Archive for the ‘Employees’ Category
Potential employers have to respond to the incentives and disincentives that exist in today’s world, and those do not favor conventional permanent employees.
I know you’re hard-working, motivated, tech-savvy and willing to learn. The reason I can’t hire you has nothing to do with your work ethic or skills; it’s the high-cost Status Quo, and the many perverse consequences of maintaining a failing Status Quo.
The sad truth is that it’s costly and risky to hire anyone to do anything, and “bankable projects” that might generate profit/require more labor are few and far between. The overhead costs for employees have skyrocketed. So even though the wages employees see on their paychecks have stagnated, the total compensation costs the employer pays have risen substantially.
Thirty years ago the overhead costs were considerably less, adjusted for inflation, and there weren’t billboards advertising a free trip to Cabo if you sued your employer. (I just saw an advert placed by a legal firm while riding a BART train that solicited employees to sue their employers, with the incentive being “free money” for a vacation to Cabo.)
The other primary reason is that there are few (to borrow a phrase used by John Michael Greer) “bankable projects,” that is, projects where hiring another worker would pay for the costs of the additional overhead, labor and capital and generate a reason for making the investment, i.e. a meaningful profit.
There is very little real “new business” in a recessionary, deflationary economy: any new business is poaching from an established business. The new restaurant isn’t drawing people from their home kitchens, it’s drawing customers from established restaurants.
The only competitive advantage in a deflationary economy is to be faster, better and cheaper or have a marketing and/or technology edge. But marketing and technological advantages offer increasingly thin edges. The aspirational demand (driven by the desire to be hip or cool) for a new good or service has a short half-life. As for technology: miss a product cycle and you’re history.
Put these together–higher costs and risks for hiring people, and diminishing opportunities for expansions that lead to profit–and you have a scarcity of projects where hiring people makes financial sense.
Faster, better and cheaper usually means reducing the labor input, not increasing it.In a deflationary economy, it’s extremely difficult to grow revenues (sales), and as costs continue climbing inexorably, the only way to survive is to cut expenses so there is still some net for the owner/proprietor to live on.
Consider the tax burden on a sole proprietor who might want to hire someone. The 15.3% Social Security/Medicare tax starts with dollar one. After the usual standard deductions, the Federal income tax is 15%, and 25% on all earned income above $34,800. My state tax is around 5%. Since every other advanced democracy pays basic healthcare coverage out of tax revenues, the $12,000/year we pay for barebones healthcare insurance is the equivalent of a tax. That’s 15% of our income. Property tax is also $12,000 annually, so that’s another 15%.
Above $35,000 in income, my tax burden is 15% + 25% + 5% + 15% + 15% = 75%.You can imagine how much money I would need to clear to be able to afford hiring someone. The number of businesses that generate huge sums of profit are few and far between, and the number of businesses that scale up from a one-person shop to mega-millions in revenues is also extremely limited.
The potential employer is faced with this reality: the money to hire a new employee will come out of my pay, at least at first. Hiring an additional worker only makes sense if the new employee will immediately generate enough additional revenue to fund his/her own wage and overhead costs, the added expense of supervision and a profit substantial enough to offset the risks.
I should stipulate that my knowledge of hiring people and being an employer is not academic. My partner and I launched a business in late 1981, in the depths of what was at that time the deepest recession since the end of World War II. We had a very diverse ethnic workforce and did millions of dollars of work. Rather than make a fortune I lost $50,000 and had to mortgage the house we’d built by hand to make good all debts. I exited in 1987 with my personal integrity intact: nobody lost money working for us.
The losses were basically the result of me pushing the outer boundaries of my experience and thus my competence in an unforgiving, very competitive environment. The learning curve in business is steep and pricey.
I have also been involved in saving/managing a small non-profit organization that had expanded payroll far beyond what the organization’s revenues could support.
What newly minted employers understand that employees rarely understand is that the overhead costs of hiring even one person do not scale at first. To hire one person, even part-time, the employer needs to set up a complex infrastructure to manage the payroll taxes and accounting, and comply with a variety of statutes. If the employer does not follow the many laws regarding labor, witholding taxes, workers compensation, liability coverage, disability insurance, unemployment insurance and so on, then the employer is at risk of penalties and/or lawsuits.
If a business does $1 million in gross receipts a year and already has five employees and a manager, it’s not that burdensome to hire a seventh employee–the framework is all set up. But the cost of setting all that up for employee #1 is not trivial, especially when you realize the complex machinery all has to be overseen and managed.
