FTC orders Walmart, Amazon, Kroger and more to turn over information on empty shelves, high prices

Link:https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/shopping/2021/11/29/supply-chain-ftc-investigation-walmart-amazon-prices/8799724002/

Excerpt:

The Federal Trade Commission said Monday that it is investigating the causes behind ongoing supply chain disruptions and how they are “causing serious and ongoing hardships for consumers and harming competition in the U.S. economy.”

The FTC said it is ordering Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, other large wholesalers and suppliers including Procter & Gamble Co., Tyson Foods and Kraft Heinz Co. “to turn over information to help study causes of empty shelves and sky-high prices.”

Orders also are being sent to C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. and McLane Co, Inc.

Author(s): Kelly Tyko

Publication Date: 29 Nov 2021

Publication Site: USA Today

15 States Threaten To Pull $600 Billion From Banks That Won’t Give Equal Service To Energy Industry

Link:https://thefederalist.com/2021/11/30/15-states-threaten-to-pull-600-billion-from-banks-that-wont-give-equal-service-to-energy-industry/

Excerpt:

Fifteen state financial officers sent a letter to U.S. banks last week noting $600 billion in assets they pledge to take elsewhere if the financial institutions embrace corporate wokeism and prohibit financing to the fossil fuel industry.

Led by West Virginia Republican Treasurer Riley Moore, the group promised “collective action” in the form of an “economic boycott.”

…..

Signatories to the letter putting banks on notice include chief financial officers from Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Alabama, Texas and Kentucky, in addition to West Virginia.

Author(s): Tristan Justice

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2021

Publication Site: The Federalist

Undermining Pension Reform

Link:https://www.city-journal.org/undermining-pension-reform

Excerpt:

The Biden administration is trying to prohibit California from receiving billions of dollars in new federal aid because, the administration claims, the state’s 2013 Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) denied workers the right to bargain for changes to their retirement benefits. The move could undermine state-worker pension reforms passed over the last decade.

In a letter to the state, the Department of Labor says that the 2013 pension-reform act “significantly interferes” with the collective bargaining rights of public employees, including transit workers. As a result, California risks losing some $12 billion in transportation money, most of it from the recently passed federal infrastructure bill. The administration is strong-arming the state and its municipalities to choose between tens of billions of dollars in savings for a deeply indebted pension system and grants from Washington. And its move raises serious questions about similar reforms enacted by other states that allow collective bargaining by public employees, including New York and New Jersey.

….

The Labor Department’s ruling, California governor Gavin Newsom said in a letter to Walsh, “deprives financially beleaguered California public transit agencies that serve essential workers and our most vulnerable residents of critical support, including American Rescue Plan Act funds that those agencies need to survive through the pandemic.” Newsom called the decision a “complete reversal” from a 2019 ruling by the Labor Department, which held that the state’s pension reforms did not represent a violation of federal law.

Author(s): Steven Malanga

Publication Date: 23 Nov 2021

Publication Site: City Journal

Your New Woke 401(k)

Link:https://www.wsj.com/articles/your-new-woke-401-k-retirement-savings-esg-erisa-biden-administration-department-of-labor-proposal-11634753095

Excerpt:

While Democrats in Congress negotiate over trillions of dollars in new spending, the Biden Administration is quietly advancing its agenda through regulation. Witness a little-noticed proposed rule last week by the Labor Department that will add new political directives to your retirement savings.

The Administration says the rule will make it easier for retirement plans to offer 401(k) funds focused on ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives. In fact, the rule will coerce workers and businesses into supporting progressive policies.

An important Trump Labor rule last fall reinforced that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa) requires retirement plan fiduciaries to act “solely in the interest” of participants. The rule prevented pension plans and asset managers from considering ESG factors like climate, workforce diversity and political donations unless they had a “material effect on the return and risk of an investment.”

The Biden DOL plans to scrap the Trump rule while putting retirement sponsors and asset managers on notice that they have a fiduciary duty to include ESG in investment decisions. The proposed rule “makes clear that climate change and other ESG factors are often material” and thus in many instances should be considered “in the assessment of investment risks and returns.”

Author(s): WSJ editorial board

Publication Date: 20 Oct 2021

Publication Site: WSJ

Biden’s Falling Approval Ratings Are Bad News For The Municipal Market

Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/10/16/bidens-falling-approval-ratings-are-bad-news-for-the-municipal-market/?sh=7c3aed496a80

Excerpt:

Advanced refunding bonds allowed governments to refinance debt earlier, thus letting them take advantage of lower interest rates years sooner and save taxpayer money. The 2017 tax reform eliminated their tax-exempt status which effectively nixed their cost-saving value for governments. But the move increased federal government revenues by billions of dollars each year. Reinstating the bonds, according to a report from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), would cost $11 billion over the next five years.

