employers have spoken of a “spirit of collaboration” that has seen staff make sacrifices to save jobs.
    Mr Barber said: “Most employers are understandably focused on fighting their way through the recession. But they shouldn’t forget that working cultures such as pointless presenteeism, which keeps people at their desks for no good reason, is not just bad for staff, but bad for business too.
    “Millions of people are still working far too many hours and often they are not even being paid for it. This long-hours culture causes stress and damages people’s health.”
    Of the five million employees who worked unpaid overtime, nearly 900,000 regularly worked more than ten hours a week unpaid.
    Workers in Northern Ireland, the East Midlands and London were the most likely to do more than 10 hours of unpaid overtime a week. London, where a long-hours culture exists, has the largest number of workers — some 166,422 — doing more than 10 hours of unpaid overtime a week.
    A CBI spokesman said: “Working long hours is not for everyone, but, as the TUC recognises, in times of recession staff will sometimes have to go the extra mile. CBI research also shows that nearly half of employers are offering staff more flexible ways of working during the recession, which helps businesses get through tough times and gives staff a better work-life balance.”
    Do clocks stop at eight hours?
    Commentary: Martin Waller
    That a working day of over eight hours might be seen as in some way oppressive will come as a surprise to much of the working population. Yet the TUC regards this as the point at which paid employment tips over into unpaid overtime.
    The average working week is apparently 38.5 hours; work more than that, plus another hour for luck, and you are into slave labour territory.
    The EU has already been down this tiresome route, trying to impose a one-size-fits-all working directive. This was immediately the subject of attempted opt-out clauses by countries, including the UK, that saw its inherent impracticability.
    There are two reasons why staff put in hours that extend into what the TUC feels is unpaid overtime. One is that they want to. The City workers who step bleary-eyed off the Tube at 6.30am and stay until the closing hours of trading on Wall Street do so because the rewards from the job are deemed sufficient for the sacrifice. Doctors and others who believe their toil serves the public good also tend not to down tools when the clock strikes 5.30pm.
    The second reason is that workers fear the consequences of not putting in the time required to do the job — perhaps for their companies, or perhaps for their job prospects. The TUC, to be fair, does accept this. It also makes the reasonable point that there is too much mindless clock-watching just to put in the requisite hours.
    But it is curious that it should issue such a study when millions would happily put in a few extra hours during 2010 in return for ending the year in employment.

1/05/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Foothills employees to get aid in state unemployment plan, by Denise Richardson, Oneonta Daily Star via thedailystar.com
    ONEONTA, N.Y. - Foothills Performing Arts Center has arranged with the state to participate in a program that will provide unemployment payments for workers, who will clock fewer hours and take home 40 percent less pay.
    To cope with funding shortfalls, including Otsego County's cut of $25,000, Foothills had to take action to cut expenses, said Jennifer McDowall, executive director of the center on Market Street in Oneonta.
    Foothills will participate in the state Department of Labor's *Shared Work Program in a crucial step toward retaining staff who have the knowledge and skills to keep the organization's momentum toward growth, McDowall said.
    [Many states and nations have these worksharing programs.]
    Since June, Foothills has regularly presented visiting and local artists, musicians, concerts and other events in its production center. Foothills continues working and raising money toward opening its main stage and theater.
    The Shared Work Program is a voluntary program that provides employers facing a temporary decline in business with an alternative to layoffs, according to the state Department of Labor. An employer can cut the hours and wages of all or a particular group of employees, who can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their lost wages.
    Advantages of this program are the partial unemployment payments, a mandatory retention of benefits and protection against the alternative of layoffs, according to the state.
    In a media release Sunday, McDowall said the plan was a short-term measure to help Foothills weather an immediate crisis. Foothills' participation in the Shared Work Program has been approved for as much as 53 weeks but may be renewed or altered.

    McDowall said a media conference was set for this morning at the Clarion Hotel downtown, but she said she didn't have information that could be discussed Monday.
    Organizers said that during the conference, McDowall will offer details regarding significant changes at the performing-arts center, according to the release.
    "We believe that the organization is at a critical juncture," McDowall said in a prepared statement. The meeting will offer an opportunity for the staff to express their hopes and concerns for the community center, she said.
    McDowall said she hopes that Foothills can increase programming and its earned-revenue stream.
    Foothills, which had a recent operating budget of about $500,000 and has been operating at a deficit since sometime last year, faced ``drastic staff cuts,'' McDowall said, and the center couldn't have ``anticipated a more promising outcome" than employees agreeing to the pay reductions.
    The center has five full-time and three part-time employees, McDowall said, and salary payments account for between 20 percent and 25 percent each month. The average salary of the five full-time employees is $45,000, she said. The part-time employees aren't eligible for the Shared Work Program.
    The salary cuts start with the current pay period and will continue for at least six months, McDowall said, and the staff agreed to the reductions.
    "This shows the incredible commitment of the staff, a dedication to the mission of Foothills, the spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect that is a hallmark of this group," McDowall said in the release. "I am extremely proud to be working with this staff."
    [Note story tomorrow: 4 fired, 2 quit [in sympathy] from Foothills center, 1/06 Oneonta Daily Star
    ..with Ms. McDowall among the "fired" - the board of directors apparently "blew up" the organization just before a couple of weekend performances and only two staff members are left including the janitor.]

  2. State Manufacturers See Improvement, But Know Real Security Is Still Far Off, by Mara Lee, Hartford Courant via courant.com
    BRISTOL, Conn. - When the recession worsened in the fall of 2008, Bill Lathrop struggled to protect the workers at Colonial/Han-Dee Spring Ltd.
    The company's president cut the staff by almost 30 percent, from 37 to 26, but it still wasn't enough, as revenue fell $1 million, or 25 percent, in 2009. So he decided to cut the remaining employees' hours to 32 a week. The Connecticut Department of Labor supports this kind of move through the *shared work program, which allows the workers to get partial unemployment benefits.
    [Many states and countries have these worksharing programs.]
    "I did that to keep as many people as I could employed," Lathrop said.

    Four months ago, business started to pick up a little. He returned some workers to 40 hours. Monday, for the first time in a year, the entire plant is on a full-time schedule.
    Around the country, manufacturers like Colonial/Han-Dee are seeing stirrings of recovery, but no one expects the jobs lost in the last year to return quickly.
    Annmarie Lavoie, a 21-year employee at the spring manufacturer, is relieved to have full-time work again. Working another eight hours — she makes $11.50 an hour — will mean her family should start "digging out of the hole we got into."
    Lavoie's husband also works in manufacturing, and also had a temporary layoff in 2009. They have a 16-year-old son. The family stayed current on their mortgage, but other bills slipped, and their credit card balances grew.
    "Christmas was bad," the Bristol resident said. "It was a hard year."
    Things are picking up at her husband's factory, too, she said.
    On Monday, the Institute of Supply Management released its survey of manufacturers, in which a growing majority of firms say business is improving. The index, now at almost 56, has been improving for five months, and stocks rallied on the news. A reading above 50 indicates improvement.
    At Colonial/Han-Dee, which makes springs for equipment manufacturers in many industries, Lathrop said he did not expect rapid improvement in 2010.
    "We're starting 2010 on a happier note than we ended 2009," Lathrop told Sen. Christoopher Dodd, D-Conn., who visited the factory Monday in order to talk about what Congress can do to promote job creation in the private sector.
    But Dodd's idea — a new government lending program, or a yet-to-be-approved tax credit for hires — would not affect Colonial/Han-Dee Spring.
    Dodd asked, "How's your access to credit?"
    "We have everything we need, credit wise," Lathrop told Dodd, adding that the level of sales is enough to get his employees back to full-time, but not to add anyone.
    "I probably wouldn't add until late summer," Lathrop had told a reporter earlier. He said he would look to rehire those he laid off first, but knows some of them have already found jobs at other local spring factories.
    Michael Ouelette of Bristol came to Colonial/Han-Dee Spring from another spring company 2½ years ago. Before the recession deepened, he worked 45 hours a week, and his reduced hours cost him at least $10,000 in 2009, he said.
    Ouelette said that while some laid-off friends found work, a lot haven't. One friend worked at a company that makes the machines spring factories use. "Because of the economy, we're losing jobs, so nobody's buying spring machines," Ouelette said. "Orders we used to get, they're over in China. We lost one job to Italy."
    U.S. exporters, including many in Connecticut, have seen some gains due to a weaker dollar, which makes American-made goods cheaper for foreign buyers.
    Ouelette was pleased the senator visited his workplace, and said he hoped he'd ask about global competition. "Losing our jobs to other countries, that's what's really hurting us," he said.
    After that visit, Dodd went to Berlin, where a group of local business owners talked to him about their concerns. None said borrowing was a problem — although that was what Dodd had expected to hear. Nelson Graca, who owns M&M Liquor, said he had no trouble a year ago refinancing his line of credit to save one percentage point.
    Ed Kirejczyk, who runs EDRO Corp. with his sister, told Dodd he used family money to buy a competitor in the industrial laundry equipment field. About a third of the company's work is for the military.
    "The problem we have in our business is health care costs," he said. When his father ran the company, they used to pay 100 percent of the premiums. In the 1990s, they paid 80 percent of the premiums. In the last 10 years, they paid 60 percent of the premiums. This year, the company dropped a traditional health insurance plan, and went to a health savings account, where employees have a set amount of money to spend on medical care, sheltered from taxes.
    When Dodd said this is why Congress passed health care reform, Kirejczyk was not reassured. He complained that Congress rushed something through, and that malpractice reform was neglected.
    Kirejczyk told Dodd he had sent some of the company's work to China, and Dodd expressed dismay.
    In an interview after the discussion, Kirejczyk said his entry-level employees, who make $10 an hour, are not always reliable. The family automated the metal shop, which eliminated some of those jobs, but added some higher-level jobs in computer-aided drafting.
    At its peak, EDRO employed 46 people. That staff shrank to 28 at one point, and is now up to 34 workers.

  3. Franklin County officials turn away pay raises, by Jim Hook, Chambersburg Public Opinion via publicopiniononline.com
    CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - or the second straight year, Franklin County Commissioners and row officers will not be taking home pay raises.
    Because most of the county's 725 full-time employees will not be getting raises in 2010, elected officials say they will not take theirs. Some are returning the cash to the county. Others are donating it to charity.
    Prothonotary Linda Beard said she will put her raise back into her office, where employees will have a 35-hour work week in 2010 instead of the 37.5 hours they had last year.
    "That cuts their pay, too," Beard said. "I'll give it back to my office for whatever we need. I feel that's the right thing to do. My employees are important. We're on a minimum budget as it is. Whatever they need, I will go get it for them. To me, that's fair."
    Her raise amounts to $1,218 over the year.
    All total, commissioners and row officers will return less than $10,000 to the county. The county's $111 million budget includes a 2 percent hike in taxes that will raise an estimated $640,000 this year.
    Commissioners set the 2 percent raises for elected county officials prior to officials being elected to the current terms.
    Last year commissioners and row officers turned back 3 percent raises after a faltering economy squeezed county revenue sources.
    Elected officials in 2010 will see the 3 percent pay hike to which they were entitled in 2009.
    Most have pledged to return this year's 2 percent raise to the county coffers -- Commissioners Advertisement David S. Keller and Robert Ziobrowski, Controller Carol Fix-Diller, Coroner Jeffrey Conner, Register of Wills/Recorder of Deeds Linda Miller and Jury Commissioners Allen Twigg and William Butts.
    County Commissioner Robert Thomas and Treasurer David Secor said they would donate their raises to charity.
    Sheriff Dane Anthony said he may give his raise to charity or return it to the county, although Beard's alternative is interesting.
    Clerk of Courts William Vandrew said, "I'm at the point I'm not sure what I'm go to do.
    [That's not a 'point' - that's a blur.]
    My employees didn't get a raise. I may do the same and give it back to the county."
    Officials cannot refuse the raise, but must accept it before doing something with it.
    District Attorney Matt Fogal, another row officer, will not see a raise in 2010. The state legislature sets salaries for county district attorneys and did not grant them a pay hike in 2010.
    About 90 county employees will be getting raises. Working at the county jail, they are covered by a union contract that set 4 percent raises for 2010. Another 44 county employees are represented by the Teamsters, which is negotiating a new county contract for 2010.
    Jim Hook can be reached at 262-4759 and jhook@publicopinionnews.com.

  4. 10 Weeks [into Pregnancy], by russellbug via russellbug.livejournal.com
    So, I'm 1/4 way through with the pregnancy. WHO would have thunk it? I can't believe how excited I am. I am so ready for this baby and so ready to be a mom and so ready to snuggle and breastfeed and love and serve. I don't want to wait another 30 weeks. But, the 30 weeks will be good, because seriously we really have nothing ready. hehe!
    But good news - I got a computer for working at home! My boss bought another iMac. I'm using that one (27"!) at work and am taking the old one (24") home with me. I was so not Mac savvy when I first started working there a year and a half ago, but I'm getting better. The new mouse that came with the new iMac doesn't have a smart right-click, and I CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO RIGHT CLICK WITH IT. I thought you just held the option key down while clicking, but that isn't working. I'm used to my old mouse which right clicked just fine.
    But this will be good, I can work from home throughout morning sickness and actually get stuff DONE. (I've been staying home from work a lot because of the intensity of my nausea), and then after the baby is born I will be able to work exclusively from home. I feel so blessed to have this job. It was an answer to prayer in the first place, but now it just keeps getting better. I only work 30 hours a week. Wow, yeah, they let me cut down my hours to 30 hours per week about a year ago. It's a small company and they are very accommodating.
    Okay but back to baby things. You'll see in the video below that we got our puzzle up on our wall. It took a lot of smelly cement to do it, so we've been airing out our living room. Because I couldn't be around the smell, we holed up in our bedroom all of Sunday afternoon and watched movies and I knitted. We went to bed super early and spent about an hour talking and laughing about baby names. We decided on a boy name - Nicolas, and we'd call him Nico (pronounced NEE-ko). We laughed about all the silly middle names we came up with for him, it was a lot of fun.
    Morning sickness, I don't want to jinx it but it may be lessening. A little. And on top of this I have had an insatiable craving for Thai Curries. We've spent about $100 in the past 6 days on thai food. The only ones I can have (because of allergy to some ingredients) is the Red Curry, Green Curry and Panang Curry. Guy has been so super nice and is letting me feed this craving. Even if I've had curry for lunch and then leftovers for dinner, before we go to bed I'll whine about how I want more. I was hoping it would go away like all my other cravings, but dang that curry just makes me feel so good. I guess Guy doesn't mind, because he gets his Pad Thai whenever I get a curry. But our dining out budget is already way over, and we're biting big chunks out of the grocery budget. Ugh... and tonight I want more. Chicken Curry, 0 stars, with brown rice please!
    Next Tuesday is my next prenatal appointment. I am excited about hearing the heartbeat again. And worried. For no reason.
    I've received a lot of packages this week. My sweet mother has been ordering me stuff on Amazon and having it shipped straight to me. Teether, 4 swaddle blankets and the Baby Signs starter kit. Thank you mom!...

  5. The Real Cost - What Does it Really Cost?, by Jon Emge, Myvesta.org.uk
    We all are a bit materialistic to some extent and like to surround ourselves with the trappings that we are told we all need and want.
    Told by the shops, adverts, etc, that we need such and such item or we see everyone else has this and we want it as well.
    If I seem a bit vague, it is because I am just that.
    We are looking at how we are told we must have something, such as a new mobile phone, or a TV, or a new sofa, clothes, it can be any item.
    We are constantly bombarded with news, adverts [Brit.ver.of 'ads'], etc, telling us what we need to buy; and so off we go to buy it.
    But there are two points to review here, one being do we really need that item, and two, what is the real cost of said item.
    So something to ask yourself before making a purchase: do I need this item, or do I just want this item?
    Of course in the day-to-day purchases of some things they are needed; food, petrol, some clothing, these are essentials.
    However, larger and larger televisions, new cars each year, the latest and greatest mobile phone, etc, these are not really needed.
    We want them because we are told we want them; told through adverts, told by seeing others with these items and told by the nature of acquisition.
    So what does all this cost us, in real time and money?
    Let’s figure it out and do the math.
    If you earn £8 an hour and work 35 hours a week, you would gross £280 a week, and after taxes and all, possibly bring home around £200 to £210 depending on your particular tax situation.
    To make it easy on me, let’s say you bring home/clear £200 a week, which for working 35 hours is £5.71 an hour. That is what you are actually earning £5.71 an hour.
    So keeping that in mind, you decide you want some new electronic gadget that is out there, either an XYZ Box, or flip-top, sidewinder mobile thingy or whatever, and this item costs £150.
    With what you are earning you would need to work 26.27 hours to pay for that item.
    You need to work almost 27 hours or almost a full week to earn the £150.
    £150 (what the item costs) divided by £5.71 (what you earn per hour after taxes) = 26.27 hours.
    Is it worth it to you?
    Knowing what something actually costs in time and money can help us make a clear decision if we want to make that purchase or not.

