Bits and Pieces: Tesla, Titus, Heller, and Amodei

Jig Saw Puzzle ** It’s a done deal. TESLA’s coming to Nevada, brought to us by $1.2 billion worth of ‘incentives.’ [RGJ]  Meanwhile, watch that multiplier! The state is assuming a 2.5 multiplier for revenue generation, i.e. for every one direct job with TESLA there will be 2.5 ancillary jobs created – that’s a big multiplier. [RGJ] See also [LVRJ]

**  Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) asked the VA to move its regional office from Reno to Las Vegas. [LVRJ]  Much as it might pain a northern Nevadan to say so, but the Las Vegas metropolitan area does have more of the 246,000 Nevada veterans than those living in the north, [VA] and the northern office hasn’t covered itself in glory. [LVRJ]  I’d not want to hang by my hair waiting for a definitive answer from the new VA leadership.

** From the Department of No Surprises:  Senator Dean Heller (R-American Bankers Association) voted against the cloture motion to consider S.J. Res. 19, a bill to propose a Constitutional amendment to allow the Congress to enact meaningful campaign finance reform.  Senator Heller was one of 42 (all Republican) votes to continue to filibuster any attempt to overturn the decision in Citizens United.  [roll call 261]

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of H.R. 3522, a bill which would allow insurance corporations to offer small businesses group  insurance plans which DO NOT meet the standards for comprehensive health insurance coverage for their employees under the terms of the ACA.  [RC 495]  One organization summed up the problem with the bill:

“This legislation would allow health insurers to continue offering coverage outside of the insurance marketplaces established by the health law even if those plans do not comply with its coverage requirements. In addition, the inferior plans that would be allowed to continue under Representative Cassidy’s bill discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, force women to pay more than men for the same coverage and impose annual caps on the amount of care received by enrollees.” [NCPSSM]  (emphasis added)

Those three issues, pre-existing condition discrimination, gender discrimination, and junk policies with capped coverage are some of the main reasons the ACA was necessary in the first place.

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Filed under Amodei, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, nevada taxation, Titus

The Tesla Tango

Tesla Here’s the paragraph from PLAN’s letter to the Nevada state legislature which should capture attention:

If we are to use our state’s threadbare tax coffers to subsidize this multi-billion dollar corporation, we urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to hold Tesla accountable for creating family-wage jobs with Nevadans first in line, and other benefits for our state. Specifically, you should attach job quality standards regarding wages and benefits, indexed to inflation over the 20-year deal, to the Tesla tax breaks. You should also mandate customized training and first-source hiring procedures to maximize hiring opportunities for Nevadans. And to deter outsourcing or the use of temp agencies, all of Tesla’s tax breaks (not just the refundable credits) should require direct employment and be pegged to employment levels (so that property and sales tax exemptions would be scaled back if Tesla does not reach and maintain 6,500 employees). (emphasis added)

If Nevada is to experience the benefits from tax incentives offered to TESLA, then it needs to have the wage levels secured to a level which would allow for increased demand for goods and services.  In a state without an income tax, the state revenues have to filter through the sales and business taxes.  For that to happen there has to be an increased level of consumer spending.

‘Minimum wage jobs, temporary employment, outsourced temp employment will simply shave potential demand from the equation.  The current “half the loaf” proposal is problematic:

“The bill requires half of the construction workers and half of the permanent factory workers be from Nevada. Tesla will be required to keep such things as driver’s licenses and car registrations of its employees on file to prove the quota has been met. However, if Tesla can demonstrate it can’t find enough qualified employees in Nevada, it can ask the economic development director for a waiver.” [RGJ]

Why 50%? Why not 67%.  Or are we to be pleased that we’re getting the 50%?  The type of jobs included is another issue for stakeholders.  TESLA will no doubt import its own upper level management team for its plant, this is standard practice and will bring in incomes which could drive local demand for goods and services.  It’s the intermediate positions about which Nevadans might want to be concerned.   And, there’s this:

“Tesla will get a $12,500 transferable tax credit for up to 6,000 qualified employees, who work at least 30 hours a week and make an average of $22 an hour.”  [RGJ]

30 hours?  The last time we looked, 30 hours is a part time job, and which average are we talking about?  Is that the median wage? (half the paychecks above and half below the $22 mark) Or, is it an arithmetical mean, in which the salaries of the top employees are averaged in with the lowest paid workers?  In other words, if we use the arithmetical mean to get the average between a person paid $10 per hour with the income of the Sultan of Brunei wouldn’t that yield an artificially higher average wage?  Or, are we using the mode, the most common wage paid by the company? If there are more people earning $22 per hour than any other group – except there are profound disparities between the top and bottom – then would this be a clear picture of the salary and wage distribution of the firm?

