Lowest-wage Aetna employees minimum wage now $16/hour + increased benefits

Bertolini, Keene, minimum wage

One CEO has taken a step that could help fend off Thomas Piketty’s nightmare vision of rising wealth inequality: He’s giving thousands of his workers a raise.

Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini announced…that the health-insurance company will be raising wages for its lowest-paid employees. Starting in April, the minimum hourly base pay for Aetna’s American workers will be $16 an hour, according to a company press release.

The 5,700 workers affected by the change will see an average pay raise of about 11 percent. The lowest-paid workers, who currently make $12 an hour, will get a 33-percent raise.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Bertolini recently requested that Aetna executives read Capital In The Twenty-First Century, by the French economist Piketty. The book, which has been hailed as the “most important book of the twenty-first century,” warns that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is heading toward Gilded Age levels of inequality and calls on the world’s largest economies to fix the problem.

The U.S. government, which last raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in 2009, has not exactly scrambled to respond. Aetna’s move is one way companies could help close the gap

Other factors may have influenced Aetna’s decision to boost pay. The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of Americans get insured, which means insurance companies have to beef up their consumer services to stay competitive.

“Health care decisions are increasingly consumer driven,” Bertolini said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post. “We are making an investment in the future of health-care service.”

The job market is healing, as well, which should eventually push wages higher. Last month capped the best year for hiring since 1999, as the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. That said, even though the job market has improved, wages have been slow to grow.

Still, some large employers, including Aetna, Starbucks and the Gap, have raised wages in the past year.

In the interview, Tom Keene makes the point that wages have been stagnant for years. Bertolini describes the segment that most influenced his decision were single moms who needed food stamps to get by in Connecticut’s capitol. Their kids often were on Medicaid because they couldn’t even afford the company’s healthcare plan.

60% of the increase dedicated to benefits. 40% of the budget increase went to the wages – raised to $16/hour minimum. Doing it this way produced the best possible increase in personal disposable income. Not that any of this means crap to Republicans and other tightwads pretending to be conservatives.

Bertolini’s cogent point is that healthcare is a growing segment in our service economy. Workers who are well-paid always perform better than folks treated like serfs. As much as today’s conservatives prefer the latter. Something not noted in this article are the changes in workplace life, as well. More advanced sectors in the American economy – like the tech sector – long ago proved that a small portion of time away from necessary work reduces tedium, makes for increased acuity in all tasks. That should include physical changes, exercise – as well a bit of time to rest your brain.

Aetna now brings in a bit of yoga, a little meditation time to their workplace. Something else, fundamentalist curmudgeons will also hate.

Republican candidate wants to end days off from work!

Wisconsinites tired of relaxing on weekends and staying home on federal holidays are in luck: On Thursday, GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman announced his challenge to 13-term moderate Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.). In a conservative district that went to Mitt Romney by seven points in 2012…

In January, Grothman introduced legislation to eliminate a state requirement that workers get at least one day off per week. “Right now in Wisconsin, you’re not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week…”

Eliminating days off is a long-running campaign from Grothman. Three years earlier, he argued that public employees should have to work on Martin Luther King Day…It would be one thing if people were using their day off to do something productive, but Grothman said he would be “shocked if you can find anybody doing service.”

MLK Day and “Saturday” aren’t the only holidays Grothman opposes. At a town hall in 2013, he took on Kwanzaa, which he said “almost no black people today care about” and was being propped up by “white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans.”

When he’s not advocating for people to spend more time working, Grothman has gotten in trouble for advocating that (some) people be paid less. “You could argue that money is more important for men…”…after pushing through a repeal of the state’s equal pay bill.

He has pushed to pare back a program that provided free birth control, while floating a bill that would have labeled single parenthood, “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” Grothman justified the bill by contending that women choose to become single mothers and call their pregnancies “unplanned” only because it’s what people want to hear.

This dude’s middle name must be “Shit-for-brains Scrooge”.

Have a nice weekend. Don’t think about taking a job in Wisconsin if folks elect a prick like Grothman.

Working moms are primary breadwinners in 40% of households


The Republican view, nowadays

America’s working mothers are now the primary breadwinners in a record 40 percent of households with children — a milestone in the changing face of modern families, up from just 11 percent in 1960.

The findings by the Pew Research Center…highlight the growing influence of “breadwinner moms” who keep their families afloat financially. While most are headed by single mothers, a growing number are families with married mothers who bring in more income than their husbands.

Demographers say the change is all but irreversible and is likely to bring added attention to child-care policies as well as government safety nets for vulnerable families…

While roughly 79 percent of Americans reject the notion that women should return to their traditional roles, only 21 percent of those polled said the trend of more mothers of young children working outside the home is a good thing for society, according to the Pew survey.

Roughly 3 in 4 adults said the increasing number of women working for pay has made it harder for parents to raise children…

The trend is being driven mostly by long-term demographic changes, including higher rates of education and labor force participation dating back to the 1960s women’s movement. Today, more women than men hold bachelor’s degrees, and they make up nearly half — 47 percent — of the American workforce.

But recent changes in the economy, too, have played a part. Big job losses in manufacturing and construction, fields that used to provide high pay to a mostly male workforce, have lifted the relative earnings of married women, even among those in mid-level positions such as teachers, nurses or administrators. The jump in working women has been especially prominent among those who are mothers — from 37 percent in 1968 to 65 percent in 2011 — reflecting in part increases for those who went looking for jobs to lift sagging family income after the recent recession.

Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University, said that to his surprise public attitudes toward working mothers have changed very little over the years. He predicts the growing numbers will lead to a growing constituency among women in favor of family-friendly work policies such as paid family leave, as well as safety net policies such as food stamps or child care support for single mothers.

In other words, we’ll start to catch up with the rest of the educated Western industrial world.

Like so many aspects of life in “modern” America, the modernizing part stopped with the introduction of the Cold War, McCarthyism, collaboration by compliant labor union leaders and liberal politicians alike – maintaining the TweedleDeeDumb party twins as the only choices in federal government.

Meanwhile, Fox Noise fell apart after Megyn Kelly attacked her peers – like Lou Dobbs – for offering a sexist analysis, convinced this change describes the end of American families and the natural leadership of men. WTF?

Economics of life in America handicaps single moms and dads

The economic storms of recent years have raised concerns about growing inequality and questions about a core national faith, that even Americans of humble backgrounds have a good chance of getting ahead. Most of the discussion has focused on labor market forces like falling blue-collar wages and lavish Wall Street pay.

But striking changes in family structure have also broadened income gaps and posed new barriers to upward mobility. College-educated Americans…are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women…are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.

“It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University…

Long concentrated among minorities, motherhood outside marriage now varies by class about as much as it does by race. It is growing fastest in the lower reaches of the white middle class…

Sara McLanahan, a Princeton sociologist, warns that family structure increasingly consigns children to “diverging destinies.”

Married couples are having children later than they used to, divorcing less and investing heavily in parenting time. By contrast, a growing share of single mothers have never married, and many have children with more than one man.

“The people with more education tend to have stable family structures with committed, involved fathers,” Ms. McLanahan said. “The people with less education are more likely to have complex, unstable situations involving men who come and go.”

Unfortunately, understanding and accepting changes in family structure is limited to a minority of the population. That understanding doesn’t bring equal opportunity to education or income. Single parents are trying to function within a society stuck into religious and cultural constraints – leftover from centuries long ago left behind by families with access to a more complete education.

It’s a self-reinforcing dialectic. Better incomes aid better education and vice-versa. Single parents handicapped by opportunities reduced by more than half – education, sport, culture, health and recreation, every aspect of a broader life you may think of – produce the occasional success story. The contrast lies with the overwhelming majority.

RTFA. Beaucoup examples in a longish article. Mostly relevant with a few too many maudlin anecdotes. Worthwhile for all the studied information allowing you to build some breadth into understanding these challenges.

Congress ready to steal food stamps from working poor, single moms, seniors and school children

The House Agriculture Committee has approved an unconscionable farm bill that protects grossly generous subsidies for the agriculture industry by cutting food stamps by a staggering $16.5 billion over the next decade.

The cuts — more than triple the $4.5 billion approved in the Senate — would deny two million to three million people food assistance of $90 a month per family, end free school meals for 280,000 children and compound recession hardships for the working poor.

House Republicans drove the cuts with complaints that the food stamp program is swollen with people taking advantage of overly generous standards. This is a canard — the Congressional Budget Office has found that nearly 99 percent of food stamp participants live in poverty.

The committee’s Republican majority attracted some farm-state Democrats in approving a $969 billion farm bill over 10 years. They bragged of reining in farm expenditures by $35 billion, but about 45 percent of this savings was taken out of food stamps; indefensible subsidies bolstering corn, wheat, soybeans and other powerful industry lobbies were largely spared…

BTW – Don’t expect too much heroism from Congressional Democrats rallying back on behalf of America’s working poor. Given their allegiance to the same lobbyists, what they will negotiate with Republicans is how much to cut food stamps. Agribusiness is safe and secure from genuine oversight.

For women under 30, most births have nothing to do with marriage


And baby makes two…

It used to be called illegitimacy. Now it is the new normal. After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.

Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, motherhood without marriage has settled deeply into middle America. The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree, according to Child Trends, a Washington research group that analyzed government data.

Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.

One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education…

The forces rearranging the family are as diverse as globalization and the pill. Liberal analysts argue that shrinking paychecks have thinned the ranks of marriageable men, while conservatives often say that the sexual revolution reduced the incentive to wed and that safety net programs discourage marriage…

Which gives an idea how dim and out-of-date conservatives can be. Sad. Life really is more complex than black-and-white B movies.

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