Category Archives: Other links

Growth Has Been Good for Decades. So Why Hasn’t Poverty Declined?

By NEIL IRWIN, New York Times, June 4, 2014

The surest way to fight poverty is to achieve stronger economic growth. That, anyway, is a view embedded in the thinking of a lot of politicians and economists.

“The federal government,” Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “needs to remember that the best anti-poverty program is economic growth,” which is not so different from the argument put forth by John F. Kennedy (in a somewhat different context) that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

In Kennedy’s era, that had the benefit of being true. From 1959 to 1973, the nation’s economy per person grew 82 percent, and that was enough to drive the proportion of the poor population from 22 percent to 11 percent.

But over the last generation in the United States, that simply hasn’t happened. Growth has been pretty good, up 147 percent per capita. But rather than decline further, the poverty rate has bounced around in the 12 to 15 percent range — higher than it was even in the early 1970s. The mystery of why — and how to change that — is one of the most fundamental challenges in the nation’s fight against poverty….

keep reading and see links at New York Times

How You’ll Get Screwed If Conservatives Kill the U.S. Postal Service

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet, 5/14/14

If USPS in its current form ceases to exist, the results will be harsh.

On April 24, members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and other unions held 56 “Stop Staples” demonstrations in 27 different states. The postal workers, carrying signs that read, “The U.S. mail is NOT for sale,” were protesting against a privatization deal between the U.S. Postal Service and the office supply chain Staples.

Launched in October 2013, the deal allows non-unionized employees of 82 Staples stores to help sort mail. If the program is expanded later this year, that number could increase to 1,500 stores. In a press release, APWU said of the program, “Staples employees, who work for low wages and meager benefits—and who have received minimal training—operate these unsecured postal counters.”

APWU sees the Staples deal as a step toward much greater privatization of the U.S. Postal Service, and they are right to be concerned, not only because of the interests of postal workers, but also, because the privatization or dismantling of the U.S. Postal Service will be terrible for American consumers and small businesses.

It’s no secret that times have been challenging for USPS. The increase in digital communications has resulted in many Americans spending much less on postage than 15 or 20 years ago. In 2006, a Republican-dominated Congress passed a bill forcing USPS to pre-fund future health benefits for retirees for the next 75 years (which Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has characterized as an “onerous financial burden”). To make matters worse, USPS has been facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And a combination of Republicans, Libertarians and neoliberal Blue Dog Democrats have been calling for drastic service cuts and privatization schemes. Ted DeHaven, budget analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has repeatedly called for the total privatization of the U.S. Postal Service.

But if USPS in its current form ceases to exist, the results will be harsh, not only in terms of the job losses and loss of tax revenue (unionized postal workers pay a lot of federal and state taxes), but because of the hardships both businesses and consumers would suffer. The end of the U.S. Postal Service could mean more business for its two main privately owned competitors, Federal Express and the United Parcel Service (UPS). But to think either would offer a better deal to consumers is pure fantasy.

USPS is a government-run operation but is not taxpayer-funded—it is mandated by law to run like a business and turn a profit, but is subject to regulations and price controls and operates as a public service. Because USPS is governed by rules UPS and FedEx aren’t subject to, consumers and businesses benefit. USPS cannot charge more for mail delivery to one part of the U.S. than to another part of the U.S., but in a post-USPS America, all bets are off. And a comparison of USPS and non-USPS prices offers a glimpse into life without the U.S. Postal Service. …

keep reading and see links at AlterNet

America’s Roads and Bridges Are Crumbling, and There’s Something Congress Can Do Right Now

WhiteHouse.gov, May 14th, 2014. Below is just part of this informational graphic; see the rest at WhiteHouse.gov

The funding to fix our crumbling roads and bridges is running out, and only Congress can reauthorize it. Find out what will happen if Congress doesn’t act, and see how the President’s plan would rebuild our infrastructure in a smarter way:

Rebuild America 1

Poll: Millions of Americans Who Need Jobs Want Congress to Get to Bottom of This Benghazi Thing First

By Andy Borowitz, political satirist, The New Yorker, 5/9/14

illions of unemployed Americans who have fruitlessly been looking for work for months are determined that Congress get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, a new poll indicates.

According to the survey, job-seeking Americans hope that Congress will eventually do something about job creation, but they are adamant that it hold new hearings about Benghazi first.

By a wide majority, respondents to the poll “strongly agreed” with the statement “I would really like to find a job, but not if it in any way distracts Congress from my No. 1 concern: finding out what really happened in Benghazi.”

In related findings, a survey of Americans found that taxpayers overwhelmingly consider Benghazi hearings to be the best use of taxpayer money, well ahead of schools, roads, and infant nutrition.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner released the following statement: “I want to reassure the American people that, until we have completed our Benghazi investigations, there will be absolutely no action on job creation, infrastructure, immigration, education, housing, or food.”

Your 2013 Federal Taxpayer Receipt

email from the White House, 4/15/14

Want to know how your federal taxes are spent?

President Obama is keeping his promise to make sure Americans like you can easily see what you’re getting for your taxes.

Just enter a few pieces of information, and the Taxpayer Receipt gives you a breakdown of how your tax dollars are spent on priorities like education and veterans benefits.

Get your 2013 Federal Taxpayer Receipt

[Here is what you find there]

Your 2013 Federal Taxpayer Receipt

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama promised that, for the first time ever, American taxpayers would be able to go online and see exactly how their federal tax dollars are spent. And for the fourth year in a row, he’s keeping that promise.

Just enter a few pieces of information below, and the Taxpayer Receipt gives you a breakdown of how your tax dollars are spent on priorities like education, veterans benefits, or health care.

Learn more about President Obama’s plan to grow our economy.

[The median income for Chester County is about $80,000 per household. Entering "$80,000 income — married with two children" on the site produces this use of your federal tax money}

How taxes spent $80,000

[Click on "Expand All Sub-Categories" on the site for a more detailed breakdown]

PA Structural Deficit Looms

from The McCord Report, PA Treasury, 3/20/14:

The Independent Fiscal Office warned in November 2013 of a growing structural imbalance between revenues and expenditures. Two of the largest drivers of this deficit are the phasing out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and the rise in employer contributions for pensions. Jointly, these two factors will create a nearly $4 billion mismatch between revenues and expenditures by FY 2018-19.

PA deficit McCord

Inequality, Dignity and Freedom

by Paul Krugman, New York Times, 2/13/14

Now that the Congressional Budget Office has explicitly denied saying that Obamacare destroys jobs, some (though by no means all) Republicans have stopped lying about that issue and turned to a different argument. O.K., they concede, any reduction in working hours because of health reform will be a voluntary choice by the workers themselves — but it’s still a bad thing because, as Representative Paul Ryan puts it, they’ll lose “the dignity of work.”

So let’s talk about what that means in 21st-century America.

It’s all very well to talk in the abstract about the dignity of work, but to suggest that workers can have equal dignity despite huge inequality in pay is just silly. In 2012, the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders were paid a combined $16.7 billion, equivalent to the wages of 400,000 ordinary workers. Given that kind of disparity, can anyone really believe in the equal dignity of work?

In fact, the people who seem least inclined to respect the efforts of ordinary workers are the winners of the wealth lottery. Over the past few months, we’ve been harangued by a procession of angry billionaires, furious that they’re not receiving the deference, the acknowledgment of their superiority, that they believe is their due. For example, last week the investor Sam Zell went on CNN Money to defend the 1 percent against “envy,” and he asserted that “the 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.” Dignity for all!

And there’s another group that doesn’t respect workers: Republican politicians….

keep reading at New York Times

Why The Three Biggest Economic Lessons Were Forgotten

Robert Reich (Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration), 2/11/14

Topics: RobertReich.org, World War II, War, economy, Recession, Unemployment, Business News, Politics News
Robert Reich: America has forgotten its 3 biggest economic lessons

Why has America forgotten the three most important economic lessons we learned in the 30 years following World War II?

Before I answer that question, let me remind you what those lessons were:

First, America’s real job creators are consumers, whose rising wages generate jobs and growth. If average people don’t have decent wages there can be no real recovery and no sustained growth.

In those years, business boomed because American workers were getting raises, and had enough purchasing power to buy what expanding businesses had to offer. Strong labor unions ensured American workers got a fair share of the economy’s gains. It was a virtuous cycle.

Second, the rich do better with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than they do with a large share of an economy that’s barely growing at all.

Between 1946 and 1974, the economy grew faster than it’s grown since, on average, because the nation was creating the largest middle class in history. The overall size of the economy doubled, as did the earnings of almost everyone. CEOs rarely took home more than 40 times the average worker’s wage, yet were riding high.

Third, higher taxes on the wealthy to finance public investments — better roads, bridges, public transportation, basic research, world-class K-12 education, and affordable higher education – improve the future productivity of America. All of us gain from these investments, including the wealthy.

In those years, the top marginal tax rate on America’s highest earners never fell below 70 percent. Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower the tax rate was 91 percent. Combined with tax revenues from a growing middle class, these were enough to build the Interstate Highway system, dramatically expand public higher education, and make American public education the envy of the world.

We learned, in other words, that broadly shared prosperity isn’t just compatible with a healthy economy that benefits everyone — it’s essential to it.

But then we forgot these lessons. For the last three decades the American economy has continued to grow but most peoples’ earnings have gone nowhere. Since the start of the recovery in 2009, 95 percent of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent.

What happened?

For starters, too many of us bought the snake oil of “supply-side” economics, which said big corporations and the wealthy are the job creators – and if we cut their taxes the benefits will trickle down to everyone else. Of course, nothing trickled down.

Meanwhile, big corporations were allowed to bust labor unions, whose membership dropped from over a third of all private-sector workers in the 1950s to under 7 percent today….

keep reading at Robert Reich