1/03-04/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. South Tucson restaurants squeezed, by Natalia Lopera, Arizona Daily Star via azstarnet.com
    TUCSON, Ariz. - The Mexican restaurants on South Tucson's restaurant row, famed for their authentic Sonoran cuisine, aren't escaping the economic crisis despite their years of popularity.
    Lili's Cocina on South Fourth Avenue at East 32nd Street closed four weeks ago and reflects the hard reality that other restaurants are experiencing.
    While other South Fourth Avenue restaurants remain open, they have had to take steps to minimize the crisis. Owners report that as business has slowed, they have had to cut hours of operation, employees' hours or lay off workers, and restaurants are offering specials or incentives to attract more customers.
    According to Ruben Villa, finance director and assistant city manager for South Tucson, the city has seen a 20 percent drop in sales tax revenue compared with the previous year.
    The tax money from its restaurants, specifically, has dropped 7 percent, to $99 million from $106 million. The percentage decline in restaurant tax revenues is similar statewide, Villa said.
    Comparatively, Villa said, the restaurant sector is one of the least-affected sectors of the economy.
    In the case of Lili's, real estate agent Olivia Yocupicio said the business has been for sale for a year but closed only about a month ago. The asking price has also dropped, she said.
    Although the economy factored into the closing, Yocupicio said, the closure was also due to the poor health of Virginia García, who was its main cook and kitchen manager.
    Garcia is the mother of Lili, the owner. The restaurant had celebrated its fifth anniversary and was a relatively new eatery compared with others that have operated in South Tucson for decades.
    At Chile Relleno Burritos, 2433 S. Fourth Ave., the economy has also hit hard.
    Owner Juan Orozco said sales dropped 40 percent in the summer, although they have picked up recently. He was forced to close at 5 p.m. daily.
    Orozco said his business was affected by the loss of construction workers, many of whom were his customers. Other restaurant owners echoed that observation.
    In the 12 months ending in October 2009, Tucson lost 5,400 construction jobs or 25 percent of its total, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
    Rigoberto López, owner of Rigo's Mexican Restaurant, 2527 S. Fourth Ave., said he also lost business due to the loss of construction jobs. Although his clientele is made up mostly of white-collar and government workers, his business is down 20 to 25 percent.
    The drop is seen, for example, at Sunday breakfast. Before the economic meltdown, Rigoberto's began to fill with customers at 8:30 in the morning and sometimes up to 20 people would line up to get inside. Today, the restaurant is barely filled by 10 a.m.
    "All this is a circle which affects everyone," López said.
    The owner of El Torero said he began to see business decline before the economic troubles when expansion of Interstate 10 began and vehicular access was limited to South Fourth Avenue. El Torero is just west of South Fourth at 231 E. 26th St.
    The customers that El Torero gained, once road work ended, it lost again because of the recession, said owner Brad Hultquist.
    However, Hultquist has not laid off employees because he has a steady base of regular customers. The only adjustment he has made is to send employees home earlier.
    Farther south on the main drag, Richard Mariscal, general manager of Micha's, said his catering business has supported the restaurant.
    Sales at Micha's, 2908 S. Fourth Ave., have dropped about 10 percent. But Mariscal said overall business is holding steady, and did so especially during December because catering is popular for businesses' Christmas parties.
    However, Mariscal added, companies shopping for catering looked wide for the lowest price. That is why he made price adjustments to stay competitive, and this past December was better than December 2008, he said. Micha's also began offering a buffet two months ago.
    Even Mi Nidito, the celebrated restaurant at 1813 S. Fourth Ave., known for long lines of customers spilling out the door as they wait to get a table, has reported a slight drop in business.
    But its owner, Jimmy López, said business bumped upward recently after the restaurant was featured on the Travel Channel's "Man v. Food" show.
    Despite the publicity, López said restaurant expenses had to be trimmed, specifically in publicity and donations and employees' hours.
    "We're not as busy as we were two years ago," he said.
    Contact reporter Natalia Lopera at 807-8029 or at nlopera@azstarnet.com

  2. Minnesota manufacturing: Sparks of life, by Liz Fedor, 1/04 Minneapolis Star Tribune via startribune.com
    Minnesota and national economies show signs of a gradual recovery in the manufacturing sector. But the construction industry is still proving to be a drag on the economy's momentum.
    Marvin Windows in Warroad, Minn., avoided layoffs by reducing the number of hours its employees worked. (photo caption)
    WARROAD, Minn. - The manufacturing sector, which sustained a severe body blow during the recession, is starting to gain strength in the nation and in Minnesota, but a slump in construction is restraining the recovery.
    For five consecutive months, manufacturing activity has been expanding in the state and across the country, with two surveys released Monday showing that the positive uptick is powered by new orders.
    The Institute for Supply Management, which surveys purchasing executives, reported Monday that its manufacturing index for December climbed to 55.9, up from 53.6 in November. Numbers above 50 represent growth. New statistics are "pointing to tepid growth," said Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University, who conducts a similar monthly survey in a nine-state Mid-America region, including Minnesota.
    The manufacturing index in Minnesota slipped in December to 53.5 from 57.1 a month earlier. But it was better than the 50.3 number that the Mid-America region produced, which was dragged down by weakness in the agriculture industry in some farm states.
    "This recovery is not as strong as the recovery coming out of the 2001 recession," said Goss, whose survey concentrates on Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Goss used "weak" and "fragile" to describe the recovery in that region.
    One of the most revealing aspects of the Creighton survey of supply managers was how they viewed their inventories of raw materials that will be used to manufacture goods.
    Even though companies are operating with low inventories, Goss said 78 percent of those surveyed during December thought inventories were "about right," 18 percent said they were "still too high" and only 4 percent viewed them as "too low."
    Bob Kill, CEO of Enterprise Minnesota, which provides consulting services to manufacturers, said Monday that Minnesota companies are being very cautious.
    "It's going to be a slow recovery," Kill said, and manufacturers will be "slow to add people" to their workforces.
    Just 11 percent of Mid-America companies in the Creighton survey added jobs in December, while 16 percent had slashed more jobs.
    Over the past year, Minnesota manufacturers cut 11 percent of their employees, or about 36,500 jobs.
    Kill works with many small manufacturers who supply parts to larger equipment manufacturers. For many of his clients, he said, "visibility is not far reaching," so companies don't have a long-term handle on what kinds of revenue they can expect from the bigger companies they serve.
    The mindset of his clients is "more optimistic than it was six months ago," but Kill said they are being exceedingly careful.
    Many manufacturers are worried about policy uncertainty in Washington, D.C., such as cap and trade environmental legislation and health care reform, Goss said.
    Electronics, not wood
    The national manufacturing survey helped spark a good day on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 155 points. "The recovery in manufacturing is continuing, but there are still some industries mired in the downturn," said Norbert Ore, who leads the Institute for Supply Management survey committee, in a statement. His organization indicated Monday that nine manufacturing segments, including computer and electronic products, are growing, but seven others are contracting.
    Wood products is among the industries still struggling, and there was further evidence Monday that there won't be a quick turnaround. Construction spending declined 0.6 percent in November, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
    The slump in residential and commercial construction is having an impact on Marvin Windows in Warroad, Minn.
    "We are planning for 2010 to be as challenging as 2009 was," Marvin's spokesman John Kirchner said Monday.
    His company didn't have a profit to share with workers at its Dec. 19 annual meeting. For the 2008 year, Marvin distributed $6.4 million in profits to 3,381 employees. But last month Marvin executives told employees to get ready for another tough year.
    Marvin's factory employees worked fewer hours in 2009, but for about eight weeks in the fall they were back to 40 hours a week to meet seasonal demand. But in November Kirchner said they returned to a 32-hour work week.
    Kirchner said, "We are looking forward to a recovery. We just don't see it in 2010."

