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The number of Americans living on less than $2 dollars a day has doubled in the last two decades. According to data compiled by the World Bank and other global institutions, 1.5 million American households live in extreme poverty, and that number includes at least 3 million children. In addtion, that number has increased dramatically since the so-called “welfare reform” of the 1990's. It is unacceptable that anyone should be suffering such extreme poverty in the richest nation on Earth, and it's simply un-American that our children should be living in these conditions. And, while we have many social programs that are supposed to provide a safety net for impoverished families, social stigma, restrictive guidelines, and a lack of awareness keep many families from using the benefits that could help lift them out of poverty. For example, the researchers noted that many families in so-called “ultrapoor” areas, like Appalachia, don't even know that benefits are available. When researchers asked families in these poor regions why they haven't applied for TANF benefits, many people responded with “what's that?”. In fact, in 2012, only 25 percent of families who are eligible for TANF benefits receive them, which means that three-out-of-four poor families are likely going to be hungry. What good is a social safety net if three out of four needy families are falling through the cracks? We must decide as a nation whether we will help our neighbors, or ignore them. Whether we demand a basic minimum standard for everyone, or simply accept the fact that our fellow Americans are living in extreme poverty. We can do better, and we must – for the sake of millions of Americans who need our help.

Back in February, Walmart announced that it was raising wages to $10 dollars an hour by next year. But, now the mega-retailer is cutting workers' hours so that the pay hike doesn't take a nickle out of investors' pockets. As Walmart only increased pay a few months ago, they have yet to see big savings from lower employee turnover or higher profits from increased customer service. But, the company just lowered their annual earnings forecast, saying that shareholders would lose 24 cents a share to cover the cost of higher wages. And, Wall Street refused to accept less, even if it means that workers had a little more. According to a recent article by Bryce Covert over at The Think Progress Blog, some stores have cut as many as 1,500 hours, leaving workers with smaller paychecks despite higher hourly wages. This is what putting profit over people looks like, and it proves that the “free market” that Wall Street represents doesn't include the workers who make that market function. Getting a raise shouldn't mean a smaller paycheck, and it's time that WalMart does the right thing for their workers.

Women all over the country are still fighting for equal pay for equal work, but they just achieved a big victory in the state of California. Last week, the California State Senate unanimously passed legislation that requires all employers to pay men and women the same rate for “substantially similar work.” Unless the pay differences are the result of merit, productivity, or seniority, there is no excuse to keep paying women 78 cents on the dollar of what men make. That new legislation also protects employees who discuss wages with their coworkers, which has prevented many women from fighting for equal pay. Even in 2015, gender-based pay disparity is still a big problem in our country, and some California industries are the worst offenders. For instance, men in Silicon Valley typically bring home 40 percent more than their female counterparts, and Hollywood's leading ladies are often paid a fraction of what their male co-stars earn. Regardless of whether women are behind the camera, in front of a computer screen, or in any other job, they should be paid based on their work, not their gender.

Taking action on climate change is vital to the survival of our species, and it's essential to the economic future of our nation's banks. According to a new report from Citibank, failure to act on global warming will cost $44 trillion dollars more than investing in low-carbon energy solutions. To create that report, called “Energy Darwinism,” researchers analyzed the likely cost of energy in the coming decades and the cost of the “negative effects” of our changing climate. Rather than focusing on the state of our environment or the impact on our survival, the report focused solely on the financial aspects of global warming. Jason Channell, Global Head of Alternative Energy and Cleantech Research at Citibank, said, “What we're trying to do is to take an objective view at the economics of the situation and actually look at what the costs of not acting are, if the scientists are right.” He added, “There is a cost to not doing this, and although there is a cost to acting, what we're trying to do is to actually weigh up the different costs here.” It doesn't matter whether you believe that humans cause global warming. But it does matter that our planet is changing and we had better get busy figuring out how to cover the cost of surviving those changes.

And finally… Connecticut says it is unacceptable that any man or woman who serves our nation should find themselves living on the street. But, it's a problem faced by thousands of veterans throughout our nation. Thankfully, that's no longer the case in Connecticut. Governor Dannel Malloy credits the milestone to $3 million dollars of state investments in public housing, as well as the agencies, individuals, and organizations who have worked hard to make sure that every veteran in their state can find temporary and permanent housing. And, the groups working on this issue have also been fighting to prove that homelessness among veterans is a solvable problem. Only 40 years ago, homelessness in the United States was virtually nonexistent, but the destruction of our mental health system and the dwindling supply of affordable housing has led to about 600,000 people experiencing homelessness just about every night in our country. Connecticut has joined the list of cities and states proving that we can do better, so the only question left is why this problem still remains.

And that's the way it is - for the week of September 7, 2015 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.

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From Screwed:
"Once again, Thom Hartmann hits the bull’s eye with a much needed exposé of the so-called ‘free market.’ Anyone concerned about the future of our nation needs to read Screwed now."
Michael Toms, Founding President, New Dimensions World Broadcasting Network and author of A Time For Choices: Deep Dialogues for Deep Democracy
From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann channels the best of the American Founders with voice and pen. His deep attachment to a democratic civil society is just the medicine America needs."
Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties and director, Peace and Justice Resource Center.
From Screwed:
"Hartmann speaks with the straight talking clarity and brilliance of a modern day Tom Paine as he exposes the intentional and systematic destruction of America’s middle class by an alliance of political con artists and outlines a program to restore it. This is Hartmann at his best. Essential reading for those interested in restoring the institution that made America the envy of the world."
David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World