Donald Trump is a sick joke

So the pick to be the interim leader at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is:

Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed leader of the bureau, abruptly announced he would leave the job at the close of business, a week earlier than anticipated. He followed up with a letter naming his chief of staff, Leandra English, as the agency’s deputy director.

The White House retaliated, saying that the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who once characterized the consumer protection bureau as a “sad, sick joke,” would be running the agency.

Mulvaney tries the usual lies:

“I believe Americans deserve a C.F.P.B. that seeks to protect them while ensuring free and fair markets for all consumers,” he said in a statement. “Financial services are the engine of American democratic capitalism, and we need to let it work.”

Grab your wallet when a Republican says they want to protect the consumer. Mulvaney doesn’t like the CPFB:

Mr. Mulvaney, who as a Republican congressman from South Carolina was a co-sponsor of legislation to shut down the consumer bureau, had been widely anticipated.

Really doesn’t like it:

‘‘The place is a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody,’’ he told the Credit Union Times in 2014. ‘‘It turns up being a joke in a sick, sad kind of way.’’

This is a typical Trump appointment, he wants to get rid of the agency he has been assigned to run. I’m assuming the courts will have to weigh in on this, hopefully we get to keep someone who wants to keep the CFPB for a little while longer.

May Day Trump style

Yesterday was May Day, the annual celebration/protests for unions. Let’s see how Donald Trump celebrated:

President Trump proclaimed Monday to be Loyalty Day, a time for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to “individual liberties, limited government, and the inherent dignity of every human being” with Pledge of Allegiance ceremonies and a display of American flags.

Yup, he made an explicitly anti-union statement on a day for celebrating unions. It must make all those union people who voted for him feel great.

To see how to really celebrate May Day, go look at this post by Kevin Drum:

You’ve all heard of the Haymarket bombing and the Ludlow massacre and the Harlan County War. We don’t have any labor history quite like that here in Orange County, but we do have the all-but-forgotten Citrus War. On June 11, 1936, orange pickers in Anaheim, Fullerton, Tustin, and elsewhere went on strike, demanding better wages and the end of a corrupt bonus system.

Progressive journalist Carey McWilliams, who chronicled “the rise of farm fascism” in California during the 30s, wrote that the Orange County strike was “one of the toughest exhibitions of ‘vigilantism’ that California has witnessed in many a day….Under the direction of Sheriff Logan Jackson, who should long be remembered for his brutality in this strike, over 400 special guards, armed to the hilt, are conducting a terroristic campaign of unparalleled ugliness.” But it worked. As the terror campaign against the pickers escalated, union solidarity began to unravel. On July 27, pickers and growers reached an agreement that raised wages modestly but didn’t allow the pickers to unionize. After six weeks, the Citrus War was over.

I wonder if Lake Erie will die again

Donald Trump has decided that fossil fuels trump the environment:

The far-reaching order he unveiled Tuesday instructs federal regulators to rewrite key Obama-era rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions — namely the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s electric plants. It also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

In sum, it amounts to a wholesale rebuke of Obama’s environmental efforts.

Several of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to change broader economic trends that are pushing the nation toward cleaner sources of energy than coal. But the order sent an unmistakable message about the direction in which Trump wants to take the country — toward unfettered oil and gas production, with an apathetic eye to worries over global warming.

This is stupid in terms of jobs because the number of jobs in the renewable energy is increasing:

Clean energy jobs have seen incredible growth in recent years, with solar and wind jobs growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. According to a 2015 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, renewable energy jobs in the United States enjoyed a 6 percent compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2015. Fossil fuel jobs, by contrast, had a negative 4.5 percent compound annual growth rate over the same time period. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s fastest growing profession over the next decade is likely to be a wind turbine technician.

so this statement is true but in a stupid way:

“This is an important moment for EPA,” chief of staff Ryan Jackson wrote. “As the Administrator has mentioned many times, we do not have to choose between environmental protection and economic development.”

The Trump administration didn’t want to choose which, the environment or economic development, to make worse so it chose both.

Wellness programs don’t really work … except for employers

I’m a little slow on this but it seems companies really want to get genetic information on employees:

A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.

Employers got virtually everything they wanted for their workplace wellness programs during the Obama administration. The ACA allowed them to charge employees 30 percent, and possibly 50 percent, more for health insurance if they declined to participate in the “voluntary” programs, which typically include cholesterol and other screenings; health questionnaires that ask about personal habits, including plans to get pregnant; and sometimes weight loss and smoking cessation classes. And in rules that Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued last year, a workplace wellness program counts as “voluntary” even if workers have to pay thousands of dollars more in premiums and deductibles if they don’t participate.

That doesn’t sound very good but at least it helps the health of employees:

Rigorous studies by researchers not tied to the $8 billion wellness industry have shown that the programs improve employee health little if at all. An industry group recently concluded that they save so little on medical costs that, on average, the programs lose money. But employers continue to embrace them, partly as a way to shift more health care costs to workers, including by penalizing them financially.

and from here:

The so-called “Safeway Amendment” was added to the ACA. Now, if you fail, or refuse to take part in, your employer’s “voluntary” wellness test, it can increase your premium by 30 percent — or, if you’re a smoker who refuses to quit, by 50 percent.

There is no evidence that this new rule produced a significant drop in America’s health-care costs. And that isn’t terribly surprising — since Burd’s column was composed almost entirely of lies.

“[A] review of Safeway documents and interviews with company officials show that the company did not keep health-care costs flat for four years, the Washington Postreported in January 2010. “Those costs did drop in 2006 — by 12.5 percent. That was when the company overhauled its benefits … the decline did not have anything to do with tying employees’ premiums to test results. That element of Safeway’s benefits plan was not implemented until 2009.”

In other words, Safeway reduced costs for a single year by raising its employees’ deductibles. It didn’t save money by encouraging its workers to lead healthier lives — it saved money by making its workers pay a larger portion of their health-care costs.

Gee, it doesn’t help the employees but does help the employers. What a shock. And it gets better:

The privacy concerns also arise from how workplace wellness programs work. Employers, especially large ones, generally hire outside companies to run them. These companies are largely unregulated, and they are allowed to see genetic test results with employee names.

They sometimes sell the health information they collect from employees. As a result, employees get unexpected pitches for everything from weight-loss programs to running shoes, thanks to countless strangers poring over their health and genetic information.

So, to summarize, Obama and Congress were convinced to put a provision into the ACA that did basically shifted costs from the employer to the employee for little or no health benefits and now the GOP wants to expand that provision. You have to love it.

Let’s cut jobs so we can increase pollution

In a shocking move (or, you know, the opposite of that), the Trump administration has already taken down the page on climate change at whitehouse.gov (I’m taking this from the Vox article, because I’m not going to link to a Trump anything today):

For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well.

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.

Well, let’s look at the job report for the energy sector:

The 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) finds that the Traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency sectors today employ approximately 6.4 million Americans. These sectors increased in 2016 by just under 5 percent, adding over 300,000 net new jobs, roughly 14% of all those created in the country.

Hmm, looks like the energy sector is doing ok already.

Electric Power Generation and Fuels technologies directly employ more than 1.9 million workers. In 2016, 55 percent, or 1.1 million, of these employees worked in traditional coal, oil, and gas, while almost 800,000 workers were employed in low carbon emission generation technologies, including renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas. Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms, with more than 260,000 of those employees spending the majority of their time on solar. There are an additional 102,000 workers employed at wind firms across the nation. The solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016, while wind employment increased by 32%.

The 2017 USEER also shows that 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in the design, installation, and manufacture of Energy Efficiency products and services, adding 9133,000 jobs in 2016. (Energy Efficiency employment is defined as the production or installation of energy efficiency products certified by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program or installed pursuant to the ENERGY STAR® program guidelines or supporting services thereof). Almost 1.4 million Energy Efficiency jobs are in the construction industry. In addition, construction firms involved in the Energy Efficiency sector have experienced an increase in the percentage of their workers who spend at least 50% of their time on Energy Efficiency-related work, rising from 64.8 percent in 2015 to 74.0 percent in 2016. Finally, an improved USEER survey methodology identified almost 290,000 manufacturing jobs, producing Energy Star® certified products and energy efficient building materials in the United States.

Hmm, it looks like clean energy production is doing really well. It seems to be the wave of the future. Of course, this means Trump will concentrate on oil and gas, thus not only increasing the amount of pollution but allowing other countries to jump ahead in the sectors of energy production that are growing by leaps and bounds. Good job.

What cutting costs means

I can see that people on the MBTAs Control Board don’t know how things work:

When the two cleaning companies contracted by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority cut costs this fall, they slashed the hours — and in the process, health insurance — for dozens of their employees, the agency’s general counsel said Monday.

For months, workers have protested the changes before the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board, saying many of their fellow employees have lost health benefits and don’t have enough cleaning supplies to do their job.

John Englander, general counsel for the MBTA and the state Transportation Department released figures confirming that close to 80 workers for the two companies, about 25 percent of the staff, were laid off or lost health insurance when their hours were reduced.

This came out of this:

Shortsleeve told Boston Public Radio Friday that he believes the administration of Charlie Baker’s predecessor, Deval Patrick, overpaid the companies the MBTA contracts with to clean its stations. He thinks the stations can be maintained for $36.5 million, instead of the $53.1 million that has actually been paid out.

“For the last three years, the prior administration, for a variety of reasons, had been overpaying against those contracts as opposed to enforcing them on a performance basis,” Shortsleeve said. “What we’ve done, and what we’ll start on August 31, is simply to enforce those contracts on a performance basis, which means those companies are on the hook.”

Shortsleeve said that the MBTA does not employ janitors directly, and so any resulting layoffs will be the decision of the cleaning companies the agency contracts with and their labor unions–not the MBTA’s.

The reason they added money to the contract the last time was the private companies made big cuts in pay and benefits last time. This means that Brian Shortsleeve agreed to these cuts knowing it would lead to layoffs and cuts in benefits and he didn’t care.

It also comes straight out of the attitude of one Charlie Baker:

“I don’t care if a service is provided publicly or privately. What I care about is performance, productivity,” and that public money is “well spent,” Baker said.

Notice there’s nothing about treating employees well. He doesn’t care.

A conundrum

The conventional wisdom (which is often wrong, but I’m too lazy to look this up) is that Donald Trump did well among people who are worried about stagnant wages, loss of benefits, and the loss of jobs overseas. This is why he did better with union households than the last few Republican candidates.

There is one set of groups whose purpose is to protect workers–unions.

And Donald Trump and the newly ascendant Republican Party are anti-union:

Trump has expressed support for so-called right-to-work legislation, which allows workers to avoid paying union dues. Republican leaders in Congress have consistently sought such a change at the national level.

Among his concerns, he listed a Supreme Court case this year in which public-sector unions scored a victory related to funding organized labor – but only because the court deadlocked 4-4. The appointment of a new conservative judge by Trump to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia could change that.

in September the Obama administration finalized an executive order requiring federal contractors to provide sick leave to workers, as well as rules expanding the types of data employers are required to provide on pay. A separate Labor Department rule expanding which employees are eligible for overtime pay is scheduled to take effect next month.

Those actions drew criticism from business groups, and all could be reversed under a Trump administration.

Steven Bernstein, a partner at law firm Fisher Phillips, which represents employers, said the Trump administration and Congress may also target recent NLRB rulings that allowed workers to picket on private property, expanded the type of worker activity protected by federal labor law and gave graduate students the right to unionize.

“It’s also fair to assume that Trump will be inclined to repeal a host of executive orders supporting unions,” particularly rules that apply to federal contracts, Bernstein said in a statement.

I guess I don’t understand how these people think: they are worried about their jobs, benefits, and pay so they vote for someone who is against the groups that are fighting for workers? Do they think that businesses will just give them higher pay and better benefits out of the goodness of their hearts?

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