Tens of thousands of low-wage workers flood the streets demanding higher pay – Bryce Covert November 29, 2016

Fast food workers, Uber drivers, childcare providers, home health aides, airport workers, healthcare employees, and adjunct protested on Tuesday.`

The movement, which now calls itself the Fight for 15, is demanding a minimum wage of at least $15 as well as the right to unionize. And Tuesday’s day of action proved just how massive it has now become. Strikes and protests weren’t limited to New York City — they reached 340 cities. Fast food workers were joined by a variety of low-paid people, including childcare providers, home health aides, airport workers, healthcare employees, adjunct professors, and, for the first time, Uber drivers.

Uber drivers went on strike in more than two dozen cities. They were joined by striking hospital workers in Pittsburgh as well as a number of fast food employees across the country.

Many airport workers, including baggage handlers and cabin cleaners, also went on strike for the first time. A group walked off the job at Boston’s Logan International Airport, while more than 500 went on strike at Chicago O’Hare. They were backed up by protests at nearly 20 other major airports.

A number of other workers and supporters were arrested for acts of civil disobedience. In Detroit, Michigan, home care worker Renita Wilson was arrested at 5 a.m. while demanding she be paid $15 an hour, be allowed to join a union, and have access to affordable health insurance with a client she cares for, Carl Watkins, at her side.

Uber drivers, fast food employees, and airport workers were also arrested outside of McDonald’s restaurants in a number of cities, including Cambridge, Chicago, Detroit, and New York City. Organizers said tens of thousands of people joined the protests.

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Capitalism in Crisis – By Mark Blyth July/August 2016 Issue

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Ever since the emergence of mass democracy after World War II, an inherent tension has existed between capitalism and democratic politics; capitalism allocates resources through markets, whereas democracy allocates power through votes. Economists, in particular, have been slow to accept that this tension exists. Instead, they have tended to view markets as a realm beyond the political sphere and to see politics as something that gets in the way of an otherwise self-adjusting system. Yet how democratic politics and capitalism fit together determines today’s world. Politics is not a mistake that gets in the way of markets.

The conflict between capitalism and democracy, and the compromises the two systems have struck with each other over time, has shaped our contemporary political and economic world. In the three decades that followed World War II, democracy set the rules, taming markets with the establishment of protective labor laws, restrictive financial regulations, and expanded welfare systems. But in the 1970s, a globalized, deregulated capitalism, unconstrained by national borders, began to push back. Today, capital markets and capitalists set the rules that democratic governments must follow.

But the dominance of capital has now provoked a backlash. As inequality has widenedand real wages for the majority of people have stagnated—all while govern­ments have bailed out wealthy institutions at the first sign of trouble—populations have become less willing to accept the so-called costs of adjustment as their lot. A “double movement,” in the words of the Hungarian historian Karl Polanyi, occurs in such moments as these, when those who feel most victimized by markets reclaim the powers of the state to protect them. The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the United States is a product of this reaction, as is the strength­­ening of populist parties in Europe.

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Good news is coming for America’s low-wage workers – Bob Bryan May 23 2016

minimum wage

REUTERS/Noah BergerProtesters calling for higher wages for fast-food workers stand outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Oakland, California, December 5, 2013.

While income inequality has been a structural issue for some time, there are signs that low-income Americans with jobs are now getting some relief.

In notes this past week, Bank of America Merril Lynch (BAML), JPMorgan, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta all laid out good news regarding the paychecks of low-wage workers.

In a note on the growth of subprime auto loans, BAML economists Emanuella Enenajor and Lisa Berlin showed reason for optimism based on wage-growth metrics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report.

“Finally, the lower-income consumer, the demographic segment most likely comprising subprime borrowers, has been experiencing strong income growth,” the note read.

“Average wage growth of the bottom 10% and bottom 20% of employment categories has been accelerating at twice the pace of all other jobs.”

Screen Shot 2016 05 23 at 10.55.01 AMBank of America

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Economic inequality, the toil of work and Wall Street power: Our capitalist society is like “The Matrix”

We live in a dystopia worthy of a Hollywood sci-fi movie, and most people don’t even realize it

Economic inequality, the toil of work and Wall Street power: Our capitalist society is like "The Matrix"

Our lives seem normal. Just like in the beginning of “The Matrix,” the classic sci-fi movie from 1999 starring Keanu Reeves. Not great or anything, but fine. We get up every morning and repeat our programmed daily grind.

