Newswire : Report on inequality finds 3 richest Americans wealthier than bottom half of all Americans

By The Wisconsin Gazette

A disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of the economic spectrum, confirms a report from the progressive Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Americans at the other end of our economic spectrum, meanwhile, watch their wages stagnate and savings dwindle.

The report, Billionaire Bonanza, shows the extreme wealth concentrated within the fortunes of the 400 wealthiest Americans. The report draws on data from the Forbes 400 and the Federal Reserve’s 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances.
Here are some key findings:
· The three wealthiest people in the United States — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett — own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 160 million people or 63 million households.

· America’s top 25 billionaires together hold $1 trillion in wealth. They have as much wealth as 56 percent of the population, a total 178 million people or 70 million households.

· The billionaires who make up the full Forbes 400 list own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people.

· The median American family has a net worth of $80,000, excluding the family car. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 33 million of these typical American families.

· One in five U.S households has zero or negative net worth. “Underwater households” make up an even higher share of households of color. More than 30 percent of black households and 27 percent of Latino households have zero or negative net worth to fall back on.
The figures underestimate current levels of wealth concentration. The growing use of offshore tax havens and legal trusts has made the concealing of assets more widespread than ever before.
To reduce extreme wealth inequality in the United States we need to take two key steps says the IPS report:
· “We must not make inequality worse through new tax cuts for the wealthy. The proposed Trump tax cuts, as currently designed, would grow top 1 percent fortunes and do little to reduce the ranks of America’s underwater nation.”

· “We need to implement policies to reduce concentrated wealth. Inequality will continue to widen unless we intervene directly to reduce grand concentrations of private wealth. By taxing our wealthiest households, we could raise significant revenues and then invest these funds to expand wealth-building opportunities across the economy. We could also broaden the distribution of America’s wealth by encouraging employee ownership, matching savings programs and similar initiatives.”

Newswire : 1 in 5 veterans would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage to $15

 5 veterans would benefit.jpg

 

Economic Snapshot • By David Cooper and Dan Essrow , Economic Policy Institute

November 7, 2017. This Veterans Day, as America celebrates the courage and sacrifice of the millions who have served the country in the armed forces, we should recognize that many of these veterans are now working in low-wage jobs. Of the 9 million veterans in payroll jobs across the country, approximately 1.8 million would get a raise if Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024, as was proposed earlier this year in the Raise the Wage Act of 2017.

This means that despite their service to the country, the intensive training that they have received, and the access to additional education provided to veterans through the GI Bill, 1 out of every 5 veterans is still being paid so little that they stand to benefit from raising the minimum wage.

In April, the Economic Policy Institute, released an analysis of the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 and slowly eliminate the lower subminimum wage for tipped workers. We estimated that roughly 41 million workers—both veterans and nonveterans—would get a raise as a result of such an increase.

The stereotype that only middle-class teens working after school would benefit from raising the minimum wage is false. Yet this stereotype breaks down even more dramatically when considering the veterans who stand to benefit from a higher minimum wage. Of the veterans who would get a raise, nearly two-thirds are age 40 or older, over 60 percent have some college experience, and nearly 70 percent work full time.

All workers deserve fair pay for their work. The fact that so many former servicemen and women would benefit from raising the minimum wage is a reminder that labor standards like the minimum wage protect all workers—even those whose courage, training, and sacrifice should guarantee them a good job. Unfortunately, Congress has let the federal minimum wage erode to the point where, adjusted for inflation, workers at the federal minimum wage are paid less today than during the Vietnam War. There is no reason why the federal minimum wage could not be significantly higher than it is today; Congress simply needs to act.

Newswire : African-Americans taking brunt of oil industry pollution: report

Oil frefinery
 Smoke is released into the sky at a refinery in Wilmington, California March 24, 2012. REUTERS/Bret Hartman/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – African-Americans face a disproportionate risk of health problems from pollution caused by the oil and gas industry, and the situation could worsen as President Donald Trump dismantles environmental regulations, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a pair of advocacy groups.

