Exploring economic inequality - Advocating for the bottom 50%

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Three Reasons Why Providing Cash to Families With Children Is a Sound Policy Investment - CBPP

"This paper provides three reasons why giving cash to families with low incomes is a sound policy investment for families and children. (It focuses on why cash is important, not which policy option is the optimal mechanism for distributing cash to families.)"

Though this piece is threaded with identity politics, credit to CBPP for presenting a case that would benefit ALL low-income families, not just those in select racial or other categories.

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What’s Wrong With Identity Politics? - NY Magazine

"Philosopher Olúfemi O. Táíwò’s new book reclaims the concept from elite power brokers."

"So what could a different approach look like? Táíwò proposes a 'constructive politics' — a shift in focus to specific results. To him, this means redistributing resources and power downward to the people most negatively affected by the status quo."

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Opinion: Hate is not at the root of most mass shootings - WaPost

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Abortion in the Founders’ era: Violent, chaotic and unregulated - WaPost

"In the 18th-century United States and England, abortion was common enough that there were slang terms for it, like “taking the cold,” “taking the trade” and “bringing down the flowers.” It was less-effective and more dangerous than it is now; women seeking abortions often died from infected wounds or poisons. And it was generally unregulated, except for a few instances in England and one in colonial Maryland mentioned by Alito in the draft opinion."

Taking the Trade - UConn

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The Covid Capitulation - Eric Topol

Topol makes strong arguments.

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Newsom’s ‘new strategy’ would force some homeless, mentally ill Californians into treatment - CalMatters

Nexus with inequality?  People with cognitive and reasoning impairments occupy the lowest social and economic strata in the U.S.  California uses a tax on millionaires to help fund its mental health system.

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Forcing homeless people into treatment can backfire. What about a firm nudge? - WaPost

Available funding falls far short of achieving the goals of mandatory treatment -- and probably always will.

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Breakdown: California’s mental health system, explained - CalMatters

A history of California's mental health policies

Will state and national  policy shift back to an emphasis on institutional mental health treatment?

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So Who Bought Andy Warhol’s Marilyn for Nearly $200 Million? - Vanity Fair

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

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"For now we see through a glass, darkly..."

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This is the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope project.

1st image of supermassive black hole at the center of Milky Way galaxy revealed - CNN

Behold!  An image from the life cycle of 'Big Bang,' the great God of Reason and Science who created the Universe? 

What gods do you worship?  Wealth? Power?  Technology?  Your family?  Life?  Pleasure?  A stranger to Earth might guess the devices people stare into even as they walk down the street.  Tech, child of Reason and Science?

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The Ancient of Days - William Blake

Ancient of Days | projection systems

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India bans wheat exports, cites food security and soaring prices - Al Jazeera

"Agriculture ministers from the G7 industrialised nations immediately condemned India’s ban on wheat exports."

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woman in white t-shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown cardboard box

Two Years into the Pandemic, Charitable Food Remains a Key Resource for One in Six Adults - Urban

  • "Adults experiencing food insecurity, especially very low food security (the most severe form), reported high levels of charitable food use. Two in five adults reporting low food security and about half of adults reporting very low food security accessed charitable food in the 12 months prior to December 2021.

  • "Families with children show a continued need for charitable food services, especially as access to school meals was tenuous during school closures and quarantine periods. Adults living with children under the age of 19 were 50 percent more likely to report use of charitable food than adults who were not living with children in 2021. This trend was particularly more pronounced for Black and Hispanic/Latinx adults with children...

  • "Approximately one in three adults with a disability or who live with a household member with a disability reported household use of charitable food in 2021, compared with about one in seven adults with no disability in their household...

  • "Among low-income adults who reported not using charitable food in 2021, more than half did not know of a community resource for charitable food, and about half reported they were not at all or not too comfortable seeking assistance if they had a need..."


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Democrats regain control of board overseeing labor relations for feds - WaPost

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You Probably Aren’t Getting Paid Overtime. Here’s Why. - Capital & Main

"How employers get away with denying workers income they used to earn."

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As we grieved for Shireen Abu Aqleh, Israeli police attacked us. They have no shame - Guardian

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Big Bottle: The Baby Formula Nightmare - Matt Stoller/BIG

"This is a true crisis that is a long-time coming. Thank the baby formula monopoly, its partner at the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture."

"Here’s what happened to the baby formula market in California when the WIC contract changed hands.

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"This whole scheme, done under the guise of welfare, is essentially a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the poor, done by enriching the baby formula cartel. The monopoly friendly program design was peddled by the anti-poverty group the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which is both on the center-left of the political spectrum and aligned with Wall Street."

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Then again, it's always easy to criticize. The FDA is a busy agency and has many responsibilities:

"F.D.A. Authorizes Underwear to Protect Against S.T.I.s During Oral Sex - NYT"

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Housing costs skyrocket as SpaceX expands in Texas city - NPR

"I have a full-time job with healthcare benefits," Basaldú says. "Most people in Brownsville do not have that. And if it was that difficult for me, how much more difficult is it going to be for somebody else if their landlord tells them that they need to get out and find an apartment?"

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Housing market indicators, May 2022 - AEI

Still white hot.

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Biden administration renews effort to get enhanced child tax credit to low-income families - CNN

"The Biden administration is relaunching its efforts to reach families whose incomes are so low they don't have to file taxes and direct them to an online portal where they can submit information needed to claim the credit. Eligible households can receive up to $3,600 for each child under age 6 and up to $3,000 for each one ages 6 through 17.

"The portal, created by the non-profit Code for America in collaboration with the White House and the Treasury Department, reopens Wednesday. The free tool, available at ChildTaxCredit.gov or GetCTC.org, is accessible on desktops and mobile devices and is in English and Spanish.

    "The online tool launched last fall but was not available during the tax filing season, to encourage people to file full returns, which would allow them to claim other tax credits."

    Good.  But this may be the last hurrah for the expanded child credit unless Congress acts to extend it.

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    No, President Biden Has Not Implemented Historic Deficit Reduction - CRFB

    Monthly Budget Review: April 2022 - CBO

    "On the basis of collections so far this year, revenues in 2022 are likely to total between $400 billion and $500 billion more than CBO anticipated last summer. That increase stems mainly from larger-than-anticipated payments of individual income taxes, payroll taxes, and corporate income taxes for calendar year 2021. The reasons for the difference will be better understood as additional information becomes available, but may reflect stronger-than-expected income growth throughout 2021 and so far in 2022."

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    The Coup in the Kremlin: How Putin and the Security Services Captured the Russian State - Foreign Affairs

    "...KGB officers were relatively well equipped to endure the collapse of communism and the transition to capitalism. To the security services, the Soviet-era call for a classless society of proletarians had always been merely a slogan; ideology was a tool for controlling the public and strengthening the hand of the state."

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    https://www.magicalquote.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/ALL-ANIMALS-ARE-EQUAL-BUT-SOME-ANIMALS-ARE-MORE-EQUAL-THAN-OTHERS.jpg

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    Al Jazeera accuses Israeli forces of killing journalist in West Bank - Guardian

    Latest development in one of the world's most racist nations.  Really?  Many Israeli laws and policies are designed to reduce the % of non-Jewish residents, acquire their land, and dominate what is mostly a low-income population.  For example, Israel's law of return grants blanket permission to Jews to immigrate, but not others.  What are the likely demographic and political consequences?

    If the U.S. had a similar law favoring Christian immigration, imagine the wailing and cries of 'racism' from American Jews and other people left out. 

    Right of Return - Knesset

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    Tight labor markets and wage growth in the current economy - Harry Holtzer/Brookings

    "Until recently, nominal wages have more than kept pace with inflation, allowing real wages to grow since the start of the pandemic.

    "..workers enjoyed over 2 percent real wage growth in 2020-21, even after adjusting for the fact that the composition of the workforce changed in that time period. Unfortunately, inflation has been higher than wage growth since mid-2021; but, if supply-side price shocks soon diminish, real wage growth could return (as long as such growth itself doesn’t generate too much inflation)."

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    Social Security checks could jump 8.6%, biggest hike since 1981, expert says - CBS

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    baby with bottle

    Baby formula shortage adds to Biden’s growing stockpile of challenges - The Hill

    White House gets tits in wringer on another issue that hits low-income hardest.  Among  many factors: 1) the need for paid work immediately after birth to survive, 2) ability of higher-income to hoard formula, breast feed while working at home. 3) supply chain issues, limited number of suppliers (monopoly power).  See:

    High rates of formula use with low-income infants - ScienceDaily
    Why The Breastfeeding Vs. Formula Debate Is Especially Critical In Poor Countries - NPR
    The baby formula shortage highlights the delicate nature of food supply chains - Quartz

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    Russia warns West over risk of conflict with NATO - Reuters

    "NATO countries pumping weapons into Ukraine, training troops to use Western equipment, sending in mercenaries and the exercises of Alliance countries near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia," Medvedev said in a Telegram post.

    "Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a full-fledged nuclear war," Medvedev said. "This will be a disastrous scenario for everyone."

    Ya think?  Here's a double feature for Putin's entourage to watch during a  team building exercise:

    The Death of Stalin.png

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    Dr. Strangelove poster.jpg

    Movie CLIP - Kong Rides the Bomb (1964)

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    These GOP politicians aren’t pro-life. They’re pro-forced birth. - WaPost

    "Mississippi’s legislature recently considered whether to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to a full year after birth, as federal law newly allows states to do. If you care about the lives of new moms (and, by extension, their kids), this is a no-brainer. Roughly 6 in 10 births in the state are covered by Medicaid; 86 percent of the state’s maternal deaths occur postpartum. Pregnancy and delivery raise the risk of many health complications, including infections, blood clots, high blood pressure, heart conditions and postpartum depression. Giving low-income moms access to health care a full year after birth would save lives."

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    All clownfish are born male.

    All clownfish are born male. - Interesting Facts

    "All clownfish have the ability to turn female, and the change is permanent once it occurs. The transformation begins almost immediately after the dominant female leaves, and starts in the brain before manifesting itself in the sex organs."

    For anemonefish, male-to-female sex change happens first in the brain - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    Research Q: Does a similar phenomenon occur in Washington, D.C., think tanks and policy circles?

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    Biden’s Labor Department Has Big Worries About Crypto In 401(k)s - Forbes

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    May be a cartoon of text that says 'AND HEN THE WORKING CLASS HUMANS To TURN ON EACH OTHER INSTEAD OF THE RULING CLASS WHO WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SUFFERING ANA com'

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    Black and Hispanic Americans, those with less education are more likely to fall out of the middle class each year- PEW

    "Adults who stepped down the ladder – from the middle- to the lower-income tier or from upper- to middle-income – experienced about a 40% to 55% loss in household income at the median in a typical year. The magnitude of income gains or losses varied little across racial and ethnic groups or across education groups. But the pattern of movement across income tiers suggests that Black and Hispanic adults, as well as adults with less education, were more likely than White and Asian adults, and Americans who have more education, to experience a loss in income than a gain."

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    Biden’s New Taxes for Billionaires: One Is Hard, One Is Easy - TPC

    Should the Senate take this up, here's a compromise on taxing capital gains at death that accounts for  asset losses due to inflation:

    76,674 Inflation Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

    Getting Inflation Loss out of Capital Gains Taxation Is Fair - and Might Help Reach a Deal on Dunning the Dead - CCSE

     

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    News Blog: April 8 - May 10, 2022  Click here

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    A patient in a straight jacket at a hospital for the mentally ill, c. 1946. Jerry Cooke/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Bedlam 1946: MOST U.S. MENTAL HOSPITALS ARE A SHAME AND A DISGRACE - Life Magazine/PBS

    This post-WW2 expose reminds us of the imperative to maintain a high degree of transparency in what happens in mental hospitals as well as connectivity between between patients and families.  What happened in our culture then can happen again, especially during periods of national crisis and budget pressure. 

    We need to make sure families can visit with patients in-person, by phone, or using video technology:

    COVID Ended In-Person State Hospital Visits So Father Pushed For Virginia Law Allowing Zoom-Like Calls For Patients

    Thanks again to Peter Earley for posting on our work to increase connectivity between  people living in institutional settings with their families and the larger community.

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    Low-wage earners to get high-speed Internet for $30 in Biden program - WaPost

    “If we’re going to subsidize broadband, we need to bring it down to $0,” said Christopher Ali, associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of the 2021 book “Farm Fresh Broadband.” “For a lot of families, even $10 a month is expensive. If we look at it by the numbers, there are more people who can’t afford Internet access than people who don’t have access to a network.”

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    Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (left) are partnering with local business groups on a comprehensive survey of the racial wealth gap in Massachusetts.

    Fed, business groups to update study that found average Black Boston household had net worth of $8 - Boston Globe/MSN

    Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and community partners launch research effort to explore wealth divides

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    Why some of the richest Americans pay no federal income taxes, according to ProPublica's IRS data trove - WGBH

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    Low-wage workers beware!  AEI paper provides hints of R bargaining position when Congress gets around the fixing Social Security's finances:

    Reforming Social Security - AEI

    Here are some initial take-ways on how the AEI proposal would impact the bottom 50%:

    The ugly, the bad, and the good

    The ugly: proposes large benefit cuts based on average benefits and life spans, offers no distributional analysis of life expectancy (lifespans haven’t increased for low income workers much if at all), and raises normal retirement age (so low income lose lifetime benefits big time).

    The bad:  doesn’t raise enough $$ from the wealthiest/highest income via the tax cap being raised or capital gains tax  or estate tax; 

    The good (with some ugly):  does create auto IRAs with govt match but millions of low income workers would be excluded. There's no automatic core contribution (most low wage workers can’t set aside much for retirement savings because they need to pay  bills to survive).  Gov should offer low-income $500 a year in contributions or perhaps a large % of the tax savings that high-wage workers get under current law for employer contributions.

    Of course, Rs will fight tooth and nail for some of the AEI paper's remedies (the ugly and bad), and offer lip service to others (the good with some ugly).

    BTW, both parties and their policy allies avoid distributional analysis of Social Security payouts which would show that benefits for low-income workers are inadequate. Try googling.  Instead they focus on average benefits of c. $19K a year.  Benefits for long-time low-wage workers are closer to the special SS minimum benefit of c. $11K a year. But who would know it?

    The formula for the SS special minimum benefit needs to be fixed.  Hardly anyone is eligible to receive it anymore  and it is below the poverty level.

    Special Minimum Benefit - SSA
    Some of our work on these issues:

    - SSI is a disgrace. Congress needs to fix it. - op-ed and essay

    - Biden’s spending spree could destabilize Social Security

    - Essay: A Widening Gap in Life Expectancy Makes Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age a Particularly Bad Deal for Low-Wage Earners - February 2020

    - 2020 Inequality Agenda: Increase economic inclusion at reasonable public cost

    - Presentation: Will Growing Inequality Make Social Security & Long Term Care Financing Fixes Harder?

    - Op-ed: Half of Americans have no retirement savings — here’s how Congress can look out for them.

    - Growing inequality has shrunk Social Security’s tax base. Revitalizing it could restore solvency without cutting benefits.

    - Including All Workers in Our Retirement Savings System Requires Two Things: a Universal Tax Credit and a Secure Place To Invest It. Congress should be working on both.

    - Don’t exclude low-wage workers from planning for retirement savings programs - letter to WaPost

    - Leadership Needed To Create Universal Retirement Savings System Complementing Social Security

    - Modest Changes in Health, Retirement Tax Breaks Could Produce Major Gains in US Health Access, Financial Security – at Little or No Added Government Cost

    - How the U.S. Retirement Saving System Magnifies Inequality

    - How Can We Reduce Financial Risk for the Very Old?

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    Ronald Reagan's New Economic Order and What It Meant for American - NYT book review

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    Can Democrats win back working-class voters? Watch Ohio.- WaPost

    Will either party offer Ohio workers and their families anything concrete that might improve their lives?  

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    In Ohio Senate Race, Democrats Pin Their Hopes on the Suburbs - NYT

    "J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee, enters the general election as the favorite. For Representative Tim Ryan, the Democrat, Ohio’s sprawling metro areas offer a possible path to victory."

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    Sunday, May 8, 2022

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    What does the Bible say about hope
    for children in poverty?
    "

    "If government and other sectors of society fail to uphold justice, God’s people are to hold them accountable. The prophets confronted political leaders who oppressed the poor and failed to protect the vulnerable."

    Some good news for wealthy families living off capital gains, poor ones wanting to spend more time with their kids, and 'wage slaves' running between two jobs:

    There's no paid work requirement in the spiritual realm.

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    https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/styles/report_580_high_dpi/public/2022-05/5-5-22tax_f0.png?itok=mQxQbWN3

    This Mother’s Day, Congress Can Support Mothers by Expanding Child Tax Credit - CBPP

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    An Afghan woman walks through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard, in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Saturday, May 7,  ordered all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public, a sharp hard-line pivot that confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and was bound to further complicate Taliban dealings with an already distrustful international community. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
    Afghanistan's Taliban order women to cover up head to toe - AP

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    Nuclear Bomb / Nuclear War Explosion over a city / Atomic Bomb

    In aftermath of a U.S.-Russia nuclear conflict, former World Bank and IMF economist foresees economic growth and less inequality:

    First IMF report issued after the nuclear war - Branko Milanovic

    "'Bright prospects for global recovery' just released in Beijing"

    We published this before reading Branko's musings:

    "Russia, Nuclear Disaster and What To Do with Our House"

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    America’s Abortion Quandary - PEW Research

    "A majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but many are open to restrictions; many opponents of legal abortion say it should be legal in some circumstances."

    Do little lives matter? Yes...but.  American views on abortion are complex, nuanced, and for the most part, not extreme.

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    Abortion laws worldwide: In what countries is abortion legal? - NBC

    "The U.S. is not alone in having a heated debate about abortion, and laws on the procedure differ in countries around the world."

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    Abortion Law: Global Comparisons - Council on Foreign Relations

    If the states gets to decide, the world offers many models.

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    Virginia abortion laws, outlook with Glenn Youngkin as governor - WaPost

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    illustration with an 1820 painting of outdoor feast with people in historical dress fleeing a giant flaming Facebook logo in a colonnaded courtyard

      Illustration by Nicolás Ortega. Source: Belshazzar’s Feast, John Martin, 1820.

    Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid - Atlantic

    "These two extreme groups are similar in surprising ways. They are the whitest and richest of the seven groups, which suggests that America is being torn apart by a battle between two subsets of the elite who are not representative of the broader society."

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    https://socialeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/shutterstock_2130320624-750x392.jpg.webp

    The coming world order - Social Europe

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    Russian State TV Keeps Threatening Nuclear Strikes—Should We Be Concerned? - Newsweek

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    'Building a Fairer Tax System with Sen. Elizabeth Warren' - CAP

    Sen. Warren lays out latest positions on abortion, corporate taxation, and monopoly power to party faithful as CAP resumes in-person public events. Note that her progressive message targets the powerful yet offers little to the bottom 50% in support of bread and butter issues like higher wages, paid sick days, and inclusion in government subsidized health coverage and retirement savings systems.  And getting inflation under control. 

    Progressive policy these days involves transferring $$ from the top to the upper-middle class in the form of free child care, cancelled college debt, and family leave targeted to professional women.

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    Opinion: The leak shows why abortion policy should be returned to the states - WaPost

    "Alito recapitulates the arguments against Roe and Casey made by thoughtful scholars and justices since their inception, including by supporters of abortion rights — namely, that the text, history and tradition of the Constitution do not support an unwritten fundamental right to abortion. To the contrary, until the latter part of the 20th century, no one seriously thought that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment — which was ratified in 1868, when abortion was a codified crime in three-fourths of the states — precluded the regulation or restriction of abortion...

    "...the opinion simply allows our country to join the community of nations around the world, including progressive countries such as France and Sweden, that govern themselves on the question of abortion through the deliberative political process."

    This essay reflects the conservative position that the Court should confine itself to reviewing laws and policies made by the legislative and executive branches and refrain from creating law itself.  Conservative thinkers, however,  are less rigorous in applying Federalist doctrine to interpreting the 2nd Amendment.  Here, many of the same support the Court's expansion of the Constitutional right to bear arms to form a militia into an arguably constructed individual liberty to possess more weapons than the Ukrainian army, unfettered by government regulation of the potential use of such weaponry to harm other citizens, whether being part of a bonafide militia or not.  (Possible outcome of this contradiction: more fetuses may survive to be children at elevated risk for gunshot wounds.)

    Shadow and gun A shadow of a hand holding a gun in his hand. Gun Stock Photo

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    Hawaii Legislature has passed SB 3289, the Hawaii Retirement Savings Program, now awaiting the governor's signature

    Go Hawaii!!  But the  bill should go further and authorize modest state contributions to ALL low-wage workers' retirement accounts whether established by the state, an employer or the worker herself.

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    A Hawaii Retirement Savings Program Is In Hawaii’s Best Interest - AARP

    "Senate Bill 3289 would provide a state-facilitated payroll-deduction plan for private sector employees."

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    Catch up in 4 minutes with your know-it-all friends and colleagues who say they've read Alito's draft:

    Explaining Alito's Leaked Draft Opinion Overturning Roe v. Wade - FindLaw

    If "little lives matter" now under the 14 amendment (suppose RBG anticipated such a conflict of rights when she suggested going the 14th amendment route in redoing Roe v. Wade), here's a first draft of a model state law that could work in both CA and FL and reality TV shows set in between:

    In the first 12 weeks after sperm impregnates egg, premeditated killing of unborn child by the would-be mother is legal.  During the next 12 weeks, there would be no penalty for fetuses killed by same in clouded mental state (equivalent of manslaughter standard for humans housing fetuses in wombs). Thereafter, until fetus begins breathing on its own, mother not liable for death by negligence (e.g., participating in skydiving, NASCAR racing and other pathways of American self expression). Thereafter, regular homicide laws apply with mothers allowed to physically discipline child if no permanent harm or markings result. Fathers and their legal representatives may not physically discipline child with similar liability  protection until it has been alive for 730 consecutive 24-hour time lapses beginning with moment of birth as documented by medical personnel licensed by a state. Verbal abuse of fetuses and children under two years of age shall not constitute a crime of greater severity than a misdemeanor.

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    https://www.thoughtco.com/thmb/Oqvc-jwbg2YA4iRLF-pugpxs46s=/768x0/filters:no_upscale():max_bytes(150000):strip_icc():format(webp)/GettyImages-1084873410-b76f392e794146c3a7572708278e308d.jpg

    My Heart Leaps Up - William Wordsworth

    My heart leaps up when I behold
    A rainbow in the sky:
    So was it when my life began;
    So is it now I am a man;
    So be it when I shall grow old,
    Or let me die!
    The Child is father of the Man;
    And I could wish my days to be
    Bound each to each by natural piety.

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    The White House Correspondents’ Association super-spreader event - WSWS

    Count on the Trotskyist press for detailed reporting on mainstream media hypocrisy and satire of Washington elites (perhaps unintended).  If this permutation turns out to be lethal, nature may succeed where politics have failed.

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    AEI housing market indicators, May 2022 - AEI

    Up, up, and away -- despite headwinds.

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    If Biden Forgives Student Loans, Voters Won’t Forget It - Atlantic

    "Not for the first time, the president has made himself hostage to his party’s activist wing."

    Future voters who don't get "free" loans may hold a grudge as well...BTW, if borrowers don't have to pay  off loans to the federal government, should the federal government have to honor its own debts?  Fair's fair.  Maybe the national debt isn't a problem after all.  And if non-payment isn't possible, there's always inflation to lessen the debt burden. 

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    Will Biden Pivot on School Loans? - AEI

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    'America First': From Charles Lindbergh To President Trump - NPR

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    U.S. Strategy and Economic Statecraft: Understanding the Tradeoffs - Carnegie Endowment

    As Adam Smith intimated about the time the Founding Fathers were organizing the Great American Enterprise, balancing between Option 1 (then involving wheat, shipbuilding for Britain), unfettered trade and mixed strategies are central issues for political economics. That balancing act may be the key to others (e.g, should the U.S. maintain capacity to produce cutting edge technology, vaccines, energy, etc. -- and at what cost to whom?)

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    https://i.insider.com/5a70c87f7e7a353a0f8b4930?width=1136&format=jpeg
    Three dozen tycoons met Putin on invasion day. Most had moved money abroad. - WaPost/ICIJ

    Pretext for the U.S. to invade the British Virgin Islands?  Failing that, an audience with the Queen and her counselors?  

    Pandora Papers

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    The GOP roars about abortion. Then they abandon the children. - Michele Norris/WaPost

    "Let’s not forget that women who seek abortions are disproportionately poor or economically insecure. A 2014 study found that 3 in 4 women who terminate their pregnancies are low-income and almost 50 percent of those women live below the poverty level. Fifty-five percent are unmarried or do not live with the father."

    Current policy toward poor women with fetuses (generalized to suit Twitter):


    Red states: move. (Git now!)


    Blue states: abort. (No one asked the fetus.)


    Congress: no welfare or child tax credit checks for you.


    Pope: more kids please.

    (Wendy & Marty: no problem. Yes, they killed Ruth off.)

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    Video to lead off team-building exercise at Supreme Court?

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    Va. appeals court overturns belt discipline conviction, saying ‘parental privilege’ usurped - WTOP

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    https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/styles/report_580_high_dpi/public/2022-04/4-29-22tax_f1.png?itok=BgCY47eU

    House Bill Would Further Skew Benefits of Tax-Favored Retirement Accounts - CBPP

    The left-leaning CBPP rightly points out that not making the savers credit refundable is a glaring omission.  But they don't go far enough.  Another omission is continued failure by Congress to establish a universal system so that all workers can have retirement savings.  The policy elites on the left won’t support the extra steps needed to include low-wage workers, resulting in a bleating objection to the pork-loaded bill that ultimately betrays 40% of the U.S. work force at the bottom to more   inequality.

    The CBPP's statement still beats R's distraction of low-income people with cultural dog whistles (left does same with hyper-focus on race, gender) while pursuing a realpolitik denying them neither a cent more in wages nor a paid sick day  where possible.  Bottom line: the country's low-wage workers deserve better than either party offers them and should be looking for new champions.

    __________

    Democrats hope draft abortion opinion will jolt midterm elections - Politico

    Dear Supremes:

    America's Wendy Birds won't take this lying down and will fight to the death to guard their latitude to protect their wealth and power by limiting family size.  Note concurrently in Ozark's final episode, Wendy and Marty and their two teens -- and the  family's progressive society-saving foundation -- survive while Hollywood sacrifices two more deserving characters: a philosophical Mexican drug lord and the nasty-talking white trash girl who made good despite incredible psycho-socio-economic odds.  Can this yarn really be over?  Is Ruth Langmore really expandable?

    _____

    California’s population falls for second year in a row - AP

    ___________

    New Mexico leads the nation as Gov. Lujan Grisham makes childcare free for most families - Office of the Governor

    Yes, but...subsidizing child care too high up the income scale risks triggering inflation as higher-income families bid up the cost of care.  See:

    White House’s promised childcare subsidies face a host of ‘devils in the details’ - CCSE

    __________

    See the source image

    The Bitter Fruit of Inflation: Dow 29500 -Laffer & Moore/WSJ

    "The debacle of the 1970s reveals how disastrous surging prices can be for the economy and markets."

    The Laffer/Moore duo makes some decent points about dangers of inflation but neglects to mention that the stock market is still way over-priced in historical terms and got that way before inflation kicked up.  As to their lament about being taxed on inflated capital gains, here's one way to start  tackling that issue while also beginning to deal with tax-free transfer of dynastic wealth (assuming that Sen. Wyden and company ever get serious about doing so):

    Getting Inflation Loss out of Capital Gains Taxation Is Fair -- and Might Help Reach a Deal on Dunning the Dead - CCSE

    ...A WSJ editorial provides some of the missing context on how the stock market turned into a casino:

    Warren Buffett on Wall Street ‘Gambling’

    __________

    The Gathering Stagflationary Storm - Nouriel Roubini/Project Syndicate

    __________

    Inflation spurs record decline in workers' wages and benefits - CNN

    May Day.  May Day.  May Day.  Not much new under the sun.

    __________

    Sunday, May 1, 2022

    __________

    The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers - USCCB

    __________

    Much has changed since the first May Day, but building worker power and combating racism and xenophobia remain just as important - EPI

    "'May Day' got its start in 1886, when U.S. workers rallied in support of ongoing campaigns for an eight-hour day, setting May 1st as a deadline to begin mass strikes if employers failed to adopt shorter hours...

    "Over 100 years later, our May Day 2022 economy has much in common with that of May Day 1886—rising inequality, economic upheavals affecting those with the least financial security, xenophobia, market concentration, and an upsurge in workers taking matters into their own hands while facing intense employer resistance... New generations of workers, including many immigrants, are breaking through barriers of employer union-busting to organize unions in  warehouses, hospitals, nursing homes, coffee shops, retail stores, media outlets, universities, and beyond."

    __________

    Radium Girls - Rotten Tomatoes

    An American horror story...U.S. Radium Corp. may have died a century ago but its divine spirit lives on in other enterprises.  Americans worship the power of new technology and grant it liberty to create wealth with the onus on workers and public to prove that an innovation causes harm after damage is done.  And so it goes.  Nothing new under the sun.

    https://www.cultofweird.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/radium-death-newspaper-article.jpg

    The Radium Girls - Sci/Youtube

    __________

    https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/styles/report_386_high_dpi/public/2022-04/10-25-13ss-rev4-19-22_f1.png?itok=a8J0dC7H

    Social Security Lifts More People Above the Poverty Line Than Any Other Program - CBPP

    https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/styles/report_580_high_dpi/public/2022-04/10-25-13ss-rev4-19-22_f3.png?itok=4Xe8OA3P

    _____

    Errors deprive thousands of students of Social Security benefits - WaPost

    Students Whose Benefits Were Erroneously Terminated
    When They Reached Age 18 - OIG

    "SSA did not have adequate controls to ensure children who reached age 18 and still attended school received benefits. SSA did not properly continue benefits for 87 of the 100 students in our sample once they reached age 18, which resulted in $357,872 in underpayments. Based on our sample results, we estimate SSA underpaid 14,470 beneficiaries approximately $59.5 million."

    __________

    Elon Musk, China, and the Biden Collapse - BIG

    "China as the Great Geo-Political Monopolist"

    OK.  So can Russia be thought of as a great geo-political Valero brandishing nukes as it hawks gas and carbs?

    __________

    Putin Really May Break the Nuclear Taboo in
    Ukraine - Peggy Noonan/WSJ

    "It seems unthinkable, but American leaders’ failure to think about it heightens the risk it will happen."

    _____

    Russia, Nuclear Disaster and What To Do with Our House - Karl Polzer, CCSE

    Dear capitalists, socialists, and assorted dictators: What we have here boys  is failure to calculate.

    _____

    NATO’s Nordic Expansion: Adding Finland and Sweden Will Transform European Security - Foreign Affairs

    __________

    Congress Can More Modestly Expand The Child Tax Credit And Still Help Very Low-Income Families - TPC

    __________

    The Economy is Great. The Middle Class is Mad - TIME

    Insightful piece.   But Brookings' definition of the middle class -- the statistical middle 60% of American incomes -- is too wide and mixes groups of people in very different situations.  What do households headed by lawyers in a poor state have in common with low-wage workers in California or New York?  A closer look at the rungs near the bottom and top of the heap might yield more insights.

    __________

    Workers Are at a Marketplace Advantage, but It Won’t Last - AEI/WSJ

    "As the labor force expands, consumer demand cools, and the ‘great resignation’ proves illusory, the balance will shift toward employers."

    Of course.  Where there is yin, there will be yang.  But no economist can tell when the balance will tip or by how much.  That happens on the playing field.

    __________

    https://cdn.kqed.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/07/YouCanComeBack.jpg

    Editorial cartoon drawing shows "L.B.J." standing on the back of a truck with another man labeled "89th Congress" who wields a hand truck for the removal of "Immigration Snobbery" from the Statue of Liberty. (Herbert Block, 1965 / Library of Congress)

    _____

    Biden welcomes Ukrainian refugees, neglects Afghans, critics say - WaPost

    All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others. 

