Skip navigation

Daily Archives: February 8th, 2019


Billionaires like Eddy Lampert have and continue to enrich themselves by ruining long established companies, then filing for bankruptcy protection and all but stealing the jobs and pensions of thousands of U.S. workers. While our neer do well Congress and more useless Commander in Thief do and say nothing.MA
By Natalie Sherman
Business reporter, New York
3 February 2019
As a wave of bankruptcies hits the retail sector, workers want to know why their bosses are coming out ahead.
The fall of Sears, once an icon of American retail might, has hit Bruce Miller hard.
The 56-year-old started at the department store out of high school, rising to be a senior auto technician.
But since Sears closed his New Jersey location last April, he has lost his health insurance and his house. Now his pension is at risk.
For Mr Miller’s bosses, however, fortunes look brighter.
Veteran journalist Michelle Celarier has estimated that longtime Sears chairman and former chief executive Eddie Lampert has made nearly $1.4bn (£1.1bn) off his investment in the company, thanks to performance fees, dividends and other payments.
Meanwhile, its top 340 executives were collectively granted a potential $25m in bonuses in December, just months after the firm declared bankruptcy.
“It’s utterly ridiculous to me,” says Mr Miller, who is now relying on odd jobs to help pay bills. “How can you reward somebody for driving a business into the ground?”
Laments like Mr. Miller’s have surfaced repeatedly in recent years, amid a wave of bankruptcies in the US retail sector that has claimed household names such as Toys R Us, Payless Shoe Source and Nine West.
Much of the blame has focused on the disruption caused by online shopping.
But analysts say many of the firms have another feature in common: investors who took control of the retailers, loaded them with debt, and extracted fees, dividends and other assets for their own benefit.
What went wrong on the High Street in 2018?
Sears retail chain in $5.2bn rescue plan
Sears, for example, spent millions purchasing its own stock – inflating prices in a win for shareholders such as Mr Lampert, who became chair of the firm in 2005, after arranging its merger with Kmart.
Sears later borrowed more than $2bn from his hedge fund, ESL Investments, as it struggled to remain in operation.
It also sold off parts of the business, including hundreds of properties and the mail-order catalogue Lands End, to companies affiliated with Mr Lampert.
Sears is now a shadow of its former self, having closed almost 3,000 stores and cut more than 250,000 jobs since 2007.

Eileen Appelbaum, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, says those deals limited Sears’ ability to invest in the future – just as the need to compete with online shopping made those investments critical.
That is a pattern seen repeatedly in the recent retail failings, she said.
“They want to blame everything that happens on Amazon,” she says. “The fact that they have starved these organisations of resources … that’s the real story.”
‘Years-long scheme’
ESL has defended its actions, saying “all transactions were done in good faith, on fair terms” in order to keep Sears in business.
It said it was confident that its process for reviewing deals for conflicts of interest was “unimpeachable”.
The firm is now offering to buy Sears out of bankruptcy for $5.2bn.
The plan could keep 425 stores open and retain up to 45,000 jobs.
But several groups owed money have asked the court to reject the proposal, which is funded in part by forgiving some debt owed to his hedge fund.
They cite concerns like those of Ms. Appelbaum and Mr Miller’s.
“ESL’s current bid to ‘save’ the company is nothing but the final fulfilment of a years-long scheme to deprive Sears and its creditors of assets and its employees of jobs while lining Lampert’s and ESL’s own pockets,” attorneys for a group of unsecured creditors wrote.
‘Apply pressure’
Outside court, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, has weighed in with similar questions, as have Sears workers.
At a rally in New York this month, they accused Mr Lampert of driving the firm to failure and asked the court to require that money be set aside for workers in the event of future layoffs, among other demands.
“We want to apply pressure in a big way,” Mr Miller says. “Somebody’s going to have to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we’ve got to fix this situation.'”
A similar campaign by Toys R Us workers last summer successfully shamed former private equity owners KKR and Bain Capital into creating a $20m severance fund.
But that was an exception, contingent on those firms’ largesse.

Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote to Eddie Lampert, saying “it appears that you have enriched yourself while driving the company into bankruptcy”
Analysts said bankruptcy judges are often reluctant to challenge plans that would keep a business open – even in cases with as many potential conflicts of interest as Sears.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has taken a hands-off regulatory approach, even as issuance of loans to firms with weak credit soars to record levels, driven by strong investor demand for debt.
Who will the ‘retail apocalypse’ claim in 2018?
Three things that could save the High Street
Carrie Gleason, who helped organise the worker campaigns as a policy director for Organization United for Respect, says the Toys R Us bankruptcy marked a “breaking point” for broader awareness of the way business strategies contributed to retailer failings.
But with retail’s struggles expected to continue, more pressure is needed to bring change, Ms. Gleason says.
“This is not going to be the last [bankruptcy],” she says.
“They’re going to keep coming and ultimately what we need are some new protections.”

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate

Advertisements

The recent Government Shutdown ground on with TOTUS and his minions doubling down on the “inaccuracies” of their opinions on the shutdown and what effects it has or will have on the population of the United States. First there has been no details of the spending plan for the 5 plus billion dollars wanted for the “wall”. It is a regular practice for anyone or any company, agency, etc. to present a spending plan for the funding they are asking for. To date no spending plan has been presented, this reminds me of a section of a movie (Guardians of The Galaxy) where “Rocket” wanted the prosthetic leg of an inmate just because he wanted it. He had no use for it but the time spent in acquiring it could have been better used. The wall dollar amount is a number determined how? There have been proposals presented by a bi partisan group and by a single party-all rejected by TOTUS. It is safe to consider that this is how TOTUS ran his business, put out a number and wait. This waiting is about LIVES and these lives are all Americans.

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate


Our National emergency is located at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. Apparently our neer do well Congress abetted by do nothing “Bitch” and “flip-flop Lindsey” have submitted to the “child’s ” whims. It has been proven over and over that the numbers used by the administration are false and inflated. Each and every talking head in the administration is using the same numbers out of fear of the wrath of TOTUS. Increasingly the “Trump base” is shrinking even if many think it is growing. Meanwhile the immigration crisis builds along with the sham international policies espoused by Mike “Pompous”. 2020 is nearing and our National strength is waning in spite of the utterances of Faux news opinionators whose well-being is not being affected by the shutdown. It is their unmitigated ability to lie that gets the attention of TOTUS who reads nothing beyond possibly the “cat in the hat” maybe. The often cited “American People” have one task and that is take back control of the country through the vote, we have a start with the recent elections but the old guard needs to go if we are to make any progress towards the real America we want and need. That is an America for all of us.

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate


The past 24 months have been less than stellar for TOTUS. His failures began when he won the Presidency. At that time while riding a wave of approval for his talk show method of governing (seeking approval by using “buzz words” instead of meaningful statements). His Tweets have become legendary in his own mind. The downhill slide of his executive orders, the much touted “Tax Reform” and attempts at repealing the ACA to name a few all will appear on his list accomplishments(?). The current and ongoing trade wars, the humanitarian crisis created by him at the Southern border as a cover for and distraction from his other failures will all be remembered by all in the next election cycle. It is small wonder that his business successes have been fewer than touted.He easily tosses out huge dollar numbers about some project with no details on how the funds are spent and takes exception when questioned about details. It has been said that he is a counter puncher when attacked. There would be no attack if there were some reasonable proposals issued  with some explanations of how they would work instead we get hyperbole and outright lies. Currently most if not all of the events occurring here at home and abroad are of his making and manufacture as this is his “style”. His aim is adoration at any price. He has total ownership of these manufactured crises  and history will show it.

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate


 

These past 10 years have shown us the worst and best of our Federal legislature. The way it should work is: we have liberal, conservative and several stages between them. If these groups were in office in any reasonable proportion we would not have had the nasty unproductive governance that eventually brought us TOTUS. The radicals on all sides have pushed us to a “them or us” situation that serves the electorate and their backers NOT the oft cited “American People”! These so-called conservatives, liberals, progressives have done no more than confuse most of us to the point that we no longer can distinguish which idiots to support. Personally I like to know which idiot can do the least amount of harm to me. To that end I usually vote independent or Scamocrat but I would vote Dupublican if there were no Bitch McConnell’s or Flip flop Graham’s. These two are examples of legislators who have the public eye and lie each time they speak. It apparently is normal for politicians to keep the truth from their constituents while mouthing what their constituents will accept or want to hear. The real problem became apparent to me when I happened on C-span during a hearing on the “wall”. A Dupublican member of the panel stated obvious untruths and was called on it by a member of the gallery, that gentleman demanded that the questioner (a voter) be removed and not allowed to essentially question his veracity. It seemed odd to me that an “elected” official would want a voting member of the public be ousted from a hearing that affects them. It looks to be the accepted way of doing business with no public input, the same public that put these folks in office and the folks who in their races for election stated many times that they will work for the “people”. How it is supposed to work is that the people who supported these people have a right to question the actions of those they have elected.

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate


By Rebecca Morin 16 hrs ago
“If you don’t understand the difference between a prescriptive and a descriptive definition, confusion is inevitable. That linguistic distinction helps bring some clarity: there are two questions at issue, 1) what people who call themselves “evangelicals” or “fundamentalists” actually say they are and 2) what those two groups ought to be.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s presidency was part of a higher calling.
“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” Sanders said during an interview with Christian Broadcast Network News. “And that’s why he’s there, and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.”
The president has long touted his Christian faith, and his presidency was overwhelmingly supported by white evangelical voters.
Throughout his tenure, Trump and his administration have pursued a number of key issues backed by evangelicals, such as restricting abortion rights, eliminating a birth control mandate and expanding school choice and voucher programs that would likely benefit private religious schools.
Most recently, Trump in a tweet endorsed a controversial campaign to introduce Bible literacy classes to public schools.
His support with those voters hasn’t faltered despite several gaffes, such as when he mispronounced “Second Corinthians” during the 2016 campaign. The president was also criticized for not saying the Apostle’s Creed or singing some of the hymns during George H.W. Bush’s funeral in December.
Trump’s multiple divorces and alleged affairs have also not significantly affected the president’s popularity with white evangelical voters.

Could it be that the “white Evangelicals” are not as “holy” and righteous as they purport to be? Religious beliefs have no place in the national politics and should be privately held. The diversity of America cannot allow for personal convictions to bend or alter the legal processes of the nation.MA

btn_donateCC_LG

Please Donate


Partisan politics arise again, why wouldn’t all of our representatives want to have laws that assure fair and honest elections, and certainly a Holiday where citizens can vote without stressing about getting to the polls to vote is not a bad thing. Again “Bitch” is going against the oft cited “American People”. MA
Alexander Nazaryan 14 hours ago

