Eq: Total Market


In another historic executive order which simultaneously shows the dysfunction of Congress and the remarkable change of opinion of the President, Barack Obama yesterday announced that he was extending federal benefits to same sex couples across virtually all US governmental agencies. The new benefits will affect all federal employees with spouses of the same sex, and couples will now share things like health and life insurance, flexible spending accounts, and time away to take care of spouses. The new measures will also extend to IRS matters and US immigration cases. The development is highly important for same sex couples as it extends federal benefits regardless of state laws, meaning all Americans will benefit from the measures regardless of where they live. President Obama has made a remarkable u-turn on the issue since being elected in 2008. In 2012, he announced publically that his views had “evolved” on the issue, and he believed that same sex couples should be allowed to wed and enjoy the same benefits as everyone else.


FINSUM: This is massively important news on an American civil rights front as it shows same sex marriage has the White House’s full backing. It also shows how pitifully dysfunctional Congress is that Obama has to carry out these landmark changes through executive orders.


Through a newly developed partnership with Arizona State University, Starbucks is to begin offering a free online college education to any and all employees, whether or not they stay with the company. The extent of paying will depend on how many credits existing employees have, but for most of the company’s 135,000 staff the education will be completely free when combined with US government grants. The Lumina Foundation, an education group, has praised Starbucks, saying they are “going where no other major corporation has gone” in offering free education with no strings attached. Starbucks realises that many of the employees may leave for better jobs once getting their education, but chairman Schultz believes it will actually lower attrition and boost performance. Employees must only meet Arizona State’s requirements for admission in order to benefit from the program. Starbucks has a long history of giving unusually generous benefits to even low-wage service employees, such as stock options and health insurance.


FINSUM: This is a good example of how the benefits paradigm is going to have to shift in the global capitalism of the 21st century. Governments worldwide are cash-strapped and corporations are going to have to start subsidising things that states once paid for if social and economic inequality are to be kept from growing.


In order to meet the ambitious new emissions targets put forward by President Obama last week, a number of states, including Washington state and Pennsylvania, are considering adding their own carbon trading schemes. States each have to meet their own emissions targets, which is an impetus to develop their own specific schemes. Scientists consider CO2 emissions to be a principal contributor to global warming, but pricing the gas at the national level has proved difficult and divisive politically. So far, programs have been designed in a “cap and trade” fashion, where companies receive emissions permits from governments and can then buy and sell them according to their needs. State governments can save over a $1 bn in compliance if they band together to implement new schemes, though the political will to do so remains questionable. The Obama administration believes that a market-based solution remains the best way for states to meet their individual emissions targets.


FINSUM: The impact of Obama’s bold move on emissions is now being felt across the country as states scurry to meet the proposed standards. A state-by-state market system seems like it will prove costly and inefficient in the long-run.

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