Sunday, February 28, 2010

Agent Provacatuer

An Agent Provocateur is French for "inciting agent(s)"); a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act. More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action.

I truly believe we are moving into America's dark ages. When I read the incoherent ramblings of Stack I see little differentiation between them and Glen Becks'.

I had been working on the connection between right wing racist and fringe groups in history and their relationship to the party in power, large social change and the economics of the time. Then this morning Frank Rich's column in the New York Times confirmed that my thinking was not just my own.

I had been concerned that I was too becoming paranoid and seeing bogeymen but as I looked up in history the rise of the Klansman in the early 20s, the Aryan Nation in the 70s, the Weavers of Ruby Ridge and lastly Timothy McVeigh of the 90s I saw distinct parallels and beliefs shared by them all and now these same beliefs are those spouted by our current Tea Partiers.

Views that oddly of course parallel Radical or Fundamental Islam and in turn its Christitan counterpart.

Below are descriptions of these who I believe are responding to such Agent Provocateurs:

Ruby Ridge: Randy Weaver, a former Iowa factory worker and Green Beret, moved his family to northern Idaho during the 1980s in order to "home-school his children and escape what he and his wife Vicki saw as a corrupted world."[2] Vicki, the religious leader of the family, believed that the apocalypse was imminent and had dreams of her family surviving the apocalypse in a remote mountainous area.

Timothy McVeigh: After leaving the army in 1992, McVeigh grew increasingly transient. At first he worked briefly near his hometown of Pendleton as a security guard, where he sounded off daily to his co-worker Carl Lebron, Jr. about his loathing for government. Deciding the Buffalo area was too liberal, he left his job and began driving around America, seeking out his old friends from the Army.[16]

McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers, complaining about taxes:

“Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate "promises," they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight... Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that. But it might. ”

McVeigh also wrote to Congressman John J. LaFalce, complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:“ It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can't even carry Mace in her purse? ”

It is claimed that while visiting friends in Decker, Michigan, McVeigh complained that the Army had implanted him with a microchip into his buttocks so that the government could keep track of him.

The Aryan Nation: (from their website) The Folk, namely the members of the race, are the Nation. Racial loyalties must always supersede geographical and national boundaries. If this is taught and understood, it will end fratricidal wars. Wars must not be fought for the benefit of another race.

***there is so much vitriolic hate on their website I almost fainted reading it****

The KKK: In 1915, the second Klan was founded. It grew rapidly in a period of postwar social tensions, where industrialization in the North attracted numerous waves of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and the Great Migration of Southern blacks and whites. The second KKK preached racism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Communism, nativism, and anti-Semitism. Some local groups took part in lynchings, attacks on private houses, and carried out other violent activities. The Klan committed most of its murders and acts of violence in the South, which had a tradition of lawlessnes.

The Tea Party Official Statement (there are btw NUMEROUS sites they have no real centralized "mind") Tea Party Patriots as an organization believes in the Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. Tea Party Patriots, Inc. is a non-partisan grassroots organization of individuals united by our core values derived from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill Of Rights as explained in the Federalist Papers. We recognize and support the strength of grassroots organization powered by activism and civic responsibility at a local level. We hold that the United States is a republic conceived by its architects as a nation whose people were granted "unalienable rights" by our Creator. Chiefly among these are the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The Tea Party Patriots stand with our founders, as heirs to the republic, to claim our rights and duties which preserve their legacy and our own. We hold, as did the founders, that there exists an inherent benefit to our country when private property and prosperity are secured by natural law and the rights of the individual.

Reminding you that their recent convention Tom Tancredo among others made no bones about hiding their racist rhetoric to include the return of literacy tests as a requirement to vote. A perusal of Facebook will either horrify or amuse you to regards as how literate many of the members are. Irony is not lost.

Joseph Stack from his Manifesto: We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”. I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood. These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

And here is Scott Brown, newly elected Senator from MA response:

“Well, It’ s certainly tragic and I feel for the families obviously that are being affected by it. And I don’t know if it’s related but I can just sense not only in my election but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated. They want transparency. They want their elected officials to be accountable and open and talk about the things that are affecting their daily lives. So I am not sure if there is a connection, I certainly hope not, but we need to do things better.”

Cavuto asked, “Invariably people are going to look at this type of incident, Senator, and say, ‘Well, that’s where some of this populist rage gets you.’ Isn’t that a bit extreme?”

“Yeah, of course it's extreme,” Brown said, nonchalantly. “You don’t know anything about the individual. He could have had other issues. Certainly, no one likes paying taxes, obviously. But the way we are trying to deal with things and have been in the past, at least until I got here is, there is such a log jam in Washington and people want us to do better. They want us to help solve the problems that are affecting Americans in a very real way. And I think, I’m hopeful that we can do that with a lot of the things that are coming forward, at least what I’m hearing through and speaking with my colleagues. There seems to be a different feel, there’s kind of a message that was sent with my election, the fact that I was elected by a substantial margin in taking the former Ted Kennedy’s seat. They want somebody different… I’m hopeful that’s going to happen.”

Or Representative Steve King: I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. And I’m still for abolishing the IRS, I’ve been for it for thirty years and I’m for a national sales tax. [...] It’s sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it’s an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it’s going to be a happy day for America.

Or even this manifesto from the Uni bomber:

Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western Civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist's real motive for hating America and the West. He hates
America and the West because they are strong and successful.

I am not sure its any different than any radical Islamic groups beliefs.

But the one I think that holds their thrall more than any Hannity, O'Reilly, Savage and of course Limbaugh is Glen Beck. His "followers" seem more intense, dogmatic and disturbed than any other group. And his staged drama queen antics and inflammatory language dominates the media in ways that the others have not in recent history.

Time Magazine describes him as "a gifted storyteller with a knack for stitching seemingly unrelated data points into possible conspiracies", proclaiming that he has "emerged as a virtuoso on the strings" of Conservatives discontent ... mining the timeless theme of the corrupt Them thwarting a virtuous Us"

His response to Stack (the Austin terrorist), well classic Glen Beck; incoherent,odd connections and bizarre theories:

Instead, Beck railed against the violent actions of “someone we don’t know very well, yet,” pilot Joseph Stack who allegedly flew his plane into an Austin IRS office building, leaving behind both a manifesto and a suicide note. And he didn’t mince words.

We have no idea what this man’s ideology was…he could be from the left, he hates capitalism, he has an anti-business creed that goes on and on. It sounds like anything you could hear in a speech from Van Jones. When you read his anti-tax ravings and his anti-tax or IRS stuff it sounds like you could be reading bumper stickers off the cars or the signs of the Tea Party. We have no idea. But here’s the point. I have no idea if he’s left or right. Is he a communist or a radical constitutionalists. Here’s the point: it doesn’t matter. The guy is a killer.

Beck went on to compare Stack to Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh and warned against rationalizing any of their actions: “I don’t like the IRS either, but I don’t kill people.” Taken all together it sounded to me like a bit of a shot across the bow to anyone who wants to suggest Stack is representative of a larger disgruntled populous.

Later, Beck took to the chalkboard and came this close to suggesting that President Obama is very close to allowing radicals like Stack into his inner circle, though he did manage to note that Van Jones “hasn’t killed anybody.” He also emphatically suggested that the country needs to “get away from anybody who’s calling for a revolution…whether it’s a Tea Party revolution or a communist one.” No more Tea Parties for Beck? Not sure I buy that, unless Stack’s anti-government extreme put the scare in Beck (many would argue Beck has a ‘chalkboard manifesto’ of sorts…is he trying to distance himself?). It will be interesting to see how much of this “separation of radicals” is going to make it into his CPAC address this weekend

Some of the MANY insane theories and ideas one needs to simply Google "Glen Beck's Insane comments"

Glenn Beck's followers number close to the millions on Facebook. The FAN sites on Facebook alone dominate the "haters" twofold. The followers latch on to the "I think Glen is an Idiot" and threaten and bully those who have the audacity to speak out against their "leader." There are few who feel compelled to express their distaste for him past a single sentence but the lovers wow I am glad its a nom de plume I use or I would fear for my safety.

So you see my fear. That these individuals acting upon their beliefs fueled by paranoia, individuals who exploit that and their lack of education and sophistication are no more or less dangerous than any terrorist organization inside or outside the country. The connection cannot be made any clearer.

Friday, February 26, 2010

On the Greenfront

Wal-Mart it its ever increasing push to go Green is now furthering up the ante by requesting from suppliers of its largest items, milk , bread, meat and clothes to find new sustainable shipping and packaging strategies to meet a less carbon footprint. This comes on the heels of its requests for other suppliers of goods to provide detailed labels tracing the history of production on each item.

This from today's NY Times....
Wal-Mart’s sustainability executives will work with suppliers to help them figure out what measures to take. Any costs related to making products more energy-efficient — redesigning packaging or using a different fertilizer — will be the responsibility of each supplier, not of Wal-Mart.

