Poverty & Wealth

Do Black Lives Matter to the Federal Reserve?

With black communities nationwide far from recovered, a grassroots coalition wants the Fed to know that an interest rate hike could be disastrous. 

Center for Popular Democracy
Center for Popular Democracy A Fed Up rally in San Francisco on March 5, 2015. T his week, Dawn O’Neal has traveled from her home in south DeKalb County, Georgia, to the Federal Reserve’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with a simple message for Fed leaders: Don’t raise interest rates. The 48-year-old teacher’s assistant and mother of four wants Fed governors to know that her community is far from recovered and that raising interest rates too soon could be disastrous. O’Neal is one of dozens of activists and policy experts traveling to Jackson Hole this week to urge the Fed against raising rates. The campaign, called Fed Up, includes some two-dozen unions, community groups, and think tanks, from the AFL-CIO to the Working Families Party. In Jackson Hole, organizers will deliver a petition demanding that the Fed rethink its plan to raise interest rates until the recovery can reach more Americans. Fed Up also plans to hold a series of teach-ins exploring questions like “How...

Still Missing New Orleans

(Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert)
(Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert) A decade ago, Hurricane Katrina flooded this now-abandoned strip mall in New Orleans. T he first time I saw New Orleans, I entered an empty city. The streets were marked with chalky streaks of salt and toxins left behind by the waters that had filled them; the stench of rotten things filled the air. It was September 19, 2005, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans when the levees were breached by the sea and the canals, whose contents rushed into the roads and the yards and the living rooms of the city’s poorest residents. By the time I arrived, the only vehicles on the streets were the camouflage-painted Jeeps of the National Guard . After abetting mayhem with shoot-to-kill orders against the city’s most desperate citizens, many on the New Orleans police force simply fled the city. With colleagues from the labor union I worked for at the time, I visited the Greyhound bus depot, which was housing the inmates of the infamous Angola...

Banking on More Than $15

An inside look at bank-teller organizing, the latest front in the fight for higher wages.

(Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Union Advocate)
(Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Union Advocate) Activists demonstrate outside a Wells Fargo building in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, this past spring. L ast week, Amalgamated Bank announced that under its latest contract, all of its bank workers will earn a starting wage of at least $15 an hour. “We think it’s the right thing for our bank to do, and frankly we think it’s the right thing for all banks to do,” Amalgamated CEO Keith Mestrich told Buzzfeed News . “If any industry in this country can afford to set a new minimum for its workers, it’s the banking industry.” Though it’s not surprising that the union-owned bank is upping its wages, the move reflects a growing push among labor advocates, community coalitions, and financial reformers to improve the working conditions for the employees on the frontlines of highly profitable banking operations—the bank tellers who process your deposits; the customer-service representatives who answer your questions on the phone; the personal...

The Growing Movement to Restore Voting Rights to Former Felons

On the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, ex-felons in Baltimore demand the right to vote. 

Rachel M. Cohen
Rachel M. Cohen O n August 6, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, dozens of Baltimore ex-felons rallied and marched alongside community members to protest their disenfranchisement. In May, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill which would have granted ex-felons the right to vote when they return home from prison, rather than making them wait until after their probation and parole sentences have been completed (some sentences can last for decades). Holding up signs that read, “We Want Taxation with Representation!” and “End the New Jim Crow!” protesters made clear that they understand the racial implications of the status quo. Had Hogan signed the bill into law, 40,000 more Maryland residents —a majority of them black Baltimoreans—would have been able to cast a ballot in the next election. “Override! Override! The veto! The veto!” protestors shouted together as they marched down the street. The crowd, well over 100 people, eventually gathered around a statue of...

The Fair Housing Failure—Where Even the Liberal North Whistles Dixie

The Obama administration's new fair housing rules are the strongest in decades, but may not mean much without meaningful enforcement. 

AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Jim Fitzgerald In this June 29, 2012 photo, the Cottage Landings affordable housing project is shown while under construction in Rye, New York. The development is part of a 750-unit requirement in the settlement of a 2009 lawsuit against Westchester County. The county is being criticized by the federal government over its implementation of the settlement. I n 2006, a civil-rights lawyer named Craig Gurian filed suit against Westchester County, New York, charging that the affluent county just north of the Bronx had been engaging in exclusionary housing practices that prevented people of color from moving into the county’s upscale suburban communities. Facing up to $150 million in fines for having, according to a federal judge, “utterly failed” to fulfill its obligations under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, Westchester entered into a landmark anti-discrimination settlement. The agreement committed the county to build 750 affordable housing units by 2016 in the whitest locales and...

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...

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