There’s always a lot of noise on campaign trails about cutting taxes. But as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) points out, the real question is: Whose taxes?
A new report by EPI finds that since 1995, the wealthiest of the wealthy in this country have gotten far more tax breaks than those in the middle- and lower-income brackets, with the average effective federal tax rates falling more than 9 percentage points for the top 0.01 percent of households and more than 6 percentage points for the remaining households in the top 1 percent. Effective tax rates also have fallen for households between the 20th and 99th percentile, but by less than 3 percentage points.
As EPI economist Josh Bivens writes:
With the Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2013, tax fairness is likely to be a prominent topic throughout the Presidential campaign.
The Census was good enough for Thomas Jefferson. But apparently not so for today’s House Republicans. Yesterday, they passed, by 232 to 190, a measure to cut the American Community Survey, conducted annually as part of the U.S. Census.
Republicans “attacked the survey as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, according to Michael McAuliff at The Huffington Post. McAuliff notes that none other than left-leaning, government-loving George W. Bush in 2005 expanded the Census survey from every 10 years to an annual survey of 250,000 households, “making the survey more manageable, cheaper and more timely.”
As McAuliff reports: “Rep. Chaka Fattah, who ran the floor debate for Democrats, seemed especially vexed.”
“We’ve been doing surveys in the long form since 1790 as a nation,” Fattah said, referring to the time when Thomas Jefferson oversaw the census. “It’s critically important. The idea that we’re going to leave the greatest country in the world with less information about the condition of communities and of our families—and that we’re going to do that appropriately—defies logic.”
The good news is that the Democratically controlled Senate is too smart to pass such a dumb bill.
But House Republicans weren’t done. David Waldman at Daily Kos sums up the other stellar moves yesterday by House Republicans (our letter of opposition to this bill that we sent to House members is here.):
The House snuck in a few suspension bills early on, before diving back into the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill. It was another marathon session, and by late last night they debated some 20-plus proposed amendments. Oh, let’s see…there was one prohibiting the use of funds for defending court challenges to the Affordable Care Act. And one to prohibit the use of funds to litigate against any of state on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board pertaining to secret ballot union elections. And one to prohibit the use of funds by the Department of Justice to bring any action against any state for implementation of a state law requiring voter identification. And of course, one to prohibit the use of funds to implement a section of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows miniature horses to be used as service animals. Gotta have that.
Meanwhile, America’s unemployed workers struggle to find jobs in an economy in which there are more than three jobless workers for every one job, yet these are the issues congressional Republicans are occupying themselves with.
What do you think? Should House Republicans focus on miniature horses and Census surveys?
“For Most Graduates, a Grueling Job Hunt Awaits,” The Wall Street Journalwrites today. Over the weekend, The New York Times sounded the alarmabout employers’ growing use of unpaid internships in fields that typically have never exploited free labor.
So, how bad is it for young workers? According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), over the past year
the unemployment rate for young high school graduates averaged 31.5 percent and the underemployment rate averaged 54.7 percent. For college graduates, the unemployment rate averaged 9.4 percent over the last year, while the underemployment rate averaged 19.1 percent. Unemployment rates for young African American and Hispanic high school and college graduates were higher than overall rates.
Between 2000 and 2011, the real wages of young high school graduates declined by 11.1 percent, and the real wages of young college graduates declined by 5.4 percent. Entering the labor market during a downturn can have long-term scarring effects on young workers, in the form of reduced earnings, greater earnings instability and more spells of non-employment over the next 10 to 15 years, according to a recent EPI briefing paper, ”The Class of 2012: Labor Market for Young Graduates Remains Grim.”
Compounding their economic grief, young workers face huge student debt loads, a burden that only will increase if Congress doesn’t act ASAP.
(If you’re in Washington, D.C., join young workers on Capitol Hill to meet with key offiicals and tell them what young people are saying about student loans, unemployment, access to higher ed and affordable health care. Click here to hop on a bus to the Hill and to find out more.)
Economist Heidi Shierholz, one of the report’s authors, says the solution to the crisis for young workers is the same as that for all the more than 14 million jobless Americans:
The policies that will most effectively help young workers right now are ones that generate strong job growth overall, like fiscal relief to states, substantial additional investment in infrastructure and direct job creation programs in communities particularly affected by unemployment.
Hat tip to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) for spotting this:
The Republican National Committee (RNC) used a call center based in the Philippines to hold a media conference attacking President Obama’s economic record, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today.The RNC didn’t help its image by pointing out that the call was run by Verizon.
Companies like Verizon that have shipped call center operations overseas have contributed to the devastation of the U.S. based call center industry. While the industry still comprises approximately 3 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, the industry lost more than 500,000 jobs between 2006 and 2010, largely because of the off-shoring trend. This continued trend depresses our economic recovery.
Thousands of working families are gathering outside the Verizon shareholder meeting this morning in Huntsville, Ala., to protest the company’s “VeriGreedy” treatment of customers, workers and taxpayers.
Even as Verizon tripled the compensation of CEO Lowell McAdam to$23.1 million last year, the corporation was outsourcing U.S. jobs, gutting worker pensions and charging current and retired employees and their families thousands of dollars more for health benefits while cutting disability coverage. Verizon employees have been struggling to win a new contract for nearly a year.
Verizon, a $100 billion company, paid no federal income taxes in 2010—but that didn’t stop the corporation from socking customers with a new $30 fee to upgrade phones, giving Verizon another $1 billion a year.
You can take part in the action today by calling Verizon executives at 800-229-9460. Tell them it’s the hard work of tens of thousands of customer support representatives, technicians, electricians and other workers that has fueled Verizon’s success. Let Verizon know the corporation’s workers should not be punished with job cuts and increased health care and benefit costs while Verizon executives get huge pay raises and the company sits on $14 billion in cash holdings and short-term investment.
Call 800-229-9460 now to record a message that will be delivered directly to Verizon executives.
After you have left your message for Verizon executives, click here to find out if an event is happening in your area today you can attend to support Verizon workers.
Today we launched the 2012 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch site—now called CEO Pay and the 99%—which includes the most comprehensive data accessible on 2011 executive pay. All of the data available is searchable by industry, by state and by the top 100 highest-paid CEOs. Check it and help us share it widely.
CEO Pay and the 99% shows that a CEO of a company in the S&P 500 Index, on average, received $12.9 million in total compensation in 2011. That’s nearly a 14 percent raise over the previous year. And that’s on top of a 23 percent increase in 2010.
In stark contrast, the average wage for workers hovered at $34,000 in 2011. Median household income fell $3,700 over the past decade. And those who are employed received an average 2.8 percent raise—barely keeping up with inflation.
The new site also features data on:
Swelling corporate cash stockpiles. Corporations have a record $2.2 trillion in cash on their balance sheets, according to the Federal Reserve. But rather than reinvest this capital to grow our economy and create jobs, CEOs are not deploying these resources.
Mutual funds’ votes on executive pay. Mutual funds wield enormous clout on CEO pay issues in part because of the new “say-on-pay” requirement that shareholders cast an advisory vote on CEO pay. In this new section, investors can look up how their mutual funds voted and ask their mutual funds to vote against runaway CEO pay levels.
You also can take action to rein in out-of-control CEO pay: Send an e-mail to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and urge it to implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s requirement that public companies disclose their ratio of CEO-to-worker pay.
Forget two-speeds. It’s more like the 1 percent is in a fast lane and the rest are stalled in the parking lot.
Affirming the findings of the study, authored by Emmanuel Saez, Economic Policy Institute (EPI) President Lawrence Mishel adds that at the same time, those in the bottom 90 percent of the income scale have seen their wage share retreat to what it was in 2006—when it was the lowest in any year (dating back to 1937).
A big contributor to declining income is the nation’s historically high long-term unemployment, and a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) looks at how many of the millions of workers struggling with unemployment and under-employment are not being counted—yet are experiencing “significant and long-lasting loss of earnings, deterioration of skills, poverty and even higher rates of divorces and reduced physical and mental health.”
Under the standard measure of long-term unemployment, half of all unemployed African American men have been jobless for more than six months or longer, followed closely by roughly 49 percent of unemployed Asian men, African American women and Asian women, according to “Long-Term Hardship in the Labor Market.”
However, the report’s alternative measure (which includes discouraged workers, workers marginally attached to the workforce and workers who are part-time for economic reasons) shows that African American men are much more likely than other workers to experience long-term hardship. About 9 percent of all black men in the labor force, compared with 7 percent of black women, 5 percent of Latinas and 4 percent of Latino men had been unemployed for six months or longer in 2011.
Says John Schmitt, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a co-author of the report:
The recovery, which officially started in the summer of 2009, has provided almost no relief to those experiencing long-term hardship in the labor market.
If you can’t be there in person, you can be there online. Click here to sign a pledge of solidarity with the marchers and tell us why you are joining the virtual march. Your comments will be shared with the marchers on the ground so they know there are tens of thousands standing with them.
See more photos here and check out photos on the Facebook page of AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, who is among leaders of the march and has posted photos of Martin Luther King III, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders.
While the unpaid Family Medical Leave Act is federal law, it covers only firms with 50 or more employees and contains other restrictions. Writes Adams:
Employees who need to take sudden leave to care for a loved one often try to use accrued vacation days or sick days. Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, a network of 16 state coalitions that support family-friendly policies, says many workers don’t realize that federal law does not mandate that employers provide either vacation time or sick days. Also, many employers who provide those benefits, require advance notice, and don’t allow workers to take sick days to care for family members.
A few states, like California and Minnesota, also have flexible care laws, which require employers who offer paid sick days to allow workers to use the time to care for family members.
Bravo’s group hopes more states pass such laws. In New York City, where Colbert lives, a paid sick day law is pending and statewide, there is a bill that would provide family leave insurance, similar to California’s and New Jersey’s. “Our goal is to have many more men do what Stephen Colbert is doing, and be present for a parent,” says Bravo. “Many men would be better fathers, sons and husbands if they weren’t punished for it on the job.”
Overall union membership increased by 49,000 from 2010 to 2011, including 15,000 new 16- to 24-year-old members, according to new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data out this morning. An increase of 110,000 in the private sector was partially offset by a decline of 61,000 in the public sector, making the rate of union membership essentially unchanged at 11.8 percent, with some 14.8 million U.S. workers union members.
Public-sector density increased from 36.2 percent to 37 percent though November 2011. Private-sector union membership remains at 6.9 percent. The largest increases in union membership were in construction, health care services, retail trade, primary metals and fabricated metal products, hospitals, transportation and warehousing.
Despite an unprecedented volley of partisan political attacks on workers’ rights and the continuing insecurity of our economic crisis, union membership increased slightly last year. Working men and women want to come together and to improve their lives.