WASHINGTON — At a Wednesday hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, a sharply partisan tone marked debate over the Democrats’ first new bill of the 116th Congress, a proposal that would make Election Day a federal holiday and institute new ethics rules.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., poignantly invoked the history of racist voting laws. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., loudly argued with the former White House ethics chief, Walter Shaub. There were references to “illegals” committing voter fraud, as well as to “gobs of cash” flowing from Saudi Arabia to the Trump International Hotel. If the rancor over the proposed legislation is any indication, it could be a long and not especially productive two years in Congress, where Democrats now control the House of Representatives and Republicans have even firmer control of the Senate than they did before the 2018 midterm elections.
Named HR 1 because of its legislative pole position, the For the People Act of 2019 was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md. The bill would expand access to voting, in part by instituting automatic voter registration and making Election Day a federal holiday. It would also put stronger ethical constraints on the executive branch, in part by making it more difficult for people to move through the “revolving door” between public and private sector work, and by strengthening the Office of Government Ethics. The bill also contains a section on campaign finance disclosure.
Cummings, the committee’s new chair, called the bill “one of the boldest reform packages to be considered in the history of this body,” adding that it would “clean up in government, fight secret money in politics and make it easier for American citizens across this great country to vote.” Like other Democrats on the committee, Cummings portrayed the bill as an effort to broadly restore power to the American people by diminishing the influence of corporate interests — lobbying firms, government contractors, “dark money” political action groups — and to encourage participation in the democratic process.
It would have been difficult to craft a bill more likely to annoy Republicans. And Republicans were annoyed. In this, they were merely taking a cue from their upper-chamber counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who on the Senate floor called it “a package of urgent measures to rewrite the rules of American politics for the exclusive benefit of the Democratic Party,” as well as a “power grab.”
That language was echoed by many Republicans on the committee, for whom more muscular ethics rules are little more than a means to punish President Trump for being an unrepentant billionaire. And they view any expansion of voting rights as a way of increasing the rolls of the Democratic Party, since many communities disenfranchised today — minorities, immigrants, the working poor — tend to lean left politically.
For his part, ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, blasted the bill as “For the People Who Want Democrats to Win Elections From Now On” and characterized it as rife with “tired” and “radical” proposals. This elicited laughter from the audience, which packed the hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building (an even more popular hearing, on climate change, was being held on the same hallway).
“You laugh, but it’s true,” Jordan said. Seated at the podium some feet away were three stars of the new House class: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They offered their own commentary to Republicans’ statements, often with head shakes or small sounds of disapproval.
Republicans saved most of their ire for the voting-rights section of the bill. In order to make their case, the committee’s GOP members sometimes seemed to willfully misrepresent the facts. For example, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., referenced “tens of thousands of illegal aliens voting” in Texas. He appeared to be repeating a false claim recently made by Trump. Voter fraud has been a longstanding concern of the president, though it is believed to be virtually nonexistent.
Republicans on the committee were also not exactly thrilled with the other portion of the bill, and scoffed when Shaub, the former ethics head, testified that “we now find ourselves in an ethics crisis.” Shaub first served in that role under President Barack Obama and stayed on under Trump for several months months before finally growing exasperated with what he saw as the president’s lack of commitment to the rule of law. Upon his departure, he said that the United States was on the cusp of becoming a “laughingstock.”
Shaub subsequently joined CNN, where he was an outspoken Trump critic (he also enthusiastically assails the current administration on Twitter). Republicans were thus not bound to take seriously his recommendations, including his call to bolster the investigative reach of the Office of Government Ethics and to allow the agency’s head greater power in ethics-related decision. Meadows, leader of the Freedom Caucus, noted that during the Obama administration, Shaub had averred that the office did not need expanded powers.
“How do you have this evolution in such a short period of time?” Meadows asked, growing animated and doing little to hold back the sarcasm in his voice.
“Frankly, I was naive,” Shaub said during the tense back-and-forth.
But no moment could rival Cummings’s evocation of the legacy of disenfranchising African-American voters. His voice rose as he read from and summarized a 2016 federal appeals court ruling that struck down a North Carolina voter identification law, which it said targeted African-Americans with “surgical precision.”
Cummings said that a year ago, as his mother was dying, her last words were: “Do not let them take our votes away from us.”
It was powerful oratory, but it is not likely to boost the bill’s seemingly dim legislative prospects. Cummings and his Democratic colleagues may well pass HR 1, but the bill will meet with staunch opposition from McConnell and Senate Republicans, who appear to be uniformly opposed to the measure. In addition to his comments on the Senate floor, McConnell recently offered his thoughts on For the People Act in a Washington Post op-ed, where he said of the bill, “this outlandish Democrat proposal is not a promising start.”

%d bloggers like this: