Exploring economic inequality - Advocating for the bottom 50%

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News, Events & Opinions

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American College of Physicians calls US food insecurity a threat to public health - The Hill

“Nearly 2 out of 3 food assistance recipients have had to choose between paying for food versus paying for their medical bills or medications within the past year...”

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1 out of 3 people in D.C. region face food insecurity, survey finds - WaPost

2022 Hunger Report: Capital Area Food Bank

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A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Stakeholder Perspectives on Title IV SNAP Provisions - CBPP

"SNAP is an important support for workers who are paid low wages. Millions of people in the U.S. work in jobs with low wages, unpredictable schedules, and no benefits such as paid sick leave — all of which contribute to high turnover and spells of unemployment. SNAP provides monthly benefits that help fill gaps for workers with low and inconsistent pay and can help workers afford food during periods when they are looking for work."

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AEI Housing Market Indicators, June 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Purchase rate lock volume and home price appreciation (HPA) both continue to decelerate and confirm a strong trend reversal.

  • Rampant national home price appreciation (HPA) continues with May 2022 coming in at 17.0% (preliminary), up from 15.3% in May 2021.

  • Credit and debit card spending, aggregate demand, and inflation.

    • In weeks 19-22 of 2022, inflation-adjusted spending for income quintiles 4 & 5 respectively was up 14% & 15% (y-o-y) vs. 10% (y-o-y) for quintile 1, while the last 4 weeks continue to show signs of a gradual slowdown.

    • Lower income homeowners face increasing stress as inflation, especially for gasoline & food, eats into budgets since vehicle miles driven are holding up well despite record-high gasoline prices.

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Eric Adams, Be a YIMBY Hero - Bloomberg

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African Union Commission calls for investigation into Melilla tragedy - Atalayar

Melilla’s wall of death:  the denial of a shared future - Società per l’Informazione Religiosa

Algeria condemns massacre of migrants in Melilla by Morocco - Prensa Latina

June 24, 2022 Melilla massacre - Wiki

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'Stacks of bodies': 46 dead migrants found in truck in Texas - Reuters

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Parent with daughter on a park hill
A father’s letter to his kid: The 9 money and life lessons most people learn too late in life - CNBC

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Abortion Policy Map

How the Abortion Policy Battle is Taking Shape Across the US - Fiscal Note

"After Friday’s SCOTUS decision, abortion is now effectively illegal in five states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas, and it will soon be illegal in 11 more. In 24 states and the District of Columbia, abortion is still legal, but its fate is uncertain in 10 states."

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Sen. Mitch McConnell speaks about SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Mitch:  Fair enough re the 14th amendment and precedent...Now what's KY going to do as it appears that abortion  has becomeillegal in the state?

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness - Ken Burns

The two-part, four-hour film follows the journeys of more than 20 young Americans from all over the country and all walks of life, who have struggled with thoughts and feelings that have troubled—and, at times—overwhelmed them. 

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A baker from a neighboring village bringing bread to a resident in Aboud in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Israeli Army Blocks Main Entrance to West Bank Palestinian Village for Two Weeks - Haaretz

"Like most entrances to villages and towns in the West Bank, the IDF has installed an iron gate at the entrance to Aaboud, which can be blocked to Palestinian vehicles at any time, in keeping with a local or regional decision by the army. At the entrance to the village stand a military fortification which is continuously manned. Outside the military position a Hebrew banner reads: 'The mission – victory in every encounter with the enemy.. "

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Lutheran Church Denounces Killing of Abu Akleh, Calls for end of Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territories - Juan Cole

Dear American Judeo-Christians:  Why do you keep sending the pro-Semitic, racist government of Israel your money?  You should know by now:  racism that goes around comes around.

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Sunday, June 26, 2022

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Americans’ belief in God hits new low, poll finds. Who’s driving the change? - Miami Herald

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When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean? - PEW

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Senate retirement bill benefits wealthy Americans - The Hill

"But Clemente wrote that these improvements are 'marginal' and only 'modestly' help 'low- and middle-income people whose retirements are less secure.'

“'The retirement system is upside down. It rewards those who don’t need help and gives very little to those who do need help,' the Tax Policy Center’s Rosenthal said. 'But of course the retirement industry complex is very, very powerful.'” 

As things stand, the legislation is a major missed opportunity to create a retirement savings/investment system that includes ALL workers -- not just those at the top of the pecking order.  Scroll down for more on this issue.

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Charlie Munger warns Gen Z investors: It’s ‘way harder’ for recent college graduates ‘to get rich and stay rich’ - CNBC

True enough.  Wealth and power  continue accumulating at the top.  But, as LA Gov. Huey Long said when asked why he wanted to become a lawyer when there already  were too many: "There's always room at the top."

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Huey Long On Share Our Wealth

We do not propose to say that there shall be no rich men. We do not ask to divide the wealth. We only propose that, when one man gets more than he and his children and children's children can spend or use in their lifetimes, that then we shall say that such person has his share. That means that a few million dollars is the limit to what any one man can own."

— Huey Long, Share Our Wealth radio address, February 23, 1934

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UK’s Biggest Rail Strike in 30 Years – Tunisia General Strike – Migrant Worker Kicked Out of Singapore Over Facebook Post  - Payday Report

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How will courts determine the age of a fetus under state abortion laws?

Testimony of the mother?  Possible father/s?  Doctor?  More doctors?  Ultrasound?  Expert witnesses? 

Methods for Estimating the Due Date - ACOG

Childbirth Expert Witnesses - ForensisGroup

A sticky wicket that may find its way back to the Supremes? Consideration of privacy rights may get a reprieve in issues related to enforcement.

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May be an image of 2 people, people sitting and indoor

Midwife. Photo by Peter Turnley, Bukhara, Uzbek SSR, 1986

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Selective justice?

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North Dakotans are outraged as Bill Gates, the largest private farmland owner in the US, apparently buys a $13.5 million potato farm - Business Insider

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Los Angeles Property Investors Ready Fight Against Megamansion Tax Hike - LA Progressive

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Are Unions Making a Comeback? - NYT

"What the explosion of union members during the 1930s can tell us about today's revival."

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Proposed changes to retirement system get approval from Senate committee, setting stage for potential passage of ‘Secure 2.0’ this year - CNBC

Is it ironic that Congress can reach rare  near-unanimous bipartisan agreement on legislation likely to increase wealth inequality?  Or simply a reflection of the  segment of society both parties most represent?

Retirement financing bills passed in the House and Senate give people with the greatest income and savings more leeway to keep their dollars invested and growing.  They do a bit to facilitate retirement saving for the bottom 40-50%, but the impact is likely to be small.  Tax policy think tanks should estimate distributional impacts before the conference committee meets.

We think  Congress should re-direct some of the current tax subsidy for employee retirement saving from high- to low-income workers (or just come up with about $30-$50 billion/yr to help low-wage workers) and create a system so all are included, have a modest annual contribution, and can be in a plan with fiduciary duty. 

For more see:

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Germany Warns of Lehman-Like Contagion From Russian Gas Cuts - Financial Post

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200,000 student-loan borrowers are getting their debt wiped out through a settlement with Biden's Education Department - Business Insider

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How Susquehanna’s Jeff Yass Avoided $1 Billion in Taxes - ProPublica

"Experts say that the counterintuitive strategy of simultaneously betting for and against the market can yield tax benefits. Essentially, it can offer a relatively low-risk way to generate short-term losses and long-term gains.

"The short-term losses can be used to wipe away other short-term gains that would get taxed at almost 40%..."

BTW, this is one of many places Congress could find a few bucks to help low-wage workers save for retirement.

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Biden wants a gas tax holiday. Here's why Congress isn't on board - CNN

Federal Gas Tax Holiday? Suspending the Gas Tax Is a Mistake- Tax Foundation

Drivers don't see full benefit from state gas tax holidays - CNN

Joe: What about the carbon taxes you guys have been talking about?

The political heat surrounding how to deal with high gas prices offers a glimpse at the task world leaders face in imposing broader carbon taxes high enough to dampen use of fossil fuels.   See:

Why millions of our grandchildren will being moving back from the ocean and heading north - CCSE

"Corporations that produce energy have an enormous amount of influence on the U.S. and other governments, which are sensitive to voter anger caused by energy shortages and price increases."

The essay above  was written a couple months before Russia invaded Ukraine.

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

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

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School meal waivers expire in 9 days. After axing them, Congress may try to save them - NPR

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Smart Ass Cripple: Libertarian Union-Busting Tactics Target Illinois Health Care Workers - Progressive Magazine

"The personal assistants who help me with everyday tasks—like getting out of bed and into my wheelchair—have been receiving anti-union propaganda, and it scares the hell out of me.

"...there’s no way that these raises would have happened if personal assistants had no collective bargaining power. Obviously, the higher wages make my life smoother because the higher the wages, the easier it is to find people suitable for the job.

"If Rauner were still governor, personal assistants would probably still be making $13 an hour. And maybe their union would have been busted by now, and they wouldn’t have to pay a few bucks a month in dues. But they’d have a helluva lot less money."

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High court clears millionaires’ tax question for Massachusetts ballot- Boston Herald

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Cotton, Banks spearhead bill allowing adults to sue doctors who transitioned them as minors - Fox

"The bill defines biological sex based on genes and body parts and 'without regard' to how one identifies."

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Here’s why Larry Summers wants 10 million people to lose their job - MSN

"According to Bloomberg News, Summers said in a speech on Monday from London there needs to be a lasting period of an unemployment rise to contain inflation — either, a one year spike to 10%, two years of 7.5% unemployment, or five years of 6% unemployment.

"Put a different way, Summers is calling for the unemployed rolls to swell to roughly 16 million from just under 6 million in May."

Often agree with Summers, but here his stated view is way too 'macro' for effective policymaking.  Relying on aggregate unemployment as a metric for dampening inflation is like trying to kill flies with a sledgehammer.  The economic (and political) impacts would depend on exactly who loses income.  Changes in demand for goods and services are different if job loss happens to  moneyed professionals rather than low-wage workers.  A tax increase for those in the top 30%, for example,   could reduce the need to sacrifice  jobs at the bottom in order to nudge price hikes downward.

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George Lamming, Who Chronicled the End of Colonialism, Dies at 94 - NYT

Photo of Lamming by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

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"No black boy wanted to be white, but it was also true that no black boy liked the idea of being black... When you asked Boy Blue why he was so black he would answer 'Just as I wus goin' to born the light went out'. The light had gone out for many of us."

-- George Lamming - In the Castle of My Skin (1953)

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Gainey wants Pittsburgh healthcare giants to pitch into the city budget. In Erie, they already do. - PublicSource

Non-profit and church toilets flush the same as anyone else's.  

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The End of the Capitalist-Worker Dichotomy and the Rise of a New Elite? - Berman & Milanovic/Promarket

"We define homoploutia as the intersection between the top decile of capital-income recipients and labor-income earners...

"How important is homoploutia in explaining the increase in US income inequality? According to Piketty, Saez, and Zucman, the income share of the richest decile in the US went up between 1986 and 2020 by 10 percentage points, from 37 percent to 47 percent. We find that the increase in homoploutia has contributed 2 percentage points, or 20 percent, to this increase."

Attn all homoplouts: You know who you are.

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Joe Manchin is choking off one of America’s best anti-poverty programs - WaPost editorial board

"The Fed’s findings underscore what a lifeline the CTC payments were to poorer families. Americans reported their highest-ever “financial well-being” in 2021, with nearly 80 percent saying they are at least doing okay financially. The Fed explicitly noted that “parents experienced particularly large gains” in their financial well-being thanks largely to the CTC payments.

"All these benefits came at a relatively small cost. Extending last year’s program entirely would cost about $190 billion a year. That means families earning up to $150,000 a year would get the full benefits. The cost would be far less to keep the full program going for families that earn up to $50,000 or $75,000.

"While lawmakers are rightly concerned about high inflation, this program added little to it. The payments were largely spent on basics or saved. If anything, high inflation is another reason lawmakers should be renewing this policy. Low-income families are the hardest hit by high gas, food and rent costs. In the past five months, there has been a 20 percent increase in households with children that lack sufficient food. We know how to help struggling families with kids. Why isn’t Congress acting?"

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Factors Affecting the Cost of Extending the Expanded Child Tax Credit - Congressional Research Service

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Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021 - Federal Reserve

"The ways people used the CTC payments varied by income. Higher-income adults were most likely to save the largest portion of their credit, whereas lower-income adults were most likely to spend it on housing. For instance, 54 percent of recipients with income of at least $100,000 saved the largest portion of their credit, whereas only 18 percent of recipients with income less than $25,000 did so (table 7)."   (see p. 20.)

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An Apple Store Votes To Unionize for the First Time - Wired

Workers seek more control over working conditions and a bigger bite of monopoly profits.

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Robust COVID Relief Achieved Historic Gains Against Poverty and Hardship, Bolstered Economy - CBPP

Excellent round-up of the economic benefits of U.S. government Covid relief efforts -- but insufficient analysis of their role in sparking inflation.  Key issue: would inflation have been less of a problem if relief $$ had been more targeted to people in need?

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FTC puts drugmaker and PBM rebates in the crosshairs over mounting insulin prices - Fierce Pharma

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Pharmacy Benefit Managers - NAIC

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Corporate Bribery Just Became Illegal Again - BIG

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The Most Dangerous Film in the World - MIT Press Reader

“We thought this film was defective. But we were mistaken. This is how radiation looks.”

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‘I literally lost organs:’ Why detransitioned teens regret changing genders - NY Post

"When Chloe was 12 years old, she decided she was transgender. At 13, she came out to her parents. That same year, she was put on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone. At 15, she underwent a double mastectomy. Less than a year later, she realized she’d made a mistake — all by the time she was 16 years old."

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

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Happiness of small things in life

Happy Father's Day!

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Ecclesiastes 2 - Coverdale Bible of 1535

22 For what getteth a ma of all ye labor & trauayle of his mynde, yt he taketh vnder the Sonne, 23 but heuynesse, sorowe & disquyetnes all ye dayes of his life? In so moch that his herte can not rest in the night. Is not this also a vayne thinge?

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Piketty's "A Brief History of Equality" - Marissa Moss/ny journal of books

"Piketty is basically an optimist, asserting 'there has been a long-term movement over the course of history toward more social, economic, and political history.' The book describes briefly these changes as well as offering concrete ways to continue this progression.

"First of all, Piketty lays out the tools to create equality: “universal suffrage and parliamentary democracy; free and obligatory education; universal health insurance; progressive taxes on income, inheritance, and property; joint management and labor law; freedom of the press; international law; and so on."

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Thomas Piketty on the Politics of Equality - Conversations with Tyler Cowan

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Inequality in the Time of COVID-19 - IMF

"Yet, despite these multiple reasons the pandemic can be expected to have raised income inequality within countries, we cannot yet be sure of just how general those increases are. For one thing, evidence is emerging from some (apparently) unlikely places that social protection policy responses—such as income transfers targeted to poor and vulnerable workers—have worked rather well."

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Did a Viking Woman Named Gudrid Really Travel to North America in 1000 A.D.? - Smithsonian

"The sagas suggest she settled in Newfoundland and eventually made eight crossings of the North Atlantic Sea."

Don't trust the news source you are reading (WaPost, Fox, NYT, WSJ)? Read many, triangulate...

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"Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in three provinces late Friday in response to sometimes violent protests by Indigenous groups demanding cuts in fuel prices.

"Oil producer Ecuador has been hit by rising inflation, unemployment and poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic."

See the source image

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Legal Update: How Telemedicine Changes the Abortion Conversation - Nelson Hardiman

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Mitt Romney introduces new plan to send most parents up to $350 monthly checks per kid - Business Insider

"However, households would only qualify for the full cash benefit if they earned at least $10,000 every year, an amount meant to be indexed to inflation. Families making less than $10,000 would receive a proportional share of the total benefit based on how close they are to that income target.

"That would shut out the poorest 6% of households from getting larger checks under the Romney program, according to data from the Census bureau. It's a break from Romney's earlier plan that would have provided checks to families who earned no taxable income."

Mitt:  That's unfair to low-income families.  And possibly inflationary because so much of the money would go to families that don't need it, thereby arming them to bid up prices of goods and services in short supply.

This issue is a  good test of whether R talk about helping the working class is real - or just talk.

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The Consequences of Conquest: Why Indo-Pacific Power Hinges on Taiwan - Foreign Affairs

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Socialist Economic Development: a review - Michael Robert's Blog

"Gabrieli and Jabbour are much clearer on the nature of Chinese economy and state.  Their analysis of China is subtle, but it is clearly a robust refutation of Milanovic’s thesis that China is a form of capitalism, albeit run by politicians (?) and not capitalists as in the West.  The authors do not sit on the fence like Weber.  Instead, they (correctly) argue that China is a ‘socialist-oriented’ economy and state, very different from capitalism, democratic or autocratic.  “China’s economic success is the result not of capitalism but of its transition to socialism.  It is a new social economic formation (SEF) that is beyond capitalism.”  "

Question: Could the Chinese blend  of socialism and capitalism maintain high growth if China were the hub of the world economy and faced relatively lower demand for exports from nations with economies in which capitalism dominated? 

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CCSE essay:

"Mixing Capitalism and Socialism: Policies To Moderate Systemic Wealth Concentration in the United States"

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Forbes World’s Billionaires List: The Richest in 2022

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Southwest Land Border Encounters -   US Customs & Border Protection

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U.S. border arrests rose to record high in May, data shows - WaPost

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Total illegal migrants crossing border under Biden greater than population of 23 U.S. states - Just the News

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What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border in 7 charts (2021) - Pew

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Mayor Sylvester Turner says he wants Houston to be the first big city to “end chronic homelessness.”

C. Lee/NYT

How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own - NYT

"The nation’s fourth-largest city hasn’t solved homelessness, but its remarkable progress can suggest a way forward."

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Opinion: A wave of violence as the court prepares to rule - Kathleen Parker/WaPost

"Maybe violence is what we should expect when abortion, one of the most-violent acts conceived by humankind, is Ground Zero. Whatever one’s argument for abortion, there’s no debating the utterly inhumane violence inflicted upon a gestating human being."

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The More Money You Earn The Happier You Are, Large Study Finds - IFLSience

All things being unequal, it's probably better to have some money.

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Wanted ... raises that beat inflation - Axios

"Though wages have risen substantially over the past year, on average they're not keeping pace with inflation. Whether that's a good or a bad thing kind of depends on where you sit in the worker food chain, and on your economic outlook.

  • Unions — and other workers — are increasingly looking for cost of living raises and protections.

  • Once common in contracts back in the inflation-soaked 1970s, these provisions lost favor as labor's power diminished and inflation ceased to be as much of a concern while rising health care costs gained attention, says Todd Vachon, a professor of labor studies at Rutgers University."

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CCSE articles on raising the minimum wage:

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Seven ways you can financially prepare for a recession - Michelle Singletary/WaPost

1. Don’t be afraid of a bear market.  (invest gradually in increments to mitigate risk of price gyrations)

2. Don’t try to time the market.

3. Get rid of your credit card debt. Now.

4. Stockpile savings.

5. Establish a backup to your emergency fund.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of having bonds in your retirement portfolio.

7. Get a side gig.

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AFL-CIO Blocks Debate on Union Democracy Reforms – Amazon Labor Union & Starbucks Workers Excluded from Convention – Shuler Criticizes AFL-CIO Organizing Approach - Payday Report

Corrupt old-line unions whining about declining membership and their cronies (follow the $$)  lobbying in Washington, D.C., take notice. You're not the only game in town.  BTW, where's the pension money?

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OPINION

    "Black Americans are not victims of 'white supremacy' as progressives claim." - AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

As a black man who refuses to be a victim, I have a very different definition of who the white supremacists are - NY Post

"Black people being fearful is a palatable message to present in the media, especially by other black people. I can’t help but notice, however, that the black people who constantly present “black fear” narratives and portray black people as weak are . . . among the economic elite.

"They are the ivory-tower black elites who highlight their race for oppression points when it conveniently benefits them while living a life of luxury amongst all races.

"They enjoy claiming they’re aligned with “marginalized” blacks because it gets them points from their “woke white supremacist” urbanite acquaintances. They’ll cry on command on live TV when an underclass black dies inauspiciously to receive a pat on the back for someone else’s misfortune."

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Short-Term Benefits of Emergency Rental Assistance Extend Beyond Housing - Harvard JCHS

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Here are the changes Americans are willing to make to fix Social Security, survey finds - CNBC

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https://www.wsws.org/asset/2cd1d943-a760-4610-8ac8-7de5b23b1342?rendition=image1280

Seven more children died after consuming baby formula produced at contaminated Abbott Labs factory in Michigan - WSWS

New documents show more claims of baby formula illness and death - WaPost

Abbott consumer complaints – the FDA replies - eFoodAlert

Marler Blog - Insight on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Abbott to Ship 1.1 Million Pounds of Powdered Infant Formula to U.S. from Spain Beginning this Month Through the Summer

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The companies profiting from prison labour authorities don’t want you to know about - New Daily

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Investors Are Finally Pushing Back on Massive CEO Pay Hikes - TIME

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America’s Richest Self-Made Women 2022: Inside Forbes’ Eighth Annual List - Forbes

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Wisconsin Billionaires Who Got a Monster Tax Break From Ron Johnson Are Now Spending Millions to Get Him Re-elected - Up North News

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‘What is a woman?’ exposes the lunacy of pro-trans extremism - NY Post

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What is the difference between a eunuch and a transgender person? - Quora

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Everything you need to know about tech layoffs and hiring slowdowns - protocol

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How San Francisco Became a Failed City - And how it could recover - Atlantic

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Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen
have been called war crimes.
Many relied on U.S. support.
- WaPost

"While Russia’s bombings of a maternity hospital and other civilian targets in Ukraine have drawn widespread public indignation as war crimes, thousands of similar strikes have taken place against Yemeni civilians. The indiscriminate bombings have become a hallmark of the Yemen war, drawing international scrutiny of the countries participating in the air campaign, and those arming them, including the United States. U.S. support for the Saudi war effort, which has been criticized by human rights groups and some in Congress, began during the Obama administration and has continued in fits and starts for seven years."

https://i0.wp.com/securityforcemonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/1000w_q95.webp?w=1000&ssl=1

Methodology: Connecting US Sales to the Saudi-Emirati Led Coalition - Security Force Monitor

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Yemen: Why is the war there getting more violent? - BBC

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Wage gap between CEOs and US workers jumped to 670-to-1 last year, study finds - Guardian

"Report on 300 top US companies found CEOs making an average of $10.6m, with the median worker getting $23,968."

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Socialism Ain’t What It Used to Be - Dean Baker/CEPR

"Klein asked why the Democrats, and other liberal/left parties around the world, rely largely on more educated people for their support, while more working-class types have turned to the right. Socialists had historically envisioned socialism as the agenda of the working class, not college-educated professionals.

"Sunkara gave an answer that put the blame on the decline in unions, which is undoubtedly a big part of the story. But the answer clearly goes beyond this.

"Liberal/left parties around the world in recent decades, have not only often supported policies that weakened unions, but they have also supported policies that directly redistribute money from the traditional working class to people with more education, you know, the ones carrying the flame of socialism."

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Related CCSE work:

"Mixing Capitalism and Socialism: Policies To Moderate Systemic Wealth Concentration in the United States"

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Majorities of Americans say federal government does too little to address issues affecting several groups, including lower- and middle-income people, retirees - PEW

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Sunday, June 12, 2022

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Shouting “Death to Arabs,” Far Right Israeli Squatters Storm Palestinian Holy Sites, Towns and Schools - Juan Cole

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Why does the world allow Israel to continue its oppression of Palestinians? -

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Woman on strike loses child in Cambodia – Ford’s India workers strike for a better severance package – Workers Halls may become World Heritage Sites - Payday Report

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Workers Struggles: Asia and Australia -WSWS

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Torpedoes In the Water - BIG

"FTC Chair Lina Khan and Antitrust Division chief Jonathan Kanter have set in motion a revolution in antitrust. The explosions are about to start with attacks on mergers and the insulin supply chain."

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Report Reveals Sharp Rise in Transgender Young People in the U.S. - NYT

"The surveys, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not ask younger teenagers about nonbinary or other gender identities, which also have been rising in recent years. But nearly one-quarter of the adults in the surveys who said they were transgender identified as “gender nonconforming,” meaning they did not identify as a transgender man or woman.

"'We as a culture just need to lean into the fact that there is gender diversity among us,' Dr. Goepferd said. 'And that it doesn’t mean that we need to treat it medically in all cases, but it does mean that we as a society need to make space for that.'"

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Three years after ICIJ’s ‘Solitary Voices,’ isolation still commonplace in US prisons and detention centers - ICIJ

"President Joe Biden pledged to end solitary confinement. Advocates are still waiting."

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Shielded From Public View, Misconduct by Corrections Staff in Illinois Prisons Received Scant Discipline - ProPublica

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World Lab Inequality
World Inequality Lab Newsletter - June 2022

America's 10 richest people — including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos — would pay up to $215 billion in taxes on unrealized stock gains under Biden's new plan. They currently pay next to nothing. - Business Insider

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Economic Well-Being Improved in 2021, But Will It Continue? - TPC

"Even though jobs are plentiful and wages are up, many families still face a shaky economic outlook. Higher than average inflation, which tends to hit low- and middle-income families hardest, will likely persist in 2022. A rental crisis looms. Either  could undo gains in financial well-being found at the end of 2021 by the Federal Reserve.

"In addition, many of the new or expanded government benefits created during the pandemic now have expired, adding to the financial uncertainty of many households. Reviving the expanded child tax credit (CTC) would be one way to help families with children weather this uncertainty."

The Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021 - May 2022 - the Fed

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THE STATE OF THE NATION'S HOUSING 2022 - June 22 webinar - Harvard JCHS

"Housing markets had another record-shattering year in 2021...For lower-income households and households of color, though, the pressure of high housing costs is unlikely to relent. The surge in prices for gas, food, and other necessities has made matters worse, especially now that emergency government supports are ending."

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Social Security trustees say the U.S. is rich enough to expand, not shrink, benefits - Yahoo/LA Times

"...a bill dubbed Social Security 2100, introduced by Rep. John B. Larson and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats from Connecticut, ...would increase benefits across the board by an average 2%, set a minimum retirement benefit at 25% above the federal poverty line and extend dependent benefits for students up to age 26 (the current cutoff is 19), among other improvements.

"On the revenue side, the bill would eliminate, over time, the existing cap on wages subject to tax, which is $147,000 this year — a level that in effect gives the 1% a pass on their obligation to support this universal system. (The payroll tax is 12.4% up to that wage cap, shared equally by employer and employee.)

"More could be done to provide additional revenue for Social Security. One option would be to make all income, not just wages, subject to the Social Security tax, thus bringing the capital gains and dividends that make up a disproportionate share of income for the wealthiest Americans into the revenue stream.

"That option doesn't get talked about much, perhaps because politicians know that the wealthy would go to the mat to protect their capital gains from higher taxes."

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Click here for some of our work on improving Social Security and retirement savings.

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Controversies - Fraudulent “Upcoding” Costs Medicare Advantage $2 Billion a  Year - AllGov - News

Beat cancer? Your Medicare Advantage plan might still be billing for it. - WaPost

The DOJ Says A Data Mining Company Fabricated Medical Diagnoses To Make Money - NPR

Upcoding is par for the course throughout  the medical industrial  complex...CMS could require a plan member's primary care physician to review any new coding that pops up in the patient record annually and attest to its veracity and source (including the billing and insurance arms of the enterprise).

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This tax credit could give back hundreds to low-income, working Virginians - ABC

"...making the EITC refundable has historically faced opposition from Republicans in the General Assembly, who have prioritized other changes to the tax code and argued the increase for lower-income Virginians would come at the expense of the middle class.

“The General Assembly has for years taken a position that we’re going to help people that need help but we’re going to do it through our assistance programs. Doing this through the tax code, in my opinion, is just the wrong way to do it,” Senator Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) said during a committee meeting earlier this year.

"The Commonwealth Institute estimates the change will cost $315 million.

"Legislation to provide a larger and longer-term refundable EITC died quickly in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and never got a vote in the full Democrat-controlled Senate.

"Despite limited public debate over the policy, the idea was later salvaged during closed-door budget negotiations and included in the compromise."

BTW, as noted in the article below -- which was submitted to the long term care industry and ignored -- much of the EITC flows to low-income workers' employers.  In effect, taxpayers are subsidizing wages.

Expanding Use, Scope of the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits: A Winning Strategy for LTC Workers and Providers

"While the main impact of these tax credits is to boost worker pay, they can put downward pressure on wages if more people enter the work force.11 If tax credits expand the workforce, then part of their benefit will flow to employers in the form of lower before-tax wages.


"Economist Jesse Rothstein has estimated that “a dollar of EITC spending produces net increases in the welfare of women with children with cash value of only $0.83 (as compared with $1 when demand is perfectly elastic). Employers of low-skill labor capture $0.36 via reduced wage bills.”12

"For single mothers, the primary group targeted by the EITC, 55 percent of the marginal EITC dollar “is captured by employers through reduced wages.” Because the EITC suppresses wages across the labor market by increasing labor supply, he estimates that the welfare of EITC-ineligible childless women falls by the equivalent of $0.18.

"The main takeaway here is not the precision of the estimates but rather recognition that, although workers still come out ahead, a substantial portion of the EITC indirectly benefits employers through dampening pre-tax wages."

LTC industry groups talk about caring for their poorly paid workforce, but don't take actions to increase their income -- even when someone else is paying.

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World Bank slashes global growth forecast to 2.9%, warns of 'stagflation' risk - Reuters

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The Supply Solution to Stagflation by David Malpass - Project Syndicate

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Inflation could wreak vengeance on the world’s poor - Brookings

"Low- and middle-income households tend to be more vulnerable to high inflation than wealthier households."

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Yellen Says Inflation to Stay High, Biden Likely to up Forecast - US News/Reuters

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Meet the Economists - Federal Reserve Bank

Can 400 PhD economists be wrong?  Meet the brain trust of the institution whose policies set the stage for the current outbreak of high inflation.  The Fed now is taking the lead on suppressing inflation by constricting the money supply via higher interest rates.  The higher cost of capital raises the risk of economic contraction. 

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Why the Fed Bond Binge Will Boost Inflation - Council on Foreign Relations

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What Causes Inflation and Who Profits From It? - Investopedia

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May be a cartoon of text that says 'OdVEQle 201 -25 OH, γου DON'T NeeD TO TO FIGHT THEM- γου JUST NeeD TO CONVINCE THE PITCHFORK PeoPLe THAT THE TORCH people WANT TO TAKE AWAY THEIR PITCHFORKS.'

With mid-term elections on the horizon, U.S. leaders take a break from discussion and debate.

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4 Unions Competing for Apple Store Workers – Maryland Apple Workers to Vote June 15th – F35 Jet Instructors Strike - Payday Report

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A view from the right:

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Graham family’s Foreign Policy pushes Big Tech-funded ‘analysis’ against antitrust bills - NY Post

...and one from the far left:

Striking Newark nurses speak out on the picket line - WSWS

Registered Nursing Salaries by State in 2022 - NurseJournal

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The Best & Worst States for Nurse Practitioners - berxi

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News Blog: May 11 -June 6, 2022 - Click here

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Student loan debt forgiveness a 'big transfer of wealth' from poor, working class to the rich: Payne/Fox News

"The ever-growing 'schism between the have's and have-not's' will only expand further under Democrats' plans, host says."

Agree.  Based on recent policies, Democrats are no longer a particularly progressive party.  But be wary of what Republicans are offering the working class: Not a dime more in minimum wage or a paid sick day -- and government-subsidized health care and retirement savings systems that leave out millions of low-wage workers.

It's good to see Fox and its political friends spotlighting growing U.S.  inequality.  Now let's see them put their money where their mouths are.

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Opinion | Biden’s About to Make a Big Mistake on Student Loans - Politico

"The Biden administration is actively considering student loan forgiveness of $10,000 or more per borrower. This would be extremely regressive. Relatively few low-income households have student debt and, among those who do, outstanding loan balances are smaller than for higher-income borrowers. In part for these reasons, a recent study by economists Sylvain Catherine and Constantine Yannelis concludes that blanket forgiveness of $10,000 in debt would offer $3.60 to the highest-earning 10 percent of households for every $1 it gave to the bottom 10 percent and that three quarters of the benefits would flow to households with above-median incomes."

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Sunday, June 5, 2022

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The Prophet Isaiah urges the people to “beat their swords into plowshares” and learn war no more (700s BC) - OLL

"The Gospels draw heavily on the Book of Isaiah for a utopic view of the world. The famous “swords to plowshares” quote is but one of its famous proclamations:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4).

"The prophet raises two very interesting problems. The first is the economic problem of how to convert the capital goods needed for the production of war materiel (“swords”) into the capital goods which are needed to produce consumer goods (“ploughshares”). The second is the moral and political problem of getting the will power and the political constituencies to do so."

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Thomas Schelling’s Theories on Strategy and War Will Live On - Modern War Institute

"Arguably the twenty-first century will not look like the era of Pax Americana and some might suggest that Schelling’s theories should be retired. Today’s world is too unpredictable and multipolar. Our enemies today are not rational in the same sense as those of yesterday. American schoolchildren no longer carry out nuclear bomb drills, they now carry out active-shooter drills, a function of lone-wolf gunmen inspired by groups like ISIS. And yet arguably some things have not budged an iota since 1966. The foundation of the international system is still arguably one of realism—whereby states strive for survival, and balance to achieve this goal. But realists argue we should care less about states’ intentions, which are fickle and hard to interpret or predict, than capabilities, both latent and real—specifically material capabilities, like the number of tanks, troops, and a country’s size—which tend to be more consistent and indicative of current threats."

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The Conglomerate Problem - Matt Stoller/BIG

"Private equity is trying to gobble up baby formula. Broadcom is going to ruin VMware. Can antitrust enforcers stop the arson? Will judges let them?"

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U.S. sheep herders sue employers for cartel-like wage suppression - Reuters

"The suit alleges that ranches coordinate through the Western Range Association (WRA), a ranching trade group, to suppress sheepherder wages and avoid competing for labor.

"Herders apply to jobs through the WRA which then assigns them to ranches, leaving no room for the herders to negotiate or shop around among ranches, the complaint said."

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Biden admin holding school lunch money 'hostage' to force transgender policies, activist parent says - Fox

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Homelessness in the Subways Threatens New York’s Post-Covid Revival - NY Sun/Manhattan Institute

Latest hypocrisy from a monied 'think' tank. Let's blame the powerless for NYC's perceived lack of industry.  This article also appears on the Manhattan Institute's website along with appeal to "donate" so they can think some more.

Instead of giving your money to well-heeled intellectual panhandlers, why not help a person get something to eat?  As for surplus homeless people loitering on the subway, if that's a problem, have the political and moral courage to get them off and find somewhere else for them to hang out on hot and cold days.  Put your money where your mouth is.  Better yet, shut the f--k up.

Here an idea:  Let's tax non-profit endowments with an exception for those providing substantial services directly to the poor.  One could apply a base tax rate (1% annually?) -- and double it for think tanks peddling policy ideas to politicians.

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Tents housing people experiencing homelessness are set up on a vacant parking lot in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 8, 2020.

Liberal US cities change course, now clearing homeless camps - ABC

"Wheeler’s top adviser — Sam Adams, a former Portland mayor — has also outlined a controversial plan that would force up to 3,000 homeless people into massive temporary shelters staffed by Oregon National Guard members. Advocates say the move, which marks a major shift in tone and policy, would ultimately criminalize homelessness."

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Profiles of people living in homeless encampments. It’s rarely what you’d expect - LA Times

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Ocean Casino Resort looms in the distance across town from low-slung homes. - ProPublica

Casinos Pled Poverty to Get a Huge Tax Break. Atlantic City Is Paying the Price. - ProPublica

American Hustle redux? ... State sanctioned casinos and state lotteries,  which are rigged to yield profits with repeated use, leave the low-income population as net losers.  Why not distribute some of the profits directly to low-income people rather than pools of capital nourishing investors, bureaucrats, and legislators?

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CCSE work on state-organized gambling:

"Better Than the Lottery!"

"Hey, low-income people! Here’s one retirement savings strategy, while government thinks about how it might help...U.S. retirement policy hurts you because it leaves you out. Don’t wait for that to change. Congress cares more about the middle class than you. That’s because more of them vote. State governments are gouging you by selling you lottery tickets. Here’s a strategy for retirement that’s better than a lottery ticket."

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The massive gap between rich and poor Americans costs the US economy more than $300 billion every year, study says - Business Insider

  • The US wealth gap is sapping economic growth, the Economic Policy Institute said in a study.

  • The top 10% of earners are the only ones to have their income share grow since 1979.

  • That's led to less overall spending and a loss of about $309 billion in yearly economic growth.

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Flight Attendants Fighting Back - New Yorker

"Sara Nelson, the head of the largest flight attendants’ union, leads her members through turbulent times and mounts a major organizing drive at Delta."

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Texas Teachers Unions March for Gun Control – NC Amazon Workers Launch Union Drive – 1,200 Resident Physicians to Strike in LA - Payday Report

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On this day, a divided Supreme Court rules on the Second Amendment - National Constitution Center

"In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens questioned the majority’s logic. 'The fact that the right to keep and bear arms appears in the Constitution should not obscure the novelty of the Court’s decision to enforce that right against the States. By its terms, the Second Amendment does not apply to the States; read properly, it does not even apply to individuals outside of the militia context,' Stevens said."

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Don’t Bet on a Soft Landing - Nouriel Roubini/Project Syndicate

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Getting Deglobalization Right -

'Davos Man' is an angry, powerful look at economic inequality - NPR

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The have/have not economy is back in the U.S. - Heather Long/WaPost

"Even after the stock market dip, the top 40 percent still have lots of excess cash. Meanwhile, the savings that the bottom 20 percent accumulated over the past two years is already gone, Morgan Stanley has found...

"As long as the rich and upper-middle class continue to spend, there probably won’t be a recession. But that doesn’t mean the economy will feel good to many, if not most, Americans."

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Opinion: Republicans blame mental health issues for gun violence. So where’s the money for care? - WaPost

"For too many years, GOP politicians have shifted between saying they’ll prevent gun violence by investing in health care (in lieu of firearm restrictions) and later working to cut access to care. Voters rarely seem to register the disconnect. But the more massacres there are, and the more frequently they occur, the harder it becomes to maintain these charades."

In Texas, for example, they scapegoat people with mental illness for gun violence, while refusing to expand Medicaid to provide services.

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A TEXAS FATHER STANDS GUARD AT WIFE’S AND CHILD’S ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TO PROVIDE RELIEF TO PARENTS - Black Enterprise

Can parent power break the NRA's hold on Congress?  Parents could organize 'militias' to guard schools and lobby to put teeth in gun laws.

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Massachusetts’ restrictive gun laws may be the answer elsewhere: Mass. Chiefs of Police leader - Boston Herald

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‘The haves and have-yachts’: on the trail of London’s super-rich - Guardian

"...perhaps the overriding impression left by my walk with Knowles and by her book is that the most advanced form of gentrification – plutocratification – is creating whole areas of the capital that those from lower down the social ladder can now only enter as servants or labourers."

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Why Supreme Court’s acknowledgement of sex work as a profession is welcome - Indian Express

"The directions of the SC constitute only the first step towards removing some of the limitations that sex workers have long faced. In a country like India, which is severely marred by poverty, destitution, hunger and inequalities, survival is the top priority. The morality/immorality of the nature of any work does not and should not count as a factor in constructing hierarchies amongst vocations. India as a democratic nation constitutionally enshrines justice, equality and liberty for every section of the society. Unfortunately, sex workers have been structurally kept outside the dimensions of “equal opportunities”. It is time that such grave disregard for human rights and dignity comes to an end."

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World Leaders Respond to Xinjiang Police Files As UN High Commissioner Bachelet Completes Xinjiang Visit - VCMF

https://www.xinjiangpolicefiles.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Untitled-design-65.png

Xinjiang Police Files

"Unprecedented evidence from internal police networks in China’s Xinjiang region proves prison-like nature of re-education camps, shows top Chinese leaders’ direct involvement in the mass internment campaign."

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Racist chants and clashes as tens of thousands march in Old City for Jerusalem Day - Times of Israel

"Turnout for Flag March estimated at 70,000; some chant ‘death to Arabs’ and ‘may your villages burn’; over 60 arrests; Palestinians, Israelis fight with rocks, pepper spray."

"...Like other right-wing marchers, Dina, the student from Tekoa, said she was not bothered by the violent chants emanating from the Flag March.

"'We have to understand — are we the owners here? If so, let’s get rid of them,' Dina said, referring to Arabs and Palestinians."

Shades of Kristallnacht?  Israel, the land where 'replacement theory' is government policy, is one of the most racist countries on the planet. 

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Retirement Savings Bill Should Improve Financial Security for Low-Income Elderly, Disabled People - CBPP

What we've written on this issue:

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County board dives deeper into quest for supportive housing for homeless - FFXNOW

The realpolitik of Fairfax County, VA and many other high-income jurisdictions is to talk publicly about ending homeless in the future while nudging homeless people to go elsewhere through shortages of affordable housing and social services.  Some of the unfortunate of course can't or won't wander off.

A large percentage of the homeless are people with serious mental illnesses. Providing these people and/or their families with rent supplements of a few hundred $$ a month could help many afford rooms and share apartments – or help families make room for them.  It’s fine for county leaders to study how they might build more affordable units in a decade but people with low income and disabilities need help now.

With tents outside county office, Fairfax reviews pledge to end homelessness - WaPost

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CCSE correspondence with state and county officials after then Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared that Viriginia would end homelessness among veterans (2015)

Blast from the past.  Read from the bottom up.

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Sunday, May 29, 2022

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The settlement beneath: Arial image of a site in Bolivia showing an ancient urban centre beneath dense vegetation.
Mind blowing’ ancient settlements uncovered in the Amazon - nature

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Controversial cave discoveries suggest humans reached Americas much earlier than thought

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Apple workers in Louisville

Facing 4th Union Drive, Apple Raises Pay to $22/hour Minimum - Payday Report

It may be difficult for companies lacking monopoly power to pay this much.

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We Aren't Raising Adults. We Are Breeding Very Excellent Sheep. - Common Sense

"Our elite college graduates know how to imitate, but they don’t know how to be independent."

Perhaps "sheep" of all ages should refuse to go to school until Congress and their state legislatures take concrete steps toward stemming the slaughter.

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Joe Biden interview on "common sense" gun legislation - FRONTLINE

"This interview was conducted by FRONTLINE’s Jim Gilmore on November 14, 2014, for the film Gunned Down: The Power of the NRAThe film, which originally aired in 2015, is an investigation into the NRA, its political evolution and influence, and how it has consistently succeeded in defeating new gun control legislation."

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“Spare Me The BS About Mental Illness,” Sen. Murphy Knocks Down Straw Man. Don’t Blame Mass Murders On SMI - Pete Eearley

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Brazil police arrest mentally ill man and gas him in boot of their car.

Outrage in Brazil as mentally ill Black man dies in police car ‘gas chamber’ - Guardian

"Genivaldo de Jesus Santos dies of asphyxiation as video shows officers forcing him into vehicle then releasing gas grenade."

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How Inequality Is Undermining China’s Prosperity - CSIS/Stanford

Excellent research and analysis. U.S. and China face similar political economic challenges and need to deal with inequality.  Now if the growing underclass in both nations could get a living wage, a paid sick day, health care, and retirement savings. 

Excerpts:

"...the data suggests that China has already started to face the same challenges in confronting manufacturing labor displacement that the United States and other advanced industrialized economies have struggled with for years due to globalization, automation, and a weak domestic social safety net...

"After decades of continuous growth and economic development, China is beginning to face the challenges of other middle-income and some advanced economies. In cities, as employment opportunities in manufacturing and construction decline, more people are entering the labor-intensive service sector, where wage growth is stagnant. Moreover, these workers face an uncertain future because they lack access to high-quality health insurance, pensions, and other support.

"But while most economies have experienced a relative decline in manufacturing employment relative to the service sector as they have moved from middle-income to high-income status, China’s workers may find it harder to transition to white-collar jobs because of low education levels...

"If Washington wants to compete effectively with China, it needs a strategy to reduce the United States’ own glaring gap in wages between skill-intensive and labor-intensive service jobs, rebuild the economy’s infrastructure, and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. industries and the American workforce. The United States cannot simply hope that China’s economic growth will falter without enhancing its own strength."

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China's premier issues stark economic warning and lists 33-point plan for officials to work on - NBC

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May be an image of outdoors and text that says 'Alaa Daraghme @AlaaDaraghme The barber shop in Gaza 12:37 PM 22 May 21 Twitter for iPhone'

Memories

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How to Prevent Gun Massacres? Look Around the World - New Yorker

"Australia, Britain, Canada, and other countries have enacted reforms that turned mass shootings into rare, aberrational events rather than everyday occurrences."

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May be an illustration

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"A socially enlightened big-business solution for reducing US gun violence: gun clubs for the mentally ill"

Please excuse the author's insensitivity.  This article was written during the reign of President Yellowhair in response to his comments on mental illness and guns and the general incoherence of his policies.

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5,000 new TSP options: Is there an ESG fund for you? - Federal News Network

Federal retirement savings program to widely expand investment options -WaPost

There are some guardrails to protect people with few assets and limited knowledge or experience in investing:

"The mutual fund window will be available only to those with at least $40,000 in investments because of the combination of two restrictions: The initial investment through the window will have to be for at least $10,000, and no new investments can bring the outside share above a quarter of an account’s total.

"About 2.3 million of the 4.1 million current and former federal workers in the TSP have balances above that threshold, while that is the case for only about 350,000 of the nearly 2.5 million current and former military personnel with accounts."

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What If Low-Income American Workers Had Access to WealthBuilding Vehicles Like the Federal Employees’ Thrift Savings Plan? - Economic Innovation Group

Lower-Income Workers Fare Better as Feds -FEDweek

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Mitt Romney: We must prepare for Putin's worst weapons - Palm Beach Post/NYT

The end of times?  Maybe.  But, like the stock market, it's impossible to predict the timing.  In the meantime, it makes sense to be prepared.

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Analysis: Grief. Horror. Inaction. Texas mass shootings follow a numbing script - Texas Tribune

Childhood is dangerous in the U.S.  Reaching adulthood involves avoiding the knife before birth and bullets in school - and getting  enough to eat in between.   

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There is no constitutional reason to oppose gun laws (no matter what Republicans say) - Cedric Alexander/NBC

"As I see it, a commonsense public safety agenda for firearms includes the Senate’s passing the House’s background check act, which would expand background checks to be required on all firearm sales, and closing the gun show and online sales loopholes, which exclude millions of sales from any checks at all. There should be strict federal regulation of military-style assault weapons, which are suited to the battlefield, not to the streets of our communities. Fully automatic machine gun weapons are already highly regulated under federal law. At minimum, a comparable level of regulation should be applied to assault weapons. Add to this federal restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines and stronger legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime. Finally, we should limit civilian sales of Kevlar vests (body armor), limiting their use to law enforcement and licensed security personnel only.

"There is no legal, constitutional or moral reason to oppose federal gun safety legislation that would help prevent another mass shooting. Of course, it would not end all violence, but it would be an important start to address this deadly problem of people accessing guns who should not have them."

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Gun Control Is as Old as the Old West - Smithsonian

"Contrary to the popular imagination, bearing arms on the frontier was a heavily regulated business."

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Question: Has sicko American culture and negligent leadership produced a de facto kind of human sacrifice by allowing such frequent slaughter of citizens on the altar of unlimited gun ownership?

To enshrine this ritual for the future, perhaps Congress should pass  legislation requiring that at least one classroom of children should be shot every year (to be picked at random with sensitively to racial balance).  On every July 4, Congressional police could round up and slaughter a pre-selected group of kids unless, during the previous 365 days, a total of 50 or more already had been shot somewhere in US schools. 

The Lottery - Shirley Jackson/wiki

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Emergency personnel gather near Robb Elementary School following a shooting
Texas community struggles with second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history - NPR

So, was the shooter exercising a "right" essential to Americans' ability to form a "well-regulated militia" to protect their political freedoms?  Did he belong to a militia?  If so, is it well-regulated?  Could such organizations include cults, Klans, vigilantes and groups formed in the imagination?  Has the U.S. Supreme Court, in effect, deemed any person owning military weapons to be a member of a militia or a potential member?  Would an application to join the National Guard suffice?  The remote possibility that a person might think of joining in the future? 

Would judicial reasoning change if the level of security at the Court were similar to that at a typical public school or supermarket?

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"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution

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“SHOUTING ‘FIRE’ IN A THEATER”: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW’S MOST ENDURING ANALOGY - Carlton F.W. Larson/William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal

"The image of a “man falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theater and causing a panic” was thus not simply a clever hypothetical invented on the spot to spice up a judicial opinion or a closing argument. False shouts of “fire” were a pervasive problem that plagued theaters throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries. Although the comparison is not exact, false shouts of “fire” in theaters were a problem similar to that of school shootings in our own day." (pp. 195-196)

"In Schenck, Holmes drew on a rich well of experience and intuition, widely shared with his fellow Americans. These Americans ranged from Edwin Wertz in Cleveland, who first used the analogy in a free speech context, to the mourning parents of Calumet, Michigan, attending the mass burials of their trampled children, to the thousands of theater patrons who needlessly raced for the exits in fear for their lives, and to the millions of other Americans who read terrifying accounts of false shouts of “fire” in newspapers, magazines, and books." (p. 211)

Dear U.S. Supreme Court and Congress:

Not even the First Amendment is absolute and immune from infringement when false application results in regular, mass killing.

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Michigan Legislature's new $2.5B plan reduces income tax, creates $500 child tax credit - Detroit Free Press

Highlights include: 

  • Reducing the personal income tax rate from 4.25% to 4% starting in 2023. Whitmer previously vetoed a legislative plan that proposed cutting the rate to 3.9%. 

  • Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax break for low-income people and families, from 6% of the federal break to 20% starting this year. Whitmer supports this proposal, including it as a key component of her State of the State address. 

  • Creating a $500 child tax credit this year, with additional $500 credits in future years. 

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Education Department Addresses Forgiveness for Income-Driven Student Loan Payments, But Work Remains - PEW

"Congressional oversight, additional reforms needed to help more borrowers"

"IDR plans help boost affordability by tying monthly payments to borrower income and allowing unpaid balances to be forgiven after 240 or 300 months of qualifying payments. For borrowers with incomes beneath a certain threshold, their IDR payment may be as low as $0, but that still counts as a qualifying payment toward long-term IDR forgiveness."

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DOL Issues Final Rule on Tip Sharing and Employer Penalties - SHRM

Tipped workers should check whether their employers are properly applying new DOL rules that further restrict how tips may be pooled.  Tip pooling standards are complex and intertwined with minimum wage requirements:

Restaurant Industry Alert: DOL Issues Final Rule Modifying Tip Sharing

Here's an example of a problem with tip pooling:

https://cdn1.harryanddavid.com/wcsstore/HarryAndDavid/images/catalog/17_40042_30W_219e_v1x.jpg

The Cheesecake Factory Designated Trainer, Server Review - Does not care about employees - Indeed

Designated Trainer, Server (Current Employee) - Virginia Beach, VA & Fairfax, VA - March 25, 2020

"I have been with Cheesecake for 7 years, mostly as a second supplemental job. It is a basic serving job at a corporate chain but (at least at my location) it is incredibly busy, almost always, which is a plus. Clientele is not great as far as generosity. Tips are generally quantity over quality even for most of the best servers but the money is more consistent than most other serving jobs but you will work HARD for it. The side work is less than a lot of other places I have worked. You have to tip out A LOT. I average $40-$50 a shift in tip outs which is frustrating because in my state server minimum wage is $2.13/hr. I still make relatively good money but I feel at that rate, I shouldn't be asked to subsidize other employees wages with my tips. I don't mind a partial tip out like many restaurants do. Most will pay a busser a higher hourly and add that to a small portion tipped out of a server tips but we are essentially responsible for all of their money here which I find to be very unfair (and it is technically illegal to "force" us to tip out. They find a way around it by claiming it is "optional" but it definitely isn't)."

It's not a new issue:

Chandler v. Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, Inc. (2006)

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Transsexual pioneer criticizes modern trans activists, says they're indoctrinating kids: 'This isn't a game' - Fox

"The man with a pussy..." Buck's bio:

Buck Angel - IMDb

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Jeffrey Sachs Presents Evidence of Possible Lab Origin of Covid-19 - Intercept

"An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences calls for an independent investigation of information held by U.S.-based institutions that could shed light on the origins of Covid."

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UN: More than 100 million people forcibly displaced in the world - Aljazeera

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Al-Markaz - West Bank

Ahead of Biden visit, Israel launches biggest eviction of Palestinians in decades - WaPost

Is this p. 11 report an indication that the comatose US media finally recognizes a concrete example of "replacement theory," which for decades has been systemically applied by the government of Israel (with help from the pro-Israel lobby)? 

Story lines to pursue: Is a small patch of desert that happens to be inhabited by 1,000 "non-chosen" people really the only place the Israeli army can practice crowd control?  Does Israel's supreme court apply the law equally -- or is it perhaps "pro-semitic"?

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"Minutes of an 1981 ministerial meeting indicate that Sharon, who would later become Israel's prime minister, proposed allocating West Bank land to the Israeli army for the sole purpose of forcing Palestinians out of their homes."

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Sri Lanka is a small preview of a global default crisis - Deccan Herald

"Global markets see it as a bellwether for a raft of potential defaults across the developing world as countries face a growing, post-pandemic debt burden."

Debt default spillovers?  Is any country a financial island?

Poor northern Sri Lankan families flee to India to avoid starvation - NewsRme/YouTube

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‘Full investigation’ pledged of vast fines imposed by Social Security - WaPost

"Acting Social Security commissioner will begin an inquiry on Monday of the inspector general’s oversight of an anti-fraud program."

SSA OIG must do better at separating the wheat from the chaff.  Kudos to the Post for pursuing this story and holding the Administration accountable.

Reporting like this is more important to people at the bottom of society than reams of copy about Hunter's laptop,  Trump's ego, or Clinton's women.

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https://media-cldnry.s-nbcnews.com/image/upload/t_fit-1240w,f_auto,q_auto:best/rockcms/2022-05/220520-florida-roofing-kh-882d42.jpg
Florida lawmakers scramble to fix a property insurance crisis before hurricane season - NBC

"Roofing scams targeting insurance companies are leading to higher bills and fewer options for homeowners, officials say."

Florida lawmakers, too busy with culture wars, missed an actual crisis - WaPost

Crooked roofers, bought legislators undermine access to affordable home insurance in land of high winds and seas.

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Bombshell 400-page report finds Southern Baptist leaders routinely silenced sexual abuse survivors - Houston Chronicle

Our views on church leaders covering up sex abuse have not changed since the Washington Post published this letter three years ago:

If crimes against children can’t be stopped from within, the Vatican and its subsidiaries need purging from the outside - Karl Polzer/WaPost


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plumb line - Wiktionary

Justice the Plumb Line—Amos 7:7-15 - Political Theology Network

Commentary: Biblical ‘plumb line’ remains a relevant allegory - LA Times

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Sunday, May 22, 2022

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The Russian Orthodox Leader at the Core of Putin’s Ambitions - Greeley/NYT

"Patriarch Kirill I has provided spiritual cover for the invasion of Ukraine, reaping vast resources for his church in return. Now, in an extraordinary step, the E.U. is threatening him with sanctions."   Gated NYT story.

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https://api.time.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/GettyImages-1236676459.jpg?quality=85&w=800
How the Russian Orthodox Church is Helping Drive Putin’s War in Ukraine - TIME

When it comes to history, religion, and politics, there's always room for the Middle Ages.  Beware of holy men wearing fancy outfits, big hats, and expensive watches.  And those who help tyrants justify killing.

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https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2022/05/20/gettyimages-88621042-edit_custom-45ab1d42340ef5560f20a7e541343176e172a072-s800-c85.webp

Stocks entered a bear market. Here's what that means - NPR

Time to freak out?  Average equity values just dropped about 30% (20% in price plus 10% from inflation).  But don't forget that the S&P index quadrupled between 2010 and 2021 - during a period of low inflation.  Even with recent drops, stock prices remain historically high.  Upcoming interest rate increases by the Fed will likely drive prices lower.  Time to take a long-term view, re-balance.  

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The Cantillon Effect and Stock Market Crashes - BIG

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The Cantillon Effect and Populism - Austrian Economics Center

Or: 'Why can rodents living in a food warehouse weigh many times more than those who have to hustle for a living in nature?'

Increasing the money supply through central banks produces uneven results.  Those who get the inflow first -- the wealthy -- can buy more, thus driving up prices across the market. "The result is a redistribution from the poor to the rich."

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CCSE work on these issues:

"Could new tools allowing the Fed to pump money through ‘the people’ make U.S. monetary policy more equitable and effective?" (2020)

"Targeting stimulus to lower- and middle-income families would also moderate widening inequality, possibly preventing feedback loops that might worsen disparities in coming years."

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Will US Inflation Lead to Recession? - AEI

"The Fed fell painfully behind the curve throughout 2021. Failing to see the extent to which inflationary pressures were building, it poured gasoline onto an economy that was already running hot. If economic conditions slow more abruptly than the Fed expects, it will need to respond more nimbly to softening in 2022 than it did to strengthening in 2021."

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How a Social Security program piled huge fines on the poor and disabled - WaPost

"The remarkable penalties led to tumult inside the office of Inspector General Gail Ennis, where a whistleblower was targeted for retaliation, an administrative judge found."

"'While I strongly believe that those who commit fraud against public entitlement programs deserve to be held accountable, I also believe that each person accused of misconduct deserves due process,' she added.

"Shaw testified that she was shocked when she was directed in early 2019 to issue a penalty of $176,000 to a woman who had already written a check for $26,000 to repay the government the entire amount she had wrongly received in disability benefits. Before she was placed on leave, Shaw was able to dismiss or settle about 23 cases with high proposed fines that were already in the appeals process. But that left at least 83 cases that she thought merited review, interviews and testimony show."

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https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/styles/report_386_high_dpi/public/2022-05/5-18-22bud_f1.png?itok=nVpf2aO8

Murray-Kaine Proposal to Expand, Improve Child Care Would Benefit Families and the Economy - CBPP

Senate Ds' scaled-back block-grant proposal would better target child care $$$ to lower-income families and workers, and be less inflationary than the BBB, which would have subsidized families with up to $300,000 in income. 

In presenting the new  proposal, the CBPP acknowledges concerns we and others raised that subsidizing well-off families could result in them bidding up the price of child care, thereby making it more difficult to help families with greater financial need in the long run.  However, we think the CBPP and many progressive economists err in asserting that inflation in one market sector, such as child care, necessarily results from increased "aggregate demand."  Government policies that reshape a particular sector can lead to much higher price increases in it  than in the economy as a whole (for example, the recent surge in the cost of housing).

We urge Congress  to explore this new proposal and also to get to work on making the expanded child tax credit permanent:

Congress’ failure to reup expanded child tax credit displays longtime favoritism toward higher income - CCSE

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https://cdn.theatlantic.com/thumbor/GLDCxFdaGxmr4Wgz5xAKng3OyQA=/0x0:2000x1125/976x549/media/img/mt/2022/05/RottenPoliticians/original.jpg
The Rotten Core of Our Political System - Atlantic

"In their new account of the 2020 election, two New York Times reporters reveal just how broken American democracy has become."

Not to mention that members of Congress allow themselves to use their access to inside information to their advantage in stock market transactions...But what's new?  Isn't corruption a constant feature of politics?

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Lincoln’s Successor Problem - Politico Magazine

"The 16th president picked a No. 2 who could win an election—not heal a divided country."

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Illustration of a large fist made up of many smaller fists.

Workers' leverage is here to stay - Axios

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Opinion: Democrats need more tough love on their misguided economic policies - WaPost

Her main point is on target.  But Rampell lets the unnamed Washington, D.C. economists who claim  they warned the White House about inflation risks (but weren't listened to by politicos) off the hook way to easy.  Just a few months ago all the liberal think tanks were singing like a chorus line in favor of the White House's hyper-inflationary BBB bill.  Few if any offered any analysis of  economic side effects as they customarily would for legislation they oppose.

While we supported parts of the BBB, the CCSE often warned that not targeting stimulus dollars or other subsidies to those at the bottom in greatest need could spur inflation.  Here's an example:

White House’s promised childcare subsidies
face a host of ‘devils in the details’ - 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 upperincome professionals and inflationary impacts could push the program’s cost as high as $1 trillion over 10 years."

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Democrats Press Biden to Go Big on Forgiving Student Loan Debt - Bloomberg

To be equitable, policymakers should apply the same loan forgiveness policy to future borrowers that they grant to today's debtors.  Such a proposal might lead a precocious member of Congress to notice that future loan forgiveness would be really a grant of free money, not a loan.  That might prompt another Solon to object that giving free tuition money to the offspring of well-off families would be wasteful, unfair, and maybe inflationary.

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Warren Buffett: Why I’m holding $144 billion in cash instead of buying more stock - Grow

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Sheriff's office: 2 people use chainsaw to steal money from Gloucester Co. 7-Eleven's skilled gaming machine - WTKR

Others like cash as well.

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West Virginians will see the biggest spike in Obamacare premiums within months if Manchin keeps blocking Biden's economic agenda - Business Insider

Time to get the band back together and salvage the best of BBB?

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Republican Senate candidates promote ‘replacement’ theory -AP

Another BS 'theory' running its course in a political media bubble?

'Replacement theory' is probably misplaced in the U.S. context.

Pop Quiz: Which nation aggressively applies 'replacement theory' in its laws and policies?  These include:

1. immigration laws discriminating in favor of the ruling majority.

2. land acquisition policies and practices favoring the ruling majority and a land bank to finance such.

For more clues, consult your Old Testaments and Fox News.

American and Israeli flags at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel.

Those answering correctly can receive certification of having an IQ of at least 100.  Harder quizzes to come.

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How Trump-backed candidates fared on the busiest primary day - Politico

"The former president's endorsement record Tuesday was mixed. While state Sen. Doug Mastriano won in Pennsylvania, elsewhere several other Trump favorites fell short."

Republicans would do well to retain political diversity in their party.  They should appreciate, not deprecate, the Cheneys, Romneys, and McConnells. 

Trump has activated a large segment of the bottom 50% -- which once was the base of the Democratic party and  could be re-cultivated.  For that to happen, D's would have shift their policy focus away from favoring the professional class and select racial and gender groups (identity politics) and toward low-income people generally.

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Black Lives Matter paid nearly $4M to board secretary, co-founder's brother, and father of her child - Fox

Three cheers for American non-profits!  Reparation theory?

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Can a Red-Pilled Tree-Hugger Save California? - Common Sense

"On the campaign trail with Michael Shellenberger, the Democrat turned independent who wants to unseat Gavin Newsom."

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https://prospect.org/downloads/17946/download/Elk-Lee%20051322%202.JPG?cb=995977d632f98ad328587e473d7b454f&w=1024&h=
Summer Lee’s Organizing Model Has Upended Pittsburgh - American Prospect

"Throughout her political career, Lee has struggled to win the support of organized labor, despite having previously worked as an organizer for the Fight for $15, which is backed by the SEIU.

"Few unions have backed her because of her opposition to fracking, and her calls for a crackdown on pollution from U.S. Steel. When Lee ran for re-election in 2020, she was the only incumbent Democratic state legislator that the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO actively spent money against, with unions spending over $170,000 in an attempt to beat her. She still won with 72 percent of the vote."

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The Buffalo shooting and the fascistic transformation of the Republican Party - WSWS

As it often does, the Trotskyist press offers insights into the U.S. two-party system while being short on practical solutions.  As the for the Democrats:

"...the racialism of the far right is in fact ideologically legitimized by the racialism of the Democrats. The Democratic Party has placed at the center of its program the insistence on irreconcilable racial conflict, the presentation of every social problem in America as arising out of racial division, in order to suppress any discussion of the far more fundamental class divisions."

Both parties distract the bottom 40% of the work force who are low wage with cultural dog whistles that divide them and suppress their focus on economic issues.  Both parties say they represent workers. In reality, the R position is: "Not one more dollar in wages or one paid sick day."  Ds put the interests of professionals and educational elites over the low-wage work force. 

BTW, the story below is an example of how the political and academic elite "racialize" an issue:

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Moves by Russia, China, North Korea rekindle nuclear concerns - Harvard Gazette

"Global security experts scrutinize weapon deployment threats in Ukraine, accelerated missile tests, silo construction"

"North Korea, which appears to be rapidly advancing its missile program, perhaps in preparation for another nuclear test, is “very challenging.” Though the U.S. has tried to open a door to diplomacy, “they have not responded. They have not come back to us at all,” said Jenkins. “Instead, they’ve been testing.”

"As a Black woman from New York’s South Bronx, Jenkins spoke of the importance of role models and how essential it is to have ideas and decisions that spring from a group of people who come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences."

So, is one to infer that the key to nuclear arms accords with North Korea and China is getting someone with experience in the Hood at the negotiating table?  (Research topic; Do Harvard academics have a higher-than-average ratio of years of educational training to native intelligence and common sense?)

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With higher inflation, living with your parents makes economic sense - Michele Singletary/WaPost

"Among adults 25 to 29, nearly a third live in multigenerational households, often in their parents’ homes, according to Pew. Nearly 4 in 10 young men are in multigenerational households.

"And while a quarter of adults in multigenerational homes say it is stressful all or most of the time, more than twice that say it is mostly or always rewarding, Pew found."

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

Or not at all, if we're talking about real money.  An inflation adjustment means you break even.

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CEO Pay Explodes Again - LA Progressive

Interesting discussion of how the law allows CEOs to control company boards of directors.

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Ralph Nader: The New Corporate Dictators Super-Rich And Super-Immune - Eurasia Review

"As long as Silicon Valley behemoths continue to rule Washington D.C. and State Capitals, get ready for more refinements of commercial tyranny."

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How Wall Street Is Taking Over Medicare - The Lever

Private equity seems an unlikely option for reconciling double digit returns for investors, high-quality health care, and the imperative to somehow tame chronic Medicare hyperinflation.

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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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https://substackcdn.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F4b432913-aee5-43ca-b289-38c7dc0f71a6_1620x1020.jpeg
The Covid Capitulation - Eric Topol

Topol makes strong arguments.

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http://d279m997dpfwgl.cloudfront.net/wp/2020/01/GettyImages-1147031674-1000x607.jpg

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

_____

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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https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/35abbeeb21023fd7a91b8d2c67b81291c0b01d7c/0_8_3727_2237/master/3727.jpg?width=620&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=aecb6dbf54070d6f41fae1841d2b4c32

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.

https://substackcdn.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_auto,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F9f67e54d-4052-44eb-995b-1208a518e2b0_1050x676.png

"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.

    __________

    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."

    __________

    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."

    __________

    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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    https://media.gettyimages.com/vectors/rising-gasoline-prices-at-the-pump-vector-id1372096733?k=20&m=1372096733&s=612x612&w=0&h=zypJNeXgDo1pP-E59cSM86kuPlWhHPdk3D_0QSlWuz4=

    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)."

    __________

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

    __________

    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

    __________

    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)

    __________

    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."

    __________

    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?

    __________

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

    __________

    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'

    __________

    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."

    __________

    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

     

     __________

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

    __________

    lobotomist_bedlam6.jpg

    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

    _________

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

    __________

    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?

    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!

    _____

    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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