Tuesday, May 10, 2016

THE OBAMA ASSAULT ON AMERICA: THE OBOMB DIRECTS HIS HENCHMAN KENNETH FEINBERG TO SLASH AND BURN THOSE PENSIONS - US Treasury rejects plan for slashing Teamsters pensions, calling for deeper cuts - World Socialist Web Site

US Treasury rejects plan for slashing Teamsters pensions, calling for deeper cuts - World Socialist Web Site

Hillary Comes Out of the Closet!



US Treasury rejects plan for slashing Teamsters pensions, calling for deeper cuts

By Shannon Jones
10 May 2016
The US Treasury Department rejected Friday a proposal by the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund (CSPF) to cut pension benefits for hundreds of thousands of retired workers. If implemented, the cuts would have slashed benefits for retired truck drivers and other workers by up to 80 percent.
The decision was handed down by government fixit man Kenneth Feinberg, who invited pension fund directors to submit a modified proposal in answer to his criticisms.

Feinberg cited several reasons for his decision, in the first place that the cuts were based on unrealistically optimistic projections of investment returns and were therefore not deep enough to guarantee the fund’s long-term solvency. He also objected to the uneven character of the proposed cuts and to the opaque language used in the notification sent to pensioners.

At risk are the retirement benefits of some 270,000 workers covered by the multi-employed pension fund. The attack on their pensions is the result of the collaboration of the unions, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, which conspired to enact pension “reform” legislation in 2014 giving multiemployer pension funds the ability to petition the Treasury Department for permission to slash benefits. The CSPF was the first to request cuts under the new law.

The proposed pension cuts evoked a storm of outrage from retirees. In hearings in Detroit and Minneapolis earlier this year, pensioners attacked the cuts, outlining their devastating consequences. However, Feinberg was empowered to override the objections of pensioners and impose the cuts anyway.

The CSPF case is being used to set a precedent for a massive assault on pension benefits. It could open the floodgates to petitions for pension cuts by dozens of other multiemployer pension funds.

Feinberg is a trusted representative of the US government and corporate interests, who has been involved in numerous victim compensation cases. He is an expert at effusing false sympathy for victims of corporate crimes—from the BP Oil spill to the GM ignition scandal—while safeguarding the interests of executives and stockholders. In the process he has saved the government and corporations billions by awarding inadequate payouts.

Feinberg’s role in the CSPF is a reprise of his earlier acts aimed at creating an aura of impartiality around the decision to impose devastating cuts on retirees who have worked and struggled all their lives.
A major factor in Feinberg’s decision appears not to have been the objections of pensioners, but the opposition of United Parcel Service and supermarket chain Kroger Co. Both companies challenged the legality of the CSPF cuts. In the case of UPS, the package delivery company stood to lose between $3.2 to $3.8 billion if the pension cuts went through. That is because a “backstop” agreement in the 2007 Teamster contract required the company to provide a “supplemental retirement benefit” to its retirees if the CSPF fund ever cut its benefit payout.
The deal came about as a result of the agreement by the Teamsters to allow UPS, the CSPF’s largest employer, to quit the plan. The decision, which undermined the solvency of the pension fund, allowed the Teamsters to collect dues from workers at the UPS freight division.

The 2014 pension reform act imposed a tiered benefit reduction process specifically for the CSPF. In its challenge to the proposed pension cuts, UPS argued that the benefit reductions were not legal because they impacted disproportionately workers in the third tier, which comprise UPS participants. In his ruling, Feinberg cited the “larger benefit suspensions” for some UPS truck drivers and loading dock workers.

Kroger and the Teamsters also filed a legal challenge to the pending pension cuts on the grounds that they had negotiated a proposal to remove Kroger retirees from the CSPF and create a new plan, a move that would have further undermined the fund’s solvency. The Treasury Department rejected the proposal, and both the company and the union sued for reconsideration.

Feinberg’s decision to reject the cuts drew fire from figures in the Democratic Party, including Joshua Gotbaum, the former head of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Gotbaum, an Obama appointee, told Market Watch that “it is a case of political cowardice.” He continued, “No one wants to admit that pension benefits have to be cut, and therefore, in public, no one wants to be seen supporting anything that cuts benefits.”

