This year, the CARES Act intended to serve as a safety net for the pandemic-silenced sectors of the economy. Congress approved more than $500 billion in funds for corporate America in the hopes that firms would retain employees through the shutdown. These funds were necessary, proponents explained, because these companies lacked the reserves to keep workers on the payroll. Had these same firms not engaged in a spree of buybacks just in the last three years, they might not have needed taxpayer help. In the last three years, companies in the S&P 500 repurchased $2 trillion worth of their own stock.
In fact, in many ways, the necessity of the CARES Act, with its direct $1,200 individual payments, stems from the corruption of pay taken from workers and concentrated in the C-suite. Going into the pandemic, almost half of Americans lacked even $400 in savings to buy groceries beyond a few weeks during the lockdown.
While Americans have been suffering, Wall Street has been pulling in huge profits. Speculative traders are making millions off market volatility and high-speed trading has intensified market swings. Moreover, the lopsided “K shaped” nature of the recovery has further exacerbated economic inequality.
Americans understand these issues and support reform. A yearly poll since 2010 shows strong, steadfast, bipartisan support for strong Wall Street reform and regulation. Polls also show similar support for executive pay reform.
In the weeks since the election, Biden has organized an astute, experienced team of veteran advisors on Wall Street reform. He has spoken with passion on the need for policies that help average working Americans in almost every speech.
When he takes office in January, he should hit the ground running. At Public Citizen, we’ve developed an extensive list of proposed actions that Biden could take both immediately and in the short-term to realize his commitment to protect average Americans from Wall Street greed and recklessness. Here I’ll mention just a few examples:
- On Day One, Biden should name a panel to draft a plan to prevent future financial crises, including the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall and increased regulation of financial firms that present a significant risk to the financial system.
- Biden should also immediately roll back all of President Trump’s financial deregulatory actions, such as those that make poor people even more likely to be caught in debt traps by predatory payday lenders.
- Right out of the gate Biden should call for tighter conditions on any federal pandemic relief funds to corporations to prevent CEOs and wealthy shareholders from siphoning off money intended for workers.
- Biden could also use executive orders to introduce federal contracting reforms that incentivize corporations to rein in the extreme gaps between CEO and worker pay. High CEO pay comes at the expense of underpaying line workers and encourages the kind of reckless executive behavior that caused the 2008 crash.
- More than a decade after the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation banned Wall Street pay that encourages excessive risk, the Biden administration should pressure regulators to finally put this law into practice. This regulation should include a requirement that the senior Wall Street executives set aside some of their personal compensation in funds that would be used to pay any misconduct penalties against their firms. Currently, shareholders pay such fines.
For far too long, Wall Street has used its economic clout to rig the rules in favor of the wealthy. The new administration must take swift action to transform the financial system so that it serves all Americans.
More than 14 million may have lost their employer-sponsored health care
Health Care Dive, November 2020
- As many as 7.7 million U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance coverage lost their jobs by June as the fallout from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus — and the country’s inability to contain it — dramatically slowed the economy, according to the latest analysis from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, The Commonwealth Fund and W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
- About 6.9 million dependents also were covered by the employer-sponsored insurance held by those 7.7 million workers who lost jobs, affecting a total of 14.6 million people.
- Still, not all job losses result in the immediate removal of employer-sponsored insurance, so it will still take time to capture the full impact of job loss on employer-sponsored coverage for both workers and dependents, the study cautioned.
The most common form of health insurance in the U.S. is employer-sponsored coverage, about 69% of the nation’s 152 million workers had this type of coverage as of March 2019, according to the study.
As the U.S. recorded historic job losses, researchers and policymakers have been keen on trying to assess how that ultimately has affected health insurance coverage.
It is not accurate to say, or assume, that with every job lost a worker’s insurance coverage is also lost. “The path from loss of a job with [employer-sponsored insurance] to loss of health insurance is not simple,” the report noted.
For example, some workers were only temporarily laid off or furloughed and more than half had maintained job-based coverage through a layoff, the study points out.
And when workers do lose jobs permanently, it does not mean that they will ultimately become uninsured. They can elect to keep the company insurance through COBRA, may obtain coverage through other family members, such as a spouse, or enroll in Affordable Care Act marketplace or Medicaid.
CMS said last week more than 4 million people have enrolled in Medicaid as a result of the pandemic with a sharp increase since February, about when the public health emergency began.
In the latest analysis, researchers first tried to assess how many workers and dependents relied on job-based coverage as of March 2019. Then, using data from the Labor Department, they estimated how many workers lost jobs and how many of those had employer-based coverage. Researchers examined this information by industry, age and gender.
Some industries were affected more than others and a few were almost spared entirely. “As a result, we would expect the number of people losing jobs with [employer-sponsored insurance] to vary greatly by industry, and possibly by other characteristics, such as age and gender,” according to the report.
For example, manufacturing accounted for 10% of the nation’s prepandemic employment, yet by June represented 12% of unemployed workers.
The manufacturing industry has one of the highest rates of job-based coverage (66%), so “it accounted for a greater proportion of loss of jobs with ESI (18% of lost jobs with ESI and 19% of potential ESI coverage loss when dependents are included),” the study found.
Retrieved from The Commonwealth Fund on October 07, 2020.
Similarly, those between the ages of 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 experienced the brunt of job loss with job-based coverage. They accounted for 17% to 19% of those who lost jobs but 22% to 27% of total affected people, as those workers were most likely to cover dependents, according to the report.
Retrieved from The Commonwealth Fund on October 07, 2020.
When zeroing in on gender, women made up 47% of prepandemic employment but represented 55% of total job loss and a bit more than half of the job loss with employer-sponsored coverage.