Jim Stanway, who oversees Wal-Mart’s supplier initiatives involving energy, said in an interview on Thursday that suppliers would be willing to spend money if “it’s an investment where everybody’s sure it makes the supplier more profitable.”

And while the initiative may be good for the environment, it may also be good for Wal-Mart. Driving costs out of the supply chain could result in savings for Wal-Mart that can be passed along to consumers — enabling the company to uphold its reputation as a destination for rock-bottom prices

Yes and on that note why don't they provide living wages, health care and benefits to their employees? Isn't what is good for the environment good for those who live in it? Its funny that they are doing this not because its better business but because it can keep prices down and by keeping prices down they can continue to draw that customer, the one in the blog below buying their goods. Yes continuing to aid and simultaneously maintain the status quo while earning it on the backs of green labels.

Why can't we simply have it all? Is it too much to ask to have a business do well for the environment, for their employees, for their customers without feeling that it somehow affects their profit so significantly and more importantly compensation for the Executives who are really reaping the Green?

And with the new push to also enforce legislation and laws already well in existence and subsequently ignored the past 20 years, trucking companies working out of the ports are now being required to upgrade their fleet to more fuel efficient cleaner vehicles.

The problem is who is to buy the trucks. In our zeal for corporate profits trucking and shipping companies (FED EX is one example) have made their drivers "independent contractors" who are responsible for their own costs and vehicles while exclusively working for the sole company. I mean independent would mean that but its kinda not independent when you have a singular contract and work exclusively for one corporation but okay I will go with it.

Unions and greenies are in sync with regards to this. As the NY Times discusses...

We think if you have the big trucking companies own the equipment and maintain it, the trucks will be cleaner,” said David Pettit, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Southern California Clean Air Program. Noting that both trucks and ships contribute to port pollution, he said, “we got involved because the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the single biggest contributors to air pollution in the L.A. area, and that’s because of diesel pollution.”

Environmental groups are happy to have the Teamsters’ political muscle behind efforts to clean up the ports, while the union likes having environmentalists backing its goal: requiring port trucking companies to employ their drivers directly, rather than as independent contractors because employees, unlike contractors, can join unions. The Teamsters are eager to unionize the nation’s more than 40,000 port drivers.

The labor-green alliance achieved a major victory in late 2008 when it helped persuade the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, a former union organizer, and the city’s port to require trucking companies to employ their drivers directly, making the companies bear the cost of buying new rigs.

This issue is in the courts right now but the facts about this speak for themselves; the driver simply don't earn sufficient wages (SHOCKING I KNOW) to buy any new and subsequently greener vehicles.

With a recent Rutgers study finding that port drivers earned $29,000 a year on average (after paying for their trucks, maintenance, fuel and insurance), Mr. Bloomberg said, “Truck drivers simply can’t afford to buy expensive trucks. They’re barely earning enough to make ends meet in a job that should be providing them with a solid, middle-class living.”

Once again it falls to the issue on why business seems to always be behind this resistance to change because ultimately it is about profits. So finding someone else be it suppliers, be it workers to pay for the change then ultimately its good for the environment right so does it really matter?

YES. YES IT DOES. The time is now to really examine the word sustainable and ask what it means. And without people, without workers vested in the company, vested in the world in which they live there is no real reason to care and embrace change. There is no real imperative other than the standard I ME MINE which is the only philosophy the individual does have and little else.

All for the environment but it cannot be the job of the individual any longer.

We are ALL Working Poor

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work in a middle class urban high school... aka white school of supposed smart kids. Well if smart is defined by reading a dry textbook and copying out of it the answers for the questions learning and therefore intelligence gathering yes.

I spoke to them about Education and the future. I asked would they mind if I watched instead the Obama Health Care summit as it related to their future and as they were studying history they were also LIVING it and should be active and engaged. They said no as it had nothing to do with them. They were rude, smug and arrogant. And I fear for our future as there was nothing about them that said SMART.

None of them knew current events and were trying hard to engage me in a smart alec discourse about subjects of which they knew nothing about. My favorite was "do you believe in Global Warming?" My response: "Do you believe in Pollution?" They did not even know what the EPA was or what the initials stood for. Last laugh on me... no I fear not.

When I told them that baby its cold outside and used my story as an example of how tough it is right now in this Country they said "you sound bitter" Uh DUH. But I am past bitter I am ANGRY. This has been going on far too long without objection. We used to riot in the streets now we well we blog.

Perhaps it is because the culture of burying your head in the sand, not having open discourse or actually talking to your kids about politics, issues and well reality is what our lives and families are. Even in the secure "middle class." Well Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

The rising unemployment is hitting faster and more furious in the suburbs. You know the center of all things white, clean and middle class. As I have written in the past the immense amount of job loss in professions once deemed safe and secure, Architecture, Attorney, Educator are now joining the rank file lower classes in ever burgeoning numbers. The only field NOT shedding jobs the Financial Service sector (unless of course you had the misfortune of working for the ever growing number of banks that failed and or were WAMU, Bear Stearns and Lehmans)

I cannot stress enough as word comes out of Washington that preferential contracts will be rewarded to those companies and businesses that are have better levels of pay, provide health car, pensions and other benefits. Well undoubtedly that revolutionary type of Socialist/Communist/Black or what have you thinking will send the friends of Corporacracy into fits. Yes employing people and getting them out of poverty level wages is a real bad thing.

This is an article I reprint in its entirety (the link will lead you to also charts and further information) from the The Center of American Progress regarding the Working Poor - in other words the Middle Class. Let's face it if this is the Greatest Nation then wow just wow.


The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict
The Poor, the Professionals, and the Missing Middle

Understanding the disconnect between Americans' widespread concern over work-family conflict and their policymakers' inability to pass legislation to address this issue requires a portrait of why work-family conflict is so acute today.

By Joan C. Williams, Heather Boushey | January 25, 2010

Work-family conflict is much higher in the United States than elsewhere in the developed world. One reason is that Americans work longer hours than workers in most other developed countries, including Japan, where there is a word, karoshi, for “death by overwork.” The typical American middle-income family put in an average of 11 more hours a week in 2006 than it did in 1979.

Not only do American families work longer hours; they do so with fewer laws to support working families. Only the United States lacks paid maternity-leave laws among the 30 industrialized democracies in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The only family leave available to Americans is unpaid, limited to three months, and covers only about half the labor force. Discrimination against workers with family responsibilities, illegal throughout Europe, is forbidden only indirectly here. Americans also lack paid sick days, limits on mandatory overtime, the right to request work-time flexibility without retaliation, and proportional wages for part-time work. All exist elsewhere in the developed world.

So it should come as no surprise that Americans report sharply higher levels of work-family conflict than do citizens of other industrialized countries. Fully 90 percent of American mothers and 95 percent of American fathers report work-family conflict. And yet our public policymakers in Congress continue to sit on their hands when it comes to enacting laws to help Americans reconcile their family responsibilities with those at work.

Why the political impasse?
The United States today has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world due to a long-standing political impasse. The only major piece of federal legislation designed to help Americans manage work and family life, the Family and Medical Leave Act, was passed in 1993, nearly two decades ago. In the interim—when Europeans implemented a comprehensive agenda of “work-family reconciliation”—not a single major federal initiative in the United States has won congressional approval. In the 110th and 111th congressional sessions, the Federal Employee Paid Parental Leave Act, which would provide four weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees, passed the House of Representatives—garnering support from 50 Republicans in the vote in the 110th Congress—but has not passed in the Senate.

Paid family leave legislation at the federal level remains absent despite years of effort. Childcare subsidies are limited to the poor and are sporadic even for those families, as we will further describe below. The only other relevant federal programs, tax credits for childcare and other dependents and the ability to use pretax earnings for dependent care, offer most families only a small annual subsidy that is not available for families who owe no taxes.

Why has widespread concern over work-family conflict failed to translate into political action? One reason is this: when American public policymakers and the media think about work-family conflict, they think mostly about Sally Sears, the professional TV anchor profiled in our opening pages. Public discussion of work-family conflict has focused largely on the “opt-out revolution” by professional mothers who leave the fast track in order to care for children. Newspapers’ coverage of these “opt-out moms” typically projects a hagiographic image of women choosing selflessly to place their children’s needs before their own.

This picture contrasts sharply with coverage of a different group of opt-out moms. “Welfare-to-work” mothers also receive extensive media coverage, although these stories typically are not framed as stories of work-family conflict. Typically stories about these women revolve around the tug-of-war over whether poor mothers who are not employed are, or should be, cut off from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program, which as of 2009 offers low-income, unemployed mothers an average of $372 a month, with a lifetime cap on benefit receipt of five years or less.

Neither portrait is accurate nor a recipe for building a strong coalition for changing public policy to address work-family conflict. Both professional women and welfare mothers are portrayed in these narratives as lacking sufficient personal or financial incentives to work outside the home. Thus, in this frame, the problem is viewed as not the lack of adequate public policies but rather the personal choices of a small set of mothers who are in families that do not look like most U.S. families. Politicians have actively used these narratives to reject moving forward on a work-family agenda.

