Ever wonder how well the policies of our country are progressing? Do they have a positive or negative effect on our lives, our society, and our future?
Project America is a non-partisan organization devoted to providing an online resource to help people understand the state of issues facing this country. Learn more.
New Bill Adds Clarity to ARRA Funding
Published Thursday, September 24th, 2009
A new Highway Bill Reauthorization making its way through Congress seeks to add order to chaos by clarifying the massive $135 billion in funding that came with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Chief Economist of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) states that 50% of the money for projects must be earmarked or obligated within six months or else states lose the funding. The stipulation is intended to force states to identify projects quickly that are eligible for job creation and economic stimulus.
The ARRA provided $48 billion for transportation investments: $27.5 billion for highways; $8.4 billion for public transportation; $9.3 billion for passenger rail; and $1.3 billion for airport infrastructure. Of the bill’s highway funds, roughly $18 billion provides funds directly to states, and half of these funds had to be earmarked in 120 days. The remaining $9 billion in state funds and the $8 billion given to local governments must be earmarked within one year of the bill’s enactment. States and localities that do not meet these deadlines will have their funds redistributed to other states.
Vacations Days Have Decreased for US Workers
Published Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Recent reports show that women take nearly 50% more sick leave than men. In a study conducted by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1999, job absence rates are higher for women than for men, about 5.1% of women (including 5.6% of women aged 20-24) were absent in the average week, compared with 2.7% of men. This means women worked less than 35 hours during the week because of injury, illness, or some various reasons. Among those absent, women were more likely to be absent due to reasons other than injury and illness. Absence rates do not vary much by age: 55 or older had the highest absence rate at 4.2%, 16-19 years old at 4.0%, 20-24 year olds at 3.9% and the lowest is the 25-54 year olds at 3.7%. The global participation of women in the labor force grew consistently during this period of time.
Absence for various reasons has, for the most part, decreased slowly between 500 to 100 days per year from that of 1970. By far the greatest decrease has occurred in vacation days, from a height 3,500 in 1990 to 2,900 in 2005.
Employee Compensation Slows by Nearly 50%
Published Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in June 2009, compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.4%, seasonally adjusted, for the 3-month period ending in June 2009. For businesses, wages and salaries, comprising 70% of compensation, increased 0.4%. Benefit costs, 30% of compensation, increased 0.3%, a feat considering inflation for that time was nearing -2.1% in July. With healthcare benefits costs climbing despite negative inflation, many employers are passing some of the increased cost onto their employees. In fact many employers are increasing the premiums, annual deductibles, and prescriptions co-pays.
Civilian worker’s compensation wages and salaries costs increased 1.8% (compared to a 3.2% increase in June 2008), and benefits costs rose 1.8% (compared to 2.9%) in the 12 months ending in June 2009. Private industry workers fared worse as wages and salaries increased 1.6% (3.1% in June 2008) and benefits cost increased 1.3% (from 2.6% June 2008) over the same 12 months. Public administration wages and salaries, however, increased 3.0% in June 2009 (3.4% June 2008) and benefits cost rose 3.6% (3.5% June 2008) over the same 12 months.
Protectionism Affecting Globalization
Published Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Over the past two years, rising protectionism, recent declines in global trade and foreign direct investment, and rising inflation in once cheap locations has become a subject of much business analysis. All leading to what the Financial Times called earlier this year “Deglobalisation: ugly word, scary idea and now painful reality.” Examples include the US Container Security Initiative (CSI), which has stagnated or stopped trade into the US for some companies, regionalization of the supply chain, and insourcing, the return of jobs to the original country.
For the US part, it employs the global reaching Container Security Initiative, which has been in all US ports and 47 foreign ports, with funding of $140 billion in 2007. Also, the installment of the Employ American Workers Act, affecting hiring companies that are recipients of bailout funds, is forcing some to jobs in the US, which is good for the US. Other foreign governments have adopted protections. Russia has introduced a temporary import tariffs on laundry equipment. Australia launched a “local jobs first” program as part of its stimulus package. Brazil introduced tariffs on steel products.
National Education Goals have Far to Go
Published Tuesday, September 8th, 2009
The national education goals call for U.S. students to be first in the world in science and mathematics, so therefore developing and maintaining students’ skills in science and engineering has long been a priority for the department of education. Recently, President Obama stated in his speech given to school children, “What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.”
Many skills are in great demand, but some companies are moving to locations or setting up facilities overseas where there are large numbers of trained personnel. Further, the share of recent science and engineering graduates taking government and academic positions is decreasing while industrial positions are increasing.
Those recent graduates who have graduated with science and engineering degrees have shrunk from 62% to 57%. The majority of them are male, up to 74%; females equal 26%. The section of greatest growth consists of 17% foreign students.
