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Despite what you may hear from the Right-wing media, institutional racism is still a very real problem in the United States. And, it creates a vicious cycle that keeps minority families from rising out of poverty. According to a recent study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the racial makeup of neighborhoods in Baltimore is “the most significant predictor of whether a [mortgage] loan gets made.” After widespread unrest following the death of Freddie Gray earlier this year, researchers began to look at causes of persistent, racial wealth disparities. They discovered that black families fave a far more difficult time getting home loans in Baltimore, and banks are rejecting loans more often in black neighborhoods. Researchers looked at government mortgage data and found that banks have issued twice as many loans to white people in Baltimore as they do to African Americans – regardless of the fact that there are twice as many black residents. And, the President of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, John Taylor, explained, “If lenders are not making loans in a community, the opportunities for people to work their way out of poverty are pretty slim.” Without loans, communities miss out on investment and jobs, and without mortgages, black families are denied the opportunity to build generational wealth. That's why African American families continue to hold dramatically less wealth than white families, and why unemployment rates in cities like Baltimore continue to linger far above the national average. This type of institutional racism exacerbates poverty, crime, and many other serious issues that plague the black community. And, those issues lead to more negative stereotypes, more police violence, and more of our fellow Americans feeling shut out of the system. Racial disparities in loans and mortgages are extremely difficult to prove, but this research shows that red lining is still happening in this day and age. Now that we have the proof, we must fight to break this vicious cycle and bring institutional racism to an end.

New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman believes in the value of public employee unions. That’s why he is leading a coalition of more than 20 states and getting them to add their support for the “fair share” fees that keep those unions operating. Schneiderman and the other AGs have signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association. That’s the latest anti-union case to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it poses another serious threat to our public unions. As we’ve heard during previous legal challenges, fair-share fees allow unions to collect partial dues from non-members who work in a union shop, to cover the cost of negotiations that the unions are legally required to do on their behalf. Attorney General Schneiderman said, “The right to organize is a fundamental right for American workers. Unions go hand-in-hand with a strong middle class.” And, he’s exactly right. Hopefully, the Supreme Court Justices are listening.

Virginia is doing right by veterans. Earlier this month, President Obama joined Governor Terry McAuliffe on Veterans Day to announce that Virginia had officially become the first state to find permanent housing for all of their homeless veterans. After finding homes for 1400 veterans last year, Virginia officials wanted to make sure that more of our former soldiers did not wind up on the street. So, that state has set up new systems and promised to find housing for any veteran who becomes homeless within 90 days. Because some cities and states are criminalizing homelessness and cutting back on social services for the poor, they have often left many veterans with no where to turn for help. In response, several cities throughout the country have made it a priority to find homes for the men and women who risked their lives for our nation, but Virginia is the first state to address the problem so successfully. Good work, Virginia.

Anyone with children knows how expensive child care is in our nation. In fact, it's so expensive that many of those who work caring for our children can't cover the cost of caring for their own. According to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, the average hourly wage for child care workers is only $10.31. That means, a preschool teacher would have to set aside at least one third of their entire income just to pay for the care of one child – which is a far larger share than recommended. There are more than a million child care workers in our country, and the vast majority of them are women. That means we're asking mothers to care for someone else's kids when we don't pay them enough to care for their own. This doesn't make any sense. If we want people to work hard and contribute to our society, we have to ensure that basic services don't cost more than they make. Child care workers provide that important service to others, and the very least we can do is make sure that they earn enough to care for their own families.

And finally… Love is now the law of the land in Ireland. Last week, the BBC news announced that same-sex marriage is now officially legal in that nation. Back in May, the voters of Ireland passed a public referendum to legalize gay marriage and recognize those who had already been married in other countries. As of this month, Ireland officials must recognize marriages like Orla Howard and Dr. Grainne Courtney, who were wed in the United States in 2013. In an interview with BBC news, Ms. Howard said, “It's a terrific moment, because our marriage will be the same as any straight couple's marriage.” She added, “It will bring all the rights and protections that marriage brings, from the constitutional point of view, to our family, and that's one of the key things for us.” And, for the couples who have been waiting to marry, the new law will bring the recognition and rights that all loving families deserve. Slowly, but surely, the world is recognizing that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love, and we should gladly celebrate those victories as they continue.

And that's the way it is - for the week of November 23, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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How Stupid Has the Democratic Party Become?

Republicans haven’t taken over red states; Democrats have lost them by not running as real Democrats.

That’s my big takeaway from Alec MacGillis’ fascinating look into the biggest political mystery of our time: why poor white people in red states are not bothering to turn out to vote, leaving the field to Republicans elected by more affluent whites in those states.

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