Rob Rogers Matters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 7:14am in

It seems right to thank Rob Rogers in kind: when the corrupt LA Times fired me, he watched my back with his own thoughtful observations about my plight.

Rob was fired today by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he had worked for the last 25 years. Overall, he has worked as a professional full-time political cartoonist for 33 years. This was not your garden-variety “let’s lay off the cartoonist so we can pay upper middle management even bigger bonuses” dismissal. After a couple of years of serious handwringing on the part of America’s Democratic Party-dominated editorial cartoonist community, Rogers has emerged as one of the first true victims of a Donald Trump-inspired purge.

Determined to move the P-G into a more pro-Trump editorial orientation, the publisher brought in a new editorial director, Keith Burris, whom he charged, among other things, with either bringing Rogers in line — convincing him to either draw pro-Trump cartoons or simply lay off the president entirely — or figure out a way to get rid of him. Anyone who knows Rob Rogers, or for that matter any decent political cartoonist, could guess that the odds of him agreeing to change his political orientation 180° was likely to fail. What the Post-Gazette wanted was a throwback to the political cartooning of over 100 years ago, when publishers dictated the cartoon that appeared in the next day’s paper. Financial pressures have been extraordinary against cartoonists but few have acquiesced to such rollbacks and Rob Rogers was certainly not going to be one of them.

So instead they decided to kill one of his cartoons. And another one. And another one. By the time they showed him the door, well over a dozen cartoons in a row had been drawn but failed to appear in print.

I’m not sure I really understand this tactic. I didn’t go to business school. I would imagine that humiliating and harassing someone into leaving works best when they can easily find another job in their chosen profession. That’s not really true in journalism.

If there’s a class about how to fire people at any decent business school, they should probably use the Rob Rogers firing as an example of exactly what not to do. Look, it’s their paper. They can publish or not publish whoever they want. Maybe it’s crazy for a city like Pittsburgh to have a pro-Trump newspaper but that’s their prerogative if they want to go under. They had the right to fire him.

But why do it that way? Why not simply call him into the office, explain the fact that the editorial orientation of the newspaper had changed, and offer him a generous severance package (I would think two or three years salary would be sufficient) along with full retirement? And send him out with a little bit of glory and dignity, allowing him to say his goodbyes in cartoon form and perhaps showcasing a few pages of his best cartoons over the years? 25 years of loyal service earned him that. More than that, Rob is a fixture in the community. He is always front and present, organizing and hosting cartooning-related panels and shows at art galleries. Disappearing him like a Soviet apparatchik airbrushed out of photos from the top of Lenin’s tomb is a little insane.

Alternatively, why not simply make clear that he could stay on board as a liberal cartoonist even though the editorials would be conservative? My former employer the Los Angeles Times did that with cartoonist Mike Ramirez in the 1990s, but in reverse. The paper had a liberal editorial orientation but Mike was very conservative. Many newspapers with a specific editorial orientation run columns by columnists whose politics disagree with them.

Rob deserved better than to be given the bum’s rush. I suspect that much of the national media will focus on the Trump aspect of the story but I think the real issue is the cruel treatment given to a loyal employee who never did anything wrong and wasn’t even accused of doing anything wrong. I don’t know how that publisher or that editor can live with themselves.

They’re both disgusting.

Why Are UK Academics Striking?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/03/2018 - 12:14am in


retirement, strike, UK

Since late February, professors and staff at UK universities have been striking over changes to their retirement plans. 

Miriam Ronzoni (Manchester) has published a helpful explanation of the issues behind “the most massive industrial action ever undertaken” in higher education in the UK at Crooked Timber. Here’s an excerpt:

The reason behind the strike is a major reform of academic pensions, which Universities UK (UUK)—the organization of academic employers—put on the table last year. The plan is to move from the current defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme, whereby future pensions would entirely depend on how the invested contributions do on the stock market. It is clear that this change is fairly radical and would make UK universities a much less attractive and competitive place to work.

If this weren’t enough, however, four things make UK-based academics particularly angry. First, the current scheme is already a significantly downgraded version of the pension that was promised to all academics who started working in UK universities prior to 2010. Between 2010 and 2016, the old “final salary” scheme (whereby pensioners would get half of their final salary upon retirement) was replaced with a, broadly speaking, “average salary” scheme (whereby pensioners would get half of their average salary upon retirement). In 2010, UUK stopped offering the old scheme to new employers; in 2016, the old scheme was closed altogether. This change was hard enough to swallow, but academics were promised that it would make their pensions “bullet proof” sustainable.

Now UUK claims that the scheme is not sustainable after all, which leads to the second reason for being angry. Over and above the question of “who is to blame” and should carry the burden if the scheme is not sustainable in spite of predictions, many experts question the valuations and analyses offered by UUK, arguing that “there is no deficit”, no problem of sustainability, and the proposed reform is instead driven by an agenda of “aggressive de-risking” aimed at shifting all risk-carrying to employees.

Third, UUK have refused to enter any meaningful negotiations with the Union of academics, UCU, up until now.

Finally, many argue that the very way in which this decision was taken was dodgy and intransparent. Not only did only a minority (42%) of employers vote for the proposed change; on top of that, several individual colleges at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were given an individual vote, thus allowing single colleges to count as much as some of the largest universities in the country.

The whole post is here.

The post Why Are UK Academics Striking? appeared first on Daily Nous.

U.S. Has Worst Wealth Inequality of Any Rich Nation, and It's Not Even Close

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/03/2017 - 7:13pm in

I've discussed the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Reports before, an excellent source of data for both wealth and wealth inequality. The most recent edition, from November 2016, shows the United States getting wealthier, but steadily more unequal in wealth per adult and dropping from 25th to 27th in median wealth per adult since 2014. Moreover, on a global scale, it reports that the top 1% of wealth holders hold 50.8% of the world's wealth (Report, p. 18).

One important point to bear in mind is that while the United States remains the fourth-highest country for wealth per adult (after Switzerland, Iceland, and Australia) at $344,692, its median wealth per adult has fallen to 27th in the world, down to $44,977. As I have pointed out before, the reason for this is much higher inequality in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. ratio of mean to median wealth per adult is 7.66:1, the highest of all rich countries by a long shot.

The tables below illustrate this. First, I will present the 29 countries with median wealth per adult over $40,000 per year, from largest to smallest. The second table also includes mean wealth per adult and the mean/median ratio, sorted by the inequality ratio.

1. Switzerland  $244,002 2. Iceland  $188,088 3. Australia  $162,815 4. Belgium  $154,815 5. New Zealand  $135,755 6. Norway  $135,012 7. Luxembourg  $125,452 8. Japan  $120,493 9. United Kingdom  $107,865 10. Italy  $104,105 11. Singapore  $101,386 12. France  $  99,923 13. Canada  $  96,664 14. Netherlands  $  81,118 15. Ireland  $  80,668 16. Qatar  $  74,820 17. Korea  $  64,686 18. Taiwan  $  63,134 19. United Arab Emirates  $  62,332 20. Spain  $  56,500 21. Malta  $  54,562 22. Israel  $  54,384 23. Greece  $  53,266 24. Austria  $  52,519 25. Finland  $  52,427 26. Denmark  $  52,279 27. United States  $  44,977 28. Germany  $  42,833 29. Kuwait  $  40,803
Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016, Table 3-1

Now that I've got your attention, let me remind you why this low level of median wealth is a BIG PROBLEM. Quite simply, we are careening towards a retirement crisis as Baby Boomers like myself find their income drop off a cliff in retirement. As I reported in 2013, 49% (!) of all private sector workers have no retirement plan at all, not even a crappy 401(k). 31% have only a 401(k), which shifts all the investment risk on to the individual, rather than pooling that risk as Social Security does. And many people had to borrow against their 401(k) during the Great Recession, including 1/3 of people in their forties. The overall savings shortfall is $6.6 trillion! If Republican leaders finally get their wish to gut Social Security, prepare to see levels of elder poverty unlike anything in generations. It will not be pretty.

Let's move now to the inequality data, where I'll present median wealth per adult, mean wealth per adult, and the mean-to-median ratio, a significant indicator of inequality. These data will be sorted by that ratio.

1. United States  $ 44,977  $344,692 7.66 2. Denmark  $ 52,279  $259,816 4.97 3. Germany  $ 42,833  $185,175 4.32 4. Austria  $ 52,519  $206,002 3.92 5. Israel  $ 54,384  $176,263 3.24 6. Kuwait  $ 40,803  $119,038 2.92 7. Finland  $ 52,427  $146,733 2.80 8. Canada  $ 96,664  $270,179 2.80 9. Taiwan  $ 63,134  $172,847 2.74 10. Singapore  $101,386  $276,885 2.73 11. United Kingdom  $107,865  $288,808 2.68 12. Ireland  $ 80,668  $214,589 2.66 13. Luxembourg  $125,452  $316,466 2.52 14. Korea  $ 64,686  $159,914 2.47 15. France  $ 99,923  $244,365 2.45 16. United Arab Emirates  $ 62,332  $151,098 2.42 17. Norway  $135,012  $312,339 2.31 18. Australia  $162,815  $375,573 2.31 19. Switzerland  $244,002  $561,854 2.30 20. Netherlands  $ 81,118  $184,378 2.27 21. New Zealand  $135,755  $298,930 2.20 22. Iceland  $188,088  $408,595 2.17 23. Qatar  $ 74,820  $161,666 2.16 24. Malta  $ 54,562  $116,185 2.13 25. Spain  $ 56,500  $116,320 2.06 26. Greece  $ 53,266  $103,569 1.94 27. Italy  $104,105  $202,288 1.94 28. Japan  $120,493  $230,946 1.92 29. Belgium  $154,815  $270,613 1.75
Source: Author's calculations from Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016, Table 3-1

As you can see, the U.S. inequality ratio is more than 50% higher than #2 Denmark and fully three times as high as the median country on the list, France. As the title says, this is not even close.

The message couldn't be clearer: Get down to your town halls and let your Senators and Representatives know that it's time to raise Social Security benefits and forget the nonsense of cutting them.

Cross-posted to Angry Bear.