Lynne Stuart Parramore

We’re NOT Number 1: Which Country Now Has a More Affluent Middle Class?

Broke, by SalFalko @ Flickr. Fancy living up in Canada? Granted, it’s a bit chilly. But the middle class up there has just blown by the U.S. as the world’s most affluent. America’s wealthy are leaping ahead of the rest of much of the globe, but the middle class is falling behind. So are the poor. That’s the sobering news from the latest research put out by LIS, a group based in Luxembourg and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. After taxes, the Canadian middle class now has a higher income than its American counterpart. And many European countries are closing in on us. Median incomes in Western European countries are still a bit lower than those of the U.S., but the gap in several countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, is significantly smaller than it was a decade ago.

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Bill Moyers

Government = Protection Racket for the 1 Percent

Written by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship. The evidence of income inequality just keeps mounting. According to “Working for the Few,” a recent briefing paper from Oxfam, “In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.” Our now infamous one percent own more than 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Meanwhile, the bottom 40 percent of the country is in debt. Just this past Tuesday, the 15th of April — Tax Day — the AFL-CIO reported that last year the chief executive officers of 350 top American corporations were paid 331 times more money than the average US worker. Those executives made an average of $11.7 million dollars compared to the average worker who earned $35,239 dollars.

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Jeff Bryant

Parental Advice To Education Policy Makers

For most children, their first teacher is a parent or primary caregiver. And most teachers will tell you that parent behaviors in the home affect student learning in schools. So it would make sense to make sure education policy isn’t strongly at odds with what we know about good parenting. However, a recent spate of new research studies have revealed current education policies – particularly high-stakes assessments, harsh accountability mandates, zero-tolerance discipline policies, and obsessive attention to student testing data – as being dangerously misaligned with parenting and the multiple roles it plays not only in child development and achievement but also in school governance. Alternative approaches more in tune with the parental role in education attainment are being tried and used successfully in schools.

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Dave Johnson

Democrats Who Move Right Lose Elections – There Is No “Center”

Mainstream Democratic campaign consultants and pollsters typically tell candidates they should “move to the right” and campaign to the “center” with positions that are “between” the “left” and the “right.” This is the way, they say, to “attract swing voters” who would be “scared off” by a candidate who takes populist positions that favor the interests of the 99 percent over the interests of the 1 percent. Polling and experience show that exactly the opposite might be true. This week Lynn Vavrek writes at the New York Times Upshot blog, in “The Myth of Swing Voters in Midterm Elections“: There just aren’t that many swing voters. … Ultimately voters tend to come home to their favored party.

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Richard Eskow

Piketty’s “Capital” Is A Hit. So What Comes Next?

When a product sells phenomenally well, as Thomas Piketty’s new book is currently doing, popular economic theory says that means one of two things: either it’s filling a substantial unmet demand, or the product is exceptionally well executed. In the case of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” both statements are true. We are told that “Capital” is now at the top of the Amazon sales charts, outselling even mass-market novels with movie tie-ins like “Divergent.” That kind of meritocratic success story is, as Piketty’s work demonstrates, increasingly rare. Piketty has given us a superior product. He has brilliantly and eloquently analyzed the crisis of inequality that threatens the global economy.

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Terrance Heath

Why Conservatives Are Willing to Let People Like Charlene Dill Die

Obamacare didn’t come with ”death panels,” like conservatives claimed it would. So, Republican governors and state legislatures formed their own. Until the death of Charlene Dill, the victims of those death panels were invisible. Conservatives constantly say that poor people are lazy. That hardly applied to Charlene Dill, a 32-year-old mother of three in Orlando, Florida. Dill worked at three different jobs  to support herself and her children, and pay for a divorce from her estranged husband. The working poor are a lot like Charlene Dill. They work in low-wage jobs that don’t pay livable wages. Worse, they’re punished for working, because they become ineligible for state assistance programs. Charlene Dill earned about $11,000 a year from her three jobs. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was actually too much.

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Richard Eskow

Welcome To Plutocrat-Geddon! Hail Our New Billionaire Overlords!

Inequality is a burning topic among economists, especially since the release of Thomas Piketty’s recent book on the subject. Many are questioning whether this is a temporary period of runaway inequality, or whether we are on the verge of an irreversible collapse into extremes of wealth and poverty. (What would we call it? The Oligopolypse? Plutogeddon?) But numbers alone don’t tell the full story. Culture, too, is adapting to this unequal world. We idealize the wealthy today in ways that would have been unthinkable decades ago. With the children of today’s baby boomers scheduled to inherit $30 trillion in the next several decades, politicians and the press are hard at work flattering plutocrats of all ages by portraying them as paragons of wisdom. If there’s one thing these anecdotes tell us, it’s that the phrase “Money talks” has never meant more than it does today.

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Sam Pizzigati

Why the Sky Sometimes Does Fall

The sky, we all learn as children, is not falling — and never falls. Only silly Chicken Littles prattle about “precipitous collapses.” Only silly Chicken Littles, apparently, and applied mathematicians. One of those mathematicians, the University of Maryland’s Safa Motesharrei, has joined with two colleagues to publish a new paper that sees the “precipitous collapse” of our global order as a distinct possibility. In fact, the three conclude, that possibility will become a hard-to-avoid probability unless the world becomes a far less unequal place.

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Isaiah J. Poole

As Middle Class Falls Behind, We Need A Progressive Populist Response

There is new evidence of the high price working-class people are paying because of the stranglehold conservatives have on our economy that should embolden Democratic candidates to offer bolder, progressive populist prescriptions for addressing income inequality and remaking our economy. The headline of the article on middle-class fortunes published in The New York Times on Tuesday could hardly have been more stark: “The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest.” The underlying facts are by now familiar: Incomes of the top 5 percent have skyrocketed in the past three decades, reflecting the disproportionate share of national wealth that has moved from working people to the ownership class.

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Dave Johnson

Black Cloud On Earth Day: Big Coal’s War Against EPA Emission Rules

It’s Earth Day and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is readying new greenhouse gas emissions rules for power plants, with the draft expected June 1. Forty-one percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants. Nearly half of that comes from just 100 power plants, with all but two of those using coal. So doing something about these older, coal-fired power plants will go a long way toward reducing the amount of carbon we are putting into the air. EPA And Greenhouse Gas Emissions Many states rely on old, coal-fired power plants for electricity and worry that the new EPA rules for regulating emissions from power plants might force their energy sources to be shut down or become unreliable. So EPA staffers have held around 300 meetings with input from 10,000 people, according to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

5 Ways American Policies Make Us Lonely, Anxious, and Antisocial

You would think that by the 21st century, we would know something about what it takes for humans to live fulfilling lives. After all, we’ve witnessed enormous advances in science, psychology, sociology, and related fields over the past couple of centuries. The great mystery is that we seem to be doing worse, not better. Clearly, a lack of information isn’t the problem. Between the academic conferences, whole sections of bookstores and armies of pundits like Harvard psychologist (and Prudential spokesman) Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling Upon Happiness, we are given the secrets of well-being and offered reams of data, advice and lessons on what to seek and what to avoid.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Tell Boehner: Stop “Throwing Spaghetti,” Renew Unemployment Insurance

A few days ago you were able to virtually shut down the phones at House Speaker John Boehner’s office in response to our effort to get your voice heard on renewing unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless. It’s time to do it again. Our click-to-call line is open at 661-BOEHNER. Make the call, and urge your friends and people in your social networks to do the same. We need to do this because Boehner continues to make morally untenable demands in exchange for a vote to ensure that 3 million people (and counting) who are looking for work but can’t find it can still pay for basic necessities – including the costs associated with finding a job.

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Leo Gerard

The Terrible Fear of Paying the Poor Too Much

Republicans in America suffer a crippling anxiety. It’s the terrible fear of corporations paying poor workers too much. The GOP is so afraid that the nation’s lowest wage earners will get a raise that Republican politicians across the country are working overtime to outlaw wages above $7.25 an hour for these workers. They’re passing legislation forbidding towns and counties from raising the minimum wage in their jurisdictions. Republicans insist: no pay bump for those raking in $15,080 a year! On the other side, however, there’s no amount of pay, perks, private jets, premium health plans and golden parachutes that Republican politicians believe could possibly be too much for a CEO. That Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took home $78,440,657 last year is completely reasonable in the minds of Republicans.

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Dave Johnson

Elites Discover So-Called “Free Trade” Is Killing Economy, Middle Class

The New York Times editorial board finally gets it right about trade in its Sunday editorial, “This Time, Get Global Trade Right.” Some excerpts: Many Americans have watched their neighbors lose good-paying jobs as their employers sent their livelihoods to China. Over the last 20 years, the United States has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs. People in the Midwest, the “rust belt” and elsewhere noticed this a long time ago as people were laid off, “the plant” closed, the downtowns slowly boarded up and the rest of us felt pressure on wages and working hours.

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Dave Johnson

Five of the Worst Cities to Be a Renter Unless You’re Fabulously Wealthy

The housing market is supposedly recovering, yet the homeownership rate is dropping. Meanwhile rents in urban areas were already high but now are absolutely skyrocketing. What’s going on? As millions lost their homes many of the houses were and are being bought up by large investors. And what do these investors want? They want rent and lots of it. According to a New York Times report, “In Many Cities, Rent Is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class,” “In December, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared ‘the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known.’ ” Since the Great Recession the squeeze on 99 percent of us has gotten much tighter. What does this mean for people looking for a place to live? People used to be able to buy a house and put down roots. But in most cities buying a house is just out of the question for most people.

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Digby

The Right’s New Racial Math: A Demented View Of Nonwhite Voters

I have a post up at Salon this morning discussing this reflexive conservative impulse to explain that they are really winning all the elections. It’s just that they are forced to count the votes of all those people of color: The news is so depressing for conservatives these days. All the demographic trends are moving against them.With every election showing a large majority of single women, young people and people of color voting for the Democrats, thus solidifying their identification with the party, the less likely it is that Republicans can outrun the shift to a multiracial majority. But they still don’t seem to understand exactly what this means for them.

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Thom Hartmann

The Gulf – Four Years Later.

This past Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite what we’ve heard from BP, the wildlife, the environment, and the residents of the Gulf are still dealing with the effects of that massive oil spill. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation found that many animal species are still struggling to recover from the 2010 disaster, including Bottlenose dolphins, Bluefin Tuna, sea turtles, and many others. Residents who live near the spill, and those who worked in clean-up efforts say that they’re still dealing with skin boils, respiratory illness, and depression. Many coastal environments that were once home to birds and wildlife are now just stretches of barren land and dead mangroves.

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Robert Borosage

Can Democracy Tame Plutocracy?

We are headed into a national reckoning. To paraphrase the unlamented Donald Rumsfeld, there are the known knowns and the known unknowns. We know that America is reaching new levels of extreme inequality. We know that from the founders on, our wisest leaders cautioned that extreme and entrenched economic inequality would lead to political inequality, as the wealthy use their resources and influence to protect their privileges. “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both,” the great attorney and Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis warned us. We know that America’s elites have very different opinions and priorities than the rest of us. They are more fixated on deficits, and more likely to support cutting Social Security and health care to deal with them.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week in Review: None Dare Call It Terrorism

What do you call it when an anti-Semite and white supremacist goes on a shooting spree at not one, but two Jewish community facilities, killing three people? If you’re the U.S. media you call it anything, but terrorism. With a barrage of bullets and a cry of “Heil Hitler,” 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller left three people dead in shootings outside a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, KS on Sunday. Miller, a former Klan leader turned government informant, may have been marking the birthday of recently executed racist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin. Whatever inspired his violence, Miller was a ticking time bomb with a long history as a white supremacist and anti-Semite, going back more than 30 years.

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Dave Johnson

Nullification, The Bundy Ranch And Right-Wing Lawlessness

Does the right get a free pass to ignore laws? Is armed intimidation the way we decide which laws should be followed? Is conservative media whipping up the conditions for another Oklahoma City bombing? These questions are popping up with more and more frequency in light of recent events. Armed Militia At Bundy Ranch Flag-waving Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy refuses to pay cattle-grazing fees like other ranchers do, or even get a grazing permit, because he “doesn’t recognize the federal government.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), following years of federal court rulings, finally starts removing Bundy’s cattle from public land. The state’s Republican governor and Republican senator accuse the government of “intimidation” for enforcing the court’s rulings.

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