A federally subsidized taxable bond — what market watchers are calling BABs 2.0 — works differently. Unlike tax-exempt municipal bonds, BABs are taxable, and, as a result, open up the municipal market to new investors, such as pension funds or those living abroad. More buyers is a good thing, but BABs are also more expensive for governments. So to defray the added cost, the federal government in 2009 offered a direct subsidy of 35% of state and local governments’ interest payments on BABs.

That is, until sequestration in 2013 dramatically cut the subsidy and left state and local governments scrambling to fill the void.

BABs 2.0 would work similarly, but also lock in the federal subsidy — a much better deal for governments. They’re expected to cost the federal government more than $22.5 billion between 2022 and 2031, according to estimates from the JCT. 

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 16 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Who’s Missing From The ‘Build Back Better’ Reconciliation Bill? The Elderly And Disabled Poor

Link:https://www.forbes.com/sites/ebauer/2021/10/10/whos-missing-from-the-build-back-better-reconciliation-bill-the-elderly-and-disabled-poor/

Excerpt:

In recent articles, I have lamented poorly designed components of the Reconciliation Bill, from a poorly-designed “free childcare” program to a family leave plan that’s designed to be “free” rather than funded by the workers who benefit, to a Medicare drug benefit that’s planned to be implemented at the same time as Part A Medicare is facing insolvency, to a mandate that employers provide retirement plan access that leaves virtually all of the specifics up to a bureaucratic agency. And this just scratches at the surface of the expansive programs on tap if the bill is passed as currently drafted. But there’s one piece of legislation that advocates have been calling for, for years, which didn’t make the cut: an increase in the benefits for the poorest of the poor elderly and disabled who receive Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

…..

So why didn’t SSI make the cut, when the Democrats compiled their list of programs for the “American Family Plan”? Do some of these changes go too far, increase benefits too much? Did they want to avoid opening up a can of worms with respect to larger plan design issues with the system, for example, concerns that the children’s benefits have become an “alternative welfare system” providing benefits for children equal to those for adults, even with mild conditions such as ADHD, that mean no one wants to touch the system?

Or does an enhancement of SSI benefits simply fail to meet the Democrats’ objective of making voters happy with broad outlays of cash benefitting the middle class as well as the poor?

Author(s): Elizabeth Bauer

Publication Date: 10 Oct 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

Heaping on the SALT

Link: https://www.city-journal.org/will-biden-restore-the-state-and-local-tax-deduction

Excerpt:

The Biden administration will need practically every Democratic representative in Congress to vote for its proposed $2 trillion package of tax increases, which would be the largest in 54 years. To gain that support, the president may have to season his legislation with some SALT. The bill, which raises corporate taxes and boosts capital-gains levies, among other things, doesn’t restore the full federal deduction for state and local taxes that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax-cut bill capped.

Democrats in key high-tax blue states, including New York representative Tom Suozzi and New Jersey representative Josh Gottheimer, have been complaining that Trump’s tax bill placed an undue burden on their states’ residents. Some have vowed not to support any tax legislation unless it reinstates the full SALT deduction. The problem: federal data show that restoring the deduction would overwhelmingly profit rich taxpayers—and lawmakers in many blue states have already raised their own levies on the rich.

…..

Subsequent data have shown that the SALT changes fall heavily on the rich, while the vast majority of taxpayers in high-tax states have benefited from the Trump cuts. An analysis of 2018 New York tax returns found that the number of residents subject to the higher rates of the Alternative Minimum Tax declined to just 0.2 percent of all returns, down from 5.9 percent in 2017. Thanks to the doubling of the standard deduction, the number of New Yorkers itemizing their deductions shrank by nearly two-thirds that year, according to an Empire Center report. A recent report by the left-of-center Brookings Institution found that 57 percent of the benefits of restoring a full SALT deduction would go to the top 1 percent of households, providing them with an average tax cut of $33,000.

Author(s): Steven Malanga

Publication Date: 17 Sept 2021

Publication Site: City Journal

Biden Lays Out Plan To Mandate Vaccines Or Testing For Millions Of Workers

Link: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/09/1035149651/biden-will-require-vaccines-for-federal-workers-as-part-of-a-new-covid-strategy

Excerpt:

President Biden on Thursday unveiled a series of steps to combat the newly surging pandemic, including the announcement of a forthcoming federal rule that all businesses with 100 or more employees have to ensure that every worker is either vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing for the coronavirus.

….

