Poverty & Wealth

The Inclusive Strength of #BlackLivesMatter

Why the fast-growing movement has been intertwined with labor, economic justice, immigration, and LGBT rights from the beginning.

(Photo: AP/Seth Wenig)
(Photo: Amanda Teuscher) Attendees to the Movement for Black Lives Convening that took place in Cleveland July 24-26 gather for a group photo on the final day of the conference. An estimated 1,200 organizers and activists participated in the meeting. I t would be tempting to say the timing was surreal, if it didn’t happen so often. Less than an hour after the close of last weekend’s conference of Black Lives Matter activists, attendees were pepper-sprayed by a Cleveland transit police officer while they were protesting the arrest of a 14-year-old boy. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Convening at Cleveland State University brought together more than 1,000 activists and organizers from across the U.S., and even from other countries. Nearly one year after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the goal of the convening was to provide a space for the activists to mourn the loss of those killed by police, to show support for one another, to demonstrate pride in their community , and...

Can the University of Cincinnati Police Learn From the City's Police?

The killing of Samuel Dubose by university police sparked renewed outrage in a city that has been grappling with reform for more than a decade.

(Photo: AP/John Minchillo)
(Photo: AP/John Minchillo) Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell speaks with a protester outside the Hamilton County Courthouse following the announcement of murder and manslaughter charges against University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing on July 29. T he Cincinnati Police Department has taken long strides since 2001 . Once infamous for provoking a riot that rocked the city for days, the department has created a civilian review board that handles complaints against police officers, and has made citizen engagement the number one priority for police officers. In recent years, the department has emerged as a national model for community policing—so much so that on May 19, newly minted attorney general Loretta Lynch made Cincinnati the first stop on her National Community Policing Tour. The University of Cincinnati’s Police Department, sadly, is another story. After a recent killing of a black man by a University police officer—the second such incident in four years, and...

Why Social Security Beats All Rivals -- And the Case for Expanding It

More retirees are relying exclusively on Social Security than ever before. The program itself is sound—but it needs to be expanded. 

AP Photo/Jon Elswick
AP Photo/Jon Elswick The cover page for the summary of the 2015 Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs released by the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees is photographed Thursday, July 23, 2015, in Frederick, Maryland. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T his is the season when we hear calls to cut Social Security. That's because of the annual trustees report on the system's financial condition. Last week, the trustees reported that Social Security can pay all of its projected obligations through about 2034. To keep faith with today's workers and tomorrow's retirees, Social Security will need additional funds, though the shortfall is entirely manageable if we act in the next few years. The report prompted the usual right-wing blarney about cutting benefits or privatizing Social Security, as well as familiar bleatings from billionaire deficit hawks about the need to delay the retirement age for people far less fortunate. One part of the...

Why Liberals Have to Be Radicals

(Photo: AP/Charlie Neibergall)
(Photo: AP/Charlie Neibergall) Democratic presidential candidates stand on stage during the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on July 17 in Cedar Rapids. From left, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Lincoln Chafee. J ust about nothing being proposed in mainstream politics is radical enough to fix what ails the economy. Consider everything that is destroying the life chances of ordinary people: Young adults are staggered by $1.3 trillion in student debt. Yet even those with college degrees are losing ground in terms of incomes. The economy of regular payroll jobs and career paths has given way to a gig economy of short-term employment that will soon hit four workers in 10. The income distribution has become so extreme, with the one percent capturing such a large share of the pie, that even a $15/hour national minimum wage would not be sufficient to restore anything like the more equal economy of three decades ago. Even the mainstream press acknowledges...

Betrayers of the Dream

How sleazy for-profit colleges disproportionately targeted black students.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File In this October 10, 2013 file photo, California Attorney General Kamala Harris gestures while standing by a display showing an internal document showing the target demographic of Corinthian Colleges, during a news conference in San Francisco. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . O n April 26, an institution of higher education that as recently as 2010 employed more than 6,000 faculty members and another 4,000 in support staff announced that it would close its doors. Corinthian Colleges had enrolled more students than the Ohio State University and the University of Texas at Austin combined. For the giant for-profit chain founded just 20 years ago, the fall from grace was aided by lawsuits from several state attorneys general and the federal government, and investigations by the SEC. These found a broad pattern of deception in recruiting students, bogus reporting of job placement data, and a...

