Poverty & Wealth

Labor's New Groove: Taking the Struggle From Streets to Legislatures

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty) Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. Demonstrations planned in 100 cities are part of push by labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. L abor Day, 2014, comes at a time when Americans have concluded—correctly—that their country is downwardly mobile. In a Rutgers University poll released last week, 71 percent of Americans said they believed the changes to the economy caused by the Great Recession are permanent. (Asked the same question in November 2009, just 49 percent chose the “permanent” option.) Only 14 percent agreed with the description of American workers as “happy at work,” while 68 percent said American workers were “highly stressed” and 70 percent agreed they were “not secure in their jobs.” The economic data released last week confirm Americans’ pessimism. In a study for the Economic Policy Institute, economist Elise Gould reported...

Why the Legacy of Katrina on New Orleans Is Different From Disasters That Befell Other Cities

Nine years after the storm, why is it that divine retribution remains in the discussion when considering Katrina?

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Rescue personnel search from victims as they traverse the New Orleans 8th Ward in the flooded city of New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Water continued to rise after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, which pounded the coast on August 29. H ow to remember Hurricane Katrina? I consider this each year as the anniversary approaches. I assume it’s something that most people do when the anniversary of a traumatic event draws near. New Orleans is not my hometown; I grew up two hours northwest from it in Louisiana’s fourth largest city, Lafayette . The day before Katrina reached land, my sister, who was in law school at Loyola University, called me (I was living in New York at the time) and said she was driving home. Everything from news to gossip portended the same: that Katrina was a beast and everyone should get out, or, at the very least, find adequate shelter. She fit as much from her apartment into her car as was humanly possible, boarded up her windows as best she could and...

Still Nader After All These Years

(AP Photo/George Ruhe, File)
(AP Photo/George Ruhe, File) In this April 27, 2008, file photo, Ralph Nader speaks to supporters as he campaigns for his 2008 independent presidential bid in Waterbury, Connecticut. F or many Democrats who came of age after 2000, Ralph Nader is a crank who cost Al Gore the presidency. But Nader deserves a more honored place in the progressive pantheon. Over the years, Nader has understood the stranglehold of corporate power on democracy as well as anyone, and throughout his career he has creatively organized counterweights. In the heyday of postwar reform, the 1960s and 1970s, Nader-inspired groups prodded and energized Congressional allies to enact one piece of pro-consumer legislation after another. As both a journalist and senior Senate staffer in that era, I can attest that nobody did it better than Nader. Since then, Nader has been a prophet, often without honor in his own coalition. I should add that I go back a long way with Ralph Nader. When I was in Washington, D.C., in the...

The Snake in the Market Basket: Can the Company Recover From Employee Revolt Without Loading Up With Debt?

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) Market Basket assistant managers Mike Forsyth, left, and John Surprenant, second from left, hold signs while posing with employees in Haverhill, Mass., Thursday, July 24, 2014, in a show of support for "Artie T." Arthur T. Demoulas, the chief executive of the Market Basket supermarket chain whose ouster has led to employee protests, customer boycotts and empty shelves. Aurthur T. Demoulas has since been restored as the CEO. W ednesday night, the long-running Market Basket drama ended and the good guys ostensibly won. Or did they? When we last tuned in, the employees of the $4 billion family-owned New England supermarket chain were rallying behind a beloved boss, Arthur T. Demoulas, who had been ousted by a greedy board of directors. In the family feud, the board was led by a Demoulas cousin, also named Arthur, who controlled 50.5 percent of company shares. The good Arthur was beloved for paying above-average wages, sponsoring a profit-sharing plan, and pumping earnings back...

McConnell’s Appeal to Millionaire Donors Makes Case for Constitutional Amendment on Political Money

The constitutional amendment deemed "radical" by the Senate minority leader simply affirms that money is not speech and that no one, however wealthy or powerful, has a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence our elections.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) In this Feb. 6, 2014 file photo, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky walks toward the Senate chambers on Capitol Hill in Washington. H e surely did not intend it, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made a stunningly compelling case for a constitutional amendment allowing Congress and the states to restore sensible limits on the influence of money in politics. We appreciate his help and his clarity. The good news is that the Senate will vote on just such a proposal next month, the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19). Senators still undecided about the amendment should study Sen. McConnell’s remarks carefully. Speaking to a roomful of ultra-rich political investors in June (audio here ), McConnell voiced his delight at their collective success in unharnessing political money. “The worst day of my political life” was when then-President George W. Bush signed the McCain-Feingold law with its limits on independent...

