Next month is Black History Month. We will hear stories about black Americans and their successes in this country against the barriers (slavery, Jim Crow, poll tax just to name a few) thrown in their paths. Yet for every success story, there is still the nagging fact that the median net wealth of white households is 12.2 times greater than that of black households.
The International Union of Food Workers (IUF) and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) have affirmed their solidarity with employees of Mondelēz International, the maker of Nabisco products, around the world. The state of Illinois has given Nabisco/Mondelēz millions of dollars in public assistance and tax breaks. BCTGM represents some 4,000 Mondelēz workers. The company has asked for massive concessions from employees that BCTGM says would amount to lost wages and benefits of $22–$29 per hour, per employee, and would lead to hundreds of lost jobs. In July, the company moved hundreds of jobs from Chicago to Mexico, jobs that were mostly held by African American and Latino workers before the move. They are represented by BCTGM Local 300 in Chicago. Most of them are also over the age of 40, a surprisingly disproportionate targeting of experienced and valuable employees.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a new report this week that takes a deeper look at unemployment, particularly when it comes to racial disparities in the recovery from the Great Recession. The report, written by Valerie Wilson, argues that the projected decline in unemployment for 2015 won't lift African Americans out of the employment crater caused by the recession.
In what should be considered standing logic on its end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that while public colleges have an interest in having a racially diverse student body, nonetheless, the racial majority of a state can vote to remove racial diversity as a goal. This is a radical and activist reinterpretation of the Constitution, since by strict construction, the 14th Amendment had been added to explicitly limit white majority action to deny full legal protection to the newly freed slaves and their descendants. The purpose was to limit majority rule from becoming mob rule, continuing a legacy of inequality.
In addition to the many other benefits we've spotlighted about raising the minimum wage, a new report released by the AFL-CIO today finds that raising the minimum wage would help millions of African American families. The report, which is based on Economic Policy Institute data, shows that African Americans often live in a state of economic insecurity and that raising the minimum wage would be an effective way to counter that insecurity for some 4 million African Americans.
That's the sobering conclusion one has to take from this chart from The Washington Post. The American ideal—that anyone can rise up from poverty to succeed—just doesn't seem to apply to a lot of America's workers, particularly African Americans. While it is possible and it does happen, the reality is that it isn't as common as we think and it's far from equally possible.
This week Americans will celebrate July 4th and America’s independence. It also will be a time when public ceremonies are held to swear in newly naturalized American citizens. That gives us a chance to reflect on comprehensive immigration reform and think about the economic implications.
What a strange turn of events. If we are to believe the leaks on the deal being cut for the fiscal cliff, it appears that President Obama’s agenda was narrow—restore fiscal sanity by upping the tax rates on very high earners. In the process, he appears ready to concede to House Speaker John Boehner a Republican plan to alter Social Security benefits recommended by the Simpson-Bowles commission. What an odd legacy the president would be leaving. The cut in Social Security benefits that Boehner proposes would have a disparate impact on African Americans, the group that voted most vociferously against the Republican world view. One would think the president’s agenda going into the fiscal cliff negotiations would be to remind those who worked hard for his election why it mattered he won.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the foundations for the well-being of scores of millions of middle- and low-income Americans. Without Social Security, 14 million more low-income Americans would be living in poverty. Because of Medicare, 33 million older people live longer, have access to quality careand are not driven into poverty by rapidly rising health care costs. Medicaid is a health care boon to Americans not yet eligible for Medicare, which covers some 60 million Americans.