Exploring economic inequality - Advocating for the bottom 50%
June 26, 2022
Thanks to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for publishing this op-ed.
April 29, 2022
Congress’ failure to re-up expanded child tax credit displays longtime favoritism toward higher income
From Great Moderation to Great Stagflation - /Project Syndicate
"Our civil justice system too often allows the party with deeper pockets to prolong litigation until the other side runs out of money. In other words, even though the facts and the merits may favor David, Goliath may still be able to hold the advantage."
The woke won't read this but should. For their own protection.
"Hey, low-income people! Here’s one retirement savings strategy, while government thinks about how it might help." - CCSE essay
Federal $$ to buy electric vehicles probably will mostly benefit the well-off -- unless cities and states create equitable access to charging stations. The subsidies also may lead higher-income people to bid up prices. See also:
Electric Cars Remain Out of Reach for Many Lower-Income Californians as State Incentive Programs Run Dry - KQED
An interview with Stephen Eide about his new book, Homelessness in America: The History and Tragedy of an Intractable Social Problem.
"Chapter 9 addresses the problem of schizophrenia and the closing of state asylums. You write that “prior to deinstitutionalization, families were not assumed to be responsible for their adult schizophrenic relatives.” Today, that burden falls most heavily on families. What effect has this had on American families and what can we do to help them? "
"An undercover investigation into the Taliban’s crackdown on women in Afghanistan..."
"The only thing left is your voice"
"The painting initially appeared near Israel’s separation barrier in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem and was one of several works created in secret around 2007. They employed Banksy’s trademark absurdist and dystopian imagery to protest Israel’s decades-long occupation of territories the Palestinians want for a future state."
The Wealthy, Private Equity, Electric Carmakers, Renewable Energy, Oil Companies, Medicare/Obamacare Enrollees, Deficit Hawks, the IRS.
Pharmaceutical Companies, Tech Companies, the SALT Caucus, Progressives.
"The deal extends a popular $7,500 per vehicle consumer tax credit for the purchase of electric vehicles."
Switching to electric vehicles has dramatically different impacts on the environment depending on location. That's because electricity in various regions, and states, is generated in very different ways.
Together, renewable energy sources produced about 20% of the U.S's electricity in 2021. About 61% was generated by fossil fuets and 19% by nuclear plants. Unless the sources of electricity change, switching to electric vehicles in KY and WV, which rely heavily on coal to generate power, would only marginally reduce total emissions. Switching to electric vehicles in VT, where power is mostly generated by water, biomass, solar, and wind, would drastically reduce emissions.
The bill restores -- and can significantly increase -- the recently expired renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC). States with a large potential to switch to wind and solar could benefit the most...Will Kentucky (McConnell) and West Virginia (Manchin) be prodigal sons?
Check out the section on sheltered workshops...The minimum wage for tipped workers should be at least half of the standard minimum wage -- and all of it should be indexed to inflation.
"Taking apart old electronics means battling suffocating heat and hazardous chemicals with little protection."
Supreme Court rules not wearing condom against partner's wishes could lead to sexual assault conviction - CBC
"In June, 61% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, per a LendingClub report, — a number that's ticked up in recent months as average savings have fallen. While most borrowers remain well-positioned to make payments, this is becoming much more challenging for lower-income households than those making more than $50,000 annually, per data from the New York Fed.
"Wealthier Americans seem to be doing just fine. While inflation is a nuisance, many have enough savings built up to continue spending, and given the unemployment rate remains low, most can rely on a steady source of income."
Economic inequality has deepened during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed - World Economic Forum
Sinema among top private equity cash recipients as she removed billionaire tax loophole from Manchin bill - Fox
"The carried interest tax provision was removed from the Inflation Reduction Act as part of her approval of the bill."
"Our senior economics writer picks three books and two papers."
"One kind of happiness is to survive a storm at sea, and reach the shore in safety. Another is to triumph over hardship. Another is surpassing other people, moving up in wealth and strength and power. Or one can hope; there are so many hopes. Some human hopes succeed and others fail. But a truly happy life is happiness day by day."
- Chorus of maenads, "Bacchae" - Euripides
Sunday, August 7, 2022
"This is what the Sovereign LORD is saying: 'I will send my four worst punishments on Jerusalem--war, famine, wild animals, and disease--to destroy people and animals alike..."
Nuclear threats are increasing – here's how the US should prepare for a nuclear event - The Conversation
Housing affordability plunges to lowest level since 2006. The property market’s ‘great slowdown’ is here, Bank of America says - MarketWatch
Modern monetary theory isn't particularly modern. Check out the writings of Richard Cantillon and Adam Smith. Both noted that an increase in the supply of money tends to drive up prices. Without the advantage of a central bank and the ability to print money, Spain spurred higher inflation by injecting large quantities of silver and gold mined in its colonies into the European economy over a period spanning the 15th-17th centuries. See:
"For many women, unexpected pregnancy is accompanied by financial hardship, health issues, substance use disorders, housing needs, and other challenges. To help these women, states should review benefit and service strategies to help ensure women have the support they need for healthy pregnancies and babies, whether they live in states that allow abortion or ones that seek to restrict it."
Makes sense. But will Conservative lawmakers follow through on the good intentions of a Conservative think tank?
Lack of Awareness and Confusion over Eligibility Prevented Some Families from Getting Child Tax Credit Payments - Urban
This story reveals 3 areas of US incompetence: the government sector, the financial sector, and the manufacturing sector. Confederacy of dunces?
US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR RECOVERS $608K IN WAGES, LIQUIDATED DAMAGES AFTER MOUNTAIN MIKE’S PIZZA RESTAURANTS’ FRANCHISEE DENIED EMPLOYEES OVERTIME
JUDGE ORDERS CONCESSIONS OPERATOR THAT SHORTCHANGED TEMPORARY WORKERS WITH H-2B VISAS TO PAY $203K IN BACK WAGES, PENALTIES - US DOL
"A comprehensive look at employment levels, demographics, wages, benefits, and poverty rates of workers in the industry"
Even though their work involves contact with elders most vulnerable to Covid, a large percentage of personal care workers do not receive paid sick days. Wonder if their managers and company execs do?rs and co execs do?
"In practically every field of human endeavor, the average age of achievement and power is rising."
Richer Americans are living longer. The poorer, not so much. See:
A Widening Gap in Life Expectancy Makes Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age a Particularly Bad Deal for Low-Wage Earners - Karl Polzer/Society of Actuaries
Dear Congress: Could inclusion of embryos gain some R votes in support of continuing the expanded child tax credit? (Have a heart!)
For all its numeric brilliance, Chetty and colleagues' work poses major research design issues. These include: 1) imprecisely defined variables (friendship, eg), 2) implied causation ("determinants", "predictors", eg) for what are statistical associations, 3) assumption that geographical characteristics remain constant over extended time periods (eg, is Detroit of the 1980s socially different from Detroit of the 2020s?)...Science or metaphor?
The tires of resulting policy recommendations also need some serious kicking. Eg, even if moving to areas with more inclusive social activity might benefit some of the economically disadvanted, what happens to the communities whose most ambitious have vacated? Would the country as a whole be better off? Should the government invest in subsidzing migration that might occur on its own? ... BTW, did the armed services provide a mechanism to expand social mixing, especially when there was a draft?
Just what is "the American Dream"? Attaining higher relative wealth and social status (getting ahead)? Greater degree of freedom to choose life activities and exercise power? Reaching the middle class? Economic security? Ability to pay for necessities of life? Ability to pass along any or all of the above to one's children and future generations?
"A neuroscience image sleuth finds signs of fabrication in scores of Alzheimer’s articles, threatening a reigning theory of the disease."
"A plucky amateur dared to question a celebrated psychological finding. He wound up blowing the whole theory wide open."
---- “Is it really true that no one saw through this,” he asks, “in an article that was cited 350 times, in a field which touts itself as being so scientific?”
In posing this question to psychologists with relevant expertise, a partial picture begins to emerge.
Some said they weren’t informed on the issue, and couldn’t comment. Others said they knew about the 2005 paper and had cited it, but with qualifications. “My opinion of the paper has always been that it was a metaphor, disguised as modeling,” said David Pincus, a psychologist at Chapman University who specializes in the application of chaos theory to psychology.
"If the choice is between party or people, I’ll choose to stand by my people every time. Although flooding on this scale is unprecedented, the people of eastern Kentucky and Appalachia are resilient, and we will continue living here and celebrating our shared culture, even when we don’t share each other’s politics."
Though Ds elevate select demographic and ethnic groups for special consideration, they are just as responsible as Rs in perpetuating policies that continue concentrating wealth and create a swelling multi-colored underclass with less freedom to control their lives and advance their economic status. Having voted Dem in most elections, at this point, if pushed, I would classfy my political affiliation as 12% Dem, 8% Rep, and 80% "screw both parties."
Chuck Schumer again has punted on antitrust reform, a scant five years after declaring it to be a Democratic Party priority - Axios
How Public Real Estate Investment Trusts Extract Wealth from Nursing Homes and Hospitals - Institute for New Economic Thinking
"In sum, this working paper suggests that scholars and policy makers need to take a much closer look at REIT activities. "Their profits and executive compensation have been extraordinary in recent years, with little discomfort caused by the COVID pandemic. Their financial transactions offer little or no transparency, and taxpayers deserve a clear assessment of how much they are subsidizing yet another asset class that may be contributing to greater inequality in the US economy."
Instead of "trust busting," U.S. tax law is subsidizing growing concentrations of financial wealth layered over real estate, a "natural" source of monopoly rent resulting from owning the finite resource of land.
Bank of America Memo, Revealed: “We Hope” Conditions for American Workers Will Get Worse - The Intercept
"The financial behemoth privately fears that regular people have too much leverage..."
"The memo is an uncanny demonstration that the economist Adam Smith was right when he described the politics of inflation in his famed 1776 work, “The Wealth of Nations.”
"“High profits tend much more to raise the price of work than high wages,” Smith argued. “Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price. … They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”
"Thus, exactly as Smith would have predicted, Bank of America complains loudly about the bad effects of high wages in raising prices, but appears to be silent about the pernicious effects of high profits."
"Even while California and other states across the country have raised minimum wages, 'The cost of housing continues to far outpace income growth,' said Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California and the Chairwoman of the US House Committee on Financial Services. 'It is unconscionable for this country, with the resources that it has, to ignore the housing crisis in America.'”
"Inflation has not only placed more pressure on military families to pay for higher housing and rental prices, but also has made it harder for military families to be eligible for government assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)."
“We are prepared to immediately begin discussions with union representatives for the employees at this store to negotiate a contract,” the statement from Nakia Rohde said. “We are willing to use any current union contract for a multi-state grocery company with stores in the area, selected by the union representatives, as a template to negotiate a new structure for the employees in this store; including pay, retirement, healthcare, and working conditions such as scheduling and job flexibility.”
"Less than a week before workers began voting in Hadley, Trader Joe’s announced in an internal memo that it was increasing benefits nationwide. The company said it was raising Sunday and holiday pay by $10 an hour, as well as the rate of accrual for paid time off. It said it would give out raises to employees with more tenure at the company to increase pay equity across the company."
Atlanta EMS Unionize to Push Back against Understaffing – Black Amazon Workers Received Death Threats – N.C. Chick-fil-A Tried to Pay Workers in Chicken - Payday Report
Sunday, July 31, 2022
"Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter." - James 5
On import substitution, Fukuyama, eternal growth and more - B. Milanovik Q&A with AEI's J. Pethokoukis
Democrats do better at urging progressive taxation than progressive spending. Much of the spending in the Build Back Better bill was directed at high-income professionals - an important constituency for the party. Examples? Proposals for free college, cancellation of college debt, and free child care direct excessive spending to people who don't need financial help. BTW, the less progressive a subsidy, the more potential to spur price inflation.
"White House’s promised childcare subsidies face a host of ‘devils in the details’" - Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity
"While the work of unpaid caregivers is deeply undervalued, paid home care workers struggle too. Roughly 2 million people make up the home care workforce, which is 86% women, 60% people of color, and 14% immigrants. According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, nearly 20% of these workers live in poverty, with an average hourly wage of $12.12 and annual earnings of $17,200."
Total national work = (paid work) + (unpaid work)
Total paid work = (work below living wage) + (work that can pay the bills)
"With the health giant again under scrutiny by California regulators for alleged denial of care, many therapists are leaving for private practice."
Same is happening in Kaiser's DC/MD/VA region which is now allowing patients to use outside psychiatrists. KP is still working on how non-panel psychiatrists coordinate with its pharmacy to prescribe pills and injections. It's as if the giant HMO has been forced to re-invent the 1980's style PPO to relieve swamped psych nurses.
Note: Kaiser is an important option -- sometimes the only affordable one -- for low- and middle-income families.
Leaves out expansion of child tax credit to more low-income families.
Extends increased subsides for health insurance policies purchased through ACA health exchanges and lowers Medicare drug costs.
Looks to curtail tax dodge for wall street traders.
Includes a $7,500 tax credit for low- and middle-income purchasers of electric and other alternative fuel vehicles.
Sen. Romney explained his plan to expand the child tax credit yesterday at AEI. He said Republican sponsors of the legislation are looking for Democrats to join them and open to negotiation.
Romney Child Tax Credit Proposal Is Step Forward But Falls Short, Targets Low-Income Families to Pay for It - CBPP
"Finally antitrust enforcers act against a big tech merger. The Federal Trade Commission filed suit to stop Facebook from buying a popular VR app maker and thus dominating the virtual reality space."
"...the merger challenge is part of a historic revival of antitrust and competition policy, and that resurrection is finally beginning to have impacts on market participants. Today, the Spirit-Frontier airline merger proposal fell apart, in part because of heightened scrutiny over mergers from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Amazon, similarly due to regulatory pressure, is rolling back some of its private label products that compete with its third party sellers. Yesterday, enforcers from different parts of government actually dealt with corrosive practices in the poultry industry, which is the first time that has happened in decades. Today, Rohit Chopra at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau publicly warned Apple about getting too far into the payments system. Gary Gensler at the Securities and Exchange Commission is finally cracking down on the crypto space by going after insider trading at Coinbase."
Monopoly in Medication E-Prescribing?? Little-known Surescripts Explained. - Dr. Eric Bricker (5:22)
"Why have some American families struggled to keep their homes during the COVID pandemic, despite a federal ban on evictions? With Retro Report, the documentary Facing Eviction offers an intimate look at the United States’ affordable housing crisis through the eyes of tenants, landlords, judges and law enforcement."
Families With Children at Increased Risk of Eviction, With Renters of Color Facing Greatest Hardship - CBPP
"Families with children have been consistently more likely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to fall behind on rent compared to renters without children in their household. On average, 21 percent of renters living with children reported being in a household behind on rent from early August to late September, compared to 12 percent of renters without children in their household."
True, but...While both parties vibrantly represent segments of the upper-middle class and wealthy, neither does much for almost half the working population, which has almost no net assets and low wages. To represent the working class, R's need to fight for better wages, paid sick days, affordable health care coverage and fair tax subsidies.
Senate Dem leaders just made a spending deal that leaves out extension of changes to the child tax credit that lifted millions out of poverty. Subsidies once again will flow mainly to the better off. Legislation that now gains bipartisan support, like the 401(k)/IRA financing bills and business subsidies, distribute more $$ to people at the top.
"Trump estimated there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, who are currently living on city streets nationwide. He proposed creating more permanent tent cities on the outskirts of large metropolitan areas to make downtown districts from Seattle to Los Angeles to New York City 'clean, safe, and beautiful again.'"
Tent cities would be better than sleeping on the streets. So why didn't Trump take the initiative on the homeless when he was president? There were just as many in the nation's capital then.
Here's what we suggested -- admittedly tongue-in-cheek -- to the White House and Congress in 2019:
"When I looked at Trump, I saw a bigoted blowhard making one ignorant argument after another. What Trump’s supporters saw was a candidate whose entire being was a proudly raised middle finger at a self-satisfied elite that had produced a failing status quo.
"I was blind to this. Though I had spent the years of Barack Obama’s presidency denouncing his policies, my objections were more abstract than personal. I belonged to a social class that my friend Peggy Noonan called “the protected.” My family lived in a safe and pleasant neighborhood. Our kids went to an excellent public school. I was well paid, fully insured, insulated against life’s harsh edges.
"Trump’s appeal, according to Noonan, was largely to people she called 'the unprotected.' Their neighborhoods weren’t so safe and pleasant. Their schools weren’t so excellent. Their livelihoods weren’t so secure. Their experience of America was often one of cultural and economic decline, sometimes felt in the most personal of ways.
"It was an experience compounded by the insult of being treated as losers and racists —clinging, in Obama’s notorious 2008 phrase, to 'guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.'
"No wonder they were angry."
Comment: Ya think? Have been telling D's this since Trump first ran for president. The party has become the champion of the upper-middle class and professionals and left the working class behind. Meanwhile, R's deliver little economic benefit to low-income workers. But at least they know better than to call them a "basket of deplorables."
Elizabeth Warren beckons the Fed to punish the working class with more inflation - Washington Examiner
"It’s not a coincidence that the past decade of near-zero interest rates, a risk chosen by the Fed despite the longest bull market in history, coincided with the largest transfer of wealth to the wealthy in modern history. Warren is right that Powell is faced with a binary choice: a bad recession now or an even worse one later. Her attempted reality check, however, is nothing more than a progressive fantasy."
The Fed, as well as elected officials, should pay much more heed to the distributional impacts of monetary and fiscal policies to combat inflation, which hits low-income people the hardest. Meanwhile, unlike the writer above, some convervatives are trying to blame government programs benefiting the poor for causing high inflation. (See comments above on rolling back expansion of the child tax credit to include low-income people.)
Some unions are more equal than others. And less corrupt.
Day 1 of the UAW Constitutional Convention: Direct election rules and campaigns take shape - Detroit News
"The convention comes at a precarious times for the union. It's emerging from a years-long corruption scandal during which labor leaders, including two UAW presidents, pocketed bribes, embezzled money and broke labor laws."
Unifor corruption scandal deepens in run-up to convention of Canada’s largest industrial union - WSWS
Elsewhere in the Kingdom...
Lord, have mercy. Something not quite right here. Is this in the Plan?
Paul Pelosi’s questionable Wall Street windfall spurs bipartisan calls for stock trading ban - The Hill
"Inflation hurts poor households the most, but the way the Federal Reserve fights it hurts them, too."
"...'Petrou thinks the Federal Reserve needs better data in its analyses to capture the reality of wealth and income distribution among U.S. households. She also recommends “automatic stabilizers,” protective measures for lower- and moderate-income households that will instantly go into effect in an economic downturn.
"'These measures include overdraft protections in banks and small-dollar loans to lower-income families from the government to get through an economic crisis.'"
Matt Davies - Newsday
"Fixing what’s broken in Fed policy making starts with meaningful data and useful models. To know what it’s doing, a central bank must base its conclusions about growth on “distributional” indicators, in other words, those that reflect actual income and wealth holdings for different households and the economic power they wield. These indicators convey how households are likely to behave under different interest rates, Fed-portfolio levels, and economic or financial stress. These data and models cannot rely on aggregate GDP and should judge employment by looking at labor force participation and inflation-adjusted wages and understand price stability through the lens of what it really costs the majority of households to make ends meet."
"Wealthier consumers aren't necessarily tightening their belts"
"...obsessive worrying over the dollar’s future looks misplaced. The real question is how to design a global monetary world of multiple and complimentary currencies that will work to the benefit of everyone. The task is both technical and economic as well as normative and political. It is one that requires a deep understanding of both history and political philosophy. Contemporary policymakers and anyone else interested in the future of money would do well to read these two very different but equally essential books."
Sunday, July 24, 2022
"Job growth is slowing, vacancies are down and unemployment claims are ticking up."
Marx Brothers score big in "Horsefeathers" (1932)
Georgia rewards Kirby Smart after national title with new deal making him top-paid coach - Athens Banner-Herald
In college sports -- as in the broader ecosystem of America’s blend of capitalism and socialism -- leverage can be very profitable. Winning football coaches now sit at the top of the public university food chain. They are emblems of both American economic opportunity and inequality.
In the afterglow of winning the national college football championship, a university owned and operated by the state of Georgia just awarded coach Kirby Smart a contract paying him $10.25 million in the first year and increasing to $12.25 by the 2031 season, making the total package worth $112.5 million before bonuses.
The coach is the highest paid public employee in a state that pays its governor $175,000 and legislators about $17,000 a year. While the university often provides elected officials with free football tickets, Georgia's political establishment has been accused of shortchanging the state's K-12 education system.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia recently was rated as one the worst states for educational attainment and educational quality. The Peach State was also ranked in the bottom 10 states in which to raise a family, based on five categories: family fun, health and safety, education and child care, affordability, and socioeconomics.
Renters in Arkansas and Nebraska Face Eviction After Governors Refuse Federal Rental Assistance - Intercept
"The Republican governors claimed tenants no longer need aid to cover back rent accrued during the pandemic. But requests for funds remain high as residents struggle to stay housed."
Something's not right in the park
"On September 29, 2021, in the wake of the shelter siege, the city publicly announced the purchase of 73 modular units. City councilors stated that these units would be available for unhoused residents to move in within a matter of weeks. However, upon arriving in Halifax the units were found to be badly dilapidated and uninhabitable."
"America’s bipartisan political class at work."
"Are Republican Senators conniving spendthrifts or babes in the Beltway? We lean toward the former after watching a $76 billion semiconductor subsidy bill morph within minutes on Tuesday night into a $250 billion bipartisan spendarama. The Senate voted 64-34 to begin debate on its
Chips bill, a corporate-welfare vehicle providing $52 billion in grants and $24 billion in tax credits to the profitable semiconductor industry. But it turns out that bill was merely the bad news. The really bad news is that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly filed a 1,054-page bipartisan
amendment to pour more than twice that amount of money into federal agencies."
Contrast the Congress' bipartisan thrift on spending to help the lowest-income to its enthusiasm to fund corporate and federal agency interests described in the WSJ editorial above.
Virginia Medicaid Expansion: New Members Report Reduced Financial Concerns During The COVID-19 Pandemic - HealthAffairs
"We add to the evidence that Medicaid expansion is a social safety-net policy that could improve equity among low-income families, potentially encouraging states that have yet to expand to do so."
"Republicans are becoming more working class and a little more multiracial. Democrats are becoming more elite and a little more white...The GOP is trading soccer moms for Walmart dads."
The working class sees a D agenda prioritizing transfer of $$ from "the rich" to well-off professionals and that the party doesn't fight for them. But R's, so far, have done little for workers on economic issues. At some point, pols may have to move beyond cultural hot buttons and deliver on issues like wages, paid sick days, and fair tax credits.
Hispanic voters predict red wave, say Democrats use handouts and rhetoric to appease minorities - Fox
"The pandemic has underscored why diversity in Congress — including class — is so crucial."
"...what’s now on deck, needing only Senate approval , is a permanent three-year pushback. Instead of starting at age 72, taxable required distributions wouldn’t begin until age 75.
"It’s the key provision in the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022. Every Democrat in the House voted for it, the only nays coming from five Republicans. Daniel Hemel, a tax professor at the NYU School of Law, called it “a deeply cynical deficit-expanding giveaway to high-income taxpayers…Progressives and deficit hawks alike should say no to this gimmicky.”
"Tax lawyer Robert Lord spoke to the corruption of the 1974 law that first established retirement accounts: “What started out as a well-designed program to help ordinary Americans…has been transformed by the financial industry, the rich people they serve, and those carrying water for them in Congress. Today, IRAs and retirement plans…function primarily as vehicles to further enrich America’s wealthiest.”
"Figures compiled by the Tax Policy Center back up Lord’s claim: “[A]lmost 90% of tax breaks for retirement savings go to the highest-income 20% of U.S. households, a group that would save anyway.”
"Tax expert Len Burman also weighed in on the new Secure Act, calling it “regressive and a budget scam. It’s scored as revenue neutral, but it will cost billions in lost revenue outside the ‘budget window.’ ” "
The IRS just made it easier for families to pass on millions of dollars to their children and others - Marketwatch
"...29 states had university closings and/or consolidations. Massachusetts had the most universities closing or merging, with five closures and four mergers. North Carolina, on the other hand, had no closings, but John Wesley College merged with High Point University.
