Healthcare one of biggest casualties among children of the Great Recession

Much but not enough attention has been paid to the devastating emotional, financial and professional effects the Great Recession has had on working adults. But what about the children of the longest and most severe economic calamity since the Great Depression? How have they fared?
"Members of this shadow generation have already started out their young-adult lives with a distinct disadvantage, especially if their parents did not have a college degree or were already struggling to stay within striking distance of the middle class," the National Journal recently reported. "Children of the unemployed are 15% more likely to repeat a grade than their peers whose parents held on to stable jobs, a 2009 study by Stevens and economist Jessamyn Schaller found.
"Worse, their families may never recover financially; even 15 to 20 years later, losing a job can translate in to as much as $140,000 less in lifetime wages, according to a 2009 paper by economists Till Marco von Wachter, Jae Song, and Joyce Manchester. For many families, a job loss also nudges them into poverty. From August 2008 to August 2009, The Brookings Institution reports that the number of children on food stamps jumped by 3.4 million."
Besides the financial strains and emotional trauma these children often face, they also frequently encounter health risks, fueled by a lack of medical insurance. This has been especially true in my home state of Nevada, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute's Center for Children and Families. And in the Silver State, an alarming percentage of children under 18 have no health insurance coverage.

Another Dubious Distinction for Nevada: #1 in Uninsured Children

“We know for a fact that insurance status is a very strong predictor of health,” Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (but who was not affiliated with the Georgetown study), told USA Today earlier this month. “If you have coverage, you’re going to be healthier because you have access to medical services.”

Already tops in foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and unemployment among major U.S. metro areas, Nevada also leads the nation in the percentage of uninsured children: 16%.2 in 2011, well above the national average of 7.5%, and substantially worse than the 13.2% in No. 2 Texas, the Georgetown study found.
Nevada has never had an enviable record when it comes to insuring its youngsters (or providing for its children across many other important parameters, even during the state’s boom days). And the startling increase detailed above was in part fueled by the state’s stubbornly high jobless rate, a national phenomenon during the recession that has trapped many children's parents.

Lack of outreach is the culprit

Another contributing factor, however, is even more insidious and regrettable, the leader of a Nevada child advocacy organization told the Las Vegas Review Journal. Fewer Nevada children have health insurance coverage not so much because of less availability of public programs, but because the state cut back on funding to communicate with eligible families about available benefits, Denise Tanata-Ashby, executive director of the Nevada Children's Advocacy Alliance, told the R-J. State officials curbed efforts to obtain money earmarked for outreach efforts because reaching more families would have further swelled the state Medicaid rolls during the recession. 

The lack of outreach drove the number of kids enrolled in Nevada Check Up, the state program for low-income families, from nearly 30,000 in June 2007 to fewer than 21,500 in 2011, the Georgetown study reported.

Tanata-Ashby told the R-J that the state must do two things to help to reverse this disturbing trend.
  • First, Nevada needs to aggressively compete for federal grants available to underwrite outreach and application assistance for eligible families.
  • Second, the state should fully support Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act. Doing so will provide coverage to an additional 25,000 parents of low-income children, according to state Department of Health and Human Services figures cited in the R-J article. 
That coverage, in turn, would link thousands more children to public health insurance. Unfortunately, a spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Sandoval told the R-J that he had not yet decided whether to expand Medicaid in the state.

I’ll tackle other serious obstacles kids of long-term unemployed parents face in a post later this week. However, not linking poor children to available health care just so the state can suppress its Medicaid rolls is one of the most deplorable.

What happened the first time the Picayune felt pressure to cut publication to three days a week?