Lost in the shuffle between the professional mothers praised for staying at home, and poor mothers criticized for doing so, is a much broader group that Harvard University sociology professor Theda Skocpol aptly calls the “missing middle.” Skocpol finds “puzzling” that “our policy debates deal so little with the fate of working families of modest means, the people who put in long hours to earn a living and make a decent life while coping with rising pressures in their workplaces while trying to raise children in solo-parent or dual-worker families.”

Information is strangely scarce about these embattled middle-income families—who are constantly struggling either to remain in the middle or to work their way into the lifestyles and livelihoods of the professionals. Relatively few policy studies or academic papers discuss the lives and work of Americans in the middle. One goal of this report is to take seriously Skocpol’s call to include the missing middle in progressive analysis and policy recommendations.

This report looks for the first time in a comprehensive way at work-life conflicts across all families, with the exception of the very wealthiest. Through showing the three faces of work-family conflict, our analysis points toward how we can build a stronger coalition for policies to address work-family conflict. The support of the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Fund allowed us to break down the relevant data sets by income. Specifically:

Low-income families, defined as the bottom one-third of families in terms of income.
Professional-managerial families, defined as families with incomes in the top 20 percent, in which at least one adult is a college graduate—13 percent of families in 2008.
Families in the remaining percent of incomes: the Missing Middle—53 percent of families in 2008.
Our data encompass the late 1970s (1977, 1978, and 1979) to the late 2000s (2006, 2007, and 2008), and includes only families with an adult between ages 25 and 54. For simplicity, we draw comparisons between “today” and “30 years ago,” although we are a few years off in each direction. We use data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement and the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine income, hours of work, and childcare usage and costs across families. Due to limitations of these surveys, we are not able to include an analysis of nonheterosexual families. All numbers without citation in the report are from our analysis. (Please see the Data and Methods Appendix for more on our data and methodology.)

Our analysis shows that while families across the spectrum face work-family conflict, they experience it differently, and the politics of resolving these work-life conflicts are defined by these differences. While these differences are very real, they mask the fact that no matter where Americans stand on the income spectrum, they need short-term and extended paid leave and new workplace flexibility rules, as well as high-quality, affordable childcare and freedom from discrimination based on family responsibilities.

In short, this report reveals the disconnect between Americans’ widespread concern over work-family conflict and their policymakers’ inability to pass legislation to address the issue. Understanding this disconnect first requires a portrait of why work-family conflict is so acute and widespread today. We detail the three distinct faces of work-family conflict in the United States in the main body of this report, and then outline a new template for policy analysis. To begin, we highlight the basic contours of our analysis.

An American workplace perfectly designed for the workforce of 1960
In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked, and only 18.5 percent were unmarried. Because the most common family was comprised of a male breadwinner and stay-at-home mother, employers were able to shape jobs around that ideal, with the expectation that the breadwinner was available for work anytime, anywhere, for as long as his employer needed him. Even then, this model did not serve the small but significant share of families who did not fit this mold, yet the model stuck.

This model makes absolutely no sense today. Now, 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are employed. Nearly one in four Americans—more every year—are caring for elders. Hospitals let patients out “quicker and sicker.” Yet employers still enshrine as ideal the breadwinner who is always available because his wife takes care of the children, the sick, the elderly—as well as dinner, pets, and the dry cleaning. For most Americans, this is not real life.

This explains why work-family conflict is so widespread. Today’s workplaces are (im)perfectly designed for the workforce…of 1960. The mismatch between the workplace and the workforce delivers negative economic consequences for individual workers at all income levels, as well as for U.S. businesses and for our economy as a whole.

From a macroeconomic standpoint, the clearest cost of mismatch is that the United States loses a key engine of economic growth because our outdated workplaces push highly trained workers out of the workforce. The most obvious example is Sally Sears, who is emblematic of millions of professional women who are educated at tremendous—often public—expense, and who are then pushed out when high-powered careers demand 24/7 availability. This problem is exacerbated because “full time” in these careers typically involves 50 or more hours a week, while the career and income penalties for “part-time” work are dramatically higher in the United States than elsewhere.

As a result, professional women who need hours more like a traditional full-time job of 40 hours a week often find themselves “doing scut work at slave wages,” as one professional woman put it.24 This systematic de-skilling of women who work part time—as one in five professional and middle-income mothers do, according to our data analysis—is a major macroeconomic cost of workforce-workplace mismatch. So is underemployment of low-income mothers, who face wage rates so low that it makes little economic sense for them to work; a lack of subsidies for childcare often leads to the perverse situation where a mother’s take home pay is less than childcare costs.

The Economist offers a sober assessment of the macroeconomic consequences of the resulting loss of women’s human capital. The magazine warns that many women “are still excluded from paid work; many do not make best use of their skills. Greater participation by women in the labor market could help offset the effect of an ageing, shrinking population and hence support growth.”

Designing workplaces around the old fashioned breadwinner-homemaker household has microeconomic consequences as well. Individual employers may think, in good faith, that they need to work employees longer and longer hours in order to remain competitive. But that conclusion reflects confusion between the inevitable costs of doing business and the costs associated with a specific, and outdated, business model.

Extensive research documents that the mismatch between work and life today leads to very high and very expensive levels of absenteeism and attrition as well as to decreases in productivity. Indeed, the “business case for workplace flexibility” is extensively documented at the microeconomic level. We will limit ourselves to one example: A study of manual, customer service, clerical, cashiers, and sales positions found that employee turnover was 20 percent in a single month, or 240 percent turnover a year.

That’s no way to run a business. Replacing these workers is extremely costly, given that replacing workers earning less than $75,000 costs 20 percent of their annual salary. Research suggests that the turnover rate for employees who lack the flexibility they need is twice that of those who have it.

These costs remain largely unnoticed because they are seen as inevitable costs of doing business. They aren’t, of course. Both macroeconomic and microeconomic analyses demonstrate that policymakers need not fear that work-family policy initiatives will undermine American businesses, or America’s competitive position in the world economy. In fact, reconciling work and family would enhance American’s competitive global position—which is why Europeans have focused so much energy on this issue.

If the United States continues on its present course, it will face a united Europe that has made great strides toward providing family-support laws and institutions—and less developed countries where work-family conflict for professional-managerial and often even middle-income families is muted by the availability of extremely cheap domestic labor. To ensure the United States provides quality care for the next generation of workers, while at the same time utilizing effectively the human capital of its mothers, fathers, and all caregivers, we need to get serious about work-family public policy.

Why three faces?
The typical American workplace today is so deeply out of sync with today’s workforce because of dramatic changes over the past few decades in incomes, working hours, and patterns of family care. The result is widespread work-family conflicts, but in ways that play out differently among the poor, the professionals, and the missing middle. First of all, incomes have diverged. In 1960, men with steady jobs could deliver the basics of a middle-class life—the house, the car, the washing machine—with only intermittent part-time work by their wives. That’s over. After the first oil embargo in 1973, the income of high-school-educated men plummeted, leaving many fewer Americans able to sustain stable access to the American dream. Yet better-educated workers experienced explosive earnings growth in the 1990s. Today, the gap between middle-income earners and high earners is much wider than it was in 1979 (See Figure 1).

Median incomes (incomes in the middle of each earnings group) also diverged sharply over the past 30 years (See Table 1). In 1979, families in the three groups earned median incomes of $27,000, $74,000, and $138,000, respectively, in 2008 dollars. By 2008, those three income levels stood at $19,000, $64,000, and $148,000, respectively. Such sharply diverging incomes transformed the American family. Falling incomes for the middle occurred even as wives increased their labor force participation. But, even with the added earnings of wives, families struggled to afford childcare and elder care costs.

Changing work hours
Work hours over the past 30 years changed most dramatically for mothers, although once again patterns vary by family income. Married middle-income and professional-managerial mothers joined the workforce in large numbers. As shown in Table 2, a little more than one-third, or 35 percent, were at home full time 30 years ago. Today, only 20 percent of professional married mothers and 23 percent of middle-income married mothers are at home full time.

This trend comes as no surprise. Far more surprising is the news about low-income mothers. First, they are more likely than other mothers to be out of the labor force today, even if they are unmarried. Over one-quarter, or 27 percent, of poor single mothers are out of the labor force today compared to 4 percent of single mothers in the middle and 2 percent among professionals. Second, married low-income mothers are slightly more likely today than 30 years ago to be at home full time. Today, 60 percent of married low-income mothers are out of the labor force compared to 55 percent in 1979.

That low-income, married mothers are now less likely to be employed outside the home is, in part, simply an artifact of putting families into groups by income. Families without a working wife are by definition likely to have less income than families with more earners. With working motherhood now so widespread, families that do not have a working mother are more likely than in the past to fall into a lower income grouping. Many mothers who stay home full time do so not out of a preference for caring for their own children, but due to public policy design: a lack of child care subsidies means that the costs of care would eat up most, if not all, of their earnings. Further, inflexible workplaces with unpredictable schedules make accessing quality and affordable childcare nearly impossible.

Work-family conflict is prevalent today not only because of the movement of mothers into the workforce but also due to an increase in long working hours, defined as 50 or more hours a week. Today, as 30 years ago, long hours are most common among professional-managerial men, 38 percent of whom now work 50 or more hours a week. Men in the middle are next most likely to work long hours: 23 percent do—up from 21 percent 30 years ago. Once again, the trend reverses among low-income families, with 16 percent of men working long hours 30 years ago compared to 9 percent today (See Table 3).

Women are much less likely to work long hours, although today 14 percent of professional- managerial women do so. The exception, astonishingly, is single mothers: 32 percent of professional-managerial single mothers work 50 or more hours, as do 12 percent of mothers in the middle. Less than 4 percent of low-income single mothers work long hours, but they are more likely to put in these hours at more than one job, adding extra transportation hours onto their workdays.

What our data analysis shows is what scholars call the “time divide.” In the United States today, many higher earners fervently want fewer hours, while many low-wage workers can find only part-time work, or none at all, and want longer hours, consistent and predictable schedules, and benefits.

Changing patterns of family care
In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked, husbands supported married women, and there were relatively few families headed by a single mother. But over the past 30 years, patterns of family caregiving diverged sharply by family income.

A key divergence concerns single motherhood. Two-thirds, or 66 percent, of low-income families with children are headed by single parents today, compared to a little under half, or 47 percent, in 1979. In sharp contrast, 81 percent of families in the middle, and 96 percent of professional-managerial families with children are headed by married parents. That represents a just over 10 percentage point drop among middle-income families, as 93 percent of families with children were headed by a married couple in 1979, but only a 2 percentage point decline among professional-managerial families.

Predictably, childcare also varies across family income levels (See Figure 3). The most common form of care in low- and middle-income families is by relatives other than the parents themselves. Roughly one-third of each group—34 percent and 30 percent, respectively—relies on relatives as their primary kind of childcare. Only about one-quarter, or 24 percent, of professional-managerial families rely on relatives. Instead, these higher income families are more likely to rely on child-care centers—37 percent do—as do roughly 30 percent of families with low- and middle-income families.

Perhaps most surprising, low-income families are more likely than other kinds of families to rely on the moms and dads themselves for childcare, 26 percent, compared to 20 percent of middle-income families and 14 percent of professional families. Less than 4 percent of families in all three groups rely on sitters or nannies.

A final factor that affects work-family conflict is childcare costs. Unlike Europeans, many of whom have access to high-quality, neighborhood-based childcare at subsidized rates, Americans at all levels struggle to find high-quality childcare—and struggle even more to pay for it. According to our analysis, in March 2009 dollars, low-income families pay around $2,300 a year per child for childcare for children under age 6—about 14 percent of their income. Families in the middle average $3,500 a year—6 percent to 9 percent of their income. Professional families pay about $4,800 a year—3 percent to 7 percent of their income.

Subsidies are available only for low-income families and are scarce and sporadic even for them. About 30 percent of low-income families using center-based care, and 16 percent using an in-home care center for a child under age 6, receive subsidies. The percentage of middle-income families receiving subsidies is negligible—about 3 percent for an in-home care center. There are federal tax policies, however, that tend to benefit middle-income and professional-managerial families. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit benefits higher income workers and families because it is only available to families where parents—both parents if it is a married couple—have earnings or are in school. Low-income families often don’t earn enough to benefit significantly from or even receive the tax credit. Flexible Spending Accounts for Dependent Care most often go to professional-managerial families because employers must set up these programs. A real weakness of both policies is that neither controls for quality of care. Further, neither is large enough to provide significant help for most families.

The mismatched dynamics of work-family conflict
Our report makes it possible not just to understand how family income differences affect the experience of work-family conflict by the American people, but also to see how public policy negatively affects family life—and how enacting progressive family-friendly laws and regulations could improve life for Americans across the income spectrum. Effective political action to reform our workplace rules has been stymied by the great divide among the poor, the professionals, and the missing middle—each group has different types of jobs, handles childcare differently, and has different amounts of disposable income to help them manage work and family obligations.

Yet, from a policy standpoint, each group needs four basic kinds of supports and protections Americans now lack:

Short-term and extended leaves from work, including paid time off for family and medical leave and paid sick days.
Workplace flexibility to allow families to plan their work lives and their family lives.
High-quality and affordable childcare so that breadwinners can concentrate on work at work, and
Freedom from discrimination based on family responsibilities.
The last section of our report forges our analysis of work-life conflicts among the poor, professionals, and the missing middle into a new approach to work-family policy and politics designed to bridge the differences between these three income groups.

Specifically, we offer an understanding of work-family conflict that will help progressives to build a successful coalition to address the needs of all American families. This report is designed to persuade policymakers and the American people that sky-high levels of work-life conflict reflect not just a personal problem, but also a failure of public policy to provide for all Americans. As presented in the Center for American Progress’s “Our Working Nation,” the agenda includes:

Updating basic labor standards to account for the fact that most workers also have family responsibilities by establishing the right to paid sick days, instituting predictable and flexible workplace schedules, and ensuring that workers have access to paid family and medical leave
Improving basic fairness in our workplace by ending discrimination against all workers, including pregnant women and caregivers
Providing direct support to working families with childcare and elder care needs, and
Improving our knowledge about family responsive workplace policies by collecting national data on work/life policies offered by employers and analyzing the effectiveness of existing state and local policies.
For this to happen, though, progressives need to build a strong coalition that can appeal to the poor, the professionals, and the missing middle with their different work-life conflicts.

Above all, progressives need to explain how the family-friendly policies Americans need to enable them both to care for and support their families are needed by American families at all income levels—even if their needs differ. In the pages that follow, we describe in detail what these differences are. We then show how smart, progressive policies backed by effective political coalition building can make these reforms happen.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Reconciliation Ends in Divorce

To "Reconcile" as defined by Websters: the reestablishing of cordial relations;
getting two things to correspond. Additional definitions are: The reestablishment of friendly relations; conciliation or rapprochement; Married people who have fallen out getting back together.

And the big kahuna: Reconciliation is a legislative process of the United States Senate intended to allow a contentious budget bill to be considered without being subject to filibuster. Because reconciliation limits debate and amendment, the process empowers the majority party. ...

Okay so now here we are arguing about reconciling. Getting together and putting the bitter party rivalries, talking points and differences to resolve the crisis that is the American Health Care System. You know the one that the Republicans keep saying is the GREATEST in the world. Actually were number 37 with a pair of cement shoes.

Reconciliation was a favorite tool used by Republicans during the Bush years. It prevents filibusters (or as Rachel Maddow now calls it "The Tarantino") and thus from the 60 vote super-majority required to pass bills. It allows legislation with budgetary impact to pass by a simple minority after a limited debate.

16 of the 22 reconciliation bills made in Congress were done when Republicans had majorities. The beloved Tax Cuts of Bush, the 1996 overhaul of welfare, Children's Health Insurance Plan and mhy favorite COBRA (what do you think the R stands for?).

Its amusing to think now that the shoe is on the other foot how Republicans are so against what they once so vigilantly supported and well did. Judd Gregg, R, New Hampshire once said "Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don't think so." Today he is one of the most vocal opponents. Now he is all about debate and discussion. Interesting. Hypocrite much? Or just reconsidering?

The current argument is that reconciliation was not intended for significant and substantive legislation. Well then I guess those bills I mentioned above are "insignificant"

The Republicans today meet with the President about Health Care. It is not insignificant. But their attitude and demeanor towards reform, change and progress seems to be NO. NONE. NOT AT ALL. Their position is consistent when they are not in power. NO to big Government, No to Taxes, No to anything that benefits the average citizen at the sacrifice of big business. Yes to enhanced military and to fear.

Good to KNOW.

Prospect of Build

Below is an article from American Prospect about Architecture. I found it interesting as this morning I read that the new Embassy in London, a magnificent structure unique and a focus on alternative energy while being terrorist "proof" is one designed by a European Architect. Apparently no American design met the standard and the article complained that there is real dearth of successful projects being touted by Americans of late.

True the World Trade Center a place undoubtedly American has had many design challenges and well issues but the most recent plans and designs when I last checked were not American firms.

I don't' think there is any shortage of Architects. Sadly in fact as I blogged earlier it is an industry deeply hurt and decimated by the recent economic crisis. I have also blogged about my own problems with Architects and their often arrogant and at times challenging attitude towards simple projects needing simple solutions and designs. They are Divas but they are all ironically men.

This industry like so many others suffers from an excess of white male testosterone, no doubt. I have only met one Architect of color in my life and he was French and from the Maldives. Other than that its a day at the frat house.

I have always been encouraging kids who are inclined to get into the trades and build those skills to move into both Engineering and Architecture. I know anyone of any color is already facing immense challenges and burdens getting any education. But again like Doctors we really need better strategies for encouraging more to enter the field. Keeping a field elite serves no one. And frankly American buildings should be designed by Americans.


