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Life in the Safety Net

8:20 am in Economy, Food, Government, Jobs, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

If you have been reading my posts, you know I am among the long term un/underemployed. I was laid off from my then employer in April 2004. I know most economists place the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007 but given their continual “surprise” at how the economy does not conform to their expectations, the reality is a bit different. When I was laid off, I had spent the past seven to eight years working within IT on various State and Local Government social service projects. Unfortunately for me, many states had started cutting back in this area starting around 2001. Declining tax revenues led to cut-backs to contracts led to further declining revenues, etc.
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Over the past nine years, I spent my unemployment benefits (I only received 6 months of unemployment benefits since my layoff preceded the official recession and advent of extended benefits.) I spent my savings. I cashed in my 401K and SEP/IRA (the best benefit there was even with paying the early cash-in penalties, I still got to spend more of the funds on myself instead of seeing the balances swirl down the toilet when the market crashed.) In 2007, I landed a part-time, online job that has been a god send.

I finally swallowed my pride in January of 2012 and applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps). I was approved for benefits of $200 per month from Florida from February 2012 through June 2012 when I would have to be re-certified. I did not re-certify at that time as I was dealing with my late sister’s estate by June and was able to pay myself a nominal salary. Since then, I have moved from Florida back to my home state of Kentucky. After I wrote this post in early July, documenting my soon to be homelessness, a friend from my hometown of Cynthiana, KY offered me a room in her home for Dan’l (my cat) and me. I am paying a nominal rent, my share of the utilities plus helping around the house. I have since applied for SNAP benefits here in Kentucky. I was initially denied due to lack of information, then approved for $159 per month then after a review after the state had received the remainder of my supporting information, the benefit amount was upgraded to $189 per month starting November 1. I do not know if the cuts to the over all SNAP program will affect my benefits but if there is a cut, so be it. I am fortunate enough to know how to cook and purchase food for myself so I can generally live within the benefit. I most likely would have to cut out the occasional treat of cookies or soda.

At this point, I am just trying to hang on until I reach age 62 next June and can apply for early Social Security. According to the SSA, my benefit for Social Security at age 62 is $1,371, a little above the current average overall benefit of $1,271 (as of September 2013.)

I do not have a car any longer. Maybe next year when I start the social security, between that and my small salary from my online job, I might be able to buy something (and pay the taxes and title and upkeep and maintenance and gas and insurance.) Once I am collecting social security, I will most likely no longer qualify for SNAP benefits and that’s OK as I will have been able to use them to stay alive until I reached the “retirement” point.

Through all of this, I know I am still luckier than most. I have received help from family and friends that has kept a roof over my head. I am relatively healthy having had only a bad case of the flu back in early 2005 that I saw a doctor for, a cut on my hand in December 2005 that required an emergency room visit for four stitches (costing roughly $2,000 out-of-pocket as I am uninsured), and an infected tooth pulled at the dentist’s in January 2013 for $175. The dentist gave me a ‘scrip for free antibiotics to clear the infection before he pulled the tooth.

While I have been fortunate in many ways, I also know I am not alone. There are 900K veterans and 5K active military receiving SNAP benefits alone who will be impacted by the upcoming cut to the benefit level.

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Now isn’t that con-vee-nient?

7:17 am in Economy, Government, Jobs, Politics, Unemployment by dakine01

Oops.

So much for the monthly Jobs Report. One of the effects of the government shutdown (no Fox News, it is NOT a “slimdown“) is no monthly Jobs Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS web site has a “Special Notice”:

This website is currently not being updated due to the suspension of Federal government services. The last update to the site was Monday, September 30. During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries. Updates to the site will start again when the Federal government resumes operations. Revised schedules will be issued as they become available.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Quite convenient for those members of Congress who deem most of us as not worthy of worrying about, yet manage to whine about how they need their pay check to get by – as if the 800K federal employees don’t need theirs!

ADP did release their monthly report on private sector jobs on Wednesday, showing an increase of 166K in the private sector (and of course economists surprised as the number was lower than “expected”). The Wall St Journal looked at the numbers in a bit of detail (you can reach behind the WSJ Paywall by Googling the article title “U.S. Businesses Add 166,000 Jobs, ADP Report Shows”). The numbers that jumped out at me are:

Service-sector jobs increased by 147,000 last month, while the factory sector added a slim 1,000 new positions. Financial services cut 4,000 jobs.

Despite September’s gain, job growth is weakening. Over the three months through September, the economy added an average of 162,000 private jobs per month, down from 220,000 at the start of the year, according to ADP.

Service sector jobs increase by 147K and manufacturing increases by 1K. It’s a McJobs economy!

