All this month, the groundbreaking news site Capital & Main is publishing a series of articles investigating the state of inequality in the state of California.
This past week, several stories exposed how corporations and employers have been the main creators of social and economic inequality:
The condition of California’s battered middle class is the result of policies paid for by a statewide fraternity of corporations, trade groups, lobbyists and wealthy individuals. Together, they have blocked needed initiatives through a network of Capitol lobbyists, political action committees, think tanks and libertarian advocacy organizations with a national reach. …
Just last month, a Koch-funded donor network revealed its intention to spend much of a $889 million fund to tilt races in California and elsewhere during the 2016 election cycle. …
The entire American public sector workforce may suffer the fate of workers in (right-to-work) states, depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a California case that could overturn an earlier high court decision that had extended to nonunion public sector employees the requirement to pay a fee to the labor organization that is legally required to represent them.
This potentially far-reaching suit, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, originated in Orange County and was brought by another Koch affiliate, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights.
“The Industries Driving Inequality in California” (infographic)
More important than what we think of this or that billionaire may be the fact that they are proliferating, the middle class is shrinking, the underclass is struggling to make ends meet and the entire balance of society is being thrown out of whack.
“It’s as if the economy has lost its spine,” the chief executive of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Russell Hancock, wrote recently, “and this has important implications for the kind of community we become.”
In a September 2014 Harvard Business Review article, William Lazonick, a University of Massachusetts at Lowell professor, declared that much of the trouble began when corporate America decided to stop funding research and development … and instead concentrate its efforts towards increasing profits through stock buy-back schemes. …
“The forces for income inequality — they’ve gotten away with it for so long. It’s going to get worse and be more of the same.”
All this month, the groundbreaking news site Capital & Main is publishing a series of articles investigating the state of inequality in the state of California.
Here are some highlights from the past week:
Besides fast-food workers, there is another face of low-wage workers across the country. For many universities and colleges, both public and private, it’s their most embarrassing secret — paying educated professionals minimum wage salaries with no benefits. Adjuncts are paid much less than tenured and full-time faculty and typically do not have union representation.
Millions of Californians — like many tens of millions throughout the country — lack adequate pension security to sustain them after their work lives end. The ceaseless political attacks on defined benefit pensions, which guarantee workers a monthly income based on a percentage of their salaries during their working years, mean that more and more employees are forced to fend for themselves.
Consider this incredible statistic from the research analyst Redfin: Through last April, sales of the top one percent of homes by price rocketed up 21 percent on a year-over-year basis. But sales of the other 99 percent of homes were down 7.6 percent. In other words, we don’t just have two Americas; we have two housing markets, one for the rich and one for the rest.
It’s been just over 30 years since war was declared on America’s public schools. …
Yet three decades later, and in spite the opening of a second front comprised of school vouchers, a 2.57-million student charter school network and a classroom culture tied to test preparation, the nation’s education outcomes have barely budged, and rather than narrowing the education gap, the chasm between rich and poor appears only to be significantly widening.
But what if it turned out that education reform, with its teacher-blaming assumptions, got it all wrong in the first place? That’s the conclusion being drawn by a growing number of researchers… .
All this month, the groundbreaking news site Capital & Main is publishing a series of articles investigating the state of inequality in the state of California. Here are some of the latest stories:
By now, we all know that women make $0.78 for every dollar a man makes: Feminist activists have successfully placed this statistic on the national stage. Yet the numbers that should be on the tip of our tongues in the income inequality debate are that Latinas make $0.54 and black women make $0.64 for every dollar a white man makes.
Over a 40-year career the average woman loses out on $431,000, a number amplified for women of color: Over their lifetimes black women can expect to lose out on $717,000 and Latina women, $854,000. These wage gaps represent more than short-term losses, it represents a lifetime of being devalued in the workplace. … this lost income could “feed a family of four for 37 years, pay for seven four-year degrees at a public university, buy two homes, purchase 14 new cars or simply be saved for retirement and used to boost her quality of life when she leaves the workforce.”
California, for example, is the home to more super rich than anywhere else in the country — and it also exhibits the highest poverty rate in the nation, …
But it’s not just the extremes — with wages falling and insecurity rising, the middle class is also squeezed. And, as it turns out, none of this is good for economic growth: A new wave of research, including from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, has been finding that high levels of inequality and racial and class segregation are actually associated with slower and less sustainable growth, …
Increasingly, inequality limits our economic potential, threatens our democracy and even cuts into our life expectancy.
It’s not just wealth that’s distributed unequally in California; it’s also commute times. Oddly, major cities and metro areas are not to be found among either the 40 shortest or, surprisingly, longest commute times in the state. However, a number of SEIU 1021-area cities landed in one group or the other.
The typical California worker spends more than 54 minutes commuting each workday. Over the course of a week, that adds up to nearly five hours and the average Golden State worker devotes the equivalent of almost one day to commuting each month.
Of course, many Californians endure much longer commutes than the state average, but an impressive number enjoy much shorter commutes. We discovered several of California’s coastal cities, as well as cities located in Northern California, boasted much shorter commute times than the average California community.
Best Commutes (average time one way)
#6 Ukiah – 17 minutes (67% in less than 15 mins.)
#13 Chico – 18.4 minutes (61% in less than 15 mins.)
#15 Redding – 18.6 minutes
#18 Lathrop – 40.6 minutes
#21 Pittsburgh – 40.3 minutes
#32 Vallejo – 38.1 minutes
#33 Novato – 37.8 minutes
#34 Suisun City – 37.7 minutes
#37 Richmond – 37.5 minutes
Truthout: “Inequality Is Costing Us Big-Time”
Have you ever wondered what inequality costs the average American family? That is, what price do we pay — in actual dollars and cents — for tolerating an economy fixated on pumping our treasure to the top? That question has no simple answer. …
How much income would middle-class Americans be making today, EPI researchers asked, if the United States had the same distribution of income now as our nation had back at the end of the 1970s?
The difference between now and then could hardly be starker. Since 1979, households in America’s top 1 percent have more than doubled their share of the nation’s income, from 8 to nearly 20 percent.
What if this increase in inequality had never happened? What if middle-class households were taking in the same share of the nation’s income they took in four decades ago?
Thomas (Capital in the 21st Century) Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, the economists who coauthored the 2003 inequality paper that bequeathed the phrases “one percent” and “99 percent” to the Occupy movement, have updated to 2013 their data on U.S. income disparity (PDF). They report that between 1993 and 2013 the one percent — that is, the top one percent in the U.S. income distribution — captured 59 percent of all income growth in America. Average income grew 62.4 percent for the one percent but only 7.3 percent for everybody else.
Capital & Main: “The Case for National Paid Sick Leave”
Paid sick leave is like minimum wage increases in that it’s overwhelmingly popular with voters. A National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago poll found 86 percent of responders in 2008 ranked paid sick leave as very important. …
And the economic catastrophe the opposition … has predicted has yet to materialize. San Francisco implemented paid sick leave in 2007. And despite fears it would kill jobs and hurt development, the City by the Bay is one of the most economically thriving cities in the country by most measures.
The U.S. falls far behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to paid sick leave and maternity leave. We’re the only developed country that doesn’t mandate paid sick leave and when it comes to maternity leave, it’s just Papua New Guinea and us.
Detroit News: “Michigan union membership falls sharply in ’14″
Michigan labor union membership fell sharply in 2014 as the effect of the state’s right-to-work legislation — which ended compulsory union membership for many workers — helped bring the state to its lowest percentage of organized workers in more than a half-century.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that the percentage of unionized workers nationwide fell from 11.3 percent in 2013 to 11.1 percent in 2014 — the lowest level since before the Great Depression. In Michigan, the decline was much steeper, dropping from 16.3 percent to 14.5 percent. In real numbers, the headcount of union members in Michigan fell by 48,000, even as the workforce grew by 44,000. … Michigan fell last year to the 11th most-unionized state, down from seventh in 2013. As recently as 2003, Michigan had the third-highest percentage of union workers.
Neel Kashkari, California’s 2014 Republican candidate for governor, saw his campaign go viral last year when he took to the streets of Fresno, posing as a homeless man in a YouTube video that showcased his unorthodox election theme — arguing that poverty should be at the top of the GOP agenda.
The former Goldman Sachs executive lost his race — handily — to Democratic incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown. But months later, top Republicans exploring possible 2016 bids for the White House appear to be stealing a page from Kashkari’s playbook. …
Professor Jack Citrin, who heads the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, said the trend line is evident: In 2015, the issue of inequality has penetrated both parties. “Obviously, it’s a natural for the Democrats to go for it,” he said. “But the Republicans have clearly seen that this is an issue they will have to address.”
As members of the Republican Party have begun establishing their messaging for the 2016 election, likely candidates are expressing concerns over the country’s treatment of the working class poor.
At an event hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers on Sunday, three likely Republican presidential contenders tried to tie President Obama’s economic policies to worsening income inequality. “Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent… we should be fighting for the little guy,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said.
Sacramento Bee: “California income inequality increased after recession”
Income inequality sharply increased in California as the state emerged from the Great Recession, with the top 1 percent of Californians capturing 135 percent of income growth between 2009 and 2012, according to a new national analysis.
In contrast, the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute study found, the other 99 percent of Californians saw an overall loss of income during the period.
Wall Street Journal: “Inequality Is Not Just About Wall Street: It’s In All 50 States”
For many Americans, the popular image of the top 1% — those Americans who are wealthier than the other 99% — is focused on Wall Street, the symbolic home of America’s financial markets, and where so much of the nation’s record wealth has accrued. In much rhetoric, New York City’s megabanks and hedge funds and private equity firms have become interchangeable with the 1%.
But a new study of state-level tax data from the Internal Revenue Service shows that the story is incomplete. In the past 35 years, the gap between the wealthiest 1% and everyone else has widened in all 50 states.
Maybe bemoaning income inequality is moving beyond mere talk. …
Even in the prosperous Bay Area, “there’s this sense that there are missed opportunities by not having a larger cross-section of the community engaged in and benefiting from the economy, And there’s a sense that the prosperity we’re experiencing is not sustainable if we stay on the same trajectory.”
“Extreme inequality, it turns out, creates a class of people who are alarmingly detached from reality — and simultaneously gives these people great power.” – Paul Krugman, NY Times (Jan. 2014)
“There’s going to be such great wealth, and such success for so many companies, that don’t be surprised if you get a raise even if you didn’t ask for it.” — Jim Cramer, TheStreet.com (Jan. 2015)
Legislators in the 24 states where Republicans now hold total control plan to push a series of aggressive policy initiatives in the coming year aimed at limiting the power of the federal government and rekindling the culture wars.
The unprecedented breadth of the Republican majority — the party now controls 31 governorships and 68 of 98 partisan legislative chambers — all but guarantees a new tide of conservative laws. Republicans plan to launch a fresh assault on the Common Core education standards, press abortion regulations, cut personal and corporate income taxes and take up dozens of measures challenging the power of labor unions and the Environmental Protection Agency. …
Republicans in at least nine states are planning to use their power to pass “right to work” legislation, which would allow employees to opt out of joining a labor union. Twenty-four states already have such laws on the books, and new measures have been or will be proposed in Wisconsin, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
In taking control of Congress on Tuesday, Republicans say they will quickly advance energy and health care legislation that stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate as they try to make good on claims, and address doubts, that they can govern effectively. …
The House will also take up a measure that would change the new health care law’s definition of full-time workers to those working 40 hours rather than the current 30 hours — another proposal that has drawn backing from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.
As Republicans prepare to take full control of Congress on Tuesday, the party’s leaders are counting on judges, not their newly elected majority on Capitol Hill, to roll back President Obama’s aggressive second-term agenda and block his executive actions on health care, climate change and immigration.
On health care, Republicans in Washington have sued the president and joined state lawsuits challenging major parts of the Affordable Care Act in the courts. On climate change, state attorneys general and coal industry groups are urging federal courts to block the president’s plan to regulate power plants. And on immigration, conservative lawmakers and state officials have demanded that federal judges overturn Mr. Obama’s plan to prevent millions of deportations.
Democrats say the legal moves reflect a convenient turnabout for the Republican Party and a newfound willingness to seek an active role for the judiciary when it benefits conservative policy goals.
“What they cannot win in the legislative body, they now seek and hope to achieve through judicial activism,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia. “That is such delicious irony, it makes one’s head spin.”