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Study: Economic mobility depends on the state you live in | Culture of Resistance

Study: Economic mobility depends on the state you live in | Culture of Resistance.

The ability of individuals to achieve the American dream depends on where they live, according to the first state-by-state look at the opportunity to move up the economic ladder.

People who live in Maryland, New JerseyNew York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Utah are more likely to improve their economic standing after their prime working years than the typical American, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds.

In Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas, people are less likely to improve their economic standing, and in some cases, are falling behind.

Economic mobility “is a measure of opportunity and a measure of the health of the American dream,” says Erin Currier of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.

Educational attainment, the ability to save or gain assets and neighborhood poverty impact economic mobility, Currier says.

The study used Census and Social Security Administration earnings data for individuals born from 1943 to 1958. It focused on prime working years, the 10 years from ages 35-39 and 45-49.

Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says people are more likely to do better for themselves — and their children are likely to do better — in states with more educated residents and more dynamic economies, such as those in the Northeast.

“This study shows place matter,” Smeeding says. “It shows the American dream is harder to reach in some places.”

Scott Winship, a fellow of economic studies with Brookings Institution, says economic mobility is particularly important for the poor. He says 40% of the people who are born in the bottom rung of the economic ladder stay there.

In North Carolina, where the poverty rate is 16% and unemployment hovers at 9.7%, it’s not surprising that fewer residents move up economically, says Gene Nichol, director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“The South is the native home of American poverty,” he says.

Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan, says higher moblity in that state is likely due to higher wages in manufacturing and public sector jobs compared to other states. However, he says the state has been hurt by cuts in the number of manufacturing and public sector jobs.

“Unless Michigan can either reverse these trends or boost educational attainment in the future, any current high ranking it might have in economic mobility will tend to decline over time,” he says.

(via america-wakiewakie)

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Daily Kos: Two GOP Senators Caught Admitting Lying To Americans (VIDEO)

via Daily Kos: Two GOP Senators Caught Admitting Lying To Americans (VIDEO).

THU OCT 03, 2013 AT 11:36 AM PDT

Two GOP Senators Caught Admitting Lying To Americans (VIDEO)

byEgberto WilliesFollow

Senator McConnell and Senator Paul show how Republicans are playing a game with the American people, their lives, and the economy. To them it is just a matter of poll testing phrases, not governing honestly.

While being interviewed by local news station WPSD 6 the following exchange occurred between Senator Paul and Senator McConnell.

Senator Paul began, “Do you have a second?”

“I’m all wired up here, um,” Senator McConnell replied.

“I just did CNN and I just go over and over again ‘We’re willing to compromise.  ‘We’re willing to negotiate.’  I think… I don’t think they poll tested we won’t negotiate.  I think it’s awful for them to say that over and over again,” Paul said.

“Yeah, I do too and I, and I just came back from that two hour meeting with them and that, and that was basically the same view privately as it was publically,” McConnell agreed.
Paul added, “I think if we keep saying ‘We wanted to defund it.  We fought for that and that we’re willing to compromise on this’, I think they can’t, we’re gonna, I think… well I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re gonna win this I think.”

This should be no surprise. Today at a construction company speech, the President quoted another politician, Congressman Marlin Stutzman, R-IN who said, “We’re not going to be disrespected… We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

The President scolded him in his speech and enumerated the only thing politicians should be expected to get for reopening the government. The president said, “What you get are little kids back into Head Start. What you get are our national parks and monuments open again. What you get is the economy not stalling, but continuing to grow. What you get are workers continuing to be hired. That’s what you get; that’s what you should be asking for. Take a vote, stop this farce, and end this shutdown right now,”

America must not allow Republicans to use these destructive stunts to get their way, kill Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). Republicans are pushing hard because as the Obamacare roll out is occurring, even bona fide Republicans are liking Obamacare.

It is imperative that Americans speak up. It is time that they make themselves heard. It is time that they reclaim the grip that the Right Wing Tea Party Republicans have used to blackmail every American citizen.

American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene? | Henry Porter | Comment is free | The Observer

American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene? | Henry Porter | Comment is free | The Observer.

