Morning in America Delivered by Democrats

Democratic presidents presided over higher stock market returns and corporate profits, greater compensation growth and productivity increases.

Source:AlterNet

Author: Leo Gerard

Emphasis Mine

Nine years after the Great Recession began during the tax- and regulation-slashing Bush administration, some startlingly good economic news arrived from Washington, D.C., last week.

The incomes of typical Americans rose in 2015 by 5.2 percent, the first significant boost to middle-class pay since the end of the Great Recession, and the largest, in percentage terms, ever recorded by the Census Bureau. In addition, the poverty rate fell 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968.  Also smaller were the numbers of Americans without health insurance and suffering food insecurity.

That sounds good, right? Especially after all it took to pull out of the Bush recession. During the month Bush left office, 818,000 Americans lost their jobs. Unemployment increased to 10 percent before President Obama’s stimulus programs started ratcheting it down to the current 4.9 percent. Now, wages are beginning to rise again. It seems like an event that Ronald Reagan might call morning in America. But not the current Republican nominee. Trump says, “This country is a hellhole, and we’re going down fast.”

To hoist America up out of that bogus hellhole, Trump proposes the same tired-and-untrue tax- and regulation-cutting formula that Bush did. The one that actually did drop the country into a hellhole – the Wall Street collapse, massive foreclosures and high unemployment.

Trump offered yet another tax plan last week – the third of his campaign. This one, just like Bush’s, lavishes tax cuts on the rich. He would hack the 35 percent business tax rate to 15 percent. He would eliminate the estate tax paid only by the nation’s richest 0.2 percent. So, basically, Trump would cut taxes for himself – a 10 billionaire.

In Trump’s previous tax plan, low-income people, those in the lowest taxbracket, would have paid 10 percent, but now Trump makes them pay more. They’ll have to cough up 12 percent.

At the same time, Trump said, he’d eliminate all that pesky government regulation that’s getting in the way of business doing whatever it wants. So, for example, he’d abolish that annoying regulator, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s the one that just fined Wells Fargo $100 million, part of a total of $185 million in penalties, for issuing credit cards and opening accounts without customers’ consent, sham accounts that customers learned about only after they started accumulating fees and damaging credit. Republicans like Trump have tried to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the day Democrats created it.

By cutting taxes on the rich and letting businesses run roughshod over consumers, Trump claims he would create 25 million jobs over a decade. This is Reagan and Bush trickle-down economics. It worked great for the rich. They got richer and richer. It never worked for the rest. The rest always do better when there’s a Democrat in the White House, as there is now. The Census report issued last week showing progress on wages is testament to that. But there’s more. Far more.

Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson found in 2013 that since World War II, the economy performed significantly better under Democratic presidents, regardless of the measurement used. For example, Democratic presidents average 4.35 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. Under Republicans, it was 2.54 percent.

Democratic presidents presided over higher stock market returns and corporate profits, greater compensation growth and productivity increases.

Economist Steven Stoft analyzed 72 years of jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during which Democrats controlled the White House for 36 years and Republicans for 36 years. He found that 58 million jobs were created under Democrats and 26 million under Republicans. That means Democratic presidents created more than twice as many jobs.

Significantly, because Trump is telling African-Americans how horrible their lives and their communities and their schools are, and how great he would be as a Republican president for them, a study published by the American Political Science Association found that that over 35 years of Republican presidents, black unemployment rose 13.7 percent. On the other hand, over 22 years of  Democratic presidents, black unemployment fell 7.9 percent.

And here’s another noteworthy fact as Trump runs around claiming he’s going to bring manufacturing back, even though he manufactures his own signature suits and ties and shirts offshore in places like China and Mexico and Bangladesh: Democrats create manufacturing jobs; Republicans destroy them.

Bloomberg news service analyzed data from the past eight decades and found manufacturing jobs increased under each of the seven Democrats and decreased under the six Republican presidents.

Even as employment expanded, manufacturing jobs declined under Republican presidents. The largest losses occurred under Reagan and the two Bushes – an average of 9 percent.

Republicans are bad for jobs. They’re bad for manufacturing. They’re bad for the GDP in general. Trump’s 25 million job promise? Malarkey.

Moody’s Analytics looked at his tax, trade and immigration policies and projected they’d cause a recession and eliminate 3.5 million jobs. That was before he changed his mind on taxes again and released the third plan this week, but it’s virtually unchanged from the previous two, other than costing low-income people more.

Americans should reject Trump’s Republican trickle-down promises that have done nothing for workers in the past but swipe their cash and flood it up in torrents to billionaires like Trump.

Americans who want a job, a raise, improved GDP, more American manufacturing, better health insurance – just improved security in general – should look to the Democrats. They’ve got a long track record of actually delivering on those promises.

Leo W. Gerard is president of the United Steelworkers union. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. Follow him on Twitter @USWBlogger.

See:http://www.alternet.org/labor/morning-america-delivered-democrats?akid=14668.123424.ZC9-4u&rd=1&src=newsletter1064138&t=20

Trump Loves the Poorly Educated—and They Love Him Right Back

Trump is taking advantage of his supporters using psychology rather than reason.

Source: AlterNet

Author: David Masciotra/Salon

Emphasis Mine

For all of his buffoonery about “telling it like it is,” Donald Trump is the most politically correct and cowardly candidate in the presidential race. If he actually had the strength to articulate uncomfortable and inconvenient truths, he would turn his favorite word—“loser”—not on full-time professionals in the press, but on his supporters.

The New York Times recently ran a report on “Trump geography,” seeking to solve one of the most bizarre mysteries of modern political history: Why do people support Donald Trump, and who are these people?

Journalists found that in the counties where Trump is most dominant, there are large numbers of white high school dropouts, and unemployed people no longer looking for work. An alliance with the incoherent personality cult of Donald Trump’s candidacy correlates strongly with failure to obtain a high school diploma, and withdrawal from the labor force. The counties also have a consistent history of voting for segregationists, and have an above average percentage of its residents living in mobile homes. Many conservatives, and even some kindhearted liberals, might object to the conclusions one can draw from the data as stereotyping, but the empirical evidence leaves little choice. Donald Trump’s supporters confirm the stereotype against them. The candidate himself even acknowledged the veracity of the caricature of his “movement” when he made the odd and condescending claim, “I love the poorly educated.” His affection for illiteracy and ignorance did not extend to himself or any of his children, all of whom have degrees from some of the best universities in the world.

The low-educated, low-income counties of Trump’s America also receive large sums of public assistance. Social Security fraud—seeking disability payments for minor injuries or conditions—is so rampant that attorneys have created a cottage industry out of offering to secure services for clients willing to pay a one-time fee for longtime subsidy.

Much discussion and analysis followed the revelation that for the first time in decades the life expectancy for middle-aged white men is declining. Another study shows that Trump easily wins the counties and cities where this reversal of the national trend—rising life expectancy—is happening. Scrutiny shows that much of the failure to take advantage of advancement in medical technology and healthcare availability results from working-class white men’s high rates of alcoholism, obesity and tobacco use.

Widespread poverty throughout the heartland and Southern United States is a lamentable social problem, but even in the best economic conditions, and under the friendliest government policies, the career options for high school dropouts will forever remain few and poor. Rather than accepting some “personal responsibility”—a favorite conservative concept—for their low standard of living and destructive lifestyle, the wrongly romanticized white working class is flocking to a candidate who allows them to blame other people for their problems. Their poor health is not the result of a pack a day habit and fatty diet, just as their financial misery has nothing to do with their rejection of education. It is all because of those damn Mexicans coming up from the border, the Chinese villains overseas, or the Muslim immigrant illegally occupying the Oval Office.

