Archive for category Equality

If Walmart Paid Its Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up?

Via Slate:

In the series “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp,” Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark traces how big-box stores make billions from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. What’s more, the wages of many workers at these stores are so low that the workers themselves qualify for food stamps—which the employees then often spend at those big-box stores.

This video crunches the numbers on how much Walmart, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp economy, might have to raise prices across the board to help a typical worker earn a living wage.

Are safety-net programs designed to help struggling Americans padding corporate profits at taxpayer expense? BTW friends don’t let friends shop at Walmart.

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Robert Reich: The ‘Paid-What-You’re-Worth’ Myth

Inequality graphs

As usual, Robert Reich says it better than I could (emphasis added).

“Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a dangerous myth.

…The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they’d be unionized if they didn’t come close to matching the union contracts.

Today’s Walmart workers don’t have a union to negotiate a better deal. They’re on their own. And because fewer than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, non-union employers across America don’t have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. The result has been a race to the bottom.

…The reason Wall Street bankers got fat paychecks plus a total of $26.7 billion in bonuses last year wasn’t because they worked so much harder or were so much more clever or insightful than most other Americans. They cleaned up because they happen to work in institutions — big Wall Street banks — that hold a privileged place in the American political economy.

…The “paid-what-you’re-worth” argument is fundamentally misleading because it ignores power, overlooks institutions, and disregards politics. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing whatever should be done to change what people are paid, because nothing can be done.

It’s not that working Americans are lazy/incompetent. Capitalists are greedy and powerful.

UPDATE:

Conservative Myths About the Minimum Wage, Debunked
Contrary to conservative myths, raising the minimum wage would boost the economy, benefit all workers, and won’t hurt consumers.

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Capitalism is a Failing System

This editorial by Richard D. Wolff caught my attention:

Janet Yellen, the United States’ Federal Reserve’s new chair, and I were graduate economics students around the same time at Yale University. The professor who shaped the macroeconomics we learned was James Tobin. He taught us to be Keynesian economists: that is, to accept capitalism as the sole object and focus of our studies, to celebrate it as the best possible system and to preserve it against its own serious faults. Keynesian economics teaches that to secure capitalism’s blessings requires systematic government intervention in the workings of the economy.

So far, conventionally Keynesian and even neo-liberal.

No courses at Yale troubled Yellen or myself with any analyses of how exploitation lies at the core of capitalist production. We were never taught that the majority of industrial workers produce more value for employers than what employers pay them. We were prevented from encountering arguments examining how this idea of “more” (or, in economic terms, of a surplus) contributed fundamentally to the systemic inequalities that define capitalist societies.

Now we’re getting interesting:

Capitalism’s dysfunctions have led me to appreciate and independently learn what Marxian economics has to teach me, outside of Yale’s mainstream economics. Yellen and her cohorts avoided and bypassed all that.

Convinced that we can do better than capitalism, many have analyzed the incipient alternatives emerging from capitalism’s deficiencies, such as cooperatives, workers’ self-directed enterprises and others. For us, Occupy Wall Street represents a powerful surge against capitalism, yet another sign of the waning tolerance for a system that Yellen will try to preserve.

The whole article is worth a read.

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1 Percenter: People With More Money Should Get More Votes

Thomas Perkins is an 82-year-old venture capitalist worth an estimated $8 billion. He doesn’t like democracy. Unfortunately for us, people like him hold the balance of power in today’s America.

Asked for an idea that could “change the world” by FORTUNE’s Adam Lashinsky, Perkins told an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday that Americans shouldn’t be able to vote unless they pay taxes and that the wealthy should have more votes.

Perkins has houses in Belvedere, Marin County, California, and spends about two months a year at Plumpton Place, his Elizabethan mansion in East Sussex, England, which once belonged to the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. In 2010 he purchased the penthouse atop the Millennium Tower on Mission Street in San Francisco’s financial district.

You may remember this guy from his WSJ letter to the editor that compared what he called the “progressive war on the American one percent” to the Nazi death camps under Adolf Hitler.

When I say that capitalism is antithetical to democracy, or that the 1 Percent are trying to parlay their plutonomy into a plutocracy, this is an example of what I mean.

h/t Jillian Berman on HuffPo

UPDATE: How One Billionaire’s Idea To Give Rich People More Votes Is Already In The Works

39 Comments

President Obama Needs More Shoes

During a 2007 campaign speech in Spartanburg, South Carolina, then-Senator Obama promised he would fight for collective bargaining rights if he was elected president.

“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States.”

Two years ago, President Obama passed up an opportunity to make good on that promise when Wisconsin workers lost their collective bargaining rights. Some people suggested mailing pairs of comfortable shoes to the White House to help the President out.

Once again, our President needs those shoes. He says he is concerned that Americans have gone too long without a minimum wage increase, yet he won’t sign an executive order to help out low-wage federal contract employees.

From Think Progress:

Unlike millions of other low-wage employees, the ones fulfilling federal service contracts can get a raise without an act of Congress. The workers, backed by a group of about 17 House progressives, want President Obama to exercise his executive authority to improve their pay and get taxpayers out of the business of paying poverty wages. The administration has kept quiet on the topic for months as the congressional progressives who favor the move have gotten louder and begun criticizing the president’s inaction, and both workers and lawmakers hope Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address will include an announcement about raising federal contract worker wages with the stroke of a pen.

The eight-month federal worker campaign has played out in the shadow of much larger coast-to-coast strikes by fast food and Walmart workers, who likely hope their activism has emboldened a president who once famously pledged to walk picket lines alongside workers.

UPDATE: 11 Jobs Where an Honest Day’s Work Earns You Poverty

UPDATE: Obama To Raise Minimum Wage For Federal Contract Workers By Executive Order

42 Comments

Trestin Meacham Versus Equal Rights

Item:

Former Constitution Party Utah State Senate candidate Trestin Meacham began a fast the day after District Judge Robert Shelby released his ruling that Utah’s Amendment 3 prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional. He is attempting to draw attention to what he says is an option for the state: Nullification.

Nullification is a far-right theory that has repeatedly been rejected by the Supreme Court. Article VI of the United States Constitution contains the Supremacy Clause that states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Utah’s Amendment 3 was a clear violation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (emphasis added).

…No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Says Meacham:

“This has nothing to do with hatred of a group of people. I have friends and relatives who practice a homosexual lifestyle and I treat them with the same respect and kindness that I would anyone. This is about religious freedom, and an out of control federal government.”

H/t Think Progress

More info: Trestin’s Fast

UPDATE: Utah Man Starving Himself To Stop Same-Sex Marriages

UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court on Monday put same-sex marriages in Utah on hold, granting the state’s request for a stay pending appeal.

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Magic Mirror

I love this song written by Leon Russell, which says:

Magic Mirror, if we only could, try to see ourselves as others would.

Briliant!

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Gay Folks Are Going to the chapel, gonna get married . . . IN UTAH!

Take a minute to scroll through the pictures in this article from the Deseret News – the photos of Matt Barraza and Tony Milner were taken in my home congregation, Holladay United Church of Christ.  Our pastor, Tom Nordberg, has been with us exactly two weeks and this is the first wedding he’s performed in our congregation.  A legal, same sex wedding in Utah in a church by an honest to God real live ordained minister.  I  never thought I’d see it.  But I was there watching it.  This thing really happened.

There’s a petition at Move On urging the governor to let the Judge’s ruling stand.  Please take a minute and sign it.

If you want to get married in Utah, do it now.  I’m hearing that some county clerk’s offices are open today – call and find out and get down there and get married!

 

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Utah’s First Gay Married Couple (updated)

 

Looks like the honor goes to:

Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson

“Our application for a marriage license was just accepted by the state of Utah,” Ferguson wrote on his Facebook wall.

Saw this on KSL a couple minutes ago:

Within hours, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed that, in light of the ruling, he saw no reason to prohibit Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“We’ve advised Sherrie Swensen that she should proceed — as of right now … she should be processing those applications like she would of anyone else,” Gill said around 3 p.m. “As of right now, if somebody gets in line and applies, there is no prohibition against it as a matter of law right now.”

Read more at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=28099570#Qsfmk0VPCiOWHtut.99

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Americans Say Dream Fading as Income Gap Widens

George Carlin American Dream

David J. Lynch on Bloomberg:

The widening gap between rich and poor is eroding faith in the American dream.

By almost two to one — 64 percent to 33 percent — Americans say the U.S. no longer offers everyone an equal chance to get ahead, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

…The lack of faith is especially pronounced among those making less than $50,000 a year: By a 73 percent to 24 percent margin, they say the economy is unfair. Even 60 percent of those whose annual income is $100,000 or more bemoan the absence of a fair deal…

In the Bloomberg poll, 68 percent of Americans say the income gap is growing, while 18 percent say it is unchanged and 10 percent say it’s shrinking.

After 30 years of trickle-down economics, very few Americans can be fooled anymore. Democrats like President Obama have been forced to acknowledge the problem of extreme inequality, but what are they prepared to do about it?

The budget deal announced yesterday is the opposite of what we need. The Democratic Party sold out its own base to help Republicans maintain power.

More info: Robert Reich: The Time for Wealth Redistribution Is Now

UPDATE: Robert Reich: Raw Deal

31 Comments

Pope Drives The Financial District Crazy

Hopefully making “The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints” leaders sit up in their chair a little.

But let’s not kid ourselves, The Vatican has a lot more assets to sell in helping the poor.

31 Comments

Krugman: President’s Inequality Speech Deserves a Serious Hearing

Obama CAP speech

Writing Friday in the New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman asks all of us to give President Obama’s big inequality speech a serious hearing. Speaking at the Center for American Progress Wednesday, our President pointed to a combination of growing income inequality and a lack of upward mobility as “the defining challenge of our time.”

Our political class has spent years obsessed with a fake problem — worrying about debt and deficits that never posed any threat to the nation’s future — while showing no interest in unemployment and stagnating wages. Mr. Obama, I’m sorry to say, bought into that diversion. Now, however, he’s moving on.

…The wrong turn we’ve taken in economic policy — our obsession with debt and “entitlements,” when we should have been focused on jobs and opportunity — was, of course, driven in part by the power of wealthy vested interests. But it wasn’t just raw power. The fiscal scolds also benefited from a sort of ideological monopoly: for several years you just weren’t considered serious in Washington unless you worshipped at the altar of Simpson and Bowles.

Now, however, we have the president of the United States breaking ranks, finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008. This is going to change the discourse — and, eventually, I believe, actual policy.

So don’t believe the cynics. This was an important speech by a president who can still make a very big difference.

Many of us, including myself, tend to discount our President’s remarks about inequality because his administration has consistently favored Wall Street over Main Street. His support for raising the minimum wage comes too late– unless the Democrats re-take the House next year, he will likely be the first President since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 not to sign a minimum wage law.

Economist Arindrajit Dube:

[T]he evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages. And unlike inequality that stems from factors like technological change, this growth in inequality was clearly avoidable. All we had to do to prevent it was index the minimum wage to the cost of living.

Not coincidentally, 95 percent of income gains during the ongoing economic recovery have gone to the top 1 Percent.

The question is, should we take President Obama’s inequality rhetoric seriously, as Krugman suggests?

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