Rich man: Poor man in New York

by. Henry Meier

New York has a schizophrenic relationship with wealth.  On one hand it prides itself on having a progressive pro-labor tradition in which it leads the way in protecting the average Joe against the perceived inequities of capitalism.  On the other hand, there is no state that has benefitted as much — including California — from a commitment to entrepreneurialism and unabashed capitalism.

Today’s news highlights this dichotomy and the unique implications it has for New York.  First, President Obama is once again highlighting the regulatory powers of the Executive Branch by directing his Department of Labor to update regulations under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Under the Act, non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime.  However,there are various exceptions to this requirement including for executive and administrative employees who make more than $455 a week.  This threshold was last set in 2004.  Critics of the regulations claim that it hasn’t kept pace with inflation.

The extent to which the regulations ultimately promulgated by the Department of Labor will impact New York remains to be seen.  New York has its own Fair Labor Standards Act and its threshold for non-exempt employees is already much higher than the federal threshold, $600 per week which will rise to $675 per week by 2016.

Now for the rich man part of New York State.  According to a recently released report by New York’s Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the average bonus in the securities industry grew by 15% to a mere $164,530 in 2013.  According to the Comptroller, this is the largest average bonus since 2008 and the third highest on record.

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