The Myths Of Recovery: Why American Households Aren’t Better Off

Workers pack and ship customer orders at the 750,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center on August 1, 2017 in Romeoville, Illinois.

By Constantin Gurdgiev for Market Watch – The Census Bureau data shows that bulk of the gains in real income in 2016 has been down to one factor: higher employment. In other words, hours worked rose, but wages did not. American median householders are working harder at more jobs to earn an increase in wages. Which would be OK, were it not down to the fact that working harder means higher expenditure on income-related necessities, such as commuting costs, child-care costs, costs for caring for the dependents, etc. In other words, to earn that extra income, households today have to spend more money than they did back in the 1990s. Now, I don’t know about you, but for my household, if we have to spend more money to earn more money, I would be looking at net increases from that spending, not gross. Census Bureau does not adjust for this. There is an added caveat to this: caring for children and dependents has become excruciatingly more expensive over the years, since 1999. Inflation figures reflect that, but the real income deflator takes the average/median basket of consumers in calculating inflation adjustment. However, households gaining new additional jobs are not average/median households to begin with — and most certainly not in 2016, when labor markets were tight.

The Racial Wealth Gap Is Leading To An Almost-Nonexistent Middle Class

Top photo | Deborah Goldring stands inside her Baltimore home. From growing up black in the segregated 1960s, Goldring pulled herself out of poverty and earned a middle-class life – until the Great Recession. First, her husband fell ill, and they drained savings to pay for nursing homes before he died. Then Goldring lost her executive assistant job of 17 years. Then came a letter from the bank, intending to foreclose on her home of almost three decades. For Goldring and many others in the black community, where unemployment is still rising, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. Some even see a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

By Julia Conley for Mint Press News – With people of color projected to make up the majority of Americans by 2043, a new study warns against policies that keep many black and Latino households out of the middle class. A new study finds that if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, the median wealth for black Americans will fall to $0 by 2053, with Latino Americans reaching the same median wealth two decades later. According to the report by the Institute for Policy Studies and Prosperity Now, the wealth gap between people of color and their white counterparts is showing no sign of narrowing in the coming years—even as racial demographics in the U.S. are rapidly shifting, with people of color projected to make up the majority of the population by 2043. In the next three years, black households are projected to lose 18 percent of their median net worth, while white families are expected to gain about three percent more wealth. The report, “The Road to Zero-Wealth,” defines middle-class wealth as a household net worth of $68,000 to $204,000, and notes the disconnect between income and wealth: a median income for one’s racial background does not guarantee entry into the middle-class. “White households in the middle-income quintile—those earning $37,201-61,328 annually—own nearly eight times as much wealth ($86,100) as Black middle-income earners ($11,000) and ten times that of their Latino counterparts ($8,600),” write the authors.

Racial Inequality Is Hollowing Out America’s Middle Class

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By Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins for Other Words – Since 1983, national median wealth has declined by 20 percent, falling from $73,000 to $64,000 in 2013. And U.S. homeownership has been in a steady decline since 2005. While we often hear about the struggles of the white working class, a driving force behind this trend is an accelerating decline in black and Latino household wealth. Over those three decades, the wealth of median black and Latino households decreased by 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively, while median white household wealth actually rose a little. As of 2013, median whites had $116,800 in wealth — compared to just $2,000 for Latinos and $1,700 for blacks. This wealth decline is a threat to the viability of the American middle class and the nation’s overall economic health. Families with more wealth can cover emergencies without going into debt and take advantage of economic opportunity, such as buying a home, saving for college, or starting a business. We looked at the growing racial wealth gap in a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies and Prosperity Now. We found that if these appalling trends continue, median black household wealth will hit zero by 2053, even while median white wealth continues to climb. Latino net worth will hit zero two decades later, according to our projections.

Sometimes The Poor Make It Big. Usually They Stay Poor

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By Jill Richardson for Other Words – We all want to live in a country where all it takes is hard work and some talent for anyone to succeed. We tell ourselves that we do. We even see examples of people who “came from nothing” and ended up rich and famous. And it’s true that it sometimes happens. Sometimes a child born into poverty grows up to become the president of the United States, a multi-billionaire, or an Olympic gold medalist. Most of the time, however, they don’t. And it’s not because they’re bad, lazy, stupid, or immoral. Often it’s because of our system itself. Take our school system for a start. By funding schools with property taxes, we guarantee that the children from the richest neighborhoods go to the wealthiest schools. If we lived in neighborhoods that were economically mixed with families of all incomes, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But we don’t. Instead we have areas of very wealthy people whose children attend wonderful schools, and areas of concentrated poverty where children attend failing schools.

More Than 900 Nonviolent Actions Planned For Sept. 16-24

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By Staff for Peace and All Good – Campaign Nonviolence is a long-term grassroots movement for a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, environmental destruction and the epidemic of violence. We invite people and organizations in the U.S. and worldwide to take action during CNV Action Week around the International Day of Peace, September 21. Together we will join our voices from around the planet to support a global nonviolent shift! During this year’s Campaign Nonviolence Week, September 16-24, 2017 our goal is 1000+ marches, vigils, rallies and more for a culture of peace and nonviolence in cities and towns in all 50 states and in nations around the world. Together we will march against violence and for a world of peace, justice and sustainability. We will connect the dots between war, poverty, racism, climate change, and the epidemic of violence — and join forces for a culture of peace.

It Is Not Social Mobility, It Is Abolishing Class Divisions

Protesters march at the G20 Summit in London, 2009.

By Staff of Stumbling and Mumbling – To which Tim Worstall replies that this requires serious infringements of freedom. I agree with Tim. Social mobility is the enemy of freedom. Enforcing it would require governments to prevent parents from doing their best for their children to stop them falling below the glass floor, and it would prevent firms from hiring whom they wanted. It seems, then, that we have a conflict of values. Except we don’t, because there’s nothing valuable about social mobility. A simple thought experiment tells us this. Imagine a dictatorial society split into three classes – slave labour, guards, and rich and powerful oligarchs – in which children of the slaves have good chances of entering the higher classes either through education or perhaps lottery. We’d then have social mobility. But the society would nevertheless be unfree and unjust. Social mobility, then, is no sign of a good society. In fact, there’s something downright dishonest about it. Social mobility pretends that if people from poor homes do well at school and work hard then they can escape their class. But they can’t. Four facts tell us this. One is that people from poor homes are more likely to die early, even if they get a decent job later in life.

Inside America’s Largest Worker-Run Business

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By Jay Cassano for Fast Company – Fifteen years ago, Clara Calvo had just left her husband and her job. Both were abusive in their own ways. Her husband beat her, while her job at a beauty salon required long, unpredictable hours for little pay. Before that, she worked in a clothing factory in midtown Manhattan, earning a pittance for each hat she sewed, having immigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1995. Today, Calvo is able to support her three children as a single mother and sits on the board of company with over 2,000 employees that does $60 million in business per year. Solving Inequality: This is part of Co.Exist’s collection of stories about rising income inequality and big and bold ideas for how society can reverse this trend. See the whole list here. But Calvo also works as home health care worker, making just $10 an hour. Her company, Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), is not like most other companies. It is a worker cooperative, an ownership structure that is somewhat rare in the U.S. but much more common in Spain, Italy, and parts of Latin America. In a worker cooperative, every worker can own an equal share of the company (and its profits) and get a say in company decisions.

Reversing Inequality: Unleashing Potential Of An Equitable Economy

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By Chuck Collins for the Institute for Policy Studies – Reducing inequality requires a “next systems” analysis and playbook. Here, we briefly examine our current inequality predicament and show how these inequalities undermine our democracy, economic stability, social cohesion, and other cherished values. We then explore the systemic causes, perpetuators, and superchargers of inequalities and, finally, evaluate policy interventions and pressure points for leveling them. The path through this thicket is only partly uncharted. The United States can learn from other advanced industrial countries with significantly less inequality, adapting policies and practices to US needs and circumstances. We can also learn from our own history—from understanding that our rigged rules have been racially biased—to how we dramatically reduced inequality between 1940 and 1975. That said, part of the path is uncharted. Grappling with climate change and other breached ecological boundaries—whether ocean acidification, fresh water contamination, or methane dumping—intensifies the challenges of reducing extreme inequality. And many of the New Deal and post-World War II policies that reduced inequality for earlier generations won’t work now given today’s levels of population, resource consumption, and ecological risk.

Don’t Lie To Poor Kids About Why They’re Poor

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By Josh Hoxie for Other Words – Those at the bottom — and the top — deserve to know why their experiences are so different. Work hard and you’ll get ahead — that’s the mantra driven into young people across the country. But what happens when children born into poverty run face first into the crushing reality that the society they live in really isn’t that fair at all? As new research shows, they break down. A just released study published in the journal Child Development tracked the middle school experience of a group of diverse, low-income students in Arizona. The study found that the kids who believed society was generally fair typically had high self-esteem, good classroom behavior, and less delinquent behavior outside of school when they showed up in the sixth grade. When those same kids left in the eighth grade, though, each of those criteria had degraded — they showed lower self-esteem and worse behavior. What caused this downward slide? In short, belief in a fair and just system of returns ran head-on into reality for marginalized kids. When they see people that look like them struggling despite working hard, they’re forced to reckon with the cognitive dissonance.

Fighting Inequality: Which Nations Do More Than Pay Lip Service?

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By Sam Pizzigati for Inequality.org – Two years ago, in 2015, just about all the nations in the world came together and agreed to make reducing inequality — the gap between rich and poor — a prime United Nations “sustainable development goal.” A noble gesture. But UN groups make noble gestures all the time. These gestures do sometimes translate into real progress. They more typically amount to blowing smoke — and obscuring how little progress governments may actually be making. How can we tell which nations are just blowing that smoke? People worldwide clearly need global measures — comparative yardsticks — that can help average citizens hold their governments accountable to all their noble rhetoric. On inequality, we now have one such yardstick. Oxfam, the activist global charity, has just teamed with the Development Finance International consulting group to unveil the first-ever Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, “a new global ranking of governments based on what they are doing to tackle the gap between rich and poor.” We already know, researchers at Oxfam and DFI point out, what governments should be doing to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

2 Billion People Don’t Have Access To Clean Water, Opens Up Fissures Of Inequality

On 9 February 2016 in central Ethiopia, children and women from a semi-pastoralist community wait their turn to fill jerrycans with clean water at a water point in Haro Huba Kebele in Fantale Woreda, in East Shoa Zone, Oromia Region. Credit: © UNICEF/UN011590/Ayene

By Roshni Majumdar for IPS – UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2017 (IPS) – More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for drinking. “Clean water and sanitation is central to other outcomes, for example, nutrition among children. While many countries like India have made it a top priority, many others haven’t been able to emphasise the issue yet,” Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, told IPS. As many as 400 million people still rely on distant water sources—travelling to and fro from their homes to pick it up. Some 159 million people, according to the report, rely on untreated water from lakes and streams. This puts lives, especially of young children, at great risk. “Every day, 800 children under the age of five die from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea. In fact, diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of death in the world.” Wijesekera added. A lack of access to clean drinking water is also bad news for hygiene and sanitary levels. In many countries, open defecation due to the lack of in-house toilets poses a significant challenge. “The sheer indignity of openly defecating, especially among young girls, takes a toll on other aspects of their lives—such as their poor attendance in school where there aren’t toilets,” Wijesekera explained.

In 40 Years: CEO Pay Up 937%, Worker Wages Stagnant

Image credit: Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com

By Alexandra Jacobo for Nation of Change. US inequality problem continues to be the worst in the industrialized world. A new report, published by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) this week, shows that while wages for American workers have essentially remained stagnant for decades, CEO pay has soared at an “outrageous” clip. A study by the Pew Research Center (PRC) in 2014 found that economic analyses show a “lack of meaningful wage growth.” Looking at five decades worth of government wage data, PRC showed that wages have been flat or even falling since the 1970s, regardless of changes in the economy and job markets. Now EPI’s Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder have found that between the years of 1978 and 2016, CEO pay rose 937 percent. Over that same period, worker compensation grew by a measly 11.2 percent. The CEOs of America’s largest firms made an average of $15.6 million, 271 times the annual average pay of a typical American worker.

HSBC A ‘Crucial Link In Chain’ Of Palestinian Oppression Says War On Want

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By Staff of War On Want – Some of the UK’s best known banks and financial institutions are complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people according to a new report by War on Want. The report, Deadly Investments: UK bank complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, exposes the business relationship between UK banks and financial institutions, and 19 companies known to supply Israel with weapons and technology used in the abuse of Palestinian human rights, including war crimes. UK banks and financial institutions examined in the report hold shares worth over £10.8 billion in companies that sell weapons, military equipment and technology to Israel, which is used to oppress Palestinians. Additionally, some of them facilitate loans to these companies.

Citizens’ Wealth Funds: An Alternative To The Inequality Escalator

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By Stewart Lansley for Inequality – Many attempts to tackle inequality fall short because they fail to target inequality’s primary source, the concentration of the ownership of both capital and other forms of wealth. Because of this concentration, the substantial returns that stem from wealth — in dividends, rent, and interest — accrue almost wholly to the already rich. Citizens’ wealth funds can help break up concentrated wealth. These funds offer a powerful and potentially popular instrument for tackling extreme levels of inequality. Indeed, they embrace a vital principle: that part of national wealth should be communally owned, with the returns going to all citizens. In contrast to our current built-in inequality escalator — what the French economist Thomas Piketty calls a “fundamental force for divergence” — citizens’ funds offer a new counter-force for convergence. Over time, they can raise the share of national wealth held in common, ensuring that a growing part of the returns from capital are distributed equally among all citizens. These funds, in effect, operate like a giant community-owned unit trust, giving all citizens an equal stake in a part of the economy. A utopian idea? Hardly.

Will Progressives Only Talk To Themselves?

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BY Les Leopold for Huffington Post. Building such a network, however, requires having faith in the power of education. It requires that we understand that runaway inequality ties us all together and can only be tackled through a broad-based common movement with a common agenda. This educational process asks us to have the confidence and courage to engage in dialogue with a wide range of people who also care about building a better society for themselves and their families. None of this will come easy. Our silos provide us with strength. We take pride in our identities and are empowered by them. Also, it is very difficult for us to even imagine what a common movement might look like, let alone how to build one. But we can be sure of one thing: Building a fairer and more just society will require a massive educational movement. As the Populists taught us, it can be done.