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Ben Carson Announces Presidential Bid


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The race for the 2016 presidential election widened as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on Monday announced his bid for the White House.

Carson is the fourth candidate to formally seek the Republican nomination in the 2016 race. So far, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have announced their candidacies.

Former Sen. Hilary Clinton is the first Democrat to announce a bid for the presidential election.
Carson frames himself as a “common-sense alternative” to the broken policies of Washington politicians.

A relative new comer to the beltway, Carson challenged President Barack Obama at a prayer breakfast in 2013 and officially changed from being an independent to a Republican shortly afterward. He told a paper that he became a Republican after hearing Ronald Reagan and getting a “sour taste” after Republicans with personal foibles impeached President Bill Clinton over an extramarital affair.
“I just saw so much hypocrisy in both parties, he told a newspaper last year. “I clearly would not be welcome in the Democratic Party, and so that only leaves one party.”

And so it is for the Republicans—their first and only black presidential candidate in 2015.

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State Revenues Slip, But Tax Panel Ready


By Keith M. Phaneuf, CT Mirror

A legislative panel not only recommended hefty tax increases to balance the next state budget, but also endorsed enough to run up more than $300 million in surpluses by 2017.

The reason for that became apparent late Thursday when a new report downgraded how much revenue growth the state can count on in its new budget.

The consensus report delivered by the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis and by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget staff showed the current fiscal year’s revenues also aren’t meeting expectations.

And with only two months left in the fiscal year, the governor and legislature are running out of time to eliminate the red ink in the current budget. If they can’t, they probably will tap Connecticut’s emergency reserves, borrow, or carry certain expenses into the next budget — where big tax increases already are under consideration.

Nonpartisan analysts have warned for the past year that state finances — unless adjusted — will run $1.3 billion in the red in the 2015-16 fiscal year, and $1.4 billion in deficit in 2016-17.

The legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee recommended a plan this week that helps to close that gap by boosting state tax and fee receipts by $1.8 billion over the next two years combined. The plan increases income, sales, corporation and other taxes to help support a $40.5 billion spending plan from the Appropriations Committee that restores many of the social service cuts offered by the governor.

The committee plans would also yield surpluses of $315 million over the next two years combined. A significant surplus can be politically difficult to defend when raising taxes by large amounts.

Yet income tax receipts, which had been trending modestly upward until the final week of April, slipped over the past week. And based upon the data in the new consensus report, three quarters of the finance committee’s surplus in the next biennial budget eroded.

Though the finance committee was focused on finding the right mix of revenues to sustain vital programs while not overburdening middle-income households, Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chair of the finance committee, said an important fiscal “cushion” fell into place. “We saw how the income tax revenues were going and we had to be leery of that,” he said.

The new report Thursday confirmed legislative leaders’ fears.

Though both income tax receipts and overall general fund revenues would grow in each of the next two years, this growth will be less than originally anticipated.

Income tax receipts should climb by about $465 million next fiscal year, approaching $9.7 billion, according to the new report. But that’s about $90 million less than was expected for 2015-16 when the deficit projections were developed.

Similarly, overall general fund revenues now are expected to grow by almost $70 million next year to $17.36 billion. That’s also about $90 million below the level anticipated earlier.

Tax receipts slip this fiscal year as well

The new report also reduced projected general fund revenues for the current fiscal year — which ends June 30 — by almost $70 million from the amount forecast back in January.

The new totals, which primarily reflect reductions in income tax receipts, also are down about $30 million from earlier this month, when nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated the current budget was on pace to finish $178.9 million in deficit.

Though this represents just 1 percent of the general fund — which covers the bulk of the state’s annual operating costs — anything above 1 percent is deemed significant because so much of the budget is fixed by contract or other legal requirements that make it difficult to reduce on short notice.

The governor’s budget office estimate for this year’s deficit is slightly less than that of nonpartisan analysts, standing at $162 million.

Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo must submit his next monthly budget projection on Friday.

Malloy spent much of last summer and fall insisting, as he ran successfully for re-election, that there wouldn’t be a deficit in the current fiscal year or in the next budget.