Never mind that illegal immigrants comprise a mere 3.5 percent of the population, and that most of them are concentrated in six states, a “big, beautiful wall” will cure all the ills of a high school dropout no longer applying for jobs.

Kevin Williamson of the National Review recently wrote an essay identifying some of the personal problems of Trump supporters, and members of the right-wing media immediately slipped into fits. Once they finished wiping the foam from their mouths, they condemned Williamson for his “snobbery” and “elitism,” but as Williamson suggested in a follow-up article, his critics never explained how any of his information or argumentation was flawed.

Donald Trump’s celebration of the “poorly educated,” conservative commentators’ indignation at Williamson, and even the mainstream media’s continued characterization of Trump’s supporters as victims of “failed government policy” or “cracks in the economy” expose the Republican Party and powerful parts of the press as facilitators and enablers of America’s worst historical sin: racism.

The inconsistency and hypocrisy evident in the right-wing portrayal of poverty, and even in the softer version of the mainstream media’s differing depiction of poor people, is overwhelming. The black, urban poor are lazy parasites who need to get it together, study longer and work harder, but the unemployed and uneducated white people empowering Trump’s vulgarity and bigotry are helpless victims of large economic conspiracies.

Personal responsibility, it would appear, is only applicable to the lives of black people.

Trump supporters on public aid believe that they are the exceptions to their anti-government ideology, and Trump allows them to wallow in self-pity and racism. In Illinois, xenophobia and stupidity joined forces to actually hurt the Republican front-runner. Voting for a primary presidential candidate in Illinois requires voters to select delegates, rather than vote directly for the politician. Each delegate has his or her corresponding candidate’s name in parentheses, but even so, many Trump supporters refused to vote for Trump delegates with the names, Nabi Fakroddin and Raja Sadiq.

The imbecility of Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” provokes the question, “Make America great again for whom?”

At no point in American history was there a greater amount of liberty and opportunity for blacks, women, gays and Latinos. Together those groups form a gigantic swath of the population, but apparently, they are not included in the calculus of Trump and his supporters.

Trump himself recently spoke out of both sides of his mouth when he said that a young black gentleman at the Chicago fiasco, who was better dressed and better groomed than the Trump supporters at the rally, was a “bum” who should “get a job.” Trump’s entire campaign is predicated on the phony populism of American recovery from third-world status. His out-of-work white constituency is in desperate need of his artistic deal making, but the black protestor is just lazy.

While it is far from perfect, the truth is that the American economy is doing rather well. Unemployment has dropped in half since the black Muslim became president, the housing market has begun to come back, gas prices are significantly lower, GDP rates are decent, and the United States has experienced 72 consecutive months of private sector job growth.

The failure of the recovery to penetrate the lives of high school dropouts who have stopped filling out job applications is not evidence that the “American dream is dead” or that “America is going to hell,” as Trump often puts it with characteristically inspirational rhetoric.

He is able to make his gullible supporters believe him, however, and that is all that really matters to his campaign. Never in the history of American politics has a candidate been so far apart from his constituency. Donald Trump is an Ivy League-educated, billionaire real estate developer living in Manhattan with his supermodel wife. His lifestyle is a distant fantasy to his voters, and it seems unlikely that, in any other context, Trump would ever share a room with any of them. He is running a con.

“I love the poorly educated” makes sense, because the ability to see through the sophisticated bullshit of confidence men is one benefit, among many, of a good education.

David Masciotra is the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky). He has also written for Salon, the Atlantic and the Los Angeles Review of Books. For more information visit www.davidmasciotra.com.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-loves-poorly-educated-and-they-love-him-right-back?akid=14100.123424.Q56xM3&rd=1&src=newsletter1052977&t=10

The 10 Most Important Lines From Pope Francis’ Historic Speech to Congress

Taking several progressive stances, the pope did not shy away from the politically divisive issues of the day.

Source: Mother Jones

Author:Pema Levy

Emphasis Mine

In a powerful speech to a joint session of Congress Thursday morning, Pope Francis pushed the United States to confront several political issues that tend to divide Republicans and Democrats, including immigration, climate change, the Iran deal, Cuba, poverty, and the death penalty. His speech noted that politics “cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.” He didn’t chastise any political party, and he, not surprisingly, had a clear but brief reference to opposing abortion. But overall, his address had a progressive cast.

Here are the most powerful quotes, according to the prepared text:

On climate change: “I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (Democrats stood to applaud the pope’s remarks on climate change, while many Republicans remained seated. The pope’s message was more muted than his remarks on the issue Wednesday when he spoke at the White House.”

On abolishing the death penalty: “I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

On abortion: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” (This was his only direct reference to abortion in the speech.)

On same-sex marriage: The closest he came to addressing same-sex marriage was in a passage about the importance of family. “I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.” (This did not appear to be an explicit denouncement of marriage equality.)

On Iran and Cuba: “When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue—a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons—new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”

On the refugee crisis: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”

On immigration: “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants…Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal solidarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.”

On poverty: “I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.”

On the arms trade: “Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

On religious fundamentalism: “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.” 

 

 

 

See: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/pope-francis-congress-best-lines-climate-abortion

We must fight economic apartheid in America

Author: Robert Reich

Source: Robertreich.com

Emphasis Mine

The fact that Americans are segregating ever more by income is exacerbating racial divisions.  

Thirty years ago most cities contained a broad spectrum of residents from wealthy to poor. Today, entire cities are mostly rich  (San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle) or mostly impoverished  (Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia).

Because a disproportionate number of the nation’s poor are black or Latino, we’re experiencing far more segregation geographically. 

Which is why, for example, black students are more isolated today than they were 40 years ago. More than 2 million black students now attend schools where 90 percent of the student body is minority.

According to a new study by Stanford researchers, even many middle-income black families remain in poor neighborhoods with low-quality schools, fewer parks and playgrounds, more crime, and inadequate public transportation. Blacks and Hispanics typically need higher incomes than whites in order to live in affluent neighborhoods.

To some extent, this is a matter of choice. Many people prefer to live among others who resemble them racially and ethnically.

But some of this is due to housing discrimination. For example, a 2013 study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that realtors often show black families fewer properties than white families possessing about the same income and wealth.

The income gap between poor minority and middle-class white communities continues to widen. While the recovery has boosted housing prices overall, it hasn’t boosted them in poor communities.

That’s partly because bank loan officers are now more reluctant to issue mortgages on homes in poor neighborhoods – not because lenders intend to discriminate but because they see greater risks of falling housing values and foreclosures.

But this reluctance is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It has reduced demand for homes in such areas – resulting in more foreclosures and higher rates of vacant and deteriorating homes. The result: further declines in home prices.

As prices drop, even homeowners who have kept current on their mortgage payments can’t refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates.

Others who owe more on their homes than their homes are worth have simply stopped maintaining them. In many poor communities, this has caused the housing stock to decline further, and home prices to follow.

Adding to the downward spiral is the fiscal reality that lower housing values mean less revenue from local property taxes. This, in turn, contributes to worsening schools, fewer police officers, and junkier infrastructure –accelerating the downward slide.

All of which explains why housing prices in poor neighborhoods remain about 13 percent below where they were before the recession, even though prices in many upscale neighborhoods have fully rebounded.  

And why about 15 percent of the nation’s homes worth less than $200,000 are still underwater while just 6 percent of homes worth more than $200,000 are.

Worse yet for poor communities, most of America’s new jobs are being created in areas where housing already is pricy, while fewer jobs are emerging in places where housing is cheapest.

The toxic mixture of housing discrimination, racial segregation over wide swathes of metropolitan areas, and low wages and few jobs in such places, has had long-term effects.

A Harvard study released in May suggests just how long. The study tracked several million children since 1980s.

It found that young children whose families had been given housing vouchers allowing them to move to better neighborhoods were more likely to do better in later life – attend college and get better jobs – than those whose families hadn’t received the vouchers.

The study points to one solution: housing vouchers that help lower-income families move into better neighborhoods.

It also suggests that federal tax credits to encourage developers to build housing for the poor should be used in racially-integrated communities, rather than mostly in poor ones.

If we want to reverse the vicious cycle of economic apartheid in America, that decision offers an important starting place. 

 

See: http://robertreich.org/post/122703537155

Why America’s Inequality Problem Is About a Lot More Than Money

We have chosen our extreme inequality and all of its awful consequences.

Source: AlterNet

Author: David Kay Johnson

Emphasis Mine 

Inequality is about much more than the growing chasm of income and wealth between those at the very top and everyone else in America. It’s also about education, environmental hazards, health and health care, incarceration, law enforcement, wage theft and policies that interfere with family life over multiple generations.

In its full dimensions, inequality shapes, distorts and destroys lives in ways that get little attention from politicians and major news organizations. How many of us know that every day 47 American babies die, who would live if only our nation had the much better infant mortality rates of Sweden?

“Poverty is not natural,” Nelson Mandela once said. “It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

The man-made disparities between the rich and the poor are a threat to the liberties of the people. Plutarch, the Greco-Roman historian, observed more than 2000 years ago that, “an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

For more than two decades I have been documenting the widening gaps in income and wealth in America in articles, books and essays. My first few years of reports in the New York Times drew complaints from some readers who asserted I had no idea what I was doing and skepticism from more than a few editors. But I felt confident because the trends I distilled from the official data were clear and because the fine print in government rules — which few journalists ever read — revealed that Congress was creating a system that takes from the many to give to the already rich few.

While the passage of time has shown that I was right, I must confess I paid scant attention to something else very important: disparities in wealth and income are primarily symptoms of a insidious social disease. This is a national ailment we can cure, but only if we first understand the broad dimensions of the problem. With knowledge comes insight, focus and the power to effect change.

To make up for my own shortcoming I spent a very useful, if unprofitable year putting together a collection of essays on the broad dimensions of inequality and the terrible toll it takes on human lives. From stacks of books, academic papers and blogs I created an anthology for a little nonprofit publisher called The New Press, founded by the late André Schiffrin, one of the most important book publishers ever.

DIVIDED: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality comes out in paperback this week. My hope is that college professors and even high school teachers will use it to introduce young people to the full nature of inequality and what we can do to reduce it.

“American inequality didn’t just happen – it was created,” wrote Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who is among the 44 contributors. Their brief essays are intended to reduce a complex problem to easily digested pieces, all written in plain English.

Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Barbara Ehrenreich, Paul Krugman, Steelworkers leader Leo Gerard, journalists Gary Rivlin and Neil deMause and scholars who are highly regarded in their fields like epidemiologist Ernest Drucker, education theorists Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford and Mike Rose of UCLA, as well as physicians Olveen Carrasquillo, Mary E. O’Brien and Stephen Bezruchka are among the deeply informed who contributed chapters. Insights also come from the past: Plato, Adam Smith, Studs Terkel, the 19th-century reformer Henry George and the American president who called out “malefactors of great wealth,” Teddy Roosevelt.

Part of the problem with inequality is that our culture and our intellectual constructs obscure simple, verifiable facts. And those who benefit from inequality pay others to confuse us.

Biased to the Rich

Moshe Adler, who teaches economics at Columbia University, provided a chapter called “How Economics Is Biased Toward the Rich.”

Even people who have never taken an economics course can learn from Adler how neo-classical economics favors the haves over the have-not-enoughs.

What Adler shows certainly is not what I was taught between 1967 and 1975 when I studied economics and public policy at seven colleges including our most influential center for manufacturing economic policy, the University of Chicago. At best, suggestions of bias in economic theory got lip service.

The ways in which race impedes access to health care in America and the price of our “medical apartheid” are explained by Dr. Carrasquillo and by Jaime Torres, who founded Latinos for National Health Insurance, which advocates for a single-payer health care system.

Education is equally infected with discrimination, as Stanford University professor sean f. reardon (who does not use capital letters in his name) explains in a chapter called “No Rich Child Left Behind.”

In the last few decades, reardon shows, “differences in educational success between high-and lower-income students have grown substantially,” a disparity that those who are willfully blind to inequality try to explain away with clever arguments and by abusing the data.

Unable to find what I wanted about two issues, I wrote the chapters.

One asks why married men are not in the forefront of demanding equal pay for women, since most of them have working wives. Nonprofit tax filings show that gender discrimination in pay in the same position is not only verifiable, but gets progressively worse as organizations grow in size.

The other chapter puts in simple language the painful cost of our inefficient non-system of sick care versus a modern health care system.

America could have eliminated the federal income tax in 2010 if we had spent the same and much smaller share of our economy on health care as France and Germany. Those countries provide very different systems, but both provide universal care and are among the best in the world.

The next time you look at your paycheck, think about what could be if we had a universal, single-payer health care system providing top-quality care with little or no out-of-pocket expense. You could have kept all the income taxes you paid in 2012. Today we could end the income tax for all except the top 2 percent just from reducing health care costs.

Let’s Face the Music

The awful truth is this: Americans have chosen our extreme inequality and all of its awful consequences in the politicians we elected in the last 35 years. We can make better choices, not that it will be easy, but then nothing that really matters ever is.

Presidents John Adams and James Madison (the primary author of our Constitution) warned us that what would doom our experiment in democracy was not a foreign invader, but economic inequality and its consequences.

Adams, living in an agrarian age, feared that “monopolies of land” would destroy the nation. He foresaw a business aristocracy born of inequality and legions of workers with no assets who just lived on their wages. The business aristocrats, he predicted, would manipulate voters, creating “a system of subordination to all… [by] the capricious will of one or a very few.”

Adams also warned that “the rich and the proud” would wield such economic and political power that it “will destroy all the equality and liberty, with the consent and acclamations of the people themselves.”

Madison thought extreme inequality evil, saying government should prevent “an immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches.” He favored “the silent operation of laws which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigents towards a state of comfort.”

Even Alexander Hamilton, who championed business while serving as the first Treasury secretary, said in 1782 that widespread ownership of assets was crucial because “whenever a discretionary power is lodged in any set of men over the property of their neighbors, they will abuse it.”

We live in the second American Republic under a Constitution adopted to ensure the power to tax and regulate commerce. It is based on six noble principles listed in the preamble including the duty of government to “promote the general Welfare.” (That capital W is in the original.)

We can choose better. Indeed, we can solve any problem we have if we choose to and do the work. We got rid of slavery (at a cost of at least 638,000 lives). Women got the right to vote after eight decades of struggle. More than a century ago we got child labor laws despite the clergymen who fought against them. We won, but are now losing, worker protection laws, a woman’s right to control her body and reliable pensions.

Understanding is the first step toward change, toward moving closer to our ideals of liberty, equality and happiness. I created Divided so we could understand where we are and how we got here. That knowledge can then empower us to make a better America.

See: http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/why-jon-stewart-walked-away-new-behind-scenes-details-daily-show-abdication?akid=13352.123424.onHRay&rd=1&src=newsletter1040341&t=5

Two Theories of Poverty

Source: Portside

Author: Matt Bruenig

Paul Ryan released his anti-poverty plan last week. In it, he proposes that a variety of federal means-tested welfare programs be turned into cash block grants to states, who would then be allowed to dole out the cash in exchange for recipients laying out a life contract for how they will increase their market incomes for a nosy case worker. As I explained on the day it came out, this is a bad idea, unnecessary, and seriously misunderstands the nature of American poverty.

In response to Ryan, many commentators pointed out that people do not need life contracts to go on to boost their market incomes because they already do that (myself, Weissman, Bouie). These writers point out that people move in and out of poverty a lot. Even though the poverty rate stays pretty steady year to year,poor people” are not the same people each year.

Although these rebuttals have been fairly modest in scope, they actually lay bare a fundamental difference in the way right-wingers and left-wingers understand poverty.

Theory One: Poverty Is Individual

The right-wing view is that poverty is an individual phenomenon. On this view, people are in poverty because they are lazy, uneducated, ignorant, or otherwise inferior in some manner. If this theory were true, it would follow that impoverished people are basically the same people every year. And if that were true, we could whip poverty by helping that particular 15% of the population to figure things out and climb out of poverty. Thus, a program of heavy paternalistic life contracts to help this discrete underclass get things together might conceivably end or dramatically reduce poverty.

Theory Two: Poverty Is Structural

The left-wing view is that poverty is a structural phenomenon. On this view, people are in poverty because they find themselves in holes in the economic system that deliver them inadequate income. Because individual lives are dynamic, people don’t sit in those holes forever. One year they are in a low-income hole, but the next year they’ve found a job or gotten a promotion, and aren’t anymore. But that hole that they were in last year doesn’t go away. Others inevitably find themselves in that hole because it is a persistent defect in the economic structure. It follows from this that impoverished people are not the same people every year. It follows further that the only way to reduce poverty is to alter the economic structure so as to reduce the number of low-income holes in it.

Which is true? Structural Poverty

To figure out which theory is true, the easiest thing to do is answer the question: are impoverished people the same people every year or different ones? The individual theory predicts that they are the same people (and further that they need paternalist intervention to get their act together). The structural theory predicts that they are different people (and further that we need to alter the economic structure to make things better).

As all of the commentators linked above mentioned, longitudinal surveys show that impoverished people are not the same people every year. The last SIPP (three-year longitudinal survey done by the Census) had around one-third of Americans finding themselves in episodic poverty at some point in the three years, but just 3.5% finding themselves in episodic poverty for all three years. The PSID data show that around 4 in 10 adults experience an entire year of poverty between age 25 and 60. If you count kids, the number of people who experience at least one year of poverty rockets even higher of course.

Also, it deserves pointing out that nearly 45 percent of adults use a means-tested welfare program in their life (this, presumably, is the number of adults who would need to prostrate themselves before social workers at some point in their life to spell out some ridiculous life contract under Ryan’s plan).

Getting Specific About Structural Holes

The revolving door of poverty is a slam dunk indicator that the structural theory of poverty is correct, but we can get even more specific by identifying where the structural holes are. There are many places to focus, but one very easy and indisputable one is age.

First, consider child poverty. Children have much higher poverty rates than adults and younger children have higher poverty rates than older children.

Why is this? Two reasons. First, families with children in them have to get more income each year to stay above the poverty line than families without them. But, the market does not distribute families more money just because they have more children. Consequently, the mere act of adding a child to a family makes it more likely that the family will be in poverty. Second, adults have children when they are young workers, but young workers also make the least income. This too makes it more likely a child will be in poverty than an adult purely because of the way the economy is structured.

Why do young children have higher poverty rates than older children? Because young children have young parents and old children have old parents. Old parents make more money than young parents because they are deeper into their income life cycle. That is why the graph above looks the way it does.

Second, consider adult poverty by age:

It’s common to describe 25-65 as prime working-age adults. But look at how much poverty falls over those working years. Nearly 20% of 25-year-olds are in poverty while less than 10% of 64-year olds are. Why? Young workers make less money than old workers. Young workers are often taking care of children as well, while older workers generally aren’t. This is structural. This is one of the very blatant structural reasons why you are going to see people swapping in and out poverty over their life course just like the longitudinal data show.

I could go on, but the point is clear. Poverty replicates itself in very predictable structural ways. Since the problem is structural, the solution must be structural as well. This is not nearly as difficult a task as it may seem. For instance, in the case of structural poverty problems afflicting children and young families, it is very easily dealt with by using a Child Allowance program, which is commonly used throughout Europe.

Posted by Portside on July 31, 2014

Emphasis Mine

See:https://portside.org/2014-07-31/two-theories-poverty

Paul Ryan’s New Clothes

Source: National Memo

Author:E. J. Dionne

Paul Ryan is counting on this: Because he says he wants to preserve a safety net, speaks with concern about poor people and put out a 73-page report, many will slide over the details of the proposals he made last week in his major anti-poverty speech.

The Wisconsin Republican congressman is certainly aware that one of the biggest political difficulties he and his conservative colleagues face is that many voters suspect them of having far more compassion for a wealthy person paying taxes than for a poor or middle-income person looking for a job.

So Ryan gave a well-crafted address at the American Enterprise Institute in which the centerpiece sounded brand spanking new: the “Opportunity Grant.” The problem is that this “pilot program” amounts to little more than the stale conservative idea of wrapping federal programs into a block grant and shipping them off to the states. The good news is that Ryan only proposes “experiments” involving “a select number of states,” so he would not begin eliminating programs wholesale. Thank God for small favors.

Ryan surrounds his retread idea with the language of innovation. “The idea would be, let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results — in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability,” he declared. “My thinking basically is, get rid of these bureaucratic formulas.”

Who can possibly like those “bureaucratic formulas”? The phrase is another disguise. Among the programs Ryan would block grant are food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). Food stamps are one of our most valuable initiatives because people are automatically eligible for them when they lose a job or their income drops sharply. Studies have amply documented how important food stamps are to the well-being of children.

For the economy and for the disadvantaged, curtailing SNAP would be devastating. While providing nutrition help to families in desperate need, food stamps also offer an immediate economic stimulus at moments when the economy is losing purchasing power. Economists call such programs “automatic stabilizers.”

Ryan’s block grant would not be nearly as responsive to economic changes. If Congress would have to step in, its reaction would be slow. And the history of Ryan’s own budgets shows that increasing spending for poor people is not exactly a priority on his side of politics.

Food stamps aren’t the only programs that get wrapped into the grant. Housing vouchers go there, too, which could lead to more homelessness. So does money for child care. Ryan says there would be rules barring states from using funding from his Opportunity Grant for purposes other than helping the needy. But it’s not clear from his outline how he’d stop states from using their new flexibility to move spending away from the needy indirectly by substituting block grant money for existing expenditures.

Ryan might reply: You just don’t trust the states! And my answer would be: You’re absolutely right, there are some states I don’t trust to stand up for their poor people. I’d point specifically to the 24 states that are depriving roughly 5 million Americans of health insurance because they refuse to participate in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

In his speech and report, Ryan movingly described two hypothetical Americans, “Andrea” and “Steven,” and how much they could benefit from intense counseling by a case worker. There may well be something to this, but it’s expensive. How much would states have to cut basic assistance to the poor to hire additional case workers?

And by the way, one of the programs Ryan would eliminate to pay for an undoubtedly positive part of his plan — a roughly $500-a-year increase in the Earned Income Tax

Credit (EITC) for childless workers — is the Social Services Block Grant, which helps pay for the kinds of interventions he wants for Andrea and Steven.

There is such a hunger for something other than partisanship that the temptation is to praise the new Ryan for being better than the old Ryan and to leave it at that. It’s good that he moved on the EITC and also that he embraced sentencing reform. I also like his suggestion that we re-examine occupational licensing rules.

But forgive me if I see his overall proposal as a nicely presented abdication of federal responsibility for the poor. “Experimenting” with people’s food-stamp money is not something we should sign onto.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

Emphasis Mine

See: