Computing Overtime

November 17, 2014

Every business owner must be aware of the Department of Labor’s method of computing overtime.  Some businesses are paying the correct amount of money and being assessed substantial penalties.  A common example of this is an employer who employs someone six days a week.  The employer give a fixed amount for the six days.  This amount may include time and a half for the hours worked over forty hours each week.  This meets the Washington State and federal requirements for payment of overtime, but not the recordkeeping requirements of the federal enforcement agency, the Department of Labor.  The DOL will take the position that the pay check does not include overtime and treat the check as payment for six days at the regular hourly rate, then make as assessment equal to the number of overtime hours times fifty percent of the hourly rate which it has computed.  This amounts to a payment  for overtime more than twice the amount due the employee.  The DOL can assess double the amount that it deems underpaid and is authorized to recommend criminal action.

There is no legitimate argument that businesses should not be paying overtime but the means of enforcing the law creates a trap for vulnerable businesses which are paying overtime.


National Collection Agencies.

February 21, 2013

It recently came to my attention that many collection agencies have not registered as collection agencies to do business in Washington or in other states in which they operate.  In order to avoid having to do this some say that they have purchased the debt so they are not collecting it for someone else.  This is a fairly transparent means of trying to avoid collection agency law in the states as well as application of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  In many states, including Washington, this tactic does not work.  The law covers debts purchased by  businesses in the debt collection business.  Failure to register exposes these businesses to significant damages and is an enormous advantage to any consumer.


GM a Few Months From Extinction

November 13, 2008

Many people call GM’s vehicles dinosaurs, which could be weirdly prescient in that analysts say that GM will become extinct in early 2009 unless it receives billions from the government.  Just last year of course the authomobile industry required $25 billion of loan guaranties from the government.  Now GM needs about that amount in cash.

Like Thomas Friedman, I am sick and tired of the automobile industry thinking that it can susrvive by paying money to lobbyists, blocking environmental laws, and disregarding the needs and concerns of consumers.  American auto manufacturers used to plan the obsolescence of the cars they manufactured in the interest of causing people to need new ones.  Their utter disregard of consumers is tantamount to planning their own obsolescence.

There is no way taxpayer should support the disreputable and irrational behavior of the American auto industry, at least not without some serious concessions.  The government ought to get whatever equity there is held by the stockholders and the officers and directors should be held accountable.  That means fire them without a parachute of any sort.  The salaries of their successors, considering what these companies have done to their industry and to the country, should be dramatically reduced.


Seattle Ramming Through Measure for Business over Livability

November 11, 2008

While we’re still experiencing the buzz of the election, let’s chanel that into some attention to local politics.  There is a local issue coming to attention of the Council this week that influences everyone living here.

At issue are rather classic competing concerns about the City.  On one side are the people who live here who would like to  enhance its livability and on the other side are people interested beautifying the Westlake area where it intersects the Mercer Corridor.  The issue is whether $30 million is best spent construction a 6 block boulevard or whether it can be put to better use.

The City Council is trying to rush the boulevard approval through without considering a variety of relevant issues including alternative uses of the money.

The City Council’s Budget Committee this week l will consider whether to authorize spending $30 million for the Mercer Corridor Project in 2009 without first receiving the financial and environmental information it requested in Ordinance 122686 (passed in May 2008) as a necessary condition for the Mayor to proceed with the Mercer Project.

Nick Licata is leading the “livability” concerns and is joined by the following groups:

Magnolia Community Club
Rainier Beach Community Club Executive Board
Queen Anne Community Council
Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council
Othello Neighborhood Association
Columbia City Community Council
North Seattle Industrial Association
Aurora Avenue Merchants Association
Fremont Chamber of Commerce
Ballard District Council
Seattle Community Council Federation
Northeast District Council
Metropolitan Democratic Club
Seattle Marine Business Coalition
36th District Democrats
46th District Democrats
43rd District Democrats
BINMIC
Queen Anne Neighbors for Responsible Growth
University District Community Council