Though revenues have eroded, the administration also insists it continues to search for new options to cut spending.

“There are still two months in the fiscal year until June 30th,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget director, wrote in a statement Thursday. “We will take appropriate action to achieve additional cost savings and keep our state’s budget balanced for the year.”

But Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, charged Thursday that bipartisan talks earlier in the year would have led to a stable state budget.

“Month after month, in letter after letter, we have warned Governor Malloy that hesitation will lead to devastation,” Fasano wrote in a statement.  “Despite those repeated warnings, Governor Malloy has been either unable or unwilling to confront our state’s fiscal crisis.  Republicans have offered him solutions and advice, and he has dismissed us time after time. This mess is Governor Malloy’s. It’s a reflection on his leadership. Unfortunately, state residents will be the ones who will have to clean this mess up.”

Though Republican legislative leaders insist they have ideas to close this year’s deficit, they have refused to disclose them publicly, saying they only will do so in negotiations with the governor and Democratic lawmakers.

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Feds Urge Seattle Immigrants to Speak Out About Scams


By Anthony Advincula, New America Media
SEATTLE, Wash. — The call came in on his business phone last month.It was about 4:00 p.m., Kye Lee remembers, when the caller — a man who introduced himself as a Public Utility District (PUD) agent — was demanding that he pay $621.56 for unpaid electric bills.

“If I didn’t comply with the payment right away,” Lee said, “he told me that my electricity would be cut off in a few minutes.”

Baffled, the 64-year-old Korean immigrant says he had to drop what he was working on at the grocery store he owns in Mountlake Terrace, Wash. How could that happen, he asked himself, when he knew he had paid the last bill on time?

“I have never been late paying my utility bills for seven years [since I have had my business],” Lee said through a translator. “But I believed the caller because he gave me a precise amount.”

Scammers getting more sophisticated

Consumer scams like the one that Lee fell for have become more widespread in many cities across the country.

In Washington state, some scammers – from notarios (notary services) and lending companies to debt collectors — prey on immigrants, who may be more vulnerable to their ruses as a result of limited English-language proficiency or simply because they aren’t aware of fraud schemes.

According to Charles Harwood, northwest regional director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 100 cases of customer fraud were filed nationally in court last year. Most of these fraudulent organizations seemed to have credible and legitimate business operations.

The FTC and other law enforcement agencies, Harwood says, received 2.6 million scam-related complaints, not including those in the Do Not Call registry, a list that consumers can join to alleviate unwanted telemarketing calls to their home and cell phone numbers.

With the use of online tools to get background information on consumers, investigators say, many scams have become more sophisticated — and seem more convincing.

‘We can’t just be quiet’

“We can’t continue this. But we can’t [solve this] without the help from the media that report for these communities. We really, really need your help,” Harwood told a group of ethnic media reporters at a recent news briefing in Seattle organized by New America Media.

He urged people to speak out, especially those who have been victims of scams, saying that it is important to let the consumer advocates and law enforcers know how they can help when the problem occurs.

“We can’t just be quiet when we’re victims of scams because we won’t be able to know about it,” he said.

As for Lee’s case, the fake PUD agent insisted that, in order to continue having electricity at his store, he had to pay at least $450. Although Lee said that the checks that he had sent to the PUD went through, somehow he found himself believing the scammer and did what he told him to do.

“I asked the caller, ‘Why this is such a short notice?’ And he told me that a previous notice was sent in the mail two days ago, but I failed to respond,” Lee said. “He even told me that I was lucky to have been given a day-long extension.”

Lee was then instructed to go to a nearby Albertsons Supermarket and purchase a prepaid card called Reloadit to pay his bills. After the purchase, he called the bogus PUD agent and gave the prepaid number on the back of the card.

He asked for a confirmation receipt but never received it. He never heard back from the caller. Lee informed the PUD and was told that he had been scammed.

“I felt helpless,” he said.

How to avoid being scammed

Many people like Lee are convinced by phone scammers, in part because “the call feels very personal” so it is difficult not to believe them, according to Jennifer Leach, acting assistant director for the FTC’s division of consumer and business education in Washington, D.C.

“Even if the call is random, as a lot of them are, the victims say it feels like ‘they know me,’ because they have some information about them,” she said. “It feels like they have some sort of relationship with them that they easily give up their information.”

The victims, Leach said, may be in denial when it happens to them. But she says that by speaking out to authorities, it helps shine light on the fraud.

“Scammers are professionals,” she noted. “It’s their job to get your information, to get your money — and they are very, very good at it.”

Studies have shown that there are two main ways to avoid being a victim of a scam, she said: 1.) Tell someone about the offer; and 2.) Take your time before you make a decision.

“There’s something about it when you say it aloud, and it doesn’t matter whom you talk to about it,” she added. “The scammers want to take your money as fast as they can. So if you make it longer for them, they may also move on.”

Targeting immigrants

Many undocumented immigrants may be hesitant to report scams to authorities for fear that it could alert the government about their immigration status.

“We don’t care about immigration status,” assured Leach. “We don’t track it; we don’t report it. We just don’t care about it.”

Awareness is key to avoiding scams, said Shannon Smith, consumer protection division chief of the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

“If you know someone who was a victim of scam, family or friends, it is important to tell us,” she said. “That person was not the first, and I am afraid, won’t be the last.”

In Yakima Valley, about two hours away from Seattle, notarios reportedly have been targeting undocumented farmworkers.

“I have seen thousands of farmworkers who have been impacted by notarios,” said Laura Contreras, an immigration attorney for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

For example, after President Obama announced his 2012 executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Contreras recalls, some of the notarios in the valley started charging $100 just to get the form, even though anyone can easily download it from the Internet for free.

“Notarios are long-timers – and they even advertise,” she said.

According to Alan Lai, crime victim service director of Chinese Information and Service Center, some of the worst cases happen when immigrants scam fellow immigrants.

One Vietnamese man posing as a USCIS officer, he said, falsely promised other Vietnamese immigrants that, if they paid him, he would expedite their application to become a U.S. citizen. Dozens of Vietnamese immigrants lost about $100,000 to this scam, Lai said.

Pay back

Do victims get restitution for the money they have lost?

While the FTC does not handle individual cases, Harwood said that the agency has been able to get some of the money back, as part of a lawsuit against the scammers, for the victimized consumers.

Last year alone, Harwood said that through the FTC’s law enforcement efforts, there were about 740,000 consumers who received more than $65 million in restitution.

Some of the victims, however, may not be able to get the full amount that they have lost to scammers, and “it may take two to three years” for a lawsuit to be resolved.

“Even if, say, they only get half of their money back, I believe that justice has been served for them,” Harwood said.

Still, for Kye Lee, his experience with a scammer has made him more determined to help increase awareness in immigrant communities.

“As a victim, I feel humiliated and frustrated. It’s really difficult to get fooled,” Lee said. “But I know better now, and I will do what I can so people would not experience what I did.”

To report consumer scams and fraudulent activities in Washington State, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP; or Washington’s Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-551-4636 or 206-464-6684.

This story is part of a series of ethnic media roundtable discussions on consumer scams across the United States, conducted by New America Media, in partnership with Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcement agencies.

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In Living Color’s Tommy Davidson to Perform in CT


By Candice Dodd, Staff Writer

An actor, singer and stand-up comedian, Tommy Davidson is a force to be reckon with in the entertainment industry.
Known for his role in the hit series comedy show, In Living Color and the voice of “Oscar Proud” for the Disney cartoon series, The Proud Family, Davidson was made into a household name overnight. The international star will make his way to Manchester for his upcoming show at the Funny Bone Comedy Club on Feb. 5.
This is not Davidson’s first time at the club when he visited a year ago.

“I have a unique experience with the club because I was locked in during a snow storm,” says Davidson with a laugh during a telephone interview with The Hartford Guardian.
With plunging temperatures in the upcoming week, fans will get a hot performance from the star as he does his famous impersonations of Sylvester Stallone and myriad of other actors. “I will do some by request,” he says.
When asked about the start of his career before comedy, Davidson admits that singing was truly his passion.
“Singing was something I always wanted to do,” he says firmly over the phone.
Diving into comedy, Davidson explains that he was at a gentleman’s club with a friend during his early years and was told to go on stage and crack some jokes.
“My friend always thought I was funny,” he says. His guest appearance that night did lead his way to further his career.
As a standup comedian in the late 1980s, he performed in various comedy clubs throughout the Washington Metropolitan region and was recognized by local talent promoters who booked him as the opening act for big stars such as Patti Labelle, Kenny G, and Luther Vandross.
Davidson’s career was taking off big time and it didn’t stop there when he landed a role in the hit show In Living Color that aired in the early 90’s and also won a Primetime Emmy award in 1990.
When asked if the show led him to Hollywood, “Absolutely,” says Davidson. “It was the breakthrough of my life.” He spent his days working alongside other stars such as, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans performing a variety of humorous skits, music, and dancing.
He is currently working on a biopic called, Deconstructing Sammy, based off the book by author Matt Birkbeck about the life and death of Sammy Davis, Jr. He is also working on television shows, comedy specials and his musical career.
While the talented father is working on “raising his kids” and traveling across the globe, he will win the hearts of many on Thursday night for his fascinating talent and down-to-earth character when he hits the stage on Feb. 5.

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Former US Sailor Rocks Boat with Federal Lawsuit


By Aatif Ali Bokhari, Muslim Observer
Being a US sailor allowed Jonathan Berts a chance to travel around the world and study Arabic and Islam, but he says his commitment to faith resulted in mistreatment and an unfair dismissal.

The nine-year veteran filed a federal lawsuit last month in Sacramento for being illegally denied his right to reenlist in 2012 due to his keeping a beard for religious reasons.

The trouble started not long after Berts began keeping the beard. “I didn’t think anything of it. It was just me growing in my knowledge and having a better awareness of Islam. I thought it was necessary to grow a beard so I began doing so,” he said.

Berts had kept a beard earlier in his career for medical reasons; his commitment to the navy was not questioned then. It was only after receiving encouragement from Muslim chaplains to embrace “his faith outwardly as a Muslim” that the 2nd petty class officer said the mistreatment started.

The military allows for beards to be kept at the discretion of commanding officers. His request and appeal for permission were denied, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Before I grew a beard nobody asked any questions. They would ask why I began wearing a beard, and I said that I wanted to live openly as a Muslim. I started praying and fasting regularly as well.”

Berts had a middling rank and was trusted with being a teacher of military history and a boot camp
instructor in the Chicago area. He was also a fourth generation member of the military, a source of pride for him. He was shocked by what he said happened next.

“The line of questioning from my seniors was inappropriate. They started asking me my ideas about the constitution and about Osama bin laden. They started asking me if I knew who Nidal Malik Hasan was, the guy who killed 13 people at Fort Hood. They stared making jokes at my expense – winking and smiling, smirking. They called me a towel head and the n-word. They tried to associate me with bad people.”

“I was put in charge of supervising an abandoned building. There were mice running around and no running water at times. Lots of times I saw cockroaches. The last six months of my time were pretty crappy,” said Berts. A video shared by Berts with News 10 ABC appeared to confirm the dismal condition of the building he was tasked with guarding.

“It’s definitely new ground,” said Brice Hamack, a civil rights coordinator with CAIR’s northern California office. “Our co-counsel, Alan Reinach, the executive director of Church State Counsel, thinks it’s a strong case and is definitely achievable. Jon approached Alan first and Alan thought to involve CAIR.”

“I think people are really afraid to come forward, so I can only guess that such a situation is more widespread. We’ve only had a few soldiers come forward, often due to fears that their situation could quickly spin out of control,” he added, noting that due to the preliminary state of the lawsuit Berts’ alleged opponents could not be named at this time.

Berts explained that he had originally tried to work within the military system that allowed soldiers to put in complaints to their commanding officer. Berts said that he submitted paperwork. Unfortunately for him he said the paperwork had to go through the person calling him names. He also tried to make his complaint through an “equal opportunity advisor”. This civilian role is supposed “to encourage diversity,” explained Berts. “The person is a civilian outside the chain of command. However, I complained to him about five times regarding my treatment, but each time the paperwork mysteriously disappeared.”

Berts said that in my final evaluation he received a poor report. “People said that I was making a lot of noise and trouble. The final evaluation was more or less the final nail in my active duty career. I was denied reenlistment.” Since then the high-school graduate has been trying to find work and is studying property management.

“Whenever someone comes to us with a claim we want to see some evidence,” said Hamack. “The biggest thing Jonathan showed us was cell phone video of the building he was forced to be in.

Based on the evidence he gave us we felt it was substantial that he had a case. I think if the military thought he was a horrible person then why would he be put in a position of training recruits?”

The former naval officer has no intention of shaving off his beard or otherwise capitulating to bigotry.

“I’ve had two friends that gave their lives in Iraq, and they were Muslims. There are many Muslims who have died. You pray with them, you eat with them. At Friday prayers in Kuwait we’d have 20 to 30 guys. Especially in the last 10 years the military has made an effort to hire Muslims as cultural ambassadors, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“Islam doesn’t equal being a terrorist. Islam is about ordinary people trying to live their lives according to what is correct.

“There are six million Muslims living in America and they are just trying to go about their lives.
“The story of Islam in America goes back hundreds of years. We’re not going anywhere.”

 

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Connecticut Braces for Winter Storm Juno


By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Winter Storm Juno is on its way and it’s expected to pack a punch for the Northeast.

Weather forecasters are predicting white out conditions and potentially record-breaking snowfall for Connecticut and other states along the coast for Monday and Tuesday. More than a foot of snow is slated for the nutmeg state.

Earlier on Monday, Gov. Dan Malloy declared a travel ban after 9 p.m. in the state. Malloy is asking residents to be prepared and take precautions for the blizzard that will blanket the state beginning Monday at about 7 p.m. and continue until Wednesday afternoon.

“Although storms can be unpredictable, this storm has the potential to have a significant impact on the state and we need to be prepared,” Malloy said. “Just as the state is monitoring and preparing, the public should do the same.”

Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Dora B. Schriro said that the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is monitoring this storm “very closely and is prepared to coordinate any potential state response.”
DEMHS is also participating in National Weather Service conference calls to get the latest information on the storms track and is sending out regular updates to all municipalities and tribal nations, officials said.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation officials said it will have its entire fleet of snow plows, including 12 loader-mounted snow blowers, prepared to deploy. The residual road treatment from the previous weekend storm will help in the efforts to pre-treat the roads.

At noon on Monday, Hartford City Hall was already closed to prepare for the inclement weather.

Mayor Pedro E. Segarra declared a snow emergency in the City of Hartford and by noon City Hall was already closed to prepare for the impending blizzard. Segarra also imposed a citywide parking ban that is expected to be in effect beginning Monday at 3:00pm through Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8:00pm.

Hartford Public Schools and all City employees except emergency personnel was dismissed at noon. City officials said they will begin monitoring the storm on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

“This is the first big snow storm of the season and accumulation is expected to be over 10 inches in Hartford,” Segarra said. “We’ve seen been through heavy storms before but it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared.”

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Ameriborn News Presidential Poll


This Poll Is About Who The People Want!

Unlike all the other online polls, we do not collect emails to vote in it. This maybe the most accurate online poll. This gets more accurate as you share it.

Please leave comments below the author box.

Poll open until June 1, 2015

Ameriborn News Presidential Poll 2016
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If you had to choose one, which one would you choose?

Update: Elizabeth Warren announced today she isn’t going to run for president. Ameriborn News believes that was a mistake on her part.

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Study: Women, Minorities Pay Higher Effective Social Security Rate


By  Paul Kleyman,

Improving retirement security was among the many proposals in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message on Tuesday. But advocates for older Americans say Obama should ask Congress to strengthen the nation’s principal middle-class retirement support – Social Security –especially for women, minorities and low-income workers.

“He could lift or ideally call for the elimination of the Social Security cap on how much income can be taxed,” said Eric Kingson, co-author of the new book, Social Security Works: Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All.

Kingson, a Syracuse University sociologist and leading analyst of Social Security policy, explained that the amount of anyone’s wages subject to the payroll tax this year is limited to the first $118,500. Anything made over and above that amount is not taxed.

Because more of the nation’s earnings have shifted to the richest Americans and wages have stagnated for workers at the bottom, fewer earnings have been taxed to support Social Security.

“That is the major reason we have a projected shortfall in the Social Security trust fund and dramatic increases in inequality over the past 30 years,” Kingson stated.

Millionaires Stop Paying By Valentine’s Day

A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows how today’s limit on earnings subject to the Social Security tax actually widens the U.S. wealth gap. While wealth above $118,500 goes untaxed, Social Security goes deeper in debt, leaving those on the lower rungs of the wage scale – women and minorities disproportionately – to take bear the burden of any future cuts in the program.

The CEPR report shows that increasing the amount of taxable earnings above $118,500 – or even “scrapping the cap” entirely, as Kingson and others urge – would not only close or eliminate Social Security’s long-term funding shortage, but would end an effective tax discount that more affluent Americans now receive.

For instance, the CEPR report explains, people who make twice today’s $118,500 limit –or $237,000 per year – “pay the Social Security tax on only half of their earnings, so they no longer pay it after July 1st.” And those who rake in over $1.2 million dollars annually finish their Social Security tax obligation by Feb. 6 – more than a week before Valentine’s Day. In effect, they pay a far smaller Social Security tax rate than those who pay through New Year’s Eve.

“In other words, workers who earn $118,500 or less per year pay a higher Social Security payroll tax rate than those who make more,” say the authors of CEPR’s report, Nicole Woo, Cherrie Bucknor and John Schmitt. They produced the study based on U.S. Census Bureau’s latest (2013) data from the American Community Survey.

CEPR’s economists note that the Social Security Administration’s Chief Actuary analyzed Democratic legislation proposed last year to phase out the income ceiling over five to 10 years. He found that the plan would reduce Social Security’s long-term shortfall by 70-80 percent.

Others in Congress have proposed lifting the cap – not ending it. For instance, recent legislation to increase the amount subject to the Social Security payroll tax to $250,000 is similar to a proposal by former U.S. Senator Barack Obama, during his 2008 presidential campaign. This plan would eliminate about 80 percent of the long-range shortfall, say CEPR’s economists.

Few Latinos, Blacks Earn Enough to Pay More

According to their analysis, just over 9 million U.S. workers (6.1 percent) earn more than the $118,500 taxable limit. (That’s not counting unearned income, such as from stocks.)

Among them are a higher percentage of whites (7.4 percent, or 7.2 million people), and 10 percent of Asian workers (1 million). That compares with only 2.4 percent of Latino taxpayers (381,000), and 2.3 percent of African Americans (383,000).

The racial divide widens, says the study, farther up the wealth ladder. If the Social Security payroll tax tapped up to $400,000, merely 0.2 percent of black and Latino taxpayers would have to pay more, compared with 2 percent of white and Asian earners.

Men pocket the lion’s share of savings in the current system, according to the study. In 2012, 6.9 million U.S. male workers (8.8 percent) made $118,500 or better, versus 2.1 million (3.1 percent) of women.

CEPR’s economists explain that the Social Security trust fund is now large and growing, but it will peak soon at about $2.9 trillion, before being drawn down by the retirement of the huge baby boom generation. Without change, says the report, after 2033 there would only be enough in the program to pay retirees about 75 percent of promised benefits.

The report stresses that fully funding Social Security’s future obligations would cost only an additional 1 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spread over the next 75 years. At its peak – in 2035, when the youngest boomers surpass age 70 – the program’s spending will amount to just over 6 percent of GDP.

Kingson, also cofounder of the advocacy group Social Security Works, noted that while President Obama proposed to help Americans save more to supplement Social Security for a more secure retirement, he also should address the need for greater equity in the program itself.

“He could talk about Social Security as an instrument of justice and decency that is fully affordable as our economy continues to grow,” Kingson said.