Would, that Henry Porter’s stance was anything more than tongue in cheek; but there has long been a paranoid strand in US politics, aligned very closely with the same forces which cling to the Second Amendment as to a newly discovered lost Gospel, which never tires of warning against UN armies intervening in the US.  Implicit in each of these warnings is that all Americans would oppose such a fanciful event.  Henry Porter’s piece raises the question whether that need necessarily be the case under every circumstance.

That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, “secondary smoke” obsessions that characterise so much of American life.

Everywhere you look in America, people are trying to make life safer. On roads, for example, there has been a huge effort in the past 50 years to enforce speed limits, crack down on drink/drug driving and build safety features into highways, as well as vehicles. The result is a steadily improving record; by 2015, forecasters predict that for first time road deaths will be fewer than those caused by firearms (32,036 to 32,929).

Plainly, there’s no equivalent effort in the area of privately owned firearms. Indeed, most politicians do everything they can to make the country less safe. Recently, a Democrat senator from Arkansas namedMark Pryor ran a TV ad against the gun-control campaign funded by NY mayor Michael Bloomberg – one of the few politicians to stand up to the NRA lobby – explaining why he was against enhanced background checks on gun owners yet was committed to “finding real solutions to violence”.

About their own safety, Americans often have an unusual ability to hold two utterly opposed ideas in their heads simultaneously. That can only explain the past decade in which the fear of terror has cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in wars, surveillance and intelligence programmes and homeland security. Ten years after 9/11, homeland security spending doubled to $69bn . The total bill since the attacks is more than $649bn.

 

 

One more figure. There have been fewer than 20 terror-related deaths on American soil since 9/11 and about 364,000 deaths caused by privately owned firearms. If any European nation had such a record and persisted in addressing only the first figure, while ignoring the second, you can bet your last pound that the State Department would be warning against travel to that country and no American would set foot in it without body armour.

But no nation sees itself as outsiders do. Half the country is sane and rational while the other half simply doesn’t grasp the inconsistencies and historic lunacy of its position, which springs from the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, and is derived from English common law and our 1689 Bill of Rights. We dispensed with these rights long ago, but American gun owners cleave to them with the tenacity that previous generations fought to continue slavery. Astonishingly, when owning a gun is not about ludicrous macho fantasy, it is mostly seen as a matter of personal safety, like the airbag in the new Ford pick-up or avoiding secondary smoke, despite conclusive evidence that people become less safe as gun ownership rises.

Why a Small California City Could Be Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare | Mother Jones

Why a Small California City Could Be Wall Street’s Worst Nightmare | Mother Jones.

The outcome of the foreclosure crisis—and the fate of many investors who bet on it—may hinge upon a city council vote tonight in a little-known working-class suburb. The Northern California town of Richmond (population: 105,000) will decide whether it wants to become first city in the country to use eminent domain to rid itself of underwater mortgages. The securities industry has threatened to make life miserable for Richmond and its residents if they move ahead with the plan.

In late July, Richmond sent letters to 32 banks and other mortgage holders, offering to buy 624 underwater mortgages at discounts to the homes’ value. None of the offers were accepted. Richmond must now decide whether it will use eminent domain—a power more often used to build roads or shopping malls—to seize the homes, paying a court-determined fair market value.

Richmond would carry out the purchases with the help of Mortgage Resolution Partners, an advisory firm run by a politically connected group of investors. (Read my original story on MRP’s eminent-domain plans here.) After Richmond seizes the loans, new lenders arranged by MRP would step in and essentially refinance them. The borrowers would stay in their homes, and the new loans would reflect the current value of the properties. In this scenario, a family in Richmond that bought a $300,000 house that’s now worth $200,000 would see its monthly payments decrease by $300 to $800.

For more than a year now, MRP’s chairman, Steven Gluckstern, has been trying and failing to convince some of the cities worst hit by the foreclosure crisis to adopt his eminent domain plan. Politicians in San Bernadino, Salinas, and about a dozen other towns flirted with the idea to varying degrees before getting cold feet. But Richmond is supposed to be different: “We’re not willing to back down on this,” Richmond’s Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a former schoolteacher,told the New York Times in July. “They can put forward as much pressure as they would like, but I am very committed to this program and I’ve very committed to the well-being of our neighborhoods.”

