I meant to write about this yesterday, but there were simply not enough hours in the day.
On Tuesday, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Darden Restaurants, Inc. has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers, and is limiting workers to 28 hours a week in four unidentified markets “to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business.” The test program will determine whether it is a viable option in dealing with additional health care costs.
I realized that the majority of us have never heard of Darden, but I guarantee you will recognize the names of some of the restaurant chains they own. Have you ever heard of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, or Longhorn Steakhouses? I have eaten at 3 out of 4 of those restaurants this year. Two in the past couple of months. Olive Garden happens to be my wife’s favorite restaurant. I keep kicking myself for not buying their stock years ago!
The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) states that companies with greater than 50 employees must provide health insurance starting in 2014 to any worker that works 30+ hours a week. The penalty for not providing health insurance is $2,000 per uninsured worker after the first 30. If I understand it correctly, the math is as follows for the penalties.
Company Size: 50 Employees (40 of them work 30+ hours per week)
Penalty Calculation: 40 FTEs – 30 (Penalty Free) = 10 x $2,000 = $ 20,000
The penalties levied by the Federal Government will be a significant hit to the Small Businesses that will be affected. My main concern with this announcement is how many other companies will follow suite? Are we about to see a major shift in the way companies hire people? Instead of hiring Full Time Employees, will companies starting hiring Part Time only?
This is a major shot across the bow of ObamaCare in my opinion.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Releases New Program (QE III)
A new program released yesterday that will bring mortgage rates lower. The plan is to buy back more mortgage-backed securities than are being purchased now at a rate of $40 billion a month. According to Bernanke, this would continue until the economy recovers. Excerpts from two of the online news sources are below, and there is also a good article in the Wall Street Journal today.
“The main beneficiaries of the Fed’s new program will likely be borrowers who refinance their high-rate mortgages, said Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia. In recent months, the number of people who have been refinancing has been running at about twice the rate of homebuyers who have been receiving loans to buy a home.
“They can refinance and free up cash,” he said. That could give a small boost to the overall economy because a lot of that cash will go to spending on cars, vacations, furniture and other consumer goods.” 
“In a strategy shift, the Fed’s latest round of quantitative easing, commonly referred to as QE III, will target mortgage backed securities rather than U.S. Treasuries. And, importantly, the Fed said it plans to keep interest rates low even after a recovery gains momentum.” 
In all likely-hood, we will not see the results of this program until second quarter of next year. Either way, this may be a good time to look at refinancing your mortgage.
Sources:  Les Christie with money.cnn.com;  Dunstan Prial, Adam Samson with foxbusiness.com