Former North Dakota Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy called the rejection, “irresponsible.”
Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Teamster retirees that Feinberg’s decision “does not resolve the issues” threatening their pensions. “The Central States plan, like a number of other multi-employer plans, remains severely underfunded and is projected to become insolvent within the next 10 years.”

Thomas Nyhan, the executive director of the CSPF lamented the decision, saying the cuts were the only “realistic” decision to avoid bankruptcy because the PBGC is also projected to run out of money if CSPF goes under.

Part of the motivation for Feinberg’s ruling may well have been to delay any cuts until after the November election. In election year posturing, more than 100 congressman, including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, signed off on a letter asking for a review of the proposed CSPF pension cuts. The insincerity of these objections, however, is demonstrated by the fact that no one is proposing any additional funding to guarantee the solvency of the CSPF or other pension funds facing bankruptcy. Indeed, many of those signing the letter backed the 2014 pension reform bill.
Teamster President James P Hoffa, meanwhile, issued a statement hailing Feinberg’s decision. He went on to assert, “This decision means that there won’t be any cuts to retirees’ pensions this July or the foreseeable future.”

This is simply a lie. In fact Feinberg’s rejection of the CSPF proposal for cuts is to all appearances purely tactical. Nothing stops the CSPF from making a new application addressing Feinberg’s objections.

The author also recommends:

The looting of US workers pensions[10 February 2016]

Kenneth Feinberg and the victim compensation racket[11 February 2016]

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Poverty has become more concentrated under Obama

Poverty has become more concentrated under Obama

By Nancy Hanover
2 May 2016
Under the Obama administration, more Americans have found themselves consigned to economic ghettos, living in neighborhoods where more than 40 percent subsist below the poverty level. Millions more now live in “high poverty” districts of 20-40 percent poverty, according to recently released report by the Brookings Institution.

All in all, more than half of the nation’s poor are now concentrated in these high-poverty neighborhoods. This means that on top of the difficult daily struggle to make ends meet, they face a raft of additional crushing barriers because of where they live.

The Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program report, “Concentrated poverty continues to grow post recession,” is authored by Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes and scrutinizes this unprecedented shift in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown.

The report, based on an analysis of US census tracts, shows that concentrations of poverty have grown under the Obama administration in all geography types: large metropolitan areas, small cities and rural areas. In fact, the number of poor people living in concentrated poverty in suburbs grew nearly twice as fast as in cities, putting paid to the myth of affluence or even stability in America’s suburbs.

The growth of social and economic distress within large parts of the US is demonstrated by the statistics. Pockets of high poverty exist in virtually every part of the country, including adjacent to the nation’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Since 2000, according to the report, the total number of poor people living in high-poverty neighborhoods has doubled to 14 million Americans. This is five million more than prior to the Great Recession.

Referring to the “double burden” facing the poor when they live in high-poverty neighborhoods, Kneebone and Holmes say, “Residents of poor neighborhoods face higher crime rates and exhibit poorer physical and mental health outcomes. They tend to go to poor-performing neighborhood schools with higher dropout rates. Their job-seeking networks tend to be weaker and they face higher levels of financial insecurity.”

These effects are clearly discernible once a neighborhood’s poverty rate exceeds 20 percent, the report explains. During the study period, between 2005-09 and 2010-14, the number of such high poverty neighborhoods grew by more than 4,300.

Across many demographics: City and suburb, black and white

Suburbs accounted for one-third of the newly high-poverty neighborhoods, a higher share than cities, rural or small metro areas. The share of poor black and Hispanic suburban residents climbed by 10 percent while poor white residents climbed by eight percent, almost as much.


The palpable effects of the auto industry restructuring, with the Obama administration’s stipulation of a 50 percent cut in wages for new autoworkers, is demonstrated in the growth of poverty in the sprawling auto-dominated Detroit region. Out of metro Detroiters living in poverty, 58 percent now reside in suburban districts, according to a survey by Oakland County Lighthouse.

A recent and similar demographic study by the Century Foundation states that the six-county region has the highest concentration of poverty among the top 25 metro areas in the US by population. This represents 32 percent of the poor living in concentrated tracts.

There has been a staggering growth of poor neighborhoods in and around Detroit, Kneebone told the Detroit Free Press, adding that the number “grew almost fivefold between 2000 and 2010-14.” Detroit now has an official poverty rate of 39 percent, the highest in the US among cities with more than 300,000 residents.

“Sadly this report reinforces what we have been seeing year after year in Detroit and across Michigan.” Gilda Jacobs, of the Michigan League for Public Policy told the World Socialist Web Site. “Poverty is too high, and where people—especially kids—live has a direct and significant impact on their economic standing, health and other outcomes.”

From the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt

Detroit, however, is just the most concentrated expression of the national trend. “Among the nation’s largest metro areas, two-thirds (67 percent) saw concentrated poverty grow between 2005-09 and 2010-14,” the Brookings study found. The authors note that some of the “largest upticks included a number of Sun Belt metro areas hit hard by the collapse of the housing market—like Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton in California and Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona—and older industrial areas in the Midwest and northeast—like Indianapolis, Buffalo, and Syracuse.”
Eight metro areas now show concentrated poverty over 30 percent: Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin (30.1 percent); Memphis, Tennessee (31.1 percent); Bakersfield, California (31.7 percent); Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan (32 percent); Syracuse, New York (32.4 percent); Toledo, Ohio (34.9 percent); Fresno, California (43.8 percent); and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (52.3 percent).

As the WSWS has previously reported, all job growth over the last decade has been “temp” or contingency employment, traditionally the lowest wage levels of any job and paying no benefits. This loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs has impacted communities throughout the US. Concentrated poverty in suburbs has jumped 2.4 points in the wake of the recession, to a record high of 7.1 percent.

What is the “double burden” of concentrated poverty?

In her remarks to the WSWS, Gilda Jacobs elaborated on the double burden of concentrated poverty: “So many detrimental factors come with living in high-poverty neighborhoods. There are no viable jobs, public transportation, childcare, or grocery stores. Crime rates are high, there’s blight and abandoned buildings, and the health risks of lead exposure and asthma. Even Detroit’s public schools are unhealthy and even dangerous.

“This is what Detroit kids and other low-income children are dealing with every day, and what they have to try to overcome in improving their futures. These living and learning conditions are all connected, and harm kids’ development and learning, their academic outcomes and their future job prospects. It is called toxic stress when kids are under constant strain. This study reiterates that so many factors affecting poverty are external and environmental, making them nearly impossible to defeat alone,” she stressed.

A series of studies [including George Galster’s “The Mechanism(s) of Neighborhood Effects Theory, Evidence, and Policy Implications” and others] have documented how poor neighborhoods undermine even the most determined individual efforts to escape poverty.

Taken together, these studies demonstrate how the escalating growth of poverty concentration exacts an ever-higher toll on American society, affecting many aspects of life and particularly destroying the potential of the next generation.


*Education. High-poverty neighborhoods exert “downward pressure” on school quality. Data from the Stanford Data Archive has recently shown a staggering effect upon child learning capacities of attending impoverished school districts. Utilizing 215 million state accountability test scores, the study showed that “Children in districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts [emphasis added].”

*Violence. Exposure to violence has reached epidemic proportions for low-income youth, particularly among minorities. Parental stress over neighborhood violence is a substantial factor motivating families to move—when they can—from high-poverty neighborhoods, compounded by fears of negative peer influences upon their children. Youth and adults who have been exposed to violence as witnesses or victims suffer increased stress and documented declines in mental health.

*Toxic exposures. Poor areas are chronically associated with higher concentrations of air-, water- and soil-borne pollutants. Lead poisoning is most often associated with older housing stock.
Researchers have demonstrated that depression, asthma, diabetes and heart ailments are correlated with living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Additionally, individuals in poor neighborhoods often receive inferior health care and reduced government services.

* Other effects of physical decay . The inability to exercise outdoors is a known factor in the rise of obesity, especially among children. High levels of noise pollution produce stress, and prolonged exposure to run-down surroundings can lead to hopelessness.

*The poor pay more. Prices in poor neighborhoods are notoriously higher and the goods of poorer quality than those in better-off areas. Food and health-care “deserts” are common. The costs of home and car insurance are usually substantially higher.

*Lack of social cohesion. Disorder and lack of social cohesion are associated with both crime and mental distress. Children who live without a cohesive neighborhood network are more likely to have behavioral problems and have lower verbal skills. Those in areas of concentrated poverty are typically more isolated within their households and have fewer educated or employed friends and neighbors. Low levels of employment in distressed neighborhoods also destroy the informal networks crucial for workers to find good jobs.

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