News About Inequality - February 2009
'Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller?'
- New York Times, February 28, 2009
Nearly every occupation has the gap - the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between the size of the paycheck brought home by a woman and the larger one earned by a man doing the same job.
'As Task Force Debuts, Some Ask: Who Is Middle Class?'
- The Washington Post, February 28, 2009
Commentators left and right have reacted with awe to the ambition and transformative potential of President Obama's economic blueprint. But the debut of Vice President Biden's Middle Class Task Force here Friday suggested that the administration will be selling its plans in more conventional and reassuring tones -- as a bevy of benefits for the American middle class.
'The Science Behind Our Generosity'
- Newsweek, February 28, 2009
Imagine that you are walking near a shallow ornamental pond when you notice that a small child has fallen in, and is apparently in danger of drowning. Without pausing even to pull off the expensive pair of shoes you are wearing, you rush into the water to save the child. You don't have to be a hero to do that. We expect it of you. You'd have to be a monster to put the cost of your shoes ahead of saving the child's life.
Or would you? UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, tells us that nearly 10 million children under 5 die each year from causes that we could prevent. GiveWell.net, an organization that assesses the cost-effectiveness of aid, suggests that for something like the cost of a pair of expensive shoes, you could save the life of one of these children.
[Although] it would take comparatively little effort on our part, few of us choose to help. Why is that?
'Forced from Executive Pay to Hourly Wage'
- New York Times, February 28, 2009
Mark Cooper started his work day on a recent morning cleaning the door handles of an office building with a rag, vigorously shaking out a rug at a back entrance and pushing a dust mop down a long hallway. Nine months ago he lost his job as the security manager for the western United States for a Fortune 500 company, overseeing a budget of $1.2 million and earning about $70,000 a year.
Working five days a week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mr. Cooper is not counted by traditional measures as among the recession's casualties at this point. But his tumble down the economic ladder is among the more disquieting and often hidden aspects of the downturn.
'"Great Society" Plan for the Middle Class'
- New York Times, February 27, 2009
Opponents of President Obama's proposal for a sweeping new government activism in the economy call it a return to a traditional tax-and-spend philosophy, a step back to the era of Lyndon B. Johnson.
Unlike the sweeping social programs of the 1960s, the Obama plan, with its talk of "green jobs" and energy efficiency savings, seems aimed more at a middle class that missed out on the boom than at the nation's poorest, who would benefit to a significantly lesser extent. To be sure, there are some elements of Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget that are aimed at aiding the nation's poorest, but in his sales pitch, that has hardly been one of its biggest selling points.
'University Admissions: Erasing Race'
- The Economist, February 26, 2009
CALIFORNIA and Texas are both large states that are home to a growing population of minorities. They also share another trait. In a blow to the policy of affirmative action, public universities in the two states were forbidden, a decade ago, from using race as a factor in college admission decisions - by a federal court, in Texas's case, and by state law in California's.
Both policies have had modest success in maintaining diversity. But now policymakers in both states are about to shake the kaleidoscope again.
'A Bold Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas'
- New York Times, February 26, 2009
The budget that Preisdent Obama proposed on Thursday is nothing less than an attempt to end a three-decade era of economic policy dominated by the ideas of Ronald Reagan and his supporters.
'Downturn to Cost Billions in Aid to World's Poor'
- Reuters, February 26, 2009
The cost to aid budgets of the world economic downturn is headed for billions of dollars, slashing assistance to the world's poorest people just as it becomes harder for them to make money for themselves.
'Experts Wonder How Education Goals Will Be Met'
- Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2009
In his address to Congress, President Obama signaled a shift in federal education policy toward improving the skills of adults and work-force entrants, following an intense focus on boosting younger students' reading and mathematics attainment under the No Child Left Behind law, the centerpiece of the Bush administration's schools agenda.
Some observers had believed that education would stay on the back burner early in the Obama administration while the president grappled with the economic crisis. But the subject made it to the top tier of the address to Congress partly because Mr. Obama believes he must send Americans a message about the importance of education.
'Obama to Seek Higher Tax on Affluent to Pay for Health Care'
- New York Times, February 25, 2009
President Obama will propose further tax increases on the affluent to help pay for his promise to make health care more accessible and affordable, calling for stricter limits on the benefits of itemized deductions taken by the wealthiest households, administration officials said Wednesday.
'Citing Cost, States Consider End to Death Penalty'
- New York Times, February 24, 2009
Maryland's governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic who has cited religious opposition to the death penalty in the past, is now arguing that capital cases cost three times as much as homicide cases where the death penalty is not sought. "And we can't afford that," he said, "when there are better and cheaper ways to reduce crime."
Lawmakers in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and New Hampshire have made the same argument in recent months as they push bills seeking to repeal the death penalty, and experts say such bills have a good chance of passing in Maryland, Montana and New Mexico.
'Study Cites Obstacles for Poor to Renew Health Insurance'
- New York Times, February 24, 2009
More than a third of New York State's recipients of Medicaid and other public health insurance programs fail to re-enroll on time, losing coverage even though they remain eligible, because of daunting paperwork and other obstacles, according to a new study.
'Manufacturing Holds Key for Poorest Nations'
- Reuters, February 23, 2009
The world's poorest nations need help from richer countries to exploit manufacturing rather than natural resources or agriculture if they are to escape from poverty, a United Nations agency said on Monday.
Africa has been dogged for decades by the "happy peasant syndrome", where donors give money to alleviate poverty instead of targeting the aid for economic growth, said Director General Kandeh Yumkella.
'Iraq's War Widows Face Dire Need With Little Aid'
- New York Times, February 22, 2009
As the number of widows has swelled during six years of war, their presence on city streets begging for food or as potential recruits by insurgents has become a vexing symbol of the breakdown of Iraqi self-sufficiency.
Women who lost their husbands had once been looked after by an extended support system of family, neighbors and mosques. But as the war has ground on, government and social service organizations say the women's needs have come to exceed available help, posing a threat to the stability of the country's tenuous social structures.
'Drought Adds to Hardships in California'
- New York Times, February 21, 2009
Across the Central Valley, towns are already seeing some of the worst unemployment in the country, with rates three and four times the national average, as well as reported increases in all manner of social ills: drug use, excessive drinking and rises in hunger and domestic violence.
'Civilians in War Zones: Women and Children Worst'
- The Economist, February 19, 2009
Babies' skulls dashed against rocks; attempts to twist off the heads of toddlers. Girls, their mothers and grandmothers (and sometimes male relatives too) raped at knife or gunpoint, the weapons then used to inflict mutilation. Women hauled off to camps or just tied to trees and gang-raped. Thousands of children, some as young as nine, snatched or recruited by armed gangs (or regular forces) and made into drug-crazed killers, the girls among them often serially abused or taken by commanders as "wives".
Such are the horrors reported from some recent conflict zones. In civil wars, women and children always fare worst.
'Saudi Arabia's Gradual Reforms: No time to Lose'
- The Economist, February 19, 2009
THE kingdom of Saudi Arabia may be the world's last country to let a woman into its government-albeit giving her a post that deals only with educating females. The lady in question still cannot drive herself to work. Nor may she travel in a car without her husband or a closely related male chaperone to ensure that she upholds her moral standards
[...] Frustration and resentment in Saudi Arabia are growing-and look set to go on doing so. Nearly half of university graduates are women, yet less than a tenth of them have proper jobs outside the home. As the oil price plummets, unemployment may rise dangerously. As the internet draws the young into the outside world, irritation at restrictions-against the cinema, against music, even against jingles in mobile telephones-will grow.
'Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks Nationwide'
- New York Times, February 19, 2009
Once a crutch for the most needy, food pantries have responded to the deepening recession by opening their doors to what one pantry organizer described as "the next layer of people," a rapidly expanding group of child-care workers, nurse's aides, real estate agents and secretaries who are facing a financial crisis for the first time. Over all, demand at food banks across the country increased by 30 percent in 2008 from the previous year.
'Job-Discrimination Cases Tend to Fare Poorly in Federal Court'
- The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2009
A battery of recent studies shows that employees who sue over discrimination lose at a higher rate in federal court than other types of plaintiffs. They also get less time in court, with judges quicker to throw out their cases.
'Economy Hits Hard on Black Campuses'
- New York Times, February 18, 2009
Colleges and universities of all kinds across the country are facing shrunken endowments, decreased giving and government cutbacks, and many have reduced their payroll and list of classes. But historically black institutions have two significant disadvantages when it comes to weathering hard times: smaller endowments, which mean heavier reliance on tuition and fees, and a higher proportion of disadvantaged students who are now facing a credit crunch when they apply for loans.
'Study Shows Sharp Rise in Latino Federal Convicts'
- New York Times, February 18, 2009
The sharp growth in illegal immigration and increased enforcement of immigration laws have dramatically altered the ethnic composition of offenders sentenced in federal courts. In 2007, Latinos accounted for 40 percent of all those convicted of federal crimes and one third of all federal prison inmates, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank.
'Chimp-Stimulus Cartoon Raises Racism Concerns'
- New York Times, February 18, 2009
Gov. David A. Paterson, Senator Kristen E. Gillibrand, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others expressed concern on Wednesday morning over an editorial cartoon in The New York Post that showed a police officer telling his colleague who just shot a chimpanzee, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." Critics said the cartoon, drawn by Sean Delonas, implicitly compared President Obama with the primate and evoked a history of racist imagery of blacks.
'Elderly New Yorkers Angry as Crisis Hits Poorest'
- Reuters, February 17, 2009
In New York, with city and state tax revenues tumbling, benefits and services to the elderly are being cut, and many older residents are furiously drawing comparisons to the billions of dollars spent to bail out banks -- and pay Wall Street bonuses.
'Dead End in Detroit for White-Collar Workers'
- New York Times, February 17, 2009
After closing plants and shrinking their blue-collar work force, Detroit's troubled Big Three are cutting white-collar jobs in their hometown at an unprecedented pace - more than 15,000 in the last year, with more to come. Unlike union workers laid off from idled factories, salaried workers have no safety net of health care or guaranteed income for a year. At best, it's a small severance or buyout, and a voucher for a discount on one of the hundreds of thousands of unsold cars that G.M. or Chrysler has sitting in inventory.
'Homelessness: The Family Portrait'
- The Washington Post, February 16, 2009
For nearly a generation, the face of homelessness in America has been that of a man or woman living on the street and panhandling for loose change. But with the foreclosure crisis, stagnant economy and rising unemployment, advocates for the homeless said they are seeing more two-parent families seeking shelter.
'For Social Programs, Long-Awaited Boost'
- The Washington Post, February 16, 2009
The economic stimulus package dramatically ramps up spending for a broad array of social programs for needy Americans in a way not seen since the launch of the Great Society programs.
[...] Many of the new initiatives dovetail with the policy goals of President Obama and congressional Democrats, who have talked about the need to rebalance the nation's economy so more benefits flow to middle- and low-income Americans. Some analysts think the increases will prove politically difficult to pare back once the initial round of funding expires, and they see the stimulus package as part economic shock treatment, part social policy transformation.
'Anti-Poverty Programs: Quid Pro Quo'
- The Economist, February 12, 2009
AMERICAN policymakers rarely take their cues from Mexico: advice usually flows the other way. So it must have been gratifying for those running Oportunidades, a welfare programme serving 5m poor Mexican families, when the city of New York turned to them in 2006 for help with Opportunity NYC, a new social-welfare programme promoted by the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
'Crisis to Trap 53 Million in Poverty'
- BBC, February 12, 2009
About 53 million people in developing countries will remain poor because of the world economic slowdown, the World Bank has said.
'NAACP Calls for Economic Equity'
- New York Times, February 12, 2009
Federal lawmakers must guarantee fair hiring practices for new jobs at a time when black unemployment - consistently higher than it is for whites - is in double digits, the [N.A.A.C.P.] said in a 38-page report describing its policy goals for the year.
The report also calls for legislation to protect black homeowners from predatory lending, since many black borrowers were issued high-cost mortgages and about 10 percent of black families will be affected by foreclosure.
'How the Crash Will Reshape America'
- The Atlantic March, 2009
Sadly and unjustly, the places likely to suffer most from the crash-especially in the long run-are the ones least associated with high finance. While the crisis may have begun in New York, it will likely find its fullest bloom in the interior of the country-in older, manufacturing regions whose heydays are long past and in newer, shallow-rooted Sun Belt communities whose recent booms have been fueled in part by real-estate speculation, overdevelopment, and fictitious housing wealth.
'Postcard from Savannah'
- Time Magazine, February 12, 2009
With Georgia facing a $2 billion budget shortfall, Seth Harp, chairman of the state senate's higher-education committee, has proposed merging historically black public universities with mostly white schools nearby to cut administrative costs. Among other drawbacks, critics say, the move could mean fewer scholarships, larger classes and teacher layoffs. But race is the thorniest issue by far. "We've made tremendous progress in Georgia," says Harp. "I just think it's the right time to get rid of this vestige of legal segregation."
'The Economic Recovery Package Will Help Poor Older Adults, but More Could Be Done'
- The Urban Institute, Feburary 10, 2009
An updated measure of poverty indicates that the rate for adults ages 65 and older matches the rate for children. The Economic Recovery package under consideration includes some provisions that would benefit older adults, but more could be done.
'Poverty and Economic Stimulus'
- The Brooklings Institution, Feburary 10, 2009
A rough rule of thumb is that for every percentage point increase in unemployment, the poverty rate increases by almost half a percentage point. If unemployment reaches 10 percent, as some analysts now project, the nation's poverty rate could grow from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 14.8 percent _ meaning that more than one out of every seven Americans will be living in poverty.
Such a large increase in poverty and economic need is not inevitable, however. Government policy in the coming months matters a great deal.
- The Atlantic March, 2009
Nationwide, an estimated two-thirds of the people who leave prison are rearrested within three years. A disproportionate number of them come from a few urban neighborhoods in big cities. Many states spend more than $1 million a year to incarcerate the residents of single blocks or small neighborhoods.
- One such "million-dollar neighborhood" is shown above-a half-square-mile
portion of Central City, an impoverished district southwest of the French Quarter. In 2007, 55 people from this neighborhood entered prison; the cost of their incarceration will likely reach about $2 million.
'Paul Krugman's Nostalgianomics: Economic Policies, Social Norms and Income Inequality'
- CATO Institute, February 9, 2009
What accounts for the rise in income inequality since the 1970s? According to most economists, the answer lies in structural changes in the economy- in particular, technological changes that have raised the demand for highly skilled workers and thereby boosted their pay. Opposing this prevailing view, however, is Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics. According to Krugman and a group of like-minded scholars, structural explanations of inequality are inadequate. They argue instead that changes in economic policies and social norms have played a major role in the widening of the income distribution.
Krugman and his colleagues offer a highly selective and misleading account of the relevant changes. Looking back at the early postwar decades, they cherry-pick the historical record in a way that allows them to portray that time as an enlightened period of well-designed economic policies and healthy social norms. Such a rosy-colored view of the past fails as objective historical analysis. Instead, it amounts to ideologically motivated nostalgia.
'Davos, the Poor, and the Crash of '08'
- Council on Foreign Relations, February 9, 2009
There was fear in the air at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Neither the snowy, gorgeous Alpine setting nor the festivities could offset the acrid tastes of desperation, confusion, and panic that seemed to result from every single discussion and speech. Between September and early January, four American banks had lost a combined $335 billion, and a spiral of bank and credit crises had unfolded all over the world. Suddenly, nobody--not even a country--could get a loan. Special senses of foreboding and doom pervaded Davos sessions devoted to the interests of Africa and the poorest two billion inhabitants of the world.
As South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel pointed out, this may not seem a good historic moment for Detroit automakers, but before they start weeping the U.S. Big Three ought to take a look at how the economic catastrophe feels in Durban, Lilongwe, Bangkok, and Bogota.
'For Russia's Migrants, Economic Despair Douses Flickers of Hope'
- The New York Times, February 9, 2009
Marginalized and maligned in the best of times, Russia's millions of migrants are facing increasing hardship as the country enters its worst economic decline since the 1998 ruble collapse. Recruited in droves mostly from former Soviet republics in Central Asia to build shopping malls, skyscrapers and luxury homes during Russia's decade-long economic boom, migrant workers now top 10 million people by some estimates, giving Russia the second largest immigrant population in the world, trailing only the United States.
[...] Mr. Akhatov has decided to stay [in Russia] if he can - to work for a pittance, suffer extortion from employers and the police and live in fear of racist attacks - just like many of Russia's millions of other migrant workers, whose lives are mired in similar penury but who have little hope of surviving in their homelands.
"People have no alternative for making money," said Bakhrom Khamroyev, an ethnic Uzbek who has become a leading advocate for immigrant rights in Russia. "There is no source other than Russia right now."
'Why Americans Don't Hate the Rich'
- Newsweek, February 7, 2009
Well, listen up, you rich guys, this time we really mean it. The President himself is repelled by your rapacious greed, your kids are ashamed to admit that their mom is a banker, even your girlfriends are sick of your whining about your bonus, and you're going to have to learn to live on $500,000 a year like a normal person. Oh, and by the way, nice watch.
[...] For the first time since the 1930s a majority of Americans are in favor of taxing the rich - heavily, if necessary - to redistribute income. But that doesn't mean they want to kill them. So far, at least, they prefer to laugh at them.
'The 'W' Word, Re-engaged'
- The New York Times, February 7, 2009
There has long been an element of the subjective in what gets defined as the "safety net" and what gets attacked as "welfare," that elastic and stigmatizing term. Now rising joblessness and misery have started new conflicts and exposed old rifts.
The recovery measures moving through Congress would spend significant new sums on programs for the needy. The House version includes food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, child care, Head Start, energy assistance, homelessness prevention, disability payments and infant nutrition. A Senate agreement was reached Friday night, with further negotiation to come between the two chambers.
Sponsors of this spending call it a humane response to soaring hardship and an economically productive one; giving money to the poor stimulates the economy, they say, because poor people are quick to spend it. Conservatives have argued that poverty programs undermine work and marriage, and some see the stimulus bill as a stealth expansion of the welfare state.
'You Try to Live on 500K in This Town'
- The New York Times, February 6, 2009
Private school: $32,000 a year per student
Mortgage: $96,000 a year
Co-op maintenance fee: $96,000 a year
Nanny: $45,000 a year
We are already at $269,000, and we haven't even gotten to taxes yet.
Five hundred thousand dollars - the amount President Obama wants to set as the top pay for banking executives whose firms accept government bailout money - seems like a lot, and it is a lot. To many people in many places, it is a princely sum to live on. But in the neighborhoods of New York City and its suburban enclaves where successful bankers live, half a million a year can go very fast.
'Report Quantifies the Level of Disadvantage Faced by Boys and Men of Color in California'
- RAND Corporation, February 5, 2009
African-American and Latino young men and boys have predictably fared worse than their white peers across more than 30 different measures examined by researchers, such as high school graduation rates, likelihood of going to prison, family poverty and the chance they will be diagnosed with AIDS.
'Water - Another Global Crisis?'
- BBC, February 2, 2009
If you look at the numbers, it is hard to see how many East African communities made it through the long drought of 2005 and 2006.
Among people who study human development, it is a widely-held view that each person needs about 20 litres of water each day for the basics - to drink, cook and wash sufficiently to avoid disease transmission.
Yet at the height of the East African drought, people were getting by on less than five litres a day - in some cases, less than one litre a day.
The United Nations' Andrew Hudson calculated the contribution that various factors make to the Human Development Index, a measure of how societies are doing socially and economically. "It was striking. I looked at access to energy, spending on health, spending on education - and by far the strongest driver of the HDI on a global scale was access to water and santitation."
'Preventing and Ending Homelessness-Next Steps'
- The Urban Institute, Feburary 1, 2009
The United States is at a critical juncture. A decade of research has shown what works in ending homelessness, and hundreds of communities were implementing these evidence-based solutions and-until recently-reporting declines in homelessness. The economic turmoil threatens this hard-earned progress.
Policymakers have a choice: they can continue to pour resources into short-term fixes-like emergency shelter and transitional housing-and watch the homeless numbers swell, or they can focus on long-term solutions by seriously investing in affordable housing programs.
'Unemployment Rate Soars for Older Men with Limited Education'
- The Urban Institute, Feburary 1, 2009
As the recession enters its 15th month, job losses continue to accelerate. The downturn has not spared older workers. The January 2009 unemployment rate reached 6.0 percent at age 55 to 64 and 5.7 percent at age 65 and older. Hispanic men, older men working in construction and manufacturing, and those with limited education have been hit hardest.
'Welfare Aid Isn't Growing As Economy Drops Off'
- The New York Times, February 1, 2009
Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.
'Double Jeopardy: What the Climate Crisis Means for the Poor'
- The Brookings Institution, February 2009
Wherever they live, the poor are especially vulnerable to climate shocks because they have such emager resources to fall back on. When faced with rising prices of food or fuel, the wealthy can cope by curbing consumption or dipping into savings. But the poorest families, which spend 50 to 80 percent of their income just to get enough food to survive, rising prices force life-altering choices like pulling children out of school of selling precious livestock-choices that tighten the shackles of poverty beyond any chance of escape.
Similarly, the wealthy can avoid encroaching threats to their physical safety by investing in protective infrastructure or by moving to another location. But the global poor lack the resources to adapt or retreat-and the citizens of the world's fifty-one small developing island states have literally nowhere to go.
'The Poor Man's Burden'
- Foreign Policy Magazine, January/February, 2009
Eighty years ago, a depression changed the way we think about poverty. It took decades for the world to recover and to remember that if people are given freedom, they will prosper. Now, in the wake of another massive meltdown, the fear that shocked us into depending on government to fix poverty is spreading once again, and threatening to undo many of the gains we've made.
- The Atlantic, January/February, 2009
Race doesn't matter, Barack Obama's top advisers argued during the presidential election. At least, that's what they said in public. Behind closed doors, however, Obama's campaign worked methodically to woo white voters without alienating black ones, and vice versa.