Today’s News and Commentary – August 27
The Washington Post reports that, after staying on through much of the economic downturn, a wave of senior federal employees are retiring as retirement accounts are rebounding at the same time that agency budgets are being slashed, workers are being furloughed, and morale is plunging. The number of executive branch employees retiring this fiscal year is on track to be nearly twice the total who retired in 2009, and the rate looks likely to accelerate, as the number of people over 60 working for the government has nearly tripled since 2000.
In other news affecting federal employees, the Washington Post reports on a bill proposed by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito that would end federal funding for the health-care premiums of members of Congress under new insurance exchanges forming under Obamacare. Earlier this month, the Office of Personnel Management issued draft rules to allow employer contributions for lawmakers and their staffs, but Capito’s bill would exempt members of Congress from that support.
In Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues that Newark Mayor and Democratic candidate for Senate Cory Booker is unpopular with liberal activists despite his charisma and commitment to many liberal causes due to his cool relationship to teachers unions and enthusiasm for education reform.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that 30 truck drivers who work for Green Fleet Systems at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach launched a 24 hour strike on Monday night, which will be followed by a rally with labor leaders and elected officials today. The drivers are protesting their employer’s attempts to thwart their unionization efforts. The strike is part of a week of labor actions by low-wage workers in various industries.
Across the pond, the Telegraph reports on a speech by U.K. Education Secretary Michael Gove, who some believe may succeed David Cameron as the head of the Conservative Party, attacking Labor Party leader Ed Miliband for being too weak to stand up to unions and arguing that unions are taking over the Labor Party.
In entertainment news, the Los Angeles Times reports that writers from NBC shows including “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order” and “Monk” are calling on Comcast/NBC Universal to honor the results of a recent union election at NBCU-owned Peacock Productions. Peacock employees have been working to join a union for more than a year and recently voted to do so, but NBCU is seeking to nullify the election results, contending that the workers are supervisors and not entitled to rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
In financial news, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Bank of England’s new governor, Mark Carney, will reaffirm in his first public speech that he will keep interest rates at a record low until U.K. unemployment falls to 7 percent. This “forward guidance” strategy is designed to reassure consumers and businesses that borrowing costs will not shoot up until the economy is on a much firmer footing and encourage them to borrow and spend now.
In the New York Times, Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Biden, argues that in light of wage stagnation and continually high unemployment and underemployment, there is a role for the government to become the employer of last resort when the market persistently fails to create enough jobs, similar to how the Federal Reserve becomes the lender of last resort when credit markets freeze.
Finally, the New York Times reports on the struggle of laid off workers aged 55 to 64 to find new jobs, discussing statistics that show their job searches are longer than younger workers and jobs that they do find pay significantly less than those they lost. The Times notes that it became much more difficult for older workers to seek recourse in court after a 2009 decision by the Supreme Court, Gross vs. FBL Financial Services, that toughened the standard for proving age bias.