Posts from Bryce Covert

The U.S. Already Has a High-quality, Universal Childcare Program — in the Military

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Tech Sgt. Parker and her husband always knew they wanted to have a big family. Today, they have five children between the ages of three and 16.

Multiply five by the typical cost of daycare, and they could have been looking at spending more than $190,000 over their children’s early years. Yet the cost of childcare never stopped them. Thanks to Parker’s 17-year career as a linguist for the Air Force, all of her children have been cared for in the military’s childcare system where she never has to pay more than about 10 percent of her income.

Parker’s experience with the childcare available on her base has been overwhelmingly positive. “When they come home, I’m like, ‘Wow, you guys learned all this today,’”she said of her children in the program.

In most daycare centers, turnover rates among providers are extremely high. Not in Parker’s. A woman who taught her 16-year-old when he was little is now teaching her youngest child. “It’s just amazing,” Parker said. “She’s been there forever.” Her eldest children still like to go back in and say hi to their former teachers.

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Unemployment Just Fell for all the Wrong Reasons

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

The economy added 138,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate declined slightly to 4.3 percent, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of jobs added was less than the 185,000 analysts had expected.

The unemployment rate is now at a 16-year low, but it appears to have fallen for mostly negative reasons last month. Both the share of workers either employed or actively seeking work and the share of people working out of all those of prime working age both dropped. 608,000 people dropped out of the labor force between April and May.

The past two months of job growth were also lower than originally reported, with March revised down to just 50,000 jobs added and April down to 174,000.

The share of unemployed people fell by 195,000 in May, bringing the total reduction since the start of this year to 774,000. The unemployment rate has fallen by a 0.5 percentage point since then. But as May’s numbers show, not all of them are finding jobs; some are giving up on their search.

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Missouri Lawmakers Just Took Raises Away from Minimum Wage Workers

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Bettie Douglas was about to start her long walk to the bus to go to work on Monday morning when a man from the water company showed up at her house in St. Louis, Missouri. He was there to cut off her service.

That news threw her into a tailspin. “No one should have to live like this,” she sobbed. She tries to show up to her fast food job with a smile, as her employer asks, but she was in tears during her entire morning commute thinking about how she was going to deal with potentially losing her water and then having to pay $50 to reconnect it — not to mention paying off what the water company says she owes.

Things were supposed to be a little easier for her by now. In 2015, St. Louis passed a minimum wage increase that would have mandated that workers be paid at least $9 an hour that year, $10 an hour this year, and $11 by next year. But it passed on the very same day that the state’s preemption law, which blocks cities and localities from increasing their own wages, took effect. After a consortium of business groups sued to block the increase, it was under an injunction until a judge in February ruled in favor of the increase. It immediately took effect after the injunction was lifted.

But while the $10 minimum wage is technically in effect now, Douglas says she still hasn’t seen any extra money in her paycheck. She still makes just $7.90 an hour, even after a decade of working at the same place.

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America’s Biggest Employers Leave Their Hourly Workers out of Paid Family Leave

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Niko Walker has given Starbucks seven years of his hard work, moving up the ranks from barista to shift supervisor. As a transgender man, he was drawn to a company that promises good benefits and has telegraphed an acceptance of diverse employees. The company’s health insurance has even paid for medical expenses stemming from his transition thus far.

“Starbucks became important to me at a very early stage,” he said. “They’ve always been very supportive of me and who I am… That really drew me to the company.”

But if and when Walker decides to start a family, he’s worried the acceptance of who he is and what he needs could evaporate.

If Niko were a white collar employee working in Starbucks’s corporate headquarters, he would be able to take 12 weeks of fully paid time off for the arrival of his baby. As a male retail employee who may adopt, however, he won’t be offered any paid time off at all.

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Trump says he’s stopping jobs from going abroad. Here’s the truth.

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Susan Haines and Sharon Vanacker knew something was wrong when their CTS Corporation factory in Elkhart, Indiana shut down production one afternoon in June of last year.

That “never happens, unless it’s a holiday or something,” Vanacker said. “Even on weekends they don’t shut down all production.”

All of the sensor and actuator plant’s employees were asked to attend a town hall style meeting with a company vice president. It was there that they found out that everyone at the factory would be losing their jobs beginning in January 2017. The work will instead be moved to factories in Mexico, China, and Taiwan.

Employees were blindsided by the announcement. “We had no clue, none at all,” Haines said.

The company knew the news would be difficult to swallow. “They asked us, everyone, to leave the building after the meeting,” Vanacker said. Production was kept idled for the rest of the weekend. “They locked the gates so no one could get in, which they haven’t done in years.” It seemed they were worried about angry employees who had all just learned they were losing their jobs.

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Trump’s tax proposal would open an enormous loophole for his own companies

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

President Donald Trump promised a huge, bold tax reform plan within his first 100 days aimed mostly at reducing taxes for the middle class.

But on Wednesday he released a whittled down outline centered around a reduction in the corporate tax rate, which is currently at 35 percent, to 15 percent. More details of a larger tax reform package, as well as how this one can be paid for and passed, are coming later, officials promise.

More troubling than Trump’s corporate tax reduction, though, is that the plan applies this rate not just to traditional corporate entities, but also to firms known as pass-through businesses such as law firms, hedge funds, and real estate companies. These companies — including LLCs, partnerships, and S corporations — currently pay taxes through the individual code because their money shows up on owners’ own returns.

Some of these are small, but they also include enormous companies, like much of the Trump Organization itself. Pass-through business income flows mostly to high earners: 70 percent of income made by partnerships and S corporations is captured by the richest 1 percent of Americans. In 2012, 40 percent of all S corporation income was made by firms worth more than $50 million, while 70 percent of partnership income went to a similarly sized group.

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The nurses who lost their jobs thanks to Trump’s new labor secretary nominee

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Nearly two decades ago, 23 nurses in Minneapolis walked off the job to protest what they saw as their employer’s attempt to cut off their health benefits. They never came back to work.

Four years later, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision that overturned a previous ruling and found the clinic where they worked was allowed to fire them because they had moved their strike back by four hours to ensure their patients were taken care of.

The case has fresh relevance now because of the one of the board members who wrote a concurrence in the decision: Alexander Acosta. President Trump has picked him to lead the Department of Labor, the government agency focused solely on protecting the rights of working Americans. Trump’s first selection, fast food CEO Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration.

Those who were involved in the case decades ago say Acosta’s actions in 2003 unfairly cost these nurses their jobs and set a precedent for all health care workers who go on strike. That could be troubling for American workers who look to an agency potentially run by Acosta to protect their rights.

“It still upsets me to this day,” said Gregg Corwin, the lawyer who represented the nurses in the case.

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Trump’s budget priorities mean cutting almost everything the government does

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

On Tuesday night, President Trump will speak before Congress about his legislative priorities. One he’s bound to mention is his upcoming budget outline, which will lay out where he wants to cut and increase government spending. He’s already described some of the things he wants to do in his budget: increase defense spending by $54 billion, while leaving Social Security and Medicare as is.

If he were to actually follow through on everything he says he wants to do, it would basically mean that the Department of Defense and entitlement programs would be the only things left in the government.

On Monday, Trump’s team said it would call for an equal decrease in the pot of government funding known as non-defense discretionary spending to make up for the increase in military spending.

Non-defense discretionary spending is a catch-all phrase for a huge number of government functions. The money funds educational programs like Head Start, Pell Grants, and K-12 services; core government duties like law enforcement and collecting taxes through the IRS; health and scientific research; nutrition, rent, child care, and home heating assistance for low-income people; public safety through the CDC and FDA; infrastructure like the National Highway System and air traffic control; environmental programs through the EPA; and the protection and preservation of national parks.

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Trump official admits Americans will have to pay for his infrastructure projects

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

n his first address before Congress last week, President Trump promised that during his presidency, “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land.”

“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs,” he added.

What he didn’t mention is that under the current design of his proposal, Americans will be directly paying for these projects. But that was later made clear by his Transportation Secretary.

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Elaine Chao explained that the projects will necessitate higher tolls and fees levied on the people who use them.

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Trump wants to repeal the tax that ensured he owed money in 2005

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

President Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns. But late on Tuesday evening, reporter David Cay Johnston released a leaked copy of Trump’s income tax return in 2005 that showed he paid $38 million in taxes on more than $150 million in income.

The document throws a bit of cold water on the hypothesis that he had been able to avoid paying all income tax for two decades thanks to his ability to write down enormous business losses. But the documents also show that the only reason he paid income tax at all that year is thanks to a part of the tax code called the individual alternative minimum tax, or AMT.

And Trump wants to get rid of the AMT altogether.

The AMT dates back to 1969, when it became public that 155 people who made more than $200,000 paid no federal income tax three years prior. After public outcry, Congress enacted an additional minimum tax. That eventually transformed into the AMT.

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