Among the other steps, Biden also announced that federal workers and contractors will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, eliminating an option laid out in July for unvaccinated employees to be regularly tested instead.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said federal workers would have about 75 days to become fully vaccinated, once Biden signed an executive order later Thursday. She said there would be limited exemptions for religious or medical reasons.

Some federal agencies will require proof of vaccination while others will accept attestations, Psaki said. Workers who fail to comply with the requirement will be counseled by their human resources departments, and then will face “progressive disciplinary action,” she said.

…..

Biden announced that 17 million health care workers at hospitals and other health care settings like dialysis clinics and home health agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding will have to be vaccinated.

There will be similar requirements for teachers and staff at the Head Start early education program and other federally funded educational settings, such as schools on military bases.

Author(s): Alana Wise, Tamara Keith

Publication Date: 9 September 2021

Publication Site: NPR

Biden Could Share Vaccine Data With The World

Link: https://www.dailyposter.com/biden-could-share-vaccine-data-with-the-world/

Excerpt:

Wealthy, vaccine manufacturing countries like Germany, France, and the U.S. have pledged to fully vaccinate their own populations while also sharing doses with the developing world. But it’s not clear that a sufficient number of doses currently exist for them to make good on this promise. The European Union, for example, is on track to fall far short of its goal of donating 200 million doses to non-member states by the end of the year. And as of August, COVAX, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) vaccine sharing initiative, had distributed 188 million vaccines worldwide, just 19 percent of the 1.1 billion that the WHO says are needed to end the pandemic.

The more people remain unvaccinated worldwide, the likelier it is that new variants will emerge, endangering vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

The Biden administration’s strategy for expanding worldwide vaccine access has largely relied on pushing for vaccine patent waivers through negotiations at the World Trade Organization. But those negotiations have been stymied by strong opposition from member states of the European Union, meaning that unilateral American action may be necessary to expand vaccine access on the necessary scale.

Legally, the U.S. may already have the ability to do so. The terms between Moderna and the federal government specify that the government possesses rights to the vaccine technology developed under the contract, meaning that it can unilaterally publish or share the data with anyone. Furthermore, an essential component of the Moderna vaccine was invented and patented by U.S. government researchers, meaning that the government could threaten a patent infringement suit against Moderna if the company refuses to share its vaccine know-how.

Author(s): Sam Mellins

Publication Date: 7 September 2021

Publication Site: The Daily Poster

Nursing homes warn vaccine mandate could lead to staff shortages

Link: https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/570807-nursing-homes-warn-vaccine-mandate-could-lead-to-staff-shortages

Excerpt:

The Biden administration’s vaccination requirement is putting a squeeze on nursing homes as they try to balance protecting residents and retaining low-wage staff that have been reluctant to get the shot.

Later this month, the administration will outline a policy that requires all staff working at nursing homes to be vaccinated or risk the facilities losing federal funding.

The specifics of the policy are sparse so far, but it would effectively be a mandate for an industry that relies heavily on Medicare and Medicaid funding.https://aef67baff698e02f95a8ec2b0d53753d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Only about 62 percent of nursing home and long term care facility staff are fully or partially vaccinated nationally, according to federal data compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

…..

“The biggest group of unvaccinated staff are certified nurse aides. They’re making close to minimum wage. They can make that, maybe even more, plus maybe even better benefits out in retail jobs, restaurant jobs. The vast majority of those employers are not imposing mandates,” Grabowski said.

Author(s): NATHANIEL WEIXEL

Publication Date: 4 September 2021

Publication Site: The Hill

America’s Delta data problem

Link: https://www.axios.com/america-coronavirus-vaccines-delta-data-ababc99b-df6b-4ddb-b4b2-341733933a27.html

Excerpt:

The big picture: The Biden administration is ultimately trying to figure out how well-protected different demographics are against the virus, and for how long. From there, they can decide who should get booster shots.

But while the administration waits for more information, telling the public only that boosters aren’t necessary right now, drug companies and other countries are filling the data and communication void.

“Just think we live in a country which is incapable of telling us the percent vaccinated or unvaccinated who require hospitalization for covid. No less any more data about them. Or track breakthrough infections. Thanks @CDCgov,” tweeted Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research.

Author(s): Caitlin Owens

Publication Date: 9 August 2021

Publication Site: Axios

Biden Budget Boosts Health Subsidies, Broadens Net Investment Income Tax

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/06/01/biden-budget-boosts-health-subsidies-broadens-net-investment-income-tax/

Excerpt:

The current, emergency health insurance premium tax credit subsidy levels would become permanent.

Either the net investment income tax or self-employment tax would apply to all individual income over $400,000.

The definition of net investment would expand.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 1 June 2021

Publication Site: Think Advisor