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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by natasha
wealth by race chart
We tend to talk less about wealth than income, but wealth is a crucial part of economic well-being. That's especially true in a recession and housing collapse: Do you have savings to get you through a period of unemployment? Does a house that's lost a huge part of its value represent your only significant asset?

Wealth is also an area where we see especially large racial gaps, between whites and blacks in particular. (For extensive background on this, see Black Wealth/White Wealth, by Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro, and Being Black, Living in the Red, by Dalton Conley.) And the recession has exacerbated wealth gaps between races, as a Pew analysis of newly available 2009 data shows:

The Pew Research analysis finds that, in percentage terms, the bursting of the housing market bubble in 2006 and the recession that followed from late 2007 to mid-2009 took a far greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites. From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% among white households.

As a result of these declines, the typical black household had just $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts) in 2009; the typical Hispanic household had $6,325 in wealth; and the typical white household had $113,149.

In addition to the decreased median, many more households now have zero or negative net worth:

Overall, 20% of U.S. households were in this position in 2009, up from 15% in 2005. The share of households with zero or negative net worth is much higher among Hispanics and blacks. About one-third of Hispanics (31%) and blacks (35%) had no wealth or were in debt in 2009, compared with 15% of whites.

The increase in the share of households with zero or negative net worth from 2005 to 2009 was greatest among minority households. It increased from 23% to 31% for Hispanics, from 12% to 19% for Asians, and from 29% to 35% for blacks. The change was more modest for white households, with the share climbing from 11% to 15%.

Non-white households are more dependent on their homes as a source of wealth, and Hispanic and Asian households were hit particularly hard by the housing collapse for geographic reasons:

In 2005, more than two-in-five of the nation’s Hispanic and Asian households resided in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada, the five states with the steepest declines in home prices. By contrast, only about one-in-five of the nation’s white or black households resided in these states.

Pew offers much, much more in the way of statistics showing both how badly median wealth has declined overall and the enormous racial disparities in household wealth and in the effects of the recession on the household wealth of different racial groups. The declining median income we saw in yesterday's Census report is a factor in declining wealth, of course, since it's a lot harder to save money or buy a home if your income is going down. But declines in wealth are about more than that—they represent people losing what they had, whether due to unemployment, the housing market in their area crashing, the stock market on which their retirement accounts depended crashing, or other economic factors beyond their control.

Reposted from Randi Weingarten by natasha

Like any good teacher, I try to spend the waning days of summer sorting through my desk, taking inventory of the past year and preparing for the next.

A few weeks ago, I was sifting through the mountain of papers, studies and newspaper clippings that had accumulated there, when I came across a booklet titled “Building a Profession: Strengthening Teacher Preparation and Induction.”

The booklet, published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) more than a decade ago, summarizes a report from an AFT task force appointed to look at teacher preparation and how to improve it. Thumbing through it now, I was struck by how timely our task force’s observations and recommendations still are.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by natasha
Michelle Rhee
(Iris Harris—U.S. Department of Commerce)
There are two key components to Michelle Rhee's success as a media star and influential voice in education. One is that there's a lot of money lined up against unions and for privatization, and by aggressively going after teachers' unions, Rhee came in for a share of that money and the accompanying PR machine. She was especially appealing as an appointee of a Democratic mayor; Republican governors like John Kasich or Rick Scott can work with her and claim bipartisanship though her agenda lines up with theirs.

But the other major component is her widely-accepted claim to have turned Washington, D.C.'s failing schools around. And there, even if we set aside the cheating scandal about which Rhee refuses to answer questions, her record is a lot less impressive than the billing it receives.

Rhee has claimed "record gains" on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, a federal, no-stakes test. But:

The rates of NAEP test-score gains under Rhee were no better than the rates achieved under her two predecessors. A January 2011 study by Dr. Alan Ginsburg, former Director of Policy and Program Studies at the U.S. Department of Education, shows that NAEP scores had been steadily rising under Rhee’s two predecessors. In fact, the rates of D.C. test score gains under Rhee were no better than the rates achieved under predecessors Clifford Janey, and lower than those under Paul Vance. The NAEP score increases Rhee touts are at least partially a reflection of rapid change in DCPS demographics, not the result of any real improvement in the education of the city’s poorest and neediest students. On the fourth-grade NAEP, for instance, the percentage of African-American test-takers (the lowest-performing group in D.C.) dropped from 84 percent to 77 percent between 2007 and 2009. At the same time, there were gains in the proportion of white (from 6% to 9%) and Hispanic (from 9% to 12%) test-takers. So, while aggregate NAEP reading scores appeared to show an improvement, there were no statistically significant gains among any individual race.

That's the NAEP. Then there's the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), the high-stakes test on which erasures were a problem. DC-CAS scores did rise in 2008 and 2009. Though those increases were widely touted, there were a couple simple explanations:

First, she began enforcing a previously-unenforced policy that said high school students had to have enough credits to take the tests. And second, she changed the way that students who don’t take the tests are recorded in the data (they were previously counted as failing, but Rhee changed the policy to exclude them from the data entirely). Both changes resulted in groups of students being excluded from the data/test starting in 2008, but then results were compared with 2007, when both groups were included (the high schoolers without enough credits were almost certainly relatively low-scorers, on average, while the non-takers were previously counted as failing). These changes may have made sense for other reasons, but the fact that they inflated performance remains a serious problem when assessing DC-CAS results during Rhee’s tenure.


The DC-CAS assessment system was introduced in 2006 by Clifford Janey, Rhee’s predecessor. [...] There is a good deal of evidence (here, here, and here, for example) that tests scores tend to falter or stagnate for the first year or two after a new testing system is introduced. This is usually followed by large score increases, after students, teachers, and administrators become more familiar with the format and content of the new exam.

D.C. test results followed this pattern exactly.

Additionally, the same demographic shifts cited as affecting the NAEP would have been in effect on the DC-CAS.

In 2010 and again this year, teachers were given an "operational blueprint" telling them which skills would be tested. They didn't get the questions or the answers, but of the set of concepts that students are supposed to have mastered, teachers knew which specific ones they actually needed to know to do well on the test. You can imagine how much more time went to those concepts than to others that, though theoretically of equal importance, weren't going to appear on the test. Even so, "Data from 2009 and 2010 show that scores dropped at most schools the year after they were flagged for excessive erasures, raising questions about whether heightened security curbed abuses," and results were flat in 2011, after Rhee had left but with her program still in place.

Rhee's reputation, in other words, was built on gains that were underway when she became chancellor, demographic shifts, shifts in what students took tests and how those who didn't take tests were counted, cheating, and teaching to the test so aggressively that teachers were not only teaching what might be on the test but what was on the test. Mirage is the kind word for it.

Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by natasha We've previously written about how corporations are angling for a tax repatriation holiday, in which corporations would get to bring money they're currently holding overseas into the U.S. at a sharply reduced tax rate (and how some Democrats, like Chuck Schumer, are supportive of the idea). To recap, a tax repatriation holiday is a bad idea, one that would increase deficits by tens of billions of dollars and send a message to corporations that they should just keep money offshore as a matter of routine, because it won't be long before they get another "holiday." And a 2004 repatriation holiday didn't lead to job growth, either.

Then there's this: A Washington Post article by Jia Lynn Yang points out that many of the corporations lobbying for a tax repatriation holiday are not only moving jobs overseas, they're hiding the exact numbers of people they employ here and abroad from the public, reporting them to the government only when required to do so and on the condition that only aggregate, not firm-specific, numbers are reported.

As a result, we know that "The latest data show that multinationals cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States and added 2.4 million overseas between 2000 and 2009," but we don't know which companies cut how many jobs. That means that when we're told corporations deserve a tax break because they're job creators, we don't actually know if that's true:

But experts say that without details on which companies are contributing to job growth and which are not, policymakers risk flying blind as they try to jump-start the hiring of American workers.

"It’s an important piece of information that the American people should have," said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. "Should you listen to the kind of advice these companies have about how to grow the economy when their record and their model indicates they’ve cut jobs? . . . Or should we talk to people who actually do create jobs in the United States?"

Despite the bewilderment of a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis researcher quoted saying, "I don’t think they really have anything to hide, but I don’t really know the logic of why that’s something they don’t just put in their annual report," corporations do in fact work hard to hide their outsourcing activities, as we found in Outsourced, a report I helped compile while working for Working America:

"US corporations that use offshore service providers often prefer to keep it quiet," confirms the Plunkett industry almanac. Corporate policy has shifted to obscure the dimensions of offshoring whenever possible. Internal documents from IBM, for example, indicate that the company was very aware of the sensitive nature of its investment decisions. One memorandum advised managers to "not be transparent regarding the purpose/intent" of plans to eliminate jobs and to never use terms such as "onshore" and "offshore."

To recap: Corporations that don't allow public disclosure of how many jobs they cut in the U.S. and add overseas—let alone how many they directly shift out of the U.S.—and that are keeping large piles of money overseas to avoid paying taxes here are now arguing that if the government will just give them a giant tax break, they'll move the money here. We're supposed to believe that this will create jobs, except that most of these corporations are already sitting on large piles of cash here in the United States without doing much to create jobs and there's no reason to believe that a tax repatriation holiday will do anything to change that dynamic. What's worse, many in Congress do appear to have bought into this obvious fiction.

Reposted from Money and Public Purpose by natasha

Right now, in the United States, over 25 million people who want to work, are without work or are working part time cause they can't find full time work.  That's larger than any army on Earth.  Can you imagine what could be accomplished in this country if, instead of wasting all their talent and energy, we used this army of the unemployed to accomplish something?  To give us an idea of how much opportunity is being lost every single day, let's crunch some numbers.  All these numbers are from the July 2011 Employment Statistics.

There are officially 13,931,000 people unemployed and actively looking for work.  There are another 2,785,000 people not actively looking for work(for various reasons), but would take a job if one was offered.  That is 16,716,000 full time unemployed.  Finally, there are 8,396,000 people who are working part time, but would work full time if given the chance.  If we assume that full time is 40 hours a week, and the people working part time are only working 20 hours a week, but want to work 40 hours a week(all perfectly reasonable assumptions) we will arrive a shocking number.  Every work day we are losing up to 167 million hours of lost labor.  Can you imagine for a moment what you could accomplish if you had a 167 million extra hours at work?

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Reposted from greywolfe359 by natasha

I'll give you a hint: it's not the rich.  Okay, one more hint: it's not on big business, either.  Last hint: it's actually one of our most regressive taxes, as it's not levied on income OVER $106,000 or so.

If you guessed the "payroll tax," then give yourself ten points.

Now, I know that there are some on the left who weren't too thrilled with the payroll tax cut in the first place.  It is, after all, the tax that is supposed to go into funding Social Security (the deduction for SS is where you'll find it on your pay stub).  But leaving aside for the moment whether you think it's good policy or not, I think it is very telling that the party that drew a hundred-foot wide line in the sand on raising taxes on the rich is now seemingly maybe sorta kinda okay with raising taxes on a median-income earner by about a thousand dollars.

Two GOP Super Congress members, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Rep. David Camp of Michigan, are cited as offering up some initial support for letting the payroll tax cut expire.  Their reasoning begins to boggle the mind, especially when you consider the arguments that these same Republicans were making about why it was so vitally important that we preserve all the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by natasha
Verizon striker
"The longer the picket line, the shorter the strike."
(Laura Clawson)
On Saturday, Verizon and the unions representing its workers reached an agreement to end the strike and get 45,000 striking CWA and IBEW members back on the job starting tonight. The return to work comes not because the two sides have agreed on a contract, but because they have agreed on a way forward in bargaining—basically, Verizon has signaled that it may now be ready to bargain in good faith, and the bargaining has been restructured to focus on a few key issues first.

According to Larry Cohen, president of the CWA:

"Everybody knew we faced a long list of management demands and that’s why there was a strike, and we would go back into bargaining when the talks could be meaningful," Mr. Cohen said. "We don’t consider this a victory in any way. We consider it progress toward a good process at Verizon."


Mr. Cohen acknowledged that the bargaining ahead might still be lengthy. He said Verizon initially seemed so dismissive of the two unions’ position and so unwilling to budge from its original stance that union negotiators felt the company was seeking in effect to wipe out the unions’ bargaining rights.

"The unions have been working with Verizon to restructure bargaining in a way that represents progress for everyone," he said. "We believe that Verizon management shares the goal of meaningful bargaining."

While they continue bargaining, the expired contract remains in force indefinitely. According to the terms of the return to work agreement (PDF),

Either the Union or the Company may terminate the CBAs by providing seven (7) calendar days written notice to the other party, but such right to terminate may not be exercised prior to thirty (30) days from August 22, 2011.

Further, under the return to work agreement, overtime caps will be lifted for a week "to reduce the work backlog resulting from the strike." The unions will withdraw their unfair labor practices complaints and Verizon will likewise withdraw any complaints it has filed against the unions. The agreement also puts in place a procedure for dealing with disciplinary actions against workers for things that happened during the strike.

This is certainly not over in the sense that there is still no contract, but the workers showed that they were strong enough to at least get Verizon back to the bargaining table in a real way. Hopefully they will reach an acceptable contract without having to go back out on strike.

Reposted from badscience by natasha

There's a little bit of thrashing in the shallow end of the Republican political pool.

Republican Assemblyman Robin Vos has declared Let's recall the recalls! (Here is what the Democratic Underground has to say about it as well).

Robin Vos represents the Racine area in Southeastern Wisconsin. He's the guy who says "Milwaukee’s police chief can fire officers 'for basically no cause' and that "Right-to-work states 'have higher rates of income growth.' " He's the Republican co-chair of the State Joint Finance Committee (the delightful folks who brought us the Budget Repair Bill!)

Here's his take on the recalls:

“No longer should taxpayer dollars be wasted on unnecessary recall elections that were triggered by a vote that some special interest group didn’t like.” said Rep. Vos. “It undermines our democracy and wastes precious taxpayer dollars that are needed elsewhere.”

Tell that to the folks who ran 6 fake Democrats in the July 12 primary election, bud! Oh wait, that would be YOU! How about legislation banning the running of fake candidates and other chicanery (like sending out flyers to Democrats with incorrect dates and addresses for absentee ballot applications, helpful people at the polls with incorrect information about voting laws, poll workers who refuse to let people vote despite their name being on the roster, election officials who blatantly operate outside WI election law... ) And if you're worried about wasting tax dollars, you could immediately repeal the racist Voter ID Bill that will cost the taxpayers 5.7 million dollars to implement.

It is particularly hypocritical to call the voting, tax-paying citizens of WI who brought the recalls a "special interest group," particularly in the face of Koch, AFP, and ALEC money flooding the state and setting the policy.

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Reposted from Gov Howard Dean MD by natasha

There's no denying that Democrats came up short in last night's recall elections. It can hurt to come so close and still fall short, but we won some great victories last night and we should be proud of the work we did in Wisconsin and all across the country as part of this campaign.

We didn't back down when Scott Walker and his right-wing Republican legislature launched a war on working families. We fought back and we took the fight to them.

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Reposted from Aaron Krager by natasha

I am sure most of you are focused on Wisconsin right now but this story is important. Neighborhood residents are just trying to take some ownership of their area and want Bank of America to do its legal responsibilities.

Originally posted at my own site, The Political is Personal.  Please follow me below the fold for the whole story.

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Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 07:20 AM PDT

Two Wins, Ben Masel

by gchaucer2

Reposted from gchaucer2 by natasha

Thank you to all the Wisconsin activists.  Thank you to all the supporters who are honorary Badgers.  Tonight was an astonishing moment in American history because tens of thousands of people from one state made a difference in our national psyche.  If you see it as a loss, I'm sorry, but you'll be left behind.  No national movement begins with an overwhelming victory.

Seven months of intensive activism brought two Democratic seats to the Wisconsin legislature.  Unheard of.  Astonishing.  Some see it as a loss of four -- I see it as a gain of two and a message to Scott Walker.  He is alone and he is the target and Badgers are not quitters.

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Reposted from David Waldman by natasha
Here's Wisconsin State Senator and recall target Sheila Harsdorf trying to put you into diabetic shock with the sugary sweetness of how she's Just a Mom Like You, trying to make her way in this wild, wacky world, and do right by her kids.

You can't blame her for it. It's something just about every politician feels compelled to do at some point. Trot out the fam, and try to make a personal connection with constituents who have also reproduced. And let's be honest, that works great. Because everyone can understand how a committed parent might decide it's her responsibility to make the world a better place for her family and the families of friends and neighbors, right? And if you're a "fiscal conservative," well, someone's got to make the tough choices Wisconsin families need made, right?

But that's what makes it so strange that Sheila Harsdorf decided that one of the tough issues she had to take on for Wisconsin's kids was ... lowering taxes on moist snuff products.

That's right. What Wisconsin's families really needed was relief from the oppressive taxation regime that makes Skoal more expensive than Beech-Nut. Why? Because chewing tobacco is taxed based on—get this—the cost of product! Can you imagine that? Taxing sales of this particular product in the way that sales of every other product are taxed? I mean, really!

No, all freedom and moist snuff-loving American children know that tobacco should be taxed by weight, so that there's none of that nasty "market distortion" that makes higher end products like moist snuff cost more than leaf tobacco. Except for the higher price, that is. The government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers, except insofar as it can be persuaded to make the losers lose by virtue of their product weighing more. In which case, it's awesome and very freedom-y.

Republican state senators Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Alberta Darling and Randy "Bed" Hopper all believe this is a serious enough priority for Wisconsin families that they fought to insert the moist snuff tax preference provision into the already highly contentious state budget.

And what's really, really weird about the curious passion these four have suddenly displayed for this bedrock issue surrounding the tragedy of ad valorem taxation of moist snuff products is that they are not alone in their zeal. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is, remarkably enough, just as passionate about moist snuff as they are! Now that is just zany! (For continuing coverage of ALEC's reach and influence, be sure to follow the Daily Kos "Exposing ALEC" group.)

It's perhaps understandable that ALEC—underwritten as it is by Altira, the parent company of Philip Morris tobacco—exhibits such a deep devotion to the issue. But what about Just a Mom Like You types, like Sheila Harsdorf? What explains her drive to save Wisconsin's hard-pressed cheeks and gums from the tyranny of ad valorem taxation of moist snuff products?

We may never know. But we do know this: Today, Wisconsin's voters—thanks to the tireless efforts of Wisconsin's truly incredible progressive activists—just happen to have a chance to tell Sheila Harsdorf and her curiously moist snuff justice-obsessed cohorts that their priorities are ridiculous, and bounce them straight out of office.

If you're in Wisconsin, here's how to find your polling place.

If you're not, here's what you can do to help.

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