Expressing Concerns

Feet First (supports dedicating surplus commercial
parking tax revenues to fully funding healthy transportation choices equitably across Seattle rather than going to the Mercer Project)

The money is on the “boulevard” side, as you might guess, with Paul Allen’s people seeing this as a nice enhancement for their South Lake Union project, businesses in the Mercer area favor it as an enhancement that is likely to help business.  Many people in the Queen Anne area also favor the project as it enhances their neighborhood, while others there are eager to see the money used for other more broadly beneficial. (There is a discussion of the alternative uses here on September 30).  Generally speaking the moneyed interests favor investing the money to make Seattle a better place to drive to.  It is important to understand though that this measure is not to relieve traffic but to add aesthetic value to the drive.

To find out more you can contact any of the groups listed above or read the previous entries here or contact the City.  Please register your thoughts with the Council members who operate without the benefit of a great deal of public input.

Tim.Burgess@seattle.gov
Sally.Clark@seattle.gov
Richard.Conlin@seattle.gov
Jan.Drago@seattle.gov
Jean.Godden@seattle.gov
Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov
Nick.Licata@seattle.gov
Richard.McIver@seattle.gov
Tom.Rasmussen@seattle.gov

Citizens are directed to the following website to complete a form to send an email to the Mayor’s Office.
http://www.cityofseattle.net/mayor/citizen_response.htm


Checks and Balances

October 23, 2008

Here is an interesting campaign strategy. Senator Elizabeth Dole presents a picture of Obama in the White House and a Democratic Congress. She argues that this threatens the constitutional system of checks and balances and that she, as a Republican, ought to be elected to avoid the excesses of a single party controlling the executive and legislative branches of government.

Throughout Bush’s presidency this of course was not a concern ever expressed to my knowledge by Senator Dole or any other Republican. Republican campaigns were asserting the opposite argument, claiming that this (a Republican majority in Congress) gave Republicans better access to the president and a far better opportunity to work together with the president to get things done.

Dole argument, however disingenuous, is probably closer to the truth. With a Republican Congress Bush has been able to implement a disastrous foreign policy and substantial remove domestic regulations of the financial industry and many others as well. While you would not know it from the 2007-08 Congress, a Democratic majority might have made a difference.

On the other hand the Democrats do not seem to band together as tightly as Republicans. Carter was unable to get his tax reforms through a Democratic Congress. In Washington State the Democrats seem to control everything and get remarkably little done. Part of my problem is that I cannot figure out what in fact it is the defines the Democratic Party. Is pragmatism a defining quality of a political party? If so, it leaves a person with little ability to predict what Democrats will do because we can’t tell with much certainty what will be expedient at the time a decision is required.

So, while I agree with Senator Dole in theory, it’s hard to imagine these Democrats doing very much in a coordinated manner.


About the Bailout

October 22, 2008

Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, recently wrote a piece well worth reading if you are following the bailout. I have read a lot about the “Swedish model” which involves getting stock for the bailout money. This is said to give the tax payers an upside. Senator Sanders takes a slightly different view, which is detailed in the linked article. It is interesting to see that on this point populists can agree with conservatives (although their logical paths are quite divergent getting to the same general position), who buck at the prospect of “nationalizing” banks by having the government have a ownership interest.


A Mandate for Obama?

October 17, 2008

CNN reports that the only states that are still uncommitted (according to the polls) are six states that were for Bush in 2004.  They are now a toss up but if they all go to McCain he will still lose.  Nonetheless they are essential to a successful campaign and so McCain and Palin are forced to devote increasing precious time campaigning in these states, states which are historically linked to Republican candidates.

Again, as was the case with Hillary Clinton, Obama’s campaign seems better organized in the late stages of the campaign.  Clinton ran out of money and McCain is running out of time.  Assuming that he had several states in his pocket, McCain finds himself having to make last minute appearances in states where there has been heavy traffic by the other ticket.

