United for a Fair Economy's E-Newsletter (February 2007)

United for a Fair Economy's E-Newsletter
February 2007

What's Next with Economic Inequality?

Why We Pay Too Much for Job Creation

Righting Upside-Down Budget Priorities

Get Educated

As the South Goes... A Canary in the Coal Mine

Ending Predatory Lending with a Fair Chance

What's Next with Economic Inequality?

First Jim Webb mentioned it in the response to the State of the Union. Then Bush himself mentioned it, then the Fed Chairman. Suddenly, inequality is a hot topic.

For friends of UFE, this has been a long time coming. In 1995, when we first started sounding the alarm that economic inequality was rising, no one seemed to notice or care. Now even the Bushies are on board. But...what to do about it?

Bush and Chairman Bernanke have already told us what their solution is: education. And more funding for education would be great, but unfortunately it will not compensate for all the economic rules that have supported - and continue to support - growing inequality.

Sam Pizzigati has a quick analysis in his newsletter Too Much showing that from 1970 to 2004, the percent of college grads nearly doubled in the U.S., while the share of income going to the bottom 90 percent decreased by almost 15 percent!

Sam concludes, "We've become, in other words, more unequal at the same time we've become more educated. Why? We've become more unequal because education doesn't determine how income and wealth get distributed. Politics does, and, over the last 30-odd years, a series of political decisions - on taxes, on trade, on labor rights, on regulating corporations - have tilted income and wealth to the top."

Read the rest of Sam's article.

For our ongoing initiatives on taxes, trade and regulating corporations, stay tuned!

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Why We Pay To Much for Job Creation

How much should states, cities and towns pay companies to "create" jobs? Would you believe that sometimes it's more than $100,000 per job?

That's the conclusion of Greg LeRoy in his book, The Great American Jobs Scam. According to the book, corporate subsidy deals are "a $50 billion a year scam in which - in the name of ”˜job creation' - corporations play states and cities against each other to win hefty taxpayer subsidies."

Clearly this needs serious reform. The most important first step is opening the process to the public. Disclosure laws would require states to compile and report information on subsidized companies. The public would then know whether companies are in compliance with their obligations under the subsidy agreement. While 12 states have some form of disclosure, only Minnesota, Maine, North Carolina and Illinois have laws that can be considered exemplary.

We jumped into the struggle, convening a conference call to learn more about subsidy disclosure and strategize on how to enact disclosure laws in the states of Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative (TFOC) members. Among the experts offering their knowledge on the call were Greg LeRoy himself and Arn Pearson, who ran the successful campaign to pass Maine's disclosure law in 1998.

The reform effort is gaining ground in Ohio, Connecticut, and New York. Take action by visiting Policy Matters Ohio, Citizens for Economic Opportunity in Connecticut and Good Jobs New York and the Fiscal Policy Institute in New York.

To learn more about Greg LeRoy's book, visit The Great American Jobs Scam.

Find out about the lack of correlation between tax policy and job growth, measured over six decades, in UFE's 2005 report "Nothing to Be Thankful For."

To find the TFOC member organization in your state, visit our website or contact kkraut@faireconomy.org">Karen Kraut if there is not a TFOC member in your state.

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Righting Upside-Down Budget Priorities

Would you like to help turn the federal budget priorities right side up?

The Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities (ECAP) is trying to do just that - and could use your help.

ECAP is a nationwide campaign of national and grassroots organizations, including UFE, committed to reversing the Administration's policy of drastic budget cuts that hurt the poor and middle class, in order to finance tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and special interests.

Ideally, we'd like to see a budget resolution from Congress that increases outdated benefit levels on services from Food Stamps to SCHIP to the unemployment insurance program, and a budget that rejects new tax breaks for the wealthy and special interests.

To raise awareness about how harmful the President's budget would be ECAP is collecting stories on the importance of human needs programs. Please take five minutes and send a story or a quote to mbauschard@usaction.org">Maude. Your story or quote should reflect:
· How cuts to key programs will impact people in your state or Congressional District
· How cuts to key programs will impact you or your loved ones (personal stories)

For more on ECAP, including actions you can take on the budget and earlier reports, see AFSCME or contact farris@faireconomy.org">Lee Farris.

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Get Educated

People tell us that they get a lot out of our workshops. The information knocks them off their feet, but the events themselves seem so simple and straightforward that participants are surprised to learn that they build on a robust and detailed education pedagogy known as Popular Education.

The principles and philosophy of popular education are often associated with the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), although the practice of popular education predates him. The historical roots of popular education can be found in several areas of the world, from the folk school movement in Scandinavia to the Highlander Center in Tennessee.

The major features of Freire's popular education pedagogy are first, an emphasis on cooperative dialogue, actively involving respect. Rather than the educator "banking" - depositing information into the "empty" head of the learner - people work with each other to learn.

Second is praxis, informed action. Dialogue isn't just about deepening understanding but part of making a difference in the world. This process of education, action, and reflection enhances community, builds social capital, and leads people to act for justice.

Third, Freire's "pedagogy of the oppressed" (the title of his best known book, published in 1970) necessitates the process of conscientization - developing consciousness that has the power to transform reality.

Fourth, Freire insisted that for education to be transformative it must be situated in the lived experience of the participants.

For more on popular education, check out the Popular Education News and take a look at the Highlander Center to learn more about the education efforts of one of our partners.

Learn more about UFE's workshops or contact us at training@faireconomy.org">training@faireconomy.org

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As the South Goes... A Canary in the Coal Mine

If you look for economic inequality, or if you look for racial inequality, you can find it anywhere in the US. But in the South, you'll find both in abundance. For example, 19.3% of people in Mississippi fall below the poverty line (that's 120,039 families). In Louisiana, 19% of its citizens are below the poverty line, or 183,448 families.

What's going on? What's up with the South?

The fact is that this is nothing new. Since the beginning of US history, the South has had these characteristics. For example, in 1860, there was a slave population of 3,871,164 people that generated $3,271,218,000 (in 1990 dollars) of wealth. If we look at the disparities that continue today, we see there's a straight line running from slavery to the present.

But the fact that inequality is greatest in the South is not the main reason to focus time, attention, and resources on that region. It's because inequality is the South's chief export.

Read the rest of the article by Khalil Nieves, UFE Education Specialist.

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Ending Predatory Lending With a Fair Chance

A few years ago, Buffalo almost lost one of the few remaining banks in its lower income area. Quick work by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and its local partners convinced HSBC to keep open its branch at Buffalo's Main and Fillmore.

Such work by the growing community reinvestment movement is helping communities across the nation preserve or increase access to credit, capital and banking services in traditionally underserved communities. UFE has joined NCRC's Economic Justice Campaign, which is working specifically to combat the practice of predatory lending.

With core campaign members, we recently attended a workshop to learn about the strategies, values, messages, and target audiences that will be key in fighting predatory lending. The campaign is called The Fair Chance Campaign to End Predatory Lending.

Campaign members are already getting to work. The Lackawanna County, PA, coalition members are working on ways to incorporate the new campaign elements into the grassroots events they currently have scheduled. The Delaware group has developed and launched a marketing plan for the new campaign.

UFE hopes to launch a Fair Chance Campaign as part of its on-the-ground work in Louisiana, where redlining is a big problem. We are also examining the possibility of involving members of the Responsible Wealth project in the new campaign-maybe even as part of the shareholder resolution actions already being planned for April at companies like Wells Fargo. We'll keep you posted.

For more information visit the National Community Reinvestment Coalition,
and if you'd like to get involved with organizations in your area, check out Lackawanna County's United Neighborhood Centers, the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, or the Baltimore CASH Campaign.

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