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In State of the Union, Obama Calls on GOP to Help Middle Class


By Dorothy Rowley, Washington Informer

In his sixth State of the Union address, President Obama challenged the GOP-majority Congress Tuesday night to break from the “tired old patterns” of argumentative politics to uplift the middle class with more trade deals and higher taxes for the rich.

Obama proposed a $320 billion economic plan that would raise taxes on upper-class families and big banks to ultimately provide expanded tax breaks for the middle class. The plan would also fund new federal programs such as government-paid tuition for community college students.

“America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back, for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: the shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union is strong,” said Obama, for whom the latest polls indicate an approval rating of 50 percent, compared to 53 percent of Americans who say the economy — with lower unemployment and cheaper gas prices that have saved the typical family about $750 this year at the pumps — has definitely improved over the year.

The president trumpeted the revived economy and decreasing unemployment rates, but said the gains can’t end there.

“We are fifteen years into this new century,” Obama said at the beginning of his 40-minute speech. “After a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.”

The president vowed to forge ahead despite almost-certain opposition from the Republican-led Congress.

“The verdict is clear: middle-class economics works,” he said. “Expanding opportunity works. These policies will continue to work — as long as politics don’t get in the way.”

Obama also said he will go to Congress for a new authorization of military force against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The president said the effort against the terrorist organization, which rose to prominence in the past year, will be time-consuming but imperative.

“But we will succeed,” he said. “And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force.”

Obama touched upon the end of military combat in Afghanistan, saying that while for the first time since 9/11, the United States’s warfare mission there is over. Of the nearly 180,000 American troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, fewer than 15,000 soldiers remain in deployment.

Obama addressed a number of issues, including establishing worker protections, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for citizens in need.

“We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them,” he said. “That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

On the matter of ensuring other necessities such as paid sick leave and maternity leave, Obama noted that some 43 million workers lack such benefits, and that as a result, he will take action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.

Obama also championed higher wages to help more families make ends meet, while urging Congress to pass a law that will enable women to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work.

“To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” he said to resounding applause. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Turning his focus to education, Obama noted that by the end of the decade, two in three job openings will require some form of higher education, and that too many citizens cannot afford the kind of education they want.

“It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future. That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero,” he said of his recent initiative to make two-year college degrees available to students willing to put forth the effort.

Posted in Business, Featured, Nation/WorldComments Off on In State of the Union, Obama Calls on GOP to Help Middle Class

A Small Business Solution to Shrinking Workforce–Hire Seniors


They caution small businesses against ignoring one source of potential employees: older Americans.

Older Americans

Millions of seniors who have retired or are approaching retirement from lengthy careers still need to work to maintain their families and lifestyles. Others crave the social interaction and sense of purpose employment delivers.

Peter Cappelli, professor of management and the director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said increased life expectancy and the maturing of the largest generation in American history—-the Baby Boomers—- will account for increased numbers of older Americans in the workplace. Cappelli, the co-author of Managing The Older Worker, (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010) said today’s seniors are staying older longer. 

“If we think of old age as a period when people are no longer able to work, that group is shrinking,” he said. “Today’s seniors don’t want to just sit around. They want to work and they have a lot to offer. This trend is not going away.”

He said that small businesses should consider hiring seniors for a variety of reasons validated by research. “They don’t need much training. Business owners don’t have to worry about their conscientiousness and they’re less likely to switch jobs,” he explained.

He said studies confirm that seniors score higher on reliability and interpersonal skills and experience lower rates of tardiness and absenteeism. And he said research dispels several myths: that seniors incur higher healthcare costs and are more prone to accidents. “Because they are older, don’t have babies anymore and have fewer dependents, they have lower healthcare costs. Besides, most are on Medicare.”

And Cappelli said seniors also suffer fewer safety incidents because they are more careful.

Greg O’Neill, director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Academy on an Aging Society, said research lags behind on some trends surrounding the employment of seniors.

“We know anecdotally that turnover is lower among senior workers and that some jobs are performed better by people with experience,” O’Neill said. He pointed out that changing ergonomics in workplace and to accommodate older workers has shown increases in production.

“Someone transitioning out working with new engineers and sharing knowledge can be very effective,” he said. Most companies don’t think about all the knowledge walking out their doors. But they should.”

Experience

O’Neill said that one of the benefits of older age is that people move into positions using crystalized versus fluid intelligence. “That’s code for experience,” he said. 

He added that small businesses can benefit from hiring seniors in customer contact positions. “People don’t get as angry at older people,” he said. “They’re less likely to shoplift around them.” And in sectors like financial services, he pointed out, high wealth clients are more likely to trust someone with experience closer to their age.

Ken Rone, 65, a retired vice president of manufacturing who lives in Vancouver, Wash., said he’s hired and worked with hundreds of older employees in his nearly 40 years in industry. Rone said a 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report found the median tenure of all U.S. employees is 4.6 years. He noted that employee tenure was generally higher among older workers than younger ones, with the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 (10.4 years) more than triple that of workers ages 25 to 34 years (3.0 years).

So senior workers are more likely to stay longer and not jump ship as quickly. 

In addition, Rone noted that seniors have longer track records for prospective employers to review. He said it’s easier to check references and the document trail for older employees is more robust. Small businesses can reference previous employers and contact more colleagues to gain a better view of senior employees in the interview process than their younger counterparts. And older employees know what it required to be a viable, stable employee.

He continued, “They’ve seen the slackers and unreliable employees and understand what to avoid and how to succeed: Be neat, respectful, don’t gossip, keep your nose to the ground and do the job.”
Michael Sarka, 70, agreed. He is a retired small businessman and now a counselor in Santa Cruz, Calif., for the national nonprofit SCORE, which helps small business. Sarka works for a small business tourism attraction, the Roaring Camp Railroad, in nearby Felton. The railroad is a steam engine that takes tourists into the mountains and to the beach.

“We find we have very good and reliable older employees who show up early, get the task done and exceed our employer’s expectations.”

Sarka, who grew up on a farm, said most seniors were raised with a strong work ethic. “I think that’s something that benefits our company and most of all, the consumer, because we’ve lived in this community and are knowledgeable about what’ going on and are able to communicate that to the tourists who visit us.”

He owned a small tourism consulting company with his wife and previously launched an outdoors adventure firm, hiring many seniors. He said older employees bring patience to their jobs. “They take the time to listen and act on what they’ve heard,” he explained. “That makes a strong connection to customers.”

Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, consults with companies on issues of aging. Fishman advised small business owners against calling older Americans “seniors.”

“Call them experienced people. They like to think of themselves in the prime of lives,” Fishman said. “Baby Boomers in particular need the money. Many have not saved appropriately for retirement and some may have to work till the day they die. Though they may need the work, they appreciate flexibility. That gives them the freedom they want and some extra money.”

A Mix

Fishman said many younger people have lost the ability to read facial and word cues. “They’ve been looking at screens and not people’s’ faces,” she said. “But Baby Boomers are really good at reading facial expressions and vocal cues. They’re really good at listening. The best thing is when you can achieve a generational mix. Young people usually have stronger technology skills and Baby Boomers have strong people skills, crave social interaction and are very work-oriented.”

Laura Bos, manager of education and outreach and financial security for the advocacy organization, AARP, said many AARP members are still working, want to work and may even need to work.
“So they want to remain in the work force and we think they are a great asset for employers large and small,” Bos said. “Older workers have a certain level of maturity, and especially with companies needing strong customer service, they tend to be ranked and valued highly. They bring professionalism and great work ethic and are often lauded for critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

Bos said that older workers tend to have higher levels of engagement—-emotional and intellectual involvement with their company—- and are motivated to do their best work. 

“You could say they’re more loyal and involved with their company and invested in wanting their company to do well, which can lead to less turnover,” she said. “And turnover costs employers money.”

This story was produced with support from the Journalism in Aging Fellowship Program of the Gerontological Society of America and New America Media and was sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation. Yahoo Small Business/New America Media 

Posted in Business, Featured, Nation/WorldComments Off on A Small Business Solution to Shrinking Workforce–Hire Seniors

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