Latest moves of Amazon and Walmart confirm the death of the middle class as we know it

Amazon, whose Prime service claims more than 70% of upper-income households in the US — those earning more than $112,000 a year — is suddenly going after customers on government assistance who earn less than $15,444 a year for a one-person household.

The retailer on Tuesday announced it would slash the cost of its monthly Prime membership nearly in half, to $5.99 a month, for customers who have an electronic benefit transfer card, which is used for government assistance like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps.

“It’s a shot over the bow at Walmart,” said Doug Stephens, a retail-industry consultant. In other words, the strategy is a direct grab for Walmart’s core customers. Nearly $1 out of every $5 in SNAP benefits was spent at Walmart last year, according to Morningstar.

At the same time, Walmart is going after Amazon’s core customers with its $3 billion acquisition earlier this year of Jet.com, which attracts a younger and higher-income group of shoppers than Walmart. The retailer has also recently been snatching up trendy online retailers like ModCloth, Moosejaw, and Shoebuy, and it’s reportedly considering a bid for the high-end menswear brand Bonobos.

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Former Microsoft CEO Launches New Tool For Finding Government Data

This Tax Day, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launched a new tool designed to make government spending and revenue more accessible to the average citizen.

The website — USAFacts.org — has been slow and buggy for users on Tuesday, apparently due to the level of traffic. It offers interactive graphics showing data on revenue, spending, demographics and program missions.

For example, the site prominently features an infographic created to break down revenue and spending in 2014. Revenue is broken down by origin; spending is broken down by what “mission” of government it serves, based on the functions laid out in the Constitution.

It’s a big-picture view of where U.S. tax dollars come from, and how they’re spent. But click on a subcategory and you’re taken to a more detailed, granular view of that spending.

Ballmer didn’t create the site because he was an expert on government data. Quite the opposite, according to The New York Times’ Dealbook.

The Times says that Ballmer’s wife was pushing her newly-retired husband to get more involved in philanthropy. Ballmer said — according to his own memory, as he described the conversation to the Times — “But come on, doesn’t the government take care of the poor, the sick, the old?”

Read more at Former Microsoft CEO Launches New Tool For Finding Government Data

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3 ways to strengthen security with software supply-chain automation

Federal agencies are striving to become more innovative and iterative, leading to growing adoption of open source within the government. The issuance earlier this year of the Federal Source Code Policy illustrates how this technology, once anathema to government agencies, has become the de facto standard for the creation and deployment of many applications.

With the explosive adoption of open-source components being used to assemble applications, agency personnel are now tasked with ensuring the quality of the components that are being used. Developers must have confidence in components’ security, licensing and quality attributes and know for certain that they are using the latest versions.

Unfortunately, many agencies that are adopting the RMF are also relying on outdated and inefficient practices and tools that are not designed for today’s open and agile world. In addition to relying on potentially vulnerable components to build applications, some agencies have continued to depend too heavily on common application security tools, such as static application security testing and dynamic application security testing.

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A Harvest of Company Details, All in One Basket

A Harvest of Company Details, All in One Basket

Trolling government records for juicy details about companies and their executives can be a ponderous task. I often find myself querying the websites of multiple federal agencies, each using its own particular terminology and data forms, just for a glimpse of one company’s business.

But a few new services aim to reduce that friction not just for reporters, but also for investors and companies that might use the information in making business decisions. One site, rankandfiled.com, is designed to make company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission more intelligible. It also offers visitors an instant snapshot of industry relationships, in a multicolored “influence” graph that charts the various companies in which a business’s officers and directors own shares. According to the site, pooh-bahs at Google, for example, have held shares in Apple, Netflix, LinkedIn, Zynga, Cisco, Amazon and Pixar.

Another site, Enigma.io, has obtained, standardized and collated thousands of data sets — including information on companies’ lobbying activities and their contributions to state election campaigns — made public by federal and state agencies. Starting this weekend, the public will be able to use it, at no charge, to seek information about a single company across dozens of government sources at once.

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Five economic lessons from Sweden, the rock star of the recovery

Five economic lessons from Sweden, the rock star of the recovery

Almost every developed nation in the world was walloped by the financial crisis, their economies paralyzed, their prospects for the future muddied.

And then there’s Sweden, the rock star of the recovery.

This Scandinavian nation of 9 million people has accomplished what the United States, Britain and Japan can only dream of: Growing rapidly, creating jobs and gaining a competitive edge. The banks are lending, the housing market booming. The budget is balanced.

Sweden was far from immune to the global downturn of 2008-09. But unlike other countries, it is bouncing back. Its 5.5 percent growth rate last year trounces the 2.8 percent expansion in the United States and was stronger than any other developed nation in Europe. And compared with the United States, unemployment peaked lower (around 9 percent, compared with 10 percent) and has come down faster (it now stands near 7 percent, compared with 9 percent in the U.S.).

Sweden has proven to the world that they survived from the crisis in a short time. If you are interested in learning more about financial management, feel free to contactus.

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