Econ4’s Jerry Friedman looks at the changing composition of demand in America:
While Sears and J.C. Penney drift towards bankruptcy, Nordstrom and other luxury brands flourish. Rather than depending on sales to working-class and middle-class consumers American corporations are doing very well selling to rich consumers, here and abroad. Rather than promising workers high wages to ensure productivity, they maintain labor discipline through fear.
Read his piece here.
Sam Bowles and Arjun Jayadev reveal a dubious distinction of the American economy:
Another dubious first for America: We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.
And that’s just a small fraction of what we call “guard labor.” In addition to private security guards, that means police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011. That is a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.
Read more here.
Econ4’s Doug Smith writes in the New York Times:
The national discourse continues to sleepwalk past this out-of-the-box question: How about setting a maximum wage for government officials and top-paid government contractors?
Read his op-ed piece here.
In an insightful, introspective piece in yesterday’s New York Times, a recovering derivatives trader writes:
Like alcoholics driving drunk, wealth addiction imperils everyone. Wealth addicts are, more than anybody, specifically responsible for the ever widening rift that is tearing apart our once great country. Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class. Only a wealth addict would feel justified in receiving $14 million in compensation — including an $8.5 million bonus — as the McDonald’s C.E.O., Don Thompson, did in 2012, while his company then published a brochure for its work force on how to survive on their low wages. Only a wealth addict would earn hundreds of millions as a hedge-fund manager, and then lobby to maintain a tax loophole that gave him a lower tax rate than his secretary….
Dozens of different types of 12-step support groups — including Clutterers Anonymous and On-Line Gamers Anonymous — exist to help addicts of various types, yet there is no Wealth Addicts Anonymous. Why not? Because our culture supports and even lauds the addiction.
Read his piece here.
Joe Stiglitz points out another casualty of widening inequality:
Trust is what makes contracts, plans and everyday transactions possible; it facilitates the democratic process, from voting to law creation, and is necessary for social stability. It is essential for our lives. It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round….
Inequality in America is degrading our trust. For our own sake, and for the sake of future generations, it’s time to start rebuilding it.
Read more here.
A humorous look at a not-so-funny subject:
Jeannette Wicks-Lim does the math:
Each time a minimum wage hike is put on the table, the political debate spins on the question of whether such a move would cause business costs to increase so much that jobs are lost. To progress past this perennial debate, one key fact has to be pounded into the American psyche: Average minimum wage hikes impose small cost increases on businesses—so small that businesses can typically adjust by means other than closing their doors or laying off workers. Recent proposals to raise the $7.25 federal minimum present a welcome opportunity to take another whack at this.
Read her piece here.
Arin Dube reviews recent research to answer some basic questions:
While we can set a wage floor using policy, should we? Or should we leave it to the market and deal with any adverse consequences, like poverty and inequality, using other policies, like tax credits and transfers? These longstanding questions take on a particular urgency as wage inequality continues to grow, and as we consider specific proposals to raise the federal minimum wage — currently near a record low — and to index future increases to the cost of living.
Read his piece in the New York Times here.
Worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels amount to a whopping $500 billion annually, according to a new report from London-based Overseas Development Institute:
They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development.
Read about another tilted playing field here.
In his classic novel Animal Farm, George Orwell famously wrote that “some are more equal than others.” Turns out the same is true for public education in the United States. Eduardo Porter’s column in the Times explains why America’s educational playing field is far from level:
The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.
Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”
Read his piece here.