Advance Publications, owner of the 175-year-old, Pulitzer Prize-winning Times-Picayune, announced May 24 that beginning Oct. 1, it will cease being a daily newspaper and publish only three times a week, making New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. Three weeks later, management cut the staff by one-third - including slashing its newsroom staff by almost one-half - and said its emphasis going forward would be on its clunky and sometimes-impenetrable website,

What happened the first time the Picayune, one of the predecessors of today's Times-Picayune felt pressure to cut publication to three days a week? Professor Emeritus Larry Lorenz of the School of Mass Communication at Loyola University in New Orleans, cited this passage from T.E. Dabney's One Hundred Great Years: The Story of the Times-Picayune From its Founding to 1940:
"Within three months of the Picayune's founding in January 1837, a financial panic swept the country. In New Orleans, as elsewhere, businesses failed. Banks that had advanced money against the cotton crop suspended. In April, arsonists started fires throughout the city in order to plunder homes and businesses. In September came a yellow fever epidemic, and among those stricken were the Picayune's printers, and in late September, George Kendall, a co-founder of the paper, fell ill with the fever.

"Some of the city's five well-established dailies dropped to tri-weekly publication. The
Picayune did not miss an issue."

What do "MLive" and "experience with Georgia sports" have to do with new jobs at NOLA Media Group?

The blunders and PR disasters at The Times-Picayune keep piling up like garbage in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras.

T-P owner Advance Publications may think it doesn't need copy editors, but whomever is running the newspaper's HR operations since the entire HR team was sacked last Tuesday (along with nearly 200 other colleagues) definitely does. Three new job postings by NOLA Media Group refer to "MLive," Advance's disastrous Michigan operations, while another refers to the desirability of "past experience with Georgia sports." (Does that mean that while The Times-Picayune just cut its Washington, D.C. bureau in half, it's planning to open a Georgia bureau?)

You can find the job descriptions by keyword searching "MLive" and "George sports" on the's local jobs page. If someone has corrected the four ads by the time you see this, shoot an email to and I will forward screen grabs.

“Lou Grant” Joins the New Orleans Times-Picayune Battle

Actor Ed Asner Sends Message of Support to Newspaper’s Staff

I’ve been wanting to write about the incredibly sad news coming out of my former employer, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, and the battle the community is waging over a planned steep cut in the newspaper’s already reduced staff and a reduction of its print publishing schedule to three days a week.
There are so many reasons why this is such a bad idea, many which are articulated incredibly well in this article that appeared Friday on (I list links to other good coverage of this issue at the end of this post.) But the human tragedy is that more people – some of the most generous, most kindhearted people I've ever had the pleasure of working with and knowing – will lose their jobs because the newspaper’s billionaire owners – the Newhouse family and their Advance Publications - need even more money. (Which, they incidentally continue to make in New Orleans because the Picayune remains profitable – apparently just not profitable enough for the Newhouses.)
Besides being generous and kindhearted, many of my fellow workers are also wicked funny – particularly when it comes to satirical parody and gallows humor.
Sometime over the weekend, fliers began appearing around The Times-Picayune newsroom featuring an iconic image of actor Ed Asner, in character in his seminal TV role as newspaper editor Lou Grant. Drawing from the convoluted corporate-speak Times-Picayune and Advance management used in announcing the looming changes, the images featured such captions as:
  • “What the hell is an ‘enhanced’ newspaper?”
  • “What the hell is a ‘robust’ website anyway?” 
  • “How exactly do we do more with less?” 
  • “Fewer ad dollars, huh? What about a paywall?” 
  • “A 3-day-a-week newspaper in New Orleans? When did Ted Baxter become an executive at Advance Publications?”
News of the fliers prompted New Orleans writer Michael Tisserand to reach out to Asner, in hopes that the famously activist-minded and big-hearted actor might offer some words of support and/or wisdom to the troops in the New Orleans. Tisserand, who’s been involved in the grassroots community effort to preserve the Picayune as a daily newspaper, contacted Asner’s assistant through Asner’s Studio, City, Calif. Quince Productions, Inc. and included select links to coverage of happenings in NOLA, including the Lou Grant-inspired fliers.
Less than an hour later, Tisserand received the following message, directed "To the employees of the Times-Picayune:”
“I've been on strike and I've always identified with the working press, knowing they're not fat cats and knowing job security is zilch. Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one. I identify totally with your plight and hope that a decent resolution may be arrived at!
Ed Asner"
Other Coverage of Interest

