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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,622

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David Sirota: Cities and States Pay Massive Secret Fees to Wall Street

from truthdig:

Cities and States Pay Massive Secret Fees to Wall Street
Posted on Apr 24, 2015

By David Sirota

California’s report said $440 million. New Jersey’s said $600 million. In Pennsylvania, the tally is $700 million. Those Wall Street fees paid by public workers’ pension systems have kicked off an intensifying debate over whether such expenses are necessary. Now, a report from an industry-friendly source says those huge levies represent only a fraction of the true amounts being raked in by Wall Street firms from state and local governments.

“Less than one-half of the very substantial [private equity] costs incurred by U.S. pension funds are currently being disclosed,” says the report from CEM, whose website says the financial analysis firm “serve(s) over 350 blue-chip corporate and government clients worldwide.”

Currently, about 9 percent—or $270 billion—of America’s $3 trillion public pension fund assets are invested in private equity firms. With the financial industry’s standard 2 percent management fee, that quarter-trillion dollars generates roughly $5.4 billion in annual management fees for the private equity industry—and that’s not including additional “performance” fees paid on investment returns. If CEM’s calculations are applied uniformly, it could mean taxpayers and retirees may actually be paying double—more than $10 billion a year.

Public officials are overseeing this massive payout to Wall Street at the very moment many of those same officials are demanding big cuts to retirees’ promised pension benefits.

“With billions of public worker and taxpayer dollars put at risk in the highest-cost, most opaque investment schemes ever devised by Wall Street for a decade now, investigations that hold Wall Street profiteers accountable are long, long overdue,” said former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Ted Siedle. ....................(more)


Guardian UK: Education is a basic human right – which is why private schools must be resisted

Education is a basic human right – which is why private schools must be resisted
Privatisation of education has a devastating impact, aggravating inequality, so why does the development community fund profit-seeking providers?

At the beginning of the new millennium, the international community made a commitment to achieve universal primary education for all boys and girls. Today, 15 years later, we find huge gaps between these commitments and reality.

Across the world, 58 million children still don’t have access to schools, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Millions more fail to graduate, or fail to learn what they need toparticipate in society meaningfully.

Capitalising on the inability of governments to cope with rising demands on public learning, private education providers are mushrooming. I see this not as progress, but as an indictment of governments that have failed to meet their obligation to provide universal, free and high-quality education for all.

Education is not a privilege of the rich and well-to-do; it is the inalienable right of every child. The state must discharge its responsibility as guarantor and regulator of education as a fundamental human entitlement and as a public cause. The provision of basic education, free of cost, is not only a core obligation of states but also a moral imperative. .............(more)


"We are becoming what the Third World was. ... Americans...can't quite get it."

Richard Wolff: Global Capitalism: April 2015 Monthly Update

“Basic Economic Changes Today: Within and Beyond Capitalism” Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall 239 Thompson Street at
Washington Square, Manhattan

Co-sponsored by Democracy at Work, Left Forum, and Judson Memorial Church

These programs begin with 30 minutes of short updates on important economic events of the last month. Then Wolff analyzes several major economic issues. For this April 8, these will include:

1. Basic Economic Changes: From Anti-austerity to Anti-capitalism
2. Social Polarization: From “we are all middle class” to “1% versus 99%”
3. Changing “higher education” into “job training” – why, how and for whose gain?

San Francisco: Muni’s New Buses of the Future

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has taken delivery of its first New Flyer Industries electric trolley and biodiesel-electric hybrid buses. These two buses represent the next phase of upgrades for SFMTA’s aging vehicle fleet. Sixty brand new electric trolley buses will replace buses that have been in operation for over two decades. Concurrently, through unanimous board of supervisors approval, the SFMTA has purchased 61 new biodiesel-electric hybrid buses. The combined purchases are part of the agency’s five year plan to replace the entire bus fleet.

The introduction of the new low-floor biodiesel hybrid and electric trolley busses coincides with this year’s celebration of Earth Day. The new hybrids will run on B20: a blend of diesel and biodiesel, which is made from recycled oil and fat. The new trolleys will operate on 100 percent hydro-electric power. All of our electricity is hydropower – supplied from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and is carbon neutral. Muni now has one of the most diverse transit fleets in the world and is also the cleanest multimodal fleet in California.

