Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sam Zell has donated $4 million to a PAC that supports the agenda of Governor Bruce Rauner. Columnist Mark Brown sees this donation as part of a movement that he describes this way: "Rich people, no longer satisfied with the privileges of being rich, are going for complete control." This isn't simply a matter of politics. Much of Governor Rauner's agenda targets union employees. Brown quotes Zell as saying, "The 1 percent work harder." That may be true, but in a time when most American face flat wages and poverty is growing, it's hard to see how the hard working 1% are helping the rest of us. Working people need to decide if they support making people like Zell even richer or if they want to have a society where children from the middle class and the working class will have opportunities to be successful. Rich people have always had disproportionate control. Are we moving to a point where their voice is the only one that matters?
A report in Common Dreams contradicts the myth that raising the minimum wage is a “job killer.” The 13 states that have raised the minimum wage have seen more job growth than states that have resisted change. The article cites a poll in which 61% of small business owners support a hike in the minimum wage. These facts would seem to be good news. However, in our current political environment, facts do not seem to matter. Until something changes about how issues are solved in Washington, the battle for the minimum wage will be fought on the state and local level. America needs a raise.
Recently I posted on a debate between union leaders and restaurant owners over the minimum wage. That debate focused on what workers earn. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos flips the question: Let’s look at the earnings of restaurant CEOs. Between 2006-2013, incomes of large corporate restaurant CEOs increased from 621% ratio to the minimum wage to 721%. Clawson notes that these well-paid CEOs often hire well-paid lobbyists to sell their sob stories. As I noted in my last post on this topic, a business person who owns a hot dog stand or small restaurant might have a different argument. CEOs of large corporations can’t make the same claim. They have taken raises and bonuses while their employees have been forced to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. America needs a raise.
Nick Hanauer makes no bones about being wealthy. He also understands that consumers need money to buy the things that make people like him rich. He’s written a great open letter to his fellow “zillionaires.” It’s long, so I’ll just link and let you take it from a billionaire with great common sense.
Too many people are hung up with resentment about poor people who get benefits. What they need to think about instead is the millions of Americans that work hard, but can’t make enough money to live without some kind of state aid. Huffington Post offers a great article on these people, how hard they work, and how they live. If you are against raising the minimum wage, I recommend that you read this article and think about the people it describes
Huffington Post offers an enlightening look at CEO-worker pay ratios at top companies. For example, CVS Caremark pays its CEO 422:1 to the median worker’s salary. While no one denies that leaders of large, successful corporations should be well paid, how can we justify such a difference in the U.S. when similar ratios are not as drastic in Europe and Japan? Take a minute to look at this chart and ask yourself if it’s fair for the top to make so much while those on the bottom struggle.
Aljazeera America has a mind-blowing profile of one of America’s top paid CEOs, Charif Souki of Cheniere Energy. Souki “earned” $142 million in 2013. Not bad for the leader of a company that has never turned a profit. His company is building a natural gas processing facility in Louisiana that is projected to be a big money maker. Investors must agree because the company’s stock has doubled. Aljazeera America points out that the industry is very risky. That doesn’t seem to matter to the people paying Souki or those investing in his company. Profitable companies lay off workers to keep their share price up. Some people win, and some people lose. Charif Souki is a winner, and that says a lot about what’s wrong with the U.S. economy and its politics.
Huffington Post offers an interesting take on wage trends since the year 2000. The article, originally from Upworthy, shows that most Americans have seen their income go flat or decline over the last 13 years. Income for the bottom 20 percentile has fallen by nearly 5%. Workers are feeling more and more stress. This article and the accompanying graph helps explain why. As the President said, “America needs a raise.”
Former owner of the Chicago Tribune Sam Zell claims that the 1% work harder than the rest of us. That must be why Tribune Media entered bankruptcy under Zell’s hard-working leadership. Once again we have a very rich person feeling sorry for himself while putting down the people whose hard work have made him rich. Zell claims that "Lots of people have come from nowhere and become part of the 1 percent.” Economic mobility in America is worse than it has been in the last 100 years. No one except the super rich and their lackeys believe in the pull yourself up by your bootstraps lie anymore. I don’t feel sorry for same Zell. He’s working very hard at feeling sorry for himself.
Check out this short (150 second) video in which former Labor Secretary explains inequality. It could be argued that his explanation is not inclusive, but it helps us see where too much of our money is going. The video shows how job loss is connected to corporate schemes to make more money for investors. It is worth your time.
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