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    Despite record low approval ratings, House lawmakers Tuesday accepted a $3,300 pay raise that will increase their salaries to $168,500.

    The 2 percent cost-of-living raise would be the seventh straight for members of the House and Senate.

    Associated Press
    House says yes to $3,300 pay raise
    June 14th 2006

    A bid to boost the U.S. minimum wage failed Tuesday as Republicans in the House of Representatives pushed back an effort by Democrats to force a vote on the measure...

    The House Appropriations Committee voted 34 to 28 against attaching a minimum-wage provision to the proposed spending measures for the departments of State, Justice and Commerce. The provision would have raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour from $5.15, the first increase since 1997.

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said last week that he wanted to hold off on debating minimum wage legislation until possibly after the November elections. House Majority Leader John Boehner also said he probably wouldn't allow the legislation to reach the House floor this week...

    Bloomberg News
    Bid to boost minimum wage suffers setback
    June 20th 2006

    Chief executive officers in the United States earned 262 times the pay of an average worker in 2005, the second-highest level in the 40 years for which there is data, a nonprofit think-tank said on Wednesday.

    In fact, a CEO earned more in one work-day than an average worker earned in 52 weeks, said the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

    U.S. CEOs earn 262 times pay of average worker
    June 21st 2006

  • #2
    A week after the GOP-led Senate rejected an increase to the minimum wage, Senate Democrats on Tuesday vowed to block pay raises for members of Congress until the minimum wage is increased....

    Democrats: No raises for Congress until minimum wage is increased
    June 28th 2006


    • #3
      From the article above:

      "During the past nine years, as Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to increase the minimum wage, members of Congress have voted to give themselves pay raises - technically "cost of living increases" - totaling $31,600, or more than $15 an hour for a 40-hour week."

      More than $15 an hour, eh? Why, that must be getting on for three times the current U.S. minimum wage, mustn't it? And that's just what the politicians gave themselves in raises.


      • #4
        "To help explain its deep slump, General Motors Corp. often cites "legacy costs," including pensions for its giant U.S. work force.

        In its latest annual report, GM wrote: "Our extensive pension and (post-employment) obligations to retirees are a competitive disadvantage for us." Early this year, GM announced it was ending pensions for 42,000 workers.

        But there's a twist to the auto maker's pension situation: The pension plans for its rank-and-file U.S. workers are overstuffed with cash, containing about $9 billion more than is needed to meet their obligations for years to come.

        Another of GM's pension programs, however, saddles the company with a liability of $1.4 billion. These pensions are for its executives.

        This is the pension squeeze companies aren't talking about: Even as many reduce, freeze or eliminate pensions for workers - complaining of the costs - their executives are building up ever-bigger pensions, causing the companies' financial obligations for them to balloon.

        Companies disclose little about any of this. But a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate filings reveals that executive benefits are playing a large and hidden role in the declining health of America's pensions....."

        Wall Street Journal
        As workers' pensions wither, those for executives grow
        June 26th 2006


        • #5
          With Democrats plotting to make the minimum wage a major issue in this fall's congressional races, House Republican leaders are conceding that they may have to yield to pressure for an increase to the federal standard, which has been frozen for nearly a decade.....

          The Boston Globe
          House GOP leaders say vote on minimum wage now likely
          July 4th 2006


          • #6
            WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the world's biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty last year, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Tuesday, both ratios virtually unchanged from 2004.

            The survey also showed 15.9 percent of the population, or 46.6 million, had no health insurance, up from 15.6 percent in 2004 and an increase for a fifth consecutive year, even as the economy grew at a 3.2 percent clip.

            It was the first year since President George W. Bush took office in 2001 that the poverty rate did not increase. As in past years, the figures showed poverty especially concentrated among blacks and Hispanics.

            In all, some 37 million Americans, or 12.6 percent, lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income around $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a family of four. The total showed a decrease of 90,000 from the 2004 figure, which Census Bureau officials said was "statistically insignificant."

            The last time poverty declined was in 2000, the final year of Bill Clinton's presidency, when it fell to 11.3 percent.

            The stagnant poverty picture drew attention from Democrats and others who said not enough is being done to help the nation's poor.

            "Far too many American families who work hard and play by the rules still wind up living in poverty," said Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

            Around a quarter of blacks and 21.8 percent of Hispanics were living in poverty. Among whites, the rate edged down to 8.3 percent from 8.7 percent in 2004.

            "Among African Americans the problem correlates primarily to the inner-city and single mothers," said Michael Tanner of CATO Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington. He noted that blacks also suffer disproportionately from poor education and lower quality jobs.

            Black median income, at $30,858, was only 61 percent of the median for whites.

            Some 17.6 percent of children under 18 and one in five of those under 6 were in poverty, higher than for any other age group.

            Still, real median household income rose by 1.1 percent to $46,326 from $45,817 - its first increase since 1999. This was taken as a positive move by Republicans and administration officials.

            "While we still have challenges ahead, our ability to bounce back is a testament to the strong work ethic of the American people, the resiliency of our economy, and pro-growth economic policies, including tax relief," said Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman.

            The figures contained wide regional variations, ranging from a median household income of $61,672 in New Jersey to $32,938 for Mississippi.

            Major cities with the highest proportions of poor people included Cleveland with 32.4 percent and Detroit with 31.4 percent under the poverty line.

            U.S. data show one in eight Americans in poverty


            • #7
              Rising prices and profits translated into pay packages for oil company chief executive officers that are nearly three times the size of similarly sized businesses, a new study from two watchdog groups said.

              In 2005, the CEOs of the largest 15 oil companies averaged $32.7 million in compensation, compared with $11.6 million for all large U.S. firms, according to the study, released today by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

              Amid reports of multimillion-dollar pay packages, shareholder activists have sponsored resolutions to limit compensation at companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and Home Depot Inc. In May, three members of the House of Representatives criticized the retirement benefits of former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond and asked the company to fill a gap in its workers' pension fund.

              "Instead of lining the pockets of executives, they should be investing the money into new sources of energy that go beyond fossil oils,'' said Sarah Anderson, director of the global economy project at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, and a co-author of the study.

              Anderson's group researches peace, justice and environmental issues. United for a Fair Economy, a non-profit group based in Boston, tries to raise awareness about the effects of "concentrated wealth and power,'' according to its web site.

              Last year, the top executives at the 15 largest oil companies earned a total of $512.9 million, the study said. That figure includes the $95.1 million awarded last year to William Greehey, chief executive officer of Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refiner, took home, including salary, bonuses, restricted stock and exercised stock options. Raymond, who retired in January as chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, the most profitable U.S. company, collected $69.7 million.

              Oil executives help manage the bottom lines as well as directing investments in oil and gas as well as fossil fuels, said John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute in Washington.

              "They are paying dividends, buying back stock, and managing their businesses well,'' Felmy said. "Their CEOs should be fairly compensated.''

              The groups also examined the pay of defense contractors' chief executives. The top executives at defense contractors and military suppliers have benefited from the boom in government spending since Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq.

              As a group, the CEOs of the 34 defense contractors have received total compensation of just under $1 billion since 2002. The highest-paid executive in the group was George David, the chairman and CEO of United Technologies Corp., the maker of Pratt & Whitney jet engines and the Sikorsky helicopters. David received $31.9 million last year, the study said.

              Oil company CEO pay averaged $32.7 million in 2005, study says


              • #8

                With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

                That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

                The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

                As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s.....

                Continue reading..... Real wages fail to match a rise in productivity

                (Use ID mediajunkie16 password mediajunkie to access full 2-page article)


                • #9
                  This Labor Day, the 45 million young people in the nation’s work force face a choppy job market in which entry-level wages have often trailed inflation, making it hard for many to cope with high housing costs and rising college debt loads.

                  Entry-level wages for college and high school graduates fell by more than 4 percent from 2001 to 2005, after factoring in inflation, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the Economic Policy Institute. In addition, the percentage of college graduates receiving health and pension benefits in their entry-level jobs has dropped sharply.

                  Some labor experts say wage stagnation and the sharp increase in housing costs over the past decade have delayed workers ages 20 to 35 from buying their first homes.

                  “People are getting married later, they’re having children later, and they’re buying houses later,” said Cecilia E. Rouse, an economist at Princeton University and a co-editor of a forthcoming book on the economics of early adulthood. “There’s been a lengthening of the transition to adulthood, and it is very possible that what has happened in the economy is leading to some of these changes.”

                  Census Bureau data released last week underlined the difficulties for young workers, showing that median income for families with at least one parent age 25 to 34 fell $3,009 from 2000 to 2005, sliding to $48,405, a 5.9 percent drop, after having jumped 12 percent in the late 1990’s.