"The closings and mergers of these institutions were, for the most part, due to financial reasons and lack of enrollment."
"The clearest indicator of the damage caused by this separate wage floor for tipped workers is the differences in poverty rates for tipped workers depending on their state’s tipped minimum wage policy. As shown in Figure A, in the states where tipped workers are paid the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour (just slightly less than the district’s $2.77 at that time), 18.5 percent of waiters, waitresses, and bartenders are in poverty. Yet in the states where they are paid the regular minimum wage before tips (equal treatment states), the poverty rate for waitstaff and bartenders is only 11.1 percent. Importantly, the poverty rates for non-tipped workers are very similar regardless of states’ tipped minimum wage level. This strongly indicates that the lower tipped minimum wage is driving these differences in outcomes for tipped workers."
Some of our work on the minimum wage:
"Considerations on Raising the U.S. Minimum Wage To Help Workers and Families While Minimizing Negative Impacts" - analysis
• 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.
Payday Tracks 2,100 Strike – S.C Dollar General Workers Strike – Hotel Workers Vote to Strike During Comic-Con
"The findings by the FEA survey are consistent with data released by the National Education Association in February 2022 that found 55 percent of responding educators were thinking of leaving the profession earlier than planned. That number was up from 37 percent from the August 2021 numbers."
"Amazon is curtailing its private label business in response to regulatory pressure. But it's also promoting one of its more predatory executives. Two steps forward, one step back."
"Monopolies are slowly killing rural America — and driving up the price you pay for food."
Higher cost of gas, cars, and credit is cutting into workers' pay checks.
"The sad truth is that coastal progressive condescension toward workers has become second nature to many Democrats, so much so that they don’t realize they’re doing it."
Sunday, July 17, 2022
"Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." - Ruth 1
"Nearly four-in-ten men ages 25 to 29 now live with older relatives"
"Worth recapping just how much has fallen out since this all started:
❌Paid family leave
❌Dental, vision care for seniors
❌Free community college
❌Child Tax Credit
& a lot of other stuff I cant even remember now"
Comment: Time to separate the wheat from the chaff, the most needed from the least -- and to structure what's left in the most progressive, least inflationary way feasible.
"...The rule of the rich locally and of the powerful internationally seems so ideologically entrenched today that no hope of betterment, no hope of national nor economic equality seems on the horizon. A lot of responsibility for this disastrous state of affairs lies on the “trivialists”, the intellectual elite who defined, promoted, and defended this pernicious ideology of inequality. The hopelessness envelops not only the present where we stand on the precipice of the extinction of a part of humankind, but the future too. Progressive thought has been vitiated, remodeled, and extirpated. The medieval darkness, under the name of “liberty”, is descending."
Russia's need for troop ‘disposal’ behind push to bring Belarus into war, Ukrainian official warns - Fox
"Getting Inflation Loss out of Capital Gains Taxation Is Fair - and Might Help Reach a Deal on Dunning the Dead" - CCSE policy paper
Bill Gates says pledge to give away 'virtually all' of his money will erase him from world's wealthiest list - USA Today
Money doesn't make you middle class—here's what does, according to an anthropologist, sociologist, and philosopher - CNBC/MSN
Government Policies are Responsible for the American Housing Crisis that is Crowding Lower Income Households Out of the Housing Market - Edward Pinto/AEI
Here are the 5 most ‘overvalued’ housing markets in the US — they could even see prices plunge 15% to 20% if a recession hits - MSN
No Path to Justice: Israeli Forces Keep Killing Americans While U.S. Officials Give Them a Pass - Intercept
Two versions of Biden's trek to Israel and the gas stations in the Middle East:
Biden embraces a signature Trump achievement on first trip to the Middle East, aiming to bring Israel and Saudi Arabia closer - CNN
Mostly based on information provided by Administration officials, but there's also this comment on the optics:
"State Department officials also requested last month that Israel tamp down on any military operations and settlement activity in the West Bank at least while Biden is in town, a second senior US official said.
"The White House is particularly keen on avoiding a repeat of Biden’s visit to Israel as vice president in 2010, when Israel’s Interior Ministry approved a settlement expansion in east Jerusalem while Biden was in the country trying to build support for new talks with the Palestinians. Biden condemned the announcement and White House officials were so furious at the time that they urged Biden to fly home, officials told CNN.
"Asked whether Israel will honor US requests not to engage in settlement announcements around Biden’s trip, the senior Israeli official would say only that Israel is doing “everything possible” to make the visit a success."
As noted above, it's basically a trip to the gas stations:
"Former Russian president says attempts to use courts or tribunals to investigate Russia’s actions in Ukraine creates threats to ‘existence of humanity’."
"The frightening thought for the US economy is that if inflation rates stay high and unemployment stays low, then it may take two recessions to kill inflation and smash jobs, the ultimate aim of the Fed and the authorities. That’s what happened between 1980-82 – a double-dip recession."
Note that, despite the war, Russia and Ukraine still function as business partners piping gas to Europe.
Source: Goldman Sachs
"GS concludes that there is a 30% probability of entering a recession over the next year, but a 48% probability of entering a recession by next year – in other words, it’s more or less likely by 2023, but not yet. For them, 'we do not have a recession in our baseline forecast, but we continue to expect well below consensus growth and do see heightened recession risk.'"
This tool lets you estimate impacts of a couple proposed changes.
Some of our work on the minimum wage:
Analysis: Ways To Raise the U.S. Minimum Wage To Help Workers, Families, While Minimizing Negative Impacts
"Huang, the depositor from Wuhan, lost his job in the medical cosmetology industry this year, as businesses struggled in the pandemic. Yet he is unable to withdraw any of his life savings – of over 500,000 yuan ($75,000) – from a rural bank in Henan.
"'Being unemployed, all I can live on is my past savings. But I can’t even do that now – how am I supposed to (support my family)?' said Huang, whose son is in high school.
"Sun, from Shenzhen, is struggling to keep his machine factory from bankruptcy after losing his deposit of 4 million yuan ($597,000) to a Henan bank. He can’t even pay his more than 40 employees without the funds."
Romney Child Tax Credit Proposal Is Step Forward But Falls Short, Targets Low-Income Families to Pay for It - CBPP
Sunday, July 10, 2022
Well-written book offers powerful stories and excellent recap of inequality/poverty literature.
A Week of Spending for a Buffalo, N.Y. Surgeon Making $490K — A doctor keeps his spending fairly frugal but splurges on sushi delivery one night -Medpage Today
Is CA going it alone? Previous proposals had the state collaborating with pharmas:
Could CA, or other states, develop and manufacture a broad range of generic products and sell them at cost or a reasonable profit? States could use the money to help low-income and uninsured patients afford meds.
Could enterprising states sell generics to U.S. state and federal government programs - or other countries for that matter? How might Big Pharma react to such a prospect?
3 takes on what to do about inflation:
"If you want to blame something in the Rescue Plan for inflation, go at the stimulus checks, not the Child Tax Credit. Even if families spent the entire credit each month, its effect on our supply-demand imbalance would be small and stable...
"The argument that the new Child Tax Credit created excess demand that led to high inflation falls apart when we look at the big picture. It’s a picture of massive inequality and one where pent-up demand due to Covid among the rich is a more likely source of the excess demand."
Her analysis makes sense. We have been making a similar point about inflation and suggested throughout the Covid epidemic that stimulus payments should be more targeted to those in need. Sending money to well-off people who don't need it allows them to bid up prices (especially relevant during supply shortages.)
For example, see comments on "market side effects" on p. 3 of this piece on childcare subsidies:
White House’s promised childcare subsidies face a host of ‘devils in the details’ - Center on Capital & Social Equity
"Court documents show the potential conflicts of interest when accounting firms simultaneously help clients avoid taxes and audit their finances."
What happened to the firewalls?
Ken Griffin Spent $54 Million Fighting a Tax Increase for the Rich. Secret IRS Data Shows It Paid Off for Him. - ProPublica
"The ultrawealthy poured money into a successful campaign to defeat a graduated state income tax. For the first time, we can reveal the scale of their return on this investment."
"As of early Monday morning, at least 57 people had been shot in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, nine of them fatally, according to NBC Chicago. That did not include the toll from the Highland Park shooting outside the city.
"Ten hours before a gunman opened fire at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park — where the median household income is nearly $150,000 and more than 80% of the population is white, with a large Jewish community — five people were shot around midnight Monday in Parkway Gardens, a housing complex in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, where the median household income is less than $30,000 and more than 90% of the population is Black."
"'It was sad to hear about Highland Park,' Gardner said of the suburb where the median household income is $147,067, according to the 2020 Census. 'But at the same time, we’re used to that kind of stuff here. There was a shooting at that same house last year.'
"Gardner’s family doesn’t let their young children play beyond their fenced-in backyard in Grand Crossing, where the median household income is estimated at just over $29,000..."
"This year’s holiday violence was tame in Chicago compared with the previous year, when more than 100 people suffered gunshot wounds and 17 died, according to Chicago Police Department data."
"Connecticut, Nevada, Oregon, and the District of Columbia raised their minimum wages July 1, along with 18 localities across the U.S. Altogether, 24 states, D.C., and 59 localities have raised their minimum wages in 2022.
"These state and local increases are crucial since the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009—and is losing value each year as inflation rises."
PA’s controversial mental health law on involuntary treatment stands to get a test run more than 3 years after its passing - PublicSource
"...Pennsylvania is experiencing a dire mental health workforce shortage and lengthy wait times for services. According to a report by Pennsylvania’s Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association, the number of mental health and intellectual disability professionals working in the state declined by nearly 10% between 2019 and 2021, largely due to burnout and 'unsatisfactory working conditions.'
"'Our mental system is in crisis right now,' Michaels wrote."
"...nearly six out of 10 in-network providers listed under Oregon Medicaid provider directories aren’t available to see patients with mental health needs.
"The study’s lead author, Dr. Jane M. Zhu, assistant professor of medicine at OHSU, said that these phantom networks undermine access to care for patients that are most in need...
"'If this represents the state of provider directories more broadly, that’s a huge concern for patients,' Zhu said. 'If the majority of providers are not actually accessible, it leads to delays and interruptions in care and treatment that people need.'
"Zhu believes the findings in Oregon may be relevant throughout the country, as about half of Medicaid beneficiaries with serious mental illnesses report unmet medical needs."
Opposing Racism and Human Bondage in the United States
Karl Polzer, Center on Capital & Social Equity
"More mixed marriages. Racism diminishes when people from different backgrounds work together, live in the same neighborhoods, socialize and worship together, and form families."
Couple in interracial marriage dances to some of the racist comments they get, showcasing modern-day racism on TikTok - daily dot
If racists don't deserve your ice cream, why not ban sales in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem too?
(Remember: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.)
"Rising prices and soaring rents are taking their toll across the country"
Action Alert: Missouri Passes Legislation to make it Illegal to be without Housing - National Coalition for the Homeless
Living Behind the Wheel: More Americans are sleeping in their cars than ever before. Should cities make space for them? - Slate
Back in the USA:
"They came into their riches by participating in what experts say is the theft of as much as $80 billion — or about 10 percent — of the $800 billion handed out in a Covid relief plan known as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. That’s on top of the $90 billion to $400 billion believed to have been stolen from the $900 billion Covid unemployment relief program — at least half taken by international fraudsters — as NBC News reported last year. And another $80 billion potentially pilfered from a separate Covid disaster relief program."
MorseLife Health System reaches $1.75 million settlement after claims it gave COVID-19 vaccines to rich donors - WPTV
MorseLife Nursing Home Health System Agrees to Pay $1.75 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations for Facilitating COVID-19 Vaccinations of Ineligible Donors and Prospective Donors - DOJ
Happy Birthday (stock photo)
Time to get the national act together?
Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation that would tax all forms of income, including capital gains, to eliminate Social Security's financing shortfall and improve benefits.
CCSE articles on this topic:
"Growing inequality has shrunk Social Security’s tax base. Revitalizing it could restore solvency without cutting benefits."
"Op-ed: Biden’s spending spree could destabilize Social Security Biden’s spending spree could destabilize Social Security"
"The size of the spending spree, along with rapidly growing debt, raises the question of why Social Security’s deficit isn’t on the table as well. Last year, Social Security’s trustees projected the program’s 75-year shortfall at $16.8 trillion. For those of us used to paying mortgages, this translates into about $250 billion each year in higher taxes or benefit cuts that Congress needs to find for the rest of the century."
"Pandemic-era aid ended as prices spiked — and now the middle class is feeling squeezed again"
Rep0rter Jeff Stein went to Bucks County -- and found not as many bucks as last year.
"...the trend is clear: The JPMorgan data shows a 35 percent drop in the bank accounts of poor families relative from last spring to this past February — a number that is not adjusted for 8 percent inflation as well over the last year — although balances increased slightly due to tax refunds sent in March."
Sunday, July 3, 2022
"'For we war not against flesh and blood.' wrote St. Paul, 'but against principalities and powers...' The bittterest conflicts that have divided the minds of men and set family against family, and brother against brother, have not been waged for emperor or king, but for one side of the truth to the suppression of the other side..."
- Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way (chapter XVII, The Way of the Modern World)
"Marx was the first student of fundamental historical features of capitalism, Keynes, the last cameralist. Marx was a historian who believed that economics shapes history, Keynes, the smartest adviser to power. In Capital, we have a Bible of capitalism, in General Theory, we have The Prince for economic management of capitalism."
"The plan provides refunds on a sliding scale based on three income levels: single tax filers who earn up to $75,000 or joint filers who report as much $150,000, individuals with income up to $125,000 or couples up to $250,000 and single filers who make $250,000, or $500,000 for joint filers.
"The lowest income bracket is eligible for $350 per tax filer and another $350 for those who claim at least one dependent. Respective payments drop to $250 for the middle-income level and $200 for the highest.
"The plan leaves out the state’s top earners and those at the very bottom who don’t make enough money to file taxes."
"Overall, based on the published numbers, 2020 certainly was not a “normal” year in China either. Household income growth slowed down (from around 8% per capita to 5% per capita), the poor in urban areas saw almost no real income growth at all (very unusual), while the incomes of the poor in rural areas increased by almost 10%. Urban inequality slightly increased. The typical features of China’s distribution, namely that rural incomes are more unequally distributed than urban, and that they are much lower on average, remained unchanged."
Meanwhile, "US inequality went down by 1.7 Gini points which is the largest annual drop in at least thirty years."
Cornell University removes Gettysburg Address, Lincoln bust from library after alleged complaint - Fox
A bridge too far?
Short lecture on the economics and ethics of U.S. inpatient psych care. Severe challenges include too few beds, inadequate funding. The cost of providing care often exceeds reimbursement.
Abstract - "Over the past twenty-five years, Congress has enacted several major reforms for employer-sponsored retirement plans and individual retirement accounts (“IRAs”), always with large bipartisan, bicameral majorities. In each case, legislators have claimed that the reforms would improve retirement security for millions of Americans, especially rank-and-file workers. But the supposed interest in helping lower-income and middle-income earners has been a stalking horse for the real objective of expanding the tax subsidies available to higher-income earners. The legislation has repeatedly raised the statutory limits on contributions and benefits for retirement plans and IRAs, delayed the start of required distributions, and weakened statutory non-discrimination rules – all to the benefit of affluent workers and the financial-services companies that collect asset-based fees from retirement savings. The result has been spectacular growth in the retirement accounts of higher-income earners but modest or even negative growth in the accounts of middle-income and lower-income earners..."
University of Virginia law professor Michael Doran lays out his case in careful detail with both analytic skill and an insider’s perspective of having worked for both the employee benefit industry and U.S. Treasury.
Our analysis published by the Society of Actuaries in 2016, shows that the distribution of government subsidies in the current U.S. retirement savings system is not only grossly unfair. It also plays a significant role in widening the wealth gap, while providing no benefit, and potential harm, to millions of workers and their families:
More to come on this issue.
Pastor and family stole $8M from taxpayers in Covid scam, feds say. Why haven’t they been charged? - NBC
Holy smoke! ... Wonder what an audit of the thousands of non-profits and churches would turn up in a 40-mile radius around Capitol Hill. (Check out their accountant.)
"'What really brought us to impasse was a wage offer that wasn't even in the ballpark of addressing our members concerns,' Smith told CBC News.
"She said the province offered the union a 1.75 per cent wage increase for the first year, plus a flat rate increase of $0.25 an hour and then a two per cent wage increase for the following two years.
"On Wednesday, Canada's inflation rate hit 7.7 per cent — the highest since 1983."
"It's extraordinarily disappointing to me that the child tax credit has not yet been extended. There's substantial evidence showing that it was good for families and it was good for children.
"Does that mean maybe there's an opportunity to do something before midterms? I hope so. Historically, we've never had an expansion of the child tax credit that we then walked back later. And so I still hold out hope that will be true with this policy as well."
- Elaine Maag, Urban Institute
“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...”
"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."
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.
A father’s letter to his kid: The 9 money and life lessons most people learn too late in life - CNBC
"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."
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?
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.
"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.. "
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.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
"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.
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."
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
UK’s Biggest Rail Strike in 30 Years – Tunisia General Strike – Migrant Worker Kicked Out of Singapore Over Facebook Post - Payday Report
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?
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.
Midwife. Photo by Peter Turnley, Bukhara, Uzbek SSR, 1986
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
"What the explosion of union members during the 1930s can tell us about today's revival."
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:
200,000 student-loan borrowers are getting their debt wiped out through a settlement with Biden's Education Department - Business Insider
"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.
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:
"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.
"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.
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."
"The bill defines biological sex based on genes and body parts and 'without regard' to how one identifies."
"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.
"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)
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.
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.
"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?"
Factors Affecting the Cost of Extending the Expanded Child Tax Credit - Congressional Research Service
"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.)
Workers seek more control over working conditions and a bigger bite of monopoly profits.
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?
“We thought this film was defective. But we were mistaken. This is how radiation looks.”
"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."
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Happy Father's Day!
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?
"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."
"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."
"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...
"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."
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.
"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?
"Mixing Capitalism and Socialism: Policies To Moderate Systemic Wealth Concentration in the United States"
Total illegal migrants crossing border under Biden greater than population of 23 U.S. states - Just the News
"The nation’s fourth-largest city hasn’t solved homelessness, but its remarkable progress can suggest a way forward."
"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."
All things being unequal, it's probably better to have some money.
"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."
CCSE articles on raising the minimum wage:
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.
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?
"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."
Seven more children died after consuming baby formula produced at contaminated Abbott Labs factory in Michigan - WSWS
Abbott to Ship 1.1 Million Pounds of Powdered Infant Formula to U.S. from Spain Beginning this Month Through the Summer
Wisconsin Billionaires Who Got a Monster Tax Break From Ron Johnson Are Now Spending Millions to Get Him Re-elected - Up North News
"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."
"Report on 300 top US companies found CEOs making an average of $10.6m, with the median worker getting $23,968."
"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."
Related CCSE work:
"Mixing Capitalism and Socialism: Policies To Moderate Systemic Wealth Concentration in the United States"
Majorities of Americans say federal government does too little to address issues affecting several groups, including lower- and middle-income people, retirees - PEW
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Shouting “Death to Arabs,” Far Right Israeli Squatters Storm Palestinian Holy Sites, Towns and Schools - Juan Cole
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
"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."
"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.'"
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."
Shielded From Public View, Misconduct by Corrections Staff in Illinois Prisons Received Scant Discipline - ProPublica
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
"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."
"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."
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."
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).
"...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.
"Low- and middle-income households tend to be more vulnerable to high inflation than wealthier households."
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.
4 Unions Competing for Apple Store Workers – Maryland Apple Workers to Vote June 15th – F35 Jet Instructors Strike - Payday Report
A view from the right:
...and one from the far left:
Will Growing Inequality Make Social Security & Long Term Care Financing Fixes Harder?
2020 Society of Actuaries Living to 100 Symposium
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.
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:
- 40% of Older Americans Rely Solely on Social Security for Retirement Income - ADVISOR Magazine
- Plan Sponsor Groups Oppose Financial Literacy Proposal
- DOL Exemption Paves Way for Auto Portability
- State-run Auto-IRAs Will Help Close the Coverage Gap
- Half of Americans have no retirement savings — here’s how Congress can look out for them
- Why Not a Minimum Pension?
- Capitalize Workers!
- New York Envisions a State-run Retirement Plan for Private Workers
- If you want more equality, you have to embrace the risk premium
- A preview of the U.S. without pensions - older people work longer
- Why it's so hard for Americans to save
- OregonSaves web site
- Facing employer jitters, ERISA lawsuits, Oregon & other states push toward universal retirement savings systems.
- Treasury ending Obama Administration's myRA savings program.
- Bipartisan Policy Center commission suggests developing a near-universal retirement savings system along with raising Social Security benefits for lower-income and raising Social Security taxes to ensure program solvency.
- Universal system would significantly raise Americans' retirement readiness: EBRI
- Great Britain is ramping up a new universal pension system called National Employment Savings Trust or NEST. Features include automatic enrollment, mandated contributions, and a choice of diversified investment funds, including those based on a person's age.
- Harvard study finds tax subsidies less effective policy option in boosting retirement savings than automatic enrollment or putting money in low-income savers' accounts.
- Appalachian Savings Project helped child-care workers with low and variable earnings save 5.5% of income on average. Program evaluation.
- Urban Institute's "Super Simple" savings proposal. Sharing many features of a system now being implemented in Great Britain, this proposal would establish a universal retirement savings system with contributions from employers, workers, and the government.
- Oklahoma experiment shows power of universal children's savings. Early formal evaluation of the Oklahoma program.
- Great Britain's experience with "Child Trust Funds."
- "Automatic IRAs" available to workers and the self-employed. There is growing support for this type of approach.
- State Retirement Savings Resource Center - AARP
- Illinois to set to build an auto-IRA system for companies with at least 25 employees by 2017. Other states considering similar approaches.
- Click here for a summary of state activity as of July 2016.
- Three ways states are organizing retirement savings programs for private-sector workers.
- Aspen Institute issue brief explores how state retirement savings programs can utilize the federal saver's tax credit.
- Reps. Crowley and Ellison propose legislation to start savings accounts for all U.S. children.
- Research shows value of "hands on" financial education.
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
"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
- 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.
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
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
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"
Click on the article above for the answer to the puzzle below:
Nov. 4, 2021
"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..."
Nov. 20, 2021
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
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.
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.
Thanks to the Washington Post for publishing most of our letter:
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:
"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..."
Where's Social Security?
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?...
Thanks to the Washington Examiner for timely publication of this op-ed.
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."
Feb. 17, 2021
Analysis: Ways To Raise the U.S. Minimum Wage To Help Workers, Families, While Minimizing Negative Impacts
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.
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
January 29, 2021
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.
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.
Missionary being eaten by a jaguar (Noé León, 1907)
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:
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.
Thanks to the Washington Examiner for publishing this op-ed.
- 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
A Widening Gap in Life Expectancy Makes Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age a Particularly Bad Deal for Low-Wage Earners - Karl Polzer/Society of Actuaries
Thanks to the Society for publishing this article.
2020 Society of Actuaries Living to 100 Symposium
"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
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
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
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
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."
Awakening Slaves - Michelangelo
"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!)"
New Book by Anne Case and Angus Deaton
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
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
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.
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.
CCSE work on this issue:
Half of Americans Have No Retirement Savings. Here's How Congress Can Look Out for Them - Washington Examiner Op-ed (2018)
Aug. 7, 2019
By letting banks charge excessive credit card fees, US raises prices for all, shifts billions of $$$ to the wealthier
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
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.
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.
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?
"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
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
"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.”
Lucas Chancel & Thomas Piketty,
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:
- Distribution of Tax Benefits by Family Income
- Retirement Tax Incentives Are Ripe for Reform Current Incentives Are Expensive, Inefficient, and Inequitable
- Who Benefits from Asset Building Tax Subsidies?
- Estimates of a Proposal to Establish Guaranteed Retirement Accounts, Financed by Reduced Limits on Current Law Contributions to Defined Contribution Retirement Saving Plans
- There's a Better Way To Target Retirement Savings Tax Breaks
"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
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.
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)
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.”
"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.)
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
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
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?
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? ...
Investigators Detail Growth of Extreme Poverty in U.S.
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.
A Dream Deferred
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
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
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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