Article 43

 

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Next Depression Part 2

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As a statistic of the MIDDLE CLASS TURNED POOR - it’ easy to predict the future, since people like me are the ones shaping it

When I lost my career three years ago, the first thing I did is cancel the lawn maintenance contract to save a few bucks. Soon I stopped buying things - clothes, CDs, Christmas and birthday presents, health food, etc.  I stopped going out to dinner, the movies, my mother’s place a plane ride away, and visiting the DENTIST.  The barber sees me every 10 weeks instead of five. The house is falling behind in maintenance and can use a paint job. The car is seven years old and there’s NO MONEY in the budget for a new one, or even a used one.  Credit card DEBT is up, and savings down to nothing. So far I’ve had FOUR JOBS since 2004, with my present employer in what seems THEORY E thinking, with LAY OFF an almost DAILY OCCURENCE.  I make a FRACTION OF THE PAY I used to, and had months of no income in between jobs. 

Middle class people like me USED TO fuel the economy by spending money that in turn keeps other businesses going.  As that erodes, we’re seeing the burst of the housing bubble, while other indicators of prosperity like new CAR sales, visits to the barber, filling cavities, vacations to Disney World, etc - wane.

If the TREND of MIDDLE CLASS Americans going broke continues, pretty soon, EVERYTHING will grind to a HALT because nobody can afford anything, while lenders and credit card companies GET IT ALL.
- Bad Moon Rising PART 12

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The Real State of the US Economy
Henry Paulson has lost the control over US finance

By William F. Engdahl
Global Research
August 2, 2008

When Henry Paulson agreed to leave his job as chairman of the powerful Wall Street investment bank, Goldman Sachs to go to Washington as Treasury Secretary in 2006 he demanded extraordinary powers as de facto economic czar. He got it. Paulson is also head of the PresidentҒs Working Group on Financial Markets—the secretary of the treasury and the chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Working Group is the financial world’s equivalent of the Pentagon war room. Paulson, not Fed chairman Bernanke, is the person running the Administrations crisis management. And his recent actions indicate he has lost control as the snowballing problems from the semi-government mortgage companies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to the collapse of the multi-trillion dollar market in Asset Backed Securities (ABS) to the real economy are compounding into the worst crisis since the 1930Ғs Great Depression.

“The US banking system is sound”

In an eerie echo of President Herbert Hoover in 1930, during a Presidential campaign against Roosevelt, following the stock market crash and collapse of numerous smaller banks, Paulson recently appeared on national TV to declare “our banking system is a safe and sound one.” He added that the list of “troubled” banks “is a very manageable situation.” In fact what he did not say was that the US bank deposit insurance fund, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has a list of problem banks that numbers 90. Not included on that list are banks such as Citigroup, until recently the largest bank in the world.

The statement is hardly reassuring. The California savings bank, INDYMAC Bank which was declared insolvent a month ago was not on the FDIC list a week before it collapsed. The reality is the crisis created by “securitizing” millions of home mortgages into new financial instruments and selling the packages to pension funds and investors is unfolding like a snowball rolling down the Swiss Alps.

Indication of the lack of control is the statement just weeks ago by Paulson that “financial institutions must be allowed to fail.” That was two weeks before Paulson went to Congress to ask for “Congressional authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” As I noted in my recent piece, FINANCIAL TSUNAMI - The Next Big Wave is Breaking: Fannie Mae Freddie Mac and US Mortgage Debt , those two private companies insured some $6 trillion worth of home mortgages, half the entire US mortgage debt. Paulson defended the request by calling Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae “the only functioning part of the home loan market.”

That comes back to the statement about a “sound banking system”. Can we have a sound banking system where the only functioning part is literally insolventits debts greater than its assets?

It is well known on Wall Street that some of the largest financial institutions have huge undeclared problems with Asset Backed Securities they have valued far above their worth to make their books look better than they are. The names Citigroup, Lehman Bros., Morgan Stanley, even Paulsonגs old firm, Goldman Sachs and of course the inventor of sub-prime mortgage securitization, Merrill Lynch, all hold a huge percentage of what are called Level Three assets, these being assets where no one is willing to buy but the bank declares their worth based on “fantasy.” In short the value of those core financial institutions of the US financial system is massively overvalued compared with their value were they forced to sell into the open market today. In a sobering aside, readers should not expect any serious economic remedies for the crisis from a President Barack Obama. Obamas National Campaign Finance Chairman is Chicago real estate billionaire, Penny Pritzker, who is heir to among other things the Hyatt Hotels. It was Pritzker together with Merrill Lynch ten years ago who first developed the model for securitizing “sub-prime” real estate, the trigger for the current Financial Tsunami crisis.

