Archive for the ‘distribution of wealth and opportunity’ Category

INCOME INEQUALITY COSTS US MORE THAN WE REALIZE

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

–The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal.

–In the 1964 President Johnson said all US citizens should have equal rights.

–Our Constitution says we all enjoy the right of equal protection under the law.

–Our collective national ethos says equal opportunity for all is a hallmark of our democracy.

But equal really means “as close as we can get.”  At best, our citizens, our government, our businesses, mass communication, and our cultural and educational institutions share a common goal of treating everyone the same in all our transactions, unless there is a valid reason for not doing so (e.g. special parking places for the handicapped) At worst, the goal is tossed aside and we enter a free-for-all of everyone for themselves.  Folks, we are rapidly approaching that worst.

Where you live, how much money you have, and the color of your skin are the first and foremost determinants of how fairly your equal rights will be applied, what kind of legal protection you will get, and what social and economic opportunities will be available to you.  Paradoxically, although we have put in place numerous laws designed to accomplish equal rights and equal opportunity—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and affirmative action and equal opportunity requirements in hiring and admission to universities for example—actual opportunities between upper and lower income citizens are not fairly distributed.  This unfair distribution clearly parallels the income gap between upper and lower class wage earners, and like the income gap, the opportunity gap is also widening.   Because no matter how many laws are in place, in actual practice, the power of money to influence politics and social policy trumps actual enforcement of laws and regulations. (more…)

A BAD SOLUTION IN SEARCH OF A NONEXISTENT PROBLEM

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Voter ID laws are unnecessary and undemocratic

Reports of polling place voter fraud are very rare. The incidence was 0.0009% in a review of the 2004 Washington State governor’s race. The same year in Ohio, a review of that year’s election revealed a fraud rate of 0.0004%1. An evaluation of the 2004 election in Wisconsin came up with a 0.0007% voter fraud rate. Studies to determine the amount of improper voting showed that most was either improper voter registration or ineligibility of someone with a previous felony conviction. According to Spencer Overton, a George Washington University law professor and former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “a photo ID requirement would prevent over 1000 or perhaps 10,000 legitimate votes for very single improper vote prevented”2.

Voter ID laws, which are largely championed by Republican and conservative groups, have a disproportionate negative voter eligibility effect on minority groups [African-Americans and Latinos], young voters, the elderly and people with disabilities. These groups, in a large majority tend to vote democratic. There is also a significant cost to taxpayers in states that have passed these laws to educate voters and provide for the photo ID’s. [It’s been estimated at $20 million in North Carolina.] Also in many states several identification forms are required to qualify for a government issued photo ID and many potential voters who will need to obtain them cannot do so because of cost or inability to get time off work.3

The Brennan Center for Justice says that these laws may disenfranchise as many as 3.2 million of the 29 million citizens of voting age in 5 states where new photo ID laws will go into effect for the 2012 election. [Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin]4. Charles Brow, quoting the Brennan Center, reports that prior to the 2006 general election no states in this country required a government issued photo ID as a qualification for voting5. It hardly seems a coincidence that once Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, those opposed to his reelection would come up with plans to suppress the vote of those groups who so strongly supported him and many other successful Democrats in 2008. The takeover of many state legislatures and governorships since 2008 has certainly facilitated this movement. Even in 2008 there was beginning concern that “voter fraud” was a myth and had already become a partisan issue. Also, it pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court, by upholding Indiana’s voter ID law showed that it “will not perform its historic role of protecting voters”6. This movement toward universal voter ID requirements can certainly be considered a sad, outrageous and undemocratic move to reverse the amazing progress throughout the last century, beginning with the women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement and voting laws of the 1960’s to encourage universal voter participation for all eligible voters.

For an excellent summary of these issues and documentation of other voter suppression laws and how these actions, if unchallenged, could change the electoral landscape please look at a summary of voting law changes in 2012 from the  Brennan Center for Justice7.  For a discussion of the complexities of evaluating the truth in voter fraud claims see the current article by Steven Rosenfeld in AterNet8   Also see an article by Bill Blum in Truthdig for a discussion of past, current and future worrisome role of the U.S. Supreme Court in evaluating these ubiquitous voter suppression laws9.

1.http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/

2. Diannis, Judith Browne, Five Myths about voter fraud. Washington Post opinions, 10/04/2011

3. http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/the_challenge_of_obtaining_voter_identification/

4.  http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/voting_law_changes_in_2012/Executive Summary

5. Blow, Charles W. Where’s the Outrage? OpEd New York Times 7/28/2012

6. The Myth of Voter Fraud. Editorial New York Times 5/13/08

7. http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/2012_summary_of_voting_law  changes.8.

8. http://www.alternet.org/gop-voter-fraud-hucksters-latest-lie-felons-made-franken-us-senator?

9. http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/278-76/12784-voter-suppression-and-john-roberts-new-world-order

URGENT NEED FOR MORE FEDERAL STIMULUS TO HELP STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS REPLENISH PUBLIC SECTOR JOB LOSSES

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Summary: Additional information has become available since our blog entry on 6/28/2012 on the importance of further stimulus to the Public sector economy of the United States .  A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute concludes that the lack of continued stimulus to the Public Sector is the single biggest factor responsible for inadequate country-wide job growth over the past 3 years.1 IPPA contends that this is a serious ethical as well as an economic concern. IPPA feels that this failure for Congress to provide further stimulus as a result of Republican unwavering resistance is not only immoral but unpatriotic.

The 2009 stimulus and the auto industry rescue, supported by President Obama and Congressional democrats, cushioned the serious effects of the recession Obama inherited. The mainstay of these initial stimulus efforts was Federal aid to States. The subsequent Republican opposition to providing a second federal stimulus in 2010 and ultimately also blocking President Obama’s $450 billion jobs bill in late 2011 has resulted in a catastrophic negative effect on State budgets and secondarily on public sector jobs.2

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute states that the loss of 627,000 public sector jobs since 2009, largely due to State budget cuts, has been the major negative effect on job growth in the last three years. This, as severe and disruptive as it is, understates the severity of the problem. Judging by population growth in those years the Public Sector should have added nearly 500,000 jobs simply to restore the level of local government services to the norm of the last 20 years. This widespread shortage of public sector jobs includes teachers, social workers, public health officials, and other professionals, along with police and firefighters–jobs that might have been available for the many currently unemployed recent college graduates.

An additional disaster is that this 1.1 million deficiency in public sector jobs translates into some 750,000 lost jobs in the private sector. This is a result of less spending by laid-off state and local government as well as private contractors losing out on government projects. Another 400,000 jobs may have been lost because of reduced consumer spending because states have made cuts in aid to the poor and unemployed. These compounded effects quickly spread and the nationwide economy suffers.

The Economic policy Institute concludes that if it were not for this widespread forced State and local government austerity [which the IMF has recently cautioned against and the European Union has finally realized that stimulus is needed to produced growth3] there would have been as many as 2.3 million jobs nationally and the unemployment rate would be more like 7% instead of the current 8.2%.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a Nobel Prize winner to conclude that this country needs immediate Federal stimulus to the Public Sector to help alleviate the widespread suffering this lack of job availability is causing nationwide. IPPA stands on the principle that this existing lack of Congressional response is a moral issue as well as an economic one. IPPA states that for the Republicans in Congress to continue to thwart and threaten to filibuster President Obama’s attempts to alleviate these dire and unnecessary circumstances is both immoral and unpatriotic.

1. Blevins, Josh and Shierholz, Three years into recovery, just how much has state and local austerity hurt job growth? 6/6/12 The Economc Policy Institute Blog http://www.epi.org/blog/years-recovery-state-local-austerity-hurt/

2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/12/opinion/the-road-to-more-jobs.html

3. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/business/economy/imf-clips-global-growth-forecast-for-2013-to-3-9.html

COMMUNITY BANKS Part four THEIR UTILITY FOR GENERAL BANKING

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Community banks need to have sufficient assets and have some branches where they can service several local communities. The New America Foundation in Washington D.C. was the first to propose (2008) as a vehicle a Community Bank Trust Fund, to be administered by the Treasury Department.8 Their study stressed that some such banks need funding sources beyond local depositors. They proposed that funding could come from a tax of about one-half of 1 percent of the dollar amount of asset-backed securities, to be collected by the SEC. As a precedent, they refer to the Federal Home Loan Banks that are required to give 10 percent of their annual net income for the Affordable Housing Program.9 This is a matter that voters should bring to the attention of their congressional representatives. (more…)

COMMUNITY BANKING Part three SERVICE FOR THE LOWER AND MID INCOME GROUP

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Some of us need credit, especially at the end of the month, for food or gasoline, or to pay utility bills. So our first remarks concern that part of the population. Although in 2009 12% of the population had no regular bank account into which to tap, the numbers are higher for Afro-Americans (28%) and Hispanics (30%). When economists write about this group, they refer to them as “low and mid income people (LMI)”. For some, there were no banks available. The number of banking institutions dropped BY 35% from 1975-95 and that included dropping branches in low income communities. Large banks bought up community ones and the number of the latter dropped from 14,000 in 1985 to 7,000 in 20081.3 (more…)

COMMUNITY BANKS Part two

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Ethical Considerations That Favor Community Banks

Ethics are directly related to social relationships, and here are some reasons why the ethics favor community banks:. Community and Credit Union banking involves community relationships between borrowers and lenders. There is a good probability that they will know each other or have mutual acquaintances. The character of borrowers and lenders counts for something in decisions that contribute to trust and loyalty. There can be a mutuality of interest between creditors and those to whom they lend. Within the large, international banks, the relation is transactional, counting mainly as business deals. The future destiny of some locally invested funds within the international banks may not be known by either party.1
(more…)

THE CASE FOR COMMUNITY BANKS, RATHER THAN LARGE, GLOBAL BANKS Part one

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

The Third Essay in the sequence on income inequality.

This is the first in a series of four blog entries that seek to demonstrate the link between income equality and economic and financial policies and to show how community banks can help to alleviate income equality in the country.  This topic is rarely if ever covered in mainstream media.

“ While community banks with assets under $1 billion represent less than 11 percent of banking assets, they provide nearly 40 percent of the loans the banking industry makes to small businesses, extending credit that is crucial to job creation…They have a unique role to play in our financial system.”—-FDIC Acting Chairman, Martin J. Gruenberg, American Bankers Association, October 25, 2011.–

Summary: IPPA supports the use of community banks and credit unions for people who routinely bank as individuals or as family members. In contrast, the priority of large international banks is to provide services to corporations, many of them global. Their profits come mainly from trading, which may not benefit local depositers. We can ask if those big banks provide any local social or economic benefit. Normally, community banks have less than $1billion in assets, and, until 1994 made up 94% of the banking industry. Their officers are usually members of the local community. Below, we also point to warning flags to consider when making a choice among community banks, such as their assets and collateral and the composition of their boards. We offer compelling ethical reasons why those institutions may warrant our business, one of which is that there are community relationships between borrowers and lenders, which may foster trust. We begin by flagging the services community banks could provide to people at the lower end of the income spectrum.

CONSUMER DEBT AND ITS SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

[Second in a Series on Income Inequality]
Summary
The United States, more than any other country, raises consumer spending to a virtue and sometimes denigrates saving. Some believe that it is patriotic to spend rather than save. This is the finding of Princeton history Professor Sheldon Garon, in his book “Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves” (Princeton University Press, 2012).  After 9/11, President Bush encouraged Americans to go to the mall, or to Disney World. Public officials have told the nation that we can have growth in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through debt. This essay asks the question whether or not consumer debt is always a good thing. By examining the recent nature of debt in our country, it shows that,  along with consumer spending  and  increased personal debt, has come a rapid rise, through debtor interest and fees, in the wealth of some of the lending banks, corporations, and their officers. Critics have described them as parasitic on the middle and lower income ranks. We point to the consequences of the rise in borrowing  and the income gap, for distrust of government  and reduction in social mobility. We argue for your consideration of community banks as a family banking destination. (more…)

THE HOUSING CRISIS, ITS EFFECT ON THE ECONOMY and a POTENTIAL SOLUTION

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Part 1: Summary
• Housing debt is at the center of the slow American economic recovery
• Home values are in a downward spiral endangering the entire economy
• The private residential mortgage market has inadequate infrastructure to reverse this trend
• Proposed solution-lower mortgage principle nationwide through a cooperative effort of the mortgage industry and the Federal Government.
• Consider modifications of existing mortgage agreements
If implemented, this plan would result in a win-win situation for both borrowers and creditors and benefit the entire country

Part 2: Background

 “There is widespread agreement among economists that housing debt is at the heart of the slow [economic] recovery, and that finding a way to bring it down faster would accelerate the recovery.”[1]The home values in the market are in a downward spiral which, if left unresolved, endangers the entire economy. In a recent article Joe Nocera, interviewed Laurie Goodman [senior managing director Amherst Securities], who states that there are 55 million home mortgages in the United States, and greater than 10 Million of them are reasonably likely to default, due to so many homes being “underwater” [meaning that the owners owe more on their mortgages than their home is currently worth]. This is due to the severe drop in home prices since the housing bubble burst in 2008. In addition the supply of available housing will continue to outstrip demand. It’s estimated that there could develop a glut in excess of 6.2 million houses. [2] There are fewer home buyers because multiple factors are at work.  These include the grim economic outlook, high unemployment, lack of personal savings for down payments, young adults returning home to live with their parents, and tightening mortgage lending standards.

 Goodman says that the combination of all these factors has led to a “death spiral” in the housing market initiated by supply/demand imbalance, leading to decreased home values, more home owners underwater, an increased number of defaults, more foreclosures, an increase in the supply/demand ratio, and so on and on spiraling downward!

  What can be done? (more…)

DANGER: THE EROSION OF UNITY IN OUR COUNTRY. THE ELECTION OF NOVEMBER 2012 MAY NOT SLOW IT

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Major Underlying  Cause
The distribution of wealth and opportunity in the United States has become unfair and  unbalanced

Evidence
(1) The spread of the “Occupy” movement
(2) Two-thirds of Americans believe there are “strong conflicts” between rich and poor in the U.S. [source: Pew Research Center, poll dated 12/6-19/11]
(3) The financial services industry grew from 5%-6% of GDP in the 1980’s to 16%-17% in 2006. The top 1% of earners accounted for 24% of all income in 2011.
(4) Based on the 2010 census, personal consumer debt is about $2.4 trillion, or $7,800 for every adult and child in the U.S..  70% of the GDP in the U.S. is from consumer spending.

Moral Relevance of the Situation

(1) Fairness is a basic and universal moral principle, which concerns equal sharing of benefits and pains, within culturally variable limits. But the principle of fairness is violated when there is no sharing of the pain of an economic crisis. An example is the housing crisis where the lenders have little pain (because they do not modify the mortgages and can sell the foreclosed houses), and the borrowers have all the discomfort.
(2) Another example of unfairness is the reduced opportunity for upward mobility in the U.S. in comparison with Europe, because parental economic difficulties carry over to the educational access of the next generation.
(3) These problems lead to a reduction in public trust in government.

What  to Do

(1) Keep informed. Read the IPPA website (www.ippa.us). Do not be passive.