UFE's eleventh annual MLK Day report–Healthcare for Whom?–explores the racial economic implications of one of the most important human rights issues and public policy debates of the day: healthcare. The report looks at both disparate health outcomes–driven largely by racial segregation and concentrated poverty–and the current state-by-state fights over implementing the Affordable Care Act.
The report also includes the latest data on racial disparities in education, employment, income, poverty and wealth that indicate the dream of racial equity, as so clearly articulated by Dr. King, remains unfinished.
For the first time, this MLK Day report contains an "organizers toolbox" with a series of interactive workshops organizers can use at local worker centers, union halls, church groups, and community groups to examine the causes and consequences of the racial wealth divide and move people to action.
To read past State of the Dream reports–A Long Way from Home, The Emerging Majority, Austerity for Whom?, Drained and others–click here.
Housing, a cornerstone of the "American Dream," is the largest form of privately wealth held by families across the United States. This infographic draws attention to the intersection of housing as both a globally-recognized human right and as a commodity in a global stock market controlled by the wealthy. We urge readers to acknowledge the history behind the long-standing racial wealth divide and to consider the interplay between federal housing policies and risky financial practices and their impacts on the divide.
We are releasing this infographic just days after Duke University released a new study, which found that Black and Latino homebuyers are paying more for housing than Whites. Earlier this year, shortly after the release of UFE's report on housing and racial inequality, a Brandeis University study highlighted homeownership as the number one driver of the growing racial wealth gap.
How many studies need to be published before policymakers begin treating housing like a human right and not a commodity to be gambled with on Wall Street? Perhaps more importantly, what must be done to unite and galvanize communities—of all races and classes—to push lawmakers and to take control of the situation where they're falling short? Inequality has become worse than most people think. Economic apartheid has gripped our country. But, money is no match for people power.
Learn more about what's happening on the ground with State of the Dream 2013: A Long Way From Home. Share this information and invite others to join the conversation and take part in efforts to address racial injustice in your community.
Infographic design by Design Action Collective
UFE's tenth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report, State of the Dream 2013: A Long Way From Home, outlines the state of the racial wealth divide in the U.S. and puts forward creative solutions for addressing persistent racial inequities.
Black and Latino families continue to have far less wealth than White families and have emerged from the Great Recession more indebted and less able than White families to face the economic challenges before them.
Housing, an integral piece of the increasingly elusive American Dream, has much to do with the hemmorhaging of wealth in communities of color. This report examines the link between housing and asset-building policies, the impacts of those policies on communities of color, and urges a targeted, goal-oriented policy approach that is guided by our shared values and principles.
Fifty years ago this year, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. shared a vision for a future of equality for all people, regardless of race, in his "I Have a Dream" speech. He spent the final years of his life working with thousands of others to challenge economic inequality and racial injustice. Although their efforts made historic civil rights victories possible, much work remains to close the racial divide. We are, indeed, a long way from home.
Read the report today. Share it with your community. Start a conversation. Speak out and work together to make a new economy possible.
UFE's tenth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report shows that the racial wealth divide remains and tells the story of how the Great Recession took a greater economic toll on Black and Latino families than on White families.Read more
Our latest report, Born On Third Base, takes the Forbes 400 list to task for spinning a misleading tale about the self-made man and what it takes to become wealthy in America. The Forbes 400 and its extreme examples of economic mobility are the exceptions, not the rule.
Virtually every speaker used the phrase, with sometimes misty-eyed stories of bootstrapping, "I did it alone" success (with no help from government). Signs featuring the phrase hung over the main stage and filled the convention center, boasting: We built it! We built it! We built it!
Meanwhile, fact checkers, writers, and progressive organizations fired back, both recounting the full quote from President Obama (his "You didn't build that" comment was referring to the roads and infrastructure, not the businesses themselves) and making the case for why businesses do, in fact, depend heavily on public investments.
This debate is only getting started. As NRP's Ron Elving wrote, "The central theme… in Tampa is about to become the party's mantra for the fall." So get used to a lot of talk about who actually built it, what they built, and why it matters. Looking beyond this one election, this is a critical debate about core values that shape our views on taxes and the role of government in our society.
In March, months before Obama's statement in Virginia, we published a book entitled The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed. In it, we contrast the "self-made myth" with the "built-together reality." Little did we know when we came up with the term "built-together," that this would become a defining theme of this election cycle.
The stories of business leaders tell a more honest and complete story of their success. Jerry Fiddler, founder of Wind River Systems (sold to Intel for $880M), talks about publicly-funded research and land-grand universities as key to his business success. Jim Sherblom, former CFO of the Genzyme, notes the importance of the SEC in providing a stable financial market. Kim Jordan, CEO of New Belgium Brewing, declares "beer is heavy" as she emphasized the importance of roads and transportation infrastructure in making her business possible.
We also investigated people like the Koch Brothers who graze their cattle on federal land and use eminent domain law for their pipelines. We examine Donald Trump, whose father constructed FHA-guaranteed homes for US naval personnel, leaving the junior Trump with a sizable inheritance. Similarly, Ross Perot's software business rode to success on the backs of the federal Medicare program.