In the Silicon valley model, a couple of guys/gals work feverishly in the living room/garage until they have a product/service to sell to venture capital. If the pitch succeeds, the VCs give them a couple million dollars and they hire a manager to sort out all the paperwork, management, etc.
Most small businesses/proprietors don’t get handed a couple million dollars. They have to grow organically, one step at a time. Each expansionist step is fraught with risks, especially when opportunities to grow revenue are few and far between and are generally crowded with competitors.
Thirty years ago the employer’s share of Social Security tax was not today’s 7.65%; it was much less. Worker’s compensation rates were lower, as were disability and liability insurance rates. Adjusted for inflation, healthcare insurance was half (or less) of today’s absurdly expensive rates. To pay someone a modest $20,000 annual salary today would cost at least $30,000 in total compensation costs, and if the employee is middle-aged or requires family healthcare coverage, it could easily exceed $40,000. That sum many be trivial in the bloated $3.7 trillion Federal government or in Corporate America, but in millions of small businesses that $40,000 is the proprietor’s entire net income.
In other words, as costs of hiring anyone to do anything have climbed while revenues have stagnated, the threshold to hire an employee keeps getting higher. Back in the day, I could hire a young person out of high school for a modest cost in overhead, and the work-value they produced to justify the expense was also modest. I could afford to hire marginal workers and as long as they didn’t get in the way too much and ably performed basic tasks then I could afford to have them on the payroll.
The same was true of older workers, veterans living on the beach who wanted work, etc.–I could afford to give all sorts of people a chance to prove their value because the costs and risks were low.
That’s simply less true today. The costs and risks are much, much higher.
Liability has become a lottery game where anyone with assets or income is a target for “winner take all” lawsuits. I would have to be insane to hire someone to work around my property on an informal basis: if the person injured himself, I would face the risks of losing my property to the legal defense costs and potential settlements that exceed the homeowners’ insurance policy.
In an office environment, I could be sued for harassment or for engendering a “stressful work environment.” If you think these kinds of cases are rare, you need to get out more.
Simply put, the feeble hope of increasing revenues does not even come close to offsetting the tremendous risks created by having employees.
There’s a Catch-22 aspect to all this; small business can’t expand revenues without employees, but the costs/risks of having employees makes that a gamble that is often not worth taking. The lower-risk, lower-cost survival strategy is to automate everything possible in back-office work and free up the proprietor’s time to grow revenues that then flow directly to the bottom line.
Managing people is not easy, and it’s often stressful. Once a proprietor hires an employee, he/she must wear a number of new hats: psychiatrist/counselor, manager, coach, teacher, to name but a few. Frankly, I don’t need the stress. I would rather earn a modest living from my labor and avoid all the burdens of managing people. (In my case, that included bailing workers out of jail, loaning them my truck which was subsequently rolled and destroyed, and a bunch of other fun stuff.)
I am not embittered, I am simply realistic. I enjoyed my employees’ company, even the one who rolled my truck and the ones who managed to get into trouble with the law. But I got tired of meetings and all the wasted motion of office management, and I got tired of taking cash advances on my credit cards to make payroll.
If anyone out there thinks being an entrepreneur/small business proprietor is easy and a surefire pathway to the luxe life, then by all means, get out there and start a business and hire a bunch of people. I applaud your energy and drive, and sincerely hope you are wildly successful.
I hope you now understand why so many businesses only want to work with contract labor/ self-employed people: having employees no longer makes financial sense for many small enterprises. What makes sense is paying someone a set fee to accomplish a set task, and that’s it, the obligation of both parties is fulfilled. If the task isn’t completed, then the fee isn’t paid.
Revenues just aren’t steady enough in many cases to support a permanent employee. When the work comes in, then contract labor is brought in to get the work done. When it’s done, they’re gone, and all their overhead costs are theirs.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to generate revenue in a deflationary economy, and extraordinarily difficult to scrape off a net income as expenses such as taxes, insurance, healthcare, etc. continue climbing year after year.
Self-employment places a premium on professionalism and results. Unlike offices filled with managers and employees, nobody cares about your problems, conflicts, complaints about the common-area fridge or your attendence at meetings. Once you’ve been self-employed for a while, and you only hire/work with other self-employed people, then you look back on conventional work places as absurdist theaters of schoolyard politics, tiresome resentments and child-parent conflicts acted out by self-absorbed adults.
Once you’re self-employed, your focus shifts to nurturing a productive network of clients, customers and like-minded, reliable, resourceful self-employed people who will give you work/work for you when you need help. Building trust and following through on what you promised to do become your priority.
The economy is different now, and wishing it were unchanged from 30 years ago won’t reverse the clock. We have to respond to the incentives and disincentives that exist in today’s world, and those do not favor conventional permanent employees except in sectors that are largely walled off from the market economy: government, healthcare, etc.
But these moated sectors cannot remain isolated from the deflationary market economy forever, and what was considered safely walled off from risk and change will increasingly face the same market forces that have changed private-sector enterprise.
If you want security and a steady income, it may be more rewarding to build it yourself via highly networked self-employment.
Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds
The USSC upheld Obamacare by, basically, twisting the Constitution into a pretzel, crapping on it, whizzing on that and then eating it.
Finding first that the Commerce Clause bars the government from compelling one to enter into commerce, the analysis then turned to whether there was any way to save the constitutionality of the act.
The justices found one.
They re-interpreted the penalty clause as a tax.
And of course, Congress can levy taxes.
That’s the path taken by this tortured process — a path that could only be dreamed up if someone had already determined the outcome they sought instead of being an independent jurist.
The real surprise, however, is that Chief Justice Roberts, believed to be a strict constructionist on the court, managed to not only agree with this piece of tortured logic he found and constructed it as the opinion is his!
So much for judicial restraint and strict construction!
You really ought to read the dissent that starts on page 127 of the opinion. Justice Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito eviscertate the majority, saying in part:
Here, however, Congress has impressed into servicethird parties, healthy individuals who could be but are not customers of the relevant industry, to offset the undesirable consequences of the regulation. Congress’ desire to force these individuals to purchase insurance is motivatedby the fact that they are further removed from the marketthan unhealthy individuals with pre-existing conditions, because they are less likely to need extensive care in the near future. If Congress can reach out and command even those furthest removed from an interstate market to participate in the market, then the Commerce Clause becomes a font of unlimited power, or in Hamilton’s words, “the hideous monster whose devouring jaws . . . spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane.” The Federalist No. 33, p. 202 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961).
What little was left of The Constitution died today, June 28th, 2012.
And incidentally, the math on federal health spending coupled with this decision means that by the time a 55 year old man reaches 85 (his life expectancy, roughly) the Federal government will be attempting to spend roughly $15 trillion a year on health care.
(No it won’t, no we won’t get that far, and the detonation of our government on the fiscal side is now assured — or your health care will be sacrificed. This is mathematics, not politics.)
Which lifestyle choice produces better results – being a hard working American or being a government parasite? Actually, when you look at the cold, hard numbers they may just surprise you. In America today, we deeply penalize hard work and we greatly reward government dependence. If you live in a very liberal area of the country and you know how to game the system, it is entirely possible to live a comfortable existence without ever working too much at all. In fact, there are some Americans that have been living off of “government benefits” for decades. Many of these people actually plan their lives around doing exactly what they need to do to qualify for as many benefits as possible. America is rapidly turning into a European-style socialist welfare state and it is destroying our nation socially and financially. Ever since the “war on poverty” began our debt has absolutely exploded and yet now there are more poor people in this country than ever before. Obviously something is not working.
Now don’t get me wrong. I deeply believe in having compassion for those that are going through tough times and having a safety net for those that cannot take care of themselves. We should not have a single person in this nation going without food or sleeping in the streets.
But in America today it is absolutely ridiculous how many people are climbing aboard the “safety net”. At this point, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives some form of government benefits.
So who pays for all of this?
The people that drag themselves out of bed and go to work each day pay for it all.
For a few moments, let’s examine how the lifestyle of a typical hard working American compares to the lifestyle of a government parasite.
In America today, the median yearly household income is somewhere around $50,000. About half of all American households make more than that and about half of all American households make less than that. When you break it down, it comes to about $4000 a month.
So how far does $4000 go in America today?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t go very far at all.
First of all, a hard working American family will need some place to live. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the decent jobs are near the big cities, and it is more expensive to live near the big cities. Let’s assume that an average family of four will spend about $1000 a month on rent or on a mortgage payment.
The government parasite, on the other hand, has a whole host of federal, state and local housing programs to take advantage of. During the recent economic downturn, more Americans than ever have been turning to the government for help with housing costs. For example, federal housing assistance outlays increased by a whopping 42 percent between 2006 and 2010.
Once you have a place to live, you have to provide power and heat for it. For the average hard working American, this is going to probably average about $300 a month, although this can vary greatly depending on where you live.
For the government parasite, there are once again a whole host of government programs to help with this. For example, LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) assists low income households in paying their home heating bills.
Most average hard working Americans are also going to need phone and Internet service. Let’s assume that the hard working family of four in our example is extremely thrifty and only spends $100 a month for these services.
For the government parasite, cell phone service is not a problem. As I have written about previously, those that “qualify” can receive a free cell phone and free cell phone minutes every single month from the federal government. In addition, in some areas of the nation low income families can qualify for deeply subsidized home Internet service.
In order to earn money, our hard working family is going to need to get to work. In most households, both parents have decided to work these days so both of them will need cars. Let’s assume that the family is very thrifty and that both cars were purchased used and that the car payments only total about $400 a month.
The hard working family will also need auto insurance for the two vehicles. Let’s assume that both parents have a great driving record and that they only pay a total of about $100 a month for car insurance.
The cars will also need to be filled up with gasoline. The average U. S. householdspent $4155 on gasoline during 2011, but let’s assume that our family is very, very careful and that they only spend about $300 on gas each month.
So what about the government parasite? Well, the government parasite does not need to go to work, so this expense can potentially be eliminated entirely. But since most other things are paid for by the government or are deeply subsidized, in many instances government parasites are actually able to afford very nice vehicles.
In addition, a new bill (The Low-Income Gasoline Assistance Program Act) has been introduced in Congress that would give “qualifying” households money to help pay for gasoline….
Low-Income Gasoline Assistance Program Act – Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to states to establish emergency assistance programs to pay eligible households for the purchase of gasoline.
A hard working American family is also going to need health insurance. Well, we all know how expensive health insurance has become. In fact, health insurance costs have risen by 23 percent since Barack Obama became president. But let’s assume that our hard working family has somehow been able to find an amazing deal where they only pay $500 a month for health insurance for a family of four.
For the government parasite, health insurance is not needed. If there is an emergency, the government parasite can just go get free medical care at any emergency room.
And of course there is always Medicaid. Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse. It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
So what about food?
Everyone has to eat, right?
Well, the hard working family in our example is faced with an environment where food prices are constantly rising but paychecks are not keeping up. Let’s assume that the hard working family in our example clips coupons and cuts corners any way that it can and only spends about $50 for each member of the family on food and supplies each week. That comes to a total of $800 a month for the entire family.
So what about the government parasite?
Government parasites need to eat too.
Well, that is where food stamps come in. Right now, there are more than 46 million Americans on food stamps. Since Barack Obama became president, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 14 million. Food stamps have become so popular that rappers are even making rap videos about using food stamp cards.
Okay, so after all of this where do we stand?
Well, the average hard working family so far has spent $3500 out of the $4000 that they have to spend for the month.
We still need to find money for clothing, for paying off credit card debt, for paying off student loan debt, for dining out, for entertainment, for medications, for pets, for hobbies, for life insurance, for vacations, for car repairs and maintenance, for child care, for gifts and for retirement savings.
There is actually no money left at all because we have forgotten one of the biggest expenses of all.
When you total up all federal, state and property taxes, our average hard working family is going to pay at least $1000 a month in taxes.
So that puts our average hard working family in the hole every single month.
Meanwhile, the government parasite does not pay any taxes because he or she does not earn enough money to be taxed.
Are you starting to get the picture?
In many ways, life can be so much easier when you are constantly taking from the government instead of constantly giving to the government.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently put it this way….
“We’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check”
Once again, I am not dumping on those that have been through all kinds of nightmares because of this economy. As I have written about so frequently, the U.S. economy is simply not producing enough jobs for everyone anymore, and this is creating major problems.
Just about everyone needs a helping hand at some point, and we should always be compassionate to those that are in need.
However, there is also a growing number of Americans that are content to simply give up and live off of the government, and that is fundamentally wrong.
It is not the job of the U.S. government to take care of you from the cradle to the grave. What the U.S. government is supposed to do is to make sure that we have a well functioning economy that operates in an environment where hard working individuals and small businesses can thrive, and sadly the U.S. government has failed miserably in that regard.
