Category Archives: Inequality

Does it Matter?

I wrote this keeping in mind all of the recent locations and people we have met that are champions and heroes that are leading the battles our communities are facing each and every day.

 

Does it Matter?child homeless

Does it matter that mothers are afraid to send their children out to play?

Does it matter we treat another shooting as just another day?

Does it matter that we turn our heads away

As someone is being beaten or stolen away?

Does it matter whether we know them or care enough

To draw attention when others are being too rough?

 

A homeless man sits covered in snow early on March 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. A messy Monday is in store for millions along the East Coast, with winter weather advisories warning of a mixture of snow and rain for Washington, DC, Philadelphia, metropolitan New York and parts of northeast New Jersey. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Does it matter that the cold weather will be blowing in soon,

And some people are trying to figure out which underpass to call home?

Does it matter that these people try their best not to steal,

But can’t figure out another way to get their child a meal?

Does it matter that these same children, with parents trying their best,

Are expected to study, stay focused, and especially pass the test?

 

Homeless_2_-_Rosie_O'Beirne

Does it matter that the guy who sits in the alley

You know the one – he makes weird noises and calls you “Pally”

Tonight starts the weekend and everything’s closed

So he’ll make his way to the emergency room ‘cause it’s all he knows.

His demons chase him all day and all night

He’s lonely, he’s afraid, and by the way, he’s losing his sight.

 

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Does it matter that there are people out there

Who just want to help … they really do care?

Does it matter that money and funding of programs to help

All too often gets shuffled or stuck in “red tape?”

It’s no longer time to sit back and get angry,

Find it in yourself to ask, “Does it matter?”

 

By Signe Lambertsen

Gender Wage Gap: Bad for Everyone

 

Source: forbes.com

On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act. It was hailed as an important first step in achieving gender equality in the workplace.

JFK signs the Equal Pay Act.
JFK signs the Equal Pay Act.

52 years later, women are still making less than men. In 2015, a woman working full-time makes approximately 79 percent of what a man makes.

At its current rate, the gap won’t close for another 43 years. Waiting for the year 2058 to come around is a bad idea. The gender wage gap is an issue that affects everyone.

We all have a mom. Others have aunts, sisters, girlfriends, wives, or friends who are women.

Gender wage gap by ethnicity.

If you care about these people, then you should care about the gender wage gap.

The issue, however, goes beyond a personal level.

Women account for 80 percent of all Medicaid recipients, and 70 percent of all Welfare recipients, according to economist, Heidi Hartmann. Equal pay would allow women to become less reliant on governmental assistance.

It could even create an added incentive for women to join the workforce.

A 2011 McKinsey & Company study examined the vast benefits the American economy could earn from women.

The study showed the American economy would be approximately 25 percent smaller if women were not a part of the workforce.

A very slow increase.

That sounds impressive, but it should be even larger.

Seventy-six percent of all women aged 25-54 are in the workforce. That same statistic is currently 87 percent in Sweden.

The economy would grow by 3-4 percent if America’s average could rise to just 84 percent. 3-4 percent may not sound like much, but don’t be fooled.

The American economy grew 2.4 percent in 2014. This was America’s largest economic growth since the Great Recession.

The numbers don’t lie. Americans of all genders and ethnicities would benefit greatly from equal pay.

Arguing against gender income inequality would be a disservice to the “American Dream” we all know and love.


 

By: Jackson Rioux

Where Will The Middle-Class Go?

Less people are buying houses these days as a result of the increase in home prices. But those who do end up as homeowners are able to prosper because of the equity from their house. As more people rent and less people buy homes, the benefits of owning a residence are going to a smaller select group of people and thus contributing to the wealth inequality in the U.S.

Expensive housing helps spread of economic inequality. Over the past couple of years, the costs of purchasing a house have skyrocketed. In San Francisco, middle-class families are only able to purchase 14 percent of homes located there.  Slowly, the middle-class is disappearing. The distortions in housing ownership by the middle-class and wealthy are due in part to the growing divide in income inequality. As income inequality continues to widen, those with greater wages will be able to buy more when trying to obtain a house. As a result, this intensifies the cost of houses and contributes to the wealth inequality across a town. The high rate of income and house owning costs of New York is an example of this effect.

