The Typical Household, Now Worth A Third Less

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Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too. The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially. The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 95 percent of the population had less wealth.) It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worth increased 14 percent over the same 10 years. Other research, by economists like Edward Wolff at New York University, has shown even greater gains in wealth for the richest 1 percent of households. For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets.

Fast-food Workers Ready To Escalate Wage Demands

Image: Low wage workers take part in a protest organized by the Coalition for a Real Minimum Wage outside the offices of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo,

Fast-food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years. About 1,300 workers are scheduled to attend sessions Friday and Saturday at an expo center in Villa Park, Ill., where they’ll be asked to do “whatever it takes” to win $15-an-hour wages and a union, said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the national effort and a representative of the Service Employees International Union. The union has been providing financial and organizational support to the fast-food protests that began in late 2012 in New York City and have included daylong strikes and a protest outside this year’s McDonald’s shareholder meeting that resulted in more than 130 arrests. “We want to talk about building leadership, power and doing whatever it takes depending on what city they’re in and what the moment calls for,” said Fells, adding that the ramped-up actions will be “more high-profile” and could include everything from civil disobedience to intensified efforts to organize workers. “I personally think we need to get more workers involved and shut these businesses down until they listen to us,” perhaps even by occupying the restaurants, said Cherri Delisline, a 27-year-old single mother from Charleston, S.C., who has worked at McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $7.35 an hour.

American Cities Criminalizing Homelessness

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The latest report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty reveals that most municipalities believe in criminalizing, not helping, the down and out. For the report, the organization studied laws in 187 cities. Seventy-six percent of towns prohibit begging in specific public places, a 20 percent increase since 2011. However, the most dramatic uptick, the authors write, “has been in city-wide bans on fundamental human activities” such as sleeping in your car. A full 43 percent of cities prohibit people from sleeping in vehicles, an increase of a shocking 119 percent since 2011. And 53 percent of cities prohibit people from parking themselves on a curb or against a building. That’s down 3 percent since 2011, but at a time when the number of homeless people is expected to rise in 2014 and affordable housing is in short supply, these ordinances and laws come off as draconian.

Donors To Elite Institutions Exacerbate Wealth Gap

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Most Americans probably think a major goal of philanthropy is to fight poverty. But a closer look reveals that giving by foundations and philanthropists exacerbates wealth inequality in the United States. Look at some of the trends: Thousands of local fundraising groups have been created to raise private money for public schools–and almost all of them channel resources primarily to schools attended by the children of people who live in affluent neighborhoods. Elite colleges and universities are the major beneficiaries of multimillion-dollar gifts, and its those kinds of donations that are a key reason giving to higher education grew 9 percent last year. Yet these institutions are so high-priced, few low-income and working-class students can afford to attend. Arts institutions saw donations soar in the past year, according to “Giving USA,” also because of donations by the wealthy. Most of the institutions that benefit from the bulk of private donations are established institutions that cater to the upper and middle classes. Meanwhile, “Giving USA” showed much smaller gains for social-service groups and other kinds of organizations that raise money primarily from people who aren’t multibillionaires.

Global South Calls For Respect Of Sovereignty & Economic Justice

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1. We, the Heads of State and Government of the member States of the Group of 77 and China, have gathered in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Plurinational State of Bolivia, for the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Group. 2. We commemorate the formation of the Group of 77 on 15 June 1964 and recall the ideals and principles contained in the historic Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries, signed at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), held in Geneva. 3. We recall that the first ever statement of the Group of 77 pledged to promote equality in the international economic and social order and promote the interests of the developing world, declared their unity under a common interest and defined the Group as “an instrument for enlarging the area of cooperative endeavour in the international field and for securing mutually beneficent relationships with the rest of the world”.

Stop The War On The Poor Campaign

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Stop the War on the Poor commemorates Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). In 1968, just prior to his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr condemned the Vietnam War and called for the PPC culminating in a Poor People’s March in DC in June, demanding a living wage and a guaranteed income. He said Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity andgenerosity”. Coretta Scott King spoke out against poverty and in support of welfare mothers. King learnt from welfare mothers. They had been calling for a poor people’s campaign and urging his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to oppose “anti-welfare” legislation and support their right to welfare. As a result of their leadership, King became anti-capitalist and anti-war.

F**K FIFA: Why A Majority of Brazilians Think The World Cup is Bad For Brazil.

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In this episode of Acronym TV, Derek Poppert of Global Exchange talks with Dennis about his Re-Think The Cup series. In a recent piece from the series, FIFA: Return The Beauty To The Beautiful Game, Derek writes: “So who wins the World Cup? While it may seem that decision is still getting played out in stadiums across Brazil, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is surely laughing from his luxury suite. The winner had already been decided well before the first match even began. FIFA’s 4 billion dollars in untaxed revenue from the event is the trophy. It appears to be of little interest to Mr. Blatter or other FIFA execs that this trophy has come on the backs of 200,000 low-income people being forcefully evicted from their homes to make room for the event, 8 construction workers dying in the frenzied rush to erect stadiums on time, or 14 billion dollars in Brazilian taxpayer money being spent on the tournament in the face of poverty, inequality, and widespread social issues within Brazil.”

Brazilian Families Displaced By World Cup Wait For Relief

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In preparation for hosting the World Cup, the Brazilian government spent the outrageous amount of $10 billion and displaced as many as 250,000 people–evicting the poorest from their homes and sweeping up homeless from the streets. Since the World Cup started, thousands have protested lavishing public resources on a sports event while poverty is rampant. Journalists Tim Eastman and Shay Horse have been in Brazil covering the protests and events outside the sports arenas. We had the opportunity to visit a group of families who were victims of these forced removals. One hundred days ago, military police evicted 160 families of the Telerj area of Rio de Janeiro from their homes. They lived in an area which had been gifted by the government of Dilma Roussef. For a short time, they occupied City Hall but were violently ejected by military police. Since then, they have traveled around and resettled in various areas of Rio, wandering from place to place without a home.

Preconditions For An Actually Democratic Society

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As the Fourth of July is celebrated across the US – in the glow of unprecedented economic polarization, a ballooning prison population, and a barrage of dire climatological studies, among other pieces of evidence leading ever more people to consider whether our collective way of life is in need of a fundamental transformation – an examination of the ostensible objects of our celebration (independence and democracy) seems in order. Aside from the concept of independence (and the question it implies: independence from what?) democracy, it should be remarked, is an especially vague and ambiguous concept. Indeed, because democracy can refer to egalitarian, emancipatory politics, as well as to the political-economic systems of the slavery-based societies of the southern US or ancient Athens – an initial distinction should be drawn between egalitarian forms of democracy (which tend to be organized more or less horizontally, with social resources distributed more or less evenly) and what, in practical terms, are really plutocratic societies – or what, perhaps, can be termed market-based democracies (which tend to be more or less hierarchical and representational). And it’s the market-based or plutocratic society that, with only minor egalitarian democratic interruptions and adjustments, exists today and characterizes what democracy has meant since the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the late 18th century.

Americans Without Rights

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Over sixty five million people in the US, perhaps a fifth of our sisters and brothers, are not enjoying the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” promised when the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. They are about twenty percent of our US population. This July 4 can be an opportunity to remember them and rededicate ourselves and our country to making these promises real for all people in the US. More than two million people are in our jails and prisons making the US the world leader in incarceration, according to the Sentencing Project, a 500% increase in the last 30 years. Four million more people are on probation and parole, reports the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

World Of Resistance Report: Inequality, Injustice And The Coming Unrest

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In Part 1 of the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, I examined today’s global order – or disorder – through the eyes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. National Security Adviser and long-time influential figure in foreign policy circles. Brzezinski articulated what he refers to as humanity’s “global political awakening,” spurred by access to education, technology and communications among much of the world’s population. Brzezinski has written and spoken extensively to elites at American and Western think tanks and journals, warning that this awakening poses the “central challenge” for the U.S. and other powerful countries, explaining that “most people know what is generally going on… in the world, and are consciously aware of global iniquities, inequalities, lack of respect, exploitation.” Mankind, Brzezinski said in a 2010 speech, “is now politically awakened and stirring.” But Brzezinski is hardly the only figure warning elites and elite institutions about the characteristics and challenges of an awakened humanity. The subject of inequality – raised to the central stage by the Occupy movement – has become a fundamental feature in the global social, political and economic discussion, as people become increasingly aware of the facts underlying the stark division between the haves and have nots.

The Pitchforks Are Coming... For Us Plutocrats

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You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud.

Leveling The Playing Field For Worker Cooperatives

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A quiet revolution is rumbling through New York’s municipal offices as they retool to support the creation of worker cooperatives as a way to fight poverty. Spurred by the powerful example of immigrant-owned cleaning cooperatives and the longstanding example of Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx – the largest worker cooperative in the country – progressive city council members are allying with a new network of worker cooperatives, community based organizations that incubated immigrant-owned coops and the influential Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies to figure out how the city can encourage this still-tiny economic sector. Once fully in place, New York City will be a national leader in providing municipal support for these democratic enterprises. The pace of change is dizzying. In January, the federation released a short report arguing that worker coops help improve traditionally low-wage jobs by channeling the enterprises’ profits directly to their worker members, improving their lives in tangible ways. Then in February, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, chairwoman of the Committee on Community Development, held a hearing which put staff from the city’s Small Business Services and Economic Development Agency in the hot seat about how they were promoting worker cooperatives.

Tens Of Thousands March Against Austerity

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A spokesman for the People’s Assembly, which organised the march, said the turnout was “testament to the level of anger there is at the moment”. He said that Saturday’s action was “just the start”, with a second march planned for October in conjunction with the Trades Union Congress, as well as strike action expected next month. People’s Assembly spokesman Clare Solomon said: “It is essential for the welfare of millions of people that we stop austerity and halt this coalition government dead in its tracks before it does lasting damage to people’s lives and our public services.” Sam Fairburn, the group’s national secretary, added: “Cuts are killing people and destroying cherished public services which have served generations.”

London: Massive Assembly Against Austerity

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Tens of thousands rallied in London today to protest imposed austerity and cuts to basic services. Here is the day in their own words through their tweets and photos. The mainstream media failed to cover the protest despite its size. They protested privatization of public services such as health care and they protested growing unemployment and poverty. And they chastised the media for blacking out the event.