Economy

No Jobs But Crappy Jobs: The Next Big Political Issue?

(AP Photo/The Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty)
(AP Photo/The Brownsville Herald, Brad Doherty) Wal-Mart employee Nidia Flores arranges shirts, Thursday, August 7, 2014, in Brownsville, Texas. F or decades, the increasing precariousness of work has been a source of mass frustration for tens of millions of Americans. But the issue has been largely below the political radar. Politicians ritually invoke good jobs at good wages, yet presidents have been unwilling to name, much less remedy, the deep economic forces that are turning payroll jobs into what I've termed "The Task Rabbit Economy"—a collection of ad hoc gigs with no benefits, no job security, no career paths, and no employer reciprocity for worker diligence. But there are signs that maybe this issue is starting to break through. One manifestation of job insecurity is extremes of inequality as corporations, banks, and hedge funds capture more than their share of the economy's productive output at the expense of workers. The Occupy movement gave that super-elite a name: the One...

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...

Education Alone Is Not the Answer to Income Inequality and Slow Recovery

Chris Ison/PA Wire via AP Images
O ur economy is now five years into an economic recovery, yet the wages of most Americans are flat. For the entire period between 1979 and 2013, median worker wages rose by just 7.9 percent while the economy’s growth and productivity rose 64.9 percent. The top one percent has made off with nearly all of the economy’s gains since 2000. I s there nothing that can be done to improve this picture? To hear a lot of economists tell the story, the remedy is mostly education. It’s true that better-educated people command higher earnings. But it’s also the case that the relative premium paid to college graduates has been declining in recent years. If everyone in America got a PhD, the job market would not be transformed. Mainly, we’d have a lot of frustrated, over-educated people. The current period of widening inequality, after all, is one during which more and more Americans have been going to college. Conversely, the era of broadly distributed prosperity in the three decades after World War...

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,...

How the GOP's Medicaid Politics Are Hurting Rural Southerners: An Index of Harm

Republican governors, empowered by the Supreme Court, have refused federal funds for the expansion of the program that provides health care to low-income people and the poor. Here's the human cost.

©Jenny Warburg
©Jenny Warburg A protester at a 2013 Moral Monday action in North Carolina. The state's General Assembly rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid—funds that would have given coverage to 500,000 state residents without insurance. This index was originally published by Facing South , a website of the Institute for Southern Studies. Date on which Adam O'Neal, the Republican mayor of Belhaven, North Carolina, arrived in Washington, DC after walking 273 miles from his hometown to draw attention to the recent closure of his community's only hospital and to call for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to prevent more such closures: 7/28/2014 Date on which Belhaven's hospital, Vidant Pungo, closed after a failed effort by the town to take it over: 7/1/2014 Number of days after the closure that a local resident died when she suffered a heart attack and had to wait an hour for a helicopter to take her to the nearest hospital: 4 Amount in unpaid care Vidant Pungo had provided since...

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...

Hobby Lobby Decision Could Give License to Anti-Labor 'Biblical Economics' Practices

Religious Right leaders have been working hard to convince conservative evangelicals that the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-union, anti-welfare agenda is grounded in the Bible, setting the stage for more "religious liberty" legal arguments by corporation owners.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais A demonstrator dressed as the 'Bible' stands outside the Supreme Court building awaiting the court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women. This article originally appeared on Right Wing Watch , the website published by People For the American Way. S upreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent in the Hobby Lobby case that the Court’s conservative majority had “ventured into a minefield” with its decision. Many of those mines have already been placed by right-wing leaders who claim a religious grounding not only for anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-contraception positions, but also for opposition to collective bargaining, minimum wage laws, progressive taxation and government involvement in the alleviation of poverty. In Hobby Lobby ,...

Hillary for Liberals: A Conversation With Walter Shapiro

AP Photo/Randy Snyder
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth Campaign buttons are ready for distribution at an Iowa kickoff event for the national Ready for Hillary group led by Craig Smith, senior adviser to the Ready for Hillary group, in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Ready for Hillary is a so-called super PAC building a national network to benefit Clinton if she decides to seek the presidency in 2016. The gathering of Iowa Democrats included the state chairs of both Clinton and President Barack Obama's 2008 campaigns. A s a reporter and columnist for Time , Newsweek , the Washington Post , USA Today , Esquire , Salon , and other publications, Walter Shapiro has covered nine presidential elections and the nation’s politics for four decades. He is currently a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and a lecturer in political science at Yale while he finishes a book about his great-uncle, a vaudevillian and con man who once swindled Hitler. Shapiro is also an accomplished Hillary-...

Go Ahead, Bash My City: I Can Take It

Here's the real Cleveland joke: the utter dissonance of the GOP celebrating its platform of inequality in this working-class, majority-black, decidedly Blue city, where Republican attempts to suppress minority votes pose a regular problem.

AP Photo/Mark Duncan
AP Photo/Mark Duncan The Progressive Field scoreboard welcomes back LeBron James, during a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cleveland. James announced earlier in the day he would return to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years in Miami. L ast week was a big week for Cleveland, Ohio. Two big wins were handed the jewel of Northeast Ohio, when LeBron James and GOP leaders chose Cleveland to be the site of hoped-for future victories. Cleveland, of course, can’t make national attention without attracting the requisite Cleveland jokes. D.C. journalists made snarky complaints about having to spend time in a city where people are nice and Budweisers cost less than $7. Most of these writers, surely, have not spent time in Cleveland . They’ve just heard the jokes. As Yakov Smirnoff said, “In U.S. you make fun of Cleveland. In Russia, we make fun of Cleveland.” The Cleveland Joke has existed for decades, and in the end...

This Is What Happened When I Took the MTA Bus to Pick Up Food Stamps

A response to a much-chattered-about article by an upper-middle-class white woman who was appalled to find herself judged when she applied for food stamps.

5 Towns Jewish times
M r. Brown folded his large hands and gleamed at me with a placid smile. Then, suddenly, he said, “You have to work!“ His tone was that of a father scolding an errant teenager. “If we give you money, you have to work!” I managed the seething anger brought on by this exchange, and compounded by the hunger I felt after having waited a few hours for my turn at this encounter, not to mention the set of events that led up to me applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). “I have a job,” I managed to say, “it’s part-time and I’m actively looking for a full time job.” I pointed to the printed e-mails of interview appointments, job applications and cover letters. He waved away my evidence and continued down his checklist. I could tell that he gave this speech regularly and had no interest in a rebuttal. I slumped down in the chair, defeated, feeling solidarity with the woman who was escorted out of the...

Welcome to Cleveland, GOP! Now Let Me Tell You Where to Go

Republicans will nominate their 2016 presidential candidate in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World. A native offers GOP hopefuls a geopolitical guide to Northeast Ohio.

Shaun Malinowski
WKSU.org Y ou’ll be forgiven if, what with all the prodigal-son- pardoning that Cleveland was doing at the end of last week, you’ve already forgotten that the city also locked down the 2016 Republican National Convention. Come that far-off summer, the streets of this jewel of the Rust Belt Riviera will be awash in power ties and quaint ideologies and social mores; the GOP’s glitterarti, coiffed, gusseted, and ready for battle, will be busy appropriating Cleveland’s blue collar culture. While only fools and state party chairs ever believe a convention location will swing a state, it’s a clever bit of marketing by the Republicans to throw their prom in a stronghold of Democrats and labor unions. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Grand Old Party’s princes won’t have their own supporters in the region. Northeast Ohio, for all its steelworker socialism, features some of Ohio’s swing-iest areas—those filled nearly equally with the country’s most important partisans, red and blue, the varsity...

Argentina's Loss to Germany Nothing Compared to Financial Rout By U.S.

As Merkel starves ailing European economies, SCOTUS is doing worse to Argentina's.

AP Photo/J Pat Carter
AP Photo/Jorge Saenz Argentina soccer fans watch in disbelief the final World Cup match between Argentina and Germany on an outdoor television screen set up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Mario Goetze volleyed in the winning goal in extra time to give Germany its fourth World Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Argentina. I f there were poetic justice in the world, Argentina would have beaten Germany in the last three minutes of World Cup play instead of vice versa. Germany represents everything that's wrong with the world financial system. Argentina is the epic case of countries whose economies are screwed by policies championed by Germany—and, unfortunately, by the United States, as well. Let me explain. When financial abuses crashed the global economic system in 2007-2008, there were two urgent needs, One was drastic reform to prevent the collapse from wreaking further havoc on the world's most damaged economies. The other was to clean up the banking system so...

Minimum Wage For Tipped Workers Hasn’t Increased Since the Fall of the Soviet Union

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows the ravages of an artificially depressed wage on food servers and other workers.

Newscast Limited via AP Images
This article originally appeared at the website of the Moyers & Company television program. I n 1991, the US invaded Iraq for the first time. That year, the Soviet Union would dissolve into 15 independent states. Emma Roberts was born. Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” topped Billboard’s chart as the year’s top hit. It also marked the last time that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers was increased—by a whopping four cents, from $2.09 per hour to $2.13. At the time, the minimum for tipped workers was half of the overall floor of $4.25. Today, it stands at just 29 percent of the regular minimum wage (which, at $7.25 per hour, is already well below its real peak value of $10.71 in 1968). On Thursday, Sylvia Allegretto and David Cooper released a report for the Economic Policy Institute detailing who these workers are, how many of them are struggling to make ends meet, and debunking a few common myths about...

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