On the mend?

Jun 13, 2012

As the Great Recession takes its toll, the wealthiest families have been able to bounce back, but middle-class families are struggling at best and actually are falling further behind. It's not a pretty sight.


From the California Budget Project: "Recently released data from the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) illustrate that the wealthiest Californians started to recover from the Great Recession in 2010, while middle-income Californians continued to lose ground. The average income of middle-income Californians reached a more-than-two-decade low in 2010, according to the FTB data."


"That year, the middle fifth of California taxpayers earned $34,621, on average, more than $800 (2 percent) less than in 2009, after adjusting for inflation, and nearly $7,000 (17 percent) less than in 1987 – the first year for which data are publicly available. In fact, the average income of middle-income Californians has declined every year since 2004, after accounting for inflation."


"In contrast, the average income of the wealthiest Californians, which lost purchasing power during the Great Recession, has started to bounce back. Between 2009 and 2010, the average inflation-adjusted income of the top 1 percent of taxpayers grew by an astonishing $250,000 (21 percent) – to over $1.4 million."


Gov. Brown, a Democrat, wants fellow Democrats to cut more deeply into spending -- a move thats getting support from Republicans.


From the LAT's Anthony York: "Gov. Jerry Brown demanded Tuesday that lawmakers cut deeper into state spending, and welfare in particular, before they move a budget plan to his desk."


"As majority Democrats presented their spending plans in both the Assembly and Senate, the governor released a statement declaring “we’re not there yet, ”  and said the budget being pushed through the Legislature is fiscally irresponsible."


“The Legislature has agreed to some tough cuts, but the budget before the committees today is not structurally balanced and puts us into a hole in succeeding years,” Brown’s statement said. “We need additional structural reforms to cut spending on an ongoing basis, including welfare reform that’s built on President Clinton's framework and focused on getting people back to work.”


Brown also is stirring contoversy on another state budget front -- the handling of retirees. He has proposed eliminating all but the most essential of the so-called retired annuitants, those who have retired but come back to state employment.


From the Bee's Jon Ortiz and Phillip Reese: "The Democratic governor's proposal could strike a chord with taxpayers by appearing to crack down on double-dipping. It also appeals to publicemployee unions – which want to eliminate jobs they believe stunt the growth of the regular workforce – at the same time he's asking union workers to accept furloughs and a 5 percent pay cut."


"Though axing retirees may score points with Brown's political base, critics say the practice would cut off experienced, flexible and relatively cheap help. Retired annuitants receive no benefits and can be laid off without notice."


Perhaps the single most important bill of the year, a proposal to legalize online poker, was yanked from its first major hearing. The Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller tells the tale.
"The chairman of the state Senate panel that oversees the gambling industry — and who has spent more than two years trying to craft a bill to regulate online games — suddenly pulled his measure to license online poker."
"Tuesday’s move surprised dozens of representatives of horse tracks, tribes and others, some of whom had traveled long distances to testify at what was to be the first hearing on the measure. All indications were that state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, lacked sufficient support for his bill. Its future is uncertain, as well as the potential $200 million in annual state revenue it would have raised beginning in 2014."

“It needs more time, it needs more work,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the co-author of SB 1463, said afterward. The legislative session ends Aug. 31."


The toll on the workforce at Solyndra, the solar panel maker that closed amid a fierce debate over federal subsidies, actually was much higher than originally disclosed.


From Aaron Glantz at the Bay Citizen: "On the day it closed, Solyndra said it was laying off 1,100 full-time and temporary employees."


"But 1,861 workers lost their jobs as the solar panel manufacturer shut its doors, according to U.S. Labor Department documents provided to The Bay Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act."


"The documents also show the Fremont-based company increased production in 2011, even though it failed to sell all the panels it made the previous year. By the time it closed last August, Solyndra had an unsold inventory of more than 23 megawatts – enough solar panels to power about 23,000 homes."


And from our "Ahoy, Matey!" file comes the tale of the world's largest private yacht -- a 590-foot monster currently under construction in Germany. It's bigger than some cruise ships.


"Stunned photographers captured the vessel as it was transported out of the 170-metre dry dock at German shipbuilder Lurssen's yard because it had become too large."


The yacht, which was minus its bow section, was quickly moved to the larger 220-metre dock so engineers could continue the awesome project."


"Peter Seyfferth, from TheYachtPhoto.com, said: 'The photographers who took the pictures of Azzam were overwhelmed by the size of it."


I'll take a clipper any time....



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