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Quick Read - Economic Justice

So just who is middle class?

The Associated Press reports on Presidential candidates attempts to sway the middle classes, and the lack of clarity about just who the middle class actually are:

In a recent speech, President Barack Obama referred to the "middle class" 14 times, defining it as a family that makes up to $250,000 a year. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has looked at it from the other direction, saying that someone who falls into poverty "is still middle class."

In the fuzzy labels and loose speech of this political season, "middle class" has ballooned to cover just about everyone. So what does the term really mean?

There's no official definition.

If anything, a slew of economic data suggests a middle class that's actually shrinking. Mid-wage manufacturing and other jobs are disappearing due to automation and outsourcing, while lower-income positions and poverty spike higher. The White House's chief economist, Alan Krueger, said in January that the middle class fell from 50 percent of U.S. households in 1970 to 42 percent in 2010, as more families moved to the extreme ends of income distribution.

But it's not just about economic ranges. And politicians are not bound by such gauges anyway.

Learn more here

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The Consequences of Opting Out of Medicaid

Writing for The Nation, Bryce Covert examines how state-level opt outs of Medicaid expansions will affect women:

"The Medicaid expansion is a crucial component of the law’s overall goal of extending coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans by 2019, covering almost half of the total number of people the bill promised to insure. Originally, the law included a provision that the federal government could take away all of a state’s Medicaid funding if it refused to go along with the expansion, which all but ensured participation. But the Court ruled that such a maneuver was unconstitutional. Just a few days after the decision was announced, seven Republican governors said they would flat-out reject the money to expand Medicaid rolls, with at least eight more looking to follow suit. More have said no since then.

This could create a no-man’s land for those who earn less than 100 percent of the federal poverty line, making them ineligible for tax subsidies to help them buy insurance, but don’t qualify for their state’s (unexpanded) Medicaid program. These Americans are surely struggling to get by, but not quite enough to get health coverage promised to those above and below them."

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Millennials: A Generation Left Behind?

 

Writing for Newsweek MagazineJoel Kotkin wonders if the Millennial generation will be remembered as the "screwed generation:"

"Today’s youth, both here and abroad, have been screwed by their parents’ fiscal profligacy and economic mismanagement. Neil Howe, a leading generational theorist, cites the “greed, shortsightedness, and blind partisanship” of the boomers, of whom he is one, for having “brought the global economy to its knees.”

How has this generation been screwed? Let’s count the ways, starting with the economy. No generation has suffered more from the Great Recession than the young. Median net worth of people under 35, according to the U.S. Census, fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent hit.

The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center."

Read more here

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Tracking American Poverty

Ever wondered how the poverty rate has changed over the years?  And how that breaks down by various demographic categories? You could spend several hours poring through the annual reports by the Census Bureau and find all the data.

Here’s an easier (and more interesting) way. Our friends at Demos, an organization that “combines research, policy development and advocacy to influence public debate and catalyze change,” have created a series of interactive graphs that can answer all your questions.

Tracking American Poverty & Policy contains the data on the U.S. poverty rate annually from 1967 to 2010, including the rate of those in “deep” poverty and those near poverty when you zoom in on the graph. Then follows a set of graphs for the same time period by race, gender, age, educational level, and family; with the same three breakdowns.

It’s a useful resource for historical data on poverty, and it’s fun to play with the graphs to find the data.

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Is the Robin Hood Tax the Answer?

Politicians, pundits, concerned citizens alike are all looking for the magic bullet to generate revenue without alienating an entire voting bloc or causing the American people more angst. Celebrities, pastors, and community leaders think the Robin Hood tax—taxing less than half of 1 pecent on Wall Street transactions— is the answer. 

What say you?

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Let's Talk About population

Mother Jones on the last taboo - population:

"The United Nations projects that world population will stabilize at 9.1 billion in 2050. This prediction assumes a decline from the current average global fertility rate of 2.56 children per woman to 2.02 children per woman in the years between 2045 and 2050. But should mothers average half a child more in 2045, the world population will peak at 10.5 billion five years later. Half a child less, and it stabilizes at 8 billion. The difference in those projections—2.5 billion—is the total number of people alive on earth in 1950.

"Overpopulation, combined with overconsumption, is the elephant in the room," says Paul Ehrlich, 42 years after he wrote his controversial book, The Population Bomb. "We don't talk about overpopulation because of real fears from the past—of racism, eugenics, colonialism, forced sterilization, forced family planning, plus the fears from some of contraception, abortion, and sex. We don't really talk about overconsumption because of ignorance about the economics of overpopulation and the true ecological limits of earth."
 
Read more here

 

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Living in Poverty in America's Poorest City

NPR report on the plight of the poorest in Reading, PA - the poorest city in the United States:

"Like many mothers in Reading, Boggs has no husband to share the bills. Poverty is high, but it's a lot higher for single mothers. An astounding 66 percent of them in Reading live below the poverty line, less than $19,000 for a family of three. Boggs admits that she made some bad decisions in life and that her daughters' two fathers turned out to be unreliable. But, she quickly adds, "I wouldn't change anything in the world for my kids, my daughters. They're what keeps me going and keeps me fighting to keep searching, as bad as the economy is. If it was just me, I would have [given] up a long time ago." You hear that a lot around the learning center: hope that things will get better if you just keep plugging away, despite the bad times."

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How Do We Improve Work-Family Balance?

From The Nation:

"One might expect that the workplace would have adapted to accommodate these changes. With nearly double the number of available workers, and the fact that all employees now likely need to pitch in to share domestic duties, we might hope that employers would lower workers’ expected output. Yet exactly the opposite has happened."

Read the full article here

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What Do the President's Tax Proposals Mean for Us?

Writing for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson takes a look at what the President's tax plan actually does:

"In the long run, historically low tax rates for the "bottom" 98 percent aren't sustainable. For President Obama, demanding higher taxes on rich people is the easy part. Three in five people told Gallup that "upper-income people" were paying too little in federal taxes, Molly Ball reported. The hard part is facing up to the long-term reality that historically low tax rates on 98 percent of Americans is no way to pay for historically high entitlements for 100 percent of Americans."

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Dollars By the Gallon

You probably have a gallon of milk in your fridge. 

It might be fat free, soy, or maybe even 1 percent.

Most of us drink milk in some form.

But how long does it take for us to earn enough to buy it?

As part of their ‘Raise The Minimum Wage’ campaign, 99 Uniting produced this telling infographic, comparing how long it takes a minimum wage earner, a median wage earner and ‘CEO Guy’ to earn a gallon of milk. It makes for some sad and frustrating reading …

Jack Palmer is Communications Associate for Sojourners.

 

 

 

 

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NYT: Struggling in the Suburbs

A New York Times op-ed this week examined the growing phenomenon of poverty in the suburbs:

"Hardship has built a stronghold in the American suburbs. Whatever image they had as places of affluence and stability was badly shaken last year, when reports analyzing the 2010 census made it clear that the suburbs were getting poorer.

While the overall suburban population grew slightly during the previous decade, the number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs grew by 66 percent, compared with 47 percent in cities. The trend quickened when the Great Recession hit, as home foreclosures and unemployment surged. In 2010, 18.9 million suburban Americans were living below the poverty line, up from 11.3 million in 2000."

Learn more here

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Committing to End Poverty

Writing for The Huffington Post last Friday, Richard C. Leone asks:

"So is a renewal of the war against poverty in the offing? The current balance of political forces suggests that, rather than muster all the weapons we have to fight for the poor, many are willing to settle for uneasy neutrality. This is one "war of choice" we choose not to wage. Austerity is the watchword of the day defined somewhat differently but accepted by the mainstream of both parties as the bedrock of policy for the foreseeable future…

It's past time to connect the dots and see that by ignoring the poor we undermine the welfare of everyone in the 99 percent living from pay check to pay check. We must revive our generous national nature. And more selfishly come to see that we might find ourselves in their shoes. It may be that the poor will always be with us, but that doesn't mean it's OK to ignore them."

Read more here

 

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Poll: No End in Sight for Economic Woes, High Unemployment

The Associated Press reports:

"A majority of economists in the latest Associated Press Economy Survey expect the national unemployment rate to stay above 6 percent — the upper bounds of what's considered healthy — for at least four more years. If the economists are correct, the job market will still be unhealthy seven years after the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. That would be the longest stretch of high unemployment since the end of World War II.

The election isn't going to be a miracle cure for the unemployment rate — that's for sure," says Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida. He thinks unemployment, which is 8.2 percent now, won't drop back to 6 percent until after 2016.
 
Economists consider a "normal" level to be between 5 percent and 6 percent.
 
The economists surveyed by the AP foresee an unemployment rate of 8 percent on Election Day. That would be the highest rate any postwar president running for re-election has faced."
 
Learn more here

 

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Anger at Banks Didn't Result in Action

Writing for Time, Martha White notes:

"Anger against mega-banks brewed for most of last year, coming to a head with the Occupy Wall Street protests and fueled by banks’ unpopular (and short-lived) efforts to charge people for using their debit cards. People claimed they’d vote with their feet and switch to a smaller bank or a credit union, prompted by movements like the Facebook-driven Bank Transfer Day. But then a funny thing happened: Most people didn’t wind up switching banks after all."
 
Read the full article here
 
 
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The Recession's Legacy

Writing for The Huffington Post, Dr. Peggy Drexler argues:

"This prolonged downturn will end. They always do. People will find their way back to confidence. But especially for those growing up under the weight of its fearsome uncertainties, it will be with us for generations to come."

Read more here
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