    Liz Fedor • 612-673-7709

1/02/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Official Blog of Samira Armin Hodges: Goodbye 2009, by Samira, sahodges.blogspot.com
    So 2009 was a good year. I graduated medical school (after what seemed like an eternity) and was finally able to call myself MD. There is a lot of satisfaction that comes along with that accomplishment, though I must admit, it still doesn't feel like I'm an honest-to-goodness REAL doctor. As a resident, you still don't feel like a real physician. You feel like a doctor-in-training, one who has little autonomy and will someday (in three years) become a real doctor, practicing under his or her own license. I mean, even the patients' parents know it. When you walk into a room and say, "HI, I'm doctor so-and-so", they immediately ask you if you're a resident or an attending. They know the difference. The resident cannot do much without the approval (or guidance) of their attending. Once you reply to their question and say, "resident", it's like they almost start tuning you out. I'm exaggerating of course but I want you to get the idea. Being a resident is like being a pseudo-doctor. There are pros and cons to this. I already went over the cons but the pros are that I can write prescriptions now, I have my own little set of patients during my Wednesday afternoon clinic, I get to be a doctor without the full responsibility and I get to learn from experts in my field for another 3 years before all the liability falls directly on me. It's not a bad deal.
    And now, I'm halfway done with my intern year of residency. And I have a lot to share. Boy oh boy...It's been a ride. I'm officially pooped. Mostly just physically. I could stand to learn more and study more, but with what time? I think the most frustrating part of residency is the fact that most people don't comprehend exactly what our lives are like. A lot of people get their feelings hurt if I don't respond to an email or facebook message or whatnot. Unfortunately, that was something I was able to do with ease prior to residency, but now? Well, things fall behind. Things slip through the cracks. I forget. But I mean no harm or disrespect. I love getting messages from people (honestly, it makes my day!), I'm just not as easily accessible as I used to be. And that is something that many people have a hard time understanding. And truly? I'm tired of explaining myself. Tired of apologizing to people about my lack of communication, or my lack of "effort" or my lack of whatever. It's very tiring and I feel as though I'm always always defending myself and my absences. The schedule of an intern is one where you work 80 hours per week. You work 30 hour shifts every fourth day and you are extremely (extremely) sleep deprived, tired, exhausted and busy. On average, you get 3-4 days off per month (and not in a row). One day here, one day there, that kind of thing. Those days are usually spent:
    a) Sleeping in
    b) Grocery shopping
    c) Cleaning the house
    d) Catching up on phone calls , bills and errands AND
    e) Sleeping early
    Maybe, if you're really good, you can fit in some studying or something else in that day (like a movie or a normal activity like buying and decorating a Christmas tree). Maybe. But those days are few and far in between. The last thing you want to do is something tiring . And that's where the gap in communication exists. Many people think that a day off for me, means a day that I am free to socialize, or drive somewhere and meet up with someone, or whatnot. That is VERY VERY difficult. At least in intern year it is. I am generally not an anti-social person, but intern year makes you that way sometimes. Instead of seeing people, most times , when I have some time for myself, I just want to rest. Plop. Be useless. Do something for me. Whether it be something big or something small, like just watching TV, it's something that requires no brain power. Because the rest of my week is spent socializing. Talking to people. Reassuring parents. Communicating findings. Checking in on patients. Talking some more. Strategizing with nurses (is that a word?). Problem solving with fellow residents. And so on and so forth. Make sense?
    So those days, those precious and rare days off, are usually reserved for errands and me-time. It kills me because every time I speak to certain folks, they ask me, "Do you still have to work a lot or is it better now?". It takes everything in my power not to go, "NOOOOO!!!!! I work a lot ALL THE TIME!!!". I mean, they call me randomly, on a Thursday morning and expect me to be home. Why they think I am ever at home is beyond me. And still, to this day, when I tell them (take my poor grandparents for instance), that I work 80 hours a week, they act like it's the first time I've told them this news. "EIGHTY HOURS A WEEK? WOW!!". Part of me wonders if they even believe me or think I'm making it up as a means to avoid them. It's very frustrating. Honestly, unless you are/were a resident or are married to one, I still think you will never fully understand their lifestyle or schedule. We work one shift and that's as much as most normal people work in an entire week. We go weeks without days off. PLUS! At work, we have no breaks. There are no scheduled breaks. No scheduled lunches. No scheduled dinners. The lives of people's children are in our hands, so we are not at the luxury of being able to just take off and eat (or pee) whenever we feel like it. We have to be there. All the time. Accessible. Available. In case one of those kids crash (which they do....all the time. Kids are very volatile). So it's no wonder that the motto of residency is: See food, eat. See bed, sleep. See toilet, pee.
    The end. You do what you can, when you can. If that means missing a meal or two, that's what it means. If that means going 24 hours straight without getting a chance to sit down, that's what it means. Such is the life of ALL residents. Everywhere [except Europe]. Some programs (say ER) are a little more forgiving than others. They do shift work instead of 30 hours at a time like us. Pediatrics is known to be one of the most difficult residencies out there. Surgery is another tough one. In my humble opinion, it's one thing to "think" when you're sleep deprived, it's a whole other to operate on somebody. I think the latter is more difficult. But I'm babbling....I guess I got off on a pretty big tangent. The point is, the first six months of residency have been difficult and challenging. And although I think my body is used to it now, I don't think you can fully ever get used to it.
    Another difficult aspect (for me), has been the separation from my husband. We go days without seeing each other. Thank goodness for text messaging and three second phone calls. Otherwise, I wouldn't know whether he's alive half the time (and vice versa). My husband and I came from a time where we spent almost 24 hours a day together to a time where we now rarely see each other. Our days off rarely coincide. The positive side of this is that we appreciate each other so much more and we cherish our limited time together. The negative side is we miss each other like crazy and sometimes, it feels like we are just college roommates who live in the same house but who have different class schedules. Two ghosts, passing each other in opposites of time and space, leaving little trails behind for each other (like a recently slept in bed, or a wet towel from a recent shower, a little post-it note that says "I love you", that kind of thing). I won't lie. It's been hard. But I'm told it gets better with time, so I'm anxiously waiting for that. Maybe 2010 will bring on the improvement. We shall see. I don't feel sorry for myself though. This is something we both wanted. This is a conscious decision we made. The trials, difficulties and challenges of residency are no secret. Everyone knows it. Everyone's done it. Right now, it's just our turn. So we take it one day at a time. One 30 hour shift at a time. And see? 6 months have already passed.
    So truly, before you think I'm depressed, I must mention that there are bonuses to having things the way they are. For one, when you work 80 hours a week, you can finish residency in 3 years.
    [And by how many years does that shorten your life?]
    Otherwise, it would have to be longer. By the time 3 years is done, you have the equivalent of at least 6 years of experience. Also, most 'exciting' things in medicine happen at 2 or 3 am. It's just the way things go. So we would miss out on loads of experience if we didn't have our 30 hour shifts. Another bonus is that we are doing what we love. Sure, it's coming in 30 hours at a time, but still. It's our thing and that's never a bad thing.
    [Maybe not for you but what about for the patients, who are forced to humor this dopey Superhuman megalomania of the American medical community. It will take awhile for Timesizing to pull these deluded self-martyrs out of the gauntlet they've designed to obstruct access to their skills and hype their pay - meanwhile providing cheap intern labor for American medicine's grotesque class system. People constantly sleep-deprived are functioning at levels of people who are legally drunk - judgment, attention span and reaction time all impaired. So great to have them as your healthcare 'professionals' in the once-great USofA.]
    I swear, I would be miserable if I didn't love kids and Pediatrics so much. I would have quit. We would ALL have quit.
    [And they would have to redesign the process into a healthy pattern as in Europe. But that would end the sadomasochism of American medicine...]
    But it's so fulfilling. The reward you get when you send a kid home, who only days ago was looking death right in the eyeball, is truly priceless. You also get to meet great people. You get to meet wonderful parents and families (although often times, they are at their worst), but more so, you get to meet other residents and faculty who know exactly what you're going through, because they were there too. It's like a secret society. They get it. An unspoken bond. All you need is to spend one bad/challenging 30 hour shift with somebody and that's it. You're bonded for life. It's fun. I won't tell you that it isn't. Because it is.
    Plus, more than anything is that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. For one, I'm told that 2nd and 3rd year of residency get better. Most residents insist on this factoid. I'll be a 2nd year resident in 6 months. I'll let you know when I get there. For two, residency is a finite amount of time. Three years for us Pediatric folk. I went through 4 years of med school, so what's another 3, right? At least now, I'm getting paid and I get to be the doctor. So it's alllllll good. So long as the people around you understand your situation and support you. That's what makes it all palatable.
    Well, this has been a rather long post so I'll give you all some time to digest the information. Overall, 2009 has been a good year, though an exhausting one at times. But most things worth anything are the things you have to work at the hardest. Did that sentence make sense to you? It made sense in my head.
    Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all. Remember, New Year can mean a New You! I know I'm gonna do a bunch of stuff differently this year. The resolution list is still expanding. You should try it too. It's very very rewarding if you just try and stick to it. Stay classy San Diego!
    Until next time...