Business Insider offers us a listing of “what we know” even without the BLS figures. Of course, they base this to a large extent on “market economists’ expectations” (see above link to previous blog post about “Economists surprised”).

Bloomberg tells us that economists will just talk about football:

The absence of jobs data leaves economists and their investor clients without the month’s most important numbers on which to place bets, ranging from friendly office pools to million-dollar wagers on the health of the world’s largest economy.

Meanwhile, Reuters tells us “Workers and employers face off at U.S. Supreme Court:”

(Reuters) – Workplace disputes pepper the docket of cases the U.S. Supreme Court will take up during a nine-month term starting on Monday, with the justices having delivered a string of victories to businesses and employers in their last term.

Organized labor will feature in two of the cases. In one, an employee seeks to limit the power of public-sector unions to collect dues. In the other, an employee aims to limit the ability of private-sector unions to sign up members.

It would constitute a significant blow to the labor movement were the court, split 5-4 between Republican and Democratic presidential appointees, to rule against the unions in both cases, legal experts say.

Since the composition of the SCOTUS has not changed in the past few months, I am not going to hold my breath on workers getting any breaks from this court. In June, Businessweek declared the current court as Corporate America’s Employees of the Month. It is not a stretch, it is not a difficult prediction to say more 5 – 4 decisions, more rulings in favor of our corporate overlords are coming in the next few months.

I bet Lloyd Blankfein will go to sleep at night dreaming of the wage slaves he can continue to abuse.

And because I can:

Read the rest of this entry →

Oh Noes! Wall Street Might Not Get Their Bonuses!

3:26 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

So I was doing my standard web surfing this AM after I had checked the (non-existent) jobs listings when I saw this from Bloomberg with the title, “Half of Wall Street Employees Expect Bigger Bonuses”:

Almost half of Wall Street employees expect their year-end bonuses to be higher this year than they were a year ago, according to an eFinancialCareers.com survey.

Of the 911 U.S. financial professionals who responded to the e-mailed survey, 48 percent anticipate a higher payout, up from 41 percent in a similar survey last year, the job-search website said today in a statement. Employees of hedge funds and other asset managers were more optimistic than those at banks and broker-dealers, according the statement. Of the respondents, 82 percent work for U.S.-based companies.

Well imagine my surprise this afternoon when I see this one from Bloomberg titled “Wall Street Bonus Pool Seen Shrinking for Second Straight Year”:

Wall Street’s cash bonus pool is likely to fall for a second straight year as the financial industry grapples with market turmoil, economic weakness and new rules, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

Revenue and compensation trends have “edged downward” since February, when DiNapoli estimated that the 2011 pool for Wall Street declined by 13.5 percent to $19.7 billion, the comptroller said today in a report.

The New York Times presented it this way this afternoon:

It still pays to be on Wall Street.

Even as the financial industry in New York has slashed jobs by the thousands, the average worker who remains is collecting a near-record paycheck.

In a report released on Tuesday, the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said that the average pay package of securities industry employees grew slightly last year and was up 16.6 percent over the past two years, to $362,950. Wall Street’s total compensation rose 4 percent last year to more than $60 billion.

CNBC appears to be trying to split the differences with this report titled “Wall Street Expects Bigger Bonuses But May Not Get Them” as they report on the same survey that Bloomberg covered in the first link:

Revenue is down on Wall Street but expectations for bonuses are up — at least for some workers who have seen their pay shrink since the financial crisis explosion.

A survey from eFinancial Careers shows 48 percent of workers on the Street are looking for higher bonuses than 2011. Expectations are high even as investment banking revenue is down 11 percent for the same period last year while the securities industry overall saw revenue fall 7 percent in the first half.

At the same time, some of the larger firms have been doing better as the headwinds from the European debt crisis subside and hopes grow that the industry will close the year out strongly.

Meanwhile as Wall Street whines its way along, our (not-so-favorite) Masters of the Universe, Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are once again daring to spout their nonsense. Jon Walker at FDL Action presents this:

What I find most ironic about these CEO deficit hawks complaining about the “uncertainty” that is hurting the economy is that they are the ones responsible for helping to create said uncertainty to begin with. The deficit obsession created the uncertainty about raising the debt ceiling. Similarly, they constantly pushed for a big deficit deal resulting in the creation of the sequesters, which are seen as a big source of the fiscal uncertainty at the moment. The main “uncertainty” about government policy right now is how the government will clean up the mess created by past efforts to force a deficit deal.

But hey, MotU never have to be accountable for destroying the economy. After all, they deserve those millions dollars of bonuses right? Destroying the global economy is hard ass work so they must be compensated for it.

