Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Beat-Down Continues...

A new report from Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies shows that the Wall Street bonus pool for last year is roughly double the total earnings of all Americans who work full time at the federal minimum wage. (That's just the annual bonuses for just the people who work just in finance just in New York City.)

In his new book, The Great Divide, Joseph Stiglitz (the Nobel Prize-winning economist) writes: “I overheard one billionaire — who had gotten his start in life by inheriting a fortune — discuss with another billionaire the problem of lazy Americans who were trying to free-ride on the rest. Soon thereafter, they seamlessly transitioned into a discussion of tax shelters.” (The political conversation is most often about the free-rides of the poor, not the free-rides of corporations.)

Harvard University Press is publishing Inequality: What Can Be Done? — which lays out several steps to reduce inequality:

■ Government should be more concerned with monopolies and competition policy.
■ Trade unions should be bolstered to represent workers’ interests.
■ In addition to a minimum wage, there should be a framework to restrain pay at the highest levels (caps on executive pay).
■ Personal income taxes should be made more progressive, with a maximum rate of 65 percent. [Why not just tax capital gains as regular wages at the current tax rates?]

Pop quiz: Congress is responding to inequality by showing a resolve to...

A) end subsidies for private jets and eliminate the carried interest tax loophole for billionaires, or
B) cut food stamps and eliminate the inheritance tax on couples with estates worth more than $10.9 million.

The correct answer is "B".

New York Times: "A truck dumped eight million coins outside the Parliament building in Bern, one for every Swiss citizen. It was a publicity stunt for advocates of an audacious social policy that just might become reality in the tiny, rich country. Along with the coins, activists delivered 125,000 signatures — enough to trigger a Swiss public referendum, this time on providing a monthly income to every citizen, no strings attached. Every month, every Swiss person would receive a check from the government, no matter how rich or poor, how hardworking or lazy, how old or young. Poverty would disappear. (Update from PBS: The referendum didn't pass, but...)

New York Times: "Efforts to end prevailing-wage laws are emerging in statehouses around the nation. Opponents say these efforts would lower wages and see them as a new front in a battle by increasingly Republican legislatures to weaken labor unions."


  1. AP: The surging cost of rental housing has squeezed a rising proportion of U.S. families since the Great Recession struck in 2007. For more than one in four renters, housing and utilities consume at least half their family income, according to an analysis of Census data by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps finance affordable housing. The number of such households has jumped 26 percent to 11.25 million since 2007, a sign that the 6½-year-old recovery from the recession has given scant relief to much of the country ... Wages have failed to match rising rental prices. At the same time, construction has failed to keep pace with demand from renters. The recession pushed more millennials, former homeowners who faced foreclosure, and low-wage workers into rental housing. A result is that 2.3 million more families face pressures that leave them perilously close to homelessness. More than 36 percent of people now rent, compared with 31 percent before the recession began in late 2007 ... In March, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported a shortage of 7.1 million apartments for low-income renters. The shortages are most pronounced in Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon, Florida, Colorado and Utah.

  2. The excesses of the wealthy are just incredible...

    "One night, there were these kids here—literally kids in their 20s—who all had their own private jets," .. "Serious jets, too. There was an A380 which was converted to include a pool and basketball court—it was ridiculous." "What I see here is what I imagined must have happened in the U.S. in the 1880s, in the Gilded Age, when it first took over England in terms of wealth," he says. "It is truly shocking how much wealth there is—and how willing people are to spend it."