Health Care Reform Drives Florida Company’s Rapid Growth
See original here: iCan Benefit Expands to Miramar
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Health Care Reform Drives Florida Company’s Rapid Growth
See original here: iCan Benefit Expands to Miramar
Zuckerberg says America’s current system is ‘unfit for today’s world’ and wants FWD.us to push for immigration reform
The billionaire founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has launched a new initiative to push for immigration reform, describing America’s current system as “unfit for today’s world.”
The group, called FWD.us, (pronounced Forward US), is backed by other Silicon Valley leaders including Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer and Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of Linkedin.
“We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world,” Zuckerberg wrote in an editorial for The Washington Post to launch the lobby group.
“To lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people. We need to train and attract the best. We need those middle-school students to be tomorrow’s leaders,” he wrote.
“Given all this, why do we kick out the more than 40% of math and science graduate students who are not US citizens after educating them?”
Zuckerberg said FWD.us would push for:
● Comprehensive immigration reform that begins with effective border security, allows a path to citizenship and lets us attract the most talented and hardest-working people, no matter where they were born.
● Higher standards and accountability in schools, support for good teachers and a much greater focus on learning about science, technology, engineering and math.
● Investment in breakthrough discoveries in scientific research and assurance that the benefits of the inventions belong to the public and not just to the few.
This year demand for skilled-worker visas, known as H-1Bs, outstripped the entire year’s supply in the first week that companies were allowed to file applications.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that processes applications, said earlier this month that it had already received more than 65,000 H-1B applications, the congressionally mandated limit. Application for the 20,000 visas allocated to foreign nationals with advanced degrees from US universities also exceeded supply in a few days.
Daniel Costa, immigration policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, said reform was needed but granting more H-1B visas as they stand was not the answer. A recent EPI study found all the top 10 firms applying for H-1B visas were outsourcing firms. Costa pointed to a 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office that showed most of the visa go to workers hired for mid-level information technology positions such as systems analysts or programmers who are then paid less than their US counterparts.
“Demand for visas may well not be because there is a need for skilled labour but rather because there is a demand for workers who can be underpaid,” said Costa. He said the GAO study showed 54% of those on H-1Bs were paid at the lowest levels allowed and that the majority of the workers for the outsourcing firms were sent back after their visas expired.
“This is not a bridge to bringing in the best and the brightest. These people are brought in, they learn the job then they are rotated back to India to carry on doing the job there,” he said.
Last month Senator Chuck Grassley reintroduced a bill aimed at tightening restrictions on the H-1B visa program.
“Somewhere along the line, the H-1B program got sidetracked. The program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment,” Grassley said.
“When times are tough, like they are now, it’s especially important that Americans get every consideration before an employer looks to hire from abroad.”
The government is to scale back some of its plans to test a radical new reform to the welfare system.
See the article here: Universal Credit pilots scaled back
Allowing new banks to operate with lower capital thresholds will make it harder for them to break into business banking
More competition between banks in the UK has been a policy aspiration for about two decades, even in the years when a green light was given to almost every merger and acquisition. The major banks swallowed half the former building societies in the late 1990s; Royal Bank of Scotland consumed NatWest at the turn of the century; and Halifax and Bank of Scotland combined in 2001 and then gave Lloyds TSB indigestion in 2008.
It is welcome news, therefore, that the Financial Services Authority thinks life should be made easier for anyone brave enough to launch a new bank. The soon-to-be-disbanded regulator says its successor will crack the whip internally to reduce to six months the time it takes to gain authorisation. More strikingly, new banks will be allowed to operate with lower capital thresholds than their bigger rivals.
The second reform is a U-turn, an acknowledgement that there is little point being in favour of greater competition if you then ask new entrants to clear higher obstacles. The change of tack by the FSA is sensible: the regulator has to show some willing if it wants to encourage more startups follow the lead of Metro Bank. As its report says, “a balance … has to be struck between the risk that new entrant banks will fail, and the benefits of easy entry”.
So how would failure be handled? In the age of living wills and so on, the rules are clear: critical functions have to be protected so that disruption is contained. Then comes the important clause “even if in some cases losses may be incurred by unprotected depositors”.
Post-Cyprus, those words have to be taken seriously. Protected depositors are those in a single account holding up to £85,000. That cap on insurance will, one must guess, make it very hard for new entrants to make a splash in the business banking market, where the need for greater competition is keenest. Of course, the insurance cap also applies to the big boys. But a business audience may hear the message that big banks have to hold more capital and conclude that they are “safer.” Tough for the new boys and there’s no obvious way around the conundrum.
The real mistake was allowing all those big mergers and acquisitions in the first place. Lloyds and RBS, under orders from the EU, are now being forced to shed a few branches. But a truly radical attempt to boost competition might mean enforced liberation of Halifax and NatWest. There is, however, no political will for that. In its absence, expect to hear grumbles about lack of competition and diversity in banking for another two decades.
Consumers need more protection against hidden charges tucked away in the small print, say the two law commissions responsible for promoting legal reform.
Banks’ response is predictable they will drive up basic pay because those at the top earn far more in bonuses than salaries
The European parliament’s insistence on capping bankers’ bonuses will clearly be popular. That doesn’t mean it’s logical. In fact, the measure looks doomed to fail in its own terms. The ambition is to make banks safer and more able to withstand the next financial crisis. In practice, banks’ response is entirely predictable: they will crank up base salaries, thereby making their cost bases less flexible.
The shame is that Capital Markets Directive 4 mostly contains sound and worthy reforms. For example: big banks must erect sturdier capital buffers and the sums they keep as liquid assets must be greater than in the past.
But the bonus cap is the point where good intentions lose touch with experience. Did the parliamentarians not notice how Goldman Sachs UK, for example, wanted to defer its bonus payments this year to April to dodge the 50p rate of income tax? That’s how banks behave: they will exploit any change in the rules.
The sure-fire response to a bonus cap will be a rise in salaries. That’s because very high earners at the top of investment banks earn far more in bonuses than in salary. Look at the top earner at HSBC last year, as revealed in this week’s annual report. He or she (the individual is not identified) earned £7m, comprising a salary of £650,000 and a bonus of £6.35m.
Under the cap proposal, HSBC would have been restricted to paying a bonus of £1.3m, assuming the bank won approval from its shareholders to pay bonuses up to twice the level of salaries. But is it credible that would happen? Of course not. The individual would first expect to be awarded a higher salary, perhaps as much £2m, so his or her total earning power was closer to the old level.
Note, too, that a large slice of that big bonus at HSBC was subject to deferral and clawback – it is dependent on performance not turning sour. But, if the cash is already out of the door in the form of salary, it’s harder to claw back.
That is not to deny that perverse pay structures contributed to the crisis. Of course they did, and the parliamentarians are right to say so. But there is no point in trying to cap bonuses if you are not also prepared to cap salaries. This is territory where the “waterbed principle” applies: if you push down in one area, another goes up.
The better response would be to concentrate on improving banks’ capital ratios and liquidity cushions and, like the Swiss, give shareholders greater powers to stamp on greedy managements. Until now, reforms had been heading in exactly that direction.
The City is resigned. It, like everyone else, can see chancellor George Osborne is isolated and humiliated; that the eurozone’s move towards banking union has changed the balance of negotiating power; and that Angela Merkel, normally a UK ally on financial matters, has an election to fight this year.
And, if they are honest, banks will also admit they invited over-prescriptive legislation by being so slow to cut bonuses even when their financial returns were so lousy and regulators, not only the public, were appalled by the display of naked self-interest.
Banks will now study the text of the final legislation and draw up their responses under the radar. Just don’t expect them to tell their high earners to take it on the chin.
Fears that deadlock will lengthen Italy’s two-year recession and spill over into rest of the eurozone hit markets across Europe
Three years of German-led austerity and budget cuts aimed at saving the euro and retooling the European economy was left facing one of its biggest challenges as Italian voters’ rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics.
The governing stalemate in Rome and the vote in the general election – by a factor of three to two – against the austerity policies pursued by Italy’s humiliated caretaker prime minister, Mario Monti, meant that the spending cuts and tax rises dictated by the eurozone would grind to a halt, risking a re-eruption of the euro crisis after six months of relative stability.
Fears that the deadlock will lengthen Italy’s near two-year recession and spill over into the rest of the eurozone hit markets across Europe. The Italian banking sector fell 7% in value, dragging the main MIB stock market index 4% lower.
The market turmoil in Milan spread to Germany, France and the UK, with domestic banks among the biggest fallers. Deutsche Bank saw almost 5% knocked off its value, while Barclays suffered a 4% decline. The FTSE 100 fell 1.4%. The German Dax slumped more than 2% and the Paris Cac was down 2.75%.
The cliffhanger vote saw the maverick comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star movement take almost one in four of the votes and the political revival of the ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But the narrow victor, Pier Luigi Bersani, on the centre-left, claimed the mantle of the premiership, although it was unclear if he would be able to form a government.
Despite the withering popular verdict on cuts and taxes, Brussels and Berlin insisted the austerity programme had to be continued in Italy. France and others seized on the outcome for their own purposes, arguing for a relaxation of spending cuts and greater emphasis on policies to boost growth and job creation.
Bersani moved to try to cobble a government together by wooing the upstart Grillo with tentative talk of a reformist leftist coalition. Looking weary, Bersani said it was time for the 5 Star movement to do more than just demand a clean sweep of Italy’s established political order.
“Up to now they have been saying ‘All go home’. But now they are here too. So either they go home as well, or they say what they want to do for their country and their children.”
Grillo said earlier his followers in parliament would not join a coalition, but would consider proposals “law by law, reform by reform”.
Bersani said that, since his four-party alliance had won an outright majority in the lower house of the Italian parliament and more seats than any other grouping in the Senate, it had a responsibility to suggest ways in which Italy could be governed, despite the deadlock in the upper house.
Shunning the idea of a grand coalition with Berlusconi and the right, he proposed a government committed to a five-point plan for sweeping reform of Italy’s political parties and institutions.
The north-south split in Europe opened up by the election presaged clashes between eurozone governments, likely to surface at an EU summit next month, amid calls for a shift away from the harsh regime prescribed and driven through by Berlin in recent years as the price of bailing out insolvent eurozone periphery countries.
The Italian stalemate combines with tough negotiations over a bailout for Cyprus, being resisted by Germany, worries about the French economy, an unresolved debt crisis in Spain, and David Cameron’s decision to throw Britain’s future in Europe into question, making EU politics unusually volatile.
“Italy plays a central role in successfully overcoming Europe’s debt crisis,” said the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.
“So we assume that the policy of fiscal consolidation and reform will be consistently followed by a new government.”
Angela Merkel, bidding for a third term as German chancellor in September, has been banking on a period of eurozone calm in the run-up to her election, but Italian voters have wrecked that calculation.
The Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, recently made head of the political committee that runs the euro, said Monti’s policies had to be continued. “They are crucial for the entire eurozone.”
The European Commission echoed the calls for sticking with the austerity medicine. Italy has the highest national debt level in the eurozone after Greece, although its budget deficit is in better shape than many others, including France and the Netherlands.
But Paris led the chorus for a policy shift. French government ministers, including Pierre Moscovici, the finance minister, demanded a change of course in remarks directed at Berlin.
Spain waited anxiously to see what impact the Italian leap in the dark would have on its debt crisis. “This is a jump to nowhere that does not bode well either for Italy or for Europe,” said the foreign minister, Jose-Manuel Garcia-Margallo, adding he was “extremely concerned” about the effect on Spain’s borrowing costs.
Both Berlusconi and Grillo have been harshly critical of the Germans, decried Monti’s austerity packages, and have raised questions as to whether Italy, the eurozone’s third biggest economy, should remain in the single currency. Grillo has called for a referendum on the matter.
Berlusconi rounded on the Germans on Tuesday, declaring that the “spread” – the difference between how much Italy and Germany pay to borrow on the bond markets – had been “invented” two years ago. This was code for saying that Berlin and Frankfurt, the German government and the European Central Bank, conspired to push up the cost of Italian borrowing in 2011 in order to topple Berlusconi and bring in Monti, the technocratic darling of the eurozone elite.
The turmoil saw Italian bond yields also jump, indicating that any new government will be forced to pay a higher interest rate on its debts.
The 10-year Italian bond yield edged back into dangerous territory on Tuesday after it passed 4.9%, although this is a far cry from 2011 when the yields shot above 7%.
The incoming governor of the Bank of England says the next two years will be “decisive” for bank reform and warns central banks alone cannot eliminate economic risks.
The financial system is still broken, but the nomination of budget wonk Lew is a sure sign the White House has other priorities
The nomination of budget wonk Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary is a sure sign that, in the eyes of the White House, the financial crisis has ended.
That’s kind of sad, actually. And it puts financial reform activists in an odd position: Tim Geithner, their bête noire, their oft-disparaged adversary, won’t be there to kick around any more – and they might have wished that he would be. As pugilistic as Geithner could get with those who criticized his efforts at bailouts and financial reform, at least he was listening. With his departure, financial reform will largely be pushed aside.
It’s clear the White House is moving on, that financial reform is no longer a priority – and yet the financial system is really no more secure than it was when Tim Geithner took over in the dark days of 2009. It’s not flailing and gasping for air, but that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly safe.
In the immortal words of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, “You should never waste a good crisis.” Unfortunately, it looks like America did.
A lot of the impetus towards financial reform and oversight have been replaced with the “who’s sitting in the lunchroom next to whom” analysis of politics. The conflicts of Occupy Wall Street and the warning tomes published by former government officials like Sheila Bair and Neil Barofsky will go unheeded. The nation spent at least four months held hostage to ad nauseum analyses of the congressionally manufactured fiscal cliff crisis, and soon by the congressionally manufactured debt-ceiling crisis. The financial world has lost the spotlight. Aren’t the banks shrinking? Are they profitable? No matter, the moment has passed.
President Obama’s speech on Thursday seemed to put a neat bow on the past four years. On the near-failure of the financial system, he said: “We put in place rules to make sure it would never happen again;” on the possibility that another bank might fail, “we made sure taxpayers would not be on the hook.”
Obama’s remarks were so prettily made that one almost hesitates to point out that we didn’t actually do those things. Financial reform, in the form of the Dodd-Frank act, does nothing to prevent another crisis. There is no law that prevents banks from making stupid loans or taking outsize risks with taxpayer money.If another big bank stumbles and threatens the economy, it’s hard to picture Uncle Sam backing away with no taxpayer involvement.
Numerous “flash crashes” show that the infrastructure of the stock market is weak and needs regulatory attention. The one part of Dodd-Frank that is supposed to prevent banks from gambling is known as the Volcker Rule. There is apparently a doorstopper-sized draft of it somewhere, but for regulatory purposes it does not yet exist.
The era of Tim Geithner at Treasury, as tumultuous as it was, was a useful one. Geithner, a former head of the New York Federal Reserve, built an often shaky rope bridge between Wall Street and Washington. We got some legislation out of it, however flawed. Regular people became familiar with mortgage-backed securities and the sometimes crazy risks taken by Wall Street. This was Geithner’s world; his knowledge resided in the economy and the markets, the fast, pragmatic world of fast-moving money and snap decision-making, where it’s rare to predict what will happen in the next quarter.
Lew worked briefly on Wall Street, but he is unlikely to do favors for Wall Street. He’s much more likely to entirely forget about Wall Street. It was clear from today’s press conference that the financial markets are not a priority for Lew or the president.
That already worries some activists. Dennis Kelleher, the CEO of Better Markets, said today about Lew: “The one area of concern is whether or not he is sufficiently committed to quickly and thoroughly implementing financial reform and re-regulating Wall Street … This concern arises from Mr Lew’s past statements suggesting a lack of knowledge about the financial crisis and its causes. He has appeared to minimize the undeniably critical role deregulation played in causing and accelerating the financial and economic crises.”
Lew never speaks about himself, and you don’t have to be to a graphologist to tell that his loopy, unintelligible signature indicates that he does not want to be known. Geithner, on the other hand, once gave an interview to Vogue that included references to him surfing and cooking barefoot.
Geithner was willing to make deals, to bend over backwards in some cases. He never seemed to think he had as much power as he really did. As Vogue tells one revealing anecdote that shows how Geithner never really thought he could throw his weight around: “On a recent business trip, Geithner and his entourage were trying to decide where to eat dinner. An aide suggested a popular restaurant, but Geithner nixed the idea, saying they’d never get a table. The aide laughs at the memory: ‘I mean, he’s the secretary of the Treasury! He could get a table.’”