Meanwhile, CNN actually touches base with the real world with this article on part time jobs being the new normal in employment. Notice how much attention is paid to the ravings of Blankfein and Dimon and the Wall St WATB versus the attention paid to the rest of us in the real world?

And because I can:
Happy Birthday John. RIP

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Banker Pay Is Pretty Good – The Price of Destroying the Economy

11:49 am in Economy, Financial Crisis, Jobs, Unemployment by dakine01

A few months ago, I offered my services — only half facetiously — to British Petroleum as CEO after I had read about and watched bits of Tony Hayward’s testimony before Congress. He’d acted like the Sergeant Schultz character (I know nothing, nothing!) on the old sitcom Hogan’s Heroes; I figured I could do at least as good a job as Hayward for a lot less money. Win-win all the way around for everyone!

The Sergeant Schultz defense seems to be fairly common among CEOs and upper management for many companies, even though they are paid to be aware of what is going on. I would imagine that there are many of us among the millions of long term un and underemployed who could do the jobs of CEOs and so-called Masters of the Universe and be not only more honest in our dealings with others but also more empathetic for those who are struggling.

Instead, we get to see Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s salary and other compensation jump again in 2010:

The firm’s board granted restricted stock valued at $12.6 million to Mr. Blankfein and other senior executives, including Gary D. Cohn, the firm’s president. The board also approved a new annual base salary of $2 million for its chief executive, up from $600,000. Mr. Cohn and others will see their base salaries increase to $1.85 million, according to the filing on Friday.

With his previous salary of $600,000, Mr. Blankfein’s 2010 compensation comes to $13.2 million. Senior executives often receive part of their compensation in cash, but Goldman did not release details on this component of Mr. Blankfein’s compensation.

Surprisingly, this does not sit well with all corners of the business world. This is from a Fortune Mag (via CNN blog):

How might you compensate management for a year in which profits plunged, you spent $550 million of shareholder money to settle a fraud investigation and your stock ended up more or less exactly where it started (see chart, right)?

You might be tempted to nix raises or withhold bonuses to send a responsible message about linking pay to performance. But if so, you wouldn’t be Goldman Sachs (GS).

It just had the year described above – and responded by tripling everyone’s base salary while boosting bonuses by 40%. Is this a great country or what?

Turns out, Bank of America is doing similar and is also not winning fans for doing so (via Wall Street Journal):

Bank of America Corp. intends to give some investment bankers a greater share of their bonuses in cash, the latest Wall Street compensation move roiling banking chieftains as they meet in Davos, Switzerland.

Last year the highest-paid bankers at the nation’s largest bank by assets received as little as 5% of their payout in cash. Now bankers and traders making more than $5 million are getting as much as 30% of their 2010 compensation in cash and at least 70% in deferred stock, according to people familiar with the situation. Some could see a stock award of as much as 80% and 20% in cash.

Of course, the bankers love to send mixed messages. Read the rest of this entry →

Lloyd Blankfein Auditions for Open Mic Night

11:22 am in Uncategorized by dakine01

Well, well, well.

It seems that Lloyd Blankfein and the folks at the Vampire Squid think Sen Levin and the staff of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations "cherry-picked" the emails that were released yesterday. From today’s New York Times:

In the messages, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November 2007 that the firm had lost money initially. But it later recovered by making negative bets, known as short positions, to profit as housing prices plummeted. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

Goldman, of course, denies they made the profit:

Goldman on Saturday denied it made a significant profit on mortgage-related products in 2007 and 2008. It said the subcommittee had “cherry-picked” e-mail messages from the nearly 20 million pages of documents it provided. This sets up a showdown between the Senate subcommittee and Goldman, which has aggressively defended itself since the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a security fraud complaint against it nine days ago. On Tuesday, seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify at a Congressional hearing.

My absolute first thought when I saw the "cherry-picking" complaint was of Richard Nixon and the Watergate Tapes. I am not a lawyer and as always, just might be an idiot but it sure looks to me that Sen Levin and staff found what can be very close to the "smoking gun."

But I’m willing to give Mr Blankfein and the rest of the Vampire Squid folks the benefit of the doubt. They claim that Sen Levin and staff released

just four e-mails from the almost 20 million pages of documents and e- mails provided to it by Goldman Sachs,” van Praag said. “It is concerning that the subcommittee seems to have reached its conclusion even before holding a hearing.”

So tell ya what we can do there Goldman Sachs folks. Why don’t you go ahead and release all 20 million pages of documents and emails and let those of us who are interested do some crowdsourcing review for everyone. Surely this would be satisfactory for all parties, right?

No. I’m not going to hold my breath on this to happen.

And because I can: