Thursday, February 24, 2011

The poor are getting poorer, the rich richer. Does this mean some teachers have it harder, and some easier?

Feb 23, 2011
Separate but unequal: Charts show growing rich-poor gap
By Zachary Roth
Yahoo News

The Great Recession and the slump that followed have triggered a jobs crisis that's been making headlines since before President Obama was in office, and that will likely be with us for years. But the American economy is also plagued by a less-noted, but just as serious, problem: Simply put, over the last 30 years, the gap between rich and poor has widened into a chasm.

Gradual developments like this don't typically lend themselves to news coverage. But Mother Jones magazine has crunched the data on inequality, and put together a group of stunning new charts. Taken together, they offer a dramatic visual illustration of who's doing well and who's doing badly in modern America...

Mar 1, 2011
How liberalism can survive the collapse of union power
By Michael Lind

In last week’s column, I argued that, because unions are likely to play an even smaller role in American politics and policy than they do today, progressives must come up with other strategies for mobilizing ordinary workers and voters to achieve goals like higher wages and a comprehensive system of social insurance. In a response published at Salon, Matthew Dimick of Georgetown University argues that "a liberalism without labor in a nation of staggering levels of economic inequality is even more unlikely."

Dimick notes correctly that universal, contributory social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare become more difficult to justify in a society with highly polarized incomes. He writes:

"It is a brute, if unappreciated, political fact that countries that have more universal social insurance programs also have less inequality in the first place -- that is, less pretax, pre-transfer inequality ... If there is less inequality to begin with, broad and universal social insurance programs look and feel more like, well, insurance, and less like Robin Hood redistribution from rich to poor."

On this point Dimick is correct. He is right, too, about the contribution of unions in other countries in reducing income inequality:

"By reducing pretax, pre-transfer inequality, labor unions broaden the appeal for such programs while also making them more politically feasible."

Dimick’s question is the right one: "The question is what causes lower pretax, pre-transfer economic inequality?" But he is wrong to imply that unionization is the primary factor, rather than one of several factors. Rising inequality is a rubric for a number of different phenomena that happened to occur at the same time in the last 30 years in the U.S., but not in many otherwise similar industrial countries...

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