No doubt there will be more questions as the Nevada legislature continues to debate the bill to offer TESLA tax incentives to locate its plant in the state. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Nevada, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Nevada Legislature Needs to Talk About Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Ribbon Sadly, sometimes it takes a dramatic event to capture attention indicating a serious problem – the Ray Rice Case is a notable example.  In the immortal words of the late great Joan Rivers, “Can We Talk?”

Instead of taking action when alarms sound, Nevada’s been hitting the Snooze Alarm on domestic violence. 

Alarm:  On February 7, 2012 the Las Vegas Sun reported findings that nearly half of all women surveyed by the CDC living in Nevada reported having experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes.  Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto established a domestic violence fatality review board to review the issue and look at a  “sample of cases to determine where the chain of assistance and services could be strengthened to prevent future domestic violence homicides.”

Alarm:  April 24, 2013 The report from the domestic violence fatality review was published. [pdf]  Recommendations included suggestions for improving the collection and analysis of data – not surprising because the review board found local governments should (but not necessarily do) have processes in place to gather accurate and complete information for state wide analysis.

Another recommendation centered on the creation and implementation of a process by which there could be an immediate temporary restraining order at the time of an arrest, amending NRS 33.017.

The fifth recommendation suggested that local judges and attorneys discontinue the practice of pleading down domestic violence cases.  Pleading down a case such that the perpetrator is assigned to “impulse control classes” too often means that the second offense is treated as a “first offense,” and the cumulative process of domestic violence sentencing in ineffective.  We’ll come back to this recommendation in a moment.

Alarm:  January 26, 2014 the Las Vegas Review Journal reports that domestic violence cases are on the rise in Clark County. In 2012 the police responded to some 60,000 reports of domestic violence, and in 22,000 of those there was some form of criminal behavior.   While Nevada was no longer Number One in domestic violence statistics, having dropped to Number 16 in the nation, there are still entirely too many cases.

The Legal Environment

These alarms are going off in an environment in which domestic violence may not be considered a felony unless there is a weapon involved or the victim is permanently injured.  [LVGov]  Further,  section 228 of the Nevada statutes dealing with domestic violence is mostly concerned with the certification and administration of treatment programs.  This is not to say that Nevada laws are necessarily weak in term of domestic abuse, but they do have elements which could be improved.  One such area concerns “battery.”

While Las Vegas advises victims that there must be permanent injury or the use of a potentially lethal weapon for the perpetrator to face a felony charge, the statute on battery is not necessarily as lenient.  NRS 200.400 defines a battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

If the person intended to commit “mayhem” (permanent bodily injury) or robbery or grand larceny, then this would be considered a category B felony punishable by a state prison term of not less than 2 years nor more than 10, and a fine of not more than $10,000.  Battery with intent to kill will also be considered a category B felony with a term of at least 2 years incarceration and not more than 20.  If there is substantial bodily harm and the victim is over the age of 16, then the offense is a category A felony, with a minimum sentence of 2 years and a maximum of life. 

Again, the “substantial bodily harm” is defined as “Bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ; or Prolonged physical pain.”  In short, while the general definition of a battery seems like the obvious charge in a domestic violence situation, the definitions of “mayhem,” and “substantial bodily harm” raise the standard such that the advisory from Las Vegas is essentially correct.

The Personal Environment

Unfortunately not all forms of domestic abuse/violence take the obvious form of a battery, nor of an assault in a traditional legal sense.  Pushing, kicking, slapping, punching, strangulation, biting, throwing objects at or near the victim, subjecting the person to reckless driving, using household objects as weapons, threatening the partner with weapons of various sorts, are all common forms of domestic violence that don’t achieve the levels of abuse in the form of lacerations, fractures, internal injuries; or of abuse that leads to disabilities or death. [DWVA.org]  The academic definition of domestic abuse (intimidation, humiliation, physical injury) [AAETS] meets the legal definitions only when the abuse becomes readily apparent, and intense enough to meet the standards for mayhem or substantial bodily harm.

