PARIS: The gap between the rich and poor in most of the world’s advanced economies is at record levels, according to an OECD study that also found glaring differences between men and women.
In most of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development the income gap is at its highest level in three decades, with the richest 10 percent of the population earning 9.6 times the income of the poorest 10 percent.
In the 1980s this ratio stood at 7 to 1, the OECD said in a report. The wealth gap is even larger, with the top 1 percent owning 18 percent and the 40 percent only 3 percent of household wealth in 2012.
“We have reached a tipping point. Inequality in OECD countries is at its highest since records began,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria.
But for all Ryan’s rhetoric on poverty, he’s also the author of a series of budgets that would absolutely wreck programs for the American poor, inflicting massive human suffering on the nation’s most vulnerable residents. It’s never been exactly clear how Ryan would resolve this tension, but his appearance on Face the Nation suggests he’s going to try to make his poverty programs work with his budgets’ which is to say he’s going to argue that taking trillions away from the poor is somehow actually good for them.
It doesn’t help that the first policy statement he makes is an out-and-out lie:
After a 50-year war on poverty and trillions of dollars spent, we still have the same poverty rates.
This sentence suggests that either Paul Ryan has absolutely no clue how poverty rates work, or he does know and is actively deceiving viewers. First of all, the specific claim in question isn’t even technically accurate. The poverty rate was 19 percent in 1964, when the War on Poverty was announced. In 2013, it was 14.5 percent. We do not have the same poverty rates we did then. Ryan is just wrong.
But even that dramatically understates the progress that has been made. The official poverty rate is a travesty of a statistic, and using it at all in this context is irresponsible. It’s literally based on food prices in 1955. But more relevantly for these purposes, it excludes the very anti-poverty programs Ryan is talking about. It excludes in-kind transfers like Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers, as well as tax-based programs like the EITC. Blasting those programs because they don’t show up in the poverty rate is like arguing that Netflix shows have zero viewers by pointing to cable ratings.
Unlike so many industrial innovations, the revolving door was not developed in Detroit. It took its first spin in Philadelphia in 1888, the brainchild of Theophilus Van Kannel, the soon-to-be founder of the Van Kannel Revolving Door Company. Its purpose was twofold: to better insulate buildings from the cold and to allow greater numbers of people easier entry at any given time.
On March 31st at the Wayne Country Treasurer’s Office, that Victorian-era invention was accomplishing neither objective. Then again, no door in the history of architecture—rotating or otherwise—could have accommodated the latest perversity Detroit officials were inflicting on city residents: the potential eviction of tens of thousands, possibly as many as 100,000 people, all at precisely the same time.
Little wonder that it seemed as if everyone was getting stuck in the rotating doors of that Wayne County office building on the last day residents could pay their past-due property taxes or enter a payment plan to do so. Those who didn’t, the city warned, would lose their homes to tax foreclosure, the process by which a local government repossesses a house because of unpaid property taxes.
“Oh, my lord,” exclaimed one bundled-up woman when she first spotted the river of people, their documents in envelopes and folders of every sort, pouring out of cars, hunched over walkers, driving electric scooters, being pushed in wheelchairs, or simply attempting to jam their way on foot into the building. The afternoon was gray and unseasonably cold. The following day, in the middle of a snowless meadow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the governor of California would announce the state’s first-ever water restrictions as a result of an unprecedented, climate-change-influenced drought. Here in Michigan, city residents were facing another type of man-made disaster: possibly the largest single tax foreclosure in American history.
“It’s the last day to pay,” one woman heading toward the rotating glass chamber yelled to a pedestrian who had slowed to watch the commotion. Inside, a Wayne County Sheriff’s Department officer-turned-traffic-controller boomed instructions to a snaking line of people. “When you get to the eighth floor, you will get a number. Keep that number! Then go to the fifth floor.’”
The eighth floor, however, turned out to be little more than another human traffic jam, a holding space for thousands of anxious homeowners who faced hours of waiting before reaching the desk of some overworked city representative down on five. Yet, as a post office delivery worker gaping at the fiasco told me, this was less hectic than it had been a only few days earlier, when the treasurer’s office had rented out the Second Baptist Church across the street. There, people waited for the opportunity to enter the revolving doors to take the elevator to the eighth floor before heading for the fifth floor to…you get the gist.
In fact, the whole week had been a god-awful mess. A day earlier, rumors had it, a woman had passed out in the elevator between the eighth and fifth floors en route to “making arrangements,” the euphemism for getting on a payment plan that might save your home.
“What happens if you can’t pay?” a slender man asked me as we dodged a new wave of people surging through the glass cylinder.
“Then they sell your house at auction,” I replied.
WASHINGTON — Thought the 2012 presidential campaign was over? Think again.
President Barack Obama didn’t have much to say about Mitt Romney’s rekindled aspirations for the White House when he delivered a flat, “No comment,” earlier this month. But apparently he couldn’t resist much longer, following reports that the former GOP candidate was weighing entering the ring in 2016 on a platform focused on lifting up the middle class and eliminating poverty.
Addressing House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Obama referred to one “former presidential candidate” who was “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”
“That’s great. Lets do something about it,” Obama said, according to a White House pool report.
Romney fired back on Twitter, by noting poverty levels under the Obama administration.
Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy.
“Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy,” Romney said.
Obama also said in Philadelphia that he had heard a Republican senator, who he did not name, was “suddenly shocked, shocked, that the 1 percent” was doing much better than the vast majority of Americans.
“I consider imitation the highest form of flattery,” Obama said of Republicans’ sudden embrace of populist rhetoric.
Politicians, for example, are apparently completely baffled by Poor People’s propensity to do harmful things, often expensively, to themselves. (That’s politicians of all stripes - it’s just that the left wing wrings its hands and feels helplessly sorry for Them, while Tories are pretty sure They are just animals in need of better training.) The underclass eats fast food, drinks and smokes, and some of its more unruly members even take drugs. Why? Why?
Listen, I always want to say, if you’re genuinely mystified, answer me this: have you never had a really bad day and really wanted - nay, needed - an extra glass of Montrachet on the roof terrace in the evening? Or such a chaotic, miserable week that you’ve ended up with a takeaway five nights out of seven instead of delving into Nigella’s latest?
You have? Why, splendid. Now imagine if your whole life were not just like that one bad day, but even worse. All the time. No let-up. No end in sight. No, you can’t go on holiday. No, you can’t cash anything in and retire. No. How would you react? No, you’ve not got a marketable skills set. You don’t know anyone who can give you a job. No. No.
full article : theguardian.com
Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”
This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.
“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.
Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”
First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.
So, as the Pew report pointed out, “more than half of the least secure group reports receiving at least one type of means-tested government benefit.”
And yet, whatever the poor earn is likely to be more heavily taxed than the earnings of wealthier citizens, according to a new analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. As The New York Times put it last week:
“According to the study, in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent.”
In addition, many low-income people are “unbanked” (not served by a financial institution), and thus nearly eaten alive by exorbitant fees. As the St. Louis Federal Reserve pointed out in 2010:
“Unbanked consumers spend approximately 2.5 to 3 percent of a government benefits check and between 4 percent and 5 percent of payroll check just to cash them. Additional dollars are spent to purchase money orders to pay routine monthly expenses. When you consider the cost for cashing a bi-weekly payroll check and buying about six money orders each month, a household with a net income of $20,000 may pay as much as $1,200 annually for alternative service fees — substantially more than the expense of a monthly checking account.”
Even when low-income people can become affiliated with a bank, those banks are increasingly making them pay “steep rates for loans and high fees on basic checking accounts,” as The Times’s DealBook blog put it last year.
And poor people can have a hard time getting credit. As The Washington Post put it, the excesses of the subprime boom have led conventional banks to stay away from the riskiest borrowers, leaving them “all but cut off from access to big loans, like mortgages.”
One way to move up the ladder and out of poverty is through higher education, but even that is not without disproportionate costs. As the Institute for College Access and Success noted in March:
“Graduates who received Pell Grants, most of whom had family incomes under $40,000, were much more likely to borrow and to borrow more. Among graduating seniors who ever received a Pell Grant, 88 percent had student loans in 2012, with an average of $31,200 per borrower. In contrast, 53 percent of those who never received a Pell Grant had debt, with an average of $26,450 per borrower.”
The SCLC brochure advertising the campaign said it would call for a “decent life for all poor people so that they will control their own destiny,” and made no attempt to minimize the expense, saying, “This will cost billions of dollars, but the richest nation of all time can afford to spend this money if America is to avoid social disaster.”
Specifically, they demanded an “Economic Bill of Rights” with the following components:
People were to have a meaningful job with a livable wage.
People were to get a secure and efficient income.
People were to be able to access land for economic reasons.
Less well-off people were to have access to capital to promote business.
The middle class were to have a large role in government.
It was bold. And, according to Jeffries, it was exactly in line with how King had always seen the world, and his longstanding fixation on the radical redistribution of economic power. King had grown up during the Great Depression and escaped most of its harshest consequences because of his well-off family’s relative privilege, but “all he had to do was sit on his front porch and he could see the ravages,” said Jeffries. As a result, “Questions of economic justice were always on his mind. He wrote about it, he talked about it, he preached about it.”
I don’t envy the wealthy their money, but if they want to keep it, then it seems the prudent thing to do would be to help reduce the inequality gap lest their wealth be forcibly taken from them.
From Oxfam’s press release earlier this week:
In same period at least a million mothers died in childbirth due to lack of basic health services
Rising inequality could set the fight against poverty back by decades (1), Oxfam warned today as it published a new report showing that the number of billionaires worldwide has more than doubled since the financial crisis. (2)
The report, Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality, details how the richest people in the world have more money than they could ever spend while hundreds of millions live in abject poverty without essential health care or basic education.
In countries around the world, prosperity is not trickling down to ordinary people, but up to those at the top, whose exceptional wealth is growing ever more rapidly. The richest 85 people — who Oxfam revealed in January as having the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population (3) — saw their collective wealth increase by $668 million per day between 2013 and 2014. That’s almost half a million dollars every minute. (4)
- If African countries continue on their current growth trajectory with no change in levels of income inequality, then the continent's poverty rate won't fall below three percent — the World Bank's definition of ending poverty — until 2075. IMF (2014) 'Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality', IMF Policy Paper, Figure 8, Washington, D.C.: IMF, The target set by the IMF and the World Bank for ending poverty is 2030.
- In March 2009, there were 793 billionaires, according to Forbes. In March 2014 there were 1645 billionaires, according to Forbes
- Oxfam research in early 2014 found that the 85 richest individuals in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. This figure was based on the wealth of the 85 billionaires at the time of the annual Forbes report in March 2013. Working for the Few report.
- In the period March 2013 to March 2014, Oxfam found that the wealth of the 85 richest individuals in the world, as identified in the Working for the Few paper detailed in Note 3, rose again by a further 14 per cent, or $244bn. This equates to a $668m increase a day; $463,888.89 every minute. Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality report, pg. 3.
From the page on the report:
Economic inequality has reached extreme levels
From Ghana to Germany, Italy to Indonesia, the gap between rich and poor is widening. In 2013, seven out of 10 people lived in countries where economic inequality was worse than 30 years ago, and in 2014 Oxfam calculated that just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
Extreme inequality corrupts politics and hinders economic growth.
It exacerbates gender inequality, and causes a range of health and social problems. It stifles social mobility, keeping some families poor for generations, while others enjoy year after year of privilege. It fuels crime and even violent conflict. These corrosive consequences affect us all, but the impact is worst for the poorest people. […]
This report delves into the causes of the inequality crisis and looks at the concrete solutions that can overcome it. Drawing on case studies from around the world the report demonstrates the impact that rising inequality is having on rich and poor countries alike and explores the different ways that people and governments are responding to it. […]
More: Time to End Extreme Inequality (PDF of full report available)
The Canada Revenue Agency (Canada’s equivalent of the IRS) has told OXFAM Canada that it cannot list ‘preventing poverty’ as a goal, only ‘alleviating’ it. The reason is “Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not.”
This is just one of many instances of Our Dear Leader using the CRA to punish critics for criticizing. OXFAM Canada opposes Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
Yet another example of so called conservatives showing their revolutionary goals.
By Jonathan Rieder
Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963. AFP/Getty Images
What does white America owe black America? To even broach that question 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 seems straight-out wacky. Did not the election of a black president redeem the nation? At a minimum, it’s rude—refusing to avert the eyes from that elephant in the room: “America begins in black plunder and white democracy.” That’s how Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed it recently in his extraordinary “The Case for Reparations.”
Far from fringe lunacy, the idea of a primal debt was obvious to Martin Luther King Jr. Exactly 50 years ago this month in Why We Can’t Wait, his Harper & Row account of the Birmingham, Ala., protests, he made his own impassioned case for compensation. And yet no matter how much he shared Coates’ desire to square accounts, King would settle on a rival solution for the crimes of slavery and all the forms of racism that succeeded it.