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Hometown: NY
Member since: Tue Dec 30, 2003, 12:41 AM
Number of posts: 38,134

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Middle-income Americans are increasingly 'financially vulnerable'

Most Americans are struggling with at least some part of their finances, a new report shows, despite a strong economic indicators to the contrary.

Just 29% of Americans — an estimated 73 million people — are “financially healthy,” according to a report released Thursday by the Financial Health Network. The share of financially healthy individuals increased by 1% over 2018, a difference that wasn’t statistically significant.

Another 54% of the country, translating to 135 million people, is “financially coping” — meaning they struggle with some aspects of their financial lives. Some 17% of Americans (43 million people) are “financially vulnerable,” or struggling with nearly all or all aspects of their finances.

Middle-income Americans with household incomes from $30,000 to $99,999, prime-working-age people aged 26 to 49, and women were among those who showed increased financial vulnerability.

... “Americans are still struggling with their financial health,” Rob Levy, the vice president of research and measurement at the Financial Health Network, told MarketWatch. “Our hypothesis is those declines are the result of continually rising costs of health care and child care, and stagnant wages among the middle class,” Levy added.

The organization scored financial health based on eight indicators that fall into the categories of spending, saving, borrowing and planning: spending less than income, paying bills on time, having enough liquid savings, having enough long-term savings, having manageable debt, having a prime credit score, having appropriate insurance, and planning ahead financially...

Posted by BeyondGeography | Sun Nov 17, 2019, 07:06 PM (8 replies)

I Found Work on an Amazon Website. I Made 97 Cents an Hour.

Inside the weird, wild, low-wage world of Mechanical Turk.

The computer showed a photo of what looked like a school board meeting. My job was to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5 for 23 different qualities: “patriotic,” “elitist,” “reassuring” and so on. I did the same for a photo of a woman wearing headphones — I gave her a 4 for “competent” and a 1 for “threatening” — and another of five smiling women flanking a smiling man in a blue windbreaker. I submitted my answers. I checked the clock. Three minutes had passed. I had just earned another 5 cents on a digital work marketplace run by Amazon called Mechanical Turk. At least I thought I had. Weeks later, I’m still not sure.

...Over the course of several weeks in September, I completed 221 HITs in a little over eight hours of dedicated turking, and earned a grand total of $7.83. That works out to 97 cents an hour.

... Katie Boehm of Pittsburgh turned to turking in 2017 after her husband, who has diabetes, lost his job and insurance coverage. Her own health issues keep her from working outside the house, and turking seemed like a lifeline. She turks at least 50 hours a week, sets herself a minimum goal of $20 a day and usually makes $30 to $50.

Her husband’s insulin costs $1,500 a month. “MTurk covers about half of what he needs to survive,” Ms. Boehm, 40, said. “Silly insulin.”

More at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/15/nyregion/amazon-mechanical-turk.html

Posted by BeyondGeography | Sun Nov 17, 2019, 07:40 AM (34 replies)

Only Gabbard and Castro have spent less on ads than Warren in Iowa

Posted by BeyondGeography | Sat Nov 16, 2019, 03:36 PM (0 replies)

AFT President Randi Weingarten cheers Warren's MFA transition plan

Posted by BeyondGeography | Fri Nov 15, 2019, 05:44 PM (0 replies)

Patrick Acquires High Favorability Numbers, Good Iowa Polling After LBO of Buttigieg Campaign

DES MOINES, IA—Skyrocketing in visibility mere hours after launching his bid for the White House, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick reportedly acquired high favorability numbers and good Iowa polling Thursday after a leveraged buyout of Pete Buttigieg’s campaign.

“We’re proud to announce that we have reached a debt-based deal with the Buttegieg campaign to bring their considerable war chest and great polling numbers into our fold,” said campaign spokesman Greg Ryans, adding that the reported $250 million buyout “perfectly aligned” with the Patrick campaign’s vision of attaining high polling in early caucus states, rapidly accelerating grassroots organization, and widening its donation base before the end of Q4.

“Sadly, we did have to lay off 30% of the Buttigieg campaign due to redundancies, including Pete himself. But we were impressed enough to keep on Chasten Buttigieg in his current role at campaign rallies. With the assets from liquidating Amy Klobuchar’s campaign, we’re easily on track to be a presidential frontrunner by early 2020.” Ryans also noted that the Patrick campaign would strategically shed the gay rights plank of Buttigieg’s platforms after it proved distasteful to potential campaign investors.
Posted by BeyondGeography | Fri Nov 15, 2019, 03:30 PM (2 replies)

Elizabeth Warren Vows to Expand Health Coverage in First 100 Days, MFA to take up to 3 years

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren vowed on Friday to pass major health care legislation in her first 100 days as president, unveiling a new, detailed plan to significantly expand public health insurance coverage as a first step, and promising to pass a “Medicare for all” system that would cover all Americans by the end of her third year in office.