The concentration of wealthy households in an area segregates social classes and contributes to the erosion of the middle-class. Because of particular schools, jobs, and neighborhoods, families will flock to a particular area and add to that region’s wealth with their income. Unfortunately, other areas are left to languish and worsen as crime and lower housing levels drive people away. This leads to a societal class divide in the town and ultimately a future with an increased economic inequality. Unless something changes, the current housing wealth inequality situation is only going to worsen as concentration of housing wealth increases in the near future.

-Quenton

Expensive Housing & Wealth Inequality

Source: rentcafe.com

Expensive housing prices are putting America into a vicious cycle of wealth inequality.

Look at public schooling. It’s no secret state and local property taxes are the major source of funding for schools.

In fact, local property taxes account for approximately 93 percent of education expenditures, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That means towns with high property values have virtually no problem generating the money to fund public schools.

Poorer towns, on the other hand, don’t have these advantages. This only deepens the wealth divide, as education clearly matters when it comes to this issue.

Mean Earnings by Highest Degree Earned, $: 2009 (SAUS, table 232)
Mean Earnings by Highest Degree Earned: 2009 (SAUS, table 232)

This certainly can be seen in Connecticut.

Each year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition calculates the “housing wage.” This is the “hourly wage needed to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in metro areas throughout the United States.”

Connecticut’s housing costs are the 8th highest, with an average housing wage of $24.29.

Affluent towns including WestportNew Canaan, and Weston have a housing wage of $37.37. It’s a different story for the low-income cities. Bridgeport’s housing wage is $24.67, while  New Britain and Hartford are at $22.00.

Compare this to Connecticut’s school district rankings. New Canaan, Westport, and Weston are found at the top of the school district rankings, while Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Britain are bottom feeders.

Is there a way to offer equal opportunities and better education to low income residents?

Partnership for Strong Communities, Policy Director, David Fink is working to provide affordable housing to struggling residents.

Source: pschousing.org
Source: pschousing.org

Fink is aware that people are generally very defensive when they hear the words, “affordable housing.”

He compares offering affordable housing in affluent communities to giving a child vegetables.

“You don’t give it too them all at once,” he says. “Out of 50 new developments, you offer 10 as affordable housing.”

Fink says people realize affordable housing “isn’t so bad,” after seeing the long-term results.

“After time people will realize that it’s not the crips and the bloods moving in. It’s the nurses, and hardworking families.”


By: Jackson Rioux

The Friendship Service Center

Homelessness is a chronic problem that has been affecting the New Britain area for decades. Fortunately, there are many prominent organizations tasked with the noble goal of providing aid and care to those with no place to call home. One such association is the Friendship Service Center, which has been offering services to those in need since 1968 when Father Joseph Farrell opened the very first Friendship Center to help those with rampant drinking problems.

“Today I’m opening a storefront Friendship Center. You folks know the location well – it’s between two package stores. We’re going to show the needy that nobody is a nobody in the eyes of God. I hope this work will grow and grow and be of as much help to as many people as possible.”

It’s from these humble beginnings that the Friendship Center has developed into an organization that is able to give shelter to the homeless, assist those with drug abuse, and ultimately offer a future to those in need where they are acclimated to society and living on their own successfully and independently.

Early in October, I went to the Friendship Center on Arch Street as part of a class trip to meet with some of the team members working there and talk with Executive Director Ellen Perkins Simpson where she shared some insight into her organization and mission. She went into great detail about how individuals staying at their housing units receive intense case management. There are weekly check-ins to see how they are faring in their apartments. Some of these clients have been living on the streets for years (some for over 10 years), so workers at the Friendship Center guide them on cooking, cleaning, and obtaining jobs, with the eventual goal of getting them to live by themselves independently. Visiting the Friendship Center was an eye-opening, yet hopeful experience. It was comforting to know that the team’s methods of rehabilitation worked and that several homeless people now lead very successful lives.

-Quenton

Tragedy of the Commons

What would William Forster Lloyd say about the world today?

The 19th century British writer in economics was particularly interested in population control. In 1833, Lloyd introduced a scenario that would later be known as, “The Tragedy of the Commons.”

Source: microfeeder.com

Imagine a flourishing, green, grazing area that is available to all the members of a town. There would be plenty of room for the members to bring a sufficient number of cattle to the green.

That is, if everyone acted in the best interest of the town. Unfortunately, greed takes over, and a small group of farmers exploit the green. The green is eventually overgrazed, and destroyed.

Thus, the tragedy of the commons.

Today, the farmers are corporations such as Nike and Apple. The green is the number of job opportunities American corporations should be offering their citizens.

Instead, Nike offers $200 shoes made by female workers who earn around 50 cents an hour in foreign countries.

Source: Inequality For All
Source: “Inequality for All”

Apple is no better. A 2014 report from BBC exposes the vast mistreatment Chinese workers faced.

These practices are hurting Americans too.

America lost 5.1 millions jobs from 2001-2011 due to outsourcing, according to US News & World Report. This only deepens the divide between the rich and the poor.

Source: Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley

Outsourcing is not the only reason for the income divide, but it’s no coincidence that America’s income inequality is at a boiling point. In fact, the divide is the highest it’s been since 1928.

However, there is reason to be optimistic. 60,000 manufacturing jobs were added in the United States in 2014. The same article reports “only” 50,000 jobs were “outsourced,” in 2014.

2014’s net increase of 10,000 jobs was the first time in at least 20 years there had been an increase.

Perhaps that once green pasture of American jobs will return after all.


By: Jackson Rioux

“Urine, Utopia, and Us”

 

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Someone wiser than me (yes, that person exists) once said, “Don’t piss on me and then tell me it’s raining”. Well, it is in deed raining my friends and the showers are quite warm and golden.  Okay then, enough with the metaphors let’s get down to the point; the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting nothing. Yep, here we go again with that same ole socio-economic shizz.

Hold on,  I know that people have been saying that for years but just in case you still don’t get it… there are levels to this shizz, people. The late great German philosopher, economist Karl Marx explained it centuries ago in his book entitled The Communist Manifesto when he spoke of the high and mighty bourgeoisie (Donald Trump, Steve Jobs and the Koch inequality_304brothers) and the lowly proletariat (you). In his writings Marx spelled out the levels and reasoning for the American capitalistic construct of the bosses (the 1%) and the workers (the 99%).  He even speculated on an economic system where there would be a equitable division and distribution of wealth and resources among all of the people (Utopia). Of course the bourgeoisie (old and new) rail against this notion of equality because of  their inherent superiority complex issues. So, we must plod on with this current capitalist system.

 

Okay, if the collected works of Herr Marx is a mite too lofty and deep for your taste then you may wish to sample a bit of the wisdom of a much more recent thinker. French economist Thomas Piketty.  In his book Capital in the 21st Century,  Piketty rallies us to action by informing us that “Power cedes nothing without demand.”  In short, if you don’t find our current socio- economic situation  to your liking then you need to get off your ass and do something. Graphs and pie charts are good but,  your best economic indicator  of your wealth is your wallet. Protect yourself in this season of Golden Showers.   Think about it!

submitted by Braxton Gray

Kitten Pic

 

A First Person Shooter with a Dose of Ayn Rand? Count Me In!

In 2007, videogame Bioshock was released to wild critical acclaim and helped dispel the notion that videogames were merely playthings. Not only was it praised for its cinematic storytelling and moody setting – an underwater Art Deco utopia called Rapture- but it was hailed as a masterpiece of the game industry because it made one think. This wasn’t your typical mindless first-person shooter. Bioshock grappled with heavy philosophical questions, taking massive influence from Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, to create a game like no other.

Ken Levine, the creative mastermind behind Bioshock, has cited Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged as a paramount influence. Rand’s magnum opus distills her philosophy of Objectivism into literary form. Objectivism is, in her own words, “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Essentially, it’s the belief that each individual holds the right to seek out happiness and live out his or her life to its full potential, free of restraint.

Atlas Shrugged portrays a world where its best and brightest have all retreated to a sheltered paradise for themselves, leaving civilization to decay into anarchy. Bioshock depicts a similar setting where one man creates an underwater haven called Rapture, a city molded by the principles of Objectivism and inhabited by the world’s elite scientists, artists, and thinkers where they are free to continue their work unrestricted by the societal limitations of the world.

While both works portray a utopia for free-thinkers, Bioshock demonstrates what happens to a society fueled by Objectivism: desire and greed runs rampant and power struggles tear the city apart. Bioshock places players into the aftermath of an idealized dream, now a living nightmare. Won’t you play?

-Quenton

The Wealth Divide

From Multinational Monitor, May 2003:

LINK:      http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2003/03may/may03interviewswolff.html

Multinational Monitor’s Interview with Edward Wolff: Professor of economics at New York University

“The Wealth Divide The Growing Gap in the United States Between the Rich and the Rest”.

MM: What portion of the wealth is owned by the upper groups?

Wolff:

The top 5 percent own more than half of all wealth.

In 1998, they owned 59 percent of all wealth.

In another way, the top 5 percent had more wealth than the remaining 95 percent of the population, collectively.

The top 20 percent owns over 80 percent of all wealth. In 1998, it owned 83 percent of all wealth.

MM: Where does that leave the bottom tiers?

Wolff:

The bottom 20 percent basically have zero wealth. They either have no assets, or their debt equals or exceeds their assets. The bottom 20 percent has typically accumulated no savings.

A household in the middle — the median household — has wealth of about $62,000. If you consider that the top 1 percent of households’ average wealth is $12.5 million, you can see what a difference there is in the distribution.

MM: What happens when you disaggregate the data by race?

Wolff:

The average African-American family has about 60 percent of the income as the average white family.

The average African-American family has only 18 percent of the wealth of the average white family.

Examining_Labels_Photo_by_John_Mudd_Cornell_University_1_t670

Now?…

Is poverty the result of laziness, lack of resources, or unethical systems?

In an article titled “Poll: Fewer Americans Blame Poverty on the Poor” by Seth Freed Wessler, Americans took a poll to determine the blame for poverty.

Two important conclusions:

“Leslie McCall, Ph.D., a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies inequality and public opinion, says that Americans have held on to 90s era stigma about family safety-net programs, while becoming more invested in opportunity-building policies.” Further, that, “Concerns about inequality, or poverty, are not associated with an increase in support for traditional forms of safety net like welfare,” McCall says. “But they do associate with increased support for spending in education, increased earnings for people at the bottom or the middle, and access to jobs. People look around and see that conditions are not a result of individuals, but of structural problems.”

Take a Test on Assessing Others

RacialDifferences

Take a Test …

How quickly do you think you judge someone by their outward appearance? Is your reaction based on what they are wearing, where or how they are standing, or a particular facial expression? Actually, it is human nature to assess the people with whom we interact, allowing us to instantly read the faces and body language of others. But how often do we recognize how biased our opinions are based on another’s skin color, eye shape, nose structure, and other external characteristics?

racial_IATThere are many online modules that test one’s reaction to rapid visual snapshots of close-up photos depicting individual’s faces (eyes/nose/mouth only). Understanding how positive and negative reactions toward photos that depict various races, genders, and cultures give researchers statistics that shed light on how we form snap judgments of others.  According to a recent study by researchers at New York University, “Our findings suggest that the brain automatically responds to a face’s trustworthiness before it is even consciously perceived. The researchers focused on the workings of the brain’s amygdala, a structure that is important for humans’ social and emotional behavior. There is now clear evidence that the amygdala processes social cues in the absence of awareness that is more extensive than previously understood.”

Participating in this type of test may provide individuals insight into how they interact toward one another. Recognizing and addressing our biases opens us to engaging in courageous conversations about race and equity in our world.

By Signe Lambertsen