But is this all life has to offer? Or is there more to it than this? Some larger, hidden force controlling us and our society that we don’t recognize or understand?

What is the Matrix?

In the movie, the main character, Neo, was presented with a choice as to whether he wished to learn the reality about the hidden forces.

And now, dear reader, you are presented with the same choice. Do you really wish to know? But the reality of the truth might be more painful and difficult than the illusion of your current existence.

If you take the blue pill by stopping here and reading no further, then you will be safely returned to your current life, resume your daily grind, and be none the wiser.

If you take the red pill by reading on, however, there is no turning back. The reality of the truth will forever change your understanding of the hidden forces that are acting upon you.

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How to Spread 
the Wealth – By Anthony B. Atkinson January/February 2016 Issue

Practical Policies for Reducing Inequality

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As growth slows in mature economies across the developed world, economic inequality has reached new heights. Defined in terms of the shares of disposable income of households across the economic spectrum, adjusted for varying needs, inequality today in the United States is significantly higher than it was a generation ago. The same is true in the United Kingdom, and even less laissez-faire countries, such as Germany and Sweden, have seen inequality increase dramatically.

The main reason for the rise in inequality is the explosion in gains accruing to those at the very top of 
the income distribution. But the circumstances of those at the bottom have contributed, too. According to government calculations, the poverty rate in the United States in 2014 stood some four percentage points higher than it did 40 years earlier. In Germany, poverty, as measured by the EU standard, has risen by nearly half since 2000. Europe as a whole has made little progress in aiding the poor in recent years, despite the EU’s pledge to lift 20 million Europeans out of poverty or social exclusion by 2020.

Global leaders have taken note, and they are worried. U.S. President Barack Obama called rising income inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” and Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, warned of “the dark shadow it casts across the global economy.” But what officials have not said, by and large, is what they would do about it. Many seem to have resigned themselves to an ever-less-equal world.

The good news is that present levels of inequality are not inevitable. If governments are serious about tackling inequality—and that is a big if—then there are concrete steps they can take. Some of these actions might be controversial and difficult, and they would create losers as well as winners. But they are the best practical way to make a dent in a frustratingly persistent problem.



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Inequality – By Gideon Rose January/February 2016 Issue

What’s Inside

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Back in 1980, Irving Kristol, the “godfather of neoconservatism,” wrote an essay mocking the left’s obsession with income inequality: “The intensity with which economists work out their Gini coefficients, and the subtlety with which they measure income trends in the quintiles or deciles of the population, is matched—so far as I can see—by the utter lack of interest of the average American in their findings.” Having been impressed at the time by what seemed his cool logic, I checked back recently to see how the piece held up in the Age of Piketty. In retrospect, what was most striking was the setup: “It is my understanding, from surveying various studies of trends in income distribution in the United States over the past three decades, that economists have found very little significant change to have taken place.”

That was then; this is now. Were Irving still around to chime in, he would probably continue to mock. But ever the empiricist, he would have to concede that the objective realities of the situation had changed dramatically. Over the intervening years, real incomes and wealth have stagnated for the vast majority of Americans, even as they have skyrocketed for those at the very top. With some national variations, moreover, something similar has happened across the developed world.

These trends are starting to define our era. But what is driving them? What is the significance of the economic inequality that has resulted? And what can or should be done about it?

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Is the American Dream Failing Us? – By Lindsey Cook Dec. 3, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EST

Recent data show Americans are better educated, but also poorer.

If college is supposed to lead to the American Dream, why is the poverty rate still increasing?

If college is supposed to lead to the American Dream, why is the poverty rate still increasing?

Americans are more educated than they’ve ever been, according to new census data.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released its American Community Survey, which provides county-by-county tallies for demographics, education, employment and other statistics every five years. The most recent data runs from 2010 to 2014.

Here are the most important takeaways:

Americans are more educated.

While some have said the increase in graduation rates won’t be sustainable for much longer, Americans for now are still graduating from college at higher rates than ever before. In the 3,142 U.S. counties, the percentage of people 25 or older who had a bachelor ‘s degree increased in 1,000 counties between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. It only decreased in 60 counties.

The change in the percentage of Americans with a bachelor's degree per county

The share of Americans graduating high school or higher and the share of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher both increased.

The percentage of Americans with a bachelor's degree per county

More Americans are below the poverty line. 

In the 2005-2009 survey, 13.5 percent of Americans were below the poverty line. In 2014, 15.6 percent were.

The share of Americans in poverty grew in more than 1,000 counties and decreased in 136. Of the 119 counties where 30 percent or more of residents had income below the poverty threshold, 93 were in the South.

The change in the percentage of Americans in poverty
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7 Billionaires Worried about Income Inequality by Erik Sherman NOVEMBER 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

Some surprising names on the list. 

Income inequality is a complicated issue. The U.S. is the richest and yet most unequal country in the world when you consider wealth, according to Allianz. And yet, there is economic mobility; many Americans shift income brackets, with 70% of the population experiencing at least one year in the top 20th percentile of income and 53% landing in the top 10th percentile in at least one year.

But as the disparities in wealth and income have become more marked, the national conversation over income inequality, as well as how to shore up America’s middle class, has gained urgency. It has even become a cause célèbre with surprising bedfellows. Democrats and Republicans have both focused on the topic, albeit with different solutions in mind. Harvard Business School alumni have cited it as a major concern — just like union activists and minimum wage workers at the fast food protests.

 And billionaires are no exception. Entrepreneur and investor Nick Hanauer, who sold his Internet advertising company to Microsoft for $6 billion in 2007, most famously warned fellow one-percenters, “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality.” But he has plenty of company. Some are concerned on moral grounds; others cite the impact on the economy. Here are seven other billionaires who say they are worried about how income inequality will affect America.


The New Economic Issue: Susan Milligan May 2015


In 2008, the downward-spiraling economy was a unifying issue for presidential candidates, voters, workers and corporate executives alike. There were disagreements about who was at fault, and what should be done to fix it, but those differences paled in comparison to the universal reaction to the frightening reality: the global economy was on the verge of a meltdown, and everyone, no matter their respective wealth, was going to suffer if things didn’t turn around.

Seven years later, things are indeed turning around. Unemployment, once in double digits, is now down to a bearable, almost normal, 5.5 percent, and the economy writ large (a somewhat stagnant first quarter 2015 notwithstanding) is growing steadily. New jobs are being created at a fast clip; with the exception of a disappointing April, more than 200,000 new jobs a month have come into the market for more than a year running. Now that the rubble has been cleared from the Great Recession, Americans have stopped bonding over the shared experience of the economic near-disaster and its aftermath. And people on the low- and middle segment of the income spectrum have started to demand answers to a deeper and longer-in-development problem: why are the people at the top making so much money, while others work full time and must still rely on federal assistance to buy food and afford housing?

[READ: No Easy Answer for Rising Income Inequality]

Income inequality isn’t new, but it’s the new economic issue of the campaign season. Presidential candidates in both parties are addressing it in speeches (though with different prescriptions to narrow the wealth gap). The question has entered into legislative debates in both Congress and the states, on issues ranging from tax cuts to raising the minimum wage, imposing conditions on government assistance dollars, or giving the president fast-track authority to negotiate an international trade pact. And struggling Americans are looking at the top earners and wondering: is the American Dream dead?

A Gallup poll released this week shows that Americans are feeling increasingly in economic retreat. Barely half (51 percent) now consider themselves as being part of the middle or upper classes, compared to an average of 61 percent during 2000-08. A full 48 percent say they are now in the working or lower classes.

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The US Workforce – The Business of Life (Episode 1) – Published on Apr 22, 2015

Compared with the rest of the world, Americans work notoriously hard. But as income inequality increases, the growing millennial workforce is redefining what they want out of a job. To unpack the issue, we’ve enlisted Planet Money’s Adam Davidson, journalist Megan McArdle, and Jamelle Bouie of Slate.

Introducing a new kind of talk show from VICE News. “The Business of Life” is a fresh perspective on the most important issues of our time, as told through the facts, figures, dollars, and cents that shape our world. Hosted by journalist Michael C. Moynihan, each episode brings together an eclectic panel of writers, thinkers, policy experts, and scholars to break down everything you need to make sense of the most complicated topics of our time.`