Category: Allied Approaches

Class(room) Warfare

Kathy M. Newman Carnegie Mellon University

The actress Felicity Huffman—along with 13 other parents charged in the college admissions scandal—entered plea deals last week, putting pressure on actress Lori Laughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, to do the same. Prosecutors are hinting that if Laughlin doesn’t accept a deal she could face 20 years in prison, 3 years of probation, and a $250,000 fine.

I have enjoyed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of this scandal and its coverage. It has exploded so many of the lies we tell ourselves about America being a fair and just society—especially when it comes to access to higher education. For those who think about class, this scandal has been like Halloween, Christmas and Easter rolled into one. Journalists and bloggers are using words like classblue collar, elite and privilege.

Nothing of the actual details of this scandal—the bribes paid, the photos photoshopped, the tests taken by fakers—have shocked me. What has surprised me, however, is that journalists and bloggers have been using this scandal to talk about class and inequality. As sociologist Shamus Khan wrote in The Washington Post, “the true tragedy is that almost all rich families buy their kids into elite colleges by purchasing advantages they pass off as talents, whether by way of sailing lessons or elaborate vacations planned with an eye on admissions essays. We view these vastly overrepresented children of the rich as having earned their spots.” This, another blogger concurred, “is the real scandal.”

These comments point to the many ways that rich people get their kids into college. On the lower end of the scale is all the money many of us are able spend on music lessons, test prep, elite soccer programs, and summer-abroad service project opportunities for our kids—to name a few of the advantages families like mine can afford. At the next level are the parents who can afford to send their kids to expensive and prestigious prep and boarding schools. And, finally, at the top tier, are the parents who can donate tens of thousands or even millions of dollars to college campuses in return for a guarantee of their child’s entry into said college. As many have noted in reporting on the admissions scandal, Jared Kushner’s parents got him into Harvard by donating 2.5 million dollars a few years before Kushner applied.

The Associated Press turned to Richard V. Reeves, whose book Dream Hoarders showed how the upper echelon hoards all the best opportunities for itself. As Reeves commented on the scandal, “[f]or most people outside the elite, these institutions might as well be on the moon. This story just reinforces that, the way in which money buys opportunity in America.”

More ...

It takes two to tango: The complementarity of the derigging project and expanded tax credits.

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

In a hearing last week, an exchange between Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) and JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon caught my eye. Dimon was touting the bank’s new minimum wage of $16.50, increasing to $18 in high-cost areas, for entry level workers. That’s a decent minimum wage, above the $15 that most progressive plans call for (and those proposals typically include a phase-in of numerous years). According to recent EPI analysis, $16.50 is well north of the national 40thpercentile wage of just under $15.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting the highly profitable bank—market cap about $380 billion; Dimon made over $30 million last year—is fairly compensating its entry-level workers (Dimon says such workers tend to just out of high school). My point is an empirical one: given the nation’s wage structure, its (ridiculously low) federal minimum wage of $7.25, and the weak bargaining clout of low-wage workers, especially those without a college degree, a minimum/entry-level wage of $16.50 is actually pretty high.

Rep. Porter, however, pointed out that in pretty much any part of America you choose, a single mom with one child can’t make ends meet on that wage. She’s unquestionably correct, as she demonstrated after the hearing in this tweet (full disclosure: I’ve met Rep. Porter; she’s all that and a big bag of chips; whip-smart, data-driven…one of those new members with just the right recipe of heart, brain, conviction, analytics, etc…).

You can read more about their exchange here, but it led me to ask why is the US wage structure so insufficient and what can we do about it? It’s a question that all of us should have at the top of our minds when listening to the proposals from those who would lead the nation.

What can we do about this mismatch between earnings and needs?

One answer is to work on two tracks, near term and long term. In the near term, we need robust wage supports in the form of fully refundable tax credits (i.e., you get the credit whether or not you owe any taxes), along with other work supports, including child care, health care, and housing.

Over the longer haul we must correct structural imbalances that have, over at least the last 40 years, reduced the bargaining clout for workers relative to employers. The power shift is a function of many forces, including the decline of unions and collective bargaining, but it also relates to the way we’ve handled globalization, the rise of hands-off economics, specifically the notion that progressive interventions are anti-growth (a line of thought that’s led to supply-side policies like cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor), austere fiscal policy, and the many other aspects of what is often labeled the “rigged economy.”

More ...

Put Some Made in America Spring in Your Step This Easter and Passover

Whether you celebrate Easter or Passover or just enjoy the fun traditions that originate from these holidays, we’re sharing our favorite Made in America items for spring’s religious holidays from our archives.

EASTER

Easter is a traditional religious holiday in the Christian faith celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it's also a holiday that includes a bit of fun — and much of that fun starts with Easter Eggs. 