McCain finds himself scrambling for the support of states which are necessary but not sufficient for success in November.  Meanwhile Obama is pressing the fight in these states, apparently fighting for a landslide victory.

CNN’s David Gergen says that the Obama’s purpose is to have a decisive victory so that he can claim a mandate which in turn will presumably enhance his ability to govern.

We haven’t heard about mandates in a while.  I don’t recall Bill Clinton talking about it but he certainly never acted like he had one. George W. Bush acted like he had a mandate (more than any president I can think of) but he certainly never had one.  Each election boiled down to disputed election results in one state.

Reagan claimed a mandate to get stuff through a largely Democratic Congress.  How would a mandate serve Obama?  Particularly with what is expected to be a larger majority of Democrats in Congress.

In Washington State we have a super-majority of Democrats in the legislature and have experienced a withering of  the party’s agenda.  Few voting Democrats express anything but disappointment with the Democrat-controlled Congress after 2006.

It would be very exciting if Obama were looking to claim a mandate of leadership within his party.  The party desperately needs direction.  It has been a long time since the party stood for something that you could identify and point to legislation for examples.  That may be a little broad, but I’ll bet it is true of at least 80% of people who are registered Democrats.

For twenty years or so the Republicans and the Democrats have been “pigs at the same trough” to quote William Greider.  Obama has proved himself as a campaigner; wouldn’t it be great to find that he is as good a leader?


Demographics

October 16, 2008

The debates and campaigns for the presidency certainly give us an opportunity to learn about the candidates and their parties. Many. many people become political junkies during this period. Each election brings new insight and hopefully understanding. What is just as interesting to me is what we learn about ourselves.

I was frankly astonished at the results of the last presidential election. A significant number of the people who now hold Bush in low regard voted for him four years ago. Yet to my knowledge nothing happened in the second term that was not at least very clearly telegraphed in the first term. Concern about the economy was clearly expressed four years ago. Nobel Prize winning Paul Krugman (among others) has been prominently and clearly talking about the failures of Bush’s economic policies for years.

Actually as early as the late stages of the Clinton administration people were beginning to express concern about credit default swaps and the health of the financial industry. Four years ago we knew pretty much as much about our foreign policy and its flaws as we know now.

So I have to confess, not only was I surprised at the 2004 election results, but I have been surprised by the strength of the present aversion to Bush and his policies. It seems like Bush is being scapegoated a bit. No one can say that Bush did anything unexpected in his second term. His second term, like his first term, is defined by ideological inflexibility. We voted ourselves into this situation. I just don’t buy blaming Bush for our problems when we chose him with our eyes open.

In the current election, Gallup just came out with interesting polls that show demographic results. The economy seems to be driving voters to Obama. As I see it the well publicized miscalculations of the McCain campaign are not the reason for his decline in popularity. Rather they have merely impeded his ability to overcome the devastating effect of the economy on his campaign.

One thing the Republicans have been absolutely lock-step about is the deregulation of the financial industry and the deregulation of corporate activity in general. It is hard to imagine any proud advocate of this policy (such as McCain) being embraced by the population at the time of the catastrophic exposure of the consequences of this policy.

The Gallup survey shows that Obama for the first time now has a lead among male voters and for the first time among elderly voters. In September he gained a lead among college graduates and has always had a substantial lead among people who extended their education beyond college. This is all consistent with the broader polls.

One of the features of this campaign that is interesting of course is the fact that an African American is running for the first time. In that light it is interesting that McCain still has an edge among white voters. It is a steadily declining edge and no longer a clearly significant preference, but white voters as a group are showing more reluctance to vote for Obama than other demographic groups. This, I guess, is not surprising but it is a little startling to see.

I would not attribute this to racism, as that term is commonly used, but perhaps to unexplored precognitive associations. A good exercise I think for undecided whites or whites not strongly disinclined to vote for Obama is to imagine that things were reversed.

Imagine that McCain, instead of being at the bottom of his class had been at the top and had been Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Now imagine that Obama barely graduated from college. Imagine that 15 years ago was deeply involved in a savings and loan scandal that cost tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars. Imagine that he was an ardent champion of deregulating the financial industry, and that all of the unpleasant aspects of Senator McCain’s personal life were a part of Obama’s life instead. Imagine that he had an unwed pregnant teenage daughter and had been found to have committed serious ethics violations while in the legislature.

If you can do this kind of switch and say that it really would not matter to you, or that your attitude about these things would the same for both candidates then I think you can say that you are not laboring with the precognitive associations of the sort I’m talking about.

I by no means am suggesting that a white’s disagreement with Obama is racially influenced. It is just that the polls suggest that in about one out of ten cases that could be an unexamined influence.

Another interesting poll result is that Obama lags among the group of people that attend church at least once a week. This is the group in which McCain is strongest. His is up 16 points there. I do not have the polls that predate the Republican convention but by all accounts Palin has firmed up McCain’s standing in this group. My guess here is that people who attend church the most tend to be more zealous and that among the zealous, McCain’s opposition to Roe v. Wade wins him the support of most people in the group. I’m presuming that this group is mostly a single issue group. If I’m wrong then the poll results would become even more interesting.


Alaska Court More Sensitive to Notion of Democracy than 2000 U.S. Supreme Court

October 9, 2008

A slogan bandied around by many Republicans, often with an epithet, is “judicial activism.” President Bush sneers at the notion of activist judges. Bush’s attitude of course is highly ironic as he would not have won the 2000 election without the unprecedented activism of our Supreme Court. Had it not intervened, he would have lost Florida and the election. This was an historic action by the Court, widely criticized and in one book famously called an “act of treason” by the Court because it was so unprecedented.

The Republican Party is using the courts in 2008 to try again to influence the election, this time in a more subtle manner. The Republican Party is asking the Alaskan courts to become extremely a “activist” by intruding on a purely legislative process: the statutory investigation of the governor. This is exactly what Republican dogma says is shameful: the courts ursurping the role of the legislature.

The lawsuit appears to be nothing more than a tool to stall the investigation. It claims that Palin cannot get a “fair and just” hearing in the Republican legislature. The trial judge promptly dismissed the suit and the appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court proved fruitless immediately.

I commend the Alaska courts for declining the invitation to influence the election.


McKenna’s Suits Against the Republican Party and BIAW

October 7, 2008

Yesterday’s entry about the lawsuit against the Republican Party drew a comment that warrants notice. James Tierney of Columbia Law School’s National State Attorney General Program saluted Rob McKenna’s decision to bring the lawsuit against the Republican Party. I perhaps did not call attention to my recognition of this decision as a commendable action. Earlier I praised McKenna for suing the B.I.A.W., a major Republican contributor.

Mr. Tierney says that it was appropriate for the Attorney General’s office to bring the action instead of having an independent law firm pursue it. This is certainly something beyond my expertise, but the decision does at least raise a question of a conflict of interest. Given the wide ranging responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office, I am sure that this comes up with some frequency and that it has been adequately resolved in terms of professional responsibility.

My question is that given the appearance of what might commonly, not professionally, be viewed as a conflict of interest, the A.G.’s decision not to pursue immediate action, as is sought in the lawsuit by the two former state supreme court justices, is politically questionable. The citizen suit makes it appear that the A.G.’s office might be going lightly on the case by not seeking immediate remedies.

I should emphasize that there probably is a perfectly sound basis for not seeking the relief sought in the citizen’s suit. In fact the citizen’s suit asks the court for emergency permission to gather evidence so the matter can be decided shortly. The A.G.’s office may very well have determined that there was no such evidence or that the search for such evidence was inappropriate in light of the immanence of the election.

Much of this speculation, however, might have been avoided by hiring outside counsel to pursue the lawsuit. There is certainly nothing impermissible about the Attorney General’s office handling the case, but in the emotional charged context of this election, it may have been prudent to avoid the faintest question about the role of politics in the decisions regarding the litigation.