The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They?

Source: Liaquat Ahamed, New Yorker, August 26, 2019

Inequality comes in waves. The question is when this one will break. ….

…. Tocqueville, who was the youngest son of a count, was deeply impressed by how equal the economic conditions in the United States were. It was, at the time, an accurate assessment. The United States was the world’s most egalitarian society. Wages in the young nation were higher than in Europe, and land in the West was abundant and cheap. There were rich people, but they weren’t super-rich, like European aristocrats. According to “Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality Since 1700,” by the economic historians Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent of the population was more than twenty per cent in Britain but below ten per cent in America. The prevailing ideology of the country favored equality (though, to be sure, only for whites); Americans were proud that there was a relatively small gap between rich and poor. “Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” Thomas Jefferson bragged to a friend.

Today, the top one per cent in this country gets about twenty per cent of the income, similar to the distribution found across the Atlantic in Tocqueville’s day. How did the United States go from being the most egalitarian country in the West to being one of the most unequal? The course from there to here, it turns out, isn’t a straight line. During the past two centuries, inequality in America has been on something of a roller-coaster ride. …..

Data Note: A Look At Swing Voters Leading Up To The 2020 Election

Source: Ashley Kirzinger, Audrey Kearney, Mollyann Brodie, Charlie Cook, and Amy Walter, Kasier Family Foundation, Issue Brief, September 5, 2019

Findings:
More than one year out from the general election, there are many factors that could influence voters’ decisions to either vote for President Trump or the Democratic nominee or even stay home on November 3, 2020. These factors include the characteristics of the eventual Democratic nominee, views of President Trump, and how motivated voters are feeling about the election. The latest analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in collaboration with the Cook Political Report, finds that while a large share of voters are already firm about how they plan to vote in the 2020 presidential election (63%), there is a still a substantial share (30%) who say they have not made their minds up. With three in ten votes still up for grabs, this data note examines the demographics of swing voters: those who either report that they are undecided about their vote in 2020 or are leaning towards a candidate but haven’t made up their minds yet. It also explores the policy issues that could swing these voters to vote for either President Trump or the Democratic nominee.

Why the Right Hates Voting Rights: An Interview With Ari Berman

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, September 6, 2019

Conservatives in the United States know they can’t win on a level playing field — so they’ve started rigging the electoral rules in their favor, democracy be damned.

When the Republican Party recaptured the House in the 2010 midterm elections, it marked not only the end of a relatively brief period of Democratic control but also the beginning of a wider offensive against voting rights that has been underway ever since. By capturing key statehouses in 2010 and in the years that followed, Republicans have been increasingly able to tilt the electoral process in their favor — a strategy that has profoundly affected the results of recent elections and was one of the major backdrops to Donald Trump’s surprise Electoral College victory in 2016.

Jacobin’s Luke Savage sat down with Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman to discuss the history of gerrymandering and voter suppression — and the considerable impact both continue to have on the course of US politics.

The Work of the Future: Shaping Technology and Institutions

Source: MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future, Fall 2019

….How can we move beyond unhelpful prognostications about the supposed end of work and toward insights that will enable policymakers, businesses, and people to better nav-igate the disruptions that are coming and underway? What lessons should we take from previous epochs of rapid technological change? How is it different this time? And how can we strengthen institutions, make investments, and forge policies to ensure that the labor market of the 21st century enables workers to contribute and succeed?

To help answer these questions, and to provide a framework for the Task Force’s efforts over the next year, this report examines several aspects of the interaction between work and technology. We begin in Section 1 by stating an underlying premise of our project: work is intrinsically valuable to individuals and to society as a whole, and we should seek to improve rather than eliminate it. The second section introduces the broader concerns that motivated the Task Force’s formation. Here we address a paradox: despite a decade of low unemployment and generally rising prosperity in the United States and industrialized countries, public discourse around the subject of technology and work is deeply pessimistic. We argue that this pessimism is neither misguided nor uninformed, but rather a reflection of a decades-long disconnect between rising productivity and stagnant incomes for the majority of workers…..

