12. March 2024 · Comments Off on Civic Action Tapback – March 12, 2024 · Categories: Announcements


It’s been fifteen years since the invention of cryptocurrency, and nobody has really figured out anything useful to do with it besides buying weapons and pharmaceuticals from sleezy internet marketplaces, and paying ransoms to hackers who seize control of computer systems. But crypto boosters are still trying to grow the market beyond their core base of very-online and very-libertarian men. 

In the latest such effort, the crypto exchange Binance celebrated International Women’s Day by launching a perfume — called simply “CRYPTO” and promising to smell of “ozone, salt, and moss” — which they say is intended to serve as “a new way to open up conversations with the public on what needs to be done to bridge the gender gap.” And really, what more is there to say about a crypto exchange announcing a perfume for International Women’s Day to address the lack of women in crypto except…

Make it make sense.

could be cut from the budget of the Justice Department Antitrust Division under government funding bills currently moving through Congress. The Antitrust Division plays a key role in the newly announced Strike Force on Unfair and Illegal Pricing, successfully blocked the anticompetitive merger of JetBlue and Spirit, and has a smaller staff than it did in 1979.

have begun negotiations for a new contract with Boeing as the company struggles to address growing quality and safety concerns. The union’s goals include 40% pay increases, improved health care and pension benefits, and a commitment by Boeing to build their next plane with union workers in the Puget Sound region.

is the estimated total ten-year budget hit resulting from Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A similar amount of money would be sufficient to restore the Child Tax Credit for ten years and lift 3 million children out of poverty, with enough left over to provide universal child care and preschool to American families.

The labor leverage ratio is a relatively new economic indicator developed by recent Pitchfork Economics guest Aaron Sojourner that seeks to do just what it says on the tin: measure the economic leverage of labor versus employers. The idea is to simply divide the number of workers who quit their jobs in a given month by the number of people who were laid off or fired. When the ratio is higher, that means the job market is strong, because a higher ratio indicates workers are more comfortable with voluntarily leaving their jobs than employers are with eliminating jobs. And that means employers have to do what it takes to out-compete each other to find employees — such as raising wages. Conversely, when the ratio is lower, it indicates a weaker job market where people are less willing to leave their current jobs, and prospective employees have to do more to compete with each other to find work. It’s a simple, clever, and unique way to measure how good the job market is for workers. Basically, when the labor leverage ratio is higher for longer, better wages and working conditions ought to follow.

As the chart below shows, the labor leverage ratio has clearly come down a bit from its heights during the initial post-pandemic adjustment period, when there were more than three times as many quits and firings and layoffs. But the labor market remains remarkably strong: the 2.2 labor leverage ratio is above what it was before the pandemic, or at any point in at least the last 25 years.

As its awkwardly compound name suggests, the $300 billion healthcare conglomerate UnitedHealth is the product of a series of mergers over the past few decades, rolling together several health insurance companies, a pharmacy benefit manager, a provider of health savings accounts, online patient platforms, and a slew of other corporate healthcare entities. Those other acquisitions notably include a huge but little-known company called Change Healthcare, which provides billing software that connects healthcare providers and insurance companies (including but not limited to United Healthcare itself). Change Healthcare typically processes 15 billion transactions a year, but in the past few weeks, has been unable to reliably function at all due to an attack by a group of hackers who have demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom in order to release its hold on the company’s computer systems and let them return to normal.

The hack has squeezed doctors’ offices and pharmacies, which have been largely unable to get authorization for services through Change Healthcare or get payment for services — an ugly situation that points to the dangers of highly concentrated providers of essential services like human health. The hack also means Change Healthcare gets to temporarily keep money on its balance sheet that it would have otherwise been paying out to healthcare providers, so the company doesn’t seem to be in a huge rush to solve the problem caused by its cybersecurity failure. In fact, they’re currently trying to take advantage of the situation: they are asking regulators to speed approval of their planned purchase of a medical provider in Oregon, on the grounds that the provider they’re trying to buy might close if the purchase isn’t approved quickly. And why might they close? Because of the Change Healthcare outage, which has stalled claims processing to the point that the clinic is facing a severe cash flow crisis. A truly outrageous story, worth reading in its entirety.

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