Architecture's Diversity Problem

The field of architecture is structured in such a way that it keeps the status quo -- white, economically privileged men -- firmly in place.

Courtney E. Martin | February 23, 2010
American Prospect

Architect Jeanne Gang's new tower, Aqua, stands in the center of Chicago with an attention-grabbing facade that appears to undulate like a wave reaching for the sky rather than the shore. It's a nice surprise to find that the critics have largely avoided drawing overly simplified parallels between the curvy construction and 44-year-old Gang's gender, conspicuous in a field where women are few and far between. Aqua, in fact, is the tallest skyscraper designed by a woman -- and a fairly young one at that.

Gang herself doesn't attribute the highly original style of Aqua to her sex, emphasizing instead how much she values design that truly does justice to the context and constituency. She told New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, "I like to do research about a place, about materials, and about a program." In other words, she cares whether the building serves the community in and around it, rather than whether it is another "fetishized object" that is beloved by critics but not by the people who use it every day. The Chicago Tribune praised Gang: "She has a gift for coaxing visual poetry out of the most prosaic materials."

Even though Gang's aesthetics aren't gendered, her commitment to high-design/low-ideology architecture has garnered a significant amount of media attention -- an indication of how badly her fresh perspective is needed. Her gender may not determine her design, but it undoubtedly influences her perspective on the profession. Certainly, the more diverse the nation's architects are, the more varied and exciting our cityscapes will be.

And architecture, let's face it, has a serious diversity problem. Statistics are hard to come by, but estimates indicate that 10 percent to 15 percent of the 110,000 registered architects in the United States are women, and about 1 percent to 2 percent are people of color.

There are many reasons for the homogeneity of the field; chief among them is the process required to become a registered architect, a mess of unexamined tradition and red tape. Apart from an accredited professional degree in architecture (which can cost upward of tens of thousands of dollars and take five to seven years to complete), anyone who wants to get licensed must jump through a series of hoops, which vary by state. This sort of bureaucratic and costly certification process -- in any profession -- tends to disproportionately affect people without economic resources, flexibility, and family or community support. Because of a lot of historical and systemic factors, the folks with those challenges tend to be women and people of color, though not exclusively, of course.

For example, Illinois, where Gang practices, requires an accredited degree, followed by completion of the Intern Development Program and Architect Registration Examination (ARE). IDP is promoted as a three-year program but takes an average of five years to complete. Salaries are greatly suppressed during the internship period -- making it difficult to pay off school debt or support a family. Further, the ARE is actually seven exams, costing nearly $1,500 total and taking an average of two years to complete -- a hardship for anyone without substantial economic resources and a flexible schedule (two conditions far less likely to be a reality for women with children, for example).

Like finance, architecture lacks a sturdy pipeline for these people. While enrollment in architecture schools is actually decently diverse, people of color and women drop out of the field at disproportionate rates. With a lack of mentors, a dearth of financial and professional support, and a dominant culture resistant to change, it takes a Herculean effort on the part of many aspiring architects just to get through the early years of their career.

Another factor keeping women and people of color from making it as architects is straight up sexism and racism in the workplace. Kathryn H. Anthony, author of Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession , interviewed more than 400 architects nationwide and found that almost half of them had personally experienced either gender or race discrimination at the architecture firm where they worked.

Last year, around the time of its 150th anniversary, the American Institute of Architects published a toolkit for diversifying architecture firms. While certainly a step in the right direction, the kit is riddled with patronizing language, like an article titled, "What's In It for Me? The Business Case" -- as if diversity were an undue burden being imposed on white male architects. While various articles emphasize the ways in which diversity will enrich the field, it seems that the authors largely shy away from making a moral argument for fear of rocking the foundation of the profession.

The field of architecture is structured in such a way that it keeps the status quo -- white, economically privileged men -- firmly in place. Beyond being unjust, it makes our built environment less interesting, less inspiring. Metropolis Magazine reports that a lot of Gang's previous work has been built in what she calls "architecture deserts. … It correlates very closely with race. You can see how certain segments of the population are not even getting exposed to architecture. It's so crazy because architecture can really transform your life, especially if you experience it at a very early age."

There are certainly quality-of-life ailments and economic quagmires within the architecture profession that affect everyone -- the old boys included. But it's time that the total lack of diversity be positioned as one of the most important issues facing the future of architecture. At the end of the day, however, Gang's Aqua isn't exciting because it was designed by a woman. It is exciting because it's a feat of originality, beauty, and functionality -- the kind of design that only someone with Gang's specific sensibility and values could create for the world. If the field of architecture is to live up to its aspiration to transform the look of the world, it's going to have to transform the look of its own ranks first.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wellpoint. Well is not if you are insured by them

Wellpoint under fire for their outrageous 39% rate increases in California are now being investigated by Congress.

WellPoint Inc. ’s internal documents show the health insurer sought to raise rates in California to boost company profits and cover costs ballooned by executive pay and corporate retreats, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman said. WellPoint, the biggest U.S. insurer by enrollment, may have manipulated the actuarial assumptions it cited to justify a rate increase as high as 39 percent, Waxman, a California Democrat, said at a congressional hearing.

The Indianapolis-based insurer also paid compensation of at least $1 million apiece to 39 executives in 2008 and spent $27 million over two years on executive getaways, Waxman said, citing documents obtained by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Really glad they are managing to get by on just a million and I hope those getaways were fantastic!

This rate increase would lend 1.5 million PROFIT for this company suffering under recent economic turndowns affecting their overall policy protections. And by protections I mean healthy people, lots of businesses buying coverage causing them to either cancel policies on those who need it or simply refusing treatments too. You know the usual bait and switch.

A White House report on Feb. 18 highlighted additional increases last year in Michigan, Connecticut and Maine that it said were five to 10 times higher than the growth rate in national health spending. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., the top U.S. health plans, were trying to preserve executive pay and profits “way over anybody’s estimates.

Congressman Anthony Weiner's (NY) outburst on the floor of the House today decrying Republicans constant demands and subsequent retractions earned him two time outs but his point was made. Republicans (and there are Democrats there.. Baucus, Lieberman to mention two) who are bought and sold by Insurance lobbyists. Many of them have spouses who work for them or their related partners-in-crime Pharmaceuticals.

This afternoon, New York Representative Anthony Weiner went ballistic on the House floor at his Republican colleagues over their reject-it-all attitude toward health care. Striding angrily to the mike, Weiner shouted: "You guys have chutzpah. The Republican party is a wholly owned subsidiary of an insurance industry. That's the fact." Not ten seconds into his rant, he was interrupted by (what sounds like) Rep. Dan Lungren, who objected and asked the Speaker to "take down" Weiner's words. Weiner strode away angrily, then, after agreeing to retract his offending words, took the mike again. "How much time do I have remaining?" he began, enunciating clearly. "Make no mistake about it: Every. Single. Republican. I. Have. Ever. Met. In my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry."

Congressman Weiner said as he left the lectern DEAL WITH IT. The truth hurts and tomorrow on the day of the "health summit" one wonders if they will truly DEAL WITH IT.

Take HEED (no, not LEED)

Given my propensity to discourage LEED for the average homeowner I don't want to confuse you with another acronym for another certification program.

HEED (Home Energy Efficient Design) is a FREE website and resource developed by a UCLA research team under Murray Milne, a research professor in the school’s department of architecture and urban design. HEED allows anyone (yes anyone) to design a sustainable home and find out how much money and energy they will save with each aspect or change in the design.

The site provides links to a HEED download page, EnergyPlus weather data from the Department of Energy, faq's, design suggestions, and a tutorial.

You enter a home’s square footage, number of stories, type (apartment, rowhouse, etc.), and location, and HEED automatically creates two homes so you have one with which to compare.

The base house is designed to meet California’s energy code, one of the most toughest code in the United States. You have the option to change it to meet your own state code(s); additionally you can create up to nine design schemes.

In the floor planner, you can rotate the home and explore door, window, roofing, ventilation, insulation, heating, cooling, appliance, and operable shading options. There’s also a payback analysis tool that calculates annual energy costs against construction costs. The idea is to make changes that constantly improve performance while also measuring costs.

HEED is easy to install on a PC or a Mac. Why it may be complex there is a help desk which will promptly repsond To see all of UCLA’s energy design tools, go to

I think its time to take HEED that green is for all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lock this up!

It is funny that I would get a request to write about lockers but oddly this is a subject and item that recently came up when a friend asked about putting baskets or lockers in a gym space he was creating. They had a small space and went to a local store who was charging a significant price for what they called "vintage" lockers.

I suggested Googling School Locker or Gym Lockers. We found information and prices on a multitude of products that eventually led them to price appropriate and great looking locker selection. offers of course conventional lockers for commercial education and traditional gym style lockers for sale. However I am a great advocate in using them in residential settings including apartments, lofts or garages as alternative and interesting storage. I have used basket configurations and lockers in bathrooms as interesting focal and more importantly transferable storage. When you redo many houses and move a great deal you have a tendency to make high impact focal points with objects that can relocate with you or be sold as an extra "feature" to the house. has wood, metal or basket locker styles that can be incorporated in a home as a unique furnishing statement. Great in baths for storage or towels and other items and its high high impact without significant expense or trouble.