We desperately need the U.S. economy to be fixed, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
As economic conditions get even worse in this country, millions more Americans are going to turn to the government for assistance and at some point the safety net is going to break.
What is our country going to look like when that happens?
Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 2.6 percent annual rate during the fourth quarter of 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This gain in productivity reflects increases of 4.5 percent in output and 1.8 percent in hours worked. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.) Productivity increased 1.7 percent over the last four quarters (table A). Annual average productivity increased 3.6 percent from 2009 to 2010 (table C). Quarterly measures provide information on business cycles whereas annual measures are compared to long-term trends.
Heh, that sounds pretty decent. But is it?
I guess that depends on which side of the table you might be on – the employer or employee!
Ow my ass! Ow my ass!
Yeah. There’s no joy in that table for the employee. Gains in real hourly earnings? Where? You’re losing ground everywhere in manufacturing (gee, you think we’re still exporting all our nice manufacturing jobs to China?) while there’s no real gain of substance in non-manufacturing either.
This table just plain sucks from the employee standpoint. From the employer standpoint it’s pretty good, as the “whip the employee” game continues unabated.
Work harder and faster slave, or lose your job!
The bottom line: Workers ultimately buy the products that businesses make. Input costs (commodities) are up monstrously, and real labor compensation is flat-to-down. Exactly how are those input costs going to wind up being covered again?
In an orchestrated effort that included a statement by President Barack Obama and an event at the White House featuring Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the president and his cabinet endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The House approved the act in 2009, but the Senate did not approve it. In the 111th Congress, both the House and the Senate have offered legislation that covers a wide range of workplace requirements and regulations, including training girls and women to become better at negotiating pay and benefits, and the establishment of a data base of U.S. workers’ pay in both the public and private sector.
At the White House on Tuesday, Biden was the keynote speaker at a Middle Class Task Force event where he told invited guests that the Obama administration is “on the right side of history” by passing legislation to ensure women are paid the same as their male counterparts.
“Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works,” Biden said.
“Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities – and it must. Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility – these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle class economic security,” he said.
Biden said Congress should pass the bill, which includes language requiring employers to provide information about employee pay. In Section 8 of the bill, entitled Collection of Pay Information by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it calls for an amendment to Section 709 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
“(f)(1) Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Commission shall–
“(A) complete a survey of the data that is currently available to the Federal Government relating to employee pay information for use in the enforcement of Federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination and, in consultation with other relevant Federal agencies, identify additional data collections that will enhance the enforcement of such laws; and
“(B) based on the results of the survey and consultations under subparagraph (A), issue regulations to provide for the collection of pay information data from employers as described by the sex, race, and national origin of employees.”
Attorney General Eric Holder was at the White House event with Biden and pledged to crack down on American businesses that discriminate against employees based on sex, race or country of origin. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
“Already, the Justice Department, in conjunction with the EEOC and four of its district offices, has launched a robust and intensive pilot program to coordinate the investigation and litigation of charges against state and local government employers,” it added.
But critics charge that the Paycheck Fairness Act will be harmful to small businesses and the economy. The National Association of Manufacturers issued a statement about the bill in April.
“The Paycheck Fairness Act, which purports to prevent instances of illegal gender-based discrimination, could outlaw many legitimate practices employers use to set employee pay rates, even where there is no evidence of intentional discrimination and employers act with reasonable belief that their pay policies are lawful,” the statement said.
“Manufacturers strongly oppose unlawful discrimination in any form, but the Paycheck Fairness Act would impose unparalleled government control over how employees are paid, among even the nation’s smallest businesses,” it added.
“It would drastically alter the Equal Pay Act to allow unprecedented penalties of unlimited punitive and compensatory damages in cases of alleged discrimination,” the statement said.
James Sherk, Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at conservative The Heritage Foundation, said that the law would be a boon to trial lawyers seeking damages from employers for their clients and would allow the courts to “micro-manage” American businesses.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Obama said it was discrimination in the workplace that is harming the economy and American families.
“In America today, women make up half of the workforce, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman’s wages as a significant portion of their families’ income,” the statement said.
“Yet, even in 2010, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The gap is even more significant for working women of color, and it affects women across all education levels,” the statement said.
“As Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force will discuss today, this is not just a question of fairness for hard-working women. Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income. And with so many families depending on women’s wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole. In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden.”