The report, issued by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People civil rights group and the Clean Air Task Force, said more than a million African-Americans live within half a mile (0.8 km) of an oil and gas operation, and more than 6.7 million live in a county that is home to a refinery.

“African-Americans are exposed to 38 percent more polluted air than Caucasian Americans, and they are 75 percent more likely to live in fence-line communities than the average American,” the report said, referring to neighborhoods adjacent to industrial facilities.
“In the current regulatory environment, the disproportionate burden of pollution will only increase for low-income communities and communities of color,” the report added
Trump’s administration has begun to unravel Obama-era environmental regulations limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, arguing they are overly costly for industry and unnecessary to protect public health.
A White House official declined to comment on the NAACP-CATF report. But Trump has said his pro-energy industry policies are good for blacks and other minorities because they will create jobs.
Officials for the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers, which represent the country’s largest fossil fuels companies, did not immediately comment on the report.
CATF and NAACP said in the report that communities should pressure their political representatives for strong environmental regulation.
“Defending the safeguards finalized during the Obama administration and pushing for additional protections against pollution from the oil and gas industry will help improve the health of many African American communities,” the report said.
It added that communities should lobby to have their nearby oil and gas facility shut down: “We must all learn about the oil and gas facilities that are located in our communities, and advocate for their decommissioning or removal.”
The Boston-based Clean Air Task Force issued a similar study in 2016 that linked ozone smog from natural-gas industry pollution to some 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children, and 500,000 missed school days, per year.
Reporting and writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Newswire : NAACP set to change tax status to engage politically

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Derrick Johnson
 Derrick Johnson, NAACP President

After being eclipsed in recent years by Color of Change, Black Lives Matter and other younger, more tech savvy and politically-pointed groups, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization will change its tax status.
The group’s leaders said that the new tax status would allow them to be more aggressive politically. During a call with reporters, NAACP officials announced that the civil rights group will transition from a 501(c)(3) to 501(c)(4) designation. The change will allow the organization to be more partisan and politically focused. However, the tax designation does not allow political work to be the “primary activity” of the organization.
Even though the NAACP is 108 years old, the organization is struggling to modernize and stay relevant in a rapidly-evolving, social media-driven landscape that requires speed and strategic communications skill. In October, the NAACP named Derrick Johnson as its president; Johnson was elected by the NAACP’s board to serve for three years.
In a statement announcing Johnson as the new president, Leon Russell, the board chairman of the NAACP said, “As both a longtime member of the NAACP, and a veteran activist in his own right—having worked on the ground to advocate for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, along with championing countless other issues—Derrick also intimately understands the strengths of the Association, our challenges and the many obstacles facing Black Americans of all generations, today. I look forward to continuing to work with him in this new role.”
Russell continued: “In his time serving as our interim president and CEO, Derrick has proven himself as the strong, decisive leader we need to guide us through both our internal transition, as well as a crucial moment in our nation’s history. With new threats to communities of color emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast than ever before.”
New NAACP President Derrick Johnson is a native of Detroit, Michigan who lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a long-time member of the NAACP, who was elected Vice Chair earlier this year and served as the interim president after Cornell Brooks was forced out. Johnson attended Tougaloo College before earning a juris doctor degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Newswire : Democrats, Black candidates win historic victories on election night