Eco eggs are a great option for those who want to include treats in their eggs during Easter egg hunts. Not only are they Made in the USA, they also are eco-friendly, manufactured from 100 percent renewable content and are fully compostable. The eggs — made from non-toxic, durable, plant-based plastic — are available in two sizes and come in five assorted colors (pink, yellow, green, blue and purple). The company also manufactures eco grass to help fill out that Easter basket. Eco grass is made from 100 percent post recycled paper and is 100 percent recyclable after use, so you can easily dispose of it in your paper recycle bin. 

But if you are looking for a more formal egg, be sure to check out the selection offered by the White House Historical Association for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The 2019 White House Easter Egg collection is available now; you can buy a single egg or the entire set of five colors -- all Made in the United States. In 2017, Wells Wood Turning & Finishing of Maine supplied eggs for the White House's iconic event. 

Looking to dye your eggs? Check out Doc Hinkle Easter Egg Dye. Unlike ordinary dyes that must be diluted, Doc Hinkle's paint-on kit helps egg decorators create "beautiful, bright colors and patterns instead of dull single-colored eggs." Colors included in the kit include red, blue, yellow and purple, which can be combined to create new hues.  

You are going to need a place to put all those eggs, and Peterboro Basket Co. and Charleston Sweetgrass offer a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

More ...

Trump’s Trade Deal with China Might Not Tackle Industrial Subsidies

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We’ve been closely monitoring trade talks between the United States and China, and we’ve gone on record to note that there are a couple of ways things could go. The two countries will either reach a historic deal that requires China to play by the rules of global competition — or the agreement will be a dud, making a few superficial changes but mostly maintaining the status quo.

Well, score one for the status quo.

Reuters reports that “U.S. negotiators have tempered demands that China curb industrial subsidies as a condition for a trade deal after strong resistance from Beijing.”

Instead, negotiators are focusing on issues they see as more achievable, including ending forced technology transfers, strengthening protection of intellectual property and opening up China’s markets.

Look, addressing technology transfers and intellectual property is vital, and U.S. negotiators are right to focus on them. Ditto for further opening up China’s market.

But by abandoning the issue of industrial subsidies in these talks, the United States is giving a green light to China to continue to cheat the global trading system and put countries and companies that play by the rules at a disadvantage.

Case in point: Steel.

President Trump put a 25% tariff on steel imports in April 2018 in response to surging foreign imports. Now, you’ve probably heard about those "Section 232" tariffs — they’ve garnered a lot of criticism from the Acela Corridor set — but what is often missing from the conversation is that despite Trump’s bluster, there was a very legitimate reason why he issued those tariffs.

More ...

Patriotic Millionaires Have Simple Message: Tax the Rich

Josh Hoxie Director, Project on Taxation and Opportunity, Institute for Policy Studies

Dozens of activists, organizers, elected officials, and ultra-wealthy individuals came together in Washington, D.C. last week around a simple theme: it’s time to tax rich people. The gathering was put together by the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of proud “traitors to their class,” committed to breaking up the concentration of wealth and power in the United States.

More ...

Plutocracies as Problem-Solvers (for the Privileged)

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

We all know how democracies are supposed to work: People come together, identify their common problems, then debate and decide solutions. But this elegant give-and-take can break down. What breaks it? Inequality. Democratic deliberations start going haywire whenever wealth starts furiously concentrating at a society’s summit.

In societies growing significantly more unequal, people simply share ever fewer common problems. And some people, thanks to their increasing wealth, have the political power to make their problems the problems their society addresses.

And what happens to the problems of people without grand private fortune? Their problems go ignored. Democracy becomes plutocracy.

In our contemporary United States, we see this plutocratic dynamic play out all the time. Oxfam, the activist global charity, has just offered up a particularly vivid example: the crisis around prescription drugs.

For Americans of modest means, prescription drugs have emerged as a top-tier problem on any number of fronts. Start with cost. The drugs doctors prescribe have become so expensive that millions of Americans can’t afford to buy all the pills their doctors want them to take.

Meanwhile, drug companies have become drug pushers, overselling the benefits and shortchanging the hazards of profitable painkilling medications, in the process creating an opioid epidemic that has devastated millions of American households — and communities.

Big Pharma’s relentless chase after profits drives and distorts medical research agendas, too. On cancer, for instance, drug companies will only conduct costly clinical trials on substances that can be patented and pay off in big earnings. Promising but unpatentable natural substances can’t deliver big profits. So they don’t get tested. They remain on the medical fringes, their curative potential untapped.

More ...

House Dems Slam Big Bank CEOs Over Pay Disparity

Sarah Anderson Director, Global Economy Project, Institute for Policy Studies

For the first time in a decade, CEOs of America’s mega-banks were summoned to Capitol Hill on April 10 to face scrutiny from lawmakers. House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) explained that her goal was to find out what — if anything — the seven Wall Street leaders had learned since the 2008 financial crisis.

More ...

Bonuses are up one cent in 2018 since the GOP tax cuts passed

Lawrence Mishel

Lawrence Mishel Distinguished Fellow, EPI

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employer Costs for Employee Compensation gives us a chance to look at workers’ bonuses in 2017 and 2018, to gauge the impact of the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Last year, our analysis showed that bonuses rose by $0.02 between December 2017 and September 2018 (all calculations in this analysis are inflation-adjusted). The new data show that bonuses actually fell $0.22 between December 2017 and December 2018 and the average bonus for 2018 was just $0.01 higher than in 2017.

This is not what the tax cutters promised, or bragged about soon after the tax bill passed. They claimed that their bill would raise the wages of rank-and-file workers, with congressional Republicans and members of the Trump administration promising raises of many thousands of dollars within ten years. The Trump administration’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers argued last April that we were already seeing the positive wage impact of the tax cuts:

A flurry of corporate announcements provide further evidence of tax reform’s positive impact on wages. As of April 8, nearly 500 American employers have announced bonuses or pay increases, affecting more than 5.5 million American workers.

Following the bill’s passage, a number of corporations made conveniently-timed announcements that their workers would be getting raises or bonuses (some of which were in the works well before the tax cuts passed). But as EPIanalysis has shown there are many reasons to be skeptical of the claim that the TCJA, particularly its corporate tax cuts, will produce significant wage gains.

More ...

Robert Reich: America is now a hotbed of socialism — for the rich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump said recently.

Someone should alert him that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. This pretty much describes General Motors’ receipt of $600 million in federal contracts, plus $500 million in tax breaks, since Trump took office.

Some of this corporate welfare has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22 million in total compensation in 2017 alone.

But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

The nation’s largest banks saved $21 billion last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, thousands of lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs.

More ...

New Labor College Launched in St. Paul

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

After months of planning, a small group of labor leaders, activists and scholars opened a new labor college in St. Paul, Minn., inspired by the belief that working people can build the labor movement of the future, in part, by looking to the past.

Classes began April 12 at the New Brookwood Labor College. It’s modeled after a school for labor organizers that operated from 1921-1937 in Katonah, N.Y. That college attracted over 600 students, who went on to lead major union and civil rights campaigns across the country in the decades to come.

That school’s lifespan was brief, said Robyn Gulley, a co-founder of New Brookwood and local labor and human rights organizer. But its impact was great.

“It’s hard to read a book about labor history without coming across Brookwood Labor College,” Gulley said. “Brookwood left behind a tremendous legacy. And it was coed, it was racially diverse, it was ethnically diverse at a time when that was basically unheard of.”

Notable Brookwood alumni, according to Wikipedia, included Walter, Roy and Sophie Reuther of the UAW, Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, activist for women’s rights and civil rights and the first African-American female Episcopal priest and civil rights activist Ella Bajer.

“One sign of Brookwood's influence is just how much it changed American labor unions. Many of Brookwood's beliefs—mass unionization, unionization of skilled and semi-skilled workers, an end to gender and racial discrimination, support for social insurance programs—were later adopted by mainstream labor,” the Wikipedia citation adds.

Brookwood’s brand of inclusiveness and forward thinking hasn’t lost its relevance in an era of intense cultural and political divides in the U.S. And the gaps between rich and working people have widened back to the bloated levels of the 1920’s, when the original Brookwood began educating organizers.

If ever there were a time for a reboot, labor historian Peter Rachleff said, this is it.

“The Brookwood Labor College came along at a time when the labor movement needed critical thinking – how to organize when traditional forms of work (skilled manual labor) were being challenged by assembly lines and scientific management; how to organize a workforce that was increasingly diverse by race, gender and ethnicity; how to organize when corporate management was dead-set against negotiating with unions; how to organize when employers were able to use laws and court decisions to undercut workers’ rights,” Rachleff said.

“Does this sound familiar?”

More ...

Union Matters

Higher Taxes & Broken Promises

From the AFL-CIO

While many Americans are frustrated by smaller refunds this Tax Day, major corporations like AT&T are celebrating billions in massive giveaways, courtesy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  

The tax bill, which was signed into law in 2017, dramatically cut the corporate rate tax from 35% to 21%. This led AT&T’s CEO to vow that the company would create at least 7,000 jobs.

Instead, AT&T has eliminated more than 12,000 jobs since the law took effect.

At the same time, the corporation’s annual report shows the company increased executive pay and suggests that after refunds, it paid no cash income taxes in 2018.

More ...

A Moral Imperative

A Moral Imperative