François Hollande’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

When the Socialist president of France threw in with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her austerity agenda, his own government was thrown into turmoil. The backstory involves ambitious rivals.

(Chris Jackson/PA Wire - Press Association via AP Images)
Chris Jackson/PA Wire (Press Association via AP Images) German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets President Francois Hollande of France during an International Ceremony with Heads of State at Sword Beach in Normandy to mark the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings on Friday, June 6, 2014. I t began last Wednesday, when French President François Hollande gave Le Monde an interview in which he insisted he would stay the course with an economic policy that has seen his approval rating plummet from 60 percent, just after his election in 2012, to 17 percent this week. Hollande’s domestic strategy is part of his close and somewhat baffling alliance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the enforcer of European austerity. At the center of Hollande’s domestic policy is the so-called Responsibility Pact , which proposes shifting employer-paid payroll taxes to individual taxpayers, coupled with unspecified cuts in government spending. The measure is deeply unpopular, especially on the Left, so...

The Fire This Time: America's Withdrawal From the Fight Against Racism Guarantees More Fergusons

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) A protester shouts as she moves away from a line of riot police in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) This article originally appeared on the Policy Shop website of Demos . I remember the stunned reaction of so many Americans back in the summer of 2005 when legions of poor black people in desperate circumstances seemed to have suddenly and inexplicably materialized in New Orleans during the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. Expressions of disbelief poured in from around the nation: “How can this be happening?” “I had no idea conditions were that bad.” “My God, is this America?” People found themselves staring at the kind of poverty they thought had been largely wiped out decades earlier. President George W. Bush seemed as astonished as anyone. He made an eerie, oddly-lit, outdoor appearance in the city’s French Quarter on the evening of September 15 to announce that...

How a Widely Beloved Tax Deduction Really Just Benefits the Well-Off and Exacerbates Inequality

National opinion polls show a majority of Americans support the mortgage interest deduction. Yet most U.S. homeowners receive very little benefit from it.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) This May 2, 2012, photo, shows a new home under construction in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. A nyone who is concerned about the country’s growing inequality crisis should be pushing for reform of the feature of the U.S. tax code known as the mortgage interest deduction. Not only does this wasteful tax subsidy primarily benefit the richest Americans, it also costs the U.S. Treasury between $70 and $100 billion annually in revenue, making it the third largest deduction on the books. National opinion polls indicate that between 60 and 90 percent of Americans support the mortgage interest deduction (MID), which allows taxpayers to deduct interest on $1.1 million in mortgages on primary residences, vacation homes and even yachts. And yet because of the way this tax subsidy is structured most U.S. homeowners receive very little if any benefit from it. Indeed, in its current form, the MID’s biggest beneficiaries are the real estate industry and its wealthiest...

What Judges Know: The Fault for Underfunded Pensions Lies With Politicians, Not Workers

We can’t count on politicians to stick to their word. It’s promising that judges are forcing them to.

(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
(AP Photo/Mel Evans) Union members carry protest signs as they march outside the Mercer County Criminal Courthouse before arguments Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's plan to use pension payments to balance the budget. Public employee unions on Wednesday tell the court the current budget has unspent funds that could go toward pensions. A dvocates of gutting public pensions are running into the same wall over and over again. From California to Illinois to New Jersey and beyond, pension gutting efforts are being overturned by judges who recognize that breaking promises to workers isn’t just regrettable, it’s illegal. Pension opponents castigate the courts as the enemy while conveniently ignoring why legal protections exist in the first place—to protect public employees from politicians who spent years playing politics with their retirement savings. For decades, elected officials across the country skipped pension payments, often while...

The Government Program That's Equipping Police Like an Occupying Military Force

A chilling index from the Institute for Southern Studies.

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) Protesters raise their hands in front of police atop an armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. This index was originally published by Facing South , a website of the Institute for Southern Studies. ( Click here to subscribe to their newsletter.) Year in which Congress initially authorized the Defense Department to give excess arms and ammunition to law enforcement agencies for counter-drug activities, leading to the creation of what's come to be known as the 1033 program: 1990 Number of law enforcement agencies the program has given equipment to: more than 17,000 Percent of U.S. states with agencies participating in the program: 100 (Photo from the Richland County Sheriff's Department website.) Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County, South Carolina and members of his department's Special Response Team with the military vehicle they call "The Peacemaker." Value of military equipment the program has transferred...

