Poverty & Wealth

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...

How the GOP Plans to Cut Affordable Housing (Again)

A 2008 program to help tens of thousands on housing waitlists is finally set to be funded, but House Republicans have other plans.

(Photo: AP/Bloomington Herald-Times/Jeremy Hogan)
(Photo: AP/Bloomington Herald-Times/Jeremy Hogan) Seekers of Section 8 housing line up in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2011. The National Housing Trust Fund, created in 2008, is set to finally be funded in 2016, but House Appropriations Committee Republicans just last month passed a housing and transportation bill that strips the fund to cover cuts in other housing programs, and prohibits any funding in the future. I n almost every part of the country, families struggling to pay rent and seek help find themselves at the end of a very long line. In California, I spoke to a woman who told me she was assigned a number higher than 57,000 on the waiting list when she applied for a subsidized apartment. In the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where the lottery opens every few years for Section 8, which gives recipients money to pay rent and is the biggest of the programs, only 30 or 40 of about 2,500 applicants will receive vouchers. And that’s just when local agencies are even accepting...

Minorities in Minneapolis: Underprivileged and Over-Policed

Behind its progressive reputation, Minneapolis is a deeply divided city. 

Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons
Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons Around 1000 in downtown Minneapolis for Million March Minnesota, a rally and protest against deaths of people of color at the hands of police on December 13, 2014. Above, protesters shut down Hennepin Avenue downtown after a rally at Government Plaza. M inneapolis often shines brightly when in the national spotlight. It’s a “ miracle ” city that’s managed to weather the economic downturn better than any place in the country. Unemployment is low. Education levels are high. It’s the healthiest city in the country. It’s perceived as a bastion of progressivism; an active city with plenty of opportunity. However true this narrative is, it’s a white façade. “From the outside, the experience of communities of color in Minneapolis—across nearly every facet of life—is hidden behind the widespread prosperity of white residents,” a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union states. The ACLU report shows the unvarnished reality of institutionalized...

Has Child Care Policy Finally Come of Age?

The Democrats may now be turning to a long-stalled agenda for working parents. 

AP Photo/Brett Flashnick
AP Photo/Brett Flashnick A soldier visits her son at a day-care facility at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The 1989 Military Child Care Act created a system of child-care centers with features civilian parents can only dream of. In Our Hands: The Struggle for U.S. Child Care Policy By Elizabeth Palley and Corey S. Shdaimah 288 pp. New York University Press $30 T he Democratic Party is now turning to a new agenda for parents: not just an expanded earned income tax credit and child tax credit, but also paid family leave, universal preschool, and free community college. President Barack Obama encapsulated the message in his 2015 State of the Union address when he asserted that “affordable, high-quality child care … [is] not a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have.” He even made the children-as-social-good argument that’s been missing from the American discussion of family policy: “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic...

How Solar Is Lighting the Way for Recovery in Nepal

Renewable energy companies have formed a coalition to repower the country after its massive earthquake. 

(Photo: Milap Dwa)
(Photo: Milap Dwa) Milap Dwa and Chij Kumar​, technicians from Gham Power​, installing a 120-watt solar PV system kit on top of one of the few houses in Barpak, Gorkha, that are still standing. I n the days following Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, as massive power outages complicated relief efforts, Sandeep Giri and his coworkers were shaken but determined to help. Giri, who was born and raised in Nepal, is the CEO of Gham Power , a solar company that’s been operating in Nepal for the last five years. After the earthquake, Gham Power’s employees sprung into action to deploy solar power systems that could power lights and mobile charging stations for relief workers and the displaced. Besides basic needs like medical attention, food, water, and shelter, electricity is a major issue in the wake of a disaster, says Giri. “First, you don't want to be in the dark, as it's scary, you don't feel safe, and it is also very cumbersome to get or administer relief without light...

We Can't Talk About Housing Policy Without Talking About Racism

What a serious desegregation policy might look like. 

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky In this May 9, 2015, picture, a man walks past a blighted building in the Penn-North neighborhood of Baltimore, with a residential tower in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood in the background at top right. O ver the past year, unrest in places like Baltimore and Ferguson has inspired a nationwide debate on how to best combat systemic inequality and injustice. In the wake of high-profile police violence cases in these cities and elsewhere, this conversation has contributed to a renewed understanding of how federal and local housing policies helped create the inequality and racial injustice urban America confronts today. Yet lost in this discussion has been the complicated record of more recent desegregation efforts and what they can teach us about undoing generations of systemic racism and persistent segregation. A case in point is HUD’s Clinton-era Moving to Opportunity (MTO) program, the subject of a new study by Harvard economists Raj Chetty, Nathan Hendren,...

Grand Theft Automated

Why the crackdown on wage theft could be a sign of labor's growing strength. 

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he day after the New York Times published its stunning two-part exposé of labor conditions in New York City's nail salons, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, nobody's idea of a radical, discovered that he was sitting on power that he didn't know he had. Cuomo ordered a crackdown against a broad pattern of thefts of wages that were hidden in plain view, had he bothered to look. Cuomo's new efforts will collaborate with an enforcement initiative by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, two officials who don't like each other and seldom work together. The Times and writer Sarah Maslin Nir deserve immense credit for this investigative piece of work. At the same time, these broad patterns have been well-documented before. To name just two examples, organizer Kim Bobo's 2009 book, Wage Theft (2009), not only documented that theft of wages is epidemic in the low wage and casualized economy. She popularized the concept...

Little Magazine, Big Ideas: The American Prospect at 25

Reflecting on a quarter century of politics and change.

T he American Prospect began 25 years ago with a small circulation, a limited budget, and great ambitions. Our aim was to rethink ideas about public policy and politics and thereby to restore plausibility and persuasiveness to American liberalism. The first issue appeared in spring 1990, a moment when Democrats had lost three successive presidential elections, conservatives were pushing schemes for privatization, and liberals were in disarray. But in 1990, Congress was still in Democratic hands, the Cold War was coming to an end with the Soviet collapse, and the focus of politics was turning from foreign to domestic policy. Rising economic anxieties, it seemed, might spur political change just as a “peace dividend” could finance new initiatives. By historic good fortune, the Prospect had arrived at a time not only of global change but also of “liberal opportunity,” as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called it in the first issue, which carried a cover image of an old world cracking open to...

Women as the Loyal Opposition

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Elizabeth Warren, and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Senator John Kerry's nomination to be secretary of state on January 24, 2014. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . L ong ago, when I began writing newspaper columns, a wise editor advised me that a column is about one thing. I am about to violate that rule. This piece is about three different things (which are connected if you look hard). One is a 25th anniversary; the second is some Mother's Day musings; the third is the latest in a string of losses for the left, namely the trouncing of the British Labour Party in Thursday's election. Let me explain. In 1990, Robert Reich, Paul Starr and I founded a new progressive magazine, The American Prospect , to try to breathe some intellectual spirit and political backbone into American liberalism. At the time, liberals were getting whacked both by...

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