Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Millionaire Tax Rates.

Kevin Drum 's piece on the decline of labor unions and the rise of corporate power is excellent and definitely worth a read. It also contains a wealth of great charts, including this one, which compares the current income tax rate on millionaires to its rate in the past. Short story? Millionaires are doing very well for themselves : Millionaires pay less than a third of their marginal income in taxes, and somehow they've convinced a fair share of Americans that they're overburdened and overtaxed. It's amazing.

Social Security Isn't the Problem.

Jacob Lew , director of the Office of Management and Budget, has a useful piece in USA Today , separating Social Security from the larger discussion on debt and deficits. As he notes, Social Security is not responsible for our long-term budget problems: Social Security benefits are entirely self-financing. They are paid for with payroll taxes collected from workers and their employers throughout their careers. These taxes are placed in a trust fund dedicated to paying benefits owed to current and future beneficiaries. [...] According to the most recent report of the independent Social Security Trustees, the trust fund is currently in surplus and growing. Even though Social Security began collecting less in taxes than it paid in benefits in 2010, the trust fund will continue to accrue interest and grow until 2025, and will have adequate resources to pay full benefits for the next 26 years. To illustrate Lew's point, here is a nifty chart : This, from The New York Times , shows the...

The Decline of Worker Solidarity.

The conservative war on public-sector unions is having its intended effect : There are deeply divided opinions and shifting allegiances over whether unions are helping or hurting people who have been caught in the recent economic squeeze. And workers themselves, being pitted against one another, are finding it hard to feel sympathy or offer solidarity, with their own jobs lost and their benefits and pensions cut back or cut off. [...] In Palmyra, a small village bounded by farmland and forests, Mary Kay Horter remembered how her husband’s Chevy dealership had teetered on the brink of closing after General Motors declared bankruptcy, for which she blamed unions. Ms. Horter said she was forced to work more hours as an occupational therapist, but had not seen a raise or any retirement contributions from her employer for the last two years. All told, her family’s income has dropped by about a third. “I don’t get to bargain in my job, either,” she said. In a terrible economy, it's not hard...

Everybody Hurts, Except for the Rich.

David Brooks is wrong about public-sector unions: In Wisconsin and elsewhere, state-union relations are structurally out of whack. That’s because public sector unions and private sector unions are very different creatures. Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest. This doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. First, taxpayers may foot the bill, but they are ultimately not the employer in the government/worker relationship, any more than customers are the employer in the business/worker relationship. That role goes to the state bureaucracies, and they face pressures that aren't dissimilar to the pressures faced by private-sector employers. Most states have balanced-budget...

The 30-Years War Against Middle-Class America.

In case you were wondering, Wisconsin state workers are not overpaid relative to their private-sector counterparts: And in general, public-sector workers are underpaid compared to those in the private sector: As for their pensions? The shortfall has more to do with the financial crisis then it does with greedy public-sector unions: In all, an honest account of state fiscal problems would focus mostly on the economic collapse, which sent revenues into a tailspin and cut the value of state pension funds by more than $1 trillion . Which is to say this: The Republican attack on public-sector unions has little to do with debt, deficits, and spending, and everything to do with a broader move to further roll back middle-class gains and further concentrate wealth in the hands of the privileged and powerful. Indeed, we've been moving to this point for 30 years, with a steady stream of tax cuts for the wealthy -- funded by benefit cuts for everyone else -- and policies that shield investment...

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