Phil Hauck's TEC Blog

Monday, May 16, 2011

Best/Worst States for Business

CEO Magazine just completed its annual survey of CEOs as to where they think the best states for job creation are. Wisconsin in the past year jumped from 41st last year to 24th this year, the biggest improvement of any state. Texas and North Carolina remained in the top two spots ... and Illinois, which increased its tax rates on both businesses and individuals, has now dropped 45 spots in the last five years, ranking in the bottom three with California and New York, all of which continue to pass regulations and tax rates which drive job creation from their states. Also, anything which makes it harder to hire or discipline or fire a worker works against a company's decision to expand in that state, the article said.

More on Mortgages

Wall Street Journal Op Ed Contributor Arkadi Kuhlmann on April 11:
When banks have an incentive to keep loans on their own books, they are more likely to impose stricter standards on their borrowers. They are also more likely to work with borrowers to help them fulfill their obligations. The result is homeowners acquiring more equity in their homes, and fewer defaulted mortgages ...
A successful model exists to our north. In Canada, the interest on mortgages is not tax deductible, which gives homeowners good reason to pay down their principal as quickly as possible. Canadian banks also hold about 75% of their loans on their books, which encourages more prudent lending. Thanks to such policies, just 1% of Canadian mortgages are currently in foreclosure or delinquent, compared to about 14% of American mortgages. The Canadian real estate market has already rebounded above pre-recession levels.

Humana CEO: We Need To Get Our Employees Healthier, Fitter!

In a recent Fortune magazine interview, Humana CEO Michael McCallister said that finessing health insurance has reached its limit. Now, "we've focused our future on the idea of health, wellness and well-being because we know that's where this has to go next.
"As large employers sit down and think about their health costs ... they're really going to have to step up and address the underlying health of their employees, not only because of costs but also from the standpoint of productivity and absenteeism."
On Small Employers: They've "done the math on the future. They'll have to confront decisions based on the culture of their company and the importance of this benefit to their employees. But I can tell you the pressure and the bias will be to drop it (group health insurance)."
On Humana's Future Emphasis: "This idea around helping people get to a better spot from the standpoint of well-being is what's going to drive us, and we think that's a business for us. We're even trying to change the language -- instead of ROI ... Return on Well-being. We're trying to find ways to motivate behavior change. We're going to bring in incentives and rewards and a lot of things from the rest of the economy to get people to think differently -- about their interaction with the system and the way they take care of themselves."
Humana recently bought a company called Concentra, which operates worksite wellness at 200 locations, plus urgent care and some primary care. "I study my own population (35,000 employees and their families) in terms of their body mass index, their weight, smoking rates, and all that. We still have a lot of work to do. This is hard work because it really, fundamentally, requires a change in how people think."
More of his insights:
• On ObamaCare: "The biggest takeaway from the bill is, it doesn't do much fundamentally to help with the underlying problem, which is that costs are too high and are rising too fast."
• 'In health care, we not only tolerate bad service and bad products, we pay for them every single day without knowing any better. We've got a third party payment system where the payer is in a different froom from the seller and the buyer, and it sets up a perfect storm for inflation."
• "We're not taking care of ourselves. We're becoming an obese nation, leading to diabetes and other chronic illnesses. A lot of medical spending is tied to five chronic illnesses (diabetes, strokes, heart disease, pulmonary conditions, and hypertension), all of which are preventable. People don't really connect the dots when they think about why health care costs are going up."
• "30% of our kids are overweight or obese already, so we have another tranche of folks coming along who are going to suffer the same thing."

Teachers Union Leader on Dedication to Schoolchildren

Albert Shanker was head of the New York City teachers union several decades ago, and then head of the United Federation of Teachers: "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren." Indeed, I have had several conversations with attorneys who represented school boards in negotiations with WEAC representatives, and each tells a story when the WEAC representatives have said similar things. Their allegiance is to the teacher, not to education of our children, despite their public words.
Not really being helpful.

Political: Importance of Training To Boost Income Potential

Fortune Magazine columnist Geoff Colvin: "Too few people now pay most of the country's bills. It could also symbolize the solution. The best news for the bottom half of earners will be when they're making a larger share of the nation's total income -- and paying more taxes."
Again, the argument for encouraging/incenting people to upgrade their skills ... using such resources as the Technical College system!

On the Value of Employee Benefits

"95% of my company assets drive out the front gate every night," says SAS CEO Jim Goodnight. "My job is to bring them back the next morning."
That's why his company, located in the Research Triangle in North Carolina, has lots of perks for its employees, so useful that the ratio of applicants to open positions for "white collar" jobs is 70-1. Many of the benefits acknowledge that if employees work hard all day, they don't have a chance to fulfill normal daily chores ... so it brings fulfillment of those chores to the workplace .. things like day care, barbers, massages, dry cleaning, and personal banking.

On ILLEGAL Immigration

My interest here has to this point been on LEGAL immigration, as I chaired a study by the Bay Area Community Council on the implications of moving legal immigrants through the economy to self-sufficiency. We avoided the study of Illegals because it is so complex to understand, and takes attention away from the benefits and needs of the U.S. to have immigrants.
However, recently I attended a short seminar by the Grzeca law firm of Milwaukee, which focuses on immigration issues, on the status of the Secure Communities federal initiatives.
Some perspective:
• There are an estimated 10-12 million "illegal/undocumented" but EMPLOYED immigrants in the U.S., and the controversy (i.e., unresolved policy) persists on how to deal with them as well as "control" ongoing immigration relative to needs.
• Therefore, law enforcement "generally" is focusing on dealing with undocumented immigrants who commit "violent" crimes, and having a "live and let live" attitude towards the others.
• Of Interest: Under federal law, being an undocumented immigrant (i.e., here illegally) is a civil ...not criminal ... offense. Civil offenses are punishable by fines. (Yes, there are proposals to make undocumented immigration a felony (i.e., a criminal) offense.)

Thus: the Secure Communities initiative, which all 72 of Wisconsin's counties are participating in. If a person is picked up for a violent crime and is found to be undocumented, his finger prints are put in a federal data base and his presence is reported to the FBI and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The person will be prosecuted locally regarding the crime ... while ICE determines whether the person is truly undocumented and liable for deportation. If so, it deports the person.
IN 2010, 393,000 persons were deported in 2010 ... but 193,000 of them had no criminal record. Thus, the practice of treating lack-of-documentation as civil is "general" but not complete.

Also of interest: Some of these "undocumenteds" are former students who have over-stayed their visas and found jobs but not been able to "fit" into one of the prevailing visa quota allowances. Canada, in contrast, is loosening its standards to attract educated immigrants whom we educate but are unwilling to provide a path to permanent residence.

Want more? The tendency is to deny driver's licenses to persons who can't provide documentation. Opponents argue that the person will still be here, probably has a job or is in a family that is making it and paying taxes, and WILL find a way to get where they need to go ... AND if we WOULD provide a Driver's License, we get them into the data base, AND those with licenses are two-thirds more likely to have auto insurance.
Even more to come, for sure ...