Review and see the interesting option in locker style, design and think "outside the box" when you decorate. These items are frequently on sale at vintage shops and re-stores at much higher prices and in often poorer shape. You can easily distress or change paint and again this is a movable item so it works in many spaces to act as closets or additional storage.

Check out their shipping and return policy to see the options available.

*** this message is brought to you by************

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Shadow grows larger

It doesn't appear that America will be back working anytime soon. And in reality when one gets back to work the long term affects, emotionally and financially will be severe.

For some reconciling making less money, downsizing and changing habits to adapt to a lesser salary, position or lifestyle will not be a problem. But for many its simply a shock and awe scenario that is tough to recover.

I know that if don't accept the situation soon I will have to do more to further change my life. I have reconciled selling everything but to do that I have to find buyers and that worries me more. I realize that living on savings and subsistence wages is not a forever plan but what was short term until business returns seems likelier further away than I planned.

And as a woman in the no go range 45-65 I already am very familiar with what it means to find a job and I am educated, intelligent in good shape and health. Ironically all of that was a detriment when I went back into the public sector looking for work. I have written before regarding my job search and the terms and verbiage often used to discourage me or to simply indicate that despite my willingness the company was not. Be it sexism, ageism or simply fear that they would have to compensate me appropriately and offer true growth and work were all I think reasons behind the challenges I faced. Undoubtedly I know for many its worse.

The quandary to return to school and get more "education" about my field or forget it and throw in the towel and return to teaching when even that profession is taking hard hits. No one has answers and really no one knows what the long term future holds. And that fear I believe is why the tea patiers, the lunatic fringe and religion are growing in significant numbers. They play to that fear and offer a false sense of security and hope. When in reality they have no solutions either. The no Government, No Taxes slogans and pray for resolution are empty silly promises that unless you can say I have a plan and here is what we want to do with definitive outcomes and real statistics, numbers and FACTS to back it up I say well at least stick with prayer it can't harm anyone. Well unless you hate gays or other perceived enemies. Church did little to protect Dr. Tiller as he was shot in a vestibule by a man who had no problem resigning his faith as superior to Dr. Tillers.

Today the NY Times front page article discusses the real problems surrounding our current crisis. And the sheer numbers of unemployed, the lack of social services and safety nets that have deteriorated or been eliminated since the Wreckers control of the 80's, and the move to profits for business by cutting staff, outsourcing and growth of technology to replace labor led to slower hiring practices of the last 10 years.

So is the future bright? No. This is serious, its severe and requires real solutions by people vested in finding them.


The New Poor
Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

Published: February 20, 2010

BUENA PARK, Calif. — Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Here in Southern California, Jean Eisen has been without work since she lost her job selling beauty salon equipment more than two years ago. In the several months she has endured with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check, she has relied on local food banks for her groceries.

She has learned to live without the prescription medications she is supposed to take for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She has become effusively religious — an unexpected turn for this onetime standup comic with X-rated material — finding in Christianity her only form of health insurance.

“I pray for healing,” says Ms. Eisen, 57. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to go with what you know.”

Warm, outgoing and prone to the positive, Ms. Eisen has worked much of her life. Now, she is one of 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.

Men have suffered the largest numbers of job losses in this recession. But Ms. Eisen has the unfortunate distinction of being among a group — women from 45 to 64 years of age — whose long-term unemployment rate has grown rapidly.

In 1983, after a deep recession, women in that range made up only 7 percent of those who had been out of work for six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. Last year, they made up 14 percent.

Twice, Ms. Eisen exhausted her unemployment benefits before her check was restored by a federal extension. Last week, her check ran out again. She and her husband now settle their bills with only his $1,595 monthly disability check. The rent on their apartment is $1,380.

“We’re looking at the very real possibility of being homeless,” she said.

Every downturn pushes some people out of the middle class before the economy resumes expanding. Most recover. Many prosper. But some economists worry that this time could be different. An unusual constellation of forces — some embedded in the modern-day economy, others unique to this wrenching recession — might make it especially difficult for those out of work to find their way back to their middle-class lives.

Labor experts say the economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb entrants to the labor force. With more than 15 million people officially jobless, even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number out of work for years.

Some labor experts note that severe economic downturns are generally followed by powerful expansions, suggesting that aggressive hiring will soon resume. But doubts remain about whether such hiring can last long enough to absorb anywhere close to the millions of unemployed.

A New Scarcity of Jobs

Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce — particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma.

Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

During periods of American economic expansion in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the number of private-sector jobs increased about 3.5 percent a year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a research firm. During expansions in the 1980s and ’90s, jobs grew just 2.4 percent annually. And during the last decade, job growth fell to 0.9 percent annually.

“The pace of job growth has been getting weaker in each expansion,” Mr. Achuthan said. “There is no indication that this pattern is about to change.”

Before 1990, it took an average of 21 months for the economy to regain the jobs shed during a recession, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group in Washington.

After the recessions in 1990 and in 2001, 31 and 46 months passed before employment returned to its previous peaks. The economy was growing, but companies remained conservative in their hiring.

Some 34 million people were hired into new and existing private-sector jobs in 2000, at the tail end of an expansion, according to Labor Department data. A year later, in the midst of recession, hiring had fallen off to 31.6 million. And as late as 2003, with the economy again growing, hiring in the private sector continued to slip, to 29.8 million.

It was a jobless recovery: Business was picking up, but it simply did not translate into more work. This time, hiring may be especially subdued, labor economists say.

Traditionally, three sectors have led the way out of recession: automobiles, home building and banking. But auto companies have been shrinking because strapped households have less buying power. Home building is limited by fears about a glut of foreclosed properties. Banking is expanding, but this seems largely a function of government support that is being withdrawn.

At the same time, the continued bite of the financial crisis has crimped the flow of money to small businesses and new ventures, which tend to be major sources of new jobs.

All of which helps explain why Ms. Eisen — who has never before struggled to find work — feels a familiar pain each time she scans job listings on her computer: There are positions in health care, most requiring experience she lacks. Office jobs demand familiarity with software she has never used. Jobs at fast food restaurants are mostly secured by young people and immigrants.

If, as Mr. Sinai expects, the economy again expands without adding many jobs, millions of people like Ms. Eisen will be dependent on an unemployment insurance already being severely tested.

“The system was ill prepared for the reality of long-term unemployment,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director for the National Employment Law Project. “Now, you add a severe recession, and you have created a crisis of historic proportions.”

Fewer Protections

Some poverty experts say the broader social safety net is not up to cushioning the impact of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Social services are less extensive than during the last period of double-digit unemployment, in the early 1980s.

On average, only two-thirds of unemployed people received state-provided unemployment checks last year, according to the Labor Department. The rest either exhausted their benefits, fell short of requirements or did not apply.

“You have very large sets of people who have no social protections,” said Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “They are landing in this netherworld.”

When Ms. Eisen and her husband, Jeff, applied for food stamps, they were turned away for having too much monthly income. The cutoff was $1,570 a month — $25 less than her husband’s disability check.

Reforms in the mid-1990s imposed time limits on cash assistance for poor single mothers, a change predicated on the assumption that women would trade welfare checks for paychecks.

Yet as jobs have become harder to get, so has welfare: as of 2006, 44 states cut off anyone with a household income totaling 75 percent of the poverty level — then limited to $1,383 a month for a family of three — according to an analysis by Ms. Albelda.

“We have a work-based safety net without any work,” said Timothy M. Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “People with more education and skills will probably figure something out once the economy picks up. It’s the ones with less education and skills: that’s the new poor.”

Here in Orange County, the expanse of suburbia stretching south from Los Angeles, long-term unemployment reaches even those who once had six-figure salaries. A center of the national mortgage industry, the area prospered in the real estate boom and suffered with the bust.

Until she was laid off two years ago, Janine Booth, 41, brought home roughly $10,000 a month in commissions from her job selling electronics to retailers. A single mother of three, she has been living lately on $2,000 a month in child support and about $450 a week in unemployment insurance — a stream of checks that ran out last week.

For Ms. Booth, work has been a constant since her teenage years, when she cleaned houses under pressure from her mother to earn pocket money. Today, Ms. Booth pays her $1,500 monthly mortgage with help from her mother, who is herself living off savings after being laid off.

“I don’t want to take money from her,” Ms. Booth said. “I just want to find a job.”

Ms. Booth, with a résumé full of well-paid sales jobs, seems the sort of person who would have little difficulty getting work. Yet two years of looking have yielded little but anxiety.

She sends out dozens of résumés a week and rarely hears back. She responds to online ads, only to learn they are seeking operators for telephone sex lines or people willing to send mysterious packages from their homes.

