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 Decade: 2000-2009
 Year: 2008
 Collection: Congressional Research Service Reports
Globalization, Worker Insecurity, and Policy Approaches
This report discusses the global economy, or what many call globalization, which has a growing impact on the economic futures of American companies, workers, and families. Increasing integration with the world economy makes the U.S. and other economies more productive. For most Americans, this has translated into absolute increases in living standards and real disposable incomes.
Proposed Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Labor Issues
This report examines three labor issues and arguments related to the pending U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement (CFTA): violence against trade unionists; impunity (accountability for or punishment of the perpetrators); and worker rights protections for Colombians. This report addresses this issue at length, including the arguments for and against the agreement, as well as general U.S.-Colombia economic relations.
Immigration-Related Worksite Enforcement: Performance Measures
Over the past few years, the media have been filled with reports about worksite enforcement operations, commonly referred to as immigration raids. These operations represent the public face of efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to curtail the employment of unauthorized immigrants. According to 2006 estimates, there are some 7.8 million unauthorized workers in the U.S. civilian workforce. Enforcement activity by the Department of Labor (DOL) is also relevant to a discussion of federal efforts to curtail unauthorized employment.
Military Base Closures: Socioeconomic Impacts
The most recent Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission submitted its final report to the Administration on September 8, 2005. In the report, the commission rejected 13 of the initial Department of Defense recommendations, significantly modified the recommendations for 13 other installations, and approved 22 major closures. The loss of related jobs, and efforts to replace them and to implement a viable base reuse plan, can pose significant challenges for affected communities. This report explores the potential economic impact of military closures on communities, especially rural communities, which are more heavily affected by such closures and suffer from slower economic recovery times in such instances.
Government Spending on Health Care Benefits and Programs: A Data Brief
In a country where health spending accounts for more than 16% of gross domestic product (GDP), health care costs and spending are often described as a problem for consumers and their families; for employers that provide (or seek to provide) health benefits; and for government, which finances a mix of health care services, health research and training, and health safety programs. To describe government spending on health care benefits and programs, this report presents data from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coverage of Contagious Diseases
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), provides broad nondiscrimination protection for individuals with disabilities in employment public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, transportation, and telecommunication. This report briefly discusses the Americans with Disabilities Act's statutory provisions relating to contagious diseases and relevant judicial interpretations.
Immigration: The Effects on Low-Skilled and High-Skilled Native-Born Workers
The report opens with a discussion of how to analyze the impact of immigrants on the pay and job opportunities of native-born workers. It then uses this framework to examine and interpret the empirical literature on the subject. The report concludes with a discussion of policy implications.
Tax Treatment of Employer Educational Assistance for the Benefit of Employees
Educational assistance offered by employers to their employees may be exempt from federal income tax under Section 127 and Section 132 of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 127 is the employer educational assistance exclusion; Section 132, the fringe benefit exclusion for working condition benefits (e.g., job-related eduction) among other benefits. Congress established the two tax provisions well before it enacted to her higher education tax benefits meant to assist taxpayers, their spouses, and dependents -- regardless of employment status -- pay current educational expenses incurred while obtaining postsecondary degrees and undertaking lifelong learning.
Coal Excise Tax Refunds: United States v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co.
In 1998, a U.S. district court held that the imposition of the coal excise tax, or black lung excise tax, on coal destined for export was unconstitutional. The process of refunding the tax has been controversial. This is because some coal producers and exporters have attempted to bypass the limitations in the Internal Revenue Code's refund scheme for bringing suit under the Export Clause in the Court of Federal Claims, seeking damages from the United States in the amount of coal excise taxes paid. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held the court had jurisdiction under the Tucker Act to hear the suits and allowed them as an alternative to the Code's refund process. However, in a 2008 decision, United States v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co., the Supreme Court unanimously held that taxpayers must comply with the Code's administrative refund process before bringing suit. Meanwhile, H.R. 1762 and S. 373 would provide an alternative method for taxpayers to receive coal excise tax refunds.
Foreign Science and Engineering Presence in U.S. Institutions and the Labor Force
The increased presence of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs and in the scientific workforce has been and continues to be of concern to some in the scientific community. Enrollment of U.S. citizens in graduate science and engineering programs has not kept pace with that of foreign students in those programs. Many in the scientific community maintain that in order to compete with countries that are rapidly expanding their scientific and technological capabilities, the country needs to bring to the United States those whose skills will benefit society and will enable us to compete in the new-technology based global economy. This report analyzes this issue in detail and includes discussion of related legislation.
Converting Retirement Savings into Income: Annuities and Periodic Withdrawals
To a worker contemplating retirement, there is perhaps no more important question than "How long will my money last?" Congress has a strong interest in the income security of older Americans because much of their income is either provided directly from public programs like Social Security, or in the case of pensions and retirement accounts, is subsidized through tax deductions and deferrals. This report looks at strategies to help deal with the following risks: longevity, investment, inflation, and unexpected events.
Converting Retirement Savings into Income: Annuities and Periodic Withdrawals
To a worker contemplating retirement, there is perhaps no more important question than "How long will my money last?" Congress has a strong interest in the income security of older Americans because much of their income is either provided directly from public programs like Social Security, or in the case of pensions and retirement accounts, is subsidized through tax deductions and deferrals. This report discusses risks involved with retirement fund disbursement and strategies for dealing with such risks.
Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Federal Civil Service Annuities
Cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) are based on the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). All CSRS retirees and survivors receive COLAs. Under FERS, however, non-disabled retirees under age 62 do not receive COLAs. This report discusses cost-of-living adjustments for government retirees, as well as related legislation.
H.R. 6500, The Thrift Savings Plan Enhancement Act of 2008
This report describes the various aspects of the Thrift Savings Plan Enhancement Act of 2008.
Haiti: Legislative Responses to the Food Crisis and Related Development Challenges
Haiti faces several interrelated challenges, the most immediate being a deepening food crisis that in April 2008 led to deadly protests and the ouster of Haiti's prime minister. Haiti also suffers from a legacy of poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment that is compounding security problems for its new and fragile democracy. This report follows the current situation in Haiti and key legislative initiatives designed to help address Haiti's many challenges.
Labor-Management Relations and the Federal Aviation Administration: Background and Current Legislative Issues
This report discusses labor-management relations at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the 2006 implementation of a new labor contract on air traffic controllers. The FAA's ability to implement the new contract with its controllers was arguably supported by a mediation procedure prescribed by federal law. This report provides background information on the mediation procedure, discusses litigation involving the FAA and two labor organizations, and examines legislative attempts to amend the existing system.
Social Security: The Cost-of-Living Adjustment in January 2009
The 5.8% COLA payable in January 2009 was triggered by the rise in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008. This COLA triggers identical percentage increases in Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans' pensions, and railroad retirement benefits, and causes other changes in the Social Security program. Although COLAs under the federal Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the federal military retirement program are not triggered by the Social Security COLA, these programs use the same measuring period and formula for computing their COLAs. Their recipients will also receive a 5.8% COLA in January 2009.
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: A Fact Sheet
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is a federal government agency established in 1974 by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (P.L. 93- 406). It was created to protect the pensions of participants and beneficiaries covered by private sector, defined benefit (DB) plans. These pension plans provide a specified monthly benefit at retirement, usually either a percent of salary or a flat dollar amount multiplied by years of service. Defined contribution plans, such as ยง401(k) plans, are not insured. The PBGC is chaired by the Secretary of Labor, with the Secretaries of Treasury and Commerce serving as board members.
Emergency Unemployment Compensation
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program is a temporary unemployment insurance program that provides up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to certain workers who have exhausted their rights to regular unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. The program effectively begins July 6, 2008, and will terminate on March 28, 2009. No EUC benefit will be paid beyond the week ending July 4, 2009.
Unemployment Compensation (Insurance) and Military Service
The Unemployment Compensation (UC) program contains several provisions relevant to current and former military service personnel and their families. The UC program does not provide benefits for military servicemembers on active duty. However, former active duty military personnel (and certain reservists) separated from active duty may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX). Spouses of military service personnel who voluntarily quit a job to accompany their spouses on account of a military transfer may be eligible for UC benefits, based on the laws of the state where the civilian spouse was employed. States may choose to create provisions that remove or limit these tax increases in certain situations.