Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. The United States is the most unequal society in the developed world, but most Americans don't even know it. According to a new article by Les Leopold over at Alternet, most Americans think that the ratio of CEO to employee pay is about 30 to 1, despite the fact that it's more than 10 times that amount. For every dollar that an average worker earns, a CEO rakes in more than $350 dollars – and that number just keeps rising. Yet, in two different polls, when Americans were asked about the wealth gap between workers and CEOs, most people believed that the ratio was 30 to 1 – regardless of their political ideology or education level. It's no wonder that we're not doing more to fight inequality. One study called “How Much (More) Should CEOs Make?”, which surveyed more than 55,000 people in 40 countries, found that people in the United States think a fair pay ratio would be about 7 to 1. But, how will we ever reach that goal if most Americans don't even realize how wide the pay gap has become? Extreme inequality slows our economy, increases demand on our social safety net, and allows the corporate elite to control our democracy. A small few control the vast majority of wealth and power in our nation, and it's up to us to take back control. To solve this problem we must acknowledge it, and that starts by making everyone aware. CEOs aren't 350 times more valuable than their average workers, and billionaires don't deserve more political power than the average voter. Let's make sure that everyone knows how wide the wealth gap really is, and how it stands in the way of us taking back control of our democracy.
Students in Colorado are fighting to learn about – and exercise – their right to protest. After the Jefferson County Board of Education decided to censor history textbooks, students immediately staged a walk out. When school board officials refused to back down on their plan to make textbooks more “patriotic,” students took the fight straight to their door. Earlier this month, more than a dozen young people used civil disobedience to show that they value learning about our national history of protest. At that meeting, board members refused to let students speak, so the kids stood up, one after another, and recited historic acts of civil disobedience from their unedited history textbooks. When that group was asked to leave the meeting, another group of kids stood up and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. After all of the students left the meeting to protest outside the building, someone inside turned on the sprinklers to try and make them leave – but the kids refused. This amazing action by the students of Jefferson County shows exactly why civil disobedience and our nation's history of protest are so important.
Scott Walker wants to treat poor people like criminals. Last week, the newly-reelected governor announced that he will propose a new program to drug test every Wisconsinite who receives unemployment or food stamps. Although Walker isn't the first right-wing governor to introduce a plan to drug test welfare recipients, it's unlikely that his plan will make any more sense than the ones introduced in Tennessee, Utah, or Florida. First of all, every state that has tried to enact this discriminatory policy has discovered the obvious – that people who struggle to get by on meager government benefits don't have extra money laying around to spend on drugs. Tennessee tested 800 welfare recipients to find one drug user, Utah spent over $30,000 to produce only twelve positive drug tests, and Florida spent even more to determine that drug use among welfare recipients is four times lower than the general population. In addition to being ineffective, Florida's system was ruled unconstitutional, and policies in other states have been struck down. Scott Walker knows these facts, but he obviously thinks good policy is less important than demonizing the poor. The people of Wisconsin need to push back hard and put a stop to this program before it even begins.
A new article by Raul Carrillo of YES! Magazine says there's “no fiscal reason why the U.S. student debt crisis should exist.” Instead of making a profit off of students by lending them money for school the federal government could simply pay for tuition, and they wouldn't even need to take money out of other programs to do so. While Raul explains the concept in detail in his article, the crux of his explanation is that “the U.S. federal government can't go broke,” and that the government can spend money “without incurring any significant negative economic consequences.” The student debt burden has grown to over $1 trillion dollars in our country, and the current system is making banksters rich and leaving students broke. Our government spends tens of billions of dollars every year administering student loans, when they could spend the same amount making public universities free for every student. None of it makes a lick of economic sense. Students shouldn't be burdened with a lifetime of debt to go to college, and taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing loans that benefit banksters. We can afford to change this system, so why aren't we doing it?
And finally... Low-wage workers at the U.S. Capitol Building are fighting for fair pay. Last week, workers went on strike to demand $15 dollars an hour and the right to unionize. The protesters were employees of a company called Restaurant Associates, which rakes in about $24 billion dollars a year from U.S. taxpayers. One of the protesters explained, “This is a great building to work in, in the land of opportunity, but unfortunately it's not, for moms and dads like us that work there. This company makes millions and billions of dollars, and we're not seeing it.” Many of the company's employees make $10 an hour or more, but they are often prevented from working full time. One way or another, big corporations cheat too many workers out of a living wage, and the very last place that should be happening is in our nation's Capitol Building. Good on these workers for standing up and speaking out, and being part of the national movement for a living wage.
And that's the way it is - for the week of November 17, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.