    _____

    Why Israel Became A Safe Haven For Russian Billionaires - Forbes

    And the last shall be first.  One grandparent will do...Are race and wealth plowshares of evolution?

    __________

    Debt Cancellation Is Costly, Regressive, and Inflationary - CRFB

    "Student debt cancellation may be an extremely appealing political talking point, but it is not good policy. It is costly, inflationary, poorly targeted, and fails to address the root problems in our higher education financing system.

    "Full debt cancellation would be a massive hand-out to rich doctors and lawyers, would worsen our inflation crisis, and would cost almost as much as the entire 2017 tax cuts. Even partial debt cancellation would be costly, regressive, and inflationary. Forgiving $10,000 per person of debt would cost as much as universal pre-K or a full extension of the expanded ACA subsidies."

    Dear White House wordsmiths + economists: In future, what will you call loans people don't have to repay?  Some assets on your books will turn into liabilities.  Consult an accountant.

    _____

    The Cost of the Federal
    Student Loan Programs
    and Repayment Plans - CBO

    _____

    Who got rich off the student debt crisis? - Reveal News

    __________

    The 1983 Military Drill That Nearly Sparked Nuclear War With the Soviets - Smithsonian

    Russia cuts off gas to 2 NATO nations in bid to divide West - AP

    As the  war escalates, Russia, Ukraine still splitting profits from gas moving through pipelines.  Will the time come to sever gas pipelines serving Europe?  Economic, political, and military repercussions? 

    __________

    https://www.peteearley.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/online-5059828_640-513x305.jpg

    COVID Ended In-Person State Hospital Visits So Father Pushed For Virginia Law Allowing Zoom-Like Calls For Patients - Pete Earley

    Thanks to Pete Earley for featuring our campaign to establish video visiting in Virginia's psych hospitals. Next goals: more states and more places where people live isolated from family, friends.

    __________

    Taxing capital income - Brookings

    "Legislated changes affecting capital income have dramatically reduced the federal income tax base and revenues over the past 25 years. A significant share of capital income is never subject to tax. The massive “leakage” between the generation of economic income and the reporting of income on tax forms calls for careful analysis of (a) which forms of income do not show up on tax forms, (b) where in the income distribution that divergence is occurring, (c) how base erosion is changing over time, and (d) the revenue and distributional effects of broadening the capital income tax base."

    Related CCSE article:

    "Growing inequality has shrunk Social Security’s tax base. Revitalizing it could restore solvency without cutting benefits."

    __________

    Crimean Khanate 1600.gif

    Why Putin Wants to Destroy Ukraine - JACEK ROSTOWSKI/Project Syndicate

    "We can now see why Putin is right when he says that Ukraine is 'anti-Russia.' If Russian statehood is defined by despotism, and if Russians and Ukrainians are one people, then by successfully governing themselves, Ukrainians have proved that the founding myth of Muscovite Russia has been a huge historical error."

    __________

    Ukraine conflict: 'Russian soldiers raped me and killed my husband' - BBC

    "About 25 girls and women aged 14 to 24 were systematically raped during the occupation in the basement of one house in Bucha. Nine of them are pregnant," she said. "Russian soldiers told them they would rape them to the point where they wouldn't want sexual contact with any man, to prevent them from having Ukrainian children."

    Depopulation is part of the strategy.

    _____

    Rape is a war crime, and Ukrainian women are sharing their stories - WaPost

    __________

    Lael Brainard's Senate confirmation may signal increased focus by the Fed on the relationship between economic inequality/wealth concentration and the economy along with distributional analysis of monetary policy.  Here's a speech she gave three years ago:

    Is the Middle Class within Reach for Middle-Income Families? - Governor Lael Brainard

    If people in the middle can no longer maintain middle-class financial security, how screwed are those in the bottom 50%?

    _____

    Some of our work relating to the Fed:

    "Could new tools allowing the Fed to pump money through ‘the people’ make U.S. monetary policy more equitable and effective?"

    ...and also less inflationary.

    "The U.S. (quietly) lets banks extract high credit card transaction fees. This raises prices for everyone and shifts $billions from poorer to wealthier Americans."

    __________

    Russian foreign minister says possibility of nuclear conflict and outbreak of World War III over Ukraine is 'serious, real' - Yahoo

    Dear Congress and the  White House: Russia's nuclear arsenal gives it tremendous leverage and degrees of freedom in conducting foreign affairs -- much more than merited by its economic stature  or military performance.  More important, the Russian dictator, perhaps with the concurrence of a committee, has the power to destroy large parts of the United States in a matter of hours, no matter what we do or threaten to do.  Our citizens should demand that you work tirelessly to reduce this risk in the short, medium, and long term.  This is no way to live... See article above.

    __________

    Why Western governments haven’t gotten serious about tackling offshore corruption — yet - ICIJ

    "I realized eventually, after about 15 years, that everything I’ve been writing about — from the Chechen war to the collapse in life expectancy, to human rights abuses, to battles between oligarchs, to inequality, to popular uprisings against the governments — I realized that everything was essentially caused by corruption."

    __________

    An Ever-Widening Chasm: CEO Pay-to-Worker Pay Ratio - Industry Leaders Magazine

    __________

    Video visitation: Western State Hospital leads the way in letting patients, families connect - Monique Calello/Staunton News-Leader

    Our thanks to the News-Leader and its social justice reporter for covering passage of legislation ensuring patients in Virginia state hospitals can video-visit with family, friends.  A lot of value for a small amount of capital!

    __________

    Transcript: Christine Lagarde on "Face the Nation" - CBS

    MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, in this country, there's a lot of debate around how much the government is to blame versus the central bankers for the inflation that we're experiencing. The US spent $6 trillion on COVID relief, $2 trillion of it on President Biden's watch last spring when the economy was already recovering. Do you think some of this spending in the US exacerbated inflation because Europe didn't spend like this?

    LAGARDE: We spent- we in Europe spent less in stimulus. And I think we spent differently. We spent pretty much half as much as what the US government spent on the stimulus and heating up the economy. But we also spent it differently because I think the focus was predominantly on keeping the jobs, not necessarily sending the checks. And as a result of that, people who managed to keep their jobs alive, while not necessarily, you know, going to work because COVID stopped everybody from going to work at some point in time, they had their job. So when COVID was over, they went back to their job. So I think that the- the- the labor market that you have currently in this country, in the US, which is incredibly tense, where you have, you know, a lot of jobs that are not filled, where you have plenty of vacancies, we don't have that in Europe at the moment. And the current situation you have on the labor market here in the US is clearly contributing to possible strong inflation and second round effect where prices go up, wages go up, short supply of labor, wages continue to go up, and that feeds back into prices. That- that's one of the differences between our two economies.

    __________

    This Inflation Is Demand-Driven and Persistent - Jason Furman/PS

    Fine.  But the analysis, while open-minded, is still confined to looking at aggregate demand.  Sending checks to the top, middle, or bottom may result in varying risks of inflation and outcomes.

    __________

    Image

    ICIJ’s guide to Russian wealth hidden offshore

    __________

    COVID Was Third Leading Cause of U.S. Deaths in 2021, Says CDC — But agency sees racial disparities shrink versus 2020 - MedPage Today

    __________

    https://scontent-iad3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/279090534_3221392701520817_44105953650192093_n.jpg?stp=dst-jpg_p526x296&_nc_cat=1&ccb=1-5&_nc_sid=a26aad&_nc_ohc=AVeKjD9IJKgAX-Xirss&_nc_ht=scontent-iad3-1.xx&oh=00_AT8f5M0_QPWQYyKP_KWknxeFZ41NiVTTQifiRerg7IarWg&oe=626B71F9

    __________

    Sunday, April 24, 2022

    __________

    "For the earth bears fruit: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is ripe, immediately he puts forth the sickle, because the harvest has come."

    _____

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7e/Anopheles_stephensi.jpeg/220px-Anopheles_stephensi.jpeg
    Malaria vaccine near finish line, Oxford team believes - Times of London

    "The world’s first and second licences for malaria vaccines are expected next year, both of them developed in Britain: Oxford’s R21 and the RTS,S jab that the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline first began work on in 1987, though in final trials it showed a lower rate of protection than the Oxford jab...

    "Malaria is a much harder and larger target for a vaccine than a virus like Covid, which has only a few genes compared with 5,000 in the mosquito-borne parasite that has spent millennia evolving with humans and working out how to evade our immune systems..."

    _____

    The new malaria vaccine might not be perfect, but it will save countless lives - MIT Technology Review

    __________

    The American retirement system is built for the rich - WaPost

    "Lawmakers proclaim they want to help the middle class save. But that’s not who benefits most from IRAs and 401(k) plans."

    This is an excellent critique of legislation now gliding through Congress.  But the retirement financing system's failure to include almost half the population should be the primary concern rather  than its  wasteful enrichment of those at the top.  Exclusion of low-income people from the highly subsidized retirement savings system and resulting capital gains is an important driver of economic inequality deeply rooted in American politics and policies.

    Some of our work on these issues:

    How the U.S. Retirement Savings System Magnifies Wealth Inequality (2016)
    Including all workers in our retirement savings system requires 2 things: a universal tax credit and a secure place to invest it. Congress should be working on both. (2018)

    Half of Americans have no retirement savings — here’s how Congress can look out for them - Op-ed (2018)

    __________

    https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2022/04/PSDT_04.20.22_covid.income_0_1.png?resize=600,820

    COVID-19 Pandemic Pinches Finances of America’s Lower- and Middle-Income Families - Pew Research

    "The financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 recession in the U.S. were endured mostly by lower- and middle-income families. From 2019 to 2020, the median income of lower-income households decreased by 3.0% and the median income of middle-income households fell by 2.1%. In contrast, the median income of upper-income households in 2020 was about the same as it was in 2019..."

    __________

    Taking the Right Off Autopilot - American Compass

    "I fell in love with politics as a little kid in 1956, when I spotted a big neon sign atop a downtown office building flashing its four capital letters to spell I . . . L I K E . . . I K E. Campaign ad budgets were not as lavish back then...

    "The decades that followed were an exciting time to be coming of age in the world of conservative ideas and Republican politics. The journey from Eisenhower to Goldwater to Nixon to Reagan was tumultuous, the intellectual combat fierce, and the eventual triumph exhilarating...

    "Conservatives are fond of warning that a government program, once established, never dies. The same, it turns out, can be said of conservative institutions. Fusionist think tanks established strong brands and large payrolls, and if the donors would keep giving, then the Cold War hawks would find new wars to start, the supply-siders new taxes to cut. They are still doing it today."

    _____

    Could the Republican political philosophy of Ike and Abe resonate with members of both political parties today (see article below)?   A platform promoting personal liberty, caring government, and social spending targeted to need could compete well in today's fog of  identity politics and cultural warfare.  As evidenced just  below, however, the U.S. is far more unequal than when the nation was recovering from the shocks of the Great Depression and Second World War.

    The U.S. economy is more unequal now than when Ike ran for re-election.  In 1956, the distribution of income was more compact (see above) and income at the top was taxed at a much higher rate.  Since the 1950s, income from labor has declined significantly relative to income from capital, which accrues mostly to people with higher salaries (below).

    Three-fourths of the decrease in labor share in the United States since 1947 has come since 2000.

    Republican Party Platform of 1956 - American Presidency Project

    "On its Centennial, the Republican Party again calls to the minds of all Americans the great truth first spoken by Abraham Lincoln: 'The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities. But in all that people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere.'

    "Our great President Dwight D. Eisenhower has counseled us further: 'In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with people's money, or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative.'

    "While jealously guarding the free institutions and preserving the principles upon which our Republic was founded and has flourished, the purpose of the Republican Party is to establish and maintain a peaceful world and build at home a dynamic prosperity in which every citizen fairly shares."

    __________

    Biden says US spending billions to make military vehicles 'climate friendly' - Fox

    Will the ICBMs of tomorrow leave more discrete carbon trails? 

    __________

    A United Auto Workers member works on a 2018 Ford F-150 truck being assembled at the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan in 2018

    How Writing Off the Working Class Has Hurt the Mainstream Media - Nieman

    __________

    Economic Justice Is Disability Justice - Century Foundation

    "The economic hardships people with disabilities face are prevalent in many aspects of life: disabled people are three times as likely as non-disabled people to experience food insecurity.6 And roughly half of U.S. adults who turn to homeless shelters have a disability.

    "Barriers to employment—including denial of reasonable accommodations and other forms of disability discrimination by employers, which remain pervasive more than three decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law—are an important part of the picture. While some people’s disabilities may preclude full-time and/or traditional employment, millions of disabled people can and do work. Yet disabled workers in the United States face much higher rates of unemployment than their non-disabled peers. And as new analysis in this report finds, a stark pay gap means that disabled workers who are employed were paid an average of 74 cents on the dollar in 2020 compared with nondisabled workers."

    __________

    Mental Health America Took In Less Than NAMI, But Paid Its CEO More. Covid Awareness Increased Donations. - Pete Earley

    Good reporting. Too many dollars are being sucked up by executives sitting atop non-profit bureaucracies festooning the tangled branches of government in Washington. More resources need to go to advocates at the state and local level where the hard work is done counseling patients and families and lobbying legislators. That said, of course there are some really good and competent people on non-profit staffs in D.C. On the other hand, many don't bother to return phone calls and emails from their own members.


    As Earley reports, a lot of the PPP money (forgiven loans) was used to subsidize non-profit CEO compensation. Since associations can influence Congress, it's not surprising that the Covid stimulus legislation was written and implemented to their advantage. Meanwhile, people with serious mental illnesses struggle to stay employed at low wage jobs or get on SSI if they can't function well enough in the work place. 


    Of course, non-profit CEOs would be crazy not to take advantage of recent inflation in their salaries and availability of taxpayer dollars. Association chiefs in non-profits representing business who could pull down a couple hundred thousand dollars 15 years ago, now can leverage millions a year.


    Like Major League Baseball, the U.S. economy increasingly overpays a few stars at top and throws crumbs to those at the bottom. In baseball at least the stars have to perform to keep raking in the dollars. With non-profits lobbying Congress and the executive branch, not so much. 

    __________

    Tenured Canadian professor fired after saying BLM 'destroyed' her university - Fox

    'Without upholding academic freedom, we have no ability to explore ideas,' the professor said

    __________

    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/500873dd649efd50987c36d8895fdeac7cc53632/0_317_4757_2855/master/4757.jpg?width=620&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=a4c2b9d75d558263ae5fee7b864095cd

    Aged care workers across Australia vote to take industrial action - Guardian

    "Union says vote overwhelmingly supports action that could include strikes and is likely to occur before federal election"

    __________

    Resident Mortality And Worker Infection Rates From COVID-19 Lower In Union Than Nonunion US Nursing Homes, 2020–21 - HealthAffairs

    "...we found that unions were associated with 10.8 percent lower resident COVID-19 mortality rates, as well as 6.8 percent lower worker COVID-19 infection rates. Substantive results were similar, although sometimes smaller and less precisely estimated, in sensitivity analyses."

    __________

    Company wage tracker - EPI

    'The Company Wage Tracker looks at 66 large retail and food service firms, showing how many workers they employ, how much revenue they generate in U.S. operations, what they pay their CEOs, and what shares of their U.S. hourly workers fall within certain wage bands (from earning less than $10 per hour to earning at least $20 per hour).'

    __________

    Pittsburgh planners ask: Is a $1,000-a-month ‘micro’ apartment affordable? - PublicSource

    __________

    Improving the Federal Tax System for Gig Economy Participants - Tax Foundation

    __________

    President Zelensky Is Not A Billionaire. So How Much Is He Worth? - Forbes

    __________

    Wealth Taxes in Europe - Tax Foundation

    Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989 - Fed data

    _____

    Fair Taxes on America’s Billionaires and Giant Corporations Would Provide $252 Billion in Revenue Per Year to Help Slash Poverty and Reduce Hunger in the US - Oxfam

    Faulty assumption from the left. Extracting $$ from the top 1% does not mean the money magically will be transferred to people in the bottom 10%. The top 20% would probably get a good share of benefits from tapping the richest since the doctor-lawyer-managerial sector has political pull with both parties. Well-off liberals point at "billionaires" for tax increases needed for government services and subsidies while resisting tax increases for themselves. Conservatives just say no - and screw the poor.

    _____

    America's Highest Earners and Their Taxes Revealed - ProPublica

    __________

    NYC landlords filing so many eviction cases that firms for low-income tenants have run out of lawyers - NY Daily News

    New York City moves just FIVE people into shelters after clearing 239 homeless encampments in sweep championed by Eric Adams - Daily Mail

    __________

    https://paydayreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Screen-Shot-2022-04-18-at-5.10.55-PM-777x437.png
    8,000 Nurses Strike In CA – Inspired by Starbucks Workers, Verizon Retail Workers Win Rare Union Election - Payday Report

    __________

    Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936

    The Spanish Civil War: A Trial Run for World War II - National Interest

    Ukraine.  Spain.  Again?... As the the U.S. and its allies vow to help fight the Russians "to the last Ukrainian," can the Spanish Civil War provide insights? 

    “History Doesn't Repeat Itself, but It Often Rhymes” – Mark Twain.

    __________

    The impacts of the 2021 expanded child tax credit on family employment, nutrition, and financial well-being - Brookings

    _____

    Strengthening Family Tax Benefits in Massachusetts - Niskanen Center

    Key Takeaways

    • The state Child Tax Credit established last year in Massachusetts has been an effective tool for supporting families. Lawmakers in the state should build on its success by expanding it.

    • The child tax credit is distributionally progressive, delivering a larger relative boost to lower-income families. It is also effective at reducing racial inequities.

    • In addition to expanding the credit, lawmakers should consider removing the 2-child cap on eligible children and allowing the full credit to be accessed by families regardless of whether the children are enrolled in paid-childcare arrangements.

    • This brief presents several options for reform, detailing their likely distributional and budgetary impacts.

    __________

    The Kids Are Not Alright — Congress must extend the Child Tax Credit and adequately fund childcare - MedpageToday

    Households With Children That Struggled to Cover Household Expenses Were at Least Twice as Likely to Rely on CTC - US Census Bureau

    __________

    AEI housing market indicators, March 2022


    "
    Rampant Home Price Appreciation (HPA) continues to rise with the national rate of HPA for February 2022 coming in at 17.0% (preliminary), up from 11.8% in February 2021."

    _____

    ‘Sitting on a time bomb’: Mobile home residents at risk in red-hot housing market - Virginia Mercury

    _____

    Millions of Americans are resorting to risky ways to buy an affordable home - NPR

    __________

    https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/varna-lead-700x420.jpg

    Ancient skeletons, funerary practices, and DNA reveal layers of inequality in past societies.

    The Archaeology of Inequality - MIT Press Reader

    __________

    Opinion: This religious season reminds us of faith’s liberating promise - WaPost

    "...at moments of crisis, people of faith cannot avoid taking a stand. This was true during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and it is true now in light of the crisis confronting our multiracial and multireligious democracy. Making clear that no party, ideology or faith tradition has a monopoly on God’s blessings would be a good starting point."

    The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has created conditions for a competitive market for religion.  But in markets for goods and services, not so much.

    __________

         Cross with Red Sky - Georgia O'Keeffe (1929)

    __________

    Sunday, April 17, 2022

    __________

    Easter Essay: Is the Golden Rule Enough? Mathematics of the Two Great Commandments

    Celebration of death and new life for all including worshipers of the great god of modern science, Big Bang, and his/her/its consort, Assumptions.

    _____

    Urizen - William Blake

    __________


    Budget researchers to Pittsburgh: Tax the rich, and UPMC - PublicSource

    __________

    https://nypost.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/04/tucker-carlson-praises-amazon-union-drive-02.jpg?quality=75&strip=all&w=744

    Tucker Carlson praises Amazon union leader: ‘I’m rooting for you’ - NY Post

    Interesting.  But workers beware of ravenous wolves in both parties.  Is Carlson stroking you because AOC's not showing up provides a chance to sow discord in a traditionally Dem base? What would Rs do for you?  To get a better read their intentions, ask about their positions on the minimum wage, paid sick days, and union suppression laws.

    For their part, the Dems who left you hanging think they have the labor vote in their pocket.  But their actions show they do the most for upper-middle class professionals, bureaucrats, select gender and racial groups and their cultural causes, and (like Rs) business interests.  Like Rs, they play cultural head games to pit selected subgroups of have-nots against each other.

    The "expert class" supporting both Progressive and Neo-liberal political royalty is becoming dumbed-down as the ratio of advanced degrees to common sense and innate intelligence grows.  For example, even though the Administration and Congress employ more PhD economists than the Founding Fathers had slaves, none figured out that pumping mega-dollars through well-off families and businesses that didn't need them would trigger inflation.  None are willing to target financial help to those most in need, which would do the most good while minimizing inflation risk.

    AOC, Bernie, and others on the left practice sound-bite economics.  The zombie crooners on the right chanting "tax cuts/trickle down" are no better.

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    Trans doctor who helps teens transition says it’s now ‘gone too far’ - NY Post

    Trendy?  Social pressure?  Medical necessity?  Kids, it's a lot more expensive and permanent than getting a tattoo

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    The staggering costs of being transgender in the US, where even patients with health insurance can face six-figure bills - Insider

    Paying for Transgender Surgeries - Investopedia

    Land of liberty - but not for all.  The U.S. health care "system" increasingly covers removing, re-styling sex organs for those at the top, while providing no health insurance for 28 million at the bottom.

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    https://www.loc.gov/static/classroom-materials/symbols-of-the-united-states/images/libertyBell.jpg

    George Will on conservatism, capitalism, and our elites’ ‘unblemished record of failure’ - Hub

    "My view is that the worst outcome of politics is tyranny. The form of tyranny to which democracies are prey is the tyranny of the majority. I’m with John Stuart Mill in worrying about this. I’m with James Madison in worrying about this."

    Still a conservative but..."I have however become more libertarian, in the sense that being 50 years and counting now at the centre of American government in Washington has made me wary of the capture of the government by rent-seekers. That’s an economist term for those who try to bend public power to private advantage, either to confer favours on themselves or impediments on competitors."

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    Will: $1.6 trillion in student debt is a monument to destructive assumptions -  Roanoke Times

    "The loan payment pause is progressives’ second-favorite regressive policy, second only to raising (if not abolishing) the cap on their affluent voters’ deductions of blue states’ high state and local taxes.

    "A Brookings Institution study says about a third of student debt is owed by the wealthiest 20% of households (only 8% by the bottom quintile), and it is disproportionately held by those with advanced degrees, who have especially high lifetime earning potential."

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    Nursing home pay rule reveals CMS strategy on minimum staffing - McKnights

    You get what you pay for. If nursing home payment rates are raised,  states (Medicaid) and the feds (Medicare) need to ensure front line staff benefit along with owners, operators to ensure adequate labor supply and wages. Should feds create pay and staffing standards for both programs and fund accordingly?

    The Need for an Economically Feasible Nursing Home Staffing Regulation: Evaluating an Acuity-Based Nursing Staff Benchmark - Innovation in Aging

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    How did Russian oligarchs get their wealth? - Jerusalem Post

    Interesting cruise with stops in Israel and the U.S.

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    https://m.media-amazon.com/images/P/B00LD1ORX6.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SX500_.jpg

    Bill Browder’s ‘Red Notice’

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    There’s a growing interest in wealth taxes on the super-rich. Here’s why it hasn’t happened - CNBC

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    17 L.A. gangs have sent out crews to follow and rob city’s wealthiest, LAPD says - LA Times

    Example of the 'private sector' stepping in where public policy has failed?

    __________

    First crisis, then catastrophe - Oxfam

    "Unless G20 leaders, the IMF and the World Bank act immediately, crises of inflation, inequality and COVID-19 could push over a quarter of a billion more people into extreme poverty in 2022.

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    Richard Bensinger, left, who is advising unionization efforts, along with baristas Casey Moore, right, Brian Murray, second from left, and Jaz Brisack, second from right, discuss their efforts to unionize three Buffalo-area stores, inside the movements headquarters on Oct. 28, 2021 in Buffalo, N.Y. The National Labor Relations Board is scheduled to count ballots Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, from union elections held at three separate Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area. Around 111 Starbucks workers from the three stores were eligible to vote by mail starting last month.

    Can Wall Street and labor unions learn to get along? - CNN

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    When the Future of Work Means Always Looking For Your Next Job - Time

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    Transgender woman's op-ed regretting sex re-assignment surgery draws strong media reaction: 'Heartbreaking' - Fox

    "Corinna Cohn warned in the Washington Post against 'permanently altering your body'"

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    Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee speaks with reporters.

    Progressive candidate opens big lead in Pennsylvania House primary - Politico

    "First elected to the state House in 2018, state Rep. Summer Lee is a lawyer who supports a $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All."

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    Seven ways Youngkin is trying to make his mark on General Assembly bills - Virginia Mercury

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    Home against a color background, house or mortgage concept

    Americans are ‘wasting too much money on housing,’ says top economist—here are 4 ways to get ‘house rich’ - CNBC

    Some options:

    1. Shack up with the parents

    2. Rent out your home

    3. Move to a low-tax or no-tax state

    4. Downsize

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    Use this calculator to see how compound interest can help your money grow over time - CNBC

    Dear small-time capitalists:  This can be a helpful tool but it is incomplete without also factoring in the impact of inflation. To do that in this model, you can subtract your estimate of the inflation rate from the "average annual return."  So, if you think your average annual return will be 7% and average annual inflation with be 4%, you would subtract 4 from 7 and enter 3 in the model.  That will give you a better idea of what the purchasing value of your investment might be.  BTW, it doesn't appear that the model allows for negative rates of return, which are more likely during periods of high inflation such as what we are experiencing for the first time in decades.

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    Opinion: My mother was dying of covid. Being poor made it so much worse. - WaPost

    "My mother died several weeks ago in the covid-19 'red zone' of a nursing home in northeastern Pennsylvania, after having been bounced among three public hospitals over the last three weeks of her illness. The room in which she died looked as though it had been used for storage, with supplies and unused furniture stacked near her bed. No phone, no television, no dresser for her belongings. She had three roommates, one of whom screamed nearly incessantly.

    "Like many Americans, my mother was poor, on Medicare, and this was the best that could be done for her...

    "As someone who grew up in extreme poverty and spent much of my life uninsured or relying solely on government health-care programs, I realized long ago that there are two separate and very different health-care systems in this country: one for those with money, resources and good insurance, and another for those who lack those advantages."

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    stseal

    Virginia becomes first state to ensure mental hospital patients, families have access to video visitation - Center on Capital & Social Equity

    The world now is slightly less unequal.

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    Get ready for a nasty inflation report - Axios

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    New Mexico Democrats Seek Tax Rebates Ahead of Election - US News/AP

    "Democratic lawmakers are pushing for one-time payments to New Mexico residents of $500 per individual or $1,000 per household to offset steep prices for fuel and raging inflation...

    "Republicans legislators warned that rebates would only stoke inflation further."

    As we've said before, targeting  relief to people at the bottom does the most good with the least impact on inflation.  Giving people who don't need it more money  stimulates demand  that can drive up prices especially if supply is constrained. Giving low-income people enough to survive inflated prices keeps demand steady.

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    American Pie: Corporations Have Changed How They Slice Up Each Dollar of Revenue. Guess Who Benefits? - Capital & Main

    "Compared with 60 years ago, workers are getting less and shareholders are getting more — sometimes a lot more."

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    https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Fb4c37242-831a-4f85-9909-577ff6ba5e17_662x196.png

    The Secret Plot To Unleash Corporate Power - BIG

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    Image

    Marc Chagall, “Ukrainian Family,” 1941-1943

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    Sunday, April 10, 2022

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    "The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful." - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776, Vol. I, Ch. II

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    Ibn Khaldoun and Nikolay Trubetskoy: Nomads vs. sedentary populations - Global Inequality

    "Trubetskoy’s encomium of a nomadic empire appears empty and the suggestion that Russia should find its world role as inheritor of such an empire makes sense only in a geographical sense since the Russia of the past two centuries is contained within the area circumscribed by the Mongol empire, but is substantively meaningless. Nothing shows better how meaningless it is than lack of encouragement to economic and political advancement that, as Ibn Khaldoun pointed out more than seven centuries ago, is immanent to all nomadic empires."

    Comment: A biological Darwinian analysis of nomadic power might produce a different assessment of winners and losers: that is, whose genes get passed on in the stream of life. This process could interact with the political cultural process. One involves human hardware, the other software. Fixed social and governance structures weakened for whatever reason including internal decay, corruption, hoarding/inequality, etc., can boast superiority of culture but also  can be deficient in the  basic strength and energy nomads need for everyday survival.

    Caregiving without a paycheck - WaPost

    "Beyond those who have already quit their jobs, many more are at risk of leaving the workforce in the coming years if caregiving needs go unaddressed. One in 5 workers are balancing paid work with part-time care duties, putting them at heightened risk of resigning, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers.

    "'It’s the biggest driver of inequality that nobody talks about: The caregiving burden falls almost completely on the shoulders of women,' said Ai-jen Poo, co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group. 'We have massive demand for care and the only people doing the work are women, whether they’re trying to juggle it with paid work or are being paid poverty wages to help with care.'"

    BTW, one example of unpaid caregiving in the WaPost article may actually be paid caregiving:

    "Brooke Day quit her job as a concierge at a Washington, D.C., apartment building in October, shortly after her 60-year-old mother suffered a stroke that took away her ability to do even simple things without help. It’s the first time that Day, 38, has been out of work for more than a few weeks, and she says she has no idea when she might return.

    "'She can’t do anything unassisted, not even eat,' said Day, who receives about $280 a day from Medicaid to care for her mother. '… Until my mother leaves this Earth, I will be out of the workforce.'"

    Medicaid payment of $280 a day is more than twice as much as a person would make providing care in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

    In the bigger picture:  Total national work = paid work + unpaid work, where "work" means activity producing value for people and businesses.  Question: is work making tobacco products paid at $20 an hour more important than nursing home care paid at $15 hour, or unpaid home care provided by family members? 

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    The Limited Recovery of Labor Supply - from the Fed's latest monetary policy report to Congress

    "Caregiving: Many individuals who have left the labor force have taken on caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic, accounting for an additional 0.4 percentage point of the LFPR shortfall as of December 2021.4 Caregiving responsibilities among parents of school-aged children exerted a large drag on labor supply in 2020, when schools were largely closed. This drag on labor supply eased over the course of 2021 as schools reopened, although the ongoing pandemic may leave parents unsure whether in-person schooling could be disrupted again.

    "Other caregiving responsibilities (for example, elder care) remain a drag on labor supply, accounting for nearly all of the negative contribution of this category to the LFPR." (emphasis added)

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    Starbucks Union Adds 6 More Stores, This Time With Overwhelming Approval - Newsweek

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    https://paydayreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Screen-Shot-2022-04-07-at-8.49.19-PM-777x437.png

    As Bozeman Rents Nearly Double, Activists Struggle to Stay - Payday Report

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    U.S. life expectancy falls for 2nd year in a row - NPR

    U.S. life expectancy continued to drop in 2021, new analysis shows- WaPost

    Like most U.S. research on life expectancy, this new study focuses on differences between races.  To help develop effective policy responses, more research is needed on differences in economic status and strata including income and wealth measures.

    In a 2015 report, the National Academy of Sciences compared the 1930 and 1960 birth cohorts and found that life expectancy for the bottom quintile of men at age 50 decreased slightly to 26.1 years over the 30-year period. Meanwhile, life expectancy rose for men age 50 in higher-income quintiles. As shown in the chart below, the life expectancy gap between the bottom (quintile 1) and top fifth of the income distribution widened from 5.1 to 12.7 years.

    FIGURE S-1. Estimated and projected life expectancy at age 50 for males born in 1930 and 1960, by income quintile.

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    Some of our work on this issue:

    A Widening Gap in Life Expectancy Makes Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age a Particularly Bad Deal for Low-Wage Earners - Society of Actuaries

    Will Growing Inequality Make Social Security & LTC Financing Fixes Harder? - 2020 Society of Actuaries Living to 100 Symposium

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    Capitalism normalizes death: From COVID-19 to the threat of nuclear war - WSWS

    Dear Trotskyists: There are a few of us thinking about these issues.  Check out our recent essay.

    BTW, this and other articles on the WSWS often contain facts and details not found in the mainstream media including the description here of recent nuclear arms escalation.  Most people don't have the stomach to wade through the political rhetoric to glean what  might be useful information.

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    US Policy Toward Russia Is Blocking Paths to De-escalation in Ukraine: Chomsky interview/truthout

    "While there is appreciation in the Global South for the fact that at long last Western intellectuals and the political class are coming to perceive that aggressors can commit hideous crimes, they seem to feel that it is perhaps a little late, and curiously skewed, as they know from ample experience. They are also able to perceive that Westerners consumed with moral outrage over the crimes of enemies are still able to maintain their usual silence while their own leaders carry out terrible crimes right now — in Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Western Sahara, and all too many other places where they could act at once, and expeditiously, to mitigate or end these crimes.

    "...Crucially, to repeat, current U.S. policy is to 'fight to the last Ukrainian' while offering no way to save Ukraine from further tragedy and in fact undermining such hopes by informing Putin that he has no way out: It’s The Hague or proceed to destroy Ukraine."

    Clear analysis even if one doesn't entirely share his perspective or policy frame.

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    How Russia rescued the ruble - NPR

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    News Blog: March 9 - April 7, 2022 - Click here

    Will Growing Inequality Make Social Security & Long Term Care Financing Fixes Harder?

    2020 Society of Actuaries Living to 100 Symposium

    June 2019

    Mixing Capitalism and Socialism

    Policies To Moderate Systemic Wealth Concentration in the United States

    Karl Polzer/Center on Capital & Social Equity

    This essay explores two basic questions.  The first is the extent to which capitalism, which emphasizes the rights of individuals to pursue their interests, and socialism, which focuses on group needs, tend to function in tandem as much as they do in conflict. As many agree that the political pendulum in recent decades has swung in favor of capitalism, the paper also discusses a range of public policies that can be used to reduce its imbalances and risks, with particular emphasis on moderating capitalism's tendency toward systemic inequality. Policy options range from programs to help the poorest, social insurance, higher taxation of income and wealth, and re-channeling to all citizens a portion of profits from private exploitation of public assets and business activities enabled by public laws and infrastructure.

    Quick Links

    Including all workers in our retirement savings system requires 2 things: a universal tax credit and a secure place to invest it.

    Congress should be working on both.

    Almost half of Americans have no net assets and little or no retirement savings.  Many have no money to save, and if they did, and no retirement account to put it in.  Meanwhile, Americans at the top of the economic heap get generous tax breaks for retirement savings – and capital gains from these assets widen the wealth gap.

    Establishing a national retirement savings system and reshaping tax policy to provide every American worker a modest tax credit to put in a retirement account could improve economic security, help people prepare for old age, and facilitate saving for emergency expenses.  This type of inclusive capitalism would make every American worker an owner of assets generating income.  Such a system could be funded via a relatively small sacrifice to high earners without increased federal spending.  

    Include Everyone in the Retirement Savings  System

    Related initiatives and proposals:

    If you know of other proposals along these lines or would like to comment, please go the "Contact Us" page on this site and send us an email. 

    CCSE Proposes Universal Starter IRAs

    Australia as a Model?

    Australia’s “superannuation” system  requires employers to contribute a percentage of employees’ income into diversified retirement funds managed by trustees.  By 1999, 97 percent of Australia’s full-time employees and 76 percent of part-time employees were covered by the superannuation system.  Over the years, Australia has increased required contributions and continued to refine the system, which has been credited with raising levels of capital accumulation and improving retirement security.

    According to a July 2016 report, the Australian superannuation system continues to broaden coverage, but may be contributing to growing wealth inequality in its current form.

    Research shows dramatic growth of upper middle class, major shift in economic resources

    An Urban Institute report published in June 2016 found that since 1979 the percentage of wealthy and upper-middle-class Americans have grown dramatically while the middle- and lower-middle class has become smaller.  The study found that "the proportion of the population in the upper middle class went from under 13 percent in 1979 to over 29 percent in 2014."

    The report documents a major shift in the distribution of economic resources. "In 1979, the bottom three income groups controlled 70 percent of all incomes, and the upper middle class and rich controlled 30 percent. By 2014, this distribution shifted to 37 percent for the bottom three groups and 63 percent for the upper middle class and rich groups. The middle class alone saw its share of income decline from 46 percent in 1979 to 26 percent in 2014."   

    The study divides the population into five classes. The poor and the near-poor had annual incomes from $0 to $29,999; the lower middle class, from $30,000 to $49,999; the middle class, from $50,000 to $99,999; the upper middle class, from $100,000 to $349,999; and the rich, $350,000 and up. 

    Pew study shows long-term decline in size of middle class, rise in number of poor

    After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it, according to a study released in December. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, according to the Pew Research Center analysis of government data.  Highlights include the following:

    "While the share of U.S. adults living in both upper- and lower-income households rose alongside the declining share in the middle from 1971 to 2015, the share in the upper-income tier grew more.

    "Over the same period, however, the nation’s aggregate household income has substantially shifted from middle-income to upper-income households, driven by the growing size of the upper-income tier and more rapid gains in income at the top. Fully 49% of U.S. aggregate income went to upper-income households in 2014, up from 29% in 1970. The share accruing to middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down substantially from 62% in 1970.

    "And middle-income Americans have fallen further behind financially in the new century. In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than in 2000. Moreover, because of the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-09, their median wealth (assets minus debts) fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013.

    "Meanwhile, the far edges of the income spectrum have shown the most growth. In 2015, 20% of American adults were in the lowest-income tier, up from 16% in 1971. On the opposite side, 9% are in the highest-income tier, more than double the 4% share in 1971. At the same time, the shares of adults in the lower-middle or upper-middle income tiers were nearly unchanged.

    "These findings emerge from a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. In this study, which examines the changing size, demographic composition and economic fortunes of the American middle class, ‘middle-income’ Americans are defined as adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median, about $42,000 to $126,000 annually in 2014 dollars for a household of three. Under this definition, the middle class made up 50% of the U.S. adult population in 2015, down from 61% in 1971."


    Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage

    Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.  Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.

    • Five Facts about the Minimum Wage.
    • Living Wage Calculator:  The cost of meeting basic needs varies widely depending on where you live. MIT offers an on-line tool to help determine such costs and the living wage in each county and metropolitan area in the U.S.  The site also has articles on related issues.
    • State Minimum Wage Levels:  Federal minimum wage law supersedes a state's minimum wage law if the state level is lower. In those states where the state minimum wage is greater than the federal level, the state minimum wage prevails. Two states have a minimum wage set lower than the federal minimum wage. In 29 states and DC, the state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum. Fourteen states have a minimum wage that is the same as the federal requirement. The remaining five states have not established a minimum wage.

    The Economics of Inequality

    Deaton Wins Nobel Prize

    "The award comes at a time when there is rising academic and popular interest in the study of inequality. Several economists, including Anthony Atkinson of the London School of Economics (who was among the leading contenders for a Nobel prize this year) and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics (who is still a bit too young for one), have published widely-read volumes on the subject over the last two years. Mr Deaton published his, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, in 2013. In it, he argued that while most people in the world have gained in terms of health and well-being from GDP growth over the last few decades, there are many groups that have missed out, particularly if on measures beyond those most commonly examined."

    -- The Economist

    Milanovic Explores Dynamics of Income Inequality in Age of Globalization

    In “Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization,” Branko Milanovic identifies five forces pushing up inequality in the United States:

    1. The increasing share of national income that accrues to owners of capital.

    2. Very high and rising concentration of incomes from capital.

    3. People holding high-paying jobs also often have high capital income.

    4. The tendency of high-income individuals to marry each other.

    5. The rising political power of the rich.

    Revisiting the work of American economist Simon Kuznets, Milanovic describes how global income economy waxes and wanes in "waves" driven by economic and political forces. 

     

    CBO report analyzes impact of government transfers, taxes on rising U.S. income inequality

    According to the June 2016 report

    "Between 1979 and 2013, all three measures of income examined in this report—market income, before-tax income, and after-tax income—became less equally distributed, based on a standard measure of inequality known as the Gini index. The increase in inequality in both before-tax and after-tax income over the 35-year period stemmed largely from a significant increase in inequality in market income, mostly because of substantial income growth at the top of the market income distribution.

    "Because government transfers go predominantly to lower-income households, before-tax income (which is equal to market income plus government transfers) was more evenly distributed in each year than market income. And because higher-income households pay a larger share of federal taxes than lower-income households do, after-tax income was more evenly distributed than before-tax income.

    "In each year between 1979 and 2013, government transfers reduced income inequality significantly more than the federal tax system did."


     View from the Paris School of Economics


     

    Lecture Highlights:

    • The return of a patrimonial (or wealth-based) society in the Old World (Europe, Japan).
    • Inequality in America: Is the New World developing a new inequality model that is based upon extreme labor income inequality more than upon wealth inequality? Is it more merit-based, or can it become the worst of all worlds?
    • In all nations with capitalist economies examined, the poorest half of the population owns virtually no assets or is in debt.
    • In general, when the rate of growth of capital exceeds the rate of growth of the overall economy, wealth tends to concentrate.  There is no natural market mechanism to counter this tendency; a nation's degree of wealth concentration in large part is a function of public policy.

    "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger"

    In this book, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett present data making the case that countries with greater income inequality tend to have more health and social problems.  Furthermore, there is evidence that the negative effects of inequality impact not just the poor, but people at all social levels.  The Equality Trust provides slides of some of the supporting data.


    This short Wall Street Journal video describes competing views of the wealth inequality issue and how to address it.

    Thomas Piketty reviews Anthony Atkinson's book, Inequality: What Can Be Done? , and evaluates its prescription for Great Britain's economy.

    Economists Discuss Atkinson's Ideas on Reducing Inequality

    Robert Solow, the Russell Sage Foundation’s Robert K. Merton Scholar and Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, joined New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and moderator Janet Gornick (Director of the Luxembourg Income Study Center and a former RSF Visiting Scholar) at the Foundation for a conversation on Inequality: What Can Be Done?, a new book by British inequality scholar Anthony B. Atkinson. In the book, Atkinson argues that economic inequality has reached unacceptable levels in many countries and lays out an agenda for reducing inequality. His policy proposals span five areas: technology, employment, the sharing of capital, taxation, and social security.

    Columbia's Joseph Stiglitz takes on "The Great Divide"

    Click on highlighted words to hear interview.

    Hayek Revisited: Is Compromise Possible?

    Is Friedrich Hayek's classic defense of individual liberty and economic freedom, rooted in moral tradition, just as relevant today as during World War II?  Click here to read a summary of Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," published by Reader's Digest as that war came to an end and a new international economic order was developed. 

    Today, how can monopoly power, whether wielded by corporations or government agencies, be checked while expanding economic opportunity and inclusion for all including the young, old, and those with few assets?  If Hayek could have foreseen the ability of  modern corporations to concentrate wealth and power, what policies would he recommend?       

    "...Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance -- where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks -- the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. ...

    "(T)here is no incompatibility in principle between the state's providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom."

     --  F. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Chapter 9/Security  and Freedom

    American ranch-style house

    April 6, 2022

    Russia, Nuclear Disaster and What To Do with Our House

    Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity

    Click here to read article.

    Thanks to the Washington  Post for publishing our letter.

    P.S. (March 3, 2022)  As the invasion escalates, it appears that Putin's operational objectives may include: 1) ongoing military and political control of Belarus; 2) depopulation of non-Russian speaking Ukraine to facilitate larger annexation (a la Israel/Palestine); and 3) constricting the mobility and internal political threat of Russian oligarchs (a la Xi and Chinese capitalists).

    Western State Hospital home page - December 2020

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    Updates:

    March 5 - This week, the Senate approved HB 388 with amended text. The House then passed the Senate version.  Both votes were unanimous.  The bill now goes to Virginia's Governor.  Unlike other states, if the Governor does not act on a bill, it becomes law without his signature in 30 days (the majority of bills are not signed). 

    Virginia becomes first state to ensure mental hospital patients, families have access to video visitation

    April 11 - It's a law!  Gov. Youngkin signed HB 388, which was passed unanimously by both Virginia's House and Senate.  Effective July 1, 2022, the bill requires the director of each of the state's 10  mental health hospitals to have a process in place to facilitate virtual visitation. It will help thousands of patients and their families and friends stay connected and could positively impact patient care and hospital transparency. 

    The Center on Capital & Social Equity  worked with staff at Western State Hospital in Staunton to develop a pilot program when in-person visitation was suspended due to Covid 19.  We then advocated to expand access to video visits  to patients at all state hospitals.  Special thanks to the staff at Western State, the Virginia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Del. Rod Willett and his staff who were instrumental in making this happen.

    To our knowledge, Virginia is the first state to make sure that mental hospital patients and families have access to video visitation.  Today, the world is slightly less unequal!

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    COVID Ended In-Person State Hospital Visits So Father Pushed For Virginia Law Allowing Zoom-Like Calls For Patients - Pete Earley

    Thanks to Peter Earley for posting on our work to increase connectivity between people living in institutional settings and their families and the larger community.

    Extending the Expanded   Child Tax Credit:

    "In the bigger picture,
    total national work = paid work + unpaid work, which includes raising children."

    _____

    Also see last section of the paper below on raising the minimum wage: "Combining a minimum wage hike with the EITC, more aid to raise children" on p.11:

    "Considerations on Raising the U.S. Minimum Wage To Help Workers and Families While Minimizing Negative Impacts"

    _____

    Families With Low Incomes Spend Expanded Child Tax Credit on Most Basic Needs, Education

     sick leave

    Click on the article above for the answer to the puzzle below:

    Nov. 4, 2021

    White House’s promised childcare subsidies face a host of ‘devils in the details’

    Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity

    "The $1.75-trillion Build Back Better (BBB) proposal’s  promise to cap childcare expenses at 7% of income for families earning up to $300,000 faces a series of policy hurdles regarding cost, equity, long-term impacts, and how such a program might be administered.  While subsidized childcare would meet a pressing need for many low- and modest-income working parents, providing benefits to upper-income professionals and inflationary impacts could push the program’s cost as high as $1 trillion over 10 years.  

    "Some analysts warn that massive subsidies combined with costly regulatory requirements could end up reducing care choices for many low-income families, particularly those preferring to look after their children at home..."

    Click here to read article

    Nov. 20, 2021

    Why our grandchildren will being moving back from the ocean and heading north

    Karl Polzer – Center on Capital & Social Equity

    As the fog lifts from what was achieved during last week’s international negotiations over controlling climate change, some outlines of future reality come into focus.  Layers of carbon pollution girding the Earth will continue to drive up temperatures and sea levels.  The world’s 195 countries will not be able to change human behavior enough to stop major climate change.   By later this century, billions of people will face pressure to move away from eroding seashores to higher ground and north to cooler places to live.

    There are several reasons to expect this...

    Oct. 26, 2021

    Responses received from Virginia campaigns for governor

    Last week, the Center on Capital & Social Equity, which operates from Northern Virginia, sent a short list of questions to policy and press people working on the two Virginia campaigns for governor.  We are pleased that both campaigns sent responses but would have liked to see more specific answers to many of the questions.

    Our motivation in asking these questions is to help focus the next governor on the needs of low-income people who make up a large portion of Virginia’s population.  Their everyday challenges are often ignored by their political representatives.  Attention to detail and commitment will be keys to developing and implementing policies that will help improve their lives on issues including adequate wages, paid sick days, access to mental health, the cost of living,and affordable health care.  We look forward to working with the next administration on these and other matters.

    Do U.S. Expats Need to File Virginia State Taxes? | MyExpatTaxes

    November 20th, 2021 Grocery Store Labor Action - All Workers Deserve Paid Sick Days - Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

    "Grocery store workers are one of the best examples of why Virginia needs a paid sick day standard.  Two-thirds of grocery store workers have no paid sick days. Virginians for Paid Sick Days is partnering with UFCW Local 400 to hold actions outside grocery stores on the Saturday of November 20, 2021 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) highlighting the need for all grocery store workers to have paid sick days."

     

    July 12, 2021

    "Congress could do many relatively inexpensive things to improve working people’s lives.  At spending levels near the bottom of what’s being now debated, all workers – including the lowest-paid -- could have additional funds to raise their kids, paid sick days, more job training, and some savings for retirement and emergencies.  Millions more could have higher wages and health care coverage.  And millions more disabled and elderly people could move above the poverty line.  Much of this could be done by modifying existing programs and policies."

    Social ‘infrastructure’ improvements for the working class

    • Target subsidies for families (child tax credits, daycare, college) to people most in need.
    • Raise the minimum wage and index it for inflation.  Give states reasonable flexibility to adjust the minimum.  All workers get paid sick days.
    • Repair and improve SSI.
    • Establish a universal retirement savings system.
    • Incentivize states to expand Medicaid.  Hold Medicare spending increases to general inflation or less.
    • Improve Social Security benefits for the bottom 50%. Achieve long-term solvency through higher taxes mostly on the top 20%.
    • Improve the unemployment insurance system and job training.

    Click here to read essay.

    Jeff Bezos (left to right), Elon Musk and Richard Branson are in a neck-and-neck battle to see who can win the trio’s own space race.

    Thanks to the Washington Post for publishing most of our letter:

    "Push the pain of taxes into the afterlife"

    Really don't think that a particular billionaire (hint: cojones enough to be shot into space) would have objected to being mentioned as in the letter submitted:

    "A Smart Way To Tax the Rich: Let Sleeping Billionaires Lie"

    Thanks to the Washington Examiner for featuring this.

    capital spending - government waste - government debt stock illustrations

    Biden’s spending spree could destabilize Social Security - Karl Polzer

    "President Joe Biden’s plan to inject $4 trillion of social and capital infrastructure spending into a $21 trillion economy could help many people take care of their families. But there are also major economic and political downsides. These risks could be reduced, and the proposal’s value increased, by putting Social Security on the table and targeting new social spending to people most in need..."

    Click here to read the op-ed

    Where's Social Security?

    How much can we tax the wealthy to finance long-run social and physical infrastructure needs?

     Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity

    A government, already paying interest on more than its people produce each year (hint: $22 trillion), now proposes to tax its wealthiest citizens in the vicinity of $3 trillion more to finance a growing list of social and physical infrastructure needs.  Like families paying off mortgages, indebted governments should know that each major purchase narrows its ability to raise capital for future needs... 

    So, what do we need and how can the wealthy be tapped to pay for it? What's missing?...

    Click here to read the paper

     

    Thanks to the Washington Examiner for timely publication of this op-ed. 

    Yes, raise the minimum wage, but don't stop there

    March 1, 2021

    "...States could be given flexibility. Congress could set the national minimum at the high end of current proposals, say at $15 or $16, and allow states to adjust it downward by a certain margin, say 20% or 25%, but no lower. A national minimum wage corridor, rather than a line, could help California and New York build up and adjust down from a higher platform. Poorer states could choose lower levels in the corridor, say $12 to $13 an hour.

    "Policymakers also should consider how changes to the earned income tax credit and child tax credit can complement wages for working-class families. Members of both parties support higher subsidies to raise children. Such payments should be targeted to help the poorest the most. Yet the current child tax credit provides the most money to higher-income families."

    Click here to read the op-ed.

    Feb. 17, 2021

    Analysis: Ways To Raise the U.S. Minimum Wage To Help Workers, Families, While Minimizing Negative Impacts

    Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity

    A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis reinforces the case that raising the national minimum wage is long overdue. But it also provides reasons for caution.  Dialing up wages at the bottom up too fast and too much could increase the magnitude of negative side effects including job loss and price increases.

    This paper examines potential impacts of raising the federal minimum wage nationally and in selected states and local areas. It ends with suggestions to temper negative side effects resulting from a higher minimum wage and discusses the need to fill income gaps that are too large for a higher minimum wage to address adequately, especially for some types of families.  Options include setting a national corridor in which states can choose a minimum wage best fitted to them and supplementing low wages with more support for raising children.        

    Click here to read the paper.

    Thanks to the Washington Examiner for running this op-ed and its openness to air a variety of views including our work exploring inequality and advocating for the bottom 50%.  The Examiner's audience includes conservative members of Congress whose votes are needed to pass and sustain  legislation advancing  working class interests.

    Biden's stimulus risks sending aid to those who don't need it - Karl Polzer/Washington Examiner op-ed

    Who exactly will get the enhanced cash aid, and who won't, in the stimulus package the Biden administration will soon negotiate with Congress? This is the first of many distributional challenges awaiting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Choices on targeting increasingly scarce public funds will reveal which income groups both parties are committed to represent.

    Details of the relief proposal had not been released as of this writing. But it is likely that the administration has been working from the distribution template in legislation Democrats introduced at the end of December. That bill, the Cash Act of 2020, would increase the $600 COVID-19 cash relief authorized last month to a total of $2,000 ($4,000 for couples). It also would send billions of dollars to well-off people that don’t need the money. As with previous COVID-19 cash aid legislation, an argument can be made that the distribution scheme shortchanges millions of people who need money to pay for food and rent.

    Click here to read full article

    The Center on Capital & Social Equity explores and promotes ways to include all workers and families in the output of capitalist economies. (See chart above.)  All should have the opportunity to own shares of working capital.  One way to mitigate the negative effects of monopolies, which antitrust regulation cannot entirely control, is through widespread profit sharing.  This can be done by setting up a universal retirement savings system.

    Economy of India - Wikipedia

    Missionary being eaten by a jaguar  (Noé León, 1907)

    Making Sure We Get to Universal Coverage: a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders

    Feb. 23, 2020 

    Dear Sen. Sanders,

    Among all candidates for president, we think you are the most committed to making sure that ALL Americans have health insurance and access to comprehensive health care.  We commend you for your leadership on this issue.

    Unfortunately, it is hard to see how the Medicare-for-all legislation you propose could gain Congressional approval in the foreseeable political future.  As a longtime member of the U.S. Senate, you must be able to understand the grounds for this concern.

    Please answer this question:  If, during your presidency, Congress could agree to pass a universal coverage bill using a different, perhaps more traditional, approach, would you sign it?

    Getting ALL Americans affordable coverage as soon as possible is an important part of our policy agenda.  We cannot wait until a political moment in the unforeseeable future in which a Medicare-for-all system can gain approval.  We also recognize that any universal system put in place will need to enjoy long-lasting acceptance spanning the ebbs and flows of partisan politics.

    Our question is of deepest sincerity.  Your answer could be key to broadening your base of support and winning the presidency.

    Thank you again for your leadership. 

    Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity

    Interesting evidence on how CARE Act stimulus helped low-income people get through the summer, despite large job losses, and why we need more stimulus now.

    Thanks to the Washington Post for publishing this as leaders in Congress negotiated changes to Covid-19 relief legislation:

    Low-income Americans are left out of covid stimulus - Center on Capital & Social Equity

    Dec. 11, 2020 at 4:31 p.m. EST

    Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in their Dec. 8 op-ed, “We can’t afford inaction on the covid-19 compromise package,” that their compromise “would help Americans at least get through the next four months.” With due respect to their bipartisan efforts, that was dead wrong. 

    Very little in the coronavirus relief package would help low-income Americans make it through even one month. What’s needed most is rent relief and money to cover food and utility bills. Yet no direct payments to low-income individuals similar to the checks issued under the Cares Act in the spring are to be found. The bipartisan proposal mainly would benefit interests with access to Congress: businesses (via cheap or free money, plus a liability shield), nonprofits/associations/churches, state governments, and professional classes including doctors, lawyers and accountants.  

    The D.C. government’s decision to send $1,200 checks to people among the hardest hit sets a good example for states and the federal government. Congressional leaders, many perched in the nation’s wealthiest strata, need to understand that about half of the U.S. workforce earns low wages or is out of a job. Viewed from the bottom up, the United States is becoming a much more impoverished nation.   

    Karl Polzer, Falls Church

    The writer is founder of the Center on Capital & Social Equity.

    Center on Capital & Social Equity

    Policy Goals: Increase economic inclusion at reasonable public cost 

    • Raise minimum wage with annual COLA (option: give states some leeway to adjust ↓ to reflect cost of living/labor).
    • Five PAID sick days annually for ALL workers.
    • 100% of Americans with health coverage by 2025 - with strong cost controls (any number of payers will work).
    • Universal retirement savings system with minimum $500 annual government contribution (so, all Americans own working capital, have stake in market economy).
    • No surprise medical bill >$500.
    • Cut cost of college/expand apprenticeship programs.
    • Improve Social Security benefits for bottom 50%. Achieve long-term solvency through higher taxes mostly on top 20%.
    • Increase refundable child tax credit.

    Life expectancy has not increased for the lowest-paid workers - National Academy of Sciences

    Race-neutral, progressive economic policies deliver $$ to minority communities

    "Although much of it may turn out to be pre-election packaging, legislation unveiled last week by Democrats to help racial minorities is a poorly conceived policy approach that fails to treat the nation’s low-wage workers fairly or equally.  Senate leadership is billing the Economic Justice Act as a “major new legislative proposal to make $350 billion in immediate and long-term investments in Black communities and other communities of color.”  However, policies that reward or punish citizens based on skin color not only rest of shaky legal and ethical ground.  If enacted, they may ignite a political backlash that will set minority communities back rather than helping them move forward."   

    Click here to read article.

    A Sea Change for Wages v. Capital?

    Addicted to Identity Politics, Progressives May Miss a Historic Chance To Connect with America’s Working Class

    Karl Polzer – Center on Capital & Social Equity

     New research affirms what has been known for centuries.  In the wake of a pandemic, a smaller, more risk-averse work force is often in position to demand higher wages.  After the Black Death ripped through Europe, for example, peasants, shop workers and craftsmen realized they had gained bargaining power.  Wages rose and the return on capital fell.

    Though the impact of the current pandemic probably will be much milder, millions in the American working class suddenly deemed to be “essential” may come to a similar realization.  People working with their hands in nursing homes, grocery stores, meat packing plants, or as home health aides, might ask whether they are getting a fair deal.  Why, they might ask, are we expected show up to work and risk contagion for wages that barely cover the rent, while millions in the professional, management, and bureaucratic classes can shelter at home and still pull down a good salary?  Why don’t we get paid sick days, health insurance, and other basic benefits like they do?  Why can’t we spend more time raising our kids to help them get ahead?

    In just two months, the Covid virus has upended the American workforce.  Incomes have crashed.   Unemployment has rocketed.   Whatever new normal emerges will be different and probably more unequal.  A larger portion of the workface – and the electorate -- may well be unemployed or working for low wages.  Jobs that can support a middle-class lifestyle may be harder to find. 

    This is the perfect time for elected officials to talk to all American workers about how to improve their lives. Unfortunately, many Democrat leaders are deeply rutted in rituals of race and gender politics.  The Democratic party may be blowing its chance to regain working class support -- once its bread and butter -- in two important ways.   First, its policy agenda largely reflects upper-middle class priorities.  Second, the party’s world view and messaging for many years has presumed that low-wage work is exclusive to blacks and Hispanics.  To many Democratic leaders, pale-skinned poor people seem to have no standing.  It’s almost as if they don’t exist...

    July 1, 2020

    Letter to U.S. Political Leaders and Media

    It’s past time the White House, Congress required - and funded - Covid testing in nursing homes

    What wasn’t said at last week’s Congressional hearings on Covid-19 should raise alarm.   Federal officials testified the CDC plans to issue “more targeted” testing "guidelines" for states and nursing homes.  More advice is not enough.  After five months and more  than 120,000 virus deaths, lack of federal and state action -- and adequate funding -- for testing in nursing homes is homicide by negligent policy...

    July 14, 2020

    CMS to deliver ‘point-of-care’ COVID-19 test kits to all nursing homes

    Yes!  Credit to CMS Administrator Verma and the Administration. We've been calling on the feds to deploy rapid, comprehensive testing for nursing home residents and staff for 4 months.  This is a major step toward reducing deaths from the pandemic.  Now, make sure to include long term care providers not directly regulated by CMS, such as assisted living facilities, in the testing program. About 1.5 million live in nursing homes and one million in assisted living.

    June 15, 2020

    Op-ed:Upgrade Medicaid, don't gut it

    Thanks to the Washington Examiner for running this article.

    "The current Medicaid regime is a mixture of bad and good. It often renders low quality nursing home care. But Medicaid does provide universal long-term care coverage, a rarity in American social policy. That’s a good thing. Medicaid needs to be upgraded – not gutted. Long-term care insurance and personal savings simply can’t fill the gap cutting Medicaid would leave." ...

    "Witness the Trump administration’s delegation of most of the responsibility for the COVID-19 nursing home policy to the states. It recommended, for example, that states make sure COVID-19 testing gets done in nursing homes rather than having CMS require it nationally. Washington’s failure to take the lead on testing can’t bode well for nursing home quality and mortality rates."

    Detroit Industry - Diego Rivera

    The World Inequality Lab Newsletter - July 2020

    Thomas Piketty - Why Capitalism Must Be Reformed | The Daily Social Distancing Show

    Capital Gains and U.K. Inequality - Arun Advani and Andy Summers

    Three policy recommendations include: "Capital gains tax rates need to be aligned more closely with marginal income tax rates, since large gaps lead to repackaging of income, reducing the redistributive effects of tax, creating horizontal inequity, and biasing measures of vertical inequality."

    The Missing Profits of Nations: How much each country loses or attracts because of tax competition - Thomas Torslov, Ludvig Wier and Gabriel Zucman

    June 2020

    Opposing Racism and Human Bondage in the United States

     Center on Capital & Social Equity

    Awakening Slaves - Michelangelo

    "Capital and Ideology": Notes and Figures - Thomas Piketty, 2020

    "In this talk, I present some of the figures & tables gathered in my book Capital and Ideology (2020) - an economic, social & political history of inequality regimes, from trifunctional and colonial societies to post-communist, post-colonial hyper-capitalist societies. As compared to Capital in the 21st Century  (2014): Capital and Ideology is less western-centered, more political and focuses on the fragilities and the transformation of inequality ideologies. A much better book (I believe!)"

    The Saving Glut of the Rich and the Rise in Household Debt - NBER

    Comment: Excellent new paper. Remember Macro 101: national savings = national investment?  This takes Keynes one step further. Instead of being invested, savings glut at top generates rents, increases systemic inequality, through increased lending to bottom 90%.  Who pays high credit card interest and transaction fees, and who profits, e.g.?

    Great Flower Moon - Richard Coleman

    Letter to the Washington Post, Other Media - April 3, 2020

    U.S. news media should make coronavirus coverage available to everyone


    The Washington Post and other newspapers have done yeoman work in covering the coronavirus outbreak. Getting reliable and thoughtful information to the public quickly plays a critical role in helping to coordinate responses and saves lives. Unfortunately, the normal practice of restricting access to paid subscribers slows down dissemination of critical information, particularly to lower-income people.

    Until this national emergency is over, the Post and other media should "ungate" all coverage related to the pandemic. That way people and organizations that subscribe can quickly get the word out about latest developments. This would be a great service to the public.

    Karl Polzer/Center on Capital & Social Equity

    March 3, 2020   -   Letter to the Washington Post 

    A wealth tax could be both fair and enforceable

     The Post’s March 3 article “Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want a wealth tax. Wealthy Swiss say their model could work for America” raises key issues of tax fairness and enforcement.

     Why would it be unfair to tax the super wealthy on total net assets when middle-class homeowners already are taxed on the value of homes largely financed through debt on which they pay interest to banks (whose profits flow disproportionately to the wealthiest)?   Existing American wealth taxes -- state and local property taxes -- now finance most K-12 education.  A national wealth tax could be used to make school funding more equitable and lessen the tax burden on the middle class.  We already tax the middle class on property it partially owns.  So why not tax the wealthiest on the value assets they own lock, stock and barrel?

     Incentives are key to enforcement.  A progressive wealth tax -- rising in increments from point A to point B -- could be enforced by applying the maximum rate to all households with wealth over a given threshold, and leaving it up to filers to document to the IRS that the lowest allowable rate is appropriate.  Finally, a reasonable tax rate could provide an incentive for investment that spurs economic growth.  A high rate could stifle it.

    Karl Polzer/Center on Capital & Social Equity

    A full time worker paid the federal minimum wage earns 13% of the average national income per worker in the US -- the lowest level since the creation of the minimum wage in 1938.

       Source: Gabriel Zucman.

    "Fastest way to cut carbon emissions is a 'fee' and dividend, top leaders say," Washington Post, 2/14/20

    The article above is an example of how the virtue of economic analysis can't be measured by the pound or aggregate number of titles. The insight of a single analyst can contain more wisdom than collective opinion of 100.

    -------

    How to make carbon taxes more equitable - letter to the Washington Post

    Jan. 28, 2020 at 5:40 p.m. EST

    The Jan. 25 news article “At Davos, enthusiasm for trees but not a carbon tax” did not mention an important reason political leaders might balk at levying higher carbon taxes. Carbon taxes, including those on gasoline, are highly regressive, affecting lower-income people much more than higher-income. For example, if gas taxes were doubled in the Washington area, most well-paid professionals would have enough capital (or access to credit) to easily switch to a hybrid vehicle. Over the life of the vehicle, their savings in fuel and taxes would probably cancel out any initial expense. In contrast, for lack of capital, a person driving a used gas guzzler to two low-paying jobs would be stuck driving the gas guzzler along with higher fuel costs.

    Hiking fuel taxes would make it even harder for the growing share of the U.S. population working low-paying jobs to make ends meet and raise families. Carbon taxes would be more equitable and politically feasible if governments also made sure that workers struggling to pay their bills could afford the switch to clean-energy technology. 

    Karl Polzer, Falls Church

    The writer is founder of the Center on Capital & Social Equity.

    Response to WaPo  dialogue stemming from our letter on carbon taxes

    Dear Washington Post Editors:

    Sabrina S. Fu made excellent points in her Feb. 4 letter “Quit saying ‘carbon tax.’ It’s a fee and dividend” addressing concerns I raised in a letter last week.  Her proposal, however, would work best an ideal political world where one can control opponents' and skeptics' language used to frame an issue.   My concern over tax fairness would remain because in the legislative bargaining process -- including a last-minute deal in conference committee -- the redistribution part of the proposal could easily be watered down, or eliminated, while the regressive "tax" or "fee" would become law.

    Why don’t we start by applying her proposal to the current gasoline tax?  If it survives the legislative process and works for current energy taxes, then move on to carbon writ large.  Bottom line: advocates for low- and middle-income people trying to survive today need to keep a sharp eye on idealistic proposals coming from the better-situated trying to save the planet in the next century.

     Karl Polzer

    Center on Capital & Social Equity

     

    Aug. 7, 2019

    By letting banks charge excessive credit card fees, US raises prices for all, shifts billions of $$$ to the wealthier

    Karl Polzer

    There are many mechanisms through which the financial establishment systematically drains money from workers struggling to pay their bills.  Some hum along in plain sight while regulators and members of Congress barely take notice.  Such is the case with the $80 billion in fees that banks will extract from credit and debit card transactions this year.  

    While other countries have lowered credit card transaction costs, either through non-bank market innovation (in China) or regulation (in the European Union, Australia, and other nations), U.S. policymakers empower banks and credit card networks to levy what amounts to a doubly regressive national sales tax...

    (Also see the note on excessive credit card interest rates beginning on p. 6.)

    A winner for the poor? Soda machine offers lower price for cash in Poulsbo, WA

    Photo by Tom Hahler

    Letter to Washington Post - Nov. 17, 2019

    The Post’s call for vigorous debate on capitalism raises issue of its role as honest broker

    Today’s lead editorial (“Capitalism itself is on the 2020 ballot: Every billionaire is not a policy failure, but each can afford to pay more”) begins by defending core values of capitalism. It then endorses higher taxes on the super wealthy to temper growing inequality.  On the critical issue of how much more wealthy people should pay toward government operation and programs, the editorial is silent.  It ends with a call for vigorous and informed debate over these critical issues during the 2020 election.

    Along the way, by carefully acknowledging that its current owner, Jeff Bezos, bought the Post from the “civic minded” Graham family six years ago, the editors raise another important issue.  That is whether one of the world’s most influential sources of news and public opinion can maintain both neutrality and vigor in the debate over capitalism if owned by one of the world’s richest people.  As the debate deepens, this potential conflict of interest may become more awkward and harder to explain. 

    Karl Polzer, Founder, Center on Capital & Social Equity

    Saez/Zucman's "The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How To Make Them Pay"

    Branko Milanovic's "Capitalism, Alone"

    Map of golf clubs in and around San Francisco

    Ways To Replace the "Cadillac" High-Cost Health Plan Tax

    click below

    Warning: Read the article above at your own risk. Author declaims any responsibility for variation in sense of humor. Note that some links in this article are intended to provide useful information, others irony.


    NRA HQ in the Northern Virginia suburbs.

    States strike back in federal court on AHPs

    CCSE asked to co-sign amicus brief opposing U.S. Labor Dept.'s AHP rule, which increases risk of stripped-down benefits (e.g. no mental health coverage), healthplan insolvency, and consumers being defrauded.

    Effects of Raising the Federal Minimum Wage

    Congressional Budget Office - July 2019

    Findings: "In an average week in 2025, the $15 option would boost the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour. Another 10 million workers otherwise earning slightly more than $15 per hour might see their wages rise as well. But 1.3 million other workers would become jobless, according to CBO’s median estimate. There is a two-thirds chance that the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers. The number of people with annual income below the poverty threshold in 2025 would fall by 1.3 million." … Similar, but smaller effects for minimum wage of $12 … Ditto for $10 minimum wage.

    MIT Living Wage Calculator Provides Powerful Tool for State and Local Policymakers

    Many U.S. households earning less than a living wage: MIT analysis

    "Across all family sizes, the living wage exceeds the poverty threshold, often used to identify need. State minimum wages provide for only a portion of the living wage. For two adult, two children families, the minimum wage covers 73.0% of the living wage at best in the District of Columbia and 41.8% at worst in Virginia. This means that families earning between the poverty threshold ($25,298 for two working adults, two children on average in 2018) and the living wage $67,146) on average for two working adults, two children per year before taxes), may fall short of the income and assistance they require to meet their basic needs."

    Example: Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the U.S., but income varies widely by region. This has made it difficult for the legislature to set a uniform minimum wage.

    Possible option: Set a statewide minimum wage at $15/hour (or other level) and let local governments reduce it up to a fixed percentage (say 30%) to account for regional differences. It's important to index any minimum to inflation.

    Joseph Stiglitz discusses his new book and "progressive capitalism" plan to rebuild America’s middle class on SalonTV.

    If crimes against children can’t be stopped from within, the Vatican & its subsidiaries need purging from the outside: Letter to Washington Post

    Every Catholic and every U.S. citizen should carefully read The Post’s Feb. 20 front-page article “ ‘The tragedy that keeps playing out.’ ” It is the latest in an endless stream of detailed evidence that the church power structure is incapable of changing from within to protect children in its care from sexual abuse. Senior church officials should be charged with criminal negligence for failing to remove predators they employ from positions from which they could injure children. Billions of dollars should be removed from the Vatican and its subsidiaries through the courts and distributed to victims. Still, would they change their ways?

    Until this systemic problem is forcibly corrected, every church, school and other Catholic facility whose employees come into contact with children should undergo thorough inspection every year on the presumption that abuse may be occurring. If this cannot be corrected from within, then the Catholic Church should be broken up and reorganized. The same should happen with any church operating this way. Jesus commands that those in power do not harm those in their care, particularly children.

    America: Build This Wall! :)

     The stand off over building a border wall sadly embodies the narrow-mindedness of America’s leaders and disrespects the creative potential of American capitalism.  It’s an undeniable fact that Donald, Chuck and Nancy are thinking way too small to discern the proper dimensions of a win-win agreement that could profit the United States for centuries...

    Distribution of Household Income before/after Transfers and Taxes: CBO

    Summary of slides released November 2018

    In 2015, household income was unevenly distributed: Households at the top of the income distribution received significantly more income than households at the bottom of the distribution.

    Before accounting for the effects of means-tested transfers and federal taxes:

    • Average income among households in the lowest quintile (or fifth) of the income distribution was about $20,000.
    • Average income among households in the highest quintile was about $292,000.
    • Within the highest quintile, income was highly skewed toward the very top of the distribution: Among households in the bottom half of the highest quintile (the 81st to 90th percentiles), average income was $157,000; among the 1.2 million households in the top 1 percent of the distribution, it was $1.9 million.

    The combined effect of means-tested transfers and federal taxes in 2015 was, on average, to increase income at the bottom of the income distribution and decrease income at the top of the distribution.

    After accounting for the effects of means-tested transfers and federal taxes:

    • Average income among households in the lowest quintile of the income distribution was about $33,000.
    • Average income among households in the highest quintile was about $215,000.
    • Among households in the bottom half of the highest quintile, average income was $125,000; among households in the top 1 percent, it was $1.2 million.

    Below: Taxes, transfers resulted in significantly more income growth from 1979-2015 for the bottom income group than the middle three, while the top income group was held harmless.

    Would Adam Smith favor policies creating a more inclusive economy?

    Karl Polzer Center on Capital & Social Equity

    In a recent op-ed, I suggested that Congress establish a universal retirement savings system, possibly funded by a tiny tax on financial market transactions. In another, that growing income and wealth inequality has shrunk Social Security’s revenue and that taxing capital gains and high earnings could help the program stay solvent without cutting benefits.  What would Adam Smith, the father of modern economic analysis, think of taxing financial transactions and capital gains?  The notion of including all workers in saving and ownership of working capital?  Helping correct the tendency of modern capitalism to concentrate wealth?  Although conservative economists often cite Smith as a siren of an unfettered market, he might give these proposals serious consideration.  Times have changed.  Yet his manner of reasoning remains vital in addressing issues we face today.

    Growing inequality has shrunk Social Security’s tax base. Revitalizing it could restore solvency without cutting benefits.

    As the graying and outsized baby boom generation claims Social Security benefits, Americans increasingly doubt whether the program can pay all that it has promised – or even continue to cut checks at all.  In their annual report released June 5, Social Security’s Trustees warn that, unless Congress acts to restore the program’s long-term solvency, by 2034 it will only have sufficient funds to pay 77 cents of each dollar currently promised. By then, the Social Security trust fund will be empty and the program will lack legal authority to pay out more than it can bring in through earmarked taxes. An adjustment this size in 2018 would drop the average annual  Social Security payment of $16,848 to $12,973. Most older Americans depend on Social Security for all or most of their income. 

    The longer Congress plays chicken on this issue, the greater the risk that changes such as tax increases or benefit cuts, or a combination, will have major economic impacts on retirees and workers. The trustees’ report emphasizes the growing ratio of retirees receiving benefits to workers contributing payroll taxes as a major force impinging on the program’s solvency. Underlying factors include the size of the baby boom generation and a lower birth rate.  But other forces are at work.  Growing wealth and income inequality have significantly eroded Social Security’s tax base.    

    First, wealth inequality: As Americans at the top of the economic spectrum continue to amass equities, bonds, and other assets, the portion of national income from capital investment has increased significantly, pushing down the portion earned through labor.  In the United States, labor’s share of earnings fell about eight percentage points between 1995 and 2013 (compared to a bit over three percentage points in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries).  Since Social Security relies primarily on a tax on labor for its sustenance, the relative growth of capital income gradually is choking off a source of revenue.  

    Second, income inequality: As part of its structure to promote fairness between economic classes, Social Security replaces relatively more lifetime income for lower-wage workers than those with higher wages – but also caps wages subject to its payroll tax, in part to increase the net value of Social Security in the eyes of higher earners.  The wage cap for 2018 is $128,400.  Over the past several decades, wages of lower-income Americans have stagnated, while those at the top have grown significantly.  As a result, the trustees note that portion of wage income taxed by Social Security has dropped by about six percentage points (see p. 144). In agency jargon, the “taxable ratio” of payroll fell from 88.6 percent in 1984 to 82.6 percent in 2000, and has fluctuated near the latter level since then. Social Security Administration (SSA) actuaries assume the ratio will remain about 82.5 percent over the next decade.  In summary, unless the tax cap on earnings keeps up with the growing prosperity of those at the top, Social Security’s tax base shrinks as a portion of national income.

    America's Inequality and What To Do about It

    The Poor Will Always Be with Us. Will the Middle Class?

    Why the Wealth Gap Hits Families the Hardest - NYT

    "The top 1 percent saw their wealth increase by 156 percent (from 1989 to 2013), while parents in the bottom half saw their wealth shrink by 260 percent. About a third of all families with children in 2013 had no wealth, only debt."

    "Rising Inequality and the Changing Structure of Political Conflict" - Piketty lecture at the Kennedy School

    Extreme Income Inequality: Brazil, India, the Middle-East and South Africa

    This paper presents findings about inequality dynamics in Brazil, India, the Middle-East and South Africa by combining tax data, household surveys and national accounts.

    In all of these four regions, top 10% earners receive more than 50% of national income. These societies are characterized by a dual social structure, with an extremely rich group at the top whose income levels are broadly comparable to their counterparts in high-income countries, and a much poorer mass of the population. The authors highlight the importance of the historical legacy of social segregation and of modern institutions in shaping income disparities.

    Which Way Is Your Country Headed?

    Analysis including Housing Assets Finds Piketty May Have Underestimated Wealth Gap

    The Rate of Return on Everything - CEPR

    "One of the most intensely debated economic questions in recent years is the relationship between real returns on wealth, and the real rate of growth. In his influential book, Piketty (2014) argued that if the return to capital exceeded the rate of economic growth, rentiers would accumulate wealth at a faster rate than incomes grow. Comparing returns to growth, or “r minus g'' in Piketty's vernacular, we uncover that in fact “r >> g” for more countries, more years, and more dramatically than Piketty himself reported."

    These two figures show that the only exceptions to “r>>g” happen in very special periods: the years in or right around wartime. In the pre-WW2 period, r minus g was on average 5% per annum (excluding WW1). As of today, this gap is still quite large – in the range of 3%–4% – and it narrowed to 2% during the 1970s oil crises, before widening in the years leading up to the Global Crisis.

     

    "We show that income inequality has increased in nearly all world regions in recent decades, but at different speeds. The fact that inequality levels are so different among countries, even when countries share similar levels of development, highlights the important roles that national policies and institutions play in shaping inequality."

    How Humans Extract Rent from Nature's Gifts

    "As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. The wood of the forest, the grass of the field, and all the natural fruits of the earth, which, when land was in common, cost the labourer only the trouble of gathering them, come, even to him, to have an additional price fixed upon them. He must then pay for the licence to gather them, and must give up to the landlord a portion of what his labour either collects or produces. This portion, or, what comes to the same thing, the price of this portion, constitutes the rent of land, and in the price of the greater part of commodities, makes a third.” 


    ― Adam SmithWealth of Nations

    This chart shows that collective income accruing to India's “middle 40” rose to just over 45 percent by the early 1980s, while that of the top 10 percent declined from about 37 percent in 1951 to 30 percent. After 1990 the two trends reverse. The top 10 percent garnered more than 55 percent of all income in 2014, almost double its share in the early 1980s, while the middle 40 percent’s share fell to just over 30 percent.

    U.S. Tax Policy Should Boost Retirement Savings for All Workers, Not Just the Wealthiest

    Center on Capital & Social Equity - October 2017

    Current tax breaks for retirement savings mainly subsidize the top half of the income distribution, leaving almost half the workforce out of the system. Part of the federal tax subsidy for 401(k)s should be rechanneled into a retirement savers tax credit that all workers get ($500 to $1,000 a year).

    In 2017 employees can put up to $18,000 in tax-deferred defined contribution plans (e.g., 401(k)s) and those 50 or older can put aside an additional $6,000. Total employee and employer contributions are limited to $54,000. The Tax Policy Center estimates that in 2016 the tax savings from all tax-qualified pension and defined contribution accounts averaged about $1,040 per taxpayer. (No kidding: 1040.) These tax savings, however, were extremely tilted toward the well-off. Only 4.4 percent of workers in the lowest fifth of the income distribution received any tax benefit and their average tax savings in 2016 was $20. In contrast, 82 percent of the highest-paid quintile received a tax benefits with an average benefit of $4,750. About 48 percent of the middle fifth received a tax benefit with an average savings of $580.

    The result of this tax policy? About half the American population has put aside virtually nothing for retirement, while many wealthy people are being paid to save money they would have saved anyway. It’s clear that retirement savings tax breaks could be better targeted.  For more information see:

    Atlas freed?

    "Worry not at all about inequality if it is achieved by smart betterment....But do worry about inequality if it is achieved by using the government to get protection for favored groups.  It is what a large government, worth capturing to get the protection, is mainly used for, to the detriment of most of the people off-stage."

    Are Workers Receiving the EITC Being Shortchanged on Social Security?

    updated October 2017

    ..."Under the current system, a person whose highest earnings averaged $15,000 a year over 35 years would end up with about $10,542 in annual Social Security benefits – the same as a worker averaging $15,000 wages plus various amounts of EITC.  A worker averaging $20,000 in wages would end up with $1,600 (15%) more in annual Social Security benefits compared with another with the same total income but instead averaging $15,000 wages and taking home $5,000 in EITC.  Similarly, someone averaging $25,000 in wages would end up with $3,200 (30%) more in Social Security benefits than a counterpart averaging $15,000 and receiving $10,000 in EITC."

    Green lines: current law    Purple: proposed increases 

    D's Push for Major EITC Expansion

    September 2017

    Two members of Congress are teaming up to bring much-needed relief to low-wage workers and their families through an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

    Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the  Grow American Incomes Now (GAIN) Act in both the House and Senate. Currently, a family of three can receive a maximum EITC of $6,318, while workers without dependent children can receive at most a $510 credit.  The legislation would roughly double the EITC for eligible workers raising children and increase the credit for workers without dependent children nearly six fold. The bill also lowers the qualifying age for the EITC from 25 to 21.

    CCSE comment:

    Expanding the EITC is a good idea. However, as the share of workers' income provided by government subsidies rises, the case becomes stronger for the federal government to begin making corresponding payments to Social Security.  Also, a way to simplify tax policy might be to coordinate the EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC) in the following way: the EITC could be based solely on income, not family structure. The refundable component of the Child Tax Credit could be expanded to provide additional income for low- and middle-income families.

    September 2017 - Karl Polzer

    Expanding Use, Scope of the EITC & Child Tax Credit: a Win-Win for Workers and Employers

    This paper makes the case that helping employees access the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – along with supporting bipartisan legislation to expand these programs – can help industries with large numbers of low-to-middle wage workers. In the long-term care field, such a strategy can improve worker income through government wage supplements, thus encouraging more to enter the workforce. Increased labor supply would dampen employer wage costs – all while expanding the range of affordable services providers can offer. This could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of added value in worker earnings as well as provider and customer savings.

    From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016

    "...(T)op  income  shares  are  now  similar to (or  higher than) the levels observed in the U.S.  ... inequality  has  increased substantially more in Russia than in China and other ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe. ...the wealth held offshore by rich Russians is about three times larger than official net foreign reserves, and is comparable in magnitude to total household financial assets held in Russia."


    High earnings of labour are an advantage to the society - Adam Smith

    “Is this improvement in the circumstances of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency to the society? The answer seems at first sight abundantly plain.  Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds make up the far greater part of every great political society.  But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole.  No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.  It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.”

    -- The Wealth of Nations (originally published in 1776)

    A Life Lived in Truth

    For the last eight years of Liu Xiaobo’s life, the Chinese authorities robbed him of his liberty and his dignity. But in the state-enforced silence surrounding Liu’s stage-managed death, the words of his Nobel Prize lecture ring out even louder: “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth.”

    Warren Buffett: Government Should Do More on Income Inequality - short video

    "Natural forces of a market economy and capitalism will drive that disparity unless government does things to help." Buffett says EITC should be expanded so workers can have decent lives. (See CCSE article on this site about relationship of EITC and Social Security.)

    Capital Accumulation, Private Property and Rising Inequality in China, 1978- 2015

    Thomas Piketty, Li Yang, Gabriel Zucman

    Researchers find that the share of public property in China'snational wealth has declined from about 70% in 1978 to 30% in 2015...

    "The top 10% income share rose from 27% to 41% of national income between 1978 and 2015, while the bottom 50% share dropped from 27% to 15%. China’s inequality levels used to be close to Nordic countries' and are now approaching U.S. levels."

    Robin Hood Tax Reform - May 2017

    How Modest Changes in Health, Retirement Tax Breaks Could Produce Major Gains in US Health Access, Financial Security – at Little or No Added Government Cost

    ..."The positive impacts of two such changes discussed below could include 1) lowering the rate of health care cost inflation; 2) providing revenue to help subsidize health insurance for the unemployed; 3) creating seed money and a low-cost infrastructure for a universal retirement savings system; and 4) increasing retirement security for low- and middle-income people; and 5) helping people save for long-term care costs. Looking at benefit tax exclusion is already on the table as Congress faces the unsavory chore of developing a fix for the Affordable Care Act’s clumsily designed “Cadillac” health plan excise tax. Most importantly, these changes could result in greater economic fairness and inclusion."

    Eyes on the Prize: Universal Health Insurance Is the Goal

    Letter to the Washington Post:

    Charles Krauthammer’s March 31 op-ed, “The road to single-payer health care,” was largely on point. However, it is important to separate the concepts of “single-payer,” which is a means toward a goal, and “universal coverage,” which should be the primary goal. Universal coverage can be achieved without having the government cover every citizen. Even if government programs cover most citizens, there will always be multiple payers, including individuals and taxpayers; a universal system also could allow employer plans to operate. Ironically, creating a larger government role in sponsoring and subsidizing health insurance could result in a more competitive market for providing services.   Karl Polzer - April 2, 2017

    Reformed Tax Incentives Among Tools Needed To Boost Retirement Saving

    David Kamin of NYU law school presents proposed changes at the Aspen Institute.

    Obama Signs Bipartisan Bill To Speed Miracle Cures to Market.  Who Will Have Access to the New Technology?  Who Won’t?

    In a city that’s witnessed trench warfare between Congress and the White House during the last six years of the Obama Administration, this was a rare moment: a bipartisan love fest.  On Dec. 13, 2016, President Obama signed the "21st Century Cures Act," which includes expanded funding to push medical technology through the development pipeline. “We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health-care challenges of our time,” Obama said. “It is wonderful to see how well Democrats and Republicans in the closing day of this Congress came together around a common cause.”

    The legislation was backed by a coalition of interests, including the powerful pharmaceutical industry, academia, and consumer groups supporting speedier medical research.  Its few critics have mainly argued that the popular funding provisions “mask a worrisome loosening of regulations at the Food and Drug Administration that could put patients at risk.”

    Hardly anyone, however, is asking the million-dollar question:  Which Americans will end up having access to new miracle cures, many of which promise to be extremely expensive?  And, who will not?  The country’s patchwork of health insurance already is rationing expensive new technology to some populations, particularly low-income people.  Congress, meanwhile, has begun a fractious debate over repealing, and possibly replacing, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  So, while lawmakers have just put their collective foot on the technology gas pedal, they may soon slam the brakes on funding for expanded coverage, potentially throwing millions of Americans into the ranks of the uninsured...              

    Traditions of Democracy

        "The tradition of Jefferson and Jackson might recede, but it could never disappear.  It was bound to endure in America so long as liberal capitalistic society endured, for it was the creation of the internal necessities of such a society.  American democracy has come to accept the struggle among competing groups for the control of the state as a positive virtue -- indeed, as the only foundation for liberty.  The business community has been ordinarily the most powerful of these groups, and liberalism in America has been ordinarily the movement on the part of other sections of society to restrain the power of the business community.  This was the tradition of Jefferson and Jackson, and it has been the basic meaning of American liberalism."  

    Excerpt from Chapter 37, "The Age of Jackson," Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

    June 30, 2016

    Reflections on American Wealth Concentration – and What To Do About It

    Just over one year ago, the Center on Capital & Social Equity (CCSE) began exploring the phenomenon of growing wealth concentration and inequality, while advocating for a more inclusive form of capitalism. Following are some general observations.

    Over the past year, the issue of economic inequality in the United States has moved from the backburner to center stage. Much credit for this goes to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ attack on the “top one percent” in his run for the Democratic nomination. While there is ample reason to question many details of his proposals, Sanders’ call for an increased role for government in providing opportunity and essential services resonated with many Americans who feel they have been left out of the economic mainstream. Yet the problems posed by rising economic inequality are deeply rooted and go well beyond the disproportional gains of the top one percent. They will be harder to address than portrayed in election rhetoric and require judicious use of public resources.

    Three observations can be made about economic inequality in the United States. First, income and wealth inequality have grown steadily since the 1980s, suggesting that some of the causes are structural in nature. Second, high levels of inequality increase the risk of political and economic instability. Finally, moving toward an economy that is less unequal and offers opportunity to more Americans will require major changes in public policy and shifts in spending.

    Life Expectancy Gap is Large - and Expanding

    The gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and poorest 1% was 14.6 years for men and 10.1 years for women.  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also found that inequality in Americans' life expectancy is growing over time.

    How the U.S. Retirement Savings System Magnifies Wealth Inequality

    Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity 

    Economic inequality and wealth concentration have have emerged as central issues in the U.S. presidential race. While these concerns appear to have risen to the forefront quite suddenly, forces driving wealth concentration have been building for decades. As analysts probe the dynamics beneath these trends, they may find that America's shift to a defined contribution retirement system is playing an increasing role in the concentration of wealth... 

    So, What Does Jesus Say about Wealth Concentration and Inequality?

    Karl Polzer 

    In recent years, the tendency for wealth to concentrate in the hands of a powerful few has come under scrutiny, prompting concern about growing inequality from political and religious leaders, most notably Pope Francis. While excessive wealth concentration is likely lead to greater social ills and unrest, how to rein in growing inequality is a more difficult question.  Should we move away from capitalism and the market system?  Develop a more socialist model?  Reform capitalism from inside to benefit people more equitably? ... 


    Virginia's push to end veteran homelessness faces steep challenges

    On Nov. 11, 2015, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the state was the first to "functionally" end homelessness among veterans of the U.S. armed forces.  To assist two veterans living on the street not aware of the program, the Center on Capital & Social Equity contacted the governor's office, asking how veterans can gain access to housing and other services under the collaboration involving state, federal, and local government agencies.

    The Virginia Department of Veterans Services provided information (click on the button below), including contact points at the local and state levels where veterans and their advocates can begin the process of finding temporary or permanent housing.

    To follow up, we contacted three Northern Virginia jurisdictions and found an array of barriers to functionally ending veteran homelessness.  These problems include lack of  knowledge on the part of local officials of the state's initiative; lack of affordable and subsidized housing resources; high housing prices; lack of shelter space (for example, Fairfax County has 1 million residents but only three homeless shelters that can't meet wintertime demand); unwillingness by many street people to seek help (for a variety of reasons); coordination issues between state and local, local and local, and federal and state and local agencies; bottlenecks like having to go through shelters to gain access to housing, when shelter space is limited; and many other factors.

    While helping one of the veterans gain access to temporary shelter and services, we reported these issues back to the state officials who said they will take steps to increase awareness of the governor's initiative, including posting information about the program on a state website.  For more detail, see our correspondence with state and local officials, which can be accessed by clicking the second button below.

    Let’s sell health insurance “across states lines” – through Medicare

    Republicans, stop with being the party of “no.” It’s time to step up to the plate and seize the initiative on health policy...

    Playing Immigration Piñata

    Deception and hypocrisy are no strangers to politics. This seems particularly true in recent incantations about illegal immigration. Republican presidential candidates – other than Jeb Bush – mostly want to round up illegals and dump them into Mexico. Donald Trump wants to spend billions to build a massive wall in the wrong place...

    How Can U.S. Policy Reduce Financial Risk for the Very Old?

    CCSE explores ways to reduce retirement risk and pay for long term care in Society of Actuaries monograph.

    Finding:  401(k)rule changes including new "sub-accounts" could help seniors better save for needs in very old age.

    Retirement Strategy:  When Should I Start Receiving Social Security Checks?

    Americans can begin taking Social Security between ages 62 and 70. Waiting to take Social Security can increase the amount on your check significantly.  Collecting Social Security benefits early has the opposite effect. 

    When to start depends on many factors including your life situation,  needs and plans.  Most Americans begin taking Social Security early.

    The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers this planning tool and other information to help people work through this decision.   

    Baltimore 2015

    A Dream Deferred

    by Langston Hughes

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore--
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over--
    like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?

    Still I Rise

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may tread me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I'll rise.

    Does my sassiness upset you?
    Why are you beset with gloom?
    'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
    Pumping in my living room.

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I'll rise.

    Did you want to see me broken?
    Bowed head and lowered eyes?
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
    Weakened by my soulful cries.

    Does my haughtiness offend you?
    Don't you take it awful hard
    'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
    Diggin' in my own back yard.

    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I'll rise.

    Does my sexiness upset you?
    Does it come as a surprise
    That I dance like I've got diamonds
    At the meeting of my thighs?

    Out of the huts of history's shame
    I rise
    Up from a past that's rooted in pain
    I rise
    I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.

    Maya Angelou

    Easter Essay: Is the Golden Rule Enough? Mathematics of the Two Great Commandments

    Whether people see themselves as Christians, followers of other faiths, or atheists, all are pulled by the power of many gods: the god of money, the god of technology, the nymph of new electronic gadgets, satyrs of TV and the worldwide net, and so on. In adoration of possessions, money, and power, atheists and believers are equal -- even deeply religious in the way that Paul sarcastically described the polytheistic statuary of Athens as evidence of its faith. Some of today’s humanists and atheists are more Christian in spirit and behavior than nominal Christians. And, unlike some Christians, many have thought through their views on religion and feel they need to have moral justification they can explain. The conventional morality of good people often is a humanism expressed by the Golden Rule.

    Jesus taught the Golden Rule two thousand years ago, as one of two great principles. But to Jesus the Golden Rule, while essential, is incomplete without a first principle. Jesus preached the Golden Rule in the Sermon on the Mount. "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Mat 7:12 NKJV).) Here he is speaking to a large crowd that can't hear him that well and needs a simple guideline.

    Later, speaking to religious leaders, he aligns the Golden Rule with the first commandment. In Matthew 22:34-40, "hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ " To this audience, Jesus provides more context: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

    The interaction of the two great commandments shows why the second commandment is not sufficient and why God -- an overarching Spirit that connects individual people -- is necessary, even for a functional morality. For example, if we only love our neighbor as ourselves -- and we happen to be filled with hate and rage for ourselves -- then we won't treat our neighbors very well. The Golden Rule can remedy part of this problem by changing the focus from "loving" to "treating" neighbors as we would have them treat us -- thereby imposing our view of ideal behavior and not raw emotion as the standard. But that won't work for some people either, especially those who lack a model of ideal behavior. So, these folks still might act destructively to people around them.

    The idea of a single God, or life force, connecting all people creates a vertical pull toward a connecting spirit (the first commandment) to accompany the horizontal equity of the second commandment. Mathematically, the second commandment is nothing more than a simple equation: Love for me = Love for you. The first commandment is a command to maximize Love to the limit of capacity. Without the first commandment, the potential of a person's love would be limited by inherited and culturally absorbed defects and injuries. The two commandments can be seen as consistent with scientific theories of evolution. The first commandment reflects the biological imperative that no individual can carry on life on his or her own. Individuals must interact and communicate with others to continue the stream of life. The Golden Rule suggests that individuals have the freedom to choose the way they interact and communicate with others. Perhaps those with greater faith and sense of fairness are more likely to pass along their genes. --

    Karl Polzer, Easter 2017 

    "In God We Trust" was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956 as an alternative or replacement to the unofficial motto of E pluribus unum, which was adopted when the Great Seal of the United States was created and adopted in 1782. Secularists have expressed objections to its use and have sought to have the religious reference removed from the currency.  Wikipedia, 2015

     

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