Tag Archives: washington post

Progress on the DC Metro Silver Line

Dr. Gridlock at the Washington Post has pictures of new stations on the Silver Line – a significant expansion of the DC Metro.

The line adds new stations in Fairfax County in Virginia (including connections to Tysons Corner), runs through DC (matching the existing Orange Line) and then travels to Largo in Prince George’s County.  This phase of the expansion is anticipated to be opening in a few months.  Ultimately (maybe in 2018) it will connect to Dulles Airport.

The article has a picture of a large, covered, and secure bike parking facility that was built for the station.  Planners for the project are working to integrate multimodal alternatives and anticipate that the line will serve suburb-to-suburb commuters, increase train frequency in downtown, and improve some train congestion problems.  Silverlinemetro.com – by WMATA – has many more details.

Washington Post’s Homes for the Taking Three Point Series Part 1 – Left With Nothing

The Washington Post has published a three part series in the paper titled, “Homes for the Taking.”  The series is essential reading for urban planners, community development practitioners, and people interested in urban real estate issues.  In Part One, “Left With Nothing,” the authors chronicle Bennie Coleman, a senior with dementia, who lost his home over a missed $134 property tax bill.  Washington, DC sells delinquent tax bills to private companies that then take over charging interest and foreclosure proceedings.  Mr. Coleman’s $134 debt ballooned to $4,999 in the hands of the private lender, who foreclosed on him and then sold the house for $71,000 months later.  Many of these companies charge unreasonable interest and fees and push people out of homes.  Policy makers need to be sure that their tax collection systems don’t cause more harm than good just to make up a small amount of unpaid taxes.

Adding One To Ezra Klein’s 5 Worst Things About The Jobs Market

Ezra Klein from the Washington Post has a great analysis of today’s somewhat disappointing jobs report.

I’d like to add one point.  We need to create even more jobs to keep up with population growth.  Klein gets at this in his third point about weak job creation, but we need to remember that we aren’t just aiming at getting back to pre-recession job levels.  America is a growing country and getting back to pre-recession jobs levels in 2023 will mean that the country will still have high unemployment and numerous people out of the job market – we have to do better and create jobs faster.

There Are More Low Wage Federal Contract Employees than Walmart and McDonalds Combined #workforcedev

The Washington Post published a piece this morning on federal contract employees and their wages.

Study: U.S. taxpayers employ more low-wage workers than Wal-Mart, McDonald’s combined

While the story title would suggest that these workers were directly employed by the federal government, this is not the case, but the federal government has significant control over their employment conditions since it is contracted work.  The workers largely work for contracting companies – some prominent ones like Lockheed Martin and others more inconspicuous like the food service companies at national parks.  These contract workers also do unnoticed work like night time cleaning at federal buildings.  Other workers, like home health aids, are supported through Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Many of these types of jobs have been sourced through contracts rather than direct federal government employment because it helps manage benefit, health care, retirement, and vacation day costs for the government, but it means that over 2 million workers have seen their pay and benefits erode.

The argument in favor of lower wages that contractors pay is that these arrangements are the fair market wage for these workers (the Post quotes the American Enterprise Institute here).  Also, in a era of tight budgets and high national debt, this would represent an increased cost.

Demos, whose report identified the contract employment problem, estimates that increasing wages to reasonable “living wage” standards would increase contract costs by 10% on average.  This is a significant increase, but at the same time, one executive action could reduce the number of workers in tenuous work and living conditions incredibly quickly.  For reference, 2 million workers represents almost 10 percent of adults living in poverty (about half of all people living in poverty are children, who are dependent on their parents and guardians).

The possibility of increasing these workers wages is incredibly appealing because it is under the direct control of the government and it could reach millions of workers quickly.  Raising wages for these workers could make a big difference and deserves further consideration.

The Fiscal Ledge

With less than 12 hours to go, there is not a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, but like most negotiations, it seems like something will happen.  We may avoid the cliff, but even if we do, almost everyone’s taxes will go up.  The payroll tax (a different tax from income tax) has been in holiday for years and the payroll tax holiday is likely to expire.  Negotiations have not focused on extending this break as well.

A family making $50,000 will have taxes increase about $1,000 through the payroll tax.  The Washington Post has the details.

The reintroduction of payroll tax is not nearly the tax increase if we go over the cliff, but don’t expect that a deal will mean that your taxes will be equal to 2012.  The moderate increase in government revenue can help begin to deal with debt and lagging service spending without the level of disruption that the “cliff” scenario tax hikes could bring.