A new study from Demos estimates that American taxpayers fund nearly 2 million low-wage jobs that pay workers less than $24,000 a year ($12 an hour or less). These private-sector jobs are generated by federal contracts, grants, loans and other programs (see chart).
Workers making $12-or-less an hour say that they are scraping by. Often on public assistance, they find it difficult to afford basic necessities like rent, food, health care and utilities. Because of sequestration, pressure on government agencies to spend less money may add even more to their ranks. MORE
Many of the reforms contained in Dodd-Frank — passed nearly three years ago, now — have yet to be written as clear-cut regulations through the complicated federal rule-making process. One of these rules would require corporations to disclose the pay gap between workers and CEOs. Although executive compensation disclosure has been an SEC requirement since the early 1990s, median worker pay has not — and not surprisingly, corporate lobbyists have been working hard to make sure that reform doesn’t see the light of day.
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
When (and if) a rule is written, shareholders will have hard data about the dramatic inequalities that exist within corporate America. In the meantime, Bloomberg Newsposted a chart of the top 250 S&P 500 companies with the highest estimated pay gaps for 2012. Since average worker pay is not usually available — thus the need for the new rule — Bloomberg used an “estimate of industry-specific rank-and-file employee compensation calculated from government data” to come up with the typical worker to chief executive pay ratios. MORE
A homeless individual sits on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Last week the California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee passed AB 5, the Homeless Bill of Rights, by a vote of 7 to 2. At a time when homelessness is increasingly criminalized, this is an important step towards helping people instead of punishing them for not having a home. Advocates overcame strong opposition to the bill, in part through a grassroots movement of homeless and poor people that mobilized hundreds of people to rally and lobby the Democratic members of the committee. MORE
by Carol Burnett, Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative
We’re proud to collaborate withThe Nationin sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty” column by guest author Carol Burnett.
Alivia Terry looks nervously at the adults waiting for she and her classmates from the Anderson Grove Head Start program in Caledonia, Miss., to ring their hand bells to accompany several patriotic songs at the conclusion of a rally by early childhood education supporters, childcare providers and supporters. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
In a recent article in The New Republic, “The Hell of American Day Care,” reporter Jonathan Cohn investigates what he describes as the “barely regulated, unsafe business of looking after our children.” Lax regulation leading to unsafe child care is indeed a critical issue that needs to be addressed; and so is the huge unmet need for affordable child care options for low-wage working parents.
Cohn acknowledges that the tragic example used as the frame for his article — a child care fatality — is relatively rare. But what is not at all rare — and what really gets to the root of the problem — is the heartbreaking, no-win choice the mother was faced with in trying to find child care that she could afford on her low wage.
Mothers across the country face this dilemma constantly. They too often work in jobs that don’t pay enough to meet a family’s basic needs. Or they want to work, or go to college for a shot at a better career, but can’t afford child care. Or the welfare work requirement forces them into low-wage jobs where they can’t afford child care. MORE
Take a look at gun deaths, school shootings, public opinion and the Senate vote on gun control in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
Number of people killed by guns in the first 98 days post-Newtown: 2,244
Francine and David Wheeler and their sons, Nate and Ben, in 2012; Courtesy of the Wheeler Family
This week, we spent time with Francine and David Wheeler, parents of six-year-old Ben Wheeler, one of the 20 children and six educators shot and killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Francine and David moved from New York City to Newtown to raise a family somewhere safe. They could never have imagined that in that quiet place on a Friday morning, just days before Christmas, gunfire would take their younger son’s life.
The Wheelers’ courage and commitment deeply touched us. Since their son’s death, they have managed to cope with memory and hold together their lives — and the life of their surviving son, Nate — with uncommon grace. Along with other Newtown families, they lobbied the Connecticut state legislature — which now has the toughest gun law in America — and in Washington, they walked the halls of Capitol Hill, urging senators to vote yes for the amendment that would expand the use of background checks for people buying guns.
Although a majority favored the legislation, they fell six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for passage, but the Newtown families, friends and neighbors do not intend to quit. They are part of a growing nationwide movement committed to changing our gun culture. They call it Sandy Hook Promise. “America is in desperate need of a new path forward to address our epidemic of gun violence,” they write. And then comes the promise: “THIS TIME THERE WILL BE CHANGE.” MORE
A carniolan honey bee works the hyacinth in Washington Park in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A federal study released today attributes the massive die-off in American honey bee colonies to a combination of factors, including pesticides, poor diet, parasites and a lack of genetic diversity. Nearly a third of honey bee colonies in the United States have been wiped out since 2006. The estimated value of crops lost if bees were no longer able to pollinate fruits and vegetables is around $15 billion.
The report comes on the heels of an announcement Monday by the European Union that they are banning the use of pesticides that may be harmful to bees for two years. The measure is being closely watched here because the insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, have been in wide use for the past decade. Many studies, including the study released today by the USDA, have made a link between the insecticides — which are used to ward off pests such as aphids and beetles — and honeybee deaths. European researchers will conduct further experiments over the two-year period to assess whether the chemicals are a contributing factor in “colony collapse disorder.”
U.S. beekeepers have been reporting annual hive deaths of about 30 percent or higher for much of the past 10 years, but this past winter marked the worst loss ever — nearly 40 to 50 percent or more. The loss was so bad that California’s almond growers had to scramble to find enough bees to pollinate the state’s 800,000 acres of almond trees this spring. Tim Tucker, vice-president of the American Beekeeping Federation and owner of Tuckerbees Honey, which lost half of its hives this past winter, told The Guardian: “Other crops don’t need as many bees as the California almond orchards do, so shortages are not yet apparent, but if trends continue, there will be. Current [bee] losses are not sustainable. The trend is down, as is the quality of bees. In the long run, if we don’t find some answers, and the vigor continues to decline, we could lose a lot of bees.” MORE
After inconveniencing business travelers and members of Congress, the nation’s air traffic controllers got their sequestered funding back last week. In a new cartoon, Mark Fiore proposes a way that others affected by the sequester might get Congress’s attention.
We’re proud to collaborate withThe Nationin sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’s “This Week in Poverty,” that is part three of a series on bank shareholder meetings going on around the country. Read part one and part two.
The Wells Fargo logo is displayed outside a home mortgage office in Springfield, Illinois. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
You can’t talk about poverty without talking about the practices of the big banks, including their continuing refusal to stem the foreclosure crisis through mortgage principal reductions.
Consider this: Latinos lost 66 percent of their household wealth after the housing bubble burst, and African-American households lost 53 percent. Nearly 12 million families—disproportionately people of color — have either lost their homes or are currently in foreclosure, and another 16 million are underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.
Communities are decimated by boarded up houses and vacant lots, declining property values and the consequent loss of state and local revenues, and fewer opportunities to weather and recover from financial hardship. A new study from the Urban Institute indicates that white families now average six times the wealth of African-American and Latino families.
So when US Bank executives fled Minneapolis two weeks ago to hold their annual shareholders meeting in what they believed would be friendlier confines in Boise, it was important that activists from Minnesota and Oregon traveled to join Idahoans in an effort to hold the bank accountable. Then last week, Wells Fargo bankers traveled from San Francisco to Salt Lake City for their shareholders meeting, and activists again weren’t deterred — they came from California, Colorado and New York to stand with local groups and protest the bank’s practices. MORE
After serving 10 days of her 15-day sentence for trespassing during a protest against fracking, activist Sandra Steingraber was released from the Schuyler County jail last week in Watkins Glen, N.Y. The day before she was imprisoned, she talked with Bill about her fight to stop fracking and the release of toxins contaminating our air, water and food.
Steingraber had been arrested along with nine other protesters on March 18 for blocking the entrance to the Inergy natural gas facility to protest “the industrialization of the Finger Lakes.” After refusing to pay a fine, Steingraber and two other members of the “Seneca Lake 12″ received 15-day sentences.
In this exclusive video, watch Steingraber’s supporters greet her with flowers, cheers and song as she is released from jail. An emotional Steingraber tells the crowd: “I would do it again in a minute. …Being new to civil disobedience, I’m still learning about its power and its limitations… But I know this: all I had to do is sit in a six-by-seven-foot steel box in an orange jumpsuit and be mildly miserable, but the real power of it is to be able to shine a spotlight on the problem.”
Camera: Cris McConkey and Bill Huston, Shaleshockmedia.org David Walczak, Groundswell Rising/Resolution Pictures