Modern society places a premium on being in control, and there is a temptation when discussing the behaviors listed above to describe them as being “out of control,” or the result of immediate anger or frustration.  In fact, the domestic abuser is all about control, “Domestic abuse is not a result of losing control; domestic abuse is intentionally trying to control another person. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal, or physical means to gain control over the other person.”  [AAETS]

We punish those who go beyond the bounds of acceptable human behavior if they do things which cause substantial bodily harm or result in mayhem. However, we’re not as efficient in creating a legal environment in which it’s recognized that there are abusive individuals, who are not out of control, and whose actions cause severe emotional damage and psychological harm, which may or may not result in permanent injury.

It’s time now to reconsider the recommendation from the state review panel on sentencing guidelines, with a special focus on their commentary:

“When these cases are pleaded down to lower level offenses, sentencing is ineffective or even dangerous. For example, impulse control classes are not effective in domestic violence cases. In addition, this creates a system where future domestic violence incidents are treated as a first offense, and therefore the cumulative nature of domestic violence sentencing is ineffective.”  (emphasis added)

Admitting the Almost Obvious

Publicly stating that impulse control classes aren’t the answer should have raised some controversy when the Attorney General’s panel first issued the report on domestic violence cases in Nevada.  However, the conclusion is substantiated by other, and earlier, research.  In a 2002 meta-study of treatment programs (Babcock, Green, Robie) found: “Overall, effects due to treatment were in the small range, meaning that the current interventions have a minimal impact on reducing recidivism beyond the effect of being arrested.”

A study of offenders in Broward County, Florida in 2004 was no more heartening:  “The results presented here show no clear and demonstrable effects of counseling on offenders’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Analysis of  self-reported and victim-reported psychological and physical abuse using the revised Conflict Tactics Scales suggests that the behavior of batterers in  the treatment programs did not change over time.” (pdf) 

A 2008 publication of meta-analysis concerning studies of batterer treatment programs also confirms the Nevada panel’s conclusion. “The Preponderance of evidence now accumulated in the field calls into question the efficacy of “batterer” programs based on the most prevalent national models. Indeed, the main findings from our randomized trial are consistent with other recent trials, of which none found that mandating offenders to a batterer program for groups of men produced lower rates of re-abuse.” (pdf)

Not to paint a very pretty face on the matter, but Nevada has an entire section of code (NRS 228) given to certifying treatment programs for domestic abusers, one segment concerning how certification may be withdrawn, and a sentence requiring the program to measure the success of the individual’s progress – but doesn’t seem to have a complete grip on what to do when treatment doesn’t work.

The Legislative Environment

It would seem obvious that one of the tasks to which the next session of the State Legislature should set for itself is the oversight of sentencing and adjudication of domestic violence crimes.  There are some pertinent questions which ought to be raised:

#1.  What is the “success rate,” if any, of the mandatory treatment programs for domestic abusers in Nevada?  What is an “acceptable” recidivism rate?  How is recidivism measured? Re-arrest rates?  Self reporting? After treatment interviews and investigations?

#2. If, as suggested by the research, the fear of arrest is more conducive to a reduction in domestic violence among its perpetrators than court mandated treatment programs, then are community standards for police training, and judicial education commensurate with the need to effect more efficacious interaction between the batterers and the courts?  *This is a polite way to say, “Do we junk the bulk of NRS 228 and improve the way the legal code addresses that domestic battering which doesn’t meet the standards required for mayhem and substantial bodily injury?”

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Filed under domestic abuse, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

The Price Tag Plus $32: The economic cost of guns in America

Guns $32.00 – according to the author of a NIJ study on gun fire casualties that’s the direct societal cost per gun in the United States.   When the costs for drunk driving and gun related injuries were compared in 1994 the drunk driving costs were characterized as substantially higher.  Now that has reversed.  In 1992 medical care for a fatal shooting averaged $14,500. By 2010 the number was $28,700. [USAT]  More recent figures put the annual cost to American society at $214 billion, or $693 per person. [LeadersEdge] Where does this number come from?

