“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

Poverty in America

Robert Reich Explains the Economy

Tea Party Pubic Service Announcement

December 28, 2007

Childrens' Defense Fund Report Documents America's "Cradle to Prison Pipeline"

America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline
This CDF report documents America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline, an urgent national crisis at the intersection of poverty and race that puts Black boys at a one in three lifetime risk of going to jail, and Latino boys at a one in six lifetime risk of the same fate. Tens of thousands of children and teens are sucked into the Pipeline each year.

The report includes:
an overview of the major factors behind the Pipeline through stories and statistics and longer term policy goals.
Time Magazine Steve Liss’s moving photographs that show the faces of children in the Pipeline.
Julia Cass and Connie Curry’s case studies describing how the Pipeline affects children on the ground in Mississippi and Ohio at one point in time.
calls for the hard work and persistence needed to build a transforming movement to finish the work begun by the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign to put the social and economic foundations beneath all children and families.
descriptions of some promising approaches to help keep children out of the Pipeline and research tables and state-by-state data of key child indicators



December 26, 2007

Executive Excess 2007 - United for a Fair Economy 14th Annual Survey of CEO Income

Executive Excess 2007
The Staggering Social cost of U.S. Business Leadership
United for a Fair Economy

Key Findings

1. CEOs v. Workers
The Pay Gap
• CEOs of large U.S. companies last year made as much money from just one day on the job as average workers made over the entire year. These top executives averaged $10.8 million in total compensation, over 364 times the pay of the average American worker, a calculation based on data from an Associated Press survey of 386 Fortune 500 companies.
• The private equity boom has pushed the pay ceiling for American business leaders considerably further into the economic stratosphere. The top 20 private equity and hedge fund managers, Forbes magazine estimates, pocketed an average $657.5 million, or 22,255 times the pay of an average U.S. worker.
• Workers at the bottom rung of the U.S. economy have just received the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade. But the new minimum wage of $5.85 still stands 7 percent below where the minimum wage stood a decade ago in real terms. CEO pay, over that same decade, has increased by roughly 45 percent.

The Pension and Perks Gap
• CEOs at major American corporations enjoyed, on average, $1.3 million in pension gains last year. By contrast, only 58.5 percent of American households led by a 45-to-54-year old even had a retirement account in 2004, the most recent year with data. Between 2001 and 2004, the retirement accounts of these average households gained only $3,775 in value per year.
• CEOs of S&P 500 companies, according to Corporate Library data, retire with an average $10.1 million in their Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, just one type of special account large American companies routinely set up for their top executives. But most Americans now move into their retirement years with no pension protection whatsoever. In 2004, only 36.3 percent of American households headed by an individual 65 or older held any type of retirement account. The accounts that did exist, on a per household basis, averaged only $173,552 in value, a miniscule 1.7 percent of the dollars in the supplemental accounts set aside for America’s top CEOs.
• The top 386 CEOs took in perks worth an average $438,342 in 2006. These perks ranged from using private company jets for personal travel to reimbursements for country club fees, commuter expenses, and even the extra taxes due on bonus income. A minimum wage worker would need to work for 36 years to earn the equivalent of what CEOs averaged just in perks last year.

2. U.S. Business Leaders v. Other U.S. Leaders
• Compensation for American business leaders now wildly dwarfs the pay that goes to leaders in other sectors of American society. The 20 highest-paid individuals at publicly traded corporations last year took home, on average, $36.4 million. That’s 38 times more than the 20 highest-paid leaders in the nonprofit sector and 204 times more than the 20 highest-paid generals in the U.S. military.
• The 20 highest-paid figures in the private equity and hedge fund industry collected 3,315 times more in average annual compensation in 2006 than the top 20 officials of the federal government’s executive branch, a group that includes the President of the United States.
3. U.S. Business Leaders v. European Business Leaders
• American business executives appreciably out-earn their European counterparts. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average of $12.5 million, only one third as much as the 20 highest-earning U.S. executives took home last year.
Read the full report

December 22, 2007

Pew Charitable Trust Releases Report on Economic Mobility in the US

Economic Mobility:
Is the American Dream Alive and Well

This report also discusses the implications of new analysis showing that the strength of America’s rising economic tide has not benefited significant segments of our citizenry. Gone are the days when a stable, single income was enough to launch the next generation toward growing prosperity. In modern America, upward mobility is increasingly a family enterprise. And during a time of rapidly shifting household structure, this has significant repercussions for the economic mobility prospects of millions of Americans.


December 21, 2007

New Study by ACORN Exposes Impact of Predatory Lending

Foreclosure Exposure: a study of racial and income disparities in home mortgage lending in 172 American cities
Over the last two years, Americans have increasingly recognized the harm done to homeowners (both families who refinance their homes and new buyers) and neighborhoods by the sharp increase of the issuance of subprime loans. Perhaps most damaging among subprime loan products are Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs), exploding ARMs, no-document loans and other products that do not require lenders to take into account the loan’s long-term affordability for the borrower. ACORN’s report on the 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, “The Impending Rate Shock,” demonstrated that unaffordable loans disproportionately impact minority and low- and moderate- income families and neighborhoods. Now these high-cost loans – many of which are exploding ARMs – have led to the foreclosure crisis that we hear about daily.

December 20, 2007

Everything you ever wanted to know about the mortgage meltdown but were afraid to ask.

The Conservative Origins of the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis
John Atlas and Peter Dreier December 18, 2007

Read the American Prospect magazine's online article about the subprime mortgage crisis to gain an understanding of the real facts behind the headlines. This article lays out how the crisis was allowed, even encouraged, and demystifies the concepts. A must read for anyone interested in learning the facts behind the news.


December 17, 2007

Living Wage Calculator

Pennsylvania State University has developed a web-based living wage calculator that estimates the cost of living in communities and regions throughout the US. You can check by state, county or locality, to find out what the true living wage, not the minimum wage, is in your area. This is based upon a calculation of a wage that is required to meet minimum standards of living based upon the local cost of living. http://www.livingwage.geog.psu.edu/index.php

December 14, 2007

Presidential Candidates Ignore Issues of Urban Areas

Followers of the current presidential campaign, and viewers of the more then twenty presidential debates to date might get the idea that all Americans live in suburbs or pristine rural areas. When all eyes are on two rural, primarily Caucasian, rural states - Iowa and New Hampshire - to influence the outcome of the primary season and to begin whittling the crowded field down, one gets the feeling that the needs of the vast majority of Americans who live in metropolitan areas are being all but ignored. And they are. Affordable housing, mass transit, education and other concerns of metropolitan areas do have not made their way into the sound bites of presidential politics.

In an attempt to remedy that, the Drum Major Institute, a progressive think tank, has interviewed Mayors of cities across the country to hear in their own words, what the needs of their cities are.

You can view videos of these interviews at http://www.mayortv.com/

Let's get a presidential campaign going that represents all Americans, what a refreshing turn of events that would be.

December 13, 2007

Contact Your Senators Now to Support the Omnibus Spending Bill

Omnibus Spending Needs Veto-Proof Majority to Prevent Cuts to Children's Programs

Congress is negotiating now to secure enough votes to enact funding for most federal domestic programs, including vital children's programs such as the Women's Infant and Children (WIC) health program. If they do not get enough votes to override another veto by the President, cuts will get deeper. Please contact your Congressional Representative and Senators to tell them children are at risk if nutrition, housing, home energy, and other vital assistance programs are not fully funded.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a compromise year-end funding bill on Tuesday, December 11; the Senate later in the week. Click here to send your elected officials a message.

You can also contact their offices directly: Call 1-888-245-0215 for the Congressional switchboard.

Latest Snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute

Snapshot for December 12, 2007.

States continue to hemorrhage manufacturing jobs
by Liana Fox and Lauren Marra

Since March 2001—the most recent business cycle peak—the United States has lost nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs, a decline of 17.4%. The Midwest and East Coast have seen the worst fallout from these losses, with Michigan and the Carolinas losing the largest shares of jobs. Since March 2001, Michigan has lost 5.2% of total employment (or nearly a quarter of a million jobs) due to declines in manufacturing jobs. With a few exceptions, the states hit the hardest are all east of the Mississippi.
Interestingly, this decrease in manufacturing jobs comes at a time when productivity growth in manufacturing is largely unchanged.1 As documented in previous EPI research, many of these jobs have been lost due to foreign trade, especially trade with China.

The loss of these relatively high-paying jobs (average weekly wage of $725 compared to overall average of $603) has been a drain on states' economies, as many of these jobs have been replaced by lower wage service sector jobs. The decline in employment in the manufacturing sector also means increased labor competition in other sectors, as unemployed workers try to find jobs elsewhere in the economy. These trends thus threaten to lower labor standards for all workers.

*Go to EPI’s Datazone for a state-by-state table of manufacturing employment. This table will be updated monthly.
Notes1. See Manufacturing job loss: Productivity is not the culprit.
Check out the archive for past Economic Snapshots.

December 9, 2007

New Study Details Factors Leading to Poor School Performance

According to a new study just released by the Educational Testing, services, poor academic performance can be traced to factors outside of the school systems. The study The Family: America’s Smallest School, details factors outside the classroom such as poverty and lack of adequate government support for families including high quality day care and paid family leave. Based on four independent variables measured by state, the researchers were able to predict statewide results on required standardized testing of eighth graders. These variables were: per cent of eight graders missing school more than twice per month, percentage of five year olds whose parents read tot hem daily, percentage of children living in single-parent household, and the percentage of eighth graders who watched five or more hours of TV daily. According to the results of this study, these four variables accounted for approximately two-thirds of the variance among states.

This study points out hat in education, as in so much of social welfare policy, if we were to take a holistic approach, and address the multi-causality of most social problems, we could vastly improve the quality of education. But, as we tend to do as a society, if we continue to see each social issue and problem as mutually excusive and address symptoms rather than causes, we will continue to fail and watch as more and more families fall further behind.

The full study can be accessed at:

December 7, 2007

United for a Fair Economy Offers Downloadable Workshops

Workshop Descriptions
United for a Fair Economy brings lively, energizing workshops on economic inequality to conferences, youth, religious groups, colleges and non-profits across the US. We start with people's own experiences to build a common-sense understanding of the changing economy.
Available UFE Workshops

The Growing Divide: The highly acclaimed workshop that over 35,000 people have participated in nationwide. Reviews recent changes in income and wealth distribution and examines the rule changes that have fueled inequality. Lays out a range of strategic initiatives and specific and immediate steps we can take to reverse the growing gap between the rich and everyone else. http://www.faireconomy.org/resources/workshops/the_growing_divide_workshop

Closing the Racial Wealth Divide: This workshop helps participants critically examine the way in which race shapes the distribution of resources and privilege in the U.S. We use several participatory activities and dialogue to analyze the role of government in supporting (for people of European descent) or blocking (for people of color) the accumulation of assets and, in effect, helped create economic apartheid in the U.S. The workshop also reviews strategies, campaigns, and actions that will help close the racial wealth divide and promote create greater economic equality in general. http://www.faireconomy.org/resources/workshops/racial_wealth_divide_workshop

Fair Taxes for All: An interactive 60-90 minute workshop that reviews the 2001 Bush tax cut, explores the impact of this and other tax law changes on our families and communities, and exposes the political and social agenda driving the new and proposed tax rules. The workshop also provides participants with opportunities to suggest strategies and specific steps for both defensive and proactive efforts for fair taxation. http://www.faireconomy.org/resources/workshops/fair_taxes_for_all
War and the Economy WorkshopWar & the Economy : Too Many Guns, Not Enough Butter is an interactive workshop about economic inequality, not about the morality of war & militarism. The U.S. economy is increasingly focused on expanding the military. This expansion intensifies the cycle of concentrated wealth and concentrated power, drains resources from social spending, and thereby worsens economic security for most Americans. http://www.faireconomy.org/resources/workshops/war_and_economy_workshop

High Pay, Low Pay, Fair Pay!: A highly interactive workshop for youth that looks at recent trends in income, engages participants in a role play to explore the factors and values that should determine wages, and reviews action steps to address economic inequality. http://www.faireconomy.org/resources/workshops/high_pay_low_pay

December 6, 2007

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Reports President's Budget will Cut 500,000 From WIC Program

President’s Vetoes Could Cause Half a Million Low-Income Pregnant Women, Infants, and Children to be Denied Nutritional Benefits in One of Nation’s Most Effective Programs
By Zoё Neuberger and Robert Greenstein

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides nutritious foods, counseling on healthy eating, and health care referrals to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under age five who are at nutritional risk. Unlike other key low-income nutrition programs, such as food stamps or school meals, there is no entitlement to WIC benefits. WIC funding is “discretionary,” which means it is provided each year through the appropriations process. If funds are insufficient, eligible applicants are turned away or put on a waiting list for services, and some current participants may be dropped.
WIC currently serves about 8.5 million low-income mothers and young children with a budget of over $5 billion. The program has been acclaimed for its effectiveness — as documented by an extensive body of research — in reducing the incidence of low-weight births, reducing child anemia, and improving nutrition and health outcomes. WIC is widely regarded as one of the most effective programs at any level of government, and there has long been a bipartisan commitment — adhered to by previous congresses and by both the Clinton and Bush administrations until now — to provide sufficient funding to serve all eligible, women, infants, and children who apply.

Now, however, the Bush Administration’s insistence on limiting overall funding for domestic discretionary programs to the level proposed in the President’s budget — and the President’s vow to veto the agriculture appropriations bill because it exceeds the level his budget proposed for that bill — is raising the specter of substantial cuts in the program. (For a discussion of the President’s veto threat, see the box on page 3.) If funding for WIC, along with other domestic discretionary programs, is reduced to the level the President has proposed, the number of low-income women, infants, and children served by the program will have to be cut by more than 500,000 below the current level.

Funding Level Proposed by the Administration is Insufficient to Avert Cutbacks
The President proposed a fiscal year 2008 funding level for WIC of $5.387 billion, which was intended to serve an average monthly caseload of 8.28 million participants. At the time the President’s budget was put together late last year, this amount may have seemed sufficient. For two years in a row the per-participant cost of WIC foods had actually declined. Since the budget was developed, however, dairy prices have soared, and they are expected to remain elevated in fiscal year 2008. Milk and cheese account for about 40 percent of WIC food expenditures. Prices have also risen to high levels for juice and eggs, which account for another 25 percent of WIC food costs. As a result of higher food prices, it will cost significantly more than the Administration had anticipated to serve each WIC participant in fiscal year 2008.
Based on current food prices (and the latest estimates of food prices for the rest of fiscal year 2008), the funding level provided in the President’s budget would serve an average monthly caseload of only 7.97 million participants, significantly fewer than the Administration intended.[1]
Moreover, participation has risen somewhat in recent months as WIC food prices have spiked, making it more difficult for low-income families to afford these foods without assistance, and as unemployment has started to climb. The program served 8.48 million participants in the final quarter of fiscal year 2007, the most recent period for which data are available. Thus, the number of women, infants, and children that the program serves is 510,000 above the number who could be served under the funding level in the President’s budget.

To date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the WIC program, has instructed the states (which actually operate the program) not to turn eligible WIC applicants away even though the funding level for fiscal year 2008 is uncertain. This has been helpful in averting WIC cutbacks until now. But if WIC funding ends up at the level in the President’s budget, it will mean that states will have operated for the first several months of the fiscal year at a funding level that significantly exceeds the available funding rate for the fiscal year — and states will actually need to cut WIC caseloads by more than 510,000 people in coming months to end up with an average participation decline of 510,000 for fiscal year 2008 as a whole.[2]

Moreover, reductions in the WIC caseload below the current level do not reflect the likelihood that the number of eligible families seeking WIC services will increase if adequate funding is available. Based on WIC participation trends and the current economic outlook, the Center estimates that the average monthly WIC caseload in fiscal year 2008 would increase by 70,000 — from the current level of 8.48 million to a level of 8.55 million — if all eligible applicants were served. Thus, an estimated 580,000 mothers and young children would likely be turned away if the program is funded at the level proposed by the President.

December 4, 2007

Landmark study based on new "Middle Class Security Index" developed by Demos and Brandeis University; Findings announced at 11/28 press tele-conference

Full Report Available for Download at www.demos.org or iasp.brandeis.edu

New York, NY--Fewer than one in three middle-class families in America is financially secure, and the remaining majority are either borderline or at high risk of falling out of the middle class altogether, according to a new study published this week by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy (IASP) at Brandeis University.

By a Thread: The New Experience of America's Middle Class is the first comprehensive report to measure economic stability across the American middle class. Based on national government data, By a Thread is the first in a series of reports and briefing papers that will utilize the new Middle Class Security Index developed by the non-partisan policy center Demos and IASP/Brandeis.

This Index measures the financial security of the middle class by rating household stability across five core economic factors: assets, educational achievement, housing costs, budget and healthcare.Based on how a family ranked in each of these factors, they were defined as financially "secure," "borderline" or "at risk"."Much like a common cholesterol test that shows whether someone's cardiovascular health is at risk, the Middle Class Security Index shows that financial health eludes the majority of the American middle class," said Thomas M. Shapiro, Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis and one of the co-authors of the report. "It also points to specific areas-like lack of assets-that inhibit financial security."

The Middle Class Security Index shows worrying trends:
Only 31 percent of families who would be considered middle-class by income are financially secure.
One in four middle-class families match the profile for being at high risk of slipping out of the middle class altogether.
More than half of middle-class families have no net financial assets whatsoever.
Middle-class families have median debt of $3,500 and at least half of them have no assets.
Only 13 percent of middle-class families are secure in their asset levels-meaning that they have enough to cover most of their living expenses for nine months should their regular income cease; 79 percent are "at risk" in this category, meaning they could not cover the majority of their expenses for even three months. Another 9 percent are "borderline."
Twenty-one percent of middle-class families have less than $100 per week ($5,000 per year) remaining after meeting essential living expenses. These families are living from paycheck to paycheck with very little margin of security.

The participants of a press conference to launch the report commented on these findings: "If we look back at the public investments of the mid-twentieth century--the GI Bill, federal home loan guarantees, better funding for public education and college--we see that they were geared at two key benchmarks on the way to the middle-class: assets and education," said Henry Cisneros, Chairman of CityView and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. "But the Middle Class Security Index provides a real measurement of where we are after years of seeing those investments whittled away. American families are at risk of falling out of the middle class and never getting back in, and many of those who were excluded from the initial public investment--Latinos and African Americans--are among those with the greatest vulnerability. It's time for a new public investment to stabilize the household economy and build the future middle class."
"The By a Thread report findings mirror a reality of today's unstable economy: The nation's mortgage lending crisis is threatening the fabric of the urban communities that we revitalized by providing economic opportunity for more than 30 years. The ramifications of foreclosures on property values, municipal costs, crime, and consumer credit extends beyond the middle class and the neighborhoods most widely impacted by irresponsible lending practices," said Jean Pogge, Executive Vice President, Consumer and Community Banking for ShoreBank.
"Workers in America are suffering a now generation-long stagnation of wages and rising insecurity," said Ron Blackwell, Chief Economist at AFL-CIO. By a Thread provides a unique metric for the resulting stress on middle class living standards and outlines bold policies to create an economy that works for all."

The Middle Class Security Index findings reported in By a Thread spotlight the strengths and vulnerabilities of the middle class by identifying barriers to financial security and offering solutions that would enable the broad majority of American families to enjoy a stable middle-class life. The report recommends a set of policies that will help open access to, and strengthen, America's middle class. Legislative proposals cover a range of important issues affecting American households, including asset building and debt reduction, making higher education more accessible and affordable, and addressing the healthcare crisis. "The Index is the launching point for a range of new work that will examine economic stability in America's middle class," said Jennifer Wheary, Senior Fellow at Demos and report co-author. "In the coming months we'll be adding new reports that illuminate middle- class stability by age, race and income-several of the key demographic factors that will inform future public policy investments."
The Middle Class Security Index will be updated biennially, with accompanying reports, as new national data become available. A PDF version of By a Thread is available for download at demos.org or iasp.brandeis.edu. To order a hard copy or to arrange an interview with one of the authors, please see contact information above.