New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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Higher Tax Rates = Higher Income Inequality

New figures released by the CBO indicate that overall effective federal tax rates have increased from 20.1% in 2004 to 20.5 in 2005%. Through a process known as "real bracket creep," Americans are paying higher tax rates without changes in the tax code. As incomes grow faster than inflation, taxpayers will find themselves paying taxes at higher marginal rates.

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Equality and Individualism

Via (who else but) Inclusionist, I checked out Chapter 6 of Prof. George Lakoff's new book on progressive strategy. Take a look at this paragraph on economic equality: For progressives, deservedness is understood through the lens of nurturance, which says that someone in need deserves assistance. This satisfies the "human dignity principle," making sure no one falls too far behind. It also fulfills the "common good principle," since the needs of the commons are counted as valid needs that merit attention, besides just the needs of an individual.

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Some Good Books

Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Samuelson (no relation to Robert) has an op-ed in the international herald tribune today advocating increased government intervention in the financial sector.

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Food Banking Op-Ed

An provocative article in this Sunday's post about food banking, a subject I got to be familiar with while doing a fellowship on hunger issues. The author's main point is that food banking is a distraction from the real problem of ending poverty with public policy. Point well taken, but I had a few objections. I felt like he generalized a bit too much about food banks. For example, the Oregon Food Bank, where I used to work, has a vibrant public policy department and sees policy work as part of its mission. Many other food banks do the same.

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Kuttner vs. Krugman, 1996 Edition

This is kind of random, but check out this exchange between Paul Krugman and Robert Kuttner (with a little bit of Robert Reich's ideas mixed in there) from 1996. Krugman's ideas sound, shall we say, Hamiltonian. He's changed his outlook quite a bit since then. Why have the other Hamiltonians stayed the same? Update: Whoops, forgot the link- it's here.

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Communicating about Poverty/Inequality: A Constant Work In Progress

Inclusion put out a new report on communicating a compelling anti-poverty message, and, as anyone who follows this debate might expect, the American public isn't that keen on addressing poverty when it's defined as such. But to me, the report had a few surprising findings. First, the public isn't that receptive to messages that redefine the poor as "deserving" workers. Given these findings, the authors suggest that in appeals to the public, instead of emphasizing personal stories about the poor, advocates should focus on systemic and institutional reasons for poverty that are beyond the control of individuals. As I review later, other researchers have arrived at very similar conclusions. In addition, this research suggests that the label "working poor" may itself be problematic. Given a cultural belief that if people are industrious they will succeed, this term sounds somewhat contradictory, and is likely to trigger confusion and negative connotations, especially among those Americans who have a strong "belief in a just world."

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It's Not the Education, Stupid

Writing in The American Prospect, Lawrence Mishel and Richard Rothstein disabuse readers of the notion that rising inequality can be reversed by improving the educational system. In fact, as the title of their piece - "Schools as Scapegoats" - indicates, the school system is being scapegoated by politicians and economists who refuse to believe that interventions in the private market may be required to reverse the inequality trend. The honesty of our capital markets, the accountability of our corporations, our fiscal-policy and currency management, our national investment in R&D and infrastructure, and the fair-play of the trading system (or its absence), also influence whether the U.S. economy reaps the gains of Americans' diligence and ingenuity. The singular obsession with schools deflects political attention from policy failures in those other realms. If you're interested in inequality issues, this is a must-read article. Below the fold is the nickel version of the piece.

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New IRS Data Shows Increasing Inequality

Greg Ip in The Wall Street Journal reports($) on new IRS income tax return data: The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks. The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.

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Reich's Supercapitalism

The first chapter of Robert Reich's new book, Supercapitalism, is available to read at now. In it, Reich makes some challenging points. His thesis is that the new deregulated, global economy benefits consumers at the expense of workers. With Wal-Mart as his primary example, he lists many of the products whose prices have been significantly reduced by technology, regulatory retrenchment, and presumably deunionization or the lack or unionization in new industries. Better jobs may mean higher prices.

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More Evidence That Americans Aren't Psyched About Inequality

Harold Meyerson, in today's Washington Post:

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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more resources