Patt Morrison for August 6, 2010

Mercer 9475

The 411 on your (lack of a) 401(k) and unemployment stays the same

By the end of 2008 the recession had us beginning to wonder just how deep and dark this fiscal fallout was going to be, and as we saw almost 20% of companies with 1,000 employees or more reducing or suspending matching contributions to workers’ 401(k) plans, it seemed like it was going to get pretty dark. Two years later many companies, despite that light at the end of the tunnel that is improved business and profits, are reluctant to restore those benefits and some even predict further cuts. Sure the smaller companies fear reinstating the 401(k) match only to have to suspend it again but what is keeping the bigger companies that are back in the black from giving back? It’s rough out there—we all know this, and today’s statistics from the Labor Department just proved the obvious. Unemployment stayed at 9.5% in July as private sector employers added a measly 71,000 workers but 143,000 temporary census jobs vanished. What goes more unnoticed is how lousy the climate is for the employed among us, as salaries stay stagnant or have even declined by some measures, and young people entering the job market face bleak prospects now and possible depressed wages for the span of their careers. Is this the worse era for the average American worker since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution?
Mercer 9478

Goodbye campaign finance reform. Hello big money.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, opened the door to allow unlimited sums of corporate and union money to flow into political campaigns. And this November, big business plans to take full advantage. Conservative business groups intend to spend unprecedented amounts of money in an attempt to take back control of Congress from the Democrats. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning to spend more than $75 million on the congressional election—up from $35 million in 2008. Another example, a group of 15 conservative tax-exempt organizations is expected to spend close to 300 million. So just how much will be spent and what impact will this massive influx of campaign money have on Congress in November?
Mercer 9471
It seemed like a clear directive—as part of the landmark healthcare reform bill that passed in March, insurance companies were required to cover children regardless of any pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies seemed to acquiesce to the legislation…until they found a simple way around it: stop offering new coverage for children in the individual insurance market. The Obama Administration, sensing disaster, issued a clarification to the children insurance rule to address the concerns of insurance companies that parents would wait to buy “child only” policies until their kids were sick. Now insurers could restrict enrollment of children under 19 to specific open enrollment periods, but the White House didn’t go any further—there remains a lot of gray area and the distinct possibility that insurance companies might still pull child only policies off the market. This is just one of a few unintended consequences of the new healthcare law….will we get that promised reform?
Mercer 9480
Recently, 40 billionaires came out and pledged to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. The money is not being funneled to one cause - each billionaire gets to give their money to the cause, or causes, of their choosing. As the Bush tax cuts are set to expire and billionaires are giving away up to 99% of their wealth, many people are wondering if the rich, because they have more, have a greater responsibility to give.
Find an archived Episode: