Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Education Dept. to Delay Issuing 'Gainful Employment' Rules Opposed by For-Profit Colleges

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Friday that it would delay issuing final rules on the most controversial aspects of its "gainful employment" regulation until early 2011, but said it would issue all the rest of its regulations affecting for-profit colleges on or around November 1, as scheduled.

The department said its intent was still to have the new gainful-employment regulation go into effect in July 2012, as planned.

"Let me be clear," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a news release. "While a majority of career colleges play a vital role in training our work force to be globally competitive, some bad actors are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use."

The department said it was postponing action on the gainful-employment proposals to give interested parties more time to "clarify the comments they've submitted and respond to questions from department officials."

The rule, which is being vehemently opposed by the for-profit college industry and its allies and backed by a coalition of consumer and education groups, could eliminate federal financial aid for programs where high proportions of students are not repaying the principle on their student loans or end up with excessive debt loads for the salaries they can earn.

Many of the opponents contend that the department's proposed rule is based on incomplete data and faulty reasoning.

Publicly the Association of Private-Sector Colleges and Universities, formerly the Career College Association, and several higher-education companies expressed support for the department's move on Friday. Privately some noted that while the department said the postponement would allow for time to hold meetings and public hearings on the proposals, its announcement on the timetable said nothing explicit about its willingness to considering changes in the gainful-employment rule.

Harris N. Miller, the association's president, said the postponement could provide an "opportunity to avoid issuing a rule that would harm students, job growth, and communities."

A Vast PR Campaign

Corinthian Colleges Inc., which owns Everest College and other institutions with programs that would be eliminated or restricted under the gainful-employment rule, as currently proposed, said the postponement would allow a welcome second look at a proposal that "would have had serious unintended consequences for students and the country."

Last week Corinthian began a vast public-relations campaign designed to show that the rule could affect "as many as" 100,000 jobs and one million students. (see attached photo) The company's chief executive, Peter C. Waller, said Corinthian was spending in the "high seven figures" for its "My Career Counts" advertisements in newspapers and on the radio.

Supporters of tougher regulations praised the department for sticking with its planned time frame for putting the new rule into effect.

"Today's announcement recognizes that students and taxpayers are getting fleeced and cannot afford to wait for protection from unscrupulous schools," said Pauline M. Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for Access and Success, in a written statement. The institute, along with more than two dozen other education and consumer groups, is seeking an even stricter gainful-employment rule.

The institute said it was also pleased that, under the timetable, the department could begin enforcing by next year some portions of the gainful-employment regulation that would require colleges to provide greater disclosure about programs' costs and their students' job prospects. Those parts of the regulation could "warn students away from the programs most likely to leave them with debts they cannot repay," said Ms. Abernathy in the statement. A Chronicle analysis in July found that 40 percent of government loans to students at for-profit colleges who entered repayment in 1995 have gone into default.

In comments to the department about the proposal, the institute has suggested that the department also require colleges where students have high rates of borrowing and high rates of default to post that information prominently on their Web sites, beginning in July 2011, when the first parts of the gainful-employment regulation would go into effect.

The department has said it has received about 90,000 comments—about twice as many as ever before—on the proposed rule. Some of the comments were auto-generated in the names of for-profit college students and employees with the help of lobbying firms that specialize in stirring up what appear to be grass-roots protests.

A Mountain of Comments

The sheer volume of the comments was probably one reason for the department's delay, according to Nancy Broff, a lobbyist for for-profit colleges who has years of experience in department rule-making matters.

With the rule likely to be challenged in court, the department would "have to be able to say to a judge with a straight face" that it had considered and analyzed all the public input it received, Ms. Broff told attendees at a major conference this month in New York for investors in the for-profit higher-education industry.

The mountain of comments is just one sign of the intensity of the debate over the new regulations, which also include provisions that would put new teeth into rules regulating aggressive recruiting tactics and deceptive advertising by colleges.

Executives like Mr. Waller, Donald E. Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company (which owns a piece of Corinthian and runs its own colleges through its Kaplan Inc. subsidiary), and many others have also been lobbying members of Congress in hopes of building political opposition to the gainful-employment rule.

Another group, calling itself the Coalition for Education Success and backed by colleges owned by private-equity investors, has also become active on the public-relations front. It has hired Lanny Davis, once a top lawyer in the Clinton administration and now a lobbyist and a columnist for The Hill, a newspaper covering Congress, as its spokesman.

The push will only intensify this coming week. Yesterday the Association of Private-Sector Colleges and Universities held a "Career Day" rally on Capitol Hill followed by a lobbying blitz. Declaring that "the stakes are enormous" and "the time is short," the association organized its member colleges to bring students and representatives of companies that hire their graduates.

Later in the week, for-profit colleges will find themselves back in the spotlight. On Thursday a key Senate committee led by Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, will hold its third hearing on for-profit higher education. Earlier hearings focused on the rising levels of federal money going into the rapidly growing for-profit sector and on fraud and deception in student recruiting disclosed in an undercover investigation of for-profit colleges by the Government Accountability Office.

At Thursday's hearing, Senator Harkin said, the focus will be on "the magnitude of the federal investment in for-profit schools and whether students are being left with debt but no diploma."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MATC's pre-college instructors change lives!

A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, the last is a sensationalist and dishonest series about Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), targeted a Pre-College instructor, suggesting that he was somehow gaming the system.

Others have now chimed in that he is ONLY a GED instructor. In fact, Mr. Holmes who has been a professional educator for 36 years not only teaches a full load of classes to some of our community's most disadvantaged students, but he also has wide ranging administrative duties as the Instructional chair for the entire four-campus Pre-College division.

When MATC instructors take on additional responsibilities they are paid only 60% of the full-time salary saving the college money because it does not hire full-time faculty or staff to conduct those duties. In the private sector that MATC's critics are so quick to point to employees who work overtime are paid time and one half.

The Public Policy Forum report that was the basis for the MJS's series of articles was quite clear: the average base salary for MATC faculty in 2007 was $85,000. The only way faculty made above that was doing additional work at a discounted rate.

The MJS and others may not like it that MATC's educators are paid fairly for their education and years of experience. But that is hardly the scandal that the paper's coverage implies.

Students in the Pre-College division are overwhelming working class and disproportionately students of color. There are over 100,000 adults in the MATC district who do not have a high school degree. MATC and all technical colleges are required by state legislation to provide the educationally disadvantaged with low-cost education. That is a very good thing, although very challenging work. The educators who work in this division change lives as the video below makes clear.

The MJS analysis that MATC is in a financial crisis is also not supported by the facts.

MATC has an Aa1 bond rating and unlike the City, County and State has not experienced any reduction in its rating over more than a decade.

The college also has a healthy rainy day fund unlike the State or the County.

MATC has maintained its infrastructure enabling the college to provide our students with hands-on state-of-the market technical education. For every dollar invested in MATC, $4 returns to the local economy. MATC provides the middle skills workers that make up 70% of Southeastern Wisconsin ’s workforce.

MATC has become overly dependent on local property taxes. This has nothing to do with faculty salaries. In fact, instructional costs per full time equivalent student, a generally accepted measure of institutional efficiency, were 6th among all tech colleges in 2009.

MATC has been forced to rely on local property taxes because state investment has declined from 30% as recently as 1990 to less than 14% today. As a result MATC has been forced to rely on local property taxes to make up the difference.

In 1999 the Milwaukee Journal made exactly this point when it wrote an editorial entitled “Deadly cuts to tech schools” and asked “Who’s to blame? It answered: “The state that’s who….”

Over the past twenty years the state’s contribution to tech colleges has plummeted. During these years Republican Senators Alberta Darling and Glenn Grothman, the most vociferous critics of MATC, have repeatedly voted against increasing tech college funding. The result is that property taxes have increased to support the college’s work educating and training the labor force.

After more than two decades of state disinvestment, the Journal Sentinel has now decided it’s the faculty who are to blame for the college's fiscal challenges. The destructive trends the Journal identified in a decade ago remain. Faculty salaries have increased modestly over the same period although last year, in the middle of the Great Recession, MATC’s faculty voluntarily gave up their negotiated salary increase.

What has changed, as Eric Gunn, a columnist for Milwaukee Magazine and former Journal reporter, wrote in a recent column is that the Journal Sentinel is now run by an anti-labor cabal that sees no contradiction between attacking the middle class salaries of MATC’s faculty while arguing that the Bush tax cuts for millionaires should be extended.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Republican Pledge's fuzzy math will bankrupt the country

Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes:

On Thursday, House Republicans released their “Pledge to America,” supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, “Deficits are a terrible thing. Let’s make them much bigger.” The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.

True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there’s only one specific cut proposed — canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That’s less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified — “except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.” In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: “No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.”

The “pledge,” then, is nonsense. But isn’t that true of all political platforms? The answer is, not to anything like the same extent. Many independent analysts believe that the Obama administration’s long-run budget projections are somewhat too optimistic — but, if so, it’s a matter of technical details. Neither President Obama nor any other leading Democrat, as far as I can recall, has ever claimed that up is down, that you can sharply reduce revenue, protect all the programs voters like, and still balance the budget.

And the G.O.P. itself used to make more sense than it does now. Ronald Reagan’s claim that cutting taxes would actually increase revenue was wishful thinking, but at least he had some kind of theory behind his proposals. When former President George W. Bush campaigned for big tax cuts in 2000, he claimed that these cuts were affordable given (unrealistic) projections of future budget surpluses. Now, however, Republicans aren’t even pretending that their numbers add up.

So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn’t even trying to make sense?

The answer isn’t a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, “so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.” In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That’s a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.

And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

Realistically, though, Republicans aren’t going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon — if ever. Remember, the Bush administration’s attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress — and it actually increased Medicare spending.

So the clear and present danger isn’t that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ron Johnson attacks stimulus program while pursing stimulus dollars

Ron Johnson, the Republican Senate candidate who has built his campaign on opposition to federal spending and the stimulus program sought stimulus funds for renovations to Oshkosh's Grand Opera House when he was president of the Grand’s board in March 2009.

Johnson's hypocrisy is detailed in this article from hometown paper, the Oshkosh Northwestern.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Student-Loan Defaults rise; Momemtum for Gainful Employment rule grows

The Chroncile of Higher Education's Kelly Fields reports:

The percentage of borrowers defaulting on their student loans has risen for a third year in a row, reaching an 11-year high of 7 percent, according to U.S. Education Department data released on Monday.

As usual, the "cohort default rate" for 2008, the most recent data available, is highest at for-profit colleges, averaging 11.6 percent, a 0.6-percent increase over the previous year. The rate for public colleges is 6 percent, up from 5.9 percent. For private colleges, the rate is 4 percent, up from 3.7 percent.

The numbers represent the share of students who entered repayment in the 2008 fiscal year and defaulted by the end of last September.

In a news release, Education Department officials used the data to make their case for a crackdown on for-profit colleges. This past summer the department issued a package of proposed rules aimed at protecting students and taxpayers from the consequences of student-loan defaults, particularly at proprietary institutions. Final rules are due by November 1.

"While for-profit schools have profited and prospered thanks to federal dollars, some of their students have not," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the news release. "Far too many for-profit schools are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use."

Lobbyists for for-profit colleges say the recent rise in defaults is a reflection of the weak economy, not the quality of their institutions. In a news release, the Career College Association argued that default rates should not be used "as a proxy on the value of our schools or the education we provide."

"In a climate marked by near double-digit unemployment, it is not surprising that former students continue to find it more difficult to repay their student loans," said Harris N. Miller, the association's president.

Under federal rules, colleges with default rates greater than 25 percent for three consecutive years, or 40 percent for a single year, can lose their eligibility to award federal student aid.

This year two colleges exceeded the first cap: the Charleston School of Beauty Culture, in Charleston, W.Va., and Human Resource Development & Employment-Stanley Technical Institute, in Clarksburg, W.Va. Three colleges had rates of greater than 40 percent: Cuttin' Up Beauty Academy, in Denver; Academy of Healing Arts, in Las Vegas; and Clinton Junior College, in Rock Hill, S.C.

Monday's data release fell less than a week after the end of a public-comment period on the most controversial of the department's proposals designed to protect students and taxpayers, known as the "gainful employment" rule. The department received close to 85,000 comments on that rule, which would cut off aid to programs whose students have the highest debt burdens and lowest loan-repayment rates. For-profit colleges say the rule would ravage their revenues and force them to close thousands of programs serving low-income and minority students.

The government's annual cohort default rate is a snapshot in time, reflecting the share of students who default on their loans within two years of leaving college. As such, the data capture only a sliver of the defaults that occur over the life of a loan, a recent Chronicle analysis found. According to that analysis, one in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Harley Davidson demands concessions because it can!

Jack Norman, the research director for the Institute for Wisconsin's Future and a former Milwaukee Journal Sentinel economics reporter, asks:

Was Harley forced by market conditions to demand enormous cuts in jobs, wages and benefits? Or was it a deliberate strategy to take advantage of the economic crisis?

His answers suggest that many large corporations are using the threat to relocate to secure significant labor cost reductions not because the market requires them, but because they can.

Norman's analysis is linked here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

For-profit college regulation comment period ends

Inside Higher Ed reports:

WASHINGTON – After more than a year of wrangling, the last chance for colleges, associations and individuals to weigh in on the U.S. Department of Education’s “gainful employment" rules came to a close last week with the end of the public comment period on the department’s proposed regulations.

Since late July, when the Education Department shared its rationale and draft regulatory language in a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in the Federal Register, about 80,000 comments have flowed in from supporters and opponents of the regulations. The department has proposed to determine whether most for-profit offerings and some nondegree programs at nonprofit colleges were eligible to participate in the Title IV federal financial aid program using measures of the ability of former students to repay their student loans.

The department has insisted that it will publish final regulatory language by Nov. 1 so that the language can begin taking effect on July 1, 2011 – leaving the department seven weeks to read all the submissions and factor them into its decision. Department officials would not say whether the rush of comments – many from for-profit college students and employees and orchestrated by the colleges or, in some cases, their parent companies – would change that timeline or lead to reconsiderations of the rules. Nonetheless, it appears that the department will continue as planned, adjusting its proposal based on some of the constructive and clarifying comments it received, but not substantively transforming its reasoning or its metrics.

Inside Higher Ed has examined the comments from hundreds of individuals, as well as major associations and for-profit institutions, to get a sense of what department officials will come across as they read the thousands of submissions.

The entire article is linked here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Republicans propose to borrow money from the Chinese to give to the richest Americans!

House minority leader, Representative John Boehner, who fought against extending unemployment benefits to America’s unemployed workers wants to make the $1.7 trillion Bush tax cuts, 50% of which went to the richest 1%, permanent.

President Obama has proposed keeping the tax cuts for 95% of Americans, but allowing the tax breaks for those making over $250,000 to lapse, returning to the rates of the Clinton era. The 1990's top marginal tax rates were slightly less than one third the rates of the high growth 1950s and roughly 40% of the rate in the '60s and '70s when the economy grew at much faster rates than it has since the nation embraced supply side ideology in 1981.

Boehner, employs the same rationale used by President Bush to win approval of the cuts in 2001 and 2003, arguing that extending the tax breaks to high income earners is necessary to revive the economy.

The result of the Bush era tax cuts: the weakest period of economic growth and job creation since the Great Depression, culminating in the real estate bubble and the Great Recession.

A New Jersey Star Ledger editorial entitled “On tax policy Republicans have lost their way” notes:

Extending these tax cuts would force the treasury to borrow an additional $700 billion over the next decade. What Republicans are suggesting is this: Let’s borrow money from the Chinese and hand it over to the Americans who need it least. More than half of the money would go to those earning at least $2 million a year.”

We’ve been down this road before and it did not work. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.

The entire editorial is linked.

Friday, September 10, 2010

For-profit colleges face closure because of fraudulent recruiting practices

Westwood College's flagship campus has been placed on probation and its three Texas campuses face losing their state licenses following a federal investigation that uncovered recruiting abuses at Westwood and several other for-profit colleges.

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, a national accreditor, put the flagship campus—Westwood College-Denver North—on probation last Thursday, citing the institution's recruiting practices as well as its failure to meet the commission's benchmarks for graduation and job placement.

In a separate action, the Texas Workforce Commission, a state oversight body, notified Westwood's Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston South campuses that it will revoke their licenses to operate in the state. The campuses have until mid-September to appeal the decision. Roughly 1,500 of Westwood's 17,000 students attend its three Texas campuses, and 800 attend the Denver-North campus, a college spokesman said. Alta Colleges Inc., which is headquartered in Denver, is Westwood's parent company.

In a letter sent to faculty and staff members last week, George A. Burnett, the system's president and chief executive, said Westwood disagreed with the Texas commission's steps, but was "working diligently with them" and remained "confident" that the Texas campuses' licenses would be renewed. He also expressed confidence that the Denver campus would regain its full accreditation when it is reviewed again in November.

The actions against Westwood are the latest fallout from a recent report by the Government Accountability Office that chronicled widespread deception, and even outright fraud, in recruiting by for-profit colleges. At Westwood's Dallas campus, an admission representative went so far as to tell an investigator posing as a student not to report $250,000 in savings so he could qualify for federal student aid. Recruiters also gave the fake students misleading or incomplete information about programs' cost and graduation rates, the work-force commission says.

The commission says those actions violated Texas law, which bars recruiters from advising prospective students about financial aid and requires them to provide students with a schedule of tuition, fees, and other charges prior to enrollment. The agency has also accused Westwood of failing to report lawsuits involving the college, also a violation of state law.

Alta Colleges Inc. and Westwood, have been the subject of a string of lawsuits by former students and employees, including several filed by the Florida-based law firm James, Hoyer, Newcomer, Smiljanich & Yanchunis. The latest lawsuits accuse the colleges of training their recruiters to systematically misrepresent not only the cost of attending, but also job prospects for graduates and the nature of the colleges' accreditation.

Westwood, which, along with Alta, has filed a defamation case against the firm, has called the allegations "opportunistic," and promised to disprove them "in the appropriate forum." Last month, after the GAO report was released, the college announced that it would eliminate incentive pay for its recruiters and tighten its admissions standards to enroll students who are more academically prepared.

By Kelly Field, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

For-Profit Colleges Step Up Lobbying Against New Rules

The New York Times' Tamar Lewin reports:

For-profit colleges have increased their lobbying against proposed Education Department rules to cut off federal financial aid to programs whose students take on too much debt for training that provides little likelihood of leading to a well-paying job.

In addition to making personal visits to Capitol Hill, executives at the colleges have provided employees with “personalized” letters to send to Washington and urged students to speak out against the proposals.

So far, the department has received about 45,000 letters on the proposed “gainful employment” regulations, in the comment period that ends Thursday.

Last week, John Sperling, the founder of the nation’s largest for-profit college, the University of Phoenix, e-mailed every member of Congress, seeking help opposing the regulations, and attached a sample letter to be sent to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, asking him to withdraw them.

Donald Graham, the chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Company, which gets most of its revenue from its Kaplan education business, visited Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, whose Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding hearings on the for-profit education industry.

Under the proposed regulations, announced July 23, for-profit education programs would qualify for federal student aid only if enough former students were repaying their student loans, or if graduates generally earned enough to repay their debts.

Many for-profit colleges have urged students, professors and administrators to send in criticisms of the proposals.

The Education Management Corporation (owned by Goldman Sachs), the second-largest for-profit company, hired DCI Group, a public relations firm, to contact its employees for information that would be used to create a personalized letter, which would then be delivered back to the employee for signature, along with a stamped, addressed envelope.

“EDMC believes it is important, that during this public-comment period on the proposed Federal Gainful Employment Rule, that our students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to voice their opinion, if they choose to do so,” said Jacquelyn Muller, a spokeswoman for the company.

EDMC also has a Web site, the Higher Education Action Center, guiding students or employees to oppose the regulations, offering “pre-crafted” letters. Argosy, a unit of EDMC, said last month in an e-mail soliciting more comments that more than 2,000 people had used the site in the previous week. It is unclear how many comments were generated by for-profit colleges’ campaigns.

Some of the letters show little familiarity with the proposed regulations. For example, a Education Department official said, students at a particular school sent in dozens of hand-written letters asking for continued aid to for-profit colleges, but never mentioning the regulations. He said he called a letter-writer to ask whether the letter was intended as a comment on the regulations, and was told, “This is what the school asked us to write.” He would not identify the school.

The department said the new regulations would protect students from programs that saddled them with heavy debts and gave them credentials that proved to be of little value in finding a good job.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office said an investigation found fraud or deceptive practices at all 15 of the for-profit locations it visited.

Students at for-profit colleges, about 10 percent of those enrolled in higher education, are far more likely to default on their loans.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day 2010: not much to celebrate

In a Washington Post column Katrina vanden Heuvel writes:

Labor Day this year comes draped in mourning. More than half of all workers have experienced a spell of unemployment, taken a cut in pay or hours, been forced to go part-time or seen other such problems during and after the Great Recession. Collapsing stock and house prices have destroyed a fifth of the wealth of the average household. Nearly six in ten Americans have canceled or cut back on holidays. Amidst all this, workers increasingly don't even have labor unions as a potential answer to their insecurities -- despite the fact that, of all the institutions in America, they more often than not got it right on the big issues facing the country, generally in the face of a bipartisan political and elite consensus.

Unions are in trouble. They represent less than 13 percent of the workforce and less than 8 percent of private workers. Union workers still receive higher wages and are more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, pensions and paid sick leave than non-union workers. But when unions represented over 33 percent of all private workers in the 1940s, they drove wage increases for everyone -- non-union firms had to compete for good workers. Now, unions struggle just to defend their members' wages and benefits. Over the past decade before the Great Recession, productivity soared, profits rose and CEO pay skyrocketed, but most workers lost ground.

Unions face constant attacks from corporations and conservatives. The most recent campaign -- designed as always to divide workers from one another -- assails the pay and particularly the pensions of public employees. Why should they have pensions, when many workers have lost theirs and get, at best, a retirement savings plan at work? In fact, in a civilized society, we would ask the reverse question. How do we create pensions -- beyond Social Security -- for workers across the economy, leveling up, rather than down?

Indeed, if we had listened to unions more often in the past, America wouldn't be in the predicament it's in now.

The entire piece is worth reading and it is linked here.