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

melvincarter_stpaulmayor_ss_melvincarterorg_web120
Melvin Carter was elected the first Black mayor of St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday night, Nov. 7, 2017. (Screenshot/MelvinCarter.org)
The blue wave that swept the country last week wasn’t just a victory for Democrats, but a resounding win for African American candidates, who defied the odds—and Trumpism—to make history.
In Charlotte, N.C., voters elected the first female African American mayor in the city’s history, choosing Democrat Vi Lyles over Republican Kenny Smith.
In St. Paul, Minn., Melvin Carter became that city’s first Black mayor, earning slightly more than 50 percent of the vote in a field that featured 10 candidates and a write-in opponent.
In Virginia, Democrat Justin Fairfax trounced Republican challenger Jill Vogel in the race for lieutenant governor. In January, Fairfax will become only the second African American to hold statewide office in Virginia. Doug Wilder was the first, serving as lieutenant governor from 1986-1990, then as governor from 1990-1994.
Fairfax said his and other Democratic victories could “be the match that sparks the wildfire of progressive” change all across the country.“All across the world. This is a battle for the nation’s soul,” Fairfax said. “Since I announced my candidacy, this campaign has been about the future, about building a Virginia where all of us have the opportunity to rise.”
Most saw victories by Democrats as a referendum on President Donald Trump, whose record low job approval rating has shrunk to 39 percent according to various reports.
Republicans lost races for governor in Virginia, where Ralph Northam easily beat Trump-backed Ed Gillespie, and in New Jersey, where former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy won election as governor, defeating Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Also, in Virginia, attorney general Mark Herring, a Democrat, won reelection over Republican John Adams while Democrats gained at least 10 seats in the House of Delegates.
The party also won key mayoral races in New York, Charlotte, Stamford, Conn., and St. Petersburg and, in a direct rebuke of Trump and Republicans who have tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, voters in Maine approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
On Twitter University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato wrote that the results were a “backlash to Trump and Trumpism, pure and simple.”
Results may have been helped by a strong get out to vote campaign launched by the NAACP. The legendary civil rights organization and its approximately 500,000 adult and youth members around the country were on the frontlines committed to raising awareness for political, educational, social and economic equality of minorities in the electoral process, the organization said in a statement posted on its website.
“The NAACP is actively engaged in increasing the African American responsiveness of citizens to be fully engaged in the democratic process,” the statement read.
Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s outgoing Democratic governor, told reporters that the election night victories were indeed a springboard for future elections, including the 2020 presidential race.
“This was a spark plug,” McAuliffe said. “This is the revitalization of the Democratic Party in America.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden said voters clearly sent a message to Trump. “A resounding defeat tonight for President Trump,” Biden tweeted. “Voters across the country rejected the ugly politics we have seen this past year. Instead, they chose candidates who unite and inspire us.”
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus also engaged voters. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), urged everyone to vote. “The vote is precious, almost sacred,” Lewis said. “It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society [so] use it.”
And, if that admonition wasn’t enough, the legendary civil rights leader reminded voters why participating is so important. “I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious so that every American has the right to vote,” Lewis said. “Friends of mine gave their lives. Do your part. Vote.”

Newswire : Nigeria seeks identity of traffickers who let 26 Nigerian women drown at sea

Saving Nigerians lost at sea
Nigerians trying to get rescued at sea

Nov. 13, 2017 (GIN) – Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), is calling for an international inquiry to identify and prosecute the traffickers behind the recent deaths of 26 Nigerian women on the Italian coast city of Salerno.

According to NAPTIP, the number of deaths of Nigerians on the Mediterranean Sea runs into thousands.

There should be “a high level investigation by the United Nations (into) this incident and others along the Mediterranean region”, the agency said. “We need to know the identities of the owners of the rickety boats as well as their owners, so they can be prosecuted.”

The central Mediterranean route from the coast of Libya to Italy is currently the principle route of undocumented migrants, most of whom are Nigerians. Numbers have increased because of unemployment and recession in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, 13 European and African ministers met this week and pledged steps to ease the migrant crisis around the Mediterranean, vowing especially to improve conditions for migrants held in Libya.

Mali’s Minister for African Integration, Abdramane Sylla, welcomed the joint efforts to stop the humanitarian tragedy. Illegal migration and human trafficking must be tackled, he said, but in the long run European countries must offer more visas to allow for legal paths of migration.

Swiss human rights organizations, however, were unconvinced by the proposals. Solidarity Without Borders, for one, dismissed the conference as a talk shop, pointing out that European countries cooperate with regimes guilty of crimes against human rights.

