The Common Good

Quick Read - Economic Justice

Income Inequality Talk Too Hot For TED

The National Journal'Jim Tankersley writes:

There’s one idea, though, that TED’s organizers recently decided was too controversial to spread: the notion that widening income inequality is a bad thing for America, and that as a result, the rich should pay more in taxes. TED organizers invited a multimillionaire Seattle venture capitalist named Nick Hanauer – the first nonfamily investor in Amazon.com – to give a speech on March 1 at their TED University conference. Inequality was the topic – specifically, Hanauer’s contention that the middle class, and not wealthy innovators like himself, are America’s true “job creators.”
 
Read more here
 
UPDATE: The Atlantic has the full transcript of the talk here
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An Election Between the 1 percent and the 99 percent?

For The NationAri Berman argues that President Obama must hold Wall Street accountable:

It’s easy to forget that the 1 percent, while overwhelmingly powerful in our political system, are by nature a tiny minority of voters. Thus, Obama’s core message should be about ensuring fairness and expanding opportunity for the 99 percent. But he won’t have the credibility to make such a message stick unless he jettisons what has been the albatross around his administration’s neck—the closeness between Washington and Wall Street.

Learn more here

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Is Hope the Key to Tackling Poverty?

In the latest edition of The Economist, a new theory on how to tackle poverty: offer hope.

The idea that an infusion of hope can make a big difference to the lives of wretchedly poor people sounds like something dreamed up by a well-meaning activist or a tub-thumping politician. Yet this was the central thrust of a lecture at Harvard University on May 3rd by Esther Duflo, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology known for her data-driven analysis of poverty. Ms Duflo argued that the effects of some anti-poverty programmes go beyond the direct impact of the resources they provide. These programmes also make it possible for the very poor to hope for more than mere survival.

Read more about Ms. Duflo's research here

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Tony Perkins Says Government "Crowding Out" Anti-Poverty Nonprofits

In a heated discussion with MSNBC's Martin Bashir, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said:

“We don't think government is the source or the solution for dealing with poverty. We believe that the American people who are generous in their giving, local communities that can address not just the material poverty but the spiritual poverty as well….When you have the government crowding out those nonprofit organizations that go beyond just the material need, instead of just giving someone a fish, teaching them to fish. That's what the religious community does when they're empowered to do so.”

See the full interview here

 

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Voters See Brighter Future for Economy

The Hill reports on a new poll focussing on the country's economic prospects:

Voters are optimistic the economy will improve in the next year, but still hold doubts on President Obama’s economic policies, a new USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday finds. Likely voters in the U.S. think the economy is improving already, giving Obama an edge as the incumbent. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed believe they will be "better off" next time this year and 58 percent predict good economic conditions in a year.

Read more about the poll here

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Bishops Assess Budget

The U.S. Catholic Bishops weighed in on the budget again yesterday. A letter signed by Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and sent to Members of the House of Representatives repeated the “moral criteria” by which they assess the budget:

1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects the lives and dignity of “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times
.

After specifically noting the Child Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and the Social Services Block Grant; the bishops concluded,

“…the Catholic bishops join other faith leaders and people of good will urging you to protect the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable families by putting a circle of protection around these essential programs and to refrain from cutting programs that serve them.”

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Congressman: Food Stamps 'Enslave' People

Over at Think ProgressScott Keys reports on Rep. Allen West's latest comments:

"West, speaking at the Broward County Lincoln Day Dinner this past Saturday, warned the crowd about the danger of food stamps for American society. “In the last 10 years,” West said, the “food stamp program that has gone from about $20.6 billion to over $75 billion.” The Florida congressmen saw this increase not as a society practicing compassion for its most needy, but as a more nefarious plot. “That’s not how you empower the American people,” West declared. “That’s how you enslave the American people.”

Read the full article here

 

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David Brooks on 'The Structural Revolution'

For the International Herald Tribune yesterday, David Brooks examines what he perceives as the coming 'structural revolution' in the global economy:

"The country is divided when different people take different sides in a debate. The country is really divided when different people are having entirely different debates. That’s what’s happening on economic policy....

Make no mistake, the old economic and welfare state model is unsustainable. The cyclicalists want to preserve the status quo, but structural change is coming."
Read his full analysis here
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Borrowing Increases Dramatically

 

Andrew Leonard examines the latest consumer borrowing figures for Salon:

"Consumer borrowing, reports Bloomberg, skyrocketed in March, leaping up by $21.4 billion, more than twice as high as the consensus estimate predicted. Much of the increase, according to Bloomberg, can be attributed to new financing for auto purchases and to students hoping to lock in low interest rates on student loans. (Unless Congress takes action, the interest rates on government-backed student loans will double on July 1.)"
Read his full article here
 
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It's Getting Better to Be a Mother in the U.S.

For USA TodayMichelle Healy analyzes a new report on the state of motherhood around the globe:

"Just in time for Mother's Day, an annual ranking of the best and worst countries in which to be a mom puts the USA in 25th place, up from 31st last year. The 13th annual State of the World's Mothers report by the Save the Children foundation, out today, examines the well-being of mothers and their children in 165 countries, based on a range of measures, including mothers' education, infant mortality and breastfeeding rates."

Read more about the report here

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Why the Economy Is Where It Is

 

Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities takes a look at the economic situation for The Huffington Post and asks:

"Why are advanced economies so seemingly immune to correct diagnosis and prescription? Why are we applying leeches instead of the contemporary medicine of combined monetary and fiscal stimulus in order to once and for all hit the escape velocity that's eluded us thus far?"

Take a look at his answers here

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Ph.D. in One Hand, Food Stamps in the Other

The Huffington Post reports on the drastic rise in the number of people with advanced degrees who are also reliant on government welfare:

The number of Ph.D. recipients on food stamps and other forms of welfare more than tripled between 2007 and 2010 to 33,655, according to an Urban Institute analysis cited by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The number of master's degree holders on food stamps and other forms of welfare nearly tripled during that same time period to 293,029, according to the same analysis.

Learn more here

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Why Getting money Out of Politics is Good for Business

From Newsweek Magazine

It’s worrying to think that shareholder democracy is needed to rectify shortcomings in the real thing, yet this week two of the nation’s biggest corporations will give their investors precisely that opportunity. Motions on the ballots at the annual meetings of Bank of America and 3M will act as referenda on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which handed companies the same freedoms of speech accorded people. Happily, restricting the use of corporate money in politics isn’t just good for democracy, it’s good business.

Read Rob Cox's article here

 

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Making Better Use of Food Stamps

On the Politico opinion pages, Jason Ackerman examines how food assistance programs could be better utilized:

Americans who depend on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known as food stamps — are unable to buy groceries from online vendors. The Electronic Benefits Transfer, the system that allows SNAP recipients to pay for groceries, does not support Internet transactions. But Congress now has a unique opportunity to change this and bring some relief to millions of people.
 
Learn more here

 

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Graduate from Harvard, MIT... for Free?

The Boston Globe reports on a new partnership between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will team up on a $60 million initiative to offer free online, college-level courses under a joint superbrand known as edX, the universities said Wednesday.

Read more about the initiative here

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