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From CNBC:

“Sources told CNBC that a potential tie-up between the storied chemicals behemoths would be structured as a merger of equals.

The expected deal, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday night, would likely be followed by a breakup of the combined entity, with separate businesses created to house the agricultural, materials services and specialty products operations.”

Read here for more.

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As is common in most years, domestic policy trumps all other issues. While the Republicans believe immigration is the top issue to run a winning campaign, Democrats believe the minimum wage issue is a winner for their candidates.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile wrote an op-ed where she believes millions of low-wage employees could form a very powerful voting bloc:

Shawanda Wilson, who works at Taco Bell in Tampa, Fla. and makes $8.25 an hour, has never voted before. Neither has Tonya Harrington, a 42-year-old home care worker from Durham, NC, who makes $7.25 an hour. Both say they’ve steered clear of voting booths not because they don’t care, but because they’ve felt politicians don’t speak for them.

That’s changing. Buoyed by $15 victories across the country, including in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, fast-food cooks and cashiers, home care workers and child care workers like Shawanda and Tonya recognize that by joining together in a movement, they can make politicians care. Now they are vowing to head to the polls, and they’re hoping to bring with them the more than 60 million Americans movement organizers say are paid less than $15.

It’s not such a crazy thought. While recent ballot initiatives for $15 failed in Tacoma, Wash., and Portland, Maine, a recent poll of workers paid less than $15 an hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15 and a union; and 65% of registered voters paid less than $15 an hour would be more likely to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15 and union rights.

We know the economic recovery has not been uniform, and nearly all the gains have gone to the top 1%, or the top 0.1%, as Bernie Sanders likes to remind us. The median income for an American worker is about $28,000, and overall household income has decline almost $2,000 since 2008. Meanwhile, millions of children live in poverty and cannot get enough food to eat or access to a great education. From an emotional standpoint, raising the minimum wage would lift millions out of poverty. While $15 an hour won’t do much in New York City, $15 an hour in most part of the country would be a big boost.

The minimum wage comes down to basic math. The argument for one is true if businesses were sitting on a pile of unspent money and were hoarding it instead of investing in their company. Since few, if any, businesses (particularly small- and medium-sized businesses) are run by heartless pigs who just want to hoard cash, the fact that they may not pay $15 an hour is more a symptom of: a favorable job market for employers; and that paying $15 an hour to all employees would require prices on good and services to go up, or to layoff some employees to pay for the others to have a higher wage. Not sure how the laid-off employees will feel about being sacrificed for the “greater good”.

Today is #GivingTuesday, a break from the spending we do for the holiday season. Consider supporting  CRI this holiday season to support out 2016 objectives for Education Savings Accounts and a Paycheck Protection law for all workers in Delaware. Visit https://www.caesarrodney.org/index.cfm?ref=90905 to help us meet our end of the year fundraising goals.

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After reading Matthew Albright’s article in the News Journal (“Virtually no Delaware Teachers Received Poor Evaluations”) those of us who are enthusiastic about improving the quality of education in Delaware had to stop and ask ourselves this question: Are there really no teachers in Delaware who are ineffective at teaching children?

We understand that ever-changing “standards” and severe fluctuations in education dollars for public schools makes teaching difficult for many who enter the profession. At the same time Delaware’s 51st overall ranking in SAT scores (mandatory testing was factored in and we are still last) should be considered unacceptable, despite whatever rankings the state was coming up with on the DCAS testing. The fact that two-thirds of all students, and four-fifths of low income, Black, and Hispanic students, cannot read or write at a grade level comparable to their peers in other states should be considered unacceptable.

There should be accountability for the two-grade gap between White students and Black and Hispanic students, particularly students in Wilmington and Dover. There should be accountability for why, despite the mediocre to poor results in Delaware’s public schools, the state has the fourth highest ratio of administrators to students and why Delaware employs as many “support staffers” as they do teachers in the public schools.

There should be accountability for why, out of $435,000 per classroom per year the state spends, 80 percent is not spent in the classroom.

Does anyone living in Delaware not think Wilmington has real problems? Wilmington and Dover, two areas with higher than average crime rates, would benefit from better education which will come only when there is a real movement for education reform.

Terri Hodges, president of the state PTA, was quoted as saying, “We support a fair evaluation system, but we can’t say that 99 percent of teachers are effective when we look at the number of student’s we’re seeing reaching proficiency or how we stack up to other states.”

We agree with Ms. Hodges on this statement. We would like to see a review of the Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS) which is supposed to make sure ineffective teachers are removed from the classroom. Children are a nation’s most valuable asset and without well-educated children America will not be able to compete with children in other nations for jobs which offer good wages and a sense of security.

All of this starts with the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Education Association, and the Markell Administration. Eventually the government and the public will have to acknowledge the poor service the state is providing education-wise to Delaware’s children. The first step will be to review this DPAS evaluation system to make sure it is there to protect students’ education and not teachers’ jobs. The second step will be to stop treating non-public schools as the enemy and instead welcome the opportunity to prove why public schools are a good option for parents and families through innovations where the student and parents are the VIPs and not the administrators in charge of collecting and disbursing funds. No child should be forced to play guinea-pig with her or his education experience to try out “standards” which have never been tested before. We at CRI hope the state and public will listen.

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NEFW logoNEFW 2014 infographic

Original post from the National Employee Freedom Week movement http://employeefreedomweek.com/state/delaware/

National Employee Freedom Week takes place every August; this year workers’ rights to not be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment takes place August 10-16.

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Because Delaware is not a Right-to-Work state, your freedom to leave your union is restricted, but you still have options to leave or reduce your union membership.

The first option is to become an agency fee payer, which means you only pay dues for the union’s cost of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. As an agency fee payer, you do not pay for any other activities, including the union’s political activities.

As an agency fee payer, you are not a member of the union, but since you continue to pay the “representative” portion of your dues, the union must continue to represent you fairly and without discrimination in all matters subject to collective bargaining.

As an agency fee payer you are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.

A generic letter to become an agency fee payer is here. You will need your union’s address and contact information. We recommend that you make a copy of your letter and either deliver it in person and receive a stamped copy or mail it with Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested Signature. This protects you in case, a union boss “loses” your letter. We also recommend sending a copy of the letter to your employer’s payroll department.

Although the generic agency fee payer letter includes text noting that your objection is continuing and permanent, some unions will not respect this and will make you annually resubmit your refund request.

For a smooth exit, you may have to leave during specific opt-out timeframe or “window.” Ask your union for a copy of your signed enrollment form to determine when your window is.

Download a generic agency fee payer letter.

The second option is to become a religious or conscientious objector. If you would like to become a religious or conscientious objector, go to ChooseCharity.org. ChooseCharity.org includes a simple application process that requires no additional out-of-pocket costs.

Once the application is submitted, the ChooseCharity legal staff will take care of the rest of the process.

If you become a religious or conscientious objector, your full dues equivalent will be deducted but made payable a charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code. You will not be a member of the union, but are still entitled to every benefit under the labor contract with your employer, including health care, pension, step increases, etc.

If you think you may want to become a religious or conscientious objector, it is important that you do not request to be an agency fee payer.

State laws can differ depending on your profession, please consult with an employee rights organization if you have questions about your specific situation.

More Information About Your Rights

All Employees:

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

Workplace Fairness Institute

Your Rights (Center for Union Facts)

Unions and Union Dues (American Center for Law and Justice)

For Teachers:

Teacher Rights (AAE)

Coalition of Educators Against Forced Unionism

 

The bottom line is you, as an employee, should not be forced to pay dues to any entity you do not choose to without your consent. There is a reason private sector unionism is down: while pro-union proponents blame entities like CRI for being “anti-union” the reality is that the biggest push to end forced unionization comes from the employees themselves who are unionized and who see hundreds or thousands of union dues dollars taken from worker’s paychecks, especially at a time when household incomes are shrinking, to support political causes or union activities the rank and file do not agree with.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can legally leave your union and not pay union dues but still keep your job, please click on the links or call us at (302) 273-0080 or e-mail us at info@caesarrodney.org.

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The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday based on a longer study by the Brooking Institute on the trend of the average age of businesses in America aging:

“Why it’s worrying that U.S. Companies are Getting Older”

“Older firms are increasingly controlling the largest market share in different sectors of the economy, according to a paper by the Brooking Institution’s Robert E. Litan and Ennsyte Economics’s Ian Hathaway. By 2011, the portion of U.S. businesses aged at least 16 years reached 34%, compared to 23% in 1992. Moreover, those mature companies went from employing only 60% of private-sector workers in 1992 to employing nearly three quarters of the private-sector labor force in 2011.

The report attributes this trend to declining entrepreneurship, among other reasons. The rate of new business creation in the U.S. has been constantly shrinking in the past three decades. “The decline in new firm formation rates had occurred in every U.S. state and nearly every metropolitan area, in each broad industry group, and in all firm size classes,” the authors explain.

Moreover, it has become more difficult for younger companies to survive and compete with the bigger ones. Business failures are more frequent and likely among start-ups, which may account for the fall in business creation after the 1990s. The economy has grown more advantageous for incumbent firms and less helpful for fledgling ones.

The authors argue that younger companies are crucial to attaining a healthier economy as they have had the largest contribution to past “disruptive and thus highly productivity enhancing innovations” across different sectors ranging from airplanes and automobiles to computers and internet search.

“If we want a vibrant, rapidly growing economy in the future, we must find ways to encourage and make room for the start-ups of the future that will commercialize similarly influential innovations,” said the authors.”

 The first chart shows that more businesses close than open, which includes start-ups which fail. Nearly 90 percent of all businesses fail within 10 years. The second chart shows a specific breakdown by industry.

 

 

 

This is not difficult to understand: new business face the inherent challenges of promoting a brand of a product or service in the face of well-established, existing brands. Why try something new when the old version works for you? Then you add in the high tax rates, high energy costs regulation compliance costs, all sorts of entry fees (examples include taxi medallions and occupational licenses), and new laws pushed by the old businesses, mainly larger firms, which drive out the smaller competitors who cannot keep up with the ever-increases taxes and regulations, and the result is that fewer and fewer people even consider starting up a new business, and those who do are more likely to keep the size small enough to handle the taxes and compliance requirements  manage rather than spend energy trying to grown the business or make it more profitable. This is a significant reason why most of the new start-ups are companies which do not need a lot of energy use or space, such as a tech start-up where one only needs a computer with the right programming and internet access and which can be done from an apartment or coffee shop. The problem is that not everyone knows how to, or is capable of, learning to code and managing a computer-based business. On the downside there are fewer start-ups in other sectors of the economy like construction and manufacturing which can offer good-paying jobs needed for many working Americans. Start-ups provide people with job opportunities and can create new ideas which make civilization’s progress better for more and more people. Just imagine a world with no light bulbs, automobiles, or commercial internet access, for example.

The short- and medium-term implications is that this is a disaster decades in the making. Fewer competitors in a particular sector means less choice, which inevitably leads to higher prices and a lower quality product or service because the incentive to be better disappears if either a) you do not have competition or b) if you can simply lobby the government’s elected and unelected officials to devise ways to limit or defeat the competition’s ability to challenge the “established” brands. The resulting weakness in economic growth then fuels the “need” for stimulus dollars, tax credits, and subsidies to keep certain businesses competitive, rather than allow the private marketplace to decide what is valuable and what is not. But even in this way we are only taking money from those who produce and redistributing the wealth to those who are well-connected or who are in the business those in charge of the money deem “sustainable business.”

This is what cronyism does to the economy: it will enrich the well-connected and wealthy while making prosperity harder and harder for an increasingly few people. We are past the debate as to whether cronyism harms economic growth; the question is if and when the majority of people will recognize the problem and stand with organizations like CRI in opposing cronyism and the devaluing of the dollar.

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From the Independent Institute:

“According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in fiscal year 2010 the average Medicaid payment per enrollee was $5,563. To be sure, there was a wide variance: For aged Medicaid enrollees the average payment was $12,958, and for disabled enrollees it was $16,240. The average for adults was $3,025, and for children it was $2,359.

Medicaid enrollees have terrible access to care, according to a number of studies discussed in John Goodman’s Priceless (chapter 15). New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that it would be better simply to give Medicaid patients this money and let them spend it directly on medical care.

Posing as patients, researchers made almost 13,000 calls to doctors’ offices in ten states, seeking appointments for a variety of ailments. Those posing as privately insured patients got appointments 85 percent of the time. Those posing as patients on Medicaid got appointments only 58 percent of the time. Researchers also posed as uninsured patients who were willing to pay in full at the time of the appointment.

The result? For appointments costing more than $75, 78 percent of the “uninsured” researchers got a medical appointment — a success rate 36 percent higher than for those posing as Medicaid patients and quite close to those posing as privately insured.

The policy implication? Taking Medicaid money away from Medicaid bureaucracies and giving it to low-income people to pay directly for health care would increase access significantly.”

 

The argument over Medicaid is not even whether or not we should have it and how much we should pay for it. The question is WHY the government and its elected and unelected officials continue to offer shoddy health insurance to poor/disabled nonseniors and treat Medicaid as though it was a program gifted by the Almighty, or whatever entity you believe in. Medicaid has structural flaws in its payment model (higher taxes on everyone, large bureaucracy) and delivery of services and it needs to be modified or else Delaware, like nearly every state in the union, will be dragged down with Medicaid as a budget-buster this decade. And this all came BEFORE Medicaid expansion under ACA.

source:

http://blog.independent.org/2014/04/14/uninsured-patients-are-36-percent-more-likely-to-get-medical-appointments-than-are-medicaid-patients/

http://blog.independent.org/2014/04/08/medicaid-patients-access-to-specialists-has-dropped-almost-one-fifth-in-five-years/

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From Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Forbes.com: For the individual insurance market (plans sold directly to consumers); among the ten states seeing some of the sharpest average increases are: Delaware at 100%, New Hampshire 90%, Indiana 54%, California 53%, Connecticut 45%, Michigan 36%, Florida 37%, Georgia 29%, Kentucky 29%, and Pennsylvania 28%.

 

You read that right. No state in America had a bigger increase in individual insurance market premiums than our Diamond State. Delaware currently has only 2 health insurance companies, and Blue Cross Blue Shield gets almost all of the individual market. Coventry’s market is much smaller. With the over-emphasis on sicker and older people purchasing health insurance on the ACA “Marketplace” exchanges this past cycle, what will the prices look like in November when the Health Exchanges reopen?

Delaware’s exchange enrollment rate is official about 11,000 (final tally to be given at  future date), but most of those people obtained subsidies to purchase insurance or were added to the Medicaid rolls. All subsidies and Medicaid are paid for by taxpayers (Meaning: you)and so far the vast majority of Delaware enrollees were not the young and healthy individuals the state exchange needs for November.

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Governor Markell released his budget for FY2015 and it includes new taxes, including a 10 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax. He also wants to increase taxes on businesses and move money from the Transportation Trust Fund to help offset the deficit.

Where are we going with this?

Much of this increase in spending is unnecessary and there are ways to pay for the spending without new taxes. For example, Delaware could save $90 million a year in the infrastructure category if they simply change their prevailing wage methodology from the state’s prevailing wage survey to the US Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS) survey. This is because Delaware’s survey is much more union-friendly and has caused public works projects to see an explosion in spending. The BLS survey includes more businesses and while still union-friendly is much less so than the state’s.

Delaware has $29 million sitting in bank accounts, unspent money collected from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This is money polluting businesses pay to the state in order to “offset” their emission of CO2. The idea was that money would be spent on low-income weatherization projects (like installing energy-efficient windows or dishwashers in homes), but in reality most of the money spent was on administrative costs, with very little going to these projects (which had their own problems).

Delaware also makes the cost of business difficult, with electric prices 25% higher than the national average, the state with the worst gross receipts and corporate income tax rate together, and a personal income tax rate which make Delaware uncompetitive with Florida or Texas for jobs; in place the state has to essentially pay companies like ILC and Kraft Foods to keep jobs here. What we need is a natural gas pipeline to lower energy costs, a repeal or at least reduction in the tax rates mentioned above, and more support for existing firms. Delaware was last in the nation in terms of job expansion by existing in-state firms.

Let us hope that the General Assembly decides to move Delaware in a pro job-growth direction and away from punishing the middle class and small businesses of Delaware with onerous taxes and fees which are only encouraging the state to spend more.

*Note:This article will be updated when further details about the FY2015 budget are revealed.

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By now, many of you, especially those of you who live or work in New Castle County, are aware that Bloom Energy has been, over the last year or so, collecting fees from Delmarva Power ratepayers but not disclosing the cost to consumers; nowhere on people’s utility bills will you see any surcharge for Bloom Energy, though you have already been paying it. The cost? Over $1 BILLION in subisidies from both Delaware taxpayers and Delmarva Power ratepayers, combined. From the original article:

”      Delmarva and Bloom admitted electric ratepayers would be stuck paying above market prices for power. They said it would be worth it because of claimed economic development benefit of jobs at a new fuel cell factory, offsetting higher future electric prices for conventional power, the avoided cost of buying renewable energy credits, and environmental benefits. Two years down the road our predictions are coming true:

·         The cost will be at least three times expected and could go to a half billion dollars over the twenty year life of the project
·         Overall economic development potential will be one third expected and the Delaware solar industry has been decimated by the offsets in Solar Renewable Energy Credits
·         Environmental benefits would have been eight to ten times higher if a conventional natural gas power plant had been built and electric rates would have gone down instead of up”
Some are trying to argue that CRI and those who oppose the Bloom Energy deal are not giving the company time to develop its business model and hire the workers they promised to do. The problem is not just that they are behind; that would in of itself be the least of the problems. CRI has doubts there is any work going on at all in the plant, and an attempt by the News Journal’s Aaron Nathan to visit the site to inspect the plant was denied. Why would Bloom Energy not want Aaron to visit? It’s not like the facility was off-limits to outsiders. Secretary of DNREC Colin O’Mara was allowed to walk into the plant and announce that Bloom Energy was still on schedule to complete its stated objectives of operating their Delaware plant on schedule. Keep in mind the News Journal editorial board still supports the Bloom Energy deal, so it isn’t like Bloom is showing their facility to a hostile entity.
We hope our elected officials learn a lesson and realize that gambling with taxpayer money, even in the name of “investment in the future” “jobs” and “green energy” is not a smart idea. Had Bloom been required to have competed with other companies for the technology (Fuel Cell Inc. is suing Governor Markell and five members of the Public Service Commission for not giving other companies a chance to bid on the contract) and focused more money and time on building the facility and not lobbying, they may have been able to succeed. Instead, as CRI believes, Bloom will begin construction of their fuel cells in Delaware and then realizing the cost it would need to keep the operation going, will cease operations in Delaware and move them elsewhere.  As Dave wrote in “The Bloom Prophecy”:
“The first 6 megawatts of a 50 megawatt power supply contract with Delmarva Power can come from Bloom’s California manufacturing facility.  We expect Bloom will deliver the first 6 megawatts and then will pull out of the contract and abandon plans to manufacture in Delaware so the funds can be invested in India or elsewhere in Asia.  It makes no economic sense to build a manufacturing plant for one large order for fuel cells to be utilized by Delmarva Power.