Already Citigroup has been forced to go to Dubai hat in hand and ask for billions in cash. After it announced it would not need more capital. Now Citigroup just announced plans to sell some $500 billion more assets to raise funds. Is Citigroup really solvent is the question sober investors are asking. Similarly Merrill Lynch raised $6.6 billion from Kuwait Mizuho, stated it was fine and weeks later had to raise still more capital. Morgan Stanley sold a 10% share of the company to China International Corp.

The real economy contracting rapidly

Behind the reassuring statements from Paulson and others that the “worst is over” the reality of the credit collapse since August 2007 is a deepening economic contraction which I have said several times in this space will surpass the Great Depression of the 1929-1938 period. A goof friend who is an unemployed homebuilder in a prosperous part of Arizona just sent me the following list of US department retail store closures. It is worth noting that over 70% of the US GDP is consumer spending and that the entire Federal Reserve strategy of Alan Greenspan after the March 2000 collapse of the stock market bubble, was to bring US interest rates to their lowest levels since the 1930Ғs in order to stimulate consumer spending on credit, i.e. debt, to avoid “recession.” Note the scale of the following store closings across America in recent weeks:

Ann Taylor - closing 117 stores nationwide.

Eddie Bauer - to close more stores after closing 27 stores in the first quarter.

Cache - a womens retailer is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines - closing 150 stores nationwide

Talbots, J. Jill - closing stores. Talbots will close all 78 of its kids and men’s stores plus another 22 underperforming stores. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women’s and J. Jill.

Gap Inc - closing 85 stores

Foot Locker - to close 140 stores

Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores. The 37-year-old retailer that targets middle-income customers, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Levitz - the furniture retailer, announced it was going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December. The retailer dates back to 1910.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda - plans to close 82 stores by July 31 followed by closing another 23 underperforming stores.

Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores.

Home Depot - store closings 15 of them amid a slumping US economy and housing market. The move will affect 1,300 employees. It is the first time the world’s largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store.

CompUSA - (CLOSED).

Macy’s - 9 stores closed

Movie Gallery - video rental company plans to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental chain closed last fall as part of bankruptcy.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores closing

Pep Boys - 33 stores of auto parts supplier closing

Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations to close with 4,000 employees following 5,000 layoffs last year.

J. C. Penney, Lowe’s and Office Depot - are all scaling back

Ethan Allen Interiors - plans to close 12 of 300 stores to cut costs.

Wilsons the Leather Experts - closing 158 stores

Bombay Company - to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores.

KB Toys - closing 356 stores around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Dillard’s Inc - will close another six stores this year.

For anyone familiar with American shopping malls and retailing, this represents a staggering part of the daily economic life of the nation, from furniture stores to clothing to video rentals to leather. The process has only begun and neither major party Presidential candidate has dared to mention this on the ground economic reality, because they evidently have no solutions to offer that would not jeopardize their campaign finances. Obama is tied to not only Pritzker but also to Omaha billionaire, Warren Buffett and George Soros. McCain depends on the traditional money contributions of the Republican Party which demand permanent tax reform for highest income earners and a pro-bank laissez faire treatment of millions of homeowners facing home foreclosure and asset seizure by banks.

Banks across the country have severely cut back on loans, fearful of bad debts. That has aggravated the consumer collapse documented above. Hundreds of thousands of real estate brokers, small and large bankers, furniture workers and salespeople, and construction workers are unable to find work. Jobs are being cut wholesale and those working are often on reduced hours. Car sales in June plunged by 28% for Ford, 18% for General Motors and even 21% for Toyota which will mean more layoffs in coming weeks. This will be the next wave of unemployment.

The economic reality is not reflected in official US Commerce Department or Labor Department statistics. There the data is constantly being “revised” to HIDE the grim reality in an election year.

My good friend, economist John Williams of California, has meticulously tracked such “data revisions” for more than 25 years and found the MANIPULATION of reality so alarming that he founded an independent subscriber service titled SHADOW GOVERNMENT STATISTICS, where he makes best estimate calculations of the reality not the official mythology.

By Williams’ calculations the US economy first entered recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, at the end of 2006. Ever since, the recession has deepened, dramatically so in the past 12 months. Little known is the fact that the Labor Department also publishes six different unemployment statistics from U1, U2 through to U6 being the most comprehensive. The reported “official unemployment” is the very narrowly defined U3 which stands at 5.5%. However, as Williams notes, U6 is the real measure and that officially shows 9.7% unemployed. His calculations put the figure at 13.7% actually unemployed and seeking work.

A personal account

The unemployed homebuilder from Arizona I mentioned above recently sent me the following personal note on the situation:

“Here is how it looks to people like me: Real estate dealings fuelled the economy in most areas of the country for the past decade or more. Weve been in a market downturn for three years. We have seen the cost of doing business increase for builders, along with a big drop in buyers as everyone tightens their belts, or can’t sell existing homes. Many employers have gone under ending thousands of jobs. If they have a job people are worried about losing it. Driving long distances to work is not possible with gasoline costs double that of 2006. There has been a 40% drop in most peoples home equity worth. Many people are “underwater” on their homes, meaning they owe more than the market price is worth today. So many under-employed don’t show up in government unemployed statistics. Self employed like me never get counted.”

The Arizona homebuilder continued,

“Today nobody is building. Unsold home inventories are triple that of 2003. Banks no longer give easy credit for home buyers. Many realtors I know have gone two years without selling a home. Empty storefronts are becoming common. In many areas unemployment among construction trades people is 50% or more. Tens of thousands of illegal Mexicans who did most of the manual labor have returned to Mexico to find work. What now? Well, I do handyman projects of all sorts, big or small and make about 70-90% of what it takes to survive with a family of a wife and three young children. My savings make up the rest. That cant go on for too much longer. We went from affluent and comfortable to nervous and broke with diminished opportunities in just three years. We used to be the middle class.”

F. William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order (Pluto Press) and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation. He is at work on a new book, from which this has been adapted, Power of Money: The Rise and Decline of the American Century. He may be reached through his WEBSITE.

SOURCE

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Five years later…

After Ruining America, the Era of Giant Chain Stores Is Over
The coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

By James Howard Kunstler
AlterNet
February 20, 2013

Global currency wars (competitive devaluations) are about to destroy trade relationships. Say goodbye to the 12,000 mile supply chain from Guangzhou to Hackensack. Say goodbye to the growth financing model in which it becomes necessary to open dozens of new stores every year to keep the credit revolving.

Then there is the matter of the American customers themselves. The WalMart shoppers are exactly the demographic that is getting squashed in the contraction of this phony-baloney corporate buccaneer parasite revolving credit crony capital economy.
Unlike the Federal Reserve, WalMart shoppers can’t print their own money, and they can’t bundle their MasterCard and Visa debts into CDOs to be fobbed off on Scandinavian pension funds for quick profits.

They have only one real choice: buy less stuff, especially the stuff of leisure, comfort, and convenience.

The potential for all sorts of economic hardship is obvious in this burgeoning dynamic. But the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle.

The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).

The chain stores won not only because they flung money around - sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials - but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. “We Want Bargain Shopping” was their rallying cry.

The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn’t that a bargain, though?

Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: People get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic.

The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn’t groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them.

Diesel fuel prices are heading well north of $4 again. If they push toward $5 this year you can say goodbye to the “warehouse on wheels” distribution method. (The truckers, who are mostly independent contractors, can say hello to the re-po men come to take possession of their mortgaged rigs.)

At this stage it is probably discouraging for them, because all their life programming has conditioned them to be hostages of giant corporations and so to feel helpless. In a town like the old factory village I live in (population 2500) few of the few remaining young adults might venture to open a retail operation in one of the dozen-odd vacant storefronts on Main Street.

The presence of K-Mart, Tractor Supply, and Radio Shack a quarter mile west in the strip mall would seem to mock their dim inklings that something is in the wind. But K-Mart will close over 200 boxes this year, and Radio Shack is committed to shutter around 500 stores. They could be gone in this town well before Santa Claus starts checking his lists. If they go down, opportunities will blossom. There will be no new chain store brands to replace the dying ones. That phase of our history is over.

What we’re on the brink of is scale implosion. Everything gigantic in American life is about to get smaller or die. Everything that we do to support economic activities at gigantic scale is going to hamper our journey into the new reality. The campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which is the official policy of US leadership, will only produce deeper whirls of entropy.

I hope young people recognize this and can marshal their enthusiasm to get to work. It’s already happening in the local farming scene; now it needs to happen in a commercial economy that will support local agriculture.

The additional tragedy of the big box saga is that it scuttled social roles and social relations in every American community. On top of the insult of destroying the geographic places we call home, the chain stores also destroyed people’s place in the order of daily life, including the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other.

We can get that all back, but it won’t be a bargain.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/05/08 •
Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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Armageddon’s Stage

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The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
- Jeremiah 17:9

They are of one mind and will give their power and authority to the beast.
- Revelations 17:13

Violence is shrouded in justifying myths that lend it moral legitimacy, and these myths for the most part kept people from recognizing the violence for what it was. The people who burned witches at the stake never for one moment thought of their act as violence; rather they though of it as an act of divinely mandated righteousness. The same can be said of most of the violence we humans have ever committed.
- Gil Bailie

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
- Albert Einstein

There’s still NO DOUBT in my mind that America will START a WAR WITH IRAN. The only thing that changes is WHAT EXCUSE I think our leaders will use.  Since our economy is in such BAD SHAPE today - that’s as good an excuse as any.  WWII helped end the GREAT DEPRESSION you know.

Not that I’m a BIBLE-THUMPER, but I think the stage for Armageddon’s almost ready. AMERICA - blinded by IGNORANCE and greed of it’s elected officials, ruled by muti-national big-business interests that care ONLY FOR THEMSELVES, and INSTILLED on a sleeping AMERICAN POPULACE - has become so CLOUDED and COMPLACENT- that planetary destruction, whether NUCLEAR WAR or GLOBAL WARMING - isn’t part of the widespread INSANITY that ENGULFS our shared collective.

Power and conquest is - even if it kills us all.

Do you remember John Lennon’s song - IMAGINE ?

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Bush must be stopped before starting war with Iran

By Joe Parko
The Tennesean
July 28, 2008

The BUSH administration, in rhetoric that is eerily similar to that used to build the case for a war against Iraq, asserts that the Iranian Quds Force is arming anti-U.S. groups in Iraq and providing them with high-tech roadside bombs and sophisticated rockets.

It dismisses the National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program.

The White House has not provided evidence to back up its claims. I suspect it never will. And when Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz tells the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth an attack on Iran is “unavoidable” if Tehran does not halt its alleged nuclear weapons program, what he is really telling us is we should prepare for war.

An attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel and the ensuing regional war will propel us into the Armageddon-type scenario in the Middle East relished by the lunatic fringes of the radical Christian right. And so, we barrel mindlessly toward a Dr. Strangelove self-immolation. No one will be able to say we did not go out with a spectacular show of firepower, gore and death. Our European and Middle Eastern allies, who are numb with consternation over our death spiral, are frantically trying to reach out to Tehran diplomatically.

The instant we attack Iran, oil prices will double, perhaps triple. This price increase will devastate the U.S. economy. The ensuing retaliatory strikes by Iran on Israel, as well as on U.S. military installations in Iraq, will leave hundreds, maybe thousands, dead. The Shiites in the region, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, will see an attack on Iran as a war against Shiism. They will turn with rage and violence on us and our allies. Hezbollah will renew attacks on northern Israel, while Hamas increases its attacks in southern Israel. And the localized war in Iraq will become a long, messy and protracted regional war that, by the time it is done, will most likely end the American empire and leave in its wake mounds of corpses and smoldering ruins. [...and Armageddon begins. ed]

The Israeli leadership, like the Bush White House, is increasingly bellicose and threatening. The Israeli prime minister, after a recent 90-minute meeting with Bush in the White House, said the two leaders were of one mind. “We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat,” Ehud Olmert said. “I left with a lot less questions marks (than) I had entered with regarding the means, the timetable restrictions and American resoluteness to deal with the problem. George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term in the White House.”

This time around, unlike the war with Iraq, the Washington bureaucracy, loathed by the Bush White House, did not remain silent and complicit. The NIE on Iran’s nuclear program released Dec. 3 distinguished Iran’s enrichment of uranium at Natanz and Arak from its formal nuclear weapons program, which it said had halted in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Adm. Fallon, who put his country and his integrity before his career, spoke out against a war with Iran, tried to stop it, and lost his job as the head of Central Command. He has been replaced with Gen. David Petraeus, whose devotion to his career admits no such moral impediments.

