December 17, 2014

‘We Worked Harder Than This’

“Life handed us a paycheck, and we said ‘we worked harder than this!'”

— Bury Me With It by Modest Mouse

June 9, 2012

Minimum Wage Should be at Least $10 an Hour!

House Democrats are proposing to increase minimum wage to $10 an hour! This makes sense, considering minimum wage should be around $10 just to catch up with inflation, as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) points out.

Legislation to increase minimum wage to $10 was introduced on Wednesday June 6th by House Democrats.

Jackson argues that his bill called the Catching Up to 1968 Act provides low income Americans with a more fair chance by catching up to inflation. In addition, by boosting purchasing power of the working class we can also provide a boost to the economy, as the increase in income by low-income workers will mostly be spent right away on basic life necessities.


June 3, 2012

Income Inequality Affects Voter Turnout!

We have noticed that money has become dangerously intertwined with politics, but studies find that the spiraling imbalance between rich and poor may only worsen the democratic political process we so much value as Americans.

As Ari Berman at The Nation notes,

“Electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1 percent. Or, to be more precise, the .000063 percent. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80 percent of the money raised by Super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.”

The OECD Better Life Index states that that high voter turnout is a measure of public trust in government and of a citizen’s participation in politics and that high voter turnout also promotes democracy and legitimacy of a government. Their research finds that:

“How well-off you are also affects how likely you are to vote. Voter turnout generally increases with individual income and on average there is a 7% difference between the top 20% of the population and the bottom 20%. This gap reaches 32% in Korea and 28% in the United States.”

In response to the OECD reports, Bryce Covert at The Nation comments:

“Those whose income is in the top 20 percent experience a near 100 percent turnout rate, making full use of their right to vote. But the rate for those in the bottom group is less than three-quarters. That makes for a whopping 28 percent gap between the two on Election Day, which again seems only to be beaten by South Korea.”

As wealth influences politics to favor the rich, and the rich can now purchase the American vote with post-Citizen’s United SuperPACs, together with the defunding of education and other public services ~ we should expect to see a further weakening of the democratic political process.

June 2, 2012

Income Inequality is Visible from Space

This is a picture of a poorer neighborhood in Houston called Fourth Ward. Now compare that image to the photo below of a more wealthy neighborhood in Houston, River Oaks. Do you notice a difference?

That is right! Income inequality is visible from space largely due to the difference in amount of green and trees. It turns out that trees are a type of luxury item – reserved for wealthier cities and neighborhoods.

Tim De Chant at The Per Square Mile blog recently wrote about research studies conducted all over the world looking at the correlation between per capita wealth and number of trees, and then found examples of such differences using Google Earth.

Tim De Chant wrote:

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover.

…They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent. That’s a pretty tight correlation. The researchers reason that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees. On the public side, cities with larger tax bases can afford to plant and maintain more trees.

And think about further implications of these findings. The number of trees and amount of vegetation surely affects air quality (and thus may affect lung function and asthma), amount of shade in the summer, individual happiness, stress and quality of life and maybe even crime.

See more Google Earth photos.

February 16, 2012

It’s like a man who has just eaten a hearty meal turning to a starving person, “Look, we’re in the same boat. My plate is empty too!”

A verbatim section from a fantastic post on Gawker today: “The Top 1% Must Stop Insisting They’re Not Rich This Instant”

This is a common theme, reiterated everywhere from golf course bars to the pages of various rich person-centric newspapers and magazines: “[Salary much higher than yours] might sound like a lot, but once you consider the cost of living, I’m really not even close to being ‘rich.'” Yeah. Fuck you. Today’s entry in this category comes in the form of a Toronto Life essay by Jonathan Kay, which is god damn enraging, assuming you make less than $196K per year (the cutoff line for Canada’s top 1%). “That’s no small amount of money, but hardly the means for a life of leisure,” Jonathan writes. OH? “In an increasingly pricy city like Toronto, where we pay a premium for everything from milk to car insurance, $196,000 can seem positively middle-class.” Please Jonathan, justify yourself, with numbers.

Break it down, and it translates to roughly $10,400 a month, after taxes. For many Torontonians, that $10,400 disappears fast. Thousands go to the mortgage. For those with young kids, daycare can cost upwards of $1,500 a month. There are the car and RSP payments, wardrobe refreshes, utility bills and something to set aside for when the furnace inevitably conks out. Plus the cost of the sushi, pad Thai and butter chicken that we order in three nights a week-because we’re all too tired to cook by the time we get home from work.

Then there’s the stuff that fills our houses-the calibre of which is the subject of intense, unspoken competition among my peers and neighbours.

And here we see the fundamental dishonest characteristic of each and every article which advances this particular enraging argument. “Sure, it’s an objectively large sum of money,” they say. “But it is far smaller after I spend it.”

No shit.

Money pays for the costs of life. That is what money does. You can’t fucking argue that, hey, your money doesn’t go that far after you’ve already spent it. You used it! Paying taxes and paying bills and paying the mortgage and putting money in a retirement fund and going out to dinner are the things that money gets you. You asshole. Just because you didn’t blow it all on jewelry, caviar, and cocaine doesn’t mean you didn’t get anything out of it. This argument is like a man eating a hearty meal, licking his plate clean, then turning to a starving person and saying, “Look, we’re in the same boat. My plate is empty too!”

February 16, 2012

Contraceptives & “Religious Freedom”: A Cold Political Calculation

Elizabeth Warren, Democratic Massachusetts Senate Candidate, spoke tonight on Rachel Maddow about the very broad language in the recent contraception legislation introduced in the House. According to Warren, the legislative language is so broad (including “any moral objection” by an employer to cover “any type” of health care costs) that it opens the door wide open for employers to diminish and eliminate health care coverage for employees.

She calls it “a cold political calculation” to further diminish worker’s rights and benefits. She makes a very good point!

February 16, 2012

A Submerged State

“A submerged state, according to political scientist Suzanne Mettler, is what you get when a government refuses to distribute funds and services directly to individuals and families, and instead uses tax breaks or payments to private companies all in order to hide the hand of government and exaggerate the role of the market.”

Read the article “Thirty More Years of Hell” by Connor Kilpatrick.


February 14, 2012

Keeping Prisons Full: the New Jim Crow

The Huffington Post published an article today on private prison corporations making profits off of the mass incarcerations of human beings. This is old news. The “noteworthy” news today was that the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest operator of for-profit prisons, recently sent a letter to 48 different states offering to buy up their prisons as a remedy for “challenging corrections budgets” and in return the Corrections Corporation of America is demanding that states ensure they keep the prison system at least 90% full, for which the state will receive some of the profit made from the resulting human suffering. 

“In exchange, the company is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Huffington Post.”

How does a state ensure that a prison is at least 90% full? Take a good guess. We have the “war on drugs” for one, which is a law that is preferential to white and rich Americans, and targets largely black and poor Americans. Michele Alexander describes this huge issue in more detail in her latest book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Establishing a profit incentive to imprison citizens is absurdly immoral. Not only that, but this horrific behavior is affecting only one group of citizens: black Americans and other ethnic minorities. 

January 21, 2012

“The rich have always objected to being governed at all”

“The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly. The rich have always objected to being governed at all.”

English essayist (1874-1936)
January 20, 2012

Mitt’s Unconventional IRA: Doesn’t Add Up

In an article titled, “The End of Romney” Huffington Post’s John Talbot wrote today,

“For Mitt Romney to have accumulated $20 to $100 million in his IRA suggests that somehow he had found a way around this $2,000 a year limit to contributions as there is no way contributing $2,000 a year could ever grow to $20 million in one’s lifetime, much less $100 million, regardless of how good an investor one is.

One method Mitt Romney may have employed is to have made his initial investments in a 401(k) plan on a pre-tax basis because 401(k) plans allowed up to $30,000 a year in annual contributions back in the 1980’s without the payment of ordinary income taxes. But even with making $30,000 contributions each year, it is hard to see how a $20 to $100 million fortune could be amassed in such a short time.

This suggests, and the Wall Street Journal article hints at this, that Romney was not making cash contributions to his IRA but rather parking equity shares of his companies’ investment funds there, or quite possibly putting shares of private companies that his firm bought into his 401(k).”

And regardless of whether Romney’s unconventional IRA is legal or not, he clearly represents the interests of the 1%  and appears to support a further division between rich and poor by way of tax loopholes.  

Read more

This is not the type of President we need right now.

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