Day in and day out, the residents of the Standard Heights neighborhood in Baton Rouge watch as a century-old oil refinery, operated by Exxon Mobil, belches forth plumes of smoke in various shades of gray. The Louisiana State Department of Environmental Quality allows the facility to pump millions of pounds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere each year; but the company recently announced that between 2008 and 2011, the refinery accidentally leaked 4 million pounds more than they were supposed to release. MORE
Millions of American families say they have trouble putting food on the table and the economic recovery has done little to provide them with relief. Despite our relative prosperity as a nation, the percentage of Americans who, at some point in a given year, cannot afford to eat sets us apart from other wealthy countries.
Last month, the Pew Research Center used International Monetary Fund data to analyze the “levels of deprivation” across various countries, including our own. When the data is compiled in a chart (as it is below), it’s clear that the U.S. is an outlier: We are by far the richest country included in Pew’s study, but nearly a quarter of our population – over 78 million people — live in what’s called a “food insecure” household. In Canada, the second richest country Pew looked at, only nine percent of people had difficulty; in China, it was eight percent. MORE
We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in 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.
U.S. poverty (less than $17,916 for a family of three): 46.2 million people, 15.1 percent
Children in poverty: 16.1 million, 22 percent of all children, including 39 percent of African-American children and 34 percent of Latino children. Poorest age group in country.
Deep poverty (less than $11,510 for a family of four): 20.4 million people, 1 in 15 Americans, including more than 15 million women and children
People who would have been in poverty if not for Social Security, 2011: 67.6 million
(program kept 21.4 million people out of poverty)
People in the U.S. experiencing poverty by age 65: Roughly half
Gender gap, 2011: Women 34 percent more likely to be poor than men
Gender gap, 2010: Women 29 percent more likely to be poor than men
Twice the poverty level (less than $46,042 for a family of four): 106 million people, more than 1 in 3 Americans MORE
Earlier this week, a Senate panel investigated how Apple avoided billions in taxes through a web of offshore subsidiaries “so complex it spanned continents and went beyond anything most experts had ever seen.” Although the company may have achieved, in the words of Sen. Carl Levin, the “holy grail of tax avoidance,” senators didn’t accuse Apple of doing anything illegal and it is by no means alone in its use of loopholes and gimmicks to avoid paying taxes.
Here’s a list, topped by Apple, of 10 companies that increased their offshore holdings in the past year. MORE
Earlier this month, the Census Bureau reported that more black Americans voted in the 2012 election than any other group, including white Americans. The Associated Press called it a “tipping point” of historic proportions. A new study out this week contends that black male turnout was even higher than the Census reported.
Nearly all U.S. states have laws barring those convicted of a felony from voting while serving time in prison. In 11 states, some felons lose their voting rights for life; the ACLU puts the number of felons currently unable to vote at 5.3 million.
The Census measures voter turnout by counting all individuals of voting age — but nearly one in 10 black men are ineligible to vote because of state felony laws. Harvard political scientist Bernard Fraga found that by excluding black men who are not currently in prison but still cannot vote from the overall count of eligible voters, turnout figures for the group increased from 61.4 to 68 percent. Fraga also saw changes in the figures for black women, and white men and women, but none as substantial as the 6.6 point shift he saw with black men. MORE
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OEDC, has released its latest data on poverty and inequality. It’s a little wonky (we found it via Wonkblog), but if you’re not the type to spend your day clicking through 315 different charts, you can start with one: the Gini coeeficient, a commonly used measure of income inequality. The blue line represents all OEDC countries, the red represents whatever country you’ve chosen below. As you’ll see, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of inequality, topped only by Chile, Mexico and Turkey in this select group of developed market economies. These numbers are echoed in the top 10 percent vs bottom 10 percent section. Oh, and if you want to better understand the Tax & Transfers section, refer to the Wonkblog post. MORE
It’s a distressing milestone that you likely read about: On Friday, the average daily level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere passed 400 parts per million — about 50 ppm over what scientists said was the “safe upper limit.” The gas, of course, is a byproduct of our fossil fuel economy, and is the key driver of climate change.
The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased dramatically since 1958, when the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii — the gold standard for measuring the gas — first began tracking levels. That year, the daily average was 316 ppm — since then, the level has increased by 26.5 percent.
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.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 News posted 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
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