Author Archives: afscme

When newspapers close, voters become more partisan

Source: Joshua P. Darr, Johanna Dunaway, Matthew P. Hitt, The Conversation, February 11, 2019

…. At a time when national political news is inescapable, there is less local news to be found – and less interest in local politics from Americans.

This shift in media may have a direct effect on how people vote. Local newspapers help protect American democracy by giving people the information they need to hold local government accountable. They also provide an alternative to national news that is often focused on partisan conflict.

As political scientists and communications scholars who study the media’s influence on voters, we wanted to know whether these changes in the news industry had political effects. ….

Global Wealth Inequality

Source: Gabriel Zucman, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 25462, January 2019
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From the abstract:
This article reviews the recent literature on the dynamics of global wealth inequality. I first reconcile available estimates of wealth inequality in the United States. Both surveys and tax data show that wealth inequality has increased dramatically since the 1980s, with a top 1% wealth share around 40% in 2016 vs. 25–30% in the 1980s. Second, I discuss the fast growing literature on wealth inequality across the world. Evidence points towards a rise in global wealth concentration: for China, Europe, and the United States combined, the top 1% wealth share has increased from 28% in 1980 to 33% today, while the bottom 75% share hovered around 10%. Recent studies, however, may under-estimate the level and rise of inequality, as financial globalization makes it increasingly hard to measure wealth at the top. I discuss how new data sources (leaks from financial institutions, tax amnesties, and macroeconomic statistics of tax havens) can be leveraged to better capture the wealth of the rich

Higher education – US: Stronger state financial support benefits public universities

Source: Dan Fiori, Mary Kay Cooney, Susan I Fitzgerald, Moody’s, Sector Comment, February 7, 2019
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State funding for public colleges and universities is up in 43 states for fiscal year 2019 compared to increases in 32 states the previous year, according to the annual Grapevine report from Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy. Additionally, state financial support in all 50 states increased by a median of 2.8% in fiscal 2019, more than double the 1.1% in the year before and the highest level since fiscal 2016. The increases are credit positive for the higher education sector, which is battling slower tuition revenue growth and rising expenses — both contributing factors to our negative outlook for the sector.

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States Increase Higher Education Funding By 3.7%
Source: Michael T. Nietzel, Forbes, February 5, 2019

The 50 states appropriated a total of $91.5 billion to support their public universities and financial aid programs in Fiscal Year 2018-19. That’s a 3.7% increase over 2017-18 and an 18.2% increase over Fiscal Year 2013-14, according to Grapevine, the annual report of state higher education spending published by Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy in cooperation with the State Higher Education Executive Officers…..

Bribery, Kickbacks, and Self-Dealing: An Overview of Honest Services Fraud and Issues for Congress

Source: Michael A. Foster, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45479, January 30, 2019

As the trials of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos illustrate, corruption among high-profile public officials continues to be a concern in the United States. Likewise, recent examples abound of powerful executives in the private sector abusing positions of trust for personal gain. Faced with this reality, Congress has shown consistent interest in policing public-and private-sector corruption, enacting a number of criminal provisions aimed at holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions under federal law. However, one of federal prosecutors’ most potent existing tools for combating such corruption— 18 U.S.C. §1346, which defines the crimes of mail and wire fraud as including so-called “honest services” fraud—has been a source of contention between the courts and Congress for years ….. Should Congress seek to alter the scope of honest services fraud, it will likely need to be attuned to the concerns that federal courts interpreting 18 U.S.C. § 1346 have voiced over the years. Chief among these have been the concerns that—as written—the statute has the potential to sweep too broadly and regulate ethically dubious conduct of state and local officials in a way that conflicts with the Constitution. ….

State and local government – US: Retiree benefits drive growth in fixed costs, posing greater challenges than debt

Source: Benjamin J VanMetre, Grayson Nichols, Thomas Aaron, Rachel Cortez, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, February 5, 2019
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Fixed costs — the combination of debt service, pension contributions and retiree healthcare— continue to rise for many US state and local governments. While retiree benefits (pensions and healthcare) will continue to drive this trend, the growth level is heavily dependent on unpredictable factors such as pension investment performance and workforce demographics. Debt service costs, on the other hand, are largely stable and unlikely to increase materially,continuing the trend of the last decade. Still, total fixed costs create budgetary challenges for some governments, potentially affecting their ability to deliver core services, a dynamic also known as “crowd-out” risk…..

How Black Activists Shaped the Labor Movement

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, February 7, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final full day on earth advocating for the rights of workers in what’s now known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. It was April 3, 1968, and King stood up at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, and spoke in support of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers, who were then on strike fighting for better safety standards, union recognition, and a decent wage — a work stoppage that was inspired partly by the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who had been crushed to death by a garbage truck.

“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end,” he told the assemblage. “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”,,,

Steward’s Corner: Where Do Good Organizers Come From?

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, February 4, 2019

We know good organizers when we meet them.

They’re accessible. They listen and show respect.

They react calmly to all kinds of people, take their time to size up a situation, and engage people on their own terms.

They brim with suggestions for action, but they’re open to new ideas. They’re not bossy. They always take workers’ side against employers—but among workers, they treat divisions with care and diligence.

They don’t act from fear, and they know how to help others lose their fear.

But few people are born organizers. Instead, we have to find and nurture people who show some interest and willingness to become organizers.

An experiment in Ithaca, New York, over the last two years has shown surprising results in helping workers become organizers, with a method easy to adapt and reproduce anywhere….

Trends in Pre-K Education Funding in 2017-18

Source: Bruce Atchison, Emily Parker, Jill Mullen, Tom Keily, Education Commission of the States, Policy Report, February 6, 2019

From the abstract:
This Policy Brief begins by reviewing the educational and societal impacts of quality pre-K programs before revealing legislative changes to state pre-K funding in 2017-18. The brief highlights four states and breaks down total pre-K funding for all states, including year-over-year changes.

Financial Literacy Programs for Local Government Employees

Source: Rivka Liss-Levinson, Joshua Franzel, Center for State and Local Government Excellence, January 2019

From the press release:
A new report provides an in-depth analysis of local government financial literacy programs across the U.S. The report finds that only about one in four local government employers offer financial literacy programs to their workforce, according to a new survey of human resources directors. ….

…. Key findings from the report include:
• Only 26 percent of local government employers offer financial literacy programs to their workforce. A lack of prioritization by leadership (45 percent), internal resources (30 percent), or financial resources (30 percent), are the main reasons that governments do not implement financial literacy programs.
• Of those governments that do offer financial literacy programs, more than three-quarters cover planning for retirement, budgeting and planning. More than half address debt and investments.
• However, efforts to address different populations – particularly those with limited formal education, those for whom English is not their primary language, or those in different age groups – are generally not widespread.
• Only three percent of programs use mobile technology, text messages and social media. No programs report ensuring that materials are culturally relevant to diverse communities. ….

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