Robert Pollin, UMass Amherst economics professor and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute, was featured in the story, Is Obama’s Bet On Green Jobs Risky? on 90.9 wbur, Boston’s NPR news station. The story notes that clean energy projects as a whole have received approximately $95 billion in funding and questions whether this is a risky investment. While there is uncertainty as to what the next big economic growth sector will be, there is reason to be optimistic about investing in clean energy. According to Pollin, who was hired by the Commerce Department to run the numbers, the government’s stimulus program on green activities yields approximately 17 jobs per $1 million of expenditure. This compares favorably to military spending which creates about 11 jobs per $1 million and to the oil and gas industry which produces about 5 jobs per $1 million of expenditure. Pollin notes that the payoff is higher because kick-starting a new industry requires more manpower. “There’s way more jobs in clean energy because essentially there’s a lot more construction jobs, there’s a lot more manufacturing jobs, there’s a lot more transportation jobs,” he said. “So it’s really the process of building the new industry that makes it a good generator of jobs.” (NPR, June 13, 2011)
Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, writes in the Economix blog about ways to cut the child poverty rate in the U.S. She says Great Britain has accomplished this goal with some pretty standard economic policy tools. “The ordinary policies in Britain that led to what many Americans would consider extraordinary results were these: an increase in the national minimum wage (currently about $9.70 an hour, compared with our $7.25), tax incentives to encourage single parents to move into paid employment, increased public benefits for parents, provision of universal preschool and regulations making it easier for parents of young children to request flexible work schedules.” (New York Times, 6/13/11)
Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, comments in a story about Connecticut’s new paid-sick-leave law that affects hourly service workers and is expected to be signed soon by that state’s governor. Folbre says the new law could potentially lead to higher prices, but will provide some important benefits. “This imposes some costs, and costs can get passed onto consumers,” Folbre said. “But the pluses are public health, and improved job quality in ways that probably benefit employers.” (Marketwatch.com, 6/9/11)
Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, writes in the Economix blog about how Vermont is bucking the national trend and creating a Canadian-style, single-payer health insurance system for its citizens. She notes that Gerald Friedman, economics, estimates Massachusetts could see savings of 17 percent in its health care costs under a similar system. (New York Times, 6/6/11)
My University of Massachusetts Amherst colleague Gerald Friedman, active in efforts to promote a single-payer system in this state, estimates that similar changes in Massachusetts could sharply reduce the cost of billing and processing insurance claims, generating savings of 17 percent. As he puts it, a universal single-payer approach is not just more affordable; in the long run, it may be the only affordable option.
The current Massachusetts health-insurance system, like that emerging on the national level, requires residents to buy health insurance and provides subsidies only to low-income families. As a result, it leaves many people vulnerable to increases in the cost of insurance and may also create political resentments among those with incomes just above the subsidy eligibility level, who are forced to buy insurance they can ill afford.
The system is not “wildly unpopular,” as some conservatives assert, but it’s not wildly popular either.
As Vermont moves forward with its plan, a fascinating standard of comparison should emerge. The Canadian single-payer system grew out of successful innovations in the province of Saskatchewan, which led other provinces to follow suit. Here in Massachusetts, many of us are looking hopefully over our shoulder at the Green Mountain State.
Jeannette Wicks-Lim ’05 PhD and assistant research professor at the Political Economy Research Institute, is cited in a report on the occupations most likely to gain from unionization including nursing aides, office clerks, accounting clerks and janitors. (Suite101.com, 5/30/11)
Most of the job growth that will occur in the United States by the year 2016 will be in low-paying occupations. Unions could improve overall job quality.
Unions have historically existed to protect workers from unsafe working conditions, unfair treatment, low pay and insufficient benefits. According to AFL-CIO, one of the nation’s largest organized unions, over 36 percent of public employees are unionized compared to only 6.9 percent of private sector workers.
This is primarily due to the fact that private sector labor laws do not prohibit employers from using intimidation and harassment to prevent unionization. While educators continue to represent a large portion of unionized workers, according to a 2009 educational study written by Jeannette Wicks-Lim at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the following four occupations stand to gain the greatest benefit from union representation: nursing aids/personal home health care aids, general office clerks, janitors, and accounting clerks.
Nancy Folbre, UMass Amherst economics professor, discusses “shared capitalism,” a term for arrangements that businesses can make to share profits with employees, in her Economix blog. She notes that her departmental colleague, Fidan Kurtulus and another economist last week offered evidence that companies with employee ownership showed greater employment stability during economic downturns between 1999 and 2008. The study was presented at the London School of Economics. (New York Times, 5/30/11)
How could public policies promote and expand this shared capitalism? Public policies already offer companies tax benefits for setting up employee stock-ownership plans, and these could be increased. It would also be relatively easy to encourage companies to offer more workers incentive pay based on company performance.
In a report published by the Center for American Progress in March, Professors Freeman, Blasi and Kruse point to a strange anomaly in current tax policy: Companies are allowed to write off costly stock options that represent incentive pay for top executives, despite a lack of evidence that such incentives lead to improved company performance.
Why not restrict the tax benefits to companies that provide the same type of incentive pay for all full-time employees, stipulating that the value expended on the bottom 80 percent of employees by salary must equal at least that expended on the top 5 percent?
Similar restrictions have long been in effect for employee retirement and health plans. The costs of these programs are not tax-deductible unless they are offered in a nondiscriminatory way to all workers.
Private-sector precedents are also strong. Two very successful American companies, the Wegmans supermarkets and Cisco Systems, offer broad-based incentive systems that effectively meet these restrictions.
If America’s capitalists mean what they say about the virtues of an ownership economy, they should throw their weight behind modest changes in tax incentives that could expand it. If they don’t, we might infer that they prefer to keep the benefits of ownership to themselves.