‘Why would I put my kids in a place where there is no future?’
High unemployment and food insecurity plague a region that swung for Trump.
The overall ratio of CEO pay to average worker compensation is about 278 to one.
Test your knowledge about inequities in America’s health care system.
Measuring the shame of America’s “best economy ever.”
Surveys reveal that Americans have a very distorted sense of how unequal the country is. Try your luck at these questions about how our economy distributes wealth and income. No matter your score, you’ll be able to sign up for our newsletter so you can keep tabs on the United States of Inequality.
Co-published by Fast Company
California’s high rents are undermining tenants’ retirement prospects and the broader economy.
The New York Times has credited Sirota’s Wall Street reporting for showing “that secrecy can hide high fees, low returns, excess risk and the identity of politically connected dealmakers.”
Structured as a radio play, Pang! is made up of three stories of struggle and survival distilled from real-life accounts of impoverished families, including one from Los Angeles.
At a time when the income chasm between California’s wealthiest and poorest residents continues to be one of the widest in the nation, 2016 might become a watershed year in California’s ongoing struggle to achieve income equity for the state’s nearly 4.8 million low-wage households.
Americans don’t like inequality. We like to think of ourselves as a middle-class country where the top is not out of reach and the bottom doesn’t pose such a grim, cautionary specter that people fear for their livelihoods. We like to think that’s what makes us different from other societies. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.
CNN journalist John Blake, who grew up in Baltimore, remembers it this way: “Black men had good blue-collar jobs…Kids played baseball and basketball and every known sport at public fields and courts. We had summer jobs and internships.” Today, he says, “the factories and playing fields are locked behind gates or overgrown with weeds.”
That shift characterizes America far beyond Baltimore. It describes the inequality that has replaced the solid middle class.
Robert Reich stepped down from his post as Labor Secretary in 1996 to spend more time with his teenage sons, Adam, now a sociology professor at Columbia University, and Sam, a writer and director who heads the video department at the popular comedy site CollegeHumor.com. (Reich and Clare Dalton divorced in 2012; he has since remarried.) Resuming the academic career he had embarked on in 1980 as a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, he took a position at Brandeis University and published a well-received serio-comic memoir about his years in the Clinton administration, Locked in the Cabinet.
Other than an unsuccessful run for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he has spent most of the past two decades as a de facto Economic Educator in Chief for millions of Americans. Reich, who co-founded the American Prospect magazine,
It’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, and a crowd of 500 people has filled the Silicon Valley Commonwealth Club to hear former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich discuss a decidedly less than festive topic: How the economy is leaving most Americans behind. The subject, which inspired Reich’s latest book, Saving Capitalism, hits particularly close to home here, where uber-rich tech titans coexist with legions of low-wage workers, even as the middle class is increasingly squeezed out of nearby communities like Redwood City and Milpitas by ever-rising housing prices.
But Reich has no intention of bludgeoning his audience with bleak statistics and grim predictions. “As you can see, the economy has worn me down,” says the 4-foot-11-inch Reich, pausing as laughter spreads across the room. “Really, before the Great Recession I was, you know, 6 foot 2.”
When Jared Bernstein recently sat down with Capital & Main, he had just been chosen as chair of the National Employment Law Project’s board of directors, while continuing his roles as a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and as a frequent commentator on MSNBC and CNBC. Picked in 2009 by Joe Biden to be the Vice President’s top economic advisor, Bernstein had already distinguished himself as a passionate critic of inequality during his long tenure at the Economic Policy Institute, one of the country’s leading think tanks. His views on economic issues were well to the left of Obama’s and the rest of the President’s team, ensuring that progressive ideas would get a hearing inside the White House as the administration wrestled with the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
While Obama and his advisors succeeded in reversing the Great Recession’s massive job losses and saving the bacon of the financial industry,
Emeryville, California is more than a brief Amtrak stop across the bay from San Francisco. On Tuesday evening all five Emeryville City Councilmembers approved an ordinance that increases the minimum wage for workers employed at small firms to $12.25 an hour, effective July 1. Employees at Emeryville companies with more than 55 employees, such as Home Depot and Ikea, will earn a minimum wage of $14.44 an hour, also to begin July 1.