  2. 2010 and All That, by Julian Kossoff, Telegraph.co.uk (blog) via blogs.telegraph.co.uk
    [Note reference to humorous history of England, "1066 and All That."]
    Many years ago my parents gave me book entitled, 2010: living in the future. It was so long ago that its back cover proclaimed, innocently: “gay and imaginative non-fiction books for children”.
    It certainly made a deep impression on my imagination, for ever since it has been a keepsake that I saved through all the years, for this very day.
    When I was given this little tome, the year “2010? existed in another galaxy, far, far away across the vast expanses of time. But my young self vowed to keep it with me through the decades to come, and compare and contrast its vision of the future with the reality, when it finally arrived.
    It is one promise I made to myself as a child that I have been able to keep. Indeed, there have been others I am pleased to say – plus the fact that I am still here – and I want to be philosophical that the 35-year plus wait is now at an end.
    Overall author Geoffrey Hoyle’s futurology is hit and miss, with plenty of ideas that look completely wacky now.
    He foresaw us living in a collectivised, hippy-ish utopia in 2010, where we all dressed in jump-suits (not a good look).
    There is a hint that massive overpopulation would give rise to the need for central planning and social control. “No family lives in a house or flat too large or too small for them,” the book explains. “There are so many people in the world that every inch of ground must be used correctly.”
    Since then the global population has doubled to six billion souls but we are yet to be forced into such a beehive existence.
    The ideas of the French post-modernists are distilled for the young readers of the Seventies with promises of a three-day working week and liberation from the 9-5 that shaped our dads’ lives. Wildly optimistically, they believed that microchip technology, fibre optics, digitisation and robotics would, for the first time in history, liberate man from the need to work [so much]. Machines would do most of the work while people would have more free time – not in order to rest more but to live more.
    [It doesn't happen by itself. This kind of common sense, ironically, has to fought for, as our ancestors fought every step of the way down from over-80-hour workweeks in 1840 to the 40-hour workweek in 1940. See Roediger & Foner's book, Our Own Time, for some inkling of what they went through.]
    Ha! In stark contrast, the technology now shackles us in virtual chains. }
    We live in a world where lunch is for wimps and work seeps into every aspect of our lives through our Blackberrys and email. The service/media economy is switched-on 24/7, Sunday trading is unlimited and our working lives are growing longer due to the pensions crisis.
    Only in France, interestingly, where the working week is 35 hours, the summer holiday lasts for a month and the philosophy of the Good Life is more than an aspiration, is the supremacy of the work ethic seriously challenged.
    [AND for a lot of people in the unionized sector of Germany, and for many in The Netherlands, and for many in Scandinavia... Sorry, I didn't mean to upset our anglo illusion of leadership in all things.]
    In 2010: Living in the future the issues of global warming, pollution and traffic congestion are resolved. Private cars are banned and all travel is made in ultra-efficient electric vehicles, and the cities of the future look a lot like Milton Keynes.
    [Not a typo for Maynard Keynes or his borrowed brother Mycroft, but a model town in Buckinghamshire. laid out in 1967 - sort of the British answer to US' Levittown, Long Is., N.Y.]
    The book has a fair crack at prophesying the age of the internet, and the on-screen world of the Noughties.
    [ie: the 00's decade, as in zero or British 'nought.']
    I recently went on a two-day trip with my family. We schlepped with us one laptop, a Nintendo DS, a DVD recorder, a digital camera, an iPhone, a Blackberry and were guided to our destination by Sat-Nav. Indeed, access to the web is increasingly being recognised as a “human right“.
    The book also portrays what is now known as online shopping, though quaintly the orders are phoned in (using a hand piece with wires attached) and recorded on tape. Huge digitised archives of newspapers, film and other media are available, but only at state-of-the-art libraries at vast leisure and culture palaces. All office work and schooling takes place at home, colleagues and school mates met in two dimensional onscreen gatherings.
    Surprisingly, the mobile phone does not exist in this science fiction. The revolution is completely unforeseen. Perhaps the idea of tiny boxes with the epic information/communication capacity of today’s phones was considered too fanciful even for the child’s fertile mind.
    From music to maps, from spirit levels to pornography, our phone nexus is an incredible device – indeed, I fully expect the Star Trek “beam me up, Scotty” facility to soon be available as handy little Google app.
    Probably the most spot-on prediction is regarding aeroplane travel. On planes (with a top speed of 4,000mph) the book said, “there are no seats to book – you just climb aboard. It is exactly like the town bus service.”
    Exactly like Ryan Air, in fact. Having travelled on that very cheap and very nasty cattle truck in the air, I can safely say: I have seen the future…and it doesn’t work.
    [Compare Bruce O'Hara's book title, "Working Harder Isn't Working."]
    A Happy New Year to all in the Telegraph blogosphere.
    Julian Kossoff is a journalist for Telegraph.co.uk. He previously worked at the Jewish Chronicle as a senior reporter. He has written extensively on race and religion.

  3. Public sector pay races ahead in recession, Times Online via business.timesonline.co.uk
    LONDON, England - Public sector workers earn 7% more on average than their peers in the private sector — a pay gulf that has more than doubled since the recession began.
    Official figures show that staff employed by the state are enjoying bigger pay rises, working fewer hours and receiving pensions worth up to three times as much as those in the private sector.
    Civil servants, National Health Service staff, council officials and other public sector workers have enjoyed a “golden age” under Labour, according to an investigation by The Sunday Times.
    The analysis was validated by Straight Statistics, a group that campaigns for the accurate reporting of official data.
    Since Labour came to power in 1997, the number of public sector workers has increased by 914,000 to more than 6m, just over a fifth of the workforce.
    Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that average annual earnings of public sector workers rose to £22,405 last year — compared with £20,988 paid to the average private sector worker.
    The lead of the typical state employee stands at 7%, compared with 3% the year before. Until 2005, private sector workers received more on this measure and as recently as 2002 enjoyed a 5% lead. “However you look at it, public sector workers have done better than most in the private sector over the past decade — and the gap is widening,” said Nigel Hawkes, director of Straight Statistics.
    Official figures show that public sector wages are rising at 2.8%, compared with 1.1% in the private sector.
    By a whole range of measures, public sector employees are also enjoying better working conditions. Last year the average public sector worker laboured for 35 hours a week — a fall of an hour on the previous year and 2 1/2[?} hours less than the typical private sector worker. The average state employee also enjoys three or four more days of holiday a year.
    This has come despite a decline in productivity. According to the ONS, public sector productivity fell by 3.4% in the 10 years from 1997 — compared with a rise of 28% in the private sector over the same period.
    [Productivity has nothing to do with pay. In fact, it can lower it. How? Introduce a robot that produces as much as ten humans. Downsize the ten humans so they and their dependents stop spending as much as they can, because now there's no income. And there's a lot fewer people to buy the productivity the robot is producing. Productivity alone is meaningless. It's marketable productivity that counts. And that means the downsizing response to technology is self-defeating. Only timesizing makes sense. Technology requires shorter hours from the same number or a greater number of employee-consumers instead of laying off and deactivating employee-consumers. The first economies that figure this out and overcome the drag of the Puritan work ethic will lead in the future, and Europe, especially Germany, is in the lead right now.]
    “It is ridiculous that pay and perks have risen when public sector productivity has fallen.
    [Another idiot savant, playing to the ignoramuses who think that because something should be connected, it is. Private sector productivity has increased hundreds of times in the last 40 years but has private sector pay? Ha! Why not? See note above.]
    This gravy train now has to come to an end,” said Graeme Leach, chief economist and director of policy at the Institute of Directors.
    [Only because the aptly named Mr. Leach isn't on this particular "gravy train" - but he's on another, private-sector one, and he personally is getting far more pay than he's worth because he's reinforcing misconceptions instead of solutions.]
    One of the starkest gaps between the public and private sector is in pension provision.
    Most civil servants receive employer pension contributions worth 19.4% of their salary paid into their final salary pension scheme each year. This is more than three times the average of 6% paid by private sector firms into their employees’ less generous defined-contribution schemes last year.
    Most private sector workers have to work until they are 65 to claim their company pensions; the average public sector retirement age is 58. This average masks lower retirement ages in some areas. Council workers in Glasgow and Falkirk retire at 56, on average, and many police officers have been able to claim their pension shortly after their 50th birthday, although the terms have been tightened for new members.
    Not only are public sector workers better rewarded, but they also take more time off work through illness. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, state workers average 9.7 days of sick leave a year, compared with 6.4 days in the private sector.
    The generous pay and perks offered by state employers is encouraging more graduates to favour working in the public sector. Nearly 39% of public sector workers are now graduates, up from 25% in 1998. Only 20% of private sector workers have a degree, a rise of 5% since 1998.
    David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the days when public sector workers received lower salaries in return for better pensions and more job security were “long gone”.
    “Right across the spectrum of pay and conditions the public sector is now outstripping the private sector,” he said.
    “Small and medium-sized businesses — the firms who will be vital for the economy’s recovery — lose staff to the public sector because they cannot compete with the pay and benefits big state employers offer.”
    Despite the sharpest downturn in living memory, the British state’s recruitment drive has continued with 300,000 civil servants, administrators, social workers and other officials hired since the collapse of the Northern Rock bank in September 2007. In the past two years alone the NHS’s headcount has risen by 107,000.
    There were job losses in the public sector last year, but not on the scale of the profit-making private sector where more than 700,000 people lost their jobs in the first three quarters of last year. About 44,000 state workers were made redundant during the same period — but despite these losses, the public sector’s total job count still increased by another 47,000.
    A spokesman for the Treasury said the government’s pay policies reflected the need to recruit and retain staff, but still delivered value for the taxpayer.
    He said the higher average pay of public sector workers was partly due to the fact that many cleaning jobs and other low-paid public sector work had been outsourced to the private sector.
    “In the pre-budget report the government announced it would seek to cap basic pay uplifts at 1% across the public sector in 2011-12 and 2012-13,” the spokesman said. “This will save £3.4 billion by April 2013.”

  4. German businesses abuse scheme to save jobs, AFP via google.com/hostednews/afp
    BERLIN — German courts are investigating 132 businesses over suspected fraud in the short-time working programme put in place by the government to protect jobs, the weekly Spiegel will report Monday.
    The *"Kurzarbeit" scheme allows firms hit by recession to cut costs by keeping staff at home or shortening their hours but without having to fire them.
    [Click for a list of nations and individual US states that have similar "worksharing" or "short time working" programs.]
    The state pays up to 67 percent of a worker's salary for a period of up to two years, and over one million workers are covered by the scheme.

    The Federal Labour Agency had found 856 suspected cases following a provisional assessment and after further checks, 132 cases were passed to prosecutors, according to Spiegel.
    Eighty percent of the cases related to businesses with less than 100 employees.
    The short-time working programme has allowed Germany to limit the waves of redundancy during the economic downturn.
    In November 2009, German unemployment dipped to 7.6 percent of the workforce.

  5. Gov't to focus on jobs and economy in 2010, ISRIA.com
    The government in 2010 will focus on creating jobs and stabilizing the economy.
    The following is the plans of major government agencies for next year as reported to President Lee Myung-bak in the third week of December. The briefings were attended by key government officials, entrepreneurs, office workers, students and economic experts.
    Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry
    The plan is to create more than 150,000 jobs through the development of national welfare services.
    For one, the ministry will train about 10,000 caregivers to lower nursing costs for the people and increase job opportunities in social services. Caregivers have traditionally been employed in Korea through private transactions.
    The number of geriatric care helpers will be raised to 65,000 and 25,000 new jobs will be created at social service centers, including childcare facilities.
    The national disease control and prevention system will be improved and overseas patient treatment programs will be fostered.
    Gender Equality Ministry
    The ministry will try harder to create a more favorable work environment for women under which they can balance work and childrearing. This will lead to the entry of “purple jobs." The color purple represents balance and harmony between red and blue; men and women; and home and work.
    A purple job allows a working parent, especially women, to work when he or she wants to with no fixed office hours. Its primary purpose is to help parents maintain a healthy career and a family. Shorter working hours will be reflected in pay depending on the number of hours worked, but a person's job will remain secure and he or she could return to full-time work later.

    The ministry will also offer 46,000 jobs for women who quit working to take care of their children and their families, and employ 4,600 housewife interns at public and private organizations next year.
    In addition, 5,800 women will go through 230 tailored courses on vocational training every year from next year. Immigrant and disabled women will also enjoy more job opportunities.
    Labor Ministry
    To stimulate the sluggish job market, the Labor Ministry will join hands with the Education, Science and Technology Ministry and the Small and Medium Business Administration to activate the state-run employment service Web site Worknet (www.work.go.kr). Through the online service, graduates of vocational high schools and colleges and 60,000 promising small and medium companies can share job information. The ministry will also assign recruiting counselors to 150 major universities nationwide next year.
    With more than seven million baby boomers born from 1955 to 1963 forecast to retire within the next nine years, the Labor Ministry will help them continue working by operating a headhunter service. One thousand social enterprises will be set up by 2012 and conglomerates will be encouraged to reinforce their corporate social responsibilities.
    Strategy and Finance Ministry
    The Korean economy has been recovering faster than other advanced economies thanks to government stimulus measures. Consumer sentiment remains low, however, due to insufficient corporate investment and low employment. The Strategy and Finance Ministry plans to maintain its expansionary fiscal policy and spend 60 percent of the government budget in the first half of next year.
    To facilitate corporate investment, deregulation and the setup of a venture fund worth 3.5 trillion won are planned. To be established by 2012, the fund will be used to foster new growth engines, including the IT and eco-friendly sectors.
    In addition, 762 trillion won will be disbursed to stabilize the livelihood of low-income, multicultural and single-parent families and the disabled.
    The early economic warning system will also be improved while the emergency economic management committee will be maintained to further stabilize the domestic financial and foreign exchange markets.
    Fair Trade Commission
    The commission will overhaul next year entry regulations in finance, distribution, health care, energy and other service sectors that greatly affect the people. To prevent monopoly and oligopoly, a thorough review will be done on unfair business practices in the course of large mergers and acquisitions and unreasonable price-cut demands of conglomerates will be monitored.
    The commission will also tighten monitoring of both domestic and international cartels of products closely related to the people's lives, such as daily necessities, raw material, and industrial equipment. A strict crackdown is planned on unfair support by large conglomerates to their subsidiaries.
    To prevent franchises from enticing franchisees with false and exaggerated information, a standard franchising contract for each industry will be distributed to enhance fairness in the industry.
    Financial Services Commission
    The commission will strengthen support for low-income households by operating Smile Microcredit Bank and making it a globally recognized example of an exemplary microcredit organization. It will also revitalize microcredit lending through tax breaks for microcredit organizations and easing loan transfers.
    Programs for personal debt restructuring will continue for delinquent individuals through interest exemptions and maturity extensions. Financial services will be made more accessible to mid- to low-income households by expanding fixed-rate loans, alleviating interest charges, and launching various base-rate loans.

1/1/2010  bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Top stories 2009: No. 2, Businesses are forced to make changes, Red Wing MN Republican Eagle via republican-eagle.com
    The economy triggered a handful of changes in the local business community in 2009.
    Among them are the pending loss of Red Wing Shoe Co.’s second shift, the closing of Fairview Red Wing Health Service’s downtown clinic, and the Republican Eagle’s switch to Wednesday and Saturday publication, and the consolidation of Red Wing’s big-name automotive dealerships.
    Red Wing Shoe
    The Shoe has been able to avoid a large number of layoffs, at least so far, after announcing that it would cut the second shift at Plant 2. November’s announcement included the closure of the firm’s Kentucky plant.
    Shoe spokesperson Peter Engel said the company offered early retirement packages to older workers in an effort to avoid laying off some 60 people at the Red Wing Industrial Park facility.
    To date, 40 workers have accepted the retirement package, Engel said, which has company officials hopeful they’ll be able to avoid local layoffs altogether.
    “We think we’re going to get really close,” Engel said.
    Engel said the company is still offering the retirement package and hasn’t set a firm deadline for when the deal will end. The Shoe also shutdown its factory in Danville, Ky., where some 200 workers were laid off.
    Company officials said the Shoe was hit hard by the beleaguered economy, especially the high number of unemployed blue collared workers — a population that accounts for a large portion of the company’s sales.
    To deal with the drawback in demand, the Shoe had been running plants at less than full efficiency. Last spring, the company asked workers to participate in a shared work program and to take voluntary days off.
    Company officials said they couldn’t continue with that tack and needed to make a change.
    Engel said workers at the Red Wing plant and Potosi, Mo., facility have returned to working normal hours.
    The company will move operations from Danville to the Red Wing and Potosi facilities. Management chose to close the Danville plant because it had the least amount of additional factory space to increase capacity when demand picks up.
    Downtown clinic
    Fairview Red Wing Health Services closed its downtown clinic in February, moving staff to the family practice department at Fairview Red Wing Medical Center.
    “The cost to deliver care at the downtown clinic is nearly double that of the medical center. In today’s world, that’s obviously critical,” said Fairview President and CEO Scott Wordelman when the consolidation was announced.
    Closure of the downtown clinic was tough on some residents of the Downtown Plaza and Jordan Towers, because they live close to the former downtown clinic and had to find transportation to the medical center. Patients have adjusted well, officials said. Some patients definitely have benefited both personally and in terms of treatment.
    “We have heard some cases where an adult child has had to bring a parent to an appointment and as a result, has become involved in the parent’s care and understands more fully what the medical needs are,” said Jan Graner, vice president for business and community development.
    While some staff members miss the closeness of a small clinic, they acknowledged that having all services in the same location provides a great advantage to both patients and staff.
    Patients have access to lab, radiology, rehabilitation, nutrition and specialists when they come for an appointment. This provides for better coordination of care and integration of primary and specialty care.
    In addition, Fairview Red Wing Home Care and Hospice is able to provide some of the routine services in the homes of individuals who live in the downtown apartments.
    Republican Eagle
    The Red Wing Republican Eagle switched from publishing five days a week to two in September.
    [So much for the ignorant libel that timesizing is socialist!]
    The 152-year-old publication started as a weekly in 1857 and had been a daily since in 1940.
    Economics was one factor in the change. Another was people’s change in reading habits.
    Readers are turning to the Internet for national and international news. With the change in publication days and by constantly updating our Web site, the R-E news staff is able to concentrate on local, local and local only.
    “That’s our niche,” Editor Anne Jacobson said.
    “We deliver more local news to subscribers, but do so twice a week in larger newspapers instead of in five smaller papers,” Publisher Steve Messick added.
    The transition went smoothly, according to Messick.
    Advertisers are especially pleased with the new format and many say they find Wednesday and Saturday distribution better meets their needs.
    Amdahl becomes Red Wing’s new car king
    In June, Red Wing Chrysler bought Riverfront Ford-Mercury.
    The purchase made owner Tim Amdahl the owner of all the new car dealerships in Red Wing. He owns Red Wing Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Sprinter; Red Wing Ford, Mercury; and Red Wing Chevrolet.
    “This would never of happened two to three years ago,” Amdahl said at the time of the merger. “It would never have gotten factory approval.”
    Previously, competing car manufacturers weren’t keen on sharing floor space, Amdahl said, but the weak state of automotive industry opened manufacturers up to the idea.
    Amdahl said the merger helped him fill floor space at his 5-year-old building at 3538 Highway 61 W.

  2. Moosic police contract gets union approval, by JOSH MROZINSKI, Scranton Times-Tribune via thetimes-tribune.com
    MOOSIC, Pa. - The borough and police union have approved a four-year contract that contains annual pay increases for 10 officers.
    Approved by borough council Nov. 10 and by Moosic Borough Police Officers Association President James Giehl last week, the four-year, 50-page agreement is effective today and contains a 3 percent pay increase in year one and year two; a 3.5 percent pay increase in year three; and a 4 percent increase in year four.
    The previous four-year con­tract contained a 3.5 percent pay in­­crease in years one and two.
    Council President Joseph Mercatili said it was not the borough's intent to award any increase in pay. He described 3 percent as above average.
    "They were forcing the issue and wanting to take it to arbitration," Mr. Mercatili said.
    Although Mr. Mercatili said the borough feared an arbitrator would grant higher pay increases, he said the borough is happy with the contract.
    The Moosic Police Department has seven full-time officers and three 32-hour part-time officers.
    "We're happy with the contract," Mr. Giehl said. "Both sides had to give a bit because of the economy."
    That is why the union agreed to lower wage increases in the first two years of the agreement, Mr. Giehl said.
    In 2009, the borough budgeted $470,000 for police salaries, nearly $87,000 less than what was spent in 2008. This year, $485,000 is budgeted for police salaries.
    Police Department expenses account for 19 percent of the borough's $3.18 million 2010 budget, excluding health insurance costs.
    The new police contract changes health insurance providers from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Geisinger.
    Budgeted insurance costs - which include life, liability and workers' compensation - for all borough employees increased from $213,000 in 2009 to $243,126 in 2010.
    Mr. Mercatili said the borough changed health insurance carriers in hope of saving money.
    Contact the writer: jmrozinski@timesshamrock.com

  3. Maryland - Dr. Dan McDougal is Herald-Mail's 2009 Person of the Year, by HEATHER KEELS, The Herald-Mail via Herald-Mail.com
    HAGERSTOWN, Mary. — Dr. Dan McDougal had a strategy for dealing with insurance companies that put doctors through a game of “Mother, may I?” to get procedures approved.
    When a company said it wouldn’t pay for a CT scan or an MRI unless its staff authorized it first, McDougal, medical director for Antietam Health Services, would call the insurance company’s medical director, who usually was in another state, and ask for the spelling of his name and his Maryland medical license number. When the medical director said he didn’t have a Maryland license, McDougal threatened to call the state board of licensure and stressed the serious consequences of practicing medicine without a license.
    “There’d be this long pause, and then they would all say the same thing: ‘What do you want?’” he said.
    In every aspect of McDougal’s career, that answer has been the same — the right care for patients.
    “I was taught at (Johns) Hopkins how to take care of people, how to practice medicine properly, and I’ve never let go of that, but in fact, I’ve lashed back at insurance companies and administrators who try to compromise care,” McDougal, 64, said during a recent interview at his home near Williamsport.
    For that dedication to improving access to medical care in this community, and for his adept leadership and kind, generous spirit, McDougal has been named The Herald-Mail’s 2009 Person of the Year.
    “I just think he’s always cared about giving the best care to people that can be given, and sometimes the system makes it really hard to do that,” McDougal’s wife, Penny, said.
    In addition to his work at Antietam Health Services, McDougal is a volunteer physician at the Community Free Clinic of Washington County, where, until recently, he also served as medical director.
    In February, McDougal was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, an incurable, fatal neuromuscular disease.
    As his body grew weaker, McDougal was forced to leave Antietam Health Services and the free clinic, but he has continued to advise the free clinic staff and to ensure the clinic’s continued success by setting up an endowment fund that raised nearly $100,000 in a matter of months.
    “He gives so much and asks for nothing in return,” clinic medical receptionist Tammy Ebersole wrote in her Person of the Year nomination, one of four submitted on behalf of McDougal.
    The child of a short-lived World War II romance, McDougal was born at a hospital in Bethesda, Md., but as an infant was adopted by a family in California. He grew up on the beach surfing and playing beach volleyball and basketball. On foggy days, he headed to the library, where, as an athlete interested in how the body worked, he pored through anatomy books and discovered his interest in medicine.
    McDougal was a straight “A” student in high school, and was accepted to Stanford University on a scholarship at a time when only one out of every 35 applicants was admitted. He attended year-round, majoring in physiology, with a minor in art history.
    It was Stanford, McDougal said, that gave him the self-confidence that helped him stand up to insurance companies and serve as a medical director later in life.
    Learning to lead
    “They drilled into you that society needs leadership, and you’re it,” he said.
    McDougal graduated from medical school at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of Penn State University in 1971. After graduating, he was drafted and spent two years in the U.S. Air Force working at a detox center, where he treated many Vietnam veterans.
    “It’s a little-known fact, but the Viet Cong didn’t beat us; drugs did,” McDougal said.
    After that, McDougal completed a residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center, spent two years as a rheumatology fellow at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and went into private practice in Baltimore, practicing internal medicine and rheumatology, or joint and tissue medicine.
    But McDougal’s experience at the military detox center stayed with him, and when he was offered an opportunity to practice addiction medicine at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, he jumped at the chance.
    Unlike many addiction specialists, McDougal said he never used illegal drugs, never smoked a cigarette or drank alcohol. Still, he said he was able to understand addicts in a way that won the respect of patients.
    McDougal said addiction is a genetic disease, predetermined by neurochemistry, and the most important part of treating addicts is orienting them to think of addiction as a disease with which they were born.
    “You come in as an addict, you’ll go out as an addict, and all you have to do is keep away from the substance,” he said.
    Despite McDougal’s talents, work in addiction treatment was scarce, and in 1998, he accepted a job as medical director for Antietam Health Services, the for-profit arm of Washington County Health System, and moved to Washington County.
    As medical director, McDougal’s job was to advocate for physicians and to lend a physician’s perspective to Antietam Health Services’ administrative decisions, said Michael S. Zampelli, health system vice president and head of Antietam Health Services.
    How to do that was left open for McDougal to decide, so he zeroed in on addressing a long-standing grievance of his — unfair practices by insurance companies.
    One of his biggest successes, he said, was confronting Blue Cross about its noncompliance with a 1994 Maryland law that requires insurance companies to treat “mental” ailments, such as insomnia, anxiety and addictions, the same as physical ailments.
    The state of Maryland was one of Blue Cross’s biggest customers, so McDougal set up a meeting with a Blue Cross official and the Maryland attorney general.
    “I showed them the law and I said, ‘The State of Maryland is violating Maryland law,’” McDougal said.
    Within weeks, Blue Cross had reprogrammed its computer system so it paid for the so-called mental ailments, he said.
    “That benefited every physician in Maryland,” McDougal said.
    One insurance company went so far as to put McDougal’s name and picture on the wall and forbid any of its employees from talking to him, but even with that company, McDougal said he managed to get whatever approvals he needed after threatening to orchestrate a meeting arbitrated by the Maryland insurance commissioner.
    “I don’t think he ever encountered a barrier that he wasn’t willing to take a crack at overcoming,” Zampelli said.
    McDougal didn’t stop at battling insurance-related hurdles for insured patients. He also recognized the need for help for the vast number of patients left uninsured by the system, and he poured his energy into the Community Free Clinic, which treats uninsured county residents at no charge.
    McDougal was recruited to volunteer at the clinic shortly after he moved to the county because of his experience with addiction medicine, and he quickly became an indispensable resource in a variety of areas, clinic Executive Director Robin Roberson said.
    McDougal volunteered at the clinic every Tuesday from 3 to 8 p.m., seeing about 15 to 20 patients in that time, about double the typical clinic provider’s load, Roberson said.
    He relished the freedom the clinic gave him to spend as much time as he wanted with each patient, said Adam Roberson, Roberson’s husband and program director at the free clinic.
    “It’s more than just come in, here’s your medicine and send you on your way,” Adam Roberson said. “He would get to know the patient, empathize with their situation.”
    Dr. John Reed, a physician who worked with McDougal both at the clinic and in his role at Antietam Health Services, said that approach stemmed from McDougal’s perspective on medicine.
    “I think he has a great love of just taking care of patients, and really sort of knowing who they are and where they come from,” Reed said. “He has a great ideal of knowing that ultimately, medicine is a calling ... It’s a call to serve, above and beyond anything else.”
    McDougal joined the clinic’s board of directors, and about six years ago became its medical director, in charge of overseeing medical operations.
    In addition to keeping his Tuesday hours, McDougal often stopped by the clinic during lunch to work through piles of paperwork that needed his signature, and he always was available to answer other providers’ questions and offer advice, Adam Roberson said.
    McDougal said Zampelli was generous in accommodating his work with the free clinic.
    “We understand how important the work the free clinic does (is) for this community, so when we saw the passion he had for it and combined that with the critical services it provided, we made an effort to provide as much of Dan as we could,” Zampelli said. 
    McDougal helped double the number of volunteer providers by taking his colleagues on a tour of the clinic, then taking them out to lunch and talking to them about the clinic’s mission until they agreed to sign up, Robin Roberson said.
    He also used his connections at Robinwood Medical Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center to get many free clinic patients care that wasn’t available through the clinic — often free of charge.
    McDougal said one of his proudest moments at the clinic was hearing back from a colleague at The Johns Hopkins Hospital that he would do aortic valve replacement surgeries for free for two clinic patients who could not afford them otherwise.
    About three months ago, McDougal met with the president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital to ensure the hospital would continue to work with the free clinic when McDougal isn’t around to initiate the connection, Robin Roberson said.
    “I think he’s just absolutely a true humanitarian,” she said. “He is one of the kindest people I have ever met. He tries to help anyone that he can.”
    Providers who worked with McDougal at the clinic described him as even-tempered and always willing to share his knowledge and experience.
    “Dr. McDougal just never minded being interrupted and would teach the rationales of what the physiology is,” said certified registered nurse practitioner Mary Perkins, one of the four people who nominated McDougal for Person of the Year.
    Teacher and healer
    Lance Thompson, a registered nurse who worked closely with McDougal, said McDougal would explain the interactions of various medications or inform him about different diagnoses and what the outcomes might be.
    “He is definitely a teacher as well as a healer,” Thompson said.
    “Dan the Man,” as Thompson calls him, also is known for taking the clinic staff out to lunch and to a big dinner each year, for giving patients straight and thorough answers about their medical conditions, and for being a good conversationalist and listener.
    “He’s just an easy person to talk to,” Adam Roberson said. “We could just sit and talk about anything or about nothing at all.”
    Outside of work, McDougal’s passions are his wife, Penny, whom he met when she was an assistant in his anatomy class, and his children, Amy McDougal Hutchens, 38, and Colin McDougal, 39.
    Hutchens said McDougal’s career success never came at the expense of his family.
    “He had the same level of dedication to us as a family as he did to his medical endeavors,” she said. “He literally spent every minute that he was not at the hospital or with patients with his family.”
    In his free time, McDougal did fix-it projects around the house and taught his children to use various tools, sometimes with disastrous results, Hutchens said. At a tribute dinner for McDougal in October, Hutchens had the audience laughing with tales of tool-related mishaps, such as the time her father stirred up a nest of carpenter bees with a staple gun and the time he accidentally glued his scalp to the inside of his boat while waiting for an epoxy adhesive to cure.
    Boating is another hobby for McDougal, who owns a 25-foot cabin boat that he takes out on the Chesapeake Bay.
    McDougal said he has been considering writing a book about how to take care of a boat, but others have suggested that he should write about how he dealt with insurance companies.
    Colleagues said McDougal has never been ostentatious, and in fact drove the same small car for more than 20 years.
    “He’s a tall man, never heavy, drove this little Fiero,” Thompson said. “It was always funny to see this big guy get out of this little car.”
    McDougal spent a lot of time keeping in shape, with a workout that included 10 minutes of hitting a speed bag with 3-pound weights in his hands, 20 minutes of free weights and an hour of jogging or speed walking with 10-pound barbells in each hand, he said.
    It was during one of these workouts about two years ago that McDougal noticed the first symptoms of ALS.
    “All of a sudden, I couldn’t do it any more,” he said. “And I started to get these spasms everywhere, which prompted me to go to Hopkins, and that’s where the diagnosis was made.”
    Since then, the disease has progressed rapidly. One of the muscles from his vocal cords is slack, slowing his speech and making his voice hoarse, and for the past three or four months he has been unable to eat or drink, taking in everything through a tube in his stomach.
    “I can feel that I’m getting weaker and weaker,” he said.
    Funding the clinic
    Still, McDougal said he wanted to return to the clinic after the holidays to practice for one or two hours a week.
    “We’re very, very excited of just the thought of his presence in the clinic ’cause he’s greatly missed,” Robin Roberson said.
    Adam Roberson said it was after the October tribute dinner that McDougal really got his spark back and decided to renew his medical license, which he had placed on inactive status.
    Robin Roberson said that when she started planning the tribute dinner, her idea was to use it to raise money for the ALS Association, but McDougal said he would only let her do it if she used the proceeds to start an endowment fund for the free clinic. The clinic does not receive state or federal funding and has been struggling from a decrease in contributions at a time of record need, Roberson said.
    The dinner raised about $47,000, and a few weeks later, an anonymous donor dropped off a matching check for another $47,000, Robin Roberson said.
    The clinic will use the interest from that account to help fund its operating expenses in perpetuity, Robin Roberson said.
    “It’s always been a vision of mine for the clinic to have an endowment, but we’ve never been financially stable enough to take money from operations to open one, so this is truly a gift,” she said.
    As The Herald-Mail’s Person of the Year, McDougal received a crystal bowl and $1,000 to donate to a civic cause of his choice. Naturally, McDougal chose the free clinic.
    McDougal advocates comprehensive, continuous care
    When it comes to fixing health care in the United States, Dr. Dan McDougal has two words.
    “If you remember nothing else from me, remember — comprehensive and continuous,” he said. “That’s what medical care needs to be.”
    McDougal, The Herald-Mail’s 2009 Person of the Year, said he has a strong opinion about what has gone wrong with health care in this country, and it’s not what is being discussed in Congress.
    “They’re talking about all the wrong subjects,” McDougal said. “They’re completely missing the problem.”

    McDougal had a long career in private medical practice capped off by a decade of working with uninsured patients at the Community Free Clinic of Washington County and fighting insurance-related hurdles as medical director for Antietam Health Services.
    He said the problem is a decreased emphasis on primary care, which he described as the only form of medical care that can be both comprehensive and continuous.
    “What they’re missing is they’re seeing medical care as a whole, and primary care needs to be different, off to the side, and they need to really feed it, water it, make it thrive,” he said.
    That would involve increasing the amount that insurance companies pay primary care physicians, freeing them from restrictive policies and establishing incentives for going into primary care, he said.
    Currently, the typical office visit would cost an uninsured person about $80 in cash, but if paid through an insurance company, the physician gets only about half that — somewhere in the $40 range, McDougal said.
    “In general, the office is structured around $40 to $45 reimbursement, and so that’s all the patients get,” he said. “If you doubled the pay of primary care, they could spend more time with each patient and really do the comprehensive and continuous.”
    By comprehensive, McDougal said he means having a doctor take responsibility for the full spectrum of a patient’s wellness.
    “I make sure you have your swine flu shot, I make sure you have your flu shot, I make sure you’re up to date on your other vaccinations. We talk a little bit about drinking, and bar hopping, and that sort of thing.”
    Continuous means the patient comes in for regular checkups and the doctor will “keep at ’em” to follow through with care, he said.
    This system would save money in the long run by preventing patients from developing more serious conditions that require specialized care, McDougal said.
    In addition, it is less expensive to have primary care doctors handle routine illnesses than for those patients to see specialists, he said.
    But with the growing shortage of primary care physicians, people might one day have no choice, he said.
    He said new medical school graduates are opting for other specialties with higher pay and shorter hours.
    “In 10 to 15 years, it’s possible we could have a complete collapse of primary care in the State of Maryland,” McDougal said. “So the main thing is they have to rebuild primary care.”

    No one seems to be talking about that issue, McDougal said.
    “I listen to these debates, and they’re so off,” he said. “And the so-called experts, they’re so ignorant. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
    McDougal said any version of the health reform bills passed by the House and Senate in 2009 is bound to fail to achieve its goals.
    “They need different laws,” McDougal said. “I’m disappointed that the Senate or the House or the cabinet hasn’t called me to explain to them what they can do that will make a difference.”
    McDougal said the government should regulate insurance companies in the way it regulates automobile construction, where each car must have safety features such as seat belts and airbags.
    “They need federal regulations about health insurance that say if you sell a policy, it has to have this, this, this, just like the automobile builders,” McDougal said. “They can’t just build their own car; they have to build it through the government specifications.”
    In addition to higher pay for primary care, the legislation should include mental health parity so that conditions such as anxiety and depression must have the same coverage as appendicitis, McDougal said.
    In addition, he said, insurance policies all should have the same price, regardless of whether the buyer works for General Electric or runs a lawn care service.
    Another reform could be to give physicians a tax credit for a charitable donation whenever they take care of a patient for nothing, McDougal said.
    “That would encourage free care,” he said.
    Dr. Dan McDougal is the 11th person to be named The Herald-Mail’s Person of the Year, which is awarded each year to someone who makes a positive contribution to the community.
    The 10 previous recipients are:
    • John Waltersdorf
    • Mike Callas
    • Norman Shea
    • Art Callaham
    • James G. Pierné
    • John F. Barr
    • John R. Hershey Jr.
    • Lois Smith Harrison
    • Elizabeth Morgan
    • Frederick C. Wright III

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