Why More Than A Million Teachers Can’t Use Social Security

Source: Cory Turner, NPR, All Things Considered, April 20, 2018

Teachers have staged protests in recent weeks in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona. Some are fighting lawmakers who want to scale back their pensions.

It’s no secret that many states have badly underfunded their teacher pension plans for decades and now find themselves drowning in debt. But this pensions fight is also complicated by one little-known fact:

More than a million teachers don’t have Social Security to fall back on.

To understand why, we need to go back to Aug. 14, 1935. That is when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the original Social Security Act.

Amazon Gets Tax Breaks While its Employees Rely on Food Stamps, New Data Shows

Source: Claire Brown, The Intercept, April 19, 2018

Later this year, Amazon will begin accepting grocery orders from customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps. As the nation’s largest e-commerce grocer, Amazon stands to profit more than any other retailer when the $70 billion program goes online after an initial eight-state pilot. But this new revenue will effectively function as a double subsidy for the company: In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company’s own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.

The Teacher Strikes Show That Workers Are Really, Finally, Fed Up

Source: Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company, April 19, 2018

By walking out of their classrooms, U.S. teachers are part of a global uprising against low wages for the benefit of increasing corporate profits. ….

….Legislatures in more conservative states have granted tax cuts to corporations, which have constricted budgets. To balance the budgets, the things that get cut are salaries and benefits. In the private sector, there’s often a similar story: Companies keep salaries and benefits low–or outsource work to independent contractors who don’t get any benefits at all–in order to maximize profitability and return money to shareholders.

That leaves us, Orleck says, with a broad coalition of workers, both public and private sector, whose livelihoods have suffered for the benefit of corporations. And as the teachers’ strikes–and scores of labor strikes around the world–have shown, that system has reached its breaking point…..

PolicyInsights

Source: PolicyInsights, 2018

We want to build you a simple and intuitive national platform to engage with your local governments, to understand the services provided and their outcomes. We are starting with four locations (two counties and two cities with similar demographic for comparison purpose). Here are some ways you can explore …. :
– select a location and explore the various programs
– compare the demographic to another location and their programs
– rate the programs of your local governments (if you happen to live in one of these four areas)
– this is a wiki style product, any users could update or add location/programs information (if you see something incorrect or want to add anything, you can contribute)

Locations:
Montgomery County, MD
Washington, DC
Fairfax County, VA
New York, NY

OpenCorporates

Source: OpenCorporates, 2018

OpenCorporates is the largest open database of companies and company data in the world, with in excess of 100 million companies in a similarly large number of jurisdictions. Our primary goal is to make information on companies more usable and more widely available for the public benefit, particularly to tackle the use of companies for criminal or anti-social purposes, for example corruption, money laundering and organised crime.

American Democracy After Trump’s First Year

Source: Gretchen Helmke, Brendan Nyhan, John Carey and Susan Stokes, Bright Line Watch, Survey — Wave 4, February 8, 2018

In January 2018, as Donald Trump completed his first year as president, Bright Line Watch conducted its fourth expert survey on the state of U.S. democracy. At the same time, we conducted an identical public survey – our second – with a nation­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive sample of Americans. This approach allows us to assess whether experts and/or the public believe the quality of democracy has changed in the U.S. during President Trump’s tenure. We also asked respon­dents to rate the overall quality of democracy in a dozen other countries, including Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, allowing us to assess how experts and the public believe America stacks up against other countries. Finally, we dis­ag­gre­gate results from our public survey to see how changes in these per­cep­tions vary by approval of Trump.

The overall picture is sobering. Though the public rates American democracy more neg­a­tive­ly than our experts do (as in our previous survey), both experts and the public agree that the per­for­mance of U.S. democracy has declined. This per­cep­tion of decline is mirrored for many specific demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples, though in some cases we observe sig­nif­i­cant diver­gence between Trump approvers and disapprovers.

Related:
Survey finds reasons to worry about U.S. democracy
Source: Sandra Knispel, Futurity, April 19, 2018

A new survey of political science scholars and the general public finds reasons to be concerned about American democracy.

Campaign Finance Law Database

Source: Campaign Finance Institute, 2018

From the press release:
The Campaign Finance Institute is pleased to release a groundbreaking new tool, “CFI’s Historical Database of State Campaign Finance Laws”. The database covers all of the states’ campaign finance laws every two years since 1996. It is designed for everything from interactive and visualized lookups to downloadable datasets.

Anyone with a serious interest in politics is bound to have made, heard, or wondered about claims to the effect that the laws governing money in politics “make a difference”. These claims may be about who runs for office, how they campaign, who wins, how they govern, or what policies come out in the end. But until now it has been impossible to evaluate most of these claims properly. You cannot really understand a law’s effects unless you can compare jurisdictions with different laws to themselves and each other over time.

CFI’s new tool opens the door to let everyone make those comparisons. It covers every state since 1996 and is structured to handle queries from the simplest to the most complex. Because not everyone will want to use the tool in the same way, the material comes in two formats.

One is a remarkably compact and attractive visualization that will let users look up the answers to what we expect will be their most common questions. For example:
– What are the laws in my state? When did they change?
– Which states disclose what kinds of information about independent spending?
– Which ones changed their contribution limits after Citizens United?
– Which states offer public financing or political contribution tax credits? In rank order, which states had higher and lower disclosure thresholds (or contribution limits, etc.) in any given year?

All of these kinds of questions can be answered through the visualization tool. But the tool is based on only a fraction of what the data can offer. The full database has literally hundreds of pieces of information for each state and year. The visualization only covers about 10% of these. The full set can be downloaded in whole, or part. It then can be manipulated or merged with other data sets at the user’s pleasure. Downloading is the first step for answering “what difference” questions. For example:
– What difference does it make to have higher or lower limits?
– Is the law really responsible for a particular effect – whether positive or negative?

Confronting Poverty: Tools for Understanding Economic Hardship and Risk

Source: Mark Rank and Tom Hirschl, Washington University in St. Louis and Cornell University, 2018

Poverty Risk Calculator
Have you ever wondered what your risk of poverty might be in the future? Estimate your personal risk and compare it to other Americans.

Discussion Guide
Learn more about poverty and inequality with our discussion guide. Different modules are designed to further your understanding and stimulate discussion.

Research
Explore a collection of books, articles, and papers dealing with important aspects of poverty and inequality in America.

Related:
Enter your info to calculate poverty risk
Source: Neil Schoenherr, Futurity, April 20, 2018

Income Mobility Charts for Girls, Asian-Americans and Other Groups. Or Make Your Own.

Source: Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce, Kevin Quealy, New York Times, March 27, 2018

Last week we wrote about a sweeping new study of income inequality, which followed 20 million children in the United States and showed how their adult incomes varied by race and gender. The research was based on data about virtually all Americans now in their late 30s. This first animated chart illustrates one of the study’s main findings: White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way, while black boys raised in similarly wealthy households are more likely to fall to the bottom than stay at the top in their own adult households.