“This is a momentous occasion for the city of Emeryville,” Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, told Capital & Main by phone. “Many of the city councilmembers in their deliberations spoke about the need to address income inequality, to give workers a leg out of poverty.”
California’s current hourly minimum wage is $9, an increase of $1 over 2014. Meanwhile, the Golden State’s rate of poverty in 2013 was 23.4 percent,
Charles Gladden has held his current job for eight years. The 63 year old sweeps floors, cleans dishes and mops bathrooms. His take-home pay is about $360 a week and he is currently homeless, moving between shelters and occasionally a Metro stop next to the White House.
Bertrand Olotara is a college graduate and a single father. After being laid off, he now earns $12 an hour as a cook and has a second job which often means he works up to 70 hours a week. Despite these two jobs, he is eligible for food stamps that help him feed his family.
These stories of America’s working poor aren’t anything new, but you may be surprised to learn where they work: the United States Senate. When the Senate privatized food service in their cafeterias and dining rooms, formerly living-wage jobs were converted into poverty-level positions through for-profit contractors like Restaurant Associates and Compass Group.
Sunday’s extreme heat didn’t prevent some 200-plus Angelenos from gathering in the Ann and John Nickoll Family Sanctuary at Temple Isaiah for an informal economic summit. The audience for this Westside event, partly sponsored by Bend the Arc, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, included District 5 Councilman Paul Koretz.
The crowd saw a screening of economist Robert Reich’s 2013 film Inequality for All. Narrated by Reich, this documentary provides some of the most incisive analyses of the causes of the income gap yet found in the popular media. The film is recommended viewing for anyone wanting to learn how the American middle class has become an endangered species.
But many in the audience had already seen the film and after the lights came up emcee Serena Zeise brought out the guest speaker and Reich friend, Harold Meyerson. The affable yet acerbic Myerson is a native son of Los Angeles who years ago moved east to become a Washington Post columnist and American Prospect editor-at-large.
Forget, for the moment, downer news stories coming out of Midwestern statehouses, Southern auto plants and sundry federal courts. A new book edited and co-written by three Bay Area researchers optimistically chronicles what can be accomplished when progressive politicians and a determined electorate, backed by an energetic union movement, tackle income inequality, health care, labor peace and other challenges. When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level, edited by Michael Reich, Ken Jacobs and Miranda Dietz, parses a dozen years of legislation passed by San Francisco voters or their board of supervisors. Thanks to 10 ordinances enacted between 1996 and 2008 —
In an interview with Capital &
The Partnership for Working Families Summit kicked off Tuesday in Los Angeles as activists from around the country convened at the Biltmore Hotel for three days of workshops and talks focused on creating good jobs, sustainable industries and strong unions.
The Partnership includes such groups as the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), Puget Sound Sage and the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN). While attendees came from a range of organizations and campaigns, the idea that cities can be platforms for change provided a common thread. As Leslie Moody, the Partnership’s outgoing executive director, put it in her opening remarks, “Cities matter.”
Moody pointed to the new set of progressive mayors taking office across the U.S., but added that elected leaders do not act alone. She cited the way communities have pushed new civic officials to follow through with constructive policies.
“We’re not going to wait for federal change,” Moody said,
There was something tantalizing about Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last night. When was the last time an American president talked about the simple human cruelty of our Dickensian sick leave and maternity policies? Or told CEOs to just do the right thing and raise wages for their workers?
What made Obama’s speech compelling is that he did more than just issue platitudes — he announced his decision to use executive authority to increase the pay of workers employed by companies that contract with the federal government. That will mean a nearly $3 an hour raise for hundreds of thousands of people. In an era of Tea Party-engineered partisan gridlock over pretty much everything, that’s nothing less than a seismic shift.
So why didn’t the State of the Union address leave me popping the champagne and toasting to an impending economic realignment that would reverse the nation’s slide back to the same levels of inequality we faced before the Depression?