The American people must act to stop this madness. We must raise our voices in protest. We must demand that Congress exercise its constitutional authority and block a war on Iran. We cannot allow the Bush neocons to act out their final bloody fantasy and destroy all hopes for peace in the Middle East.

Joe Parko is a retired college professor. He lives in Crossville, where he serves on the steering committee of Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/05/08 •
Section Revelations
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AARP’s National Employer Team

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But when you’re 50+ and in the job market, it often feels HARDER TO FIND a company that understands how valuable you are. To help, AARP created the National Employer Team (formerly the Featured Employers program) to help you connect to companies that value your VALUE YOUR EXPERIENCE and abilities.

SOURCE

More employers seek out seniors
CNBC
February 18, 2008

AARP is adding three federal government agencies and six private companies to its list of EMPLOYERS LOOKING TO HIRE PEOPLE 50 AND OLDER for a variety of full-time, part-time and seasonal JOBS, the group announced Thursday.

The Internal Revenue Service, the Peace Corps and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Relief are the newest members and the first federal employers on AARP’s National Employer Team, bringing the total number of employers in the three-year-old partnership to 38, said Deborah Russell, director of work force issues for AARP in Washington.

A number of private health-care and home-care companies also are joining the roster, including Scripps Health, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Home Instead Senior Care, Synergy HomeCare, AnswerNet and Vedior North America.

Older Americans can peruse job opportunities and apply online for free through the AARP Web site regardless of whether they’re one of the group’s 40 million members.

More employers are catching on to the benefits of hiring older workers, Russell said. “They recognize the fact that mature workers bring good experience and skills to the workplace.”

“Many see lower turnover rates (among) mature workers,” she said. “More importantly, some recognize this is a labor pool they will have to pull from because they don’t have the ability to attract younger workers to these kinds of jobs.”

Some baby-boomer workers who tap the AARP employer network want more flexibility in their work lives but don’t see themselves retiring to pursue leisure activities for what could be another 20 or more years, Russell said.

“The vast majority are people who are looking to transition into new job opportunities who are still working,” she said. “You have people who may even be retirement-eligible but are looking to transition into new job opportunities doing something different than what they’ve been doing for many years.”

Others find they can’t retire even if they want to stop working and need to develop new career strategies.

About 69 percent of boomers plan to work past the traditional retirement age of 65, and most cite the high cost of health care and insufficient savings as reasons, Russell said. “People have come to the realization that ‘Yeah, I have to work longer because I simply won’t have enough money to retire.’”

AARP doesn’t track job placement rates, but it monitors members’ complaints about their experiences with the National Employer Team, she said. “I’m happy to say there have been very few.”

The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group encouraging civil service, announced two new partnerships as well, including private-sector partner IBM, which is helping its 350,000 current and retired workers learn about and potentially be hired into government jobs.

The U.S. Treasury Department is the first government agency to sign on as a partner, and it needs to fill nearly 14,000 high-priority jobs in the next two years, said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service in Washington.

“There is a terrific opportunity to harness the energy of the boomer generation to address what is a critical talent shortage we’re facing in the public sector,” he said.

About 42 percent of the federal work force is over 50, according to the Partnership.

“The federal government is facing a tsunami of retirements,” Stier said. “We expect over the next five years that over half a million folks will be leaving. We’ve identified 193,000 mission-critical positions that will need to be filled in the next two years.”

Two million people work for the federal government, and 85 percent of them work outside of Washington, he said. Jobs will need to be filled in fields as diverse as engineering, economics, public health, law enforcement, security, technology, management and accounting.

The group is particularly interested in boomers who may be retiring from their private-sector employers.

“They want challenging work where they can make a difference,” Stier said. “The federal government has job opportunities in virtually any profession one could consider, from astrophysics to zoology....You’re not only helping the American people but you’re likely to be working on our most challenging problems as a nation, too.”

Many people are attracted to government jobs in part because they offer solid health benefits, and the public sector is known for its workers’ long average tenures, he said. Still, the federal government historically hasn’t hired many people at more experienced levels.

“We need to create additional channels of entry into government service with the expectation that some people will stay throughout their entire career,” Stier said, noting that demographic shifts are forcing agencies to modernize their tactics. “The government has to move from a career model to a career-builder model.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/05/08 •
Section Job Hunt
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