The initial bill she would seek to pass if elected would be a step short of the broader Medicare for all plan she has championed. But it would substantially expand the reach and generosity of public health insurance, creating a government plan that would offer free coverage to all American children and people earning less than double the federal poverty rate, or about $50,000 for a family of four, and could be purchased by other Americans who want it.

Ms. Warren, of Massachusetts, set a timeline of passing a full Medicare for all plan no later than the third year of her presidency, creating a single government-run health insurance program that would provide generous benefits at virtually no cost to households. But her transition proposal would move people into that system gradually — in a way she hopes would build public support for a full-fledged single-payer program — while temporarily preserving the employer-based insurance system that covers most working-age adults today.

Though the details differ, the transition plan shares many features with health proposals from more her more moderate rivals for the nomination, including Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind. For example, it would allow higher-income adults to voluntarily sign up for a new public plan. Ms. Warren’s plan, however, would make the optional government plan more generous, and would allow more Americans to access it for free.

Her plan attempts to offer something attractive to both sides of the Democratic health care debate, by preserving her commitment to the single-payer vision that energizes voters on the left, while offering a less disruptive set of policies in the short term to those who may be reluctant to give up their existing coverage.

It also reflects a sense of pragmatism about the politics and logistics of passing a major health bill through a closely divided Congress. Ms. Warren says she would pass the transition plan using special procedures that would require only a simple majority in the Senate, rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster...

More at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/15/us/politics/elizabeth-warren-medicare-for-all-100-days.html
Posted by BeyondGeography | Fri Nov 15, 2019, 12:14 PM (2 replies)

The Future of Banking Is...You're Broke

Our present financial ruin is being turned into a business model.

The latest wave of tech-based financial startups have a new angle on the banking sector: They’ll assume that everyone is out of money, then try to monetize their brokeness.

So-called neo-banks, or challenger banks, have been all the rage in Europe and Australia for the past few years. Now they’re starting to get attention here in the US, with names like Chime, Varo, SoFi, Current, GoBank, and even—heaven help us—booyah!. Yes, the exclamation point is part of the name. Like Yahoo!. Cutting edge, I know.

These neo-banks have been trying to make money in the usual ways: By taking a cut of credit or debit card transactions, collecting interest on consumer deposits, and making loans. The usual banking stuff. Their come-on is that they’re super-convenient, all-digital, mobile alternatives to the big banks. Better yet, they’re focused on their customers’ “financial health,” as one neo-bank CEO told me, and easing the “pain” that people feel around their money.

What makes that pain go away? At Chime and Varo, you can get what sounds a little like a neo–payday loan—your paycheck cashed, up to two days before your actual payday. Checking accounts at these startups are often free, and the companies will let you go $50 or $100 into the red before they start charging any overdraft fees. Some have automated savings accounts that invisibly funnel a few dollars from your paycheck into savings.

These neo-banks aren’t necessarily even banks at all; some are apps that facilitate transactions, which are then carried out by partners that are banks. Others have applied for bank charters while touting their homegrown technology stacks and hyperpersonalized product offerings (based, of course, on your personal data). But all of them say, explicitly or by intimation, that they’re mission-driven. Their mission is the hot mess that is your finances.

The hot mess is very real. Seventy-eight percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Student loan obligations in this country total $1.5 trillion, and researchers believe they’re cutting into millennials’ ability to buy homes, have kids, and save for retirement. More than 40 percent of households have some credit card debt: The average liability is more than $5,000, and the poorer you are, the more you’re likely to have.

So what better fix than to slap a slick veneer of tech over basic banking services, push the ouroboros paycheck cycle up by a couple of days, offer some basic budgeting tools, and call it a revolution in consumer banking?

... Whether it’s due to competition from banks, each other, or bigger tech companies, neo-bank startups will inevitably go out of business, leaving consumers stranded. That’s pretty disruptive when you’re talking about your checking account. And at some point, the neo-banks will have to make more money, which means their offerings will get less generous over time.

A second problem is more serious. Ultimately, no amount of friendly design, accessible features, and overdraft protections will solve the underlying problems that made these services necessary in the first place. No neo-bank can erase the student loan debt or the 40-year stagnation in wages or the unexpected medical expenses or the crippling reality of America’s existential brokeness. The neo-banks have promised that they’ll ease your pain, but that’s just morphine for the real condition. When it comes to the actual sickness, you’re still on your own.