                  Worsening the financial crunch, far more college graduates are borrowing to pay for their education, and the amount borrowed has jumped by more than 50 percent in recent years, largely because of soaring tuition.

                  In 2004, 50 percent of graduating seniors borrowed some money for college, with their debt load averaging $19,000, Dr. Rouse said. That was a sharp increase from 1993, when 35 percent of seniors borrowed for college and their debt averaged $12,500, in today’s dollars.

                  Even though the economy has grown strongly in recent years, wages for young workers, especially college graduates, have been depressed by several factors, including the end of the high-tech boom and the trend of sending jobs overseas. From 2001 to 2005, entry-level wages for male college graduates fell by 7.3 percent, to $19.72 an hour, while wages for female graduates declined 3.5 percent, to $17.08, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group.

                  “In a weak labor market, younger workers do the worst,” said Lawrence Mishel, the institute’s president. “Young workers are on the cutting edge of experiencing all the changes in the economy.”

                  Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, said plenty of slack remained in the job market for young workers.

                  The percentage of young adults who are working has dropped since 2000 largely because many have grown discouraged and stopped looking for work. This has happened even though the unemployment rate, which counts only people looking for work, has fallen to 4.4 percent for those ages 25 to 34. It is 8.2 percent for workers ages 20 to 24.

                  “Any way you slice the data, the labor market has been pretty weak the past five years,” Dr. Katz said. “But hotshot young people coming out of top universities have done fine, just like top-notch executives have.”

                  In a steep drop over a short time, 64 percent of college graduates received health coverage in entry-level jobs in 2005, down from 71 percent five years earlier. As employers grapple with fast-rising health costs, many companies have reduced health coverage, with those cutbacks sharpest among young workers.

                  Partly because of the decline in manufacturing jobs that were a ticket to middle-class life, just one-third of workers with high school diplomas receive health coverage in entry-level jobs, down from two-thirds in 1979.

                  After an extensive job search, Katey Rich, who graduated from Wesleyan University in June, landed a part-time, $14-an-hour job in Manhattan as an editorial assistant at Film Journal International. With one-bedroom apartments often renting for $2,000 a month, Ms. Rich is looking to share an apartment but is staying with a friend’s parents for now. And while she is excited about her new job, she said she was concerned that it did not come with health insurance.

                  “I’ll have to fend for myself,” said Ms. Rich, who is from Aiken, S.C. “I have parents who will back me up if things get really rough.”

                  Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, said it was surprising how deeply young workers were going into debt to maintain the living standards they want.

                  The nation’s personal savings sank below zero last year for the first time since the Depression, meaning Americans spent more than they earned. But for households under 35, the saving rate has plunged to minus 16 percent, which means they are spending 16 percent more than they are earning.

                  “The post-boomer generation feels very cavalier about saving,” Mr. Zandi said. “They’ve been very aggressively dis-saving and have borrowed significantly.”

                  John Arnold, 28, a materials-handling specialist at a Caterpillar factory in Morton, Ill., said he was having a hard time making ends meet. At his factory, Caterpillar has pressured the union to accept a two-tier contract in which newer workers like him will earn a maximum of $13.26 an hour — $27,000 a year for a full-time worker — no matter how long they work. For longtime Caterpillar workers in the upper tier, the wage ceiling is often $20 or more an hour.

                  “A few people I work with are living at home with their parents; some are even on food stamps,” said Mr. Arnold, a Caterpillar worker for seven years. “I was hoping to buy a house this year, but there’s just no way I can swing it.” With just a high school diploma, he said it was hard to find jobs that paid more.

                  For men with high school diplomas, entry-level pay fell by 3.3 percent, to $10.93, from 2001 to 2005, according to the Economic Policy Institute. For female high school graduates, entry-level pay fell by 4.9 percent, to $9.08 an hour.

                  Labor Department officials voiced optimism for young workers, noting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had projected that 18.9 million net new jobs would be created by 2014.

                  “The future is bright for young people because the opportunities are out there,” said Mason Bishop, deputy assistant labor secretary for employment and training. “We want to help them get access to the postsecondary education that enables them to take advantage of the opportunities.”

                  The wage gap between college-educated and high-school-educated workers has widened greatly, with college graduates earning 45 percent more than high school graduates, up from 23 percent in 1979.

                  Professor Rouse of Princeton said a college degree added $402,000 to a graduate’s lifetime earnings.

                  Alex Shayevsky, who graduated from New York University last year, said majoring in business had paid off. Mr. Shayevsky got a job in the bond department of a major investment bank in New York. He earns $65,000, not including a bonus that could be at least half his salary.

                  “Getting my degree was very valuable,” said Mr. Shayevsky, a 23-year-old from Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

                  Martin Regalia, chief economist for the United States Chamber of Commerce, said young workers would be helped greatly if strong economic growth continued and the labor market tightened further, as happened in the late 1990’s.

                  Sheldon H. Danziger, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, sees a bifurcated labor market for young workers.

                  “You’re much better off as a young worker today if you’re the child of the well-to-do and you get a good education,” Professor Danziger said, “and you’re much worse off if you’re a child of a blue-collar worker and you don’t go to college. There’s increasing inequality among young people just as there is increasing inequality among their parents.”

                  Many entry-level workers feel pinch of rough market


                  • #10
                    U.S. government data suggests that for most Americans, there has been no economic recovery, and financial security is fast becoming a fantasy, according to recent analyses by public-interest groups:

                    Reports show economy is squeezing most Americans


                    • #11
                      The unseen contrast is sharp. Every workday morning, some of the nation's richest corporate executives and Wall Street financiers ride in trains or cars through poorer parts of New York to their Manhattan offices.

                      There, in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, or upper Manhattan, mostly volunteers offer some 250,000 free meals per day from church and synagogue basements or community centers. They serve 1.2 million people a year, some 350,000 of them children.

                      Last year, more than 1,200 New York soup kitchens and food pantries distributed about 67 million pounds of food to the city's poor and sometimes hungry. That's up 50 percent in five years.

                      As the incomes of the richest 1 percent of Americans have been rising spectacularly, the Food Bank for New York City has been nearly "flat funded" by city, state, and federal programs for almost 10 years, complains vice president Aine Duggan. The result has been less government money after inflation - and some people leaving food banks still hungry.

                      "We are not always able to serve all those standing in line," says Ms. Duggan.

                      Meanwhile, the average chief executive officer at a large American firm last year got 411 times an average US worker's pay, up from 107 times in 1990.

                      Each CEO should look in the mirror every morning and ask about his or her "personal responsibility and integrity," says Travis Hale, coauthor of a study on US income distribution.

                      A doctoral student in economics at the University of Texas at Austin, Mr. Hale dislikes the attitude that, "I've got mine, and I deserve it - and good luck to the rest of you." Reducing inequality of incomes is "not a matter of just growing the pie. It is a matter of splitting it up more equally," he adds. "If the economic growth of the last 40 years had been shared more equitably, we could now have a country where very few persons are poor."

                      As it is, the richest 1 percent of Americans have seen their incomes pull away dramatically from the merely rich, the middle class, and the poor. That 1 percent in 2004 got 17 percent of all income nationwide. The bottom 90 percent got less than 58 percent.

                      Hale and his coauthor, James Galbraith, an economist at the same Texas university, found that much of the increase in income inequality in the late 1990s resulted from large rises in income in four counties heavily involved in the information-technology boom - three in California, and King County in Washington State (home of Microsoft).

                      Many dotcom executives got rich from stock options. In a rising stock market, these financial devices have been highly rewarding, mostly for the top four or five bosses in a company. Not satisfied, some executives went along with having their options backdated to when the stock price was at or near its lowest point. Federal regulators are investigating such possibly illegal moves in 115 companies - so far.

                      The data doesn't indicate how much of the rise in wealth at the top is because of illegalities. Clearly, a poor system of corporate governance has relevance, says Mr. Galbraith. Hale talks about how corporate executives, serving on other company boards, scratch one another's backs by voting for big pay packages.

                      Beyond income inequality, the rich-poor gap is even more skewed in terms of wealth, which includes such assets as houses, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, etc. The top 1 percent held more than 34 percent of all net worth in 2004, notes a report by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank. The bottom 90 percent held a little less than 29 percent of all net worth. If home prices tumble seriously, that percentage will go down.

                      Indeed, the poorest one-fifth of households saw its average wealth fall from minus $8,700 in 2001 to minus $11,400 in 2004. In other words, their debts rose substantially.

                      It's the working poor, debtors, and others hit by poverty who use food banks. This isn't just in New York (though poverty rates there are high - and rising).

                      Across the US, 13 million children live in families that are "food insecure," says Bread for the World, a charity. Some 545,000 children experienced hunger in 2004, the US Department of Agriculture reports. Numbers for 2005 are due in late October or early November. Given the impact of hurricane Katrina, that number may be up - and its release delayed for political reasons until after the fall election.

                      In a family, "children are usually the last to actually go hungry," notes a spokeswoman for Bread for the World.

                      Because some of the 37 million poor people in the US are inadequately educated and don't always buy nutritious food, they binge on cheap high-calorie food instead, and become obese, says Duggan. One in 4 children live in families with incomes below the official poverty level.

                      To César Chelala, an international public health consultant in New York, a rich nation that doesn't fill the needs of its children is actually a "poor country."

                      Solutions urged by Mr. Chelala and others include better education, wider use of food stamps, tax policies that favor the rich less, a hike in the minimum wage, and other income-redistributive policies.

                      Are we rich if we don't feed the poor?


                      • #12
                        Not that long ago in this country, you could raise a family on a single paycheck. If you were working, you didn’t have to worry about an unexpected medical bill making you homeless. If you were disabled, your basic needs were taken care of, and if you were elderly, you could count on benefits that made your final years restful and safe.

                        But real wages have been declining since the 1970s, and benefits have been deteriorating. Every year, more working people are losing their pensions and their health insurance.

                        Meanwhile, our wealth distribution has been becoming increasingly disparate. Today, many corporate executives earn more money in a couple of hours than the average factory worker makes in a year. The wealthiest 1 percent of America’s population owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. And the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by 37 percent since 1968, and become the lowest of any industrialized nation.

                        What impact is this having on the health of our people?

                        With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s healthcare spending, yet ranks only 26th in life expectancy, and 28th in infant mortality. Is it a coincidence that not a single one of the 25 countries that have longer life expectancies than the United States, nor a single one of the 27 countries that have better infant mortality rates, has as wide a wealth gap between its richest and poorest citizens?

                        I once believed that the wealthier a society, the better would be the health of its people. And it’s true that those nations whose annual per capita income is below $10,000 often suffer from poor sanitation and malnutrition and have the poorest health. But studies have consistently found that above that threshold, the health of nations is no longer a matter of absolute income, but is actually more a matter of the gap between the rich and the poor. Above that point, the more unequally wealth is distributed, the less health will prevail.

                        Why is that? Societies in which the pie gets divided so that everyone gets a decent share are healthier because as well as having their basic needs met, people tend to participate in their community, trust others, and cooperate for mutual benefit. They are more likely to form friendships. They tend to care for one another. Their relationships are often marked by support, trust, and sociability.

                        History shows that wherever inequality of wealth distribution becomes extreme, however, people tend to become divided against one another, and societies tend to spend less on public health, education, and social safety nets. Large numbers of people feel chronically left out, powerless, anxious, angry, and afraid. In such societies, everyone— whether they are “haves” or “have-nots”—tends to become less trusting of their neighbors and less inclined to help others. The result is higher crime rates, increased violence, and higher rates of heart disease, depression, and many other debilitating and deadly ailments for both rich and poor.

                        Last week, the Trust for America’s Health issued a report finding that in the past year, obesity had increased in 31 states, while decreasing in none. The states with the highest rates of obesity are also those with the greatest wealth inequality.

                        There are so many ways that economic stress can compromise people’s health. Often, people struggling to meet their basic needs are left with little time to spend with their families.

                        I have a friend, a psychotherapist, who is a single mother. She lives in California where housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years, and she has to work very long hours to make ends meet. One day her eight-year-old son became so frustrated with her unavailability that he said, “If I save my allowance and give it all to you, then will you have time to listen to me?”

                        The health costs of wealth inequality


                        • #13
                          NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average has hit an all-time high and Wall Street firms are posting some of their best earnings ever. For the first time in our nation's history, the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans includes only billionaires. In fact, having only a billion dollars means you're not on the list. As a group, the Forbes 400 has a collective net worth of $1.25 trillion.

                          So the rich are doing well. But how about the middle class?

                          More Americans than ever are living in poverty, living without health care, paying more for housing and for the costs of our public education. And real wages are falling.

                          Real median earnings of full-time working males fell nearly 2 percent last year, according to the Census Bureau, while the real wages of working women fell by 1.3 percent. Despite that, real median household income did manage to rise slightly last year, though that small gain was the first increase in household income since 1999.

                          So what has been keeping our middle class afloat in the face of rapidly rising costs? American families have been living on, as well as in, their homes. More than one-third of homeowners are spending more than 30 percent of their income on the cost of housing, a level that pushes the edge of affordability. Nationwide median home values from 2000-2005 jumped 32 percent, and homeowners have been pulling equity out of their houses in order to keep up with escalating tuition bills, health care costs and energy costs.

                          But not everyone is so lucky. The number of Americans without health coverage rose by 1.3 million last year, up to 46.6 million, according to the Census Bureau. What's worse, more than one in 10 American children are now uninsured. Fewer employers than ever are providing health care to their employees and those who are still lucky enough to receive employer-provided coverage are paying a much larger share: The Kaiser family foundation says the cost of family health insurance, in fact, is up 87 percent since 2000.

                          The same holds true at the pharmacy. Prices for the most popular brand-name prescription drugs this year rose substantially higher than the annual inflation rate, as has been the case every year this decade. The AARP concluded prices for the top 193 drugs climbed 6.3 percent over the last 12 months ending in June 2006, while inflation went up 3.8 percent. Generic drugs, however, rose 0.4 percent over that period of time.

                          The costs of higher education are also hurting middle-class families like never before. In this increasingly credentialed society, the total cost of tuition, fees, room and board at four-year public colleges and universities has ballooned 44 percent over the past four years. And the proportion of family income it takes to pay for college is growing for families everywhere. The biggest jump, according to the National Center for Higher Education, is in Ohio, where college costs now take 42 percent of the average family budget, up from 28 percent in the early 1990s.

                          Our dependency on foreign oil is also hamstringing working men and women. Gasoline prices are back on the decline (for now), but many Americans this summer were shelling out double what they used to pay to drive their cars. And gas prices now, while lower than at their peak in August, are still about 60 percent higher than in January 2001.

                          Perhaps one of our nation's leading business magazines would like to create something called a Forbes or Fortune 250 Million list, which would reveal the dire financial pressures that our public policies have produced for working men and women and their families. It's time for all of us to focus on that deep chasm we have allowed to open between the wealthiest Americans and the middle class and those who aspire to it.

                          Otherwise, there will be 250 million casualties in what has become nothing less than class warfare.

                          Are you a casualty of the class war?


                          • #14
                            60 million Americans living on less than $7 a day:

                            U.S. income figures show staggering rise in social inequality


                            • #15
                              WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - More Americans went homeless and hungry in 2006 than the year before and children made up almost a quarter of those in emergency shelters, said a report released on Thursday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

                              "The face of hunger and homelessness right now ... is young children, young families," said the conference's president, Douglas Palmer, the mayor of Trenton, New Jersey.

                              The survey of 23 cities found civic and government groups received, on average, 7 percent more requests for food aid in 2006 than in 2005, following a 12 percent jump in 2005.

                              Requests for shelter rose by an average of 9 percent in 2006, with requests from families with children rising by 5 percent. More than half the cities said family members often had to split up to stay in different shelters.

                              As the numbers who could not buy their own food grew, more than half the cities, including Los Angeles and Boston, said groups spread resources farther by giving less food to individuals or cutting the number of times people could receive help. The group estimated 23 percent of requests for emergency food assistance simply went unmet.

                              Franklin Cownie, the mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, who worked on the study, said he was troubled that more than a third of the adults asking for food aid were employed.

                              "If you look at the data, you'll find folks that have jobs that don't have enough money to feed themselves," he told reporters.

                              People remained homeless for an average of eight months in 2006, the report said. Trenton had the longest span, with those in poverty spending an average of 22 months in cars and shelters or on the street.

                              The survey relied on census statistics along with data that city officials collected from local agencies.

                              Calling the report "not so much science as perception," the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which includes state and federal agencies, said in a statement nearly 30 cities were reporting reduced homelessness due to a federal program run in partnership with the Conference of Mayors.

                              It said the Bush administration was also working to help connect homeless people to government agencies and private aid groups.

                              In the mayors' report, Cleveland was one of the cities that saw demand for food assistance drop in 2006. Officials said it was still much higher than in 2000, before the city experienced an economic downturn. From 2000 to 2005, the number of people using food stamps, or federal subsidies to cover groceries, increased there by 29 percent.

                              Food stamps and other public nutrition programs account for 60 percent of the U.S. Agriculture Department's spending. The USDA said almost 11.2 million U.S. households received food stamps in 2005.

                              Congress is expected to consider changes to the food stamp program as part of broad-ranging agriculture legislation in 2007.

                              More Americans hungry, homeless in 2006


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