She spends weekdays in a classroom in Anaheim, in a state-financed training program that is supposed to land her a job in medical administration. Even if she does find a job, she will be lucky if it pays $15 an hour.

“What is going to happen?” she asked plaintively. “I worry about my kids. I just don’t want them to think I’m a failure.”

On a recent weekend, she was running errands with her 18-year-old son when they stopped at an A.T.M. and he saw her checking account balance: $50.

“He says, ‘Is that all you have?’ ” she recalled. “ ‘Are we going to be O.K.?’ ”

Yes, she replied — and not only for his benefit.

“I have to keep telling myself it’s going to be O.K.,” she said. “Otherwise, I’d go into a deep depression.”

Last week, she made up fliers advertising her eagerness to clean houses — the same activity that provided her with spending money in high school, and now the only way she sees fit to provide for her kids. She plans to place the fliers on porches in some other neighborhood.

“I don’t want to clean my neighbors’ houses,” she said. “I know I’m going to come out of this. There’s no way I’m going to be homeless and poverty-stricken. But I am scared. I have a lot of sleepless nights.”

For the Eisens, poverty is already here. In the two years Ms. Eisen has been without work, they have exhausted their savings of about $24,000. Their credit card balances have grown to $15,000.

“I don’t know how we’re still indoors,” she said.

Her 1994 Dodge Caravan broke down in January, leaving her to ask for rides to an employment center.

She does not have the money to move to a cheaper apartment.

“You have to have money for first and last month’s rent, and to open utility accounts,” she said.

What she has is personality and presence — two traits that used to seem enough. She narrates her life in a stream of self-deprecating wisecracks, her punch lines tinged with desperation.

“See that,” she said, spotting a man dressed as the Statue of Liberty. Standing on a sidewalk, he waved at passing cars with a sign advertising a tax preparation business. “That will be me next week. Do you think this guy ever thought he’d be doing this?”

And yet, she would gladly do this. She would do nearly anything.

“There are no bad jobs now,” she says. “Any job is a good job.”

She has applied everywhere she can think of — at offices, at gas stations. Nothing.

“I’m being seen as a person who is no longer viable,” she said. “I’m chalking it up to my age and my weight. Blame it on your most prominent insecurity.”

Two Incomes, Then None

Ms. Eisen grew up poor, in Flatbush in Brooklyn. Her father was in maintenance. Her mother worked part time at a company that made window blinds.

She married Jeff when she was 19, and they soon moved to California, where he had grown up. He worked in sales for a chemical company. They rented an apartment in Buena Park, a growing spread of houses filling out former orange groves. She stayed home and took care of their daughter.

“I never asked him how much he earned,” Ms. Eisen said. “I was of the mentality that the husband took care of everything. But we never wanted.”

By the early 1980s, gas and rent strained their finances. So she took a job as a quality assurance clerk at a factory that made aircraft parts. It paid $13.50 an hour and had health insurance.

When the company moved to Mexico in the early 1990s, Ms. Eisen quickly found a job at a travel agency. When online booking killed that business, she got the job at the beauty salon equipment company. It paid $13.25 an hour, with an annual bonus — enough for presents under the Christmas tree.

But six years ago, her husband took a fall at work and then succumbed to various ailments — diabetes, liver disease, high blood pressure — leaving him confined to the couch. Not until 2008 did he secure his disability check.

And now they find themselves in this desert of joblessness, her paycheck replaced by a $702 unemployment check every other week. She received 14 weeks of benefits after she lost her job, and then a seven-week extension.

For most of October through December 2008, she received nothing, as she waited for another extension. The checks came again, then ran out in September 2009. They were restored by an extension right before Christmas.

Their daughter has back problems and is living on disability checks, making the church their ultimate safety net.

“I never thought I’d be in the position where I had to go to a food bank,” Ms. Eisen said. But there she is, standing in the parking lot of the Calvary Chapel church, chatting with a half-dozen women, all waiting to enter the Bread of Life Food Pantry.

When her name is called, she steps into a windowless alcove, where a smiling woman hands her three bags of groceries: carrots, potatoes, bread, cheese and a hunk of frozen meat.

“Haven’t we got a lot to be thankful for?” Ms. Eisen asks.

For one thing, no pinto beans.

“I’ve got 10 bags of pinto beans,” she says. “And I have no clue how to cook a pinto bean.”

Local job listings are just as mysterious. On a bulletin board at the county-financed ProPath Business and Career Services Center, many are written in jargon hinting of accounting or computers.

“Nothing I’m qualified for,” Ms. Eisen says. “When you can’t define what it is, that’s a pretty good indication.”

Her counselor has a couple of possibilities — a cashier at a supermarket and a night desk job at a motel.

“I’ll e-mail them,” Ms. Eisen promises. “I’ll tell them what a shining example of humanity I am.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cracking down on 1099

This morning I opened the paper to see headlines regarding the crackdown on Contract employees as a way of a tax dodge.

This is an interesting dilemma for someone who was in the field of "contracting" and has been a contracted employee myself. So I see it from both sides of the fence.

I also live in the city of the behemoth Microsoft. The business that made a very successful case to Congress for the "need" to hire more outsourced/outplaced workers and in turn using Contracted employees for a large part of their workforce to supplement their projects. A convenient law and of course excellent tax deduction for them. They of course are not the only industry that does so but my friends at WashTech have long been working to discontinue the practice and encourage unionizing this industry.

For small contractors and builders this comes as a heavy burden. Being honest here who in my industry has not availed themselves of the significant labor force in the Hispanic community? My company name Vida Verde was chosen because well I realized I owed them a debt and recognition that my Latino friends were critical to my work.

I feel very strongly that at this time with so many people out of work and the strange obsession by the "tea partiers" about immigration and literacy tests for our residents I cannot say enough words of gratitude for the work that my "illegals" have done on my projects. I cannot excuse nor will I for a practice that is common and expected.

Do I believe this crackdown will stop this process? No in all honesty small projects with day labor will continue. What this is really about is the larger companies who have used this loophole to underpay workers, deny benefits and avoid taxes. Yes we all know the burden of taxes and especially the expensive L&I ones. However we now see that without significant taxes we will continue to run on deficits and indirectly tax our system out of business. Relying more and more on foreign credit and debt and in turn our country will become further dilapidated and our services and businesses will suffer.

This also comes into play with the new OSHA inspections that are also increasing. Again if you are truly a legitimate and honest contractor you should have no problems. It is cutting corners or simply just greed to think that avoiding what are done to protect YOU and YOUR workers is something to ignore. OSHA regs are easily available online and so there is no excuse to say you did not know. I think safety is critical on a job site. You cannot work if your employees are injured. And ironically that what contributes to the rise of L&I insurance and other costs. I would rather control that on the front end than the back end via higher fees. The long range is often foresighted at the pursuit of increased profit. One has to wonder if that is really that much when its all said and done.

Doing business honestly. Giving people an HONEST days work and in turn expecting to fulfill your role as a citizen and employer is part doing business in America. I cannot imagine this country resorting to the tactics of China or the Isle of Saipain or some other exploited workforce to get the job done.

We are seeing the end results of what has been a systemic destruction of a Government and a country all for the sake of Big Business. But maybe I get it because I have always been small business, played by as many rules as I can and yes took advantage of them as well. But in all honesty when your same has Microsoft in it do you really have to?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You've Got Mail

One of the things I think makes a big impact is a distinctive Mailbox and Address sign. When you are looking for curb appeal these little details can make an impact without breaking the budget. Plus it allows for an individual sense of decor even when renting.

The site Mailboxixchange offers not only Mailboxes for both Residential and Commerical properties, they offer Address Plagues, Curbside Decor and landscape products from window boxes to terrariums.

My personal favorite mailbox is the Fleur di Lis Mailboxes. Stunning and Affordable and prices well under $200.

Other items that even a renter could find useful are the Window boxes, Firepits, bird feeders/baths and planters in numerous styles that look good and can be moved with you should you move.

offers a variety of commercial mailboxes with numerous styles and varieties for multi unit use. They have a Service Center dedicated to assist you so you make the right choice and offer an "Internet Deal of the Month" on selected items.

So if you are an owner of a home and would like to make an affordable upgrade to lend curb appeal, a renter yearning to add a personal touch to your apartment or home and the yard or patio look no further than Mailboxixchange to find affordable options to beautify your home.

Spring is coming and now is great time to look outside after this winter you may appreciate it!

***brought to you by your friends at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring Showers bring May Flowers

One of my major concerns is the use and misuse of water. I live in the Pacific Northwest where rain is not a problem but that does not excuse us for being cavalier with water use.

As a result I am a great advocate on the use of Rain Harvesting. is done by a simple addition to your yard - rain barrels. Rain barrels are easy, affordable and more importantly a great way to encourage conservation and without effort. Using rain barrels to aid in the watering of your landscape is one thing that is very low tech and high impact.

If you are looking for adding rain barrels to your yard. Go to Simply Rain Barrels and peruse the selection of rain barrels for sale.