COPS Program Aims to Decrease Elder Crime
Published Monday, August 31st, 2009
The elderly are the fastest growing segment of our society, and they are a large part of the country’s economy. So crime, especially financial crime, is a growing concern for the Department of Justice since seniors are targeted with alarming frequency and too often successful. Problems with data gathering on such crimes stems from legal definitions of “elderly”, the lack of a national repository of crime statistics like the FBI Uniform Crime Reports or the National Victimization survey specific to elder financial abuse, and the fact that fraud is under reported. A 1998 report conducted by the National Center for on Elder Abuse states that nearly one third of all elder abuse cases included financial exploitation. Also, a study by the US Senate Special Committee on Aging reported $40 billion in losses to telemarketing fraud.
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has invested $2 million nationwide to create a program called the Triad, which partners with law enforcement and senior citizens to reduce crime and the fear of crime. Currently the rate of all types of crime against the elderly is at 2.5 victims per 1,000 persons 65 years old or older. The two highest type of crimes are simple assault and personal theft.
Family Stress Increases as Parents Move In
Published Friday, August 28th, 2009
The number of older adults in the United States who are moving in with their younger families is increasing the need for houses with “in-law’ suites across the entire country. This presents emotional difficulties for both seniors and caregivers. According to estimates, there are now 34 million American families who now live together in the United States. Social workers who specialize in caregivers of elderly parents suggest five main ideas to alleviate some of the pressure: talk about issues before events get stressful and communication more difficult, know where to get help, don’t do this by yourself (get help when needed), understand both your finances, and get plenty of sleep, exercise, and a regular diet.
According to the US Census Bureau, living arrangements for seniors has rapidly become a great concern in the last decade. The largest percentage of senior citizens 65 and older, 67.8%, lives in family households whether with spouses or other relatives. The next largest, 32%, are living in non-family settings such as assisted living, living alone or living with nonrelatives.
Labor Participation Limits Children for Some
Published Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
In recent decades, the increasing participation of women in paid work has been driving employment and fertility trends. For example, the United Nations states that the gap between males and females in the labor force has been shrinking as labor growth for women eclipsed that of men for every region of the world except Africa. In developed countries, like the United States, increasing female labor force participation has been linked to the completion of the fertility transition — the point at which couples of all races and income begin to deliberately limit the number of children women bear.
By 1980, fertility levels in most of the developed industrialized countries were already close to or below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. Labor force participation rates of women in the prime ages of 25-54 years continued to rise in the 1990s to between 60 to 85 percent and by the turn of the century fertility was well below replacement. In several of the transition economies, the economic participation of women has actually been falling, especially in the 1980s, but there has been a clear decline in fertility rates, especially in the 1990s, almost to below replacement. However, developing countries have only seen a slow decline or in some cases stalled.
Spending and Performance in Today’s Schools
Published Monday, August 24th, 2009
With the new school year upon us, it’s a good time to consider the quality and cost of the education provided by our local public school systems. One way to quantify the quality and cost of their education is to look at spending and performance, but by no means is this the only method. The top spending states are Vermont, New York, and New Jersey, according to the Census Bureau, at a rate of $14,000-16,000 per student, which is $6,000 more than the national average for 2006-2007 school years. Proponents of spending more suggest that it should lead to higher educational attainment. However, in 2004 the Manhattan Institute evaluated all 50 states and Washington D.C. and concluded that for the money, New Jersey students significantly under-preformed. In fact, the Hoover Institute stated that it was one of the lowest performing states in its region.
Looking at the historic performance on the SAT and spending over the last 30 years, the same assumptions should apply to the entire student population, yet that’s not the case. From 1980 to 2007, the amount of spending per student has risen nearly fourfold to approximately $10,000. During that time, verbal scores of both females and males remained steady and math scores gained only 20 points.
Seniors Fear Institutionalization as Result of CA Cuts
Published Friday, August 21st, 2009
More than 36,000 disabled Californian residents have filed a class action lawsuit to stop the state from applying budget cuts in adult day health care services. The State budget signed into law last month reduces the spending for community-based programs for low-income and disabled adults by $28.1 million. The suit seeks immediate court action to prevent the cuts and demands participants be individually assessed to determine what replacement services they are entitled to. Services for adult day health care include nurses, personal care and social services; case and medication management; physical, occupational and speech therapy; and transportation. The cuts would place as many as 8,000 recipients at immediate risk of institutionalization. Backing the suit is Disability Rights California, AARP and the National Senior Citizens Law Center.
According to the Census Bureau, the US population is aging and thus services like the above will become increasingly needed. The largest group of seniors with disabilities is those with sensory disabilities; the second is those who are homebound. Cutting the budget in one place may shift costs elsewhere in the health care or community service systems.