Governmental supports and public infrastructure are an important part of any success story in America, along with a bit of luck, various head starts in life, privilege, and the contributions of others, including the many employees (The AFL-CIO responded to last weeks convention theme with an email titled, "No, WE built it"). Such an honest and more rounded assessment helps put the "self-made" narrative in perspective.
But that's not what we heard last week. We heard, "I built it," and from that bootstrapping narrative comes a host of policy implications.
If they can convince us that the successful business leaders achieve their wealth through gumption and hard work alone, then extreme inequality is simply the result from their exceptional intelligence and hard work of those at the top …and the sloth of others. Efforts to rein in that inequality are thus viewed as "punishing success." Efforts of workers to demand a fair wage are viewed as "thuggary." Taken to its logical conclusion, this frame helps to fuel an anti-tax, anti-government, and anti-worker agenda.
The business leaders we spoke with understand that their hard work was matched in many ways by the contributions of society, not to mention a good bit of luck. As such, they take a very different view on taxes and the role of government, actively speaking out for a strong estate tax and ending the Bush tax cuts for top income-earners. Many also insist on paying their workers fair wages, or even sharing ownership with their workers.
In the weeks ahead, we have an opportunity to open a more meaningful discussion about the origins of individual and business success, and in doing so, shifting the public policy debates in positive ways. We sincerely hope our book, The Self-Made Myth, is a valuable contribution to this discussion. But we also need writers, bloggers, and organizers across the nation to pick up on this message. If we're going to create a new narrative, we'll need to "build it" together.
What would your ideal distribution of wealth in the United States be? You may not realize it, but if this research by Dan Ariely is any indicator, you likely prefer wealth to be held much more evenly than is currently the case in our country.
The gap between people's perceptions versus the reality of wealth distribution was the topic of a WNHN "Political Chowder" interview with UFE’s Steve Schnapp. Ariely and Norton found that many in the US are not fully aware of how dramatically unequal our economy has become.
We may be unaware of wealth inequalities, but do we want a more equal society? Research suggests that the answer is an overwhelming 'YES!' The commanding majority of those polled expressed a strong preference for a society in which wealth was distributed far more equitably. Need more reason for optimism? Those responses transcend political boundaries, with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents represented among those who desire a more equal distribution of wealth.
In light of Ariely's findings, we have to begin asking why our public policies are reinforcing—and making worse—economic inequality. The basic values of fairness and hard work as a means to move up the economic ladder that we hold so dear appear absent as we continue to witness the accumulation of great fortunes among so few people, even as so many millions continue to struggle.
Steve takes aim at the dominant narrative of the wealthy achieved such financial enrichment simply by virtue and hard work, which is an incomplete and misleading picture of how wealth is created. (Learn more with UFE's book, The Self-Made Myth.)
Ariely's data presents a compelling case for a shift in public policy priorities, but he doesn't get into the how of moving from research to social change. Steve points to community education and organizing as necessary strategies to break that paradigm and to bring people together to fight for a people's economy.
The Occupy Movement also showed us that it is possible to unite around a common cause and to draw the world's attention to the root causes of inequality. Our economic system is tilted in favor of the wealthy and is dangerously unaccountable to the people. Wall Street and the big banks sent our country into the Great Recession. We the taxpayers bailed them out. Now they've more than bounced back, but too many of us in the real economy, not the casino economy, have not.
A powerful movement for social and economic justice has to start somewhere. Why not start by asking the people around us what they know. As with Ariely's study, Steve asks listeners to consider what kind of economy they want. He challenges them to think about whether their values are reflected in our current reality. If not, he urges them to join and support groups fighting to improve their communities, states, country, and, ultimately, their world.
Inequality is worse than you thought. What are you going to do about it?
Related post: Economic Inequality: What We Think vs. What's Real
The Trayvon Martin case illustrates that we still have a hard time dealing with issues of race in this country. The issue of racial injustice, coupled with economic injustice, is not likely to fade away.
The Census Bureau estimates that by 2042, the population will no longer be majority white. Many believe that this demographic shift will automatically bring with it a qualitative improvement in the situation for people of color.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a segment of white America that deeply fears the demographic changes and sees in them a threat to its status. Such fears lead some of these people to gravitate toward right-wing populism.
But the demographic changes are not expected to bring about any significant improvements for most people of color, particularly blacks and Latinos, according to a new study, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, by the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy.
If current trends continue, we will witness widening gaps in income and wealth, as well as in education and incarceration rates. The study predicts, for instance, that blacks will make 61 cents and Latinos will make 45 cents for every dollar whites make in terms of median family income.
Contrary to right-wing populists' "dystopia for whites," the report paints a picture of a reconfigured Jim Crow — almost an apartheid situation of haves and have-nots.
Most whites won't be benefiting, either. The overall living standard of most of this country, which began to decline in the mid-1970s, will continue to decline. The fates of poor and middle-class whites will be much more connected to those of people of color than to the very rich and largely white ruling elite.
The implications of this report are sobering — even frightening.
We need concerted political and economic action in the days and months and years ahead if we are to conquer our racial and economic disparities. That means not just continuing affirmative action. It also means launching policies of redistributive justice.
Let's face it: Those at the top have been redistributing income and wealth their way over the past three decades. If we don't implement policies that redistribute income and wealth to the vast majority of Americans who need it, our country will become increasingly — and dangerously — divided.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the co-author of "Solidarity Divided." He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.
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.
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.