Listen: Affirmative Action 'Race or Place' Debate on SiriusXM's 'Make It Plain'

The Prospect's ongoing discussion on how to save affirmative action takes to the airwaves with a spirited discussion between Sheryll Cashin and Richard Rothstein.

iStockPhoto
Scroll down for audio. When Prospect contributing writer Richard Rothstein penned a critical review of Sheryll Cashin's book, Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America (Beacon) , it touched off a debate between the principals in an exchange of letters on The American Prospect website. Mark Thompson, host of the SiriusXM Progress show, Make It Plain , invited the rivals to take their debate live on the August 5 edition of the program. In her book, Cashin argues for a new approach to affirmative action in college admissions, one that gives primacy to circumstances other than race, including family wealth, proximity of the family home to high-poverty areas, and other measures of need. Thompson was joined in moderating the debate by Prospect Senior Editor Adele Stan, who appears on the program on Tuesday nights. Richard Rothstein Richard Rothstein is a Prospect contributing editor, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, and senior fellow at the Chief Justice...

Surprise! North Carolina Cuts to Jobless Benefits Did Not Help Workers

Republican leaders argued that rolling back unemployment benefits would increase employment in the Tar Heel State. Nice try.

AP Photo/Allen G. Breed
(AP Photo/Allen G. Breed) Julie Banner, right, chats with Rebekah Lowe outside the state unemployment office in Cary, North Carolina, on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. This article and accompanying interactive chart were first published at the website of the Economic Policy Institute . U nemployment insurance (UI) is a vital part of America’s social safety net, providing benefits to eligible workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own. The system is jointly funded by federal and state payroll taxes, but within broad guidelines from the Department of Labor, states have considerable flexibility in deciding benefit eligibility, how much and for how long beneficiaries are paid, as well as the tax structure for funding the state portion of the program. While most states offer a maximum of twenty-six weeks of UI benefits, the historic magnitude and duration of unemployment brought on by the Great Recession prompted Congress to implement federal extensions of unemployment benefits,...

Thirsty Detroiters Demand End to Water Shut-Offs

Surrounded by the Great Lakes, home to 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, Detroit faces a crisis that is not only paradoxical; it’s complicated.

AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates
(AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates) Protesters march over the controversial water shut-offs Friday, July 18, 2014, in Detroit, Michigan. UPDATE: On Thursday, August 7, Mayor Mike Duggan announced a ten-point plan to address the water department's much despised shut-off policy. I n Michigan’s largest city, a water crisis has been raging for months. Since spring, 17,000 city residents have had their water shut off by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) for unpaid water bills. Now living in unsanitary conditions, citizens in homes without running water can’t even flush a toilet. Deemed by public health officials to be living in inadequate conditions, many parents in homes without water are sending their children to live with family or friends for fear of losing their sons and daughters to Child Protection Services . For the elderly and the ill, lack of home access to water can be fatal. Last week, after weeks of negative news coverage, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr...

Cold Porridge For Regular People: The Myth of the Goldilocks Economy

This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he economy grew at an impressive rate of four percent in the second quarter of this year, according to a government report released on Wednesday. But the stock market promptly tanked. The Dow lost more than 317 points Thursday and another 70 points Friday. What gives? Financial markets like it when the economy grows fast enough to signal that the recovery is continuing—but not so fast that labor markets might tighten and workers get more bargaining power to get raises. Markets also worry that if the economy grows too fast, the Federal Reserve might pull back from its policy of low interest rates. Not to worry, brave investors. The Labor Department weighed in with a report on Friday, revealing that the economy added only 208,000 more jobs in July, down from the June performance. The number of long-term unemployed was basically unchanged. Likewise the rate of labor-force participation. And the percentage of people employed...

Liberal Heroes Miss the Mark in Today's Times Columns

(AP Photo/ Francisco Seco)
New York Times columnist Charles Blow sure blew one this morning and, for good measure, so did Paul Krugman—our two most reliably liberal and intelligent columnists! Blow’s subject was the do-nothing Congress. Ordinarily thoughtful and original, this time Blow fell into the media cliché of assigning symmetrical partisan blame for Congressional inaction, as if the two parties were equally culpable. The piece was full of Blow’s signature: accurate statistics. This Congress has passed only 108 pieces of substantive legislation, the lowest in decades, he reports. It was in session an average of only 28 hours a week. Citing the usual cause of “polarization,” Blow indignantly concluded: “Legislating is only a hobby for members of this Congress. Their full time job is raising hell, raising money and lowering the bar of acceptable behavior.” Excuse me, but the problem is not “Congress.” One party—the Democratic Party— behaves quite normally, seeking to do the public’s business. The other...

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