May 14, 2021

Feeding America

In the Rio Grande valley, feeding America has a bitter taste:

Many undocumented farm workers have been toiling in the fields for years, pay taxes and have American children, yet enjoy few labor rights, have extremely limited access to occupational health services and live under the constant threat of deportation.

In truth, farm workers here are never harassed while working in the fields, which advocates say suggests a tacit agreement with growers to ensure America’s food supply chain isn’t disrupted by immigration crackdowns. It’s everywhere else that these essential workers, who kept toiling throughout the pandemic, are not safe.

Read more here.

May 12, 2021

America’s living wage shortage

As the economic recovery gathers steam, some employers are complaining about a shortage of workers. What they really mean, Heidi Sheirholz writes, is a shortage of workers at the low wages they want to pay:

There are lots of anecdotal reports swirling around about employers who can’t find workers. Just search “worker shortages” online and a seemingly endless list of stories pops up, so it’s easy to assume there’s an alarming lack of people to fill jobs. But a closer look reveals there may be a lot less to this than meets the eye…. Employers post their too-low wages, can’t find workers to fill jobs at that pay level, and claim they’re facing a labor shortage.

Read more here.

May 11, 2021

CEOs versus workers

During the pandemic, the CEOs of many top corporations saw their take-home pay soar. Topping the list:

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta pocketed the largest rigged-pay package. “Adjustments” to his stock awards inflated the hotelier’s total compensation to $55.9 million, 1,953 times as much as the company’s median worker pay of $28,608.

Read more here.

May 5, 2021

Who gets protected from Covid – and climate change?

“If this is the way rich countries conducted themselves in a global crisis — where they took care of their own needs first, took care of companies, did not recognize that this is an opportunity to reach out and demonstrate solidarity — then there’s no good track record for how they will conduct themselves in the face of other global crises, such as the climate crisis, where poorer countries will bear the highest burdens.” — Tasneem Essop, executive director, Climate Action Network

Read more about the pandemic’s climate lessons here.

Apr 29, 2021

America’s health care travesty

A 6-minute video breaks down a crazy system:

Watch it here.

Apr 27, 2021

Corona inequality

The vaccination rollout is like an X-ray of how wealth and power are distributed in the world:

On Sunday, the world’s seven-day average of new cases hit 774,404, higher than the peak average during the last global surge, in January. Despite the number of shots given around the world, far too few of the global population of nearly eight billion have been vaccinated to slow the virus’s steady spread.

Vaccinations have been highly concentrated in wealthy nations: Eighty-two percent of shots worldwide have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to data compiled by the Our World in Data project. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

Meanwhile corporate lobbyists fight to protect the private “intellectual property” and profits that were lubricated by more than $100 billion in public investments:

Newly filed disclosure forms from the first quarter of 2021 show that over 100 lobbyists have been mobilized to contact lawmakers and members of the Biden administration, urging them to oppose a proposed temporary waiver on intellectual property rights by the World Trade Organization that would allow generic vaccines to be produced globally.

Joe Stiglitz and Lori Wallach nail the dysfunctionality of putting greed before need:

Waiving intellectual property rights so developing countries could produce more vaccines would make a big difference in reaching global herd immunity. Otherwise, the pandemic will rage largely unmitigated among a significant share of the world’s population, resulting in increased deaths and a greater risk that a vaccine-resistant variant puts the world back on lockdown.

Read more here and here and here.

Apr 13, 2021

Understanding the racial wealth gap

On the uneven playing field of the U.S. economy, one of the steepest gradients is race:

Wealth — one’s total assets — is the most meaningful measure of financial strength. Yet for every dollar a typical white household has, a Black one has 12 cents, a divide that has grown over the last half-century. Latinos have 21 cents for every dollar in white wealth.

Such disparities drag down the American economy as a whole. A study by McKinsey & Company found that consumption and investment lost because of that gap cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years…

The most surprising finding that researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis established after a decade-long study of inequality and financial vulnerability was that no matter what financial decisions you make or schools you attend, roughly 80 percent of those yawning disparities are determined by your skin color, the year you were born and your gender.

Read more about the sources of America’s wealth gap here. Hint: it ain’t just about hard work and personal responsibility.

Apr 7, 2021

Inequality versus democracy

Bernie breaks it down:

The United States cannot prosper and remain a vigorous democracy when so few have so much and so many have so little. While many of my congressional colleagues choose to ignore it, the issue of income and wealth inequality is one of the great moral, economic and political crises that we face – and it must be dealt with.

The unfortunate reality is that we are moving rapidly toward an oligarchic form of society, where a handful of billionaires have enormous wealth and power while working families have been struggling in a way we have not seen since the Great Depression….

Growing income and wealth inequality is not just an economic issue. It touches the very foundation of American democracy. If the very rich become much richer while millions of working people see their standard of living continue to decline, faith in government and our democratic institutions will wither and support for authoritarianism will increase. We cannot let that happen.

Read the remedies he proposes here.

Apr 4, 2021

Guess what? Government is necessary

Robert Frank on the high cost of market fundamentalism:

Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate, is said to have joked that if the federal government were put in charge of the Sahara, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.

That antigovernment attitude has been embraced by countless free-market enthusiasts. President Ronald Reagan expressed it clearly in his first Inaugural Address: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” For decades, this perspective has gained influence in American political discourse.

The resulting hostility to government has been costly. It helped spawn not just the recent Texas electric grid meltdown but also a long string of similar failures, including responses to Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.

The problem, of course, is how to ensure that government serves the people. But it’s a problem that cannot be wished away.

Read more here.

Mar 12, 2021

This is what privilege looks like

Caitlin Flanagan writes in the Atlantic that private schools have become “truly obscene”:

However unintentionally, these schools pass on the values of our ruling class—chiefly, that a certain cutthroat approach to life is rewarded. True, they salve their consciences with generous financial aid. Like Lord and Lady Bountiful, the administrators page through the applications of the nonwealthy, deciding whom to favor with an opportunity to slip through the golden doors and have their life change forever….

In a just society, there wouldn’t be a need for these expensive schools, or for private wealth to subsidize something as fundamental as an education. We wouldn’t give rich kids and a tiny number of lottery winners an outstanding education while so many poor kids attend failing schools. In a just society, an education wouldn’t be a luxury item.

We have become a country with vanishingly few paths out of poverty, or even out of the working class. We’ve allowed the majority of our public schools to founder, while expensive private schools play an outsize role in determining who gets to claim a coveted spot in the winners’ circle. Many schools for the richest American kids have gates and security guards; the message is you are precious to us. Many schools for the poorest kids have metal detectors and police officers; the message is you are a threat to us…..

But what makes these schools truly ludicrous is their recent insistence that they are engines of equity and even “inclusivity.” A $50,000-a-year school can’t be anything but a very expensive consumer product for the rich. If these schools really care about equity, all they need to do is get a chain and a padlock and close up shop.

Read more on the intergenerational transmission of inequality here.

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