|A Better Life star Demián Bichir discusses his role as an undocumented day laborer|
We like a movie with a call for justice, and A Better Life is the newest on our must-watch list. This critically acclaimed film has the potential to better shape our views on immigration policy or, rather, the issues that lead to immigration into the US.
The story, set in East L.A., follows Carlos Galindo, an undocumented single father who struggles as a day laborer to make a future of peace, opportunity and economic stability possible for his US-born son.
The movie struck a chord with UFE's Jeannette Huezo:
"People watching A Better Life can see the immigration debate through a human lens. This film can help people to see the social costs of policies that attack immigrants and tear their families apart. Thousands of people face the same challenges and devastations as the Galindos everyday. Anti-immigrant laws like those passed in Alabama, Arizona, California, and other states make those stories all the more frequent."
Immigration policy and immigrant-related issues continue to be a political third rail. A lot of that has to do with the complexity of the issue(s). It's not just an immigration problem. It's about cheap labor. It's about international trade and foreign policy. It's about national security. It's about human rights. It's about a lot of things, and despite what you might hear from mainstream media, it can't boiled down to a soundbite because it's connected to a lot of rarely connected issues.
George Lakoff points out the difficulty of the framing of the immigration issue in our environment of political polarization:
"[The immigration issue] is a complex melange of social, economic, cultural and security concerns — with conservatives and progressives split in different ways with different positions. Framing the recent problem as an 'immigration problem' pre-empts many of these considerations from entering the debate. As a consequence, any reform that 'solves' the immigration problem is bound to be a patchwork solution addressing bits and pieces of much larger concerns."
No one wins with policies that attack immigrants and cause the forced abandonment of children by undocumented parents. Still, there are a lot of xenophobic politicians and pundits out there who zealously support those policies. Ironically, those are often the same talking heads that endlessly beat their "family values" drums, especially during campaign season.
Help to move the public conversation in a better direction by sharing the film with your network. Stop the scapegoating of immigrants by encouraging a more robust dialogue about the many factors that contribute to our "immigration problem." As more people see the bigger picture and take action for immigrant rights, we'll build more power for a rational policy response.
The iconic "self-made" businessman is a tired and false cliche; it's time for a more honest national dialogue about what makes wealth and success possible. And a new book by two UFE staffers aims to do just that.
The Self-Made Myth—And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed, released this month by UFE executive director Brian Miller and Responsible Wealth project director Mike Lapham, exposes the false claim that business success is solely the result of the heroic effort of a single individual. The book contend that, among other supports, businesses are built atop public structures and services established and maintained by taxpayers’ collective investments made through government. As such, they owe something back to society.
“Debunking the self-made myth is critical, particularly during an election year where taxes and the role of government are center-stage,” says Brian Miller in a press statement released today. “We wrote this book because how we view wealth creation and individual success shapes our choices on policies, including taxes, regulations, public investments in schools and infrastructure, CEO pay, and more.”
Since the Reagan presidency, those involved in the broader conservative movement have based their anti-tax efforts on the notion that wealth is derived from the superior efforts of “job creators.” This frame fuels an anti-government and anti-tax narrative that the authors say is counter-productive to the kinds of investments we need to make to get our nation’s economy back on track.
“Members of Responsible Wealth, including some of the business owners profiled in our book, understand that there’s a lot more working in their favor than smarts, creativity or hard work,” says Mike Lapham. “They believe they owe a chunk of their good fortune to government investments in education, research, infrastructure and a regulatory system that have created a fertile business environment.”
The co-authors of The Self-Made Myth add that social relations can also provide an economic boost. “We hear these icons of business success, Donald Trump, Ross Perot, and the Koch brothers, for example, tout themselves as ‘self-made,’” said Miller. “But their failure to acknowledge the role of luck, privilege, and even government is misleading and dishonest.”
The Self-Made Myth book tour launched last week, fittingly at a public institution of learning, the Boston Public Library. The tour will continue around the country, with stops in New York City, Portland (Oregon), and Seattle.
Black History Month may have come to an end, but the fight against racial injustice is hardly over. In order to close the racial economic divide, we must first take an honest look at the policies and practices that created and perpetuate racial disparities.
Here are 11 ways federal government giveaways gave an economic headstart to white people while excluding people of color.
1. Free land
White Revolutionary War veterans were given nine million acres of Indian land.
2. Legalized squatting
In 1841, the U.S. government legalized squatting, allowing white settlers to take over Native American land.
3. Military-enforced squatting
The U.S. Government helped enforce squatting by employing the U.S. Army out west to beat back Native Americans from land coveted by white settlers.
4. More free land
In addition to conquering half of Mexico, the U.S. Government reclaimed Latino landowners’ land for minor infractions such as missing paperwork or back taxes, and then sold it to Anglo settlers at a minor cost.
5. Even more free land
The Homestead Act of 1862 provided free or very inexpensive land was provided by the government to 1.5 million white families.
6. Revoked promises to slaves
Following the Civil War, freed slaves were promised ‘40 acres and a mule.’ Following Lincoln's death, this promise was revoked and land was returned to its previous White owners.
7. Preferential treatment of white workers
Through the New Deal, the U.S. Government provided minimum wages, union rights, and social security to industrial workers, almost all of whom were white. These same benefits, however, were denied to agricultural and domestic workers, most of whom were people of color.
8. Government-sponsored aid
Government-sponsored aid was provided to struggling white farmers while denying it to most black farmers from the 1930’s right through the 1980s.
9. GI Bill benefits
Provided free college education, vocational training, and cheap mortgages to nearly two million white WWII vets via the GI Bill, while simultaneously blocking most veterans of color from accessing the same benefits.
10. Neighborhood investment through homeownership
Invested in infrastructure to expand suburban neighborhoods where white households were able to access government-subsidized mortgages while urban, inner-city neighborhoods were red-lined.
11. Tax breaks
Tax breaks on investment income (such as dividends, capital gains and inheritances), which are disproportionately owned by wealthy white people, have been cut and lowered much more than taxes on income from work.
How can tax fairness advocates and businesses effectively bond together to reclaim the myth that progressive taxation is anti-business? This free Tax Fairness Tune-Up webinar will provide insights and practical tips for grassroots organizers and business leaders alike. Register today!
RECLAIMING THE PRO-BUSINESS NARRATIVE: Connecting Grassroots & Businesses Leaders for Progressive Tax Reform
Thursday, March 15 from 2:00-3:00pm EST
Free and open to tax fairness advocates and allies.
This webinar will explore how to effectively integrate businesses into progressive tax campaigns. Presenters will explore commonly-held myths surrounding personal and business success and how tax fairness organizers can effectively reclaim this narrative by working in conjuction with business leaders.
This webinar is appropriate for tax fairness organizers looking to engage business leaders in progressive tax campaigns and business leaders who wish to partner in statewide coalitions for progressive tax reform.
Brian Miller, Executive Director of United for a Fair Economy and co-author of The Self-Made Myth: and The Truth about How Government Helps Businesses and Individual Succeed
Scott Klinger, Tax Policy Director from The American Small Business Coalition
Bob Fulkerson, Executive Director of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) and member of the Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative
|Watch this video to see what people are saying!|
The Self-Made Myth co-authors, Brian Miller and Mike Lapham, will be on tour in 2012 discussing the book as it relates to the national dialogue about inequality, taxes, the role of government, and other public policy questions before us. Some of the remarkable individuals profiled in the book will join Mike and Brian in select cities.
See details about book tour events and register below. Tour dates are still being scheduled, so join our mailing list in the right sidebar to stay in the loop as new tour cities are announced!
|March 7, 2012||6:00 p.m.||Boston, MA||Boston Public Library (Register)|
|March 29, 2012||7:00 p.m.||New York, NY||New York Society for Ethical Culture (Register)|
|April 18, 2012||7:00 p.m.||Portland, OR||First Unitarian Church / Eliot Center (Register)|
|May 9, 2012||7:30 p.m.||Seattle, WA||Town Hall Seattle (Register)|
|May 23, 2012||7:00 p.m.||San Francisco, CA||The Bay Area Hub SoMa (Register)|
In the past few months, we’ve heard more than ever about economic inequality. This increased awareness is a breath of fresh air, but it’s not enough by itself. We can’t just point out the existence of inequality. We must uproot the ideological underpinnings that support it. No matter how unequal wealth and income are, if people can rationalize it in their minds as the result of some working harder or being more virtuous than others, then our efforts to rein in inequality will fall flat.
The "self-made man" is as American as a Norman Rockwell image. It is also just as overly romanticized and wholly separated from reality. Indeed, the notion that individual success is entirely autonomous has dangerous policy implications. It's time to do some myth bustin' and put the "self-made myth" to rest, once and for all.
UFE's new book, The Self-Made Myth, challenges the by-your-own-bootstraps myth by offering real stories of business and individual success. It also disproves the claims of several modern-day self-made business heros, including the familiar faces below. These silver-spooners have no qualms about bashing and starving government, even though Uncle Sam was (and continues to be) a key business partner in enabling their success.
Take a look at the images below, share with your networks, and help us bust the self-made myth once and for all.
|Debbie Bosanek in looks on as President Obama delivers his 2012 State of the Union address.|
It's true. Warren Buffett's secretary is a real person. After so many years as a nameless, faceless talking point in support of higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires, the country's most famous secretary has emerged—in momentous fashion at that.
Debbie Bosanek is her name, and she was revealed to the world during President Obama's third State of the Union address:
Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.
Buffett's super-low tax rate became a hot topic in the early 2000s, but it took nearly a decade for that fact to shake its purely rhetorical quality. Obama gave the issue new life last year when he announced his intent to pursue the Buffett Rule, or a tax on millionaires to reduce the growing economic chasm between the top 1% and everybody else. In his SOTU address, he called for a minimum 30% tax rate for millionaires.
Now, not only does the Buffett Rule have the name and face of, in Bosanek's words, "an average citizen who needs a voice," but it also has numbers to place it's impact in context. Our friends at Citizens for Tax Justice calculate that the Buffett Rule would raise $50 billion this year if implemented and would affect a mere 0.08% of taxpayers.
This week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) decided to ride the wave. In the wake of the SOTU, Whitehouse is introducing a version of the Buffett Rule for a vote in the Senate with his Paying A Fair Share Act. The bill offers a very straightfoward way to meet the President's 30% rate on millionaires without changing existing income tax rates or the preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends that chiefly benefits the very wealthy. While we'd love to see more holistic reform of the tax code, we applaud the Senator for getting the conversation started.
The bill is certain to meet rabid opposition from Congressional Republicans. But with polls showing overwhelming support for the Buffett Rule, the GOP may struggle to justify continued tax breaks for the people who really don't need them, especially in an election year.
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to the struggle for racial equality. The vast racial economic divide remains a fact of American life more than forty years after his assassination.
White 7.5%, Black 15.8%, Latino 11.0%
Ratio to White: Black 2.1 to 1, Latino 1.5 to 1
Median Family Income (2010):
White $70,000, Black $40,000, Latino $40,000
Ratio to White: Black 57¢ per dollar, Latino 57¢ per dollar
Poverty Rates (2010):
White 9.5%, Black 25.7%, Latino 25.4%
Ratio to White: Black 2.7 to 1, Latino 2.7 to1
Education - Adults with College Degrees (Bachelor’s or Higher) (2010):
White 33.2%, Black 20.0%, Latino 13.9%
Ratio to White: Black 60% as likely to have a bachelor’s degree, Latino 42% as likely to have a bachelor’s degree
Incarceration Rates (2009):
White 0.39%, Black 2.39%, Latino 0.97% of the population is in prison
Ratio to White: Black 6.1 times more likely to be in prison, Latino 1.5 times more likely to be in prison.
Average Family Net Wealth (2007) Near the Height of the Housing Bubble:
White $675,000, Black $134,000, Latino $185,000
Ratio to White: Black 20¢ per dollar, Latino 27¢ per dollar
Dr. King described the civil rights victories of the 1960s as having achieved “a degree of decency, not of equality.” Racial economic equality remains a disturbingly elusive and distant dream. In wealth and incarceration, the Black White divide has worsened in the last thirty years. The economic situation for the average Latino family has deteriorated overall relative to Whites since 1980.
Read our 2012 State of the Dream report, The Emerging Majority, for more details on how we got here and where we are headed. In the report, we look thirty years ahead to 2042 when the Census Bureau projects that people of color will become a majority of the population. We examine the trends in racial ineqaulity over the last thirty years, since the election of Ronald Reagain in 1980, and project those trends thirty years forward to 2042.
|DOWNLOAD STATE OF THE DREAM 2012|
The last 30 years of public policy have hindered progress toward Dr. King's dream of racial equality. Thirty years from now, people of color will collectively represent the majority of the U.S. population. If we continue along the same governing path, the racial economic divide will remain in 2042 and, in many regards, will be considerably worse.
The racial economic divide is a national embarrassment. Eliminating it should be a moral imperative, and as the non-White share of the population grows, it will become an increasingly urgent economic necessity.
United for a Fair Economy’s ninth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, assesses the state of the racial economic divide since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and uses the trends of the last thirty years to project thirty years forward to 2042.
We find that the past thirty years of public policy has done little to address racial economic disparities. If the current trends continue, the racial economic divide will be immense in 2042 across a wide variety of indicators. Progress toward economic parity between Black and White is slow and inconsistent and, in some cases, inequality is increasing. Latinos who account for most of the growth of the population are, in most cases, experiencing a decrease in economic well being relative to Whites.
If the current trends continue:
Income: Black and Latino median incomes will be 61 cents 45 cents, respectively, for every dollar of median White income in 2042. Blacks will have gained only 4 cents while Latinos will have lost 15 cents of median income relative to Whites from 2010 to 2042.
Poverty: In 2010, poverty rates among Blacks (25.7%) and Latinos (25.4%) were more than two and a half times the White poverty rate. By 2042, the Black and Latino poverty rates will remain 1.9 times and 2.6 times that of the White poverty rate.
Jobs: The current unemployment rates stand at 7.5 percent for Whites, 15.8 percent for Blacks and 11 percent for Latinos. In 2042, Black and Latino unemployment will be 1.8 times and 1.5 times higher than White unemployment, respectively.
Wealth: By 2042, Blacks and Latinos will both have lost ground in average wealth, holding only 19 cents and 25 cents for each dollar of White wealth. The average net worth of Black and Latino families in 2007 was 20 cents and 27 cents, respectively, for every dollar of White net worth.
Higher Education: Black adults were 60 percent as likely to have a college degree as White adults in 2010, while Latino adults were only 42 percent as likely as Whites to have a college degree. By 2042, Black will be 76 percent as likely as Whites to have earned a college degree; Latinos will have become even less likely (37 percent) than Whites to have a college degree.
Incarceration: In 2010, Blacks were a staggering 6.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than Whites. Latinos were 2.5 times more likely than Whites to be incarcerated, and this figure does not include the disproportionately Latino population being held in immigration detention centers. In 2042, Blacks will still be six times and Latinos two times as likely as Whites to be incarcerated.
It does not have to be this way. Public policy does not have to follow the course that it has been on since Reagan. The growing share of the non-White population presents an opportunity for Blacks and Latinos to build political power. In the current era of extraordinary economic inequality, the fate of the vast majority of the White population is more connected with the economic interests of Blacks and Latinos than with the ruling political elite.
Shifting from the dominant conservative public policy direction of the last thirty years that has not addressed racial equality will require a broad coalition dedicated to eliminating the racial economic divide.
We need policy solutions that will significantly reduce the racial divide. Foreclosure relief, federal aid to states and targeted job creation programs are needed to both combat the economic slump and to reduce racial economic disparities. Longer-term strategies including wealth-building programs, increasing taxes on the rich, strengthening safety net programs, ending the war on drugs, and humane immigration reform are needed in order to substantially reduce the racial inequality.
The racial economic divide is the legacy of centuries of White supremacy practiced as national policy. As a nation, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday, but we tolerate the perpetuation of racial inequality that he dedicated his life to fighting. If we do not change course, our economy will not be able to bear the swelling numbers of Blacks and Latinos out of work, in poverty and in prison.
Absent a powerful and sustained political movement aligned not just along the lines of race but by economic interests, Whites will still make a disproportionate share of the national income and hold an overwhelming majority of the nation’s wealth and power in 2042.