Bernanke faces press, makes history

This article was originally published by on Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke made history by facing nearly five dozen reporters in an hour-long press conference, the first ever for the U.S. central bank.

With his usual unruffled delivery, Bernanke answered a dozen and a half questions ranging from the effects of long-term unemployment, the value of the dollar and gas prices to his personal feelings about staring down the media corps.

Bernanke reassured the press, and the public watching via Web cast, that the Fed is closely monitoring all indicators to balance economic growth against the threat of inflation.

"It's very hard to blame the American public for being impatient," he said. "The combination of high unemployment, high gas prices and high foreclosure rates is a terrible combination. ... I am very confident that in the long run, the U.S. will return to being the most productive, fastest-growing and most dynamic economy in the world."

The Fed is watching carefully to see the current "moderate recovery" continue and strengthen, with particular hope that the labor market will improve further. For now, the major concern is to establish a sustained recovery, with inflation being of little immediate threat, he said. The central bank has a dual mission to support employment and keep inflation under control.

Flexible jobs = happy worker bees?

While it's no magic bullet and comes with sacrifices from both sides, more offices across the country are offering flexible working arrangements to increase retention, productivity and morale.

This article was originally published by on Wednesday, April 20, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis, contributor

When John Parry, CEO at Solix, Inc., arrives at work at around 7 a.m., the office parking lot already has some 80 cars, a testament to his employees' desire to beat rush hour by shifting their work hours earlier than the typical 9-to-5.

But none of those workers had to apply for a flexible work arrangement or win supervisory approval for a schedule change.

"We don't really care when people come in," explains Parry. "We trust Solix staff with million-dollar funding decisions, so we should trust them to work flexibly."

The Parsippany, N.J.-based process outsourcer is among a growing wave of employers that have discovered how workplaces that accommodate employees' desires for flexibility enjoy superior business results, higher productivity and greater retention.

"You see company after company that says, 'We created a more flexible workplace because the turnover level was really high,'" says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a research and advocacy nonprofit that recently released a report on flexible workplaces in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management.

Flexibility is almost mandatory in a 24-7 global economy, when people may be called on to work evenings in an emergency or to connect with international colleagues, says Galinsky.

Moreover, with 87% of people surveyed by FWI saying that flexibility would be important in their evaluation of a new job, it's a key element of any human resources package. That's not to say that flexibility is a magic bullet or is universally embraced in corporate America -- a whopping 60% of employees feel they don't have enough time for themselves, according to the institute's research.

Crowdfunding Promoted to Help Small Businesses

This article was originally published by the Fiscal Times on Sunday, April 17, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Many small businesses are still struggling to raise capital in the wake of the Great Recession, despite a flurry of government and private initiatives.

President Obama launched Startup America to encourage entrepreneurship, stressing that small businesses traditionally have been the engine of job creation, and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke regularly talks up his concern for small businesses and keep tabs on small business funding.

Now there's an effort to exempt startup businesses from the complex U.S. securities registration and filing requirements when they acquire relatively small amounts of loans and equity.

The founder of, Sherwood Neiss, says the proposal would facilitate the growth of crowd funding by letting small businesses offer returns to small investors with less paperwork and expense. Crowd funders network and pool money and other resources, usually via the Internet, to support businesses or causes initiated by other people or organizations.

The financial crisis and slow economic recovery have exacerbated the perennial difficulty small businesses face in raising startup capital, experts say. Banks and institutional lenders cut back dramatically on loans, not only because of their losses in the crisis, but also because regulators forced them to hold more capital. And even under normal circumstances, angel investors and venture capital firms tend to offer only large investments -- beyond the needs of many small businesses.

TARP’s $24 Billion Profit: Some Demand a Recount

This article was originally published by the Fiscal Times on Friday, April 1, 2011.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

The Treasury Department is crowing about a new analysis that claims the government’s massive bank bailout in response to the 2008 financial crisis will actually end up turning a profit of nearly $24 billion.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that while the government’s overriding objective was to “break the back of the financial crisis and save American jobs,” it didn’t hurt that the TARP investments in U.S. banks “delivered a significant profit for taxpayers.”

But whether the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program will ultimately end up in the black or red is still an open question. And the Obama administration has been slammed by congressional Republicans and some financial experts for restoring Wall Street to profitability through TARP while millions of homeowners continue to struggle with foreclosures and more than 13 million people remain unemployed.