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Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of America’s Public Services

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of America’s Public Services
Source: Center for Media and Democracy

Maggots, drug smuggling, sex with inmates. As if the news were not already bad enough, shocking new allegations of a murder-for-hire plot are emerging from Michigan as the media digs deeper into that state’s failed outsourcing of prison services.

In 2013, Governor Rick Snyder invited the Philadelphia- based for-profit company Aramark to take over food services in the state’s prisons. The action was a 180-degree change in course, as the administration previously rejected all such bids on the grounds that none of the proposals would save the state money. The $570,000 Aramark spent on lobbying surely helped the company persuade the administration to change its mind.

Since Aramark took over Michigan’s $145 million food service contract – eviscerating the stable middle class jobs of some 370 public workers – one stomach churning scandal followed another. The state fined Aramark $98,000 in March for food shortages, “unauthorized menu substitutions” and sexual relations between kitchen workers and inmates, and another $200,000 in August after problems persisted.

All the while, the Snyder administration has stood behind the company and the state prison director secretly waived the $98,000 fine soon after it was imposed. Perhaps Snyder will reconsider this position given new allegations that an Aramark worker has asked a prisoner to assist him with the murder of another inmate.

While Aramark’s failed outsourcing of prison food services is a dramatic example of the harms that can arise from the America’s public services and assets, this report, Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of America’s Public Services, contains many other cases of outsourcing run amok generating worse outcomes for the public, often higher costs, lawsuits and scorching headlines.

While large corporations are the winners in this scenario, all too often taxpayers are the losers when transparency, accountability and the public interest are sold out to for-profit firms.

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Revealed: the companies doing the most to combat climate change

October 22, 2014 Comments off

Revealed: the companies doing the most to combat climate change
Source: CDP

A new global index based on companies that exhibit leadership through action to mitigate climate change outperforms The Bloomberg World Index by 9.6%. So finds analysis released today by CDP, an international NGO that drives sustainable economies.

The research is published in The A List: The CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index 2014, which has been created at the request of 767 investors who represent more than a third of the world’s invested capital.

Information provided by nearly 2,000 listed companies has been independently assessed against CDP’s widely-respected scoring methodology and ranked accordingly.

187 businesses from around the world, including BMW AG, Centrica, Samsung Electronics and Unilever, demonstrate a superior approach to climate change mitigation. Awarded an A grade for their performance, they earn a position on the first global ranking of corporate efforts to mitigate climate change. Collectively the climate performance leaders have reduced their total (absolute) emissions by 33 million metric tons in the past reporting year, equivalent to turning London’s car owners into cyclists for two and a half years.

The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Picture of Stagnant Incomes, Rising Costs, and What We Can Do to Strengthen America’s Middle Class

October 21, 2014 Comments off

The Middle-Class Squeeze: A Picture of Stagnant Incomes, Rising Costs, and What We Can Do to Strengthen America’s Middle Class
Source: Center for American Progress

The American middle class is in trouble.

The middle-class share of national income has fallen, middle-class wages are stagnant, and the middle class in the United States is no longer the world’s wealthiest.

But income is only one side of the story. The cost of being in the middle class—and of maintaining a middle-class standard of living—is rising fast too. For fundamental needs such as child care and health care, costs have risen dramatically over the past few decades, taking up larger shares of family budgets. The reality is that the middle class is being squeezed. As this report will show, for a married couple with two children, the costs of key elements of middle-class security—child care, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement—rose by more than $10,000 in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012, at a time when this family’s income was stagnant.

As sharp as this squeeze can be, the pain does not stop at one family, or even at millions of families. Because of the critical role that middle-class consumers play in creating aggregate demand, the American economy is in trouble when the American middle class is in trouble. And the long-term health of the U.S. economy is at risk if financially squeezed families cannot afford—and smart public policies do not support—developing the next generation of America’s workforce. It is this workforce that will lead the United States in an increasingly open and competitive global economy.

This report provides a snapshot of the American middle class and those struggling to become a part of it. It focuses on six key pillars that can help define security for households: jobs, early childhood programs, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement. Each chapter is both descriptive and prescriptive—detailing both how the middle class is doing and what policies can help it do better.

Fact Sheet: Polling the American Public on Climate Change (2014)

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Polling the American Public on Climate Change (2014)
Source: Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)

This fact sheet provides information on climate change polling in the United States over the last year from a variety of sources. Overall, the studies show:

  • Belief that climate change is happening and is caused by human actions is continuing to rise, but it still has not reached a level comparable to the 2007 peak
  • There is a large disparity among party lines when it comes to climate change, with a large majority of Democrats believing that human actions are changing the climate, while fewer Republicans hold the same belief
  • However, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon dioxide regulations for power plants have widespread support, even across party lines
  • There is also support for somewhat higher electricity bills if it means decreasing carbon dioxide pollution

Canada’s Top Entrepreneurial Cities, 2014

October 21, 2014 Comments off

Canada’s Top Entrepreneurial Cities, 2014
Source: Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Historically, and for a variety of reasons, CFIB has found entrepreneurial characteristics to be strongest in Canada’s prairie cities and the urban areas that ring large urban cores. What they have in common is ‘newness’—the prairie economies have only been developed in the past 150 years or so. Only a few generations separate today’s urban prairie residents from their entrepreneurial forbearers. Similarly, suburban entrepreneurs sought the benefits of urban markets already in place, but found outlying areas more conducive to the structure and cost of doing business.

One often sees higher entrepreneurial activity in resource regions as well–although economies there can suffer from wider boom and bust business cycles. Favourable resource development conditions will attract businesses seeking to service increased activity—and, when conditions deteriorate, a strong base of experienced business owners often becomes the primary pillar of community support.

Among major centres, Canada’s overall top-ranked entrepreneurial communities in 2014 fit all these main characteristics. The combined communities of Airdrie, Rocky View, Cochrane and Chestermere that ring around Calgary’s periphery takes the top score of 70.8 out of a possible 100. This area also received the top score in 2012 and 2013. Periphery communities around Edmonton (which include Strathcona County, St. Albert, Parkland, Spruce Grove, Leduc and other smaller municipalities) climbs to second spot. Saskatoon slipped back a little, but still held its place above Saskatchewan’s other major city Regina. Kelowna is not far behind in fifth spot.

Among mid-sized urban areas, the prairie region is also still well represented, including Lloydminster, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Red Deer. Here, the obvious common element is the resource sector, which has offered many new entrepreneurial and development opportunities. Medicine Hat is another Alberta community in the top 10, as are Camrose and Brooks, which are new to the study this year. Another newcomer, Collingwood, is Ontario’s representative in the group, while Thetford Mines and Saint-Georges takes Quebec’s top spots.

The Skinny on Corporate Inversions

October 21, 2014 Comments off

The Skinny on Corporate Inversions
Source: Center for American Progress

Corporate financial accounting and taxation are complex subjects. For this reason, many people tune out when issues that involve corporate tax practices rise to the level of public debate. Unfortunately, many legislators shy away from these issues for similar reasons. But while corporate taxation can be mind-bogglingly complex, nontax experts can learn enough to join the debate.

A Low-Carbon Energy Transition Can Save the Global Economy Trillions over the Next 20 Years

October 15, 2014 Comments off

A Low-Carbon Energy Transition Can Save the Global Economy Trillions over the Next 20 Years
Source: Climate Policy Initiative

Two reports released October 9th by Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) clearly demonstrate that, with the right policies, a low-carbon energy system consistent with avoiding the most damaging effects of climate change could free up trillions of dollars over the next 20 years to invest in better economic growth.
The first report, “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition,” compares the costs of low-carbon electricity and low-carbon transportation systems with current systems. The second, “Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values,” focuses on the risk of losses in the financial value of existing fossil fuel assets (so called “asset stranding”). A loss in assets’ value is critical because it constrains governments and businesses’ ability to borrow against them to finance growth and investment, including investment in a low-carbon transition. The reports were commissioned by the New Climate Economy project as part of the research conducted for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.

+ Both reports

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