“The main problem (with current migration policy) is that it fights the symptoms rather than the causes,” said Dr. Lutz Oette, director of the Center for Human Rights Law at SOAS, University of London. “It does so by partnering with governments in a region that has serious governance and human rights problems. So it’s very unlikely that you can actually combat trafficking and smuggling, as long as the actual root causes are still in place.”

Newswire : Democrats win governor’s races in Virginia, New Jersey; provide hope for Alabama special election – Dec. 12

By: John Whitesides, Reuters-Thompson

Fairfax and Northam
Justin Fairfax and Ralph Northam Celebrate Victory

16 WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Democrat Ralph Northam won a bitter race for Virginia governor on Tuesday, beating a Republican who embraced some of President Donald Trump’s combative tactics and issues in a potential preview of next year’s midterm election battles.

Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor and a pediatrician, overcame a barrage of attack ads by Republican Ed Gillespie that hit the soft-spoken Democrat on divisive issues such as immigration, gang crime and Confederate statues. Justin Fairfax, an African-American, was elected as Lieutenant Governor in Virginia.
The Northam victory in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won by 5 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election was a boost for national Democrats who were desperate to turn grassroots enthusiasm to resist Trump into election victories.
Tom Perez, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, said, “We invested more in boots on the ground and grassroots and digital organizing than in any “off-year” before. Good old-fashioned organizing paired with the latest technology and tools helped put our candidates over the top.

“I am so proud of the campaigns run by Virginia’s Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring, New Jersey’s Phil Murphy and Sheila Oliver, and Democrats all over the country, up and down the ballot. These candidates worked hard day in and day out fighting to represent their states, and I know that they will take that same spirit and fight into their terms.

“We are going to keep investing in state parties and supporting Democrats from the school board to the Oval Office. And if we continue to channel our energy into powering this movement, there’s no doubt in my mind that we will see wins like this in 2018, 2020, and beyond.”

Perez and other Democratic leaders pointed to the upcoming Special Election in Alabama on December 12, as another race that can be won by Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, with strong grassroots support.
While Democrats had already lost four special congressional elections earlier this year, Tuesday’s results seem to signal a change in the national political mood.
In a sign of the high stakes, Trump took a break from his Asia visit to send tweets and record messages on behalf of Gillespie, a former chairman of the national party. Trump had endorsed Gillespie but did not campaigned with him.
The Virginia race highlighted a slate of state and local elections that also included a governor’s race in New Jersey, where Democrat Phil Murphy, a former investment banker and ambassador to Germany, defeated Republican Kim Guadagno for the right to succeed Republican Chris Christie.
Murphy had promised to be a check on Trump in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, and Guadagno, the lieutenant governor, was hampered by her association with the unpopular Christie.
In Virginia, Democrats had worried that if Gillespie won, Republicans would see it as a green light to emphasize cultural issues in their campaigns for next year’s elections, when all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the U.S. Senate’s 100 seats come up for election. Republicans now control both chambers.
In Virginia on Tuesday, grassroots campaigners fueled the victory of Justin Fairfax in his historic race for Lieutenant Governor — only the second Black candidate ever elected to statewide office in Virginia. Justin’s huge win was driven by a multiracial grassroots coalition, including DFA and Indivisible volunteers on the ground and on DFA Dialer — the largest national volunteer-led calling program in the country focused on mobilizing sporadic Democratic voters to the polls.
In a significant shift in power in Virginia’s House of Delegates, as of right now 14 out of 16 DFA-endorsed candidates — including progressive fighters like Jennifer Carroll Foy, Donte Tanner, Chris Hurst, Jennifer Boysko, and Hala Ayala — have defeated NRA-backed candidates in several critical races, setting the stage for Democrats potentially taking back control of the chamber.

Of particular note in Virginia are the history-making victories of Danica Roem, who will be the nation’s first transgender state legislator, and Elizabeth Guzman, who will be the first Latina and one of the first first-generation immigrants to serve in the Virginia General Assembly.