Highlights from occupational safety and health continuing education needs assessment

Source: Joshua G. Scott, Erin Shore, Carol Brown, Carisa Harris, Mitchel A. Rosen, American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
There is a lack of trained Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals able to meet the current and future demand for such expertize in the United States. Many OSH professionals are required to perform duties, which are outside of their primary area of expertize; thus, expansion of continuing education (CE) may be necessary to properly train individuals for new OSH responsibilities.

Methods:
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health‐funded Education and Research Centers collectively developed and distributed an internet‐based survey to gauge the CE needs and interests of the OSH workforce.

Results:
A total of 2064 responses were received. The most common primary professions represented were safety (28%), occupational health nursing (18%), and industrial hygiene (12%). The majority of respondents (61%) reported that they perform work activities outside of those associated with their primary OSH profession. The CE offerings with the highest interest among respondents were related to safety. Other courses with high levels of interest included topics such as legal issues in OSH (88%), compliance (88%), risk management (85%), OSH management (83%), risk communication (83%), and communication in accident prevention (81%). Health and safety leadership (82%), health and safety culture (78%) and total worker health (74%) were also significant interests.

Conclusions:
It is important to be responsive to the evolving needs of the OS&H community. Developing relevant courses will help ensure that OS&H professionals have access to the training they need to perform essential job functions and keep employees healthy and safe.

Doing More for Less? New Evidence on Lobbying and Government Contracts

Source: Senay Agca, Deniz Igan, Fuhong Li, Prachi Mishra, International Monetary Fund (IMF), IMF Working Paper No. 19/172, August 2019

From the abstract:
Why do firms lobby? This paper exploits the unanticipated sequestration of federal budget accounts in March 2013 that reduced the availability of government funds disbursed through procurement contracts to shed light on this question. Following this event, firms with little or no prior exposure to the federal accounts that experienced cuts reduced their lobbying spending. In contrast, firms with a high degree of exposure to the cuts maintained and even increased their lobbying spending. This suggests that, when the same number of contractors competed for a piece of a reduced pie, the more affected firms likely intensified their lobbying efforts to distinguish themselves from the others and improve their chances of procuring a larger share of the smaller overall. These findings are stronger in government-dependent sectors and when there is intense competition. The evidence is more consistent with a rent-seeking explanation for lobbying.

Tiered Water Rates: Understanding Their Equity and Impacts on Customer Bills

Source: Greg Clumpner, Journal – AWWA, Volume 111 Issue 9, September 2019
(subscription required)

Key Takeaways
Rate design affects individual customer bills and the equity of individual ratepayers within (not just between) customer classes.

A better understanding of tiered rates may lower the risk of ratepayers seeing water and wastewater rates as inequitable.

Water utilities should demonstrate the cost basis of water rates, especially how tiered rates reflect water supply costs and quantities.

Meeting the Need: Developing Certification for Advanced Water Treatment Operators

Source: Steven Garner, Journal – AWWA, Volume 111 Issue 9,
September 2019

(subscription required)

Key Takeaways
The California–Nevada Section of AWWA and California Water Environment Association sought a new industry certification for operators working with advanced water treatment (AWT) processes.

A diverse set of stakeholders and experts added their perspectives on the development of the new certification.

The AWTO Grade 3 exam was released in July 2019.

Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Embattled ACA

Source: Diane M. Soubly, Benefits Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

In its first seven years, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), now almost a decade old, decreased the number of uninsured persons who used highly expensive emergency care as primary care and curtailed double digit medical inflation. In the first two years of the Trump Administration, the President, the Executive Branch and Congress have devised ACA’s death by a thousand cuts. As former Solicitor General Donald Verrelli observes at page 2 of the Opening Brief submitted by Intervenor-Appellant The U.S. House of Representatives in the appeal from the Texas district court decision holding ACA unconstitutional, “Despite all that the Act has achieved, its political opponents have made repeated efforts to repeal it or to disable it through litigation.” This article updates employee benefits plan designers and litigators about those continuing efforts in the legal battle for the death of ACA…..