Category Archives: Income disparity

Tom Engelhardt: The New American Order: 1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

Based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

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What Happened to the “Feel Good” Economy?

Even though this video is from December (hat tip Philip Pilkington), it gives an informative and nuanced explanation of the rise in income inequality and consumer debt levels, and how they play into our unimpressive “recovery”. The interview of Steve Fazzari and Barry Cynamon by Marshall Auerback discusses how the rise of inequality has many drivers, but the biggest appears to be financialization which is so pervasive and well-protected politically as to make it hard to roll back. It also put focus on key metrics that often get lost in conventional coverage. For instance, inflation and productivity adjusted wages would now need to be over $20 to match the levels of the 1960s.

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Nomi Prins: The Volatility/Quantitative Easing Dance of Doom

The battle between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of global financial policy is escalating to the point where the ‘haves’ might start to sweat – a tiny little. This phase of heightened volatility in the markets is a harbinger of the inevitable meltdown that will follow the grand plastering-over of a systemically fraudulent global financial system.

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Obama Administration Makes Unverifiable Claim of 545,000 IT Job Openings; H-1B Visa Boosting Likely Culprit

Two stories on Slashdot say a great deal about the reality of the labor market versus the official hype. It’s noteworthy that the comments, which are typically fractious at Slashdot, line up almost uniformly on the “employers are looking for insanely specific and often unrealistic experience.” And why might that be? In the case of tech in particular, to justify bringing in more H-1B visa candidates.

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Debunking the Claim that Inequality Fell After the Crisis

A new paper by Stephen Rose of George Washington University that was picked up by the New York Times created a stir by claiming that inequality fell after the crisis. While the crisis proper did hit the well-off hard, and past accounts allow for that, a large range of analyses had found that income and wealth inequality rose after the crisis. That mean the Rose paper was potentially important, and even if not, it was useful to those who’d like to claim that the new normal is benign, even virtuous, so it has gotten quite a bit of attention.

This article by Lance Taylor goes through the Rose paper and other data and finds the “lower inequality” hypothesis to be sorely wanting.

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Austerity Kills: Economic Distress Seen as Culprit in Sharp Rise in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged

I’m surprised, but perhaps I shouldn’t be, that a recent study hasn’t gotten the attention it warrants. It points to a direct connection between the impact of the crisis and a marked increase in suicide rates among the middle aged.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Forced Into Historic Runoff

This Real News Network interview describes why the coming mayoral runoff in Chicago is in many ways a referendum on failed neoliberal policies, such as privatizing schools. The very fact that this race is taking place at all reveals an unexpectedly large degree of popular discontent with misrule by what passes for our elites

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What Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers Don’t Tell You About Income Inequality

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening —picture than we’ve had before.  Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society.

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Wolf Richter: In Search of Cheap Labor in Tech – Behind the H1-B Visa Scenes

his post focuses on how the procedures in the H1-B visa process that are meant to protect workers from unfair competition from foreign workers and contractors are a joke. And this is one of the reasons that the calls by disconnected Beltway pundits and technocrats for American students to get more technically oriented education, most of all in STEM fields, is hopelessly misguided. Companies are more and more refusing to supply much if anything in the way of entry-level jobs, sending yeoman’s work in former white collar professions, including accounting and the law, to outsources in India. And the fix of having more specialized training is just as unrealistic. The more specialized the training, the more at risk you are that those skills will prove to be useless. That is why so many mid-career professionals fall far when they lose their perch, since if they can’t use the narrow expertise that they’ve accumulated, they have to fall back on their generalist skills, which means low-level jobs like call center work, retail, or if they are lucky, a position like an office manager in a small business.

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Can Fast Food Afford a $15 Minimum Wage Without Cutting Jobs?

Yves here. One of the oft-made assertions is that increasing wages in low-wage positions will lead to job losses. But in many industries, direct labor is a not all that large a proportion of total product cost. And with corporate profits at record highs, the immediate impact would normally be to trim profit levels, which have risen to be such a high proportion of GDP as to be deemed by Warren Buffet as well higher than sustainable levels.

Moreover, as this Real News Network segment points out, businesses that pay only minimum wage or barely above it have lots of turnover. That is costly in terms of managerial time. Having a minimum wage that was more like a living wage would reduce employee churn, offsetting some of the cost of the pay increase. Costco has demonstrated that this approach works. It pays more than other discount retailers, and not only does it have less turnover, but it enjoys another gain: less inventory shrinkage, which is often due to theft by employees.

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