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Key Findings:

U.S. small and mid-sized business owners plan to delay hiring new employees or seek new loans amid cautious optimism about the economy, according to the latest findings of the PNC Economic Outlook survey.

Highlights:

Waiting to Hire, Seek Loans
The survey, which gauges the mood and sentiment of small and medium sized business owners, found that only 46 percent expect their sales to increase in the next six months, significantly lower than last spring (58 percent). Profits are also expected to be lower, as only 38 percent expect an increase compared to 43 percent in the spring. Only 23 percent expect to add new employees, lower than in spring (28 percent) but still higher than a year ago (20%).

Housing Rebound to Continue
Building on the dramatic turnaround first seen in PNC’s fall survey, 48 percent expect home prices in their local markets will rise over the coming year compared to 26 percent one year ago. This expected house price rebound is reinforced by sizable house price gains in 2012.

Consumer Spending Supports Price Hikes
One-third plan to raise their selling prices and only five percent intend to cut their prices, signaling potential pricing pressures.

PNC’s chief economist Stuart Hoffman discusses the spring findings of PNC’s biannual survey of U.S. small and mid-sized business owners.

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2013 is already upon us, and three days in things are headed downhill. Congress just passed a bill to respond to the so-called “fiscal cliff” by increasing EVERYONE’S taxes at least a little bit, and a lot if you have a high income (note: if your money comes from investments and assets, such as Warren Buffett, your taxes will be unchanged). More battles will come up on the debt ceiling, automatic defense cuts, and future budget deals (if any come), and no doubt the partisanship will continue.

Delaware has its own problems to deal with: unfunded pension liabilities, out of control Medicaid spending, bad deals with Fisker and Bloom Energy, education performances moving sideways and not up, and taxes such as the gross receipts taxes which harm business growth. These are just a sample of the issues facing the state. While CRI would like to resolve every major issue within the state, that is not very likely.

Therefore CRI will spend 2013 focusing on three elements: improving education standards, discouraging corporate subsidies, and preventing the state from passing any legislation which pushes single-payer healthcare by abolishing private healthcare insurance.

Education reform will be CRI’s top priority in 2013. There is general consensus that the education system as currently structured is not serving the students well, particularly those in areas like Wilmington and Dover, where parents usually do not have the  financial means to send their children off to private schools, and who cannot be guaranteed a slot in the charter schools due to bureaucratic processes. CRI is calling for legislative actions to allow the money to “follow the student”, where parents have options such as Education Savings Accounts (ESA) that give parents the financial opportunity to choose where they want to educate their child. We hope to inform and engage the public and the legislators into some serious action this year that will give students a big victory for their future.

Our second goal is to reduce, if not eliminate, subsidies for preferred businesses and special interest friends of the government. Bloom Energy and Fisker Automotive are two prime examples of the government handing over “subsidies” for “investment” in these companies, meaning hundreds of millions in tax dollars to give to these companies, money we will in reality never receive payback for. There is no industry in Delaware receiving taxpayer money that can be said to be worth the corporate welfare. Our aim is to educate the public and legislators, and push Delaware to either reduce/eliminate current government subsidies to preferred parties, or else to agree to prohibit future government subsidies via “corporate welfare”.

Our third goal will be to discourage the Legislature from passing any bill which bans private health insurance in favor of “single payer” government. While CRI acknowledges the issues in containing healthcare costs, such as Tort reform, allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines, and using means-tested methods to determine who qualifies for Medicare or Medicaid as opposed to just handing it out to anyone who asks, there is no way the government can raise all the taxes needed to pay for this without destroying job opportunities or sending them out of state. Plus, the government will not be able to manage the insurance aspects of healthcare policy without setting up a massive, inefficient bureaucracy, just like they do with everything else.

What do you think? Are there any goals CRI should work for that are no mentioned above?

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