U.S. Unemployment Benefits Rank 31st in the World – Below Venezuela, Azerbaijan and Belarus

The Great Recession cost the U.S. labor market 8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of total payroll employment – “the most dramatic employment contraction of any recession since the Great Depression,” according to The State of Working America, an annual publication of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Even after the recession technically ended in the summer of 2009, the economy’s growth has been so weak that the number of jobs created hasn’t even kept pace with population growth, much less helped to clear the backlog of jobs lost during the devastating downturn.

Now comes the news that not only are U.S. workers more vulnerable than workers in other rich, industrialized democracies when it comes to factors that measure employment stability, they also receive, on average, a paltry 27.5% of their previous pay in unemployment benefits. That percentage places the United States 31st among 91 countries recently ranked for an International Monetary Fund working paper.

A list of the top 51 countries is available on the blog “European Welfare States,” but below is the Top 10 and how the United States stacks up against them:

% of pay replaced by UI

Not only that, but the United States falls behind 13 other countries not widely regarded as leading world countries – including Algeria, Taiwan, and Ukraine – all of which provide at least double the percentage of pay replaced by unemployment benefits of America, according to political science professor and author Kenneth Thomas

Longer Recoveries = Longer Dependence on UI Benefits

As mentioned above, the recovery from the Great Recession has been excruciatingly long, much longer than of any economic downturn since the Great Depression. For example, in October 2010, 16 months after the official end of the recession, the economy still had 5.4% fewer jobs than it did before the recession started, according to the EPI. Contrast that to the average of 10 months it took for jobs to be restored following post-World War II recessions that occurred before the early 1990s. (After the early 1990s recession, that span grew to two years, while it took three-and-one-half years to recover jobs lost during the 2000-01 recession.)

“Thus, the Great Recession has brought the worst of both worlds: extraordinarily severe job loss, combined with an extremely sluggish recovery,” the EPI concluded.

Another way of looking at the situation is that more Americans have depended on unemployment benefits for a longer period of time in the aftermath of the Great Recession than at any time since the benefit was created in 1935. 

Not only are these benefits important to individual recipients, but they also serve to stabilize the overall economy by providing the unemployed with money they  spend on goods and services they’d otherwise stop buying because of the loss of their pay checks, Tim Vlandas, a PhD student at the London School of Economics, noted on the European Welfare States blog. “It also prevents workers from falling into poverty when they lose their jobs,” he added.

But with American jobless workers receiving only about 28 cents in unemployment benefits for every dollar they earned while working, it’s clear they don’t have the economic wherewithal to help jumpstart – or even sustain – a robust economic recovery.

Protections for U.S. Workers Dead-Last Among OECD, BRIC Countries

If that’s not alarming enough, U.S. workers are more vulnerable than any other workers in member countries of the primarily advanced, industrialized democracies that comprise the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or even in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). According to Thomas, the United States is dead-last in the 21 measures the OECD uses to determine how well workers' rights are protected, including:

  • being fired unfairly
  • not getting severance pay
  • getting the least notice on mass layoffs
  • being relegated to temporary positions.

“The bottom line is that American workers enjoy the least protection out of all major economies in the world,” Thomas writes on his “Middle Class Economist" blog. “Protections against individual firing, collective dismissals, and the ability to get off temporary employment are as weak as they can be.”

The original database of the 91 countries, which served as the basis for the IMF working paper, can be found by clicking here.

Requiring its drivers to act like employees, but treating them as contractors saves FedEx big bucks - but is it legal?

FedEx: Failing to deliver for its drivers?
Should FedEx be able to enjoy all the benefits of having employee drivers, but treat them like independent contractors - leaving those workers with about 30% less in wages, benefits and other worker protections, like unemployment compensation?

iWatch News, a project of The Center for Public Integrity, has taken on that topic. "Employees are eligible for a host of legal benefit and protection programs that governments run and regulate," according to the report, by American University iWatch Fellow Amy Biegelsen. "Employers must pay into those programs on behalf of 'employees,' but not [on behalf of] 'independent contractors.'

Businesses have strong incentive to classify employees as contractors - they save about 30% and reduce regulatory exposure, according to the report. But such "misclassification" cause workers "to lose legal rights, governments [to] lose tax revenue, and businesses [to] gain an unfair advantage over competitors who pay the extra costs to treat their workers as employees."

Biegelsen used the example of FedEx driver Gary Terrio, who signed on as a contract driver, thinking that meant he'd control his schedule, route and enjoy other flexible working conditions independent contractors typically do.

But Terrio was required to be at the FedEx terminal at 6 AM daily, was paid by the delivery, not by the hour, and was docked if a package was late. He had to purchase and insure his own FedEx-approved truck. He also had to pay his entire Medicare and Social Security contributions (which are typically split between an employer and worker when the latter is classified as an employee), and was not eligible for sick, disability or family leave, or unemployment compensation. He also couldn't affix bumper stickers to the truck he had paid for, or run a quick personal errand in it in between deliveries or at the beginning or end of the day.

All of that expense and aggravation netted him only about $500 a week. “I would have loved to have been just an independent contractor,” he told Biegelsen. Instead, “I felt like an employee.”

The implications for this shift is far greater than FedEx's workforce because of the sizable and growing number of independent contractors across all U.S. industries and professions.

In its inaugural annual "Independent Workforce Index," MBO Partners found that there were 16 million independent contractors (what the company calls "career independent workers") in the United States in 2011. By the year 2020, the consultancy predicts that 70 million people - more than 50 percent of the private workforce - will be independent.

New Yahoo! CEO - with $27 M Comp Package - Champions Company's Largest-Ever Layoff

Yahoo! Headquarters in Sunnyvale, California

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson - who joined the company in January with a guaranteed $27 million annual compensation package set to increase by at least $1 million annually - has announced his first big move at the Silicon Valley internet company: he's laying off 2,000 employees, or 14% of the total workforce.

This round of cuts comes about three months after Thompson inked his multimillion compensation package. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney - not exactly someone to regularly call attention to excessive executive pay - pegged the amount as "unusually high."

Although Thompson promised "a bold, new Yahoo" in a written statement this morning, he's resorting to a tired - and not very effective - tactic to try to achieve that goal: this will be the company's sixth mass layoff in four years, and the deepest one to-date. He's the third CEO during that time period to unsuccessfully try to grow the company's revenues by slashing jobs:

  • February 2008 - 1,000 jobs (under founder and former CEO Jerry Yang)

  • December 2008 - 1,500 jobs (under Yang)

  • April 2009 - 700 jobs (under former CEO Carol Bartz)

  • December 2010 - 600 jobs (under Bartz)

  • April 2011 - 100 to 150 jobs (under Bartz)

  • April 2012 - 2,000 jobs (under Thompson)

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson

And the layoffs, which were first reported yesterday by AllThingsD, may not be the last: Wednedsday’s round is “just the tip of the proverbial iceberg” and more are to come, the technology website said.

Not that Thompson has much to worry about - at least financially - should his grand, albeit not very original, plan not take. If history is any guide, an "exit" from Yahoo! would be softened considerably by a generous golden parachute. Former CEO Bartz left the company in September 2011 with a $14 million severance package after a "murky record, at best" marked by an expletive-laced send-off when the company's board of directors fired her.

Yahoo! reported a net profit of more than $1 billion on revenue of nearly $4.4 billion last year.

Read more here: