Tag Archives: gap

WHY IT MATTERS: Income inequality in America

Income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression. The average income for the top 1 percent of households climbed 7.7 percent last year to $1.36 million, according to tax data tracked by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.

But why care how much the wealthy are making? What counts the most to any family is how much that family is bringing in. And that goes to the heart of the income-inequality debate: Most Americans still have yet to recover from the Great Recession, even though that downturn ended seven years ago. The average income for the 99 percent is still lower than it was back in 1998 after adjusting for inflation.

Meanwhile, incomes for the executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, entertainers and doctors who make up the top 1 percent have steadily improved. These one-percenters account for roughly 22 percent of all personal income, more than double the post-World War II era level of roughly 10 percent. One reason the income disparity is troubling for the nation is that it’s thinning out the ranks of the middle class.

 

WHERE THEY STAND

Hillary Clinton has highlighted inequality in multiple speeches, with her positions evolving somewhat over the past year. Bernie Sanders held her feet to the fire on that subject in the primaries. Clinton hopes to redirect more money to the middle class and impoverished. Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal pre-K and offer the prospect of tuition-free college.

Donald Trump offers a blunter message about a hollowed-out middle class and a system “rigged” against average Americans. Still, he has yet to emphasize income inequality in the campaign. To bring back the factory jobs long associated with the rise of the middle class, Trump has promised new trade deals and infrastructure spending. But Trump has also proposed a tax plan that would allow the wealthiest Americans to keep more of their earnings.

 

WHY IT MATTERS

President Barack Obama has called rising inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” And experts warn that it may be slowing overall economic growth. Greater inequality has created a festering distrust of government and of corporate leaders whose promises of better times ahead never fully materialized.

The result has been a backlash against globalization that many Americans feel tilted the economy against them. For the top 1 percent, the ability to move money overseas and reach markets worldwide concentrated pay for “superstars,” according to economists. At the same time, factory workers now compete with 3 billion people in China, India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere who weren’t working for multinational corporations 20 years ago. Many now make products for Apple, Intel, General Motors and others at low wages. This has depressed middle-class pay. These trends have contributed to a “hollowed out” labor market in the United States, with more jobs at the higher and lower ends of the pay scale and fewer in the middle.

Social factors have amplified the trend as well. Single-parent families are more likely to be poor than other families and less likely to ascend the income ladder. Finally, men and women with college degrees and high pay are more likely to marry each other and amplify income gaps.

 

This story is part of AP’s “Why It Matters” series, which will examine three dozen issues at stake in the presidential election between now and Election Day. You can find them at: http://apnews.com/tag/WhyItMatters.

Same work is worth the same wage

April 12 was Equal Pay Day, a day to reflect on the appalling fact that in Wisconsin women earn 79 cents for each dollar men earn when working the same job. Equal Pay Day is the day when the average woman’s earnings for that year plus the prior year equal those of a male counterpart’s earnings for the prior year alone.

The pay gap between women and men has been shown to be a constant issue regardless of the educational level of the workers. Since the initiation of the Fair Pay Act of 1963, there has been a continual decrease in the pay gap. However, the pace is so slow that wage parity will not be reached until 2133.

The pay gap for women of color is even wider. For every dollar earned by a white man, Asian women are paid 65 cents, African-American women are paid 61 cents and Hispanic women are paid a mere 53 cents.

Nearly half of Wisconsin households are headed by women, 31 percent of which exist below the poverty line.

In 2009, Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act took effect, increasing access for women to press charges when their rights were violated. Within one year of the law’s inception, Wisconsin jumped up 12 places from 36th to 24th in the nation’s gender/wage parity rankings. Additionally, hardworking Wisconsin women saw their median earnings rise 3 percent.

Despite these accomplishments, just a few years later every Republican legislator in Wisconsin voted to repeal the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Every Democratic legislator in the state voted against the repeal, but they were outnumbered and Gov. Scott Walker signed the repeal into law.

Earlier this session, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 145, which would have reinstated Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act. It defies logic that the Republican-led Legislature failed to pass this bill before session ended — without even giving it a public hearing — when the wage gap results in Wisconsin women earning an average of $10,000 less per year than their male peers.

By ignoring this issue, Wisconsin’s economy is deprived of an additional $8 billion annually in consumer spending. My Democratic colleagues and I will continue to fight for what is right and fair, including bringing back the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, and doing more to close the wage gap for good. Wisconsin families and our economy depend on it.

Rep. Jonathan Brostoff is a Milwaukee Democrat who represents the 19th Assembly District.

UPDATE: Saudi voters elect 20 women to office

UPDATE: Saudi voters elected 20 women for local government seats, according to results released to The Associated Press a day after women voted and ran in elections for the first time in the country’s history.

The women who won hail from vastly different parts of the country, ranging from Saudi Arabia’s largest city to a small village near Islam’s holiest site.

The 20 female candidates represent just one percent of the roughly 2,100 municipal council seats up for grabs, but even limited gains are seen as a step forward for women who had previously been completely shut out of elections. Women are still not allowed to drive and are governed by guardianship laws that give men final say over aspects of their lives like marriage, travel and higher education.

Though there are no quotas for female council members, an additional 1,050 seats are appointed with approval by the king who could use his powers to ensure more women are represented.

Around 7,000 candidates, among them 979 women, competed in the election for a seat on the municipal councils, which are the only government body elected by Saudi citizens. The two previous rounds of voting for the councils, in 2005 and 2011, were open to men only.

The conservative capital of Riyadh saw the most women candidates win, with four elected. The Eastern Province, where minority Shiites are concentrated, saw two women elected, said Hamad Al-Omar, who heads the General Election Commission’s media council.

Saudi Arabia’s second largest and most cosmopolitan city, Jiddah, also elected two women, as did one of the most conservative regions, Qassim.

The mayor of the city of Mecca, Osama al-Bar, told the AP that a woman won in a village called Madrakah, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) north of the city which houses the cube-shaped Kaaba to which Muslims around the world pray.

Another woman won in Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad’s first mosque was built.

Other women hailing from the kingdom’s northernmost areas won, with two elected in Tabuk, one in al-Jawf and another in Hail. Additionally, a woman won in Saudi Arabia’s southern border area of Jizan, another in Asir and two won in al-Ahsa. 

Many women candidates ran on platforms that promised more nurseries to offer longer daycare hours for working mothers, the creation of youth community centers with sports and cultural activities, improved roads, better garbage collection and overall greener cities. 

In October, the Saudi Gazette reported that harsh road conditions and long distances to the nearest hospital had forced some women in the village of Madrakah, where one female candidate was elected, to give birth in cars. The local newspaper reported that the closest hospital and the nearest university were in Mecca, prompting some students to forgo attending classes. The article said residents were also frustrated with the lack of parks in the village.

It is precisely these kinds of community issues that female candidates hope to address once elected to the municipal councils. The councils do not have legislative powers, but advise authorities and help oversee local budgets.

Most ran their campaigns online, using social media to get the word out, due to strict gender segregation rules that ban men and women from mixing in public. This meant candidates could not directly address voters of the opposite sex.

In an effort to create a more level playing field for women who wear the traditional full-face veil, the General Election Committee banned both male and female candidates from showing their faces in promotional flyers, billboards or online. They were also not allowed to appear on television. 

Still, al-Omar said the historic election drew a staggering 106,000 female voters out of some 130,000 who’d registered. Out of 1.35 million men registered, almost 600,000 cast ballots. In total, some 47 percent of registered voters took part in Saturday’s election.

In Jiddah, three generations of women from the same family voted for the first time. The oldest woman in the family was 94-year-old Naela Mohammad Nasief. Her daughter, Sahar Hassan Nasief, said the experience marked “the beginning” of greater rights for women in Saudi Arabia. 

“I walked in and said ‘I’ve have never seen this before. Only in the movies’,” the daughter said, referring to the ballot box. “It was a thrilling experience.”

Explosion in wealth inequality around world

The 85 richest people in the world now have the same wealth as the poorest half of the world, according to anti-poverty organization Oxfam. In a report released in late October, the charitable group said the number of billionaires in the world has doubled since the financial crisis, but prosperity hasn’t — and won’t — trickle down.

Those 85 people at the top of the pyramid saw their collective wealth increase $668 million per day from 2013 to 2014 — almost $500,000 a minute, according to the report Even it Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality.

The report, released with endorsements from Mozambican politician Graca Machel, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, urges world leaders to focus on poverty and to clamp down on tax dodging by multinational corporations and the wealthy. 

“Today, wealth is trickling upwards and will continue to do so until governments act,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International. “We should not allow narrow-minded economic doctrine and the self-interest of the rich and powerful to blind us to these facts.

“Around the world millions of people are dying due to a lack of health care and millions of children are missing out on school, while a small elite have more money than they could spend in a lifetime.”

In South Africa, the report says, inequality is now greater than it was at the end of apartheid.

On the Web

For more information on the report, visit oxfam.org.

Target celebrating Pride with T-shirts

Target Corporation is celebrating LGBT Pride Month with the launch of a line of Pride-themed T-shirts.

The T-shirts, being sold on the company’s Website, debuted this week, just as Christian right groups were organizing a boycott of Gap for a billboard ad featuring two men in a Gap T-shirt.

Sales of Target’s Pride T-shirts benefit the Family Equality Council, which is based in Boston and “connects, supports, and represents the one million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents in this country and the two million children they are raising.”

Some shirts display the slogan “Love is Love,” some repeat “Harmony” in a rainbow of colors, one has a rainbow wave and another a rainbow Rayban-like sunglasses.

Target, according to its Website, will contribute up to $120,000 in sales of Pride merchandise to FEC.

The company also supports Pride events in Minnesota and rates highly with the Human Rights Campaign for its LGBT employment policies.

But two years ago, Target was the focus of a boycott by LGBT activists opposed to $150,000 in donations to the anti-gay Minnesota Forward.

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Right-wing Moms group boycotting Gap over billboard

The right-wing One Million Moms is expanding its boycott campaign, calling on members to avoid patronizing the Gap over a billboard campaign featuring two handsome young guys in one handsome T-shirt.

One Million Moms, an affiliate of the Christian-right American Family Association, called the advertising immoral and said the retailer needed to “seriously consider” how it would “affect the youth of our nation.”

Earlier this year the group, which exists mostly on the Web, called for a boycott of JC Penney after the retailer hired out lesbian Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson.

In addition to now calling for a boycott of the Gap, One Million Moms wants members to stay away from its affiliated stores – Old Navy, Banana Republic, Piperlime and Athleta.

The Gap billboard that caught One Million Moms’ attention is in downtown Los Angeles. OMM described the billboard, which has the message “GAP – Be Bright – Be One” – as depicting “two homosexual men pressed together under a shared t-shirt. They are hugging each other and facing the camera cheek-to-cheek. ‘BE ONE’ is in large letters which emphasizes the same-sex relationship.”

The boycott call to “Christians” continued, “Supporting GAP is not an option until they decide to remain neutral in the culture war. GAP needs to seriously consider how their immoral advertising affect the youth of our nation.”

Opposing groups formed on social networks such as Facebook are encouraging pro-gay consumers to support the Gap.

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