Posted by BeyondGeography | Fri Nov 15, 2019, 01:32 AM (4 replies)

Team Warren to Cooperman: You go, Leon

The Finance 202: Elizabeth Warren stands to benefit from Leon Cooperman's expletive-laced attacks

With critics like these, does Elizabeth Warren need friends?

Hedge fund billionaire Leon Cooperman ripped the Massachusetts senator and 2020 Democratic presidential contender — again — after she featured him in an ad launching this morning on CNBC promoting her proposed wealth tax.

Cooperman’s expletive-laced broadside served as more free PR for Warren, who, as we’ve noted here, is relishing the rise she’s getting out of the ultrarich.

... The campaign is now selling this mug from its webstore, which notes Cooperman teared up on CNBC discussing his fears of a Warren presidency:
Warren’s Nevada director said Cooperman’s criticisms are helping the campaign recruit volunteers:
...The spot also calls out former TD Ameritrade CEO Joe Ricketts, former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and tech investor Peter Thiel. One detail that caught Cooperman’s attention: The spot notes he was charged with insider trading. Cooperman told CNBC he “won the case.” In fact, he and his firm, Omega Advisers, agreed to settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission, paying nearly $5 million in penalties and forfeited profits, without admitting wrongdoing. The agreement with the SEC, struck in 2017, requires the firm to keep an outside consultant to monitor its trades until 2022.

Cooperman is poised to pour still more gasoline into the conflagration by going back on CNBC this afternoon...


Posted by BeyondGeography | Thu Nov 14, 2019, 09:50 AM (0 replies)

Zandi walks it back: Warren's plans add up, and her MFA plan won't raise taxes on the middle class


It's no secret that I'm not a fan of Medicare for All. That's why I'm impressed that Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign reached out to me to independently review her proposed financing plan for the program. Her numbers add up and her plan fully finances the program without imposing any new taxes on middle-class families.

...Criticism that Warren is overestimating the revenue she can hope to generate from the wealth tax is overblown. She addresses these concerns by saying she will empower and appropriately fund the Internal Revenue Service to go after those who willfully avoid paying their taxes. Enforcing our tax laws and best practices on tax compliance can generate significant revenue. Closing America's tax gap — the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid —would help Warren get the revenue she needs.

To be sure, these aren't the only taxes on the wealthy that Warren has proposed. In addition to the wealth tax, which she also uses to pay for her child care, college affordability and K-12 education plans, she wants a larger estate tax to pay for her housing plan, higher payroll and net investment income taxes would go toward her Social Security reforms, and she supports repealing Trump's tax cuts for high-income households to generate even more revenue for her plans. With this combination of tax changes, there is a reasonable concern that the wealthy will work overtime to avoid paying.

But once we start to consider the broader consequences of the totality of Warren's plans, it's incumbent we do so with regard to both her tax proposals but also the investments those taxes will fund. Based on my own analyses, Warren's plans for child care, housing and green manufacturing would spur economic growth and produce more tax revenue. Considering the economic impact of all her proposals (an analysis no one has done yet), it is very possible that total government revenues generated by her plans will exceed the total amount of new investments she proposes. Criticism that Senator Warren's Medicare for All plan can't be paid for, at least not without putting a greater financial burden on lower- and middle-income Americans, is wrong.
Posted by BeyondGeography | Wed Nov 13, 2019, 04:16 PM (23 replies)

The Great American Ripoff is something all Democratic candidates should be talking about

not just Warren and Sanders.


...The European economy certainly has its problems, but antitrust policy isn’t one of them. The European Union has kept competition alive by blocking mergers and insisting that established companies make room for new entrants. In telecommunications, smaller companies often have the right to use infrastructure built by the giants. That’s why Philippon’s parents can choose among five internet providers, including a low-cost company that brought down prices for everyone.

The European Union has created an impressively independent competition agency that’s willing to block mergers, like General Electric-Honeywell and Siemens-Alstom. In the United States, the process is more political, and companies spend vastly more money on campaign donations and lobbying. Lobbyists — and, by extension, regulators — justify mergers with dubious theories about money-saving efficiencies. Somehow, though, the efficiencies usually end up raising profits rather than lowering prices.

Whirlpool’s 2006 purchase of Maytag is a good example. The Justice Department rationalized the deal partly by predicting that foreign appliance makers would keep the combined company from raising prices. But Whirlpool later successfully lobbied for tariffs to keep out foreign rivals. Washers, dryers and dishwashers have all become more expensive.

The consolidation of corporate America has become severe enough to have macroeconomic effects. Profits have surged, and wages have stagnated. Investment in new factories and products has also stagnated, because many companies don’t need to innovate to keep profits high. Philippon estimates that the new era of oligopoly costs the typical American household more than $5,000 a year.

Posted by BeyondGeography | Wed Nov 13, 2019, 12:00 AM (12 replies)
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