“New 21st century buses are the very cornerstone of San Francisco’s Transit-First policy, making sure Muni is reliable, affordable and safe for our riders,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “The purchase of a new state-of-the-art fleet of electric trolley and hybrid buses, which reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, helps San Francisco lead the way to a sustainable future. By offering real solutions to fighting climate change, we can meet the needs of our thriving economy and growing population.”

Reliability was the impetus for the newly launched Muni Forward initiative. Muni transports more than 700,000 people during a normal weekday and the majority of those daily trips are taken by bus. So Muni Forward’s aim is to prioritize the bus routes that are the workhorses of our transit system, identifying time of day to enhance frequency and extend service hours on Express routes. The cumulative result is more service and less crowding on several major routes. .............(more)


Health Insurers Could Take $180 Million From Concussed Ex-NFL Players

(Bloomberg) Nearly a fifth of the National Football League settlement approved this week compensating former players with head injuries could go to their health insurers instead.

As a result of federal laws and court rulings enabling insurers to recover costs of medical treatment for injuries, Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers will be reimbursed before players receive any money. Their share will reduce the value of a deal already criticized by some ex-players' lawyers as inadequate.

"It is an enormous problem," said George Washington University law professor Alan B. Morrison, who filed an amicus brief in the case in federal district court in Philadelphia expressing concern about the payments to health insurers. It could take a year or longer to sort out how much is owed to which insurers, Morrison said.

The settlement of the class action lawsuit alleging that the NFL failed to properly investigate and respond to the risk of concussion-causing hits is expected to pay up to $1 billion to more than 20,000 retired players. ..................(more)


Sam Seder: The TPP Global Disaster

Published on Apr 21, 2015

Why is the TPP getting so little attention? The dramatic threat that the TPP poses to health, the environment and labor. The problem with Fast Track Authority. How to get the right to oppose Fast Track and TPP?.

Rep. Alan Grayson Blasts the TPP

Published on Apr 23, 2015

Thom discusses fast-track and the TPP with Rep. Alan Grayson and whether European officials are pushing for regime change in Greece with Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In tonight’s special Thursday edition of “Conversations with Great Minds” Thom talks with Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s Caroline Fredrickson, author of the new book “Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over.”

How a Protest Against Money in Politics was Spun as a Story on Terrorism

Doug Hughes wanted to deliver a message about campaign finance reform. Instead, the media and politicians used his story to talk about security at the White House and Capitol Building.

Analysts say Wall Street Fees Costing Baltimore Water Bureau Millions

$55 million spent on exotic interest rate swaps to fund water bonds between 2003-2014, and total fees could reach beyond $200 million for all deals in the near future.

U.S. Cities Fight Back Against Washington's Secretive Trade Deal

WASHINGTON -- As the trade debate heats up in Washington, city councils are fighting back against controversial legislation that would grant the president the authority to fast-track international trade deals without congressional amendments.

On the Hill, lawmakers are pushing full steam ahead on legislation the Obama administration is seeking in order to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal with Asian-Pacific countries. Some Democrats don't support the deal, arguing that certain trade provisions are worrisome and haven't received enough scrutiny. Nonetheless, a key Senate committee moved the bill forward on Wednesday.

Across the country, city officials are making their own concerns about the legislation crystal clear. This week, San Francisco adopted a resolution opposing fast-track, following similar efforts in other cities, including Seattle and Bellingham, Washington and Fort Bragg and Richmond, California. A Pittsburgh official introduced a "Will of Council" against the deal on Tuesday. And next week, New York City officials will consider a resolution declaring the Big Apple a "TPP-Free Zone." The sponsor expects it to quickly pass.

These resolutions are symbolic. Some of them urge representatives in Congress to oppose fast-track. Others claim that TPP's regulations will not be respected within city limits -- although of course, people must still follow federal and state law. Nonetheless, Celeste Drake, a trade policy specialist at AFL-CIO, a union federation that opposes the deal, called the resolutions "important statements of citizen sentiment." ................(more)


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