Lew was clearly happy to get the treasury nomination. Geithner fought it, then spent four grudging years in treasury, two of them openly trying to escape the institution. If there was one movie moment that could describe the four-year career of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, it would be this despairing exclamation from The Godfather, Part III: “Just when I thought I was out, they keep pulling me back in!”
Geithner was an odd fit for Treasury, a fact Obama noted: “I couldn’t blame Tim when he told me he wasn’t the right guy for the job.” A Spock-like economic wonk used to the civilized stone halls of the New York Federal Reserve bank, Geithner was dragged in 2009 into one of the most ill-starred tenures of any modern US treasury Secretary. From the financial crisis, to Tarp, to AIG, to not one but two immature congressional fights over lifting the US debt ceiling, he lived the exasperated query from Dorothy Parker: “What fresh hell is this?”
The White House kept thwarting him, but finally gave in. “I understand that Tim is ready for a break,” President Obama said, in one of the great political understatements of our time. By August of 2009 – less than a year in the job – Geithner was caught in a screaming, profanity-laden rant in a meeting with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators. He made quick enemies of Tarp inspector Neil Barofsky and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Sheila Bair, both of whom wrote books casting Geithner in a bad light.
Part of Geithner’s problem in Washington is that it was easy to tell which button to push to drive him crazy: his legacy. The suggestion that he is cozy with Wall Street that seems to drive Geithner over the edge, even now. In an appearance on Charlie Rose’s television show, Geithner responded to the charges that he is too cozy with Wall Street by saying, “You know, I’m deeply offended by that,” Geithner said. “I find that deeply offensive.” Bair dubbed him the “bailouter in chief.”
Barofsky, who openly suggested Geithner was trying to thwart his oversight of Tarp, chronicled a Geithner rant: ‘No one has ever made the banks disclose the type of shit that I made them disclose after the stress tests. No one! And now you’re saying that I haven’t been fucking transparent?’ … Neil, I have been the most fucking transparent secretary of the treasury in this country’s entire fucking history!” According to Barofsky, a press aide later whispered that he expected Geithner to throw a punch.
It’s tempting for anyone – not just Geithner and Barofsky – to say “goodbye to all that.” No one likes to be in a constant crisis mindset; it is the opposite of a civilized society if we are. But that crisis mindset could have been useful, if it had pushed financial reform a little harder. Geithner, to some extent, was willing to take the punches necessary to connect Washington and Wall Street.
That connection is essential. Jack Lew, because of his love of budgets and deficit planning, seems likely to let that tenuously built bridge between Wall Street and Washington decay. His strengths are in the molasses-speed world of government deficits and budget planning, where costs are calculated in increments of a year or a decade. He is largely uninterested in Wall Street, and unbendable in some cases.
Congressional Republicans have derided Lew as “an uncompromising know-it-all,” in the words of a newspaper profile on him last month. Whereas Geithner spoke the language of Wall Street – including its tone, with yelling and profanity – Lew speaks the language of the political court. He reportedly yelled once, chastely, about Medicaid – and then felt immediately embarrassed after.
To the administration, Lew’s storied history in budgets is only a plus. As President Obama nominated him, he made sure to mention that Lew had presided over three budget surpluses. And Lew played to his real audience, giving a shoutout to the staff of the Office of Management and Budget: “I am delighted to see so many of my friends from OMB here today.” In 1999, he romanticized budgets: “Budgets aren’t books of numbers. They’re a tapestry, the fabric of what we believe. The numbers tell a story, a self-portrait of what we are as a country.”
That is beautifully said, and also true. But inevitably, this means when the next financial crisis comes – and it will, because it always does – everyone will ask something along the lines of “why wasn’t anyone paying attention?”
Here’s the answer: because we did once, and then got bored before we finished the job.
A commission of MPs and peers, set up to review the banking industry in the wake of a series of crises and scandals, says government proposals for reform “fall well short of what is required”.
Read this article: AUDIO: Will ‘ring-fencing’ UK banks be effective?