An anti-MRP mailer from the Contra Costa Association of Realtors

That, however, was before the Contra Costa County Association of Realtors began blanketing the town with misleading mailers. “Don’t let Wall Street take another bite out of Richmond homes,” one flyer admonishes. There’s a grain of truth to the claim—Gluckstern himself is a former Lehman Brothers investment banker. But the fact that Wall Street trade groups actually oppose MRP’s plan may be lost on average voters.

The securities industry recently sued Richmond in federal court seeking a preemptive injunction against its eminent-domain strategy. A judge will hear that case on Thursday.

Tonight, assuming it doesn’t delay the decision, the Richmond City Council will vote to either proceed with the plan, terminate it, or to move it forward only if MRP can indemnify the town against all unintended side effects—something Gluckstern says is impossible. “In life, there is no such thing as a free lunch,” he says. “You’ve got to weigh whatever small likelihood of a potential loss against the upside.”

Congress, Public Waking Up To Trans-Pacific Partnership Threat

Congress, Public Waking Up To Trans-Pacific Partnership Threat.  Reblogged from ourfuture.org.

We certainly can’t say we haven’t been warned…

Members of Congress are starting to pay attention to the upcoming, secretly-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement that isn’t really about trade. And the public is also becoming aware that this runaway job-loss express train is coming straight at us.

Not Really A “Trade’ Treaty”

The TPP agreement is being negotiated — in secret, even from Congress — between representatives of governments and giant, multinational corporations. (Government negotiators are not prevented from seeking lucrative corporate jobs if negotiations are completed in favor of the those corporations.) Groups representing the interests of labor, environmental, consumer, human rights or other stakeholders in democracy are not at the negotiating table. And, not surprisingly, it appears that the agreement will promote the interests of giant, multinational corporations over the interests of labor, environmental, consumer, human rights or other stakeholders in democracy.

Negotiated in secret, what we know about the treaty comes from leaks. Only a few of the “chapters” of the agreement are actually about “trade” at all. The rest are about the “rights” of corporations and investors. Negotiated just as the worldwide democracy uprising threatens to reign in corporate interests, the agreement will limit governments’ ability to write banking regulations, energy policy, food safety standards and even government purchasing decisions. It will allow corporations and investors to sue governments for lost profits if the governments try to make and enforce environmental, labor and other laws. Continue reading

Why Can’t Democracy Trump Inequality?

Why Can’t Democracy Trump Inequality?.

This won’t be the first you’ve heard of this; nor likely to be the last…

Why Can’t Democracy Trump Inequality?

August 21, 2013

Sam Pizzigati

Fifty years ago, average Americans lived in a society that had been growing — and had become — much more equal. In 1963, of every $100 in personal income, less than $10 went to the nation’s richest 1 percent.

Americans today live in a land much more unequal. The nation’s top 1 percent are taking just under 20 percent of America’s income, double the 1963 level.

But no Americans, in all the years since 1963, have ever voted for doubling the income share of America’s most affluent. No candidates, in all those years, have ever campaigned on a platform that called for enriching the already rich.

Yet the rich have been enriched. America’s top 0.01 percent reported incomes in 1963 that averaged $4.1 million in today’s dollars. In 2011, the most recent year with stats available, our top 0.01 percent averaged $23.7 million, nearly six times more than their counterparts in 1963, after taking inflation into account.

This colossal upward redistribution of income took years to unfold, and — for many of those years — most Americans didn’t even realize that some grand redistribution was even taking place.

Few Americans remain that clueless today. Most of us now have a fairly clear sense that American society has become fundamentally — and dangerously — more unequal. The starkly contrasting fortunes of America’s 1 and 99 percent have become a staple of America’s political discourse.

So why is this stark contrast continuing to get even starker?

Americans do, after all, live amid democratic institutions. Why haven’t the American people, through these institutions, been able to undo the public policies that squeeze the bottom 99 percent and lavishly reward the crew at the top?

Why, in other words, hasn’t democracy slowed rising inequality?

Four political scientists are taking a crack at answering exactly this question in the current issue of the American Economic Association’s Journal of Economic Perspectives, a special issue devoted to debating America’s vast gulf between the rich and everyone else.

The four analysts — Stanford’s Adam Bonica, Princeton’s Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole from the University of Georgia, and NYU’s Howard Rosenthal — lay out a nuanced reading of the American political scene that explores the interplay of a wide variety of factors, everything from the impact of the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts to voter turnout by income level.

