In today’s On the News segment: Young Americans are now poorer than retired people; the US can support women, or it can pursue trade policies that harm them, but it can’t do both; Republican extremism has destroyed the state of Louisiana; and more.
Thom Hartmann here — on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News …
You need to know this. Young Americans are now poorer than retired people. That’s the stunning take away from a new study by the Guardian newspaper, and they say that the problem is not unique to the United States. According to the data, unemployment, debt and rising home prices have cut Generation Y out of nearly all the new wealth generated in Western societies. In other words, in the United States and Europe, people born between 1980 and the mid ’90s are earning about 20 percent less than the national average. These are young individuals and families who were already lagging behind before the crash of 2008, and their low wages haven’t allowed them to catch up during the recovery. That’s why the secretary general of the OECD said, “Current working-age, middle-class groups are increasingly concerned with their and their children’s job prospects.” He added, “An increasing number of people think children in their country will be worse off financially than their parents.” And that type of intergenerational inequality only makes the overall wealth divide even worse. As Paul Johnson of the Institute of Fiscal Studies explained, that means that young people with rich parents will have an unfair advantage over their peers in the early years of their adult life. Mr. Johnson said, “I think the real unfairness issue comes in the sense that it’s become more and more important whether your parents happen to have a house.” And, he shared the sentiment with many economists who said that policymakers must do more to close the wealth divide between young and old. If we fail to do so, we are telling an entire generation that they don’t deserve the “American Dream” that their parents enjoyed. And we are damning ourselves to the economic stagnation that results when too many people are too broke to spend money in our economy. This problem may be hitting young people the hardest, but it isn’t just young people who will feel the effects. It’s time to bridge the generational wealth gap and make sure that the “American Dream” doesn’t completely disappear.
Rep. Louise Slaughter says that the TPP will tie our nation to countries that do not value women’s rights. In a recent op-ed over at The Hill, the Democratic Congresswoman for New York says, “Our pledge to support women across the world should include the promise to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” For example, one of the 12 participants in the deal is Malaysia, which has a “troubling and well-documented” history of human trafficking abuses and slave labor. Every year in that nation, millions of women and girls are forced into unpaid labor, unsafe working conditions and even sexual slavery. And, they aren’t the only country involved in the TPP that routinely abuses women. While the nation of Brunei was involved in trade negotiations, that country was passing laws that threaten women. Rather than condemning Brunei for laws that allow women to be stoned to death over adultery, the United States would be virtually complicit in those acts by partnering with that nation. We can either claim to support women, or we can pursue trade policies that harm them, but we can’t do both.
Republican extremism has destroyed the state of Louisiana. According to a recent article over at the ThinkProgress blog, former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s disastrous tax policies left his state with deficits so large that “Louisiana may soon cease to function as a state in fundamental ways.” Right now, the current Gov. John Bel Edwards is working with the legislature to come up with the $940 million shortfall for this fiscal year, and then they have to figure out how to close a $2 billion gap in next year’s fiscal budget. Thanks to Jindal’s mismanagement, Louisiana is now faced with the unthinkable scenario of slashing the budgets for education, health care and the agency that deals with child abuse. This is what happens when you slash taxes and deprive governments of much needed revenue all so that a rich people can get a little bit richer. And if we let a Republican win the presidency, we should expect more of these disastrous policies nationwide.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren says that seniors — not CEOs — need a raise. In a recent article published by TalkPoverty.org, Sen. Warren wrote, “Any conversation about tackling poverty in the United States should include protecting and expanding Social Security.” And she’s exactly right. Considering that almost two-thirds of all seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income, there is really no way to address poverty without increasing the meager benefits on which seniors rely. But many of our lawmakers continue to ignore millions of Americans who are struggling to survive in what should be their golden years. Republicans in Congress would never even consider an increase in benefits, and seniors haven’t even seen a basic cost of living adjustment in more than a year. Sen Warren said, “This isn’t just an argument about math though. This is about out values — about how we protect each other, our families, and ourselves.” Well said, Senator. We should all fight for policies that protect our seniors.
And finally … Low-income Americans are about to get a little help paying for internet. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission approved final regulations to provide small monthly subsidies to poor Americans who can’t afford to access the internet. Currently, the federal Lifeline program helps struggling Americans cover the cost of phone or basic cell service. The new regulations will give people the option of using that $9.25 monthly credit to subsidize their internet cost instead. In this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to perform many important tasks without internet access. Just try to find a job, apply for government benefits or even make some utility payments without a computer. Although the small subsidy won’t completely cover the cost of internet services, a little help could make it easier for the poor to access the world wide web. And considering that this is funded with fees from telecom companies, it’s help that even Republicans should celebrate. But we probably shouldn’t hold our breath on that…
And that’s the way it is – for the week of March 14, 2016 — I’m Thom Hartmann — on the Economic and Labor News.