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ND-Dem's Journal
ND-Dem's Journal
January 17, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr.s Solution to Poverty

From “Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr’s Solution to Poverty,” by Jordan Weissmann, published by The Atlantic:

When Americans stop to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. each year, we tend to do a great disservice to the man’s legacy by glossing over his final act as an anti-poverty crusader.

In short, King wanted the government to eradicate poverty by providing every American a guaranteed, middle-class income—an idea that, while light-years beyond the realm of mainstream political conversation today, had actually come into vogue by the late 1960s.

He laid out the case for the guaranteed income in his final book, 1967?s Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Washington’s previous efforts to fight poverty, he concluded, had been “piecemeal and pygmy.” The government believed it could lift up the poor by attacking the root causes of their impoverishment one by one—by providing better housing, better education, and better support for families. But these efforts had been too small and too disorganized. Moreover, he wrote, “the programs of the past all have another common failing—they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.”

In part, King’s thinking seemed to stem from a sense that no amount of economic growth could provide jobs for all or eliminate poverty.


January 17, 2015

Inequality is killing American women

Imagine that each year six U.S. passenger jets crashed, killing all passengers on board. Imagine that every person who died on those planes was a woman who was pregnant or recently gave birth. Instead of offering interventions and regulations that might prevent more planes from falling from the sky, lawmakers attempted to defund and repeal the very programs meant to improve air safety. That, in a nutshell, is the maternal mortality crisis in the United States.

Today, more U.S. women die in childbirth and from pregnancy-related causes than at almost any point in the last 25 years. The United States is the one of only seven countries in the entire world that has experienced an increase in maternal mortality over the past decade (we join the likes of Afghanistan and South Sudan), and mothers in Iran, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Greece (among many other countries) have a better chance of surviving pregnancy than do women in the United States.

It should be no surprise that maternal mortality rates (MMRs) have risen in tandem with poverty rates. The two are inextricably linked. Women living in the lowest-income areas in the United States are twice as likely to suffer maternal death, and states with high rates of poverty have MMRs 77 percent higher than states with fewer residents living below the federal poverty level. Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as white women, and in some U.S. cities the MMR among Black women is higher than in some sub-Saharan African countries.

New research suggests that one of the many factors driving this crisis might be inequality. We may have just celebrated the dawn of 2015, but in terms of economic inequality it might as well be 1929, the last time the United States experienced such an extraordinary gulf between the rich and the, well, everyone else. Today nearly one in three Blacks and one in four Hispanics (compared to one in ten whites) live in poverty, and in certain states those percentages are even higher. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the net worth of the poorest Americans has decreased and stagnant wages and increased debt has driven more middle class families into poverty. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Americans have enjoyed remarkable gains in wealth and income. Those in the top one percent have seen their incomes increase by as much as 200.5 percent over the past 30 years, while those in the bottom 99 percent have seen their incomes grow by only 18.9 percent during that same time.

January 17, 2015

Ayn Rand, Worst Jewish Aunt Ever

It’s hard to imagine Ayn Rand as having a warm and fuzzy family life.

And yet, this letter to her niece Connie shows that Rand — born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in 1905 to Russian-Jewish parents — did indeed have humans who loved her. Well, maybe. The missive (posted below) outlines the rather, um, severe conditions under which Rand would loan her sister’s daughter (not some stranger — and even then, come on) $25 to buy a graduation dress. If I were Connie, I would probably have waved bye bye to scary aunt Ayn after this doozy.

You think your aunts are bad? Read it and weep:

Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/the-shmooze/212822/ayn-rand-worst-jewish-aunt-ever/#ixzz3P3L8eoFO

January 16, 2015

Idaho prosecutor: Arrest warrant for 9-year-old gum thief a mistake

A northern Idaho prosecutor says he made a mistake requesting an arrest warrant for a 9-year-old boy accused of stealing a pack of gum.

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh in a statement Monday says his office should have instead sought a child protection investigation. He says that would have resulted in more information and a better-informed decision.

First Judicial District Judge Lansing Haynes authorized the warrant after the boy twice failed to show up in court.

Post Falls Police Chief Scott Haug says the child missed court because relatives had no way of getting him to the courthouse.

The boy was arrested Jan. 6 and held at a juvenile detention center, then released Friday after a court hearing.

McHugh says the case against the boy is still pending.


shades of jean valjean.

January 15, 2015

Darrell Winfield, the real Marlboro Man, dies at 85

Best known as the rugged cowboy who starred in the Marlboro Man cigarette advertisements, Darrell Winfield died Monday at home in Wyoming at age 85.

Though some of the Marlboro Men in the famous cigarette advertisements launched in the 1950s were actors, Winfield was the real thing.

Winfield was working at a Wyoming ranch in 1968 when Leo Burnett/Philip Morris Advertising came looking for real cowboys to feature in the campaign, according to his local obituary.

He often wore his own clothes and provided many of the animals in the photo shoots.


January 15, 2015

Crisis in France Is Seen as Sign of Chronic Ills

France may have just hosted its biggest outpouring of solidarity since the end of World War II in response to the terrorist attacks last week in and around Paris that left 17 dead at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.

But in the disaffected suburbs, or banlieues, that ring France’s largest cities, those appeals for unity hardly penetrated the sense of isolation, even siege, that have left cities like this one living a parallel existence from the rest of the country.

“I am French and I feel French,” said Nabil Souidi, 23. “But here you are forbidden to say, ‘I am Charlie,’ ” referring to the rallying cry of solidarity since the attack on the magazine.

Mr. Souidi recently graduated from a trade school and hoped to find a job as a mechanic. Months later, he is still out of work, searching for a Plan B. “I’ll go to Syria,” he said, with a sarcastic laugh in an interview over a plate of French fries and mayonnaise.

For him and many other French Muslims, the nation’s preoccupation with last week’s attacks at the hands of Islamic extremists presents a mere distraction from a fundamental social crisis that has plagued France’s immigrant neighborhoods for decades.

Here, and in numerous other poor suburbs that ring French cities, joblessness runs around 20 percent, about double the national average. For young people, it can be as high as 40 percent. About half of residents do not have a high school diploma. Police harassment and profiling are taken for granted as the rule.

In a time of budget cuts and austerity, conditions have only deteriorated despite years of pledges by successive governments, including President François Hollande’s, to improve schools and create opportunity.

The men who carried out the attacks — Saïd Kouachi and his brother Chérif, and Amedy Coulibaly, who seized the kosher market, grew up in the French banlieues and had failed to hold down a series of menial jobs in their youth.

All were attracted to Islamic extremism by their teenage years, and many residents in the banlieues consider them bad seeds who were propelled toward the fringe...

Conditions were already bleak in his neighborhood even before the killings, he said, and now, more than ever, he said, he wanted to send a pointed message to the government and the country.

“What we are asking for is to be respected according to our worth,” he said. “The message, quite simply, is to be regarded as truly French.”


January 14, 2015

Study: Poor families pay double the state, local tax rate of the rich

Middle- and low-income Americans are facing far higher state and local taxes than the wealthy, according to a new report assessing tax data from all 50 states. In all, the analysis by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) finds that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4).

ITEP researchers say the incongruity derives from state and local governments’ reliance on sales, excise and property taxes rather than on more progressively structured income taxes that increase rates on higher earnings. They argue that the tax disconnect is helping create the largest wealth gap between the rich and middle class that has ever been recorded in American history.

“In recent years, multiple studies have revealed the growing chasm between the wealthy and everyone else,” Matt Gardner, executive director of ITEP, said. “Upside-down state tax systems didn’t cause the growing income divide, but they certainly exacerbate the problem. State policymakers shouldn’t wring their hands or ignore the problem. They should thoroughly explore and enact tax reform policies that will make their tax systems fairer.”

The 10 states with the largest gap between tax rates on the rich and poor are a politically and geographically diverse group -- from traditional Republican bastions such as Texas and Arizona to Democratic strongholds such as Illinois and Washington. The latter state, reports ITEP, is the most regressive of all, imposing a 16.8 percent effective tax rate on its poorest 20 percent, while letting its 1-percenters pay just a 2.4 percent rate. Four of the top 10 most regressive states levy no personal income tax at all.

By contrast, the states identified as having the smallest gap in tax rates are California, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont -- all Democratic strongholds and all relying more heavily on progressively structured income taxes. Montana is the only Republican-leaning state ITEP researchers identify among the states with the least regressive tax rates.


January 12, 2015

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