But one particular reality dramatically drives their analysis: Societies that let wealth concentrate at enormously intense levels will quite predictably end up with a wealthy who can concentrate enormous resources on getting their way.

These wealthy underwrite political campaigns. They spend fortunes on lobbying. They keep politicians and bureaucrats “friendly” to their interests with a “revolving door” that promises lucrative employment in the private sector.

Bonica, McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal do an especially engaging job exploring, with both data and anecdotal evidence, just how deeply America’s super rich have come to dominate the nation’s election process.

One example from their new paper: Back in 1980, no American gave out more in federal election political contributions than Cecil Haden, the owner of a tugboat company. Haden contributed all of $1.72 million, in today’s dollars, almost six times more than any other political contributor in 1980.

In the 2012 election cycle, by contrast, just one deep-pocket couple alone, gaming industry giant Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, together shelled out $103.4 million to bend politics in their favored wealth-concentrating direction.

The Adelsons sit comfortably within the richest 0.01 percent of America’s voting age population. Over 40 percent of the contributions to American political campaigns are now emanating from this super-rich elite strata.

In the 1980s, campaign contributions from the top 0.01 percent roughly equaled the campaign contributions from all of organized labor. In 2012, note political scientists Bonica, McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal in their new analysis, America’s top 0.01 percent all by themselves “outspent labor by more than a 4:1 margin.”

Donors in this top 0.01 percent, their analysis adds, “give pretty evenly to Democrats and Republicans” — and they get a pretty good return on their investment. Both “Democrats as well as Republicans,” the four analysts observe, have come to “rely on big donors.”

The results from this reliance? Back in the 1930s, Democrats in Congress put in place the financial industry regulations that helped create a more equal mid-20th century America. In our time, Democrats have helped undo these regulations.

In 1993, a large cohort of Democrats in Congress backed the legislation that ended restrictions on interstate banking. In 1999, Democrats helped pass the bill that let federally insured commercial banks make speculative investments.

The next year, a block of congressional Democrats blessed the measure that prevented the regulation of “derivatives,” the exotic new financial bets that would go on to wreak economic havoc in 2008.

We’ll never be able to fully “gauge the effect of the Democrats’ reliance on contributions from the wealthy,” acknowledge political scientists Bonica, McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal. But at the least, they continue, this reliance “does likely preclude a strong focus on redistributive policies” that would in any significant way discomfort the movers and shakers who top America’s moneyed class.

Conventional economists, the four analysts add, tend to ascribe rising inequality to broad trends like globalization and technological change — and ignore the political decisions that determine how these trends play out in real life.

New technologies, for instance, don’t automatically have to concentrate wealth — and these new technologies wouldn’t have that impact if intellectual property laws, a product of political give-and-take, better protected the public interest.

But too many lawmakers and other elected leaders can’t see that “public interest.” Cascades of cash — from America’s super rich — have them conveniently blinded.


Labor journalist Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, writes widely about inequality. His latest book: The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970.

Daily Kos: “The Real Walmart”?!? Six Big Fibs in Walmart’s New Ad Campaign

Daily Kos: “The Real Walmart”?!? Six Big Fibs in Walmart’s New Ad Campaign.

Walmart is good: good for its employees, its customers, its suppliers, and even for the environment, says the company’s new ad campaign and website, dubbed “The Real Walmart” as a retort to the company’s critics.

But alas, the facts say otherwise. On inspection, each of the major claims in the campaign turns out to be “The Fake Walmart.”  Let’s examine each of these glowing pronouncements, along with the murky reality that lies behind it.


1. The Claim:  “Opportunity: That’s the Real Walmart!” exults one of the ads. “Over 75 percent of store management started as hourly associates.”

The Reality:  An internal Walmart document just leaked to the press this week reveals that:

  • Hourly “associates” at Walmart start at or near the minimum wage. Performance-based pay increases can result in “promotions” in pay and title.  But even the very highest level of performance will net you an annual raise of just $.60 per hour, capped for each job title. Last year, only 18 percent of hourly workers received any pay raise at all.  If an employee is so industrious as to rise to the management level of, say, “check out supervisor,” her pay will be $1.70 more than that of the lowest paid employee.
  • And getting from the hourly wage ghetto to a salaried position is, as the Magic 8 Ball likes to say, “Not likely.”  In a typical Walmart store, there may be 200 employees and only a handful of salaried managers. Getting one of those few positions is “more like a lottery than a reliable path.”


2. The Claim:  “When our store does well, I earn quarterly bonuses!”

The Reality: Those bonuses of $100 to $300, intended to make employees work harder, don’t make for a living wage.  If Walmart really wanted to improve workers’ lives, it would allow more of them to work full time, and thus have access to health insurance and other benefits. Instead, the company keeps a tight lid on full-time work, thus denying benefits to about 70 percent of its store employees.

3. The Claim: “Walmart helps customers save on prescription drugs!”

The Reality: But at what cost to those same customers as taxpayers?  Walmart’s wages and benefits are so low that many of its workers have to rely on Medicaid and other social services to support their families, costing taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million annually per store in the state of Wisconsin, where these costs were calculated. That’s a taxpayer tab of at least $67.5 million each year for the state of Wisconsin alone.

4. The Claim:  “President Clinton praised which company for putting solar panels on its stores?” asks a cheerful young spokesmodel of passersby in another ad. They are surprised to learn that it’s Walmart.

The Reality:  The passerby’s initial assumption — that it wouldn’t be Walmart — is well taken. In fact, despite announcing in 2005 that the company would move to having 100 percent of its power supplied by renewable sources, Walmart today receives only four percent of its energy from solar and wind power.

Why would Bill Clinton say such a thing?  Call me cynical, but it may have something to do with the fact that Walmart has been a major supporter of the Clintons since Bill’s days as governor of Arkansas.  In fact, Hillary was a member of Walmart’s Board of Directors for the six years leading up to her husband’s first presidential campaign in 1992. By 1993, tax returns showed the Clintons owned more than $100,000 worth of Walmart stock. In 2008, the company made substantial contributions to Hillary’s presidential campaign, while Bill has maintained a close personal relationship with Walmart CEO H. Lee Scott.  If Hillary runs in 2016, it will be in the post-Citizens United era of the SuperPac. These are made by billionaire contributors, and there are few billionaires as billiony as the scions of Walmart — the six Walton heirs together own as much wealth as 40 percent of the U.S. population.  The candidate who has them has the atom bomb of the SuperPac wars. [emphasis added]

5. The Claim: “Meet real Walmart shoppers!”  Here we meet a businessman, a teacher, a carpenter, a mechanical engineer, a firefighter and an accountant, all of them redolent with middle class status, who proudly shop at Walmart. “Living better,” the tag line says, “that’s the real Walmart.”

The Reality:  Walmart’s customers are disproportionately poor, Southern and elderly.  The fact that none of these demo’s made it into Walmart’s ad about “Our Customers” means not only that Walmart is a fibber, but also that Walmart is a disser of its own “real” customers.

6. The Claim:  “We work directly with manufacturers, eliminating costly markups.”

The Reality: If by “work with,” the ad means “dictate to,” then this claim is accurate.  But again, as Charles Fishman, the business reporter who wrote The Walmart Effect asks, what is “the high cost of these low prices?” Walmart’s market power is such that many of its suppliers face a stark choice:  take dictation from Walmart, or lose half or more of their business. “To survive in the face of [Walmart’s] pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.”

Just ask Steve Dobbins, CEO of 75-year old Carolina Mills, a company that supplies thread and yarn to textile manufacturers — half of whom supply Walmart. His company grew steadily until 2000. Then his customers, with Walmart’s gun to their heads — began a hemhorrage of offshoring in order to find the dirt cheap labor necessary to meet Walmart’s low price demands. Carolina Mills shrank from 17 factories to 7 within three years. The way Walmart “works with” its suppliers has been disastrous for American workers.

In the end, what can we learn from “The Real Walmart”?

When large corporations are criticized, they squirt PR like a cuttlefish. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to fix the image than to fix the problem. This summer, reports have emerged showing that Walmart’s pay and promotion policies are miserly, and that as a result, taxpayers get stuck with a big tab. If “greenwashing” is hiding your environmental sins with PR, and red is the color of labor, “The Real Walmart” has, in response to its critics, given us “redwashing.”