My personal favorite is the Madison Catcher. Add a window box and it glamorizes the simplicity and offers a dual purpose.

The most utilitarian and popular rain water barrels is the the Great American Forrest barrel. They have outstanding warranties and shipping options that should also be considered when you are seeking these products

Simply Rain Barrels has not only a variety of options, they offer additional products for your use in rain harvesting; including compost bins another easy and affordable way of going green in the garden and home.

Rain water harvesting is the easiest and most affordable way to lend yourself to conservation and you can do this with minimal effort and have maximum impact on your use and reuse of our precious resource water.

**this message was brought to you by your friends at Simply Rain Barrels

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Little Green Vette

While I am happy to read that finally Auto manufacturers have come to realize that providing alternative energy vehicles are the wave of the future my inner car lover of me will malign the end of auto design and performance that has always captured me and many other car lovers.

For years American manufacturers managed to capture popularity and excitement over the design of many hot rods and groovy cars that came to define a generation, a history or simply a hot car. For many of us the car that defines us comes in many ways. The first car we learned to drive, the first car we kissed or well fucked in, the first car we ever bought, the first cool car we ever got to drive and so forth.

I have always loved cars. I have also been pretty pragmatic about them and over the years come to define my car of choice as finding the most stylish but also one that will "last forever."

I hated the years that the tax deferment went to the SUV. My god I never hated a car more on principal. Ugly, unwieldy, gas guzzler, unsafe and frankly just not good design or practicality.

But as the sheep we are Americans believed all the marketing and the bullshit that went with it. Its safe right? Its big? And then suddenly statistics gave the facts as anything but. But it did not stop the drive to the end and that end was the total decline in the American auto industry.

I worry that the electric car is now suffering the same fate, fate that went with the hysteria regarding bio-diesel fuels. With Toyota's sudden recall that includes the hybrid, I worry that the drive to the finish line to get the most affordable alt vehicle will do so with further issues down the line.

Some problems is charging them and the drain on the already overburdened electrical grid. Without a move towards alternative energy on a larger scale we are not doing anything to change that issue. The next is the battery. Disposing them will mean adding toxic materials to again a landfill busting at the seems.

Without long term goals and affects to the entire picture I wonder if we are not well re-inverting the wheel in a not good way.

I would really like to see an overall decline in autos as a primary source of transportation. I would like to see improvement on local ways to get from point a to b; to shared vehicles and more importantly development of cross country high speed rail.

We are a car driven nation and its too our detriment. We are one of the few countries that provide a HOUSE for a car. Call it a garage the irony is I see very few cars actually IN garages. I look at the roads and their dilapidated states, the ever yo-yo-ing of gas prices and the waste and expense of autos as they increase their complex engineering.

I reprint an article from today's New York Times regarding the proliferation of the Electric Car the vehicle for the future.


Cities Prepare for Life With the Electric Car

Published: February 14, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — If electric cars have any future in the United States, this may be the place.

The first wave of electric car buying is expected to begin around December when Nissan introduces the five-passenger Leaf.

The San Francisco building code will soon be revised to require that new structures be wired for car chargers. Across the street from City Hall, some drivers are already plugging converted hybrids into a row of charging stations.

In nearby Silicon Valley, companies are ordering workplace charging stations in the belief that their employees will be first in line when electric cars begin arriving in showrooms. And at the headquarters of Pacific Gas and Electric, utility executives are preparing “heat maps” of neighborhoods that they fear may overload the power grid in their exuberance for electric cars.

“There is a huge momentum here,” said Andrew Tang, an executive at P.G.& E.

As automakers prepare to introduce the first mass-market electric cars late this year, it is increasingly evident that the cars will get their most serious tryout in just a handful of places. In cities like San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and San Diego, a combination of green consciousness and enthusiasm for new technology seems to be stirring public interest in the cars.

The first wave of electric car buying is expected to begin around December, when Nissan introduces the Leaf, a five-passenger electric car that will have a range of 100 miles on a fully charged battery and be priced for middle-class families.

Several thousand Leafs made in Japan will be delivered to metropolitan areas in California, Arizona, Washington state, Oregon and Tennessee. Around the same time, General Motors will introduce the Chevrolet Volt, a vehicle able to go 40 miles on electricity before its small gasoline engine kicks in.

“This is the game-changer for our industry,” said Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s president and chief executive. He predicted that 10 percent of the cars sold would be electric vehicles by 2020.

Utilities are gearing up to cooperate with the automakers, a first for the two industries, and governments on the West Coast are focusing intently on the coming issues. Price and tax incentives need to be worked out. Locations must be found for charging stations. And local electrical grids may need reinforcement.

The California Public Utilities Commission, whose headquarters are in San Francisco, has brought together utilities, automakers and charging station companies in an urgent effort to write the new rules of the road.

Much of the attention on electric cars has been on the vehicles’ design, cost and performance. But success or failure could turn on more mundane matters, like the time it takes car buyers to navigate a municipal bureaucracy to have charging stations installed in their homes.

When the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael R. Peevey, leased an electric Mini Cooper, he said, it took six weeks of visits by installers and inspectors before he could plug in his new car at home.

“It was really drawn out and frustrating and certainly is not workable on a mass basis,” Mr. Peevey said.

Such issues are being hashed out here first. The San Francisco area is home not only to a population of early technology adopters but to companies like Coulomb Technologies and Better Place that are developing the networks and software to allow utilities to manage how cars are charged.

Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley company that makes electric cars, says it has already sold 150 of its $109,000 Roadsters in the Bay Area. One customer bought the sleek sports car on the spot after a test drive.

“We asked him how he heard of Tesla and why he bought the car,” said Rachel Konrad, a Tesla spokeswoman. “He said, ‘Well, three other guys on my block have them.’ ”

In Berkeley, a town known for its environmental sensibility, one out of five cars sold today is a hybrid Prius. If electric cars are adopted that broadly in the next few years, problems could ensue.

“If you just allow willy-nilly random charging, are we going to have neighborhood blackouts?” asked Mr. Tang, the utility executive. He said a single car could consume three times as much electricity as a typical San Francisco home.

Mr. Tang is working to make sure that does not happen by monitoring where electric cars are sold in Northern California. And later this year P.G.&E. will lead a “smart charging” pilot project, connecting 200 cars to special charging stations that let utilities control the electrical demand at a given moment.

Robert Hayden, the clean transportation adviser for San Francisco, said the city hopes to have 60 charging stations installed in public garages by year’s end, with a thousand more available across the Bay Area in 2011. And in Oregon, an advisory group is working on charging stations and related issues.

To avoid problems in areas with high car concentrations, utility executives said they would encourage people to charge their vehicles at night or to use smarter electric meters that help control demand.

“We are trying to be proactive about how to make sure that the transformers that serve these homes and neighborhoods are robust enough,” said Doug Kim, an executive at Southern California Edison, which serves Los Angeles.

Mr. Kim said the popularity of electric vehicles “will be a function of a lot of different things: the state of the economy, how many people can actually afford to buy the cars and the price of gasoline — how high does it have to be?”

Some transportation experts are skeptical that electric vehicles will catch on anywhere in the country, in large part because the batteries and the installation of home recharging units are expensive.

Dan Sperling, the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, estimated that a typical electric car battery would cost the automaker $12,000, and a 240-volt charging unit would cost a household at least $1,500.

Without huge subsidies, “the reality is, these electric vehicles are not going to sweep the industry and become a major share of the market for a very long time,” Mr. Sperling said.

Despite such skepticism, Washington is putting considerable money into the effort, including billions of dollars in loans to Ford, Nissan and Tesla Motors.

Under last year’s stimulus package, nearly $200 million will support Nissan’s introduction of the Leaf by permitting the installation of 13,000 charging stations around cities in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona and Tennessee in the next year or so. (Nissan plans to build the Leaf in Tennessee eventually.)

If electric cars do take off, consumers and society could benefit. Battery-powered motors are more efficient than gasoline engines. They cost drivers on average only 2.5 cents a mile for fuel, less than a third of the cost for a highly efficient gasoline car, according to proponents.

The Energy Department says electric cars produce less of the emissions linked to climate change than traditional vehicles, though how much less depends on the source of power on the local electricity grid.

Before the first Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts reach the show room, an electric car infrastructure is getting a test drive in the Bay Area, in a limited way.

Google, which is talking to automakers about using its PowerMeter energy management software, has already become something of an electric transportation hub. At Google’s Mountain View headquarters, a handful of employees drive to work in Tesla Roadsters, and more drive a fleet of modified Priuses that Google owns. The employees pull into carports that are covered with solar panels and plug their cars into the 100 available charging stations.

Nearby, in downtown San Jose, the city has reserved street parking for electric vehicles and installed charging stations. Nearby, at Adobe Systems’ headquarters, an executive showed off a dozen charging stations in the parking garage. Eighteen more will be installed this year.

“No one wants to be left behind,” said Richard Lowenthal, chief executive of Coulomb Technologies. “We’re preparing for an onslaught of demand.