The IRS Will Close This Tax Loophole -- Unless Wall Street Gets Its Way

Hedge fund managers are fighting to keep a little-known tax cheat that saves them hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. 

(Photo: Ray Tsang/Flickr)
(Photo: Ray Tsang/Flickr) F or nearly a decade, Democrats from President Obama on down have vowed to close the “carried interest” loophole, which allows investment managers to classify a substantial portion of their income as capital gains, benefiting from reduced tax treatment. But there’s another, even more audacious loophole hedge fund managers routinely use to further reduce their tax burden. It involves a form of laundering—cycling money through shell companies pretending to sell a specialized form of insurance. Using this technique, the nation’s biggest hedge fund managers have shielded hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. A couple weeks before a deadline to comment on proposed rules to close this loophole, activists have gotten involved by demanding that the IRS act robustly. They want to highlight this elaborate tax evasion as an example of how hedge funds use whatever strategy they can devise to enrich themselves, to the detriment of ordinary workers and the...

The Progressive Victory You Haven't Heard Of: NYC's Ban on Employment Credit Checks

The new law prohibits the discriminatory screening process, which disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.

(Photo: AP/Mike Groll)
(Photo: AP/Mike Groll) I n New York, your personal credit history is no longer any of your employer’s business. From universal pre-kindergarten to paid sick days, New York City’s fight against inequality has grabbed national headlines. But recently, the nation’s largest city has quietly taken the lead in dismantling a far less obvious barrier to opportunity: the employment credit check. Thanks to a new law , businesses can no longer discriminate against employees and job seekers simply because they’re late paying bills. The credit check ban is an important salvo against inequality. More often than not, poor credit is the result of bad luck and societal disadvantages, and is associated with unemployment, lack of health care, and medical debt . As a result of credit checks, someone who is out of work will find it more difficult to get another job, falling further behind on their bills in a vicious catch-22. The problem is exacerbated in communities of color , which continue to endure...

World Cup Corruption: The Bigger Scandal

In the shadow of Qatar's new soccer stadium, Nepali migrant workers face exploitation, injury, and death.

(Photo: AP/Amnesty International/DPA)
(Photo: AP/DPA/Amnesty International) What migrants encounter in Qatar: Worker accommodations are shared with old paint cans and other toxic waste. Amnesty International found "an alarming level of exploitation." This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . G anesh Bishwakarma left for Qatar in 2013 to join the thousands of migrant workers hired to work on construction projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He had a dream of earning enough to build a comfortable life for himself and his impoverished family in the Dang District of Nepal. Six weeks later, he was back home, in a coffin. The 16-year-old had died of cardiac arrest, leaving his grief-stricken family with a lost son, in deeper poverty than before. His dream had taken him on a journey of exploitation and deceit, involving a fake passport, extortionate recruitment fees, and huge debt—typical of what faces Nepali migrant workers. Two recent events briefly focused the world’s...

The Supreme Court's Challenge to Housing Segregation

For decades, the Fair Housing Act's potential was squandered. A recent Court decision may finally change that. 

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) In this April 8, 2013 picture, a boy shoots a basketball into a makeshift basket made from a milk crate and attached to a vacant row house in Baltimore. I n June, the Supreme Court issued several decisions with big policy implications. Its rejection of a challenge to Obamacare and its endorsement of the right to same-sex marriage have received the attention they were due. A third decision, confirming that the Fair Housing Act prohibits not only policies that intend to perpetuate racial discrimination and segregation, but those that have the effect of doing so, was equally momentous. Yet because the ruling concerned an obscure (to the public) and technical phrase (“disparate impact”), it has been more difficult to understand. To comprehend its significance, a review of its background is in order. Roots of the Fair Housing Act In over 100 cities during the summer of 1967 African Americans rioted, in rebellion against segregated and inadequate ghetto conditions...

Sorry, Walmart: Charter Schools Won't Fix Poverty

The Walton Family Foundation may not want to raise wages or lose tax breaks, but education reform alone can't reduce income inequality.

(Photo: Mike Mozart/Creative Commons)
L ast week, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and In the Public Interest released a highly critical report on the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 education philanthropy, which ended with a call for increased transparency and accountability in the charter sector. The gist of the report is that the Walton Family Foundation—which has kick-started about one in four charters around the country—“relentlessly presses for rapid growth of privatized education options” and has opposed serious efforts to regulate and monitor fraud and abuse. While the foundation supports rapidly scaling up charter networks that have produced promising results, the AFT and In the Public Interest cite a 2013 Moody’s Investment Services report which found that dramatically expanding charter schools in poor urban areas weakens the ability of traditional schools to serve their students, forcing them to lay off teachers, increase class sizes, and cut programs to make ends meet. A month earlier, Philamplify, an...

A Good Week for America

On a number of fronts, real progressive change is on the horizon. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin From left, Annie Katz of the University of Michigan, Zaria Cummings of Michigan State University, Spencer Perry of Berkeley, California, and Justin Maffett of Dartmouth University, celebrate outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday June 26, 2015, after the court declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the US. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hat an extraordinary week in the political and spiritual life of this nation. It was a week in which President Obama found the voice that so many of us hoped we discerned in 2008; a week in which two Justices of the Supreme Court resolved that the legitimacy of the institution and their own legacy as jurists was more important than the narrow partisan agenda that Justices Roberts and Kennedy have so often carried out; a week in which liberals could feel good about ourselves and the haters of the right were thrown seriously off balance. Yet this is one of those...

Here's How to Make the Fed More Transparent and Accountable

Fed leadership has long been dominated by the 1 percent. The Community Advisory Council could help change that. 

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik The Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Washington. T he Federal Reserve has long faced fierce scrutiny from members of Congress, community leaders, and the press for its lack of transparency. Fed Chair Janet Yellen, still early in her term, has signaled an intention to improve transparency and hold the Fed accountable to the public interest, and she’ll face an important test this month as she starts deciding whom to appoint to the newly formed Community Advisory Council. In the most recent example of Fed’s insular system of governance, Bloomberg Business revealed concerning news about the recent appointment of Patrick Harker as president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve. Harker had served on the bank’s Board of Directors prior to his appointment, and was even on the search committee interviewing candidates for the presidential slot. Then, in a behind-the-scenes maneuver reminiscent of Dick Cheney’s infamous self-...

A Big Test for Janet Yellen

The Fed has a lot of power to hold big banks accountable. A grassroots coalition wants Yellen to use it. 

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. A coalition of California community groups and a local legal aid agency have come up with a novel way to hold a major L.A. area bank accountable for the devastation it has caused Southern California communities as a result of its risky and predatory practices. The California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA) have asked Janet Yellen—chair of the Federal Reserve, the country’s top bank regulator—to halt a planned takeover of Pasadena-based OneWest Bank by the New Jersey-based CIT Group until these banks pay reparations for the damage they caused. CRC and NLSLA have suggested a price tag of $3 billion to create and preserve affordable housing in Los Angeles County. For a decade up to 2008, banks lived high on the hog as federal regulators looked...

Why Civic Tech Can't Be Neutral

Harnessing the power of technology to make real social change. 

Rachel M. Cohen
Rachel M. Cohen Catherine Bracy speaking at the 2015 Personal Democracy Forum in New York City. T echnology in the service of democracy—“civic tech”—has become the cause of a growing number of coders, hackers, political strategists, non-profit executives, activists and others who come together at an annual conference called the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF). The most recent meeting in New York City on June 4 and 5 attracted about 850 participants. But as that meeting showed, the civic-tech world is divided on a fundamental question. Some strive to avoid anything that could appear partisan or ideological, while others believe that civic tech’s shared vision cannot come to fruition without challenging power. PDF’s co-founders, Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej took a clear position: “Civic tech cannot be neutral,” they said. “When a few have more than ever before, and many are asking for equal rights and dignity, civic tech cannot be simply about improving basic government services, like...

Graduating to an Unequal Economy

The job market is improving, but prospects remain sharply divided by race. 

AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix
AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix T his is the time of year when thousands of college students receive their hard-won degrees after years of difficult work. What awaits them is commonly referred to as the “real world” where young people are expected to thrive and survive. But between high unemployment rates and the harsh reality of student loan debt, today’s graduate is still facing an uphill battle—especially the graduate of color. The economy is looking better today than in the dark days of 2009 when the overall unemployment rate reached a staggering 10.2 percent in the month of October. Job prospects for recent college graduates were dismal; the effects of the recession would reverberate through each graduating class for years to come. Today, the unemployment rate is a much lower 5.4 percent and the job market is looking better for college graduates—but only for some. According to a new report published by the Economic Policy Institute titled The Class of 2015 , the...

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