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Why Equality is Better for Everyone

from YES! Magazine:

Why Equality is Better for Everyone
Book Review: Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's "The Spirit Level" shows how inequality—and misery—trickle up.

by Kristy Leissle
posted Dec 27, 2011

A recent report using income data from the 2010 Census drew attention to a harsh aspect of wealth inequality in the United States, already among the highest in the world. The number of Americans living in poverty increased to 46.2 million, and 6.7 percent crossed the threshold into “deep poverty.” Without food stamps and unemployment insurance, an additional 6.8 million would have fallen below the poverty line. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent continue to command a fifth of the nation’s income, and for an increasing number of Americans, the dream of middle-class security is ever more elusive.

The Spirit Level, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, which has sold more than 100,000 copies since its 2009 publication in Britain, offers insight beyond the bare facts of the census income data. Our national response to the hardships caused by the market crisis of 2008 has been to apply more of the same economic system—subsidize the banks in the hope this gets the economy growing again. But as Wilkinson and Pickett argue from their opening pages, “Economic growth, for so long the great engine of progress, has, in the rich countries, largely finished its work.” Once wealth rises past a certain level, the benefits to life expectancy, health, and happiness stabilize, and then stagnate.

The crux of The Spirit Level is that the best measure of a country’s well-being is not GDP or wealth overall, but its distribution of wealth. Of the developed countries (the focus of the book), those with highest income inequality—the United States, Britain, and Portugal—have the lowest levels of social “goods” such as educational achievement, long life expectancy, gender parity, and trust among neighbors. They have the highest rates of mental illness, obesity, violent crime, teen pregnancy, and incarceration. When the lion’s share is captured by a few, and the rest divide the remainder into increasingly tiny slivers—the “deep poverty” of more than 20 million Americans—social ills rise. Take the statistics on violence: along with the Scandinavian countries, Japan ranks highest on income equality; it also has the lowest homicide rate in the developed world. By contrast, the United States suffers from the highest murder rate, 64 people per million annually. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-yes-breakthrough-15/why-equality-is-better-for-everyone

Catholic School Fires Teacher, Five Months Pregnant, for Choosing Artificial Insemination

Outrageous: Catholic School Fires Teacher, Five Months Pregnant, for Choosing Artificial Insemination

Christa Dias was a teacher at Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools for nearly two years before, at five months pregnant, the thirty-one-year-old asked about maternity leave. But rather than grant Dias some well-deserved time off, the schools fired her because her baby was conceived by artificial insemination, Cincinnati.com reports.

From Jezebel:

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati requires all employees to sign contracts stating that they'll adhere to Catholic social teachings, including the assertion that being pregnant sans husband is a gravely immoral act. Someone tell that to the Virgin Mary.

The school originally said it fired her for being single and pregnant, but they were informed that that's not technically legal, so they changed their tune to say they fired her for becoming pregnant via artificial insemination.

Dias was fired from Archdiocese of Cincinnati, where she was making $36,000 a year, in October 2010. Now the mother of a of an 11-month-old daughter, she is still unemployed. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/755105/outrageous%3A_catholic_school_fires_teacher%2C_five_months_pregnant%2C_for_choosing_artificial_insemination/

Grist: Pepsi spends $3 million a year so laws don’t come between corn syrup and your kids

Pepsi spends $3 million a year so laws don’t come between corn syrup and your kids

by Christopher Mims
27 Dec 2011 12:19 PM

Ironically-named food hero Marion Nestle just calculated that PepsiCo, which pumps enough high fructose corn syrup into the American public to turn out one Ghostbusters-size Stay Puft marshmallow man every 18 hours (I made that up; you get the idea), spends $3 million a year lobbying Congress.

So what is Pepsi doing dumping all that loot on 1-percenters who supposedly represent the American public on Capital Hill?

One motivation, according to the Sunlight Foundation, is the company's effort to stop the government's Interagency Working Group from proposing guidelines on food marketing aimed at kids. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.grist.org/list/2011-12-27-pepsi-spends-3-billion-a-year-so-laws-dont-come-between-corn-syr

Forbes.com: Michigan football the 5th-most valuable program in America

Forbes.com: Michigan football the 5th-most valuable program in America

The Michigan football team worked its way back onto a national stage this season with a 10-2 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

However, the Wolverine program never left the big stage when dollars and cents are involved.

Forbes.com recently unveiled its current list of the most valuable college football programs in America, with the Michigan football program entering at No. 5, worth a Forbes value of $94 million.


Forbes' top five valued programs in America are Texas ($129 million), Notre Dame ($112 million), Penn State ($100 million), LSU ($96 million) and Michigan ($94 million). ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.annarbor.com/sports/um-football/michigan-football-the-fifth-most-valuable-program-in-america/

I wonder what the camp counselors are like......?

Wall Street has destroyed the wonder that was America

from Newsweek, via The Daily Beast:

Imagine a vast field on which a terrible battle has recently been fought, the bare ground cratered by fusillade after fusillade of heavy artillery, trees reduced to blackened stumps, wisps of toxic gas hanging in the gray, and corpses everywhere.

A terrible scene, made worse by the sound of distant laughter, because somehow, on the heights commanding the dead zone, the officers’ club has made it through intact. From its balconies flutter bunting, and across the blasted landscape there comes a chorus of hearty male voices in counterpoint to the wheedling of cadres of wheel-greasers, the click of betting chips, the orotund declamations of a visiting congressional delegation: in sum, the celebratory hullabaloo of a class of people that has sent entire nations off to perish but whose only concern right now is whether the ’11 is ready to drink and who’ll see to tipping the servants. The notion that there might be someone or some force out there getting ready to slouch toward the buttonwood tree to exact retribution scarcely ruffles the celebrants’ joy.

Ah, Wall Street. As it was in the beginning, is now, and hopes to God it ever will be, world without end. Amen.

Or so it seems to me. It was in May 1961 that a series of circumstances took me from the hushed precincts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was working as a curatorial assistant in the European Paintings Department, to Lehman Brothers, to begin what for the next 30 years would be an involvement—I hesitate to call it “a career”—in investment banking. I would promote and execute deals, sit on boards, kiss ass, and lie through my teeth: the whole megillah. In consequence of which, I would wear Savile Row and carry a Hermès briefcase. I had Mme. Claude’s home number in Paris and I frequented the best clubs in a half-dozen cities. But I had a problem: I was unable to develop the anticommunitarian moral opacity that is the key to real success on Wall Street. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/12/25/wall-street-has-destroyed-the-wonder-that-was-america.html

USA Today: Holiday sales fail to dazzle

Holiday retail sales appear on track to be somewhere between ho-ho-ho and ho-hum, raising the prospect that the economic expansion is still struggling to reach top form.

Some stores, including J. Crew and Bloomingdale's, were offering after-Christmas discounts of 75% or more, which were more reminiscent of the recession than a recovery.

Early and late in the season, shoppers seemed to ignore many of the lingering economic warning signs and spent like it was 2007 again. Yet, all that spending doesn't equal a blockbuster holiday season, some retail analysts say.

It's "a lot better than it was three or four years ago," says Chris Christopher, senior principal economist for IHS Global Insight. "It looks OK, but when you take price increases into account, it doesn't look too good." ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2011-12-27-afterxmas27_ST_U.htm

Recession or Depression -- Are We Really Better Off Than in the 1930s?

Recession or Depression -- Are We Really Better Off Than in the 1930s?
[font color="green"]The Investigative Reporting Workshop[/font], News Report, Kat Aaron, Posted: Dec 25, 2011

Some call this moment the Great Recession. As the hardship has lingered, others have begun calling it the Little Depression. But equating the hard times of the 1930s with the hard times of today is mostly overblown rhetoric. Or is it?

On the surface, the comparisons are obvious: a period of great wealth and exuberance, followed by a stock market crash. After the crash, widespread economic pain. Millions of people out of work, thousands of homes lost. Families going hungry.

But much has changed. There is social security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, none of which existed when the Depression hit. Breadlines and shantytowns, emblems of the Depression, are nowhere to be seen. Today, though, there is great hardship out of view. Behind closed doors, apartments and shelters are overcrowded, and cupboards are bare.

In interviews with dozens of people who lived through the Great Depression, both similarities and differences between the eras emerge. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://newamericamedia.org/2011/12/recession-or-depression----are-we-really-better-off-than-in-the-1930s.php

Mom Finally Became Ally for Gay Daughter

from New America Media:

Mom Finally Became Ally for Gay Daughter

New America Media / Salon.com, First Person
Jamilah King, Posted: Dec 26, 2011

“Are you going to that gay pride parade?” my mother asked late one morning as I was rushing off to work last June. For a moment, I didn’t know how to respond. I stopped in my tracks, looked back at her and mumbled something about how I’d probably be too busy and didn’t like big crowds anyway. Sensing my discomfort, mom nonchalantly added, “Well, if you decide to go, I could go with you.”

It was a watershed moment for both of us, one that proved that my mom had finally become my ally.

My mother and I had spent the better part of the past decade doing an awkward dance around my sexuality. Most of it was spent tripping over one another; me, nudging her toward acceptance by insisting on brunch with my girlfriend. Her, timidly mastering the Spanish pronunciation of my girlfriend's name. But usually, we were most in sync when there was silence. It seemed easiest to avoid the topic altogether.

For a while, it worked. She’s a single black mom and, as she likes to note, I’m her “only child in the land of the living.” We are, for all intents and purposes, each other’s anchors. The world was cruel to black girls, and wholly unforgiving to the black women they’d grow into, but we’d always had each other. The rhythm of both of our lives depended heavily on an undisturbed current. .......(more)

The complete piece is at: http://newamericamedia.org/2011/12/mom-finally-became-ally-for-gay-daughter.php

Eugene Robinson: A Brainpower Revolution

from truthdig:

A Brainpower Revolution

Posted on Dec 26, 2011
By Eugene Robinson

This is a moment when policymakers should be thinking big, not small. History will little note nor long remember that the payroll tax holiday was extended for two months rather than 12. The complex and difficult questions we’re avoiding, however, may haunt us through the century.

Let me be clear that I applaud President Obama and the Democrats for the political victory they won last week. The impact was to weaken the influence of the most reactionary and clueless faction in Congress—the tea party Republicans—and strengthen the hand of both progressives and pragmatic conservatives. This can only be a good thing.

But let me also be honest: It’s crazy to have spent so much brainpower and energy on a skirmish that was purely tactical, while blithely ignoring the enormous challenges we face. It would be difficult to squander all of our nation’s tremendous advantages. At present, however, we seem to be doing our best.

The central issue is the prospect of decline. For much of the 20th century, the United States boasted the biggest, most vibrant economy in the world and its citizens enjoyed the best quality of life. The former is still obviously true; the latter, arguably still the case. But there is a sense that we’re fading—that tomorrow might not be as bright as today. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_brainpower_revolution_20111226/