“…societal cost figure includes medical costs incurred from firearms violence and the lost earnings of the victims—either the survivors of a firearms injury or costs to loved ones left behind in case of a fatal shooting. And it includes an estimated $11.9 billion in costs to government for such things as Medicare and Medicaid payments to victims. It also includes $1.5 billion in medical and mental health treatment, public services, adjudication, sanctioning and productivity losses for the perpetrator.”  [LEdge]

On the other side of the ledger, the firearms industry supports about 120,310 jobs in “supplier and ancillary industries,” and the manufacture and sale of firearms generates $33.3 billion to the economy.  This would include $10.4 billion in wages, $4.6 billion in federal and state business taxes, $460 million in excise taxes, and about $2.1 billion in federal and state taxes paid by the firearms industry and its employees.  [LE NSSF]  In short, we’re losing about $180.7 billion on this deal?

Other elements not under discussion are the secondary effects of gun violence, such as the loss of real estate value in neighborhoods which experience high levels of gun fatalities and injuries.  Nor are we taking into economic consideration the unwillingness of commercial and manufacturing firms to expand or site operations in neighborhoods which have high gun violence numbers.

Every instance of a gun related accident or homicide adds to the economic costs of relatively unregulated firearms in American society.  The logic is fairly simple:

“We have supported research for more than 20 years to better understand the problems of gun violence, the risk factors of gun violence and the policies that can prevent it,” says Nina Vinik, the gun violence prevention program director for the Joyce Foundation in Chicago. “One thing consistent in the research over the decades is the finding that where guns are more available, more readily accessible, there is a corresponding increase in levels of gun violence and injuries, in homicides, in suicides and in accidents.” [LEdge]

Arguments about the United States being a “violent society” stray from the essential point – it’s not that we’re necessarily more criminally inclined, but that the easy availability of firearms tends to make our adventures with guns more lethal – and more expensive. [HarvardMag]

Another point, about which we probably ought to be having more conversation is that the proliferation of firearms in this country is costing us more than their economic value in the total economy.  Capitalism works – but only if the market decisions made are rational.

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Filed under Economy, Gun Issues

Domestic Violence and Corporate America

Domestic Violence 2 Between the years 2003 and 2012 domestic violence accounted for 21% of all violent crime reported in the United States. [BJS]  So, why does it take the dismissal of a star athlete in a nationally adored sport to get our attention?  Yes, Ray Rice has been dismissed from the Baltimore Ravens NFL team, an action which has drawn universal praise for the Ravens front office – however, as the statistic should illustrate, Mr. Rice is certainly not alone.

76% of domestic violence victims are men, 24% are women. [BJS] The definition of domestic violence appears to predict these numbers, as the Department of Justice describes it”:

“…a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”

The Department of Justice goes further, identifying elements which are components of domestic violence:  The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and/or psychological. [DoJ]  In the instance of Mr. Rice, the behavior was clearly physical.  However, when an organization such as the NFL, or any other corporation for that matter, announces a Zero Tolerance policy for domestic violence what is it talking about?

Mr. Rice’s behavior in the elevator was obviously physical, and just as obviously abusive.  The incident was also highly visible.  Perhaps at this point it’s important to ask what if the abuse in question isn’t obviously physical, and isn’t documented on video for all the world to eventually see?

What if the abuse is within the confines of the household, and is primarily sexual?  What if the abuse constituted marital rape?  Here we find the radical conservatives hawking the notion that there is no such thing as spousal rape.  Consider Richard Black, Virginia state senator now running for Congress:

The rabidly conservative Republican was one of the state delegates who argued against criminalizing spousal rape in 2002, asking his fellow assemblymen, “How on earth you could validly get a conviction of a husband-wife rape when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie, and so forth, there’s no injury, there’s no separation or anything.” [TDB]

She’s in a nightie, and so forth…?”  Mr. Black’s line of argument appears to be if it’s difficult to prove then it ought not be prosecuted?  If she’s in her night clothes that’s an invitation to rape?  Is this comparable to “if her skirt is too short?”  Black is, unfortunately, not an outlier.  Remember Senate candidate Todd Akin’s reference to “legitimate rape?” Or, Richard Mourdock’s commentary on a rape caused pregnancy being what God intended? [TDB]

And then the unreconstructed harridan of the Right, Phyllis  Schlafly chimed in:

I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That’s what marriage is all about, I don’t know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn’t mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn’t rape, it’s a he said-she said where it’s just too easy to lie about it. [RWW]

In other words, once you’ve said “I do” it’s I will  and I will and I will?  In order for a rape to be a rape there has to be such physical violence as to be the visible result of a battery?  If there is ‘mistreatment’ there are laws which might be applied? What laws? According to her lights, not the laws against sexual assault.  She can divorce him, but do so in the knowledge that what he did to her he may now do to others?  And, it’s “just too easy to lie about it?”  Mrs. Schlafly is now dredging down into “Beware little boys, she’s probably going to cry rape or pregnancy if you have sex with her” territory.

What the Right wants to ignore is the fundamental definition of domestic violence.  It’s not a matter of who meant what when they said, “I do,” it’s “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”  Physical or sexual violence in this instance isn’t a matter of merely forcing an unwilling partner to engage in sex for the pleasure of the partner – It’s sex used as a weapon to gain or maintain power and control.

Would the NFL, or any other corporate entity take a Zero Tolerance stance against economic abusive behavior – in which the victim is controlled by the purse strings?  Would they be intolerant of a person who took complete control of the family finances, excluding the partner from any control over any spending money?  Would they be intolerant of an abuser who refused to allow a spouse to continue her education? To take on a paying job? These kinds of power games aren’t going to show up on casino video screens, but they are all too common as forms of spousal abuse.  In this instance, it’s money used as a weapon to gain or maintain power and control.

How about emotional abuse – continuous and continual denigration, constant assaults on the spouse’s self esteem – the message is relatively clear: “You are incapable of functioning without me, and therefore I will be incomplete control”  Or, what of psychological abuse – creating an atmosphere of fear by intimidation, threats to the victim and the children, the destruction of personal property or pets, or forcing isolation from family and friends?  Now we have words, and force, used as weapons to gain or maintain power and control.

Verizon has taken a corporate stand against domestic violence, framing it correctly as a public health problem – women who have been abused are more likely to experience more chronic health problem.   A number of corporations have partnered with Domestic Violence Solutions in Santa Barbara, California,  which offers a 40 hour training program on domestic violence and its ramifications targeted for therapists, medical personnel, social service professionals,  law enforcement personnel, volunteers, and friends and family. General Electric requires a criminal background check, including any references to domestic violence, for employment in its aviation division. [DL GE] The corporation is quite clear about not tolerating sexual harassment in the workplace, but its manual doesn’t directly address domestic violence away from work.

Other corporations are involved with the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence.  This organization has been functioning since the mid 1990’s toward a more general vision: “We envision enhanced corporate profitability through reduction of rising expenses related to partner violence, such as health care costs and expenses due to low productivity, high turnover, and absenteeism.”  

While corporate efforts to prevent domestic violence are laudable, it’s difficult for an employer to discern which employees might be perpetrators of domestic violence.  Some of the strategies used to hide the abuse are associated with being a ‘good guy’ on the shop floor or in the cubicles. Among the prevalent behavior strategies used by abusers are:  (1) Having a very different public and private persona. (2) Projecting blame.  (3) Claiming loss of control or anger management issues, (4) Minimizing or denying the abusive behavior. [CW.gov]  Likewise, it can often be difficult to determine who’s the victim when the physical injuries are hidden, or explained away, or the victim conceals problems out of shame, apprehension, or fear.  [CW.gov]

So, here’s to the National Football League and the Baltimore Ravens for sending a strong message: We don’t condone domestic violence.  And, here’s hoping for several improvements in the way we address the issue of domestic violence in America.

(1) Every corporation in America should have a written policy on domestic violence.  The policy should provide guidelines for handling abusers, and for providing help for victims.  Direct policy statements aren’t just the right thing to do, but as the CAEPV points out there are direct economic benefits for corporations which implement zero tolerance policies.

(2) Every major employer, public and private, should acknowledge in its policy statements that domestic violence also includes the less visible elements of economic, emotional, and psychological abuse.

(3) Every major employer, public and private, should have personnel available as part of its human relations divisions who are trained to deal with cases of domestic violence – of all kinds not only physical and sexual — and there should be clear directives about immediately assisting employees in need.  In other words, the Shelter should be on speed-dial.

(4) Every major employer, public and private, should have the same concern for its brand (or “Shield”) as evidenced by the Ravens, i.e. domestic violence is never acceptable in any form, and those guilty of it (in any form) will face immediate dismissal.

It doesn’t matter if she’s the ‘little woman’ at home, it doesn’t matter if she said “I do,” it doesn’t matter if she’s in a nightie, it doesn’t matter if she’s not in a casino elevator on camera – it only matters that there is a victim and an abuser, and the abusers aren’t so valuable to any organization or institution that they can’t be replaced.

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Filed under Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Welfare Royalty and Nevada Taxpayers

There’s good economic news for northern Nevada – Tesla’s coming to town.  What might not be so delightful is the $1.25 billion tax deal Nevada gave to the corporation to get the factory. There’s a 20 year sales tax abatement ($725 million), a 10 year property tax abatement ($332 million),  another $120 million in transferable tax credits, $75 million in transferrable job tax credits, $27 million in modified business tax abatement for 10 years, and $8 million in discounted electricity for 8 years.   [RGJ]  A bit of quick calculation shows that if the plant generates 6,500 jobs and the tax abatements and credits cost, say, $1.2 billion, then the price tag for each job was about $184,615.  Granting that these costs are spread over a 10-20 year period, it’s up to the view of the beholder as to whether this is a bargain. What’s not a bargain are the other corporate subsidies Nevada is handing out every day to the New Welfare Queens.

For example, there are 4,281 Wal-Mart stores in the United States,  and the retail giant operates 30 stores, 2 discount stores, 11 neighborhood markets, and 7 Sam’s Club stores in Nevada. Its associates are paid an average of $13.59/hr.  for full time workers.  [WM]  That wage figure yields annual wages of approximately $27,180 per year.  The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,850.  133% of that number is $31,720, the percentage is important because that’s the eligibility line for adults qualifying for Medicaid. [NVM]  Thus, the average worker with an average sized family is qualified for Medicaid coverage, and Nevada Check Up coverage, in this state.  Our average worker ($13.59) would receive about $2,174 per month, the SNAP gross income eligibility line is $2,498 per month. [NDW]

This doesn’t make Wal-Mart in Nevada unique, in fact as of last November it was reported that Wal-Mart employees made up the single largest block of Medicaid recipients.  [Bloomberg]

This state of affairs doesn’t make Wal-Mart unique among low wage paying employers.  The fast food joints, currently in the news for being the target of employee picketing, aren’t any better.  The median annual wage for a counter attendant at your local burger establishment is $18,930. [DETR] If the Wal-Mart employees are eligible for Medicaid, Check Up, and SNAP benefits, those counter attendants are truly in the eligibility category.  Additionally, let’s get rid of some silly myths about minimum wage jobs in the fast food industry.

The most common myth is that there’s no reason to worry about wages for fast food employees because most of them are teens earning their first paychecks, and working for pocket money.  No.  Half of all fast food workers are over the age of 23, and about 30% of all fast food establishment personnel are between the ages of 16-19. 36.4% are between the ages of 25 and 54.   [CEPR pdf]

The second bit of malarkey coming from the corporate lobbyists is that the picketing for higher wages is just a screen for union organizing.  Indeed, there are some labor union organization efforts going on – and why not? If workers are being paid minimal wages and aren’t seeing any prospects of advancement (only about 2.2% of fast food workers hold managerial positions) then organizing is an obvious option.   It’s an especially appealing option when the corporate financial statements are taken into account.

Your local McDonald’s franchise is part of a corporation with a $91.31 billion market cap, with an enterprise value of $103.09 billion.   It has a 19.48% profit margin, and a 30.12% operating margin.  To date it has reported revenue of $28.30 billion.  The corporation boasts a 35.19% return on equity. [YahFin]  Its top institutional shareholders are Vanguard, State Street, BlackRock ITC, Bank of America, Massachusetts Financial Services, Bank of NY Mellon, FMR LLC, Northern Trust, BlackRock Fund Advisors, and Wellington Management LLP. [YahFin

The point of serving all those burgers – composed of whatever they might be – is to enhance shareholder value.  What would better enhance ‘shareholder value’ than keeping costs as low as possible, including the cost of preparing and serving the Happy Meal?  If the taxpayers are willing to pick up the tab for the  employees’ health care and basic needs for food and shelter, then so much the better for those institutional shareholders who retain some 64.6% of the corporation.

It’s important to differentiate between welfare recipients – people who are trying to clothe, feed, and shelter their families – from the Welfare Queens who are trying to enhance the incomes of their institutional investors and keep those shareholders satisfied, while the taxpayers of the state have to subsidize their employees, provide their streets, roads, communication infrastructure, and their police and fire protection.  Nice deal, if you can get it?

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Filed under Economy, Nevada economy

The Great North Houston Vote Suppression Raid: A cautionary tale for Nevada

There’s a cautionary tale here.  It really does make a difference who controls the offices of the state Secretary of State and who holds the post of State Attorney General.  If the following information isn’t convincing, I’m not sure what might be. 

Five days ago, Texans were reminded of a raid by police officers in protective gear sweeping into a house on the north side of Houston. It wasn’t a drug raid.  The officers displayed a search warrant and then removed computers, hard drives, and documents.  These weren’t related to any money laundering schemes – they were the property of “Houston Votes,” a voter registration effort.  Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s delegation of investigators said they were after evidence of voting fraud.  And the result?

“The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.” [DallasNews]

The case included all the usual elements, a fervid Tea Party agitator, Catherine Englebrecht of the King Street Patriots, film clips from Fox News about the New Black Panthers, rumors of the organization being “worse than ACORN.”

The justification offered by Attorney General Abbott after the initial Dallas News story,  was that he didn’t know about the investigation at the time. [DallasNews]   A full on raid? Protective gear? Guns drawn? And the man ultimately in charge of this fiasco now can only say, “I trusted my aides?” There were more allegations of unjustified interference from Abbott’s office.

“The Houston Votes case is not the only one of its kind, though it’s unclear how often Abbott’s office investigates allegations similar to those levied against the group. In response to requests from The News, the attorney general’s office provided a list of 637 potential violations of the Elections Code referred to Abbott since he took office in late 2002.

Strickland (Abbott spokesperson) said he could not say how many were investigated or how many involved alleged voter registration fraud.” [Star Telegram]

In short, those 637 hardly constitute an “epidemic” of voter fraud as declared by Abbott in 2006.   So, what does this tale say in terms of Nevada’s upcoming vote?

The Republican candidate for Secretary of State, the person in charge of Nevada’s elections, is Barbara Cegavske, who has made her position clear.  She’s in favor of the photo ID requirements which have been used in states like Texas and North Carolina to suppress voting by Blacks and Hispanics:

Cegavske said that if elected in November she would consider introducing a voter ID bill during the 2015 legislative session if no lawmaker proposes a similar bill. Such measures have repeatedly failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate, however.

“We need to have something that everyone feels secure about,” Cegavske said after speaking to about 40 people attending a breakfast for Hispanics in Politics, an influential Latino community group. “I don’t want to disenfranchise anybody, but I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have identification.”  Cegavske said that even if people don’t drive they usually have other ID they use to get Social Security checks or food stamps or for other programs that require photo identification.”  [LVRJ]

Her statement couldn’t make it much clearer about whom she’s referring when discussing who might not be able to register to vote.  Cegavske’s opponent is Kate Marshall who has not made these kinds of statements.  The Nevada Democratic Party made its position on Senator Cegavske crystal clear:

“The only way to ensure the integrity of our election system is to keep Barbara Cegavske as far away from the Secretary of State’s office as possible,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson.  “Cegavske’s rhetoric today might endear her to extremists in the TEA Party, but the reality is she is a career politician who has spent her time in the legislature killing ethics reform, blatantly abusing tax dollars and trying to suppress people from voting.”

Putting ingredients such as Tea Party + Voting + State Office Holder together is precisely what generated the debacle in Texas.  Cegavske, is indeed, a solution in search of a problem, and most definitely isn’t the best candidate for the office of Nevada Secretary of State.  (See also: Fodder and Folderol]  For that matter, she certainly doesn’t need to be teamed up with “Train Wreck” Adam Laxalt in the AG’s office.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting