Income inequality


This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them. Farewell!. (CTsT)

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Maybe a higher minimum wage isn’t so bad for job growth after all.

The 13 U.S. states that raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not, providing some counter-intuitive fuel to the debate over what impact a higher minimum has on hiring trends.

Many business groups argue that raising the minimum wage discourages job growth by increasing the cost of hiring. A Congressional Budget Office report earlier this year lent some support for that view. It found that a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, as President Obama supports, could cost 500,000 jobs nationwide.

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But the state-by-state hiring data, released Friday by the Labor Department, provides ammunition to those who disagree. Economists who support a higher minimum say the figures are encouraging, though they acknowledge they don’t establish a cause and effect. There are many possible reasons hiring might accelerate in a particular state.

“It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data “isn’t definitive,” he added, but is “probably a reasonable first cut at what’s going on.”

Just last week, Obama cited the better performance by the 13 states in support of his proposal for boosting the minimum wage nationwide.

“When … you raise the minimum wage, you give a bigger chance to folks who are climbing the ladder, working hard…. And the whole economy does better, including businesses,” Obama said in Denver.

In the 13 states that boosted their minimums at the beginning of the year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was 0.61 percent.

Nine of the 13 states increased their minimum wages automatically in line with inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Four more states – Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island – approved legislation mandating the increases.

Twelve of those states have seen job growth this year, while employment in Vermont has been flat. The number of jobs in Florida has risen 1.6 percent this year, the most of the 13 states with higher minimums. Its minimum rose to $7.93 an hour from $7.79 last year.

Some economists argue that six months of data isn’t enough to draw conclusions.

“It’s too early to tell,” said Stan Veuger, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “These states are very different along all kinds of dimensions.”

For example, the number of jobs in North Dakota – which didn’t raise the minimum wage and has prospered because of a boom in oil and gas drilling – rose 2.8 percent since the start of this year, the most of any state.

But job growth in the aging industrial state of Ohio was just 0.7 percent after its minimum rose to $7.95 from $7.85. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Veuger, one of the 500 economists who signed a letter in March opposed to an increase in the federal minimum, said the higher wages should over time cause employers to hire fewer workers. They may also replace them with new technologies.

The Congressional Budget Office cited those factors in its February report. But in addition to job losses, the CBO also said a higher minimum could boost paychecks for another 16.5 million workers.

Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said that research comparing counties in states that raised their minimums with neighboring counties in states that did not has found no negative impact on employment.

Restaurants and other low-wage employers may have other ways of offsetting the cost of higher wages, aside from cutting back on hiring, she said. Higher pay can reduce staff turnover and save on hiring and training costs.

State and local governments have become increasingly active on the issue as the federal minimum wage has remained unchanged for five years. Twenty-two states currently have higher minimums than the federal requirement.

And 38 states have considered minimum wage legislation this year, the most on record, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least 16 will boost their minimums starting next year, the NCSL says.

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AP Economics Writer Josh Boak contributed to this report, July 19, 2014

Politically speaking, Sarah Palin is crazy — but in an entertaining way. Speaker of the House John Boehner may look reasonable by comparison, but his supposed rationality is pretty dubious.

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Before I proceed to pick on these GOP icons, I want to acknowledge that I spend a lot of time blasting Republicans in my columns and cartoons. Many readers assume it’s because I’m a commie-pinko, America-hating liberal Democrat. Actually, my constant critique of today’s GOP has more to do with the fact that I grew up in a time and place where Republicans were often the smart, sane ones and quite a few Democrats were part of a regressive, corrupt old guard.

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Sarah Palin defines craziness for the Republican Party
Coming from a long-time-Republican family, I leaned toward the GOP in my sympathies and my votes well into my 20s. But those were the days when the word “Republican” was not synonymous with conservative and conservative was not synonymous with reactionary, anti-intellectual, gun-worshiping, gay-bashing, immigrant-fearing populism.

So, as a lapsed Republican, I am disappointed with the narrowness, rigidity and willful ignorance of those contemporary Republicans who claim the right to brand any Republican who disagrees with them a “Rino” (Republican in name only).

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Judged by the long history of the party, if anyone is an actual Rino, it’s Sarah Palin. She has recently confessed as much, revealing an inclination to leave the GOP behind because the party lacks zeal for her list of kooky causes. One cause, in particular, has failed to ignite the passions of party leaders: the impeachment of President Obama.

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Last week in a column on Breitbart.com, Palin declared, “Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas.’ “

She wrote that “the many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored,” but failed to clarify what those crimes may be. One of the president’s worst sins, as Palin sees it, is that he has made many Americans “feel like strangers in their own country.” Setting aside the reality that sweeping demographic, cultural and economic changes are far more likely the cause of traditionalist alienation than anything the president has done, it should be noted that making some folks feel excluded is not an impeachable offense. Imagine how marginalized anti-war liberals felt when George W. Bush was president.

Boehner apparently knows that trying to lead an impeachment effort is a fool’s errand. He dismissed Palin’s impeachment manifesto with two words: “I disagree.”

Instead, he and the House GOP leadership are taking the president to federal court, saying he has overstepped the limits of his constitutional role. This might seem a saner course of action if not for the political loopiness of the premise on which they are basing their lawsuit. After fighting against Obama’s Affordable Care Act for most of the president’s time in office, after taking countless votes to repeal the act and after running in 2010 and 2012 on a platform demanding repeal of the law, the Republicans now want to force the administration to put the law into full effect.

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Obama has delayed implementation of the employer mandate provision of the ACA twice since 2013. Now, penalties that will punish employers for not providing healthcare coverage to their employees will not kick in until 2016. Boehner contends Obama has usurped the powers of Congress by fiddling with the deadlines.

It is an interesting legal question that a court will decide somewhere down the line, but no one is naïve enough to believe that constitutional clarity is truly Boehner’s goal. Republicans hate the mandate as much as they hate the whole healthcare law. The lawsuit is merely a milder version of the impeachment campaign; another gambit in the ceaseless effort to block the Democratic president at every possible turn.

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This juvenile partisan towel fight has consumed most of the efforts of Republicans for way too long. Immediate action is needed to keep the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money by the end of August. By the end of September, a long list of other bills must be passed to avert another government shutdown. Plus, there’s the debate about renewal of the Export-Import Bank and the bill to address the latest border crisis. But all that necessary work may not get done because the House majority is too fixated on undoing the last two presidential elections.

For her part, Palin mocks Boehner’s little ploy. “You don’t bring a lawsuit to a gunfight and there’s no room for lawyers on our front lines,” she said, boldly mixing her metaphors on Fox News.

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These aren’t real Republicans. This is a clown troop.

 

* Text by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2014 

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell!. (CTsT)

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This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world. There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them. Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell!. (CTsT)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

 

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world.

1 2 3 4

There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them.

5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell!.

CTsT

 

 

This section of Graphic Humor in political-economic, national or international issues, are very ingenious in describing what happened, is happening or will happen. It also extends to various other local issues or passing around the world.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

There are also other non-political humor that ranges from reflective or just to get us a smile when we see them.

10 11 12

Anyone with basic education and to stay informed of important news happening in our local and global world may understand and enjoy them.

Farewell.

CTsT

 

 Fast-food workers and labor organizers marched, waved signs and chanted in cities across the country on Thursday in a push for higher wages.

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Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.

The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.

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At a time when there’s growing national and international attention on economic disparities, advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That comes to about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

On Thursday, crowds gathered outside restaurants in cities including Boston, Lakewood, Calif., Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., where protesters walked into a Burger King but didn’t stop customers from getting their food.

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In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald’s. A few employees said they weren’t working but a manager and other employees kept the restaurant open.

Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald’s maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it’s hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.

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“I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I’m relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I’m a single parent,” Waters said.

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In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald’s at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn’t look up from eating and reading amid their chants of “We can’t survive on $7.25!”

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Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes.

Later in the day, about 50 protesters rallied outside a Wendy’s in Brooklyn. Channon Wetstone, a 44-year-old attorney ended up going to a nearby Burger King because of the protests.

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She said that fast-food employees work very hard. When asked if she’d be willing to pay more for food so they could earn more, she said it would depend on what she was ordering.

“I would say 50 cents, 75 cents more,” Wetstone said.

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The push for higher pay in fast food faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on being able to offer low-cost meals and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked.

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Fast-food workers have also historically been seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry’s high turnover rates. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has helped put their wages in the spotlight.

Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, is coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets. The firm says its clients are the coalitions in each city, such as Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15. Those groups were established with the help of the SEIU, which is also listed on Berlin Rosen’s website as a client.

Fast Food Protest

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, said most protesters were union workers and that “relatively few” restaurant employees have participated in past actions. It called the demonstrations a “campaign engineered by national labor groups.”

McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said in statements that their restaurants create work opportunities and provide training and the ability to advance. Burger King reissued its statement on past protests, saying its restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans.

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In the meantime, the protests are getting some high-powered support from the White House. In an economic policy speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama mentioned fast-food and retail workers “who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty” in his call for raising the federal minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the wage hike by the end of the year. But the measure is not expected to gain traction in the House, where Republican leaders oppose it.

Fast Food Strike

Supporters of wage hikes have been more successful at the state and local level. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved an increase in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

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AP  |  By By CANDICE CHOI and SAM HANANELPosted: 12/05/2013

AP Writer Mike Householder contributed from Detroit, AP videographer Johnny Clark contributed from Atlanta and AP Video Journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed from New York, AP Writer Mitch Weiss from Charlotte, N.C.

Americans aren’t so sure about rich people.

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For every revered Steve Jobs, there’s a reviled Bernie Madoff; for every folksy Warren Buffett, there’s a tone-deaf Mitt Romney. The pursuit of happiness is patriotic, but the pursuit of riches can come off as greedy. This ambivalence toward the wealthy is embedded in American democracy, and no one knows how to yank it out.

Even Alexis de Tocqueville agreed — a good thing, too, because discussing democracy in America without quoting “Democracy in America” is forbidden. “Men are there seen on a greater equality in point of fortune . . . than in any other country in the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance,” Tocqueville wrote of his travels in the United States. But then, the dagger: “I do not mean that there is any lack of wealthy individuals in the United States. I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken stronger hold.”

So Americans dislike inequality but crave wealth — and this paradox propels our mixed feelings about the rich. Oppressors or job creators? Ambitious go-getters or rapacious 1 percenters?

Robert F. Dalzell, a historian at Williams College, believes he has an answer. America has a long-standing deal with the rich, he explains, one that allows the country to “forge an accommodation between wealth and democracy.” It’s simple: Yes, rich people, you can exploit workers and natural resources and lord your wealth over everyone if you like, and we’ll resent you for it. But if, along the way, you give a chunk of your fortune to charity, all will be forgiven, old sport. History won’t judge you as a capitalist; it will hail you as a philanthropist.

This uneasy bargain is the premise of Dalzell’s “The Good Rich and What They Cost Us,” which chronicles the deal from before the revolution through the recent financial crisis. Of course, just because the deal has lasted this long doesn’t mean that it will endure. Or that it is a particularly good one. Or that the rich aren’t constantly trying to rewrite the terms.

Early on, the wealthy waited until their deaths to strike the deal. Dalzell writes of Robert Keayne, a prominent 17th-century Boston merchant who sought to cleanse his price-gouging reputation by devoting his posthumous riches to college scholarships, improvements in his city’s water supply and defense, and construction of a town hall where important men like him could discuss weighty things. His will became a unilateral contract with town leaders; if anyone tried to sue his estate for past misdeeds, Keayne stipulated, all his giving would “utterly cease and become void.” Boston took the deal.

John D. Rockefeller saw no reason to wait. His Standard Oil empire — whose ruthless business tactics Ida Tarbell exposed and whose interlocking parts the Supreme Court split up — became the basis for the greatest philanthropic enterprise the world had ever seen. From major financial commitments to Spellman College and the University of Chicago, to support for medical research that developed the yellow-fever vaccine, to the financing of the Cloisters museum in Upper Manhattan and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, to list just a few initiatives, Rockefeller and his descendants set the model for modern, large-scale philanthropy. And they did so in a way that preserved the family’s influence and wealth over multiple generations.

“There was something Medici-like about the whole effort,” Dalzell writes, “for within the soul of that great Renaissance family there lay an urge to combine what many might have thought uncombinable — vast wealth and dedicated public service.”

But he also sees a more prosaic motivation: Billionaires want to polish their reputations for posterity. Wealth does not dull their sensitivity to what we think of them; it heightens it. Dalzell thinks it is no coincidence, for example, that the Giving Pledge — a public commitment by the world’s richest individuals, led by Buffett and Bill Gates, to donate most of their fortunes — coincided with the Great Recession’s backlash against the wealthy.

So, the rich just want to be loved. Is that so wrong? If more than 100 of the planet’s wealthiest families and individuals are promising to give away unfathomable amounts of money, why quibble?

Well, there’s at least one reason: The deal gets worse as the price paid for the rich’s charity — the inequality between the affluent and the rest — keeps rising. From 1979 to 2007, the real, after-tax income of the top 1 percent of the U.S. population grew by 275 percent, compared with 18 percent for the bottom fifth, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Social mobility has become more stunted in the United States than in Europe. And Americans see themselves falling further behind: A Washington Post-ABC News polllast year found that 57 percent of registered voters believed that the gap between the rich and rest was larger than it had been historically; only 5 percent thought it was smaller.

The deal will get even worse if efforts to push laws and policies that benefit wealthier Americans succeed. In “Rich People’s Movements,” Isaac William Martin, a sociologist at the University of California at San Diego, says today’s tea party is just the latest manifestation of another American tradition: the mobilization of wealthy and middle-class citizens in an effort to cut their taxes and contributions to the state.

Before the tea party, Martin tells us, there were tax clubs — groups of bankers throughout the South that agitated for tax cuts and helped bring about the Revenue Act of 1926, which “cut the tax rates on the richest Americans more deeply than any other tax law in history.” Before we hadGrover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform, we had J.A. Arnold and the American Taxpayers’ League, and Vivien Kellems and the Liberty Belles, a 1950s women’s movement that campaigned to repeal the income tax. And before Arthur Laffer and supply-side economics, there was Andrew Mellon, the banker, philanthropist and Treasury secretary whose 1924 book,“Taxation: The People’s Business,” argued that cutting income tax rates would create more revenue through greater economic growth.

Rich people’s movements respond to perceived threats, such as the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to cap incomes during World War II (because “all excess income should go to win the war,” FDR explained) or, now, the policies of the Obama administration. But these movements sell their efforts not as benefiting the rich alone — that would be too transparent, too tacky. Instead, they claim to protect freedom, promote growth, safeguard the Constitution or fend off an ever-more-intrusive government. Martin calls this “strategic policy crafting,” and it brings more allies to the fight.

In fact, it is not just the wealthy, but often the middle class or the slightly-richer-than-average who have campaigned for lower taxes on affluent Americans. “People need not be dupes in order to protest on behalf of others who are richer than they are,” Martin argues. “The activists and supporters of rich people’s movements were defending their own real interests, as they saw them. A tax increase on the richest 1 percent may be perceived by many upper-middle-income property owners as the first step in a broader assault on property rights.” In other words, there’s nothing the matter with Kansas.

Shortly before the Republican National Convention gathered last year to nominate a man who could have become one of the richest presidents in U.S. history, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey on American attitudes toward the wealthy. The chronic ambivalence was there: Forty-three percent of respondents said rich people are more likely than the average American to be intelligent, and 42 percent believed that the rich worked harder than everyone else. The good rich! But 55 percent said wealthy people were more likely to be greedy, and 34 percent thought they were less likely to be honest. The bad rich.

Can “giving pledges” and foundation grants sustain America’s deal with the wealthy in a time of increasing inequality and falling social mobility? In his conclusion, Dalzell worries that the belief in the generosity of the good rich leads us to “tolerate, even celebrate, the violation of some of our most cherished ideals” of fairness and egalitarianism.

Perhaps the dilemma of extreme wealth and disparities in a democracy is that noblesse oblige becomes necessary. These two books show that the wealthy give much with one hand but seek to contribute far less with the other. That makes the giving they choose to do all the more critical but all the less accountable.

And that doesn’t sound like such a good deal.

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By Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, November 27, 2013

Not too long ago, I woke up, grabbed my iPhone and popped onto Facebook to see what I had missed since falling asleep. What can I say other than I play on social media like it’s my job. Normally my news feed is full of baby photos, food, and travel shots and the occasional questionable joke. On this particular morning, I was faced with a photo of a food stamp with a note to “those on welfare” who “don’t work” and “milk the system.” The post was calling for “accountability.” I just shook my head in disappointment.

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While most political comments don’t hit me very hard (we all have a right to our opinion), I have a difficult time with those that group any set of people into a section and blame and berate them. It’s especially disturbing when those I know make these kinds of statements and then look me in the eye and say it to me as though I am above some kind of fray. Quite frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, there are people who abuse all kinds of systems, regardless of their tax bracket, but too often I hear people equate poverty with laziness or worse, criminal behavior, and it’s heart-wrenching for me on a deeply personal level.

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I have made no secret that I come from way down. I grew up in various cockroach-infested apartments with a violent, drug-addicted ex-felon father and a mother who did me both a favor and a great disservice by leaving. The only person I had to watch over me and make sure that I had food, water, and ice for my wounds was my beloved, hardworking and retired grandfather who supported me with a $500 monthly budget that was paid to him via pension and social security.

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That included rent money.

When we lost our home (thanks to my father skipping bail) we moved into our fishing trailer and ate Pork and Beans nearly every weeknight for dinner. On weekends, we lived lakeside and ate the fish we caught. Finally, after we had to spend one third of our income on my eyeglasses, we went to sign up for food stamps, and stood in line for our boxed block of “government cheese.” For a former foreman and a little girl who was already made fun of for a number of reasons and who was particularly sensitive to her grandfather’s feelings, it was humiliating.

GERMANY, BERLIN, - ARCHE is a German Christian child and juvenilia registered association in ab problem district of East-Berlin, Berlin-Hellersdorf, It is considered as representative project in the fight against child poverty, O,p,s, Children during 5

I hated seeing my proud and dignified hero standing in line for handouts. This was a man who prided himself on being self-sufficient and instilled a sense of duty and independence in me from day one. We were not drug addicts living the high life-we were just poor.

“You will be educated and life will be better for you when you get older, Brenda Lynn,” he promised. He was going to fight like hell to see that it happened. “You just need to go to college and you’ll never have to go through this again.” But I was five years old. We had a few years, hospital trips, pairs of shoes, and meals to worry about.

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My grandfather had a moral fiber as thick as wool. He was a God-fearing man who treated everyone with dignity and respect, volunteered to help others, worked odd jobs to make money for us, and taught me to also treat everyone with dignity and respect, reminding me that “we are all equal, and we all put our pants on one leg at a time.” He may not personally have agreed with your way of life, but he’d certainly vote for your right to live as you saw fit as long as it did not hurt anyone else.

He tipped his hat to women on the street. He firmly shook the hands of men. He opened doors. He gave what he had to help others, and he kept his word. He pressed and polished our cheap clothes and shoes to make us look as nice as possible. He didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He paid his taxes-on time.

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My grandfather wanted what all good, decent and loving fathers want for their daughters–the best, safest and most dignified life. While he’d have to save up for a few months to buy me a new dress at Sears in order to see the bright surprise flash across my face, I believe we were rich. Very few children enjoyed the conversation, love, companionship and connection we had. Having a hamburger and slice of pie once a week was our “big date” when we could afford it, and believe me when I tell you that there is still no better “date” for me today.

I was raised to believe in hard work, the value of education, human interaction, honoring your word, equality and making your own way in this world and helping others. When he passed away, everything beautiful in my world went with him.

I was bounced from home-to-home and turned to the system only once when I was cold and needed somewhere to sleep over Thanksgiving. I walked into Juvenile Hall and asked to stay there. Those two days were enough time for me to realize that I needed to stay under the radar.
God knows it would have been easier to have food stamps to offer someone to take me in or medical insurance, but I had to make due without both. On the occasion that I needed to go to the doctor, I went to Planned Parenthood. Not to exercise my right to choose, but for breast exams and free medical attention in a facility that treated me like a human being.
When I tried to work at 14, I was told I was not old enough to get a full time job. So, I worked under the table when I could and accepted food, clothes and shelter from those who felt sorry for me. Equally humiliating.

When it was time to go to college, I had the grades and essays to get in, but I was under 24 and that meant that I needed a parental signature. I was on my own and never a ward of the court, a painful purgatory for someone who ached to just get to the starting line like everyone else.

Thanks to President Clinton, an amendment was made, making it possible for kids who had been on their own and who had stayed out of the system (i.e., bounced from home-to-home or on the streets) to prove they were alone and apply for loans on their own and go to school. With that, a scholarship and loans, I attended American University, excelled where I could and Interned at The White House.

In the time since childhood and now, I have made an incredible family of friends who are on both sides of the political fence. Some of my friends feel very strongly about helping others whereas others feel we should all be responsible only for helping ourselves. Some of my friends are gay and have been humiliated, put down, abused, shut out and treated as second-class citizens by family members and strangers alike solely because they love the “wrong” gender. I have friends who have started rehabilitation programs and others who have benefited from them. I have friends who go to church every week and others who have never stepped foot into one. I personally believe in God and God said that we should steer clear of judging others unless we want to be judged ourselves. I believe God judges deception, bigotry, cruelty and those who live their lives in ways that bring pain to others.

You may not believe this. We don’t have to agree. But I will still show you respect, not only because that’s how I was raised, but because it feels right on a deep and human level.

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I am writing this because I want to say that I was one of those “welfare” people so many people callously group into the “lazy” section of the room. While I am now often told by these same people that I am one of the hardest working people they know, the reality is that there is no way I would be where I am today without the help I received in my past. Some tell me, “Yeah, but you are an exception.”

No, I am not.

I am just one of the many people born under difficult circumstances who wanted to do better and needed a little help getting onto my feet. Now that I am on them, I do my best not to forget what it felt like when I was not. If anything, my past has benefited me in that it has served as a strong warning not to play the “we” VS “them” game as one day you might be the “them”.

 

*Text by  Brenda Della Casa, Nov.2013

Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

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A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

Of course, in any society, social power is relative; any of us may be higher or lower in a given interaction, and the research shows the effect still prevails. Though the more powerful pay less attention to us than we do to them, in other situations we are relatively higher on the totem pole of status — and we, too, tend to pay less attention to those a rung or two down.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain. In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit.

Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.

In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.

Social distance makes it all the easier to focus on small differences between groups and to put a negative spin on the ways of others and a positive spin on our own.

Freud called this “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theme repeated by Vamik D. Volkan, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, who was born in Cyprus to Turkish parents. Dr. Volkan remembers hearing as a small boy awful things about the hated Greek Cypriots — who, he points out, actually share many similarities with Turkish Cypriots. Yet for decades their modest-size island has been politically divided, which exacerbates the problem by letting prejudicial myths flourish.

In contrast, extensive interpersonal contact counteracts biases by letting people from hostile groups get to know one another as individuals and even friends. Thomas F. Pettigrew, a research professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed more than 500 studies on intergroup contact. Mr. Pettigrew, who was born in Virginia in 1931 and lived there until going to Harvard for graduate school, told me in an e-mail that it was the “the rampant racism in the Virginia of my childhood” that led him to study prejudice.

In his research, he found that even in areas where ethnic groups were in conflict and viewed one another through lenses of negative stereotypes, individuals who had close friends within the other group exhibited little or no such prejudice. They seemed to realize the many ways those demonized “others” were “just like me.” Whether such friendly social contact would overcome the divide between those with more and less social and economic power was not studied, but I suspect it would help.

Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.

 

* Text By  Daniel Goleman (NYT, Oct. 5, 2013)

The divide between rich and poor is widening in developed nations, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

According to the new data, economic disparity has risen more from 2007 to 2010 than in the preceding 12 years. Over this period, the OECD has documented increasing income inequality caused by the financial crisis, which it says is “squeezing income and putting pressure on inequality and poverty.”

In 2010, the richest 10 percent of people across 33 OECD member states earned 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 percent. That factor is up from 9 in 2007. The largest differences among OECD countries were found in Chile, Mexico, Turkey, the United States and Israel, while the lowest were in Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Denmark.

Levels of income inequality have worsened across three-quarters of all OECD countries since 2007. This gap rose most rapidly in nations where the euro crisis has hit hardest, coinciding with soaring unemployment. For example, in Spain and Italy, the average income of the top 10 percent stayed relatively stable, but the poor became drastically poorer.

Income inequality in the United States and Latin America — particularly Chile and Mexico — has tended higher than in Europe. This trend continued into 2010. The top five most unequal countries (in descending order) were Chile, Mexico, Turkey, the United States and Israel. Portugal, the European nation with the highest income inequality, was ranked sixth.

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(More detail in this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient)

 

Traditionally, OECD countries have had lower levels of inequality than non-OECD nations such as India, China and Russia. Despite the economic downturn, the economies of China and India grew above the OECD average over the past decade and are continuing to develop. Though these emerging economies have reduced levels of poverty, they have also seen increased levels of income inequality.

In most OECD countries, the growing gulf between rich and poor was alleviated slightly by welfare support. While most countries experienced increases in disposable income inequality and relative poverty, the levels in 2010 were only slightly higher than in 2007, perhaps due to the deployment of fiscal stimulus packages.

The OECD report warns that if governments continue to cut benefits programs and pursue austerity policies, levels of inequality could continue to grow. Michael Förster, senior analyst at the OECD social policy division, said that they have taken this report as an opportunity to “raise the red flag” about the necessity for social welfare provisions in softening the blow of the economic downturn.

“At this stage in most countries, including most European countries, the crisis is not over. Just yesterday, France announced that it is in a recession,” Förster said. “The problem is that the focus of governments has shifted from stimulus to austerity measures.”

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría explained that governments must find ways of growing their economies while supporting individuals who are most at risk.

“These worrying findings underline the need to protect the most vulnerable in society, especially as governments pursue the necessary task of bringing public spending under control,” Gurría said in a statement. “Policies to boost jobs and growth must be designed to ensure fairness, efficiency and inclusiveness. Among these policies, reforming tax systems is essential to ensure that everyone pays their fair share and also benefits and receives the support they need.”

 

By Eliza Mackintosh, May 16, 2013, (The Washington Post)