Dean Baker

Living in the Short Run: Comment on ‘Capital In the 21st Century’

We all owe a debt to Thomas Piketty and his various co-authors for hugely advancing our understanding of income distribution at the top. As a result of their work, we now have a much clearer picture of the big gainers over the last three decades and the process that has resulted in this upward redistribution. This past work is the basis for the great expectations around his new book. And there is much here to like, including a vast amount of new research on the distribution of income over the last three centuries that will provide the basis for much future work and analysis. However, I am afraid that the core thesis in “Capital in the 21st Century” also has serious limitations. To hugely simplify, Piketty sees a world where the ratio of capital to income rises and where patterns of bequests cause ownership of capital to become ever more concentrated.

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Dave Johnson

CEO Pay Soars As Worker Pay Stagnates

How’s your job going – if you even have one? The odds are very, very high that you haven’t seen a raise in a long time. Or maybe you were laid off and found a new job at half your old pay. They say this is the “new normal.” Meanwhile, CEO pay just keeps climbing and climbing and climbing (and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing). This inequality is destabilizing our economy. Soaring CEO Pay The AFL-CIO has released this year’s 2014 Executive PayWatch at www.PayWatch.org, a “comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies.” PayWatch.org offers workers the unique ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives. According to Executive PayWatch data, U.S.

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Dave Johnson

Stop Tax Day Giveaways

It’s Tax Day! And right now Congress is working on Tax Day giveaways for the big corporations. When corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes, the rest of us end up picking up the tab. So Happy Tax Day! Have you heard politicians screaming about “the deficit?” Have you heard them saying we have to “make the tough choices” and cut back on things government does to make our lives better? (Also called “government spending.”) That’s what they say. But guess what they’re doing right now. (Hint: they’re getting ready to give huge tax breaks to the biggest corporations. It’s called “tax extenders.”) Sign the Petition: Stop the Corporate Tax Giveaways, Congress: Stop letting large corporations and banks like General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup hide their profits offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

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Bill Scher

Rand Paul’s Plan To Rebrand The GOP, And The Lie That Ruins It

On Saturday, Sen. Rand Paul traveled to New Hampshire and addressed conservative activists at the Freedom Summit. In his remarks he described his vision to “grow our movement” and attract new constituencies to the Republican fold. Namely, “We can’t be the party of the plutocrats and the rich people.” This was brave talk at an event co-sponsored by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation. He continued: We have to show concern for people who are out of work … we have to have ideas … There’s always more of a working class … than an owner’s class. I’m not against the owner’s class, but I want to tell the workers of America that we’re on their side.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Thomas Piketty: Wealth Inequality Corrupts Our Politics

Toward the end of the Economic Policy Institute’s forum Tuesday featuring economist Thomas Piketty, he was asked what he would consider the most serious consequence of the historic levels of wealth inequality he documents in his new book, “Capital in the 21st Century.” Almost without hesitation, he says, it’s how it affects “the working of our democratic institutions.” When wealth inequality gets too extreme, as he says it has in the United States, “there is a sense that the political institutions are just captured by the top income and the top class group.

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Leo Gerard

GOP Budget: The Anti-Robin Hood Spending Plan

Rejecting dozens of heroic characters, from Captain America to Underdog, Republicans last week chose instead a villain for their figurehead. They selected Prince John, the guy who coddled the rich and tried to crush Robin Hood. House Republicans voted to elevate Prince John as their champion when they passed a budget slashing taxes for the rich and decimating programs for workers and low-income Americans. Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, who authored the anti-Robin Hood spending plan, said the budget “comes down to a matter of trust.”  Trust, Ryan believes, should be placed in the rich and Washington politicians like him, a Prince John man who devised a spending scam enriching the rich and depriving the rest. Ryan asked, “Who knows better: the people or Washington?” The GOP answer: Washington, of course. A place purchased by the very, very rich.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Don’t Let These Zombie Corporate Tax Breaks Come Back To Life

A great thing happened at the end of 2013: A pack of corporate tax breaks that long ago should have been weeded out of the tax code finally expired due to congressional inaction and were dispatched to the graveyard of tax inequity. But today, as millions of Americans rush to file their taxes before tonight’s midnight deadline, corporate lobbyists are digging up the graveyard and working to bring these tax breaks back from the dead. These are the very tax breaks that enable major corporations to earn billions in profits while paying little or no taxes – or, in some cases, get big payouts.

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Robert Borosage

Call (661)-BOEHNER and Demand a House Vote On Jobless Aid

The following email was sent to Campaign for America’s Future supporters today. Last week, Speaker John Boehner had a chance to follow the Senate’s lead and put the bipartisan unemployment extension up for a vote in the House. We asked you to call his office. You told him about the millions struggling to stay in their homes and feed their families because they’ve lost their lifeline. Many of you told your own stories. After just a few hours, Boehner’s office phone went to an answering machine. Several hours later, his answering machine was full and many of you reported hearing a busy signal. We’re not done. We’ve switched the settings on our calling tool to direct your calls to his district offices in Ohio. Call Speaker Boehner at (661)-BOEHNER (661-263-4637) to reach one of his three Ohio offices.

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Dave Johnson

Ryan/Republican Budget Cuts Federal Worker Take-Home Pay

Last week House Republicans passed the “Ryan budget.” It won’t become law because it won’t get through the Senate and President Obama would veto it. But because it’s the budget statement of the Republican Party going into the fall elections, it shows voters who the Republicans are. This budget by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) dramatically cuts taxes on the wealthy and their corporations, paying for it with enormous cuts in the safety net and in the things government does to make our lives better. This tells us who the Republicans feel they represent – and who they don’t. One of the things this budget does is give federal government employees a big cut in take-home pay.

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Alan Jenkins

Measuring What Matters

We measure a lot of stuff in our society—stuff like gasoline prices, Hollywood box office numbers and, Heaven help us, Kim Kardashian’s Twitter followers (there are 20.7 million, in case you’re wondering). But it’s rare that we try to measure our progress in achieving the American ideal of opportunity, especially when it comes to our nation’s young people. In a way, that’s surprising. Both President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address and the Republican response touted expanding opportunity as the central domestic challenge of the 21st century.

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Robin Claremont

The Surprising Truth Behind Tax Day: Where Your Taxes Go

If you groan about Tax Day, you’re certainly not alone. But what if Tax Day was something we could be proud of as members of a democracy? Would you feel differently about paying taxes if you knew they were going to support public services that you, your family, and your community rely on – such as public safety, roads and bridges, schools, health care, social services, and national parks? Millions of Americans file their federal income tax returns on April 15 each year with no idea what the government actually does with all that money. This is surprising, considering that individuals are our nation’s primary bill payers. Income taxes paid by individuals account for 46 percent of all federal tax revenues, which are projected to be $3.34 trillion in 2015.

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Bill Scher

The 3 Lessons Of Sebelius: Don’t Panic, Never Give Up, Ignore Pundits

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will finish her five-year tenure having implemented the biggest expansion of health insurance in 50 years. What should we learn from her success story? Three key lessons: 1. Don’t Panic Yes, HealthCare.gov flopped at the start. But as anyone within earshot of my voice in the past six months knows, rough beginnings are typical for big projects, in both the public sector and the private sector. Problems occur not necessarily because of rank incompetence, but because doing new things is hard and learning from mistakes is how people and institutions get smarter and sharper. So when something goes wrong, there’s no need to panic. It’s just an unfortunate part of the process. Figure out what your current team can still do to fix the problem, decide if some fresh eyes could also help.

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Bill Moyers

I Remember The Day FDR Died

I remember that day well: the 12th of April 1945. The day Roosevelt died. I was 11 years old and FDR had been president since before I was born. My father came home early from work. He had been sitting high in the cab of his truck waiting for the red light to change when he heard someone on the street shouting: “The President is dead. The President is dead.” He immediately headed back to the garage, left the truck, and walked home in a hurry. Like so many Americans, he sat late into the evening, close to the console radio in our living room, listening for news about the president’s death. It was the only time I had seen tears in his eyes, and it was years later before I understood. My father had left school in the fourth grade to pick cotton. His family needed his labor.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: Return of the Late Night TV Wars

More than a decade after Leno and Letterman slugged it out to succeed Carson, and four years after the Leno/O’Brien feud, the late night TV wars are back. This time right-wingers are bringing the hostility and hilarity. Late night television is experiencing a changing of the guards with a host of fresh, new (white, male) faces giving America a few laughs before bedtime. Jimmy Fallon took the helm of “The Tonight Show,” after Jay Leno’s retirement. Seth Meyers left “Saturday Night Live” to fill Fallon’s old spot on “Late Night.” Everything was humming along nicely, until CBS announced that Stephen Colbert, of “The Colbert Report,” will host “The Late Show” following David Letterman’s retirement. Right-wingers promptly lost their minds. Rush Limbaugh and Ben Shapiro weren’t the only ones.

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Richard Eskow

Citi to Help Unemployed Youth? Oh, The Irony!

Here’s a story that resonates with so many layers of bitter irony that it’s hard to know where to begin. So we’ll start with the headline: “Citi Foundation to Help Teens Find ‘Pathways to Progress.‘” Two other recent stories add a certain piquancy to this noble-sounding venture. One involved a settlement in which Citi agreed to pay more than $1 billion for charges that it defrauded investors in its mortgage-backed securities. In the other, Citi was the only one of 25 banks to fail a “stress test” for sound fiscal planning and capital management. (The test has been criticized by independent observers – for being too easy.) Incompetent and morally compromised: Who better to help our young people build their future careers? The “Citi” in question is, of course, Citigroup.

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Dave Johnson

Even As Jobs Numbers Seem Better…

Thursday’s unemployment applications number hit a 7-year low of (seasonally adjusted) 300,000, a drop of 32,000. We have restored the number of jobs lost in the Great Recession. This is indeed good news. But even so, things are not rosy in the unemployment numbers – pay is really low and lots of people are really hurting – and Republicans in Congress continue to obstruct all efforts to improve the situation. Thursday’s Number Is Good News This week’s Labor Department report of the number of people applying for new unemployment applications reached a seven-year low, with 300,000 people (seasonally adjusted) applying. This was a drop of 32,000 from the prior week. This chart show why this is good news.

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Terrance Heath

The Ryan Budget Shows What Republicans Want To Do To America

Sometimes a budget is a moral document. Sometimes it’s a threat. With the passage of Rep. Paul Ryan’s latest austerian budget, the GOP is once again spelling out very clearly what they want to do to America. It’s not a threat, but a promise that Americans must make sure Republicans never have the power to fulfill. Last week, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) thanked House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan for his latest budget. “Thank you,” Durbin wrote, “thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.” Maybe it’s time to thank House Republicans for passing another budget that will go nowhere in the Senate and will never bear President Obama’s signature, but spells out exactly what Republicans will do the moment they have the power. Not that they said as much during the debate over the Ryan budget.

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Jeff Bryant

Test Season Reveals America’s Biggest Failures

It’s testing season in America, and regardless of how the students do, it’s clear who is already flunking the exams. Last week in New York, new standardized tests began rolling out across the state, and tens of thousands of families said “no dice.” According to local news sources, over 33,000 students skipped the tests – a figure “that will probably rise.” At one Brooklyn school, so many parents opted their students out of the tests the teachers were told they were no longer needed to proctor the exams. At another Brooklyn school, 80 percent of the students opted out. Elsewhere in Long Island, 41 school districts in Nassau and Suffolk reported thousands of students refusing to take the test, and an additional district reported hundreds more.

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Dave Johnson

Wage Theft Is Much More Common Than You Think

You might have been hearing about “wage theft.” The wage theft problem is about people showing up for work but not getting paid for the time they put in. It’s a common problem and it is one of the ways people are being ripped off by a rigged system. How common is this problem? A recent poll found that nine out of 10 fast-food workers report having wages stolen from them. Keep in mind that these are people already paid only at or near the way-too-low minimum wage, but on top of that they are getting badly needed pay stolen from them after they put in the hours. Think Progress explains in “Hamburgled: Nine Out Of Ten Fast Food Workers Have Experienced Wage Theft”: The most common violation, workers report, is off-the-clock work.

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Isaiah J. Poole

Budget Vote Outcome Doesn’t End The Debate Over Our Economic Priorities

As expected, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ “Better Off Budget” was defeated on the House floor Wednesday, picking up only 89 Democratic votes and none from Republicans. But that vote does not end the fight for the priorities and values that budget document embraces. The battle over the principles and policies in that budget, contrasted against those elements in the federal budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that will be voted on the House floor today, will continue all the way through the November elections. It must, for the millions upon millions of Americans who suffer the effects of a slow-growth economy.

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