Over at TalkPoverty, Greg Kaufman argues anti-poverty efforts need a movement if there is to be more traction on the issue in the United States:
The fact is, people in power don’t take action unless they are pushed by a movement. Civil rights, women’s rights, and marriage equality all required movements. Recent legislative victories such as passing the Affordable Care Act, winning $12 to $15 minimum wages, and implementing paid sick and family leave at the state and local level—all of these were made possible through movement-building at the grassroots too. And so whether we work as reporters, researchers, advocates, or elected representatives, if we want to cut poverty in America then a key question is whether our work lends itself to building an anti-poverty movement—a movement that is desperately needed...
Together, our analyses can offer a portrait of who is poor and why, and explore the public policy implications; we can lift up voices and lives that are normally ignored or caricaturized by the media; we can include people living on the brink in high-profile events that explore poverty and in our advocacy efforts.
We are too often failing at this. When then-House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan held a series of five hearings on the state of the War on Poverty, 17 witnesses testified—but only one (called by the Democratic Minority) lived in poverty. A recent, all-day Brookings event on the lessons of welfare reform featured 25 speakers, but only two people of color and zero people in poverty.
Apparently, Harvard is getting lots of money to study poverty, reports the Boston Globe's Adrian Walker:
Investor Glenn Hutchins made the $10 million grant to the center that bears his name, the Hutchins Center of African and African-American Studies. The center is run by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the ubiquitous literary scholar and television host. Of that grant, $2 million will be devoted to the project of researching poverty. The project is awash in boldface names: it will be directed by William Julius Wilson, a sociologist justly celebrated for his investigations of race and class. Other luminaries, like Matthew Desmond — whose recent book on housing, “Evicted,” has made him a star — are also on board.
Gates and Wilson both insisted Thursday that not nearly enough is understood about causes and effects of poverty.
Let's have a cartoon from Rob Rogers:
Surprise, adjunct professors are poor and it is all thanks to "the up-classing" of the contingency workforce writes Caroline Frederickson in the Atlantic:
In 1969, almost 80 percent of college faculty members were tenure or tenure track. Today, the numbers have essentially flipped, with two-thirds of faculty now non-tenure and half of those working only part-time, often with several different teaching jobs...
To say that these are low-wage jobs is an understatement. Based on data from the American Community Survey, 31 percent of part-time faculty are living near or below the federal poverty line. And, according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, one in four families of part-time faculty are enrolled in at least one public assistance program like food stamps and Medicaid or qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
You might be interested to learn that contingent faculty at Ithaca College are trying to form a union. Meanwhile, Jim Beam workers have staged a walk out after contract negotiations broke down over hiring more full-time workers to help meet demand created by the bourbon boom. "[W]hile the plants have brought in more temporary crew members, Mudd said, the company has not fulfilled its commitment to hiring enough full-time employees. Now, workers in the bottling and other departments are pulling 12-hour shifts, six or seven days each week, Mudd said."
In the New York Times, George McGraw points out that clean water is taken for granted but "water poverty" is central to the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline:
Nearly 24,000 Native American and Alaska Native households somehow manage without access to running water or basic sanitation, according to 2015 figures from the Indian Health Service, living in what my organization calls “water poverty.” About 188,000 such households were in need of some form of water and sanitation facilities improvement...
There’s not much water in the high desert — and much of what’s there is bad. Large parts of the reservation lack any water-supply equipment. The low population density makes building a water distribution system economically unfeasible. Tribal members rely on surface water and shallow aquifers, many of which have been poisoned by uranium mining.
Walmart's fortunes have improved thanks to investing more money in their workers' paychecks:
[A]t the store level, managers describe a big shift in the kind of workers they can bring in by offering $10 an hour with a solid path to $15 an hour. “We’re attracting a different type of associate,” said Tina Budnaitis, the manager of Walmart No. 5260 in Rogers. “We get more people coming in who want a career instead of a job.”
Senior executives speak in the language you might expect from a manager worried about paying an efficiency wage. “Our associates are an asset,” said Ms. McKenna, the chief operating officer. “You don’t try to have the very lowest cost of an asset. You try to have the right asset. So rather than thinking about the lowest cost, the question is how do you get the best productivity.”
The question for Walmart, and perhaps the economy as a whole, is whether these changes turn out to be one-off, or part of a shifting philosophy of how work and compensation should work in a 21st-century megacorporation.
Similarly, the Atlantic's Alana Semuels looks at King Arthur Flour, part of a growing trend of businesses that treat employees well as a business strategy:
Last year, King Arthur had the second-highest “worker” score of any Certified B-corporation, signifying it is one of the best places to work. Employees get one paid week of parental leave, 40 hours of paid volunteer time that they can take during company hours, and both free and subsidized baking classes. There is exercise equipment in the company’s manufacturing and office buildings, which are spread out across a small plot of land just across the river from Hanover, New Hampshire. For Thanksgiving, every employee will receive a locally-sourced turkey, or a vegetable basket. It’s not just white-collar workers who benefit: Lower-income employees receive a subsidy for a CSA where they can get farm-grown vegetables, and pay less for their health and other benefits...
[T]his used to be the standard way American companies treated their employees. In the heady, post-World War II years, companies offered free turkeys at Thanksgiving and gave employees perks, hoping to recruit and retain the most talented workers. But as the pool of available labor grew, companies figured out that they didn’t need to keep employees for life: If one person left, they could hire someone else. And as activist investors pushed companies to downsize and distribute profits back to shareholders, many employers gave up on considering the needs of their employees when deciding how to run their business.
Should we be prepping for life without jobs? Vox's Sean Illing interview labor organizer Andy Stern, who thinks work is doomed and advocates universal basic income:
[T]here’s a tsunami of change on its way, and the question is twofold. One is how does America go through a transition to what will be I think an economy with far fewer jobs — particularly middle-class jobs? What policies will guide us through this transition? And second, what do we want this to look like on the other end?
This is a country in which people have not figured out what to do if they don't work for money. I think there are many other ways that people potentially can work but, psychologically, the Protestant work ethic is embedded in the psyche of our country. The idea that someone would get something for nothing is anathema here. People that work feel like those who don’t shouldn’t be rewarded. It’s just an alien concept.
Big companies use tax breaks and loopholes to lower their tax rate reports David Leonhardt in the New York Times and advocates for a system overhaul:
Many companies work hard to shroud how much they really pay, sprinkling various figures throughout their complex financial statements. But companies must report one number that provides a good glimpse. It’s called "cash taxes paid" — the combined amount that a company pays in federal, state, local and even foreign taxes...
The inequities contribute to the great American stagnation that I described in last week’s column. The billions of dollars in taxes being avoided by G.E., Coca-Cola and others is money that can’t be used to lift living standards for ordinary families: It can’t be used to reduce their taxes and can’t pay for schools, medical research or clean energy.
In the Atlantic, James Kwak discusses the way in which the tax code benefits the very wealthy:
By continually deferring capital-gains taxes, ultra-wealthy families can pay virtually no income tax for generation after generation. (They may have to pay estate tax, depending on how creative their lawyers are, but that’s another story.) And when they do decide to sell stock, their capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than income from working—about 24 percent instead of 43 percent—which on its own costs the federal government about $90 billion per year. Unsurprisingly, of the four largest family fortunes in America today, three—the Waltons, the Kochs, and the Marses—were inherited from earlier generations (although the Kochs did significantly increase the size of their empire).
Warren Buffett is giving away most of his fortune to charity. But for some wealthy people, this can be another way of keeping money in the family. Since it’s difficult, if not impossible, to consume billions of dollars of wealth in one lifetime, someone with $10 billion can leave $500 million to his or her kids and “donate” the rest to a family foundation that they will control. The children will then enjoy all the comfort, status, and influence of a $10 billion fortune while paying essentially nothing in income taxes.
PayPal's Peter Thiel's $1.2 million in campaign money to Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has raised eyebrows in his Silicon Valley relationships as the tech industry attempts to come to grips with its diversity and inclusion issues. Meanwhile, over at the Guardian Evgeny Morozov looks at tech baron philanthropy and whether it is as good as that of the original Gilded Age: "The robber barons of the industrial era – from Carnegie to Ford to Rockefeller – did eventually commit some of their riches to charity but there was no mistaking one for the other. Oil and steel brought in the cash; education and arts helped to spend it." He adds:
What passes for philanthropy these days is often just a sophisticated effort to make money on engineering the kinds of rational, entrepreneurial and quantitative souls that would delight at other types of personalisation. Such learning is, of course, well suited to the needs of consulting firms and technology giants. A recent profile of AltSchool in the New Yorker mentioned that its students read the Iliad armed with a spreadsheet where they mark how many times the theme of “rage” occurs in the text. Such schools can produce excellent auditors; poets, however, might need an alternative, to, well, the AltSchool.
The very same technology elites are also backing the charter school movement – a longrunning effort to bring more competition to the educational sector by supporting privately run but publicly funded educational initiatives. From Gates to Zuckerberg, technology billionaires are vocal defenders of this movement. It won’t be surprising if they deploy their big data weapons to advance the argument that the traditional educational system must be completely overhauled.
We should be careful not to fall victim to a perverse form of Stockholm syndrome, coming to sympathise with the corporate kidnappers of our democracy.
The Ford Foundation's Darren Walker recently wrote an op-ed on Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla's philanthropy:
While there is reason to be concerned about concentrated wealth at the top and growing inequality in our society, Mark and Priscilla are calling attention to some of today’s most significant areas of injustice and inequality – controversial and systemic problems, not comfortable and simplistic ones...
The 20th-century history of philanthropy is bookended by titans of innovation – Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford at one end; Gates, Buffett and Bloomberg at the other. Fifteen years into the 21st century, Mark and Priscilla are fast securing their standing among these ranks – bringing Internet-age insights to age-old scourges.
Transformation's Michael Edwards has issues with this argument and contends that tax policy and wealth redistribution is more of an equalizer than philanthropy:
[P]hilanthropy has increased in line with inequality over the last 50 years, so the more you have of one, the more you have of the other. Statistically speaking, philanthropy is a symptom of inequality and not a cure... Unfortunately the conclusion is the same: there’s no evidence that this support has had any significant effect on economic inequality since Ford and the others were established. Of course, the past isn’t necessarily an accurate guide to the future—maybe foundations will find a magical solution that turns these findings on their heads—but for now, the many small successes don’t add up to anything that’s powerful enough to halt society’s slide into a permanent division between the one per cent and the other 99...
The world looks very different from the top and bottom of the pile, but if the supply of money for social change is controlled by those at the top then only a restricted range of possibilities will be supported—and they won’t include transforming the system that put them there in the first place: there’s way too much to lose.
Meanwhile Bridgespan's William Foster looks at how Atlantic Philanthropies pursued ending the death penalty.